It's been awhile since I read a graphic novel for review here (please noteThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.25 of 5
It's been awhile since I read a graphic novel for review here (please note that the reviews often come out two to three months after the book has been read and the review has been written; and that they are not necessarily released in the order read/reviewed) so I digitally grabbed the first one available to me ... something that I would have no pre-conceived notions toward ... and read it. That book was Drifter, Vol 1: Out of the Night, written by Ivan Brandon and illustrated by Nic Klein. And I am hooked.
The story starts out with a fairly common, if not over-used idea of a pilot/astronaut crashing on an alien planet. At one point I half expected to turn a page and see an Ape enter in the panel. There though, the similarity ends. The planet hosts a variety of alien surprises, though apes don't seem to be among them, and that's just fine.
The planet holds a mystery (nay, mysteries) and we readers are no more ahead of the game than Abram Pollux, the only survivor of the crash. The planet is inhabited and 'civilized' in a rogue-ish, western, backwoods sort of way. He is rescued by a girl, who represents what might be considered 'the law' but might also be a bounty hunter. Pollux, alone, lost, and seeking answers, remains defiantly human and does things his own way, rather than trying to adapt to the rules of the planet, which only further complicates his alone-ness.
This first book establishes some very interesting characters and sets up some a lot of questions with few answers. As a comic/graphic novel, author Ivan Brandon is clearly setting the reader up for a much longer story arc. While it is disappointing that there aren't any completed stories within this 128 page graphic novel, there is enough intrigue here to keep me interested. Typically, I don't expect a comic book to have a complete story in each issue, though it would be smart to compile each graphic novel so that there is some sub-plot story-line that concludes to give the reader some sort of closure. But the mysteries are set up very well, and I'm certainly interested in reading future issues in order to find some answers. These are well set-up mysteries and the characters odd enough to also keep us reading to learn more about them.
The artwork, by Nic Klein, is beautiful and very much suits the story.
There are graphic novels that you read and no matter how much you like the story, it's still just a story. But this is one of the few books that really drew me, and had me fully engrossed in the world and its inhabitants, and has me wanting to keep reading.
Looking for a good book? The graphic novel Drifter, Vol. 1 by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein is a sci-fi mystery that has qualities of Shakespeare's Tempest and draws the reader in with more questions than answers.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
A little more than a year ago I reviewed the first March book. You can reaThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
A little more than a year ago I reviewed the first March book. You can read that review here. The review copy that I received is only one-quarter of the full book, but I think it's safe to say that Book 2 is every bit as powerful and inspiring as was Book 1.
As I write this, the rioting in Baltimore is making headline news around the country and since I reviewed the first book, there have been tremendously horrible deaths of black men in police custody around the country that have been making news. This series of books by John Lewis seem ever more important to remind the country ... the world ... of the struggles for equality that have already taken place, and how far we still have to go.
It is amazing the fortitude that people have to resist peacefully, to take continued beatings, and to return to the peaceful protests. If it doesn't move the reader to see (literally 'see' since this is a graphic novel) people stand in line to buy movie tickets, told that the won't be served because of their skin color, and then return to the end of the line to do it again, and finally get beaten for it ... then the reader lacks any sort of human empathy.
And what more can you ask from any book, graphic or otherwise, than to move the reader and to inform the reader. This does both, extremely well. And just as the first time, the art is a perfect enhancement for the story.
You can't go wrong with this, and I hope it will become standard reading in schools all across the country.
Looking for a good book? March, Book 2 continues the historical look at the struggles of African-Americans to be recognized as humans and equals in the United States and does so in a nearly perfect manner that will be read, enjoyed, and understood by adults as well as children.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
From the creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, comes a new horror seThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
From the creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, comes a new horror series, Outcast. And it's nice to see that Walking Dead wasn't a fluke ... Kirkman understands horror.
Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life has been surrounded by demons and demonic possession. While he, himself, doesn't appear to be possessed, those around him, those closest to him, have been possessed - his wife, and his mother both have suffered possession. Kyle's 'talent' if it can be considered such, is that he seems pretty good at spotting the demons and getting rid of them. He's none too gentle about it, and when he teams up (very reluctantly) with a local priest, his rough means are a source of contention.
It looks as though there won't be any shortage of possessed locals for Kyle to come to grips with (pun intended), but Kyle is clearly haunted by his own demon, a very different sort of possession, and we're not quite sure yet what this is.
This is clearly the beginning of a longer story, something that you might expect when reading comic books or graphic novels. And in the hands of a good story-teller, as Kirkman is, you get the sense that he knows exactly where the story is headed and what the journey will look like. I don't always get this sense from graphic novels, so when I do, it's delightful and it's much easier to sit back and trust the creator.
The art works well for this story. It is dark and angular which helps to create an eerie atmosphere.
This is not a book that you can pick up and read and get a complete story. This is one that you have to go in with the understanding that this is setting up something much bigger, which is still to come, but from this start, it definitely appears worth getting in to.
Looking for a good book? The graphic novel, Outcast, Vol. 1, is setting up an intriguing series about demonic possession and the man who combats it, from the creator of The Walking Dead.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
About a year ago I read the first issue comic that appears as the first stThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
About a year ago I read the first issue comic that appears as the first story in this graphic novel. The (four star) review was brief and said:
Set in the not-too-distant future when an alien race arrived, made no direct contact, and planted some extremely large pillars, or trees, across the globe. Some were struck through the middle of cities, spewing a toxic waste, initially. Now...they just seem to be 'there,' with people living and working around them. But of course things have changed. Life has changed, government has changed, all because of the trees. It's an intriguing concept and I look forward to more.
And to be honest, not much has changed except that we get a bit more of the stories in this compilation.
There are multiple stories taking place and the only thing that connects them (at this time), are the 'trees.' Other than this, the trees appear to have no purpose other than being a catalyst for the human stories. But a catalyst is precisely what's needed in drama (and I've often written about how similar comics/graphic novels are to theatre and film in regards to the scripts/stories).
In this book we get caught up in the individuals and their stories. This is very much a book about people. It's a social commentary on human reactions. Add something new to the human collective and there will be those who study it, those who make art of it, and those who fight over it. That's precisely what we have here.
But author Warren Ellis gives us just enough of a tease about the 'trees' to keep us wanting to read more to see what happens to them or what they are doing to us. But this is still a story about how we react to them -- at least at this point.
The art by Jason Howard is very appropriate for this book. It's not hyper-realistic, but slightly 'edgy.' It never stuck out, but complemented the story.
I am definitely interested to see where this story goes.
Looking for a good book? The graphic novel Trees, Vol. 1 is a wonderful read and worth exploring.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Why am I getting this book? Well...okay, I know why ... 1) I've always beenThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5
Why am I getting this book? Well...okay, I know why ... 1) I've always been quite a fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books, and typically, anything related to those books will immediately catch my interest. 2) Look at that cover! It's a gorgeous painting, and very sexy! This is the sort of wonderland you might hope for in an adult, 'Grimm's Fairy Tale' world. 3) My last foray into this universe (see my review of Volume 2) was kind of fun. Now to volume five.
Well ... we're still in the all-adult Wonderland and the women's costumes have gotten skimpier and more provocative (is that possible?) -- the picture on the cover above is tame compared to what is inside!
Calie (Alice's daughter) is returning to Wonderland, and the four queens are headed to a big conflict to decide who should be the one and only queen of Wonderland. This volume contains five chapters, which I presume to be five issues of the individual comic book. The first of these chapters reads like a drug-induced trip through the looking glass and makes little-to-no sense to someone who hasn't read the previous volume.
