Category Archives: Comics

Something Wicked This Way Comes (comic) Review

Time to sound like a broken record: I tried to like this. Yes, I tried to read the novel, failed and now I read the comic and even failed at that. Let’s just get on with it.

Two friends, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, decide to go to an amusement park that has just arrived in their town. This amusement park is operated by Cooger and Dark, two figures who, as our leads find out, are much scarier and have some grim ideas for their park.

Yes, this is the origin of all those scary amusement park stories that ever came out. Hell, this is a brilliant set up and a lot can happen. The only problem is this book is boring. Ray Bradbury was a talented writer and was able to write some excellent books. This is, sadly one of his stinkers. Both the book and the comic bored me because not much of interest happens. Yes, there are some moments and some truly disturbing imagery, but most of the book is about Will and his dad. While there’s nothing wrong with that sort of story, the main point of this story is that there’s an evil park run by evil dudes and I want to be scared dammit.

As far as scared, the only scary bits are what the characters look like and act. They don’t really do anything scary.  It may be more of a psychological terror, but even that doesn’t work.

The idea of an evil carnival/amusement park is scary because this is something many kids look forward to when summer comes. If there is some kind of danger, such as “you’re literally going to die,” it will scare kids and is something some parents have a fear of. People have died on rides, you know. Hell, freak shows scare some people because they’re afraid of the acts attacking them. Bradbury had that chance here, and while he did something with it, all came across as weak.

Ron Wimberly did the art for the comic adaptation. It does bring out the creepiness of the situation and the black and white works a lot better than if it were in color. The character designs, on the other hand, aren’t anything spectacular. They look like an average Saturday morning cartoon, making this look more like a Goosebumps comic than something Bradbury would write.

Something Wicked This Way Comes has a great setup and is the originator of said setup, but the overall story is dull and not scary in the least. The art in the comic version has some nice things but also doesn’t quite mesh well.

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Batman: Year One Review

My Readers: “Where have you been?”

Me: “Family issues.”

Right, now that that’s out of the way, time to get to business. Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and art by David Mazzucchelli. Just say that to any comic fan and you’ll hear nothing but praise for it. Hell, it’s even considered to be the definite Batman origin story. I’ve had the comic collecting dust on my shelf for a year now and recently said, “right, time to read this.” After reading it, my thoughts can be summed up as, “really? This is a classic?”

So the story is about Commissioner Gordon, who was Lieutenant when this comic took place, just arrive in Gotham City and is trying to do everything to prove himself. His big chance comes when a vigilante dressed as a bat comes along and the city is starting to sing Gordon’s praises.

Notice how I barely touched on Batman? That’s because he’s a second fiddle character here. Yeah, a comic called BATMAN: YEAR ONE, the majority of the focus is on Gordon. It’s like those Star Wars novels where they have a character from one of the movies displayed prominently on the cover and when you read the book they’re only in it for, like, ten pages and the rest of the book is some new character that 9/10 dies at the end.

Oh, and Catwoman is in this comic. I can’t tell you why she’s in it because she really serves no purpose at all.

As for the story itself, it’s nothing special. It’s just a cop trying to be a good cop taking place in the DCU. The biggest problem is the pacing is all over the place. It’s either too fast or too slow. Not to mention Miller’s penchant for having his characters narrate. If this was a gritty noir story that’d be fine because that’s the genre. In a Batman comic, it feels off.

Another thing is the events that unfold just aren’t that interesting or are resolved too easily. I felt like skimming most of the story I was falling asleep.

The art is fine..for its time. While, yes,  when this comic came out the art was brilliant because there wasn’t anything like it at the time. Then every DC comic started looking like that and it got old. If anything, the art makes this comic look dated. It’s not terrible, the Batman outfit looks nice, but it’s just not that interesting to look at.

In all, yeah, Batman: Year One may have pioneered the Batman mythos back in the day, but so much has been written about Batman and a ton of origin stories written that this feels like a relic from a dark past. The story isn’t that great, Batman isn’t the star, and it’s not paced well. Just play Batman: Arkham Origin if you want a better Batman origin story.

