Saturday, November 17, 2018

Star Wars Adventures #1

From last summer's purchases.

Title: Star Wars Adventures
Issue: 1
Date: September 2017
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artist: Derek Charm, Jon Sommariva, Sean Parsons
Colorist: Charlie Kirchoff
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Editor: Bobby Curnow, Denton J. Tipton, Peter Adrian Behravesh
Cover: Jon Sommariva

The copy I got is the "RI-B" cover variant.

The opening chapters of two stories here, set in the Star Wars universe with an all-ages style.

First up is "Better the Devil You Know" featuring a pre-Force-Awakens Rey, living as a scavenger on Jakku and forced into a situation where she must save her Junkboss, Unkar Plutt from enemies or risk having him replaced by an even worse local mobster. I really loved the art style on this story, especially the cute and fierce interpretation of Rey, who is portrayed as confident and capable even while stuck in the bad situation has was in on Jakku,

The second story featured Emil Graf an explorer traveling through "Wild Space" with a small crew of odball companions. Emil doesn't get much to do in this story, as the bulk of it is a flashback to prequels-era Coruscant and an adventure involving a pickpocket who tries to steal from Obi Wan Kenobi.The flashback story was fun, and the framing sequences did a good job of introducing Emil and his crew with a nice sprinkling of humor.

In the end, I was more interested in reading more of Rey's story, but I did enjoy both.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, November 16, 2018

Tall Tails: Thieves Quest #4

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest
Issue: 4
Date: October, 1998
Publisher: Vision Comics (available at Dreamweaver Press in webcomic form)
Writer: Jose Calderon
Artist: Daphne Lage
Cover: Daphne Lage, Scotty Arsenault, Eric Blumric

I reviewed #1 here, #2 here, and #3 here.

With the two parties, the rogues and the guardsmen, united, plans are made to track two groups of enemies who left the site of the battle.

The opening of this installment brings some good character development, and advances some of the political intrigue established in the previous issues of the series. Christian (AKA Andrew), the runaway prince is the focus and he gets some good bits of dialogue that bring out more of his background and personality.

Toward the end of this issue there are some action sequences that are a bit confusing in terms of who is attacking who and what exactly is going on, but the series has previously done a good job of bringing things back into focus and juggling the large number of characters in its cast.

While not everything came off as completely clear, the action scenes were intriguing enough to raise my interest in seeing how the scenario plays out.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Laird MacGuffin's Treasury

Got this from the artist this past summer.

Title: Laird MacGuffin's Treasury
Date: 2017
Publisher: Drowned Town Press
Writer: E.J. Barnes
Artist: E.J. Barnes

Wordless furry fable about a rumor of a treasure in a ruined castle. As the rumor spreads a band of would-be adventurers is gradually assembled and they begin to make their way to the castle, each of them engaging in their own scheming as they go. What they find there is not what any of them expected.

This was cute. The dialogue is all pictures and there is an amusing cast of anthropomorphic animal characters, each with their own personality and motivations. The ending was quite amusing.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Swamp Thing #43

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Swamp Thing
Issue: 43
Date: December 1985
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Stan Woch, Ron Randall
Colorist: Tatjana Wood
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Karen Berger

From Alan Moore's classic Swamp Thing in the pre-Vertigo days of the mid-Eighties.

Chester finds a strange root that has dropped off of the Swamp Thing, and he shares it with two different people. It has two very different effects.

This was a very good self-contained story, with the title character really appearing only in the opening sequence, and all of the focus on the character of Chester, as the discovery he makes forces him to look inward and to ask some very difficult questions.

Great issue for character development, and some awesome visuals as well.

Rating: 8.5/10

Happy Valentine's Day #1

Not the right time of the year for this one, but this is what came out when I reached into the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Happy Valentine's Day
Issue: 1
Date:February 2009
Publisher: Main Enterprises
Writer: Jack Bertram, Brien Wayne Powell, Tim Tobolski, Carrie Taylor, John Lambert, Dave Farley, Jeff Gaither, Noor Halizah, Rich Limacher, Sam Gafford, Steve Skeates, Terry Pavlet, Temmel, Dultz, Dan W. Taylor
Artist: Jack Bertram, Brien Wayne Powell, Tim Tobolski, Carrie Taylor, John Lambert, Dave Farley, Jeff Gaither, Noor Halizah, Rich Limacher, Sam Gafford, Steve Skeates, Terry Pavlet, Temmel, Dultz, Dan W. Taylor
Editor: Jim Main
Cover: John Lambert, Jeff Gaither

Holiday minicomic, quarter-sized. This is a collection of mostly one-page gag strips organized around the loose theme of Valentine's Day. The collection is mostly humorous, with a handful of serious takes, and lots of classic monster art, some of it with a bit of an EC look to it.

Typically for a collection like this, I laughed at a few of the jokes, while some weren't really for my sense of humor. There was some nice art in here, although the size of the book put some limitations on the visuals.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Amulet Book Four: The Last Council

Kiddo borrowed this one from a friend because he couldn't wait for the library to get it back in stock.

Title: Amulet Book Four: The Last Council
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2011
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Cassandra Pelham

If you're interested, here are my reviews of the previous books in this series: Book One: The Stonekeeper, Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse, Book Three: The Cloud Searchers.

The fourth installment of Kazu Kibuishi's fantasy epic has Emily and her crew arriving at the hidden city of Cielis, where Emily is to participate in a series of tests which will determine whether she is worthy of a place on the Guardian Council.

But there is much that is strange and unsettling about Cielis, and Emily soon begins to suspect that all is not as it appears.

This book has some of the most spectacular artwork so far in the series. There is also some nice development of supporting characters, plus a ton of worldbuilding as Emily begins to learn more about the stones and the Guardian Council.

The pacing of the plot felt very rushed in this book, which had a plot that really could have been expanded to be several times the length it was allowed here. New characters are introduced and then barely have time for the reader to get to know them. Major conflicts and a big shift in the balance of power of the world are hurriedly thrown into place. The overall plot of Amulet is fast-moving enough in the previous books. This one felt like it was pushing things a bit too hard.

