Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reviews of The Joyners in 3D, Undertow #1 and White Suits #1 on The Comics Alternative

Derek over at The Comics Alternative was kind enough to invite me back to do an episode of the podcast covering the new graphic novel The Joyners in 3D and the first issues of Undertow and White Suits. Hope you enjoy the podcast! 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review of the New Rick Geary Graphic Novel and My First Podcast!


Things have been a little busy around here, but I wanted to post my review of Rick Geary's latest graphic novel Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White and my first podcast with The Comics Alternative, where host Derek Royal and I discuss The Fuse #1 and the new graphic novel Red Light Properties by Dan Goldman. I enjoyed filling in for Andy Kunka and hope to be able to fill in again sometime. Thanks again, Derek! 


Monday, February 10, 2014

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (2008) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez

(photo from The BiblioSanctum)

I previously read the first volume of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft in 2009 and decided to re-read it now, since the final volume was just published. I enjoyed it more this time around, possibly because I'm more familiar with Joe Hill's fiction. (I still think that Hill’s short fiction is stronger than his novels, but then again, I’ve had more exposure to his short stories.) 

You can read plot summaries elsewhere, but this first volume does an excellent job of introducing us to a family who has just experienced an awful tragedy, trying to put their lives back together, unaware of the evil forces surrounding them. It’s more complex than that, with hints that Hill could be creating not only a more complex story, but an entire world filled with elements of horror, magic, puzzles, and much more. There’s no doubt Hill knows how to tell a terrific story and build credible worlds. 

Something about the art, however, still bothers me. Maybe I’m not yet used to the style of Gabriel Rodriguez. His backgrounds and settings are wonderfully rendered. The New England mansion Keyhouse is a thing of beauty and wonder. Yet there’s something about Rodriguez’s rendering of the characters that just doesn’t seem quite right somehow. It's a mixture of characters being portrayed as sinister (which works), yet at the same time, too cartoonish (which doesn't). Maybe this comes from having so many characters in the story who are children, teens or young(er) adults. Maybe I’ll grow used to it. But I do know that the remaining volumes of Locke & Key are definitely on my to-read radar. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven (2001) Garth Ennis, et. al.

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven (2001) Garth Ennis, Chris Weston, Christian Alamy, Russ Heath (DC)

A few years ago I blind-bought The Enemy Ace Archives by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and loved it. Initially I loved (and still love) Kubert’s art style, but grew to also love Kanigher’s simple but powerful storytelling.

Enemy Ace was an unusual title for its time (the mid-1960s) in that its hero was a World War I flying ace named Hans von Hammer. That’s right; he’s fighting on the German side, but he didn’t always feel so great about it. 

Garth Ennis picks up where the original left off, this time with an aging von Hammer living in secluded retirement. His old friend Peter wants Hans to join the war effort for Hitler. Hans isn’t sure; he is 46, after all, and isn’t really sure if he’s on board with Hitler’s policies.
But we know he’s going to join up and he does. What we don’t expect is…. Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself. 

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven covers only a two-issue mini-series, but it’s a good one. (The volume also includes a reprint of a Kanigher/Kubert story.) The only issue I had with the book is in distinguishing the characters of Hans and Peter. They look an awful lot alike and in many cases it’s very confusing who’s who. The graphic novel also doesn’t distinguish who drew/inked each issue, which seems to be different people. The art is stronger in the first issue and most of the “who’s who” problems appear in the second. 

Regardless, War in Heaven is an excellent read, especially for anyone who enjoys war comics.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in January 2014

The Complete Terry and the Pirates, Vol. 3: 1939-1940 (2008) Milton Caniff (IDW)

Hands down my all-time favorite newspaper comic strip. Read more to find out why. 


Daredevil, Vol. 6 (2013) Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel) 

This volume collects Daredevil #28-30 and Indestructible Hulk #9-10. This will teach me to stop buying titles sight-unseen… Had I known the contents, I would've only bought the individual issues of Daredevil. I really wanted to like the Indestructible Hulk issues, especially when I read the premise, but was disappointed to see that this storyline is just a modern take on a well-worn concept. I'll be more careful next time….


