Tuesday, July 30, 2013

150. Wars in Toyland by Joe Harris

Wars in Toyland by Joe Harris. Illustrated by Adam Pollina.

Rating: (3.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jul. 30. 2013, Oni Press, 104 pgs

Age: 12+

"Toyland was once a place of wonder and beauty, at least until the teddy dictator Roxbury took over. After Matthew's brother and playmate, Alex, disappears, Matthew finds himself carried into Toyland by his own loyal toy soldiers. Matthew soon learns that Alex has been here, too – and is now being held captive by Roxbury. Leading an attack on the teddy bear's fortress, Matthew never considers that his brother might be beyond saving."

Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

This has a "Toy Story" feel to it, mind you more intense and not a little kiddies story.  Yet still it had that vibe.  A difference is that the toys come alive in their owner's presence to help him. Matthew's brother is a missing person and the toys know where he is, so they take him to Toyland where Alex has been kidnapped and taken over to the dark side.  It's a brief story that I just couldn't 100% get into; it rather predictably went where I expected it would. A pleasant diversion but nothing special.  I was enamoured by the artwork though.  Especially the scenes that have the wooden toy soldiers all lined up to do battle.  The artwork enhances and elevates the story, imho.  A bit scary and creepy so I'm keeping the recommended age for upper MG+ but some younger, who don't scare easy, will be fine with it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

233. Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto

Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto
Sunny, Vol. 1

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

May 21, 2013, viz media, 224 pgs

Age: 18+

"What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams.Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists. 
Translated by Tekkonkinkreet film director Michael Arias!"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading this book.  I was startled to receive such an attractively published quality hardcover for a start. (I just assume manga is going to be paperback).  The publiher's summary appealed to me because I am naturally drawn to stories of boyhood (even though I'm female).  I just love a good story about boys growing up especially if it is in the past and "Sunny" takes place in 1970s Japan.  First off we realize that Sunny is an abandoned car on the Home's property and not one of the children.  The kids go here, where no adults are allowed, to dream they are driving and visualizing themselves into their imaginary stories.  This is a consistant theme but a small part of the story.  Containing six chapters each one is separate from the others, more like vignettes, and concentrates on different children in the Home, mostly the boys, but there are girls here too.  Each kid has there own unique circumstances for being here, most have at least one parent but for some reason they can't take care of the child.  Each vignette presents a different child as the centre of attention and we learn more of his background while an everyday event is happening.  The stories go straight to the heart, are full of emotions, are sometimes feel good, often bittersweet, but never sad.

I was a bit puzzled when I first statrted to read as I thought I was reading a children's book.  The rating is T for ages 13+, but I was soon aware that was incorrect.  The boys often look at pornography magazines but more than that, these stories are obviously aimed at an older audience, one who has been through boyhood, one who will feel the deep nuances in these stories and feel their poignancy.  Honestly, I think even older teenagers would be bored with this material not understanding the obvious appeal to adult emotions.  This manga is serialized in IKKI magazine and when I realized *that* my whole appreciation of the book improved.  IKKI  is a seinen manga aimed at men 18-30, even including business men in their 40s!  That's why I felt uncomfortable with it as a Teen book!  Just because a book is about kids doesn't always mean it is for kids, know what I mean?  Seinen is known for being character and plot driven and Sunny comes across as a promising start to an interesting series.  While each story is unrelated, each one contains the same cast of characters and brings to the table the beginning of a story with an expected upcoming event which makes me quite interested in seeing where the series will go with the next volume.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

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

Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1, Vol. 3 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vol. 7, 8, 9

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2001-2004, Mar. 2013, viz media, 209 pgs
Age: 16+
"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. "

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

No spoilers for this volume.  However minor spoilers from previous volumes can't be helped.

