Brandon Graham: King City vs Prophet

Brandon Graham‘s King City (12 issue series that was collected in trade paperback back in March) basically ranks up there with Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier, Ellis & Cassaday’s Planetary, and Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library as some of the most fun, imaginative, thought-provoking & beautiful comics work of the 21st century. The plot basically revolves around our main character who is a “cat master” (like a ninja/jedi but with cat as a swiss army knife); his best friend who is trying to rescue a beautiful mermaid alien girl from a mobster; his ex-girlfriend, whose new boyfriend is a veteran of an alien war that has left him addicted to a bizarre drug; and somehow these all intersect with them saving the world from a plan to invoke some Cthulhu-esque demon… But, really, the plot is not the thing here in King City – the thing is actually following along with some disarmingly charming lowlifes on a rollercoaster of weird craziness.

Graham’s the primary exponent of what I’ve been calling alien xenophilia, comics stories with a surfeit of completely bizarre sf/fantasy themes, with roots back to the early Heavy Metal days (think Moebius & Matt Howarth). Convoluted analog time: If Stekoe’s Orc Stain is Moebius’ Arzach meets Howarth’s Keif Llama: Xenotech, then King City is Moebius’ Airtight Garage meets Howarth’s Bugtown stories — one simulatenously gets the feeling that this is all very extemporaneous (like it was not really plotted out in advance, like the characters are propelling the story along with very little creative intent) and that HOLY FUCK HOW DID THIS GUY COME UP WITH SO MANY CRAZY IDEAS?!

When I toyed with the idea of blogging reviews earlier this year, I was thinking of rating on 2-axis scales, with the 2 scales being called “Strangeness” & “Charm” – which are 2 of the properties of quarks, but pretty accurately reflect the proprties that really have to be there in any movie, book, or comic book (arguably applies to music as well) that I really like. King City pretty much pegs the meters for both Strangeness & Charm scales. Graham pretty well understands all the awesome fun that comic books had when we were kids, and manages to recreate all that awesome fun for adults.

Graham is apparently working on his other series Multiple Warheads right now (hopefully to be released later this year), and in the meantime he has been doing the writing for Image’s Prophet relaunch – picking up again at issue 20 an old Rob Liefeld title from the early Image days – along with a rotating stable of artists. To be completely honest, those early 90’s/Image creator days were really the darkest of the dark comic book ages, so I really don’t know anything about the original storyline (in contrast to, say, the Supreme & Glory relaunches, the history of which I was at least familiar with because of the Alan Moore period), and there is not a lot online about the original series either… As best as I can determine Prophet was some kind of time-travelling-super-powered-secret-agent. I’ve got no idea how Graham’s Prophet relaunch relates to the original, but, in plot synopsis terms: Prophet wakes up in a truly alien future, and his first task is to wake up a bunch of alternate Prophets(?) Remission collects the 1st 6 issues of the Graham relaunch.

There is a lot of ‘strangeness’ here – we can safely say that: there’s an awful lot of crazy weird sci-fi ideas. Unfortunately, there is not a lot charm – there’s not really any characterization to speak of: Prophet’s really the only ‘character’ in an alien world, and most of the story is just him hearing voices telling him to get to the next plot point. So, this just does not have the depth of emotional attachment here that there is in King City… And where King City had a sort of four-color/Sanrio-almost-pastel palette that reminded me of those early Moebius Heavy Metal days, Prophet has a sort of 99-shades-of-gray/Enki Bilal/Humanoids palette. I’m certainly gonna keep picking up Graham’s run on Prophet – I’m more than happy to even indirectly support his work, and it still has some crazy ideas even if it is not really as satisfying as his own work.

finished reading: James Stekoe’s Wonton Soup v1 & v2

Some highly unique science fiction here… I picked up on James Stekoe via a lead in the back of an issue of Brandon Graham‘s King City. The story here is about a promising culinary student who drops out of school, becomes a space trucker, and travels around the universe in search of the ultimate recipes, with lots of time out for things like spaceship breakdowns and fights with space ninjas. Graham and Stekoe (at least for me) are the primary proponents in modern comics of a sort of alien xenophilia that reminds me of early Heavy Metal (and I’m probably thinking strongly here of Moebius & Matt Howarth…) There’s not a lot of sustained narrative here – this is mostly episodic incidents, revolving largely around explaining some completely bonkers alien recipe. Consequently, it is a breezy read and continuously entertains with off-the-wall ideas (penny postcard version: Hunter S Thompson meets Han Solo?)

The two volumes are in the wonky “manga-sized” format of 5″x7″x1/2″, and all in black & white, so my only real complaints here are purely technical. Compared to Stekoe’s later color work in Orc Stain, the art in Wonton Soup can get pretty obscure especially when dealing with something totally alien – the monotone makes some novel depictions difficult to resolve without some effort. [Edit: Stekoe needs to learn how to draw the reader’s eye to what’s important, rather than filling up the page with lines.] Also, the tiny page size & thick spine means that half of the art is obscured either down into the crease or by your hand holding the page. Oh well.

