Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gapo the Clown Vol. 1

From the random stack of unread comics. Forty comics left in the stack after this one. And with April coming to an end, that means I have 47 days until we leave Vietnam, so 47 days to meet my goal of finishing this stack.

Title: Gapo the Clown
Issue: Vol. 1
Publisher: Bone Yard Studio
Date: 2004
Writer: Tony Miello
Artist: Tony Miello

This half-sized minicomic consists of five pages of Gapo the Clown comics strips, plus some bonus art. The basic idea is a parody of kids entertainment, with the crude and obnoxious Gapo put into various situations where he gets to be, well, crude and obnoxious. Lots of fart and vomit jokes. There was an amusing bit with Gapo on Jeopardy, and a quick parody of those old "Can you hear me now?" commercials, but most of the other humor wasn't really to my taste.

Rating: 4.5/10

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Shonen Jump Special: Free Comic Book Day 2008

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Shonen Jump Special: Spring 2008 Edition
Issue: Vol. 1 Issue 1
Publisher: Viz Media
Date: May, 2008
Writer: Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo, Takahiko Inoue
Artist: Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo, Takahiko Inoue
Letterer: Mark McMurray, James Gaubatz
Editor: Marc Weidenbaum, Yuki Takagaki, Grant Lowery, Joy Ma, Urian Brown, Michelle Pangilinan, Pancha Diaz, Joel Enos, Kit Fox
Cover: Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo, Takahiko Inoue

Formatted as a standard comic book (bur right-to-left), this freebie samples three popular ongoing manga series that are being reprinted in Shonen Jump magazine.

Naruto, the very popular ninja series, is up first. The scene that's presented is a glimpse of fighting training. We get a sense of the type of action involved in the series, but not much in terms of character or plot.

Bleach is the second feature, and this was the most intriguing of the three to me. A conversation (and possible big revelation) between Ichigo and his sister is interrupted by the arrival of some rather nasty villains. This segment did the best job of selling the series.

The last series was Slam Dunk, a high school drama/comedy centering on the school's basketball team. This had a lot of typical high school story elements: bullying, nerves about asking a girl for a date, trying to fit in, the cred that comes from being a "jock". It looked like it had some potential, but I didn't find the characters all that appealing (possibly just my dislike of some of these exaggerated high school stereotypes).

So, one for three in terms of getting my interest in reading the actual series.

All of the artwork is quite good, and the book also provides short blurbs on other Shonen Jump titles, including those that are serialized in the magazine, and those published as stand-alone volumes.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Adventures of Marky #2

Today I read the 2008 Free Comic Book Day offering from, Virgin Comics, Dan Dare / The Stranded / Ramayan 3392AD Reloaded, only to realize I had previously read and reviewed it. One less comic to review in the stack! You can read that review which I wrote in 2011 here.  So back to the random stack of unread comics for this minicomic. I picked this up at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2008 in Columbus OH.

Title: The Adventures of Marky
Issue: 2
Publisher: Dimestore Productions
Date: March 2008
Writer: Madison Shires, Ian Shires
Artist: Madison Shires, Ian Shires
Back Cover Art: Dan Taylor

Cute minicomic by a young artist (Madison Shires did this book at age 7).

It's Valentines Day, so Marky is dressed to impress (with a slight resemblance to Mr. Potato Head). He's determined to explain Valentines Day to his friends, Fred and Mary, and he's also got a special plan involving a secret message in a bottle.

Cute stuff.

Rating: 7/10


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sam: Fate Revolution: Souvenir Edition

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Sam: Fate Revolution: Souvenir Edition
Publisher: Foongatz Studios
Date: 2007
Creator: Bill Gallagher, Alex Drinan, Ron Smith

In a universe under threat of destruction by a cosmic-powered conqueror, a hero named Sam somehow acquires mysterious powers that might be the key to saving everything.

This is an ashcan-format preview book setting up the world and story for this space-based SF superheroic epic. Color cover, b/w interior. The book definitely has a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe to it, and the character designs presented here are loads of fun visually, especially Bronto, a humanoid sauropod engineer.

The descriptions of the characters felt a bit generic, as did the plot, and hopefully it will move into more original territory with the first full issue.

In the meantime, the visuals were enough to keep up my interest.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Minimalist Comics Collective Edition 0.5

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Minimalist Comics Collective Edition
Issue: 0.5
Date: 2008
Publisher: DIY Jet
Writer: C. Che Salazar, Joe Botsch
Artist: C. Che Salazar, Joe Botsch

This twelve-page half-sized minicomic uses mostly text and typeface. Artwork, as the title promises, is minimal. The result is a sort of visual poetry on the page. It's very surreal and leaves quite a lot open to interpretation, but I found it to be a fresh and original concept that left me intrigued.

