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

Friday, June 1, 2018

Heartthrob Vol 1 Never Going Back Again by Christopher Sebela, Robert Wilson 4, Nick Filardi


Rating: WARTY!

This one looked interesting from first glance but was tedious to read. It had the engaging premise that a sickly woman who got a heart transplant was now haunted and sometimes possessed by the man whose heart she gained, but she also gained his heart in a figurative sense, and she can experience him as a real person and have a physical relationship with him. The two become inseparable - so to speak.

While this was an intriguing idea and a slightly new take on this kind of story, the problem was that she talked to him regularly in the company of others and never once was she picked up by those people in white coats and carted off someplace for medical attention, so it was a bit unbelievable.

The problem for her in the story was that the man was a smooth criminal, and he wanted to continue his thievery using her as his host - and she agreed and developed a real taste for robbing banks and pulling other heists. That's pretty much the story right there, believe it or not and it really wasn't that great. It was tedious how they kept on robbing places and all that really changed was the venue, so...boring! The dialog was poor and the artwork equally bad, and I really have no desire to read any more of this and I cannot recommend this volume.


Welcome Back by Christopher Sebela, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Claire Row


Rating: WORTHY!

This piqued my curiosity because it as about a character who kept reliving her life through the ages, and in assorted genders, carrying on a feud which went so far back in history that no one knew any longer why it was they were feuding.

People are reincarnated and the main character Mali, reappeared this time as a woman named Mali. She is living a quiet life because her father was a serial killer. It's only when she 'wakes' and recovers memories of her past lives that she realizes her father is a reincarnator too, and his serial killing was no more than him 'doing his job' which job Mali now inherits.

Her main foe is Tessa, a kick-ass, short-haired blonde girl who was quite impressive and who was relentlessly if not manically pursing Mali for their showdown, even as Mali backs away, tiring of this endless, pointless, ridiculous war.

I enjoyed this story but it was rather wordy with endless expositional internal monologue, so i will not pursue this series, but this one I can recommend because it had a great ending.


James Joyce Portrait of a Dubliner by Alfonso Zapico


Rating: WORTHY!

Erratum:
“...practicing law, or becoming as academic” = should be AN academic!

This graphic novel was interesting, not least of which because it paints James Augustine Aloysius Joyce in a very unflattering light. The man was a moocher, a womanizer, an alcoholic who was often abusive towards his wife, and he was extremely lazy. Based on how he was presented here, he was not a person I would like had I ever met him in real life. But my review isn't of him, it's of this graphic novel, and in that case, for the art and the story, I can recommend it.

if I had reservations, it would be over two things: some of the poses of characters in the panels - especially of people walking - seem very static, almost like they weren't walking at all, but were posing as though they were walking, or like their legs were copied from earlier pictures and repurposed. I can understand this from those of us who are lesser artists (if artists at all!). The temptation to reuse and modify is great, but this author/illustrator can draw, so it would have been nice to have seen some variation.

The other issue was with the high volume of text. It seemed to overshadow if not entirely defeat the purpose of the novel being graphic. Sometimes it felt more like an illustrated biography than a graphic novel! To be fair, it was a graphic novel with many panels on every page, but be warned there is a heck of a lot of narrative reading.

The story covers Joyce from childhood - actually from before - there is an introductory section which details the failed business exploits of his forebears. Joyce makes petulant and impulsive decisions, like going off to study medicine in Paris for no good reason and without a penny to his name. Consequently, he mooches money off everyone and then rather than spend it on his stated need, he spends it on living high on the hog until it runs out and he's kicked out of yet another boarding house.

He seduces and lives with Nora Barnacle, who turns out to be his lifelong partner and the real hero of the story in my opinion for what she put up with. Eventually they did get married, but why she stuck with a man like that I cannot imagine and the author of this novel, perhaps wisely, doesn't try to understand either. He doesn't even address the paradox. This is a judgment-free biography!

The story goes on to discuss Joyce's health, notably his recurring problems with his eyesight, and finally his work which he eventually got around to writing. We also learn of Joyce's two children, Giorgio, who died as recently as 1976, and sadly, of his daughter Lucia, who was a dancer and later in life suffered from schizophrenia, but she outlived all of them, dying in 1982 still in an institution - the very one that Joyce himself did not want her staying at 'among the English'!

