Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Little Pierrot Amongst the Stars by Alberto Varanda

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I reviewed Little Pierrot Get the Moon favorably back in August of 2017, but I cannot say the same for this volume. It's in the same format, comprised of sepia-toned sketches that are, in this case very disjointed, more-so than in the first volume. Many of them made no sense to me. Some of them seemed like a response to something which had gone before, but which wasn't included in the book! Nearly all of them were not interesting or amusing. The artwork was of the same high standard, but overall, this seemed like a completely different book compared with the first one I reviewed. Of course, it is a different book, but it's so different that it seemed totally unrelated to the first book.

I wish the author all the best, but I cannot recommend this volume.

Bettie Page Vol 1 by David Avallone, Colton Worley, Craig Cermak, Esau Figueroa, Bane Duncan Wade, Sarah Fletcher, Brittany Pezzillo

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This took me by surprise, and pleasantly so because it wasn't at all what I expected. Frankly I'm not sure what I expected except that I hoped it would be fun - and it was. It was a great romp and put the renowned Bettie Page in a spotlight I'm willing to bet she was never in before - that of government agent! bettie was a real life pin-up girl, probably the last of the truly "innocent" models there was; her pictures were very cheeky but seemingly to outside eyes to be all in good fun. At least, she seems from her expressions in her images to be having a rare old time.

But this novelization isn't about that at all. All of that is just background to her 'real' life, in which she helps fight pinkos and weirdos in New York and Los Angeles. The story collects a four part serial story and a bonus one-off story together into one volume. Bettie doesn't plan this career, it simply befalls her as her modeling plans take an unanticipated wrong turn at the start of the story. Everything else is more like a comedy of errors, with Bettie being in the wrong place at the wrong time until she takes charge of her own fate and starts making things happen instead of having them happen to her.

The story is right on - with a nice line of fifties banter, and the artwork is wonderfully evocative - except for once or twice when the blue-eyed Bettie is shown with brown eyes or even green eyes at one point! She's also depicted as being a little more lanky and boney than the more normally -proportioned real-life Bettie who was only five-two and comfortably rounded without being overweight.

No one obsessed about not being skinny enough back them - at least not as commonly as we encounter it today because women were not conditioned to feel inadequate in the way our modern society seems intent upon rendering them (when it can!). It would have been nice to have seen this reflected better in the drawings and not just on the 'covers'.

Virtually all models were short and normally proportioned back then! As were actresses: Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe for example, were the same height as Bettie and no more "hourglass" than was she, and no one consider what today would be described as 'chubby' knees, as being out of place, nor was body hair for that matter. How far we've slid down the wrong chute since then!

ost of the fifties pop-culture references were right one as well, as far as I could tell, except for one mention of Ian Fleming. The story was set in 1951, and Fleming was unknown at that time since he had not yet penned his first James Bond adventure. He didn’t write Casino Royale until 1952 and it wasn’t published until 1953. It wasn’t published in the USA until 1954! The only other problem i spotted was on page 89 (as depicted on the tablet reader - the comic pages themselves are not numbered) where I read “The exist to be ruled." I'm guessing that should have been “They exist to be ruled”

There was the welcome but unlikely addition of a black female police officer. It was welcome to see a person of color in this story, but there were no female police officers in the USA 1951 to my knowledge. Atlanta did, believe it or not, have black male cops as early as 1948, but even then, they weren’t allowed to patrol white neighborhoods or work in police headquarters! We've come a long way but nowhere near far enough.

So, overall, I loved this story and look forward to reading more. I recommend this as a fun and original adventure series with a strong and fascinating female lead.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Vlad the Impaler by Sid Jacobson, Ernie Colón

Rating: WARTY!

This graphic novel purports to tell the history of Vlad Dracula, Vlad III, Vlad Țepeș, or Vlad the Impaler, however you want to think of him. Rather than tell an accurate story, the graphic novel delights instead in purveying endless images of graphic violence, bloodletting, and Vlad as a rapist impaling young women - as often unwilling as willing - with his penis.

There is no doubt he was a violent man, but these were very violent times, so the issue is not whether he was violent, but whether he was more violent than those who surrounded him, and I think this is an open question. Was he a rapist? There's no evidence of it to my knowledge, so again, neither better nor worse than his peers.

Impalement, for example, was not his invention! It was common in the Ottoman Empire (right into the 20th century). Vlad was in league with the Ottomans for much of his life and learned all he knew about warfare from them. He knew no other life. This doesn't excuse him, but it does explain him and demonstrate that he was simply continuing well-established, if horrific, traditions rather than creating his own.

While the broad strokes of this story are accurate, the details are pure fiction, and embellished fiction at that. This book contributes nothing either in interesting story-telling or in great imagery. It's really just pornography, and not even in a sexual sense. I cannot recommend it. As an alternative to this I would recommend And I Darken by Kiersten White which tells a story about Vlad's sister Lada and his brother Radu, which isn't a graphic novel, but which is equally fictional, and which does offer a much more interesting story. I reviewed that one favorably in October 2017.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reborn by Mark Millar, Greg Capullo, Jonathon Glapion, FCO Plascencia

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a graphic novel I got from my local library which has these days quite the selection. In amongst all the comics aimed at pleasing the Marvel and DC movie crowds as well as comic book aficionados, there are some gems that are not so mainstream even though they may have been penned by mainstream writers and artists. This is one of those.

