Archive for the ‘TPBs/graphic novels’ Category

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffengger

April 19th, 2011 by Susie


I picked this book up at the event I attended last week.  I have been very eager to read it for several reasons.  The first being that Niffengger is one of my favorite authors.  Second, this is her first comic, and as you know if you read this blog, I love comics!  Lastly, it is about books and the role they play in in a person’s life.  And I love books too, of all kinds, pure prose, illustrated, memoir, essays, fantasy, humor, children’s, ebooks, and countless others.

The Night Bookmobile is unlike Niffenegger’s two previously published graphic pieces.  The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress were both stories told in brief poetic sentences accompanied by equally dreamlike, evocative illustrations.  The Night Bookmoblie is different to the point that if you did not know who the author of each was and put them next to each other, you probably would not guess they were done by the same person.

The story shares the magic realism themes of the other two, but is told in a far more straight forward manner, and the art is much more precise and grounded.  I don’t consider that a bad thing, I think this is the strongest of her three graphic works.  The other two are lovely to look at, and to muse on the narrative, but the Night Bookmobile pulls you into the story in a way the other two don’t.

The story is that of a young women who while on a late night walk, after a fight with her boyfriend, stumbles upon an RV calling itself the Night Bookmoblie.  She steps inside to discover it is bigger than it appeared and is filled with books.  But they are not just any books, these are every book she has read over the course of her life.  Not just books she owns, but everything she had ever borrowed from a library or friend, everything read for school, or read and discarded.  The Bookmoblie also has a catalog of every magazine, newspaper, pamphlet, road sign or cereal box she ever read as well.  It’s not mentioned, but I am sure it also has a database of every email and webpage also.  The discovery changes the way she reads, always aware that she is adding to the library each time she opens the book.  She becomes obsessed with finding the  Bookmobile again.

The art is incredibly detailed and true to life.  It compliments the story perfectly.  One particular panel, a close up of the a shelf of books in the Bookmoblie was particularly compelling.  She recreates the spines of a collection of children’s books with nearly impossible accuracy, it is clear it was done by hand and it is a wonder to behold.  I was drawn to examine each one and felt the same tingles of recognition when I spotted one I had read as a child that the protagonist was experiencing.

The story was originally published as a prose story for an anthology.  She later interpreted it into a comic for the UK’s  the Guardian.  I think it is especially suited to the medium, since the imagery is so vivid.  The book was published by Abrams, with as much attention to detail and artistry as the material deserves.  If you can’t tell by now, I really liked it and highly recommend picking it up

ReadComics Podcast #047 – Book Club #18 – Hellboy: Seed of Destruction

September 2nd, 2010 by Martin

This podcast, featuring Marty, Florence, Jason, Angela, and Susie, was actually recorded over the course of two nights. We talk about our impressions of the first Hellboy TPB, Seed of Destruction, and also some about the second TPB, which only some of us had read. Additionally, we do go into how it compares to the first Hellboy movie, which loosely follows the same storyline.

Listen to Podcast Episode #047 (18 MB, 40 minutes)

ReadComics Podcast #045 – Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, a Film Confessional Joint

August 18th, 2010 by Martin

This episode was a joint podcast with our friends (and cohorts) over at the Film Confessional podcast. Jason, Justin, Angela, and Marty discuss at length the recent release of Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, which is, of course, the movie adaptation of the much loved Scott Pilgrim comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Angela and Marty also share their experience seeing a very sneak preview of the movie RED, which is based on a short comic series by the same name written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Cully Hamner.

Listen to Podcast Episode #045 (105 MB, 114 minutes)

Next Bookclub – Books of Magic

March 7th, 2010 by Martin

It’s my turn to pick a book for the book club, and since we’re into this modern fantasy genre with the Unwritten (we still need to record a follow-up podcast talking about the last 6 issues or so), I choose The Books of Magic. It’s often cited as Harry Potter contemporary, and I’ve had a signed copy sitting on my shelf for at least a year now waiting for me to read it. (As of this writing, I’m actually about 3/4ths of the way through it.)

Since most of our regulars have probably already read this, I’ll encourage everyone to read as much as possible of the series, so we can discuss more than just the first TPB, but we’ll probably focus on that as a starting point.

I propose we meet near the end of this month–Sunday, March 28th at 2PM. We have plenty of time to reschedule before then.

Graphical memoirs

January 4th, 2010 by jason

I just finished reading Stitches, by David Small. Excellent book, about events in his life when he was a boy. The art style is lovely, very fluid, a little creepy sometimes, funny in others, and beautiful the whole way through. The story itself is compelling. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it going in, but couldn’t put it down.

Graphical memoirs are definitely big right now, with Persepolis and Fun Home being a few of the more prominent examples. The voice that I hear when I read them is a different kind of voice. Usually a little subdued, as past events are related to me, even when something exciting or dramatic happens. It’s almost like there’s a kind of detachment that happens when I read these books, as if I feel like I’m the character in the book, but since the history is not mine, I can’t completely feel the emotions that the author may be trying to relate. I am fascinated by the memoirs, though. I’ve never read non-graphical memoirs that I can remember. I wonder if I’d enjoy them as much as I’m enjoying these.

