One Mad Dog

[Kick Ass – H/C] – (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr)
January 20, 2012, 10:23 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, John Romita Jr, Mark Millar

This title collects “Kick-Ass” issues #1-8 and is the story of a very unlikely teenager trying to be a superhero and of a very unusual father/daughter team hellbent on making the local crime bosses life a misery. “Kick Ass” is also a rare beast in that it actually formed the basis for a really good comic book movie.

“Kick Ass” grabbed me from the first page and never let go till the very violent finale. I think the reason it made such a good movie is that it reads like a really good teen movie.  The shocks keep coming page after page from the new and inventive depictions of violence to the seriously disturbed relationship between Big Daddy and his eleven year old killing machine daughter, Hit  Girl,  who slices off body parts and spurts out obscenities like there is no tomorrow.  The book is written in a very witty and irreverent style and has spot on pacing. Despite the very violent content it is more amusing than offensive. Just like the over the top violence in movies like “Kill Bill” or “Machette”  the gore makes you laugh rather than recoil.

John Romita Jnr’s artwork is absolutely spot on and couldn’t fit the stories quirky, violent and amusing story style any better. Although the artwork has a teen comic book look to it (perhaps slightly manga), the content itself is extremely violent and gory. I really enjoyed the art and it makes me want to check out more of his work.

If you like the movie then you should enjoy this book as much if not more. A great fun read but not for the squeamish or easily offended. ISBN-13: 978-0785134350 . 9/10

[Baltimore Volume 1: The Plague Ships – H/C] – (Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Ben Stenbeck)
October 7, 2011, 9:09 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, Ben Stenbeck, Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola

This hard cover collects the “Baltimore Plague Ships” comic book series issues 1 to 5 with some extras.

“After a devastating plague ends World War I, Europe is suddenly flooded with vampires. Lord Henry Baltimore, a soldier determined to wipe out the monsters, fights his way through bloody battlefields, ruined plague ships, exploding zeppelins, and submarine graveyards on the hunt for the creature who’s become his obsession.”

Baltimore has the same look and feel as BPRD and is instantly recognizable as a Mike Mignola creation.  It has a bit of a Van Helsing or Solomon Kane feel to it but it is set in an alternative history after the first World War. The setting is perfectly rendered  and the story grips you from start to finish.  I love how they merged the idea of medieval plague into an early 1900’s war torn backdrop and threw in a bit of steam punk horror to garnish the mix.  I can wait for the next collection to find out what happens in Baltimore’s search for the elusive vampire and hopefully the answers to many other questions that this cracking first collection raised.

Ben Stenbeck’s artwork is perfect for the subject matter and has a fantastic atmosphere to it. He has a strange technique of not drawing feet or legs on far away characters that sometimes looks a bit odd but gives the book a quirky character. The color palette is the same as many of Mignola’s work but I have absolutely no problem with that.  I will definitely be looking out for more of his work.

Baltimore is a must read book for fans of Mignola and this hardcover version is worth the extra money. ISBN-13: 978-1595826732. 9/10

[Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition] – (Stan Sakai)
September 27, 2011, 5:04 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, Stan Sakai

Fantagraphics released this deluxe slipcase set collecting the seven first Usagi books In honor of Usagi Yojimbo’s 20th anniversary.  It also has a boatload of extra material including more than 50 Usagi covers in full color. There are two monster hard covers contained within the slipcase and they are pretty heavy to hold in your hand whilst reading. The paper quality and presentation is excellent.

Miyamoto Usagi is an ex samurai, now Ronin, anthropomorphic rabbit bodyguard. He wanders around 17th-century Japan righting wrongs inflicted upon the other anthropomorphic animals (e.g. cats, snakes, rhinos, moles).

The black and white  artwork in Usagi Yojimbo could be described as simplistic and  it has a children’s cartoon comic book look to it. It’s pretty hard not to portray anamorphic characters such as rabbits without giving them a cute look.  The more you read Usagi the more the artwork begins to shine and the more the little details and backdrops please the eye.  Particular note must go to the strange lizards that appear all over the place for background amusement.   The artwork style really won me over.

This fantastic collection of seven books is absolutely first rate. The stories are engaging and addictive and the sense of location is particularly well done.  It is a light read and a great way to cleanse the reading palette between more serious graphic novels. The extras are also very impressive including lengthy interviews, artwork and plot discussions. The extras could easily be a standalone trade paperback in themselves.

This deluxe edition is highly recommended to graphic novel fans everywhere. If you buy this edition you’ll want the rest.  9/10. ISBN-13: 978-1606991541

[The Goon Volume 6: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker] – (Eric Powell)
July 14, 2011, 6:03 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, Eric Powell, The Goon

Volume 6 is a departure for the Goon series as it takes on an all together more serious tone. Eric explores the Goon’s early history from his time in the circus to his fledgling steps as a gang leader. The Goon’s loves, betrayals and friendship with Frankie are all fleshed out so that the reader finally understands what made the Goon the man he is today.  On top of the great back stories there is also an impressive adversary in the form of the mysterious Mr. wicker driving through the narrative. Going all deep and serious on a comic series that is normally light hearted and funny could have been a disaster for Eric Powell but instead he created a masterpeice. 