That being said, the sense of urgency brought about by the pacing did serve to ratchet up the tension, and by the end, Emily has an important new friend, a major new enemy, and plenty of potential for new directions for the story to take.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, November 5, 2018

Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest #1

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Tall Tails: Thieves' Quest
Issue: 1
Date: July, 1998
Publisher: Vision Comics (available at Dreamweaver Press in webcomic form)
Writer: Jose Calderon
Artist: Daphne Lage

I apparently bought five issues of this, and managed to take #2 (review here) and #3 (review here) with me to Vietnam a few years ago while #1, #4, and #5 sat in the Random Stack of Unread Comics until this past summer.

This is a furry epic fantasy, with the main characters representing a whole variety of anthropomorphic animals. The action begins as a series of crises unfold in the King of Lifdell's council chamber. There is a looming border war with the trolls, and it is soon discovered that the young prince has gone missing. A search of the city is ordered, led by the competent General Cromwell.

And the trail leads right to Cromwell's roguish cousin, E.F. Ravenwood, who has found himself in something of a mess of his own.

The opening bits were on the wordy side, and there were a lot of characters to keep track of, but once things were off and running this made for the start of a fun story.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story #6

Another summer purchase by the Kiddo.

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Issue: 6
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: November 2017
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Emilio Laiso
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Heather Antos
Cover: Phil Noto

We somehow missed getting #5. Here are links to reviews of the rest of this series: Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3, Issue #4.

Rogue One concludes at a frantic pace with a desperate running battle to get the Death Star plans off of the planet Scarif and into the hands of the Rebel Alliance. The pacing of the comic captures the frenetic feel of the action in the film while managing to downplay a couple of the plot contrivances that weaken the story.

As with some other Star Wars comics I've read, the medium does not do a very good job with space battles, especially when small panels become necessary to cover all of the plot and dialogue. Lack of page space also hurts some of the ending scenes.

Rogue One has a few really big moments at the very end, and this issue could really have used 3-5 more pages to give them the treatment that they really deserved. Instead, much of the finish (I felt like one scene worked and two failed badly) does not live up to what we saw on the big screen.

Rogue One is a good story that packs its strongest emotional punch in the scenes covered in this issue, and it's an important moment in the overall Star Wars saga. This comic delivers on some of that emotion, but could have done better.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Amulet Book Three: The Cloud Searchers

From the school library.

Title: Amulet Book Three: The Cloud Searchers
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2010
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Cassandra Pelham

My review of Book One is here, and my review of Book Two is here.

The ancient city of Cielis was incinerated by the elf army, leaving only a smoldering crater. Or was it? Stories persist that the city, home of the Council of Stonekeepers that formerly ruled the world of Alledia, now floats in the air, hidden withing a vast unending storm.

That's where Emily and Navin and the rest of their crew are headed, along with some surprising new allies to accompany them, and a deadly assassin in pursuit.

The elf prince Trellis and his soldier Luger are the surprising stars of this volume as they get a ton of interesting character development along with new roles in the story. The supporting cast expands quite a bit, with a new villain, some new companions for the group, and a bunch of additional new characters introduced in the final scenes.

This issue had some of the most interesting character development of the series, and it also featured some spectacular visuals as Emily and Navin travel by airship searching for Cielis.

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Star Wars: Jedi Academy

The Kiddo bought this at Books A Million in Portland ME over the summer.

Title: Star Wars: Jedi Academy
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: 2013
Writer: Jeffrey Brown
Artist: Jeffrey Brown

A boy from Tatooine only wants to be a starfighter pilot like his dad and his older brother. But when he receives a rejection letter from Pilot Academy Middle School, an unexpected opportunity presents itself. Roan Novachez is soon on his way to Coruscant at the invitation of Master Yoda to enter Jedi Academy and learn the ways of the Force.

This is a nice bit of light Star Wars humor featuring a generally well-adjusted kid thrown into a world that is suddenly a lot bigger than he had envisioned it to be. The story does not run heavy on plot or emotional drama. Almost all of it is small moments of making friends, learning new things, and opening eyes to new possibilities.

There are the requisite school bullies, but even they don't feel like anything all that sinister. This is a feel-good book that does a nice job of reminding the reader that not everything in the Star Wars mythos needs to be taken quite so seriously.

There are plenty of amusing jokes along the way, but the friendships and the quiet moments are what really make this special.

Rating: 8/10

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story #4

Kiddo was buying all Star Wars all the time this past summer!

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Issue: 4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: September 2017
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Emilio Laiso
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Heather Antos
Cover: Phil Noto

The fourth issue of Marvel's adaptation of Rogue One covers some of the film's most iconic lines, including "Rebellions are built on hope!", and the naming of the Rogue One callsign.

Mon Mothma gets a nice scene in this issue, which is cool since she is a character who seems to get overlooked quite a bit. This issue also features Vader, plus a lot of setup for the action that will comprise the last two issues.

The pacing was good, and the art was solid, especially on Jyn's expressions and emotions.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story #3

Another of the Kiddo's purchases over the summer.

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Issue: 3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August 2017
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Pablo Villanelli
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Heather Antos

I reviewed issue #1 here, and issue #2 here.

The third installment of Marvel's adaptation of Rogue One covers the escape from Jedha and ends cliffhanger-style on Eadu.

A lot of the focus in this issue was on the tensions between the characters as hidden agendas come to the forefront and conflicting interests threaten to shatter the tenuous trust that has built up between the group of rebels Jyn Erso has found herself in the company of.

The key scenes here worked better on film because the actors were able to give more subtle emotional cues than it's possible to get in the comic medium, in spite of a valiant effort by artist Pablo Villanelli.

The adaptation remains faithful to the film, but the pacing of this issue and the abrupt cliffhanger made it feel very fragmentary.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, October 26, 2018

Neil Jam #15

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Neil Jam
Issue: 15
Date: 2007
Publisher: Neil Jam
Writer: Neil Fitzpatrick
Artist: Neil Fitzpatrick

I reviewed the previous issue here.

This minicomic is made up of short segments featuring a cast of anthropomorphic characters in a kind of bizarre ensemble sitcom. I felt this issue was a bit more surreal than the previous one, with a ghost who is going around asking people permission for him to haunt them, plus continued drama involving Cotton the rabbit and Caroline the Carrot, not to mention Caroline's newly-grown friend Fenwin.

