Monday, May 30, 2016

Devolution #4

Devolution #4 (of 5): Digital Exclusive Edition

Devolution, Issue #4 has been in my to-read pile with an ever-growing number of books and single issues for some time, but as soon as I opened it, I was hooked again.  Scientists developed the DVO-8 bomb, which would cure the people it was dropped on of faith.  It was dropped on the Middle East, of course.  Get rid of violent Islam, violent Judaism, and violent Christianity where it's all coming to a head, and you "save" the world.  Only the bomb doesn't work as planned.  It starts people, animals, and plants devolving.  Strange creatures populate the world, and only a few non-devolved humans survive.  A few of them make it to San Francisco in this issue, and they attempt to reverse the devolution, but can they?

Devolution is good.  It's mostly an action story with a few clever ideas thrown in, and such stories rely heavily on characterization by the writers and the artists (and the performers, in other media).  Like many adventure stories, the main character is mostly staid, with bizarre supporting characters that really steal the show.  The Jerry Seinfeld Show was a bit like that, with the three main supporting characters and the minor characters stealing the show.  Of course, in four issues, the characters can't develop too deeply, but I really like the direction this title is going in.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

International Iron Man #3

International Iron Man, Issue #3 is a dual story.  As a young man, Tony Stark becomes involved with the daughter of one of his father's rivals, Cassandra Gillespie.  His father, thinking that the whole thing is just a "honey pot" operation, separates Tony from Cassandra.  In the present, 20 years later, Stark finds out that his father isn't his biological father, and the search for his birth father leads him to Cassandra Gillespie, now a rival international arms dealer, herself.  She attacks him and gains the advantage, or so she thinks.

I'm a fan of this series, and I've explained why in my two previous reviews.  Bendis and Maleev working together is good stuff, even if it isn't on the Daredevil line they made so famous some 10 or 15 years ago.  Even though the two have worked together in the past, the artwork is still new and unique.  I love the way they use light in this series and how the characters age.  Both the 1996 and 2016 timelines take place in Europe, and while I don't really feel London or Sofia in the artwork from what I experienced of those two cities, this is not a failure of the artwork.  Of course, maybe Sofia has changed since I was there.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Southern Bastards #14

Southern Bastards, Issue #14 finishes the third arc, which is six issues long.  The first arc is about Earl Tubb, who dies at the end of the arc.  The second arc is the story of Euless Boss's ascendance to the top of Craw County's football program.  The third arc has been a mishmash of different stories about the characters in Craw County.  This issue starts with Roberta Tubb, the half-black daughter of Earl Tubb, returning from Afghanistan to find that her father has been murdered.  Her return from the war in Afghanistan is emblematic of many soldiers' return from Vietnam.  She gets the police called on her, people call her the N-word, she gets in fights, and there's nothing but trouble.  To make matters worse, she decides to go to Craw County and find out what really happened to Earl.

Issue #14 was a long time coming for me.  I started out reading the trade paperbacks, like a lot of people, but I ended up reading the comics, even though it was more expensive.  Issue #12 came out ages ago, last summer, if I remember correctly.  I've been waiting for Roberta Tubb to join the fray for at least a year, and she's finally about to.  My question is whether she can succeed where her father failed.  Can she take down a man who controls not only the football team, but the criminal underworld and damn near the town, itself?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Monstress #6

Monstress, Issue #6 starts with Maika Halfwolf, the Arcanic beast-child, imprisoned in a thousand-year-old sarcophagus.  Will it hold her?  Sleeping inside the sarcophagus, the monstrum inside her speaks.  The story of how she got here is summed up in the paragraph on the inside cover.  Maika was betrayed by Master Ren, who now finds himself just as hunted as Maika once was.  Master Ren is a talking cat with two tails.  He and Kippa know too much to be let go.

When a writer introduces a gun, it must be shot, and when a writer puts its main character in a cage, that main character either breaks out or dies.  I was tempted to see what happens at the end of this issue before reading it all, but somehow, I managed not to do so.  Basically, the story is split into the Cumaea battling a small group of Arcanics, and a journey into Maika's subconscious, where monstrum talks to mother and to Maika.