Any recommendations for other graphical memoirs?

Return to the Labyrinth volumes 1 through 3

September 17th, 2009 by Susie


I have known about and avoiding this manga sequel from TokyoPop to the classic Jim Henson movie the Labyrinth, for a few years now.  The Labyrinth is one of those special movies that I have watched many times since I was a child, and treasure as much now as then.  So when, around  five years ago I stumbled across the listing on Amazon for the first volume, I was taken aback.  I could not help but be worried that the people producing this series would miss the charm and wonder of the original.  I did not even want to take the chance that it would disappoint, so I left it alone.  I am not sure what made me check if the library had them now, but I am glad I did.  No, author Jake T. Forbes has not quite created a story as brilliant as the movie.  He has crafted a narrative that pays homage to the original, while cutting it’s own path through the Labyrinth. This time it is Toby, whom you may remember as the baby that heroine Sarah had to rescue from the Goblin King, who is the teenage hero. He finds himself pulled into the Labyrinth and makes friends both new to the audience as well as familiar ones.  His adventures in the first volume while not boring, do feel a little like a retread. However  it is as the story progresses and we learn of King Jareth’s designs for Toby and his motives and also as we get a broader view of the world he inhabits that I found my self truly invested in the story.  Volume 3 took the plot in a direction I was not expecting, and of course left us with quite the cliffhanger.  There is one more volume  in the works however it looks like the books have been released at least two years apart and number three  just came out last May, so I will be waiting for the conclusion for a while.  I especially appreciated that the author planted references to other Jim Henson fantasy works, such as the Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock and the Story Teller.  Jim Henson’s work from the Muppets and beyond, was my very first fandom and it is still my most favorite.  Sorry Joss, I love you too!  I am really glad my fears for this project were completely unfounded.  If I have a small complaint, it is that the creatures that were created just for the manga don’t look like they were created by the same person who created the creatures for the film.  And of course they weren’t, Brian Froud designed the firies, Ludo, and Hoggle for the film, while Chris Lie is the artist on the manga.  It also would be nice if the series was in color, but then it would take even longer to be published.  The series has it’s own website and forums at

Dr. Suess Goes To War

July 15th, 2009 by Martin

DrSuessGoesToWarI finished my cover-to-cover reading of this amazing book this morning on my way to work. Upon first glimpse, I figured I would simply be reading the cartoons and be done with it, but when I dug in, I actually found the commentary by Richard H. Minear to be so integral to the viewing and understanding of Dr. Suess’s political cartoons that I simply couldn’t proceed without devouring every paragraph. (I even read his analysis at the end, which while it was not quite as entertaining as the guided tour of Dr. Suess’s brilliant cartoons contained within, was still quite entertaining and enlightening.)

Essentially, Dr. Seuss was the editorial cartoonist for a New York political magazine called PM, for two years from 1941 to 1943. In that time, he was incredibly prolific, and wrote/drew over 400 cartoons.

One thing I took away from this book was the evidence that Dr. Seuss was unfortunately, not immune to the plague of racism that he himself rallied so strongly against. His treatment of the Japanese, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor was pretty despicable, (although some might argue justified given the circumstances, I would tend to disagree). However, to his credit, and at least partial redemption in my eyes, he actually visited Japan in 1953, and subsequently wrote Horton Hears a Who.

This book is a must read for fans of Dr. Seuss, and I think it’s also a very handy history lesson (from the perspective of someone who has never successfully completed an American History course). If you want to just read the cartoons, or supplement the book material, the University of California San Diego’s website hosts an awesome archive of all 400 of Dr. Seuss’s political cartoons. (Only 200 are reprinted in the book.) I wish they’d been scanned (or made available) at a higher resolution, since the details really are what makes this work stand out, but nonetheless it’s an awesome archive of an absolute master of the art.

Comic Book Catchup

April 12th, 2009 by Martin

batman_ripForgive me ReadComics, for I have sinned. It has been AGES since my last post.

I’ve read tons of stuff lately. Two TPBs by Grant Morrison, in particular. First was Batman R.I.P., (pictured) which was basically about convincing us that Batman might die, or at least go insane, no maybe even die, no, just loose his mind, no, just die. I think in that order, although it hardly matters. It was only slightly more coherent than Kid Eternity, which was essentially about some folks in hell trying to get mankind to grow up and figure out this whole living on earth thing sucks. At least, I think that’s what the story was about… in the end. Both stories had lots of WTF moments, and neither really ties everything up to any satisfying degree. Both had incredible art, however, that, at least in the case of Kid Eternity, really went a long way toward making the trade worth consuming.

There have also been numerous single issues in the last few weeks. Florence and I have kept up on our pull, and last week in particular there were at least four new comics to read, including Sword, Echo, Doctor Sleepless and a new one by Warren Ellis called Ignition City. I’ll admit that I devoured Sword, (which had a satisfactory, if not overwhelming amount of content again this month) and Echo (which unfortunately didn’t) right away, but have yet to get to the Warren Ellis stuff. I’m behind on Freak Angels too, and in general have a lot of webcomics to catch up on when I get around to it.

