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

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Lightning Thief by Rick Rordan, Robert Venditti, Atilla Futaki


Rating: WARTY!

I failed the original novel because it simply was not entertaining, and this is no better. It's the same as the novel so if you came to this via the movie, be prepared for the two to be nothing alike. The movie was significantly better, even though it was average for a movie - and just as racist as this novel.

There is no Gorgon in the novel, which was sad, nor is there a visit to the faux Parthenon in Nashville, and no fight with a hydra. There is no lightning bolt hidden in a shield here, and no wise-cracking Rosario Dawson playing Hades's wife, which was a real highlight in the movie. The final battle isn't between Luke and Percy, but between the token black guy and Percy. Zeus is dressed in a business suit, and in the one single touch I did appreciate, Poseidon is dressed as a surfer dude!

Grover is white in the graphic novel, so I guess they made him black in the movie for no other reason than the one Hollywood always employs: we must have a token black person in this movie so they can't say we're racist. Well guess what, guys - and let me put this in an 'in a world' scenario so you in Hollywood can grasp it - In a world where the vast majority of people are not white, anything that doesn't fairly represent those proportions is racist, period. Get a fucking clue. Even the US is a quarter non-white, so where was that represented in this book? Yeah, you know it.

Every single person in the entire graphic novel was white except for one token villain, who has daughter who was white! I was done right there. This novel sucked and should be boycotted.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a full-cast audio production of a graphic novel I reviewed positively back in February. Noelle Stevenson is of Lumberjanes fame - a graphic novel I did not like at all. Nimona is altogether different, but I'm not going into any detail here since you can read that in my previous review. here's I'll just comment on the differences between it and the audio.

I wanted to listen to this because it struck me as odd that there should be an audio version of a novel written in a format that is known primarily for appealing to the visual! At first, I was annoyed. This audiobook succumbs to one of my pet peeves about audiobooks, which is that there is music. There are also sound effects. After a while I learned to tolerate all of this, but I was never completely happy with it. Full-cast is listed on the audio itself, but not on the cover, which mentions only three people: Rebecca Soler, Jonathan Davis, and Marc Thompson. They did do a good job, though, once I had got used to the voices.

Soler - who could actually play Nimona very effectively if the story ever got made into a movie - truly gets into her character and does a great job, and the other two, one of whom, I assume, does Ballister Blackheart, and the other Ambrosius Goldenloin, deliver beautifully. I recommend this version - it's very short, of course, but if you want some delicious villainy and intrigue delivered direct to your ear, then this is a great way to get it.


Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi


Rating: WORTHY!

While I enjoyed this graphic novel and consider it well-done, and a worthy read, I have to object to the blurb extolling Ernest Shackleton as "one of the last great Antarctic explorers." He really explored nothing. His only goal was to strive for the pole, at attempt at which he failed. Thereafter, he went back with the intention of crossing the continent via the pole, yet this expedition was a complete disaster, and even bigger failure than his attempt to reach the pole. Never once did he consider the smart move of turning back and perhaps trying later. If none of his expeditions had ever taken place, how would the world be one iota worse off? it would not. The guy was a self-centered moron.

He was an insensitive clown who wasted his life in money-losing pursuits, and then in ridiculous 'exploratory' pursuits, essentially abandoning his wife and three children for years on end. Who took care of them? Emily barely gets a mention in Wikipedia, but Shackleton's blind blundering on Antarctica is detailed endlessly! What did he achieve? He didn't discover the pole - it was already known to be there!

There was nothing there when he got there, not even a pole! Not that he ever did get there. There were no new medicines came out of this. No great survival or sailing techniques. No life-altering discoveries. No educational material. There wasn't even any exploring - just a desperate drive to get to one place after another, all of which failed. He achieved literally nothing, and contributed nothing to the advancement of humankind. And for being benighted, he was knighted?

That's nothing to do with this graphic novel which only tells his story, and does it well as it happens, but all this does so well is to highlight what a thoughtless and ill-prepared fool Shackleton was! I found it amusing, and truly, very sad. But it does make for an entertaining read.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Mighty Alice Goes Round and Round by Richard Thompson


Rating: WORTHY!

This book had the feel of a compendium of daily and Sunday newspaper cartoons, but it apparently isn't. It is a collection, loosely linked, of cartoon stories of Alice, the four-year-old feisty daughter of the Otterloop family, consisting of mom, dad, and her older brother Petey.

In the same way that Calvin and Hobbes was written more for grown-ups than ever it was for children, this is too, because the language skills and mental processes of the four-year-old crowd Alice hangs with are completely unrealistic, but they are amusing, while the mostly line-drawing artwork (some is in full color) is very rudimentary - very much cartoon style.

In some ways I can see that books like this are pretty pointless because they count completely on you buying into the standard lifestyle of your standard, white, well-to-do, American family, as though the fifties was not a by-gone era. In other ways, taking a look at things from a different perspective is never a bad thing - unless that perspective comes by way of falling off a bridge or high building or something painful like that!

So while I found this amusing, I got the book on clearance. I would never have paid ten dollars for a book like this. I do consider it a worthy read, but I also consider it worthy of borrowing rather than buying unless you can get a discounted copy as I did, or a cheaper electronic version. Good luck with that last option, since the e-version is only about a dollar cheaper than the print version. How that works is that the print version comes from China. You'll have to make up your own mind about whether you want to send your money there.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Sound of the World By Heart by Giacomo Bevilacqua


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an odd sort of a story, but in the end I liked it despite some issues with the advance review copy (for which I nonetheless thank the publisher!).

