Monday, October 31, 2005

The Chuckling Whatsit

And just in time for Halloween, I had enough time to squeeze in another book appropriate for the season, Richard Sala's The Chuckling Whatsit. This is quite a crime noir book, complete with lunatics escaped from the asylum, a band of thugs and people tiptoeing around every which way, watching everyone. There's a huge host of characters and more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. At its heart, this is quite a mystery, but the horror elements are close to the surface of the story as well. The Gull Street Ghoul has returned after a long absence to kill fortune tellers, boasting a mask sewn from human flesh. There are black crows galour and creepy, laughing dolls that get under your skin. A perfect book to read on a dark and stormy night. And Richard's Sala has such a unique, great style that's it's just fun to look at the panels and the dark atmosphere he presents.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #1

Finally! After a week of agonizing anticipation, your curiosity will be sated. The number one book to read for Halloween! But first let's have a quick recap, shall we?

10. Uzumaki by Junji Ito

9. Skinwalker by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Brian Hurtt & Arthur Dela Cruz

8. Spellbinders by Mike Carey and Steve Perkins

7. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore & Charlie Adlard

6. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

5. The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli & Steve Parkhouse

4. Mnemovore by Hans Radionoff, Ray Fawkes & Mike Huddleston

3. Midnight, Mass: Here There Be Monsters by John Rozum and Paul Lee

2. Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh
...
1. Dampyr, written by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo, art by Majo
Yes, IDW Publishing, the company that specializes in horror has produced a comic worthy to be named the best book to read for Halloween. However, it's not written by Steve Niles. lol. It's actually a long-running European hit from Italy. I'm really glad that IDW undertook this project, as it seems that collecting something from the horror genre is easily overlooked when doing such things. I am hooked though. This series starts out with a dampyr - a half-human, half-vampire that is completely unaware of what he truly is. So, he travels Europe, making money from the superstitious townsfolk who believe their sick to be cursed by vampires. This dampyr, Harlan, performs bogus rituals upon their recently deceased to "rid" the towns of their "vampire" problems. Soon enough, however, Harlan is drawn into scenarios where true vampires are present, forcing him to examine his roots and his purpose in life. Filled with oodles of vampires, ghosts and other monsters, this is the perfect treat to read in the dark for Halloween. Great art, great storytelling and a gloomy atmosphere will transport you to a place fit to fright for the night.

Mark of the Succubus

Succubi have always been one of my favorite monsters (well, since Morrigan of the Darkstalkers cartoon). So, I was happy to hear about a series that featured one of the conniving demons, with a really classic twist. Mark of the Succubus is written by Ashly Raiti with art by Irene Flores, published by Tokyopop. It's American manga, so it's published in regular book format. I think it's got pretty good art all the way through the book, although the dots used for shading can be a bit much at times. There's one scene where a character changes into a blackbird, his arm changing first, completely encased in feathers that pull out from shoulder to forearm as he transforms - it's just a really cool drawing. So, the book is about a succubus-in-training who has just earned her permit to walk among the humans, and has unwittingly fallen for a human boy (and of course, one of the demon rules is not to get attached to humans). The boy is an unmotivated kid who's having trouble at school and at home, who would rather play the guitar than fill out college applications. But anyway, another twist occurs toward the end of the volume that's just perfect, but I'm not going to ruin it for you - read for yourself!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #2

I haven't read too many "gothic" comics like Emily the Strange and Lenore, but I have read Ted Naifeh. I didn't much care for Gloom Cookie, but I loved the series that put him on the map...

2. Courtney Crumrin by Ted Naifeh
A sarcastic, bitter little girl claims the second-highest spot in the countdown, as she is deep in the world of witchcraft and monsters (her uncle Aloysius is a warlock, after all). The Eisner-award nominated Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things was the first book in the series that introduced us to Naifeh's universe of clawed hands and gloomy atmosphere. After that was my favorite of the series, Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics, followed soon after by Courtney Crumrin In the Twilight Kingdom. There's a werewolf character who haunts the woods near Courtney's house who appears in each of the volumes, along with a few other supporting characters, who becomes a sort of friend as the series progresses, if not a great source for information. As Courtney is drawn into her uncle's mystical world, she learns that she's really quite good at things having to do with the supernatural. In the Coven of Mystics, she even ventures to the goblin market to help a helpless creature. But aside from the cute monstrous elements, there are some truly scary moments as well, like the story of Tommy Rawhead at the beginning of Coven of Mystics, about a fearsome hobgoblin that stalks children. It was quite chilling. But overall, Courtney Crumrin is just a smart, witty story that's written damn good, full of action and suspense and everything that makes good little sarcastic girls fun to read about.

Friday, October 28, 2005

In Passing...Superf*ckers to Lost Souls

The Book of Lost Souls #1 - J. Michael Straczynski and Colleen Doran's new title published under the exclusive "Icon" imprint is a fantasy that spans from about the Victorian Era to the present, following a character as his hurt leads him to seek a way to end it all, but ends up with a mysterious book, and eventually having to choose before a creature bathed in darkness which side of the line he walks he will fall on - good or evil. I really like Colleen Doran's work on A Distant Soil, so I wasn't surprised that I liked the art of this series, although I was pleasantly surprised by the coloring - it really stood out as sensational (done by Dan Brown). Straczynski's story didn't exactly blow me away, but the dialogue was dead-on. I love the talking cat and what he represents in the scene he's involved in. The art and tone were easily enough to hold my interest had the storytelling been lacking (which is wasn't - it was more just a bare bones set-up that doesn't really explain much of what's going on), so I'm going to continue on with this series. I would even go so far as to recommend it.

Superf*ckers #273 (aka #2) - This book is awesome! I'm surprised no one's done superheros like this before. It just takes genius, I guess. I personally liked this issue better than the first (though some people's feelings are counter). I'm really sad that this series is only going to be three issues long. I hope James Kochalka has more stories to tell in this universe in the future. I really fell in love with his work after reading American Elf, and his sensibilities are just honest and wonderful.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #2 (of 6) - So far, I've been enjoying this mini-series better than its Black Widow: Homecoming predecessor. I think Black Widow is a great character, especially when Daredevil's involved in the thick of things. She's kind of out-of-place since the Cold War ended, so she has to really fight for some sort of voice in the espionage world. And as always, Bill Sienkiewicz does an awesome job on the book.

