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 wimpykid.com)
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


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Darth Vader and Son

This is what the Kiddo picked out on our recent visit to Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA.

Title: Darth Vader & Son
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date: 2012
Writer: Jeffrey Brown
Artist: Jeffrey Brown

Star Wars: Episode Three-and-a-Half. This collection of charming cartoons imagines Lord Vader raising four-year-old Luke Skywalker. The kid has all of the expected quirks of a four-year-old, and he seems a bit hesitant about the whole dark-side thing.

Cartoons cover a bunch of classic parenting scenarios, but the real cleverness of this collection is the author's knack for slipping in bits of dialogue from the Star Wars films into those parenting situations. There are also guest appearances by characters and creatures from across the Star Wars galaxy.

By blatantly avoiding any attempt at canon or continuity, this book manages to use familiar characters and images in some really funny ways.

Both myself and the Kiddo were laughing all the way through.

Rating: 8.5

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Alan Turing's Fairy Tales

We're officially back in the USA, with about a month before we're heading to China. As might be imagined, things have been busy. In the end, I managed to get the old unread comics stack down to five. Of course now, after a couple of weeks in the US, I've got a much bigger new unread comics stack. I've been to Newbury Comics in Hyannis MA a couple of times, and also had a chance to visit Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA. I've picked up a few items that I had ordered over the course of the school year and had shipped to my US address, and I've gotten a bunch of comics out of my storage unit.

This one comes from Million Year Picnic, an excellent indy/minicomic-friendly store in the Harvard Square area of Cambridge MA.

Title: Alan Turing's Fairy Tales
Publisher: Mehitabel Glenhaber
Writer: Mehitabel Glenhaber
Artist: Mehitabel Glenhaber

This minicomic envisions what bedtime fairy tales might have looked like through the eyes of Alan Turing. The concept is brilliant. How is Pinocchio going to proved that he is a real boy after all? Turing might just have a method for that!

Turing versions of several other classic fairy tales are also included.

My only problem with this book is that it rushed to cover multiple stories, where really I felt like there was enough good material to go at a slower pace. A whole series of these would be great!

Rating: 7/10

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