The writer is a Scot named Mark Millar who has written quite a few graphic novels that I've enjoyed, many of which have been great successes, and some of which have been made into movies including one which starred Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman (Wanted) and another which starred Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, and Michael Caine (Kingsman). Millar tends to lean towards writing of the fantastic and the so out there it's almost but not quite parody.

Reborn is a story relating that when people die in our world they're born again into a different fantasy world. Of course in this world there is a sharp divide between good and evil. Decent people are reborn into a world of light and friendship, whereas bad people are born to the dark side which is of course intent upon encroaching onto the light side.

In the story, this really old woman named Bonnie dies and finds herself in this other world as her thirty-year-old younger self who is supposed to be some sort of savior of this new world. She meets her father, who had died on Earth when she herself was young. He is also quite young in this world. She learns of others who are reborn at the same age they died, and yet others who are born younger or older. None of it seems to make any sense. One of her dear friends is bitter because she died after her husband, but by the time she died and came to this world, her husband had grown old and died here as well.

Animals are also born into this world, and some of them seem to have appeared with the ability to speak, including this girl's cat which has gone over to the dark side because it's resentful of being neutered. Also present is her dog which cannot speak and which is the size of a small horse. The dog is reminiscent of the luck dragon in The Neverending Story movie, but it's not quite that awful. I am by no means a fan of having cute animals in stories, but here it wasn't so bad.

The savior girl has no powers and no knowledge of why she should be the chosen one, although she seems to grow powers as time passes. The problem is that when Bonnie discovers that her husband, who had died years before and whom she has long pined for, is also here, but has been taken prisoner by the dark side because they want to lure her into a trap, she abandons her world-saving role to go find him.

The story in some ways is most reminiscent of Lord of the Rings with the hobbit (in this case Bonnie) crossing from the shire to Mordor with her magic sword in hand. There's even a tower, but no eye glares balefully from its twin spires. The leader of the dark side is predictably a Lord - in this case Lord Golgotha. At first I thought he would turn out to be her husband, but later I decided Golgotha is probably her mother or maybe the sniper from the opening panels. Whether I was right or wrong (I'm usually wrong in these guesses!) you'll have to read this to find out! I recommend it as a worthy read.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sunstone Vol 4 by Stjepan Šejić

Rating: WARTY!

I really have very little to say about this! I got both volumes 3 & 4 from the library at the same time, thinking they might be interesting but after I read volume 3 I was so disappointed that I had no real interest in reading this one. In the end, I skimmed the whole thing stopping here and there to read a section, and it was just as uninteresting as the earlier volume.

The art was great as before, although as before the female characters were all the same character with different hair and clothes! There was at least one character of color I noticed, so that was a minor improvement, but the 'story' was simply the same thing over again - shallow, one-note, and uninteresting with the author relying entirely on the sexual and the kinky to focus the reader's interest, and it failed in my case.

I'm not the kind of person who finds a negligée on a store mannequin remotely interesting. Put it on a woman in whom I have no vested interest, and I might find it mildly distracting, but put it on a woman I already find fascinating and who might merely be a choice voice in an audiobook, and it's a different story. The same thing applies here. I need a story. I need to be interested in the women. Putting leather on them doesn't make me interested. Shallowness turns me off. This novel was far too larded with both, and all this author could offer was a gossamer fabric with no body of work underneath it. It's nowhere near enough!

As I mentioned in my review of volume three, this was such a disappointment because I had loved Šejić's work in a volume of Death Vigil and a volume of Rat Queens both of which I reviewed favorably here. I cannot offer the same for this.

Sunstone Vol 3 by Stjepan Šejić

Rating: WARTY!

I picked this up on spec from the local library because it looked interesting and the artwork was awesome, but on closer inspection - and reading - it turned out to be much ado about doting, and BDSM came to mean Boring Detail, Sapping Mindfulness. I wasn't impressed at all. This was a disappointment because I loved Šejić's work on a volume of Death Vigil and a volume of Rat Queens both of which I reviewed favorably here.

I have not read either of the first two of this five volume set, so I can't speak to how those were or what kind of lead-in they were to these two volumes. I can say that this story was not interesting. I think the author is far more in love with the idea of portraying women in kinky clothing than ever he was in telling a story of two lesbian women who happened to share an interest in Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission (or sado-masochism if it's okay with you, Mistress Acronym).

The artwork was gorgeous and several leagues ahead of the all-too-common comic book flat color, flat image style. It was nuanced and shaded and had a lot of character, but ironically, having used that word, the big problem was that every single female character looked exactly the same! They were all thin lipped, long nosed, and lithe, willowy and skinny. In contrast the guys depicted in the story (although few and far between), had at least some characteristics to differentiate them, although all of them seemed to sport facial hair. This did make a refreshing change from most other comic books where precious few guys have facial hair, but it was taking the pendulum too far in the opposite direction! Worse, there were absolutely no people of color present whatsoever.

