One Mad Dog

[The Goon Volume 0: Rough Stuff – Re-mastered] – (Eric Powell)
February 21, 2011, 9:16 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Eric Powell, The Goon

“The Goon: Rough Stuff” collects the earliest stories of The Goon that were originally published in black and white. Eric goes to great lengths in the introduction to say that this book is not up to the standard of his later work both in terms of Story and writing. I disagree with him here and found both elements to be well up to speed with the later stuff and the newly colored art looks great.  Two particular standout stories for goon fans are the introduction to his circus performing family and the back story for how he became the head of a notorious crime family.

The extensive special features and sketches in the back of the book are a real treat and I think the original pencil sketches look even better than the colored art. The artwork  is great but the splash pages deserve a special mention as they are awesome.  This book is a must buy for Eric Powell and Goon fans. [ISBN-13: 978-1595824684]. 8/10.

[Chew Volume 3: Just Desserts] – (John Layman, Rob Guillory)
February 20, 2011, 8:25 am
Filed under: 7 stars, Chew, John Layman, Rob Guillory

“Just Desserts” collects “Chew” issues #11 to 15. It had a lot to live up to after the first two volumes and even though the art is as good, this book felt a bit like a filler issue to me.

Volume 3 explores Chu’s  personal relationships from both the past and the present and also introduces his insane family. Although there is a story arc running through this volume it doesn’t pack the punch of the earlier volumes which made the book a less compelling read.  It spends quite a bit of time tying up loose ends and filling in back story. There are some amusing “Quentin Tarrantino” style movie references that were really well done (especially the art) and these were highlights of the book. Sometimes things read better in “Trade” but I get the impression that this would have read better in single comic form.  I am also not a great fan of comic books jumping around with flashbacks and the like. It may work on a movie like “Pulp Fiction” but often in comic book form it can be a little confusing or it hurts the flow of the story.  In this book it isn’t too bad and at least they make it very clear where in time the part you are reading is set.

Rob Guillory’s art seems to be getting even better with each issue and is a real pleasure to look at . “Just Desserts” is still a great read but unfortunately it just doesn’t match the earlier stuff for inventiveness and compelling story. [ISBN-13: 978-1607063353] . 7/10

[Unknown Soldier Vol. 2: Easy Kill] – (Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli, Pat Masioni)
February 17, 2011, 8:35 am
Filed under: 8 Stars, Alberto Ponticelli, Joshua Dysart, Unknown Soldier

“Unknown Soldier – Easy Kill” collects “Unknown Soldier” #7 to #14 and contains a main story arc called “Easy Kill” and a one shot called “The way Home”. In “Easy Kill” , Moses is led to a militant cell by the dead beat CIA guy and drawn into a plot to kill a Hollywood actress making charity visits to the country. In “The Way Home” , Moses guides an escaped child soldier named Paul back to his home village where he encounters an unexpected reaction.

Just like the first Unknown Soldier volume, this collection is a hard hitting political thriller set against the unbelievably hostile backdrop of  Northern Uganda. The action is brutal and the atrocities and violations of human rights remain even more shocking because you know the book is based on real facts. In “Easy Kill” the books main character, Moses, continues on his own personal crusade against the evil and corrupt forces in his homeland whilst trying to control his own inner demon.  His crusade is complicated by the presence of his wife and ex fiancée especially when he is forced to try to prevent an assassination at a charity dinner in honor of his own death.  Moses begrudgingly teams up with rogue CIA agent in “Easy Kill” and the agents character is fleshed out considerably in this volume as he becomes a key part of the story.

I really enjoyed both arcs in this book and found them to be just as good and just as shocking as the first volume. “Easy Kill” does jump around a lot in time near the beginning which can make for a very confusing read. This may put some people off but if you persevere through this lack of continuity you are rewarded by an excellent action adventure.  There is also a great background article at the back of the book that gives a real timeline of the events in Uganda and its surrounding neighbors. This article really helps to hammer home the reality of the atrocities portrayed in unknown soldier.

