Friday, August 30, 2013

275. A Distant Soil: The Gathering by Colleen Doran.

A Distant Soil: The Gathering by Colleen Doran. Introduction by Neil Gaiman.
A Distant Soil, #1

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1987, Aug 20, 2013, Image Comics, 240 pgs

Age: 16+

"The first new edition of the A Distant Soil series since 1987: 240-pages of story and art completely restored and remastered with new cover art and all new interior design. A teen brother and sister, Jason and Liana, are confined to a mental hospital where they are the subject of secret government experiments. They escape their prison only to be pursued by supernatural forces, strange alien people, and creatures with unique powers. Separated and kidnapped by two different factions of warring worlds, they learn they are the children of a race of powerful and ageless psychic beings. The brother and sister are then used by both factions of these alien forces to unknowingly battle against one another. Combining the sci-fi space opera of Star Wars, the grand romance of Twilight, and the visual opulence of Final Fantasy, the A Distant Soil saga finds Liana forced to ascend to the throne of the alien world. Her unique power makes her a living weapon of mass destruction, the first line of defense for the corrupt alien government."

Received a review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

This is a restored and remastered definitive edition of this classic graphic novel.  Self-published in 1987 and re-issued by Image Comics in 1997; this new edition even has a digitized font made up from Duran's hand lettering in the original editions.  This is my first time reading the book so I'm unable to compare the editions but will give my opinion on the story itself.  Colleen first started this comic when she was a teenager herself and part of its charm comes from that because an accomplished writer would just never put so many different elements together in one book expecting it to work.  But work it does, in a big way!  At first I was a little stunned with everything that was going on; it's so out there!  but then I just got sucked in and kept turning the pages.  There are a lot of characters introduced in this first book which can often be a problem but each one looks different and has such a distinct character that I took them all in very easily and always knew who was who.  This is major space opera, something I haven't read in a very long time, and is definitely a product of its time; however, I found it extremely addictive and the art is stunningly beautiful.  One thing about the art that did jar me though was just how eighties it was; you can't get around the fact you are reading something written/drawn a long time ago.  A lot of men look like they belong in the group Platinum Blonde.  The women are either Madonna clones or preppy with short-short hair cuts.  The Japanese manga art of making the men look like girls is employed on a few of the alien men and especially the main character who jarringly looks like a beautiful woman except when his shirt is undone.  He creeps me out actually.  It's the eighties look that stopped me from enjoying this a full 5 stars; the plot really grabbed me but just not enough to get past its dated look, earth-side.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

2 Level 1 TOON BOOKS: Frank Viva & Claude Ponti

270. A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank Viva (CDN)
Toon Books (Level 1)

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep 25, 2012, Toon Books, 32 pgs

Age: 4+

"There’s so much to see at the bottom of the world! Join a young explorer and his best friend, Mouse, on a sea journey to Antarctica, where they make new friends with penguins and a whale – and have all kinds of fun"

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

This is a unique variation on the "Can we go home now?" theme.  Mouse and his owner (perhaps) which I can't tell if it is a boy or man, but it doesn't matter, are on a small steam ship voyage to the Antarctic.  Mouse is constantly asking the proverbial question while the "boy" engages his attention with what they are experiencing and activating his imagination until finally at last it is time to go home then the question turns into "Are we there yet?".  Cute story and I find the simple stylized illustrations of Canadian artist Frank Viva quite compelling. I'm tempted to check out his other couple of picture books to appreciate his style better.

271. Chick & Chickie Play All Day by Claude Ponti
Toon Books (Level 1)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Feb 14, 2012, Toon Books, 36 pgs

Age: 4+

"Chick and Chickie love to play in their very own way, whether scaring each other silly or tickling the letter A. As young readers eagerly turn the pages of the story, they'll look forward to spotting all the witty side jokes and hilarious details. "

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Chick & Chickie tickled my funny bone.  I have to admit that I laughed out loud at the opening sequence of the two playing masks and scaring the living daylights out of each other.  Next they decide to play with the letter "A' ; they have a ton of fun with him and his response is always "Ahhh".  Very cute and humorous! The art is cute and cartoonish; my only regret is when they scared the letter "A" that they didn't bring back the masks tying the two sections together.  Really a silly story that is sure to delight young children.  It ends with the suggestion of playing with the letter "B" tomorrow and thus opening up a whole alphabetical series!

Friday, August 23, 2013

268. Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair by Len Wein

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair by Len Wein. Art by Jae Lee & John Higgins
Watchmen: Before Watchmen

Rating: (3.5/5)

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

Jul 2, 2013, DC Comics, 256 pgs

Age: 16+

"Writer Len Wein and artist Jae Lee delve into the mind of the smartest man in the world: Ozymandias. How does one grow up to become the world’s smartest man? Adrian Veidt begins his journey, both spiritual and physical, that will one day make him one of the most pivotal players in the world changing events of WATCHMEN.
This volume collects BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS #1-6, “Curse of the Crimson Corsair,” and BEFORE WATCHMEN: DOLLAR BILL #1."