Chapter picks up on the strangest of stories, and tosses in a piece with a man, who is supposed to resemble James Franco, in a place called "the Void." This is followed by a brief moment of Calie facing off against a variety of ancient gods, before facing James Franco-looking fellow, while dressed in a BDSM leather outfit full of clasps and laces, while managing to expose plenty of bosom and midriff. Yeah...welcome to Wonderland.
I never really got involved in this story. From the start, I could tell that I was behind. I kind of expect that with an on-going comic series, but I also expect that, if put in book format, I should be able to get caught up on the story (through a liberal use of editor's notes or some such device). This didn't happen. But as the story moved past the first chapter, it almost seemed as though I didn't really need to know anything from the whacked-out experiences in the first couple of chapters anyway. This story really was about the battle for Wonderland. So if I didn't need it, why was I spending time being confused?
Even the battles became a bit of a mess and I still was never really sure as to what was happening. This book didn't lose me ... it never had me.
The artwork was okay, but not outstanding. At times the art felt very rushed, with little detail and a very flat appearance, while other times pages looked meticulously drawn and inked. And, as I've written before, I'm a little tired of the gratuitous display of the exaggerated figures in some of these books. It's pretty clear who these books are marketed to.
One image, not female, struck me for its similarity to a book cover. I recently read a book called Sideshow (review yet to appear here). That cover looks like this:
Now take a good look at one of the figures in this book, next to this book cover:
It's just a little creepy that this guy is showing up in multiple books I've been reading!
Looking for a good book? Wonderland, Volume 5, fails to capture the reader with either the writing or the art, and unless you've been a regular reader, I wouldn't recommend this book.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a fan of the character "Q." Not oThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a fan of the character "Q." Not only not a fan, but I get seriously annoyed by the character and have yet to watch any rerun of the series that has this character in it. I'm not quite sure where this distaste for the character comes from, but it's there and I'm copping to it outright.
That said, this book did not start off well for me. Perhaps it's not just the character of "Q" but the relationship between Q and Picard that I am annoyed by, but in any event, the early portion of the book with Q popping onto the Enterprise and interacting with Picard almost had me stop reading. I'm glad, however, that continued.
This story, by Mike Johnson, takes on a heavy concept of alternative time-lines and time travel. Flinging Kirk and the Enterprise (of the re-booted movies) into the future, Q doesn't reveal too much to Kirk and crew, but readers/fans recognize that this future is very different from the one we are familiar with, of DS9 fame. I thought this to be kind of an interesting concept, to play with fan familiarity. It might be confusing to anyone not already with the Star Trek universe, but, really, how many people are going to read this comic/graphic novel if they aren't already familiar with the ST universe?
Kirk's fame for not believing in the no-win scenario is put to the test in this alternative future, and Q's place in the universe is brought in to play in the strongest of ways.
I don't want to give too much away, and with a plot as intricate as this one, it's difficult to talk too much about the story without giving much away. The stakes are high (which makes for great drama), the characters strong, and the obstacles seemingly insurmountable. What more can you want? The deeper I got in to the book, the more interested I became and it almost ... almost ... got me to become a fan of the character of Q.
The art by Tony Shasteen is very passable. I was never disturbed by the art, but I wasn't overwhelmed with awe by it either. It sufficed to tell the story, visually.
I am glad when I can be 'converted' by a book. I was not expecting to enjoy this too much, given my feelings about one of the main characters of the story, but I came away from it very glad to have experienced this story.
Looking for a good book? Star Trek fans should really enjoy digging in to this graphic novel that offers tremendous excitement with the stakes incredibly high. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
There are a great number of similarities between a graphic novel story andThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.25 of 5
There are a great number of similarities between a graphic novel story and a story written for other visual mediums such as film and theatre. Now I don't know a lot about film, but I do know a little something about theatre and playwriting. I have, taped above my desk, a series of "I believe..." quotes from one of my favorite playwriting books. Those quotes include:
"I believe in strong stories with strong characters who want and need and act." "I believe in protagonists, antagonists, goals and obstacles." "I believe in dramatic tension and suspense." "I believe all good plays contain character/conflict/action/ideas."
And because I recognize the similarities between graphic novels and theatre scripts, I tend to hold graphic novel stories to the same standards as a play script. In the case of Wildfire, written by Matt Hawkins, the story holds up very well and although sci-fi it holds such an incredible foothold in reality that it is a little scary.
If you lived in farm country, or have ever driven by a sizeable farm, you've seen the signs from laboratories that are providing the farmers with fertilizers or pest controls (or both). Wildfire imagines if some laboratory is experimenting with a special growth hormone for food to rapidly speed up the growth process in order to plant and harvest on a much quicker scale in order to be able to plant and harvest more food to feed our too-rapidly growing population.
But what happens if that hormone spreads to the crops that we DON'T want? Dandelions. Poison ivy. Poison oak. Crab grass. Etc etc etc. We can sometimes become so focussed on a goal that we fail to see the other, dangerous, possibilities.
Hawkins' story moves quickly and is full of characters 'who want and need to act.' We don't spend a lot of time sitting around and contemplating the effects, as writers often like to do -- debate the pros and cons -- but we jump right in to goals and obstacles with a lot of dramatic tension and suspense.
In case you can't tell ... I really like this story. It's well paced (if anything...it's a touch too fast) and extremely topical.
The art, by Linda Sejic, works nicely for the book. It is not the super-realistic, 3D style of many books, but much more like the comic book art of the 1970's and '80's. And for someone like myself, who grew up with those books, it was very comfortable.
Looking for a good book? Wildfire, Volume 1 is a graphic novel that works well on many levels and should appeal to readers who've never read a graphic novel before as well as fans of the genre. I received an electronic version of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. ...more
I appreciate a wide variety of writing and art styles and even if somethinThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.25 of 5
I appreciate a wide variety of writing and art styles and even if something doesn't reach me personally, I try to look at it from the point of view of the intended audience. But no matter how I try to look at this book, it just doesn't work!
Henni is a graphic novel by Miss Lasko-Cross in which 'Henni' is a strange cat/monkey/human hybrid. According to the Goodreads publisher's description, this story is a "commentary on religion, coming of age and being yourself." 'Commentary on religion?' More like a diatribe.
Henni is a young girl with an abundance of curiosity. The elders in her village remind her, time and again, that her place is to obey and to do what she is told. It is a way of life that her mother would send a bribe to the butcher so that his son might consider Henni for a bride. It is a way of life that it goes against the grain of their religion for her to be so forthright and to question everything.
After being imprisoned and chained, Henni manages to turn the tables just enough at her trial (for sacrilege) in order to be banished rather than killed. Wandering in her banishment, she discovers that she isn't the only one to question the 'normal' way of life. Once she realizes that there are others in the world, she decides that her father, who was taken from their home (in front of Henni), might still be alive. She heads off to look for him. End of story.
This little parable is a little too obvious in its message and definitely treats religion -- any and all religion -- as dangerous to curious minds.
If this book is geared toward younger readers, it might actually prove to be more dangerous than the religions it proselytizes against, because the book doesn't offer other options (it's religion or death). We don't know if Henni's father was promoting some other way of life, or simply questioned the way of life just the way Henni does.
The book ends on a cliff-hanger (literally, not figuratively) so there clearly must be another book planned, but this hit-us-over-the-head morality tale is difficult to follow because of the sudden leaps it takes as it moves the story along.
