Three by Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly
Gillen is one of my favorite comic book writers for Marvel, so I was extremely eager to pick up Three, a new series written by him for Image. Otherwise, I wouldn’t normally find myself picking up a book on Ancient Sparta. I suppose I’ve always been partial to Athens. So, I had mixed feelings going into the book . . . and I have mixed feeling coming out of it as well.
Being the academic that I am, it pleases me to see that Gillen worked with Professor Stephen Hodkinson as an historical consultant, and I like the extensive notes in the back of this trade collection. Both Gillen and professor Hodkinson write these notes, and it’s enjoyable to see how clearly they enjoy discussing the historical material they had to work with and how that often questionable information had to be u... 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.
Three by Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly
The King’s Dragon by Scott Chantler
Though The King’s Dragon is the fourth book Scott Chantler’s THREE THIEVES series, and I have not read the first three, I had no problem picking up the story already in progress. In fact, if I hadn’t been given that information, I would have guessed it was the first volume of a great new series of comic book adventure stories for young readers.
The basic story in this book focuses on Captain Drake, a member of The King’s Dragons. Due to some previous misfortune, a deep scar runs across his face and is long ... Read More
The Eternal Smile: Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
I just finished reading The Eternal Smile for a second time to see if I would like it as much as I did the first time. The answer is, "Yes." There's no doubt in my mind that this work is a truly great comic book that is unique in presenting three very different short stories with overlapping themes. They are extremely different in look and in genre, but they come together to present some unified ideas about the dreams we have, the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories of our lives that we want to deny.
Artist Derek Kirk Kim, though perhaps not as well known as Gene Luen Yang, has written and illustrated several books I love and hope to review in the near future: Read More
Hinterkind: The Waking World by Ian Edginton (writer) and Francesco Trifogli (artist)
I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories, but Hinterkind pulled in this reluctant reader — twice. Initially, I bought the first two monthly issues because of the artwork and because it was a Vertigo title (DC’s mature line of comics), but I dropped the title because the plot didn’t grab me, and frankly, there was an abundance of monthly comics coming out — too much for this fan’s budget! However, when I saw the first six issues of Hinterkind collected together in trade and available for reviewers, I thought I’d give it another chance. I’m glad I did. The art is good all the way through and the plot not only improves with each issue, it fully hooked me by the end of the story arc. And now I want to read... Read More
Olympians: Zeus: King of the Gods by George O'Connor
If you are even slightly interested in mythology, you need to order immediately George O'Connor's Olympians Series of graphic novels. The first six books that are out so far are stellar, and though you can read them in any order, it's best to start with Zeus: King of the Gods. Books two through six are best if read in this order: Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, ... Read More
The Moon Moth by Jack Vance; adapted as a graphic novel by Humayoun Ibrahim
My favorite Jack Vance story is “The Moon Moth,” so when I heard that First Second had a graphic novel version of the story, I was extremely excited. However, I also was nervous, as one is when a favorite novel is made into a movie: Will the adaptation live up to my high expectations? In this case, I’m pleased to report that Ibrahim’s The Moon Moth, while obviously incapable of employing Vance’s rich language throughout, has, at the same time, an advantage to the original prose-only story because it shows us the images of a highly visual work of literature.
The basic plot of The Moon Moth... Read More
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
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