SLG – Read About Comics http://www.readaboutcomics.com Where to find out what's really good. Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:36:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Shadoweyes Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/03/11/shadoweyes-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/03/11/shadoweyes-vol-1/#comments Fri, 11 Mar 2011 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1702 By Sophie Campbell204 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

I should have guessed the second I heard about Shadoweyes that it would be anything but typical. Creator Sophie Campbell is probably best known for her graphic novel series Wet Moon, with its beautifully off-beat soap opera of characters and relationships. So while Shadoweyes is [...]]]> By Sophie Campbell
204 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

I should have guessed the second I heard about Shadoweyes that it would be anything but typical. Creator Sophie Campbell is probably best known for her graphic novel series Wet Moon, with its beautifully off-beat soap opera of characters and relationships. So while Shadoweyes is indeed Campbell’s take on a superhero, the end result is something far different than I suspect most people would be expecting.

What’s great about Shadoweyes is that it almost instantly zooms off in its own direction regardless of what Campbell is setting up. So while we meet Scout and Kyisha, they’re coming up with superhero names for Scout as they prepare to join the Crimewatch and help out in the streets of the run down futuristic city of Dranac. But after their first outing, Scout’s hit in the head with a brick, and suddenly finds herself able to transform into Shadoweyes, a large-headed, tailed creature that lurks in the dark. And then, things gleefully march off in their own, different direction.

Shadoweyes seems less concerned about being an actual superhero book but rather a character ensemble drama, with different interactions of characters and relationships to be had. After all, this is a comic where when Scout is up in the Shadowlair, some of her newspaper clippings include, "Shadoweyes Helps Child with Biology Homework" and "Shadoweyes Inspires New Fall Fashion." This isn’t a book about crime fighting, it’s about Scout dealing with the changes to her body and trying to tell her mother, Scout’s friendship with Kyisha, Sparkle’s innocence and general view of the world around her, and so on. (After all, this is a comic where the first time Scout uses her new form of Shadoweyes, it’s to break down an apartment door to rescue a wailing cat.) Shadoweyes is a book full of people that come in different shapes and sizes and sexualities, and all are done in a non-judgmental, that’s-how-they-are manner, and I love it.

It also helps that in many ways, Shadoweyes feels like a work in progress that unfolds before your eyes. Around the halfway point of the book, Scout’s abilities change somewhat, and along with that she starts finding a new purpose for her super powers. Likewise, an early set-up of the relationship between Scout and her mother is also quite different by the end of the book; this could simply be a matter of Campbell trying to show Scout evolving into her new status quo with time, or perhaps it’s Campbell figuring things out along with Scout, but either way it works. There’s a certain, "Hey, wouldn’t this be more interesting?" attitude to Shadoweyes which is not only inviting, but also keeps you as a reader guessing on what’s going to happen next.

Campbell’s art in Shadoweyes is as catchy as ever. Campbell’s always been great at drawing people who look like, well, real people. Everyone’s got different hair styles and clothing choices for instance, and body types run the gamut from skinny to round, from curvy to lumpy. This is the first time I think I’ve seen her tackle action sequences, though, and it turns out she’s good at that too. Sparkle’s abduction in particular is creepy as the girl erupts out of nowhere to tackle her, and there’s a driven look on the attacker’s face that makes you genuinely worry for Sparkle and if she’ll survive. Campbell is one of those great artists that just doesn’t get the attention she deserves, but it’s always a joy to see a new comic by her.

Shadoweyes is a fun book, one that grabbed my attention from start to finish. You don’t have to take my word on it, though; Campbell is also serializing the book online if you’d like to take a look before buying. With Shadoweyes Vol. 2: Shadoweyes in Love just around the corner, consider this a warning that now is a good time to jump on board. Shadoweyes is an odd little book, and I say that with great affection. Check it out.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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A Friendly Game http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/03/09/a-friendly-game/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/03/09/a-friendly-game/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2011 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1701 Story and pencils by Joe PimientaScript and inks by Lindsay Hornsby200 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

What is about stories involving mentally deranged children? It’s a strange little niche market that exists in horror stories of all shapes and sizes, where the innocent looking kid turns out to be a stone-cold killer, going [...]]]> Story and pencils by Joe Pimienta
Script and inks by Lindsay Hornsby
200 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

What is about stories involving mentally deranged children? It’s a strange little niche market that exists in horror stories of all shapes and sizes, where the innocent looking kid turns out to be a stone-cold killer, going after babysitters, family pets, or (inevitably in this sort of story) parents. It’s that particular niche that Joe Pimienta and Lindsay Hornsby mine for their graphic novel A Friendly Game, but even at 200 pages, what we get is such an accelerated descent into madness that this book is hard to swallow on multiple levels.

