Empowered 9 – Adam Warren

Empowered 9
This is certainly an unpredictable book with definite highs and lows. It starts off with what you think is a great recap. Which after 70 pages you realise is the comic book equivalent of a clip show. But the story does kick off, and make sense and progress.

Emp reveals some new powers which have a great payoff. But then there is the lurid spanking fanfic part. Which is supposed to be ironic so that is all right. Right? Thankfully the dire verbiage of the intergalactic conqueror only lasts a page. But for some reason every other character that turns up has an atrocious word-mangling dialect.

There is a lot of author politics (as in party politics) on display which is unusual for an Empowered title. Plus a grumble at the state of the comics industry and the internet. And the whole thing could be an allegory for the debate on Civil Rights verses Government Responsibility.

The art has settled down. The black pages are terrible fingerprint magnets. But there are finer lines and more subtle shading returning to displace the nasty black outlines of previous volumes. There is a Parental Advisory sticker on the front. You wonder why it is there until you get to the scenes where you don’t.

Is the book cleverer than you worry it is? Is it actually empowering or is it just cheesecake of the bad kind. Or is Warren dangerous enough to court both camps. You decide.

Still a Thumbs Up!

Womanthology: Heroic – Various

Womanthology Heroic

It’s an anthology written by and drawn by women that started as a Kickstarter. Is it all gimmick? Well it might be some gimmick but it is certainly more than that. As an anthology it is going to be hit and miss particularly as it is a blend of experienced and novice creators. It favours very short stories some of which don’t seem to articulate much narrative. The focus is very much on quantity.

The format is full colour oversize hardcover so it shows off its content very well and makes a great coffee table book. There are creator bios, pro tips and a stick figure strip running along the bottom of the pages too.

What it lacks in coherency it inherently makes up for in diversity. Every kind of art and storytelling is on show here. If you have any interest in either of those two this is a wonderful resource and a wealth of ideas and perspectives. That’s not all. There is an extensive section of interviews with well-known female creators and a comprehensive guide to how comics are made and even how to draw. This coupled with lots of industry tips and a history lesson about women in illustration makes it invaluable reading for anyone looking to break into comics in any role.

Thumbs Up!

Alpha Girl – Jean-Paul Bonjour & Jeff Roenning

Alpha Girl

This is an excellent, high-energy story with fresh and contemporary characters and dialogue. It is comedic with a lot of pop culture references.

It is basically a zombie story, with a twist, and has a likeable and quite messed up female lead. Think Kick Ass meets The Walking Dead.

The art is modern and digital and has the indie/ webcomic feel to it. It matches the light-hearted tone of the book perfectly.

This is a fun and enjoyable read. Despite being marked as volume one there were no more books in the series. This is a shame as the least page sets up what would be a very interesting second storyline.

Thumbs Up!

Redfox: Book Two – Harrier Comics

Redfox 2

This book you’ve never heard of has praise from Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Mary Gentle and others. It grows in style and confidence from the first book and zips along at quite a pace.

The art becomes bolder and in some cases a little psychedelic. As does the story. The inking is more confident and the layouts in particular get shaken up.

If you enjoyed the first book then definitely pick this up. This is Redfox’s final bow.

Thumbs Up!

Redfox: Book One – Harrier Comics

Redfox 1Is this your Dad’s Rat Queens? Is this Red Sonja with the Benny Hill music in the background? Sort of.

Written in the 1980’s when Dungeons & Dragons was still being played on graph paper and the legacy of Robert E Howard was still very much influential this is an old skool fantasy. It isn’t about an end-of-the-world calamity but a character’s journey, both physical and emotional.

The art is pure black and white line art that was typical of fantasy illustration and comics of the period and will invoke real nostalgia in many. There is a sequence that is fully rendered and shaded pencil however and you can see just how talented the artist really is. There is also a Brian Bolland cover whose full colours look superb.

Decades before titles like Empowered and Bomb Queen this was the underground fightback against the chainmail bikini sexism of the medium. It’s witty and funny, goes against the stereotypes of the period and is an engaging read.

Thumbs Up!

Suburban Glamour – Jamie McKelvie

Suburban Glamour“Dave, Imaginary Friends. Imaginary Friends, Dave.”

