Category Archives: Comics

Manuelito Review

Before I start, I just want to say that I will try my best to keep the politics to a minimum and focus more on the graphic novel as a whole. Immigration in the United States is a super complicated topic that I will not get into on this blog. This is a review blog and, while I do review things that have political leanings in them, I do my best to avoid putting my political views into them and just review the story and, in this case, the artwork.

With that, if you haven’t been living under a rock these past three years, immigration and the Mexico/America border is a hot topic. While the only viewpoints we see are from politicians, Americans and the news media, we never hear from the actual immigrants. Comic book writer Elisa Amado decided to change that with Manuelito with illustrator Abraham Urias.

The story is about a young boy named Manuelito who lives in a small village in Guatemala. Things have gotten extremely dangerous in the village due to the influx of gangs and soldiers making life hard for everyone that his parents decided to hire a coyote (a man who helps people cross the border illegally) to take him to live with his aunt in the US.

How accurate the journey in this book is is unknown, but the only peril shown in this comic are the soldiers, gangs and the coyote who everyone says is dangerous. While that sounds interesting, the tension is about as thin as the paper this comic is drawn on. Manuelito even has a cell phone THAT HE KEEPS WITH HIM THROUGHOUT THE STORY! There are some tense moments that stop being tense on the next page or so.

There is only one major negative that happens on the journey, but it’s to his friend Coco Loco.

The only great thing with the story is the writing. Amado does a fine job of letting the leader see into the mind of Manuelito and how he’s feeling in a certain situation. There isn’t much of it though.

The artwork is all pencil illustrations. They’re nice drawings that do manage to tell a sequential story. Many may not like this style, but for a story like this, you really don’t need anything spectacular.

While Manuelito does have good writing, the story is OK and the ending is but predictable. This is obviously just a way to tell a point, which it does a fine job of, but as a comic it’s mediocre. The pencil illustrations are great, though so kudos to Urias.

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Lovely Demon: Demonic -Reaper Chronicles #1 Review

You’ll have to forgive me, dear reader, for I have not updated this site in two months. Life gets in the way of us creative types. In fact, I wasn’t going to do a review today since I hade neither the drive nor the topic to write one.

That changed when I finally read that comic I bought at Xaverian High School Comic-Con back in May. That comic is called  Lovely Demon: Demonic -Reaper Chronicles #1 by Zanny Lane. Apparently, it’s the physical version of the webcomic.  That title and the fact that it looked like an American manga is what made me drop $5 (it came with a bookmark and is autographed) to buy it. After reading it, I liked it, but with a few grievances.

The first issue is about Takumi (Tak,) a software engineer for a robot toy company who is unhappy with his line of work. He wants his own company where he can design his own toys. After a chance meeting with a mysterious girl named  Yaffa, his career starts to skyrocket and he keeps meeting Yaffa after every success.

It’s an interesting story that at first will leave you confused as to what a demonic-reaper has anything to do with a story that reads like a slice of life. Then the ending comes along and there’s the demonic-reaper. It does come across as mean that someone who just wants to get recognized for their talents ends up in a horrible situation, but it can also be that maybe Yaffa is evil. The writing is strong enough to make readers want to see more people interact with Yaffa. Maybe even a continuous storyline with Yaffa and an antagonist trying to get in her way.

The art needs a bit of work. It has that manga feel to it and the character designs look nice, but the facial expressions and linework have a ways to go. The action scenes also need a bit of work due to it not being 100% clear what’s going on. The biggest complaint is when Tak runs to the rooftop and we see Yaffa behind a bit away from him and then the next he’s much closer. It would’ve worked better if she only appeared in the smaller panel when Tak realizes she’s behind him.

Lovely Demon: Demonic -Reaper Chronicles has a lot going for it. With some tweaking of the story and better facial expressions/ line art, this comic could go places. This is one of the better American manga I have read in a long while.

 

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Kindred (Comic) Review

What some of you may not know, I and an associate have been doing a panel called Comics: An Underappreciated Form of Literature for the past two years at Boroughcon (new, super small con in New York City.) We’ll be doing it again this year at Xavier High School Comic Con on May 11 (time TBA) so come on by.

The reason I brought up the panel is that last year my associate decided to add a new comic: Kindred, the comic adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel. Problem is, I never read Kindred in any of its forms so she had to all the talking. This year I decided to just read the damn thing to give my two cents.

For those who’ve never read it, Kindred is about Dana, a young black woman living in 1970’s California who mysteriously gets sent back to 1815 Maryland. Here she meets (and saves the life of) Rufus, the son of a plantation owner who apparently has the power to bring Dana back in time whenever he needs her. Without having a clue as to how to go back and forth through time, Dana must now live like a slave in 1819 Maryland.

Yes, this is one of those books where people are sent back in time where they just might die if they do something wrong. The only thing here is that it’s practically guaranteed that Dana will get beaten (which she does) and even die. On top of that, she has ZERO rights and people WILL be her if she looks at them wrong. Butler does a nice job of making Dana, not a complete idiot and actually competent enough to live “normally” in that era.