When Pimienta and Hornsby begin the book, it’s at its most believable. Todd and Kevin are bored with their existing games, and so curiosity involving the bodies of mice in traps turns into an exploration of the little furry corpses. But then Todd almost instantly becomes obsessed with killing animals, and in a matter of pages it escalates from puppies to people, and Kevin is the hapless friend who can’t figure out how to get out of a bad situation.

The problem is, A Friendly Game preys on stereotypes of mental illness and derangement by racing through the progression of a killer in the form of Todd. Aside from that initial jump of time between killing the first mouse to Todd wanting to kill a stray puppy, everything happens at such a rapid-fire progression that it’s hard to swallow these leaps of depravity. Can’t kill a dog? Why not some friends or a family member? How about other people’s family? And so on, and so on. Considering we get a whole six pages of Todd being a relatively normal child before he wants to kill still-living things, it’s easy to see why he’s the weak point in this book. He’s utterly unbelievable as a villain or more importantly as an actual person; he might as well be a monster from a supernatural horror story instead, rising up from the depths of the lake to chop off a dog’s tail. Why does Todd do things? Because he’s evil, it seems. And of course, what better way to show evil than to have him mutilating puppies? I’d say that he’s laughable except that Pimienta and Hornsby seem determined to make him revolting; it’s hard to keep from getting turned off by this book’s attempts at emotional manipulation.

At least with Kevin we get an actual emotion or two, although it’s usually scared. He’s the screaming co-ed of the Friday the 13th movies in young boy form, stumbling from one bad moment to the next but unable to act until that final, climactic moment to wrap everything up. It doesn’t make him an interesting character, though, but one to get slightly annoyed at. When Todd’s actions escalate from rodents to people, it’s hard to believe that Kevin (even as written) doesn’t turn around and tell his mother what’s going on. His silence seems present only because the book would end prematurely, not because he’d be able to keep his mouth shut.

The sole bright spot in this book is that Pimienta and Hornsby are talented artists, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them work together off of someone else’s script down the line. Pimienta’s pencils draw characters with cute rounded heads and mops of hair, and Todd’s monstrous expressions are pulled off in no small part because of that evil gleam in his eyes. But in terms of writing, I hope any future projects take a less stereotypical approach. It’s been a while since I felt slightly disgusted by a book, but A Friendly Game managed to evoke that emotion. There are enough D-grade horror movies of this variety that comic books don’t need to follow suit.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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Elmer http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/12/13/elmer/ Mon, 13 Dec 2010 07:00:42 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1615 By Gerry Alanguilan144 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

I’ll start by addressing the proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer. Yes. It’s a book where the main character is a talking chicken. And no, it’s not a comedy. It’s actually a clever alternate history from Alanguilan, answering a [...]]]> By Gerry Alanguilan
144 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

I’ll start by addressing the proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer. Yes. It’s a book where the main character is a talking chicken. And no, it’s not a comedy. It’s actually a clever alternate history from Alanguilan, answering a question that seems simple enough on the surface but turns out to be anything but: what would happen if chickens suddenly gained full sentience and could speak? What results from this simple premise turns into an excellently written and drawn story that will pull just about any reader into its pages.

While Elmer does start with a bit of a gimmick (telling the first few pages from Jake Gallo’s perspective so it’s not until the view of the scene flips that we see it’s a chicken and not a person talking), the book otherwise takes its subject quite seriously, avoiding chicken puns, jokes, and other sorts of trickery. It’s easy in some ways to compare Elmer to other books about minorities who are trying to stand up and fight for their rights. Elmer does have a lot to thank from those works and history in general, using them as inspiration in several places as we learn about what happened on that fateful day in 1979 when chickens everywhere transformed into beings who could communicate with humans.

But there’s more to Elmer than just a book on prejudice that uses chickens in place of another minority. After all, chickens are a species that humanity have been eating for an extremely long time. And when the switch finally occurs, it doesn’t magically wipe out all of the chicken plants and farms, or restaurants, or recipe books, or memories. The end result is that as Jake reads his father Elmer’s diary and learns about what happened in those early days, it’s a much more violent response than you might otherwise imagine. This is a story that involves the massacres of sentient beings, over and over again, and Alanguilan doesn’t flinch from telling that logical extrapolation of his initial idea.