The story felt like it went on a little longer than it ought, but it talks about something I am quite attuned to at present having been watching episodes now and then of the Netflix series called Brain Games, which delights in telling us how our brain is in many ways magical, but also easily fooled and often in surprising ways. Despite what we might think, our attention bandwidth is quite limited, and it's on the margin of this that pickpockets and illusionists ply their trade

This story is in some ways about that: about how we have blind spots and are in denial. The one in denial - denying himself social interaction (and there's more to it than just that) - is a photographer. He has undertaken with his editor, to spend two months in New York City and during that time, not speak to anyone. He pays his rent by means of his landlady sticking an envelope under his door, he filling it with the rent money, and she giving him a thumbs up through his security glass. He isn't allowed to eat in the same place regularly, so he is forced to try different venues. He navigates this by using a sign explaining that he's deaf, and asking people to please not talk to him. He writes down his meal requests. He's not even allowed to eat at home very often.

And he takes lots of photos. Despite having an electronic camera, he likes to get the prints so he can put them on his wall and examine them. But the real printing process is in his head. He takes a mental snapshot of what he just photographed, and keeps it in mind rather well. That is until he has the next batch physically printed and discovers there's a girl in them, in color, while the rest of the print is gray-scale. He doesn't recall ever seeing this redhead, and when he tries to call up the shots from his mind gallery, he cannot - they're all blank spots! It would seem that his perspective is eagle-eyed everywhere except where this girl is. Who is she and how is this happening? The answer might be different from what you expect and certainly different from what Joan of Arc, his muse in a painting in the museum, might advise.

I've never been to New York, and I'm certainly not one of these people who worships the place. My problem with those who do is that they view it through absurdly biased and rose-tinted lenses. Crime might be commendably dropping there, but it's still horrific. There is a murder pretty much every day, which is unacceptable. The homeless population of New York rose to an all-time high in 2011. Thirteen percent of all homeless people in the USA live in NYC.

At least there, they're legally entitled to shelter, but again, it's a problem that those who worship NYC choose to ignore, extolling what they consider virtues instead. For me, paeans to NYC fall on rather deaf ears because the city, notwithstanding what worshipers say, is essentially no different from any other large city. I doubt that people are particularly more friendly or antagonistic, nor more ordinary or extraordinary, nor more heroic or cowardly than anywhere else, so those views of the city tend to fall flat for me.

That said, and while this book did indulge in some hero-worship, it was kept to what I consider an acceptable level. That aside I had no complaints at all about it, except for a couple of instances where the text balloons were inexplicably blank! The balloons were there but no speech was in them! Maybe in graphic novel worlds this should be a phrase, akin to "The lights are on, but nobody's home!" - "This dude's speech balloon is blank!" I assume this will be fixed before the published copy comes out. Either that or I hope this was merely an anomaly in my copy. The missing speeches were on pps 25 & 26, and also on 120 thru 124. There was also some staining around the dates which separated the various segments of the story, like the dates had been stuck on with Scotch tape and then Xeroxed, and the Scotch tape had left a shadow! But this is a minor thing.

Overall though, and this is what truly matters to me rather than minor details, I really liked this. The illustrations, in color, are gorgeous, and the text is easy to get into and enjoy (and large enough to read on a tablet!). It was fresh and original, and it told an engaging story, so I recommend it as a worthy read.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ocean of Secrets Vol 1 by Sophie-Chan


Rating: WARTY!

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

Despite her name, this author is not Asian as far as I know, but chooses to tell stories and illustrate in that style. I have to say, to be fair, that I am not a fan of manga, but this one sounded interesting. In the end I was quite disappointed by it. I think this artist can draw, and draw well, so I believe she has a career, but I am far from convinced this is the best story to launch it with.

For some reason, the author chose to put a message in between the introductory pages and chapter one, which I found annoying and inappropriate, and which completely took me out of suspension of disbelief. I actually quit reading another ebook just a few days ago because the author did something similar (and misspelled 'shekels' in doing so!). In this case I decided to continue on since I don't normally read introductions anyway, but when I did, the story did not thrill me at all. I quit before the end because it was not entertaining me at all. The story made no sense, and reading it 'backwards' for no good reason did nothing to put me in a favorable mood!

There was a watermark on each page which interfered with appreciating the art (and I realize that this isn't the author's doing). I cannot see the point of the watermark because if lowlifes out there are going to abuse this, then a sorry watermark isn't going to stop them, while for the rest of us, the majority of us, it's nothing but an annoyance which interferes with our appreciation of the writer's work, and worse in this case, with the artist's work.

To me the story was very weak and derivative, using as it does the baseless magic of the four 'elements' of air, earth, fire, and water (as does The Last Avatar for example), which have never made any sense at all to me. I do realize they are a popular go-to for authors who are too lazy to think up a new system, but they're way over-used and unless you're going to do something truly original with them, I think you need to find something else.

Worse than this, though, the story was very much an info-dump, which is a problem with series, and which is one of several reasons why I'm not a fan of series in general, although I'm always holding out hope that I might find one that breaks the mold. The plot made little sense to me and having to read it backwards (as compared with the norm in the west) did not help.

I don't get it in an English version. I can see how an author might be so enamored of the manga form that she might want to try her hand at it, and it would need to be that way if Asian sales are hoped for (who wouldn't want to go on a book tour in Japan?!), but in the electronic age, we could have a regular version for those of us in the west and a reverse version for those in Asia. It's not like it's difficult to achieve this with current technology.

In the print version it's easy-enough to read backwards with little effort. You can even number the pages accordingly, but in the e-version, the pages are numbered wrong because the e-reader is doing the numbering (there are no numbers on the actual pages themselves, and is all-too-common with comic books). Technology has yet to reach the point where you can simply flip your tablet and start at the back! Instead you must navigate to the 'end' to start, and then you have to overcome your swiping habit to go backwards! All of this detracted from focusing on the most important thing - for me more important than the art - which is the story! It was there that my biggest disappointment lay as it happens.

