Book Review: Hellraisers by Robert Sellers


Author: Robert Sellers
TitleHellraisers
Illustrator: JAKe
Publication Info: London : SelfMadeHero, 2011.
Summary/Review:

This graphic biography tells the exploits of the Irish & British actors Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, and Peter O’Toole.  I’ve long admired the work of Harris and O’Toole, and familiar with Burton by reputation, but Reed was new to me.  What they have in common is that they were part of new class of post World War II actors who were gritty and real, and lived a wild and hardscabble life off the screen and stage.  The book focuses on the legendary exploits of the quartet’s drinking and partying but also their feelings of inadequacy and failed relationships.  It’s common to romanticize their wild lives, but the book does not shy away from the harm they caused, the violence, the sexual harrasment, and general arrogance. Cleverly, the author ties their stories together by having the Burton, Harris, Reed, and O’Toole appear as ghosts to a character named Martin who is drinking his life away. The four hellraiser actors are able to help Martin to focus on his life and family. Oddly, when I checked this book out, the librarian told me he’d read the book and said it was “good, clean fun.” I’d say it’s anything but, a cautionary tale more than anything else.  Burton, Harris, Reed, and O’Toole lived lives of reckless abandon so that you don’t have to.

Rating: ***1/2

Comics Review: Prisoners of Time by Scott Tipton and David Tipton


Author: Scott Tipton and David Tipton
TitlePrisoners of Time
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, January 2016.
Artist: Simon Fraser
Colourist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer:  Tom B. Long
Summary/Review:

The 50th anniversary comic tells one story for each Doctor, One through Eleventh, with the inevitable team-up in the last issue.  The stories are generally good, albeit short and easily resolved leading up to the conclusion of each story where a mysterious figure kidnaps the Doctor’s companions.  It’s eventually revealed to be Adam of The Long Game from the Ninth Doctor’s season, which is a bit underwhelming. Still, I like how the artistic style is a bit different for each Doctor, and how they pay tribute to the history of Doctor Who comics through the appearance of Frobisher, who appeared first in comics, and the essays at the end of each issue.  It’s nothing spectacular but it checks off each box of what an anniversary, crossover comic should do.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension 


Author: George Mann, Carl Scott, and Nick Abadzis
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.1
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Illustrator: Rachael Stott
Colourist: Rod Fernandes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Summary/Review:

Another multi-Doctor story.  Unlike The Four Doctors, this one does a good job of having each Doctor’s story have a stand-alone aspect while adding to the overall story arc.  It also gives a good amount of time and agency to the supporting characters, the many companions and the Doctor’s Daughter, Jenny.  It also cleverly spins some history of  Galliferey and TARDISes without being overly fan-wankery.

Rating: ****


Author: Gordon Rennie
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.2
Illustrator: Ivan Rodriguez
Colourist: Thiago Ribeiro
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Summary/Review:

The second part is not as strong as the predecessor.  Once the Doctors get together the writing lazily relies on Doctors bickering with themselves and being brilliant together.  The conclusion is also highly derivative of The Day of the Doctor.  Still a fun romp though

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: Four Doctors by Paul Cornell


Author:  Paul Cornell
TitleDoctor Who: Four Doctors
Artists: Neil Edwards
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2016.
Summary/Review:

Paul Cornell is a legendary writer of Doctor Who books and television scripts for the new series, so I had high hopes for this comics’ outing.  It brings together the Tenth Doctor with his companion Gabby Gonzalez, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice Obiefune, and the Twelfth Doctor with Clara Oswald (whom the Eleventh Doctor does not yet know).  I’ve never seen Gabby or Alice before, and although they seem interesting, they don’t get to do much beyond generic companion stuff.  Clara is running the show as she initiates the story by trying to tell Gabby and Alice that a photo of the three Doctors on Marinus must not be allowed to become a reality.  Which of course it does.  And with all of space and time on the line, the three Doctors have to figure out how to stop the Voord and an alternate version of themselves.  It’s a complicated timey-wimey story with some good fantastical bits, but it seems a bit rushed and undercooked to me.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Alpha: Abidjan to Paris by Bessora and Barroux


Author: Bessora
Illustrator: Barroux
TitleAlpha: Abidjan to Paris
Translator: Sarah Ardizzone
Publication Info:
Summary/Review:

This graphic novel made up of simple felt-tip drawings follows Alpha Coulibaly as he attempts to migrate from Côte d’Ivoire to France.  Alpha’s wife and child left earlier to live with a sister-in-law in Paris, and he’s not heard from since.  The dream of reunion carries Alpha for 18 months as he travels in crowded vehicles across hot deserts, lives and works in refugee camps, and sees the suffering and deaths of the companions he meets along the way, including a child traveling unaccompanied.  It’s a heartbreaking yet matter-of-fact story of what far too many people encounter as refugees today.