Vol. 7 - Can I just start my opinion of each volume with "Oh, Wow!"  Shinji is wracked with guilt but he takes on his father and quits!  Go Shinji! Meanwhile an Angel attacks and Mr. Kaji finds Shinji.  We're given Kaji's heartbreaking background and he fills us in on the final missing pieces of Misato's equally tragic background that has slowly been revealed through the last few volumes.  Shinji learns he is like these two and of course returns to Nerve.  Its a loosing battle for all the pilots until Shinji turns up then the Eva shocks everyone by becoming sentient and running on its own with Shinji inside.  Is he still alive or has he been consumed by the Eva?  The book ends with a peek at the next pilot that the (bad guys? Seele have in their possession.  Seems they are fed up with Shinji's dad too at this point but still find him useful enough to keep him around.  So some mystery still exists as to whether the dad is the user or is being used.  Very Interesting!!!  (5/5)

Vol. 8 - Stunning!  This volume concentrates a lot on the intrigue and secret agencies doings, both Nerv and Seele.  We are finally really understanding what is going on, but it's way too complicated for me to try to detail.  That's why you have to read it yourself!  This volume is full of reveals and surprises.  Another death of a major character and another one tries to murder another!  Wow, that was unexpected.  The weird story of Shinji's mother has pretty much been revealed and a kidnapping took place.  No battles this volume but who needs one with all that action!  BTW, I just love Rei!  Her character is developing so much; she is my favourite by far.  A page-turning volume!  (5/5)

Vol. 9 - Well the fifth child joins the team as the next pilot and he comes from Seele.  He's not human and we learn more about what makes him tick, understanding Rei much better.  However, something is changing Rei as she is becoming more human.  Nobody likes Nagisa and neither will you when you see the first thing he does! Asuka's mysterious background is pretty much revealed in this volume so now we know where her heartache stems from.  Lots of battle scenes where the new guy proves himself to be a superior pilot but Asuka is dangerously injured by a psychological attack from an Angel.  The new kid appears to be the new bad guy and the volume ends with another one of our characters in serious danger!  Is anybody going to be left fit to fight?  Bring on vol. 10!  (5/5) 

Friday, July 26, 2013

229. Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1, Vol. 2 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1, Vol. 2 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vol. 4, 5, 6

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1997-2000; Mar. 2013, viz media, 576 pgs
Age: 16+

"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."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Vol. 4 - A new member is brought in to pilot Eva 3, Asuka from Germany. And wow, does she ever have a chip on her shoulder!  She comes in with major attitude, all bossy and mean.  She and Shinji fight an Angel and lose.  When it is discovered that the Angel works in harmony with itself when split in two Asuka and Shinji have to live together and learn to work in tandem in five days.  Needless to say this causes a lot of tension.  Along with Shinji came a man who was a former lover of Misato's and there is some character development there along with some storyline.  Great battle scene at the end.  Absolutely loving this series!! (5/5)

Vol. 5 - Oh man, this is getting so good!  Asuka moves in with Misato and Shinji, lots of fun comic stuff there.  More serious stuff in the relationships between Shinji and Ayanami and Shinji and his dad.  The plot thickens as we learn there is an enemy within Nerv itself and Mr. Kaji's secret is found out.  He then lets Misato and Shinji in on a creepy secret and tells Shinji some secrets about Nerv, his dad and his dead mother.  A great battle in the middle as some freaky giant eye thing attacks the city.  Story ends with a stunning visual.  Loving both the plot and the characters!  (5/5)

Vol. 6 - Wow, wow.  Totally emotional, intense volume.  The intrigue gets deeper with the corporation.  At this point it's looking like Shinji's dad is a bad guy.  He's appeared that way from the beginning, but he just keeps getting worse and worse!  There is something really weird we are going to find out about his mom too, I'm sure as he keeps remembering his past.  But wow this volume concentrates on the new 4th pilot and the battle is extremely intense, the whole storyline is unexpected and emotional.  I really can't believe this happened!  The best volume to date and worthy of a 6.  (5/5)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

119. Capote in Kansas by Ande Parks


Capote in Kansas by Ande Parks. Illustrated by Chris Samnee

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2005; reprint Jul. 24, 2013, Oni Press, 128 pgs
Age: 18+

"Murder. Not intricately plotted "whodunit." Not fiery passionate fury. But dirty, sad, disturbing actions from real people. That's what Truman Capote decided to use for In Cold Blood—his bold experiment in the realm of the non-fiction "novel." Following in that legacy is Capote in Kansas, a fictionalized tale of Capote's time in Middle America researching his classic book. Capote's struggles with the town, the betrayal, and his own troubled past make this book a compelling portrait of one of the greatest literary talents of the 20th century.
A new edition of the critically acclaimed graphic novel by Ande Parks (LoneRanger) and Chris Samnee (Daredevil)."

Received an egalley for review from the publisher through NetGalley.


