Thursday, May 30, 2013

142. Judge Dredd: Origins by John Wagner.

Judge Dredd: Origins by John Wagner. Art by Carlos Ezquerra and Kev Walker
Judge Dredd Universe

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Mar. 19, 2013, 2000 AD, 192 pgs
Age: 18+

"The birth of Judge Dredd's world is revealed. How America became a wasteland with two enormous Mega-Cities on each seaboard. How Judge Dredd himself came to be, and his first taste of dealing justice on the streets. Secrets will be revealed. The future will be forged. Justice will be served. 
An unusual delivery is made the the Grand Hall of Justice, a package that will force Judge Dredd to lead a mission into the Cursed Earth and into the darkest recesses of the history of the Judges and Mega-City One...Now in this much-anticipated Dredd epic, history is written by Dredd co-creators John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Carlos Ezquerra (Strontium Dog) with a special introductory tale featuring the art of Kev Walker."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Brilliant.  A complete story focusing in on the childhood background of Judge Dredd, Judge Rico and their clone origins.  This details the beginnings of the Judge System, how and why it went into place.  Also a complete history of the Atomic Wars which created the Cursed Earth from a fresh point of view going into detail with what happened to major players Eustace Fargo and the last President, Robert L. Booth.  Even though this is an origin story, I wouldn't recommend it as a first introduction to Dredd as it does assume you know what the heck they are talking about.  The whole book is in colour which is a visual delight as Ezquerra's work is especially nice on Dredd.  Since this story is particularly violent, the colour does add to the graphic nature of this volume and there is a rape scene, so not one to pass off onto the kiddies.  Nevertheless, a fantastic story for readers, like me, getting into the Judge Dredd universe, who sort of know their way around but don't know all the history and background yet.  One of my favourite trade collections to date.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

70. Blood Trail: Dawning by Matt Cochran

Blood Trail: Dawning by Matt Cochran. Art by Dean Hyrapiet 

Rating : (3/5)

(US) - (Canada)
May 28, 2013, Dynamite Entertainment, 64 pgs
Ages: 16+

"Prisoner Etu, racked with guilt, re-lives the decision which led to the destruction of his tribe at the hands of an unthinkable monster generations before. The year is 1867 and nestled among the majestic mountains of the Pacific Northwest lies a Native American village on the verge of extinction. When its inhabitants become suspicious of a strange family who choose to live apart from the rest, young Etu trails the family to a camp deep in the woods only to discover that they possess inconceivable powers! When Etu reveals what he has witnessed to the tribe, his father, a powerful Witchdoctor, discloses the identity of the family and the spell he cast on them years before. An edict to exterminate the family at all costs is passed down - but when confronted by their powers, the plan only sets in motion the birth of a curse more evil than any of them could have imagined!"

This is a short book and because of that it doesn't live up to its potential.  I enjoyed the plot, though not entirely original, of an old family curse coming back to settle affairs.  The book actually ends on page 51 making it even shorter than it at first seems and this is explained on the next page by a note informing us of the untimely death of the artist, Hyrapiet.  The remaining pages are an artist galley of sketches.  The story ends rather abruptly with a "To Be Continued" which surprised me as the story read as if it was going to be a one-shot and I expected a finite ending.  I would have been much more pleased if the plot could have been finished in, say, a 120 pg book for a couple $ more than the way it has been presented here.  I did enjoy the Native American folklore, the Indian spiritual world and the violent horror tale which presents moral questions to ponder.  However, this ending is unsatisfactory and the book is simply too short.  The artwork however is gorgeous, and I can only presume the artist's death did have something to do with the book being published before it perhaps was first initially planned.

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Monday, May 27, 2013

139. Chickenhare by Chris Grine

Chickenhare by Chris Grine
Orig. Title: Chickenhare Volume 1: The House Of Klaus

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

orig. 2006, Dark Horse
colourized & edited: Feb. 1, 2013, Scholastic/Graphix, 157 pgs
Age: 10+

"Chickenhare: half chicken, half rabbit, 100% hero!  
What's a chickenhare? A cross between a chicken and a rabbit, of course. And that makes Chickenhare the rarest animal around! So when he and his turtle friend Abe are captured and sold to the evil taxidermist Klaus, they've got to find a way to escape before Klaus turns them into stuffed animals. With the help of two other strange creatures, Banjo and Meg, they might even get away. But with Klaus and his thugs hot on their trail, the adventure is only just beginning for this unlikely quartet of friends."

Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

As I was entering this book into my database I discovered that it had been published previously by Dark Horse.  No mention of this is made on the copyright page.  Fortunately sample pages of the original, still in print, are available online for viewing and after comparing them I can see that the new edition by Scholastic has first and foremost been colourized (the original is b/w) and secondly been edited to make it more suitable for children.  I get the feeling the original was written for an older audience.  Example of edits from the sample: "idiots" becomes "fools"; "You suck" becomes "You smell like cheese".  I liked this book; it is a dark, creepy story that deals with abuse though the subject matter may fly over the heads of the publisher's recommended age group 8-12.  A more mature mind readily sees the sometimes implied dark world and violence hiding very close to the surface.  There is a dead animal who comes back to life complete with broken legs and rib bones visible.  The animal ran away because he was abused but blames himself for his tormentor's now murderous evil ways ... if only he had stayed!?  All the bad guys meet their fate at the end in quite gruesome ways.  So, overall the story is quite deceiving from the cute cover and artwork found within.  Now, personally, I like dark, creepy stories and read this very quickly in one sitting finding it's black humour witty, seeing the message below the surface, and a fun read.  However, I'm not sure I would recommend it to Scholastic's audience.  I let my 13yo read it and he didn't get it.  His verdict was "weird" as he handed the book back to me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

136-137: Batman The Brave & the Bold #2-3 by Matt Wayne

136. The Attack of the Virtual Villains by Matt Wayne. Art by Phil Moy
Batman: The Brave and the Bold, #2

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

July 1, 2012, Stone Arch Books,  26 pgs
Age: 7+

"Why are trolls and ogres from a video game raiding the real world? It's up to Batman and Blue Beetle to find out, and they discover that someone's not just playing around!"

Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Great. Really enjoyed this one.  Lots of action and moral/social commentary for younger readers.  The Blue Beetle is a different kind of superhero because he is a teen whose family knows of his secret identity.  Focus in this story is on computer games and sure to catch the attention of kids.  Batman is too friendly for the character but this is aimed at the younger ones.

137. President Batman by Matt Wayne. Art by Andy Suriano
Batman: The Brave and the Bold, #3

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

July 1, 2012, Stone Arch Books,  26 pgs
Age: 7+

"When the Ultra-Humanite wants to score big, he goes straight to the top. He's after the President! But Batman and Green Arrow have a rescue plan so daring that we could only call this story "President Batman"!"

Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Each of these books starts off with Batman closing a case and this one is a lot of fun because Wonder Woman is helping him round up several classic bad guys to send back to Arkham Asylum.  Another fun story with lots of action and moral commentary along with patriotism aimed at the younger readers.  This is a nice looking series with a good read for lower grades.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

133-134 DC Super Friends 2&3 by Sholly Fisch

133. Dinosaur Round-Up by Sholly Fisch. Art by Joe Staton & Horacio Ottolini
DC Super Friends, #2

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

July 1, 2012, Stone Arch Books,  23 pgs
Age: 7+

"It’s big trouble in Metropolis when DINOSAURS go on a rampage! Will the Super Friends round up the mighty lizards before they make too much of a mess?"

Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Based on the toyline from Mattel, this comic is aimed at younger readers and the storyline doesn't quite hold much for the older reader.  It is however cute and will satisfy it's intended audience.  The characters are drawn short and squat, like the toy I imagine, but they are adults not kids. Lots of action in this story right from the beginning as the "accident" happens and the entire team spends the book rounding up dinosaurs.  Also involves reader interaction with a secret code to solve at the end of the book.  Fun new series from DC/Capstone.

134. Wanted: The Super Friends by Sholly Fisch. Art by Stewart McKenny
DC Super Friends, #3

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

July 1, 2012, Stone Arch Books,  23 pgs
Age: 7+

"The Super Friends are out of control! Will they discover who’s in charge of them before they have to retire for good?"

Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Another fun story for the younger kids.  The Super Friends meet up with their old nemesis the Wizard Felix Faust who has made puppets to control them as he tries to gain control of all the magic in the world.  A little boy dressed in a superman costume is the one to give them the idea on how to beat the evil Faust.  Easy to read, with lots of humour and no violence.

