Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert

Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In all honesty, I was a bit trepidatious going into this book as I knew it was going beyond my normal comfort zone due to the sex, nudity and risque topics. However, I was won over quite quickly and while some of the content did make me uncomfortable, it's a book I would rate mature as it doesn't quite cross over the line that would label it erotic. What we have here is an historical mystery taking place in 1930s Paris. A serial killer is at work and two sisters stumble upon the men plotting with one of them getting shot. The other sets out to find out who "The Butcher of the Dances" is and thus solving the murder of her sister. She ends up in a high class bordello as a dominatrix and retains her virtue in this position. While the book certainly has a lot of steamy, underworld, behind-closed-door themes and topics, it is at heart an intriguing and engrossing crime story with a peek at this historical period and how the oldest profession was carried on in France at that time. The art is simply fantastic and a pleasure to behold at all times, though I will admit to averting my eyes a few times from my own sense of modesty. Obviously not a book for everyone, but if the theme, topic or historical period are to your tastes, a very good graphical historical mystery.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics edited by Chris Duffy

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics edited by Chris Duffy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This did nothing for me. The art is gorgeous and my stars go towards it, however the content is boring. There are some poems I adore but in general I am not a lover of poetry and this collection did nothing to change that. There are two WWI poems I cherish, "In Flanders Fields" and Kipling's "My Boy Jack", neither of them are in this book.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Forever Smurfette by Peyo

Forever Smurfette by Peyo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smurfs

A collection of five comics featuring Smurfette. I always get a lovely nostalgic feeling when I'm reading the Smurfs, bringing back how much I enjoyed them when I was young. Wonderful, imaginative, good old-fashioned story-telling. I wish the publication dates of the stories was noted on the copyright page as it would be of interest since these stories were published anywhere from 1958-1992 by Peyo and afterwards by his son. The stories in this collection are: A Kiss for Smurfette, Baby Owl, Little Red Riding Smurf, The Haunted Castle and Bambollino Visits the Smurfs.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Dance Class #8: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Béka

Dance Class #8: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Béka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dance Class (8)

This is the latest book in the Dance Class series but only the second one I've read. However, I have to say I am already a fan! I never thought I'd like a series about girls and ballet but the combination of great writing and art has won me over. The format of these books is that the first half is the story named in the title and the second half is comprised of 1 to 3 page random humorous comic strips with a very slight common theme, here it is being the parents of two dance obsessed daughters. I loved the story which has the nasty girl and one of the nice girls switch parts in the ballet, for a change, trying to play characters against their own natures. There is plenty of romance and humour throughout. Even having only read two books, I'm getting to know the characters and their personalities. Alia is the boy crazy one to the annoyance of the others, even though it's the others who always seem to have boyfriends. Also Alia and her brother, who is a hip-hop dancer, get along well and seem to be close. Very enjoyable book and there is always a boy or two in the class, so I wouldn't hesitate to give the books to any boy who may be interested.

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Theseus and the Minotaur by Yvan Pommaux



Theseus and the Minotaur by Yvan Pommaux
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

TOON Books

For the first time I'm not terribly impressed with a TOON book. What I did like was the art. It amazingly captures the ancient Greek style to perfection. The story is true to the original myth, including even little details such as briefly mentioning leaving Ariadne on an island. It also doesn't skip over the adult themes often found in Greek mythology but manages to allude to them while keeping the book age appropriate. For example the story of how the Minotaur is born of a bull and human. As a great reader of the Greek myths I appreciate all this in good children's retellings. However I found the book an uncomfortable read, especially one labeled a graphic novel and wonder how appealing it actually is to kids. It is a large, picture book size and the story is mostly told in the narrative with illustrated frames and text bubbles which simply reaffirm what has already been told in the text. There are only a few places, mostly nearing the end, where the speech bubbles actually take over in telling the story. Also, since this is a Greek myth there are obviously a lot of strange Greek names that no child will know how to pronounce properly and the editorial decision here was an awkward one. Every time a new proper noun is introduced it is marked with an asterix and footnoted with a pronunciation guide. This ends up creating sentences with multiple asterixis and clusters of tiny phonetic dictionary pronunciations at the bottom of almost every page. It distracted heavily from the flow of reading, imho.