Alanguilan switches between Elmer’s story of the change, and Jake’s own experiences in the book’s present-day time of 2003. It’s hard to not find yourself more eager to switch back over to the flashbacks as you read Elmer; Jake isn’t as compelling a character, even though he’s a necessary one for the book to occur. Jake serves as a contrast to the earlier times, so even as he complains about his own problems we can see what Elmer and the other chickens went through in the 1980s. Alanguilan also is able to use Jake as a voice of confusion when it comes to how the modern day chickens are mixing with humans, and the relationships that are forming. It’s hard to believe that romantic relationships between humans and chickens would go unquestioned, but by letting Jake be the one to voice concerns (instead of just bugbears on newscasts) it allows Alanguilan to bring up these ideas in a way that make the reader think and try and address their own thoughts on the matter, rather than simply brush them off as being spoken by a "bad guy" and moving on.

Up until now I’ve only been familiar with Alanguilan as an inker, working with artists like Whilce Portacio and Leinil Yu, but Elmer shows that he’s a talented penciler as well. His chickens are drawn with a lot of care and detail, something that’s critical for Elmer to succeed. By giving them expressive faces and postures, it helps sell the drama that the characters are going through, another reminder that the chickens are now thinking, fully-aware beings instead of mindless animals. It’s interestingly enough the humans who come across a bit cartoonish in places, with much simpler faces and bodies. Then again, this is a book being told by the perspective of a chicken. Still, even with the simpler approach to people in the book, Alanguilan’s able to deliver the emotional charged scenes involving humans whenever necessary. Add in some attractive backgrounds and scenery that bring the Philippines and you’ll end up getting fully drawn into the world of Elmer.

I’d heard about Elmer several years ago, but had figured I’d never see a North American edition of the book (first published in the Philippines). I’m delighted to be proven wrong, though; Elmer is as excellent as I’d heard it was, if not more so. Alanguilan’s a talented writer and artist, and while seeing pages inked by him is always a pleasure, I know I’ll be looking for more books written and drawn by Alanguilan as well. This is a good book with which to round out the year.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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Sisters’ Luck http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/10/15/sisters-luck/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/10/15/sisters-luck/#comments Fri, 15 Oct 2010 07:00:21 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1526 By Shari Chankhamma152 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

The Sisters’ Luck is the sort of graphic novel that has a great and relatively simple concept. A pair of twin sisters where each half has a linked power; one takes good luck from people, the other gives bad luck to people. When they’re together, [...]]]> By Shari Chankhamma
152 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

The Sisters’ Luck is the sort of graphic novel that has a great and relatively simple concept. A pair of twin sisters where each half has a linked power; one takes good luck from people, the other gives bad luck to people. When they’re together, nothing happens, but as soon as they’re apart, their abilities manifest. After reading that on the back cover copy, I found myself dying to read the actual story. What I found inside, though, was a bit more than I had bargained for. And that’s not always a good thing.

After Shari Chankhamma brings the initial story concept to life in the forms of twins Umbra and Antumbra, The Sisters’ Luck changes direction so rapidly your head will spin. It starts off with Umbra stealing luck from those around her while Antumbra desperately tries to reunite with Umbra, and childhood rifts between the two that are still unhealed. But from there we get a being who is immune to their powers, and another one trying to use stolen luck to break ancient seals. And that’s not even including motorcycle chases and knife fights.

This is a book that slowly bleeds away its early good will the further into the book you read, unfortunately. Information is held back from characters for no good reason, save that it can be revealed in the last quarter of the book. (When Antumbra asks what’s going on earlier on, she’s told it’s a long story that she won’t understand. That same story is, if course, told towards the end and considering it only takes five pages, it’s hardly long or hard to understand.) Some of the plot logic also doesn’t make sense when you start and really think about it. (If one sister steals good luck, shouldn’t the power to cancel that out be that the other sister gives people good luck, rather than bad luck?) And most importantly, this is a book where the tone shifts from start to finish, promising one sort of story but ultimately delivering a second one. I felt like the victim of a bait-and-switch when it was over, unfortunately.

The one saving grace of The Sisters’ Luck is Chankhamma’s art, which looks to be manga influenced in the same way artists like Colleen Doran have been over the years. Characters have perfectly round eyes and large, thick curls of hair that cascade off their head. It’s not bad, although it falls apart somewhat during the action sequences, which are slightly hard to follow and a bit of a muddle. There’s a slight over-reliance of speed lines in those action sequences, something that is supposed to impart a sense of fast-moving action but just feels like a cheat here. Most frustrating is the niggling feeling that this was a book initially intended to be full color, but ended up shifting to black and white during the production process. One character talks about the blue and red streams of energy, and getting white and black streams instead is hard to ignore. Even some shading would have made a big difference, but instead everything is in stark black and white.

