Another vampire series. Just when you thought the vampire epidemic couldn't...moreThis 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. (less)
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 I...moreWhen 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.(less)
Author Jeff Lemire's graphic novel, Trillium, is an ambitious, romantic, s...moreThis 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.(less)
I'm going to start this review by stating that I've never read the Sandman...moreThis 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.(less)
f I could read only one graphic novel series, I think that Fables would be...moreThis 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. (less)
I like a good horror story, and I clearly enjoy graphic novels, so I though...moreThis 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. (less)
Max Brooks, perhaps best known for his novel World War Z, is playing with...moreThis 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.(less)
IDW Publishing, under the hand of artist Darwyn Cooke, has begun to adapt the "Parker" crime novels of Richard Stark, into graphic novels. In conjunction with this, they are also releasing reissued, hardcover versions of the books, lavishly illustrated with Cooke's cover paintings. This is an all-around resounding success!
Parker: The Hunter is the first book in the re-issue series and it is a classic, gripping tale of macho men working in a dirty business with untrustworthy associates. And Parker is the macho-ist of the men. Betrayed by a colleague, and someone who works for a major crime syndicate, Parker is left for dead, shot by his own wife. But tough men are hard to kill and after recovering, Parker storms New York and exacts his revenge on his wife, his partner, and the syndicate that employed the partner.
Stark's writing is tight and direct and captures the gritty underbelly of the crime world. It is violent and rough, yet Stark manages to not glorify the violence while giving us a main character that we can root for. He does this by giving Parker motive, even if it's the very basic desire for vengeance and revenge. Stark also manages to sneak in just a little humanity to the powerful 'machine' of Parker by having him question, albeit briefly, his lack of remorse over the amount of killing he's suddenly doing.
This is pulp crime fiction at its best and for those of us who are being introduced to Parker for the first time, we're in for a treat. And for those who remember the stories will enjoy the new editions with the great artwork by Darwyn Cooke.
Cooke's paintings are perfect for the novels. They capture the era and look as though they could have been painted in the early sixties. From the tacky hotel wall-paper to the style of clothes, Cooke has clearly done his research for these paintings. My only complaint...there aren't enough of them!
This reissue has done exactly what the publisher would hope it do...it has captured my interest so that I want to read each successive reissue, and the art is so wonderful that I also want to make sure I read the graphic novels as well.
This is a resounding success.
Looking for a good book? Good, old-fashioned crime/pulp fiction told by the master story-teller Donald E. Westlake, under his pseudonym Richard Stark, with beautiful paintings by Darwyn Cooke, can only mean that this is a book you won't want to miss.(less)
I've commented, more than once lately, on the quality of the artwork in som...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
I've commented, more than once lately, on the quality of the artwork in some graphic novels and the poor choices in over-emphasizing the female form. Here is a character who is almost begging to be viewed sexually (no emails please ... let me finish!) and yet this book is incredibly tastefully put together, both from a writing standpoint and an artistic viewpoint.
Gail Simone is the author of the arcing story and she has gathered together some of the top female authors (such as Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Rhianna Pratchett) to help with some of the 'legends' of Red Sonja. It's a bit of a coup to have the stories of Red Sonja told by women only because she's been more of a sexual object who fights rather than a fighter who is sexual.
I really appreciated these brief looks at the early Sonja and what led to her fame. Perhaps my favorite moment was when she was first given the chain-mail bikini (by another female warrior) and told why she should wear it. But all the stories, while not intrinsically exciting as individual story-lines, were nice vignettes telling the Red Sonja legends. Simone's over-arcing story holds the legend pieces together nicely, though there's nothing earth-shattering here and no conflict that has us holding our breath. Simone tries to add a conflict story, but it is the legends that we're most interested in reading.
The artwork varies. The over-arcing story art is classic 'barbarian-style-comic-book-art.' If you've read comics, you know what I'm talking about... the Marvel® style Conan's (think Buscema and Alcala). In fact I wondered if one of the characters wasn't Conan with a goatee. The 'legends' art was sometimes so simple as to create a Disney-fied effect, which didn't work for me.
Somehow, through it all, the artwork never seemed to focus on her figure, or at least it never over-accentuated her form as I've seen too often in other comics. Bear in mind that this comes from a middle-aged man reading a graphic novel of a women wearing a metal bikini. Let the feminist assault begin. But truly...it's a book about a female fighter and not teenage comic-book porn.
The last portion of the book (a little too much of the book) was filled with the obligatory 'extras' that have become commonplace, and in this case (again, like most others) it is the written script by Simone with some sketches. These can be fascinating, getting a glimpse of how the writer 'sees' the action unfolding on the page, but since I've just read the story, with completed art, why do we think I'm interested in reading the story again?
Looking for a good book? If you like the warrior age of sword-and-sorcery heroes, such as Conan, Kull, and Red Sonja, then this look back at the Legends of Red Sonja is the perfect book for you!(less)
While vampires might be the 'hot' monster right now, thanks to shows like T...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
While vampires might be the 'hot' monster right now, thanks to shows like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, some of us are old enough to remember when vampires were 'hot' because of shows like Dark Shadows. Dynamite Entertainment brings us a graphic novel collection of Barnabas Collins' induction in to and the first years of vampirism.
I never watched the television series, though I was certainly aware of it, so I am not sure if there's any divergence from the series' storyline. Even so, I don't feel that having any prior knowledge of the series is necessary, and perhaps, in some ways, even preferable since it does establish Barnabas Collins' beginnings. Author Marc Andreyko and illustrators Guiu Vilanova and Patrick Berkenkotter have done a very nice job of giving us a Victorian/Gothic feel while at the same time there was a sense of the 1960's/1970's television series shining through. I'm not quite sure how they accomplished this but it is a nice nod the original series.