So not a happy life for James Joyce at all, but he had his moments and was fortunately taken care of by a strong and inexplicably devoted woman. I recommend this as a worthy read for anyone interested in Joyce.


Rat Queens Vol. 3 Demons by Kurtis J Wiebe, Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the last of these that I had not yet reviewed. It was slightly odd, reading them out of order, but it really didn't spoil my experience because I really loved these characters and this series. I look forward to the next one! Tess Fowler took over the art work when Stjepan Šejić stepped down due to ill-health. She had illustrated a special issue introducing transgender Orc warrior Braga and stayed on for this volume which brings together individual issues 11 - 15 and also includes the Braga story as an appendix.

This story was mostly about Hannah the mage, who it turns out got her magic in a somewhat unorthodox way, and now it seems the tab has come due. The four Rat Queens (Braga is not yet with them) return to Mage University so that lingering business can be taken care of, and they find all is not well. Dee hooks up with her brother whom she hasn't seen in quite a while. Betty the Halfling befriends a dragon, and Hannah confronts her past about which there are conflicting stories. Violet the dwarf is about the only one who has a quiet story.

The art and coloring were great, and it was nice to get some back story on at least one of these Rat Queens. Hannah not only has Mage issues, she also has family drama going on. I really liked this one and consider it a real contender for my favorite of the series, but I think I shall have to read them all again before I decide. I recommend this volume, and this series.


Rat Queens Vol 4 by Kurtis J Weibe, Owen Gieni


Rating: WORTHY!

I've been following this series, but somehow I missed volume three (newsflash - not any more!). I love it. I loved this volume. This one is about the adventures of Betty the smidge, Delilah the human witch, Hannah the elf, and Violet the dwarf teaming up with Braga the transgender Orc to find work again after a brief layoff. Vi is still not sporting her beard, and her brother, perhaps concerned about her shaving habits, has suddenly started turning up with his own team - aimed at mimicking hers. He has someone teleport him to the site of the Rat Queens' proposed work, so he can take some of the credit for it and claim some of the reward. This does not please Vi at all.

This series has been plagued by issues with the artist - not the artwork, but the artist. Original artist Roc Upchurch was arrested on charges of domestic violence in late 2014, so Stjepan Šejić came in to replace him, but he left in mid-2015 for health reasons. Tess Fowler took over and then she left (due to creative differences, apparently) which led to a hiatus in early 2016. In late 2016, Owen Gieni was brought on board for this volume 4 aka 'High Fantasies'. Rat Queens can also be found in web comic adventures.

As usual, this was a fun read and as usual, I recommend it.


Sheets by Brenna Thummler


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a great ghost story about real ghosts and a young girl who felt like one. Thirteen year old Marjorie Glatt runs the family laundry business while her bereaved dad runs a 24/7 pity party in the apartment above the laundry. Even school wouldn't be so bad if her life was not lonely and PE such a pain. Her work life isn't much better, plagued as she is by the obnoxious Saubertuck, who wants to buy out the Glatt family so he can open a spa on the premises, to which end he starts a campaign of sabotage.

Help is at hand though, in the unlikely form of Wendell the young ghost, and who sneaks out of the ghost compound to explore. he haunts the laundry and at first causes issues, but eventually...well, it's spooky how things work out! The story is well illustrated, well told, and it makes an interesting use of sheets! I recommend it in the spirt in which it was written!


Accell Volume 2: Pop Quiz by Joe Casey, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella


Rating: WARTY!

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

I read the first volume of Accell and quite enjoyed it, but this volume simply did not resonate. It was all over the place, and the artwork was indifferent, so there nothing that special to look at or to read. Accell himself isn't a very impressive character. He's very self-absorbed and self-important, and he objectifies women (maybe it should have been titled Pop tart given the female character who's introduced?). On the other hand, given his jackass of a girlfriend, maybe some of this is understandable.

She was an unrelenting nag, and yet he had no spine to ask her to back-off or to lay it on the line that if she doesn't quit this endless complaining, he was going to be getting out of this relationship; then we get this other girl who's presented as stereotypically evil, but she's not really. It appeared to be a ham-fisted change of wind in relationships, but even that went nowhere. Overall the story was like a day in the life of a superhero, but it was a derivative and boring day.

