Thursday, June 27, 2013

188-189. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan V. 14 &15

To Nijo Castle  by Hiroshi Shiibashi
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Vol. 14)

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 2, 2013, viz media, 192 pgs

Age: 13+

"As Nurarihyon is attacked by hordes of angry Kyoto yokai, Rikuo and his hundred demons arrive to attempt to take down Hagoromo-Gitsune, a yokai about to give birth to a dangerous dark-arts yokai from the past! A massive battle ensues that reveals secrets of Rikuo’s family history...and puts him in some serious risk of bodily harm!"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

This is a very busy volume and since the break between this and last for me it took some getting into.  Many story arcs are touched upon here both in the present and the past.  Also have some returning characters, at one point we are referred back to Volume 8!.  Foreword motion is very slight getting our characters just into the room where H-G is giving birth.  The biggest excitement comes from finally revealing what the meaning of the birth will entail.  Lots of battles and great art for the battle scenes. Still as I said a busy volume with a bit much going on.  Fortunately, I have the next in the series to read right away so will be able to continue without a break this time.

Two things this volume brings to my attention.  1) The last two pages introduce us to a novel that has been published to correspond with the series; a little investigating on my part brings to light this was published in Japan in 2009, but nothing on the horizon that it may ever be translated into English.  2) This research lead me to finding out that the manga series' final volume was published in Japan in early 2013, making the series 25 volumes long.  This is excellent news for me to know that the series does have a finite ending as those ones that never end are so frustrating.

Fragments of the Past  by Hiroshi Shiibashi
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Vol. 15)

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Jun. 4, 2013, viz media, 192 pgs

Age: 13+

"While the day belongs to humans, the night belongs to yokai,supernatural creatures that thrive on human fear. Caught between these worlds is Rikuo Nura. He's three-quarters human, but his grandfather is none other than Nurarihyon, the supreme commander of the Nura clan, a powerful yokai consortium. So, Rikuo is an ordinary teenager three-quarters of the time, until his yokai blood awakens. Then Rikuo transforms into the future leader of the Nura clan, leading a hundreddemons.
The yokai Hagoromo-Gitsune gives birth to the new reincarnation of Nue, also known as Abe no Seimei, ancestor to the world-killing Gokadoin clan. The fight to stop the birth lost, Rikuo and his allies must now not only stop Hagoromo from killing them, but also find a way to neutralize this new being that could signal the end of all things!"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Another very busy volume, although this time the plot sticks to a couple of arcs keeping things in better perspective than V14.  The birth and the H-G plot have become very interesting and there is some great art and scenes of H-G.  The foreshadowing of where her story is going really has me interested and she is still one of my favourite characters especially now that her character has been given depth.  There are soooo many characters in play now though that what I would *really* like at this point is a guide book that gives the low-down on everybody!  The bonus stories at the end were a little odd and I would have preferred the space have been used for the main story instead.  So a good volume for plot continuation but I'm feeling that too much is going on in the last couple of volumes to fully appreciate the story.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

186 . Who is AC? by Hope Larson.

Who is AC?  by Hope Larson. Illustrated by Tintin Pantoja.

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 16, 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 176 pgs

Age: 12+

"Meet Lin, a formerly average teenage girl whose cell phone zaps her with magical powers. But just as superpowers can travel through the ether, so can evil. As Lin starts to get a handle on her new abilities (while still observing her curfew!), she realizes she has to go head-to-head with a nefarious villain who spreads his influence through binary code. And as if that weren’t enough, a teen blogger has dubbed her an “anonymous coward!” Can Lin detect the cyber-criminal’s vulnerability, save the day, and restore her reputation?"

Received an ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I'll keep my remarks on this book short as it, unfortunately, did nothing for me.  I loved Larson's Mercury but found this to be incomparable.  The story was a pleasant diversion and the art is enjoyable thus worth a few stars and the time it took to read.  However, I just did not connect with the characters.  Honestly, I found them boring.  AC's superhero persona was so mysterious as to be baffling and nothing was really resolved in the book.  It is quite apparent that the story plans to continue with a sequel.  As to being for ages 12+, there is no content to make it so, simply the story is about highschoolers and really would not appeal to youngers (and in my case, olders).  Best suited to big Hope Larson fans.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

185 . Zebrafish: SPF 40 by Sharon Emerson

SPF 40  by Sharon Emerson. Illustrated by Renee Kurilla, Didi Hatcher & Fable Vision.
Zebrafish (2)

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Jun. 4, 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 119 pgs

Age: 10+

"Zebrafish has disbanded, at least for the summer, but the ex-band members can still improve the world in their own way. Vita is figuring out how to channel her lazy summer into something positive (with her dog Chimp’s help, of course). Walt and Jay convert an old ice cream truck into an awesomely painted (and fully wired) book mobile. And Plinko and Tanya inspire their campers at Stickleback Arts Camp to seize the day—Tanya takes a special interest in a camper with diabetes who’d rather hang out in the infirmary than participate in camp, while Plinko is preoccupied with his night vision goggles (leading campers to the bathroom night or day!).
Ideally Zebrafish will reunite for the end of summer Strings of Fury concert at the Dunes, but there’s a hitch—Vita refuses to play plastic. This follow-up collaboration between FableVision and Children’s Hospital Boston is as rockin’ as the first."

