Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Robot And I: On The Beast

I'm currently working my way through a small stack that I picked up at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo this past September.

Title: The Robot And I: On The Beast
Date: 2012
Publisher: Bazzelwaki
Writer: Ben Prager
Artist: Ben Prager

A man and a robot are summoned to a remote frozen village to prevent the Beast from awakening. I don't want to give spoilers on the nature of the Beast itself. Suffice it to say that it is visually impressive and very original.

The artwork in this quarter-sized minicomic is really good, to the point that it suffers a bit from the small-sized format of the book. The pacing of the story is fast, and I ended up having to read it a couple of times to make sure I was understanding it, but I definitely appreciated the clever and surreal nature of the tale.

This left me wanting to see more of the artist's creations.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lights Out

Title: Lights Out
Date: 2012
Publisher: Morbid Holiday
Writer: David Wade Evans
Artist: David Wade Evans

Quarter-sized minicomic by David Wade Evans of Morbid Holiday and Hybrid Mind, inspired by the 1863 painting Rocks At Narragansett by William Stanley Haseltine.

When the light goes out in a lighthouse, it's up to a passing whale to save a ship from disaster, in spite of their best efforts to avoid being saved. The whole thing is told tongue-in-cheek with a very goofy cartoon whale, but it still keeps all the necessary elements of a good story, and Evans does a nice job with showing the action from different perspectives.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Title: Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
Date: 2012
Publisher: Hill & Wang
Writer:  Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
Artist: Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Jonathan Fetter-Vorm relates a wide-ranging history of the development of the first nuclear weapons, beginning with the early discoveries of radioactivity and nuclear forces, through the Manhattan project, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the beginnings of the nuclear arms race.

This is an ambitious book, and Fetter-Vorm moves the narrative along at a rapid pace, sprinkling in enough physics and history to get the important concepts across. The focus characters are Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the Manhattan Project's Secret Weapons Lab, and the military director of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves.

There are appearances by Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, HG Wells, Lise Meitner, Leo Szilard, Albert Einstein, Curtis LeMay, Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Emperor Hirohito.

Fetter-Vorm presents the technical details of the bomb in concise, accessible bits, and uses exact quotes as much as possible to provides revealing glimpses of the many historical figures.

There are some moments when it feels like he is trying too hard, but overall, the artwork conveys the power and the terror of the forces unleashed while it accentuates the humanity of the characters.

There have certainly been much larger and more extensive books written about these events, but this graphic novel manages to be wide-ranging in scope while it explains technical detail and gives insight into the human interactions that lead to the atomic age.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

So, This Is What It's Come To...

Another minicomic from among the many I acquired in 2012.

Title: So, This Is What It's Come To...
Date: 2011
Publisher: Liz Prince Power
Writer:  Liz Prince, Ramsey Beyer, Leslie Perrine, Kettner
Artist: Liz Prince, Ramsey Beyer, Leslie Perrine, Kettner

This 24-page half-sized b/w minicomic is a collaboration between four zinesters about their experiences with OK Cupid. The stories range from bad dates (and bad dates in cemeteries!) to odd interactions with the OK Cupid culture and interface, to bringing friends along on dates, to the "walk of shame" when you realize that the person whose profile seems perfect for you is one of your real-life friends.

Throw in some A-Team and LARP references, and the result is a fun little slice of life with an interesting group of characters united by the futilities and absurdities of online dating.

Funny and heartfelt.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

World's Most Dangerous Animals

Among the many stacks I'm still working my way through is my 2012 haul from Free Comic Book Day.

Title: World's Most Dangerous Animals
Date: 2012
Publisher: Animal Planet / Silver Dragon Books
Writer: Joe Brusha, Neo Edmund, Robert Greenberger, Barbara Kesel, Paul Kupperberg, Aaron Rosenberg, Darren Vincenzo
Artist: Blanco, Jok, Carmen Nunez Carnero, Dsagar Fornies, Gervaso, Brabo, Mallea, Gordon Purcell, Matthew Reynolds, Alessandro Ventura, Space Goat, JL Giles-Rivera
Colorist: Space Goat, Blanco, Jok, Jeff Balke
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover: Steambot Studios
Editor: Bob Greenberger, Matt Rogers

Among the 2012 FCBD entries is this book produced for Animal Planet by Silver Dragon Studios (who had a huge crew working on it according to the credits). Sightly odd format, in between traditional comic sized and ashcan sized. The book is 28 pages of full color art, and contains three stories, two of which relate to the theme of the book.

First up is a grizzly bear story, told from the point of view of a survivor of a bear attack in Alaska. It's got the ring of truth to it, with plenty of details of the attack, which are told in a matter-of-fact style. A second story gets briefly mentioned in the narration, which flows nicely.

The second story is a bit more sensational in nature, involving a group of cyclists trapped by a saltwater croc in Australia. This is the more gruesome and more cinematic of the two stories, and it also contains its own internal backup tale, in this case about a different croc with a taste for small boats (though not their occupants, fortunately!).

Both of these stories feel like true accounts, but that is not actually ever verified anywhere in the book. Although both stories played to the sensational aspects of their respective animals, both did contain some good facts and interesting information.

The final story in the book was a preview of the upcoming Jurassic Strike Force 5 from Silver Dragon Books. It barely gets started, and never rises about the level of basic cliches.

But the animal stories that made up the main portion of this book were certainly an interesting read.

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, December 10, 2012


I've got a bag of minicomics that I've been going through, and for the most part, I don't recall where I acquired them. I want to a zine event in the spring of 2012, as well as the minicomic-rich MECAF and MICE conventions, plus a number of events in between those that included artists with minicomics. This is a cute promotional mini that I pulled from that bag.

Title: Cats
Date: 2012
Publisher: Cat Craig
Writer: Cat Craig
Artist: Cat Craig

 Quarter-sized two-page minicomic, folded with no staples. Minimalist, but pretty. The interior two page spread is a set of three cat illustrations, with some expressive felines in several poses.

The back cover lists the names of the artist's cats, to whom the comic is dedicated.

There isn't a whole lot to this mini, but there is definitely a lot of love for the cats that inspired it.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nothing Mattress #0

Title: Nothing Mattress
Issue: 0
Date: 2011
Publisher: nothingmattress.tumblr.com
Writer: Brian Connolly
Artist: Brian Connolly

This starts out as an alphabet book ("A is for Aaron, assaulted by jocks...") and morphs into a false-rhyming verse adventure of a high school punk tripping out on LSD as he stays up all night wandering the city.

A bizarre cast of punks, ravers, ex-hippies, skinheads, and skaters round out the tale, and are introduced in approximately alphabetical order. The narrative is in meter and almost rhymes, while the occasional bits of dialogue provide side notes and jokes.

This was a good send-up of a bunch of different subcultures with a nice nod to the underground comix of the 1970s in the art style.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Little Lake Monster Coloring Book

I crossed paths with Kristilyn Stevenson at a bunch of different events during the 2012 convention season. I believe I picked up this minicomic at the Maine Comic Arts Festival last spring up in Portland ME.

