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Hollowspine

I'm Reading Comeeks

I dedicate this blog to comics in all forms, manga, autobio, superhero, art books, etc.  And of course, since I need a challenge, I've decided that I'll read and write (short) reviews for 365 comics during 2015.

How to Talk to Girls At Parties - The Graphic Novel

How to Talk to Girls at Parties - Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Neil Gaiman

I listened to this in an audio collection of Gaiman's stories once and found this graphic novel representation on par to that listening experience.  I don't mean to toot my own horn...but I think I've got a pretty ok imagination, and Gabriel Bà's illustrations of the girls, the party and the experience were all vivid representations perfectly matching the feeling I got from listening to the story.  The huge slightly unfocused (or focused on things far beyond my reckoning) eyes of the partying girls, even the various rooms or stages of the house and beyond are beautiful, alien and slightly scary.

 

Nice short graphic novel with beautiful colors and details that will absorb readers for days.

Pink Vomit

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra - Paulina Ganucheau, Kevin Panetta

After ingesting gross quantities of candy floss and bubblegum whilst watching hours and hours of Sailor Moon, Captain Planet, Scooby Doo and Jem a group of artists and writers wretched this up.

 

No.  I didn't enjoy it.  First of all, we are dumped into the middle of a story that's already underway.  I felt like I just sat down in the middle of an story arc, I had no idea who these people were, what the hell was going on or why I should give a crap about it.

 

Although the characters represented a diverse group on first appearance, their personalities and back stories were blah, or entirely non-existent.  I was somewhat offended by the lesbian characters here, there was absolutely no depth to their relationship, or much lead up to it.  I felt like the diversity was just thrown in, not because the authors understand the importance of it, but just because they thought it was expected.

 

I suppose it's good that it's there, even if not well thought out or executed...but still I want it to be, I don't want a character who supposedly represents a particular group of people only by way of their skin-tone or by whom they kiss, without any deeper examination or thought put into them.

 

Although the authors go through some of their influences (such as Jem and Scooby Doo) at the end of the comic, along with their character sketches and other extras, I couldn't find even one mention of Sailor Moon, the most obvious influence to this derivative monstrosity.  Weird.

 

I think that the authors knew what they were doing, knew that their work does not have a single new or original idea to it.  That doesn't necessarily make something bad, but when it's as poorly executed as this, it doesn't help.  The characters we so obviously the original four Sailor Scouts, from character design to personality, it was just sad.  Then there's the fact that they couldn't even come up with a good story.  I mean, you're already using the basic characters and plot of SM...

 

Unoriginal, thoughtless, not even worth the nostalgia.  I'd rather read a random Sailor Moon fanfiction, at least it'd be funnier.  I wonder if there is a Sailor Moon/Jem crossover....

Indies, Spiders and Manga Oh My!

Silk Vol. 1: Sinister - Robbie Thompson, Stacey Covington-Lee Kramers Ergot 9 - Kim Deitch, Renee French, Kevin Huizenga, Michael DeForge, Sammy Harkham Nichijou, 2 - Keiichi Arawi

Though I’m not a usual superhero comic reader, Silk wasn’t hard to get into, the characters, fights, loyalties and backstory were interesting and didn’t require that I knew exactly where Silk had been for 10 years or what her relationship to S.H.I.E.L.D. was or is, to get into the story.  

 

It passed the Bechdel test too, so that's nice.  Should note that there are quite a few women in the comic, on both sides as well as just friends of Silk's mild mannered reporter cover as well.

 

I'd recommend this, maybe not quite as fun as the new Ms. Marvel series, but it's pretty good.

 

Kramers Ergot #9

Including comics and excerpts by Gabrielle Bell (windows), Michael DeForge, and Matthew Thurber, among many others (most who’d I’d never heard of before). Ranging the gambit in both terms of style and subject this collection was a great taste of the ever changing and growing world of comics.  Highly recommended, a great way to experience a lot of different comics/styles in one book.