The artwork in “Chinatown” is gorgeous and it captures the moods and emotions of the story perfectly.  Eric chose to use different color washes to illustrate the different time periods of the story and this works really well.  Every page is a pleasure to the eye and I found myself going back just to look at the pictures several times after finishing the story.

Not only does this book have great art and great story but there are some great extras too.  This is a Goon book that people who are not fans of the series could pick up and read as a standalone novel and still enjoy.  I consider this to be the best book in the Goon series so far and it really does pack an emotional punch. ISBN-13: 978-1595824066. 9/10

[Kingdom: The Promised Land] – (Dan Abnett, Richard Elson)
July 12, 2011, 10:42 pm
Filed under: 2000AD, 9 stars, Dan Abnett, Richard Elson

This trade paper back contains two story arcs from the 2000AD comic book series Kingdom.

  • “Kingdom” originally published in 2000AD progs #1518 to #1525
  • “The Promised Land” originally published in 2000AD progs #1567 to #1576.

“Kingdom” is the story of  “Gene the Hackman” who is a lifeform derived from a genetically modified dog soldier. In an apocalyptic future world, Gene and his kind patrol the lands of Antarctica  trying to eliminate the “Them” who are a virulent species of evolved insects that have all but wiped out all other life on the planet.

“Kingdom” is full of action and bloody battles but it also has an interesting back story on the nature of the  demise of the masters (mankind) and hence civilization. The characters are developed nicely and the story has excellent pacing which reads very well in trade format. Richard Elson’s art is good and has a typical 2000AD feel to it. The art fits the story well although the color pallete is a bit dour.

“Promised Land”  follows Gene’s adventures after he crosses the land bridge and he finds a human colony known as the promised land.  This is an absolutely cracking story with really good art and a fantastic twist. Elson’s art and coloring is exponentially better than the first story and helps define this as a true 2000AD classic.

ISBN-13: 978-1907519871. 9/10

[Darkie’s Mob: The Secret War of Joe Darkie – HC] – (John Wagner, Mike Western)
June 3, 2011, 6:42 am
Filed under: 9 stars, John Wagner, Mike Western

This hardcover volume collects the entire series of Darkie’s Mob WW2 strips from the British boys war comic BATTLE.  It is the story of a group of British soldiers fighting a campaign of guerilla warfare against the Japanese in Burma under the command a renegade Captain Joe Darkie.  As this strip first appeared in the 1970’s it isn’t very politically correct in terms of language but at the same time it is entirely appropriate for the time. Garth Ennis does a great job of discussing the language used in Darkie’s Mob in his lengthy introduction.

The book is hard hitting physiological war story that really works well as a collected volume. It keeps the reader guessing about the true nature of Joe Darkie right up until the last story.  The Secret War doesn’t try to glamorize or soften this particularly gruesome period of World War 2 and it is inevitable that it will offend some readers.  John Wagner is better known for co creating Judge Dredd but this is some of his best writing and should be a welcome addition to any British Comic fans library.

Mike Western’s black and white art is lovingly reproduced in this collection and probably looks better now than when it was drawn back in the 70’s. Mike does a really good job of capturing both action and emotion in the characters and I really enjoyed the art.

Darkies Mob is a well written, engaging story with first rate comic art and  great presentation. It has one of the best introductions Garth Ennis has written and some nice extras too. A must buy for fans of war comics like “Charlie’s War” and dare I say 2000AD’s “BAD COMPANY” that surely must have been influenced by this. ISBN-13: 978-1848564428. 9/10

[The Sword Complete Collected Deluxe Hardcover] – (Joshua Luna, Jonathan Luna)
May 9, 2011, 1:03 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, Jonathan Luna, Joshua Luna

This deluxe edition collects the complete run of The Sword in an oversized hardcover and slipcase format, and contains all covers, including rare versions from extra printings. Collects The Sword #1-24.

The sword is the story of a young woman who discovers a mysteriously powerful sword that allows her to seek revenge on the three elemental gods who brutally murdered her family. It is very difficult to reveal any more of the story without spoling it. The sword is a book that has to be read in order and where staying away from spoilers will enhance your enjoyment 100 fold.

This is a monster of a book and it is almost too big and heavy to read comfortably in bed which is a problem because once you pick it up you will not want to put it down. The story gradually reveals itself ike peeling layers from an onion but with many suprises and plot twists thrown in for good measure. The story doesnt have an over abundance of text so it isnt a very long read considering its size but this doesnt matter as the art is excellent.

The sword is a pretty gory book with people doing all sorts of nasty things to each other in glorious detail. The crisp clean art work and coloring is made even better by the large format and good quality glossy paper stock. The sword is an easy read that gave me much pleasure especially as I kept away from any type of spoiler. It is a monster of a book that I highly reccomend. ISBN-13: 978-1607062806. 9/10

[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

[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