The biggest problem with this volume though, was the complete lack of a story. There's a thing known as the Bechdel-Wallace-Woolf test wherein a story, film, or show is said to fail unless it features at least a couple of women (preferably named characters) who talk to each other about something other than guys. I think there should be a similar test about stories where characters seem to have a problem talking to each other about anything that's not the core topic - in this case BDSM. It should include a component about the level of obsession with the core topic, too.

The two main women in this story were almost tunnel-vision, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else - on the topic in question. In short, they were simply not realistic to say nothing of a total failure in the rounded and interesting people department. Though an outside life was hinted at (one was supposed to be a writer, the other a lawyer, yet none of this was actually depicted), they actually had no life at all outside of their sexual interludes! Worse, they failed to treat even those interactions like they were actually a real part of their lives. Instead, they were disproportionately excited, surprised, drooling and wanting, to a level that was simply idiotic. It made it all fake and far more like cheap pornography than erotica.

In the end this story was not at all about how they were falling in love and building a relationship, but about how much the author-artist loved to draw shallow characters in leather and latex. The problem was that this was all the story was about. This was so clearly a guy's take on this topic that it failed to entertain or engross me at all. I don't mind reading about people's quirks and kinks, whether or a sexual or of any other nature, but when that's all the writer has to offer and there's really no actual story in sight, it's tiresome. I cannot recommend this one at all.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Promethea by Alan Moore, JH Williams

Rating: WARTY!

This is a graphic novel I picked up from the library because it looked interesting. It's the fifth and final issue in the Apocalyptic series (this compendium collects individual issues 26 - 32), which I knew up front, so I have only myself to blame for this mistake! I have not read any of the other four and I'm actually pleased I missed them because this novel sucked majorly.

The story is about some powerful goddess coming back angrily and determined to destroy Earth, although she does a really poor job of it because she actually improves things, This part was interesting because she changed the flat, solid color 2D images into something a lot more realistic: 3D-looking subtly-shaded views of scenery and people, Some images were simply photographs which had been 'cartoonised'. None of that could make a really confused, boring, and meaningless story come to life though.

As one reviewer amusing put it, it looks like Moore finished up the last section on acid, but to me it seemed more like the artist was the one doing the drugs. The artwork was a mess of pastel psychedelia, and the text was in white and some other colors and impossible to read against the heliotrope background. I honestly didn't even try. I'd been ready to give up on this many pages before this last section, and it was the perfect excuse to simply drop it. Not literally, since it was a library book, but I truly did wish I could have dropped it right into the recycling. Cardboard coffee cup holders would have been a better use of these poor trees than this was. What a bloated, self-indulgent, self-absorbed exercise in masturbation it truly was! Don't miss it! Avoid it like the plague.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fat tome of a graphic novel and it's the author's debut. It grew out of a single comic strip posted on the web for the woefully misnamed Ada Lovelace day, and then morphed into a webcomic and finally a print version which is what I read.

The author did an awesome job in both in the drawings (line drawings black on white with some shading) and in the text. It was highly educational, and highly amusing. Be warned that since this story is rooted in reality (if given to soaring flights of fantasy once the real historical details have been established), there are extensive footnotes on almost every page. I thought these might be really annoying, but they were not, and I simply skipped the ones which didn't interest me, so it was fine. I found myself skipping very few as it happened. There are also chapter end notes, and two appendices.

It tells the story of Ada King, née Byron, daughter of Lord Byron, and Charles Babbage. Ada is best known as Lady Lovelace; she was actually the Countess of Lovelace, which was a title derived from her marriage. 'Lovelace' was never her last name. She is also known as the world's first computer programmer and as a sterling mathematician. She died of cancer at age 36, curiously the same age as her father was when he died.

The book tells the story of the childhood and formative years of these two people, of their meeting, and of their collaboration working on Babbage's Difference Engine (a mechanical calculating machine) and his Analytical Engine - a next generation machine. The amusing thing is that Babbage never built either of his engines despite getting some seventeen thousand pounds in government grants for his work on it. This equates to very roughly one and a half millions dollars today!

He did have a small working portion of the Difference Engine, and extensively detailed plans for building the whole thing. He seems to have lost interest in it when he conceived of the Analytical Engine and in that instance, he seems to have spent so much time on refining it, that he never got around to building it! The difference Engine at least, actually worked, We know this because one was built based on Babbage's plans and drawings, and was completed in 1991. A second was built in 2016.

Babbage wished to automate the laborious process of creating tables of numbers which were in common use for a variety of functions. His plans proved that he succeeded - at least in planning such a machine! Ada, Countess Lovelace collaborated with him extensively. This story tells those factual details at the beginning, but then moves into a parallel universe where the story takes on a turn for the fantastical and pretends that they actually built Babbage's machine and used it to fight crime.

