A Bit of Everything

Presto!
The bigger half of the famous magic duo tells you how, among other things, he lost over 100 pounds in what is genuinely a small amount of time. Even after reading this it’s still hard to believe it happened, but at least he’s not claiming it was magic.
There’s a lot of repetition; he tried to make it funny, but I found myself skipping quite a bit. Same with his really long list of stuff he’s eaten. And in case you ever wondered if you would see recipes in a book written by Penn Jillette, here they are.
This was a tougher read than expected; there’s plenty that’s lighthearted, but even more that’s not. It’s no surprise to note that the humor is the main attraction here, despite the topic. But what really surprised me was that I didn’t read it in my head in his distinctive voice.
3/5

Aches and Gains
If you want to know why the author wrote this book, here’s his reason: “As a physician, nothing is more frustrating than watching your patients suffer and feeling like you can’t do anything about it.”
Amid long stories about celebrities like Patrick Swayze, JFK, and Elvis, used to illustrate particular chapters, there’s brief explanations about various illness and injuries, followed by several treatments, with emphasis on unconventional methods. Of course some chapters are going to be more important to each reader than others, so it’s easy to skip a few that you might have no interest in. For instance, when I was reading one of the chapters toward the end I was wondering if stem cells would be included, and a few pages later it was (and it turned out to be much more involved than a simple injection, and painful!). At the same time I passed over subchapters that featured diseases I’d never heard of and wasn’t likely to get. Because everything but the kitchen sink is included, it gets boring quickly. Listing every medicine doesn’t help. At this point it becomes more of a reference book in case it does become relevant to you.
There’s suggested further reading after each chapter, as well as episodes from the author’s podcast. I tried a few, but like this book it was long and rambling. I do have to say it got better as it went along. Though there’s still plenty that went over my head with the not-well-enough-explained medical terms, I did feel like I ended up grasping more than other such “for the masses” medical books. Maybe it was the word use, maybe it was the tone. Perhaps the experience he has from the podcast makes him seem more approachable here too. Still could have been better, though.
3/5

Cloudia & Rex
A strange graphic novel that doesn’t do a good job of explaining things. It goes from a quick intro about a human family moving to a new city straight into gods—particularly Death—and annihilation, with some Aztec warrior-looking creature as the bad guy, both powerful and psychologically slimy. But without any attempt at explaining, it lost me right away.
Thankfully it had plenty of funny moments. For instance, it’s not just looking at phones that causes car crashes; it’s trying to swipe them from your teenage daughter in the back seat too.
Best line: “We are trapped inside of a teenage girl.” Words no god ever wants to say.
Other winners: “I am quivering in irony.” And “Where the heck is my superhuman mom strength? I’m supposed to get braver and stronger when my child is missing!”
That is the least scary Death ever. Plushies of him would sell out.
The ending is so Wrath of Khan, but everything else is so confusing. Lots of color, plenty of humor, but I wish I hadn’t bothered trying to understand the story.
3/5

Rough Riders Volume 2: Riders on the Storm
When a secret cabal tries to take over the world in the late 1800s/early 1900s by fronting the anarchist movement, it takes someone like Theodore Roosevelt to gather an elite unit of famous/semi-famous commandos to stop them. And apparently it’s for the second time, though I haven’t read the first volume.
When a story starts right off with the assassination of McKinley, it’s normal to wonder if Teddy might be behind it. I didn’t know Jack Johnson; considering he was a boxer, that’s not surprising. All the other characters are familiar. . . well, not Monk. Some of the tech is steampunk, but the eye scanner goes way beyond that. (Ah, got it. Again, didn’t read the first volume.) Annie Oakley is drawn much more attractively than in real life, but then that was the usual in the early days of cinema.
I’m not going to give you the context to this, because it’s just as delicious. When Edison screams, “I’m a national treasure!” the only reply can be, “We should drop you (off the train) just for saying that.” Yep, this just plays into everything I hate about Edison. This is also why Tesla is more often featured in fiction. . . and why I loved the moment when he mistook the priest for an admirer. That goes double for the surprise villain at the end.
“You couldn’t handle this even if I came with directions.” Okay, I officially love this Annie Oakley, especially when she ogles the guys as they strip and still beats them swimming.
Totally unbelievable for so many reasons, but enjoyable.
3.5/5

Unicorn of Many Hats (Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series Book 7)
My fave unicorn—and that’s saying a lot—and her human sidekick are back quickly after a new original graphic novel not long ago. This volume doesn’t contain a whole story like that one, but does appear to be all-new material—none of them seem familiar to me from the daily strip, anyway—in, I’m guessing from the size of the panels, Sunday format.
I can’t believe someone as geeky as her dad complains about all electronic devices being the same shape. Will you ever see an apostrophe—rhyme!—riding a unicorn car again? But the best thing of all: we finally get to see Marigold’s house!
At this point there’s nothing much left to say. This is easily my favorite comic strip, and one of the best ones out there. Even though it isn’t a complete new story like the last one, it’s still the same ton of fun as the others.
4.5/5

Casey and Aon – A Cybersafety Chapter Book For Kids
Young geek gets a new robot that he has to train. The robot doesn’t know much yet, wondering what’s in the ketchup tube, for instance. But at least he cleans up his messes, even if he doesn’t know what a reflection is.
Once on the tablet the curious robot wants to check everything internet-y, with the kid stopping him and explaining why he shouldn’t, which is the gist of this book. The kid speaks well above his age, and some of his words will probably need explaining to the young readers, but the book does impart a good dose of caution that even a few adults could find of value.
Huge chunk at the end dedicated to glossary, discussion points, and so on.
3.5/5