Received an ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I read the first Zebrafish book and while it didn't particularly grab me, I saw some potential so was pleasantly surprised to see this sequel come up three whole years later.  Would it be three times better?  Hardly.  However, I thought it was a fairly well done story along the same vein as the first one.  Teens learning to deal with being teens and added issues including one medical-related.  The character from the first book is back but in remission and this time in the medical hut at summer camp she meets a diabetic boy who wears a pump of insulin on his stomach which he controls with a remote device and caries around in a fanny pack.  These issues are added to the everyday camp issues of being councilors-in-training, summer jobs with the bookmobile, creating spoon art sculptures, saving wildlife from traps and eventually gaining a new member for their band.  A quick easy-breezy read.  Middle graders should identify, but the characters don't go beneath the surface and too much stuff was happening that I couldn't really care about any one issue/event enough.

Monday, June 24, 2013

183: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 13 by Hiroyuki Asada

A District Called Kagerou by Hiroyuki Asada.
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 13

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

May 7, 2013, vizmedia, 200 pgs

Age: 13+

"While Lag and his fellow Bees fight a desperate battle against the Gaichuu Cabernet, the dark secrets of Amberground come to light. What unspeakable things did Garrard, director of the Beehive, see in Amberground’s capital? And why has former director Largo Lloyd joined the rebel organization Reverse? The answers lie in the top-secret district called Kagerou…"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

OMG! Wow, oh wow, wow! Stunning volume full of secrets revealed as the battle with Gaichuu Cabernet continues.  What is so great is that this volume is so action packed with epic moments that it doesn't spend much time mulling over what is being revealed.  It just hits you in the face for you to think about and I can't wait for the next volume.  Not giving anything plot points away but you'll hardly believe it can be so exciting when the main characters for this volume are "old guys" Largo Lloyd, Garrard and Hazel. No Gauche and Lag is barely seen!  Out of all the volumes so far this one gets 6 stars.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

179-182. Comic Books: 2000 AD Prog 1818-1821

Judge Dredd Universe

179. 2000AD: Prog. 1818
06 Feb 2013 (4/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Witch's Promise - Silly story about witches and Dredd being helped by a witch's broom (3/5)

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 7 - The Volg blockhouse is finally taken out and now we're waiting for the Hammersteins to arrive.  This continues to show the "good guys", Savage & co. as being quite merciless and the "bad guys", the Volgs, as having compassionate feelings.  (4/5)

Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Seven - The espionage continues as they look into the robot's skull and find it's been fitted with the latest Martian technology.  After feeding its input into the giant computers a virus starts running rampant and we end on a devastating note.  Enjoying this extremely. (5/5)

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 7 - The battle continues, the devil continues to win. (3/5)

Strontium Dog, Part Seven: Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring - The battle continues on the mutant city but the army comes in with a spacecraft and announces that Johnny is not their friend, if they give him up no one will be hurt, but if they don't then everyone: man, woman & child, will be crushed. (4/5)

180. 2000AD: Prog. 1819
13 Feb 2013 (4.5/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Save Him - Seeing Rob Williams wrote this one I was looking forward to a strange story.  No disappointment!  Dredd is yanked inside the mind of a catatonic psi-cadet.  Great story!  (5/5)

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 8-The Hammerstein's ethical programming screws up the attack and they end up surrendering.  After hearing the news Savage's team is attacked again. (4/5)

Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Eight - Intrigue continues!  Crucis's wife seems to have got herself in some trouble and there is question as to whether Ampney's father is dead after all.  Loving this one!  (5/5)

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 8 - Hahaha.  The Captain decides to try and make a deal with the devil only to find out that the devil is well ... a devil!  LOL.  (4/5)

Strontium Dog, Part Eight: Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring - Things are getting way too deep to keep getting into the story but a ceasefire brings lots of things to a head and then fighting begins once more. (5/5)

181. 2000AD: Prog. 1820
20 Feb 2013 (4.5/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Wolves, Part One- Violence against citizens of Sov. ancestry is up 800%.  We meet 2 ex-sov men who have been citizens of Mega City One for 20 years though they have never known each other til now.  A good set up for a story.  I enjoy the soviet story lines. (5/5)

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 9 - Last episode we met the female leader of the resistance, a nasty piece of work named Rusty.  She visits Savage and tells him they don't trust him any more and he's betrayed them as they think he's in cahoots with the president of the USA. (4/ 5)

Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Nine - It isn't made clear but Ampney and team come upon a Babbagist meeting of a religious sort that seems to be a melding their minds.  It ends on a tense note.  (5/5)

