Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #21

Image © DC Entertainment.

In the odd-numbered issues of this title, we are up to Part Four of “The Truth,” taking place in the present time. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are under attack by Colonel Maru and her guns-for-hire, and Diana has already been shot by Maru. Apparently her bullet-deflecting bracelets do not always get there in time! Meanwhile, Veronica Cale, her faceless daughter, and the godlings Phobos and Deimos turned into dogs, are arriving at a remote island in the Black Sea, where they and Cheetah hope to open a portal to Themyscira. That place where Wonder Woman was raised can no longer be reached by Diana, or anyone as far as she knows, but Cale has a plan, and she is driven by the need to get her daughter’s soul and face back. She’s been told it’s there. Meanwhile, in Themyscira, the Amazons and their queen stand before their side of the gateway ready to do battle with whatever comes forth. When Diana and Steve arrive on the gateway island, she’s attacked by her former friend Dr. Minerva, now once more Cheetah, who feels herself betrayed twice over by the Amazon. Then things really open up! Fine story by Greg Rucka, wonderful art by Liam Sharp.

Recommended. Four issues to go in this run.

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #20

Image © DC Entertainment.

I’m well behind on this title, but actually I’m savoring the last few issues of this Greg Rucka run. In Part 3 of Godwatch, Doctor Cale’s quest to cure her daughter has her calling up the ancient witch Circé, as seen on the cover. Circé in this incarnation is a charming trickster who seems to have no problem staying one step ahead of Doctor Cale, her digital assistant, and Wonder Woman. Cale also wants revenge on Phobos and Deimos, who have taken her daughter’s soul and face, and Circé’s plan will give her that as well. Meanwhile, Diana is confronting Cheetah in Greece, and then fighting terrorists in Qurac, but is drawn into Circé’s plan without even knowing it. What happens when the plan is fulfilled and the trap sprung is going to mean even more trouble for everyone. Great story by Rucka, nice art by Bilquis Evely.

Recommended.

Rereading: THE VOYAGES OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE by Hugh Lofting

Above is my much loved and much battered copy of this book. It was already battered when I bought it for five cents at a book sale, an ex-library copy from my own grade school in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. The book was first published in 1922, the second published book in the Dolittle series by Lofting. This was the 11th printing in 1929, so clearly it was popular and sold many copies from the start. It is, in my opinion, the best of the series.

The kind, bumbling but strong-willed human doctor who learns the languages of the animals through his parrot Polynesia and becomes the most successful and well-known veterinarian in the animal kingdom (at least among the animals themselves) was introduced in 1920’s “The Story of Doctor Dolittle,” reviewed by me in the link. It’s a fun, if improbable story with lots of great characters, many of them the animals that the Doctor considered his family. What the second book added that greatly improved the concept was the character of Tommy Stubbins, who narrates this book. Tommy is a young boy in Dolittle’s home town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh in rural England. He’s the son of a cobbler, but he has a desire to see the world, a wanderlust that is unlikely to be fulfilled until he meets the Doctor and becomes a part of his family too. By seeing the unusual man and his animal companions through fresh, wondering eyes, Tommy Stubbins gives us, the readers, a new, deeper understanding of all the characters, and allows us to become part of the story. Tommy’s parents are puzzled by his new friends, but when the Doctor offers to employ Tommy in his own home as his assistant, with room and board included, and seeing their son wants this very much, they agree. Soon Tommy, with the help of Polynesia, is learning the animal languages too, and is a vital part of the Dolittle household.

Tommy knows that Dolittle and his animals have made several ocean voyages of discovery and adventure, in Africa and elsewhere, and more than anything he wants to go on one of them. The perfect reason for a new voyage arrives when the Doctor learns that his fellow naturalist, the native American Long Arrow, has disappeared on Spidermonkey Island in the south Atlantic Ocean. Dolittle decides he must sail there and try to find Long Arrow, who he greatly admires but has not yet met. Spidermonkey Island is a strange place: it’s a floating island that moves around the South Atlantic, but with help from his animal friends, and a sturdy ship he buys, the Doctor is sure he can get there. This begins an epic voyage that is a delight to read and full of exotic adventures, great characters, humor and wonder, enhanced by Hugh Lofting’s quirky but appropriate drawings. Forget the movie versions, this is the real deal.

Highly recommended!

And Then I Read: LARK’S KILLER PREVIEW

Image © Lark’s Killer LLC.

I worked with Bill Willingham for many years at DC Comics, mostly on FABLES, and I love his writing. So when he offered me this preview of his new comics project at SDCC, I was happy to get it.

In an unusual move, the story is framed by a sequence taking place almost 100 years AFTER the main story, showing that Bill has things planned out thoroughly. In the frame, three treasure hunters are attempting to penetrate the lair of a dragon to capture his reputed riches. To do so they must defeat monsters and solve the maze of passageways to reach the center. When they reach it, the dragon is very different from what they expect. Meanwhile, the main story is about their famous ancestor, a feisty girl thief who seems to be from our own world, Lark. As her story begins, Lark has apparently been somehow transported from shoplifting at Walgreens into a medieval fantasy world she knows nothing about. Nothing except that there are three men trying to catch and kill her! Luckily, Lark is quick on her feet, and quick-witted enough to evade her pursuers, at least for a while. Lark doesn’t understand the world she’s now in, though, and when she flees into an inn looking for help, she seems to have gone from the frying pan to the fire.

This was a fun read, and at 33 pages, a good chunk of story that introduces intriguing characters and ideas. Willingham has always excelled at portraying tricksters, and this book has plenty of them. The art is by Mark Dos Santos, whose work I don’t recall seeing before, though he has plenty of credits covering the last 15 plus years. It’s a bit too cartoony for my taste in a story of this kind, pulling it toward Anime or Disney, but he certainly draws well and knows his stuff.

This was a fun read from a friend and favorite comics writer. I hope the book does well, and I look forward to seeing more of it. Recommended.

Sketchbooks from Gianni and Sakai

Image © Gary Gianni.

Here are two sketchbooks given to me by the artists at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Gary’s is much larger, 9 by 12 inches, and the 64 interior pages are black and white on bone colored paper. These are sketches and layouts done for the George R.R. Martin novel, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” which I reviewed HERE.

While that book had many great illustrations, both line art and paintings, there’s much to be learned from Gary’s sketches for them, and his notes and comments. If you are a Martin fan and have the book, this is something you’d want, though I’m not sure how much it would cost, or where you can get it, unless you see Gary at a convention. You might try contacting him on his WEBSITE. You can also find him on Facebook.

Stan Sakai gave me a copy of his “Usagi Yojimbo Sketchbook” #14, which is 5.5 by 8.5 inches and 24 pages, some in color. Stan’s art is great, and in addition to many sketches, there’s a brief comic strip.

Some of the sketches, like this one, are marked as for the animated Usagi Yojimbo cartoon that appeared on the Nickelodeon show, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” recently, and perhaps there will be more of that. Hope so. Usagi is cool, and it’s always nice to see Stan and his creation expanding their horizons. You can find this sketchbook and lots of other fine stuff for sale on Stan’s WEBSITE.