I also want to announce that we know what comics we’re going to be reading for our next book club, even if we don’t know when it’s going to take place yet. Jason J has announced that we’ll be reading the Sinestro Corps War stuff. He hasn’t let me know exactly which comics yet, but wikipedia says it’s an “11-part saga was originally published between June and December 2007“. It goes on to say that “in addition to the main storyline, four supplemental “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” one-shot specials and a Blue Beetle tie-in issue were concurrently released.” So there are potentially sixteen comics for us to read. It looks like there are at least two trade paperbacks, and possibly a third with the supplemental stuff. Anyway, we should know soon enough when the Book Club will be, and there’ll probably be another post about what books to read then.

ReadComics Podcast #028 – Book Club – PS238 Vol. 1

February 9th, 2009 by Martin

This podcast/book club features Florence, Jason, Mike, Susie and Marty, and is all about PS238: Volume 1, With Liberty And Recess for All, written and drawn by Aaron Williams. We stay mostly focused for the first 45 minutes or so, then veer off on a Dr. Who tangent in anticipation of Jason’s upcoming convention trip.

Listen to Podcast Episode #028 (30 MB, 65 minutes)

Comic Book Club: PS238

February 3rd, 2009 by florence

PS238 Volume 1Our next Comic Book Club podcast will focus on PS238 Volume 1: With Liberty and Recess for All, by Aaron Williams.  This book is about a school for superpowered kids, and we’re looking forward to hearing everyone’s opinions about it.

We’ll start with Volume 1, but since some of us have already read ahead several trades, so we’ll be happy to talk about the entire run so far.

PS238 Volume 1:
With Liberty and Recess for All
Monday, February 9th 7PM
Florence&Marty’s place

The Highwaymen

January 1st, 2009 by jason

Written by Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman, art by Lee Garbett

An entertaining action comic, published by DC under the WildStorm imprint, The Highwaymen of the title are secret agents of some sort.  Well, ex-secret agents, now mostly over the hill, but with one more adventure left behind by a former president (now deceased).  As I said, the comic is entertaining, and a quick read, but you do get the feeling that it was written not so much as an homage to action or buddy films, like Lethal Weapon, as something that the creators could sell to Hollywood.  This is Danny “I’m too old for this shit” Glover, paired with Michael Caine as impossible to kill agents, on the run from the sinister head of a government organization, trying to protect and deliver a weapon of mass destruction to the proper authorities.  Did I mention that this weapon of mass destruction is in the shape of a hot college girl?  Put whichever starlet of the year in that role, and you have a summer blockbuster, full of car chases, car crashes, and car explosions.  Again, I want to say that I didn’t dislike this comic, and in fact, it was fun to read, but the sales pitch was pretty blatant.  The five issue series came out in 2007, and I just read the trade from the library.  I can’t imagine that it would work as well in single issue format, since it is, essentially, an action movie.  Reading one issue, having a cliffhanger and waiting for another month would not have worked for me.

I Luv Halloween

December 24th, 2008 by jason

Keith Giffen is a truly disturbed individual.  This is not news.  He’s the guy who created Lobo, Ambush Bug, and reinvented the Justice League, putting Blue Beetle and Booster Gold together.  Bwah Ha Ha and all that.  In more recent years, he headed up the Annihilation series for Marvel.

What shows Giffen to completely off his rocker is a series for TokyoPop called I Luv Halloween, with art by Benjamin Roman.  All three volumes of this series have been put together in a nice hardcover called the Ultimate Twisted Edition.  Which is an apt description.  This is one of the most twisted comics I’ve ever read.  The comics are about four friends who go out trick or treating, each volume starting out the same way.  Finch, our hero, puts on his mask and prepares to leave.  You can see that Finch is the kind of boy who likes to take apart things.  Toys.  Small animals.  But compared to his little sister, he’s the tame one.  Your first image of Moochie is of her dressed as the tooth fairy, pulling out the tooth of a corpse seated at the dinner table.  One can only assume that this corpse is that of their mother.  This is quite possibly the least macabre thing that Moochie does for the rest of the 496 pages.  I Luv Halloween is the cartoon version of a Rob Zombie movie.  Moochie would smile up at Leatherface with her angelic blond face, and then slice his kneecaps off.  She would convince Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers to hitchhike to Canada to escape her, only to find her waiting at the border, where she’d cheerfully stab them in the eyeholes of their respective masks.  This kid would turn Hannibal Lector into a vegetarian, and give Freddy his own worst nightmares.  In fact, I’d like to see a Moochie vs everybody comic.

I Luv Halloween is full of murder, mayhem, and will quite probably cause mental instability in anyone who reads it.  In short, I loved it.  The writing is hysterical, in both definitions of the word.  Even though this is put out by TokyoPop, the art is not in the manga style.  It is very cartoon-like, which works well for this series.