If you have any ambition at all to write a steampunk novel, I highly recommend this book to get you in the right frame of mind, and to help you appreciate the wealth of talent in Britain over this time period. One of the most thrilling things about their era is that it was loaded with people who are household names today. Scientists such as Michael Faraday and Charles Darwin, for example, writers such as Charles Dickens. Lewis Carroll, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, and Mary Evans better known to us as George Eliot, and engineers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It's quite stunning to think that all of these people - and very many more - were alive over the early to middle years of the nineteenth century, and that Countess Lovelace and Charles Babbage met and knew very many of them.

I recommend this book

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Fifth Beatle by Vivek J Tiwary, Andrew C Robinson, Kyle Baker

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great graphic novel, beautifully drawn and colored, and with an intelligent text which never wandered far from the truth, about the life of Brian Epstein, the man who put the Beatles on the world map and one who was described by Paul McCartney in these terms: If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was manager Brian Epstein (but he also said that of George Martin!).

That said, it's really about Brian Epstein in relationship to the Beatles before his death (suicide or accidental remains an open question, I think) at the age of thirty-two in late August of 1967. We learn nothing of his childhood or early life. We meet him shortly before he meets them. Brian was gay in a time when it was literally illegal in Britain (the punishment for which was to be locked away with a bunch of guys. Was it really a punishment then? Yes it was. Neve underestimate how violently fearful people can become of others whom they consider different.

Brian Epstein had a problem with drugs which he used to overcome his tiredness and stress, and irresponsible doctors doled them out especially when he became wealthy and successful as the Beatles's manager. It was these which took him away, but before then, he found the Beatles playing in The Cavern, a hugely successful band on a local level but largely unknown outside of Liverpool and Hamburg. He fell in love with them and promoted them into superstardom.

The people closely associated with the band are almost as famous as the band themselves. The story of them being turned down by several record companies is legendary. Guitar playing bands are on their way out, the idiots at one record company told Brian Eventually a novelty record company, a small piece of a bigger corporation, and which was run by George Martin, and known for its comedy records, finally took them on and the rest is legend and history.

One the Beatles became uproariously, insanely popular and had stopped touring; there was not a lot for Brian Epstein to do, and perhaps it was this which pulled the last plank from under him. Gay in a item when hatred was even greater than it is now, lonely, feeling less than useful, perhaps he really did want it over with, or perhaps he just wanted his pain to go away. But he died and something in the Beatles died also. They broke up not so very long long afterwards.

I highly recommend this graphic novel It's as gorgeous as Brian Epstein was.

Scarlett by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a kick-ass novel from the off, with a good, intelligent story and beautiful artwork. It's a bit bloody here and there, and the eponymous main character (modeled on a woman named Iva) is inevitably sexualized, but it's not overly done thankfully. I favorably reviewed Bendis's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3: Guardians Disassembled back in June of 2016.

The story is set in Portland, Oregon, and is a bit controversial in its subject matter since it suggests that, contrary to the tale we were told in the TV series Grimm, some of the Portland PD isn't so much going after mythical creatures, as it is after drug money for personal use. Why Portland gets picked on, I don't know. Maybe these guys live there?! Maybe Portland has a drug problem? I dunno.

Scarlett is a young woman whose boyfriend is killed by corrupt police looking to notch-up another drug dealer taken out, but her boyfriend was never a dealer; he wasn't even into drugs other than maybe a little weed (this is blog spot, not blogs pot after all!), but he's dead, and Scarlett isn't going to stand for it. She starts taking out she corrupt cops herself and becomes an almost legendary figure.

She varies her MO. We first meet her in a dark alley being approached by a cop who evidently thinks she's a sex worker. When he tries to get a freebie from her, he gets a death sentence instead, and Scarlett finds six hundred bucks on him which she, despite some doubts, takes as evidence that he's dirty.

After this we get her backstory which for a change wasn't boring me (I normally dislike flashbacks), and then the story takes off, always moving somewhere. My only disappointment in it is that this is only book one, so now I have to find others in this series! I recommend this one.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Captain Canuck Vol 1 Aleph by various writers and artists

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Captain Canuck evidently has a long history, but I was truly disappointed in this outing, which collects issues 1 through 6 and which was my introduction to this character. I should have realized from the cover image that it was going to be confused and unrealistic. Giant savage mutant polar bears are very much in the realm of fantasy and the disrespect for the polar bear itself was nauseating. As the name of the graphic novel suggests, this is essentially a rip-off of Captain America with sufficient changes made to avoid a lawsuit from meg-conglomerate Disney, and it was not a very good rip-off.

The artwork and coloring was fine enough, but the writing and the overall story was really and truly confusing. Worse, it was all violence and gore with no humor or humanity in sight. Even having read fifty percent of this before I gave up in disgust, I have absolutely no idea what this story was supposed to be about. Chapter one started out strongly with a man who evidently has no super powers but is augmented by technology, going in to rescue people from a burning oil facility. He encounters what appear to be zombies and as you know, anything like zombie is inevitably violent and irrational. This is a tedious trope.

if the man had no super powers, but merely uses technology, this immediately begs the question as to why there's only one of him! Why not train several people like this and make a team? That story would have had a much better dynamic than this one did, but that question (why only one of them) wasn't even asked much less answered.

