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: **

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

The last volume of The Walking Dead introduced the Whisperers, a group of people who wear skins of the dead so they can walk and live among the undead.  In this volume, a girl from the Whisperers is captured and during her captivity, Carl befriends her.  Meanwhile, Maggie is facing opposition as leader of the Hilltop community.  It’s a nice change of pace to take the focus off of Rick for once. I feel that these issues are kind of dragging their heels for now, but there’s a lot of potential that could be building for the Whisperers’ story.  They could become the next group our heroes have to fight a war against (god, I hope not), or there could be a more nuanced story of how these different types of survivors interact.
Rating: **1/2

Book Reviews: The Walking Dead (Volume 22): A New Beginning by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead (Volume 22): A New Beginning
Illustrator: Charlie Adlard
Publication Info: Image Comics (2014)
Summary/Review:

Can the creators of The Walking Dead tell a story that does not revolve around survivors merely fighting zombies or fighting wars with other survivors?  The answer is yes!  This volume moves ahead a bit into a future where Rick and the leaders of surrounding communities are succeeding in developing sustainable communities amid the zombie horror.  Problems encountered now are the challenges of doing things that were normal in the old world.  For example, Carl is growing old enough to want to move out on his own to the Hilltop community.  Meanwhile, newly admitted survivors find the community too good to be true, an ironic turnabout.  Finally, the creepiest new antagonists are introduced.  This is a much set of stories and gives me hope for the continuing story of The Walking Dead.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Reviews: The Walking Dead (Volume 21): All Out War Part Two by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead (Volume 21): All Out War Part Two
Illustrator: Charlie Adlard
Publication Info: Image Comics (2014)
Summary/Review:
I’ve put off continuing to read The Walking Dead series because it seems to have run out of ideas.  There’s only so many times you can read about the survivors of the zombie apocalypse fighting one another to the death.  And the current villain Negan has really run his course.

So thankfully this volume has some good things to offer as Negan is finally defeated.  This volume is also very slender, so at least the “all out war” isn’t drawn out.  Actually, Rick’s big speech about how they’ve learned to live with the constant threat of the dead around them and now it’s time to stop fighting and work toward rebuilding society seems to be a commentary on the comics series itself.  It seems to me that a story about the survivors facing the challenge of rebuilding without relying on the easy plot of the violent antagonist (whether it be from outside or within the group) is an interesting story to tell.  Now let’s see if Kirkman and co. can do it.

Rating: *1/2

Book Review: Cerebus by Dave Sim


Author: Dave Sim
TitleCerebus
Publication Info: [Kitchener, Ont.] : Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987.
Summary/Review:

This is the first volume collecting the long-running comic book Cerebus by Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim.  I learned about this from friends online, and thought a comic about an anthropomorphic aardvark mercenary in a medieval fantasy setting sounded delightfully absurd.  After reading it, I found it kind of a slog.  This first volume of Cerebus is several unconnected stories satirizing both medieval fantasy tropes and politics with many of the stories concluding anti-climatically.  Cerebus is serious, amoral, and competent and often plays the straight man to ridiculous characters around him (including an albino who speaks like Foghorn Leghorn).  I’ve heard that later volumes in the series are much better, but I’m on the bubble about reading further, (especially since I’ve read that Sim is a creepy misogynist and his views are expressed in the comics).

Rating: **

Book Review: Marbles : mania, depression, Michelangelo, and me by Ellen Forney


AuthorEllen Forney
TitleMarbles : mania, depression, Michelangelo, and me
Publication Info: New York : Gotham Books, c2012.
ISBN: 9781592407323
Summary/Review:

This graphic memoir depicts artist Ellen Forney’s experience when diagnosed with a bipolar personality, and her efforts to come terms with the manic and depressive periods of her life, as well as the cocktails of pharmaceuticals to help address this.  Forney explores the idea of the “troubled artist” stereotype, wondering if medication would kill her creativity, but also learning of the terrible struggles of famed bipolar artists.  This book ends on an upbeat note as Forney reflects on how she’s changed since her diagnosis, and grows to accept some of the tradeoffs in life.

Favorite Passages:

“Sometimes it seems like ‘pain’ is too obvious a place to turn for inspiration.  Pain isn’t always deep anyway.  Sometimes it’s awful and that’s it.  Or boring.

Surely other things can be as profound as pain …  ?”

Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Walking Dead: March To War (vol. 19) by Robert Kirkman


Author: Robert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead: March To War (vol. 19)
Publication Info:Image Comics (2013)
ISBN: 9781607068181
Summary/Review:

As noted in my review for volume 18, The Walking Dead series too often forces the drama by having the survivors in violent conflict with one another and all too often with a sadistic bully who is using the zombie apocalypse as an excuse to make a personal fiefdom.  I think there are more possible stories to be told of survival and adapting to the new world, but here we have a whole volume with preparation for war, with the upcoming two volumes dedicated to the war itself.  Sigh.  I guess in a way, The Walking Dead shows the post-apocalyptic world is a lot like our own after all.
Rating: **

Book Review: The Walking Dead: What Comes After (vol 18) by Robert Kirkman


Author: Robert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead: What Comes After (v0l 18)
Publication Info: Image Comics (2013)
ISBN: 9781607066873
Summary/Review:

I’m not sure why I keep reading this series.  There’s the curiosity of what will happen next, of course, but I feel like I’m rereading what’s already happened. Negan and the Saviors have some nuances, but in the end it’s the story of The Governor and Woodbury all over again.  In the post-apocalyptic world ultra-violent bullies will take control and there will be more to fear from the living than the dead, and blah, blah, blah.  Perhaps it’s the influence of reading Rebecaa Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, but I’d like to see more of how communities come together after a disaster.  The Walking Dead  – both the comics and the tv show – is at it’s best when it’s showing how people adapt to life in the post-apocalyptic world, the little things they do to adapt.  But all too often I find that the writers force the drama by constantly having all the survivors want to kill one another.  At least Ezekiel and his tiger are making things interesting.

Rating: **

Book Review: Fables 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham


AuthorBill Willingham
TitleFables 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers
Publication Info: New York : DC Comics, c2012.
ISBN: 9781401202224
Summary/Review:

The Fables series returns to a full story arc in this collection as the Fables’ sanctuary in New York is invaded by forces of the Adversary.  I liked this one better than the other compilations thus far as the characters are developing and growing on me, and this story was well-constructed.  Even the villains, while derivative of Agent Smith in The Matrix, were a clever and interesting conceit.

Recommended books:
Rating: ***

Book Review: Fables 3: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham


AuthorBill Willingham
TitleFables 3: Storybook Love
Publication Info: New York : DC Comics, c2012.
ISBN: 9781401202569
Summary/Review:
The third volume of the Fables series collects unrelated short stories – some better than others – loosely themed around love.  The last story about the Lilliputian men escaping to our world and the adventure to bring back women to their community is my favorite.

Rating: **