The Stardust Kid #3 - Okay, this issue is where I officially leave off. I keep trying to give the team of Mike Ploog and J.M. DeMatteis another chance with this book since I loved Abadazad so much, but my God, I can not stand reading this book. And it takes so fricking long to get through, it's so bogged down by condescending narrative that tries to sound more literate and playful than it is (God, the narrator is soooo annoying) and crappy, insipid dialogue. I just dreaded picking this thing up to read and the story is so not worth it, lacking the imagination and captivating characters of the Crossgen series.

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #3

There have been few good series of horror that kind of skate the line of superheros. The late Crossgen's Route 666 was one of them, as were Joss Whedon's television shows Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel (best damn TV ever) and his future slayer tale Fray from Dark Horse. Going into the top three books for Halloween, we find another such book, again from Vertigo/DC, again uncollected in trade format...(images courtesy of Mile High Comics)

3. Midnight, Mass: Here There Be Monsters by John Rozum and Paul Lee
The Kadmons are world-famous monster hunters. Their adventures were first recorded in the eight-issue mini-series Midnight, Mass (taking place in Midnight, Massachusettes), and have been followed up in Here There Be Monsters with a grander story (probably due to the fact that the series was supposedly going to be picked up as a television series. Sales certainly didn't warrant a sequel). Their greatest foe is a demon named Magellan, whose ambitions reach new heights in this six-issue series, as he hopes to completely take over an entire town to claim for monsters (who deserve equal recognition with humans). Monsters scope out houses, slithering out from under beds or from closets, murdering humans without discrimination, gathering in the woods for a massacre. The Kadmons are on the scene, however, in this great-looking, perfectly-paced book (with awesome covers by Tomer Hanuka). There are some really creepy monsters (ancient ones) who appear in the midst of battle who seem to have popped directly out of some twisted contemporary art museum. This is just a great fast action story with monsters, involving magic and ritual and all that makes a holiday like Halloween fun, surpassing its predecessor in all things creepy and crawly.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #4

I've enjoyed many Vertigo-ish horror comics that have come out in recent years. Obviously, some are better than others. Some books that were good but didn't make my countdown that have the same feel as Vertigo titles are The Blackburne Covenant and The Devil's Footprints. Both are by Dark Horse, if I'm not mistaken. But the book holding the number four slot is truly Vertigo...

4. Mnemovore by Hans Rodionoff, Ray Fawkes, and Mike Huddleston. One of the true, great horror books I've read in recent years just came to a conclusion this past September. Mnemovore is a six-issue mini-series that follows Kaley after a skiing accident left her without many memories from her life. We follow in her footsteps as she reacquaints herself with family and friends frustrated with her condition, slowly regaining the memories she has lost. But there's something else there in her memories, in the lives of those around her, just out of the periphery of her vision. Something that doesn't want her to remember. Mnemovore has one of the greatest creepy atmospheres I've seen in a comic. It really creates a mood and sucks you into this world where strange things are happening. Through Kaley, you witness unsettling occurences. And the art and panels are used in such a way that you actually feel the memory loss that she undergoes, the frustration of missing pieces. Words are missing from word balloons, pictures fade or are completely absent. It's really creepy. The series just builds this palpable tension with each issue, ultimately climaxing in the final issue. Mnemovore was a real find. Unfortunately, sales for the series were very soft, so it may never be collected. If you're ever going to read this great story, seek out the back issues now. You'll be happy you did.

Previews: January '06

It's once again time to highlight those eye-catching items in Previews that may escape some people's radar...

Avatar Press
~ Blackgas - Warren Ellis does zombies!

Dark Horse
~ Scary Book (volume 1): Shadows - This is by the "Stephen King of Japan," Umezu Kazuo. Junji ito was influenced by this guy. This is going to be awesome!

DC Comics
~ All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4 - Black Canary makes an appearance! I can only imagine...

~ Manhunter #18 - The covers are drawn by Jesus Saiz again! Yay! Oh, and Manhunter gets a recurring villain!

~ Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2 - Of the Seven Soldiers books, this one looks most appealing to me. Mister Miracle #3 also comes out this month. I think its debut was the only issue I've not liked of a Seven Soldiers book thus far.

~ The Exterminators #1 - I saw a preview of this at Chicago Wizard World, and I was intrigued. I'll definitely give it a shot.

~ Fables #45 - The "Arabian Nights (and Days)" arc concludes. It started out a little slow, but I think it'll at least be fun to see some new characters in the series.

~ Y-the Last Man #41 - We got a glimpse into Agent 355's past in the last issue of the series. It seems this is the issue for her origin to be blown open.

Image Comics
~ Godland (vol. 1): Hello, Cosmic! TP - Patrick's probably going to check this one out, so I may have to give it a shot too, given the fun vibe the series gives off.

~ Fell #5 - I honestly wasn't expecting much from this series, but it's shaping up to be a comic that I look forward to every time it comes out.

~ Savage Dragon #123 - The Dragon returns after a fairly lengthy absence, minus the healing properties.

~Season of the Witch #4 - The conclusion of the mini. I just picked up the first issue, haven't read it yet, so I don't know if I'll make it this far...

~The Stardust Kid #4 - Once again, just picked up #3, and I haven't been too impressed with what I've read so far, so this past issue is the deciding factor. I didn't realize it took three months for an issue to come out...

~Necromancer #5 - I think this is the only Top Cow book I've ever actually liked.

Fantagraphics Books
~ Chimera #1 - Italian artist superstar Lorenzo Mattotti's book is described as: "a wordless fantasia of birth, death, gods, monsters, and humans, Chimera is the most astonishing visual narrative you'll see all year." Awesome!

~ Tales Designed To Thrizzle #2 - I'm not a big fan. I don't find it very funny, but by God, Patrick loves this comic. If you like this kind of humor, you'll be laughing out loud. At least give it a shot.

IDW Publishing
~ 30 Days of Night: Dead Space #1 - Vampires in space, the premise that has been, thus far, the killer of the horror franchises (Remember Jason X?). We'll see...

~ Dampyr #9: Forbidden Zone - The long-running European title continues with another great Ashley Wood cover.

