Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Outlaws of the Marsh Volume 1: Spirits and Bandits

Author:  Wei Dong Chen

Artist:  Xiao Long Liang

Publisher:  JR Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #46

“Outlaws of the Marsh” is a classic story that makes for an interesting series of graphic novels.  I enjoyed the art style which is more in line with an older art style.  It does a good job of visual telling the story.  The rating is lower due to the dialogue.  I think the problems lies with the way it was translated.  It seems like a literal translation.  Some of my favorite translated comics were the old “Mai the Psychic Girl”, “Area 88” and “The Legend of Kamui”.  My impression of those titles was that the books were translated and rewritten to get a more natural story flow while still using the meaning of the original language.  If this style of translation was used on this book I would have given it a higher rating.

Wonder Woman Volumes 1-4

The New 52 version of Wonder Woman is one of the best written books published today.  I rank it as my favorite version of Wonder Woman.  Brian Azzarello added an element of horror to the series.  Part of this was done by making the gods more like they were in the original mythologies.  They are not necessarily human, are powerful, spiteful, and not afraid to use others as their play things.  Azzarello’s Wonder Woman almost feels like an old Vertigo book.  The only problem I see with the New 52 version is that it is not consistent across the line.  The Wonder Woman in Geoff Johns’ “Justice League” seems like a different character.  But Peter Tomasi wrote her in line with Azzarello’s version.  With Azzarello’s run ending soon, I am sure the next version will be more along the lines of the “Justice League” Wonder Woman.  I will miss this series.

The only thing I did not care for was the choice of art direction.  The minimalistic art does not fit the lush storytelling.  This is a series that would have been better with a more realistic artist.  The horror and supernatural elements would have carried more weight.

Based on my new rating system, all of the collections get a 7 of 10 rating.  The storytelling gets high ratings while the art pulls it down.  Whether or not you agree with me about the art, these collections are must buys.  “Wonder Woman” continues to be one of the most intriguing, suspense books on the shelves and be fondly remembered as a great series.

Author:  Brian Azzarello

Artists:  Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

Publisher:  DC Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #s 42-45

Wonder Woman Volume 1:  Blood 

Rating 7

Wonder Woman Volume 2:  Guts 

Rating 7

Wonder Woman Volume 3:  Iron 

Rating 7

Wonder Woman Volume 4:  War 

Rating 7

Invincible Volumes 15-19

Author:  Robert Kirkman

Artists:  Ryan Ottley,Cliff Rathburn, John Rauch, Cory Walker

Publisher:  Image Comics

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #s 37-41

Invincible Vol. 15:  Get Smart

Rating 8.5

“Invincible” is a great series that gets overlooked because of the success of Kirkman’s other title that came out around the same time.  Something called “The Walking Dead”.  Is one better than the other?  If you are looking for a serious book and are not a fan of superheroes, then “The Walking Dead” is for you.  If, like me, you enjoy both kinds of books, “Invincible” is one of the better ones being published today.  This is a series that needs to be read in order.  If you want to try it I recommend reading the first two collections to get a feel for the series.  But definitely read them in order.  Kirkman spends a lot of time building the series up from the foundation of the first stories.

Mark (Invincible) Grayson starts to address the age old superhero question.  Should superheroes fight crime or should they work on solving the big problems (such as droughts, food shortages, etc.).  In typical Kirkman fashion he makes a convincing argument, the hero starts to follow a plan, and then everything goes wrong.  Kirkman is a master of giving you a false sense of security right before it all hits the fan.

The art is my least favorite thing about “Invincible”.  While the two artists do quality work, I personally prefer a more realistic style.  Although a realistic style would make the violence less startling, a cartoony style catches you off guard when Kirkman puts in a scene where you see what would really happen when someone with superpowers punches someone.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Overall it is a very rewarding comic that I hope continues for a long time.  

Highly recommended.

