Book Reviews: Another Graphic Post

“I assume every woman I’m interested in is married. Saves time.”

Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming
Never heard of either this series or the TV show, where a descendant of Wyatt Earp is part of a federal agency that kills monsters and zombies and the like; the things you learn when you don’t have cable. . .
There’s a short but satisfactory intro, leading right into some gruesome humor; talk about setting a tone. Another tone-setter is the zombies, as well as Federal Agent Dolls, who’s complaining about all the gore stinking up his ride, yet lets her into the car and doesn’t seem to care she left gore all over the passenger seat. So that’s what the relationship between these crime-fighting partners is like, although there’s a surprising but nice moment later when they have a genuine heart-to-heart.
There’s a lot of fun touches that keep this from being just another shoot-‘em-up zombiefest. The phrase “Emotionally frugal” is so good I intend to use it as soon as possible. Like all macho heroes, male or female, she’s more interested in her jacket not getting ruined than the fact she was almost killed. You get a moment where she’s actually almost-sweet and fun, like when she pushes John Henry’s hat down over his face, or when she admits her experience watching porn in the middle of a bar, to take a breather before going back to the gore fest. And of course there’s the requisite Trump mention. It really is the bits of humor that save this from what might have otherwise been something seen many times before.
The story kicks up a notch when Valdez shows up; she’s definitely not whom I expected, making for a nice twist. She’s the kind of girl who forgets all about having to wear frilly clothes once she gets her hands on a Gatling gun. There’s good use of Old West mythology, particularly the OK Corral, in the final showdown.
A few other lines to look for:
“Sometimes fighting paranormal crime isn’t as sexy as TMZ makes it out to be.”
“You just pooped on my pep talk.”
“Well done.” “He is now.”
“I’m gonna miss Dick.” “Pardon me?”
And look carefully for the well-placed “Hang in there” poster.
So this turned out to be much more enjoyable than I thought it would be at the beginning. In fact, this is one of the rare ones where I can’t wait for the continuation. And let’s hear it for the short recaps at the beginning of each issue, something a lot more graphic novels could use, since you can’t assume people will pick up the first issue when browsing at the store.
4.5/5

Little Tails in the Jungle
An extremely short book about the adventures of a couple of rudimentarily drawn animals flying around in a cardboard plane. After flying above maps for a while, they land in Africa, where it’s time for the squirrel—I think—to teach the puppy about the animals they see in the jungle. And bugs. And then they fly on to the next place. . .
If I have one complaint it’s that I couldn’t tell the two main animals apart, or even what species they were, if not told by the publicity blurb. The format is one comic-strip like area surrounded by colorful jungle vistas, which are the real highlights here, though I could have done without the life-sized tarantula! Better was the appearance by the pink Amazon dolphin–while they still exist–but what about piranhas? Yep, there they are. . .
The animal drawings are so gorgeous it’s almost a shame to use them in a book that only kids will be seeing. The banter is witty without ever seeming mean. The last few pages give more detail on the various animals.
The big thing here is that this is from the same guys who do the LOVE series, which explains why the artwork is so beautiful.
4/5

Turncoat
This is the story of a guy whose job it is to “control the superhero population.” That’s a new one, and as you might expect, a human taking down superheroes isn’t exactly the easiest way to make a living. Chapter 1 was an intro to the kinds of jobs he does on small fry, but after that comes the fight against the big boys.
Things always perk up when you add a leather-clad redhead, doubly so when she’s the protagonist’s ex. And here’s a life lesson: if you’re gonna kill a powerful superhero, make sure you get him and, you know, not leave him alive when you accidentally take out his girlfriend. . . or a random groupie he was about to make out with. And definitely do not let your bear sidekick eat her. Too bad he didn’t get much of a chance to live up to his name: Scarebear!
A perfect sample of the goings-on: “My name is Clive, asshole.” “Your name is Clive Asshole?”
“The judge is about to quit you.” “Don’t you mean acquit?”
Phone Homie! Almost wish I’d thought of that. . .
“You’ll never take me alive!” “Target has been taken alive, sir.”
“Any last requests?” “Yeah, don’t shoot me.” She shoulda shot him just for that.
Like most of his ilk, the drama-queen villain is happy to have an audience; he just wants to share. But of course Duke manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Attention to detail: in the hospital room, on the tiny TV, you can see the Kirk/Spock fight from Amok Time.
Did not like the last twist, which he didn’t deserve one bit. Almost anyone else would have been a better choice for that job.
At the end there’s a two page list of people who contributed to the project, as in donated money.
All in all just a silly timewaster, nothing deep here. That will probably be enough for most.
2.5/5

