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