Sunday, February 28, 2016

Velvet #13





Velvet, Issue #13 begins with the confrontation between Velvet Templeton and Damian Lake.  I'm afraid I can't go into any more details without giving away spoilers.  Velvet is a spy thriller about Velvet Templeton, a former British field agent who sits behind the desk for two decades.  It takes place in the 1970s, so there are plenty of muscle cars and plenty of gadgets.  And sex.

In fact, a lot of the technology is superior to what we have today, but that's part of the charm of Velvet.  During the Cold War, billions of dollars were spent on creating new technologies, some of which famously worked - like stealth aircraft - and some of which famously didn't - like flying saucers.  I believe that every piece of fiction takes place in its own "universe," and apart from certain technological advancements, the universe Velvet takes place in is very like our own.  The twist at the end of this comic, which I shall not go into, only confirms this.

Part of the reason why I write this blog is so I can detail exactly what I like about the books and comic books I read.  This comic is great because of the facial expressions.  In particular, I like how Damian Lake's facial expressions change as you learn of his allegiances, and I like how Velvet Templeton's face changes (or doesn't) when she reacts to this.  I love how Velvet is stoic while Rachel keeps screaming even after she's saved.  The colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser only emphasize the various faces.  For instance, Velvet's face pales just a little bit after she's shot while apparently wearing a bullet-proof vest.  Chris Eliopoulos uses several different letterings for this title.  He uses a semi-italicized lettering for when Velvet is thinking/narrating, a typed font for when Max is thinking/narrating, and a very clear lettering for the dialogue.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saga #34

Saga, Issue #34 begins where the "Hazel" storyline ended, with Hazel confiding in her nature to a beloved teacher, who promptly passes out.  A hermaphroditic Mooney with broken speech offers to help Hazel by killing the teacher and making her death look like an accident.  Meanwhile, Marko and Alana are reunited with Prince Robot IV, who promptly threatens to kill them slowly by shooting each of them in the bladder with a bow and arrow.  Violent, eh?  

For such a violent comic, Saga has very strong anti-violence themes.  It's very pro-diversity, and one of the more telling lines is Hazel's suggestion is that the reason civilized beings fight is not because they're different but because they're alike.  One of the funnier moments in this comic is when the two reporters assume that the Brand is gay because he's looking for a prince (Prince Robot IV).  One time after taking the wrong drug in college, I thought someone was following me.  When I told my roommate (who was/is gay), he said, "is he cute?"  There's a tendency to believe that everyone is like you, and the creators of Saga are very aware of this.  

The lettering used for Prince Robot IV and his son is so distinctive that merely seeing the lettering, I knew that one of the Robots would be on the next page.  A less formal lettering is used for the rest of the characters when they're speaking an intelligible language, and of course, Hazel's narration is in a more child-like lettering.  Unintelligible languages that are translated are in different font colors, and when the ghost talks, the font is red.  The lettering is done by Fonografiks.  The artwork, which is gorgeous, is by Fiona Staples.  Saga has been one of my favorite comics for a long time.  

Spider-Man/Deadpool #2


Spiderman/Deadpool, Issue #2 sees Peter Parker, now a wealthy industrialist, being targeted for assassination by Spider-Man's newest friend, Deadpool.  Deadpool obviously does not know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and I must admit to being at a loss.  I'm not a Marvel guy, but I do read Spider-Man from time to time.  Peter Parker got outed as Spider-Man in the "Civil War" storyline, he died in the Ultimate Spider-Man storyline, and somehow in this storyline, he's rich.  Oh, well.  Like when Homer was Poochy, he'll just say, "the wizard did it."


One of the things I love about lucha libre is how a masked man (or woman) can show so many different emotions.  It takes skill from the mask-makers and the mask-wearers.  Most of Spider-Man/Deadpool issue #2 features two or three men in masks in a variety of extreme situations, and the artists, Ed McGuinness (pencils), Mark Morales (inks), and Jason Keith (colors), all work together to make the two/three superheroes extremely expressive.  VC's Joe Sabino letters both Spider-Man and Deadpool the same way, although Deadpool gets a yellow background, so you don't mix them up.

The story itself, "Isn't it Bromantic," is progressing.  Joe Kelly is very familiar with both Spider-Man and Deadpool, having written for both their titles, and it shows.  The idea to pair them off is a novel one, as they've become friends, but secretly one is trying to kill the other.  I think this title could be the subject of a major movie if it's done right, perhaps some time in 2018 or 2019, as a Deadpool sequel will probably come first.

