Thursday, June 26, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in June 2014 Part II

June is looking to be a record-breaking month here at Graphic Novel Universe. Here’s the second 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.)

The Yellow “M” (1956) Edgar P. Jacobs (Cinebook)

Previously discussed here


Afterlife with Archie, Vol. 1: Escape from Riverdale (2014) Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla (Archie) 


Black Science, Vol. 1: How to Fall Forever (2014) Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, Dean White (Image)

Scientist Grant McKay - with his research crew and family - discovers a way to travel to other dimensions through “black science” and, specifically, through a device known as the “pillar.” McKay is hoping to find the answers to all of man’s questions by traveling interdimensionally, but discovers each dimension is filled with further questions, danger, and sometimes death. 

In one way, Rememder is exploring and paying homage to some of the great classic science fiction ideas from sf history. In another, he’s touching on many elements of human nature, some that we’d maybe rather not be reminded of...

This was a quick read - perhaps too quick - and one I want to explore again. The art and coloring in this book are so incredible, you could literally stare at each panel and lose all track of time. Collects Black Science #1-6 for ten bucks. Trust me on this one - buy it. 


+ Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter: Digital Omnibus (2012) Marc Ellerby (Great Beast) 

I like the concept of Chloe as sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without any special powers. Chloe is also a real flake and most of the time isn’t really interested in saving the world at all, but would rather play keyboards in what appears to be a pretty lousy band. She’s grumpy and opinionated and hangs out with her friend Zoe, who is - of course - everything Chloe is not: beautiful, perky, and optimistic. The British humor works well enough, but gets old fast. A fun, whimsical read that I might explore further.


The Massive, Vol. 1: Black Pacific (2013) Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, Garry Brown (Dark Horse) (2x)

The first trade of The Massive was one of my favorite graphic novels of 2013. (You can read my full review here.)


The Massive, Vol. 2: Subcontinental (2013) Brian Wood, Garry Brown, Gary Erskine, Declan Shalvey, Danijel Žeželj (Dark Horse)

The second trade of The Massive really deflated much of the enthusiasm I had for the first volume. I can go along with the “ghost ship” concept for only so long, and at this point, my patience is wearing thin. Several believability issues emerge here that were not a problem in the first book, but the biggest disappointment with Subcontinental is its art with six collected issues drawn by four different artists. I’m not sure what’s going on with these changes, but I’m hoping for more consistency in art and less “ghost ship” plot points with Volume 3.  


The Nao of Brown (2012) Glyn Dillon (SelfMadeHero)

Nao Brown is a 28-year-old woman with OCD who lives in London and works at a toy shop. Nao has dreams of love and longing as well as extremely violent urges, often at the same time. Telling you more about the plot would be pointless. The Nao of Brown is something you have to experience for yourself. Besides the gorgeous watercolor artwork, Dillon has created a uniquely complex character that’s both surprising and touching. This is a very different graphic novel, one that’s very good and maybe even great. I’ll definitely read this one again. 


Adventure Time: Candy Capers (J 2014) (KaBOOM!)

Recently reviewed at The Comics Alternative 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's Wednesday... 6/25/14

Full disclosure: I’m getting ready to buy a new computer, so I probably won’t be hitting my favorite comic shop in the world, Third Eye Comics, for a few weeks, but if I were to somehow accidentally wind up there, and if dollars started falling from the sky, here’s what I’d be picking up:

The Mercenary Sea #5
I loved the first issue of this title and have been debating whether to buy it in individual issues or just wait for the trade. If you haven’t read it, this is simply a great adventure in the vein of Jonny Quest (only without kids) with wonderful artwork by Mathew Reynolds. 

Mind MGMT #23
Matt Kindt is simply amazing. This is another series I began buying as individuals issues, then waited for the trades, but since Kindt adds so many extras to the floppies (extras which never make it into the collected editions), I might just start picking the single issues up again. Haven’t read Mind MGMT? If you like spy stories, adventure, suspense, action, or just good stories (and who doesn’t?), pick up Mind MGMT

Rachel Rising #23
I do buy Rachel Rising, but usually only in collected editions. If you like horror and you’re not reading this title, you should correct that oversight immediately. 

