Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stories I Wish I Could Tell You #1

Title: Stories I Wish I Could Tell You
Issue: #1
Publisher: Rocketships With Paws
Writer: Tim Manley
Artist: Tim Manley

Half-sized autobiographical minicomic that bounces around from the writer's current life as a teacher in Brooklyn back to his teenage years on Long Island. There are plenty of nerdy references (You can't have a Pokemon as your spirit animal! Ha!) and some interesting interactions between the narrator and his friends.

The art style will go into elaborate doodles to represent music and thoughts, and it also makes really good use of white space in places. Manley has done a good job of capturing his feelings of uncertainty and his need for some deeper meaning in life.

Minicomics make a good format for this type of slice-of-life story, and I enjoyed where Manley is going with this series.

Rating: 7/10

This is the third review of a small stack of indy comics I picked up on Saturday at Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA.

Kitty Hawk: The Sting of Defeat

Title: Kitty Hawk: The Sting of Defeat
Date: 2009
Writer: Braden D. Lamb
Artist: Braden D. Lamb

Promotional half-sized minicomic for the Kitty Hawk webcomic. This is a good introduction. It's told in recap form as the title character is comatose as a result of stings from mutant bees (or wasps? or bee/wasps?) that she received when pursuing an airship pirate on her rocket boots.

Yes, rocket boots. This book is loaded with dieselpunk awesomeness, including a refreshingly tough heroine who swings a pipe-wrench as her weapon of choice when brawling with pirates. Much of the book simply hints at other adventures that the title character has gotten into, but all of the recap is delivered in a narrative that flows smoothly and ends with a satisfying twist.

Book ends with a nice collection of concept sketches. Considering the small page count that the writer/artist had to work with, this was a pretty impressive debut.

Rating: 8/10

This is the second review of a small stack of indy comics I picked up on Saturday at Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Casper The Friendly Ghost And Little Lulu Halloween Special 2009

Title: Casper The Friendly Ghost And Little Lulu Halloween Special 2009
Date: 2009
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Little Lulu By: John Stanley, Irving Tripp
Little Lulu Created By: Marge Buell
Casper The Friendly Ghost By: Harvey Comics

Sorry guys, you immediately lose points with me for failing to credit the writers and artists on the Casper stories and for barely managing a well-hidden reference to the names of the creative team on Little Lulu. I'm sorry, but I just find that inexcusable, even in an ashcan-format freebie, even when reprinting old material, even if that old material may not have been properly credited. Do your homework. Then give credit where it's due! That's just simple decency, Dark Horse!

There are four stories here, all reprints of classic material. The dates when they originally appeared are not provided. The two one-page gag strips are both amusing, if simple jokes.

The longer stories were both pretty good, especially the Casper one, which had Casper trying to blend in with the crowd so that he could make friends on Halloween. Halloween gives him certain advantages when it comes to trying to interact with people, but sometimes it just isn't enough. But there's one little girl who isn't afraid, even when Casper's true nature gets revealed in the midst of a Halloween party. The ending was surprising and sweet.

The Little Lulu story involved Lulu trying to keep Alvin awake with a story about Hazel the witch and her daughter Itch. Itch is out to create some mischief by levitating a little girl's bed, but the resourceful and scrappy girl (who is Lulu, of course) isn't about to be intimidated by a bit of witchcraft.

In spite of my annoyance with the crediting thing, Dark Horse did choose a couple of good stories with interesting twists to reprint here.

Rating: 6.5/10

This is the first in a short series of reviews of books I picked up today on a visit to Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA. Million Year Picnic is a great indy-friendly comic book store that carries a ton of small press comics and minicomics. This was the only book in the series by a major publisher, as it was a kids' freebie that the store gave to my son (he enjoyed having the Casper story read to him, but lost interest in the Little Lulu stuff, in case you're wondering). Million Year Picnic was kind enough to purchase some copies of my comics today, so if you're in Cambridge, please consider stopping by and checking out their whole selection of small press comic books.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Visiting Million Year Picnic Today! Reviews To Follow!

I'm heading into Cambridge today to try to sell some of my comics at Million Year Picnic (who are normally really great about buying small press comics). I'm going to try to pick up a few indie comics or minicomics while I'm there and review them over the next few days.

I'll have the Kiddo with me, so my visit will probably have to be a quick one, but I'm hoping to comic home with some interesting comics.

Heathcliff: First Prize

Title: Heathcliff: First Prize!
Date: 1981
Publisher: McNaught Syndicate (current site is
Writer: George Gately
Artist: George Gately

I hadn't read more than the occasional Heathcliff cartoon in the newspaper before I picked up this paperback book format compilation. There are some pretty funny jokes in here, although most are on the obvious side.

The cartoons featured in this collection are from the early 1980s, before Garfield became the standard for feline humor. Heathcliff is a bit of a different character. He's definitely the boss of all he surveys. He gets into fights and wins. He goes out tuna fishing. He plots against the milkman.

