Sunday, December 18, 2016

Snakes

Another comic I purchased last June at MASSive Comic Con in Worcester MA.

Title: Snakes
Publisher: Benjamin Wright-Heuman
Date: 2014
Writer: Benjamin Wright-Heuman
Artist: Benjamin Wright-Heuman

Where the previous minicomic I read by Benjamin Wright-Heuman (review here) had the feel of a fable, this is more like a folk legend told around a campfire. It's a short simple story of a woodsman isolated in the wilderness who kills a massive snake, and dines on a steady diet of snake meat over the long, cold winter.

The ending is fitting and satisfying, if not terribly original.

Good artwork that fit well with the story. The lettering was a bit challenging to make out in places.

Rating: 6/10

Terminal Velocity Book 1

From the comics I purchased over the summer. I got this one directly from creator Barry Corbett at MASSive Comic Con this past June in Worcester MA.

Title: Terminal Velocity
Issue: Book 1
Publisher: Griffin Comics / Corbett Features
Date: February 2016
Writer: Barry Corbett
Artist: Barry Corbett

This is an autobiographical comic, in standard comic format, by Barry Corbett, telling stories from his childhood and young adulthood in New England during the 1970s and 1980s.

The stories are told with a good voice, some nice touches of humor, and an art style that works nicely with the storytelling. From clashes with bullies to adventures skydiving and scuba diving, there are some great moments of adventure, along with plenty of youthful foolishness and mayhem. There is family tragedy as well, and Corbett handles the serious stuff as deftly as he covers the lighter tales.

This was a really engaging collection and I have a feeling given what was presented here that the creator has plenty more stories to tell. Hopefully a second volume will be on the way soon.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Darth Vader #21

Back to the random stack of unread comics. This is a fairly recent one that I got this past summer.

Title: Darth Vader
Issue: 21
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August, 2016
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Editor: Jordan D. White, Heather Antos

I am not ashamed to admit that the variant cover with the awesome action figure packaging design totally sold me on this comic. I love this cover theme! So much childhood nostalgia!

That being said, I knew nothing about the Darth Vader series going into this. Apparently it takes place between Episode IV and Episode V, and Vader is trying to get back into the good graces of Emperor Palpatine following the destruction of the Death Star. He is tasked with capturing Cylo, a mad scientist type who turned against the Empire (not to the rebel side, mind you, this guy appears to just be out for himself).

Meanwhile, there's a second plot involving Vader sending a pair of droids who are essentially heel versions of C3PO and R2D2 to retrieve a former ally of his who has gone into hiding.

The bad-guy droids are a little goofy, and it was odd to see Vader in a sort of solo-adventurer heroic role (although it's really no different than things he did all the time as Anakin).

There is also an issue of flavor that can be a problem for me with some Star Wars comics. Cylo's organic-mechanical ships didn't feel authentically Star Wars to me, for reasons I can't pin down to more than just "vibe". To be fair, I think that keeping the flavor of a tie-in when you're being asked to expand on the universe is really difficult. But the stuff involving Cylo still didn't feel to me like it fit.

That being said, the action was good, the dialogue was good, and the ending cliffhanger at least looked entertaining.

Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Jessica Jones #2

Last of the small batch of comics I bought in the US (at Newbury Comics, Braintree MA) in November during my short trip home.

Title: Jessica Jones
Issue: 2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: January, 2017
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort, Alanna Smith
Cover: David Mack

Luke Cage confronts Jessica over the whereabouts of their child, and Jessica tries to find a safe place to rest after the case she's working on falls apart around her.

There was a lot to like in this story. The conflict between Luke and Jessica is great because there is no clear objective right or wrong, just two parents who love their child and are trying to protect that child as best they know how.

I also love the appearances of superheroes in the background, keeping the story gritty and street-level while constantly reminding the reader that Jessica Jones resides in Marvel's New York City, which super-powered beings are part of the background of everyday life.

There were some intriguing plot twists and good pacing as the story moved along. A flashback added some depth to the relationship between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones without overstaying its welcome. Ending was a solid cliffhanger.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

Brought home from our school library by the Kiddo.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at wimpykid.com)
Date: 2015
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney tackles the generation gap in the 10th installment in this series.

My son (age 8) brought this home from the school library. We'd read the first book, but are (for the moment, anyway) skipping the eight volumes in between. This wasn't a problem as this book was pretty self-contained.

The theme is the differences between generations, and it's manifested in a number of ways throughout the story. Middle schooler Greg Heffley has to deal with his mom wanting him (and the entire town) to take a break from electronic devices to connect with people the way her generation did. But at the same time, Greg's parents find themselves under the scrutiny of their own generation gap, as Greg's grandfather comes to live with them after the rent on his apartment is raised.

It all culminates in a week-long school field trip to "Hardscrabble Farm", a camp where the kids have to live without modern conveniences.

This was more enjoyable than the first book. The jokes were funnier, the situations more ridiculous and more creative, and the plot was more focused. Organizing the story around a central theme helped. I also thought that Greg was a lot more sympathetic in this story than in the first book. He legitimately tries to do the right thing much of the time, and he seems to learn a bit more along the way. The illustrations are fun, and do a nice job of enhancing the story.

There isn't really any new ground covered in terms of the generation gap issues, and there is still a lack of any decent female characters other than Greg's mother, but overall, I felt like this was a bit of a step up from the first book.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1

Fourth comic out of five somewhat random recent releases that I got at Newbury Comics in Braintree MA during my short trip back to the US recently.

Title: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures
Issue: #1
Date: 2016
Publisher: DC Comics / IDW
Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artist: Jon Sommariva
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Leonardo Ito
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Hilary Barta, Jason Millet


This is the "Incentive Cover" variant.


All-ages (animated series versions, basically) crossover featuring Batman and TMNT. The problem with these crossovers is the amount of setup involved in introducing the characters to each others worlds (and to each other). This comic suffers from that problem a bit, but at least makes a concerted effort to tackle it in an efficient way.


The story builds a bit slowly. The Turtles and the Batman do not actually meet face-to-face in this issue.

The basic scenario has a bunch of the Batman rogues gallery dumped into the Tuirtles' version of New York by way of an alien portal. Batman has an encounter with Two-Face that gives him his first clue that something is amiss. Meanwhile, the Turtles, who are familiar with the portal technology, battle Clayface in the New York sewers.


There's an attempt a a "shocking" ending bit, although it somewhat fails because it's actually badly out of character for the villains involved.

 There was nothing really awful about this story so far, but not much to get excited about either.

Rating: 5/10


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mockingbird #5

Third in the stack of five recent comics I bought on my brief trip back to the US. These were purchased at Newbury Comics' Braintree MA location.