Showa: A History of Japan 1926-1939 (2013) Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly) 

The first book in a four-volume set on the history of Japan may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but you should definitely give it a look. Please read more about it


Boxers & Saints (2013) Gene Luen Yang (First Second)

Gene Luen Yang does some incredible work. His American Born Chinese is rightfully hailed as a great graphic novel and even when his work isn’t great (as in The Eternal Smile), it’s still very good. Boxers & Saints represents a little of both. Boxers (showing the beginnings of the Boxer Rebellion in late 19th century China) is more detailed, taking its time to tell a story that’s both longer and more solid than that of Saints. The two should be read as a set and Boxers should definitely be read before Saints. A podcast and a commentary on both books can be found at The Comics Alternative.   

Boxers 4.5
Saints 3.5 

Rachel Rising Vol. 2: Fear No Malus (2012) Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)

I enjoyed Moore’s work on Strangers in Paradise, but am addicted to Rachel Rising, one of the best horror comics being produced today. The first volume provides the set-up of a young woman who literally crawls out of her grave seeking answers to why she was put there in the first place, but the second volume ramps things up several notches. Moore is very strong on relationships, which is one of the reasons Rachel Rising works so well. 


Studying Comics and Graphic Novels (NF 2013) Karin Kukkonen (Wiley-Blackwell) 

Studying Comics and Graphic Novels seems geared to college students taking an introductory class in comics/graphic novels. (One section even shows you how to write an essay, which is something that will no doubt serve you well in college. See... graphic novels are important!) As such, the book assumes you know little-to-nothing about comics/graphic novels, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

Kukkonen does go into a fair amount of depth in discussions of narrative and panel layout as well as a good, but concise history of comics. At times Kukkonen gets a little too academic for my tastes, but this is a textbook, after all. The recommended reading list is also good. Worth a look, especially for those new to comics studies.


Uzumaki, Vol. 1 (2004) Junji Ito (VIZ Media)

A really fun, seriously messed-up Japanese horror tale, the first of three volumes. I first heard about it from Shea Hennum over at The Comics Alternative Podcast


Ballad (2013) Blexbolex (Enchanted Lion Books)

From Goodreads: “This image-based story builds page by page, over seven sequences. The initial sequence consists of three images: beginning, middle and end of a journey. The following six sequences take up this same story, but with new details and extra images added each time. The story thus quickly becomes enormous as the number of new images doubles with each sequence.” 

That’s it in a nutshell, but the art is absolutely gorgeous. I’m not sure where this book belongs. Our library initially (and mistakenly) had it in children’s picture books, but it’s far too sophisticated for that section. A beautiful and complex book that requires multiple readings. Definitely worth a look. 


Doom Patrol, Vol. 1: Crawling from the Wreckage (2000) Grant Morrison, Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, Scott Hanna (DC Vertigo)

I love the original Doom Patrol from the 60s - especially the weirdness of it - but Grant Morrison takes weirdness to a whole other level with his incarnation of the series from the late 80s-early 90s. I certainly liked this volume enough to continue with the next one.


Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White (2013) Rick Geary (NMB)

I just love Rick Geary’s true crime graphic novels. They combine a love of history with some serious shenanigans. A review should be forthcoming from The Comics Alternative soon. 


The Invincible Gene Colan (NF 2010) Clifford Meth (Hero Initiative) 

Gene Colan certainly deserves a better treatment than he gets here. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo gives a good overview of Colan's career, followed by summaries of Colan's work on Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Captain America, The Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck, and other miscellaneous Marvel titles. These sections include a variety of art samples: reproductions of original artwork, commissioned art, sketches, sample pages from comics and comics covers. There's some wonderful stuff here, but far too many of the covers are small, smaller than a typical playing card. These covers certainly deserve a larger and better treatment. In fact, a coffee table-sized book as we've seen representing other artists (Ditko, Kirby, Kubert, etc.) would certainly be in order. 

Much of the book's text consists of tributes from artists such as Walt Simonson, Tom Palmer, Mike Esposito, and writers such as Neil Gaiman. However the place we learn the most about Colan is near the end of the book in a 1995 interview with editor Clifford Meth. The tributes are nice, but we really (and briefly) get to know who Colan really was in this interview. It makes you want more, but unfortunately it's just not there. 

Something that is there is a frequency of printing errors. Many pages contain margin captions that have been printed over each other, rendering them unreadable. 

Colan was such a unique artist and a great influence on others that he deserves a better, larger book. Let's hope we get that book someday.


Coffee with Jesus (2013) David J. Wilkie (IVP)

Many of these comic strips are both hilarious AND theologically accurate. How often does THAT happen?


Be sure to tell me what you read!