Received a review copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.

The Ozymandias story really didn't turn my crank as I don't like the character and this did nothing to make me enjoy disliking him, as with some villains.  The story however is very dark and gives some good insight into the background of the character from his boyhood onwards and how he became a self-made billionaire, his self-imposed God complex and his desire to save the world from itself, but also himself first and foremost.  Lots of cross-over with the other characters who've been spotlighted especially Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian.  I found the art more modern, rather than having the eighties feel of the other volumes I've read, which didn't stop me from enjoying it though.  Next up is the Curse of the Crimson Corsair which upon first view one knows something is entirely different about this story.  It can be read online for free at the publisher's website.  I had no clue why a ghostly pirate story that had nothing to do with the Watchmen was included here until I realized this was an homage to the "Tales of the Black Freighter" story which ran inside the Watchmen as a story within a story.  A totally unrelated story but a completely satisfying pirate ghost ship cum Davy Jones' Locker tale.  Even if the ending was a bit rushed.  And finally stuck onto the end is a one-shot background story of Dollar Bill.  He's a very minor character and I was pleasantly surprised to really enjoy this tale of his background and sad demise.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

264. Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan by J. Michael Straczynski

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan by J. Michael Straczynski . Art by Adam Hughes, Andy Kubert & Joe Kubert
Watchmen: Before Watchmen

Rating: (4/5)

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

Jul 16 2013, DC Comics, 288 pgs

Age: 16+

"Writer J. Michael Straczynski is joined by artist Andy Kubert in flight with the gadget-savvy hero known as Nite Owl, as Dan Dreiberg inherits the role from Hollis Mason…but can Dreiberg work with the vigilante called Rorschach?
Then, JMS teams with fan-favorite artist Adam Hughes for a tale of Dr. Manhattan. For Dr. Manhattan, past, present, and future are one and the same. But as he observes the events of his life, do they remain the same?

Received a review copy from DC Comics through Edelweiss.

I like Straczynski, he wrote the Spider-man series I like, so I was particularly looking forward to this volume.  The first half is about the origins of the new Nite Owl who takes over from the previous Nite Owl of the Minutemen.  I really enjoyed this story, not only was it an origin story but it was a full-fledged case as well, which was entirely absorbing.  Even though this is Nite Owl's book, Rorschach is given equal time as the beginning of their partnership is explored.  Rorschach is one of my favourite characters so I enjoyed this aspect.  The Dr. Manhattan story was not quite as good as it was very deep into the ramifications of time and how M. makes a change which signifies the end of the world.  The story got better at this point for me as it became more action oriented as he, with the aid of Ozymandias, set out to fix this huge split on the time line.  The book ends with a short but very intense background on Moloch which continues to also add to the character of Ozymandias.  This was probably my favourite part of the whole book!  I haven't read all of the B4 Watchmen yet but so far this is my favourite and I'm predicting will end up being so, as well.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

262. Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke. Art by Darwyn Cook and Amanda Conner
Watchmen: Before Watchmen

Rating: (3.5/5)

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

July 2 2013, DC Comics, 288 pgs

Age: 16+

"Darwyn Cooke tells the tragic tale of the Minutemen, assembled to fight against evil in a world spinning out of control. Can these heroes from completely different backgrounds and with completely different attitudes on crime come together? Or will they fall apart before they begin?

Then, Cooke and Amanda Conner take an look at the Silk Spectre’s early years with her overbearing, Super Hero mother, chronicling her journey down the winding path toward becoming her own kind of hero.


Received a review copy from DC Comics through Edelweiss.

I read Watchmen a few years back and really enjoyed it so was looking forward to reading these new additions to the canon. Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm a fan of the original book, but never did see the movie and am not on the level of a groupie, just a one-time reader.  These Before Watchmen books don't seem to be numbered so I stated with this one because it featured the Minutemen who were the precursors to the Watchmen.  The book contains the two stories.  First I just loved the 80s style art, both by Cooke and Conner.  The Minutemen story was told in a flashback as the group had disbanded and Night Owl had written a tell-all book and was going around seeking approval from the former members, though receiving nothing but protestations to not publish the book.  Through this we flashback to the forties and the whole story of the Minutemen.  I wasn't particularly thrilled with the plot.  I didn't like the book angle, it made Night Owl an unsympathetic character; I had no interest in the gay plots nor the revenge themes.  It was interesting to get a background story on these guys but I certainly wouldn't be interested in any more stories about this team as they are not likable as a group at all.  Silk Spectre is the daughter of one of the original Minutemen members and we get the story of her growing up until eventually she joins the newly formed Watchmen.  I enjoyed this half much better.  It was a much more entertaining story but I found her mother's character, Sally Jupiter, harder to like than in the Minutemen.  Otherwise the angsty story of a teenager rebelling against her mother's training of her to take her place as a masked hero and her eventual realization that she is cut out to be in this line of work n spite of her mother was good and made me more interested in Silk.