Title: Mockingbird
Issue: 5
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: September 2016
Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artist: Ibrahim Moustafa
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Editor: Katie Kubert
Cover: Joelle Jones, Rachelle Rosenberg

I'd heard good things about the Mockingbird series and issue #5 happened to be the one in stock at the store I visited.

The basic idea here is that SHIELD agent Bobbi Morse is has been infected with a virus that gives her superpowers. Well, really it's the virus itself has superpowers and it lets her use them.

The virus also reanimates corpses into zombies, which is a problem because Agent Morse is in the SHIELD medical facility, which happens to have a good supply of donated-to-science bodies.

Also, Spider-Man (Miles Morales, I think) and Howard the Duck. No, really.

This was very witty. Good joke density too. It was absolutely loaded with snark, and the creative team didn't let the plot get in the way of opportunities for more snark. Seriously, there was an entire page devoted to Bobby going off on an illustrated tangential rant about bad ideas in history.

This was pretty entertaining, even if it was mostly a throwaway story up until a final plot twist that seemed like it was going to shape the direction of the story moving forward.

Did I mention there is a page of paper dolls that includes a severed zombie head?

Funny stuff. I enjoyed this.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1

Second of the five recent comics I picked up at Newbury Comics in Braintree MA during my quick trip back to the US.

Title: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth
Issue: #1
Date: September, 2016
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Julie Benson, Shawna Benson
Artist: Claire Roe
Colorist: Allen Passalaqua
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Dave Wielgosz, Chris Conroy
Cover:Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn

I had mixed feelings on the amount of time this issue devoted to origin-recapping. It's part of DC's "Rebirth", so it wasn't unexpected, and there were some insights that I thought were pretty good. But in the end, yet another retelling of the events of The Killing Joke felt unwelcome and I enjoyed this story more once I was past that part.

The story itself has Batgirl, having been operating for a while now in her return to the Batgirl identity (since the New 52), discovering that someone else has taken over the identity of Oracle, and is providing the information that Oracle used to deal in to the bad guys.

Black Canary gets recruited for the case, and Huntress soon returns, although for the moment she's not exactly acting as one of the good guys. There was also a lot of references to plot points that I wasn't familiar with as far as Huntress goes, but there was also enough direction to the main plot here that I didn't have a problem putting the backstory aside and just going with the flow.

The revelations at the end did a nice job of setting the stage for some big plot points to follow.

The book has a nice look to it, and it makes a good effort to incorporate a lot of the continuity and flavor that has been put into Batgirl over the last few years.

Rating: 6.5/10

Jessica Jones #1

Last week I got the news that my Grandmother passed away. She was 92 years old, and my only living grandparent. I made a quick decision that I needed to be there for the wake and funeral, and bought a ticket to head home. This was last Tuesday. I flew out from Ho Chi Minh City just before Midnight on Wednesday, and through the magic of the rotation of the Earth, arrived in Boston on Thursday afternoon. Wake was Friday. Funeral was Saturday. I left Boston for Vietnam on Sunday morning and was back at work on Tuesday. The rest of this week has passed in a bit of a jetlagged haze, which I am now finally somewhat recovered from.

During the brief trip home I got to see a lot of family members and celebrate Nana's life together with them.

I also managed to catch a showing of Arrival, which was not released in Vietnam (loved it!) with a friend, and met up with a bunch of friends at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree on Saturday night for dinner.

Since I got to the mall early, I also visited Newbury Comics and bought a somewhat random selection of five recent comic releases, which will be featured in my next few reviews.

Title: Jessica Jones
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: December 2016
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: David Mack

I know almost nothing about Jessica Jones. I completely missed her earlier appearances in Alias and other Marvel titles, and I've never watched the TV show. Really all I know about her is what little I've read from reviews of the show, which was quite popular with a lot of my friends.

So I saw the second issue of this series (from Marvel's "Marvel Now" soft reboot) in the "new releases" section at Newbury Comics, and also saw that they had #1 in stock, so I figured I'd check it out.

Sound decision so far. This was really good on a lot of levels.

The characters, Jessica especially, make sense. There is a gritty feel to the story, but it's still grounded in the full-fledged Marvel Universe. It has a snarky sense of humor, including the occasional in-joke, but the pacing is such that the jokes enhance, rather than detract from the overall story.

That story begins with Jessica being released from jail and trying to get back to work. She's got a case that may involve parallel universes and Spider-Man, or it might just be a husband who has gone a bit crazy and a wife who wants to find out why.

And she's also got some personal problems that are showing up at her doorstep in the form of costumed heroes for hire.

The story had excellent pacing, and most importantly for me, it served as a really good introduction without having to retell an origin or over-explain. By the time I was done with this issue I felt fully invested in the story.

Looking forward to reading #2.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Chronicles of the Tal Nor Volume 1

This is a comic I backed on Kickstarter last year.

Title: The Chronicles of Tal Nor
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher: T. Perran Mitchell / 534 North
Date: November, 2015
Writer: T. Perran Mitchell
Artist: Kelsea Jewell
Letterer: T. Perran Mitchell
Cover: Rebecca Silver
Editor: Rose Petrecz

This is the variant edition with (lovely) cover art by Rebecca Silver.

The Tal Nor are an order of law-enforcers in the fantasy realms of Wynset. They function a bit like the Star Wars Jedi in that they are independent of politics and generally respected by all. Well, except by the bad guys.

In this case, the bad guys are some manner of humanoid creatures who have enslaved the population of a village and put them to work in a hidden mine. Tal Nor agent Sophie has located the captives and decides to take out the bad guys solo rather than waiting for backup. Bad idea.

Most of the rest of the book involves Sophie trying to get out of the trouble she's gotten herself into while her Tal Nor friends attempt to mount a rescue.

The action proceeds at a good crisp pace, and there's a nice flow to the dialogue. The characters' manner of speaking has a modern (as opposed to medieval fantasy) vibe, but what it lacks in flavor it makes up for in expressing the relationships between the characters and making them sympathetic.

Kelsea Jewell's watercolor artwork has some hard-to-follow moments, but it works well in the key spots where it needs to, and has a couple of really great scenes and sequences.

Writer T. Perran Mitchell isn't afraid to let Sophie take a beating, and she comes off a lot tougher in her vulnerability than she would if she were simply an invincible fighter. This story left me convinced that Sophie is tough, and made me want to cheer for her.

It will be interesting to see where this story goes from here. There was plenty of room left to expand on characters who had small parts in this first issue.

Rating: 7.5/10





Sunday, November 13, 2016

Wolverine: Origin of an X-Man #1: Free Comic Book Day 2009

Back to the unread comics stack! This is from Free Comic Book Day 2009.

