Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lady Skylark and the Queen's Treasure, Act Two

I picked this one up at last summer's MASSive Comic Con in Worcester, MA.

Title: Lady Skylark and the Queen's Treasure
Volume: Act Two
Publisher: Kay and P Comics
Date: 2015
Writer: Christopher Parent
Artist: Jackie Musto

This is the second collection from the webomic by writer Christopher Parent and artist Jackie Musto.
Lady Skylark has been rescued after being tossed off of her ship by a mutinous crew. She's a passenger aboard the Lady Abbess now, but not an entirely welcome one. And Skylark isn't content to be at the mercy of her rescuers. She has plans for revenge, and those plans need her to be the one in command of a ship.

This volume did a great job of bringing our Lady Skylark's cunning and ambition as she plots and manipulates her way toward her goals. It all builds toward some fun mayhem involving a sky kraken.

There was also some good character development and worldbuilding, especially in a nicely-done scene where Skylark gets to know the crew of the Lady Abbess.

Bonus section at the end describes the process of designing the sky kraken.

This was a lot of fun and felt more tightly focused than the first volume.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tales from the Jatakas 3-in-1

A graphic novel from India that I bought at Mumbai Airport.

Title: Tales from the Jatakas 3-in-1
Publisher: Amar Chitra Katha Pvt Ltd
Date: 2014
Writer: Lakshmi Lal, Meena Talim
Artist: Ashok Dongre, Jeffrey Fowler
Editor: Anant Pai
Cover: C.M. Vitankar

This is an English-language graphic novel that I picked up during a layover at the airport in Mumbai, India. It is a collection of animal stories from the Jatakas, traditional Indian tales dating to the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD.

The collection is divided into three sections: Elephant Stories, Monkey Stories, and Deer Stories. The stories themselves are reminiscent of Aesop's Fables, often containing a simple moral lesson, favoring mercy or against greed, for instance.

The stories range from very silly humor pieces to tragedies involving animals sacrificing their own lives to save their herd or troop. There is also one particularly gruesome revenge story (the details of the revenge is horrific, but the art is not excessively gory).

The artwork has a cartoony look to it reminding me a bit of early Looney Tunes, with the deer tending to be anthropomorphized.

While the stories were fairly simplistic, this was an interesting bit of insight into India's traditional folklore, as well as its current comics.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adventures of Tintin Volume 1

I picked this up at Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA, on my visit back to the US during the Summer. Vietnam seems to really love Tintin merchandise, which is sold extensively at souvenir shops in most major tourist areas.

Title: Adventures of Tintin
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date: 1994
Writer: Herge
Artist: Herge

Vietnam, at least the touristy areas, has an odd fixation with Tintin merchandise, and I couldn't resist picking up a "Tintin in Vietnam" t-shirt on one of my first tourist ventures after relocating to Ho Chi Minh City for a job. I'm a lifelong comic reader, and knew of Herge's Tintin series, but had never actually read any of them. After a bit more research I found that there is not an actual Tintin in Vietnam story by Herge, so I decided to start reading with this volume, which is the first in the hardcover English-language reprint series.

It actually reprints the third, fourth, and fifth of the original Tintin stories. The original first two stories are controversial due to racist content and were not reprinted in this edition.

The physical quality of the book is great, and the color artwork is gorgeous, especially on Herge's depiction of locations, costume, and architecture. The small print size does make for a tradeoff with the convenient size of the hardcover edition.

The three stories in this volume are Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and The Blue Lotus. The first of these stands alone, and the others comprise a two-part story.

Tintin has been widely critiqued for it's racial stereotypes, and there is definitely validity to those critiques. The depiction of the Blackfoot tribe in Tintin in America managed to cram nearly every imaginable Native American stereotype into the space of a few pages. It was cringe-inducing. Depictions of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese characters, among others, also ply too stereotypes. Herge does include a pretty biting bit of satire about the US government's treatment of Native Americans, and he includes some clearly anti-racist ideas around a racist villain in The Blue Lotus, but even these moments still have a colonialist vibe about them.

The rest of Tintin in America basically involved Tintin, a "reporter" (he seldom seems to get around to actually writing any news stories) arriving in Chicago and being immediately targeted by Al Capone's mob, apparently because of his role in disrupting their overseas operations.

Herge's pacing is frenetic. Some writers would go for a life-or-death cliffhanger at the end of a page or a chapter. With Tintin, there is often a new cliffhanger every couple of panels. A lot of the action is played for laughs, with Tintin often escaping through strokes of ridiculous good luck. There is some funny humor along with some awkward slapstick. The adventures and settings have an undeniably fun flavor that fits in nicely with today's dieselpunk while keeping the innocent feel of Golden-Age commics.

Tintin himself is likable, though lacking in depth or background. His most prominent personality trait is his loyalty to his dog, Snowy. Snowy, meanwhile, breaks the fourth wall with his somewhat snarky commentary directed at the reader.

The supporting cast are mostly either bumbling comic relief or sinister villains. I did really like Chang, a Chinese boy whose friendship with Tintin was one of the best aspects of The Blue Lotus.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, October 19, 2015

Indonesian Manga

Hello from Jakarta, Indonesia!

I'm here on a day-job business trip. Things have been hectic lately, so I haven't had time to do much in the way of reviews, but I'm taking advantage of this opportunity to give a (really quick) look at the geeky scene here in Jakarta. Keep in mind that I've been pretty busy with work, and I haven't been able to see much besides the huge mall next to my hotel.

But on the way here from the airport, I did spot this big banner over the highway advertising Jakarta's Comic Fair.

I also managed to pick up a couple of samples of Bahasa-language manga at a bargain table at the mall. I don't review comics in languages I can't read, but here are a few pictures. I believe these titles are translated from Japanese, but they are published by companies here in Jakarta.

