Exquisite Corpse - Penelope Bagieu

I was sadly disappointed in this comic. The art is wonderful and it seem like a decent set up: an attractive, but uninspired girl meets a shut-in, older, author with writers block and a bizarre secret. Together, they inspire each other. Seems simple enough, but it takes about half the book before the story really starts and it's all leaning to what are supposed to be shocking twists, but none of the characters are good enough to make me really care about them, or bad enough to make me want anything negative to happen to them. Some of the events come out of nowhere (sorry, it is not a twist when there's no basis for an event to take place), and the whole book reads like a pitch idea for what might be a clever movie if any of the characters were actually developed. exquisite corpse

Mike's Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv - Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem, & Koren Shadmi

I try to reserve October postings for horror themed works to go with the spirit of Halloween (not really sure why), and considering that this work is about a terrorist attack that takes place at a kind of hippie bar in Tel Aviv, it seems to fit. It is an interesting work describing the events that led up to, included, and the aftermath of just one of the seemingly endless bombings that take place in Israel, giving details on the lives, loves, and personalities of various people involved. Apparently, it is made by the same people and relates to the documentary: Blues by the Beach. I have not seen it and don't want to give false comparison, but I will say that while this work is very good it either needs to have several characters and events cut to streamline it, or it need to increase its length by about a third to do justice to the various characters. As is, it feels rushed and truncated, so that I felt I was missing some piece of information, or an important interaction that was cut from the final draft. This may not be true, but is the impression that I get. Still, a poignant and powerful read. mike's place

Boxers & Saints - Gene Luen Yang

Yang is probably best known for the wonderful American Born Chinese and, if you read this site, his awesome presentation to the American Library Association. This isn't as strong, as I believe he's having some difficulty finding a balance between telling a serious story and his very cartoony artistic style. Still, this was a fascinating adaptation of the Boxer Rebellion that took place in China in the late 1800s against the pseudo colonization of China by foreign powers. While I know of the basics of the rebellion, I don't know the specific details of the people involved, so I can't say if this accurately reflected their mythology (he does have a bibliography at the end but what does that mean?). Either way it's rather poignant as you watch a young boy go from a carefree youth to disillusionment to empowerment to the slow degradation of all his values; truly intense stuff. There's also the companion piece entitled Saints which is designed to show the point of view not of the foreign powers per se, but those Chinese that associated with them. Again, not as strong as Boxers but I'm glad he made the attempt. Even together they are a fast read and I recommend them. boxers

Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol

This is a strong work that seems to have autobiographical elements (a girl originally born in Russia trying to fit into America), but it really is about a somewhat awkward teen who, falling into a hole, meets and befriends a hundred year old ghost. I really liked the story and art, finding it to be a good portrayal of a young girl just trying to deal with life. One of the plot lines does not work at all (namely Sean and Elizabeth) and another only sort of does (i.e., Dima), and Neil Gaiman is incorrect as this is not "a masterpiece!" (I long to be famous enough to have my blurbs be that important), but is highly enjoyable and recommended. anya's ghost

The Cute Girl Network - Greg Means & MK Reed

This cute comic's name comes from the plot device that girls tell horror stories about people they date to stop others from dating them. Jane is just about the coolest girl that has ever existed in history, and she likes Jack, who is really just a harmless loser, but somehow dates a lot of hot women for extended periods of time. These women try to stop Jane from dating him. I enjoyed it but I can't say there's more plot than what I've just described, and maybe because there are two authors there are twice as many words as needed to tell the story (although Means is a librarian so I'll forgive just about anything he does). It's fun, but sadly not memorable. cute girl network

