Friday, March 31, 2017

The Diary of Amos Lee: I Sit, I Write, I Flush

Got this for the Kiddo at Kinokuniya on Orchard Road in Singapore.

Title: The Diary of Amos Lee: I Sit, I Write, I Flush
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher: Epigram Books
Date: 2009
Writer: Adeline Foo
Artist: Stephanie Wong

When we were exploring Singapore, I took the Kiddo (my son, age 9) to the Kinokuniya book store on Orchard Road. I picked this out basically assuming that this was Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but set in Singapore. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while it had some similarities, this book had a very unique and distinctive flavor as compared to the Wimpy Kid books.

Amos Lee is a typical Singaporean kid whose mother has decided that he should get in some writing practice whenever he sits down on the toilet. This diary is the result. The story follows one full calendar year of Amos' life, and it brings in current events at the time of writing, as well as loads of local flavor and culture.

In places, this story reads almost like a Singapore travel guide, with the occasional snarky comment. The book is not loaded with jokes the way the Wimpy Kid books are, but there is plenty of humor, and Amos Lee has a more snarky and subtle side to his sense of humor.

As the story progresses, more plot elements come into play. There is a school bully who has been bothering Amos and his friends, and Amos is constantly coming up with new money-making schemes to earn cash for the portable video game system he has his sights set on.

Over the course of the year, we see Singaporean events like Lunar New Year, the National Day Parade, the F-1 race, and Deepavali. There are references to many of the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the city. It was fun reading about places we had gotten to visit where we were in Singapore, as well as seeing other areas of the city through Amos' eyes.

The plot takes a while to build up, and the book feels a bit random in the early going, but it intensifies as it reaches the end, and I liked the fact that the bullying issue is not resolved in perfect storybook fashion.

It also helps that, in spite of some cynical and lazy tendencies, Amos is a fairly likeable character with some well-developed interests and some moments of introspection and compassion.

Rating: 7.5/10

Scott Pilgrim Volume 3: Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness

Borrowed from my school's library. I've only got a couple more months here, so I really should get more use out of my school library's surprisingly extensive graphic novel section.

Title: Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
Issue: Volume 3
Publisher: Oni Press
Date: 2006
Writer: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Editor: James Lucas Jones

Scott Pilgrim's band is the opening act for a show by his ex-girlfriend's (much more famous) band. And one of the members of that band is the next in the series of Ramona Flowers' evil ex-boyfriends that Scott must defeat in order to date Ramona. This is going to be particularly difficult for Scott because Todd, the evil ex, is a vegan. And as we all know, vegans have mystical telekinetic powers.

This volume starts off pretty convoluted (there's even a convoluted diagram to show everyone's relationships; it helps a little), and takes its time getting to the big climactic battles, but once it gets into gear, it is loads of fun. There are some great one-liners, a bit of breaking of the fourth wall, and the usual gaming references and ridiculously over-the-top fighting spots ("She punched the highlights out of your hair!").

Considering all of the extra characters that are involved at the start of this, it wraps up really nicely. This is a fun read, and it's worth scorecard that you need to keep track of everyone in the early going.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lontar #1

A journal of Southeast Asian speculative prose fiction and poetry that I picked up last Fall in Singapore.

Title: Lontar
Issue: 1
Publisher: Math Paper Press
Date: 2013
Writer: Kate Osias, Zen Cho, Elka Ray Nguyen, Paolo Bacigalupi, Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, Bryan Thao Worra, Paolo Chikiamco
Editor: Jason Erik Lundberg, Kristine Ong Muslim

Not a comic. This is a prose fiction magazine with a bit of poetry, but it was interesting enough that I wanted to feature it here.

This is the debut issue of Lontar, a magazine of speculative fiction from and about Southeast Asia (the countries it lists as its focus are the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, and Vietnam).

The journal contains four short stories, three poems, and an article on magical beliefs and traditions in the Philippines.

I enjoyed everything here. The opening story by Kate Osias presents a unique vision of a postapocalyptic Manila inhabited by the shades of those who died in a supernatural calamity.

This was followed up by story by Zen Cho set in a pleasantly utopian future Malaysia, one where affability is enforced by a rigid system of controls and the lines between utopia and dystopia become blurrier as love becomes part of the equation. 

Elka Ray Nguyen's contribution is a straight-up horror story set in rural Vietnam, which was especially interesting for me because I am familiar with the author through the childrens picture books she has written, and this was a very different (and very effective) style.

The last story was Paolo Bacigalupi's The Gambler, which focused on the near-future of the news media with a reporter living in exile from an oppressive regime that has plunged Laos into isolation. I was introduced to Bacigalupi's work last year when I read The Windup Girl, and this shared some themes, but help up very nicely on its own, and its grim prediction of where the news industry is heading felt spot-on prophetic.

