Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff offer brief recommendations for a diverse array of comics, from name-brand cape titles to creator-owned books to webcomics.
Jen Overstreet is reading…
Out of Skin
Story and art by Emily Carrol
Emily Carroll crafts original ghost stories and murder ballads with the kind of ambience I suspect came hand in hand with the first pre-sanitization versions of fairy tales – tales of caution full of murder and worse, yet hauntingly beautiful all the while. Carroll delivers spookiness in droves with Out of Skin, a tale of guilt and its eventual way of catching up to a person, one way or another.
In Out of Skin, Carroll eschews the sharp black linework of her earlier work, giving way to a painterly quality in which mottled washes of grey set figures and environments aglow with internal light. The physical world is represented in desaturated tones, which are clearly cut by the sharp whites and reds of the ghoulish presences in the story.
Emily Carroll has been known for innovation in webcomics since her 2010 comic His Face All Red, exploring new formatting and interactivity options offered by a web browser. Out of Skin presents a practically traditional format by comparison to Carroll’s more exploratory works, instead using the dark full-bleed environment and the clarity of a simple vertical scroll unique to the medium to offer a solid, well-crafted, and deeply spooky comic. With one exception – Out of Skin does make use of a few select gif animations for a horror house strobe feeling you won’t find in print.
Out of Skin is best read alone, at night, with all the lights off.
Max Robinson is reading…
“Biography comics” are a corner of the comics industry dominated by those terrible “written by slave labor/at gunpoint” Bluewater Press one-shots about Lady Gaga, Stephanie Meyer, or the royal baby. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s collaborations, however, are a totally different story. The duo have been putting out outstanding comics together since their initial Action Philosophers miniseries (the Ayn Rand issue is especially hilarious and insightful) and, after finishing up their history of the comics industry, have moved on to the American presidents, starting with George Washington. Van Lente’s ability to shed some light on the misconceptions and outright falsehoods about Washington’s life is remarkable and he manages to make what could be a very dry recitation of historical fact very compelling. In particular, the way he reconciles the founding father’s desire for “freedom” with their ownership of slaves is inspired. Dunlavey’s art compliments the script beautifully; while sparse, each page is weird and funny in a way that puts most contemporary political cartoonists to shame. Off the strength of this first issue, Action Presidents promises to be a fun series that, unlike most comics, could easily double as a classroom teaching material.
What is Copra? Copra is what you get when jam Ostander’s 80’s era Suicide Squad run into a blender with the hypnotically trippy landscapes of Steve Ditko’s 60’s Dr. Strange stories, press PUREE and pour it back out into the shape of a very weird and wonderful comic book. Copra is a love letter to superhero comics and action movies in the form of a hand-stapled indie comic. Maybe more simply, Copra follows some a team of black ops agents (some of whom will look very familiar to DC and Marvel readers, we’ll say) on the run from the government as well as sinister, abstract interdimensional forces. The handmade aesthetic of Fiffe’s illustrations, utilizing anything from paint to colored pencils to ballpoint pens, never fail to amaze me and the issues included here (issues 7 through 9) continue to balance brightly colored cosmic menace with surprisingly authentic bruises and bloodshed. Towards the end of the collection, there’s a two page spread of Rax, Fiffe’s Shade, The Changing Man stand-in, flying above an alternate dimensional city that left my jaw hanging open. The bottom line is that Copra is the thrilling, strange and frankly challenging superhero comic you should all be reading. Although you can buy Copra in single issue installments from Fiffe’s Etsy store, the easiest way to keep up is in the three issue compendiums published by the Brooklyn-based comics shop/small press publisher Bergen Street Comics.
Dylan Roth is reading…
This issue is a tie-in to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Zero Year storyline over in Batman, flashing back six years to the origins of the Dark Knight, but it serves as an excellent stand-alone issue and requires no knowledge of Zero Year, or even Batman or Batgirl in general, to enjoy. The story is set during a disaster in Gotham – the Riddler (making his chronological debut) has shut down all of the city’s power on the eve of a Sandy-scale superstorm, and ordinary citizens are in a panic to gather food and water and to find safe shelter.
The story centers around teenaged Barbara Gordon, still years away from becoming Batgirl, trying to protect herself and her brother during the storm and ensuing riots and chaos, finding her courage tested, and showing the potential that will one day make her a legendary hero. Unlike in many prequel or origin stories, there no winks or nods to her future self – the story doesn’t depend on knowledge of who she’s going to be in order to be compelling. This could be your introduction to Barbara Gordon and it would work just as well as if you’ve been reading about her for years.
Snyder has said in interviews that Zero Year is meant to evoke modern-day fears about city life the way that Frank Miller’s Year One represented urban anxiety in the eighties, and this tie-in issue plays into this idea wonderfully, providing a street-level to a very plausible (and in some ways very familiar) natural disaster in a New York-sized city. It serves both as a solid stand-alone issue and as a necessary part of the larger Zero Year arc, providing greater context and establishing the stakes of Batman’s mission for the average citizen.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section or on our Facebook Page.