Books Received (July-August 2017)

Featuring: Stephen Barnes, R.S. Belcher, Simon Berthon, Christopher Bohjalian, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Robert Dickinson, Kate Ellis, Christie Golden, Nick Harkaway, Rebecca Harrington, Michael F. Haspil, Grady Hendrix, Joe Ide, Jay Kristoff, Stina Leicht, Eugene Lim, Jonathan Lyon, Jeannette Ng, Ross Raisin, Greg Rucka, Marcus Sakey, Steven T. Seagle, Charles Soule, Matt Taibbi, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Roma Tearne, Sage Walker, Matt Wallace, Zeni Zumas Continue reading

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Quick Reviews: Graphic Novels

Here are seven mini-reviews of graphic novels/collections that I’ve read over the last few weeks. Given that some of them are from now well-established series, I decided to keep them very short in order to not spoil things for new readers.

Batman-Vol.06-GraveyardShiftBATMAN, Vol.6 — Graveyard Shift (DC New 52)

Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Greg Capullo

In these tales from BATMAN #0, 18-20, 28, 34 and BATMAN ANNUAL #2, look back to the early days of the Dark Knight, then see the impact of the wake of the death of his son Damian! Plus, has Batman’s worst foe become…Bruce Wayne? This title also includes three pivotal chapters from the epic ZERO YEAR storyline, and a chapter that ties in to BATMAN ETERNAL!

Another good collection, but not the best. This book collects together the shorter and stand-alone stories. It’s a good, mixed collection. I miss the larger, multi-issue and more involved storylines, and I look forward to reading “End Game”.

A must for completists, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s essential. It is, however, also quite a good book to read if you want to sample Snyder and Capullo’s Batman work — they remain a creative force to be reckoned with.

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DetectiveComics-Vol.06-IcarusBATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS, Vol.6 — Icarus (DC New 52)

Writer: Francis Manapul | Artist: Brian Buccellato

Batman finds himself knee-deep in a new mystery involving a deadly new narcotic that has hit the streets of Gotham City. Can the Dark Knight stop the threat before the entire town finds itself embroiled in a deadly gang war that could burn everything — and everyone — down to the ground?

Collects: Detective Comics #30-34 & Annual #3

This is a great new instalment in this series. After Gregg Hurwitz’s run on Batman: Dark Knight ended, I’ve been looking for some new life in the Bat-family titles. I think Manapul and Buccellato are the pair to do it: “Icarus” is a great story, focusing a lot on the “Detective” part of the series title. A drug ravaging the city, Batman and his allies must get to the bottom of things in order to take the unstable, deadly substance off the streets.

A great first storyline for the new creative team. Highly recommended for all fans of Batman.

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Copperhead-Vol.01-NewSheriffInTownCOPPERHEAD, Vol.1 — A New Sheriff in Town (Image)

Writer: Jay Faerber | Artist: Scott Godlewski

Welcome to Copperhead, a grimy mining town on the edge of a backwater planet. Single mom Clara Bronson is the new sheriff, and on her first day she’ll have to contend with a resentful deputy, a shady mining tycoon, and a family of alien hillbillies. And did we mention the massacre?

Collects: Copperhead #1-5

Now this book was fantastic. A perfect transposition of the classic crime/cop story onto a weird and wonderful, Star Wars-esque science fictional setting. The writing and dialogue are punchy and perfectly paced, the artwork is fantastic. The characters are quickly established, the world and community Bronson finds herself in are great — populated by colourful characters and intriguing dynamics. Her supporting cast are interesting and diverse (in race as well as temperament), and Faerber and Godlewski give us some hints about their pasts and potential future storylines.

If you read only one new comic series this year, I’d highly recommend you make it this one. “A New Sheriff in Town” is the start of something awesome.

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Low-Vol.01-DeliriumOfHopeLOW, Vol.1 — The Delirium of Hope (Image)

Writer: Rick Remender | Artist: Greg Tocchini

Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy, to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart, in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope.

Collects: Low #1-6

This series was getting a lot of attention when it was first announced, and the first few issues were equally praised. It’s not difficult to see why — Tocchini’s artwork is striking and vivid, and Remender’s story is pretty cool. The dystopian setting is unusual and well-built. That being said, the story never quite gripped me as much as I’d expected. I like Remender’s work, and this series has some fantastic, weird and wonderful moments within. But… it also felt just a tad plodding. It was slightly predictable, too. Nevertheless, and while those may sound like damning niggles, Low is worth checking out if you’re a fan of SF comic and/or dystopian fiction. An interesting book.

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Unwritten-Vol.09-FablesTHE UNWRITTEN, Vol. 9 — The Unwritten Fables (Vertigo)

Writer: Mike Carey & Bill Willingham | Artist: Peter Gross & Mark Buckingham

The worlds of FABLES and THE UNWRITTEN collide in the epic comic event by Mike Carey and Bill Willingham!

