Friday, June 16, 2017

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Last item that the Kiddo brought home from school.

Title: The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: 1997
Writer: Dav Pilkey
Artist: Dav Pilkey

I'm reviewing this here because it has parts in sequential art form. This is another recent kids book that blurs the line between prose and graphic novel.

Two school pranksters get caught on tape pulling off a whole series of pranks the day of the big football game. These kids also happen to be the creators of a comic book called Captain Underpants, which they sell to their classmates.

When the principal uses the video tape to blackmail them into doing all of his chores for him, they resort to hypnosis (in the form of a mail-order hypnosis ring from a comic book advertisement) to get the incriminating video tape back.

But when they use hypnosis to convince the principal that he is Captain Underpants, he rushes off to fight crime and actually finds a real supervillain to do battle with. Can George and Harold save the day with only slingshots, skateboards, and fake dog-poop?

This was way funnier than I was expecting, mostly because the writer knows his way around comic cliches. I was expecting all toilet humor, but that is surprisingly kept to a minimum, and the story delivers some pretty decent nerdy humor instead.

This was a pleasant surprise.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Princeless Volume 1

From the unread book shelf, rather than the random stack of unread comics (which stands at 5 to go with less than 24 hours to departure). I bought this in the English-language section of one of the local bookstores here in Ho Chi Minh City.

Title: Princeless
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Date: 2015
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: M. Goodwin
Colorist: M. Goodwin
Letterer: Jung Ha Kim
Editor:Shawn Gabborin

Trade paperback collection of the first four issues of this comic series.

What I loved about Princeless is that not only does it turn classic fairy tale tropes on their heads, it continually comes up with new, original, and surprising ways of doing so.

The story begins with Princess Adrienne. Growing up extremely cynical of the old tales of princesses locked away in towers, she finds herself in that very situation despite her determination to avoid it.

But rather than waiting for her prince to come and save her, Princess Adrienne befriends the dragon guarding her, fakes her own death, takes up a sword that she finds conveniently placed under her bed in the tower, and sets off to rescue her sisters from the towers they have been placed in.

This story is nonstop fun, slowing down only for a couple of tender moments before moving into more mayhem as Adrienne navigates the perils of impractical female armor, makes a new friend and ally, and finds herself on the run from her own father's guards.

Short backup story gives a funny view of the world from the Prince's side of things.

This was witty and amusing, and I look forward to reading more.

Rating: 8.5/10

Jesus Hates Zombies: Those Slack Jaw Blues #0

From the random stack of unread comics. We're about 36 hours from departure, with five comics left in the stack after this one. I'll be fitting in as many reviews as I can in between frantic packing.

Title: Jesus Hates Zombies: Those Slack Jaw Blues
Issue: #0
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Date: 2007
Writer: Stephen Lindsay, Michael Bartolotta
Artist: Jordan M. Dalton, Danilo Beyruth. Steve Willhite, Jeff McComsey, Lonny Chant, Lauren Monardo
Letterer: Jason Baroody, Stephen Lindsay
Editor: Erin Kohut

This pretty much delivers exactly what the title promises. There is a full-on zombie apocalypse happening. Most human life on Earth is either dead or undead. And Jesus returns to destroy zombies. Unfortunately for Jesus, He is seriously low on divine power, since His power on Earth is apparently proportional to the amount of truly faithful worshippers, most of which have been eaten or turned to zombies by now. So He must handle things the traditional way: by bashing zombies with baseball bats, bowling balls, or whatever weapon is handy.

The comic itself is an anthology, with the set-up story that explains the scenario followed by six more generally stand-alone vignettes. Jesus encounters survivors, downloads driving instructions from God to escape a zombie horde, goes fishing, goes bowling, discovers a truly-believing (and semi-intelligent) zombie, and faces down a horde of zombified rats.

There are some good moments in places, and there is a lot of brainless (!) zombie-bashing. Jesus is portrayed as a fairly generic guy, just out for his own survival and annoyed about the whole zombie situation. God is the disappointed parent who wishes his Son would get more done sooner on Earth.

It works for what it is, but there's a lot more that could be explored with this idea. Hopefully the story will gain more complexity beyond the basic joke of the premise as the series continues.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jack the Rabbit #1

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Jack the Rabbit
Issue: #1
Publisher: Pandemonium Comix
Writer: Bill Gladman
Artist: Bill Gladman

Standard comic size, but all newsprint, including cover, and sixteen pages long.

Set in an alternate dimension, the story is established in a prose introduction linking the Tunguska explosion of 1908 with the Bermuda Triangle, and some cold-war politics.

The comic starts with the main character, a member of a humanoid-rabbit species in dimension known as the Territories (Stephen King reference, possibly?). He is trouble by dreams of a human boy who tells him that he is the "Chosen One" who will save the world. He is less than receptive to the idea.

There are a fair number of references to classic heavy metal music here, from the Kiss t-shirt worn by the dream character to a Ronnie James Dio quote.

The framing story was interesting, and I like the detail work on the art, even if it is hurt a bit by the newsprint format. The writing on the comic portions are quite verbose, and not a whole lot actually happens in this issue, in spite of the amount of words used.

Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Belles of Ball Point

From the random stack of unread comics. I'm pretty sure I picked this one up in Columbus at SPACE, but I'm not sure what year.

Title: The Belles of Ball Point
Publisher: Fridge-Mag
Writer: Suzanne Baumann
Artist: Suzanne Baumann

What's the biggest thing I've reviewed on this blog? It's Jeff Smith's Complete Bone, reviewed here.

But now let's talk about the smallest thing I've reviewed. That prize goes to this micro-minicomic, along with its companion piece The Birds of Ball Point (reviewed here).

This tiny collection of portraits presents six notable ladies of Ball Point (plus the cover illustrations), in a whimsical art style with a hint of political satire (Pat Riotact!).

Suzanne Baumann's work is always a lot of fun, and this was a very cute item presentation of a nice collection of sketches.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Blood Debt Chapter 1 Preview

Continuing to work my way through the random stack of unread comics.

Title: The Blood Debt Chapter 1 Preview
Date: 2008
Publisher: Swafford Creek Studios
Writer: Brent Bowman
Artist: Brent Bowman

This is a minicomic preview for a graphic novel based on Irish mythology.

Under the leadership of the newly-returned Lugh, the Tuatha De Danaan prepare for open rebellion against the Formorians, the monstrous race that had ruled over them.

But as Lugh's father sets off on a diplomatic mission, old blood-feuds threaten to destroy the unity of the Tuatha before the war can even begin.

This took a bit to get going, but the pace (and my interest) picked up toward the end. The artwork will look a lot better in the full graphic novel, than in this minicomic.

Writer/artist Brent Bowman does a nice job with his designs for the mythical characters, especially the Formorians, which have something of a Lovecraftian flavor here.

Rating: 6/10

Pop Art Funnies #6

The Sunday review marathon continues! I found one more comic in my backpack that I had overlooked, so we'll be at nine comics left in the random stack of unread comics after this review. That puts me at two per day to finish the stack by Friday, if I don't do any more tonight.

I have no idea where I got this next one.

Title. Pop Art Funnies
Issue: #6
Publisher: MPH Comics
Date: 2006
Writer: Martin Hirchak
Artist: Martin Hirchak

This is a collection of short humorous stories in a traditional comic format. The art style is definitely 1970s underground-influenced, and it goes for the kind of countercultural irreverent vibe that the undergrounds were known for.

The first and longest story is the origin story for Super Bull, a superhero parody featuring a mild-mannered music fanzine writer getting transformed into a humanoid bull (minotaur?) following a rather complex accident involving plutonium, voodoo, and a bullfight. It's a good start, but it felt like it ended just when things were getting interesting.

There are two single-page Captain Scurvy the Pirate stories, and a tour of Philadelphia featuring a cranky ghost of Ben Franklin.

None of this was laugh-out-loud funny, but there were a few giggles to be had here and there. The drug jokes were a bit too obvious for my tastes, and the Captain Scurvy cartoons featured a lot of setup for a single simple joke each.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Locke & Key: Alpha #1 (Newbury Comics Retailer Variant)

Third book in today's review marathon. Nine to go to finish the stack. Four more to get me back on track for one per day to finish the stack before we leave on Friday.

Title: Locke & Key: Alpha
Issue: #1
Date: August, 2013
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Chris Ryall

Newbury Comics retailer variant cover!

This is a big climactic battle, and, having not read much of what led up to this, I was a bit lost in terms of who everyone was. No fault of the comic's. It even provided a quick recap on the inside front cover. I would just point out that if you are new to Locke & Key, as I was, this is probably not the best jumping-in point, in spite of the "issue #1" on the front cover (which I am guessing is why I bought this in the first place).

All of that being said, this was an awesomely epic good vs. evil confrontation, featuring a really horrifying villain, a seemingly hopeless situation for the good guys, and a heroic final stand. It was fun, with plenty of gore and horror elements, all used very well.

I wasn't even too bothered by the villain's excessive talking about his plans for world domination when he should probably just have been getting on with making good on his threats to the captive heroes. The villain here is so obnoxious that it's worth it hearing some of his over-the-top soliloquizing, even if he's playing into a classic trope.

I need to go back and read some of what lead up to this.

Rating: 8/10

Slice With Dice Part The First

The reviewing marathon continues. Looking through the random stack of unread comics, I discovered one duplicate, IDW's Beowulf Comicon Promo, which I have previously reviewed here. So with that one moved to the finished stack, I'll have ten to go after this review. This one comes to me by way of the SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo.

Title: Slice With Dice
Issue: Part the First
Publisher: Killjoy Comics
Date: 2008
Writer: DOC
Artist: DOC

Twelve-page photocopied minicomic featuring a group of adventurers attempting to ambush a party of gnolls. The starts well for the good guys, but things soon go awry.

The action is all very D&D-based, even more so when the break-the-fourth-wall final page is considered.

The art is hurt somewhat by the printing process, but it's still a good fight scene with enough hints in the interactions between the characters to suggest more character development in future stories.

Rating: 6/10

Gulatta #3

And we're off with today's comic review Marathon! Let's see if we can get through the unread comics stack, or at least make enough progress to be on track to finish by Friday!

