Books

Recent comics reads

[easyazon-link asin=”1401229697″]Daytripper[/easyazon-link] – Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon: A lush, moving and beautifully illustrated graphic novel tells the story of obituary writer BrĂ¡s de Oliva Domingos and his life. Themes of love, redemption, friendship, fatherhood, work and the purpose of life intertwine with each chapter. At first, Daytripper’s gimmick seems abrupt, but as it progresses, the narrative builds as time jumps back and forth within Domingo’s life. The supporting cast of characters serve their purpose with purpose as part of the story. Ba has written a meaningful story and Moon colorfully illustrates each page with artwork that feels alive.

[easyazon-link asin=”1607061597″]Chew Volume 1: Taster’s Choice[/easyazon-link] – John Layman and Rob Guillory: Tony Chu is a cibopath, able to discern an entire history of an object by eating it. He’s also a cop, who after a botched arrest, is hired by the Food and Drug Administration, where in the world of Chew, is the most powerful government agency in the U.S., due to an ongoing bird flu pandemic. He is teamed with a fellow cibopath, Savoy to solve a case of a missing FDA inspector. Chew is a bizarre concept, surreal at best, playful but serious in the story its telling. This is not for the squeamish. Guillory’s artwork is colorful and lively and brings an animated feel to Layman’s story. Definitely work checking into other trade paperbacks.

[easyazon-link asin=”1401229654″]iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World[/easyazon-link] – Chris Roberson and Mike Allred: Gwen is a zombie, but not a conventional zombie. She needs to eat a brain once a month to stay functional or else she starts to go crazy. Her two friends are Stacy a ghost who died in the 60s and a wereterrier (like a werewolf but not quite as vicious) named Spot. Add a mysterious man with connections to the past, a covert monster hunting group, and various factions of undead, you’ve got the concept. The characters are simple, the conflict pretty generic and the artwork, while well drawn, doesn’t add life to the story. In this first trade, the story doesn’t get interesting until the last chapter.

[easyazon-link asin=”1607060906″]Dead@17: Ultimate Edition[/easyazon-link] – Josh Howard: This collects the first four trade paperbacks of the Dead at 17 series, which features Nara Kilday fighting the undead and evil spirits. The art is light, animated and clean, and gets better as the series progresses. The story rarely veers from the pattern of conspiracy of the undead controlling some power that needs to be stopped. There are some unique twists, and depending on your patience, decent subplots. At times, the narrative feels rushed and overly wordy at times. Surprisingly, there are strong Christian undertones of life and redemption.

[easyazon-link asin=”1401213170″]Scalped Vol. 1: Indian Country[/easyazon-link] – Jason Aaron and R.M. Guerra: A gritty, modern noir set on an indian reservation in the Dakotas. Dash Bad Horse ran away from the reservation at 15 to make a life for himself, and now enforces law for Lincoln Red Crow on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation. The characters and interactions are complex and violent. Definitely worth following and reading additional trade paperbacks.

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Books

Review: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes – Nevin Martell

Nevin Martell writes reverently of Bill Watterson in

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes. The far reaches that Martell goes to find out who Bill Watterson really was, took him into the world of cartooning and going into the depths of Bill Watterson’s past. Numerous cartoonists were interviewed: Jim Davis, Bill Amend, Lynn Johnston, Stephen Pastis and many others. Martell even tracks down childhood friends, teachers, professors and business associates.

He tells of Watterson’s growth as an illustrator doing political cartoons to transitioning full time to a start up strip to Calvin and Hobbes becoming the social behemoth it was on the comic pages. Over the course of this history, Watterson was serious about his craft, cartooning and his characters. So serious that he disputed with his syndicated, threatening to walk about when his contract was renewed. Watterson despised the commercialism and licensing that pervaded comics, and how syndicates controlled the market, with papers keeping old, stale comics alive with artists filling in after a creator had passed on.

But there’s a richness to this story, seeing where characters originated, whether from family or friends to ideals Watterson held dear, which came out in his comics. Martell traces Calvin and Hobbes’ influence to later artists, and while near universal praise is given to Watterson, many still don’t get why he walked away.

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes is an in depth portrait of a man many grew up with, that shunned the spotlight. Well sourced, nuanced and detailed it reads easily, and sometimes it comes across too attached.