It also has sentient sundials, and a conversation on the nature of life and death between the living and the dead.

This is about as far as you can get from "mainstream comics". Which is part of the reason I enjoyed it.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sky Pirates of Valendor Issue #2 Preview

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Sky Pirates of Valendor
Issue: #2 Preview
Date: 2008
Publisher: Free Lunch Comics
Writer: Everett Soares
Penciler: Brian Brinlee
Inker: Michael W. Kellar
Tones: Jet Amago
Letterer: Steve Kuster
Cover: Brian Brinlee, Michael W. Kellar

Minicomic preview for the full-format second issue.

Captain Tobias Manheim and his crew arrives in town with a plan. But before they can make it happen, they are going to need to negotiate with the Pirate Guild.

This is well-edited. It introduces the steampunk fantasy world of Valendor very nicely, giving the reader enough setup to keep things interesting while not bogging down the story.

It also gives quick glimpses of the characters, with enough interaction that several conflicts become apparent.

Aside from the opening teaser page, there isn't really any action. This preview is all set-up. But it is all very effective setup, and an excellent tease for the full story.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Scott Pilgrim Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

From the school library. Done with this series. Now to see what other graphic novels or manga they have in stock.

Title: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour
Issue: Volume 6
Publisher: Oni Press
Date: July, 2010
Writer: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Cover: Bryan Lee O'Malley, Ben Berntsen

Scott drifts through life lost, feeling the dread of the impending confrontation with the final evil ex-boyfriend, and wonder if there is even any point to it all, since Ramona has left him.

The final villain is great, and the last fight scene is epic. There are also some really funny moments, and a lot of touching and fulfilling ones as well.

This is a nice goodbye to these characters with an ending that is romantic, but still "real" (in spite of how ridiculous all of this is).

Worthy conclusion to a fun series.

Rating: 8.5/10

The New Mutants Saga

From the random stack of unread comics.

After this book, 47 comics remain in the random stack. There are 54 days remaining before we leave Vietnam. Which means that if I want to finish the stack before we head to the US, then I only get to skip 7 days. And that's not counting the various graphic novels in the school library (and a couple on my to-read shelf) that I'd like to get through. So expect things to be busy here in the coming weeks.

And during our month-long visit home, hopefully I'll get the chance to review some new releases for the first time in a while! After that I'll be gathering a new random stack of unread comics to pack for our time in China.

Title: The New Mutants Saga
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: 2009
Writer: John Rhett Thomas, Sheila Johnson, Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Rob Liefeld
Artist: Bob McLeod, Sal Buscema, Paul Smith, Ron Frenz, Tom Mandrake, Bill Sienkiewicz, Steve Leialoha, Rick Leonardi, Bret Blevins, Jackson Guice, Terry Shoemaker, Rob Liefeld
Editor: Jeff Youngquist, Mark D. Beazley, Jennifer Grunwald, John Dennng, Cory Levine
Cover: Diogenes Neves, Danny Miki, John Rauch

This is a promotional recap book that summarizes the entire run of The New Mutants from the 1980s into the early 1990s. It hits some of the now-classic Marvel crossover events like Fall of the Mutants and Inferno.

The recap is done in prose written by John Rhett Thomas and Sheila Johnson based on the stories originally written by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, and Rob Liefeld.

Prose recaps of complicated ongoing comic stories are challenging to write (and to read!), and Marvel's mutant stories from the 80s and 90s are among the most convoluted anywhere in comics. New Mutants wasn't a book I followed for its whole run, but I picked up enough of the individual issues back in the day to have this bring back some memories. New Mutants could be a mess of a book, but it always had a lot of heart to it, and the recap presented here does a good job of focusing on the themes of friendship and loyalty that were important to the fans of The New Mutants.

Still, the complexity of the plot does get in the way of this book's effectiveness. If the objective is to sell the reprint trade paperbacks, this does an uneven job, Some of the stories sounded interesting, while other sounded like they'd be a slog to get through.

The reprinted art was awesome, though, and just flipping through this will likely bring a nostalgic smile to fans of Marvel's classic mutant stories.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Little Archie: The House That Wouldn't Move

 From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Little Archie: The House That Wouldn't Move
Date: 2007
Publisher: Archie Comics
Writer: Dexter Taylor, Bob Bolling
Artist: Dexter Taylor, Bob Bolling
Editor: Victor Gorelick, Nelson Ribeiro, Richard Goldwater

This is an ashcan-format freebie from Archie Comics containing two Little Archie stories (technically the second is labeled as a Little Betty & Veronica story, but both stories actually feature Little Archie and Little Betty).

