Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cyberantics (Science Fiction) (Graphic Novel)

by Jerry Prosser & Rick Geary

Published: Dark Horse Comic (September 1, 1992).

Hardcover, 64 pages.

This is a very weird spin-off from the Aliens franchise (specifically Aliens: Hive) as it is more of a children's book rather than a grim tale of alien xenomorphs gestating their way through a future humanity that has lost touch with what it means to be human.

The tone is hopeful and happy, brought on primarily by the art of Rick Geary, whose style (even when depicting brutal scenes) is cute and friendly. Cyberantics is about the adventures of a cybernetic ant who goes out into a hive to begin exploring and finds love and happiness, while rescuing a larva queen from slavery in another ant hive. Interspersed throughout the story are annotations on physiology of ants, technical notes on the AI unit in the cybernetic ant, and background information on the man himself. It ends with a detailed bio of the fictional genius Stanislaw Miakovski.

Aliens: Hive is about Stanislaw Miakovski, a cybernetic and AI expert, is a beautiful young thief has approached him to use his experience and expertise to create a cybernetic alien to sneak into an alien hive and steal the rare and valuable alien jelly. She goes to him because she read this book, Cyberantics, as a child.

Despite the grim origins of the story, this is a fun little book, and would actually be a good gift for any young children interested in science fiction.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chopper: Song of the Surfer (Science Fiction) (Graphic Novel)

by John Wagner & Colin MacNeil

Publisher: Time Warner Books UK (1990)

Softcover, 96 pages

From the pages of Judge Dredd comes Chopper. He, like Judge Anderson, Red Razors, Judge Death, and many others, we're semi-successful spin-offs of 2000 AD’s most successful character.
Written by John Wagner right after ending his long-standing collaboration with Alan Grant, the story carries on all the great traditions of the Cursed Earth of Judge Dredd - without the big man himself. It is deeply satirical of modern day society, in this case our obsession with sports, and how a player is so often tossed away and forgotten the moment he no longer is useful. Along with comes the standard ultra-violence standard in Judge Dredd and which attracts most if it's readership. Let's face it, without ridiculous amounts of violence, symbolizing the breakdown of society and the insanity inherent in it, then the Judge Dredd stories would just be a guy on a hoverbike snarling at people while passing out traffic tickets.

Chopper began as a villain in the Judge Dredd series, in the now-classic Unamerican Graffiti storyline, as the most prolific graffiti artist in mega-city one. Of course it ended up with him being tossed into the notorious iso-cubes of the city. He broke out several years later only to become a sky-surfer, which is exactly what it sounds like, which became his defining characteristic for the rest of his stories.
Eventually his exploits and illegal surfing led him to being exiled into the Oz, the remains of Australia, and he has spent several years wandering about the big empty. After his friend dies, he drifts back to surfing and enters Supersurf 11, the biggest event in the sport, only now it has become a violent death race with no guarantee of survivors. Chopper, realizing his life has no purpose without the sport, enters. The race goes on with as close to a near-perfect ending as any of these 2000 AD stories have.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Fun Never Stops!: An Anthology of Comic Art 1991-2006 (Humor) (Graphic Novel)

by Drew Friedman, Daniel Clowes (Foreward), Ben Swartz (Introduction). 

Publisher: Fantagraphics (January 1, 2007)

Softcover, 144 page

This will be a short review because there's very little I can say about the material in this book which cannot be seen from the illustrations provided. In fact, you reading now have probably already made up your mind on whether you're going to buy this volume.
I've never met anyone who didn't like Friedman's work, or seen anyone, or smelled anyone (I assume they would stink of sour milk and Bengay), and that's because it's almost impossible not to be blown away by the skill and detail clearly visible in each panel. Each portrait is riddled with life, bringing out the humanity and innate cultural ugliness in each person. No one is too might and mighty not to be brought down a few pegs by Friedman’s work.

As Daniel Clowes points out in his introduction Friedman’ charactures are somehow more real than actual photographs of the subjects. In this volume covering his career from 1991-2006 (but not his pieces for Heavy Metal unfortunately), Friedman collects numerous portraits of famous people, satirical strips with obscure pop culture references, and an entire section devoted to The Duke of Eltingville- a rare creation of his own.  Also included is a lengthy biography of the man, detailing his first publishing efforts with Weirdo, his rise to success and his problems with Joe Franklin and Woody Allen.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Astro City vol 16: Broken Melody (Superhero) (Graphic Novel)

by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, & Alex Ross
Publisher: Vertigo (August 21, 2018)
Hardcover, 192 pages

