Sergeantstein and his Mauraudin’ Monsters – Pete Von Sholly

Sergeant SteinWell that was weird. It’s a collection of short stories about a military unit composed of Universal Monsters such as Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, etc.

Despite being a modern printing it feels more like a 70’s comic with narration describing what is going on in the panel. The humour, and it is supposed to be funny, is largely weak slapstick and puns galore. The kind of thing you would expect in the Dandy or Beano. While reading it you keep thinking you hear the canned laughter from an early Scooby Doo cartoon.

The art is probably digital and insanely garish. It is all colour and there are no outlines or inking visible which is quite a striking style.

Sadly no thumbs today.

Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles – Dennis Calero

Ray Bradbury’s Martian ChroniclesThe original work was started in the 1940’s and is a tapestry of short stories which all use the same version of Mars but only a few returning characters. This early example of Sci-fi now appears dry to the modern reader who is more used to space opera.

Whilst some of the poetic language and imagery (which was highly praised by Aldus Huxley at the time) remains, only the ending shows the real impact this commentary on the human condition can deliver. Also excised are the stories about racial tension and religion that would have had a similar profound message. All the stories that take place on Earth have been removed.

The art is very basic and is mostly talking heads with lots of blank backgrounds and thick blocks of dark colours which isn’t how we are used to imagining Mars. This is an illustrated novel rather than a graphic one as none of the storytelling is accomplished by the pictures, they serve merely as a visual soundtrack.

High concept literature such as this is very much tied to the medium it was written in. But if you look at I.N.J Culbard’s H.P Lovecraft works they show that you can pull it off. Even the Rock Hudson TV movie enjoys some success.

No Thumbs.

Divinity – Matt Kindt

Divinity
What the hell is it? Is it an origin spin-off? A prequel to another book? An issue zero? A pilot?

Here we have four issues which introduce a character and have him fight some existing Valiant heroes, like some 60’s Marvel throwback. This is the kind of preview that Free Comic Book Day was invented for.

Whilst the content isn’t terrible, with thought going into the writing and structure, the purpose of this book with its tiny page count isn’t clear.

The art is fine and there are some superfluous ‘in character’ documents and a designer commentary – which is all about the process and not the purpose.

No thumbs.

Womanthology: Space – Various

Womanthology SpaceLike some cheap foreign knockoff this is smaller, thinner and not as good as the original feminist inspired crowd-funded opus. You get the feeling IDW sensed a cash-in opportunity with a new audience and cut as many corners to milk it for all they could.

Some of the stories are just weird mental doodling and some a tableaux of curious ideas. If your goal is to show off the talents of under-represented writers and artists it should be accessible. There are some recognisable names here but you get the feeling they were thrown in to attract publicity. The creator bios are firmly tucked away at the back and there are virtually no links to discover more of their work.

Essentially absent are the essays, interviews and “how to” guides of the previous volume that could encourage and empower potential creators. There is a single biography, which is great, but it cements the case that this is not the wonderful celebration of creativity and ‘art’ that fuelled the original Womanthology.

No Thumbs.

Isaac Asimov’s Derec: Volume 1- Doug Murray

Isaac Asimovs DerecDon’t buy this.

Because there is no volume two and this ends in mid scene. You will have to go back to the original 1950’s novels.

This story and its author, godfather of space fiction Isaac Asimov, are from a time when sci-fi wasn’t about special effects and explosions and laser guns. It was about philosophy and humanity (ignoring any flying saucers obviously). Even boiled down to a hundred odd pages at two panels per page you still get a sense of the great writing and existential power of this kind of fiction.

This is a compelling mystery as literally nothing is explained to you and your lead character has amnesia so he is no help! There is an inhuman narrator who adds tone and theme (plus more mystery) but this should have been sacrificed to put in more content. If there were 300 or 500 pages more I would definitely read them. But as the story ends abruptly without even a clue to who did it you can’t really judge it fairly.
The art is proper 1950’s Pop Art where everyone seems weirdly frozen mid-emotion. The colour is grey on slightly darker grey and the panels are shrunk and placed on a texture background that takes up a ridiculous amount of the page. And this was produced in 2004.

You can feel there was a really great work there and enough of it survives to truly hook you leaving you frustrated there is no more. There are several pages of text at the end that flesh out an entire world but would only really be relevant to future parts of the story that you never get to.

No Thumbs unfortunately.

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 Cape: 1969 – Jason Ciaramella

The Cape 02This is an average story with a little bit about family and revenge that exists solely as a prequel to “The Cape.” It’s good enough to be given away on Free Comic Book Day or included in a hardcover but as a standalone it really achieves very little. It isn’t bad, maybe a little simplistic or jingoistic but there are much better reads for your time.

The art is very good and kind of reminds me of American Vampire. There are some brilliant moments when letters are combined with pictures to create a Meta view. The colouring has a dank jungle feel and makes very good use of browns.

The whole thing just felt like an ad break or a short for the main feature, which is what it is.

No Thumbs.

Stormwatch PHD: Worlds End – Ian Edginton

Stormwatch PHD 3
The Wildstorm Universe had one of those infinitely annoying world shattering events. As a result all their books got hijacked.

If you are a Stormwatch fan you could easily be forgiven for missing out this volume. There isn’t really any character development and it doesn’t seek to build on what has come before. It’s just Hollywood action sequences. Poor Warren Ellis must be turning in his metaphorical grave.

The art is fine. What really hits the spot is the Wildstorm colouring. Such vibrant, powerful colours, brilliant lighting effects and expertly chosen pallets make for plenty of style. But it can’t make up for lack of substance.

No Thumbs.

The Authority: Prime – Christos Gage

Authority PrimeStormwatch and The Authority turn up and fight each other over some old Bendix hardware before teaming up to fight the man himself. Or his hologram. Or his clone, Or his A.I. Or whatever the Bendix of the week is. Didn’t the Fantastic Four do this in the 1960’s?

Gage has done some good and some bad work. Despite the hackneyed plot and blatant sequel bait this isn’t without redemption. If you can remember the original Stormwatch, with Lamplighter et al., then there are plenty of hidden gems for you. Otherwise this is a six issue fight scene with constant jabbering. Whilst there are clever twists and some jeopardy it isn’t a taxing or meaningful read.

Robertson puts a lot of effort into livening up the fight scenes but outlines can feel too heavy at times. There is good lighting and adept panel structure but it’s all about the words and not the pictures unfortunately.

There is also an irrelevant use of the Cthulhu Mythos as an opener. Clearly Gage has either never read or understood Lovecraft’s work.

No Thumbs.

The Monarchy: Bullets Over Babylon – Doselle Young

MonarchyIt’s bonkers. And not in a Grant Morrison, good bonkers, kind of way. Apparently it lasted 12 issues but only four are collected here and there were no more Trades. In Stormwatch P.H.D it is hinted that these events here are in fact an L.S.D. trip.

The art is disappointing. It takes the Stormwatch model, paints it black and adds digital highlights. There are one or two good quirks but nothing that benefits or elevates the story.

No Thumbs.