Since leaving the U.S., I've bought comics or manga in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, and now Indonesia! I'll see what I can find in China in December!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye #4: Fish You Were Here

The Kiddo and I enjoyed another volume from this series, so when we had a chance to run into Colleen A.F. Venable again at the 2014 Maine Comic Arts Festival, he picked this one out.

Title: Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye #4: Fish You Were Here
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Date: 2011
Writer: Colleen A.F. Venable
Artist: Stephanie Yue
Letterer: Grace Lu

Mr. Venezi has the help-wanted sign out, but he's having trouble finding the perfect assistant for the pet shop until high-school freshman Viola walks in the door, full of energy and know-how. At least, she's full of energy until Mr. V's not watching her. Then she's more into binge-watching her soaps then watching the shop. Meanwhile, Mr. V thinks she's doing such a great job that he isn't even needed anymore.

Sasspants and Hamisher have to convince the rest of the pet store to take some drastic action to get Mr. V to come back. But first they need to solve the mystery of where he's gone.

This was the second in this graphic novel series that I've read, and it was amusing and cute. The subplot involving the goldfish (all named Steve) getting a pleco as a new addition to their tank was particularly fun.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, September 19, 2015


I was a crowdfunding backer on this graphic novel based on the life of Niccolo Machiavelli. This is a print collection of the webcomic of the same title.

Title: Machiavelli
Date: 2014
Publisher: Don MacDonald
Writer: Don MacDonald
Artist: Don MacDonald

Beautifully illustrated and meticulously researched, Don MacDonald's graphic novel brings Niccolo Machiavelli's life in renaissance Florence to life. Told in a series of vignettes, the story spans Machiavelli's political career, through all the turmoil and rises and falls in fortune that occurred among the warring Italian city-states of that period.

Machiavelli is presented sympathetically, with the dialogue presented in modern English (which works for the story better than an attempt to make the characters sound somehow archaic would), and the political threads are balanced out with the romantic storyline of Machiavelli's complex relationship with his wife, from whom he was often separated by the call of his duties.

The artwork is in greytones, with watercolors used for the shading, and MacDonald does a particularly good job with the architecture and the battle scenes.

The section of notes shows of the depth of MacDonald's research, providing some great starting points for anyone wishing for more reading on Machiavelli and the Italian renaissance.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Society's Ills #1

Had to take a bit of a hiatus as school got started up. I've spent the last few weeks pretty buried in day-job work. This is from the unread comic stack I accumulated over the summer. I got this book from artist Lisa Cavalear at MASSive Comic Con in Worcester MA, this past June.

Title: Society's Ills
Issue: 1
Date: 2014
Publisher: Happy Kitty Studio (
Writer: Lisa Cavalear
Artist: Lisa Cavalear

This book chronicles the lives of a group of (anthropomorphic) misfits with geeky tendencies who work at Swillbane Library at Scuzz Community College in the town of New Scuzzden.

While mostly introducing the cast through short vignettes, the book does a nice job of hitting some topical areas (online dating, unhealthy food, and video gaming) as well as some that are endearingly quirky. I particularly liked the bit with the guy serenading the object of his, well, love is probably too strong a word here, with Prince's Purple Rain, played on a large boombox.

Nerdy jokes are always fun for me, and this one got some giggles out of me, as well as nailing some of the frustrations of the internet dating scene.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Senior Year

Here's a minicomic that I picked up, somewhat randomly, at Million Year Picnic Cambridge MA.

Title: My Senior Year
Publisher: Sarah Friedman
Date: 2013
Writer: Sarah Friedman
Artist: Sarah Friedman

Eighteen-page half-size minicomic with cardstock cover.

Series of moments and vignettes from the artist's senior year in college. Not much background is given, so this really could be set anywhere.

I liked the art style, which makes good use of space without ever seeming cramped in the minicomic format.

The stories were a bit of a mix, although I really enjoyed some of the quick glimpses into the artist's life as a student in one or two panels. Some of the more plot-oriented stories could have been expanded out a bit more.

Among the topics covered were roommates and neighbors, babysitting, and misadventures in adopting a cat.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, July 26, 2015

1001 Arabian Nights: The Adventures of Sinbad #0

Another week before I head back to the day job, so let's see how I can do on making this blog actually daily, at least for a short time.

Back in the USA when we were visiting, I found a box of unread comics in our storage unit and grabbed a stack of them. This book came from that stack. No idea where I got it.

Title: 1001 Arabian Nights: The Adventures of Sinbad
Issue: 0
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Date: April, 2008
Writer: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dan Wickline
Artist: Gus Vasquez
Colorist: Garry Henderson
Letterer: Alphabet Soup's Jim Reddington
Editor: Raven Gregory

This retelling of the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor begins aboard the ship of a traveling circus whose owner maintains control over his "freaks" by sorcerers means. Enter Sinbad, who needs the skills of the circus seer, and might possibly have use for a new ship and crew as well.

This was a good setup that quickly got in some action, established Sinbad, and introduced a ready-made supporting cast with a range of powers and abilities, and even hints of distinctive personalities. 

The art style overdoes the muscles and the female anatomy in something of an Image comics style that feels unnecessary for this legend, but the action sequences were crisp and well-paced.

This is a $.99 promotional book, which somewhat justifies the 13 pages of ads for 15 pages of story, but it would be nice to see these characters with a bit more breathing room in terms of page count. That said, this was good swashbuckling fun.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Batgirl #38

I'd been hearing a lot about the new-look Batgirl, and Double Midnight Comics & Games in Manchester NH happened to have a couple of signed issues in stock.