Title: The Little Lake Monster Coloring Book
Date: 2011
Publisher: Kristilyn
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

Very cute quarter-sized minicomic featuring illustrations of Nessie and Champ with lots of hearts, stars, and bubbles.

No dialogue, but the artwork is adorable.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Geraniums & Bacon #6

I ran into Cathy Leamy at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo and was excited to find she has a new issue out in her minicomic series.

Title: Geraniums & Bacon
Issue: 6
Date: 2012
Publisher: Metrokitty
Writer: Cathy Leamy
Artist: Cathy Leamy

This is the sixth installment in Cathy Leamy's autobiographical minicomic series. Cathy always brings a great eclectic mix of stories from her travels and experiences that range from the mundane to the exotic to the just plain geeky.

This issue is no exception, opening in a mountain hostel in Switzerland (with the heroine needing get up to go pee in the middle of the night) and covering a very realistic psychic reading in Chicago, and the author's college experiences in competitive ballroom dance.

A couple of amusing short pieces round out the book, along with a story set in 1978 and featuring bacon, drugs, lycanthropy, and a bad hangover.

Cathy Leamy is always insightful, witty, and great for picking out the fun and quirky details of her life that make the best stories.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Deity #5

Title: Deity
Issue: 5
Publisher: Hyperwerks
Date: February, 1998
Writer: Karl Altstaetter, Robert Napton
Artist: Karl Altstaetter
Inker: Victor Olazaba, Karl Altstaetter
Colorist: Brian Buccellato, Derek Bellman
Letterer: Tiberius Jones
Editor: Rob Tokar

The forces of two worlds are fighting over an interdimensional junction and the battle has spilled over to Earth, where a seemingly ordinary high school girl (okay, seemingly ordinary aside from having the body of an exaggerated bikini model) is secretly the heir to the powers of alternate-dimension queen Xandra.

This started off as a bit of an over-complicated mess, but got better as it went, helped along by several engaging characters, particularly shapeshifting dragon Lucius Ego, and dorky teenager Ziggy. The secret princess character Jamie has her moments too.

The artwork is technically decent (Lucius in dragon form looks awesome), but it falls into pretty typical late-nineties Image knock-off territory with overdone anatomy, over-sexualized female characters, and ridiculous costumes that mostly don't actually cover all that much.

There is some substance underlying all of the muscles and tight clothes here, but it takes a bit of digging to realize it's there.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Myths & Legends #1

Title: Myths & Legends
Issue: 1
Publisher: Main Enterprises
Date: May, 2011
Artist: James Taylor, Jeff Austin, John Lambert, Doug Holverson, Steve Shipley, Troy Boyle, John Larter, Rock Baker, Rusty Gillian, Michael Grassia, Terry Pavlet, Rick Pilote,  Joe Martino, Dan W. Taylor, Jeff Mason, JTW, David Farley
Editor: Jim Main, Dan W. Taylor.

Pinup minicomic anthology featuring a variety of characters and figures from mythology. Greek myths predominate, but several other cultures are represented including Meso-American, European, and American folklore. The drawing of Krampus was the biggest surprise addition of the group.

The artwork is great, with a lot of really interesting and unusual interpretations of the myths.

The book does work against itself a bit, being a quarter-sized minicomic filled with artwork that really feels like it belongs in a bigger format. Still, this is a very intriguing and imaginative collection.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, December 3, 2012

Superman: The Man of Steel #57

Hi... Um... Long time, no see.

So, this has been interesting. I did a pretty good job of keeping this review blog "daily" right up until the time is should have gotten easy: summer vacation from school. All that free time, and my frequency of updates just fell off the proverbial cliff.

And then school started back up, and my schedule got filled up pretty intensely.

And then Nanowrimo happened. And I wrote 50,489 words of a totally ridiculous and awesome young adult dieselpunk novel with the working title "Airship Girls and the Land Beyond the Mist". And I wrote zero words of comic reviews.

So here we are in December, and I took the 1st of December off to recover from Nano, and I thought about just bagging this whole thing until it turned into a 2013 New Years resolution.

But that, of course, is exactly the problem. There is not reason I CAN'T re-start the reviews now, other than the fact that January 1 makes a nice arbitrary day for fresh starts.

You know what? December 2 makes a nice arbitrary day for fresh starts too.

Here's a comic that came in a two-comic (and a Power Rangers trading card!) grab bag that I got at the dollar store.

Title: Superman: The Man of Steel
Issue: 57
Date: June 1996
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: Roger Robinson
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Ken Lopez, Albert De Guzman
Editor: Mike McAvennie, KC Carlson

Oddly, the credits on the cover list Louise Simonson as the writer. Stern and Robinson are both given "guest" status in the interior credits.

Considering the seemingly temporary nature of the creative team and the fact that the only villain is bad weather,  there is a surprising amount of plot development here.

The plot essentially sticks Superman (and special guest the Jay Garrick version of the Flash; you know, the one with the silly tin hat) into the film Twister, and they get to try to stop a simultaneous outbreak of multiple tornadoes that threaten Smallville.

Sometimes it's nice to just see Superman doing what Superman is supposed to do. You know, saving people and and being the ultimate good guy. The interplay between Superman and Flash is great too, as they work together really well, but with just the tiniest hint of some competitive tension.

Underlying all of this is the theme of balancing superhero career and personal life. Lois Lane has just broken off her engagement with Clark Kent, and Jay Garrick provides inspiration the Clark as a superhero with a successful marriage.

Juggling a career and a relationship is metaphorically related to chasing down a series of tornadoes in a way that works better than I am making it sound.

There are a couple of other subplots that get some attention in this issue, which make for intriguing scenes, but which are mostly setup for future storylines.

I will also point out that this is a rare instance with appearances by FOUR "L.L." characters in the same issue, with Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, and Lori Lemaris (!) all showing up at different points. It would be interesting to figure out how many issues all four have appeared in throughout the history of Superman. I would guess it's a small number that probably gets even smaller if you remove retrospective and anniversary issues.

For me, as silly as the whole flying in circles to stop a tornado stuff was (in spite of having a meteorologist listed in the credits as a consultant!), this is the kind of Superman story I like, with the emphasis on Clark's sense of duty and compassion, and his intelligent use of his powers.

Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, September 28, 2012

Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea

Nautical horror is one of my favorite subgenres. I picked this book up at Boston Comic Con last spring.

Title: Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea
Date: 2012
Publisher: The Draw Box
Writer: Tony Sedani, Joe Daxberger
Artist: Tony Sedani, Joe Daxberger
Cover: Tony Sedani, Joe Daxberger

Full-format comic consisting of two nautical horror stories. The art by both creators (each does writing and art on one of the stories) is stark and gorgeous throughout this book. I love the fish-tale-turned-dark flavor, which was nicely complemented by the grim art style.

The first story features a fisherman who survives a shipwreck only to find himself in an even worse place.

Next up a man trying to give up his dark secrets to the sea has an encounter with some of the sea's own secrets.