First up is the title story, "The House That Wouldn't Move", which involves Little Archie helping the resident ghost of the local haunted house resist the efforts of a work crew sent to demolish the place to clear the way for a new highway.

The second story features some dog vs. cat antics when Little Archie's dog, Spotty, chases Little Betty's cat, Caramel, up a tree.

Both stories are kid-friendly, with pretty simple and straightforward plots. There are some funny moments, and the artwork looks good throughout.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, April 21, 2017

Scott Pilgrim Volume 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe

From the school library.

Title: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Issue: Volume 5
Publisher: Oni Press
Date: 2009
Writer: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Cover: Bryan Lee O'Malley, Ben Berntsen

The fifth volume of Scott Pilgrim gets away from some of the laugh-out-loud jokes and one-liners as it moves into darker territory. Scott is confronted by two of the remaining three evil exes, and they are a pair of twins with expertise in robotics, and an increasingly dangerous series of fighting robots programmed to put a beating on Scott.

And when that doesn't do the job, they're ready to go after Scott's friends.

All the while, Scott's relationship with Ramona is suddenly on rocky ground, his band is horribly out of practice after months of recording, and Scott's world looks to be on the brink of crumbling around him.

This story did a great job with the relationship angst, the loneliness and despair, and some really touching moments involving Scott's attempts to retrieve Ramona's escaped cat. The battle with the twins came down to a nicely emotional climax as well, and the final scene was a great cliffhanger lead-in to the last volume in the series.

This felt like a very classical penultimate chapter, and it brought a good level of intensity to the series.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Venus Needs Sharks

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Venus Needs Sharks
Publisher: Matt Finley (
Writer: Matt Finley
Artist: Matt Finley

This is a minicomic collection of absurd and humorous comic strips featuring characters like Time Shark, the Human Assassin Robot, Space Turtle, Big Fat Old Pig. The jokes range from quirky and surreal to tasteless shock-value humor (trigger warning: a couple of the strips use suicide as a punchline). It was a bit of a mixed bag as far as my own sense of humor went. I did love the two ridiculous Time Shark strips that bookend the collection.

There are some very clever ideas in here, and even the jokes that didn't work for me felt original and went in unexpected directions.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, April 17, 2017

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

This was a birthday present I bought for the Kiddo. The Wimpy Kid series is as popular in Vietnam as it is everywhere else, and the English editions of the books are available in most bookstores in Ho Chi Minh City. In this case, I bought it at my school's book fair fundraiser, which was run by one of the local bookstore chains.

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw
Publisher: Amulet Books (a division of Abrams; series website at
Date: 2009
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Artist: Jeff Kinney

This is the third book of the Wimpy Kid series. Like the others, it is written primarily in text with accompanying cartoons and illustrations to flesh out the story.

This volume is a bit meandering, but focuses primarily on middle-schooler Greg Heffley's relationship with his father. Greg's Dad is getting frustrated that his son is not turning out to be particularly athletic or otherwise "manly", so an escalating series of remedies, from the soccer team, to boy scouts, to a family camping trip, are attempted, with the expected comical results.

When all else has failed, the only option left might involve shipping Greg off to military school.

As with others in this series, there are some funny jokes, but a lot of cringe-worthy moments. Greg's manipulation and bullying of his friend Rowley continues to be uncomfortable to read, as Greg remains oblivious of how cruel he's being. Rowley usually "wins" in the end, but I'm still not a fan of how this whole dynamic gets played for laughs.

My son did enjoy the book, as he has the rest of the series, and I am pleased that in spite of the shortcomings I find in these books, they are keeping him interested in reading.

But this volume was a fair amount of shortcomings and a lot of just aimless wandering from one set of jokes to the next.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fist of Justice Vol. 1 #1: Free Comic Book Day Edition

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Fist of Justice
Issue: Vol. 1, #1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
Publisher: Digital Webbing
Date: May, 2009
Writer: Mike Imboden
Artist: Pow Rodrix
Colorist: Edemilson Alexandre
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Mike Exner III

A superhero story that plays with a bunch of classic tropes, this features a hero who has been out of action for thirty years, returning to Charm City, where he was once a beloved protector, only to find that another hero with the same superpowers and a much meaner attitude has taken over the job.

The original Fist of Justice and his modern vigilante counterpart both have a fairly standard set of Superman-style powers: Flight, strength, enhanced senses, invulnerability, etc. Marc Mason, the original Fist of Justice had his heroic career cur short by a tragedy that he blames himself for, and he wonders whether he has any real reason to return to crimefighting.

