Comics


The B.P.R.D. (Vol. 3): Plague of Frogs: The Hellboy mythos grows

B.P.R.D. (Vol. 3): Plague of Frogs by Mike Mignola (writer), Guy Davis (artist), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

The B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs is the first extended B.P.R.D. volume since the first two volumes were collections of short stories. Plague of Frogs is a five-issue mini-series. The comic book opens with bloodshed: One scientist visits another to see the fast-growing fungus being watched at a facility. The visiting scientist, out of the blue, shoots the other man in the back, claiming that "the Master commands." Security guards enter and shoot him.

Quite a dramatic opening for an excellent B.P.R.D. story. After this violent start, the comic shifts focus to Abe Sapien who is dreaming of being under the ocean watching an endless flow of dead bodies. We are given the impression that this is a dark premonition. He is still disturbed by the bad dream when h... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (Rebirth): Batgirl visits Japan

Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Rafael Albuquerque

Now is the right time to admit that I don't read many DC comics — or many comics, period. I jumped straight into this series without any context of Barbara Gordon's life or background, beyond the general basics of the character. (For instance, I know she's the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and spent some time in a wheelchair, but I have no idea how she regained the use of her legs, or who Frankie is).

So how does this story hold up for someone with just a tenuous understanding of Batgirl? Pretty good.

Barbara is on holiday in Japan, catching up with her old friend Kai, enjoying the sights, and hoping to interview Chiyo Yamashiro, a one hundred and four year old superhero known as Fruit Bat.

But of course, events transpire that disrupt her holiday groove. Criminals adept in a range of martial arts are in pursuit of so... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games: The power-plays conclude

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

This is the fifth (or fourth if you don’t include the Jason Aaron Vader Down crossover) and final volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series, one that essentially follows Vader’s attempts to accumulate his own resources in secret, with the goal of eventually seeking out his son and luring him to the Dark Side — with or without the Emperor’s knowledge.

In this he’s been helped by a scrappy young thief and archaeologist named Doctor Aphra (who became popular enough to get her own spin-off series) and two droids: Triple-Zero and Beetee, a protocol and astromech droid respectively, who act like evil versions of C3-P0 and R2-D2.

As well as this, the Emperor has gathered a new set of potenti... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War: Vader has a go at political intrigue

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

The fourth volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series focuses more on political strategy and warfare than the earlier volumes (which were more to do with espionage). In the wake of the first Death Star’s destruction, the Empire is desperate to regain a foothold on the galaxy and reverse the morale acquired by the Rebellion through the loss of their great weapon.

Vader is sent to the planet of Shu-Torun, a place rich in natural resources that help fuel the Empire, where Ore Barons are fighting against their new ruler. Queen Trios was crowned by Vader himself after he assassinated her father, and in what feels like a deliberate reflection of Padme Amidala, she’s beginning to flex the boundaries of her power. To keep Shu-Torun under the control of the Emperor, Vader goes to support her rule.

... Read More

Star Wars: Vader Down: A crossover event in the midst of the DARTH VADER saga

Star Wars: Vader Down by Jason Aaron & Mike Deodato

It took me a while to figure out how Vader Down fit into the VADER series by Kieron Gillen that I was making my way through: turns out that this should be read after Vader and Shadows and Secrets, but before The Shu-Torun War (which is technically the third book in the VADER series). This is a crossover between the storylines in Gillen’s Vader-centric arc and those by Jason Aaron in his Rebellion-centric series.

Still with me? Okay, so Vader Down deals with Vader following up a lead on the pilot that destroyed the Death Star, and who in previous issues he found out was his son Luke Skywalker. Along with plans to build his own power base to undermine the Emperor’s authority, he now wants to hunt down Luke and tu... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

Carrying on from the first Vader volume (which was simply called Vader) this compilation of issues further explores Vader’s attempts to pull together secret resources of his own, without the knowledge of his Imperial superiors. Having discovered that he has a son, Vader now wants more information on Luke Skywalker and to quietly undermine the Emperor himself.

Helping him in this endeavour is an amoral young archaeologist and thief named Doctor Aphra, and two droids who are clearly meant to be dark foils to C3-P0 and R2-D2: Triple Zero, a protocol droid with a sadistic streak (he lists his specialities as: “etiquette, customs, translation and torture”), and Beetee, an astromech who likes blowing things up. Oh, and a gang of bounty hunters... Read More

The B.P.R.D (Vol. 2).: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories: Great stories without Hellboy

The B.P.R.D.(Vol. 2): The Soul of Venice and Other Stories by Mike Mignola (writer) & various writers and artists

The B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories opens with the title story, a tale about the four main B.P.R.D. agents without Hellboy: Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Roger, and Johann Kraus, who are overseen by direction Kate Corrigan. They are called in to solve the problem when pipes start exploding in Venice and domestic disturbances spike in occurrence. They are drawn to paranormal activity in a house of ill-repute back in the thirteenth century, a house that once was the site of a rich playboy and a vampire who had become friends. Spirits, and more, linger there.

