Welcome to the month seven roundup.

As you may have guessed this was Ladies Month focussing on Female Characters and sometimes Female Creators.

This month there were no Thumbs Down titles but some came close!

We had three No Thumbs titles.

Tomb Raider: Saga of the Medusa Mask – Dan Jurgens

Tomb Raider: Pieces of Zero – Dan Jurgens

Wet Moon – book 3: Further Realms of Fright – Ross Campbell

 

We had twenty Thumbs Up titles.

Tomb Raider: The Merlin Stone – Dan Jurgens

Air: Flying Machine – G. Willow Wilson

Air: Pureland – G. Willow Wilson

Air: A History of the Future – G. Willow Wilson

The Plain Janes – Cecil Castellucci

Shekhar Kapur’s Snake Woman: Volume One – Zeb Wells

Shekhar Kapur’s Snake Woman: Volume Two – Zeb Wells

Shekhar Kapur’s Snake Woman: Volume Three – Zeb Wells

Valentine: Fully Loaded – Daniel Cooney

Where’s it at Sugar Kat? – The Thin of the Land – Ian Carney & Woodrow Phoenix

Empowered Volume 1 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 2 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 3 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 4 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 5 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 6 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 7 – Adam Warren

Wet Moon – book 2: Unseen Feet – Ross Campbell

Wet Moon – book 4: Further Realms of Fright – Ross Campbell

Wet Moon – book 5: Where All Stars Fail to Burn – Ross Campbell

 

This month we had seven Double Thumbs Up titles.

Ultra: Seven Days – The Luna Brothers

Air: Letters from Lost Countries – G. Willow Wilson

Wonder Woman: Blood – Brian Azzarello

Catwoman: The Game – Judd Winick

Shi: The Way of the Warrior – William Tucci

Vamps – Elaine Lee

Wet Moon – book 1: Feeble Wanderings – Ross Campbell

 

It has certainly been an entertaining month with the whole spectrum present  from big name properties to self publishing. Interesting to see long established characters like Wonder Woman and Catwoman still delivering top-notch drama. But celebrity is no guarantee of success as some dire Tomb Raider offerings proved.

My star was Catwoman for showing how female characters can be strong, sexy, smart and vulnerable at the same time and to the Wet Moon series for making real life seem so riveting.

See you next month (assuming I have any sanity left).

Wet Moon – book 5: Where All Stars Fail to Burn – Ross Campbell 

The volume sees a return to form for the series. If you can get past the bug-eyes then this will be approaching the greatness of the first two volumes. You have the fallout from the cliff-hanger last book, the photo-shoot, the ballgame and Cleo being Cleo. And if you thought the last ending was dramatic wait till you see this one.

The art is on top form and Campbell seems to be in love with his new found nocturnal skills as there are a lot more night scenes. There is one supernatural/ dream sequence that is really creepy and a dramatic action sequence that has you on the edge of your seat, and frantically ordering volume six. There is also quite a lot of fan art of the characters reproduced at the end of the book.

It is a great volume overall and makes you think about some weighty but often overlooked issues. A solid Thumbs Up!

214/151

Tomorrow: Powers 1: Who Killed Retro Girl – Brian Michael Bendis

Wet Moon – book 4: Further Realms of Fright – Ross Campbell

This series began as an unpretentious slice of life. A beautiful glimpse into the lives of people who don’t get screen time in mainstream comics. This foundation is still there but obscured by sensationalist gimmicks and outlandish subject matter. Good characters with relatable motivation don’t need costumed vigilantes, FBI agents with monkeys, alien ghosts and so on.

The art is strong – with the exception of Cleo’s bug-eyes – and seems to be getting the polish it did previously, but is rarely allowed to appear without dialogue. Not only have Cleo’s all prose diary entries got longer but Mara’s journal appears more frequently and Audrey has a web page too. Maybe this would be better as a novel? There are some strong nocturnal scenes entering Campbell’s repertoire and an interesting flashback entirely in sketch form.

This is a troubled work as the author experiments with his ideas as an artist and a writer. There is a powerful story that has just received two inspired twists but it is buried under a turbulent mishmash of creativity.

Because I want to read what happens next it gets a Thumbs Up!

213/152

Tomorrow: Wet Moon – book 5: Where All Stars Fail to Burn – Ross Campbell

Wet Moon – book 3: Further Realms of Fright – Ross Campbell

The first thing that strikes you about this book is the length. Then it is the eyes. Then the whole thing comes off the rails.

