Category: Graphic Novel
Unusual artwork is used effectively in a murder mystery set in a traveling circus. Spectacle Vol 1 is good until the unsatisfactory conclusion.
Twins Anna and Kat are members of a traveling circus. Anna is the fortune teller. Kat is a knife thrower. When Kat is murdered with her own knives, she appears as a ghost only to Anna. Anna investigates the crime.
The artwork within Spectacle Vol 1 promises to be controversial. It is in the style of Picasso’s blue period but uses mainly dusky reds, lavenders and chartreuse. The faces are almost cubist in their non-linear perspective so noses sometimes appear on the sides of faces.
I liked the mystery at the heart of the plot. I would have liked to see more backstories of the other circus performers. Many seemed like only a stereotype like the conjoined twins and the bearded lady. It took me about a third of the book to get used to the art style. Once I did, I enjoyed its uniqueness.
Spectacle Vol 1 collects issues #1 through 5. My problem with the collection is the abrupt ending. There is no resolution to the mystery here—only an inexplicable transformation that could mean anything. I actually purchased issue #4 because I thought that the last few pages of my Advanced Review Copy were missing. $1.99 later, I realized that issue #4 ended as suddenly as Vol 1. However, issue #4 included a page imploring the reader to purchase issue #5 in July 2018. While issues frequently employ cliff-hangers, it is rare and frustrating for collected volumes to do so. Because of this slight-of-hand, Spectacle Vol 1 receives 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Oni Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: circus, May 23 2018
“It all started with a tooth. A metal tooth that could bring the dead back to life.”
Green Lantern senses an evil presence emanating from the deep recesses of the Batcave. The Joker escapes from his electronic cage. Batman is given a dagger by his ex, Talia, to help him in his search for the elusive 8th metal. Meanwhile, the Joker is playing his tricks. This time he says he is trying to help Batman by destroying a machine. You know you’re in for some bad sh*t when the Greek Gods go back to Olympius and bar the door.
The two Dark Days’ prelude stories, Forge 1 and Casting 1, are the best in this volume. Both the art and story are superb. The other stories vary in quality and relationship to Dark Nights Metal. All are interesting for showing how art and writing styles have changed over the years. Other stories included are:
- Final Crisis 6-7,
- Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne 1
- Batman 38-39
- Nightwing 17
- Detective Comics 950
- Multiverse Guidebook 1
If you plan to read Dark Nights: Metal when its collection is released June 12, Dark Days: Road to Metal is a great reminder of its backstory. Plus it’s a great value at 256 pages. The artwork, especially of the Joker and mecha-Batman from the cover, is beautiful and detailed. The dark multiverse plot forcing an epic war is great and continues down the recent dark path of Batman.
Dark Days: Road to Metal is highly recommended. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, DC Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy. Now onto my ARC of Dark Nights Metal. I can’t wait! Review to be published on its June 12 publication date.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Graphic Novel Tagged with: batman, dark metal, dark multiverse, May 22 2018
Night’s Dominion Vol 1 contains great artwork and an interestingly imagined medieval world. However, the plot contains a rather generic revolution story reminiscent of Les Miserables.
Emerane is a master thief. When she and a band of other rascals led by a minstrel take on the cult of Uhlume, violence ensues. The cult is composed of skull-headed beings, who run the town of Umber.
This book has a rather standard sword and sorcery rich vs. poor quest plot that is wrapped up well by the end. Some of the best elements are presented during the rousing conclusion so I’m looking forward to the next volume. The artwork is attractive with a good use of color and crosshatching in the background to add dimension and impact to each scene. Ironically, my favorite part is the tagline on the back of the book, which I’m sure will entice many other readers to buy it.
“A thief, a bard, an assassin, a mage, and a cleric walk into a bar…”
A solid 3 star read. It is also available on Comixology Unlimited.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: July 2017, sword and sorcery
Archie Coe, hypnotist, cat whisperer and sucker to every dame he meets. The art and dialogue both up the 1940s noir feel in Archie Coe Vol 1.
Jack Midland hires Coe to find the reason his wife, Hope, is frigid to him since their marriage. Hope insists that she and Archie know each other. When Jack turns up dead, the police look hard at Archie. In the meantime, a madman called the Zipper is killing people by removing their hearts with his bare hands.
I loved this black as tar noir! It’s amazing how many plot twists are among its 164 pages. Archie Coe Vol 1 is reminiscent of Bogart and Bacall movies as well as the style-driven comics I read in the 1980s. 5 stars! It is also available on Comixology Unlimited too.
