Sunday, August 17, 2014


Welcome to the biggest collection of graphic novels reviews in the great state of wherever you are.  I have read everything.  Everything, d'you hear?  I just haven't gotten around to writing about it all yet.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

These look interesting

Asterios Polyp

You'll Never Know, Part 1: A Good And Decent Man

Flash Gordon (Jeff Parker)

Punk Rock And Trailer Parks

The Love Bunglers

The Night Of Your Life

Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me

Friday, February 10, 2012

Graphic novel reviews A

All-New X-Men - Brian Michael Bendis
  1. Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-Men - The five original X-Men from 1965 are brought back to the present by a raidly mutating Hank McCoy, in order to talk some sense into the present-day Scott Summers who has killed Xavier and is fomenting a mutant revolution.  They aren't happy to be there. [4]
  2. Vol. 2: Here To Stay - Mystique and her gang are using the confusion to rob banks.  Kind of straightforward superheroics here.  [3.5]
  3. Vol. 3: Out of Their Depth - There's a few things left out of the paperbacks at this point and it's gettign a little hard to foloow.  Why did the original five join Scott, Magneto, Emma, and their group?
  4. Vol. 4: All-Different [3.5]
  5. Vol. 5: One Down - More stuff is left out. Now some of the original five are in space?  We missed that.  I dislike the tendency toward multi-title storylines, which results in this kind of "scene missing" moments.  I really do enjoy all the various art styles that depict the different potential timelines and alternate universes.
Amazing Spider-Man - Van Lente, Waid, Kelly
  • The Gauntlet: Electro & Sandman - A fun deep dive into the decades of Spider mythology, looking into the mindsets of the bad guys. [4]
  • The Gauntlet: Rhino & Mysterio - More bad guy backstory, with a particularly sweet take on the Rhino.  Mysterio's story is also very cleverly done.  [4]
American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang [First Second]
Three intersecting, somewhat surreal fables about growing up an Asian-American amid prejudice and shame.  One concerns the Monkey King, who acquires great powers in an effort to deny what he is; one is about a Chinese-American who falls for a blonde beauty in his new school; and one is sitcom-like, featuring the loveable stereotype Chin-Kee.  Startlingly funny, confrontational, and powerful, with absolutely amazing art.  Read twice.  [5]

American Elf - James Kolchaka
1999-2012 (entire run) - Daily strips in the cartoonist's life from 1999-2005.  He plays rock, he draws poorly, he sells books and gets record contracts and book contracts and complains about "everyone wanting a fucking piece of him."  He has childish temper tantrums and yells at his beautiful, pleasant wife (this is the way he presents it).  He comes off an quite unpleasant, and his rough drawing style is off-putting.  [3]

1. THE STONE KEEPER - Kazu Kibuishi  [Graphix]
Emily, Navin, and their mother move into a mysterious old house built by an enigmatic inventor ancestor of theirs; the house is the doorway to another dimension.  A ghastly creature kidnaps their mother and the children set about rescuing her with the help of their great-grandfather's clockwork helpers and an amulet which appears to be sentient as well as magically powerful.  Great color drawings with endlessly inventive creatures and machines; fun characters and suspenseful plot.  [4]

A movie-ready re-imagining of Henry Pym's origin.  Unmarried to Janet, with Bill Foster at his side (sequel characters all ready to go!), he battles Egghead, who takes his powers and rides a wasp.  Pretty stupid all around, but probably the blueprint for a film.  [2.5]

AREA 10 - Christos Gage
Black-and-white horror noir about a troubled detective recovering from a brain injury who tries to track down a killer obsessed with the "second sight" granted with trepanning.   But the cop is having visions, and everyone wonders if it's all in his head --- or if he is the killer.  Nail-biting, dark, and suspenseful, with a couple of twists.  Plotted and drawn in a very cinematic fashion.  Read twice.  [4]