Engaged to be married, Barnabas is encouraged by his uncle to have a quick fling with a young maid named Angelique. Though a generally upstanding young man, Barnabas is a product of his times and, though feeling somewhat guilty, proceeds with his one night dalliance only to discover that Angelique is his fiancée's maid. What he doesn't discover, until much too late, is that Angelique is also a witch, and now also a woman scorned, and she curses him and the Collins family.
The development of the character of Barnabas is really nice. He is conflicted and by no means an angel. He recognizes that it is his own fault for what has happened and he will live forever (literally?) torn by grief.
I really enjoyed this book and will look forward to future Dark Shadows installments.
Looking for a good book? If you enjoy the popular vampire fiction, this graphic novel, bringing back (and establishing the origin of) Barnabas Collins, is a real delight. (less)
I am not particularly familiar with Avi, though I recognize his name as a p...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5
I am not particularly familiar with Avi, though I recognize his name as a prominent author in the YA/Children's Book field. What I don't know is whether this is a departure from his other writings, or if this is in line with the bulk of his cannon.
The story is a dark fantasy. Some sort of dark, supernatural beings, Kurbs, living deep beneath Manhattan island have loaned the island to humans. Every year, the humans must find and return a particular power source to the Kurbs, otherwise the city will be frozen and destroyed. It's actually quite a fun story ... dark and mysterious with the occasional bit of whimsy and flights of fantasy (literally) thrown in. This could very easily have been written as a novel, rather than as a graphic novel, and quite possibly it would have come across just a little bit better.
The art, by Brian Floca, is a very mixed bag. The black and white, pen-and-ink panel drawings are well suited to the dark fantasy nature of the story ... most of the time. For the scenes with the blind man, Underton, and the Kurbs, and the occasional city-scape wide shot, the art is really beautiful and enhancing. But when the story is featuring the young boy Carlos, or the girl, Sarah, the artwork is weak. Very very often it appears to be a rough sketch, rather than a finished work of art. And Sarah and her mother look SO much alike (I get it... the resemblance is important!) that it was sometimes confusing who was in the panel.
The beginning of the story is packed with a great deal of set-up information and thus it is a fiction story, lavishly illustrated, and then becomes the graphic novel. This change in format was confusing at first.
Underton is trying to get ahold of the Kurbs' power source, which appears as a normal New York City subway token. But the token holds magical powers that offer some potential for personal power, which is why Underton wants it so badly. Underton displays a bit of supernatural power himself (which I don't recall being explained) and is a delightful (in a frightening way) 'bad guy.'
The whimsical fantasy is a treat (Underton is carried away by a large flock of pigeons and Carlos and Sarah chase after him in a motor-less glider), but it comes a bit out of nowhere. A couple more fantasy scenes like this might have helped the arc of this otherwise very dark and disturbing story.
I liked a lot of what was here, but it never felt fully realized. The basic story was interesting, but got caught up in aspects of the minor storylines that weren't as interesting. And the art never felt finished. It looks as if Avi and Brian Floca were trying to sell this story on 'spec'; they threw it together in draft style, with the occasional strong piece of art to show how it could look, hoping to get the go-ahead to make a finished version. Only this became the finished version.
Looking for a good book? City of Light, City of Dark, a re-issued graphic novel by Avi and Brian Floca, shows the beginnings of a good story as a graphic novel, but neither story, nor art, are fleshed out well. (less)
In the graphic novel milieu, I've lately read a number of titles that have been quite extraordinary. None of them have been of the major-publisher-superhero-ilk such as this and I think the difference in story-telling is night and day (with this being the lesser 'night').
Something has happened to all the members of the Justice League, and only Martian Manhunter and Star Girl have the potential to rescue the League members from their current prison (which may be more psychological than physical). One after another, each member of the Justice League shows us how damaged they are, and even Martian Manhunter succumbs to whatever has afflicted them, leaving new-comer Star Girl to solve the puzzle, save the Justice League, and save the world.
I did not read Volume 1, so I was already a little behind in the story ... what, precisely put the League members in their current state? Some of that comes through in the story-telling, but I get the sense that Volume 1 was the action, and Volume 2 now is the lull, getting ready for the next big action sequence. It is nice that we get a glimpse at the inner psyche of our heroes ... what drives them? What fears do they have? But despite unique abilities, our heroes are pretty much cut from the same cloth and thus it becomes a bit repetitive moving from one hero to the next and to the next.
And because there's a big psychological aspect to this story, we, the reader, are never entirely sure where we are. This type of story-telling can be incredibly compelling, but it can also be incredibly confusing, depending on how it's handled. In this case I'm afraid it is the latter.
The art is fine, pretty standard slick comic book art with lots of detail that creates a busy series of panels. The art does not help clarify the story's intent, but it doesn't harm it either.
Looking for a good book? You have to be a pretty dedicated Justice League fan to really appreciate the rather dull and random story line.(less)
Not knowing anything about this graphic novel before opening the pages, thi...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
Not knowing anything about this graphic novel before opening the pages, this really took me by surprise and blew me away (in a good way).
What would you do if you discovered a letter to yourself, clearly written BY yourself, describing a future atrocity, in which you play an integral role? This is the basic story. There's clearly a Phil Dick sensibility to this, which I love. There's the shock, horror, and disbelief in the initial message, and then there's the desire to correct or prevent the atrocity. Add to this the miscommunication, distrust, and general human failings among a group of individuals, and you have one very powerful story.
Author Joshua Hale Fialkov has written a science fiction/mystery/horror story that is very engrossing. With five main characters, there is ample opportunity for the story to shift perspective and keep the reader turning the pages, anxious to stay connected with each story-line. Annihilation of the planet is certainly high stakes, and if you've read some of my reviews, you might now that I want the stakes to be high whenever possible. And yet, Fialkov roots the story with people. Friendships, betrayals, affairs, likes and dislikes. What it is to be human is at the core of this story, and that is part of makes this really wonderful.