This character borrows too much from DC's The Flash, and brings nothing new. The guy is supposed to be faster than sound, but there's never a sonic boom when he takes off, and never any complaints about one! And where are the other heroes in this world? Do none of them ever show up to help out a fellow hero when a bad guy turns up? I guess not. I wasn't at all impressed by this outing and I cannot recommend it. I'm done with this graphic novel world.


Summit Vol 1: The Long Way Home by Amy Chu, Jan Duursema


Rating: WORTHY!

Errata:
Aeropsace on p13 Misspelled.

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

There was an event in which an asteroid nearly hit Earth. The planet was supposedly saved by Lorena Payan, which no doubt is pronounced 'pain'. Some people developed superpowers from this event, but curiously, the event seemed to have a preference mostly for white American adults.

The stories of these mutants are covered in various editions by various writers and artists. This one is the story of one of those white Americans who happened to be actually on the mission: Valentina "Val" Resnick-Baker who rescues and protects a young kid. Can anyone say Aliens 2 Redux?

Frankly this story it was a bit bland, repetitive, and disjointed, but overall it was better than the other two I read in this batch of stories. While I am happy to rate this one as a worthy read, I think I'm done with this whole series which really isn't moving, shaking, or breaking new ground. It's petty much broken and crumbled like the asteroid was at this point.


KINO Vol. 1: Escape from the Abyss by Joe Casey, Jefte Paolo


Rating: WARTY!

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

KINO stands for Kinetic Impulse Neoterrestrial Operative which is one of the most bland and meaningless phrases I've ever read, but it was appropriate for a story that made no sense whatsoever. I've been following this X-Men knock-off world for some time and initially I was enjoying it, but lately I've become more and more disappointed in it with every new volume I read, and I feel like I'm about ready to drop it after this one. Nothing happens and nothing moves the story, and by that measure, this book is looking like a microcosm for the entire series at this point.

The backstory is that a "meteor" was heading towards Earth, and this powerful Latin woman orchestrated an assault on it by a half-dozen international astronauts all of whom supposedly died. It turns out she was more sinisterly involved than anyone knows, but now she's a celebrity because she "saved" Earth. The offshoot of this near-miss heavenly body was that some people garnered for themselves super powers. How that worked isn't explained, but whatever explanation it turns out to be has to be better than a dumb-ass "X gene" for sure.

This story (one of many told by different authors and illustrated by different artists) focuses on Major Alistair Meath of the Royal Airforce, so kudos for at least acknowledging - unlike DC and Marvel - that there are places outside the USA. It's believed Major Meath, aka KINO, is dead, but in fact he's been kept in some sort of suspended animation by the Latin girl. The British somehow find out about this and send in a covert team to extract the major's body, but they themselves are hijacked and the body ends up in the lab of Aturo Assante, a stereotypical mad scientist. So far so good.

This is where the story goes seriously downhill because from then on the story itself goes into suspended animation. Assante seems to think that by programming the Major's mind with various challenges - fighting-off super powered bad guys - he can turn KINO into precisely the super hero he requires (for what purpose goes unexplained). So they have Meath suspended from wires, an idea taken directly from Robin Cook's novel Coma. The purpose of this in Cook's novel is so that the patient doesn't get bedsores from lying in one position on a bed, but as I recall Cook doesn't really address the various medical issues raised by this system, the first of which is infection.

The suspension wires go right through the skin into the bone, so unless there is fastidious sterility in the environment which even in a hospital there never is, then the patient is going to get all manner of infections. Just as important is the lack of exercise. Muscles atrophy when not used, as astronauts know only too well, so there's no point in mentally creating a super hero (even if it were possible) if the body isn't also brought up speed. This is why competent nurses turn their coma patients in the bed, and stretch and bend limbs to keep muscles active.

The story consists of repeated rounds of the Brit agent searching for Meath, the Latinx woman searching for Meath, Assante issuing bullshit demands of his programming team, and Meath having a rough and tumble inner life. It's boring. For example, at one point Assante (or someone in his lab, I forget) talks about "cortextual" - there's no such word. He's confusing the 'tex' in 'cortex' with 'text' and getting 'textual' from that, presumably. The correct term is 'cortical'. A real doctor (and a real spellchecker!) would know that.

But the problem is that if these guys have the technology to program scenarios into a living person's mind, then they can also read out of that mind what's going on, but they repeatedly claim that they have no idea what's going on in this guy's brain, yet even so, they know it's bad? Even without feedback they keep feeding things in? It makes no sense. Add to that indifferent and oddly angular artwork by Jefte Paolo and the story doesn't even make up in eye-candy for what it loses in the 'textual' aspects! I didn't like this, and I cannot recommend it.


