Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a sequel to Zita the Spacegirl which I reviewed recently and loved. This one is equally loveable. Zita is irrepressible. I didn't know, when I read the first one, that Zita was actually invented by a fellow college student of the author's named Anna, who would go on to marry him. Paradoxically, Zita was older when she was first conceived than she is now, and the art was much more basic. She then transmogrified into an adventurer a bit like, I guess, a space-faring version of Jacques Tardi's Adèle Blanc-Sec. I'm not sure I would have liked her like that, because I much prefer Zita in the incarnation I first came to know her, which is this early middle-grade femme de feisty.

In this adventure, Zita, who we left thinking she had saved her friend and dispatched him home safely in the previous volume, is brought to trial in a kangaroo court which disappointingly isn't held by kangaroos, but by an alien villain and his hench-robots. His purpose is to recruit people by foul means (fair isn't an option with this guy) and set them to work in his mine in search of a crystal. He doesn't care that removing it will collapse the asteroid which bears the mine, and kill the indigenous life forms which look like lumps of coal with startling white eyes. Why a mined-out asteroid would collapse remains a bit of a mystery, but I didn't let that bother me! This is more sci-fantasy than sci-fi!

Zita meets her usual assortment of oddball alien friends - but even more-so in this outing, it seems - and she attempts to escape, but even when freedom is within her grasp, she can't help but go back and lend a hand to an alien she noted earlier who is being sorely-abused. Since this graphic novel was published just over four years after a Doctor Who episode titled The Beast Below, I have to wonder at the author purloining this idea from Stephen Moffat, but maybe the latter purloined it from elsewhere before that and so it goes. Writers can be a very derivative bunch can't they? Especially if they work for Disney. Remake much? But as long as suckers will pay, they'll be delighted to keep suckering them in won't they - innovation be damned?

But this story was amusing, entertaining, and made me want to read it to the end, so I commend it as a worthy read.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Swans in Space by Lun Lun Yamamoto


Rating: WARTY!

I suppose I should remind readers up front that I'm not a huge manga fan. Reading backwards isn't my choice, but I can do that if the story is worth it. the problem is that the stories all-too-often aren't worth the effort of reading unnaturally. This was one such.

The premise was amusing and entertaining enough, but in the end it's the story. I can read a story which has no plot if the author writes well enough. I can't read the perfect plot if the story is written badly, uninventively, or boringly. The premise here is that a young girl is chosen in school by a classmate for testing for what seems to be UPS in space, although it's also space police - or maybe something else? I dunno and that's part of the problem. The scope of their 'duties' is so vague as to be limitless.

What were these people supposed to be doing and why are girls taken out of school to do it? No explanation. Their travel results in time-dilation, so their return is only a minute or two after they left, but they have subjectively experienced the entire time - even if it's many hours - that they spent doing this job, which consists of flying spacecraft. These craft are designed to look like swans for reasons which are unexplained - assuming they even exist.

The girls come back already exhausted and still have the rest of their own school day to finish. It's beyond credibility that something wouldn't go wrong, and it's hardly surprising that this girl who recruits the main character into this life is totally shallow. Her brain is probably fried from the insane hours she's been forced to keep.

Even that might have been manageable if the story itself was worth the reading but it wasn't. It was so bad that just a couple of days later I've completely forgotten it. They didn't really do anything that a decent drone couldn't have done, so again: point? None! If there had been something - anything in the story to give it some oomph, then the rest of this ridiculous situation might have been overlooked. I can even get with whimsy if there's a compelling reason to, but there really was nothing to see here. I can't commend this garbage as a worthy read on any level.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book for younger middle graders and pre-middle-grade. Zita is outdoors playing with her friend when they find a meteorite crater in a field, with a small meteorite in the bottom of it. There's something sticking out of the meteorite which has a large red button on it, and you know you have to press the button if it's large and red. Zita doesn't listen to her friend, and she presses it, and suddenly a rift in space opens and her friend is pulled through it. After some miserable and desperate recrimination, Zita realizes she has to go through the rift and get him back.