Title: Wolverine: Origin of an X-Man: Free Comic Book Day 2009
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: May 2009
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Gurihiru
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Nathan Cosby

This is an all-ages Wolverine book, featuring a story that is a direct prequel to Wolverine's first Marvel Comics appearance (in The Incredible Hulk #181-182).

The story has Logan on his first mission for the Canadian government, being dropped into a remote fishing village that has come under the sway of some powerful unknown entity. The situation is a complete mystery, and the military has lost contact with a commando team previously sent in to investigate.

The story does a nice job of slowly unraveling the mystery as Logan encounters an escalating series of threats in the village. The actual explanation turns out to be pretty clever, and writer Fred Van Lente does a nice job of crafting a good one-and-done story that wraps up its own loose ends in a satisfying way.

The character of Logan is definitely toned down for the all-ages audience, but Logan's snarky personality and his headstrong confidence are definitely on display.

This was a decent introduction to the character of Wolverine, and a good complete story for those already familiar with him.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rhino Ranger, First Edition

This was distributed to students at my school.

Title: Rhino Ranger
Issue: First edition
Date: 2016
Publisher: Wild Rhino

This is a public-service comic, released in Vietnam by Wild Rhino, a rhinoceros conservation and anti-poaching campaign. The book is magazine-format, and it's a flip book, with the same story in English and Vietnamese.

The story introduces a young rhinoceros whose mother is killed by poachers. The young rhino is rescued and meets a family from Vietnam who describe how buyers in their country drive up the demand for rhino poaching by buying rhino-horn products.

The rhino decides to embark on a mission of justice against the poachers and buyers, and after some intensive training, he emerges as the humanoid-rhino known as Rhino Ranger, ready to take on the poachers and then head to Ho Chi Minh City to try to put a stop to the demand for rhino horn.

The story is nicely told with effective artwork. The idea that the rhino turns anthropomorphic by training is somewhat silly and arbitrary, but it really doesn't make less sense than most superhero origins. I liked the rhino's interactions with the Vietnamese family.

This told a good story while addressing an important issue.

Rating: 6/10

(And PLEASE, don't purchase rhino horn products! Find out more about Wild Rhino's work at wildrhino.org and on their pages on Facebook and Instagram)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #729

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Walt Disney's Comics and Stories
Issue: #729
Date: March, 2016
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Bruno Sarda, Carl Barks, Daan Jippes, Frank Jonker
Artist: Franco Valussi, Daan Jippes, Freddy Milton
Colorist: Nea Aktina A. E., Digikore Studios, Nicole Seitler, Travis Seitler, Sanoma
Letterer: Nicole Seitler, Travis Seitler
Editor:Sarah Gaydos
Cover: Massimo Asaro, Mario Perrotta

Three stories here, all reprints from foreign Disney publications, with original publication dates ranging from 1990 to 2011.

Up first is the main story of the book, part of an ongoing series that has various Disney characters searching from a set of precious zodiac-related pendants. This is the ninth of the series, and the featured pendant is for the sign of Cancer.

Mickey Mouse has just about secured the pendant, but has been enlisted to help the brother of the pendant's owner, who is being stalked by an old nemesis from his days as a spy: a master of disguise known as the Chameleon. With help from Minnie, several suspects are identified, but as it turns out, there is more than one reason why a guest at the beach resort might want to disguise themself,

This was a bit predictable, but still reasonably entertaining.

The second story is a one-page gag strip featuring Gyro Gearloose having some confusion between a couple of machines he is servicing. Not much to this one.

Gyro also figures into the third story, which was just plain goofy (well, Donald, actually) fun. Donald arrived too late to ask Daisy out on a date; she's off to have a picnic lunch with Gladstone. But Donald is ready to disrupt the space/time continuum for the sake of having his date with Daisy, and Gyro's person-switching teleporter is just the thing he needs! Too bad Gladstone catches on quickly. This was a fun slapstick bit of teleporting mayhem.

Two pretty entertaining stories, and one that was okay for a quick laugh and only took up one page.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bullet For My Valentine: Scream Aim Fire: The Comics

This comes to me by way of Record Store Day, 2008. Normally a day to pick up some free music samples and buy special limited edition records on vinyl or CD, it can also feature a variety of promotional items and freebies, including zines and comics. The actual venue I visited from Record Store Day was one of the Newbury Comics locations.

Title: Bullet For My Valentine: Scream Aim Fire: The Comics
Publisher: Bullet For My Valentine
Date: April, 2008
Writer: Bullet For My Valentine, Tom Manning
Artist: Tom Manning

This is a promotional comic for the band Bullet For My Valentine, as part of 2008's Record Store Day.

The two stories are based on lyrics from the songs "Scream Aim Fire" and "Take It Out On Me" respectively. Of the two, "Take It Out On Me" had more story going on, with a scene from an incident of domestic violence (including some potentially disturbing images). "Scream Aim Fire" is more of a set of images rather than a story.

I wasn't familiar with the band so I looked up both songs on Youtube. I'm not a music expert, and I'm not into splitting hairs and getting into distinguishing musical
subgenres. I'd just describe their music as uptempo hard rock. Pretty catchy, actually. I may be giving more of their stuff a listen.

As for the comic, the art fits very nicely with the music and lyrics, and the book did its job of getting me interested enough to give the band a listen.

Rating: 7/10


Monday, October 24, 2016

Tales From Swafford Creek Vol. 1 #1

I attended the Cosplay Festival here in Ho Chi Minh City today, and can gladly report that geekery is alive and well in Vietnam. The vendors were largely the same as at the Manga Festival, which I attended in July, so I didn't end up buying anything this time around. I am still slowly making my way through my first Vietnamese-language manga, and I have a small stack of those waiting, so I didn't feel I should add to that stack.

The Kiddo and I did do some cosplay at this convention. We had a blast showing off our Minecraft outfits:




With no new comic purchase at the con, I turn to another minicomic from the unread comics pile. As with the previous one, the Columbus OH connection of the creator leads me to suspect that I got this at one of the SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) conventions that I attended in Columbus.



Title: Tales From Swafford Creek
Issue: Vol. 1, No. 1
Date: 2008
Publisher: Swafford Creek Studios
Writer: Brent Bowman
Artist: Brent Bowman

This half-sized minicomic is a collection of true (or at least, inspired-by-a-true-story) tales from the Sequatchie Valley in western Tennessee, where the artist's family is from.

The stories alternate between crime stories and love stories, with a final tale that has a bit more of a mythical feel to it.

The storytelling voice of the narration is great, and the tales all have a very authentic feel to them. The b/w artwork is nicely detailed with a flavor that matches the narration.

This was an enjoyable collection of stories that are straightforward, but pack a solid emotional punch.

Rating: 8/10




Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Comix Jams

Here's another book from the random stack of unread comics. This is from a Columbus OH based small press, so I am guessing I got it at one of the SPACE conventions.