Once again with this issue the jokes were a bit hit-or-miss. One nice touch that I did enjoy was the collection of various cartoon and comic characters drawn in Neil Jam style on the inside covers.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Psycho Bunny #3

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Psycho Bunny
Issue: 3
Date: 2008
Publisher: Witches Brew Press
Writer: Michele Witchipoo
Artist: Michele Witchipoo

I will admit that I have a preference for Michele Witchipoo's other series, Babalon Babes (one issue is reviewed here) to her Psycho Bunny, but I appreciate the ability and inspiration that go into writing in two completely distinctive tones and styles.

Psycho Bunny is the ongoing series of adventures of a foul-mouthed and perpetually drunk rabbit who hangs around New York, avoiding paying his bar tab, and making his cynical observations about the world around him.

This is all very crude. Readers looking from some politically incorrect humor will find plenty here, along with the occasional bit of just plain gross-out. It's intentionally tasteless in such an over-the-top way that it can be fun, although I did think there was one bit that went too far over the line for my own tastes.

There are definitely some laughs to be had here, and the ongoing plot about Psycho Bunny auditioning for American Idol was a nice bit of satire.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, October 22, 2018

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story #2

The Kiddo picked up several Star Wars comics at various shops around New England this past summer, including most of the individual issues of Marvel's Rogue One adaptation.

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Issue: 2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: July 2017
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Emilio Laiso, Oscar Bazaldua
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Editor: Heather Antos

The second issue of Rogue One covers the action that takes place on Jedha. The main focus of this part of the story is to introduce Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus, and Saw Gerrera, and to expose Jyn Erso to the secret message left for her by her father, Galen Erso.

There are some street-level skirmishes, but most of this issue is setup for what is to come.

Jyn looks great throughout this issue, and the art team does good work with Baze and Chirrut as well. The story pacing is handled well, and it felt like it moved along at a comparable rhythm to the film.

This was a well-made adaptation, and it did an effective job with a good story, even if it did not add much for those who had seen the movie.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Neil Jam #14

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Neil Jam
Issue: 14
Date: 2007
Publisher: Neil Jam
Writer: Neil Fitzpatrick
Artist: Neil Fitzpatrick

Minicomic collection of short funny-animal (and plant!) gag strips with some ongoing plot threads. I particularly liked Caroline the Carrot's quest to grow a new friend for herself. Her friend turns out to be a bit reluctant to sprout. There's also an awkward-but-funny take on a Batman-themed pickup line.

The art style is fun. Not all the jokes worked for me, but enough did to make it entertaining.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wulflorne: Elegy For Innocence: The Coldest Winter

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Wulflorne: Elegy For Innocence: The Coldest Winter
Date: 2008
Publisher: Modsprocket
Writer: Mike Mann
Artist: Lee Cherolis
Colorist: Mike Mann

This is a minicomic introduction to what is intended to be a fantasy epic. The title character, a barbarian-type, attempts to save a woman who is lost in the wilderness from a bear. It does not go well, in the end.

I liked the artwork in this, which does a nice job of conveying the loneliness of the wilderness while still maintaining a minimalist look.

This is just a tiny piece of what will be a much longer story, and it sets the mood and tone well.

I was less thrilled by the use of heavily stereotyped gender roles from the opening dialogue of "A woman? Here?" to the contrast between the traditionally macho protagonist and the hysterically panicked and fragile woman. There were only a few pages to work with here, and the story showed no signs of breaking away from its tired set of tropes, which is disappointing because I feel like there is probably a lot more going on than we get to see in this small sample.

Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, October 15, 2018

Marvel Legacy #1

I bought this sometime this past summer. I think it was a special discount deal at a comic shop somewhere.

Title: Marvel Legacy
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: November 2017
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic, Steve McNiven, Chris Samnee, Russell Dauterman, Alex Maleev, Ed McGuiness, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Peppe Larraz, Jim Cheung, Daniel Acuna, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Mike Deodato Jr., David Marquez
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Cover: Joe Quesada
Editor:Tom Brevoort, Alanna Smith

This is the introductory special for Marvel's Legacy crossover event/soft reboot. The direction that it's heading in seems to be aimed at bringing some classic Marvel heroes who have been in the background (or "dead in the Marvel Universe") back into the major storylines.

The story opens one million years in Earth's past, and features a kind of Pleistocene superhero crossover between some of the Marvel Universe's best known immortal beings. It was cute, but perhaps played a bit too much for laughs as they tried to get a bunch of personalities across quickly.

Shifting to modern times, the book then goes into prologue mode for a whole bunch of different Legacy plotlines. There isn't much in the way of a common thread. There is a big cosmic threat inbound, and another one awakening on Earth. And several different villains are on quests to seek out sources of power and other mysterious McGuffins.

It was nice to get a quick look at Ironheart and Jane Foster Thor. I hadn't had a chance to read their books and they both seem like a lot of fun.

But the whole thing was terribly disjointed, failing to give more than a few characters any real chance to capture the reader's attention. By the time I was done, I had no idea what this  crossover was about or why it was happening (other than to sell books with lenticular covers), and I can't name a single title in Marvel Legacy that I am interested in reading as a result of having read this.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Wedding Invitation Minicomic 2006

From the random stack of unread comics.

Sometimes, some very odd things end up in the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

This is a lovely wedding invitation in minicomic form, telling the story of how the couple met (in rhyming verse!) and fell in love.

I have no idea how I got this. I don't believe that I know either the bride or groom (I'm leaving the names out of this entry because I'm not entirely clear the extent to which this comic was meant for public distribution). I was not, in fact, invited to this wedding. I'm guessing that the person who did the artwork was giving away some extra copies as freebies at a convention I attended.

Regardless, it is quite adorable, and I hope that the marriage continues to be a happy one.

I don't rate wedding invitations.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper

Brought home by the Kiddo from the school library.

Title: Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2008
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Sheila Keenan

I read the second volume before I read this one (review here).

The story opens with a genuinely horrifying family tragedy, leaving a young sister and brother and their mom to seek a new life in the the home of the mom's eccentric grandfather. What starts as a creepy haunted house story quickly turns into a full-on fantasy epic, as Emily and Navin find themselves on a desperate mission to save their mom from evil forces from another world.

The first half of this is setup for what is coming, and it felt a bit hurried. Kibuishi is at his best in the fantastic worlds that he introduces in the second half of this volume, but once the momentum of the story starts building it never lets up.

