Friday, January 18, 2019

Circadia #3

Third issue of a set of four that I got from the creator's Kickstarter.

Title: Circadia
Issue: 3
Date: 2018
Publisher: 36 Plums
Writer: Jennifer Dugan
Art: Jey Pawlik
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Cover: Olivia Stephens

My review of the first issue is here, and my review of the second issue is here.

Tara's dream lover from the dimension of Circadia has been transported back to Earth, and all they want to do is to get back to Circadia where the palace is under attack by the monstrous forces of Smoake.

But when Zara tries to transport them back, she discovers that it may be too late, and Smoake has sent some of his creatures back to attack them on Earth.

This chapter does a nice job of moving through Aderes' stranger-in-strange-land experiences and launching right back into the action.

Zara gets in a bunch of great lines here while Aderes does a lot of standing around wide-eyed. Fortunately the direction of the plot becomes more clear by the end of this issue.

The rotating artists used in the series can be a bit odd-seeming at first, but issue three artist Jey Pawlik is very quick to develop and really fun style for Zara. Aderes felt like a bit more of a departure from the previous issues, but by the end of this I was enjoying their look as well.

I would like to get a bit more insight into the villain as the series approaches its climax, but the interaction between Zara and Aderes continues to be a lot of fun.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hot Tea, Cold Water #1

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Hot Tea, Cold Water
Issue: 1
Date: 2009
Publisher:Leann Leake (leannleake@gmail.com)
Editor: Leann Leake
Contributors:Ygril Blop, Dad (the editor's Dad), Amanda Faith, KC Green, Erin Griffin, Hooroo Jackson, Leann Leake, Andrew Lorenzi, Melissa, Rob Nussbaumer

I reviewed the third issue in this series (which my wife contributed to) eight years ago. That review is here. Finally found issues 1 and 2 in the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Hot Tea, Cold Water is a zine, although it does feature come comics content alongside essays and prose poems. Each issue features a variety of contributors, and each issue is based around a theme. The theme of this issue was jobs and joblessness.

I was expecting something unrelentingly anticapitalist, but there was actually quite a variety of viewpoints and approaches to the theme, covering a wide range of experiences with jobs, job searches, employment, and unemployment.

I was also pleased to find several different voices from the education field, which ended up being my favorite pieces. School speech therapist Amanda Faith's collection of journal entries on her work was heartfelt and powerful, and elementary music teacher Melissa's prose poems did a wonderful job of capturing the rhythm of the school year.

There was a fun selection of wordless comics by Erin Griffin, featuring a running theme of pigs and work.KC Green's two page comic about finding his favorite job was good lighthearted fun. Editor Leann Leake also contributed a journal comic about a summer job in food service. And Andrew Lorenzi had a good one-page comic capturing the stress of the job search out of college with the looming pressure of student loans and other financial woes.

Hooroo Jackson's essay on insects was rambly, and a bit of a stretch to fit the theme, but it had a couple of wonderfully outrageous lines. And Ygril Blop's "The Beast" was the anticapitalist rant that I had expected the whole zine to be (and a really good, intense rant at that).

Sprinkled in between the essays and comics were some serious bits of job search advice from the editor's Dad, along with a nice selection of book, movie, and zine reviews, all on-theme.

It's been about ten years since this was published, but it all still felt very timely in today's economy, and I particularly appreciated the teaching experiences that were represented.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Star Wars: Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan

This was my best find at the PTA used book table at my school's Back to School Bash in September.

Title: Star Wars: Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: 2014
Writer: Jeffrey Brown
Artist: Jeffrey Brown

Jedi Padawan Roan Novachez is back for his second year at Coruscant's Jedi Academy. He's excited to get back together with friends, and he's eager to start his star pilot flight training, confident that this in one class he's sure to ace.

But as the year goes on, his friendships start to sour over a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, and he finds new friends in the two biggest bullies in the Academy. Roan doesn't mean to cause harm, but once he's in with the wrong crowd, he finds it's hard to make things right again.

This book did a nice job of taking the very likeable main character from the first book, and showing, well, his dark side. I read this with the Kiddo, and he was clearly getting fed up with Roan's behavior as the climax neared.

Some of the situations are fairly typical school-drama scenarios that could be solved easily enough if people would just talk to each other, but a lot of Roan's choices through the story, even his bad choices, made a lot of sense.

This was not as much fun as the first book, but it did add a decent amount of depth to the story and to the character of Roan.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Rose & Paige

The Kiddo got this one for Christmas. It was purchased at Merrymac Games and Comics in Merrimack NH.

Title: Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Rose & Paige
Date: January 2018
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artist: Nicoletta Baldari
Colorist: Nicoletta Baldari
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Editor: Bobby Curnow, Denton J. Tipton, Peter Adrian Behravesh
Cover: Nicoletta Baldari

This is an all-ages Star Wars one-shot featuring the Tico sisters before the events of The Last Jedi.

Faced with the task of gathering needed supplies on an uninhabited planet, and lacking equipment, Rose cobbles together wheeled vehicles to scout the planet's jungles. Resistance General Lazslo is skeptical, and Rose's own self-doubts are one of her biggest obstacles, but she goes ahead with her plan, and ends up having to save her sister from some unexpected danger.

This was one of the least violent Star Wars stories I've run across. Just Rose and Paige against nature and bad luck. The real conflict is Rose's struggle for her own self-confidence.

It's a bit more wordy than it really needs to be, and I would have liked to have seen a bit more focus on Paige, since she is the character that we know less about, but it still manages to be a charming adventure that feels fresh and different while still unmistakably Star Wars.