The Boys

December 23rd, 2008 by Patrick

So recently, I dropped into Borders’ graphic novel section and did what I always do. grab a book at random, and start reading. Well. I managed to grab the first anthology of Garth Ennis’ The Boys, a graphic novel based on the premise that superheros are to negligent in there work, that they have too high a casualty rate, and now a renegade group of violent rebels is out to stop them. the comics folow both these rebels and the superheros, but larely so that we see that the rebels are justified when they smash the super’s faces in. This is one of the most violent and bloody comics I have ever seen. it also contains a massive quantity of, for lack of a better phrase, “adult content” (though they never actually show anything). All in all, I thought it was a good comic, but definately not for everybody.

Kirkman takes over the universe

November 20th, 2008 by jason

I just finished the latest trade of Invincible, the first trade of The Astounding Wolf-Man, and I’ll picking up the first trade of Capes tonight at the library.  How prolific is this man?  How many continuing series is he going to write?  Would Image fold completely if he was in a plane crash?  Looking at the back page, listing all the available trades, you could go broke just keeping up with his output alone.

Both trades were fun, and the stories keep growing in complexity, bringing in plot twists on the last page.  Now I have to decide whether or not to wait for the next trade, or try to find the single issues.  If I decide to catch up with the Walking Dead (should be easy, they’re a slow-moving bunch), I have friends whose copies I’d be able to read.  I think they also have singles for Invincible, but I don’t think they decided to buy AWM.  I didn’t think I would get into the latter, but the story picked up, and I think there’s going to be a crossover with Invincible soon.

ReadComics Podcast #021 – Book Club #4 – The Walking Dead, Vol. 1

October 29th, 2008 by Martin

Tonight we had Jason, Mike, Florence, Marty, and a couple of new voices: Stephanie and Konrad. We talked at unusual length about The Walking Dead. Our focus was the first TPB, (Issues #1-6), but we definitely get into details from the second TPB, and even delve a bit into what’s happening in the series now (Issues #49-53). We highly recommend reading this book before you listen to this podcast unless you don’t mind spoilers.

Listen to Podcast Episode #021 (47 MB, 102 minutes)

Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight

October 16th, 2008 by Martin

I’ll admit to having read and dismissed Achewood in the past. As webcomics go, it felt a bit too much like one of those continuing comics where you have to know the characters and have a sense of the whole story in order to “get” what’s happening in the comics. It turns out, that seems to be mostly just Chris Onstad‘s wry and absurdest sense of humor at play. When Sharyn asked if I wanted to read The Great Outdoor Fight, I remembered basically nothing about Achewood, and thought, sure I’ll give it a shot.

I’ll also admit that before I read this, but after I read the two mock non-fiction introductions about the history of The Great Outdoor Fight, I didn’t honestly know whether the event was real or not. Yes, I had to google for it. Then, I wikipedia’d for it. The answer: No. It is not a real fight. It is just a funny premise for this comic.

This physical collection is supposed to contain some material not found on the website, including the two aforementioned introductions, and some stuff in the back of the book, like a page of recipes, some fighter/character biographies, and some blog posts written by one of the characters in the comic. If I were an Achewood fan, I would be really happy to own this collection.

Even admitting that I’m not really all that much of a fan, I still enjoyed this book more than I expected to, and would probably recommend it to anyone who wants to read a silly story about a giant brawl that takes place annually over the course of three days.

’80s relaunches

September 29th, 2008 by jason

Because my library has them in trade, I started reading the 1980s relaunches of Superman and Wonder Woman.  The Superman trades collect John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini-series in Volume 1, and in subsequent volumes include his ongoing Superman and Action comics, along with Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway’s Adventures of Superman, along with some cross-overs with Legion of Super-Heroes and Booster Gold along the way.  The Wonder Woman collections are from the George Perez and Len Wein reintroduction of Diana to Man’s World.  Our heroes re-meet their iconic villains for the first time in these post-Crisis on Infinite Earth stories, which is a little weird, particularly now when you have continuity being turned end over end, and three different sets of Legions meeting each other.  But they’re so much fun to read, and particularly fun to look at how Byrne, Ordway and Perez are drawing everything.  Their clothes, their hair, their computers, everything is so very ’80s.  Is that Lois Lane or a slimmer version of Brigitte Nielson?

The stories seem a little quaint after so many years of darkness that we’ve been seeing recently.  There seems to be less risk, even though these take place before death’s revolving door.  Byrne even makes a point of telling everyone that all these super-villain attacks in downtown Metropolis are taking place on Sunday when no one is any of the office buildings being smashed.  How considerate of the bad guys.  There are some casualties, in the form of the recently introduced minor characters.  But you really don’t feel anything really bad is going to happen to our heroes any time soon.

There is something about these relaunches that makes me wonder, though:  Superman and Wonder Woman got restarted, but what about the third member of the Trinity?  Why didn’t Batman get reset at the time?  Were his books just selling that much more?  Was there some reset that I’m just not remembering?

Mighty Avengers #9

September 28th, 2008 by jason

I have the second Mighty Avengers collection checked out from the library, and I finished it this morning.  Of particular interest to me is issue 9, where the team invades Latveria to arrest Doom for turning most of Manhattan into Venom symbiotes.