While preparing to write a review of The Sisters’ Luck I came across Chankhamma’s webcomic Pavlov’s Dream (co-written by Kelsie Yoshida) and it’s actually hard to believe that these are by the same person. There’s a beauty and tone in Pavlov’s Dream that works wonderfully, and it makes me wish that The Sisters’ Luck had come across the same way. The Sisters’ Luck ends abruptly, and presumably there’s going to be a sequel at some point, but even then its flat "The End" leaves readers up in the air with an unresolved story that feels like it hit its page count and stopped regardless of where things had gone. This could have been a good comic, but despite its best intentions it feels more like a first draft that never quite comes together.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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Royal Historian of Oz #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/07/14/royal-historian-of-oz-1/ Wed, 14 Jul 2010 08:00:51 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1427 Written by Tommy KovacArt by Andy Hirsch24 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

One of the things I find fascinating about L. Frank Baum’s Oz series is the number of writers and interpretations that have come to it over the years. It’s a practice that began in the 1920s when Ruth Plumly Thompson was [...]]]> Written by Tommy Kovac
Art by Andy Hirsch
24 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

One of the things I find fascinating about L. Frank Baum’s Oz series is the number of writers and interpretations that have come to it over the years. It’s a practice that began in the 1920s when Ruth Plumly Thompson was chosen to write books in the series after Baum’s death, and from there not only did additional writers take over the series, but as Baum’s books fell into the public domain it opened up the doors to even more writers to try their hand at Oz. All of this is kept in mind with Tommy Kovac and Andy Hirsch’s new mini-series The Royal Historian of Oz, which has its own take on the idea of various writers trying to take over the job of writing about Oz, and in doing so has something to say about the nature of writing.

Kovac pushes his story sometime after the year 2050, giving him a chance to change copyright laws so that a group called the Official Oz Society has been able to revive the rights to Oz out of the public domain and control who does and doesn’t write about Baum’s creation. At the same time, Frank Fizzle is being perpetually put upon by his father Jasper’s attempts to write Oz novels, ones that the Official Oz Society denounces and threatens to sue him over. What’s interesting is that it’s a struggle that I think could have supported its own entire story, but in The Royal Historian of Oz it’s just a small piece of a larger story, the springboard for the rest of the mini-series. With fights between fan-fiction writers and the owners of those characters, it’s a situation that contains a lot of echoes of real life and the battles over control of intellectual ideas.

But then, at the halfway point of the first issue, once Kovac introduces Oz as a real place and not just a literary fiction the story turns on its head. All of Kovac’s ideas are still there, but now it has to do with Jasper not just taking things from a writing perspective, but from a physical, real place. It’s fun to watch Kovac’s concepts grow, even as fantastical elements enter what could have been a small-scale story. Most importantly in all of this, though, Kovac makes both Jasper and Frank likable characters. It would have been easy to have one or the other thrust firmly into the "bad guy" role, but that’s not the case here. Kovac brings Jasper’s yearning to bring the joy and wonder of Oz to everyone, even while Frank’s head is rooted in reality, both on the quality of his father’s writing as well as just trying to survive in his day’s society while bills and legal notices pile up.

Andy Hirsch draws The Royal Historian of Oz, in a style that reminds me strangely of some early Peter Bagge comics. There’s something about the curves in his character’s faces, and the thick folds of ink on a little dog that just brings Bagge’s art to mind, but not ever in an imitator or copying fashion. The other thing about Hirsch’s art that struck me quickly was his usage of physical form to show off the emotion in Kovac’s script. From a pair of hunched shoulders, to the worried expression on Frank’s face, Hirsch has a good grasp of body language and how it can be used to accentuate a story.

I’m a tiny bit sad that The Royal Historian of Oz is only a five-issue mini-series, because Kovac and Hirsch have created a world that theoretically has endless possibilities. At the same time, though, it’ll be fun getting to the conclusion of what they’ve dreamed up, based on this first issue. This is a comic that sneaks up on you and rewards those who stop and think about what the pair of creators is trying to say. You don’t have to be an Oz fan to enjoy this comic (although it couldn’t hurt). In many ways, with the struggles of ownership being questioned more and more, this is a comic for our times.

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Paris http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/08/20/paris/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/08/20/paris/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2008 04:00:41 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=563 Written by Andi WatsonArt by Simon Gane144 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

For someone who loves most of Andi Watson’s creations, I really have no idea why it’s taken me this long to finally read Paris. It’s been a strange sort of blind spot amidst books like Breakfast After Noon, Slow News Day, [...]]]> Written by Andi Watson
Art by Simon Gane
144 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

For someone who loves most of Andi Watson’s creations, I really have no idea why it’s taken me this long to finally read Paris. It’s been a strange sort of blind spot amidst books like Breakfast After Noon, Slow News Day, or Glister. And now that I’ve read it? I must admit that it wasn’t at all what I was expecting from Watson.

