Comics


God Country: A sentient sword comes to Texas

God Country by Donny Cates (author) and Geoff Shaw (artist)

God Country is a graphic novel you have got to check out. It is one of the best works by my favorite new comic book author, Donny Cates, who has written other great comics like Redneck for Image and Thanos Wins for Marvel. In God Country, Cates tells the story of the Quinlan family and the arrival of a powerful sword that enters their lives and changes them radically.

The sword, Valofax, is a giant sentient blade that is the embodiment of all swords and knives throughout the universe. It changes the life of a small family: Grandfather Emmett Quinlan, his son, and his son’s wife and young daughter. The story takes us from Texas to Hell and finally to the far-off home of Valofax, whose creator wants the sword back even as his planet dies all around him.

W... Read More

Buzzkill: A superhero joins AA

Buzzkill by Donny Cates (writer), Mark Reznicek (writer), and Geoff Shaw (artist)

Buzzkill, collecting all four issues of the mini-series, is a funny superhero parody by Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek, with art by Geoff Shaw. I sought it out because Donny Cates is one of my favorite new writers, with great titles like Redneck from Image and the insane Marvel title Thanos Wins, which features a cosmic Ghost Rider who is a resurrected Frank Castle, The Punisher. Buzzkill is about a superhero trying to get sober. He eventually ends up with a sponsor who is a Doctor Strange parody. Together, they get this retired superhero the help he needs.

Buzzkill opens with our hero, Ruben, in a self-help group trying to get assistance as he decides to quit all drinking and drugs. Unfortunately, we find out, that is whe... Read More

7 Against Chaos: Science Fiction art not to be missed

7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison

7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison tells the tale of the robed man who gathers six others to join him in his attempt to save the Earth. The robed man, Roark, has been guided by near-sentient computers created by other near-sentient computers: They tell him that in order to save the earth in the twenty-second century, he will need the complete team of seven gathered together. Once the team is complete, they go back in time in order to confront their nemesis, Erissa, a lizard-man who wants to change the earth so that it is dominated by reptiles rather than mammals.

The first half of the book is a series of last-minute life-saving maneuvers by Roark. Each character is saved from near doom, for a variety of reasons. For example, Tantalus, the insect-man, was about to be killed by an angry crowd upset that they lost money betting that Tantalus would lose his battle in a large a... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town: Another Adventure Into the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town by Joshua Williamson (writer), Vladmir Krstic (artist), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town by Joshua Williamson is another adventure into the occult (though if you haven’t read volume 1, you should start there and first read my review of Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted House). It opens with the evil Markus showing up in Germany at a wedding that is just about to go bad — supernaturally bad. And he isn’t alone: He’s forced Rusnak, the psychic from the first story arc, to accompany him to witness the unholy union that’s about to take place unbeknownst to the two families gathered together to celebrate what should be a festive occasion. As they sit and wait for the wedding to start, Markus tells Rusnak about his past and about how he survived the “ghost bomb” that Jackson dropped on him at the end of Volume 1. Hi... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 3): Death Wish: Another Great Tale of the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 3): Death Wish by Joshua Williamson (writer), Goran Sudzuka (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

In Ghosted (vol. 3): Death Wish, Jackson Winters, our master thief, is in prison yet again (And if you haven’t read volume 1 yet, start there and read my review of Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted House). When we last saw Jackson, he had just escaped a haunted temple only to be greeted by his old friend King. King was a member of his gang of thieves who, in volume 1, tried to steal a ghost from a haunted mansion. But at the end of volume 2, it seemed that King had switched sides because he shows up with the Feds to arrest Jackson for escaping prison (back in the first issue of the series when Anderson broke him out to work for her boss). Anderson, who died the first story arc, is still haunting Jackson, our mastermind thief, but it seems as if he’s being haunted by something even worse... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 2): Books of the Dead: Another Trip Into the Land of the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 2): Books of the Dead by Joshua Williamson (writer), Goran Sudzuka (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