Very well done black humor; over-the-top but faithful characterizations of Bat-verse stars like Joker and Two-Face; several interesting new characters.  Sympathetic and competent good guys.  Several fun twists, but gets a bit out of hand at the end. Re-readable. [4.5]

Astonishing X-Men Vols. 1-4 - Joss Whedon
The only X-Men comic ever to be good.  [5]

Vol. 1: Spider-Man teams with Red Hulk, Hawkeye, and Captain America, in funny stand-alone stories that are more about character growth and friendship than punching.  Whether sacrificing everything for J. Jonah Jameson and teaching Red Hulk to let go of violence, or letting braggart Hawkeye take a win to keep his confidence up, this Spidey is a genuinely good person as well as a fast talking, self-effacing hero.  Good stuff.  [3.5]

Avengers - Brian Michael Bendis
1-5.  Standard superhero stuff.  In one volume, Wonder Man is cast as so against the idea of the Avengers that he leads a team against them, which is ridiculous.  [3]

AVENGERS A.I. - Sam Humphries
1. Human After All
2. 12, 000 AD
Two book, complete.  the new nano-tech Vision, Hank Pym, and a Doom Bot along with some others fight the new AI menace, a global army of AIs led by the urbane Dimitrios.  The ethics of AI are touched on with a fairly nuanced hand for a superhero book.  It's also exciting and funny; it has a Nextwave feel to it.  [4]

A dark look at what war does to people and whether you can come back from it, as exemplified by Captain America and Wolverine.  Adds a touch of thought to the usual super-heroics.  [4.5]

Awkward - Svetlana Chmakova [Yen Press]
Peppi, an artistic girl at a new school bumps into a quiet science nerd and, in a desperate fit of embarrassment, yells at him to get away from her.  Ashamed of herself, she is mortified when she finds that not only is her art club rivals with his science club, but that he is working with her and a tutor.  As she befriends the genuinely nice science nerd, the rivalry deepens and pranks get out of hand; Peppi is torn between allegiances.  An absolutely spot-on depiction of the various pressures put on a smart, shy new kid at school, told with an optimistic slant and with a truly sweet lesson at the end.  Brilliant.  Library.  [5]

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Graphic novel reviews B

Baby-Sitters Club - Raina Telgemeier
  • Kristy's Great Idea -  A faithful, B&W adaptation of the series for tween girls.  Makeup and boys and growing up and divorce and mom's new boyfriend issues.  Nicely drawn, easy reading.  I am not the target audience.  Library.   [3.5] 
  • The truth About Stacey - The club has new rivals, older girls who start taking the club's old customers; meanwhile Stacey is dealing with the trials of diabetes and her parents' over-protectiveness.  It's rather simplistic, but then it's not for me.  Enthusiastically and skillfully adapted.  Library.  [3.5]
Bad Houses - Sara Ryan
In a small Oregon town, a young man who works with his single mother selling items from estate sales falls in love with the daughter of a nurse who is secretly a hoarder.  As the two get to know each other (amid background plots such as a long-lost father, a boyfriend who steals and sells drugs from the old age home, and a gruff antique dealer who has connections to their past), questions of what we do and don't value, what family is and isn't, and what we can ultimately escape from are examined.  Wise and tenderly written, with B&W illustrations that fit the tone of the story.  Library.  [4.5]

Bandette - Paul Tobin + Coleen Coover [Dark Horse]
  • #1 Presto! - A freewheeling and impulsive young woman is a master thief and acrobat; with the aid of her street friends, she steals valuable items while aiding the police (personified in the grouchy, slow-footed B.D. Belgique) and sparring with her sometimes friendly rival, Monsieur.  As the names suggest, this is an homage to the French and Belgian tradition, and it hits the nail on the head.  The art is a perfect mixture of cartoonish and modern, while the story allows only the faintest sense of real danger to creep in and spoil the fun.  [5]
  • #2 Stealers Keepers! - More of the same as above; it's episodic and comforting. [4.5]
A grim barbarian lord is betrayed by his enemy the Skullmaster and flees to another land, where he performs great feats and returns with an army to reclaim his lands.  This is basically Conan, as drawn by Jeff Smith, set in the world of the Icelandic eddas with a few Bone characters thrown in.  Witty and straight faced, it's very well done.  Nothing original here, but fun.  [4]

