Friday, November 30, 2018

Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas

Another book the Kiddo borrowed from one of his friends.

Title: Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: September, 2018
Writer: Dav Pilkey
Artist: Dav Pilkey
Colorist: Jose Garibaldi
Editor: Anamika Bhatnagar

The Lord of the Flies parody only takes up a couple of pages of this book, but there is are still plenty of literary references to be had as this story focuses on a Petey's past coming back to haunt him in the form of three childhood playmates turned villains. And their robot brontosaurus.

Also making their debuts here are the alternate superhero identities of Dog Man, Lil' Petey, and 80HD.

This issue featured some amusing running jokes, mostly centered around Lil' Petey, plus a bit more complex action sequences than we've seen previously in the series.

It did drag a bit in the second half, as the (not all that competent) villains have mostly run out of tricks pretty early on in the action, and they never really seem like much of a threat to anyone.

That being said, this still had lots of laughs, a couple of tender moments, and plenty of Flip-O-Rama.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Amulet Book Six: Escape From Lucien

Kiddo continues to make his way through this series. He borrowed this installment from a friend at school.

Title: Amulet Book Six: Escape From Lucien
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2014
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Cassandra Pelham

Navin leads a mission to activate a signal beacon in the abandoned city of Lucien, while Max forces Emily into a confrontation with the Voice of the amulets.

I loved the focus on Navin in this volume as he must lead his team to try to survive the deadly landscape the Lucien has become.

This volume also brings back some old friends and introduces a great new character. There are a lot of bleak moments, and a couple of truly heroic ones, but there are well-timed bits of humor as well. I love the running joke about how Navin and his friends keep ending up with worse and worse mecha to pilot.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Satisfactory Comics #8

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Satisfactory Comics
Issue: #8
Publisher: Satisfactory Comics
Writer: Isaac Cates, Mike Wenthe
Artist: Isaac Cates, Mike Wenthe

Satisfactory Comics can always be counted on for some stretching of the boundaries of what constitutes a comic. This issue is particularly interesting: The format is a bundle of ten postcards that function as the pages of the comic story.

The story itself is a fantasy tale of a wizard's apprentice who is sent to get a map drawn by a blind mapmaker who lurks in the town's market.

The story has a bunch of twists and turns, and an impressive amount of worldbuilding crammed into a relative tiny space.

The artwork on each postcard is made with a set of constraints provided by an artist/blogger credited on the back of the card.

The creators are clearly having a lot of fun with this, and I had a lot of fun reading it too. My only suggestion would be that numbering of the postcards would have been helpful in case they got out of order.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Amulet Book Five: Prince of the Elves

Another volume of Amulet that the Kiddo borrowed from a friend at school. We're making fast progress on this series!

Title: Amulet Book Five: Prince of the Elves
Publisher: Scholastic / Graphix
Date: 2012
Writer: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Editor: Cassandra Pelham

This is the fifth book in Kazu Kibuishi's epic fastasy series. My previous reviews: Book One: The Stonekeeper, Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse, Book Three: The Cloud Searchers. Book Four: The Last Council.

I've mentioned before that Amulet gets a lot of influence from classic sources like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Well, this issue goes all Pacific Rim (well, the influence is probably more from earlier mecha anime really), as Navin becomes the equivalent of a Jaeger pilot.

Meanwhile, we get an excellent origin flashback for Max, who gets a lot more depth. He also gets to show off his new power, including his alliance with a massive demonic beast that he uses to attack the weakened forces of the Guardian Council.

The character referenced in the title, elven prince Trellis, also has a lot of growth in this book, as his role in the story starts to become more clear.

This was an intense installment in the series, filled with key revelations and some major confrontations. Emily continues to grow and mature, and the villains just keep looking scarier and more powerful.

There's some great action here, most of which sets the stage for even bigger battles to come.

Rating: 8.5/10

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.

Rating: 7/10

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