And Then I Read: ABE SAPIEN Vol. 4

SapienShapeImage © Mike Mignola.

This series has become something of a mix of “The Fugitive,” and the usual B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth madness. Abe Sapien has morphed into something more alien than his original appearance, and has fled from the B.P.R.D., his home and employer until now, and they’re trying to find him. Meanwhile, he’s wandering across the western U.S. amid the devastation of hellish eruptions from beneath the earth, creatures great and small out to kill and destroy humanity and anything they come across. There are pockets of people trying their best to keep their lives together amid this, and in two story arcs, Abe gets involved with some of them. Because of his monstrous look, he’s met with hostility and suspicion, though some also recognize him as one of the good guys. And there are evil humans out there too, with agendas and deals of their own. Abe seems to be sleepwalking at times, until some horrific event brings out the fight in him, but overall it’s a bleak world he’s in, and he doesn’t seem to know how he fits into it. The writing is compelling, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the art this time. Still, worth reading.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE SECRET BOX by Whitaker Ringwald

SecretBoxCover art © Erwin Madrid.

The puzzle mystery has entered the computer age in this entertaining book for younger readers. Jax Malone has just turned twelve, and a mysterious box has arrived from her great-aunt Juniper, but Jax’s mother doesn’t want her to have it, or to have anything to do with her rarely seen relative. With the help of best friend Ethan, Jax manages to get her hands on the box and finds it has an LED screen with cryptic clues that leads them on a wild chase to find out not only what’s inside the box, but many other unusual things her great-aunt has been involved in, from ancient curses to legendary goddesses. Before long Jax and Ethan have recruited Ethan’s older brother Tyler, a hard-core computer game wiz, and are headed off to Washington, DC, but along the way the box is stolen by a pair of clever thieves who seem to know more about it than they do, and who may also know where to find Jax’s missing relative.

This is a fun adventure story with well-written characters and lots of action, suspense and mystery. It’s told alternately by Jax and Ethan, each with a memorable point of view and entertaining insights, and the book manages to tell a believable, realistic story with modern themes as well as some fantasy elements, not an easy thing to pull off. I had a good time with it.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1993-94

Peanuts93-94Images © Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

There isn’t much I can say about this series I haven’t said many times before. It makes me smile, and sometimes laugh, which is not something most comic strips do for me these days. The lines are gradually getting shakier, but on this strip it’s a minor distraction, and the writing is as sharp as ever.

Peanuts93-94pageHere’s a single page with three gems. They’re not all gems, but there are enough to make it well worth your time.

Highly recommended.

Excellent Art and Music at Stockton Today

SantoreArkNoah’s Ark by Charles Santore. This and all art images below © Charles Santore.

Ellen and I had a splendid afternoon at Stockton State College enjoying wonders for both the eyes and ears today. In their Art Gallery is an exhibition by children’s picture book illustrator Charles Santore. I’ve admired his work for some time, though I don’t buy the type of books he produces, picture books for young children, but I can highly recommend the exhibit, as seeing his work in person is a delight. There are sample illustrations in watercolor from about ten of his books, with a copy of the book to look at. Continue reading

And Then I Read: LITTLE NEMO, RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND 3

LittleNemo3Image © Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez & IDW.

This issue is a mind-twisting tour-de-force on the art end, combining the surreal visual styles of Nemo creator Winsor McCay with the equally confounding styles of artist M.C. Escher, known for his optical trickery, and cartoonist Gustave Verbeek, whose 1903-05 comic strip “The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo” had the unusual property of being read twice, once normally and once upside down, with characters that combined images to work that way, as in the main figure here. The storyline is equally clever, with some pages being upside-down versions of others. The content of the story is fairly slight, Nemo and Flip are being chased essentially, but there’s so much going on visually it’s hard to see how a deeper story could have been managed. Impressive and fascinating.

Recommended.