Saturday, December 29, 2012

339. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch

How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch (US) - (Canada)
Hereville (1)

Pages: 144
Ages: 9+
Finished: Dec. 18, 2012
First Published: Nov. 1, 2010
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Graphic novel, MG, fantasy, Jewish
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Mirka liked her stepmother, Fruma, well enough."

Publisher's Summary:  "Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons!
Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find—and outwit—the giant troll who’s got it!
A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, Hereville will captivate middle-school readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine."

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-library loan.

Reason for Reading: I read the second book in this series a few months ago and was so taken with it that I had to go back and read the first book right away.  Unfortunately, my library didn't have a copy and I had to wait quite a bit for a copy to come in through ILL.

I will start off by saying I read the Hereville books the wrong way round.  I read book 2 first, then book 1.  I really think had I read this one first I would have liked it better, but since I've read the second one which is highly entertaining, this just didn't live up to "How Mirka Met a Meteorite" where Deutsch really outshines himself.  However, this book is good and I'll try not to compare the two as one should read this first anyway.

Great story of an orthodox Jewish family, actually a whole town inhabited by only Orthodox Jews.  Not your typical fantasy book family!  This starts the book off on a fun note as we meet Mirka, her family, traditions, and footnotes translate the occasional Yiddish or unfamiliar terms.  Mirka is different from her siblings and friends as she is interested in monsters and wants to be a dragon-slayer.  It takes quite some time for the story to turn to the fantastical as a good portion of the book is spent getting to know Mirka and her way of life.  This is all very enjoyable though and very well written, especially the dialogue which flows very naturally.  The fantasy story is delightful and interestingly enough has a knitting theme (I am a knitter, so this tickled me.) Since I had already read the second book I found that both the witch and the troll lacked the humour they had in the other book, which was disappointing, but if I had just been introduced to them I would have found them amusing just so, I think.  A decent start to what proves to be an even better sequel!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

292: Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy A. Bastien

Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy A. Bastien (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 152
Ages: 10+
Finished: Oct. 5, 2012
First Published: Oct. 16, 2012
Publisher: Archaia Press
Genre: MG, YA, graphic novel, fantasy, pirates
Rating: 2.5/5

First sentence: "Now Apollonia, take care.  These people are savages and must not be trusted." 

Publisher's Summary: "Adventures on and under the high seas lead a cursed pirate girl to encounter mythic creatures, gnarled and crusty pirates, and ghostly apparitions as she tries to find her lost father, one of the dreaded Pirate Captains of the mythical Omerta Seas. A whimsical swashbuckling tale of wonderland journeys and unimaginable dangers, starting in Port Elisabeth, Jamaica in the year 1728, and quickly heading across – and beneath – the waves. The first three issues are collected with an all-new epilogue."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Net Galley

Reason for Reading: I enjoy shipping/sailing and pirate stories.  So this seemed right up my alley.

My first impression of this book was how gorgeous the illustrations were.  Exquisitely rendered in the tiniest detail, each frame is jam-packed full of the tiniest elements.  Graphically speaking I found there were too many huge speech balloons to match this type of art, as it was covered a large portion of the time with the bubbles.  The placement of speech bubbles is important in relationship to the art and it didn't work here for me.  As to the story itself, very early on I began thinking "Alice in Wonderland"  The story is populated by extremely strange characters who are not all humanoid; they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: all head with tiny bodies, disproportionate body parts, part animal/part human and the extremely strange.  The dialogue reflects Alice's nonsensical world also, with the characters here emulating it by talking in circles and not always really making sense.  Pirate Girl herself is bigger than life, has strange creatures for friends, a talking parrot as well and gets round by riding a large fish.  The whole book is way out there, which is not necessarily a bad thing, though I'm not a big fan of Alice in Wonderland.

But honestly, I got bored reading this and halfway through kept wishing it would hurry up and end.  I have a feeling my opinion will be in the minority with this book, but so be it.  It just didn't do it for me.  A significantly better and quite bizarre pirate story is "The Unsinkable Walker Bean" by Aaron Renier {First Second Books}, in my opinion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

289. Iron: or The War After by S.M. Vidaurri

Iron: or, The War After by S.M. Vidaurri  (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 152
Ages: 12+
Finished: Oct. 25, 2012
First Published: Dec. 25, 2012
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Genre: YA, animal fantasy, war, Communism, graphic novel
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Finally."

Publisher's Summary:   "It is the aftermath of a long war, in a world of constant winter. An intelligence spy from the Resistance—the rabbit, Hardin—steals secret information from a military base of the Regime. His actions set off a chain of events that reverberates through the ranks of both sides, touching everyone from Pavel the crow to Giles the goat, from the highest-ranking officials to the smallest orphaned child. When the snow finally settles, who will be the true patriot and who the true traitor?"

Acquired:  Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley

Reason for Reading:  I like animal fantasy and I like war stories.  This sounded like it might be dystopian, but I don't think it was.

I'll start off by saying I didn't "get" this book.  Perhaps it went over my head or I just found the execution too confusing.  There are multiple characters and the point of view switches rapidly from one set of characters to another without any segue.  This makes it very difficult to get a handle on the story, especially when their are politics and spies involved.  It took me longer than comfortable to realise who was who. I found the story all over the place and rather unsettling.  It had communist overtones and was certainly presenting an all-out, no-matter-what, anti-war message.  Both of these are frightening.  The story didn't impress me.  