Invincible Vol. 16:  Family Ties

Rating 8.5

Shocking twists, violent battle scenes and great characterization fill this collection.  Once again, I did not see where the plot was going but once Kirkman revealed it it made sense.

Invincible Vol. 17:  What's Happening?

Rating 8

While still a very good collection, I thought this one was not quite as good as the others.  Kirkman pulls back and puts more of the focus on the replacement Invincible.  I think he did it to distract the reader from the next collection…

invincible Vol. 18:  The Death of Everyone

Rating 8.5

The series has been building to this story line for a long time.  Kirkman even went so far as to show up what would happen because of the previous actions of one of the heroes.  But when it actually happens I was still stunned.  I won’t reveal anything else because this is more effective when you don’t know what is coming.

Invincible Vol. 19:  The War at Home

Rating 8.5

Arch villain Levy returns.  As you can imagine, if you have read his previous appearances, this cannot be good for our hero.  Invincible is on the verge of becoming obsessed with taking him down.  Violence ensues.  In classic fashion, Kirkman surprises me again with a relationship change.

The entire “Invincible” series is highly recommended by me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Complex Vol. 1: Ways of Life

Author:  Michael Malkin

Artist:  Kay

Publisher:  Alterna Comics

First Publication:  May, 2013

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #36

Summary from Amazon:  Welcome to Towne. From the outside, Towne appears to be just a normal suburban village, however, that is simply a veneer. In Towne there are two factions, a group of scientists working behind the scenes and another that appear to be the guinea pigs for their experiments. What is their ultimate goal and who's behind it all? Welcome to the neighborhood, we hope you enjoy your stay.

Once in a while, you see the cover to a comic you never heard of before.  Sometimes it turns out that the cover is great but the insides…not so much.  This is not such a case.  I did not see any advance reviews of “Ways of Life” but the cover caught my eye.  I bought and read the first issue then was hooked for the rest of the book.  It is best described as a mixture of three different stories from different mediums.  First I thought of the old television series “The Prisoner”.  Next I was reminded of “The X-Files”.  And the other story it seemed inspired by was “The Santaroga Barrier” by Frank Herbert.  Mix it all together and you have a very interesting suspenseful story.  I could not read it fast enough.

The story is one that is best experienced, not described.  The writer has a bright future ahead of him.

The art is decent independent art.  The black and white art helps create the atmosphere without overwhelming the story.

Highly recommended.

Doomsday .1

Author/Artist:  John Byrne

Publisher:  IDW

First Publication:  November, 2013

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #35

Summary from Amazon:  The Earth may have dodged a bullet on 21/12/2012, but there are worse things in store for our little blue planet. Seven adventurers aboard the International Space Station watch in horror as most of the world is decimated by a monster solar flare. And their only choice is to return to the surface, and face whatever awaits them there!

Over the years, I have enjoyed many different “after the apocalypse” stories.  “The Company of Glory” by Edgar Pangborn was one of the first I read.  It followed up his better known “Davy”.  Pangborn had a laid back almost lyrical/poetical style that was very easy to get into.  “Hiero’s Journey” by Sterling Lanier was another from the same time period.  Lanier included intelligent animals and mutant powers into his world.  Following on that theme, who can forget the original “Planet of the Apes” movies?  In comics, a few of the ones I read included “Killraven” and “Kamandi”.  “Kamandi” was one of the big books Jack Kirby did when he moved to DC.  “Killraven” by Don MacGregor and P. Craig Russell (for most of the series) is one of my all time favorites.  I need to go back and do a re-read soon.  The other series I picked up, but unfortunately was  only able to get one issue of, was Charlton’s “Doomsday +1” that featured the art of a young John Byrne.  Byrne went on to make a name for himself on “X-Men” and many other titles.  Something I have sitting ready to re-read in the near future is Byrne’s “Next Men” series.

