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Doomboy
Doomboy
by Tony Sandoval
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $15.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Serious whimsy, December 24, 2014
This review is from: Doomboy (Hardcover)
This guy named Id, who is almost all hair, literally develops a hole in his heart (in fact, in his entire chest) when his girlfriend Annie dies. He busts his guitar in a brawl, buys a star from an illicit street vendor for inspiration, creates "doom metal," hears noises on a radio that he attributes to Annie, and decides to send his songs into the universe after adopting the name Doomboy.

Mina in The Green Room of Doom hears the transmission and turns Doomboy into a legend of pirate radio. All of that translates into a story about the power of music, the power of pain, and the power of forgiveness. Maybe it's about the power of the universe. There's a supernatural element that works well but the elements of mysticism blend well with the musical elements.

I like the way the art adds whimsy in sort of a serious way to a story that is both whimsical and serious. All of this is done in a minimalist style that doesn't waste a word or a panel. If I could, I would give Doomboy 4 1/2 stars.


Minimum Wage Volume 1: Focus on the Strange
Minimum Wage Volume 1: Focus on the Strange
by Bob Fingerman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.31
50 used & new from $4.00

5.0 out of 5 stars "Self-referential and meta and very hip", December 23, 2014
Minimum Wage manages to be "self-referential and meta and very hip" (to quote the main character) while making fun of comics that are self-referential and meta and very hip. I missed the first round of Minimum Wage but this volume (published after a lengthy hiatus) convinced me that I should check out the earlier installments.

The story is about a divorced cartoonist named Rob Hoffman who has trouble getting laid, perhaps because he is a cartoonist, perhaps because he's living with his mom. He's making ends meet by drawing porn which, I have to think, is not the kind of career that attracts a lot of women. The guys he hangs with aren't much help.

As modern men do, he turns to a dating site and has the usual awful experiences before finding a girl who makes his life ... complicated. He goes on to have additional encounters, all of which make his life ... complicated. Well, we've all been there, haven't we?

Some of this is really funny, like the panel in which Rob, walking down the street, thinks to himself "I'm still wearing a condom." There's also a fair amount of boner humor, boners always being good for a laugh. The pages that are not LOL funny are always at least amusing. The humor comes from a decidedly male perspective, leading me to suspect that the volume will have greater appeal to males than to females.

There are a lot of words here -- they tend to crowd out the art -- but at least you can't breeze through this in 5 minutes. I regard Minimum Wage as being more about the story than the art, even though the story is about art (well, mostly it's about the sex an artist is having or trying to have). Rob does make an effort not to objectify women while Bob Fingerman makes the point that it ain't so easy to do.

I admire Fingerman's ability to draw a world populated by such hideously unattractive people (in other words, the world as it actually exists). I also like the startling impact of dream sequences that appear in color.


Age of Darkness Volume 3 (Grimm Fairy Tales Presents...)
Age of Darkness Volume 3 (Grimm Fairy Tales Presents...)
by Patrick Shand
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.56
26 used & new from $8.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderland, Oz, and chick fights, December 21, 2014
This volume gives us Venus, who lets us know that a war is coming, but then a war is always coming so that's no surprise. She'll have to fight that war against Zeus. It begins while Zeus is having lunch at Gyro Palace (clever touch, I thought). Fortunately, Zeus has one of his sons (Julian) on his side, although after so many deaths and rebirths Julian doesn't quite recognize his dad. No surprise because Zeus is looking pretty mortal these days.

Another story involves a chick fight in Wonderland, complete with leather crotch close-ups. Who needs a plot, really? It might all be a dream but it gives way to a different chick fight on Earth. The plot of the second fight is more about half-exposed boobs than leather crotches, but it's good to have variety.

Then we have a Wizard of Oz story with the addition of a dude who looks suspiciously like Darth Vader and a decidedly mature version of Dorothy. The edition wraps up with a cover gallery that is really more of a boobage gallery.

As is true of earlier volumes, the storytelling is interesting but inconsistent. The art, however, is of a consistently high quality. When evil forces speak, the lettering is in red and gets all wavy and strange, making it difficult to read, which is my most consistent gripe about the series. On the whole, though, I enjoyed this volume.


