Book Reviews: Put some Graphic in Your Pencil

Overheard at Coffee Bean:
“She’s the poster child for high maintenance. . .”

Lady Mechanika V.2: Tablet of Destinies
In the first volume I mentioned the heroine is a half-mechanical steampunk Lara Croft; should have saved that description for this one, as the plot starts with a search for an ancient artifact in secret caverns in Africa. Unfortunately she’s hunting abominable snowmen in the Alps with dilettantes while this is going on, but after a brief stop in London she eventually gets out there.
The first thing shown is a jewel-encrusted mechanical messenger bird, which tells the reader what they’re dealing with right away, in case they hadn’t gotten it from the cover.
For all her baddassery and proneness to hiding her feelings, she’s surprisingly good with little girls. Unlike the previous collection, where the girl was mean to her and called her a liar, this one goes as far as to dress up as her. Even better, “I kicked him in his trinkets just like you taught me.”
But then I love every moment where she shows her human side, like the rare times she laughs, or says something like, “Cheeky little bugger.”
There’s a beautiful shot of the desert’s desolation, with Mechanika and Fred looking tiny. Even better is the one where they’re silhouetted against the sun that reminds me of Star Wars. As before, the artwork is superb and the highlight of the book.
At the end is a cover gallery where Mechanika again reluctantly plays model.
Didn’t like it quite as much as the first, but still wonderful, and well worth the read.
3.5/5

Motro V.1
A tiny motorcycle—I was hoping it was the main character—is in telepathic communication with a boy who has the power of ten men and even survives a direct blast from a tank. He has to save them all, according to his nightmare. He doesn’t want to fight, but has to, and eventually becomes the ruler’s new son. (Don’t ask what happened to the old one.)
Fifteen years later he’s basically in charge and wants to go on a quest, no matter how many of his soldiers die. Thirty-four years later, the world has turned to black and white, where reptiles are kidnapping babies. Yep, it gets that weird.
There are some fun touches. The bad guys’ tanks also communicate telepathically, but only in pictures, so they must be dumber than the motorcycle. This time it’s the frog that licks you to make magic, not the other way around.
But I found both the plot and the character development lacking. He says he doesn’t want to fight, but when he has to, he kills—no middle ground. Leads his men to icy death, but that’s okay, because he gets what he wants.
Strange ending. If there was a point to all this, I didn’t get it.
2.5/5

The Flintstones Vol. 1
Puns abound—even more than on the original show or the movie—in these six stories that have a common thread: Fred and Barney are now war veterans, which works out for the best at the end.
Wilma is now an abstract artist. Fred’s words of love: “You were worth every goat.” I think Fred got a bargain with her less-than-impressive dowry. You can see why the guys from Red Dwarf were so hot for her.
The puns are the best part. Andy Warthog! David Rockney! Then the author unleashes a pun hurricane on the mall: Bloomingshale’s, Oscar de la Raptor; plenty of shoes I don’t know enough about, though there are original Ugghs. Starbrick’s. Foot Licker! Outback Snakehouse! And don’t forget Falcon Crest, the official toothpaste of ancient birds.
The local god’s name is the lovely-sounding Morp. “You can’t enter heaven unless Morp enters you.” Sounds about right. But Morp’s priest screws up and has to come up with something better. . . and the choice is awesome! The astronomer looks suspiciously like Carl Sagan, even though he thinks the earth is riding on the back of a giant turtle.
“Monogamy destroys!” Domestication of animals and marriage. . . I get where you’re going with that. And a lot of stealth jokes in the vein of Adam and Steve. And in addition to the David Bowie quotes, the mayor is Bruce Campbell!
Could have made the Vietnam analogy a little more obvious. . . wait, no.
14 pages of covers, mostly of Fred getting nuzzled by either Wilma or Dino.
Fun, and funny. Don’t worry about the plots and just enjoy the moments.
4/5