These stories are horror flash-fiction in comic form. There isn't room for a lot of plot twists or character development, but the mood and flavor of the stories give them their impact.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, September 24, 2012

Onyx: Colouring & Activity Comic Book

I picked this one up this past July at Otakon.

Title: Onyx: Colouring & Activity Comic Book
Date: 2012
Publisher: Mika Darling
Writer: Mika Darling
Artist: Mika Darling

Tale of a cat with a rich fantasy life, and a bird for an arch-nemesis.

This is a strip-format minicomic sprinkled with activity pages including a maze and a connect-the-dots between the three-panel comic strips.

Nice mix of good old fashioned feline humor with some amusing and surreal bits of fantasy. This was cute and fun, as cat comics should be.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mad's Dave Berg Looks At You

Title: Mad's Dave Berg Looks At You
Date: 1982
Publisher: Warner Books, EC Publications
Writer: Dave Berg
Artist: Dave Berg

Flea market find. Standard paperback format.

Organized into three segments on childhood, married life, and old age, Dave Berg's Mad Magazine cartoons do a nice job of skewering society's expectations and customs. Some of the humor is a bit dated, but there is plenty here that is laugh-out-loud funny.

It's also an amusing trip back in time, with Berg's excellent drawings of the ordinary people of the 1970s and early 1980s, complete with some classic 70s fashion. I also enjoyed a very early video game (Pong!) reference in one of the cartoons.

Berg's characters may say outrageous things at times, but they are always drawn as ordinary folk of all shapes and sizes, making this truly the "look at you" that it is intended to be.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Owl Time

Here's a minicomic that I picked up at the Maine Comic Arts Festival last spring.

Title: Owl Time
Date: 2011
Publisher: Sophie Goldstein
Writer: Sophie Goldstein
Artist: Sophie Goldstein

Eight-page micro-minicomic from the co-creator of Darwin Carmichael is Going To Hell.

Mostly wordless tale of a sleepy owl on a tree limb.Very cute and a nice example of how expressive a simple image can be. Back cover includes some amusing quotes from "reviewers".

Quick, but good fun.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Justice League #12

Title: Justice League
Issue: 12
Date: October 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, David Finch
Inker: Scott Williams, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, David Finch, Sandra Hope, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin, Matt Banning, Rob Hunter, Joe Weems, Alex Garner, Trevor Scott
Colorist: Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, Tony Avina, Sonia Oback, Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Editor: Katie Kubert, Brian Cunningham
Cover: Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, Scott Williams

I've totally fallen behind on my New 52 reading, and this one generated a bit of buzz with the Superman/Wonder Woman kiss on the cover, so I skipped ahead to it.

This issue begins a transition into some membership changes for the Justice League that will go along with the release of a new Justice League of America title.

It also wraps up a plotline involving David Gray, who has abducted and possibly killed Steve Trevor as part of a scheme for revenge against the Justice League, who Gray blames for the deaths of his wife and children.

The final battle takes place on Mount Sumeru, which is conveniently labeled via caption as the "Mythic Valley of Souls". Not quite sure how it can be a mountain and a valley at the same time.

The battle pits the League against what appears to be the spirits of their deceased loved ones. It's well-handled, but nothing exceptional. This sort of thing has definitely been done before. A lot. Once the actual brawling starts, things proceed at a nice pace to endgame and about half the book ends up getting devoted to epilogue material, all of which is pretty good.

Most noticeably for me in these scenes is the fact that somewhere between issues 6 and 11 Hal Jordan stopped being a complete jerk. His scene here is great, and a lot more in keeping with the hero that Hal ought to be. Maybe the memories of the awful Green Lantern film are finally being put to rest.

Wonder Woman's scenes with Steve Trevor and with Superman were also good. Clark and Diana's  kiss (not really a spoiler here, since it's on the front cover) comes somewhat out of nowhere, but the lead-in dialogue worked well, and the earlier scene involving Steve was genuinely powerful.

Not disappointed I picked this issue up.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Steed And Mrs. Peel #0

Title: Steed And Mrs. Peel
Issue: 0
Date: August 2012
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Steve Bryant
Colorist: Ron Riley
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover: Joshua Covey, Blond
Editor: Matt Gagnon, Chris Rosa

The A-word is nowhere to be found in this book, but this is a new adventure featuring characters from a certain classic British TV show that happens to share its title with a certain Marvel Comics property.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of the show, which makes this one of the very, very few times that I will say that about a TV adaptation. So I went into this with a lot of trepidation, and the cover did not help. Absolutely awful (apparently, there are actually 8 variant covers, this was version B; I haven't seen any of the others, but they would have a hard time being much worse).

Fortunately, the book itself proved to be pretty good.

The interplay between Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg on the show was consistently brilliant, and definitely a challenge to translate into the comic medium. Writer Mark Waid did about as good a job as could be done, with several scenes that were absolutely spot-on. He also got a lot of the show's style right. The situations are quirky. The villains are not always entirely competent, but their schemes are convoluted to near-ridiculousness.

Steve Bryant's interior art was good. He doesn't always capture Emma's easy grace, but that's more a function of the difficulty of using images of real actors.

Fight scenes are handled nicely with good attention to the details of the show's choreography. Loved the bit where a villain is dispatched by a combination of (judo!) chop from Emma and being tripped up by the handle of Steed's umbrella. Classic. Emma overpowering and swapping clothes with a henchwoman was pretty much pure fanservice. That is not a bad thing.

The story stands alone, but ends with a brief lead-in to the ongoing series.

About as good as I could have hoped for. Mr. Steed and Mrs. Peel, you were most definitely needed.

Rating: 8.5

Friday, August 31, 2012

Rival Angels Volume 1: Rookie Year

Title: Rival Angels Volume 1: Rookie Year
Date: 2009
Publisher: Rival Angels
Writer: Alan Evans, Justin Riley
Artist: Alan Evans
Colorist: Veronica Rosado, Dustin Yee, Jessica Hunsberger
Editor: Justin Riley

Trade paperback compilation of the Rival Angels webcomic. I picked this one up at Otakon and had a nice chat with creator Alan Evans, who is a dedicated pro wrestling fan and who has clearly channeled his love of wrestling into this comic.

Rival Angels tells the story of four rookies called up to the "big league" of womens' pro wrestling. The title of the comic is also the name of the fictional promotion, which is presented as comparable to the real-life WWE, complete with Monday night TV broadcasts and sellout crowds in huge arenas. We also get some glimpses of the other side of the sport: the developmental leagues where the competitors perform for sparse crowds in high school gyms and bingo halls.

The story focuses on Sabrina Mancini, called up early from the developmental territory and pushed as an up-and-coming babyface contender. This is all kayfabe storytelling, so the matches are depicted as real, competitive events. Sabrina faces the challenges of her first major-league matches while learning to live with three other rookie wrestlers that she is forced to share an apartment with as part of her contract.

Alan Evans knows his wrestling, and he also knows how to translate it into comic form. Matches are usually joined in mid-action so that the reader gets the match psychology and the big spots leading into the endgame without having to see every bit of feeling-out-process and restholds. The pacing works really well here, and the action feels authentic and exciting. As a wrestling fan, I was finding myself thinking that the major matches in this volume would be great on television.