BATMAN: BRUCE WAYNE: FUGITIVE (vols 2-3) - various
Decent superhero crime fodder, mostly by Rucka and Brubaker.  The wrap-up story in which the self-loathing assassin is protected by Batman despite himself is a high point.  [3.5]

Including #1-8 of the series plus a one-shot called Leviathan Strikes!  Batman starts training operatives around the world in order to Leviathan, the head of a worldwide crime network.  Battling enemies such as the bizarre Lord Death Man and the senile Dr. Dedalus.  Fun at times (I really enjoyed the Native American Man-Of-Bats and Little Raven, presented as they are with respect and largely self-contained); at others, it is just too Morrison - all continuity porn, grand announcements of unstoppable esoteric terrors ("The city of numbers is on fire! All must kneel to the worm captain!") and deus ex machina resolutions that only open further layers of abstruse weirdness.  [3]

THE BEAST OF WOLFE'S BAY - Erik Evensen [Evensen Creative]
A blend of modern adaptation of Beowulf with Sasquatch legends.  Very creative idea, lightweight execution.  Too short to have in depth character development, too much Joss Whedon-style indie cool pop reference dialogue at inappropriate times.  The reveal at the end is clever, though.  [3]

Blacksad - Juan Diaz Canales
  • Blacksad vol. 1 - It takes Europeans to tackle the tough questions about America (race and class) head-on, while wrapping it all up in thrilling noir as performed by anthropomorphic animals.  The art is some of the highest quality I have ever seen; not only is the level of technical proficiency eye-popping, but the way Juanjo Guarnido makes these animals' faces show human emotion is uncanny.  [5]
  • Blacksad: Amarillo - a decadent poet gets in over his head when he kills his bullying mentor; Blacksad, on vacation, tries to find him before he gets hurt.  [4]

BLUE - Pat Grant  [Top Shelf]
A generation ago, three delinquent Australian kids trek down the railroad tracks, where an immigrant blue man has been hit by the train.  In the present day, one of the kids, now a man employed in cleaning blue graffiti off the walls, bemoans the negative changes in his economically depressed town, brought on by the bizarre blue immigrants.  Intricate to the point of OCD drawing, in soft blue and brown, with ugly, cartoon people.  It's an interesting statement on xenophobia and the tunnel vision of childhood, but I think it's too flimsy a work to say anything really weighty.  [3.5]

BLUFFTON - Mat Whelan [Candlewick Press]
In a small Michigan town in 1908, a traveling show comes to stay.  Among the performers is a young Buster Keaton, who enthralls local kid Henry.  But while Henry wants to learns how to be like Buster,the tumbler seems to prefer baseball and talking to Henry's little girl friend.  Written in an understated tone, with no sound effects, and in rather muted watercolors, this is a quaint and tender period piece.  It's sweet, if inessential.  [3]  Library.

Bone - Jeff Smith
Vols. 1-8 - Pogo meets Conan, and he is us.  Brilliantly executed B&W romantic dramedy fantasy saga with talking... animals?  Superb.  [5]

BOXERS & SAINTS - Gene Luen Yang [First Second]
Two volumes, telling two views of the vast historical epic that is the Boxer Rebellion.  Boxers follows Little Bo, who becomes a hero warlord when his visions lead him to victory after victory against the English and the converts.  Saints tells the story of Four-Girl, or Vibiana, who follows her own visions of Joan of Arc and becomes a Christian.  A sophisticated and powerful tale of wishing to make a difference, and the possible futility of fighting one's fate.  [5]

