Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in July 2014 Part I

July has been a pretty good month here at Graphic Novel Universe. While I read fewer overall titles compared to June, there’s still plenty of good stuff, hopefully something that will spark your interest. Here’s the first part of what I’ve read this month. More to come!

(All works with a + are part of the ongoing SXSW 2014 Starter Pack review series.)

+ Deadhorse, Book 1: Dead Birds (2013) Eric S. Grissom, Phil Sloan, David Halverson (Frankenstein’s Daughter) 

Collects Deadhorse: Dead Birds #1-6 and includes character sketches, pinups, deleted pages, and more. William Pike is a reclusive shut-in who comes into possession of a powerful key and becomes the target of an evil industrialist. When Pike learns the key may help solve the mystery behind his father's death, he embarks on a journey into the farthest reaches of Alaska while being pursued by a man in a plastic ape mask. (ComiXology)

I’m not quite sure why Deadhorse works, but I was intrigued by the mystery of Pike’s father and thought the humor worked well. The book tries to do a lot: mystery, adventure, suspense, action and comedy, and most of the time succeeds. I wouldn’t mind having this in book form and will certainly seek out more collections as they become available. 


This One Summer (2014) Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki (First Second)

Your level of enjoyment of This One Summer will largely depend upon your age and expectations. This is labeled (in our library, at least) as a YA book. I think a small segment of the YA audience might enjoy it and relate to it, but it's greatest appeal seems to be for adults. This is a very quiet, reflective book that will likely resonate with adult readers, while many YA readers might react with "Nothing much really happens." If for no other reason, you should pick up this title for the wonderful art, filled with shades of blue and purple, which complement the story perfectly.


Dalen and Gole: Scandal in Port Angus (J 2011) Mike Deas (Orca)

Dalen and Gole: Scandal in Port Angus is a fun, silly, goofy graphic novel about aliens discovering tunnel that leads to Earth, where they discover an interplanetary scandal. An entertaining book that works best for very young readers. 


Ant Colony (2014) Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)

Ant Colony is an amazingly weird book that somehow becomes less weird the more you read it. DeForge is a Canadian artist responsible for many of the designs for the animated TV show Adventure Time, which makes a lot of sense after seeing his work in Ant Colony. If you think of Ant Colony as sort of an Adventure Time for adults - except a lot darker with ants and spiders - you’ll probably enjoy it. I know I did.  


Rust: Secrets of the Cell (J 2012) Royden Lepp (Archaia)

The second book in the Rust series proves that Royden Lepp is onto something. The first book in the series, Rust: Visitor in the Field introduced us to the Taylors and their struggle to keep a farm going after a devastating war, a war which included robot fighters. Oswald - the youngest of the three Taylor siblings trying to run the farm after the death of their parents - becomes highly suspicious of a mysterious boy named Jet, who comes to work on the farm. 

While not a lot of questions from the first book are answered here, we do get deeper into the story and things start becoming clearer. The artwork in this series is simply astounding. Lepp uses beautiful sepia tones and an absence of sound effects for a unique reading experience. Volume 3 (the penultimate volume) is available now and a Rust film project is in the works. 


Mind MGMT, Vol. 3: The Home Maker (2014) Matt Kindt (Dark Horse) 

I wish I could describe just how good Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT is... I discussed the first two volumes at The Comics Alternative last year, so feel free to read that review if you want to get the gist of the series. This third volume is a bit of a departure, a collection of interconnected one-shot stories that answers several questions while asking several more. Buying the collected editions is easy - they’re nice, hardcover editions in full color for under 20 bucks. But you might want to buy the individual monthly issues, since those include some nifty extras that aren’t collected in the hardcover volumes. Dive in. This is really good stuff. 


So - tell me what you read in July...

Monday, July 28, 2014

TFAW's Deal, the Eisner Awards and More

From time to time I take a look at the Deal of the Day over at Things From Another World. Today's deal is a good one, especially if you've never read any Fantastic Four. Forget the awful movies: this is the good stuff. This collection showcases Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at their peak, reprinting (in black and white) Fantastic Four #41-63 and annuals #3 and 4, featuring the Silver Surfer, Galactus, Doctor Doom, the Inhumans... Trust me, this is classic stuff. 

Also big in the news: the Eisner Award winners can be found here. Surprises? Not really, but we could certainly discuss some of the choices, which I plan to do here in the coming days. Congratulations to the nominees and winners. 

Finally, Derek and I recorded a podcast yesterday that should be up soon at The Comics Alternative. We discussed the re-release of David Lapham's Murder Me Dead as well as two new comics, Black Market #1 from Boom! and Low #1 from Image. Give us a listen!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reviews of The Shadow Hero, The Maxx Maxximized and More

Things are absolutely on fire over at The Comics Alternative. If you haven't checked it out yet, please listen to Derek and Andy K.'s excellent interview with Gene Luen Yang. I think it's one of their best interviews of the year, maybe even in the podcast's history. 

