Filed under: Introduction
Welcome to my Graphic novels and collected editions mini review blog. Please use the Category links in the left column to navigate to your favorite author, artist or series or just browse through my mini reviews. You can also click on the star rating to see which books I have particularly enjoyed.
in 2005 I started collecting graphic novels when some of my favorite “Starlord” and “2000AD” stories from my childhood became available in a collected form. Since then it has become something of a passion and my collection seems to grow at an exponential rate. Whenever I read a new book in my collection this blog is updated with a mini review and a not so scientific score. The score is based upon how much I enjoyed the book and takes into account the story, artwork and presentation. If I think a book is worth less than a 5 I dont bother writing about it.
Total Number of reviews : 213
Volume 1 collects the English Translations of Tome 1 “Resurrection” and Tome 2 “Danse Macabre”. The original stories were published in France but were written by British comic book author “Pat Mills” of 2000AD and Charley’s War fame. This is the first of 5 volumes.
Requiem is the story of a German soldier named Heinrich Augsburg who is killed fighting on the Russian front during World War 2. He finds himself transported to a dark and twisted world (Resurrection) where evil souls are reborn as monsters. In Resurrection people are re-incarnated according to their sins and find themselves as Zombies, Ghouls, Vampires or several other strange creatures. The actual type of monster depends how evil the person was in their past life. The most evil come back as Vampires who are the social elite and ruling class.
Resurrection itself is a backward mirror of earth where the seas are land and the land becomes huge lakes of fire. People are transported to this world at the age they expired and they grow younger rather than older until they eventually cease to exist. It is also a world where good is bad and archaeologists bury artifacts rather than dig them up to protect people. My impression of the planet is that it is Pat Mill’s representation of hell.
Heinrich is reborn as Requiem, a member of the Vampire Elite, with a burning desire to find the woman he loved and betrayed during his lifetime (Rebecca). Unusually, he has not entirely lost his sense of fair play in his transition to Vampire and this character trait causes him to be unpopular amongst some of his Vampire peers. It is difficult to know how to view characters actions in this book as the world is a reversed reality but there truly are some monsters. Heinrich seems to be one of the few hanging onto some sort of humanity but others are as sick as anything you will find in any horror fiction.
The subject matter is very violent with lots of S&M, Slavery, torture and even sexual content. Mills does a great job of slowly unraveling the complicated concepts of the reality whilst driving the story along. The reader is bombarded with a large array of characters to try to keep track of but the artwork does a good enough job to not make this a chore. I enjoyed the way our main character manages to begin to unravel his new reality and the pace of the book is anything but pedestrian. People familiar with the writing style of Pat Mills will instantly recognize his style of social – political writing and this stands up well to his other work.
The artwork is very well put together with Grotesque characters, enormous complex backdrops and a great sense of movement (this is definitely not a talking heads book). The style of the art reminded me of Nemesis the warlock in its level of complexity but this book is in glorious full color. The complex page layouts and very heavy use of red give this book a dramatic impact. The only down side of this swathe of dark red is that the book does need to be read in a brightly lit room as the text is often barely discernible from the art work. It is a visual feast for the eyes and the subject matter oozes with gore and nudity.
Requiem Vampire Knight is not a light read but if you are a fan of horror fiction and/or Pat Mills you should find this a good read. There are absolutely no translation issues that I found. ISBN-13: 978-1846534379. 8/10
“Dry Season” collects issues #15-20 of the Vertigo “Unknown Soldier series. In this volume, Moses tries to settle in an IDP camp in hopes of capturing some sense of his past but his brutal alter ego has a different plan. This volume plays quite heavily on the “Jekyll and Hyde” nature of Moses and his attempts to subdue his darker side.
Like the other two Unknown Soldier collections, “Dry Season” is a brutal and violent book set in the real world of Ugandan poverty and oppression. It does an excellent job of portraying man’s lack of humanity to his fellow man and also the absolute desperation of the “Dry Season”. The book starts off as a sort of crime thriller and slowly builds up to a climatic and very destructive conclusion. I particularly enjoyed the unraveling of Moses character and the mystic aspects of this book.
Ponticelli’s artwork just seems to keep on getting better and better and the combination of great colors and dramatic subject matter make this a real pleasure to look at. He does an excellent job of capturing on paper the horrors of living in an IDP camp in a world riddled with corruption.
Book 3 in the unknown soldier series is recommended for people who enjoy action thrillers with strong political overtones that are based on real life events. If you liked the first two novels you should like this one too. It has the added bonus of some real world background material on the setting of the book.[ISBN-13: 978-1401228552]. 8/10
Filed under: 8 Stars, Cary Nord, Conan The Barbarian, Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, Timothy Truman
- Chapters 1 and 2 : Kurt Busiek
- Chapters 3, 4 and 5 : Mike Mignola
- Chapters 6 and 7: Timothy Truman
“Hall of the Dead” is another solid Conan novel that continues the style and pace from the previous three. Despite a change of authors throughout this volume it manages to have a consistent feel which is in doubt helped by Cary Nord’s great artwork. It is easy to spot Mike Mignola’s work as he takes things off in a slightly Lovecraft direction (Dare I say plague of frogs ?) but this only adds to the books appeal.
Like volume 3 this book concentrates on Conan’s exploits as a thief and it matches him up against all manner of enemies and situations. It is essential that the reader has read the previous 3 volumes before reading this one if they are to gain maximum enjoyment.