The art by Joe Infurnari has a color sketch/unfinished quality about it. At times this really worked well for the story and other times it bothered me a great deal. I wasn't always able to recognize the characters on sight, and that should never happen.
Complicating the visual aspect of the book was the lettering. A hand-writing font was used that made reading not as smooth as it could be. I could see no reason not to use a more standard font for this.
I was really taken with this book and will look forward to volume two.
Looking for a good book? The Bunker is a graphic novel with a powerful story that will draw you in, though the drawings could be sharper. (less)
Ever since I watched the 2007 film Grindhouse (a double feature with Robert Rodriguez directing Planet Terror, and Quentin Tarantino directing Death Proof) I've been slightly (let me emphasize slightly) fascinated with the grindhouse category of film (low-budget, hack-em, slash-em exploitation films). I was curious to see how the category (truly a film category) might transfer to the comic book/graphic novel industry. In my mind, it doesn't.
When you are making a grindhouse film, you are doing so because of a low-budget, resulting in cheaper costumes, weaker lighting, fewer sets, B-list actors. When you are making a grindhouse comic you are doing so how? Second rate artists? Cheaper pulp paper? Fewer pixels per inch for the digital edition? How does this correlate to the comics?
What we have here are two horror stories, "Bee Vixens From Mars," which has ample amounts of sex-tease and some pretty dreadful, horrific occurrences, and "Prison Ship Antares," also with a fair amount of almost-nudity and plenty of violence. Both stories do a good job capturing the feeling of the low-budget scripts of the grindhouse films -- just the right amount of 'story' compared to action.
Where we don't succeed well is in the art. Grindhouse films tend to have a particular 'look' to them. That look is nicely captured by the bonus art included here which is mock movie posters. It also sports the film scratch look that is often part of a grindhouse film. But the films tend to have dull, muted colors and lots of shadows (a result of the weaker lighting). The art within the stories was bright and colorful and flat (lack of shading). It never felt as though I were looking at a grindhouse film storyboard.
If you love the grindhouse film style and you like comic books, then you've been waiting a long time for this kind of graphic novel to come out. But the stories aren't particularly deep or memorable and the art is passable so it's not something I'd recommend to the average graphic novel reader.
Looking for a good book? Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, Vol. 1 captures the essence of the grindhouse films, but ultimately the film medium doesn't transfer well to the graphic novel format.(less)
It is books like Meteor Men that have restored my faith in the graphic nove...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
It is books like Meteor Men that have restored my faith in the graphic novel as a literary form. This book is beautiful to look at and delightful to read. To me, this is precisely what the graphic novel medium is intended to be. I know that the bulk of the graphic novels out there are compilations of superhero comic books, but the more I've been reading lately, the more I really appreciate the non-superhero graphic novels. A book such as this might be just the ticket to get the young adult/teen readers in to the graphic novel market.
The story is a rather basic 'first contact' story. A group of teens gather to watch the annual meteor shower only this year it appears that one has struck the earth. Bright, loner Alden discovers that the meteor has landed on his property. After exploring and experimenting with the meteor, he intends to give it to a local museum. But when Alden learns that similar meteors have struck the earth all over the world and there are coinciding reports of disappearances of local people, Alden realizes that there may be more to this than a random meteor. When Alden discovers and befriends an alien, neither Alden, nor the Earth, will ever be the same.
The story flows so naturally and author Jeff Parker not only creates an interesting and page-turning story, but he has also created unique, distinct, and involved characters. Even our minor characters here have more personality and depth than some of the long-runnig superheroes I've read lately! And while it's a teen-type book, the adults are not always the villians here.
The art is really delightful. Appropriate and effective and the sort of book you might thumb through just to look at the art.
This is one of those books which I didn't know what to expect when I requested it from NetGalley and it turned out to be a beautiful surprise. This is highly recommended to graphic novel fans and teen readers.
Looking for a good book? Meteor Men is a beautiful graphic novel with compelling characters and a strong story. (less)
The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a throw-back, spoof, homage to the 1950's...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.75 of 5
The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a throw-back, spoof, homage to the 1950's when creativity reigned supreme and anything was possible as long as you could imagine it.
A robot cowboy-western on Mars? It's here. A Ghostbusters/Shakespeare mashup? It's here. A detective (by the name of Phillip Fathom) who operates under water? Yeah, it's here, too. And tying the individual stories together are spoof 'period' ads, such as Betsy Ross hawking Patriot Brand Cigarettes!
There's really not much to this book. The quality of the art varies nearly as much as the quality of the stories. No story is going to be long memorable, and the only reason really to pick this up is if you want a quick laugh. Or ... because you're a fan of the radio show. That's right ... the radio show.
Apparently this book was published as a result of a radio show/podcast. I am not familiar with the show, but judging from this graphic novel I can only assume it's a wacky fun time.
All in all, there's not too much to this, hence there's not too much to this review. It's almost more of a Mad/Cracked magazine than a graphic novel. Almost.
Looking for a good book? If you love graphic novels and/or humor magazines and you've got a spare couple of minutes and a spare couple of bucks, then this is just the ticket. (less)
This is easily one of the most interesting superhero graphic novels I have...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
This is easily one of the most interesting superhero graphic novels I have ever read.
First, a little history... the 1940's were considered a Golden Age for comic books. A new format, cheap, pulp paper, and a wide-ranging readership gave birth to a variety of stories and titles and characters. Some would live on and many others fade in to obscurity. There has been a bit of revitalization in 'obscure' super heroes and crime fighters (see my review of Masks which revives The Green Lama, Black Terror, The Spider, Black Bat and others)lately, and it's actually kind of exciting to see the creativity of the '30's and '40's come to life.
