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REVIEW: Marada the She-Wolf

Marada_Cover-FINAL.jpg.size-600Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: John Bolton

2013, Titan Comics (originally published in Epic Illustrated magazine #10-11; #12; #23-24)

Filed Under: Graphic Novel

Marada

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 6
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 6
Visual Style..... 10

Marada the She-Wolf, recollected and remastered by Titan Comics this year, is an episodic sword-and-sorcery adventure tale, distinguished from similar comics by John Bolton’s gorgeous artwork. Originally published in Epic Illustrated, Marvel Comics’ non-CCA approved, mid-80s magazine, Marada has the blood and sex (or, at least, intimations of sex) that are sometimes synonymous with “mature” comics, but it’s neither arty nor entertainingly trashy.  At its best Marada is well-plotted, with beautifully realized action sequences and a warm mother-daughter bond; at its worst, it’s a Robert E. Howard riff that wishes to subvert patriarchy while perversely reinforcing it.
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REVIEW: Basewood

Author: Alec Longstrethbasewood

2013, Phase 7

Filed Under: Graphic Novels, Fantasy, Short-Run

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 7
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 6
Art.... 9

Here’s yet another Kickstarter graphic novel I backed. Once again, I’m very pleased with the results. Basewood is a compilation of a comics miniseries written and drawn by one artist.

It opens with an amnesiac waking in a forest, with a gash in his head and a shoe missing. He dresses his wounds and follows a friendly dog to the outskirts of the forest, where he marvels at the vast cliffs that tower over the forest. When he sets up camp in the field at the forests’ edge, the dog runs off. For help, it turns out; a giant dragon attacks the man and destroys his camp. Only by the intervention of a old guy named Argus (the dog’s master) do they escape the onslaught.

The man moves in with Argus in a sweet treehouse in the forest, where the monster doesn’t attack. They settle into a pretty nice life, but as he learns more of Argus’s past, and pieces together more about his own situation, he eventually determines to set out on a search for who he is and where he came from, even if it means facing the monster alone.


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REVIEW: Kingdom of the Wicked

Authors: Ian Edginton and D’Israeliwicked kingdom

2004, Dark Horse Books

Filed Under: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Horror

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 6
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 7
Art.... 9

After reading to the prologue to this slim graphic novel in Titan’s Monster Massacre anthology, I ordered Kingdom of the Wicked right away. That excerpt hit such a perfectly grotesque balance of menace and whimsy that I knew this book would be for me. And while that prologue is still the standout segment of the book, Edginton and D’Israeli’s twisted fantasy most certainly lived up to my expectations.

The story splits its time between the real world and the fantasy world of Castrovalva we are introduced to in the prologue. Chris Grahame is a wildly successful children’s books author. Castrovalva is the fantasy world he invented as a child, and has since more or less forgotten. Chris starts getting crippling migraines, headaches so bad he blacks out in pain. Soon these migraines induce vivid hallucinations in which Chris is transported back to Castrovalva, only to find his former fantasy escape in ruin, besieged by years of war waged against a ruthless despot who goes by The Dictator.
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REVIEW: Monster Massacre

Monster-Massacre-vol-1_web.jpg.size-600Editor: Dave Elliot

2013, Titan Comics

Filed Under: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Horror

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 5
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 5
Art... 8

The cover of this anthology doesn’t do the best job of conveying the book’s contents. It reminds me of the cover of an angry electro album I listened to in high school. While plenty of the work in here is muscly “babes and monsters” artwork reminiscent of Heavy Metal–which is something I’m not particularly interested in reading–there are also some quirky stories and plenty of instances of the downright grotesque.

