Saturday, January 14, 2017

Attack!- A War Film Way Ahead of Its Time


          Often out image of the 1950s is one of fervent patriotism and home cooked peachy keenness, then we run across a film like Attack! and realize that it wasn’t. This is an incredible cynical film about corruption of the officer class in the United States Army during World War II. Not that the setting matters, the basic plot could be transported to any war and still ring true. It stars Eddie Albert, Jack Palance, Lee Marvin, and Richard Jaeckel.
          Eddie Albert is the standout character here. A living representative of the Peter Principle where a man can be promoted three or four rungs above their competence level. He is the son of a rich senator who gained his position through his family’s contacts. Planning to go into politics himself, the character needed some wartime credentials to seal the deal, but found he couldn’t handle the stress.
         His men suffer and die for it, as the cowardly captain refuses to go into dangerous situations to back up his own men. The captain is allowed to get away with it, because his commanding officer, played by Lee Marvin, who hopes to use the family’s connections to further his own career after the war. Sick of seeing his men die, Jack Palance is the only one who will stand up to him. This results in many arguments, an ultimate showdown that is both haunting and grim.
The Defense Department (as it had been recently renamed from the Department of War) refused to cooperate in any measure with the production of the film, hampering it immeasurably. Their objection, as will come to no surprise, was to Eddie Albert’s character, claiming in a letter that the personage “is a very distasteful story and derogatory of Army leadership during combat including weak leadership, cowardice, and finally, the murder of the Company Commander.” The director pointed out that there were many other fine examples of noble officers, but the government still rejected it. This meant no equipment, no uniforms, no vehicles, or even Army stock footage. The production had to make due with a pair of old ones on the Fox backlots and use creative editing to make there appear to be more.
This action by the military however turned out to be a boon for the film. Congressman Melvin Price openly criticized the military for their non-involvement in the film, calling it a "shameful attempt at censorship". The distributors, United Artists, exploited this with teaser posters asking "Is this the most controversial picture of the year?" Leading to a much higher profit margin than had been estimated.
The director, in his biography The Films and Career of Robert Aldrich, said of this film, “My main anti-war argument was not the usual 'war is hell,' but the terribly corrupting influence that war can have on the most normal, average human beings, and the terrible things it makes them capable of that they wouldn't be capable of otherwise.”
As you will see, he did an excellent job in this. The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Readings for 2016

        2016 has ended! Another long year of pandering to my reading addiction. But my folly can be your joy. For this installment I decided to list all of the books that I've read this year that I have deemed worthwhile. Again, these are just the good ones. There have been just as many that were terrible, which I will spare you. For more suggestions look at my What I've Been Reading page. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!


The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew (Finished 12/14/16). 176 pages. This tale is  of a golden age hero called The Green Turtle, who first appeared in Blazing Comics in 1944 and then lapsed into obscurity after five issues. No reason was given for the character's powers (if any) or his origins. The writer and illustrators of the original was Chu F. Hing the first Chinese illustrator in American comics, and the author presupposes the truth of the rumor that Hing wanted the character to be Chinese (a rumor not without merit) and crafts the character's story around that. I love a tale where an artist will brush off an old character and breathes new life into them. Amazon Listing

Astro City: Tarnished Angel  by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, & Alex Ross (Finished 12/12/16). 224 pages. This Astro City tale is given from the perspective of a career super-villain Steeljack (formerly known as the Steel Jacketed Man), who through an experimental procedure had his skin permanently changed to organic metal. Here we see the painful side of superpowers and witness what happens to those who fail, both on the villain and hero side. It is a redemption tale as Steeljack tries to make a life for himself in a world that only, perhaps rightly, sees him as a threat. The longest running Astro City story and one of the best. Amazon Listing

Astro City: Private Lives  by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, & Alex Ross (Finished 12/10/16). 176 pages. A collection of short stories revolving around new characters for the Astro City pantheon which are all oddly connected by the return of the Broken Man. The first deals with the assistant of the Silver Adept, the Sorcerer Supreme analog for this series and the trials she faces. Next we have a villain's perspective, The Gentleman Bandit, and his rise to crime and why he continues. An out of sequence story appears next, surrounding an extra-dimensional character called The Dancing Master. A tale of a woman who created a museum from repairing criminal's derelict robots. Excellent as always. Amazon Listing

Astro City: Lover's Quarrel by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, & Alex Ross (Finished 12/10/16). 176 pages. A pair of stories here, the first deals with the protagonist known as Quarrel who took over her super-villain father's name and turning it around to become a hero. We see what motivates and drives her and as the years wears on what motivates her to make a change. The second deals with a refugee from Gorilla Mountain who escapes his forced service in the simian army to run off to Astro City and become a drummer. Quality is excellent as always. Amazon Listing

Astro City: Victory by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, & Alex Ross (Finished 12/9/16). 176 pages. This has several different parts. The longest is a four part story arc surrounding Winged Victory. We learn of her origins and her struggles with the "women are powerful" message. She is nearly depowered by the council who gave her her abilities and has to convince them to allow her to remain. Another is a very short piece about a bored tourist who accidently becomes possessed by a  villain. The last is a brochure for the city and gives some backstory to the various heroes who have appeared in the comic. Excellent as usual. Amazon Listing

Area 10 by Christos Gage & Chris Samnee (Finished 12/7/16). 184 Pages. The area ten referenced in the title refers to a section of the human brain, particularly where the pineal gland is located. A serial killer, called "Henry the 8th" for his habit of decapitating victims,  is stalking NYC. A detective working the case get stabbed through his forehead with a screwdriver by a disturbed man. Upon recovery the detective finds that he can see auras and occasionally split seconds into the future. A different kind of crime story with interesting twists. Amazon Listing


Fogtown by Anderson Gabrych & Brad Rader (Finished 12/6/16).  176 pages. A private eye story set in San Francisco in 1953, a closeted private eye is hired to track down an errant daughter which spins into a sordid tale of prostitution and a sex trade for she-males. Very brutal, this story pulls no punches. The period details are consisted as art and story blend together perfectly. A tale well worth reading for those who want a sexual twist on the hard boiled detective genre. Amazon Listing



Cowboys by Gary Phillips & Brian Hurtt (Finished 12/4/16). 192 pages. This very twisty crime novel follows two protagonists. One a black undercover officer or the city's vice squad, working under a captain who's bucking to become the new Chief of Police. The other a white FBI agent working undercover to expose a possible terrorist plot, as for a superior looking for promotion. This story displays expertly the corruption of ambition, the secondary nature of justice in law enforcement, the lure of sex and money that cause a person to destroy their morals. Ultimately this is a tragedy that keeps the reader glued to every new event. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

Jupiter's Circle by Mark Millar, Wilfredo Torres, & Chris Sprouse (Finished 12/3/16). 152 pages. A prequel to Jupiter's Legacy and is much better than the original graphic novel. Taking placed in the 1950's, it details the domestic and personal problems behind-the-scenes of the worlds foremost superhero team. It deals with infidelity, alcoholism, arrested development, FBI probes, the HUAC witch hunts, homosexuality, and more. All the mundane events of our personal lives cast in a super heroic mold. It is easy to become involved with the characters and see their plight. Amazon Listing


The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. (Finished 12/2/16). 256 pages. A fantasy novel back in a mythical time when animals could talk and live together without human intervention. An ancient evil known as the Wyrm caused a monster, virgin birth from an egg laid by a rooster, named the Cockatrice to come into being. The Cockatrice himself begins inseminating the hen's eggs, which hatch into poisonous lizards basilisks. The come down to the hero rooster, Chautencleer to end the evil.  A fun book, spinning a standard theme in a different manner. Amazon Listing


It Rhymes With Lust by Drake Waller, Arnold Drake, & Matt Baker (Finished 11/23/16). 138 pages. Originally published in 1950, a pulp noir story about a down-on-his-luck journalist who is given control of a local newspaper by his former paramour Rust, the femme fatale. Rust has just recently inherited nearly half of the city from her late husband. It is scandal laden tale bubbling over with greed, sex, and corruption. Loads of fun for those who want a nasty story from the original hardboiled era. Amazon Listing


Black Dahlia (Treasury of XXth Century Murder) by Rick Geary (Finished 11/21/16). 80 pages. Part of this great series, this is an expose of the famous Black Dahlia killing in Los Angeles in 1947, where the body of Elizabeth Short, a protective actress and possible prostitute was found sawn in half life a bad magician's trick, and tossed into a field. This covers what is known about Short's life and the investigation of the crime which yielded no serious suspects until 1981. A short, but comprehensive, look at this crime. And as usual done with flair and style by the author. Amazon Listing

