The controversial, long-awaited prequels to the best-selling graphic novel of all-time are finally here: BEFORE WATCHMEN! For over twenty years, the back stories of the now iconic characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s landmark graphic novel have remained a mystery, until now. DC Comics has assembled the greatest creators in the industry to further paint the world of WATCHMEN, with this second volume starring two of the most polarizing anti-heroes ever, COMEDIAN and RORSCHACH.
Eisner Award-winning writer and creator of 100 Bullets Brian Azzarello brings his gritty, nuanced storytelling to these two recognizable characters. In RORSCHACH, Azzarello again teams with superstar artist Lee Bermejo (JOKER, LUTHOR, BATMAN/DEATHBLOW) to illustrate how one of most dangerous vigilantes the comic world has ever seen became even darker. COMEDIAN, featuring art by J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS, Wanted), plants the famed war hero within the context of American history, as we find out how the Vietnam War and the Kennedy assassination revolve around him.
In this 17th Century Japan the Shogun is a woman…and the harem is full of men. The tale told in the Chronicle of the Dying Day continues as the young female shogun Iemitsu tries desperately to conceive a male heir. But her lover Arikoto seems unable to give her a child, and they must betray their hearts to save their country. Meanwhile, the Redface Pox continues its ruthless progress through Japan, leaving famine, despair, and the threat of anarchy in its wake.
Despite Iemitsu and Arikoto’s best efforts, there is no male heir to take over the shogunate. As the Redface Pox continues to ravage the country, it becomes increasingly clear within Edo Castle that Japan’s continued existence relies on overturning the centuries of custom that define it!
This graphic novel tells of a lesser-known chapter of Abraham Lincoln’s life. It begins well before his presidency, before his marriage to Mary Todd. It follows a young Lincoln through his early days as a struggling lawyer. Set-back after set-back drive Lincoln into a deep, dark depression that nearly kills him.
I must confess I did not know a whole lot about Lincoln’s early life as most historical documents focus on his presidency and the years leading up to it. This graphic novel presents a less-than-glamorous tale of a man trying to find his way in the world. The stylized artwork may not be to everyone’s liking, but this is still a very accessible book that adds an extra dimension to the life of one of America’s greatest historical figures.
Rain is a quiet girl who attends a swanky private school in New York. The day after a party, Rain gets a call from the mother of an old friend wondering if Rain has seen her daughter. Rain had seen her old friend, Wendy, at the party the night before, but had left before Wendy. Within hours, a call from the police comes in with reports that Wendy’s body has been found in Central Park. Consumed with the guilt of not having acted on her instincts at the party and angry at the lack of compassion shown by her classmates, Rain decides to investigate a bit on her own.
Rain had previously been a close friend of Wendy’s, but Wendy had aspirations of popularity, which involved people and activities that Rain had little interest in. Wendy had since earned the reputation of being a party girl and notorious boyfriend stealer. In other words, Wendy had plenty of people who didn’t like her for a variety of reasons. When evidence that the killer may be a student at their prestigious boarding school is leaked, Rain becomes convinced that she knows who the killer is, but she must get out of her personal safety zone if she’s going to get justice for Wendy.
This book reads a lot like a Gossip Girls-style whodunnit. The lives of the characters are those of extreme privilege, which largely makes them unlikable. Rain as a character is interesting enough. She was born with a cleft palette, which led to years of speech therapy. As a result, she doesn’t like speaking out loud with people she doesn’t know well. She’s also surprisingly sympathetic to Wendy’s situation, but still relatively naive with regards to the lifestyle Wendy led. The plot moves fast and there are a few twists and turns, but observant readers will have the mystery solved long before the end of the book comes.
When Irene Sauvelle’s father dies, she and her family find themselves moving to a small coastal village in Northern France where her mother, Simone, finds employment as a housekeeper for an eccentric toymaker named Lazarus. At first the small family is enchanted (if slightly caught off-guard) by the sheer volume and intricacy of Lazarus’s automatons. Village life treats them equally well. Irene quickly becomes friends with one of the house’s other employees, Hannah and then is introduced to (and quickly falls for) Hannah’s cousin, Ismael. The family appears to lead a charmed life until Hannah turns up dead in the forest near the estate. The house and its contents cease to be amusing as things take a turn for the menacing.
The narrative shifts from character to character, which means that the reader will have multiple perspectives with which to decipher exactly what sort of evil is at play here. The plot has echoes of other famous tales, most notably Wuthering Heights and Faust, though the book itself has a distinctly “Zafon” feel to it. The setting is characteristically atmospheric and the juxtaposition of the beautiful against the terrifying is also very much in keeping with Zafon’s other work. The plot is merely OK; it manages to be both a bit confusing and predictable at the same time. The end comes crashing to a close, which feels somewhat anti-climactic after the action leading up to it. It’s OK though; the intriguing setting and evocative language more than make up for any plot-based missteps.