Note that I'm not saying you can't follow your dream and write a manga that has nothing to do with Asian culture, but I think you have to keep in mid that it's your dream, and your potential readers may not be willing to buy into it unless you give them some really good reasons to do so. For me there were insufficient. This is an English book throughout, set in the US (or more accurately in the air above central America), and it has nothing to do with Asia or any Asian topics so for me the justification was weak. If the story had been engrossing, I would have been happy to overlook other issues, but as it happened, taken as a whole, the package simply didn't work for me. It felt annoying and pretentious. I do wish the author every success in her career, but I can't recommend this one.


Homies by David Gonzales, Elliott Serrano


Rating: WARTY!

It's time to review some graphic novels again! This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I was not sure what I would get out of this, but I was interested to learn. I'd never read any of the original work from the 90's, and now I have no interest in looking it up. Neither have I ever been to LA, but I do live in an area steeped in Latin Culture (it seemed like half the workplace was taking the day last Friday for Cinco de Mayo!), yet this book turned out to be a disappointment because it felt more like it was steeped in stereotyping than ever it was in telling original ethnic stories. The most striking thing about this graphic novel though, was that you could have told these same stories, almost word for word, and veneered them with any culture, and it would have read the same and not seemed wrong or out of place.

There's the wedding ceremony where everything seems to be going wrong, and in the end it's the love between the couple that shores them up. So what's new? This story has been told a hundred, if not a thousand, times before. It doesn't matter if it's in the barrio or in the ghetto or in the relatively impoverished circumstances in which I grew up: it's the same story, and that might have worked had there been something here which rendered it peculiarly Hispanic or even original. But there wasn't.

The artwork was curiously angular and not all bad, but to me it was nothing especially striking either. A lot of it felt far too busy and messy but others may well disagree. Cat and Hair (Gata and Pelon - hardly outstanding character names!) are the ones who are marrying, but Pelon looks like he's one of King Charles the First's cavaliers with that hairstyle and goatee.

The thing which made the biggest impression on me though, was caused by the severe angularity of the art. The white highlights on his face were rectangular, and when I first saw them, I thought he'd been in a fight and these were those little "butterfly" adhesive strips that are typically used (in movies and TV shows, but not in real life, it seems!) to hold small cuts closed!

The second story was straight out of Rocky (the original Stallone movie) where the challenger steps up and beats the professional and gets his girl. The only thing missing was that she wasn't called Adrian. Again, nothing original here, only predictable, and again other than the references to Lucha libre, there was nothing particularly embedded in Hispanic culture. The next story was essentially an episode of Scooby Doo with a ghost under a bridge - or is it really a ghost? there was even a dog. The last story was taken from X-Files, and not even really about Hispanic culture - more about refugees.

So I have to say I was very disappointed. Maybe the original 90's editions had more to say, or were more controversial or had some truly original thinking behind them, but I got none of that from this edition, and I cannot recommend this comic book.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Cute Girl Network by Greg Means, MK Reed, Joe Flood


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the last of three graphic novels I'll be reviewing this weekend. This one ca,me form my excellent local library and I think it's my favorite of the three. The story is of Jane and Jack. It's illustrated with black and white line drawings by Flood. I was a little disappointed that writers Means and Reed didn't go the whole hog and name her Jill, since she introduces herself with a tumble.
It's not down a hill, but nothing is perfect, right?

Skateboarder Jane has been in town for about a month when she wipes out in front of Jack's soup cart. He supplies a free ice tea (in a bottle!) for her to soothe her injured coccyx. As the two interact more, they end up on a date and start liking each other, even though she's feisty as all hell and he is highly-prone to complete disasters.

Two of Jane's vampire romance-obsessed roommates freak-out when they learn she's dating Jack. Actually the vampire romance thing is pretty much a story all in itself, and I appreciated that; however, suddenly Jane finds herself introduced to the Cute Girls Network (not to be confused with the cukegirls network) - a loose alliance of women who dish out the skinny on guys you should avoid like the plague. Jane hears several embarrassingly gauche stories of Jack's history of bad conduct, but despite these dire warnings, she decides to stay the course.

The story is cutely illustrated and amusingly written, and it tells a fascinating and unusual story. I really liked the character Jane. She was definitely my kind of fictional girl. Jack was hilarious, as were the various roommates of both main characters. This was an excellent read, and I highly recommend it.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

James Bond Hammerhead by Andy Diggle, Luca Casalanguida


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is the second of three graphic novels I'm reviewing this weekend, and I started out thinking I wasn't going to like this, but it won me over as I read on! It's not your movie James Bond. Luca Casalanguida's illustrations bear no relation to any Bond from the silver screen. This Bond harks back much more to the traditional Ian Fleming Bond (there's even a cover shown towards the back which pays homage to the paperback Bond novels of the fifties and early sixties). It's not exactly Ian Fleming's conception of the character (who Fleming believed should look like a cross between Hoagy Carmichael and himself!), but it admirably fits the bill. That said, it's a very modern story in a modern world, so while it felt like a clean break from the movies in some regards, Andy Diggle tells a story worthy of any screenplay.

There's everything here you've come to expect from Bond: a big plot, continual action, a terrorist on the loose with a cool code-name, subterfuge, assassination attempts, double-cross, daring Bond exploits, and the inevitable cool Bond girl. Bond begins the story in the doghouse. M, in this story not a woman but an Anglo-African, kicks him out to an arms convention in Dubai where he meets Lord Hunt - Britain's biggest arms dealer, and his sophisticated and charming daughter, Victoria, who knows her way around weapons of any calibre!