The Executor by Jon Evans and Andrea Mutti (Finished 11/20/16). 200 pages. A former hockey player, a goon retired due to injuries, returns to his Podunk town after being named the executor in his former girlfriend's will. Once there he relives some debris from his past, involving a long outstanding unsolved murder of some teenagers from the local Indian Reservation, as well as uncovering some other foul crimes  that have been ongoing for as long as he can remember. It is difficult to root for any of the characters they are all so morally flawed, but I found myself very interested in where the action was going. A nasty story that was well executed. Amazon Listing


The Werewolf and the Wormlord by Hugh Cook (Finished 11/18/16). 352 pages. The eighth volume in the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness, though like all books in this series it is a stand alone tale. This story features the adventures of Alfric Danborg, a banker by profession but a Yudonic knight by birth. In his travels he is required to face not only ogres, dragons, assassins and She Who Walks By Night but, worst of all, more senior bankers. Intelligent and creative. Not the greatest of the Chronicles but a fun read nonetheless with obvious nods to Beowulf. Amazon Listing


Astro City: Through Open Doors by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson (Finished 11/12/16). 176 pages. The first Astro City graphic novel  published through the Vertigo imprint (ninth book in the series). This is a collection of individual stories, thought two revolving around a mysterious giant alien ambassador are connected. The others deal with a woman who works for the Honor Guard's call center and the difficulties of the job; a woman with superpowers who wants nothing to do with heroics, being shanghaied into service by a villain; and the fractured storytelling style of a character called the Broken Man. Loads of fun forth those who like the genre. Amazon Listing
 
The Thirteen Crimes of Science Fiction edited by Issac Azimov, Martin Harry Greenburg, & Charles G. Waugh (Finished 11/10/16) 455 pages. Thirteen science fictions stories all revolving around crime. The private eye, mystery, locked room and police procedural stories are thrust into a futuristic setting creating a truly interesting collection. One that really stand out are "Time in Advance: where a person can serve time before they commit a crime. Old school sci-fi at its best. Amazon Listing



The Fade Out Act 3 by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Finished 10/31/16). 128 pages. A brutal ending to the series. It almost leaves you feeling as angry and helpless as the end of Chinatown. The protagonist finally puts most of the pieces together, though finds that he cannot bring anyone to justice. A cynical hard edged story, full of alcoholism, depression, hidden homosexuality, and pedophilia. All in the best noir tradition. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing



The Fade Out Act 2 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, & Elizabeth Breitweiser (Finished 10/30/16). 120 pages. The continuation of the noir series set in the world of film noir creators Hollywood. After finding a dead actress in his apartment, the protagonist continues his investigation, while dodging those who are unknowingly investigating him. The deeper he investigates the sleazier the world around him becomes. Full of great art and believable characters. Amazon Listing




G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Vol.  17 by Larry Hama & S.L. Gallant (Finished 10/29/16). 120 pages. Continuing on from the original series in the 1980s with the original writer. Cobra Commander believes he has disposed of all the Cobra members that were planning to strike against him. But with Destro saving all his men from the Silent Castle and Zartan leading his group away before any harm could come to them, the Commander's Cobra Nation might be in more trouble than he thinks. A must for fans of the old series, still as good as you remember.  Amazon Listing


Astro City: The Dark Age Book 2 by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, & Alex Ross (Finished 10/28/16). A look at the 1970s in Astor City where trust in the superheroes and vigilantes was at its weakest point. The Silver Agent has been legally executed for a crime he didn't commit, and confidence is at an all time low. Two brothers stalk their parent's killer who is a high ranking agent in the paramilitary terrorist organization Pyramid, wondering whether or not the hunt is making them into the same type of monster they hunt. Amazon Listing


Night Watch by Sergei Lukyaneko (Finished 10/26/16). 480 pages. A urban dark fantasy novel set in Moscow, the zeitgeist forces of light and darkness have made a truce and forced into two police squads called the Night Watch and the Day Watch who constantly monitor the activities of the others. This is the first of six novels and consists of three connected stories revolving around Anton, a low-level member of the watch who becomes a pawn in their greater one's games. Translated from the Russian, the writing and presentation of story elements is sub-par and can get tedious. That may be due to a hasty translations. The film is far superior. Amazon Listing


Crecy by Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres (Finished 10/17/16). 48 pages. A detailed account of the battle of Crecy (the legendary origin of the English two fingered salute) as told from the point of view of the fictional William of Stonham, an English archer. It details the historical reasons for the battle and gives background detail on most of the major players, giving specific accounts of why the Norman army fell short and was able to be slaughtered by a smaller and less well equipped force. The art is superb, brutal and unflinching in its depictions of the horrors of war. Short and to the point and highly recommended. Amazon Listing 


Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic (Finished 10/16/16 ). 312 pages. The final end of the prime marvel universe. 75 years (or so depending on how you judge it) has come to an end in a huge mash up of what was left after the Beyonders decided to end their experiment called "life". Now Doom has become god emperor of those bits from the various worlds that he could save. A wonderful goodbye and last look at the those stories and events that we loved in the past. And while I was sorry to say goodbye, the actual end was in step with the continuity of past events and character actions. Well done. Amazon Listing

The Sandman by Kirby and Simon by Joes Simon & jack Kirby (Finished 10/13/16).  304 pages. A collection of the 1940s run by the famous pair on the Sandman character, Wesley Dodds. This was long after the character had shifted from his green suit, fedora, and trademark gas mask to a more superhero-y garb and was given a kid sidekick. Plus as a bonus feature it contains a reboot of the reboot Sandman feature by the pair done in the 1970s, which played a significant part in Gaiman's work on his character Dream. An excellent look at old time comics. Amazon Listing


Criminal Vol 7: Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Finished 10/10/16). 112 pages. Two tales from the 1970s involving the Lawless family. One about the elder Teeg who is a violent drunk, but still effective in his brutality, who is attempting to survive behind bars. The second revolves around his son, Tracey, who is forced to go cross-country as a cover for his father who is about to perform a hit. Interspersed along the stories are black and white page from various comic magazine that they like: Zagnar the Savage (a Conan analogue) and Fang the Kung Fu Werewolf which are a lot of fun. Amazon Listing

The Savage Sword of Conan Vol 1 by Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith, & John Buscema (Finished 10/9/16). 544 pages. This is a reprint of stories from the 1970s magazine of the same name. It contains many good adaptations of Robert E. Howards original Conan stories along with several other ones that follow in the a decent mimicry of the original author's style and often follow in the general timelines of Conan's life as established by the author, filling in the gaps between stories. Amazon Listing



Flight 714 by Herge (Finished 10/2/16). 62 pages. On their way to Sydney, Tintin and Captain Haddock run into an old friend, a pilot who offers them a ride on a private jet. But when the plane gets hijacked, Tintin and the Captain find themselves prisoners on a deserted volcanic island. It has one of the weirdest endings for a Tintin book that I've seen. One might call it a deus ex machina, but it is so far out there that it will still be enjoyable. It almost seems like the author got bored with the story and just threw this in. Amazon Listing


The Red Sea Sharks by Herge (Finished 10/1/16). 62 pages. This novel brings together a number of characters from different stories. The bratty son of Tintin and Haddock's friend turns up unexpectedly at Haddock's manor and begins raising hell. To get away from the kid, the pair look into the troubles in Khemed, a Saudi Arabian style fictional country. The soon run across the usual trouble of stolen treasure and political revolution. A great entry into the series. Fast and fun. Amazon Listing



The Calculus Affair by Herge (Finished 9/30/16). 62 pages. The author continues his science-fiction expansion of the Tintin universe. The professor invent a sonic device capable of shattering glass and porcelain at a distance. This leads to him getting into trouble via international spies, as various groups want to kidnap and use the professor's invention. They plan to force him to create a more powerful version that will shatter concrete and cement. Includes the first appearance of Jolyon Wagg, insurance salesman and comedic nemesis of Captain Haddock. Amazon Listing

Prisoners of the Sun by Herge (Finished 9/29/16) 62 pages. Tintin, his dog Snowy, and the drunken Captain Haddock go to Peru to rescue the absent-minded Professor Calculus. There they get involved in an ancient Incan cult which takes them prisoner and leads to the eventual attempt at human sacrifice. The author does a good job at attempting to include traditional Peruvian clothing and animals native to the region. A fun entry into the series, despite the deus ex machina ending. Amazon Listing 
 
 
King Ottokar's Sceptre by Herge (Finished 9/28/16). 62 pages. Political unrest in Europe in the late 1930s influenced the author when he wrote this book, in which Tintin and absent-minded Professor Alembick travel to Syldavia to try to avert a confrontation with neighboring Borduria. The history Herge creates for his fictional Eastern European country is complex and fascinating, and a locked-room mystery and cross-country pursuit make for one of Tintin's more entertaining adventures. Amazon Listing