Black Magick #5

Black Magick, Issue #5 begins with Morgan and Rowan, the two main police officers, having dinner at Morgan's house with Morgan's wife, Anna, who is pregnant.  Rowan Black is the main character, and she's a witch as well as a police officer.  After dinner, she attends her fellow witch, Alex, who in issue #4 came across a dark spirit.  Meanwhile, another group of investigators whose motives are unknown are investigating Portsmouth and Rowan Black.

I bought Cover B with art by Stephanie Hans, which really caught my eye.  As I mentioned in my review of issue #4, the artwork of Nicola Scott is really on point, with scant colors by Chiara Arena.  Scott did the pencils for the iconic "gay Green Lantern kiss" in Earth-2, pictured below, right.  Most of all, I liked the greenery surrounding the suburban houses.  Although the title is 95% black-and-white/gray-scale, I still got a feeling for the varied suburban landscape you'll see in middle-class homes.  The lettering is done by Jodi Wynne, and there are several styles in Black Magick.  Black-on-white lettering is used in everyday conversation, white-on-black is used for human spells, orange-on-black is used for spells by the unknown creature, and orange-on-white is used when that creature speaks in its home plane of existence.

"Now she just needs to be pushed," is the final line, which also adorns the back cover.  The first five issues of Black Magick have perfectly set up the conflict between... it's too early to say "good and evil."  Human and demon?  The beings in issues #4 and #5 sure go out of their way to look evil, demonic.  I refer to the main "demon" as an unknown creature earlier in this review because she really is unknown.

If you're not reading Black Magick yet, try the paperback coming out in April, Black Magick, Volume 1: Awakening.  Then you can start the series month-by-month (as it is meant to be read) starting in July.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dirk Gently #1



Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: A Spoon Too Short Issue #1 takes place after the events of The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul and before the events of The Interconnectedness of all Kings.  In this first issue, Gently is called by his friend Sally Mills to the Woodshead Hospital, where she works as a nurse.  There is a family of New Hampshireites which has lost the ability to communicate, and Sally, dressed as a sexy nurse for Halloween, wants Gently to figure out what's gone wrong.

There are two letterings used in this comic.  Dirk Gently's thoughts are in a sans-serif font, and everything else is lettered by Robbie Robbins.  I wasn't familiar with the author, Arvind Ethan David, this being his first comic and all, but he's a Malaysian-born, British filmmaker who wrote "Dirk," a play based on the Douglas Adams character that is the star of this series.  He manages to collect Adams's humor, his wit.  The series is playful, with an adventurous tone.  I look forward to reading Gently's trip to Africa in the next issue.

The artwork by Ilias Kyriazis, a Greek comic-book artist, is fantastic.  It's been some years since I read the two "Dirk Gently" novels by Douglas Adams, but Kyiazis presents a fully formed vision of what Gently looks like, with hair going in every which direction.  The colors by Charlie Kirchoff present a conspicuous color scheme based on blue but with a variety of appropriate colors for Gently's orange jacket, for instance.  Overall, this title is better than it really had to be.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

C.O.W.L. Vol. 1



C.O.W.L., Volume 1: Principles of Power is the story of the Chicago Organized Workers League, a union of superheroes formed in Chicago after the Second World War.  It is 1962.  Their job is to control super-powered crime, but what happens when the last of the super-powered criminals, the Chicago 6, is captured?  And right when C.O.W.L. is negotiating a new contract with the city?  To make matters worse, it looks like someone has funneled C.O.W.L. designs to the enemy.  Is C.O.W.L. creating super-powered crime just so it can fight it and make money?

I'm no artist, and I'm no art critic, but I did make a commitment to finding the best of all aspects of comics when I started this blog.  Rod Reis is the type of artist I look for.  I love how the contract negotiations are in bluescale, with exaggerated lines on the characters.  It feels a bit off but still so realistic.  It's extraordinary technique.  The splashes of paint remind me of both Georges Seurat and Bob Ross.  I also like the letters by Troy Peteri, who uses pauses at the beginning and end of each letter to make tiny serifs.