Rick and Morty, V.4
I’ve read one graphic novel in this universe, though at a bit of a tangent to this one, so I like Summer and I’m glad there’s no walking talking poo this time. Other than that I didn’t know much about this, and had no idea Grandpa Scientist was going to be such an ass; he’s like Back to the Future’s Doc Brown without a soul, or any type of morals.
There are no punches pulled here. At one point they club baby seals. One character is described as “why women walk around with keys between their fingers.” Then there’s the robobros, as though human bros aren’t bad enough. And the cops: “Well, we zipped this case up. Let’s do zero more investigating nor consider any other suspect.”
“The vanquishing of my enemies has engorged my genitals with blood!” Means a lot more coming from a woman. And you should always wear a sexy outfit when you friend-zone an alien who thinks he’s hot stuff.
So there’s plenty of funny moments, but not enough to justify the words they bandy about in their publicity blurbs. Every page I think it’s not possible to hate Rick more, but he’s definitely a go-getter in that category. I think the creator uses this comic to get all the stuff out of his head that he can’t say on his TV shows.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Ero-tick

Hotel Hookup: Chicago
First I’ve read of this series that obviously takes place in different cities, apparently featuring a one night stand that despite all efforts might turn into something more.
It doesn’t take long to realize I’m not the target demographic here, as Hannah goes bra shopping, which takes FOREVER. So bored I almost gave up on it. There’s so much build-up that this feels like a short story that later got expanded.
Wasn’t sold on the character either. Hannah pretends to be a deep thinker, but she’s quite superficial, especially around men. She’s only interested in looks, but that’s fair, since she certainly doesn’t mind being called a beautiful girl. . . or she might mind if she wasn’t so hot for the guy saying it.
At least the hookup scene was excellent, which only reiterates my belief that so much of this was unnecessary. Less is more here.
2.5/5

The Beginning: I Bet My Wife
A married couple gives in to their sexual urges, which sends her in the arms of other men while her husband waits at home, alternately turned on by what he imagines is being done to her and yet none-too-thrilled, especially when the guy in question is his archrival at work.
Not exactly a new story: be careful what you wish for—as far as sexy wives are concerned—has been around for centuries, and everyone knows what’s going to happen.
The writing isn’t that great, though it’s probably helped by being first person. Unfortunately that first person is the husband, so we don’t get the first-hand account of the sex scenes. Couldn’t help but think this should have been better, or at least put a twist on the same old story.
2.5/5

Bottoms Up
Woman in Tucson who just got fired and has a stalker walks into a bar; what happens then isn’t a joke, unless you count all the drink puns.
Lexi is a little flighty and neurotic, but oddly enough that makes her more endearing. The further the story goes the more adventurous she gets, especially with locations involving the word pool. Oddly enough, the first sex scene isn’t written with nearly the same style as the rest; almost stilted, choppy. Luckily after that it gets better. There’s a few fun side characters, like her best friend who’s engaged to a Brit; of course they walk in on the new couple at the worst time. Unfortunately the villain is so one-dimensional it hardly seemed worth including him. And of course there has to be a girl from Justin’s past to pop up and make a misunderstanding.
Cute, but no big deal. At least it’s somewhat funny, especially the drink names. The hot sex scenes are the highlight.
3.5/5

Blind Seduction
Dominant husband takes submissive wife to a sex retreat, blindfolding her from the moment they’re in the car and giving us the first part of the title. Once there the couple expands their sexual power games in small increments while listening to others’ stories. One guy wants her more than the rules allow.
Though I’m not much for the erotic power genre, I enjoyed this. The couple seems to have the perfect combination of adventurism and trust that only love can achieve. Leslie’s a fantastic character, from her desire for submission to her fortitude in escaping a kidnapping attempt. The subplot with the bad guy hardly seemed necessary, though it did show her strength. Had this just been about the sex it would have been just as good.
And the sex scenes were plenty good, including some interesting psychology into the Dom/sub relationship. A few times their games were interrupted by stories told to them by others, which at the time felt like filler, though it did make it easier to understand what the main characters were going through.
4/5

