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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dog Man

The Kiddo bought this at Newark Liberty International Airport during our first layover on our flight back to Shanghai after summer vacation in the USA.

Title: Dog Man
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2016
Writer: Dav Pilkey
Artist: Dav Pilkey
Colorist: Jose Garibaldi

The Kiddo and I are reading this series totally out of order, and we finally got around to the first book. By now, we knew the origin story. It had been recapped in all of the other Dog Man books, not to mention appearing in at least one Captain Underpants volume.

Unlike the other books in this series, this one contained multiple stories, and the quality was a bit uneven. The tale of the Mayor's attempt to replace the Chief with a robot had some surprising plot twists, but dragged a bit. And I also felt like the final story, involving anthropomorphic hot dogs was not a favorite.

I didn't exactly relish this tale. I found it didn't cut the mustard. It was more loser than weiner. Okay, I'll stop now.

Where was I? Let me see if I can ketchup. Okay, really. Now I'm done.

There were still plenty of good jokes and fun surprises in this volume, and the Kiddo was laughing out loud. Really, this was a solid, if slightly flawed start to a series that gets better from here.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Magic: The Gathering #4

We're back in Shanghai, and I brought about 50 or so comics from the random box of unread comics in our storage unit to add to the supply we have here. This comic comes from that batch.

Title: Magic: The Gathering
Issue: 4
Date: March 2012
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Matt Forbeck
Artist: Martin Coccolo, Christian Duce
Colorist: J. Edwin Stevens, Baileigh Bolten
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Carol Guzman
Cover: Karl Kopinski

Hero isn't ready to fight villain. Villain threatens innocent townspeople. Hero bravely fights villain. Villain is winning. Help arrives for the hero in the nick of time.

I'm pretty sure I mentioned (in my review of the second issue) that this story feels very generic. (Note, I also reviewed #1 here; I apparently skipped #3, but that does not seem to have been a problem).

Unfortunately, with the big confrontation between reluctantly heroic planeswalker Dack Fayden, and evil planeswalker Sifa Grent taking up all of this issue, there really isn't a chance for much character development, or even to see more aspects of the Innistrad world beyond "generic gothic horror setting".

There was nothing terrible about this. The art was good. The use of a purple wash to convey "night" looked a bit odd but the visual storytelling was generally fine. There was some action and heroism, but in the end the story was just not all that special or memorable.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It's True

I got this at Ryan North's signing at Port Con Maine in Portland ME USA, June 2018.

Title: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Issue: Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It's True
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: 2015
Writer: Ryan North, Dan Slott
Artist: Erica Henderson, Matt Haley, Kieron Dwyer, Ty Templeton, Eloise Narrington
Colorist: Rico Renzi, Erica Henderson, Laura Villari, Jorge Maese
Letterer: VC's Clayton Crowles, Dave Lanphear
Cover: Erica Henderson
Editor: Jon Moisan, Wil Moss, Tom Brevoort, Lauren Sankovitch

The opening story in this volume, with a group of hostages describing various alternative versions of Squirrel Girl, didn't do much for me, but things improved considerably with the introduction of Ratatoskr, the Norse trickster squirrel-god. From there it was Asgardian fun straight to the end. The new supporting characters, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boy had some amusing moments, but as in the first volume, Doreen's roommate Nancy totally steals the show. Nancy getting to go to Asgard was easily worth the price of this whole book.

There were plenty of funny moments with Hippo, Loki, Cat-Thor, and perhaps a bit more database theory then you really wanted to know. The reprint backup features featuring Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers had a few laughs as well.

This was an amusing follow-up to the first volume and I look forward to reading more.

Rating: 7.5/10