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message 1: by Wesley (last edited Mar 31, 2013 12:44AM) (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments As per Ken's suggestion I am going to start putting my thoughts on graphic novels I have read into this topic. I hesitate to call them reviews as I am, in the main, not going to go into any great depth unless something in the book inspires me to do so.

This content will be replicated in my blog at:

where I have been recording my graphic novel reading for the last 16 months or so. I hope you find them useful.

message 2: by Wesley (last edited Jan 12, 2012 11:14AM) (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M (2006)

House of M was the Marvel crossover event from 2005 and features the New Avengers and the X-men. This book collects the eight part main story and I was looking forward to reading it as the creative team was writer Brian Michael Bendis and penciller Olivier Coipel. I recently read and enjoyed the first New Avengers book that Bendis also wrote in the same era and as an added bonus I loved Coipel's work on Thor.

The story takes place after the Avengers Disassembled storyline. The Scarlet Witch is being stabilised by Charles Xavier in Genosha but he fears that he can do little to prevent her having another potentially disasterous breakdown. The Avengers - old and new - and the X-men are gathered together to decide the fate of their former team-mate and fellow mutant. But they arrive too late to prevent the Scarlet Witch from rewriting reality and creating a world in which mutants rule over homo sapiens. Wolverine awakes in this new reality but finds that he remembers the original reality too and sets out on a quest to find out what is going on, round up any of the powered human resistance that he can and put things back they way they were if he can.

This is another great book from Bendis that I enjoyed very much. The storyline was interesting as it offered an alternative few of a mutant dominated world where Magneto won his fight to have mutants rule over the human population. The concept of dreams coming true is explored most thoroughly through the experiences of Peter Parker who is put through the emotional wringer by Bendis when he regains his memory of his true life. The weakness of the book is that it is being used as a game changer in the Marvel universe so a lot of questions are left unanswered presumably to be further explored in the individual comic series, especially the mutant ones, after the legacy that the Scarlet Witch leaves behind. But if you can accept that then it is a fine crossover story and well worth a read.

message 3: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: The Incredible Hulk (2006)

Next in my House of M read is this book which collects Incredible Hulk 83 - 87. It was written by Peter David who has got to be the writer most closely associated with the Hulk after Stan Lee. The main story (the first four chapters) was illustrated by Jorge Lucas who is an Argentinean artist whose work I have not come across before but who has had short runs on a variety of Marvel books.

As the story opens, Bruce Banner has been living with an aboriginal tribe finding a means to control the Hulk. Australia us also the country with the most severe mutant administration and hundreds of humans have fled to the outback with the help of AIM. When the authorities invade an aboriginal sacred space to try and round up the humans, the Hulk is unleashed and takes the fight back to Sydney and takes over the country's administration. But all is not well as Banner uncovers an AIM sponsored project into which human refugees are disappearing.

The story was just OK - given David's reputation I would say that this was probably not one of his best. It didn't have the depth of the Banner book that I read recently or the over the top abandon of World War Hulk. I wanted more of the relationship between Banner, the Hulk and the beliefs of the Australian Aborigines which was touched on in this story but subsumed by the standard superhuman fare. The tension between Banner and the Hulk was quite well explored in the expectations of the human administration who wanted the occasional appearance of the Hulk to appease the populace and Banner who wanted to keep him under check. The art by Lucas was fine without being spectacular.

message 4: by Wesley (last edited Jan 19, 2012 12:42PM) (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: Fantastic Four/Iron Man (2006)

This book collects two mini-series related to the House of M crossover event - Fantastic Four: House of M 1 - 3 and Iron Man: House of M 1 - 3. The creative team on the Fantastic Four series are all new to me - it was written by John Layman with pencils by Scott Eaton and inks by Don Hillsman. The Iron Man series was written by Greg Pak, whose work I know from the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk books, and the art was by another unknown to me Pat Lee.

The Fantastic Four story actually stars the Fearsome Four, a mystically powered team led by Victor von Doom with only Ben Grimm as the It surviving Reed Richards space mission to examine cosmic rays. Doom is allowed to rule Latveria under the global mutant superiority but finds himself at the beck and call of Magneto. His vanity will not allow this and he directs his scientific research to the problem of how to rid the world of the House of Magnus and install himself as world ruler only to find his plans scuppered by the one person for whom he has utter contempt.

In the Iron Man story, Tony Stark is a successful entrepreneur and competitor in Sapien Death Match - an arena sport where he battles with other humans in mechanical suits - however he finds himself constantly overshadowed, in all his pursuits, by his father. Searching for Henry Pym, a rogue scientist who was researching the mutant genome while in Stark's employ, Stark uses a new mechanical suit that he developed in secret. He traces Pym to a hideout of the human resistance but soon finds himself in a battle with a sapien hunting sentinel controlled by his father. When Pym is revealed as a terrorist who has planted a number of devices targeted at mutants only, Stark must decide between being his own man and the future seemingly mapped out for him by his father.

For a world that is supposed to give the heroes their dreams come true neither Victor von Doom or Tony Stark are particularly happy with their lot - though this could be seen as some dormant, nagging sense that something is not right. The stories are both fine in themselves without really adding much to the central story.

Pat Lee's art in the Iron Man story is quite strange. There is a lot of it that contains sentinels, armoured humans and other mecha and this is all really good but when it comes to the depiction of the people itjust does not do it for me.

message 5: by Wesley (last edited Jan 22, 2012 03:24PM) (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: Uncanny X-Men (2006)

This book collects Uncanny X-Men 462 - 465. It was written by long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont and pencilled by two of my favourite arists - Alan Davies and Chris Bachalo. I know Claremont's work from various X-Men books but primarily from the original Excalibur series from the late eighties. Davis also worked on that series as well as the fabulous, Alan Moore penned, D.R. and Quinch from 2000AD. I loved Bachalo's work on the two Death mini-series on Vertigo as well as Shade, the Changing Man and The Witching Hour - in fact my favourite t-shirt to this day remains one that features a Bacholo image of Death.

Captain Britain is swept up into the events of the House of M as this story shows that the actions of the Scarlet Witch on Earth 616 threaten the integrity of the whole omniverse. He is tasked with returning to Earth 616 to try and seal the breach in causality before the whole of the omniverse ceases to be. however once back on Earth 616 he he finds himself happy to play the role given to him by the Scarlet Witch's changes. It is only through messages transmitted through Meggan and a hunt for fugitives from Magneto that he gets back on track.

This is the first book in the spin-offs from the main story that I have really loved. I think part of it is nostalgia for the original Excalibur series that I liked back in the day - and this story feels like an Excalibur story rather than an X-men story as a lot of the characters and the setting come straight from Excalibur. The other part of it is due my love for the two pencillers' work who both have two chapters each in this story. The story from Claremont is good but the plot line featuring Juggernaut and Nocturne on the run from a bunch of Magneto's hunters is left largely unexplained - possibly to be resolved in one of the remaining books. An early splash page shows Captain Britain and Meggan being blasted across the omniverse and shows familiar characters in unfamiliar setting and guises - some of these look intriguing and I wish there was a series that explored some of these further (like a Marvel version of DC's Elseworlds books).

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: Mutopia X (2006)

This book collects the Mutopia X mini-series that was written by David Hine a British artist and writer who seems to be more well known for his writing duties these days. He wrote the District X series for Marvel out of which this series is descended. The art was by penciller Lan Medina and inker Alejandro Sicat - a pair of comic book artists from the Philippines who also worked on District X.