On the other hand, the art was beautiful.  I was reading this on an ereader so it is hard to tell but I'm pretty sure the work was done in water colours, if not then probably inks.  The backgrounds are gorgeous washes and the colours are mainly blues and greys, with the white of winter snow.

The publisher recommends for 12+, which I am comfortable with, but there are some mild curse words, the theme is dark and people die.  This age range will depend on the individual child.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

310. Grandville: Bette Noir by Bryan Talbot

Grandville: Bette Noir: A Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard Scientific Romance Thriller  by Bryan Talbot  (US) - (Canada)
Grandville (3)

Pages: 104
Ages: 16+
Finished: Nov. 14, 2012
First Published: Dec. 25, 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: graphic novel, animal fantasy, steampunk, crime
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Welcome, gentlemen, to Toad Hall."

Publisher's Summary: "The baffling murder of a famed Parisian artist in his locked and guarded studio takes the tenacious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard and his faithful adjunct, Detective Ratzi, into the cutthroat Grandville art scene to track the mysterious assassin. As the body count mounts and events spiral out of control, the investigation points to Toad Hall, where a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the overthrow of the French State . . . by use of steam-driven automaton soldiers!"

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley

Reason for Reading:  I loved the whole premise of this series: animal fantasy, steampunk, crime mystery, and even though I hadn't read the previous issues, the cover art made me want to read this *now*.

What a fantastic comic.  Steeped in allusions to James Bond, Wind in the Willows and Sherlock Holmes this pastiche of anthropomorphic animals had me intrigued from the get-go.  Set in a steampunk Paris which is alluded to as "Grandville" in this alternate world where animals rule supreme and human beings are considered of a lesser evolutionary scale.  This is a world in which Britain has just recently won its Independence from a France-ruled Empire that won the Napoleonic Wars.  France itself has also just recently become a more politically socialist state and steam driven automata are the norm in this world.  A fantastic world that I absolutely enjoyed.

This particular story sees LeBrock facing off against the evil Krapau, a Bond-like villain, and wooing his lady love the nude model/prostitute, Billie.  A tantalizing story and I'll be going back to read the first two in the series.  The artwork is superb and a delight to the eyes.  Done in an overall black and white effect, though the blacks range from dark grey to blue shades.  Colour has been used to great advantage, especially with red added to the b/w scenes but some panels even employ full colour.  A truly eye-catching piece of artwork.  Loved the story and find Inspector LeBrock to be a deep, mysterious yet amusing character.

Of note, this book is not for children.  While the violence is not graphic.  It is implied and there is plenty of blood and cold-blooded murder.  The language is infrequent but doesn't hold any bars including a variety of colourful words up to and including the f-word.  Finally, sexual situations are implied and full frontal female nudity is shown, even if they have the heads of badgers.  Both the publisher and I agree on an age range of 16+.

Monday, December 24, 2012

337. The Ten-Seconders: The American Dream by Rob Williams

The Ten-Seconders: The American Dream by Rob Williams. Illustrated by Dom Reardon & Mark Harrison (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 144
Ages: 16+
Finished: Dec. 14, 2012
First Published: Nov. 13, 2012
Publisher: 2000 AD
Genre: Graphic novel, post-apocalyptic, science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Someone famous once said that, when you're tired of London, you're tired of life."

Publisher's Summary: "Earth, the near future. Humanity has been all but destroyed by a race of super-powered beings, who initially offered to help mankind, but really intended to rule them. Those that fought back against the tyranny of the ‘Gods’ were nicknamed the Ten-Seconders – their name based on the average life expectancy of those brave enough to battle to face of against such powerful opposition. This is their story of resistance."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love this type of post-apocalyptic vigilante/war graphic novel.  I am a huge fan of the publisher and I fell in love with the dude on the cover.  Isn't he awesome?!

Rob Williams writes some weird stuff!  And this is a doozy of a story involving "gods" (aliens) who have invaded earth and taken it over, virtually annihilating the population.  Small rogue groups still fight on but their numbers diminish constantly as their life expectancy against a "god" is 10 seconds.    I did a little research on the story before I began reading so I knew what I was getting into and discovered this was indeed the complete series, divided into two series runs in 2006 & 2008.  The first story "The American Dream" sees a group of British survivors heading to America following instructions given to them by "The Scientist" a strange being (perhaps a rogue "god") who is helping them in their fight to destroy the enemy.  An extremely engaging story, very brutal, no holds barred.  The character development is good; we find out backstory and characteristics of the main party members.  Don't get attached to anyone though as Williams considers no character too essential that they can't get killed off within the blink of an eye!  Very intriguing, the art is dark and well-done.

What keeps me from giving this book a full 5 stars is that the second story "Make Believe" has a different illustrator and the two styles could not be more different.  Yes, it is still dark and I enjoyed it aesthetically but the characters were so completely different as to be unrecognizable.  I had to read carefully and hope that character names would be used, just to know who was who and this caused me some confusion regarding the storyline.  While the writing was good and well plotted, not knowing who I was looking at did spoil the usual joy of reading a series like this back-to-back.  The final story is every bit as dark, if not darker, than the first and ends grimly.  The ending has a finality to it but is open-ended leaving the possibility of continuing the story.  Since this was last written in 2008, I feel we can safely presume it will not carry on at this point.  A fast-paced hardcore science fiction story with a great deal of one-liner humour to offset the darkness.  Good read!