Monday, August 19, 2013

259. Children of the Sea Vol. 5 by Daisuke Igarashi

259. Children of the Sea Vol. 5 by Daisuke Igarashi
Children of the Sea, 5 (final)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jun 18 2013, viz media, 336 pgs

Age: 16+

"After following Umi deep into the ocean, Ruka finds herself in an undersea cave where she hears a voice calling to her. She soon realizes it is the meteorite in her stomach, telling her the next step in her journey. The FINAL VOLUME of this majestic tale."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Finally the conclusion to the "Children of the Sea".  Having waited three years between publication of volumes 4 and 5, I decided to re-read the first four before diving into this one and I am so glad that I did.  This manga is classified as seinen, aimed at an under 40's male audience and contains a very deep metaphysical, existential plot that I think the author allows the reader to put their own meaning and deeper understanding into.  I found this last volume absolutely fascinating and rewarding.  I'm not going to say anything that happens so this may all sound mysterious to those who don't know what I'm talking about.  The story ends as it begins with the woman on the boat talking to the boy and I'm not going to say who they are but this is important to remember from book one.  I had talked about the importance of birth in the last volume and hoped this one would culminate in that theme and boy does it ever!  The ocean is compared to the womb and I found the whole story when given this ending to be incredibly pro-life!  I'd like to re-read the whole thing again in a few years with that theme in mind as I read.  This volume contains a lot, and I do mean a lot, of wordless panels so we get to experience the full glory of Igarashi's intricate, awesome artwork of marine life.  Nothing is spelled out for you in this series though, so it isn't gong to be to everyones tastes.  But it sure is to mine and this series will stay on my shelves permanently.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

255-258. Children of the Sea Vol. 1-4 by Daisuke Igarashi

It has been three years since the publication of volume 4 of this series and volume 5 has finally come out this year.  So before reading volume five, I decided to go back and re-read the series from the beginning to better appreciate the ending.  I loved this series when originally reading it and was very disappointed when the final volume never made an appearance, so needless to say I'm very excited to read the final fifth volume.  Upon re-reading these volumes, Ill say I enjoyed the series even more and this is a keeper for my shelves.

255. Children of the Sea Vol. 1 by Daisuke Igarashi
My original review can be found here where I rated the book 5/5.  Upon my second reading of this book, I am a much more experienced manga reader than I was back in 2009.  My initial observations this time around are the exquisite beauty of the detailed drawings, especially the backgrounds and the full two-page spreads.  Gorgeous!  A magnificent book.  Still very unique and unlike much else I've read.  This is seinen, aimed at young male adults, 18-30/40.  The book is plot and character driven, mature and does deserve the 16+ rating simply based on interest rather than there being anything inappropriate for youngers.  An intriguing mystical experience.  One observation I made this time around is that the book starts with a woman on a boat talking to a young boy telling him about a story of the sea when she was a young girl.  This I missed the first time around.  Now I will be paying attention, is this book the story that a grown-up Ruki is telling the boy?  Upon re-read I still give a rating of 5/5

256. Children of the Sea Vol. 2 by Daisuke Igarashi
My original review (found here) is very detailed on my impressions of this volume and I won't repeat them. I rated it a (4.5/5) For this re-read I am again just astounded with Igarashi's stunning art.  His representation of marine life is captivating.  The story becomes very mystical at this point.  The boys themselves and Jim refer to them as not human, something I think I missed in the first read and this is an important plot-point.  Also much is made of Ruka's similarities with Umi and Sora.  I still don't like the way Anglade is drawn.  I really hate it when they draw a beautiful girl with long flowing hair, gorgeous big eyes with long upturned eyelashes and then eventually tell you it's a him.  Gag! The story is becoming very mystical with connections between both myths and science at this point and the ending is shocking and tragic.  I'd be willing to change my rating to a full 5/5 at this point.  Anglade's looks don't affect the story, just my sensibilities LOL.

257. Children of the Sea Vol. 3 by Daisuke Igarashi
My original review pretty much says it all about this volume.  Only I've been able to follow the story better this time around and have managed to see where the plot is going with the Ruka angle, which has been hinted at from the beginning.  Fascinating story, one more volume left to re-read! and I agree with my original rating of 4/5.