Marvel Comics
~ Ultimate Extinction #1 - I won't be picking this up, but awesome cover!

~ Ultimate Spider-man #89 - More of the "Silver Sable" storyline (and even more Silver Sable coming up! It's Silver Sable month!!!) (Did I mention I'm a fan?)!

~ Black Widow 2: The Things They Say About Her #5 - Another female bounty hunter who's stolen my heart...(and money)

~ X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #1 - My favorite X-Statix character gets her own mini! I miss the series (although I did get a little bored with it toward the end).

~ Nextwave #1 - Warren Ellis brings together a bunch of second-rate characters like Meltdown of X-Force and Elsa Bloodstone. Hey, whatever man. Let this guy run with whatever the hell interests him...

~ New Avengers #15 - More of the most underrated superhero book, focusing on Spider-woman.

~ Runaways #12 - Whoa! James Jean is awesome! What a cover!

~ Spider-woman: Origin #2 - Jonathon Luna does the art for this Bendis-helmed series. Check out the Luna Brothers' Ultra if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed!

~ Sable & Fortune #1 - More Silver Sable! A new mini-series boasting an eighties-esque cover!

~ New Excaliber #3 - Damn. It's already starting to look shitty.

~ Snowbird Bust - Snowbird has one of the best costumes, makes for a great statue.

~ X-Men: Kitty Pryde: Shadow and Flame TPB - Collecting the mini-series that features my favorite superhero!

~ New Warriors: Reality Check TPB - I think the art is really cute on this series...

~ Spider-man vs. Silver Sable (vol. 1) trade - Yep, even more of our silver vixen! That "volume 1" is promising.

Narwain Publishing
~ Jenna #3 - What I think looks to be the most promising of the Narwain titles. And Newsarama just announced that Jenna's going to cross over with Ninja High School (a little-known series into its 100+ issues).

Oni Press
~ Polly & the Pirates #4 - A great mini-series from the creator of Courtney Crumrin continues!

~ The Tomb GN - This seems familiar for some reason, like I've heard of it before, but I don't know where. Either way, sounds like a fun premise.

Speakeasy Comics
~ The Grimoire #9 - A fun, all ages title of magic.

~ Strangeways #3 - An ongoing werewolf title set in the Old West. Awesome! I hope ot doesn't suck...

Viz Media
~ Nana (vol. 2) - The greatest shojo manga title continues to be collected!

~ Shojo Beat (vol. 2) #4 - And if you don't want to wait for the Nana trades, you can get it monthly in this anthology (along with a whole bunch of other shojo manga titles).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #5

Continuing with the countdown, we move on to one of the most celebrated series in comics, the series Vertigo/DC is probably best know for, and the one to put Neil Gaiman on the map.

5. The Sandman: The Doll's House written by Neil Gaiman, art by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli and Steve Parkhouse. The Sandman series is a very strange work overall, but strange turns to scary in the second volume of the series. So appropriately enough, Clive Barker writes the introduction for the collection. The Sandman follows the title character and his siblings that make up the Endless, which includes Death, a character who has become popular in her own right, who is present when the story begins, setting the tone. As with most of the stories in the series, a human is focused upon. This time around, it's Rose, a teenaged girl with multi-colored hair who is moving into a new apartment building with some strange, eccentric tenants, including the Spider-women, a pair of sisters in wedding gowns covered with spiders. But soon enough, Rose is on the road, winding up at a "cereal convention," a thinly-veiled meeting of serial killers. While this is happening, the Sandman Morpheus discovers that this girl is a vortex for dreams and will eventually begin to disrupt the Dreaming, so he goes to her. Now, one of the things that makes this volume of the series so creepy is one of the serial killers, whose habits we are treated to throughout the book. He's a magical nightmare of a creature called the Corinthian. He tortures his victims and plucks out their eyeballs to feast on, as he has no eyes himself, but sharp teeth in their stead. Obviously, this guy's psychotic, and winds up at the convention where his presence collides with that of the other two characters I've mentioned. It's a fun, thrilling read with, as Clive Barker says, "the grimmest collection of serial killers this side of Death Row."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #6


IDW has become a force in comics, particularly when it comes to the horror genre. They've got books published on Mr. Hyde, zombies, vampires, etc. and show no sign of stopping. Recently, they even began to publish a horror magazine anthology titled Doomed, in the style of the old Eerie comics. Very EC. Steve Niles seems to be the creator at IDW, as it seems nearly every new title is written by the guy. I've checked out Remains, Wake the Dead and Dark Days, all Niles-written. But hey, if the readers are responding... So, yes, the number six book on my countdown is published by IDW.

6. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith.
If there was a book that put IDW on the map (and well, there was) it would be 30 Days of Night. Originally created as a pitch for a movie, Steve Niles took this to comics when no interest was shown in the story. The joke seems to be on Hollywood, however, as after the comic was produced, there was a bidding war that ended in the rights for the movie being sold at a cool $2 million. Good word-of-mouth (and a feature in Wizard's Indy column) propelled this to the top of many comics fans' to-read lists, prompting an E-Bay sale of the first printing of issue number one at about $90. But, thankfully for those of us who can't afford that type of price tag for a 20-page comic, the trade came out and went through a bazillion printing runs (Me - I got the original issue #1). But anyways, interesting history besides, this book is good. It takes place in Barrow, Alaska, where for thirty consecutive days, the sun does not shine. And no sun means vampires can feast uninterrupted to their tainted heart's content. Brilliant premise. But Ben Templesmith's art takes this concept to another level. He was the perfect choice for a book like this, giving it a dark, depressed mood, with disgusting portrayals of the vampires (no hot Hollywood vampires here). At only three issues, this is a quick read, but the series has spawned plenty of sequels, including the immediate follow-up Dark Days, 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales and 30 Days of Night: Return To Barrow. Another sequel is upcoming that takes place in space. Yes, space. I guess no one told them that that's the kiss of death for any horror franchise (Jason X, Leprechaun in Space)... So, if you like the 30 Days of Night universe, you'll have plenty to enjoy. And given how IDW has been whoring the title out, you'll have new stories for years to come.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Black Hole

