Sunday, October 8, 2017

True Believers: Star Wars: Lando #1

I can now say that I've been to comic conventions in three countries! This past Friday, I attended the Shanghai Comic Con with the Kiddo. We had lots of fun, and I brought back a small haul (working on a somewhat limited budget):

Those two Thor comics are promos for the con, and they're in Chinese, so I won't be reviewing them here. I found a vendor selling recent American comics and picked up three Marvel books. I also bought comics from two small-press creators. Those were also both English-language (actually one is bilingual, with all of the dialogue in English and Chinese).

You may have noticed that I have not been reviewing much in the way of standard-format comics since we headed back overseas. This has mostly been an organizational issue. I brought a stack of over 100 comics with me from the US to read and review. Some of those were new purchases over the summer, while most are from my supply of unread comics in storage.

I've added these items from the Shanghai Comic Con to that stack, and I'll be starting to review them on a regular basis, beginning right now.

Title: True Believers: Star Wars: Lando
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: July 2016
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alex Maleev
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover: Alex Maleev, Edgar Delgado
Editor: Jordan D. White, Heather Antos

What a fun book! This is a Lando Calrissian solo story (without Solo! Ha!), and it really nails Lando's personality as he charms his way into not even having to perform the heist he's originally set out to do.

Unfortunately, debts in the underworld of the Star Wars Galaxy tend to add up, and Lando sets his sights on one more job to get himself free and clear. Not surprisingly, he finds that easy money is never really easy, as the ship he steals is going to cause him a lot more grief than he had ever planned for.

This had some good character development that never felt like it got away from the Lando we know and love. It also heavily featured Lobot, who gets some good screen time as Lando's partner-in-crime. The setup of the new heist flows smoothly, and the final complications at the end set up when should be plenty of fun in the issues ahead.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Rival Angels: Rookie Year Volume 4

A friend picked this up for me and got it signed for me at Anime Milwaukee 2017.

Title: Rival Angels: Rookie Year Volume 4
Date: 2012
Publisher: Rival Angels
Writer: Alan Evans, Justin Riley
Artist: Alan Evans
Colorist: Aaron Daly

As a WWE fan, this series continues to impress me with its clear love for pro wrestling. This issue tool place almost entirely at a single PPV show, the Rival Angels Federation's equivalent of Wrestlemania.

All four of the "Upstarts", who have been the focus of the comic, have matches on the card, with Sabrina "Ultragirl" Mancini pulling double duty. She's got her first title match, the finals in the TV title championship, followed by an "I Quit" match inside a cage with Hell's Belles faction leader Chloe DeSade.

Doing an entire wrestling card in comic form in a challenging endeavor, as the pacing of comics isn't going to work as well as video for capturing the action, and there is the danger that the story will seem repetitive with multiple matches needing to be covered. This volume does an impressive job of handling those challenges, making good use of backstage subplots to break up the action happening in the ring, and providing good variety in the matches themselves.

Plenty of classic wrestling tropes were on full display here, with matches won by outside interference, post-match beatdowns, and drama between the commissioner and the talent.

The dialogue could be a bit stilted at times, especially when going for humor, and the attempt to portray the announce team doesn't quite feel "real", but there is no denying the fun of this series.

The final match was a great climax to the Ultragirl's first really big rivalry, and the storyline following the ppv event set the stage for some new directions as the series moves into its second season.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers

This was a gift to the Kiddo from his cousin when we were visiting family over the summer.

Title: Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: 2012
Writer: Dav Pilkey
Artist: Dav Pilkey

The Kiddo and I read the first volume of this series and skipped directly to this one (the ninth), which was probably not the best way to approach this. This book relies fairly heavily on what has come earlier in the series to set things up.

Also, there is time travel involved. Complete with full-on time travel paradoxes that would make the X-Men universe proud. On top of that, this book serves as an origin-story for George and Harold.

And finally, the ending is pretty wild. That's all I'm going to say as far as that goes.

Unfortunately, the "origin" portion drags a bit, making the middle of this book something of a slog (to the extent that a middle-grade mixed-prose-and-sequential book can qualify as a slog).

More unfortunately, a major subplot involves some very sexist tropes in which the bullies are repeatedly humiliated with things that get the rest of the school to perceive them as feminine. I'd really like to be past this sort of thing, but here it is again.

The Kiddo did laugh at most of the jokes, and the time travel stuff got him thinking a bit, but there was enough negative here that I'm not particularly eager to check out #2-8.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Salt Water Taffy 2: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas

I picked up the first volume of this series at New York Comic Con in 2011, and reviewed it here. I proceeded to bring it as one of my recommendations when I was on a panel about all ages comics at Arisia the following January. The first volume was a fun story, which was very rooted in its coastal Maine setting. So I was rather amused to find the second volume on sale at Monument Books in the Aeon Mall in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. That's about as far from Maine as one can get!