Alina Starkov and her best friend, Mal, are orphans. When they are tested by the Grisha as young children, they are deemed to be nothing particularly special. Life goes on and Alina and Mal find themselves both working for the army, Alina as a cartographer and Mal as a tracker. On an ill-fated trip to The Fold (a vast, dark and sinister space cutting across their country, inhabited by horrible winged monsters – the volcra- and little else), Alina, Mal and the rest of their regiment are almost killed. What saved them was a flash of brilliant light that drove away the volcra and left Alina unconscious. As it turns out, the flash came from Alina, who honestly believed she had no Grisha-type powers whatsoever. Not only does she have power, she has the most rare power of them all. Alina is quickly swept up into the world of the Grisha, fearing that she will never truly fit in or feel like herself again.
I really appreciated the details that made this fantasy so different from most others. First and foremost, the country that it is set in, Ravka, has a distinct Russian feel. Many of the locations *sound* really similar to existing locales and a lot of the details point to a similar culture. The vast majority of fantasy books I’ve read have a pseudo-Medieval vibe to them (complete with Medieval-style castes and sexism). It’s quite refreshing to see a story like this. Another aspect of the book/series that stands out to me is the investigation of the caste-like system the Grisha use. This theme is frequently overshadowed by some of the more romance-y portions, but is still an interesting juxtapostion. Alina is a cool enough narrator, not particularly “strong”, per se, but one who stays true to herself throughout. This is the start of what is sure to be a fascinating trilogy. From what I’ve heard, it’s already been optioned for film rights.
In the not-too-distant future, a geneticist and a TV producer will join forces to create the most polarizing reality TV show ever created. In this show, the DNA of Jesus will be used to create a clone whose life will then be broadcast the world over. A young woman is plucked from thousands of applicants to be the new “virgin” mother and an island fortress is built to house the newly fabricated family. A former IRA operative is hired to act as babysitter and bodyguard to the new Jesus.
When “J2″ airs, reactions range from outraged to adoring. Jesus as a child is charming and sweet, but when the ratings start to dip as he grows older, his mother is “cut” from the show. In retaliation, Jesus escapes the island stronghold and joins a punk band. Because that’s what you do when you’re the angst-y, overexposed, clone of the Christian world’s savior. Teens do love to rebel, right? Even if they might be regarded as the second coming of Jesus by some factions.
I must say, it’s a premise that I wasn’t sure about, but came to love. It’s darkly humorous and extremely satirical. There’s tons of action and plenty to think about, thematically. I really can’t ask for much more in a graphic novel.
Well, I made the mistake of reading “Kick Ass 2″ before reading “Hit-Girl”. Oops. That’s OK though, because I still really enjoyed both volumes. This one takes place shortly after “Kick Ass”. With her father now dead, Mindy, AKA Hit-Girl, has moved in with her mother and step-father. Since only her step-father has a clue as to her secret identity, Mindy must try to keep a low profile for her mother’s sake. This means going to school. Mindy, who is one of the toughest and most deadly kids on the planet, has no idea what she’s up against when it comes to dealing with mean girls. Especially since she can’t just beat them up. That would be bad. In the meantime, Mindy has taken it upon herself to train Kick Ass to be more…kick ass. Guess which one of these things will be a bigger challenge for Mindy.
Hilarious, action-packed and original. I love this series and cannot express how happy I am that the focus is really now primarily on Hit-Girl, who is simultaneously the cutest and most bad-ass superhero I’ve ever seen.
Kate remembers the last time she saw her parents and remembers her mother telling her to protect her younger siblings. Michael and Emma, the younger two, have no recollection of their parents; the only life they know is fending for themselves in orphanage after orphanage. Kate is positive that her parents are coming back, but even she has to admit is seems less and less likely. When an adoption opportunity goes sour, the kids are sent to the most remote orphanage they’ve ever been to. When they arrive, they realize it’s the strangest one they’ve ever been to as well. In fact, they’re the only kids in the orphanage. Not only is the orphanage strange, the town is too. The inhabitants are grim and there aren’t any children.
One day, the children stumble upon a book in the basement of the old orphanage and shortly thereafter discover that the book has magical properties. The book is, in essence, a portal through time. Thus begins and epic and decidedly non-linear adventure to save the world of magic.
