Thunderbolt Jaxon - Dave Gibbons

In an attempt to update some old British comic characters, Gibbons tried to breath life into a tale about how a magical belt turns a boy into Thor, and how he uses that power for good. Sadly, while this seems to me to be awesome (a cross between the first Thor comic and Captain Marvel but originating earlier than either), Gibbons makes what should be a kids book far too dark, and has a horrible time with the pacing, plotting, and dialogue. There are a lot of good ideas and fun touches here (gods reenacting their wars as hoodlums, the MacBeth witches, a trio of kids), and none of it hold together well. Perhaps if it unfolded over a longer time than the handful of five issues. 

Hellboy (vol 12): The Storm And The Fury - Mike Mignola

And so the Hellboy legend concludes; questions are answered and secrets reveled, but to what end for us weak humans? It's bittersweet to have the story end, although I'm sure there are plenty of other Hellboy tales by the time this is posted. Here, the destined destroy of humanity/hero confronts his greatest enemy and all existence hangs in the balance. It is hard to every be satisfied with an ending to something you rather see continue; however, I think my grievances are legitimate. The fact that Mignola had Duncan Fegredo do all but the epilogue of art seemed lame as I would have hoped the man who started it all would want to conclude it. I still don't see the point of Alice and even less of another character that is introduced here for no reason (you'll know it when it happens). Additionally, we have known for several volumes now that, for the most part, Hellboy can't die, so a lot of the lead up has lacked that element of excitement. It wasn't a bad tale and it is kind of nice to have a mythos wrapped up, yet I still am not fully satisfied and am more sorry to see it come to an end.   

PS And of course since this was originally written and scheduled to appear here, I have realized that the adventure does, indeed, continue, just in hell.

Hellboy (vol 11): The Bride of Hell and Others

Once again the main storyline of the hero, Hellboy, the demon said to be destined to destroy the world, is interrupted in order to bring us a collection of various caliber stories by various artists. And again, the one done by Mignola himself is the only one that really captured that atmosphere that is the heart of any Hellboy tale. I shouldn't be too harsh; there are enjoyable stories of Hellboy dealing with supernatural problems such as Hellboy in Mexico where he teams up with masked wrestlers to fight vampires (hilariously awesome even if I didn't care for the ending), and the Mignola drawn The Whittier Legacy that played off Lovecraftian plots. But others just seemed like they could have used another draft.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth - Isabel Greenberg

Honestly, I thought this was a comic version of a history text.  Perhaps that's part of reason why I was somewhat disappointed. The story is actually a collection of stories based largely on the other stories (religious and creation stories) mainly revolving around a storyteller in search of a missing part of his soul. It's not really bad, but just not something I was really interested in. Often cute at times, I'm sure a lot of people would enjoy it (as long as they were not me). Early Earth

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - Stephen Collins

In so many respects this is really a great work. Simple pencil drawings flesh out the world of Here wherein everything is orderly and tidy as opposed to the chaotic world of There out there. Horribly, the chaos of There comes to Here when Dave inexplicably, uncontrollably, and unstoppably starts to grow a beard, which threatens to destroy, physically and metaphorically, the orderly world of Here. As I stated, there's so much to like in this work from the art, to the simple storytelling, to the fun metaphor, to the exceptionally clever layouts; however, I feel that in the end it tries to do too much. Much of the beginning could've been shortened or left out entirely with better results, or even recycled for a completely different work. Perhaps this is a sign of sloppy editing and/or some false starts. Still, don't get discouraged early, but make sure to complete reading it and you will be better for it. BeardNote: The cover is B/W, I don't know what happened with the picture.

Hellboy (vol 10): The Crooked Man and Others - Mike Mignola

Most of this collection is The Crooked Man which is Hellboy's first US adventure, but it is an interruption from the main story, and maybe that's why I didn't care much for this volume. It does have the benefit of having an actual Mignola drawn story, which--surprise!--is the best of the bunch. For the most part the stories are rather typical Hellboy accounts, which is fine, but it is upsetting to have to put on hold the main storyline, deal with some just okay tales, and realize that a Mignola drawn story somehow manages to be so much better than anything else. I think it must be that when Mignola writes for others he is wordier and when he is drawing perhaps becomes more free flowing. 

Hellboy (vol 9): The Wild Hunt - Mike Mignola

Continuing with the saga from the last collection, the demonic hero, Hellboy, continues to try and not get killed by his numerous enemies. And, unfortunately, Duncan Fegredo is still doing the art that only Mignola can truly do. This collection starts to bring all the various pieces that make up the Hellboy mythos in order to tie it all together. Why Mignola brings in Alice who we really haven't seen anything of (trust me, you won't remember her) rather than one of the BPRD friends, I have no idea, but at least things are getting pretty hard core.