Recommended books: Aya by Marguerite Abouet
Rating: ****

Book Review: The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, Caanan White


Author: Max Brooks, Caanan White (Illustrator)
Title: The Harlem Hellfighters
Publication Info: Broadway Books, 2014
Summary/Review:

In graphic novel form, Max Brooks (curiously enough, the son of filmmaker Mel Brooks) tells the oft-overlooked story of 369th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard.  The largely African-American infantry regiment was among the first American troops to be sent to the front lines in France in 1919 during World War I, where they became known for their toughness and valor and earned their nickname “The Harlem Hellfighters” from their German opponents.  It’s an interesting story although Brooks relies on a familiar story of racial discrimination at home and the horrors of war abroad.  While the story is told from the point of view of a soldier named Mark, there isn’t much to distinguish the characters and personalize the story.  White’s illustrations seem to revel in depictions of gore that would fit in with The Walking Dead, but it’s actually difficult to distinguish the characters – black, white, French, and German – from one another.  One nice touch is that Brooks includes fragments of contemporary songs and poems to accompany scenes of the war.  It’s very cinematic, in fact, which is not surprising since Brooks originally intended to write a screenplay.  The graphic novel has it’s flaws but overall it’s a good introduction to the story of the Harlem Hellfighters.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh


Author: Allie Brosh
TitleHyperbole and a Half 
Publication Info: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013.
ISBN: 9781451666175
Summary/Review:

The deliberately crudely-illustrated comics from Allie Brosh’s classic Hyperbole and a Half blog are collected here in book form.  Brosh’s writing and drawing based on her life is both hilarious and poignant.   Her works on depression and motivation (or lack thereof) are particularly brilliant, and make me feel that she gets me.  She also writes a lot about her dogs and their lack of intelligence and a particularly belly-guffawing story of her house invaded by a goose.  The colorful pictures also attracted my two-year-old  daughter who kept picking up that book whenever I wasn’t reading it.  This book should be read by one and all.

Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Rating: ****

Book Review: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract by Tony Lee


Author: Tony Lee
Title: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract
Publication Info: IDW Publishing (2010)
ISBN: 9781600107566
Summary/Review: The Tenth Doctor’s adventures from Fugitive continue with his new companions Emily and Matt heading on divergent paths.  Emily becomes a stronger character driven to action while Matt consumed by jealousy is drawn to evil.  There’s also a 5D spaceship, Martha Jones and UNIT, and Greenwich Park under attack by trees. As I noted on the previous volume, the comic format allows for a visual imagination that would not likely be convincing in a televised format but on the other hand the dialogue seems spare and simplistic.

Rating: **1/2

 

Book Review: A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn


Author: Howard Zinn, Paul Buhle, & Mike Konopacki
Title: A People’s History of American Empire
Publication Info:
ISBN: 0805077790

Summary/Review:

When I was a kid I inherited my uncle’s Mad magazine collection which had some comic books mixed in including a three-part series about the Civil War.  This was a hagiographic history where all the soldiers called one another “Billy Yank” and “Johnny Reb” done in the style of Classics Illustrated. 

A People’s History of American Empire is a very different comic book history.  Based on Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as well as Zinn’s own life this is a graphic depiction of the times in American history where the nation failed to live up to the standards of liberty and equality for all.  Mainly this involves the repression of people within the United States (Indians, blacks, immigrants, and labor), wars in foreign lands (Phillipines, Vietnam, and Iraq) and intervention into the  autonomy of other nations (Iran, El Salvador, and many more) for the benefit of powerful and wealth American elite. A comic version of Zinn narrates the book frequently turning over the story to characters contemporary to the events described. Interspersed in this narrative are stories of the social movements in America such as Civil Rights, labor, and anti-war.

I particular found it interesting in the parts that covered events I’d only heard of or knew nothing about, such as:

  • The Black 25th Infantry who fought valiantly at San Juan Hill but were denied credit.
  • The Jitterbug Riot
  • The counter-cultural protests of R&B fandom in the 1950’s.
  • The Diem Regime and South Vietnam “essentially a creation of the United States.”
  • The Second Battle of Wounded Knee
  • Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

This is a good introduction to the other side of American history in a brief and well-illustrated manner.

Recommended books: Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
Rating: ****

Book Review: Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie


Around The World For a Good Book selection for: Côte d’Ivoire

Author: Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie
Title: Aya
Publication Info: Drawn and Quarterly (2007)https://othemts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
ISBN: 1894937902

Summary/Review:

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel is set in Yop City, a working class neighborhood in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in the 1970’s when the nation was prosperous and chic.  Abouet deliberately sets out to tell a story about Africa that is not about poverty and warfare.  The story is centered around the daily lives and flirtations of three young women.  <SPOILER> Of course there is some heavy stuff here when one of the young women becomes pregnant and is forced into marriage with the son of a wealthy Boss, but Abouet plays if off for comedy with the grown-ups as comic caricatures. </SPOILER>.  Oubrerie vibrantly illustrates this book bringing out the beautiful colors of the clothing and the city as well as the humanity of the characters.  I learned about this book via The Hieroglyphic Streets, where you can find more reviews, and apparently there are sequels that are worth checking out too.

Recommended Books: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Rating: ***1/2