Saturday, May 31, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in May 2014 Part II

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

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy (2013) Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli (Marvel) 

(If you haven’t kept up with Spider-Man universe, you probably won’t understand what follows. Best to read The Amazing Spider-Man #700 before starting this newer series.) 

This is a tough one... The first two issues in this volume really tried my patience with the "Peter Parker angel" floating around and the tiresome scenes of Peter trying to deal with Doc Ock's relationships with Pete's loved ones. Things do get more interesting during the last half of the volume. It's certainly entertaining and I'll probably keep reading, but there are many opportunities here, only some of which Slott takes advantage of. Yet I'll give him a chance and keep reading.


Steve Canyon, Vol. 1: 1947-1948 (2012) Milton Caniff (IDW)

Caniff is, of course, a legend and you certainly can’t go wrong with any of his work. Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, and while Steve Canyon isn’t quite the comic strip that Terry is, it’s still an incredible experience. 

When Caniff left Terry and the Pirates in 1946, he also left ownership of the title and its characters to the Chicago Tribune newspaper syndicate. He knew that the next time he created a newspaper strip, he wanted complete creative control. He got it with Steve Canyon, an action/adventure strip about an Air Force veteran running his own air-transport business. Like Terry, Steve Canyon is filled with international adventures, dangerous villians and plenty of love interests and femmes fatales (often the same woman).  

Yet Steve Canyon takes awhile to find his way (no pun intended). It seems Caniff didn’t really know what to do with a large supporting cast of Canyon’s  World War II buddies, so they sort of just disappear after the first quarter of the book (which actually makes the book stronger). Most of the characters and storylines don’t quite match up to the depth and quality of Terry, but the volume seems to be finding its way in the last half of the book. Sign me up for the next volume.


+ Nathan Sorry, Vol. 1 (2010) Rich Barrett (available online through ComiXology)


Blankets (2003) Craig Thompson (Top Shelf) 

Blankets is one of those memoir graphic novels that gets mentioned so frequently it almost became the sole focal point of Thompson’s career, until the release of Hababi in 2011. Blankets is a powerful, yet quiet work that examines love, faith, sibling rivalry, coming-of-age and more. Without getting too personal, Blankets reflects so much of my own life it’s sometimes difficult to read or comment on it. Maybe one day.... Anyone interested in graphic novels should read this one.


Alias the Cat! (2005) Kim Deitch (Pantheon)

You’ll either love or hate Kim Deitch’s wild, often staggering Alias the Cat! but I doubt you’ll be able to forget it. Deitch and his wife Pam are actual characters in the book, searching for pieces for Pam’s collection of Halloween cats from the 1920s and 30s. When they stumble upon the story of Alias the Cat - which was both a comic strip and film serial - they discover stories within stories, each story crazier than the last. I love Deitch’s character’s constant state of shock and horror at each revelation about Alias the Cat. This is my first, and hopefully not the last, exposure to Deitch’s work. 


+ Footprints (2013) Joey Esposito, Jonathan Moore (214 Ink)

Footprints is one of those graphic novels that simply should not work at all. I mean, come on, Bigfoot as a hardboiled detective looking for the murderer of his brother Yeti? And Bigfoot’s buddies helping him on the case - The Jersey Devil, Loch Ness Monster, and Megaldon? How in the world could this work on any level?

I’m not sure, but it does. Esposito provides just the right amount of humor in this gritty noir tale and Jonathan Moore’s art is somewhat reminiscent of that of Sean Phillips. Worth a look.


In the Dark: A Horror Anthology (2014) Rachel Deering, ed. (IDW)

Read my review at The Comics Alternative 


Reset (2013) Peter Bagge (Dark Horse) 

Two things: (1) This is my first experience with Peter Bagge, and although I'm sure this is probably not his best work and maybe not the best place to start, I still enjoyed it. 
(2) I really appreciated Bagge's NOT going where I thought he was going and the way he explores so many ideas at once, including fear/distrust of technology, relationships, and, of course, humor. I definitely will place Bagge high on my "To Read" list. 