Juliet is an American living in Paris, an art student taking portrait assignments from her piggish art professor in an attempt to make a living. When she’s assigned to paint Deborah, a young British socialite, Juliet figures it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Who she finds is a woman desperate to escape her oppressive family, and Juliet can’t help but be drawn to her. But can they have a happy ending, or will their living in different worlds keep them apart?

I have a confession to make—at first I really wasn’t enjoying Paris. It seemed strangely old-fashioned, with attitudes that felt a little archaic in this day and age. Several times I found myself muttering, "Are there still really people who think this way?" It just seemed hard to believe, a strange sort of misplaced attitude throughout the book. I finally put the book down to get a drink, and when I came back I glanced at the back cover copy of book.

Juliet is a penniless American art student in early 1950s Paris…

Well then! This suddenly made much more sense. We weren’t supposed to believe that people like this existed now, it was taking place 60 years ago. The thing is, after I finished the book, I went back through the book and looked for some sort of reference to the time period that I’d missed. I was both a little relieved and disappointed to see that it wasn’t actually there. It’s the big problem I had with the writing, the sneaking feeling that some of the plot details I was missing in the book only existed on the back cover description. There seemed to be more familial conflict promised there than we actually got, and likewise the promised love of art that brings them together felt almost incidental. The core of the book is still good, and I do think that the relationship between Juliet and Deborah comes across very well. It just doesn’t seem to be what’s promised.

Simon Gane’s art in Paris is unfortunately not helped by the black and white (with graytones) format of the book. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my favorite art from Gane is on the covers, where he’s able to use full color to give a level of depth and three-dimensionality to his art. In black and white, that all seems to vanish; the art is enormously flat and lacking perspective. The very first panel shows an aerial view of Juliet walking down the street, with the reader’s viewpoint coming in through branches and leaves of trees. The problem is, it looks like there are massive leaves the size of cannonballs littering the street; it takes a second to really look like these items are far away from her. It’s a shame, because Gane’s art style is a very intriguing one; there are lots of intricate little wiggles and angles that make up all of their figures, jagged edges that make me think of art created using an extremely sharp pair of scissors. I’d really love to see Gane draw a full-color book, because I think it would keep everything from looking so flat. But when a woman sitting in a chair on the right-hand side of a page seems to vanish into the background and almost slip by unnoticed, well, it’s a problem.

In the end, I liked Paris, but I must admit that I didn’t love it the way I have some of Watson’s other books. If I’d never read anything by Watson I think I’d be really pleased with Paris and think that I would want to see more by him. There are definitely things to like about Paris after all. The fourth chapter standing apart and yet so much a part of the rest of the book is a technique I wish more writers would use, and it’s to great effect here. The overall heart and emotion of the book really grabbed me. But there are lots of little gaffes and halfway-there pieces of the puzzle that were hard to ignore. A nice afternoon read, but probably not a book that will stick in my memory like so many other books from Watson have.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Biff Bam Pow! #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/05/21/biff-bam-pow-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/05/21/biff-bam-pow-1/#comments Wed, 21 May 2008 04:00:41 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=506 Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah DyerArt by Evan Dorkin 24 pages, black and whitePublished by SLG Publishing

There are some creators whom I think it’s easy to take for granted. When they release a comic, you just assume that it’s going to be great, buy a copy, and don’t think twice about it. The [...]]]> Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer
Art by Evan Dorkin
24 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

There are some creators whom I think it’s easy to take for granted. When they release a comic, you just assume that it’s going to be great, buy a copy, and don’t think twice about it. The problem with taking it for granted, though, is that if you don’t get excited about the book’s release then people might not talk it up to others and let them know just how good it is. I can’t help but think that’s a problem with Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer’s Biff Bam Pow!, which was thoroughly entertaining, but seemed to generate no real buzz at all. And that’s a real shame.


Old Punch Goldberg was once a boxer, knocking her opponents in the ring with a skill and strength that was legendary. These days, she’s a superhero, but that has a lot to do with her final match of her time as a boxer. The world of boxing is full of organized crime and payouts for those who throw a match when asked to. But when One Punch Goldberg wasn’t willing to take the fall for anyone, well, that’s when she encounters the toughest fight of her career.

Dorkin and Dyer are telling an origin story in Biff Bam Pow! #1, laying out One Punch Goldberg’s time as a boxer and giving us both the most colossal fight she was in as well as an end to that time in her life. The basic plot itself is pretty straightforward, but it’s in the actual telling of the story that it really shines. One Punch Goldberg is entertaining in no small part because of her dry, down-to-earth demeanor. She’s the kind of person that would want to hang out with; you know where you stand with her, and if she’s got your back then you’re absolutely set. Having her as a main character in a comic almost certainly means it’s going to be entertaining, especially with her eagerness to jump into fighting the good fight. It’s almost hard to quantify what exactly about her makes her such an appealing character, save that her attitude and outlook on life in general just make you want her to succeed.