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Captain America: Civil War and Marvel: Civil War Review

I’ve never been a big Marvel/DC reader. I really only watch the movies, watch some of the cartoons and only reading started reading the big name comics. That doesn’t mean I can’t give a fair review of the movie and the books they’re based on. So, a few days ago I decided to get the trade of Marvel: Civil War to prepare for Captain America: Civil War. Sadly I did it backward because everyone I know said not to read the comic.

First, let’s talk about the movie. The UN has decided to create a law that says The Avengers need to operate under the supervision of local governments after an incident that killed thousands of innocents in Africa. Captain America and Iron Man have different opinions on this matter which causes The Avengers to choose sides and fight in a big battle.

This difference in opinion is handled very well. Their reasonings do not appear petty or something thought up by some amateur screenwriter. How both sides handle it os also well written, and the consequences of their actions do make a ton of sense.

The acting is one of the high points of this movie. It appears that he writing has gotten a lot better which in turn makes these great actors do some impressive acting. Even the new guy who plays Spider-Man (Tom Holland) does a great job even though I think he comes across as a bit too young for the role.

Speaking of Spider-Man, he was pretty cool and not just some trailer bait. He  actually had an impact on the fight scenes and the story. Although of course *MAJOR SPOILER* the after credits scene says that there will be a new Spider-Man movie. This is a “no shit sherlock” situation. *END SPOILER*

The fight scenes are some of the best this franchise has seen. They are well choreographed and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The fight between Captain America and Iron Man is pretty damn awesome and will give you feels.

Now for the comic. Pretty much the same plot except it’s the New Warriors going after escaped villains and Pyro blew up, killing a bus filled with kids and most of the neighborhood they were in. This causes the creation of the Super Hero Registration Act and each superhero is picking sides on the law.

This book started off great but then devolved into crap. The characters all had one personality: asshole. You really did not want to choose a side because nobody, not even CAPTAIN FUCKING AMERICA, was righ. Even the ending is fucking stupid and feels rushed.

One of the biggest problems with this story is that there are way too many characters. The movie did the right thing in making it only a handful of characters because things get way too jubled as the story progresses. The worst part of this story is that it sets up One More Day, a comic 99.9% of readers say is worse than dying of AIDS. Yes, it’s that bad.

The art the only good thing about this comic. It’s some of the best you’ll see in Marvel.

In all, the movie was great and the comic is shit. The movie version took the basic plot line of the comic and made it not shit. Watch the movie and skip the comic.

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The Death of Superman Review

That’s right, another comic review. This time, it’s the comic that sparked a ton of controversy when it was released: The Death of Superman.

The idea of Superman dying was at the time inconceivable. This icon of good triumphing over evil just couldn’t die. DC did just that.

Now, I remember by friend warned me about this comic, saying it’s terrible. Of course, I had to actually read the thing to make my decision, and, after reading the first part called Doomsday, I can say that, yes, it is terrible.

The story is some alien called Doomsday has arrived on Earth and is wreaking havoc. Now it’s up to Superman to stop him. The story started with Superman stopping a bunch of underworlders from killing Lois Lane. After that, Doomsday comes and starts beating up a bunch of Justice League members. Which members? Who cares, they all get their asses kicked. Even Supergirl gets her faced warped by Doomsday (I say face warped because when Doomsday punches her in the face the art is so bad it looks like it gets warped.) After that, it’s nothing but one prolonged fight between Doomsday and Superman that culminates with both combatants dying.

And then a year later Superman comes back and says that he didn’t die, he just went into a Kryptonian regenerative hibernation. So, basically, this series should just be called The Sleep of Superman. This right here is one of the biggest reasons for the comic book crash of the nineties. After knowing that, there really is no reason to read this comic.

Actually, there is only one reason: To see what all the hullabaloo was about and for completion sake. Also, according to my friends who have pretty much read every Superman comic, This wouldn’t be the first time Superman dies and comes back. This is why I tend to avoid DC/Marvel unless it’s one of the movies or it’s one of the super popular comics (The Killing Joke, Batman Year One and the like.)

The art is, well, it’s nineties comic art. There really isn’t much to say because comic art during that time was pretty mediocre at best.

With that, I could’ve lived my whole life without reading this comic. The story has no thought put into it and the art is meh at best. I do plan on continuing the storyline out of curiosity, though.