Tintin in America by Herge (Finished 9/27/16). 62 pages. Written in 1931 and translated from French. Tintin, the investigative journalist, and his dog Snowy travel to America and get into a series of scrapes. Including going up against Al Capone, being chased into a Indian reservation (where they still live in teepees and use tomahawks), gets shot at a lot, and tackles a host of different gangsters. Not the best Tintin story, it tends to wander aimlessly,  but the author was still finding his feet. Amazon Listing
 

 Nexus Archives Vol 9 by Mike Baron & Steve Rude (Finished 9/26/16). 216 pages. Nexus has resigned his duties and the Merk is looking for a human  to replace his former avatar. His first choice, three sisters with dreams of revenge on the first nexus have a difficult time adjusting to their powers and eventually everything falls into disaster. Meanwhile the former Nexus is having difficulties with his missionary work on a poverty stricken fascist planet. Contains several backup features with teh character Judah Maccabee, Amazon Listing



Nexus Archives Vol 5 by Mike Baron & Steve Rude (Finished 9/24/16). 216 pages. Nexus continues to wrestle with dealing with the Merk, who has fully emerged from his protracted slumber and begins making more and more demands on the protagonist. Nexus's uncle, the head of an anti-technology group (that is somehow still okay with space travel) and raids Ylum's arsenal to go off on a destructive mission that could threaten the Sol system. Has the backup features of Clonezone the Hilaritator and Judah Maccabee- the futuristic gladiator. Amazon Listing 

 
Nexus Archives Vol 4 by Mike Baron & Steve Rude (Finished 9/22/16). 216 pages. The force behind Nexus's powers is revealed and the force is not benevolent. Distracted by a threat to his home world, Ylum, Nexus has fallen behind in carrying out his mission to execute intergalactic mass murderers, leading to the removal of his powers until Nexus carries out two assassinations with only his human abilities.Also contains the continuing back-up feature Clonezone the Hilaritator as a comedic counterpoint to Nexus's serious subjects. Amazon Listing


Nexus Archives Vol 3 by Mike Baron & Steve Rude (Finished 9/20/16). 216 pages. Continuing the collection from  the 80s science fiction story. Wracked by inescapable, visceral nightmares of the grave misdeeds of his next targets, the executioner Nexus turns to the only solution he can - a life-threatening procedure that places an implant in his brain to prevent the dreams that he has endured for years. It works, but alters his personality in odd ways, driving off his friends. This book also contains the adventures of the 26th century stand-up comic Clonezone the Hilaritator. Amazon listing


Nexus Archives Vol 2 by Mike Baron & Steve Rude (Finished 9/18/16). 216 pages. The collected works of the 80s science fiction classic. Hortaio Hellpop is the Nexus. He is imbued with great power, but is plagued by vivid nightmares of butchers and tyrants. He is then compelled to kill these men by the power or suffer great agony. This intrigue and deaths pile up in this one as various factions attempt to use Hellpop to their own advantage. Includes a crossover with the other 80 inde character Badger. Amazon Listing



Comic Book History of Comics by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey (Finished 9/16/16). 224 pages. An excellent, if not completely comprehensive history of sequential storytelling, done in its own medium. To give the authors fair due, a complete history would have taken several thousand pages if not more. This covers the major events and players in the medium from the 1930s onwards(with some honorable mentions to those who came before). An interesting subject told with depths and skill. Highly recommended for those interested in the subject. Amazon Listing


Poison the Cure by Jad Ziade & Alex Cahill (Finished 9/13/16). 48 pages. Three explorers find a planet littered with the remnants of old civilization. They peer into the past. Nine friends strive against mortal violence, environmental destruction, and inevitable doom. They struggle in the present. One story connects them. An interesting science fiction story, expertly presented. Comixology Listing





Star Reach Greatest Hits edited by Mike Friedrich (Finished 9/12/16). 86 pages. An oversized collection of some of the best material from the 70s underground comic. It mostly revolves around supernatural, fantasy, and science fiction strips and contains material from several up-and-coming artists and writers. Such as Dave Sim, in a rare non Cerebus story, Steve Engleheart, and several excellent adaptations of Micheal Moorcock's Elric stories. Amazon Listing



Dusk- Poor Tom by Richard Marazano & Christian de Metter (Finished 9/11/16). 56 Pages. Three agents turn up in the small town of Salem to investigate the deaths of four people who died on the same night under strange circumstances.  It soon becomes clear that the victims are not missed, and it is in an even more charged atmosphere that the investigators slowly uncover the terrible secret that unites the population . A chilling and disturbing graphic novel thriller. Art and proser blend pefectly together here. Amazon Listing


Five Ghosts: Monsters and Men by Frank J. Barbiere, Chris Mooneyham, & Lauren Affe (Finished 9/10/16). 184 pages. After a tragic encounter with an artifact known as "The Dreamstone," infamous treasure hunter Fabian Gray is possessed by five literary ghosts and granted access to their unique abilities.He is able to channel the fictional spirits of Dracula, Robin Hood, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, and Miyamato Musash. This feels like a 70s throwback adventure series and is quite a lot of fun. Unfortunately this is the last book and does not conclude the series. Amazon Listing

Air Vol 3: Pureland by G. Willow Wilson & M. K. Perker (Finished 9/9/16). 168 pages. Blythe's first test flight in Clearfleet's new hyperprax plane doesn't go as she planned. Dogged by a strange illness, she arrives at Sky 1 disoriented and off her guard before meeting an old friend who has a secret she is totally unprepared to hear. From there, out of desperatation to unravel the truth from the lies, Blythe makes a dangerous journey to the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan where she’s drawn into a holy war with a bizarre twist. Last in the series. Amazon Listing


Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth (Finished 9/8/16). 180 pages. This book plays like a John Constantine Hellblazer story and even though its meant to be a different protagonist, one could easily swap in Constantine here. A man with an incurable brain tumor is sucked in and out of a cancerous world of monsters and gets caught up in their power struggles. The book suffers from a lack of background and explanation as it just throws the reader into the middle of the action for a significant part the beginning. Still it has some interesting ideas and horror concepts, not very well executed. Essentially I wanted to know more of the world and was not satisfied. Amazon Listing

Aporiatica by Marcel Guledemond (Finished 9/6/16). 120 pages. A collection of short stories and poems accompanied by art. These tend to be post-modern in style and reflective of modern Western life as whole. Several of them are responses to other works by authors and a familiarity with the pieces is required to fully comprehend the author's meaning.  Recommended for those who are looking for something more poetic in their literary diet. Amazon Listing




The New Two-Fisted Tales by Various (Finished 9/5/16). 48. A re-imagining of the classic EC series in remembrance of the original creator Harvey Kurtzman. It contains 4 new tales: Dustoff which tells of a pair of soldiers in Vietnam that get left behind from a patrol. The Crater, a Civil War story, telling the true tale of a tunnel built under the confederate lines which was detonated and how the victory quickly turned to defeat. Raid on Entebbe, another true story of the terrorist hijacking of a plane from Tel Aviv and its rescue, Zippo Raid about a young man's first day in Vietnam. It also reprints the EC classic Corpse on the Imjin. Amazon Listing

Thorgal: Giants by Jean Van Hamme & Grzegorz Rosinski (Finished 9/4/16). 48 pages. Thorgal who has previously rejected his destiny as prescribed by the Gods of Asgard, has had his name removed from the stone of destiny and thus remembers none of his life. Upon discovering this, he must undertake a quest into Jotunheim- the land of Giants- and retrieve Odin's stolen ring before all he has lost will be restored to him. This long running series never falters in its fantasy and science-fiction themed stories. The art as usual is excellent. Amazon Listing


Grimjack Omnibus 2 by John Ostrander & Timothy Truman (Finished 9/3/16). 382 pages. Reprinting the classic 80s series. The setting is the Cynosphere, a city built around the nexus of dimensions where different times and realities converge in one large conglomerate mess. The protagonist is a mercenary who alternatively tracks down villains or causes evil himself. A kitchen sink series that shifts and changes with each episode yet has a certain stability to it as well. Amazon Listing 



Trees by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard (Finished 9/1/16). 160 pages. A series of mile high alien obelisks impale themselves in the planet. The purpose is unknown, no other creatures are seen, they do not attempt to communicate with the native population. Nicknamed "trees" it is speculated that they are the product of an alien species that does not see the human race as sentient or even alive. The story involves multiple protagonist all across the world, each living in a city that has a tree near or in it, and how their life has been altered or destroyed by the mere presence of these things. Amazon Listing

Marvel 1985 by Mark Millar & Tommy Lee Edwards (Finished 8/30/16). 172 pages. In a world were the Marvel heroes are just comic books, a young boy in a small town, begins to see the villains of his favorite pastime come to life. As more and more show up, they begin killing people in the town and the boy has to find the Marvel heroes to save the day. A fun compelling story and well worth it for anyone who nostalgic memories of the comic books of their youth. Amazon Listing



