End of the line?

As you can see there has not been a lot of activity on this blog for a while. I have been crazy busy at work this year and have had no time to record my thoughts on books as I read them.

Is this likely to change in the future? Well probably not immediately as I will be involved in two projects at work that will take up most of my time up until at least August.

So I will post here when I can but it is probably going to be sporadic for the first half of the year at least. For now I will leave you with a graphic of all the comic books I have read this year courtesy of Goodreads (click on the image to magnify):

comics read 2013

All quiet on the western front …

So it’s gone a bit quiet here again. No good reason just been busy at work and haven’t been reading any comics lately. Not that I don’t have a lot to read. Aside from my big stack of unread books at home I have also been taking advantage of the various sales at Comixology and Dark Horse and have a pile of digital comics to read including complete runs of American VampireTransmetropolitanThe BoysGrendelTerminal City and many others.

My reading time lately has been taken up with Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga – I have just started the second book Judas Unchained.

I have also been catching up on some TV series I have missed in the last few years such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Caprica and Arrow.

However, I have recently bought the final volume of Vertigo‘s Hellblazer series so I will try to read that before the end of the month but after that will probably go quiet until after the summer.

Joker/Mask (2001)

“Wait! Where’s the SWAT team? I don’t see the SWAT team! I don’t even rate the SWAT team anymore.”

Joker/Mask is the collection of a four issue series from DC and Dark Horse. The story was written by Henry Gilroy with art from Ramon F. Bachs and Howard M. Shum. I have not seen the work of any of these creators before but Gilroy is a co-writer on the Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series among other animation series credits. Bachs is a Spanish artist who has worked on a number of Star Wars comics as well as some titles for Marvel and DC.  Shum is a writer on a number of titles as well as an artist.

The Joker decides to go to a museum and blow up an exhibition featuring frowning clown masks. However his day does not go well as the head henchman has sent the other henchmen to the wrong location and Harley Quinn has removed the detonators from all the explosives. But the henchman discovers a mask that gives the wearer a manic energy and superhuman powers. Wearing the mask, the Joker is able to beat Batman severely enough that he is out of action feared dead and the Joker is left free to pursue his insane agenda across Gotham while monopolising the television airwaves. Harley fears for the Joker and enlists Poison Ivy’s help to remove the mask from the Joker before he blows up Gotham for real.

This story features the Joker on maximum overdrive and overkill. Even Harley Quinn finds it hard to continue to love her Mister J and the Joker/Mask has to keep coming up with wilder and more extreme exploits to stop himself becoming bored with how easy committing crime is with super powers. While there is some really good comic moments in this book, the manic intensity of the Joker/Mask combination is sometimes too much for the reader as it is for the characters in the story. With the Joker/Mask as the main character throughout the book, the pressure to come up with gag after gag relentlessly is a perhaps a drag on the writing.

I liked the art from Bachs and Shum. It is very cartoony in style but fit in well with cartoon qualities of the Mask and the manifestation of his powers. There are even some lovely renderings of Poison Ivy as well.

A quick and cheerful read that won’t change your life but is worth a look if you can find it.

Maxwell Strangewell (2007)

“The bliss of its waters draws all souls. Can you not feel its pull?”

“All I feel is wind and sand up my ass!”

This is a 380 page graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics and was written and drawn by the Fillbach Brothers, Matthew and Shawn. I have read and enjoyed their Roadkill book, also from Dark Horse.

When Anna Gilmour investigates the crash site of an object that falls to Earth, the last thing that she expects to see is a giant, mute, humanoid walking from crater. She names the alien Maxwell and uniquely bonds with it. However, Max is a semi-mythical, powerful being that a lot of alien races want to exploit. The ensuing conflict threaten to consume the Earth and all living beings upon it.

I enjoyed this story but it had a bit of a multiple personality. It started out as a humorous Men in Black/X-files crossover with the Earth populated by many different races all spying on each other waiting for the return of the Strangewell. Then it mutated into an apocalyptic end of the world story as the power of the Strangewell was misappropriated by one delusional member of the alien race to which all accountants belong. Before finally becoming a morality tale on the abuse of power and knowledge. The size of the graphic novel gave the creators time to do this but it did feel like three books at times. Worth a look if you enjoyed Roadkill.

