Monday, 13 August 2012

morning glories

Series: Morning Glories
Words: Nick Spenser
Images: Joe Eisma, Esquejo
Issue Number: 1 and 2
Release Date:  2011
Format: Trade
Around the time of starting my hiatus I received a lovely Birthday gift of some graphic novels that I had seen and passed over while hunting around my local comic store. For me Morning Glories was a prime example of don’t judge a book by its cover. I was gifted it for my birthday and my first impression was it would be My So Called Life meets Prep school. I could not have been more wrong.
The author Nick Spenser describes the comic as “Runaways” meets “Lost" I will give  him “Runaways”. The comic follows six scrappy ragtag kids slotted into  character archetypes (and done well) who are up against evil adult authority figures that they should be able to trust but are abusing their power (in more ways then one) and are seemingly up to no good at every turn.
I tragically have never seen “Lost”. The closest I have come to watching “Lost” was when I watched the “How Lost Should Have Ended” with friends. So I have  no idea if the comic is anything at all like “Lost”.
For me it certainly did have a Whedon feel right up to making me care about characters and then making them suffer horribly or die. But instead of “Lost” for me it has elements that reminds me of Locke & Key or if I can branch into fiction books elements that remind me Charles De Lint’s horror writings (first published under the pseudonym Samuel M. Key). I am left engaged, caring about the characters, slightly on edge and in desperate need to know what happens next.
The first volume begins with each of the six students at home with their families (usually) just before they leave for their new school Morning Glory Academy. These early snippits give huge insight into the characters once and their roles once they arrive at school. On first reading I was slightly impatient but by the time I reached the end of the first volume I was very appreciative to have the context I needed to understand what was motivating how each person reacted and behaved.
So with that in mind let us get to some of the bad. The comic is pretty violent and gory at times. If that is not your thing then it is probably best you give this one a skip. It has not reached the point where I would say it is gore and violence for the sake of it but in moments it skirts painfully close to that line. Of course that does keep a very high level of tension and suspense.
There are also moments where the writers veer away from showing it all and let the readers build more horrific things in their own minds. As I have a delightfully over active imagination I’m hopeful to see more of this than the gore as the story continues on.
I’m curious and excited to see how gender will play out in the story as it develops. But before I can comment on that I am going to need a few more issues of the trades.
As it stands right now I am opting to read it in the trades as they come out. There just isn’t enough meat to each single issue to warrant adding it to the pull list. But once the entire arc comes together it has been well worth reading.

Back in business

I have been very neglectful of comics, refrigerators and deconstruction and for that I apologize.

For those of you who have been wondering where I disappeared to since last November I was abducted by my own birthday and thought I would take a week or so off since I had some vacation time coming up (I take most of December off of work).
The plan was to use some of that time while I was away visiting family to build up a back log of reviews so that if life happens I could have a pile of prewritten reviews to fall back onto to continue feeding the blog. Tragically that was when life decided to happen. My December was filled with helping out with a small child while a family member of mine went overseas to spend time with a very dear aunt of mine who had just be diagnosed with a large and aggressive brain tumour.
Once that had slowed down I was in a situation where I was waiting to find out if I was or wasn’t going to be laid off from work due to funding limitations. And trying to balance my budget with severely reduced hours at work.
During that time I started to have some new health problems myself. The symptoms were so severe that at times I was on notice for going into the hospital for emergency testing. Luckily it turns out I just have severe IBS rather than any of the alternatives (I never thought I would find myself saying luckily I have IBS). The lead up to finding out the diagnosis though left me with little time for reading comics much less blogging. The stress of it all flared up a lot of my other chronic health conditions and left me with some pretty severe fatigue and in some pretty severe and chronic pain.
Luckily that has all calmed down and I am finally back on vacation only this time with the ability to read comics again!
The plan is to review the single issues in lumps of story arcs and also catch you up on the trades that I have stumbled on. I am quite hopeful there wont ever be another backlog quite like this one.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Batgirl #3