Title: Batgirl
Issue: 38
Date: March, 2015

DC Comics

Writer: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher

Artist: Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart

Colorist: Maris Wicks

Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

Editor: Chris Conroy, Dave Wielgosz

Cover: Cameron Stewart

Batgirl has become a neighborhood social media celebrity, and Barbara Gordon is enjoying her moment in the spotlight, even if it's put her friendship with Dinah in jeopardy. And then there's her budding relationship with a young cop who has no use for Batgirl's brand of vigilante justice.

When she goes after a street-racing reality TV star, the lines begin to blur between her brand of social media attention-seeking and his, and social media has a way of being very fickle.

As mentioned, this was my first chance to read the new version of Batgirl. Like a lot of people, I like the new costume, and I enjoyed the down-to-earth low-key style of story.

Boyfriend Liam is a bit longwinded in what is a pretty standard run-through of the pro-law anti-vigilante argument, but there are also some hints that there is more to Liam than meets the eye.

The action was good, and I liked the new supporting cast. Lots of minor characters with good potential.

I'm glad I picked up three issues of this, so I'll get to follow the story a bit.

Rating: 6.5/10


Ms. Marvel #10

As promised, here is the new stack of to-read comics that I brought back to Vietnam from the US following our recent visit. The majority of these came from a box of pretty random unread comics in our storage unit, but I also attended two conventions and visited several comic shops during my time in the States, so there are some new items in this stack too.

Here is the new stack nicely organized...

...And spread out on the sofa.

Today's review is a comic I bought off the rack at Double Midnight Comics & Games in Manchester NH. I've been hearing a lot of good things about the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, and this is my first chance to read a story featuring her.

Title: Ms. Marvel
Issue: 10
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: February, 2015
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover: Kris Anka

Editor: Sana Amanat, Devin Lewis

This is part 3 of a four-part story entitled "Generation Why". The basic premise has a villain named the Inventor enslaving teenagers and using them as power sources (think The Matrix) to provide energy for his power-armor and other machines.

But when some of them are freed by Ms. Marvel, she discovers that they may not have been enslaved against their wills at all. What follows is a fairly interesting conversation on the role of the young generation growing up into an economy and an environment ruined by previous generations, who still view the teenagers as parasites, unwilling to work for the same materialistic goals that served in the past.

While a lot of it echoed some internet memes that I have seen floating around, it still made for a good discussion and gave a chance for Kamala Khan to share some of her philosophical ideas.

There was some action here as well, but it was mostly setup for a big final battle next issue. Oh, and Lockjaw from the Inhumans is a guest star here. Kamala Khan's origin apparently has her down as an inhuman, I would assume as a result of Marvel's pushing of the Inhumans as the new version of mutants that Marvel actually owns the cinematic rights to.

I loved Kamala Khan. She's thoughtfully written with a fun and distinctive voice and perspective. I was less impressed with the villain. The Inventor would have been more interesting if he'd matched Kamala philosophically, rather than doing generic villain-ranting while his teenaged followers handled the debating. Given the questions and issues raised here, a villain who could contribute more to the intellectual argument would have been a nice addition.

Still, I found this to be a clever, all-ages-friendly story, and I look forward to reading more of Kamala Khan's adventures.

Rating: 6/10


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Joys of Airports: A Short Travelogue

I am back in Vietnam with a huge new stack of comics I brought from the USA! Some of these were pulled from a box of unread comics in my storage unit. The rest were purchased at two conventions and a variety of comic book stores that I visited during our month-long visit home.

I'll post a pic of the full stack as soon as I get them all unpacked and consolidated in one place.

In the meantime, the awesome Million Year Picnic store in Cambridge MA is a great place to shop for minicomics and all sorts of other small press goodies. This is a minicomic that I picked up there.

Title: The Joys of Airports: A Short Travelogue
Publisher: Kristen Toohill
Date: 2011
Writer: Kristen Toohill
Artist: Kristen Toohill

This seemed like a good one to read while recovering from jet lag.

Eight-page half-size minicomic telling the tale of the artist's misadventures on a flight from Boston to Montana via Denver. This was the kind of fun autobiographical story that I enjoy (even if I had the initial reaction of "If she thought that was bad, she should try Newark to Brussels to Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh City!").

There were some fun details here. I loved her observations about bathroom tornado shelters in Denver! The art style is simple and charming, and the story has a cute epilogue, plus a back cover featuring bisoncopters!

Witty and fun from start to finish.

Rating: 7.5/10


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tinkle Double Digest #143

The month-long vacation in the US is over, and we're back in Saigon, settling into a new apartment. I attended two conventions during the trip home, and visited a bunch of comic book stores, and brought back a bunch of comics to read over the course of the coming school year. But to start with, here's something I picked up on the trip out to the US, at a gift shop at the airport in Mumbai, India.

Title: Tinkle Double Digest
Issue: 143
Date: May, 2015
Publisher: ACK Media
Writer: Annie Besant, Chandni Shah, Madhumita Gupta, Sana Merchant, Rajani Thindiath, Priya Panicker, Tushar Abhichandani, Sharmistha Sinha, Indira Ananthakrishnan, Vivian Li, Sarthak Sinha, Ashwini Falnikar, Aparna Sundaresan Sayash Raaj, Shriya Ghate, Archana Amberkar, Luis Fernandes
Artist: Nikhil Salvi, Savio Mascarenhas, Archana Amberkar, Anupama Apte, Jitendra Patil, Prachi Killekar, Vineet Nair, Akshay Khadikar, Pramodini Desai, Sarthak Sinha, Abhijeet Kini, Ajitesh Bhattacharjee, Sahil Upalekar, Radhakrishnan Acharya, Ram Waeerkar
Colorist: Umesh Sarode, Akshay Khadilkar, Pragati M Agrawal, Lidwin Mascarhenhas
Letterer: Prasad Sawant, Pranay Bendre
Editor: Shriya Ghate

Tinkle is a long-running English-language kids comic/magazine published in India. I managed to pick up this issue at a shop at the airport in Mumbai during a layover.