Of course, the more of this you read, the more obvious it becomes that there are only a few jokes here which are cycled with minor variations. But they are, in many cases, pretty funny, so the collection makes for a decent read the first time through.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Evolution Comics Ashcan #2

Title: Evolution Comics Ashcan
Issue: #2
Date: 1999
Publisher: Evolution Comics
Writer: Margie Spears, Alexei Kondratiev
Penciler: Vince Mielcarek, Don Hudson
Inker: Chris Ivy, Don Hudson
Character Design: Jim Fletcher
Letterer: Arthur Lewandowski
Editor: Ken Gale

This is a photocopied ashcan with samples from two of Evolution Comics' ongoing stories, both from the pages of their Dangerous Times anthology title.

First up is Beleagean Days, a space opera about a group of GILEA (Genetically Improved Law Enforcement Agents! No, really!) officers trapped on an alien starship heading out into space. In this installment, the team members are dealing with the death of a member of their team. There is some a decent amount of insight given here into what is clearly a complex and well thought out world and cast.

The second story is more straightforward, mostly because fewer characters are involved. This is Vidorix the Druid, the tale of an ancient Celtic warrior-priest who travels through time to a medieval Irish monastery. The artwork had a nice realistic feel to it, and the scenario was interesting and introduced well. The story is well researched, a virtue of having the writing talents of celtic language expert Alexei Kondratiev.

The introduction to this book also contains a tribute to comic writer/editor E. Nelson Bridwell, whose writing was the inspiration for the founding of Evolution Comics.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Limited Edition Preview

Title: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Limited Edition Preview
Date: 1993
Publisher: Malibu Comics
Writer: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Gordon Purcell
Editor: Tom Mason

Preview ashcan distributed in Hero magazine for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic series from Malibu Comics. Not much actual comics in this preview. There are fairly generic interviews with the writer and artist, followed by a preview page in script, sketch, and finished form. There's also a nice center pinup of the cast and the space station, and a sketch of one of the original characters from the comic series. The interviews felt like sports interviews, where the players are just picking from their lists of cliches. These sorts of things are necessary, but in this case they didn't add much. I would have liked to see a bit more in the way of finished pages so that there was more sense of what to expect story-wise from the full-length book.

Gordon Purcell's artwork looks good, and the digital coloring gives it a photo-like quality that works well for a TV adaptation.

Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, February 21, 2011


Title: Merx
Publisher: Matt Dye
Writer: Matt Dye
Artist: Matt Dye

Eight-page quarter-sized mini, set in the world of Matt Dye's "Nathan and the Land of Robots". This comic introduces Merx, a small and agile mail-carrying robot who gets all the difficult assignments. In this comic, Merx is off to deliver a message through the dangerous Robot Forest.

This short vignette really just serves to introduce the Merx character, which is accomplishes while giving readers a little taste of the Land of Robots. While there isn't a whole lot of plot or resolution here, the story does function nicely to whet the reader's appetite for a bigger taste of Matt Dye's world.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vampirella: Revelations #0

Title: Vampirella: Revelations
Issue: #0
Date: July, 2005
Publisher: Harris Comics
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciler: Mike Lilly
Inker: Bob Almond
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire

Stop me if you've heard this one. A bunch of vampires walk into a bar...

Actually, this $.25 full-format preview book starts out at a vampire bar, with a group of the usuals doing what they do best: complaining about the anticoagulants in the beverages and trading stories about Vampirella, during which the art team gets to show off some interesting variants: Vampirella as monster, and knight, and (sure to be everyone's favorite) as anime-style magical girl.

Then the real Vampirella ruins all the fun by showing up and staking everybody, with that classic of weapons, the repeating-stake-pistol-crossbow. Oh, and one character has something interesting to say about Vampirella's past, so Vampirella... wait for it... kills him anyway! Then goes off to figure out what the heck he might have been talking about.

This, apparently, is supposed to convince me that I should be reading the Vampirella: Revelations mini-series. Some of the artistic bits were interesting. The story? Not so much.

Rating: 4/10

Chaotic Kiss Book One

Title: Chaotic Kiss
Issue: Book One
Date: 2010
Publisher: MKT Productions
Writer: Michelle Pinard
Artist: Michelle Pinard

Manga-format collection of the first five issues of Chaotic Kiss, a comic about transgender relationships set in Boston. Chaotic Kiss follows the adventures of Sydney, who has finished her male-to-female transition, and is embarking on a new start in life in Boston. There's a whole cast of otaku, fanboys, t-girls, nerds, and gothic lolitas, and a complex plot with a well-developed backstory. The Boston locations are fun, as are all of the subculture references. This comic is essentially a humorous soap-opera, and it succeeds at having plenty of twists and turns to keep the plot interesting while delivering some funny moments and clever dialogue. MKT Productions is very clear that they are doing this book to fill a need for transgender stories in manga, but while transgender issues are central to the story, they are never handled in a heavyhanded or preachy way, and this is first and foremost a good comedic drama.