Firefighters and What They Do
I do love it when a title tells you everything you need to know.
This book is mainly made up of drawings that show the equipment and how it’s used. Most kids probably don’t realize firefighters do more than just put out fires.
Ends with a little maze game.
Really simple, as in preschool, in fact it says it’s for toddlers, so believe them.
3.5/5

Take a Look. More Fun Together!
A bear is asked if he’s alone, and he looks to be, but turns out he isn’t, according to the words and then the next page. Same with a rabbit, and so on.
At first glance the artwork looks strange, with plenty of spaces that make the whole look uncentered. Turns out there’s a good reason for that, but I won’t spoil it. Some of the changes are pretty clever.
A fun timewaster for kids.
3.5/5

The Mutts Spring Diaries
Another volume about a dog and cat—with a lisp—who are best friends and do everything together. This one was more educational than the one I’d read before, especially when it comes to pet adoption, but I still find it hard to tell them apart.
To my groaning amusement, I really liked the snapping turtle pun
“Meow.” “What kind of accent was that?”
“Veni vidi oink.” Simple joke, but effective.
It sucks when you can’t get a song out of your head, doubly so if you’re a bird.
A lot of the Sphinx’s lines are old Benny Hill jokes.
These are very simple lines and drawings, which remind me of Peanuts in a way. There’s a cute innocence to these characters, like when the turtle is mistaken for a talking rock. The guard dog is not the biting type, but he can Riverdance.
My absolute favorite is the bird on a piano.
4/5

;o)

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Graphic Book Reviews: Dolls, Unicorns, and Bond Buddies

How to Be Perfectly Unhappy
This book argues—for a surprising amount of pages—that there’s a whole spectrum of emotion between happy and unhappy. Fair enough, but it’s a lot of pontificating on what’s really a simple theme. And yet it’s oddly captivating, especially the comparisons made to Pluto and an alien having fun making colorful walls.
“Stay-in-the-same-placers.” I do love new words.
It argues that “meaningful” and “compelling” don’t make for happiness, but it’s what some of us like to do anyway. He uses running, reading books, working as examples of things that don’t make him happy but he enjoys doing. (I’ll go along with reading.) “I’m not unhappy. I’m just busy. I’m interested.”
Some of the artwork is cute, but it doesn’t add much. . . except for the colorful wall. That was pretty awesome.
3.5/5

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy: Disco Fever
In this story, talking animals play superhero in a universe where chickadees are more evil than wolves, and eagles are afraid of spiders. That, along with fish landing on the windshield, is why the super pair are avalanched by a cargo of disco balls.
Running is always plan B, but yeah, it should be plan A.
“Sorry, Frank.” Yeah, keep your lasers to yourself.
Squirrel claws to the ass will defeat all superheroes.
“You’re really cheesy, but you’re right.” Howz that for a moral?
At the end the good wolf explains why dancing is good for you. . . and then Rabbit teaches disco, with moves even I haven’t heard of.
With a disco ball giant robot, nothing is too ridiculous here. Incredibly silly, but all the better for it.
3.5/5

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story
As always, I love it when the title hits it right on the spot.
I thought the cover showed some kind of sea monster, until I saw the girl peeking out from under the blanket.
In a strip-like storytelling, a young woman in college goes through everyday stuff from an introvert’s point of view. Being an introvert myself, I understand a lot of these. On the other hand, some go a little too far. The total lacking in self-confidence would be a different thing than simple introversion, wouldn’t it?
She has the best boyfriend an introvert could possibly have, who then turns into a husband. After finishing her dissertation and the stressful wedding comes the first real job. . . not exactly what you’d expect from someone who just got an advanced degree.
Oddly enough, she’s such a sweet person I wish I could get to know her better, all the while knowing she wouldn’t want to.
She apologizes to boxes. . . empty boxes.
Some genuinely funny moments, others quite touching. I don’t know if it’ll make extroverts more understanding, but it’s worth a try.
4/5

James Bond: Felix Leiter
A post-shark-encounter Leiter is in Tokyo, working for the Japanese to identify an old enemy/colleague/lover who’s off the grid. There’s a flashback with Bond, and then we find out why Tiger didn’t keep his end of the bargain in helping to catch his gorgeous adversary.
“You had me at ‘Not the French.’”
About halfway there’s a major plot twist that, quite frankly, was easy enough to guess. Though the story doesn’t actually end in a cliffhanger, there’s enough left unresolved that you’d certainly expect a sequel, especially when there’s a character like Alena to write about.
Tight hands and sphincters are a necessity when you’re pretending to be James Bond.
Too bad the writer made what was a proud character such an idiot, as he admits plenty of times. Then there’s the serious inferiority complex. It’s one thing to make the protagonist complicated, quite another to make him seem like a butt monkey.
Brightly painted poppy fields are a sharp contrast from Tokyo, which has a Blade Runner vibe. . . or maybe it’s all the rain. Florida is also brightly lit, but Helsinki looks like an impressionist painting.
There a whopping 35 pages of extras! Variant covers, author interview, and what looks to be the entire script of the first chapter.
3/5