This was clearly a comic designed for print and not for electronic distribution which begs the questions as to why the review copies are electronic. I'm about ready to quit reviewing comics unless I can get a print version or unless the comic is specifically aimed at the ebook market. Publishers and comic book creators simply have not got their heads around the ebook concept, and graphic novel publishers who ought to be all over it seem slower than other forms of publication for reasons which escape me.

Thus pages 11 & 12 are a double page, but there's no obvious indication of this, so I'd started reading straight down the page before I realized it went over two pages. The amusing thing was that it made just as little sense whether you read down each page individually or read right across both pages and then down, which involved a lot of swiping back and forth on a tablet reader.

The fact that some panels seem to run off the edge of the page is no guide because on page 12 there's one that runs off the edge and looks like it might go to a second page, but it doesn't! Logic? You're not welcome in this layout! Readability? Thou art banishéd! The same kind of thing happened on other pages. Clearly the designers were so focused on trying to make the individual pages look so 'edgy' and 'kewl' that they completely forgot that actual people have to read it and make sense of it. If they so obviously don't care about the whole reading experience, much less about the electronic version of it, why should I care about what happens in their comic? Really?

The story quickly became lost in itself, with Captain Canuck blundering around blindly trying to find the people he was supposed to be rescuing, little progress made towards any actual story-telling. Their only escape seemed to be down a toxic waste chute, which begged he question, what toxic waste? This was an oil refinery, They're so mercenary in such places that there is no waste. They use literally everything for something to reap every buck they can from the oil, and while oil and gasoline are toxic, it's not the kind of toxic that was suggested here. And any word on the environmental impact of such a fire? Nope. Who cares about the environment? And this is Captain Canada in effect? That was a bad miss.

Chapter two was worse. We got a confused flashback which brought the story to a screeching halt and contributed nothing to it except to add a meandering and unnecessary backstory. I detest flashbacks for that very reason. I plowed on gamely for another couple of chapters until I was halfway through this, but gave up because the story wasn't getting any better and it wasn't remotely entertaining. I cannot in good faith recommend this.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Incidentals Powers, Lies, and Secrets by Joe Casey, Larry Stroman, Rob Stull, Snakebite Cortez

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This continues the ongoing story of a meteorite storm, and the super powers some people evidently developed as a consequence. The titles are rather variable in appeal and quality because they're all done by different teams, and while some have been great, others have been lacking. In short the whole series has been a bit patchy and this one just squeaked under the wire into the safe zone, based on the fact that it was a decent story by Joe Casey that melded well with the others I've read.

In terms of the graphics, I was less thrilled, but it was hard to pin down exactly what the problem was. From the illustrations in the back, it looks like Larry Stroman's pencil work is up to par, but perhaps these demo illustrations aren't the same quality as the ones actually employed in the panels. I don't know. The images looked unfinished in many panels. Fortunately, graphics to me are not everything. I mostly fread books that are all text, os to me the story is most important. There has to be an engaging and coherent story, and while good graphics can't make up for a tale poorly told, less than stellar images can get by with a good story behind them.

In this one we meet a team which is dedicated to 'rescuing' the enhanced humans from the selfish clutches of those who would employ them for less than altruistic purposes, shall we say. For this they use an enhanced who has the same power which Jamie Chung's character, Clarice Fong aka Blink, has in Marvel TV's The Gifted. I would really like to see this series distance itself from The Gifted, but it continues to parallel it in terms of the powers which these enhanced people have.

That said, it makes for a worthy read for the most part and this particular issue, artwork notwithstanding, is a welcome addition to the series.

Goldfisch Manga Vol 1 by Nana Yaa

Rating: WARTY!

This is form an advance review copy for which i thank the publisher.

This I got thinking it looked interesting, but in the end it was truly a confusing read and contained nothing that entertained me. It's the kind of comic book which makes it clear that 'issue' has more than one meaning, and you do not want to be publishing an issue which has issues! The story is about Morrey Gibbs who is effectively King Midas. Almost everything he touches turns to gold, but there seems to be no rule as to how and when it happens. Why he has this power remained a mystery to me throughout the graphic novel.

On top of this, the story is set in Waterworld, but thankfully without Kevin Costner. Morrey has a pet otter which immediately turned me off the story. I detest stories of any stripe that feature oh-so-cute animal sidekicks, because it is way overdone. I much prefer writers who take the road less traveled, but this author evidently has absolutely no idea where that road is.

On top of that, there's the stock inventor friend, and at that point I gave up. I honestly cannot tell you what the story is about because I have no idea despite gamely plowing through to the end. It was that confusing. Morrey is apparently trying to avoid bounty hunters, but since he can create all the gold he wants out of literally anything, he could have bought off those guys (or conversely, turned them into god), and also the guy who hired them. In fact, he could have flooded the world with so much gold that it made gold literally worthless, but he was evidently too stupid to figure any of that out. Stupid main characters are ten-a-penny, especially in young adult novels. The world does not need them appearing in graphic novels, too. So the book was simply a mess and I cannot recommend it.

On a technical note, it's increasingly clear to me that comic book authors have not yet clued-in to the fact that books are published electronically and the book had better work on a pad. Instead, both they and publishers are still evidently unable to think outside the box: the cardboard box in which print issues are snail-mailed. They're landlocked in a print world, and if that's the case, they should quit trying to publish electronic versions and send the reviewers a print version.