Monstress has very high quality artwork.  I'm no art student, but the detail is unlike anything I've ever seen.  What you see on the cover is what you get in the issue, and Sana Takeda deserves to be mentioned alongside such names as Moebius and Dongzi Liu.  In particular, I love the way eyes are used.  When Maika is asleep, the monstrum opens her eye, and her blue eye looks pale, as if she were blind.  And of course there is the eye symbol throughout the title but most prominently on Maika's chest.  This is a wonderful title.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

3 Devils #3

3 Devils, Issue #3 sees Tara and Marcus, after six years of living in Bent River, Utah, training and plotting Tara's revenge, finally come across a bartender who says he used to ride with the White Man.  She confronts him, of course.  The second half of the issue is the story of Beckham Toler, a bounty collector after the Coleman brothers, one of which raped and murdered the young daughter of a banker.

I've heard complaints that Alejandro Jodorowsky uses rape as a theme in too many of his stories, and rape is used twice in this 32-page issue.  First, Tara allows herself to be put in a vulnerable position, only to stab to death the man about to attack her.  And then there's the rape and murder of the banker's daughter, which is mentioned but not shown.  Both rapists get killed, a la I Spit on Your Grave, which is common among revenge stories.  Still, three or more rape situations in three issues is a bit excessive.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Empress #2

Empress, Issue #2 is about the Empress's escape.  The story takes place 65 million years ago, when a galactic civilization is situated on a soon-to-be-devastated-by-an-asteroid Earth.  The title combines far-reaching science-fiction imagery with action sequences.  Action and comedy sequences only work if you care about the characters in one way or another.  Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando works because he had a daughter, and because his quick wit makes you like him.  A black comedy like The Young Ones works because you hate all the characters and like to see them get taken down a notch.

The Emperor is the guy you want to see taken down a notch, and the Empress, her family, and her bodyguard are the ones you're starting to root for as you get into this title.  The eldest child, the daughter, wants to go home again, knowing that it would mean the death of her mother and the captain of the guard.  She's the type you want to see eaten by the dinosaur in the end, but she goes along with the story and even helps out a little at times.

I love the detail in this comic, and as Mark Millar states in the back matter, that's 99% on Stuart Immonen, the penciller, although I do believe the coloring by Ive Svorcina is important as well, as are the editing, inking, and lettering, of course.  While there are titles like Power Lines, which are one-man shows, most comics are a collaborative effort.  Millar goes out of his way to thank everyone involved in the process, the sign of a good leader.

The Woods #22

The Woods, Issue #22 focuses on Karen, the red-haired schoolgirl turned huntress.  The issue starts eight months in the past, when Karen is still more of a student but already on the alien moon.  She's drunk, and she tries to kiss a female friend Sanami, thinking that's what everyone wants.  Then she passes out.  In the present, she has two male admirers, and they've run off to find the Horde (see Issue #21).  She wants to go after them, but Sanami doesn't think it's safe.  It isn't safe, but Sanami has a plan.

I've been looking to cut back the number of comics I read.  I'm not trying out any new series, and thankfully, a few of the series I'm reading (Cry Havoc and 3 Devils) are ending soon.  I don't think The Woods will end up on the chopping block, even though it has a good 10 or 15 issues left in it.  There's too much good about it.  I like the teenage soap opera, the different sexual preferences, even a few transgender characters.  The colors by Josan Gonzalez are simply fantastic, adding to the already-great artwork of Michael Dialynas.  Ed Dukeshire's letters are clean and consistent, with slid-up horizontal lines, which I like.

But what keeps me reading is the character changes, and this is a pretty good issue in that regard.  You can see Karen's character around the time the series started, and how it has been since she started hunting - brutal, aggressive, lonely.  I think the point of this issue is to highlight the change she's gone through, mentally, physically, and emotionally, the change they've all gone through.  I can't wait to see more about what the students in the Horde are doing, how many of them have survived.  I've grown attached to the characters.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Violent #4

The Violent: Blood Like Tar, Issue #4 starts with Mason, a hacksaw, and a body in the bathtub.  He needs to hack up the body so he can dispose of it, but he just can't go through with it.  Dylan.  His name was Dylan, and all he did was be in the wrong place in the wrong time.  He paid with his life.  When Dylan's soon-to-be-ex-wife comes along, there's more trouble.  Mason gets rid of her, but she comes back and finds Dylan's body.

The story definitely is wrapping up, and it will end with Issue #5 before hopefully finding a second life both in trade paperback and with Issue #6, on a new publisher.  I'll definitely follow The Violent to a future publisher when and if it finds one.  I love the hyper-realism.  I love how I knew this was the end of the line for Mason before I read the announcement that if Issue #6 comes along, it'll be set in 1986 and featuring a 13-year-old Jesse McPhearson.

