Day Men by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson (writers) and Brian Stelfreeze (art)
This past year I’ve been trying out a wide variety of new series by buying a ton of #1 issues. I’ve got a good sense of the Big Two (DC and Marvel), so most of these #1s have been from other publishers, often written and drawn by people I’ve never heard of. If the art looks interesting and the plot even slightly worth checking out, I’ve done so. And I have to say that about 75% of the time, I don’t want to buy issue #2. But I’ve found a few series that are amazing. Perhaps the one that has surprised me the most is Day Men. It’s by writers and artists I know nothing about, and it’s from a publisher — Boom! Studios — that I don’t know much about. It’s also about vampires, and I’m sick of vampires. There are too many books, comics, movies and TV shows in the genre (and I live in the small town where they film most of Vampire Diaries... Read More
Brad HawleyOn FanLit’s staff since April 2012
BRAD HAWLEY received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon in 2000, specializing in ethics and contemporary fiction as well as rhetoric and composition. After teaching for two years at Jacksonville State University and a short break from teaching to be a stay-at-home dad, he now teaches at Oxford College of Emory University. During the past fifteen years, he has taught courses and independent studies in composition, Crime Fiction, Comic Books, Beat Literature, twentieth-century poetry, and Shakespeare. His wife, who also teaches English at Oxford College, thinks he has too many comic books.
Read Brad’s series on HOW TO READ COMICS.
Day Men by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson (writers) and Brian Stelfreeze (art)
Battling Boy by Paul Pope
The more graphic novels I read from First Second publishers, the more impressed I am: Paul Pope’s fairly recent Battling Boy is yet another excellent release from :01. Paul Pope, known for his distinctive art style, mainly writes for an older crowd with books I enjoy but am not willing to hand over to my 8- and 11-year-old children. However, Pope changes direction, if not his wonderful art style, with Battling Boy, and I hope I can talk both my kids into reading it soon. I know they’ll love the story, but I’m curious to see how they respond to his unique art.
The story is a great one and is comprised of two main sets of good characters directed toward a third set of bad characters. Basically, the stor... Read More
Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume One by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Dark Horse has just started reissuing one of the best manga collections of all-time: Lone Wolf and Cub. If you are interested in Japanese art and culture, this volume is one you want to order immediately! Even if you aren’t interest in the historical role of the Samurai warrior in Japan, you’ll want this book for the beautiful black and white artwork.
In the U.S., we’ve been inundated with manga aimed primarily at teenagers, so we’ve gotten a warped view of what is actually available in Japan. Lone Wolf and Cub is a wonderful reminder that in Japan, manga is written for all audiences. Lone Wolf and Cub, however, is not just an example of what manga for adults looks like, but also representative of what the greatest manga can do w... Read More
Shiny Beasts by Rick Veitch (with Alan Moore & S. R. Bissette)
Shiny Beasts is a 2007 collection of short story pieces dating from 1978-1994. Rick Veitch is an artist who worked with Alan Moore on his early run of Swamp Thing and eventually took over writing duties as well. Since Swamp Thing is a horror title, it's no surprise that Shiny Beasts deals with the horrific at times as well, but usually in terms of the horror that man inflicts on himself and other men. However, though not all the stories are horrific, all are a bit unsettling. Finally, Shiny Beasts, like most story collections, is uneven in its content; however, the best pieces make it worth having, particularly if you like art that challen... Read More
Super Dinosaur (Vol. 1) by Robert Kirkman (writer) and Jason Howard (artist)
Super Dinosaur is a fun, fast read for kids. I bought this one for my eight-year-old son, and he devoured it in only two sittings. He took breaks only to run over to me to show me his favorite pictures and dialogue. Though the book is no work of genius for kids — as is Bone by Jeff Smith — it certainly reaches its intended audience. Robert Kirkman — author of The Walking Dead, the horror comic books on which the TV show is based — clearly wanted to write for a younger audience, and he succeeds with this first volume of Super Dinosaur.
Jus... Read More
Madame Xanadu (Vol 1): Disenchanted by Matt Wagner (author) and Amy Reeder Hadley (artist)
A few months back, we had a discussion here at Fanlit about Tarot cards and literature. We tried to come up with a list of books in which the use of Tarot cards was prominent. Well, I’ve got another book to add to that list: Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted by Matt Wagner.
Madame Xanadu is a DC character who is one of DC’s magical and mystical figures, along with such characters as Zatara, Zatanna, The Spectre, The Phantom Stranger, John Constantine, The Demon, Sandman, Death (from Sandman) and others. You don’t need to be familiar with any of these characters to read Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted. In fact, this volu... Read More
Possessions, Book One: Unclean Getaway by Ray Fawkes (author/artist)
If you are looking for a fun, unique, well-written book for your 8-12 year old, you should seek out a copy of Possessions by Ray Fawkes. It’s horror fiction for kids in the same way that Scooby-Doo is technically horror fiction: It’s just so much fun, there’s nothing to be frightened of. Basically, the main character looks like a five- to six-year old girl, but she’s actually a pit demon known as “Gurgazon the Unclean.”
