Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in February 2014

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven (2001/2003) Garth Ennis, Chris Weston, Christian Alamy, Russ Heath (DC Comics) 

A few years ago I blind-bought the first volume of The Enemy Ace Archives by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and loved it. Initially I was won over by Kubert’s art style, but grew to also enjoy Kanigher’s simple but powerful storytelling.

Enemy Ace was an unusual title for its time (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 in support of Hitler. Hans isn’t sure; he is 46, after all, and isn’t really sure if he’s onboard 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 determining 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. 


Skyward, Vol. 1: Into the Woods (J 2014) Jeremy Dale (Action Lab)

Very interesting fantasy/quest story that owes much to both J.R.R. Tolkien and Jeff Smith (Bone). The story (which seems quite slim: three issues and a Free Comic Book Day story, but priced at only $8.99) starts in fairly familiar territory, then takes the reader along an unexpected ride, which is refreshing. A promising start to what could be a very fine series.



Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft (2008) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Locke & Key Vol. 2: Head Games (2009) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

I read the first volume previously 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. Something about the art still bothers me: it's a mixture of characters looking sinister (which works), yet often too cartoonish (which doesn't). The second volume throws more twists and turns to the story, giving us fuller insight into the Locke & Key universe. Compelling story, especially for lovers of horror comics.

4/5 for both volumes

Rachel Rising: Cemetery Songs (2013) Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)

If you’re into horror comics and haven’t picked up Rachel Rising, do yourself a favor and start with the first volume, The Shadow of Death. Recommended by my friend Derek over at The Comics Alternative. Read a bit more about it here


Rio: The Complete Saga (1987/2012) Doug Wildey (IDW)

Some absolutely wonderful art and very good stories by Wildey, who had a remarkable career writing and drawing comic books, comic strips, and working in television animation, including my all-time favorite cartoon Jonny Quest. Rio was something of a personal project about an aging cowboy/gunfighter trying to get along in the world. A large portion of the work here is unfinished, which is understandable, but an awful lot of the lettering is rough - looks like an artist's edition in many places. It seems the lettering could've been cleaned up, but I suppose this is what IDW wanted. The outstanding art alone can carry the stories. A must for Western fans.


Red Light Properties (2014) Dan Goldman (IDW)

Derek and I discussed this graphic novel on The Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 73.


Library of American Comics Essentials 4: Alley Oop 1939 (2013) V. T. Hamlin (IDW/Library of American Comics)

Look for a full review soon at The Comics Alternative, but in the meantime, I’ll just say that if you love newspaper comic strips, you won’t want to miss this one.


The Joyners in 3D (2014) R. J. Ryan, David Marquez (Archaia)

Derek and I also discussed this graphic novel on The Comics Alternative Podcast Episode 74. 


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