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)

Book Reviews: This Blog Is Graphic

Sometimes a cigar is just a cancer stick.

Savage
A David Beckham-ish soccer star—he’s even moving to the States to continue his career—and his rather shrewish wife, along with their latest baby, crash on a deserted island and have to survive against—gasp!—dinosaurs! And bad humans, with access to a portal. The soccer player’s last name is Sauvage, hence the title; cute.
There’s a brief clip of the present before flashing back to original crash, which is a lot funnier than I would have thought: as the crash occurs and stuff is flying around, including the two adults, there’s a shot of the baby looking all kinds of concerned, and it’s hilarious! Later the kid looks right at the “camera,” also really funny. Not that the rest was bad, but that was such a high point I couldn’t help but feel a little let down after that.
A few complaints, such as all the British-isms, and not familiar ones at that. The way the writer got rid of one of the main characters struck me as abrupt and unnecessary. It’s interesting that while the kid grew up without any schooling or even jungle training, he’s smarter than the other semi-humans on the island. And as always, it’s not the dinosaurs that are the most dangerous.
Not so much a cliffhanger ending as a jump point for his next adventure.
Each issue has author/artist commentary at end; the first has side-by-side versions of the same page showing the first draft, the inked version, and the colored. Interesting in a DVD extra kinda way.
Some vivid colors, maybe even go as far as bright, others muted. At times the artwork was a little too realistic, as in gory, but this is probably the most detailed I’ve ever seen dinosaurs drawn (not that there’s a huge pool to wade through on that). The colorist, in the last interview, says he wanted to make the setting “alarmingly beautiful,” a character in itself, and I think he succeeded.
3.5/5

Kiss: The Elder V.1: World Without Sun
“A world without heroes is like a world without sun.” Nice tag line, and lyric.
In a dystopian future where war has destroyed the surface of the planet, four kids explore where they’re not supposed to and change the course of history (there, got the requisite cliché out of the way).
What sets this apart from most other graphics is how well written it is. You know the government is up to no good when they call the society a “collective.” But once I saw how far in the future this was set, I wondered how the author was going to get KISS to be relevant. That worked out okay, though in the end I realized they didn’t need to be there at all to make the story work, so that was a little disappointing.
There’s some cool touches, like the Sphinx wearing sunglasses; just imagine how big those things must be. The “educational” (brainwashing) videos for the citizens remind me of the FedNet from Starship Troopers. Adi was my fave of the four main characters; the way she uses her butt to open the secret door is awesome. And most of all the dystopian story and setting were well made.
A couple of nitpicks, though. The robot battle was too confusing, couldn’t tell which side was which. And there’s an oopsie medical-wise; one of the characters sprains an ankle but is running fine a little later.
The artwork was okay in the old underground city, but once the story gets to the forbidden levels it really takes off. Much brighter in the garden, for example.
Bonus starts at 116 of 154, with the first two pages being congratulatory notes from two members of KISS. After that comes the expected early designs and alternate covers.
If only they could have worked Detroit Rock City into it. . .
4/5

Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods
Original Galactica, not “reimagined,” so don’t whine about getting the wrong one.
Adama’s injured getting the fleet through a black hole, and his concussed mind has him thinking about Baltar and reliving the past. In the real world the Cylons are still following the fleet until they encounter the last enemy you would expect, and then Baltar shows up for realsies; this guy’s like a thousand bad pennies! In fact, the writers brought absolutely everyone they could think of back for this. . . except Athena!
Not happy with the deus ex machina that ends it. In fact, the story wasn’t much good from plenty of perspectives. There’s a lot of borrowing from other places; there’s even some Borg overtones in these new Cylons. For someone who was a huge fan of the original series, and who’d enjoyed previous graphics, this is really disappointing.
The artwork is watercolor-y, but the humans are drawn very strangely; it’s them in the general sense, like you might recognize someone at a distance, but in the close-ups it doesn’t look anything like the actors. Apollo in particular looks horrible. Oddly enough, Iblis is the one who looks most lifelike.
About a dozen pages of variant covers.
2/5

Betty Boop
She’s listed as “The most famous female cartoon star of all!” and I don’t know if I can argue with that.
Betty is a waitress and wannabe star trying to keep her grampy from losing his house, but not doing a good job of it; perhaps grampy shouldn’t waste all his time and money buying tiny jet engines to put on turtles. Despite there being numerous stories, they all have that same plot: bad spirits want the house.
The first thing you see is the cover art, and it looks kinda surreal: her pose, her clothes. . . the fact that’s a clown behind her. . .
An orchestra made of bones seems like a good idea. Not so great when a little dog has a crush on you. The double-headed blonde is creepy. There’s a shot from behind that shows just how little Betty’s dress is, but later we see she looks better in her winter skating gear. So does Sally, for that matter.
Some fun lines:
“Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
“Mephistopheles Metamorphosis!”
“Every member of the clown’s guild is required to carry a crowbar with them at all times.”
Best moment: the clown making the nightclub owner literally smile is awesome.
20 pages of extra stuff. Mostly alternate covers, with a sketch of her on a rolling log, for some reason.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Loud Comic Strips in Stitches

