Blog Archives

#CBR6 Review #23 – A.D.D.

A.D.D.Target: Douglas Rushkoff’s A.D.D. Adolescent Demo Division. Art by Goran Sudžuka and José Marzán Jr.

Profile: Comics, Media Criticism, Science Fiction

After Action Report:

For those of you who don’t know, Denver is home to the largest single comic book store in the world.  I didn’t know this either until a few months ago when a friend of mine blew into town from Boston and we went.  The warehouse used to be a clearing house for cross-country comic shipping and at some point Mile High Comics claimed it, along with the considerable overstock and turned it into 45,000 square feet of comic book nerd wet dream.  While we were there, I found myself drooling over collector’s editions of Chew omnibus volumes and an essential guide to the Top Cow universe, but the only thing I walked out with was this quirky little Vertigo title.  At the register, the clerk on duty looked the hardcover volume over and gave me an audible “Huh,” which pretty much sums up my experience with the book.

Set in the near future, A.D.D. follows Lionel, a top tier gamer who is part of an unusual reality show/experiment.  Raised from birth to play games, test technology and generally be archetypal internet brats, these kids enjoy a life of luxury and media saturation, and in return act as mascots for their corporate owners.  For Lionel and his friends, it seems like paradise, but Lionel still has questions: what happens when they ‘graduate?’  And why can he ‘see’ things no one else can?

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#CBR6 Review #20: Dial H, Vol. 2

Dial H 2Target: China Miéville’s Dial H, Vol. 2: Exchange. Art by Alberto Ponticelli, David Lapham and Dan Green.  Collecting issues #7-15 and Justice League issue #23.3

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy

After Action Report:

When last we left Dial H, Miéville was busy adding weird fiction and horror tropes to a little known corner of the DC Universe.  The events of the last volume have raised the stakes and opened the door to a multiverse of possibilities.  Unfortunately, while Dial H was an incredible critical success, its sales numbers left something to be desired and DC ended the run at issue 16.  True to form, Miéville seems to treat the cancelation as a challenge and crashes through two storylines to bring readers a climax worthy of this creative adventure, and a thoughtful coda that hints that we might not have seen the last of the Dialers.

Issue #7 picks up a few weeks after Nelson’s fight with the villain Ex Nihlio and her pet Abyss.  In light of the new threat of the Shadow on the Line, Nelson and his new partner Roxie, set off to uncover more secrets of the dials.  But their leisurely globetrotting quickly turns scary as they catch the eye of a Canadian super-agent who knows more about what they are than they do.

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#CBR6 Review #14-15 – Saga Vol. 2-3

Saga 2Target: Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga.  Art by Fiona Staples.  Collecting issues 7-18

Profile: Comics, Science Fiction, Space Opera

After Action Report:

It’s been too long, but I’m finally getting around to reviewing Saga Volume 2 and, as a limited time bonus offer, you get Volume 3 thrown in for free.  Back when I first picked up this epic comic series, I noted that the one flaw holding it back was the lack of focus and development.  To quote myself, “While many of the details needed for true long-term success are still missing, Saga tantalizes with an incredible spread of fantastic ideas and well-drawn characters.”  Vaughan has done a lot to build a cohesive story from the flighty bits of Volume 1.  The pacing and, more importantly, unfocused nature of the comic are still getting in the way of strong narrative flow, but Saga somehow transcends these limitations and is building a beautifully cohesive world out of the narrative equivalent of confetti.

After the cliffhanger ending of Chapter 6, Volume 2 disjoints briefly from the narrative of Marko and Alana to take time for some flashbacks.  We look at Marko’s youth, Alana’s time as a solider and their joint experiences as prisoner and guard that preceded the events of Volume 1.  We also meet a whole gaggle of characters from Marko’s past and pick up some of the threads from The Will’s side story.

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#CBR6 Review #11 – Super Graphic

Super GraphicTarget: Tim Leong’s Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe

Profile: Comics!, Non-fiction?