 

 

My Ordinary Life Volume 2 (Nichijou 2)

A young robot girl with a large wind-up key sticking out from her back attempts to share an ordinary life with her school friends.  My ordinary life is more a goal of this bizarro world take on the slice of life genre.  Translators did a good job with the puns or what I think Americans would call "Dad jokes."

 

Insomnia Troubles

Adventure Time: Banana Guard Academy - Kent Osborne, Pendleton Ward, Mad Rupert

When Princess Bubblegum can't get her brain sleep she heads downstairs to eat some melatonin enhancing turnips.  Only to discover that the Banana Guards have eaten them all and in fact, only eat turnips.

 

Time for a new decree!  The Banana Guards is open to everyone, not just bananas!  New recruits come from all corners of Ooo, including Tree Trunks, Gingerbread Muto, Marshmallow Boy and Peppermint Butler!

 

But, not everyone is pleased with the changes to the Banana Guard and the new recruits have a long and difficult journey ahead of them.  Will they rise up the ranks to become real Banana Guards?  Or will they end up as the first Banana Guard Academy dropouts?

 

And will PB finally get some sleep, or will a robot army invade and take over all of Ooo?  Who knows?

 

Adventure Time is the best.  The cover art for the graphic novel (rather than single issues) is awesome, I love Finn's leather ensemble.

 

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Awkwaaard

Love at Fourteen, Vol. 5 - Fuka Mizutani

Love at Fourteen continues to be a very odd duck.  For the most part it's the sweetest of the sweet, tame, love story between Kanata and Kazuki two 'mature' middle school students.  They're hiding their relationship from their classmates, and always in danger of having it revealed by nosy classmates, mix-ups and other funny situations.

 

Each volume gives the readers little updates on some of the other characters love lives as well, but of the other relationships only one isn't creepy to me.

 

First we have Aoi, who also has a crush on Kazuki.  She tries to trick Kanata into revealing that he's not good at math and thereby embarrass him in front of Kazuki and their classmates, but of course, it all backfires and she ends up feeling indebted to Kanata's good natured kindness instead.  I like Aoi and feel bad for her that she keeps pursuing someone who so obviously is not going to return her feelings.

 

In fact Kanata and Kazuki are so nice and so good, it actually makes the story just slightly boring and a whole bag of sappy.

 

The kid who names his videogame character OL (office lady) after the random woman he stalks on the bus is at least keeping his distance.  It's a little weird, but not uncommon.

 

Then we have Nagai and the music teacher.  She is a really creepy lady and should probably be fired from her job.

 

And in this volume, yet another slightly off relationship is revealed, the class rep is in love with the science teacher.  Spoiler: In the end she returns to the school as a fellow teacher and confesses her love.  (I guess it's good she waited until she was an adult, but still it's a bit off that the author keeps adding relationships between children and adults and making it seem like an okay thing, because it's not okay.)  It's not OK!

Super Hero Repo People

The Paybacks Volume 1: Payback's A Bitch - Donny Cates, Eliot Rahal, Geoff Shaw

The world of the paybacks is one that I can totally get behind.  You know those super heroes that start out as billionaire playboys, able to use their wealth in order to fund their crime stopping, vigilante, hobbies?  Yeah, there’s actually not a lot of those around.  Instead those who would be heroes rely on loans to purchase their super suits, invisible jets and super hero branded gadgetry.  But what happens when they don’t pay back their loan?  They get a visit from the Paybacks, their secret lair, all their guns and tech and insignia are repossessed and they join the ranks of the Paybacks, super hero repo people, until such time as their debts are paid.

 

The characters are somewhat interesting, there is a lady vampire, a dude with guns, a big Russian ninja, a sasquatch with a catchphrase he’s trying to trend.  Night Knight is just trying to do his thing when he gets nabbed by the Paybacks and forced into indenture, but just who is behind the paybacks and what is their real goal and what group is behind the recent chain of deaths of super heroes on their repo list?  Assassins that wear suits that kill them if they're caught don’t answer a lot of questions.