Dollface V.2
The first volume wasn’t written all that well, but I remember enough funny moments from it to give the series another try. This time the three take a portal to El Lay and land just a few blocks from a witch. . . but not just any witch. This one’s a baby-eater. Dollface flattens the clinic she’s in, thereby killing a lot of innocent people.
At Venice Beach she lifts weights, joins a drum circle, plays volleyball, and makes other women jealous. But of course the bad guys aren’t dead yet. And even more of course, the innocent character gets killed.
“You killed my family! Prepare to die!” Why does that sound familiar?
The giant fight scene was so difficult to follow. The artwork is so angular, much like Dollface herself.
Despite some early fun, it turned into as much of a gorefest as the first one. At some point it just stopped being fun and felt more like work. Emily’s reaction was strange as well.
The artwork is brighter than most.
2/5

Be a Unicorn & Live Life on the Bright Side
As always, I love a title that tells you everything you can expect from the book.
There’s not much more to say about it. Everything is positivity, puppies and rainbows. “Eat the cake, but also eat the kale” kinda stuff. All pretty simplistic, but I imagine people often forget.
“Unicorn loves to feel the rain on his cheeks.” No, not those. . . okay, those too. And there’s an obligatory Trump joke, though a mild one. Some jokes are literal, like looking at the bigger picture. Then you get what you’d never thought you’d see, a unicorn on a stripper pole.
The artwork, especially the unicorn, is pretty rudimentary, though he does have the multi-colored horn.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphically Challenging

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth (Rebirth)
First and foremost, don’t read this if you haven’t read the previous; you’ll be lost, because it starts with the wonderful woman all-out crazy in an asylum. How out of it is she? “I am so sorry you’re not real.” To start an issue, and especially a collected volume, with her having lost her mind. . . there really needed to be a “previously” here!
But even without that I found the story boring. For long stretches nothing happens; at times Trevor seems to be talking to her telepathically, which might be exciting to read about but fails in a visual medium.
Luckily there are some interesting moments, like, “He’s a Greek god! They’re track record with young women isn’t exactly progressive.” You’d think Diana would know better than to have tea with serpents. There’s a minotaur involved, which was the most interesting thing for a while.
“What say you come up to my virtual place sometime and I’ll help fix that credit score of yours, handsome.” Says something when the funniest character is the AI.
Wow, in the end it was a simple win. Bit anticlimactic.
I suppose this would have felt different had I read it before the movie. The story was way more convoluted than it needed to be, even without knowing the previous parts. It definitely moved slow in the first two chapters; in fact, my fave was the last. But there were a lot of cute little moments that kept me going.
Ten pages of alternate covers.
2.5/5

Water Memory
A woman and her daughter move into the clifftop house where she lived as a small child until her father died. There are legendary monsters involved, and a curse.
“Jellyfish tart?” After reading that, I had to go get some fresh air before I could continue reading.
I didn’t feel the suspense the authors were obviously going for here, but the historical aspects were fun. The mom/daughter bond is fantastic; they have a great relationship. I was feeling an Irish vibe, but that may be the influence of Song of the Sea, since there’s a lighthouse nearby. A sign is in French, but everything screams New England or Canada. In the end it turned out the sign was the clue.
The kid’s funny. After nearly drowning in a cave, lying on the beach as she recovers, she tells the scavenging seagulls, “Don’t even think about it!” Her explorations keep getting her into danger, as well as her belief in her “Total ninja stealth!”
The artwork has a dreamy romantic vibe, plenty of blue watercolor to symbolize the sea, except during the storms.
About a dozen pages at the end about the making of the book, how it originated, with some beautiful photos.
4/5

Spencer and Locke
A detective with a—possibly—imaginary talking blue panther as a partner look to solve a murder and kidnapping. That’s all the plot that’s necessary.
There’s a flashback to the detective as a kid, getting smacked around by his mom. This is in comic strip form; if you’re familiar with a strip about a boy and his imaginary cat, you know how this looks. Locke says Spencer has idiosyncrasies; sure, what talking blue panther doesn’t? We’re told right away about Spencer’s “condition,” so we don’t have to wonder about it the rest of the way.
Now for the fun stuff.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate. . .” That came outta nowhere.
Want to have a science-fiction interlude? Feed your protagonist a multiple-drug overdose. I get the feeling that dinosaur is gonna drop on someone. . .
Turned out to be a surprisingly easy, quick read. I enjoyed it despite some plot holes, which is not an easy thing to say when there’s a giant blue talking panther walking around. The psychology, his motivation for becoming a cop, was well done.
The italics were surprisingly hard to read. As for the art, there’s gritty urban landscapes, not quite film noir but close, as well as bright cheery childhood interludes. During the science-fiction portion it’s bold pulp-comic color.
Each chapter has extras: cover gallery, character designs, script pages, and so on.
3.5/5

If You Give a Man a Cookie
In the long tradition of “For want of a nail” stories, this one is just what the title says, all the repercussions of what a man will want if you give him a cookie. It’s full of clichés (none of which fit me, thankfully), considering not every man has a mustache or likes fishing.
From a guy’s perspective, I have to ask why she’s wearing heels when making cookies and generally just walking around the house. I’m trying not to be mean-spirited here, but I can’t help but think that’s exactly where this story’s coming from, which was likely done as a catharsis for the author.
I think the only opinion that matters here is her husband; hope he laughed, because I didn’t find much funny here.
2.5/5