Ismael Ortega is a human cop working in Sapien Town. When the Sapien League narrowly fail to assassinate a mutant singer, Ortega is teamed with Lucas Bishop to protect the League's next suspected target film director Daniel Kaufman. In the course of his duties, Ortega becomes close to Kaufman's shape changing wife, Lara, prompting retaliation from Kaufman leading to tragedy for Ortega and his family.

This book was OK but given its pedigree - all the creators having worked on the parent title District X - it may have had more resonance for those familiar with that series and the background of the main characters. There is a sub-plot concerning tensions with Ortega and his mutant wife over their daughter who has the chance of awakening her dormant mutant abilities in a rite of transformation. There was an opportunity to explore this more and elevate the story above the average but it was only touched upon and used as a plot device to enable the villainous Kaufman a shot of revenge at Ortega. Ortega himself is not a very sympathetic character in this story and his plight did not touch me as much as it might have done for characters that I have an emotional connection with. So another House of M related title that adds little to the main story.

message 7: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: New X-Men - Academy X (2006)

This book collects New X-Men 16 -19 and was written by husband and wife team Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir. The art was by penciller Aaron Lopresti and inker Brad Vancata. All of the creative team are new to me.

In this reality, the Hellions are a group of young S.H.I.E.L.D. trainees and the New Mutants are a group of non-combatant mutants being trained for leadership. After the Hellions break-up a terrorist incident at a New Mutants assembly, the signs point to the father of Surge, one of the Hellions, as being behind the attempted atrocity. When the Hellions are sent to Japan to investigate without her, Surge enlists the help of her New Mutant boyfriend to find out the truth of her father's involvement and the super secret Project Genesis.

This was an enjoyable little side tale in the House of M universe. It explores more of the dark side of the seemingly perfect mutant ruled world created by the Scarlet Witch. Because the teams are made up of teens there is a bit of a juvenile feel to some of the settings and dialogue but the story is mostly good with mystery and intrigue in the form of the secret Project Genesis and super covert S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in both camps. one of the worthier House of M titles though it did feel like they ran out of room a little with an ending that borrowed from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

message 8: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: Spider-Man (2006)

This book collects the five issue mini-series and was written by Mark Waid and Tom Peyer. I know Waid best from the Kingdom Come mini-series but he has had runs on other DC titles such as Flash and JLA and Marvel titles such as Captain America and Fantastic Four. Peyer was an editor on Sandman but I think this is the first book I have read for which he has a writing credit. The art was by penciller Salvador Larroca and inker Danny Miki. I know Larroca from the Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra and Ultimate Elektra mini-series and I don't think I have come across Miki's work before.

Peter Parker has the perfect life. He is one of the most famous mutants on the planet - as a wrestler and film star. He is happily married to Gwen Stacy with a small son and has the rest of his family around him including his uncle Ben. So why would anyone want to dirty his reputation? Who is the mysterious Green Goblin who passes the dirt, in the form of an alternate reality journal, to Parker's personal whipping boy Jonah Jameson?

Peter Parker is the superhero who gets the roughest emotional ride in the House of M series when his memories are restored. And that continues in this great series from Waid and Peyer in which his real memories are trying to come to the surface and he goes from hero to zero with Jameson's revelations in the press. The book continues a theme common to a lot of the House of M related series - the so-called dream come true reality created by the Scarlet Witch does not seem like a dream come true in actuality. The only fault that I can find with it is that I felt the ending was a little weak but other than that well worth a read even without any knowledge of the main book.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments House of M: World of M featuring Wolverine (2006)

This book is a bit of an odds and sods collection of House of M related stories. The main story is from Wolverine 33 -35 and was written by Daniel Way with art from Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira. The book also contains three single issue stories from Black Panther 7, The Pulse 10 and Captain America 10.

The main story features Sebastian Shaw, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., interviewing Mystique after Logan literally jumps ship from a helicarrier. He is concerned about Logan's loyalty especially after a recent terrorist incident in which a sentinel was stolen by Logan's old colleague Nick Fury and Logan himself disappeared. The story features Wolverine only in the flashbacks as the interview proceeds and examines further the mutant oppression of the human population and the spiky relationship between Fury and the mutant squad he is tasked to train.

The main story is good but only features Wolverine as a background character in his own book. It does explore, along with the other stories in the books, some of the prejudices of the formerly suppressed mutant majority. The Black Panther story expressly addresses the prejudices of the ruling regime towards other mutants - for instance the ruling classes tend to be white and human looking with the more extreme looking mutants not having a look in. The quality in the book shines through in the last two stories that were written by the great Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker. Bendis' story again features the oppression of humans in the mutant controlled workplace and the censorship the press. It features a confrontation between journalist Kat Farrell and the anguished Hawkeye who has just had his memories of his death restored to him. The Captain America story features the sad decline of the formerly feted hero as he struggles to find his place in the increasingly mutant dominated world order. So a mixed bag but an interesting read exploring some of the background to the House of M universe.

message 10: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (2010)

This is volume 7 of the Jack of Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 36-40. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges with a one-off story written by Chris Roberson. The art was by various combinations of Tony Akins, Russ Braun, Andrew Pepoy and Jose Marzan, Jr.

The first story is a filler from Chris Roberson called Jack 'n' Apes which is a tale from Jack's past when he was on the run (again) and pitched up in the jungle of West Africa and ran into a colony of Fable apes. The remaining four installments by the regular writing team pick up the story from the end of The Great Fables Crossover. In it Jack (along with sidekick Gary) head off on the road again without a care in the world looking for the next opportunity to make money but along the way they discover that the choices that Jack has made in the past have consequences that only now make themselves apparent. This volume has two plot lines and the second follows Jack's son, with the Snow Queen, Jack Frost as he sets out on the road to adventure and being a hero across the Fables Homelands. However he doesn't find it easy as first real quest - to save a town from rampaging monsters - is further complicated when he has to complete a quest for the monsters in exchange for the release of the townsfolk.

Although only a filler story after the major crossover event, Roberson's story was everything I love about a Jack of Fables story. It was funny and had Jack furiously trying to work an angle at every opportunity - switching allegiances every couple of pages. The riff on the Tarzan legend was great especially his relationship with Jane.

The main story looks like a change of direction, for now at least, with Jack's son taking a more prominent role and showing his father how a true hero acts - although Jack, of course, already believes he is the first and greatest hero of them all. Jack is sidelined as, Dorian Gray style, his past actions literally transform him. I will need to see how this change of direction plays out but it could be interesting with Jack Frost travelling between the worlds of the Homelands looking for adventure opens up the book to perhaps more varied and interesting story ideas. My only worry is that it may become too like the main book if they persist with the formula for too long.

message 11: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Jack of Fables: The Fulminate Blade (2011)

Volume 8 of the Jack of Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 41 - 45. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The art was by various combinations of Tony Akins, Jim Fern, Andrew Pepoy and Joe Rubinstein.

With Jack Hornet's transformation complete at the end of the last book, the stage is set for his altruistic and naive son Jack Frost to take centre stage. In this book, Jack sets out to slay the giant that is demanding an annual tribute from the world of Landfall. He soon finds that all is not what it seems and almost everyone he meets has been using him for their own ends.

Although the book consists of a perfectly good story set in the Fables homelands, the adventures of Jack Frost are not nearly as exciting, or funny, as those of his father - or at least they are in a more conventional sense. So reading this book I found myself missing the antics of the Jack of old - despite the extreme depths that he sunk to in The Great Fables Crossover. With the next book collecting the last of the series, I am not sure if this is an attempt at a reboot that failed or if this is part of the planned route to the end of the series - to be honest it feels like the latter when taken with volume 7.

message 12: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Jack of Fables: The End (2011)

And so we come to the final collection of the Jack of Fables comics. This is volume 9 and it collects issues 46 - 50. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The art was mainly by Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy but also with contributions by Dan Green, Russ Braun and Bill Reinhold.