High Class—VIP Desire Agency, Book 2
Australian call girl doesn’t want to admit she’s in love with client; client tries to win her over with money and not taking no for an answer. In real life she’d be calling the police, but because this is a romance, guess what happens?
Despite the not-likely plot setting, there’s nothing here that isn’t typical. I might have been better convinced If there’d actually been a sex scene for her with someone other than him, considering she is an escort. Yet at the beginning she leaves the man who bought her time to go off into an empty room with this guy she apparently can’t say no to.
The romance is equally bland, with the usual misunderstandings and lack of communication. I don’t know if it would even be called a romance; if he wasn’t so rich and handsome, his behavior would be labeled stalkerish, especially when he shows up at the hotel near the end. The best part was their backgrounds, opening up about why they’d become so closed off emotionally, but that hardly overtook how bored and unwilling I was to suspend all belief for most of this.
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic is the Future

“Do you mind if I start eating?”
“Have at it!” Grin. “Very polite of you to ask. Your parents taught you well.”
Snort. “This was a do-it-yourself project.”

Control
A detective in DC is playing pool with her partner when around the corner two cops are shot while trying to save a kid from hanging. Great start. The assassin is so cool and collected he slips right past them without a problem. Being DC, politics gets in the way during the hunt, and there’s a big conspiracy involved.
There were some moments I really liked. For instance, I do enjoy when clichés are turned on their head or expanded, such as “I’m an open book. Big print, lots of pictures.” A senator is caught having sex with a tied-up woman while a dominatrix looks on, and he has the gall to say, “This isn’t what it looks like!”
But on the other hand, for being a smart detective sometimes she’s just dumb. For one, she makes the same mistake as her partner, going off after the bad guy without backup. There’s one page with a bunch of panels showing off rain and her walking in it, which seemed like too much.
Not at all sure how I feel about the ending. Her remarks at the ceremony were awesome, but what she did with the evidence and the new job offer doesn’t seem compatible. I really wanted to like this more, but in the end I realized it just wasn’t very original. The villain wasn’t that special either.
3/5

Lady Mechanika V.1: Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse
She’s a half-mechanical steampunk Lara Croft chasing down a demon, but all is not as it seems. She makes enemies wherever she goes as she tries to figure out her origins, especially when another mechanical girl dies after running from some goons and a hot evil redhead.
Did I say steampunk? This is steampunk on steroids.
As often happens, especially in operas but also stories like this, she’s standing around talking to the corpse rather than escaping, so a bad guy comes along and beats her to the prize. And right after it happens again; wish the author didn’t make it so contrived. This was my least favorite part.
There are some excellent touches, though. She infiltrates the bad guy’s lair with a ridiculous flying machine, made by an inventor—Cockney sidekick, of course—who’s afraid of clowns; it’s the first time we see Mechanika laugh, and it goes a long way to making her more likable. She laughs again at the carnival, but it really comes full force when she whines, “I’m pleasant!” Would have thought she relished her bad-ass reputation. But most of all, the way she keeps humoring the kid that insists she’s not who she claims is simply endearing. Also very cool how Lewis and the doctor become instant friends.
The artwork is sometimes overdone, as one might expect from steampunk, but still gorgeous, even considering the muted colors that at times feel like sepia. There’s something that looks weird yet somehow right about her wearing a derby with goggles on them. And in the cover gallery at the end it’s just plain weird to see Mechanika standing like she’s posing.
More importantly, this is in my top three of most beautifully drawn and colored graphic novels I’ve ever seen. And it didn’t occur to me till the end–mostly due to that cover gallery–to notice all the elaborate costumes she wears, mixing Victorian finery with steampunk leather and such.
She also has an inordinate amount of hats. . .
4/5

The Sound of the World By Heart
Impressionistic watercolor scenes of Noo Yawk background a story of a photographer who plans to go sixty-two days with no verbal interaction. (As a fellow photographer I wish I could do that with the models I work with.)
Things are strange to start, as there’s an unseen narrator, rather than the guy we’re following actually doing the talking, or thinking. It’s not till page 43 that she introduces herself; up to then there was no idea if the voice was male or female. She claims to hear his thoughts; telepathy or imagination? Is it the famous lady from the painting? She does say she’s French, after all. At some point it changes to first person, and it works better, but then it switches back.
I was wondering how he communicated when needed; turns out he passes notes. Would have been easier to use his ubiquitous phone, but either way it feels like cheating.
The conceit of having a redhead who appears in the photos—in color, even though the shots are B&W—felt spooky at first, but at the same time intriguing. Not so the dream sequence; that was just disturbing.
I’m of the opinion this graphic novel was longer than it needed to be. There’s a lot of white empty space; the drawings don’t come close to taking up all the room on the page. There’s also far too many drawings of him drinking coffee while walking with his headphones, which makes things a bit boring. And the crashing marbles analogy was just silly.
Joan is smart; talking to the painting would be weird, but telepathy is normal? But then there are plenty of times when he does or says something that makes me think this is either all a dream or he really is crazy, and not just because of the voices in his head. And there’s no way I’m buying the city theory, but then I hate Noo Yawk.
Even though it did a good job at resolving some of the seeming inconsistencies at the end, I was still left far too confused. Couldn’t tell if it was real or not, if it actually happened at all, but I guess I wasn’t supposed to know; that wasn’t the point of the story.
3/5