This was an especially charming, if slightly confusing middle-grade adventure story. The three children, Kate, Michael, and Emma, all have very distinct personalities. Kate is the headstrong leader. Michael is the bookish one (who is also obsessed with dwarves) and Emma is one of the most adorably sassy young ladies I’ve ever come across. My main criticism for this book is that there are a lot of moments when characters get separated and, upon regrouping, demand to have events recounted. Not only does it get repetitive, it feels like a crutch for the author. Still, high adventure and lots of fun. My middle-school kids loved it.
In Volume One, we met the parents of our narrator Hazel who have forged a beautiful relationship in spite of the ultra violent war that has torn their respective cultures apart. In Volume Two, we get to know more about their pasts and why everyone is so upset about their union and offspring. We also get to meet Marko’s parents (and we all know how well meeting a significant other’s parents can go, especially if they would far rather have you and your entire race be violently executed). In other words, get ready for some seriously messed up family drama…in space!
At this rate, I’ll read just about anything with Bill Willingham’s name on it. The various spin-off series from the Fables franchise are no exception. This particular offering features back stories for both Briar Rose and the Snow Queen. Great balance of humor, pathos and literature. The ladies in the Fables world kick butt and I look forward to spending more time with them in the future.
Becky Randle has not lived the most exciting life. She lives in a single-wide trailer with her 400lb mother. She works as a cashier in a failing supermarket. She has exactly one friend in the tiny Missouri town they live in. Becky doesn’t really ask for much, though she dreams of more.
When her mother dies, Becky discovers a name and a phone number hidden in her mother’s things. The name is Tom Kelly, one of the most prestigious fashion designers in the world. Against her better judgement, Becky gets in touch and is whisked away to New York where she is told by Tom and his handlers that, if she wears three dresses designed by him, she will become the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky is highly dubious, believing herself to be set up for some sort of embarrassing reality show or something of that ilk. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees bad skin, limp hair and a body she’s less than happy with. How can she possibly become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (hereafter “MBWitW”)?
The first dress is red and Becky quickly discovers that it does indeed make her the MBWitW, but only when she’s with other people. When she’s alone, she looks like an overdressed version of herself. She eventually begins to get used to the adulation and creates a persona to match, dubbing herself “Rebecca” and reserving “Becky” for her non-MBWitW-self. Only after she realizes that Tom Kelly’s talents are indeed exceptional, she is presented with the other half of the bargain: she has one year to meet someone, fall in love and get married. If not, she’ll go back to being Becky forever. If she can make it happen, she’ll continue to be the MBWitW for the rest of her life. Her rise to super-stardom (because extreme beauty evidently becomes famous on its own) puts her in a position to meet plenty of potential princes to enable her “happily ever after”. Imagine her surprise, however, when a very real prince takes an interest. Is a year long enough to fall in love and get married? Can Becky really fall in love when she’s living her life as Rebecca? Who is the prince really in love with: Becky or Rebecca?
It’s an interesting enough premise, but it kind of felt like a mess to me. I get the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc., and that’s a good one to send to a teen audience. I just felt like everything was a bit of a stretch. Tom Kelly as a character is more than a bit perplexing. I’m not even entirely sure what he is, though he’s clearly modeled after Calvin Klein. Most of the characters have some sort of real-life counterpart, which points to satire, but doesn’t quite pull it off. While the twists in the book were surprising, I felt like they ultimately dragged it out even more. This really should have been a novella or a short story to maintain maximum effect, but at novel-length, it lagged in places for me. I had heard that this book was supposed to be really funny, but I wound up finding it a bit over-the-top, particularly when it came to Becky’s rabidly protective BFF. This one probably works for some folks, but I don’t think it was the book for me. Not bad, just not what I was hoping for.
Enter the dark and eerie world of Hopeless, Maine. You may notice that there are an awful lot of orphans for such an isolated place. You may also notice a girl named Salamandra who refuses to stay put in the orphanage that she’s been placed in. While this is going on, you’re probably trying to squint through the enveloping fog to see if there really are monsters crawling through the shadows. Hopeless, Maine is the type of town where anything can happen and where the most monstrous of the monsters may not even look like monsters at all.
Beautiful, atmospheric artwork and a dark sense of humor make this a comic series to watch.
In theory, this is a great book. For those who don’t know the first thing about dog’s body language, this is a good primer. It’s a fairly concise pictorial guide divided up by types of behavior (gestures, sounds, etc.) that describes the action/behavior, tells why your dog does it and what a vet’s recommendations for addressing that behavior are. My main problem is that, much like humans searching WebMD, every behavior might start to be seen as cause for concern. Seriously, there’s a bit on “Why does my dog pant?” with a warning about what to do for dogs who might pant too much (without describing what might be considered excessive). Another fun one: dogs moving in their sleep (shocking conclusion: dogs dream! advice: let them dream! warning: it could be a seizure!).