In “Dark Waters,” the B.P.R.D. team is called to a small town where three dead women are found at the bottom of a pond that is being removed from the city center. Abe and Roger go to investigate the three oddly well-preserv... Read More

Darth Vader: Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Darth Vader: Vader by Kieron Gillen (writer) and Salvador Larroca (artist)

Darth Vader (Volume One): Vader by Kieron Gillen is just as good, if not better than, Star Wars (Volume One): Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron, both of which came out recently from Marvel. Marvel now has the rights to the Star Wars comic books, and so they are reissuing quickly all the Star Wars comics that were put out over the years by Dark Horse. In addition to these reissues, the... Read More

B.P.R.D. (Vol. 1): Hollow Earth and Other Stories: Abe takes the lead without Hellboy

B.P.R.D. (Vol. 1): Hollow Earth and Other Stories by Mike Mignola (writer) & various writers and artists

The first story in this collection, “Hollow Earth,” starts off in the Ural Mountains above the arctic circle where Liz Sherman is seeking help in a monastery as she hopes to learn how to control the fire within her. At headquarters we meet Kraus, whose origin story we get in B.P.R.D.: Being Human. He has just joined the bureau and moved in to make his home at headquarters since he can’t pass as human in the outside world. Kraus joins the B.P.R.D. at a crucial time: Hellboy has quit, Liz still hasn’t returned from the monastery, and Abe and Roger are threatening to leave the bureau. When Liz contacts Abe through paranormal means, she begs him for help, so before Abe can leave the bureau, he and Roger find themselves on a plane heading to the Ural Mountains. Kraus joins them on his first semi-official case ... Read More

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows: A look at Vader through unexpected eyes

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows by Tim Siedell, Gabriel Guzman, Michael Atiyeh, Felipe Massafera

From the same author that released Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin, Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows is a graphic novel set a few months after The Revenge of the Sith, in which the Empire is consolidating its power across the galaxy.

Despite Vader’s name being in the title, it’s really the story of a clone soldier who is left for dead by his Jedi general during the Clone Wars.

Defecting from the army he hides away for years on a backwater planet, only to become intrigued by rumours of the terrifying Darth Vader. He signs up to become a Stormtrooper, and once again finds meaning on the battlefield – though it isn’t the same as when he fought under Jedi lead... Read More

B.P.R.D.: Being Human: Early cases

B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mike Mignola (writer) & various other writers and artists

B.P.R.D.: Being Human is a collection of short stories about the early years of B.P.R.D.:

The first story, "The Dead Remembered," takes place in 1976, and the Professor decides to do some rare fieldwork to investigate a haunting. He asks Hellboy to accompany him, but Hellboy, not partial to ghosts, declines, and the professor ends up taking a young Liz Sherman, who has pyrokinetic abilities. This is the first time she goes into the field for any type of investigation. While the story does deal with the haunting, it is really about Liz and her wrestling with her powers. We get flashbacks to her as a child and the critical moment of her childhood that is often referenced in other Hellboy stories: The day Liz lost control of her newly-revealed powers and killed her entire family. In the present of 1976, Liz reluctantly tak... Read More

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin: Darth Vader goes on a mysterious mission

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin by Tim Siedell & Stephen Thompson

I noticed with interest that this volume was published in 2013, meaning it just missed out on being an official part of the new Disney canon. Yet despite being relegated to what’s now called Star Wars Legends, Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin still fits into the new continuity (minus one small detail at its conclusion) that can be read as a straightforward standalone story.

The head of a vast mining operation vows revenge on Darth Vader after the death of his only son and heir. Having already sent eight assassins to kill the Emperor’s apprentice, he now goes in search of more lethal assailants, one that can guarantee to bring him Vader’s head.

Meanwhile, Vader manages to prevent another assassination attempt on the Emperor, one that very nearly succeeds despite their combined power in the Force. Realiz... Read More

Baba Yaga’s Assistant: A compelling tale by a gifted collaboration

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola (author) & Emily Carroll (illustrator)

Baba Yaga's Assistant, by Marika McCoola and illustrated by Emily Carroll, is a MG graphic novel that tries to work the frightening richness of the Baba Yaga folktales into the press of modern family life, but despite the great source material, the attempt falls short, though it has its moments.