I don’t know.  I like the concept, but I had a hard time getting into the story.  I wish it was more like the movie Repo Man.  I’d read a comic continuation of that any day!  As for the art, again it was good, but in the typical style of the genre, nothing surprising or new to note, I always like it when I can tell a distinct style of a particular artist, or when an artist does something that I’ve never seen before.  Neither of those things happened here, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t distinguish itself from the crowd either.

24 Hour Comics

Sleepless and Other Stories: David Chelsea's 24-Hour Comics Volume 2 - David Chelsea, David Chelsea

It's hard to believe that each of the comics in this collection was created in just 24-hours, but they were.

 

Follow the adventures of the super-hero kid Snow-Angel, who transforms into her super self by making a snow angel.  What's a kid to do when her parents announce the family is moving to Arizona, where it never snows!

 

I.D. is a great story about the somewhat gray area of identity, are we who our passports say we are, how easy it is for someone to claim our identity and send us into an identity crisis!  Aurora Dove is such a unlucky person.

 

All the stories in the collection are surreal and absurd, where the author questions authorship altogether.

 

 

Melancholy and Insightful

Tim Ginger - Julian Hanshaw

Tim Ginger was a test pilot once and was married once, but now he lives alone in a trailer park.

 

When a book he wrote about his experience as a test pilot gets him invited to a conspiracy theorist convention and one fan of his book gets upset that he's not revealing all he knows about supposed government cover ups and UFOs in his next book, which he plans to write about Cricket (the sport) things get more complicated for him.

 

He also meets up with an old friend who is writing a graphic novel about being childless by choice, who wants to interview him, a formerly married man who decided not to have children.

 

It's a bit slow, but is very thoughtful in it's examination of Tim Ginger's life, his concentration on the past and societal expectations.  It's funny how so many people view the choice not to have children as a selfish and lazy one, when people choose not to have children for many different reasons, including health and never because they're just too lazy.  Those view points were well expressed and examined here.

 

I loved the art, which added to the subtle moody tone of the whole thing, the world around Tim Ginger seems muted, he's still rooted in the past and not looking at the present world as if he's part of it.

 

I'd recommend this, it's a unique story, for those who like slightly quirky slice of life comics.

 

 

 

 

Frights and Eye Candy

Ajin: Demi-Human, Volume 1 - Tsuina Miura, Gamon Sakurai Adventure Time: Eye Candy vol. 1 - Shannon Watters, Paul Pope The Witcher: Volume 2 - Fox Children - Paul Tobin, Joe Querio Harrow County #1 - Tyler Crook, Cullen Bunn

It was a good thing I looked at the first volume of Adventure Time Eye Candy last, because after Ajin, Harrow County and the Witcher I needed something sweet to take my eyes and my mind off bloody death and disturbing haints.

 

Ajin Demi-Human

 

 

Kei is just a regular high school student.  Until he gets hit by a car and survives with barely a scratch.  It turns out that he's a demi-human, creatures that are nigh-invulnerable and have superhuman abilities.  Creatures that are feared, hated and experimented on by humans, despite the fact that little separates them from their human friends and family.

 

Although this is primarily an action series, there are some introspective moments and big questions asked.  Kei starts out questioning everything.  From the start, before he realized that he was a Demi-human, Kei harbored questions of their treatment of a group of people who really aren't that different.  Demi-humans often don't know that they are different from a normal person unless they get into a situation where a normal person would die, like a car crash.

 

At one point a character wants Kei to hide what he is so that he can keep living in 'normal' society.  The series starts a war between the Demi-humans and the government, though violent and bloody, is like any person labelled 'different' has to fight for rights.  

 

Reminded me a bit of Death Note (only bloodier) where there are many moral grey-areas and where the characters struggle with the questions of what is right and what is just.