Queen of Kenosha by Howard Shapiro


Rating: WARTY!

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

This is the third - and last as far as I'm concerned! - in a loose collection of comics telling supposedly positive and life-affirming stories. I was not impressed by any of them and the artwork was a bit odd to say the least, particularly in this one. there really was a Queen of Kenosha - Dorothy J Queen, who died in 2012!

In previous comics this author had depicted male characters who looked quite feminine for no apparent reason, but in this one we get the opposite: the female characters look rather masculine. I don;t know if this is a deliberate gender-bending effort or simply accidental, but it didn't work. I don't mind feminine-looking men or masculine-looking women, but if you're going to put them into a graphic novel and you don't want your reader to be continually distracted by them, then there really ought to be some sort of reason for it. There was none here that I could see.

Nina Overstreet used to be in a duo with her cousin and now her cousin is no longer is part of it, for reasons which go unexplained, but is still Nina's 'manager'. One night, an odd event happens which brings Nina to the attention of a secret government agency and for no real reason whatsoever they recruit her, while still demeaning her as a female.

This is particularly odd because their idea is purportedly that a female can offer distraction and an intro into areas where a man might stand out, but the author drew Nina as very masculine-looking, so it begs the question as to why these guys are hiring her as a female distraction when she looks just like one of the guys! It made zero sense.

Add to this the fact that one of the two guys is a complete jerk, while the other is an obvious love interest, who also acts like a jerk at times, and you have a very predictable story at best and at worst, a disaster in the making. Nina is supposed to be a strong female character, but she really isn't. She wasn't impressive and the story was boring. It was set in 1963 and they're talking about Nazi sympathizers and a network of underground Nazi spies? If it had been Soviets instead of Nazis, I might have maybe bought that, but like this it was a joke and it read like a really bad fifties B movie. I cannot recommend it.


The Hockey Saint by Howard Shapiro


Rating: WARTY!

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

This is the second in a kind of series or collection aimed at telling a buoyant, life-affirming story and I'm afraid I was no more impressed with this than I was the first one. This story is about a relationship which develops between an established major hockey star and a college hockey player.

One major problem reported by other reviewers is that the college player, Tom Leonard, looks more like a girl than a guy for some reason, and while I agree with this perception, I don't see how it would be a problem, except in that Tom looks way too young to be a 21-year-old college student, so while it's entirely conceivable that a very young-looking, feminine-looking person could well play hockey in college, it's a bit distracting from the story.

A second, similar complaint was about the Jesus-clone of a hockey player who some people complained appeared to be too old for the character he was supposed to be. I disagree with that. While the long hair did seem a bit much, I didn't have any other problem with his appearance. It was his behavior and attitude which bothered me. He lived a hugely secret life and this would have been fine, except that no reason was offered for it except some half-hearted and rather mealy-mouthed comments the guy makes about being misunderstood. It seemed inauthentic and irrelevant to the story. One of the secrets was that he was married to the woman he was, in public, passing off as his cousin! That was just weird.

According to the blurb, Tom is supposed to be sorting through issues that are "both very real and seemingly insurmountable," but I saw no such issues on his plate. He did cause problems for himself, such as being trusted with the responsible position of assistant captain of his team, and promising the coach he won't let him down, and then blowing off the first chance he has to keep his word. This made me view him as a dick and a slacker, and that perception never improved.

One of the things the blurb mentions is that Tom's perception of his hockey hero is a bit too golden, but after all the sports and celebrity scandals we've had, Tom would have to be a blind and deaf choir-boy to imagine someone was flawless or some sort of paragon, which would make him a complete idiot.

I did not like anything about this story, and it made little sense to me. It was far from being inspiring as I'm sure was intended. I cannot recommend it.


The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro, Joe Pekar


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. It was another 'read now' offering from Net Galley, and while some of those really are gems that ought to be more widely read, too many of them are like this one unfortunately was - not really that interesting.

This seems to be the start of a series which features different characters in life-affirming stories, full of bon-mots and optimism. That's fine, but along with that, there really needs to be a story that draws a reader in and in this case, there was not. Set in high-school, in the senior year, this is the story of four guys who get together in a band. The problem was that there didn't seem to be any real reason why these guys would get together.