Set an unspecified number of years in the future, this book sees Jack Frost about to retire after years of adventuring and heroic deeds. But just as he is about to call it a day he is hired to slay a fearsome dragon and agrees as it is something he has never done before. However, he finds that he is not the only one to have an interest in this particular dragon.

First of all the best thing about this book is the return of those hot librarians the Page sisters - Priscilla, Robin and Hillary - who are on their own quest to reassemble the Great Library and restore their Literal powers. It is good to see those characters again - possibly for the last time(?). However the book spends too much time reuniting us with characters from Jack's past for no great reason other than to be cannon fodder in the climax of the book. A disappointing end to what was a good series with no sign of the wicked humour upon which it made its name.

Bill and Matt have more or less stated that they had run of ideas and there was very little room for pushing the boundaries of the character once it had been revealed that he had slept with his sisters. But to take 15 issues to wrap it up in such a way as they have seems like extreme overindulgence to me. I would have much rather his story had come to an end in the crossover storyline. Sadly, this book will not be missed by me - and I never thought I would have said that when it was at its height.

message 13: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Batman: Through the Looking Glass (2011)

This is an original graphic novel featuring Batman and (surprise, surprise) the Mad Hatter. It was written by Bruce Jones whose only other work I have read was a Deadman series for Vertigo though he has written other things for DC and Marvel - probably most notably on The Incredible Hulk. The art was by Sam Kieth the creator of the Maxx and Zero Girl  but who I first came across on the Epicurus the Sage books and most lately on the Arkham Asylum: Madness graphic novel.

The story is set in the days when Dick Grayson was Robin and seems to feature the first meeting of Batman with the Mad Hatter. When Batman starts seeing visions of white rabbits and a long dead childhood friend, Alfred becomes concerned but when Batman then chases after them into the sewers below Wayne Manor both Alfred and Robin must hunt him down and prevent him hurting himself or others. Meanwhile Batman is living through visions of Wonderland populated by people he was dining with just the night before. How does the hallucination and reality coincide and how does it relate to the murder of a fellow dinner guest from the previous evening.

Like all these kinds of books based on other works, there  is some shoe horning going on to make the two universes fit. In this case it is noticeable in the character names: e.g. Claude Lapin Blanc who is assistant to Judge Rosalyn Hart; murder victim Dunphrey Tweedle and his twin brother Denham ("Please call me Dee"); minder Jimmie Cheshire; council members Dennis Carpenter and Dave Russwall. The concept would have been fine as a five part mini-series - as it looks like it might have been first conceived from the pin-ups in the back of the book that look like covers - but is over-valued as an original hardback book. 

The story is fairly standard fare concerning political corruption to ensure a new building project goes ahead. The introduction of the Mad Hatter as the villain, running interference by introducing a hallucinogen, allows the introduction of the Wonderland motif but it is not enough to raise the story beyond its uninspired plotting. The art is a big disappointment for me in this book. Kieth has done some great art on Batman and related books in the past and I was looking forward to more here. However there was too much cartoony art and it really looked like not much effort had been put into it - Robin is particularly badly drawn in this book and I can't imagine many shots of him making their way into his fan blog

I consider it a brave failure ...

The above quote is from Kieth in the afterward to Arkham Asylum: Madness and though I liked the art in that book - there are some great portrayals of the Joker - Kieth's seeming dismissal of his own work left a rather sour taste at the end of it. So this is the second time that I have felt cheated by Kieth's work. If you are going to produce an original hardback comic book and charge $20, or more in the case of this book, for it then I think as a fan you are entitled to expect something a bit special. Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, this book falls way short of special in both the art and the writing. I will think long and hard about any future purchases of Kieth's books.

message 14: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Rift (2010)

A beautiful book from Fables cover artist James Jean that is composed entirely of wordless illustrations. The book's panels are concertinaed together to form a continuous whole. Within this structure are interweaved two distinct fantastical landscapes - a seascape and a strange procession across a weird landscape. The book allows for the panels to be combined in different ways allowing the viewer to construct their own narrative.

Hard to describe but see the illustrative video below:

Rift video

message 15: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Jennifer Blood: A Woman's Work is Never Done (2012)

This book collects the first six issues of Jennifer Blood from Dynamite. It was written by the now veteran of the field Garth Ennis - writer of The Boys, Hellblazer, Preacher, Hitman, Just a Pilgrim and many more. The art duties were carried out by Adriano Batista, Marcos Marz and Kewber Baal.

On the surface, Jen Fellows is a typical American, suburban housewife. She has a loving, if slightly boring, husband with whom she has had two children - Mark and Alice - the perfect nuclear family. But Jen has a secret. At night she drugs her family and takes to the streets delivering justice to a notorious crime family the Blutes. But for Jen the attacks on the Blutes are more than just vigilantism for the target of each of her attacks is one of her uncles.

Ennis invites comparison to the Punisher with the very first page of this series:

And while she has had her life torn apart by the actions of criminals just like the Punisher, the focus of her attacks, at least in this book, is desire for revenge on the specific men who killed her father and destroyed her mother. But unlike the Punisher she has built a new life beyond the revenge she seeks and must take extraordinary steps to protect her new family.

According to an interview in the back of the book this series sees Ennis returning to the lighter side of life. Fortunately for his fans the usual elements are still in place - black humour, sexual deviancy and a high, gory body count. This is a great story and a good introduction to the character. I will be interested to see where he takes it now given that her initial revenge has been satisfied and her peeping tom neighbour has discovered her secret - though not the secret he initially thought it was. One slight annoyance was a change of artist midway through issue 3 which was slightly disorienting due to the main bad guys not looking the same as they did just the page before but despite this recommended for fans of Ennis.

message 16: by Sérgio (new)

Sérgio | 458 comments That's a cute War Journal :)

Ennis has a really fine sense of humour.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Chew: Tasters's Choice (2009)

This book collects the first five issues of the ongoing series Chew from Image. It was written by John Layman who wrote the Fantastic Four House of M story that I read recently. It features some great, cartoon-style art from Rob Guillory. Chew is his first major comic book but I hoping to see a lot more from him.

Chew is set in an alternate reality where 23 million American citizens have been killed by avian flu and the eating of fowl is prohibited. Tony Chu is a cop on a stake out of a speakeasy selling illegal chicken cuts and dinners. When warned off raiding the place by an FDA official, Tony and his partner decide to go and have a dinner. But Tony is cibopathic - a fictional condition which means that he gets psychic flashes from anything he eats - and on eating the soup is aware that an uncaught serial killer is working in the kitchens. When the killer dies rather than be taken alive, Tony starts eating his flesh to get the information on the killer's victims.This leads Tony to be recruited by the FDA and into further bizarre cases and adventures.

This is a great book. The narrative is a little confusing as Tony changes cases from issue to issue but comes together nicely at the end. This introductory volume introduces some characters and sets up a lot of situations that are unresolved, such as a scene on a planet 24 light years from Earth, but that is fine given that it is an ongoing series. The book comes to an open-ended resolution that, in combination with some of the ideas introduced in the series, makes me want to read more. Definitely a series that I will be revisiting.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Fables: Witches (2010)

This is volume 14 of the Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 86-93. The volume contains three stories that were again all written by Bill Willingham. The art on the first story was by Jim Fern and Craig Hamilton and on the final story was by David Lapham. But for the main Witches story the pencils were by the ever wonderful Mark Buckingham with inks by various combinations of Steve Leialoha. Andrew Pepoy and Daniel Green.