Series: Batgirl
Words: Gail Simone
Images: Adrian Syaf, Vincent Cifuentes
Issue Number: 3
Release Date: November 2011
Format: Comic
Batgirl 3 is amazing. We see more discussion of disability issues in terms of Babs. Especially in terms of her frustration with how everyone else is over protecting her. As a woman with a disability I can relate to that frustration. There are times when people step in too much, where there are things that I can do for myself and the people who love me try to take that control out of my life. Experiences like this are not unusual for people with disabilities. I like to see that reflected in Bab's recover. The more I read the less I am worried about Batgirl becoming an able-ist story that ignores the spinal cord injury or the impact that has had on Barbara's life.
A total side note.  Minor spoiler but has nothing to do with the actual plot or story line really. Barbara is no longer seeing her physical therapist. I am relived. Working in the disability field. Having a disability myself. Like I said in my last review that was a huge sticking point. There is no way a professional organization would support a physical therapist having a relationship with their client / patient. I am left very happy to see that relationship is over.
Nightwing shows up and Simone's writing of Nightwing is amazing. All the character traits that have my back up in the most recent Nightwing run suddenly are given a context. And one of the best parts? One while he still the rich play boy, he is also a human under that. Also, we see him within the rest of the D.C. world. We see a Nightwing that fits into the current D.C. universe that fits in with the existing Nightwing run. I am much more impressed with this over say the many, many, many different versions of Batman.
Batgirl is one of the better reads coming out of D.C. these days. If you are not reading it already well then you probably should.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Hatter M the Looking Glass Wars Vol. 1

Series: Hatter M the Looking Glass Wars
Words: Frank Beddor with Liz Cavalier
Images: Ben Templesmith
Issue Number: Volume 1
Release Date: 2007
Format: Trade
After reading all these super hero comics Hatter M is a great pallet cleanser. It combines quite a few things that I adore. Alice in Wonderland. Twisting old stories to give them a new life and a new feel. Beddor feeds off of his version of Wonderland from his books the Looking Glass Wars and Seeing Redd. Like in that universe Wonderland exists and is powered by imagination. Princess Alyss flees Wonderland through a seemingly one sided portal connected to our world after her aunt Redd stages a coup killing her family. What we know of as the story Alice in Wonderland comes from Princess Alyss retelling her story to Carroll and him writing it down.

Unlike Beddor's young adult novels Alyss is not the main character. The main character is Hatter Madigan, royal bodyguard ordered by Alyss' mother to protect the princess. While in the portal he is separated from the Princess and the graphic novel explores his journey trying to find her. Of course along the way searching for Princess Alyss Hatter manages to save other children with powerful imaginations.

I enjoyed volume one of the graphic novel more then I did the book series that it came out of. The one difficulty an author runs into with me and Alice in Wonderland is that I have been an Alice in Wonderland fan since I was all of three. I have annotated versions, I have collected versions, I have versions with different artwork inside. I have seen movie adaptations. I have seen T.V. Adaptations. I have played the video game. For me Alice in Wonderland is serious business and the standards I hold things to are high. So when I first read Beddor's young adult novel it did not suck me in quite in the way I was hoping. I think that it is a story that translates well to a graphic novel format. I like that Bedder and Liz Cavalier used it as a chance to expand their universe and characters instead of just adapting the existing story.

It is a fairly dark fantasy graphic novel. Both in terms of the story and in terms of the art work. Most of the colours in the graphic novel are muted. There is a lot of greys and browns. The rare flashes of bright unmuted colours are shocking and they stand out. A butterfly here. A rainbow there. A shocking flash of red hair. Ben Templesmith's art jumps from being amazingly simple but effective to huge levels of details depending on what the story requires at any given point. While it is not art I would hang on my wall it does aid the telling of the story and setting the tone or mood of the graphic novel greatly.
I like that it is a graphic novel that in a few years I can share with my niece. I am always trying to find things to read and share with her as well. It is a story that I wont mind rereading a few times in the future.

Now that Beddor and Cavalier have the stage set and Hatter on his quest I am excited to read more. Luckily for me I just got vol. 2 and 3 as an early birthday gift!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Birds of Prey 2

Series: Birds of Prey
Words: Duane Swierczynski
Images: Jesus Saiz
Issue Number: 2
Release Date: In reality September but our cover reads November 2011
Format: Comic
A month is a long time. The first issue of Birds of Prey left me disappointed. I wanted to make sure that I was actually giving Birds of Prey a chance. I was a little worried that my upset over the loss of Gail Simone writing for Birds of Prey was not totally colouring my experiences.

I am enjoying Birds of Prey a little more after issue two. Yes I am dragging my feet on this. I certainly like the addition to Katana. So I am guessing one part of that disappointment was a dislike change. You are not going to get the same Birds of Prey as you did with Simone but there may be enough there to make it worth giving it a shot.

The more I see the team come together and interact the more they are growing on me. This issue ends with Poison Ivy showing up. I am curious to see how Ivy fits into the team's dynamics. Tentatively keep your eye on this one if I keep warming up to it it  may make my suggested reading list.

