October 31, 2009

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton. Introduction by Ray Bradbury.

Pages: 149
Ages: 13+
First Published: Jul.21, 2009
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

It was a pleasure to burn.

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee

Comments: At this point I think it's fair that no summary of Fahrenheit 451 is needed. I'm a fan of the novel having read it a handful of time plus I've seen the 1966 movie a couple of times. Obviously, I was no stranger to the plot when I sat down to read the graphic adaptation. I was very pleased to find a very faithful adaptation to the novel had been rendered. It's amazing to see a novel transformed with a minimal amount of text and the addition of graphics to tell the same story. Though one hopes an adaptation will never replace the original, this is a beautiful compliment to it.

The illustrations are very interesting and match the mood of the story done in a limited palette of colours using a trio of colours plus black for the most part though occasionally going down to 2 colours plus black at times. He uses warm reds, yellows and oranges for the fireman scenes while reverting to cool blues, greens and purples for the rest of the book. It sets a dark, oppressive feeling without the need for a narrative to do so.

I can't quite give this a rating of 5 as I know Mr. Bradbury's work can't be equaled but Tim Hamilton has done an excellent job in bringing the novel to the graphic format in a stunningly faithful rendition.

October 30, 2009

Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Pages: 344
First Published: Jul.7, 2009
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

mmm...oohh.. that's good...

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee

Summary: The book opens with a man watching, presumably, a pornographic movie, when his building is hit by lightning and catches fire. Such is how we meet Asterios Polyp, 50 year old architect. He grabs a few trinkets and as he rushes out the door we see he has a room full of videos, each one marked with a consecutive day of the week which appear to go on for years back. Through a series of flashbacks we follow Asterios' past and present as with the cash he takes a bus to however far it will get him, ending up in a hick town where he gets a job as a mechanic and rents a room in the house of his boss.

Comments: The book is a study in self. It is hard for me to review this book critically as I have never studied philosophy and that is the main theme running through this book. The first thing to enter my mind was existentialism and after googling it, I found it fit the situation perfectly in my mind but I also so the opposite happening as well, so another google brought up the term nihilism. The amazing thing about this graphic novel is that the illustrations follow suit in a gripping display a graphic brilliance to fit the atmosphere of the pages.

For characters, the book is sparse. Asterios himself is self-centered and egotistical. His Asian wife is his opposite: warm, tender and loving. Otherwise the book contains a handful of eccentric characters, who while also being wrapped in their own self manage to do so without the know-it-all, "I'm always right", attitude of Asterios. My favourite character was the garage owner's wife, Ursula Major a buxom, large, pipe smoking, luxurious blonde woman who follows all the Pagan religions and thinks she is part Indian because she was a Shaman in a past life.

I haven't read anything by the author before so I didn't know what to expect and I must admit I thought it was quite weird to begin with but then things started making sense, I started understanding Asterios' character and I really enjoyed the book in the end. Speaking of the end, it's quite a shocker too.

I would especially recommend this book to anyone who knows a thing or two about philosophy. You'll get a whole lot more out of it than I did but nevertheless, I took what I could from it and was pleased with the read.

As to this being nominated for a Cybil. This is an adult book published for adults and I don't feel it should be considered for the award. The theme is adult, the grown-up characters are not appealing to teens and there are many nude scenes showing full frontal nudity down to the pubic hair on both sexes, along with sex scenes, which I do not consider appropriate for a non-adult audience.


October 29, 2009

Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne: vol. 4

By John Byrne

Collects Fantastic Four #258-267 and Alpha Flight 4, and Thing #10.

These stories deal with the aftermaths of the fight with Galactus in vol. 2. It’s full of many classic moments: Dr. Doom giving the former Terrax cosmic powers and the fight that it leads to, Reed Richards’ trial for saving Galactus, and She-Hulk replacing Ben.