Friday, May 24, 2013

130-132. Comic books: 2000 AD Prog. 1812, 2013, 1813

Judge Dredd Universe

130. Prog 1812, 05 Dec 2012 (5/5)

This issue includes: Trifecta: Special issue which concludes the three series: Judge Dredd, The Simping Detective and Low Life in one combined story where all three come together.  Very exciting, loved this whole run and it would make an awesome trade paperback!

131. Prog 2013, 12 Dec 2012 (4/5)
December's issue is always a yearly one hence the prog # 2013, which is published for the month, rather than weekly and is 100 pgs.  Next issue will be out Jan. 2013.

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Violent Night - The annual Christmas story.  Dredd goes up to a section where the weather control has been cut off and a wild winter storm is getting worse.  He's after some dangerous looters, but has an accident and along the way learns, in a Joe Dredd kinda way, not to be so hard-nosed and have a little compassion from the spirit of Christmas.  4/5

 Absalom: Dirty Postcards - Really creepy paranormal detective story.  Loved it!  5/5

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 1 - This is my first time reading Savage.  Easy enough to understand.  It's 2010, an alternate reality where Britain has been invaded by aliens, I presume.  Savage is part of a resistance and this establishes the story which seems to have a connection with the ABC Warriors.  Here we are told the Hammerstein Mark Twos have just been built and the fight is back on.  Actually looking forward to meeting Hammerstein again in this context!  4/5

Ampney Crucis Investigates... The Entropy Tango, Part One - I've loved everything I've read by Ian Edginton so was excited to start this new series.  And it didn't disappoint. Ampney Crucis and his manservant are knowingly in an alternate 1930s Britain where the Great War did not happen.  His life was ruined during the war and now they are getting used to their alternate's way of life in this new world where Ampney is some kind of government investigator.  The story starts and ends with a really weird prehistoric sea monster/train accident which is the case he is given to work on.  This is going to be good!! 5/5

Ack-Ack Macaque: Indestructible - Very short.  An intro to a novel that was published in Jan. 2013 of the same name by Gareth Powell set in 1941 WWII Britain about a man-made fighting monkey machine.  Too short to be of much interest and I'm not interested in this type of novel.  3/5

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 1 - I was pleased to see another series by Ian Edginton!  Fabulous start!  This series has been done before as there is a note to refer back to prog 13-something.  However, this is a fresh story, at least it appeared to me and was great.  1770s, south seas but in an alternate earth.  The crew of a ship are on their way to fight the Devil and he knows they are coming.  As an introduction to their journey, they fight a kraken in this episode.  5/5

Aquila: Quo Vadis, Domine? - "Where are you going, Lord?" First time I've read Aquila.  I liked it but not sure of the point?  The Apostle Peter is fleeing Rome and meets Aquila who fights off some weird demons.  Peter talks of how he denied Jesus and how he must flee to spread the word as he was commanded.  Acquila speaks to him in a way that gets him to question his faith so that he determines to head back to Rome.  He realises that he must make a sacrifice for the Lord.  This is after he has a vision of the Passion of the Lord.  Kind of like a bible lesson with demons.  3/5

The Visible Man: Scars - Cool!  My first intro to the visible man who has no skin and has certain powers he got from space.  He's being held prisoner by the dr. who is experimenting on him and there is a visible woman the dr. has created for him.  They escape in this episode and the authorities find an alien life form nearby.  Ends with to be continued.  4/5

Strontium Dog: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring, Part One - I have no idea who or what Strontium Dog is but this brings us Johnny Alpha who has been captured, he does something weird to Sir Pelham that makes him set Johnny free who then escapes and goes out to the mutants saying that they've all but exterminated the mutant race.  Intriguing!  I love the art.  4/5

132. Prog 1813, 02 Jan 2013 (4.5/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Heller's Last Stand, Part One - Judge Heller is having an assessment day by none other than Dredd himself, they were trained together.  We find out though, that a crimelord is holding Heller's secret girlfriend hostage in return that Heller makes sure Dredd gets hit this day.  Good set up.  I like stories of the "old" Judges; ones who turned out differently than Dredd. 4/5

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 2 - The Mark IIs are demonstrated to Savage.  He sees their "ethical governor" in action and how it evaluates the minimum damage and most cost-effective kills.  He also gets an example of the moral sophistication of the "guilt patch" put into decision making.  Then at a dinner party things are set in motion for the Battle of London.  Savage is to return as a leader but not participate in front-line fighting.  Enjoying the story so far and what I know about the robots is making sense in this "before" scenario from what I read earlier.  Looking forward to more.  4/5

Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Two - Found I was looking forward to this one.  And I'm liking it!  Found that someone must have meddled with a time portal to bring the prehistoric monsters through and I've found out Ampney *wants* to get back to his own time-world.  Finding whose behind this may help him.  On his way to a dinner party with the Mauritanian Ambassador he finds he's mistaken and it's actually the Martian Ambassador who requested his company!  5/5

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 2 - A filler to set-up some info.  The boat is flying now with some kind of propeller.  We learn that some of the crew are immortal.  That two are brothers and the female is their cousin.  We see that time as we know it has no meaning in this place.  It is more God's time: a day = a week, a year, a century, all?  The issue ends with them arriving at some sort of entrance.  (4/5)

Strontium Dog: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Sprint, Part Two - Action-packed episode as Johnnie, Maxie (a mutant) and Sir Pelham (under the control of a monster thing) make their escape from the authorities who have sterilized the mutants through the water.  Love Ezquerra's art.  5/5

Thursday, May 23, 2013

128. Barrage Vol. 2 by Kouhei Horikoshi

128. Astro of the Warring Planets by Kouhei Horikoshi
Barrage, Vol. 2

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 2,2013, viz media,  191 pgs
Age: 13+

"Astro and his loyal knight Tiamat’s wild adventure of freeing Industria from alien invaders gets a lot more complicated in the city of Maseille. There they will have to defeat aliens who subjugate the city with a seemingly omnipotent power known as Dark Energy, and whose leader has a deep connection to Astro’s past."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Satisfying conclusion to this 2-volume manga series.  Lots of cool battle scenes but also goes into Astro's background fleshing out his character quite nicely for such a short story.  The overall theme is one of morals and ethics, having the potential to do either good or evil depending on your own choices.  I really enjoyed the characters, they were your usual over-the-top emotional manga but lots of fun.  I especially enjoyed the sole female Tiko, who though drawn rather scantily is a fierce personality.  Again nothing content-wise to make this rated T, except for the appearance of two mild curse words.  My about-to-turn 13yo loved this series and has claimed it for his shelves.  Fun short series, best to read both volumes back to back.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

90. Criminal Macabre: No Peace for Dead Men by Steve Niles & Eric Powell

Criminal Macabre: No Peace for Dead Men by Steve Niles & Eric Powell. Art by Christopher Mitten.
Cal MacDonald (Graphic Novel, #8)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

May 21, 2013, Dark Horse, 144 pgs
Age: 16+

Received an egalley from the publisher through Net Galley.

"An ex-girlfriend-turned-vampire has been plotting Cal’s demise since she was first bitten. But Cal’s not done yet, and rises from the grave! Collects Die, Die, My Darling!, No Peace for Dead Men, They Fight by Night, Criminal Macabre/The Goon: When Freaks Collide, and “Call me Monster”.
* Featuring the crossover with Eric Powell’s The Goon!"

I love Cal MacDonald and was so excited to read this new collection!  And, wow! the plot sure goes to some new and unexpected places!  First up was a really fun one-shot featuring the real Frankenstein monster as a client who is being hounded by the current "Frank" family descendants.  Then comes a crossover with The Goon, whom I'd never heard of before, nevermind haven't read, but again I truly enjoyed it and thought The Goon was amazing.  It made me look the comic up and it looks like something I'd like so I've added it to my tbr list.  Funniest thing is the story ends with the appearance of another very familiar Dark Horse character, which was a hoot to see in this volume!  At this point is where the title story "No Peace for Dead Men" starts and the next three issues follow this continuous plotline which is quite remarkable with an amazing plot turn in the middle which completely changes everything as Cal has known it.  Riveting.  Just loved the entire volume.  These are great noir private eye detective stories that run along the Angel monster hunter/paranormal variety of cases.  While the characters are dark, weird and foul-mouthed, Cal and Mo'Lock are one of my favourite teams, and the secondary characters can easily have the reader feeling empathy for them while the villains are deliciously wicked.  The book ends with an OMG moment making me anxious for the next volume in this series.  Great read!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

125. War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay.  Art by Daniel Lafrance

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Feb. 7, 2013, Annick Press,  176 pgs
Age: 10+