Thanks to the publisher, Oni Press, and NetGalley for a copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: May 2 2018, Noir
Families are messed up. Even, maybe especially, famous ones.
The author of All the Answers is Michael Kupperman. He is a famous, Eisner Award-winning artist and writer. However, he continues to be haunted by his father’s aloof attitude toward him throughout his childhood and adolescence. The author believes that his father’s famous background as the longest running quiz kid may have mentally harmed his father from a young age.
Quiz Kids was a radio show during WWII and continued as a television show in the fifties. Joel Kupperman was the youngest quiz kid. He was a math wizard with a professed IQ of 200+. His mother was the stereotypical stage mother. She took him to nightclubs and together they hobnobbed with all the famous stars of the day (Milton Berle, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny, etc.).
All the Answers depicts the author’s perception of what happened to his father when suddenly thrust into fame. Unfortunately, his father never wanted to talk about his childhood and now cannot due to dementia. His grandmother’s scrapbooks provide some answers. But much of the book seems based more on speculation rather than fact. However, that is missing the point. The setting is Joel’s childhood but the mystery is how Michael will deal with his own unusual childhood. Will he become aloof with his own son or will he break the family dynamic?
All the Answers has a great plot that veers into many areas. It’s about families, fame’s costs, dementia, and child actor mental abuse. It is an extremely compelling read. I downloaded it and read it in one sitting. The art is fabulous.
I liked it more than Fun Home and could see other fans of that graphic novel also enjoying this one. Highly recommended. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Gallery 13, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Non-fiction Tagged with: biography, May 15 2018, memoir
“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
Shakespeare’s words are the best part of his plays. However, I look to Manga Classics to shorten classic literature to manageable lengths. By including the entire play using Shakespeare’s original words, this book is just as difficult to read as the original.
Recommended for students who have to read the original anyway and would prefer to do it with really beautiful pictures. If you are a cheater like me, look to the Cliff Notes version. 3 stars!
Thanks to Udon Entertainment and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Literary Fiction Tagged with: Manga, May 15 2018, Shakespeare
Ho hum space POW camp story. With this author’s background, it is surprising that Stalag-X contains nothing innovative or even interesting.
A mysterious prisoner, known only as Joe Human, gets swept up in a space battle. Taken prisoner by the alien Krael, the other POWs at Stalag-X hate him for his seemingly special treatment by the science commandant called Mengele by the POW camp. Mengele has a human called Linda, who allows him to feel her emotions willingly. Deacon, a hired assassin, is also trapped on the ravaged planet. Respected by the Krael, she is allowed to move freely around the planet.
The artwork was clear and the writing was acceptable but there is no originality here. The characters are cardboard cutouts drawn so broadly that the reader doesn’t truly connect with anyone. As advertised on the back cover, this is Bridge over the River Kwai redone in comic book form. However, the shortness of the comic medium makes both the plot and the characters not complicated enough to draw the reader in.
Many readers will have a connection with the author, Kevin J. Anderson’s earlier work on Tales of a Jedi and Dune. For those readers, this book is slightly recommended. For all others, Stalag-X is a pass. In a world full of great comics and graphic novels, it is easy to find something more imaginative elsewhere. 2 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Vault Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Science Fiction Tagged with: May 9 2018, space travel
Lisa is a new detective in Sweden. Up first is locating a missing person, who is deep in the raggare culture of vintage American cars and rockabilly music. His parents report him missing after he misses the annual local car festival, Motorcity.
I expect more exotica from Europe Comics. Setting this in the Swedish raggare culture that worships American 1950’s style was rather a disappointment. I expected Swedish noir and got Dragnet. However, the multiple surprising twists at the end make Motorcity a 4 star read.
Thanks to Europe Comics and NetGalley for a review copy.
Another #FrugalFriday 100-word review.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: cars, Nov 15 2017
Despite being depressingly far from the suggested age for The Ghost the Owl, I loved this middle grade (ages 9-12) comic. The story was intriguing. The artwork is unusual but superb. It merges a picture book and a graphic novel into a surreal dream world of the afterlife.
A girl wakes up in a swampy wood. She remembers nothing but that “people don’t voluntarily help others”. An owl explains that if she can understand his words, she must be a ghost. The owl tries to help the ghost girl find out how she arrived in the forest because a human had helped him previously.
The Ghost the Owl shows the value of helping others subtly. It is recommended for ages 9 and up. 4 stars! Pre-released to comic shops on 5/2/18 and out everywhere on 5/15/18.
Thanks to the publisher, Action Lab, for an advanced copy of this book.
