Mini Reviews ~ Two Graphic Novels

MiniReviews

My recent impulse checkouts from the library included two graphic novels:

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist: Volume 1

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist: Volume 1 by Michael Chabon, Glen David Gold, Bill Sienkiewicz (Artist), Howard Chaykin (Artist), Gene Colan (Artist), Steve Lieber (Artist), Eric Wight (Artist), Kevin McCarthy (Author)

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist presents the fictional history of the Escapist, the creation of Kavelier and Clay, the main characters of Michael Chabon’s novel. Yes, this is sort of meta. Chabon provides an introduction as a fan, treating The Escapist as one of those venerable comics that dates back to the 1940s. The stories in this volume represent a survey of issues from throughout that history. As such, there are some very representative of themes and art and writing styles that pull from the broader history of comics in general.

My favorites “issues” in this collection deal with Luna Moth, Kavalier and Clay’s female superhero. The art in all three of Luna’s stories is distinctive and beautiful. Jim Starlin’s “Reckonings” is a lovely story about Luna making a deal with death on behalf of someone else. Also included is “The Lady or the Tiger” penned by Glen David Gold, the author of Carter Beats the Devil—the spiritual brother of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA

Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, Niko Henrichon (Illustrator)

I was intrigued by this title. An alt-world history where Barnum, travelling with his circus, is an agent for the government? Sounded interesting. Niko Henrichon’s art is fabulously detailed and full of movement. Unfortunately, I didn’t get beyond chapter two. The main villain is Nikola Telsa and his paramour, Ada Lovelace. That’s just a level of alt-history that I’m not going to jump to. Plus, there was sort of an anti-science vibe that I didn’t care for. You can’t win them all.

Magic Monday ~ Review: Smoke and Mirrors

MagicMonday

I like Mondays. I also like magic. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

Smoke and Mirrors by Mike Costa, Ryan Browne (Illustrator), Fiona Staples (Illustrator), Jon Armstrong

Cover via Goodreads

ENTER A WORLD OF MAGIC! Stage magician Terry Ward is thrust into a world where magic — not technology — rules, and forced to use trickery and illusions to survive! But will that prove to be enough when the dangers of the world start compounding—how can a sleight of hand artist compete with users of practical spells? (via Goodreads)

Mix comics writer Mike Costa, talented illustrators Ryan Browne and Fiona Staples, and magician Jon Armstrong together and what do you get? An enjoyable slice of speculative fiction with lots of magic Easter eggs. I had Smoke and Mirrors on my Goodreads wishlist for so long that I’d forgotten what it was about. When I came into some Comixology credit (Thanks, Dewey’s Readathon!), I knew I wanted it enough that I bought it with no review. I was a little concerned that the concept of a “mundane” magician in a magical world would wear thin, but it worked. I was left wanting more after I finished the run. For a fan of magic history, there are plenty of references in the story with some “Did you know?” info blocks at the end of each issue. And they’re not *just* about Houdini. Each issue also included a self working trick. Bonus!

Publishing info, my copy: eComic, IDW Publishing, October 23rd 2012
Acquired: May 30, 2016, Comixology
Genre: fantasy

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales The Sisters Brothers

The 24 in 48 Readathon is this weekend! No clue what I’m going to read when I finish the above. I had hesitated to sign up because we might have had travel plans for August and I knew I didn’t want another June on my hands (with nearly every weekend booked up). But, semi-sadly, no trip to Colorado for us. Instead, a clear summer of not-much-of-anything. Which is kinda nice.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

Review ~ The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North, Erica Henderson (Illustrator)

Cover via Goodreads

Wolverine, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Thanos: There’s one hero that’s beaten them all-and now she’s got her own ongoing series! (Not that she’s bragging.) That’s right, you asked for it, you got it, it’s SQUIRREL GIRL! (She’s also starting college this semester.) It’s the start of a brand-new set of adventures starring the nuttiest and most upbeat super hero in the world!
(via Goodreads)

Doreen Green is just a regular college student. Except that she can talk to squirrels (just ask her best friend Tippy-Toe), has size-equivalent squirrel strength (which makes moving in a cinch!), is occasionally late for class because she’s out besting baddies, and is a computer science major (not your run-of-the-mill “girl” major). Okay, so Doreen is not a “regular” college student. And Squirrel Girl isn’t your average, ordinary superhero either. She defeats cosmic villains with wit, rhetoric, and occasionally an army of squirrels. And, she has a theme song!

“Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Girl! Powers of both squirrel and girl! Find some nuts, eat some nuts! Kick bad guuuuuys’ evil butts!”

This book is so much fun. I have a soft spot for insanely confident, cool-with-being-corny characters. And puns. There are lots of puns. This volume includes volumes 1-4 and Marvel Super-Heroes #8 from 1990, which is the first appearance of a kinda deranged looking Squirrel Girl.

Publishing info, my copy: Marvel, Aug. 2015, paperback
Acquired: Purchased in December 2015 from Amazon
Genre: superhero

Review ~ Soppy

This book was provided to me by Andrews McMeel Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Soppy: A Love Story by Philippa Rice

Cover via Goodreads

The wildly popular web comic SOPPY–with more than half a million notes on Tumblr–is the illustrated love story of author Philippa Rice and her real-life boyfriend. True love isn’t always about the big romantic gestures. Sometimes it’s about sympathizing with someone whose tea has gone cold or reading together and sharing a quilt. When two people move in together, it soon becomes apparent that the little things mean an awful lot. The throwaway moments in life become meaningful when you spend them in the company of someone you love.

SOPPY is Philippa Rice’s collection of comics and illustrations based on real-life moments with her boyfriend. From grocery shopping to silly arguments and snuggling in front of the television, SOPPY captures the universal experience of sharing a life together, and celebrates the beauty of finding romance all around us. (via Goodreads)

From the beginning of November until mid-February, it’s difficult to miss a certain type of TV and radio commercial (at least here in the US). It’s the holiday season and it is assumed that every woman wants not only expensive jewelry as a Thinkgiving/Christmas/New Year/Valentine’s day gift, but the *right* jewelry. Any man foolish enough to not purchase the correct ring/necklace/bracelet/earrings isn’t worthy of the woman’s love. These commercials annoy me because they don’t give either party enough credit. Sure, getting a gift is nice and all, but 99% of being with someone isn’t about the baubles. It is, instead, like Soppy.

Soppy is Philippa Rice’s simple two-color comic.  It’s sweet and quiet and all about those moments that fill living with someone. There’s no hard-fast narrative here, but a reader gets the gist. Two single people with already okay lives meet, court, and move in together. Sometimes thing are great, sometimes they’re not, but the power of pickles and vanilla shakes prevail.

Soppy by Philippa Rice, pg 70

I was unfamiliar with Rice’s online presence. That’s not the case anymore. Soppy is the lovely antithesis of every annoying jewelry commercial that clutters up the holiday season.

Publishing info, my copy: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014, ePub ARC
Genre: Graphic nonfiction

Review ~ Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time Volume 1

This book was provided to me by IDW Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time Volume 1 by Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Simon Fraser (Illustrations), Lee Sullivan (Illustrations)

Cover via Goodreads

November 23, 1963: A day that changed the world forever.

That day saw the broadcast debut of Doctor Who, which was to become the longest-running science fiction series on television.

And now, 50 years later, we pay tribute to one of the greatest pop-culture heroes of all time with this special series, which tells an epic adventure featuring all 11 incarnations of the intrepid traveler through time and space known simply as… the Doctor. (via IDW  Publishing)

The volume I received for review contained the first three issues of IDW’s Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time series. Each issue features one of the previous incarnations of the Doctor quickly solving a problem. The overarching plot involves a cowled figure “stealing” each Doctor’s companions with the help of a vortex manipulator. As a fan of the television show since its continuous rerunning on my local PBS station in the 80s, I’m familiar with all the Doctors, companions, and villains. The mini stories give each Doctor an opportunity to be the Doctor they are: One is the grandfatherly teacher, Two is the mischief-maker with a twinkle in his eye, and Three is the debonaire man-of-action. I found the art to be very good and especially enjoyed Three kicking butt back-to-back with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. This is fun series for a veteran of Doctor Who, but I’m not sure that newer fans will get much out of it unless later issues bring in more contemporary faces.