Charles Burns' Black Hole took the artist nine years to create. And finally, the twelve issues have been collected into a beautiful hardcover for all to enjoy. The premise of this creepy, but human book is of a plague that affects teenagers if they have sex with someone who has been infected, manifesting in either subtle or disturbingly overt ways: some people's heads are turned into something of living skeletons, some people have little worm-like appendages growing from their ribs. It really all comes down to luck. But the plague is just a device to tell the stories of these teenagers, who grow up feeling awkward and ostracized. Their bodies are changing, they're making life-altering decisions (like having sex) and they're growing apart from their lifelong friends. The plague forces these issues to occur rapidly, sometimes ending in a violent scenario for these trapped kids. Infected kids basically have two choices once they've contracted the plague: go into exile in the forest, or try to pass as normal and continue to go to school and cover up their scars and cancers. Black Hole is a very deep work with many layers, and it's illustrated just beautifully. I was really surprised (and impressed) at the control Burns demonstrated over his art. For a decade-long work, page one's artwork is just as polished and mature as the last page, with no growth whatsoever. It's like Charles Burns had his skill honed before attempting to work on his masterpiece, which could very well be the case. This is easily one of the best comics to come out this year.

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #7

There are some cool superhero brushes with the supernatural that can be really fun to read up on at this time too.

- One of my favorite moments is when Kitty Pryde wards off Dracula with a star of David. There's a whole thing with Storm and Dracula, where he wants her to be his queen in the old Marvel Essentials of X-Men. Then, in the short-lived Mutant X series, Kitty hunts that reality's Storm (known as Bloodstorm) to give her friend peace from her vampirism, since that reality's superheros are all sort of twisted into monstrous versions of themselves.

- Anytime Belasco shows up in X-Men is kinda scary, what with his castle of bones in limbo. There was a big conflict that ran through Excaliber, that went over into X-Men Unlimited that involved Margali Szardos and Amanda Sefton, that I love, but I think his best story is from the Magic limited series with Illyana and Storm (from the late seventies/early eighties?) where Belasco tries to charge his bloodstone to bring the Dark Ones out from their prison, whereupon Illyana reemerged into the X-Men titles as an adult afterwards.

- "The Demon" from Uncanny X-Men, where Kitty is alone in the X-mansion on Christmas, trying to outrun/outsmart a N'garai demon that seems unstoppable.

- Probably the most unsettling story in the entire Marvel Universe occurs at the hands of Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz in Elektra: Assassin. We get to see a really f-ed up version of Elektra, where she's assassinating people because she thinks they are part of this big demon and she smells its foul milk. It's full of really freaky images, and is one of my favorite comics of all time.

But on to the countdown...

7. The Walking Dead written by Robert Kirkman, art by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.
The Walking Dead is a series more interested in picking up where most zombie movies leave off - the world has been infected, and the remaining humans work to establish a life for themselves in its ashes. It's very human, concentrating on a group of people as they try to find a home and normalcy, but slowly change as the series progresses into something a little darker. Of course, the human survival story occurs between great scenes of zombies attacking the humans and taking great big chunks out of their flesh. A zombie story like this really works as horror because things are always tense. Whether the group is just sitting around, having a conversation at a campfire, zombies can suddenly appear and wreak havoc. If they find a nice mansion to make a home in, a zombie could be coming around any corner. The tension is always present. The reader isn't allowed to let their guard down. Something like this can really transport a person into its hopeless atmosphere.

In Passing...10/24

And the comics of last week that I haven't done big reviews of...

Ultimate Spider-man #84 - The sixth issue of the "Warriors" story arc (one more to go) pits Spider-man vs. Elektra vs. Iron Fist vs. Black Cat vs. Shang-Chi vs. Hammerhead vs. Moon Knight vs...okay, maybe that's all, but by god, those are a lot of tights in one room. And Bendis knows it, playing with the maelstrom he's created by getting all of these characters in this situation. People don't know who to fight necessarily, a lot of things are happening that are hard to follow, and people end up going after people that they...maybe?...shouldn't go after. But it's all really fun. It's something not seen much in superhero comics, but you'd think it would happen more often, what with NYC so packed with superheros. Bravo, Bendis.

Runaways #9 - A new story begins as Cloak finally recalls what went down with the runaways back in the first volume of the series, and seeks them out to help him in his dire situation. So, the runaways are going to NYC...yes, six more superheros in New York was all we needed. He couldn't have just gone to Wolverine or something.

Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy #4 (of 4) - Jog already did a great job of combing through this issue, so if you've read the issue, read his thoughts on it. I've loved the Seven Soldiers books so far, Klarion probably the least, but geez, if this is the worst he can do... I'm really excited about The Bulleteer and Frankenstein - both look like a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #8

Continuing my countdown of ten comics to read for Halloween, we come to a comic about magic. Unfortunately, there are no werewolf books in my countdown, as that monster usually gets the shaft for some reason (where are the movies? books? Where's the love? Damn vampires.), but here we do get witches. I have kind of a weird inclination toward girl witch books. Kind of strange, I know, but there it is. So, last year, I was really excited about Marvel's Witches series (just horrible)...then DC/Vertigo's The Witching(disappointing)...I sought out the older DC/Vertigo series Witchcraft (which was...okay), but nothing had that certain element where it was....oh, you know, good. Until this year. I'd just about given up on finding a good one, so I was completely blown away...

8. Spellbinders by Mike Carey and Steve Perkins
I know a lot of people are going to be thinking "lame, a Marvel Next title," but by God, this book is damn good. And, for those of you who haven't already recognized the name of the writer on the series, it's Mike Carey, the man behind the acclaimed Lucifer series for DC/Vertigo (a brilliant series if you ask me). I reviewed Spellbinders back in August when it had finished its six-issue run, so forgive me if I repeat myself but I have to give my reasons for putting this on my Halloween list. The opening scene: two boys are looking through a book on magic, one reading mockingly until, with a look of horror and a mispronounced word, he falls to the floor and shatters into thousands to tiny green lizards that spill out of his clothes. From there, this series doesn't miss a beat, but just keeps on thrilling. We follow a new girl in town, Kate, as she transfers to a school in Massachusettes (guess where). The series moves from creepy air elementals to a grand, larger-than-life battle against...well, you can see for yourself. Aside from the dreary magic atmosphere and haunting monsters, we are treated to an issue where Kate is pretty much huddled beneath a table in the dark, hiding from a man with a knife. She is trying to use her powers (a sort of astral projection) and does so to watch the killer close in on her location, with nothing she can really do about the situation. It's a really suspenseful story overall, with plenty of heart-stopping moments and surprises. Mike Carey is just awesome for creating this series, and Mike Perkins provides for some very beautiful art as well, complimenting the story nicely. And this book comes in digest format for what, $8? Come on, just check it out!!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Manhunter #15