The opening scene of this issue is my favorite, where Mason can't cut up the body no matter how hard he tries to be a badass.  It's ubiquitous to see the nasty killer never emotionally hurt by his own actions, the psychopath, the assassin.  So rarely do we see, like in The Green Mile, the convicted child killer afraid of the dark.  I also like the use of black tar heroin in the previous issues, tying in with the title of the arc.  The Northwest Coast is full of the junk.  On the East Coast, it's all pain pills sometimes leading to white-powder heroin, but in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, the powder is dark and sometimes even tar-like.  Take too much, and you'll end up dead.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Discipline #2 and #3

The Discipline, Issue #2 sees Melissa, the posh, bored, and frustrated Manhattan housewife, being drawn further and further into the Discipline.  She is brought to an S&M club, where she is drugged, stripped naked, and thrown out to fend for herself in the night, on the streets.  This is reminiscent of the first issue, where Orlando leaves her to fend for herself with a "stalker."  When Melissa starts to back out of the situation, Orlando tells her that if she does, he will seduce her estranged sister.  When Melissa tries to warn the sister, they get in a fistfight.

Issue #3 sees Melissa fully engaged in and inducted into the Discipline.  More beast than human, she decides to take a break from New York and slip into a country motel with her female lover, who happens to be a stalker. In Issue #1 and Issue #2, Orlando purposely puts her in danger, but in this issue, she comes across danger organically, in the guise of a supposed friend.

I haven't read The Discipline in a couple of months, but I remember one word from my previous review: "visceral."  Full of graphic violence and sex, The Discipline has a unique dreamlike/nightmarish quality.  Who hasn't dreamed of being naked in a common situation?  I don't know everyone else's dreams, but I've had dreams where I've committed violence, and I'm not a violent person.  See, dreams are a mishmash of your thoughts and perceptions of the previous days.  If you watch all four Die Hard movies (I think there are only four) on a Netflix binge, there's a good chance you'll see guns and violence in your dreams.  The Discipline is a bizarre reflection of reality, a dark one.

East of West #25

East of West, Issue #25 is a tad confusing, like all the 24 previous issues, but that's its charm.  In particular, I stumbled a little differentiating the one-eyed Death and another white-skinned character named Wolf, who is a disciple of Death, but once I realized that they were two different characters, I had no problem.  Death is getting Tracker to go after someone, and Wolf is meeting with the chief of the Endless Nation, who calls him "Sotuknang."  The chief is Cheveyo's brother and Wolf's uncle.  It is the morning, although I've been up for four hours, mostly playing Civilization V, so I eventually picked it up.

Meanwhile, on the Southern Gate, Andrew Archibald Chamberlain is talking to Constance about the mysteries of hell's demons, an then he introduces her to them, in the guise of Wolf, the chief of the Endless Nation whose name I have forgotten.  This is an important meeting because it shows a shift of allegiances.  Chamberlain is one of the higher-ups in the pro-Apocalypse crowd, and everyone else in the room - the Chief, Wolf, Crow, and now Babylon - are anti-Apocalypse.

I make no bones about it; this is a difficult comic to enjoy, but it's worth the read.  I bought this issue, with the alternate cover, a month ago, and it's taken me this long to read it.  Part of the reason is that I haven't been reading many comics with the end of the semester, taking care of my son, and traveling, but I finally had to start cleaning up all the books in my bedroom.  I'm reading some 15 or 20 series, and the latest one of each was lying around, piled up on top of speakers, tables, and the bed.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nisekoi, Vol. 15

Nisekoi: False Love, Volume 15: Beauty Pageant is in three parts.  First, Yui is home alone with Raku, and the legions of girls in love with Raku don't trust her, so they all come over and play games.  Yui is only a year or two older than Raku, but since she skipped so many grades, she's the Class 2C homeroom teacher.  She's also the leader of the Chinese Mafia, and she's in love with Raku.  Next, a school reporter named Mimiko accuses Raku and Chitoge of being a fake couple, and everything hinges on the question of whether or not Chitoge is in love with Raku.  Finally, there's a school festival with a beauty pageant, and the winner gets to dance with anyone she wants to.

