Book Review: Figment by Jim Zub and Filipe Andrade


Author: Jim Zub
Title: Figment
Ilustrator: Filipe Andrade 
Publication Info: Marvel (2017)
Summary/Review:

The merger of Disney and Marvel creates the opportunity based on classic Disney World attractions.  This series tells the back story of Epcot’s original Journey into Imagination with the Dreamfinder (the comics reveal his given name as Blarion Mercurial) and Figment.  The story begins with Mercurial working as a reasearcher at a university in London in the early 1900s and creating an invention that harnesses imagination and makes it reality.  First he creates his sidekick purple dragon Figment, and then they’re drawn into imaginary worlds where they experience a series of adventures.  The comic basically acknowledges that the 1980s Epcot attraction was steampunk before the word “steampunk” was coined.  The story is basically a G-rated adventure akin to the Five Fists of Science or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  And being set in imaginary worlds, it benefits from lavish illustrations by Andrade.

Recommended booksThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan, The Remarkable Worlds of Professor Phineas B. Fuddle by Erez Yakin, and Five Fists Of Science by Matt Fraction
Rating: ***

 

 

 

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande
Colorist: Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and  Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 1: Revolutions of Terror 
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

The Tenth Doctor comics explores adventures that take place after he tragically mindwipes Donna (I’m still not over that), and reluctantly begins traveling with a new companion, Gabby Gonzalez. And what a wonderful companion she is!  Gabby is a young Mexican-American woman living in Brooklyn and working in her family’s restaurant and laundromat, but dreaming of becoming an artist and going on adventures.  She’s utterly charming and clever, and well characterized for a character original to the comics.

This volume contains two adventures.  The Doctor and Gabby meet when the Pranavores, a psychic lifeform that exists in a symbiotic relationship with intelligent lifeforms and feeds off their positive energy, come under attack.  Their assailants are the Cerabavores, scientifically modified Pranavores who hunt the Pranavores by causing the humans they’re associated with to have horrific visions.  Gabby’s quick wits and cheerful spirit help the Doctor defeat the Cerabavores and he invites her on a one-time trip on the TARDIS.

Because Gabby is an artist, he takes her to see an art gallery on a magnificently strange planet and meet an artist named Zhe who uses her mind to create block transfer sculptures.  Of course, Zhe is in trouble, trapped in stasis while two malevolent apprentices she created attack the Doctor and Gabby.  The story is illustrated with fun house visuals accompanied by Gabby’s sketchbook where she tells the story through sketches and notes to her friend.  It’s a wonderful visual story best suited to the comic book art form.

This is a great start to the Tenth Doctor comics series and of course, Gabby is invited back for further travels so there’s more to look forward to in upcoming comics.

Rating: ****


Author:  Robbie Morrison
Artists: Daniel Indro & Eleonora Carlini
Colorist: Slamet Murjiono & Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 2, The Weeping Angels of Mons
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

Gabby & The Doctor land in No Man’s Land in the midst of The Great War in 1916.  There they discover that Scottish infantrymen and their German opponents are both facing a much greater danger – The Weeping Angels!  The battlefield scenes of mud, smoke, and darkness are a perfect fit for the angels and the comic quickly sketches an interesting cast of guest characters.  Gabby continues to be wonderful and is growing into one of my favorite companions rather quickly.  The story builds on the Weeping Angels mythos created in “Blink” but not as well explored in their later tv stories.

<HUGE SPOILER>The brilliant – if obvious in retrospect – twist is that one of the soldiers is sent back in time to a nearby French village, where he marries and settles down as a farmer, waiting to catch up to the First World War and bail out his friends.</HUGE SPOILER>

The only downside to this comic is that the Doctor seems to a sanctimonious ass for much of this comic, which I guess is true to the characterization of the Tenth Doctor, but I still don’t have to enjoy it.  The volume also includes a one-issue story called “Echo” set in contemporary Brooklyn which is highly derivative of the Pranavores plot except these are creature who amplify sound instead of feelings.  The resolution is also derivative of “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks” so it makes me wonder if the creators of this issue were just in a rush to get something out.

Rating: ****


Author:  Robbie Morrison
Artists: Elena Casagrande, Eleonora Carlini, Rachael Stott, and Leonardo Romero
Colorist:  Hi-Fi and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and  Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 3: The Fountains of Forever
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015
Summary/Review:

After a silly, short story about the TARDIS laundry and a golem of sonic screwdriver activated dirt, the Doctor and Gabby return to New York.  Gabby’s friend Cindy is seething with jealousy and the two quarrel, an unfortunately stereotyped depiction of relationships among young women.  The plot moves into a story about ancient artifacts, a cult, and an aged movie star that eventually reveals itself to be a sequel to Pyramid of Mars.  Honestly, I got bored with it and ultimately lost the plot.  This is a disappointing volume after the first two collections were so very good.