The other side of the rift is very much a United Nations kind of a planet (or maybe not so united - more untied really) with aliens of all sorts, mechanical and meat, and the planet is under threat. Within a short few days, an asteroid is due to strike the planet wiping out everything on it. Zita can't be bothered about that. She has a friend to find and she heads out in her newly-created super hero-looking outfit. She was sort of befriended by a humanoid scientist who is also hosting a giant creature that looks exactly like a mouse, but is the size of a small horse, complete with saddle, and which Zita rides.

From this point on, and heading into the foreboding rust lands, Zita picks up a bevy of oddball alien associates, two of whom are mechanical, one of whom isn't, and finally tracks down and tries to liberate her friend, but there are surprises and betrayals in this story, so you never quite know who your friends are or who the villains are, or when your protective military robot will break down. None of this fazes the intrepid and fearless Zita at all, Not even a phaser fazes Zita, and she kicks buttons and takes names.

This was a playfully, and beautifully-illustrated book with a fun story that I enjoyed despite it being way out of my age group - or was it?! I commend it fully and will look for more from this author.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

After the disappointment of Princess Ugg, I might not have read another Naifeh novel, but this one was already in the works, so I ended up reading it and was glad I did. I don't believe in pirate treasure stashes. I don't think pirates were the kind of people to hoard their loot. I think they spent it as fast as they stole it, and while I'm sure there were some who set themselves up in a new life after a piracy voyage and never went back, I think the majority just spent all they had, and then went right back to sea to go after some more.

This story is cute and a little bit different in that polly, a new girl at a boarding school where young girls sometimes foolishly fantasize about pirates, is actually the daughter of Meg, the pirate queen. When Meg's pirate crew come looking for Polly, it's out of desperation. There's a map (there's always a map!), and the pirates think perhaps Meg's daughter is the very one who can find it for them. Now since this is Meg's loyal crew who were presumably with her when she hid the treasure, you'd think at least a few of them would know exactly where it was, but no! Hence Polly.

I honestly don't believe there ever was a legitimate pirate map either for that matter. Why would any pirate commit their precious knowledge of their treasure (assuming there even was any) to paper or parchment or whatever? It would be foolish and go against the very grain of a pirate's character! Besides, pirates were largely illiterate and relied on sound memory to supply everything they needed to know to get from A to B and plan their pirating. They had no need of the written word or the drawn map.

But they kidnap Polly thinking she can help them retrieve this map and at first she's completely against it, but then she becomes involved and sneaks out of school at night to go on adventures. It's a bit of a stretch to imagine that she can, like Santa Claus, get it all done in one night (or eventually, in a couple of days' absence), but this is fiction after all - and pirate fiction at that! So Polly becomes ever more involved and eventually she does find the map but the treasure isn't what the pirates thought it would be. I thought the story might continue with a second map that had been hidden in something they found in the treasure vault, but the story pretty much wrapped up after that.

This is a series as far as I know, so it's possible there are other volumes which continue the story (maybe with that second map, assuming there is one), but just as Polly seems done with pirating after this adventure, I think I'm done with Naifeh now. It was a bit oddly-written. Naifeh isn't English and so doesn't quite get the lingo down, and much of it is rather anachronistic so his attempts to make it sound period were a bit of a waste of time. He doesn't know what 'The Sweeney' is for one thing. The term wasn't in use back in the classical pirate era. The Sweeney is rhyming slang: Sweeney Todd - Flying Squad, referring to a division of the London Metropolitan Police. Obviously that didn't exist in the old era of piracy and neither did the stories of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

It was a bit much to think only a young girl could open the treasure vault since most pirates probably had a young boy or two on their crew who could have done the same thing, but overall, I enjoyed this tale. It was a cute and fun story, and while it was nothing which made me feel any great compulsion to search out other volumes, assuming they exist, I did enjoy this one and commend it as a worthy read.


Friday, July 26, 2019

An Olympic Dream by Reinhardt Kleist


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a sad, sad graphic novel telling the true story (as near as such a rendering can reasonably get to the truth), about Samia Yusuf Omar, Translated from the original German by Ivanka Hahnenberger, this tells in a 150 or so pages in black and white line drawings, of how Samia competed and came last in her heat in the 2008 Olympic Games and yet garnered for herself cheers louder than the winner did.