The Terminator Omnibus by James Robinson, Matt Wagner, John Arcudi, & Ian Edgington (Finished 8/29/16). 352 pages. A series of stories from the 1990's set in the Terminator Universe back when it was still cool and something people grew excited about, rather than groaning. This collects several limited series of another set of the killer cyborgs traveling in the past to ensure Skynet's creation, rather than kill John Connor. Most of the stories tie in together so it is a decent narrative all the way through and may be looked on as chapters in a sprawling story. Very fast paced and engaging. Well worth a read for those who like the universe. Amazon Listing

The Metabarons Vol 3: Steelhead and Dona Vinceta by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimez (Finished 8/27/06). 136 pages. Continuing the tale of the line of Metabarons, we move onto the vicious Steelhead, so called because his when he was a child, his father actually shot off his head and his mother later replace it with a computerized brain, encased in steel. He kills his father and assumes the mantle of Metabaron. His travels run him further afoul of the woman he loves, her father (whom he kills and brings back to life) and the incursion of the religious entity known as the Technopope. Fun science fantasy with Gimez's stable fantastic artwork. Amazon Listing

The Metabarons Vol 2: Aghnar and Oda by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimez (Finished 8/25/06). 136 pages. The spin-off series from Jodorowsky's The Incal. This tells the story of the family history of The Metabarons, one of the main characters from the other series. This volume focuses on Aghnar, son of the first Metabaron, who is forced to go into hiding after a vicious cult attack his home forcing the family to flee. The son of each Metabaron must prove his worthiness by slaying his own father in mortal combat. He defeats all his enemies, but then after a betrayal he turns, becoming one of the most vicious mercenaries in the galaxy. Amazon Listing

Thief of Thieves Vol 2: Help Me by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, & Felix Serrano (Finished 8/24/15). 144 pages. Continuing the story, Conrad, having helped his son get out of prison, now has to help his boy get away from a drug cartel. The said criminals are demanding that he commit crimes for them, or they will execute his son's girlfriend. The protagonist agrees, but has a double cross in mind. We see more of the titular thief's relationship with his son and the causes of the rift between them. Again the book is fast paced and engaging. A good crime story. Amazon Listing

Thief of Thieves Vol 1: I Quit by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, & Felix Serrano (Finished 8/23/15). 152 pages. Conrad Paulson is secretly Redmond who is finally overwhelmed by the emotional toll his life of crime has caused. Yearning to reconnect with his ex-wife and extract his neglected son from prison, the protagonist weaves a complicated plan against old compatriots and an FBI agent prepared to make a bargain. A fast paced and fun story. Old ground with a new set of paint. Amazon Listing


The Fade Out, Vol 1 by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Finished 8/22/16). 120 pages. A noir style story set in the world of film noir itself. A screenwriter wakes up from a blackout drunk to find himself in the home of the leading lady of his current project and the woman herself strangled in her living room. Thus begins a twisting story as the film continues with a replacement blonde. Filled with old Hollywood cameos and locations, this story sucks you in and leaves you drooling for more when it ends. The author's prose and art merge seamlessly as usual. Amazon Listing 



XIII: El Cascador by Jean Van Hamme & William Vance (Finished 8/21/16). 48 pages. The 10th volume in the long running series about an amnesiac secret agent with the mysterious tattoo of XIII on his shoulder. By this story he has discovered his real name, but not much else. He had gone undercover in a South American country, rife with revolution, only to be betrayed and tortured. Full of action and intelligent, the attention to detail in the art is excellent. It is truly an exciting series. Amazon Listing



Astro City: Honor Guard by Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, & Brent Anderson (Finished 8/20/16). 176 pages. The latest trade in the long running series. this deals exclusively with the group of heroes called the Honor Guard. It is 6 stories, each centering around a different hero. As always with this series, the stories have an old school familiarity while at the same time manage to look at the material in a different light. And again as always, this book leaves you wanting more. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing



Killer Komix 2, edited by Antonio Ghura (Finished 8/19/16). 88 pages. An anthology of stories detailing serial killer cases. In this issue installment they discuss: Ten Bundy, Jack the Ripper, The Yorkshire Ripper, Bible John (Scotland's first recorded serial killer), The Boston Strangler, Harvey Glatman- The Bondage Murderer, and Fred West. Along with single page vignettes of a dozen more killers.  Each is written and drawn by a different artist, but overall the material is above average and historically accurate. Most of these killers have been gone into in greater detail elsewhere, but these give a decent overview. Amazon Listing

Moonstone Noir: Boston Blackie by Stephan Petrucha (Finished 8/18/16). 48 pages. Based on the character from the 1930s novels of Jack Boyle, this book, originally published ion the 1990s, tells the story of Boston Blackie a career criminal who exclusively preys upon the horrible rich. He is just released from prison after a heist gone wrong due to his opium addiction, Blackie has to put the pieces back together to discover what happened and if he is in fact a murderer. An excellent piece of noir fiction. Amazon Listing



Manifest Destiny Vol 1: Flora and Fauna by Chris Dingess & Mathew Roberts (Finished 8/17/16). 128 pages. A supernatural take on the Louis and Clark expedition with the pair beginning their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase territory on the orders of President Jefferson. With their mapping expedition they are ordered to put an end to any monstrous or supernatural elements they find. To this end they run across a stone age tribe of Bison-centaur men and a carnivorous fungus that propagates by infecting animal life. A very fun read. Amazon Listing


Descender Vol 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen (Finished 8/16/16). 160 pages. In a thriving Galactic Alliance a seven gargantuan robots appear and attack several key worlds, devastating them, before disappearing. Ten years after the event and a robot purge, a link is discovered between a series of small companion bots and the massive monsters. A group attempts to unravel the mystery. An engrossing interesting story, well worth a look. Art and prose merge seamlessly here, one adding to the depth of the other. Amazon Listing


Special Forces by Kyle Baker (Finished 8/15/16). 200 pages. Zone, the unwitting pawn of a corrupt recruiter, is a mentally disabled soldier. Felony is a three-time loser who enlisted to avoid life in prison. When the rest of their unit is massacred in Baghdad, these brave American teenagers are democracy's last hope against the villainy of the notorious terrorist known as The Desert Wolf!Like most of Baker's work it is fast paced, insightful, and at times hysterical. Amazon Listing



Acts of Violence: An Anthology of Crime Comics by Various, edited by Chad Boudreau (Finished 8/15/16). 124 pages. Four crime stories that involve: A young boy during the roaring twenties who grows up to be a gangster and having to turn on the friends he grew up with. A junkie that becomes part of a kidnapping scheme, which turns out to be more than he was told. Two cops who skirt on the wrong side of the law for what may or may not be justice. A rookie cop has to defend a crook from vengeful parents. Fast paced and a good read. Amazon Listing


After the Cape: All Falls Down by Howard Wong and Jim Valentino (Finished 8/14/16). 112 pages. Ethan Falls was once a respected super-hero — until his drinking got the better of him. Now he finds he is unable to provide for his young family, and his own sense of failure starts to beckon him towards easy money... and a life of crime. As Ethan lapses deeper into his illegal life, his erstwhile teammates uncover his secret and Ethan finds that the price may be too steep to pay, even for a fallen hero. Amazon Listing 



 Red Menace by Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo, Adam Brody, & Jerry Ordway (Finished 8/13/15). 144 pages. A silver age hero, The Eagle, run afoul of the HUAC. Smeared by Senator Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn, he branded as a communist sympathizer and forced to retire. But he uncovers a sinister plot and is forced to make a decision on whether to follow the law or start smacking bad guys. A fun story that uses a lot of personalities and locations from the era. There are some minor historical inaccuracies,.but if that doesn't bother you, then enjoy the book. Amazon Listing 


Aftermath by James Hudnall & Mark Vigouroux (Finished 8/12/16). 144 pages. After a devastating war with an alien race, the genetically created soldiers of the war attempt to adapt to life in the new society, which has been radically altered by the reverse-engineering of the invader's technology. But when someone starts killing off the remaining soldiers and their creators, one of them Ares, has to track the killer down or face execution himself. A fast paced science fiction story. Fun and light. Amazon Listing


Dream Big Dreams by Andrew Zabin (Finished 8/11/16). 100 pages. A complex narrative about a local bar owner grappling with the decision of whether to sell out to a big chain. The Lower Depths is a secluded basement tavern where locals congregate to discuss socialism and other philosophical concerns. When the owner contemplates selling to a corporation whose sincerity regarding maintaining the bar's integrity is in question, the idealistic regulars resist and decide to take matters into their own hands. An interesting debut graphic novel by the author. Fantagraphics Listing