The art is ... well, different. The cat/monkey/thing is definitely unique but it never made a strong (favorable) impression on me. Because it wasn't a human, the story took on the parable tone. But because of this, I wasn't able to connect with the characters. There was nothing in Henni's life that I could relate to.
I appreciate the effort, but Henni doesn't speak to me.
Looking for a good book? Henni is an unusual graphic novel by Miss Lasko-Cross that expresses the dangers of blindly obeying religion and has a 'teen' confronting the leaders of her village and paying the price of banishment for doing so. I received this book in electronic form from the publisher, through Netgalley, for an honest review. ...more
It took me a little while to remember where I knew Don Freeman's name from,This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
It took me a little while to remember where I knew Don Freeman's name from, but it clicked while I was reading this. Freeman is the author/artist of the children's Corduoy books -- books about a stuffed bear that I used to read to my children quite regularly.
It Shouldn't Happen (To a Dog), while an illustrated book much like his Corduroy books, is not intended for children. Instead, Freeman writes (and draws) a story based on his military days, drawing (literally and figuratively) on the treatment of the enlisted soldier. The fact that Freeman is a black man compounds the inequality and treatment he receives. But as an enlisted man, he is unable to complain.
In the course of the story, our soldier feels his treatment is so bad that he couldn't be treated worse if he were a dog, and wakes up in his barracks one day, having turned in to a dog. We follow him then, being treated like a dog, yet hardly any different than any of the other soldiers.
Writing/drawing an illustrated story, almost a graphic novel, is a great way to get a message across when you can't speak up. But Freeman's story is not as clear-cut as it could be. Our hero-dog manages to shine as a soldier, but then he winds up AWOL, but then back in the ranks. I'm not quite certain what point Freeman is trying to get across. It's hard to respect and enjoy a soldier, even a dog/soldier, when he is not toeing the line. His exploits as a dog deviate from the sorts of things a soldier typically has to do.
I appreciated seeing some of Freeman's drawing work other than Corduroy and I greatly appreciated the historical look at the United States' military during a turbulent time. Beyond that, though, this just isn't a strong book. While the art looks like it's for kids, the story really isn't. And while the personal, historical look at the military is interesting, it's not really told in a way that would rally history buffs to buy it at the book store. This is the sort of book you hope you can find in a local book store.
Looking for a good book? It Shouldn't Happen (To a Dog) is a fictionalized personal account of life in the military, told through the drawings of a noted children's book author/illustrator, Don Freeman, and may be of some interest to readers of history and military history. ...more
I recently reviewed a Star Trek graphic novel that I found to be really treThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5
I recently reviewed a Star Trek graphic novel that I found to be really tremendous (see review here) and so I hoped to continue my trip through nostalgia with this Six Million Dollar Man graphic novel. Perhaps my memory is fading, but I don't remember the series being quite like this.
For those who don't know, The Six Million Dollar Man is about test pilot/astronaut Colonel Steve Austin who experienced a tragic accident. Using 'new' cybernetic technology, military grade doctors replaced his legs, one arm, and one eye with bionic parts (hence the price tag), changing Colonel Austin into a cyborg. Using his now incredible speed, strength, and vision, Austin does specialty work for the government, saving the US from all nature of bad guys.
This book starts off familiarly enough with Steve Austin acting as a one-man army to help someone escape illegal imprisonment in a South American country. But from there, the story spirals downward into a B-grade sci-fi flick, complete with an uncontrollable robot army and humans turned into winged monsters. Um ... yeah. Robots and monsters. My willing suspension of disbelief only extends so far. And I could accept even this if the story itself were a little tighter and better executed.
And of course this is a graphic novel, so the art plays a major part. And if the interior art looked anything like the cover as you see above, this would be fantastic. Unfortunately, this isn't so.
Not too long ago I reviewed a few graphic novels that were almost insulting in their depiction of the female lead characters. Their bodies were more shapely and pronounced than the famous Barbie™. This book is the male counterpart. The men in this book, even the nerdy scientists, have bodies that would make the stars of the Spartacus tv series jealous. Most of the characters in the book did not really resemble the actors who portrayed the characters in the television series. At times this was frustrating because it appeared as though there was an effort to make the resemblance, but it didn't work. It was complicated by the fact that the cover art DID resemble the tv stars. Even so, this 'failing' can be over-looked as long as the appearance is consistent. Mostly it was -- just with added ten-pack abs and Schwarzenegger-like arms and legs (why do artificial limbs need to look overly pronounced?).
All in all, I could have accepted the less-than-stellar art if the story hadn't deviated into the morass that it did.
Looking for a good book? The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 6 tries to carry on the thrill of the old television series but perhaps suggests why there wasn't a season six. (I received this book courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.) ...more
Yes! Finally a Star Trek graphic novel that combines an interesting, well-tThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
Yes! Finally a Star Trek graphic novel that combines an interesting, well-thought-out story with really terrific art wherein familiar characters actually look like the characters we readers know! It helps that this book is a graphic novel adaptation of a much-loved Star Trek episode, "City on the Edge of Forever," by noted author Harlan Ellison.
So why put out a graphic novel of something that's already in visual form? Because, as the cover boasts, this is based on the original screenplay, and not the episode as filmed and aired.
Harlan Ellison is no small voice in the sf/comics genre and he's boasted many times how much better his original version was than the studio-rewritten-and-filmed version. While the script as Harlan wrote (and rewrote) it has been published before, reading a teleplay can be difficult for those who aren't familiar with doing so. Seeing it as a graphic novel is possibly the only way we will ever see this particular version of the teleplay, visually.
First, I should note that although the cover of the book states it's "the original teleplay," it's actually the original revised teleplay -- see the published book, or Google it.
I liked the story. I am not convinced it's any better or worse than the episode as aired. There are some clear differences. Some of the aspects I liked more (the appearance of the Guardians), but some, such as Spock's demeanor toward his captain, I liked much less.
Credited authors Scott and David Tipton have done a fine job of converting the teleplay into a graphic novel, even though it is still Ellison's story.
J.K. Woodward's art is tremendous. How often did I stop and stare at a page just to admire the way Woodward painted a panel or built a page? Let me see ... how many pages are there? 128? Then I did this 128 times!
Each page appears to be painted with acrylics, and Woodward manages to be consistent with his characters' appearances AND actually makes them resemble the characters on which they are based! This seems to be a much more difficult task than you might think, based on previous comic/graphic novel incarnations! I actually went back to look over the book again, just to take a look at how Woodward put his work together. Often there was a slight monochromatic appearance to the panels, but it works, and it works well!
Whether it was the Tiptons' idea, or Woodward's (or even Ellison's) I don't know, but I greatly appreciated all the little nods to Harlan Ellison. I don't want to give them away, they are like little Easter Eggs to hunt for, but one of the more obvious ones is the window of a shop that sells "Strange Wine." And because not everyone will know what Harlan Ellison looks like, it was a rather nice tribute to see Harlan himself play a small, but important role in the visual story.
I'd really love to see these authors and artist work together again on another Star Trek story ... whether it's an adaptation of an early draft, or an unproduced draft (Theodore Sturgeon had been selling his unproduced script on Amazon!), or something entirely new, this combination really worked for me.
Looking for a good book? Fans of well-written and drawn graphic novels, as well as Star Trek fans should love this book. ...more
I really like The Shadow. I listened to the stories on the radio when CBSThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.25 of 5
I really like The Shadow. I listened to the stories on the radio when CBS used to re-run old radio serials, and I devoured the books that I scrounged from used and antique book stores. I even liked the Alec Baldwin film! And Dynamite Entertainment has put our dear Lamont Cranston to the test on many new titles, which I've liked to varying degrees.