Star Mage
Star Mage
by JC De La Torre
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.89
28 used & new from $11.51

2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe this would appeal to very young readers, December 20, 2014
This review is from: Star Mage (Paperback)
Darien's dad was an astronaut which should exempt him from being picked on, but he's a nerd so the jocks pick on him anyway. It's a law of nature. Darien's dad apparently crash lands on Mars, but more than a year later Darien's eyes start to glow as he's being hoisted up a flagpole by the jock brigade. Somehow he finds himself on a spaceship where a Star Mage tells him that he has the heritage of a warrior, having been born to Dalidor the Magnificent, a great sorcerer. That's news to Darien, although being a nerd he seems perfectly willing to accept his nerdish new reality.

Darien is suddenly thrown into a quasi-Star Wars scenario and discovers his latent magic powers. All of which is silly, predictable, and lacking any semblance of actual drama. Darien is likable enough and his dialog is less stilted than the other characters, who are trying too hard to be godlike or badass.

This story might appeal to a very young audience (in fact, I suspect it would) but for more mature readers, it's just kind of dull. The art is a little too "gosh wow" for my taste.


A New Dawn (Star Wars)
A New Dawn (Star Wars)
by John Jackson Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.71
66 used & new from $13.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, socially relevant intrigue, December 19, 2014
This review is from: A New Dawn (Star Wars) (Hardcover)
I'm not an obsessive fan who tries to fit each little piece of the Star Wars puzzle into position and wets his undies if the pieces don't fit perfectly. Canon, non-canon, new canon, don't really care. All I care about is an entertaining story and A New Dawn delivers that.

A New Dawn features Kanan Jarrus, f/k/a Caleb Dume, "the Jedi who never was." The Force is strong within Caleb -- too strong, in his opinion. He tries to ignore it as he travels through the Galaxy in search of a good party or an entertaining brawl, always endeavoring to blend in with rowdy locals and remain unnoticed by the Empire. After all, the Force didn't save his Jedi friends when the Republic turned against them.

Kanan's travels take him to a moon orbiting Gorse where thorilide is not being mined as efficiently as Count Vidian, one of the Empire's bureaucrats, would like. On the other hand, a demolitions expert named Skelly is convinced that the mining operation is going to blow up the moon.

Star Wars stories usually include at least one heroic female. A New Dawn has two: a Twi'lek named Hera Syndulla and a Sullustan named Zaluna Myder. Both are budding rebels, concerned with just how evil the Empire has become. Zaluna's faith in surveillance is shaken by the uses to which the Empire puts it.

A New Dawn adds some socially relevant intrigue to the usual Star Wars lore. There's a military-industrialist complex angle that helps explain the successful displacement of the Republic by the Empire. There's the surveillance angle that speaks to the tendency of government to misuse its power when it spies on its citizens. And there's an environmentalist angle that involves the willingness of the military-industrial complex to ignore warnings and put workers at risk if environmental protection would harm the production of goods that the military needs. In fact, the story could be viewed as an allegory of strip mining or mountain top removal. Or it could be viewed more simply as an early Empire versus Rebels story. Either way, it works.

There's plenty of the action that should be present in Star Wars but it all fits within the logic of the story. The writing is crisp and laced with the kind of humor that SW invites (Skelly, in particular, seems to exist for comic relief). Character development isn't bad. The characters aren't deep but they aren't shallow. They're the kind of characters casual SW fans will probably enjoy getting to know. At least I did.


Sorako
Sorako
by Fujimura Takayuki
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.54
41 used & new from $3.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemplative, December 16, 2014
This review is from: Sorako (Paperback)
Sorako loses her dog, can't find a job, visits her father in the hospital, finds a job, complains about the boring town in which she lives, wants to leave but has no money, tries to learn English (pretty funny), hangs out with a friend who annoys her, breaks up with a boyfriend who doesn't love her, eats an apple, watches movies, complains about her boring life, breaks her leg, briefly diets, tries to read more (although she has "trouble with all the words"), and makes promises that she may or may not keep.

Sorako's friend tells her that she is looking at life as a spectator. To the extent that the story has meaning, it comes from Sorako's evolving realization that there are some things you can't see when you look inside life from the outside.

There isn't much happening in Sorako, but at the same time a lot is happening. It's just happening in small doses, the way life happens. I can't say Sorako wowed me but it did give me some insight into the character of Sorako. It's a contemplative story that grew on me. It might have particular value to a reader who is sharing Sorako's stage of life.

I like the simplicity of the art and the sense of motion it conveys. On the whole, Sorako is a worthwhile introduction to a young conflicted person and the culture in which she lives.


Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something
Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something
by Jeffrey Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.59
37 used & new from $11.36

2.0 out of 5 stars Lame, December 15, 2014
I'm all for making fun of Transformers and other bot-things, but the humor in this volume is just lame. The title is funnier than most of the content. The volume is essentially a collection of gag strips, but the gags aren't funny. Even the sex jokes are lame. I mean, shouldn't robot sex be funny? How can robot sex be so dull? Yeah, the idea of rust as an STD has potential, but after you play that out over a dozen pages, it loses its edge.

I enjoy reading volumes that consist of gag strips -- they make good bathroom reading -- but only if they make me laugh. This volume made me yawn. The few gags that work fail to outweigh the many that are just ... what's the word? ... lame.


House of Cards Season 1
House of Cards Season 1
DVD
Price: $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, December 10, 2014
First, thanks to Cathay Pacific for putting season 1 of this series on its in-flight entertainment system. It made the long flight from Hong Kong to Chicago go quickly. It also prompted me to buy season 2.

Kevin Spacey is a masterful actor. This series showcases him in his prime. He plays his character with subtly and conviction. Supporting actors all give strong performances.

The story could not be more Machiavellian, which is what makes it so compelling. It is outlandish at times, but never unbelievable. Surprising twists assure that the plot is never dull. The blend of domestic and political drama is perfect.

Few series manage to attain this level of excellence. Kudos to everyone involved. House of Cards is just outstanding.


The Unwritten Vol. 10: War Stories
The Unwritten Vol. 10: War Stories
by Carey. Mike
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.33
62 used & new from $7.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The power of stories (and fictional armies) 4.5 stars, December 4, 2014
The power of stories is always the theme of The Unwritten. This volume adds the power of (fictional) armies.

Tom Taylor tries to find his way home as a bug, and then a bird, then a snake. He hopes the Mad Hatter can explain his ever-changing form. That hardly seems like a good place to go for advice, although an expert on madness might be just what he needs. Tom realizes he entered a fictional state of his own accord (he figured that out in an earlier volume) but now he seems to be stuck drifting from one story to another, all of which end with his death. Fictional worlds are rough places to live.

Eventually Tom meets up with friends from earlier volumes and finds himself in a world where all the fictional wars have "woken up" and are being fought at the same time -- or at least the multitudes in which London is invaded. Again, a rough place for Tom and his adventurous friends to visit. The intermingling of Visigoths and space aliens is fun for the reader, if not for Tom.

An old adversary in the series (who apparently has a grudge against genre fiction) resurfaces and the father-son conflict continues. Later Tom donates blood to some wooden puppets. In other words, this is another strangely good installment in the Unwritten saga. Maybe it's not quite as mind-blowing as it was in the beginning or maybe I've gotten used to it, but I'm still finding plenty of entertainment value in the series. The story continues to plays with ideas about the blurry intersection of fiction and reality in intriguing ways. I would give this volume 4.5 stars if I could.


The Wake
The Wake
by Scott Snyder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.62
45 used & new from $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A grand unified theory of badness, November 26, 2014
This review is from: The Wake (Hardcover)
Trying to make sense of the fragmented story in The Wake is challenging, but it does eventually make sense, more or less. The initial plot involves a big undersea monster and a bunch of smaller monkey fish monsters and a scientist named Lee who studies the language of whales and a secret undersea petroleum drilling operation and ancient folklore and lots of chase scenes. Lee keeps having flashbacks to a scary event in her past that began with a sound that reminds her of the sea monster's battle cry. The other characters mostly annoy each other when they aren't busy dying.

Part 2 brings us into a future that has a good bit of North America underwater. What remains of civilization is busy fighting the monkey fish monsters (known as the mer) while what passes for a government is trying to keep people from listening to a radio broadcast that would explain how to save the world. Another Lee who seems a lot like the first Lee decides to investigate the message with her pet dolphin, leading to trouble with flying pirates and general mayhem. After that, well, things just get weird.

A huge information dump at the end explains what happened ... kinda ... but all those words gave me a headache. Still, I give the story props for being ambitious. It's just maybe a little too ambitious in its attempt to create a grand unified theory of badness. The ending sort of drags on, like the writer just didn't know when to shut it and call it a day. Overall, though, the story's entertainment value overcomes its multiple weaknesses.

The art is stylish but I can't say that I could always puzzle out what is happening. Usually what's happening involves characters getting ripped apart by a monkey fish but I often had difficulty distinguishing one character from another. And forget about distinguishing one monkey fish from another, not that there's really a need to do that.


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