Title: Sunday Comix Jams
Date: 2007
Publisher: Sequentially Speaking
Writer: Mike Lucas, Matt Wyatt, Max Ink, Michael Neno, Ray Tomczak, Ellen Wyatt, John Miller, Sheldon Gleisser, Mustafa Yasir, Jennifer Oestreicher, Frank Cvetkovik, Victor Dandridge, Kevin Rapp, Mike Carroll, Steve Galgas, Buster, Mike Haris, Kevin Scott, Jocelyn Hach, Dan Leister, Leigh Cimons, B.A. Richardson, Phonzie
Artist: Mike Lucas, Matt Wyatt, Max Ink, Michael Neno, Ray Tomczak, Ellen Wyatt, John Miller, Sheldon Gleisser, Mustafa Yasir, Jennifer Oestreicher, Frank Cvetkovik, Victor Dandridge, Kevin Rapp, Mike Carroll, Steve Galgas, Buster, Mike Haris, Kevin Scott, Jocelyn Hach, Dan Leister, Leigh Cimons, B.A. Richardson, Phonzie
Editor: Mike Lucas, Max Ink
Cover: Ray Tomczak

This half-sized 32-page b/w minicomic collects jam comics from the Sequentially Speaking group's Sunday Comix meetings. For those not familiar with the jam concept, basically someone draws a first panel and then the page gets passed around the group for people to continue the story by drawing the next panel. I've even participated in a couple of jams, and it's loads of fun.

It also tends to result in somewhat incoherent books. That's definitely the case for much of this, but once you understand that this is almost entirely improvised, coherence begins to matter a bit less.

There are some decent laughs amid the general absurdities brought about by the format, and some fun geeky references too. There were nice nods to Felix the Cat, EC Comics, and the "super-gorilla" stories of silver-age DC, along with a fair amount of Sequentially Speaking in-jokes.

Surreal and a bit uneven, as might be expected, but entertaining nonetheless.

Rating: 5.5/10


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Uncle Scrooge Halloween Ashcan 2007

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge (Uncle Scrooge Halloween Ashcan 2007)
Date: 2007
Publisher: Gemstone Publishing
Writer:Carl Barks
Artist: Carl Barks
Colorist: Colleen Winkler, Susan Daigle-Leach
Editor: Leonard (John) Clark, Sue Kolberg


Technically the title of this is simply Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge, with nothing to distinguish it from any other book featuring that character. I'm calling it "Uncle Scrooge Halloween Ashcan 2007" for clarification. This is a full-color ashcan-format Halloween-themed freebie that reprints a pair of classic Carl Barks Disney comics.

First up is "Hound of the Whiskervilles", a parody of the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery featuring Scrooge, Donald Duck, and the three nephew ducks. Scrooge is trying to get accepted in high society, so he travels to Scotland, hoping a bit of genealogy is just the trick to establish his upper-class bloodline for the aristocratic types back home. With Donald and crew in tow, he encounters the legendary hound that haunted the moors in the days of his ancestors.

There are a couple of fun plot twists in this story, and it was generally pretty entertaining.

The second story features Gyro Gearloose, who decides create his own new life form from the basic chemicals of life after being inspired by a showing of the film "Krankenstein". He creates an egg and speculates on what might hatch from it after placing it in the care of an eager chicken.

This story war more of an extended gag strip, with a lot of setup for a single punchline at the end, which was okay, but not especially satisfying. I did like Gyro's imagined creatures, though.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Deathstroke #3

We just got back from an amazing three days in Singapore. Among the awesomeness of Gardens by the Bay, hawker centers in Chinatown and Little India, the Night Safari, and the Botanic Gardens, one of the places I happened upon was the massive Kinokuniya bookstore on Orchard Road. I stopped in to buy some Singaporean literature, but they also had a small selection of American comics (plus a very extensive collection of graphic novels and manga; definitely paying them another visit if I get back to Singapore any time soon!). Since they had some of the DC Rebirth titles that I didn't have a chance to pick up over the summer, I went ahead and picked out one, somewhat at random.


Title: Deathstroke
Issue: #3
Date: November, 2016
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciler: Joe Bennett
Inker: Belardino Braho, Mark Morales
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Willie Schubert
Editor: Alex Antone, Brittany Holzherr
Cover: Romulo Fajardo Jr., ACO

The basic story here is that someone has put a hit out on Rose, and Slade Deathstroke is make sure that problem gets fixed.

This took a bit to get going, and silly plot devices involving Rose's precognitive (incorrectly described as "clairvoyant") abilities made the action sequence toward the middle of the book unnecessarily confusing.

Slade talks to his daughter with the attitude that baby-boomers are often accused of taking toward millenials, and the whole relationship comes off as a bit awkward (at least partially intentionally).

The ending contrived its way into a road trip to Gotham City, which could be interesting. But this issue was almost entirely setup, and it was shaky setup at best.

Rating: 4/10







Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Taste of Insanity

Not a comic. For the hair-splitters, I'd call this a chapbook, I guess, since it's a promotional excerpt from a novel. Anyway, I got it at some convention somewhere, and it made it's way into the unread comics stack.

Title: A Taste of Insanity
Date: 2003
Publisher: KT Pinto
Writer: KT Pinto
Cover: Chris Moreno

This is the opening segment of KT Pinto's vampire novel, Celeste (the first of the Books of Insanity novel series from Mundania Press), in zine form. Nice cover image, and all prose on the inside.

The action here covers Celeste's childhood as the illegitimate daughter of Julius Caesar, and the intrigue that immediately followed Caesar's assassination. The cover carries a warning for adult content, and there is some sexual material, but nothing that would be out of place in, say, Game of Thrones or the equivalent.

Period details aren't a strength here, but I didn't really find that to be a problem, as the characters held my interest and the story was quite entertaining.

Pinto gives her narrator a very conversational voice that's easy to relate to. The writing is engaging right from the start, and there is some good court intrigue and plenty of plot development in these initial pages. Definitely an effective tease for the full novel.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Amazing Cynicalman #20

From the random pile of unread comics. Probably acquired at the SPACE convention in Columbus OH.

Title: The Amazing Cynicalman
Issue: #20
Date: February, 2008
Publisher: Not Available Comics
Writer: Matt Feazell
Artist: Matt Feazell

I loved the inside cover artwork on this minicomic, depicting the World Headquarters of Not Available Comics in Hamtramck MI.

For those not familiar, Matt Feazell does stick-figure minicomics, usually quarter-sized (as this issue is) featuring a whole cast of characters including Cynicalman, Cute Girl, and in this issue, Robot Lincoln.