Always game, following her dream, plucky to a fault, and never allowing brutality and indifference to dampen her spirit, she decided she wanted to get to the 2012 Olympics in London, and the only way to do that under a brutal, women-repressive regime that an extremist Islamic group brought to Somalia, was for her to flee the country and go through Sudan and Libya, to get on a boat to Italy and beyond.

She did all of this, often alone and usually without much money, always being brutalized by the savage and avarice-driven scum who preyed on these poor refugees that certain equally savage and misogynistic presidents would callously turn away at the doorstep, Samia made it onto a boat which promptly ran out of fuel. Fortunately a passing Italian ship spotted them and began to haul them aboard, but Samia fell into the ocean and drowned before she could be pulled out. Yes, there are more important things in the world than plastic straws, but why would anyone with real power be bothered with these "shit-hole countries".

I commend this as a worthy and essential read about what happens to people who reside in brutal countries where there's no oil 'to make it worthwhile going in'....


Princess Ugg by Ted Naifeh, Warren Wucinich


Rating: WARTY!

PU turns out to be apt initials for this graphic novel. I came to this via Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin books that I really enjoyed, but this one on a new subject, despite being in glorious color (from Wucinich), standard graphic novel page size, and well-illustrated, left me feeling deprived of a good story. This is a fish-out-of-water story, which is the kind of thing I don't normally go for because they can be tedious and predictable if not done right, and that's exactly what happened here.

So Princess Ülga is supposed to be some sort of Viking warlord's daughter used to living rough, buff body, not remotely afraid to tackle barbarians with a battle axe. Curiously she speaks with a Scots accent. For reason which were not exactly clear to me, she's sent to a school for princesses, and of course all of the current students there are finely-mannered and even more finely-dressed, and they take exception to Princess "Ugg" as they call her, to even being there, let alone wanting to better herself.

You know things are going to be resolved, but this isn't a stand-alone so while there is some sort of resolution, the story isn't really ever over in a series. I really didn't like Princess Ugg despite becoming rather fond of Ülga. You never see women like this in the movies because they're far from what Hollywood considers to be a female ideal - and don't think for a minute that "diversity" is going to improve that narrow, blinkered perspective. It's still Hollywood.

I can't commend this as a worthy read although I do commend the creators for offering up a different perspective on what a female main character can be. She just deserved a lot better story than to be plonked down in the middle of a bunch of boilerplate Disney princesses with a wish upon a star that something fun would come from it. I recommend reading Kurtis Weibe's Rat Queens instead - it has a much more diverse set of main characters, and is an fun and interesting story as well.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Courtney Crumrin Volume 4 Monstrous Holiday by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

Volume four wasn't quite as entertaining as the earlier volumes I think in part because Courtney seemed much more gullible in this one than she had in all of the three earlier volumes, which made little sense. Admittedly she was charmed by a boy, but having gone through what she'd been through previously, you'd think she'd be less inclined to fall for something instead of more so. And yes, she was feeling disgruntled (her gruntle had never been so dissed in fact), but it made her look limp and weak in comparison to how she'd appeared in earlier volumes. Ideally this would have been the first volume. That would certainly have made more sense in terms of her personal growth and would have explained a lot about her attitude in the other volumes.

That said it still made for an enjoyable read and I commend it as worthy. This story involves Courtney's visit, with her great uncle who is sometimes not so great it has to be remarked, to a family chateaux which of course is occupied by vampires, one of whom is mature and very old (although she looks in her thirties), and the other of whom is around Courtney's age, but also very old. So Yuk! The mature one is an old flame of Aloysius's evidently, and plays very little part in the story. It's the young one who charms Courtney and wins her confidence, and at first she wonders if he's a ghost, but when she realizes he's solid, she changes her view. Even when she suspects he's a vampire though, she trusts him and that trust is misplaced.

He bites her three times over the next few days, which is supposed to either be fatal or seal her fate as a vampire, but this is where the story let me down because the ending was a complete fizzle! I couldn't say if the vampires were destroyed because the panels where Great Uncle Aloysius did battle with them were not exactly categorical, and would a blood transfusion save Courtney at that stage? I dunno, but the book ended without giving any sort of an answer. It begs the question as to why her uncle even took her there is there were vampires and if he still insisted, why he didn't provide her with some magical protection against them.