The trade starts with an issue focusing on Doom. During the months that the FF has spent in the Negative Zone, Doom has been busy. He has a young ward Kristoff whom he’s teaching about the rigors of absolute monarchy. Also, he’s trying to find a way to make the Power Cosmic artificially so that he could use it again. In the end, he has to kidnap Tyros, the former Terrax Herald of Galactus, from hospital and use his machine to give Tyros the powers. Then he sends Tyros to destroy the FF. Ben, Susan, and Johnny fight Tyros but can only barely hold their own. Fortunately, the Silver Surfer interferes. Both Tyros and Doom seem to die in the fight.

Afterwards, the FF finds out that a transport beam has taken Reed out of the solar system. Susan decides to contact the Watcher who agrees to take them to Reed. A group of aliens has sentenced Reed to death because he didn’t let Galactus die. However, the FF and the Watcher persuades them to give Reed a trial. The prosecutor is Majestrix Lilandra herself. Many different people and beings speak at the trial.

Then Reed, Ben, and Johnny are whisked away to the Secret Wars while the Baxter Building guards itself against the Trapster. A visibly pregnant Susan is trying to keep busy while waiting for the rest of her family to return. However, the returning members of FF are Reed, Johnny, and the She-Hulk. Susan suffers a radiation attack and is taken to a hospital while Reed wants to consult the foremost expert in radiation: Dr. Otto Octavius also known as Dr. Octopus.

I remember being very impressed with these stories when I first read them in 1988. In the first part, Dr Doom says that he considers Susan to be the most dangerous member of the FF. Of course, practically the only thing that restricts the use of the force fields seems to be the writer’s imagination so I tend to agree with Doom in this.

The trial-part is still entertaining enough but I’m more dubious about it today. I definitely enjoyed how the pregnant Susan didn’t take any crap from the boys who tried to quickly leave her out but instead declared herself the current leader of FF and went right back into action. However, I find the whole idea that the Marvel universe has a “destiny” to be pretty cheesy. It’s also, of course, just a way of saying that the ends (the destiny) justify the means (the suffering of countless beings) which I don’t really care for. I was also baffled by the comments about Lilandra. She wants to relieve the suffering of others and this is now considered… arrogant and evil?

Byrne also put himself into the trial issues as the Chronicler of FF. I found this to be rather cheesy as well. On the other hand, it brought a little comic relief to otherwise rather tense story.

Baxter Building vs. the Trapster is great fun!

I loved She-Hulk in FF! She’s fun and easygoing and broke up the status quo nicely. I also liked her romance with Wyatt a lot.

The last storyline’s end was tragic and poignant in the middle of all the superhero action.

Overall: a great trade!

October 24, 2009

A couple of Cybils Award Nominees

I have a couple of reviews of elementary/middle grade graphic novels which are Cybils nominees that I have read recently read. I am a Round 1 panelist this year for the Graphic Novels category.

#188. Perseus and Medusa by Blake A. Hoena, illustrated by Daniel Perez, 2009, 63 pgs - This retelling of the famous Greek myth is quite complete in its details including parts of the story not always included in children's versions such as the Gorgons which frequently get dropped. But I was most impressed with the inclusion of the sidestory of Perseus's return journey home including his saving of Andromeda before he returns to court with the head of Medusa. A very true retelling, keeping it suitable for children. There is a bit of violence, Medusa does get her head chopped off after all, and with that a few drops of blood are shown here and there over a few pages. Nothing I wouldn't deem suitable for an 8yo of my own. The illustrations are gorgeous! I always say this when I review a Stone Arch book but they always use top-notch artists for their books. Perez has worked for Marvel and Dark Horse comics and his illustrations beautifully bring the story alive. A must read for mythology fans! 5/5

#189. Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero by Charise Mericle Harper, 2008, 106 pgs. - Kiki the cat is a super hero. Whenever there is a fashion disaster she turns into Fashion Kitty, has the ability to fly and can fix any fashion blunder. Her school changes policy and everyone must start wearing uniforms, what a tragedy! But is it? Fashion Kitty doesn't receive any calls. There is something bigger afoot here and maybe you don't have to be a super hero to be a hero. This was a cute little girly-girl story that I'm sure the intended audience will love. It pretty much reads like a cartoon show episode with a few good lessons thrown in. The artwork is simplistic, drawn with the basic shapes. It is the type that children will be able to sit down and copy their favourite characters and in fact there is a Fashion Kitty drawing lesson at the back of the book. The book is mostly what I call fluff, cute fluff though, and little girls with a flare for fashion will certainly enjoy Fashion Kitty. 3/5

Back to Books

October 20, 2009


Wonderland by Tommy Kovac. illustrated by Sonny Liew

Pages: 160
Ages: 13+
First Published: Mar. 17, 2009
Genre: ya, children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Mary Ann ...

