Shuddertown – Nick Spencer

shuddertownMorning Glories was quite an obscure book but this goes off the scale. Designed to be a noir mystery from the start, the fact that only four out of the five issues were published means you will never find out what it was all about. It seems a bit of a cheek for Image to go ahead and print an incomplete story, particularly as a hardback.

It does capture that shady (police) detective genre with first person narration and a cast of suspicious characters. The mystery could be supernatural or could be a conspiracy, you aren’t sure. Our protagonist is believable and you do want to know what is going on.

The art is extremely bold. It does look rotoscoped and Adam Geen has come under a lot of criticism online for allegedly lifting images from TV and film. The abstract nature of the style and the weird textures of the background actually illustrates the hero’s disturbed and confused state of mind perfectly. They also suitably obscure the sex and drug use scenes.

As it is incomplete I can’t give it anything other than a Thumbs Down.

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Jungle Girl 3 – Frank Cho and Doug Murray

Jungle Girl 3Jungle Girl went downhill quickly and this easily breaks through the bottom of the barrel. At a mere 4 issues there is no reason this should exist. There is no character development, no emotional attachment, and no reward of any kind for reading it.

Even the art is too lazy to be titillating or even sexist. Jana, who lives in a hot and humid jungle, wears a skin tight PVC cat suit for the whole story and doesn’t pass out from heat exhaustion once.

The story is about alien invasion because clearly nothing exciting could take place in a Lost World full of cannibal tribes and dinosaurs right?

It is literary excrement that you thank god only lasted four issues.

Thumbs Down!

Jungle Girl 2 – Frank Cho

Jungle Girl 2Clearly what you need in a tale about a girl living in a Jungle is a space shuttle and a submarine. That will help the characterising wont it. From a shaky first volume to a total jumping the shark is what happens here. It’s as bad as volume two of Shanna.

Where do you start? We pick up from exactly where we left off and go running of in search of a crashing space shuttle that is never seen again as we get distracted by some underwater Lovecraftian/ menace. Cue submarine.

We don’t know too much about Jana’s companion Togg but it comes as a surprise when he seems to be a dab hand with machine guns, scuba gear, torpedoes, and submarine engines. He can only say the word ‘ma-sheens’, but has no trouble with pronouncing ‘gears, engines and Lewis guns.’

The art is pretty in places and there are some standout moments but it feels more rushed and less-polished than the last one. There is a clunky moment where two facing pages (that have clearly been drawn separately) work against each other by duplicating similar poses.

There is also an uncomfortable image of Jana so explicit it feels almost gynaecological. This coupled with her new pre-occupation with double-entendres is a real disappointment.

This could and should have been so much more. The underwater location is a brave idea but the title is Jungle Girl. There was almost a Robert E. Howard feel that could have brought some real depth to the work but you are too jarred by the incongruity of the characters. The deus ex machina is mermaids riding leviathans who are never explained.

Thumbs down!

Shanna the She Devil Volume Two: Survival of the Fittest – Justin Gray & James Palmiotti

Shanna 2There is just enough content here for a low budget 70’s TV movie. The cringe-worthy pop culture dialogue and movie quotes are assembled into a competent four issue chase scene that would pass the time while getting a rectal exam. The authors have read the first book, or at least the précis, so there is some evidence of continuity but whilst we can accept dinosaurs, giant bees and other huge creatures are poorly chosen.

The biggest problem is putting Shanna’s name on it and expecting it to follow Frank Cho’s female empowering first volume. Unfortunately you could take Shanna out altogether, replace her with a man, or a Satnav and the story would be just the same. There is no character development, merely spectacle, and none of the feminist themes that a book like this should be exploring get a look in. The ending is deeply insulting. If there is any woman lest in need of rescuing or a good snog then it is Shanna.

She was created in the 1970’s by the great Stan Lee as one of several books to appeal to the female reader. It would appear that the ignorant attitudes in this book date from then as there are so many female issues that could have been given valuable discussion in a book like this.

The art is serviceable, and obviously better than most of us can do, but there aren’t the graceful, realistic and emotional portrayals of characters, including Shanna in particular, that Cho dazzled us with. Are those female open leg shots meant to be satirical like Bomb Queen or something more lurid? There is effort and good ideas such as a night vision sequence at the beginning but the busy, scratchy, pencilling and oversized knockers make you shake your head.

You can’t follow Frank Cho’s work and it was suicidal for anyone to try. This is one of those rare travesties, like Union Jack: London Falling, where those who don’t understand the source material are doomed to fail.

For womankind, or humankind, it is my duty to give this a Thumbs Down.

Wyrms – Orson Scott Card

WyrmsThese Earwigs will promote the healing process. This is typical of the impenetrable jibber jabber contained in this book. You know when things start off with a glossary and character list in the introduction it isn’t a good sign.

This is basically a butchered abridgement of a dense high-concept science fiction tome set to pictures. In about 500 pages of text you could, hopefully, get across the themes, questions, setting and message of this work. In under 200 of script you can’t. Think of this as the trailer for the book, but dubbed into a foreign language.

The art is fine, with good colouration, but overly busy framing and jaunty panel structure. But the pictures never tell the story, they are merely a visual soundtrack. With so many ideas and high concepts you would think the pictures would be working as hard as the words. What a shame.

This might have been based on a good book but this has been so condensed and abridged you can’t tell and are just glad when it ends. I had to force myself to keep reading a number of times.

Thumbs Down!

Union Jack: London Falling – Christos N. Gage

How disappointing. The previous volume introduced a lone hero with a gun and a motorbike. It was a great example of how one man can make a difference. It was British of a sort. Now we have flying cars and super teams. Our one man army has now been joined by three foreigners we don’t care about who are barely more than cardboard cut-outs and fighting twice the amount of stereotype super-villains. Worst of all the only way to save the day is to phone up Captain America.

What we have here is a submarine designed by someone who has never seen the sea. Putting in the odd “bollocks,” or “innit,” does not make a character British. Neither does watching Mary Poppins and raiding Wikipedia qualify you to write Union Jack. The whole book is a mess. All the additional characters have no chance to develop or contribute and only serve to deprive Jack of much needed time in the spotlight. More attention is spent referencing other stories and titles in the Marvel Universe than revealing Jack’s.

There are some sparks of inspiration, the odd surprise and funny joke and the ending is certainly a good try but it is too little way too late. The art is fine and the London landscapes look like they are based on photographs which is a pleasing technique. There are some nice elements of framing and composition but you are too busy cringing at the text to appreciate them. It is my patriotic duty to give this tragic disappointment the Thumbs Down!

43/322.

Tomorrow: The Cleaners – Mark Wheaton