Nisekoi is not the best manga I've read, but here I am, 3000 pages into it.  I've only read more of 20th Century Boys and Hunter x Hunter.  I've let other, perhaps superior manga fall by the wayside, like Food Wars! and Monster, although I would like to get back into Monster and perhaps finish the nine-double-volume series when the final volume comes out.  Very little changes in Nisekoi.  New characters are added slowly, and the situation expands rather than evolves.  It's fun and easy to enjoy.  In particular, I think it is well translated, with the reader in mind instead of the writer.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Hive

The Hive picks up where X'ed Out left off.  Doug is in his dream world where he has gotten a shitty job surrounded by green, mucus-looking creatures.  He remembers the past, with Sarah.  In the past, Doug's father has just died, and she and he are going through the father's things, taking pictures and the like.  In the dream world, one of the breeders needs the same issue of a romance comic that Sarah needs.  Of course, everything is different in the dream world.

Basically, Doug is fucked up on opiates, and he can't distinguish reality from fantasy.  In the fantasy/dream life, he has become the mask that he wears to look different.  That's what differentiates The Hive from a work that's just weird for the sake of being weird, like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (I know, this is an oversimplification, but that's really how I see that movie).  The Hive, like X'ed Out, is really, really weird, but it gives off an aura that the weirdness really does mean something, like David Lynch's more mainstream work.

I got The Hive and X'ed Out at the San Diego Public Library, but as I mentioned in my last review, I have a deep need to own this work, to go over it again and not just in my mind.  As the great Stan Lee once said of comics, "they are like breasts.  Good on the screen, but even better in your hand."  While I was writing that last sentence, I ordered Sugar Skull, the third book in the trilogy, off Amazon.  I got a cheap library copy, and it won't come in two days, but I'll have it, and that's what counts.

X'ed Out

X'ed Out is the first book in Charles Burns's oversized trilogy, followed by The Hive and Sugar Skull.  They cost about $15 each, but if you're short on money, you can wait until October, when the whole trilogy is released in a smaller format as Last Look, priced at $30.  Or if you're really short on money, you can get the books from the San Diego Public Library, as I did.  I might buy the whole collection when it comes out in the smaller format.  I did that with Charles Burns's Black Hole.  I read it illegally - I used to do that - and I felt guilty about reading such a work of art without paying for it that I eventually bought it about a year later, used.  It's been sitting on my shelf ever since, and I don't read comics illegally anymore.  I haven't for years, but you know.

The genius behind X'ed Out is how it juxtaposes a bizarre, drug-influenced dream with a bizarre, art-inspired adventure where he gets dumped by his girlfriend and takes up with Sarah, a fucked-up art chick.  I guess he's in the dream world, and he's just remembering the adventure where he meets up with Sarah for the first time.  The main character is Doug.  He has an overgrown mohawk in the dream and longish hair in the flashback.  He's taking pills and eating eggs.  It's in color.  Ah, fuck.  Read it.  Recommended, and all that shit.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

It Was the War of the Trenches

It Was the War of the Trenches is Jacques Tardi's most famous work.  Published in France in 1994 and finally in English in 2011 by Fantagraphics Books, It Was the War of the Trenches is a collection of stories about World War I, or as Tardi calls it, the War of 1914-1918.  There is no central figure or narrative, and Tardi was inspired to write this tome from hearing war stories from his grandfather, and from reading sensationalized novels about war.

This isn't one of those sensationalized stories about war.  It's gruesome, horrible, and hard to put down.  I almost have to laugh at how The Punisher, Issue #1 had a big note on it, saying, "not for kids!" and how this, which is far bloodier, receives no such warning.  A few particularly nasty scenes actually had me sucking wind.  This isn't a title for the weak of heart, and Jacques Tardi has really made his point.  War sucks.

FCBD Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises #0

FCBD Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, Issue #0 is an all-ages adventure story taking place in 2012, the Year of the Dragon.  It begins with coffee spilled on a medical tank by a security guard.  A short while later, Bruce Lee steps out of a bus, dressed as a security guard and having no memory of who he is and no knowledge of post-1973 life in America.  He makes his way to a karate studio, where he befriends a young boy and his sister after, of course, kicking their sensei's ass.  He also meets "Old Joe," an aged man with a graying afro-natural hairstyle.

