Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review of Rubicon

If you're into war-related graphic novels, take a look at my recent review of Rubicon over at The Comics Alternative, a story that not only looks at the war in Afghanistan, but is also a homage to Akira Kurosawa's classic film Seven Samurai

Thursday, April 3, 2014

More New Titles Discussed at The Comics Alternative Podcast

I hope you'll tune in to Episode 77 of The Comics Alternative Podcast where Derek and I discuss the wonderfully imaginative new graphic novel Aama Volume I: The Smell of Warm Dust as well as two new titles, Stray Bullets Killers #1 and The Returning #1.  

Graphic Novels Read in March 2014 Part II

FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) Vol. 1: The Paradigm Shift (2014) Simon Oliver, Robbi Rodriguez (Vertigo)

When any physics-related catastrophe occurs, such as losing gravity at your local school, you need an agency to call. Good thing FBP is there. (“Better Call Saul” just won’t cut it, I’m afraid.) “The impossible is always possible” is the big tag-line of the series and this is played out in a big way with young FBP agent Adam Hardy. As you might imagine, the agency is filled with its own inner problems as well as the physics problems it seeks to counter. It’s a very simplistic comparison, but think X-Files meets Ghostbusters. Sort of. So far I’m enjoying the series, although I wish the art style was a little more well-defined.  


March: Book One (NF 2013) John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)

The first of a projected three-volume series, March is written by Congressman John Lewis, chronicling both Lewis’s own life and the Civil Rights Movement. The black and white illustrations are wonderful and the story powerful without being pedantic. I’m very eager to read the next volume in this series. 


The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza (J 2014) James Kochalka (First Second)

Review to be posted soon at The Comics Alternative


The Mighty Thor Omnibus Vol. 2 (2013) Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (Marvel)

Lee and Kirby really hit their collective stride with this volume, blending Norse mythology, action, and drama, along with some cosmic craziness that was pure Marvel back in the day. These stories still hold up pretty well, far better than those from the first Thor omnibus. I'm not the biggest fan of controversial inker Vince Colletta, but that didn't stop my enjoyment of this volume. If you’re not familiar with how the Thor comic worked in those days, the first 16 pages were devoted to the main Thor story (which often was a little on the trippy side) while the last five pages showcased “Tales of Asgard,” stories of Thor’s early adventures. (Sometimes these are better than the main stories.) Well worth a look. Collects Journey Into Mystery (1952) #121-125, The Mighty Thor (1966) 126-152, Thor Annual #2, Not Brand Echh (1967) #3. 768 pages! Forsooth!


Locke & Key Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom (2011) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Like any good suspense/mystery/horror story, Locke & Key Volume 4 ramps things up even higher with more incredible backstory, character building and mayhem. Really enjoying this. 


Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes (2013) Matt Kindt (First Second)

Matt Kindt’s mind just doesn’t work like ours and that’s a good thing. He’s got the ability to spin several plates and keep them from smashing to the floor, which means while you’re watching one or two plates wobbling dangerously close to a bad end, others are just getting started, which makes Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes worth multiple reads. 

The story is set in the city of Red Wheelbarrow, where Detective Gould - the greatest detective in the world - works. Yet Gould is stumped by a series of seemingly unrelated, bizarre crimes. I’ve loved Kindt’s work on Super Spy and Mind MGMT, but Red Handed may be his finest work yet.  


The Lost Boy (J 2013) Greg Ruth (Graphix)

I can't believe so few people are talking about this wonderful graphic novel. The artwork alone is simply stunning and the story - while clearly a fantasy - is anything but typical. Drawn in absolutely gorgeous pencil and ink, Greg Ruth has created a story that's just as strong as his artwork. Nate's family has just moved to a new town and a new house, where Nate discovers an old tape recorder and reels of tape in his room. What he hears sends him on a quest to discover a place called The Kingdom.... And that's all I'm going to tell you. Read it.


B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs 1 (2011) Mike Mignola, Guy Davis, et. al. (Dark Horse) 

If you’re unfamiliar with Hellboy and B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), here’s all you need to know: 

B.P.R.D. is an agency based in Fairfield, Connecticut that investigates and defends the world from all occult threats. 

Hellboy (who - played by Ron Perlman - was in two movies, in case you never read the comics) was once part of this group.

He’s not anymore. 

You might think that without Hellboy as the “headliner” that B.P.R.D. might be a lesser title. It’s not. It does, however, take awhile for the title to find it’s way. The first section (which is the first trade paperback), Hollow Earth and Other Stories, is a good introduction to the group and a pretty good adventure. The second section, The Soul of Venice and Other Stories, consists mainly of short adventures and lacks direction somewhat. The final third begins the long Plague of Frogs story line, which finishes this volume and is taken up with three more hardcover omnibus volumes. 