Dorkin’s art for Biff Bam Pow! is up to his usual standards. It’s a clean, crisp look, with slightly angular faces for his characters. He’s especially good when it comes to character designs, and that’s no exception here. Biff Bam Pow! is set in the same futuristic world of the Dorkin/Dyer creation Kid Blastoff, and that means that we get all sorts of different alien creatures for Dorkin to go wild over. I especially like how he draws Goldberg’s old manager Blinky, with his head comprised primarily of a handful of floating eyeballs that hover over his mouth. The way Dorkin draws Blinky looks both different and neat at the same time, and it’s another example of how Dorkin just has fun with his characters.

Biff Bam Pow! #1 also features two back-up stories. Kid Blastoff’s story is silly and fun, as the world’s most incompetent superhero once more needs to be bailed out by his technician. It’s short and to the point, but still entertaining. On the other hand, a Nutsy Monkey two-pager felt like it outstayed its welcome, which is never a good sign; then again, as someone who always disliked Curious George, and this story somehow reminded me of that accursed simian in all the wrong ways.

Biff Bam Pow! #1 gives me great hope in that the #1 on the cover means we’ll get more stories about One Punch Goldberg in the future. It could certainly stand on its own and be an entertaining one-shot story. I like the idea of this being a beginning for her stories, though; she’s the latest in a line of creations by Dorkin and Dyer that just begs for more. Please?

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Wonderland #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/06/28/wonderland-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/06/28/wonderland-1/#comments Wed, 28 Jun 2006 04:00:25 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/06/28/wonderland-1/ Written by Tommy Kovac Art by Sonny Liew 24 pages, color Published by Slave Labor Graphics

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two novels that have spawned so many adaptations, unofficial sequels, and works inspired by Carroll’s creations that I don’t think I could even begin to count them all. With such a large number available, it’s easy to be picky about which ones to seek out and avoid. In the case of Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew’s Wonderland, though, I think it’s well worth your time.

Just because Alice has left Wonderland doesn’t mean that things are back to normal (if such a thing even exists). The Queen of Hearts is still angry at anyone and everyone associated with Alice, and when the Queen of Hearts get mad, heads will literally roll. When Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum attempt to save their own lives by pointing her in the direction of the White Rabbit, what seems like a simple execution will be anything but when the White Rabbit’s maid Mary Ann stirs things up. Who knows, maybe this really is a normal day in Wonderland.

Kovac’s story in Wonderland isn’t a sequel to Carroll’s novels, but rather to the Disney animated movie. This works well to Kovac’s advantage, giving him a setup and character base that people are familiar with while not having to worry about the difference between pop-culture Wonderland and what Carroll originally wrote. (For example, while most associate Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland they’re actually characters from the quite-different Through the Looking Glass. In Disney’s movie, they’re all there together.) The story itself is really promising, taking the logical jump that if the White Rabbit would confuse Alice for his maid Mary Ann that the two must look somewhat similar. She’s clearly the main character of Wonderland and the hints about Mary Ann’s real nature seems like a good addition to the lore of Wonderland and fits in easily. My biggest complaint with Wonderland‘s story is that I wished it was longer; at just 24 pages we’re starting to really get rolling when things end. Any first issue that makes me think, “I wish we’d gotten more pages” is definitely doing something right.

Liew’s art, as always, is lovely. His work on Malinky Robot and My Faith in Frankie was thoroughly attractive, and Wonderland is no exception. The art is directly colored off his pencils, and the end result is an expressive, free-flowing look. The early two-page spread of Alice traveling across a twisting, magical short-cut through Wonderland was the moment where I knew that Liew was a perfect choice for Wonderland; he’s able to bring Kovac’s imaginative ideas to life, making them simultaneously odd and natural. Liew’s style is also perfect for using the Disney character designs in comics. The Cheshire Cat’s grin is a disturbing combination of friendly and untrustworthy, and seeing the Queen of Hearts made me feel like I was a little kid watching the movie all over again.

Of Slave Labor’s four comics based off of Disney properties, Wonderland is easily my favorite. It’s just fun to read, and Kovac and Liew not only remind the reader how good the original property was, but prove that licensed comics can be really good. I’m definitely sticking around for the second issue.