What I found somewhat fascinating about this issue is that out of 24 pages (counting the cover), half of the pages consist of little more than a single large drawing.  Six of the pages are double-spreads of the Avengers battling Doombots.  A few others have small ancillary panels, but again, the primary art is one large drawing.  The drawings are quite detailed.  Lots of action is occuring in them.  But without a doubt, this is the “blockbuster action flick” of comics recently.  It’s like the last hour of Transformers.  Talk about your decompressed storytelling!  Six pages in a row of just enormous battle scenes.  It’s like a pin-up magazine rather than a comic.  I really wonder what people who plopped down three bucks for this thought, especially knowing that they would then have to wait another month to get the next issue.  Having got it from the library, I feel like I got the better end of the deal.

I haven’t looked up any other reviews of the comic yet, or any kind of response from Bendis on the message boards, but just looking at this comic as a single entity, you get the feeling that he may have been a little overworked at the time, and told Bagley to fill up some pages with fighting.

I am enjoying what I’m reading of Mighty Avengers so far, except I keep waiting for someone to say “Bwah ha ha!”  Iron Man’s repartee with Doom in the next issue is hugely reminiscent of the dialogue from the ’80s Justice League series, which is not a bad thing.  Super-hero comics could definitely use a bit more humour these days, in my opinion.

Fox Bunny Funny

September 23rd, 2008 by jason

I checked out this black and white graphic novel by Andy Hartzel from my local library.  I’ve had it out for a bit, and I don’t remember what about it caught my eye, probably the colourful geometric cover art, and maybe that it was published by Top Shelf.  Finding it in the teen section, I was expecting a cute funny animal comic good for a chuckle.  I didn’t read the inside flap, didn’t know anything about it going in.  I was quite happily surprised when I found out what it was truly about.

The fox in the title of Fox Bunny Funny could be described as funny.  As in, “You know, that guy is a little funny….you know what I mean?”  A synonym for funny used in this manner is queer, and compared to his fox friends, our hero is definitely a little queer.  Without any words, this graphic novel steps us through the young fox’s life from when he’s discovering who he really is, the tragedy of being discovered by a family that just doesn’t understand, the horrors of supressing one’s inner self, and finally a true awakening.

The art is black and white, which could definitely represent the world in which fox is growing up.  Elegantly simple in design, the characters could’ve stepped out of a Nickelodeon cartoon.  A number of times, the comic style shifts, according to the state of mind of the character.  First six square panels with white gutters, then later the same six square panels on black pages instead.  Then a dream sequence of a decidedly religious nature.  And in the final chapter we have some pages with a single panel, some full page art, even some full bleeds of some really great, very detailed scenes.

Andy has a blog on his website, with some good art, but it appears he hasn’t updated it in quite awhile.

Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.

September 16th, 2008 by jason

I’m reading the recently published first trade paperback from the Geoff Johns series, his first comic work, according to the introduction. Collecting the first 8 issues from 1999 and 2000, it introduces the character of Courtney Whitmore, the new Star-Spangled Kid, who went on to be a member of the Justice Society, in the relaunch of JSA, also written by Johns.

My introduction to the character was in trades of JSA, and I didn’t know too much about the character, or her stepfather, the man in a tin can, Pat Dugan. DC really likes their legacy characters, at least within the last 10 to 15 years, and really likes pairing them up with younger, newer versions of their legacy characters. Pat used to be Stripesy, the sidekick to the original Star-Spangled Kid back in the Golden Age. In this series, he plays the begrudging mentor to young Courtney as she develops her super-hero persona and skills, thanks to the cosmic converter belt formerly owned by the original Kid. I say begrudgingly because he claims to not want her adventuring and that he’s doing his best to prevent it. If that’s his best, I’m surprised she didn’t start going to JSA meetings right off the bat.

I’ve only read the first few issues in the trade so far, but they’re fun. You can tell that Johns is hitting his stride, and setting things up for some wacky happening ahead. So far this is written very much in what I remember Young Justice to be like, and in fact they appear in a one-page cameo, where Robin discusses possibly recruiting her to be on the team. This, along with Young Justice and Impulse, seems to be courting a teen comic reader, and most probably teen girls. It was launched when Buffy was in full stride, and Veronica Mars was still a few years off. It’s very light-hearted, and Lee Moder and Dan Davis’s art is cartoony without seeming childish. Along with fighting super-villains, she’s dealing with being the new girl at school, getting braces, and handling her mother marrying her step-father (the latter, handling poorly).

When I started reading comics seriously at age 12 or 13, I remember my favourites being Power Pack, New Mutants and New Teen Titans, and I think that might’ve been because the characters were closer to my age. I like that Marvel and DC are trying to find younger readers with their Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC lines, but I didn’t feel like the three comics I mentioned were written for me because I was a kid. They were part of the same universes, they interconnected with big named characters, were part of crossovers, and fit into the bigger picture. I think Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. is a great comic to get younger readers, probably of the middle school age introduced to comics. It’s fun, the writing so far is great, the art is accessible, and there are cameos by other characters, without it feeling like you have to know right away who they are. It’s a taste of other corners of the DCU, kind of a sign at the amusement park telling you there are more rides in Adventureland over this way. All fourteen issues have been collected in two trades, which I found at my local library.