This is just four issues long but it’s a lovely and worthwhile work. Set in a world of teenagers it feels authentic and realistic in terms of speech and characterisation. You can feel parallels with Wet Moon, Kissing Chaos and other contemporary works.

The art is breath-taking. Not only realistic but so clean and simply beautiful to behold. Whilst there are number of blank backgrounds these have been filled with intelligent colouring rather than simply left white and are much more effective that way.

There is an incredible title page where tiny thumbnails play out a whole scene that is narratively and stylistically brilliant and it’s a real shame very few moments come close to this creativity level in the rest of the book.

Thumbs Up!

Dotter of her Father’s Eyes – Mary Talbot

Dotter of her Fathers EyesMary Talbot is a scholar and wife of the well-known artist and graphic novelist Bryan Talbot who illustrates this book.

It is partly her own childhood memories, dominated by her Joycean scholar father, and part biography of Joyce’s own daughter Lucia.

This is an informative and uneasy balance and if you skipped over the intricately chronological Lucia parts you might find it less of a dry read. Talbot’s own childhood is closer to our own, depending on your age dear reader, and we find more empathy with her trials and tribulations.

Bryan does a superb job on art duties as always clearly delineating the two stories using tone and texture. There are no straight panels here as every page has an organic warmth that presses frames together in an almost memory soup. For a non-fiction story there is a great deal of creativity and imagination in the expression of ideas and emotions.

The education of the Lucia story juxtaposed with the empathic memories of Mary is odd and a little understated in places but much more brave and interesting than either story alone.

Thumbs Up!

Kristina Queen of Vampires Chapter One – Frans Mensink

Kristina1It’s porn. Just in case you were in any doubt. But its printed porn in the 21st Century which is unusual. It’s not erotica as the pictures of the Hustler/ gynaecologist kind.

There is a story here that connects the explicit sex scenes and in print this might have some appeal. The vampire protagonist does display emotions (unlike the wooden human characters) and has some character development but this is the kind of 80’s porn movie that still clung to the necessity of a narrative.

The art is ok. All the flesh on show benefits from the digital airbrushing but the panel layout tries to be too dynamic resulting in the need for arrows to navigate your way around the page.

The format is also unusual. It is oversize which is handy as you are buying this to squint at the nudity.

The whole work is very brief and does it’s best to entice you into buying volume two. Sadly I wont. No Thumbs!

The Tale of One Bad Rat – Bryan Talbot

One Bad Rat
Taking more than four years to write and draw and published twenty years ago this powerfully and terribly relevant story deserves its praise by Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.

This work tackles the potent subject of Child Abuse in a way that only art can. Interleaving a contemporary tale, albeit from the 1990’s, with the story of Beatrix Potter this isn’t preachy or frightening and explores every facet of the subject and its aftermath.

If you are paying attention you can learn a lot about a great many things. There is so much gently layered into this sophisticated work and it deftly balances things both hard and joyful to read.

The art is spectacular with each panel crammed with vibrant, realistic detail and wonderful life and emotion. All the scenes and images bring this story and its turbulent emotions to life. Lush and epic vistas of the Lake District, London in all its forms, and real people. The lighting and colouring is extraordinary and pack just as much punch as the words.

There is an extensive Afterword from Talbot and, unusually, a long credit list as most of the characters were drawn from life. There is also an introduction from writer Stephen Gallagher.

Double Thumbs Up!!

La Muse – Adi Tantimedh

La MuseThis is a common story about someone with superpowers out to change the world. But unlike something like The Authority she doesn’t do it by punching people in the face. Probably because she is a woman.

This is a long volume at 220 pages so it can take its time and twist and turn. The whole book is well paced and doesn’t outstay its welcome. The cause of the world’s problems can be quite specific at times and you are definitely seeing the author’s politics but there isn’t anything surprising here. Its social and environmental message has been out there for all to see for a long time.

The art isn’t the hyper polished big studio work but it is confidently done and very colourful. The panels are traditional straight edged fare but this is good as it won’t distract you from the meaning and the humour which is at the core of the writing.

Thumbs Up!