B.P.R.D. is something of an acquired taste, but in my opinion, just as entertaining as the Hellboy stories. Over 400 pages in a very nice, sturdy hardcover book, retail priced at a very reasonable $34.99. 


That’s it for March. Tell me what you read. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in March 2014 Part I

It was a good month for graphic novels here at Graphic Novel Universe, so much so that I’m having to split the list up. I’ll cover half of the March titles today and the other half next time. 

aama: The Smell of Warm Dust (2011/2014) Frederik Peeters (SelfMadeHero)

Frederick Peeters’s sf graphic novel (translated from the French) is a compelling, strange ride, one I highly recommend. My discussion of this book with Derek Royal should be available in the next day or two at The Comics Alternative Podcast


A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium (2013) Rick Geary (NBM)

No one does true crime graphic novels quite like Rick Geary. All of his work is worth your time, but this collection of several of his works is a must-read. You can see Geary's artwork and storytelling techniques sharpen and develop throughout the volume, and although some of the tales have problems (The early stories, especially "Jack the Ripper," are often inked too heavily), they're still quite good. If you enjoy true crime stories and haven't yet encountered Geary, you're missing a real treat. In addition to “Jack the Ripper,” this volume includes “The Beast of Chicago” (H.H. Holmes and the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago) and “Fatal Bullet” (the assassination of President James A. Garfield).


Jane, the Fox and Me (J 2012/2013) Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood Books)

As often happens, girls can be pretty cruel to each other at school (although girls do not have a monopoly on school-age cruelty), and Hélène is learning this the hard way. She finds comfort only in the pages of her favorite novel, Jane Eyre. On a school trip, Hélène encounters a wild fox, an animal she feels strangely drawn to... 

This is one of those stunning graphic novels about children that’s probably best appreciated by those who have successfully made it through childhood. Although it’s probably in the J or Children’s graphic novel section, this is a wonderful book for teens and adults, too. 


Fatale Vol. 4: Pray for Rain (2014) Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips (Image Comics)

All of the Fatale volumes have been good, but Pray for Rain delivers the strongest, most cohesive arc yet. Not only do we find out more about Josephine and her powers, we also get a non-stop, full-throttle story that absolutely blisters. Stunning stuff. If you’re into either horror or noir, start reading this hard-hitting series now.


The Park (2014) Oscar Zárate (SelfMadeHero)

This realistic graphic novel has a lot to say about culture and even more about relationships. Discussed at The Comics Alternative Podcast


The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble (J 2013) Frank Cammuso (Abrams)

Fun-filled graphic novel for kids previously discussed at Graphic Novel Universe.


Locke & Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows (2010) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

I'm not sure if it took me three volumes to get used to Gabriel Rodriguez's art style or if the story finally solidified, but Crown of Shadows seems the strongest entry in the Locke & Key series so far. Hill has managed to give each volume an individual, distinctive flavor while moving the overall story in a very compelling way. If the rest of the volumes are this good, this could be a horror classic in the making.


The Undertaking of Lily Chen (2014) Danica Novgorodoff (First Second)

Please read my review at The Comics Alternative


Part II coming up soon! And please let me know what you read and liked (or didn’t) in March. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review of Alley Oop: The First Time Travel Adventure

One of the great pleasures I've had over the past few years is in discovering newspaper strip comics. I never really read them much as a kid, so experiencing strips such as Terry and the Pirates, X-9 Secret Agent Corrigan, Steve Canyon and others has opened up not only a whole new comics world, but also an appreciation of how daily strips differ in so many ways from standard comic books and graphic novels. 

IDW's Library of American Comics has done a stellar job of presenting these classic strips in handsome new editions. I was pleased to review one of their more recent collections, Alley Oop: The First Time Travel Adventure, over at The Comics Alternative. Please check it out!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reviews of The Park, Veil #1, and Sovereign #1 on The Comics Alternative Podcast


This week, on The Comics Alternative Podcast, Derek and I discuss the graphic novel The Park by Oscar Zarate (SelfMadeHero), and the single issues Veil #1 (Dark Horse) and Sovereign #1 (Image). Please excuse my froggy voice and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hellboy Day and Upcoming Temptations

There's really not all that much I'm interested in at the comic shop this week, but I do plan to drop in at Third Eye Comics for Hellboy Day. Should be a lot of fun, even if Ron Perlman doesn't show up! 

It's probably a good thing I won't be picking up anything new this week, since I have at least six graphic novels in my "to read" stack, most of them (thankfully) from the library. The rest of March should be okay, but look at some of the stuff that's coming in April:


Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT) takes on Star Wars with Rebel Heist #1 (I'll take the variant on the right, drawn by Kindt.)

Astro City HC

Lazarus Vol. 2

Manhattan Projects Vol. 4

Afterlife with Archie Vol. 1

and soooooo much more!