I think that Ponticelli’s artwork stepped up a notch in the second volume and he seemed to put a lot more detail into the backdrops. I really enjoyed his art and this was in no doubt helped along by the excellent choice of color. The guest artist Pat Masioni illustrated the one shot “The way Home” and his artwork and style was remarkably similar to Ponticelli, so much so that I didn’t realize they had changed artists until I read the cover.

This book is strongly recommended especially if you enjoy action thrillers with strong political overtones based on real life events. [ISBN-13: 978-1401226008]. 8/10

[Unknown Soldier Vol. 1: Haunted House] – (Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli)
February 13, 2011, 9:20 am
Filed under: 8 Stars, Alberto Ponticelli, Joshua Dysart, Unknown Soldier

Volume 1 collects “Unknown Soldier” issues #1 to#6. The book is set in Northern Uganda In 2002, although there are lots of flashbacks to other times and places. It tells the story of Moses Lwanga who is a Ugandan doctor that was trained in the USA but has returned home to help his people.  What he finds is a kind of hell on earth with evil corruption and child soldiers exacting terrible acts upon each other.  One day he is drawn into a fight with some rebels and a fighting machine is wakened inside him.  Our bandaged hero Moses then sets off on a one man crusade against the evils that poison his land.

Unknown soldier is a very violent and realistic book. It gives a true sense of the utter desperation people must feel for the state of these worn torn provinces in Africa. It reminded me very much of “Blood Diamond” in terms of the shock of what the rebels were doing to children but turned up a notch. I really enjoyed the book  and the author certainly doesn’t hold back on the facts.

The artwork is great to look at and certainly portrays the horror and action well. It also has a really good color pallete that conveys the backdrops of Uganda admirably. Ponticelli’s character drawings are quite simplistic and have his own unique style that seems to fit the subject matter very well. They sometimes reminded  me of the sort of figures that were prevalent on 10th century tapestries.

The book is printed on slightly better than average “Vertigo” paper stock and weighs in around 140 pages. Haunted House is a shocking book that has been written with much passion but it certainly wont appeal to everyone. [ISBN-13: 978-1401223113]. 8/10

[Locke & Key Volume 3: Crown of Shadows HC] – (Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez)
February 10, 2011, 8:48 am
Filed under: 9 stars, Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill, Locke and Key

This third Hardcover in the Locke & Key series collects #1 to #6 of Crown Of Shadows. In this book, Dodge steps up his relentless quest to find the key to the black door and raises an army of shadows to help him do it. His battle with the Locke kids is epic in proportion especially when Tyler decides to use the Giant Key.

This series shows absolutely no signs of losing momentum or freshness. The story grabs you from the first page and wont let go.  The battle with Dodge is very well written and leaves you on the edge of your seat just like you were watching a movie. Although Volume 3 is action packed it does have its more somber moments. Hill plunges the mother deeper and deeper into desperation and alcoholism. You can almost taste the despair and I wonder just how this one will be resolved.

The artwork and color in “Crown of Shadows” is really good and continues to uphold the excellent standards set  in the first two volumes.  The splash pages are real eye candy.

Volume 3 is a fantastic story with great artwork. It is printed on good quality paper stock and is a must buy if you enjoyed the first two volumes. [ISBN-13: 978-1600106958]. 9/10

[Batman: Cacophony]- (Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan)
February 7, 2011, 9:46 pm
Filed under: 7 stars, Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan

“Cacophony” features two major super villains in the shape of the Joker and the mysterious and Onomatopoeia.  Both of them are after Batman’s blood but it is a mystery if they are they working together or is it merely a coincidence.  Batman’s agenda is to capture these two miscreants and stamp out Gotham’s new designer drug “Chuckles”  whilst trying to stay alive.