The action in the last fourth of the book is really clever and intense, and there are so many great little details that help bring the world and characters to life.

The Kiddo is loving this series as much as I am, and we look forward to seeing where the story goes.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Batman and Robin #1

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Batman and Robin
Issue: 1
Date: November 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Cover: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray
Editor: Harvey Richards, Mike Marts

The opening teaser has one of the Batman's "Allies of the Bat" in Moscow attacked by an unknown ("I'm Nobody!") villain in an armored invisibility suit.

From there it's back to Gotham and the Batman's first official patrol with Damian Wayne as Robin. If you read my reviews, you may know that I am not a Damian Wayne fan. This story didn't help his cause. He was the same insufferable jerk that he always seems to be, and furthermore, he just isn't particularly entertaining.

He griped his way through Bruce taking him to Crime Alley to pay tribute to Bruce's parents, and then he proceeded to go all Jason Todd loose-cannon during a fight with some generic terrorists.

The action was solid, but there just wasn't anything particularly appealing about where the story is heading, and I don't have the patience to wait around for some moment when Damien Wayne stops being the most annoying character in the DC Universe.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Watch The Skies V. 8.10

From the random stack of unread comics (though not actually a comic).

Title: Watch The Skies
Issue: V. 8.10
Publisher:Camp Hill/Harrisburg Scifi & Fantasy Reading Group
Writer: Eric Hardenbrook
Cover: Eric Hardenbrook

This is a zine/newsletter from a science fiction club. There's no official date, but based on release dates mentioned in the articles, this appears to have been published in 2008 or 2009.

The contents include news from print and media SF, a couple of features on authors (Karen Traviss and David Louis Edeleman), a page of space science news, a short essay giving an overview of steampunk, and an essay discussing how to introduce science fiction to those unfamiliar with the genre.

Eric Hardenbrook is the only credited writer in the zine. There were two articles on Karen Traviss' work, and they felt a bit redundant in their content. Otherwise, I enjoyed this as a snapshot of some of the things going on in SF fandom about 10 years ago.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #1: Behind-The-Scenes Edition

I got this Marvel freebie from one of the comic shops I visited over the summer.

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Issue: 1 (Behind-The-Scenes Edition)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: September 2018
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Editor: Nick Lowe

This is a pretty cool promotional freebie from Marvel. It's the complete main story from the recent Amazing Spider-Man reboot, but with just Ryan Ottley's pencil art.

This gives a unique perspective to the story, as well as revealing the process. Not to mention showing off Ottley's artistic talents.

Obviously, without the dialogue and the finished art, a lot gets missed, but I didn't mind. And the full version is readily available for those who wish to purchase it (and likely to remain in reprints for years to come).

I could't follow that much of the dialogue-based storytelling, but much of the familiar supporting cast made appearances. The plot's main action saw Spidey joining the Avengers to deal with what appears to be a massive invasion by extradimensional creatures in New York City. But thing are not entirely as they seem.

The art was beautiful and the story looked interesting enough that I would say that the book did its job as a promo.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Goodbye Kitty

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Goodbye Kitty: A Cautionary Tale
Publisher: Ryan Dow
Writer: Ryan Dow
Artist: Ryan Dow

This quarter-sized minicomic tells a dark tale of revenge from beyond the grave involving a love triangle between a teddy bear, a doll, and a (plushie?) kitty.

Sometimes the simplest stories work best. This no-frills minicomic tells the whole grim tragedy in 24 pages, and it works surprisingly well.

This is a quick, fun, and effective horror story.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Explorer: The Lost Islands

I got this one at a Little Free Library in Milford NH USA. My copy is a Bookcrossing book (BCID: 446-14437417, entry is here).

Title: Explorer: The Lost Islands
Publisher: Amulet Books
Writer: Jake Parker, Chrystin Garland, Jason Caffoe, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Michel Gagne, Katie Shanahan, Steven Shanahan, Kazu Kibuishi
Artist:Jake Parker, Chrystin Garland, Jason Caffoe, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Michel Gagne, Katie Shanahan, Steven Shanahan, Kazu Kibuishi
Colorist: Braden Lamb, Eric Kim, Selena Sizazzo, Jason Caffoe
Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

Graphic novel anthology edited by Amulet creator Kazu Kabuishi.

This is an anthology of fantasy stories loosely themed around the idea of islands. It opens with Jake Parker's cute fable about an island of hardworking rabbitfolk and the discovery of a useful robot who proves to be a bit too useful.

A pair of stories hit the "stranded on a desert island" idea."Carapace" by Jason Caffoe is a cute tale of the friendship that develops between a castaway and the ghost of a giant crab. Featuring giant crab theology! Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier's "Desert Island Playlist" is an oddly surreal story that plays around with nonlinear time.

Michel Gagne's "Loah" is a mythic story of ancient fish seeking a way to escape disaster.

The amusing "Radio Adrift" by Katie Shanahan and Steve Shanahan involves a mage-in-training working to complete her pixie-hatching project and an unusual radio station that she tunes in to.

Editor Kazu Kibuishi contributes a classic fish story with "The Fishermen" that does a nice job of character development in the short space it has to work with.

My personal favorite was the very creepy "The Mask Dance" by Chrystin Garland.

All of these stories were good, and the artwork, while varied in style, was all fantastically colorful and imaginative. The tone of the stories varies a lot with the broad theme, but if you enjoy a general sense of myth and wonder, you will definitely find a lot to like in this volume.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse

The Kiddo brought this one home from his school library here in Shanghai.

Title: Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2009
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Sheila Keenan

Navin and Emily, traveling in their robotic walking house, make their way to the city of Kanalis, where they hope to find a cure for the poison that threatens their mother's life. But the forces of the Elf King are closing in, and the voice of the Stone continues to try to wrest control of its power away from Emily.

I didn't read the first book in the series, but picking the story up here worked fine.

This fantasy epic echoes themes from inspirations like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but the originality of Kibuishi's world comes through in the details, backed by his spectacular artwork.

This was fun, had a great supporting cast, and did a nice job of threading its subplots. The battle scenes looked great, and there were some brilliant moments of quiet emotion. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series!

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Captain Spectacular #2

From the random stack of unread comics. I reviewed the first issue here.