The worst part of this though for me, was that once again we had a story of young guys whose taste in music is curiously exactly the same as the older author's taste! I've seen this time and time again in novels and it really kicks the reader out of suspension of disbelief because there's no reason that we're offered for why these kids would like music which is so far from their peers.

Much of the music (at least those songs I looked up) was from decades ago, and it wasn't what I would describe as 'rock 'n' roll, although some of it was. If you want your young character to like it, fine, but you really need to supply a good reason as to why they stray so far from the norms for their age group.

There may well have been more recent music that I didn't take note of, and there are, without a doubt, kids who like music from earlier periods, but usually there's a good reason for that. Maybe there was in this story, too, but none was offered to the reader, so why these kids were together and why they all seemed to like this same 'antique' music was a complete mystery, the only explanation for which is that the author was writing what he knows and including his favorite music without giving any thought or regard to whether it would really be the music of choice for these particular high-school kids.

I didn't really like any of the characters. The author, who I understand does a lot of work raising money for hockey charities, a sport he's evidently very such into, did not flesh out any of them. They seemed, ironically, very much like Joe Pekar's artwork - sketchy and unfinished. The art was black and white line drawings, and some of it was so faint in my ARC electronic copy that it looked like it was only partially done: an initial sketch which never got fleshed out. Like I said, it was an ARC, so it may well have been unfinished, but I can only judge on what I see, not on some future promise, so I can't recommend this graphic novel for the artwork, either! The drawings were OK, but nothing special.

Although the author says, in an interview I read, that he doesn't like to write predictable stories, this one was very much predictable all the way down the line, including the ending. I didn't like the way the characters were pigeon-holed. We're told that the name of the band came from the characters being stereotyped by their peers in school, but this didn't have a ring of truth to it. For example, the 'smart kid's did not appear particularly smart. And how would he be stereotyped as a 'smart kid'? I don't think 'smart kid' is the term anyone abusing him would choose!

By that same token, the 'geek' was not particularly a geek and would more likely have been pigeon-holed for his weight or appearance than for being a geek. The 'star athlete' was a dick who let one of his jock friends - a stereotypical bigot - be truly mean and abusive to his bandmates without offering a word in their support or their defense. And what's with naming a sick kid a weirdo? He wasn't weird at all - just quiet. High-school being what it is, he would more likely have been abused for his ethnicity, which was Inuit, than for being weird or quiet. So in short, all of this seemed fake and false, like it was no more than an attempt to cover all demographics.

Overall I did not like this story. It felt inauthentic throughout, and it was stuck in a very traditional rut, so it did not appeal to me at all. I wish the author every success in his endeavors, particularly in his charity ventures, but I cannot in good faith recommend this effort.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Interview by Manuele Fior, Anne-Lise Vernejoul


Rating: WORTHY!

Translated from the original Italian (L'intervista) by Jamie Richards, this graphic novel tells a strange story of an alien invasion - or maybe it doesn't? Maybe it's just a collective breakdown of society.

Set in the near future, it had a feel to it like Stephen Speilberg's Close Encounters of the third Kind but without the embarrassingly juvenile effects. This was especially highlighted by a a parallel encounter with oddity at a railroad crossing at the start of the story, but rest assured this is much more subtle and a much deeper story than that ever could have hoped to be.

I loved the artwork. The book was gorgeously and richly illustrated in a soft, dark, gray scale palette, and I adored the main female character Dora. Both she and the main male character Raniero were not your usual comic book icons of masculinity and femininity and yet both achieved that end.

In an acknowledgement at the back, the author gives thanks to Anne-Lise Vernejoul for conceiving and creating special effects, but it makes no specification as to what they were or on which pages they appeared. I wondered if it was some of the night scenes, particularly the encounter between Raniero and Dora between pages 86 and 115. I don't know.

I can say this made for a wonderfully illustrated and entertaining story, if slightly confusing over the ending! I enjoyed reading it though and in the end, that's all that matters! Do note that it is a quite graphic graphic novel so be prepared!


Saturday, May 5, 2018

In Clothes Called Fat by Myoko Anno


Rating: WORTHY!

Author Myoko Anno is married to director Hideaki Anno of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame. This story was first published as a serial in Shukan Josei (主観 女性 women's matters), Japan's first magazine aimed at mature women. The story was published as a manga in 1997. I don't normally go for books that depict weak women, but this one was compelling because it was so very real in its story.