I really enjoyed this true crime biography of Capote's experience of entering a small town and how he dealt with writing his classic book "In Cold Blood".  I have not read the book but have seen the movie and am familiar with the crime through tele-documentaries.  After reading this GN, though, the book is now one of my must reads.  Andre Parks doesn't try to retell "In Cold Blood" here but rather he examines what it must have been like for Capote as a writer to gather together the material for this book.  And not just any writer's experience but Capote himself, who couldn't have been more alien in this "hick" town.  The author takes liberties and fiction is mixed with fact and he presumes what Capote may have felt emotionally.  An interesting aspect is the use of magical realism to portray one of the victims, Nancy Culler, as Capote's confidant during his time in Holcomb, Kansas, thus minimizing Harper Lee's true role.  I'm fairly certain that my knowledge, limited though it was, of this case enhanced my enjoyment of the book.  You don't have to have read Capote's book, but I would recommend knowledge of it and the case before reading this GN though, as it is assumed going in you know what is happening.  This is another example where b/w art is essential to the telling of the story.  Great art and I think colour would not have been as effective.  Good read for true crime fans but the "ghost" element may not be appreciated by all.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

151. Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jul. 23. 2013, Candlewick Press, 240pgs
Age: 9+
"In the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, a visiting troupe of vaudeville performers is about the most exciting thing since baseball. They’re summering in nearby Bluffton, so Henry has a few months to ogle the elephant and the zebra, the tightrope walkers and -- lo and behold -- a slapstick actor his own age named Buster Keaton. The show folk say Buster is indestructible; his father throws him around as part of the act and the audience roars, while Buster never cracks a smile. Henry longs to learn to take a fall like Buster, "the human mop," but Buster just wants to play ball with Henry and his friends. With signature nostalgia, Scott O’Dell Award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan visualizes a bygone era with lustrous color, dynamic lines, and flawless dramatic pacing."
Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

I keep reading Phelan's books because they *sound* interesting and I like his art but have found the others just OK and didn't really expect to be reading him anymore, however the historical theme grabbed my attention once again and the Buster Keaton story pulled me right in this time.  I love reading about the era of the silent movies and ended up really enjoying this book.  The book is actually about Keaton's childhood in vaudeville before he became a movie star and is related through the eyes of a fictional character who spent his summers with him in a tiny town called Blufftown in Muskegon, Michigan where numerous famous vaudevillians of the time would come to relax for the summers.  We meet Buster as a kid from the ages about 12-14, though his paperwork had him as two years older to help get around child labour laws.  We learn what Buster was like, his interests and goals, he wanted to be an electrical engineer.  We see how he was an acrobat from toddlerhood and a natural comic playing his part he became famous for well before he hit the movies.  An enjoyable tale of childhood life in the early 1900s, the vaudeville experience and where Buster Keaton came from.  The book ends with a short essay from the author on both his interest in and the history of Keaton following the time frame of the book.  Personally, my favourite of Phelan's books to date.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

226. The Truth is Out There Vol. 1: Brendan & Erc in Exile by Amadeus

Brendan & Erc in Exile by Amadeus
The Truth is Out There, Volume 1

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

May 30, 2013, Catholic Answers, 119 pgs
Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur

Age: 14+

"A new way to bring the Catholic Faith to young people
Brendan and Erc are just your average interplanetary mailmen trying to find their way in the galaxy. But one day, while piloting cargo through the far reaches of space, they suddenly find themselves on a journey they didn’t expect: a journey to the truth.
A totally new kind of Catholic resource for apologetics and evangelization, The Truth Is Out There combines the visual excitement and quirky humor of graphic novels with solid popular philosophy and theology. The result is a book in which everyone from teens to adults can find accessible answers to questions about God, the soul, true happiness, and much more—and have fun doing it!
And because Brendan and Erc start their journey at the very beginning, readers don’t have to be Catholic—or possess any kind of faith—to appreciate the thoughtful ideas and arguments they’ll encounter. If you just have an open mind (and a sense of adventure) you will come away from these pages with a clearer sense of life’s purpose, and a better understanding of the reasons for believing in God, Jesus, and the Church. And if you’re already a believer, The Truth Is Out There will deepen your knowledge of the Faith and sharpen your skills at defending it."

Received a review copy from the publisher.