The artwork has a couple of places where the rapid motion of high-flying moves is clearly difficult to depict as static drawings, but generally, the competitors look great and the moves look accurate.

I was less interested in some of the out-of-ring storylines. There is some intrigue and backstabbing going on behind the scenes that is interesting, but I would have liked to see better character development for the four roomates. The soap opera of the four different women living in close quarters never goes too far beyond shallow reality-TV style of interaction, and the characters engage in pretty stereotypical party-girl behavior outside of the ring.

Hopefully the character development will improve to match the excellent wrestling storylines as the series moves on.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pathfinder: An American Saga

Title: Pathfinder: An American Saga
Date: 2006
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer:Laeta Kalogridis
Artist: Christopher Shy
Editor: Victoria Foster, Jason Park

Graphic novel adapted from the movie screenplay.

A viking ship is wrecked on the North American coast, and the lone survivor, a young boy who was a prisoner in the hold, is rescued by a Wampanoag woman. He is given the name Ghost and is taken in by the tribe, but is forced to fight for his life when the viking raiders return to pillage what has become his home.

The painted artwork is visually awesome, although there are occasional moments when it can be difficult to make out the details of the action. Still, the book has a lovely look that is dark and yet beautiful.

Unfortunately, the story falls into a rather tired cliche. The vikings are cruel and heartless monsters, the native Americans are helpless against viking weapons and armor, and it's the adopted white guy who is able to pretty much singlehandedly save the natives from their doom.

There was a mix of character interaction along the way, with the main character's love interest having by far the best role in the book, but strong roles for her and for the mentor-figure pathfinder weren't enough to salvage the overdone plot tropes.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, August 3, 2012

Buffy/The Guild: Free Comic Book Day 2012

Title: Buffy/The Guild: Free Comic Book Day 2012
Issue: 1
Date: 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer:Felicia Day, Andrew Chambliss
Artist:Jonathan Case, Georges Jeanty, Dexter Vines, Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot, Richard Starkings, Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Adam Rex, Georges Jeanty, Michelle Madsen
Editor:Brendan Wright, Scott Allie, Freddye Lins, Sierra Hahn

Flip book.

First part is "The Guild", which is basically a nerdy sitcom about a group of MMORPG players. In this installment, the members engage in a fight to the death (in-game) to decide who will get to choose the location of their next (out-of-game) meetup.

The result is a trip to the beach and the result is, well it's supposed to be funny, but it's just kinda there. The problem is that this story needs to be witty and geeky, and it ends up being a rather generic comedy bit that could have been done with any set of sitcom characters in the same situation. They go to the beach. Funny things happen. Allegedly funny, anyway. I know a lot of people love the web series version of The Guild, and it may be great, but this was not a very effective introduction.

Flip the book over and there is Buffy in an adventure that rips off... Oh, sorry, parodies... Alien. Buffy is on a space ship with a creature that bears a lot of resemblance to the monster from the Alien films. Buffy gets to do her best Ripley imitation in between occasional moments of silliness. The serious scenes were pretty highly derivative, but were still effective. The silly moments (the friendly insectoid aliens eating all of Buffy's stakes, and so on) were less effective.

These are two pretty strong properties, and I feel like they both could have been done better for this book.

Rating: 4.5/10

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Agent Boo Volume 2

This was a freebie I picked up this past weekend at Otakon.

Title: Agent Boo
Issue: Volume 2
Date: 2006
Publisher: Tokyopop
Writer: Alex De Campi
Artist: Edo Fuijkschot

Interesting format. This book is mostly prose, but switches into comic format for sections that vary from as little as a panel to as much as several pages. The artwork does not illustrate what is in the prose fiction, it conveys additional plot that the prose does not cover, and thus is integral to the story.

The characters are young interdimensional agents-in-training, in a world at the center of the multiverse.

This story was a mix of fantasy adventure, pre-teen drama, and slapstick comedy. The adventure and drama worked better than the comedy did.The jokes were mostly unfunny or uninteresting.

The story varied from a very straightforward good-kids-take-on-evil-villains thing to something with considerably more complexity, and that complexity, while not consistent through this volume, came into play often enough to keep me interested.

The action was cartoony, but conveyed a decent level of drama and excitement.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back After Otakon

I haven't been updating because I've been in frantic preparation mode for Otakon.

My company, Dandelion Studios, is releasing the second issue of our comic series, Stone, at Otakon.

I am planning to get back to regular reviews next week. In the meantime, follow our Otakon roadtrip on twitter at #dandelion2otakon.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brain Parts #2

Title: Brain Parts
Issue: #2
Date: 2010
Publisher: Holly Foltz
Writer: Holly Foltz
Artist: Holly Foltz

Some entertaining slice-of-life tales about work in customer service. Plus X Files vs. Fringe, reality TV, cats, and sexist superheroes.

Fun collection of mostly one-page gag stri. I didn't laugh out loud at everything here, but there were plenty of chuckles to be had).

Ten-page bargain minicomic. Fun.

Rating: 6/10.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Brit #9

This was one of those Free Comic Book Day extras. Not an official FCBD edition, just a bargain bin comic that a dealer was giving away for free as part of the Free Comic Book Day fun.

Title: Brit
Issue: 9
Date: 2008
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Bruce Brown
Penciler: Nate Bellegarde
Inker: Nate Bellegarde
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Cover: Ryan Ottley, Kelsey Shannon
Editor: Aubrey Sitterson

I had no familiarity with this title at all going into this, so to start a fairly complex book with a large cast at issue #9 can sometimes be a bit of a stretch.

But I have to say, the first scene was a really solid hook for me. The book opens with a guy named Bob sitting on the Great Wall of China with his date for the evening, teleporter Ms. Popper. Popper is instantly likeable, an older female character who is quietly competent.

The story, as it turns out, plays heavily with parallel universes, and relies a bit heavily on parallel universe cliches once we get going, but there was good flow in the action, screen time for a lot of characters, emotional intensity, and a very clear degree of thought put into characters' various powers and abilities.

There is also a seemingly invincible villain who has that whole invincible-and-also-intolerably-annoying vibe, and it did not help matters when his identity is revealed on the last page to be the most obvious cliche of them all.

But in spite of all that, there was enough here in terms of good dialogue and clever interactions to keep my interest up.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Burt Ward: Boy Wonder / Wrath of the Titans

Title: Burt Ward: Boy Wonder / Wrath of the Titans
Date: 2012
Publisher: Blue Water Comics
Writer: Darren Garnick, Burt Ward, CW Cooke
Penciler: Ramon Salas
Colorist: Ramon Salas
Letterer: Warren Montgomery

Free Comic Book Day flip book.

On one side we've got Burt Ward: Boy Wonder, from the folks that brought us The Mis-Adventures of Adam West (see my review here). Actor Burt Ward (Robin from the 1960s Batman show; just in case you don't recognize the name) actually co-writes this one, and the beginning focuses heavily on his real-life animal rescue work.