Society, it does not matter whether it is western or eastern, is quite obviously intent upon treating women like cars. If the vehicle is not new and sexy, it's really not worth anything, so women are raised by society to understand that they really are worthless if they are not young, beautiful, slim, readily available, willing, and compliant. A woman can't be too willing otherwise she's a slut. She can't behave like a man otherwise she's a lesbian slut. On the other hand, men can never be sluts no matter how willing they are. Those are the rules society has imposed upon women from birth, and one consequence of that is women like Noko.

Noko Hanazawa is like every other middle class Japanese woman: she wants a respectable job, she wants to perform well in the job, she wants a happy love life (and note this is a very graphic novel!). Noko seems to have all of this, but her success hides a diseased mind which constantly struggles with her body image. She binge-eats to cover emotional stress, and constantly berates herself for being fat, despite having an apparently loving boyfriend who has dated her for many years.

As depicted in the illustrations, Noko isn't really fat. Maybe she has a few extra pounds but she doesn't look bad except in the tightly-focused and highly-critical lens of societal pressure. The biggest problem with this novel I feel, is that Noko's 1mage isn't helped by the rather inconsistent artwork, and by some portions of the story feeling more fantasy than reality, so paradoxically, it's quite hard to get a good idea of what Noko looks like despite this being a graphic novel! Or more accurately, despite it being a manga, since it reads backwards, which I found rather less than usually irritating in this case for reasons I cannot define! It occurred to me more than once that perhaps Noko is not a reliable narrator and perhaps she isn't being honest about everything that happens to her.

As each chapter rolls by, we realize that we are reading an onion, with each new layer peeling back to reveal underneath it a glistening, slightly sticky, white vein that seems to pulse with scarcely understood animation, and which may well bring tears to your eyes. Noko's best friend at work secretly conspires to undermine her both professionally and socially, even while promoting their friendship. She's secretly seeing Noko's boyfriend, but not because she wants him. Instead she seems to want to punish him for choosing Noko over her, and consequently takes the role of Dom to his submissive.

Noko lives only for Saito, the boyfriend, and at first the relationship seems loyal, loving and healthy, but as we continue to read about it and more layers are peeled back for us, it reveals itself to be as diseased as everything else in Noko's life. Saito wants only sex, it seems, and it also seems that he seeks to punish himself for wanting Noko.

The novel feels claustrophobic and repetitive, and I think this does an admirable job of depicting Noko's state of mind as she binges and purges, and pays for expensive diet plans which in real life almost never work, and neither does it here. The only diet plan that works is eat healthily and exercise, and hold a realistic and accepting view of your body. Not everyone can be a runway model and I am personally glad of it because runways models are ridiculous. They are broken toys; dolls for men to dress up. The problem is that giving good advice doesn't work in cases like Noko's because it's not a matter of lack of willpower or laziness. It's not stupidity or simply not caring; it's a medical problem and can only be properly aided with competent and qualified medical care.

And that's the problem in a nutshell. No one seems to want to help Noko, not even Noko herself, and so the story comes to an unsatisfactory, if realistic close. There's no Disney ending here; it's more like an Infinity Wars ending. In this it is perhaps most realistic of all because people with eating disorders are like those with a drug problem: they're never really cured and it's a long, hard climb back from those depths. It's a constant and ongoing fight, and the battleground is the cold light of each new day and every long. lonely night. I recommend this book for a great story, if a slightly depressing one!


Friday, May 4, 2018

The Castoffs Vol3 Rise of the Machines by MK Reed, Brian Smith, Wyeth Yates, Kendra Wells


Rating: WORTHY!

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

The machines march relentlessly onwards in vol 3, but I must confess up front that I have not read volumes one or two. I asked to review this one because I thought it sounded interesting, and though it was rather hard to get into because I'd missed two-thirds of this story so far, I have to say overall I liked it even though some of it made little sense to me.

'Rise of the Machines' sounds suspiciously like an entry in the Terminator movie series, doesn't it? Wait! It is and entry in the terminator series! Couldn't we have 'Onslaught of the Machines' or 'March of the Machines' here, since they're already quite risen it would seem?! A little more originality never goes amiss.

