Showing posts with label Becky Cloonan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Becky Cloonan. Show all posts

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Gotham Academy Vol 2 by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Mingjue Helen Chen, Msassyk

Rating: WARTY!

I had an advance review copy of volume one in this series and wasn't overly impressed with that, so why I went back a second time I don't know! Call it rum spring air, Hamish! LOL! This story was just boring. Maybe younger readers who liked volume one will find this entertaining, but to me it was just a mess - a mishmash of sub-stories (and sub-standard stories) pulling every which way and it was hard to follow. Random characters (Batman put in a very brief appearance, as does someone who might or might not be Robin, as well as some villains such as Manbat and Clayface), but the story was a mess and uninteresting to me. The artwork wasn't bad, but the writing was tedious and the whole thing unappealing overall. I'm definitely done with this series now!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

American Virgin: Around the World by Steven T Seagle

Rating: WORTHY!

The last volume, though titled "Around the World" also incorporated the final arc, titled "69". It follows Vanessa and Adam on their "world tour", beginning in Rio de Janeiro. Adam is dramatically brought almost literally face to breast with topless beaches, and is shocked initially to see Vanessa topless, but she educates him - the start of a long, slow process.

When Adam calls Cyndi, as he does frequently, now she has become his reality touch-stone, he interrupts her int he middle of her and Mel having sex. Why Cyndi would even answer the phone is a mystery! Why Mel isn't insulted that she does is an equal mystery.

From Rio, the couple travel to Japan and attend a penis festival. By this time you would think Adam has learned a few things, but evidently he has not. Initially he's shocked by the giant penis statues, but all too quickly turns his feelings around, so this part seemed completely fake to me, first his shock, and then his almost immediate acceptance.

Next up is Bangkok, where Adam books a hotel room for the two of them and it's Vanessa's turn to go overboard, but why she does is even less intelligible. In the end, she storms off to a hostel, abandoning Adam. Later, equally unintelligibly, they make up rather speedily, and all is well. Again this rang false for me. What saved this story for me, despite all this patchiness and falsity, was the other interactions between this couple, which were truly well-written and realistic, and which were endearing and engrossing. Adam gets a tatoo and while he's having that, he hallucinates a sexual encounter with Cass, which somehow convinces him that Vanessa is the one for him. This signifies the end of the Around the World Arc.

The 69 arc begins with Adam returning home with Vanessa and announcing, out of the blue, that they're married, but, we shortly learn, the marriage has not been consummated. At first I thought that this just meant that they were married spiritually, but not officially, but it quickly becomes clear that between this and the last arc, they did actually get officially married. Adam's mom reveals what a truly racist piece of work she is, ordering Adam to annul the marriage.

Meanwhile, fulfilling the last clause of their unofficial contract with Adam, his low-life, but evidently industrious step brothers announce they've found his real father in Cuba, so the entire family debarks, including Adam, Vanessa, Mel, and Cyndi, and manages to enter Cuba through some arrangements Mel has made. Reydel, it turns out, is now a priest who inexplicably still thinks the obnoxious Mamie is a beauty, and kisses her, giving her a heart attack, which Mel fixes by jolting her from the local power supply.

While she's recovering in hospital - availing herself of the free health care in Cuba - Mel kidnaps Adam and hustles him off to the Dominican Republic where the architect of his wife's murder now resides for reasons unexplained. Rather than shoot the bastard, Adam tries to make friends with the fiend. Inexplicably, the terrorist tells Adam there is a video of his fiancée in a nearby suitcase, which Adam dutifully opens. Why he would want such a video is a mystery, but when he opens the case, a bomb explodes yet Adam escapes without a scratch, other than a bloody nose. He isn't even deafened, yet we're expected to believe he's badly injured! The rescuers ask him his name and the last page shows him laying in their arms and a translucent version of him standing over his unconscious form. Whether this means he died or what, simply isn't explained.

So, this last arc was perhaps the weirdest of the entire series, and perhaps we would have learned more had the series not been canceled, but this was a truly odd way to finish it. Did he die? Who knows! It was ridiculous to artificially keep him virginal without any good reason, just so he could die in that state. It would have been more in keeping with the rather black-humored tone of the series to have had one more issue showing him being raped as one of the 79 virgins of the terrorist who died with him! Based just on the ending, I would rate this negatively, but based on this entire volume I have to rate this positively because until the very end, the story was really good in these last two arcs, and the art work was excellent, particularly some of the photo realistic filler pages between issues and the one full page image of Cyndi (which on reflection I think might have been in the previous volume). Overall, I rate this who series a worthy read. Be prepared for some potholes along the journey though!