Friday, December 21, 2012

334. Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: The Jungle Book by Mark L. Millar

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: The Jungle Book by Mark L. Millar  (US) - (Canada)
The Jungle Book, Volume 1

Pages:  172
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 11, 2012
First Published: Oct. 16, 2012
Publisher: Zenescope
Genre: Graphic novel, fairy tales, reimagined classics
Rating: 5/5

Publisher's Summary: "A pirate ship carrying four children crashes on the shore of a mysterious and merciless jungle.

Each child is taken by a separate tribe of animals as a means to keep the peace between the warring species. It is a peace that will not last. Fifteen years later the children have now become young adults and each will have to face the destiny that awaits them. In an unforgiving jungle four human children will be tested to the limits of survival. Zenescope brings you their newest reinvention of a classic take that is going to blow you away!"

Acquired:  Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading: I have been interested and intrigued in The Grimm Fairy Tales series & spin-offs for some time now due to my enjoyment of Fables.  These felt like they would be similar, but perhaps more serious.

What incredible artwork!! I am reading an ebook version but the gorgeous art makes me want to go right out and buy a print edition, which I intend to do but I'll wait until Vol. 2 comes out then I can read both volumes back to back.  The art may not be for everyone though as it is "mature"; there is no nudity but there is a plethora of extremely scantily clad, provocatively posed, buxom women on  every page.  This sort of thing doesn't bother me in-and-off itself; it depends on how the women are portrayed and whether they are overly ogled in context or not.  I didn't find it offensive here at all.  Many will though.

This volume basically retells the Mowgli story most of us are familiar with but with many twists, having a nice wrapped up ending that also obviously lets us know there is more to come.  Major re-imaginings that make this a unique and superb story include there being 4 babes who are raised in the Jungle, each one is given to a different animal clan: one to Shere Khan, another to King Louis etc., and to top it off, Mowgli is a girl!  Very different dynamics here with a female Mowgli, however she has been given the same characteristics of the traditional Mowgli and is a wild and fierce "wolf cub".  I just loved this book!! If I continue to write I'm just going to start gushing so I'll quit while I'm ahead.  I've already visited the website and want to start delving into all the Grimm Fairy Tales and the various other books that take place in the same Universe.  Fans of Bill Willingham's Fables may be interested in this one as long as they are aware that this series is more adult (in presentation though, Fables has more s*x) and is also more serious (there are light-hearted moments but it is does not contain the humour of Fables).  Otherwise, if you are looking for a brilliant new take on the story of The Jungle Book and all it's familiar characters, this is an excellent book with the caveat of mature illustrations.  I will be reading more of this series and the entire Grimm universe from Zenescope!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

333. Battle Beasts by Bobby Curnow

Battle Beasts, Vol. 1 by Bobby Curnow.  Art by Valerio Schiti (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 104
Ages: 13+
Finished: Dec. 10, 2012
First Published: Dec. 18, 2012
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "My father taught me many things."

Publisher's Summary: none available

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading:  This type of comic appeals to me.

After a linguist cracks the code to a language on an ancient scroll found with some otherworldly orbs she utters a phrase aloud and unleashes a horde of beasts upon earth.  They have all been summoned by her, are looking for her, and the items she obviously must possess.  But amongst these battle-happy war-like beast are three who are not like the others.  They want the items, and others like them, powerful weapons, to remain out of the hands of their kind and possibly find a way themselves to use them for the purposes of peace.

I don't have much comment on this book.  It was a quick fun read.  The 3 beasts and Bliss, the linguist were interesting characters though their personalities have only been scratched, being rather stereotypical "types" at the moment.  The book is too short to really get anywhere other than a cursory story going, though it does look promising.  I won't be in a rush for the next volume but could easily try a few more when they are further down the road with the series.

332. Ragemoor by Jan Strand

Ragemoor by Jan Strand. Illustrated by Richard Corben (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 112
Ages: 16+
Finished: Dec. 9, 2012
First Published: Nov. 20, 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: Horror, Graphic Novel
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence: "Castle Ragemoor.  Fortress... Sentinel... Guardian... Prison!"

Publisher's Summary:  "Ragemoor! A living castle, nurtured on pagan blood, harborer to deadly monsters! A fortress possessed of its own will and ability to change itself, with the power to add and destroy rooms and to grow without the help of any human hand. Its servants aren’t human, its origins are Lovecraftian, and its keeper must fend off the castle walls from the terrible race of worm men! Collects the four-issue miniseries."

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, via Net Galley.

Reason for Reading:  I love horror stories and appreciate Corben's artwork.  I also liked that this was a complete mini-series all-in-one.

This is an incredibly bizarre horror story which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  I also loved Corben's artwork which is equally freaky.  The story is just plain fun if you are in to the weird and creepy.  This is one of those horror stories where the house is the actual main character.  The house, for some inexplicable reason, is for want of a better word, alive.  The two who live in the house are prisoners and those who visit become victims.  Very strange and as I've said I found it all very fun. Only problem is that stripping the tale of the unique insect kitchen help, baboon guardians, raving lunatic naked father and attacking worm men; what is left is the usual predictable plot in these "living house" stories.  Even the shock-value ending was not unexpected.  Nevertheless, it was a pleasant read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

329. Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1, Vol. 1 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1, Vol. 1 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (US) - (Canada)
Neon Genesis Evangelion, V.1, V.2, V. 3

Pages: 528
Ages: 16+
Finished: Dec. 1, 2012
First Published: 1995, 1996 (omnibus edition Nov, 2012)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: manga, science fiction, shounen, YA
Rating:  5/5

First sentence: "I've never had any cherished dreams or ambitions."