Rising Stars: Born In Fire

September 8th, 2008 by Martin

Florence was a fan of Babylon 5 and had also read other comics by J. Michael Straczynski, so when she saw this TPB at Wizard World she decided to pick it up. Little did we know that Mike had most of the rest of the series collected from the original run sitting in a long box at home.

From the big pile of things we bought in Chicago this summer, this was very near the top for Florence, and from exactly page 14, she knew she had to read the rest of the series. Essentially, this first TPB is about the origins of 113 people known as “The Specials”, who were all in utero in the same region in the US when a meteorite flew overhead and gave them the potential for superpowers. Because of some plausible paranoia by the U.S. government, these kids are eventually all rounded up and raised together under close supervision. Page 14 depicts 5 of the main characters in three stages of their lives: ages 6, 16, and 30+. Seeing this transition, along with the knowledge that Straczynski tends to plan for the long haul with his stories, promised to be a satisfying read.

I’ve only just finished this first TPB, (containing Issues #1-8) but Florence is about to read the final Issue of the series, #24. Coming at it from the beginning as I am, I think there is definitely a lot to find compelling about the series, but that it’s not all that original, from a superhero graphic novel kind of perspective. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by stuff like New Universal and the Authority/Planetary universe (where a bunch of powerful folks were born in 1900). Florence tells me the Authority parallels do continue, but that it still feels like its own story to her.

Rising Stars is really about how The Specials’ powers and their upbringing and social roles amongst each other really combine to form the path they choose in life. Neither Florence nor I found the government’s imagined reaction to these superpowers to be terribly far fetched, and by the end of this first TPB, things are set into motion that really liven up the playing field. Florence warns that there is a very wordy setup for the next arc, but if I can get past that, things will start moving fast again. (There were a few pages in the middle of this TPB too, that were mostly words, and felt a bit out of place in this otherwise standard comic book.)

From Florence’s perspective, nearing the end of the series, she says there are definitely distinct arcs within the larger story, and that it feels like it is going to come to a definitive end. When we looked it up, there was evidence of splinter arcs (not written by Straczynski, and thus less compelling to Florence). She really likes the character-driven nature of the comic, and is looking forward to the closure, allowed by the arrival of the second to last issue in our mailbox today. We already had the last issue sitting on the shelf, and Florence is going to go read it now.

Fear Agent, TPB 2 & 3

August 23rd, 2008 by Martin

Fear Agent is awesome.

Peppered with quotes from Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), the second and third trade paperbacks in the Fear Agent series collect issues #5-10 and #12-15 respectively. (Although originally, 12-15 were known as Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye #1-4.)

Do you remember when I got all whiny about the first trade, and how it ended in a cliffhanger? Well, volume #2, My War ends with another doozey. And guess what? Volume 3 is one long flashback! I don’t know when I’ll be getting Volume #4 from the library (since it came out relatively recently, there are a few people in line in front of me). Interestingly, Volume #4 doesn’t even collect Issue #11, which technically came before all the issues in Volume #3. According to Wikipedia, Issue #11 and #16 appear in an (unnumbered) trade paperback called simply Tales of the Fear Agent. While I’m waiting for Volume #4, I’m going to see if the library has that one. (Confused yet? I certainly was.)

The best kinds of cliffhanger don’t actually leave the hero hanging on a cliff. They actually change the tone of the story you’ve been reading. It’s more like you realize that the protagonist has been hanging from a cliff for a while, and he (or she) just didn’t know it. This was the kind of cliffhanger that Volume #2 ended with. Volume #1 was more of the hanging on a cliff kind.

Although the artist is different in Vol. 2 than in Volumes 1 and 3, Jerome Opeña does a great job of picking up where Tony Moore left off, and the style is so true to the way Moore started it that I honestly didn’t even notice.

Fear Agent continues to make us love and hate the main character (Heath Huston) in equal parts. He makes incredibly stupid mistakes, and thinks a bit too much of himself (and only himself) for my tastes. He’s also completely a hick, and mostly dumb as a pile of rocks. Still, it’s all quite fun watching his life (and planet!) fall apart around him. And you get to blame it on aliens!

I’m happy to report that, in spite of yet more “want to read more” type frustration, there is continued happiness and enjoyment. (The Clemens quotes also kick the series up a notch in my book.) I’ll report back when I’ve read the rest of the series.

Addicted to War

August 21st, 2008 by Martin

Addicted to War: Why the US Can’t Kick Militarism, is available now in its entirety online, is a history and criticism of US militarism and military policy.

Apparently this is being used in some schools as a history textbook, and I can attest (from what I’ve read–so far just the first 10 pages out of 77) that this includes a ton of interesting quotes, citations, and even some photographs, in amongst the illustrations. I used to have a copy of The Cartoon Guide to Physics laying about somewhere, and I guess I’m reminded of that because this is also non-fiction and written in a similar matter-of-fact style.