Unfortunately, Lord Hunt is assassinated, and Bond and the young Lady Hunt are thrown together in pursuit of the villains, so once again, Bond is back in business looking for super villain Kraken, who seems to be targeting the very thing the Hunt weapons manufacturing concern is charged with renewing: Britain's aging nuclear deterrent. Bond is of course led astray, but in the end gets back on track, and saves the day.

Note that this Bond is a violent one, and the artist shows no fear of illustrating that violence. This might have been rather shocking before Bond was rebooted with Daniel Craig stepping into the role and making it more gritty and brutal, but still, there's rather more gore and red ink here than you see in the movies, so be warned of that. Overall, I really liked it, and I recommend this as a worthy read.


Betty Boop by Roger Langridge, Gisèle Lagacé


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the first of three reviews I'll be doing this weekend of graphic novels; it's from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher!

I'm not sure why comic book writers go to such lengths to put a completely different image on the cover to the ones you routinely find inside. It smacks of bait & switch. In this case, I didn't expect anything other than standard imagery inside, so the cover was pretty well-received and not resented for misrepresenting! Howard Chaykin's work here, colored by Jesus Aburto, is really was quite stunning, worthy of your screen wallpaper if not framing and hanging on a wall! I felt it a pity though, that someone isn't willing to buck tradition and do a whole comic like that, but it seems Betty is going to continue to be confined to the 1930's which was her era (and she owned it!).

Betty Boop is modeled (both in face and voice) on singer Helen Kane who was best known for "I Wanna Be Loved by You," and who sued Betty Boop's creators, but they cited the "boop-boop-a-doop" as originating with Esther Jones, and Kane eventually lost the lawsuit. I think she needed a better lawyer!

I never was a big fan of Betty Boop (although I love the concept) and I've enjoyed some of the whacked-out animated cartoons which were really off the wall, especially for the era they were created in. In this series, which combines several comics, the arc is all about villain Lizard Lips. I wish there had been more variety but it was all LL all the time. Each story is self-contained, and LL plagues Betty in every adventure, obsessed with getting his hands on her house, for no reason that was apparent to me!

Betty always wins of course, and there's a lot of celebratory singing, which obviously doesn't work as well in print as it did in animation. Betty isn't as much of a sex symbol here, either - she plays more to cute than to Woot! This isn't a bad thing, but it did lend her a slightly neutered air. Since Betty began life as a sex symbol it would have been nice to see her let off the leash a little more in a comic book.

That said, she was extremely cute and I enjoyed the dialog, the references back to her original life and friends, and the quality of the artwork by the amazingly-named Gisèle Lagacé. She really captured the essence of the original, and is definitely an artist to keep an eye out for. So overall, this was a fun book, told good stories, and was very enjoyable. Despite the one or two relatively trivial regrets mentioned, I think it's a winner, especially if you're a big fan already.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Messenger: The Legend of Joan of Arc by Tony Lee, Sam Hart


Rating: WARTY!

This was a very disappointing graphic novel which I got from my wonderful local library about the woman the French know as La Pucelle d'Orléans. I think a woman like Jeanne d'Arc deserves a better memorial than this one because, deluded as she was, she did make her mark on history. This novel doesn't. It basically tells the same tale as everyone else does, so what's the point? The illustrations are indifferent and there was really nothing there to inspire me, which is sad given that Jeanne was said to have inspired an army to win a war!

Rising from an obscure childhood to become and legend and now, one of the nine secondary saints of France is quite an achievement, although it took five hundred years, all told. The problem is that the authors don't offer anything other than what you can read in Wikipedia - which for all I know might well be where they took their 'plot'. But apart from purely fictional and very trite conversations, they offer nothing more - just a by-rote, pedantic retelling of the facts, including several information dumps and much folklore unverified as fact.

I'll give just one example of how pathetic the invented dialog is. At one point the English drop a rock on Jeanne's head. She's in process of storming their castle when it happens. This evidently was a real event and she survived it. I suspect the real rock was a lot smaller than the one depicted in this novel, but in this story, evidently rather peeved, she says, "They throw stones at a girl? Show them what you think of that! To arms!" which is as pathetic as you can get and makes her look like a moron.

She's dressed as a soldier. She has short hair and she's waging war on the English dressed as a regular male warrior, and now she thinks she should be entitled to special treatment because she's a girl? I'm sorry but that line alone makes this novel total trash. The writer should be ashamed of himself for even thinking of writing it. I seriously doubt the real Jeanne said anything like that.

Michael, who is a Jewish archangel who supposedly communicates with her, is depicted as a long-haired muscular blond with white wings! In short, not a Judaic angel, but more like a Norse god named Thor. Pathetic. For this reason and others, this story doesn't seem organic. It doesn't seem life-like. It's more like reading a history book than ever it is a work which gives us the opportunity to enjoy and celebrate a living, thriving person exhibiting bravery you can rarely find in modern YA stories, and offering inspiration, and adventure.

That said it would be hard to repeat her story in any age (or in these days nation) other than one bogged down in religious strait-jackets and blind belief in ridiculous fairy tales. Only in such a world could someone so totally fool others in to believing they had a direct line to a god!

This would have made a much better tale had it been explored with a new light - that of a young deluded girl being elevated by men into a figure of inspiration when it served them, and discarding her callously when she was no longer of use, but that tale has yet to be told in this format, to my knowledge. I think this version cruelly under-serves her.