In Joshua Williamson’s Ghosted (vol. 2): Books of the Dead, Jackson T. Winters is given yet another offer he can’t refuse, and again it’s got him dealing in ghosts and the possessed (And if you haven’t read volume 1 yet, start there and read my review of Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted House). When we last saw Jackson, he was on his island in a little paradise all his own. But his paradise is next to a resort, and with people coming and going, it was only a matter of time before someone from his past life spotted him. This man sees Jackson, picks up his cell, and calls someone Jackson once wronged. Jackson shows up just as the phone call ends and kills the man; unfortunately, the call has been made, and he has only a short time to pack up and get out of there. As you might e... Read More

Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures

Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures by Aaron Ehasz (Author), Josh Hamilton (Author), Tim Hedrick (Author), Dave Roman (Author), J. Torres (Author), Joaquim Dos Santos (Illustrator)

As far as ideas for comic book tie-ins go, a series of "lost adventures" that take place over the course of any given series isn't a bad one.

Collected here are the somewhat inconsequential escapades that happened to the protagonists of Avatar: The Last Airbender across all three seasons, from Aang attracting a swam of scorpion-bees, to Sokka impersonating the Avatar to impress a girl, to Azula and Zuko challenging each other to an arcade game — even a two-page spread on Momo stealing some fruit.

Although plenty of the stories in Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures (2011) are lightweight offerings that cover things like training or travelling or other bits of minutia (like... Read More

Demon: Volume 4: The blood-soaked conclusion arrives…

Demon: Volume 4 by Jason Shiga

So we come to it at last: the fourth and final instalment in Jason Shiga's Demon, detailing the misadventures (and catastrophic body-count) of Jimmy Yee, a one-time accountant who discovers he possesses the body of the person standing closest to him whenever he commits suicide.

As befits a final volume, Demon: Volume 4 is absolute, wall-to-wall insanity. There's death, war, guns, massacres, catapults, baseball bats, kamakaze stunts — in fact, there's probably something intensely violent happening on practically every page.

Having possessed the body of a foetus at the end of the last book, Jimmy has finally busted out of the womb, ready to find his daughter Sweetpea and prevent his arch-nemesis Hunter from unleashing hundreds more demons on the world... Read More

Demon: Volume 3: The hunt continues…

Demon: Volume 3 by Jason Shiga

This is the third book in Jason Shiga's Demon quartet; the story of Jimmy Yee, an otherwise ordinary accountant who realizes he's a demon. This means that whenever he takes his own life, he ends up possessing the body of the person closest to him.

It's a free pass to wealth and power, though ever since Jimmy found his daughter Sweetpea (also a demon) and evaded capture from the secret-ops agent who's determined to exploit his abilities, Jimmy has been lying low for the past hundred years.

After that long, a hedonistic lifestyle with no boundaries or limitations is beginning to wear a little thin. Surely there's got to be more to life than food, sex and drugs?



Demon: Volume 3 is a nihilistic look at the meaning of life an... Read More

Demon: Volume 2: The (extremely violent) mystery continues…

Demon: Volume 2 by Jason Shiga

In the second volume of Jason Shiga's Demon, we find Jimmy Yee pondering his options.

As he found out in the previous book, he's a demon who possesses the body of the closest physical person to him every time he takes his own life.

Across the course of that story he experimented with the limits of his power and is now close to mastering the logistics of his macabre gift.



 

 

Unfortunately (at least from his point-of-view), you can't leave behind a trail of bodies without attracting attention.

Agent Hunter leads a special military taskforce that knows what he can do and how to counteract it. His mission is to recruit Jimmy to the American government by any means necessary.

Bu... Read More

Demon: Volume 1: A dark and disturbing page-turner

Demon: Volume 1 by Jason Shiga

If you have a strong constitution and fifteen minutes to kill, you could do a lot worse than picking up Demon (2016), Jason Shiga’s graphic novel about a nihilistic suicidal actuary who finds a reason to go on living when he realizes he possesses the body of the person closest to him each time he kills himself.