Robot Lincoln attempts to boost his reputation by taking up modern art. Cynicalman deals with a home warranty phone scammer. President Bush hand-delivers an economic stimulus package. And my favorite bit in this issue: a want-ad for a cartoon character.

Some of the jokes were a bit obvious, but this is part of the fun with Cynicalman. The artwork is entertaining, with a very wide range of actions and characters, despite the limitations of working with stick figures.

This was good for a few laughs.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pirate Shorts

I hadn't remembered this one, but according to the signature inside, I got it at Anime Boston 2008. It's sat in the unread comics pile since then, only to be taken out and read eight years later and halfway around the planet!

Title: Pirate Shorts
Date: 2008
Publisher: Shelli Parachutes (Shelli Paroline, Foolproofart)
Writer: Shelli Parachutes
Artist: Shelli Parachutes

Really cleverly designed minicomic collection of short comic strips with a very vague pirate-theme by Shelli Parachutes (aka
Shelli Paroline).

The artwork is lovely, and the book features a fold-out section to allow for a different panel format for a boat-race take on the fable of the tortoise and hare.

There's also a quick Star Wars parody strip, as well as a battle between a crow's nest lookout and some birds.

I found the jokes to be a bit of a mixed bag for my own sense of humor, but the art style is delightful, and I love the little touches on the design elements of the book.

Rating: 6/10














Saturday, September 17, 2016

Action Comics #957

This is the last of the small stack of DC Rebirth tie-ins that I picked up over the summer. Like most of these, this one came from one of the Newbury Comics locations that I visited.

Title: Action Comics
Issue: #957
Date: August, 2016
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mike Cotton, Paul Kaminski
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Sonia Oback

As I mentioned in my review of Detective Comics #934, I love the fact that DC has restored the original numbering to these two long-running series. Looking forward to checking out Action Comics #1000 somewhere down the road!

In the meantime, though, this issue is something of a soft reboot for Superman. The original Superman is missing, possible dead (well, "Dead in the DC Universe", anyway). With Metropolis missing its greatest hero, Lex Luthor has stepped in, with what basically looks like his version of John Henry Irons' Steel suit, complete with Superman chest-shield symbol and cape.

This does not sit well with one Clark Kent, currently moving into a home in upstate New York (Maryland? Anyway, it was upstate somewhere) with his wife and newly-super-powered son. This, apparently, is a Superman from one of the (52? Is that still a thing?) alternate Earths in the multiverse.

He confronts Luthor with predictable results, but if Superman is battling Luthor, then who is the Clark Kent who just showed up to cover the story for the Planet?

In spite of all the multi-universe nonsense going on, this was a really well-paced story that was told in a nicely straightforward and logical way. Even with it being something of a weird situation in terms of continuity, this issue succeeds both as a jumping-on point for new readers, and as a fun entertaining read.

As a side note, nice to see Maggie Sawyer back in action.

Also, excellent cliffhanger ending with a least a reasonable attempt at a logical buildup.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mother Planet Vol. 3 Issue 1

Here's one of those oddball items that makes its way into the unread comic stack from time to time. This is really a zine, not a comic. It's a Columbus OH area zine covering tabletop gaming and general geekery from 2008. I am guessing I picked this up at one of the Columbus conventions that I've attended, either SPACE or Origins. It could also have possibly come from a comic or gaming shop in that area, as I have visited a few of those when in town for conventions.

Title: Mother Planet
Issue: Volume 3, Issue 1
Writer: Mike Getridge, Timothy Razler
Contributor: Mike Getridge, Timothy Razler. Graeme Henson, Ed Shields, Kevin G, Rex Hall, Bill Stinemetz
Editor: Mike Getridge

Columbus OH area gaming and generally fannish zine from 2008. Some of the material is specific to the time of publication, including event listing for local game and comic stores, particularly for Warhammer 40K.

There are a couple of non-system specific articles on tabletop roleplaying, one covering magic spell selection, and one covering thieves in fantasy games. There is also a short comic strip by Rex Hall and Bill Stinemetz, as well as a comic review by Timothy Razler. The credits don't always make it entirely clear who worked on what.

The best thing here is the first part of a science fiction/horror prose serial called The Paddirn Principle. It starts off as a fairly generic dystopian piece, but then adds a really fun twist involving a haunted spacecraft. It was a fun read, by the end.

The two rpg pieces were fairly straightforward, and the comic strip was a simple slapstick joke, but this still looked like it was a nice contribution to the local gaming scene at the time. Having been involved in a zine a lot like this one at one point, it brought back a bit of nostalgia for me, as dated as it was.

Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Detective Comics #934

Another of the new comic purchases I made over the summer. This one came from one of the Newbury Comics locations I visited.

Title: Detective Comics
Issue: #934
Date: August, 2016
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: James Tynion IV
Penciler: Eddy Barrows
Inker: Eber Ferreira
Colorist:Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Marilyn Patrizio
Editor: Chris Conroy, Dave Wielgosz

First of all, I'm happy to see Detective Comics restored to its original numbering! When the New 52 started, one of the little things that I was most disappointed with was the renumbering of the "legacy" books, Action and Detective, to new #1's. I was cool with all the other titles, but these two have had their consistent numbering through all of my comic-reading, and way back to the beginning of DC. So I'm not surprised, but I am pleased to see the original numbering restored.

As for the story, well, Detective has been a lot of things in over 900 issues. With Rebirth, Detective is becoming a team book. The Batman and Batwoman are leading and training a team consisting of basically two Robins and a Batgirl (Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain), plus Clayface, for no real reason that makes any sense to me.

They're up against a new threat/conspiracy that seems to be closely tied to the Batman, and is operating with powerful technology and a seemingly omnipresent reach in Gotham. So, basically the Society of Owls, but not. The Batman's reaction to this new threat felt horribly out of character, but it was really all just an excuse to put the team together, and its the interactions within that team that will make this an interesting story (or not).

So far, it was entertaining, even if one needs to swallow the urge to apply logic. Clayface is fun, even it his presence in the group is ridiculous. Cassandra Cain, who calls herself Orphan these days, continues to be annoying as a character, and the interaction between Tim and Stephanie slipped too easily into stereotypical gender roles. Kate and Bruce were a lot better in that regard, although the ending interaction of "there's something you're not telling us..." felt like a tired cliche. For the love of Pete, just go ahead and tell them, Bruce! That holding back information stuff never ends well.

The book has a nice look, although the opening fight scene felt clunky due to limitations in showing much detail on the (Batman-imitating) villain.

This had a lot of weaknesses, but still had an overall sense of momentum and potential.

And also, onward to #1000!

Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, September 2, 2016

True Believers: Star Wars #1

Picked this issue up at Comics for Collectors in Ithaca NY USA during our 2016 Father/Son Road Trip.