 

The Witcher Vol. 2 Fox Children

 

 

The Witcher gets roped into accompanying a group of traders, criminals and others on a rescue mission.  However, as the journey continues he realizes that everything is not as it seems and his mission is less than noble.

 

The storyline is ok, but nothing to write home about.  For gamers who enjoy the series, this will add to their enjoyment, the characters are presented well and the art is good.  There are many monster fights.

 

For those looking for monsters with a bit more oomph to a larger plot, try Baltimore by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.

 

Harrow County

 

Just look at that cover.  Yes, this is an extremely creepy and atmospheric horror story.  It takes place in the South with creepy moss covered tree limbs and haints lurking in every shadow.  The story follows a young girl coming of age, and realizing some things about her role in her small town.

 

To whom does she belong?  The village?  Her father?  The voices in the woods?  Fans of Locke and Key will enjoy the horror mixed with family drama and interesting characters.

 

Adventure Time Eye Candy Vol.

 

After reading through pages of impalements, blood and gore splattering across the pages, skinless boys and women with dangerously sharp teeth, it was nice to give my eyes a little candy.

 

Adventure Time is such a sweet and fun story.  Even though it still has peeps with sharp teeth, it's just a little sour patch kid in the midst of a pastel paradise.  One of the aspects of Adventure Time that I enjoy most is the fact that so many artists are invited to be a part of it and this collection is yet another show of some amazing artworks.

 

If you want to find some new artists to look up, just skim through these pages and you'll have your answers.  I especially love the art by Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Emily Carroll, J.J. Harrison (love the Totoro inspired cover) and Jon Vermilyea.  

 

Agencies

Dirk Gently: The Interconnectedness of All Kings - Chris Ryall, Tony Akins, Tony Akins, Ilias Kyriazis

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - The Interconnectedness of All Kings - I will start by saying that I haven't ever read any of the Dirk Gently series of books by Douglas Adams.  Ijust recently listened to a radio-play adaptation of the first Dirk Gently book, and loved it!  Though I've only listened to the first one, I feel this comic does a good job of keeping the spirit of the character Adams created.

 

Ever since I watched the television series adaptation of Dirk Gently I've had the detective on my radar and when this comic popped up at the library I knew I had to check it out.

 

I wasn't disappointed, especially with some of the art done by Rob Guillory (of Chew).  The story itself was fun, though not my favorite, I would have liked a less rushed introduction to the concept of Dirk Gently and what exactly a 'holistic' detective is and what they exactly do...

 

However, I still had a lot of fun with all the linking stuff going on, the serial killers on vacation, ancient megalomaniacs and references to the Doctor (among others).  I'll come back for more of this series, but I think the best bit about this comic is that it will get new readers interested in reading the original series by Douglas Adams, which is what I'm doing! 

Still Cleaning Up

Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas - Michael Dougherty Junction True - Ray Fawkes, Vince Locke New Construction: Two More Stories - Sam Alden Sleepy Hollow Vol. 1 - Marguerite Bennett, Jorge Coehlo The Honor Student at Magic High School, Vol. 1 - Tsutomu Satou Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Vol. 1 - Rifujin na Magonote, Yuka Fujikawa

Krampus 

A bizarre Christmas horror story, following a somewhat Scrooge-like story line.  Did you ever play the game Bully?  Remember the drunk Santa Jimmy helped out?  The main character is that guy, only a little younger.  

 

A group of flawed characters, drunken santa, a dysfunctional cop, the local rich scrooge, and a hit and run driver all try to escape Krampus and his legions as they all reap what they've sown.

 

It's amusing, but the plot was a bit lacking and the ending left a lot to be desired.  The group of scrappy kids were probably the best part of this story.

 

Junction True

 

This one was beyond strange.  It's a story of blind trust, betrayal and revenge.  In the future fashion has taken on an (even more) dangerous fad, parasitical body modifications.  Skeletal pseudo punks (Neumods) pose braced against the concrete with tape worms visible under their stretched skin or genetically engineered leeches glowing with Rave colors across their bodies.

