Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

Oct 10 2014

Little Scrowlie (vol 1-3): The Call of Cuthbert, Dawn of the Living Fashion Victims, Apocalypse Scrowl – Jennifer Feinberg & Todd Meister

How do I explain this bizarly drawn, weirdly lettered, comic parody of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos wherein a couple of cats, a goth chick, a pseudo wizard, a ghost, a collection of strangeness, and a fashion icon square off to stop/unleash a tentacled horror? Oh, wait, I guess that’s how. I really liked it and would like to see more of this type of craziness.

Oct 09 2014

Filler – Rick Spears & Rob G

This is a story of John, a filler, you know, a guy that stands in line-up wherein a victim picks a criminal out from amongst the crowd. Then one day it is John that gets involved in a crime and his whole boring world gets very complex. For a rather short graphic novel, with very few words, this well and simply drawn comic is filled with excitement. I truly enjoyed it. If I would have to name a fault it is that the story could have been longer without losing anything (that’s how much I liked it: I wanted more) and it did seem as if it were a pitch for a movie–which a lot of comics are like, so let’s not judge. If anything, I hope it does get turned into a movie.

Oct 08 2014

The Astounding Wolf-Man – Robert Kirkman

Seeing how Cej got the entire 4 volume series I figured I give this a shot. Here’s the thing: Millionaire man get attacked by werewolf, becomes werewolf, gets vampire mentor, becomes superhero, falls into conspiracies that disrupt his life, other stuff. All good, except that these plot points, instead of taking place over numerous issues–even volumes–in order to develop characters and make it all mean something, practically happens in a flash. Nothing really has any meaning in the comic because we really have no understanding of why anything is taking place, and I mean that in terms of plot design and character motivation. The cartoony feel of the art and the complete lack of depth would make this a good kids comic, except for the copious amounts of murder. Oh, and the whole vampire/werewolf dynamic appears to be a rip off of White Wolf. Skip it. 

Oct 07 2014

Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Standford White – Rick Geary

Geary does another great job recounting a brief but solid summary of the events surrounding a (once) famous murder. Standford White is a man around town who is killed by a trust fund recipient over the honor of a fashion model, showing that lifestyles of the rich and famous are (occasionally) punctuated with miserable insanity. Well done, although I’m not sure why I always love his art except when it comes to his drawings of people’s faces. 

Oct 06 2014

Young Lovecraft (vol III) – Jose Oliver and Bartolo Torres

Great illustrations by Torres, this comic strip “recounts” the childhood of the misanthropic horror writer Howard Philip Lovecraft. This is the 3rd volume (read review of others here) and I liked how it started with a trip to the Dreamlands with a little help from a Dr West. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this was as strong as the first couple. Some of the trouble appears to be poor translations from the original spanish, yet it seems to be more that the stories are shorter and less involved. Hopefully the next volume will pick up. 

Oct 05 2014

The Shadow Out of Time – H.P. Lovecraft & I.N.J Culbard

Yet another adaption by Culbard of a Lovecraft story of the same name, and I continue to enjoy them despite the horrible binding job of the book and the egotistical autobio blurb Culbard gives. The art and color are solid as usual and I think this work translated to the comic medium well–which isn’t always the case–and even thought that if there were to be a film version of the tale, then this should be the basis (and maybe that was always the hope, but if it does happen, please make the polyps more menacing (you’ll learn about them soon enough)). The story itself is about a professor that is trying to come to terms with a period of his life that he does not recall–except in vague, terrifying dreams–and uncover the mystery behind it all. Nicely done. 

Oct 04 2014

Famous Players: The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor – Rick Geary

Yes, I didn’t know who he was either, but he was once a big shot Hollywood producer (and also perhaps a closet homosexual, petty criminal, and drug user, amongst other things). Geary just keeps cranking out these lovingly produced comics about near forgotten and once headlining murders in America. Taylor’s murder is just another one that is, sadly, never solved. Always good to read his work and I wonder if they are useful in getting people interested and/or knowledgeable about American history. Perhaps a study could be done, although the fact that Cej got hold of this “discarded” work from a library and it appears to have never been read, might answer my question. 

Oct 03 2014

Frankenstein: The Real Story

Of course when the History channel says real, they mean historical influences etc. I liked this small collection of a few documentaries on the history of and the influenced by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein story–a story I happen to really enjoy. The author was very young when she wrote the work and its influence has been incredible, much more than you might guess, although when you think about it: isn’t Frankenstein a household name? However, if you don’t care anything for the original (or even the classic Young Frankenstein) than this isn’t for you… so why are you still here? 