Gurgazon is captured by Mr. Thorne, a butler-like servant who maintains for his elderly employer the Llewellyn-Vane House for Captured Spirits and Ghostly Curiosities. The main narrative is simple: Gurgazon tries again and again to escape and is constantly frustrated by Mr. Thorne who seems to anticipate perfectly every atte... Read More
Cosmic Odyssey by Jim Starlin (writer) and Mike Mignola (artist) 1992
On the one hand, the story of Cosmic Odyssey is a simple one — a terrible and dangerous force known as the anti-life equation threatens our universe, and all the good characters must unite with the evil Darkseid to save the day. On the other hand, this story is rich with Jack Kirby’s wonderful cosmic characters that form the background for much of DC’s Cosmic Universe as it remains to this day.
To understand why you should read Cosmic Odyssey is to understand its background, its creators, and the characters: Cosmic Odyssey is a DC story that includes major characters created by Jack Kirby — characters known as the “New Gods.” Jack Kirby, the influential artist from Marvel who worked with Stan Lee to create major, iconic chara... Read More
Mystery Society by Steve Niles (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)
If you are looking for a light, funny read with beautiful art, you should check out Mystery Society by Steve Niles and Fiona Staples. The basic story sounds like it should be written seriously, but Niles turns to wit instead. The Mystery Society is a renegade group devoted to debunking myths (or verifying them), revealing military secrets, and exposing the lies of reporters (who have themselves been lied to, as one character points out). What’s amusing? The team includes not just psychic twin sisters with a mysterious secret and a woman bit by a ghoul who calls herself “Secret Skull,” but also the brain of Jules Verne housed in a robot body (with — I kid you not — a “butt jet”).
The relationship between the two main characters is what makes this book wor... Read More
Rising Stars: Compendium (Part One) by J. Michael Straczynski
Having just finished Straczynski's Rising Stars, I now have a new comic book to add to my list of favorites. JMS, as he's known, is the creator of Babylon 5, and he applies his grand world-building skills to this superhero comic. As Neil Gaiman writes in the introduction to Rising Stars, with Babylon 5, JMS did what should have been "impossible," but with Rising Stars he merely did what was "very unlikely." JMS is also the author of The Book of Lost Souls and Read More
Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin
If you are at all interested in the villain haunting the cosmic portion of the Marvel Universe, then you might want to check out these two titles: Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet. Both are trade collections that tell one grand story of the power-hungry Titan known as Thanos. You've seen his big, scheming smile on his enormous purple face at the end of The Avengers, and you are going to see more and more of it in the coming years as Hollywood embraces a new villain in space: Darth Vadar, please stand aside, here comes Thanos!
Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos starts with so... Read More
Sandman Overture #1 by Neil Gaiman (writer) and J.H. Williams III (artist)
I would imagine that my feelings about the new Sandman Overture were similar to those of other SANDMAN fans: Afraid that it wouldn't live up to the high standard of the original yet hoping at the same time that it would. As far as I'm concerned, it met, and perhaps exceeded, those expectations both in terms of the writing and the art. I haven't read any reviews online, so I don't know how much my evaluation will match up with other reviews out there. But I want to give you a review that reflects a single reader's response and not a review that attempts to summarize the general response to the work. If you want that, I'm sure you could spend days reading reviews online of this one issue.
Most comic book reviews are aimed at an audience of comic book fans; however, as most of you know by now, I always write with the assumption that my readers are pri... Read More
Apollo's Song (Parts I & II) by Osamu Tezuka
Apollo's Song (Part I and Part II) by Osamu Tezuka is a imaginative tale of out-of-body experience, time travel, fantasy, science fiction, mythology and love, all by the God of Manga himself. If you've never heard of Osamu Tezuka, you are missing out. He's best known in the United States for Astro Boy, his very early comic-turned-anime that was broadcast in the U.S. as a Japanese-import English-dubbed cartoon. Unfortunately, as great as Astro Boy is, it represents Tezuka's early work aim... Read More
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor & the Bogus Identity (Vol 1) by Mike Carey (writer) & Peter Gross (artist)
The Unwritten by Mike Carey is one of the best current series being published right now. It is one of the few titles put out by Vertigo — DC's mature line of comics — that has kept Vertigo from losing its respected place in the world of comics. Vertgo was started by Karen Berger with Neil Gaiman's wonderful Sandman stories, and many of my favorite comics have come out with the Vertigo label on them. However, in recent years, Vertigo has lost its edge for the most part except for a few excellent works like Fab... Read More
Bone by Jeff Smith
This review is my 50th column for Fanlit, so I want to mark this personal milestone by writing about the most important epic fantasy comic in existence. I know a few people might argue with me, but only a few. There's a general consensus that Bone by Jeff Smith is not only the best epic fantasy comic, but possibly the ONLY epic fantasy comic depending on how you define "epic fantasy." All arguments are minor quibbles as far as I'm concerned because none of them would call into question the high quality and staggering brilliance of Bone. Personally, I don't feel like I'm exaggerating at all when I say that Bone is The Lord of the Rings of comic books, and if you like epic fantasy, you should feel that Bone is as much required reading in the genre as is The Lord of the R... Read More