I used to work at a summer camp where one of the kids had a VHS copy of Fight Club and another had one of those fancy TV/VCR combo machines, and by their powers combined they were the most popular teenagers for miles around.
I don’t think any of the campers who gathered around the set every few days for a reverent re-watch of the film were interested in actual fighting — we counselors, all willowy art school students, would have been in terrible danger if they were. But when the fists started smacking around the screen, I remember them all staring in rapt silence, their eyes following every blow like a box of sweaty cats watching a game of ping pong. Meanwhile, I spent most of my time with the other camper clique that had a VCR, re-watching Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill over and over. The idea of a male-presenting comedian strutting confidently in women’s wear was as much a thrill for our group as the fistfights were for the other, I suppose.
I was reminded of that summer by 20 Fists, which gets a color re-release following a successful black-and-white launch last year. It’s sort of Romeo and Juliet meets The Warriors, and offers the same adrenaline jolt as those camp kids probably felt every time they popped that tape in the VCR.
Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to pick out the week’s top comics! And remember to pivot on the ball of your back foot and push with your entire body through the punch.
20 FISTS ISSUE #1
I could smell every page of this book, from the dank dive bar where sticky beer puddles mix with freshly-splattered blood to the sweaty summer boardwalk where rival gangs glower between junk food stands. On one corner are The No-Names; in the other, The Big Coats, and if it wasn’t for the contemporary hairstyles you could go through the whole book unsure if it’s set in modern times, the fifties, or the eighteen hundreds. In fact, with some artistic tweaks the story could easily be adapted to the Middle Ages or a colony on the moon, so universal is the premise of star-crossed lovers who don’t know whether they want to kiss or kill. I’m impressed by the choreography of the fights — not an easy thing to depict in comic form — but it’s the chemistry of our main characters that is the greatest pleasure. We’re given little information and Billie and Chel in this first issue, but the subtext of their stares and silence conveys all we need to know. Can’t wait to spend more time with them.
Rating: 👊👊👊👊👊 (5/5)
When I first moved to Seattle, I briefly looked into getting a beehive to put on our balcony, a ten-foot-by-three-foot slab, and I will be eternally grateful to my partner for talking me out of it before we wound up with an apartment full of bees. Better to appreciate them from a distance, I now realize, or in this delightful paperback that blends epic adventure with real science. It’s the story of a young bee named Nyuki who’s recently emerged in her adult form and is ready to go forth and gather pollen for the hive. As she navigates bee society and wanders flowering fields, she poses questions about the nature of her species that are answered with scientific accuracy by those she meets, whether they are other bugs or flirty flowers who need her help to mate. Written by a biology professor and previously titled Clan Apis, it’s a fun all-ages title that will appeal to thoughtful fans of Mouse Guard and the Warriors books. (The ones about cats, not the movie about New York street gangs.)
Rating: 🐝🐝🐝🐝 (4/5)
SUMMONERS WAR ISSUE #1
They got me. I was ready to say “oh hey cool, a really nicely fleshed out new fantasy setting,” and then I got to the back page and discovered the whole book is really an ad for a mobile phone game. But you know what, I enjoyed it before I realized what it was so I guess it’s earned its three-out-of-five. Summoners War is a turn-based MMO that’s been around for 6 or so years and sometimes has an apostrophe in the title depending on which copyeditor is paying attention that day; and now they’ve created a prequel story set in the world of the game, where magic-wielders summon elemental monsters to do battle. A headstrong young novice is taken under the wing of an experienced/exasperated master, and before long various summoner teams are pitted against each other in a mad dash to recover a mysterious artifact. The story is extraordinarily tropey — you could read every fourth page and still correctly guess all of the story beats. But oh geez I’m such a sucker for pretty, neon-colored fantasy art, and while there’s absolutely nothing surprising about the characters, their banter is at least fun to read and their adventure has a propulsive momentum that goes down easily enough. I liked it more than The Dragon Prince, if that’s praise?
Rating: 📱📱📱 (3/5)