Another approach would have been to have shown how useless God is: in that he cannot do a thing for himself, always having to rely on mere mortal, weak humans to do his work for him, and then failing them repeatedly. I mean, is he an all-powerful god or merely another insane being no better than the Devil, whispering things in people's ears to make them do his absurd and contradictory bidding purely for his own entertainment?

I'm not a believer at all, but let's just pretend there is a god who for reasons unknown, wishes half a century later to reverse Agincourt, where the English soundly beat the French on their home turf, and who now wants the French to beat the English on that same turf. There's actually a whole other story right there about a schizophrenic god who doesn't know what he wants, but I don't want to pursue that here.

Set aside any quibbles about why this god even cares who owns France, when he's always been the "God of Israel," not anywhere else, and then not even the God of all of Israel, but a mountain god - a god of the hill tribes. Instead let's pretend he actually cares. If it's that important, then why pick an obscure girl from nowheresville? Why not pick the pope?

Better yet, why not do his dirty work himself, and de-materialize the English army? Instead, we're expected to believe that this purportedly all-powerful god cannot do the job and is forced to pick an illiterate and highly superstitious child, and force her to try and change history before abandoning her to misery and suffering. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and in effect means that this god murdered that child.

And for what? The war did not end with her. France did not become whole immediately because of her. Indeed, even after it became whole, it later fell to the English after Napoleon's depredations. Where was this god then? Where was his messenger then? France again fell to the Nazis, and in the worst way. Where was this god then? Where was the messenger then? What was the point? Why only one messenger in a suspiciously superstitious and ignorant time and then no more? Does this god not take a long view?! Or is the real story not that he's so petty and short-sighted, but that there really is no god other than what we sad and ignorant humans invent to delude ourselves with, and to satisfy our own petty needs of the moment?

It makes even less sense that he would then allow his savior to be burned, but he does have a history of throwing his Messiahs to the wolves, doesn't he? Even if he is real, he's not a god I want anything to do with. There's a far better story to be told about Jeanne than ever we've been given by those blinkered people who merely retell the historical plot points without any feeling or heart and add nothing new in the telling. I can't recommend this one at all.


Battling Boy by Paul Pope


Rating: WARTY!

I'm back again after taking a couple of weeks off from blogging to pursue illustrations for the print version of Baker Street, the e-version of which is released today.

This graphic novel was a bust for me. The most amusing thing about it was that when I first saw it on the library shelf I thought the title was "Pope Battling Boy" which I thought was hilarious. But no, it's just Battling Boy - the ''Pope part came from the author's pretentious conceit of putting his name at the top and the title below it, like this is supposed to mean something to me.

I'm sorry, but no! I don't borrow - and I certainly don't buy - a book for no other reason than that the author thinks I should because it's by him - or her. I read books based on whether they sound appealing, and I often get that wrong! I don't go by the title or by the pretty cover (yes, insanely melodramatic cover reveal authors, I'm looking at you!) and I really don't care who the author is, or what they've done previously. I'd hate to think people were buying my books just because my name is on them and for no other reason. People who think like that are morons.

I sure learned my lesson here with the confused and chaotic story and the indifferent illustrations I got. The basic story is that the super hero who protects the town in this purely fictional alternate world - but which looks exactly like ours - is killed by super villains whose sole purpose in life (other than dressing like mummies) seems to be abducting children - for reasons which are unexplained. A lot of things go unfortunately unexplained in this book because it's part of a series, which is one reason I thoroughly detest most series I've ever encountered.

The super hero has the absurd name of Haggard West. His replacement is his daughter who, again for reasons unexplained, has a different name from her father. But there's a second replacement. For reasons unexplained, it's a kid whose bar mitzvah is to be dumped into this world from the heavens by his Thor rip-off dad, so he can prove himself. He's given no instructions, no tools, and no training - for reasons unexplained. He's just left there to fight the monsters which invade this city routinely...for reasons unexplained.

For reasons unexplained, he has a set of t-shirts which are imprinted each with a different animal logo - mostly real, but in one case mythical. For reasons unexplained, when he dons a Tee, it doesn't give him the powers of the animal, it makes the animal appear and talk to him offering pretty much useless advice. For reasons which ought to be clear by now, I don't recommend this book.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Chimpanzee Complex Vol 2 The Sons of Areas by Richard Marazano, Jean-Michel Ponzio


Rating: WARTY!

Here's a problem with series that single books never have to face: unless you, as a reader, can get your hands on the compendium edition, you have to root out all the individual volumes! Thus, series are in no way written for the reader, but for the lucrative gratification of money-grubbing authors and publishers. This is one major reason why I will never write a series. It's not worth selling out for.

And how dumb does a publisher have to be to favor a series (which you know they do, especially in the YA world) when they have no idea how good it's going to be? All they have is the first volume and a promise of two or more follow-ups. They have no way of knowing how good or bad those will be, yet they would rather commit to that, blinded by cash rewards, than give three single-volume authors a chance because they can only rake in one third the money with one volume? Screw them. That's not a world I want to be a part of.

Thus my issue with this, a graphic novel translated from the original French (Le Complexe du Chimpanzé: les Fils d'Arès), the very medium which tends to be, almost by definition, episodic. The library had volume two on display which was odd, and it looked interesting from a brief skim. The artwork by Jean-Michel Ponzio looked pretty good, but they didn't have volume one. It would have been wiser on the part of the library to have not put this out there without including the first volume.

Anyway, I figured to take a chance (and it failed)! The story made no sense whatsoever, and I suspected that even had I read volume one, and assuming it had impressed me enough (of which I confess I have some serious doubts) that I ever made to to volume two, it would still make no sense. The problem (again definitive of series) is that the story really goes nowhere. In volume two there can be no beginning - that bus left with volume one, and since there is a volume three, there can be no ending here. So all we have is this free-floating story fragment, and I could make neither têtes nor queues of it.

