Sunday, November 30, 2014

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll




Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A collection of short stories of the macabre. The artwork is splendidly creepy and alluring. I just knew this would be a special book when I looked at it. The font is a very large script, which first makes the book appear as if it is for children but once you start reading you'll realize these are no tales for little kids. Deliciously devilish and ghoulish, each of these eerie tales are at the peak of disturbing. Common themes between the stories are that there is a forest in each story (though not always crucial to the plot) and the paranormal or mysterious entity thus tying the stories together into a cohesive collection. This has got to be one of my favourite reads this year. Recommended for teens and up.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire

Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Teen Titans
Earth One

These Earth One books on the one hand confuse me with why DC presumes we need completely new off-canon origin stories but on the otherhand, they can prove entertaining, this one particularly so. I'm relatively new to the Teen Titans having read them in the New 52 and Young Justice and watched one of the cartoons, so I only know a bit about some of the characters true origins. Raven has always been one of my favourite TTs so I was a bit dismayed to have her portrayed as Native-American here but Lemire pulls it off very well and her introduction to the team is titillating. Jericho and Terra I've not met before and found their characters interesting even if Terra was a bit too much the whiny, angry teen for my tastes. Cyborg's origin story came completely out of left-field for me but it was so different from how he's always been portrayed (though his change still comes about through a parent) that I found it played out well. Also introduced in this volume are Starfire, Beastboy and Tempest. The book leaves us with having met these teens but by no means are they anywhere close to being a team yet.

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The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth by Ian Lendler





The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth by Ian Lendler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a lot of fun, especially for someone who already knows the premise of Macbeth. Macbeth is one of my absolute favourite Shakespeare so I was looking forward to this. I'm not sure this could be said to be a child's first introduction to Shakespeare in a meaningful way but they'll love it for the pure humour of it. The art is fantastic, as I also enjoyed Giallongo's work in "Broxo". Bold and vibrant with a colour palette of mostly greens and blues to match the atmosphere of the tragedy of Macbeth. However, this version of the play is pure pleasure with zoo animals as the characters and a hungry lion eating his victims while they remain talkative in his tummy, instead of any murders. It was quite fun to see how imaginative Lendler could be with incorporating real elements of the Shakespeare into this parody. He even inserts a couple of direct quotes. Adults will have a good giggle at the pastiche while children will belly-laugh at the shear farce. The last page tells us the next coming attraction will be "Romeo & Juliet". Now that is one of my most hated Shakespeare but I have to say I'm quite looking forward to seeing what Lendler will do with it!

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Explorer: The Hidden Doors by Kazu Kibuishi




Explorer: The Hidden Doors by Kazu Kibuishi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Explorer (3)

This is my first "Explorer" and I'll have to go back and read the first two as I fair enjoyed this. Now I'd only read a couple of the author/illustrators before but both Kibuishi and Canadian Faith Erin Hicks are favourites of mine. Anthologies are best when they have a solid theme and this one's "Hidden Doors" is an intriguing one. Each story does have a physical door in it, but the differences end there. Each story took the theme in a unique direction; Kazu Kibuishi's offering was my favourite by far though.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination by Dan Mishkin




Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination by Dan Mishkin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is about as exciting as one would expect the Warren Commission Report to be. However, it does a good job of presenting the report alongside of the conspiracy theories while showing how the way the report was commissioned could result in nothing but debate and conspiracies. I'm not a big fan of assassination history and while I know this event as well as the next educated person it's not something I particularly read about so did find quite a lot of new interesting tidbits of information. The writing style is entertaining and the book thoroughly held my attention for me to read it in one day. The art however, I did not like at all. The people are downright ugly, especially the faces of the women. 'nough said. The book is obviously written to an adult audience but could certainly be read by teens though I can't see it having any appeal unless it was for an assignment or such.