On the bright side it is still a female fronted  lead with character who have the potential to develop. Jesus Saiz's involvement with Birds of Prey helps. I have liked a lot of the comics he has done artwork for previously. He worked on Birds of Prey at times pre-relaunch. He worked on Manhunter. He has worked on Zatanna. He has done a ton of work with writers who write strong female characters well. The hope that they actually will is what is keeping me reading for now. So my fingers are crossed.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Nightwing #2

Series: Nightwing
Words:  Kyle Higgins
Images: Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer, Paulo Siqueira
Issue Number: 2
Release Date: It reads December 2011 but we got it in October
Format: Single Issue comic

Nightwing is one of the comics we are pulling that I want to like. I am trying so very hard to like. It is a character I never had a ton invested in (outside of his time with Barbara Gordon). But he is a character that the mister includes on his top five.

I left the first issue feeling impressed that it was more character driven then action. After reading issue two? Well I would like to eat my hat. After such a strong start in issue two Nightwing promptly takes a tale spin downwards.

I will probably keep reading it because the mister will keep pulling it. I would probably be tempted to give up on it after this. Not fair since I am giving other runs a longer trial. But well I am emotionally invested in those characters or the potential they can bring to the D.C. universe.

So where in my opinion did it go wrong? This issue was pretty almost totally action based and to be honest I found the action dull. Dick / Nightwing reads like a bit of a Mary Sue at this point. His interactions with the other characters come across as very plastic and superficial. They failed to build on the strengths of issue one which was attention to detail and character development. Nightwing’s muscles did not really need to have muscles on them. He went from being attractive to … scary looking. And that is coming from a woman who lives with a guy who works out twice a day for an hour each time and lifts weights. One of the things I liked about the first issue is while Nightwing was the attention to detail in terms of exercise equipment in the loft.

At this point I would not suggest anyone invest too heavily in the D.C.'s relaunch of Nightwing. I will let you know if it improves. For those of you who left comments saying that you hope that the relaunch would mean less of the Play Boy Nightwing... well please just ignore this entire run. By the end of the second issue he's sleeping with a childhood friend from the circus on a plane in between action scenes. Yes that is right. Nightwing reads like the Transformers movies.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Aquaman #2

Series: Aquaman
Words: Geoff Johns
Images: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado 
Issue Number: 2
Release Date: It reads December 2011 but we got it in October
Format: Single Issue comic

If you have read the review of issue 1 of Aquaman you already know that this relaunch title is one that has impressed and surprised me. I walked into reading Aquaman with disgustingly low expectations and well it has blown those out of the water.
A little research has shown me that this is not the first time Johns has taken the laughing stock of D.C. and turned it into a serious character (the Flash). At this point it is seamless and by issue two the tension is already building. I am no longer picking up Aquaman expecting to mock the character the entire time. Johns has certainly demonstrated enough skill in these two issues that I will be keeping my eyes open for his works in the future. 
The story line itself? Reads like a very well written B movie at this point. I know that seems to go against everything I just said about Aquaman being more serious. But it builds off of the first issue. I am guessing that Johns is using that as a stepping stone into more serious territory.
This issue we see the Aquaman jokes continue. Only this time instead of laughing I found myself actually feeling his frustration.
One of the smartest moves Johns has made with his writing has been to write each issue so that they can be read as stand alones but still contain a story that builds on each other. You can pick up issue two of Aquaman and start reading right away. I have not seen a comic in the relaunch that has done this so effectively. Johns has done the best job so far of making me care about a new character I never have before. He also has done the best job of pacing so that new readers can pick up his series and just start reading. Each of the issues have given little emotional hooks that leave the reader caring about the lead character. So if you were thinking about picking up Aquaman but can’t find an issue one to start with? You can grab issue two and jump in right away.
I love Aquaman’s wife Mera. She is strong. She is powerful. She dislikes being called “Aquawoman” since her name is Mera. In issue two we see a little more of her. In a lot of senses she is presented as being his equal. Even if Johns was not making me fall in love with Aquaman I would probably still pick this up for Mera. I am looking forward to seeing much more of her and during this issue we actually saw signs she will develop as a character. 
One area I have not really discussed in terms of Aquaman is the art. I like how Ivan Reis and Joe Padro compliment the moods of the comic. It is bright and light during touching moments and when everything is fine. The colours darken as the tension builds. The detail in the essentially a horde of villains is amazing.