This story was rendered even more irritating than it already was by two problems. The first of these was that the screen image was significantly smaller than my iPad screen, and the text illegible until I'd enlarged it, but once enlarged, Bluefire Reader (my reader of choice for ebooks, since Amazon's crappy Kindle app truly sucks, and virtually no one offers review books in B&N's much better Nook app), would not let me swipe the page until I had reduced it back to it's original tiny size! This was irritating at best. Publishers really need to take the time to smell what they're shoveling out to people.

A second problem was that some pages, for reasons unknown at least as judged by their actual content, were 'printed' at ninety degrees to upright, and the since pads are programmed to re-orient instantly when they're turned, the image merely shrank when the pad was turned to read it unless I took pains to keep it completely flat. Yes, you can lock the image, but his can create other problems so i typically do not do this except with Amazon's truly crappy Kindle app, which is useless for reading anything other than plain text anyway. This re-orientation once again made the images too small! Frustrating at best.

So, a note to authors and publishers: if you're going to offer your graphic novel in electronic format, give some thought to how it's created and what it will look like in the intended reading environment for the sake of your readers - if you want to keep them reading your work, that is. But disregarding the technical issues, I can't recommend this based on the poorly put-together content.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Spaceman by Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso

Rating: WARTY!

With utility art by Eduardo Risso, this hardback graphic novel had looked interesting on the library shelf, but as soon as I began reading it, I realized it made little sense and it was obvious I'd made a wrong choice here!

The story began with an introductory news item about a scientist who had illegally bred children to be biologically kitted-out for a trip to Mars. How they were supposed to be so well-adapted was never explained, but apparently the way to breed a person for a Mars trip is to make them look like a caveman - and not even a Neanderthal, but some weird large breed that had long skinny legs, a weight-lifter sized chest and a relatively tiny skull with a pointy dome and brow ridges. They were exclusively male of course, because Darwin forbid we should have any females going to Mars! It is the god of war's planet after all! The women can all be packed off to Venus, right?!

For as little sense as that made, it made more sense than the rest of the story put together - at least as far as I read, which was about halfway before I gave up in disgust. All the characters spoke a weird-ass pigeon English which simply didn't work. It made half of what they said unintelligible, but I guess at least that kept it in line with the story itself which was apparently about some young girl being kidnapped. The story alternated between hairy Mars men on Earth, one of whom found the kidnapped girl accidentally, but never did turn her in to the police, and hairy Mars men apparently on Mars. I saw absolutely no connection whatsoever between these two stories - not in the part I read anyway. I had no idea whatsoever what was going on in the Mars portion of the story.

Though there were surprisingly few of them in this boys' fantasy, every adult or near-adult female who appeared in it was sexualized in the typical adolescent comic-book fashion, including the news reader at the start whose only appearance was one frame of her torso, leaning her ample and exposed cleavage into the camera's greedy eye. There was some sort of sex worker who was barely dressed, but this was not only when she was performing as might be expected, but also in every other appearance. Apparently she spent her life in her skivvies, day and night, indoors and out. It was pathetic.

Even had there been a coherent story it would not have excused this antiquated approach to femininity. This comic was published within the last decade so it looks like we have a hell of a long way to go, doesn't it? I dis-recommend this one.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

War Mother by Fred Van Lente

Rating: WARTY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This volume collects War Mother Vols 1-4 and 4001 AD: War Mother Vol 1. I felt the art was pretty decent except in the occasional back-busting pose the main character was put into for no other reason than to show off her curves. So once again we're back in an adolescent world of male-oriented comics created for males by males, and wherein women are depicted as unnaturally anorexic and preternaturally pneumatic. This story is supposedly set two thousand years into the future, but both mindset and technology are surprisingly unchanged from our present. Evolution, contrarily, seems to have sped-up beyond the bounds of what's reasonable into outrageously fantastical humanoids, all of which, as is typical in this kind of story, seem hostile.

Ana, the titular War Mother, with the emphasis on tit, is for reasons unexplained here, the Scavenger-in-Chief. She lives in a tribal "village" called the Grove, where they can pretty much provide everything for themselves except for technology which for some reason thay cannot master. This flies in the face of the comic's blurb which defines this village as the "last known repository of scientific knowledge." I saw no science here, just vague hints at growing food, which, in a place as lush as this one appeared to be, didn't seem to require much knowledge other than planting seeds and harvesting fruit! It's not like these guys fed millions! It was only a village after all.

War Mother goes on scavenger hunts for things they can use, repurpose, adapt, and trade. Why this technology is so needed goes largely unexplained. That was one big problem with this story: without any backstory, none of this made much sense. During these excursions, Ana often runs into hostiles which she has to despatch using her talking rifle. I never did get why the rifle talks. it was too gimicky for me - like one of those annoying little talking pets in children's cartoons. And why was the talking rifle male? Why even an electronic rifle in a world where electronics were evidently as much at a premium as they were prone to failing? Wouldn't an AK-47 be a better tool in a humid jungle?