Wraithborn V.1
After a fight-filled intro there’s a flashback to how Melanie became such a badass, because she certainly wasn’t in high school. She’s firmly entrenched in the “reluctant hero” trope, but at least she’s amusing, especially for a wallflower, at times scared of her shadow but also willing to stand up for those who can’t. The part where she says, “Um. . . nice doggies?” got an actual LOL out of me, and I can’t believe I just used that damned acronym.
There’s nothing here that’s particularly new, though. The bad guy has minions and an evil laugh, and can’t seem to stop talking. And why are the redheads always evil? But despite it being an old story, I kinda liked it.
Cover gallery at the end.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Mounds of Kiddie Stuff

“I did my doody,” the toddler intoned solemnly, then grinned.
“He might be a prodigy after all. . .”

Sun Dragon’s Song #2
I’ve read the first, and more importantly remember it; that doesn’t happen often.
Despite now being a dragonrider in training—or more likely because of it—Ho Yi is still getting bullied. Before he was just an easy target, but now jealousy gets added and he gets a huge beatdown. Much more endearing is how much he likes his new digs: not having to share a room, his own bathroom, so on. That changes quickly as training sets in, leaving him homesick and in pain, but with new friends.
You can’t be a dragonrider if you’re afraid of heights; maybe shoulda thought about that beforehand. . .
I like the artwork here more than I did in the first one. I don’t remember if the first was so watercolor-y, but it definitely works here.
Ends in a cliffhanger, but since it’s the 2nd of 4 chapters that’s to be expected.
3.5/5

New York City Monsters
Bright landscapes of Noo Yawk are interspersed with info bubbles and monsters for you to find in a Where’s Waldo fashion. Some are pretty tricky, like the one dressed in a business suit on the street. Toward the end I missed some, much to my everlasting chagrin; some three-year-old is bound to find it and make my embarrassment complete.
4/5

Princess Lila Builds a Tower
A young version of Rapunzel—shorter blonde hair, of course—is sad; much like Buddha, she has everything she wants but is not allowed to go outside. So she gets the great idea to build an observation tower, seemingly modeled after the one in Copenhagen, so she can see past the dangerous forest she’s forbidden from entering.
Personality trait that will tell you all you need to know about her: “Princess Lila blushed with happiness.” Though she doesn’t even take the crown off to sleep. And in the end she finds a friend with a much bigger crown than hers.
The print is a bit small, despite having plenty of room in the beautiful page-size drawings.
3.5/5

The Bear
Learn about ursines in question and answer method. Example:
WHERE DOES THE BEAR LIVE?
There are rocks, trees…. And look! There’s a cave!
Nicely descriptive without getting verbose. I’m liking this for adults, other than the simple language, though it’s perfect for kids. Small and simple but bright colorful paintings tell most of the story.
Facts and glossary at the end.
4/5

Mama Bird Papa Bird
In full page drawings with few words, the story of how a pair of birds suddenly find an egg in their nest is told. They have no idea how it got there. Mama got fat and then she wasn’t. (What exactly is the attempted lesson here?)
At some point it occurred to me there was rhyming going on, but it didn’t hit me at the beginning, which is unusual.
Ends with the parents squabbling over baby’s career path, so to speak. But after that there’s a bible bit that seems to imply the whole book was about keeping to old-fashioned gender roles. What was a simple and almost-boring story becomes rather chilling.
As usually happens, the artwork is the best part, though the birds smile way too smugly.
2/5