Taproot
Sensitive florist is kinda crushing on a girl and getting advice from two friendly ghosts, one of whom might be in love with him. Plus he’s being poltergeisted by another. Then it flashes back a year to when they met in what turned out to be one of the strangest love stories ever.
I don’t know if it’s part of the story, but Blue is really androgynous. Until someone says “He,” I had no idea. And the reaper is a woman! A supernatural being who texts. A strange sight, a smiling skull and crossbones, is also present.
The epilogue was cute, but probably unnecessary, or at least anticlimactic. Despite its length it’s a quick easy read. Though the colors at first seem like muted earth tones, in actuality they’re quite bright. Don’t like the way Chloe’s drawn, though; her facial expressions are just weird.
3.5/5

Tyrannosaurus Ralph
Teen skateboarder is about to be crushed by a bully with a tuba—aka honk-kazoo—then has to be rescued by a barrio inventor, who puts his brain into a t-Rex so he can save the planet by participating in an intergalactic gladiator competition. Got it?
Best named alien: Lord Knuckle-Dragger. Best line: “I don’t think the red food likes you. It’s trying to get away.”
I love the faces drawn on the scared dinosaur; not exactly king of the giant lizards here. And his versions of “Yikes!” are “Oh crudsicles! Crud monkeys! Crud crumbs!” Sensing a theme. . . but you gotta draw the line at “crud-waffles.”
Lugnut has to be the most submissive human being ever to refer to himself in the third person.
I would have liked to see Joona’s story instead. It was okay, though went too far into silly at times. The big fight was surprisingly entertaining, but his lack of emotional control got tiring quickly.
Seven pages of extras.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Heathens and Passions

Britannia: We Who Are About To Die
In what seems like a small prelude but isn’t, a young slave girl is about to be raped, but like me notices the knife nearby and kills her attacker. In the meantime there’s a new cult in Rome that the rich kids are joining, only some of them are the ones being sacrificed, so the world’s first official detective has another case, and this time doesn’t have to go all the way to Britannia to solve it. Eventually it gets personal. . .
Good of them to have recaps before every issue; every comic should do that.
This story is not as strong as the first one, but then it’s more about the moments. With the Wonder Woman movie and especially the way women all over the world are responding to it, it’s amusing to see the same thing happening in Ancient Rome with a female gladiator. I don’t remember ever reading about any such archaeological evidence found, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find there were hucksters like the one here outside the Colosseum, selling souvenirs. My favorite line had to be “By Mithras!” Having studied that cult, it made me laugh.
The last part is “silent,” which makes it more intriguing. Too bad it took him long enough to realize who, or what, the bad guy was, which was a letdown.
3/5

Heathen V.1
Aydis is the heroine of this story, clad in a bikini under a fur coat out in the snow. She’s telling stories to her horse—not so farfetched, as it turned out—as exposition about her quest, which is to save Brynhild—as the chief Valkyrie is spelled here—and maybe kiss her. But of course things are never that easy, especially when mythological creatures are involved; in her case, she might be lucky that becoming a plaything of the gods is the worst thing that happens to her.
It doesn’t take long to find some hilarious characters, in this case the two wolves who bicker like an old married couple. “I liked him.” “Me too. I’m glad we didn’t eat him.” The horse they’re talking about, Saga, might be my fave equine of all time, even if he’s described thusly: “Oh that’s right, you’re not the flying kind of horse, just the annoying kind.”
Best line: “Let’s walk off that stutter.”
Norse mythology is a bit different than usual here. This Freya, for example, reminds me of Aphrodite—playful yet plotting—when the two goddesses of love are usually so different. And just because I’ll never have another chance in my entire life to say this, “Don’t hate the Freya, hate the game.”
The cliffhanger did its job; I want more. This was thoroughly enjoyable; I liked just about every character, except for some of the gods. The artwork is not typical, somewhat like sketches that have been watercolored, but it works well with the stark landscapes featured here.
About 10 pages of other covers to finish things off.
4/5

Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte
Fair warning: I HATE the Day of the Dead. . . or better to say it scares the crap out of me. The scariest night of my life was one of these festivals on the tiny island of Janitzio in Lake Patzcuaro, in the state of Michoacan in Mexico, where this whole thing originated. So I’m gonna try really hard not to let that affect me, but I doubt I’ll succeed.
A curandero—think witch doctor—leads Mechanika to a small Mexican town on the night of the festival. Among the people she meets is a little girl who’s incredibly adorable. . . when she’s not in skullface. As I’ve mentioned in previous stories, it’s amazing how good she is with kids.
This is a weird story in a literary sense as well; by the end of the first issue she would have usually been in a few fights, and the villain introduced. This time it doesn’t happen till much later, with everything before it some sort of exposition, either hints at her reasons for being there or the author delving really deep into the traditions. For example, “Life is only a dream, a temporary holiday. Every minute here is a gift.”
As always there’s a few fun moments, usually at the Lady’s expense. For one, we see her dancing, which is so out of the ordinary for her that it’s pretty shocking. She has been to fancy dances back in England, but that was undercover; this time she had no other reason to do it but to enjoy herself, and it actually looks like she does.
Best line: “She threw a tortilla at him. . . and he ate it.” I can picture him catching it in his mouth. And I find it completely hilarious the local catholic priest is also engaged in this pagan heresy ritual.
But the one thing I’ve always hated about these stories is how many innocent people have to die so Mechanika can learn a lesson or feel the urge of revenge. This one ramps it up to 11; I’m mad at the author for making me care about all those people and then wiping them all out for no other reason than to send the Lady on a rampage. Feels almost like a betrayal.
Toward the end it more than makes up for the lack of action early. There’s quite a bit of her backstory early on, but none of it is in context. No surprise she spares the last guy, seeing herself in him, but as far as her development, that’s about it. This was so completely different than the previous stories it hardly feels like the same character; for one thing, she didn’t get to play dress up more than once.
Despite an abundance of colors that are actually quite typical if you’ve ever traveled through Mexico, most of this story takes place at night, and there’s green phosphorescence everywhere, so artistically it’s not as interesting as the previous editions.
A few pages of covers as usual at the end.
3/5