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Let’s Talk About The Killing Joke

I have no shame in stuff like this.

As many of you have hear, there is an animated version of The Killing Joke coming out this September. It’s about now a good time for me to talk about it. I remember reading this comic a few years ago and being underwhelmed by it. Yes, I did not like it when I read it a few years ago. With the movie announcement I, decided to give this comic a second chance. After reading it, I have a new found respect for it.

For those who don’t know, The Killing Joke is a Batman comic written by famed comic book writer Alan Moore. It’s about The Joker escaping Arkham Asylum and Batman is looking for him. Along the way, The Joker buys an abandoned amusement park, shoots Barbera Gordon and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon.

Only Alan Moore can make this plot work. You see, something like this needs that special kind of fucked up, and who better than a guy who looks like this to write it. That special kind of fucked up includes shooting, paralyzing and taking nude pictures of Barbera Gordon and an entire song about the joys of being crazy. The joy of reading this is is that it is not the typical Batman story. It’s more like a trip into someone’s messed up mind.

Ehn I first read it, I thought the ending was lame. Now that I have re-read it, it’s brilliant in a way. I can’t say what happens because it will be a spoiler, but if you pay attention you’ll understand why. It’s also open-ended, which sometimes sucks but this time, it’s pretty awesome. That is until DC fixed all that.

Speaking of DC fixing stuff, DC is now retconning Barbera being paralyzed. That is really, really stupid in my opinion. Also, one of the biggest reasons this comic had such an impact of Batman is because of Barbera getting paralyzed. That’s it. Not about The Joker finally having something resembling a background, not what happens in the ending. NO! Barbera getting paralyzed is a big deal.

The art is done by Brian Bolland. As with the story, the art is one of the reasons this comic has stood the test of time. The best parts are that whenever something is supposed to be demented, it looks demented. Just look at the most famous panel. That alone is iconic.

Will I be seeing the movie? Of course. The thing is, it is possible to mess this up because some of the imagery and scenes may be watered down. Also, Alan Moore REALLY hates every adaptation of his work.

With that, read The Killing Joke before the movie comes out. It has a great story, fucked up everything and great art. If the movie sucks, go to Alan Moore and tell him that you’re going to boycott any further adaptations of his works. He’ll probably thank you.

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The Canterbury Tales (comic) Review

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of those Early Renaissance writers that English majors are forced to read. That is, forced to read in Middle English, which pisses off English majors because if Shakespeare’s language wasn’t hard enough, Middle English will make you want to kill your professor. The reason being that Middle English has a lot of words that are no longer in modern use and the pronunciation and spelling are completely different than Modern English. That’s why we have guys like Seymour Chwast, a comic book artist who decided to make a comic out of The Canterbury Tales in glorious fashion.

For those who don’t know, The Canterbury Tales is a bunch of stories told by various people who are on a pilgrimage to Canterbury being lead by Chaucer himself. The catch in this version is that everyone is going to Canterbury on motorcycles.

Yes, a bunch of 14th Century people riding motorcycles. Shut up, it’s awesome.

As far as how the tales are told, Chwast condenses the stories and replaces Middle English with Modern English. Yes, most of the poetic writing is gone (like my favorite, “This Nicholas just then let fly a fart as loud as it had been a thunderclap.”) The story is still there. It’s understandable as to why Chwast did this: Comics and 14th Century poems are different mediums.

The art is pretty weird. It’s terrible, but it’s not good either. Sometimes the characters look fine, but then the art becomes really basic and the characters look awful.

As I said above, the motorcycle motif is more of a comedic tactic than an artistic. It works, of course. The problem is Chaucer himself is riding in the sidecar with the Host. It would’ve been funnier if he had his own bike.

For those looking for an easy way to read The Canterbury Tales, this comic is your best bet. The stories may be condensed and the art pretty bad, but it’s still one hell of a ride to read just to say you read The Canterbury Tales and to see a bunch of 14th Century people on motorcycles.

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Fragments of Horror Review

That’s right people, I’m touching another manga written by the master of messed up horror manga Junji Ito. This time, it’s his short story collection Fragments of Horror. For those wondering why didn’t I do this for Halloween, I kinda forgot I had this thing and read it after Halloween.