The Shadow Hero brings back the first Asian American superhero ... the Green Turtle. He might also be the first Kung-Fu superhero. Born without any super powers, he is pushed in to super-hero-dom by a domineering mother (she was saved by a superhero [the Anchor of Justice]) and decides it would be a nice career for her son. Hank doesn't want to be a superhero (what kid wants to do what his parents tell him to?), but fate and fortune come together for Hank to put on the raggedy, homemade costume and for a Chinese spirit to enter in to him and grant him one wish, and the superhero is born.
Although the domineering mother become more than a little annoying as I read this, I otherwise really enjoyed the rather simple, but active story. Author Gene Luen Yang puts a slightly modern stamp on this creation and offers up a number of explanations to some of the biggest question marks surrounding the original Green Turtle character. It all blends together quite remarkably. The art by Sonny Liew is perfect for the story.
I'm not Asian, I'm not a huge superhero fan (though don't you dare try to keep me away from any Marvel movies!), I'm not even the biggest of comics readers, but I really enjoyed this book. I even had concerns when I first started, thinking..."Ho-boy...a Chinese superhero from the 40's... why did I choose to read this?" But there's a gentility, a simplicity, and even a universal attitude in this that really appeals.
In addition to Yang's really nice story, is a known history of the character (not much), some supposition about the character, and even a full copy of one of the complete Green Turtle comics. It is really fascinating to see this book after reading about the book, and after reading the up-dated version.
Looking for a good book? The Shadow Hero is a MUST for any comics fan, superhero fan, or student of pop culture.(less)
I feel like I've been beating up on a number of graphic novels lately, and...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
I feel like I've been beating up on a number of graphic novels lately, and I definitely had my concerns going in to this one (look at that cover illustration and tell me you don't think it will have that objectifying women portrayal!). But as I'd just finished Grimm Fairy Tales: Code Red, which I felt bordered on having a really strong story, and in which Robyn Hood makes a guest appearance, I decided to read through this volume, which has been sitting in my ARC queue for a little while now.
Robyn Locksley is street smart. Out of necessity she steals medicine for her mother. She fights every day ... sometimes with an addict father, and sometimes with a rough group of high school peers. It is from this fighting that she loses an eye. And then Robyn is transported from her earthly life to medieval England, the city of Bree in the land of Myst.
Here, Robyn learns that she can fight back in ways that she couldn't when she was in our own time... and she does fight back, killing without remorse, and perhaps enjoying this taste of bloodletting. In order to get back to her own time, Robyn must lead a revolt against King John.
This tactic of changing Robin Hood into the female Robyn works very well, and having her origins begin in our own time is also a nice twist to the legend/mythology. What author Patrick Shand creates through the blending of the histories is a strong YA character who becomes quite adept at killing without remorse, which even she wonders at. This is some nice story-telling.
As for the art... yes, we have the much-too-typical overly-busty female running around kicking butt. Fortunately, the strength of the story surpasses the art's intent to capture teen-boy attention. Too often, in these sorts of graphic novels, the Barbie™-fied females are all that is drawing attention to the book. Fortunately Shand has been working hard to create a strong story, which is part of a larger story arc, and more importantly, the interior art actually doesn't typically over-emphasize Robyn's figure. She tends to be mostly dressed in jeans and a jacket. It is the cover art that suggests something more.
I liked this book, and I liked the potential in the Red Hood book I reviewed the other day, and I think publisher Zenescope may actually be on to something. Now...if the art could be drawn just a little more realistically, instead of preying on teen-age fantasies, we may have something worthwhile!
Looking for a good book? The gender-bending twist in this Robin/Robyn Hood story works very well and sets up a stong character in a story that is worth reading. (less)
Little Red Riding Hood...er...Britney Waters, aka Agent Red, works for the government on special assignment with the Realm Knights. They managed to get their hands on a precious red stone (referred to as the Cyclops Eye), the properties of which they don't fully understand, other than that it potentially holds special powers. As Red heads off for some training excercises, the government facility comes under attack by a horde of ... creatures ... one of which has the ability to hop from body to body (refering to them as 'meat suits'). Red is charged with protecting the Cyclops Eye until back-up arrives. Back-up first comes by way of Red's friend Robyn Hood, and later by more military might. But when Red decides to take the action right at the horde, she gets more than she bargained for.
Oh...and Red is a werewolf who has the ability to control her changing and fierceness, though it takes much effort.
The first two books of the five comic book issues collected here were captivating. I was actually quite involved in this idea of Red Hood working for the government as a bit of a loose cannon agent. Her fierceness. Her abilities. Working for the government? Yeah...this seemed really interesting.
And then Red went off to fight the horde and she battled ogres and a were-panther, and things just went downhill for me. This delved in to a monster-vs-monster battle with expendable 'redshirt' military men to act as casualty-fodder. Once it became a monster-fest, I completely lost interest. Even Red Hood was no longer interesting. Ivory (the were-panther) spent what felt like an entire issue trying to bring out the werewolf in Red. Who cares?
Even the potentially interesting 'bad' character who has the ability to hop from body to body was easily captured, then easily dispatched (gone, but not forgotten). It simply became one battle where the big bad guy threatens to kill Red quickly or slowly, her choice, after another. Let's try for something a little more original, shall we?
I can see where this story is going, and I'm not sure how keen I am on finishing it. There was so much potential here for something unique.
The artwork. Sigh. It's the typical overly-exagerated female body art. It's not quite as provocative as some I've seen lately, but it is totally unrealistic. These women make Barbie™ look flat-chested. Oddly enough, it didn't bother me at all when I felt that there was a story to be drawn in to, but once the story seemed to fall away, the female bodies seemed to get more pronounced.
Clearly this 'style' (if I may use the term loosely) must sell books or it wouldn't continue. But as I've matured, so has what I look for in a book ... which is story.