I don’t normally read superhero books but I do have a certain soft spot for Batman though mainly due to the movies rather than the comic books.  I picked up this book as an impulse buy without reading any reviews (If I had read the reviews I probably wouldn’t have bought it) and it is the first Batman book I have read in many years.   From the point of view of someone who doesn’t read Batman but listens to Kevin Smith podcasts regularly, I actually found this to be an enjoyable and engaging read.  I thought that the story was interesting and the “Joker” was well done (suitably psychotic) and I was impressed by the new super villain “Onomatopoeia”. The dialog was a little corny at times and there were some inexcusable spelling mistakes in the text but It didn’t distract from the plot.

Many of the reviews I have read on Cacophony really slate Walt Flanagan’s artwork but I actually enjoyed it.  The joker looks a little strange at times and Batman doesn’t look like I think he should without the mask  but the action is well done.  The book uses a good color pallete and crisp clean art to good affect.  It was a combination of the art and Kevin Smith’s name that made my impulse buy. Overall I thought it was a good super hero type adventure. and I will be buying the next TPB in the series.

Perhaps this is a just a book that appeals to people who dont read Batman,  or superheroes in general, but I thought it was worth a read. [ISBN-13:978-1401224196] . 7/10

[Locke & Key Volume 2: Head Games HC] – (Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez)
February 4, 2011, 10:00 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill, Locke and Key

Volume 2 collects “Locke & Key : Headgames”  Issues #1 to 6 and it is a great follow up to the first volume. “Head Games” fills in a lot of the back story and builds up the suspense about the  evil thing from the pit. It just makes you want to shout at the book to let the Locke’s know there is a cuckoo in their nest. In this volume Bode also discovers a key that literally allows you to unlock your mind but no good comes from its discovery.  There is also an interesting reveal about one of the supporting characters that I didn’t see coming and I cant wait to see how that story line plays out.

Gabriels artwork in this book is fantastic,  especially the gorgeously illustrated and colored splash pages.  The double splash page of the inside of Bode’s head or the Tempest are a real treat. Although the artwork is slightly cartoony, the level of detail and well chosen color pallete help portray the creepiness of the goings on. Being printed on high quality glossy paper stock helps to make this make this book a absolute joy to look at.

Special mention must also go to the generous helping of Special features and art gallery at the back of the book. This is a real nice bonus. If you liked the first book you wont regret buying this one. [ISBN-13: 978-1600104831]. 9/10

[Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft HC] – (Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez)
February 3, 2011, 8:37 am
Filed under: 9 stars, Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill, Locke and Key

This gorgeous hardcover edition collects “Locke & Key: Crown Of Shadows” Issues #1 to 6.  Locke & Key tells the story of the Locke family who after a brutal attack, move back to their ancestral home in Lovecraft in New England. Life doesn’t get any easier for them there and they find that their mansion is a key house whose doors and keys can do many magical things. They also find an evil presence in the well house that is using its powers to try to escape.

“Welcome to Lovecraft” is a well written horror story that has great characters and an intriguing story line.  Reading this book was just like watching a really well crafted suspense thriller (e.g. The Vanishing).  The story had me hooked from the start and I quickly developed an empathy for the characters.  The story slowly builds in tension to a dramatic climax that was made even more harrowing by this empathy.

Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork has a slightly cartoony feel to it but it is so well drawn that it suits this horror story perfectly.  The color pallete is also really well chosen and the artwork simply jumps off the page,which is no doubt helped by the use of excellent quality glossy paper stock. It is not just the character art that works so well in this book but also the detailed backgrounds especially on the splash pages. The art gallery in the back of the book  is also really good and shows off Rodriguez’s immense talent. After just this one book I have to say I am a fan of  Gabriel’s work and look forward to more of it in the future.

With a really good story, fantastic art,  great art gallery and wonderful presentation I can unashamedly reccomend this book to all fans of suspense thrillers. [ISBN-13:978-1600102370]. 9/10