Title: True Believers: Star Wars
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: July 2016
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: John Cassaday, Laura Martin
Editor: Jordan D. White, Charles Beacham

This takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, with the regular crew of heroes attempting to infiltrate and take out an Imperial weapons factory.

Having read a lot of Star Wars comics, with many of them just feeling a bit "off", this was a pleasant surprise. Artist John Cassaday did a great job with the look of the characters, and writer Jason Aaron just nailed the character interactions and the overall flavor.

Cassaday also had some great-looking work on the action scenes, particularly on Chewbacca leaping to escape a collapsing platform and Leia punching out an Imperial officer.

A confrontation between Luke and Vader feels like a bit of a tease given the restrictions of continuity, but if you can put that aside, this is a really fun bit of space adventure that fits the Star Wars universe perfectly.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Am I Immortal: To Wake...

A minicomic from the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Am I Immortal: To Wake...
Publisher: Dimestore Productions
Date: 2008
Writer: Shawnti Therrien
Artist: Shawnti Therrien

This is a preview minicomic/ashcan for the Am I Immortal story from Mysterious Visions Anthology #7, published by Dimestore Productions. This vampire tale has Cain, the main character, looking back on a pivotal loss in his life that has served to motivate his present actions.

Although this minicomic only delivers a snippet of the story, there is definitely enough of interest here to get me curious as to the full tale. The artwork has a nice look to it, although it suffers a bit from the limitations of the photocopied minicomic.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, August 22, 2016

Palookaville #1 10th Anniversary Special Re-Issue

From the random undread comics stack. This was published in 2001, but I have no idea where or when I got it.

Title: Palookaville
Issue: 1 (10th Anniversary Special Re-Issue)
Date: April, 2001
Company: Drawn & Quarterly
Writer: Seth
Artist: Seth

Reprinting the debut issue of Palookaville from 1991. Framed by the narrator reminiscing on his life in Toronto in the 1980s, the story in this issue centers on him becoming the victim of an anti-gay beating by a group of homophobic attackers on the Toronto subway system.

Introspective and disturbingly real, the story follows the aftermath of the beating and the responses of the narrator's friends as he seeks help. The supporting cast is quirky and it is their kindness that shines through the bad situation.

Interestingly, the editorial by Seth for the anniversary edition indicates that he doesn't think this story was very good work as he looks back on it. For me, it captured my attention, was loaded with great details, and featured and intriguing cast of characters.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bathtub Baby

Minicomic freebie from the unread comics stack. Not sure where I got this one.

Title: Bathtub Baby
Date: 2006
Publisher: MinDo (plockmatic60@yahoo.com)
Writer: MinDo
Artist: MinDo

Limited edition (#53/60!) half-sized minicomic freebie.

This is a straight-up story of the writer/artist's pregnancy, full of detail and touches of humor.

It was a good, thoughtful read without taking itself too seriously, and the relationship between the parents shines through nicely.

As happens a lot with minicomics, some of the lettering got reduced a bit too much for comfortable reading, but that's a pretty minor issue in what is otherwise a nicely grounded and true-to-life story.

Rating: 6.5/10

Maintenance FCBD 2008

Did I mention that we got a pretty big haul of comics on Free Comic Book Day back in 2008? I keep finding more in the unread comics stack!

Title: Maintenance FCBD 2008
Publisher: Oni Press
Date: May, 2008
Writer:Jim Massey
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Jared M. Jones, Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones, Randal C. Jarrell

Doug and Manny are a couple of regular working guys who just happen to work in a research lab that specializes in science of the mad variety.

When a time machine malfunctions, they find themselves in prehistoric times, facing down a group of humanoids with a striking resemblance Hanna Barbera's Captain Caveman. Except that several of them are equipped with jetpacks.

The plot was certainly well-conceived. As for the dialogue... When it worked, it worked well. When it didn't, the jokes really fell flat for me. Humor is hard to do, and it's a matter of personal taste, but for me, this just wasn't all there as far as the actual laughs went.

Rating: 5.5/6

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Drafted: Free Comic Book Day Edition

From the random stack of unread comics and that massive FCBD haul we got in '08.

Title: Drafted: Free Comic Book Day Edition
Date: May, 2008
Publisher: Devils Due Publishing
Writer: Mark Powers
Artist: Chris Lie, Mike O'Sullivan, John Lowe, Joseph Baker, Wes Dzioba
Letterer: Brian J. Crowley
Cover Art: Mike O'Sullivan

This Free Comic Book Day special was essentially a recap of DDP's Drafted series, issues 0-5. It's cobbled together from those five issues with a "voiceover" in caption form.

The story is about Earth's first encounter with an advanced alien civilization, who has arrived to draft the whole human population into war with another alien species, a race of sentient world-eating worms. The incentive for humanity is pretty straightforward: The World-Eaters have Earth as their next target.

This looked like a really interesting idea. The aliens are desperate in their own way, in spite of their advanced technology, and there are a lot of plot twists as humanity gears up for all-out war.

The execution of this sample book could have been better, however, as the narration got wordy, and all of the cuts in the story disrupted the flow of the narrative and failed to give much sense of the characters.

I was also left wondering why exactly these aliens need humans in their battle. Hopefully that is explained in the full series, but it still felt like something of a gaping hole in this glimpse of the story.

And finally, the villains left a lot to be desired. They felt generic, and not sufficiently threatening, especially compared to the abilities of the "good" aliens.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I bought this last fall at a bookstore here in Saigon as a Christmas gift for the Kiddo.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at wimpykid.com)
Date: 2009
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

I read this aloud with my son (age 8).

This is an interesting mix in terms of its format. Not exactly a prose novel, and not exactly a graphic novel, but something in between, with short cartoons with dialogue that serve as illustration and enhancement of the story.

The story itself felt pretty familiar. The main character is a lazy middle-schooler who is trying to navigate his way through the hallway politics of his school while getting by on doing as little actual work as possible on pretty much anything.

The problem for me was the lack of growth of the main character. The situations are funny, but Greg Heffley barely learns or changes over the course of a school year, with even the climactic regaining of a friendship feeling mostly like a return to the (abusive, when it comes right down to it) status quo.
I was also disappointed by the fallback to treating girls in that kind of "mysterious other species" vibe that you see in so many stories for young readers told from a boy's point of view. Everything about girls in this book (well, what little there is) is cliché and stereotype.

I did like the cartoons. They were effective, and added a bit of extra edge to the jokes. The situations that Greg Heffley finds himself in get more outrageous as the story progresses, and there were some genuinely funny moments. My son also enjoyed some of the catchphrases that come up.

There is a fun segment about Greg's attempt to become the official cartoonist of the school newspaper that strikes a nice nerdy note.