“Doomsday .1” is Byrne’s reimagining of the original “Doomsday +1” series.  Each issue tells another short story in the series.  That makes it stand out from other series on the shelves today.  Byrne does a great job of developing the personalities of the various characters.  I do not want to ruin it for anyone who has not read it, but I like the way he reveals what happened on Earth following the disaster.

Many years ago, Byrne starting inking his own work.  While still good, I preferred it when his art  was inked by others (favorites included Terry Austin, Bob McLeod, Joe Rubenstein, and Dick Giordano).  I am not sure if he changed his inking style but in recent years I have grown to like his art more.  The art in this series is very good.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Batman and Robin Vol. 4: Requiem for Damian

Author:  Peter Tomasi

Artist:  Patrick Gleason

Publisher:  DC Comics

First Publication:  June 10, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #34

Collects:  Batman and Robin #s 18-23

Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have been one of DC's most consistent top teams over the last few years.  This book is no exception.

Following the death of Damian (Robin) Wayne, Bruce (Batman) Wayne is spinning further into the depths of depression.  His method of dealing with the death of his son is not good for any one else.  Batman takes some drastic measures that would seem crazy but, as anyone who has a child will tell you, parents will do anything for their children.

The combination of Tomasi's emotional writing and the great art of Gleason makes for a sure fire hit.  And pity anyone who gets in Batman's way...

"Batman and Robin" gets one of my highest recommendations.  I would recommend picking up all of the collections in this series.

Injustice Gods Among Us Vol. 2 and Wonderland Asylum

Author:  Patrick Shand

Artist:  Tony Brescini

Publisher:  Zenescope

First Publication:  July 1, 2014

Graphic Novel Challenge #32

Author:  Tom Taylor

Artists:  Mike S. Miller, Tom Derenick

Publisher:  DC Comics

First Publication:  July 1, 2014

Graphic Novel Challenge #33

My comments about these books are so similar I decided to do a joint review.

Both titles had art that I liked.  Miller and Derenick both contributed quality work to "Injustice".  I give the edge to Derenick as being an artist I have liked in the past.  Brescini also did a nice job with the art on "Wonderland".  Based only on the art, i would give both of the titles a good grade.  Unfortunately, both stories did not appeal to me.

Most of the time, I enjoy alternate world stories but "Injustice Gods Among Us" was not something that connected with me.  I believe I am in the minority because it seems like this is a very popular series with other fans and critics.  The reason I did not like "Wonderland:  Asylum" was the characters.  Something was missing from the characterization in this book.  Let me say that both are well done but just did not connect with me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Green Arrow Volume 5: The Outsiders War

Author:  Jeff Lemire

Artist:  Andrea Sorrentino

Publisher:  DC Comics

First Publication:  October 14, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #31

Collects:  Green Arrow #s 25-31

Summary:  As Green Arrow discovers that his stranding on a desert island was more than just an accident, there seem to be more sinister forces at work behind all these sudden revelations. The Queen family is embroiled in a war generations old. A war of clans. A war of outsiders. 

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino have put together one of my favorite Green Arrow series.  I was sorry to hear that their time on the title is coming to an end.  I will be following both creators to their new series.

Lemire's history of Green Arrow is being slowly revealed with more clues being show in each issue.  He is a master of how to craft an exciting present day story while working in flashbacks.

And what more can be said about Sorrentino's art?  He has developed into one of the best artists working today.  The innovative panels/page layouts make the atmosphere explode off of each page.  I have not been this impressed with original page composition since the heyday of "Master of Kung Fu" when either Paul Gulacy or Gene Day was the artist.  

Green Arrow, and the Queen family, continue to be put through the ringer as the tension builds with each chapter.

Highly recommended.

Meteor Men

Author:  Jeff Parker

Artist:  Sandy Jarrell

Publisher:  Oni Press

First Publication:  October 15, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #30

I was a huge fan of the Winston SF Series when I was growing up.  Jeff Parker has captured some of the feel of those books in "Meteor Men".