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Garfield & Co. #7: Home for the Holidays by Jim Davis

Garfield & Co. #7: Home for the Holidays by Jim Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Garfield

Can you ever go wrong with Garfield? Here we have two cute stories. First, the title story is a joyful Christmas story in which Garfield, Jon and the gang learn about the homeless and stray pets, with a heartwarming end. This is followed with a short where Jon stays in a house haunted by a ghost cat to get some quiet while working. Garfield helps the ghost make John believe in ghost cats to set the spirit free. Lots of fun.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Ciudad by Ande Parks

Ciudad by Ande Parks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A violent, gritty tale of crime lords, kidnapping and mercenaries. The story was gripping and made for a fast read. I've enjoyed this author's previous work. However, I found the ending too happily summed up for such an otherwise grim plot. I can't say I'm particularly fond of the b/w rough, sketchy art style but it does suit the atmosphere. Pretty good.

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Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City by Pierre Christin

Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City by Pierre Christin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a horrid, horrible man! I knew nothing of Robert Moses but chose to read this book because I like graphic biographies and am much interested in architecture. I found out Moses was an urban developer who shaped New York in the early 20th century. He built Shea Stadium, the UN Headquarters, Lincoln Center and the New York Coliseum as well as many beaches, parkways, pools, playgrounds, tunnels, expressways, parks and bridges. But he was a tyrant of a man. He hated the bourgeois rich and didn't even consider the poor at all. Ripping down grand buildings and slums and tenements with equal vigour, displacing the poor, especially visible minorities, to make roads. He spoke for the middle class and yet thought them useless. This book portrays Robert Moses as a socialist of the worst kind, one who uses "the people" for his own power, under the guise of creating a utopia *for* the people. I'm not too keen on the art presented here which reminded me of sixties cartooning in non-fiction resources such as cookbooks and how-to texts. The book was not what I had expected, but it did prove interesting. I'm sure it would be most appreciated by New Yorkers or those who actually know who Robert Moses was.

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Bad Machinery Book 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison



The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bad Machinery (Book 2)

Bad Machinery is a webcomic that is available online but has just now had its third book published. This is the second in the series and the first one I've read. You can read this for free at the website but the books have a lot of added content, are wide, huge things to behold and very fine quality. The book starts with a page that tells you who the characters are (like in many manga) and then jumps right into the story which is a mixture of genres. Two groups of teens consisting of 3 girls and 3 boys live realistic, yet satirical, teen lives, they try to solve a mystery (toddlers are disappearing at an alarming rate) and a magic pencil has brought two fantastical creatures to town. Humour, fantasy, mystery, magical realism and a plot that goes into to the absurd while maintaining a sense of decorum makes for a fantastic read. The characters all have specific quirks but are also genuinely real. The humour is quirky, dry, tongue-in-cheek and often makes fun of itself. Since this is originally published in comic strip format there are lots of one liners and gags but also themes and plots that carry over the entire book and I presume the series as a whole.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Neurocomic by Dr. Hana Ros



Neurocomic by Dr. Hana Ros
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm really not sure how to describe this book because as it says near the end "...because nothing really happened if not inside [your brain]" The topic as a whole covers what happens inside the brain and the history of neuroscience. This is presented with a character who appears to be trapped inside a brain and is trying to find a way out, by the end he wants out of the brain and the discussion enters the realm of what can happen when one goes out of their brain/mind. Mind vs brain is explored and the end leaves us waxing philosophically. This is a deep subject and this amusing beginners intro shows the powerful format the graphic (or comic) presentation can be for educational purposes. As always from Nobrow, a high quality book as well.