Attack on Titan, Volume 1 (2010/2012) Hajime Isayama (Kodansha Comics) 

I enjoyed the story and concept of this first volume, but was often frustrated by the art and visual storytelling. (The anime series clears up a lot of the visual confusion very quickly.) I plan to keep reading the series, though.


That’ll do it for May. Tell me what you read. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Nathan Sorry, Vol. 1 (2010) Rich Barrett

I originally had little to say about this title, but the more I thought about it, the more I had to say. Initially I didn't have a very high opinion of the book, but I found myself thinking about it more and more. Those are the titles I think you need to write about.

Nathan Sorry, Vol. 1 (J 2010) Rich Barrett (available online through ComiXology)

Nathan is an ordinary, unremarkable investment analyst who works at the World Trade Center. As the book opens, he’s missed a flight to New York just prior to 9/11. Some strange things happen (which I won’t go into) that allow Nathan to “start over” in a small town with a new identity. Ideally Nathan wants to go to another country and start completely over, but more weird things begin to happen. 

Nathan Sorry has some pretty good ideas, but I’m not sure they all work, at least not in this initial volume. There’s a fine line between a good mystery and a convoluted one, and Nathan Sorry is sometimes a bit too convoluted and unfocused. We’re not sure if the protagonist’s name is meant to suggest (a little too obviously) that he’s sorry he didn’t die on 9/11 and is trying to run from a general sense of guilt, or whether he’s just a sorry, cowardly individual. Or both.

One aspect of the story that’s interesting is one that I’ve rarely seen addressed in 9/11 fiction (which is not really a genre I have much of an interest in reading anyway): revenge and/or feelings of satisfaction at the death of one’s co-workers. This is a fine line and one that must be tread with the upmost of care, to be sure, and to give credit to Barrett, he handles it quite well. We see that Nathan worked with a lot of people who were not only jerks, but who would stab him in the back the first chance they got. Maybe Nathan does feel sorry for any sense of satisfaction he might have over the deaths of some of his coworkers. Some of them clearly would’ve stomped him down in a second in order to advance up the ladder. Maybe his sense of guilt in this sense is meant to drive the story and is the real impetus of Nathan’s actions. Although this is an uncomfortable topic, it's one I'd like to see explored further.   

So this first volume is both intriguing and frustrating. I’ll definitely check out the second volume and maybe beyond. You can find out more about Nathan Sorry at Barrett’s website.  


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in May 2014 Part I

May is still going strong, so I’ve decided to break things up a bit. Here’s the first part of what I read this month. More to come!

(All works with an * are currently nominated for a 2014 Eisner Award.)

Sock Monkey Treasury: A “Tony Millionaire’s Sock Monkey” Collection (2014) Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics) 

As Aaron Alexander says in his excellent review, Sock Monkey Treasury is a gorgeously-illustrated, whimsical journey into worlds of wonder and imagination featuring sock monkey Uncle Gabby, his friend Mr. Crow, and an assortment of supporting characters in a series of adventures that are charming, intelligent, somewhat Victorian in character, and sometimes tragic. Hmm... Does that last part sound out-of-place? 

As Alexander points out, these tales are mostly G-rated (or sometimes PG-rated) adventures that even young kids can enjoy, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a parent reading these stories alongside them. Be aware, however, that Tony Millionaire also has a very different, very adult series called Maakies which uses these same characters. Don't confuse the two!  


*Otto’s Backwards Day (J 2013) Frank Cammuso (Toon Books)

A nice, cute Level 3 book in the Toon Book series involving all things backwards, including palindromes. The characters are fun, drawn in a sort of Calvin and Hobbes style, but the "lessons" are fairly heavy-handed, even for a kids' book. An Eisner Award nominee in the Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7) category.


*Hilda and the Bird Parade (J 2012/2013) Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)

Although this is not Hilda’s first adventure, it’s my first time to experience Luke Pearson’s adventuress. Hilda and her mom have moved to a new city, Trolberg, a city Hilda is itching to explore despite her mother’s misgivings. Hilda meets up with a raven who has something important to share with Hilda, if he could only remember what it is. Hilda and the Bird Parade is a fun oversized book with a decidedly European flavor (Pearson is from the UK), full of interesting adventures and a spunky protagonist. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more Hilda adventures. 


