Shutter (vol 1): Wanderlost - Joe Keatinge

Okay so there's this girl and apparently she was once this big-shot explorer, but now she's retired for some reason despite not even being 30, and she lives in this magical world that has some similarities to ours, and she has a best friend and some sort of robot cat which we know nothing about, and her dad's dead (which is sad, but we didn't know him), and people are trying to kill her for some reason, and apparently she has some unknown siblings who are also trying to kill her--okay the point is there's a lot of stuff happening here, but nothing actually happening in the sense of helping us understand what type of the world we are dealing with, who the main character is and why should we care about her, etc., you know, basic plot points. This seems like something I would like, but first I have to have some clue as to what is going on. shutter

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray & Lost Coastlines - Frank J. Barbiere

You can either figure it out from the blurb on the cover or wait for issue four of the first collection, but this series is about an adventurer who can tap into the skills of five fictional characters in order to aid him in whatever quest he is on, often one involving trying to rescue his twin sister's soul. Honestly, I am not too impressed. There's absolutely no substance to the characters or plot, making it geared towards younger readers, who, in turn, may be confused by the time shifts in the comic and most certainly won't get the Lovecraft reference. While Chris Mooneyham art is ok, and Lauren Affe's muted and few colors provides an excellent touch, the whole work seems like it could've been done better as a Kid Eternity comic or just trying to be less of a pulp fiction novel a la H. Rider Haggard. five ghosts

Samurai Jack

Stylishly drawn and beautifully painted, this cartoon by Genndy Tartakovsky who points out that cartoons people like us grew up with (I'm looking at you Super Friends) actually had very little action, so he wished to make one with plenty of it, but at the same time not being a spastic mess. He definitely succeeded. This is a story of a samurai with a magic sword dedicated to destroying a great evil named Aku (Japanese for evil). When originally fighting the creature, the shape changing alien Aku used his magic to send the young samurai into the future, thereby ensuring there was nothing to stop him from world domination. Now the samurai, who goes by the name Jack, travels the world righting wrongs, fighting the forces of Aku, and seeking a means to return to him own time and defeat Aku, thus undoing all his evil. Here are the huge problems I have with the cartoon: Jack often sacrifices himself to do good deeds at the expense of accessing time portals, but the whole point is that if he can return home the future he is in will not exist, making the sacrifices meaningless. But hey, it's a cartoon. That's what brings my second problem and I don't remember seeing this now common trope before this point. Just about all the bad guys on the show are robots and Jack chops them up relentlessly. All that's fine, after all, they are just robots and so violence against them doesn't really mean anything. The trouble is that these same robots have personalities and survival instincts much like anyone else (and often look more human than the life forms now running around our planet), so doesn't that make them "real"? I wonder if seeing constant violence done again others under the excuse that they aren't "real" as it's just a cartoon might have negative consequences. It reminds me of the Star Wars' prequels wherein robots and clones die en mass but they all have distinct traits just like any individual. Anyway, it is a fine cartoon and I wonder why it ended.

Crater XV - Kevin Cannon

It seems I never reviewed Far Arden (something that (I hope) will be rectified before you see this), which is s shame as I enjoyed that short (in stature) but thick, comic. As with the first book, this sequel should not be misunderstood. Just because it has cute art--with stage directions as sound effects--and is about a larger than life, heavy drinking, hard fighting, heroic Canadian orphan (who was both a government man and a pirate), does not mean that Cannon is attempting to tell some sort of feel good story. The plot, which is intricate, involving various faux Canadian government agencies that maneuver with foreign powers, space quests, piracy, lost loves, coming to terms with your past/future/destiny/choices/mistakes, and a whole lot of fighting. It's a bittersweet tale, much like the last one, and I enjoyed it. 

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean - Sarah Stewart Taylor & Ben Towle

This isn't so much a recounting of Earhart's attempt to fly across the Atlantic, so much as it is a tale about a young girl with dreams of being a newspaper reporter--or rather, dreams of being something other than the era's standard for women which is a stay at home wife/mother. Earhart is an inspiration to this girl as she was to many, and this sweetly depressing tale told in few words, with simply and lovingly rendered art with blue coloring, does a fine job relaying feelings and hopes. I can't really recommend this as a book to teach younger readers about Earhart directly, but you do get a sense of the times, the person, and, well, you get to read a good story. To add to some of the sadness of this tale, I knew little about Earhart until she was mentioned in a Trail of Cthulhu adventure I ran, which is why I wanted to know more and ordered it from a library, and it looks like I am the first in 4 years to ever have checked the book out.