 

On the edge of this scene is the newest and most dangerous mod, a modification that would link two people together, one completely dependent on the other to live, two become one.

 

Dirk, our main character, is completely in love with Teralyn, a leader in the Neumod movement, always on the edge of cool and quick to abandon old trends and lovers.  But, Dirk trusts her and after a dangerous and illegal surgery puts his life in her hands.

 

It doesn't take long for Teralyn to bore of taking care of Dirk and her abandonment means death for him, he can't survive without linking to her.  Luckily he has friends and on deaths door he reunites once more with Teralyn for one more surgery.

 

It's a creepy story about lust, love, betrayal and the cut-throat nature of society, where some are given license to take advantage just based on status and celebrity and not punished for their irresponsible actions.

 

New Construction

 

Sam Alden is another artist whose work I follow.  I really enjoyed the two stories collected in this book, Household and Backyard.  One is about two siblings sharing their memories of their father, and dealing with their mixed up feelings.  Household was my favorite of the two and is about a commune where one of the kids totally disassociates and begins living in the yard as a dog. 

 

Both comics have a subdued quality that I find so true to life.  Things that seem bizarre to others, like why we do certain things, or have different relationships with our families/friends than what the majority would consider 'normal' isn't bizarre to the people living it, it's just life.

 

Two perfect slice of life comics that engrossed me in their worlds.

 

Sleepy Hollow

 

Perhaps you have to like the television series to enjoy this, but I found it pretty boring.  This adaptation of Ichabod Crane is perhaps the most ridiculous I've ever seen.  It's like Angel (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Detective spinoff), it jumped the shark before it ever aired.  

 

Basically, items across Sleepy Hollow, New York, cause people to go nutso, imbued with demonic entities trying to bring about the apocalypse.  Ichabod Crane who somehow pulled a Rip Van Winkle and woke up in the present day, teams with local detective to solve these diabolical crimes.

 

The artwork is good, but not unique.  If you like supernatural goings on with a bit of a procedural bent, try this out.

 

The Honor Student at Magic High School

 

Creepy, creepy, creepy.  The story revolves around a bishoujo girl and her sweet crush on her...brother!?  Yes, a sweet love story about a (thankfully) unrequited incestuous crush. 

 

As I look at other reviews of this book I'm baffled by the fact that reviewers don't seem to mention this bizarre aspect of the novel, or just say it's 'cute.'  It would be cute if she wasn't quite so enamored and it was more like an brother as a hero type story, but it seems she's sincere in her beyond familial affections for him...and it's just creepy as hell.

 

Truthfully I was so weirded out by the romance aspect of this story that I couldn't tell you what the plot was about.  The main character is in class 1, with a higher magical ability than her ugh beloved bro, who is barely able to magic anything and therefore gets bullied.

 

Too weird for me.

 

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Vol. 1

 

 

Okay, moving on.  Here is a manga about a hikkikomori otaku who gets kicked out of his house when his parents die.  Then he gets hit by a truck.  Then he is resurrected in a fantasy world as an adorable little kid.  Actually, I think he was literally born and went through being a baby too, which thankfully is skipped over. Weird enough for you yet?

 

So, this pervy otaku is stuck in the body of a little boy, which in itself is creepy, yet also a little funny.

 

His parents are undecided about how they want him to grow up, will he be fighter like his dad, or a mage like his mom?  Because of his 34-year old otaku intelligence he is able to use magic from a young age, so his parents bring in a tutor (who of course is an adorable big chested tsundere (nice when alone, but gruff when around others)).  At first he gives into his perverted otaku tendencies, but soon decides to live a better life from then on.  

 

This volume follows his childhood adventures, fighting with bullies, making friends and convincing his mom to forgive his dad when the maid gets pregnant.  Yeah, normal stuff like that.  

 

This is really one of the most bizarre mangas I've read (which says a lot) and yet it kinda works too.  I'll probably check out another volume of this one.