Honestly, I don't know where to begin.  This was truly way more than I had expected!  I think it is interesting to note that this is written & illustrated by a contemplative Monk using a "pen name" and from the whole tone of the book I would guess that he is a relatively young man.  So let's start on the basic entertainment level.  The artwork is fantastic!  Done in a manga style with exaggerated facial expressions and the occasional chibi, mostly in black & white but with several full colour sequences which are outstanding.  Extremely humorous which brought a smile to my face frequently, especially in the portrayal of the skeptic party-loving Erc.  The book has a good story and plot as a framework.  Set in space these two friends are interplanetary mail carriers who eventually are thrown into prison when they are framed for transporting illegal drugs.  Brendan and Erc are amazing characters!  They have two very distinct and different personalities and they look very different from each other but they are friends and equals conversing intelligently with each other while maintaining completely opposite philosophies of life.  And this is where the meat and purpose of the book comes into play.

Inside this original graphic novel is an amazingly intense and deep theological discussion suitable for teens and new adults.  Brendan is a questioning fellow and starts the age old conversation of why we are here?  what is the meaning of life?  They meet a few people along the way who explain about reason, the soul and eventually God.  I was literally blown away with the depth and rationality of these discussions of the Christian faith from a Catholic perspective.  Each discussion would include the one explaining with the answers being challenged with hard, serious, skeptical questions.  One progresses through the book examining why we are here, what is a soul, is there life after death, who is God, what is a Christian, why should one become a Christian, what need is there for Church and why choose Catholicism.  Truly, truly brilliant discussion!

As for age level, I think that for young teens the material will be somewhat heavy and deep.  However, there is a study guide available and if lead in a group setting this would be more ideal.  Older teens and adults will themselves find the material challenging.  Highly recommended for group study, youth groups, Catholic classroom, RCIA classes and homeschool.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

224. Persia Blues Vol. 1: Leaving Home by Dara Naraghi

Persia Blues Vol. 1: Leaving Home by Dara Naraghi. Art by Brentbowman
Persia Blues, Vol. 1

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jul. 1, 2013, NBM Comics Lit, 128 pgs

Age: 14+

"Minoo Shirazi is a rebellious young Iranian woman, struggling to define herself amidst the strict social conventions of an oppressive regime, and the differing wishes of an overbearing father, in between life in Iran and life in Midwestern America. Minoo Shirazi is also a free-spirited adventurer in a fantasy world, a place where aspects of modern America and ancient Persia meld into a unique landscape. And yet, neither of these women are the true Minoo Shirazi.
At the intersection of guilt and freedom, family and self, ancient myths and modern enigmas, lies...Persia Blues."

Received a pdf from the publisher.

An historical epic that alternates between the Persian Empire and modern day Iran.  Interestingly, the story takes place "here" in Persia and "there" in Iran.  This is an unusual set up for a book that takes place in the past and present and intrigues me with where it will go in future volumes.  Both stories are separate and feature brave women, one a warrior; the other stands up for her rights as a woman in a country where she could be jailed by the "morality police".  The women have the same first name and while the stories don't connect, there are some tiny hints plus some foreshadowing that the two worlds/women will eventually meet or connect.  I like both plot lines equally, at first I thought i was more keen on the Persian storyline, but over time became just as interested in the characters in the Iran plot.  Again foreshadowing is used here to let us know there is much tragedy we don't know yet about this family.  What can I say, loved the art, though the cover is not representative!  A nice presentation using shaded b/w art for the Persia scenes and simply b/w drawings for the modern Iran scenes.  In Minoo from Iran's story, a lot of background detail has been given and lead up to a point of a major life change.  I especially enjoy her character and would certainly continue to read this proposed trilogy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

217-218. Toon Books: Barry's Best Buddy & Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas!

217. Barry's Best Buddy by Renee French.
Toon Books, Level 1

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Mar 12, 2013, Toon Books, 32 pgs

Age: 4+

"When Barry the bird and his goofy pal Polarhog start off, there’s a new adventure around every bend. But when they turn the final corner, the surprise Polarhog has prepared brings a tear to Barry’s eye–and yours."

Received a pdf from the publisher.

It's no secret that I absolutely adore most of the Toon Books and this one is no exception.  The art is to-die for and oh so cute, but just a teensy bit creepy.  I just love the crotchety, but cute bird Barry.  His friend Polarhog takes him on a silly, annoying walk but a second story is going along across the bottom of the page as we watch ants busy at work doing something.  A clever reader may guess what surprise is in store for Barry at the end but all will be moved by the simple show of friendship even grumpy friends can inspire.



218. Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas! by Philippe Coudray.
Toon Books, Level 2

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Mar 12, 2013, Toon Books, 32 pgs

Age: 4+

"Knitting a sheep a sweater? Visiting a fish’s underwater house? Soaring down a staircase on a square-wheeled bicycle? These could only be the predicaments of beloved character Benjamin Bear!
Our favorite fuzzy friend returns with a whole new set of problems to solve—but when it comes to Benjamin Bear, the solutions may cause just as much trouble. Award-winning artist Philippe Coudray brings us another collection of one-page gags that kids will love to puzzle out."

Received a pdf from the publisher.

Adorable French style drawings are so appealing they make you want to read this cute little book.  Each page is a single comic incident involving Benjamin Bear and his sidekick bunny.  They play games and explore their world together, nothing big and meaningful happens yet each page simply shows how two friends have fun and what you can discover in this big old world.  Pretty much every one of the pages gave me a chuckle, kids will certainly get a kick out of Benjamin.  I just wish there had been some story instead of all just one page gags.  Otherwise a delight.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

211. Bleach 3-in-1, Vol. 1 by Tite Kubo

Bleach 3-in-1, Vol. 1 by Tite Kubo
Bleach, Vol. 1, 2, 3

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

original: 2001
omnibus: Jun. 2011, viz media, 569 pgs

Age: 13+

"Contains volumes 1, 2 and 3 of Bleach!
Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn't change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family; but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits, and along with Rukia--who is slowly regaining her powers--it's Ichigo's job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.The paranormal action-adventure begins now!"

Purchased a new copy from a local chain bookstore.

Vol. 1: Death & Strawberry - Fantastic beginning volume to a very long running series which is currently publishing in the 50's and still going!  This has a bit of everything: humour, battles, monsters, paranormal, romance, etc.  Things start off with two main characters and only a few supporting ones allowing the reader to get to know the characters without being bombarded with too much as often happens in volume one of manga series.  It felt like everyone was shouting at each other all the time making Ichigo, ie "Strawberry", a little hard to get used to but by the end of the first volume he had softened up to the changes in his life and I've taken a liking to both him and the female Rukia.  A teensy bit on the violent side, ordinary teen s*xual innuendo making the T 13+ rating spot on.  Ends with an exciting cliffhanger and an overall brilliant first volume that has me excited about reading this series. (5/5)

Vol. 2: Goodbye Parakeet, Good Night My Sista - I am completely hooked!  This volume continues on introducing us to the characters while getting on with the plot and keeping the soul reapers busy with "cases".  I love this aspect of the story, feeling that whenever a new Hollow comes along for the reapers to send home, it should be possible to keep this story fresh for a long time.  The first half of the book focuses on Rukia and Chad.  I've fallen in love with Chad and sincerely hope he will become a major player and not just a secondary character as he seems now.  The second half gets back to the interplay between Ichigo and Rukia as they take on another couple of cases, one involving a strange cloned soul of Ichigo and a new character is introduced, who appears to be a merchant store owner for all the soul reapers' needs.  On first sight I took a dislike to him but we are shown both sides of a character I can't commit to saying whether he is going to be a help or hindrance to our friends.  Content continues to be definitely high on the s*xual innuendo side; still what I would call mild though with some of it going over the heads of readers who are more innocent than others who will get the "in' jokes right away.  Not a cliffhanger ending this time but one that makes us wonder, and eager for the next volume. (5/5)

Vol. 3: Memories in the Rain - Wow!  First of all concentrates on the background story of how Ichigo's mother died then that sets the story for the last part which is all battle against this bad dude by name of Grand Fisher.  At the end both sides vow vengeance against the other leaving us crazy to read the next volume. The character Kon is explored as an aside in this volume as well and he is a lot of fun; I'm going to enjoy him!  (5/5)

Friday, July 12, 2013

208 . Power Up by Doug TenNapel

 Power Up by Doug TenNapel

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2009, Image Comics, 127 pgs

Age: 16+

"The comedic story of Hugh Randolph, a family man down on his luck. He works as a mindless drone at a local printer until he discovers a mysterious video game console that gives him the power to produce endless riches, manipulate his work day, and even cheat death!"

