June 24, 2009

Science Fiction Classics

Science Fiction Classics edited by Tom Pomplun
Graphic Classics, Volume 17

Pages: 144
First Published: May 15, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, short stories, science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Yes, in a thousand years people will fly on the wings of steam through the air, over the ocean!

Reason for Reading: I'm working my way through the series and it's not necessary to read them in any given order.

Comments: This graphic novel contains an anthology of graphic adaptations of one novel and five short stories. H.G. Well's War of the Worlds is included as are tales by authors such as Hans Christian Anderson, Conan Doyle, Stanley Weinbaum and E.M. Forster's one and only sci-fi short story.

As a big fan of this series the first big news about this volume is that it is the very first one to be printed in full colour. And they couldn't have picked a better theme to introduce colour. The book has a joyful feel of a 1950's sci-fi comic and even artwork to match in Stanley Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" illustrated by George Sellas. The artwork in each story is suitable to the tale being told and goes from dark Victorian scenes to bright modern comic characters. A delightful set of stories which I enjoyed heartily and had never read before, except of course H.G. Wells' novel. I just love coming across Conan Doyle's stories that do not concern his famous detective and this one is no disappointment but my favourite in the volume is E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" which is a chilling dystopia of a world run by machines, amazingly written in 1909. The illustrations are wonderful and pay homage to his other work by showing a delightful Indian flavour both in the characters and colourful palette.

Another great book in the series! These books just don't disappoint. I only have one concern now and that is with the new addition of colour that they will continue to use colour for each new volume. I would hate to see the b/w volumes disappear altogether and hope they will give great thought on the theme of each volume as to whether colour or b/w is more appropriate. For ex. the Edgar Allan Poe volume just would not have been the same done in colour; you would lose the Gothic feel.

Great news, they already have another volume planned for this year. Out in November 2009 will be Louisa May Alcott, Volume 18

June 23, 2009

Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers

These two books come from Stone Arch Books and are a part of a larger series called Graphic Sparks which the publishers describe as "good-humored", graphic novels especially designed for younger readers with "wacky comic-book-style artwork". And I concur with that.

As with all Stone Arch graphic novels they are also well suited for educational use. With the back pages containing: About the Author, About the Illustrator, Glossary, More about the topic of interest (in this case the myth of werewolves and a brief history of Frankenstein), Discussion Questions and Writing Prompts. Plenty of material for a teacher to buy a set and include these graphic novels in a book study. Of course, we just read the books here at home! No further study required.

Eek & Ack vs the Wolfman by Blake A Hoena. Illustrated by Steve Harpster. 33 pgs. 2009. RL: 1.8.

Eek & Ack are two aliens who fly around in a spaceship which looks suspiciously like a washing machine. They decide to visit Earth to find out why it is so hard to conquer. They arrive on Halloween night dressed in costume with funny results but eventually meet up with a Wolfman who has also used the night to fit in with humans and decides that Eek & Ack look tasty . Lots of fun! My son had a great time reading this one, even though there were quite a few hard words for him. I had to help him out quite a bit but he loved the characters and really enjoyed the story. He would be very happy if we placed another Eek and Ack book in his hands and fortunately there are several already out about the alien duo. The illustrations are wonderful! Done in cool colours, most pages showcase greens, blues and purples and they are a perfect fit for the story. 4/5

Zinc Alloy vs Frankenstein by Donald Lemke. Illustrated by Douglas Holgate. RL: 1.9. 2009. 33 pgs.

Zack Allen has a robotic suit that turns him into a superhero, Zinc Alloy. A twister is headed his way and when Zinc tries to push it out of the path of his town he short circuits and ends up in the forest where he comes face to face with another robot, Frankenstein! Zinc's superhero efforts all seem to lead to unexpected results. Another fun book that my 9yo son really enjoyed. My son is a reluctant reader and the superhero aspect of this book grabbed him right away. Some words are a bit difficult but with me sitting beside him and helping as needed the story kept him going and frustration-free as he enjoyed the fast-paced action and the subtle humour found in some of the illustrations. It's wonderful to find books that are easy to read but hold the interest of an older child. When he finished reading this my son's first words were "Are there any more Zinc books?" So we flipped the book over and there on the back cover were the pictures of the first two in the series! 4/5

June 19, 2009

Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle

Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle

Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec,2008

This wonderful graphic travelogue tells the story of Delisle's trip to Burma, also know as Myanmar. Delisle's wife works for Medecins Sans Frontieres, (Doctors Without Borders) and she, Delisle and their son, Louis, are stationed in Burma for a year.