258. Children of the Sea Vol. 4 by Daisuke Igarashi
My original review for this volume gave a rating of 3/5 but I would certainly raise that up to 4/5 this time.  It makes a lot more sense reading the books back to back than it did originally waiting 7 months between reads!  My original review pretty much covers everything except I am not confused as I was then; I actually am piecing things together; absolutely love the life/birth references and am hoping the finale will bring that all together with a birth.

Come back Monday for the long awaited final fifth volume!!!!!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

251. Dragonball 3-in-1 (1-2-3) by Akira Toriyama

Dragonball 3-in-1 (1-2-3) by Akira Toriyama
Dragonball (Vol. 1,2,3)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1984; Jun 4, 2013, vizmedia, 576 pgs

Age: 13+

"Legend has it that if all seven of the precious orbs called “Dragon Balls” are gathered together, an incredibly powerful dragon god will appear to grant one wish. Unfortunately, the orbs are scattered across the world, making them extremely difficult to collect. Enter 16-year-old Bulma, a scientific genius who has constructed a radar to detect the exact locations of the Dragon Balls. She’s on a mission to find all seven orbs, but first she must convince young Son Goku to join her on her quest. With a monkey tail, superhuman strength and a magic staff for a weapon, Son Goku is ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime…"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Vol. 1: The Monkey King (1985) - I know absolutely nothing about Dragonball going into this.  Since I read so much manga now I thought it would be good to introduce myself to some old school popular series and decided to give this a shot.  I found this first volume absolutely hilarious and such a fun, compelling story with so much happening.  Goku is so cute and naive that I loved him right away and the shots of him without his pants on are a riot because he looks like a toddler, even though he is 14 but soo unworldly.  The interaction between him and Bulma is also a riot as he learns the difference between boys and girls.  Lots of sexual innuendo but of the pre-adolescent variety that is was all just silly fun.  The plot was also fun with all 5 main characters being introduced in this volume and them finding 5 (I think) of the 7 dragonballs.  I had no idea what the plot was going to be going into this and was quite amused to get almost a whole quest just from this first volume.  I have to say I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did and am eager to read Vol. 2!  (5/5)

Vol. 2: Wish Upon a Dragon (1986) - Just what I had hoped for, more of the same.  Lots of action, plenty of plot and characters.  A few new ones are added who seem to be the type we'll see again in the future.  The final dragonballs are found ending our first quest.  However that doesn't mean all goes quite as planned leaving only one person pleased when all is said and done.  Now they must wait a year for the dragonballs to be ready again so they can search them out and everyone has their own ideas and plans for what they will do.  As for Goku, he is off to find The Invincible Old Master to finally start his promised training but he has to bring a treat for the old "pervert".  Just as laugh out loud funny and I really enjoy all the main characters but especially Goku and Bulma.  The monsters battled to date have all turned out to be quite interesting themselves as well. One more volume to go in this fun collection.  (5/5)

Vol. 3: The Training of Kame Sen'in (1986) - Things turn more serious in this volume.  But first off the story is light and humorous as Goku searches for a "hottie" for his master.  Two new characters are introduced at this point: Kuririn, a fellow apprentice wanting to train with the master and Lunch, a sweet girl who changes personalities when she sneezes.  Absolutely love Lunch!!  After this fun, the training starts and though of course the book is always full of humour and LOL moments the plot turns serious as they train and the master gives them "Karate Kid" philosophy.  By the end they are in the big competition, Tenka'ichi Budokai.  There will be six matches with the final two contestants fighting for the championship.  The book ends with Goku going against a very gross opponent in the first match.  This is totally different from any other manga I've read but I have to say I really enjoyed it.  It is full of young male adolescent sexual humour which usually isn't my thing but the characters are so fun and cute I couldn't help but just laugh along.  I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and gave this a whirl.  I'm hooked and can't wait for the next volume! (4/5)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

250. The Moto Mutants by Brian Smith.

The Moto Mutants by Brian Smith. Art by Erwin Prasetya
Monsuno: Combat Chaos, Volume 1

Rating: (2.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jun 4, 2013, vizkids, 96 pgs

Age: 8+

"Long before Chase had ever heard of Monsuno, scientists were performing extensive tests on the all-powerful Monsuno essence. One such scientist, Dr. Moto, tried to create Monsunos of her own, but the experiments went horribly wrong. Trapped in an icy lab for years, Dr. Moto has continued her terrible experiments. Chase, Bren and Jinja have no idea about the horrifying creatures they are about to stumble upon."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I like Brian Smith but this one didn't do anything for me.  I read it the day before I sat down to write this review and can't remember a thing about it.  Browsing through it I remember it's about kids who have animal creatures as their fighting partners, this is the Monsuno, and of course there is a bad guy.  Usual type of fighting thing, there is of course a card game, etc. that kids can get into.  One thing I did like is that this book ended with a "to be continued", as most of these vizkids series books are standalone stories.  I'll probably read the next one to see if it gets any better.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