Cornboy by Joshua Dysart & P.A. Corkey (Finished 8/9/16). 96 pages. The bizarre story of a boy who is half man/half corn. Raised without ever being allowed outside, one day he is set free in the care of a curious doctor, and begins to experience the outside world for what it really is. This is truly a unique story and it is impossible to predict where it is going. The book is worth it simply for the scene where the protagonist pollinates a field. Amazon Listing



 
The Wizard's Tale by Kurt Busiek & David Wenzel (Finished 8/8/16) 144 pages. A supposed evil wizard from a long line of evil wizards is forced to search for the Book of Worse which would cement the Wizards of Darkness absolute rule over the land of Ever-Night. The catch is the wizard is not really that evil and along the way has to make a decision whether to fulfill his goal. A fun tale, but what stands out here is the beautiful art by Wenzel. The picture included her does not do the book justice. Even if you couldn't read English, you could spend hours staring at the book. Amazon Listing

The Bradley's by Peter Bagge (Finished 8/7/16) 154 pages. A prequel graphic novel to Bagge's Hate series, starring the archetype of the Gen X slacker Buddy Bradley. It details the character's dysfunctional home life and the origins of his slacker lifestyle. He is a small time drug dealer living with his parents, uninterested in planning a future for himself, wishing to live constantly in the now. This book took me back to my youth and a time when Buddy was a reflection of myself as well. Highly recommended for anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s. Amazon Listing

Rat Catcher by Andy Diggle & Victor Ibanez (Finished 8/5/16). 192 pages. A tale of an FBI agent's manhunt for an assassin who specializes in silencing mob informants hidden deep within the Witness Protection Program. But the Rat Catcher has finally slipped up and the agent has one last chance to hunt him down before he disappears again forever. As the two men spiral in towards each other in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that plays out across the badlands of West Texas. Excellent illustrations and a fast paced writing keep the reader glued to the book. Amazon Listing


Mage: The Hero Discovered by Matt Wagner (Finished 8/4/16). 424 pages. An everyman character discovers that he is in fact the Hero of legend- specifically the Pendragon. He is joined by various allies and the titular Mage to fight a powerful enemy, a personification of the forces of darkness. A cutting edge comic from the 80s, Mage seems to be heavily influenced by The Hero With a Thousand Faces and stands out as an exceptional independent comic. This collects the fifteen issues that makes up the series, plus a short piece that connects to the companion series, The Hero Defined. Amazon Listing

American Flagg: The Definitive Collection by Howard Chaykin (Finished 7/31/16) 440 pages. The complete collection of the incredibly influential 80s indie comic. A brutal look at an America ruled by a absentee government on the planet Mars. The main character is a former porn star drafted into working as a ranger for the violent city of Chicago. The author pulls no punches in violence, language, or content matter. Incredibly fast paced and yet still chock full of material, this book is entirely plot driven with little to no character development. Yet it is still an amazing read with amazing art by the author. Highly recommended.  Amazon Listing

The Puma Blues by Steven Murphy & Micheal Zulli (Finished 7/25/16) 576 pages. An independent comic published in the 80s. I used to pick it up as best I could, but it was difficult. Finally they have collected it into one volume with an additional 40 page ending to the story, plus a bonus story by Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette. This comic was well ahead of its time, dealing with environmental issues in an esoteric manner, completely different from any other comic of its day. Beautifully illustrated and incredibly imaginative. This is not your standard narrative but it is certainly worth your time. Amazon Listing

Moonchild by Aleister Crowley (Finished 7/14/16). 336 pages. This novel starring Crowley's fictional alter-ego Simon Iff, with whom he had written a series of hit-and-miss short stories. Crowley explores various ideas of magik, spiritualism, and psychology to tell a tale of a group of magi who attempt to bring into the world a Messiah like figure (with  partiality to the feminine animus). Through this he has to battle a group of evil practitioners of the arts who want to prevent it. This is isn't magic in the throwing fireballs sense, but more on a ritualistic and spirit driven level. It doesn't have the most satisfactory ending, but it is one of Crowley's best written works. Caveat emptor. Amazon Listing

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III (Finished 7/11/16). 224 pages. One of the best Sandman book ever made. Technically a prequel to the series, it easily stands alone as a beautiful book (the events were hinted at in previous Sandman stories) where Dream has to right a wrong that he accidentally perpetrated several thousand years in the past. It also shows Dream's aspects from alien worlds-which again was hinted at but shown only once in the older series. The art is lyrical in its shifting nature, moving from style to style in effortless ease. I could've easily have spent an hour looking at each page, it was that beautiful. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell (Finished 7/10/16) 144 pages. Adapted from a prose novella by Neil Gaiman and Yoshitako Amano, which was originally adapted from an ancient Japanese folktale. A humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons and a Japanese emperor to steal the monk's life. With the aid of Dream of the Endless, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves. This is the Sandman character at its best. Amazon Listing 
 
Luna Park by Kevin Baker & Daniel Zezelj (Finished 7/9/16). 160 pages. A beautifully illustrated novel of a Russian immigrant in Coney Island tries to defend the woman he loves from a gang boss. But that is just the beginning as the story takes a surreal edge to it, sending the protagonist spiraling through past lives where he is betrayed by the same woman over and over. Zezlj's art perfectly matches the bleakness of the story, creating haunting empty images (empty even when its full of people) that create the endless tone. Amazon Listing


Colorworld by Rachel E. Kelly (Finished 7/7/16). 308 pages. The first of four books (of which there are a planned seven) in this series. It deals with the a woman's coming to understand the nature of a mutant power that has manifested in her body- when she touches someone, they die. While the book needs an additional edit, I enjoy the writer has created a strong realistic female protagonist without resorting to either man bashing or crafting a male archetype with breasts. A good read for someone who wants a superhero book without the tights. Amazon Listing


Wilkes on Trial by Charles Sevilla (Finished 7/1/16) 298 pages. A  shorter,  more focused book than the first book in the series, Wilkes: His Life and Crimes, dealing mostly with one case, and the death of the judge who presides over the trial. Like the first book, the author  savages the alleged impartiality of trial judges, the process by which they become judges, and the feeble mechanism to get the most corrupt and venal judges off of the bench. A fun excellent book, well worth your time. Amazon Listing



Rex by Danijel Zezelj (Finished 6/26/16). 80 pages. Originally published in Spanish. The protagonist is imprisoned as a decorated police officer and emerging on the other side of his prison sentence as an unrecognizable, the monster. He searches for both closure as he tracks down a love from his past to say goodbye, and then hunts down the men responsible for making him the brutal beast he has become. A haunting piece of art illustrating very well the idea of comics as music. Not so much in the words, but the way it flows. The book that transcends the noir and revenge stories that it pays homage to. Amazon Listing 

Wilkes: His Life and Crimes by Winston Schoonover (Finished 6/25/16). 352 pages. The author's actual name is Charles Sevilla, but the book is written as a pseudo-autobiography from the fictional Schoonover's perspective. A sort of latter day Dr. Watson, the author writes himself in as the legal sidekick of John Wilkes, defender of the downtrodden, or at least of those downtrodden who can pay high legal fees. Among Wilkes's picaresque misadventures is a stay in prison, where, disguised as an Arab, he leads the inmates in a riot. He makes a futile attempt to defend "the Lizard," a pimp who routinely abuses his 72 "rental units."A fast read and great book. Amazon Listing

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris (6/22/16). 256 pages. An interesting look at odd and failed comic book ventures from the golden, silver, and modern ages of comic books. There are over a hundred different listings. The author attempts to add humor in with the book, about half of which falls flat. However I cannot fault him on most of his picks, as they are among the weirdest and/or useless heroes ever conceived. There were one or two that I disagreed with such as Thunderbunny and Rom, were the author confuses different with bad. Still over all a great book. Amazon Listing

Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights by Sergio Toppi (Finished 6/18/16). 224 pages. A set of tales using the framing device as set forth in the 1,001 Nights. These follow  a similar format as the classic text with men being plagued by the whims of Jinn, or not heeding the advice of Jinn and thus dooming themselves. What stands out here from the story is the incredibly jagged art of the author. Each line of each pattern spins around in a discordant tone to create an incredible image, imitative of order being rendered from chaos. You could easily spend an hour admiring each page. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing

High Crimes by Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa (Finished 6/17/16). 224 pages. Disgraced Olympic snowboarder Zan Jensen runs a sideline business as a high-altitude grave robber. If she discovers a body, she extorts the family to bring it down properly. When a body is found at the summit of Everest with a treasure of state secrets under its skin, Zan finds herself in the crosshairs of a government hit squad. As she races to the roof of the world, Zan will navigate bullets and avalanches to find salvation in the deadliest place on Earth. Fast paced thriller. Amazon Listing 



