Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop & Jeff Stokely

When I took a look at the cover of this book, I knew I had to read it. Sometimes you can judge a book by it's cover and this artwork made my heart melt the moment I saw it. A touching story to follow, I had pretty much made up my mind up about the book in the first 10 pages: Classic. It's the type of story that anyone can appreciate no matter how old or young you may be. Archaia picked this one right. Jeff Stokely is brilliant with illustrations that carry a timelessness equated to some of the world's most cherished children's books. Although some of the language is more adult, the book can easily be cherished by all ages. The story contains little to no violence so I approve it for children's reading. The illustrations are awe inspiring.

The story involved a 16 year old boy named Wendell who is taunted by his peers and dared into retrieving a pamphlet from a supposedly haunted, abandoned renaissance fair. He must prove himself! There he meets a knight! Or rather a crazy person in a knights costume who explains that there is a dragon lurking in the woods which he must destroy.

I think it is the sentiment that is timely most of all with this story; You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. At times everyone feels that they must prove their worth to those who would look down on them. Wendell tries this by charging towards the abandoned theme park, braving this haunted place. Of course it gets him into trouble and a bit of an adventure as well. It's here he meets the knight who imparts the value and importance of having self worth. Wendell must have confidence in himself to help this very odd stranger.

There is a lot of effort in the last 5 years to prevent bullying in play grounds and online. Bullying is an unfortunate part of life but technology has made it easier for people to be unfair. The comforting perspective offered by this book makes it a great story for children, most of which feel bullied at some point or another in life. Get this book, get it.. I dare you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Attack on Titan Volume 2 by Hajime Isayama *some spoilers*

We all knew Eren wasn't dead so I don't feel I'm spoiling anything by stating this right here and now. Killing off main characters is more a Song of Ice and Fire thing or a Walking Dead thing.I can't say I agree with the quote on the back of the book from i09 stating that Attack on Titan is "Japan's equivalent of The Walking Dead". I don't see anything that really gives me that impression, the script for one, lacks the deep character development that the Walking Dead books have in spades. However, this is only the second volume so maybe it's all going to blow me away in the next few volumes.

At this point, the titans are all over-run the outer city and have HQ surrounded. The military crew made up of teenagers varying in age are running out of fuel for their maneuver equipment (depicted in the cover image) and you guessed it, all the fuel is in HQ. Mikasa has received news that Eren is dead and starts behaving erratically. It's this volume where we learn Mikasa's back story and her connection to Eren. If you weren't totally convinced by the illustration, the author makes it known that Mikasa is apparently of Asian decent. Her entire family was killed by three men intending to sell the last living Asian women into the sex trade industry. Poor Mikasa really. She is saved by Eren who somehow defeats two adults as his 10 year old self (I'm guessing he's about 10).

Something strange has happened which allows all the surviving warriors to narrowly escape death. There is a rogue titan gone berserk killing other titans. Oh wait and he for some odd reason has Eren's trademark disheveled hair..... right. In the end we see Eren emerge from the spine around the neck of the titan, utterly exhausted. I guess humans can control titans by crawling into their spines! Sometimes I wonder why I still read so much manga.  That's the end! There is no more. The series is over. Alright, alright I kid. That is where volume 2 ends and yeah, it's not so awful that I won't continue reading volume 3. I do like the creepy imagery of these huge lumbering humanoid giants. They have these elongated mouths that smile while they devour you. It's appropriately creepazoid. Sort of body gore-esq. I can dig it. I dunno how much longer I can suspend my disbelief unless there is a really good explanation for the whole spinal-tapping thing (see what I did there?).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Delphine by Richard Sala

Originally serialized as a four-issue miniseries between 2006 and 2009, Delphine has finally been released in a collected hardcover edition by Fantagraphics Books as of January 2013. I finally got a copy at the library.

As usual, the library  description was inaccurate and described this book as a horror. Although other sources have described Sala in the past as a horror novelist, I feel this is somewhat unfitting for this title.

I found the beginning of Delphine to be humorous and lighthearted but my feelings changed towards the last two thirds of the book. What began as a simple journey to find a girl, turned into a shocking display of internal misogyny and self loathing. This adult fairy tale takes a spin on the traditional by giving us the male perspective. Unfortunately this male lacks the ability to view his love interests with sympathy, often turning to blame her for the misfortune he experiences in his quest to locate her. He reflects on a rant in which he asserts that women hold the power in the affairs of love. What bothers me isn't that he believes she is powerful, it's HOW he believes that she is powerful. As if being pigeonholed into an eternity of victim-hood can be interpreted as lazy in the affairs of love. A quote from our Mr. Charming:

"Men are supposed to be direct about these things, while women just drop hints or give certain looks that men are supposed to interpret. If you can't decipher the signs properly, if you can't read between the lines~ then you've failed. Even if you merely hesitate, due to uncertainty or tact~ you've failed." 