But I like this one the least.
There is something almost beautiful about the noir-ish world that the Shadow inhabits in the 1930's and '40's just as Batman's dark world fits him perfectly. Now...take The Shadow out of his world and put him in Batman's crime-riddled dark city, and while it seems like it should fit well, it doesn't.
Author David Liss brings the story down by trying to show us the human side of the character and I question this intent. Lamont Cranston can be human, but his alter ego needs to remain shadowed. The hero is much more powerful (both as a hero and as a figure for the reader) with an air of mystery surrounding him. And quite frankly, this struggle to 'fit in,' to try to understand a world that isn't his (nor should it be), grew tiresome.
The art, by Colton Worely, drove me crazy -- not in a good way. How to describe this...? Photographic/plastic. Each panel looked like a screen shot from a mid-range-quality video game. You know... where the people look like people but with an odd, unearthly, plastic appearing quality. There are lots of shadows and darkness, as you would expect, but there are also lots of strange lighting angles meant to add an air of mystery, but really just make me wonder why the light is coming from that direction.
As someone who enjoys reading The Shadow stories, I was really looking forward to a new look at this classic crime fighter, but was ultimately left very disappointed.
Looking for a good book? The Shadow Now is a graphic novel that struggles to make a Depression-era hero relevant today. ...more
Finally...a graphic novel that explores the full range of possibilities of the medium -- and does it well. Shutter is so packed with creativeWow.
Finally...a graphic novel that explores the full range of possibilities of the medium -- and does it well. Shutter is so packed with creative bizarre-ness that it will most likely be confusing to most readers. And truthfully...if I were to read this by the individual issues as the come out on the stands, I probably wouldn't be able to get in to this. It's sooooo out there that the reader needs to be able to put his hands literally or figuratively around the whole of the book to know that there's more to the story than just the moments that he's reading now.
Like some of the best speculative fiction authors (Zelazny, Ellison, Pullman, Dick), we are tossed, unceremoniously, into the middle of a story in a strange world, and left to fend for ourselves. We can either buck up and try to learn as we go, or we can forever be lost and not bother reading. But I'll warn you...choosing the former path won't be easy. Author Joe Keating and artist Leila del Duca have combined to create an utterly phantasmagorical world where anthropomorphic animals wield swords and mega-blasters and ride triceratops' while hunting down a human girl and her alarm-clock cat side-kick.
This book is hard to describe. It can't be read... it must be experienced! From the opening pages, where the creators' names appear as if they were intercut motion-picture credits, I was captivated. I knew that this was going to be something very different. And since we start with a father showing his daughter the moon -- while ON the moon (and of course a young child just finds it boring because there's nothing to see but rocks) -- we know that this is a different time, if not a different world than our own. Establishing the father/daughter relationship also brilliantly sets up the rest of the story.
Twenty years later and we learn just what sort of world it is through some great visuals from Del Duca. People sitting casually on a patio with scaly green arms and a tail while a tattooed human casually walks a dog nearby. A pterodactyl in a nest along the abutment of an apartment highrise. A dirigible floats over the modern-looking (to us) metropolis. Our young girl (now in her late twenties) riding a subway alongside a man in a full astronaut spacesuit and a minotaur reading a newspaper. Yeah...this is the world we will be in for the rest of the book and this visual set-up really sets the tone well. Expect the unexpected.
That's easier said than done, of course. When purple ghost ninjas who can only utter the word "kuu" attack, we are reminded just what 'unexpected' means.
There is a story here. A story of Kate Christopher, a renowned explorer, forced to explore something she'd rather not ... her history. Despite the apparent ramblingness of the book, it DOES make sense. Yes...there are flashbacks that we aren't specifically TOLD are flashbacks, but the savvy reader will pick up on this.
I am a huge fan of this art. The 'look' is every bit as important as the words here and Del Duca approaches this like an expert cinematographer. Owen Gieni's colors and Ed Brisson's letters make a positive impact on the over-all look of the book.
Looking for a good book? Shutter, Volume 1: Wanderlost is one of the most original graphic novels I've read. It isn't easy to follow along, but it's worth the patience!...more
What is happening to the Kill Shakespeare series? I feel as though there iThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.25 of 5
What is happening to the Kill Shakespeare series? I feel as though there is nothing to review here with this issue.
Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, and Shakespeare are on a ship, Captained by a masked Cessario whose first mate is Viola. Cessario and Viola and crew appear to be pirates, but pirates who are afraid of another ship, captained by Titus Andronicus (okay...I'd be afraid of that ship, too). There are some battles aboard the pirate ship and ... well ... that's about it.
Previous books have followed more than one storyline and sometimes leave the reader breathless as the story whips and winds around, and there are sometimes so many different characters in play that you need to have your Shakespeare Spark Notes at hand. But this volume slows it down...way down. Which is a bit odd since they are racing away.
Although Othello is on the ship, we tend to only see him when we need a break from the monotony of dialog and he comes up, raging, out of his mind.
In Volume 3, we saw Hamlet, Juliet, Romeo, and Othello head to Prospero's island for battle. Now,fleeing and captives of Cessario, it seems that they have become pawns to others who are much less powerful (and less interesting) than Prospero.
The art is still fair. More vibrant art may have enhanced this rather dull story.
This book feels like 'filler.' As though everyone involved needed some time off and tossed together this volume. I hope it picks up again very soon.
Looking for a good book? If you've been buying the Kill Shakespeare series, you'll want to get this to keep your collection together, but if you don't pick up this book, you won't be missing out on much....more
First...kudos to Dynamite Publishing for understanding that 'novel' is parThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
First...kudos to Dynamite Publishing for understanding that 'novel' is part of 'graphic novel' and that the story within the covers, even though it represents a number of single issues of a comic book, is a complete story arc. That wasn't too hard to do now, was it?
In this book, wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden is enlisted (drafted?) by the White Council to be a 'warden' to look out for the Council's interests. His task is to take other raw recruits and rescue some mortals who are on the endangered list, being targeted by the Red Court. Harry and his mostly-untested companions will face thousands of vampires, led by a villanous Baron Bravosa, with eleven hours to go before dawn arrives. The secret to surviving may be in the hands of the humans they are there to protect, but it might also bring about the end of all life.
What can I say... this story by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers is fabulous. The stakes are high - not just Harry Dresden's life, but all life - and the obstacles in Dresden's way couldn't appear more overwhelming! There is loss, and there is the need to survive on wits, skill, and luck. Dresden and company rise to the challenge and beyond what they might otherwise be able to achieve.
This story really captured me from the start, and it held my interest all the way through.
The art, by Carlos Gomez, really works for this title. In the previous Dresden Files graphic novel that I reviewed (see that review here), I felt that the art was too 'cartoony' for such a dark book. Gomez's art hits it just right and his Harry Dresden may be precisely how I picture the wizard from here on out.
If you haven't experienced the world of Harry Dresden, this will be a fine initiation. If you already know Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, then this graphic novel is an absolute 'must.'
Looking for a good book? Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: War Cry is an exciting, driven graphic novel....more
I'm not sure where I got this book ... it doesn't appear to have come fromThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
I'm not sure where I got this book ... it doesn't appear to have come from NetGalley or Edelweiss (two organizations from whom I receive Advance Readers Copies of books) ... but I'm very glad that I got it and read it because it was really delightful.
There is a quality about the boy that reminds me of the best of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which a human has to come to terms with being among an alien race and taking decisive action, yet still not necessarily being a victor in all combat.