But in the end, there really aren't any likeable characters at the start of the book, and they really haven't gotten any more likeable by the end. Seeing them get various doses of comeuppance in between wasn't enough to keep me entertained.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cars: The Rookie #1 Free Comic Book Day Edition

A Free Comic Book Day item from the stack of random unread comics.

Title: Cars: The Rookie
Issue: 1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
Date: March 2009
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Writer: Alan J. Porter, Mark Waid
Artist: Albert Carreres, Michael Avon Oeming
Colorist: Emily Kanalz
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover:  Allen Gladfelter
Editor: Paul Morrissey

This Disney/Pixar tie-in follows the trend of many recent movie-related comics by functioning as a prequel, covering a time period not seen in the films. In this case, the focus is on Lightning McQueen's racing career before the events of the first Cars film. And in this case, it works pretty well.

Using an interview as a framing device, and with Lightning McQueen going full-on unreliable narrator, the reader hears the story of McQueen's qualifying races in McQueen's own words, while the artwork tells the actual story.

This was fun, and kept nicely to the flavor of the movies. McQueen's voice was spot-on as the boastful rookie racing sensation, and the action was amusing.

Writer Alan J. Porter's short editorial expounding on his love of motorsports and its influence on the comic was a nice touch.

Backup story featuring The Incredibles by Mark Waid and Michael Avon Oeming was a fun glimpse, but cut off before things really got interesting.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, August 1, 2016

Star Wars: Jedi Council: Acts of War (Trade Paperback)

Graphic novel that the Kiddo picked out from a bargain bin at New England Comics in Quincy MA.

Title: Star Wars: Jedi Council: Acts of War
Date: 2001
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Randy Stradley
Penciller: Davide Fabbri
Inker: Christian Dalla Vecchia
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Steve Dutro
Editor: David Land, Philip Simon
Cover: David Michael Beck

This trade paperback edition collects the four-issue comic series of the same title. Set before the events of The Phantom Menace, the story centers on the rise of a reptilian warrior species called the Yinchorri. These creatures are formidable foes for the Jedi, as they are immune to "Jedi mind tricks", and possess weapons capable of temporarily disabling a lightsaber.

Following the loss of a team of Jedi sent to deal with the Yinchorri under his orders, Mace Windu is determined to lead a larger force and locate the Yinchorri command base. His Jedi team includes an array of new characters, plus the familiar faces of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi.

While the Jedi forces split into three groups and face heavy opposition at every turn, Yoda and the rest of the Jedi Council face danger back home, while Darth Siduous and Darth Maul plot behind the scenes.

In spite of occasionally having more of a Star Trek diplomatic feel, this serves as a reasonably interesting prequel to, well, the prequels. There is some good character interaction, and it's fun to see Mace Windu front and center in the thick of the action.

The battle scenes felt repetitive, however, and in spite of their gimmicks, the Yinchorri made for pretty generic and one-dimensional adversaries. They are relentless fighters, but show little strategy, and are threatening mostly just by the fact that they outnumber the Jedi in nearly every battle.

I enjoyed the new characters who were introduced, and there were a couple of good emotional scenes, but there were too many bland battle scenes and not enough really interesting plot developments to make this a really great story.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, July 31, 2016

All Star Superman #1 Free Comic Book Day 2008 Edition

From the stack of random unread comics, and originally from Free Comic Book Day 2008.

Title: All-Star Superman
Issue: #1
Date: June, 2008
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciler: Frank Quitely
Inker: Jamie Grant
Colorist: Jamie Grant
Letterer: Phil Balsman
Editor: Brandon Montclare, Bob Schreck

This is one of several promotional reprints that DC Comics has produced of the first issue of All Star Superman. I read and reviewed a more recent reprint (coinciding with the release of the Man of Steel film) here.

This edition uses the original cover (formatted for Free Comic Book Day), which is something of an improvement on the Man of Steel promo (or rather, the new cover for the Man of Steel promo was not an improvement on the original).

My opinion on the story holds up after a second reading (actually, this was probably at least my fourth time reading this; I've got the original printing somewhere).

This is an excellent, and complex story, with Superman facing the possibility of his own mortality due to a scheme by Lex Luthor that lured Superman into the sun and left his cells dying slowly from a solar radiation overdose. The story feels very Silver-Age, and is reminiscent of Alan Moore's great Silver Age tribute, "What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?".

The artwork is absolutely gorgeous.

It's not the best introductory story for non-fans, in spite of DC constantly reprinting it as such, but for a fan, this is a really intriguing beginning that holds up nicely after multiple readings.

Rating is up half a point due to the better cover.

Rating: 8.5/10


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wonder Woman Rebirth #1

This is one of the recent DC books I picked up at Newbury Comics in Hyannis MA on our summer visit home.

Title: Wonder Woman: Rebirth

Issue: 1
Date: August, 2016

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Greg Rucka

Artist: Matthew Clark, Jeremy Colwell, Sean Parsons, Liam Sharp
Colorist: Jeremy Colwell, Laura Martin
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Editor: Chris Conroy, Mark Doyle

Cover: Liam Sharp, Laura Martin

One problem with the constant reboots of continuity that DC and Marvel have been doing more and more frequently, really ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths, is that it is very easy to fall back on an "everything you know is a lie" type of story.


That's what's happening here in this Wonder Woman reboot. There is a random action sequence with a self-reflective monologue thrown on top of it, questioning the various inconsistencies in Diana's origin story, while giving glimpses of a "current version" of a retold origin.

This transitions into a sequence where Diana uses the Lasso on herself in an effort to discover the truth about her origins. Clever idea, but not as well executed as I was hoping it might be.

This leads us to Olympus, some generic fighting, and nothing resolved.
Oh, and by the way, everything we have been told is a lie. Maybe.

Visually beautiful (awesome cover, and the interior art delivers too), but not much substance beyond some half-formed ideas.

Rating: 4.5/10



Friday, July 29, 2016

The Incident Under Hill Farm

First up from the newly-refreshed unread comic stack is a minicomic I picked up from the writer/artist at MASSive Comic Con in Worcester MA in June during our visit home.

Title: The Incident Under Hill Farm
Publisher: Benjamin Wright-Heuman
Date: 2014
Writer: Benjamin Wright-Heuman
Artist: Benjamin Wright-Heuman

Half-sized 12-page b/w minicomic. The story is a variant on one of Aesop's fables, modernized into a Twilight Zone style horror short about two farm workers, a tunnel, and the consequences of greed.

I particularly liked the artwork on the tunneling scenes, which were appropriately claustrophobic. Nothing is really explained, but that is not a big issue given the fable vibe that the creator was going for here. The writing had a nice told-around-the-campfire feel to it, which again, meshed well with the overall tone.

I bought one other minicomic from Benjamin Wright-Heuman at MASSive Comic Con, and am now looking forward to checking that one out.