Nicoletta Baldari's artwork is wonderfully expressive, and a nice fit with this feel-good story.

Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, January 14, 2019

Red Sonja #15

Got this one as part of a batch of comics I bought at Double Midnight in Manchester NH over Christmas break.

Title: Red Sonja
Issue: 15
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2015
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Colorist: Adriano Lucas, Alex Guimaraes, Marco Lesko
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Joseph Rybrandt
Cover: Jenny Frison

Sonja has killed the wizard that she was hired to defeat, but the wizard's curse has made her a danger to the villagers who had hired her. Now with the wizard's equally deadly brother on his way to town, Sonja's hands are mutilated and useless, her body wracked with fever, and her mind crippled with doubt.

With death looming, Sonja must rediscover the ability to forgive and then use her wits to save the village.

This had a really satisfying final conclusion with the arrogant wizard getting everything he deserves in a confrontation full of tension and surprises.

The lead-up was good too, with Sonja having to see the fear that she instills in innocent people.

The action was gory in places, but there were some really spectacular big action panels, and some nice character work in the art as well.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant #1

I believe this is a Walmart exclusive, at least that's the only place I've ever seen these new DC 100-Page Comic Giant editions. I bought this one at a Walmart in Massachusetts during our Christmas visit home to the USA.

Title: Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant
Issue: 1
Date: 2018
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Dan Didio, Paul Dini, Steve Niles, Mikey Way, J. Michael Straczynski, Denny O'Neil, Len Wein
Artist: Greg Caputo, Jonathan Glapion, Dustin Nguyen, Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmuno, Dean Ormston, Mateus, Jesus Saiz, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Berni Wrightson
Colorist: FCO Plascencia, Rod Reis, Chris Peter, Trish Mulvhill
Letterer: Travis Lanham, Rob Leigh
Editor: Dave Wielgosz, Chris Conroy, Joey Cavalieri, Julius Schwartz

This is a mass-market special featuring one new Swamp Thing story, and seven horror-themed reprints from all over the DC Universe (there isn't a one-to-one listing of the original sources, but the stories come from Batman, Brave and the Bold, House of Secrets, and a couple of the past DC Halloween Specials). The lineup of creators is impressive, and a decent variety of DC Comics characters are featured as well, with the Swamp Thing getting the first and last stories.

First up was the new Swamp Thing story, featuring Twiglet interrupting some Halloween mayhem that turns out to be more than just treats. She tells a story of her first meeting with the Swamp Thing, before giving the bad guys a more personal introduction. This was the only story that was in the current continuity, and it felt rather choppy and incomplete, with a lot of vague references to a being that I assume is going to be a major Swamp Thing Villain going forward.

Next up was Blue Devil and Enchantress in a rather blatant and very dark-comedy parody of It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, with enough names changed for plausible deniability. My main reaction was mostly just to be a bit surprised that they went there. The story itself didn't have much to it.

There also wasn't that much to the Zatanna story, which involved Halloween candy tainted with the Scarecrow's fear-drug. This was a pretty straightforward in why Zatanna is not someone you want to piss off. Ever.

Next up, and odd Superman vs. zombies story. The zombies are magical kryptonite zombies or something which makes this a bit more of a challenge, but it's Superman's reluctance to kill which is what first gets in the way. The ending is strange, but visually fun.

"The Ballad of Jonathan Crane" puts Jonathan in the place of Ichabod in a variant of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It has a fun Gotham by Gaslight style Elseworlds vibe, and features some fuin guest appearances.

Another odd story features the surprising team of Etrigan and Aquaman as they battle, well, Cthulhu basically. This one is a blatant homage (bordering on ripoff) of Lovecraft. The artwork on this story was great, and I am happy to report with Etrigan was in full-rhyming mode, which always makes for a better Demon story. It was fun to see Aquaman in a horror story, and he fit the flavor of it surprisingly well.

The Batman story "Night of the Reaper" was a particularly dark tale of the Dark Knight, all set around a superhero-themed costume parade and costume party. The strangest thing in this story was that because the background characters were mostly ordinary folks cosplaying, the artists got to include a bunch of Marvel characters in the crowds. There were definitely some in-jokes thrown into was was otherwise a grim story about Nazi war criminals and revenge.

Last up was the classic Swamp Thing origin story by the original team of Wein and Wrightson from House of Secrets #92 in 1971. This is still a fun horror story that holds up well, even if it is not the current incarnation of DC's classic monster.

Overall, this is a fun book with a lot of really quirky things going on. Between the various bits of history and the literary and pop culture references, this book should bring a few smiles to the faces of most geeky readers. The stories generally try a bit too hard to be clever, and most are not really particularly good at being genuine horror stories, but I still found it to be a fun book with a real all-star lineup of creators to sample.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Circadia #2

Second issue of a set of four that I got from the creator's Kickstarter.

Title: Circadia
Issue: 2
Date: 2018
Publisher: 36 Plums
Writer: Jennifer Dugan
Art: MJ Erickson
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Cover: Eli Baumgartner

Review of the first issue is here.

Zara's double existence begins to unravel as she is transported to Circadia with her full set of memories from Earth.

Some of this chapter involves catching Zara up on things that have already become obvious to the reader, resulting in a lot of fairly predictable reactions. Fortunately, there are enough little revelations and plot twists thrown in to keep the story interesting.

It's also fun to see the role reversal as Zara asserts her own authority and becomes protective of Aderes against the Queen's anger.

The artwork, this time with MJ Erickson on art duties, continues to be lovely, especially the work on Zara in this issue.

Rating: 7.5/10