The format is similar to an Archie Digest, and the short comic stories are intermixed with one or two-page puzzles and text features. There are some educational elements, especially on world cultures and geography, and some of the comic stories have a definite moral to them, in the style of Aesop's Fables, but for the most part the comics are humorous folktales and kid-friendly mystery stories that reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown.

Not all of the stories are credited, though as you can see above from the list of contributors who were named, a large cast of talent is involved in putting each of these digests together.

I found the stories to generally be simple but engaging. The recurring "Stupid Crocodile and the Monkey" was pretty silly fare, with the monkey endlessly outwitting the crocodile, who is, well, ill-equipped for a battle of wits.

Another recurring character is Tantri the Mantri, a scheming advisor to a young and naïve king whose plots to assassinate the king and take power for himself always backfire in ways that leave the king even more trusting of him. The two storied of Tantri are done by different creative teams.

Many of the stories are folk-tale variants, mostly Indian, but some from other cultures, including an Anansi story from Africa, and a Latvian tale about a man who outwits a pair of dragons.

A few of the stories took a more serious turn. "The Monkey King's Sacrifice" (uncredited) was genuinely tragic, and "The Yellow Bicycle (by Sharmistha Sinha, Pramodini Desai, and Umesh Sarode) was a solid kids detective story that read like an Indian version of the Hardy Boys.

I also enjoyed "Sweet Potato Island", a nonfiction piece about the cuisine of Taiwan by Sarthak Sinha based on an essay by student Vivian Li, which was done in a watercolor illustration style.

At 95 rupee (about $1.50 US), this gives you a pretty good amount of reading material for your money. The stories vary in quality, with some being fairly simple jokes, but there is a lot in here that I found to be enjoyable reading, all of it suitable for young readers.

Rating: 6/10


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest #3

 Another review live from Mumbai Airport in India! And this marks the end of that stack I was working on trying to finish. Looking forward to picking up some new comics during the month I'll be in the US, and even reviewing a couple of items I found on the newsstand here in India. But for now, here's some more furry fantasy.

Title: Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest
Issue: 3
Date: 1998
Publisher: Vision Comics (available at Dreamweaver Press in webcomic form)
Writer: Jose Calderon
Artist: Daphne Lage, Matt Lunsford

The hunters become the hunted as a force of trolls attacks the soldiers who had been in pursuit of EF Ravenwood and his rogues. When the thieves turn back to assist their would-be pursuers, the two Ravenwood cousins have a tense reunion.

The interaction between the cousins was the centerpiece of this issue, and it worked really well, providing some character development and some plot advancement in the midst of all of the mayhem of the troll battle.

This issue had better focus than the previous issue.

Rating: 7/10

Shade: The Changing Man #54

Reading and reviewing comics at the airport in Mumbai, India! First of the last two in that stack I've been working my way through.

Title: Shade: The Changing Man
Issue: 54
Date: December, 1994

DC Comics
Writer: Peter Milligan

Penciler: Mark Buckingham

Inker: Rick Bryant

Colorist: Daniel Vozzo

Letterer: Todd Klein

Editor: Shelly Roeberg

Cover: Duncan Fegredo

Lost in grief, Shade moves to New York City and becomes a dance floor. Literally. But when the routine of peaceful days and raucous nights is broken by the arrival of a woman who wants to dance alone to any music as long as it's loud, Shade discovers the possibility of human interaction again.

There is also a man who claims to be the reincarnation of Nikola Tesla, and who may have invented a perpetual motion machine that he's just not quite ready to turn on.

There are some great lines and some cool surprises in this story, although it lost me a bit when Shade got a bit too far into creep-stalker territory with the potential new love interest that is introduced here. His actions all make reasonable sense given his mental state, but the Edward Cullen routine is still problematic.

And in spite of that, there is a lot to love in this story, including the whole concept of becoming a dance floor, which is handled beautifully. The Tesla subplot is also very clever, and provides a nice parallel to the difficulties that Shade is going through.

Rating: 5.5/10 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shade: The Changing Man #35

Well, here we are about an hour until we head to the airport. Two more comics in the stack after this one. Looks like I will be reading (and possibly reviewing, wifi permitting) those two on planes and in airports. The itinerary is Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok to Mumbai to (lovely) Newark NJ. Long trip with long layovers. Definitely adventure material.

In the meantime, here is some more classic 90s Vertigo for you.

Title:Shade: The Changing Man
Issue: 35
Date: December, 1993

DC Comics
Writer: Peter Milligan

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Inker: Rick Bryant

Colorist: Daniel Vozzo

Letterer: Todd Klein

Editor: Shelly Roeberg, Karen Berger

Chris Bachalo

Shade and Lenny are trapped in Brian Juno's Garden of Pain, where Juno intends to torture Shade as part of his plan to ascend as a god. Meanwhile, Kathy is dead, or at least having a near-death experience, sitting in a cosmic waiting room with a group of angels who have a deal to make with here.

Wordy in places, but once it gets going, this story brings the intensity. Like the other issue of Shade that I recently reviewed, this is the conclusion of a major storyline, and it hints at another new phase in the relationship between Shade, Lenny, and Kathy.

Lenny, as is often the case in this series, gets most of the best lines and moments. I always enjoy reading stories she appears in. She's one of the very few characters that exist truly outside of tropes and classification.

Aside from the general verbosity in places, and some confusing elements early on (understandable as I has not read the issues leading up to this), this is a really solid conclusion with great dialogue and a few surprises. 

Rating: 7.5/10 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meridian #29

A little bit more than 24 hours until departure. Well, actually more like 18 hours until we depart our hotel. Three more comics in the to-read stack after this one, which I almost certainly bought just for the absolutely awesome cover.