So while the story was entertaining and I commend it, I have to say the ending was poorly done and a sad way to end such a sterling series.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Courtney Crumrin Volume 2 The Coven of Mystics by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

Volume two - meaning I finally caught up to the first volume I read in this series, which was three. I'm not a huge fan of series, not regular books, and not graphic novels, but this is one of those rare exceptions that manages to change up the story and keep it fresh and interesting even though we're following the same main character.

In this volume, Courtney learns new ways to circumvent and side-step the witch conventions that seem to hold everyone else in paralysis or in rigid regimentation. She's always ready to try something new, learn something extra, or make unexpected and unusual friends, and she has great instincts. She's not afraid to change her mind either, so this makes for a multi-faceted and engaging character.

So she starts out tackling Tommy Rawhead, the hobgoblin of the marl-pit, whom someone has unleashed. Fortunately, her enigmatic and mysterious uncle is just the match for Tommy, but just because Tommy's beheaded doesn't mean he can't be useful to Courtney later! Courtney gets an usual invitation to visit the cat council, but this involves her becoming a cat herself. Finally she befriends Skarrow of the under-world, and this brings trouble on her uncle's house.

The variety and inventiveness of these stories is remarkable and welcome and is what kept me reading on - that and the indefatigable Courtney. This is why I commend this volume and intend to go on to read volume four.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Jem and The Holograms Dark Jem by Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, M Victoria Robado


Rating: WARTY!

Back in mid-September of 2015, I favorably reviewed the debut graphic novel in this series by the same author, Kelly Thompson who also wrote a Marvel Jessica Jones graphic novel that I favorably reviewed this very month, but I can't do the same for this one which was confusingly written and told a really scrappy story. The artwork, drawn by Campbell and brilliantly colored by Robado was fine, but the story let it all down.

The story was what attracted me - how can you not want to read one titled 'Dark Jem'? really? The basis of this goes back to when Jerrica's father programmed Synergy - a device which could project animated holograms onto people to disguise their features, and this gave the confidence-lacking Jerrica the courage to appear on stage and brought her this great success. The problem is - we learn here - that there was a flaw in that programming which their dad could not get out, and now that issue has come back to bug them as it were, as the program itself projects a new version of the holograms - a goth metal band which can infect listeners with some sort of ear-worm turning them into mindless zombies.

Jerrica and the crew figure this out of course, but they also have to figure out how to beat it. Unfortunately, the story fell apart at around this same point and never got it back together, not even having a real ending. There was an interesting transgender character who came to audition for the band early in the story when lead (and only!) singer "Pizz" (that sounded too much like 'piss' for my taste!) partially lost her voice after an accident, but she disappeared without any fanfare about two-thirds the way through the story and Mz Pizz magically reappeared with the same lack of fanfare, and story just fizzled out at that point. It was nowhere near a patch on the original I read and was very unsatisfactory. I can't commend this as a worthy read.


Scarlet Hood by Mark Evans, Isobel Lundie


Rating: WARTY!

No success with this graphic novel either. I don't have anything to say about Isobel Lundie's artwork except that it was gray-scale and scrappy. And the writing was simple, pedantic, and uninventive.

When I picked this up and glanced through it briefly, I thought maybe it was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but it was not. It looked superficially interesting, but it was not. Greta the Cruel sounded like a fun villain, but she was not. It was just a story of school bullying and a magical remedy and it was very, very short.

Scarlet treks through the forest to grandma's house, doesn't get eaten by a wolf; grandma isn't impersonated by a wolf, and all grandma does is give to Scarlett a red hoodie which she claims will help her granddaughter. She says nothing about it delivering the poor girl to a dragon! Thanks grandma.

But Scarlet ends up befriending the dragon as she ends up befriending the school bully, who never pays for her previous acts, and no-one in the entire school seems to have any issue with the bullying. The best thing I can say about this, is that it's short. I can't commend it in any way.


Shuri Volume 1 The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire


Rating: WARTY!

It's no wonder I'm reading that TV and movies have taken over the SDCC, because comics just aren't cutting it any more, es evidenced by this one, and many others I've read of late.