Title: Salt Water Taffy
Issue: Volume 2: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas
Date: 2008
Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Matthew Loux
Artist: Matthew Loux
Design: Matthew Loux, Keith Wood
Letterer: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: Randal C. Jarrell

A leisurely family hike leads to a tale of an encounter with Barnabas, the monstrous hat-stealing giant eagle, who resides on the mountain bearing his name. And that mountain is a considerably less leisurely place for hiking.

Still, when their Dad's favorite hat falls victim to Barnabas, Jack and Bennie Putnam dare to make the ascent, encountering various unusual creatures en route to a confrontation with Barnabas himself.

This was a more linear story than the first volume, but there were sill plenty of surprises and twists. The setting blends fantasy and comedy nicely, and the Putnam Boys are fun characters with a comfortable interaction and distinctive personalities.

Matthew Loux's artwork is beautiful, and the pacing of his panels gives the reader a chance to appreciate the scenery, even when hiking up the most dangerous peak in Chowder Bay.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons

Greetings from Shanghai, China! School is underway, so I've been pretty buried in day-job work, settling into my new gig and figuring my way around this city of 25 million (!) people. I brought a big stack of comics from the US, a few new issues, and a lot from the massive unread backlog in our storage unit. I'll be starting to read an review those in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is a book of travel cartoons that I recently finished.

Title: You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons
Date: 2006
Publisher: Hyperion Teens
Writer: Mo Willems
Artist: Mo Willems

Some years back, I was selling used books online as a side gig, and I would occasionally shop the dollar stores to add to my stock, concentrating on SF, fantasy, and graphic novels. This was one of those purchases, and it never sold. So this summer when I decided to donate most of the remaining stock, since we've been living overseas for a few years now and it looks like we're going to continue that, I saved a few of the to-sell books that interested me.

Mo Willems is best known for his childrens books (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!), and as a writer for Sesame Street. This collection of travel cartoons was drawn during a post-college backpacking trip around the world.

I found the cartoons to be a bit hit-or-miss in terms of humor and in terms of insights, but I appreciated the honesty of the project, as Willems presented the image that most inspired him to draw during each day of his travels. There were some familiar scenes here: vendors and motorbikes in Southeast Asia, crowded trains in China, the seemingly endless lists of fines and regulations in Singapore (in Willems' words, "Everything fun ends abruptly at Singapore").

The book also gave me glimpses of plenty of places that I have not had the chance to visit, and even spawned a few travel ideas.

The restriction of one cartoon a day for nearly a year results in some inconsistency, but also in some unexpected insights and surprising revelations. There is a bit of a privileged vibe, as you're going to have with any account of an American's post-college adventures abroad, but Willems mostly manages to temper that with his ability to laugh at his own situation while looking for understand of the people he meets.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

I bought this at the Kiddo's school book fair in the Spring. Read it to the Kiddo during our visit to the US.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at
Date: 2009
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

This volume tells the story of Greg Heffley's summer vacation, although his parents are the real stars of this installment in the series. Greg's mom's relentless and ill-fated efforts to have the "Best Summer Ever" in spite of a budget crunch lead to one disaster after another. Meanwhile Greg''s dad has a defining show of emotion that leads to the dog referenced in the title.

The jokes were a bit mixed. There were some funny ones, some that fell flat, and a few that the Kiddo thought were hilarious (Greg's dad mistaking the trash can at the fast food drive-through for the speaker).

In the end, I would have liked to have seen more from the dog storyline, and less of Greg's on-again-off-again (and borderline abusive) friendship with Rowley.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, July 14, 2017

Star Wars #33

Our travels in the US continue. We spent last weekend in Annapolis MD, where we attended my cousin's wedding. In addition to wedding-based activities, we toured the US Naval Academy, saw Spider-Man: Homecoming (loved it!), and stopped by Capital Comics, where the Kiddo picked out this recent Star Wars issue.

Title: Star Wars
Issue: 33
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: September, 2017
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Jordan D. White, Heather Antos
Cover: Mike Mayhew

This takes place between episodes 4 and 5, with Luke and Leia are stranded together on an uninhabited island located on a mostly-ocean planet.

Making the wise decision to completely ignore any potential awkwardness resulting from this scenario, the story focuses on Leia, whose narration adds some depth to her character while at the same time explaining how the Princess ended up with some wilderness skills.

This is a nice interlude without a lot of major plot implications. The visuals are good and the insights into Luke and Leia are interesting. There are enough twists to make a decent self-contained story.

Rating: 6/10