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 9 - So the boys attack the devil with spears.  Is he really dead?  No. He turns into a giant beast thing and the fight continues. (3/5)

Strontium Dog, Part Nine: Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring - Johnny is cornered and has to surrender.  This is when the demon comes back out to play and brings a double whammy to this episode which ends on a positive note for the mutants.  Loved it!  (5/5)

182. 2000AD: Prog. 1821
27 Feb 2013 (5/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Wolves, Part Two - So the Sovs have been rounded up into internment camps for their own safety while violence continues on the outside, lynchings, attacks etc.  The chief judge has been talking to the ambassador and seems east meg two will supply 5 million tons of food to meg city one in exchange for deportation of all its sov. citizens.  Doesn't sound good to me! (5/5)

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 10 - The Volgans' and the "Beefheads'" (the English), the soldiers in combat are beginning to realize that it is the Americans who are the true enemy here, especially President Quartz. More sniper attacks. (5/5)

Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Ten - In the middle of a fight with the Baba-whatever they're called, Ampney meets his dead father who tells him he's safe now.  And I see dinosaurs in the background!?  Intriguing!! (5/5)

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 10 - Fighting with the devil continues and the captain is at a loss them some of his dead companions finally regenerate and come back but with them appear to be the Viking Gods. I see Thor and what is probably Odin and Frigg.  (4/5)

Strontium Dog, Part Ten: Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring - Oh, Man!  This is the end of Chapter Three.  The mutants have won the battle but not the war.  They were betrayed and I think there will be a power struggle with Johnny and Kid Knee.  The concluding series will be called "The Resurrection Saga" and is "Coming Soon'.  So who knows when that will be!  (5/5)

Friday, June 21, 2013

176. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen & Faith Erin Hicks

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

May 7, 2013, First Second Books, 288 pgs

Age: 13+

"You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.
It's only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club's robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!
In Faith Erin Hicks' and Prudence Shen's world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong."

Received a review copy from First Second Books.

Absolutely wonderful high school story.  One of the most refreshing school stories I've read lately.  Manages to take a genuine, real look at high school life and issues without resorting to s*xual topics at all.  Bravo, Ms Shen!  The story of Nerds vs Cheerleaders with a misplaced Jock stuck between is hilarious making a deliciously fun story.  At the same time, we are given a much more serious look at one character's problematic home life with divorced parents, a never-home dad and a mom living far away with a new boyfriend, neither ever having time to be a parent.  I loved the characters!  While they are wildly stereotypical, on purpose, to make the story so much fun Shen & Hicks bring out their personalities so that I just loved every one of them, well not Holly.  It was so cute when you see (I'm not going to say who!) holding hands at the end.  While I'm not a fan of everything having to be part of a series, it sure would be great to see this group of teens together again maybe focusing on a different character's private life.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

175. Criminal Macabre Omnibus, Volume 1 by Steve Niles

Criminal Macabre Omnibus, Volume 1 by Steve Niles.  Art by Ben Templesmith & Kelley Jones
Criminal Macabre, (1-3)

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Aug. 23, 2011, Dark Horse, 392 pgs
Age: 18+

"In 2003 Steve Niles, creator of the 30 Days of Night comics series, launched a series of occult detective stories featuring the monstrously hard-boiled Cal McDonald. A pill-popping alcoholic reprobate, Cal is the only line of defense between Los Angeles and a growing horde of zombies, vampires, possessed muscle cars, mad scientists, werewolves, and much more weirdness! 
* This volume collects the first two Criminal Macabre trades, the one-shot story Love Me Tenderloin, and Criminal Macabre: Supernatural Freak Machine--never before in trade paperback!"

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

1. Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery - The first Cal McDonald graphic novel but chronologically it takes place after the first text novel, "Savage Membrane", as he is already in LA and it mentions how he moved there from DC.  His girlfriend Sabrina is mentioned in passing but his female interest is a skeptic cop. Cal finds a vampire, werewolf and zombie at a meeting together which is strange since the three never mix and after several irregular attacks by said creatures he sets off to find out why they seem to be working together.  He finds a mastermind behind a plot to create super-creatures to take over the world.  A great first story and introduction to the monster hunter.  Templesmith's art really suits the atmosphere and I like it but admittedly it is hard at times to make out exactly what is going on since it is so dark and ethereal but by the end of the story I was really into it.  A great creepy beginning to this book. (4/5)

2. A Letter from B.S. - Very short piece in which Cal gets a letter from a dead guy and intrigued, he goes to meet him and ends up doing him a favour.  Rather out of character for Cal but he gets a stash of weapons out of the deed so worth it in the end.  OK.  (3/5)

3. Love Me Tenderloin - This is a one-shot and a great Cal McDonald case of a ghost animating meat in a beef factory and as Cal puts it "She meant so much to you that you wouldn't die. Wow. If I was a big p*ssy that would be real touching." Great story, fairly gross.  Shows Cal's "sentimental side and the relationship between him and the Lieutenant is becoming more of a partnership with her less skeptical now with all she's seen.  (5/5)