His wife and daughter having died in a car accident, Jimmy Yee decides to end it all — only to find that his suicide attempts are thwarted each time by powers beyond his control.

The first half of the story involves him grappling to understand the rules of the new forces that govern his life, while the second sees him become the target of an elite military taskforce determined to contain him.

It's bloody, it's gory, it crosses the line more than a couple of times, but Jimmy's increasing lack of morality combined with ... Read More

The Iliad: An excellent graphic version of the classic tale

The Iliad by Gareth Hinds

Gareth Hinds makes a lot of good decisions in his graphic version of Homer’s The Iliad (2019), both in terms of art and narration, resulting in a book that’s easy to recommend both to young adults and also educators/parents who want to slip a little classical knowledge into their kid’s comic book.

Two of those good decisions involve cleverly incorporating each major hero’s initial into their helm or breastplate and ignoring the historical reality, and portraying the two sides in uniform garb so as to more easily distinguish one from the other. Given the number of characters, and an avalanche of names, anything that helps to separate Greeks from Trojans and tell Achilles from Agamemnon is a boon to the reader. The art is clear and vivid throughout, working hand in hand with the text to clarify, expand, emphasize, and enhance. It’s all well done, but my ... Read More

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A must-read for manga fans

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime by Toshio Ban & Tezuka Productions & translated into English by Frederik L. Schodt

“They say if you try making anime for 3 days, you’ll never be able to quit and that in 3 days you’ll also be broke. But even if I were to go broke, I still don’t think I’d be able to quit.” These words from Tezuka, upon receiving an award late in life, express his passion for his work in anime, but he had an equal passion for manga. But doing experimental anime proved so expensive, that he had to produce over three hundred volumes of manga in his lifetime to support his ongoing anime work. The more anime work he did, the more money he needed. The more money he needed, the more manga he produced. He was such a workaholic that he rarely left his office, where he often slept and usually ate his meals. Towards the end of his life, he even had multiple desks set up in his office with different ongoin... Read More

SCHOOL BUS OF HORRORS: Short, scary stories for young readers

SCHOOL BUS OF HORRORS by Michael Dahl, with illustrations by Euan Cook

If you know a young reader who likes scary stories but who isn’t quite up to tackling something the length of, say, a GOOSEBUMPS book, give Michael Dahl and Euan Cook’s SCHOOL BUS OF HORRORS series a shot. Four new titles are being released at once: Night Shift, Auto Body Parts, Ooze Control, and Shocks! (2019). The series is recommended for readers in the 9-to-13-year-old-range, though I would guess that’s more due to the thematic content than complexity of language; the stories are engaging though told very simply, and seem perfectly matched for “hi-lo readers” or “ Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted Heist: Haunted houses, possession, and revenge

Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted Heist by Joshua Williamson, Miroslav Mrva, Goran Sudzuka

In Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted Heist by Joshua Williamson, we meet Jackson T. Winters, currently in prison after an armed robbery gone wrong. It turns out that his death wish is not simply because he hates living inside a prison; rather, it’s because of a supernaturally disturbing vision he had the day of the robbery — it turns out the casino they were robbing was built on an ancient and sacred burial ground. Also, in the course of the robbery, every member of his team dies but him, and he is left alone to be caught by the police. The story takes off when he hears gunshots while sitting on his bunk in his cell. In minutes, a woman, Anderson Lake, opens his cell, kills his two cellmates, and knocks him out. When he wakes up again... Read More

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns: Technicolor gross-out fun

XANDER AND THE RAINBOW-BARFING UNICORNS: Fairies Hate Ponies & Who Turned Off the Colors? by Matthew K. Manning & Joey Ellis

XANDER AND THE RAINBOW-BARFING UNICORNS is a sweet, silly children’s series written by Matthew K. Manning and illustrated by Joey Ellis; the two most recent entries are Fairies Hate Ponies (2019) and Who Turned Off the Colors? (2019). The series is marketed toward kids in the 8-to-10-year-old range, though some of that is going to be dependent upon the reading proficiency and intestinal fortitude of the kid in question. Be prepared for plenty of gross-out humor and copious amounts of technicolor vomit issued by unicorns afflicted with a zombie virus.

