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stefan mesch


Saturday, May 11th, 2019 is Free Comic Day [Info: here].

In participating comic shops, bookstores and magazine stores, you can choose from 34 free comics, each approx. 40 pages long; while stocks last. A radar to find all stores: here in the link.

As a critic and journalist, I present comics at Deutschlandfunk Kultur and in Berliner Tagesspiegel, among others, and regularly give personal recommendations here in the blog [2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | Mangas]. In 2017, 18 and 19 I wrote the program texts for the Manga Comic Con at the Leipzig Book Fair. In 2014 and 2015, I translated two versions of an “Avengers” dictionary from English into German.

For the Free Comic Day, I had all 34 titles sent to me for review. Here in the entry I present them. Excerpts, [shortened, partly more precise] blurbs and some literary criticism / classification from me.

Link: my blog post about Free Comic Day 2018


The war of the tots. 1914: The house of the foundlings

Panini Comics | Régis Hautière, Hardoc

“Lucas, Lucien, Luigi and Ludwig live in the orphanage of Valencourt Abbey in Picardy. Her teacher was called up in the summer of 1914. For the children the war is a distant horror, but it is getting closer. One day they hear the artillery fire. They hide in a tree house in the forest: when the orphanage is evacuated, they accidentally stay behind. Left to their own devices, they suddenly find themselves behind German lines. ”[Blurb, abbreviated.]

Details:Panini | Goodreads

Recommendation: Yes! Four French orphan boys, 1914 behind the front. “Stand by me”, the film adaptation of a Stephen King novella, has become a modern film classic because it examines the coexistence of pubescent boys in a warm, detailed, tragicomic and nostalgic way.

“War of the Knirpse” is “Stand by me” in World War I: In five volumes up to 1918, four boys and one girl experience a traumatic coming-of-age in which the smallest, most tender moments count despite the struggle for survival. The free comic booklet bundles almost 50 pages - the entire first volume.



Reproduced | Ferdinand Lutz

“In the near future, sixteen families will have divided the world among themselves. The rest of humanity are "servants" [in the service of a family] and "garbage" [. To secure wealth and power, each of these families keeps a genetically modified "Lazarus" who is almost invincible and practically immortal. Forever »Eve« Carlyle is one of those Lazari: a gripping, political end-time drama in cool, relentlessly clear images. "

Details:Splinter | Goodreads

Recommendation: Yes! Greg Rucka wrote some of the most beautiful, political, and feminist comics about Batman's Gotham City. His heart project "Lazarus" shows since 2012 a world in which 16 rich families divided the whole earth among themselves. A return to feudalism, in which conflicts are often carried out in ritualized battles - between genetically optimized "Lazarus" warriors.

Eve Carlyle is Lazarus of the California Carlyle family: is she a member of the family? Weapon? Puppet? The 20 pages of the free comic are too short a start: I recommend reading an entire anthology (approx. 120 pages) instead. A TV series is also being planned. What does property do to people? And which people are possessions?


Hilda and the bird parade

Reproduced | Luke Pearson

“City life is not for Hilda. Even months [no! THREE days!], After moving to Trolberg with her mother, she misses the enchanted valleys and the eccentric friends of her old homeland. But when the day of the annual bird parade comes, the streets suddenly turn into a pulsating, exciting sea of ​​colors. At the side of a speaking raven, Hilda embarks on an exciting adventure. A charming, multi-layered [no!] Heroine and a lovingly fantastic world make "Hilda" the most enchanting all-ages comic of our time. Since September 2018, Hilda's adventures can also be seen as an animated series on Netflix. "

Details:Reproduced | Goodreads | Wikipedia

Recommendation: Yes! No child in my circle of friends ever received the sympathetic, simple and pleasing Hilda comics from me. Because under 40 pages initially cost 18 euros. There has been a Netflix series since 2018. And the Free Comic Day 2019 also helps to introduce the character to four to ten year olds from not-very-rich parents.

Hilda likes nature, hiking, lives with her single mother and experiences magical-realistic adventures between "Moomins", "Ronja the robber's daughter" and Hayao Miyazaki. I am often annoyed by how obvious and clumsy Luke Pearson, a British draftsman, plays with Scandinavian motifs and clichés. "Hilda" is harmless, hygge. And build a world of images of which we will hopefully say in ten years: “Oh. That was like ten years. ”Sweet. But ingratiating. But sweet!