Title: Captain Spectacular
Issue: 2
Date: 2007
Publisher: Gumshoe Comics
Writer: Nate Corrigan
Artist: Nate Corrigan

This issue features Captain Spectacular's brawl with Fun Guy's giant mushroom monster. The monstrous mushroom is giving the Captain all he can handle and then some.

Meanwhile the police are investigating reports of the mysterious Janitor.

This had fewer jokes than the first issue, but it brought the action, with the hero mostly on the receiving end.

The janitor subplot is developing slower, but it got more interesting with a bit of depth added to it this issue.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and a good mix of action and comedy.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tree Rats! Or, The Crepuscular Hobbyhorse

Given to us by the author over the summer.

Title: Tree Rats! Or, The Crepuscular Hobbyhorse
Date: 2015
Publisher: Drowned Town Press
Writer: E.J. Barnes
Cover: E.J. Barnes

Not a comic. This is a zine-format chapbook containing a single prose short story.

The story is a dark comedy and family drama, beginning with a scene that will be familiar to many: Family members trying to persuade and elderly relative to move into an assisted living facility. In this case, the narrator's uncle has gotten himself into the habit of shooting at squirrels with his b.b. gun out his bathroom window while dealing with his digestive issues.

When the narrator calls on an old friend to drive him from the East Coast to the Midwest to help with the resulting family drama, things quickly escalate into an over-the-top mess involving sex toys, a standard-shift truck, fireworks, stochastic music, an ill-tempered Italian greyhound, and militarized cops.

This had a lot of fun geeky elements, enough realistic details of how some family members can grow old ungracefully to give it an emotional punch, and plenty of laughs as it hits one bizarre plot twist after another.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #800

Another comics I picked up at Merrymac Games and Comics this past summer.

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Issue: 800
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: July 2018
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Nick Bradshaw, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Marcos Martin
Colorist: Edgar Delgado, Java Tartaglia, Marte Gracia, Muntsa Vicente
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover: Humberto Ramos, Edgar Delgado
Editor:Kathleen Wisneski, Nick Lowe, Devin Lewis

Did I mention that I love collecting these big round-number issues? So here we have Amazing Spider-Man #800. It's interesting to contrast this with Action Comics #1000 (I reviewed it here). For Action Comics, DC went with a mostly-out-of-continuity tribute anthology, celebrating Superman and the idea of inspiration, with only a short final segment as a tease of actual future in-continuity action.

Marvel takes the opposite approach here. This is a single story concluding a major story arc, with big impacts on storyline continuity, including the death of a major character who has been there for most of those 800 issues.

The scenario has Spidey up against what could be his ultimate nemesis: The Red Goblin. That would be the Green Goblin attached to the Carnage symbiote.

Of course, given the momentous occasion, this story is absolutely loaded with nostalgia. There are a bunch of appearances by classic members of Peter Parker's supporting cast, not to mention tribute scenes that evoke some of the most emotional moments of past stories, particularly from Peter's past clashes with Normal Osborne.

This was a pretty good story with a lot of twists and action. There were some moments where it just felt like it had too many moving parts, but the finish came down to Spider-Man vs. (Red) Goblin like it needed to.

The throwback sequences were fun to spot, but they also had the unfortunate effect of reminding me that Spider-Man has had some truly awesome, emotional moments, and this story, while good, never really reaches the level of those classics.

This was satisfying, and it felt important, but at times it was trying too hard to look backward and trying too hard to be all things in a single issue.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Course

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: The Course
Publisher: Alex Ferree
Date: 2009
Writer: Alex Ferree
Artist: Alex Ferree

Minicomic introduction that sets the stage for a larger story to come. We are introduced to Hungarian marathon runner Teleki, grieving the loss of his wife, and seeking answers from a mysterious fountain in Budapest, and the equally mysterious Verone.

What I wrote there is about all the story in this minicomic. The rest is concept sketches for the characters. The art is good, with realistic-looking characters that show a lot of personality, and the tease of a story did it's job of raising my interest.

Would definitely like to read more.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The 39-Story Treehouse

The Kiddo got this one at school last year. We read the first book in the series over the summer and I reviewed it here.

Title: The 39-Story Treehouse
Date: 2013
Publisher: Square Fish (Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan / Mackids)
Writer: Andy Griffiths
Artist: Terry Denton

This starts out similarly to the first book in the series, with a tour of all the latest additions to the Treehouse (World's Scariest Roller Coaster! Baby Dinosaur Petting Zoo!), followed by Andy and Terry facing another deadline for their next book from their publisher Mr. Big Nose, and the inevitable attempt to get our of actually putting in the work needed to finish the book.

In this case the scheme involves building a machine called the Once-Upon-A-Time-Machine to write the story for them. But when the machine develops a mind of its own, Andy and Terry travel to the Dark Side of the Moon, where the world's most infamous un-inventor had been banished.

Turns out, there was a reason he was sent there.

This book was a huge improvement over the first one for two reasons. First of all, the character of Jill is featured a lot more in this story, and she manages to be something of a rational voice in a few places while still keeping all her fun, quirky qualities. The chapter that takes place at her house is awesome.

And second, once Professor Stupido, the un-inventor is introduced, the book rapidly takes a turn into completely surreal territory on a cosmic scale.

The off-the-charts craziness level of the second half of the book totally brings this series to a new level (new story?).

I also appreciated the ability of the creative team to make even small details from early in the story relevant to the end. I did find that the story dragged a bit in places, but there were also plenty of good slapstick jokes to keep the mood light.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Red Hood vs. Anarky #1

Another summer purchase. I don't recall which store I got this one at.

Title: Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Red Hood vs. Anarky
Issue: 1
Date: August 2018
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javier Fernandez, Hugo Petris, Otto Schmidt
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Rafeal Albuquerque, Dave McCaig
Editor: Dave Wielgosz

This is part of the lead-up to the big Batman/Catwoman wedding event. This issue features the Red Hood on security duty for Selina's bachelorette party, with Anarky as the would-be party crasher.

Anarky is pretty badly outmatched from the start, even with Hood's restriction that he needs to do all of his work secretly. Still, his tactics make for an amusing approach to resolving the situation.

The story suffers from the problem of trying to name-drop some controversial political issues while still attempting to remain neutral, and as a result, the dialogue between Hood and Anarky is not as sharp as it could be. Still, this was a fun and fast-paced story with some small but interesting insights into Selina's background and as well as decent character work on Red Hood, a character who usually doesn't impress me all that much.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Captain Spectacular #1

From the random stack of unread comics. I bought two issues of this whenever I bought them, so I'll be reviewing the second issue sometime soon.