Publisher's Summary: "Once Shinji didn’t care about anything; then he found people to fight for—only to learn that he couldn’t protect them or keep those he let into his heart from going away. As mankind tilts on the brink of the apocalyptic Third Impact, human feelings are fault lines leading to destruction and just maybe, redemption and rebirth."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love reading omnibus editions of manga series.  One is just never enough at a time, but 3 in a row gives you just the right amount of depth to come up for a breather as you wait for the next edition to come out!

Publisher recommends this for 13+ but I'm recommending for ages 16+ because of the language which uses a lot of curse words (NOT the f-word, but everything else) and there is female nudity.

Vol. 1 starts right in the middle of things and is a fabulous way to begin a manga series.  We're just thrown into an intense situation and learn what is happening at the same time as an almost clueless character.  Shinji's mother is dead and he has been abandoned by his father at boarding school for the last three years when suddenly he is whisked away at his father's orders.  Shinji seems like a nice enough guy though he doesn't really care too much about other's in the grand scheme of things.  But we feel for him when we meet his father, a belligerent, unfeeling tyrant who shows no emotion to Shinji and has brought him to headquarters where he can (for some reason) be the only suitable replacement pilot for the huge fighting robot "Evangelion".  Basically his father has brought him here to be a warrior (for which he has not trained) and realistically to meet his death in battle.  Nice guy ... hate him already.  Shinji doesn't want to do this but Japanese culture takes over and he does do it out of pride and honour   Shinji is 14 (I think) and a young but grown-up woman scientist befriends him, sympathetic to his father's treatment of him.  Great battle scenes which are very easy to follow and an immensely intriguing opening volume to this post-apocalyptic sci-fi manga.  5/5

Vol. 2 has me hooked on this series!  Concentrating on character and putting battles on the backburner we really get to know Shinji and Misato.  I just love Misato!  She is a lovely young woman, funny and amazingly at this point in the series, multi-layered.  The relationship between the two gets off to a rocky start as both misinterpret the intentions of the other but both come to tell the other the truth of their hidden personalities.  Can I say I loved it again?!  We get glimpses of Rei, who the extra material at the end of each volume (interviews, etc.) let us know will be a major character and Shinji's father only shows up briefly.  The book isn't entirely plot and character though as we get one good battle scene towards the end.  I can't wait to read the last volume in this omnibus.  5/5

Vol. 3 brings Rei into the fold and introduces her as a character.  There is mystery surrounding her; she is totally devoid of emotion, seems to have been wiped of memories prior to when she came to be an Eva pilot and most confusing of all to Shinji she is enamoured with and puts all her trust and faith into his father who still barely speaks a word to him.  Shinji finds himself attracted to Rei and they have a very embarrassing first meeting (for him anyway); he sets out to befriend her.  Battles feature prominently as we go into the past to learn of Rei's accident the brought about the calling of Shinji and the enemy comes again to attack headquarters prompting the sending of both Rei and Shinji in their Eva's out to work together as a team.  Shinji's father is also given a bit of a break as we are shown that he has a human side after all but this doesn't redeem him in anyway in my eyes.  A thoroughly satisfactory conclusion to this 3-in-1 omnibus.  I greatly look forward to the next volume!  4/5

Sunday, December 16, 2012

328. The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra (US) - (Canada)
Toon Book, Graphic Novel

Pages: 80
Ages: 8+
Finished: Nov. 30, 2012
First Published: Sept. 11, 2012
Publisher: Toon Books
Genre: graphic novel, easy reader, fantasy, Canadian author
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Leah!  Leah! "

Publisher's Summary: "When Leah and Alan awaken in an enchanted forest, they have only each other and their wits to guide them. In a world full of pet bees and giant rabbits, they befriend foppish lions and stone frogs. Learning to overcome danger, they find their way home—and their independence."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading:  We were very excited about Toon Book's first full length graphic novel.  Ds read aloud to me as his reader.

A wonderful, whimsical fantasy that ds and I both enjoyed tremendously.  The illustrations are gorgeous and have an old-fashioned feel to them.  The story, together with the illustrations, presents a fantastical tale that reminds one of "Alice in Wonderland" with its nonsensical and surreal elements.  My son was fascinated with the story mostly, sometimes skipping over wordless panels.  I'd have to make him go back and look at the pictures to see that they told a story too, that the words were not always referring to, as is with graphic novels.  He just loved the ending which kept you wondering whether it was real or a dream, as he had determined it was all a dream close to the end.  Myself, I was taken with the artwork which is exquisite and intricate.  The fantastical is pure enjoyment and one never knows what will appear on the next page.  My favourite, I think, is the scene of the buildings come to life.  A caveat though, I do think that some people, perhaps those enjoying the Toon Books as early readers and not exactly fans of graphic novels and the fantasy genre itself, may not like this book as it is an extreme in the absurd.  However, we were delighted!  This one is a keeper for our shelves!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

326: 07-Ghost by Yuki Amemiya

07-Ghost by Yuki Amemiya. Illustrated by Yukino Ichihara.  (US) - (Canada)
07-Ghost (Vol. 1)

Pages: 205
Ages: 13+
Finished: Nov. 27, 2012
First Published: Nov. 13, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: manga, YA, paranormal
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Wait...Father."

Publisher's Summary: "All Teito wants is to forget his dark past as an orphan and slave and to graduate from Barsburg’s military academy with his best friend Mikage. But when an overheard state secret triggers treasonous memories, he’s forced to flee from the very empire he once sought to defend!"

