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