The thing that ground my gears about this book is Rufus. He’s a whiny spoiled little shit who Dana has to suffer under because he’s the only one with the power to send her back. Butler does a great at making the reader want to whip that brat.

Also, besides the two beatings, she does have it a little easier than the other slaves on the plantation, mainly due to her “not sounding like a nigger” and can read well.

How does the comic adaptation do in terms of telling the story? It does it pretty well. Unlike in novel form, we do get to see Rufus’s face and reactions when he’s acting like a spoiled little shit, the pain on the characters’ faces whenever something bad happens to them and actually seeing Dana getting whipped is a lot more powerful. In our panel, we show a panel that has the right half of Dana’s face and the left half of Rufus’s face together. This is in the climax of the story that basically shows the conflict between these two very different people and it is pretty impactful.

So now that I have read it, all it did was give me more ammunition for me and my associate’s argument that comics can be literature and should be held at that standard. Call me a snob if you want, but I feel that comics have a place and they can be and are so much than what the masses view it as.

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Junji Ito’s Frankenstein Review

First off, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it. Second, I know I’m late to the party (again,) but 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. Hell, The Morgan Library has an entire exhibit devoted to this (it’s actually really awesome.) So, I decided to get in on this action by reading Junji Ito’s manga version of it (and buy the 1818 version of the book. What? It’s for historical/scholarly reasons.)

For those unfamiliar with Junji, Ito, he’s considered to be the king of horror manga and his artwork will give you nightmares. Hell, I still can’t look at spirals without freaking out because I read Uzumaki. And that same artwork of his on full display here. While the nightmare fuel he’s known for isn’t that high here, there are still images that will give you nightmares. One of them is the monster. Remember, the monster is supposed to made out of random body parts and sewn together. There are panels that show the monster in some seriously scary ways which is how he is supposed to be.

Everything else, it just looks normal. He does manage to drawn Western people that actually do look Western. Before you go on and say, “it’s manga,” look at how he draws Japanese people. They clearly look Japanese.

As for how the Ito adapts the story, he adapted the 1818 version (Frankenstein shows more free will and Elizabeth is Frankenstein’s cousin who he marries.) It’s also different from the movie versions which people are familiar with (no Igor, no castle with a giant lab where Frankenstein uses lightning to bring him to life. Also, the monster learns how to talk normally rather than just grunt and say random words.) This version is scarier than the movie versions because the monster shows high intelligence. Combine that with high strength and Frankenstein is helpless.

While Shelly’s words may not be on display here, Ito does manage to bring her story to life in a way even literature snobs would enjoy. Trust me, if there was anyone who’s able to make this work as a comic while still being true to what Shelly intended, it’s Ito. In fact, Ito did a lot more to make me want to read the original novel than any movie version or teacher. Now you know how to make me read literature.

Do yourself a favor and read Junji Ito’s comic adaptation of Frankenstein. His artwork combined with the 1818 version of the work makes this worth reading for anyone, even diehard Frankenstein fans. I always say, just because it’s a comic, doesn’t mean it has no literary merit. You’d be surprised at what a comic can do that a novel can’t do.

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My Take on Stan Lee

I know I’m late for this, but life happens.

So, Stan Lee, one of the greatest if not THE greatest comic creator ever, has died. Now, I’m not going to reminisce about how great a person Stan Lee was because I never knew the guy personally. I wanted to meet him at a convention but never got the chance. Instead, I’m going to talk about how his work influenced an industry and in some ways me.

I understand how this subject has been touched on many times, but once you think about it, WHAT did Lee do to influence and for some say change the comics industry? Simple, he made characters that were human. Think about this for a minute: Before X-Men, Spider-Man and anything Lee made, comic characters were, well, characters. Their personalities were dependent on what their title was. There really was no complexity to any of the characters. Hell, Superman was just some super strong alien who punched people and smiled a lot. And played baseball. Yes, that actually happened.

So Stan Lee decided “hey, let’s give characters some kind of scope and depth.” Thus, X-men was made. Let’s not forget Spider-man, Blade, Black Panther and The Punisher. Yes, these are superheroes, but they all have realistic “in a way,” shortcomings and weaknesses that aren’t some space rock. Hell, Spiderman’s weakness is that being Peter Parker sucks. Spider-man=fame, fighting bad guys and hanging out with Iron Man. Peter Parker=dead uncle, dead-end job and dead girlfriends.

This guy has influenced guys like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and way too many indie comic artists to name. This guy said you can make a superhero that has real-world problems and still fight baddies, why? Because that’s what real-superheroes would be like. Yes, people have taken it a bit too far and just create characters that are nothing more than Watchmen ripoffs times 10 or Frank “Sex Sells” Miller clones.

As for me, well, I’m going to be real with you and say not much. I was never really a fan of Marvel/DC but I have seen the 90s X-Men cartoon, Spider-man carton and the Marvel movies. I’m more of a manga guy and whatever American comics I do read come mainly from Dark Horse.

