Book Reviews: Historical, Spy, Sci-Fi Graphics

“Calm down. Take a deep breath and hold your arms out.”
“So I can pretend you’re a periscope.” My face pressed against hers.

James Bond: VARGR
The story starts with a guy in Helsinki who appears to be indestructible, to the point where a cinder block falls on his back and he gets up. His fingers are chopped off by a shovel, yet he keeps crawling. . . until James Bond puts a hole in his head for killing 008. From there it’s on to Berlin, where he’s picked up by a babe at the airport; true to form, he doesn’t question it, especially when she gets on top of him in the backseat. . . until she tries to choke him with the heavy duty gloves he thinks she’s wearing. Oddly enough, though he gets his ass kicked by the girl with the Iron Fists, he doesn’t seem all that bothered by a stomp to the balls.
Other than that, Bond is his usual badass, taking out a warehouse full of bad guys with special overkill bullets and the old bookstacks trick. This has the feel of the classic movies from the 60s. Bond is somewhere between Lazenby and Brosnan lookswise. . . or maybe Archer. At times his cheek scar is pronounced.
The story is no big deal, barely enough to string together action pieces. I instinctively knew who the bad guy was; they made it too obvious. The best part is the deadpan jokes, like Q saying, “Personally, I never travel to Norway without explosives.” The bad guy gets off a really funny line at the end, which I won’t spoil, but you’ll know it when you see it. As for the design, there’s strange but effective use of paneling, with some permutations I haven’t seen before.
28 pages of bonus material, including alternate covers and concept art.

Codename Baboushka Volume 1
Rather than the usual “artist, writer,” credits to start, here it’s “Mission briefings, hidden cameras, and transcripts.”
This starts off with a gangster assassinated by a maid, but of course it’s never that simple. Baboushka is an ex-mafia leader who got bested and ended up getting asylum in the US 3 years ago, but now she’s being pulled back in for one last job. After that exposition the story returns to her escape after killing the gangster, ending up in her underwear, showing that despite the white hair she’s still quite young. More importantly, she wasn’t lying about having dynamite earrings.
From there the story shifts to a luxury cruise liner with a bunch of crime lords, lamenting that when she was still in that line of work there’d never had meetings in places like these. But before she can get the info she needs, pirates take over.
She tries one-liners, but most of the time they’re not funny. Despite the white hair and blue eyes, she’s not all that pretty either, though her body is drawn just a step below Lara Croft. She’s not particularly smart either, should have known better than to trust that guy; couldn’t have been more obvious, really. And I surely didn’t need the close-up of her injured ankle.
Small stroke of genius to use the matryoshka dolls as grenades.
Bonus of alternate covers.

The Jekyll Island Chronicles
A giant soldier in the WW1 trenches really stupidly sets off a grenade, then saves others and of course gets the worst of it. There’s no way he can be alive after that, right?
Switch to the war finally being over, where President Wilson tries to get all the mega-rich guys on Jekyll Island to join him to stop the hidden forces still threatening the world; Carnegie is the only one who really believes him, with a little help from Ford. Meanwhile the Eiffel Tower gets bombed and Tesla falls in love with a shocking girl, a cute redhead who’s literally electrifying.
There’s a panel of a bicycle messenger in Paris that shows him running through a puddle; it actually says “splash!” So attention to detail, if you can call it that. Unfortunately after a while it gets really preachy, and ends with a not-so-little clue as to what will be in the sequel.
Extras include a list of Kickstarter supporters and creator bios.

“In space, no one can hear Vampirella scream.” Cute.
Apparently as a vampire astronaut she’s the only one suitable to check out an ancient lair buried on Mars. Anyone who is familiar with this character will not recognize her; she looks completely overdressed in the jumpsuit—hardly recognizable. Only in the covers does she have her classic red barely-there dress. Yet she might look even more sexy this way, which is hard to imagine.
It doesn’t take long for the infamous gross moment to happen, but of course everyone blames the vampire. The most nightmarish scene—of many—is when they’re climbing the vertical tunnel with the aliens in hot pursuit. But in the middle of escaping yet again, they stop to listen to the Nosferatu’s story of how they colonized Mars; it’s like an opera, where they think exposition is more important than fleeing.
The action parts were good, but there wasn’t much of that. I will say it’s pleasant to see Vampirella serious and badass, as opposed to other times when she’s just giggly and punny. But in the end this was far more Aliens with Vampirella thrown in.
The captions are huge! Like the type in a large print book. At the end there’s three pages of drawings.



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