“It’s a tough job being me. Maintaining such a level of integrity in a world that increasingly devalues it. . . it’s exhausting.”
In post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, what appears to be the only human woman left is fighting to stay alive as cavemen and every other kind of animal try to kill her. Then we go back to how it all happened: trying to get rid of religion in the brain wiped out all modern DNA. . . oops.
This story is done incredibly dark, even with the protagonist’s still-cynical optimism. She wants to find the cure, but gets trapped by a group of unchanged humans, who of course are worse than everyone else. The story even goes into space, which is no refuge from the disease; it is particularly not recommended to devolve in a space suit.
There’s two particular panels I remember: a really scary shot of a couple having sex while over her shoulder you see a horde of attackers, and the battle with the monster after crashlanding, which reminded me of Starship Troopers.
As for the plot, there’s a lot of ranting on how the world will be if we don’t change. Most of all, there’s a lot of—and more, to use today’s buzzword, graphic—violence depicted, more than usual even for something in this genre. The artwork is obviously expert, but it really comes off rough.
Almost 40 pages of extras, mostly early sketches and script.
Twilight Zone: Shadow & Substance
A very thick graphic novel containing eleven stories of varying interest and technique.
#1: Like a few Twilight Zone episodes, a man goes back to his hometown to find nothing has changed. Unlike those, this one was not well-thought-out and suffers even without those comparisons. 1.5/5
#2: A man in an alien prison wants nothing more than to escape, especially when he sees several people being taken up into the sky and returned emotionally damaged. This story is much better. Great plot twist, although the ending was foreshadowed. 4/5
#3: A young “Republican” senator who filibusters a help the poor bill ends up in the 1930s, alone and poor and needing to see what it’s like. . . except he’s too arrogant and thinks his mission is to stop the New Deal. A particularly dark twist means he won’t learn his lesson. 3/5
#4: A Renaissance Faire-loving professor ends up back in time and realizes it’s not exactly how he dreamed it. “I may have slightly romanticized all this.” 3.5/5
#5: “The Secret Over-sharer.” Amazing title, but this story is about what happens when you overdo the cure to social media overload. Best line: “Want to see if I ever go out with you again?” 4/5
#6: “Hangnail on a Monkey’s Paw.” Another great title, but the story is confusing; I don’t think the author communicated the story from his head to the page well enough.
#7: Another one that’s very similar to an original episode, down to the punchline, and incredibly heavy-handed on the way. Would have been poignant if I didn’t have to dodge all the falling anvils. 2/5
#8: Some special google glass lets a Trump see what people are really like, even souls as they depart their meat houses. A pack of slightly used chewing gum if you can guess what happens when he looks in the mirror. 3.5/5
#9: Clownface takes on a whole new meaning for a soulless banker. 3.5/5
#10: An eager boy in the 50s who moved into a new neighborhood wants to join the local kids’ club. They’re even crueler than you’d expect to him. But the ending left me befuddled, if that actually was an ending. 2/5
#11: Yup, comics are dangerous. This one was just too silly to take seriously at all. 2.5/5
10 pages of alternate covers.
Monstress Volume 1: Awakening
This graphic novel review is a little different in that I’m doing each episode separately.
A one-armed young woman is about to be sold into slavery when she’s claimed by someone who apparently knows the future. Then it turns out she wanted to infiltrate that place. She has powers, but they only work when she’s in extreme danger or pain. And she has no compunctions about killing or torture, part of her journey of revenge.
“I like you better on fire.” An even better line is, “To quote the poets, we’re fucked.” What do you expect from a cat with two tails? And when you see what it’s talking about, you’ll agree.
The artwork is amazingly beautiful, especially the female humans. (Yes, I’m biased toward this species.) All the more impressive in that the colors have a sepia tone.
According to the publicity blurb, this is “set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk.” I didn’t particularly see that, but now that I think about it I can agree with it.
After the introduction-filled first episode, this one seems like filler. The best moment was the cat trying to fake how powerful it was. And though not as much as the first, the beautiful artwork is still the main event here.