The biggest problem though, was once again the main charcter who was far less like a real woman than like a male fantasy - the man-with-tits syndrome which isn't remotely appealing to me. Worse, the author seems to be conflating bad-ass with psychotic. War Mother's only tactic is to dispatch anyone she doesn't like including the leader of her village community who she kills remorselessly and without even much of a preamble.

I didn't really understand why this happened. Rather than try to work with him to resolve their dispute, she simply takes the male anger route and shoots him, and that was the end of that dispute. In doing this, she very effectively destroys the community, so how is she in any way heroic? How is she any better than the villains she takes down? I didn't see any difference. Certainly there was nothing to root for or admire in her.

I didn't see anything edifying or fulfilling here, and nothing truly enjoyable. If it had not been so short, I would have DNF'd it. I was hoping for a lot more than I expected, but I got a lot less than I feared. i cannot recommend this.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Terminally Illin' by Kaylin Andres, Jon Mojeski

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a beautifully drawn and colored, and very amusingly-written bittersweet story about Kaylin Marie Andres who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in 2008 at only 23. Instead of succumbing to paralysis and mute acceptance, she chose to fight it tooth and nail with determination and humor, and not only went on with her fashion career, but also created a graphic novel to illustrate her fight with an amusing graphic story.

The book begins with her going for her first treatment and ends with the promise of a visit to a fantasy-land cancer fun park. There never was a sequel because Kaylin had to endure four major surgeries and attendant radiation treatments to four different areas of her body. And she died a year ago last November at the age of 31.

This book is probably one of the best memorials she could have because it was an awesome read and I highly recommend it. The last entry in her blog was five days before she died - on the day before she was due to fly back home for the last time. Hopefully this graphic novel will serve as a lasting inspiration to others.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dream of the Butterfly Vol 1 by Richard Marazano

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Richard Marazano is a French writer and illustrator, and in this work he seems to have channeled Chinese mythology very heavily into a very lighthearted story about young girl who strays in a snowstorm from her valley to a nearby one in which is a village occupied by animals who seem very resentful of humans Actually, given how we treat animals I for one am not at all surprised by their attitude.

The girl is a very strong female character and I recommend this story for that to begin with, but it's much more than that. The story is very whimsical, and quirky even, I tend to run in the opposite direction when I read of a story being described as full of whimsy or with quirky characters, but this one nailed it perfectly.

The girl seems resigned to living in this town because no one will help her get back. She's boarded with a foster family of birds, and finds a job working in an energy factory - she has to change out the hamsters in their wheels when they become tired - but her lunches of packed worms, she could do without. She eventually learns she's not the only human child in town.

Because she is a human, Tutu is spied upon by the emperor through his rabbit secret service. The rabbits are adorably inept, but they are also actually helpful to Tutu when she gets lost or doesn't know which bus to catch. Known as yuè tù (moon rabbit) in China, the idea behind these is that while the Moon may look to us westerners like it's the face of a man in the Moon, many other cultures see it as a rabbit in the Moon, which is more intriguing to me.

If you look hard, you can see the long ears (Mare Foecunditatis and Mare Nectaris)stretching to the right, about half way down the Moon's right side, from the head (Mare Tranquilitatis where Apollo Eleven landed) to the left, and the body (Mare Serenitatis and Mare Imbrium below it on the left edge of the Moon's disk. Below that is the Oceanis Procellarum with the big back legs and a tail sticking out to the left. The rabbit appears to be sitting by a box or a bowl, (Mare Nubium), and some cultures see this as a mortar, in which the rabbit is grinding something using a pestle.

The emperor takes a great interest in Tutu and wants her to help him by catching a rare white butterfly, but she's not very impressed with him or the opera he writes. She's especially disrespectful of his surrogate robots which tend to break down when faced with Tutu's sarcasm.

This story was a delight through-and-through, and my only complaint was that this is volume one, so the story didn't end! Although that's really a good thing because if it had ended, there would be no more to look forward to! As it was, I could have kept on reading this for many more pages than there were, and I recommend it as a worthy read.

Superb by David F Walker, Sheena C Howard, Ray Anthony Height, Alitha Martinez, Eric Battle

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I didn't like the first one I read in this series. Normally that would be the end of it, but I read a second one without realizing until the end that it was part of the same series, and I liked it. I also liked this one, probably more than any of the previous ones. The artwork was really good, the characters realistic (as comic book super heroes go!), interesting, motivated, and believable, and the writing was very good. I noted a strong female influence not only in the writing, but also in the art, and this can make a big difference to the overall look and feel of a comic.

I really like the way so called minorities are front and center. Minorities are actually the majority of people on the planet, yet they're so poorly served in comics, TV and movies that it's criminal. It was nice to see that balance being redressed without going overboard. It was also nice to see a character with Down Syndrome (aka trisomy 21) included as a major player. The relationship between him (Jonah, aka "Cosmosis"!) and Kayla (aka Amina). and the awesome Abbie, was choice. It really made the story shine for me.