Title: Meridian
Issue: #29
Publisher: Crossgen
Date: November, 2002
Writer: Barbara Kesel
Penciler: Steve McNiven
Inker: Tom Simmons
Colorist: Morry Hollowell
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Cover: Steve McNiven, Tom Simmons, Morry Hollowell

I reviewed issue #4 recently, with heir-in-exile Sephie trying to reclaim rulership of her floating island home. By the time we get to this issue, Sephie has at least partially solidified her position of power and is distracting herself with a logbook left by her parents as she tries to deal with the political dance of rulership.

As a result, almost this entire issue is a flashback with bits of narration by Sephie for framing. The story is visually awesome, and introduces a particularly standout character in glider-riding, cutlass-wielding General Coraqam.

It was also a bit on the crowded side with lots of political intrique, character interaction, and an assassination attempt. The visuals are beautiful throughout (and as I mentioned above, the cover is amazing), but this was not the most accessible issue for a newbie to the series.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Animal Man #65

Continuing to make my way through the last of the small stack of random comics I brought with me when we moved to Vietnam. Looking forward to heading home for a month-long visit and the chance to stock up on some new comics.

Title: Animal Man
Issue: 65
Date: November, 1993

DC Comics
Writer: Jamie Delano
Penciler: Will Simpson 
Inker: Will Simpson 
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: Richard Starkings 
Editor: Julie Rottenberg, Lou Stathis 
Cover: Randy DuBurke

This issue was mostly setup, with no big climactic battles, and the biggest bit of plot development saved for the last page, but it was also loaded with great dialogue and character development.

There is also lots of sex (none of it "on-screen") and even more talk about sex, as Ellen tries to get Buddy to help her experience his connection with the Lifeweb. This is new for both of them, and the ensuing discussion ranges from the nature of, well, nature, to the question of how much Ellen really wants to know about the "weird side" of Buddy.

Meanwhile Cliff and Lucy are exploring their own sexuality in a scene that felt very really and full of all kinds of awkward teenage emo. 

Maxine meets two new guests on their way to the farmhouse, and Buddy and Grandma have a discussion about God, who might or might not be paying a visit to the farm Himself.

This was one of those issues that nicely gets away from formula, lets the characters be themselves, and allows for some good interaction and some thoughtful dialogue, Not every "superhero" series (and I realize that Vertigo's Animal Man lives somewhat on the very outer edge of that genre) gets to explore the kind of philosophical questions that this issue delved into, and even fewer could devote an entire story to those questions. This was excellent, start to finish.

Rating: 8.5/10

Swamp Thing #130

Okay, two days to departure, and it's comic marathon time! It's actually not that huge a marathon, but I do have five more comics in my to-read stack after this one, and I'd like to get them all read and reviewed before getting on the plane on Tuesday.

I will pretty much buy any comic with a Charles Vess cover, which I am pretty sure is how I ended up with this issue.

Title: Swamp Thing
Issue: 130
Date: April, 1993

DC Comics
Writer: Nancy A. Collins

Penciler: Scot Eaton

Inker: Kim DeMulder

Colorist: Tatjana Wood 

Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Stuart Moore

Cover: Charles Vess

The Swamp Thing reappears, weakened and delusional, in Pennsylvania after a meeting with the Parliament of Trees. Desperate to get home, he starts moving south, hallucinating as he goes, and becoming more and more weakened and damaged by various encounters along the way, until he no longer has the strength to go on.

Meanwhile, sinister forces are closing in on those he loves ad various events and conspiracies run their course.

This was all well executed, but it has the problem that I have with a lot of the more recent (okay, admittedly, 1993 no longer counts as recent, but by "recent" what I really mean is anything-post-Allan-Moore) Swamp Thing stories is that they always feel like throwbacks to the classic stories. Everything in this issue (with the possible exception of the final page) felt like Swamp Thing material that I had seen before. It's still good, but no one seems to have ever come up with a direction for this series and this character beyond what Allan Moore did with it from 1984 to 1987.

So not a particularly original or innovative story, but well-paced and great visuals. And the Charles Vess cover is awesome.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest #2

From the pile of unread comics. I seem to recall getting this one directly from the publishers at a convention some years ago. The copy I have is signed by artist Daphne Lage.

Title: Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest
Issue: 2
Date: 1998
Publisher: Vision Comics (available at Dreamweaver Press in webcomic form)
Writer: Jose Calderon
Artist: Daphne Lage, Matt Lunsford

Furry fantasy adventure story. A band of (anthropomorphic animal) thieves fight their way our of a walled city with the city's forces in pursuit.

Meanwhile, there is trouble brewing between the leaders of the kingdom and the neighboring land of trolls. The trolls are in possession of some kind of magical seal, and a troll caravan is ambushed in an attempt to obtain it.

Things escalate from there, with the band of rogues caught in the middle.

Admittedly, it's been a really long time since I read issue #1. Long enough that I don't have a review of it on this blog. That being said, the opening action scene had a lot of parts that were confusing and difficult to follow.

Once the plot involving the trolls was introduced, the pacing settled down a bit, and the resulting developments were pretty intriguing. This comic is juggling a lot of characters, and it may take a bit of time to figure it all out, but there is a lot of potential here for some good fun swashbuckling fantasy.

Rating: 6.5/10

Shade: The Changing Man #18

Finishing up the last of the small stack of comics that I brought with me when we moved overseas. I have a big collection of comics back home. Mostly bargain-bin fodder, but a decent sized collection. Twenty-five longboxes or thereabouts. And that's after I ditched five longboxes for pennies-on-the-dollar to clear space a year or two ago.

Of those, there are probably about three longboxes worth of unread comics, most of which I bought during buying sprees in bargain bins at stores and conventions. 

During the last days of packing for our move to the other side of the world, I figured I'd grab some unread comics, but I was pretty short on space. I had a bit of room in a carryon bag, and I knew that comics I crammed in there were in danger of getting wrecked.