Title: Gulatta
Issue: #2
Publisher: Torc Press
Date: 2008
Writer: Joseph Morris
Artist: Joseph Morris

The third issue of Gulatta features a raid by OVERT agents on Big Town's graveyard, where the OVERT drill machine rudely interrupts a romantic liaison between  Medusatina (the Gorgon with a Heart of Gold) and Monsieur Namo (the Gentleman Monster). Mayhem follows, as the graveyard's guardians battle an OVERT giant scorpion robot.

This worked surprisingly well, especially considering that this issue used a cast of characters that mostly did not appear in the previous issue. The story still flowed in a nice coherent way that let me enjoy the ridiculousness of it all while still being entertained by the plot.

Rating: 7/10

Keenspot Spotlight 2007 / Wicked Powered

From the random stack of unread comics. This was the thickest book in the random stack. Tomorrow will be a catch-up-day reviewing marathon!

Title: Keenspot Spotlight 2007 / Wicked Powered
Publisher: Keenspot
Date: 2007
Writer/Artist: Chris Layfield, Pascalle, RC Monroe, Mark Shallow, Starline Hodge, Kel McDonald, J Grant, Mel Hynes, Dan Shive, Maritza Campos, Jeff Darlington, Teague Tysseling, Smith, Zuckerman, Risberg, Eisu, Thomas K. Dye, Ryan Smith, David Wright, Mike Rosenzweig, Owen Geini, Chris Crosby

Flip book. This is one of the more massive Free Comic Book items I've come across, weighing in at 104 pages.

I'll start with Wicked Powered, one of the two "cover features". This story reads a lot like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, with a high school loser visited by time travelers (of the cute manga girl variety) who inform him of his future as a great intergalactic hero. The only problem is that the bad guys have send a monster back in time, and they're planning to assassinate him now, while he is decidedly unheroic. Most of the jokes in this fell flat for me, but the bit where the three girls from the future try to pass themselves off as typical 21st century high school students ("My name is Brangelina Tomcat, and these are my friends, Suri Obama and Snoopdogg Clooney.") was genuinely funny.

Flip the book over, and you get a massive sampler from the webcomic site Keenspot. Sixteen comics are previewed here, and it was as much of a mixed bag as you might expect. I particularly enjoyed the geeky comedy Out There by R.C. Monroe. Dan Shive's El Goonish Shive was a nice bit of light urban fantasy that had a lot of fun-looking subplots going on. Maritza Campos had a bizarre series of "What Kind of Roomie Are You" strips what got some laughs from me.Something Happens by Thomas K. Day had a pretty funny gag strip involving ants and an Etch-A-Sketch.And I loved the art style and dialogue on the high school drama Everything Jake by Mike Rosenzweig.

Most of the other stories had at least something that caught my attention, although a lot of the jokes failed to hit my sense of humor.

Still, this is a solid collection with a lot of intriguing samples.

Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dark Signs

From the randoms stack of unread comics. I got busy with work stuff over the last few days, so I've fallen behind on my goal of finishing the stack by next Friday. I'll need to pull double-duty a few days in order to get it done, or else have one marathon day of reviewing this weekend. We'll see what fits in around the packing and paperwork.

Title: Dark Signs
Publisher: Against Studios / No Name Press
Date: 2005
Writer: Tom Lin
Artist: Tom Lin

This is a cop story set in a world with a problem of people spontaneously turning into monsters, and starring a couple of slacker detectives whose job it is to find the monsters and kill them.

They have a robotic boss with man-eating car and a very nasty incentive program. And their new mission involves a couple of psychics who can see the future well enough to know that the cops are coming for them.

I didn't find the two lead characters all that likeable, but things did improve in the last few pages with some additional characters and the potential for more interesting interactions.

The art style takes a bit of getting used to, but it works well for the chaotic world in which the story is set.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, June 2, 2017

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2

Today is the final day for returning books to the school library, and this is the last graphic novel that I checked out.

Title: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Issue: Volume Two
Publisher: DC Comics (Wildstorm)
Date: 2003
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neil
Colorist: Benedict DiMagmaliw
Letterer: William Oakley
Editor: Scott Dunbier, James Lee, Kristy Quinn

The second volume (compiling issues 7-12 of the original comic series) of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen throws the League into the midst of the martian invasion from HG Wells' War of the Worlds.

This is both a more complex and more tightly focused story than the original League arc, and it also involves the deaths of more than one member of the League before all is said and done.

The mixing of literature into the setting continues to be fantastic, and the character development, especially on Mr. Hyde, is great.

This is also a lot more violent than the first volume, with two scenes of particularly disturbing sexual violence.

The backup feature is a travelogue that serves to expand on the characters of Nemo, Mina, and Quatermain through their travels to fantastical places around the world. It also deepens the history of the League. But really, the sometimes dense prose is an excuse to drop as many literary references as possible (Herland! Five Children and It! Shakespeare! Tarzan! Beatles music!), blending them into a world where the strange and bizarre settings of literature coexist.

This continues to be a wonderfully detailed and intense story.

Rating: 8.5/10