4. Last Train to Deadsville - First story with art by Kelley Jones which is much more stylized and preferable but it is a big jolt going from the dark, murky previous work to this.  A demon possessed young man arrives at Cal's for help.  Turns out he's been reading spells out of a book at the library and unleashed a succubus on his small town.  Cal & Mo go to help but don't find out the succubus part until it's too late.  Cal's girlfriend Sabrina turns up for the first time in this story and takes an active part by following them.  Fun story.  (4/5)

5. Supernatural Freak Machine - If you've read the stories, you'll know who Dr. Polynice is.  Cal has met up with him a few times before and presumably this story takes place after them as it mentions the "last" time Cal met up with Polynice.  Also chronologically this story takes place immediately after "Last Train..." as it refers to events from it as just having happened.  This is the best story in the whole collection.  It's a bit of a two-parter, first starting off with Cal getting his haunted car which would make this his 2nd one, since he had one (though different) in the stories as well.  Then comes the Polynice story which is extremely creepy and we get to see the emotional side of Cal.  A big stunning end leaves things in quite a different state and Cal's world is going to be a bit different when we next see him in Omnibus 2.  (5/5)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

171. DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013

DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013. Foreword by Jim Lee & Dan Didio

Rating: (4/5)

FREE (Kindle) (Available at select comic stores)

May 28, 2013, DC, 62 pgs

Received a review copy from the publisher through Net Galley.

Age: 18+

"DC Entertainment has been the birthplace of some of comics' landmark graphic novels, from books that defined the category like WATCHMEN, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and SANDMAN to contemporary classics like SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and AMERICAN VAMPIRE. 
Now, for the first time ever, DCE has compiled its Essential Graphic Novels and Reading Chronology into one place. Inside is an expansive look at our rich backlist collection created by the best writers and illustrators in the industry. This catalog can be used as an important resource for new fans seeking a starting point, as well a look back at our impressive backlist for the most fervent DCE enthusiasts."

For a free catalogue, this is a great reference source especially for the newcomer to the DC universe.  Starting with a list of 25 essential graphic novels that should be read (this includes vol. 1 of series) from both DC itself and its imprint Vertigo.  Readers who haven't been around for long will get themselves a fantastic start to reading DC.  Almost everything listed here I am at least familiar with if I have not already read it.  Next you are introduced to Vol. 1 of all the "New 52" series started up to the point of its publication, mind some of these series have already been cancelled, but at least it gives you a sense of what you want to read.  I'm only keeping up with two at the moment well, all the JL's and just the one Batman, but I find this list to be very informative.  Next we go through each of the major male superheroes with a section devoted to each with the must read volumes in each character's history with the women being delegated to a "Women of DC" section.  I'm big on Batman and found this section very interesting and can see myself going back to it should my interest get deeper in another hero.  Follows is a list of Vertigo's Top Series and I found many of these I hadn't heard of but after that came a focus on the very popular series such as Fables, Sandman, etc.  These I have either read or know very much about.  Finally there is a short author feature with lists of recommended reading by a few top authors and then the catalogue ends up with a chronological reading order of DC superheroes and a recommended Vertigo reading list.  These are certainly useful lists.

I've read other reviews of this catalogue by more knowledgeable DC readers than I, and the main complaint I've seen is that this catalogue only lists books currently in print at the time it was published.  Of course, the catalogue's purpose of being available for free is to sell books for the company and having out of print books listed would be frustrating to customers, but on the other hand for readers trying to be completist this catalogue listing is not really going to be what your looking for and there are probably much better volumes available for purchase that will list everything you could possible want to know about.  I had fun scanning through this.  Added books to my tbr list and think it's great for the price!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

164-167. 2000AD Prog. 1814 - 1817

Judge Dredd Universe

164.  Prog. 1814
09 Jan 2013 (5/5)

This issue includes:

1. Judge Dredd: Heller’s Last Stand, Part Two – Dredd is giving Heller a hard time and Heller gets a call reminding him that he’s got to take out Dredd if he wants his girl alive.  Some quick action, then Dredd lets on that he knows what Heller is up to. (5/5)

2. The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 3 – A short entry which tells us that all things are true in their own way.  The adventurers meet some giants and end up at the gateway for the dead but they are not there.  Instead they are lying in wait for them.  A bit short to count for much.  (3/5)

3. Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 3 – Savage gets set to lead the team in action as the robots already have started taking back London.  Great art!  (5/5)

4. Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Three – Very intriguing!  The martian ambassador knows Ampney is from another time and appears to threaten him and Earth!! Duh duh duh! (5/5)