Manhunter #15 is a stand-alone issue very different from previous issues, called "Costume Drama." It goes back to the beginning of the Manhunter series when Kate Spencer borrows items seized by the police as evidence, and uses them to become the new Manhunter. The issue is divided into three shorts, each telling the history of different items that Kate chooses to add to her vigilantee outfit. They're all written by regular series writer Marc Andreyko, but the art is done by different creators. "The Suit" is done by Stephen Sadowski and Andrew Pepoy, "The Gauntlet" is drawn by Sean Phillips, and "The Staff"'s art is provided by Rags Morales, Bob Petrecca and Shawn Martinbrough. The stories thread through the evidence locker as Kate wanders among villains' weapons and armor to make her choices, the scenes of which are drawn by Javier Pina and Fernando Blanco. It's really kind of neat to see the different artists work on the character in a single issue, none of whom are too jarring from one another. I think it's easily the best floppy of the week, each short providing plenty of entertainment, but combined to be a killer issue.

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #9

Some books I've been meaning to read that could have potentially made this countdown are the aforementioned Black Hole, as well as Warren Ellis' Atmospherics, Ghost of Hoppers and Full Moon Fever. I passed on titles such as Blood + Water and Nightside when going through my back issues. It's a shame that some of the good stuff isn't collected in trades, like something coming up later in the list. This next one, however, was collected, albeit overlooked when it was.
9. Skinwalker from Oni Press, written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, art by Brian Hurtt and Arthur Dela Cruz.
A body is found on a Navajo Indian reservation, completely skinned, after the navajo boy had several calls by a federal agent. The boy had been interested in books on skinwalking, on wearing the skins of animals to become those animals after a ritual. He'd even stolen sacred books on the subject. And now it seems that someone is wearing human skins, leaving a bloody trail in his wake. Since the body is discovered on an Indian reservation, the reservation police are on the case, but since it involves a government agent, so are the FBI. There's a lot of racial tension throughout this book, a lot of situations that come up that make the reader feel uncomfortable because white men really do the shitty things this book showcases. Particularly in a situation where the killer can be anybody, the trust is completely disintegrated, especially between races. But Skinwalker is also a fun thriller besides. It's the closest thing on the countdown to The X-Files, in fact showing quite a bit of influence from the show, as Officer Adakai of the reservation police in an astute believer in the powers of her ancestors, and Agent Haworth of the FBI has to believe in another possibility. Oh, but there's a conspiracy beneath it all and plenty of twists just to keep you on the edge of your seat. So, no real monsters involved in this one, except the kind that's most like us.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ultimate Fantastic Four

I picked up the twenty-fourth issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four on a whim, just because I though the solicitations for the Tomb of Namor arc looked really cool - my first issue of the series. I wasn't too blown away by the differences between the regular Fantastic Four and this version. Sue throws tantrums ro something, Reed wears glasses and the Storms' mom may become a big adversary to the team. Nothing to really constitute an ultimatized team. I like what DC's doing with their All-star line, just giving creators complete control to tell something completely different for a change. It's like what Grant Morrison did for New X-Men should have been the Ultimate version of the team, because it was a refreshing, creator-driven take. Marvel's line just lacks that initiative that DC seems to be taking to get people really excited about the titles and actually make some really great comics. The Ultimate line has just become this thing where stories are retold by new creators, where readers are just waiting for the Brian K. Vaughan version of Apocalypse (when the original stories are just fine). It's just all kind of lame. It's not cool for new fans (as the line was originally created for) because they don't know the Mole Man from Namor anyways. It's just more of Marvel catering to their aging fan base, citing things as new and improved. Marvel needs to take a cue from DC and let creators go wild, sending properties out that are a radical shift, otherwise there's no real point. The bottom line: This underwhleming issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four is my first and last issue of the series.

Ten Books To Read For Halloween: #10

In honor of Halloween's approach, I will be counting down ten comics that I feel people should read at such a time. The titles may not all include monsters, but rather suspense, or they may include monsters, but aren't really very scary, but I think it's a good, appropriate mix of goodies. Now, I haven't read a lot of the old EC Comics or the Essentials of Tomb of Dracula or Frankenstein's Monster, or even Black Hole from this past week, but given what I have read, I think I've put together a pretty damn good list of modern titles to thrill and amaze. I have read plenty of comics, after all, and I do gravitate toward the horror titles, being a fan of slasher films and thriller novels growing up. My favorite horror movies, to get completely off-topic are The Blair Witch Project, The Ring, The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the first three of which actually hindered my sleep after first viewing them. But anyway, without further adieu, the first of my ten comics (of which I will list one each day up until All Hallow's Eve)...

10. Uzumaki by Junji Ito
Junji Ito is a master of horror in Japan. Known for his Tomie series as well as the Uzumaki series that made the top ten, Ito has been thrilling manga fans with his tales of terror since he got a short story published in the shojo manga horror magazine Gekkan Halloween. Uzumaki tells the story of a small town on Japan's coastline that is plagued by images of uzumaki (spirals). They appear everywhere: seashells, dirt devils, whirlpools, eventually manifesting themselves in works of art and even upon people's bodies. Residents of Kurozu-cho are slowly growing insane by the sight of uzumaki as they become obsessed, and the earth itself seems to conspire to destroy its people using this device to mesmerize people to their deaths. The uzumaki is something that you can't escape - it appears everywhere. It kind of reminds me of a film I saw where a serial killer would enter someone's apartment and move little things around that only they would notice, enough to make them uneasy at first, then causing a sort of panic that others don't seem to understand. But anyways, Uzumaki has this sense of dread permeating the entire length of the book, dotted with scenes of the over-the-top grotesque images that I think a lot of horror manga is known for. Just sick, disgusting images. It's great. If anyone's interested, a live-action Uzumaki is available through Netflix, and there are two Tomie films out there as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

In Passing...10/20

So, I finally got around to reading all of my comics from this past week, so it's mini-review time...