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Storm Surge
The title pretty much sums it up: a famous author writes a graphic novel about raising the dead as another hurricane ravages New Orleans.
The main character seems to be a pretty clone called Erika 5th, who is either pissed about the regular beatings she receives or not being allowed to read, or both. The only person she can talk to, and I use the description “person” lightly, is Karloff the talking head. She gets pulled into an alternate universe, but she’s okay with that, because no one can tell her she can’t read; I love how she uses her already short dress to carry books.
In this alternate world the Dr. Frankenstein is making an army of zombies, except they don’t follow his orders. Didn’t think that one through, didja? Against him are a team of Mulder and Scully knockoffs, though she’s a lot more abrasive than your usual FBI redhead; it’s beautiful how she says she has no problems putting two in his brain if he turns.
“You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain dead.” But he doesn’t.
“You have a flashlight?” “Of course. . . in my car.” Thank goodness for the humor here, because it’s dark far more than just the artwork. The chapter names in particular are well done, like Moveable Feasts and Dead People’s Lives.
Hard to stop a horny monster once you ask him to bite your neck, huh, Erika?
For a relatively typical zombie story, the prose comes off high and mighty; even the hunters use words like “consternation” at each other. Who is this supposed to impress? And even though it says “The end?” too many questions were left unanswered.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: More Graphic Novels Edition

Marthe Trolycurtin
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Malice in Ovenland, Vol. 1
Schoolgirl in NYC has to stay home and do chores over vacation while all her friends go do fun stuff. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she has to put up with her mom’s organic food—even has to trek to water the garden—and then her mom goes away; is it legal to leave a kid that young alone? But she perseveres and does as told, getting everything done until the last item: clean the oven. A creature steals her earring and it’s all Alice in Wonderland, greasy style, from there.
There are some great lines in here, like “Now I know how a French fry feels.” There’s a poem called “The Day the Grease Stopped Flowing.” I knew organic food was bad for you! The Ovenland crest has crossed spatulas under a plate of bacon. . . I want one.
“Ahem!” Never seen a ghost beg for attention.
The protagonist talks out loud rather than thinking it—that’s a bit annoying, but thankfully corrected midway. The “Lily Ma’am” thing pops out every once in a while and it always makes me chuckle. She somehow manages to turn a giant roach into a puppy. There’s even a reference to Pizza Rat.
Don’t really buy the ending; maybe she likes the food now, but the chores?
6 pages of bonus art, including a cover that would have been better than the one they used. Never thought I would say this sentence, but there’s a cover of Lily “riding the roach,” and no, that’s not a euphemism.
All in all, fun enough for kids, though maybe too gross for the younger ones.
3.5/5

Black Jack Ketchum
After a historical lesson about the central figure, who was indeed a real-life person, things turn weird—yeah, the thing with the snow—and science-fictionly, part Brisco County and part Sledge Hammer.
I love how the guy at the poker table is completely blasé with shots being fired all around him. Even more I love his sidekick, even if she doesn’t talk; taciturn plays well here. There’s one panel that squicked me out much more than I could have ever imagined, when he was cleaning the gun.
When the stoic poker table guy finally gives his name, it explains a lot of things; particularly enjoyed the inclusion of that famous story. So we add Twilight Zone to the reference mix, and possibly Twin Peaks.
Each chapter, or issue, starts off with more of the historical stuff until we find out his fate in real life, so there’s a lot of shifting. Even then there’s still the fantasy to play out. Things go sideways—first literally, then storywise; the metaphysics of it all hurt my head. There’s a musical interlude, for no reason other to show bad lyrics. Then there’s the ultimate in dual realities, leading to a deus ex machina from the last shoutout, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
If you search for photo of the real Black Jack, you’ll find this version is drawn true to life. There’s a gorgeous also-true-to-life panel of Monument Valley which alone is worth the expenditure.
At the end there’s 10 pages of bonus materials in the form of sketches, with the finished product sometimes intertwined.
This can be intriguing, as long as you don’t take it as seriously as it takes itself. But who was the girl? Why was she there?
3.5/5

