Right now it is such an EASY time to GET comics. With a flick of a wrist, you can have almost any comic on your Screen that is listed in the Diamond Catalog. If not, a simple web search can get you to the spot, to download. If that fails, there is always the less scrupulous torrent of it somewhere, you bastard. In the end, its very easy now to GET comics, but are they GOOD comics? Thats thee question, the essence of it all and I’m going to try to give you that answer. This is not about what is popular or trending or a big name attached, this is just about a good read you can sit back and enjoy.
COPRA by Michelle Fiffe, was an easy choice for me, because other than gushing about it, I can actually list the merits, at least for me, of why this book is such an interesting read. The energy of the storytelling involved, around the story itself, is what makes this book such a draw for me: it has the elements of underground zine or comic, put together by hand with such power in drawing and storytelling in such a way, that even as a creator, I’m a little jealous. As different COPRA is from other books, it’s still a solid comic book, with a plot that is both fun and addicting. The story has the feel of heist movie, like an Oceans 11 and such, where you have this odd crew put together for the sake of the “JOB” and Fiffe lets you know it. The Title scene just opens to the COPRA team, a group of misfits mercenary superheroes, on a job protecting an odd skull with a hunk of alien technology embedded through it. Right there, Fiffe set the camera on a great opener making you scan the page to see the details involved. All the while the group gripes and trades quips, like anyone else on the job, and you start to see the small dynamics become apparent. I found myself re-reading parts, staying on panels a bit because the character design, some elaborate, some downright minimalistic, made me want to know more, who was who, what does she do? WHAT DOES HE DO? That sort of thing. Then the whole story explodes into a whirlwind of action that by the end of the first issue, you’re almost winded, but keep trying to flip to the next page.
It’s like that through each issue. Though some are more somber than others, after this group is framed for a crime it didn’t commit, and the gears are set in motion, each character becomes more apparent and many that you think are going to zig, end up zagging on you. There is real engagement in the story since you’re not left with any one character for too long, and some just DIE right in front of you before you get a chance to know more about them.
The drawing style is different, but not in some abstract way, just the rendering of it is more expressionistic starting from the choice of what seems to be different color paper to the inks, to even the use of color pencil to bring the books forward. The colors and antics of his drawing seem subdued, maybe crude by comparison of the hyper-colored computer rendered comic books out there, but still hold so much power in it’s storytelling within those somber lines. It is precise, and his seemingly minimalist style of storytelling gives the book a certain economy in reading, but then he will will come at you with a different way to show a punch or portray lasers being shot out of someone’s hand. This is the type of book that for the unaware, will look at oddly before picking it up and getting engrossed. Or even hating it too.
Many folks love when a book is super slick, and layered in colors, filters, and tricks. To me it’s not necessary. When you pick up COPRA, with it’s heavy paper, and dense colors, the way it can go from duo tone to four color, that the gutters aren’t perfect, it still has the artists hand on it, you feel like you’re really holding something. I still roll my eyes when I have to bag and board something in my collection ( can’t kick the habit!) but my few issues of COPRA I have are treated like art pieces, I slowly drop them in silver age bags and boards, and make sure they are in my box nice and neat. The thing is, due to the book being limited and hard to find, the fact you have order it from Fiffe’s Etsy store, that makes it more of an Artifact than a book, that I want to save it because the artists hands have been on it. I haven’t felt like that about a comic in a long time.
Other comics seem anemic next to COPRA. There is a care and love of the craft that apparent in each issue, and you can tell Fiffe is having a good time with it. With hand lettered bubbles and fonts, each page is complete work, and together a complete book.
Issue 15, the Latest Issue, features a solo issue of Gracie back in her home town of Miami. Obviously, I fell in love with that story, with bits that Fiffe dropped throughout the story. I talked to him briefly on Facebook about it, and yeah he is from Miami, and knew many of the spot from “back in the day” that we all lurked at one time or another, so there is even a Florida connection. It shows in this book, which carries well both as a one-shot and as part of the larger story.
Come on, if you’re from Miami this page is just full of the awesome.
My one gripe is just access to the many issues, I am still trying to fill holes I have of the books, and the limited quantity. This is being answered in the fall, but after you get into it, you will be reloading the WHITEHAUS page a lot, for more COPRA. A single issue does run steep, I will say, at $7.00 a book with shipping and all that but like I said, you do end up with a beautiful thing in hand that you can truly appreciate. I have bugged him about digital editions to no avail, so maybe sometime soon?
You can read issue #1 in it’s entirety here plus look at Fiffe’s blog itself.
back issues are limited right now to only issues 13, 14 , 15 available at Whitehaus, Fiffe’s Etsy store but 2 compendiums collecting the first 12 issues should be our by Bergen Street Books in the fall, found here.