Ursula (2004)

 

Quote:
“And how does a love story end?”

“It doesn’t.”

 

This one was written and drawn by Brazilian brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. They created the hit mini-series Daytripper for Vertigo recently and Bá is also known for The Umbrella Academy on Dark Horse and they have both worked on the Image comic Casanova with writer Matt Fraction.

Ursula is a beautiful, short meditation on love, the power of a child’s imagination and the fulfilment of dreams come true coupled with some great black and white artwork.

Catwoman: When in Rome (2005)

 

Quote:
You can keep asking questions. As long as you understand you may not like the answers.

 

This book collects the six issue mini-series of the same name and tells the story of the investigations of Catwoman when she disappeared from Gotham as mentioned in The Long Halloween. The book is by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale the creative team behind DC’s The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Superman for all Seasons and Marvel’s colour series: Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-man: Blue, Hulk: Gray and a book that sadly looks like it won’t be coming out now Captain America: White.

The story finds Catwoman in Rome looking for evidence to prove whether or not her father is Gotham crime boss Carmine Falcone. Accompanied by Edward Nigma and a mafia hitman minder, Christopher “The Blond” Castillo, she soon finds herself having to steal the Mafia equivalent of the one ring from the Vatican. In her travels echoes of Gotham travel with her as a mafia boss is murdered with the Joker’s poison; she finds herself under attack from Mr Freeze’s gun and the villainess Cheetah who seems to have followed her from Gotham. And what is the meaning of the strange dreams she has of Batman that haunt her throughout the trip.

The partnership of Loeb and Sale has produced some great series, as listed above. This one is a reasonable effort but I think it suffers from being an afterthought to a subplot in The Long Halloween. If I had re-read The Long Halloween before reading this one then I might have felt differently but I don’t think there is enough plot of substance here for a casual reader, or even a fan of Catwoman herself, who had not read the previous series. If you are a fan of Sale’s art then it is worth having a look for that reason – there are some very nice examples including the wonderful covers (based on the work of René Gruau) to the original mini-series.

Vampire Boy (2010)

 

Quote:
Sure, I can’t die but I don’t have a life either.

 

This book collects the four volumes of Vampire Boy into English for the first time. It is one of a number of collaborations between the Argentinean creators – writer Carlos Trillo, who died earlier this year, and artist Eduardo Risso. This is a fairly early work for Risso from the early nineties and features some wonderful black & white art.

The nameless vampire boy of the book’s title is one of two survivors of a mysterious disease that swept through a company of travellers in ancient Egypt that left his father, the pharaoh Khufu, and the remainder of his party dead in the desert. The other survivor is a priestess named Ahmasi, a favourite consort of Khufu until the boy points out her indiscretions with others in the court. So starts a cycle of hatred and violence between the pair that endures throughout the centuries. Though they try neither can kill the other by conventional means as the sun restores them to health and vitality. The story opens with the boy being revived when a construction site opens a shaft of light to his hidden body. Ahmasi soon discovers that the boy is back in circulation and begins a blood soaked quest to track him down and kill him once and for all.

The book comes in at nearly 500 pages and while that gives us lots of lovely Risso art work to look at, it does mean that the story does drag slightly at times. But mostly it is great as we come to sympathise with the nameless boy and his heartbreaking existence. Unusually for a vampire tale, the sun, as previously mentioned, regenerates the vampires and while they can feed on blood the boy tends not to and can survive on normal food – but has to eat an awful lot of it. The book has a wide ranging canvas taking us from modern New York to New Orleans and London as well as flashbacks throughout history as the nature of the relationship between the boy and Ahmasi is explored. The boy comes across as a tired gentle soul who makes friends easily but not usually for long as Ahmasi will stop at nothing to reach him.

As I said previously, Risso’s art is great and the use of shade and silhouette reminds me of the work of Frank Miller on Sin City round about the same time. There is a noirish element to the story too as Ahmasi works as a prostitute, is followed around by a lovestruck detective who she uses to track down the boy and generally seems to attract the seedier side of life. A welcome change of pace from the costumed antics of the American superheroes.

The Green Woman (2010)

 

Quote:
I’ve been a good servant. But haven’t I done enough? Haven’t I?

 

This book is an original graphic novel from Vertigo comics and was written by the veteran horror novelist Peter Straub with Michael Easton who is the writer of the Soul Stealer trilogy. The painted art is from illustrator JohnBolton whose work I know from other Vertigo books such as The Furies, God Save the Queen and Menz Insana.

Fielding Bandolier is a man who has had many identities but who has always walked with Death but is now tired and haunted by his victims. Bob Steele is a cop tormented by a string of serial killings across the country. His quest will lead him to a final confrontation with Bandolier by way of the relics from a cursed ship – the timbers of which have found their way into two pubs – one in Ireland, The Black Galleon, and one in the USA, The Green Woman.

This book features characters from Straub’s Blue Rose trilogy of books – Koko, Mystery and The Throat. I have to admit that I have come to this book without any previous knowledge of these books, or of any of Straub’s previous books as I have not read any. The story was OK but I was left wondering if I would have gotten more out of it if I had read the novels first – it definitely benefits from an immediate re-read and reading in one sitting. The main reason that I bought this book was for the fantastic painted artwork by John Bolton and this did not disappoint in the slightest. The book features some trademark Bolton gorgeous ladies as well as the likeness of Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as Fielding Bandolier.