Looking for a good book? Code Red Volume 1: Age of Darkness has a lot of potential but falls back on some traditional 'dark' monster themes instead. (less)
This graphic novel, Stumptown, Vol 2, features a young woman, Dex, who has...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
This graphic novel, Stumptown, Vol 2, features a young woman, Dex, who has her own detective agency in Portland, Oregon. She gets a wonderful opportunity when rock star Mim Bracca arrives looking to hire Dex. Mim's special guitar has disappeared and Mim doesn't want to go to the police. Complicating things is the D.E.A. who question Dex, and a gang of skinheads who are also looking to get their hands on the guitar.
The plot is pretty straightforward, with just enough clues for those who like to challenge themselves to be able to solve the mystery before the plot is resolved, but not so overly complicated that it's impossible to follow. The characters all strike me as real and rather ordinary. In some ways this is a nice change of pace, but it also then borders a little on dull. Having a rock star and skinheads in the story certainly helps to liven it up a bit. And the art conveys the 'realness' of the characters and the world.
I really like the idea of a comic/graphic novel that isn't about superheroes or fantastic fantasy creatures, or even something set in the future. This is, to put it very simply, a detective mystery that is illustrated. A graphic ... novel. Yeah, like the genre descriptions implies.
But this also creates some other challenges. When we rely on art to convey the action of the story, we tend to lose out on the descriptive motivation and thought process of the characters. This works in many cases, and is more challenged in others.
I don't really know who Dex is, even though she's the 'star' of the series. I don't know what's motivated her or what keeps her interested in this work. And because I don't know her, I rely on plot only to keep me interested. And the plot, as I say, is fairly simple.
This is a nice concept all around ... story, theme, art ... and I will read more (I'd definitely like to go back and read the first volume), but it isn't a 'must read' yet.
Looking for a good book? The graphic novel Stumptown, Volume 2, is a realistic mystery story set in modern-day Portland and features rock stars, skinheads, a smart female detective, and DEA agents and is a fun read. (less)
The premise for this graphic novel/comic series is really wonderful. A tea...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.25 of 5
The premise for this graphic novel/comic series is really wonderful. A team of scientist have developed a dimension-traveling machine. It works well, except that they can't control where it will take them. We start the first book right in the thick of things, with two dimension-hoppers running for their lives from some very unusual looking creatures. One of the travellers doesn't make it and we know right away that this isn't going to be your ordinary book where everyone survives each new threat that comes their way.
Grant, who tends to be the leader of the group, is traveling with his children. Given the dangers of this dimension-hopping, I'm not clear why it was that the kids were ever permitted to go along. Of course the danger will be heightened when children might be in trouble.
The device use for hopping is referred to as 'the pillar' and it becomes clear that the pillar was damaged, sabotaged, which is why they can not control the destination or the timing of the hops.
The book moves along a little too quickly for me, with each comic book (this graphic novel collects the first six issues of the comic series) basically taking up one unique story. This gives it an episodic feeling, much like television shows like Land of the Lost or Lost in Space (this could be titled Lost in Black Science). I think that if I were buying the individual issues on the comic stand, I'd probably appreciate this quality, and it would certainly make it easier for someone to pick up a current issue and not feel as though they'd missed out on too much. Unfortunately, that has a less than positive effect on reading the series as a longer story in a graphic novel. Here, as the issues went on, I thought to myself...okay, what are we going to get this time? And sadly, nothing was ever as intriguing as the world and creatures we encountered with the first few pages!
There is, of course, the overarching story of the pillar, its invention, and the sabotage, that we haven't fully investigated, and hopefully, in future issues of the comics and graphic novels, more of this will come out, rather than spending so much time escaping each new dimension's baddies.
Whereas the story leaves a little something to be desired, the art is beautiful. Matteo Scalera and Dean White have teamed up to create something really spectacular to behold. While the character's aren't in the utmost realistic mode...a bit on the caricature side...it works really well here. The colors are stunning.
The book has as many possibilities as author Rick Remender can imagine, and that limitless quality can really be an asset. I only hope that he doesn't try to burn through all his ideas in just a few issues. Give us, the reader, a little time to digest the locations and the implications of the locations. It can also mean that we'll meet some characters, other than the scientist team, that we might come to appreciate.
Looking for a good book? Black Science, Volume One is an original series concept of dimension travelling, with gorgeous art, and promises to be a strong series.(less)
This is not a graphic novel, but the first issue of a new comic series. Set in the not-too-distant future when an alien race arrived, made no direct c...moreThis is not a graphic novel, but the first issue of a new comic series. 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.(less)
It will surprise some people that I'm very very new to the whole Dresden Files...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0/5
It will surprise some people that I'm very very new to the whole Dresden Files stories. I have not read the entire series, and I have not watched any of the television episodes. What I have read, however, has been truly wonderful and I want to dig in to all the books (but I'm still way behind on my ARC reading, so it'll be a little bit). So when I saw the opportunity to read a graphic novel based on Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, I thought this would be a great chance for me to get in a little bit of everything I enjoy.
The story is fairly straight-forward for someone who deals with ghouls and vampires and werewolves on a daily basis. Harry Dresden is called to a small town by a deputy sheriff to investigate some unique deaths of family members. The sheriff doesn't want Harry Dresden around and isn't happy with his deputy. However, the deputy is correct ... there is something supernatural going on and Harry reveals a curse on the family from a long time ago. There are battles with supernatural creatures and all sorts of the usual Harry Dresden dry commentary. All in all, a fun, visual Harry Dresden story.