5. Strontium Dog, Part Three: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring – Nice long episode.  The mutis get themselves organised with the help of Johnny as he spreads the word about the sterilization.  Plus the demon skipped from Grenville to Johnny because he wants to be part of the action.  So far Johnny can talk to it and fight off any influence.  Loving this one.  (5/5)

165.  Prog. 1815
16 Jan 2013 (4.5 /5)

This issue includes:

1. Judge Dredd: Heller’s Last Stand, Part Three – This story plays out nicely.  Lots of action and the bad guys all get theirs with Dredd showing tiny bits of compassion at the end.  (5/5)

2. Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 4 – Everyone is trying to talk Savage out of being in the front lines as he is needed to unite all the different factions.  Meanwhile a sniper has him dead in his sights… (4/5)

3. Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Four – The martian explains to Crucis about time being out of sync and now we understand what is going on.  I think we can take it that the martians are good guys because all of a sudden they are attacked by a whacked out freaky guy.  The martian is injured.  This is my favourite story right now.  (5/5)

4. The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 4 – OK, Captain Dancer and crew are in front of the devil and Dancer gives Lucifer an earful, telling him off and then challenges him to a fight, to which he accepts!  (3/5)

5. Strontium Dog, Part Four: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring – The government bigwigs meet on how they are going to handle the media/public opinion problems then it’s back to Johnny and the muties as they plan for the Revolt.  McNulty is captured, Grenville is killed and as Johnny starts to fight the police, his demon decides to give him some encouragement.  (5/5)

166.  Prog. 1816
23 Jan 2013 (5 /5)

This issue includes:

1.  Judge Dredd: Sealed - As Dredd tracks down a group of looters they meet in a deserted apartment and come across a boy sealed in a bubble with his neat freak parents dead nearby.  Good one and I loved John Burns art which was a fresh take on Dredd. (5/5)

2. Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 5 – Savage is a pretty hard case; one of his party gets shot by a sniper trying to keep him out of harm's way and he barely bats an eye.  Then the rest get interested in a song the Volgs are singing in a down time during the battle and he gives them a dressing down.  When his team says they may be the enemy but are still human, Savage says they are *not* human they are Volgs.  I'm liking this story, though I don't like the main character.  (4/5)

3. Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Five – The ambassador is dead.  We are told (and find out what) the creature who killed him is.  Meanwhile this is a car chase episode.  Love the art! (5/5)

4. The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 5 – "For their name is Legion".  Short but cool episode as the two armies fight.  But the Devil's army of the dead join together to create huge giants made up of millions of bodies. (cover picture).  Very cool!  (5/5)

5. Strontium Dog, Part Five: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring – Word is spread like wildfire through the mutie ghettos about the sterilization and an uprising starts.  This episode ends with the big riot and the government bringing in the tanks to squash the rioters.  Great, great story and the mutants are such likable characters.  (5/5)

Totally loved this issue!

167.  Prog. 1817
30 Jan 2013 (3.5/5)

This issue includes:

1. Judge Dredd: Closet - A gay story. Nothing Dredd-like about it at all. (0/5)

2. Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 6 – Savage's team is still trying to take out the Volg blockhouse and he loses more men.  The inhumanity, irony of it all is shown as the guy who thinks of the volgs as "Nazi zombies" begs for mercy and is taken out by a volg who tells her team to think of the English as terrorists.  (5/5)

3. Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Six – Ampney meets with the PM but won't tell him anything the ambassador had to say to him.  They want him to interrogate the prisoner, even though they only have its head.  Off he goes to a special house in the country where he is confronted with two giant computers.  I just love how this is all "pip, pip" stiff upper lip "what, ho!" British!  (4/5)

4. The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 6 – Simply just awesome battle art.  The good guys are not doing so well. (4/5)

5. Strontium Dog, Part Six: The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha, Chapter Three: Mutant Spring – Three out of the five stories are all battle.  More battling going on here.  The muties and Johnny Alpha are cornered until they find a tunnel but once down it the entrance appears to be solidly walled off.  The demon is talking to Johnny again trying to coax him to split on the rest of the dudes.  (5/5)

Friday, June 14, 2013

163. Gear by Douglas TenNapel

Gear by Doug TenNapel.

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2007, Image Comics, 160 pgs (colourised, 2nd printing)

Age: 14+

"Four incompetent cats high-jack a Giant Killer Robot! The plans are made, the cats lay in wait, the Robot comes and everything goes el stinko. This book's got everything: robots, harpoon guns, talking cats, gun shots to the head - the whole sha-bang!"

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

First, I'll just say this book is *not* for children because of what I guess the industry would say "disturbing images": the first page has a guy being shot in the head execution style, later someone's neck is bloodily sliced, and so on.  This is a hard book to review, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.  I guess I'll work it out as I write about it.  I really liked it but ... it is pretty weird.  The day after I read it, I felt better about it than when I had just completed it, though the ending was completely satisfying.  So I picked it up again and didn't quite re-read the whole thing but browsed through the book reading certain scenes, pages and sections while looking at the art.  It grows on you and more understanding came to me.  The story certainly does have allegorical meaning which I appreciate as a Christian even though it is very strange.  I was first alerted to this when a character calls on Jesus, not blaspheming, but actually calling on the Lord for help.  This made me open to any symbolism and I got the connection of Gear being a Christ-like figure. While I'll still plead to some plot confusion, such as what that first scene has to do with anything, I was utterly taken in with both the art and the characters.