Collecting issues 37, 38, 41, 43, & 46  of the ongoing Vertigo series, Astro City is the best superhero comic on the market today, bar none. When it first emerged that may have been debatable, but now with the quality decline of mainstream superhero giants this remains the last title standing.
Finally the creative team of the comic reveals to us the origin (maybe) of the green haired, purple skinned hero The Broken Man- a hero that has popped up since the series switched over to the Vertigo imprint. As usual the character breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the reader. Of course, the wall is only broken from our perspective, the character thinks he talking to beings in another dimension.
This volumes focuses on heroes from Astro City’s past, back to when the metropolis was called Romelyn Falls. We see the origins of The Gentleman and The Astro-Naut (whom Astro City was later named after), two characters mentioned and pictured often, but never before have they been the center of attention.
But primarily The Broken Man describes an entity which shifts with the musical currents of the time. The entity has some strange connections to a snake cult, and The Broken Man describes various stories tracking this odd entity as he becomes Mr. Cakewalk around the turn of the 20th Century, Jazz Baby in the 20s, The Bouncing Beatnik in the 50s, The Halcyon Hippie in the 60s, and ____ in the 70s - then a catastrophe leads to a different entity being spawned. As before each of these characters had been mentioned in various issues, but now they are all drawn together definitively.
This is the type of story telling that keeps me coming back to the series. Each issue adds a little more to the complicated puzzle of this world’s universe. The art, as always, perfectly fits the action. It is a joy to read. I always become a little sad at the end of each volume, as I now have to wait months for the next one. But that moment when I rip open the package and take out the book...ohhhh. It's like Christmas when I was seven all over again.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Vicarious View (Science Fiction)

by Brian Barr

Publisher: Brian Barr Books (June 26, 2018)

Softcover, 42 pages

“Please don’t pull back on our deal, Tanaka, Nishiyoka thought, hoping his plea would leak through those metal receptors that extended from the hardware lodged into Tanaka’s brain, the small computer that allowed Nishiyoka to experience life through his host. I waited months just for the program to pick a viable candidate. What a life you lead. The exhilarating work of acting. The money. The women. Even my own life, born into wealth, was never like yours. I never lived the kind of life worth living. The days before and after my cancer were pathetic and miserable. You give me hope. You allow me to live again. You give me the space to be free and live as a true person… not just some log in a hospital bed.”
A short story of the highest caliber, set in the most underused (in my humble opinion) categories of science fiction, cyberpunk. A subgenre of science fiction not done well enough and one that seems to be neglected as of late.
In this story, we have a man, Nishiyoka, withering of cancer, but rather than waste what little life he had has his mind linked to a successful actor and lives as much as he can in the other man’s mind. But the actor has problems of his own, in both his love and professional lives. Soon those problems come to take their toll and Tanaka is accidentally swept up in it.
Author Brian Barr
The story asks the simple question (with no answer given, like all great literature) about the quality of life. -Nishiyoka, along with his wife who is simply a brain in a jar, have been robbed of all the pleasures of life. But is their vicarious existence actual living? Is it a life worth having. From a modern day perspective, it is similar to a person who spends nearly all their time playing video games or watch movies. Is that the life you want? Living through others achievements.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

All Waldo Comics (Humor) (Graphic Novel)

by Kim Deitch 

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (March 1, 1992)

Softcover, 64 Pages

Waldo is an unspade cartoon black cat who is always depicted with his penis in the appropriate spot. If you find that image distasteful, don't bother with the rest of this article.
The author, Kim Deitch (a man, for those who are interested) has been around the underground comix scene since there was some scene, but never really rose above his indie roots until after the millennium with his book The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Waldo is a reprehensible, mean-spirited alcoholic, with a number one branded on his stomach. He is the result of genetic engineering...kind of. In each of the stories presented here he screws, drinks, shoots heroin, and murders people without hesitation or remorse. Very entertaining.

There are a few autobiographical pieces included in the volume. One if them defends Waldo’s appearance. Apparently many people over the decades have accused him of ripping off Felix the Cat. Deitch defends his creation, by pointing out in the 30s every animation unit had a black cat character and all of them looked similar. Felix the Cat, Krazy Kat, Julius the Cat from Disney, all looked very similar. And he has a point. Waldo is a unique character and acts like none of the others. 
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

1 Month 2 Live (Superhero) (Graphic Novel)

by Rick Remender, John Ostrander, Stuart Moore, Rob Williams, Andrea Mutti, & Koi Turnbull

Publisher: Marvel (January 12, 2011) 

Hardcover, 128 pages

A bittersweet story from the Marvel universe about a man who tries to stop a mugging, is forced to eat toxic medical waste, and gains superpowers - don't think about it too much, just let it go. Written by a host of classic authors, each issue grabs the reader, offers a different villain, and does not hold back. Something that sadly missing in the modern Marvel lineup.
As it turns out, his new powers exacerbates an undiagnosed cancer lying in his stomach, causing it to grow at an incredible rate. Mr. Fantastic gives him only a month to live. In that time, this once depressed man in a boring life suddenly gets kicked into the land of superheroes. With his new powers to affect matter he defeats gangsters with Spiderman, saves the Galaxy against Ego, the Living Planet, and travels into the depths of the Savage Land with Ka-Zar.  All the while the cancer chews him up more with every power expenditure.
The action is counterpointed by a man coming to grips that his life us going to end. He has to weight that against taking care of his orphaned niece who's own Father died of cancer. It's an over the top story with a heart and tragic ending, but still one that inspires hope. Perhaps written in the best tradition of the old school comics. It makes a point but isn't preachy.  
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Moving Fortress (Fantasy) (Graphic Novel)

by Richardo Barreiro & Enrique Alcatena

Publisher: 4 Winds Publishing (November, 1988)