The plot? Well, that's an open question. Other than its dedication to cheapening the achievements of people like Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin, what does it offer? Nothing that I can see. In volume one, set in 2035, a space capsule plunges into the Indian Ocean and when it's recovered, it's found to contain Armstrong, and Aldrin - and no Michael Collins apparently! Collins became the most isolated and lonely man in the world (or rather out of it) in 1969 when, having dropped off his two companions on the Moon's surface, he went behind the Moon alone, and was out of touch with the rest of humanity for a period of time! Yet not a word about him!

In this volume, we meet this woman who is going to Mars, leaving behind her daughter. No father is evidently in sight although there is this guy who is supposedly in charge of the young girl, but who he was I have no idea. He wasn't very good at what he was charged with undertaking, for sure. But more to the point, what woman would do that to a young child? Going to the Moon for a week or ten days, I can see, but going on a round trip to Mars for a year? That's child abuse. Her daughter feels it pointedly too, and runs away from home (she seems to be completely unsupervised), yet while I was mildly interested in the daughter's adventure, I had no interest whatsoever in the mother's non-adventure, which while commendable in that she was not your usual pale Caucasian protagonist (she was Asian) was boring.

And who, in 2035, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Russian cosmonauts from 1961 (I love the rotational symmetry of that year!) - such that she knows the middle name and exact dates of Gagarin's life milestones? This is an example of truly bad writing, and frankly, that was the weakest link here - not only did the writing make no sense, it wasn't even inspired. I really disliked this story.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Emily The Strange: Rock Issue by Rob Reger, Jessica Gruner, Kitty Remington, Brian Brooks, Buzz Parker


Rating: WARTY!

I'm not even going to dignify this drivel with a significant review because it's not worth my valuable time, and it was so awful I pretty much skimmed the whole thing. The only rock references are to antique and irrelevant musicians in this modern world and to actual rocks. I am so disappointed in this whole mini-series. It's trite, tedious, and boring beyond hellish. Skip it. Avoid this series altogether, and read instead the four novels and the newer graphic novel about Emily's band: Emily and the Strangers.


Emily The Strange: Let There Be Darkby Rob Reger, Jessica Gruner, Brian Brooks, Kitty Remington, Buzz Parker


Rating: WARTY!

This is volume three of a seriously disappointing four-comic series.

After enjoying a previous graphic novel which was my first introduction to Emily, and then all four of the novels written about her, I was really looking forward to these, but they were not at all what I had hoped for. far form it.

The problem was that this set doesn't tell a story like the others do. The title of the volume sets the theme for the content, which is a set of mini-stories which are neither entertaining nor in any way satisfying.

God made Woman in My Own Image The forerunner to Emily's duplication of herself in the Stranger and Stranger novel. Read that instead.
Emily Created Creatures of the Night Totally boring.
Scarytale theater felt staged.
Go to the Dark overshadowed by later work.
Danger in the Dark
What's Darker Than Dark? Unintellidrivel.

That was it - hardly anything and what there was of anything wasn't worth reading.


Emily The Strange: This Cover Got Lost by Jessica Gruner, Rob Reger, Buffy Visick, Brian Brooks, Buzz Parker


Rating: WARTY!

This is volume two of a disappointing four comic series I requested from the library and the only thing to distinguish it, apart from the admittedly amusing title, is the delightfully named Buffy Visick joining the writing team (along with Brian Brooks). How four writers can come up with so little in the way of entertainment is the real entertainment here.

After enjoying a previous graphic novel which was my first introduction to Emily, and then all four of the novels written about her, I was really looking forward to these, but they were not at all what I had hoped for, and nothing like the previous material I'd read in terms of quality, inventiveness, or entertainment value. I was sorry to leave this character on such a sour note, but glad I read these last, because if I'd have read these first, I would likely never have read anything else and would have been poorer for it.

For me the problem was that this set doesn't really tell a story like the others do. Instead they consist of mediocre red and black illustrations (which could be called media ocher, I guess! LOL! as long as we're about to talk of bad punning), which tell mini tales all of which seem to often revolve around poor puns which really can't be stretched into a longer story. The title of the volume sets the theme for the content, and I found it amusing on this occasion especially since graphic novel cover artist has such a big (an unwarranted) deal made over it, but a lot of the references are to the pop culture of yesteryear, many of them antiques now, so the appeal is very limited. I recognized most of the names of the rocks stars of yesteryear featured in one story, but only one of the album covers, so that entire two page spread was lost on me. Lost is what I was in this, often, so again the title works if in a way unintended by the creators.

The stories in this volume were:
The Lost Art of was an empty frame.
Lost in Vision - blind pursuit of anything like entertainment value.
Lostco This was genuinely funny and entertaining, but the sad thing is that this is the only article out of all four comics that was worth reading.
Beauty is Lost Ugly.
Lost City Should have been included in the boring first volume.
Lost in Space Too spaced out.
Scarytale Theater Bring down the curtain.
Lost my Mind Agreed. Don't write anything else until you get it back!


Emily The Strange: Chairman of the Bored by Rob Reger, Brian Brooks, Jessica Gruner, Buzz Parker


Rating: WARTY!

This is volume one of a disappointing four comic series I requested from the library. After enjoying a previous graphic novel which was my first introduction to Emily, and then all four of the novels written about her, Emily, I was really looking forward to these, but they were not at all what I had hoped for and nothing like the previous material in terms of quality, inventiveness, or entertainment value. I was sorry to leave this character on such a sour note, but glad I read these last, because if I'd have read these first, I would likely never have read anything else and would have been poorer for it.