The art in this comic book (and this is a single issue of a book and not a complete graphic novel) is fabulous. It, too, harkens back to a an earlier era of books... of comic books that were drawn with care and talent and not thrown-together-sketch art as I've seen too often in books lately. Look at the cover as presented above. Each panel of art manages to capture this same look and feel.
I should also point out that the publisher has understood the value of the two-page spread and for each two-page spread, has put both pages on the viewing screen (for the digital edition, of course). There is still some need on the part of the reader to adapt in order to read the page(s), but it allows for better viewing of the artwork and better understanding of how the pages should be read. Kudos to Noise Trade!
The story of Erik Farrell waking up, lost and alone, the only living boy on the planet, is exciting and captivating. The art is glorious. This is a book that I want to keep reading!
Looking for a good book? The Only Living Boy #1 is an excellent comic that deserves to be purchased and read by lovers of the genre and may bring in new comic book readers....more
In the mid-1970's if I ever thought of cartoons, one name came to mind...Gahan Wilson. His wit was wicked and his drawings deliciously simple but a taIn the mid-1970's if I ever thought of cartoons, one name came to mind...Gahan Wilson. His wit was wicked and his drawings deliciously simple but a tad off-beat.
Reading through a Gahan Wilson book is for adults who enjoy speculative fiction, what reading through The Far Side comics is for others: fun, unexpected, and the sense that you are 'in' on something slightly 'naughty' and that only you and Mr. Wilson understand. Sometimes this felt a little dated, though I'm not entirely sure why
This brought back fond memories as I read through it, undoubtedly for the first time since I bought it in 1975.
Looking for a good book? If you can find a copy of Gahan Wilson's Cracked Cosmos, you are in for a treat....more
Atlantis. Atlanteans exploring the surface world (in water-filled 'space' sThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.0 of 5
Atlantis. Atlanteans exploring the surface world (in water-filled 'space' suits). Mammoths. Crazy gods. And the search for a DNA key that might bridge the gap between the under-water dwellers and the surface-walkers. This sounds like an ambitious, high adventure book, which is what had me request it. Unfortunately, it's a bit too ambitious and lacks support to pull it off.
It's nearly impossible to talk about this book without first discussing the art. The art is poor. In my digital edition, the inks and colors are muddy and it is often difficult to tell the characters apart.
The over-all concept is interesting. A race of Atlanteans, more advanced and pre-dating humans and the quest to find a way to survive on land. But the political tensions and social status of the characters seemed to drag down the story. I quickly became bored, and, as stated earlier, there was no support (art) to keep me interested.
Interestingly, the book includes some illustrated short stories. The art is much more sketch-like ... simple and lacking great detail ... but much more interesting and easier to follow. The stories are likewise more enjoyable and actually managed to have me interested in the book.
Looking for a good book? There isn't much to recommend for this graphic novel. ...more
Neil Gaiman has the Midas touch when it comes to anything in the publishingThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5
Neil Gaiman has the Midas touch when it comes to anything in the publishing industry, graphic novels in particular. Of course he's earned that through hard work and awesome writing. But even Midas had his early years.
I really respect Gaiman's work, though I wouldn't count myself among his most ardent fans (perhaps because I haven't read every word he's written) and I wouldn't consider myself a fan of the music of Alice Cooper by any means (though who can't sing the refrain to "School's Out"?). Yet I can see where the two might go hand in hand.
The partnership appears to have been instigated by Alice Cooper, and Gaiman, early in his career (this is a 20th Anniversary Edition), was accommodating. The sense of Gaiman's story-telling is obvious. The magic. The sense of a reality beyond what the average person sees is very much in evidence. The use of a child, or young teen, is very much in evidence. As is the swirling dark, magical world that would appeal to fans of Gaiman and Cooper both.
What there isn't, is much of a story. This is 100 pages of figurative trick-or-treating. A Showman (Cooper) trying to trick a youngster (though there really is no reason for it), who turns the tables, but is never the victor. Does this make sense? It doesn't need to. It's really all about Alice Cooper appearing in a comic book/graphic novel and Neil Gaiman getting to play in his fantastic world. For these two things, this book works. For a good, strong story? not so much.
The art is broodingly dark and appropriate though not always clear. The youths are not drawn as sharp and as consistently as the rest of the characters or scenery. But the opening panels of autumn leaves and the crow are outstanding and really prepared me for an awesome work.
I would like to have liked this a little more. It's certainly interesting from a Neil Gaiman retrospective standpoint, but not so much as a current work. This reissued, deluxe edition includes a copy of Gaiman's 'original outline' for the story, and about 40 pages of script for the book. Interesting, but every other graphic novel is doing this and it no longer seems like much of a bonus but an expected part of the experience.
Looking for a good book? Neil Gaiman fans and Alice Cooper fans might really enjoy the chance to read this book, The Last Temptation, but it's not a particularly strong story on its own. ...more
I am not a regular reader of any comic book or graphic novel title, thoughThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.0 of 5
I am not a regular reader of any comic book or graphic novel title, though there was a time when I was. I say this because maybe it's important to know that I am not up to speed (pun intended) on the three previous volumes of the "New 52" Flash books. And...that might be important.
Because I did not care for this at all.
First, I thought the art was dreadful. It wasn't stylized, it wasn't realistic, it wasn't ... good. And here I am talking specifically about the execution of the artwork itself.
But I also take issue with the layout of the art (and is that the artist or the author who decides the layout?). If you've read many comics (or graphic novels), do you remember when you came across a two-page spread of art and it added to the 'wow' factor? How the two-page spread helped that moment of incredible action as if everything that was happening couldn't be contained in just one page? Well, there are approximately 30 two-page spreads (not always one picture in two pages, but two pages designed in such a way that you must read all the way across the top of both pages as you work your way down) in this 176 page book. That's a lot. It's sort of the artistic equivalent of 'crying wolf.' After, oh, say, the fifth one you stop being impressed or awed by the forced energy and excitement that author Francis Manapul and artist Brian Buccellato are trying to create.
And on a technical level... I suspect that there are more than a few people, like me, who are reading their books digitally and these two page spreads actually slow down the action because we need to move the page back and forth in order to read the script sequentially. (I know, it's possible to have some readers open to double-page spreads, but then there's issue with the size of the font....)
And so to the story... Flash faces off against Reverse-Flash! Chase! Battle! Innocents will die unless Flash saves them! Repeat!
What, exactly, is a 'reverse' Flash? As "Reverse Flash" himself says...
"I'm not just some 'backwards' version of the Flash. I can do MORE than just run fast. I can turn back time. I can put everything in reverse."
I'm not entirely sure how this is helpful. Really. And is Flash not fast enough to counter it? Apparently not.
But then there's something else going on called the "Speed Force" which is an energy form that Flash seems to tap in to in order to run fast. It's the same thing that Kid Flash and Reverse Flash also use and when one 'taps' into it, Reverse Flash can feel the use. This reminds me a little of the Green Power that the Green Lantern Corps taps into, which is apparently finite. Will Flash also find he can't run fast once he and his speedy peers use up all the Speed Force?
This is where perhaps having read the other three volumes might have helped. I would be hopeful that the story builds rather than constantly leaving some inexplicable happenings hanging out there for the new reader. But in any case, I can't recommend coming in to this book cold.
Looking for a good book? The Flash, Vol. 4: Reverse doesn't have much going for it....more
It's not often that I get an uncomfortable feeling when reading a graphic nThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
It's not often that I get an uncomfortable feeling when reading a graphic novel, but The Strain, Volume 1 is appropriately eerie.
