REVIEW: Any Empire (3/10)

AnyEmpire

Score
3/10

I’ll keep this one kinda short, primarily because I don’t have much good to say.  :[

Any Empire is basically a very weird, very dark story centered around a group of ill-adjusted juvenile boys doing mean, disturbing things. It’s depressing, and it’s uncomfortably real – which may be why I didn’t enjoy it that much. I kept thinking, “these are the kids who grow up to shoot a bunch of innocent people”. Not exactly a “fun” read, I guess…

That unsettling association wasn’t even the main turn-off for me, however. (Hell, I consistently give Scalped rave reviews, and that shit is downright masochistic.) No, my main problem with Any Empire was that I never really knew what the hell was going on! The story is constantly flashing back and forth between past, present, and fantasy, without ever clearly indicating which realm you’re currently in, or that you had even transported. It’s up to the reader to figure all that out, and figure out how the current events relate to the rest of the story.

Further obscuring the narrative is a dearth of expository text, or even dialogue between the characters. The whole thing actually kinda reminds me of poetry, in that there is probably a very profound message there, if you’re willing to ponder and parse the material and “crack the mystery”. But personally, that’s just not what I’m looking for in a comic book. Tell me a good, exciting, story straight-up, illustrate it with cool pictures, and I’m happy.

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Posted in 3: You might finish it, but wonder why., Reviews | 1 Comment

REVIEW: Hellboy, Vol. 9: The Wild Hunt (6/10)

Hellboy Volume 9, The Wild Hunt

Hellboy, Vol. 9:
The Wild Hunt
Dark Horse
2010
Story: Mike Mignola
Art: Duncan Fegredo
ISBN 978-1595824318

Score
6/10

Here we go, another Hellboy review, and sadly that’s kinda how it feels. Hellboy’s stagnated a bit with Hellboy, Vol. 9: The Wild Hunt, which disappoints me just a little, because generally I’m a pretty big fan of Mike Mignola‘s world-ending demon with a heart of gold.

Let’s talk about the good stuff first – that’s the art.

Back in the day, Mignola used to write and illustrate these Hellboy stories all by himself. Nowadays, he mainly just writes, and then gives his Rolodex of guest artists a spin to see who will jump at the chance to draw ol’ Anung un Rama. This time, that honor was bestowed upon Mr. Duncan Fegredo, who has worked on Hellboy several times in the past.

Perhaps not unexpectedly then, Fegredo does an excellent job of staying true to Mignola’s style. That’s a good thing, because there are few series out there with as characteristic a style as Hellboy. In fact, the uninitiated might not notice the difference between Fegredo’s work and Mignola’s. If you have The Wild Hunt in front of you and you want to do a quick comparison, check out the chapter leaves (drawn by Mignola), vs. the story pages (Fegredo). There are subtle differences, but Fegredo preserves the same bold, dark, expressive linework & dramatic shading that are Mignola’s hallmarks. Dave Stewart‘s flat, earthy colors add that oppressing touch of melancholy to the whole thing.

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Posted in 6: It was OK..., Reviews | Leave a comment

REVIEW: Anya’s Ghost (9/10)

anyas_ghost

Score
9/10

Today’s review is Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol. I came across this title on one of those “Top Graphic Novels of the Year” lists, although for the life of me I can’t find it now. That’s unfortunate, because that now-lost site was absolutely right: this is a great little book, and almost certainly one of the best of 2011.

I wasn’t familiar with Vera Brosgol’s work before, but I quickly fell in love with her illustrative style and clever & authentic writing. Brosgol beautifully renders Anya’s Ghost in clean ink lines and monochromatic watercolor. That combined with the cutesy characters give this book a very Scott-Pilgrimy feel – which is not at all a bad thing in my humble opinion. But perhaps the most charming aspect of her illustrations is the characters’ facial expressions. They are adorably exaggerated, and could honestly tell half of this tale all by themselves, without the aid of dialogue.