American Virgin Wet by Steven T Seagle

Rating: WORTHY!

It's in this volume that Adam finally realizes he may have made a mistake in believing that Cass was his one true love. Ghost Cass says something that sets him off searching for the other five contestants in the beauty pageant where he first met Cass. IMO his mistake was looking there in the first place - at a pageant that's so obsessed with skin-deep appearance instead of looking a lot deeper, but that issue is one which isn't touched upon in this comic series at all, I'm sorry to say.

He hires his low-life step bothers at a thousand dollar a pop for each of the girls in that pageant that they turn up for him, and he visits them one by one. How he can, as a Christian, justify this squandering of money which could have helped the poor and fed the hungry is also not touched upon. For all his bluster, Adam is truly a piss-poor Christian in the romanticized and idealistic sense of the word, but he's a very good blind believer in the vengeful Old Testament style.

He meets on girl at one of his uncle's sex parties, and another who is pregnant and who starts to deliver the baby as he talks to her. That was amusing, and made a truly refreshing change from the stereotypical birth scenes, especially those on TV, where the guy panics and his wife is screaming in pain. Yes, there are some deliveries like that, but not every single delivery is like that by any means!

The extent of Cyndi's past is revealed in this arc, and also it becomes more and more clear that Mel and Cyndi are going to become an item, although there is still a surprise in store there. Adam finally meets one of the pageant girls, Vanessa Upton, who he honestly believes could be his soul-mate. On a whim, he takes off after her as she starts off on an impromptu low-budget tour of the world.

It was nice to read this volume because it was such a change from the previous one. The artwork was a joy -brighter and far more positive, far less tediously menacing than the previous volume, and more importantly, for me, the text took a turn for the better: all of the scenes where Adam and Vanessa interacted were a joy to read, and I was to discover that this joy only increased in the next volume. Definitely a worthy read!

American Virgin: Going Down by Steven T Seagle

Rating: WORTHY!

In the collected volume two of this series, and after their wild African adventure, Adam and Cyndi return home. In this story arc, I quit thinking Cass was still alive, and started thinking two other things: that there was something odd about Mel, their mercenary guide, and that Cyndi and Adam were going to end up an item by the end of the series. I was right about one of those two, but it turned out to be a double-blind, so there were two revelations, the second of which didn't make a heck of a lot of sense.

It's in this arc that we learn that Cyndi is even more interesting than she's already proven herself to be. She has a dark past and two sadly stereotypical thugs catch up with her, but fortunately Mel is there to save the day. I have to say that the depiction of these two guys struck me as rather racist and turned me off this volume somewhat. Also it felt like the story tried to hard to be controversial, so I didn't like this volume as well as I liked the first.

The highlight of this volume for me was Adam humping his dead girlfriend's coffin in a scene that could have come straight from Clerks (The Missing Scene), as depicted in a graphic novel I favorably reviewed back in November 2014.

At the funeral, Adam is proposition by a red-headed girl who wants to lose her virginity to him. I don't get what it is with this artist's obsession with red-headed girls in this series. Almost every significant female Adam meets is a red head in the first two volumes, although I admit that they thin-out rather more in later volumes. Shortly after the graveyard encounter, he another one redhead - a news reporter who gives no indication that she's really a biological male, yet Adam somehow picks up on this and incorporates it into a speech he gives later. I didn't get this either. It felt like this particular arc was simply trying extra hard to incorporate every known gender queer permutation just for the sake of it, rather like my idiosyncratic (2AABCGHILOPQSTU) category does!

The story quickly moves to Australia as Mel informs Adam this is where the actual beheader of his fiancée now is. There, they meet Clauda, a lesbian lush, and her brother Deacon, who is gay. Given that they're on the clock for this "mission" it makes no sense that they're dawdling on the beach catching rays except, of course, that it gives the authors a chance to bring in two more gender queer "types". This is and example of what I meant about the story going out of its way.