This book is almost twice the size of the previous one. It is massive and you really look forward to a nice long read. To getting lost in the world of these amazing characters.

For some inexplicable reason (our protagonist) Cleo’s eyes have doubled in size. They are gigantic. Bigger than her ears, bigger than her mouth, they now take up 25% of her face. They are freakishly and unrealistically huge in a Manga style way. This series has some wonderful depictions of the beautiful diversity present in human beings. It embraces the alternative, the different and the individual but in a realistic and faithful way. We now have a cartoon character foisted within our verisimilitude. There is no explanation, it’s not a clever metaphor, and it just doesn’t work.

If she had big eyes from the start, that would be fine. If the other characters had commented upon her big eyes that would be reasonable. If we knew they were being exaggerated for a reason or dramatic effect that would be okay too. Heck if everyone had big eyes that would normalise things. But this breaks the fourth wall and flushes all the established credibility down the toilet. Like cats becoming primates and lifting up the floorboards. Yep that happens too.

Another thing is we appreciate the great 80s movies references because they are subtle and unobtrusive. Plugging your favourite band the same way would also be acceptable but having a six page spread of them singing live is too self-indulgent. Admittedly there are established characters there but why not create a fake band that is a clever nod rather than brazen advertising.

This is such a shame as the story and characters are so intriguing. You care about them, you want to remain part of their lives but the creator is putting obstacles in your way. The last page is an astonishing cliff-hanger and there are plenty of hooks to keep you interested, Myrtle in particular.

It is only these points that drag it upwards to barely rate a No Thumbs!

212/153

Tomorrow: Wet Moon – book 4: Further Realms of Fright – Ross Campbell

Wet Moon – book 2: Unseen Feet – Ross Campbell

This amazing series continues the high standards that it launched with. The dialogue is superb, naturalistic and contemporary. The characters are delightfully flawed, grounded and highly relatable. The story is touching, compelling and full of mystery.

The art is gorgeous and relevant. The characters are remarkable in an alternative way and represent a wonderful diversity of beauty. There doesn’t seem to be as much detail in the backgrounds or elaborate shading as the previous volume but the faces and clear expressions are wonderfully realised. There are still lots of pop culture references (many from the 80‘s) hidden away in the background and also a comic within a comic. There is some more nudity and a wonderfully intimate scene which you almost feel embarrassed for intruding upon.

You have a lot of clues now as to Cleo’s secret but aren’t explicitly told. Everyone has changed hairstyle which might initially confuse you but cleverly differentiates flashbacks to recent events. Fern is somewhat of an outlandish mystery; but for the most part this volume is still young people talking shit as young people have done since the dawn of language, or shit.

There are the handy cast portraits in the back of the book to stop you getting confused (complete with new hairstyles). Plus a neat little map of the town of Wet Moon in the front that you will look at once and promptly forget about.

Because the art lacks the high polish of the first book and now plays second fiddle to the dialogue this wonderful work slips from the Double to a very high Thumbs Up!

211/154

Tomorrow: Wet Moon – book 3: Further Realms of Fright – Ross Campbell

Wet Moon – book 1: Feeble Wanderings – Ross Campbell

Nothing happens in this book. No explosions, car chases, monsters, or anything like that. But it’s wonderful.

You simply peek into the life of Cleo Lovedrop a teenage Emo/Punk/Goth girl at college. There is no handy narration, internal monologue or explanation. You have to pick up what information you can by watching her actions and eavesdropping on her conversations. It is compulsively riveting as you desperately piece together the clues to uncover this troubled girl’s secrets. Not since the first Big Brother has real life been so enthralling.

The art is black and grey but used to spectacular effect. Through expert shading some incredible lighting effects are achieved. Campbell has an incredible gift for faces and with just a few lines can render really striking and expressive characters. The lettering is hand scrawled without the aid of a ruler and whilst atmospheric it sometimes requires squinting to read.

Equal balance is given to art and words. Pages will pass free from dialogue as you watch the characters, learning about them through their actions. This makes full use of the graphic medium to tell a story.

Some secrets and mysteries are casually dropped in and you really get the feeling Cleo is in trouble but can’t yet definitively say why.

For making me order the next five volumes this must receive a Double Thumbs Up!