The Hamilton Sketchbook by David Collier (Finished 6/16/16). 160 pages. A sketchbook of the author's adopted town of Hamilton, Ontario. It is a series of interesting vignettes of his life there, his settling in, his wife and child, and random sketches of the people and places in the city. Some of it is random, others somewhat plotted. Collier is more interested in the character of a town and place, than a story and I feel he captures it well here (without actually having been to Hamilton myself). Amazon Listing


One Model Nation by Courtney Taylor-Taylor (Finished 6/15/16). 160 pages. Set during the backdrop of of the German Autumn when the Baader-Meinhoff gang and the Red Army Faction were at their most violent, a band becomes intricately identified with the violence despite not having any political leanings themselves. It is the struggle for the band to form an identity yet remain independent of labels, which ultimately the are unsuccessful in doing, and finally are simply labeled as "nothing." Some people have dismissed this work as bland, but I feel that it deserves a good look. Amazon Listing 
 
Time Beavers by Timothy Truman (Finished 6/14/16) 48 pages. Published in 1985 when the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sparked a flurry of hard-nosed anthropomorphic animal features. This one deals with a group of evolved beavers who maintain temporal integrity with their Great Time Dam. The fight against the Rat people who want to spread chaos throughout the dimensions. A group of them have to go into Earth's past to prevent the rats from disrupting time. Silly and serious at the same time, this book makes for an enjoyable light read. Amazon Listing

Mumbai Confidential by Saurav Mohapatra & Vivek Shinde (Finished 6/13/16). 152 pages. A gritty noir story set in Mumbai, India. Told from the point of view of an ex-cop, who used to be a member of Mumbai Encounter Squad, a secret unit tasked with carrying out extrajudicial executions of wanted criminals.After a hit and run that kills a young girl, he gets swept up once again in the underworld. Standard noir tale made great by absolutely excellent art, and a series of special interludes that add depth to the story. Amazon Listing


Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell by Stewart P Evans & Keith Skinner (Finished 6/12/16). 320 pages. An analysis of the more than 700 Jack the Ripper letters. Most of the letters are regarded as hoaxes, including the famous "Dear Boss" missive that introduced the name "Jack the Ripper" (investigators credit this moniker to a tabloid journalist). Though perhaps frauds, the letters make interesting reading. In addition to an analysis of their texts, this volume includes complete transcripts of all the letters held in the police files along with numerous outstanding pictures of the original notes. Amazon Listing

Hip Flask: Unnatural Selection by Richard Starkings & Joe Casey (Finished 6/5/16). 48 pages. A , a group of geneticists  has conducted unholy experiments involving both human and animal DNA. This is the story of the birth of Hieronymous Flask and his eventual liberation from the torturous world of MAPPO. An absolutely gorgeous book, a brilliantly illustrated dystopian future which put me in mind of Blade Runner in its elegance and variety. However this is an origin story and leads to future events, so it is not complete unto itself. Still highly recommended. Amazon listing 


Classics Desecrated by Doug Wheeler et al. (Finished 6/4/16). 60 pages. A series of short pieces rewriting classic Aesop's Fable (along with H.P Lovecraft & Edgar Allen Poe stories) with a humorous and sometimes political flair. This one is hit and miss, the best being when the tale takes a bizarre twist. The political ones are rather dated and a cheap laugh. Buy it cheap if your interested. Decent art by a variety of talented artists. Amazon listing



Terry and the Pirates: Taffy at War by Milt Caniff (Finished 6/3/16). 125 pages. Originally publish in 1943. This contains the famous October 17 Sunday episode in which Corkin delivers the Congressionally-recognized "Flight Officer" speech. As it was WWII the action shifted to a more military style than Caniff originally presented in the strip. It is done in his comic realism style that marked Caniff apart in the medium. Aarmy nurse Taffy Tucker, survived a near-fatal dose of morphine but was left for dead. Found by Pat Ryan , Connie, Big Stoop and Texan marine Joss Goode, amnesiac Taffy is taken to a USN base where she falls afoul of Japanese spies.Amazon Listing 

Mark-of-the-Dog by Silvio Cadelo (Finished 6/1/16). 62 pages. Oringally published in Italian. This is an experience in surrealist fiction. An alien has comes to earth and relays his life story to various people, who then supposedly wrote to the author describing their experiences. The artistic style here is very soft and warm, not abstract but immensely stylized to fit the tone of the book. It is filled with fascinating ideas of life and culture on another planet. Amazon Listing


Corto Malteese: Voodoo for the President by Hugo Pratt (Finished 5/31/16). Originally published in Italian. A selection of four stories from the titular adventurer, who becomes a voodoo ritual, witnesses the dying delusions of a WWI deserter, then travels to the Amazon and becomes involved in searching for one of the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. The detail in the stories is impressive, but the translations for this volume is rather clunky. Other versions are better, so I've been told. But these are smooth tales, skillfully presented. Amazon Listing 


The Magician's Wife by Jerome Charyn and Francois Boucq (Finished 5/30/16). 86 pages. Spanning multiple decades and continents, this is a surrealistic tale about the wife of a philandering magician and her struggles with terrifying demons, both real and imaginary. An episodic story with an unconventional narrative. The art is incedible, very detailed and flowing with emotion. This won several awards when it was first published in the 1980s and is well worth your time. Amazon Listing 



Power of the Mind Worms by Rafael Kayanan & Steve Darnall (Finished 5/30/16). 43 pages. This book is set in the world of the Alpha Centari video game. Two factions are warring on a distant planet. The Gaians are environmentalists, and the technologically superior Morgans believe in exploiting the planet's resources. Into the mix comes Lindley, a Gaian who can communicate with the "mind worms" who have been attacking the colonists, turning them into a weapon against the principles of their society and her own. Excellent art and a morally ambiguous ending put this above similar stories. Amazon Listing


Hard Boiled by Frank Miller & Geof Darrow (Finished 5/29/16). 128 pages. An ultraviolent cyberpunk tale involving a robot assassin which doesn't know that it is one. The plot itself is thin, but what makes this book stand out is the amazingly detailed art. With plenty of splash pages throughout, each panel is chock full of detail and design which will cause the reader to spend quite a long time picking all of the bits hidden away in the background. The action is over the top and wonderful. A classic that still kicks. Amazon Listing


The Gulag Archipelago Volume Three by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (Finished 5/28/16). 558 pgs. The final volume in the authors massive undertaking in describing the brutality and sheer evil of the system of prisons and labor camps (called gulags) that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. This volume describes the unofficial death sentence that went along after being placed in certain camps, the fate of the prisoners after being released and sent into exile (as was often the case), and the worsening of the system after the rise of Khrushchev. This is not a novel, but a 2,000 page indictment for crimes against humanity. Amazon Listing 
 
The Curious Trio by Roger Leloup (Finished 5/14/16). 48 pages. Originally published in French. First story in the Yoko Tsuno series. A science fiction adventure where the Yoko, a Japanese electronics engineer and secutiry consultant,  and her friends. Here they investigate an underground river. But they find a lot more than they bargained for and become part of a story that began millions of light years away, changing their lives forever. A long running series by the Belgium artist. Amazon Listing


Saxon: The Astral Adventures of Rocco Vargas by Daniel Torres (Finished 5/13/16). 56 pages. Originally published in Spanish. Following up on the previous story, Rocco and his friends travel to Rhea, a moon of Saturn, which is in the middle of a civil war, to attempt to solve a mystery and recover their stolen space craft.  Drawn in the author's standard excellent style. It has a bit of a depressing ending actually, but it worth the time. Amazon Listing



The Whisperer Mystery: The Astral Adventures of Rocco Vargas by Daniel Torres (Finished 5/12/16). 48 pages. Drawn in a neo-art deco style this is a alternate reality tale of Rocco Vargas, a science fiction writer living in a civilization that has expanded across the solar system and met mulitple aliens races, along with genetically creating a few of their own. This is a noirish detective story where the protagonist accidentally gets caught up in events revolving around a drug supply route that leads back to Rhea, the 6th moon of Saturn, where a war for independence is going on. Amazon Listing

Gustav, P.I. Paranormal Investigator by Ken Meyer & Malcom Bourne (Finished 5/11/16). 45 Pages. story surrounding the investigation into a series of mysterious deaths. When Scotland Yard's standard police inquiry fails, Gustav, a "paranormal investigator," is called in. Gustav determines that the murderess is a vampire; in fact, she is a vampire who once bit Gustav, thus endowing him with paranormal abilities. Not only does Gustav have a mystery to solve but he also has an old score to settle. Excellent surreal paintings. Amazon Listing

