Showing posts with label Fred Van Lente. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fred Van Lente. Show all posts

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Comic Book History of Comics by Fred van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey, Adam Guzowski

Rating: WORTHY!

As someone who reads and reviews graphic novels from time to time (especially lately!), I could hardly overlook this, and having read it I can say I recommend it. It's pretty basic stuff with regard the artwork (drawn by Dunlavey, colored by Guzowski, and the text (by van Lente) is quite dense at times, so it makes for a long and detailed read, but overall it was truly informative and on occasion eye-opening.

It also features female contributors from history quite prominently, but on the downside, it does not seem to do the same thing for people of color. Whether this is because there were (historically speaking) none in the business, or because what they contributed was relatively little (which i doubt!), or if they were simply overlooked I don't know, but the fact that they're not given a look-in is disturbing. In a similar vein, it features only US comic book creators. It covers nothing of comic book activity outside the USA.

With those limitations in mind, it does seem otherwise quite comprehensive, and it goes into a lot of history, and quirks and fights, and how some aspects of the industry came to fruition, but it doesn't really go into the minutiae of any particular character's creation. This is more focused on the business itself and the key players historically, and some technical aspects of comic production, but it's not so much focused on the actual content the people and business created. For me, I enjoyed it and learned a few things, but I didn't feel it was an outstanding read. It was worthwhile reading though if you're interested in a behind the scenes kind of story, so this is how I rate it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

War Mother by Fred Van Lente

Rating: WARTY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This volume collects War Mother Vols 1-4 and 4001 AD: War Mother Vol 1. I felt the art was pretty decent except in the occasional back-busting pose the main character was put into for no other reason than to show off her curves. So once again we're back in an adolescent world of male-oriented comics created for males by males, and wherein women are depicted as unnaturally anorexic and preternaturally pneumatic. This story is supposedly set two thousand years into the future, but both mindset and technology are surprisingly unchanged from our present. Evolution, contrarily, seems to have sped-up beyond the bounds of what's reasonable into outrageously fantastical humanoids, all of which, as is typical in this kind of story, seem hostile.

Ana, the titular War Mother, with the emphasis on tit, is for reasons unexplained here, the Scavenger-in-Chief. She lives in a tribal "village" called the Grove, where they can pretty much provide everything for themselves except for technology which for some reason thay cannot master. This flies in the face of the comic's blurb which defines this village as the "last known repository of scientific knowledge." I saw no science here, just vague hints at growing food, which, in a place as lush as this one appeared to be, didn't seem to require much knowledge other than planting seeds and harvesting fruit! It's not like these guys fed millions! It was only a village after all.

War Mother goes on scavenger hunts for things they can use, repurpose, adapt, and trade. Why this technology is so needed goes largely unexplained. That was one big problem with this story: without any backstory, none of this made much sense. During these excursions, Ana often runs into hostiles which she has to despatch using her talking rifle. I never did get why the rifle talks. it was too gimicky for me - like one of those annoying little talking pets in children's cartoons. And why was the talking rifle male? Why even an electronic rifle in a world where electronics were evidently as much at a premium as they were prone to failing? Wouldn't an AK-47 be a better tool in a humid jungle?

The biggest problem though, was once again the main charcter who was far less like a real woman than like a male fantasy - the man-with-tits syndrome which isn't remotely appealing to me. Worse, the author seems to be conflating bad-ass with psychotic. War Mother's only tactic is to dispatch anyone she doesn't like including the leader of her village community who she kills remorselessly and without even much of a preamble.

I didn't really understand why this happened. Rather than try to work with him to resolve their dispute, she simply takes the male anger route and shoots him, and that was the end of that dispute. In doing this, she very effectively destroys the community, so how is she in any way heroic? How is she any better than the villains she takes down? I didn't see any difference. Certainly there was nothing to root for or admire in her.

I didn't see anything edifying or fulfilling here, and nothing truly enjoyable. If it had not been so short, I would have DNF'd it. I was hoping for a lot more than I expected, but I got a lot less than I feared. i cannot recommend this.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Generation Zero Volume 2: Heroscape by Fred Van Lente, Diego Bernard, Javier Pulido

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

In my review of the first volume in this series, Generation Zero done by Fred Van Lente, Francis Portela, and Andrew Dalhouse, which I reviewed favorably, I concluded, "There has a to be a story, otherwise it's just pretty pictures" and I'm sorry to say this second volume fell into that trap. There was a story after a fashion, but it was so confused and confusing to me that I could barely follow what was happening.