248. War Machine by Dave Gibbons and Michael Fleisher

War Machine by Dave Gibbons and Michael Fleisher. Art by Will Simpson, Steve Dillon & Kev Walker.
Rogue Trooper series

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jun 18, 2013, 2000 AD, 96 pgs

Age: 16+

"They are the best of the best. Alpha Company, first genetic infantry, have been created for war. Able to survive in the harshest environments, Friday and his brothers know how to obey orders. Fight hard. Die well. But as the sole survivor of a brutal massacre, Friday starts to question those who have made him this way, making an uncontrollable war machine the most dangerous creature in the galaxy! This is a work of passion from Gibbons, who retold the story of the character that first made him famous in comics, Rogue Trooper, in the way he had always wanted the story to be told."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I really like Rogue Trooper.  I have only read the Volume 1 collection of the 1980s series but I fell in love with the character and his buddies (Gunner, Helm, Bagman) who kept him in line or sometimes tempted him, right from the start.  This collection here is from the early 1990s and contains a re-imagining of the original Rogue Trooper origin story and two one-shot stories in that new world.  This is a darker, more mature story than the original and certainly a more plausible and realistic plot.  Because of that I certainly appreciate the quality of the storyline and first time readers of Rogue may well just love this version.  Other readers may like the new Rogue and I have no problems with the story if it just wasn't my beloved Rogue Trooper.  My biggest problem with accepting this re-imagining is the absence of Rogue's three biochip buddies.  The humour is gone as well and while the original Rogue managed to be grim and dark, I just can't imagine this one ever being light-hearted as he is so tortured.  It's hard for me to give a rating as the actual plot is very intense and believable, I liked it a lot; but I love the original character too much to like what has been done to him here.  I think opinion will vary between fans, those who are more nostalgic, like me, and those who felt Rogue was campy, while first-time Rogue readers will enjoy this dark, grim corporate version of war.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

244-247. Comic Books: 2000 AD Prog 1822-1825

Judge Dredd Universe

244. 2000AD: Prog. 1822
06 Mar 2013 (3.5/5)

This issue sees the end of two running series and includes:

Judge Dredd: Wolves, Part 3 - The conclusion sees all the sov citizens moved out of Mega-City One but at the last minute Dredd has a better idea than sending them back to Sov City. (3/5)

Ampney Crucis Investigates: The Entropy Tango, Part Eleven - The final episode here explains the backstory of what has been going on but is a bit of a let down as it is a cliffhanger and obviously we have to wait around for the series to come back some day.  This will be really good some day when it's finished and published in a trade though!  (3/5)

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 7 - The two dog heads, who I've always assumed was Cerberus minus a head, ask to be taken back to their body at which point they release "the beast in me".  (4/5)

Future Shocks Intestinauts - The inside story of "medicine" at work in the stomach.  Then we learn the maker of the medication is also the maker of the disease.  I don't usually like these future shocks, but this wasn't bad. (3.5/5)

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 11 - Neither side can understand why the other continues to hopelessly give up their stand on this bridge.  Then the Volgs find out that the famous Savage is the leader of the other side. (4/5)

245. 2000AD: Prog. 1823
13 Mar 2013 (5/5)

This issue sees the end of two more running series and includes:

Judge Dredd: Black Kisses - A one shot story with a really cool murder case that Dredd and a new recruit are investigating.  (5/5)

Savage, Book 8: Rise Like Lions, Part 11 - The final episode of book 8 shows once more, the futility of war and the misrepresentation of each side by the other.  A sad poignant ending as Savage's team finally gets the sniper and thinks he's a monster when they find a notebook which appears to mark all his kills.  Only thing is, we know they got the wrong guy and what those marks really mean.  (5/5)

Past Imperfect: Rocket De la Revolution - A one shot which imagines an alternate reality where a Cuba is thriving , happily under a Utopian life headed by Castro.  Until one man questions the reality of his life ... (5/5)

The Red Seas: Fire Across the Deep, Part 12 - The final episode is twice as long as normal and has the dog beast, named "Erberus" take control of the fight against the goat man and there is a final rundown of all the escapades they have been involved in.  So now that they've beat the devil, their run isn't over, they are just going to take a break.  Not bad for an ending that isn't a total ending.  (4/5)

246. 2000AD: Prog. 1824
20 Mar 2013 (5/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Cypher, Part One - This continues the Sov. storyline.  A Sov bigwig and his bodyguard arrive for a secret meeting and an assassination attempt is made on the Sov.  The assassin is caught but escapes.  Dredd and the bodyguard give chase.  Great start (5/5)