Alice in Wonderland: Special Collector’s Manga
Only a month ago I read a complete Wonderland/Looking Glass graphic novel done as faithfully as can possibly be expected. This one didn’t figure to be at all the same, not with Tim Burton’s name on it. If you’ve seen the Burton movie, you know this already, but for others, no matter what the title, this is not the same story; it’s more of a direct sequel than Looking Glass.
I’m reading this in digital form, but there’s a warning right at the beginning that tells the reader you’re doing it wrong. Since it’s manga, it’s done in Japanese writing style; in other words, it starts at what most of us call the end. The funny thing is it jokes not to start here: “You don’t want to spoil the fun and start with the end, do you?” It’s Alice in Wonderland, what spoilers are left?
But I went to the back and found a lot of prologue, with an older teenage Alice being married off to a boring lord. It takes almost 20 pages for the real story to start, which it does with a bang; for once the fall, or rather the landing, hurts. Again, if you’ve seen the movie all this isn’t a surprise, but if you haven’t, it’s a completely new story, which will either fascinate or enrage you.
She’s awfully calm next to the giant cat, but then she keeps telling herself it’s just a dream; good luck with that.
The book ends before the story’s over, but by then I was okay with it. Didn’t really like the story, but that’s the fault of those who wrote the movie. . . not because it’s so different, it’s just not as interesting as the original. The artwork is black and white, sketchlike, and at times difficult to make out; similar with some of the lettering, especially in the Jabberwocky flashback.
2/5

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
*This is from the reboot universe, as you can tell from the faces*
This starts with Spock breaking up with Uhura; I still don’t get them being together, but whatever. She tries to get through it by unscrambling a faint signal from out-there-somewheres, but then it moves to three years later, where there’s a new Vulcan female, who looks quite fetching in the short skirt and knee-high black boots that appears to be the uniform at the Academy. And she has green eyes.
The tacked-on plot that moves the action along is the Centennial Games, celebrating 100 years of the Academy. It’s mostly a scavenger hunt against teams from other worlds, like New Vulcan. (You remember in the movie old Vulcan was destroyed, right?) One of T’laan’s teammates is an Andorian, who is much more of a jerk than the Tellurite. Rounding out the team is an alien Captain Obvious—“I am scared for the simulated away team”—and a bubbly Latina redhead who had to be my favorite character. “Bye bye, ship.” Grace definitely grew on me. T’laan is also quite likeable—eventually—especially for a Vulcan.
At first I thought the Centennial Games went on for years! It is definitely NOT made clear that the storylines take place at different times. “Time quicksand” is a fascinating concept, at least to a non-physicist. Possibly the best line is, “Vel smells pie!” And it really is too bad the Vulcan didn’t join the guys on their “road trip to the southern metropolis of Los Angeles.”
As for the art, you’ll have to quickly get used to the bright colors. Uhura is drawn perfectly, but though I recognize Kirk he’s got kind of a token white guy look.
This is easily the best Star Trek graphic novel I’ve seen.
4.5/5

;o)

Pioneertown

Located just outside the town of Joshua Tree, it’s still in use as a movie set, though most days it’s about tourists taking photos and maybe buying knickknacks. I scored some Belle Starr comic books for less than ten bucks. . .

Classic guard puppy pose

Classic guard puppy pose

"The juxtaposition of the cactus and the pumpkin. . ."

“The juxtaposition of the cactus and the pumpkin. . .”

The sign says "Teeth pulled." That's the least of your worries at a bank. . .

The sign says “Teeth pulled.” That’s the least of your worries at a bank. . .

One Stop shopping.

One Stop shopping.

The mayor is a dictator; no room for city council.

The mayor is a dictator; no room for city council.

Misspelled word and no punctuation makes it more authentic, despite the computer printout.

Misspelled word and no punctuation makes it more authentic, despite the computer printout.

And just because I’m silly, here’s the same shots in black and white. . .

bwIMG_0605 bwIMG_0606 bwIMG_0609 bwIMG_0610 bwIMG_0629

;o)