Adam in increasingly having visions of a naked Cass who seems to be alternately telling him to move on and to remain faithful to her, which makes no sense at all. It makes even less sense for Adam to go "undercover" and a flaming queer, dressed outrageously, in order to make contact with the beheader they seek. Adam is of course photographed leaving the place and the photo makes news headlines. It felt like this ought to have gone somewhere in the next issue, but it never did, so again it felt like it was included for no other reason than to check off one more gender "type" from the list rather than to contribute to or to serve the story.

The first part of Mel's secret is outed: he has a bone to pick with the terrorists over a dead loved one, but this makes the story even less sensible because it begs the question as to why Mel hasn't already dealt with this himself. Why does he need Adam? There was a feeble attempt at an explanation, but it didn't hold water. It relied on Mel needing Adam to track down where these guys were, but all the tracking is done by Mel, so this weak explanation failed.

On the flight home, the plane carrying Adam and Cyndi skis off the runway - for no apparent reason - and drops into a swampy lagoon - hence this arc's title! This is where this arc ends. Despite a lot of issues, I still rate this positively. The artwork was less pleasant than the first volume and the script nowhere near as entertaining, but as part of Adam's sexual education, it did a passable job, so I consider it a worthy read as an integral part of this complete series.

Friday, August 28, 2015

American Virgin: Head by Steven T Seagle

Rating: WORTHY!

How strange to read a novel with the word 'virgin' in the title and discover that, for once, it's not a completely boring waste of my time! American Virgin is a series that looks at sex from the PoV of a Christian virginity pledger named Adam Chamberlain who is the unlikely spawn of two TV evangelists. He has a younger brother Kyle, and a sister Cyndi. How those two got such un-Biblical names is an unexplained mystery. Somewhat less of a mystery is that these two are as far from Kyle as it gets when it comes to liberal attitudes towards drugs (Kyle) and sex (Cyndi).

The entire series, before it was cancelled, follows five story arcs, and is a fast and easy read. The first collected volume is Head, and this is followed by Going Down, Wet, Around the World and finally, Sixty-Nine. I shall be reviewing at least the first four of these.

Kyle is kidnapped and subject to a lap-dance as part of his unexpected Bachelor party, but he escapes before anything untoward happens. Adam is saving himself for Cassandra, another pledger, who is evidently having a hard time refraining judged by his last phone conversation with her. The next he hears of Cass is on the news - she has evidently been kidnapped and beheaded by some rebel tribesmen. Adam loses it and flies to Africa with Cyndi pretty much accidentally in tow, to bring her body back, but all the time he's really looking for some payback. Not a very Christian outlook on life, is it?! Yes, thy have the "eye for an eye" Old Testament rule, but there is also the contradictory "turn the other cheek" New Testament rule, so what gives?! Sanity, probably.

I have to say right up front, that I didn't quite buy the claim that Cass is dead. There is a headless body of a white female, yes, but there's nothing else offered - such as fingerprints or DNA - to certify that this is indeed Cass's body. Admittedly it's not like headless white females commonly show up in Africa, but coupled with her suspicious comments on the phone to Adam earlier, I'm wondering if something else is going on here.

Adam's slow, slippery, seductive slide from his high horse to being an ass is a pleasure to watch. As the hypocrisy of the Biblical texts is highlighted starkly, Adam finds himself in possession of a men's "girlie" magazine, and exposed to an entirely different approach to life as he travels through various nations in Africa in search of the guy who killed his beloved.

I have to say that the number of African breasts on display here seems excessive to me. It makes the continent look like it's sooo last century. OTOH, Swaziland, a highly Christian nation, seems extraordinarily enlightened when it comes to topless women (that's not too be confused with beheaded women, BTW).

I liked this comic because although it went over the top somewhat, it did tell some important truths about the hypocrisy of religion. This is the third graphic novel I've read where Becky Cloonan did the art work (in this case the penciling), and she's batting 666 at this point. The work wasn't brilliant, but it was serviceable and the coloring was a fine job too. Your mileage may differ, but I consider this a worthy read.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gotham Academy Volume 1 by Becky Cloonan

Title: Gotham Academy Volume 1
Author: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Publisher: Time Warner
Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated by Karl Kerschel

This is an advance review copy ARC), which despite this age of instant electronics, we're cautioned to consider uncorrected and to not treat as final, but with a nod and a wink to that, I have to say that the reading experience in Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) was odd to say the least. It reminded me of that old Monty Python vinyl record (I think it was the Matching Tie and Handkerchief) which you can't really reproduce in any other medium. The record actually had two spiral tracks on one side instead of the usual one, and what this meant was that whenever you played it, you would randomly get one version or the other dependent upon where the stylus set down when you played it. It was confusing - even creepy - until you realized what they'd done, and this comic felt like that because of the way the pages presented themselves.

