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message 1: by Adam (last edited Feb 23, 2012 04:23AM) (new)

Adam | 130 comments I'll stick mine here then, so they're all in one place. The next few are just copied and pasted - I'll add more as and when...

message 2: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

3/5 Stars

I hadn't read this before - in fact the only Claremont-era X-Men story I can remember reading at the time is X-Men: Days of Future Past, so I came at this with an open mind. It's renowned as a classic, so I thought I really should catch up with it.

Well, to be honest, I probably shouldn't have. While there's a lot to like about this book - complex fast-moving plot, detailed characterisation, hugely impressive scope - there's also a lot to take issue with. My first complaint is that this doesn't flow as a graphic novel at all; the first couple of pages in each chapter is spent explaining how the story got to its current point, instead of just diving into what's next. Similarly, there are so many text boxes and thought bubbles explaining the events and the characters' motivations that overall it's a slow, turgid read, only really picking up pace in the last 2 or 3 chapters.

Another issue with all this text is that it completely swamps most of the panels, meaning the art can be no more than functional. While the thought bubbles give us a picture of the characters' internal lives, I'm not sure this really adds much for me as a reader. Personally, I side with Warren Ellis - I much prefer comics where you have to fill in the blanks yourself. If I can't understand what's happening from the dialogue and action, then the writer & artist aren't doing their job well enough.

Having said all this, my major problem with this book is that (view spoiler)

Anyway, I'm glad I've read this one now - but more than that, I'm glad I don't have to read it again.

message 3: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments Nelson

5/5 stars

Nelson is a collaborative graphic novel, with 54 British cartoonists each writing a short chapter which covers a day in the life of lead character Nel, beginning with her birth in 1968 and following her through to late in 2011. I expected the book to be disjointed, but for the most part it flows as naturally as many single-author works, and in instances where the artists' styles jar, the subject matter usually makes this appropriate. Many of the contributors add something new to the book, taking it in a new direction or adding something to the characterisation; only Posy Simmonds' chapter felt particularly self-conscious in this regard.

One of the strongest points of this book is that it ties in with key historical events and political & cultural movements; only in one instance did this feel forced. In some cases, the resonance was really strong for me on a personal level - a real accomplishment.

I must admit to being slightly disappointed by the last couple of chapters of the book, but only because the plot seemed to be slowed to an almost-stop by this point.

Huge credit has to go to Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix as editors and co-ordinators of the project. As far as I know, it's a truly unique work. Highly recommended.

message 4: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments The Last Musketeer

5/5 stars

Bit of an oddity this. Athos the Musketeer lives in modern-day Paris as a park-bench beggar and drunkard, when the city is attacked by lasers from Mars. Time for Athos to go on an adventure, then...

I loved this book. Essentially it's a mash-up between The Three Musketeers, Flash Gordon and a hint of Forbidden Planet, but with all the characters drawn as dogs. Jason's art and narrative is deliberately simplistic, everything looking very two-dimensional. The characterisation is similarly flat (or deadpan I guess), but the humour shines through. Love it.

message 5: by Adam (last edited Feb 23, 2012 04:17AM) (new)

Adam | 130 comments I Killed Adolf Hitler

4/5 stars

Another wee gem from Jason here. I didn't find this one as funny as The Last Musketeer, but the wry style still works for me.

The basic plot here is that a Berlin hitman is hired to go back in time and kill Hitler, using a time machine that can be used twice and then needs 50 years to recharge its batteries; things don't go quite to plan, and Adolph runs away into the future in his time machine, leaving the hitman with no choice but to wait out the decades before he can take another shot at the task.

I'll be reading more of Jason's work when I get the chance. He seems to have a unique style, with a lot of charm.

A nice bit of news from Jason's blog is that this has just been optioned for a film adaptation.

message 6: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments Holy Terror

1/5 stars



To be fair, Frank's art still looks pretty striking, but Christallfuckingmighty, his storytelling is appalling. Not to mention the odious thinking behind this little disaster of a book... what a horrid, angry little man Frank's become. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

message 7: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

5/5 stars

This is my 3rd attempt to write a review of this book, I keep getting distracted - which kind of mirrors my initial experience of reading the book. The first couple of times I started it, I ended up switching to other books, it's only last week I managed to gain any momentum with it. In the end, I read it in an afternoon and got a lot out of it.