For me the problem was that this set doesn't really tell a story like the others do. Instead they consist of mediocre red and black illustrations (which could be called media ochre, I guess! LOL!), which tell mini tales all of which seem to revolve around bad puns which really don't make the transition to a longer story. The title of the volume sets the theme for the content, but a lot of the references are to the pop culture of yesteryear, many of them antiques now, so the appeal is very limited. I recognized most of the names of the rocks stars of yester year featured in one story, but only one of the album covers, so that entire two page spread was lost on me. Bored is what I was, so the title works, if in a way unintended by the creators.

It was written by Reger, Brooks, and Gruner, and largely illustrated poorly by Parker. The main stories in this volume were:
Strange sauce, where Emily flavors cafeteria food with a concoction o her own and turns everyone into monsters. Boring.
Thirteen other uses for wire hangers Lame.
head in the clouds Thin.
Bored to death Stuffing nonsense.
Croquet with the damned Laughable, and not in a good way.
Grow'n Up vegetative.

That was pretty much it. A complete bust. I do not recommend this. By all means do read the other works on Emily, but nothing from this series is worth your time.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Emily and the Strangers Vol 1 by Rob Reger, Mariah Huehner, Emily Ivie


Rating: WARTY!

I must have slept through the nineties because I had never heard of "Emily The Strange" until I saw this graphic novel in my ever-adored local library. It called to me, but now I'm left lamenting what else is out there that I might never happen upon.

Emily, as represented in this short graphic novel, is completely lovable, from her 'tude, to the way she's drawn and colored. She's a perfect mix of Goth and Steamed-punk. I love her positive, if aggressive, attitude, her never-defeatist approach to life, and her very inventive G-Rated cussing, which was hilarious.

From reading around (yeah, I'm a shameless book slut!) Rob Reger's friend Nathan Carrico designed Emily in 1991 for a skateboard company(!). Reger created the designs, and he and Matt Reed brought them into the fashion world on T-shirts featuring this girl and 4 black cats (one of which no doubt had a ring-tailed lemur tail). Those cats have bred, because there are many in this story, and they're exquisitely depicted. I don't know anything about Emily Ivie, the evidently very talented artist, but co-writer (with Reger) Mariah (that's mar-eye-uh, not mar-ee-uh) Huehner describes herself as a "big old geeky nerd who loves talking about stories and storytelling." She lied! Her face isn't old and her eyes are very young which is probably why she can get inside Emily The Strange's head so readily.

This volume combines the first three issues of the Emily (and) the Strange(rs) mini-series in which her idol Professa Kraken dies, and she has the chance to win his octopod-inspired guitar - which is also conveniently haunted by his spirit. The story here is that Emily strives to win the guitar, and just as she is convinced she missed her chance, fate (and cats) conspire to put her in front. The odd thing, which I really didn't get, is that even though she won it, there's a condition attached to it: that in order to keep it, she must win the battle of the bands, for which the anti-social (if not sociopathic) Emily must put together an actual band.

The story then moralizes somewhat about team-work and 'can't we all just get along', so for me it lost some momentum at that point, but it was still enjoyable. I'd dispute that this is a young-adult story! It felt much more like middle-grade to me, but it was fun. The other characters in the band were interesting. There was the guy who factored into Emily's success in the guitar contest; I don't know what his angle is and I wasn't too fond of him. He's a fan, if not a stalker of Emily's, and he rather creepily named himself Evan Stranger (Even Stranger), but other than his weird addiction to Emily, he isn't strange at all.

There was also Winston and Willow, who are fraternal twins, but otherwise complete opposites, and there is Raven, who is a girl-bot which was made and then lost track of by Emily, and who is now working in a vinyl, record store where Emily encounters her again. She fascinated me, but got very little air-time. This band doesn't work until the final member turns up, the very orange Trilogy, and then they're winners all the way.

Now I'm interested in Emily. I'd like to read the story of her creating Raven, and also about her earlier history. I recommend this one.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lady Mechanika Vol. 2: The Tablet of Destinies by Joe Benítez, MM Chen, Martin Montiel, Mike Garcia


Rating: WARTY!

This combines volumes one through six of the original comic books and was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

In a beautifully wrought steam-punk world, the young daughter of a friend of Lady Mechanika's is in need of assistance, and the Lady responds. Her father has disappeared on a quest in Africa, and Mechanika sets out to find out what happened. Her quest is lent added urgency when the young girl is kidnapped. Mechanika meets a mysterious guy in London, who offers air transportation to Germany, where the kidnap victim is, and where lies another clue pointing to a specific site in Africa, so they set off there, only to crash in the desert and be taken prisoner by slavers!

Meanwhile in interleaved portions, we get the view from the other end of this quest, where the professor and his assistant are under pressure to decipher ancient scripts and uncover what the villains believe is an unprecedentedly powerful weapon.

The adventure was well-written, fast-moving, and full of action and feisty characters, including the distressed young girl at the start. The artwork was beautifully done and colored. That alone would have been sufficient for me to rate this graphic novel as a worthy read, but what bothered me too much here was what I let slip by in volume one, and it was the sexualization of all the female characters. When the blurb says, "Lady Mechanika immediately drops everything" it really means her clothes, and for me, this is what brought this particular volume down.

I found it disturbing, because Mechanika is fine regardless of her physical appeal or lack of same! She doesn't need to be rendered in endlessly sexual ways to be an impressive character. It's sad that graphic novel creators seem so completely ignorant of this fact. It's like they have this phobia that their female characters are going to be useless and entirely unappealing unless their sexuality is exploited. I'm not sure if this failing says more about the creators or about their readership, but either way it's obnoxious and I sincerely wish they had more faith in women than they evidently do. Do we really want to be writing comics which only appeal to people who see women as sex objects and very little else? Do we really want to be perpetuating a message as clueless as it is antiquated, and which offers only the sleazy equation that girls = sex = girls? I hope not.