Conan: Beyond the Black River

Splinter | Mathieu Gabella, Anthony Jean

“The black river in the land of the Picts is the last frontier between civilization and unbridled wilderness. No white man has ever crossed it and returned to report it. None but Conan [Conan is 'white' ??]. In the heart of the jungle, he allies himself with the young Balthus and his group of brave settlers. The adaptation of a novella by Robert E. Howard. "

Details:Splinter | Goodreads

Recommendation: Yes! In current US comics, Conan the Barbarian (known from movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others) is part of the Marvel superhero team "The Avengers". Mathieu Gabella tells a much more classic story about the pragmatic warrior - in images that are reminiscent of "Heart of Darkness" and "Apocalypse Now": The Picts lurk behind the river. In the jungle, settlers want to defend a fortress and a village.

Instead of heroism and excesses of violence, almost 50 detailed, depressing pages show a conflict, much darker, more philosophical, more critical than expected. The wise afterword claims: "Conan" inventor Robert E. Howard was an anti-colonialist. I doubt. But I am fascinated by how little it takes to draw big questions from cliché motifs and figures: Who is part of civilization? What is your counterpart?


Ghost money

Writer & Reader | Thierry Smolderen, Dominique Bertail

“'Conspiracy theories were plentiful after 9/11. The fact is, however, that there were suspicious movements on the stock market beforehand and that someone got stinkingly rich as a result. Who was that, and where did he or she get the "al-Qaeda treasure"? The beautiful Chamza is a dazzling, elegant, very rich woman; just as dodgy as her father, the President of the Republic of Tashkit, or like the glow-eyed Emir El Nur from the “Emirate of Light” - her lover. But is El Nur a benefactor or a terrorist? "

Details: Writer & ReaderGoodreads

Recommendation: Yes! How disgusted do Muslims have to be at how brutally they are usually portrayed as a threat in US series and films? The Belgian comic "Ghost Money" does the same - with the US military, secret services and politics: a conspiracy plot that is much too thick, clumsily told, full of resentments and clichés.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled: by the stylishly staged locations, vehicles, landscapes. From the anti-capitalist bite. And about the fact that a (lesbian? Bisexual?) First-person narrator gets a lot of time to question the complicated relationship with a rich acquaintance: Is Chamza a terrorist? Part of the resistance? Here are two women becoming lovers - or enemies?


Lucky Luke: Jolly Jumper doesn't answer

Egmont | Guillaume Bouzard

“A homage to Morris‘ comic heritage: Guillaume Bouzard's interpretation shows a bizarre, exaggerated story that guarantees humorous reading fun. The booklet for the Free Comic Day contains the complete album. The third Lucky Luke homage will appear in May - this time Mawil is the first German artist to take on the comic icon: Lucky Luke saddles up “

Details:Egmont | Goodreads

Recommendation: Yes! The “Hommage” special volumes of “Lucky Luke” are drawn and told in a more contemporary way than the classic cowboy adventures since 1946. No parodies or satires, but a respectful update. It's great that the 48-page volume "Jolly Jumper Doesn't Answer" is available in its entirety as a free comic. It's great that it appeals to parents and children - and you don't need any prior knowledge.

But best of all: Instead of slapstick humor, picture jokes or sarcasm, Guillaume Bouzard finds quiet fun in gently absurd dialogues. A comic for reading aloud and aloud that sounds like improv comedy. Really now. Really really. Really. So: Or? Nice! Not? But!!


Listen to dreams in deep forests

Chinabooks | Zhang Jing

“In the seclusion of an old temple in a wooded mountain region, two strangers meet - a young woman and a mysterious young man who hides his face behind a monkey mask - as they seek shelter from a storm. To make it more comfortable to endure the pouring rain in the temple, the woman asked the man to tell her a story:

A cricket princess in a fictional Chinese kingdom steals secretly from the palace one evening to attend a fair. There she meets a young, mysterious man and falls in love at first sight. She is used to having all of her wishes fulfilled. The young man is (deaf) mute. A story within a story. An unusual love story. An idiosyncratic genre mix of shrill comedy, mystery and drama. Author and illustrator Zhang Jing was born in China in 1983. Her hyper-realistic drawing style, nuanced facial expressions in the faces of her characters and the attention to detail in backdrops and textures such as fabric samples from costumes make her stand out from other artists. "

Details: Lovelybooks | Goodreads

Recommendation: Yes! An appetizer, far too short: in a framework story, a young artist makes ink drawings in a temple in the forest - until a stranger, covered in a monkey mask, joins her to wait for the rain to end. He tells of a self-centered princess who falls in love with a mute man at a folk festival. Magnificent, detailed drawings in black and white, with computer effects, strong contrasts, pathos.