The story itself was a bit slow-moving and it was rather side-tracked from the main issue which was, believe it or not, the march of the machines. I found it hard to believe that if this were a real life adventure, the main characters would be so distracted by relatively petty village problems that they would forget that an army of robots led by an evil woman were bearing closer with each passing minute.

Instead of going out to harass and attack the machines, or prepare traps for them, they spent their time fixing village issues which would be rendered completely irrelevant if the village was razed by the oncoming machines! They evidently didn't take the threat seriously until it was almost upon them.

I'm sure we've all been there, but sometimes people become so desperate to tell a certain story in a certain way that that they forget the reality of the characters in the story they're telling. They forget that they are people with strengths and weaknesses, and with hopes, dreams, and desperation, and with problems and pains, and so end-up with a story in which characters exhibit unrealistic behaviors. I always let the characters tell the story once they've been fully-created, because it makes for a much more realistic story-telling for me, and it often takes me (and the characters) in interesting and quite unexpected directions.

That said, this story was interesting and the relationships quite engrossing. The art work was decent, but initially, it was hard for me to tell the gender of the characters from the illustrations. That's not necessarily a bad thing and normally I would approve of it, but having missed the first two parts of this story, I felt a bit lost, and a little more cluing-in would have been appreciated since the names were not a good guide! I spent most of this story thinking Rosaiba was a female! It wasn't until close to the end that I realized he was not!

So in conclusion, while I do not personally feel compelled to pursue this story any further after this volume, I did enjoy what was offered to a certain extent, and so I recommend it with the caveat that you start with volume one! These are not stand-alone volumes!


My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly


Rating: WARTY!

This was a waste of my time. There is no story here, just female nudity and random bloodletting. The inexplicably named Clover isn't in such. She's a vampire who demands blood. Her brother kept her confined for several years in order to protect her and humanity both, but Clover is hardly the sharpest canine in the dentition.

She breaks out and seeks fresh human blood. No excuse is given for why she simply doesn't drink her brother dry. She clearly has no morals, yet for reasons unknown, she leaves the man who has imprisoned her for years, untouched, and picks-off assorted, random innocent people she encounters. She's too stupid to know she must get out of the sunlight until she starts broiling herself. She's not remotely likable, and the ending makes no sense at all mostly because it's not really an ending in any meaningful sense. Story? What story? Art? What art? At least it was short.

Comic book writer Jaime Hernandez recommends this. I have no idea who he is so you'll have to remind me never to read anything by him if he thinks this is so great. He either hasn't read it and therefore is completely clueless, or he's just completely clueless. I don't get why idiot publishers think a recommendation by a writer most people have never heard of somehow carries any weight. I honestly do not give a damn what other writers think, even if they're writers I like. I want to make up my own mind, and I did. I certainly cannot recommend this waste of time.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, Hope Larson


Rating: WARTY!

This is my third attempt at getting into Madeleine L'Engle's work and I finally realized the problem: it's a Newbery award winner which more than adequately explains why I can't stand it. Why I even imagined continuing after I tried the actual novel in May of 2015 and did not like it, is a mystery, but I saw the movie recently and did not like that, and now even a graphic novel gets the thumbs down.

Hope Larson's adaptation I suppose is not bad, but her artwork leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. The real problem though, is the original story which tries so hard to be cute and ends up being a nonsensical pile of centaur crap. Or is it flying horseshit? I'm not sure there's any real difference. There's no point in going on about this because I already covered it in the original review, so I'll say this did not work for me but at least I made it all the way through! I cannot recommend it though. Just the opposite. It's a great pity that this didn't end with Tesseract One.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Hexed by Michael Alan Nelson, Emma Ríos, Cris Peter


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an awesome graphic novel written beautifully by Nelson, drawn gorgeously by Ríos, and colored richly by Peter.

Luci Jennifer Inacio das Neves, or Lucifer for short(?!), is no ordinary thief. She steals magical artifacts which often have dangerous magical protections. Unfortunately, the job she turned before immediately leaving town is coming back to bite her in the form of Dietrich, who insists that since she skipped out on him, she owes him and will steal something for him as well as introduce him to The Harlot. Or else.

Dietrich aims to become number one in the magical underworld, which makes him number two right now, and he behaves like it towards Luci. After he threatens her employer Val Brisendine, a vulnerable art dealer, she feels like she has no choice but to go along with his plan even as she plots to get out permanently from under his thumb.

