Image © Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey
Over the last few issues of this title we’ve seen the wizards and residents of the fallen city beset by many squabbles within their own ranks, but the man they’ve pulled from the distant past to be their champion knows the real threats are from outside: the army of bison-men led by Seven-Scars in the forefront, and others waiting to see if they have a chance for plunder. The Champion, Learoyd, has been carefully crafting his plans surrounding a parley with Seven-Scars. Or will it be a duel to the death? Writer Kurt Busiek knows how to build suspense, and how to deliver the action. Artist Benjamin Dewey is equally skilled at the quiet character moments and the heat of battle. The characters in this book are anthropomorphized animals, but at heart this is a human story where heroism and smart thinking can save the day, or lose it, depending on how things go. There are twists and turns galore. This issue ends the story arc, but not the series, and I’m looking forward to more.
Image © Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez and IDW
The final issue of this storyline (and the last for now) is just as visually stunning as the others, with excellent art by Rodriguez and bright, rich colors by Nelson Daniel. The storyline takes some entertaining twists, like having the lead characters slide into an underground kingdom, and later fall into a lake made of black ink. It all comes back to the palace and the decision of the new Nemo: will he stay in Slumberland as a companion of the princess? The story is light-weight, but the same can be said of the original Winsor McCay strip, and Shanower does a good job with it. I found issue 3 of the series the best and most creative visually, but all are good, and Eisner voters agree, as it won for Best Limited Series.
Cover art by Michael Mariano and Rick Turner
These might be the last fantasy books by Jane Louise Curry I hadn’t read, and I’m a little sad about that, I’ve enjoyed many of her books. While separate stories, they’re closely connected and best read together.
The viewpoint characters are small men and women of the Tiddi people, a wandering group who cover a regular yearly circuit through part of the land of Astarlind. Several young Tiddi get swept up in unexpected serious trouble with Men, wolves, ice giants, magicians, and a large cast of people and (sometimes) talking animals. Magic stones from ancient times have surfaced, and an hidden evil presence is seeking them, sending his goblins and other dire creatures to find them. Runner, Fith and Cat, the young Tiddi, become part of a mission to destroy an evil outpost in a northern ice-bound land in the first book, and another mission to uncover the hidden evil and missing magic stones in the second.
These books are highly derivative of Tolkien, which is good in some ways, bad in others. For one thing there’s a deep back story giving events resonance, but Curry does not explain it as well as Tolkien, probably because there isn’t room. Second, some characters keep reminding the reader of Tolkien’s: the Tiddi of Hobbits, Lek the conjuror of Gandalf, and so on, but they aren’t as memorable or well-rounded in my opinion. Yet, there is an epic feel to the books that I liked, and lots of imaginative ideas.
Both books are full of exciting adventures and good characters who traverse an interesting and diverse land, and I did enjoy reading them, but I wouldn’t put them among Curry’s best work. Still, recommended.
Image © Robert A. Heinlein
Three things that make the writing of Robert A. Heinlein tops in my book are the ideas, the author’s voice (narration) and the dialogue. This adaptation tries hard to make a comic out of the novel, but it feels incomplete because the author’s voice is largely missing. The ideas are there, at least some of them, same for the dialogue, but the few captions can’t begin to represent what reading Heinlein is like, and there the effort falls short. As it is, we have lots of talking heads, and not much action, though the story itself is quite interesting. A slave boy on a distant planet is gradually finding out he’s much more than that through a series of revelations. We follow his rise through a clan of space-faring traders, then his entrance into the Hegemonic Guard, a sort of space Navy, and his realization he needs to follow his own story to Earth. I enjoyed touching base with the characters, the pencil art by pro Steve Erwin is fine, though the digital “inks” are rough in spots. It’s an honest attempt, and worth a look if you’re a Heinlein fan, but not nearly as satisfying as the novel.
Image © Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey
I love this book. The art and writing are both delicious. The threads are being gathered toward a major confrontation between Learoyd and the bison, with all kinds of sub-plots and surprising turnarounds. The leaders of the broken city are making grabs for power, the fox woman is scheming, Learoyd is making explosives, and over it all the narration by the idealistic dog boy is charming. I find myself looking forward to studying the pulp-magazine painted spreads on pages 2 and 3 each issue. My only problem is, with so many characters, I have a hard time remembering the names. A cast list with small headshots on the inside front cover would be helpful.