Dandridge: The Copper Conspiracy, Part One - An interesting beginning!  We have a man, a doctor actually, who has been given a magic jacket which gives him physical form.  He's a showoff, a playboy, and a troublemaker to start with.  (4/5)

Tharg's 3rillers Presents Survival Geeks, Part One - So a girl goes home and spends the night with a nerd only to find out in the morning one of his roommates (think TBBT here) has moved the house through transdimentional travel throughout the night.  She thinks they are kooks until she opens the door and is taken away by a dragon.  LOL.  Loved it!  (5/5)

Stickleback: Number of the Beast, Part One - Edginton and D'Israeli.  Oh my.  The art is freaky, creepy gorgeous.  And the story is of the steampunk variety as we are introduced to a strange man with spikes sticking out of his spine who has just been reanimated after five years in stasis and the also strange man who revived him a bit early.  An intriguing beginning!  (5/5)

247. 2000AD: Prog. 1825
27 Mar 2013 (5/5)

This issue includes:

Judge Dredd: Cypher, Part Two - The assassin is caught, the bodyguard figures out that the sov. was not the real target and that's a wrap.  (4/5)

Dandridge: The Copper Conspiracy, Part Two - Some weird men made out of copper are after Dandridge because they think he stole a fairy dagger.  The woman who gave him the suit is some sort of witch and has control over it, thus over Dandridge.  This is proving very interesting!  (5/5)

Tharg's 3rillers Presents Survival Geeks, Part Two - Sam, the girl, ends up at some Dark Lord's place where he wants her to fight for her honour to win him, yeah right? and the geeks come to save her.  This is all tongue in cheek and full of nerdy sci-fi/fantasy references.  It's funny and a great change of pace.  (5/5)

Stickleback: Number of the Beast, Part Two - One eye, that's what I'm calling the other strange guy cause we don't know his name yet, tells stickleback what has happened to the world and why he brought him back.  But before S. will get down to business he has some business of his own to attend to and goes off to visit the White Lotus Empress.  This is the best thing going right now.  (5/5)

Zombo in Planet Zombo, Part One - Um .... weird ... but in a good way! (4/5)

Monday, August 12, 2013

242. Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel

Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)
Links take you to 2nd edition.  I read the first edition which is no longer in print.

2002, Top Shelf, 208 pgs

Age: 16+

"Good battles evil, and the world hangs in the balance! Resurrected by the Shroud of Turin, the zombified Dr. Jameson intends to finish what he started 150 years ago -- destroying the earth with a giant space eel. Standing in his way is Dr. Ong, a would-be pastor turned scientist who now works in a government research facility infamously known as "Creature Tech." Aided by an unlikely cast of rednecks, symbiotic aliens, and a CIA-trained mantid, Dr. Ong embarks on a journey of faith, love, and self-discovery. All in a day's work at Creature Tech!"

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

My review is of the out-of-print first edition by Top Shelf, the current publisher is Image Comics with a 2nd edition.  On my journey of reading TenNapel this title keeps coming up and being referred to as one of (if not the) best of this works, so I must admit my expectations were probably pretty high. I'd also heard this one had high Christian content and one of the things I  love about Doug's work is his ability to put his Christianity subtly into his mainstream work.  So I'll just come out and say it; this wasn't what I'd built up for myself, not my favourite of his (I'm thinking Gear Bad Island so far, for myself, though I still have many to go).  As to the Christianity, the Shroud of Turin is a big plot point so there are many Christian themes (including loss of faith and returning to it) but the story is more about a Christian than about Christianity.  Gear is much better on this level and so much more subtle.  The story itself is major weird and wacky, just as expected from TenNapel.  Truly humorous and laugh out loud funny at times.  With a cast of characters including a giant slug, a symbiotic alien life form, a deformed love interest, demonic hellcats, a giant space eel, just to name a few, believe me when I say there is never a dull moment.  Through all this action Doug never fails to bring his characters to life; there is the lovely Katie, with a deformed hand and eye that Dr. Ong falls in love with, TenNapel's usual father/son relationship is included this time though with Dr. Ong and his aged preacher father, and especially lovable are the redneck "Walmarts": Ed and Al.  There are also several sidekick characters who are much more than that with their poignant storylines. Not my favourite TenNapel as many have claimed it to be, but still a great one, as I'm finding out at this point that Doug TenNapel just doesn't know the meaning of mediocrity.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

240. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens adapted by Rick Geary

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens adapted by Rick Geary. Afterword by William B. Jones Jr.
Classics Illustrated, #1