DeLisle uses simple black, white and gray scale drawings to tell a whimsical tale that includes some cultural and political insight into this beautiful, troubled country. He shares his time with Louis's playgroup and his experiences teaching an animation class. There are also stories of his travels into the countryside with the MSF team. I loved the simple storytelling style and the clear, clean images.

This is DeLisle's third book after Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China and Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. I intend to read both of them as soon as I can get them from my library!

June 12, 2009

Slow Storm by Danica Novgorodoff

Slow Storm by Danica Novgorodoff

First Second, New York & London 2008

A beautifully illustrated story of two young people, a illegal immigrant from Mexico and a women bullied and harassed by her brother and co-workers. Through a series of incidents they meet and spend time together.

The storm, a mix of thunder, lightening and tornadoes, brews around them and in them. The landscape, the people and animals are rendered in stunning ink and water color .

There is not much dialogue, it is not needed. Novgorodoff uses her art to tell this story, and I loved it. It is sad, kind and compassionate. Another fine title from First Second.

June 9, 2009

Umbrella Academy - Gerard Way

Family dynamics, time travel, a talking monkey and a violin are the important parts of the Umbrella Academy, is the story of 7 young children with super powers and no one to fight, at least not until their adoptive father dies and they reunite for the funeral. The 7 have all grown up, living different lives and now they have to figure out how to work together to solve all the strange activities. They are in a battle to save the world from the final destruction, but who is it they have to fight? I liked the art work in this story, angular and colorful. The story itself was a bit quirky, and the method of destruction was surprising.

This is my 24th graphic novel, I've finished the challenge! It's been a lot of fun.

Silverfish - David Lapham

Silverfish is the story of a young girl, her family, and psychotic silverfish. Mia is unhappy at home, her mother died a few years ago and her father has remarried a woman she doesn’t like. During a weekend when her parents are away, Mia and her friends start snooping and find out some disturbing information about Suzanne, her step-mom. Murder, stolen money, false identities and silverfish combine to tell this not terribly interesting story. I never figured out exactly what the silverfish were or why they were there, and Mia and her friends were bored teenagers looking for something and they found more trouble than they could handle. Also, the graphic part was all black and white which it turns out I really don’t like, I keep trying but find I just don’t enjoy the stories as much without color.

June 8, 2009

Review: The Sandman #3: Dream Country

Title: The Sandman #3: Dream Country
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrators: Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, Malcolm Jones III
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Published: September 1991
Collects Issues: 17 - 20
Pages: 160
Rating: 8 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge, 48 Hour Book Challenge, Dream King Challenge

Synopsis (from the back cover):
The Sandman is the most acclaimed and award-winning comics series of the 1990s for good reason: a smart and deeply brooding epic, elegantly penned by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a rotating cast of comics' most sought-after artists, it is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven. The saga of The Sandman encompasses a series of tales unique in graphic literature and is a story you will never forget.

Four chilling and entertaining episodes make up the tapestry that is Dream Country: the World Fantasy Award-winning tale of the first performance of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream; the story of Calliope, a beautiful muse enslaved by a novelist to feed his need for material; a cat's-eye view of the tyranny of mankind; and the final memoir of an immortal, indestructible woman who only wants to die.