Based on a novel, and possibly a film or television series (I'm not entirely certain) created by Guillermo del Toro, The Strain twists the vampire legend back into something darker and more in keeping with the origins of the legend (that it is something vile and hideous and not romantic, as modern tales have made the vampire out to be). And for anyone familiar with del Toro, it should come as a shock that the creatures are hideous, loathsome, and exceedingly creepy.
The book starts out in a manner SO entirely possible. First, a brief 'history' lesson from 1927 Romania, and then to the present day when a plane lands at a New York airport but the entire passenger and crew are dead and the CDC don't know what caused it. Given recent fears in the news about the virus Ebola and flights that may have carried Ebola victims into the United States, this story seems almost prescient.
Horror can be a tough genre to pull off, particularly in a graphic novel format. I've read a fair number of attempts and none of them have really satisfied. This one however, does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to tell a dark, disturbing story that gives the reader the willies. It does this, in part, by not being like a typical graphic novel.
This may sound strange, and I can't quite put my finger on the reason, but this doesn't read like a graphic novel. Perhaps this is because the focus is on the larger story and the creators don't build little individual comic issue story arcs (which would drive me crazy if I were reading this in individual comic issues)? Perhaps it's because it's a much more faithful adaptation of novels or the television series? Whatever the reason (perhaps someone can help me identify this) this is almost more like reading a movie. The way the story builds and the way the art complements the story rather than being a more obvious aspect of the book, creates a rather unique read. I know...I know...this sounds strange, but I can't seem to find a better way to explain the feeling I got while reading this book. It was a unique experience.
I'm not typically a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro. He always seems to be on the verge of something powerful that fails to deliver. But in the hands of author David Lapham, The Strain, Volume 1 builds quite nicely.
Mike Huddleston's art is very appropriately dark. It is more 'sketch-like' than highly detailed finished work, and it is also highly stylized, all of which adds to the atmosphere of the book. it works well for telling this story. Dan Jackson's colors really tweak the art to encourage the creepy, dark atmosphere.
Looking for a good book? This is not a book that everyone will enjoy, but if you like dark, strange stories with vampires that are absolutely hideous, then The Strain, Volume1 is a great book to read. ...more
This story of a young, heavy metal rocker whose girlfriend dies and he exprThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
This story of a young, heavy metal rocker whose girlfriend dies and he expresses his grief through his music.
This sounds simple, and in many ways it is, but there's a real beauty to the manner and form in which this tale is told. It's rather difficult to talk about the art and the story as separate entities because they are truly tied together so intricately here -- as a good graphic novel should do -- but I'll try.
The art has a sweeping, soft flair which is in contrast to the heavy metal rock lifestyle of the characters. The art is very stylized rather than realistic, which works very well for this story. In many cases, the art is worth looking at even without the story.
The story is quite simple, as I've already stated. The young man, known as ID (or D?) has a bit of a temper that gets out of hand at times. Getting angry, he uses his guitar as a weapon, swinging it at a crowd, which puts him on a hate list by some local toughs. But for the most part, ID is trying to make sense of the hole in his chest from missing his girlfriend. The only way he knows how to deal with it is to make music, which he does....sending the music to the wind, hoping the wind will carry it out to his girlfriend's spirit.
There is a sub-plot of one of ID's friends experimenting in a gay relationship. This is handled very well.
One of the things that works really well here is the sense of creating a powerful, emotional musicality through words and drawings. It's a difficult thing to do, but author/artist Tony Sandoval gets it just right. We can practically hear the music come off the page. Combined with the beautiful art, this book really connects and I was drawn in to it much more than I expected.
What doesn't work quite as well as it could, is the beginning few pages of the story. It rambled a bit, neither giving us a good idea of the characters nor setting up the story. I was a little lost at the beginning, which is why I wasn't expecting to be drawn in to the book.
And as much as I liked the art, overall, there were times it didn't work. In the first sequence of the gay relationship, I had absolutely no idea that one of the characters was male until later in the book. Most of the male characters had long, flowy (rocker) hair, and so it wasn't at all clear that a figure was male just by appearance alone.
Overall, this is a beautiful book and I would gladly look for more volumes.
Looking for a good book? This graphic novel, Doomboy, has a remarkably soft touch for a story of a heavy metal rocker. Beautifully told and illustrated, this is well worth reading!...more
I was drawn to this book by the title. Federal Bureau of Physics. Physics!This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
I was drawn to this book by the title. Federal Bureau of Physics. Physics! I had a sneaking suspicion that this would be a story a little out of the ordinary, and one that I might be able to sink my teeth in to. And I was right.
There are times, especially when reading, that I like reading something that might be confusing. Typically, it's when there is a maze of realities that the reader must sort through. For instance, the works of Philip K. Dick. I really like those books. And now we have something very similar in graphic novels with Federal Bureau of Physics. Agents Hardy and Reyes are sent to watch over an old quantum physics lab in a remote little town where strange things are known to happen (think "Eureka"). At the lab, the reader is confronted with a variety of realities that the agents must navigate. They, at least, are prepared for these alternate realities and we must ride along and try to hang on.
The art is delicious, with a slightly psychedelic look, adding to the vertigo the reader might feel while reading.
This is one of those rare books that the reader will want to read again. In part because there is a sense that there is so much going on and a second reading might make things a little clearer. This is a good thing.
I did get a sense that I most likely missed out on some things by not having read the first volume. It's enough of a struggle to keep up with a work that deals with varying realities that starting out with a handicap is not fun. This is not the sort of book that a reader will want to pick up late in the game.
I had a lot of fun, and the art was perfect for the book.
Looking for a good book? This graphic novel might make your head spin, but if you like a story that requires close attention and promises a fun time, along with art that adds to the effect, then this is the book for you....more
Another vampire series. Just when you thought the vampire epidemic couldn'tThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
Another vampire series. Just when you thought the vampire epidemic couldn't get any bigger in pop culture, comes still another series, this one in graphic novel/comic format, by Jonathan Maberry. And maybe this will be the end of the line for vampires, because Maberry gets it right.
A gene mutation, the Ice Virus, creates the vampire 'race' to emerge. Like the television show True Blood, vampires and humans co-exist, are wary of one another, and many (on both sides of the DNA chain) wouldn't mind ridding the world of the other. When the Speaker of the House, who has been outspoken about dialog and coming to understand one-another, is murdered, one man stands out as the voice of reason. The vampires keep a close eye on him, and the humans keep him close to the action.
Maberry doesn't waste any time with the story, dropping us straight in to the action, which is already at a fevered pace. In so many ways this was a breath of fresh air as I seem to have been reading a great many books that spend a lot of time with setting up the story and the characters before getting the reader involved. Vampires. Humans. Conflict. Maberry understands that we get this very basic premise and moves us in to the story.
The 'good' vampires and the 'bad' humans are sometimes a little stereotypical here. Vampires that go to church...GAY, bi-racial vampires that go to church ... and humans that just want blood. It's hard, perhaps, to come up with something new here -- we've seen these same sorts before. But the characters that are the most interesting are those who are conflicted within themselves. Those who struggle to remain neutral are the characters who are the most interesting here.
Maberry weaves in a few plot twists along the way. Most of these are not too unexpected, but it does what it sets out to do which is to change up the story-line. To throw a curve, not at the reader, but at the story. All of this works quite well and drags the reader along on this violent, brutal story.