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1990, Papercutz, 56 pgs

Age: 8+

"The bittersweet tale of one boy’s adolescence and of the choices he makes to shape his destiny. Into an engrossing mystery, Dickens weaves a heartfelt inquiry into morals and virtues—as the orphan Pip, the convict Magwitch, the beautiful Estella, the bitter Miss Havisham, the goodhearted Biddy, the kind Joe and other memorable characters entwine in a battle of human nature. Rick Geary’s delightful illustrations capture the newfound awe and frustrations of young Pip as he comes of age and begins to understand the opportunities that life presents."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

I'm working my way through Rick Geary's backlist and he wrote three books in this series.  Great Expectations is one of, if not my most, favourite Dickens novel.  First of all, every time I see Geary in full colour it is always a bit of a shock to the system as I just prefer him soooo much in b/w but just browsing through the book and you can recognize his signature style immediately.  Adapting Dickens is no small feat and Geary pulls this off very well.  He concentrates on Pip and his rise to gentleman status along with the events that directly effect that storyline.  We have the convict, Miss Havisham, Joe, Herbert and Estella storylines played out while the other side stories have been omitted though many of the characters still make an appearance such as Biddy and Clara and her father.  Geary has chosen to make the ending finite rather than leave us with the ambiguous original ending.  This is the only part I wasn't pleased with and I'm inclined to believe it was an editorial decision because of the book's targeted young audience.  Otherwise an enjoyable revisit with one of my favourite classics and I'm quite impressed with the quality of this book (presentation, paper, etc.)  I may be inclined to read others in the series when I've finished the Geary ones; they have an interesting list.

Friday, August 9, 2013

222. The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop.

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop. Art by Jeff Stokely. Introduction by Sean Murphy.

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug 6, 2013, Archaia Entertainment, 128 pgs

Age: 14+

"Tells the story of Wendell, a high school outcast who lives a lonely, suburban existence, losing himself in books in order to avoid his distant, motorcycle-riding stepfather, Ted. When the school bullies convince Wendell to venture into the forest around their neighborhood and explore the long-abandoned Renaissance Faire grounds they all believe to be haunted, Wendell is surprised to find a man living in the barn—and even more surprised by the man himself. His new acquaintance seems the definition of crackpot, believing himself to be a medieval knight named Sir Habersham, tasked with the duty of slaying the dragon he insists is wandering the woods. But when Wendell starts hearing rumblings—and listening to Habersham’s stories—he starts to wonder if perhaps it could all be true. In a heartfelt coming-of-age story, Wendell must defy logic in order to follow his heart."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

The best thing about this book is the art.  Stokely has done a brilliant job in depicting these characters and bringing to life the mood and atmosphere.  The story itself is mediocre, just barely holding my attention throughout.  What I actually enjoyed the most was the ending which contained several short stories exploring the characters somewhat deeper, especially Ted's background.  The book doesn't quite seem to know its audience.  Recommended on the back cover for ages 12+, I can't agree.  The story itself works for this age group as it takes a point in making sure that it hits you over the head with message, in case you didn't figure it out yourself but there is a section where Wendell is being bullied by fellow sixteen-year-olds and the language is *extremely* vulgar.  I agree it is appropriate in this situation but it makes the book inappropriate for the average 12 year-old.  The short stories about Ted's Vietnam experience are more adult as well.  Finally, the last thing that just bugged me on a personal level:  Wendell is seen several times reading "Moby Dick"; it would have been so much more in tune with the whole book's theme if the book had been "Don Quixote"! Middle of the road book.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

220. Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell.

Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell.

Rating: (5/5)

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

Aug. 6, 2013, Top Shelf, 192 pgs

Age: 12+ (8+ if you don't mind mild swearing)

"In a fantastical 1860s England, every quiet little township is terrorized by a ferocious monster -- much to the townsfolk’s delight! Each town’s unique monster is a source of local pride, not to mention tourism.
Each town, that is... except for one. Unfortunately for the people of Stoker-on-Avon, their monster isn’t quite as impressive. In fact, he’s a little down in the dumps. Can the morose Rayburn get a monstrous makeover and become a proper horror? It’s up to the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and plucky street urchin Timothy to get him up to snuff, before a greater threat turns the whole town to kindling.
Monsters of all ages are sure to enjoy this tale about life’s challenges, the power of friendship, and creative redemption, packed with epic battles and plenty of wild beasts!"

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

This has got to be one of the funniest stories I've come across lately.  Simply hilarious!  Written in "British", I was flummoxed to find the author's biography professes him to be a pure bred American!  A delightful simply silly story that will have you laughing and chuckling with a smile on your face for the whole read.  You can't help but love all the characters: the depressed, self-pitying, over-dramatic Rayburn the monster, Timothy the Cockney street urchin with more pluck than is good for him, and the disgraced Dr. Wilkie, inventor with revoked licence to practice who has been sent out to get Rayburn to act more monster-like.  But while they are all at it little do they know that a terror worse than the average town monster quickly sees his opportunity to destroy Rayburn's town.  Excitement enters the story when they race against time to reach the city to fight this fiend and wonder whether Rayburn will be up to the challenge.  A note some parents may want to take into consideration:  My only quip with this book, is that it is obviously for kids as low in age as 8 years-old, but I have a problem with the much often repeated use of the words "bloody, bleeding, and bloody Hell".  It is British swearing and as an ex-pat. Brit, I'm not comfortable with anyone using that language in my home let alone young children, however if you are comfortable with it you won't have that problem.