So my criteria when I went into the unread comics stack was pretty simple. I grabbed books that were already bagged and boarded (most weren't) until I had all that would fit. The result was a very random mix.

I'm down to my last few. After this one, seven more to read.

Title:Shade: The Changing Man
Issue: 18
Date: December, 1991

DC Comics

Writer: Peter Milligan

Penciler: Chris Bachalo

Inker: Mark Pennington

Colorist: Daniel Vozzo

Letterer: Todd Klein

Editor: Alisa Kwitney, Karen Berger

Cover: Jamie Hewlett

This is the finale to the American Scream storyline that formed the main narrative in the early issues of Vertigo's Shade: The Changing Man (technically this is pre-Vertigo, but it's the series that was brought under the Vertigo umbrella). 

Shade is being backed into a corner. His only chance to save Kathy and defeat to American Scream is to return to Meta and kill Wisor. But he doesn't know how to get there, and he isn't sure he can do the deed even if he does find a way home.

There are final confrontations all round as Shade and Agent Rohug confront Wisor, and Wisor is forced to confront his own creation, the Scream.

The opening scenes are the usual frenetic insanity that is to be expected from Shade, with appearances by Christopher Columbus and an animate version of Mount Rushmore. The climactic faceoff is good, if a bit neat in its resolution, but the real gem of the issue is the epilogue sequence, which is poignant and heartfelt, and lays the groundwork for a new direction for Shade's story.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Meridian #4

Continuing through the stack of comics I originally brought to Vietnam. Eight to go after this one. Most of these are from convention bargain bins back in the US

Title: Meridian
Issue: #4
Publisher: Crossgen
Date: October, 2000
Writer: Barbara Kesel
Penciler: Joshua Middleton, Bart Sears
Inker: Dexter Vines, Andy Smith
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Dave Lanphear

When her sky-island nation is invaded, Sephie, the new Minister of Meridian, escapes from the captivity of her uncle and races back to help fight for her island home. Meanwhile on Meridian, a small group is organizing to resist the invasion.

The visuals of the floating-island world are gorgeous, and I loved the action sequences involving the flying sailcraft that are the world's main mode of transportation. The story is tightly plotted but still complex, and I was able to get a good sense of all the characters who appeared in this issue, in spite of jumping into the story in issue #4. I also loved the awesome and classic cliffhanger ending.

Backup story is part of a series called The First, and it didn't really do much for me. It involved two characters calling forth some sort of  grave-element-like creature. Some other things went on, but not enough to catch my interest.

Main story totally rocked, however, and I note that I have one other issue of this series in my to-read stack, and it's #19, and I really find myself wishing it was #5. Might have to seek out more of this story when I get back to the US.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Nightmares and Fairy Tales #20

From the stack of comics that I brought with me to Vietnam when we moved here. I'm now rushing to get through the remaining comics in that stack so that I can take them home when we head home for a visit in a little over a week.

Nine comics left in the stack after this one and we leave in 10 days! Looks like this blog really will be Comic A Day, at least for the next week or so!

Title: Nightmares and Fairy Tales
Issue: 20
Date: August, 2007
Publisher: SLG Publishing
Writer: Serena Valentino
Artist: Camilla D'Errico
Letterer: Joshua Archer
Editor: Jennifer De Guzman

This is the second part of a two-part variant on the Sleeping Beauty tale.

A girl who can see the unseen is befriended by another girl who might be a ghost. Or she might be locked in a tower asleep.

Gwen enlists the help of her Aunt Bea to try to free the mysterious ghost girl from her tower.

This was a very clever variation, and the manga-style art is absolutely lovely. I liked the connection and the interaction between the two girls, and Aunt Bea is excellent in the mentor-figure role.

This was pretty much a random issue of this series that I picked up because I liked the cover, but I am definitely interested in reading more.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sequel to the Journey to the West Volume 1

Here's an English-language graphic novel that I picked up at a used book table at a holiday bazaar in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in late 2014.

Title: Sequel to the Journey to the West
Issue: Volume 1
Date: 1998
Publisher: Asiapac Books
Tsai Chih Chung
Tsai Chih Chung
Translator: Wu Jingyu

This is an English-language graphic novel from a Taiwanese and a Singaporean publisher that I bought at a flea market in Vietnam. It's based on a classical Chinese novel with an unknown author, which is the sequel to an earlier classical Chinese novel by Ming Dynasty author Wu Cheng'en. The original Journey to the West novel is an adaptation of legends based on the historical journey of Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang to India.

Need a scorecard yet?

Cartoonist Tsai Chih Chung is known for his humorous interpretations of classical Chinese literature. He works in four-panel vertical comic strips, and his version of Sequel to Journey to the West has a definite newspaper comic strip feel to the jokes and the pacing. The story describes the first steps in the journey of a monkey known as the Lesser Sage and a monk known as Da Dian set out to retrieve the "expository materials" needed for the people of China to gain a better understanding of Buddhism.

This first volume mostly sets the stage for the journey. The writing is playful, ranging from slapstick to wordplay to political satire and thinly-veiled (and sometimes not veiled at all) references to current events.

There were some good laughs to be had here, but some of the jokes suffer a bit in translation, and the humor is a bit uneven. Tsai Chih Chung mixes in crude bits of toilet humor along with some really clever puns and sarcasm.

This volume is mostly background to the actual quest story to follow.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ghost Rider #15

I still have some of the hastily-grabbed stack of comics that I took with me when we moved overseas. Here is one of them.

Title: Ghost Rider
Issue: 15
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: July, 1991
Writer:Howard Mackie
Penciler: Mark Texeira
Inker: Mark Texeira
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Letterer: Janice Chiangs
Editor: Bobbie Chase, Chris Cooper

Glow-in-the-dark cover! Glow-in-the-dark cover is more 90s than you could ever hope to be!