Posted in Children, Graphic Novel Tagged with: May 2 2018
SHOCK Anthology is a collection of 21 completely different stories from Aftershock Comics.
Fluctuating genres and art keep any one person from liking all the stories. However, there is something for everyone within: horror, sci-fi, memoir, adventure and some with apparently no plot at all. The new Neil Gaiman is great but too short!
SHOCK Anthology is recommended as a broad overview of the various genres, writing styles and art techniques. It will allow fans of a particular story to pursue additional longer-form work by the writer and/or artist. 3 stars.
Thanks to Aftershock Comics and NetGalley for a copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: #FrugalFridays, Apr 24 2018, short stories
Fourteen years, deaths, illnesses, corruption and kickbacks! Who knew a history of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge could be so interesting?
It takes a family (and a lot of immigrants) to build the Brooklyn Bridge in The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York. The story begins when John Augustus and his son Washington Roebling are trapped by ice in a ferry from Brooklyn to New York City. Washington was still a high school student but he figured out how to free the ferry using materials on board. Later, Washington’s life is shown from college to war to marriage to a family of his own. Once the bridge construction begins, it is interesting how many new techniques are used. In the nineteenth century, America was inventive and proud of their new technologies. At times, politics and corruption appeared. However, the bridge continued to be built though behind schedule and over budget. Government hasn’t changed much in the past 130 years.
This is a great adventure story. Sure everyone knows that the bridge was built. Few know the technology used to build it. I doubt that the loss of life and expense in 2018 dollars would allow it to be built today. It is a fascinating look at the hubris of early America, where anything seemed possible. It is also a unparalleled love story between Washington and his wife, Emily. Emily was willing to fight gender prejudice and high-powered politicians to ensure her husband’s dream reached fruition.
Surprisingly, this is the first graphic novel to tackle the Brooklyn Bridge’s story. I think the beautiful art and color work add to the story. With only words, it would be difficult to imagine the toughness needed by the men to risk death and illness to dig the caissons that support the bridge. The partially completed scenes in The Bridge were particularly instructive. It didn’t take long to start to see its familiar shape.
The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York is highly recommended for both graphic novel readers, students writing papers about the bridge’s construction and to anyone who wants a good read. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Abrams Comic Arts, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Non-fiction Tagged with: Apr 17 2018, brooklyn bridge, history
The Float is a city floating on the sea of an alternate version of Earth. It originated with a rebel armada from an England-like land. The Float is ruled by the Clans, who are descendants of the original ships’ officers. The Family, descendants of the original crews, keeps the Clans in line. To attain that goal, they steal, lie and kill. Jessa Wynn is a member of the Family. When her parents die doing Family business, she is left only with her Uncle Christian. Working by day as a language teacher for the Clans, at night Jessa does missions for the Family. When she learns a secret, the Bookkeeper who is the leader of the Family doesn’t believe her so Jessa decides to find the evidence herself. Oh, and the Bookkeeper speaks to a group of Tom Cats, who also work for the Family.
The Family Trade Vol 1 has beautifully different pen, ink and watercolor artwork. It has a steampunky look of the late 1800s but no date is given. The plot moves quickly and offers a few surprising twists. Notably, Jessa is an innovative character for comics. Rarely are female superheroes/adventurers set in a relatively realistic setting, if they exist at all. Jessa is beautiful with her curly dark hair. She is witty, strong and capable but doesn’t always use the most common sense so I assume she is a teenager or young adult. I also love the Toms. They add a different vibe to the series. They act like real cats: self-possessed to the point of superiority (at least in their own minds) but follow orders. Note that I have two cats so I know how unlikely it is that cats would voluntarily follow orders. 4 stars!
The Family Trade Vol 1 has just begun the story and it is scheduled to be a series. Vol 1 collects issues 1-5. I am looking forward to the future adventures of Jessa and the Toms.
Thanks to the publisher, Image Comics, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: adventure, Apr 17 2018, Female lead, steampunkish
Batman Detective Comics Vol 5: A Lonely Place of Living (Rebirth) mines the history of the Robins instead of including a straight-out mystery like the other volumes in this series.
Be prepared for Red Robin (Tim Drake) from two timelines and universes. The older Red Robin has come back to prevent damage done by Batwoman between the two timelines by killing her (shades of The Terminator). Nightwing (Dick the original Robin) also appears. To make matters more confusing, once arriving back in time older Red Robin dons his Batman costume so there are two Batmans with luckily slightly different costumes (check out the belt colors and slight differences in the bat chest emblem). Many DC heroes arrive to fight against older Tim. This arc is 2/3 of the book. The ending was anticlimactic and not a surprise if you have read Zero Hour or some of the websites about the DC multiverse.