After Action Report:

Super Graphic is an aggregation of information.  A sequence of colorful graphs, diagrams and charts that serve up a dizzying variety of information about comic books, the worlds they contain and the industry that produces them.  It isn’t so much a book to be read cover to cover as it is an adventure, every page turn revealing something new and delightful.  That is, if you’re a comic book nerd.  Which is not to say that Super Graphic can’t be appreciated by a lay person.  The data is Marvelously (tee hee) accessible and easy to digest, assisted by the tight focus of every page and the slightly-more-than-occasional joke that helps alleviate the march of trivia.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #24 – Cursed Pirate Girl

Cursed Pirate GirlTarget: Jeremy Bastian’s Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition Volume 1.

Profile: Comics, Fantasy, Pirates!

After Action Report:

Way back in June, I attended the Denver Comic Convention.  In the process of browsing the expansive artist alleys, I came across a curious man with a nose ring doodling some incredibly intricate, scrimshaw-esque pictures.  Next to him were copies of his book, Cursed Pirate Girl, bound in a distinctive light blue cover and filled with more of the same detailed black-and-white drawings.  It was easily the most interesting thing I’d seen at the Con so far.  I impulsively grabbed a copy.  Two hours later, covered with the paper flakes of Pirate Girl’s beautiful faux-old ragged pages, I was in love.

Now, to be fair, I love fairy tales.  And Cursed Pirate Girl is a fairy tale for people who love the idea of adventure on the high seas; being spirited away by a noble pirate captain and exploring forgotten ruins in search of treasure.  It’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making with more water.  And this is where the review comes off the rails, because I’m horribly biased towards this kind of storytelling, not only because it’s basically just a fairytale wrapped in salt-soaked ropes and topped with a talking parrot, but because it is a well-handled coming of age story that casts the girl as someone capable of anything.  Congratulations Mr. Bastian, you’ve punched all of my buttons.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #22-23 – The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West

The Wicked WestTarget: Tom Hutchison’s The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West Volumes 1 and 2.  Art by Alisson Borges and Kate Finnegan.  Collecting the original miniseries and Issues #1-5

Profile: Comics, Fantasy, Western, Oz

After Action Report:

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West is a truly stunning graphic novel.  Pitched as a reimagining of the L. Frank Baum masterpiece in a ‘Wild West’ setting, The Wicked West manages the difficult task of remaining true to its roots while exploring new territory.  But what stands out is the strength of the characters.  Both fresh and familiar, these new iterations of the much beloved Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion are the driving force behind a story that is incredibly dynamic and compelling.

The Wicked West opens with Dorothy, who goes by her last name in this adaptation, making her way towards the Emerald City.  It has been three years since a twister pulled her and her horse, Toto, from their Kansas home and dropped them on the Wicked Witch of the East.  The Munchkins gave Gale the witch’s ruby spurs and gem-encrusted pistols as a reward and she’s been on the yellow-brick road ever since.  But the road has been pulled up by bandits and Gale has been lost for years.  Being lost has kept her off the radar for a while, but when she stumbles into a saloon filled with flying monkeys, the hunt is on again.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #21 – Birds of Prey Volume 2

Birds of PreyTarget: Duane Swierczynski’s Birds of Prey: Your Kiss Might Kill.  Art by Jesus Saiz and Travel Foreman.  Collecting Issues #8-12 and Issue #0 of Birds of Prey (N52)

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction

After Action Report:

DC’s release dates for its mass-market collections are stupid.  Between the hardcover special releases and some bizarre need to spread releases out, it’s been eight months since I reviewed Volume 1 and fourteen months since the first issue in Volume 2, issue #8, was printed.  This obviously isn’t a problem for people who are just collecting the issues, but DC seems pretty intent on screwing its MMP base, particularly those of us who are fans of Batwoman.  Now, part of this delay is because I’m STILL enormously behind on the reviews, but, much like the U.S. government, I refuse to let facts get in the way of a good rant.