Acquired: Received : Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: Sounded like an interesting new series for me to start.

The first books in manga series are often hard for me to review.  So much is going on, so many characters to meet and you have to figure out what is going on as you're dropped right into the situation.  I got a fairly good handle on this manga and am certainly going to continue.  I've been wanting to try a manga with a "priest" setting but, as a Catholic, wasn't too sure whether I'd be offended or not.  So far, on the whole, the religious order seems to be the "good" side and of course this is only some-sort of quasi take on religion/Christianity/Catholicism mixed up with Japanese culture and virtues.  So a fictional religion.  The main character is Tito who is seeking asylum with the nuns/priests after having a run in with a bad guy at the military academy.  His best friend Mikage accompanies him.  There are a couple of good battle scenes, short and to the point but most of this issue lets us get to know Tito, his past, learning about his power and learning about a plot against him.  Plenty of story to get into in the 2nd volume.  A good start that makes you want to continue reading.

Friday, December 14, 2012

324. 2000 AD Prog 1802

2000 AD Prog 1802: 28 Sept, 2012 (available at your local comic book dealer)
Judge Dredd 2000 AD: Prog 1802

Pages: 32
Ages: 14+
Finished: Nov. 24, 2012
First Published: Sep. 28, 2012
Publisher: 2000 AD
Genre: YA, comic book, science fiction
Rating:  4/5

Acquired: Bought new at my local comic book dealer.

Reason for Reading: Next issue.

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Payback 2 - The continuation and conclusion of last week's story where payback comes from two different sources and we're shown who it's OK to dole it out to.   4/5

Bob Byrne's Twisted Tales #15 - I do not do well with wordless comics and was reading this disturbing tale until I got to a point where I went "HUH?"  So I skipped ahead, figured out what was going on and came back and tried to figure the part where I got lost, sort of did, but I understood much better now and restarted from the beginning.  This is a weird and vicious tale. 4/5

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds Pt. 3 by Ian Edington - Still loving this!  Natural continuations of the plot carry on at this point with the fate of the Bishop concluded and Wren giving herself away leading those looking right to her.  5/5

The ABC Warriors: Return to Earth - I'm finally getting a grip on this story.  The artwork goes to black and white as Hammerstein relates his story from the past of when he returned to earth and the political conniving that had summoned him there. Hammerstein has no great affection for Earth though and would rather stay with his brothers on Mars and we leave the story with him possibly changing his mind. 3.5/5

Grey Area: This Island Earth Pt. 3 - This is my favourite continuing story after only three consecutive reads.  While talking to the Ambassador, Buillet antagonizes him letting him know that if he wants to push the law, he, Buillet, is willing to push it right back at him.  This gets him flung out of a window with the flick of a finger but the Ambassador has shown his hand, shall we say, now.  5/5

323: 2000 AD: Prog 1801

2000 AD Prog 1801: 19 Sept, 2012 (available at your local comic book dealer)
Judge Dredd, 2000AD: Prog 1801

Pages: 32
Ages: 14+
Finished: Nov. 23, 2012
First Published: Sep. 19, 2012
Publisher: 2000 AD
Genre: YA, comic book, science fiction
Rating:  4/5

Acquired: Bought new at my local comic book dealer.

Reason for Reading: Next issue.

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Payback - We are introduced to the new Mega-City One universe which has undergone another apocalypse leaving it devastated and in ruins.  Can't wait to read that backstory!  Dredd stops some scavengers, we see cadets are in the field because there are not enough judges and an old injured judge (Dolman) is working out to come back on duty, in some capacity.  The military comes in looking for Dredd to tell him he's wanted at a meeting.  Dredd's not interested in discussing the past but the military is interested in payback!  Obviously the start of a series.  Good story but I'm not crazy for P.J. Holden's art. 4/5

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds Pt. 2 by Ian Edington - Love, love love the great art by I.N.J. Culbard.  Wren reads her uncle's note and learns she is on her own and has a purpose.  Back where her uncle has been imprisoned we see that the religious in charge are not really about the religion but about the power and their own selves being worshipped.  Wren is threatened.  5/5

The ABC Warriors: Return to Earth - Still not getting the gist of this comic.  More back story talk about what went wrong the first time they were on Mars, why they all went their separate ways.  Then Hammerstein is asked why he went back to Earth and ended up in Ro-Busters.  He responds that he's never told anyone before the painful story of how he "betrayed robotkind".  If I knew who these guys were it would be more entertaining but the art by Clint Langley is divine.  It's like what you get on a video game, very futuristic, very mech. 3/5

Terror Tales: Blackspot - Creepy story where a bickering couple in a car late at night run into something that looks like a child.  Using the typical lure and attack of roadway criminals this takes a paranormal twist and ends in the "twilight zone". Fun! 4/5

Grey Area: This Island Earth Pt. 2- Bulliet and Birdy go to the diplomat's residence to investigate.  But they take the staff entrance and talk to the driver trying to get information from him about the car seen at the murder site.  Starting off friendly they turn antagonistic,  the driver starts off antagonistic and ends off trying to warn them away.  The final scene shows us the alien diplomat, Ambassador Uuveth asking the officers if he might be of service.  Good art. Good story.  Hook ending.  Am enjoying these characters and the not so distant (2045) future it is set in.  5/5

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

319. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley. (Canada) - (US)
Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5

Pages: 184
Ages: 16+
Finished: Nov. 21, 2012
First Published: Feb. 18, 2009
Publisher: oni press
Genre: manga, Canadian author, fantasy, magical realism
Rating: 2.5/5

First sentence: "Happy Birthday, Baby."

