Book Reviews: Sci-Fi and Hockey Graphics

“I never leave the shower curtain open; I hate the idea of giving it away for free.
“Plus stuff gets wet.”

I’ve read more graphic novels this year than the previous forty-sev. . . er, twenty-eight.

Warship Jolly Roger
What do you do when you escape jail after a trumped-up treason charge? Especially when you were just following orders? Steal a big ship, kidnap the president, and turn pirate!
“Is this mutiny under control or not?” “Not.”
So our anti-hero—have to call him that despite what he’s been though—and his three fellow escapees each have their own ideas of where to head and what to do with the ship. I love the redhead who says “Ah, geez!” all the time, and how giddy she gets piloting a good ship, but she’s dumb enough to trust her mother, so not the best source of intelligence.
Always a good ploy to attach a bomb to the dictator, because he’d never think of getting revenge, would he?
The explanation for the telepaths on the screwed-up planet was longwinded; could have been shorter or taken out altogether, as it did nothing for the plot other to explain the origins of a character best left mysterious. There’s so many characters to dislike, and of course the likeable ones get the worst of it. And damn, that was quite a cliffhanger! But overall a good read.
A few pages of extras.

Howz this for a first impression? The appetizing image of lizard on a stick. . .
So there’s a guy in a strip club quickly out of the strip club, getting thrown out into the street, where he almost gets run over by what looks to be a Day of the Dead parade. Things quickly get even crazier in this film noir first person narration, or as described on the back cover, neon noir.
Despite losing his memory, he’s a PI somewhere in the humid South: “No memory, no identity, and no manners.” The artwork is full of cassettes and Rubik cubes and VHS, but then a TV eats a goat and I no longer think of my teenage years. Soon enough the same thing happens to him, falling through a Tron-like landscape into a talk show, then has a run-in with Tele-shaman. Weirded out yet? How ‘bout when he runs though the channels to narration provided by an aged Max Headroom?
There’s a great callback to the lizard on a stick, but seriously, this was far too confusing; not as bad as others, because I made it to the end, but this feels like a case where the author had it all clear in his head but couldn’t communicate it clearly enough. There’s too many otherworldly creatures toying with humans for their own enjoyment to really get into it. At one point there’s a huge digression as Blue Girl travels some netherworlds to meet her spider ancestors; this could have been done much easier, so it feels like filler.
At least there’s some subversive humor to keep things going, like an action figure riding in to the rescue on a lizard, who is not yet on a stick. Best line: “Alas, poor Yorrick. He was a dick, Horatio.” This protagonist is the epitome of someone who never learns: “Yeah, you better run!” he screams as a kraken appears behind him. And the look of surprise on the lizard as it gets lassoed. . . no doubt dreading the stick to come.
I still have no idea what “Compatible dagon supports both VHS and Betamax” means. (Guess which word I don’t understand.)
The best thing I can say is that this is a deconstruction of the private eye genre: “The detective is Sisyphus.” We are all just playthings of the gods, so nothing new there.
Being mostly night with neon lighting, the colors are strange. Plenty of blue where you don’t expect it. Extras include alternate covers and a very short story about sword safety, or rather lack of it.

Mythic Volume 1
At first I thought this was going to be cartoonish as heck, with the way the old woman coming into the store was drawn, but thankfully it was just her; the rest of the characters in the opening scene, including the phone demons, looked as realistic as they could possibly be made.
My next thought was how a lowly phone repair guy could defeat such monsters in combat, but before they can tell me the scene shifts to the Colorado desert, where Yellowstone Sam. . . er, yes, Yosemite Sam is trying to shut down a portable bar due to the drought. . . or something like that. At that point I stopped trying to make sense of it all, especially when someone blurts, “Science is the opiate of the masses?” Are they actually trying to make my head explode? The best comic relief comes from Cassandra, the original Greek one; not only is she a hot badass, she can tell the future, and you’re not gonna like it. “I have spoken, asshole.”
“Your valley’s in a drought because the sky and the mountains haven’t been fucking lately.”
And to think I was curious how a guy was gonna sex with a mountain. After making it rain in the desert—nothing like the disgruntled look of a killer monster who didn’t get to kill—everyone celebrates as they realize it’s Sunday and they’re getting overtime; sometimes the jokes sneak up on you.
Next we get an Osprey over the Giant’s Causeway, a sentence I never thought I would say. (That’s Osprey the military aircraft, not the hawk.) Finn McCool, who was not the hero he made himself out to be, is waking up. When another chapter screams, “A giant baby wrestles a dinosaur!” I hoped they were referring to McCool, but nope, it’s literal, and the dinosaur is a komodo dragon; close enough.
That talking snake in the bucket seems to be the smartest character. “All the practice you got choking your wang has finally come in handy.” Hope that last word wasn’t a pun. Tailbiter is both a good and bad name for a dog. And Death Woman would have to be a bit of a ballbuster. And as always happens in real life, the janitor saves the day.
Considering the kind of story this is, the artwork is incredibly bright and colorful. With so many double-crosses and overblown intrigue, it’s hard to keep things straight. This would have been a lot shorter and tighter, more concise, without all the Wrath of Khan rhetoric and threats.
With 60 pages left there’s a few short stories, like how the ghost got that way. The last more-than-20-pages is covers and sketches.

The Stereotypical Freaks
This was the first in a trilogy where I’d unwittingly already read the second, which did make it a little confusing, but not too much.
A young guy in high school who plays guitar but is otherwise a nerd is being goaded by his buddy to form a band so they can perform in the talent show, but he doesn’t want to play live. It takes seeing his crush going out with a stoner musician, and reconnecting with an old friend who years ago blew him off when he became cool, for him to be onboard, but even then they still need a drummer.
We’re off to an excellent start as each chapter has song recommendations, and the very first is “Subdivisions” by Rush. On the other hand, things are bound to take a dive from there.
So, Tom is a nerd pining for the prettiest girl in school. Dan wants his father to be around. Mark would rather be popular than friendly. But Jacoby makes their problems pale into insignificance, and when he eventually comes to grips with his problems, The Stereotypical Freaks become the band of brothers they knew they could be.
There’s a blurb on the back that talks about how most graphics today are about superheroes, zombies, and robots, so it’s refreshing to see a coming-of-age story. This is on the spot, and while there’s plenty of drama here, it’s not about the drama. A lot of people seem to have forgotten how they made friends back in school.
The drawings are black and white, sketchlike and stark, but in this case it works.



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