This abuse was bordering on being abused in the first volume, but it was nowhere near as rife as it was here, so why they went full metal lack-it in this one is a mystery. Unlike in the first volume, it was all-pervasive here, with full-page in-your-face images of scantily clad adventurers bursting at what few seams they had, entirely impractically dressed for their quest.

I guess I should be grateful that the African woman who joined Lady Mechanika wasn't bare-breasted, but what I most noticed about Akina (other than the fact that she at least had a Congolese name) was that she looked like your typically white-washed model from Ebony magazine, not like the Congolese woman she supposedly was, whose skin would have been darker, and her face broader and less Nordic-nosed-white-westerner than this woman's was.

Why are comic book artists so afraid of showing the real world? Do they think real Congolese women are unappealing? Or is it that they feel they cannot sell the sexuality of a black woman (as opposed to a pale brown one)? If this medium is to grow-up and maintain relevance and meaning, then this kind of bias needs to be dispensed with urgently, because it's bone-headed at best, and racist at worst.

So, despite the appeal of the art in general, and the entertainment value of the story, I can't condone these practices, and I cannot rate positively a graphic novel which is so brazenly perpetrating abuses like this one did.


Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse by Joe Benítez, Peter Steigerwald


Rating: WORTHY!

This gathers volumes 1 through five of the single comic books and was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I had a better experience with this one than I did with the second volume of the series, which I requested at the same time as this. The steam-punk world is rendered and colored beautifully, and the story was an intriguing and entertaining one, well told. Lady Mechanika is a cyborg - inasmuch as such things went in Edwardian times. I am by no means a fashion expert, not even in modern times, so I may have this wrong, but the styles didn't look Victorian to me, notwithstanding what the blurb says. That's not a problem, just an observation. I rather liked them as it happens. Joe Benítez and Peter Steigerwald could probably make a living as fashion designers if they ever tire of comic books!

Lady Mechanika is quite evidently someone's creation, but her memory is impaired, so her origins are as much of a mystery to her as they are to us. I am wondering if the guy she meets in volume two (reviewed separately) might have some knowledge of that, but it remains a mystery in that volume, too! Her mechanical parts are her limbs, and her 'title' was given to her by the tabloids. Her backstory isn't delivered here or in volume two, so we don't know how she came to be a private investigator and adventurer. I was interested in this story because of the upcoming (as of this writing) live-action remake of the Ghost in the Shell movie, which is a favorite of mine. I'm looking forward to the new one.

When the story opens, the Lady meets the 'Demon of Satan's Alley' which appears to be some sort of a human animal hybrid and which isn't a demon but which has been demonized by the public. Some crazy guys blunder in and kill it before Lady Mechanika can talk to it enough to maybe find out what it knows of its past - and maybe of hers, too. She's not best pleased by that. Soon she's off adventuring and trying to track down this creator of mechanical melanges. In this regard, the story has some resemblances to Ghost in the Shell, including the overt and unnecessary sexuality.

There were some technical issues with this as there are with all graphic novels which have not yet clued themselves in to the electronic age. In BlueFire Reader, which is what I use on the iPad, the pages are frequently enlarging themselves to fill the screen which means a portion of the page is curt off, since the iPad screen and the comic book page size are out of whack compared with each other, the comic book being a little too 'tall and slim' for the 'stouter' table format.

This is something I can work with, but whenever there's a double-page spread, it means turning the tablet from portrait view to landscape and back again for the next page. This isn't such a hassle except that the tablet is self-orienting, so the page is constantly swinging around like a loose yard-arm on a boat at sea.

One image was a portrait-oriented double-page spread, and it was so set-up that I could not orient this to view it since the image always swung to the wrong orientation no matter what i did! The only way to actually see it as intended by the creators was to orient it as a landscape, then carefully lay the pad flat and rotate it while it stayed flat; then the image was view-able in all its glory, but this only served to highlight one other problem - the minuscule text. It's far too small for comfortable reading. I know comics are all about imagery, but for me, unless there's also a decent story, all you really have, is a pretty coffee-table art book. It seems to me that artists and writers might consider collaborating a bit more closely on legibility!

This is going to become increasingly a problem as the old school comic fraternity struggles to repel all technology boarders. Personally, I prefer e-format to print format as a general rule, if only because it's kinder to trees, which are precious. The sentiment is especially poignant when we read horror stories to the effect that 80,000 copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel Freedom had to be pulped because of typos. At 3 kg of carbon emissions per book, that's not a charmed system. You would need to read a hundred books for every one print book to balance the manufacturing pollution of an e-reader against that of the print version, but then your ebook comes over the wire at very little cost to the environment, whereas the print book has to be transported to you, even if only home from the store in your car.

But you can also argue the other side, which is that reading devices employ petrochemical products, and precious and toxic metals, and probably contains 'conflict' minerals which were mined in the Congo (curious given the location for volume two in this series!); however, you can argue that a multi-use device, such as a tablet or a smart phone, can be employed as an ebook reader without contributing to even more environmental carnage than it might already have caused. On the other page, you can also argue that a book never needs upgrading (as countless young-adult Jane Austen rip-offs have conclusively proven), will last for years, and can be recycled when done with. So you pays your greenbacks and you hopes you get the green back.

For this volume, I think it worth reading in any format, and I recommend it if you can overlook the sexploitation which is relatively restrained in this volume.