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Tune, Book 2: Still Life by Derek Kirk Kim



Tune: Still Life by Derek Kirk Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tune (Book 2)

Fantastic! This is just as good as the first, maybe even better! Loved it! What a bizarre, out of this world story, but Andy Go is just such an ordinary down-to-earth guy that the story flows naturally and seems so normal until you realize just how absurd it really is. Parts of the story are just average 22 year-old slice-of-life guy stuff and then, well, Andy *is* imprisoned in an exhibit in a zoo on an alien planet. Dash is such a sweet, sincere character she's my favourite part. And what an ending! Can't wait for the next volume! A huge winner this series and a must read for older teens and up.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tune, Book 1: Vanishing Point by Derek Kirk Kim


Tune: Vanishing Point
by Derek Kirk Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tune (Book 1)

Oh my God! I love this! Tune really reminds me of Scott Pilgrim but sci-fi instead of fantasy and way better. What an amazing read; it has a bit of something for everyone. Starting off as a college student romantic comedy slice of life tale, an illustration student drops out to the dismay of his traditional Korean parents. He spends time with his art school friends, daydreams about the girl he likes and goes out for job interviews. This part is all a fun realistic story with a main character who is very likable and has a sex comedy vibe to it. But then while Andy finds out the girl of his dreams likes him back, and goes on his last job interview of the day, that's when the aliens turn up and the story becomes very intriguing. A must read!

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Dance Class #6: A Merry Olde Christmas by Béka

Dance Class #6: A Merry Olde Christmas by Béka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dance Class (6)

This was a pleasant surprise for me. I'm not exactly into girly-girl, princess type stories so a ballet themed series did not seem like it would be my cup of tea but I found this highly enjoyable, witty and well-written. I really enjoyed the presentation also. The first entire half of the book contains the titular story which has the girls travelling to England to participate in a musical that is very loosely based on Dickens' "Christmas Carol". The second half of the book is comprised of approx. 3-page random comic strips with an occasional returning sketch of a repeated attempt at a flash mob. These were humorous and amused me greatly. Girls who like dance will love this and boys also as there is always a boy participant in the dance group, which one of the girls will crush on. The cast is also diverse including (along with the boy dancer) African-Americans, a plump dancer, an obviously gay director, a single dad and divorced parents.

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The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams


The Royals: Masters of War
by Rob Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


An intriguing and page-turning alternate history of WWII that takes on the premise of Royalty having superpowers. The House of Windsor has been secretly convincing the nation that the King, born without powers had sired children who also lack any of their own powers. Here is the deception. All the royalty throughout the world has been in hiding since the events of the French Revolution, and then the mass murder of the Russian royal family. So the royalty is sitting idly by during WWII until Prince Henry of England, young and idealistic, can sit by no longer, gets involved and all hell breaks loose. Then comes a fantastic retelling of WWII, with the presence of the allied leaders: Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower mostly. The royals have superpowers such as strength, flying, laserbeam eyes, mind control and so on. It was a rush for me to read this and the ending was a big surprise, a double shock, and very satisfying. Once finished one can see that the author and illustrator have made some thoughtful commentary on war in general.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Smurfs Christmas by Peyo

The Smurfs Christmas by Peyo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smurfs

I used to read Smurfs when I was a kid and haven't read one in ages. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed them. This brought back all the memories and I quite enjoyed this Christmas outing with the little blue critters. Altogether there are 5 short stories here with only the first and the last being Christmas themed, two others take place in winter and the other is odd-man out just being a random story. They are all cute funny stories though and starting and ending with Christmas brings the seasonal air to the book without overdosing on Santa stories. Gargamel though often the villain in this series is not the only bad guy which is refreshing. In one story both he and the smurfs are terrorized by an ogre and in another a hunter is the bad guy. The final story has a feel good "peace on earth" theme making for a satisfying end.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 1 by Jiro Kuwata

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 1 by Jiro Kuwata
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Batman