Locke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega (2014) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

The saga of the Locke family is over and I’m pleased to report that it comes to a satisfying conclusion. Hill and Rodriguez are to be congratulated for giving us a horror series that delivers and didn’t go on for too long. The great thing about finishing this series is wanting to start it all over again.   


*East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise (2013) Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta (Image)

Hickman is a toss-up for me: I think his Manhattan Projects is one of the best titles out there, but Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four didn’t do a thing for me. East of West contains elements of interest and frustration. 

In this alternate universe, the American Civil War ran for an enormously long time, leading to America being divided into seven states. Up come the four (actually three - Death is off on a mission of his own) horsemen of the apocalypse, ready for Armageddon. There’s all kinds of cultural stuff thrown into the mix, some of it interesting, some of it cliched. This is one of those titles that seems to get worse the more I think about it, but maybe I need to give it a re-read.   


*Bluffton (J 2013) Matt Phelan (Candlewick Press)

(The cover of this book is very misleading. It’s not an elephant story at all, in case that’s a deal-breaker for you.) 

I’m a big fan of Matt Phelan’s books to begin with, so I knew I’d like his gorgeous artwork, especially his watercolors. The story works on several different levels, that of the nostalgic reflections of a boy named Henry and his summers in Bluffton, Michigan in the early 20th century, but there's much more going on. A young Buster Keaton is one of the central characters here, and even if readers don’t know who Buster Keaton was, they’ll have a great time learning about him as Henry tries to out-do him to gain the attention of a local girl. As usual, Phelan’s work depends more on visuals than text, facial expressions and subtle touches, all of which seem like childs-play to Phelan.


Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (J 2014) Nathan Hale (Harry N. Abrams) 

This fourth installment in the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series is the most ambitious yet, covering a rather large amount of World War I. I'm amazed at how Hale was able to make this work, providing just the right tone while mixing in his trademark humor at appropriate places. Derek Royal and I recently interviewed Hale at The Comics Alternative Podcast


Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (2014) Box Brown (First Second)


Friday, May 16, 2014

The Comics Alternative Interview with Nathan Hale

Derek and I recently had a great time interviewing author/illustrator Nathan Hale, the creator of the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series for young (and not-so-young) readers. Please check out the interview, then check out Nathan Hale's great titles! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (2014) Box Brown (First Second)

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (2014) - Box Brown (First Second)

I have a confession to make: I used to watch wrestling. Yeah, that kind of wrestling: Hulk Hogan, Junk Yard Dog, Skandor Akbar, Doctor X, all those guys. And Andre the Giant. I even saw him live when I was a kid, watching him polish off ten guys at once. So when I heard that First Second was going to publish Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown, I knew I had to read and review it. 

I also have to confess that before reading this graphic novel, I had never encountered Box Brown’s work. I’ll further confess that upon an initial reading, I was somewhat disappointed. Brown’s black-and-white artwork is clear, simple without being simplistic, and very easy to follow, yet I felt something was missing. Something.... well, big. Like Andre himself. 

Andre the Giant opens with several pages depicting wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, reminiscing on his fights with Andre. Those early panels sum up the book quite well; the rest of the story expounds on what Hogan has already told us. Life was hard for Andre. His enormous size made it a certainly that he would almost never be comfortable anywhere. Various people had differing opinions of the seven-foot-four, 500 pound giant, but, says Hogan, “Most people don’t understand the big picture.”

We see Andre Roussimoff as a young man, growing up in Molien, France in the late 1950s. He was so big, the school bus driver refused to allow him on the bus. If you needed to change a tire, you didn’t need a jack; Andre simply lifted the appropriate end of the car for you. He called everyone “boss” as if each person he met was somehow someone to be obeyed. 

(photo from First Second)

Yet we also see many scenes of Andre behaving badly. Some of them involve cruelty to others and some are just harmless mischief. My favorite scene involves Andre refusing to leave a bar after closing time. While Andre’s still drinking, the bar owner calls the cops and four officers soon arrive. One of the cops, staring in amazement, whispers to the others, “I don’t think our cuffs will fit that guy.”  