On the iPad, it was fine, but in ADE, the numbering on the bottom of the ADE app would sometimes jump two pages instead of one when you click to the "next page". I've seen this before and never noticed anything odd about it (other than the apparent jumping of a page), but in this particular case, the comic actually was jumping two pages, because if you click back having moved two pages forwards, you would not return to the page you just left, but to an intermediate page which you had skipped right over when you clicked forwards the first time! It was like the pages were almost randomly choosing to appear. Had this been a supernatural comic, that would have been really cool, but it's a super hero comic, so, not so appropriate!

In the opening pages, which were rather self-indulgent (the same image was repeated once in color and once in gray-scale for example, and there were several other random pages like this) and a grotesque waste of a good tree, this didn't matter from purely a reading perspective, but it made me wonder how many panels I would be missing reading the story if the comic was going to be randomly jumping pages like this.

Another issue was that if I slid the bar to return the comic to the first page (an orange-toned image of a startled-looking girl with a shaded bar down the right side proclaiming a welcome to Gotham Academy) and then closed the comic, it would open at a different "first page" - one which showed the current choice for cover as of this version! That image has a green-toned background and depicts two girls in plaid school uniform skirts descending a rope with an ominous shadow of batman behind them.

Starting from the opening cover, one page click shows the same cover (but now as page two), from which a click-back shows the "original" orange-toned cover described above. Clicking forward from the cover takes us to half of a "rogues gallery" image showing (presumably) a handful of academy students. Another click shows us the second half of this same picture. Another click shows us the green cover again, but with no text. Another click shows us the cover yet again, but in gray-scale, no text). The publisher and writers/artists must really hate trees! A click to page eight shows this same image, but a click back shows us what I took to be the first page of the actual story - a full-page image of a clock tower, showing, at five minutes to seven, a lightning strike on the tower. Maybe Marty McFly is parked nearby?

A click forward shows us the same gray-scale image of the two girls, descending via a rope from the top of the tower - but inside the tower, rather than on the walls outside. At this point I gave up on the clicking back and forth experiment and tried to enjoy the story, hoping I was missing no pages in the process! I didn't seem to be until we got the skip-page routine again around page thirty, where it was definitely jumping over a story page that you could only find by clicking back. Clicking forwards missed it every time. But let's move on.

The art work was good - moodily colored and very appropriate to the creepiness of the text, but the artist really needs to learn what a sabre (saber) is. It typically sports a curved blade, and has a hand guard. A regular sword does not. The lettering once again was way too small to read comfortably. Naturally you don't want it so large it obscures the images, but the story is just as important as the art - at least for me it is - and I certainly don't want to be rewarded with eye-strain for simply trying to follow the story!

So what was the story? It's Gotham Academy, an ordinary high school with nothing special about it except that it's housed in a creepy old building which was built from stones even older than the academy, which I thought was a rather evocative thought. Every stone, we're told, has a story. It's almost a Gothic tale, except that it's set in contemporary times.

My problem immediately was that the story we're being told here was scattershot. It seemed like it had a portion missing, and we were coming into it a few minutes late - like the movie had already started and I'd missed the opening couple of scenes. It was annoying, but it slowly came into focus after being all over the place.

One problem was that I didn't get the relationship between the girl named Mia "Maps" Mizoguchi and the other main character, Olive Silverlock. Olive is supposed to be showing Maps around the academy - like this is her first year, but it's clear that they knew each other from the previous year, so this made little sense. Maps is the younger sister of Kyle, the guy with whom Olive just broke up, so it's possible the reference is to them knowing each other outside of school, but it's not depicted that way.

Olive's idea of showing the "new student" around is to take her into the most dangerous parts of the school and almost get her killed. The weird thing is that big brother Kyle has absolutely no issues with this at all, but later, when Olive takes Mia into the North Hall, a trip which is a lot safer than what they went through with the fall from the tower, Kyle gets all bent out of shape. This tells me that at best he's a complete jerk, and at worst, an absolute moron.