It looks like author/illustrator Joel Andreas has only really ever written political comics. I think it might be interesting to write a “long-form comic books and politics” blog post sometime, but I am not particularly qualified.

Having the book online is really just a self-professed ploy to get you to purchase a physical copy, so if you really like it, go ahead and buy a copy or fifty. (They sell boxes of 56 for $175.) I found out about it from True Majority, where you can buy a single copy for $8.

Life Sucks

August 19th, 2008 by jason

I checked this out from the library, the new graphic novel by Jessica Abel, co-written by Gabe Soria, and drawn by Warren Pleece, after having seen it on the shelf at the comic shop.

Fortunately my loathing for Romero-esque walking dead doesn’t apply to vampires. I enjoyed this a lot, with it being kind of a cross between Buffy and Clerks, with a bit of teen dramedy thrown in. The idea of being immortal not really being a good thing, in that you might just end up being stuck in a shitty-ass dead end job for all eternity, kind of spoke to me in my current work situation. And apparently opening convenience stores is what a Central European immigrant does, whether they’re an all-powerful bloodsucker or not.

It makes for a good modern vampire story, although the goth club came across as a little too cliched for me. But I really liked all the various representations of the vampires, from the club of shop-keepers, the spoiled-brat surfer, to our hero, the vegetarian pacifist. Warren Pleece’s art also seemed very natural, and fit well with the story. It’s realistic, with a subtle feel, and makes the idea of the convenience store clerk being a closet vampire believable.

I want to check out some of Abel’s other stuff now, like La Perdida, and I have to start getting together with Mike to try some of the lessons in Drawing Words & Writing Pictures.

Repo, TPB

August 18th, 2008 by Martin

I think I’d seen one or two of the individual Repo issues on the shelf, but hadn’t collected them, and I really knew absolutely nothing about the series before I read this trade paperback yesterday. I wasn’t disappointed, but neither was I blown away.

First of all, I thought the art here was absolutely great. It’s pretty standard comic book art, drawn in a very clear and unambiguous style. The artist is Rob G, who has collaborated with writer Rick Spears on at least one or two other projects previously.

Of course it was the themes that drew me in, a near-ish future where clones are fighting for their civil rights, and hover-cars are the norm. There was an evil seeming rich guy growing a clone of himself so he can have a heart transplant. The clone is “liberated” from the hospital, and he puts a bounty out on it such that every “Repo man” in town is after the thing.

As the comic progressed, I felt like things got less and less interesting. They really didn’t “take a stand” on any of the issues that were introduced earlier in the comic. (Racism, civil rights, etc.) In fact, by the end of the story, nobody really has any moral legs to stand on, and the clones who are fighting for their freedom are pretty much written off as dumb, or anyway not strong enough to survive. (The book is pretty violent, and the end turns into an intentionally comical bloodbath.) In fact, if the book had any message at all, it was survival of the fittest. That and maybe “laws are meant to be broken”.

Again, this was definitely a fun read. Expect your suspension of disbelief to be in high gear, and don’t expect anything too enlightened, and you should enjoy it just fine.

I Love Led-Zeppelin: Panty-Dropping Comics By Ellen Forney

August 12th, 2008 by Martin

After reading this book, I’ve decided that I love Ellen Forney.

This collection of her short and endearing comics is both clever and just incredibly fun. About the first fourth of the book is dedicated to her “How To” series, in which she “sets to comic” someone (presumably an expert) giving advice about something. Some notable examples are how to become a call girl, how to avoid getting caught while smoking pot, and how to twirl your pasties (in alternating directions, even). The rest of the comics are split up into rather arbitrary sections called “More Short Comics”, ’92-’94, and Collaborations. Everything in the book is good, but in very different ways. It felt to me like the main thread holding the entire work together is Ellen Forney’s finely crafted sense of humor.

I’ve been meaning to write this review for weeks now, which is really more a reflection of how good the book was to me than anything else. I wanted to make sure I did it some kind of justice. But I’m sort of just giving up trying to live up to the book with my review. That way lies madness. I’ll admit though, that I wasn’t really all that excited to read the book at first. I probably wouldn’t have even bothered if not for having seen some of the naked girls over Florence’s shoulder while she was reading. Well, that and the provocative subtitle. And while yes, there is some nudity featured here, this really wasn’t the lesbian erotica that I expected. At least, not most of it.

Ellen Forney and I Love Led-Zeppelin are both mentioned by name in the first chapter of Reading Comics, by Douglas Wolk as an example of why right now is really the golden age of comic books (rather than the 1940s and early 1950s). I agree with his assessment. This comic book, and others like it, are proud testaments to the greatness that a single comic book creator can produce in this era. There are many reasons to read this book, (for one thing you might learn something), but deciding you want to see why Douglas Wolk thinks this is the golden age of comics isn’t a bad one to start with.

