Each week we take a critical look at some of the best books on the stands, courtesy of Big Guy's Comics (the unofficial comic book store of FanboyPlanet.com). If you publish a book that you want us to be covering, contact us. Or contact Derek. He doesn't have enough to do.

A Look At Penny Farthing Press, part one

Last month, Marvel's boutique lines MAX and Marvel Knights took a bit of a hit as long-time editor Stuart Moore resigned to pursue a career writing comics instead of overseeing them. The lucky company that got his attention? A publisher out of Houston, TX, called Penny Farthing Press.

If the name rings a bell, it's because they have been producing an interesting quasi-superhero series called The Victorian, but like a lot of smaller publishers, most of their books have trouble finding shelf space. With the high profile of Moore's defection, the publisher may get a little more attention this summer. But it will be the quality of their books that holds or loses that attention.

Recently Senior Editor Michelle Harman sent us a selection of Penny Farthing's books for July, including the book Moore writes, Zendra. Quite understandably, their output each month is small, but it's obvious that quality counts more than quantity.

At least one of the books was released last week, so forgive us if we're covering a title you consider old news. But if you haven't already taken a look at the company's number ones this month, you should.

Decoy: Storm of the Century #1
All Fun And Games, Till…
writer: Buddy Scalera
artists: Courtney Huddleston and Mostafa Moussa

Penny Farthing Press seems to have struck the right balance between being highly artist friendly without sacrificing story. (We're waiting on a little more background information on the publisher itself.) They accomplish this by hiring good writers to match their artists' creations.

In this case, former Deadpool writer Scalera, no stranger to comic violence, teams with Huddleston on an intriguing character. Think of Decoy as a far more child-like and innocent Impossible Man. Having found a home on Earth with rookie police-man Bobby Luck, the little alien tries to exist in human society without being discovered. In many ways, it's a perfect sitcom set up, except that Scalera and Huddleston have given it a darker tone.

Decoy comes from an alien race far more savage than their appearance would indicate. Though they all look like they're just waiting to be licensed for girls' toys, his people are the most brutal species in the known galaxy.

Meanwhile, sinister forces in Dolphin City (likely to know about Decoy; this is the second mini-series) plot against Bobby Luck and his partner, officer Tessa Moreno. As if that weren't bad enough, now they've got monsters lurking in the sewer.

Hate it when that happens.

The first issue straddles the fence between humor and horror quite nicely, with a back-up that delves further into Decoy's origins. Scalera assumes a little too much about reader familiarity with the situation, but it's still an intriguing book.


Decoy and Herobear and The Kid #1
Field Trip, part one
writer: Mike Kunkel, artists: Courtney Huddleston and Mike Kunkel

Co-published with Astonish Comics (the home of Herobear and The Kid), this title makes an interesting experiment in combining two different styles. The artists trade off pages; every page told from The Kid's point of view gets drawn by Kunkel; Huddleston, naturally, handles things from Decoy's angle.

It's also a good introduction to both characters. Herobear has gotten a lot of media attention lately, with an animated feature on the horizon, but Kunkel's actual output has been rather sparse. This book provides a good way of keeping the character in the public eye. And with this and his other mini-series starting, it's a good month for Decoy.

The melding works really well, and this story's "creepy old neighborhood house" makes a good macguffin to have the characters cross paths. It's also different enough from Storm of the Century to really show off the versatility of the Decoy concept.


Zendra 2.0: Heart Of Fire #1
The Windmills of the World
writer: Stuart Moore
artists: Martin Montiel and J.C. Buelna

In a conceit that has yet to really pay off, Zendra isn't the oft-featured heroine of the series. Instead, it's the name of the last refuge of humanity, which HALLE (Human Analog Life-Link Experiment) has sworn to protect. She herself is partially a genetically modified human, with a symbiotic alien called an Aesirian co-existing in her space. Sometimes. Somehow. It's confusing, but cool enough to let slide.

After a set up that has recently been reprinted in trade paperback form (and we'll review soon), HALLE has found her place amongst the last of humanity when an old enemy rears its ugly head. No longer fighting alone, HALLE leads a small army of defenders while trying to learn more about the nature of reality than perhaps humanity is meant to understand.

Moore inherits a concept rife with clichés, but manages to make it work. Just like in the DC and Marvel Universes, humans are the race most fraught with potential and peril in the universe, which is why they've been hidden away. Naturally, there's a big bad horrible alien race bent on its destruction. But Moore paces it well, weaving in a bit more philosophy than space opera is used to having, and building a character in HALLE more multi-faceted than she needed to be. I would have said three-dimensional, but the artists have already taken care of that.

Despite the ability to transform into something more alien than human, HALLE's basic form is straight out of a centerfold. But then, that's just one more cliché in comics. The perfect woman must have an impossibly perfect body, with gravity-defying breasts. Beyond that, creators Montiel and Buelna have populated their universe with some great diversity. Occasionally they borrow a little heavily from Jim Starlin, but the two have a sure sense of layout and a straightforward storytelling style.


All these books prove that there's life outside the Big Two. That life doesn't always find its way to your local comic shop, so you're going to have to ask for it by name. In particular, if you know any preteens that are interested in comics, Field Trip makes a good, cheap gift. (And then we've got them hooked…) Penny Farthing Press is definitely a publisher to be watched, or perhaps more appropriately, supported.

Next week, we'll take a look at two of their trade paperbacks released this month.


Derek McCaw




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