The poetry was also enjoyable, and the piece on magic in the Philippines had a clever approach, formatted as a course catalogue for a fictional school of magic.

All in all a very enjoyable collection, with some extra appeal to me with my own connections to Southeast Asia.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Catch A Dragon By The Tail

Another minicomic from the random unread comics stack.

Title: Catch A Dragon By The Tail
Publisher: Darksided Collaborations
Date: 2008
Writer: Roxanne Larson
Artist: Roxanne Larson

Eight-page half-sized b/w minicomic telling an interesting variant on the princess-and-dragon trope. In this case, it's the dragon who's imprisoned in a tower, with the princess as the (possibly unwitting, but maybe not so much so) rescuer.

This was fun, and the artwork was well done, especially on the dragon.

It's really just a snippet of a story, but it was an intriguing and entertaining glimpse of what could be a bigger tale with a lot of potential.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mr. Emergency: Special Edition

From the random stack of unread comics. No idea where I got this 2007 minicomic freebie.

Title: Mr. Emergency: Special Edition
Publisher: Archetype Media / Wade L. Busby (
Date: 2007
Writer: Wade L. Busby
Artist: Wade L. Busby, Ron McCain Jr.

Eight-page half-sized b/w minicomic freebie. In this case, a numbered limited edition.

The vibe here appears to be action/espionage comedy. The first two pages are bits of the story presented with commentary by the creators and main character. There is an irreverent and comedic feel to it all, but it's a bit disjointed and the art is shrunk down to a size that really doesn't do it justice.

This is followed by a reprint of a very early incarnation of the title character by artist/writer Wade L. Busby. The book finishes up with a nice collection of concept sketches by Ron McCain Jr.

This felt like it had potential, but it just didn't give me enough to really leave me with a good idea of what any of it was all about.

Rating: 4.5/10

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Avengers/Invaders Sketchbook

From the random stack of unread comics. This was not a designated Free Comic Book Day promotional book, but it was a promotional freebie, and I believe I did get it as part of that 2008 Free Comic Book Day haul.

Title: Avengers/Invaders Sketchbook
Publisher: Marvel Comics / Dynamite
Date: 2008
Writer: Arune Singh
Artist: Alex Ross, Steve Sandowski
Editor: Jeff Youngquist, John Denning, Cory Levine

This is a promotional book hyping the Avengers/Invaders crossover event, which feature's Marvel's World War II super-team, the Invaders, traveling to the present post-Civil War Marvel Universe. It contains a set of character and concept sketches by Alex Ross, and some sample penciled pages by Steve Sandowski, along with commentary about the making of the crossover event.

The Ross artwork is gorgeous. Sandowski's work here is very busy, and I'd probably appreciate the full-color finished work more, but I can tell that he has put a ton of detail work into these panels. The battle scenes look creatively chaotic.

The text does a nice job of selling the story, and as someone who has not read the original Civil War, it gave enough to bring me up to speed on who is who without getting bogged down in Marvel continuity.

In short, this book does the job of selling the series that it was intended to do, and it's a nice collectible in and of itself, especially for the Alex Ross sketches of classic Marvel characters.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Heavenly Bride Book One

I got this (along with the second volume) by way of Katrina Joyner's Kickstarter campaign last year.

Title: Heavenly Bride
Issue: Book One
Publisher: The Writers of the Apocalypse
Date: 2016
Writer: Katrina Joyner
Artist: Katrina Joyner

Lhung, a celestial dragon, takes on mortal form, and soon falls in love with Taus, a mysterious young woman who seems to be able to see him for what he truly is.

Their growing friendship in complicated by a succession of factors, not the least of which is that the body that Lhung now inhabits happens to be vampiric in nature.

This is a nicely paced supernatural romance that builds slowly and gives the reader a chance to get to know the characters as the tension and complications grow. The world is familiar enough to be accessible, and the supernatural elements are woven smoothly into the setting.

Because of the pacing the story sets, not a lot gets resolved in this first volume. This book is all about adding conflicts rather than solving them. It is still a very good introduction to the characters and settings with a good amount of plot twists to keep things moving along.

The artwork is lovely, and the bits of color splashed in places throughout the book serve as a nice addition to grab the reader's attention.

I'm looking forward to checking out the second volume.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, March 16, 2017

X-Men #1: Free Comic Book Day 2008

Another 2008 Free Comic Book Day offering, this one from Marvel. From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: X-Men
Issue: 1 (Free Comic Book Day 2008 Edition)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: May, 2008
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciller: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Liesten
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Editor: Nick Lowe, Will Panzo

Megan Gwynn, AKA Pixie, is back home in Wales after a year at Xavier's School. She's trying to fit back in, but the fact that people keep mysteriously vanishing from her small town is making things rather difficult for her.