Ghost Squadron: A Buck Danny Adventure by Francis Bergèse (Finished 5/10/16). 56 pages. Originally published in French. This is a revamp of the old French strip from the 1940s detailing the missions of Buck Danny in the U.S. Airforce. Set in Bosnia, 1995 Buck and his associates are training for a mysterious mission in unmarked planes for an unofficial mission that might get them shot at by their allies. The author is the most reputable illustrator in the area of aviation artand demonstrates here with an unparalleled technical detail. But there is a lot of planes and technical jargon,a warning for those who don't care for that. Amazon Listing
 
Margot: Queen of the Night by Jerome Charyn & Massimiliano Frezzato  (Finished 5/9/16). 63 pages. Continuing from Margot in Badtown. Margot and her wrecking crew demolish and remodel apartments, but Margot is a "Robin Hood" who defies or stalls her bosses to help squatters and derelicts relocate. Intriguing concept, quirky and well-drawn characters, diverse and colorful settings, gorgeous and detailed visuals. Amazon Listing




Rio by Doug Wildey (Finished 5/8/16) 288 pages. The story of an aging cowboy and gunfighter, as well as special agent for the President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. Collects the entire series first started out in Eclipse Monthly. Magnificently illustrated in a European style (I have no idea why the Europeans loved westerns so much). The author is an acclaimed illustrated and newspaper strip artist. This is considered his best work. Amazon Listing



Kelly Green: Million Dollar Hit by Stan Drake and Leonard Starr (Finished 5/7/16). 48 pages. Probably the best of the three "Kelly Green" graphic novels, as Kelly doesn't act quite as stupid and/or reckless as she does in the first two volumes. Here we have Kelly acting as a go between for an oil executive that had been swindled out of five million dollars, and then demanded one million more in order to reveal to the executives how he managed the scam. But there are other, more murderous, forces around as well Amazon Listing 


Kelly Green: One-Two-Three...Die! by Stan Drake and Leonard Starr (Finished 5/6/16). 48 Pages. Kelly Green, the  widow of a police officer, is employed as a go-between in payoffs for blackmail, kidnapping, and theft, as she explains with a sloppy smile to her beautiful sculptor landlady Samantha Brockhurst. It turns out that the hard-drinking "Sammy" may be the target of an assassin intent on murdering the family of her heartless millionaire father. Highly-detailed photo-realist art and a fast plot make up this story. Amazon Listing 

 
Kelly Green: The Go-Between by Stan Drake and Leonard Starr (Finished 5/5/16) 52 pages. Originally published in French. A young widow quests to discover and punish the man who caused her husband's death. Two highly acclaimed newspaper comic-strip artists of an earlier generation--Stan Drake (who originated The Heart of Juliet Jones and continued Blondie) and Leonard Starr (who originated On Stage and continued Annie)--pooled their talents in a less "restricted" project. While the plot has some contrivances, it is a fun little noir-ish tale. The art is very detailed in a realistic style. Amazon Listing

New Tales of the Arabian Nights by Richard Corben & Jan Strnad (Finished 5/4/16). 140 pages. Originally serialized in Heavy Metal magazine. This should really be called the Last Voyage of Sinbad as it is his story, rather than a collection of tales. The story is an excellent one, perhaps a bit racier than the original, but it certainly captures the magical feel of the first book. Corban's art is superb here, as always, mixing his style with an acid-colored appeal. Certainly recommended to anyone who remembers the old magazine. Amazon Listing


Tecumseh!  by Allan W. Eckert & Timothy Truman (Finished 5/2/16). 62 pages. This is Timothy Truman's beautiful graphic novel adaptation of Alan Eckert's outdoor drama Tecumseh! which is performed every summer in Chillicothe, OH. It is based on the life of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and tells the story of the rise and fall of this great Indian hero and his ambitious plan to unite the eastern woodland tribes in a final war to remove the threat of white expansion into the trans-Alleghany west. Not 100% historically accurate, but interesting nonetheless. Amazon Listing

Into the Shadow of the Sun: Rael by Colin Wilson (Finished 5/1/16). 56 pages. Originally published in French. A handful of hardy, human survivors scavenge on an Earth ravaged by genetic and ecological catastrophe. Their latest risky venture is a trap however and an unknowable time later leader Rael and his wary comrades awaken in an incredible new environment: clean, antiseptic, sterile and orbiting high above the broken world they were born into.  Amazon Listing



Fever in Urbicand by  Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters (Finished 4/30/16) 96 pages. Part of the Cities of the Fantastic series. Eugen Robick designs the perfect city until a foreign element invades, a grid of beams which grows to gigantic proportions, throwing all well-laid plans into disarray but somehow making everyone realize the errors of their ways. An ironic work with stunning visuals, like all of the entries in this series. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing
 

Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit by Steve Niles & Scott Morse (Finished 4/28/16). 32 Pages. A story of the undead detective Cal McDonald. A noiresque story where Cal has to examine the wreckage of a fatal military experiment and exorcise the remains. The format is different, not typical of comics or graphic novels. The text appears an old typewriter font. The text floats in space around the sketchy art. It's all washed in beautiful watercolors, mostly deep blues and purples, with occasional browns mixed in. The artistic style is well suited to the story. Amazon Listing



Cruisin' With the Hound by Spain Rodriguez (Finished 4/27/16). 120 pages.  A collection of memories and vignettes from the artist's misspent days in Buffalo, NY in the late 50's and early 60's. An anti-Happy Days look at the not so glorious time in the past. From the author's time as an innocent young churchgoer to his time as a member of the Road Vultures motorcycle gang, this is a fun collection of stories. Amazon Listing



Bughouse by Steve Lafler (Finished 4/25/16). 208 pages.  Set in an "insect noir" Manhattan of the early fifties, BugHouse is the tumultuous story of Tenor saxophonist, Jimmy Watts, as he leads his talented jazz band of "bugs" from the swing era into the uncharted maelstrom of Bop. A good look at drug use and music in the 1950s and 60s. Excellent use of anthropomorphic art, each chatacter is incredibly distinct. Amazon Listing 





The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty (Finished 4/23/16). 182 pages. A tale of temptation, betrayal, and reprisal, this powerful novel is set in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War. It tells of Gypo Nolan, who informs on a wanted comrade. The author portrays Gyppo as a character who seems all body, instinct, and appetite, and he sets him up in contrast to Dan Gallagher, the rebel commander, who is all mind and intellect. Both are concerned with power, but Gyppo's is brute strength, and Dan's has to do with keeping his comrades in line by virtue of his capacity for cold-blooded scheming. Amazon Listing


Down. Set. Fight. by Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, & Scott Kowalchuk (Finished 4/17/16). 144 pages. he story of “Fearless” Chuck Fairlane, a once famous football star turned high-school coach. Thrown out of football because he clocked a beloved mascot in the kisser, Chuck is now being mysteriously attacked by mascots left and right. Despite the book’s ridiculous and often sidesplitting premise, the writers sneak in a surprisingly heartfelt story beats as Chuck knocks fuzzy teeth out of a mascot’s forever grin.Amazon Listing


Buffalo Noir  Edited by Ed Park & Brigid Hughes (Finished 4/16/16). 224 pages. From the Akashic Noir series, this book is a series of short stories set in the Buffalo, New York area. Like all anthologies the quality of work is a crap shoot and this is no different, ranging from the mediocre to the good, there are a few very good stories in here, but you have to hunt towards near the end of the book. Amazon Listing




Patience by Daniel Clowes (Finished 4/13/16) 180 pages. A psychedelic science-fiction love story, veering with uncanny precision from violent destruction to deeply personal tenderness.   As in his previous genre experiments, the tropes are there primarily to serve Clowes ongoing exploration of loneliness, rebellion, and alienation - in this case to the point of dissociation and even madness. It's a narrative that's brilliantly conceived, utterly unpredictable, incredibly economical and inventive as hell, both vast in scope and deeply intimate in character detail. Amazon Listing


The Dirty Dust: Cré na Cille by Máirtín Ó Cadhain (Finished 4/11/16) 308 pages. Originally written in Irish, this book entirely consists of dialogue between dead characters in a small town in Ireland, chattering away in the graveyard. They have no knowledge of the living world, and as such fret over their loved ones and their legacy, while engaging in the same squabbling, gossip, rumors, backbiting, and complaining that occupied their living life. Despite all of the characters being dead, this book is full of life A different kind of read. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing



The Wordsmiths and the Warguild by Hugh Cook (Finished 4/2/16). 328 pages. The second in the Chronicle of an Age of Darkness series, the events in this book, as with all the entries in this series, take place simultaneously with the first book and while it is not necessary to have read the first one, it does accent the plot. This deals with a hapless questing hero looking for a magical item (actually a technological one, but he isn't aware of it), to free his captured lover. The book is done in a humorous amoral tone with very few obviously purely good or evil characters. I normally don't read this genre, but this is a cut above the rest. Amazon Listing