THE BOYS (3 volumes) - Garth Ennis  [Dynamite]
  • Vols. 1-2: Ennis' highly juvenile anti-superhero fixation is given free reign; he's at his worst and least mature when mocking superheroes.  Here supes are not only amoral and brutal, they are all, every single one, sexually neurotic or fags. There's even a scene where a gerbil crawls out of KO'd supe's rectum.  Gag.  The satire here is vulgar, cheap, mean, and over the top, but worst of all, childish.  [2]
  • Vol 3: Ennis plays to his strengths: outrage at political corruption and military conspiracy.  His characterizations of the supes are a bit less childish, even at one point nearly sympathetic.  A much more palatable book at this point.  [3]
Breaking Up - Aimee Friedman [Graphix]
A teen girl drama about popularity contests, first loves, and testing friendships.  Well written and drawn.  Strictly for teen girls, however.  [3.5]

A skilled worker in a British factory is laid off, and he falls into a cycle of apathy and self-pity, while his fiancee sets up a financial plan and goes back to school.  Well-done realistic tale of economic woe and how money troubles affect romantic relationships.  Not terribly original.  Bleak but with tacked-on happy ending.  Watson (who is a male) uses simple, thick-lined B&W drawings to tell the story.  [3]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Graphic novel reviews C

CARDBOARD - Doug TenNabel  [Graphix]
An out-of-work dad gets his son a cardboard box for a present, only to realize that the creatures they make from it come to life.  When the nasty bully next door sees that, he takes the magic cardboard, but it's too much for him to handle.  This is a pretty good book about friendship, offering a helping hand, and being content with what you have.  The plot goes a little off the rails near the end, but the kids will love it.  [4]

Catwoman - Ed Brubaker
Vols. 1-4 - Perfect superhero noir, blending all the tropes and history of the comics with a neo-noir sensibility.  Not gritty, but dark and suspenseful, with real wit and humor.  It's like a comic written by an adult, for adults.  [5]

CONCRETE: THE HUMAN DILEMMA - Paul Chadwick  [Dark Horse]
Eisner-winning story arc about world overpopulation and the ethics of addressing it.  Chadwick is a great artist but his writing is a bit histrionic and self-important for me.  Bought used and sold.  [3]

CLUBBING - Andi Watson  [Minx]
A snarky teenage girl is sent to her grandparents' place in the countryside after being caught with a fake ID.  She chafes against the boredom but is soon caught up in a murder which may involve an occult coven.  Watson (who is a man, despite the spelling of his name) makes his heroine rather unlikely - model thin, in micro-skirts and halter tops, obsessed with clubs and shopping, but also casually name dropping Thomas Hardy, P.G. Wodehouse, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Evelyn Waugh, and using words like "emetic."  The plot starts well but ends a bit over the top.  Read twice.  [3]

CRIMINAL (6 volumes) - Ed Brubaker
Perfect gritty flawless noir.  Endlessly re-readable. [5]

Monday, February 6, 2012

Graphic novel reviews D

DMZ (6 volumes) - Brian Wood
Depressingly realistic look at a new civil war in America, through the eyes of earnest reporter Matty Roth.  Gritty stuff, well told, unafraid to tackle controversial topics.  Re-readable.  [4]

Daredevil (7 volumes) - Ed Brubaker
Brutal street noir mixed with superhero drama.  Nearly flawless.  [5]

DAREDEVIL (vols 2-3) - Mark Waid
Waid cuts down on the unrelenting tragedy and lets DD relax just a bit, throwing in some curveballs like an ethical dispute with Mole Man and Latverian agents stealing his radar sense.  Very enjoyable.  [4]

Crime boss the Hood struggles to balance his secret domestic life with leading an army of super-villains, as well as trying to rein in the ever-growing influence Dormammu has over his occult powers.  A decent Marvel U story, overly cartoonish art.  Sold.  [3] 

