Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Last item that the Kiddo brought home from school.

Title: The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: 1997
Writer: Dav Pilkey
Artist: Dav Pilkey

I'm reviewing this here because it has parts in sequential art form. This is another recent kids book that blurs the line between prose and graphic novel.

Two school pranksters get caught on tape pulling off a whole series of pranks the day of the big football game. These kids also happen to be the creators of a comic book called Captain Underpants, which they sell to their classmates.

When the principal uses the video tape to blackmail them into doing all of his chores for him, they resort to hypnosis (in the form of a mail-order hypnosis ring from a comic book advertisement) to get the incriminating video tape back.

But when they use hypnosis to convince the principal that he is Captain Underpants, he rushes off to fight crime and actually finds a real supervillain to do battle with. Can George and Harold save the day with only slingshots, skateboards, and fake dog-poop?

This was way funnier than I was expecting, mostly because the writer knows his way around comic cliches. I was expecting all toilet humor, but that is surprisingly kept to a minimum, and the story delivers some pretty decent nerdy humor instead.

This was a pleasant surprise.

Rating: 7.5/10

Princeless Volume 1

From the unread book shelf, rather than the random stack of unread comics (which stands at 5 to go with less than 24 hours to departure). I bought this in the English-language section of one of the local bookstores here in Ho Chi Minh City.

Title: Princeless
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Date: 2015
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: M. Goodwin
Colorist: M. Goodwin
Letterer: Jung Ha Kim
Editor:Shawn Gabborin

Trade paperback collection of the first four issues of this comic series.

What I loved about Princeless is that not only does it turn classic fairy tale tropes on their heads, it continually comes up with new, original, and surprising ways of doing so.

The story begins with Princess Adrienne. Growing up extremely cynical of the old tales of princesses locked away in towers, she finds herself in that very situation despite her determination to avoid it.

But rather than waiting for her prince to come and save her, Princess Adrienne befriends the dragon guarding her, fakes her own death, takes up a sword that she finds conveniently placed under her bed in the tower, and sets off to rescue her sisters from the towers they have been placed in.

This story is nonstop fun, slowing down only for a couple of tender moments before moving into more mayhem as Adrienne navigates the perils of impractical female armor, makes a new friend and ally, and finds herself on the run from her own father's guards.

Short backup story gives a funny view of the world from the Prince's side of things.

This was witty and amusing, and I look forward to reading more.

Rating: 8.5/10


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jesus Hates Zombies: Those Slack Jaw Blues #0

From the random stack of unread comics. We're about 36 hours from departure, with five comics left in the stack after this one. I'll be fitting in as many reviews as I can in between frantic packing.

Title: Jesus Hates Zombies: Those Slack Jaw Blues
Issue: #0
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Date: 2007
Writer: Stephen Lindsay, Michael Bartolotta
Artist: Jordan M. Dalton, Danilo Beyruth. Steve Willhite, Jeff McComsey, Lonny Chant, Lauren Monardo
Letterer: Jason Baroody, Stephen Lindsay
Editor: Erin Kohut

This pretty much delivers exactly what the title promises. There is a full-on zombie apocalypse happening. Most human life on Earth is either dead or undead. And Jesus returns to destroy zombies. Unfortunately for Jesus, He is seriously low on divine power, since His power on Earth is apparently proportional to the amount of truly faithful worshippers, most of which have been eaten or turned to zombies by now. So He must handle things the traditional way: by bashing zombies with baseball bats, bowling balls, or whatever weapon is handy.

The comic itself is an anthology, with the set-up story that explains the scenario followed by six more generally stand-alone vignettes. Jesus encounters survivors, downloads driving instructions from God to escape a zombie horde, goes fishing, goes bowling, discovers a truly-believing (and semi-intelligent) zombie, and faces down a horde of zombified rats.

There are some good moments in places, and there is a lot of brainless (!) zombie-bashing. Jesus is portrayed as a fairly generic guy, just out for his own survival and annoyed about the whole zombie situation. God is the disappointed parent who wishes his Son would get more done sooner on Earth.