The remaining third is set in Monstertown with Clayface, Anarky and Spoiler playing major roles. This volume collects Detective Comics #963-68.
Recommended for hard-core fans but those new to the DC universe or only familiar with the films may be completely lost. Also having heroes fighting heroes through most of the book might be disturbing for some younger fans. Since I missed the mystery but the art was great, I give this 3.5 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, DC Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: Apr 10 2018, batman, Robin
Equal parts Alice in Wonderland and the Lord of the Rings with a pinch of politics and religion plus maybe some leftover LSD from the 60s. Rice Boy is a true quest tale with the survival of the world at its core.
The One Electronic, T-O-E for short, is looking for the true messiah. The past 3,000 years have been filled with one fake after another. If T-O-E stops searching for a messiah, he will die. One day after the latest messiah has died, T-O-E asks Rice Boy to be the next messiah. All Rice Boy needs to do is meet with the Tree Keeper downstream in the Dorlish Wood. Rice Boy refuses and T-O-E leaves. Soon, Rice Boy decides to go on a quest to the Dorlish Wood. He meets Gerund going the same way on a quest to kill the Bleach Beast. They decide to journey together. There are two sinister foes, Golgo and Dolly on Rice Boy’s trail.
I love Alice in Wonderland and have read a multitude of remixes and updates of it. Rice Boy is the best of the bunch. It has the feeling of Alice in Wonderland (everything is just enough similar and just enough off to give a feeling of discomfort). The art is brightly colored. The tale is just bizarre enough. The mash-up of religion, politics and fantasy really works to create a deliciously different fairy tale.
While marketed as a young adult title, I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys fantasy and especially those who are bored by the similarity of so many recent plots. Rice Boy is magnificently unlike everything else. Plus at 460 pages, it is well worth the price tag.
Thanks to the publisher, Iron Circus Comics, for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: Feb 27 2018
City 1 is a surreal fast-moving episodic Sunday Comics-style manga.
Nagumo (20) doesn’t have her rent money. She tried to double her money by playing the horses and lost. Her landlady, called the Granny, is insistent. Niikura, Nagumo’s best friend cannot loan her the rent money. Nagumo goes through many schemes trying to pay her rent. Granny is a street brawler (literally).
City 1 contains twelve 12-page stories. All involve city life and build on each other. Some are ironic, some are humorous but all do not seem like traditional manga.
I’m not sure if the problem is in the translation or me not understanding Japanese culture well enough despite my worship of Studio Ghibli and mecha anime. Do Japanese really touch the gills of a shiitake mushroom or rub an eraser to relax? City 1 is clearly meant to be a madcap comedy. It fell short of that for me. However, tastes vary so I’ll give this comic 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Kodanska Comics, and NetGalley for a copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: Manga, Mar 27 2018
Self-centered, oversexed and unsympathetic French characters populate Body and Soul.
Mrs. Lopez, a 50-year-old woman, is trying to use plastic surgery to maintain her youth. Her husband, Victor, is working himself to death. He is trying to get the rights to a book from an elderly woman named Mrs. Fruttero. Their two daughters, Agnes and an unnamed younger sister, are not falling too far from the tree. Agnes is in a relationship with a man that owes a lot of money to a street thug. Her sister is fat and a shoplifter. A lonely man, Jean-Pierre, feels invisible. He gets conned by a young redhead, amazingly Agnes, in the street. He tries kickboxing without success. He meets Mrs. Lopez in the street. While they are talking they hear a nearby car crash. Later, we discover that the car crash is caused by one of the major characters. Jean-Pierre looks for a connection with an acquaintance, Cyrus. Cyrus meets Agnes at her father’s office. They begin having an affair that night. In the meantime, Mrs. Lopez and Jean-Pierre have sex in a men’s room. Jean-Pierre and Mrs. Fruttero meet in Cyrus’ hallway.
The coincidences in this graphic novel just don’t stop. There are two sex triangles within the eight characters within this novel. Are there only eight people in this town? I was expecting the fat younger sister to start having an affair with the elderly woman because they were the only two not having sex. The artwork is good but contains multiple images of female and male genitalia so Body and Soul is definitely only for adults. I usually like slice of life graphic novels in foreign lands. However, this book is just too contrived. I also disliked every single character.
I’m disappointed that I can only give Body and Soul 2 stars and those are only for the illustrations.
Thanks to the publisher, Europe Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: Mar 27 2018