One of the most difficult things about doing a comic book or graphic novel of existing literary characters is drawing what we readers have imagined in our heads. So rarely will any two people have the same idea as to how someone looks. Occasionally a visual format will appear so well that it becomes the commonly accepted representation. Look at Conan the Barbarian. He will forever look to me as Frazetta and Buscema have imagined him. The hobbits of Tolkien looked only the way the Hildebrandt's have painted them, and now the way Peter Jackson has put them on-screen. Will Sookie Stackhouse look like anything other than Anna Paquin? Will Alice ever really look like anything other than the drawings of Sir John Tenniel?
But for every literary character that holds a common visual appearance, there are hundreds more who are constantly drawn or depicted but aren't accepted as 'the' look and Harry Dresden is one of the characters for me. I haven't seen the Harry Dresden yet who appears quite how I imagined him based on what I've read. The covers by Ardian Syaf are very very close, but the interior art, by Joseph Cooper don't work for me at all.
As a story, I am very happy reading this and could have read it as just a story in a magazine or collection, without pictures, and been very content. But as it's a graphic novel, the art is important and can't be ignored.
There's some technical mastery in the work, with some solid inking, but the art is generally a bit too 'cartoony' for me, for a story that is dark and devilish. The faces are a little too exaggerated. Harry looks like a caricature of who he should be and I have difficulty taking him seriously most of the time in the book. There are pages, or at least panels, where he looks true and serious, and I like these (page 33 of my digital edition [which may include the cover as a page] looks very good -- as if it wasn't even drawn by the same artist!). The monsters Harry fights are foppish, Scooby-Doo-like creatures rather than frightening ghouls and goblins.
It's become commonplace for graphic novels to include 'bonus material' and this book is no exception. There are sketches of the characters, character descriptions, and sample pages of the script.
Looking for a good book? It's fun to read a new Harry Dresden/Dresden Files story, but the art in this graphic novel doesn't live up to Harry's stature.(less)
When the Fables books first started to come out, a friend of mine told me abou...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5/5
When the Fables books first started to come out, a friend of mine told me about them, suggested I’d like them, and so I bought the first few issues. My friend was correct…I did like them. I thought (and think) of them as one of the best concepts for a comic book/graphic novel series that has come forward in a very long time.
For those who aren’t familiar at all with the concept, the series takes existing characters from myths, fables, and fairy tales and puts them in the modern world, with all the knowledge of their ‘other’ lives.
This book actually contains two stories. The first, which takes up one-third of the book, is titled “A Revolution in Oz.” This story is told in three page increments which I suspect means it was a short tag-on story at the end of each comic. The art, by Shawn McManus is wonderfully ‘odd’ – I’m not sure what is a better way to describe it. It comfortably captures the strangeness and frightening aspects of Oz. The story is definitely suitable for a tag-on story in a comic series, but I will admit I grew tired of it before it ended. The story here is that tiny Lily Martagnion leads some friends, including Jack Pumpkinhead, on a mission to rescue her boyfriend, Bufkin (a monkey), Prince of the Revolutionaries. Parts of the story were quite fun, such as the Lollipop Killed sequence.
The rest of the book is taken up with the Snow White story, in which Prince Brandish appears, making a legal claim as Snow White’s husband, and ensnares her in magic. Snow’s current husband Bigby Wolf fights for her release and some terrible things happen. Snow does get free from the magical ensnarement (thanks in part to her sister) and she faces off against Brandish herself.
It’s a well-plotted story, though it does seem to take a little more time than seemed really necessary, but I was definitely hooked and wanted to read it all the way through. The art is strong and appropriate for the genre.
In my ARC version, the Oz story came first in the book, and because it went on quite long (one-third of the book) I wondered if we were going to get to the ‘real’ story. Anyone not familiar with Fables may struggle to get through the Oz story.
Looking for a good book? Fables is a great concept for a graphic novel and whether you’re a long-time fan or this is your first look, there’s a lot to like in this volume of the book. (less)
Not long ago I reviewed a graphic novel written by Chris Roberson titled Masks, in which some masked crime fighters from the late 1930's worked together. Now, Roberson has stepped in to the future (from the 1930's) to the late-1950's-mid-1960's era. If you think about the fact that masked crime fighters were the popular media figures from the 30's, what might you think of as popular in the late 50's? Action/adventure spies!
Roberson here writes a nice homage to the James Bond era with this book, Codename: Action, complete with sexy femme fatales and numbers instead of names and criminals of the egghead variety on remote islands!
We start with new agent (called "Operatives" or "Operators") 1001 teaming up with legend Operator 5 to figure out who is replacing world leaders with doppelgänger, and why (presumably to start the next world war).
Roberson manages to include The Green Hornet and Kato, as well as a costumed superhero called The American Crusader. Both are very appropriate to this era as The Green Hornet made the cross from the pulps to radio to television, and the costumed superheroes began to make their appearances at about this same time. Together, these three types of crime fighters blend together to create what the superheroes become, a topic which Roberson weaves in to the story superbly.
The artwork by Jonathan Lau is quite nice and captures the mood and style of the period.
And while I like what Roberson has done, creating new-but-recognizable characters and given us a glimpse at how our crime fighters have morphed from one variety in to another, this particular story felt lacking to me. The story got just a little out of control (although, in retrospect, it's still in line with the 'wackiness' of the era and the whole atomic age) as it reached the climax and when it finished I thought..."that's it?" While it clearly opened the door to future stories (or a future series), this was a self-contained, concluding story, which I greatly appreciate.
The book concludes with the script for issue #1 of the Codename: Action comic and a cover gallery and a character guide for the artists. These sorts of bonuses are becoming fairly common in graphic novels.