Kyle Higgins famously moved Nightwing to Chicago; Nightwing is one of the few DC titles I've kept up with.  Higgins also wrote some of the Batman Beyond titles, which I've dipped into.  I don't read too much superhero stuff, but Higgins is one of the modern writers in that genre that I've gravitated toward, and Alec Siegel has worked with him quite a bit.  Overall, I'm happy I finally dove into this series.  The writing, the art, and the lettering are all top-notch.  Recommended.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Silent Voice, Vol. 5 (SPOILERS)



A Silent Voice, Vol. 5 has Tomohiro going forward with his movie.  He and Shoya start getting along more and more poorly, leading to a fight, which Shoko has to break up.  Summer vacation begins, and things get even worse when Miki tells everyone what a bully Shoya was to Shoko when they were in the sixth grade.  This leads to a falling out, and Shoya ends up spending more time with Shoka and Yuzuru.  Shoko, the Deaf girl, responds by attempting suicide at the end of the volume; she stands on top of the balcony and is about to jump off when Shoya saves her.  

A Silent Voice is a fairly easy to read romance/drama.  Yes, I read romance manga.  Wanna' fight over it?  While I wouldn't hold up A Silent Voice as one of the greatest of the genre, I do keep reading it for some reason.  Basically, the series creates enormous tension in the reader which will only be relieved when Shoya and Shoko get together.  This will probably happen at the end of Volume 7, the final volume of the series.  

Expect about a 40-minute read from each tankĊbon volume, which is about normal.  I did not see the suicide attempt coming.  Shoko's an interesting character, and she feels guilty about everything that happens because she is different.  The suicide attempt was totally in character; it works, and I'm looking forward to the penultimate volume coming out in a month and the final volume coming out two months after that.  

Fatale, Book Five



Fatale, Book Five: Curse the Demon is the final collection of Fatale.  It opens with a quote by Nietzsche, put alongside Josephine fighting the cult that is always chasing her.  In the present, she must find Nick Lash.  Most of the rest of the story is seen through his eyes, as she helps him escape Lance and hides him in a mysterious mansion where the Librarian, Otto, lives.  Then the story shifts to Somerset, the ancient cult leader.  We see his story through the ages before the final confrontation between him and Lash.  Before the title ends, there is a bedtime story about an owl god, being told to a young Nick Lash by his uncle Dominick.

Sean Phillips creates a certain state of urgency with his artwork, of movement.  He also does the lettering for his titles with Brubaker.  I noticed that he uses all capital letters for all the lettering except Nick Lash's thoughts throughout the series.  I particularly liked the lower-case "A" with the serif.  It can be confusing to have more than one person's thoughts in a comic, but the capital/lower-case method Phillips uses clears that up.  Elizabeth Breitweiser's colors are fantastic, as always.

The title draws heavily from authors of the turn of the 20th century and before.  I already mentioned the quote by Nietzsche, and the connection to Lovecraft's monsters is obvious.  My favorite of the five books has to be the third one, which is a little bit shorter than the others.  I loved the short stories, three of which are only tangentially connected to Josephine.  Overall, it's a great series that's just as long as it needs to be.  It could have been longer, but it might have lagged in quality should another arc be inserted.  I enjoyed Fatale.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fatale, Book Four

Fatale, Book Four: Pray for Rain is a full, five-issue story arc.  In the present, Nick Lash is awaiting trial for the murder of the woman who robbed him when a man sent by Jo kills Nick's lawyer and helps Nick flee justice.  In Seattle, 1995, Lance is escaping from a bank robbery when he comes across a bloody, half-naked woman walking aimlessly along a windy road.  Josephine.  Lance lives in a Seattle mansion with his bandmates, and Jo inspires them to make music again.  Plus, they have the money from the bank heist to shoot a video.  All seems to be going too well.  

Fatale has that rare quality I look for in a comic or any sort of book: readability.  One might complain that a simple comic is readable, but I would counter that only a good one is.  Characters drive this series more than anything, and Josephine is a great character.  She could be in a Puccini opera.  All the minor characters and recurring characters are well fleshed out, as well.  

Elizabeth Breitweiser has taken over the coloring position with no drop in quality.  The first half of Fatale was colored by Dave Stewart, and the two have similar styles, although Stewart relies more heavily on shades of blue, while Breitweiser uses more greens and purples.  I've become a fan of both of them.  The lettering is again uncredited.  Sean Phillips's art perfectly complements Ed Brubaker's writing, like usual.  They're a formidable team

Author's Note: I've been sick the past week, which is partially the cause of the creation of and surge of activity in this blog.  I generally read a lot, so this amount of writing isn't uncommon, but I've changed the format of my reviews, moving from two paragraphs per review to three-to-five paragraphs per review.  