Then feel free to check out my review of Yang's new graphic novel The Shadow Hero, featuring art by Sonny Liew. Trust me, you're gonna just kick yourself (or a brick wall) if you miss this one, so do pick it up soon. 


Finally, Derek and I discussed a new reissue from the 1990s called The Maxx Maxximized on a recent podcast. We also discussed a new #1 from Image, Supreme Blue Rose as well as two brand new Doctor Who titles. 

Happy reading/listening!

It's Wednesday... 7/23/14

In case you haven’t heard, it’s International Batman Day everywhere, and for me locally, at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, MD. You don’t have to be in Gotham City to celebrate, so please enjoy Batman Day wherever you are!

While you’re celebrating, go to your local comic shop and check out these new releases:

Supreme Blue Rose #1 
Derek and I recently recorded our thoughts on this new Image title, so look for that episode over at The Comics Alternative later today. 


We also discussed two new Doctor Who titles featuring the tenth and eleventh doctors. Derek and I came at these titles from different backgrounds, so check out the podcast and see what you think. 

From everything I’ve heard, Afterlife with Archie #6 - which starts a new story arc - shows no signs of anything close to a dip in quality from creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla. These guys are incredible!

While I was on vacation last week, I read all three Saga trade paperbacks and was just knocked on my tookus. I don’t know if I can wait until the next collected edition, so I might just start picking up the single issues (although I suspect this is one of those titles better read in trades). Saga #21 comes out today. 

Next week, Derek and I will be discussing the rerelease of David Lapham’s 2000 graphic novel Murder Me Dead, a “harrowing tale of love and murder” that I’m looking forward to reading. 

Be sure to tell me what you plan to pick up today.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

March: Book Two Cover Revealed

The cover for the highly anticipated second volume of March was just revealed over at Small Press Expo. If you haven't read the first volume, head down to your local library or comic shop and pick this one up. March: Book One is nominated for several Eisner Awards and is almost sure to win at least one. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SXSW 2014 Starter Pack Review Part III

Back in March, I purchased the SXSW 2014 Submit Starter Pack, 100 digital comics/graphic novels for 10 bucks. I thought it would be fun to review the entire bundle..... slowly, ten titles at a time. This is going to take several weeks months, so bear with me here. 

My rules: if it’s a more-or-less standard individual issue (roughly 32 pages), it gets a one-sentence review. If it’s a graphic novel or longer work, I’m allowed to write more. I’ll start each entry with the title and creators, the copy in italics as it appeared on ComiXology, followed by my review. Here we go - hope you enjoy it.

(Part I can be found here, Part II here.)

Deadhorse Vol. 1: Dead Birds
Eric Grissom, Phil Sloan

Collects Deadhorse: Dead Birds #1-6 and includes character sketches, pinups, deleted pages, and more. William Pike is a reclusive shut-in who comes into possession of a powerful key and becomes the target of an evil industrialist. When Pike learns the key may help solve the mystery behind his father's death, he embarks on a journey into the farthest reaches of Alaska while being pursued by a man in a plastic ape mask.

I’m not quite sure why Deadhorse works, but I was intrigued by the mystery of Pike’s father and thought the humor worked very well. The book tries to do a lot: mystery, adventure, suspense, action and comedy, and most of the time succeeds. I wouldn’t mind having this in book form and will certainly seek out more collections as they become available. 


Super! #1
Justin Platt, Zack Dolan

In this fabulous fifty-two page first issue, you'll thrown headfirst into the world of Super! You'll meet hapless heroes, vindictive villains, rampaging robots, malevolent mimes, and more superpowered action than you can shake a stick at... but don't shake a stick at it. It'll probably shoot you with a death ray!

Super! #1 certainly has all of the aforementioned qualities listed above, and while I understand its wanting to be something of a satire on the whole superhero genre, the concept wore out its welcome rather quickly. 


Rockstar Scientists #1
Kenny Jeffery, George Zapata

The King is dead. Long live the queen. Introducing El, the world's most famous star, on an Earth where scientists rather than musicians command the adoration of millions with wealth to match. Rarely affording them the respect they deserve but often saving the planet along the way. These adventurers and pioneers may not play guitar but they hit the notes and bang the drums that change the face of history.

This title is a much more literal and comedic version of the Beatles as scientists than is Eric Stephenson’s Nowhere Men, and far less effective. 