As far as trade/collected editions go, the only thing that really grabs me this week is Brian Wood’s The Massive, Vol. 3: Longship. While Vol. 1: Black Pacific was an exceptional introduction to the world of The Massive, Vol. 2: Subcontinental was a largely disappointing venture with a revolving door of artists. I have high hopes, however, for Longship

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adventure Time: Candy Capers (J 2014)

The Comics Alternative just published my review of Adventure Time: Candy Capers. As you can see from the review, talking about different formats (In this case, television vs. graphic novel) can be problematic, especially if you're talking about the graphic novel format to someone who has only seen - or never seen - the TV show. That's a topic I hope to explore soon here at Graphic Novel Universe

Monday, June 23, 2014

SXSW 2014 Starter Pack Review Part II

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.)

Evil Inc Monthly Vol. 7 
Brad Guigar

Captain Heroic faces his daddy issues, and the Real Housewives of Transylvania are introduced in a special, two-week Halloween story. Also included in this edition is "Tales from the Evil Inc Archive!" This trip into the Evil Inc vault re-lives the death of an old nemesis, Mister Shiver -- but not before one of the best intro sequences in Evil Inc history!

The opening story - that of a superhero dad and his adult superhero son trying to express their love for each other - has some good moments, but the remainder of the stories are filled with well-worn puns/wordplay, and not very funny plots.


Nathan Sorry Vol. 1 
Rich Barrett 

Nathan Sorry did not die on 9/11. He ran. A missed flight saves Nathan Sorry from being in his office in the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 and leaves him with an inadvertently stolen laptop that contains the key to $20 million and a new identity. Two months later, Nathan is hiding out in a small town, calling himself “James Goode”, and is slowly losing his grasp of who he really is and what he's really running from.


Footprints Vol. 1
Joey Esposito, Jonathan Moore

Bigfoot and his gang of cryptozoological deviants enter a crime noir world full of mystery, horror, monsters and conspiracy. When Foot’s estranged brother Yeti is murdered in the Arctic, Foot reunites his old team of Jersey Devil, Nessy, and Megaldon for one last case that spans back to their very long history together.

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.


Kung Fu Skratch! #1
Adrian Thomas Engmann, Erwin Prasetva

Fifteen year old Jason Stonewall and his father, Raymond Stonewall return to the American town of Brickhaven after a year long training sojourn overseas in the East. Now the young martial arts prodigy must deal with his first day as a freshman in high school, b-boy bullies, girls, Brickhaven High's most notorious gang, the SHO'GUNNZ and their menacing leader, the Banchō Gangsta - - FA'SHO!

Fairly engaging tale of sibling rivalry amidst a kung fu background, but since I’m not really a fan of kung fu, I found this one fairly slight.  


Armarauders #1
Dan Taylor, Don Figuerca

Humanity was on the brink of extinction when an alien race brought remarkable technology in the form of massive weapons of war. As mankind stepped into the galactic arena, they encountered the WASTERS, a threat unlike any seen before. In a final mission on a distant world, a squadron of mecha pilots get cut off from reinforcements and have to battle against all odds for survival as they discover dark secrets about their allies... secrets that could alter the balance of power in the universe!

Transformers fans will probably dig this for the action and visuals, but there’s not enough plot for me to continue the series.   


The Antler Boy and Other Stories
Jake Parker

Flying whales, giant imaginary pink bunnies, friendly robots, curious aliens, space explorers, and adventures all find a home between the covers of this book. The Antler Boy and Other Stories collects ten short stories written and illustrated by Jake Parker, New York Times bestselling illustrator and creator of the Missile Mouse graphic novel series from Scholastic.

Nice collection of stories from Jake Parker, many of them previously published in Flight, Flight Explorer and other publications. The most famous character in this collection is undoubtedly Missle Mouse, but the collection also includes two stories each featuring Hugo Earhart and Lucy Nova, as well as several other gems. (My favorites are "The Robot and the Sparrow" and "The Antler Boy.") 

Many of these stories are sweet and touching (maybe too much so at times), yet Parker's imagination is the star of this volume, reflected in some excellent artwork. 


Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter: Digital Omnibus
Marc Ellerby

Chloe Noonan is a monster hunter, but she doesn't have any powers. She can't beat up bad guys, she can't run without getting a stitch. She's kinda flakey and really not bothered about saving the world. Especially when she has to get the bus everywhere. Set in the fictional British town of Ravensdale, this ongoing series of comics and short stories sees our eponymous hero Chloe Noonan team up with a government led squad of Monster Hunters to solve the ever growing monster problem. This digital omnibus collects every Chloe Noonan story to date in full colour and comes complete with a cover illustration gallery, fan art section and a look into creator Marc (Ellerbisms, Love The Way You Love) Ellerby's sketchbook designs.

I like the concept of Chloe as sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without any special powers. The humor - very British - works well enough, but gets old fast. A fun read that I might explore further.