Chicago Monsters
Each page of this book contains monsters, not many of them scary; it’s up to your kid—or you—to find them. Period. That’s all there is to this, and it’s beautiful. Some are of course easy, but it’s hard to get them all on the first try, especially in the latter pages.
Since this is the Chicago version they start with the Bean. Not as many well-known places as the NY edition; can’t wait for them to get to El Lay.
The whole thing is done in big bright colors that make it a joy to look through.
4/5

San Francisco Monsters
As always, each page contains not-always-scary monsters to find. That’s the entire game, and really all you need. Each setting is brightly colored yet realistic, as the Golden Gate Bridge, Painted Ladies, and brickwork of Ghirardelli Square attest to.
Maybe it’s the locale, but I enjoyed this one a little more than the previous editions in Chicago or Noo Yawk.
4/5

My Favorite Word: Arcane
Text alternates with paintings as a little girl—seemingly too little to know a word like that—tells of how she wishes her friends would be nicer to her, even if it takes arcane magic.
The poor dog is wondering what she’s doing with his bones.
It’s definitely cute and worthwhile, but I’m not sure the target audience would learn the actual meaning of the word through this. It’s not exactly spelled out, and seems to be used for many different things throughout.
3/5

Little Tails in the Savannah
As with the first, a squirrel takes a relatively dimwit dog for a trip to find out about animals. As the title tells you, this one takes place in Africa. Each page contains a three-panel comic strip with a full color painting of the animal discussed taking up most of the page.
What kind of plane gets destroyed crashing into a giraffe? A cardboard one, of course. And yes, that ball is a pile of poo. Great start. . .
Baby elephant grabbing mom’s tail=intense cuteness.
Bit of an abrupt ending; barely got to say hi to the uncle they were visiting before they were gone again in their somehow fixed air machine. Would have preferred a few more pages to make the ending better.
3.5/5

The Knights of Boo’Gar
A spoiled princess interrupts a ridiculous chess-like game between the king and his wizard—best thing that could have happened to it—to wail that the royal goat has been stolen, possibly by a cheese lover.
Example of the kind of line you can expect here: “She sobbed and sobbed, just like anyone would if they lost their goat.” The narrator’s princess-y attitude, along with the wizard’s snark. . . the king would have called it subversive, if it didn’t go over his head.
Childish puns abound. My favorite character early on, as expected, is the turtle, who likes to watch her human go crazy. (But I haven’t met the goat yet.) The princess is not just wearing a tool belt, but her favorite tool belt. (Yet she’s still majorly spoiled!) Lest you forget this is for kids, there’s plenty of boogers and farts.
“We have names and feelings just like you. We not just scary plot device.” This author really wants to get something off his chest, but then that’s no surprise when he makes religious figures the bad guys.
There’s a chapter at the end on medieval devices, which doesn’t seem to fit the story.
With only a few cartoony drawings, mostly of the king, amongst the large-print prose, it’s not enough to call this a picture book. What it is is a silly and occasionally funny story for pre-teens.
3.5/5

Sea Creatures: Reef Madness #1
Awesome subtitle that kids won’t get.
Sunday comic strip-like cartoons explain the quirks of different types of fish, with a twist comical—or attempt at comedy—ending. All the creatures think and speak, and for the most part get along, though there’s always some bad guys.
The thought of a humpback whale approaching discreetly blows my mind. . . especially while singing (though as I remember he only sings when mating).
The humor is mostly groan-inducing if you’re over 12, but since this book is meant for younger than that, it feels right. Can’t help but think, though, since this was originally done in French, something was lost in the translation.
3.5/5

The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall
A collection of shorts stories featuring the usual guys and one gal finding a new group of blue girls, apparently as an introduction to the new movie coming out soon! (said in announcer voice).
All the new Smurfs get a full page intro—awesome.
The new gals are terrific dancers, and good at curing the aches and pains afterward. “Hanging out with girls looks smurfly exhausting.” If you only knew, bro. . . so much for being the smart one.
Hefty is, as always, easily manipulated. “Why do I have the impression that’s exactly what she wanted?” Because you’ve never talked to a girl before, dude?
A kissing flower gets slapped for being forward. Almost feel sorry for it, considering how sad it’s drawn.
I hate it when the character is narrating what’s obviously happening, as occurred in one of the last stories. At least make it an inner monologue.
A few pages at the end tell how the Smurfs first appeared, with the humans in the story pretty much asking the same questions I did.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Violins, Bricks, and Justice

(Not me. . . overheard)
“I’m wearing sweaty bags. . . what?. . . oh! Baggy sweats! Baggy sweats! LOL!”