Each individual graphic novel in this set is a sort of origin story, but its not your usual origin tale; it's more of a development story, which to me is more interesting, especially this one. All of the graphic novels I've read so far run in parallel, but there is no repetition. Each story advances the whole, and the only tiresome bit was the last bit which is the same in each comic. Of course you can skip this once you've read it the first time, and it does mean you can start with any comic in the group without having to worry that you missed something because you didn't start with the 'right one'.

In this story Kayla, already aware of her powers and that she's not the only one with them, is trying to keep a low profile, especially since her parents work for the corporation which is trying to capture, intern, and experiment upon those with such powers. Jonah is less retiring. He breaks into the corporate facility to finds out what they're up to, and he barely escapes with his life. Kayla protects him and this is how the two of them team up with Abbie, who is Jonah's friend. Unfortunately, Kayla's desire to live a normal life is seriously compromised, and that's all I'm going to say!

On the negative side, I have to say that this shtick with the powers-that-be coming down hard on the mutants is really reaching saturation point. Marvel has repeatedly done it with X-Men, Inhumans, and Gifted, and it's been done in other graphic novels unrelated to the DC and Marvel stables, including one I reviewed negatively recently. Frankly, it's starting to be boring. It would be nice to see something different.

In terms of this comic, it's hard at this point, despite having read several of them, to see how the foresight corporation got so much power that it can openly act as a paramilitary force and hunt down these people. That felt a little bit much, but maybe it will be explained. Or maybe I missed it in that first volume I read because I was so disappointed in it!

That quibble aside though, I really liked this graphic novel and I recommend it as a worthy read.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

POS: Piece of Sh*t by Pierre Paquet, Jesús Alonso

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I have a tendency to like graphic novels from Europe, but in this case I did not because the main character was completely unlikable. He was such a complete jerk that you desperately wanted to see the light to come on in his brain, and to see him change, but after I'd read 230 of 256 pages and discovered there wasn't even evidence of a glimmer of this, I asked myself, why am I continuing to read about this piece of shit - because that's exactly what he was, and determinedly and perennially so.

I did not care a whit about him and felt whatever he got, assuming it was bad, he thoroughly deserved. I quit reading on page 230 because I realized I had wasted a small part of my life reading this that I would never get back.

The artwork is so-so, very much like an old Tintin comic in some regards. The coloring was pretty good, but whoever did the lettering needs to get a clue. It was really hard to read (full disclosure: I am not a fan of letters at all!). The art would have been fine if the writing had had something to recommend it, but it was tedious. It kept teasing the reader with the potential to go somewhere but it never actually did. Not unless you class going around in repetitive circles as 'going somewhere'. All this story ever did was go around until you found yourself back where you started, with the same things happening over and over again.

At one point there was a court case and it went on for several pages There was never any resolution offered to it, and all the time I was reading that section, I had no good idea why this guy was in court! here were flashbacks appearing out of nowhere and sometimes it was easy tot ell they were flashbacks. other times it was not clear if it was a flashback or the next scene in his current life. He was an alcoholic, too, and this did not help, because he sometimes had alcoholic delusions, so in short it was a mess, and I cannot recommend it

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Faith and the Future Force by Jody Houser, Stephen Segovia, Barry Kitson, Ulises Arreola

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Now this is the kind of super-hero story I can really get with. I was thrilled by the first one in this series, so I was equally thrilled to have a chance to review another one and see how Faith is doing. She's doing fine and I'm keeping the Faith!

Once again, it's written by Jody Houser, who continues to sprinkle promos for Doctor Who (how can you not love a writer like that?!) as well as toss in other Sci-fi references. As I write this I am patiently counting down the days to the Doctor Who Christmas special, and the change over from the current Doctor who was not my favorite, to a new one who will, for the first time, be female! Squee!

On an unrelated topic, is it just me, or is anyone else amused by the superficial similarity between areola (the ring of color around a nipple, and the name of the colorist? Of course his name apparently derives from the Spanish for horse tack (or a part of horse tack, anyway!) not from coloration, but still! I love words!

This is a time-travel story featuring a time-traveling robot which is intent upon destroying the fabric of time itself. Consequently, we have with Faith being sought by some strange woman who is costumed like a super hero, but who evidently needs Faith's help (and that of a charming assortment of her super friends) to stop this machine. In that regard, it borrows a bit from Pixar's The Incredibles

What I liked about this is that it conveniently side-steps one objection I often find to time-travel stories, especially Doctor Who, who always seems to arrive in media res, which is: why not go back earlier and fix the problem before it starts? In which case there would be no show, so the Doctor always tosses out some patent nonsense about crossing his own time stream which of course he does time after time, especially in New York City where it's supposed to be all but impossible to visit. Hah! How many times has he been there now?

This story solves that problem because the robot is eating time, so they can't go back earlier - it doesn't exist! Double-hah! Faith aka Zephyr, is recruited by Timewalker (not Time Lord!) Neela Sethi several times, each time unaware that she's already been recruited and failed! Why does this keep-on getting repeated? Read it and find out! I recommend this one as a fun, sweet, entertaining, Segovially and Kitsonorously drawn, and areolistically-colored(!) story which is a very worthy read! Keep 'em coming you guys and I'll keep reading 'em!