Perhaps “listening to dreams in deep forests” is a Schmonzette? Worst kitsch? But the draftsman and author Zhang Jing begins her multi-volume work so slowly, powerfully, atmospherically. Someone knows what she's doing - and wants to tell!


End time

Carlsen | Olivia Vieweg

“Dystopia and horror - in the middle of Germany, with female heroes and developed by a German illustrator. Zombies overran the earth, but Weimar and Jena managed to erect a protective fence. The only connection between the two cities is an automated train forbidden to people. This is exactly where Vivi and Eva meet, two very different young women who hope to get to Jena. But an incident occurs and the two of them have to walk the rest of the way. Olivia Vieweg's award-winning story will soon be released as a real-life film. "

Details:Carlsen | Goodreads

Recommendation: Yes! Strong colors, likeable heroines: the world has been overrun by zombies for two years. But two young women want to go from Weimar to Jena ... and end up in no man's land. Olivia Vieweg drew “Endzeit” in 2012 as a university thesis. In 2018 there was a movie - and a new edition.

Visually, the excerpt - as a free issue: much too short - can compete with international comics such as “Nimona”, “Lumberjanes”, “Scott Pilgrim”. In terms of content, there are dilemmas and debates that have been known for years from “The Walking Dead”, among others. Nevertheless: skillful and gripping!


Broceliande: The Little People's Forest - 1: The Barenton Spring

Splinter | Olivier Peru, Bertrand Benoit

“Broceliande, a mythical forest in Brittany, is the scene of many legends about King Arthur and his round table. It is also home to a multitude of fairytale beings, including the learned goblin Orignace:

Two rude Korrigans have broken into his tree hole and demand that he write a story about them.

Then he watches the young Merlin who is courting Viviane. "

Details: Goodreads | Splinters

Recommendation: Conditionally. A VERY conventional fantasy manga drawn with great attention to detail and largely fluently narrated, in which all characters dress, behave, etc. as a mainstream fantasy audience is used to. Sweet, predictable, conservative and ... play it safe. A well-made, yet reactionary, discouraged and predictable comic for people for whom scheme F suffices.

Weaknesses? I don't know anything about Merlin's youth. I don't know what korrigans are. I do not know whether Viviane is a creation of this comic or belongs to the Arthurian myth. [Google, google: Oh, Nimue! Yes!] Handicrafts. No art.

and then? Recommendation list here (Link, Reddit): I liked "Rat Queens" and "Monstress"


The Golden age

Reproduced | Roxanne Moreil, Cyril Pedrosa

“The empire, once full and prosperous, has been plagued by famine and greedy nobles since the death of the king. After her coronation, Tilda, daughter of the deceased, finally wants to alleviate the misery of the people through reforms. But through a plot led by her younger brother, she is condemned into exile. The first bath of the opulent two-part adventure saga about freedom, resistance and the human ability to create a new future together will be released by Reprodukt in May. The booklet for the Free Comic Day shows a first extensive excerpt. "

Details:Reproduced | Goodreads

Recommendation: Conditionally. I like the Disney illustrator / concept artist Mary Blair - but I find Blair's artwork MUCH more coherent, bolder and more consistent than the often faded and arbitrary-looking pattern, flourish and ornament gimmicks here in the comic. I can't say much about the plot: The free booklet takes forever to show off a (quite colorless) princess and her (quite clichéd) realm. If the (overall) comic plays with gender or has clever things to say about classicism: The excerpt is fascinating, nothing surprises.

Weaknesses? The world of castles, kings and princesses from Matt Groenig's “Disenchantment” is (rightly) criticized as superficial, loveless, threadbare. “Disenchantment” is comedy, “The Golden Age” wants to be a demanding and dramatic all-ages comic. I lack depth in both.

and then? Brecht Evens ‘“ The Making of ”[colorful, sunny, quirky] and Brecht Evens‘ “Panther” [colorful, VERY oppressive].


Once upon a time ... man: primeval times

Dani Books | Jean-Charles Gaudin, Jean Barbaud, Afroula Hadjiyannakis

“Generations of children and young people grew up watching Albert Barillé's animated films. Accompany the wise narrator Maestro, the heroic Adam, the brave Eve, the strong Jumbo on their journey through human history, from prehistoric times to today. The proven mix of informative framework narration and humorous episodes from the characters' lives is of course retained. Contains the entire first album. "

Details: Series on TV Tropes | Wikipedia | Goodreads | Splinters

Recommendation: Conditionally. The (unimaginative and ridiculous) framework story has a rather "scary" inking and drawing style; the historical digressions are drawn more flat and more stylish. The explanatory texts, digressions and technical term cascades are too dry and detailed for me. The individual panels rarely convey ONE important concept: It stays with the succinct and boring “There was THIS and THAT, first THAT, and then THIS again”, etc. Little stringency, inner tension, theses, didactic arcs.