Grand Passion
A Bonnie and Clyde-type pair of thieves hit the same town over and over, always disguised differently so that they’re never recognized (narrator knows well enough, though). They even have sex on a bed of stolen money every time. One day their luck runs out and during the shootout, as they kill each other’s partner, the newly widowed cop and the female half of the duo fall into instant lust. But because he killed her partner, she has to get revenge no matter how much she wants him, because some code expects her to.
It’s one thing for the characters to speak in accents, but here the narrator does as well, and it’s annoying; perhaps it’s a case of the British writer overdoing it. The sex scene is all kinds of weird, yet it makes sense in the twisted perverted logic they’re using. This cop may be upstanding—unlike the others, it’s made clear long before it becomes a part of the story—but he’s an idiot. Doesn’t matter how “in love” he is, he loses situational awareness way too often in the gunfights. But calling it “The Battle of Buttercup Lane” is all sorts of awesome.
Best lines: “That. Is. Insane.” “Yeah, I know. Welcome ta “Me.’”
Didn’t love this—that last twist was no surprise at all—but it had some humorous moments amongst all the darkness. As a police procedural it’s lacking, but then what can you expect from a “one good cop” story where even he doesn’t turn out to be so good after all?
There’s over 20 pages of bonus material, including sketches and scripts, one of which describes the solo “making love on money” scene, with the author telling the artist, “This’ll be a fun page for you to draw.” Hope it was true.
3/5

Pathfinder: Worldscape V.2
After a couple of unexplained battles where he doesn’t do nearly as well as he’d hoped—“Not gonna lie. Glad no one was around to see that”—a warrior ends up fighting in the arena against all kinds of monsters and hot babes, with his last challenge being the one and only Red Sonja. His snark of “I’m guessing they don’t call you Red because you embarrass easily” comes off just as well as you’d expect. In the meantime his friends have their own adventures in this strange universe, with all the stories eventually converging at the end, but not before other famous mythical characters show up, especially John Carter and Tarzan.
As a lifelong fan, I have to say this is the worst representation I’ve ever seen of Red Sonja, both physically and character-wise. That hair. . . she looks like she went to a stylist in the Deep South.
Best line: “Who names their planet after dirt?” Like this green guy, I’ve had the same thought. Second best: “I do like a girl in leather,” said by another girl.
In the second issue there’s a ton of backstory that hits you like a school bus—yes, there’s a reason I use that simile—all at once. But despite all this exposition, the whole thing was simply too confusing to grasp. So many sides, too many people fluid in their loyalties. . . the only way I could eventually get through it was to stop caring. It’s fair to say this would be a lot smoother if you’re familiar with these characters, either through previous editions or the role-playing game this seems to be based on. As this was my first venture into this universe, I’m sure I failed to grasp a bunch of points throughout.
Oddly enough, in the 50 or so extra pages Sonja looked a lot more like her old self. The last 20 pages are stuff like stats and stories for the role-playing game.
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Big Steaming Plate of Graphics

Generation Zero V.2: Heroscape
Having read the first one, and remembering thinking “To hell with the plot, where’s the next hilarious joke?” I gobbled this one up eagerly. And in case I’d forgotten, there’s the always-great “The story so far” on the first page.
The first volume had a superhero vibe, but this one turns fully sci-fi as the team has to go into other realms/worlds/reality spaces to take down the evil corporation that has taken over the town of Rook, Michigan. Unfortunately there’s a lot of talking and little action at first; it takes them being turned into anime to get things rolling. There’s also less funny, though there were still some hilarious moments, like the scary pregnant Stepford smiler, “I second your ‘hrm,’” and “You are all so totally under arrest. . . obvs.”
If anything, the whole story was even more confusing than the first one. More importantly, it just wasn’t as much fun as the first.
3/5

Lady Mechanika Steampunk Coloring Book V1 & 2
“For ladies and gentlemen of all ages.” Nice.
Mechanika is one of the loveliest graphic novels ever drawn, so it’s no surprise the first attempt to franchise it is coloring books of the “Beautiful Victorian heroine.” Sounds like a perfect description.
These appear to be originals rather than taken from the graphic novels, as the first drawing is of an underwater scene not previously shown. (Even in the iron swimsuit she’s curvy and hot.) In most shots she’s holding a revolver in a Charlie’s Angels pose. On the other hand, the gorgeous redhead baddie from the first story makes an appearance, as well as others, so there’s that.
In the second volume the famous jeweled bird makes an appearance, as well as the infamous jetpack, and her costumes become even more outlandish, befitting every kind of climate on Earth. But the best drawings are the ones where she’s being Action Girl rather than just standing there posing. One of the drawings has her in a small skirt, stockings, and a cape; can’t help but wonder if her lower legs were included she’d be in knee-high boots, because it had a distinct 60s vibe.
It’s intriguing looking at these pencil drawings and imagining how they’re gonna turn out.
“Liked the artwork? You’ll love the stories!” Which is no doubt what this is about, right? Getting more people to read the graphics.
3.5/5