Rating: **


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande & Leonardo Romero
Colorist:  Claudia SG Iannicello and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 4: The Endless Song
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

The Tenth Doctor and Gabby’s adventures continue, beginning with another conceptual being, the Shan’tee, who are perceived by humans as music, making for a clever albeit somewhat cliched adventure.  Gabby’s notebook returns as Cindy, left behind on Earth, reads it to herself and notices that stories are changing.  Unfortunately, the story devolves into something more boring involving Ebonite, but is redeemed by the appearance of Jack Harkness!  The final story involving early humans and Neandethals is kind of, eh?

Rating: ***


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande & Iolanda Zanfardino
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Rod Fernandes, & Hi-Fi with Azzurra Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 5: Arena of Fear
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

This volume starts with epic weirdness as the Doctor and Gabby are forced into an epic fight against Captain Jack, Cleo and Cindy.  Everyone’s memories are twisted and the story from the Pleistocene era is incorporated, so it’s just so very strange.  Later they travel to the UK and end up in a spooky story involving a witch in a well. I feel that the characterization of Cindy is improving and that the stories are feeling less contrived, but I do wish there was less emphasis on continuing story arcs.  I just don’t care about Anubis

Rating: ***1/2


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis and Adele Matera
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 6: Sins of the Father
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2017
Summary/Review:

This volume begins with the Doctor and Gabby enjoying some down time in 1920s New Orleans and Cindy even finding romance (and while it’ll be played as a tragic romance trope, it’s still nice to see new things done with her character).  Music infects this jazz age story and the Nocturnes are back to infect the music, perhaps the best return of an original monster in these comics. And then Anubis and Sutekh return.  Yawn!

Rating: ***


Author:  Nick Abadzis, James Peaty
Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Warren Pleece
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis, Hi-Fi, Adele Matera
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt; Nick Abadzis & Arianna Florean
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 7: War of Gods
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2017
Summary/Review:

This volume pairs the ongoing (and hopefully conclusion) of the yawner of the Sutekh story.  The Revolving Doors story sees Gabby going to London for the first time and dwelling on the Tenth Doctor’s man pain.  These comics have fallen a long way in my estimation since they began.

Rating: *1/2


Author:   Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor – Facing Fate, Volume 1 – Breakfast at Tyranny’s
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

Hooray for new storylines!  Anubis continues in the story but now as an amnesiac going by the name Noobis, and more interesting for doing so (especially when depicted as an actual dog).  The first story sees the TARDIS team stuck in a virtual reality in a New York City department store, that is basically The Matrix with tentacles.  Things get better when they travel to ancient China – with portions of the comic in the style of traditional Chinese art – and liberate a castle full of hundreds of Cindys!

Rating: ***


Author:   Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor – Facing Fate, Volume 2 – Vortex Butterflies
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

The Doctor leaves Gabby and Cindy in a house he keeps in London (but not the English house he has in the Virgin New Adventures, alas) where Sarah Jane comes to their aid when Gabby falls ill.  The Doctor meanwhile seeks out what is troubling the TARDIS, and discovers that the Vortex Butterfly is a manifestation of Gabby’s Block Transfer powers.  It’s a nice way to develop an ongoing story going back to the origins of the comics, but it also is resolved a bit too easily.

Rating: **1/2


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists:  Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Adele Matera
Letterer:  Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Facing Fate Volume 3 – The Good Companion
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

This appears to the conclusion of the Titan Tenth Doctor Comics featuring Gabby.  The Time Sentinels are a strange and kind of uninteresting antagonist.  But I do like how this book brings back old themes and characters (Cleo and Zhe) to tie together Gabby’s ongoing story.  It’s interesting to see how much – and how believably – everyone has changed since being introduced.  There’s also a nice cameo at the end.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Blair Shedd, Rachael Stott
Colorist: Blair Shedd, Anang Setyawan
Letterer: Richard Starkings,Jimmy Betancourt
TitleVol. 1: Weapons Of Past Destruction
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2016.
Summary/Review:

Way back in 2011, I started watching Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.  He remains one of my favorite Doctors and it’s disappointing that there’s only one season.  Even the Eighth Doctor has been able to get a ton of stories in audio dramas and novels.  So I’m pleased to read the further adventures of the Ninth Doctor with Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness.

Appropriately, these comics are set after The Doctor Dances and before Boom Town, the story in which the Doctor, Rose, and Jack spend a dinner with Mickey telling stories about adventures we never got to see.  I’ll have to go back and watch that show to see if the comics illustrate any of those stories.

The crux of this volume is that the Doctor and his companions discover an arms market selling Gallifreyan weapons.  They soon find themselves in the middle of a war that is rehashing the battles of the Time War.  The Doctor angrily – and carelessly – announces that he’s selling off the “mind of a Time Lord.”  The comic is epic and imaginative and uses the format well to illustrate ideas that wouldn’t have worked in a tv show.