A convenient interdimensional portal transports Ward to an alternate-dimension planet Pluto, where he is also conveniently reverse-aged to back when he was playing Robin.

It was goofy, which was part of the point, and it was all played with genuine affection, both for Ward himself, and for the old-time science fiction and superhero action that it all hearkened back to. Once things shifted to the alternate dimension, the art style also shifted into a gray-toned mode that didn't seem to serve much purpose beyond the obvious reminder that we were no longer in Kansas.

Overall, though, this story did a nice job of delivering the fun.

Flip the book over and it's Wrath of the Titans, following the adventures of Perseus in ancient Greece.

This used an unusual format of prose with unlettered panels on the facing page. It was an interesting innovation, but it didn't work for me. The problem here was that instead of just having a single illustration for a page of action like a traditional illustrated childrens book would have, there were a bunch of panels and it wasn't always clear which panels matched up with which lines of prose. I found myself constantly looking back and forth trying to keep track, and it was a distraction, rather than an enhancement to the story.

The story itself was more teaser than anything else, although Perseus has a good "leap of faith" scene in there. I liked the artwork itself, just not so much the format and layout.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1

From my Free Comic Book Day haul.

Title: The New 52 FCBD Special Edition
Issue: 1
Date: June 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, China Mieville, James Robinson, Paul Levitz, Howard Mackie, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, JT Krul
Artist: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Kenneth Rocafort, Gene Ha, Chris Burnham, Mateus Santolouco, Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott, Kevin Maguire, George Perez, Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Rod Reis, Alex Sinclair, Blond, Art Lyon, Dan Panosian, Ariel Olivetti
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editor: Kate Stewart, Dan Didio, Eddie Berganza
Cover: Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, Scott Williams

This was DC's major 2012 Free Comic Book Day edition. This is all teasers, but it's good eye candy for the most part. The giant fold-out center spread is gimmicky but fun.

The story focuses on the origin of Pandora, who was the mystery woman drawn into the backgrounds of all 52 of the reboot issues. She is the same Pandora we know from mythology, but she's part of a trio of ancient sinners who were cursed with eternal torment in one form or another. The other two beings appear to be reboots of the Phantom Stranger and the Question.

And speaking of reboots, welcome back Etta Candy (now black and skinny). Not minding the change there. She was a character who went through an awful lot of reimagining over the years.

There is a lot of back-and-forth with Pandora infiltrating top-secret labs and storage facilities for alien/mystical technology. Steve Trevor is clearly being shoehorned into the Nick Fury role, which comes off a bit generic. Also, he demands "Find me John Constantine!". Be careful what you wish for, Steve. Oh, and Black Orchid gets namedropped.

The second half of the book is just preview pages from new titles. The most intriguing of those was Dial H, featuring the first comic writing by China Mieville. It looked like it had some potential. World's Finest was amusing and engaging. It was nice to see the Unknown Soldier in the GI Combat preview, but the rest didn't interest me much.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Aquaman #5

Title: Aquaman
Issue: 5
Date: March 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inker: Joe Prado, Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis

We start things off with Aquaman dropping into the middle of a desert and then flash back to see how he got there. Nothing against this format. It is effective here. It just feels really overused in mainstream comics right now. It's like an automatic solution to all pacing problems to start the action in media res and then flash back. Instead of, you know, having a nice logical buildup to the climax.

That being said, this particular story is reasonably effective, especially considering that it's a bit of a laundry list of infodump and setup. Arthur has a delirious conversation with his dad to provide background and plant some seeds for future plot. Check. Explanation of the Atlantean ship in the Trench (and inhabited by, um, the Trench). Check. Remind readers that Aquaman gets no respect from the media. Check. Some teaser background on the sinking of Atlantis. Check. Introduce some new villains. Check.

I liked the visuals of Aquaman in the desert, and the small-scale character interactions were good. Enjoyable issue, but totally skippable.

Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, June 15, 2012

Voltron Force: Shelter From The Storm: Free Comic Book Day 2012

Continuing with the Free Comic Book Day 2012 haul.

Title: Voltron Force: Shelter From The Storm: Free Comic Book Day 2012
Date: 2012
Publisher: Viz
Writer: Brian Smith
Artist: Jacob Chabot
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Editor:Traci N. Todd

Opens with a fairly goofy scene involving the villains in which a new monster is unleashed and multiple laws of physics are ignored.

Once we get to the Voltron Force it gets a little bit better. The three Voltron trainees are introduced in a training sequence with their personality flaws on full display, but we get enough insights to see how these three teenagers really do have the potential to be heroic and function as a team.

Not much more happens, plot wise, and we go directly to cliffhanger once characters have been established.

The artwork was a bit cluttered, probably an unavoidable side effect of the ashcan format of this book. The size of the lions and the spaceships don't really come across, and the battle scenes tend to be a bit too busy.

Still considering the number of characters involved, there was a pretty decent variety of interactions here.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Snarked! #0

Title: Snarked!
Issue: #0
Date: 2011
Publisher: Kaboom!
Writer: Roger Langridge
Artist: Roger Langridge
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg, Matthew Wilson
Editor: Bryce Carlson

This full-color ashcan-format book was released in 2011, but I picked it up as part of my 2012 Free Comic Book Day haul.

Inspired by Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter", the narrative style of this comic resembles the classic Scrooge McDuck tales of Carl Barks.

In this story, the Walrus is hungry for a good meal and he's willing to give anything to get it. Anything except for honest work, of course. Accompanied by the rather oblivious Carpenter, the pair swindles their way into the palace of the absent king, passing themselves off as snark hunters, only to be undone by their own greed.

This had some amusing moments, and I enjoyed the way that the Lewis Carroll references were woven into the story.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Danger Boys: Adventures By Flashlight

This was a Free Comic Book Day offering exclusive to Jetpack Comics.

Title: Danger Boys: Adventures By Flashlight
Date: 2012
Publisher: Jetpack Comics
Creators: Jason Ciaramella, Craig Shepard

This is a really clever minicomic about tabletop roleplaying games, that is really a story about childhood, the love of all things make-believe, and the onset of adolescence with its abandonment of all things childish.

Longtime gamers will get a good chuckle out of the dialogue between player and gamemaster, which is layered on top of art showing the characters in their worlds. Two of the stories are pretty typical Dungeons & Dragons scenarios, with on SF story (hinted to be Star Wars roleplaying) plus the most amusing of the bunch: a Call of Cthulhu adventure featuring a sleuth named Detective Punchaguy and a mysterious woman in a trenchcoat who occasionally lapses into some arcane dialect probably straight out of the Necronomicon.

The jokes were good and the story worked well when it got serious too.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

HelLA #1

Title: HelLA
Issue: 1
Date: 2010
Publisher: Cody Pickrodt
Writer: Cody Pickrodt
Artist: Cody Pickrodt

I keep mentioning it, but I'm a sucker for geeky autobiographical comics. I love reading the misadventures of creative people, and the minicomic is the perfect format for this kind of story. HelLA is geeky autobiography with a west coast style to it.