Glidden's got a reflective, self-aware narrative style which worked really well in this case, giving us a balanced and knowingly-far-from-complete picture of present-day Israel. As a self-declared New York liberal Jew, she constantly questions the view she is presented with on her Birthright guided tour of the country. This matches my own experience - I spent a week in Jerusalem when my brother was getting married there.

Sarah catches out some of Israel's propaganda, but in her discussions with Israeli citizens and her fellow travellers, she finds a broad range of opinions and experience. If I've got a significant criticism to make, it's that the author doesn't visit Gaza or The West Bank - a clear omission from any balanced depiction of the region. And if there's a simple conclusion to be drawn from this book, it's that nobody understands Israel.

One last comment is that I really enjoyed Glidden's watercolour illustrations. She captures the landscape (and cityscapes) well.

message 8: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments Psychiatric Tales

2/5 stars

I was hugely disappointed with this book. Mostly it reads as a series of pamphlets giving factual information on mental health conditions, with a few measured anecdotes thrown in. It's a particularly humourless read, and the information it provides is already widely available elsewhere (including for free online). The art is completely flat and adds nothing. It's a real shame - this is a completely wasted opportunity to do something special. For an example of what's possible, see Lifeline's brilliant series of drug education pamphlets, available since the 1990s.

message 9: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments Sandcastle

3/5 stars

I'm not really sure what to make of this one to be honest. Is it a sci-fi, a mystery or a meditation on mortality and the nature of humanity? Bit of all three, but mostly the latter, I guess. The illustration is excellent anyway, with the depiction of facial expressions and of characters ageing being particularly good. As far as the plot's concerned, I'm unconvinced though. You have to buy in to the premise for any science fiction piece to really work, and with this one I didn't. But having said that, while the concept wasn't satisfactorily fleshed out as far as I'm concerned, its ramifications certainly were. An enjoyable read.

message 10: by Derrick (last edited Feb 23, 2012 12:22PM) (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) Adam wrote: "Holy Terror"

I have been so tempted to pick it up, especially because I enjoyed the insanity that was

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Vol. 1. But every time I look at it in the store, I talk myself out of buying.

message 11: by Adam (last edited Feb 23, 2012 05:14PM) (new)

Adam | 130 comments Derrick wrote: "Adam wrote: "Holy Terror"

I have been so tempted to pick it up, especially because I enjoyed the insanity that was

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Vol. 1..."

Keep listening to that inner voice, Derrick - it speaks sense!

To be fair (which I shouldn't), it's pretty obvious if you read it that it was originally meant to be a Batman story - the lead character's a blatant analogue for old pointy-ears. But the attitudes he's writing from are so wrong-headed it's unbelievable. Aside from the out-and-out racism / rabid anti-islamism, it's also a hugely misogynist piece, half an inch short of rape fantasy to be honest.

Don't buy it - you'll only encourage him.

message 12: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith

4/5 stars

I'm actually reading Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume, but it's too big to get through in one sitting so I'll review it volume by volume.

Anyway, Out From Boneville starts with the 3 Bones (Fone, Phoney & Smiley) wandering through the desert, having been exiled from their hometown after one of Phoney's harebrained schemes. They get separated, and for most of this volume we follow Fone as he tries to reunite with the other two, and gets messed up with massive rat creatures, a dragon and a kindly maiden.

What none of this tells you is that the book is an utter joy. It's light and funny, and seems to work on the principle that being nice is... well, nice. There's a few brilliant visual jokes thrown in, but overall the book is a lot of fun without having developed a gripping overall plot at this point.

message 13: by Derrick (last edited Feb 25, 2012 08:42AM) (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) Bone's been on my radar for awhile now, but I just keep forgetting whenever I go to buy new trades. I loved Jeff Smith's art in Shazam!: Monster Society of Evil, which I read a few years ago.

I am a little concerned about a paperback for that many pages. How does it feel, as a physical reading experience? Does it seem like the book is going to fall apart before you get to the end?

[I had the same concerns about the Walking Dead massive softcover omnibus -- it's something like 48 issues long.)

message 14: by Adam (new)

Adam | 130 comments The binding on Bone feels pretty solid, I reckon it'll hold together OK. I've got the same Walking Dead compendium as well, and again it feels reasonably dependable. I've had as much trouble with slim volumes as thick ones in the past - I reckon if they're well enough bound they'll be fine. Although obviously with any paperback that's more than 500 pages, it won't look like an unread book once you've been through it.

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