Y-the Last Man #38 - Continuing the "Paper Dolls" storyline, we get to learn a little more about Agent 355, and Yorick realizes the repercussions of having his picture taken.

The Grimoire #6 - Everything comes to a head here as Amandine and her new friends face off against Medea. The first couple pages of this pretty intense battle are completely silent. It was really sort of neat. And the action was quick and exciting. This battle really exceeded my expectations, paying off the build-up.

House of M #7 - Olivier Coipel's pencils are alright on this series, but...I think his storytelling just sucks. A lot of really cool things happened in this issue, but they just didn't have the emphasis they should have in those cluttered panels. The Scarlet Witch's last three words should have been the coolest panel but...no. Coipel just couldn't pull it off. Bendis is doing a fine job writing this thing, he just needs someone a little more competent working with him.

Fables #42 - "Arabian Nights (and Days)" starts here as the Fabletown administration tries to counter all of the complaints coming in from the residents and their new Arabian guest arrive amid the chaos.

Necromancer #2 - The surprisingly good Top Cow series chugs along in this issue as we find out what happens to Abigail after her family and friends are massacred before her eyes by the demon she accidentally calls forth and her powers manifest in strange ways.

Shojo Beat: November 2005 - I don't read all of the comics in this anthology, but I'll break down the ones I do...

Nana - I really like this series when the characters are caught up in their emotions and have to face things that are hard for them to face. The last installment of the series didn't really have those moments, so I was a little disappointed, but this time around, we get to see that vulnerability again. Yay for Nana!

Absolute Boyfriend - Night costs a million dollars and there may actually be a way for Riiko to rid herself of this debt and keep her mail-order boyfriend. But Night's good intentions keep manifesting in violent ways and makes it harder for Riiko to keep the secret of Night under wraps.

Beauty Is the Beast - A special sneak preview of Beauty Is the Beast was included in this issue of the magazine. In this preview, we are introduced to the character of Eimi Yamashita as she moves into a girls' dorm to keep going to school after her parents move. She quickly bonds with her roommates, but has to complete a dare to be accepted into the dorms. So...she has to sneak into the boys' dorms and steal a name plaque, without getting caught and expelled! Meanwhile, a boy from the dorm, Taka Wanibuchi, known as a beast for going to juvie, catches her interest. This really is a fun story, although it's told in that really quick pace that some manga is told in that I don't usually care for. I could overlook it here, but I really prefer to slow things down and reflect a little more, watch the characters react to circumstances instead of just pummel along. But anyways, the first collection of this series comes out in November, so watch for it! It's a good time!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cartoonist's Eye

I ventured into Chicago today to visit Chicago Comics and Quimby's, as well as listen to Ivan Brunetti's curator's talk along the "Cartoonist's Eye" exhibit.

So, I picked up the comics I was looking forward to this week (as well as Ultimate Fantastic Four #24 - the "Tomb of Namor" beginning), and Patrick finally tracked down Or Else #3 and Stuff of Dreams #3, but was unfortunately unable to find the latest Comics Journal. Sigh. But, on a bright note, he was happy to find The Complete Peanuts (volume 4).

Highlights of the "Cartoonist's Eye" exhibit:
- Rory Hayes: I'd never encountered any of his work before. It looks disturbing, but sooo cool. The art is just great with such cool iamges of demons and impaled teddy bears. Patrick tracked down some articles in Comic Art and The Comics Journal for me to go through.

- Richard Sala: I've been meaning to read some of his comics. Peculia looks really cool, and the stuff on exhibit just reinforced my desire to check him out.

- Phoebe Gleckner: I heaven't read Diary of A Teenaged Girl yet, but I am so ready to read this novel/comic hybrid after seeing her art at the exhibit. I guess Gleckner does art for anatomy and stuff, so this picture on display was done in that style where you can see through things to identify internal parts of the body, of this woman's head as she's performing oral sex on a man. She's really cool.

- Carol Tyler: On display were really pretty art strips that were meant to wrap around tin cans. It was all done in soft pastel-like colors that were just really eye-catching.

- George Herriman: There was some Krazy & Ignatz on display, one strip of which was the last strip he ever drew, found on his art board after he'd died, the dialogue not yet printed. I felt kind of honored to see it.

- R. Sikoryak: He does these cool blends of famous comics and famous novels, staying true to both. The one on display was done in the style of Peanuts, with Charlie Brown as a bug ala Kafka's Metamorphosis. I guess he's done things like Crime & Punishment in the style of Batman (appropriately). Stuff like that. It sounds like really neat stuff.

- Brunetti's talk was nice also, although I admittedly got a little restless toward the end of it. I guess he put this together in just a few months, so he wasn't able to include some people's work he wanted, like Lynda Barry and Thimble Theater, but hey, it was a great collection nonetheless. For the show, the artists got to kind of choose what was displayed, but Brunetti's book that comes out next year that includes these people's works will be his personal picks.

Monday, October 17, 2005

New Comics Are Fun!

There's a lot of good stuff coming out in the next few weeks, which is always nice. This week I'll be reading:

Black Hole Collected Edition Hardcover - I loved the art from peaking through the single issues. I've been waiting for it to be collected.

Manhunter #15 - A new story arc begins with more Kate Spencer goodness. I'm a little sad about the new cover artist, although it still looks pretty...

Runaways #9 - Another new story arc with regular penciler Adrian Alphona back on board after a two issue fill-in. The gang ventures to New York and bump into Cloak and Dagger again.

Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy #4 (of 4) - Another soldier's story is semi-wrapped up. This one - the strange Klarion. (Ooh...I hope the cat makes it!)

Ultimate Spider-man #84 - The "Warriors" storyline continues. It's been a surprisingly good story (after a few misses from Bendis).

And next week....

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her #2 - The sultry ex-Russian spy continues her adventures, learning the answers to questions about her past, getting the US government off her trail, and kicking ass along the way (and looking good doing it).

Book of Lost Souls #1 - Marvel's first new book under the Icon imprint since its initial launch with Kabuki and Powers. Art by Colleen Doran - should be good!

