Category Archives: Comics

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Let's Talk About...

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics

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.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

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.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Movies, Novels

Uzumaki (Manga) Review

Have you ever read anything that haunted you for a long while? Like, it stayed with you so long that it depressed you to the point of needing a Xanax? Uzumaki by Junji Ito is one of those things that made me feel that way.

Kurozu Cho is a normal Japanese town where nothing extraordinary happens. One day one of the local develops an obsession with spirals. Soon after, the entire town gets caught up in the spiral craze. Teenager Shuichi Saito claims that it is the town’s curse that is causing all of the spiral madness. His girlfriend, Kirie Goshima at first doesn’t believe him, but after a while it no longer becomes coincidence.

The horror used in this manga is called “psychological.” What that means is the reason it’s scary is because it messes around with your brain and emotions. The way this manga does that is by creating a curse that nobody knows anything about on top of some really freaky imagery. How freaky is it? Some examples are a man who curled himself up in a spiral inside a pot, a teenage boy turning into a giant snail and then there’s a naked woman who just had her newborn child surgically put back into the womb. Yeah, try to get that image out of your head.

some people may say this is nothing more than shock value on the part of Ito. In fact, this is a clever way to show how the curse is getting out of control and taking over the town.

Of course, the third act is where things go downhill. The town is destroyed by five (!) hurricanes, there’s no way out and every rescue effort succumbs to a disaster. Also, it’s here that the story goes from “what is the curse” to accepting and living with the curse. Not to mention that ending. Do you want to spend the next few days being absolutely depressed? Read the ending to Uzumaki. It will depress you to no end.

The artwork is above average. It has a lot of nice designs and techniques rarely seen in manga. Not to mention that when the creepy imagery comes, it will creep you out. Looking at them is like getting punched in the face by Mike Tyson. No matter how hard you want to forget about them, they will stay in your subconscious for the rest of your life.

If you want a horror manga with a lot of creepy imagery that will stay you, then Uzumaki is the one for you. Just remember the third act isn’t all that great and the ending will leave you depressed for days.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

Another (manga) Review

It’s pretty inevitable that if you write a young adult novel in Japan it will be made into a manga and then an anime. Thus is the case with Yukito Ayatsuji’s Another. Hell, there’s even a live action movie version of it. This time we’ll be looking at the manga since I already touched upon the novel here.

As with any adaptation the adapter needs to know what to keep and what to leave out/change. Artist Hiro Kiyohara actually manages to keep 95% of the original story. Since this is a manga that’s fine. A smart thing he did was to not include the many pages of narration from the book since manga and novel are two different mediums (something some comic writers fail to take into account.)

The changes that were made in the manga version are the inclusion of Izumi Akazawa’s story. While Akazawa was a side character in the novel, here we delve deeper into  the character and how she feels. This is actually pretty interesting in that we get to see the emotions and reactions from other characters. Since the novel is written in the first person this tactic would not make sense (even though the interludes in the book were third person which I felt were pretty weak.)

Here’s a good question, though: Why Akazawa?  For starters she does eventually become the class leader for the girls and two people she was close to do die. Also, the personality we’re shown is different than what she’s really like. If there is to be a spinoff of Another then she would be one of the likely candidates (Mei being the first.)

Another thing that changed (though slightly) is the ending. Two characters are omitted entirely in order to continue developing Akazawa’s arc. In a way this does not make much sense, but in another it’s probably for the best since these two characters seemed like Ayatsuji came up with them at the last second.

The art is pretty phenomenal. This manga shows that manga art can be subtle, nuanced and break boundaries. The characters are drawn pretty well and the background art is nice to look at. One thing that may go unnoticed to some is the symbolism in certain scenes. Hell, Mei’s eye patch is symbolic the characters only seeing half of what’s really there. The only time we find out who the casualty is is when Mei takes off the thing. Wrap your brains around that.

So as not to write another post about this title, I’ll come out with my feelings on the anime. It’s OK all around.The acting, the art even the added scenes (the beach episode) were nice. It was what drew me to read the novel so that’s a start. While it is a good place to start, I don’t really think it holds a candle to the novel or manga. For starters the death scenes are pretty drawn out and overly dramatic. The final episode writes a brand new ending where the characters flip out and attack each other. Again, the novel/manga versions did it much better. This is because this is just way too over the top and the deaths that happen just don’t make any sense.

So, if you’re a fan of the anime or the novel the manga version will not disappoint. It’s the closest thing to the novel, the added scenes with Akazawa are pretty nice and the art is phenomenal.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

Let’s Talk About V for Vendetta

My fellow Americans,

Today we have voted in a very democratic election that would greatly alter this country’s future. Now, look at the date. Today’s the 4th and tomorrow’s the fifth, right? You know what means, right? No? Well, let me remind you:

“Remember remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot”

That’s right, Guy Fawkes Day is the day after our election day. From democracy to anarchy, huh? And there’s no safer and legal way to celebrate that day than to read or watch V for Vendetta.

When people try to tell the plot of this story they always start with V or Evey. I say the real protagonist here is London. Now wait a second and just listen to me for a few minutes. Right, look at the story, especially the comic version (preferably, by the way.) We don’t follow just one character, we follow multiple characters. V, Evey and the people who work for the government. So the story is not about one person, but many. Also, all their decisions impact what happens to London. So, in a way, this is a story about how badly can we destroy London.

We also need to take a look at V’s famous television speech. He is pretty much daring London to destroy itself. He wants anarchy, rioting in the streets. Pretty that entire Sex Pistols song come to life. V even destroys a statue of Madam Justice in the comic. Of course, that can be interpreted as there is no longer justice in the, so destroying justice is no big deal.

What makes the comic a beloved masterpiece is that is that this can take place in any time period and the events can ring true. In fact, this story can take place in any country and it can ring true. Alan Moore was showing what he feared London was becoming, but plenty of Americans can say they see America becoming like this. I can even name some Italians I know who think Italy is becoming like this.

The characters are also very identifiable. There’s V who represents the anti-government anarchist, Evey who represents the lost soul who turns to the extremist for guidance, the widow who gets screwed by the government and people who are in power who are only looking for ways to screw everybody and make themselves the top dog. If you don’t relate to any of these characters you, sir/madam/ are living in the perfect society.

Of course, Guy Fawkes Day can just be an excuse to blow shit up and that V for Vendetta is a non-traditional comic that non-comic readers like because it doesn’t read like a regular comic. Whichever you believe, Happy Guy Fawkes Day, all.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Let's Talk About...