Fatale, Book Three

Fatale, Book Three

Fatale, Book Three: West of Hell is a collection of four short stories, two of which feature Josephine, and two of which feature her predecessors.  It starts with "The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft," which takes place in Texas, 1936.  Nelson, a police officer, is waiting for the ageless Josephine to return.  She doesn't, of course, and he recalls the previous week.  Alfred Ravenscroft is a writer, slowly marching toward death when Josephine rings his doorbell.  He tells her a tale of monsters down in Mexico, but she screams and runs away when one of the monsters might still be living in his house.  The title moves on to "A Lovely Sort of Death," which is a short, one-issue story about a woman like Josephine in France in the 1200s.  Next, a woman like Josephine in the Old West, and so on.

It's 7:30 A.M., and I'm already done with my first book of the day.  And it was a doozy.  Fatale has me hooked.  It's a relatively simple idea - an ageless woman with power over men being chased by a monstrous cult - but this volume shows that a talented team can bring that idea to new and interesting places.  I'm reminded of Highlander, with its historical scenes.  The highlight of this collection is the scene in World War II, when Josephine is drawn to a mystical convergence in Romania.

The colors of this volume are done by both Dave Stewart and Elizabeth Breitweiser, the latter of whom did the colors for Brubacker and Phillips's The Fade Out, which I also highly recommend.  Dave Stewart is responsible for the first two books of Fatale, and I have written of him in previous reviews.  Really, all aspects of this series are so well done that I cannot help but see it as one entity.  It is early, and I am ill with bronchitis, but I didn't notice the lettering at all, which is uncredited as far as I could see.  A pundit once wrote that cinematic music is best when you don't notice it.  This idea has been derided by most, but sometimes cinematic music is meant to be not noticed, just as the company of a favored cat on the bed is something more felt than noticed.  I didn't notice the lettering at all, and I think that was by design.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fatale, Book Two



Fatale, Book Two: The Devil's Business takes place a year after Book 1.  Nick Lash is chasing down Josephine when he meets a private investigator with a key to a safety deposit box.  Starting a new timeline in 1972, Miles is an actor, and he's looking for Suzy and some coke.  He finds both at a crazy party run by the Method Church they have to escape.  Rescued by Josephine, they hide out in her mansion.  In the present, Lash is on the run.  Most of the story takes place in 1972 with the current timeline being mostly a framing device that runs its course.

While most comics are best adapted to comic-by-comic form, Fatale reads excellently so far as fully thought out books.  The arcs are much stronger than the arcs of most comic series.  The idea of a femme fatale through time being chased by a cult that worships Lovecraftian monsters is a good one, but what makes this particular volume so strong is how well it's rooted in Hollywood of the early 1970s.

I'm reading Fatale because the whole series is on sale for $0.99 per issue or $4.99 per book on ComiXology.  And because it's a great series.  I read the first book a year or so ago and always meant to continue the series.  This is my chance.  Ed Brubaker's writing combined with Sean Phillips's art make series after series masterwork after masterwork.  And how could one forget to mention Dave Stewart's colors?  It isn't easy making a film noir comic book, but Stewart uses purples and greens to highlight the dead of night.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ringworld





Ringworld is Larry Niven's 1970 science-fiction classic, a tale that has launched a graphic novel series and over a dozen and a half sequels and prequels.  I am reviewing the original Ringworld.  Set nearly 900 years in the future, Ringworld is at its heart the story of four explorers: Louis Wu, a 200-year-old human man who is indistinguishable from a 30-year-old man; Nessus, a "Puppeteer" with two heads and from a race of highly-developed xenophobes; Speaker-to-Animal, a Kzin who belongs to a race of large, warlike cat creatures; and finally Teela, a 20-year-old human woman born of insurmountable luck. Nessus brings them together on a quest to study a strange ring-shaped planet, built around a sun like Earth's, with the diameter of Earth's orbit using a ship with an advanced hyper-drive.  They quickly crash and find out that the giant world has reverted to savagery.


