One Mad Dog

[The Killer Volume 1 – H/C] – (Matz, Luc Jacamon)
April 7, 2012, 10:29 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Luc Jacamon, Matz, The Killer

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


[Jonah Hex – Bullets Dont Lie] – (Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Paulo Siqueira, Jordi Bernet, Darwin Cooke, Mark Sparacio, J.H. Williams III, Rafa Garres)

“Bullets Dont Lie” is the 6th Jonah Hex TPB  and it collects Jonah Hex #31-#36. The book contains:

  • #31 “The Red Mask” with art by Paulo Siqueira.
  • #32 “The Matador” with art by Jordi Bernet.
  • #33 “The Hunting Trip” with art by Darwin Cooke.
  • #34 “Outrunning Shadows” with art by Mark Sparacio.
  • #35 “A Crude Offer” with art by J.H. Williams III
  • #36 “Seven Graves Six Feet Deep” with art by Rafa Garres.
This is another solid collection and worth shelf space in any Jonah Hex collection.  I really enjoyed the first 4 stories and 5th was also pretty good  but  the 6th (seven Graves Six Feet Deep)  where Hex’s confederate uniform is explained  didn’t really capture my imagination.  It suffered from “Rafa Garres” artwork and panel layout which is very nice to look at but really hard work to follow and a contrived plot that seemed to have the authors battling with political correctness. It really didn’t work for me.
“Red mask” and “The matador” were both classic Jonah Hex style stories with great art and an easy to follow pulp western sytle.  “The Hunting Trip” at first seemed out of character with the normal Hex stuff as it was set in the frozen north complete with Darwin Cookes unique art style.  This story was really something a bit different but no less enjoyable for it.  Mark Sparacio’s artwork in “Outrunning Shadows” was a huge contrast to Darwin’s and it verged almost on the photo realistic. This  was  another story that puts Hex out of his usual environment and it worked well.  I was uncomfortable with some of J.H. Williams panel layouts in “A Crude Offer” and it prevented me from truly engaging with the story. It was also a story that was a little light on Dialogue. This was by no means a bad Jonah Hex story but not one of my favorites.
If you like the first 5 Jonah Hex TPB’s there is no reason why you should enjoy this one. ISBN-13: 978-1401221577. 8/10

[Fallen Angel Omnibus Volume 1] – (Peter David, J.K. Woodward, Christian Donaldson, Joe Corroney, Billy Gucci and Dennis Calero)

Fallen Angel omnibus 1 collects issues #1 to 14 of the IDW run of fallen Angel. It contains:

  • #1 to #14, Artist – J.K. Woodward.
  • #15 to #16, Artist – Christian Donaldson.
  • #17 Artist, Joe Corroney and Billy Gucci,
  • #18 to #19, Artist – J.K. Woodward.
  • #20, Artist – Dennis Calero.
  • #21, Artist – J.K. Woodward.

This Omnibus marks the move from DC to IDW and I am pleased to report that the quality of storytelling lost nothing in the move.  This omnibus is an engrossing read, just like the first, and the story is both intricate and fast flowing at the same time.  It explores some interesting religious and moral concepts in a way that leaves you wanting to read “just one more issue” before putting it down.

This book does nothing to further the reader’s empathy for the main character. The fallen angel is still a completely unlikeable person but this doesn’t seem to get in the way of an enjoyable yarn. The main premise of this collection is the addition of her son as the new magistrate of Bette Noire and the ripples that that event causes.

At first the change from David Lopez to J.K. Woodward was a bit of a disappointment to me as I am not a big fan of the soft focused painted art style but after a few issues I quickly warmed to it and it no longer was an issue.  J.K. Woodward’s art really does do an excellent job of capturing movement and atmosphere and this fit the story very well.  It also became a lot more hardlined and traditional as the series progressed (just compare the art from issue 1 to issue 18). Woodward’s art really grew on me and I have  to say I ended up liking it a lot.

The change of artist to Christian Donaldson’s for issues 15 and 16 is quite a dramatic jump. Donaldson adopted a far more traditional comic book style and used a color pallete that would not look out of place in a BPRD novel.  I enjoyed his artwork and thought his interpretation of Fallen Angel was a good one.