"When fourteen-year-old Jacob is brutally abducted and forced to become a child soldier, he struggles to hold on to his sanity and the will to escape. 
Daniel Lafrance’s striking artwork and the poignant, powerful text capture the very essence of life as a child soldier. Readers will never forget the experiences of this young boy struggling to survive, unsure who to trust, afraid of succumbing to madness, and above all, desperate to get to freedom. In the end, Jacob engineers a daring escape. 
This graphic novel is based on the acclaimed novel of the same title, winner of a 2009 Arthur Ellis award. The author spent time in Uganda and based this story on real-life accounts of the horrors inflicted on child soldiers and their victims. This is a story of unthinkable violence, but also one of hope, courage, friendship, and family."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Wow. Intense. Brutal. Moving. I have not read the YA novel this graphic has been adapted from, in fact, I'd never heard of it before not exactly being my type of YA reading.  However, I do enjoy this type of material presented in the graphic format and this book caught my attention right away.  The art is phenomenal and I was drawn into the story right away with the exceptional illustrations of the jungle and Ugandan life.  It is really difficult to use a word like "enjoy" was describing how one felt about a book which deals with such a sad reality as child soldiers.  There was nothing to "enjoy" in this story, except for the masterful storytelling which kept the humanity in the children who had been turned into brutal killing machines; that managed to show the deep faith of the people that may waver but comes back stronger in the end even when the rebel soldiers use God against the children to brain wash them into thinking they are fighting and killing for God.  The book is a testimony to how religion does not start wars but how people use religion as a tool in their wars.  Uganda is 84% Christian, which is common in African countries and this strength of faith is evident in the survival of the main characters and their healing afterwards.

The story is harsh and brutal but not graphic in visual detail.  It will be dependent on the reader whether they can handle the reality of the material.  If they can, I highly recommend this for ages 10 and up.  The main characters range in age, but the main group is 12-14.  An extremely important subject for western children to be made aware of when they are mature enough to handle it and this is the book that might just make an impact on their outlook.  Powerful.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

124. Happy! by Grant Morrison

Happy! by Grant Morrison. Art by Darick Robertson

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 30, 2013, Image Comics,  96 pgs
Age: 18+

"Meet NICK SAX - a corrupt, intoxicated ex-cop turned hit-man, adrift in a stinking twilight world of casual murder, soulless sex, eczema and betrayal. With a hit gone wrong, a bullet in his side, the cops and the mob on his tail, and a monstrous child killer in a Santa suit on the loose, Nick and his world will be changed forever this Christmas. 
By a tiny blue horse called Happy... 
Collects HAPPY! #1-4"

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

I love Grant Morrison and will pretty much read anything he writes, as long as it interests me.  And an ex-cop turned hit-man sounded like my type of dark storyline while the "tiny blue horse" hit my quirky bone.   This is vulgar and violent on one hand while sweet and syrupy on the other.  It has a happy feel-good message and ending but the excessive vulgarity counteracts that to a point where this actually works.  The plot of the crime is quite dark and twisted that it grasps the reader.  But then we have the Jiminy Cricket figure of Happy, the tiny blue horse with wings, flying around with enthusiasm: "you can do it!, pick yourself up! try again! only you can save her!" while Nick, the detective, and the rest of the characters speak in word bubbles that seem to contain at least 2 f-bombs per bubble that the two extremes actually cancel each other out and I can't believe it ... but it works!  Not Morrison's best work by any means, and at 96 pages short and somewhat rushed but no denying this was a fun read for me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

122. The Great Successor: A Political Cartoon by Ha Tae Keung

The Great Successor: A Political Cartoon by Ha Tae Keung. Illustrated by Choi Byeong-Seon

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Dec. 12, 2012, Hungry Dictator Press,  174 pgs
Age: 18+

"THE GREAT SUCCESSOR, an epic comic of the Dark Kingdom, details the realities of the recent succession of Kim Jong-Un as leader of the DPRK. Written by Ha Tae Keung of Open Radio North Korea, it hopes to answer some lingering questions: Who is this third Kim? Where did he come from? And should we be afraid of him? From propaganda engines to “trusted” news sources, many of us will never know what really goes on in the North Korea. THE GREAT SUCCESSOR provides a rare glimpse at the new face (and belly) of leadership in the North.
Presented in a highly readable format, THE GREAT SUCCESSOR delves into what is in store for the future of North Korea. It provides some insight to the background of the young new leader of the most secretive dictatorship on earth. At only thirty, Kim Jong-Un could have a long future as a head of state. Will he tow the line of Military First to the bitter end (and invariable ruin of the state) or will he herald a new beginning of reform, and lead his people out of the darkness. Only time will tell.WHERE THERE IS TYRANNY THERE IS RESISTANCE!"

