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