Actually, the author moved out to LA from the New York area and found work out there as an artist, teacher, and designer. This is the first volume of his California adventures, covering dumpster diving, costume parties (super-hero and yakuza!), Star Trek VI, Eegah (!), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christopher Walken, and Halloween at the mall.

Also, there are ferrets.

As with most such things, a few of the observations fell a bit flat, but overall, there were some fun, quirky bits of humor here and a good mix of focus on the author himself and on the LA society he was finding his way in.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Little Artist Who Could

First of all, sorry for not updating in a while. It's getting toward the end of the school year, so it's crunch time at my day job, plus I've been busy with my own writing and comic projects. Dandelion Studios just finished a string of convention appearances at Portland's Maine Comics Arts Festival, which is where today's review comes from.

Title: The Little Artist Who Could Get Ripped Off By A Mighty Corporation (A Cautionary Fable)
Date: 2012
Publisher: Marek Bennett
Writer: Marek Bennett
Artist: Marek Bennett

I got to sit next to Marek Bennett at MECAF, and he's always a wonderful source of incredibly creative minicomics on a wide range of topics.

This micro-mini takes a "not naming names" approach to the situation with Jack Kirby and this ongoing dispute between Kirby's descendants and Marvel/Disney.

Told in stick-figure form with a faerie-tale style of narration, this is not an attempt to make a legal case, but rather a moral one, as it does a good job of pointing out the basic unfairness of Kirby's treatment over the years.

Ends with a nice tribute panel to the King (and the first mention of Kirby by name in the minicomic).

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Superman Family Adventures / Green Lantern Young Justice Super Sampler

This is the first of many reviews of 2012 Free Comic Book Day editions.

Title: Superman Family Adventures / Green Lantern Young Justice Super Sampler
Date: 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Art Baltazar, Franco, Kevin Hopps, Greg Weisman,
Artist: Kristy Quinn, David Brizuela, Christopher Jones
Colorist: Gabe El Taeb, Zac Atkinson
Letterer: Siada Temofonte, Dezi Sienty
Editor:Kristy Quinn, Sarah Gaydos, Jim Chadwick

Flip book. On one side we have Superman Family Adventures, the new DC Superman title for young readers.Awesome bit when Lois questions aloud why Clark is never around when any excitement is happening. Clark replies "Maybe it's because I'm really Superman.", and Lois comes back with "Oh, Clark! You're such a joker! Maybe Gotham City is more your style!" Ha!

With a cartoony art style and dialogue that is quick with the jokes, this is a fun story that sticks close to standard Superman mythology and doesn't talk down to young readers.

Flip the book over and you get Green Lantern and Young Justice.

The Green Lantern story plodded along toward an obvious climax, as Hal and Razer get trapped in a pocket dimension with an alien who was "unjustly" imprisoned. It's pretty obvious where this one is going, and not much of interest happens getting there.

The Young Justice section is really just some teaser material without even an attempt at a complete story. There were two segments, one featuring Green Arrow and Artemis and one with Batman and Robin.(Tim Drake, I think, but I could be wrong about that). Both end before much happens, and it doesn't help that the bad guys are generic thugs in ninja outfits.

The Green Lantern and Young Justice stuff is aimed older than Superman Family Adventures, but I definitely preferred the Superman story.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unpleasant People #1

Another find from Boston Comic Con.

Title: Unpleasant People
Issue: 1
Date: 2010
Publisher: Holly Foltz
Writer: Holly Foltz
Artist: Holly Foltz

Evil dictator Lord Zoloft has problems. His ninjas are on strike for better health benefits, his t-rex is, um, with child, and there is a pair of revenge-seeking heroes at the castle gates.

Fortunately, the "good guys" at the gates seem incompetent enough, but Lord Zoloft is still having time-management and organizational problems. The obvious solution: Hire a temp!

The story is really just getting started in this thin minicomic from Holly Foltz, but it's off to a good start with a decent send-up of typical heroic fantasy and some funny one-liners.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, May 7, 2012

Slashers 101

I picked this one up at the Boston Comic Con.

Title: Slashers 101
Date: 2012
Publisher: Stacie Ponder
Writer: Stacie Ponder
Artist: Stacie Ponder

Incredibly cute mini comic tribute to slasher films. The great thing about the slasher film subgenre is that you don't need to have seen all that many of them to "get" the idea (or to get the jokes in this comic). And if you do happen to be an expert, writer/artist (somehow it just seems right to give her a title with "slash" in the middle of it) Stacie Ponder loads the book with plenty of obscure trivia aimed at the real horror buff.

Ponder covers killers, masks, weapons, and most importantly the stock cast of victims from the annoying joker/nerd to the easy lover to the ineffective authority figure, and of course the final girl.

The whole comic is written in a tone of nostalgic amusement mixed with sarcasm and loaded with little side notes, trivia, and snark.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, May 4, 2012

Superman #269

I love finding inexpensive silver/bronze age comics at the various shows I go to. I picked this one up at the South Attleboro Collectibles Show a couple of weeks ago.

Title: Superman
Issue: 269
Date: November 1973
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Cary Bates
Artist: Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Evil circus own BB Farnum (no, really) creates seven Superman puppets each one with the ability to steal one of Superman's powers.

Meanwhile Clark Kent picks up an assignment from Morgan Edge to do an in-depth story about a local sports hero who's a bit of an egotistical jerk. While Clark enjoyed showing up the dumb jock with some sneaky application of superpowers, the puppets begin their work of stripping those very powers away.

The story, although a bit slow in its pacing, does a nice job of showing how Superman remains a hero as his powers diminish, even taking on Farnum and the super-puppets in a seemingly unwinnable final battle.

In the end, we get to see Superman bust out that most classic of Silver Age powers: The super-ventriloquism! Totally makes the ridiculously contrived ending worth it! Gotta love the super-ventriloquism!

I'll also add that the cover is absolutely awesome.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Plain Toast Morning

I am pretty heavily backlogged right now, with comics still to review from four recent shows, and Free Comic Book Day and the South Coast Toy and Comic Show only a couple of days away. I'm going to continue to pull comics pretty much at random from these recent finds for a while. This is a minicomic I picked up at the Spring Zine Thing.

Title: Plain Toast Morning
Date: 2012
Publisher: Hilliard
Writer: John Hilliard
Artist: John Hilliard

John Hilliard's Tumblr webcomic is done primarily in the form of one-panel gag strips, and this minicomic features a nice variety of the cartoons. Hilliard covers a range of geeky topics. There are Sesame Street, Inspector Gadget, Batman, and Star Trek jokes here. A couple of the comics have a bit of a Gary Larson feel to them.

But his relationship-based cartoons are the ones that really stand out here. Hilliard takes a humble and lighthearted approach to the triumphs, frustrations, and little embarrassments of dating. These little scenes are heartfelt even when cringe-worthy, and they are where Plain Toast Morning really finds its voice.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Brain Parts #0

Artist Holly Foltz was across the aisle from me at the Boston Comic Con.