It's not long before she's facing down a full-fledged demonic invasion. Fortunately, the X-Men are there to back her up.

This was a really great introduction to Pixie, who I had not previously been familiar with. She's a fun blend of magical and mutant powers, and her personality really shines in this story as she fights the bad guys on her own first, and then alongside the full X-Men team.

The X-Men had some good lines, and there was a quick exchange between Pixie and Emma Frost that I thought was an excellent use of both characters.

The story is self-contained, and provides a nice introduction for new readers. Its biggest weakness is the villains, who are generic, and who barely put up a fight in the final battle scene. The artwork in that scene was a bit confusing in places, although I thought the art in the rest of the book was quite good.

This was a book that accomplished its purpose as an introduction to the X-Men series, and did an exceptionally good job of introducing Pixie.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, March 13, 2017

Leave it to Chance #1

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Leave it to Chance
Issue: 1
Date: September, 1996
Publisher: Image Comics (under their Homage brand)
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Paul Smith
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Amie Grenier
Editor: Jonathan Peterson

I'm a big fan of Leave it to Chance, but this was actually my first time reading the debut issue. It did not disappoint.

Set in the city of Devil's Echo, where the supernatural exists side-by-side with modern civilization, the story introduces resident demon-slayer Lucan Falconer and his daughter Chance. Chance is eager to begin her training as the next generation of the city's long line of protectors against demonic threats, but an overprotective Lucas has some very different ideas.

This issue does a great job of introducing the main characters, as well as some background and supporting characters, plus a complex setting, and then diving right into the action. Chance is immediately likeable. The Devil's Echo setting is loaded with possibility, and several long-term plotlines are set into motion along with the immediate story of Chance's first real adventure in the city.

Lucas's sexist attitude came off as a cliche, but it was thrown out there and the story moved on quickly, putting the focus on Chance, while building toward an ongoing plot that is set up to break a lot more cliches than it will reinforce.

This was, first and foremost, a really fun start to a series with a very unique vibe.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

Brought home from the school library by the Kiddo.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at
Date: 2011
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

This is the fifth book in this series, with middle schooler Greg Heffley confronting what it means to be growing up. He's getting the special puberty lessons in his health class and his grandmother has set her sights on him for the mysterious "TALK" that she gives all of the males in the family.

And with all of this going on, Greg is starting the school year without the company of his best friend Rowley, as the two of them had a falling out over the summer.

This installment had some pretty funny jokes, including a ridiculous school-sponsored "lock-in" overnight event that managed to make fun of the adults as much as it did the kids. The insights into Greg's extended family were also amusing.

Not much actually happens, though, and the usual gripes that I've had with this series continue to be an issue. Girls aren't treated as real people, and there are not really any likeable characters.

That being said, my son continues to really love this series, and I am appreciative that these books get him excited about reading.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The World Builder

A freebie I picked up at last year's Readercon convention in Quincy MA.

Title: The World Builder
Publisher: Brett James
Date: 2015
Writer: Brett James

Not a comic. This is a prose short story in quarter-sized zine format.

World Builder Barun makes deals to build a city of wonders on a desert planet while his mother sends him urgent messages of an impending deadline. This was a well-written science fiction story, with a good details, especially on future architecture and construction. It has something of a twist ending, which didn't come entirely unexpectedly, as there were hints throughout the story that all was not exactly as it appeared. Still, the ending was well-executed, and the author kept up the nice level of detail that made the story engaging.

This worked well as an introduction to the writing of author Brett James.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jughead Comics: A Night At Geppi's Entertainment Museum: Free Comic Book Day Edition #1

From the random stack of unread comics, by way of Free Comic Book Day 2008.

Title: Jughead Comics: A Night At Geppi's Entertainment Museum: Free Comic Book Day Edition
Issue: 1
Date: 2008
Publisher: Archie Comics
Writer: Craig Boldman
Penciler: Stan Goldberg
Inker: Bob Smith, Rich Koslowski
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Colorist: Barry Grossman
Editor: Victor Gorelick

Published in conjunction with Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore MD.

Archie and Jughead get jobs as museum guards at Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, but Jughead is more interested in chowing down on chocolate than in guarding the museum's pop culture treasures. And when an evil genius who's been quietly stealing those treasures replaces Jughead with a robot, there is some serious doubt as to whether anyone will even notice.

Fortunately, the Archie Gang get to do their own Scooby Gang impression and save the day.

This was a nice promo for the museum, which I wasn't familiar with, but am now interested in checking out if I get to Baltimore this summer.

The story was basic harmless Archie fun that veered a bit more into comedic science fiction than the typical Riverdale story.

Rating: 6.5/10