The protagonist is Masha, a young girl whose father has just proposed to a woman sometime after her mother's death. Her father had relegated most of Masha’s upbringing to her grandmo... Read More

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus: A young Hellboy

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola (writer), Duncan Fegredo (artist), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

At under sixty pages, Hellboy: The Midnight Circus is a very short graphic novel, but it is worth seeking out. We get a rare story of Hellboy in his childhood years. At the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense in 1948, a young Hellboy sneaks out of his room and overhears his father-figure being warned by another against the dangers Hellboy will bring them all. Upset by the news that others see him as a dangerous threat, he runs away from the B.P.R.D. facility. And of course, as the title suggests, Hellboy will discover the Midnight Circus. But first, as a nice touch of realistic teenager angst, Mignola shows Hellboy smoking what might be his first cigarette, which he stole earlier from one of the B.P.R.D. agents.

Hellboy sees a clown nail to a pole a poster for A. T. Roth... Read More

Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea: Hellboy goes sailing

Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea by Mike Mignola (writer) & Gary Gianni (artist)

Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea is such a short volume that, at less than sixty pages, it can hardly be called a graphic novel. Still, it is a worthwhile read and a great addition to the Hellboy canon. The story starts off in a dismal place: a dark, foreboding shoreline with large, shipwrecked boats cast up on the rocks and half-sunken in the shallow waters. The mood is aided by a quotation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Romantic poet. From the excerpt of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner comes the title of this volume: Into the Silent Sea.

The story starts off with Hellboy launching from the shore in a small sailboat, and he heads into the windy sea. As we watch him sail, we are given quotations from the poem “The Pilot” by Thomas Haynes Bayly. He a... Read More

Hellboy in Mexico: Mostly fight scenes

Hellboy in Mexico by Mike Mignola (writer) & various artists

Hellboy in Mexico is a collection of short stories. It starts out with the same story that is in Hellboy (Vol. 11): The Bride of Hell and Others:

“Hellboy in Mexico, or A Drunken Blur” is a funny story about Hellboy’s lost five months in Mexico drinking and wrestling. The story starts in 1982 with Hellboy and Abe Sapien in Mexico together. Abe Sapien finds an old wrestling poster showing Hellboy with three other wrestlers. Hellboy tells him that it was from 1956. Hellboy then tells Abe the story of how he met the three wrestling brothers who were also monster hunters. Hellboy joined the brothers to fight monsters during the day and party at night. Then one night one of the brothers is taken by the vampires, and Hellboy goes in search of his lost friend. The story takes a strange turn once they locate the lost ... Read More

Hellboy in Hell (Vol. 2): The Death Card: An ambiguous finale

Hellboy in Hell (Vol. 2): The Death Card by Mike Mignola (writer and artist), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters).

This second and final volume of Hellboy in Hell collects issues 6-10. It opens with Baba Yaga reminding the reader what came before: “He fought and killed a dragon but the dragon was actually a witch. Her ghost plucked out his heart and cast it into Hell.” In the first volume of Hellboy in Hell, Hellboy “went into Pandemonium and cut Satan’s throat . . . . And now all Hell is in turmoil.”

When we join Hellboy in this volume, he has been wandering in Hell, lost in the maze-like expansive city surrounding the Stygian Sea. He gets a lesson in geography from two lost souls before a bad reunion and a card game of sorts with a former vampire. Saved by a minister in Hell, Hellboy continues to wander Hell in Chapter One, issue six, “The Death Card... Read More

Hellboy (Vol. 12): The Storm and The Fury: Hellboy and Ragnarok

Hellboy (Vol. 12): The Storm and The Fury by Mike Mignola (writer) and Duncan Fegredo (artist)

The Storm and The Fury takes up where The Wild Hunt (Vol. 9) left off. Hellboy: Volumes 10 and 11 are collections of short stories, so they do not advance the primary plot of Hellboy, which is what we get here. Hellboy is still in England, and knights are rising from their graves as foretold. The signs are dire, and Hellboy is on the case even though he left the B.P.R.D. On the other hand, as we found out in The Wild Hunt, Hellboy is the anticipated king of Britain, so the knights might be gathering together as an army that he is supposed to lead against the Queen of Blood.

This volume begins with Hellboy and Alice talking about what Hellboy’s been up to over the past few years, and this device allows Mignola to remind of us of the m... Read More

Hellboy (Vol. 11): The Bride of Hell and Others: Another solid Hellboy collection

Hellboy (Vol. 11): The Bride of Hell and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Richard Corben (artist), Kevin Nowlan (artist), & Scott Hampton (artist).

“Hellboy in Mexico, or A Drunken Blur” is a funny story about Hellboy’s lost five months in Mexico drinking and wrestling. The story starts in 1982 with Hellboy and Abe Sapien in Mexico together. Abe Sapien finds an old wrestling poster showing Hellboy with three other wrestlers. Hellboy tells him that it was from 1956. Hellboy then tells Abe the story of how he met the three wrestling brothers who were also monster hunters. Hellboy joined the brothers to fight monsters during the day and party at night. Then one night one of the brothers is taken by the vampires, and Hellboy goes in search of his lost friend. The story takes a strange turn once they locate the lost brother. Oh, yes, and there’s plenty of wrestling action.