The stakes grow higher and Luci dives deeper, and it's starting to look like maybe she can't fight her way through this. Or can she? I ain't tellin'! But I do promise you this is an awesome novel and well worth the time to read it if you're into magical fantasy work at all.

I knew as I was reading this that I would welcome a sequel and it looks like I'm in luck, because the author appears to have written such a thing in at least two parts: Hexed: The Harlot & The Thief! Unfortunately that has a different illustrator: Dan Mora. I'm not a big fan of male illustrators' habit of hypersexualizing characters, but I may still take a look at this in the hope that Dan Mora is not focused on physical. Don't go searching for this series on Boom! Studios's site though: their sad search engine can't find it even though I know for a fact that it's on there! Look elsewhere for information about it or do a site search from outside of the actual website.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Algeria is Beautiful Like America by Olivia Burton, Mahi Grand


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This story had an interesting effect on me because I liked it even though it's not the normal sort of story I like. Most stories that involve people recounting a travelogue - finding their roots or worse, finding themselves, bore me to death, but this one sounded interesting and miraculously it actually was. I think the author can thank Michael Palin for preparing the way with his story of his adventures in the Sahara, which I enjoyed immensely. This story was well-told to begin with, and very competently illustrated by Mahi Grand with sweet, gray-scale drawings.

The one thing I really honestly neither got nor liked about the story was the last two words of the title. Why "Like America"? It seemed like shameless pandering to an American audience. Why not "Like France"? Why not just leave it at "Algeria is Beautiful" or better yet, "Algeria The Beautiful" which both makes a powerful statement and harks to the poem Pike's Peak by Katharine Lee Bates.

The author's family hailed from Algeria, but as French citizens, they had to flee during the civil war in the 1960s, when her grandparents literally flew across the Mediterranean and settled in France. Unlike most people, the author's grandparents did not view the South of France as a paradise. Instead they viewed it as a poor man's Algeria which amused me! After hearing so much, one way or another, about Algeria, the author decided she had to visit and check out her grandparent's roots. She gave up on her hope of collecting some friends to travel with her. She should have asked me! I would have loved to have gone had I been single.

So, alone, with only the name of a contact in Algeria, she traveled. It's no spoiler to say she made it there and back safely since she could not have written this had she not (this is why first person voice horror and thriller fiction doesn't work! But I digress!). Anyway, she has some great fun, some disturbing moments, some confusing ones, and some very happy ones, and a lot of other emotions in between. The story was well-told, was entertaining, and kept me reading. I recommend this as a worthy read.


Ocean of Secrets Vol2 by Sophie-chan


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. Note that I have not read volume one of this series. This is volume two and starts at chapter five. And no, I really don't think my view would of this volume would have improved had I read volume one first. I'm quite sure I would never have read this had that happened!

This sounded like an interesting story from the blurb, but then don't they all? (Not really!). The problem was that the blurb didn't remotely match the story. I have to wonder if it matched volume one, because it bore no relationship whatsoever to volume two, so I felt like I was drawn into this under false pretenses.

The blurb claims that "Lia, a 17-year old orphan living by the Atlantic is swept away by the ocean currents during a ruthless storm. She is then saved by Moria and Albert, a duo of illegal runaways on their magical ship!" No! Instead, try a guy flying home from a trip who espies a landmass floating in the sky very reminiscent of Asgard from the original Marvel Thor movie. That's what happened in this novel.
No orphan. No storm. No sweeping away. No magical ship.

When he lands, the guy who is evidently a geology student, reports this experience to his professor who, instead of calling in a psychiatrist, inexplicably allows the guy to take a solo flight in a light aircraft to go find this floating island. He does, and non-adventure ensues.

I'm sorry but this story was awful and the black and white line-drawing artwork indifferent. I was sorely disappointed. It was so juvenile and the plot so thin and childish that it honestly felt like I was reading something a child had written. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot recommend it at all.

I am not a fan of the manga format. I get why it is the way it is, I do, but when this is translated to the west, just as the language is translated, so too could the pages be reversed, especially in an ebook. It's just laziness and hide-bound, blinkered obstinacy that prevents it. For some stories which are worth my time to read, I can put up with this even as I do not like it, but it was just another irritant in this case. It's 2018. No, publishers, it really is! Less than two years from now we shall all require 2020 vision. You read it here first. We do not have to follow method X because that's the way it's always been done, y' know?