I really enjoyed the first collection of the new Birds of Prey, so it is with mixed feelings that I report that Volume 2 leaves much to be desired.  Between the jerky plot jumps and the ill-conceived Poison Ivy arc, the issues in this volume never really get down to business.  Some of this is due to the Night of Owls and Issue #0 ‘crossover’ events, which derail the existing plot lines in really jarring ways.  But even the two arcs that belong to the Birds feel clunky and don’t have the same storytelling hook present in Swierczynski’s first arc.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #19 – Dial H, Vol.1

Dial H Vol 1Target: China Miéville’s Dial H, Vol.1: Into You.  Art by Mateus Santolouco and David Lapham. Collecting issues #1-6 and #0

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy

After Action Report:

Like many of China Miéville’s novels, Dial H tries to alter the way readers look at its genres.  It uses the tropes of superheroics to tell an entirely different kind of story with a lot of style and unique take on the world of DC Comics.  It is a quintessentially Miéville story, where the rules have to be learned, or re-learned at the very least.  And in spite of all that, it stays true to the comic book canon and is a huge breath of fresh air in a space that has been stagnant for a while.

I am a huge fan of Miéville’s ability to turn the boundaries of genre into creative playgrounds and Dial H doesn’t disappoint in this respect.  It is a brilliantly rendered series that taps into the ‘weird’ space that DC has been attempting to capitalize on in their ‘New 52’ reboot.  It isn’t as grand in scope or story as some of the great graphic novels, like Sandman, but it bridges the gap between a superhero story and a ‘larger’ adventure.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #16 – Saga Vol.1

Saga Vol 1Target: Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga.  Art by Fiona Staples. Collecting issues 1-6

Profile: Comics, Science Fiction, Space Opera

After Action Report:

Saga is probably the most praised comic currently running.  Brain K. Vaughan has a bit of a reputation for excellent comics with his Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina stories making lots of people’s must-read lists.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that readers and industry wonks alike were practically frothing over Vaughan’s new series.  I got to this party a little late, mostly because I don’t see the point of collecting individual issues and prefer to wait for the mass-market paperback collections.  So I write this review with the enormous pressure of thousands of positive reviews sitting on my back.  Not that I feel the need to contradict them.  Saga is an excellent book with only one serious fault.  And that fault is one that could easily be corrected with time/more issues.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #15 – Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

NextwaveTarget: Warren Ellis’ Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.  Art by Stuart Immonen. Collecting Issues 1-12

Profile: Comics, Action, Comedy

After Action Report:   

Nextwave is a great comic.  It’s not deep.  It doesn’t challenge your expectations.  It doesn’t change the paradigm for what a comic book is supposed to be, but it’s still a good comic.  It’s also somewhat hard to access.  Nextwave is a parody/satire written for and by a certain cross-section of the geek population who enjoy a broad spectrum of geeky entertainment.  In the first issue alone, Nextwave references: Japanese monster movies, 90s television, pretty much every major team-up comic series ever, and itself for good measure. All of this means that if you aren’t conversant in these genres some of the comedy of Nextwave might go right over your head.  There is still a fair amount of generally accessible comic moments in the vein of slap-stick, crude language and the funny scenario.  And we are fortunate enough to live in a world where S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers and comics in general have become common conversation topics. 

For all of its almost reverential nods to the geek community, Nextwave is definitely making fun of the comic book establishment.  Author Warren Ellis is well known for his distaste for the directions that mainstream comics have been moving since the late 80s.  Here, that distain is transmuted into irreverent comedy that still manages to twist the knife every so often, particularly if you’re more up-to-speed on the state of Marvel Comics circa 2006.  I am not, so I had to get most of this stuff off of TVTropes but that research really enhanced a re-reading of the book.

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