Alden Baylor is sitting in a field watching a meteor shower, little realizing that it signals the arrival of aliens on Earth.

Parker comes up with some original ideas for how the aliens interact with humanity.  I like the way he did not just rehash other alien contact stories.  Keeping the story focused on Alden helps it to stay grounded.  Parker writes Alden like a teenager and not like an adult.  I feel that helps the story.

The art by Sandy Jarrell is new to me.  Jarrell's art is organic and perfectly complements Parker's story.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages.

Glory: The Complete Saga

Author:  Joe Keatinge

Artist:  Ross Campbell

Publisher:  Image Comics

First Publication:  July 1, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #29

I remember trying an issue of the original Glory and not caring for it.  When I saw that this revival had a different creative team and people said how good it was I gave it a try.  I started reading it on a Friday night and only planned on reading an issue or two before going to bed.  I ended up reading many more pages (close to half of this hardback collection) and finished it the next day.  

Glory is a trained warrior with a berserker rage.  Her family seems doomed to battle in a millenia-old intergalactic war.  She gathers her friends and tries to protect them but every time it seems like they have found peace, the war pulls her back in.  The feel of the book is similar to Brian Azarello's "Wonder Woman".  A warrior princess who is the top fighter, tries to get out of the family's influence, befriends Earth people, and keeps getting drawn back in.  The execution and plots are different but fans of one should like the other.  One main difference is that "Glory" is graphically violent.

If you don't mind the violence, I highly recommend this graphic novel.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kings Watch Volume 1

Author:  Jeff Parker

Artist:  Marc Laming

Publisher:  Dynamite Entertainment

First Publication:  August 26, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #28

Dynamite has struck pulp gold once again with this collection.  I love the team up of the Kings Feature newspaper strip characters.  They were previously teamed up in the "Defenders of the Earth" cartoon.

Marc Laming was the perfect artist for this series.  His clean line work, facial features, action shots, and special effects made for a visual feast for the eyes.  It is no wonder that I have started seeing his work appear at Marvel Comics.  He would be great on any comic no matter what the subject matter.

Jeff Parker has written many good comics in the past.  I have fond memories of his "Agents of Atlas" and also enjoy his current work on "Aquaman".  He nails the characterization of the big three and their supporting teams.  The invasion plot he created was a good reason for the characters to team up.  And, while this is a complete story, Parker sets the stage for future Flash Gordon stories.

Fans of pulp or good old fashioned super-heroes will love this book.  Highly recommended.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Vol. 1

Author:  Greg Pak

Artist:  Mirko Colak

Publisher:  Dynamite Entertainment

First Publication:  Sept. 16, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #27

Collects:  Turok:  Dinosaur Hunter #s 1-4

Turok was one of the titles originally published by Gold Key, revived once by Valiant Comics, then Dynamite got the rights to bring it back again.  So far, Dynamites's versions of the Gold Key line have impressed me (Solar-Man of the Atom and Magnus-Robot Fighter).

Greg Pak has put the young Native American named Turok in an alternate history version of America.  The British have invaded with the assistance of dinosaurs.  How have the dinosaurs survived?  That is not revealed.  In the previous versions, Turok has Native American friends.  In this one he is an outcast forced into an uneasy alliance with others against the British.  Pak's story keeps the action going at a fast pace.  

The art by Mirko Colak is very good.  I have not read anything else he has drawn but I will be looking for more of his work.  I enjoy the way he draws the fauna and back ground details.  

Overall it is a very good book that I will be looking for in the future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thanos: The Infinity Revelation

Author/Artist:  Jim Starlin

Inker:  Andy Smith

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #26

I could talk for hours about how much I like Jim Starlin’s work so I was very excited to see the publication of his Thanos graphic novel.  If I heard correctly, this is the first of three.  Starlin’s art is just as good, or better, than it was in his heyday of “Captain Marvel”, “Warlock”, “Metamorphosis Odyssey”, and “Dreadstar”.  The inker perfectly complements his line work without changing the style.