Publisher's Summary:  "Scott Pilgrim is at the top of his game: he just turned 24, he moved in with the girl of his dreams, and he defeated at least half of The League of Ramona's Evil Exes. But life at the top is treacherous and if things can't possibly get any better for Scott, it means they can only get infinitely worse! Scott's band is in total turmoil, his own exes have all boarded the train to crazy town, and Ramona's evil exes have started appearing in pairs! And what's up with Ramona, anyway? She's been acting kinda weird ever since she and Scott moved in together. It's the second-to-last volume of the Scott Pilgrim series and it looks like Scott's precious little life has come back around to bite him in the butt!"

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This was the worst book in the series for me.  It's Scott's 24th birthday and he has matured a bit like I wanted him to over the course of these books.  At least he's no longer using girls and being a major jerk, though he is still a jerk.  Ramona's behaviour is suddenly all out of character and she appears to just disappear.  o..kay?... Anyone doing the math is not surprised to know that this book's boyfriend will have to be twins, otherwise how do we get 7 evil boyfriends out of 6 books; as any videogamer knows the last one is going to be reserved for the Boss.  So no surprise there.  The battle scene was very low key and seemed as if the author had actually gotten tired of the whole evil boyfriend plot himself!  While fighting, this Japanese duo seemed to have much more fun dishing the dirt on Ramona to Scott than actually winning the fight.  Not all characters appear in this volume and some only make cameo appearances; the book highly concentrates on Scott, Ramona and Kim.  Scott has a rendezvous with Gideon, the last evil boyfriend, the Boss, the one behind all this madness, who has all the answers; by the volume's end.  This sets up the final book but doesn't leave me excited in anyway.  Though I've lost my get-go for this series, with only one more book to go till journey's end I will be reading the final volume soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

280. Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo by Thien Pham  (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 105
Ages: 14+
Finished: Oct. 20, 2012
First Published: Dec. 11, 2012
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, realistic fiction, coming of age, sumo wrestling
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "What am I doing here?"

Publisher's Summary: "Scott  is a washed-up football player who never made it, and whose girlfriend abandoned him along with his dreams of playing pro football. But things have a way of working out, in this sweet, poetic tale--and a new chapter in Scott's life begins as the old one ends. Offered a position in a Japanese sumo training "stable," Scott abandons his old life, his old name, and even his old hair color, and becomes an aspiring sumo wrestler. And in so doing, he begins to find some kind of center in himself...a center that had seemed lost for good."

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, First Second Books.

Reason for Reading:  I read a lot of manga, and the occasional English translated Japanese novel, and am thus interested in Japanese culture.  Yet I know absolutely nothing about Sumo, except the usual misconceptions and I thought this brief volume would give me some insight to the culture of Sumo.

The book didn't really do for me what I had hope it would do.  It is not so much actually about the art of Sumo, as it is about the main character Scott, now called Hakygei.  A failed football player in a small town whose girlfriend dumps him when he's no longer being scouted.  18yo Scott decides to leave his old life behind and start anew, in a new country, with a new goal: Sumo and to create something of himself.  It is a coming-of-age tale.  Scott always found football easy and he's now finding Sumo hard, something he really has to work at.  He's thought of giving up, taking the easy way out again, but he's met a girl, who believes in him more than anyone (including himself) ever has before.  This is a slow story.  I suppose comparisons between it and Sumo could be made but I don't know anything about Sumo so can't make that connection.  And that is my only complaint with the book; I would have like to have actually learned how Sumo is played, scored, how the gracefulness despite the immense size of the participants is accounted for, it's allure, etc.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

320. 2000 AD Prog 1800

2000 AD Prog 1800: 12 Sept, 2012 (available at your local comic book dealer)
Judge Dredd: 2000 AD, Prog 1800

Pages: 32
Ages: 14+
Finished: Nov. 22, 2012
First Published: Sep. 12, 2012
Publisher: 2000 AD
Genre: YA, comic book, science fiction
Rating: 4/5

Acquired:  Bought new at my local comic book dealer.

Reason for Reading: I am enjoying my Judge Dredd and 2000AD trade reading so much I decided to take the plunge and start a pull list at my comic shop.  I started with this issue because it was promoted at garnering new readers by having all new story-lines starting in this issue.

100% totally enjoyed my first look into a brand new 2000 AD prog, even though one of the stories wasn't the greatest I loved its art.  This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: The Death of Dan-E Cannon - A short stand-alone story which shows us Dredd's usual disdain for robots and technology in general when a satellite cannon goes rogue firing on earth.  Typical Dredd-lite.  4/5

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds Pt. 1 by Ian Edington - A new story starting this issue.  I love Edington and a brief glimpse showed great art by I.N.J. Culbard.  This opening issue is a double length story where we are introduced to a future world run by a clockwork solar system.  The world has an Ancient Roman flavour to it, has people worshipping the brass sun and has some of the people getting wise to the fact that the clockworks are slowing down.  These are labeled heretics and burned at the stake.  Intrigue is introduced as a young girl is sent off on her own with a mission and to protect her uncle's journal.  After she leaves the uncle's home is invaded and he is arrested.  5/5

