Tag Archives: graphic novel

Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain

After Tim Seeley wrapped up his Hack/Slash series, some other folks decided to pick up the torch, I guess? I’m a bit disappointed that they were not more successful at it. Partly because it means this probably really is the last book, and partly because it’s nice to see Cassie Hack treated as a fully realized character, instead of as a fully realized character who is obliged to dress like a goth pin-up for no internal reason.

But mostly because Son of Samhain could have been a legitimate next chapter. The supernatural serial killers, the Black Lamp society, all of that really is over. But the literal monsters that we never knew until know were lurking behind the scenes? They’re tired of playing second fiddle, and the new war lurking over the horizon’s horizon promises to be bigger than anything Cassie has faced before. Basically, if Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural had a crossover in a world where nobody had ever heard of either of those things, this is what it would look like. And that’s not a bad space to be in!

Plus, the literal meaning behind the slightly metaphorical title promised to unlock even more never explored chapters of Cassie’s future life. Not to mention that the child himself was reasonably cool, too. Alas.

 

Fables: Rose Red

The big plot of Rose Red revolves around the Fables formerly of Fabletown, now retreated to their last stronghold on earth, continuing to fight against Mister Dark (who plausibly I mentioned last time). And that plot progresses, which is all fine and good, but I’m not really here to talk about that. For one thing, spoilers.

More importantly, though, the flashback story that gives the book its name is the more interesting one. See, Snow White[1]’s sister has been a pivotal character in this series since the very beginning, and it’s about time we learned why they’ve always had such a bad relationship. Thanks, flashback! And of course, thanks Bill Willingham for making sure the story made sense from both directions. It’s a rarer talent than it should be.

[1] Originally deputy mayor of Fabletown, now retired to wedded bliss with the Big Bad Wolf

The Walking Dead: The Whisperer War

Here are the problems with The Whisperer War:

1) It is way way way too busy. Zip cuts between scene after scene, with sometimes 12 and 16 panels on a page. Which is not automatically a bad thing, except that
2) I recognize maybe half of the characters in the book, max. This is less an art problem and more a too many characters problem. Even with the TV show as an aid, I don’t know who everyone is. (I mean, to be fair, I rarely know who everyone is on the show either, but I at least come a lot closer.) Which means all those zip cuts between maybe some characters I recognize, some I know well, and some where I’m just shrugging helplessly? It’s bad.
3) I shouldn’t discount the art problem, though I’m restating the same thing in a different way. If you’re going to insist on having so many characters running around, it is important to not have an art style that serves to obscure features. (In this case, no coloring. The series has always been black and white.)

Here are the things about the Whisperer War that are pretty good:

1) A genuine sense of danger persists. That’s good because a book like this needs tension, but also because I can bring myself to believe that maybe something really terrible is on the horizon, and that the overstuffed cast will maybe soon deflate a bit, to the benefit of everyone except the ones who are (newly) dead.
2) Two characters had some solid development! That sounds like not enough, when you are thinking about a book. But when you are thinking about six issues of a long-running comic, which is perhaps the more accurate way to think about this, it’s actually pretty impressive.
3) Plenty of seeds of future foreshadowing, which is a nice change from the series ambling from one calamity to the next. It is also helpful in that I’m coming around to caring about more than one or two characters again.

That said, some of the foreshadowing is either random noise mixed into the signal and therefore not foreshadowing at all, or it dampens / kills the genuine sense of current danger. This was ever the problem with fiction, though, especially long form fiction. What can you do, really? Anyway, long story short, I have pre-ordered volume 28, and I kind of wish it was already here to read.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice

I’ve been reading these Tommy Taylor books long enough to put them on the same level as Mike Carey’s Lucifer, if not quite the pinnacle of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Of course, Mike Carey writes The Unwritten series as well, so I suppose that wouldn’t be an exactly shocking comparison. I guess what I mean is that it’s nice to see him spread his wings and tell a literary story that is all his own and that nevertheless aspires to the heights The Sandman achieved.

I will, of course, have to go back and reread the series at a gulp, after it’s completed. (That’s probably true of Lucifer, for that matter. The television series is not, uh, a suitable replacement, although it is good trashy fun.) And the place I would inevitably start is with Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice, an unexpected prequel that not only details the lengths Tom’s father Wilson went to, establishing the symbiosis between his son and the fictional character based on him (or that he is based on? I don’t think there’s a correct one-way distinction to be had), it actually provides the story of the first Tommy Taylor novel. Which, of necessity, is less of a Harry Potter rip-off than the books have seemed when only shown in snippets in the main sequence of The Unwritten series.