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. 

The Adventures of Tintin & Tintin: Inside Herge's Cartoon Archives

This is the movie version of the Tintin adventure The Secret of the Unicorn, which was the first, and perhaps my favorite, Tintin adventure comic. Tintin written by the racists Herge, is about a journalist in about the 1930s of the same name (and by journalist I apparently mean someone who never writes anything down), with his super clever dog, who is friends with twin dimwitted detectives and goes (or maybe gets sucked into) adventures, solving various mysteries. In this one he teams up with a drunken sea captain to hunt down lost treasure and right ancient wrongs. I found the stories likable as a kid although I haven't read any for a long time, and actually thought the film was pretty good and pretty accurate to the comic, up until about 45 minutes in when the fun, silly aspects turned to pointlessly ridiculous. I also feel the comic illustration is superior to the strange CGI animation being done here--presumable many agree as I've heard of no other films attempting this style, or more to the point, any additional Tintin movies under production. Oh, well, there are always the comics.  I'm adding  a quick review of an equally quick film about the history of Tintin and Herge as I think it is important to know "little" things such as a Chinese man named Chang, who would show up in one of his comics, was the person who really taught Herge how to draw (and via him, half of Europe's comic artists) and to take the Tintin comics into a more developed story line. This really was very enlightening for only 25 minutes! 

Trouble Maker (book 1): a Barnaby and Hooker graphic novel - Janet & Alex Evanovich

Sassy blond Barney, and also sassy blond Hooker, try to rescue their sassy but not blond friend Rosa from a Voodoo cult. It is a cute story with key elements of romance, humor, adventure, a big dog, etc. with nice cartoony art by Joelle Jones, but nothing particularly ground breaking. Perhaps the authors should stick to the novel forms of this series. Good for younger readers but at $18 for a short hardcover?! 

Queen & Country (vol 1-2): Operation: Broken Ground & Morningstar - Greg Rucka

I've been meaning to read this series for over a year now (and by the time this review gets posted, that was probably another year ago). It tells stories about MI-6 the British version (sort of) of the CIA, and various characters within the service, their missions and personal lives/problems. Yeah, sounds good, and lots of people love it, but I'm not one of them. If it is put down in front of me, I'll read it, but I just don't care very much about the stories, especially considering how real life spy drama is so much more, well, dramatic (if at a much slower pace). It's not over the top, which is good, unlike 24 or MI-5, shows I've reviewed here, but there isn't enough to grip me. 

Guardians of the Galaxy

So it takes until mid-August before I see my first movie of 2014. The film focuses on rather unknown characters, centering on the Guardians and the Kree: Ronan The Accuser (don't worry, it gets much more obscure, ever hear of Knowhere?). Peter Quill is Star Lord, or his is after becoming a thief which he becomes after being abducted from Earth as a child, something that leads to a whole lot of 80s references (as that was when he was taken). The Guardians, who are really a bunch of murderers and thieves in the form of a couple of green people, a mutant raccoon, and a tree--rejects all--band together to stop Ronan from destroying, well, the Galaxy. The movie was fun, filled with clever remarks and references, but the fights scenes aren't great and there are a bunch of characters they need to introduce really fast and I not sure how many people got a whole lot from the truncated characterizations, or how many of those people could also get the 80s references. A lot of the movie dealt with the idea of friendship, which is pretty standard, but is often too obvious. In the end, while I had fun, I'm not sure how many others--read: non-Marvel comics fans--will really fully enjoy/get the film (then again, it has made a ton of cash).

The Adventures of Blanche - Rick Geary

I enjoyed this little collection of what I assume is the short lived series about a young pianist in the early part of the twentieth century who falls into various political and supernatural happenings. I think the trouble is that Geary is known for his historical comics and, while this has strong historical foundations, these stories are really tall tales, ostracizing his fan base without bringing in new readers.