What makes this novel successful and what helped it spawn nine sequels and a pair of graphic novels is how complete the universe in which Ringworld takes place is.  The Puppeteers are a very powerful race, but they fear contact with all outsiders.  In fact, because Nessus isn't as afraid as everyone else, he is thought to be insane.  He upholds this thought, saying, "the majority is always sane."  The Kzin attacked the humans after the humans were at peace for 200 years, and the Kzin are warlike and honorable, reminiscent of the Klingons in Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond.  There are other races as well, including the unseen Ringworld Engineers, who are viewed as gods by the primitive people of Ringworld.


I had a lot of fun reading this novel, which is driven by its characters.  The Pierson's Puppeteers and the Kzin are interesting alien species, and their respective traits drive the series, which I hope to read more of in the future.

Tet #4

Tet, issue #4
Tet, Issue #4 sees Eugene Smith in a bar in Vietnam, the investigation finally settled, in 1984.  This is used as a framing device for Bao narrating what happened in 1968, during the first few days of the Tet Offensive, when Eugene and Ha became separated and Bao and Ha came together.  Bao was probably in love with Ha back then.  He was her father's friend, and he promised to protect her family.

Tet is a minimalist comic in a way because it leaves so much unsaid, unexplained.  A few issues ago, when Eugene asks Bao what happened in the re-education camp, Bao simply responds, "I was re-educated," glossing over the horrors of what must have happened there.  In The Concept of Dread, Kierkegaard writes that the truest fear is angest, the fear of the unknown.  He postulates that a man knowing he could die at any moment is in more fear than the man who knows he will be executed in 20 days.  Tet is a title of angest.  It terrifies the reader with possibilities.

Permit me to speak a little of the ending.  Read no further if you want to avoid spoilers because this really is the best part of Tet.  Issue #4 ends in the airport with Eugene, battered and bloody from the night before, seeing Ha, who is looking for him.  Ha admits that she wanted to hurt Eugene, and he responds by crumpling up his return ticket, leaving his cane and simply walking for hours, further than he had since the war.  He says that pain is designed to propel people forward.

I love the artwork, specifically the colors, both done by Paul Tucker.  The penultimate page, when Eugene is walking away, is masterfully done.  Te sky goes from yellow to orange to orange-red to red, the shadows to purple.  The purples of night are particularly artful, reminiscent of the blue night scenes of a 1950s movie.  On top of all the writing, this is a beautiful series.

Why I Don't Use a Rating System





Unlike most of the comic blogs out there, I don't give out ratings (for now).  I've found that most rating systems are inconsistent. Hypothetically, think of ratings like a bell curve.  So, if I were to rate consistently from * to *****, a solid 68% of my rankings would be **1/4 to ***3/4, 14% would be *1/4 to **, 14% would be **** to ****3/4, 2% would be *, and 2% would be *****.  This contrasts with the average Amazon/iTunes reviewer, where 80% of the rankings are *****, 19% of the rankings are *, and 1% of the rankings are *1/4 to ****3/4.  And that's assuming that I pick my comic books completely by chance.  I don't.  

So, should you read a copy of a series I recommend?  If you're not sure, see if I continue reading it, for one.  I am completely independent.  I no longer review much on Amazon because the point of reviewing on Amazon is to get free stuff so you do more reviews.  One of the last message-board reviews I did before starting this blog was Tet, Issue #1, a few days ago.  I've already read and reviewed Issue #2 and Issue #3, and I'll probably read Issue #4 today or tomorrow.  That is the sign of a good series.  

Now, what do I look for in a series?  Readability tops my list.  This takes a lot of work by the writer, editing and re-editing material so that it naturally flows from page to page.  Some writers just have the knack for it; Robert A. Heinlein would publish first drafts of what he wrote on a typewriter.  Even Isaac Asimov had to write two drafts.  And artwork?  Gary Larson of The Far Side showed us that even without terrific art skills, one could make a top-notch comic.  In the later stages of HunterXHunter, Yoshihiro Togashi has published only vague outlines of what the final draft should be, a move widely criticized by manga fans around the world.  Visually, one of my favorite series is Oldboy.  The cityscapes were far ahead of their time, and contrasted with the more iconic nature of the faces of the characters.  The series has an unsatisfying conclusion, but I liked the artwork so much that I ended up reading all of it and enjoying it.  