After the diversion of The Great Fables Crossover it was great to be plunged back into the plotline of the main book. The first single issue story gives some background on Mister Dark (the destroyer of the Fables' home in New York) and how he was imprisoned. The main (5 issue) story in the book gives some background into the main sources of magical defence for the Fables - the witches - and their response to the new enemy in their old home. Also in the magically protected business office of the Fables, the flying monkey Bufkin assembles a motley crew of allies to battle against the threat of forces let loose by the events of the fall of Bullfinch Street such as the release of the evil witch Baba Yaga. While the witches are left in disarray by the secret departure of the leader Frau Totenkinder, Gepetto makes a bid for power over Fablekind. The last two issue story in the book concerns how the aftermath of a baseball game turns into a crisis that could tear the fledgling kingdom of Haven apart.

Two of the great strengths of this series is the overarching storylines that require a commitment from the reader and the vast cast in scattered locations that keep the series interesting. However, this can sometimes also be a weakness for readers, like me, who are not picking up the comic on a monthly basis but are reading the collections every six months or so, since not all the collections necessarily tell complete tales. This is the problem for me with this book. The plotlines in the witches story are left unresolved and it feels very much like a middle book of a trilogy - with the story starting in The Dark Ages and presumably due to end in the next volume, Rose Red - that will take us up to issue 100 of the series.

Don't get me wrong. I love this series and I love this book but I think that this is maybe the first one that could not be read a complete story on its own - although all the others, of course, do benefit from also knowing what has gone before. However the old showbiz maxim leave them wanting more applies here - I am definitely looking forward to reading the next book and the continuation of the story.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Fables: Rose Red (2011)

This is volume 15 of the ongoing Vertigo series and collects issues 94 - 100. As usual it was superbly written by Bill Willingham and beautifully pencilled (for the most of the book) by Mark Buckingham. The inking was done by a combination of Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy and Dan Green. There was also a chapter with art by Spanish artist Inaki Miranda which was in a very nice manga-lite style.

This volume finally sees Rose Red emerge from the depressive torpor that she had been suffering from since the death of Boy Blue. This is achieved by a mysterious entity who changes form from the pig's head, who had been trying to talk her round, to her mother and talks to Rose about her childhood and what really happened when Snow White had to leave the family. The book also sees the culmination of the story started in the previous volume with Frau Totenkinder completing her research and returning to do battle with Mister Dark, the mysterious figure who has ousted the Fables from their New York home.

Though it is unfair to judge individual volumes due to the length of some of the story arcs, this volume was far superior to the previous one as it gave us a complete mini-story with the back story of Snow White and Rose Red and the end of the story of Frau Totenkinder's plan to deal with Mister Dark. I was glad to see Rose revived in this book. Willingham writes a lot of strong female characters in this series and Rose was one of my favourites. So it was sad to see her virtually written out of the book and mistreated by Jack Horner only, I suspect, because it was easier on the writers to have her out of the way for the crossover story. This volume contains the hundredth issue of Fables which had the climax of the Mister Dark/Frau Totenkinder story but as it was a bumper 100 page celebratory issue it also contained some special material such as a prose story from Mark Buckingham that was illustrated by Bill Willingham and a beautifully illustrated story of the the Three Mice from current cover artist Joao Ruas. And I have to say that as much as I love James Jean's work on the covers, Ruas has created my favourite with this heart achingly beautiful image of Rose:

message 20: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Fables: Super Team (2011)

This is volume 16 of the popular Vertigo series and collects issues 101 - 107. As usual it was written by Bill Willingham and the main story was pencilled by Mark Buckingham. The inking on the main story was done mainly by Steve Leialoha with Andrew Pepoy lending a hand on a few pages. The main story is preceded by a fill-in tale with art by Eric Shanower and Richard Friend and followed by another filler story with art by the great Terry Moore.

The main five part story concerns the Fables latest attempt to rid themselves of Mister Dark. With Bellflower's scheme to contain Mister Dark failing, the Fables are forced to leave the farm and retreat to Flycatcher's kingdom of Haven. But Mister Dark is on their tails and there is nowhere else to run. While Flycatcher maintains the wards that are holding Mister Dark at bay, Pinocchio convinces the current leader of the witches, Ozma, to create a super powered group to battle the all-powerful enemy in a scenario inspired by his love of comic books. Ozma agrees and with Pinocchio sets about pulling together the members for an archetypal super group that can hope to gain power from the modern myths of the superhero. But as the group is drawn together another champion steps forth from an unlikely quarter.

The first filler story concerns Bufkin and the aftermath of his battle with Baba Yaga in the business office.Now that the business office is safe he is convinced to go on more heroic quests so that he can become king of the business office. This story sees him escape the office and enlist in a new cause. The second story concerns sleeping beauty and a general who is trying to wake her so that he can access the Emperor's former administration and sorcerers to forge a new empire. But little does he know that there are rival forces around who will go to any lengths to stop his scheme.

This story sees the resolution of the Mister Dark story line and the death of major character. Despite the cover of the book bringing to mind Superman, the main story is a homage to Marvel comics and Jack Kirby with the design of the characters recalling some classic Marvel characters and the art very reminiscent of Kirby's work - it seems that it is not just DC characters who wish they were Marvel superheroes. The future is going to be interesting for Bigby and Snow in the aftermath of this story line. Also the return to Fabletown may not go quite as smoothly as everyone thinks with the poisonous nurse Sprat still looking for revenge. The Terry Moore story looks like a set up for Fairest with some of the images resembling some of that new spin-off series. It will be interesting to see if nurse Sprat ends up remaining in the main book or the new one given her new-found status courtesy of Mister Dark.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments John Constantine: Hellblazer - India (2010)

This book collects issues 261 to 266 of this long running title from Vertigo - it has been published continuously for 22 years and is the only title that survives from the imprint's launch. This collection contains two stories - India and No Future.

The main story, India, continues the storyline from writer Peter Milligan that extends back to the start of his run on the book. In it a grief stricken John Constantine travels to India to purify his soul so that he can resurrect his dead, on-off girlfriend, Phoebe. While there he runs across a demon that is killing young girls in Mumbai that he must dispel before he can get what he is after from a local holy man.

The second story has echoes of John's youth when he visits a punk collective on the verge of a Tory election victory. This story has a possessed effigy of Sid Vicious, evil, demonic Tories masterminding the election strategy and John getting a punk haircut.

A good collection but as the storyline carries on from the previous two collections it is maybe not a book for the casual reader. Nice to see Peter Milligan's take on this character. I always feel that Hellblazer works best when a British writer is at the helm - the Azzarello run, for example, was not my most favourite even though I tend to like his other work - and Milligan is a long time favourite of mine from his 2000AD days.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments John Constantine: Hellblazer - Bloody Carnations (2011)

This book collects issues 267 to 275 of the ongoing Hellblazer series. It was written by Peter Milligan, who has been the series writer since issue 250, with art from Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini and Simon Bisley.

The book has two stories. The first called Sectioned sees Constantine violently losing it with Epiphany and then starting to lose his grip on reality and ending up in a psychriatric hospital. He summons Shade to help him escape and figure out what is going on but Shade's madness contaminates a potion Epiphany has made to heal her facial wounds which disfigures her even more. But Shade has a price for his help that John is unwilling to pay. The second story, Bloody Carnations, has Shade take Epiphany to Meta to heal her face but while there he tries to convince her that she is the dead Kathy George. Angry when she refuses him, Shade sends her back to Earth but in 1979 as a punishment both to her and to Constantine of whom he was jealous. Having decided that he wants to marry Epiphany, John must disrupt the plans of Nergal, who is determined that he not find happiness, and rescue his bride-to-be from his younger self.