It was fun getting to revisit the cosmic corner of the Marvel universe.  Where else have we got to see Infinity, Eternity, and the others in recent years?  I was hoping to see them in Marvel’s big “Original Sin” crossover but it does not appear to be in the cards.  Starlin’s Steve Ditko inspired landscapes perfectly illustrate the big characters. 

If the story has a fault it is in the lack of a resolution.  Instead of a standalone novel, this seems like chapter one of a three part story.  Despite that reservation, I highly recommend you taking the plunge into the cosmic epic as depicted by Starlin.  Now I am going back just to stare at the pages.

Bloodshot Vol. 4: H.A.R.D. Corps

Authors:  Christos Gage & Joshua Dysart

Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino

Publisher:  Valiant Entertainment

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #25

Collects Bloodshot & the H.A.R.D. Corps #s14-17 and Bloodshot #0

 What do you get when you combine two of my favorite authors (Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart) with great art?  In this case you get a good but not great series.  This is the fall out of “The Harbinger Wars” for both Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps team.  H.A.R.D. Corps was devastated by the events of the crossover and a new team is put together.  Dysart and Gage wrote a fun, high energy adventure story but I felt it was lacking in characterization.  The characterization was good but not up to the usual standard I have come to expect from these writers.  Meanwhile, the art is very good.  The story can be read on its own but has connections to the rest of the Valiant universe.

If you are looking for a solid adventure tale, this is the book for you.

Harbinger Vol. 4: Perfect Day

Author:  Joshua Dysart

Artists:  Barry Kitson and Clayton Henry

Publisher:  Valiant Entertainment

Source:  Comixology

Graphic Novel Challenge #24

Collects Harbinger #s 15-19

Joshua Dysart is one of my favorite authors.  I started following his work on the Captain Gravity mini-series from Pennyfarthing Press.  It was a classic pulp story with a twist.  I would highly recommend taking the time to track it down and read it.  It also featured art by the talented Sal Velluto.  I was surprised that this was published without much fanfare.  Dysart also wrote “The Unknown Soldier” for DC that I have not gotten around to reading yet.  Friend and fellow comic book fan Terry Kissinger was impressed with Dysart’s writing on it.  Barry Kitson is a very good artist who has done numerous books for DC and Marvel.  I especially remember his fine work on the “Legion of Super-Heroes” with Mark Waid.  Put Dysart and Kitson together and you have a great comic.

“Perfect Day” shows what happens after “The Harbinger Wars”.  Our heroes won the battle against their nemesis (Toyo Harada) and are now relaxing in Los Angeles.  For the first time everything seems to be going right for the group.  As the story progresses we discover that things are not what they appear to be.  Dysart has crafted a perfect story showing the heroes getting their just reward, then slowly the terror starts to build.  Cracks appear that they cannot figure out.  Whose “Perfect Day” is it?  I do not want to give too much away.

If you are considering buying a Valiant title, this is one of my two favorites (the other being “X-O Manowar”).  “Harbinger” should be at the top of everyone’s reading stack.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Forever Evil

Author:  Geoff Johns

Artist:  David Finch

Publisher:  DC Comics

Publication:  Sept. 9, 2014

Source:  Net Galley

Graphic Novel Challenge #23

Summary:  The world changes in an instant.  Seemingly overnight, the Justice League is defeated and disappears.  The Crime Syndicate of Earth 3 is now in charge and the world will not be the same.  Earth's salvation depends on the determination and planning of one man...Lex Luthor!

Geoff Johns has been one of my favorite writers since his early days of writing "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." and co-writing the revived "Justice Society".  I have followed his career as he grew into being one of the top writers in the industry.  This is another classic work of his.