The ABC Warriors: Return to Earth - I haven't read this series before.  Tons of futuristic mecha robots and fantastic art.  Story mainly seems to introduce this team of chemical warriors working on Mars and gives some background on their nemesis, Medusa.  We learn they are interested in contacting an awe-inspiring warrior named Tubal Caine. 3/5

Grey Area: This Island Earth Pt. 1 - Love Lee Carter's art on this one!  Grey Area is in Arizona and where Extra-Terrestrials are housed who are seeking immigration to Earth.  Policed by a special unit, xenophobia running rampant, inter-species bickering cause this to be a not so nice place.  A couple breaks down on the highway within seeing distance of Grey Area; they call in Recovery and are awaiting helps arrival when a black expensive vehicle pulls up.  Within 20 minutes Recovery arrives to find the mutilated bodies and their car's onboard device has tagged the plate of the only passing traffic vehicle since their break down as a Grey Area Diplomat!  Not looking good... 5/5

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

311. Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan. Art by Fiona Staples  (US) - (Canada)
Saga (Vol. 1)

Pages: 116
Ages: 18+
Finished: Nov. 15, 2012
First Published: Oct. 23, 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction, space opera
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "This is how an idea becomes real."

Publisher's Summary:  "From New York Times bestselling writer BRIAN K.VAUGHAN (Y: THE LAST MAN, EX MACHINA) and critically acclaimed artist FIONA STAPLES (MYSTERY SOCIETY, NORTH 40), SAGA is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults. This specially priced volume collects the first arc of the smash hit series The Onion A.V. Club calls "the emotional epic Hollywood wishes it could make."
Collects SAGA #1-6"

Acquired:  Received an egalley through Netgalley

Reason for Reading:  I'm finding myself more pulled towards sci-fi than fantasy in my graphic novel reading and this sounded both fresh and involved.

Love, love, love this book.  An incredible story.  One that is intricate, involves many levels, plots, characters and yet it all centres around the two main characters, an interspecies couple who has wed and born a child together.  Their species have been at war with each other for what may as well have been forever and yet these two are unique examples of "people" not defined by species alone.  Taking the race card one step further into species we see the same old bigotry being played out on a grander scheme as one species believes it is of an higher order than an other.  What I particularly love at this point is how incredibly life affirming the context is.  Having children is not exactly something encourage in this society, especially girls, but this couple affirms their love by having a child and later on in the book another (different species) couple find out they are pregnant and the issue is brought up whether the husband is happy, and won't mind even if it is a girl.  He responds positively.  The sex trade involving children is examined and the most unlikely of characters becomes a little girl's rescuer and advocate.  I love the two main characters, they are both upright people and yet their personalities and morals are different, sometimes clashing.

For warning, the book does include coarse language, not every page but frequent enough.  I found it acceptable for the characters using it.  There is full frontal nudity of both sexes, even though they aren't all "human", yet I was pleased that these scenes were at least between married couples.

The art is stupendous.  This is my first introduction to Fiona Staples but I will be watching for her name in future.  Her drawings are realistic and she brings humanity to her non-human subjects as well as presenting simply stunning panels.  Her character's facial expressions are able to say so much more than words ever could.  A brilliant new series, that I am anxious to follow up with.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

308. Graphic Classics V.15: Fantasy Classics

Fantasy Classics edited by Tom Pomplun  (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Classics, Vol. 15

Pages: 144
Ages: 12+
Finished: Nov. 14, 2012
First Published: 2008
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: graphic novel, YA, short stories, anthologies, horror, fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5

First sentence: "It really was a dark and stormy night."

Publisher's Summary: "Frankenstein – Mary Shelley’s fantastic fable of science gone wrong, adapted by Rod Lott and illustrated in comics painted by by Skot Olsen with an introduction illustrated by Mark A. Nelson The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath H.P. Lovecraft’s epic dream fantasy adapted by Ben Avery and illustrated by Malaysian artist Leong Wan Kok Rappaccini’s Daughter –Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fantasy of forbidden love adapted and illustrated by Lance Tooks The Glass Dog –A tale by “Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum adapted by Antonella Caputo and illustrated by Brad Teare Plus poems by fantasy masters Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith, illustrated by Rachel Masilamani and Evert Geradts" 

Acquired:  Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading:  I'm working on reading the complete series.

I'd say this is my least favourite of this series that I've read so far too date.  First I'll start off with the art.  I found it all incredibly enjoying and each artists style was perfect for each story they illustrated.  I especially liked the representation of "Frankenstein's Monster"; truly hideous and yet his eyes show his human emotions: sadness, despair, anguish, anger and madness.  As to the stories themselves I found them a motley example of the theme topic "fantasy".  Overall from this series, the genre collections are my least favourite as they seem to be a questionable lot labelled under the titular genre.  I'm more fond of the broader themes related to specific topics or collections such as Halloween, Christmas, African-American authors; and most fond of the author specific volumes.

This collection starts with Frankenstein, first a retelling of the evening when Mary Wollstonecraft along with Shelley, Byron and others agree to a challenge to each write a "ghost story.  Frankenstein is not a ghost story, but this is where she came up with the idea. Secondly is a retelling of the Frankenstein story.  As said I enjoyed the art and also the retelling here, but its inclusion is dumbfounding.  Frankenstein is not fantasy at all; it is horror or science fiction, separately or combined.  My favourite story in the book is a retelling of Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter. I've read a bit of his work but this was new to me and I found the story spooky as well as fantastical; the art gorgeous.  Baum's The Glass Dog was another satisfactory entry.  Two poems are included but I'm no great connoisseur of poetry and found them each ok.  The book then ends with a long adaptation of HP Lovecraft's "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath"  I find myself hit miss with Lovecraft.  I've read a few short stories here and there, but most commonly come upon him in this situation; a graphic adaptation.  Suffice it to say,  I either just don't get Lovecraft or I get but can't see the point.  It was the latter situation with this story and frankly, it bored me to tears.  Great art but aside from "Rappaccini's Daughter" and the non-fantasy "Frankenstein", none that I loved.