This is a pure fun story from TenNapel that I can't help wondering if it contains a bit of biographical detail on how he got started with his "Earthworm Jim" character.  This stories features a game designer working on an "Earth Dog Jim" character.  Power Up contains all the usual elements of TenNapel's work but on a much lighter note; the strained father/son relationship is here, there is a Christian theme present thought it is below the surface and not as upfront and powerful as in other books of his I've read so far and the theme though light-hearted has a dark side.  Given the chance to use video game "power ups" in real life, this man becomes frivolous; he does make some good decisions but eventually more and more bad decisions lead to him facing the "boss" in real life and using the bomb power-up for real.  Thank goodness for extra lives and the"save from here" flag saves the day.  Doug's character mentions "Paradise" and "as close as we get to (it) on this side of death."  Makes one realize the frailness of life and how lucky it would be to get a "do-over", but since we don't we need to take the moments that we are given as they come to us and not waste our lives waiting for the right time for everything.  The story's video game angle will appeal to kids/teens but I think the story is better appreciated by adults as it is about a married man in a go-nowhere job and I don't think teens will relate to the adult characters and their adult worries.  This is the first book of Doug's I've read in black & white and I was a bit worried as his colour art is so bold, but I was delighted with how much one pays attention to his character's facial expressions in this media.  The faces stand out on every page.  I love this man's art and his capacity for storytelling.  This is not my favourite by the author but it's not my least either.  Fun!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

206 . Thieves & Kings: Apprentices, Part One by Mark Oakley.

Apprentices, Part One by Mark Oakley.
Thieves & Kings, Book 6

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (available from publisher below)

2008, I Box Publishing, 104 pgs

Age: 14+

"And then one day, she remembered. . . Leahanna had always been the most loyal and adoring of servants, her soul bonded throughout time to one half of the black sword pair wielded by the fearsome Shadow Lady. With this life she had been content. -Until the day the Black Swords were broken, her soul was cast free, and Leahanna found herself lost and confused. . . And very unhappy."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Sigh.... It's over... I just loved this volume.  The women (girls) have become so deep and each is now well on the way to finding their true self.  Each has a hard task ahead of them to realise the full potential they have inside themselves and it's not self-evident that all of them will achieve their best end.  Though at this point in the story each seems to be at grips with themselves.  Leahanna has an awesome anger episode throughout this volume which is one of the specific plot lines and parallels Kim's from Vol. 5.  A short book compared to the previous volumes and one that signifies a turning point in the plot now that Soracia is on a new track.  This book is called part one and the author's end note says to watch out for part two, but unfortunately that was in 2008 and in the meantime Oakley has published books from a new series.  I knew this when I started this volume so was prepared for the unfinished ending, yet it still stings to leave these fantastic, rich, characters hanging in infinity.  That's why I have to give this volume 4 stars instead of the 5 it deserves; because it has no ending.  There were also a few typos which had been hand-corrected which was startling since everything else about this series has been so professional.  Fans of the series must finish with this last book, even though you know that you're going to end on a high plot note feeling let down that there is no more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

203 . The Adventures of Blanche by Rick Geary


The Adventures of Blanche by Rick Geary.

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1992, 1993, 2001
2009, Dark Horse Books, 103 pgs

Age: 14+

"Iconoclastic cartoonist Rick Geary chronicles the extraordinary adventures of an equally extraordinary woman of the early twentieth century in The Adventures of Blanche!
Blanche begins her journey with a refined piano professor in New York, but soon finds herself entangled with a brazen portrait painter, subterranean societies, and shocking secrets behind the New York subway system. From there, she's off to Hollywood, where her stirring talents bring to light the labor movement's struggles with the motion-picture studios. Then, in Paris, after a pleasant ocean voyage, Blanche arrives to find a canceled concert tour, a murder, and mysterious old memories."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

A compilation of three previously published short works, perhaps in comic format, though it is not made clear.  What a fun book and I'd love to see Blanche back in action. especially to see a conclusion to her story.  I had no idea what I was reading as my copy has the front flap giving a bio of Rick Geary and the back flap a list of his true crime series, while the back gives little summary of Blanche going on historical adventures in New York, Hollywood and Paris.  So it was with great excitement I read the first story finding out (supposedly?) that these stories are based on adventures of the author's grandmother and then with greater excitement I realized these stories were not all on the up and up.  Blanche's adventures are beyond the scope of reality, meeting up with the mythical, derring-do intrigue and mad scientists.  These three short stories were wonderful fun written in an historical "true" format similar to Geary's Murder Series.  As an ardent fan of Rick Geary, the artwork is just wonderful and as expected.  Though, I think I'll always love Rick the best when he is writing non-fiction, it is wonderful to see he has the imagination and can carry fiction just as successfully.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

202 . Graphic Classics: Mark Twain edited by Tom Pomplun.