I suck, I know.

Anyway, this short story collection is as messed up as you’d expect from it.

The first story, Futon, is about a woman who is worried about her husband who refuses to get out of his futon because he claims he sees monsters. The woman does not believe him but does once she starts seeing them. It’s a nice and scary story with a great idea, but the payoff isn’t all that.

Wooden Spirit is about a girl and her dad who own a large house that has just been labeled by the Japanese government as a historical landmark. One day a woman drops by and asks for a tour. She falls in love with the house and marries the father. However, there is a lot more to this woman than she gives off. This one is excellent from beginning to end. The ending is pretty messed up.

Tomio – Red Turtleneck is pretty meh. A guy cheats on a fortuneteller, but the fortune teller only wants his head. She cuts it off, but he tries throughout the story to keep it on. Not that interesting, even though the idea is scary enough.

Gentile Goodbye is about a girl who’s constantly having nightmares about her dad dying. She marries a guy from a pretty wealthy family that at first seems normal, but as time goes by she finds out that some of the family members are really ghosts. This is another one that’s not really scary, but it does have a pretty touching ending.

Now the really messed up stuff happens in Dissection-Chan. One day a woman sneaks herself into a medical school as a cadaver to be dissected. Turns out she’s been doing this all over the place. One of the students recognizes her as his childhood friend “Dissection-Chan,” called that because she loves dissecting things and wants to be dissected herself. This one is messed up because this woman is really hell bent on getting dissected that she DOES IT TO HERSELF! Holy crap, man!

Blackbird is about a guy who was found with both legs broken in the woods. Turns out he was in the woods for a month when he found. He says he rationed his food to survive, but in reality a strange woman came to him every day and fed him food from her mouth like a bird. This one was pretty creepy all because of that woman. Even the ending will leave you scarred for days.

Magami Nanakuse is about a girl who’s a fan of a novelist named Magami Nanakuse. One day she meets her at her home and finds out she;s a lot scarier than she should be. This is the worst of all of them. Not scary, uninteresting, boring. Skip.

Finally, there’s Whispering Woman. A man is at his wit’s end because he has a daughter that needs someone to make every decision for her (as in should she sit down or stand up.) He hires a woman to help her and she’s pretty good at it. However, this woman is slowly degenerating to the point of death. This is a decent story, not all that scary. The ending is the best part of the whole story.

In all, Fragments of Horror is a pretty good short story collection manga for fans of horror manga.



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Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood Review

Yup, another comic review. This one’s a little personal. As with almost all the books I read, I found this while perusing my local library’s shelves. See, libraries are still useful. This comic is called Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood by Martin Lemelman.

The reason I picked up this book is because, like Martin, I was born in Brooklyn to foreign parents and the Brooklyn I grew up in changed drastically. This comic is Lemelman’s memoir of growing up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn with his Holocaust-surviving Jewish-Polish parents and his brother. Here he describes incidents that happened to his family, his dad’s candy store and how his neighborhood changed.

To many who read this, this is just the typical story of a first generation American growing up in America. To others, this is all too familiar. I may not be Jewish (I’m Italian,) but Lemelman’s life is all too familiar for me. Immigrant parents who gave up lots to start a better life in a  foreign land in a neighborhood with people like them. Then, it all changed. Lemelman even said at the end of the comic, “I stopped. I looked. I drove away.”

This is an all too familiar feeling for many people who grew up in Brooklyn. What they remember is now long gone. It’s pretty sad. Many of these people have moved away to New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island, Upstate New York or, like Lemelman, Pennsylvania. Even many of his more private moments will ring true to a lot of people.

That’s why this comic is so powerful. Many people will see themselves in  Lemelman and maybe even shed a tear.

The artwork is black and white pencil drawings with some real life objects and photographs superimposed in them. This is one instance where flashy art is unneeded. This simple art style is effective in what it’s trying to do because this really is a simple life. It actually feels more lifelike this way.

Two Cents Plain is an astounding comic that hits home to many people, especially former Brooklynites. It’s well told and will cause many people to bring back some fond memories and even a tear or two. This one did it to me even though I never left Brooklyn.