The list of contributors to this volume is a regular who’s-who of comic artists (or so I’m told). Indeed the opening selection, and one of the best storylines on offer here, is by comic patron saints Jacky Kirby and Joe Simon (the inspirations for Chabon’s Kavalier & Clay). It tells of a mysterious “angel of death” terrorizing a French village and the doctor who uncovers the angel’s true identity–a prehistoric predatory insect somehow preserved beneath the earth in the town’s outskirts.
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REVIEW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimate Collection Vol. 1

Authors: Kevin Eastman and Peter LairdTMNT_Vol1_IDW

2012, IDW

Filed Under: Graphic Novel

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 5
Entertainment..... 9
Depth..... 5
Art... 8

To come right out with it: I’m going to be 30 in a few weeks, and I still think the Ninja Turtles are awesome. I still have most of the movies, games, and many toys, I know the cartoon inside and out (the old one, however the new Nickelodeon reboot is actually quite good), and if they made Turtles sheets that fit my bed, I’d consider sleeping on them.

I was never really a comic book kid growing up, though, so for me the Turtles started with cartoon episodes on VHS tapes I bought at a grocery store and action figures that made He-Man look like a furry-girdled Mormon. It’s important to right past wrongs, however, so I’ve set out to read the original TMNT comics, which IDW has made quite easy with these beautiful hardcover collections of the original comic issues, interlaced with interviews with the creators.
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REVIEW: Papa

papaAuthor: Vera Greentea (Artists: Joseph LaCroix, Ben Jelter, & Lizzy John)

2013, Greentea Publishing

Filed Under: Graphic Novels, Short StoriesSci-Fi, Short-Run

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Here’s another of the Kickstarter graphic novels that I backed last spring. Similar to The Book of Da, Papa is an indie sci-fi comic book in short story form. But instead of just one story, like with Da, there are three here, each featuring some sort of paternal relationship (hence the title).

Greentea wrote each of the three stories in this collection, though each is drawn by a different artist. The styles vary by quite a bit. I found the LaCroix entry to be the most appealing, but all three stories look pretty good.

The written stories are compelling, too, particularly the first and third. The title story, which opens the book, begins with a young boy finding a dead superhero washed up on a beach. It just so happens that the boy’s father is writing said hero’s biography. When the hero’s disembodied soul possesses the young boy (whether this actually happens or whether the child is vying for his father’s attention isn’t 100% clear), the father’s reaction is not what you would expect–and LaCroix’s drawing really nails the facial expressions in the closing panels.
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REVIEW: Message to Adolf, Part One

Author: Osamu Tezuka574022-message_to_adolf_large

2012, Vertical Inc.

Filed Under: Graphic Novels

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 7
Entertainment..... 9
Depth..... 7
Visual Style..... 9

I picked up part one of Vertical, Inc.’s reissue of Osamu Tezuka’s Message to Adolf solely because of its striking, disconcerting presentation. A bright orange close-up of Adolf Hitler’s face takes up the entire front cover, and the title, bright yellow across a lime green spine, is written in what I believe to be High German font (font nerds, please correct me). The garish, pop art design promises irony, even as the actual images suggest a more sincerely terrible read.

In fact it’s neither. Manga godfather Tezuka seems to grab at genres and narrative styles and bundle them together, such that his tale is a conspiracy thriller, soap opera, coming of age story, history essay, and slapstick comedy all at once.
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REVIEW: Book of Da

Authors: Matt Bryan and Mike McCubbins

2013, Big List of Dead People

Filed Under: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi, Short-Run

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 6
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 6
Art..... 9

We talked at length on the podcast a while back about Kickstarter and publishing, and followed that with a mini-episode interview with the cool cats at Anomalous Press about their own Kickstarter campaign. As part of that adventure, I backed a number of crowd-funded indie books that I thought showed promise. The graphic novel Book of Da–the campaign for which surpassed the $3,000 the authors sought all the way beyond $17,000–is the first fruit of my harvest.

I’m impressed, and eager anew to see how the other books I have coming pan out.

First and foremost, while a digital version of this comic would be totally worthwhile, the physical copy I received was leaps and bounds more professional than I expected. It’s a slim clothbound, with gold embossed details and a paper jacket that ribbons only around the middle: it looks like something from McSweeney’s. The panels are printed on heavy paper and the contrast between the blacks and whites is great, though this does cause the grays that appear every so often look a little blurry.