Gone
A world-class violinist writes about growing up as a Korean prodigy in England, losing control of her life and career to various Svengali types, and most importantly the theft of her Stradivarius.
As a photographer I’ve grown attached to several of the many cameras I’ve used in my career, but never to this level. On the other hand, there aren’t any cameras almost 400 years old, let alone considered the pinnacle of technology. It’s apparently much different with violins—and not just the famous Strads—as Min Kym goes into a devastating depression when her partner in music is snatched away at a restaurant. Despite how she describes the feeling of losing her violin, you can tell that’s just the tip; her real feelings. . . there’s no words for it. And the way she wrote that scene was intense! Worthy of a thriller. I instinctively feel sorry for her, but I know she wouldn’t want that.
There’s plenty of other stuff here that’s equally painful, but just as much is uplifting, even humorous. There’s a little piece on why she loves Kreisler that was fantastic. The psychological insights, both from the violinist and the human being, are astounding, and the writing is so smooth, like a languid Vivaldi phrase.
Whoa, I’m really blown away. Far beyond any expectations when I started this. It reminds me a lot of Lindsey Stirling’s book, even though because they’re from such vastly different worlds it comes across as quite dissimilar.
This is most likely going to go on my list of top books of the year.
4.5/5

Kiss the Bricks
The first book I read in this series was Red Flags, and despite it being the fourth it was a perfect introduction, so much so I went back and read the others. I write this in order to differentiate it from this new book: do not start the series here.
This entry takes place at the most famous speedway in the world, where Kate has just set top speed in the first practice session. It turns out that a few decades before there was another female driver who’d done the same thing, and from there most of the book becomes dual, with chapters alternating between the past and the present. Because of this the action is slow to start, and if you aren’t into racing and know the good stuff is coming, it might be a bit boring. There are also some parts that are rather mean-spirited; I get that the misogyny is part of the story, but too much is depressing.
As for the mystery, I guessed the bad guy pretty early, as well as who was leaving the notes. Much more of a guess, I nailed her qualifying position. (Yes, I celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small.) And there’s a great moment in the middle of the race that, while nowhere near as good as winning the Indy 500, would be a sweet consolation for any driver, especially if you’ve followed Kate through her previous adventures. And there’s a subplot that sets up nicely for the next book, making me anxious to read that one too.
I want to stress that I still ended up enjoying it, just not as much as the previous one. At least it picked up as it went along. It’s in no way bad, but I think it’s a step back in a series that had before this improved with each outing.
3.5/5

From Ice to Ashes
A thief forced to go legit on a spaceship quits when his mom gets sick, and goes right back to stealing when he’s back on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
There’s a gruesome fight scene to start, and it’s not called back until half the book had passed, so I had to go back to remember it. The story doesn’t get any less grisly, mostly because Kale always tries to come off as tough with nothing to back it up. It’s really just sad, and a bit depressing, though I figured the author had done this so he could grow later on.
It took a while for the plot to show up, by which time I was wondering if I should continue. Fortunately it got better. . . until a big plot point about three-quarters in, which I absolutely hated. Like this whole book wasn’t depressing enough. . . I get that it’s done to set up the protagonist, make him angry. But how is this going to make me want to read more of this? Perhaps the words I should use is invested. I invested in this character, only to be tossed aside.
There’s nothing wrong with the writing, which is as good as the previous outing from this author that I’ve read (though I don’t remember that other book being like this). The world building in particular is done well, despite never getting a good picture in my mind of life on Titan, or on the spaceship. The plot is a bit weak, and it’s obvious there’s going to be a series, considering the ending. I just didn’t like the depressing tone throughout.
3/5