Received an egalley from from the publisher through NetGalley.

Absolutely eye opening!  The author is a member of "Open Radio North Korea" based in South Korea and with the probably upcoming succession of Kim Jong-Un as the leader/dictator of that country OPNK decided to write a comic book to explain how this was happening and the history of it to the mainstream citizenry.  Thus we have this comic.  Mostly written in the narrative, there are not a lot of speech bubbles and those that do occur are of South Koreans who are the ones talking to each other and then narrating this story.  The evils of communism is one of my particular interests and I am well read about China and Russia but honestly had never read about Korea, except in more ancient times.  All I knew going in was what most of us know about the nuclear threats coming from them these days.  Obviously a political book, but incredibly enlightening.  I came away from it shaking my head and believing Jong-Un is a power-mad, cruel despot.  North Korea is not only communist; it manages to also be a fascist monarchy all rolled into one.  It is shocking to see that the people of NK, living in a closed country, live as they did a 100 years ago, and are in fear of their lives if they try to revolt or speak against the government.  The dates mentioned in the book end in 2010, when neither Jong-Un had succeeded or his father Kim Jong-il had died.  So upon finishing the book, I absolutely had to get up-to-date with the present situation which found Jong-il dying in 2011 and Jong-un being named Supreme Leader that same year.  He is currently only 29 years old making his reign of tyranny even scarier knowing he hasn't reached an age of having lived a full mature life yet.  I am so glad I read this!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

118. Trotsky: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary

Trotsky: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2009, Hill and Wang,  103 pgs
Age: 18+

"Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that lasted through the twentieth century, and in Trotsky: A Graphic Biography, the renowned comic artist Rick Geary uses his distinct style to depict the stark reality of the man and his times. Trotsky’s life becomes a guide to the creation of the Soviet Union, the horrors of World War I, and the establishment of international communism as he, Lenin, and their fellow Bolsheviks rise from persecution and a life underground to the height of political power. Ranging from his boyhood in the Ukraine to his fallout with Stalin and his moonlight romance with Frida Kahlo, Trotsky is a stunning look at one of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers and the far-reaching political trends that he launched."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Rick Geary is probably my favourite graphic artist.  I just love his style of detailed b/w drawings and the use of lines to fill in space.  I'd read anything he illustrated but fortunately I have an interest in Communist Russia and the evils of communism in general.  First off, this is not a children's book by any means, not because of anything that may offend but because it is highly detailed in history, politics and warfare.  I knew nothing about Trotsky going into this book as my interests lie in the sociological affects of communism on the everyday people rather than the politics of the leaders, so I found it highly enlightening.  The leaders were just as ruthless and turned against each other as violently as they did on the people.  Geary does in my opinion come off a  bit too neutral; the reader will view the politics from their own worldview (left or right).  Guess which is mine? LOL  Anyway I found it highly enlightening and informative but decidedly heavy on politics and would only recommend to those who know something of Marxism, Leninism and Socialist Communism.  The art is divine!  There is a companion book to this one that I will read next on J. Edgar Hoover whom I have read quite a bit about already.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

117. Graphic Classics Vol. 14: Gothic Classics edited by Tom Pomplun

Gothic Classics edited by Tom Pomplun
Graphic Classics, Volume 14

Rating: (4.5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2007, Eureka Productions, 144 pgs
Age: 12+

"Five great tales of terror, danger and romance by theoriginal creators of gothic literature: 
JANE AUSTENNorthanger AbbeyA naïve girl comes of age in the gothic parody
ANNE RADCLIFFEThe Mysteries of UdolphoRomance, terror and intrigue in the archetypal gothic novel
J. SHERIDAN LE FANUCarmillaAn immortal female vampire claims her victims in the precursor to Dracula
EDGAR ALLAN POEThe Oval PortraitA story of artistic obsession 
MYLA JO CLOSSERAt the GateA canine ghost story 
Plus a rare poem by Jane Austen"