Fortunately, the unicorns themselves appear to be caught in a state of semi-decay, with various body p... Read More

Alison Wilgus tells us about CHRONIN (giveaway!)

Today Fantasy Literature welcomes Alison Wilgus, a veteran of the graphic novel industry as well as a prose author and screenwriter for Cartoon Network! Ms. Wilgus joins me to talk about her latest publication, Chronin Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back, her writing and artistic process, and an admirable amount of research. One commenter will win a copy of Chronin Vol. 1 along with a book-themed sticker and postcard from Tor Books!

I’d like to start by asking you about the origin of Mirai Yoshida’s story — how did this story come to you? Creation-wise, was there a fairly straightforward path from the initial sketches and thoughts to a completed publication, or were there changes and surprises along the way?

Chronin was very much constructed around Mirai, so she’s always been at the heart of it... Read More

Chronin Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back

Chronin Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back by Alison Wilgus

The time: July 1864. The place: a tea shop in Edo; what modern folks would call Tokyo, Japan. After some reluctance on his part, a tea mistress named Hatsu hires a reticent samurai, Yoshida Minoru, to act as her bodyguard while she travels outside the city on a private errand. What Hatsu quickly discovers, and what the reader already knows, is that Yoshida Minoru is no samurai at all — but is actually Mirai Yoshida, a university student from New York City in the year 2042.

Mirai was part of a special group of students, all of whom were chosen for their academic excellence and dedication, who were given access to time-travel technology in order to better study historically significant events. Their trips to the Tokugawa Shogunate period were supposed to be as unobtrusive as possible, spending just a little time interacting with locals before returning home via special beacon... Read More

Marvel 1985: A realistic superhero story

Marvel 1985 by Mark Millar

In Marvel 1985, Mark Millar tells us the story of comics coming to real life. Young Toby Goodman sees the Red Skull one day, and wonders if his eyes might be deceiving him, but after he sees a few more Marvel characters, he realizes that the super-villains from the Marvel Universe are invading our reality. He encounters the Hulk at one point, but mainly it’s the bad guys coming to his small town: Ultron, the Blob, Sandman, and many more villains appear and begin to kill indiscriminately. But things really seem bad when the planet-destroying Galactus shows up. We begin to wonder who the mastermind is behind this invasion.

Why is this story so good? Because it’s grounded in the reality of a young boy’s daily struggles: Toby’s parents are divorced, and he doesn’t like his stepdad. He seems to get enjoyment only by escaping through comics, going to the comics shop, and han... Read More

Empress: So much action!

Empress by Mark Millar

Empress is another one of Mark Millar’s big-action comics. It’s about Earth’s first rulers, long ago, when apparently they had technology beyond anything we could imagine. The Empress, Emporia, lives with a terrible husband, King Morax, who is all-powerful and likes to express that power by killing his people for the smallest possible infraction. This story is about her escape from the misery of his company as she goes on the run with her family across the galaxy.

The story is fairly simple and lacks the complexity of Millar’s best work. Emporia’s bodyguard has agreed to help her escape along with her three kids, one of whom is a small baby. The action often involves monsters and other dangers, and the baby, Puck, frequently is thrown from his mother’s, brother’s, or sister’s arms as we watch what we assume will be his immediate death. At one point, he is thrown towa... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 6): The Last of the Innocent: Don’t miss this

Criminal (Vol. 6): The Last of the Innocent Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

The Last of the Innocent is volume six in the Criminal series by Ed Brubaker, and it tells the sordid tale of Riley Richards, another perfect noir character from this series of comics. What makes this an unusual noir tale is that the story, which takes place in 1982, is blended with flashbacks from the late 1960s that are told as if the characters are from the Archie comics. Even the style of the art changes to an Archie-style imitation, but it’s odd because the innocent Archie comics are replaced with a group of teenagers doing what teenagers from the 1960s often did: Have sex, smoke pot, and generally get into trouble.