Mark Twain edited by Tom Pomplun.
Graphic Classics: Volume 8 (2nd Ed.)

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2007, Eureka Productions, 144 pgs

Age: 12+

"Featuring an all-new comics adaptation:
• Tom Sawyer Abroad — Mark Twain's sequel to“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”in a first-time-ever graphic novel adaptation illustrated by George Sellas
And returning from the first edition:
• The Mysterious Stranger - a celestial visitor befriends threeyoung friends in an adaptation by Rick Geary
• The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut -Mark Twain confronts his conscience in comics byAntonella Caputo and Nick Miller
• Is He Living or Is He Dead?-a tale of artistic capitalism adapted by Simon Gane
• A Dog's Tale - an allegory stylishly adapted by Lance Tooks
• The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County -Twain's famous fable, in comics by Kevin Atkinson
• A Curious Pleasure Excursion -a science fiction travelogue by William L. Brown
• Plus Mark Twain's Advice for Little Girls"

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

An interesting selection of stories by Twain which show his wide variety of writing styles; I only wish something from his travel writing was represented here to polish it off.  "Advice to Little Girls" is a satirical, pastiche which is found a verse at a time throughout the volume advising young girls on the best way to get rid of younger brothers, make mum think she's being paid attention to and not to smoke, drink or marry in excess, etc.  There is another satirical poem about promoting a grand tour excursion on the tail of a comet as it comes by just as if it were an ordinary train ride.  The Celebrated Jumping Frog is classic Twain as is Tom Sawyer Abroad though it strays off into the fantastical in the vein of A Connecticut Youth in King Arthur's Court.  It certainly does not contain the charm or seriousness of the original Tom or Huck.  The other stories I'm afraid rather brought me down and made me realize what an unhappy man Twain must have been.  His work here is called cynical but I must add bitter as that is all I felt from it.  I knew Twain was atheist but these stories : A Dog's Tale, The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut and most pernicious of all "The Mysterious Stranger" show a very bitter, merciless, vitriolic man behind the pen.  A man with these qualities and such a clever, cunning wit is not someone I would have liked to meet in person, that's for sure!  A Dog's Tale got to me, if it really was about a dog and scientific experiments on animals, or was it a thinly disguised satire on the owners of black slaves as the artist pointed out and took even further to racial discord in the 60s, the Jewish Holocaust and the H-bomb.  Was Mark Twain making an early "Love not War" statement?  I truly enjoyed Is he living or is he dead as we finally had a story with a happy ending even though fraud had to bring it about, as some Robin Hood type of thinking was adhered to.  I'm not in love with Twain's outlook on life, in fact I hate it, but this comic is well illustrated and well put together.  My heart soared to see Rick Geary back for the diabolical Mysterious Stranger and Lance Tooks' rendition of a Dog's Tale was gut-wrenching.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

198 . Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - only available new from the publisher.

2005; 2012, Bolt City Productions, 192 pgs

Age: 16+

"Goodreads Summary: Daisy Kutter is a retired bank robber and legendary gunfighter who has decided to open a dry goods store in the small town of Middleton. The sheriff, her ex-boyfriend Tom McKay, tries to recruit her to join him on the other side of the law, but she isn't quite ready to move on.
When Daisy loses everything she owns in a high-stakes poker tournament, she is offered a job from the stranger who cleans her out at the table. He wants to hire her to rob his train. What's the catch? He believes his vaunted robotic security system will stop Daisy in her tracks, and he wants to prove it. If she succeeds in robbing the train, she can keep the gold and have her life back.. "