Comics are uniquely suited to translation, and I read a lot of comics from around the world.  Dialogue translates more easily than description, as the latter is more strongly based in words specific to a country or region.  I'm one of the few who tried reading Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus in English, and gave up halfway through.  It just isn't suited for reading in English.  Comics, which are all dialogue (including inner), don't have this problem.  

Any way, I look forward to introducing you to some of my favorites.  

Spider-Man/Deadpool #1



Spider-Man/Deadpool, Issue #1 begins with a scene where Deadpool and Spider-Man are tied together,face-to-face, and held upside-down by Dormammu above Dormammu's minions. Deadpool responds,of course, by becoming aroused.  It's a fairly complicated tale about Deadpool becoming an Avenger, him teaming up with Spider-Man to learn to become a better superhero, him going after Peter Parker, and a suspiciously convenient set of events that brings the two superheroes together.  

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this title.  I'm not too much of a Marvel reader, but Spider-Man is one of my favorites, and Deadpool is basically blowing up over the movie.  Deadpool is self-aware, meaning that he knows that he's a character in a comic book, asking Spider-Man, "do you want to do the flashback or should I?"  And of course, his trademark pansexuality is on display as well, as mentioned above.  The basic chemistry between the two is somewhat formulaic, with Spider-Man being the straight man and Deadpool being the kooky guy he has to get along with.  There is a twist, of course.  

The title is written by Joe Kelly, a Spider-Man veteran who I usually look for.  Ed McGuinness does the pencilwork.  He's a real talent, breathing life and movement into the characters.  I love the grand scene in the first full double page, with Dormammu, Spider-Man, and Deadpool.  Mark Morales is another artist (inking?), and Jason Keith does colors.  This is a particularly difficult job because Spider-Man and Deadpool are so similar.  The lettering is unattributed, but I noticed an interesting difference between Spider-Man's speech and Deadpool's.  The lettering for Spider-Man's speech is very clean, while Deadpool's almost has serifs.  Whoever is responsible for this, bravo.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tet #3



Tet, Issue #3 begins with Eugene Smith in an Army hospital in Okinawa.  In issue #2, he is shot three times, including one in the hip.  Now he's learning to walk again, and he has a goal: find his fiancee, Ha. Back in 1984, he has found Ha, married to Bao and living in Vietnam.  Better yet, there's been a huge break in the case of the murder of the Vietnamese official and Eugene's friend, Chip.  In this issue, you find out why he was killed and by whom.

I love the way Eugene, Bao, and Ha have aged since the 1968 timeline, and I haven't even mentioned the colors.  Paul Tucker does both the inks and the colors, and it's fantastic how he begins the issue with tans and browns and ends it with blues and purples.  I really got a feeling of day turning into night, and not just literally.  There are a lot of details most people would miss.  For instance, Ha's wedding dress is red, in the Buddhist tradition.  When I got married in South Korea, my wife wore a red dress with her hanbok.

I have one more issue to go with Tet, and I can only speculate as to what will happen.  Chip's murder has been solved almost too cleanly.  Bao and Ha are married.  It is Tet, 1984, and fireworks are going off in the sky, reminding Eugene of the Tet Offensive.  Good fiction tickles the imagination, and I wonder what walls are going to be broken down in Tet, issue #4.  I'm also pleased to see that Tet will run in paperback, starting in April.

Tet #2

Tet, issue #2

Tet, Issue #2 starts with the line, "and so it was gone."  The Tet Offensive has begun, and Lt. Eugene Smith is a soldier once again.  Just as I was becoming disappointed that the detective story had ended, Eugene gets off the truck, remaining in Hue City to find his fiancee, Ha.  Soon, he is reunited with Bao, and off to find Ha.  Back in 1984, Smith travels to Vietnam to be reunited with... well, I can't put too many spoilers in here.

The notes in the back of issue #2 were bittersweet.  I found out that there are only four issues of Tet.  I wanted there to be more, but at the same time, I bought issues #2 through #4 yesterday, so I know that I'll be able to complete the series today or tomorrow.  I bought the variant covers of issues #2 through #4 (#2, non-variant pictured to the right).  I have the non-variant copy of issue #1, so I might go back and buy the variant copy.