My review: Dream Country is way different from The Doll's House. Rather than picking up where the second book left off (which is what I expected), this book contains four stand alone stories featuring Morpheus. Well, three that feature Morpheus and one that features Death. Not that I'm complaining; Death is my favorite Endless, so I was glad she showed back up again, even if I'm not well-versed enough in superhero comicbookland to know who (SPOILER) Element Girl is. Her vignette, "Facade," was sad even without that previous emotional connection. I actually own the single issue "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and had already read that story. It makes a lot more sense being reread now, especially after reading The Doll's House. The other two stories are equally interesting, and both deal with the evilness of men. "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" is great because it's just so different; how many comic books do you know are told from the point of view of a cat? And as for "Calliope," well...it was twisted and creepy, but still amazing.

My only complaints: the book was way too short (only four issues, although my TP did include the annotated script for "Calliope," which was fun to read) and it took the focus away from the main conflict. So now I have to get a copy of Season of Mists to satisfy my curiosity.

Cross-posted to the casual dread and The Dream King Challenge blogs.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Review: The Sandman #2: The Doll's House

Title: The Sandman #2: The Doll's House
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrators: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Published: September 1991
Collects Issues: 9 - 16
Pages: 240
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge, 48 Hour Book Challenge, Dream King Challenge

Synopsis (from the back cover):
The Sandman is the most acclaimed and award-winning comics series of the 1990s for good reason: a smart and deeply brooding epic, elegantly penned by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a rotating cast of comics' most sought-after artists, it is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven. The saga of The Sandman encompasses a series of tales unique in graphic literature and is a story you will never forget.

In The Doll's House, Rose Walker finds more than she bargained for - long lost relatives, a serial killers' convention, and, ultimately, her true identity. The Master of Dreams attempts to unravel the mystery, unaware that the hand of another, far closer to home, is pulling the strings.

My review: Once again, I'm kicking myself for not having read this before. I mean, I call myself a Gaiman fan, and yet I've never read The Sandman series? What's wrong with me?!

This book picks up where the first one left off - Morpheus has recently regained control of his kingdom and is still looking to set things aright. Namely, finding some bad guys who disappeared while he was imprisoned. He's joined in this jaunt by his servant/pet raven, Matthew. So how does Rose Walker figure into this? Well, she's trying to find her little brother, who has inadvertently crossed paths with three of the aforementioned baddies. That's not the only reason she's so important to Morpheus, though...but I'm telling you the other reason, because that would just spoil the book for you. And it's way too good for me to do that.

I loved the minor characters in this one - Gilbert, Barbie and Ken (hee), Hal the cross-dressing landlord, the spider sisters...the people Rose meets while searching for her brother are all unique. I also really enjoyed the one-shot story, "Men of Good Fortune," about a man who simply chooses not to die. Instead, he and Morpheus agree to meet every one hundred years, just in case he changes his mind. It's quite an interesting idea: given the choice, would you want to live forever? Robert Gadling, the character in question, never ages, but he has to watch everyone he loves grow old and die. He certainly seems to think it's better than the alternative, but I'm not so sure. Another aspect of that particular issue that I liked was the way Morpheus viewed Robert, eventually thinking of him as a friend. To me, that really helped humanize Morpheus, which was nice.

All in all, an excellent book. Much easier to understand than Preludes & Nocturnes; I found "the story so far" bit at the beginning very helpful. Off to start the third book in a bit...I'm looking forward to this, as the events in The Doll's House seem to indicate that some serious intra-Endless fighting is on the horizon. I just hope Delirium pops up soon.

Cross-posted to the casual dread and The Dream King Challenge blogs.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

June 6, 2009

Review: V for Vendetta

Title: V for Vendetta
Author: Alan Moore
Illustrator: David Lloyd
Genre: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopia
Published: 1989
Pages: 288
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, A to Z Reading Challenge, 48 Hour Book Challenge

Synopsis (from the back cover):
A frightening and powerful story of the loss of freedom and identity in a totalitarian world. V for Vendetta is everything comics weren't supposed to be.

England Prevails.

My review: That last line is a quote from the book; it's a motto for the government figures. V is amazing book. I've had it sitting on my shelf for ages (I bought it shortly after meeting David Lloyd at Dragon*Con two years ago) and I can't believe I waited so long to actually sit down with it. Thank you, 48 hour book challenge!