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More and More and More

Weak Messages Create Bad Situations: A Manifesto - David Shrigley Only Skin - Sean  Ford The Little World of Liz Climo - Liz Climo

Weak Messages Create Bad Situations

 

I don't have much to say about this one, except that it wasn't my cuppa.  Those who like Southpark probably will enjoy the humor here, good for you, not for me as Amy Poehler might say.

 

Only Skin

 

I really enjoyed this creepy story of bizarre murders in a small town.  Are people being killed by ghosts?  Aliens?  Other mysterious creatures in the woods?  What do they want and how can our characters stop the murders?

 

I liked the characters and their relationships a lot, and some of the discussions that happen throughout the narrative.  The twist ending seemed a bit forced and odd, didn't quite fit with the rest of the creepy theme set up through the rest of the book.

 

However, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

 

The Little World of Liz Climo

 

Cute and humorous little comics.  Fans of Kate Beaton, and Cat Vs. Human will probably enjoy the quirky characters and their adulting troubles.  A quick read too.  Nice to flip through, though probably just check out Climo's webcomic for a humor fix.

Sundown Syndrome Takes On a New Meaning

Sundowners Volume 1 - Tim Seeley, Jim Terry

Sundowners Volume One.  The first thing that struck me as I picked up this comic was the cover.  I loved the depiction of the women on this cover, they may still be dressed in spandex, but they've got proper womanly shapes, not kidney in purse, wasp-waisted barbie shapes.

 

The second thing that really struck me with this comic was the fact that, unlike most super hero comics I've read, this one really did have a note of subtlety to it.  Readers are made to feel unsure whether or not there are nefarious doings afoot, or whether these super heroes are suffering from mental illness. 

 

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Are our heroes suffering from a mental illness?  Are they being taken advantage of or are they our only line of defense?  It's an interesting question that doesn't get answered one way or another in this first volume.

 

I'll probably grab another volume of this series, I like the diversity of the characters and the novelty of the story.

Feeling Healthy

First Year Healthy - Michael DeForge

A large cat.

 

DeForge is one of my favorite artists and storytellers and this short story involving a woman, baby and holy cat was an absurd and compelling tale told in bold colors and lumpy bodies.

 

The book follows a woman as she is released from the hospital and moves in with a man, who seems to have a criminal past, not to mention a son with his former landlady, who dies, leaving the baby to this new couple.  However, soon after he disappears and then one of his former associates holds the woman and baby hostage at a food laden Christmas table.  When he falls asleep the woman slits his neck.  The baby is taken by the holy cat.

 

The story reminded me a bit of the movie adaptation of Trainspotting, the scene where the kids are too high to realize that their baby is dying.  We as readers can only guess at the perspective of the character, is there a holy cat, who was killed, what is real? The wolf?  It's yet another interesting story to ponder by DeForge.  Love the title.

I want to go back!

Manabé Shima - Chavouet,  Florent

So much!

 

Manabeshima Island Japan This is another wonderful graphic novel about the authors experiences in Japan, this time of island life on Manabeshima.  The artwork is just beautiful and like his other work so detailed that readers could spend hours pouring over the pages and still miss something.

 

It made me really really really want to go back to Japan, I didn't think that I could possibly want to go more than I did when I'd never been to Japan, but I think by spending three weeks there I only whetted my appetite...now I'm just thinking how much I didn't get to see!

 

For those who've been to Japan and for those who've never even thought about it, this is a highly recommended glimpse into the country from the eyes of a traveler.

Man Goes to Sea Woman Stays at Home

Isaac the Pirate: To Exotic Lands (Isaac the Pirate - Christophe Blain

It's a classic tale.

 

I liked the artwork here and some of the dialogue was (unintentionally?) funny, but the story could at times be confusing and at other times a bit dull, despite the pirates.  I would recommend this to fans of Herge and Towles.

 

I also wanted to see more from his fiances perspective.  Despite being called the 'love of his life' I really didn't see Isaac caring that much about his so-called love.