Title: Captain Spectacular
Issue: 1
Date: 2006
Publisher: Gumshoe Comics
Writer: Nate Corrigan
Artist: Nate Corrigan

Black and white minicomic with a color cover.

Janitor by, well, night mostly, and superhero mostly by day, he is Captain Spectacular. This issue introduces the readers to his heroic deeds in both identities and introduces the menace of the Fun-Guy, who has the power to create and control fungus with his mind.

Captain Spectacular's attempt to lure the Fun Guy away from potential collateral damage in the city may have backfired, as out in farm country, the Fun Guy is in his natural element.

This was a good, quick-paced story with a lot of silliness and a couple of clever moments. Fun Guy is an amusingly daunting villain, and the ending cliffhanger sets up for a big super-powered brawl in the second issue.

Rating: 6.5/10

Action Comics #1000

I bought this at Merrymac Games and Comics in Merrimack NH this past summer.

Title: Action Comics
Issue: 1000
Date: June 2018
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, Brian Michael Bendis, Cindy Goff, Curt Swan, Bob Rozakis, Kurt Schaffenberger, Butch Guice
Artist: Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Patrick Gleason, John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Curt Swan, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Bob Rozakis, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan, Walter Simonson, John Cassaday, Jorge Jimenez, Jim Lee, Scott Williams
Colorist: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Peter Steigerwald, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Brennan Wagner, Laura Martin, Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano, Nick Napolitano, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Eliopoulos, Cory Petit
Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair,
Editor: Paul Kaminski, Andrea Shea

I love these big-round-number issues! At one point, when DC made the idiotic decision to renumber Action and Detective, it looked like we might never get here, but fortunately the original numbering was restored a few years back, and so here we are at #1000.

This is an anthology featuring some truly legendary Superman writers and artists, most of it assembled around a loose theme of inspiration: How Supermans is an inspiration, and more importantly, how the courage of ordinary people serves as an inspiration to Superman.

The opening story had Superman reluctantly attending a Superman appreciation event in Metropolis with some encouragement from Lois Lane, and a bit of behind-the-scenes manipulating that took on a distinctively silly Silver-Age vibe.

Next up was "Never-Ending Battle", a sort of walk down memory lane in the form of single-panel pages taken from various alternate timeline and Elseworlds-style adventures, all framed around a battle with Vandal Savage. This was aimed right at the hardcore fans who have read every story. Casual readers were going to miss a lot here.

"The Enemy Within" features Maggie Sawyer and the question of how Superman decides which crisis to intervene in with so many things always happening at the same time. This was handled pretty well, considering the difficulty of the question it was addressing, and Maggie came off great.

"The Car" was my favorite story in this issue, a throwback to Action Comics #1 set in the 1930s that answers (among other questions) what became of that car that Superman is demolishing on the famous Action #1 cover.

"The Fifth Season" was a great little Lex Luthor vignette, and "Of Tomorrow" was a sentimental far-future piece.

My second-favorite story was "Five Minutes", focusing on the staff of the Planet, with a some introspective moments leading to a humorous ending.

"Actionland" featured Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Brad Meltzer's "Faster Than A Speeding Bullet" was another story hitting the theme of ordinary people inspiring Superman, in this case with the action condensed down to a second or less.

The last story was a preview of the upcoming Brian Michael Bendis run, and it introduced a new villain who didn't seem to have much trouble beating Superman and Supergirl. The book ends with the new villain making some "shocking" revelations about Krypton and Superman's origin story.

The opening and ending stories were my least favorite in the book, which is unfortunate, since those were the ones most tied to current continuity. This was my first introduction to Superman and Lois' son since I haven't been reading much in the way of current in-continuity comics, and he comes off mostly as annoying.

Rogol Zaar, the new villain, certainly comes off as powerful, but that's not difficult to write, and the tone of the scene was uneven, with some weak humor mixed into what should have come off as a grim scenario. The tease of big new revelations (read retcons) didn't do much for me either. I don't need every new writer to rework Superman's past.

But that being said, there was plenty to like in this book. Most of the one-shot stories with well thought out, with some pleasant surprises. And as mentioned earlier, the cast of talent here is spectacular.

There was a lot of beautiful artwork, and enough of the nostalgic and introspective stuff to make this special in the way it needed to be.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Steven Universe #17

Here's one I picked up at Jetpack Comics in Rochester NH over the summer.

Title: Steven Universe
Issue: #17
Date: June, 2018
Publisher: Kaboom!
Writer: Grace Craft
Artist: Rii Abrego
Colorist: Whitney Cogar
Letterer: Mike Fiorentino
Cover: Missy Pena
Editor: Michael Moccio, Whitney Leopard

Steven brings home a new video game and invites Peridot to try it out. Peridot proceeds to become obsessed with playing, and seems to be pretty much invincible after practicing for a full day and night straight.

I like how this story progressed, with very real human reactions. The whole things felt both real and gentle, with its emphasis on friendship and understanding that came through in the end.

The facial expressions on the characters were excellent throughout the story, and the video game itself was goofy, surreal fun.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Red Sonja / Tarzan #2 (Cover A)

Another summer purchase at New England Comics in Quincy MA USA.

Title: Red Sonja / Tarzan
Issue: Volume 1, #2 (Cover A)
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2018
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Colorist: Adriano Augusto
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Joseph Rybrandt, Luke Lieberman, Kevin Ketner
Cover: Aaron Lopresti

The second issue of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani's crossover between Tarzan and Red Sonja goes straight to the time travel and time paradoxes, not to mention a bit of Victorian-era namedropping.

This also features a straight-up fight between Sonja and Tarzan, which seems to exist here mostly because you can't really do the crossover without having them fight, and the second issue was as good a place as any to get it out of the way.

Notably absent from this issue is Eson Duul, the villain, who got a ton of screen time in the the first issue (reviewed here, btw).

This issue is primarily focused on getting the two title characters acquainted with each other (twice, because time travel), and as such, it fell a bit short in the plot development department. It did end with a setup that should get things moving forward (backward!) next issue.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi #3

The Kiddo picked this one out over the summer. I don't recall which store we got it at.