Rating: 7.5/10

I met Michelle Pinard earlier today at the Queen City Kamikaze convention in Manchester NH and picked up Book One of Chaotic Kiss, which she signed for me. This was my only comic purchase at the convention, so it's back to the unread comics box tomorrow. We had a great time at QCK and enjoyed showing off our comics to all the fans in attendance.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reviewing Live From Queen City Kamikaze Tomorrow!

It's convention time again, and tomorrow we're heading up to Queen City Kamikaze at Manchester Memorial High School in Manchester NH. Keeping with the tradition I've established, I'll be checking out the dealers' and artists' areas at the convention for comics to review. I'm hoping to pick up at least one to feature as tomorrow's review, and if I get more, I'll continue with those for the next few days.

If you're in the Manchester area tomorrow, stop by for what should be a great show!

The Smurfs Halloween

Title: The Smurfs Halloween
Date: 2010
Publisher: Papercutz

Okay, this one starts off with a pet peeve: Everything is uncredited. I realize that this is just a promotional ashcan based on a licensed property, but does it really hurt that much to find someplace in the book to give credit to the author and the artist?

Okay, now that that is done. For the remainder of my review, I will be writing in the Smurf dialect.

Papercutz has smurfed the rights to the classic cartoon characters, the Smurfs. This ashcan edition smurfs two stories, both based around a halloween theme. In the first smurf, a the smurfs are smurfing magical apples when they are confronted by a smurfy witch who attempts to smurf a spell at them to smurf them all into pumpkins. The witch fails to smurf the smurfs into pumpkins, but a collision with a pumpkin wagon inspires the smurfs to smurf some tricks on their fellow smurfs. They proceed to smurf a game of trick-or-treat, which serves the double smurf of introducing the cast of smurfs in the village. Eventually, they return to smurf tricks on the witch, who ends up blaming all of their mischief on Gargamel. Gargamel then smurfs to summon the powerful and smurfy Jack-'o-Lantern, but all he does is smurf against Gargamel and the witch. Are you smurfing all of this? If so, that's smurfy, because it didn't smurf much sense to me.

The second story features the smurfs on their way to smurf a haunted tower. There they smurf a very small and not very smurfy ghost, who is so afraid of everything that he fears he'll never be able to smurf anyone. In the end, he finds the courage to smurf up to (you smurfed it!) Gargamel and lives (well, actually ghosts don't really live, they smurf). smurfily ever after. Oh, and there's a puppy.

The second story was smurfier than the first one, but as a whole I was not all that smurfed with this effort.

Smurfing: 4/10

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spider-Man Collectible Series #24

Title: Spider-Man Collectible Series
Issue: #24
Date: 2006
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Steve Ditko
Inker: Steve Ditko
Letterer: Sam Rosen

This is one of a series of newspaper freebies that reprinted early Spider-Man stories. In this case, this issue reprints the second half of Amazing Spider-Man #11 from 1964. This is a fun story involving Betty Brant and her brother, who has gotten involved in organized crime. Peter Parker's relationship with Betty had been deepening, and he was considering revealing his second life as Spider-Man to her, but she was suddenly caught up in her brother's criminal dealings.

To make matters worse, Doctor Octopus has just been released from prison, and he's got revenge on his mind. Everything comes to a head aboard a tramp freighter ship, and Spider-Man must fight on one leg after he sprains his ankle tripping on a rope while boarding the ship. No, really! How often does THAT happen in comics these days? It actually makes for a really fun, um, twist, as a fight against random thugs becomes at least challenging for Spidey, and the fight against Doc Ock gets downright desperate. The action is fast and furious, and it's all pretty logically thought out once you accept the fact that Peter's spider-sense failed to warn him that he was about to trip on that rope.

There's an extremely melodramatic conclusion to Betty Brant's subplot, but a final epilogue scene makes it at least somewhat reasonable, and it serves to add plenty of tension to the story.

Doc Ock is a great villain here, and he really comes off as someone who could beat Spider-Man and would have fun doing it.

A lot of comic fans are familiar with the first two or three Spider-Man stories. This reprint series was a great chance to go a little bit deeper into that initial Lee/Ditko run, and it's definitely worth a look.

Because these books each contained half an issue's worth of story, they alternated between the original cover art and new covers commissioned for the reprint series. This issue has one of the new covers which is, unfortunately, uncredited.

(I'll offer a free comic to the first person who can find me the correct cover art credit for this book!)