Fortunately, the dialogue and the story itself are also quite enjoyable. Without giving too much a way, Anya’s Ghost is sort of a teen angst/coming-of-age tale, with some added dashes of suspense, romance, and a murder mystery in just the right proportions. It’s fun, it’s cute, and it actually gets pretty intense toward the end. I found myself flying through the pages, barely looking at the lovely drawings because I was so caught up in the story.

It’s also a very quick read. I’d say I finished it in 2-3 hours, and believe me I’m no speed reader. That makes it a pretty low-risk book to pick up, which is good, because I highly recommend you do just that. Because even though it’s short and cute, it’s still everything a good graphic novel should be: fun, interesting, exciting, and well executed, with a lot of character. I’m giving this little gem a 9 out of 10, and it earned every digit. Furthermore, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of Vera Brosgol’s work in the future!

Happy reading. :)

Posted in 9: A pretty damn good book., Reviews | Leave a comment

REVIEW: Scalped, Vol. 8: You Gotta Sin To Get Saved (7/10)

Scalped, Vol. 8: You Gotta Sin To Get Saved

Scalped, Vol. 8:
You Gotta Sin To Get Saved
Vertigo
2011
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guera, Jason Latour, Davide Furno
ISBN 978-1401232887

Score
7/10

Well, I’ve already rambled on at length in my previous Scalped reviews about how amazeballs this series is, so I think I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Here are some pearls, in a pseudo-tag-cloud format, ordered by relevance, that describe Scalped:

violence, organized crime, deception, family, native american, poverty, murder, drugs, sex, spirituality, alcohol, modern-day, ambition, trust, dark 

Sounds like fun, huh? Believe me, these books are dirty, sexy, guilty, train-wreck fun – and I assure you, you’ll love every minute.

But don’t get me wrong – this train wreck has bleeding heart. The characters are both brilliantly crafted and painfully relatable. They do bad, praying it’s for the benefit of the greater good – and then they pray again for redemption. They are uncomfortably real, in that they each have the potential for tender kindness, and disturbingly understandable evil.

So that’s Scalped in general, but what about Vol. 8, You Gotta Sin To Get Saved? Besides being written (as always) by the brilliant Jason Aaron, this collection is illustrated by frequent guest hosts R.M. Guera and Davide Furno, as well as Mr. Jason Latour. I enjoyed all three, actually, but if I had to pick a least favorite it would be Furno. (sorry!) His characters are just a bit too exaggerated, too cartoonish for my taste. But none of them are bad though – as a whole, the book is a visual delight. Delightful like a rusty, blood-stained crowbar that is…

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Posted in 7: Decent., Reviews | Leave a comment

REVIEW: You’ll Never Know, Book One: A Good And Decent Man (5/10)

You’ll Never Know, Book One: A Good And Decent Man
Fantagraphics
2009
Carol Tyler
ISBN 1606991442

Score
5/10

Ok, I’m just going to kind of free-form this one, and we’ll see how it goes…

So, “You’ll Never Know, Book One: A Good And Decent Man” is a self-proclaimed “graphic memoir” written and illustrated by one Mrs. Carol Tyler. I’d probably more accurately describe it as two memoirs in one. Two-thirds of the book is dedicated to telling the story of her dad’s experiences in WWII, and how they shaped the kind of father he became to the her. The remaining 1/3 is a mini-memoir of the events taking place in the author’s life at the time she decided to write this book.

The art is very folksy, and by that I mean it’s very busy, and rendered with a loose hand that is not overly concerned if the-nose-is-too-big-here or the-perspective-is-goofy-there. Not necessarily a bad thing, although I personally tend to appreciate more accuracy and technicality, a la Akira. The earthy water colors and hand-lettering (in a frustrating array of fonts) also lend to the hand-made feel.

The writing is somewhat challenging, for a couple reasons. First, the author skips back and forth between different events in both the past and present, without it always being completely obvious what she’s doing. Second, there isn’t a clear narrative explaining what’s happening. Much of the narrative must be gleaned from the characters’ dialogue, which is written in a very spoken-word style. Now, that may be the way we talk, but it doesn’t make for the easiest read. (Although I’m probably guilty of writing the same way. :P) Over all, the story just feels a bit scattered and confusing.

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Posted in 5: Meh., Reviews | Leave a comment