Scam #1
Joe Mulvey

SCAM is "X-Men meets Oceans 11″ and involves a team of super-powered grifters on the biggest con of their lives...taking down a Vegas casino and getting revenge on a former teammate who double-crossed them. "It's better to die a conman, than live like a mark!"

I love tales about con men, grifters and the like, so Scam certainly piqued my interest. The story gets a little confusing at times, mainly because some of the characters look a little too much alike. Oceans 11 is a good comparison, so if you liked those films, I’d recommend this 5-issue volume. 


Anathema #1
Rachel Deering, Christopher Mooneyham

When her world is turned upside down and she is stripped of everything she loves, Mercy must take on dark powers to help save the soul of her beloved Sarah.

Anathema has a great visual style, similar to Mike Mignola’s, with a story by Rachel Deering - who knows a thing or two about horror - that’s both culturally relevant and chilling. 


The Mire
Becky Cloonan

On the eve of a great battle, a humble squire is tasked with delivering a letter to a seemingly abandoned castle at the heart of an ill-famed swamp. Met with mysterious apparitions on the way, he slowly unveils the truth behind his journey as his past is re-written over the course of the story.

Cloonan makes the most of a fairly simple premise with wonderfully detailed illustrations and several wordless panels that allow the reader to pause and reflect upon this tale that showcases Cloonan’s amazing storytelling/illustrating abilities. 


Friday, June 20, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in June 2014 Part I

June is looking to be a record-breaking month here at Graphic Novel Universe. 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.)

+ The Antler Boy and Other Stories (2012) Jake Parker ( 

Nice digital collection of stories from Jake Parker, many previously published in Flight, Flight Explorer and other publications. The most famous character in this collection is undoubtedly Missle Mouse, but the collection also includes two stories each featuring Hugo Earhart and Lucy Nova, as well as several other gems. (My favorites are "The Robot and the Sparrow" and "The Antler Boy.") 

Many of these stories are sweet and touching (maybe too much so at times), yet Parker's imagination is the prime mover in this volume, reflected in some excellent artwork. 

The Antler Boy and Other Stories was originally published (I believe self-published) as a hardcover print edition, but now - as far as I know - is only available in digital format. 


Okay, Andy (J 2014) Maxwell Eaton (Blue Apple Books)

Our library system has this book classified as an easy reader, but I'm calling it a graphic novel easy reader, since all of the pages consist of one or two panels with speech balloons. The drawings are cute (This is, after all, by the same guy that gave us The Flying Beaver Brothers series.) and the story is sometimes funny, but it's also quite tiresome. (Kids will definitely have plenty of opportunities to learn the word "okay.") Kids might enjoy this once, but I doubt it would hold up to repeat readings. 


Herobear and the Kid, Vol. 1: The Inheritance (J 2003/2014) Mike Kunkel (KaBOOM!)

Please read my full review at The Comics Alternative.   


The Great American Dust Bowl (J NF 2013) Don Brown (HMH Books for Young Readers)

We’re (thankfully) seeing more and more outstanding graphic novel non-fiction books for kids these days, and The Great American Dust Bowl is no exception. Here’s a prime example of how the graphic novel format can help young readers understand why an important historical event - the Dust Bowl of the 1930s - was both important and devastating. Excellent artwork from Brown.   


X-Men: Days of Future Past (1981/2011) Chris Claremont, John Byrne (Marvel)

What a disappointment. This collection should really be called Days of Future Past and Other Stories, since the Days of Future Past storyline only consists of two issues, the other four ranging from a mind-numbingly boring “history of the X-Men” to an Alien rip-off story. So often Claremont’s narration boxes verbally describe exactly what we’re seeing visually that I wanted to scream. 


The Zita the Spacegirl series - Ben Hatke (First Second)

Zita the Spacegirl (J 2011) 5/5

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (J 2012) 5/5

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (J 2014) 4/5

Derek and I will be interviewing Ben Hatke for The Comics Alternative next week, so I’ll provide a direct link to that interview then. But in the meantime, as you can tell from the ratings numbers, I highly recommend the Zita books.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's Wednesday... 6/18/14

Just a few individual issues I plan to pick up today:

The Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips series Fatale is - sadly - almost over. Fatale #23 releases today, and while I’ve mainly been purchasing this title in trade paperback, I do want to pick up the last couple of issues, mainly because of the nice extras that aren’t included in the collected editions. 

Yet all is not lost! Brubaker/Phillips fans will be glad to know that their next series The Fade Out will begin later this summer. 