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Written by Tommy Kovac
Art by Sonny Liew
24 pages, color
Published by Slave Labor Graphics

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two novels that have spawned so many adaptations, unofficial sequels, and works inspired by Carroll’s creations that I don’t think I could even begin to count them all. With such a large number available, it’s easy to be picky about which ones to seek out and avoid. In the case of Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew’s Wonderland, though, I think it’s well worth your time.

Just because Alice has left Wonderland doesn’t mean that things are back to normal (if such a thing even exists). The Queen of Hearts is still angry at anyone and everyone associated with Alice, and when the Queen of Hearts get mad, heads will literally roll. When Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum attempt to save their own lives by pointing her in the direction of the White Rabbit, what seems like a simple execution will be anything but when the White Rabbit’s maid Mary Ann stirs things up. Who knows, maybe this really is a normal day in Wonderland.

Kovac’s story in Wonderland isn’t a sequel to Carroll’s novels, but rather to the Disney animated movie. This works well to Kovac’s advantage, giving him a setup and character base that people are familiar with while not having to worry about the difference between pop-culture Wonderland and what Carroll originally wrote. (For example, while most associate Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland they’re actually characters from the quite-different Through the Looking Glass. In Disney’s movie, they’re all there together.) The story itself is really promising, taking the logical jump that if the White Rabbit would confuse Alice for his maid Mary Ann that the two must look somewhat similar. She’s clearly the main character of Wonderland and the hints about Mary Ann’s real nature seems like a good addition to the lore of Wonderland and fits in easily. My biggest complaint with Wonderland‘s story is that I wished it was longer; at just 24 pages we’re starting to really get rolling when things end. Any first issue that makes me think, “I wish we’d gotten more pages” is definitely doing something right.

Liew’s art, as always, is lovely. His work on Malinky Robot and My Faith in Frankie was thoroughly attractive, and Wonderland is no exception. The art is directly colored off his pencils, and the end result is an expressive, free-flowing look. The early two-page spread of Alice traveling across a twisting, magical short-cut through Wonderland was the moment where I knew that Liew was a perfect choice for Wonderland; he’s able to bring Kovac’s imaginative ideas to life, making them simultaneously odd and natural. Liew’s style is also perfect for using the Disney character designs in comics. The Cheshire Cat’s grin is a disturbing combination of friendly and untrustworthy, and seeing the Queen of Hearts made me feel like I was a little kid watching the movie all over again.

Of Slave Labor’s four comics based off of Disney properties, Wonderland is easily my favorite. It’s just fun to read, and Kovac and Liew not only remind the reader how good the original property was, but prove that licensed comics can be really good. I’m definitely sticking around for the second issue.

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Serenity Rose Vol. 1: Working Through the Negativity http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/05/16/serenity-rose-vol-1-working-through-the-negativity/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/05/16/serenity-rose-vol-1-working-through-the-negativity/#comments Mon, 16 May 2005 04:00:55 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/05/16/serenity-rose-vol-1-working-through-the-negativity/ By Aaron Alexovitch 144 pages, black and white Published by Slave Labor Graphics

Everyone’s had those sort of days. You’re lying down on the couch, you’re tired enough that you can’t get up, but not so tired that you can actually fall asleep. In my case, I found myself fumbling around on the floor for [...]]]> By Aaron Alexovitch
144 pages, black and white
Published by Slave Labor Graphics

Everyone’s had those sort of days. You’re lying down on the couch, you’re tired enough that you can’t get up, but not so tired that you can actually fall asleep. In my case, I found myself fumbling around on the floor for that pile of review books that I’d absent-mindedly set down earlier in the day, and finally my fingers landed on a book: Serenity Rose Vol. 1: Working Through the Negativity. And you know? It was clearly meant to be. Like magic, or something.

Serenity Rose is a witch—one of 53 in the entire world, to be precise. Living in Crestfallen, the self-proclaimed “Spookiest Li’l Town in America” is enough to set her teeth on edge. The townspeople want to use Serenity Rose’s name to further their own lives, tourists come in to gawk at her, vampires attack her, and thrash-metal witches on tour… well, the less said about that, the better. Really, if Serenity just happened to blow up the entire town, would anyone really blame her? (Not that she has. Yet.)