Jeremiah: Gun in the Water by Hermann (Finished 3/23/16). 117 pages. Originally published in French. Jeremiah and his cynical sidekick, Kurdy, journey across a shattered, depopulated America, a thrown-back America tribalized by race, religion, and cults of personality. In Gun in the Water, Jeremiah and Kurdy, hiding out in a bayou backwater, encounter a dysfunctional family racked with violent passions and trapped by deadly secrets. Amazon Listing



Neferu the Cat by Carlos Trillo & Pini (Finished 3/22/15). 48 pages. An interesting view of the world through the eyes of cats and dogs who are waging a secret war with each other and view Humans as their servants. The cats here are the protagonists and call their human's mascots, while those attached to dogs are referred to as slaves. For only 48 pages there is a richness of detail here that makes it feel like a fully formed world. Amusing and interesting. Amazon Listing



Miracleman: The Golden Age by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham (Finished 3/21/16). 192 pages. Finally back in print after twenty five years of legal wrangling, this book picks up after Alan Moore's run where the titular hero creates a paradise on Earth. This is a series of short stories detailing different people's reactions and experiences to living in the new age of miracles. This is Gaiman at his best and the art by Buckingham is absolutely superb. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing



The Luck in the Head by John Harrison & Ian Miller (Finished 3/20/16). 117 pages. This story is set in the bizarre city of Uroconium, where the main character dreams of a strange ritual from his childhood. The women of his village pursue a "lamb"; to eat a pie made from its head is considered good luck. This leads him on a surreal odyssey through the city which culminates on an assassination attempt on a religious figure. What sets this book apart is not the story, but the artwork, which is incredible and arresting. Easily some of the best I've seen in this medium. Amazon listing


Hurricane: Stella Norris 1 by Roberto Baldazzini & Stephano Guadiano (Finished 3/19/16). 48 pages. A somewhat optimistic title as there was no Stella Norris 2, 3, 4, or 5 published- at least not in English. It is the tale of a young Hollywood starlet in Florida who, after being just married to man she doesn't really care for, is forced by the titular hurricane to stay at a hotel with the owners, one of whom is mentally ill, and an aggressive alligator hunter. Excellent art, makes for a compelling noir story. Amazon Listing


Billie Holiday by Munoz & Sampayo (Finished 3/18/16). 49 pages. A biography of the tragic life of 1950's singer Billie Holiday. It starts from her days as a child prostitute and drug addict and follows her up to her sad ending as a washed out junkie. It does not hold back, dealing more with her private life and her masochistic tendencies to pick men that abuse, demean, and steal from her. This along with having to live in a society that treated her as a second class citizen despite her fame, makes this book a compelling read. Amazon listing


Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello & Victor Stanos (Finished 3/17/16). 200 pages. The story of a disgraced man with a chip on his shoulder whose best years are behind him, dropped in the middle of a group of over-privileged rich girls. For the love of a filthy rich girl (that he knows in his heart won't redeem him), he'll do whatever it takes because he just can't resist the hell of a ride she takes him on...in the fast lane. Without any brakes. The illustrations here give the dark content a film noir feel. Very well done. Amazon listing



The Gulag Archipelago Volume 2 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn  (Finished 3/15/16). 712 pages. The author continues with his exploration of the Russian Communist gulag system and the atrocities perpetrated under the leftist Soviet regime. This volume focused on the inner camp workings and the destructive processes used to destroy the inmates body and soul.  "58's" (i.e. persons imprisoned under Article 58 for political unreliability) were imprisoned in camps almost always located above the Arctic Circle. There they worked 12 hour days  and fed only a few ounces of bread and a bowl of "gruel." (I.e. thin watery soup) Professional thieves occupied  supervisory positions while skilled engineers, scientists etc. were consigned to "general work. Amazon Listing

Sparrow Volume 1: Ashley Wood by Ashley Wood (Finished 2/21/16). 48 pages. An art book, collecting the work of Austrailian artist Ashley Wood. His work is classic - well informed by mid-20th century illustration, yet definitely contemporary.This is a smaller sized than your standard art book, but it is filled with wonderful material. Amazon Listing

  



Scandalous by J. Torres & Scott Chantler (Finished 2/20/16). 96 pages. An excellent story of a gossip writer in 1950s Hollywood who collects a number of writers, blacklisted by McCarthyism politics, to create his own scandal magazine. Eventually he comes into conflict with the most powerful Hollywood columnist of the era Paige Turner ( a Hedda Hopper analog). This boils over into a truly amazing ending. Highly recommended.  Amazon Listing




The Bloody Streets of Paris by Jaques Tardi & Leo Malet (Finished 2/19/16). 192 pages. Set during the Nazi occupation of France during 1941. A private detective is being repatriated from a POW camp back to Paris and becomes embroiled in a murder mystery after witnessing an old associate of his gunned down on a train platform. A classic structure to a very compelling mystery with a satisfying conclusion. The depiction of wartime Paris is very compelling and beautifully illustrated with a minimalist approach that belies the tension surround the protagonist. Amazon Listing

The Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man by Kennith Bulmer and Jesus Blasco (Finished 2/17/16). 112 pages. An old Brittish villain in his own series. Louis Crandell becomes involved in a scientific accident that grafts a steel claw onto his hand and allows him to become invisible (except for the claw) when he connects with electricity. If you ignore the obvious faultiness of the science then it is a fun, faced paced chase, as The Steel Claw commits a series of crimes while being chased, then reforms but keeps getting sucked back into crime. The art by Blasco is superb and is worth the price of the book alone. Amazon Listing


Road to America by Baru (Finished 2/16/16). 80 Pages. Set in 1950s France during Algeria's struggle for independence, a famous Arab boxer refuses to take sides and suffers for it- taking flack from both sides. This is compounded by the Algerian resistance attempting to extort money for him as a "resistance tax".  This comes to a head during the 1961 police massacre of Algerian demonstrators in Paris. A wonderful book, brilliantly illustrated. I want to read more of this author now. Amazon Listing


The Gulag Achipelago Volume 1 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Finished 2/15/16). 656 pages. The ultimate prison memoir. First published in 1973, this was the authors in-depth look at the brutal Russian prison system and the realities about the "worker's paradise" of a leftist regime. Millions of people are arrested, often not for any crime, but because the police needed to fill a quota of arrests, and then forced into subhuman conditions where they were expected to die. In reality the gulags were not prisons, but concentration camps made by the Russians for their own people. This is volume 1 of a three volume set. Highly recommended. Amazon Listing


Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows by A Goldfarb (Finished 1/21/16). 150 pages. A surreal collection of stories mostly surrounding the titular Ogner Stump and his blob sidekick Slub Glub. This is only for people who enjoy experimental story telling and art. It is different and quite interesting. Pick it up if you are really looking for something new. Amazon listing


Invincible Days by Patrick Atangan (Finished 1/20/16).  128 pages. A collection of short stories from the author's youth in the 1980s. As usual with this author, the art is impeccable and the stories are well thought out and presented. Page design consistently follows a nine panel grid layout. Flat expressionless animal faces mask the emotionally laden themes throughout the collection. These characters serve as a voice for a shy Fillipino boy baffled by Western culture and alone in a house full of sisters. Amazon Listing

Archie Vs. Predator by Alex De Campi & Fernando Ruiz (Finished 1/19/16). 144 pages.  America's favorite teen meets the galaxy's fiercest hunter! When Archie and friends hit Costa Rica for Spring Break, party games and beach games are soon replaced by the Most Dangerous Game! Lured by the challenge of Betty and Veronica's unparalleled fierceness, a teenaged Predator from the stars follows the gang back to Riverdale, where it prepares for its most bizarre hunt ever. This book is actually pretty brutal. If you like the idea of seeing Jughead decapitated and his skull used as a trophy, as I do, than this book is for you! Amazon Listing


Lakota: An Illustrated History by Sergio Macedo. (Finished 1/18/16). 56 pages. The story of the Lakota people and their dealings with the settlers, that eventually reduced their land to nothing.  Through the eyes of Thunder Eagle, a gifted young warrior training to become a medicine man, the author recreates the life of the Plains Indians: the hunt for the life-giving buffalo, the warfare between traditional enemies, the quest for understanding of the Sacred Way. Against this background unfolds the saga of their conquers and the famous battles of the Sioux Wars. While the author betrays his racist feelings towards "white people" in the narration, the acrylic on paper art is first rate. Amazon listing



The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Finished 1/17/16). 432 pages. An interesting story of a reclusive author who has always told multiple conflicting stories about her past has decided to finally tell her tale to a young biographer. But she has to tell it in a specific way, in this there is a shadow story to her main tale which the biographer has to determine in order to finish her book. A very good book that ends in a satisfying way. Amazon Listing