The Quest for the Missing Girl (2008)

“Why does everyone always talk about Megu and never about me? Me too … I’d like somebody to help me too sometime …”

Something a bit different this time. This book is a single volume Manga with writing and art by Jiro Taniguchi. This is the first work that I have read by him but he has a career stretching back to beginning of the 80s. This one was originally published in 2000 but this English edition is from 2008.

When the daughter of his dead friend goes missing,  Shiga feels obligated to travel to Tokyo to help look for her. He feels guilty for not being with his friend when he died on a mountain climbing expedition with his last written words being a plea to look out for his wife and daughter. Shiga’s investigations lead to the uncovering of a secret life of the missing girl and the climb of his life to rescue her.

This was an enjoyable read without being exceptional. The story was a fairly standard thriller that didn’t really explore the motivations of the characters and left a lot unsaid about tension felt by Shiga in the presence of his friend’s wife. Also the outcome of the story was never really in doubt so, for me, there was not a lot of dramatic tension. The black and white art, however, is very nice with some beautifully detailed backgrounds of the mountains and the city of the kind that you only seem to get in Manga books.

Back to Brooklyn (2009)

“It wasn’t Saetta, oh no, but it was part of the shitstorm he’s stirred up. Part of the fucking walking warzone the son of a bitch just is.”


This book collects the five issue series from Image Comics. The story was by Jimmy Palmiotti and Garth Ennis and was written by Garth Ennis with art by Mihailo Vukelic. Hopefully Ennis requires no introduction from me as he is one of my favourite writers and I have written about him and some of his books on this blog. Jimmy Palmiotti is a writer and inker who often collaborates with Justin Gray and had a five year run on Jonah Hex. This series marked the comic book debut of Mihailo Vukelic.

Bob Saetta is a gangster who has turned himself over to the police and federal agents to testify against his crime lord brother, Paul, and bring down his criminal empire. However, Paul is holding Bob’s wife and child and so Bob arranges with the lead investigators that he be released long enough so that he can free his family. They agree and so begins a bitter battle waged on the streets of Brooklyn between the brothers.

This is a pretty straight forward hard-boiled crime story from Garth Ennis. Whether it is under the influence of Palmiotti or not, the violence portrayed in the book is grim and brutal but without the underlying black humour that we expect from Ennis’ own work. The reason for Bob’s turning against his brother seems like a typical Ennis shocker but there are moments of the blackest humour when Bob visits his mother to talk about what Paul has been up to. The art from Vukelic is very nice but somewhat unusual too. The colouring leaves the book looking like a sepia toned document of the past and the colour palette is muted throughout. All in all a good read but I do miss the all out craziness of one of Ennis’ own scripts.

The Private Eye #1 (2013)

“Look, once upon a time people stored all their deepest, darkest secrets in something called ‘The Cloud’, remember? Well one day the cloud burst.”

This is a new venture from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin that is creator owned and only available online at a price that you choose. Vaughan is a writer known for series such as Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and current hit series Saga. Martin is a Spanish artist who has worked with Vaughan before on Doctor Strange: The Oath and Gotham City Secret Files.

The story is set in a future where people guard every aspect of their private life including their true face from each other. In this society, the Paparazzi are private investigators who are hired to find out the personal details on subjects and the Press seem to act as the regulating force attempting to apprehend these illegal investigators.

The story has an intriguing premise in the current climate of the increasing blurring of private and public personas via social media and cloud services. The first issue, of a projected 10 issue series, rattles along and grips nicely. The art by Martin is very nice and the crowd scenes, with everyone in disguises of one kind or another, remind me of Geof Darrow.

I liked the comic very much and I hope that the creators get enough support for them to finish off the story. It will be interesting to see if this sort of venture can stand up against commercial enterprises such as Comixology Submit. The first issue is available now from the Panel Syndicate web site.

Hit-Girl (2013)

“Okay, if you’re going to be a little pussy about it I guess we can start on the baby floor. Jesus, Dave! It’s like training the Tiny Titans sometimes.”