The only thing I'd previously read by Okorafor, the writer of this graphic novel, was Street Magicks which was a collection of short stories by assorted authors, and hers was one I did not like. So perhaps it's not surprising that in the end, I did not like this comic, with art by Romero, and colors by Bellaire. The story is ostensibly about Shuri, the younger sister of King T'Challa of Wakanda, aka the Black Panther. It started very strongly, but then sort of faded into mediocrity. I hate it when that happens.

When T'Challa, as the Black Panther, was out of commission in the past, his sister Shuri had stepped up and took over the role, but when he disappears this time (flying a warp spacecraft of Shuri's design!), she feels very reluctant to replace him again, and instead of exploring that, or showing her determined efforts to find out what happened to him, the novel goes off in two or three different tangents which have nothing to do with her ambivalence or her brother's disappearance. It's never even explained why T-Challa has to fly this craft. Evidently T'Challa is from the Star Trek world, where he can't delegate and has to go on every single mission himself, which is utterly nonsensical, but it seems to be the way things are done in fiction!

The story just felt way too dissipated and disingenuous to be an engaging one, and the artwork was not appealing to me. There was a huge gulf between the cover art and the occasional full page image of similarly striking quality, and the very angular and rather simplistic artwork in the actual story where Shuri looked nothing like she did in those individual images. I had a hard time reconciling the one with the other because those full-page pictures really showed-up the mediocrity of the regular and very utilitarian work in the panels.

But while the art is a large part of the graphic novel and can help to make or break it, for me the story is always the most important part and if the story sucks, no amount of brilliant art can save it. But unfortunately, here the art wasn't brilliant and the story sadly betrayed the agency of Shuri because it put her constantly in need of others helping her and thius robbed her of any power. It felt like a sellout - like she couldn't handle things on her own with her macho bro out of the picture, so she needed others to come rescue her including the white savor at the end, in the form of Tony Stark. I was disgusted by that.

To me there's a difference between an ensemble story like the Avengers, and an individual story about one of Marvel's characters, and I don't mind if there's some interaction between one super hero and another in an individual story, but it seems like every Marvel comic I've taken a look at recently insists upon dragging into the story the entire Marvel stable. Enough already! If you want to do that, then make it an Avengers (or whatever team) story. Don't proclaim on the front cover that this is a Shuri story and then proceed to portray her as a maiden in distress requiring periodic rescue by other characters. When these other Marvel heroes flock into the story for no apparent reason and worse, serve no useful purpose, then you have to really wonder if the writer knows what she's doing.

The first of these was another female 'goddess' (so we're told). I'd never heard of her, but then I'm not steeped in Wakandan lore. The problem is that this goddess disappears and contributes zero to the story. She could, were she actually a goddess, have helped Shuri on her mission, but no! Why do go that route? So Shuri is sent into space in spiritual form and completely flies by the place where she's supposed to go - her brother's spacecraft.

No reason is offered for that failure and it makes no sense since it's her brother she's focused on, not the two guys she ends up with! She then finds herself battling a ludicrous 'space insect' which is sucking power from Rocket and Groot's spacecraft. What? Why would she go there? No logical reason - except that the writer evidently decided to include those two in the story to serve no purpose whatsoever! Shuri inhabits Groot's body - again for no reason - and starts chanting "I am Shuri" in complete disregard of the fact that such a phrase would be meaningless in Groot's language since the phrase, 'I am Groot' is actually not Groot's way of introducing himself!

The insect follows them back to Wakanda (of course, because why not?!) despite there being no reason at all why it would. It evidently feeds on electricity, and let's not even get started on how such a creature would even evolve in space before the advent of machines using electricity. This insect is evidently a direct rip-off of the Mynocks from Star Wars. Yawn. And since there's no air in space, why does it have wings? Again, no reason at all. It's possible to have fantasy and magic in a story and have it make sense within its own framework, but this author simply doesn't care, so then why should I? This was a poor story, indifferently illustrated and an outright insult to the Shuri character. I dis-commend it.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Courtney Crumrin Volume 1 The Night Things by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

As promised a few days back, I did pick up volume one and read it and loved it. I think I liked this more than the volume 3 I read previously, so now volume 2 is on the way!