In case you're curious, it does still glow a little bit after 24 years. Look!

Got a scorecard handy? So, Ghost Rider is not Johnny Blaze. He's some guy named Dan Ketch. Well, I guess technically, it's the same ghost rider, but it's Dan Ketch transforming into him. Oh, and Johnny Blaze is trying to track down Ghost Rider and kill him with a gun that shoots hellfire. Meanwhile, Ghost Rider/Ketch are trying to track down a vampire named Blackout, who is trying to track down, well, more victims I guess. Then there is also a team of female mercenaries who are flying around in a helicopter trying to get their hands on Ghost Rider's motorcycle. This all happens with a supporting cast of vampire victims, New York City cops, and (racist stereotype) crack-smoking gang members.

The story is an over-wordy mess for about the first third or so, but I have to admit that writer Howard Mackie does a decent job of maneuvering all of the above-listed moving parts into a reasonable climax and resolution. It still ends up being too wordy, but the story does a nice job of keeping everyone relevant right through to the end while serving up a heaping portion of melodrama.

In the final panel, the cops are asking the remaining characters, "What happened here?". The answer is "You got a few days?" That actually sums up this story pretty nicely.

Rating: 4.5/10

Saturday, May 23, 2015

An Invitation to the World of Luisa Felix, Cartoonist

A book I picked up at last year's MECAF convention in Portland ME.

Title: An Invitation to the World of Luisa Felix, Cartoonist
Date: 2013
Publisher: Drowned Town Press
Editor: E.J. Barnes, Paul Curtis
Artist: Louisa Felix, E.J. Barnes, Natalie Ewert, Larry Blake, Steve Peters, Keith O'Brien, Michele Witchipoo, Frank Humphris, Eric Jensen, Paul Curtis

Hoboken NJ cartoonist Louisa Felix was active in the small press and comics APA scene more than four decades, writing and drawing comics and comic strips in a range of genres from funny animals and gag strips to film noir and horror stories.

This tribute collection shows of the range of her work, and includes concept sketches and roughs, along with finished comics, and tributes by other small-press comic artists working with characters that Ms. Felix created.

I loved the classic old-Hollywood feel of her work, with an art style that evokes Betty Boop and classic Popeye cartoons. The stories are fun, and her technique of inventing a cast of actors in a Hollywood meta-story and then "casting" them into her cartoons was a very clever way of creating a coherent comic book universe involving such a wide range of stories.

This is very obviously a heartfelt tribute, and is was delightful to discover Louisa Felix's work through this collection.

Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Free Comic Book Day 2015

This is my last review for Free Comic Book Day 2015. It was fun finding a FCBD event here in Vietnam. I'm scheduled to spend a month in the US, from mid-June to mid-July, and I'll be attending two conventions during that time (MASSive Comic Con in Worcester MA, and Connecticon in Hartford CT), so I'll be stocking up on some comics to bring back to Vietnam to read and review. I'll also be picking up a couple of crowdfunded comics that I supported.

In the meantime, I have a couple of graphic novels on my to-read shelf here, as well as a few remaining comics from the stack I originally brought with me when I headed overseas. I hope to read and review those books before I make the visit back to the US, so look for this blog to continue to be somewhat active for the next four weeks or so.

Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender: Free Comic Book Day 2015
Date: May, 2015
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Gene Luen Yang, Paul Tobin
Artist: Carla Speed McNeil, Ron Chan, Colleen Coover
Colorist:Jenn Manley Lee, Matthew J. Rainwater
Letterer: Michael Heisler, Steve Dutro
Cover: Carla Speed McNeil, Jenn Manley Lee
Editor: Ian Tucker, Roxy Polk, Dave Marshall, Phillip R. Simon, Brendon Wright

In addition to the Avatar: The Last Airbender story, this book also features Plants vs. Zombies and Bandette.

The Avatar story focuses on Ty Lee and Toph. Ty Lee is discouraged with her training with the Kyoshi warriors. Fortunately, Toph shows up to take her to the circus, which seems like the perfect thing to cheer her up. But this is not just any circus. It's the circus where Ty Lee once performed, and among its current performers are Ty Lee's six identical sisters, who are now performing that act that was once Ty Lee's. Throw in a firebending extortionist with an ogre-sized accomplice, and there's more than enough trouble to distract Ty Lee from anything that was worrying her.

This was a very cute story that keep to a fairly simple point and still packed a few surprises and some amusing bits of dialogue.

The Plants vs. Zombies story involved the zombies creating a robot plant to infiltrate the tech-filled garage. The plan, of course, backfires in somewhat Looney Tunes style. This was funny, but the setup dragged a bit.

Last up was Bandette, which I had no familiarity with at all, but which I definitely need to read more of. Bandette is an oddly-meta heist comedy about an art thief battling a pair of "Elegant Assassins" and then staging a theft from a screening of a rare film. Amusing and adorable.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ant-Man Prelude #2

From my Free Comic Book Day haul. This is the second of the two books I purchased at the Free Comic Book Day event, as opposed to official FCBD giveaways.

Title: Ant-Man Prelude
Issue: 2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: May, 2015
Writer:Will Corona Pilgrim
Penciler: Miguel Sepulveda
Inker: Bit
Colorist: Jay David Ramos
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Mark Basso, Emily Shaw

Set "years ago", this story features an early mission with Hank Pym wearing the Ant-Man suit and infiltrating a Hydra base in East Berlin during the Cold War. This is an official Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in, so it exists in Marvel movie continuity.