Monday, August 5, 2013

238. Graphic Classics, Vol. 11: O. Henry

Graphic Classics: O. Henry edited by Tom Pomplun.
Graphic Classics: Volume 11

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2005, Eureka Productions, 144 pgs

Age: 12+

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

One of the best volumes in this series (and I've almost read them all)!  First of all, I just love O.Henry, the master of the twist ending and this collection brings together his two most famous stories "The Ransom of Red Chief" and "The Gift of the Magi" with a wonderful assortment of others from all sorts of different genres such as westerns, comedies and mysteries.  I absolutely enjoyed every single tale whether it be new or an old favourite to me.  Seeing them renditioned in the graphic format is a delight.  The collection of illustrations brings together a fine company of artists.  One thing I love about the early books in this series is that one can expect to find Rick Geary (a favourite of mine) more often than not making a contribution.  Here he deftly handles the masterpiece "The Marionette" of two equally criminal thieves but one a scoundrel, the other with a heart.  Other fantastic artwork I enjoyed was by Michael Slack, Lisa K. Weber and the comic style of Johnny Ryan.  The rest of the art varied in my appreciation but nothing disappointed me; everything was a good match for the stories they highlighted. If you've never read O.Henry (gasp!) this should only whet your appetite to read the real thing and if you are already a fan like me it is a joy to read a wonderful graphic homage to his work such as this.  When all things are considered, the author specific volumes of Graphic Classics series are my favourite volumes as opposed to the thematic ones of which there are two types: genre specific such as horror, Gothic, western, fantasy and generic themes such as Halloween, Christmas, African-American, Adventure and the upcoming Canine/Feline.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

216. A Bag of Marbles: The Graphic Novel by Joseph Joffo.

A Bag of Marbles: The Graphic Novel by Joseph Joffo. Adapted by Kris. Illustrated by Vincent Bailey. Translated by Edward Gauvin.

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug. 1, 2013, Graphic Universe, 128 pgs

Age: 8+

"In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father’s barbershop. This is the day that will change their lives forever. With the German occupation threatening their family's safety, the boys' parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone.
Surviving the long journey will take every scrap of ingenuity and courage they can muster. And if they hope to elude the Nazis, they must never, under any circumstances, admit to being Jewish.
The boys travel by train, by ferry, and on foot, facing threats from strangers and receiving help from unexpected quarters. Along the way they must adapt to the unfamiliar world beyond their city—and find a way to be true to themselves even as they conceal their identities."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

This is a tough one for me to review because I had a few issues with it and frankly, found it boring.  I have not read the memoir this graphic is adapted from so cannot compare.  I've had a look at reviews of the original memoir to see what it's all about and it appears to be a book for adults, readable by high school age, and has received good reviews for being from the heart and for the message it brings to this generation of readers.  It is however, noted as being "uneventful" and "not exciting".

Unfortunately, the graphic novel seems to have missed the mark.  There is no message here and what we get is a rather humdrum cross country survival story of two brothers, mostly, though the family is included at times, that happens to occur during WWII and the family happens to be Jewish, though in name only.  It is made evident that the family does not practice their religion, nor do the boys even know what Jewish is.  The father admits to not knowing either giving a brief political description of Jews always being run out of their countries from the beginning of time, not ever mentioning the religious issue.  The family's means of survival is to deny they are Jewish at any and all circumstances, come what may.  The father even gives the boy a brief lesson in this denial by getting angry and slapping him while he still must deny it to him.  Not that I'm saying anything against this, it's just that since the boys have been presented as not even knowing what Jewish is, it's hardly a difficult thing to deny in this.  More pathos on this very real and troubling decision and choice that many Jews had to actually deal with spiritually would have been appreciated. The boy's adventure is not very exciting, they never are in danger of their lives, though their parents are, and we see them having a good time despite the hardships they endure.  Don't get me wrong, this was all interesting but I can't help but think that the author's original story is not expressed here.  The translator made many unfortunate choices of words, making the children sound as if they were 21st century boys; probably by not translating the French vernacular appropriately.  Anyway, sad to say either the graphic novel lost the integrity of the memoir, or it's just the English translation.  On the other hand I give kudos to Vincent Bailey for a beautiful piece of art work presented here which captures both the time period and the mood.