This volume brings Courtney to her great uncle Aloysius's house...or is it her father's great uncle? Or his father's great uncle? Courtney gets bullied by the spoiled rich kids at school, but when she discovers her uncle has some interesting spell and charm books in his secret collection, she manages to co-opt help from a forest sprite, get herself glamoured to become the most popular person in school (big mistake), and lose the baby she was babysitting in a unilateral exchange with the fairies. But she cdecides she likes it here and wants to stay.

I enjoyed this book - the steady pace, the interesting situations, the steadfast fearlessness of Courtney and the endearing artwork. I commend it as a worthy read.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a short and fun graphic novel written by a seventeen year old who was born in Japan to a local woman and a US citizen father, so she has two passports. She migrated at a young age to the US, and this is a sweet and fun graphic documentary of her return trip a decade or so later.

It's quite idiosyncratic, obviously; she remarks upon and records the things which intrigue and amuse her, but much of it has a wider appeal than that. The author and I couldn't be more different than chalk and cheese in things like age and gender, but we do have the ex-pat thing in common, so I could see through her eyes quite well, and she expresses herself with smarts, erudition, and a nice eye for oddity and absurdity.

The book is also educational. Because she was absent from Japan for so long and having left at such an early age, although a lot of what she saw on her return had a familiarity to it, there was also a lot that was - or at least seemed - new, so we get to look at Japan very much through a visitor's eye, but this eye is softened by her familiarity with the culture. There is also culture shock with regard to how clean and neat everything is, how proud and polite the people are who serve in both fast food places and restaurants, and how curious the toilets are - among many other things!

I've never been to Japan, but I certainly would like to visit. Reading books like this help me feel a little bit like I've already visited. I commend this one as a worthy read.


Bad Machinery Volume 5 The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This was one of the last two of this series that I had not read yet, although by no means the last in chronological order. Not that that matters very much with this series, but this one was published as volume five, and was the last one I read, and it's odd to think this grew on me so quickly after I had initially not liked one of these volumes when I read it a few years back and so never pursued the series! Now I'm sorry it's over, but I do understand Allison's desire to move on and try something new. I'm just sorry I didn't like what he did next.

In this volume, the author explores Selkies - mythological seal-like creatures that inhabit the ocean, but after casting-off their sealskin cloak, appear as human - and very pretty young girls some of them are, too. Due to Lottie's discovery of one of these cloaks on the beach, and her stuffing it into one of the boys' bags, the Selkie latches onto this boy and pursues him ardently, including enrolling at his school, where she poses a threat to the established swimming champion in the school, who is also threatened by her boyfriend dating one of the girls without telling her he doesn't want to date her any more. But wait, his ex is good-looking, and a great swimmer? What's going on here? Meanwhile the Selkie's dad emerges from the ocean in search of his lost girls and is immediately assumed to be a homeless guy!

Once again I was highly amused by this and I am sorry to see the series come to an end. I commend this as a worthy read.


Bad Machinery Volume 2 The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the second to last I've read in this series, but the second to be published chronologically. In the story, Mildred wants to win an enchanted pencil at the visiting carnival, so she can draw a dog - which the pencil will make real, and then she can have a pet. Meanwhile toddlers are disappearing, mostly from the baby care centre, and the police don't seem to be doing much about it ("Oh, they'll turn up!"). Meanwhile some sort of creature is lurking in the forest and a crazed animal hunter is called in to track it down.

So once again the boys and the girls are coming at a mystery from two direction and destined to collide, one way or another, in the middle. There's the usual off-kilter humor, and bizarre utterances from Lottie, my favorite character, and overall the story was hilarious and very much appreciated. I fully commend it as a worthy read.


Courtney Crumrin Volume 3 In the Twilight Kingdom by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

I didn't realize when I first picked this one up on spec from the library that it's volume three in an apparently disjointed series of seven. It was readable as a standalone though, if you don't mind missing the backstory - which really doesn't seem to have impacted my grasp of this volume. By the time I'd completed half of it and found it engaging, I decided I might go back and see if the library has any previous volumes, and I still feel that way despite the story slowing down rather in the second half and not really having an ending.