The book’s source notes show us that rather than a standard biography, what Brown has given us is a collection of various encounters with Andre the Giant from various people. Often these accounts differ because people see different sides of the man in different situations and at different times. Rarely does Andre talk about his hopes and dreams, fears and demons. Oddly enough, one of the times he’s most candid is in a setting where he’s both seen by the most people and taken the least seriously: The David Letterman Show

These snapshot episodes of Andre in and out of the ring remind us that, as much as we’d wish it to be otherwise, we really don’t know the public figures we love and admire. We might think we know Andre from his wrestling appearances and from his near-legendary performance as Fezzik in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, but we really don’t. So much of Andre’s life was spent on the road, in hotel rooms and bars. On one plane ride, Andre confides to wrestling interviewer/announcer Gene Okerlund, “People think I have a wonderful life. They see me travel all over the world... eating at the best restaurants, drinking fine wine... They point at me... kids laugh at me... They’re afraid of me... People look at me and think... what kind of man is he??”

At first I thought the bits and pieces of Andre’s life in this graphic novel didn’t really add up to anything cohesive. Then I went through it a second time and realized maybe that’s the point. Andre the Giant - like the world’s tallest man Robert Wadlow (at 8 ft. 11 inches) who died in 1940 at the age of 22 - is one of those people who captured the interest (if not the heart) of the world for a brief time, then was gone. As with most celebrities (especially pre-Internet), we see them doing what made them famous, and that’s all we see or know about them. Although in many ways an understated book, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend shows us that there’s so much more to famous people than what we see on the surface. These days we can find out just about every detail of any celebrity online, uncovering any element of mystery or curiosity. But maybe those pre-Internet celebrities were, in their own ways, trying to tell us something important - even urgent - about themselves, something we could’ve learned if only we’d paid closer attention. Brown has done an admirable job of helping us remember that this particular cultural icon was something more than a cultural icon. He was also a very human soul, just like the rest of us. 


(Many thanks to Gina at First Second for providing a review copy!) 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

SXSW 2014 Starter Pack Review Part I

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, 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, followed by the copy in italics as it appeared on ComiXology, followed by my review. (If the order of books seems to have no rhyme or reason, this is how they appeared in my ComiXology files.) Here we go - hope you enjoy it.

Watson and Holmes #1
Karl Bollers, Rick Leonardi

WATSON & HOLMES--Re-envisioning Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson as African Americans living in New York City's famous Harlem district. Watson, an Afghanistan war vet, works in an inner-city clinic; Holmes is a local P.I. who takes unusual cases. When one of them ends up in Watson's emergency room, the unlikely duo strike up a partnership to find a missing girl. Watson & Holmes bump heads along the way as they enter a labyrinth of drugs, guns, gangs and a conspiracy that goes higher and deeper than they could have imagined....

Interesting, well-envisioned modern take on the classic duo, one I plan to continue reading. (Reading this comic led me to purchase and review the first trade, Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black.) 


Tomorrow Jones #1
Brian T. Daniel, Johan Manandin

Tomorrow Jones, 14 years-old and the second child in a family of superheroes. While she may be strong enough to fold an armored truck into origami, Tomorrow has to pretend to be a normal girl at school. Her father won't take her seriously, and her traditional heroine mother expects Tomorrow to follow in her footsteps. But Tomorrow doesn't want to dress in skimpy spandex though, and starts fighting crime unmasked and simply wearing jeans and a T-shirt with her real initials on it. All the while her parents keep trying to get her to do things "the traditional way" and Tomorrow finds she might be getting in over her head in the superhero community.

Mostly predictable and telegraphed, Tomorrow Jones just might, with time, venture into something more promising and exciting. 


Astronaut Dad
David Hopkins, Brent Schoonover

Over fifty years ago--October 4, 1957--humanity entered a new age with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Soviet Union's Sputnik I. Return to those early days, when John F. Kennedy challenged a nation to place a man on the moon before the end of the decade, when the nation sought out test pilots with "the right stuff" to ride rockets into the night. ASTRONAUT DAD follows three NASA families from Houston, Texas during the boom years of the space race.