Rating: ***


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo, Chris Bolson
Colorist: Matheus Lopes, Marco Lesko
Letterer: Richard Starkings,Jimmy Betancourt
TitleThe Ninth Doctor, Vol. 2: Doctormania
Publication Info: London : Titan Books, 2017.
Summary/Review:

There are two main adventures in this story.  First, the Doctor and his companions arrive at a planet where the Doctor is a big celebrity.  This leads to lots of meta-commentary about Doctor Who as a television show and fan culture. Ultimately, this story leads to a hunt on Raxacoricofallapatoria.  I don’t know if anyone was clamoring for more Slitheen stories, but they are the signature monster of the Ninth Doctor, and this comic does a decent job of setting a story on their planet.

The next story is much better with timey-wimey twists.  Mickey Smith calls the Doctor to San Francisco, but he’s the older, more confident Mickey whose married to Martha and teamed with her as free lance monster hunters.  The story requires that Rose not see future Mickey and the Doctor not meet his future companion Martha which makes for interesting plotting. Meanwhile, Rose is lured in a group of people who’ve gained flying powers and are contending with gargoyle creatures.  Her flirtatious romance with a handsome young man in the group is true to Series 1 Rose before she ended up romantically interested in Tennant’s Doctor.

This comic collection builds on the Ninth Doctor’s adventures in a fun and visually varied ways.

Rating: ***1/2


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo, Chris Bolson
Colorist: Marco Lesko
Letterer: Richard Starkings,Jimmy Betancourt
TitleThe Ninth Doctor, Vol. 3: Official Secrets
Publication Info: London : Titan Books, 2017.
Summary/Review:

The Doctor, Rose, and Jack continue there adventures by working with a 1970s or 1980s where they end up working with UNIT division in Bristol lead by Harry Sullivan.  This is a nice touch since it would be impossible to bring back Harry on TV due to Ian Marter’s early death. The story also introduces Tara Mishra, a UNIT nurse and soldier who joins the TARDIS Team!  Who knew the Ninth Doctor would be getting new companions between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town!

The second story sees the team travel back in time to 17th century Brazil, where the Doctor deals with both Portuguese slavers and alien mer-people.  Meanwhile, Jack continues to make discoveries about his past and the moments erased from his mind by the Time Agents.  Rose is uncertain she can trust Jack after what is revealed.

The characterization of Jack relies much on what would learn about him from Torchwood, while the Doctor in these comics is also informed by revelations of the War Doctor.  The creators of the comics cleverly retcon these things that no one knew about in Series 1 without overdoing it.

Rating: ***1/2


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson, Marco Lesko
Title:  The Ninth Doctor, Vol. 4: Sin Eaters
Publication Info: London : Titan Books, 2017.
Summary/Review:

With Jack having left the team, the story begins with the Doctor incarcerated in a high-security prison on a space station for the murder of Tara.  It is, of course, a fakeout to give the Doctor a chance to investigate the prison’s suspicious rehabilitation methods.  Things go wrong when Rose arrives in disguise and is unable to prevent the Doctor having his anger and darkest thoughts removed into a doppelganger called a sin eater.  The sin eaters would be absolutely ridiculous in televised Doctor Who, but some how they work as in pen and ink, where the body horror is quite so bad. The whole story is built on well-worn science fiction tropes, but still somewhat entertaining.

The remainder of the volume pays off the plot of Jack Harkness losing his memories and the Doctor offering up the Mind of Time Lord plot is also paid off.  Once again the Doctor is held in captivity for much of the story as four alien agents attempt to bid on his brain.  The Doctor is able to defeat his enemies with his grief (not unlike a plot twist in an episode of Class). Tara ends up staying behind to help a devastated planet, freeing up the Doctor, Rose, and Jack to return to Cardiff to meet up with Mickey and Margaret.

Rating: ***1/2

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor


AuthorAndrew Cartmel
Illustrators: Christopher Jones, Marco Lesko
Contributor: Ben Aaronovitch
TitleDoctor Who: The Seventh Doctor
Publication Info: Titan (2018)
Summary/Review:

The three parts of this Titan comics miniseries include two different stories.  “Operation Volcano” takes up most of the pages with “Hill of Beans” filling out each volume.

“Operation Volcano” is set in 1967 when a hydrogen bomb exposes an alien craft in the Australian desert.  RAF Group Captain Gilmore – a character introduced in Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks – calls in the Doctor and Ace to investigate. Subsequent issues reveal a horrifying snake-like species that can attach itself to humans and tap into their consciousness.  But all is not what appears and the Doctor knows more about these aliens than he lets on. Can his plan prevent the destruction of Earth by nuclear weapons, and how does Gilmore end up in the future with a snake on his back? There’s a strong UNIT/spy thriller feel and the artistry captures the 60s style (write up to the illustrator lovingly detailing the women’s breasts and short-shorts in the classic style).  This is faithful the Seventh Doctor stories as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy and the Virgin New Adventures and I could see it succeeding as a tv adaptation.