It didn't help that even on a decently-sized tablet computer, the text was rather small, and impossible to read when it was shown as white on pale green, so I didn't even try reading those portions. The odd thing was that I didn't feel like I'd missed anything for skipping them. I will welcome the day when graphic novel writers recognize that you cannot continue to short-change the ebook format unless you want to irritate your readers at best, and piss them off so much that they refuse to read any more of your material in future, at worst.

Generation Zero is a group for kids who were experimented on by private military contractors in Project Rising Spirit, aimed at producing 'psychic soldiers'. This never made sense to me and it wasn't explained why kids were chosen rather than trained soldiers for this experiment, but I was willing to let that go since most superheroes have highly improbably origin stories. Now the kids are free of that, they're intent upon fighting back.

The problem is that the story was all over the place and entirely unsatisfying because none of it made any sense to me and it never seemed like it was going anywhere. It was never clear what was happening or what the Gen 0 crew were trying to accomplish. There were several characters chewing up the scenery and achieving little else, include Black Sheep, who was a super villain posing as a superhero. She was so far out that she was really irrelevant even as she tried mindlessly to kick everyone's ass. To me, she was far more of a joke than ever she was a threat.

Overall, this story felt like the old cop-out story killer: it was all a dream! I liked volume one, but I could not get with volume two and I can't recommend this graphic novel series anymore.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Generation Zero by Fred Van Lente, Francis Portela, Andrew Dalhouse

Rating: WORTHY!

I had no idea what Generation Zero was about having no exposure to it before (it's very much a young-adult version of X-Men, although it has no affiliation with the Marvel property as far as I know). Along came this graphic novel which sounded appealing and I was pleased to have the chance to review an ARC. So thanks to the publisher! Note that this is a work of fiction, and not to be confused with the New Zealand youth organization focused on the much-needed weaning of our society from fossil fuels!

It turns out, as the blurb tells us, that Generation Zero is a group for kids who were experimented on by private military contractors in Project Rising Spirit, aimed at producing 'psychic soldiers'. Well, they apparently succeeded. The blurb tells us the soldiers won their freedom. How that happened I don't know. I find it hard to believe that the government would let them go so easily, but maybe it wasn't easy. Anyway, now they have a new mission: helping teens in need.

No one feels more in need than Keisha Sherman. Her boyfriend just died in a highly suspect car accident in the too-good-to-be-true town of Rook, Michigan, heart of a new and suspiciously rapid tech boom. Keisha never was your regular teen. Sporting a rad look and hanging with the out-crowd, she appeals to Generation Zero through her computer because she knows her boyfriend was onto something suspicious going on in this town, and that;s why he died. She discovers that Generation Zero is not so mythical. She's advised to destroy the computer she used to contact them (why this must be done isn't explained!), and get on with her life. Pretty soon, new students start showing up at her school, and they make the out-crowd look normal.

These students are evidently Generation Zero: Animalia (shape-shifter), Cloud (a mind scrambler), Cronus (the gorup leader), Gamete, Telic, and the Zygos twins. These guys, plus one other shadowy sort, and Keisha and are going to make a difference. As long as the suspiciously compliant adults in the town, including Keisha's own father, who is a cop, don't trip up their plans. Note that there are other members of Generation Zero which aren't featured in this graphic novel.

I liked this for the characters, the artwork, which came in two styles, one for regular life, and one for this oddball sequence which depicted the world as people saw it, not as how it was. That was pretty cool. The drawing depicted people realistically, without the improbable and genderist proportions of super hero comics. Some were overweight, one of Keisha's friends was in a wheelchair There is no bad language and no overt sexuality although one scene shows a young couple in bed together, but they're just talking. I liked that the story wasn't afraid to be real all the way through. I liked that the main character, Keisha, was African American and female - not a common occurrence in far too many graphic novels - and that she had a younger brother who was a bit of a special needs kid.

But it's more than just getting the a realistic set of characters. There has a to be a story, otherwise it's just pretty pictures of interesting people, and this one felt good and plausible (in the framework of the story, of course!). So I recommend this. It hit the spot and I'd definitely be interested in pursuing the story.