There was another significant change in style for the two part issue 16 which was illustrated by Joe Corroney and Billy Gucci.  The detailed hard outlined approach of these two artists was also a stark contrast to Woodward’s style but the result was very good and they captured the main characters well. I am not sure which artist penciled which story part but if I had to choose a favorite it would be the work in 17a.

The only disappointing artwork in the whole book was in issue 20 by Denis Calero who’s brash pop culture style did not appeal to a great deal. It reminded me a bit of some of the gritty work you find in books such as “John Constantine but it felt a little out of place in this omnibus.

Some great cover gallery work in the back where J.K. Woodward’s work really shines. If you like the first omnibus then this one should appeal to you too. The story isn’t quite as good as Volume zero and the art is quite as appealing to me so this one gets an 8 rather than a 9.  ISBN-13: 978-1600103827. 8/10

[Asterix Omnibus Volume 2] – (Rene Goscinny, Albert Uderzo)
February 20, 2012, 5:57 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Albert Uderzo, Asterix, Rene Goscinny

Asterix Omnibus 2: Includes Asterix the Gladiator #4, Asterix and the Banquet #5 and  Asterix and Cleopatra #6 in one  large format glossy papered volume.  “Asterix the Gladiator” is the story of the Romans capturing Cacofonix to feed him to the lions as a special treat for Julius Caesar. Asterix and Obolix join the Roman Gladiator school to rescue him and teach the Romans a lesson. “Asterix and the Banquet” follows Asterix and Obelix’s travels round the entire country of France to gather local specialties in order to make a massive banquet and to win a bet with the Romans who are surrounding their village. “Asterix and Cleopatra”  follows Asterix and Obelix’s to Egypt where they assist one of Getafix’s old friends in building a huge palace for Cleopatra. This book also sees the introduction of another regular character in the shape of a dog called Dogamatix.

All three books are light hearted with plenty of jokes at the expense of Asterix’s enemies. Unlike the first volume where it took a while to get used to the style of writing  this volume immediately flowed nicely and the translation was seamless.  The stories were witty and perfectly paced and the jokes at the expense of the Romans are as funny as ever.  I think with these three volumes the series really found its rhythm and it would be hard to pick a favorite amongst them.

The artwork and coloring is excellent and of a consistent high standard.  There are  tons of things going on in the backgrounds of the panels and the book is a joy to look at.  The presentation is also really good in the oversized format and the colors are vibrant.

This is a another great collection that should appeal to both kids and adults alike. It certainly doesn’t feel childish in any way and the sense of humor makes it a light read.  If you enjoyed the first omnibus you should enjoy this one too. ISBN-13: 978-1444004243. 8/10

[Commando: D-Day Fight or Die! The 12 Best Commando D-Day Comic Books Ever!] – (George Low, Various)
February 5, 2012, 4:20 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Commando, Various

“D-Day Fight or Die”  is another great collection of Commando war stories featuring a D-Day theme. Just like the other books published by Carlton it features 12 black and white stories all reprinted at 25% larger than their original size. This collection includes:

  • Ambush at Dawn
  • The Strongpoint
  • Normandy Drop
  • Wrong Time, Wrong Place
  • Big Joe
  • Blood of Heroes
  • D-Day Drop
  • Operation Bulldog
  • Wolf Pack
  • Man of Iron
  • Big Guy
  • The Footsloggers
The book uses the familiar two frames per page style with a generous amount of text. Unlike many modern comic books, Commando give you plenty of story to read but both the writers and the artist remain anonymous which is a great shame as many of them deserve some recognition for their work.  The stories follow the tried and tested Commando formula of an underdog (usually from the lower classes) fighting his way through seemingly insurmountable odds to eventually become the hero.  The writers concentrate on personal interactions rather than an over glorified action movie style script which gives the tales great depth. The weapons and battlefields are historically accurate and all of them are nicely portrayed by the artists to give a great sense of setting.
Commando is not for everyone though, the stories are very heavily British biased and they are written in a style that apes the values and dialogues of the period. If you are a fan of British War comics you should really enjoy “D-Day Fight or Die!” but if not, or if you are German, then this book might not be for you.
There is one sour point in this collection and that is that Carlton included the story “Man of Iron” that was previously included in the “Commando: Dirty Dozen” collection. Of all the hundreds of stories they have to choose from it is inexcusable to double up after so few collected volumes (shame on you Carlton!).