Meanwhile, his successor is becoming more and more unhinged at the though of a possible challenger to the job that he has made his own for thirty years.

This was a good story that felt compressed in an effort to get to a conclusion by the end of this issue. It could have been helped by a bit better pacing and more depth.

That being said, the Marc Mason character is nuanced and the world is well thought out. The plot elements came together for a satisfying conclusion by the end.

The final bit of dialogue was an anti-political-correctness bit that felt more like a facebook rant by the author than a good set of ending lines, but my reaction to this was more a matter of my personal distaste for such sentiments.

All in all a well-told superhero story. Nothing groundbreakingly original, but well executed.

Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, April 14, 2017

Scott Pilgrim Volume 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

Borrowed from my school's library. I'm trying to strike a balance between reading unread books and comics that I own, and reading things I'm interested in from the school library before we head back to the US and then off to China.

Title: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Issue: Volume 4
Publisher: Oni Press
Date: October, 2007
Writer: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Cover: Bryan Lee O'Malley, Miguel Sternberg

Scott Pilgrim earns some serious experience points in this volume, as he finally gets (and somehow keeps) a job, and also digs deep for the courage to take his relationship with Ramona Flowers to the next level.

Of course there is also one of Ramona's evil exes to be defeated, not to mention a mysterious stranger stalking Scott while wielding a pair of samurai swords. And there is an old friend from high school who never had a chance to date Scott, but who is wondering about the possibility of second chances.

Also, the rent is due, and the lease is up.

This started off a little jumbled, but tightened up considerably by the end. There were not quite as many laugh-out-loud moments as there were in the previous volume, but this story did bring some real romance, which was more something that had been danced around in the previous volumes.

This series continues to be witty and fun.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mighty Archie Players: Free Comic Book Day Edition #1

Back from a week of traveling in northern Vietnam, and back to the random stack of unread comics!

Title: Mighty Archie Players: Free Comic Book Day Edition
Issue: 1
Date: June, 2009
Publisher: Archie Comics
Writer: George Gladir
Artist: Stan Goldberg
Editor: Victor Gorelick, Mike Pellerito

Four stories here, each one a parody of a movie genre, with the familiar Riverdale Gang characters playing the various roles.

"High Noonish" is a classic western, with Archie as the marshal, who is about to trade in his guns and badge for wedded bliss when three old enemies come to town looking for trouble.

The second story is "Snow White and the Three Giant Dwarfs", because apparently the Mighty Archie Players don't have much in the way of a special effects budget. The story follows the classic fairy tale with a somewhat more modern vibe.

Third is "Marcia the Mermaid" with Betty in the title role, and Archie as the love interest, Scuba Joe. This is a pretty straightforward mermaid romance.

Last up, and the funniest of the bunch is "Once Upon A Time Along the Nile", a Cleopatra (actually, Cleaopatricia, played by Veronica) drama that is loaded with awful (in the best sense of the word!) puns. This one had some humor that may be lost on younger readers, but had me laughing.

As with many of the recent Archie Comics products, this book does a nice job of working with the reader's familiarity with the iconic Riverdale characters, and allowing the writer to jump right into the different stories.

This was a fun book with some good laughs.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Avengers: Free Comic Book Day 2009

From the random stack of unread comics by way of Free Comic Book Day 2009.

Title: The Avengers: Free Comic Book Day 2009
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: May, 2009
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: John Rauch
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort, Jeanine Schaefer
Cover: Jim Cheung, Laura Martin

The frost giant Ymir has invaded New York, and it's going to take two teams of Avengers to stop him. In this rather crowded book, narrated by Spider-Man, we've got the post-Civil-War Avengers, currently outlaws, and the government-sanctioned Dark Avengers, led by Norman Osborne wearing the Iron Patriot armor.

As mentioned, you need a scorecard to keep track of everyone here, and it doesn't help matters that you've got two Spider-Men (one is actually Venom), two Wolverines (one is the original's son... X-24, I guess? Or is X-24 some other dude?), and two Captain Marvels (neither of which is Mar-Vell OR Shazam; both are women).

While I realize that having all of these duplicates is part of the point, it does not make for a good story. Most of this book was the various team members trudging through the snow to find some super-powered sword, which they didn't even really need to use on anyone. Just breaking the thing out of its display case was all that was needed to save the day.

Oh, and then the two teams almost-fight.

This was a lot of buildup to a massive fizzle of an ending. The only think holding this together was Peter Parker's snarky narration, and even that felt forced at times.

Rating: 3/10