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

I wish I could have given this 5* but the last story just didn't do it for me.  Out of 5 stories and one poem, the first 4 stories are classic Gothic tales by the great authors of the genre from their period in time.  Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu was fantastic; a vampire story which influenced Stoker.  I love this prolific Victorian short story writer and this was my favourite in the collection.  Then comes Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho", a classic of the genre and considered one of the first such novels.  I haven't read the novel yet so this was fun to read, though it is such a complicated and convoluted story that adaptation only makes it more so.  Edgar Allan Poe's short piece "The Oval Portrait" is well done, then follows Jane Austen's pastiche of the genre "Northanger Abbey" which readily makes references to "Udolpho".  I'm not a fan of Austen, but I've read some of her works including this and must say I enjoyed the graphic much more than the novel!  My only complaint is the last story by Myla Jo Closser, whom I'd never heard of, entitled "At the Gate".  I wouldn't by any definition call this Gothic.  A story of dogs in Heaven.  It is a bright, happy, cheerful story (those are not elements of Gothic) and with the wealth of Gothic short stories available I'm sure a more appropriate title could have been selected for inclusion instead.  Otherwise a fine volume with the usual pleasing art and a special call out to Lisa K. Weber's excellent work on "Carmilla".

Saturday, May 11, 2013

116. Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2011, Scholastic/Graphix,  219 pgs
Age: 10+

"When a family takes a boating trip, the last thing they expect is to be shipwrecked on an island—especially an island with weird, otherworldly plants and animals. Now, what started out as a bad vacation turns into a terrible one as Lyle, Karen, and their two kids, Janie and Reese, must find a way off the island while they dodge its strange and dangerous inhabitants. Is the island alive? Is it from another world? In this rousing, Swiss-Family-Robinson tale with a twist, the answers to these questions could save them... or spell their doom."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

This is my 3rd book by this author and the deciding book for me on whether I'd continue to read him.  I loved Ghostopolis and found Cardboard didn't live up to its expectations, so wondered which way this one would go.  I'm pleased to say I loved it.  I'm not sure I *quite* got the relationship between the giant rock people and the humans, but I *think* I did.  Otherwise, it was great.  I loved the whole bad island concept, kind of a twist on the Dr. Moreau theme but with aliens.  As with "Cardboard" this explores the father/son relationship and I found the story much more realistic and poignant as the two came to understand and appreciate each other.  Absolutely loved Pickles, the dead snake which reminds me, though this came first, of the dead squirrel from the Bone: Quest for the Spark series.  This book has it all: a shipwreck, monsters, aliens, adventure and a family coming together.  This was a lot of fun; I like TenNapel's artwork and will try some of his backlist.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

114. The Shadow Book by Mark Oakley

The Shadow Book by Mark Oakley
Thieves & Kings, Vol. 4

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

1998, I Box Publishing, 272 pgs
Age: 12+

"The fourth volume of Thieves & Kings collects twelve issues of the original comic book series, recounting the tale of the boy thief and the Shadow Queen who hunts his soul.  The Lost Princess Katara is found, and the Wizard Quinton is held prisoner, while young Heath, who would be a sorceress, finds herself stuck in school.  However, unseen treachery and magic lurks in each of their lives, demanding quick wits and bold action from all!"

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Wow, wow, wow.  This series continues to astound and amaze me.  A brilliant fantasy with fantastic world building and character development.  The first three volumes had an arc to them and this one while continuing on the overall plot takes a different turn.  Quinton, Heath and Rubel still have parts but the focus in this volume is the women and sisters. Heath Whingwhit, sorceress apprentice (not so much anymore), Sally the Shadow Queen, the lost Princess Katara, Lady Locumire, two new young witches-in-training, Kim and Lahana, and a few others.  Who is good and who is evil is not exactly certain, how they have been presented so far is not how each one arrives by the end of the volume.  A very intricate, detailed plot with lots of story and action, Quinton provides light-hearted humour and yet his character is a powerful and very clever wizard who hasn't been given his "day" yet. A fantastic discovery for me this year!  Looking forward to volume 5!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

111. Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Aug. 2012, Scholastic Canada, 283 pgs
Age: 10+

"When cardboard creatures come magically to life, a boy must save his town from disaster.  
After Cam's down-and-out father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday, they fashion it into a man and it comes magically to life. But things spin wildly out of control when the neighborhood bully, Marcus, steals a scrap of the cardboard to create creatures that promptly disobey his orders and multiply into an unruly army.  
Before long, Cam and Marcus must put their differences behind them and work together to prevent a legion of cardboard monsters from taking over the whole town!"