Reason for Reading: Cybils Award nominee. I've also been meaning to read this since I first heard about it.

Summary: The book is set in Wonderland sometime not too long after Alice has left. Here we meet Mary Ann, the girl whom the White Rabbit mistakes Alice for when she first arrives. We find out Mary Ann is the White Rabbit's maid and follow her through an adventurous day where she uncovers the fiendish doings of the Queen of Hearts.

Comments: While the book does have its plot running through, I found the main focus to be on the characters. Kovac explores Wonderland and its famous inhabitants such as the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat in such great detail and in a more up close and personal way than the original book provides. It is great fun watching these characters come to life in this way. (Though I do question why Jabberwocky and Tweedledee & dum from Through the Looking-glass have been placed in Wonderland.) Kovac has done a magnificent job of keeping the essence of Carroll's witty, off-the-wall sense of humour. Sonny Liew's illustrations are wonderful and wacky; based on the Disney images (since this book is published by Disney Press) they are instantly recognizable yet he changes them enough to take away the cuteness and there is actually an aura of creepiness to this Wonderland.

To thoroughly enjoy the book, one must know the original Alice in Wonderland story as many references are made to it and it's assumed you know who all these characters are. I don't think reading the original book is necessary, any version or the Disney movie would suffice. I'm not really sure why the book is recommended for ages 13+; my only guess would be the maturity to fully comprehend the humour and the underlying tones.

I really enjoyed the story. It was a quick afternoon read. The eventual ending for Mary Ann is quite unnerving. I've never been a fan of the Cheshire Cat and to see his true colours (in my mind) brought to life so well was a delight ... and slightly eerie. This is a book that just pulling it off the shelf and looking through it is going to make you want to take it home with you. I say it's worth it. I suggest the book would make a great gift for a young teen or tween girl who already knows the Alice in Wonderland story.


October 19, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight: Wolves at the Gate

By Goddard, Jeanty, Owens, Whedon

Collects Buffy Season Eight #11-15

This is my 18th review and so I've now achieved my Masters!

Finally, I have the third Buffy-collection in my hot little hands!

Xander: “It’s always complicated with girls. That’s why I need a man.”
Buffy: “That would be nice...”
Xander: “I mean a guy. Not a man, but a guy, for the guy bonding.”
Buffy: “Well, Andrew...”
Xander: “Do you really intend to finish that sentence?”

In the first story, “A Beautiful Sunset” the gang is still in the Scottish castle and the story deals with on-going storylines and relationships. The second story is the rest of the trade and deals with newcomer vampires who are Japanese and have a new bag of tricks.

In the first story, we find out who was the girl woke Buffy from the sleeping spell with a kiss, in the previous trade. She and Buffy seem to come an amicable understanding but things aren’t, of course, that easy. Also, a mystery man, who at least seems to be the man behind the whole Twilight –thing, attacks Buffy, flaunts his powers, and sows seeds of uncertainty to her mind.

There’s also a brief mention of a Slayer gone rogue and I presume she will be dealt with in upcoming issues. Buffy and Xander wax philosophic over how all the other Slayers have bonded together but as the leader Buffy must remain outside that connection. A very good issue.

Wolves at the Gate –story deals with a gang of Japanese vampires who have many more powers than usual vampires: the ability to turn to mist, wolves, bats, panthers… They attack the castle and steal Buffy’s scythe. There only one other vampire in the Buffyverse who also has these traditional vampire powers and so they turn to him for help: Dracula.