This issue was mostly a showcase for Ant-Man's powers, and we get to see pretty much all of them in use as he avoids various security forces en route to, well, basically him beating up some Hydra goons in a minor bit of tie-in with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Exactly what is really accomplished when all is said and done is left unclear, so the whole story falls a bit flat at the end. The action is good, but as far as raising interest in the movie goes, there isn't much here that we didn't get a look at in the trailers. It was fun to see Pym interacting with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter, but I would have liked more character development and background, to make it feel like this book really added something to the experience of watching the Marvel films.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fight Club: Free Comic Book Day 2015

My third review from my FCBD stack this year is another of the official Free Comic Book Day releases, this time from Dark Horse Comics.

Title: Free Comic Book Day 2015
Date: May, 2015
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer:Chuck Palahniuk, Eric Powell, David Lapham
Artist: Cameron Stewart, Eric Powell, Mike Huddleston
Colorist: Dave Stewart, Dan Jackson
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot, Clem Robins
Cover: David Mack (front cover), Eric Powell (back cover)
Editor: Scott Allie, Sierra Hahn, Shantel LaRocque

Three stories here, headlined by Chuck Palahniuk's official sequel to Fight Club. The Fight Club story jumps right into where the novel left off. The writing is sharp, but there wasn't a lot of new material here, probably intentionally because this was aimed at a general audience, not all of whom would be familiar with the original book or the movie. It definitely kept the flavor of the original, but it really only teased the new directions that the sequel would be taking.

The Goon, on the other hand, was a complete short story, and a very amusing one at that. A bit of monologue by the Goon about vampires during the climactic scene is priceless. Definitely the best read out of the three stories here, and it stands up very well on its own.

The third story was from Guillermo Del Toro's The Strain. This is a prequel to the main storyline, and it's set in the 1960s. It involves a man with a rare book to sell, treacherous intentions, and predictable results. It is well told, but nothing all that original.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Legendary Starlord #3

This is my second review from my Free Comic Book Day haul here in Vietnam. Free comics were limited to one per person (they actually had a pretty big crowd at the event). Since my wife and son were there, we took home three of the official freebies. I also bought a couple of comics to read with the Kiddo (who is just being introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the last year or so), so this is one of the purchased books.

 Title: Legendary Starlord
Issue: 3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: November, 2014
Writer: Sam Humphries
Penciler: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover: Paco Medina
Editor: Mike Marts, Xander Jarowey

Pretty basic story here. Star Lord wakes up in a jail cell, and goes about escaping. In between there is a hologram of a woman wearing a banana costume, a treacherous secret agent, a mysterious kid, a hot-rod starship, and a ton of snark.

Nothing in here is all that original, but it somehow comes together into a very entertaining story that does a nice job of matching the pacing and flavor of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

I read this out loud to the Kiddo (Guardians was his first Marvel movie, and he's become a pretty big fan), and he really enjoyed it.

More fun than it had any right to be.

Rating: 7.5/10

Free Comic Book Day 2015 (Avengers) #1

When we moved to Vietnam, one thing that I figured I'd be giving up was Free Comic Book Day, which has been a fun event for me, whether setting up a table for my own comics, or just rushing around visiting a bunch of geeky stores.

So when I caught wind of a FCBD event here in Saigon, I was pretty excited. The Amazing Comics is just starting out as a dealer/distributor of American comics, toys, and gaming products, and they don't have a storefront yet, but they rented space for a day and pulled off an excellent Free Comic Book Day party a week after the official date in the US. We picked up three of this year's official freebies, and I also bought a couple of Marvel comics for the Kiddo, who the previous day went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron for the second time.

I have a small set of pictures from the event here.

And now, on to the first review!

Title: Free Comic Book Day 2015 (Avengers)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: June, 2015
Writer: Mark Waid, Charles Soule, James Patterson, Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Mahmud Asrar, Brandon Peterson, Alex Sanchez, Stephanie Hans
Colorist: Frank Martin, Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC's Joe Sabino, VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jerome Opena, Frank Martin, Nick Bradshaw, Richard Isanove
Editor: Tom Brevoort, Will Moss, Jon Moisan, Charles Beacham, Nick Lowe

Not technically a flip-book, but it does have a fully-illustrated back cover featuring the Inhumans in addition to the Avengers front cover.

There are actually three stories. First up is the Avengers, which features the latest team lineup: Iron Man, (female) Thor, Vision, (Sam Wilson) Captain America, plus three younger members, Spider-Man, Nova, and Ms. Marvel, all depicted as teenagers.

This is something of a tryout for the new team members, and their first battle as Avengers against the Radioactive Man does not go well. Still, they pull together and learn a bit about the real meaning of what the Avengers are all about. Including a discussion of how "The Avengers" is actually not exactly a perfect name for the team.

This was goofy fun for the most part, although it had a couple of surprisingly grim moments considering the overall tone.

Second story was Inhumans, which features the creation of a couple of new Inhumans as a cloud of terrigen has apparently been wandering around the world, causing Inhumans to manifest their powers and abilities. There are also some Hydra agents, who are intent on collecting up and enslaving those new Inhumans in the hopes of using them as pawns in their usualy Hydra-ish schemes. Or something.

The beginning of this story features a lot of clunky dialogue as characters are forced to over-explain everything just to set the scenario up for the reader. It gets a lot better when Medusa and some of the Inhumans team (minus Black Bolt, but plus Human Torch, go figure). Medusa is great here, largely because of the thorough trouncing she lays down on the over-explainy Hydra leader. One of the new characters introduced, an engineer whose hands become weird energy-projecting coils, also shows a lot of potential, and there's some good dialogue between Medusa and Johnny Storm at the end.

The third story is a quicky: A four-page preview of Marvel's adaptation of James Patterson's Max Ride. It's effective and visually interesting. I haven't read the prose novel, but this was at least enough to pique my interest, which is about what Marvel was hoping for with four pages to work with.

Nothing here is stand-out great, but each of the three stories had their moments.

Rating: 6.5/10