Title: Brain Parts
Issue: #0
Date: 2010
Publisher: Holly Foltz
Writer: Holly Foltz
Artist: Holly Foltz

Minicomic collection of short cartoons. Opening bit involving a cat and a small tribute to the film Alien was very cute. This is followed by a SF-flavored vignette that felt like it was part of something bigger. It was actually a dream comic, as it turned out, but it still looked like there could be an interesting plot lurking in there.

The remaining pieces were short, amusing autobiographical bits, that had the little bit of geeky edge that I never fail to find amusing in nonfiction comics.

Ten pages total, but entertaining and worth the buck cover price.

Rating: 7/10.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Caroline's Catalog

Here's one of my finds from the Boston Comic Con.

Title: Caroline's Catalog
Date: 2012
Publisher: Drowned Town Press
Writer: E.J. Barnes
Artist: E.J. Barnes

E.J. Barnes can always be counted on for some eclectic comic book subject matter. This digest-sized minicomic is a biographical portrait of astronomer Caroline Herschel, who discovered eight comets around the beginning of the 19th century. She was the brother of Sir William Herschel, who first discovered the planet Uranus.

The retrospective of Caroline's life is framed by a visit from her nephew, also an astronomer, who has come to congratulate Caroline on an award she received from the King of Denmark. He also has some new plans for scientific exploration to share with his aunt.

E.J. Barnes does a nice job with the historical details, but where she really shines is in the life and personality she instills into Caroline Herschel, whose love for discovery and for life in general comes across loud and clear.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Conversation About Spiders

Continuing to make my way through the stack of recent convention finds. I ran into Aya Rothwell the second day of the Boston Comic Con. She was there with Boston Comics Roundtable. I picked up her latest minicomic.

Title: A Conversation About Spiders
Date: 2012
Publisher: Aya Rothwell
Writer: Aya Rothwell
Artist: Aya Rothwell

As a fan of biodiversity in all of its many (and many-legged!) forms, I can very much relate to the poor nature geek in this minicomic. He tries so hard to describe the wonders of the arachnid world to his arachnophobic friend, but she gets more and more disturbed by each new fact. This is an amusing and informative minicomic (quarter-sized), and it contains a bonus page of spider-sketches.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kristilyn's Burlesque Sketchbook Volume 1

Title: Kristilyn's Burlesque Sketchbook
Issue: Volume 1
Date: 2012
Publisher: Kristilyn
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

Twenty-page minicomic sketchbook based on Boston-area meetings of Dr. Sketchy's Anti Art school. Dr. Sketchy is a recurring event where artists get together to sketch burlesque models.The sketches have are a nice juxtaposition of the burlesque style with Kristilyn's endearing and cute sketching technique.

Good artwork and a nice bit of local flavor as it features Boston-area performers.

Rating: 7/10

Red String Volume 1

Here is another of my Anime Boston purchases.

Title: Red String
Issue: Volume 1
Date: December, 2006
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Gina Biggs
Artist: Gina Biggs
Editor: Mike Carriglitto

Red String is Gina Biggs' shojo webcomic that explores the theme of destiny in love. Set in Japan, the story centers on high school student Miharu Ogawa, who is suddenly informed by her parents that they have arranged a marriage for her.

Her first instinct is to rebel against the decision, but things get more complicated when a chance meeting with the boy she is to be engaged to leads to a real attraction.

As Miharu questions the nature of destiny and her own ability to choose her path in life, her new romance is complicated by a boyfriend-stealing cousin, school rivals, and even the arrival of a second arranged fiance.

The plot is complex but never to the point of being confusing, and the book features a really strong supporting cast with their own subplots going on. Biggs' art is lovely, and this American-made shojo contains a believable rendition of life in Japan and plenty of good details in between the story's more dramatic turns.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trees And Hills Anthology #10: Woods

Another comic I picked up at the Spring Zine Thing last Sunday in Somerville. I am currently going through a bunch of comics from recent shows (Spring Zine Thing, South Attleboro Collectibles Show, and Anime Boston). More show finds ahead too, and I'll be at four more shows in the coming weeks (Boston Comic Con, South Coast Comic And Toy Show, Rochester NH Free Comic Book Day Festival, and Maine Comic Arts Festival).

Title: Trees And Hills Anthology #10: Woods
Date: 2012
Publisher: Trees And Hills
Writer: Colin Tedford, Marlene O'Connor, Rio Aubrey Taylor, Bill Tulp, Sarah Margaret Frye, Elizabeth Neronski, Colleen Frakes, Matt Levin, Liam Gyori, Madsahara, Carl Mefferd, Glynnis Fawkes, Jay Goldspinner, Marek Bennett, Mike Lynch, Daniel Barlow, Randall Drew, Anne Thalheimer
Artist: Colin Tedford, Marlene O'Connor, Rio Aubrey Taylor, Bill Tulp, Sarah Margaret Frye, Elizabeth Neronski, Colleen Frakes, Matt Levin, Liam Gyori, Madsahara, Carl Mefferd, Glynnis Fawkes, Jay Goldspinner, Marek Bennett, Mike Lynch, Daniel Barlow, Randall Drew, Anne Thalheimer
Editor: Colin Tedford, Daniel Barlow
Cover: Colin Tedford

Hefty 68-page digest-sized minicomic that features seventeen stories around the theme of "woods".

This is a nice mix of autobiographical and environmentalist stories, almost all of them set in Trees & Hills' home territory of western New England. Everything here is good. Some standouts include Marlene O'Connor's story of about a young man's escape into the woods from an abusive home and his meeting with the Native American spirit Nukumi, Bill Tulp's history of the Green Man, and Marek Bennett's account of a hike gone wrong and told in an incredible linear series of tiny drawings.

Nice variety of art styles and lots of good stories and images.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Southpaw Volume 3

I picked this one up at the Spring Zine Thing this past Sunday in Somerville MA. This was one of several zines and comics I traded for at that event.

Title: Southpaw
Issue: Volume 3
Date: September 2011
Publisher: Kristilyn
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

Minicomic format sketchbook with short comics. Included in this volume is Bed Mermaid, which Kristilyn also released as a standalone minicomic.

The sketches give some nice insight into Kristilyn's art style, but the feature I really dug was a three page "personal history of zines" that detailed Kristilyn's involvement with zines from the beginning.

There is also a cute cat comic strip (of course!). And the zone ends with a handy annotated fashion sketch.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Walking Dead: The Covers

Slight change of plans. Today was going to be another item from one of the recent cons, but someone bought this book from me and so I figured I'd read it and review it before I ship it off.

By the way, if you read and appreciate my comic reviews and are wondering if there was a way to support the effort, I would point you in the direction of my own comic book small press, my books for sale on half.com, my assorted geeky ebay auctions, or my books for trade on paperbackswap.com.

Title: The Walking Dead: The Covers
Date: 2010
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Artist: Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Colorist: Tony Moore, Cliff Rathburn
Cover: Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
Editor: Sina Grace

This hardcover edition collects the cover illustrations from the first fifty issues of The Walking Dead. Each cover gets a full-page treatment (just the art without the cover lettering), and on the facing page are notes from Robert Kirkman and from the artist along with sketches and alternate versions.