Tommy Taylor is thrust into the world of Vertigo’s hit series Fables! But a dark and terrible foe has seized the fairy-tale homelands and our world. In desperation, the witches of Fabletown gather to summon the greatest mage the worlds have ever seen. But they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Collects: The Unwritten #50-55

Long-time readers of CR have probably picked up on the fact that I’m a big fan of not only The Unwritten, but also Mike Carey’s fiction and Bill Willingham’s Fables universe. It was with great anticipation, therefore, that I started reading The Unwritten Fables. What I found was… disappointing. The story was fine, but didn’t come close to matching the quality of neither The Unwritten nor Fables. The connection felt forced, the story not as confident nor gripping as I have come to expect from both writers. The artwork is very good, of course, and is worth reading for that reason alone. Ultimately, though, I would not tell anyone that this is an essential book, and if you’ve been following either series, you wouldn’t miss anything by skipping it.

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Unwritten-Vol.10-WarStoriesTHE UNWRITTEN, Vol. 10 — War Stories (Vertigo)

Writer: Mike Carey | Artist: Peter Gross

The tenth volume of the critically-acclaimed new series from the Eisner-nominated creative team, Mike Carey and Peter Gross is the perfect jumping on point, as Tom Taylor is stranded at the beginning of all creation!

Lost in the unwritten scenes of all the world’s stories, Tom Taylor is headed back to reality — and all the gods and beasts and monsters ever imagined can’t stop him. But there’s a toll on the road that may be too high for him or anyone to pay…

Collects: The Unwritten Apocalypse #1-5

So, I liked this better than The Unwritten Fables, but the book still didn’t engage me as much as the first eight volumes of the series did. It’s still a strong series, and one I’d recommend to everyone, but this one meandered just a little more than I had hoped. The artwork in the first chapter/issue is fantastic and tries something new. This book kicks off a new phase in the story. Imaginative, innovative, and pretty twisty, if you’re a fan of the series, this is a must. If you’ve never read anything in this series before, I’d recommend you go back to volume one and get hooked now.

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Wayward-Vol.01-StringTheoryWAYWARD, Vol.1 — String Theory (Image)

Writer: Jim Zub | Artists: Steve Cummings, John Rauch & Tamra Bonvillain

Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can Rori unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late?

Collects: Wayward #1-5

This is a fantastic new series. I’ve enjoyed everything of Jim Zub’s that I’ve read in the past, but this may be my favourite. Set in Japan, the comic brings to the country and its culture to life on the page. Mashing it up with folklore and mythology, this has a Studio Gibli-esque feel, while very much maintaining its own identity. Magical conspiracies, amusing werecats, and pretty cool protagonists and antagonists. I can’t wait for book two. A definite must-read, and another success for Image Comics.

*

GN Reviews: FAIREST and HINTERKIND (Vertigo)

Two very good new collections

Fairest-Vol.04FAIREST, Vol.4 – “Cinderella: Of Mice and Men”

Writer: Marc Andreyko | Artist: Shawn McManus |

Cinderella returns in an all-new epic! After an assassination attempt on Snow White, Cind is called back into service to unravel an age-old conspiracy that dates back to that fateful midnight ball! Can Cind uncover the plot and prevent a massacre in Fabletown?

Collects: Fairest #21-27

It should come as no surprise to long-time readers of CR that I’m a fan of Bill Willingham’s ever-expanding Fables universe. Whether it’s the main series itself, or Jack of Fables, or the Cinderella mini-series, I have loved them all. I read an very much enjoyed the aforementioned Cinderella mini-series, with their blend of fantasy and espionage (From Fabletown with Love and Fables Are Forever — both written by Chris Roberson). Therefore, I was rather pleased to discover that Cinderella returns in this Fairest story-arc. This is a bit of a strange story, but one that fits perfectly with the Fables-esque twisting of fable and fairy tale.

In this one, a strange loop-hole in the spell that turned rodents into Cinderella’s footmen to take her to the ball results in decades of poor decisions. As the perpetrator’s actions come back to bite him (and many others) in the ass, Cinderella must reprise her role as spy and Fables operative. It’s a really fun, quick-moving, country-hopping tale. With excellent artwork and writing, Fairest Volume 4 is very highly recommended — if you’ve been following the series already, you won’t be disappointed.

Also on CR: Reviews of Fairest Volumes 1 (Wide Awake), 2 (Hidden Kingdom) and 3 (The Return of the Maharaja)

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Hinterkind-Vol.2HINTERKIND, Vol.2 – “Written In Blood”

Writer: Ian Edginton | Artist: Francesco Trifolgi | Colors: Cris Peter | Cover: Greg Tocchini

The second volume of the hit series begins with Princess Tersia, who has a vision of the future and the shape of things to come. In this vision she’s married to Jon Hobb and carrying his baby. Oh, and there’s a dragon! Is it a dream or a nightmare? Meanwhile, bounty hunters Starla and Jubal find the tables are turned as they’re run to ground by a Centaur posse.