Milligan takes Constantine back to familiar territory with this volume. Echoing episodes from his past with the incarceration in a mental institution and the return of Nergal and Gary Lester amongst others who gather for the wedding. I much prefer this kind of Hellblazer story where John is on his old stomping ground rather than when he is off on road trips such as in the last volume India. One reference to the old days that was a bit off for me was the reappearance of Kit, his true love from Garth Ennis' run on the series. Apparently, he loves Epiphany more than he loved Kit which I find hard to swallow given his seeming indifference to her in the last couple of collections. Also someone should have given the artists a sample of what Kit looks like as I only knew who she was as she was referred to by name. But these are minor quibbles from a big fan of the Ennis run. On the whole this is a great book with Constantine at his tricksy best.

message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert Wright (RHWright) | 290 comments It's so bizarre you're posting about Constantine. I just picked up a stack of my older comics to re-read. I'm on Hellblazer. Issue 34. Hard to imagine this series has been going for more than 20 years.

message 24: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments John Constantine: Hellblazer - Phantom Pains (2012)

This book collects issues 276 to 282 of the ongoing Hellblazer series. It was again written by Peter Milligan with art on the main story from Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini (one chapter has art from Gael Bertrand) and art on the two single issue stories the bookend the volume was by Simon Bisley.

Married life is not running smoothly for John Constantine. First his new bride finds his wound from his amputated thumb disgusting and runs off to console herself with a demonic spirit. Second his home-grafted thumb, taken from a dying car crash victim, has a life of its own and gets him involved with its previous owner's affairs. And finally his niece, Gemma, is seeking revenge on John for the abuse she suffered at his wedding that she thinks was carried out by him. All of this while trying to avoid becoming indebted to his gangster father-in-law.

Another enjoyable volume from Peter Milligan, though the two single issue stories are filler and pretty lightweight - which is a shame as the second concerning the demon Julian and his abuses of the prisoners could have been really interesting if it had been given more space to develop the tale properly. The main story has threads that don't really go anywhere but overall it is very good with yet another person close to Constantine paying the price for his deviousness. The hints in this tale are that John might be about to head out on another of the dreaded road trips, possibly to America if he can't put off his father-in-law, so that is something I am not looking forward to as I didn't really like the last one when Brian Azzarello was the writer. But hopefully Milligan can pull it off as he has taken the character back to his roots and created some of the most entertaining stories for a long time in this long-lived series.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Thanks, Ken. It's good to know someone is reading them ;o)

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Vertigo Resurrected: Hellblazer (February 2011)

This comic is one of a series from Vertigo collecting material that has never otherwise been reprinted. This one features 2 two-part stories from John Constantine, Hellblazer.

The first comes from the middle of the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon run of the early nineties and consists of issues 57 and 58. When Chas and John stumble across some modern day grave robbers at Chas' uncle's funeral, John agrees to help Chas get to the bottom of the matter. They soon find themselves in a fortified industrial unit in the middle of nowhere where the stolen bodies are being used as test subjects for needless ballistic tests.

This is Ennis at his prime and the humour is dark matter black even for him. The art is typical Steve Dillon and I love it. Reading this just makes me want to do that Hellblazer re-read that I have been promising myself for some time - along with the Sandman, Zenith, The Shadow and a host of others I don't have time for just now. Excellent stuff.

The second story is by writer Jason Aaron (currently writing Scalped) and artist Sean Murphy (who also drew the Hellblazer: City of Demons mini-series) and collects issues 245 and 246 from near the end of the Andy Diggle run. The story sees a bunch of documentary makers come to Newcastle to make a film about Constantine's old punk band, Mucous Membrane. However, the site they visit is the scene of demonic ritual that put Constantine in the Ravenscar Asylum. Unfortunately for the film makers, the shade of the demon is still lingering on the site and once disturbed messes with their heads.

I bought this comic for this story as it the only one I don't have between my comics and book collections. It is quite a good story encapsulating as it does a piece of iconic Constantine back story for readers that may not be familiar the character's full history. I like Murphy's art and would be happy to see him have an extended spell with the book and character.

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Noetic_Hatter (noetichatter) Thanks for the Jennifer Blood commentary. I love Girl-with-a-Gun stories, and Ennis is fun when he's violent and absurd. I have questioned getting this one, though, for some reason -- IIRC, I wasn't crazy about the art when I looked at #1.

Maybe I will try it after all.

message 28: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Derrick, the art is not too bad - a lot of it is similar in style to Jacen Burrows - but the main problem is that they use three different artists and switch them mid-issue. In one case the switch is so jarring that it is not clear that we are following the same characters from the previous page.

But if you are a fan of Ennis and revenge stories then I would strongly consider having a look at this book.

message 29: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Vertigo Resurrected (December 2010)

This comic is an collection of short stories from various Vertigo titles including Strange Adventures, Weird War Tales and Flinch. However, the reason I picked it up is that it features a previously unpublished Hellblazer story from the Warren Ellis run on the character.

The story, Shoot was written round about the time of the Columbine High School tragedy and was felt, probably rightly that it was too sensitive a story to print at that time. However, it is an excellent story featuring Constantine at the fringes of a series of pupil-pupil shootings across America. The story has John railing against the congressional advisor as the demons the children face are ones created by society rather than the Hellish forces that he is comfortable with.

This is story is the kind of horror that really scares me. Never mind scientists shooting corpses for some perverse pleasure or people sodomising the decayed carcasses of dogs (both of which were featured in the last comic I read), what scares me is the horror that could be all too real. So while I love the supernatural horror genre the ones that truly get to me are films like slasher movies where there is no supernatural element only the cruelty of fellow humans.

The other stories feature a heavyweight roster of writers and artists from Vertigo past and present. They include Brian Bolland, Brian Azzarello, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Eduardo Risso and Bill Willingham. These stories are of variable interest as they are playing second fiddle to the Constantine one but are mostly entertaining. One of the best features art by Bernie Wrightson in a classic horror tale. It has been a while since I have read any stories featuring Wrightson art and has made me move Roots of the Swamp Thing up in my to-read pile. Bill Willingham's story, which he wrote and drew, is a good one featuring a nice flip on the trope of the enraged villagers of classic horror movies.

message 30: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments The Bronx Kill (2009)

This original graphic novel comes from the short-lived Vertigo Crime imprint. It was written by the veteran British write, Peter Milligan, and the black and white art was by James Romberger.

The derelict area around the Bronx Kill, a narrow strait in New York, holds a grim fascination for writer Martin Keane as it was the scene of his great-grandfather's murder. As Martin struggles to write his third novel, his mysterious family history is echoed in the present when his wife leaves their apartment and disappears just like his grandmother did many years before abandoning his father as a baby. Martin is suspected of foul play, and murder when his wife's body appears, and must find answers to the mystery in the events of the past.

A pretty good modern noir story from Milligan. He uses a lot of tropes - history repeating, lessons of the past not learned, mirroring of events in the draft pages of Martin's latest novel - but he combines them well to produce a gripping narrative. The art by Romberger is suitably dark when it needs to be and has an indie sensibility that is refreshing from the books I normally read. Well worth a read for fans of crime stories.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Batman: Gates of Gotham (2012)

This book collects the five issue Gates of Gotham mini-series. It has a number of creators involved. The story was by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins with the dialogue by Kyle Higgins with Ryan Parrott on the last three issues. The art was mainly by Trevor McCarthy except for issue 4 where the art was by Dustin Nguyen and Derec Donovan.