Courtney is a young witch with a less than accommodating attitude, and I liked her as a character. She's powerful and feared, but for all that she seems to be very restrained with her practicing her witchery. She tries to warn her teacher at this witch school not to conduct this experimental spell, but the teacher doesn't listen, and when they realize the spell won't wear-off this poor kid, as the teacher had thought it would, Courtney has to step-up and try to fix it. The teacher has to learn a second lesson though, before she realizes she ought to seriously listen to Courtney's advice.

My problem in the second half was that Cortney went into the goblin lands to try to fix this bad spell, yet there was nothing she did there which seemed to lead to a solution, and nearly all her time there was spent fixing a second gaff by her teacher. One wonders why Courtney isn't teaching this class.

The thing is that by the end of the story, the boy still wasn't 'fixed'. I didn't understand that, and it doesn't appear that this story is taken up on any later volume, so I have to declare a certain amount of dissatisfaction with that regardless of how much I had enjoyed this to begin with. It's with some mixed feelings that I still consider this particular volume a worthy read therefore. It was interesting and different, and the black and white line art was good, but I guess I'll have to read another one to decide how I feel about the series as a whole.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Parable of the Sower A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E Butler by John Jennings, Damian Duffy


Rating: WARTY!

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

Having enjoyed a biography on Octavia Butler about three years ago, I've been intending to look up some of her work ever since, but for one reason or another never got around to it, so when this one came up for consideration on Net Galley, I jumped at the chance. It's a graphic novel, so I figured it would be a relatively quick read, and the fact that this version is 276 pages long didn't daunt me, even though the print book itself is only about 75 pages longer! Unfortunately, it didn't work for me.

The first and most obvious problem was the unfinished nature graphics. An understandably huge part of a graphic novel is the graphics, but these looked like the artist had rough-sketched the images and then forgot to complete them, and no colorist ever came along to notice, The result is that every page is rough-sketched - as in, for example, there are no faces on many of the characters, or the face has the cross marking showing where the face center line and the eyes will be, or the entire panel has several overlaid outlines for characters and scenery, like it was rough-sketched out and then never cleaned up!

Initially, I had no idea if this was intentional, or if the comic is still a work in progress. Usually, if that's the case, there's something to indicate that, and at least a few of the panels are done to completion. After a search I did find a small note on one page indicating that it was a work in progress and that it's a combination of sketches, inks, and final art, but all of the art was in exactly the same state with no finished color panels anywhere to be seen. This isn't intended to be published until next January, so why not simply wait until more of it is done and send it out for review later - when we can see what the finished product will be like?! I've never seen a comic book sent out for review in this state. Never.

If that was the only problem, that would be one thing, but for me the story itself wasn't entertaining and wasn't very smart in places either. Set in the mid 2020's, the story focuses on a community in which resides Lauren Oya Olamina (Loo? Being originally from Britain, I couldn't take her seriously with those initials, but I let that slide). Lauren starts her own religion which sounds more like a real cult in that it advocates that humans - with no resources and no plan - leave Earth and settle on some other planet. Why that would make more sense than simply using the exorbitant cost of such a space flight to fix Earth seems to have been ignored, but since I haven't read that far (and Butler never did write that third part of what was intended to be a trilogy), it's hard to say. At this point I have no plans to read any further than the fifty percent of this that I made it through!

I couldn't tell from the rough drawings (which went all the way through the book - I skimmed to check) if this was an entirely African American or a mixed community. I assume it was mixed because there seems to have been an issue later with outside people they encounter not deeming mixed-race couples to be kosher, although again how that back-sliding occurred, I can't say. Nor can I tell who the people were who were breaking in - they were just outsiders, described vaguely as homeless, which begs the question as to why this community had so little charity. I know they didn't have much for themselves, but they did all right, yet never once did they seem to feel the need to try and help any of the outsiders who were clearly desperate enough to break in.

The biggest problem for me was how idiotic these people seemed to be inside the community. Despite continually harping on the danger posed by outsiders, it's only after people start breaking in and stealing that this ever-present threat of people breaking-in and stealing becomes an action item on their agenda! They start minimal patrols of two people, and even then these patrols don't use the guns they're issued. What's the point of the guns and all the target practice exactly, if you're never going to fire them, not even in warning?!