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites - Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson

I swear I've read some of these stories before but don't know when or how. It is possible as many of them are reprinted from years ago. I'll start by saying that I enjoyed this collection, but at the same time I can't really say who I would recommended it for. "Okay, so there are beautifully illustrated, often very cute, pictures of dogs and occasionally cats, by Jill Thompson, and the story is about these dogs that go on adventures." So far, so good. "And the adventures the dogs engage in usually involve fighting supernatural, demonic creatures." Not the run-of-the-mill average mix of things. Still, I enjoyed it. Beasts of Burden

Hellboy (vol 8): Darkness Calls - Mike Mignola [Take Two]

I feel my original review might have been too upbeat in terms of having Duncan Fegredo doing the art here as occasionally he gets the style close enough to being right, but then there are other times.... Anyway, old enemies converge to taken down our demon child super hero. It's been a long time since a Hellboy story was so involved (and that's probably why Mognola just didn't have the fortitude to draw it). I still liked it but it isn't for casual fans of Hellboy. 

Beautiful Darkness - Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet

At first glance it seems like a children's fairytale book and you might just go and give it to a small child. And that small child might kill itself over the horror of this story. Apparently, there were these fairy creatures that lived in a person who died and they all must now fend for themselves in the harsh reality of the world. Most of these fairies are either evil or simply very uncaring and the death toll is enormous. The book is somewhat nightmarish which turned me off, but that is more subjective. Objectively speaking, there aren't any characters in the story, just short hand so that your project personality upon them, and that, really, is what kills the story. beautiful darkness

Hellboy (vol 6): Strange Places - Mike Mignola

For no logical reason I don't have many Hellboy reviews, so let's make up for lost time as I'm rereading some collections. I (re)started with this collection randomly, which focuses on the demonic looking hero as he wonders around in Africa, gets kidnaped by a sea monster, and fights a resurrected devil worshiper, all the while learning more about the mythology of his destiny to usher in the apocalypse. Hellboy stories are not for everyone; they are heavy on atmosphere and some action scenes and light with characterization, but Hellboy works perfectly as Hellboy and must be approached as is, unapologetically. As such I very much enjoyed this collection. 

The Night Bookmobile - Audrey Niffenegger

This is an extremely disturbing story of a woman who replaces life with books. Alexandra comes across a bookmobile that contains everything she ever read, and she becomes obsessed with this magical collection and the librarian who runs it. The implications and even stated objectives of this moving graphic novel is troubling to me as a person who loves the escapism and virtual experiences of reading and the art of knowledge seeking through books, as well as someone associated with librarianship. Apparently, this is to be part of a larger collection, and while I cannot endorse this book, I certainly plan to examine any sequels. 

Seconds - Bryan Lee O'Malley

Katie's life is going well: she's a popular chef, about to open a restaurant of her own, and has a number of friends. Actually, it's not going that well: she's in a pseudo-relationship that she probably shouldn't be in, her ex is making things uncomfortable, the new restaurant is not going as smoothly as hoped, she is going to turn 30, and she is talking to herself (or rather to the narrated captions (I'm not sure which is worse)). Luckily, there happens to be a house spirit or some such creature that will allow her to redo mistakes she made. Naturally, there are unforeseen consequences. I do love the art and layouts of this comic (although now that O'Malley has an assistant, who knows how much is really done by him), and I was going to originally point out some minor changes that I think should have been made to this work, but on second thought, it is fine just the way it is. seconds

Hinterkind (vol 1-2): The Waking World & Written in Blood - Ian Edginton

I thought I might enjoy this obvious rip off of Fables, but it is just too flawed. The idea is a random plague destroyed most of humanity, put forests on top of buildings (and sometimes zebras on top of them, along with kangaroos in the Midwest etc.), and this allowed fairytale creatures to come out of hiding (which they were doing in astronomically large numbers). Some humans did survive and even have radio networks to each other some 20 years after the event, yet these humans for no reason have no idea about the fairy folk, or the fact that they are going to get roped up into the middle of both a civil war and a foreign invasion (yes, Europeans looking for conquest always decide to go over to America first, and not to, say Africa, Asia, or the near east). The fact that so many of these things are happening at this exact moment is part of the problem, coupled with the fact that events happen too quickly to have meaning (a major adversary is both introduced and (maybe) eliminated in the first volume), and most of the characters are boring archetypes (the reluctant hero, etc.). I can live without this. hinterkind

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 Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath - I.N.J Culbard

Adapted from the Lovecraft work the same name, Culbard continues his own quest to turn Lovecraft's works into comics. Randolph Carter wishes to find the city of his dreams (literally of his dreams), but dark forces and well-wishers alike warn him to stay away lest he anger the gods of the dreamland. Like all good heroes, he ignores the warnings and travels forth. There are certain works that are more suited for adaptation than others and this is one that works rather well. Culbard's somewhat simple, brightly colored, and lovingly rendered illustrations cut through much of the original's purple prose leaving a well-crafted story of adventure. I am grateful to Cej for giving me this book, and to Culbard for continuing to produce them. Dream quest