Oct 02 2014

Zombillenium (vol. 1): Gretchen – Arthur De Pins

Coming to us in English is French cartoonist de Pins’ story about a horror themed amusement park that actually is staffed exclusively by monsters. The latest addition is a down and out guy who “accidentally” gets turned into a monster (what type is still an ongoing debate) and is forced to become an employee. So far the story is nothing super deep (although there is this whole zombie union issue that I think is a very nice added element) and I’m not sold on the art which smacks to me of CGI, yet I enjoyed this very short (although very large in page size) comic and will look for the next volume. 

Sep 28 2014

Message to Adolf (Part 2) – Osamu Tezuka

You need to read the first review here before this one. Done that? Then you will recall that I was eager to read this second part. Having done so there is a lot less eagerness here. The story continues as before but with jumps in time that disrupts the plot and character development to the point of annoyance (although considering how long this thing is it would take another thousand pages to finish at a proper rate), and the earth-shattering information  that started the whole story becomes boring at best, a joke at worse, as it is never really dealt with. There are times of true artistic beauty in terms of poignant moments of tragedy and Tezuka does not shy away from having evil characters do good or good characters commit evil, but there are too many stretches  with me wishing the whole thing would come to an end. If you manage to get the whole way through I think you will find it a fascinating work from an unusual perspective and a story both worth telling and reading, even if it does not live up to what I might have wanted it to be. 

Sep 27 2014

Fantastic Four – Jonathan Hickman

Since I didn’t want to eat up the title line, here are the collections that make up this review: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four vol 1-4, FF vol. 1-2, Fantastic Four vol. 5, FF vol. 3, Fantastic Four vol. 6, & FF vol. 4 

The Fantastic Four is a group of super heroes (based vaguely on the four elements), each with their own dynamic personality, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this comic run better labeled: The God-Scientistic Reed Richards With Appearances From His Two Kids And Dad. The stories largely deal with Reed/kids/dad trying to save the world from cosmic threats they seem to have created, and how one solutions just leads to a more dangerous situation later–something that is rather interesting. I don’t know how anyone unfamiliar with the title could know who the characters are (both old and new ones) or particularly care as stories are rather bare boned, and, early on, tended to end as soon as something interesting might happen. I would like to tell you what the plot of these works were, but nothing really happens until volume 4 and only then because of events that start with a character’s death, which is a device I hate. Also, does anyone remember the time that the FF would solve problems that didn’t involves the slaughter of perhaps tens of thousands of people? (Wait, sorry, they aren’t humans that get killed–and they don’t cry out in fear/pain–so it is ok.) Additionally, while it may seem cool to have plots within plots, time travel galore–the bread and butter of Hickman–, and lots of scenes of a kid kicking people in the nuts, there is something boring about, for example, a 3 year old that is smarter than every genius that have ever lived put together and multiplied by 3 and capable of doing things in ten minutes that ever scientist on the planet, using every resource on the planet, could not achieve in a decade. And that’s hardly the worst of it, as people quite literally become gods. It may seem neat at first, but it quickly becomes pointless. Also, there is too much rock-paper-scissors in that hero X can defeat villain Y who can destroy entity Z who can crush hero X. Don’t misunderstand me. I love cosmic battles and alien invasions, but I don’t like to simply have “unclassified power levels” and aliens destroying all of Manhattan. Subtly is good, as are parameters, and without these elements the writing becomes sloppy. The best work is vol. 5 as various strings come together if nothing else and you have a sense of both completion, that past events were leading somewhere, and enough action and pathos to get a reader involved. However, I challenge anyone to say that there has been much of any character development, or that the events really mesh together (without one of the characters saying that this is simply what happens, always, in all time lines). The writing is not particularly snappy or funny and there are more artists than I can shake a stick at–and I’ve been known to shake a stick. I was ready to quit until the end of vol. 4 and that, sadly, kept me around as I saw the spark of great potential. Potential that never seemed to materialize. I will give props to vol. 6, which is more a series of vignettes of the aftermath, and I think these short, focused, rather self contained tales are where Hickman shines brighter. Luckily, this largely continues in FF vol. 3 (albeit on a slightly sillier note at times), which brings his run to its end. In the final analysis, I can’t really recommend these books. If Cej (who enjoyed it) had told me the entire story, I probably would have liked it more than reading it. Still, it is understandable why people get into Hickman’s convoluted plots; I guess I’m more interested in other aspects. 

Sep 26 2014

X-Men: Manifest Destiny

At best this is a bunch of B work from various writers and artists attempting to show depth about mutants as they settle in to life in San Fran after most mutants have been murdered. You would think that last part would be a good place to start when it comes to writing emotionally potent comics, but no, these stories are largely about nothing. 

