Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: DARK HORSE PRESENTS 33

DHP33Image © Dark Horse Comics.

Keeping things brief this time. “Cruel Biology” begins a four parter that’s an interesting mix of “Catch-22″ and a horror movie, set on a remote Pacific island scouting outpost. I like the art more than the story of “Integer City,” but not a bad read. Brendan McCarthy’s psychedelic art and colors on “The Deleted” really brighten up this issue, but the story so far is somewhat predictable: drop a guy into the middle of a war he doesn’t understand and see what happens. A new “Mister X” serial by Dean Motter begins: stylish, classy noir. I read this issue out of order, so the “Nexus” chapter here is second to the conclusion, and it’s a strange a ride as ever. On the other hand, the first chapter of “Mr. Monster and the Brain Bats of Venus” helps me understand what I’d read in the second chapter already. Michael T. Gilbert’s art and story are frenetic and full of energy at all times, not to mention good fun. “Saint George” concludes in this issue with more nice art and a pretty good story. “The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne” proves that you can do all new Agatha Christie Miss Marple stories in comics form. I don’t love it, but it’s worth a read. “Kill Me!” is a convoluted time travel story that concludes here. I like the idea of it, but the plot lost me.

In general, not a bad issue. Recommended.

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY 15

AC15Image © Juke Box Productions.

The conclusion of the two-part story of Ellie Jimson, the somewhat simple and gullible robotics mastermind, reveals a back story of a partnership that went wrong, and perhaps why Ellie is as she is. It reminded me a bit of the back story of Reed Richards and Dr. Doom, but is quite entertaining and satisfying in its own right. The art is great, too, of course.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK Volume 1

GBVol1Image © Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell.

Here is a new graphic adaptation by one of my favorite artists, P. Craig Russell of the award-winning book by Neil Gaiman. I loved every page and panel. Russell did the adaptation script and layouts, had them hand-lettered by ace veteran Rick Parker, then passed chapters on to an excellent group of artists to finish in their own styles, an approach with gives the chapters a little stylistic variety without drifting too far from Craig’s vision. Colorist Lovern Kindzierski pulls it all together nicely, and the result is a treat in all respects.

The story begins with a gruesome murder of an entire family in small-town England, all but the baby, who has a tendency to wander off. The toddler wanders into a nearby graveyard where the ghosts in residence (and a few others) agree to take him in and raise him. Bod (short for Nobody) Owens has perhaps the most unusual upbringing in modern literature since Mowgli and Tarzan, and there’s definitely a nod by Gaiman to the former Kipling stories here, but with lots of unique magic and wonder.

I have to admit I feel a little left out. I lettered the last such adaptation (of Gaiman’s Coraline), but at the time Craig wanted the pages lettered on the art, and I wasn’t able to do that. Too time consuming for me now that I’m no longer hand-lettering regularly, and out of practice. Rick Parker has done an excellent job for them, and I’m sure everyone who eventually buys a page of original art from this project will also be happy to have the lettering on it.

Volume 2 is just out in shops now, I believe, and I’m looking forward to that, too. I would have preferred the effort in one volume, but publishing full-color comics is an expensive business, and I understand the need of the publisher to go the two volume route. I imagine there will be a one-volume version later.

Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: RICHARD STARK’S PARKER, SLAYGROUND

ParkerSlaygroundImage © Darwyn Cooke, Estate of Donald E. Westlake and IDW.

I generally prefer character driven stories over plot-driven ones, but there are exceptions. Certain kinds of thrillers, mysteries and crime stories with intricate plots that play out like clockwork revealing one clever turn after another, have their own special appeal, and this is one of those. It’s the fourth Parker adaptation by Darwyn Cooke, and he’s found the subject and series just right for him, clearly. The art is deceptively simple, in two colors: black and pearly blue-gray for most of the book, with a short section in black and orange at the end. It’s redolent of the 1950s, even though it takes place in 1969, but in an old-fashioned amusement park closed for the winter. Parker has been part of a armored car robbery that went bad, ending in a getaway car crash, but he’s escaped into the park with a large bag of cash. Trouble is, both police and local gangsters saw him go in, and Parker soon discovers there’s no other way out than over the front gate. With apparent calm resolution he sets about preparing the “slayground” for one-man combat. You know you’re in for a clever plot when you get to the fold-out map of the park, and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s little character development in this volume, the least of the series so far, but it doesn’t matter, you’ll keep turning the pages to see what Parker has planned for his opponents next.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: SWAMP THING FUTURE’S END 1

STFE1Image © DC Comics, Inc.

I’m reading very few of the Future’s End one-shots, and none of the main series. The only thing I like about the series is that it will be over quickly and we can get on with regular story lines. This one is at least by the regular team of writer Charles Soule and artist Jesus Saiz, and gives new information about the realms of power Soule is developing on this title, adding two new ones. The Green was the first, Swamp Thing’s power base of all plants, and I’ve enjoyed how the rest have been developed along similar lines: Red for animals, Black for death and decay, Grey for fungus. New here are Divided for the microbial world and Metal for electronic power. The story is predictable if you’ve read any of the Future’s End books, as the name suggests it’s all about endings, but the tour of the realms is visually stunning and worth a look.

Recommended.