So yes, this community struck me as being exceedingly dumb. Apparently they have several keys to the gate, but they seem as lax in keeping an eye on the keys as Star Trek crews typically are in keeping an eye on the shuttle bay, leading to shuttles being routinely purloined. So no one keeps an eye on those keys either, and it really doesn't matter anyway because people can clearly get in without them. What happens eventually (so I understand, although I didn't read that far) is that the community predictably fails, and a hoard of refugees start a trek to the north, where conditions are apparently better. Why it took so long, I do not know!

This novel was written in the nineties and while Butler got climate change correct, she somehow seemed to think that everything: not just the environment, but the government, the military, the police, and whatever, would fail catastrophically within a quarter century. The military and government are never mentioned - not in the fifty percent of this that I could stand to read. The police are mentioned as a private organization which it's not worth the time and cost to call on anyway. For me the author failed to show how all of this could remotely come about in so short a time. We're just left with the unsupported claim that it did, and this is how things are now in this story. I need a little bit more depth for my fiction than this offered.

Consequently I cannot commend this as a worthy read, and especially not with such scrappy graphics and without even a page or two of samples of the finished product. This really ought to have been held back a month or two longer so that some pages at least could have been finished.


Giant Days Not on the Test Edition by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin, Whitney Cogar


Rating: WARTY!

I 'graduated' to this from the Bad Machinery graphic novels which I loved, but I was very disappointed in this one. Part of the problem is that Allison has sold out to American audiences, I think. I have to say that I can't get with a comic that has the same rhythm as a pop song. The format of this one mirrored US sitcoms which are lousy at best: one-liner, canned laugh, one liner, canned laugh, two one liners, extended canned laugh, repeat without rinsing.

The premise is that of three female friends at college (just like the three female friends at high school): Daisy Wooten, Esther de Groot, and Susan Ptolemy. I thought Esther was going to be like Charlotte Grote (especially given the name!) in the Bad Machinery comics but she wasn't a patch on Lottie. None of these characters was as interesting as the other girls, and the situations were so predictable, and not very inventive.

The worst part about it though was that pretty much the entire focus of this was not on the girls as it had been in Bad Machinery, but on the girls in relation to boys, which made them far less self-motivated and interesting, and turned the whole thing into a YA novel. I have precious little respect for most YA output. So in short, this was a fail for me and I have no intention of reading any more of this series. It's time to find something completely new.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 7 The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Here I go reviewing the last volume before I've read them all. The others are on the way. This one, surprisingly, was actually in a regular comic book format - but slightly smaller. This made for easy reading, but disguised the fact that it was considerably shorter than the others I've read. Whether this was just because it's the closing volume, or this one was written for the print version rather than as a web comic, I do not know.

The story was just about the girls, too - which is fine with me because they've been typically far more interesting than the boys who barely were featured in this story. And by that I mean they were in the story hardly at all - not that they were in the story without any clothes on.

So Charlotte Grote, Mildred Haversham, and Shauna Wickle are on the case - once they discover what the case is, and in this case it's the curious wormhole in a cabinet in the chemistry lab at school, which they go through back to 1960, only to return and discover that the present is screwed-up, so naturally they have to go back and fix it now. Or then. Whatevs.

You know they're still going to screw something up, right?

I loved this story. It might be my favorite, but I still have volumes two and five to go, so we'll see. Meanwhile this gets a worthy!


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 4 The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Another outing for Charlotte, Linton, Jack, Mildred, Shauna, and Sonny, who are now in the second year at Griswold Grammar school and marveling at how tiny and young the new first years look. One new kid, Lem, is decidedly strange. He eats onions like they're apples and suddenly, everyone starts thinking he's a cool guy - including Shauna's previously disparaging friends.

But where are Shauna's compatriots? Why do they all seem utterly preoccupied with other things and uncaring about a "mystery"? Shauna, it seems, will have to go it alone, or recruit new people onto her team, because one by one, it seems, even her closest friends are being won over to Lem's onion-eating circle. What the heck is going on? One way or another, Shauna's going to find out.

After a weird start to this series several years back, and a hiccup several years back minus two, I finally got really into it over the last few days, and now I intend to check out the remaining three volumes.