Looking for a good book? Codename: Action Volume 1 is a solid, steady graphic novel that honors the period of spy movies but doesn't quite rise above the mediocre plotting of those same spy films.(less)
In the graphic novelWill o' the Wisp, young Aurora Grimeon is sent to live wi...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.25/5
In the graphic novel Will o' the Wisp, young Aurora Grimeon is sent to live with her estranged grandfather after her parents died from mushroom poisoning. The grandfather lives in a creepy old house in the backwater/swamps of Louisiana, where hoodoo is a natural way of life. The superstitious people of the isle fear that Aurora may have brought back luck down upon them. With the help of a hoodoo priestess (Mama Noonie) and a pet raccoon named Missy, Aurora goes to solve the mystery of strange blue lights that are appearing in the swamp, along with the disappearance/murder of some of the locals.
It's a moody, atmospheric piece that reaches right out and pulls the reader in to a fantasy/horror/mystery story that is perfectly rooted in the mythology of the deep south.
While the story is interesting and moves along well, with characters that have just the right amount of creepiness to them, it is the art that draws me to this book the most. And above and beyond the art, I can't tell you how appealing the color is in this book. That's right...the color.
Megan Hutchison is the illustrator, and her work is phenomenal. I'm not quite sure how to define this art. Aurora has a slight anime style to it, but she would be the only one, which makes her stand out among the characters. The art is not über-realistic -- it contains fascinating angles and shapes, while still giving the impression of realism. It is so different from anything I've seen in a comic/graphic novel before, and I'm completely blown away by it.
Now...take Hutchison's art and give it a color scheme like that of Adam Guzowski's, and this will take your breath away.
Color in graphic novels/comics is one of those things that a reader generally doesn't pay attention to unless it doesn't work. Fortunately this is one of those pleasant instances when it is noticed for its fabulous enhancement. Even when the scene is a drab and dreary swamp at midnight or inside and old and decrepit structure, Guzowski has found a way to pump up the colors, with shadows and highlighting (and even patterns such as on the ancient wallpaper). The attention to detail here is meticulous. The edge of a table in one small panel has no fewer than seven discernible colors or shades. This is 'necessary' and wouldn't likely be this way in any other comic, but clearly these artists have a passion for what they do and are putting their all into it. And I, for one, really appreciate it. I will remember these names, Megan Hutchison, Adam Guzowski, Tom Hammock (author) and I will happily pay money for whatever they put out next.
Looking for a good book? Will o' the Wisp is a graphic novel of Louisiana hoodoo mystery with art that will impress. Highly recommended!(less)
I couldn't say when I last read an Aquaman comic or graphic novel (if, in fact, I ever have), but I would say that this was a wonderful start. Under the helm of writer Geoff Johns, we have here a story of high drama, enriched by strong visuals in the art of Paul Pelletier.
Author Johns knows how to work a story and what makes ideas and concepts 'big.' A story reaches us, the readers, when we can relate to it, and we tend to relate to stories about people. This is fully a story that is relatable. People; men and women looking to restore what was once theirs.
But the story reaches out to big concepts and themes because the people here are kings and queens and possibly even gods. While their desires are often the same as ours (restoration of things lost and peace and comfort and happiness), the battleground is larger (in this case the seven seas). It is a powerful talent that Geoff Johns has, to take grand stories that encompass all the oceans (or all the galaxies -- as was the case with his work on Green Lantern) and still tell stories that touch the fiber of what it means to be human.
In this story, Aquaman (Arthur Curry) learns a bit about his claim to the throne. He is not, it would seem, heir to the throne of the seven seas ... that claim belongs to Atlan, who makes a return visit to try to gain the throne back. Also appearing is Arthur's brother, Orm (aka Ocean Master), who is portrayed as extremely loyal to the throne and becomes a very sympathetic character.
Complicating the story even further is a foe called The Scavenger -- a very appropriate title given recent news that junk from the surface has reached the depths of the ocean that is only just being discovered by scientists.
As the story builds and Aquaman faces these foes as well as fighting for and against the surface dwellers for peace, he has to rise above the petty fights to maintain the sense of decorum that his role as king demands.
The art of Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, and Rod Reis is absolutely gorgeous. The full-page and double-page spreads are worth the price of admission here and truly enhance the story. Having grown up on the comics of the 1970's and '80's there's been a sense of power missing from many comics and graphic novels lately. While the art is often slicker and more detailed, it often has not felt 'right' to me. This has that right feeling. I've already gone through, just to thumb the digital pages, to soak in the art some more.
I do tend to think that a graphic novel, an accumulation of comic book stories telling one major story arc, should be conclusive, and this one isn't, quite. There's a cliff-hanger here, making sure we'll pick up the next book. Given the quality of the story and the art, that cliff-hanger isn't necessary. We'll buy the next one just to get more of what we've been through!
Looking for a good book? Geoff Johns' story and the art of Pelletier, Parsons and Reis in Aquaman, Vol. 4: Death of a King are spectacular. If you've ever wondered what the fuss is all about with super-hero comics, then this is a great entry. If you already enjoy graphic novels, this one is not to be missed! (less)
I'm a sucker for anything 3D, I admit. While I received an ARCdigital...moreThis review originally published in the blog Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0/5
I'm a sucker for anything 3D, I admit. While I received an ARC digital edition of this through NetGalley, I had no problem with the 3D effects as I have my own collection of 3D glasses:
**photo included on blog**
I think this book is mostly a concept book. Clearly the 3D is a major portion of the concept, but if we take that away as simply a gimmick, what else do we have? We have a story that is simple. George Joyner is a mid-level businessman in the future. While he's not particularly successful as a businessman, he's less so as a husband and father. He hopes he can 'man up' by being a bit of a savior to the attractive babysitter, and this takes him on a journey.
The story is very simple and I'm not convinced that it would stand up on its own and be a strong story without any art.
The art is also very simple, though this simplicity, within the frame of the story, comes off as 'efficient' and helps define this futuristic world. Simplicity doesn't mean simple. This is austere and lovely.
The 3D is a nice enhancer. The sense of depth in a traditionally 2D format is always appreciated by me when it is done well, and this 3D conversion is solid. I did have some issue with some of the word balloons which did not seem to be incorporated in to the conversion process and sometimes it interrupted lines and created an incorrect break in the depth.