Originally published in 1998 as b/w, this re-issued coloured edition is fantastic.  Honestly I just can't imagine TenNapel *not* in colour as his work is so big and bold and would simply cry out for colour in my opinion.  Done with a Japanese brush and ink, this is not TenNapel's stylized form we are used to from his most recent work but something much more wilder with an abandon to it which I am very attracted to artistically.  I fell in love with the characters, especially Waffle and the other two cats but I also loved the self-sacrificing Gear and the insectoid Chee.  I am going to continue reading TenNapel's backlist; he is a surprising artist, with a penchant for the strange and creepy but tells an eloquent story.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

162. Thieves & Kings: The Winter Book by Mark Oakley.

Thieves & Kings: The Winter Book by Mark Oakley.
Thieves & Kings (Vol. 5)

Rating: (5/5)


2004, I Box Publishing, 208 pgs

Age: 12+

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

"The fifth volume of Thieves & Kings collects nine issues of the original comic book series, following the story of a small band of young and powerful companions. During troubled times in the depths of a cold winter, Heath Wingwhit and the thief Rubel, -and their new witch friend recently escaped from the dark palace, must together survive the streets of Oceansend even as the Witch Queen plots to destroy them. . ."

Oh, this series just gets better and better. The plot has developed into an intricate, many layered story with reveals that are just purely epic and rewarding in this volume.   I won't say much about actual plot here so I don't give anything away; I'll stick to talking about the characters.  Quinton comes back to the forefront here to a certain degree but it is the female characters who are deeply front and center.  My absolute favourite characters at this point are Kim and Soracia.  Soracia has been so mysterious throughout and now we are finally learning things that have only been hinted at previously and her character has grown into so much more than she was when we first met her as the Shadow Queen.  The same can be said for the growth of all the female characters as they come upon their real identities and come into their true potential for magic.  As the volume winds to the end it hits a fever pitch with an epic battle, reveals about characters and an interesting cliffhanger.  I am absolutely dying to read the next, and last, volume.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

161. Graphic Classics: Horror Classics edited by Tom Pomplun

Horror Classics edited by Tom Pomplun.
Graphic Classics (Vol. 10)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2004, Eureka Productions, 144 pgs

Age: 12+
"Stories from the original masters of horror in comics.
EDGAR ALLAN POESome Words with a MummyPoe's satiric tale adapted by Rod Lott and illustratedby Kevin Atkinson
H.P. LOVECRAFTThe Thing on the DoorstepObsession, possession and terror by Michael Manning
SAKIThe Open WindowAn impressionable man meets The Bad Seed, illustratedby Gabrielle Bell
W.W. JACOBSThe Monkey's PawNothing comes for free, as illustrated by John Pierard
BRET HARTESelina SediliaA gothic farce from the great Western author,adapted by Antonella Caputo and illustrated by Nick Miller
JACK LONDONKeesh, Son of KeeshTerror on the tundra, illustrated by "Johnny Jihad"creator Ryan Inzana
OLIVE SCHREINERIn a Far-Off WorldA nightmare fantasy by the South African author, illustratedby Jackie Smith
HOWARD GARISProfessor Jonkin's Cannibal PlantThe precursor to "Little Shop of Horrors" from the creator of"Uncle Wiggly", rendered in comics by Onsmith Jeremi
HONORE DE BALZACThe Thing at GhentA horrific tale retold in one page by Mark Dancey
FITZ-JAMES O'BRIENA Day DreamA simple "what-if" goes to extremes, as pictured by Milton Knight
AMBROSE BIERCEThe MummyA tribute in verse, illustrated by Brandon Ragnar Johnson
CLARK ASHTON SMITHThe Beast of AveroigneMedieval terror adapted by Rod Lott and illustratedby Richard Jenkins"

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Fantastic collection of popular and not so well-known horror tales from the 1800s.  Starting with a wonderful tale from Lovecraft "The Thing on the Doorstep", my favourite in the entire collection. Michael Manning's art was superb and for some reason his portrayal of the main character really captured me.  I have to say I've only read Lovecraft in anthologies and so far to date have not had any luck with him but this tale has made me see why he is so beloved by many.  A brilliant story wonderfully adapted in graphic form here. I enjoyed every tale in this collection and there was just the right combination of scary vs ironic.  The art was all perfect for the stories they portrayed and I even got along well with Milton Knight's offering, who I am beginning to appreciate more than I have in the past :-) Familiar to me were Poe's "Some Word's With a Mummy", Jacob's "The Monkey's Paw, Saki's satirical "The Open Window" and London's haunting "Keesh, son of Keesh".  Of the others I was unfamiliar with I was delighted with Antonella Caputo & Nick Miller's rendition of Bret Harte's Selina Sedilia.  Altogether 11 stories and 1 poem make one of my favourite themed collections in this series.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

159. J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary.

J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary.