Title: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Issue: 3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August 2018
Writer: Gary Whitta
Artist: Michael Walsh
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover: Phil Noto
Editor: Mark Paniccia, Tom Groneman

I love Phil Noto's cover featuring Finn, Rose, and DJ.

This chapter of the film adaptation is focused primarily on Rey's interactions with Kylo Ren, and Finn and Rose's mission to Cantonica. This includes my some of my favorite Rose scenes.

As with the first issue (reviewed here), the adaptation looks good and gets the visuals right on the important moments. It helps that the scenes in this issue are very character-focused.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, September 7, 2018

Red Sonja / Tarzan #1 (Cover A)

I got this along with the second issue of the series this past July at New England Comics in Quincy MA USA.

Title: Red Sonja / Tarzan
Issue: Volume 1, #1 (Cover A)
Publisher: Dynamite
Date: 2018
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Colorist: Adiano Augusto
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Joseph Rybrandt, Luke Lieberman, Kevin Ketner
Cover: Adam Hughes

This classic pulp hero teamup spends most of its first issue establishing the villain, Eson Duul, who is basically an over-the-top interdimensional version of Kraven the Hunter, with a couple of reasonably dangerous henchpersons in tow.

He starts out in a business dispute with Lord Greystoke, but that very rapidly turns personal. Meanwhile in Sonja's corner of the multiverse, Duul has gotten the better of Sonja in an encounter and she is brooding on revenge and seeking out a bit of dimensional travel to get her back on Duul's trail.

I'm a huge Burroughs fan, and I thought the portrayal of Tarzan as Lord Greystoke in England, the competent aristocrat putting a thin veneer of civilization over his true nature, was spot-on.

Sonja also had some great moments character revelation.

I'm a bit less sold on Duul, whose motivations feel generic, and who is so over-the-top nasty that he comes off as a bit too much of a villainous cliche. That being said, he is nicely established as a genuine threat even against a combination like Tarzan and Sonja.

Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Infinity Countdown: Black Widow #1

I got this in June at Merrymac Comics and Games in Merrimack NH.

Title: Infinity Countdown: Black Widow
Issue: 1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: August, 2018
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Nik Virella, Brent Schoonover
Colorist: Chris Peter
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Cover:Yasmine Putri
Editor: Annalise Bissa, Jordan D. White

Black Widow has somehow ended up with the Space Stone, and she's found herself in "some kind of profoundly British nonsense" with Jamie Braddock on her trail in London. The infinity stone has given her teleportation powers, but that may not be enough to match Braddock's magical abilities, not to mention a legion of hooded cultists and some magically-controlled children. Natasha ends up getting help from a rather unlikely ally before all is said and done.

This was fun start to finish. I don't want to spoil, but the special guest star was completely unexpected and a very clever rendition of the character.

Although this is part of a crossover, the immediate story wraps up to a satisfying conclusion.

Black Widow dealing with magical foes is something I hadn't seem much of and it worked here way better than I would have expected.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Rival Angels: Damsels of Destruction: Wrestling Maneuvers And Techniques Volume 1

My friend received this as a bonus when she bought Rival Angels: Rookie Year Volume 4 (reviewed here) for me from the creative team at a convention in the Midwest in 2017.

Title: Rival Angels: Damsels of Destruction: Wrestling Maneuvers And Techniques
Issue: Volume 1
Date: 2014
Publisher: Rival Angels
Writer: Alan Evans, Justin Riley
Artist: Alan Evans

Full-color minicomic featuring full-page artwork depicting classic pro wrestling holds applied by (and to) characters from the Rival Angels wrestling webcomic series.

Many of these are quite nice. A few suffer from the challenge of trying to capture fast-moving action in a still drawing. But overall, the holds look great.

Commentary is supplied by (who else?) Rival Angels commentary team Dawn Ellison and Jeff Krew, who are admittedly not my favorite part of Rival Angels, but at least their obnoxiousness is mostly reigned in here.

There is no plot, but this is still a nice supplement to the Rival Angels series, especially for pro wrestling who like to see their favorite moves.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Batwoman #8

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 8
Date: June 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Penciller: Amy Reeder
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Todd Klein
Cover: Amy Reeder
Editor: Harvey Richards, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts

This is the last of an eight-issue run of New 52 Batwoman that I bought back in 2012. My reviews for the issues leading up to this one are here: Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3, Issue #4, Issue #5, Issue #6, Issue #7.

Based on how #7 ended, my expectation was that this would be the finish to the arc, but instead, it ended up adding another layer of complication.

Batwoman has to fight through Falchion's minions, including a more-mutated-than-usual Killer Kroc.

And again, much of the issue jumps around in time. We get to see Batwoman dealing with Maggie Sawyer on a professional, rather than personal basis. Not surprisingly, love between a cop and a vigilante and be a bit star-crossed.

This felt like it should have ended here, but it was still all pretty good, and the gaps in the overall plot continue to get filled in bit by bit. This issue was also a bit more gory than the series has generally been.

I'm curious to see how this wraps up. I may have to go searching to find #9 at some point.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, September 1, 2018

This Is A Sampler!

From the random unread comics stack.

Title: This Is A Sampler! Of Aya's Cartoons
Publisher: Aya Rothwell
Writer: Aya Rothwell
Art: Aya Rothwell

Cute tiny minicomic featuring Aya Rothwell's single-panel takes on various topics from film school to Harry Potter to X-Men, along with a conversation between two turtles.

Nice representation of the artist's wit and a fun little bit of geekery.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, August 31, 2018

Steal This Comic Presents: The Punchlines

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Steal This Presents: The Punchlines
Publisher: Steal This Comic
Writer: Carlisle Devonish
Artist: Carlisle Devonish

This is a promo minicomic for the Steal This Comic webcomic (not accessible to me at the time of this review). It's presented in small bits, presumably the punchlines of the jokes from the online version. The main characters are Devon and Cory and their dog, and there is a lot of video game imagery along with a somewhat random Winnie the Pooh reference.

Random, in fact, is a good way to describe this mini. It has hints that there is some geeky fun to be had on the webcomic, but the hints are pretty disjointed.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Batwoman #6

From the random stack of unread comics.