Tough Justice
In the prologue a mad bomber tries to blackmail a man into going public with his sins in order to keep the bomb from going off. We never hear about those two again, as the rest of the story has FBI agents looking for the bad guy, with little to go on except that at each bombing someone was told to leave before things go boom.
It’s difficult to give a grade to part of a story, though it helps to know going in that it wouldn’t finish here. The set-up was okay, and there’s good characterization of the lead, though I do wonder what’s causing this sudden—welcome—surge in fictional female FBI agents.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphically Challenged

Blue Hand Mojo: Hard Times Road
A half-dead magic man walks the slums of Chicago in 1931, helping out an old friend while trying to regain what he’d lost, or more likely sold, to the devil.
This is the first time I’ve heard the term Hoodoo noir. As far as the artwork, it translates into harsh black and white drawings, though some of the work is intricate. When it comes to dialogue, which appears on the side of the drawings, while he mostly speaks usual, he’ll also bring out stuff like “I likes my liquor” and “I’m starvin’ for some beans, so spill ‘em.” So in other words, not that different from regular noir.
The magic stuff was all sorts of confusing. The only clear moment is him using cigarette smoke to make it happen. His girlfriend’s sorcery is a lot more intriguing.
This would have been much more awesome if it had been named Mississippi Golem or some such.
3/5

Mer
Angry-at-the-world redhead and creature of the sea find each other because of their matching necklaces. There’s some evil creature that looks nothing like Ursula out to get the merpeople, because a certain part of their anatomy goes well with wine.
This had possibilities, but all the high school drama makes it hard to like. I get how I’m supposed to feel sorry for her, but she and her friends act so stupid at times. This is probably for young teens, because with anyone older I imagine a lot of eye rolling. And the scene where someone is sneaking up on them just left me cringing; did the author really write such dumb characters on purpose?
As for the artwork, the bright colors make it looks like a vintage comic, like Archie or some such. At the end there’s some early designs and small articles about the mythology of the sea.
3/5

The Castoffs, V.1: Mage Against the Machine
Clever subtitle.
All black and yellow to start as a group of semi-super fighters take on killer bots destroying what looks to be a European town. Soon enough it switches to a full color fantasy where a healer in a far-off land asks for help when people are losing their memories. She sends three students to help, with the warrior always bickering, the scout too insecure to say anything, and the healer surreptitiously controlling the warrior with her inside voice. When they’ve figured out why they were chosen for this mission they quit their bickering and go all Wonder Twins—or Triplets, in this case—powers, activate!
There’s some good stuff, like the history lesson around the campfire, and more importantly some sly humor; “Why am I getting licked?” Wrong potion, happens all the time. My favorite part was “You have your dad’s eyes.” Talk about an easy distraction, like “Luke, I am your father.” But I’m not a fan of all that squabbling, so that even when they got it through their heads to work together I was already disliking them too much.
3/5

DC Essential Graphic Novels 2017
First off, great cover of Wonder Woman reading a comic while easily winning a tug-of-war against a bunch of guys, including Superman and Batman.
After an intro with the Flash stopping a comic book store robbery, there’s 25 Essential Graphic Novels; quite a bit of Batman, but I like that Gaiman’s Sandman was included. Each major character gets a page, but not much info. Even Suicide Squad shows up, no doubt because of the recent movie. There’s a section on Page to Screen, starting with Wonder Woman, also as expected considering that movie will be out soon. TV shows like Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, and a couple of my faves—iZombie and Lucifer—are here as well.
Wow, MAD magazine! And a section on collectibles. There’s also a large section at the end, over 30 pages, that lists a recommended reading order, plus a selected backlist, but if you’re that much into comics it’s stuff you should already know.
As a catalog it does its job. As a guide for those entering the comic book world, it’s good too. Just don’t expect it to be an actual BOOK.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Pencils

“I make a mean sandwich.”
She cooed, “I make a mean sandwich happy.”

