‘Eleanor & the Egret’ a sumptuous blend of Théophile Steinlen and Agatha Christie
By Stefania Rudd, Brandy Dykhuizen, and Courtney Ryan. Our Week In Review sums up our weekly comic book coverage while taking time for a new review or two before it’s all over. Did we miss your favorite books this week? Well. This is where you need to be.
Eleanor & the Egret #1
Written by John Layman.
Art by Sam Keith.
Colors by Ronda Pattison.
Letters by John Layman.
BD: If Théophile Steinlen had been around to combine his talents with Agatha Christie, the result wouldn’t be too far removed from John Layman and Sam Keith’s Eleanor & the Egret. (In fact, there’s even a tongue-in-cheek reference to Steinlen’s Le Chat Noir found within these pages — how could they resist?) The latest from AfterShock Comics weaves back and forth between a dreamy Art Nouveau romp with a Mucha-esque Eleanor to a more contemporary crime story under Detective Belanger’s watchful gaze. Story, letters, colors and art fit superbly together to create a caper that demands an instant re-read.
Yet Eleanor & the Egret is far from just a prettily rendered museum mystery — there’s something a bit jumbly about Eleanor’s reality. Curiosity about how her perceptions of herself and her feathered friend fit into the world around her is what will inspire me to pick up issue two. Surreal “flashbacks” and affectations leave one wondering what’s actually going on behind those giant schoolmarm specs. A room full of purloined canvasses and a backpack full of bird surely aren’t the only secrets she’s towing around.
Whether Eleanor’s egret is real or just a fancy hat she’s imagined into life, the fact remains that Detective Belanger is hot on her trail, and this is hardly Eleanor’s first offense. Living alone in a room full of stolen art, it’s easy to see how these works could take such a strong hold of her mind, to the extent that even her memories appear to her as panels of stained glass befitting St. Vitus Cathedral. Through magical bird or magical thinking, Eleanor has found a worthy adversary in Detective Belanger, and the upcoming game of cat-and-mouse (cat-and-bird?) surely will not disappoint.
9 out of 10
Kim Reaper #1
Written, illustrated, and colored by Sarah Graley.
Lettered by CRANK!
SR: Sarah Graley is a triple threat in her latest supernatural series, Kim Reaper. From the first panel of issue #1, Graley grabs the reader with a familiar scenario: Becka has a tough time focusing in class due to her crush, Kim, being in her direct line of sight. That infatuation come to a head as Becka’s relentlessness in getting Kim to notice her ends up interrupting Kim during her part-time job… as a grim reaper. The action only escalates from there once that, er, grim discovery is made.
No stranger to quirky and silly characters (she was the writer and artist for Rick and Morty: Lil’ Poopy Superstar as well as her own original comic, Pizza Witch), Graley infuses a lot of humor in this issue, but she still knows how to make them relatable and interesting. She develops her characters through their actions, choices, and overall appearance: Becka is immaculate from her tightly knotted hair to the wing-tips of her shoes, while Kim is contrasted by her undercut hair and heavy black eyeliner. This contrast is also highlighted with their part time jobs, obviously, with Becka working in a bakery and Kim guiding souls to the Great Hereafter… as long as those souls belong to animals. (She’s new to this gig so she has to work her way up, one detail that had me giggling.)
The artwork is cute and cartoonish without being too saccharine. In fact, there is a gothy veneer to Kim Reaper, accomplished through Graley’s use of dark color choices — grays and purples ebb while brighter reds and pastel pinks allow the panels to really flow.
Overall, Kim Reaper #1 is a good first start to what I imagine will be a fun and imaginative series. There is a lot of potential here, considering the subject matter. Where this story could go has me interested in returning to this series. A great book for those who like amusing and offbeat stories with a lot of heart and well-meaning intentions.
8 out of 10
Love & Rockets #2
Written by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez.
Art by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez.
CR: It’s almost a point of pride for Love & Rockets fans that readers can dip into the four decades of material at virtually any entry point and be able to comfortably feast on the Hernandez Brothers’ offbeat style of storytelling. As a Love & Rockets fan I’ve never understood this claim. First, it’s no more or less true than it is for any other long-running comic series, and second, Jaime and Gilbert have crafted numerous characters and worlds that only benefit with a little application of history and context.
This is all to say that if you have read Love & Rockets in the past you’ll likely enjoy this outing. But if you haven’t, this isn’t the place to start.
Jaime’s half of issue #2 checks in with Maggie and Hopey (albeit far too briefly) as La Llorona headlines a reunion concert with a younger armada of fans (Maggie laments that she’s not remembered as a punk legend the way Hopey clearly is). Jaime also revisits Tonta and her half-sister Vivian as the two wade through high school-related melodrama and some reliably weirder, darker stuff. (There’s also a chapter dedicated to his sci-fi superhero Princess Animus.) Meanwhile, Gilbert sticks to the tawdry drama unraveling around B-movie star Fritz, who has discovered the surrogate who delivered her daughter, Baby, also raised a secret twin named Rosario.
As impressive as Gilbert’s surrealist world building is, the Fritz storyline has gotten rather tired and introducing another sexy daughter with complicated body issues isn’t elevating anything. Perhaps it wouldn’t seem like such overkill if he didn’t spend all of his allotted pages on one story, but the flip side is that Jaime’s output feels light and unsatisfying by comparison.
It’s wonderful that Love & Rockets is being released quarterly again, but perhaps we were spoiled by the feeling of completeness that the annual issues provided. In a sense, Volume IV #2 is less satiating than what the brothers have produced in the past.
7 out of 10
From earlier this week —
What books did YOU read this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.