Weaknesses? As is usually the case in the series, women and girls are outnumbered and often have stereotypical roles. When all the children design war paint with red earth / clay paint, a girl is praised for the "beautiful makeup" etc.

and then? In 2018 I was fascinated by an explanatory manga about group dynamics in astronaut training, "Space Brothers".


Realms of imagination. A cross-section through the works of Jimmy Liao

Chinabooks | Jimmy Liao

“Jimmy Liao published his first works in 1998 at the age of forty. The trigger for his creative work was a fight against leukemia, which he only barely survived. His first picture book was supposed to be just a parting gift to his family. The characters are often children, alienated from their surroundings. His adult picture books started a new trend. The cartoon "The Smiling Fish" based on his picture book of the same name won the special prize of the German Children's Fund at the 2006 Berlinale. There will be a special exhibition about Jimmy Liao's work at the Munich Comic Festival 2019. The booklet presents excerpts from the 4 current picture books for adults: "The Starry Night", "The Cinema of Life", "The Blue Stone" and "The Sound of Colors". "

Details:Chinabooks | Goodreads | Wikipedia

Recommendation: Conditionally. The books by Jostein Gaarder and others appear in Germany with cover illustratons by Quint Buchholz. "Dreamy", "thoughtful" imagery: fabric softener Magritte. The sentimental pictures of Jimmy Liao are more colorful, powerful, pointed ... but STILL kitschy and hammered. Instead of telling a story, there are four disappointingly short, confused excerpts. Pleasing, conservative, expectable. But: great existential issues; and motives that would have preoccupied and impressed me as a child.

Weaknesses? It's a shame how western (or: calculated-tasteless-cultural-unspecific) most of the settings, rooms, etc. are here.

and then? Shaun Tan's "The Arrival"


Cult stories: the cameleon & humans, gods and lights

Cult Comics | Sascha Dbod, Björn Hammel, Stefan Pede, Dirk Seliger

“Kameleon: It's Christmas time in Cologne. Leon, who cannot get his life between the rehearsal room and a complicated family under control, considers himself the cameleon: a being who is neither pretty nor particularly personable, but who has amazing superpowers. While his therapist tries to talk him out of it, a gloomy shadow spreads over the city.

Kobold: The last Kobold fork foot tries to settle in our modern world. For a mythical creature like Gabelfuß, the trip to the Karl May Museum is not that easy, especially since the Luno chatterbox [a crow] is also part of the party, as always. "

Details: Cameleon | The last goblin: Gabelfuß & Luno

Recommendation: Conditionally. “The Last Kobold” is a children's comic at the level of… “Pear” in the “Mike Hamsterbacke” free children's booklet from Volksbank about 25 years ago. "Kamäleon" shows two friends who ask themselves whether a terror group, a super villain or a supernatural force wants to plunge Cologne into eternal silence and to do this, for example, by surgically removing people's vocal cords while they sleep. An outrageous plot, wooden exposition [“Oh yes, you are already an unusual commissioner” - “Commissioner candidate”. Like best friends talk like that], but ...

Strengthen! … Distinctive buildings, backgrounds, settings. Atmospheric coloring. And a stylized, simple, * very * expressive figure design: I loved to look - and wish there were more comics in this style!

and then?Damion Scott draws in a similar style, e.g. "Batgirl"


Simon Spector

Dantes Publishing House | Were Ellis, Jacen Burrows

“What would comic books look like in the US today if the superhero genre hadn't pushed all other genres to the edge? Warren Ellis ‘Thesis: The tradition of adventure telling, as it was known from the pulps and dime books, would be continued in the comics. Businessmen and women with oversized egos, fat bank accounts, entrepreneurship and questionable morals. apparatus is a series label of the Avatar Press, under which Ellis has published seven self-contained short stories ["graphic novellas"] - each in a different setting, each implemented by a different artist.Simon Spector is drawn by Jacen Burrows and one of the sevenapparatus- "Novellas", which will be published in German by Dantes Verlag immediately. "

Details:Dantes | Goodreads

Recommendation: Conditionally. In the late 1990s, Warren Ellis (and Mark Millar) became big stars. I couldn't do much with either of them - but I like many of their current series (e.g. Ellis ‘" Injection ", Millars" Jupiter’s Legacy "). Before every Ellis issue I arm myself: “It'll be unnecessarily brutal, exaggeratedly masculine and cynical.” Simon Spector is better than expected (the black and white drawings make it look less yesterday than in other 15-year-old series; Jacen Burrows' characters have large, expressive characters Eyes). But this is not really “smart”, “grown up”, “profound” - and it is over much too quickly.

