Saturday, July 6, 2013

39. Last Hope Vol. 1 by Kriss Sison & Michael Dignan

Writer:  Michael Dignan

Artist:  Kriss Sison

First Publication:  2005

Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#16)

Publisher:  Seven Seas Entertainment

Summary (from Wikipedia):

Do you believe in alternate dimensions? Ikuko, her friend Colleen, and Alvin at Hawaii's Maunaloa Institute for International Studies become believers when the class hunk, Hiro, confesses to them that he's really a prince from another world on the run from the evil Lord Kumagai! Now that they've been dragged into it, Hiro, Ikuko, and their friends must traverse countless alternate dimensions and survive the terrors they find there or die trying; whether at the hands of the ruthless Lord Kumagai or the alternate dimensions' hostile inhabitants.


The art by Kriss Sison is fantastic.  Combined with Michael Dignan's scripting, it makes for a very good manga book.  I enjoyed the interaction of the various characters at the school.  One of my favorite parts was the group traveling to an alternate reality version of the school.  It brought back memories of the television show "Sliders".  At first it seemed like they were back home but it soon became evident that this was a different reality.

In some respects, "Last Hope" reminded me of one of my favorite anime shows "The Vision of Escaflowne".  Both feature a journey to a drastically different world, a mysterious hero of royal descent, and a normal Earth girl.  Sison and Dignan channel the spirit (either intentionally or not) of "Vision" without copying it.  They make it their own story.

Recommended to fans of manga.  I downloaded the second book on to my Kindle Fire.  From the Wikipedia article, it lists that the third book was delayed.  Hopefully it will be out soon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

36. Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword Vol. 9: War Season

Writer:  Eric Trautmann

Artists:  Walter Geovani, Patrick Berkenkotter

First Publication:  2011

Challenge:  Graphic Novel Challenge (#16)

Collects issues 51-55 of ongoing series.

Publisher:  Dynamite Entertainment


From Comixology:  Red Sonja is sent on a last-ditch, desperate mission across the border into Shem. Her mission is more than it seems, as Sonja leads her mercenary allies into a quest for a deadly secret hidden within the walls of the city-state, Persemhia. But others seek this mysterious prize as well, as the armies of Koth and Argos mass to crush Red Sonja's ragtag band. It will take more than skill with a blade for any to survive this deadly season of war...


One of my best friends, Terry Kissinger, told me that this is one of the best Robert E. Howard comics ever.  According to Terry, it is up there with the original Conan work by Roy Thomas, J. M. DeMatteis, and Jim Owsley.  After reading this collection, I can see why he liked it so much.  Trautmann is either a big Robert E. Howard fan or a very good researcher.  He takes the time to use the countries, etc. already established in this universe.  It seems like, in recent times, that the creators just make up names for the countries instead of using the ones that already exist.  Trautmann takes the time to flesh out places from other stories.  The way he writes the series, a new reader does not need to worry.  All you need to know is on these pages.  But if you are a fan of Red Sonja or Conan, you get the added pleasure of visiting places you have heard about in the past.

As far as characterization goes, Trautmann nails it.  He gives different personalities to each of the members of her group.  And he wrote the best Red Sonja I have ever read.  I have quite the number of collections to enjoy since Trautmann stays on the titles until issue 75.

My favorite part was the epilogue which was issue 55 in the ongoing series.  Sonja reflects on the events of the four part story arc.  In this brutal universe, it is a chore just to survive.  Many people do not make it out alive.

The pieces are in place.  The reader gets a great story that actually has consequences.  And, according to Terry, this story will have repercussions in future story lines.  I can't wait to read more.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

28. Batman Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star

Writer:  Grant Morrison

Artist:  Chris Burnham

First Publication:  2012

Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#15)

Grant Morrison’s Batman is highly regarded by me.  Some people don’t care for it.  This collection starts the finale of Morrison’s Batman epic.  The battle with Leviathan is heating up.  I can see various plotlines from his early issues coming to bear in this series.  When Morrison is finished with it, I plan on going back and re-reading his entire catalog of Batman stories.  I think it will be even better the second time around.  This is not a good place to start.  I would recommend starting with “Batman and Son”.  It is worth the effort to read all of Morrison's epic.  One of the things I liked was all of the Batman stories are in continuity.

27. Hypernaturals Vol. 1

Writers:  Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

Artist:  Brad Walker

First Publication:  2013

Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#14)

Boom! Studios has published some very good super hero titles.  I enjoyed the Mark Waid universe (“Irredeemable”, etc.) and one of my current favorites is “Deathmatch”.  “Hypernaturals” is filling a gap in my current comic book reading.  One of the first comics I ever read was a Legion of Super-Heroes story in the original “Adventure Comics”.  I have been a fan ever since.  Sure some of the years were not as good as others, but the Legion always kept my interest.  The only time I quit reading was after Paul Levitz left and Keith Giffin did the “5 Years Later” storyline.  At some point I am going to go back and try reading it again.  The current Legion book has not been as good.  Luckily, Abnett and Lanning are giving me the “Hypernaturals”.  Some of the same basic concepts fill this book.  The team consists of a large group of heroes in the far future.  When the current team disappears, a mix of retired heroes and ones who are not ready have to fill the void.  The science fiction concepts fill this fully realized future series.  It is one of my current favorites. 