Then again, it also hastens to explain that the synergy between character and infant is the cause of the Tommy Taylor series replacing other child wizard academy books as the archetype of the series, so from an in-world perspective, the distinctions were probably a lot less necessary than they were from the perspective of an author and publisher looking to not get sued for plagiarism. Because, as good as the conceit of the series is at letting it get away with the in-world rip-off, I doubt Rowling would much care about a clever conceit.

I think I’ve gone off message at this point? It just fascinates me, what Carey has done here. In any case, The Unwritten is a good series, and you should read it! And this is a good prequel, and you should read it too; but like all good prequels, you should read it later, to avoid spoilers for previous books.

Jack of Fables: The Fulminate Blade

So, this is the other Jack of Fables. After saving all of existence, Jack Horner has entered a kind of retirement. But his son, Jack Frost, is still wandering around the Fable worlds, trying to make a name for himself as a hero. This is a disconnected-from-everything-else book about that.

The Fulminate Blade is a literal thing, a kind of lightning sword that is the only thing that might kill a giant in the sky who stands accused of stealing gold and virgins from the kingdom below. You know that time (not pictured in any particular Fables book, but well known I think within the fables themselves) when Jack Horner climbed a beanstalk and fought a giant over an egg-laying goose with a chemical imbalance? This is like that, but a) science-fictional more or less? Amazon says it’s the far distant future of the world of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. That may be true? I can find no evidence of it in the text, but as guesses go: sure, it could be. Why not? …and b) with a lot more intrigue, from every direction.

Unrelated to any of this even moreso than any of this is unrelated to the rest of the Fables storylines: I’m pretty much done with Walter Mitty the miniature Blue Ox. Even one page per issue is two pages too many. Luckily, the Jack of Fables spinoff series is wrapping up soon!

The Unwritten: The Wound

To actually review this, I need to go back and read my last review and see where I thought things were left. But in the unlikely event that it changes nothing, I’m giving it a go now. Don’t be surprised if none of this text actually makes it into the final version, though!

What bothers me about The Wound is that the War of Words felt like a turning point at the time. (Unless I’m wrong and it did not, see first paragraph above.[0]) Whereas, after having read its sequel, it now feels like it was instead an ending, yet now Carey is writing more books regardless. Don’t get me wrong, he has a lot of leeway with me[1], so I’ll keep going for a while yet.

So, the specifics. A year has passed since the big climax, and the world is… weird. Tommy cults, contagious schizophrenia, a quest to save fiction[2], not to mention the general “world going down the toilet” pre-apocalyptic events you’d expect in a good story / over the course of the next couple of years of real life, before things get legitimately awful. Plus also, the world of Fiction, which I had forgotten is a real thing that really exists and to which an assassin had been sent several books ago, is under the same threat. Because despite having won the war last book, Tommy’s world is still in a lot of trouble and he still needs to save it.

And don’t misunderstand me, all of that is fine! Unless it’s an open-ended plot with no planned ending, solely designed to sell more comics. Because those eventually fall apart, and even though this one isn’t yet, I’m so suspicious that it would ruin it for me even before it becomes bad. Which maybe it wouldn’t anyway? Because of how Carey really is pretty reliable. I mean, did you read Lucifer?

[0] So, weird thing: I was actually exactly right and did not need to retcon the review at all. Which means the sausage got made in full view.
[1] …and even if he didn’t, look at how many times I’ve wanted to kick The Walking Dead without ever quite doing it.
[2] Okay, that one is pretty much par for the course, as it’s what the whole series is about. But the quest being out in the open is new.

Fables: Witches

Moving: awesome for getting to live in a place you like better than the previous place you lived, but terrible for not falling way way behind on book series that you are reading. Case in point: The new Fables collection picks up right after they banded together to save all of creation that had been threatened by developments from the side series about Jack Horner, and that is not a record of what had actually been going on in the main continuity, which means they are resuming a plotline I last read about three years ago. Awesome.