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Captain Universe / X-23 #1

Title: Captain Universe / X-23
Issue: #1
Date: January, 2006
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jay Faerber
Penciler: Francis Portelle
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Impact Studios
Letterer: VC's Rus Wooton
Editor: Nathan Crosby, Mark Paniccia

Okay, so there's this cosmic power, the "Uni-Power" that grants superpowers to those in need. It's the power that made Spider-Man cosmic-powered back in the '90s. Anyway, when it possesses a person, they become (no, I'm not making this up)... CAPTAIN UNIVERSE!

("Universe Man, Universe Man/Size of the entire universe, man/He's got a watch with a minute hand/A millenium hand, and an eon hand/And when they meet it's a happy land/Powerful man, Universe Man" -TMBG. Sorry. Okay, I'll stop now.)

Anyway, the Uni-Power has malfunctioned, and it's wandering the Marvel Universe in its own crossover series. All of this is explained in a text introduction.

And then, a villain proceeds to give the exact same introduction in a dialogue infodump prompted by the lame excuse that another villain didn't pay attention to the briefing (this gal is the Scorpion, but not the Scorpion from Spider-Man; this is some green-haired chick who basically seems to be Madame Hydra/Viper, except with a shorter attention span).

But this book isn't about that. It's about X-23, who's basically Wolverine, except that she's prettier, wears less, and has less personality. So she starts fighting with some invisible commando-types, and seems to be doing just fine, but gets Uni-Powered anyway.

She ends up teamed up with Scorpion, who explains that she's the GOOD Scorpion and not the Spider-Man villain. In order to make the point that X-23 is the strong silent type, writer Jay Faerber has Scorpion chatter incessantly while saying pretty much nothing.

Eventually they find themselves in a house that is set to self-destruct in 3 minutes. They know this because a random bad guy tells them that the house is set to self-destruct in 3 minutes.

Scorpion has a hard decision to make and ends up showing some heart, and the ending is actually considerably better than all of the silliness that led up to it. A text feature on the history of the Captain Universe character is more interesting than most of the story was, and we get a last-page teaser showing the next "exciting" guest star (Gladiator? Really? THAT is supposed to sell comics?).

You know how some comics are harmless fun? This was harmless and really bad.

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

T-Shirt of Adventure (Miniworks #15)

Title: T-Shirt of Adventure (Miniworks)
Issue: #15
Date: 2004
Publisher: Paradise Valley Comics
Writer: Pam Bliss
Artist: Pam Bliss

This quarter-sized minicomic is an amusing look at the secret identity concept. Jack Swann is secretly Foursquare, the super-powered defender of Kekionga, Indiana. But when he saves a t-shirt vendor while off-duty, he's offered a free t-shirt with his alter-ego's logo on it. What's a superhero to do? Well, sometimes the answer is right in plain sight. This is a lighthearted sendup of superhero tropes. Quick but entertaining.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roland: Days of Wrath #1

Title: Roland: Days of Wrath
Issue: #1
Date: 1999
Publisher: Terra Major
Writer: Shane L. Amaya
Art: Fabio Moon
Colorist: Steve Oliff, Kirk Mobert

First part in a four issue straight-up adaptation of the Song of Roland. I've read the Song of Roland but it's been a while. This comic uses mostly original (translated) dialogue. Generally speaking, this adaptation functions well, although a few individual dialogue exchanges were confusing. I would also like to have seen a bit more depth given to those on the Saracen side. They are presented here as generic villains. Roland himself is an appealing character, as in the troubled and complex Charlemagne. I thought the pacing was another strong point. There is plenty of intrigue and character development here, and the book ends on a strong cliffhanger. A concluding essay is a bit jumbled, but does make some interesting connections between ancient mythology and modern comic books.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, February 14, 2011

American Born Chinese

Title: American Born Chinese
Date: 2006
Publisher: Squarefish Books
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Art: Gene Luen Yang
Colorist: Lark Pien

This 235 page graphic novel weaves three stories, two about American students (one in middle school and one in high school), and one about the mythical Monkey King.

Jin Wang begins the year as the only Chinese-American student at his middle school. When a new student arrives from Taiwan, Jin is hesitant to befriend him in the face of a constant stream of casual racism.

Meanwhile, all-American high school boy Danny is getting along fine until his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee arrives for his annual visit, and proceeds to act the part of every obnoxious Asian stereotype.

While much of this graphic novel is a well-written story about teenagers trying to find a place in a culture full of prejudice, it's the ending that really makes American Born Chinese effective. How these two stories are connected, and how they connect to the myth of the Monkey King is unexpected and original, and it leads into a powerful and clever ending.

I read it in one sitting. The Chin-Kee character is (intentionally) cringe-worthy, but the other characters are realistic and fun. The Monkey King segments are enjoyable parables that add some fantasy action to the early portions of the story before their purpose is revealed.

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bonus Review: Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel

Borders had some graphic novels marked down to $1 tonight, so I bought a few to sell online (I sell books on, if you would like to buy some, you can check them out here). This was a quick read, so I figured I'd throw it in as a bonus review before I head to bed tonight. Since it didn't fit in the scanner, you get a photo of the book in my work area. You're welcome to try to see what other geeky stuff you can spot in the background.