It turns out that Dracula and Xander have a kind of friendship and they have been keeping in touch over the years. So, Xander is the one who is sent to ask Dracula what he knows about the new vampires. Naturally, the Buffy gang has to go after the scythe into Japan and all kinds of wackiness ensue.

There are some on-going relationship stuff in this arc but otherwise it focuses on the new vampires so to me, it feels a bit unconnected from the rest of the story. (Which is ironic considering the first story’s point.)

I was quite surprised to find out that Xander had been keeping in touch with Dracula. After all, in that the end of the episode Xander was pretty frustrated about being everyone’s butt monkey. But their weird relationship is funny. Xander calling Dracula “master” and Dracula calling Xander “manservant”. Dracula was written very comically here and he almost reminds me of House because he throws around racial slurs a lot. He calls Renee Xander’s moor, for example. In the end, Dracula and the Slayers end up working together in Japan.

It did seem more than a bit weird to me that the Slayers did let Dracula off very easily. He is, after all, a many times multiple murderer, which he freely admits.

Willow is back but she’s shown very little and I miss Giles. I’d also like to know more about the Slayers. Now they are pretty much just a faceless mass following Buffy’s orders in fight scenes.

I didn’t really care for the ending of the trade. Too many things were just tied up neatly instead of continuing with them.

Overall: not quite as good as the previous trades but still very funny and entertaining.

October 13, 2009

A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge

A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

Pages: 193
First Published: Aug 2009
Genre: nonfiction, graphic novel, biographical, current events, history
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Monday, August 22, 2005.

Reason for Reading: Cybil Awards nominee.

Summary: Follows the lives of seven individuals before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Each of these people come from different walks of life giving very different experiences as they share the same devastation of a natural disaster.

Comments: The book is quite powerful, especially the beginning and middle. The coming of the storm is handled very dramatically with wordless panels and was my favourite part of the book. The story is told chronologically and flips between the seven people (5, technically as 2 are in pairs) this is a little confusing at first but once you get into the book the reader gets into the rhythm. Not all of the characters stay behind and while all characters are followed, inevitably those who stay are the ones with the most character development. I easily read the book in an afternoon and enjoyed the powerful firsthand view of survivors. Being Canadian this is actually the first book I've read on the topic.

There were a few things I didn't like. Though the book is a firsthand account and not political, per se, it obviously has a slant that is noticeable very early on with an anti-Bush graffiti on a bathroom stall on page 26 and a very stilted, unnatural (not necessarily logical, imho) conversation near the end of the book (pg. 147/148) between two of the characters listening to a talk radio viewer questioning why so many people stayed behind. The inclusion of these two bits unobtrusively add a political slant. Secondly, there is one character who uses very foul language every time she opens her mouth, including the f-word. Her story is probably one of the most compelling but it was hard to get past the obscenities. These, though, are minor irritants to this reader and may not bother others at all. The book is certainly worth a read.

As to the book's nomination for a Cybil, I'm going to have to say it does not, imho, qualify as having "kid appeal". The book is written for an adult audience. There is one character who is a high school student, but he is the least significant character in the book and has little page time compared to the others. The story of his parents is more interesting than his own actually. I don't think the stories of this group of adults are going to appeal to young teens and there is the problem with the foul language. The book would appeal to 17/18yos, but in my mind once you reach 17yo you are usually reading adult books anyway, making that a moot point.


October 12, 2009

Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne: vol. 2

By John Byrne

Collects Fantastic Four #241-250.

This is another classic collection: the FF and Avengers against Galactus, the FF teaming up with Dr. Doom against Zorba, the monarch of Latveria, and the FF versus Gladiator.

The first issue, “Render unto Caesar”, was a pretty weird one. There’s a powerful energy source in Africa near Wakanda and so the SHIELD sends the FF to investigate. After a meeting with the Black Panther, the FF continues their journey on foot until a group of Africans takes them captive. The Africans are mute and dressed like Roman soldiers.

Once again the FF win by using their brains more than brawn, which is always nice.