However, I can see the influence in the comics I do read and they do form in my mind that comics are literature and that Lee has had a major hand in it. Granted, I’m not that saddened by his death because I’m not a Marvel/DC fan, but I do know what his work has done for the industry and how well respected he is.

So, Rest in Peace Stan Lee and Excelsior. Your many contributions and cameos will never be forgotten and there probably never will be another comic creator like you.

 

 

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My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness Review

Get your perverted heads out of the gutter, people. This is a serious comic and not some cheap porno.

Now that that’s out of the way, Nagata Kabi has written a manga called My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness which is the true story of how she spent a good amount of time feeling lonely and decided the best way to go about it was to hire a lesbian escort. Again, shut up.

I’m no shrink, but her entire depression/anxiety stems from wanting to just be loved by a motherly figure. Yes, that is what she says. Why the escort? She kinda wants to fuck her mom. It’s weird in a way because she also has this issue of wanting to please her mom by getting a salaried position just to make her proud but she is constantly failing at that.

The overall manga is pretty interesting, to say the least. Kabi writes in a way that makes you feel her anxiety in everything she does, even eating. She even had an eating disorder where she didn’t eat anything and then she was super hungry a few weeks later. Again, I’m no shrink but you don’t need to be one to understand and enjoy this manga.

What about the experience itself? Well, without spoiling anything, it’s awkward in all the right ways. It isn’t arousing or pornographic in any way. Again, you feel her emotions in every panel and it feels like you’re on a roller coaster.

This is helped by the art. The artwork is different but it does have that manga feel to it. Hell, it actually goes beyond the typical manga by making it feel like an original style. One way is that Kabi adds pink to the black and white. It may sound weird, but it works in a charming way. The best bits are the main lead’s facial expressions. Take the typical manga expressions and make them go to eleven. This is a woman who’s suffering and these reactions are warranted.

Would I recommend this manga? Hell yes. I knew going into it I was going to enjoy it and it didn’t disappoint. Hell, I remember going through the emotions Kabi went through but I dealt with them differently. There should be more stories like this as long as they’re written in such an emotionally charged way.  I applaud you, Kabi san. I applaud you, madam.

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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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Parasyte (Manga and Anime) Review

While I am an anime/manga fan, I admit I’m more of a casual fan than anything else. I will find series that are not mainstream from time to time and like them. One of these is Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki which I only found out through Anime America (who are awesome by the way. Check them out.) The only reason I decided to look for this series is that the idea of an alien parasite taking control of humans interests me. So I bought the first volume and then the last seven volumes and now I have a few things to say.

The story is a group of alien parasites come to Earth and take control of humans by crawling into their noses to their brains. One of them tries to do that to our lead, Shinichi Izumi, fails and ends up in his right hand. This causes the parasite to, basically, befriend Shinichi and now Shinichi must live a “normal” life and protect himself from other parasites. This does, however, have a huge impact on his personal life, especially with his girlfriend, Satomi Murano.

While this does sound like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it doesn’t escalate into the level. Of course, this series does bring up some tough questions about humans and animals. The main one is Shinichi is constantly calling the parasites monsters, but Migi (the parasite in his right hand)  tells him that they only kill to survive and humans do the same thing. Migi even brings up how humans kill animals for food and humans are OK with that while parasites killing humans for food which makes them monsters. It’s the same thing. Also, murder is brought up a lot and, again, Migi uses the whole (we do that to defend ourselves) thing.

Now, some people will read that and think it’s trying to sound more important than it actually is, but that’s really up to all in who reads it. Also, the manga doesn’t get preachy about it which is one of its strengths. Another strong suit is the writing. These are excellent characters that are well developed, even Satomi. Hell, Satomi’s reason for being in the story is to basically bring into question Shinichi’s personality. He becomes less human over time to the point where he no longer shows emotion over the deaths of people close to him (on top of having superhuman strength, speed and agility.)  Hell, near the end of the series you cry for a character you thought you wouldn’t.

The art may be 80s (this came out in 1988 and ended 1990,) but it’s so well done that it doesn’t look generic. Hell, even normal, everyday occurrences are drawn so well. This has to be one of the better-looking series to come out of that decade.

Then there’s the anime. While it does follow the manga 95% of the time, it is different. SOme characters were taken out, scenes shortened (the scene where Reiko Tamura is running around with part of her head missing is done a LOT better in the manga.) Also, there’s the whole updated thing. The art style and even year have had a major update. There are cell phones and tablets, for crying out loud. While it is understandable as to why they did this (probably to get more people to watch,) it’s not 100% as good as the manga. The artwork just doesn’t work.  The manga has this scary, gritty look to it that made it scarier. The anime is just too colorful. Plus, it’s not as gory as the manga.

While I still say the manga is better, the anime is still worth a watch because of how awesome the series is and for everyone to see how it looks as an anime. I do recommend both but, just be warned that the manga has an edge over the anime.

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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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