It works for what it is, but there's a lot more that could be explored with this idea. Hopefully the story will gain more complexity beyond the basic joke of the premise as the series continues.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jack the Rabbit #1

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Jack the Rabbit
Issue: #1
Publisher: Pandemonium Comix
Writer: Bill Gladman
Artist: Bill Gladman

Standard comic size, but all newsprint, including cover, and sixteen pages long.

Set in an alternate dimension, the story is established in a prose introduction linking the Tunguska explosion of 1908 with the Bermuda Triangle, and some cold-war politics.

The comic starts with the main character, a member of a humanoid-rabbit species in dimension known as the Territories (Stephen King reference, possibly?). He is trouble by dreams of a human boy who tells him that he is the "Chosen One" who will save the world. He is less than receptive to the idea.

There are a fair number of references to classic heavy metal music here, from the Kiss t-shirt worn by the dream character to a Ronnie James Dio quote.

The framing story was interesting, and I like the detail work on the art, even if it is hurt a bit by the newsprint format. The writing on the comic portions are quite verbose, and not a whole lot actually happens in this issue, in spite of the amount of words used.

Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Belles of Ball Point

From the random stack of unread comics. I'm pretty sure I picked this one up in Columbus at SPACE, but I'm not sure what year.

Title: The Belles of Ball Point
Publisher: Fridge-Mag
Writer: Suzanne Baumann
Artist: Suzanne Baumann

What's the biggest thing I've reviewed on this blog? It's Jeff Smith's Complete Bone, reviewed here.

But now let's talk about the smallest thing I've reviewed. That prize goes to this micro-minicomic, along with its companion piece The Birds of Ball Point (reviewed here).

This tiny collection of portraits presents six notable ladies of Ball Point (plus the cover illustrations), in a whimsical art style with a hint of political satire (Pat Riotact!).

Suzanne Baumann's work is always a lot of fun, and this was a very cute item presentation of a nice collection of sketches.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Blood Debt Chapter 1 Preview

Continuing to work my way through the random stack of unread comics.

Title: The Blood Debt Chapter 1 Preview
Date: 2008
Publisher: Swafford Creek Studios
Writer: Brent Bowman
Artist: Brent Bowman

This is a minicomic preview for a graphic novel based on Irish mythology.

Under the leadership of the newly-returned Lugh, the Tuatha De Danaan prepare for open rebellion against the Formorians, the monstrous race that had ruled over them.

But as Lugh's father sets off on a diplomatic mission, old blood-feuds threaten to destroy the unity of the Tuatha before the war can even begin.

This took a bit to get going, but the pace (and my interest) picked up toward the end. The artwork will look a lot better in the full graphic novel, than in this minicomic.

Writer/artist Brent Bowman does a nice job with his designs for the mythical characters, especially the Formorians, which have something of a Lovecraftian flavor here.

Rating: 6/10

Pop Art Funnies #6

The Sunday review marathon continues! I found one more comic in my backpack that I had overlooked, so we'll be at nine comics left in the random stack of unread comics after this review. That puts me at two per day to finish the stack by Friday, if I don't do any more tonight.

I have no idea where I got this next one.

Title. Pop Art Funnies
Issue: #6
Publisher: MPH Comics
Date: 2006
Writer: Martin Hirchak
Artist: Martin Hirchak

This is a collection of short humorous stories in a traditional comic format. The art style is definitely 1970s underground-influenced, and it goes for the kind of countercultural irreverent vibe that the undergrounds were known for.

The first and longest story is the origin story for Super Bull, a superhero parody featuring a mild-mannered music fanzine writer getting transformed into a humanoid bull (minotaur?) following a rather complex accident involving plutonium, voodoo, and a bullfight. It's a good start, but it felt like it ended just when things were getting interesting.

There are two single-page Captain Scurvy the Pirate stories, and a tour of Philadelphia featuring a cranky ghost of Ben Franklin.

None of this was laugh-out-loud funny, but there were a few giggles to be had here and there. The drug jokes were a bit too obvious for my tastes, and the Captain Scurvy cartoons featured a lot of setup for a single simple joke each.

Rating: 5/10