But what works ... the REASON that it works ... is that it is not just another vampire story. It is a metaphor for our own world. Our race, religion, and ethnic bigotry are thrown in our face under the guise of supernatural vampirism. Who can't read this and see Ferguson, Missouri? Or the ethnic genocides in the Balkans and African nations and the Asian nations? Or ... you get the point. Maberry is telling OUR story, but because it's bloody and violent, we don't like to see it unless we can pretend it's make-believe.
The art by Alan Robinson is fine. This is nothing super-outstanding, but it suits the story well. Characters are uniquely identified (not always true in some of the graphic novels I've read) and panels aren't filled with un-necessary clutter.
This is a vampire graphic novel series that I am interested in reading.
Looking for a good book? V-Wars is an inspired graphic novel that puts the reader in to the action, leaves the reader wanting to read on, and silently slaps the reader on the back of the head for behaving the way that we do. ...more
When I read Green Arrow, Vol. 4, I was torn by the exciting potential andmylack of belief in the character to become worthy of his own book. And so IWhen I read Green Arrow, Vol. 4, I was torn by the exciting potential and my lack of belief in the character to become worthy of his own book. And so I was hesitant to dig in to Vol 5. Fortunately, Vol. 5 does more to push Oliver Queen to becoming a hero worthy of his own book. ...But only just barely.
For the first portion of this book I was quite excited and feeling good about the direction of the story and character growth. He steps in and steps up and helps people with his uncanny bow and arrow skills (which he couldn't seem to do in the previous volume). Although he's hiding his presence from his family, he looks after them, and even manages to show the Batman that he can fight on par with the famed vigilante. Oliver's bringing in Diggle to help him shows maturity in recognizing what he can not do by himself.
And then he returns to the island he had just managed to get away from, and he is knocked down a few pegs. Secrets that perhaps would have been best left secret are revealed to him and he reverts back to the lost, confused boy who doesn't seem capable of being on his own. Which is odd because the very reason he managed to escape the island was because he had grown capable (supposedly) To be fair, there are some powerful reasons to revert to the little lost boy, given what happens, but even here, he is just on the verge of stepping up, taking the all-important kill shot, when he loses everything. It may, however, be the turning point for Ollie. The moment he needs to actually grow up.
I did feel that the story wandered a bit. Author Jeff Lemire is writing this book as if it is a movie script, cutting to flashbacks and switching point of view often. It's not unusual for a graphic novel to do this, but I felt more of it here and it felt like an attempt to elevate the stakes of the story (by teasing the reader by almost telling a story and then switching it up).
Whereas Andrea Sorrentino's art in Vol. 4 often felt noir-ish and appropriate, it now feels rushed and incomplete...a little sloppy. The art does not help focus the story (and vice versa). Though I will say that I really liked the physical appearance of a surprise guest to the book.
I really appreciate Lemire's attempt to heighten the dark reality side of the character and it brings back memories of the drug stories in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow books of the seventies, but if Oliver Queen doesn't grow up soon, his brooding, YA-style immaturity is going to be boring and not worth reading.
Looking for a good book? Green Arrow, Vol. 5: The Outsiders War is still showing Oliver Queen as a work in progress, slowly growing in to the 'Arrow' role. The art is not as strong and efficient as the previous volume....more
Author Jeff Lemire's graphic novel, Trillium, is an ambitious, romantic, sThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.25 of 5
Author Jeff Lemire's graphic novel, Trillium, is an ambitious, romantic, sci-fi epic.
Too often, the more ambitious a project the more difficult it is to accomplish the goal. I give Jeff Lemire kudos for the effort that was put in to this and for the goal. Unfortunately, it's also a bit of a mess and difficult to follow (or at least become invested in).
A young soldier in 1921 discovers a strange temple in the jungles of Peru. While exploring the exterior of the temple for an opening of some sort, a strangely (futuristically) dressed woman appears. They seem unable to talk to one another, her language being so much more different from his. She pulls a flower from the ground, a specific plant, eats it, and the two are suddenly able to communicate. She is Nika Temsmith, from the year 3797 -- one of the last remaining human beings in the galaxy. She's been in search of the plant ... something necessary for the survival of the human race.
By means of a freak accident, the young soldier and Nika switch places, both now having to live in the others' world. Complicating their misfortune is that it seems only they are aware of the transference -- everyone around them appears to have known them their whole lives
It's hard to sum up the plot simply. There's a lot going on. One of the temples is destroyed, but there might be a number of such temples about the galaxy -- a crude painting (why is it that a race that is advanced enough to create an advance time-travel device can only leave the crudest paintings by way of maps?) of similar temples, and a master temple/connector. Just before their futures look bleakest, the young man and Nika connect again. Although they had only met and were together a matter of minutes, there seems to be some sort of emotional bond between them. The book is billed as a romance, but it's even less tenuous than that of Juliet and Romeo.
There are a few 'gimmicks' used in the book, namely the idea of flipping the book upside down at times to read some of the panels when Lemire is trying to show both future and past scenes on the same page. It is, as I say, really just a gimmick and not at all necessary. If the reader has stuck around this long, they already get the idea of the past/future lives and the 'bond' between the man and the woman.
The story vacillates between really interesting and gripping to dull and banal. I was interested and hooked (though admittedly just a little confused) until the two romantic leads switched places. From there it went downhill and I really wanted them to either switch back quickly, or give us a different storyline that would be interesting ABOUT the different-ness of the worlds. We got neither. We seem to forget about the Trillium plant and we are teased with the drawings of the multiple temples, and we spend way too much time doing nothing in the 'wrong' worlds.
The art didn't help much. In a somewhat 'crude' style that felt more sketched than finished, it was extremely difficult to make out who was who. Especially in the future when they all had the same haircut and strange henna tattoo images on their faces. I get it...maybe that's the point...that we lose our identity and individuality in the future -- but this could either be ignored or explore, instead of appearing a random 'look.'
I don't mind an expansive, difficult story, but there needs to be a pay-off to make it worth our while and our time. This book didn't give us the pay off.
Looking for a good book? Trillium reaches for the stars (and the future) but has trouble getting off the ground....more
I'm going to start this review by stating that I've never read the SandmanThis review originally published in Looking For a Good book. Rated 2.25 of 5
I'm going to start this review by stating that I've never read the Sandman graphic novels. I know ... I know ... don't hate me for it! Why do I want to state that I haven't read Sandman? Because the very first words at the top of the cover of this book are: From the pages of The Sandman. I have no way of knowing how this book, or these characters fit within the Sandman stories or universe. I chose to read this book because it sounded like the blending of two interesting genres: mysteries, and supernatural/horror.
It is the blending of two genres. But it isn't interesting.
First...it doesn't appear to be one story, but a few stories. The unifying theme is the two boys, who are dead, deciding to be detectives for the afterlife (well, maybe not just the afterlife). In the first story, they go in search of a dead cat, for two dead girls. Um...yup...that's pretty much the extent of it! Then the boys visit the school where they were brutally murdered. The school is still host to bullies, only know the bullies are also dead and still picking on kids like our two detectives. There's a teacher who is a terror who the boys manage to evade, and there's a non-dead girl investigating ghosts who visits the boys' school.
I read this book twice because I just couldn't follow what was going on. The second reading didn't help much. I'm not sure when I realized that the boys were dead (I think they say something about it, but it's a few pages in. So, too, with the girls looking for their cat.
There's a strange lack of division between the dead and the living throughout, and you have to wait to be told who's dead and who's alive and, well, that just doesn't work too well. The story(ies) jump around a bit and because we don't really know anything about these characters, it just doesn't make a lot of sense. This has me wondering if the characters are better outlined in the Sandman comics and it is presumed that readers here will know who these people are. If so...presumption wrong.