Oh I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed these stories. This is old 1960s detective Batman chasing after bad guys, no superheroes in sight. We never have any indication whether Batman & Robin are in the US or Japan. Japan is mentioned once and we do know they are in Gotham, but the where is not certain. B&R are loads of fun just like in the campy '60s show. Their appearance in costume is pretty much what we'd be used to in the '60s but their real life persona's are a little different. Both have a tiny Japanese air about them, though the art is not modern manga in any way. Bruce Wayne is very young. Twenty-five would be a reach and he's got a Frankie Avalon swoon-worthy look, while Dick Grayson is this little kid who wears a tuxedo all the time. The book is perfectly All Ages safe except for the intriguing habit of making the villain say "dammit" about once in every chapter. B&R just say "darn". Each story is about 3 chapters long and the Dynamic Duo meet some strange criminals in this alternate Japanese reality. First, we come across Lord Deathman. Can he really make himself dead whenever he wants? Its an easy way to get out of being arrested. Next is Dr. Faceless, a scientist who gets trapped in his own experiment and has his face removed going insane running around town trying to remove faces from everything including people and clocks. The Human Ball is a scientist who invented a substance that repels objects and bounces; he makes a suit of it and wants to sell to the highest bidder, but Batman and Robin are out to stop him from selling it to an International spy. Next a professor trying to gain a gorilla's strength accidentally swaps him his own intelligence, then Karmak, the Gorilla sets off to exact his revenge against mankind for its mistreatment of animals. Another scientific based theme, which has a device that can control the weather, has Go Go the Magician using it to his advantage to steal the treasures of Gotham. The Dynamic Duo have a hard time going up against the weather. Finally the last story is different; it's longer, being four chapters instead of three and so far all the stories have been about normal criminals or scientific devices that while improbable are not actually impossible. This time though we have a mutant gene and Batman and Robin find themselves face to face with a completely non-human villain. This one was heavy on the theme of heroics and probably my favourite of the lot. I really enjoyed this manga. It was a lot like reading classic Batman but set in an alternate reality, very campy, fun and the villains all laughed "Wa ha ha ha ha!" Fun!

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In Real Life by Cory Doctorow



In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a darling book that deals with a plethora of topics all within an appealing "gamer" plot. I found the gamer plot fascinating not knowing much about that myself. Doctorow presents a coming of age story for a young woman. She's a typical teen, a bit of an outsider, plus-sized, and lacking a bit in self-esteem. She is introduced to the world of MMORPGs where the author explores such themes as female gamers, online safety, the real people behind avatar identities, online reality vs "real life", healthcare, our freedoms living in a democratic society vs the struggle for existence in a communist country. I particularly found it refreshing that Doctorow manages to tackle all these topics without resorting to politics. Deep, deep themes all told within a light-hearted, fun story with a main character one can't help but love as we see her subtly change as she matures, takes control of her life and becomes empowered. I love, love, loved this!

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Classics Illustrated Deluxe #9: A Christmas Carol and the Remembrance of Mugby by Charles Dickens by Rudolphe

Classics Illustrated Deluxe #9: A Christmas Carol and the Remembrance of Mugby by Charles Dickens by Rudolphe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Classics Illustrated Deluxe (9)

You just can't mess with this classic! Everybody knows "A Christmas Carol" and if a child is reading this for the first time they had better be getting the story right. Rodolphe makes too many changes for me to allow. First Marley is the only spirit. He alone takes Scrooge to the past, present and future. A funny looking little green ghost with no chains, I was uncomfortable from the start. Omitting the changes of ghost does allow for smooth story transitions letting Rudolphe spend time keeping many of the little details of the original in this graphic version. I was almost ready to forgive this ghostly faux pas until the dreaded ending where the author chooses to go beyond the original ending and wrap the tale up with a summary of how things turned out in the future; Grandpa Scrooge, indeed! Then the most offending license an artist can take with Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is committed with no utterance of Tiny Tim's famous line, "God bless us, every one!" The redeeming feature of this adaptation is Meyrand's wonderful, atmospheric illustration.