Rating: 6.5/10


Thursday, July 28, 2016

The To-Read Stack

We're back in Vietnam, and settling in. Thanks to Emirates' generous baggage allowance, I was able to bring almost 100 comics here from the US (when added to the few remaining unread comics I left here, the total is exactly 99!). These are mostly from a box of unread comics from our storage unit back home, plus a few new issues that I bought at various comic shops, and a small number purchased at the two conventions I attended during our visit (MASSive Comic Con, and Readercon).

I'm looking forward to reading these over the coming school year, along with a few graphic novels I brought with me, plus some graphic novels and manga available at my school's library. I'll also be attending Manga Festival here in Ho Chi Minh City this weekend, and I'll keep my eye out for any other chances to buy comics during our upcoming travels.

Here are some photos of the to-read pile! First neatly stacked:



And then spread out on the floor!


Looking forward to some good reading!



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Big Bad Best of Booty

This was one of several crowdfunding (Indiegogo in this case) purchases I made over the last school year and had shipped to a US address, to be waiting for me when I headed home for the summer visit.

Title: Big Bad Best of Booty
Date: June, 2015
Publisher: Anne Thalheimer
Writer: Anne Thalheimer
Artist: Anne Thalheimer

I'm a fan of Anne Thalheimer's autobiographical comic/zine, Booty, since discovering it at some of the Boston-area zine and indy comic events. I've reviewed individual issues here and here.

This is a "best-of" collection, featuring individual pages from past issues of the Booty zine.

Anne writes and draws about her jobs, her crafting and creativity, her travels, and gives some insight into life with ptsd. You also get Anne's experiences as a roller derby referee, plus guest appearances by her cats. Not to mention a range of geeky topics from the biology of squids to the game Apples to Apples to participation in a soup-swap (complete with sweet potato soup recipe).

The format of this results in some repetition, but this adds to the conversational tone. Reading this is like catching up with an old friend who you haven't spoken to in a while. It helps matters that this friend is so full of nerdy awesomeness.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max

I liked the first volume of Lumberjanes enough that I went to New England Comics in Quincy MA and picked this one up, and read it in one sitting.

Title: Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max
Date: October, 2015
Publisher: Boom! Studios (Boom Box)
Writer: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Colorist: Maarta Laiho
Letterer: Aubrey Aiese
Cover:  Noelle Stevenson
Editor: Dafna Pleban, Whitney Leopard

The second volume of Lumberjanes begins with dinosaurs attacking the Lumberjanes Scout Camp, and it proceeds to get weird from there.

This volume covers issues 5-8 of the comic series, plus a cover gallery and a preview of another Boom Box comic series, Giant Days. The Lumberjanes stories basically conclude the initial arc begun in the first volume (or first four comic issues), introducing some more well-defined villains, and a healthy dose of Greek mythology.

A game of Capture the Flag has much of the drama of real warfare, as the scouts learn to rely on each other under pressure, and they face down some serious supernatural forces by the end.

Character growth continues nicely, and the dialogue continues to be brilliant.

Giant Days, a comedy/drama about three women in their freshman year of college by John Allison and Lissa Treiman, looks like it has potential.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Poe Dameron #1

I stopped in at Newbury Comics in Manchester NH during our wanderings on our summer US visit, and got the first two issues of this series for the Kiddo, who continues to be a big Star Wars fan.

Title: Poe Dameron
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: June 2016
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Phil Noto
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Heather Antos, Jordan D. White

In this Star Wars: The Force Awakens preview, Poe Dameron is searching for clues to Luke Skywalker's whereabouts, along with BB-8 and a new "Black Squadron" team of Resistance pilots.

After flying through a maze of caves, Poe finds himself in a tense standoff with a group that stands guard over a mysterious egg.

I liked the handling of the negotiations between Poe and the cave-dwellers. Neither side really wants to fight, but it's still a tense situation.

The new characters in Poe's squadron only get brief introductions, but it's enough to make them interesting. The hints of a possible traitor among them are a little heavyhanded, but I did like the snippets of history that added to the backstory for The Force Awakens.

This was a good start to a nice original story that fits in well with the new film.

Rating: 7.5/10



Monday, July 11, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens #1

Many years ago, back when I was in college, I used to get my comics at Comics For Collectors on the Ithaca Commons in Ithaca NY. I finally got back to visit Ithaca during our current trip back to the US, and managed to stop in at Comics For Collectors at their current location, still right near the Commons in downtown Ithaca. I had the Kiddo with me, and he picked out a couple of Star Wars comics.

Title: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August 2016
Writer: Chuck Wendig
Artist: Luke Ross
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Heather Antos

Adaptations always present their own set of unique problems. A comic adaptation of a film is working with limited space, and so there are cuts and other adjustments that must be made. There is also the issue that the adaptation writers are usually working from some version of a script an not necessarily the finished cut of the film.

This series adapts the new Star Wars film, covering the beginning of the movie, through most of the action that occurs on the desert planet Jakku. Most of the film's new characters get introduced, while the cast who appeared in the original trilogy will appear in later issues of the adaptation.

The comic uses caption introductions for the characters, which comes off a bit clunky, but does give the advantage of getting everyone's name out immediately.

The art is good, and the characters as draw look like they appear on film (which can be hard to do well in film-to-comic adaptations). I felt like a really iconic visual toward the beginning was unfortunately cut, but the ending full-page panel is a perfect shot of another one of the movie's iconic moments.

As an overall story, I liked this better than any of the prequel films, and I found it to be at least as good as Return of the Jedi, probably better (I'll have to see how it holds up to multiple viewings), so I felt like the plot is solid. The adaptation looks good visually, and its pacing feels right.

Rating: 7/10

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

I bought this at Merrymack Games and Comics in Merrimack NH on our trip home for the summer.

Title: Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
Date: September, 2015
Publisher: Boom! Studios (Boom Box)
Writer: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Colorist: Maarta Laiho
Letterer: Aubrey Aiese
Editor: Dafna Pleban, Whitney Leopard

This is the first trade paperback volume of the critically-acclaimed Lumberjanes series, collecting the first four issues, plus a bonus gallery of the variant covers.

Five girls discover friendship, weirdness, and various monsters during a summer at Lumberjanes Scout Camp.

Loaded with catchphrases and frenetically-paced, the story places the girls into one dangerous adventure after another, with hardly a moment to stop and wonder "What the junk?".

The character development happens in small moments and little details, amid plenty of humor and a strong sense of wonder and weirdness.

The occasional entries from the Lumberjanes Field Manual and the badges (Pungeon Master!) are a nice added touch.

There is lots of action in this volume, but not many answered questions. I look forward to seeing where all of this is going.

Rating: 8/10