210/155

Tomorrow: Wet Moon – book 2: Unseen Feet – Ross Campbell

Empowered Volume 7 – Adam Warren

This is an odd volume that eventually comes good. Ninjette seems to be the focus of this book as we learn more about her backstory and that of Oyuki, plus we see her latest entanglement with the Ayakami clan. She also tries to help Emp with her confidence issues. This extra screen time for ‘Jette is a nice diversion and serves to enlarge and enrich the Empowered world. Plus she isn’t ready to carry off a book of her own just yet.

The other thing you notice is that all sorts of fancy tricks are being played with the timeline. We have premonitions, flashbacks, foreshadowing and blatant out-of-sequence narrative. Whilst this certainly keeps you awake and active, as you are forced to keep reshuffling what you have read into some sort of chronology, it is distracting. The key to the Empowered mythos is “heart.” It’s about letting us know it is ok to be vulnerable. We don’t need gimmicks to grab our attention. If we are still here after seven volumes then we are here to stay.

The art is still as good as ever but the paper has changed to gloss instead of matt and this makes a big difference. Initially it is jarring change, particularly if you have just read the last book, but you get used to it. There is much more contrast as the whites are much shinier and so the page becomes crisper and less grungy.

As always there is a whole mix of cute, sexy, thinky, funny, naughty, fighty stuff all mixed into one massive gumbo that seems to work against all odds. Another Thumbs Up for the fans.

209/156

Tomorrow: Wet Moon – book 1: Feeble Wanderings – Ross Campbell

Empowered Volume 6 – Adam Warren

The pendulum has now swung the other way. We have left gratuitous bondage titillation and moved into serious gripping storyline territory. Trouble is we aren’t used to thoughtful drama. The previous Empowered was squarely in the so-bad-it’s-good area as it had a quirky, original charm all of its own. Now it has gone sombre and hard hitting us readers are a bit confused.

The art is just the same but with more action. Warren gets a chance to flex his artistic muscles. There are some good angles and dynamic poses. The amount of black on the page could be seen as a drawback but the grungy style seems to work.

Other than the growing pains as we transition from base (but funny) comedy to serious drama this certainly gets a Thumbs Up!

208/157

Tomorrow: Empowered Volume 7 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 5 – Adam Warren

Once again it is the final tale in this volume that is the true star of the show. It is gripping, dramatic, emotional and even moving. The other stories aren’t too bad with most of them being quite clever or moving the overall Willy Pete and other storylines forward. There is a protracted, gratuitous duct-tape bondage skit and a Demonwolf filibuster that goes on so long your brain shuts down from all the verbiage.

The art is all pencil save for a dramatic double page spread at the end that needs the absolute black of a marker. I am not sure if this is getting better as a whole but that last story is a definite Thumbs Up!

207/158

Tomorrow: Empowered Volume 6 – Adam Warren

Empowered Volume 4 – Adam Warren

Reliable. Predictable. That’s what Empowered stands for. You get your damsel-in-distress fix and then your relationship angst to make you feel less of a pervert. There is a bit of a dark undercurrent with Thugboy’s past which may never come to the fore too. Occasionally you get a glimpse of Warren’s potential with some incredible art or thesaurus exploding wordplay.

It isn’t until the last story in this volume that you get to see Empowered shift into a higher gear. This is the longest story so far and leaves the kink behind for a mainstream cape tale which is actually very enjoyable. It has some touching revelations about a secondary character, moves the Thugboy plot forward, and finally lets Emp kick some, using her brain once more to save the day.

Before this there is the usual juxtaposition of weird themes. A cancer boy whose make-a-wish is for a bit of bondage? Yep! Willy Pete gets even more sinister? Yep! Sexual tension in the household? You know it! Compared to the fetish-fest that was volume three this one is a lot tamer. Apart from the gratuitous busty nurses.

The main art is entirely pencil which is Warren’s undoubted strength. There is a bonus story taken from the Dark Horse website which is in full colour. Like putting Usagi Yojimbo into colour there is something fundamentally awkward about this. Having your kink in colour makes it a little more uncomfortably voyeuristic.

This is a step up from the previous volume. The more mainstream direction really works so it will be interesting to see if a balance can be found in the next instalment. Thumbs Up!

206/159

Tomorrow: Empowered Volume 5 – Adam Warren