Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton

Admittedly, I know little about Canadian history or Nancy Drew books, but these cutely drawn comics that often use history and literature (including comics) as subject matter are rather delightful, even if it gets a little overwhelming sitting down to read an entire collection at once. I would say they should be more popular, but many of the references are just too obscure. Hark! A Vagrant  

Not sure why this first collection is being published here about three weeks after the sequel, but that's how I role (I guess).

The Property - Rutu Modan

A young woman and her grandmother travel from Israel to Poland ostensibly to learn about property that was confiscated from their family by the Germans in World War II, but the truth to the grandmother’s visit is much more complex. Nicely illustrated, this a good tale to be told and to read as the days of the World War II survivors quickly grow dim. There's a lot to like about the story, as there is strong characterization, humor, pathos, history, and romance, but perhaps that is also the problem, as the story attempts to take on so many elements that it often loses track of itself, weakening the overall effect. Still, I did enjoy it and ate it up in a single sitting and it is hardly a thin volume; and I think you would too. 

Daredevil: Born Again - Frank Miller

While Miller had been steadily making a name for himself and producing some of the best comics for the blind vigilante, it is Born Again that truly shaped DD's world. And though Miller's art is lots of fun, David Mazzucchelli's art is magnificent as his ability to render images both complexly and simply, capture emotions and produce iconic imagery. It is a perfect storm of comic. This doesn't suggest it is flawless. The story revolves around the Kingpin of crime and his plan to utterly destroy DD (and any who stand in his way) when he learns of the crime fighter's secret identity. Miller does a great job showing how a man with great influence can produce great evil. The problem is largely two fold in that the inciting incident is that an old girlfriend of DD is now a junky whore (and, together with his bad ass ninja Elektra, may be the start of Miller's eventual depiction of just about all his female characters as bad ass whores) and the destruction of DD's life is done in an issue or two, when I think it would be much stronger to have it slowly building in the background of other plots so we can better see the Kingpin's actions slowly destroying a great man (then again, it's comics and who knows how much of an attention span people have). It also does leave a major complication in the Marvel world as DD's identity is out there. I'm not sure what ever happened with that. 

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.

A-Force Presents (vol. 1)

Let's face facts, this collection of individual starting issues of various comics featuring female superheroes is strictly designed as an attempt to prove that Marvel comics is diversified enough to include female heroines. While I still maintain that Marvel comics is the boy's club that pays lip-service, at best, to issues of diversity, I will say that most of these issues are decent enough. How many readers will jump on to one of these series based only on this remains to be seen. A Force

Bad Island - Doug TenNapel

I actually read some of his work before, and I think I have the same problems with this one, and that is the characters are only developed on the superficial level. To make matters worse, I feel that this superficiality could easily be rectified with maybe just a couple of additional pages. Anyway, the main storyline is about a family on vacation that gets shipwrecked on an island and they must come together as a family in order to survive the strange and mysterious forces that haunt the island. No, this is not an episode of Lost, although with the jumps in time it might as well be. The art is cute and the story is not necessarily bad, but there's not enough here to move me. bad island

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E - Warren Ellis

The first thing you may notice about this review is I'm not going to give it the time necessary to fully detail why I feel what I do, mainly because I feel Ellis did a lot of short cuts on this work, so if he doesn't care, why should I? The saddest thing is that I really could've loved this comic. It actually assembles quite an interesting group of superheroes such as Machine Man, a west coast avengers Capt. Marvel, Boom-Boom, and some others I don't know, and yet they really worked well together and made a great team. The problem was the plot attempts to be Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, while making fun of some really good characters with cheap parodies (e.g., Nick Fury) or simply making fun of the originals (looking at you Devil Dinosaur). I will say I loved the return of Forbush-Man, and if you don't know who that is it's because you're a person. I don't care if this won an '07 Young Adult Library Service Association award, the fact remains this could've been a really fun and interesting comic that avoids the Marvel continuity, but instead reads more like an insult to both Marvel comics and Marvel comics fans. Nextwave

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. 

Step Aside, Pops (A Hark! A Vagrant Collection) - Kate Beaton

I had read another Hark! A Vagrant collection--I believe the first one--and really enjoyed it, so naturally I grabbed this one. For the first half I was pretty disappointed; maybe the comics just weren't as funny, or maybe the historical and literary references that are used as backdrops to these gags were just too unknown for me (sorry, my knowledge of Canada is limited). Luckily, I kept reading and really enjoyed the second half. Lots of fun, but obviously not for everyone. Vagrant

Supermutant Magic Academy - Jillian Tamaki

This is the Canadian Tamaki's first solo work and I've liked her other comics. I'm pretty sure this comic started out as a collection of absolutely random gags that largely involved teenagers in a school where everyone is either a Harry Potter witch or some sort of mutation. Eventually, our author realized she had enough to actually try to make a story out of them. So even though they are somewhat disjointed and rarely have a storyline more than a couple of pages (the longest one being the very end where she must've realized she needed some semblance of a plot), I got to say I really enjoyed it! The zany randomness of it all works so well with the teenage angst the characters have. If this was an X-Men comic about the students at school, it would be superb! Supermutant Magic Academy

Gotham City Sirens (Book 2) - Peter Calloway

This comic deals with three female villains: Poison Ivy, the man-hater that controls plants and men; Catwoman, the cat burglar; and Harley Quinn, the insane former psychiatrist. At first I was concerned that it might be the cheap way of appealing to your average comic book geek's libido, but it was actually pretty good, with stories (mostly by Calloway) focusing more on the relationship between the women and the problems the men in their life have caused. There was a bump in the road when one issue in the collection got sidetracked due to some company wide story, but other than that I approve. Gothan City Sirens

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.

Louise Brooks: Detective - Rick Geary

I greatly enjoy Geary's works, especially his historical recounts of murderers. Perhaps because of this I am less enamored by his fiction (especially one wherein certain plot details are hidden and the ending feels rushed). While this was a fine work about a has been actress who stumbles upon a mystery, I'm more eager to read about real people and real mysteries. Sorry that you've been typecast, Geary, but if you do something great why not stick with it? Louise Brooks

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

Chaos War - Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente

Seriously, it took two author to produce the worst comic I've ever read. The cliched plot of the end of the universe coupled with Hercules, of all characters, having supergod powers and, with the help of his super genius friend (because dumb jocks and super geniuses are always buds), proceed to do nothing page after page until they win and everything is back to normal. I read it all because I had to prove to myself that it could not possibly be this bad--but it was, and I'm convinced it is an inside joke meant as an insult toward comic readers because I can't believe they thought this was anything less than awful. It's posted under the October/Halloween theme because it is a nightmare to read.

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.