Daybreak - Brian Ralph
A zombie story.  Starting mis-en-scene and entirely from the POV of a nameless, silent protagonist, who meets up with a one-armed man; the two get lost and then fall victim to a crazy man who takes them prisoner.  Detailed brown-and-white pictures of rubble and broken cars, resembling woodcuts.  It's rather unrelentingly bleak.  Well-done but not for me.  Library.  [3]

Drama - Raina Telgemeier
A love triangle at school, with a twist.  Sweet, but not up to par with Smile.  [3.5]

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Graphic novel reviews E

El Deafo - CeCe Bell [Harry Abrams]
An autobiographical tale (in anthropomorphic rabbit form) of growing up with hearing aids and the search for a friend who can accept you for who you are, not avoid you as a weirdo or lay on the "you are a special wonder" nonsense.  Funny and heartfelt, with cute drawings.  [4.5]

Elmer - Gerry Alanguilan  [SLG]
Some sort of singularity brings sentience and speech to chickens, who then must fight against an incredulous, violent human race for the respect and rights that they deserve.  It's a human-rights allegory dressed in a rather outlandish premise.  Despite the originality of the setup, the allegory is not startling; it's surprisingly by-the-numbers. Library. [3]

THE ETERNAL SMILE - Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim  [First Second]
Three short stories, each dealing with fantasy life vs. reality, and how while the former is fragile and an escape, it also serves as a source of strength in dealing with the latter.  Well done but not exceptional, except the final story which goes in a slightly unexpected direction.  [3.5]

Ex Machina - Brian K. Vaughn
  • 1. The First Hundred Days - Mitchell Hundred is elected Mayor of New York City.  He can talk to and control machines as a result of an encounter with an alien device.  He used to be a superhero who called himself "The Great Machine" but was largely regarded as a nuisance.  Taking on all the liberal issues of the day like school vouchers and gay marriage, he also has to deal with conspiracies against him, his past a costumed vigilante, and the bizarre alien tech that made him the way he is.  A little dated and almost quaint nearly ten years later, but extremely well done.  [5]
  • 2. Tag - Mayor Hundred deals with post-9/11 guilt, a serial killer, and Roma fortune teller who seems to be the real thing.  [4.5]
  • 3. Fact v. Fiction - The zigzagging chronology of the narrative continues to be extremely well done in this story.  [4.5]
  • 4. March to War - Finally (in flashback, of course) we meet Hundred's "arch-nemesis," Pherson, who can talk to animals after a botched experiment to replicate Hundred's powers.  I'm not sure that playing his words backward would make the animals turn on him.  Even in this fictional setting that's just... not how anything works.  Vaughn continues to offer theoretical fixes to the problems of the day, such as capital punishment.  [4]
  • 5. Smoke Smoke - A thief disguised a fire fighter!  People self-immolating on City hall steps!  A mole on Hundred's staff!  [4.5]
  • 6. Power Down - The power goes out, Hundred loses his powers, and a man comes from another brane to warn Hundred about something.  [4.5]
  • 7. Ex Cathedra - While Hundred meets with the Pope, some Russians try to hack his mind.  More of his past is revealed, and he sees a slave ghost.  This story continues to be a page-turner, a suspenseful puzzle begging to be solved.  [4.5]
  • 8. Dirty Tricks - Kremlin continues working with the mole in Gracie Mansion to bring Hundred back to the flying suit.  Still a terrific mix of action, suspense, and humor.  A brief but funny vignette about a graphic novel autobiography guest starring Vaughn and his illustrator is a great capper.  [4.5]  
  • 9. Ring Out the Old - New year, new elements of the past and what exactly gave Hundred his powers come to light.  [4.5]
  • 10. Term Limits - Maybe it's just me, but this seemed to end quite abruptly.  I feel like many threads were dropped unceremoniously (like the dimension traveler from Power Down), or given strange endings.  The sudden drunken gayness of his longtime bodyguard comes out of nowhere, and Hundred's rather nefarious self-serving side is a jolt.  [3.5]