Title: Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel
Date: 2009
Publisher: Viking (in collaboration with DC Comics)
Writer: Ralph Cosentino
Art: Ralph Cosentino

A very nice hardcover graphic novel treatment of Superman's origin story for young readers. There's not too much new here (Bizarro breathes fire, apparently! Whod thunk?), but the illustrations, done in the style of DC's animated features, is a nice treat in this format.

The origin is nicely told, although the laundry list of villains at the end comes off as a bit silly, although probably necessary as a scorecard for the young target-audience readers who may be new to the animated shows or the comics.

As a straight-up retelling of a generally familiar story, this volume is pretty effective.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fragile Gravity: Steal This Ashcan

Title: Fragile Gravity: Steal This Ashcan
Date: 2009
Publisher: Unseen Productions
Writer: Barb Fischer
Art: Chris Impink

Four-page minicomic sampler of the Fragile Gravity webcomic. Fragile Gravity is a geeky soap opera about comic creators with touches of surrealism (and penguins!), and plenty of geek/pop culture references. Muppets and Dr. Who jokes in this collection were pretty funny. I got a sense of the style of humor from reading this, but not much of a sense of the webcomic's longterm plotlines. Fragile Gravity finished its run in 2009 (this mini included an announcement that the strip was ending), but the full archives are available online.

Rating: 6/10

Namor #2

Title: Namor
Issue: #2
Date: June, 2003
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Bill Jemas, Andi Watson
Penciler: Salvador Larroca
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: J.D. Smith
Letterer: Randy Gentile
Editor: Stephanie Moore, C.B. Cebulski, Teresa Focarile

Namor as The Little Mermaid? This is one of those concepts that seems so totally wrong at first glance, but somehow shockingly manages to work. It's set in the 1920s, and a sixteen-year-old Namor is trying to find his place in an Atlantean society that bullies him for his half-human appearance and heritage. Meanwhile, he's reconnecting with a human girl that he played with on the beach as a child.

The artwork is beautiful, Namor's character is a nice mix of shy stranger and confident teenage boy. Sandy, his love interest, is intelligent, strong, and intriguing.

Even the interactions back in Atlantis manage to rise above the fairly formulaic young-adult novel scenarios they present.

Artwork is gorgeous throughout, especially in the one-on-one interactions between Namor and Sandy.

This is a really good story about a superhero that is most definitely not a superhero story.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wahoo Morris: Free Comic Book Day Edition

Title: Wahoo Morris: Free Comic Book Day Edition
Date: 2007
Publisher: Too Hip Gotta Go Graphics
Writer: Craig A. Taillefer
Art: Craig A. Taillefer
Backup Story "Butternut Squash" By: Ramon Perez, Rob Coughler

Wahoo Morris tells the story of a twenty-something rock band, with the occasional supernatural element thrown in. This is a reprint of the original first print issue (minus a small amount of adult content to make the book suitable for FCBD distribution). The story is now available in webcomic form at the link above.

I was pleasantly surprised by this. That art looks great, and more importantly, creator Craig A. Taillefer gives the story some breathing room. A lot of debut and preview books feel rushed. This one felt like a chance to get to know the characters, especially Alicia, who lives in an apartment filled with occult books and a menagerie of animals. Alicia steals the show in this book, but the rest of the cast has a lot of potential too, and the supernatural story elements are brought in slowly and carefully.

I was definitely interested in reading more after taking this in.

Backup story "Butternut Squash" by the team of Perez and Coughler didn't do much for me. The characters came off as generic male chauvinist pigs, and when they get their comeuppance at the end of the two-page sample strip, it happens in a way that wasn't particularly funny or interesting.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Justice League of America #129

Title: Justice League of America
Issue: #129
Date: April 1976
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Martin Pasko
Art: Dick Dillin, Frank McLaughlin
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Nekron is an interdimensional monster who feeds on fear and is repelled by courage. In order to defeat the Justice League, he's dosed them with something that for lack of a better term I'm going to call "apathy gas". Basically all the heroes are now unwilling to risk their lives to save others. Which is inconvenient when Nekron is using various tactics to cause massive destruction on Earth so that he can feed on the resulting fear.

Fortunately, Wonder Woman was unaffected by the apathy gas. Actually, she was never dosed with the stuff. Why? Um, apparently she'd taken the day off on the day that Nekron chose to scout out Earth's superheroes. Well, I guess it advances the plot.

Anyway, non-apathetic Diana can use her magic-lass0-of-mind-control (it's in full-on mind control mode in this story) to get the guys to do their duties willing or not. Except that there could be some moral issues with compelling people to risk their lives. Even if they would have risked their lives normally. After teasing the moral dilemma in one scene, writer Martin Pasko then proceeds to ignore it for the rest of the book.

