Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Comics”

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #86 Dial H (issues 1-6) by China Miéville

Right now DC Comics is revamping their entire line of comic book series as the New 52.  Of course, when they tapped China Miéville this project, he took on a series I’d never even heard of: Dial H for Hero.  In Dial H, Nelson, an ordinary, over-weight man, sees a friend being beaten by thugs in an alley and uses an old phone booth to call for help.  After dialing h, Nelson is turned into Boy Chimney and uses his superhero powers to defeat the thugs and get his friend to hospital.  Once he has returned to himself, Nelson is fascinated by the mystery of the dial and returns many times to use the old phone booth, each time being transformed into a random superhero for a short period of time.  Much of the fun of this series is just how very random each superhero is.  Miéville obviously had a lot of fun creating them.  Along the way, Miéville uses the random transformations to comment on superheroes.  An entire issue is devoted to just how racist and sexist superhero costumes can be, and Nelson begins to have problems keeping track of himself amid the superhero personalities he momentarily possesses.

The first six issues of Dial H (available in trade paperback form as Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You) are a delightful, hilarious, entertaining and thought-provoking romp.  I can’t wait to read more in the series.

Baxlala’s #CBR4 Review #33: Fables, Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham

bigby-480x352Here’s the thing…I actually reread all of Fables this year, but haven’t reviewed any of them and I don’t have a good reason, really, other than I read them all REALLY QUICKLY, so when it came time to review them, I couldn’t remember what exactly happened in each book and so I just decided not to review any of them. (Also, laziness.)

But! I did just read Werewolves of the Heartland, which is Fables but not like FABLES Fables. It’s a special edition or something, so I don’t feel like I have to address any kind of continuity from the rest of the books in order to talk about it. I mean, I probably will, but I don’t feel OBLIGATED. I hate feeling obligated, especially when I’m writing about werewolves who live in Iowa.

Because that’s what Werewolves of the Heartland is about, you know. Werewolves. Who live in Iowa.

For those who don’t know, Fables is a comic about a group of fictional characters who aren’t so fictional in this universe. In this universe, fairy tale characters have escaped from The Adversary and are now living in the human world, though they call humans Mundys because humans are all mortal and non-magical and therefore are always called something like Mundys or Muggles or some other derogatory nickname and WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ANYTHING COOL WHERE IS MY MAGIC WAND.

The Fables founded Fabletown (creative, right?), a neighborhood in NYC, a long, long time ago and are all the time trying to make sure Mundys don’t find out about them, because what would you do if you found out Prince Charming was living a few blocks away? You’d probably try and marry him, right? Well, don’t, because he’s a complete cad, I tell you, A CAD.

Snow White is HBIC and basically runs Fabletown, alongside Bigby Wolf (Big Bad Wolf, get it?) and we love them. No, I won’t tell you why. I won’t tell you anything else about Fabletown or Bigby or ANYONE. Go read all of Fables and then come back and we can talk about it, OK?

Anyway. Werewolves of the Heartland finds Bigby in Iowa, looking into a small town called Story City. Bigby is captured and, seeing that he’s the original wolf of all wolves, is both feared and loved. Some residents want him dead, others want to sleep with him and have his Super!Wolf babies cubs, and still others just want to hang out in his front yard and be blessed by him.

Bigby gets in some trouble, obviously, because he’s Bigby, but you’re never really that worried about him because he’s pretty much the ultimate badass. He’s the only Fable we really know who makes an appearance, other than an old friend of his that’s only appeared one other time in the Fables universe (to my knowledge), but that’s more than OK because we love Bigby. WE LOVE HIM SO MUCH.

Still, this little diversion of Bigby’s was pretty boring. I’d much rather see what’s going on with the rest of the Fables so, though I do always enjoy spending time with the Bigby, this kind of seemed like a waste of time, as you can probably tell from this review, since I spent more time talking about real Fables than this Fables.

(It DID feature some werewolf boobies and weiners, though. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

So, yeah. Five stars for Fables as a whole, only two stars for this installment. SORRY BIGBY.

Robert’s #CBR4 Review #10: How to Make Webcomics by Brad Guigar, Dave Kellett, Scott Kurtz, and Kris Straub

How to Make Webcomics is not a book you’re going to pick up as a casual read. It’s a well-planned guidebook to all the big technical topics that come into play when you want to launch a webcomic. Brad Guigar (Evil, Inc), Dave Kellett (Sheldon), Scott Kurtz (PvP), and Kris Straub (Starslip Crisis) break down everything you need to know about running a webcomic.

How to Make WebcomicsThere’s a big area of webcomic creation that falls outside of the book: actually writing and drawing a webcomic. This is not an art guide book. There are some design suggestions–silhouette exercises to help identify character, creating a line-up showing the relative height and proportion of the characters–and a few writing tips, but this will not teach you to draw or write a strip. You’ll have to find that experience elsewhere.

How to Make Webcomics focuses on putting your comic on the Internet. One chapter teaches you how to properly scan hand-drawn line art into your computer for upload or further manipulation. Another discusses all the possible factors you need to consider when naming and branding your website. The more business-driven the task, the more detail the creators put into the chapter.

Read more…

Rebecca’s #CBR4 Review #23: Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham et al.