Dollface V.1
She’s known as “The Ball Jointed Witch Hunter,” which definitely sounds unique.
A spirit called Lila has come from the time of the Salem Witch Trials to the present, now housed in the body of a 3-D printed hottie. The title of the book is well named, as along with her pink hair and sexy maid’s outfit her face does indeed look doll-like, thankfully not in a creepy way. She’s got a human sidekick and a formerly human sidekick, who now looks like a reject from a ghost cosplay convention. The Necromicon is in there too, and Weird Science and Bride of Frankenstein are mentioned on the same page.
When she wanders into a bar, fielding compliments for the first time, she comes across an enemy when the witch icon pops into her head. Another time she throws herself off the roof and makes a perfect landing, celebrating with a woo-hoo that shows she learned about living in this century quickly. And her exclamation of “Oh fuck beans!” was particularly fun.
Unfortunately the action slows down in the middle as the story goes into a huge flashback to explain how she was built and her spirit came to inhabit the sex doll body. It also shows how Ivan became a ghost blob.
The authors must have thought that, in a story full of witches, animated dolls, and ghosts, nothing needed to make sense. Not true. And sadly it’s not nearly as funny as it hopes to be.
10 pages of covers and bonus.
2.5/5

Flash Gordon: Kings Cross
After a clever recap of past events via radio and movie trailers, the setting remains the movie theater as—is that The Phantom? Yes, twice; he’s got a redheaded sidekick now—they capture a poacher before heading off to Mandrake’s place to see what the next big crisis is. In the meantime Flash has to rescue Zarkov from some Russian goons. Then all they need is for Dale to show up so the plot can get moving, concerning tidal waves striking every coastline in the world.
Now that Dale’s become so serious, I like redhead Junior Phantom, so full of snark. Some of the best moments include:
“Close your eyes and think queenly thoughts.” “Really?” “Well, close your eyes, anyway.”
“Don’t apologize for loving me, darling.” Can’t believe Flash said that with a straight face.
Never expected to see Flash—or anyone—riding a giant bat.
This was not an easy slog; if it wasn’t for the humor I’m not sure I could have made it through. Got too silly in places.
15 pages of extras.
3/5

Great Divide
An apocalypse leaves the human race unable to touch each other and hearing the voices of those they killed, however accidentally. One survivor goes into a bar—it’s both a joke and it isn’t—and gets taken for a literal and figurative ride. From there it’s one survival test after another.
When I was halfway through I noted that I hadn’t found any point to this yet, as though the journey is the actual plot. I think the dog is the hero of this story, because the otherwise main character is best described here: “It’s hard to go more than a few hours without punching him in the face.”
The best line is “A big box of post-apocalypse puppies.” There’s a Star Wars reference that took me a moment to get. And I love that the biggest piece of currency is a Vampirella comic.
There’s also a dozen pages of exclusive digital content, starting with weblinks to music, coloring pages, an excerpt from a book written by one of the bad guys, and a collection of short stories. Then there’s variant covers and ads, especially for Army of Darkness, which was worth a good chuckle.
3/5

Infinite Seven V.1
Whenever someone gets kicked out of a plane, you always know a flashback is coming.
The basic plot of this story is: What happens when you kill an assassin? You get his job in the assassin squad, though you still have to go through virtual reality testing and the hazing of your fellow assassins, like the woman who shows plenty of bare midriff, even more cleavage, but has a mask over her face. She’s actually pretty intriguing, compared to the German who thinks he’s Ah-nold and names his gun Long Tall Sally.
The author didn’t do his research, or is stuck in the James Bond mode. These are not assassins, they’re mercenary soldiers. Assassins don’t get into firefights, trading quips along the way; they go in silently and take out their target without anyone finding out they were there until they’re gone.
Those making quick appearances include Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch edition), Bruce Lee, George Washington, Chuck Norris, Alien, Clint Eastwood, Chucky, and the bridge of the Enterprise.
There’s a cliffhanger, but it’s pretty ridiculous.
The plot is purposefully too outlandish to be believable, but that’s okay; the problem is in the details. As they say, fiction has to make sense, and there’s too much lazy writing here.
2/5

A Is for Asteroids, Z Is for Zombies
Instead of a good night story, a kid asks his dad about asteroids destroying the planet. Dad remembers a book a crazy relative gave them and checks it out before reading it aloud, a thoroughly smart move.
Though it masquerades as a children’s book, don’t you fall for it either. The looks the dad gives as he reads are priceless. Then, thoroughly scared, he hides in the most ironic place.
This author could teach a class on rhyming, especially with how badly it’s done in today’s music. Every letter gets a stanza, except Z, because zombies are so bad they need seven.
You need a particular brand of humor to enjoy this; I sure did.
4/5