The artwork is great, and the book's format does an excellent job of showcasing it. The notes sometimes tend toward the technical side of the artwork, with some decent insights for artists into the processes involved. Tony Moore writes a lot more than Charlie Adlard does, but I thought there were some good anecdotes from both artists.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sandman #5

Title: Sandman
Issue: 5
Date: November 1975
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artist: Jack Kirby, Mike Royer
Editor: Joe Orlando

An old fisherman and his grandson are out on the ocean when a sea monster attacks. The Sandman, looking on from his Dream Dome (No,really! In case you didn't notice the date, this is not Neil Gaiman's Sandman; this is the original!), arrives in time to save apprentice fisherman Jed, but not his grandfather.

Cue the arrival of the evil family members. Jed's aunt and uncle could use some help around the farm, and Jed's bully cousins are in need of a new victim. Jed is soon living a life much like Harry Potter before the Hogwarts invitation, but when he falls asleep on the wood-chopping job, he finds himself in Sandman's dreamscape, fighting alongside his hero to defend an island of cute winged folk against an army of invading... Well, they kinda resembled bully wigs from D&D.

Jed even gets to use his fishing knowledge to help save the day.

Nothing in this story is particularly subtle, least of all Jack Kirby's artwork, but it still manages to be entertaining, with a reasonable logical flow, fun scenes at the right moments, and a sprinkle of surrealism from the King.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chaotic Kiss Book Three

Another Anime Boston purchase.

Title: Chaotic Kiss
Issue: Book Three
Date: 2011
Publisher: MKT Productions
Writer: Michelle Pinard
Artist: Michelle Pinard

This holiday-themed volume of Michelle Pinard's transgendered geeky romance starts out with a departure from the Boston-based nerdy fun of the previous issues. Syd is heading home for Thanksgiving to face a family who has never come to terms with her gender identity. This is a really emotional scene, and definitely the most intense and dramatic so far in this series.

When they get back to Boston, Syd and Mariko find themselves in the midst of the holiday season, complete with a cute series of tributes to favorite holiday tropes. Meanwhile, Yujiko's beginning relationship with Noah continues to grow and Lander is trying to work up to courage to confess his feelings for Syd.

There is the maid cafe, and video game action, of course, and some fun local flavor. I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of First Night Boston.

There is a lot of silliness in this volume, but my favorite moments were among the more serious: The confrontation between Syd and her father, and a really tender scene involving Yujiko and Noah.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drifting Doom

This is the first of several reviews of books I purchased at Anime Boston 2012. I had a great time representing Dandelion Studios in artists alley, but I've been in full con-recovery mode for the last few days, which is why reviews have gone neglected. Without further ado, on to the Anime Boston finds!

Title: Drifting Doom
Date: 2010
Publisher: Emily Wing
Writer: Emily Wing
Artist: Emily Wing

Eight-page wordless minicomic.

A whale calf is on a collision course with a deadly hazard. This is a simple vignette, told elegantly and poignantly with only Emily Wing's pen-and-ink illustrations to convey the emotion of the scene.

Minimalist and beautiful.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, April 7, 2012

New 52 Recap #4

Here is my latest recap of DC Comics' New 52 line. I'm covering the issue #3's today. My previous recaps are here and here.

Here is the list of New 52 titles I stuck with through four issues, in order of their issue #4 ratings:

Swamp Thing #4 (8.5)
Batgirl #4 (8)
Action Comics #4 (7.5)
Birds of Prey #4 (7.5)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) #4 (7.5)
Batwoman #4 (7)
Wonder Woman #4 (7)
Superman #4 (6.5)
Animal Man #4 (6)
Batman #4 (6)
Detective Comics #4 (6)
Static Shock #4 (6)
Aquaman #4 (5.5)
Justice League #4 (5.5)
Justice League Dark #4 (5)
Batman And Robin #4 (4.5)
Batman: The Dark Knight #4 (4.5)

And here are the titles in order of their running average:

Batwoman (7.38)
Swamp Thing (7.38)
Wonder Woman (7.38)
Action Comics (7.25)
Batman (7.00)
Static Shock (7.00)
Aquaman (6.63)
Animal Man (6.50)
Birds of Prey (6.50)
Superman (6.25)
Batgirl (6.00)
DC Universe Presents (Deadman) (6.00)
Justice League (6.00)
Detective Comics (5.88)
Batman: The Dark Knight (5.38)
Justice League Dark (5.00)
Batman And Robin (4.13)

Biggest Rating Increase From Issue 1: Batgirl (+3.0)
Biggest Rating Decrease From Issue 1: Justice League: Dark (-2.5), Aquaman (-2.5)

Here is the list of titles that I have purchased a Fifth issue of:

Action Comics
Animal Man
Batman and Robin
Batman: The Dark Knight
Birds of Prey
DC Universe Presents (Deadman)
Detective Comics
Justice League Dark
Static Shock
Swamp Thing
Wonder Woman

Titles Dropped After Issue #4:

Suicide Squad


I'm still quite a bit behind the current releases of these books as far as my reading goes, so a lot of my decisions to keep or drop titles have been put off. I'm thinking of making a big cut around issue #6, and will probably be down to eight or fewer regular titles at that point.

Nightwing is not a definite drop. There was a lot I liked about the title, so I may pick it up as back issues, especially if a sale comes up (Boston Comic Con, maybe?).

Some more playing with statistics:

Average Rating Across Titles I Reviewed By Issue Number:

Issue #1: 6.250
Issue #2: 6.075
Issue #3: 5.921
Issue #4: 6.382

So issue #3's were the weakest and the #4's scored the best. Of course, the lack of Catwoman and Suicide Squad helped the #4's.

Avengers Vs. X-men #1

Title: Avengers Vs. X-Men
Date: June, 2012
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Jim Cheung, Justin Ponsor
Editor: Nick Lowe, John Denning, Lauren Sankovitch, Tom Brevoort

So, this is the "I'm With The X-Men!" variant, not particularly because I'm with the X-Men, but because the "I'm With The Avengers!" variant was sold out at my local comic shop.

It too how many writers to come up with this nonsense?

The Phoenix force is headed for Earth, and Hope has already started manifesting some Phoenix SFX.

So of course the thing to do is for Captain American to show up on X-Island (or whatever they're calling it) and demand that Hope be put into protective custody. Which would leave the X-Men hopeless. Sorry. I'll stop now.

Anyway, while Cap is being an idiot, Cyclops has turned full-on villain, to the point that Magneto and Emma Frost are even impressed.

Talking soon turns to fighting, Scott blasts Cap, and Cap orders the SHIELD Helicarrier to lower the cloaking device and arm the photon torpedoes. Oh, and to assemble the Avengers while they're at it.

None of which is actually going to help with that whole Phoenix-force-heading-for-Earth thing. But that's okay. There are five writers working on this. One of them must be handling that.

With the X-Men? With the Avengers? I think I'm going to be standing with those who demand that their comics actually make sense.

Rating: 4/10

Oh, and before I go, since when is Namor an X-Man? Never mind. Don't answer that.