At the end a different cat gives a history lecture, which might have been better off included at the beginning of the first. After that there’s letters from fans, comments, a bit of a newsletter, some script pages, and a sneak peek to the next episode.
This episode starts with a flashback—getting a bit tired of them, would prefer more linear—where we finally see how—and why—she lost her arm. Not fun to watch. More fun is finding that this world contains unicorns as well as talking cats and monsters.
Wow, the bad guys in this story are incredibly bad, even the minions. They get what they deserve, but not until after they deserve it. And most of them are humans; go figure.
Like the previous, there’s a history lecture and fan letters.
In this episode we’re introduced to talking wolves as well as monkeys; their queen gives a speech that makes me wonder if this war is as much about commerce and greed as it is about racism.
In the review of the previous episode I mentioned how the humans are incredibly bad in this story, but here we see the Archaics aren’t any better. But the worst is the monster inside her; we learn more about it this time around, as the whole book takes place in just two scenes, which made it feel shorter than the others.
As before, the highlight is the artwork, this time an old but beautiful city. There’s a series of panels under and on what appears to be an aqueduct that is some of the loveliest work I’ve ever seen.
This time the lecturing cat is making chocolate mice for the kittens; it’s almost cute. More importantly, she tells possibly the most necessary piece of info in this series yet: how the Archaics came to be.
This time in addition to fan mail we get some fan art, some of them pretty good, and original sketches from the artist whose finished work is so amazing.
As always a flashback starts things off, this time to a prison camp for kids.
The little fox is so cute at times, especially when it’s scared, which is always. With closed eyes and turned head Kippa grabs the photo the new character is holding out, then scurries back behind Maika even though she’s the scariest of them all.
“Am I safe?” (As in safe to be around.) “I think you try to be. You’re just not very good at it.”
In one of the earlier books there was a panel that showed what had to be a huge male slave comforting Maika after she got shoved around; it was a blink and you’ll miss it moment. Now in this edition that small moment is explained and expanded into the plot, making the story more exciting.
“You look like you want to kill someone.” “No, that’s her happy face.”
Despite all the gore from all the battles, the truly chilling moments are when the powerful twist events to help their own propaganda. So far this is the best episode written.
Whoa, a samurai cat! And lots more heavily armed animals. Oh oh. . .
This time the lecture is about the five different races, which proved very interesting. As always, fan mail and fan art.
On the cover the heroine—or anti-heroine—is seen on a unicorn. Nice, but it never happens in the story.
This starts—in the present, for once—with Maika buried in a sarcophagus, while the samurai cat from last time wonders what she’s thinking. . . and of course we find out.
“Monsters are people too.” Kippa is officially my favorite character.
“I beg your pardon, but that is a very rude spot to hold a cat!” All the more poignant when it’s the cat doing the whining.
Though the soldiers in earlier chapters had rifles, it wasn’t till I saw the guns here—against swords—that I really saw what a mix-up this world was.
That last battle was very confusing; couldn’t tell who was who sometimes.
The final cliffhanger. . . damn!
Another intriguing cat lecture, this time on the human who discovered the secret elixir of the gods.
Anne of Green Bagels
It’s Anne’s first day at a new school, where her seaweed bagels earn her the nickname, but she does make one friend. He keeps her sane while she worries about where her father has gone with his new pedestrian mobile home; he’s an inventor who has little grasp on reality.
The first chapter is all drawings and no words, with everything black and white and of course green. There’s a formation of flying bagels in the air. . . and then the dream ends. The second chapter has text with a few drawings, and from there the story alternates between “real life” and dreams with no words.
Anne’s dreams are sufficiently weird to be interesting. When she climbs onto a water tower there’s a ghostly figure playing violin, which introduces us to the fact that she plays the instrument. The dream ends with her playing for wolves in the desert, and like all dreams in fiction it has a bearing on real life. Another dream has her riding into a western town to have a duel with her violin against a cowboy guitarist, right out of Lindsey Stirling’s Roundtable Rival. That dream has to do with the school talent show, which takes up most of the last part of the story.
The artwork has an old-fashioned comic strip feel to it, though I have to admit a lot more was done with green than I would have thought possible.
The last few pages are a preview of another comic done in the same alternating format.