Batman has to deal with a bombing campaign in Gotham targeted at landmarks associated with the founding families of the city - the Waynes, Elliots and Cobblepots. With Robin, Red Robin and Black Bat all helping, Batman discovers a vendetta that stretches back to the end of the 19th century when the expansion of the city was at its height. He must stop the bomber before half the city is destroyed by floods.

This story is set before the DC universe reboot and is set after Batman: RIP and after Bruce Wayne's return and the set up of world wide Batman franchises. So it features Dick Grayson as Batman with Bruce's son Damien as Robin. And this is one of the problems of this book for me. Yes Bruce Wayne was always going to be a tough act to follow as Batman but you would think that if anyone could pull it off it would be his one time protege, Dick Grayson. Not only did he train under Batman in his time as Robin but he moved on and became a hero in his own right. However, in this story he is almost crippled by self-doubt and would be lost without Tim Drake to help him crack the case - of course he is not helped by the bitter Robin criticising him at every turn. Also the story, despite having four writers working on it, is just not very inspiring - the plot is pedestrian and the new villain boring and formulaic. All in all a bit of a disappointment. The only real bright spot was the art by Trevor McCarthy, whose work I have not seen before but enjoyed looking at here - though why they took an issue away from him is beyond me.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Dollhouse: Epitaphs (2012)

This book collects the Epitaphs one-shot and the following five issue mini-series. It was written by Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon. All three were also involved with the writing on the TV series upon which the book was based and especially on the two season finales that were set in the same post apocalyptic world. The art was by Cliff Richards and Andy Owens with some exceptional covers by Phil Noto.

The story has two strands. The first follows Maggie, Zone and Griffin as the brain wiping apocalypse starts, turning those that answer phones into ferocious killers or docile imbeciles, how they survive and meet up and their continued fight for survival in the face of the increasing escalation of mind control from the Rossum Corporation. The second follows a young boy Trevor as his uncle is imprinted with the personality of Topher's assistant Ivy who is working with Alpha to try and raise a resistance army against Rossum. Trevor meets up with Alpha to find he is the only recruit along with some other Ivys but undeterred joins with Alpha in search of Echo and a means to resist the imprinting process. But they must fight their way to her as the Rossum Corporation is also looking for her.

I was a fan of the TV series and thought it had more high points than low, though it could be patchy at times, but when they stuck to the story arc it was generally excellent. This story is a reasonable addition to the canon without being spectacular. The best part was the return of Alpha and his struggle with his demons - but probably that has as much to do with my love for Alan Tudyk's portrayal of the character. The problem with the story is that it doesn't really add a whole extra to the mythology of the show so while I enjoyed it I hope Dark Horse commissions a longer mini-series or ongoing series that will allow the writers to go beyond the confines of the TV show .

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love (2010)

This book collects the six issue mini-series, from Vertigo, that is a spin-off from Fables. It was written by Chris Roberson who is currently also writing iZombie for the same company. The art was by the great Shawn McManus whose work I don't seem to see nearly enough these days.

Cinderella, the apparent fashion show hopping socialite, is actually an experienced spy for Fabletown. In this story she is sent off to try and discover and eliminate the source of the flow of magical artefacts into the Mundy world from the Homelands. On the way she hooks up with Aladdin who is on the same mission. Together they uncover a plot to sell artefacts for Mundy weapons so that various individuals can make concerted assaults on Homeland territories now that the Emperor has been defeated. Cindy finds the mission turns personal when confronted with a figure from her past.

This is a fun tale from the world of Fables. The dialogue between Cindy and Aladdin is good and there is enough twists on the expectations of the character of Cinderella to keep the book entertaining throughout. It reminded me a lot of the early days of the Fables series itself when it was much more dependant on its fairy tale origins than it is currently. I love the art by McManus but then I have loved his work from the time of the Dr Fate series from the mid to late 80s.

message 34: by Robert (new)

Robert Wright (RHWright) | 290 comments I've switched to following Fables and its spin-offs in the collections, but, man, I am so far behind...

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Cinderella: Fables are Forever (2012)

This book collects the second six issue Fables mini-series featuring super-spy Cinderella. It was again written by Chris Roberson with art by Shawn McManus. There is also a tale set in the preparation for the war with the Adversary, from Fables 51, that was drawn by McManus but written by Fables creator Bill Willingham.

Cinderellla returns in a story set during the evacuation of the Farm because of the onslaught by Mister Dark. One of the leading witches from floor 13 has been murdered and the only clue is a silver slipper charm. Cinderella finds herself tracking down an old foe who she thought was dead and being involved with Fables from the shadow Fabletown that she has spied on in the past. But who can she trust and who is laying traps for who?

Another good standalone tale from the world of Fables. The only problem with it is that it attempts to place itself within the continuity of the main book and uses the murder of a character to achieve this. The story itself, from the time that Cinderella gets down to investigating the case till the resolution, has little impact or relevance to the main book and so the set up seems contrived and unnecessary. But other than that small niggle the story is great with lots of twists and turns and unexpected revelations both from Cinderella's past and present.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Judge Anderson: The PSI Files Volume 2 (2012)

This is the second volume of collected stories featuring Judge Anderson taken from 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine. All except one was written by Alan Grant (the exception being a collaboration between Grant and long time writing partner John Wagner) and features three longer stories with a number of short tales interspersed among them. There are a number of artists involved including Arthur Ranson, Steve Sampson, Kevin Walker, Ian Gibson among others.

The first of the longer stories is called Shamballa and sees Anderson and academy colleague, Rickard, travelling to Tibet with two East-Meg 2 psi operatives to investigate the source of a worldwide spate of psychic visions of mythic creatures that are causing death and destruction where they appear. They end up travelling to the region formerly known as Tibet to track down a forgotten race of people with extraordinary psi abilities. The art on this story was by the great Arthur Ranson.

After a number of stories that slowly erode Anderson's faith in the justice system she eventually cracks and attacks a particularly brutal judge. In the second of the long stories, Childhood's End, she is sent on a mission to Mars to cool off. On the Cydonian plane, the head monument has opened a portal. Anderson is one of a number of assembled experts who make the expedition into the structure. While inside she must confront a deadly enemy of old and the return of an ancient race determined to wipe out humanity.

The third long story, Postcards from the Edge continues on from the last one and sees Anderson, having resigned as a judge, bumming round the inhabited worlds of the galaxy looking to find herself. This walkabout storyline is the most disjointed, having several different artists contributing to it, and with individual stories of variable quality and interest. Having said that I like the chapters with the distinctive art of Steve Sampson which are good to look at even if they are not necessarily good to read.

The beauty of this volume is that it allows an alternative look at the judges and the justice system of Mega-City. The sometimes brutal tactics of the street judge are questioned here by an increasingly doubtful Anderson as she struggles to get over the suicide of her friend, the empath Judge Corey, and assimilate some the spiritual experiences she goes through in this book and the philosophical questions they raise. Taken all together it is a worthwhile addition to the library even though some of the standalone stories and parts of Postcards from the Edge are not quite as good as the rest.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments MW (2010)

This is the collection of a manga series from the late 1970s by Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka is probably best known for creating Astro Boy among others. This story is a much darker one than those he is more usually associated with.