26. newuniversal: Everything Went White

Writer:  Warren Ellis

Artist:  Salvador Larroca

First Publication:  2008

Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#13)

I am one of the, apparently, few that had some fond memories of the original New Universe series from Marvel.  Some of the books I liked (Star Brand, D.P. 7, and Justice for example).  Others I did not (Spitfire and Kickers Inc).  I liked that Warren Ellis did not say the original stories never happened.  This is basically an alternate reality of the original.  The way Ellis set it up it helps to explain why the “White Event” that creates the heroes occurs.  For another take on the concept, pick up Jonathan Hickman’s current “Avengers” book.  It shows what happens when the “White Event” occurs in the regular Marvel Universe.  The only downside to this series was that Ellis did not get to finish it.  I was very interested in where he was planning on going with the storyline.  It is one of those series that will never get finished but it is worth reading what was published.  Highly recommended.

25. Vampirella Vol. 1: A Crown of Worms

Writer:  Eric Trautmann

Artists:  Wagner Reis, Fabiano Neves, Walter Geovani

First Publication:  2011

Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#12)

I like the writing of Eric Trautmann on other books.  The art in this collection is solid for the most part.  Unfortunately the story did not hold my interest.  This was a book I wanted to like but, based on this first story arc, I will not continue to read.  I would be curious if it appealed more to long time Vampirella fans.  

24. Daredevil Vol. 1

Writer:  Mark Waid
Artists:  Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin
First Publication:  2012
Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#11)

Waid starts this series with a bang by having Daredevil bust up a mob wedding while trying to stop a kidnapping.  It sets the tone for the latest Daredevil title.  Waid connects it to the many years of the darker, realistic take that dominated the series for many years but takes it in a different direction.  It reminds me more of the original stories where the character was a little more lighthearted and definitely more of a “daredevil”.  It is a fun take with innovative art.  The darker tone has dominated the title since the original Frank Miller stories.  The only exception I can remember was the short lived Karl Kessel stories where he brought back the feel of the early issues.  It is a title that reminds the reader that comics can be fun while telling serious stories.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

23. Cyborg 009 #000

Writers:  F. J. DeSanto and Bradley Cramp 
Artists:  Marcus To
First Publication:  2013
Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#10)

Marcos To first came to my attention by doing some excellent art on the pre-New 52 “Robin” at DC.  I was not familiar with this title but gave it a try because of his art.  

It is a solid science fiction manga about cyborgs and conspiracies.  The original story was reprinted in the back.  The main story is a modern day re-imagining of the original.  This summer a longer graphic novel will be published.  I will be picking it up.

Friday, May 3, 2013

22. Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga Part 1

Writer:  Rick Remender
Artists:  Billy Tan,Richard Elson, Mark Brooks, Scot Eaton
First Publication:  2012
Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#9)

Rick Remender’s epic story continues with this collection.  The Dark Angel takes control of Warren (Angel) Worthington’s body.  The fall into darkness brings disaster to the team.  Rememder started with this title, continued storylines into “Secret Avengers” and now is following up on them in “Uncanny Avengers”.  “Uncanny X-Force” is another interesting Marvel series that draws on the past while building the future.

21. RASL Vol. 2: The Fire of St. George

Writer:  Jeff Smith
Artist:  Jeff Smith
First Publication:  2010
Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#8)

Jeff Smith has captured my interest with his science fiction, parallel worlds, adventure series.  This collection picks up where the first one left off.  Mysteries and adventure abound.  I loved his first series (Bone) and was not sure if I would like his work on something different.  I should not have been worried.  This series has a different tone but still features the signature Jeff Smith art style.  It’s a great series that I would recommend picking up.  You definitely need to start with the first volume to get the full effect of the reading experience.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

20. RASL Vol. 1: The Drift

Writer:  Jeff Smith
Artist:  Jeff Smith
First Publication:  2009
Challenge:  Graphic Novels Challenge (#7)

Rasl is a top notch thief.  Sounds like a basic action story at this point.  The twist is he has a backpack that enables him to go to different dimensions to steal expensive art, etc.  Due to the nature of the device (which may be connected to Nichola Tesla) he is never quite sure which dimension he has traveled to.  The only way to tell is to examine the new dimension and see if it is the same or different from his home.  Sometimes the differences are very slight.

Jeff Smith has set up the world of Rasl and established the basic premise with this volume.  He drops some tantalizing clues as to where the series will go in the future.