The Sculptor - Scott McCloud

I'm not exactly sure how to formulate this review. It certainly was a long work, one of the longest single graphic novels ever. And I did enjoy the art, with its blue coloring. And the theme was interesting: the idea of literally living for art, as a main character makes a deal to have the magical ability to sculpt whatever he can imagine under the condition that he will die in two hundred days (or less if he jumps off a cliff or something). And there're certainly poignant moments, as he falls love and deals with the various vicissitudes of love and friendship. And there are some interesting statements about the fickleness of the art world. However, if you ask me: "Did you enjoy this work?" I can't say "Yes." It definitely wasn't bad, and I just mentioned a lot of positives, but for the length of the work, there should've been much more depth of character: our main character seems rather ridiculously adolescent, and while our love interest does develop depth, she starts out as this pathetic caricature that exists only to be the spritely charmer that picks up our hero from the doldrums. 50 pages should've been cut from this, forcing McCloud to tighten up his storytelling, and, quite frankly, illustrate personality and plot through pictures and dialogue rather than simply telling us what is. In many respects this is impressive, but in many more it falls short. sculptor

In Real Life - Cory Doctorow

Anda, a somewhat average, nerdy, girl joins an online gaming group, but the sword and sorcery adventures quickly change as she's confronted by realities she did not see or foresee. Doctorow brings us a comic that tries to open us up to a world where economics and gaming go hand-in-hand, remind us of the political life we are used to is very different just about everywhere else, and everywhere else is exactly where the Internet links us. There is a lot to like about this comic, as it can make us very aware of realities that most people would never imagine. My problems with it are that too much is trying to be done in very broad superficial strokes. Issues like female empowerment, female body issues, workers rights, child labor, bullying, the dangers of the online world, and school clicks (even gamers have hierarchies), are all touched on but not often developed. It is a good young adult book with very cute art by Jen Wang. In Real Life

The Silence of Our Friends - Mark Long & Jim Demonakos

Cej did a review of this comic here, and does a fine job of it, so I don't want to go over the same points too much. Like Cej, I felt the ending was rushed and Nate Powell's work is better here then other places I've seen.  I will say that I picked up on the blind character earlier even if not right away and didn't feel that Long (the father character, not the author) struggled so much with telling the truth as much as trying to get someone to listen. In any event, you should read this very fine comic to see if you agree with one, both, or none of our takes on the work as it is an insightful piece of history.  

Friends With Boys - Faith Erin Hicks

I first, knowingly, heard of Hicks by reading a short work of her's in an Adventure Time comic, which wasn't anything super special, but I did enjoy this, longer, work. It focuses on Maggie, who, after being home schooled like her three older brothers, is off to high school and all the horrors that it involves. There she, for the first time, has the opportunity to make friends and see the social chaos that is public school, made all the more difficult due her mother's unexplained leaving. Although I like the art, does everyone in high school have to be beautiful? I never met a beautiful high schooler. It is a fun story and I suspect there is room--but uncertain about the will--for a sequel, that I would like to see. Oh! Did I mention that Maggie is haunted? 

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics - edited by Chris Duffy

It's been over 100 years since the start of the First World War, the war for civilization, the war to end all wars, the Great War, and I think it is important to keep the memory alive. This comic adaptation of (mostly) poetry based on World War I is a good start. Sadly, I did not enjoy this as much as I had hoped for, not that this is particularly a topic of enjoyment, but collected work such as these, despite attempts of unification, often fall short of unified feeling and look. I also have to say that I don't care much for poetry (I know that makes me a bad person), so I was already starting at a loss. Still, this is a ok way to introduce people, most likely younger people, to the horrors and tragedies of the so-called great war, despite that it leaves off any real context for the war itself.   

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant - Tony Cliff

Very cute idea about a super-cool heroine adventurer who meets up with a rather low-key Janissary (yes, that should hint at the time period) and together they get into all kinds of trouble. The art and coloring were quite nice, but I have to wonder if I'm missing something or many somethings. The intro pages about Delilah made her a really awesome female character and I would like to read those stories, but I'm pretty sure they don't exists. Part of the trouble with this book is I feel lost in the pacing. Scenes are drawn out, too quick, or reliant on backstory that we don't have, and the shift in POV throws me (is this Selim, the Turk's, story? I don't know.). Chalk this up to a noble effort that failed due to story structure. Honestly, I keep seeing these stories with all the needed elements that just aren't being put together properly. 