Britannia
A Roman soldier is manipulated by the chief of the Vestal Virgins to become the first detective in history, unless the ancient Greeks had stories they didn’t bother to tell (long shot). Then Nero sends him to the British Isles to find out what’s going wrong, thinking it was actually his idea.
Starts with a history of the Vestal Virgins; seems like far too many of them were blonde. The story quickly moves to northwest Europe, with plenty of blood and gore, as well as magical Druids and devils, so it’s certainly not a straightforward history.
There’s this one panel of artwork that I find so spectacular—though I can’t explain exactly why—full width with a flying sword. You’ll know it when you see it.
In between the chapters are scholarly articles on the Vestals, centurions, Nero—was he really that bad? Yes and no—and Roman Britain.
3.5/5

Letter 44 V.1 $10 Trade Edition
Pseudo-Obama takes over for pseudo-Bush and finds out there are aliens in the asteroid belt who no doubt will invade Earth at any moment. There’s also a mission sent to check out the aliens, launched three years ago.
There’s some really good scenes among the expected storyline; the briefing from the scientist in charge, the three questions guy, for example, was brilliant. I laughed at the baseball breaking the White House window and scaring the Secret Service. Sending conspiracy bad boy on a tour of every embassy is such an awesome twist. And there’s a very cool artistic effect on the flash-bang.
I’m liking the way this is written, though the plot may be too much. Thought there might be something to the scene when General Johnson comes in for the briefing, since they’re talking before the secretary leaves. . .
The scientist repeating that all of them were volunteers is rather ominous. . .
Sadly it ends at a critical juncture; get another ten bucks ready for volume 2.
Almost 20 pages of dossiers on some of the players, creator bios dressed as White House correspondence, and ads for other books.
3.5/5

Small Favors: The Definitive Collection
A lesbian who can’t stop with the self-loving is told to cut it out—there’s a lifetime allotment of masturbation? Wonder if there’s an actual number (asking for a friend)—and is given a helpful little blonde imp to keep her fingers and dildos in check. Little Nibbel is also helpful in letting me know the next section is a dream sequence, so thank you! Plus she’s really cute, incredibly funny in her naiveté. She’s the best part of this, playing a big part in the stor, as well as defining the title.
For me the other best part was how the author wasn’t afraid to break the fourth wall of get meta. Something as simple as “Bet you had to shower after that one!” makes for a big guffaw. Even when the author doesn’t know where to go with the plot we’ll get a line like “Who was that girl on page 104?” I thought it was the neighbor, but I guess I was overthinking it. And I also wondered who was taking the photos.
Very explicit sex is depicted, which is for the most part fine, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, had it been a man taking her so roughly rather than a blonde pixie with a strap-on, there’d be all kinds of protests. There’s a small interlude of Nibbel doing herself on a lightbulb that made me laugh so much. Spaghetti and wooden spoons just got a lot more sexy, but it helps if you have a Barbie-sized pixie playmate. And the safari story was extra hilarious, along with the dramatic cry of, “Alas, we are exposed!”
There’s about 15 pages of early sketches and outtakes at the end, the best feautring Nibbel playing Rock ‘em Sock ‘em. . . better yet, Nibbel being playfully attacked by the dialogue bubbles. . .
Most of it is done in simple black and white sketches, quite effective. When it at a certain point turns to color, it’s a little jarring.
It’s a fun read, if nothing else because it treats sex, especially lesbian sex, as fun. Another reviewer nailed it by calling this “innocent and lighthearted.”
4/5

The Life After V.1: $10 Trade Edition
Groundhog Day turns into a time travel back to what looks like 19th century England. Then things really get crazy. . .
Then Ernest Hemingway shows up. . .
My initial thought was “That lady sure has a lot of handkerchiefs. . .” Every little thing is controlled in this Orwellian world, so when he steps out of the usual routine to return the handkerchief everything goes crazy, and the story behind the story unfolds.
“I was talking to the dog. . .” Saw it coming, still made me laugh. The dog also does the best sideways-head-tilt puzzled I’ve ever seen in a two-dimensional character. Plus he’s a tease. . .
What kind of people are in charge of this crapsack world? “Let’s see if we can find someone taking a shower or something. . .”
You can see it in Hemingway’s face: “Surely you must be the son of god. . .”
This volume one finishes on a pretty big reveal.
Creator bios and ads at end.
3/5

;o)