November 20, 2013

Hickman's Manhattan Projects

 The Manhattan Projects by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra is a graphic novel that tells a bizarre and disturbing alternate reality history of the Manhattan Project. 

In Hickman's tale the mad geniuses  of the post-World War 2 era  have decided they want to conquer the planet and then the universe and then the alternate realities to our universe.  The American aligned scientists are depicted as amoral opportunists and the Nazi and Russian geniuses are depicted as hyperbolic sadists.  The bad guys here--the Illuminati of course--are depicted as sadistic narcissists.   Basically every character is a bastard and there is no one to "root" for.   All the characters are male.  The plot is people getting in and out of portals while murdering each other in bizarre ways.

If you want an a-historical spectacle of mindless violence starring abhorrent and unrelatable characters that are dumped into a ridiculous plot this book is for you.  

October 4, 2013

Beasts of Burden

Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson is a spooky treat.  It stars a rag tag pack of dogs from the suburbs who get caught up in increasingly scary supernatural adventures.   

The stories involve struggles against witchcraft, zombie-dogs, a wolf man, and more.  This is material any horror fan can sink their teeth into.  Dog lovers will enjoy the camaraderie between the pack members and expressiveness of the dogs, as well as the gentle character arcs.

One warning: This is a violent comic.  Don't be fooled by the lovely art and portrayals of our protagonists (my favorite is the miserable wise-acre pug!) on the cover.  The monsters are scary and gross the violence is grisly.

Halloween is coming and this is a great comic to enjoy the spirit of horror.

P.S.  There is a charming cat that is made a member of the pack, for you cat lovers out there. 

August 6, 2013

What's the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund?

The Official CBLDF Logo

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit group committed to protecting the first amendment rights of comic book artists, writers, and publishers. 

Over the years comic books have been accused of corrupting the bright young minds of the future.  Some people beleievd that Batman comics would cause homosexual tendencies in young men and that anti-social and anti-American ideology were being propagated by comics.   Solution?  Burn and ban comic books! 

Fortunately today we have the CBLDF to help fight the good fight against censorship and protect comic books from censorship.

Here's a link to the CBLDF site:

Here's a link to an ACLU article on comic book burning in the 1950's:

June 21, 2013

Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is a collection of stories created by the legendary cartoonist Don Rosa for the Disney Company. 

The stories here trace the path of Scrooge McDuck from a poor Scottish lad to a fabulously wealthy and established capitalist.  The stories are rooted in different parts of history and the illustrations are evocative of the times.  Scrooge starts off in Scotland and ends up a millionaire after undertaking adventures.

TThe landscapes and settings are remarkably detailed for a comic of its time.  The anthropomorphic 'toons have very expressive faces and body language which adds to the comedy of watching Scrooge overreact.  Much of the comedy is physical comedy which Don Rosa captures brilliantly.

Think of this as similar to Tin Tin but with more of a carnivalesque and exaggerated feel.  Recommended to fans of Tin Tin, adventure comics and those interested in canonical comics.

May 31, 2013

Abelard by Renaud Dillies and Regis Hautiere

 Abelard is a beautiful and melancholy tale about a young  duck named Abelard and his journey from his rural home to the United States.  Abelard is traveling to the US because he wants to use the newly invented flying-machines to capture the moon and present it as a gift to the woman he has fallen in love with.  Abelard's journey introduces the young man to a world that can be cynical, cruel, and confusing.  The tension comes from Abelard's worldview and how others react to it.  Abelard is like Candide, and part of his purity is the will to wish for one thing: the love of his woman. 

Many have derided this book for using "cute" art that doesn't fit the moods and brutal turns of the narrative.  Others have chafed at innocence and dreamy optimism of the main character Abelard.  I found the art to be incredibly expressive, especially the faces of the characters.  Pain, delight, surprise and many other ranges of emotion are expressed beautifully.  I dont believe Abelard is a cardboard cut out character.  Instead, Abelard is young man developing himself, and his simple uncomplicated hopes are instantly attacked as soon as he enters the wider world.  This story is more parable than grand story and it is near perfect for what it is.

I highly recommend this graphic novel for anyone interested in graphic novels.

April 30, 2013

I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason

Today is the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's suicide. 

Over the years science fiction has speculated on what today's world would look like had Nazi Germany won World War 2.  Many others have wondered how the world would have changed if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated. 

Jason has written a slim, sinister, syrupy dark and  humorous graphic novel titled "I Killed Adolf Hitler".  An assassin has sent back in time to kill Hitler but the dictator overpowers his assailant and travels to the present.  That's all I will say about the plot for fear of ruining plot twists...and yeah the characters are anthropomorphic furries. 

You will either love or hate this graphic novel.  And at 50 pages why not give it a try. 