There's also a noble sacrifice! A Justice League member actually dies in this issue. I wonder how long that ended up lasting (I can assure you it was definitely not permanent; the character is still very much around).

The whole plot is more complicated and wordy than it needs to be, but it does end up telling a decent story when all is said and done.

Interestingly, the script has Oliver Queen delivering almost-swears ("when the spit starts hitting the fan" and "what the fudge just happened?"), perhaps in an attempt to distinguish him as the bad boy of the group?

I liked the classic King Kong tribute cover with Nekron's robot atop the Eiffel Tower fighting off the League while holding Diana in one hand.

Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Xoc #3

Title: Xoc
Issue: #3
Date: 2010
Publisher: Matt Dembicki
Writer: Matt Dembicki
Art: Matt Dembicki

Half-sized b/w minicomic that tells the tale of an epic journey of a great white shark and a sea turtle. In this issue, they encounter a submarine and pass through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Dembicki's art is spectacular and his layouts are fun and highly original. The animals are drawn with loving attention to detail and accuracy, and additional information about the story is brought out through dialogue between the shark and turtle. The result is a kind of epic eco-fantasy quest story that touches on real environmental issues. It's great to get a look at life from the shark's point of view.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Urban Fey #1

Title: Urban Fey
Issue: #1: Urban Sprawl
Date: 2006
Publisher: Mystic Sheep Studios
Writer: Kimberley Long-Ewing
Art: Rhea Ewing

An urban fey named Neon attempts to keep the peace between spirits of concrete and asphalt, not to mention the pothole gremlins and the TLFs (Traffic Light Faeries). Half-sized minicomic by the team of Kimberley Long-Ewing and Rhea Ewing. These are not your father's fey, or so the band in the local gathering place loudly proclaims. There was a lot of hinted intrigue and rumors of impending war in this issue, and it did a nice job of building momentum once it got going. The opening street brawl scene was a bit hard to follow, but its main purpose seemed to just be to introduce the urban fey and what they are capable of before bringing the main character on board. It will be interesting to see where this goes once the various subplots really get moving.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lai Wan #2

Title: Lai Wan
Issue: #2
Date: 2006
Publisher: Moonstone Books
Writer: C.J. Henderson
Art: Kieran Yanner
Colorist: Thompson Knox
Letterer: Nate Pride
Editor: Lori G
Cover: Kieran Yanner

The second issue's story, "A Happy Mother Takes Away Pain", is in many ways a more interesting introduction to the character of Lai Wan than the first issue was. This story stands alone nicely, and tells of a plain-looking middle-aged woman who seeks psychic Lai Wan's help for her mother's mysterious affliction.

The affliction, as it turns out, is demonic possession. The problem is that Lai Wan isn't in the business of fighting demons. She just gives the daughter the chance to fight the battle for herself. Not everything is as it appears, and the plot twists are fun, but what I really enjoyed here was the depiction of a very ordinary person finding the courage to fight a very extraordinary battle.

Kieran Yanner, who painted the cover for the first issue, handles all the art here, and his work is appropriately eerie and disturbing, especially his demon (a djinn, actually, for those wishing to be technical).

Lai Wan continues to be a fascinating character, and she really shines in this clever and disturbing tale.

Rating: 8/10

Photo is from today at TempleCon, with writer C.J. Henderson holding up Lai Wan #2 as well as his Lai Wan prose anthology. This is my last of 3 reviews of books purchased at TempleCon. We had a great time at the convention. Our next con appearance is in only two weeks at Queen City kamikaze in Manchester NH.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lai Wan #1

Title: Lai Wan
Issue: #1
Date: 2006
Publisher: Moonstone Books
Writer: C.J. Henderson
Penciler: Shawn McGuan
Inker: Chad Hunt
Colorist: Thompson Knox
Letterer: Chuck Maly
Editor: Lori G
Cover: Kieran Yanner

With a serial killer on the loose in New York, and the police at a loss to figure out the link between the seemingly random victims, NYPD Capain Beldon receives an offer of assistance from "Spooky Mary" AKA Lai Wan (AKA several other names, depending on what NYC neighborhood she's hanging out in, apparently). Lai Wan is a psychometrist, gifted (and cursed) with the ability to read the history of a thing or the thoughts of a person with a touch. But even her abilities lead to further riddles, and the last thoughts of the victims point to a shadowy warrior dressed in armor.

The solution to the mystery and the resolution both come a bit quickly and arbitrarily, and Lai Wan's personality takes a bit of warming up to. She comes off as rather arrogant at first, although that softens a bit as the story progresses. There's a good hardboiled and gritty feel to the narration, and a couple of interesting subplots, once involving Captain Beldon's past and the other providing the reason that Lai Wan gets involved in the case.