Okay, it's a little cheesy, reminiscent of The Clones of Bruce Lee, starring Dragon Lee, Bruce Le, and Bruce Lai (experienced viewers can pronounce every variant of Lee, Li, Lai, Lau, and Le differently and have their friends understand which "Bruce" they're talking about).  It's written by Shannon (son of Bruce) Lee and Jeff Kline, with pencils and inks by Brandon McKinney and colors by Zac Atkinson.  I only recognized the letterer, Troy Peteri, whose work I like. The question is whether I buy Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, Issue #1 when I buy comics on Wednesday, or if I get something else.  I guess I'll figure that out in four days.

Poe Dameron #2

Poe Dameron, Issue #2 is the only Star Wars title I've really picked up because it's the only/first title that deals with The Force Awakens.  TFA isn't a great movie, but it's new, meaning I haven't watched it 30 million times.  In fact, I've only watched it twice, and as much as I liked it the first time around, it wasn't that good upon a second viewing.  J.J. Abrahms did a good job writing and directing the film, but he isn't as detail-oriented as George Lucas, and that disappointed me.  One of the things I like about The Phantom Menace is the little things Lucas and the others threw in there for the fans, like the E.T.s in the left corner of the Galactic Senate scene.  TFA, while it's a good movie, didn't have any of that.

Charles Soule's Poe Dameron fills in some of those details, connecting to the (in cannon?) novel, Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka.  Issue #2 of Poe Dameron is about leverage.  Dameron is hiding with a tribe of underground dwellers worshiping an egg that will probably hatch by the end of this arc, bringing forth the savior.  Dameron's leverage is that he has Black Squadron above.  Agent Terex's leverage is the egg, itself, and Dameron caring for the people who have helped him.

Phil Noto is the artist and the cover artist, bringing different skills to each position.  I particularly like the blue, ghostly hologram of the stormtrooper captain and the way the blue interacts with the pinks and purples of Agent Terex's room. VC's Joe Caramagna is the letterer, and I've been a fan of his for some time.

Sure, it's good to see Poe Dameron again - he's a great character - but the introduction of Agent Terex puts this title over the top.  I have read dozens of Star Wars "fan-fiction" novels, and the best of them always include a resourceful new enemy, the most famous of which is Timothy Zahn's Grand Admiral Thawn.  Terex has a number of alien associates.  Aliens were frowned upon in the Empire, and the First Order probably has similar views.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Punisher #1

The Punisher, Issue #1 has been selling like hot cakes, and it's not just because of the "Parental Advisory!  Not for kids!" warning on the cover.  That takes me back a few years.  "Please let me rent this VHS, Mom!  It's violence, not sex!"  The story revolves around a D.E.A. bust that gets preempted, violently, by the Punisher.  A bunch of bad men are selling a drug called EMC that turns one-time users into super-soldiers.

This is a moderately gory title, but then again, we've seen it all.  As one comedian opined, the kids growing up on the internet are going to be as grizzled as Vietnam combat veterans by the age of five.  My ex- and I have kept our kid sheltered pretty much.  We know about safe places, monitor his tablet, Roku, game, and computer usage.  That sort of stuff.  Heck, there are some issues of Saga that are just as bad as this issue.  You just have to be careful these days.

I'm not a Marvel expert.  I've read some of The Punisher, notably Greg Rucka's and Garth Ennis's work on the title.  I just don't see how this is any worse than either of those runs, but then again, it says, "Explicit Content," on the cover of my paperback of The Punisher Max, which I've been reading the past couple of weeks.  The question is whether or not we need any more of the Punisher.  Why read this when there's still a ton of Rucka, Ennis, Punisher Born, Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, and Frankencastle, to name a few, plus Charles Soule's Daredevil/The Punisher limited series, which also debuted a few days ago.

In the end, I like reading new comics.  I like buying them every week for $2.99 or $3.99.  That's why I'm reading this today instead of Punisher Max, which is generally considered the best series of The Punisher.  Damn, there's so much I want to read.  Reading a good title makes you want to read more, even at the end of the semester, when you have no time.  Okay, I'll stop rambling.

Daredevil/The Punisher #1

Daredevil/The Punisher: Seventh Circle, Chapter One is the first in a four-issue limited series written by Charles Soule with pencils and inks by Szymon Kudranski. I hadn't heard of Kudranski, so I checked out some of the artwork on his blog, where I found gobs of his most impressive work.  Charles Soule I knew from a number of DC and Marvel titles, plus his own title, Strongman.  Oh, and did I mention that this is about Daredevil and the Punisher, two of Marvel's best characters?  Needless to say, I began this title with the highest of expectations.