I wanted to like this. It seemed to have a lot going for it. I even gave it a second shot. But I still didn't really care for the characters or the story line. The art is decent; at times really nice and at times rather average. But I wouldn't buy this just for the art.
I might choose to thumb through the next volume to get a sense of whether or not the story has picked up, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope.
Looking for a good book? Dead Boy Detectives tries to blend mystery and the supernatural, but simply gets confusion....more
f I could read only one graphic novel series, I think that Fables would beThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
f I could read only one graphic novel series, I think that Fables would be my choice. The characters are familiar and yet newly imagined, made relevant to readers today and interact with one another in completely new ways. If you haven't read any of the Fables series you really need to go back and experience this journey from the beginning. Though I'll admit that I've missed a number of issues in the middle and feel I've managed to catch up quite rapidly.
Many of the different storylines seem to be converging (perhaps because the series is coming to an end?) and each of them is intriguing and remarkable.
Rose Red is re-creating Camelot, Brandish isn't quite dead, Bigsby Wolf is visited in in the afterlife by two friends (possibly my favorite sequence in this book), Rose Red and Snow White squabble like sisters, and Bigsby's remains go missing. There is so much here, and it's tremendously fun.
Author Bill Willingham clearly has had a passion for these characters and knows how to tell an ongoing story. He doesn't waste time (so many comics/graphic novels lately seem to be padded with unnecessary story just to fill out the pages) and he knows precisely when to shift viewpoints. There is 'filler' here, but it's written as additional stories. Here we have two parts to a "The Boys in the Band" storyline, and a Gepetto storyline "Root and Branch."
The artwork is a perfect complement to the story. I particularly like the side panels throughout, which reflect the theme, mood, and location of the action panels.
This is a really wonderful series, one that will be missed by many, but hopefully it means that Willingham has other ideas that he wants to invest his time in to, and whatever it is, readers should take note. He clearly knows how to tell a story.
Looking for a good book? Fables should be on your reading list. Fables, Vol. 20: Camelot is a strong addition to an ongoing storyline, with great storytelling and beautiful art. ...more
I like a good horror story, and I clearly enjoy graphic novels, so I thoughThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.0 of 5
I like a good horror story, and I clearly enjoy graphic novels, so I thought that this would be right up my alley, but ... well ... I'm still not entirely sure what to make of this. I've been thinking on it for a few days now.
I know nothing about the background of author Joe Hill (I see that this is supposedly using characters from other stories?) but you really shouldn't need to know anything about an author or a character when you begin a book...it should all be there for you. And it is.
The book appears to be broken in to four unique stories that tie together, albeit a bit bleakly. My digital ARC was a little difficult to read because there was no clear division between the first and second stories and I had to thumb backward and forward a few times before I realized we'd moved on to a new story. The final story is told in a very different format and was easy to discern.
The Wraith, which appears to be a bit of a magical vehicle with a ghastly driver, brings people, good and bad, to Christmasland...a horrific anti-holiday world where children with rows of massive sharp fangs rule. The first story, 26 pages, is nothing more than the driver bringing a scared child to Christmasland, and the child slowly becoming the demon who will inhabit (and rule) the horrific land.
The second story, which was easily the more interesting, had a van of prisoners taking control of the guards and calling on the Wraith to bring them to safety. Instead they are brought to Christmasland where they all struggle for their lives and seek the impossible - escape. And the third story ...? We'll come back to that.
What is first evident to me is that Joe Hill is not accustomed to writing graphic novels. There is a special skill set needed when writing something that is either illustrated or staged (in this case, illustrated). Understanding how the illustrations can work for the story-telling is important. But if it's simply a story, that is put to illustration, the work can grow tedious and dull. This was the case for the first story. I saw no reason or need for the illustrations, except, perhaps, for the very final panel. And while I was not a fan of the artwork in general, the artist (Charles Paul Wilson III) was challenged to find interesting ways to fill 26 pages when the entire story takes place inside a car.
Our second story is at least interesting, with a set of characters with differing personalities which allows us to follow different reactions and sub-stories. The art was fair at best. There were times I couldn't tell the aged woman jailer from the skinny criminal, or the carny geek from the driver. When you can't tell the players by looking at them, this is not a good sign!
Our third story... this is another case where the writing is clearly not intended for a graphic novel and at least they didn't try. Instead it is presented as a story, lavishly illustrated, rather than a sequential art in comic book panels. The story is written in second person which has always struck me as a cheap way to try to draw a reader in to the story (YOU are doing this and YOU are doing that, therefore YOU must be invested in the story). I have to admit I skimmed this portion somewhat...and despite the volume of books read, I do not typically skim my reading. I just dislike the second person narrative too much. If I am doing these things, then I would make different choices. The 'payoff' at the end is just what you would expect from the format... 'you' a taken to Christmasland where 'you' see your loved ones who were taken from you too early, but the reader 'you' knows that 'you' will be brutally killed after the final sentence.
The concepts here are interesting enough that I'd like to give Joe Hill's books a chance, but whether he wrote these specifically for the graphic novel format or the graphic novel company chose to adapt these, I don't know, but it doesn't work. Horror is difficult to pull off in comics. Grotesque and blood-splatter is easy. But horror, good horror, is more than just children with fangs and lots of blood.
Looking for a good book? Devotees of blood-splatter comics might enjoy this graphic novel, The Wraith, but Joe Hill's writing doesn't work in this format. ...more
Max Brooks, perhaps best known for his novel World War Z, is playing withThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 1.75 of 5
Max Brooks, perhaps best known for his novel World War Z, is playing with zombies again, this time pairing them with another form of fiend -- the vampire.
A pair of female, Asian vampires, who've been around for a long time, delight in the uprising of the zombies. Watching them slaughter humans who have no chance of escape. And because the vampires aren't living, breathing, blood-flowing people, the zombies completely ignore them. It's a great time to be a vampire, right? Except, just as this book (this collection of the first few issues of the comic book), comes to a conclusion, the vampires begin to realize that the zombies are eating THEIR FOOD! Maybe the zombie apocalypse isn't such a great thing for vampires after all!
It's a clever enough idea, though certainly not wholly original. But because the story is being told from the viewpoint of the vampires, it would help if we could connect with them in some way. But we can't, and that, ultimately, is the downfall of this book. Humans are being eradicated by the zombie plague. Vampires have taken this as an opportunity to not hide in the shadows but to hunt and feed openly. And the reader is connected to this story how?
The vampires have a servant...someone who cleans up after them...takes care of their feeding left-overs and removes evidence of their existence. Though the current servant has been with them for a long time, and they've had a number of servants before him, they don't even know his name. These vampires who are telling the story are full of hubris and act like spoiled children, getting everything they want and treating everyone and everything around them like dirt. The servant's sudden decision to leave at least adds some mystery to the story and I hope we'll learn more as the series continues.
The art reminds me of the hand-colored wood-block prints I've seen in galleries. Thick, black inks and solid, bold colors. At times this worked very well and at other times it appeared rushed. This led to very uneven art look.
I am a little curious to see where this goes and to see if a story actually develops. The servant's story strikes me as the most interesting now as we've otherwise spent 160 pages of doing the same thing over and over...zombies kill humans, vampires watch and enjoy, vampires kill humans ... repeat. I'll be interested enough to pick up the next issue if I can, though if I missed it, I don't feel as though I would have missed out on too much.
Looking for a good book? If you want to see both zombies and vampires in the same graphic novel, this might be the book for you, but if you want strong, interesting characters and a compelling story, then the graphic novel The Extinction Parade is not what you're looking for....more