Weaknesses? If the "Apparat" short stories OVERALL say something smart, surprising about pulp heroes and masculinity ... nothing came of it.

and then? Scott Snyder's "Batman vs. The Shadow" had solid reviews, but I lost interest in the middle. The end of Brian K. Vaughan's "Ex Machina" disappointed - but until then I was captivated. And: The (great!) Character Vikram from Ellis ‘“ Injection ”lives in similar circumstances to Simon Spector - but is more complex and more charismatic.


Creepy past

Dani Books | Bruno Enna, Giovanni Di Gregorio, Giovanni Rigano

"Some of the stories that are making the rounds on the Internet are not just harmless nonsense [creepypasta]: Qiro and Ester encounter a world in which every recurring nightmare, every sick fantasy and every hidden fear can become a terrible reality."

Details:Dani Books [page still empty]

Recommendation: Conditionally. The drawings are lovingly detailed, expressive and very, very professional, but with the mix of “death & horror”, “target group: 11 to 13” and “heroines with plump breasts” (e.g. also “Monster High”) I ALWAYS think: “More sexist Trash. ”Add to that an unimaginative bad scientist, a very slow main character, funny girlies chatting about guys and character designs that remind me too much of the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Weaknesses? Eurotrash; everything seems epigonal and has been there before.

and then? Are there any good "WITCH" comics? Or novels / comics / games for the tween horror soap “Das Haus Anubis”?


Heroes in Crisis | Doomsday Clock

Panini | i.a. Tom King, Geoff Johns, Gary Franks. but above all: Steve Niles & Trevor Hairsine

“Reading samples from two huge DC comic book events: In 'Heroes in Crisis', Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman hunt down a killer who murders superheroes - and one of their main suspects is Harley Quinn. [Much too short excerpt: 8 pages.]

In 'Doomsday Clock' the shining heroes of the DC universe meet the dark anti-heroes from the world of Alan Moore's masterpiece 'Watchmen'. [Much too short excerpt: 6 pages.]

The only complete comic: Legends of the Dark Knight 3: Letters to Batman.

Details:Comicbookroundup: Heroes in Crisis | Comicbookroundup: Doomsday Clock

Recommendation: Conditionally. The last “Heroes in Crisis” magazine will not appear in the USA until the end of May: I read all of the previous ones and found the series ... baffled, psychologically threadbare, but ambitious. The first "Doomsday Clock" US issues also gave me great pleasure. Behind Panini's “Free Comic Day: Heroes in Crisis” there are EIGHT pages of “Heroes in Crisis”, SIX pages of “Doomsday Clock” ... and a faded, lazy, humorless “Batman” story.

Weaknesses? I don't know who, after reading this booklet, should think “And NOW I'm going to buy my first DC anthology for 18 euros.” Panini bundles far too much here (jumble, figures, loose ends) ... and far too little.

and then?“Action Comics 810” (2003) tells more warm-heartedly, more sympathetically, about how Superman deals with letters that people write to him.


Voltron: Legendary Defender

Cross Cult | Tim Hendrick, Mitch Iverson

“Brand new comic episodes for the successful animation series from the producers ofAvatar: the last airbender.When five teenagers discover a mysterious robot on earth, they are drawn into an ancient conflict. Because King Zarkon and the evil Galra Empire have ruled the universe for thousands of years, and only Voltron - a giant robot can protect the universe. "

Details:Cross Cult | Goodreads

Recommendation: Conditionally. Precise, expressive and harmoniously colored figures and settings show that this is as professional as the Netflix template. Or: Like the first six minutes of a mediocre, not-very-important- "distant life" episode from the first season. At no point did I think: "original", "charming", "ambitious" or "Oops: Something happens here with the familiar characters that puts them in a whole new light."

Weaknesses? I don't get a feel for the five pilots / paladins, their togetherness, their peculiarities - and have the impression that 30 years after “Saber Rider” and “Galaxy Rangers” the “Friends with Giant Mecha” genre has barely progressed developed ...?

and then? “Go Go Power Rangers” was one of my biggest highlights in 2018. The robot series “Mech Cadet Yu” also has a lot of fans (I read Volume 1 and thought: “Well. For children.”).