Kick-Ass is back with a vengeance in this prelude story, to both the movie and the comic Kick-Ass 2, featuring Hit-Girl. The book collects the the five issue series and was created by the usual creative team of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

After the death of her father in the first Kick-Ass series, pint-sized vigilante Mindy McCready finds herself back living with her nervous mother and police detective step-father. This proves to be to be a fly in the ointment for Mindy who , as Hit-Girl, wants to destroy the Genovese family and their associates as revenge for her father. She also takes Kick-Ass under her wing supervising his superhero training but her most difficult task is fitting in as a 12 year old girl at school.

I loved this book. It full of humour taking a long hard look at the actions of comic book superheroes when fighting crime, who Mindy places a lot of emphasis on when training Kick-Ass, but also in a great series of sequences featuring Red Mist as he takes the Batman route and learns Eastern techniques from Himalayan monks and mystics. The ultraviolence is present too as Hit-Girl destroys the Genovese crime empire piece by piece and closer to home as her actions bring the mob to her door threatening her new found family. If you are already a fan of the Kick-Ass series then you will probably be picking this up anyway without any recommendation from me but if you haven’t read them and are a fan of Garth Ennis then you should give the books a try – start with Kick-Ass followed by this one and then Kick-Ass 2.

I have to mention that the series cover gallery also features this fabulous variant cover to issue 5 by Bill Sienkiewicz after Sienkiewicz:

Brilliant!

Fairest #8-13 (2012-13)

“I wish they’d let me join them in death. I would have been a great ghost. Maybe I didn’t have the right hat.”

Fairest #8 cover

This spin-off series from Fables enters its second major story line, and its first without creator Bill Willingham who remains as a consultant, with South African author Lauren Beukes taking on the writing duties. The art is handled by Inaki Miranda who has previously had some one issue credits on the main Fables title. The covers were all by Adam Hughes.

The focus of this story is Rapunzel and it is set back in 2002 before the start of the escalation of the war with the Adversary and Mister Dark – so we see them in their original residence, have Snow White in power, in all but name, and some old characters that have since passed on such as Boy Blue and Jack  who has a fairly prominent role in the story. The story itself sees Rapunzel travel to Japan on the hunt for the children that she believes where stolen from her but instead she runs into an old lover from the Hidden Kingdom, a feudal Japanese Fables homeland where Rapunzel lived for a while after the loss of her children. The actions of the past  catch up with her as her lover, now a Yakuza style gang lord, seeks revenge for the role she believes that Rapunzel played in the destruction of the Hidden Kingdom.

I read the first novel from Lauren Beukes, Moxyland, a while ago and I wasn’t terribly impressed. For me there were no sympathetic characters for me to have an emotional connection with and so in the end I didn’t really care what happened to anyone in the book. And the same problem affects this story line to a certain degree. In the end the story itself was fine and the broadening of the back story of Rapunzel was good – with enough left unresolved so that it could be revisited in the future – but the emotional connection was not there for me. Part of the problem may have been setting it in the past and so it doesn’t connect with much that has happened in the main series but mainly there was no threat as we know the fate of a lot of the main Fables that appeared and so the drama was lessened. The artby Inaki Miranda was clean and cute for the most part but horrific and brutal when it needed to be. It remains to be seen if there is to be any impact of this story on the main series or upcoming story lines in Fairest but at the moment it feels like a throw away, standalone tale with no real weight as it was not written by the series creator.

Nemo: Heart of Ice (2013)

“It’s just this coat. It’s so big and heavy sometimes.”

A spin-off story from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books featuring Janni Dakkar as Captain Nemo. The normal creative team of writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill are in charge again for this short adventure.

Set in 1925, the story sees Janni and her crew stealing the belongings of Queen Ayesha who is in New York as the guest of Charles Foster Kane. Back in her hideaway, Janni reflects on her life and her need to emulate and exceed the deeds of her father and so decides to travel to Antarctica to retrace her father’s steps on a quest that left his companions dead and him near to madness. Meanwhile Kane has hired three scientific adventurers to capture Janni at all costs to seek reparation for the loss and embarrassment felt by his house guest.

A more straight-forward story that the dense Century series that was completed last year, this story marks a return to the lighter storytelling of the original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. The shortness of the story does not give time for much context within the LOEG universe or a well defined reason for the adventure to the South Pole but it is still entertaining nonetheless. The usual elements are here with numerous figures from film and literature making an appearance as well as hallucinatory sequences and alien civilisations. Perhaps not a joining in point for readers new to the LOEG but a fun ride for those who liked the early books.