New Avengers #12 - The most underrated mainstream superhero series out there.

Super F*ckers #2 - Yaaay! James Kochalka is awesome and so are drunk, cussing superheros.

Well, I guess not too many comics coming out next week, but hey, Previews is always a treat!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sexy Voice and Robo

Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda is a rare treat. It's also a rare format for manga - it's a thick book the size of other graphic novels on my bookshelf, easily overshadowing most other manga. Incorpoarted into this book is the assisted dating phenomenon from Japan, a strange form of prostitution that usually involves school girls (there's a great film by Hideaki Anno about this called Love and Pop.) Our protagonist, Sexy Voice, plays with this phone service sex-dating, putting her abilities to change her voice, as well as analyze other people based on their voices and remember each voice distinctly, to use amusing herself. Her talents are soon noticed, however, as she is hired as a sort of spy to do odd jobs for an old man who catches her in the midst of her games. Throughout all of this is a pathetic man named Robo whom Sexy Voice played with initially, who is drawn into the missions that Sexy Voice finds herself involved in. This is a great read, really different from most comics and even manga that I've read recently. It's a lot of fun, but maintains a sort of sophistication to its storytelling, providing for a lot of character internal conflict and strange, but touching, relationships.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sea of Red

Image has been doing a pretty good job getting some interesting titles out there, as of late. From the Luna Brothers to Strange Girl to The Walking Dead, they seem to be branching out and just attempting to put out good material - the kind that still appeals to mainstream superhero fans, in genres of horror and the like. Sea of Red is such a title of what I like to think of as new wave Image books. It's a blend of pirates and horror - vampire pirates to be precise. After being sunk at the bottom of the ocean (ala Angel) for centuries, a film crew discovers the living corpse as they take him aboard their ship. It's an interesting idea for a book, but that's about all this book has going for it. It's a rather uninspired story that borrows things from other sources, creating this whacky sort of hodge-podge of ideas. It's Angel at the beginning, then travels into that weird desperate-Hollywood-movie-director-must-tape-everything-despite-his-crew-dying-around-him thing that like never works and then proceeds to tell an Odyssey-esque tale before venturing into Titanic and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Sigh. That being said...if the creator of this book had invested a little more originality into his ideas, this could have been great - I mean, who wouldn't want to see a vampire pirate epic? But, alas, we're left with this train wreck that adds nothing to the tired vampire myth and can't seem to drudge up any enthusiasm for the story its weaving.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What a week

I finally got a virus off of my computer today after a week and a half of sluggish maneuvering and strange happenings. So, I'm just going to let out a deep breath and give a light post tonight (since it's pretty late). This week, I picked up:

~ Fables #42 - New storyline! Following up the great "Homelands" story arc is "Arabian Nights (and Days)." This story introduces us to a new set of fable characters, which could be a lot of fun.

~ The Grimoire #6 - Unfortunately, my local store didn't have the Elk's Run Collected Edition, so this is still my favorite Speakeasy title (until maybe Strangeways?).

~ Necromancer #2 - I was really pleasantly surprised that I liked the debut issue of this series as much as I did. I hope it keeps up.

~ Shojo Beat #5 - More Nana!

~ Y-the Last Man #38 - Continuing the storyline in Australia, where Yorick's picture is taken by a reporter. The series has been good since the "Girl on Girl" arc ended.

I passed on Doomed #1. I may go back and get it if I hear some good buzz. So, I picked up the third volume of Dampyr for a little something extra.

A review of the first volume of Sea of Red is coming soon!

Comics I'm getting next week (so far):
~ Manhunter #15
~ Runaways #9
~ Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy #4
~ Ultimate Spider-man #84

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

American Elf

I've just gotten through James Kochalka's American Elf, the collection of his Sketchbook Diaries. And seriously, reading these strips just made me really happy. Each one of them just had this feel about them, whether they were hilarious, cutesy or just strange, they resonated. I think it has a lot to do with the Magic Boy character that Kochalka adopts when writing about these little moments from his life. He's a little childish, sometimes angry, sometimes stubborn, but overall just extremely likable. Reading this, I would think, gosh I would really like it if James Kochalka were my friend. lol. But anyways, I've read Kochalka's Peanut Butter and Jeremy's Best Book Ever and, of course, Superf*ckers, but this is his opus. This is where you should be looking to get premium Kochalka goodness. Check out his strips at his American Elf site, updated daily, if you want to see what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In Passing...Spellgame & Fell

Hey, sorry it took me a while to post. I had a rather busy week. I have two quick reviews for you today: Image's Fell #2 and Speakeasy's Spellgame #1. When I was going to Speakeasy's site to copy an image of Spellgame's cover, I came across this comic...
The solicitation reads as follows:
Kindly Corpses #1

(AUG053105)

Up until now, Dr. Hempel has lived a simple, reclusive life as a forensic doctor. But when bizarre corpses show up on his doorstep, and the Ministry of Death imposes new, demanding guidelines, the good doctor will learn there is much more to the world around him than he ever bargained for.

Featuring fully painted art by Ivica Stevanovic.

I'd never heard of this before, but it sounds pretty neat, I think.

But on to the reviews...

Fell #2- Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's new series is shaping up to be quite a good read. The mysterious, disturbing town just creeps over the whole story, making everything seem rather unsettling, which of course, it is. In this issue, the ramifications of Rich's branding are witnessed, as well as a confrontation with Mayko, the crazy bar owner. A new mystery shrouds the town as foetuses are being taken from women. There's a really cool scene in a morgue at the beginning. Seriously, give this title a chance.

Spellgame is a new series written by Dan Mishkin, with art by Ramon Perez. The cover of the first issue is drawn by Darwyn Cooke. In this issue, we're introduced to a couple of conmen in Las Vegas who have an encounter with the forces of real magic, not the parlor tricks they use to swindle money from naive tourists. It's a rather intriguing group of characters in a series that seems to like playing with the readers' expectations, putting new twists on cliches. It's hard to know exactly what's going on in this first issue, as many magical creatures make startling appearances, but our main character is equally plagued with confusion and doubt at what he sees. It seems that magic is making a return to Earth and John Dodge has some part to play in a coming war. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun as the mysteries unravel.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The all-important work...