The text feature at the end of the book discusses the creation of the Lai Wan, who began as a supporting character in C.J. Henderson's Theodore London prose detective stories. From there, she began to appear in her own solo stories and has now made the transition into comics.

Lai Wan herself is a refreshing change in a lot of ways, as a character who doesn't fight on a physical level (as is pointed out in the essay at the end of the book, Lai Wan would actually have some extreme difficulties even touching a weapon of any kind), but is still presented as exceptionally strong and confident.

Lai Wan has some great potential, even if this particular introduction felt rushed.

Rating: 6.5/10

This is my second purchase at TempleCon. I picked up this book along with the second issue in the same series from writer CJ Henderson. I also bought the Sky Pirates of Valendor anthology, Valendor Chronicles #1 from the Jolly Rogue Studios team and that was my review for last night. I'll be reviewing the second issue of Lai Wan tomorrow.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sky Pirates of Valendor: Valendor Chronicles #1

Title: Sky Pirates of Valendor: Valendor Chronicles
Issue: #1
Date: 2009
Publisher: Free Lunch Comics
Writer: Everett Soares, Stephen Carr
Penciler: Brian Brinlee, Chris Ring, David Woodward
Inker: Michael W. Kellar, Chris Ring, David Woodward, Alex Rivera
Tones: Jet Amago
Letterer: Steve Kuster, Matt Mundorf
Editor: Amy Haley
Cover: Keith J Murphey, Brian Brinlee

This is an anthology of stories set in the world of Sky Pirates of Valendor. First up is "An Easy Prize", a key moment in Captain Tobin Manheim's backstory and a turning point in his relationship with his cyborg on-again-off-again girlfriend, Gearz. Let's just say that when a supposedly easy raid goes badly wrong, Tobin may need to set his relationship status to "it's complicated". Aside from the major plot point between Tobin and Gearz, this story accomplishes its other task nicely, which is to show Tobin's crew in action. I particularly liked Bryan's tactics for dealing with a phalanx of pikemen behind a shield wall. Not a lot of subtlety, but effective, and spectacular when rendered in Brian Brinlee's pencils.

Second story, "Blood Feud" gives an ancient tale of the Dagger of Night. While the Dagger itself comes off as a pretty generic McGuffin, the point of view of an adjudicator who failed to prevent a blood feud is an interesting one.

"Mouse & Cat" is an almost entirely wordless scene between Shyni and a kind of mutant rat critter, and it's played mostly for slapstick value.

The fourth story features the Pirate Queen, who's always been one of my favorite characters in the Sky Pirates world. In "The Letter of the Law" the queen faces a challenge to her power from the Lawyers' Guild. The Queen does what many people would probably like to see done to certain lawyers. It's satisfying, but could have used a bit more in the way of twists and complexity, although some of that is just me wanting more Pirate Queen.

The last story is a prose piece by Stephen Carr called "Cloudbreaker" about an aging former pirate who returns to his old ways on a mission of revenge. It's well written and fills in some nice flavor about the setting.

A nice set of pinup art by Peter Vinton, Scott Ethan Ambruson, and Enrique Savory rounds out the collection.

Thematically this collection is a bit scattered and some of the stories could have used a bit more depth, but there's plenty of good stuff here.

Rating: 7/10.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reviewing Live From TempleCon This Weekend!

Dandelion Studios will have a dealer table at this weekend's TempleCon in Warwick RI. We'll be debuting our newest fantasy comic, Kaeli & Rebecca by Rick Silva and Katrina Joyner.

Once again, I'll be doing live reviews of comics purchased at the convention if at all possible. I know several comic publishers and vendors will be attending, so I'm looking forward to picking up some interesting new reading material.

And if you're attending the con, stop by our table and say hello!

Night Patrol (Miniworks #11)

Title: Night Patrol (Miniworks)
Issue: #11
Date: 2004
Publisher: Paradise Valley Comics
Writer: Pan Bliss
Artist: Pam Bliss

Foursquare is the resident superhero of Kekionga, Indiana, which is not exactly a hotbed of crime, super or otherwise. Instead, Foursquare's patrol involves checking in on the woolly mammoths, the lake monster, and the thunderbird. It's a quiet patrol, the best kind. Amusing take on the superhero genre.

Rating 7/10

Thursday, February 3, 2011

January 2011 Statistics

Here are some stats for January 2011.