There are so many themes to be explored in Tet.  I'd like to go over a few of them.  There's the detective story, there's the romance, and then there are the differences between the 1960s through 1980s and today.  Americans simply did not honor the soldiers returning from Vietnam the way they have soldiers in the Greater War on Terror (including Afghanistan and Iraq).  I've volunteered with a couple of non-profits, including one that helps homeless veterans get sober-living housing, and I strongly believe that sober living is the key to dealing with the extreme mental illness that comes with war and other severely traumatic life events.  There are more options for returning soldiers, but homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness are still a problem.

In 1984, Eugene Smith lives in low-rent housing, and I can't help but think of all the cheap apartments that were torn down in my hometown of San Diego to build Horton Plaza that year, leading to a surge in homelessness.  When Eugene receives a letter in the middle of issue #1, I thought it had to do with him losing his housing or some sort of benefits, but I was cheering out loud when I saw him return to the streets of Vietnam.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Huck #4

Huck, Cover B
Huck, Issue #4 begins in Siberia, the Soviet Union, 1981. A woman, fleeing the soldiers of the Soviet Union, is moving at remarkable speed.  Issue #3 ended with Huck meeting his brother, Tom, who promised to introduce Huck to their mother.  This issue tells her story.  I suspected that Tom might not be who he appears to be, but what twist/cliffhanger will this issue end on?

I don't know how long Millar and Albuquerque can keep up these breathtaking twists at the end of each issue. Huck was heralded as one of the best comics of 2015 despite only putting out an issue or two; people knew this was going to be a great title.  Four issues into it, Huck has lived up to the hype. I bought Cover B because I loved the E.T. reference (right).  I'm not one to buy multiple copies of the same issue (on purpose, at least), but Huck is one of the titles that makes me think of doing so.

I think too much emphasis on the writing on comics because aside from a few titles, comics are a group effort. Rafael Albuquerque uses a lot of lines, particularly in the folds of clothes and in people's hair. He is really responsible for the great look this title has, along with colorist, Dave McCaig, who brings life to the eyes of the characters and to the background scenes.  I particularly liked the orange turning darker in the final scenes of Issue #4, indicating both the sunset and the changing tone of the series.  The lettering by Nate Piekos has a unique feel to it. The font gets bigger as the characters speak louder, and there's an - I don't know - spastic nature of it that perfectly matches the tone of the series.  It feels as child-like and optimistic as Huck, himself.

Cry Havoc #1


Cry Havok, Issue #1

Cry Havoc, Issue #1: "Dog Days" teases a half-human woman being held in a cage in the Red Place before moving to two women looking at a hyena in a London zoo.  The hyena is in a smallish cage while his mates, the females, are in a larger enclosure.  Next, one of the girls (Lou) is in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on a helicopter, talking about how she was attacked by a werewolf in London while busking near Old Bailey.  The helicopter lands in a black site where they "rendition" prisoners, to use the War-on-Terror-era parlance.  They look at helmet cam footage of an apparent werewolf who killed five C.I.A. agents before setting 10 prisoners free.  The deal?  She uses her werewolf powers to interrogate prisoners, and they help her not turn into a werewolf.

The highlight of this title is the artwork by Ryan Kelly, which can be downright terrifying at times. There are three colorists on this title.  Nick Filardi does the colors in London, Lee Loughridge does the colors in the Red Place, and Matt Wilson does the colors in Afghanistan. While Filardi's colors focus on blues to match the busker's hair, Loughridge's colors are more yellow, to match the deserts and tundras of Afghanistan.  There isn't much of the Red Place in this first issue, but of course, there is plenty of red in the scenes that do involve the Red Place.  The lettering by Simon Bowland is exceptionally clear and precise.

There's a lot of contrast in this title, and not just the colors.  The scenes in London are purposely prosaic, although the scene with the hyena foreshadows both the werewolf attack and perhaps Lou killing her lover.  This contrasts with the abject cruelty of the helicopter gunner killing a goat for no reason. Everyone on the helicopter is a little "different," hinting toward an ensemble cast of metahumans. Overall, this is an excellent first issue with a lot to read.  In fact, the inside cover of the title reads, "for more information, reread comic," which I did.  Recommended.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Old Man Logan #2

Old Man Logan, Issue #2 sees the aged Wolverine from the future tracking down the villains of the present who might go on to destroy his world.  In the first issue, he kills a minor criminal who would go on to become the Black Butcher and attack his family.  In this issue, he's after the man who would become the most evil villain of them all, David Banner, the Hulk.  "No one knew," Logan narrates, "for sure how Banner went bad.  All I do know is that whatever it was that kept Bruce Banner from giving in to the mindless Hulk died when the super villains took over."  The comic flash-forwards to the future, when the Hulk's children and grandchildren are terrorizing poor farmers.  Old Man Logan wants to help, but his wife talks him out of it.  Back in the present day, he comes across the Hulk helping with a minor traffic accident.  Old Man Logan, now as Wolverine, attacks without mercy, only to find out that the New Hulk is Amadeus Cho.