Next, I’ve owned the script of Harlan Ellison’s original version of the Star Trek classic “The City on the Edge of Forever” almost forever. I’m interested to see how writers Scott Tipton and David Tipton and artist J.K. Woodward will handle this five-issue limited series. (The Juan Ortiz cover alone is enough to sell me on it.) 

I’m very much enjoying Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s current run on Silver Surfer, a cosmic, fun, and sometimes goofy title. Good stuff. 

As far as the trades go, the only one I’m definitely planning on picking up is the first trade of Velvet: Before the Living End (collecting Velvet #1-5). Why? 

It’s a spy comic. 

It’s Brubaker.

It’s Image.

It’s $9.99.

I’ll also take look at Peter Kuper’s The System (a re-release of a graphic novel originally published in 1997), but it may have to wait.  

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reviews of Herobear and the Kid and Afterlife with Archie AND Tweeting!

I've recently reviewed two new trade collections over at The Comics Alternative:

Mike Kunkel is celebrating the return of Herobear and the Kid after a 10-year absence with a rerelease of Herobear and the Kid, Vol. 1: The Inheritance - a great kid-friendly title that I'm delighted to see back in print - and a new story arc that's in comic shops now. 

If you've been living on another planet and aren't aware of the phenomena of Afterlife with Archie, you really must pick up the first story arc, Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale. Trust me, you won't regret it. 

And finally, I'm now on Twitter! I'm still figuring a lot of things out, but you can find me @awolverton77. Hope you'll follow me or at least check out what I'm tweeting and retweeting. Happy reading!  


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's Wednesday....


...and there's actually not that much on my radar for this week. I'll probably pick up two new issues, Wildfire #1 by Matt Hawkins and Linda Sejic and The Empty Man #1 by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey. 


On the trade side, I might have to wait a few weeks for Shigeru Mizuki's second volume of Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan as well as DMZ The Deluxe Edition Book Two by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli, but both books are essential. 

Single issues, trades, single issues, trades.... It's a real problem. If it's a problem for you (or even if it's not), you should check out the roundtable discussion of trade waiting over at The Comics Alternative podcast. Good stuff. 

And let me know what you're going to pick up this week. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Yellow "M" (1956) Edgar P. Jacobs

Gene Kannenberg’s 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to enter the world of graphic novels. (It's also a great resource for experts, although I certainly am not one of those.) Even though the book is six years old and much has happened during that time, it’s still very relevant. I refer to it often at work but was recently surprised (shocked) at how few of the 500 books I’d actually read. So I decided to slowly chip away at some of those unread books, the first of which is The Yellow “M” - part of the Blake & Mortimer series created, written and drawn by Belgian artist Edgar P. Jacobs. 

The Yellow “M” is actually the sixth story in the series, originally published in Tintin magazine between 1953 and 1954, appearing in book form in 1956. (Jacobs actually collaborated often with Tintin creator Hergé.) That connection with Tintin becomes immediately apparent upon first glance at The Yellow “M”: both contain a similar clear line art style as well as similar (although not exact) panel sequencing. Yet The Yellow “M” (and I assume the rest of the Blake and Mortimer series) features no children, teenagers or animal companions. The adventure aspect of the Tintin books, however, is certainly present here, but so also is a greater sense of science fiction, espionage, cloak and dagger secrets, and more. 

Our two protagonists are Captain Francis Blake of England’s MI5 and his friend British nuclear physicist Philip Mortimer. As the story opens, London is at the mercy of a cloaked villain known only as the Yellow “M”, since he frequently leaves a large letter M inside a yellow circle at the scenes of his crimes, which include several major robberies, the greatest of which is the theft of the Imperial State Crown from the Tower of London. If that weren’t enough, the Yellow “M” has also begun kidnapping many of London’s high-profile citizens, including the editor of the Daily Mail, a criminal court judge, and a member of the British Medical Association. 

For modern audiences, The Yellow “M” may seem too slow, too text-heavy and too lacking in action, but the comic must be judged according to its time. Remember, this is a pre-James Bond era (at least as far as the movies go) and the high-tech gadgets really haven’t yet arrived. And although it incorporates some somewhat clumsy science fiction devices that we might scoff at today, the book actually holds up pretty well against other similar adventures of that era. Sure, it’s not very difficult to figure out who’s behind the Yellow “M”, but that knowledge doesn’t lessen the suspense building on every page. All in all, The Yellow “M” is a good, solid adventure comic that’s worth your time.  For those interested, Cinebook is continuing to publish English translations of the Blake and Mortimer series. I certainly intend to keep reading them.