I mean, I guess it’s not that bad? I remembered the two main plot points addressed in Witches, both of which are of course themselves massive, massive spoilers since by the time you’re fourteen books into a series, any notable development gives away lots about things that would be spoilers for previous books. So, without getting into those specifics, I can say these things:

1) Frau Totenkinder, who you will recognize better as the witch from Hansel and Gretel, is just as cool as she always has been within these pages. (Most of the other titular witches are entirely worth reading about, but she’s the one with the highest badass factor, is what I’m saying.)
2) The winged monkey that has always been a bit player in the series as the magical archives librarian, at least I think that’s more or less what he is, turns out to be very cool, in a reader insertion kind of way.
3) Not that he’s the only game in town, but the new bad guy is pretty dang cool. I think I hope he lasts longer than I expect him to.

I’d say I’ll do better at keeping caught up with this, but who would I be fooling?

Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash

81dqwq1jflAs of this writing, my new job and then the world’s pre-eminent boardgame convention have kept me too busy and/or access-blocked to do much in the way of reviewing. Well, no, that’s not right. As you can see, I’ve been reviewing, I just haven’t been posting them. The previous one, I think about a movie I saw a week or two ago, has been sitting in my inbox for days waiting for me to punch up the HTML and then post it. On the (let’s say) bright side, I haven’t had time to fall farther behind, so I’ve got that going for me at least.

Remember when I read the conclusion of the Hack/Slash series, about a teenage serial-killer killer who was opposed by the shadowy cult responsible for all those supernatural horror slasher guys that gleefully dismember summer camp teens? Like I said then, it turns out more books have been written even though the story ended. I appreciated, therefore, that the plot of Army of Darkness vs. Hack/Slash went out of its way to acknowledge this. Cassie Hack is retired, dealing with the mental trauma of her losses, and living the least intense life she can find. Until, you know, Bruce Campbell[1] shows up to get her to team up with him to fight against the Necronomicon and its army of Deadites.

Like all good team-up / crossover comics, they fight each other as well as common enemies; and like very few team-up / crossover comics, they change along the way, paving the road for future events. Well, I mean, Cassie does; I have no idea about Ash due to lack of familiarity with his comic, but since growth is anathema to the on-screen version of the character, it’s probably fine that he did not appear to. Also, I’m pretty sure there will be future events in store for Cassie’s life. I have no idea how many, though. If so: probably they will continue to contain explosions of bloody gore, supernatural mysteries, and lingerie cheesecake.

[1] I mean, not literally Bruce Campbell. It’s actually Ash from the Evil Dead movies and that new show on Starz, but you probably already knew that. For the record, he’s still young Ash, no more than a few years after Army of Darkness. He is apparently the topic of a different comics series I do not (and probably will not ever) read.

The Walking Dead: Call to Arms

81cmq5zqi-lDespite myself, I’m continuing to like the way things are going with The Walking Dead. Choices of questionable morality are resulting in the fragile peace tumbling out of control, but of course the counter question is whether the peace was ever worth having in the first place. And, for that matter, would it have lasted?

Y’know, human drama. Call to Arms contains basically no zombies, which is as things should be by now. The apocalypse was always the point, and how people dealt with it. The flavor of apocalypse is just what’s in vogue these days. Myself, I could do with a nice asteroid story again, I’ve only ever seen one of those that didn’t end in “yay, we got rid of the asteroid!” Or maybe one with dinosaurs?

Ahem. Sidetracked. But that’s because the person I’m most interested in these last couple of books, I’m not even really allowed to admit is still in the story. Thanks, TV show being like three or four years behind! Then again, considering the alternative there, I suppose I’m happy to have to bite my tongue. But seriously, I love the way <spoiler elided> is trying to make amends. It’s the very best kind of train wreck, and I actively look forward to the next book or two worth of fallout, because it promises to be hilarious.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words

91jopd0dlnlThing the first: it is undeniable that I have not given this series the attention it deserves. Mike Carey gives good pictorial fiction, and I definitely like the Unwritten. But it’s too dense for me to have spread the past four books across the past four years, so I’m going to have to reread it as a whole, afterwards. Which is annoying to know right now, too late to fix it and also, um, too soon to fix it.

Thing the second: even if I were well and truly timely in my reading of the series, at six books in, it would be hard to avoid spoilers. All the same, I have at least a little to say about Tommy Taylor and the War of Words. Structurally, it was very cool, with the main plot alternating issues with background details going back from a few months to thousands of years, depending. On top of that, both the main plot and the background details advanced in interestingly meaningful ways; above all, I actually feel like I know what’s going on again.

Pity I’ll go another year before reading the next one, probably.