The next three issues are the classic Galactus story: in the first one, Terrax, the former Herald, battles the FF and then raises the whole of Manhattan up to space. He uses the city as hostage and tries to blackmail the FF into destroying Galactus. However, when they break into Galactus’ ship, they talk with him instead. Galactus is very low on energy and that’s why Terrax thinks that the FF can destroy him now. Of course, Galactus is still immensely powerful and takes way Terrax’s powers. Then, he needs to feed and the only suitable planet near enough is Earth. The FF and some of the Avengers have to fight him.

This is a truly classic arch and I’m amazed that it took Byrne only three issues to get all the way to Frankie Ray’s destiny. I’m also amused by the fact that Byrne is apparently an ElfQuest fan. The short theater scene is straight out of the early issues.

The next story is “Childhood’s End” where Susan is being interviewed in TV when a mysterious man attacks the other FF. This issue deals with Franklin’s powers, as well.

I’m always of a two minds when journalists are shown in comics. It’s realistic, of course, but because the FF would be (if they were real) A-list celebrities so they should be practically hounded by paparazzis all the time. So, it feels like they aren’t spotlighted enough. So, either the journalists should be ignored or the FF should be constantly showered with media attention the same way that real life celebrities are. Of course, it could become tedious quickly, so maybe these infrequent journalists are better. After all, they have other superfolk to chase after and maybe all of them aren’t as suicidal as the worst cases in comics are shown.

The next two issues are Doom-centered and some of my personal favorites: “Too Many Dooms” and “This land is mine!” Doom is always entertaining and here we see another side of him: the monarch who loves his country.

The FF take Doom’s body to the Latverian embassy. However, another Doom is already at the embassy instructing the ambassador to lure the FF into a trap. Then each of the FF members has to fight a Doombot on their own. While they are fighting, the other bots restore Doom’s mind to his real body. When the bots are defeated, the real Doom shows himself and shows the FF what their earlier meddling has caused. Under the rightful king Zorba, Latveria has succumbed to poverty and crime and only Doom can save his beloved country!

There are a lot of things going on here. First of course, there’s Doom and his love of his country and how Byrne subverts the whole “rightful king” trope; the rightful king is actually bad for the country and the usurper (Doom) has to save Latveria. Then the FF has to doubt their previous actions: could Doom be a good king after all? Finally, I love it when sworn enemies are forced to work together like the FF and Doom in this story.

The next issue is another weird science fiction one-off: “Nightmare”. The FF have been invited to Attilan for Crystal’s and Quicksilver’s daughter’s naming day (and a huge thanks for not calling it ‘christening’ by the way and for not giving the girl godparents when the real parents aren’t, you know, Christian…). Suddenly, there’s a disruption when a huge space ship tractors the whole Moon into the ship. Things get rapidly weirder.

The rest of the trade is a big fight: the FF vs. Gladiator from the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard vs. X-Men vs. Spider-Man and Captain America. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of mindless fisticuffs (but I’m not against them, as such, either or I wouldn’t be reading superhero comics in the first place) but this one I liked. Of course, I’m a fan of Gladiator.

I’ve always found Gladiator to be a fascinating character. He’s very powerful and honorable but honorable in his own way; he’s almost like a Shi’Ar Superman but one who is loyal to the throne and whoever is currently sitting on it rather than to a person. This is, technically, how it should be in democratic nations; the people should obey the office (president, prime minister, mayor…) instead of the person. Yet, at least in fiction this is still rarely the case and so, Gladiator is the exception rather than the rule. The irony is, of course, that Shi’Ar isn’t a democracy but a monarchy.

Overall: many enjoyable stories here.

October 11, 2009

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis

Pages: 154
Ages: 9+
First Published: Sep. 1, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, children, adventure
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

I made a working model of the Wright Brothers' Flyer for my history project!

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee. I also read and enjoyed Davis' first children's graphic novel, Stinky.

Summary: Every day Julian Calendar is teased at school for being nerdy and smart. Then one day his family tells him they are moving and Julian is delighted; he can start all over again. His first day at the new junior high he pretends to be everything he is not but it's not that easy and he slips up in class and let's his brains show. He is secretly contacted by two fellow brainiac inventors and they become fast friends working on inventions every spare minute they have. But it's time for them to form an alliance when a dastardly scientist steals their schematics plan book and hatches a devious plot. Can they stop him in time using only their wits and inventions?

