Thursday, March 22, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Extreme Cheater Edition

I've been a little busy, but I have been reading graphic novels on a mostly daily basis. I just haven't had time to do write-ups. So rather than go through and back-date a bunch of posts, find images, etc., which I'll probably just keep procrastinating on, here's a list of what I've read and quick thoughts:

Star Wars Visionaries TP (Dark Horse) - Stories and art from concept artists who worked on Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Most of the stories are pretty weak, save a decent offering about a soldier on Hoth by Alex Jaeger and M. Zachary Sherman and an interesting and beautifully painted story about the origin of General Grievous by Warren Fu. But the art throughout is really nice, and the concept art showcased really cool. I would have preferred this to be a gallery piece, mostly showing off unused concept art, but it's an interesting idea for a Star Wars book at any rate.

Mutation Vol. 1 TP (Markosia) - Really nice Bruce Timm-esque art, some solid superhero slugfests, but the stories just don't make any sense. It's clear what writer George Singley is aiming for, a basic no-calorie superhero action book, but he needs a little bit more of a hook to make it anything but pretty fights by Ethan Beavers.

Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril TP (Penny-Farthing) - A somewhat overwrought and melodramatic take on the pulps, Dysart's script should have dialed back a little on the angst and aimed for a more fun, pulp spirit, but despite that, it's a pretty solidly entertaining yarn that is more or less true to the nature of pulp superheroes. Also, terrific art by Sal Velluto (with some inks by his Black Panther compadre Bob Almond), nice colors by Mike Garcia and solid production values from Penny-Farthing. Never rises to great, but a solid B offering.

B.P.R.D. Vol. 6: Universal Machine TP (Dark Horse Comics) - Another fantastic offering from the regular BPRD creative team, revealing some of the secret history of zombie captain Ben Daimio and really allowing non-powered agent Kate Corrigan time to shine as she bargains with a sadistic demon for the return of Roger the Homunculus. Plus, as always, Guy Davis and Dave Stewart just bring the house down with the art.

Ex Machina Vol. 5: Smoke Smoke TP (DC/Wildstorm) - The best Ex Machina trade since the first one, including flashbacks to Hundred's days as a hero, intrigue within his cabinet, great supporting cast (love the two gay firefighters more than most of Mitchell's actual support staff) and a fantastic single issues shedding light on the past of his bodyguard Bradbury. Terrific art by Harris, Feister and Mettler as well. This might be my favorite Brian Vaughan book at the moment.

Para TP (Penny Farthing) - Stuart Moore's tale of a supercollider accident, a grieving daughter and an investigation into what happened starts off intriguing and creepy and then quickly goes off into bizarre, borderline superhero/sci-fi territory where it doesn't belong. Too much over-the-top technology like killer robots and other-dimensional ghosts, and the spooky, X-Files-ish vibe of the early issues is lost. Good mystery setup, extremely dissatisfying resolution.

One Page Filler Man (Image) - Jim Mahfood just cuts loose and makes it up as he goes along. The results are mixed, but the art is strong and there are great, fun bits throughout.

The Norm In Color (The - This is a gorgeously produced book. Michael Jantze is an extremely talented cartoonist, and his work in color is jaw-dropping, comparable to some of the greats like Berke Breathed or Bill Watterson. Seriously, there's a visual imagination at work here that takes aspects of pop culture and cartoon culture, breaks them down and incorporates them, and it's stunning. Unfortunately, the subject matter of too many of the strips and the gags resulting are often overly familiar riffs on guys and girls and relationships, without much new to offer. That's not to say there aren't laughs to be found, or genuinely touching moments, or that The Norm is bad. Indeed, it's very entertaining most of the time, in the same way that a good, solid sitcom can be entertaining. It's just that visually, the book is breaking boundaries, but its story and characters are of a more standard variety, and art this great deserves stories just as great.

Avengers/JLA (Marvel/DC) - Finally broke down and bought this deluxe hardcover, and I still really like the story. It's a kind of old school team-up we'll not see again, given that the fans seem to want a much different kind of darker, more "realistic" superhero universe from both Marvel and DC. Makes for a last great hurrah for these types of stories, though, with amazing art by George Perez and a real love-letter to the characters by Kurt Busiek that still manages to be an exciting, classic style superhero story at the same time. The companion volume, with all the background on the Marvel/DC crossovers in general (and JLA/Avengers specifically), is also a nice treat.

Degrassi The Next Generation Vol. 1: Extra Credit (Pocket Books) - Planning to write a review of this J. Torres-penned graphic novel at Comic Pants at some point. In short, it's a lot like Breaking Up (with art by Christine Norrie) - good craftsmanship, and though I'm not really the target audience, I can tell that it does what it sets out to do very well.

King City Vol. 1 (Tokyopop) - This one I did review at Comic Pants. Loved it. My favorite graphic novel read of the month thus far.

Giant Robot Warriors (AIT/Planet Lar) - Reviewed this one at Comic Pants as well.

Essex County Vol 1 Tales From The Farm TP (Top Shelf) - An emotionally charged look at a sad little boy and the uncle who tries desperately to connect with him, and a has-been hockey player who finds a friend in the boy. Lovely art, and a poignant, effective portrayal of complicated relationships.

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