The book features two main characters: the amoral Michio Yuki who spends the book kidnapping, murdering and sleeping with men and women to use them in his schemes and Father Iwao Garai who is one of Yuki's lovers and who is trying to earn forgiveness for past sins by redeeming Yuki. Their tangled history begins on the island of Okino Mafune when a young Garai is a member of a delinquent gang of youths who kidnap the very young Yuki hoping for a ransom pay out. The pair hole up in a cave high above the island and come down the next day to find that everyone on the island has been killed by the accidental release of a chemical warfare agent called MW. A grown up Yuki blames the MW for altering his brain and causing his amoral behaviour and his crimes target people involved in the cover up of the incident. Eventually he discovers that the deadly gas has been moved from the island to an a foreign military base near Toyko. Yuki is determined in his madness to steal the MW and replicate it so that he can kill the whole world while Garai trying to make up for the past tries to stop him and save his soul.

This book reminds me of the later Deathnote manga. Like it there is a dark premise, a supremely confident villain who imagines himself untouchable and an investigator who is sure of the identity of the perpetrator of the crimes but lacks the proof to bring him to justice. The book examines the complex ties that bind two very different men through a large portion of their lives. From the teenage delinquent turned Catholic priest to the young innocent boy made into a monster by the experiences of one fateful day. It is chilling to be almost charmed by a character who uses his charisma to manipulate both sexes and to inspire devotion so strong that his victims will defend him against the bigger crimes that he is accused of. An excellent read and a story that does hang around too long as some manga can do to their detriment.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments The Red Wing (2011)

I liked this book on a first read – though it has its flaws. A story of this nature has to be self contained but I thought it was maybe a little too short – which is a little surprising given that the plot reminded me a lot of a Future Shock type story from the old days of 2000AD. But I whizzed through this book very quickly and another issue or two might have been beneficial to help explain the set up better.

I have to say that the (pseudo-) scientific explanation behind the story didn't quite work for me. The main problem was that the threat was never adequately explained. The only glimpse that we see of the 23rd century, outside of the ring, looks very futuristic and peaceful. The story didn't really show us the effects that the Blue invaders were having on the Reds and why there was a full blown war.

Having said that I love stories that involve time travel and the best ones always leave me with a sore head as I try and figure out what is going on. And given the impossibility of the phenomenon, it seems a bit churlish not to enjoy the story on its own merits. The tropes used might have been well worn and the surprise ending not really much of a surprise but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

I liked the art in general but the design on the ships seemed a bit lazy being just blocky shapes. The art reminded me of Bryan Talbot in places and Geof Darrow in others and I would definitely be interested in seeing more of Pitarra’s work.

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Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Black Orchid - The Deluxe Edition (2012)

Black Orchid is a collection of the three issue mini-series from the late 1980's. It features the re-imagining of an old DC character by writer Neil Gaiman and long-time collaborator, Dave McKean. This is one of their early collaborations and their first big commission for a major American publisher.

The plot surrounds the death and rebirth of Susan Linden, otherwise known as the crime fighting heroine, Black Orchid, who is investigating a criminal enterprise that would eventually lead to Lex Luthor. When Susan's ex-husband is released from prison, his dismissal by ex-boss Luthor, sets in motion a chain of events that sees him and Luthor hunting down the Black Orchid and her immature companion.

Although the book is now published by Vertigo, it was originally released by DC and pre-dates the Vertigo imprint by four years. Gaiman delivers an unconventional superhero story that does not feature much in the way of superheroics and creates an origin story for the Black Orchid that links her into DC's other plant-based heroes and villains - Jason Woodrue, Pamela Isley and Alec Holland. The story is about loss, unrequited love and the search for identity in an unfamiliar world. And while not having the majesty and breadth of his landmark Sandman series, it is still a beautifully told tale that is worth a read nearly 25 years after it was written. The art by McKean is fabulous featuring a photo-realistic style mixed in with some impressionistic renderings of the Green and the Amazonion jungle.

The book features some extra content for this deluxe printing that consists of sketches and handwritten notes from Gaiman as well as early comments from editor Karen Berger which while interesting are probably only of interest to hardcore fans of the character or Gaiman or those interested in the publishing process.

message 40: by Wesley (last edited Jul 15, 2012 02:59AM) (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century (2009/2011/2012)

Century is a three part story told at different points in time over a hundred year time span. Once again it sees Alan Moore teaming up with the great Kevin O'Neill. The League is in part the one mentioned in The Black Dossier with Mina Murray, a rejuvenated Allan Quartermain and the immortal Orlando also involved are Raffles and Thomas Carnacki.

Part 1, 1910, sees the team trying to track down the source of a deadly attack in the East End of London as predicted in the dreams of Carnacki. His dreams include the machinations of the occultist Oliver Haddo but these turn out to be of a time in the future. Meanwhile, a familiar killer is stalking the East End and Nemo's daughter is reappraising her life in the wake of her father's death and brutal life since running away to London.

It's good to be reading another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen story though the literary characters are more obscure than in the first two volumes but do allow Moore to focus more on the occult and some are cleverly used if you know the references. This is the first part of a trilogy of books and as such is not quite satisfying on its own. For though the various plot threads are woven together in the end, the larger picture is only beginning to be revealed.

The second part of Moore and O'Neill's Century, 1969, reduces the team to the core immortals - Mina Murray; Allan Quartermain; and Orlando. Set against a larger than life, Austin Powers style swinging sixties London, the team come together to continue their investigations into the black magician Oliver Haddo and his cult who are making a fresh attempt to usher in a new age with the creation of a Moonchild. The plot revolves around a mix of dead rock stars, sixties counter-culture, London crime bosses and the various investigations into them.

In this episode, the tensions amongst the League come to the fore as Mina struggles to come to term with the prospect of immortality, the responsibilities of leadership and insensitivity of her lovers/colleagues. While the threat is adverted in the psychedelic haze of a drug trip, the book ends with Mina separated from the rest of the team and a flash-forward to the more drab seventies and and the nihilism of punk reflected in the increasingly sour relationship between Allan and Orlando without the still missing Mina.

As usual with these books, there is a lot going on in the background art with reference to many pop culture icons of the sixties and seventies. O'Neill also puts in some references to his other work with, for example, an image of Nemesis in the background of one panel. The book also contains some contemporary references showing a possible moment when Tom Riddle was set on the path to becoming the Dark Lord.

The third and last part of Century, 2009, opens with Orlando losing him(her)self in combat in the Middle East. On returning to London he is tasked with finding Mina and Allan by Prospero and then tracking down the Moonchild that they were supposed to have prevented being born. She finds Allan living on the streets a hopeless junkie who refuses to have anything to do with her or tracking down Mina. Turning to MI6 for help, Orlando inds that Mina has been in a mental institution since the aftermath of the events in Hyde Park at the end of book 2. Together they track down the anti-Christ and confront him in a last battle to prevent the apocalypse heralded by Oliver Haddo.

This volume contains some savage commentary apparently directed at J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter novels. In this version of reality Harry Potter would appear to be Haddo's Moonchild and anti-Christ. All in all this series has a much darker tone than the previous ones with themes of nihilism, helplesness and the decay of moral and aesthetic standards. So there is less of a feeling of entertainment and boy's own adventure but there is plenty or scholars of Moore and his work to get their teeth into. Given the high;y irregular release schedule, I am glad that I waited to read all three at once as they would have been unsatisfactory to read as standalone episodes.