Sep 25 2014

Mister Negativity and other tales of Supernatural Law – Batton Lash

Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd are two attorneys who specialize in representing the supernatural in courts of law. The last time I read a collection and reviewed it, I was disappointed. This time I was much more pleased. Lash (who I met once and he seemed very nice) does not rely as much on the puns and focuses more on telling clever and enjoyable (if not scream with laughter) stories revolving around parodies of fantasy and horror genres. In this collection he has a boy wizard with tourets, the Muse of potboilers who is a plagiarist, a misogynistic  monster (who isn’t at all Dave Sim), a talking ape, and a great Steven King bit. Regretfully, the same concern with the flat characters is still here. While Lash tried to have romances for the characters to flesh them out, it is too little to really matter, and while you can like the parodies, this comic isn’t going to be great until he can make the characters, not just the cases, come to life. 

Sep 24 2014

Town Boy – Lat

I’ve never seen such a unique style of art as Lat has for his memoir about growing up Malay with his Chinese best friend (perhaps because the art is so stylized that it would appear racists if drawn by your average white guy lah). In any event, I thought the story and art were great, putting plenty of smiles on my face lah. Little short and even littler (?!) background–if you do not know of the ethnic make-up of Malaysia you might lose something in your reading–yet lots of enjoyment lah (ok, I have no idea if I’m using that expression correctly). 

Sep 23 2014

Dork Covenant (The Collected Dork Tower, vol 1) – John Kovalic

I wanted to like this comic more than I did, and I should have. Silly drawings of nerdy guys talking about role playing games and their geek pop culture world, what’s not to love?! Yet I just didn’t find it quite silly or funny enough, sorry. It is the first collection of a series that has been going on for a while, so there is a good chance I’ll grab another collection and find that one to be better than this and thus like it even more. I’ll keep you posted. 

Sep 22 2014

Secret Invasion: X-Men – Mike Carey

I like a lot of Carey’s work, but he seems incapable of writing a decent super-hero comic. The mutant team, the X-Men, fight against the shape shifting aliens, the Skrulls, who are invading Earth. Yep, that’s it. 

Sep 21 2014

Return of the Dapper Men – Jim McCann

Despite hearing rumors about how great this is, I was rather disappointed. It is suppose to be a fairy tale where time has stopped and kids and robots live separately but equally so to speak, but everything changes when the Dapper Men return. While Janet Lee certainly does some interesting work with the art, you are much better off looking at the illustrations and making up your own  story rather than read the boring, oh so clever (but meaningless) writing.

Sep 20 2014

Scarlet – Brian Michael Bendis

For the record, I was a huge fan of Bendis back before most of you ever heard of him, and would push his indy crime comics on people all the time. So it would seem that his return to the genre would be a bonus, and it might be if I were 12, and knew nothing about cops, the Occupy movement, or the world in general. This comic is a revenge fantasy staring a very hot punk chick who decided that she is going to change the entire world by killing corrupt cops, which, naturally sparks a revolution of people on her side. Listen, cops have always treated me like garbage (at best) and it would be great if people would organize themselves to fight for their rights, but considering how many people I know that vote against their own interests–if they bother to vote at all–, and the lazy “what can you do” attitude that permeates society, and the complete dismissal of anything realistic in terms of what people and cops have the resources to do as displayed in this comic, I just can’t express how pointless and sloppy this work is. And all that is without discussing Bendis’ penchant for having characters talk directly to the reader and, well, just talk and talk and talk, in general. 

Sep 19 2014

Will & Whit – Laura Lee Gulledge

I thought the art was great and loved the idea that the art goes to gray scale once a blackout occurs due to a storm half way through the comic. The trouble is I can’t really tell you what the story is about. Yes, there are several teenage characters, many who have nice quirkiness to them, that are all dealing with their own concerns during a summer break (Will, the female protagonist, has an actual “real” problems), yet there is no true plot that drives the story–sorry, unrequited love and the existence of carnival don’t count, and while dealing with loss could, it isn’t made into a plot. Neither does the fear of shadows, nor the fact that the characters have their own talents count as plot, although these things could also be turned into story lines. It is this lack of story that drove me away from truly enjoying the work, and while the author is attempting to turn the work into a stage piece I think she is going to have zero luck without a major rewrite. 

Sep 18 2014

Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters

This History Channel series has a similar name to a course of mine in CUNY. I like it when the channel has shows that aren’t totally nonsense like aliens creating civilization, and this pseudo-scholarly series does provide a nice introduction to various mythological ideas. It does have some problems such as always trying to hint that the mythology could have an actual historical foundation and they always have to link the stories to Jesus somehow, as if if they didn’t we might think they are promoting paganism or something. It is also pretty funny that I think the show has one fancy jacket that they make most of their interviewed scholars wear. I wishes there were more shows like this (and less on aliens, it is the HISTORY channel after all). 

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