“Double Feature of Evil” contains two stories t... Read More

Hellboy (Vol. 10): The Crooked Man and Others: Hellboy in Appalachia

Hellboy (Vol. 10): The Crooked Man and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Richard Corben (artist), Duncan Fegredo (artist), Joshua Dysart (artist), & Jason Shawn Alexander (artist)

The first story,“The Crooked Man,” is an Eisner-winning comic and the first Hellboy tale to take place in the Appalachian woods and is based on the folklore of that region (though, in an introduction to the story, Mignola makes clear that this story is not an adaptation of any existing story). He also lets us know in this introduction to the three-issue comic that he wrote this tale with artist Richard Corben specifically in mind. Opening in 1958 in Virginia, “The Crooked Man” is about Tom, who comes home after twenty years to find the two women he knew in childhood indebted to the devil, and only one of them, Cora Fisher, wants release. The other woman, Effie, enjoys being a witch and laughs at their suffering. Hellboy goes along on the journey with Tom and... Read More

Mooncakes: Delightful and suspenseful

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu

Mooncakes (2019) is the story of Nova and Tam, two young people who are exploring their connections to magic. They are both, in their own way, deeply connected to the magical world and must decide what that means to them. Their relationships — with the people around them and each other — fuel the emotional core of this whimsical, down-to-earth, LGBTQ+ narrative.

I was delighted by Mooncakes. First, Wendy Xu’s art is spot-on for the tone of the story — in some ways it is cute and colourful, but there are some hard, emotional moments and magic-fueled fights that don’t feel out of place in the chosen style. The characters are designed uniquely, and the strength of those designs support their distinct personalities. Mooncakes has a wonderful cast of characters, in the most literal sense: full of wonder. Ev... Read More

Hellboy (Vol. 9): The Wild Hunt: Hellboy and Arthurian legend

 

Hellboy (Vol. 9): The Wild Hunt by Mike Mignola (writer) & Duncan Fegredo (artist)

In The Wild Hunt, the main Hellboy plot moves forward in a significant manner. As we get into the comic, which ominously begins with Hellboy spying on a funeral of a king, we find two plot lines running throughout The Wild Hunt. First, Hellboy has been invited to gather with a group of men who hunt giants when two or more start roaming in groups to cause ruin and destruction wherever they go. There is a great, long-running history behind the Wild Hunt, which takes place whenever it is needed. Secondly, the creature Gruagach is resurrecting the Queen of Blood so that she will gather forces to seek out and destroy Hellboy. When there is betrayal within the gathering of the Wild Hunt before they even find giants to kill, Hellboy must question where his loyalties lie.

Gruagach... Read More

MONSTRESS 3: Haven: Increasingly complex

MONSTRESS 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It’s always an event when the next collection of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s MONSTRESS is released — I take a copy home, make sure I won’t get interrupted, and just sink down into the complex storytelling and truly gorgeous illustrations. Every year this ongoing graphic novel cleans up at the Eisner and Hugo Awards, and for good reason.

Maika Halfwolf is a young woman with a terrible secret: an ancient monster resides within her body, only partially controllable and with regular bloodthirsty urges. Her entire life she’s fought to keep herself and others safe, but the onset of war throughout the Asian-/Egyptian-inspired world in which she lives means that all sorts of people are frantic to get their hands on Maika and the power she wields.

In Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, the ongo... Read More

A Flight of Angels: A beautiful anthology

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay (illustrator)

Stories by Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Louise Hawes and Todd Mitchell

An angel has fallen. Led by their insatiable curiosity, the hosts of fae have followed the descent of the white-winged creature and now gather around his still-breathing body to decide what to do with him. They decide to hold a trial, and present evidence in the form of stories about the deeds of angels to decide whether or not to let him live.

I am fairly new to reading graphic novels, so I do not know how original the conceit is of having mul... Read More

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood: The backstory of Kanan Jarrus continues…

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood by Greg Weisman

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood is the second collection of comics in an ongoing series that details the mysterious past of Kanan Jarrus, a main character of the animated television show Star Wars Rebels who — as a teenage Jedi Padawan — managed to escape the purge that wiped the rest of the Order out. Having joined the Rebellion as part of the crew of the Ghost, Kanan now finds himself increasingly haunted by his past as he and his team-mates start visiting planets he inhabited while still known as Caleb Dume.

Set within the framing device of the Ghost crew watching over Kanan's unconscious body as it heals in a bacta tank, we delve back into the former Jedi's memories — and this time they're set further back in time than those of Read More