Being a big fan of Smith's previous series (Bone), I was wondering how his art would look on a science fiction adventure series.  I did not need to worry.  It still retains the spirit of the art we saw in Bone but he takes it to a different level in this book.

Highly recommended.  The story is set, now let the action begin.

Monday, April 22, 2013

19. The Fury of Firestorm Vol. 1: The God Particle

Writers:  Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver
Artist:  Yildiray Cinar
First Publication:  2012
Challenge:  Graphic Novel (#6)

From Amazon:

As a part of the acclaimed DC Comics - The New 52 event of September 2011, two high school students worlds apart, Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond, are drawn into a conspiracy of super-science that bonds them forever in a way they can't explain or control. As the two boys become caught in the cross hairs of an international special forces team with orders to capture or kill them, Ronnie and Jason seek to discover the secrets behind what has happened to them. What they find will shed light on the secret history of Firestorm!

Many years ago, I remember picking up the very first issue of Firestorm: the Nuclear Man.  It was created and written by Gerry Conway.  Al Milgrom was the co-creator and artist.  It quickly became a favorite of mine.  In the original story, Firestorm was created by accident.  This particular accident Professor Martin Stein and jock Ronnie Raymond were able to merge and form the super powered Firestorm.

In the current version, Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch form the Nuclear Man.  Firestorm is created due to the God Particle that was designed to create super powered beings to use as weapons.  Ronnie and Jason have to learn how to put aside their differences and work together to defeat the forces that are trying to eliminate them.

The art by Cinar does a good job of conveying the powers at work.  His weakness is in drawing normal people.  They tend to look okay at times and not as good at other times.  

The story by Simone and Van Sciver is a fun action epic.  I miss the interaction of the older Professor with the teen aged student that Conway had in the original series.  If you are looking for a deep Alan Moore/Grant Morrison type story, it is not here.  If you like action filled summer blockbuster movies, I would recommend this comic book series.  I will continue to read furture stories to see where the writers take it next.

Green Arrow: Year One

Writer:  Andy Diggle
Artist:  Jock
First Publication:  2007
Challenge:  Graphic Novel (#5)

One of my guilty pleasures was the CW show “Smallville”.  Was every episode great?  No.  But most shows that last that many years have good and bad episodes.  When it ended CW announced that they were considering a Green Arrow show.  This would be a new continuity.  I had my doubts that it would be another favorite of mine.  It did not take long for me to get hooked on the show.  I enjoy the way the names of various comic creators are used for character names.  And it is always fun to see them work other DC heroes and villains into this story. 

I had missed “Green Arrow Year One” when it was published.  When I attended the recent Comic Geek Speak Super Show, Wild Pig Comics had the collection for 50% off(that is the standard discount they give at the convention).  I heard that various elements from this story were used for the show “Arrow”.  One of the main characters was named for the writer of this story.

Oliver Queen is a young spoiled rich kid whose parents have died.  He lives life on the edge.  Eventually he is betrayed by a friend who casts him over the side of his yacht.  Washing up on the shore of an island, he has to learn how to take care of himself.  Utilizing skills he had learned as a child, he is able to survive.  Then he learns that it is not always good to find that other people are on the island.

Andy Diggle has crafted an exciting island adventure.  He shows how Oliver works to improve his skills.  Due to the challenges he runs in to, he becomes aware that he should put other peoples’ problems ahead of his own.  And in the process he becomes the hero he was always meant to be.

The art by Jock is a perfect fit for Diggle’s story.  He does a great job with both the action scenes and the quieter moments of island life.  Jock’s choices of panel arrangements make the action seem more intense.

If you are looking for a good done in one book story, pick this up.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fantastic Four #5

Writer:  Matt Fraction
Penciller:  Mark Bagley
Inker:  Mark Farmer

It did not take the Fraction/Bagley team long to settle in on this title.  Fraction started the series with the Four and Franklin and Valeria going exploring.  By taking them out of the Marvel Universe, it lets him focus on the family dynamics.  Fraction is doing a great job with the Reed-Sue relationship.  This issue had an interesting main story that centered about a trip through time to visit Rome during the final days of Julius Caesar.  Since this is the world of comics, it involves an alien explorer from the future and trying to prevent changes to the timeline.  It ends with a twist that appears to flow into the FF book.  Reading this reminds me, in spirit, of the John Byrne days of the Fantastic Four.  Byrne tried to make them more explorers and family oriented and less with the super-villains.  After Hickman’s epic run, I was afraid this title would not be as strong.  Fraction (with Bagley’s assistance) has kept the quality up without trying to imitate Hickman’s storytelling.  It is still a very good title.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Return of Comic Book Focus

Cover by Neal Adams

After taking time off from this blog, I decided it is time to bring it back.  From time to time I will post great covers from the past (like the one above).  In the near future, you will see regular reviews of the comics I am reading.  It will be a mixture of new and old comics.