Artful
The book that would nowadays be described as a spinoff of Oliver Twist gives pre-Victorian London a supernatural twist, as the one and only Dodger helps a woman he finds wandering the streets, which leads to much more than saving her from a territorial hooker.
For a non-streetwise lady who picked the wrong place to have a Roman Holiday, Trina sure figured out how to play him easily. Eventually she’s captured by vampires, led by Mr. Fang—really?—so the Artful one has to go save her again, for once sacrificing himself and his future prospects for the good of someone else.
So, turns out Fagin is a vampire. Okay. I suppose that explains a lot, as does what he eventually becomes. Van Helsing looks like he belongs on a ranch in Wyoming, not London. Besides, his son with the relevant name has a bigger part. Dracula wasn’t much of a villain here, used and then sunburned without much of a fight. But apparently vampires can use The Force.
“You’re the hero of this adventure.” Not much meta there.
As a sequel to Dickens, this falls far short. It’s an okay historical vampire story using characters mostly already created, but wouldn’t have been much different without them. It’s simply a literary shortcut. It’s too bad, for I’ve enjoyed this author’s Star Trek novels in the past.
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphically Cute Bugs and Tasty Dinosaurs

She crawled over to the big cat and cooed, “Here kitty kitty. . .”
The tiger turned to her with a look of “Girl, please.”

The Circle
Kid whose mom dies moves with dad to a new town. Depressed enough, he finds the new school so bad even something as simple as trying out for the basketball team gets him beat up. The castoffs are mean to him too, but he’s accepted, and he’ll take that. They go hang out in an abandoned mine shaft, and eventually it turns into an occult thing. Then it really gets horrible. His only hope is the scary old lady who lives upstairs.
In the end I ended up not liking this very much. It’s a mean story full of mean people without even an ounce of hope. And it ended without wrapping up the main plot point, especially now that everyone who could exonerate him is dead. I had to go listen to uplifting music for three hours to get rid of the sudden depression I felt from finishing this.
There’s a lot of sepia, which can be beautiful but in this case only makes everything look dull. The faces are all drawn to look sad; the main kid I can understand, but the rest. . .
2/5

X-O Manowar V.1: Soldier
This should have been subtitled, “They just keep pulling me back in. . .”
A seemingly immortal human with magic armor is tired of fighting and goes off to another planet, finds himself a woman, and tries to be a farmer, only to get forcibly drafted into the local war. When he not only survives being cannon fodder but achieves the mission’s objective, he gets sent on a suicide commando raid by a jealous superior.
I don’t know if it was brains or experience, but it’s easy to see how he survived the first battle. . . not that the battle was easy, of course. My other thought was that the visuals were a lot less bloody than usual for such scenes; not complaining, just noticing.
In the end I didn’t see much that was original here. Even the main character looks like a Viking berserker. And the introduction of his support team came too fast, all at once; had no idea who was who, and other than the woman it didn’t get any better during the raid.
The artwork frequently has the characters without pupils, and it’s creepy and disconcerting.
Unlike most collections, this one doesn’t include the whole story, so of course it ends in a cliffhanger.
2.5/5

Voracious V.2: Feeding Time
Right off the bat there’s a “previously.” Thank you!
Chef cooks up dinosaur meat, and it’s authentic, because he has a time machine to go hunt dinosaurs in the past. But now there’s a parallel universe involved where the dinosaurs became the top dog instead of the monkeys, just like in Harry Harrison’s West of Eden. The difference is that while that book actually did have dinosaurs developing their own society as would be expected through their reptilian biology, this is basically a human society, just with dinosaurs instead of mammals. Even the “gear up” scene, with the lead dino in a wifebeater/bulletproof vest cradling his big-ass weapon, is right from the human world. And they get drunk and go on rampages just like the mammals. But hey, they have flying cars. Thankfully they don’t speak the same language as humans; that would have been too much. (slight sarcasm)
This first part is told from the dinosaur point of view, especially the detective whose wife is missing and presumed eaten. . . I mean, never ever existed. The second takes place in Utah and then back in time. There’s enough of the present for me to ascertain that when she isn’t drunk and vomiting, girl-next-door Starlee (is she supposed to be Kaylee from Firefly?) is more attractive than just-another-Noo-Yawk blonde Jenna. {Boots > Heels.} There’s some truly funny stuff in here, such as the intro blurbs, like: {Warning: Contains a dinosaur getting some sweet sweet revenge!}
I know that Owen is crazed on said revenge, but it’s weird that he screams about saving the missing dinosaurs while he’s killed a few of the scientists to get to the gate. I do like how there’s no one truly evil in this story; the “bad” guys are accidental, through ignorance or “disease,” if that’s the word for it. But the dinosaur hoodie. . .
Nice quote from Ozymondius to end it.
The artwork is more than serviceable, with the bright colors taking center stage. There are three main settings—small town in Utah, Dino City, and way-in-the-past forest, and they all look great. Even better is the Native American flashbacks in the last issue. But seriously: did you have to write “Wink” right under the wink?
Each chapter has extras, like dinosaur recipes. Sounds yummy. Also behind-the-scenes stuff from the creators. Particularly interesting is one of the artists explaining why he’d never go back to working by hand now that he uses a computer. And at the very end there’s a page about those who Kickstartered enough to be drawn into the story, even as dinosaurs. Cute.
So, despite a few misgivings and plot points this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I look forward to the last part of the trilogy.
3.5/5

Miraculous: Tales of Lady Bug and Cat Noir
Three stories from this animated TV show from France.
Story #1:
It’s the dreaded Valentine’s Day in Paris, and most of the characters can’t say I love you to the face of their crush, while the one who does gets crushed on the bridge of locks. . . then turns evil, making people fall out of love with the sling of an arrow.
If there’s a quibble, it’s in the fight scenes, which in two dimensions are confusing. And I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for having the villain actually say “Mwahaha!”
Story #2
The kids are filming a movie in class, but the lead heroine is scared of. . . well, everything and everyone, it seems. Perfect candidate to be made evil; too bad the ensuing monster wasn’t scary at all.
It’s funny how Marinette likes Adrien when he’s himself and loathes him as Cat Noir, even though they’re the same person. And he likes her as Lady Bug but doesn’t spare her a second look in her civilian guise.
#3
The father of one of the girls is a mime about to star in a big production, but his understudy blocks him, leaving him susceptible to the dark side. Have to admit, giving the bad guy the superpower of. . . mime was inspired.