Softcover, 48 pages

This story first appeared in Skorpio, a South American magazine which published illustrated stories similar to Heavy Metal. It was first published in the 1980s by 4 Winds Publishing, an independent company dedicated to bringing foreign material to the United States. Unfortunately, it went bankrupt after two years and only producing a handful of books. Luckily, this was one of the books produced.
The entire story is in the tradition of The Trojan War, or the birth of King Arthur if you prefer. Two mighty armies go to war over a purloined wife (or so it seems at first) in an exaggerated series of epic battles. And our protagonist, Bask De Avregaut, is caught up in the middle of the conflict.

The titular “moving fortress” is a massive portable war machine, power on what seems to be nuclear waste, or fantasy equivalent of it. Our hero first becomes a captured slave, grinding away filling the engines with its toxic gunk. He eventually, after a few well-placed murders, works his way up the military hierarchy, until the final big battle.
While the story is almost predictable, the real reason to read this volume is the incredible and visionary art by Alcatena. It is clear he was allowed to take liberties with a lot of the material. Each panel is crafted with panache and verve, filled with fascinating detail and oddities. Nearly anyone of them could stand alone as an individual work of art. Taken together it is a breathtaking display of skill in the medium.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cartoons of the Roaring Twenties: Vol. 2: 1923 - 1925 (Humor)

Edited by R. C. Harvey 
Publisher: Fantagraphics (1992)
Softcover, 56 pages

The Roaring Twenties was the decade which truly gave definition to the twentieth century. It’s style, it’s rapaciousness, it’s blatant sexuality, and the explosion of mass media mediums of film, wire news services, and radio tossed away the last remnants of Victorian era ideas. In fact, one could claim that Americana as a whole had finally gripped the entire nation, rather than certain parts of it.  
And one of the most important aspects of any paper or magazine (which were in their heyday in the 20s) was their illustrations. A newspaper could not survive without a good comic section. The quality of the illustrations in a magazine was a direct reflection of the worthiness of the rest of its content. Crossword puzzles, comic pages, and movies were all the rage. 
Collected here is a great selection of cartoons from the luminaries of the day. Near forgotten names like John Held Jr. who’s drawings were said to have created the flapper identity. As humorist Corey Ford wrote “Each new Held drawing was poured over like a Paris fashion plate. Girls cropped their hair and rouged their cheeks and shortened their skirts to be in style, galoshes and racoon coats were indispensable to every male undergraduate wardrobe.” Held claimed he was simply copying the styles around him, but many others in turn copied the copied fashions of his illustrations.  

Also, in this second volume of work was that of Percy L. Crosby who created a decades favorite character named Skippy, a lovable tyke who gets into all sorts of mischief. While that sounds familiar in many comic strips, Skippy was the original. Alas, the only last vestige of this franchise is the peanut butter named after the character.

The two above are far from the only luminaries in this collection. Here we will also see the evolution of the comic scene, specifically the single panel gag. In the beginning hte gag was written and placed along with a seemingly random image. Often the gag and image could bear no real resemblance to each other, but as the years pass we see the merging of both art and text. This volume is essential for those who are interested in the evolution of the medium.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Canardo Private Eye: Blue Angel (Graphic Novel)

by Sokal 

Publisher: NBM Publishing Co. (June 1, 1991)

Softcover, 46 pages

Another bleak anthropomorphic world from our European cousins. The Inspector Canardo series has spawned over twenty two volumes over the years in Belgium, but only two were published in English. This is the second one (I seem to only be reviewing second volumes lately). Both are listed on Amazon- for those who are interested.
Drawn in a somewhat classic funny animal style, with a dark pallet underlying the entire scene, the main character Canardo (named after the French word “canard”, meaning “duck”) stumbles drunkenly through his life. And considering his world is filled with broken down buildings, grimy landscapes, iron-grey seas, and ruined old forts, who the blame the duck for not wanting to stay sober.

The story is a topsy-turvy one that seems as if it’s rambling in the middle, but eventually all plot points tie in together. Canardo can barely be called a protagonist in this story as he does little but observe the violent and bizarre events, in between bouts of drinking. It is an almost evil tale, with almost no redeeming characters. The action revolves around a gentle bear, easily picked on, who turns into a raging psychopath whenever he hears a particular song. It is a wonderfully sleazy tale with a very violent ending.
Just for information, the creator of this series, BenoĆ®t Sokal, was also the director for one of my favorite video games back in the day, Siberia. It’s a point-and-click narrative puzzle game in the style of Broken Sword about a woman’s journey to a mythical island. It’s beautifully rendered, or it was for 2005. It might be a bit dated now, but I enjoyed the game and its sequel immensely. Here is the wikipedia link for the game. It is available on Steam.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.