Lunarbaboon: The Daily Life of Parenthood
This turned out to be a collection of strips about a strange man—or is he really half baboon?—who does his best to raise his three-year-old son and baby with the occasional help of his almost-as-strange wife.
The strips I read usually make me chuckle; a few of these did actually—not metaphorically—make me laugh out loud. Some border on brilliant. My faves:
“Your belly is so silly.”
“Ask that guy!”
“#1 Trekkie!”
“How much do you love mommy and daddy?” Less than last time.
“The floor is made of lava!”
The realization that if you look like your dad did, you’re gonna look like him. . .
“Junk food night!”
But if I had to pick one fave, it would have to be how ice cubes can cure a booboo.
This is likely the funniest strip I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot. And now that I’m checking it out every morning, I wish it came out more often.
5/5

Stitched #1: The First Day of the Rest of Her Life
A stitched-up girl is reborn, with no memory of her previous life, in a strange cemetery, where she meets friends and foes. As she’s running away from the tomb where she woke up she barrels into a mansion where ghosts are having a to-do, and they don’t mind her dropping in. But when a ghost tells you to run from another ghost, you should run. Fast.
Always love a character who says “Yikes!” and “What the little apples was that?” But my fave line of Crimson’s is “Saving my stitched butt.” I am loving how easily she makes friends, but Wisteria, the shy non-confrontational werewolf, is my fave.
The win here is with the great writing, both dialogue and characterization.
“You only live once! I think.”
“I am not a witch. I’m a ‘magic technician.’ Way cooler.”
“It smells like mold and lavender and. . . mad things.”
The artwork is fun, the colors amusing, but it’s the writing that really shines here. Even the character bios at the end are funny. It’s not a stretch to say this is an early contender for graphic novel of the year.
(There’s also 20-page previews of other books, which seems excessive.)
4.5/5

The Loud House #1: “There Will Be Chaos”
Apparently this is a TV show on Nickelodeon, so no surprise I missed it. The main character is the middle child, which is really saying something when there’s 11 children. . . all girls but you. And everyone’s name starts with L.
This starts with something more books should: “Meet the Loud Family.” With this many characters it’s definitely a necessity. Thank you!
It turns out to be a choose your own path adventure thingie. . . not fantastic on digital. It’s really just a bunch of short silly vignettes featuring the various sisters. The good stuff here is in the small touches, like the poster of a band called Smooch; awesome. I like that the sister with the most feminine name—Lana—is the tomboy/wrench wench. But under no circumstances should handshakes, even funny ones, take double-digit panels.
A few pages of an interview with the creator and previews of other comics round it out.
Some funny stuff, but unlike most, there’s not much for adults to laugh at here, strictly for kids.
3.5/5

Pearls Hogs the Road
It’s a Pearls Before Swine collection. Nuff said; I’m there.
Starts with a cool intro to say that Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) wrote three of the strips. But as to the comics themselves, all I can tell you is that if you love puns, this is your jam. Even if they make you groan, it’s still a good time.
So what makes this different than reading them in the newspaper or online? Besides having them all in one place and not having to click? Author commentary! It’s just as funny, like throwing your kid in the water to test out the theory that nurse sharks are the most harmless breed. And of course there’s an “except for you, reader” line in there.
Some of the best:
Close up of a lemming, his widdow hands curled into fists. . .
Sweater-neckers; yes, totally agree.
Elizabeth Hurley and Ron Cey in the same strip? Wow. . . even included the mustache. (On Cey, not the lovely still-crush-worthy Ms. Hurley.)
“Please don’t criticize my wheelhouse.” Been there.
Abraham Lincoln tweets!
“To infinity and bed, bath, and beyond!”
“Everything happens for a raisin.”
“Bombast cable!”
Definitely agree on the oyster thing. Eerie how sometimes Pastis and I are in telepathic communication. . . not to mention we’re about the same age and grew up in the same area. We probably met as kids.
End with a special extra: Pearls Without Rat. And then Pig. And Goat. And others. It’s surreal and funny in a completely different way.
Public Service Announcement (more of a warning): on the back cover—or last page if digital—do not look at the tramp stamp! For your own sanity!
5/5

;o)

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: 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)