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The first half hour of the second part of the conclusion of the movies about the boy wizard, Harry Potter, and his fight against the forces of darkness is largely a mess. It moves slowly, like the first installment, and at the same time is jumpy. If you have someone's wand and can use it as ID, why not show it? How did Luna get into Hogwarts when the main group had such an impossible time doing so? How many items are we looking for again? At the same time a lot of the character development and screen time is also lost. Thank goodness the movie has as many of the flaws as the book. Around the 40 minute mark things pick up and, honestly, you might just want to start watching this movie at that point (and skip the first entirely). If you do, you might find the experience more enjoyable. For the record: I still am concerned that kids will plow through the books/movies without actually growing up with them, Luna is the Lily to my Severus, and Neville is truly the character that develops and grows more than anyone else in the series. Like the book, the movie may not be the most enjoyable conclusion to what is arguably a generation shaping phenomenon, but it is a satisfying one, and perhaps that was the best we could have hoped for. Goodbye, Harry Potter; "the boy that lived" did so more than most of us.

Sex Criminals (vol. 1-2): One Weird Trick & Two Worlds, One Cop - Matt Fraction

Seeing how incredibly popular and award winning this comic series is, it only made sense for me to want to find out what the buzz was about. The story revolves around Suzie and Jon (yes with a Z and without an H, because that shows how cool they are), who both have a bizarre magical power wherein when they orgasm they temporarily stop time. The plot begins when Jon suggest they use their power to rob an evil bank corporation to pay off the mortgage Suzie's library owes to the bank. The problem is they're not alone with their powers, and are now being hunted by those who would keep them in check. Now that we're on the same page let me go through the various unfortunate reasons why this comic is an absolute pile of garbage. Fraction writes most of the comic with the two main characters, and sometimes even himself, speaking directly to the audience, which might've been clever once upon a time, but largely is a sign of laziness and inability to express character or conflict through dialogue or action. He does a fair job going into Suzie's history, expressing her anger with the evil corporation, only vaguely amusingly called Bankcorp, who she blames for the death of her father, and the fact that it is shutting down her beloved library due to mortgage payments, showing her confusion during her years of sexual discovery and lack of information. This last part is the highlight of the comic as it captures confusion of adolescent years, but quickly undermines itself, as her best friend overwhelms her with misinformation about sexual positions when she starts by saying that she wishes someone had talked to her at an early age, so that she might not have contracted HPV. The undermining I'm speaking of is that this is the first, and only until a bit of a joke page in the second volume wherein birth-control methods are discussed, reference to STI (yes, STI not STD), aside from when Jon jokingly thinks he has HIV--people die from that, this is not a joke (and so why would a kid be wearing a t-shirt that makes fun of AIDs in volume two, I have no idea)--and there's absolutely no indication that any of the characters are concerned about STIs, discussing such issues with their partners, or means of preventing them (e.g., condom use). Fraction also tries to give a similar backstory for Jon, but it is poorly done, or rather simply uninteresting. Suzie is obviously made a librarian to play with the fetish of the sexy librarian, but it would help if Fraction knew anything about public libraries, such as they are not owned by banks. Suzie is drawn like an absolute bombshell, which is to be expected in comics, but Jon looks like an absolute nothing, and he wins her over only by reciting the opening lines of her favorite book (what he knew because he wanted to be an actor, a point that is never taken up again, such as why he gave up this dream, how he fell into his bank secretary job, how old he is, etc.), and then they proceed to stay together, presumably only because they share this magical power (and the ability to orgasm non-stop), as they don't appear to have anything else in common, not that they really have personalities anyway.

Jon is depicted as having various problems (although he keeps getting hot women, so how severe can the problems be?) in that he failed in his career as an actor (again, did he even try? we don't know) and now is stuck in a bank job he hates and also has various mental and behavior problems and doesn't want take his medicine. This is the second time in a week that I have read a comic wherein not taking medicine that prevents mental disorders is depicted as a noble thing. I find this kind a statement to be incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. It is also his idea to rob Bankcorp in order to pay the library's mortgage--because the bank won't notice that their missing money is being used as payment.

One final note, it is not exactly commonplace that a couple will orgasm at the exact same time, especially their first time together. I just feel that Fraction knows as little about sex as he does libraries, and this entire comic is an exercise in fulfilling adolescent fantasy, which is fine, but not deserving of awards, best-selling status, or critical acclaim. For all its make believe to promote sexual expression, the comic does more harm then good by promoting misinformation or delusions about sex. It's a fluff piece, making Fraction a Fluffer. sex criminals