For those wanting to delve deeper into the many references littered throughout the series, there are some excellent web pages by Jess Nevins gathering these and is probably essential reading for Brits as well as non-Brits. There is a page for each book - 1910, 1969 and 2009.

message 41: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Fables: Inherit the Wind (2012)

Volume 17 of Fables collects issues 108 - 113. The book was again written by creator Bill Willingham and the four issue main story, and the standalone story following it, was again pencilled by the ever fabulous Mark Buckingham with inking mainly by Steve Leialoha with Andrew Pepoy lending a hand. The final chapter in the book is a collection of short tales from the world of Fables with various guest artists such as P. Craig Russell and Adam Hughes.

The main story is a continuation of volume 16 that deals with the aftermath of the defeat of Mister Dark and (view spoiler). There is a continuing subplot that follows Bufkin and his attempts to lead a revolt against the new rulers of the Pan Ozian Empire. There is also a Christmas issue that details the gradual return of the Fables from Haven to the Farm before moving on to investigate the state of their New York residence. It heavily features Rose Red in a twisted version of A Christmas Carol where she meets other paladins of hope.

Another great volume in the series though the main story was a bit short for me at four chapters and left a lot open for the future. However not a suitable standalone story or entry point for new readers as it is heavily dependent on what has gone before. If you are new to the world of Fables then it really is worth your while to go way back to the beginning and experience the richness and breadth of the story from the start.

message 42: by Robert (new)

Robert Wright (RHWright) | 290 comments Ooh...I so need to catch up on Fables. And thanks for using the spoiler tag. I hate when reviews give too much away.

message 43: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Yeah, I try not to be too spoilerific but with this volume it was hard as it follows directly from the previous one and deals directly with ...

message 44: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Fables: Covers (2008)

Something a little different this time. This is a beautiful oversized, hardback book collecting James Jean's work as a cover artist on Fables. The book collects covers from the main series (#1-10 and 12-75), standalone books (The Last Castle and [1001 Nights of Snowfall) and the wraparound covers for the first 10 trade paperback collections.

The format of the book is pretty rigid. There is a double page spread for each single issue. The left hand page consists of preliminary sketches and paintings along with a relevant quote from the script for that issue and a thumbnail of the final cover as published. The right hand page is a full page reprint of the cover normally without logos, issue numbers, barcodes and other text or graphic elements unless these form an integral part of the design of the image.

The wraparound covers are treated slightly differently. These get 4 pages devoted to them. The first two have have the preliminary sketches, drawings and paintings with a thumbnail of the final cover and a short commentary from Jean himself on the cover. The next two pages is a reproduction of the cover alone without logos etc.

It goes without saying that if you love Jean's work then you will love this book. It shows which covers went through a number of iterations before settling on a final image and which seem to have been fully formed from the start. Amazing as the final covers are, some of my favourite illustrations are clean line drawings - the details are amazing and sometimes get lost in the colouring process. Visit his web site which has lots of examples of his other work.

message 45: by Scott (new)

Scott | 346 comments Even though I didn't really care for Fables, I am tempted to get that book.

message 46: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Scott wrote: "Even though I didn't really care for Fables, I am tempted to get that book."

If you like Jean's work then it is worth getting. It is basically an art book showcasing his work on Fables but can be appreciated independently from the series.

message 47: by Wesley (last edited Jul 26, 2012 11:41AM) (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Kickback (2006)

Kickback by David Lloyd

This seems to an original graphic novel first published in France with this American edition from Dark Horse. The script and art is by David Lloyd who is best known, of course, as the artist on V for Vendetta but I also have a couple of Night Raven books that he did for Marvel.

The story follows Joe Canelli, a crooked cop in a crooked city. Everything is peaceful in Franklin City until one of the main gang leaders is taken out. Rather than starting a gang war, this event shatters the reciprocal agreement between the cops and the gangs with cops being taken out and violent reaction from the police on the gangs. Against this background, Canelli has to discover who he can trust as he investigates the cause of the disturbance and finds that he has to choose sides between what he thought was right and wrong.

This is a nice crime caper that I enjoyed reading. The story is not too original and parts of it reminded me strongly of the film Magnum Force. But the art is great and I love Lloyd's colour palette which is perfect for this noirish tale. The one aspect of Lloyd's art that I don't like is that the faces of characters are sometimes not too well defined and it can be difficult to recognise characters when they reappear in the story. Other than that a good little book that I am glad I took a chance on.

message 48: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments JLA: Tower of Babel (2001)

JLA, Vol. 7 Tower of Babel by Mark Waid

This book collects JLA #42-46 and material from JLA Secret Files 3 and JLA 80-page Giant 1. The main story was by Mark Waid who has worked as a writer on most of the major characters from both DC and Marvel. The book also features a host of pencillers and inkers but the principle story was drawn by Howard Porter and Drew Geraci, in the main.

The main story has Batman investigating the disappearance of his parents after their graves were desecrated by Ra's al Ghul who implements Batman's contingency plan to incapacitate the other members of the Justice League. With the Justice League incapacitated or distracted Ra's is free to pursue his agenda to escalate tensions in the Middle East.

The other stories in this book feature a gang trying to frame Superman for a murder in Gotham, Aquaman inadvertently revealing too much about his feelings for Wonder Woman on a rescue mission and the Atom discovering a bacterial civilisation manifesting as a tumour in a boy's brain - a civilisation doomed to self-destruction that has a deep resonance for Superman.

The main story is an examination of the paranoia of Batman and the schemes he is prepared to consider, against his friends and colleagues, to ensure that each member of the JLA can be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice if necessary. When his schemes are turned into actions against the members of the Justice League, they must consider how far they can trust a man that does not have faith in them and whether they can continue to work with him knowing that he is constantly judging them. The only slight niggle I have with an otherwise great book is that there are a lot of artists used and even the main story has an interlude with guest artists as does the final chapter of the story - is it too much to hope that a creative team can see out a four or five page story without chopping and changing. A good story that would seem to have ripples that affect not only Batman's relationship with the JLA but also those of his close companions within their respective teams.

message 49: by Scott (new)

Scott | 346 comments Loved that arc.

message 50: by Wesley (new)

Wesley (wgk333) | 119 comments Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass by Mark Millar

This book collects the first eight part mini-series and was written by Mark Millar, the Scottish writer probably best known for the Ultimates or the Civil War event for Marvel. The art was by John Romita, Jr. who has mostly worked on various Marvel characters.

Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski, a high school kid who dreams of becoming a superhero like the ones he reads about in his comic books. Dave decides to act on his desires and roams the streets looking for action but soon regrets it when he ends up stabbed, beaten and the victim of a hit and run. Several months and operations later and Dave can't keep away from the streets but small successes only bring him to the attention of larger predators.

This book features some of the trademark excesses of language and violence that Millar is known for in his creator owned work and so won't be for everyone. It is a brutal examination of the reality of vigilantism where the criminal underclass are not a superstitious and cowardly lot to be frightened by a man in a suit and the crime lords will move quickly to end anything that is interrupting their business activities. Dave finds that the high ideals held by the comic book heroes are soon abandoned in real life when he becomes associated with another pair of well trained vigilantes targeting crime boss John Genovese. The tipping point for most people I suppose will be the character Hit-Girl - a well trained 10 year old girl who wields deadly katanas to dish out bloody violence while spouting foul language. Even given the comic book nature of the story it is hard to imagine any father turning a young girl into the violent figure of revenge that is presented in this book. But if you can accept that then this is an excellent book.

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Books mentioned in this topic

Kickback (other topics)
JLA, Vol. 7: Tower of Babel (other topics)
Kick-Ass (other topics)
Kick-Ass 2 (other topics)
Cellar of Nastiness (other topics)