To finish is "A Remembrance of Mugby", another Dickens Christmas story, this time one I am unfamiliar with. I quite enjoyed it. It goes well with Scrooge as it also features a miserly, business man. But this time, the man decides to change his life and find happiness of his own free will.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure (Toon Books) by Fred



Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure by Fred
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Toon Books

I like this a lot. An English translation of a French "comic strip", as they call them over there, this is the adventures of Philemon and there appear to be many others available in the original language. Toon Books has chosen to translate and print this one in its "Toon Graphics" series, virtually a level 4 coming after the graded readers. This book is a large oversized one, like a picture book, and as is common with the French style the book's design is presented with many square panels per page. This is a fun story of adventure. Philemon sees a bottle with a message in his hardly ever used well and when he climbs in discovers an entirely new and different world. I like Philemon already and will watch for the next one to come out.

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Bird & Squirrel on Ice by James Burks



Bird & Squirrel on Ice by James Burks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bird & Squirrel (2)

Another great Bird & Squirrel book! I love these two characters; they are like a modern day Frog and Toad. Two friends with different personalities who end up making the best of every situation. The book starts where we left them in the first one, flying seawards onto a new adventure. "...0n Ice" has them landing in the antarctic where the flightless penguins think Bird is the Chosen One who will set them free from the Big Whale. I didn't find this quite as funny as the first book but it still has a great sense of humour that kids (and adults) will love. The art is enthralling and while Burks uses the same square-headed style, this is contrasted with one new character: a lone round-head. This makes her stand out as she looks very cute compared to the others. It's amazing how the illustrator does this but it both shows she is a girl and that she is much younger ( a little kid really). I'm grown quite fond of Bird & Squirrel and hope there will be another book as the ending suggests.

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The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop




The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book uses an interesting device and one that I wouldn't mind seeing used again. Isobel presents here the ordinary memoirs of a teenager, her feelings, dreams, private moments and silliness in the form of not just a journal but an art journal or a freestyle scrapbook. There is more art than text and I think the pictures say more than the words do, but together they are an intriguing look inside the mind/life of an ordinary teenager (and British at that). There is no plot, life seldom has one. If you enjoy reading other people's journals, diaries, etc. you may enjoy a peek inside Isobel's art journal.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Princess Ugg Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh

Princess Ugg Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Princess Ugg (1)

A typical story of a barbarian princess come down to "princess" school to find she doesn't fit in with all the other kinds of princesses. Not too much happens in Volume 1 mostly concentrating on us getting to know the characters which focuses heavily on Princess Ulga. The story was fun, though hardly impressive, the art on the otherhand was outstanding and had me in awe from page one.

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Hinterkind Vol. 2: Written in Blood by Ian Edginton

Hinterkind Vol. 2: Written in Blood by Ian Edginton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hinterkind (2)

Not as good as the first book. There are a lot of characters to follow now and the story switches perspective frequently. I found it to be a bit disjointed making it hard to follow. I just couldn't get into any of the characters. That said the story did progress and I got pretty wrapped up in the Sidhe plot of the royal family's antics and the ending was quite the shocker for me. I did not see that coming! For that reason I'll be going forth with the next book.

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Bird & Squirrel on the Run by James Burks

Bird & Squirrel on the Run by James Burks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bird & Squirrel (1)

Adorable tale of friendship. Bird is happy-go-lucky and Squirrel worries about everything. They make a fantastic team as they become friends in this heart-warming and hilarious adventure. James Burke has a wonderful cartoon style of squaring the characters' heads that just seems to make them more adorable. One even has a little feeling for the evil Cat by the end. I loved the contrast of the two friends with Bird seeing the bright side of everything (It's better to die together than alone) and Squirrel afraid, worried or nervous about everything new (Grasshoppers give him the heebie-jeebies). The book ends with the two flying off on a new adventure and I look forward to their antics in the next book.

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