“Hall of the Dead” is good value and has great artwork and story. There are also some nice extras from Mike Mignola in the back of the book which include cover art and a very interesting article on the relationship between Howard and Lovecraft. (ISBN-13: 978-1593077754). 8/10
Filed under: 8 Stars, Cary Nord, Conan The Barbarian, Kurt Busiek, Mike Kaluta, Uncategorized
“The Tower of the Elephant” continues on at full pace from the previous two Dark Horse volumes in another enjoyable and well crafted Conan tale. Tower of the Elephant concentrates on Conan’s development as a professional thief and culminates in a strange encounter with an alien being in the Elephant Tower. This third volume also deals with Conans attempts to understand and integrate into big city lifestyle which seems totally alien to him. Just like the previous two Dark Horse Conan volumes this is a very easy story to read, has witty dialog and moves along at good pace.
Cary Nord’s art is top notch and despite his some strange aspects the overall look captures the world of Conan admirably. I particularly liked his backdrops and landscapes which are a key part of the book. Sometimes Nord’s faces are a bit unusual with the characters looking like they have grotesque smiles (Not quite Steve Templesmith strange but strange non the less). I also noticed that Conan himself can look quite different from one panel to another but is still instantly recognizable. This does not detract at all from the story especially as Nord seems to dedicate much of his bandwidth to rendering voluptuous scantily clad female supporting characters. The book also features Mile Kaluta drawing a several page flash back sequence and although the art is good it doesn’t shine like Nord’s work.
“The Tower of the Elephant” is a great read and is highly recommended if you enjoyed the first two volumes. You might not like it if you are offended by nudity but as this is an integral part of the Barbarian lifestyle you probably wouldn’t have picked up a Conan book in the first place. ISBN-13: 978-1593075477. 8/10
Planetary is the story of a secret organization funded by a mysterious benefactor with a remit to discover the world’s secret history. The team consists of three super humans including “Jakita Wagner” (strong, fast and full of attitude), “The Drummer” (Super IT guy) and Elijah Snow (Controls temperatures and does a good job of being reluctant new man on the squad). Volume 1 has 6 short stories where the team investigate strange paranormal and scientific phenomena. A back story thread runs through all six chapters where the Planetary universe and characters are slowly revealed.
- Archaeologists of the Impossible
- Dead Gunfighters
- Strange Harbors
- The Good Doctor
- It’s A Strange World
Planetary is a complicated book with some pretty deep concepts and story lines. I did not find it to be an easy read and I found the main characters to be pretty superfluous to the intricate plots. Of all the characters in the book, I found “The Drummer” to be the most throwaway and annoying. One of the problems I have with super hero books is that often the invulnerability of the characters leaves them lacking in any kind of humanity and as such it’s pretty difficult to empathize with them.
I liked the premise of the book that existing legends, folklore and secret military history would be investigated and although I found it difficult to spot what stories they were trying to retell (perhaps my lack of superhero universe knowledge) I enjoyed reading them.
John Cassaday’s art was crisp and clean in terms of presentation and this was absolutely essential for such complicated stories. The art worked well and I was particularly impressed with how it captured the action and established a consistent feel despite the different subject matter in each story.
Planetary should appeal to fans of Superheroes and the X-files and has some good artwork too. Neither the story or the characters hooked my enough to want to read further planetary volumes but I still enjoyed reading this one. [ISBN-13: 978-1563896484]. 6/10
The second volume of “The Killer” carries on directly from where the plot left off in the first. The story is not quite as dark and in this collection the killer affords himself the luxury of a few friends. The result is a bit more of a straightforward crime drama that neatly ties up all the loose ends and open questions. I enjoyed the second volume as much as the first and found the flashbacks to be less jarring. I cant help feeling that opening himself up to a few friends (especially a Columbian drug dealer) is not going to work out good in the future.
The artwork carries on the high standards set in the first and remain just as unique. Some of the lettering is a bit sloppy and it makes me wonder if it was proof read before publication.
If you enjoyed the first volume you should enjoy this one. It is a little more main stream and accessible and as such lacks a bit of the punch the first one had but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. ISBN-13: 978-1932386561. 8/10.
The Killer is an English translation of a best selling French graphic Novel, Le Tueur. It is a story of a first rate French hit man that is suffering from a bit of a breakdown. After a botched hit, his world starts to unravel and the predator becomes the prey. The book is just like those gritty and moody French “noire” films, with brooding inner monologues and stark contrasting flashbacks. The story is told through the eyes of “The Killer” and does a wonderful job of establishing his raison d’etre.
Matz has done a stellar job of creating a crime noire (Hard boiled) style movie through the medium of the comic book page. The development of the main character is excellent, especially how his life begins to fall apart. In some ways it reminds me of “The Professional” in the way that the carefully crafted role of an assassin begins to fall apart after a series of events. The Killer has a lot of flashbacks, some of which hurt the story pace a little and others that seem to serve little more purpose than a political soapbox. The flashbacks are used to flesh out the character of the Killer and regardless of how they can take you out of the flow of the story they are an absolutely essential ingredient in why this book works so well. I am also pleased to report that there is not a hint of awkwardness of translation which is a really good thing.
Jacamon’s art is cartoony but fits the story like a glove. His choice of colors and panel layouts really helps to give a sense movement and drama to the action. I cant say his work reminds me of another artist but it somehow feels French to me. His choice of colours and washes help to guide the reader through the numerous flashbacks and I found the whole thing pleasing to the eye. It wouldn’t be French noire without violence and nudity and Jacamon does a great job of portraying both.
The Killer volume 1 is a great book for fans of dark, violent crime thrillers and the artwork is very distinctive. There are no extras whatsoever in the hardcover. ISBN-13: 978-1932386448. 8/10