I suppose if this were a fairly tale set in the 1600's then maybe you could sympathize with our protagonist considering he had been fed a life-time of stories revolving around one specific gender role. Yet, this is a modern day fairy tale! This kind of BS isn't acceptable behavior/opinion. Then with the next portion of monologue, it gets worse:

"She told me she'd been with a lot of guys. That made me jealous. I know it's crazy to be jealous of ex-bfs or whatever. And women can't bear men who get caught up in that kind of self-doubt. Men are supposed to be cavalier about relationships. That apparently makes them more desirable to women."

I'm sorry, are we supposed to like this character?

While my attempt to stay impartial to the female characters of the story may not be completely successful, it still contains more effort than that of the author to remain impartial to his male protagonist. The author vilifies women just as traditional fairy tales so often have. It shoves them in the same roles letting women be nothing more than victims or villains all the while being critical of their position. At one point it is almost as if Sala tries to appeal to the female reader by insisting that Delphine is an independent lady and not a victim at all. Yet he vilifies her when she acts of her own will, insisting that she is merely toying with the young man and ultimately punishing her with rape and death.

I am reminded of the fairy tale Bluebeard in which the moral of the story urges women to "listen to your husband" rather than conveying a message to men not to "murder their wives". Heaven forbid the message be "Hey lady, you're husband is a murderer, run for your life! It was a good idea you inspected that closet!"

Although I don't think the hero or Prince Charming of any fairy tale has the best role in the story, he certainly does not have to make himself look more sympathetic by vilifying the heroine. In the end our Delphine is reduced to two things: 1) a siren because Mr. Charming felt compelled to follow her. It's her fault he fell into misfortune. 2) a victim. She is found as if asleep on a bed like so many princesses in fairy tales (But really, she's probably unconscious from being raped with a crucifix as her step-mother describes).  Like fairy tales, Delphine has a wicked step mother who is the typical looking gaunt, silhouetted witch. It's all so very fairy-tale esq.

In the end I have no idea what the author was attempting to accomplish. Was Sala trying to make us understand Mr. Charming? Was he trying to depict him to be contemptuous and unlovable? Or was he trying to make us feel pity for him rather than envying the dashing Prince Charming of fairy tales? It all leaves off on a rather sullen note with a last look at a frightening woman leading men off into the night.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Three by Kieron Gillen

A few things, firstly I found the script really dry. I get that Sparta was full of slaves but come on. Do we need to focus on rape here? I get so tired of stories set in ancient times just so the authors can depict rape 100 different ways. I get it. It happened. Stop glorifying ancient "insert random culture here" rape. Where's the damn story.

Secondly, the artwork keeps reminding me of 1980's Dungeons and Dragons comic books. I think it has to do with the color scheme. Obviously the artwork in 3 is superior and more detailed. Yet I find myself flashing back to my childhood comics.

Thirdly, I detest telling vs showing. I don't want big bold letters labeling the characters. I want to learn who the characters are by reading the damn story. Show me the story, don't explain it as if this is some didactic lesson.

And finally, I do not like stories about the 300 Spartans. They just consistently end up being awful. Violent, boring and exploitative. Ring any bells? Yes? Look, I want an actual story to go along with this legend. Why can't someone tell a truly interesting Sparta story that isn't full of rape, female oppression and random male show-boatery? sigh. Yuck.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Battling Boy Vol 1 by Paul Pope

Wednesday, October 9th 2013 I ran out and grabbed the hardcover edition of Paul Pope's newest graphic novel Battling Boy. Then I hugged it, and hugged it.. and it hurt my arms because it's hard....

I have been anticipating this release since my friend TomorrowBoy did a video interview with Paul Pope at a Library Symposium in Chicago (the bastard). All that aside, I opened the book up as soon my day ended! Oo so much fun!

Clearly, Pope has taken some inspiration from Norse mythology (or Marvel's Thor, however you wanna look at it). In no way does he name this lightening god as Thor. It is clear where he's come up with this story.

The whole plot begins with a monster over-run city called Acropolis which is suspiciously Earth-like despite the monsters. This inter-dimensional Thunder master send his only son down to Acropolis to help the humans wipe out the monsters. Battling Boy attracts some attention to himself in a fight with a giant monster and gets his own PR crew. The mayor of Acropolis and the military are really big on public appearances.They want to make Battling Boy the new hero of the city, in place of one they recently lost. However, Aurora West daughter of the late hero, is not thrilled by Battling Boy's sudden fame.