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

I am up to date with Kibuishi's Amulet series, read Copper and am not interested in any of his anthology series after trying one, so I checked to see if he had written any other stand-alone stories and was surprised to find this, his very first published collection.  This is a bind-up of the 4-issue series plus a short story "Phantoms" which takes place after the main novel.  This is fantastic and by far my favourite work by the author.  The art is wonderful, of course, done in a steely grey and white, with tones reaching up to black, the colour scheme fits the western steampunk alternate Old West reality perfectly.  The story combines a western love story, with a good ole train robbery and a steampunk robot reality with a western themed man vs machine showdown at the end.  Brilliant pacing and a spunky story with a tragic, yet bittersweet ending.  Bonus story "Phantoms" is a fun one and follows a gallery of the full colour comic covers.  Truly loved this and would like to see Kibuishi get off the anthology business and write more standalones.  He has a vivid and creative imagination.  One word of note about age appropriateness.  The library I received this from has it shelved with their children's collection and I most certainly found it a YA title,  not for juveniles at all.  There are no child characters, Daisy may look young on the cover but she has been in an affair for years and is of marriageable age.  Talk of "hookers" and swear words such as "bastard" and "prick" abound.  I believe the book is recommended for Young Adults by the publisher as well.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

196 . Tiger & Bunny Vol. 1 Art by Mizuki Sakakibara.

Tiger & Bunny 1 Art by Mizuki Sakakibara. Script by Masafumi Nishida
Tiger & Bunny, Vol. 1

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 9, 2013, viz media, 168 pgs

Age: 13+


"The official manga tie-in to the international smash-hit animated series! 
Superpowered humans known as NEXT appeared in the world 45 years ago. Some of them fight crime in the city of Stern Bild while promoting their corporate sponsors on the hit show “HERO TV.” The people love their superheroes, even if they don’t completely understand them, and not all of the NEXT use their powers for good.
Veteran hero Wild Tiger has years of experience fighting crime, but his ratings have been slipping. Under orders from his new employer, Wild Tiger finds himself forced to team up with Barnaby Brooks Jr., a rookie with an attitude. Overcoming their differences will be at least as difficult for this mismatched duo as taking down superpowered bad guys!"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

This is quite different from what I usually read and is based on a hit anime series.  However, the summary caught my attention, had me intrigued and I am so glad I gave this one a try because I absolutely loved it.  It is hilarious and was great fun to read.  I already love both Tiger and Bunny while at the same time thinking they are both quite arrogant, which only serves to make their bantering even more funny.  The other super-heroes are also a lot of fun and I hope the series will spend time focusing on them as well as the two main characters.  At this point I am quite interested in Rock Bison.  While this is a funny comedy, it also is a superhero series with plenty of battles already in the first volume alone.  Sometimes it can take more than the first volume in a manga series to decide if it is going to be for you but as I finished this one, I immediately looked up when Volume 2 would be released and went {squee!} to find out its release date is early July (2013).  The only reason I could find for the 13+ rating was for very mild s*xual innuendo and I'd personally have no problem recommending to ages 10+ (at least for this volume, we'll have to see where it goes).

Monday, July 1, 2013

195 . Library Wars: Love & War 9 by Kiiro Yumi

Library Wars: Love & War 9 by Kiiro Yumi
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Apr. 2, 2013, viz media, 192 pgs

Age: 16+

"There’s a groper in the library and Library Force members Iku and Shibazaki are sent in as bait! Iku’s undercover outfit makes her vulnerable…will she be able to defend herself if the pervert targets her? Later, Library Force members are required to take a test that involves reading stories to a group of rambunctious schoolkids. Coming from a big, unruly family, Iku definitely has the upper hand!"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

.This series is so lovely but it annoys me that it is only published about twice a year.  Last volume was spectacular and volume 9 follows suit. The book starts off by quickly wrapping up the "groper" problem left hanging at the end of V8 then takes on a new direction.  Kasahara comes to a conclusion about her life which sets her relation with Dojo on a new grounding.  This is cute and explored throughout.  This book also gets back into some much needed story plot that does not revolve around the budding romance.  All our rookies are preparing to take the testing to move up in rank to Corporal and by the book's end a whole new case is in action when the Media Betterment Agency wants to censor a magazine article about an actor-idol when he uses the forbidden word "barber".  I'm glad we've got a plot going again because even though the romance makes me sigh, it is the futuristic censorship setting that first interested me in this series and I love when some action is going on.  As usual finishing this book left me feeling a big sigh of love for all the characters and one of dismay that while volume 10 is coming out in Aug of this year (2013), the next volume hasn't been given a release date yet making me think we'll again only get two volumes this year.  Love, love, love these characters!  They have developed so much since we first met them waaaay back in V1.