Both from the venerable Oni Press – vol 2 is still in print, but vol 1 is sadly out of print :(

more FB heavy rotation recommendations

January 18

some new Heavy Rotation – Denmark’s The City Kill “Days Full of Joy”, angsty, slow, reverby, immortal souls-y… doom in the swamp…
City Kills - Days Full of Joy
stream Days Full of Joy on Bandcamp

January 20

some serious Heavy Rotation – San Antonio ‘gazers Vanity Press’ track “Don’t Fall in Love” has been an absolute favorite since I first heard it (~sept of 10) – feedback + distortion + extremely laid back vox + hypnotic rhythm section = beauty music

stream on soundcloud

February 11

Heavy rotation: Big Soda’s Paper Route 7″. 3 piece indie/punk w/ extremely catchy & short songs, clearly influences by late 80’s/early 90’s SST-ish/Chapel Hill-ish sounds without sounding like a blatant rip off. Free download from below link. They also have a later demo @

free download here

February 26

Heavy Rotation: and highly recommended… 5 piece, all-female, Australian psychedelic punk. They sound like the Stooges jamming with Bardo Pond :) They have a CD, a 12″ EP, and a 7″ – I believe all out of print, but all streamable from their bandcamp page. Many many many plays this week… start w the Eternal Sphere EP…

stream at bandcamp

February 27

Heavy rotation: 93MillionMilesFromTheSun’s 2nd full length “Northern Sky”… sounds like early Wire slowed down to Loop speeds with unholy amounts of reverb. A fairly zen-like listening experience. Final track “Sonic Assault” is truly bludgeoning. The readers of “Shoegazer Alive 5b” blog voted this “Best Shoegaze Album of 2011″… Not sure where you can stream the album, but they have a few tracks on their facebook page and they have a bandcamp page with some EPs (but not this album unfortunately.) RIYL: Loop, Flying Saucer Attack

…somebody else’s review…

April 10

Shoppers’ “Silver Year” was easy top 10 of 2011 (the first year with tons of good since about ’92-’93)…. noisy chaotic over the top old school “no wave” gtr dstrtd punk… (think dustdevils, but a lot denser.) they put out an LP, a split 7″ and a couple demo cassettes (most streamable from their bandcamp page) . sad to see their status is now “RIP” :(

stream @ bandcamp

the lyrics sheet from the Shoppers LP “Silver Year”: “you cannot defeat the darkness, you can only be the light” RIP

May 3

sounds promising… 11 Boston bands (including recent favorites Young Adults & Guillermo Sexo) cover Ride’s Nowhere album… {but I haven’t dropped a needle on this one yet, so don’t quote me…}

free download @ clicky clicky music blog

May 3

heavy rotation… Martyr Privates s/t 7″… Brisbane Aus, former Slug Guts, here making music to take drugs to make music to…

streaming at bandcamp

reprinting my FB heavy rotation recommendations

Here we go:


in heavy rotation… Acid Kicks… 3 bass players + a drummer, so you know it’s got to be interesting… motorik, gooey, echoing, rhythm machine… not very far away from late 80’s IPR like Deception Bay, or Holy F*** minus the synths…

Life Dreams 7″, by Acid Kicks


Heavy rotation: “Through the Confusion” from Chicago’s Daylight Robbery. Their record label compares them to Wire and X, which is pretty fair: taught, angular, jangly clean guitar + throbbing post-punk bass + metronomic drums + male/female vocals doing a fair Exene/John Doe imitation. Not terribly groundbreaking sonically, but the songs are all intense, catchy, late-night-driving-through-downtown music. Their debut LP and 2 singles are all on bandcamp for free download, too!

Through the Confusion, by Daylight Robbery


Heavy rotation: punk rock from Olympia’s RVIVR. Pretty much perfection here… Pounding rhythms; wild, bouncing basslines; anthemic guitar hooks; complementary male/female gruff vocals… lots of dynamic range (hard/soft/fast/slow), passionate vox w/ clever lyrics, plenty of “woah-ohs”, immediately catchy sing-along, and they sound like they are playing so hard that one more iota of effort would cause the whole thing to fall apart… Their eponymous debut LP is available for stream/download via the link [singles collection “Joester Sessions” also available from that site.] Can’t do much better than this…

s/t LP Joester Sessions


this week’s Heavy Rotation: “Truncheons in the Manor”, the debut LP from Philadelphia’s Amateur Party; jangly, bass-driven, and infectious old-school-y postpunk that wouldn’t sound terribly out of place in a mixtape w/ ’80-81 stuff like Gang of Four, Josef K, Mission of Burma and Talking Heads. (streaming from this bandcamp link…)

Truncheons in the Manor, by Amateur Party

HHA new yrs resolution

So, my new year’s resolution is basically to stop reading so much and start writing more… Thus here, this blog…  A few minor points of clarification as we start: 1) I kinda started out about 2 months ago by posting very brief record reviews on facebook; the point being simply that those were all things that I wished somebody had told me about, ergo somebody else might want to also get a heads up. 2) I’m purely seeing this as some sort of notebook / journal / diary / sketchbook. In contrast to #1, there are >156 million blogs out there, so I’m hoping this remains utterly obscure. 3) I’m trying to process >35 years of reading & research into something that I think is worth communicating. To quote Stewart Home from his introduction to Cranked Up Really High, “…the point of accumulating info is to marshal it into an argument…” I suspect I’ll largely be talking about comic books, music, philosophy, and some odd bits of history that I think should get some more notice and/or consideration. In ideal blog terms, that should probably be 4 blogs, but I just don’t have time for that kind of thing – hopefully I’ll do the tagging appropriately…