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Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner



Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Powerful story, fictionalized but inspired by the author's own family history of the Japanese internment camps. This is a good introduction to the topic and the text is large and bold which will make it a good choice for reluctant readers as well. I just love the artist's work, the heads are just a little too oblong to be proportionate making for an interesting style. This is a hard-hitting tale that deals with racism, bullying, family conflict and fear along with the historical element. A compelling story that leaves the reader somber with its bittersweet ending.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kamen Volume 2 by Gunya Mihara

Kamen Volume 2 by Gunya Mihara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kamen (2)

First off, I love the art in this series! Volume two is battle intensive, well, really one big battle from beginning to end. I must admit to being a bit confused at certain points not sure which side was which at various points, especially the beginning. It does take a long time for the main characters to appear, both Simba: the female general and the man with the mask. Once they appear in the story it was easier for me to follow, being that I myself am not all that military minded. However, this is great historical fantasy manga. Even though lots of war, no bloody violence, and the story keeps a fast pace and is exciting. No real character development is added in this volume but we do get to know more about the masters of the "Nen Arts" as several warriors from both sides enter into this dimension during the battle. As the book nears the end focus is once again on The Masked Man and the conclusion leads us to believe the next volume will contain more character focus. I love the masked man and his sentient mask and can't wait to find out more about them.

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The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks



The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an incredible story I've never read about before. I had heard of it but it was fascinating to finally get the full details of the story. The book is well-written and while being an historical account of the all-black regiment is also an horrendous depiction of the ghastly racism that was so rampant in the US at that time, seething unfiltered straight into its military. The book is done in black and white which is a wise choice as it is incredibly violent, holding back on none of the gruesome deaths and injuries incurred during war and especially this type of trench warfare. The story is an accurate depiction of what the 369th Infantry Regiment experienced from the days of recruitment to their return to the US, but it has been fictionalized into a story with characters who are amalgamations of various types of real-life people, though a few historical characters do appear. I found the book very interesting and an engrossing read, but felt it was too long as there were parts here and there when I started to loose interest and saw myself looking at how much longer the book was. It was a detailed story but I think it may have gripped me more emotionally had it been shorter. Again the story deals with many military aspects of the war and I think the book is best suited for those who first have an interest in WWI, then secondly in the other topics covered here. This is a must have title for libraries though.

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Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of A Chess-Playing Automaton by Jane Irwin



Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of A Chess-Playing Automaton by Jane Irwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely awesome. A fascinating historical fiction that runs from the mid 1700s to the 1850s as it chronicles the fascinating "life" of a sideshow attraction billed as a clockwork automaton that could play chess by itself. Crossing paths with famous people throughout this time period from the German Empress Maria Theresea to Napoleon Bonaparte to Edgar Allan Poe, this makes for riveting reading. I'm well-read in the Victorian Era, and while this mainly takes place before that time, I'm still surprised I'd never heard of it before. This curiosity held people fascinated with whether it was real or fake for 85 years! Irwin has written a truly epic graphic novel that contains so much intriguing historical details and a fascinating plot that keeps even the reader guessing until the reveal (for one who doesn't know the historical outcome). The artwork is incredibly detailed and a pleasure to behold, making the reading go at a pace slow enough to thoroughly take in the illustration. I was completely satisfied when I'd completed the story to only find an incredibly rich page by page "Notes" section that contains detailed historical annotations and author's input on where she took artistic license and where regrettably she had to leave some parts of the story out. This is an adult book but is sure to be a hit with ages teen and older.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Art Schooled by Jamie Coe

Art Schooled by Jamie Coe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful art and highly entertaining. There is no indication that this book is autobiographical but one can't help but think so while reading. Coe's art style is wonderfully comic and cartoony while being radical and risque. The "art-style" nudity and language make this a certain mature read and perfect fit for the so-called "new adult" crowd. The story is funny, touching and ironic and it examines the eccentricities of art students, the various stereotypes, a country boy's thoughts on the new experiences he meets such as modern art, veganism, psychobabble and finding himself a weirdo among the "weirdos". There were a couple of spots where I felt the story wandered a bit but otherwise I had a great time reading this and mulling over what Coe is perhaps saying about university and young people on the path to becoming who they will be. I'd certainly read more of his work.