Battling Boy - Paul Pope

It seems I'm never super-thrilled with Pope's work and the same holds true for this attempt to start a series about a kid who is sent as part of a coming of age ceremony to fight evil on a plant similar to, but not quite, our own. The art is interesting although Pope's style isn't for everyone and sometimes just leaves me cold--although lots of colorful monsters and battles is a pretty good selling point. The trouble is that the comic is reliant on tropes and does very little to breath life or originality into the characters/situations (and don't tell me that having t-shirts that give magical powers based on the animal pictured on the shirt is innovative because that's Ben 10 without the watch!). If you put another issue in front of me I'd read it, but as for now I can't explain the motivations behind most of the characters. 

Town Boy - Lat

I've never seen such a unique style of art as Lat has for his memoir about growing up Malay with his Chinese best friend (perhaps because the art is so stylized that it would appear racists if drawn by your average white guy lah). In any event, I thought the story and art were great, putting plenty of smiles on my face lah. Little short and even littler (?!) background--if you do not know of the ethnic make-up of Malaysia you might lose something in your reading--yet lots of enjoyment lah (ok, I have no idea if I'm using that expression correctly). 

This One Summer - Jillian & Mariko Tamaki

What should be just another summer vacation for Rose and her friend, Windy, at Awago beach turns out to be dark and confusing. It feels like I have to read five comics to come across one that is any good, but this story should count as double. Beautifully drawn, elegantly paced, simply colored with blue ink, spartanly written, this YA tale is powerful and fun, if a heavy inducer of melancholy. It involves two summer vacation friends: two young girls, somewhat dissimilar with just enough of an age difference to cause some problems. Together they become by-standards to grown-up (sort of) intrigues that they don't quite fully understand. It is a story about friends, family, growing up, and the fleeting nature of life. I greatly enjoyed it. 

Templar - Jordan Mechner

I thought I wrote up a review for the first part of this book: Solomon's Thieves, but I can't find it, and thus much like where the rumored treasure of the Knights Templar is or the reason the warrior order, so popular in medieval christian Europe at one time, was branded heretical, the mystery might never be explained. I enjoyed this tragic and exciting (and very fictional) tale about a group of Templars who plot to steal back their order's treasure in an attempt to both reform their group and free their imprisoned brothers. The story is begging to be made into a movie and while much of it screams of other heist tales (e.g., Ocean's Eleven), there are climatic moments that, while reminiscent of other films, I don't think have been done and I expect would look beautiful and filled with pathos on the big screen. There are problems of characters that have no background/rhyme or reason, and as cliched as some of this comic is, I truly enjoyed it and was sad to reach the end. 

Sailor Twain ~or~ The Mermaid in the Hudson - Mark Siegel

For the most part I absolutely loved this comic. The pencil art, cartoony characters, mysterious situation, clever mythology, and intriguing characters all lead to an exciting tale about a ship's captain (named Twain, no--possible!--relation), a philandering ship's owner, and a mermaid in late 19th century NY. I write "for the most part" because I feel the last 20% or so felt rushed (especially considering the leisurely pace to begin with and overall length of the tale) and led to some confusion rather than  illumination. Still, maybe you will have a better grasp with the ending and thus see this as you should: an amazing work of comic narrative. 

Jerusalem: A Family Portrait - Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi

A thick book and intense tale about the Jewish Halabys families who are feuding with each other while living under the scumbag British occupied Palestine during the creation of Israel. Yakin does a good job juggling the insanity of the time while presenting an array of characters with their own unique hopes and motivations without pulling punches as to their various criminal/heroic actions. I admit that there were difficulties at times keeping track of the secondary players as they comes and go and sometimes felt there was not enough to truly bring them to life as individuals (and they often look somewhat alike). Still, it is an impressive tale about a complex moment in history that affects all are lives today.