Being trapped on the couch with Serenity Rose was really, in so many ways, the best possible way for me to read the book. Collecting the first five issues of the comic, Serenity Rose‘s first chapter felt a little scattered to me, trying to introduce too many characters all at once and just meandering from one set piece to the next. I was stuck on the couch, though, so I kept reading… and I’m glad I did. Aaron Alexovitch is one of those people who really grows as a creator from one page to the next; as Serenity Rose continued, a strong level of cohesiveness began to emerge, pulling everything together and providing a tighter narrative without losing the ability to take detours off the main story from time to time. Serenity Rose herself is in many ways the best thing about the comic; forget the realistic “what if there were supernatural creatures and people out there?” world created for the book, or madcap expeditions into convenience stores and comics-within-comics, it’s the title character that makes Serenity Rose so good. She’s indecisive, she’s shy, she shuns all attempts to be thrust into the spotlight, and underneath all those barriers, she’s a genuinely good person. It would have been easy to make Serenity the typical “sarcastic teen”, but that’s not the case at all here. She’s 22 years old, she’s a little withdrawn from the world, but for characters who get to know her she’s someone great to be around. Her slow blossoming as a character is the real journey of Serenity Rose Vol. 1, as she learns to understand herself and her place in the world, and she is the book’s strength.

I love the art in Serenity Rose, and just like the writing it gets continually stronger from one chapter to the next. It looks to be drawn primarily (if not entirely) in pencil, forgoing the usual ink lines to give Serenity Rose a softer, more gentle feel. Those who wrongly wrote off Serenity Rose as “another goth book” probably won’t see that coming at all, but really it sums up Serenity Rose in a nutshell. This isn’t a harsh, “all people stink” sort of book, and as such there aren’t rigid lines drawn here, both in terms of writing as well as in the art. Serenity herself has a young, innocent sort of look to her, one that really helps you warm to her and let you begin to understand that this is a deeply vulnerable character. The rest of the art is equally entertaining; the supporting cast is fun to look at, and the page layouts are never standard, always formed uniquely to best suit the story. It’s an organic look that appears to have formed itself simultaneously, and it’s one that got better and better with each new page.

When reviewing books it’s easy to put a book down after a couple of pages if it isn’t working for you, but it’s important to always give a book a fair chance. In the case of Serenity Rose Vol. 1, I’m nothing short of delighted to have kept reading. It’s not the opening chapter was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but rather that it progressed from something that was in the “ok” category, to a book that I couldn’t put down and desperately want to read more from. More, please, and quickly.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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Egg Story http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/09/27/egg-story/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/09/27/egg-story/#comments Mon, 27 Sep 2004 04:00:33 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/09/27/egg-story/ By J. Marc Schmidt 64 pages, black and white Published by Slave Labor Graphics

There are a lot of “coming of age” stories being told, in all types of media and in all shapes and forms. It’s a story that everyone’s familiar with, having had to live some part of it one’s self as time [...]]]> By J. Marc Schmidt
64 pages, black and white
Published by Slave Labor Graphics

There are a lot of “coming of age” stories being told, in all types of media and in all shapes and forms. It’s a story that everyone’s familiar with, having had to live some part of it one’s self as time goes by. That’s certainly what J. Marc Schmidt tapped into for his new graphic novel—but unlike most stories of this nature, Schmidt took a slightly different tactic. His story is about a group of eggs.

Feather, Five Spot, Cloud, Bumply, Shelly, and Connor are six eggs all together in a carton that was purchased at the grocery store. When they discover the fate awaiting them at the end of their long journey that began on a farm, they decide it’s time to make a break for freedom. The only thing is that it’s a very dangerous world in which to be an egg. That’s why Feather’s ready for something different. He wants to be a ninja.

Part of the fun of Egg Story is that Schmidt starts his story off in a simple manner, with it seemingly nothing more than eggs moving from being laid towards eventually eaten (or worse). It’s around the time that the eggs parachute off the fridge with the aid of tissues, though, that you realize not everything is normal in the world of Egg Story. There’s a level of unpredictability infused throughout Egg Story, with plot twists and surprises galore that have serious ramifications for all of Schmidt’s egg characters. As Egg Story moves towards its conclusion, perhaps the biggest surprise is how much you’ll come to care for these little eggs as they try to survive in a world really not suited for them. Schmidt takes their struggles seriously and as he presents each new obstacle in their path, you desperately want them to succeed. Now that’s good writing.

Schmidt’s art is a pretty simplistic style, one that when illustrating the lives of eggs is a pretty good fit. He’s able to give his little egg characters determined expressions on their faces, and watching them move through the world is visually amusing thanks to Schmidt. He’s not quite as adept with drawing people—they just don’t seem rendered quite right, although it’s hard to place exactly why—but they’re such a small part of Egg Story that it’s not really a problem. The best bits are when Schmidt has his eggs doing things like exercising, or putting on makeup, or dancing to music; he’s able to give them human motivation just like any other character in a comic.

Egg Story is goofy in some places and deadly serious in others. From start to finish, though, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. A rare book where its unpredictability actually comes from the story itself rather than the author making things erratic for the hell of it, Egg Story has an internal logic that holds everything together and gives its audience a worthwhile reading experience. This is a lot of fun.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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