Title: Batwoman
Issue: 6
Date: April 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Penciller: Amy Reeder
Inker: Rob Hunter, Richard Friend
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Todd Klein
Cover: Amy Reeder
Editor: Harvey Richards, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts

I'm reading the early issues of this series in pretty random order (my reviews: Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3, Issue #4, Issue #5, Issue #7), and the fact that the story is loaded with time-jumps is not helping matters.

This issue brings us the origin of Gotham's Weeping Woman, a few bits of interlude including a nice scene with Kate and Maggie and their relationship, and a couple of fight scenes.

The art really stands out here. This has been my favorite Batwoman issue in terms of art. The use of splash pages and the flow of the action scenes is great, and the artwork on the quieter moments is pretty effective as well.

There is some nice character development, even if the overall progress of the plot is somewhat choppy.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Prelude To Penemue

From the random unread comics stack. I got this from the author at Arisia 2009 in Cambridge MA.

Title: A Prelude To Penemue
Date: 2008
Publisher: Apex Publications
Writer: Sara M. Harvey
Cover: Melissa Gay

Not a comic. This is a chapbook containing a short story by Sara M. Harvey meant to act as a prequel and companion piece to her novel The Convent of the Pure.

The setting mixes some mythological high fantasy (nephilim and demons) with sword-and-sorcery spellcasting and some steampunk elements.

The opening, plunging right into the action, finds aristocratic nephilim Lady Hester Sloane in the middle of a battle between nephilim and demonic forces. True to her duty to defend the humans in her charge, and seeking to protect her human husband and their child, Hester rushes into battle alongside the warrior nephilim.

When things turn tragic, Hester must take a hard look paths that lie ahead and make a fateful decision.

This story packs a bunch of great characters and some impressive worldbuilding into a thin chapbook, along with some really great fantasy battle scenes. The action is nonstop in the first half, while the character development takes center stage toward the end.

This felt more like traditional fantasy than the novel it is linked to. Convent of the Pure has more of a steampunk gothic horror vibe. Still, this is a solid introduction to a fantasy world that has some familiar elements, but plenty of surprises and memorable characters.

Rating: 8.5/10

Warriors: Graystripe's Adventure

The Kiddo picked this one out this past summer at Barnes & Noble in Manchester NH. We've read two Warriors novels in prose form. This is our first time trying out the manga version.

Title: Warriors: Graystripe's Adventure
Date: 2008
Publisher: Tokyopop / Harper Collins Childrens
Writer: Dan Jolley, Erin Hunter
Artist: James L. Barry
Colorist: James L. Barry
Letterer: Mike Estacio, Lucas Rivera, John Hunt
Editor: Lillian Diaz-Przybyl

Originally published as three b/w manga volumes, this full-color collection tells the complete story of Graystripe's capture by the "twolegs", his life as a "kittypet", and his romance with Millie, who makes the decision to join in his attempt to escape back to his beloved Thunderclan.

Erin Hunter's world of feral cats is fun, and it has a an interesting level of depth, especially around the mythology the cats have developed, and those mythological elements play an important role in this epic journey.

There are plenty of encounters and dangers along the way, and the romantic elements between Millie and Graystripe are handled with only the occasional slip too deep into romantic trope territory.

The real strength of the story is Graystripe's internal conflict as he battles his doubts and fears that his time living with humans has somehow altered him so much that he may not be able to regain his warrior nature.

This conflict takes center stage as he is forced to decide whether he can possibly compromise his beliefs that all contact with anything to do with humans must be avoided.

This is an excellent heroic journey with character who experience many stumbles, but find a way to follow their quest to its end.

James L. Barry's artwork is excellent, and the vivid use of color brings the story to life in ways that weren't possible in the black-and-white manga version.

Lovely book and an engaging and satisfying story.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Errand of Mercy: The Irish Potato Blight And The Good Ship Jamestown

One of the comics I got this summer.

Title: Errand of Mercy: The Irish Potato Blight And The Good Ship Jamestown
Date: April, 2017
Publisher: Massachusetts Historical Society
Writer: J. L. Bell
Artist: Olivia Li
Editor: E. J. Barnes

Eight page b/w minicomic with a color cover. This begins with a general overview of the history of potatoes in Ireland and the potato blight and famine in the mid-1800s. It then goes on to document the response of Irish immigrants in Boston, who organized a relief effort, securing approval for the sending of the USS Jamestown, a navy ship, with a cargo of 800 tons of food and clothing to Cork, Ireland in 1847.

Considering the space limitations of the minicomic format, this book does a nice job of exploring the political complexities involved in mounting the mission of mercy.

This was a good snapshot of a moment in this history of Ireland and of Boston.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Axis Powers Hetalia Artbook Artestella Piccolo

There was a small anime/cosplay convention today at Hub Mall in our neighborhood in Shanghai, China. I got this from a vendor there.

Title: Axis Powers Hetalia Artbook Artestella Piccolo
Date: March 2012
Publisher: Gentosha
Writer: Hidekaz Himaruya
Hidekaz Himaruya

I have not read all that much Hetalia, but this looked like an interesting find, so I picked it up. There is not much English in the book, but the artwork is lovely throughout.

The book contains a nice collection of portraits of the major characters in the series, along with a section showing the drawing process, and a nice collection of rough sketches.

Rating: 8/10

Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties

The Kiddo picked this one out at Barnes & Noble in Hyannis MA.

Title: Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: September, 2017
Writer: Dav Pilkey
Artist: Dav Pilkey
Colorist: Jose Garibaldi

The opening origin/recap for this installment of the Dog Man series is a highly amusing parody of Dickens' "Its was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." opening.

From there, the story focuses on the origin of Lil' Petey, the result of Petey's clone machine. Because the clone machine doesn't magically age the clone to adulthood, Petey suddenly finds himself thrust into the role of single parent.

Meanwhile, Dog Man is assigned to guard the dead (and cyber-enhanced) body of Flippy the psychokinetic fish at the Supa Awesome Science Center Over There. Because what could possibly go wrong?

Mayhem and the occasional tender moment follow. Plus some occasional Dickens references.

The Kiddo and I are reading this series in somewhat random order. All of the Dog Man books, this one included, are packed with laughs, and the Kiddo had a blast reading this, even if he knew where things were heading. I though Dog Man & Cat Kid was slightly better on the literary reference front, but this was definitely a solid entry in a series that is really finding its stride.

Rating: 8/10