Afterlife Inc. Vol. 1: Dying To Tell: Tales from the Afterlife
John Lock, Jack Tempest, Del Borovic, Will Tempest, Roy Huteson Stewart, Ash Jackson, Jerry Gaylord

Under the leadership of its visionary CEO -- mostly reformed con-artist Jack Fortune -- AFTERLIFE INC. has brought big business beyond the pearly gates, dragging the Great Beyond firmly into the 21st Century. But as heaven comes to grips with Jack's vast Promethean dream for the future, so too must Jack and Co. cope with artificial intelligences, serial killers, invasions from beyond time and space... and the world's greatest (fictional) detective?! Written by Jon Lock, and illustrated by an amazing line-up of artists, DYING TO TELL: TALES FROM THE AFTERLIFE collects eight interconnected short stories from the world of AFTERLIFE INC. plus a host of special features including pin-ups, character profiles and the AFTERLIFE INC. NON-DENOMINATIONAL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2011.

Something catastrophic has happened. The afterlife - now under the control of Jack Fortune, a strange man with a savage grin and an impossibly long red necktie - is anything you want it to be. Everyone gets a vote in a sort of a “build your own” afterlife. Interesting concepts, mainly one-shot collections with familiar characters such as Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes and many more. Drawn by various artists, the best of whom is Ash Jackson. Interesting concepts - definitely worth a look. 


Dumbing of Age Vol. 1: This Campus is a Friggin’ Escher Print
David Willis

It's Joyce's first day in public education, and everybody's first day in college.

Some good ideas, but I never really got into this Kickstarter webcomic that chronicles several first-year college students and their antics. The collection contains some funny moments, but I quickly grew tired of the same situations and gags. Even more, I got tired of the author’s interspersed commentary and asides. Others seem to love this title, so maybe it’s just not for me.


Diskordia #1
Andrew Blackman

The first chapter in the saga follows the hapless mysanthropic youth Jackal Black as reality falls apart around him in the most disturbing and shocking ways.

A largely incoherent, very adult Alice-in-Wonderland type of comic that has some merit (mainly in its art) and some potential, but ultimately there’s not enough story for me to grab onto in this first issue. 


Doc Unknown #1
Fabian Rangel, Jr., Ryan Cody

When evil threatens the citizens of Gate City, it's up to DOC UNKNOWN to stop them. In "Museum of Madness," Doc must prevent the monstrous mobster, Boss Snake, from stealing an enchanted statue. Things quickly go from bad to weird in this first installment of an exciting new pulp action adventure!

Fun homage to noir/pulp/superhero comics from ages past as the hero Doc Unknown takes on a villain named Boss Snake in what could very well be a promising series.


The Infidel, featuring Pigman #1
Bosch Fawstin

Twin brothers Killian Duke and Salaam Duka's Muslim background comes to the forefront of their lives on 9/11/01, with each responding to the atrocity in diametrically opposite ways. Killian creates a superhero comic book called Pigman, and Salaam fully submits to Islam. This issue goes from Ground Zero on 9/11 to the Mountains of the Hindu Kush as Pigman seeks vengeance.

Interesting controversial story of twin Muslim brothers who each take different paths after September 11. 


Orphans #1
Eric Palicki, Branco Jovanovic

Alexis Quinn is a uniquely 21st century Robin Hood, stealing technology from killers and redistributing it where it will do the most good.

Nice start to a action/adventure series that’s well worth a look. 


The Accelerators #1
R.F.I. Porto, Gavin P. Smith

Two time travelers, Alexa and Bertram, pursue each other through the decades in a deadly cat-and-mouse chase. She is the last survivor of a 1960s research project studying time travel; he is a soldier desperate to wipe out any trace of Alexa's research, including perhaps Alexa herself. Each of them is armed with a time machine, but these machines have a very special rule: They can only move forward in time, never backward. To save herself, Alexa must leap further and further into the future, with Bertram never far behind. Caught in the crossfire between Alexa and Bertram is Spatz, a teenager from the 1990s who tries to help Alexa but instead gets dragged along with her into another time. In this nightmarish future, everyone has their own personal time machine and people pass the time watching gruesome spectacles such as the Time Games, a gladiator-style death match that kidnaps unwitting combatants from throughout history and forces them to fight each other for sport. Now, they must survive the Time Games and escape from this surreal dystopia.

Time travel stories can certainly become very problematic very quickly - this one is no exception - but the story is fairly interesting and exciting.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It's Wednesday... 7/9/14

And there's very little on my Wednesday radar this week, although I am interested in the new Justin Jordan/Kyle Strahm collaboration from Image, Spread #1. This week's email from Third Eye Comics says, "Imagine if John Carpenter's THE THING ate North America, and the world's salvation liked in the hands of the lead from Lone Wolf & Cub." 

In fact, the creators will be at Third Eye Comics this Saturday, 7/12/14. If you're in town, don't miss it. (You can also pick up this cool Third Eye variant and have it signed.)

I really enjoyed the first two or three issues of Rocket Girl, so I'm looking forward to reading this trade (which is only $9.99).

Happy reading!