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

The cover of this book is absolutely compelling!  But I have to tell you those eyes made me think there was going to be an owl (I love owls) in the story, but, alas, no owl.  The whole book is a visual delight.  TenNapel's illustrations are fantastic, though somewhat creepy at times.  Each page was a joy to behold.  However, I have to admit that the story just didn't really do it for me; I have no major complaints.  It's just one of those stories that didn't sit right with me and I found it far-fetched, unbelievable, rather freaky for a kids' book and just not that fascinating.  It was good, ok.  I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it but if asked would say "sure, go ahead, read it".  The building upon a father/son relationship during hard economical times and the single parent family due to the death of the mother is explored both well and realistically. I enjoyed the author's "Ghostopolis" more than this which is darker and certainly a YA title;  I think "Cardboard" would have been more appealing (to me) if it hadn't held back and had made the jump to a YA title.  I wouldn't recommend for under tens though due to intense scenes.

Friday, May 3, 2013

109. Lover's Lane: The Halls-Mills Mystery by Rick Geary

Lover's Lane: The Halls-Mills Mystery by Rick Geary
A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, Vol. 5

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

June 2012, NBM Publishing, 80 pgs
Age: 13+

"New Brunswick, New Jersey, Thursday, September 14, 1922. Reverend Hall and Mrs. Eleanor Mills take a stroll in the town’s park in the evening. Shots are heard. 2 days later, their bodies are found laying on the ground very neatly next to each other with her hand on his thigh, love letters strewn around them, the scarf on her neck covering up the deep bloody slit in it. Reverend Hall, himself married, was in an open secret of an affair with Mrs. Mills, a married woman of his choir. The perfect ingredients for a juicy scandal and fascinating investigation which the nation’s press hungrily devours. Alas, no clues or evidence are sufficient to make an indictment stick. Was it suicide? A jealous rival? The case reopens again 4 years later as new information is brought to light, indicting the reverend’s wife but she is an upstanding member of her community, denying to the last that her husband had any affair…"

Borrowed a copy through Inter-library loan..

An Episcopal (Anglican) minister and his mistress are found shot and posed in a field near the local lover's lane area.  An interesting true crime taken from the 1920s in which no satisfactory answer has ever been found.  Not exactly an exciting case, Geary has written books on much more exciting murders such as those on H.H. Holmes and the Bender family of Labette County, Kansas, but he's written a good story here.  One I hadn't heard of before either.  Taking us through all possibilities as well as all the facts the reader is presented with the case in a way as to be knowledgeable without bias and perhaps try to form their own opinion or read more about the crime.  The art of course is simply Rick Geary, need I say more!  I eagerly await the next volume due out in Dec, 2013!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

108. Barrage, Vol. 1: The Piercer by Kouhei Horikoshi

Barrage, Vol. 1: The Piercer by Kouhei Horikoshi
Barrage, Vol. 1

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2012 (Japan), Feb. 16, 2013 (English), vizmedia, 191 pgs
Age: 13+

"Fresh from the pages of Shonen Jump in Japan comes an action-packed reimagining of The Prince and the Pauper!

Spunky slum kid Astro gets the chance of a lifetime to end the chaos ripping apart his home planet when the playboy prince switches places with him. Now Astro has become Prince Barrage, a boy charged with the duty of restoring peace to the planet…and given an all-powerful magical spear to do it!
In order to save the planet, Astro will have to battle terrifying aliens while learning how to fight from his even more frightening guardian, the exacting knight Tiamat. Does a kid like Astro have what it takes to become the real prince and save the planet?"

Received a review copy from Simon and Schuster Canada.

Wonderful!  Loved this.  So fun going into a manga knowing that it is only 2-volumes long for a change.  I love Twain's Prince and the Pauper and that is what drew me to this story but it only has the very basic similarity in that the streetkid becomes the Prince.  I won't say anything more about the plot since it's just two books!  Astro, the main character is a lot of fun with lots of moral fibre teaching the other Royals something they've forgotten for some time.  His bickering partner is also fun a little mysterious.  The battles are great and the "boss" at the end of this volume is very cool.  The T rating for 13+ states violence but there is nothing graphic at all and I would have recommended for younger readers (8+) if not for the cursing, though there isn't much.