Monday, December 3, 2012

307. Redakai V.1: Invasion of the Gilfreem by Aubrey Sitterson

Invasion of the Gilfreem by Aubrey Sitterson. Art by Write Height Media & Zack Turner  (US) - (Canada)
Redakai: Conquer the Kairu, Vol. 1

Pages: 96
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 11, 2012
First Published: Oct. 2, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: children, manga, science fiction, based on a cartoon
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "If you really think you can beat me ... you've gotta be crazy!"

Publisher's Summary: "Ky, Maya and Boomer investigate a mysterious source of kairu and land smack in the middle of an alien invasion! But not everything is always as it seems. Is it really all up to Team Stax to save Earth from the Gilfreem? Plus, a bonus story, “Home, Kairu, Home.” There’s trouble on Boomer’s family farm. Is a rival team stealing animals to extract kairu energy?!"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I haven't seen this cartoon (or heard of it actually) but the book seemed similar in presentation to the current "Voltron Force" series by the same publisher which I recommend and I wanted to see how this compared.

Going into this book not knowing anything about the plot or characters they managed to do a very good job setting up the basic premise for the new reader over a two page spread.  This included pictures of the main characters (and there are many) with brief blurbs about them and a small paragraph that tells "The Story So Far".  From this information and the basic knowledge of your typical Pokemon, yu-Gi-Oh!, and other battle monster cartoons one can easily pick up the plot.  Combining elements from several of these popular shows along with the Power Ranger-type giant monsters we have a general premise that manages to be similar to what we are used to yet unique in it's own quirky ways.

The story was very interesting and a good opening one which puts the main heroes onto a mission right away that involves aliens from another planet who at first seem evil but end up needing Team Stax's help.  Plenty of battle scenes, funny quips and enough situations that put the three main heroes to work showing off their individual character, good and bad.  Following the main story is a short "Bonus story" which takes Team Stax to Boomer's home planet where they help out his parents whose farm has been attacked mysteriously in the night.  A more comic episode than the main story.  A good opening volume that makes me want to continue on with the next volume.  At this point though, I see "Voltron Force" as being the more in-depth of the two.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

306. Voltron Force: Rise of the Beast King by Brian Smith

Rise of the Beast King by Brian Smith. Art by  by Alfa Robbi (US) - (Canada)
Voltron Force, #4

Pages: 96
Ages: 9+
Finished: Nov. 10, 2012
First Published: Nov, 6, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: children, manga, superhero
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Onward, you weaklings!"

Publisher's Summary: "No one knows for certain where Voltron came from, but one ancient legend tells of a sixth part of the mighty robot: a terrible warrior called the Beast King. Asleep for many years, the Beast King has awakened and is determined to rejoin his destructive spirit with the Voltron Lions!"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon and Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This is my favourite book in the series so far.  Instead of just a completely stand-alone story, elements from the previous stories have been carried over into this volume and the regular reader is rewarded for having stayed with the series, in order, thus far.  This story takes a look back at the unknown history of Voltron and they come face to face with the reality of that ancient legend as the Beast King wakes and tries to reconnect himself with them.  On Lotor's side, we are made aware of the hidden mutiny that abounds and who the real leader of the enemy is.  This will add a new dimension to future volumes as the story now will not only focus on Good vs Evil but Evil vs Evil!  An intelligent, fast-reading space manga.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

305. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee Vol. 11 by Hiroyuki Asada

A Bee's Bag by Hiroyuki Asada. (Canada) - (US)
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 11

Pages: 200
Ages: 13+
Finished: Nov. 9, 2012
First Published: Nov. 6, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: manga, fantasy, science fiction, YA
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Washed up at Rosy Beach?"

Publisher's Summary:  "Largo Lloyd, ousted director of the Beehive, saves the life of a Marauder—and, in return, demands to be taken to the leader of Reverse. Will the Letter Bees finally penetrate to the heart of the rebel organization? Meanwhile, with his hero Gauche returning home at last, things are looking up for Lag…until he discovers the shocking truth about Gauche!"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.

This is a very readable series and while I need the "story so far" blurbs each book begins with, it hardly takes me any time to get back into the flow of the story.  This is an action-packed volume in which most of our huge cast of characters make an appearance, however brief.  Not something that happens often at all.  The story's main focus is on whether Gauche is really back to himself or is Noir in disguise.  But we also have cut scenes to all the other characters working on fighting against/finding Reverse.  There is an exciting major battle scene in which many of our hero characters congregate together to battle the main monster and we finally meet Moc's Dingo; very unusual from all the others!  I'm getting anxious at this point for the truth to be revealed to our heroes.  We the reader know more than they do, which is becoming frustrating, but we don't know the whole truth either.  If the heroes knew at least as much as the reader we could at least sort out which groups are truly the good and bad guys because as it stands now there are a lot of grey areas and at volume 11 this is feeling like it's time to move on in plot for me.  Frustrating but in a good way, if ykwim!