The setting of V is an AU late-1990's London, in which the people are constantly monitored and recorded by the "Eyes" and "Ears" of their controlling government. They are also completely dependent on the "Voice" of the government, an hourly broadcast designed to keep the masses ignorant of what's really happening. It's very 1984, but darker. The character known only as "V" is a man with a troubled past who takes it upon himself to establish a new world order - anarchy and chaos, but with an opportunity for the people to think and choose for themselves. He is joined in his quest by Evey Hammond, a 16-year-old prostitute he saves from a police gang-rape her first night on the job. See? Dark.

The story feels incredibly topical (especially given recent events), so much so that's it's a bit scary. It's not all gloom and doom, though. There's a message of hope and independence, mainly due to the great character that is V. My favorite line of his: "Did you think to kill me? There's no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There's only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof." And it's very true: the idea of V and what he represents are what endures. He's an anti-hero, but an intriguing one, and his story makes for excellent reading.

Cross-posted to the casual dread.

If you've reviewed this book as well, leave a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

June 5, 2009

Wormwood v.2 & v.3 by Ben Templesmith

What can I say, I love Ben Templesmith’s art, and his storytelling is just odd. He makes me laugh and cringe and giggle when I catch pop references.

Wormwood: It Only Hurts When I Pee and Wormwood: Calamari Rising, continue the story of Wormwood and his adventures in this and other dimensions. In It Only Hurts When I Pee, Wormwood and his companions run into trouble at a leprechaun fight (and these are not cute little leprechauns) and must go off to Leprechaunia in search of the Queen and a cure. In addition they run into trouble with the Squidmen (think Borg from Star Trek: the Next Generation but with tentacles.)

In Calamari Rising, Wormwood and his companions must fight the Brotherhood of the Calamari (squidmen) as they try to take over Earth. Will Medusa and her order survive the attack and will Wormwood escape the clutches of the Queen of the Calamari.

We learn a bit more about Wormwood in both of these volumes and though I’m not always sure I get the humor, I love the artwork and it almost doesn’t matter what the story is, I’m so fascinated with the art and this is the first graphic novel artist that I can say this about.

Singularity and Welcome to Hoxford by Ben Templesmith

In my pursuit of all things Templesmith I came across two other graphic novels of his with completely different types of stories. While I still love Templesmith’s style of art, the stories in these were a bit more on the icky side than the funny side.

Singularity tells a story of a mysterious asteroid and the nanites that fall to Earth and begin to take control. The nanites infested one man who then began to remake the world in a belief he is improving it for the others. There are a few underground cities left trying to survive against the nanites but it’s not looking good and a last ditch effort to destroy the original one is begun. What happens and what they learn gives an eerie almost funny twisted ending.

Welcome to Hoxford is a horror story. We follow Raymond, not exactly a stable guy, he makes serial killers look pleasant, and a few other folks as they are banished to Hoxford, a special prison. Slowly we learn why this is a special prison and how Raymond finally finds his own place. Lots of gore, characters you don’t want to ever be real, it’s hard to say I liked this graphic novel but it was certainly a different look at Templesmith’s storytelling and artistic skills.

June 3, 2009

Aya and Aya of Yop City by Margerite Abouet

Aya and Aya of Yop City by Margerite Abouet

Illustrated by Clement Obrerie

Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A lovely pair of graphic novels, beautifully illustrated and fun to read. A great choice if you haven't read a graphic novel before.

These are light-hearted stories of Aya, her relatives and her two friends living in a working class neighborhood called Yop City, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, during the mid 1970's., a time when the country was prosperous and politically stable.

Aya is studious, a hard worker, and hopes to finish her schooling and become a doctor. Her best friends are more interested in dancing and boyfriends and her father is a district manager who ends up traveling for his job. These relationships lead to some plot twists which the girls handle gracefully, despite their differences. The art work is wonderful, capturing the atmosphere of the city and it's people. And Abouet adds some interesting notes in the back of each book including a glossary, recipes and instructions for tying a pagne, the brightly colored cloth African women wear around their hips or their head. There is also an interview with the author included in Aya of Yop City. Enjoy these wonderful books!