Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: COMIC BOOK PEOPLE by Jackie Estrada

ComicBookPeopleFCImages © Jackie Estrada.

Here’s a book I backed on Kickstarter which arrived recently, and it’s a gem. Jackie Estrada has been involved in the San Diego Comic Con from its beginning in 1970, and she was wise enough to have a camera with her. This large book is her photo album from the first two decades, and it’s full of terrific photos. Though I got into comics in 1977, I didn’t start attending the San Diego Con until 1993, so this book allowed me to visit the show through Jackie’s eyes and words, and see so many of the people I met in the business as they enjoyed the show during those years. Jackie’s comments are mix of identifying people and why they’re known with personal memories of them and the time and place. It really is like looking through a photo album with the author at your side.

ComicBookPeoplePageWhile the vast majority of people shown are from the comics and comic strips world, there are also chapters on famous figures from science fiction, movies and TV. San Diego always presented a mix, and Jackie includes photos from a few other shows, as on this page featuring one of my favorite writers, Robert Heinlein. (And rest assured it looks much better than this scan!) It was interesting to learn that Jackie and I had both been at the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City where he was the guest of honor, but how about that photo of him in a Hawaiian shirt doing a sketch?

In addition to mainstream comics writers and artists, there are photos of people from underground comics, independent or small press, and animation. There are comic strip creators, and cartoonists. There are behind the scenes folks like editors, publishers and journalists. And while most of the photos were taken in black in white, there is a nice section of color photos as well.

In short, if you’re interested in the people behind the comics and media you enjoy, you’ll love this book. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And Then I Read: SWAMP THING 34

ST34Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Swamp Thing brought three past avatars of The Green back to life when he shut down the Parliament of Trees some time back, and they’ve given him nothing but trouble since. This time it’s Lady Weeds in the lead, and she’s a ruthless opponent who will stop at nothing to regain the position of Avatar for herself. As the trail of blood, revenge and cruelty continues — really, it’s never stopped on this title — the final page of the book hints at another option. Writer Charles Soule is holding the football for us, who wants to kick it? Both the writing and the art by Javier Pina are terrific on this title, even if the storylines are grim.



GLC33Image © DC Comics, Inc.

In the final chapter of “Uprising,” just as the Durlans seem defeated…well, of course there’s one more. A powerful one who tricks John Stewart and succeeds in getting the immense energy to be had on the planet Zezzen, making it apparently unstoppable. But the Corps must find a way to defeat this Durlan, and that’s what the issue is about. Lots of fighting, but also lots of plot twists and some nice character moments. Well done overall, though the setup for the next struggle is waiting right at the end, which is a bit tiresome. A breather would have been welcome.




Image © DC Comics, Inc.

I’m not a fan of cop shows, I don’t watch any on TV. Don’t read murder mysteries either. For a story about guns, gangs and drugs in Gotham City to work for me, there has to be great writing and characters first, and this one has it. Tops in my estimation is the handling of Harvey Bullock vs. Batman. The story takes place early in the careers of both, when they’re completely at odds, and it makes for fascinating reading. We also see Batman doing actual detective work, something this title has often lacked, and the art by Francis Manapul manages to make even the most brutal and abhorrent criminal activity somehow lush and appealing to me. Quite a trick. Quite a team, Manapul and Buccellato.


Rereading: HIS LAST BOW by A. Conan Doyle


Continuing my revisit to the entire Sherlock Holmes canon on my phone and iPad (first edition cover above). This book is relatively short, containing only seven stories, though the first, “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge,” was long enough to run in two parts in The Strand magazine. It’s a somewhat familiar idea with a man being lured to a remote estate in the country where a murder takes place, and the innocent visitor is under suspicion as the murderer, so he turns to Holmes to prove his innocence. One other character, local Police Inspector Baynes turns out to be nearly as clever and resourceful as Holmes himself, and the two of them race to the solution. Good reading.

In “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” a landlord comes to Holmes with complaints about a very mysterious lodger who has not been seen in person since moving in, and seems to have odd habits and cryptic communications in note form. Holmes takes the case, discovering that someone is communicating with the lodger through newspaper ads and signals from a nearby house. A sinister plot is uncovered, and some exciting action ensues.

“The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” is both a cracking good mystery and a spy thriller, in fact perhaps the first such story ever. Stolen government weapons plans, a murdered body at a very unlikely place, Holmes and Watson breaking and entering, even Mycroft Holmes is involved. Great reading.

“The Adventure of the Dying Detective” has Holmes at death’s door, and very reluctant to allow Dr. Watson to treat him. Holmes says he his highly contagious and begs Watson to bring a specialist on rare infections to see him in his rooms. The man is question is clearly a shady character who is quite delighted to have Holmes sick and perhaps dying. He comes to gloat. Fine reading.

“The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” has a somewhat gullible rich English woman disappearing in Europe, suspected of abduction or foul play. Holmes and Watson head to the continent to investigate and are soon on the trail of a suspicious bearded man, but the final solution takes them back to London again. Another enjoyable story.

“The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” brings Holmes to the moors of Cornwall, where a social evening of card playing has turned bizarre, leaving two men insane and a woman dead. Holmes suspects a rare poison is involved, and even puts his own life at risk with it during the investigation. A nicely creepy mystery.

“His Last Bow,” the final and title story is the only one in the collection I didn’t care for. It’s in third person, and is another spy story, not really a mystery at all. Holmes and Watson appear well into the narrative, Watson mostly off-scene, and while this adventure brings Holmes’ work to the brink of World War One, it does so in a way that seems sad and melancholy, as if the world Holmes knew and relished for decades has faded away, as has Holmes, only coming out of retirement for this last adventure.

In all, the collection is well worth reading and recommended.