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The Wake by Scott Snyder

The Wake by Scott Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whoa! Absolutely amazing! Just seeing Scott Snyder's name and reading the premise had me excited to read this and it more than lived up to its expectations. A science fiction story that starts off with a glimpse into the future then the first half takes place during modern day with the second half jumping back to the future and continuing on. At around 260 pages, this is an epic novel with plenty of plot and action. I felt like the characterization of the Lee from the first half was much more indepth than the futuristic Leeward, at least I was more taken with her, but the book just totally blew me away and I kept thinking I could see this as a movie the whole time I was reading. Actually as I first started reading, "The Abyss" came into my mind. The creatures are quite cool and creepy though I found they did look a lot like The Trench from Aquaman: The New 52. Totally awesome reading that had me glued to my seat with spectacular artwork; this is an epic story and a beauty to behold.

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How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis



How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this. It's a bit weird and different but, yeah, I liked it. A collection of short stories, drawings and sketches that centre on the things people do trying to make themselves happy. I found the main theme to be the difference between ideology and reality. A woman is telling a friend of her deep, dark, black hole of depression and the friend sympathises that she understands, she's been there, that is until she went Gluten-Free. Then in the last frame we see the depressed woman in the supermarket desperately holding a loaf of gluten-free bread. Another is futuristic where a sister lives in a dome, farming, growing organic fruits and vegetables. Then she returns home when her father is dying. Home is the city where people where environmental suits, her sister here can't afford to buy organic fruit. The dome-living sister is hit with the reality that the suffering still exists even when she doesn't see it in her way of life and her beliefs can't be upheld here. It does go deeper still. All the stories make one think this way. I'll say a few went over my head and not all are as depressing as the two I described. The sketches between the stories give a more uplifting pause. I'm not a big fan of Davis' art but it is bold and eye-catching, the palate is warm with reds, orange, browns and yellows which adds a different nuance to what the themes are saying; bringing the feel of life to melancholy stories. I like it but it is *very* different from her previous books for young children.

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Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke



Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is published under First Second's new picture book line. First Second publishes graphic novels and this picture book could be debated as to whether it is picture book or graphic novel. It is *indeed* a picture book. Large fully illustrated pages with small lines of text per page and yet the text is not linear along the top or bottom of the page. Like a graphic novel, the text (and sometimes illustrations) are in frames. Personally, I think that most picture books are often one pane graphic novels. Onto the story. It's quite simple; Julia brings her house to the shore, puts up a sign inviting lost creatures and doesn't have long to wait before a cat shows up, and then a troll, then a mermaid, etc, etc until the creatures are causing havoc in her house. The story is mediocre but the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous!! No one can look at this book and not be captivated by the art. A lovely, handsome book with an ok story.

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The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke



The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zita the Spacegirl; 3

Excellent. All the characters from the first two books return in this book that brings elements from the previous stories together into a new book that has Zita saving the planet Earth. While all three books can be read as stand-alones, this one does a fine job of tying the books together and creating a trilogy with a plot that increases and culminates in this book. However we are not left at the end here and the last few pages set the stage for more Zita adventures. The creativity and imagination of the world and creatures found in these books, and just as much a charm this third time round, is phenomenal. If you liked the first two books you'll love this one. Zita has become one of favourite comic heroines.

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Zita the Spacegirl & Legends of... by Ben Hatke

The third book in this series has been nominated for a Cybil and since I will be reading that I figured now was the time to get caught up on this series. This tells the story of Zita and how she became a
superhero and what she does afterwards.



Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zita the Spacegirl; 1

Such fun! I absolutely loved Zita! What a fantastical, exciting world in which she finds herself. A quick read for me that had me turning the pages with complete joy from start to finish. I can't believe I waited this long to read the book. Kids will absolutely love this fun sci-fi romp and I can't wait to read her next adventure.




Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zita the Spacegirl; 2

The sequel doesn't disappoint. Zita and her friends return but now that Zita is a hero everybody wants her autograph and she temporarily switches places with a robot who can imitate others. But the robot has a mind of her own ... What an imagination this author has! I just loved the fantastical world setting, space aliens and robots he has created. Even though there is no magic, I can't help but describe the way I felt reading this as "magical". Great, fun, adventurous story and fantabulistic illustration. I love Zita! (and Strong-Strong)!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 11 by Konami Kanata

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 11 by Konami Kanata
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chi's Sweet Home (11)

This latest volume of Chi continues the storyline of Chi and his mother reuniting and finally bringing that to a climax. This volume actually concentrates on that more than anything and I found the humour to be less of a focus than usual. In fact, this volume has a feel of being the penultimate book; everything is brought to a head and changes are in place for the Yamada family. If the next book (due out Summer of 2015) does not end the series, then I believe it will begin a new story arc. While this volume is more plot oriented than snippets of humour it still does contain plenty of cute cat moments and both I and my 14yo son love each new episode of Chi and the Yamadas.

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Superman Family Adventures Vol. 2 by Art Baltazar & Franco



Superman Family Adventures Vol. 2 by Art Baltazar & Franco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superman Family Adventures (#7-12)

This volume collects issues #7-12 of the popular kids comic recommended for all ages. I have already read issue 7, but will start by re-reading that but what most excites me before I even start reading is that the front cover shows that the Justice League is going to turn up at some point. Let get on with it! Starting off with a fun caper that brings in the Teen Titans and the Super-pets; we also end up visiting jail where we see some familiar faces from previous volumes and Lex turns up (in disguise) to pass off a piece of kryptonite. Then Brainiac appears on the scene and, in a whirlwind, Superman learns of his involvement in the fall of Krypton, sending some unnamed bad guys to the phantom zone bringing back a dearly beloved lost relative! Surprise! Then what a treat when Brainiac meets Lex and takes charge! Off they go to destroy the Superfamily and it's a hilarious riot until Lex decides he doesn't like being the henchman. Next issue has Superman bringing his father back to spend the day with his mother but coming up behind them is General Zod and his family who, once again, try to take over the world, only this time ... with kindness and hot dogs? A real hoot until Zod accidentally lets Brainiac out of the bottle! Doomsday lands on the planet but Superman has his hands full with Brainiac so this time it's Ma Kent to the rescue in an action-packed hilarious issue that has a final scene with some recent villains that's worth a good laugh. Finally, Lex gives Darkseid a call who just happens to be working his day job at the Teen Titans cafeteria. Hold onto your hat for this fantastic conclusion to the series which features the Justice League battling against Darkseid but takes the whole entire menagerie of super-pets to see things through to a happy ending. There are a few plugs in here for the new "Aw Yeah" comic series which is currently running and I'll be looking into that later on. Absolutely hilarious take on the superheroes for kids which spoofs itself and has a lot of fun not taking anything too seriously. A riot for fans young or old with big bold text for the youngest readers.

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Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson



Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With a foreword by Peter S. Beagle comparing this to Charlie Brown and Calvin & Hobbes. I was pretty impressed. However the book failed to deliver. It's a comic strip compilation and though it's about a child, like the previously mentioned comics, the humour certainly appeals to the adult. While Phoebe and Marigold will appeal to children I doubt they will get all the nuances of that humour. Myself, I'm not into comic strips and it took me a while to "get into" this collection. I did think of not completing it around page 89 as I certainly had the feel for it by then but at that point I also had a slight fondness for the characters and continued on to the end. I found some of it cute, some of it made me crack a smirk and some of it did nothing for me at all.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 - 1750 edited by Jason Rodriguez

Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 - 1750 edited by Jason Rodriguez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful anthology of colonial historical vignettes in the same vein as Matt Dembicki's collections. In fact, Dembicki has illustrated a story in this collection. I'm actually only familiar with a couple of the authors or illustrators but I found the stories and art top-notch. This chronological history of New England tells the lesser known tales and I had not heard many of them, even though they are populated with famous people. Because the stories are chronological, geographically specific and focused on a set time period, often characters will reappear in several stories, sometimes as a major player, other times as a background figure. The book is best suited for middle graders to high school and the book's website is making educator guides for the stories. However, the material is perfectly satisfying to the adult reader and the art is varied and showcases a variety of styles. I found it quite impressive and highly readable.