Marinette is an awesome character. For a teen to be a superhero but unable to gloat about it, and always failing to get what she wants in the end, she takes things remarkably in stride, never losing her sense of humor or sweetness. Her big aquamarine eyes, which get even bigger when she’s joyful, perfectly offset the purple hair. Early on there’s a shot of her caught as she’s rooting through the trash, and the look she gives is priceless, worth the price of admission alone. She’s incredibly cute and usually doesn’t mind being teased, and is one of the most intriguing teen protagonists I’ve ever seen. Adrien manages to pull that off in no small way as well, even when his fame and wealth are added to it, though he becomes a bit of an arrogant jerk when he’s dressed feline.
The best parts of these stories are the humor and the way the friends have each other’s backs. My one pet peeve is in wondering: when the person in each story gets turned evil, how do they instinctively know their powers? Who told them they could suddenly fly or use their props to shoot lasers and such? But anyway, ignore those plot holes and just enjoy.
There are 225 pages for only three stories—including “Exclusive digital pages!”—which seems like a lot of work until I realized that these are screencaps from the TV show, with everything 3-D and bubbly.
BTW, I liked the first of these so much I went looking for the TV show, and found it on Netflix! It’s surprisingly accessible for adults. Can you say “binged?”
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Puns

She sang, “What do you do when you run out of sunblock?”
“Like you with wine, you open another bottle.”

Divinity III: Stalinverse
This takes place in an alternate reality where the Soviet Union invaded and took over all of Europe in WW2. Funnily enough, they placed McCarthy as their puppet US president. Now there’s plenty of protests, so the Soviets send one mean-looking dude to put them down, while around the world other agents show how they fight against rebellions.
There’s double agents, fantasy elements, humans on Mars. One of the bad squad is named Baba Yaga, so there’s some humor here. But the cliffhanger at the end of issue #3. . .
For what started out as a promising plot to have such a. . . pedestrian ending dropped my enjoyment a notch.
3/5

Lady Mechanika V.3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey
This story is all about Jewish mysticism and immortality, so it helps to have an Anglo-Indian detective helping out, I guess.
Mechanika has grown quite a bit; in earlier issues she would have bitten off the head of the cabbie who intimated she needed a man to take care of her, but here she just laughs it off. Lewis’s grin at that is golden as well. And at the end I fully expected Singh to try to kiss her, with a possibility that she might let him rather than break his face. That’s how different she’s become, and I like the change.
The cover gallery is always fun, imagining Mechanika actually deigning to pose for the artist. Her saloon girl costume is my fave.
This one seemed a little darker, both in tone and actual colors. Innocents always die in these stories, but when kids are being sacrificed. . .
3.5/5

Ocean of Secrets, V.1 Manga
Orphan finds new family, though it’s ominous that she’s a replacement daughter for one who died. Don’t know if her new sister tried to kill her, but she goes overboard and sorta drowns, waking up in another reality, on a flying ship with a brother/sister pair.
If it wasn’t for the hair, I wouldn’t be able to tell the two girls apart.
There really isn’t anything new here. I’m not one to call it a Mary Sue, but this had that definite vibe, especially how Lia instantly offers to go rescue Albert when he’s arrested. It all circles back in the end, though it feels too coincidental and convenient. For how long it was, it could have been a tighter story. And what happened with the pirates?
All in black and white, which didn’t do the story any favors.
Last 20 or so pages are extras, with author interview, character designs, and a sneak peek at another story.
3/5

Army Of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever and a Day
Xena has lost a major battle and Gabrielle is dying, so she calls Ash for help by ripping up a piece of paper (yes, I know what the paper is, but it sounds more ridiculous this way). He’s in the middle of wooing—sexually harassing—an intern at the S-mart when he whooshes back in time, only to have Xena not recognize him. Turns out he whooshed to the wrong time and has to go back, waiting for the second issue to get it right. . . nope, not then either. It’s suddenly Ancient Greece’s version of Groundhog Day. Totally with Xena when the fourth issue comes along and she yells, “Again?” It takes till issue 6—the last one—to find out what’s going on.
As soon as I saw this pairing my initial thought was, “I hope there’s a line where she says, ‘You look familiar.’” But apparently they’ve met before.
Best lines of Ash being Ash:
“Keep it up and you’re gonna see just how hard I blow. . . I mean. . .”
“Must. . . bite. . . tongue. . . must. . . bite.”
“Steve. . . really?”
Ash has always been smarmy and a jerk, but he managed to still be likeable. This version of him. . . not so much. And being a fan of redheads, I would have stayed with Amber.
I recognize this is supposed to be completely silly, but somehow it’s even past that. Yep, too silly; never thought I would say that. I feel like I should have enjoyed this a lot more. I love the title, though, as well as Ash getting a little Bubba Ho-Tep in there at the end. . .
10 pages of covers and ads.
3/5

;o)