Collects: Hinterkind #7-12

This was a very pleasant surprise. If you caught my review of the first Hinterkind collection (The Waking World), you will have read that I thought it failed to deliver on its promise. In this second collection, however, it delivered in spades.

The cast of character we follow has been considerably expanded, and the story spends far more time on plot and character development than world-building. Palace politics, international relations, and fights for survival infuse every scene: the Sidhe are going through internecine elite intrigue, the vampire nation is on a crusade (sinister bastards, these ones), and the remnants from volume one are still fleeing persecution of one form or another. Some things have disappeared entirely from the story, which is a little strange, but I nevertheless welcomed the forward momentum.

If you are a fan of urban fantasy, and the idea of characters of myth, legend and fables taking over the world, then Hinterkind is an absolute must-read. True, the first book isn’t as great as one could hope, but volume two rewards those who stick with the series.

A complete turn-around, this is highly recommended.

Hinterkind, Vol.2 – “Written in Blood” is due to be published in December 2014, so there’s plenty of time for you to go out and catch up with the first collection.

Fairest, Vol.2 – “Hidden Kingdom” (Vertigo)

Fairest-Vol.2Writer: Lauren Beukes (#8-13), Bill Willingham (#14) | Art: Inaki Miranda (#8-13, finishes #14), Barry Kitson (#14) | Colors: Eva de la Cruz (#8-13), Andrew Dalhouse (#14)

Rapunzel lives one of the most regimented lives in Fabletown, forced to maintain her rapidly growing hair lest her storybook origins be revealed. But when word of her long-lost children surface, she races across the sea to find them – and a former lover.

Collects: Fairest #8-14

Ever since I bought Fables Deluxe Vol.1, I have been in love with Willingham’s fantasy series (and everything connected to it). Then Fairest started in 2011, and I found a new comic addiction. This second collection collects award-winning-author Lauren Beukes’s run on the series handling writing duties. And it’s absolutely superb.

[NB: There are some slight spoilers in the review!]

Very strong start, as we are introduced to the key players – Rapunzel and her four-times-a-day hairdresser (it grows at a frightening rate). A flock of origami cranes comes crashing through her window, with a cryptic message about her kids… Nobody believes her children survived childbirth, but she’s always maintained that they have, and is determined to find out what is going on. So, with the help of the Fables’ most flexibly-moral character, Jack, she heads off to Japan. Along the way, and across the book, we get snippets of Rapunzel’s past, pre-Fabletown life. As far as I can tell, this is set a little bit before the main Fables storyline kicks in.

Fairest-09-Interior2

It has an extremely strong opening chapter/issue, and by the end of that chapter, it was already one of the best-written comics I’ve read in a long while. Beukes definitely has the skill for writing both award-winning novels and damned fine comics. She keeps things fresh, while also remaining true to Fables creator Willingham’s sensibilities and tone (sort-of – I haven’t read anything else in the series that leans more towards horror…). The whole story is great, featuring Asian Fables, some pretty inspired creations and interpretations, a dash of horror.

The artwork throughout is wonderful – it is sharp, vivid, detailed, and utterly eye-catching. And the bezoars! The artwork connected to them… Yikes! Some of the visuals were reminiscent of Japanese/Asian horror movies, actually. Damned creepy. Beukes writes wonderful characters, and the art team does a wonderful job of bringing them to life on the page. It is, like volume one, a beautiful comic to look at, too.

Fairest-12-Interior1

With excellent pacing, engaging and interesting characters, a blend of fantasy, horror and historical story-telling, and a bitter-sweet ending, “Hidden Kingdom” is quite brilliant. It has everything I want in a comic.

Fairest-14-Interior1The book includes a stand-alone tale at the end, written by Willingham. It’s kind of fun, actually. It’s more on the bizarre/weird side, focusing on the non-human Fables. Princess Alder (a dryad/tree nymph) is having a bit of difficulty settling in to life at the Farm – she has rather more liberal relationship mores, for example, which has got some of the male Fables all excited and exploitative. Reynard the Fox decides to show her that not all men are pigs, and they go on a date. They like each other a lot. But then, during the dinner, he makes a discovery and a mistake that he can’t move past… The story is an amusing side-bar to the main Fables story, and comes complete with an ominous post-script. (Nefarious things, they are afoot!)

Overall, another great volume set in the expanding Fables universe. Very highly recommended. This is easily one of my favourite comic series, and Beukes’s story is one of my favourites. I really hope she’s asked back to write more in the future.

Fairest-Vol.02-Content

Fairest #8-14 Covers, by Adam Hughes