April 12, 2013

Review of "Saga" Volume

 Saga is a new comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan; the acclaimed writer of Y the Last Man and illustrated by the sublime Fiona Staples.

The story centers around a young couple who have just had their first child.  They are on the run and wanted as traitors by warring galactic factions who chose their forbidden love over loyalty to the opposing war machines. Romeo and Juliet with laser beams, aliens, and magic.

The art is in turns sexy, horrifying, and otherworldly.  Clothing, character designs, and landscapes all look believable and realistic within the coordinates of this mesmerizing mash up of fantasy and sci-fi.  In many ways the realism of the characters contrasted with a unbelievable world structured in a believable way may remind you of China Mieville's novel Perdido Street Station.

March 15, 2013

JLA: Villain's Journey

The Justice League of America is DC Comics premier super hero team.  Personally I always thought the JLA could take Marvel's Avengers in a fight!  You've got Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and a whole slew of iconic characters in the same book.   Its a lot of fun to see these characters interact and play off of one another.  Geoff Johns, the author of this volume, is an expert at telling stories about superheros that showcases their epic superpowers while maintaining their "relatability" to the reader.  I'm not sure that "relatability" is a word, but it is now!

This story shows how even the actions of heroes can have unintended consequences and how that their lives may give rise to villains.  Its like totally metaphysical man.  Beware!  If you gaze into the abyss the abyss will gaze back at you.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Can the Justice League survive...the road?  I wont be hired to come up with one liners for film trailers anytime soon.

I'de give this a C+.  It's a popcorn movie in comic book form.  Nothing shameful in that, but nothing gripping or refreshing either.

February 22, 2013

What is Josei Manga

Paradise Kiss

 Josei Manga is manga that is intended for women.  The name translates to "ladies'" comic.  Most josei manga are written by women and target a readership of young women.

The stories usually focus on the everyday lives of women in Japan.  The style also tends to be more restrained than shonen or shojo manga.

Josei comics often portray romance in a realistic way, as opposed to the idealized romance found in other types of manga.. Josei tends to be both more sexually explicit and contain more mature storytelling.  It is also not unusual for storylines dealing with rape and infidelity  to occur in josei manga.   target specifically towards more mature audiences. Some popular josei series include Yun Kouga's Loveless and Ai Yazawa's Paradise Kiss.

February 13, 2013

What is Shoujo Manga?

Fruits Basket
Shoujo manga is a type of manga that is generally geared towards young women. 

Some popular examples of shoujo manga are Sailor Moon, Vampire Knight, Fruits Basket, and Cardcaptor Sakura.
Shoujo Manga focus around a a young female or a group of young female characters and their adventures.  The setting may be sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary, etc.  The emphasis is on the friendships, romances, and rivalries of the characters.

Although the stories are plot and character driven shoujo manga may also have action story elements.
Sailor Moon

Vampire Knight

Maid Sama

February 5, 2013

What is Shonen Manga?

There are many different types of manga out there.  The dominant and most popular kind of manga is shonen manga.

In Japanese shonen manga means "comics for boys".  Shonen manga makes up almost one half of all the manga consumed in Japan.  Shonen Jump is the best selling weekly manga publication in Japan, selling 3 million copies per week.

Shonen manga are usually full of high action and violence. Comraderie and rivalries are very important to the mostly male cast members.  Bromances abound, as do betrayals, and ever stronger foes and allies appear as the plot moves forward.  Many of the main characters are motivated by drive to become the best at something--the strongest warrior, the top ranked boxer, the king of the seven seas etc. 

Some of the most popular shonen manga are Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, and Hunter X Hunter, and Slam Dunk. 

Dragon Ball Z
One Piece
Hunter X Hunter
Slam Dunk

January 18, 2013

Hickman's Fantastic Four

Usually I try to review a specific graphic novel so that a reader can get a snapshot of one guy's opinion of one particular story.  Not this time.  I am just going to recommend the entirety of Jonothan Hickman's run on the Fantastic Four straight up.  

Hickman's Fantastic Four has to be enjoyed as a whole work in order to be fully appreciated because the story builds on itself over dozens of issues.  The story is set variously in New York, alien worlds, Atlantis and a variety of other distinct and colorful locations.  The bookboasts the best ensemble cast in mainstream comics-Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Black Bolt and the Inhumans, Namor.  A true nerd will notice that these characters are staples of Kirby and Stan Lee's best work.  Hickman has lovingly utilized these characters

These stories portray the Fantastic Four not as a super-team but as a super-family.  The relationships are just as important as the cosmic adventures they go on.  Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman's children play an active part in the story and are well written and believable characters who contribute to the plot and have distinct personalities.  This is rare for super hero stories where children are typically either window dressing or used as a plot device (murder/kidnapping) to spur a hero into a revenge fantasy.  The Thing and the Human Torch have the best bro-mance going in comics.
The most lovable and believable child characters in comics.

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