First Law of Mad Science #1
Oliver Mertz, Daniel Lapham

Super-scientist George Baker's newest invention, electronic retinal implants known as "Cyber-Eyes," are nothing short of amazing. So amazing, in fact, and so cheap and easy to get, that some 40% of the population has gotten them within their first year on the market. But they aren't perfect. Far from it. When things start going inexplicably and bizarrely wrong with the original test-subjects, George and his family will have to find out why before the problem spreads and causes world-wide panic. Along the way they'll uncover ancient civilizations, corporate conspiracies, insane cults, other-dimensional creatures, awesome robots, subterranean cities, and Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. It's going to be a wild ride.

It is a wild ride, and a fairly interesting one, but I didn’t find myself as engaged with these characters as much as I would’ve liked. 


51 Serif St #1: The Breaking
Horatiu Radolu

Daniel Rosdower is a crook looking for a second chance. So when he is offered a chance to spend the rest of his sentence at the 51 Serif St. rehabilitation house, he jumps at the offer. But he soon discovers there is more to the hollowed halls of this house than he ever thought, as he drifts deeper into madness, and gets to know the other patients and their dark pasts.

I’m clearly not the audience for this utterly dark, bleak, depressing title. 


Too Much Coffee Man Favorites #1
Shannon Wheeler

Too Much Coffee Man doing his thing.

This best-of compilation is a real treasure as Wheeler pokes fun at a whole plethora of cultural situations, making us laugh from beginning to end. 


‘Twas the Night Before Krampus
Ben Avery, Tim Baron 

You've heard the legend of "jolly ol' St. Nicholas," but do you know the truth? St. Nick is real. And he ain't jolly. An endless cosmic brawl between Nicholas and his vile Holiday counterpart, Krampus, will come to a cataclysmic head this snowy Christmas Eve. But this year, only one will emerge victorious. Can St. Nicholas save Christmas Day? Or will this Eve forever be known as "The Night Before Krampus." Black and White, 68 Pages

Since this is longer than a typical comic, I get to use more than one sentence. (Remember, these are my rules.) This is a unique, compelling take on the whole St. Nicholas mythology, one that I found strangely drawn to. I’ll seek out more of this title. 


Tiger Lawyer #1
Ryan Ferrier, Vic Malhotra

The debut of Tiger Lawyer features two original tales crossing multiple generes! In "Attorney at Rawr" our titular tiger defends an accused murder, leading to all out courtroom chaos! The series takes a turn for the noir in "Dead Cat Walking" as Tiger loses his first case, forcing him to take to the streets as he uncovers a plot much thicker than murder.

I’m not sure whether the original idea was based on being a comedy, but I didn’t laugh much at these stories, both of which seemed rushed and short on fully-developed ideas. 


Quandary #1
Janine Frederick, Ken Frederick

Set in a dystopian future, Danny finds himself in a quandary and Ron thinks he knows a good way out of a bad situation.

Since we’re given only a few pages here - about two guys who are trying to avoid a recently mandated draft for military service - it’s too early to tell whether this will be worth continuing.  


Relaunch #1
Ron Perazza, Daniel Govar

When the deep space utility ship Inspiration is damaged during a solar flare it's up to its pilot and sole occupant, Cris, to make things right. Along the way she realizes, nothing is quite what it seems and a simple power loss could very well mean her death.

Relaunch uses the digital format well, almost with a split-screen concept showing sometimes minute, sometimes drastic changes (which would not work in a print comic) in this space program tale. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Eisner Award Talk



There's plenty of talk going on about the current Eisner Award nominees, some of which can be found at The Comics Alternative. Do the Eisner Awards seem to have more in common with the Oscars or the Cannes Film Festival? Do they focus too much on critical or commercial success? Are they diverse enough? Were certain writers and artists slighted this year? Are there too many categories? Not enough? Check out the essays (including one by me) and see what you think.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in April 2014

(All works with an * are currently nominated for a 2014 Eisner Award.)

Locke & Key Vol. 5: Clockworks (2011) Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW) 

Overall an excellent penultimate volume to the series, one that not only advances the story, but answers many questions as to the origin of the keys themselves. The penultimate book in a series is always an iffy prospect; it has to set things up in order to be concluded well in the final volume and while it can’t answer too many questions, it should at least pave the way for the answers to come in the next volume, which this does. One more volume to go...