While reading, Martell captured what I missed about the strip and what made it unique, and what Watterson brought to the funny pages.

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Books

Parker: The Hunter

Parker: The Hunter (Richard Stark’s Parker) by Darwyn Cooke puts crime noir pulp author Richard Stark to page in graphic novel format. It tells the tale of a thief who’s been betrayed by his girlfriend and double crossed by a partner in crime and his hunt for revenge.

The story is told in four arcs. The first, begins with a man (we soon to find to be Parker) crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and remains wordless for 8 pages as he cons a bank for money, insults a waitress at a diner and eventually meets up with his former girlfriend. The second arc focuses on the man, Mal, who betrayed Parker, and the third tells of how Parker found Mal. Finally, Parker continues, scorched earth style, up the chain of the organization that took his money.

The dialogue reads like that of a pulp crime novel and the action is violent with some scenes graphically depicted and others implied. The art is a throwback to the 50s and 60s–sharp angular inks and expressive styled lines. The blue coloring is used for visuals to accentuate drama. It’s a well done effort into the graphic novel genre.

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Books

Locke & Key – Welcome to Lovecraft

The story of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft starts with a seemingly random act of violence–two deranged kids show up at a family’s home and kill the father. This initial act is told haltingly between the incident, the funeral and the arrival to the family’s new home in Lovecraft, Massachusetts.

It seems heavy handed, but of course creepy things are going to ensue in Lovecraft, MA, where the family unsettles and encounters the mysteries of the house. The youngest, Bodie, discovers by accident that he can walk out a door and die, float free as a spirit, return to his body and un-die. He also befriends a ghost at the bottom of the outhouse well. Meanwhile, the middle sibling, Kinsey takes to school and finds a spot on the girls track team. Ty, the oldest, broods quietly. The latter two siblings refuse to believe Bodie and unknowingly cross paths with harbingers of future plot points.

The story unfolds, following the surviving deranged killer across country as he seeks a powerful key for a spirit that seems to be guiding him. This book sets up the premise of the house with keys that open doors to places or states of being. The art is well done by Gabriel Rodriguez, and the story is solid, penned by Joe Hill (aka son of Steven King). It’s violent, bloody and people say ‘fuck’ a lot.

After one collection, it’s hard to say how well developed the characters are, for example, we see more of the killer and what makes him crack than we do of the mother. Bodie seems to be the kid no one listens to, Kinsey’s the self aware girl that feels out of place and Ty is the misunderstood jock who ultimately does right. Again, it’s a solid story with enough of a premise that could go a long way, so it will be interesting to see if the characters develop being their archetypes.

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Books, Movies

Scott Pilgrim – The Movie

Scott Pilgrim – The Movie is a fun, hilarious adventure, action, nerd fest. Colorful visuals and engaging action sequences support a well directed cast as Scott Pilgrim must defeat seven evil exes. Indeed, Michael Cera plays the same character he always plays, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona steals the movie with a great performance. Purists will decry that the plot differs from the books and lacks the emotional core Brian O’Malley conveyed in the original plot, but the core of the story–an apathetic, mooch of a loser, learning to love others and respecting himself–is still there.

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Books

Batwoman – Elegy

Batwoman: Elegy tells two stories. The first is of Batwoman taking on a villainess named Alice who has plans to gas Gotham City with chemical weapons. The second story tells of how Kate Kane took up the mantle of Batwoman. In the first, the action occurs quickly and ends half way through the book after Alice’s failed attempt to unleash the weapons, but strands of the Alice plot line interweave into the second story as we find out who Alice might be. Told in a series of flash backs, Kate Kane grew up a military brat with a twin sister, Beth. Her father received a promotion to be stationed over seas. There, she, her mother and sister are kidnapped, and the bloody rescue only saves Kate. Later, upon nearing graduation from West Point, we find that she’s a lesbian after refusing to lie under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Determined to serve, she becomes a vigilante, supported by her father’s military connections and her own variation of the Batman symbol to show “whose side” she’s on.

The story by Greg Rucka tells an origin in an interesting way, but as interesting as Kate’s origin is, it feels like one long denouement. Perhaps it could have been woven better with the Alice story. J.H. Williams III’s art actively moves around the page, but at times it seems too frenetic with overzealous layouts. However, Batwoman/Kate Kane are drawn realistically, unlike some comically drawn, female super heroines.

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