So, yeah. If you want to know why your dog is doing things you probably already know the answer to, but just really want validation anyway, this is the book for you. I may have picked up a thing or two from this book, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the fact that it didn’t really seem to address any of the behaviors my mutts were displaying (i.e. the reason I checked this book out in the first place).
Maude Pichon ran away from her home in Northern France to avoid a miserable marriage. She had hoped things would be better in Paris. After searching for work endlessly, Maude stumbles upon an ad seeking women for easy work with “propriety guaranteed”. When she arrives at her potential employers, she is thrown into a lineup with no indication of what her job will entail. She is completely shocked when she realizes that this job is not one that involves any sort of labor. It is a job where she must play the role of an ugly sidekick to a wealthy socialite and Maude is immediately singled out to work with a countess’s daughter. She later discovers that she has been hired as a “repoussoir”; a “foil” to beauty. M. Durandeau has made an exceptional living by hiring out unattractive women to wealthy families to make the women in said families appear more attractive to their equally wealthy peers. Maude has been hired to accompany a young debutante named Isabelle, but her employment has the unusual catch of not being able to tell Isabelle what she really is. Isabelle is led to believe that Maude is a distant cousin from Normandy, hence her lack of refinement and Parisian fashion sense. As time goes on, Maude realizes that keeping this particular secret from Isabelle is going to be harder than she thought as the two become friends. How long can Maude continue to maintain the charade?
I truly enjoyed immersing myself in the Belle Epoque age of Paris. Elizabeth Ross certainly has an eye for period detail, which makes this story stand out. The idea of the “repoussior” evidently came from an Emile Zola short story, but works exceptionally well in this novel even if “repoussoirs” didn’t really exist. It definitely makes for an interesting premise and easily leads to contemplation about the nature of beauty and privilege.
Conjured is one of those books that’s incredibly difficult to describe. Our protagonist (sort of), Eve, is in witness protection but she doesn’t really know why. In fact, there’s really not much that Eve remembers at all. It’s not just her long-term memory that’s missing, she continues to lose chunks of her short-term memory every time she uses magic. She does know that if she attempts magic, she will lose consciousness as well as her memory. When she loses consciousness, she has horrific nightmares that evoke images of a macabre circus, an evil magician and a mysterious storyteller. Each nightmare is vivid and disturbing yet none will make sense until the book is nearly over. Life in WitSec (the witness protection program that’s taken Eve in) isn’t easy. Eve feels compelled to lie about her memory lapses and frequently worries about how she can be a witness if she knows nothing about her case. There are others that are kind of like her in that they can perform magic and are protected by WitSec, but none of them seem to suffer from the same types of memory issues. If anything, they revel in their talents. Eve’s handlers and the other “witnesses” all seem to know what the case is all about and who they’re in hiding from, but Eve is still clueless. They all appear to hope that her memory will return on its own, but Eve has trouble making sense of anything. In the meantime, Eve is given a job at the local library, where she meets a boy named Zach who is fascinated by her. Eve’s relationship with Zach grows from friendly acquaintanceship to something resembling a romance. All Eve knows for sure is that when she kisses Zach, they float (literally) and she doesn’t pass out. It is only this new human connection that prompts Eve to try and figure out more.
Eve is not a character that readers will relate to. Most of us, if in Eve’s position, would be desperate to find out what’s going on and would demand answers of those who did know more. In that sense, the narrative might be frustrating to some readers. The unconventional plot structure will further frustrate those readers. Those who don’t mind a bit of confusion along the way will be rewarded by a truly unique tale. The reader never knows more than Eve does, so each revelation adds more to the story. As the clues slowly start to form a coherent picture of Eve’s pre-WitSec life, the story becomes more and more nightmarish. The deliberate pacing may put some readers off as well, but others will relish the mystery and macabre setting. This is not the book for everyone, but it certainly sets itself apart from the pack.
Sunny is a lovely and unusual new manga series. Sunny is also a type of car that has captured the imaginations of the children of the Star Kids orphanage. The broken-down Sunny sits in the yard of the orphanage and serves as a spot for the kids to hang out, seek refuge and imagine their ideal lives. The narrative shifts from resident to resident giving the reader not only a slice of life, but a glimpse into the hopes and dreams of the kids living at the home. It’s not a bad orphanage; the adults running it are kind and do all they can to create a home for their charges. The kids are like kids one would meet anywhere; they have good days and bad, but they have to sort it all out amongst themselves.
Sweet, sad and funny – this manga hits all the right notes without ever overdoing it.