It’s not like you need more reasons to love Ellen Forney, but she also has a pretty sweet blog, where she posts used to post her “Lustlab Ad of the Week” comics. These are were little comic renditions of personals ads printed in The Stranger (a Seattle newspaper). She’s only just announced that the series was cut. They were (at least some of them) also collected into a book called Lust last fall. Newsarama has an interview with Forney about the collection.

Fear Agent, Volume One: Re-Ignition

August 8th, 2008 by Martin

“ARRRRRRRGGGH!” That’s the sound that I make when I finish a comic that is really, really good, and yet ends in a cliffhanger. Also, it is the sound of kittens dying, and angels losing their wings.

I ask myself: Isn’t this why you prefer to read trade paperbacks? So that you have a complete story at the end? And then the frustration rises, and I cry a bit, then I make the sound again, “BLARRRRGGGGGGH!” (This time with more of a blubbery noise, because of the crying.)

Fear Agent is awesome. That is why it is so hard to hate it. Or perhaps, like a good relationship turned sour, that is why it is so easy to hate it. Someone yoda-like once said “Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering.” That person was probably talking about the end of the first Fear Agent TPB.

OK. Perhaps I should get to what I liked about the comic — Nay! — what I so LOVED about the comic! Namely, it was the subject matter. There are space ships. And space stations. And planets with fallen civilizations. In general, this is pulpy science fiction at its best, in comic book form. Lets take our protagonist, Heath, for example. He’s an Alien Exterminator / ex-space-military, with his own space ship, who also has a drinking problem. Oh yeah, and he kicks all kinds of ass. And by this I mean alien ass, robot ass, and any combination thereof. Oh yes, it’s awesome.

I just hope the library has the next TPB tomorrow morning when I go there. Because I’d hate to have to make that noise again.


August 7th, 2008 by Martin

Townscapes was fantastic. Its four stories (although the first is only a few pages, and serves more as an introduction than anything else) share this in common: They all feature a white haired man with mystical powers who does something fantastic. Actually, the man may not even be white haired in all the stories. Regardless, something fantastic happens, and most of the time you think he did it.

I think my favorite of these was the one about the city that just starts to float. One morning everyone wakes up and the town is just floating six feet (or so) off the ground. There is a military base relatively near by, and everyone (at least partly correctly) blames it.

This is another comic translated from the french, and it solidifies my opinion that there should be more of them in general. It almost makes me want to brush up on my french to the point of understanding, so I can import everything else these two have ever created (and the rest of the Sky-Doll series, and the rest of Valerian).

The art, while gritty and sometimes quite drab, is also absolutely beautiful. I think it is the first full length thing that Enki Bilal fully illustrated. (Do you say illustrated when it’s a comic?) Regardless, it doesn’t look like your average comic, it feels more like a horror comic to me somehow. But the subject matter, while sometimes borderline horror, is really more fantastic.

As an aside, I’m also reading Reading Comics, by Douglas Wolk, right now, and suddenly I’m all self-conscious about the language I’m using to describe comics. Am I describing things in the context of comics, or in another context? I think I tend to skew toward literary depictions of the comics, and tack on something about the art as an afterthought. Perhaps this is because I was an English major in college, or perhaps because I’m more of a reader than an art connoisseur. After all, this is, so maybe that’s ok.

Planetary: Crossing Worlds

August 1st, 2008 by Martin

Planetary: Crossing Worlds is good, universe-expanding stuff.

Basic premise here is that there are 196,833 parallel universes. (How do they know the exact number, exactly?) Planetary and the Authority both deal with these universes on a fairly regular basis. The first story here is a Planetary/Authority crossover, where they deal with some other universe’s bad guys who look suspiciously like other versions of some of the Authority characters. The second story takes place entirely in another parallel universe, one in which the Planetary folks are the bad guys (and also “control” the world), and Batman, Superman and Wonderwoman are little more than two-bit vigilantes. Elijah Snow also looks suspiciously like Lex Luthor. The final story is a Planetary/Batman crossover, but the interesting thing about it is that we visit a bunch of (3 or 4) different Batman Universes, with a different version of Batman in each one. Totally fascinating.

I really liked this TPB, and thought each story got progressively better as the book went on. You don’t really have to know anything about the plots of Planetary or the Authority to “get” these stories, but knowing the characters is probably a pre-req for total enjoyment. And enjoy it you will.

Top 10: The Forty-Niners

July 30th, 2008 by Martin

This was every bit as good as the original Top Ten, maybe even better.

I absolutely loved this book. At heart, it is a story about outsiders and racism, about culture clash, and a melting-pot society. It’s maybe also about coming of age and coming out. At face value, it’s the story of how the city of Neopolis is formed. Neopolis is the main setting for Top 10, and this is a prequel that takes place in the city’s early days.

I’m finding it hard to say anything because I don’t want to give anything away. It’s such a great story, and of course Gene Ha’s artwork is phenomenal as well. The whole thing is given a sort of sepia toned color pallet–subdued, which lends a sort of old-timey feel to the whole thing, like watching an old black and white movie or something. But the art is no less spectacular for it.

Read this book! Read the original Top 10 first, but don’t stop there, or you’ll be missing out.