Look Straight Ahead (2013) Elaine M. Will (Alternative Comics)

17-year-old Jeremy wants to be an important artist, but he suffers from breakdowns caused by bullying, parents who don’t understand, and the fact that he has no friends for support. Elaine Will does a great job of capturing the loneliness, helplessness, and horror of depression, yet not overlooking the ways art can help heal and sometimes make nightmares of depression worse. However, the book comes in a bit too long at over 200 pages and provides an ending that’s too easy. 


Rubicon (2013) Mark Long, Christopher McQuarrie, Dan Capel, Mario Stilla (Archaia Black Label)


Astronaut Dad (2011) David Hopkins, Brent Schoonover (Create Space)

You could almost subtitle Astronaut Dad something like The Not-Quite Right Stuff since its focus is at least partially on NASA’s reserve astronauts in the late 50s and early 60s, guys who sit around waiting for one of the top shelf astronauts like John Glenn or Alan Shepard to have an accident. 

Yet, like the more famous astronauts, these guys are putting in long hours away from their families, and the families are the focus here. The strain on domestic life is evident here, mainly through the stories of the children. They want their fathers to be seen as heroes, but it’s likely they’ll always be second-string players. 

The art style reminds us of 60s cartoons, but Schoonover makes it work with a simple elegance that gives the story a quiet, subdued power. Definitely worth a look.  


*Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black (2013) Karl Bollers, Rick Leonard, Larry Stroman (New Paradigm)


*Battling Boy (J/Y 2013) Paul Pope (First Second)

Hard to believe, but this is my first experience reading a Paul Pope graphic novel. Wow. I could describe this book in so many ways, but I think the best advice I can give you is to do what I did: go into the book with as little knowledge about it as possible. All you need to know is that it’s an adventure story, but it’s so much more. Your local library probably has it, but after you’ve read it, you’ll probably want to own it. 


*The Adventures of Superhero Girl (Y 2013) Faith Erin Hicks 

The Adventures of Superhero Girl draws you in with its charm and humor, and if that’s all it did, it would be a success. But Hicks has more in mind. She not only touches on the problems involved with a superhero’s double life (Just how does a superhero go to the grocery store?), but also addresses many of our cultural hangups, all the while poking fun at the superhero genre. 


*Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas (J 2013) Philippe Coudray (Toon Books)


*The Big Wet Balloon (J 2013) Liniers (Toon Books) 


Toon Books has done a great job of making what amounts to graphic novel easy readers. Like most easy readers published today, Toon Books also grades them according to reading level. Both Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas and The Big Wet Balloon are both Level 2 books. Both are short, beautifully illustrated, and very approachable for children. 

Benjamin Bear is a lovable bear with a clever, easy-going manner, yet has a very sophisticated sense of humor. His adventures with his friends are cute, whimsical, and often hilarious. The Big Wet Balloon contains no talking bears, but focuses more on a young girl teaching her little sister how to enjoy a rainy day. Both are good choices for younger readers.   

*Dogs of War (J 2013) Sheila Keenan, Nathan Fox (Graphix/Scholastic)

Dogs of War has an admirable premise, to spotlight the many different types of dogs that have helped serve our country in times of war - in this case, World Wars I, II and Vietnam. There’s some good stuff here, but the three stories are somewhat disappointing in that they frequently stick with war stereotypes which adults (and maybe kids) have all seen before. Also some of the art is difficult to follow in action sequences. Still, Dogs of War is worth a look, especially for kids who love dogs and have an interest in history. 


Beautiful Scars (J 2012/2014) Durwin Talon, Guin Thompson (Archaia)

Review forthcoming at The Comics Alternative


*Odd Duck (J 2013) Cecil Castellucci, Sara Varon (First Second)

One look at the cover of Odd Duck tells you enough to get the gist of the story, which is all about accepting people who are different. Theodora considers herself a perfectly normal duck, although she wears a teacup on her head at all times. When Chad moves into the neighborhood, Theodora cannot tolerate Chad’s multicolored feathers and weird yard art. Odd Duck is both weird and wonderful without being preachy.  


Be sure to tell me what you read last month!