Johns has always had a way with writing the villains.  We get to see behind the scenes of what makes this dark version of the Justice League tick.  His Rogues features, especially the Captain Cold stories, in "Flash" was a sign of things to come.  This was followed by his development of Sinestro in "Green Lantern".  Now his considerable talents are being turned to Lex Luthor.  And it is making for great reading for comics fandom.  I don't want to give away any of the plot.  This needs to be read by every fan of mainstream comics.

The art of David Finch is a good fit for Johns' story.  He is equally talented at illustrating the special effects and the up close individual shots.  I hope that this team continues to work together in the future.

Highly recommended.

I read this as part of the 2014 Graphic Novel Challenge.

Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Flesh

Writer:  Brian Azzarello

Artists:  Cliff Chiang, Goran Sudzuka

Publisher:  DC Comics

Publication Date:  October 7, 2014

Source:  Netgalley

Graphic Novel Challenge #22

Collects:  Wonder Woman #s 24-29, Wonder Woman 23.2 

Everything is starting to come together in the next to last arc for this creative team.  Due to events that happened in a previous arc, Wonder Woman is now the God of War.  Zeus' First Born is back from exile.  He is not happy.  The First Born leads an all-out assault on Olympus.  And when you have a violent god out for blood, the violence goes off the charts.

First Born was shafted by being imprisoned.  Azzarello shows what he has been made to endure.  His return for retribution appears to be the big event that the team has been building towards on this unique take on the Wonder Woman mythos.  At times Wonder Woman has been a good title but Azzarello has made it into a must read.  Each new issue is at the top of that week's reading stack.  The art is not my favorite but it does help to contribute to the overall look of the book.  And the various artists have kept a consistent look throughout this run.  I will miss this team and hope that the new creative team will incorporate part of what has been built here.  I cannot wait to see how Azzarello wraps up his big story and what happens to the characters he created.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse

Writers/Artists: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

Publisher:  DC Comics

Publication Date:  Aug. 19, 2014

Source:  Netgalley

Graphic Novel Challenge Book #21

Summary (from Amazon) :  The fourth volume of Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul's New 52 breakout hit - The Flash!

A mysterious and powerful Speed-Force killer has left a trail of bodies in his wake and only Barry has the power to stop him. But when the killer stays one step ahead of him, Barry finds himself face to face with the Teen Titans and Kid Flash for the first time. All this will lead to a confrontation with the Flash's most deadly foe, The Reverse Flash!

Collects THE FLASH #20-25, and #23.3: REVERSE FLASH.

I have enjoyed the New52 version of the Flash.  Manapul and Buccellato have done a great job of recapturing the feel of the classic Barry Allen stories while using modern storytelling methods.  

One of the things that really stands out is the graphic design.  I always look forward to seeing how they are incorporating the title into the story.  I have only seen a few other artists use this method.  Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Jim Steranko, and various artists on Don MacGregor's "Black Panther" have made the title part of the art.  Sometimes it appears as part of a structure, sometimes as part of the background or debris.  It catches the eye while not taking you out of the story.

"Reverse" is the culmination of a plot that began in issue #1 (and even before that in the "Flashpoint" mini-series).  Manapul and Buccellato have slowly built suspense by revealing little clues.  The slow burn build up made the payoff in this collection all the better.

The only disappointment with this collection is that it is the end of their run on "The Flash".  This team will be missed.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Creator:  Jeff Lemire

First Publication:  2014

Graphic Novel Challenge book #20

Trillium is an interesting combination of many different types of stories. 

First off, I found the art to be reminiscent of the classic science fiction comics published by EC.  In addition to the art, the story brought back fond memories of the tales that appeared in Weird Science.  

Fans of Indiana Jones will like the jungle adventure story that takes place in the past. Science fiction fans will prefer the story in the future. It focuses on a scientist's interaction with an alien species.  At the same time he also builds the story around a romance between the two main characters.

Jeff Lemire utilizes an interesting technique to leave stories together.

I recommend this book to people who are looking for something different than the usual superhero stories to read.