The artwork is unmistakably Pope yet somewhat different. I feel as though the panels are somewhat minimalist in comparison to say 100% or Heavy Liquid. With the exception of busy Monster hide-out scenes, Pope takes advantage of sprawling skylines. I feel as though this is the kind of project Pope has wanted to do for a while so that he can have the opportunity to create the strangest monsters any of us has dreamed of. I get these flashbacks to 1980's children's cartoons every time I look at the creatures in this book.

Battling Boy is an all-ages adventure to be released in two parts. Volume one can presently be purchased in trade paper or hard cover editions in a smaller than average format. It is approximately the size of a thick Archie comic which I quite like although it now looks better on the shelf with my Manga than my other collected volumes.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Revival: Volume 2 by Tim Seely and Mike Norton

Initially, I was unsure where Revival was heading as a series. I knew it had gained enough popularity to continue with a second year of releases yet I did not know what to expect from the future of the story. I really liked the premise. It was full of mystery (and continues to hold a great deal) allowing the reader to develop all kinds of ideas about what caused Revival Day, the day the dead came back to life.

Revival is not a zombie apocalypse story. It's a story about people being unable to pass-over. It's also a story about some folks coming back to life and trying to continue on with their normal routine. It just so happens that everything does not exactly continue normally and that some of the people who come back to life, well... they might be having some issues dealing with their second coming.

What caused Revival Day? There is still a bit of mystery around that. I was going with the aliens theory while characters in the story jumped to religious conclusions. It appears that religious conclusions are running toward the um... the conclusion. I have faith (no pun intended) that this story is less about demons and more about aliens. I think it's because I wanted Stephen King's Dreamcatcher to be less awful. With all the snow and the blood (and the crazy, let's not forget the crazy), I kept being reminded of that awful, awful story that actually had some potential. If only King had left out that stupid childhood bonding BS. Yet Revival seems to be heavily about demons thus far. I am anxiously awaiting further explanation! Really loving this series! Religious nuts make for good conflict.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Nobody by Jeff Lemire

Published in 2009, The Nobody is Jeff Lemire's first graphic novel. Although it is obvious that Lemire was inspired by H.G. Wells' classic story of the invisible man, I feel there an almost Steinbeckian feel to this tragic tale. A man, believing himself invisible commits heinous acts. Yet did he really hurt anyone but himself and was he in fact invisible? A lot of Lemire's later work echoes this distorted sense of reality.

The reader experiences The Nobody largely through the eyes of Vicky, a sixteen year old student and diner attendant. Her narrative explains the curiosity and cruelty of a small town's reaction to a bandage-covered stranger. Jon Griffin is dressed head to toe in bandages and wears strange, completely circular spectacles. He arrives at Wide Mouth (home of the worlds largest bass) and books a room at the local motel where he conducts odd experiments.

The book is unquestionably Lemire and carries the artistic style which has made him both successful and celebrated. It would be interesting to know how he came to choose the coloring for the book. To me, the sky blue exists in the illustrations to give you the feeling of a cold, and isolated little town, much how I could imagine Griffin feeling as he hides alone behind his bandages.

As with most of Lemire's work, the ending tastes of bitter sweet, yet leaves on a soft note that makes you smile. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Walking Dead: All Out War Issue #115 ~ 10th Year Anniversary Special *SPOILERS*

FINALLY! The war we have all been waiting for is about to go down! This is just the beginning and there is no way of telling which of your favorite characters are going to die. Prediction: Michone's new love interest, Ezekiel.. yeah that's right we all know Michone is not going to get to be happy. Who should they really kill off?? ANDREA! I have rarely been a fan of Andrea from the beginning. I am guessing she is most likely safe because she's staying on the Hilltop with Carl who for some reason has been put in charge of organizing the Hilltop. Carl is looking more like a teenager and less like the child we've known him to be.

So what is Rick's plan? He takes all the people who are willing to tag along, up to the gates and calls to Negan with a message for surrender. It's more of a plea to the peaceful inhabitants of Negans compound. Surrender Negan & his forces and you will all live on peacefully with the Hilltop & The Kingdom. However, Negan's reaction is to kill off all the defenseless people inside his own walls. We all knew Negan was ruthless.

Most of this comic is about our heroes parting ways and preparing for the worst although they are all so optimistic. I have a feeling that Rick's plan has not been completely revealed to the reader. How are they going to get out this one?

Flesh-Colored Horror: Dying Young by Junji Ito

 Flesh-Colored Horror is a collection of short manga stories by Junji Ito. I would like to talk about one particular story in this book called Dying Young. This story originally appeared in Monthly Magazine Halloween in 1991.