The Archie gang is all there. Riley is Archie, and his druggy friend Freakout, or Freak, is Jughead. Betty, literally the girl next door, is Lizzie Gordon, and Veronica is the rich brun... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 5): The Sinners: Will have you feeling conflicted

Criminal (Vol. 5): The Sinners by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Tracy Lawless, whom we met in Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless, returns in The Sinners, volume five of Criminal. In this volume, he’s working for Sebastian Hyde, the man behind most of the organized crime in the city. He doesn’t want to work for Hyde, but he’s given his word (due to reasons explained in volume two), and Tracy always keeps his word — which keeps getting him into trouble. When other people involved in organized crime start getting killed for seemingly no reason, Hyde makes Tracy take on the role of detective: Find out who is doing the killings and dispose of them.

For the most part, Tracy is a hired killer. But what makes him an interesting character is his twisted sense of ethics: While he goes about killing many of those Hyde orders him to, he has certain rules he follo... Read More

Paper Girls (Vol 5): Story gaining momentum and richness

Paper Girls (Vol 5) by Brian K Vaughan (writer) & Cliff Chiang (artist)

This is the fifth volume of  Brian K. Vaughan’s PAPER GIRLS, and the larger story is really starting to take shape. The early volumes were quite elliptical and disorienting, so it’s great to be able to understand the various storylines and the larger world-building that is revealed, and get to know and like the four main protagonists even more as they are thrown into a series of tense adventures across time.

[SPOILER TERRITORY AHEAD - DON’T READ UNLESS YOU’VE READ VOLUMES ONE-FOUR]

Finally we get to delve into the far-future world inhabited by the old-timers, with the sleek and beautifully-colored futuristic cityscapes that were just hinted at in previous volumes. The girls find themselves in a far future city that is surp... Read More

Paper Girls (Vol 4): The most satisfying of the series so far

Paper Girls (Vol 4) by Brian K. Vaughan

This is the fourth volume of Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls, and we are finally given enough glimpses of the larger plot to make sense of what’s happened until this point.

[SPOILER TERRITORY AHEAD - DON’T READ UNLESS YOU’VE READ VOLUMES ONE-THREE]

After being thrown into the distant past and battling cavemen and befriending fierce natives, the girls once again in their future (and our past), namely during Y2K before the millenium. There are all kinds of strange things happening, not least of which are giant robots duking it out like Transformers in the streets of quiet Stony Stream, but for some reason only one of the girls can see them.

We also get far more details on who the old-timers and young ones are, and why they are fighting a war across multipl... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 4): Bad Night: The twists and turns in plot are some of Brubaker’s best

Criminal (Vol. 4): Bad Night Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Jacob Kurtz is the focus of Bad Night, the fourth volume of Ed Brubaker’s wonderfully disturbing noir series Criminal. His job is writing the newspaper comic strip that shows up in Criminal (vol. 1): Coward. The comic, based on Dick Tracy, is entitled Frank Kafka, Private Eye, and it’s as puzzling as the stories written by Franz Kafka, after whom he’s named. Frank is put on cases that go nowhere with leads that could never result in understandable clues. As the comic opens, our cartoonist goes wandering the streets at night, as is his custom because of his constant insomnia. He goes into a diner and has an uncomfortable verbal exchange, a near-violent one, with the boyfriend of a woman named Iris, a red-headed woman who is this comic’s femme fatale.

The story’s tension begins immediat... Read More