(via kentikins)

Book tells a very unique story: there is a mysterious sea creature called Da–part pyramid, part giant squid–that controls the sea’s emotions. The story follows an unammed diver as he explores the dark depth of the ocean, and ultimately meets and defies Da. The other half of the story follows a lizard-creature preacher in a fedora as he tells the story of Da and the diver to a congregation of similar lizard-creatures.
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REVIEW: The Private Eye #1

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artists: Marcos Martín & Muntsa Vicente

2013, The Panel Syndicate

Filed Under: Graphic Novel

Find it at The Panel Syndicate

The Private Eye #1

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 8
Entertainment..... 9
Depth..... 7
Visual Style..... 9

Last Monday the comics rumor/journalism site Bleeding Cool linked to a few teaser images that were posted to Spanish-language comic blogs announcing a new series from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martín, who previously collaborated on Doctor Strange: the Oath, a mini-series for Marvel in the mid 2000s. The images were intriguing, and the names involved suggested a good read – Vaughan is the fan-favorite writer of Saga and Y: the Last Man, among other other celebrated titles, and Martín is best known for his work on Daredevil, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Batgirl: Year One. I anticipated learning more about the book in the coming weeks or months, the plot points and art from first issue gradually teased out in interviews and previews, dulling the surprise but confirming that it’s worth the three or four or however many dollars. That’s how comics are marketed today.

Then it was Tuesday, and suddenly the book, titled The Private Eye #1, was available, for however much I wanted to pay, through The Panel Syndicate (a new digital publisher started by Vaughan, Martín, and friends). All the excitement about The Private Eye was generated by its mere existence, and by the distribution method. Digital-only comics are nothing new, and neither is the “tip-jar” payment model (Radiohead’s In Rainbows is probably the most famous example, but there are many more across all mediums) but the two in tandem, and employed by high-profile creators, is novel, as is the minimalist promotional “campaign.” Vaughan and Martín trusted their audience to generate their own hype, something mainstream comic readers haven’t had to do very often in the past decade or so.
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REVIEW: The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts

Author: Paul Pope

2013 (reprinted), Image Comics

Filed under: Graphic Novel

C4 Ratings...out of 10
Language..... 6
Entertainment..... 8
Depth..... 8
Art......... 10

Paul Pope has never been prolific. But in the past decade or so, as he’s moved away from serialized storytelling to stand-alone works like Batman: Year 100, Heavy Liquid, and 100%, Pope’s comics output has reached “event” status – even a five or six page story in an otherwise forgettable anthology is worth celebrating. So the nearly 300 pages of material collected in The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts, from Image Comics, is almost an embarrassment of riches.

A little less than half of the handsome hardcover volume is devoted to a reprint of The One Trick Rip-Off (digitally recolored by Jamie Grant of All-Star Superman fame) and Dominic Regan, which was originally serialized in Dark Horse Presents in 1995 and 1996. The other half is a kind of memoir-bibliography, gathering together short stories that originally appeared in iconic 90s anthologies like Negative Burn and Dark Horse Presents. They’re arranged roughly chronologically, and represent Pope’s work as he moved from Cleveland to Toronto to Tokyo, and finally to New York City, where he lives today. The most recent of the “Deep Cuts” dates back to 2001; this is a younger Pope, the art a bit looser and more overtly manga-influenced, but no less compelling than his contemporary work.

Thematically, there is little difference between the Popes of then and now. The misadventures of youth, cityscapes with accompanying grime, and the vacillation between beauty and violence remain prominent in his work, and dominate “The One Trick Rip-Off”. The story follows Tubby and Vim, young lovers who plan to rob Tubby’s gang, the One Tricks, and run away together. Naturally, their plan gets contorted, and they face a violent climax that ends in a quiet, poetic pull up to the stars. There’s also a sci-fi/magical realist flavor to the story in the One Trick gang’s ability to distort anyone’s perception of reality using language – their one trick. The plot draws together spaghetti westerns, Donald Westlake’s Parker novels, and manga. It’s operatic, particularly the scenes between Vim and Tubby, and the heightened emotion makes the quieter scenes of Tubby wandering the desert, after being betrayed by his gang, all the more stunning.
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