The series is definitely rewarding to those who've kept up with the Marvel universe.  I can't say that I'm a Marvel expert, but I caught a couple of the cues and hints.  Old Man Logan is a very flawed hero, killing and attacking people in cold blood because of what they might do in the future.  One can't help but be reminded of a superhero Dick Cheney or George W. Bush.  In the future, Logan escaped the superhero life and let the Hulk Gang run over the world, and that's part of his flawed nature.  I thought the Hulk looked and acted differently than the usual Hulk, but I didn't make the connection that another Hulk was around.  If Old Man Logan doesn't know that there was a New Hulk, how can he be trusted to know it was the Banner Hulk who actually did all the bad deeds that caused the Villain's Uprising?

What I like about Old Man Logan the most is that it tickles the imagination.  Is Logan even in the same universe as before?  I've always been a fan of Jeff Lemire's writing, but the knock on him is that he doesn't do as well with other people's work as he does with his own work.  This series destroys that notion.  Even in a dark tale like this one, Lemire finds time for humor, as Shakespeare did with the fools in Hamlet.  Andrea Sorrentino's artwork and Marcelo Maiolo's colors are fantastic as well. Maiolo contrasts the green of the Hulk and the dark of night with the red of blood. Cory Petit does the lettering, and he uses a lot of mild italics and bolds to emphasize certain words.  I'll definitely continue reading this title.

Introduction


Blankets by Craig Thompson
I've been reading books for all my life, but then again, who hasn't?  In 2010, I started writing books, and in 2013, I started reading comic books.  My mother is a high-school teacher, and she noticed that a graphic novel was on her school's summer reading list, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  I helped her buy it, and she handed it to me, saying, "you read it first."  I was hooked.  A few months after I started reading comic books, I started reviewing them, starting with a post on a boxing message board with a few comic readers on it.  The review was about Craig Thompson's Blankets, pictured to the right.  It's still one of the best books I've ever read.  Thompson has also written Habibi, Carnet de Voyage, Goodbye Chunky Rice, and most recently, Space Dumplings.  I could list my favorites here, but I would run out of room.  I'll try to update this blog every day or so because I try to read something every day.  If you haven't read Jeff Smith's Bone, you really should.  It's a solid 1300 pages, and I've either lent or bought copies of it for three people, all of whom love it.


I mostly write about comic books in their original, 24-to-32-page format, known as "floppies."  The 
Monstress, issue #1
picture to the left is the cover of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress, which is a relatively new title, with only three issues coming out so far.  It's very promising.  The art is fantastic, the story engaging, and the lettering by Rus Wooton varied and consistent at the same time.  I do talk about the lettering of comics because I think it's an important part of the art.  In Monstress, Wooton uses four or five different styles of lettering for different aspects of the comic.

I write about floppies mostly for several reasons.  If you really want to support comics, you should of course enjoy them in the format you like, but by buying floppies, you're really on the forefront of whether a comic continues or gets cancelled.  Monstress, issue #1 was a 72-page triple issue, and it has run to three printings so far.  The collector in me likes to organize the comics; I have a long box with 100 or 200 comics in it.  By reading comic books in their original form, you get to see them before people who read them in trade paperback (TPB) format.  Finally, comics are simply meant to be read month-by-month.  I was having a lot of trouble understanding East of West in TPB format until I started reading it one comic at a time.  We still tend to treat books as novels, and that takes away from the reading of comic books because while there are arcs within comic book series, each floppy is an entity of its own.

I also read manga, manwha, omnibi, European comics, and South American comics.  I don't read too much superhero stuff, as I didn't grow up reading it, but I do dip into DC and Marvel once in a while.  Oh, and I read real books from time to time as well, mostly as audiobooks while I'm driving.  In audiobooks, I like solid literature, science fiction, and genre-bending writers like Stephen King and Salman Rushdie.  Well, that's it for now.