This compilation is scheduled to be published by IDW on June 4, 2013

Genre: Speculative fiction
Why did I choose to read this book? Doctor Who fan, getting a little excited about the anniversary.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes
Format: Highly watermarked Adobe Digital Edition
Procurement: NetGalley

Book #27

This book was provided to me by IDW Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Doctor Who: Dave Gibbons Collection Tpb by by Pat Mills, Steve Moore, & Steve Parkhouse. Dave Gibbons (Illustrator)

In the late 70s/early 80s, years before teaming up with Alan Moore to create Watchmen, Dave Gibbons was the lead artist for Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly. He drew 65 strips for the magazine, some of which were reprinted by DC in the United States. This collection is being published by IDW on Oct. 2nd. My review copy was provided by NetGalley. It was, unfortunately, in Adobe Digital Edition format and only included the first 200 pages.

I have golden memories of Doctor Who. I started watching in the late 1980s when our local PBS channel began running the series every week night at 6:30pm. Since the station played five episodes a week, with the occasional Saturday marathon, the Doctors passed by pretty quickly except for Tom Baker’s marathon seven seasons in the role. In many ways those seven season epitomize what Doctor Who was all about before the “modern era.” The Doctor was goofy, but brilliant. The acting was sometimes over-wrought, but utterly sincere. The plots were labyrinthine and highly serialized. And the effects…well, rubber masks, Styrofoam, and plungers were the order of the day.

What these comics present, for a modern viewer of Doctor Who, is a great hybrid of the old and new. There’s Tom Baker’s Doctor, well-written by Pat Mills, Steve Moore, Steve Parkhouse, and John Wagner, and faithfully illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Due to the weekly/monthly nature of the original periodical, the stories are serialized with plenty twists and everyone’s favorite villainous monsters. But instead of effects that look better if you squint, Gibbons gives us a great sci-fi world for the Doctor to inhabit. Something that wouldn’t happen on the screen until the series’ relaunch in 2005.

“The Dogs of Doom” is a particularly good representative. Even in the 80s there would have been no way to economically show space battles and a prison full of aliens and make them look good.

The only thing that I found distracting was Gibbons’ drawing of young Sharon, a kid that ends up traveling with the Doctor. Not being familiar with the UK’s school system, I assume Sharon is a high schooler, sixteen years old at most. Gibbons draws her as a short grown up. When a time anomaly ages her, she’s still very mannish in the face.

My ARC included:

  • The Iron Legion
  • City of the Damned
  • The Star Beast
  • The Dogs of Doom
  • The Time Witch
  • Dragon’s Claw
  • The Collector (partial, since the file ended at pg. 200)

Format: Adobe Digital Editions
Procurement: NetGalley

Book #26

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh

Presenting the initial Courtney Crumrin miniseries in a new digest-sized format. Courtney’s parents have dragged her out to a high-to-do suburb to live with her creepy Great Uncle Aloysius in his spooky old house. She’s not only the new kid in school, but she also discovers strange things lurking under her bed.

I picked this up from NetGalley as a means of testing their ability to handle graphic novels. Let me just say that Adobe Digital Editions is not the best way of reading a comic… I didn’t have any familiarity with Ted Naifeh’s comic previous to this.

Courtney Crumrin is…well, charming isn’t quite the word. She’s contrary and ill-tempered and decidedly her own person. And that’s the point of her. She’s not the most well-liked, but is resourceful enough to find friends in…other places. Through sorcery learned from her creepy uncle (or is it great-uncle? or great-great-uncle?), Courtney dabbles in popularity and finds that it’s not for her. That, of course, doesn’t make being the new girl at a new school and new town any less awful.

Story-wise, the individual sections do not flow together particularly well. I grant that this is a collection, but I wish that there was some interstitial connections and maybe more of an over arching plot. Naifeh’s art is interesting. While some of his characters and settings are very well detailed, Courtney and her peers are drawn in a somewhat unfinished style. I assume that’s intentional. These are unfinished people. In contrast, the most detailed character is Uncle Aloysius.

Format: Adobe Digital Edition
Procurement: NetGalley