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