Fables: Legends in Exile sets the story of the fables, creatures from fairy tales and fables living in the modern world. They retain the same strengths, weaknesses, and supernatural powers they had in the original stories, but they live among the humans, so they have to be careful what they do in public so as not to arouse suspicion.
This first collection of the comics does a good job of setting up the world and telling a story. The story is that of Rose Red, Snow White’s sister, who has disappeared from her apartment, with her blood spilled all around. Bigby Wolf, the fabletown sheriff, investigates what looks to be her murder, and also has a big crush on Snow White, who is second-in-command to the mayor of fabletown.

Already Fables sounds more complicated than it is, with all the relationships between the different characters and where they were at in traditional stories versus  in this version, but it is incredibly clear in the actual book what is going on. The artwork does a lot of the heavy lifting, giving the different characters strikingly different looks.

I am definitely going to continue to read this series, as I think it has a lot to offer. Clearly Bigby Wolf and Snow White are being set up as main characters, and I think they are both interesting; however, I am intrigued by the fact that the story can spin off in so many directions and include so many different characters.

Jelinas’ #CBR4 Review #20: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

understanding comics

If you think graphic novels and comics are just for kids and socially stunted man-children, read Understanding Comics before making up your mind. This graphic novel is a thoughtful and inventive look at the art of comics.

Joe G.’s #CBR4 Review #1: Starman #12-16, “Sins of the Child” by James Robinson (writer), Tony Harris and Wade von Grawbadger (artists)

I’ve been hearing for years from friends, co-workers, and the internet in general that I should read the DC Comics series Starman. The series premiered just over 15 years ago now, and enjoyed an 82-issue run that ended back in 2001. It took ten years from the end of the series for me to finally decide it was time to give it a read, and now I’m working my way through it issue by issue.

After an opening five-issue storyline and several one- and two-issue stories, “Sins of the Child” is the second extended storyline of the Starman title. In this storyline, Jack Knight, the newly-christened Starman, protector of Opal City, squares off against The Mist, the daughter of the original villain of that name who was the arch-foe of Ted Knight, Jack’s father and the original Starman.

The plot of the story is fairly straight-forward. Jack Knight is abducted and forced to run a sort of gauntlet that The Mist has set up for him. Ted Knight is also attacked, as are Mikaal Tomas (an alien who does not speak English) and Solomon Grundy (a hulking zombie and former villain who, so far in this series, has been portrayed as a docile simpleton), who are acquaintances of Jack’s. Additionally, The Mist unleashes chaos across Opal City in the form of armed gangs and thugs. Ultimately Ted Knight, Mikaal, and Grundy all escape or defeat their attackers. Jack runs the gauntlet and meets The Mist at the end. Gearing up for a battle, The Mist instead lets Jack go, but promises that she will be back some day.

The most interesting, and I thought entertaining, part about this storyline is how it’s structured. The story takes place over the course of one day, and each issue shows you that day from a different character’s or set of characters’ perspective. The first issue follows the first half of Jack’s day, in which he is abducted and placed into the labyrinth. The second issue follows Ted’s day as he is attacked by Dr. Phosphorous, a supervillain who is working with The Mist. The third follows multiple residents of Opal City, including the O’Dare family, all of whom are cops, and The Shade, a seemingly immortal character who at this point I’m still having trouble defining as either hero or villain, but who defines himself as ‘a concerned citizen’ of Opal. Part four follows Mikaal and Grundy through their abduction and eventual escape. Part five circles back around to the second half of Jack’s day.

When I first read the initial part of the story, I thought it felt a bit fragmented, as we only get snippets of scenes and parts of The Mist’s rampage through Opal. Only after reading the whole storyline is the reader able to construct a full picture of what that day was like. It would be interesting to take scissors to each issue and put it all into chronological order, like the DVD Easter egg on Memento that shows the film forwards instead of backwards. It would probably take away from the enjoyment of the reading experience, but it would be interesting nonetheless.

The art on this storyline, a majority of which is by series artists Tony Harris and Wade Von Grawbadger (issue 14 was drawn by multiple artist teams, a different team for each character’s ‘day’), is certainly a high point. I’d only ever experience Tony Harris’s work on the excellent Ex Machina series that ran in the mid-‘00s. It’s interesting to go back and look at what his early art looked like, and in this instance, while his linework is not entirely different from what it ended up looking like in the later series, it’s definitely looser and more energetic in Starman. Harris’s pencils are perfectly complimented by Von Grawbadger’s inks, which help set the tone for the storyline. Before the violence begins, it’s a sunny day and there are very few shadows. As things get progressively worse, though, the blacks get heavier, the lines thicker. Von Grawbadger is a very versatile inker, and it shows in these issues.

From a technical/craft standpoint, I really enjoyed these issues. The story itself, though, felt a bit off for me, at least as far as Jack’s day went. He makes it all the way through the gauntlet, and then The Mist just…lets him go. It almost felt like Robinson didn’t feel like writing a fight sequence, so he just had The Mist monologue for a bit about how she and Jack are going to be archenemies and how she’s going to kill him some day…but not yet. After four issues of solid action, this ending felt extremely anti-climactic. I’m sure it’s going to end up being part of a larger arc between Starman and The Mist, but as a standalone story it just fell flat.

Overall I enjoyed reading this story, even if the plot left me cold. The storytelling techniques Robinson used, combined with solid art from Harris and Von Grawbadger, made for a good reading experience. I’m excited to see where the rest of the series goes from here.

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