Daredevil as Matt Murdoch is the good guy here, a prosecutor in the Sergey Antonov case.  Antonov is a rough customer, and he's being transferred from New York to Texas in hopes of getting an impartial jury, but the Punisher, Frank Castle, has other plans.  He takes a shot at Antonov from the rooftops, but Murdoch's enhanced hearing allows him to foil the assassination, at least for now.

This is a pure action title so far, but it leaves us with some questions.  Who is Sergey Antonov?  What did he do to make the Punisher so angry at him?  And will he survive his extradition to Texas?  See, Daredevil and the Punisher are two sides of the same coin.  They both stand for law and justice, but Daredevil sees justice through the eyes of America's sometimes convoluted legal system, while the Punisher sees justice through his own eyes.  Daredevil believes in the system; the Punisher doesn't.  Daredevil has a club; the Punisher has a rifle.

One of the highlights of this title is the coloring by Jim Charalampidis.  This is a dark comic featuring three superheroes in black costumes with a black van and black asphalt, yet Charalampidis leaves no ambiguity between which black is which black.  The letterer is VC's Clayton Cowles.  I believe I've written about him before, but I like his style, using all caps dialogue and upper-case/lower-case narration by Daredevil.  It's a really fantastic title, and I'm looking forward to Chapter Two coming out in late June.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

20th Century Boys, Vol. 18

20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 mostly takes place in 2018, with a brief flashback to Year One of the Friendship Era.  There are two factions in the resistance.  The Genji Faction is led by Yoshitsune, and it mostly focuses on hiding political dissidents.  The Ice Queen Faction is led by Kanna herself, and they plan an armed revolution on August 20, Kenji's birthday.  Meanwhile on the northern border, a man with a guitar has broken through the fence.  Chono is being told that he's a space alien, and that his guitar is just a guitar-shaped weapon.  He's too young to be Kenji.  Perhaps he's the busker found by Koizumi in Vol. 17.  In both Tokyo and the northern city, a new version of one of Kenji's songs is being played on the radio.

For a series that has sold tens of millions of copies, 20th Century Boys does receive a fair amount of criticism.  Some have suggested that 24 tankoban volumes is a bit too long for the source material, leading to too many tangential stories.  By the time you get to Vol. 16 or Vol. 17, that's out the window, and it's a race to the finish.  Kenji might be alive.  Might he be the Friend?

Death of Wolverine

Death of Wolverine by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven is a gorgeous work of sequential art, especially in hardcover, which is a little larger than a trade paperback.  I don't normally buy hardcover Marvel or DC except for omnibuses, but I saw this at the San Diego County Library, Bonita Branch, and had to take it home.  It sat on my bed for three weeks, and it's due today, so I thought I'd read it.  In this story, Wolverine has lost his healing factor.  He's gonna' die now that people have found out.  Just unsheathing his claws causes damage to his hands.

My favorite page was in Issue #3, when Kitty and Logan are in Japan.  It's springtime, judging by the plum and cherry blossoms, but not Golden Week judging by how empty the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens are.  Charles Soule has been one of my favorites for some time.  In particular, I like his versions of Superman/Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, and Strongman.  Definitely, The Death of Wolverine is on that list as well.  It's a short arc at four issues, but at least it's not dragged out.  Recommended.

Monday, May 2, 2016

20th Century Boys, Vol. 17

20th Century Boys, Vol. 17 takes place mostly in two timelines, 2018 and 2016.  In the 2018 timeline, Sanae and her brother Katsuo are on the run from the Global Defense Forces, which are mostly armed with toy lasers.  Sanae must take a message to Kanna, the daughter of Kenji's sister and perhaps the Friend.  Katsuo is looking for Father Nitani.  In the 2016 timeline, it is the first year of the Friend era.  The Friend is the President of the World following his rise from the dead and his saving the Pope from an assassin's bullet.  The virus has claimed 3 billion lives, and a strange man in a gas mask is handing out vaccines to people who attended the World Exposition in 2015.  Finally, and also in 2018 (?), Chono, the former police detective that helped Kanna, is a guard in a brutally run border town.  There is a brief return to the Kanna story.