“D-Day Fight or Die!” is another solid collection and worthy of any Commando collectors library. [ISBN-13: 978-1847322838.]. 8/10

[Turf – H/C] – (Jonathon Ross, Tommy Lee Edwards)
January 16, 2012, 8:59 am
Filed under: 8 Stars, Jonathon Ross, Tommy Lee Edwards

Turf is the first graphic novel by eccentric UK media star Jonathon Ross. Ross has been a comic geek for years so this book isn’t simply some celebrity slapping their name on a book but rather a really inventive and enjoyable story. “Turf” is set in prohibition New York in 1929 where the rival gangs are in a vicious turf war with a bunch of vampires.  Throw in an alien for good measure and you have a story that crosses many genres but works really well.

“Turf”  has a very old school look to it both in the panel layout and in the artwork.  It is also unusual compared to many modern comic books in that it has quite a lot of text on each page.  You certainly get a good long read for your money and letterer John Workman definitely earned his money on this one.  Ross has managed to achieve some excellent character development and portrays the dredges of society in a satisfying way.  The character of O’ Leary is a particularly loathsome example of this.

I really enjoyed “Turf” and although I had my doubts about the alien element working in a 1920’s New York setting it actually  fit in really well.  Story wise this book is one of the best books I have read in a long time and would earn itself a place in my list of 10’s but unfortunately I was not quite as impressed with the art.

Tommy Lee Edwards art is good, captures the feel of prohibition New York and it fits the story perfectly but the style isn’t quite to my liking. It is a little too simplistic and scratchy for my tastes but this does not get in the way of following the action and may appeal more to other readers.  The book has an extensive gallery/cover section in the back and in this section Edwards work really does shine. I feel the style incorporated in the main story was a decision made to allow the art to be completed in a timely manner. Unfortunately the art drags this book down to an 8 for me.

The Hardcover version of “Turf” is a fantastic read with deluxe glossy paper and some great extras. Even if you do not like Jonathon Ross the media star this book is highly recommended as a first rate  graphic novel. ISBN-13: 978-1607064008. 8/10.

[Asterix Omnibus Volume 1] – (Rene Goscinny, Albert Uderzo)
December 1, 2011, 8:50 am
Filed under: 8 Stars, Albert Uderzo, Asterix, Rene Goscinny

This Omnibus collects Asterix the Gaul #1, Asterix and the Golden Sickle #2, Asterix and the Goths #3 in one pretty large format glossy papered volume. “Asterix the Gaul” introduces the main characters and the magic strength potion and sees our hero and friends defending their small Gallic village from the surrounding Romans. “Asterix and the Golden Sickle”  is the story of how Asterix and Obelix try to get a new golden sickle for Getafix so that he can attend the druids conference. Unfortunately the sickle maker has disappeared and our intrepid duo have to break up an organised crime ring of sickle sellers. “Asterix and the Goths” is the story of Getafix’s trip to the druids conference and Asterix and Obelix’s run in with the Goths who kidnap their druid friend.

All three books are light hearted with plenty of jokes at the expense of Asterix’s enemies. It can take a while to get used to the style of writing as there are quite a few latin references and jokes but after a while the language become transparent. Asterix is translated from the French original (I originally encountered Asterix in my French class at school) and at times the translation is a little uncomfortable but by the middle of the first book I didn’t notice it any more. The different accents are illustrated by using different fonts which can be a little hard on the eye but add a comedic element to the story. I haven’t read any Asterix since I was a kid but I had fond memories of the books and I am happy to report that it is just as good as I remembered.

The artwork and coloring is excellent and of a consistent high standard.  There are  tons of things going on in the backgrounds of the panels and the book is a joy to look at.

This is a great collection that should appeal to both kids and adults alike. It certainly doesn’t feel childish in any way and the sense of humor makes it a light read. The artwork is also great. ISBN-13: 978-1444004236. 8/10