When most people think of a graphic novel, Maus is probably one of the first books to come to mind, if not the first thing. Well, I just had the pleasure of finally reading this tale of nazi Germany (both volumes). It was always one of those works that seemed comparable to reading a dry essay from English lit. I don't know why - maybe it's just because it has such critical acclaim and has been propelled to the forefront of the medium intimidatingly (like Patrick says: Shakespeare is really fun, but people have built it up so much that it's just intimidating and seems like a literary drag that only "intellectuals" can read, so it puts a lot of people off). But Maus is a really great read. At the beginning of the first volume, there's a quote from Adolf Hitler: "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human." Thus, the tale is told from the perspective of mice, with cats as Germans (this also serves to soften the horrible images we see of the mice's treatment). And there are some really awful things going on obviously, but I won't get into them much but to mention one part that I liked in volume two, at the end of the "Auschwitz (time flies)" chapter. We are told by Vladek Spiegelman about the Auschwitz incinerators, where the Jews are gassed in a showering room then brought up to the ovens by an elevator. Well, the gas in the showering rooms is actually a pesticide, something to use on rats and mice obviously (and the symbolism continues), but at the end of the chapter, Art Spiegelman does something kind of interesting. On the porch, he and his wife are being bugged by mosquitos, so they spray the bugs with insecticide and leave the flies tumbling to the ground. I mean, it's obvious once you read this part, but I really liked that. They didn't even think about it, they just sprayed because they were being annoyed and they could. I think Spiegelman's really grasping to try and understand the mentality that goes into something like Nazi Germany. But anyways, there are happy moments in Maus too, but it really is a" survivor's tale," so be prepared to be mortified by what you encounter.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Black Widow

The sequel to the Black Widow mini-series "Homecoming" is truly a sequel. The story (of which the first issue just came out Wednesday) picks right up in the shattered glass and plaster ashes of the last storyline, where Black Widow was forced to investigate her origins and face the fact that she was preconditioned by her former allies. The sequel, entitled "The Things They Say About Her" opens with two men whose lives she destroyed in the last series, staring at the grave of a comrade who'd fallen by her hand, swearing revenge on her. Kestral, an operative who was following the Widow's bloody trail previously, then makes a proposition to these men, one we're not quite aware of the particulars of. Amidst this, Black Widow is still on the run from the government and smuggles herself into Cuba, where she meets a familiar face - Yelena Belova, the blonde Black Widow, who is now retired and sends Natasha on a mission for her. Meanwhile, Nick Fury learns that he can not protect Black Widow from the government this time around and pleads with a certain someone from her past to assist her (hint: look at the cover. Those magnificent thighs.) And things just keep creeping up from the first mini-series, from Widow's past, as we see toward the end of the issue. Yes, a lot is going on and it would be a good idea to check out the trade of the last mini-series before reading this, but hey, Bill Sienkiewicz does a marvelous job on the series again, finishing Sean Phillips' layouts, and so far, the plot is intriguing. If you like this espionage/government conspiracy stuff, this is high grade.

Monday, October 03, 2005

James Jean

I don't know if many of you have visited James Jean's website, but it is full of really beautiful stuff. Example: the following X-Men illustration. I mean, wow. And that's just a taste of what you'll find there.

There are plenty of illustrations from covers he's done to comics, such as Green Arrow, Fables, and Batgirl, as well as things likes ads he's been commissioned to do from the likes of Target.







There are also just some stellar paintings he's done, things from his sketchbook and that great poster from the Toronto Comics Art Festival this year.
















It's definitely worth it to take a peek and just kind of browse through what's there. There are some real jems if you take the time to go through things, like this Castlevania picture...



And don't miss the cool, eerie drawings under the "Recess" section!

Lady Snowblood

The first volume of Lady Snowblood was released from Dark Horse this past week, entitled "The Deep-Seated Grudge." This series is by Kazuo Koike (writer of Lone Wolf and Cub, as well as Samurai Executioner), with art by Kazuo Kamimura. As some of you may be aware, Lady Snowblood served as quite the influence on Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill (aka my favorite film ever). I was actually surprised by how much Tarantino borrowed from the story, as Snowblood's life is one of vengeance she intends to carry out upon the four murderers of her family (her mother actually killed one of the murderers, and has left her daughter to carry on her vendetta). Lady Snowblood is an assassin-for-hire whose ultimate goal is to finance the destruction of her targets. There's blood and flashing swords aplenty, as well as several nude scenes. Snowblood takes out guards in a Crazy-88-style battle and implicates her targets in scandals to force them to adhere to her (or rather, her funders') terms. Underneath all of this is a complex commentary on women in Japanese culture and historical references that the author spins to be direct results of Lady Snowblood's behavior. Jog wrote a really great essay about this you should definitely check out. It's kind of strange that Kill Bill, which took so much from this comic is now the inspiration behind the marketing of this book, but that's the way things play out, I suppose. The final chapter, "Rokumeikan Murder Panorama" is my favorite, and ends the book on a high note. The book really seems to just get better and better as it moves along. If you like your comics fun and bloody and violent as...well, a samurai epic, this is a must-read.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Polly & the Pirates

I've been a fan of Ted Naifeh since I picked up my first Courtney Crumrin trade a few years ago. He created the best protagonist in the biting, anti-social Crumrin, with her sarcastic remarks, but general kindness. Naifeh does it again as we are introduced to Polly Pringle, a proper young girl who has grown up amid finery and academia. She's quite the golden girl compared to what we're used to from the mind of Naifeh, but she's quite the lovable protagonist, chastising pirates for their ill breeding, and trying to do what's deemed proper at all times. The book takes place in an age where, obviously, pirates are present, and people talk stiffly, in Victorian fashion. Polly is going to a school in St. Helvetia, where she is kept away from the dirty streets and the commoners, practically prisoner with a dozen other girls, including a mischeivous best friend and a dirty-minded hanger-on. When the pirates shatter Polly's peaceful life, she resorts to the behavior her headmistress would have deemed favorable in the circumstances, thus the critique of pirates and her demands for release from their clutches. Gosh, this book is just a lot of fun. Of all the books that have come out this week, I recommend giving this one precedence. We haven't seen something like for a while.