I was glad to see Chono again; he hasn't changed, but his situation certainly has.  He was an honest officer in a corrupt police force, and now he's an honest officer in a corrupt junta.  I guess not too much has changed.  The cover actually features Kenji as a young boy in the late 1960s, and there is a brief interlude in that timeline as well.  And like I've said in the past 16 reviews of this title, I'm a huge fan of Naoki Urasawa, particularly Monster and 20th Century Boys.

On Stephen King

Stephen King is easy to read, easy to enjoy.  That's why I read him.  I started reading him in summer of 1984, when I was 11 years old.  I read Firestarter, and I was pretty proud of the accomplishment.  When I told my sixth-grade teacher that I'd read it the following fall, she told me that Stephen King isn't a serious writer.  I fell for it, not for the idea that Stephen King wasn't a serious writer, but for the idea that anyone isn't a serious writer.

Fast-forward 30 years.  After reading On Writing, I decided to read King's short stories.  I read every collection.  Since 2014, I've read:

  • Carrie
  • The Shining
  • Firestarter
  • Cujo
  • The Running Man
  • The Gunslinger
  • The Drawing of the Three
  • Misery
  • The Waste Lands
  • Wizard and Glass
  • Wolves of the Calla
  • Song of Susanna
  • The Dark Tower
  • 11/22/63
  • Doctor Sleep
  • Mr. Mercedes
  • Finders Keepers
  • On Writing (nonfiction)
  • The Night Shift (short story collection)
  • Different Seasons (novella collection)
  • Skeleton Crew (short story collection)
  • Four Past Midnight (novella collection)
  • Nightmares & Dreamscapes (short story collection)
  • Hearts in Atlantis (novella collection)
  • Everything's Eventual (short story collection)
  • Just After Sunset (short story collection)
  • Full Dark, No Stars (novella collection)
  • Bazaar of Bad Dreams (short story collection)
My favorites are the novella collections, the short story collections, The Shining, 11/22/63, and Finders Keepers.  While I wouldn't count King among my eight or 10 favorite prose writers, his books are easy to find at the library and overdrive, and I've even bought a few.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Saga #36

Saga, Issue #36 sees Marko reunited with his mother Klara and his daughter Hazel, who are on a high-security Landfall prison.  Meanwhile, the Will is chasing Prince Robot IV, and just as he's about to kill Prince Robot IV's son in a fit of anger, he sees a vision of his sister, the Brand.  The vision of his sister tells him... well, you'll have to read it to find out.  All I can say is that this is a hell of an episode and a great way to end the sixth arc.

Saga reminds me a little of the stories of Neil Gaiman or Doug TenNapel, both of whom have the ability to break the reader's heart and mend it again.  That's what Vaughan does in separating Hazel from Marko and Alana, only to reunite them at the end of this arc.  And that's not even getting into the beautiful artwork, coloring, and lettering.  I love this title.

Old Man Logan #5

Old Man Logan, Issue #5 starts the new arc, "Bordertown."  After rejoining the X-Men, Old Man Logan leaves to be on his own.  He heads far north, to Killhorn Falls, in the Northwest Territory of Canada, bordering Alaska.  At Killhorn Falls, Wolverine remembers his past, meeting Maureen, his wife in another universe, on another Earth.  The younger girl he meets is named Maureen, and I doubt this is a coincidence.  He wants to keep her safe, but will his presence cause more danger than his absence would?

I've read a number of Canadian cartoonists, including the "Big Three" of Chester Brown, Joe Matt, and Seth, but none of them capture Canada the way Jeff Lemire does.  That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed his comics that have nothing to do with Canada, like Descender, but the "Big Two" publications have always tried to put Lemire in Canada, like with Justice League United, which takes place in Moose Jaw, Canada.  Or maybe, it's the other way around.  I shouldn't really comment on comic-book politics.  "Bordertown" more clearly captures small-town Canada than Justice League United does because this issue actually takes place in a Canadian town, rather than a hole in the ground that could have just as easily been in Venezuela.

Old Man Logan also is the better for the artwork of Andrea Sorrentino, who portrays snowfall in a classical way, with large blobs of snow.  While this is reminiscent of artists from Charles Schultz to Jacques Tardi, Sorrentino puts his own spin on the genre with help of colorist, Marcelo Maiolo.  Snow near the view is larger, of course, but the smaller snow farther away also has a blueish tint to it. It's a beautiful comic, and my favorite piece of artwork in it is the two-page spread with five vertical panes showing Old Man Logan's motorcycle in five different climates, along with a sixth, horizontal plane showing Logan in Canada, finally.