Comments: I wasn't overly crazy about this book, which ends on a note that feels as if it may be the first in a series featuring the Secret Science Alliance (SSA, for short). The plot and the story were actually quite good, a little slow to get going, but once it did I really enjoyed it. The pacing was very well-timed with the tension slowly mounting throughout the story until the ending became very quick and fast paced. The three kids are also very real characters each with their own flaws and as a group they compliment each other and show positive teamwork in action.

My problem is with the graphic aspect of the book. It is too fussy. There is too much going on, too much text, too many graphics. There are diagrams with arrows pointing here and there and zooming in for close ups with text labels naming all the technical parts of the inventions and surroundings. There are pages of the science notebook shown randomly in scenes written on notebook paper which reminded me of the old Magic School Bus books. Same with the graphics; there are frames within frames and each layout is very crowded. To me the graphic design gets in the way of rather than enhancing or becoming one with the story. I prefer Eleanor Davis's first book, Stinky, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

October 6, 2009

Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne: vol. 3

By John Byrne

Collects Fantastic Four #251-257 and Annual #17, Avengers #233, and Thing #2.

Fantastic Four in the Negative Zone!

I’m sure many readers where wondering what Byrne could do to top the Galactus-story. The answer, of course, is something completely different. In these stories the FF travel in the Negative Zone exploring the (strangely familiar) cultures while at the same time Annihilus is ravaging Baxter Building and is preparing to annihilate two universes.

In the first story the FF leave to the Zone while Alicia stays to baby sit Franklin. However, soon after they have left, Annihilus takes advantage of the portal and arrives to the Baxter Building.

In the second story, the FF arrives and immediately meets a tribe which sacrifices women to a metal building which they believe to be a god. Unsurprisingly, the FF interferes. The whole story has been drawn sideways highlighting the strangeness of the Zone.

Next, the FF encounters a huge generation ship. After a brief fight, they find out that the crew of the ship has been searching for a new home for 500 generations. The rest of their people are in hibernation. The FF decides to help.

The next story takes up three issues and the Avengers tie-in. The FF arrives to another planet and this time Reed wants to do undercover investigating. However, it doesn’t take long for the local overlord to notice the FF. The ruler invites the FF for dinner but it turns out that he’s after Reed’s brain. The result is perhaps one of FFs most strangest adventures.

At the same time, the Avengers and Daredevil have noticed that a large and invisible force field is around the Baxter Building and it is growing. They try to take it down.

Finally, there’s a story about Galactus devouring the Skrull homeworld. His new Herald Nova doesn’t seem to have many human feelings left.

This is a very good continuation of Byrne’s FF run. My only complaint is that the Negative Zone cultures aren’t any different from the modern day USAians.

Otherwise, FF show once again a great mix of scientists and superheroes. They each have their own distinctive personalities and the villains are properly villainous. Also, not everyone they meet are villains

October 2, 2009

Nemi 1, 2, & 3 - Lise Myhre

The is a combined rating for all three collections so far published in the UK. LIse the creator of Nemi is Norwegian and her comics are in various newspapers and magazines in Norway, Sweden, the UK etc. Nemi is the little goth girl in all of us. She loves choclate above all things and Tori Amos and alcohol. She spends her days pondering the endless questions of the universe (she is mostly unemployed apart from some baby sittings jobs) and hanging out with her friend Cyan. The best way to get a feel for Nemi is to read her (click to enlarge the images).

She is published in The Metro which is one of the free London papers you see people reading on the tube all the time. My husband is a sweetheart and often brings home ones he has torn out which particuarly remind him of me (like Nemi looking at cars and falling in love with the purple one or having a happiness overdose eating chocoalte and listening to the new Tori Amos album). Metro keep a copy of Nemi in their online archive so if you enjoyed the strips above go here for lots more.

Tori Amos has written the forward to the second collection and I think it's true that a little Nemi lives in all of us. Anyone who doesn't see a part of themselves in her is not someone I want to know!