Total Comics Reviewed: 35
Newly Purchased Comics Reviewed: 9
Comics Reviewed From The Backlog: 26
Marvel Comics Reviewed: 3
DC Comics Reviewed: 2
Minicomics Reviewed: 13
Manga Reviewed: 2

Highest Rated Comics:

Amelia Rules: When The Past Is A Present (9.5/10)
Batman: Gotham Knights #6 (8.5/10)
The Way It Crumbles (8/10)
Bone: Happy Halloween (8/10)
Coelacanth And Friends (Kekionga Miniworks #16) (8/10)
The Dream Detectives / Pashanata (8/10)
Deathless: The House Committee (8/10)
Out The Window (8/10)
Dark Tower Sketchbook (8/10)
The Clockwork Girl #0 (8/10)

Lowest Rated Comics:

The Avengers #1 (4/10)
Everything's Archie #106 (5/10)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #38 (5/10)

Creators With Multiple Reviews: Pam Bliss, Aya Rothwell (2 each)

Average Rating For January 2011: 6.914/10

Action Comics #894

Title: Action Comics
Issue: #894
Date: December 2010
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Cornell, Nick Spencer
Art: Pete Woods, RB Silva, Dym
Colorist: Dave McCaig, Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Wil Moss, Matt Idelson

Yup, that's Death on the cover, straight out of the pages of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. And she's here to have a little conversation with Lex Luthor. Lex: "And I suppose you're claiming to be Death. You don't even look like him." Death: "Are you looking for the scythe? Or the skis?" Ha! First of all, kudos to Pete Woods who does a gorgeous rendition of Gaiman's classic character. Luthor, as might be expected, tries everything he can think of to get out of the plight he's in, right down to playing for sympathy. Death, as might be expected, greets all of this with mild amusement and a touch of curiosity. Paul Cornell does the best he can in a story where he's basically handcuffed. He can't actually kill Luthor, he can't really have Luthor defeat Death like she's some rival super-villain, and he can't even really answer even the most obvious of questions because DC comics isn't in the business of giving definitive answers about the existence of God, the nature of the universe, and what happens to souls (if there even are such things) after death (or, in this case, after Death). Along the way we do get Lex admitting that he's an atheist, which makes reasonable sense. He's forced to admit that Death is what she is, but he's not ready to acknowledge any supreme being (aside from himself, of course). While the plot doesn't really go anywhere, the dialogue is quite good throughout, and it's refreshing to see these familiar characters having a chance to talk philosophy for a bit. The discussion of what Luthor would want in an afterlife was quite interesting.

Backup story has Jimmy Olsen playing escort to a group of aliens who are scouting Metropolis for a location to hold a massive party. Why come to Earth to party? Well, as it turns out, oxygen gets this species drunk. Jimmy really should have taken the keys to the spaceship from the cute alien girl before she started driving. Some aspects of the story are a bit over-the-top. It would have worked just fine without it turning into a planet-threatening (but still played for laughs) scenario. But that being said, it was pretty funny, and I enjoyed this depiction of "Superman's Pal". Nice mix of hip, nerdy, cocky, and clever. Good silly fun to balance out all the deep philosophy in the main story.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Castle In The Sky #2

Title: Castle in the Sky
Issue: #2
Date: 2003
Publisher: Viz
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Letterer: Susan Daigle-Leach
Editor: Carl Gustav Horn, Alvin Lu

Part 2 of a four-volume adaptation of Miyazaki's animated film. Manga format with full-color artwork direct from the animation cells. Pazu is a boy from a mining town with a knack for invention. Sheeta is a girl who mysteriously fell from the sky into Pazu's life. She's also the rightful ruler of a mythical cloud-island known as Laputa. Government forces and a crew of pirates are all after Sheeta's secrets and the magical stone that she carries. When Pazu and Sheeta are captured, Sheeta agrees to help the government agents find the way to Laputa in exchange for saving Pazu, but Pazu isn't ready to abandon his friend.

And when Sheeta accidentally activates a Laputan soldier-robot, the mayhem really gets going. This is a good story with a fascinating cast of characters and great steampunk flavored action sequences. The animation cells don't always do justice to the art of the film when reproduced as small panels, but the rich color stands out nicely.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Archie 1: The Dawn Of Time

Title: Archie 1: The Dawn Of Time
Date: 2010
Publisher: Archie Comics
Art: Doug Crane
Production: Stephen Oswald, Carlos Antunes, Jon Gray
Editor: Victor Gorelick

Ashcan format promo book. No credit given for the writing for some reason. Archie 1 is the caveman version of the Archie series, featuring a set of "ancestors" who just happen to look and act exactly like their Riverdale counterparts. Well, they look exactly like the Archie gang except that they're all dressed in the latest caveman fashion. And here you were thinking that Betty and Veronica in 1 Million Years BC style leopard-skin bikinis was something you'd have to delve into fanfic to find. Two stories here. The first is a pretty straightforward Tarzan parody, with the girls meeting up with a rather "primitive" (by which we mean the male chauvinist type of caveman) king of the jungle complete with monkey sidekick. Betty and Veronica put their rivalry aside to present a fairly united front against the jungle buffoon. The second story is an amusing bit of nonsense about the invention of language. Apparently, yelling "Vamoose!" is effective in warding off dinosaurs. There were some laughs to be had here, but this seems a bit more limited compared to seeing the same characters in the standard Riverdale setting.

Rating: 5.5/10