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2008, Hill and Wang, 102 pgs

Age: 16+

"A True History of Violence (and Crimefighting, Politics, and Power) 
In the hands of gifted cartoonist Rick Geary, J. Edgar Hoover’s life becomes a timely and pointed guide to eight presidents—from Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon—and everything from Prohibition to cold war espionage. From a nascent FBI’s headlinegrabbing tracking down of Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly in the 1930s to Hoover’s increasingly paranoid post-WWII authorizing of illegal wiretaps, blackmail, and circumvention of Supreme Court decisions, J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography provides a special window into the life of an outsized American and a bird’seye view on the twentieth century."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

As usual Geary's illustrations are a perfect match for his text and so detailed one can just look into them for ages.  I thoroughly enjoy just looking at Rick Geary's work.  I'm quite well read on Hoover and this brought nothing new to the table for me.  This is a whirlwind basic biography through his 80 years of life and near 60 of those in the Federal bureaucracy business eventually starting an agency that would go on to be called the  FBI, where he became the Director unofficially "for life".  From the end of WWI to his death in 1972, Hoover saw tremendous events occurring throughout the 20th century and would play a major part in them.  Sometimes on the side of good and right, others on the side of the fanatical tyrant.  From Geary's other work I've come to know him as an author who can write an unbiased biography and he has succeeded very well here and Hoover is a very controversial subject.  Hoover was a man of his times and place , a man of unflinching morals, a man whose biggest thrill was power and a man who has been surrounded by rumour his whole life but especially since his death and can no longer defend himself.  However Geary sticks to the facts in these cases, no proof of any rumour about Hoover has ever been given even a shred of evidence and Geary doesn't lead us on.  My only problem with this book is that it is so short that we don't get to ponder the various actions/events Hoover was involved in as they are presented so quickly to try and cover as much territory as possible but of course some things do, in the end, get left out.  A good piece though mostly to get an overview of Hoover as a starting point or a quick refresher.  The book is factual and the art is stupendous.

Monday, June 10, 2013

158. Wonderland Volume Two by Raven Gregory.

Wonderland Volume Two by Raven Gregory.  Art by Sheldon Goh & Gerard Conte.
Grimm Fairy Tales Presents (Wonderland Vol. 2)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

May 21, 2013, Zenescope, 176 pgs

Age: 18+

"After defeating the malevolent spirit of her long-dead brother and escaping the terror of a town possessed by the insanity of the Mad Hatter, Calie and her daughter, Violet, disappear into the city of Los Angeles hoping to evade Wonderland's ever-extending reach. But the duo is fast to learn that no matter where they run, or where they hide, Wonderland will find them! From the writers and creators who brought you Zenescope's original Wonderland trilogy comes the continuation of the adventure in a world of madness like you've never seen before. Volume 2 collects issues #6-10 of the Wonderland series."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Well, I'm going to have to admit that the Grimm universe has become my guilty little pleasure.  I loved this book.  The art in this (and all of them!) is absolutely gorgeous.  Of course it is filled with scantily clad women but somehow this just doesn't bother me here.  Perhaps because these women are such kick-*ss characters? think Xena, Sydney Bristow.  Anyway, the s*xuality means these are not kid's comics and then there is the violence...  This story features Callie and Violet, Alice's daughter and grand-daughter respectively as they try to escape the madness that is Wonderland.  The story is a bit out there, but that just keeps it within the wackiness of Wonderland.  It is related big-time to all the numerous other Wonderland titles, especially the original trilogy; there are asterisks galore directing you to previous volumes and while this would make this story much more appreciated by those who have read the other volumes already, it just makes me want to go buy every single Wonderland title and then re-read these latest two volumes so I can fully appreciate how they all connect.  This ends with a doozy of a whopper and I can't wait to read more.  But like I said, stay tuned for me to do some catching up first!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

152. Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Sleepy Hollow by Dick Wickline

Sleepy Hollow by Dick Wickline. Art by Ac Osorio.
Grimm Fairy Tales Presents

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 9. 2013, Zenescope, 144 pgs
Age: 18+

"In the small town of Tarry Town, New York the story of the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow has become something of Myth and Legend.
A legend that is about to become all too real. When a prank goes deadly wrong those responsible will learn the truth behind the legend as the Headless Horseman returns to exact a horrifying revenge that none will ever forget. From the writer of Salem's Daughter: The haunting comes a tale of horror and terror that will leave you on the edge of your seats. Hold on to your hats...and your head."

Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

I really enjoy the books in this series and I loved this one.  To get the usual objectionals about this publisher out of the way: there is only one female character so not a lot of opportunity for the scantily clad buxom depictions but it's there when the artist gets the chance!  Surprisingly not a single curse word in this volume but violence galore.  Seeing as this is a reimagining of the "Headless Horseman", there is a lot of decapitations and general headlessness, so not for the weak of stomach.  Unlike others in this series which are more fairytales or fantasies this is classic horror.  A unique retelling of Washington Irving's tale which preserves his plot but expands upon it.  We start off with a brief scene from the revolutionary war that shows how the original headless horseman really came to be and then jump to the present with a college student who is an ancestor of this man.  In a mythology class they learn the legend of Sleepy Hollow then what follows is a college story of jocks and nerds, buying test answers, standing up for morals and a scare tactic gone dreadfully wrong.  The vengeance of the dead is gruesome and bloody, bringing about a genuine horror story which is original yet retains the essence of the original tale in the retelling.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

146-147. Amulet Books 4 & 5 by Kazu Kibuishi

The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet, book 4

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Sept. 2011, Graphix/Scholastic, 219 pgs
Age: 8+

"Emily, Navin, and the crew arrive in the lost city of Cielis, but they soon realize it is not the utopia they expected to find. While Trellis and Luger are taken prisoner, Emily is forced to fight for her life in a series of tests that will determine who among the new generation of young Stonekeepers will join the Guardian Council, the powerful group of Stonekeepers who govern Alledia. As the number of competitors gets smaller and smaller, a terrible secret is slowly uncovered - a secret that will change the lives of our heroes forever."

Purchased a new coy from an online retailer.

Wonderful series that I've got a little behind on.  Since it's been some time since I read the last book, I was a little foggy on the story details but they came back to me as I read and brief references to previous events helped to jog my memory.  So overall, not hard to get back into the groove of things.  Kibuishi's art is gorgeous as ever: somewhat cartoonish with a hint of a manga-feel about it.  The sequential art is quite like watching a movie frame by frame.  The plot advances along here, not as exciting as last time, but finally some background on the origins of the story while the present focus is all action in a "Hunger Games" type of way.

Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet, Book 5

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Sept. 1, 2012, Scholastic/Graphix, 208 pgs
Age: 8+

"Emily has survived the chaos of the Guardian Academy, but Max Griffin, who is working for the Elf King, has escaped with the Mother Stone. The Elf King has now forged new amulets, which will allow him the ability to invade Cielis and destroy it once and for all.  
Emily and her friends desperately make preparations to defend Cielis in what will inevitably be a brutal war, and they can only hope that it will be enough to defeat the Elf King."

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

At this point it is getting difficult to review this series without giving away any more spoilers than publisher already does, so I'll keep this brief.  The series continues to delight and by this book the world building has become quite detailed.  Answers to questions are finally being answered and some resolution to plot points are made in this volume (though they only raise more questions!).  I'm loving this series as an adult but it doesn't quite hit spellbinding or page turning for me so keeps at a solid four stars for me.  Kibuishi's artwork continues to be astounding matching the emotions of the plot.  Quite an intense ending with this volume leaves me waiting for the next one.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

145. Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt

Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

May 7, 2013, First Second, 265 pgs
Age: 18+

"Welcome to the city of Red Wheelbarrow, where the world's greatest detective has yet to meet the crime he can't solve—every criminal in Red Wheelbarrow is caught and convicted thanks to Detective Gould's brilliant mind and cutting-edge spy technology. 
But lately there has been a rash of crimes so eccentric and random that even Detective Gould is stumped. Will he discover the connection between the compulsive chair thief, the novelist who uses purloined street signs to write her magnum opus, and the photographer who secretly documents peoples' most anguished personal moments? Or will Detective Gould finally meet his match? 
Matt Kindt operates with wit and perception in the genre of hard-boiled crime fiction. Red Handed owes as much to Paul Auster as Dashiell Hammett, and raises some genuinely sticky questions about human nature."

Received a review copy from First Second Books.

As soon as I finished the last page, I turned to the beginning and read the book again!  It is even better the second time around!  This is my third book by Kindt and I'm a dedicated fan now.  I love his sketchy, realistic, watercolour art.  Mind MGMT blew me away, but this, wow, this is awesome on a whoooole 'nother level.  An amazing noir detective story, about art on one level and the nature of crime on another.  One is dropped into this story and feels a certain sense of confusion as things are in motion but we, the reader, are not let in on all the details right away.  In fact, they are revealed slowly through the course of the book, through the pictures more than the words.  As the different cases are solved the observant reader will notice they are connected to one another.  I found myself flipping back quite often to find something I recognised but as the book comes to its abrupt and compelling ending it all makes sense and you just have to read it a second time.  The second time through is almost like reading another book because this time you watch for all the clues/coincidences and you understand text that is important to the story that the first time didn't make an impression.  Truly very brilliant!  You must read it a second time to truly appreciate the cleverness of the plot.