This story begins with the miraculous transformation of school girl Ayako's best friend. For no foreseeable reason, she begins to change slowly, day by day, until she takes on the appearance of a completely different person, however now beautiful. The gradual change in her appearance was apparently accompanied by a gradual change in her health, as the young girl one day falls down dead. It appears her body expired. No one understands the cause of her death. After some time, other girls in the school begin to undergo these changes causing onlookers to believe a strange new plague is over-taking the population of girls. Rumors start to circulate around the halls. If you eat the heart of another girl you won't be overtaken by death and can remain beautiful and most importantly~alive.

My interpretation of this story: It servers as a cautionary tale about the dangers of being vain. Ito warns the female reader that being yourself is more important than being beautiful and aims to nearly vilify those who gain beauty by unnatural means. I think it is also important to note that the story contains strong allegory for feminine puberty, using the changes young women undergo to terrify and scare the reader. As Ayako notices the changes in her best friend, she eventually sees the same changes in the other girls as she looks about her class. There is that sense of being left behind maturity-wise as she remains the same and her classmates grow to become more beautiful young ladies with breasts and curves.

All in all, it's pretty awesomely disturbing yet containing kind of the opposite of body gore. Different for Ito.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pulp the New One-Shot by Jeremy Holt & Chris Peterson! NOW AVAILABLE!

You can now get your digital copy of Pulp written by Jeremy Holt and Chris Peterson!  Check out to get it now!

North 40 by Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples

North 40 brings a whole lot of wonderfully, sinless characters together on a harrowing journey to save their town from being engulfed by demonic what I would say if all of the characters in this story were flat, fairy-tale like characters typecast into sad gender roles. North 40 gives us a diverse and imaginative world with men and women who aren't wholly evil or good. I could give you the full run down on the events, but I'd rather give you a brief summary. As brief as possible as I typically do :

Teenagers in a library, being stupid and reading restricted books; unleashing terrifying, ancient "evil dead-esq" powers on small town America. Some towns folk are transformed into grotesque beasts while some towns folk transform other town folk into grotesque - man-eating - giant - automobile monsters. Some reasonably good forces band together to stop the slaughter. THE END (kind of).

That is the shortest summary I could come up with. The plot isn't really what I want to talk about. As far a synopsis goes, it's pretty average. Honestly, this has happened before. Opening up gates of demons, magic, other dimensional beings and general chaos is a pretty common theme in horror movies, books and graphic novels alike. Let's not forget about pen and pencil RPG's! A little Rifts anyone?

That being said, it doesn't take a fantastic synopsis to make a great graphic novel. It takes a talented artist to interpret masterful storytelling and make it real for all of us. As previously stated, I'm not awed by the plot. I am awed by the artwork and the hilarious world both writer and artist have cultivated. We've got some interesting characters. A lot of them actually. The twisted things that happen to them, well that just makes it more fun. Again, I don't want to spoil the ride but for anyone currently engaged in Fiona Staples work in Saga, it might be worth my saying so that this book is some of Staples' most finest work. Of course I am personally in love with Saga, but the detail in North 40 makes Saga look flat and rushed in comparison. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to criticize Saga, I am merely stating that Staples' work in North 40 is far more detailed. However this could be due a difference in art mediums; an observation that I am making based entirely on conjecture. I am not afraid to admit that I do not have any information to back up that hunch. If you are a fan of Staples work, you need to take a look at North 40. You would be missing out if passed over this gem.

Saga: Issue # 13 & 14 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

I am slightly behind in my reading due to travel so I'm lumping the review of these together so..... WOW..... wow.... WOW!

So as if I wasn't thrilled enough by the giant tree spaceship, bone bugs made me smile during a particularly rough afternoon. Most of the comic book world has been enamored with the world of Saga. The Eisner Award winning series has readers suspending disbelief all over the globe. It's no wonder that I am just as thrilled every time I read an issue, as everyone else. The fantasy is so highly outrageous that I want to hug it. However considering I've ruined enough of my singles by kissing them on the cover (oh you sexy cover) over the years (I'm looking at you Spike), I'll try my best not to hug them tightly and ruin the paper.

In issue 14, Gwendolyn, Slave Girl (Sophia) and The Will await a rescue team with Liar Cat. The Will starts having dreams about his long dead lover The Stalk in which she persuades him to give up the life of a mercenary and settle down. Slave Girl, who now goes by the name of Sophia has a sweet little self asserting talk with Liar Cat which was particularly heart warming to me. She calmly states that she is dirty on the inside because of what she has done and Liar Cat lets her know she's being dishonest to herself and she gives her a big fat hug.

Saga is as usual, one of those series that has you barely holding your bladder in anticipation and I am constantly bopping from one foot to another waiting for the next release.