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The Heroic Legend of Arslan 2 by Yoshiki Tanaka

The Heroic Legend of Arslan 2 by Yoshiki Tanaka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Heroic Legend of Arslan (2)

A bit of a let down after the great start of vol. 1 but I'm still interested. Kind of a slow and confusing start as we have a lot of talk between characters, getting to know them, while at the same time trying to remember what happened in vol. 1. (I really miss it when manga does not start with a character profile and story so far intro page.). Then things pick up as a few flashbacks help bring back previous events and the story gets back into military mode and the attack on the castle begins. Large section of intrigue, traitors and battle violence as the castle is under siege. Meanwhile Arslan and gang are avoiding the enemy as they try to return to the kingdom. The Queen plays a prominent role here though we don't get to know her character much further. Two new characters are introduced both of suspicious natures, a masked man who appears to be a traitor to Pars but later we are not sure whose side he is on, the other is a roaming mercenary and lothario who seems to keep to the side who pays him but may actually be something more than he appears. These two are intriguing and the book ends much better than it began. Am most interested at this point to go on to book three before deciding whether I'll continue with the series.

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LEGO Ninjago #11: Comet Crisis by Greg Farshtey

LEGO Ninjago #11: Comet Crisis by Greg Farshtey. Illustrated by Jolyon Yates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

LEGO: Ninjago #11

I've not read this series before but I have read a book from Papercutz's other LEGO series and really liked it so was looking forward to this and was not disappointed. I'm quite amazed at how serious and well written a saga this is. Jumping in at volume 11 didn't cause me any problems but it is obvious this is an ongoing story as it began with a bit of a flashback to get the reader up-to-date. Ninjago are ninjas in space and a whole heck of fun. If you like ninjas, the only thing better could be ninjas in space. LOL. The story was impressive for what initially appears to be a simple kids book. LEGO? You say. Yes, LEGO. A very exciting, well-plotted, story with the gang stranded on an asteroid to find they are not alone and the presence does not wish them well. Lovely art, a fun read. I'd certainly go back and catch up with the series. Young LEGO fans will be delighted.

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3 Issues of Superman Family Adventures by Art Baltazar & Franco

I've read a few issues of this comic and really enjoyed them so when I saw the collected volume 2 trade edition was a nominee for the cybils award I figured I'd finish up the earlier ones I hadn't read before I started on it.  My library currently has #1 on order so I'll get to that some time down the road.

Superman Family Adventures

Superman Family Adventures #3: Super-Pets! by Art Baltazar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute series and suitable for the youngest readers as it has big bold type that young eyes will enjoy. A really fun story that starts off with Jimmy having a ring that is supposed to call Superman if he is in trouble but he accidentally got the one that calls the super-pets instead. After this main story are two shorts. One where Krypto and Fuzzy go off to do some more training after their work saving Jimmy. The last is a silly story of Lois questioning Clark where he is when Superman is around and well a glitch happens and we end up with multiple Supes and Clarks. Fun!



Superman Family Adventures #5: Who Is the Purple Superman? by Art Baltazar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lots of fun as usual with characters that have been introduced reappearing, even if only briefly. Main story is of Lex Luther's henchman Otis finding a purple meteorite and putting it under his hat. Well it ends up giving him powers and he sucks out Superman's power and tries to become the new "Purple Superman". Lots of fun as the gang goes after him. Then a short with a few of the super-pets. The last story has Lex Luther joining the staff of the Daily Planet as an intern hoping to get access to computer files on the Superman Family but instead spends all his time being Mr. White's coffee boy. Hilarious, plus includes a joke referring back to the purple story.



Superman Family Adventures #6: The Menace of Metallo! by Art Baltazar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one was great! Still three stories but now they are all joined together with the segue "meanwhile". Basically, we've got an origin story here for both Metallo and Steel, far from canon but they are lots of fun and the kids will like them. Steel officially gets an "S" and becomes part of the Superfamily. There is a short with the super-pets then the last one is a hoot! We are back at the farm with Ma Kent and the gang is fighting a villain then we get a quick peak at a very famous, but not frequent, supervillain. A great surprise!

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