I’ve decided I’m going to do a comics and graphic novel round up series. I’ll do short(ish) reviews. In terms of format, I’m going to start with 5 reviews each post. This leaves the frequency wide open since some months I may read 5 or 10 or 2. Let’s try and see where it leads! (Full disclosure: I don’t buy single issues. Just not for me. So, the pull list title is a blatant lie because I don’t have one at my local comic shop. Hah.) So far in May I have read:
The Punisher Volume 1: Welcome Back, Frank by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, and Jimmy Palmiotti
This is my first dive into Marvel’s Punisher backlist. Thankfully, one of my good friends has been a huge fan of Frank Castle for a very long time so he picked out the best place for me to start. Otherwise I probably would have panicked at the thought of sifting through the huge catalogue and would never have read anything. Thanks, L! So, where did my interest in The Punisher come from? One word: Daredevil. More specifically, the new season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix because, good lord, Frank Castle was the best part of this season. I’ve heard about The Punisher and basically known his backstory for years (because you can’t be friends with L and not know it tbh) but his comics never made to the top of my list to read. BOY, THINGS SURE CHANGED. I’ve gotta say, this comic was exactly how I pictured Frank getting stuff done. Alone, for the most part, and with a bloody, single-minded purpose. I also love the three other vigilantes you meet here (oh god…let’s see if I can remember their names because I’ve already returned this to my friend: Payback, The Holy, and…um…some-uppity-rich guy-who-is gung-ho-for-class-based-genocide). They are just wonderfully over-the-top and hilarious. The main villain is the matriarch of mob clan (because, of course) and is not even slightly intimidating so they could have definitely worked on her a bit more and cut a little of the other fat (the detective storyline was a little lackluster for me). All in all, a good first introduction to Frank and solid 3.5 stars. This was fun.
Amulet Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi
Can we all stop to appreciate Kazu Kibuishi’s amazing art here? *gazes in awe* Man, these are wonderfully illustrated graphic novels. These are middle-grade so don’t expect incredibly complicated character portraits here but the plot is fun and somewhat dark and creepy. Actually, the more I think about this series it is pretty grimdark for the middle-grade set. Which is refreshing. I work in a children’s library and far too often people (i.e authors and parents) take for granted what kids can handle. Especially in the middle grade age range. Every kid is different, for sure, but they’re resilient as shit and willing to be challenged. This series is insanely popular with kids. Our poor library copies are in dire straits and are in constant need of tape and glue.
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHOY*
Amulet follows Emily, her brother Navin and their mother as the move to her grandfather’s house after a family tragedy. Except something is going on in the basement. Or something is in the basement. Or somewhere is in the basement. You get it. Magic ensues. This is the 7th installment so I don’t want to give too much away plot-wise but suffice it say things have gotten much more difficult for Emily and she’s giving into the temptations of her new amulet. Which isn’t good. This was step up for me from the 6th volume which…to be honest…I can’t remember much about. So, I guess that tells you something? There are a couple other middle grade comics that I’m much more on board with (Cleopatra in Space anyone?) but this once is enjoyable as well. My main complaint is a lack of development for characters besides Emily. No one else really grabs me. 3/5 stars.
Fables Volume 18: Cubs in Toyland, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Gene Ha
I’m going to miss this series when I get to the end…and I am so, so close to the end. I’ve been collecting these over the past year or so very slowly (at $20 a pop, cheap they are not) and feel pretty attached to the characters at this point. As you may have guessed from the title, we are following fabled characters from fairy-tales (think Snow White, The Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella, Prince Charming etc.,) who live in an enclave called Fabletown in NY. They have escaped their homelands because of some ominous overlord-like guy called the Adversary. Plot starts.
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS PEOPLE*
Cut to volume 18 and the cubs have grown up! And are doing really creepy or really noble things! Therese is a little shit! Winter is cool but that flash-forward to her future was uncomfortably sexed up! Dare! Oh, Dare! Grown-up Ambrose! At this point, I’m just shouting random names. This evil island of misfit toys vibe they are running with here is incredibly creepy to me as someone who, to this day, is obsessed with Burl Ives’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s like a beloved childhood drama made evil. *shudders* Also, I’m having flashbacks to Slappy from Goosebumps. Not good. Definitely terrifying. Good job, creators. Usually I find artist changes really distracting but I really enjoyed The Destiny Game which was a two-parter and the last two issues in this collection. I love any flashback to Bigby Wolf in the homelands so it didn’t have to try that hard.
The biggest issue I have with the current arc (not this volume in particular) is the set-up for the new villain, Ms. Douglas. I just…don’t care? Mister Dark exuded evil. The Adversary was shrouded in such mystery and the pay-off was worth it. But Ms. Douglas…needs work. It’s a shame because I am ready and here for a female villain to fuck shit up but I wish she was a little more developed. I remember Nurse Spratt from earlier in the comics but she never made a huge impression on me and maybe that was the point? I dunno. When I finish them all and do another read through with less time in between each volume it may make a huge difference. That being said there is something about a formerly “ugly” character getting a makeover and deciding to kill all of the “pretty” people who ignored her just doesn’t sit well with me. Why does that have to be the central motivation behind the major female villain? Ugh. It seems like low-hanging fruit.
I think I gave this a 4/5 stars on good reads, maybe more of a 3.75 with a little bump up because the creepiness of the island really worked for me and I really enjoyed the guest issues in this volume (and also because I can’t figure out half-stars on goodreads).
Rat Queens Volume Three: Demons, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain, Ed Brisson
Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery was the high-water mark for this series and unfortunately the successive volumes haven’t lived up to that first glorious introduction. There’s less banter and not-giving-a-fuck-attitude in this but that’s a product of some fairly serious shit going down. So, maybe I’m just nostalgic for the first book and its easier problems. The artist has changed since the last volume (for completely understandable reasons – he’s a wife-beater) but I’m not going to pretend like that wasn’t a hump I had to get over. Artistic style changes always throw me somewhat. *shrugs*
I was super in to the idea of a magical university plot line because…uh..duh..magical university, people. Dee, Betty, and Violet didn’t have all that much to do at the university and the central plot was driven forward by Hannah and some nefarious university chancellors and a demon-lord. There is some ninja weirdness happening with Betty and Dee’s overbearing brother is in town but that’s about it for the other three. Hopefully, they get a little more action then sledding mishaps (though the mishap was a dragon so…).
Ending this issue Hannah has gone completely AWOL with the demon-powered magic so obviously there’s conflict within the group – I just can’t help but feel it could have been handled a bit better and fleshed out a bit more prior to the final blowout. I’m gonna re-read this entire series and see if I can find instances of Dee and Hannah butting heads and maybe developing all of this a bit more (I feel like there were?). Anyway, the tonal shift is major in this volume and I can see it being a problem for a lot of people. It’s no longer the Rat Queens saying fuck everybody else but conflict arising from some very personal and internal sources. Say good-bye to simple dungeon-crawls, ladies! Shit’s getting serious! 3/5 stars.
Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Carolyn Nowak and Maarta Laiho
Everything about this series is adorable. You follow a squad of girls at summer camp who solve mysteries in the woods while being awesome friends. This is kinda like the younger, less violent version of Rat Queens; appropriate for teens or those allergic to cursing! Plus, it’s so cute! And the art! Just look at it! I don’t have a heck of a lot to say here other than I love this series, I love these characters, and I continue to love them. Once again though, artist changes. They always throw me, man. 4/5 stars.