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Sumo (Comic) Review

I’ve always said that I’m a man of many interests. One of them is sumo. Yes, an Italian born and raised in Brooklyn likes sumo. Don’t judge. I also like comics. Naturally, my eyes lit up when I saw a graphic novel called Sumo by Thien Pham sitting on the shelves of my library. I can safely say that this graphic novel did not disappoint.

Scott’s football career did not go as well as he planned. So he decided to start over by going to Japan and go into sumo. It is during this time that he doubts his life choice.

Stories about sumo tend to super rare and the ones that are there are not very good. This is an astounding exception. This story is more along the lines of self-reflection than sumo. Here, sumo is more of a backdrop than the actual plot of the story. Scott’s story rings true with many people. How many people can you name who didn’t like how their lives were going so they decided to start over? A lot.

The pacing of the story is a major highlight, The insert says that the story is supposed to be like a real sumo bout: lots of slow buildup to a fast paced ending. That is exactly what you get. We see various parts of Scott’s life from before leaving for Japan, training in his heya (sumo stable) to his time with new girlfriend Asami. This slow paced story telling is supposed to show off the real life of a  low ranked rikishi (sumo wrestler) who might not have a career after the next basho (tournament and yes I am aware I am throwing a bunch of sumo words at you.)

One major thing that helps tell this story is the art. Unlike other comics where it’s either black and white or color, here they come in orange, blue and green. The orange is for the Scott’s sumo training, the blue for his time in America and green for his time with Asami. It’s actually pretty brilliant technique to show the different parts of one’s life. Hell, blue is traditionally associated with sadness and his time in America is sad. Green is the color of renewal and orange is the color of determination. The amazing thing is that at the end all three colors come together perfectly to create one mighty ending.

In all, Sumo is an excellent graphic novel with top notch story telling and art. The best part is you don’t have to be a sumo fan to appreciate it. It helps, but the strong story is more than enough to make non-fans enjoy it.


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Coraline (Novel, Graphic Novel, Movie) Review

What’s this? I’m finally doing a review on another Neil Gaiman book? Well, yes. This time it’s that weird “fairy tale” (the book’s words, not mine) Coraline.

The story is about a young girl who just moved into a big house that was converted into a bunch of flats (that’s apartments to us Americans.) She is bored out of her mind because no matter what she asks her to do with her they are always busy. So she just goes out exploring by herself. While exploring she finds a door in her flat, that’s been boarded up. One she decides to disobey her mother and reopen this door which leads to another world where everything she wants is possible. That changes when her parents go missing and now she has to save them.

This is a nice little kid’s tale that does serve a valuable lesson. It can be said that lesson is no matter how much you think your life sucks you may not like it as much if everything was given to you. There are things that you will not like.

One intriguing thing about this story is the mystical elements. On the other side of the door, there are people with buttons for eyes. Why buttons? Well, it can be said that they have buttons because this world is supposed to be made by someone. One thing that does have buttons for eyes is dolls.

Or it can be Gaiman being creepy.

Coraline is also an interesting character. She may be a little girl, but she forces herself to be brave. She also has a ton of ingenuity as seen how she was able to make the Other Mother agree to allow her to find the souls of the three ghost children. Even how she defeats her is ingenious.

One complaint about the book is that the writing can come off as too basic. This may be a kid’s book, but that doesn’t mean the writing has to suffer.

The graphic novel is scene by scene of the novel which is awesome. The art by P. Craig Russell is top notch. The creepy scenes do look creepy, the character designs look great and the backgrounds perfectly fit the mood of the story.

Now for the movie. What’s there to say except it’s Tim Burton. It has his creepy, gothic style which is a bit of a turn off in some ways. The book may have some horror elements, but it’s supposed to look like real life. Eh, it’s Tim Burton. The movie does adapt the book pretty well so that’s a plus.

Ask anyone what the worst thing about the movie is and they’ll say “Wybie.” This is a character that did not appear in the book at all. His is annoying, uninteresting and is only there to save Coraline at the end. Yes, instead of Coraline using her wit to beat the Other Mother she “messes up” and Wybie comes and saves her. To quote every Gaiman fan, “bullshit.”

In all, Coraline is a great story with some great imagination. The graphic novel is also worth a read and the movie is OK despite a bullshit new character.

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