There's a ban on students going into the North hall and there's a creepy eye - of which Olive is unaware - peering into her room from a tiny crack in the wall. A student with the highly unlikely name of Pomeline Fritch is playing Malfoy to Olive's Harry Potter, although to be fair, it's much more complex than that, and doesn't go the same way. There's even a character named Heathcliff. There's also, supposedly, a ghost in the North Hall, and Mia, Olive, Pomeline, and a guy named Colton Rivera, decide to break into the hall one night to investigate, and find something way more disturbing than a ghost.

I have to say that the story (even without the oddball hidden pages) was far too choppy. The cutting from one scene to another was startlingly abrupt making me think I'd skipped a page. An example of this is around page 80 where we go from the idiot thespian misidentifying his sword as a sabre to what feels like the middle of an interrogation of one of the students about a symbol he'd drawn in his notebook. It's obvious what the symbol is right from the start, so no mystery there. The scene with the actors could have been skipped and the pages devoted to a softer segue to the interrogation instead of the breakneck switch we got.

Overall I can see how the story might appeal to young, desperate, indiscriminate readers, but then the imagery is a bit scary for really young ones. Older children who can handle the story might well have a problem with it being less than thrilling. Neither of my kids showed any interest in it! It's for these reasons that I can't recommend this graphic novel.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Demo Volume Two by Brian Wood

Title: Demo
Author: Brian Wood
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Art work by Becky Cloonan.
Lettering by Jared Fletcher.

This was different and a bit weird. It's volume two, but the stories are evidently unconnected, so you don't need to have read volume one before this one. The first two stories did nothing to sell this comic to me at all. There are six very short and unconnected stories in about 150 pages. Becky Cloonan's drawing is pretty decent - line drawing with some shading. There is no coloring, not even on the cover. I loved the way she rendered some stories, especially the third one titled Volume One Love Story (don't look for the titles to make sense!), wherein one of the characters is very reminiscent of the artist herself, and the fifth one, titled Stranded. These two were the only stories that I really enjoyed.

The first story concerned a San Francisco resident's prophetic dream of some accident occurring in a place she didn't know. Eventually, she discovers where the place is and goes there, and she gets an ending she doesn't expect, but her behavior in running off searching for a third party made no sense given the vision she'd dreamed.

Pangs is for fans of Jeffrey Dahmer and his ilk. I think. I can't say for certain! Volume One Love Story is about an inexplicably OCD woman who is magically able to give it all up, but there's no justification offered for how she came to be that way or how she was miraculously cured except for some magical deus ex post-it note solution. Waterbreather is a bit of a Man from Atlantis redux, but in reverse. Stranded is about time-travel (I think) and the miraculous if tardy undoing of past harms. The last story is about a very destructive relationship between two painfully-evident morons.

Brian Wood's story-telling was a bit suspect and patchy. Some of it made no sense or failed to go anywhere - at least, anywhere interesting. Some of it was so vague as to leave me wondering what the heck I'd just read, like the second story, Pangs (which was about the only one that did have a title which made sense, and which ironically was the one I liked least.

Becky Cloonan must love trees because she makes full use of the entire page - no wasted paper and gratuitous white space here, but the layout of the novel overall was poor. Yes, the chapters were labeled and the pages numbered, but there wasn't much of a transition between one story and another. There was a number, but no introductory page. This was strange because they'd put all the covers in the back of the book. I can't figure out why they didn't put the cover at the start of each story where it belonged.

I think maybe they were swept-up in the graphic trope of larding-up the back end-papers with extra art, and forgot about actually serving the reader. Some stories didn't even have the title, so I had to go back to the contents list each time to find the title for the story I was about to read.

As I mentioned, I really liked the third and the fifth, and I really didn't like the second and the last, which was titled Sad and Beautiful Life, and which incredibly seemed to be trying to justify co-dependent relationships. That's a no-no for me, but as with Pangs, the story was so vague as to be indecipherable. I had no idea what was really going on. Was this just an ordinary co-dependent relationship, or was there something supernatural happening between the couple like out of the movie Hancock? I have no idea. Given the fantasy and supernatural elements in the other stories, I'd guess there was something else going on, but it was never made clear what it was supposed to be.

As for the other two stories, the first, which as titled The Waking Life of Angels was okay. It was interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying, if very mildly amusing. The other one, titled Waterbreather was just odd, and neither really entertaining, nor really off-putting. If I'd read four good ones out of six, I would recommend this, but given that I only got two, I can't. You may find more to like, of course, and may dislike my favorites and enjoy ones I didn't get, but for me I can't recommend it.