I enjoyed what I had here, but I wasn't committed enough to the project that I'd have to be sure to get the next book in the series.
Looking for a good book? This 3D graphic novel has some really nice, efficient and austere art, though the story is a little bit wanting.(less)
Oh foolish, foolish me. For some reason, I had hoped we'd moved beyond graphic novels where the women were so busty and thin-waisted they make Barbie™ look flat-chested. But apparently, judging by this collection of tales from the land of Oz, that is not the case.
"Reboots" are becoming common, and it's no surprise that someone has taken on the idea of re-booting the Oz stories. This particular collection of tales gives a new look at the beginnings of the Tinman, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and even Toto. The reboot is more than just their appearances (those changes alone are quite dramatic). The history of how they came to be is different than L. Frank Baum's stories. Let's start, as the book does, with the Tin Man....
Our human-looking woodsman is out chopping wood for the witches. It's his job, though he's pretty lonely. Suddenly he sees a woman nearby. She is creating little spirit life from nothingness. And though she just appeared to him, she is attacked by a local beast and on the verge of death. And also, though he hasn't spoken even a word to her, he is immediately in love with her. A love so pure and binding that he'd do anything for her. He takes the near-death girl to the witch and begs that she be saved. because she showed magical powers, the witch is interested and takes her in, saves her, and trains her as an assistant. But of course the girl is also in love with the woodsman. They run off together, are caught, and the woodsman looses his heart (literally) to the witch and is transformed in to the robotic-looking Tin Man.
I'm not sure how we're supposed to believe the true-love story when there isn't any time for any sort of relationship to develop. Certainly he's physically aroused by the girl...she's probably got the most incredible body ever drawn in a comic book... but 'true love'? That one is hard to swallow.
The Cowardly Lion's story is a little more interesting. Here we have brother pitted against brother. One a warrior, one a poet, but the female lion chooses the poet even though she's been promised to the warrior. A battle is fought, the poet wins, though he wonders if it might not be true that he is, in fact, a coward.
And then to the Scarecrow... as a man (named Bartleby), he confronts and bargains with the witches to save the people of the villages. For their (witches) promise to not harm the people, the man promises that he will get them to be supportive of their wicked leaders. But as he goes from town to town, trying to rally support he is horrified to learn that the witches' army is slaughtering villagers all about the countryside. He hurries back to his wife, who has managed to survive, only to be instantly killed by the witches as Bartleby is transformed in to a mindless scarecrow.
And finally to Toto... well, I think you get the picture by now, that this Oz is not the Oz from the original stories, and certainly not the Oz from the famous flick. Toto, just as similarly, is not the cute little dog you might think (just as Dorothy is not the innocent little farm girl...she's more in line with Daisy Duke here).
Mostly I found the stories disappointing. All three major characters are changed because of a love for a woman. We couldn't come up with anything just a little different? Two are physically changed by the witches themselves. And the women for whom the males characters have lost everything ....? They're simple pastiches of every average female in comics. They're nothing but sexy bodies. Even the witches, who could be interesting characters, are more about looking sexy in their flimsy faille gowns than they are about being something.
Although the women all look exactly alike except for the clothes they almost wear, I actually liked the artwork. There was great consistency and realism with just the right amount of fantasy-appearing-differentness to the art. The lions looked quite remarkable, though I was a little bothered that the looked like humans with lion faces and legs (walking upright with six-pack abs) more than lions. Even so, the artwork is to be admired. I wish the stories could be, likewise.
Looking for a good book? This graphic novel, Tales from Oz, reboots the Wizard of Oz series with teenage-boy-fantasy-looking women and love-struck-dumb males, but with not much story. (less)
Three is a thoughtful, well-researched graphic novel quite reminiscent of the...moreThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5/5
Three is a thoughtful, well-researched graphic novel quite reminiscent of the book and film 300, but choosing to look at the vainglorious, down-fall years of Sparta.
The book is told from the viewpoint of the Helots. The Helots were the slaves of the Spartans, and like many slave-owners, the Spartans failed to realize that it was often the work of the slaves that supported them, economically, at least. The Helots begin to realize their own power just as the Spartans begin to lose theirs.
This story has a group of Spartan soldiers enter a tavern and decide, as is their wont, to slaughter the Helots within. One Helot, a cripple, decides to fight back with the help of two others, including a woman. One Spartan makes it out alive and reports to the king what has happened. The king sends 300 to put an end to what could be an up-rising, and the three are hunted throughout the book.
During the hunt, the Spartans take out one of their own, for failing to live up to their own code of honor and glory. It's a nice set-up to their own down-fall...the failure or one to be honorable, and the failure to respect leadership.
The ending is not super-heroic, but certainly worthy of respect.
The art is really quite nice for this book. There was a 'classic' 70's feel to the book which I felt leant well to the classic nature of the story.
The Helots did seem to be a little stronger than I expected them to be. For three, barely armed slaves to take out a squad of Spartans, even if they did have surprise on their side, seemed super-human, and their language and manners certainly didn't make them appear as slaves. But what we do get, is a sense of humanity. The Spartans were not gods, but men, capable of failure and a down-fall. And the Helots were not animals, but men (and women) capable of over-coming their lot. I don't recall reading a graphic novel that identified the human condition this well.
The last thirty pages or so of this book include a page-by-page historical footnote; a 'conversation'; a sample of the layout and design of the book; and bios of the three responsible for the bulk of the book (writer, artist, colorist). I found it mostly interesting. The historical footnotes definitely lend credence to the amount of research that went in to the book.
Looking for a good book? Three is a historical fiction graphic novel that speaks to what it can mean to be human during a turbulent time of a once great civilization. (less)