“Hill of Beans” catches up with Mags, the werewolf from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and the physic circus.  She’s under threat as her planet Vulpana is under fascist rule and rounding up werewolves and other noncomformists. Eerily, the villain looks like Donald Trump and says “fire and fury.” The art style is softer and works to capture an 80s aesthetic.  Being the shorter of the two stories, it is very bareboned, and everything gets resolved rather easily.   Again, though, it could be fleshed out into a tv show or book.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey


Author: Dav Pilkey
Title: Dog Man
Publication Info: New York, NY : Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, 2016.
Summary/Review:

From the creator of Captain Underpants, comes Dog Man, the adventures of a police officer with a dogs head (surgically joined together in the origin story).  Dog Man is present as a comic written by George and Harold of the Captain Underpants‘ books, and is equally crude (as in the drawings and the potty humor) and subversive as the previous series.  Dog Man fights against the evil cat Petey, and some of my favorite parts are when Petey erases all the books in the world and makes everyone dumb, as well as when he brings a crew of evil hot dogs to life.  I read this to my six-year-old; she was delighted.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Spinning by Tillie Walden


Author: Tillie Walden
TitleSpinning
Publication Info: First Second (2017)
Summary/Review:

Walden’s illustrated memoir tells of several years in her childhood when she was a dedicated figure skater and synchronized skater which involved rising early to get to the rink, extensive travel to tournaments, and a discomfort with the performative femininity expected of her.  Outside of skating, Walden moves from New Jersey to Austin, TX and has to adjust to a new school, deal with a bully,  and come out as a lesbian.  It’s an insightful and meditative look back on the choices made in childhood and their long lasting effects.

Favorite Passages:

“I’m the type of creator who is happy making a book without all the answers.  I don’t need to understand my past fully in order to draw a comic about it.  And now that this is a book that other people will read, I feel like it’s not really my turn to answer  that question.  It’s for the reader to decide, to speculate, to guess.  It reminds me of how in English class in high school we would always talk about the author’s intentions in every moment.  And I used to always wonder if there was ever an author who really didn’t mean any of it, and the meaning found its way in by accident.  I think I’m that author.”

Recommended booksFun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Frozen: The Cinestory by Robert Simpson


Author: Robert Simpson
TitleFrozen: The Cinestory
Publication Info: Joe Books Inc. (2014)
Summary/Review:

I read this adaptation of the Disney musical Frozen with my daughter over the course of several bedtimes.  It’s essentially scenes from the film arranged in a comic book format.  Strangely enough, none of the lyrics to the songs that made this musical famous are included in the book.  Instead the same basic ideas are related in the dialogue.  I don’t know if this is a licensing issue or if they just thought it would work better in comic form without the songs.  Nevertheless, if you and your children enjoy Frozen, this is an enjoyable read.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Lumberjanes Volume 2 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen


AuthorNoelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen
TitleLumberjanes Volume 2
Publication Info: Los Angeles : Boom!, 2015.
Previously Read by Same AuthorsLumberjanes
Summary/Review:

A great followup on the adventures of the Roanoke cabin scouts at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.  This time they discover the strange goings-on are due to a sibling battle between Artemis and Apollo. Scout-leader Jen is brought into confidence and has the challenge of adapting to the less by-the-rules activities of her troop.  Great fun!

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Life and Death by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 24: Life and Death
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

This volume continues the ongoing story of survivors at various communities working to make something close to a normal life while working through the emotional devastation of the zombie apocalypse. They also have to deal with threats such as the Whisperers, an insurgency at Hilltop, and an imprisoned Negan’s mind games.  Then there’s a shocking conclusion!  It’s a good, nuanced story, and one of the better installments in the series.
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch


AuthorKurtis J. Wiebe
Illustrator: Roc Upchurch
TitleRat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
Publication Info: Berkeley, CA : Shadowline/Image, 2014
Summary/Review:
The Rat Queens are a group of four adventurers in a medieval fantasy setting whose drinking, carousing, and brawling leads them to be sent out on quests as punishment.  In this first collection, the Rat Queens discover that someone is trying to kill them and their rival adventure crews and have to solve the mystery.  It’s a riotous mix of humor, profanity, drug references, and lots and lots of bloody gore.  It’s a good send up of the strong female characters trope and the sword and sorcery genre, although I think many allusions were lost on me as I’m not familiar with that genre.  This is a comic series worth reading but much too violent for my tastes.

Rating: **