Sunday, October 9, 2011


Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Crime/Mystery (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Silverfish (Original Graphic Novel)
Year: 2007
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: David Lapham (w/ greytones by Dom Ramos)

Well, here we are already, faithful Comics Questers!  What's it been?  A little over 12 hours?  I'M BACK ALREADY!!!

That's due in part to the fact that I couldn't put the sensational work that is David Lapham's Silverfish down.  So, let's not waste any more time with nonsense before we tear right into that sucker...

It all starts as good fun.

Mia Fleming is not too fond of her stepmother, and that's putting it lightly.  But her father and stepmother are headed off for a weekend with some friends, leaving Mia and her asthmatic little sister, Stacey, at home.  Mia decides to call some friends of her own and begins venting to them how much she dislikes her stepmother.

They decide to go rifling through Suzanne's (that's the stepmom) things.  The friends decide to start making prank calls to some of the numbers in Suzanne's address book.  The replies they get arouse suspicion.  They look through more of the belongings of this lady who calls herself Suzanne and find large sums of cash, a knife, and all sorts of evidence of a double life.

Finding out this much dirt on ol' "Suzanne", the kids just couldn't leave well enough alone.  They continue making more silly calls.  They may have found the reason that Suzanne seems to be hiding in Daniel, a man that one of the girls taunts and continues to call.  Little does she know that she's probably stumbled across the sickest, most sadistic individual she's encountered in her life...

My experience with this book reaffirms the old adage: "Never judge a book by it's cover."

I didn't want to read this one.  I wasn't excited at all about it.  I looked at the cover and was thinking, "Look at this cover.  Looks like a mom and her child running away.  It's all pink and weird.  It's probably just some mom and her kid running away from some tripped-out... thing and the plot's probably so buried I'll just smash myself in the head with this book after finishing until I die..."

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Coming in at a relatively short 160 pages, this may be the perfect graphic novel.  Lapham gets in, establishes the characters' motives and desires and then grabs the reader, hanging on until the very last panel and never letting go.

The story is, contrary to my anticipations, actually not complicated at all.  The story starts off with just the right amount of intrigue, just a few pages.  Then we shift to getting everything set up as the kids begin finding out numerous things about Suzanne, making the reader more and more uneasy as they begin to flirt more and more with disaster.  Lapham also conveys the insanity of the character Daniel with some very psychotic and disturbing images, but doesn't go over the top with it.  Just right.

The art style is heavy and gritty against black panel borders, the perfect feel for this work in which even the few light-hearted moments are tainted with a sort of uneasy feeling.

In fact, how else can I say it?  What else can I say?  Slim, quick, sharp-hitting, suspenseful, dark, memorable...  Perfect.

I may have already said too much and I'm not gonna spoil any more of this one for you.  If you have any interest at all in crime fiction, graphic fiction, or an absolute suspense story thrill ride, stop what you're doing and go get this now.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 5 out of 5
19 down, 481 to go

Next time: We've worked our way up to another Top 10 pick from Mr. Kannenberg's book!  Join me (though I should have done it about a month earlier) as we take a look at The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

Stay well until then, folks...  :-)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Black Hole

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Horror (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Black Hole #1-12
Year: 1995-2004
Publisher: Kitchen Sink/Fantagraphics Books, Collected Edition: Pantheon Books
Writer: Charles Burns
Artist: Charles Burns

Hello, readers...

Sorry it's been a few days.  I probably could have finished Black Hole sooner, but I wanted to wait until I had a good opportunity to finish it, have it still fresh in my mind, and be able to sit down and tell you all about it.  It's listed in the "Horror" section of the book and I know the spooky stuff always goes down good for me in the month of October, so let's get right to it, shall we?

Let's start by taking a look at that label that's been slapped on this one. Horror...  I really don't know if I'd call this one horror.  It's got a bunch freaky looking kids running around and some parts of it are pretty eerie...  It's even been said that creator Charles Burns wanted to evoke 1970s horror films with the whole feel of the book...  But for me, it's still maybe a bit of a stretch to call this one out-and-out horror.

The setting is Seattle, the 1970s and I guess it kind of does open like a horror film.  We've got a couple of kids in a biology class, some freaky images of a girl shedding her skin, some other kids smoking dope in the woods.

The premise of the story, I guess, is to examine the lives of high schoolers.  They have their parties, go to their classes, gain and lose loves on a weekly basis, but there's one rub.  There's some sort of sexually transmitted disease going around.  It doesn't seem to be very debilitating and the kids aren't dying from it, they're just getting pretty disturbing-looking mutations and disfigurements.

The strange alterations of appearance are different for every kid.  One has a tiny second mouth on his throat, you can see the girl above with the tail, they can be as mild as some bumps on the skin of the chest or as severe as total facial disfigurement.

As I said, I think I'd file this one under more of a general fiction label.  There aren't any rampant killings, no monsters chasing people around, just a focus on three or four of the high schoolers as they try to get through their late formative years, but now they've got the issue of worrying about getting this disease that might turn them into a freak every time they choose a lover.

Burns examines and makes us care for his characters.  He doesn't kill them off one-by-one like expendable archetypes.

This was another one of those books that I was dying to read.  I'd seen it in bookstores for the last five or so years, heard acclaim heaped by the shovel-fulls, and really, it just looked intriguing.  I thought this would be nothing short of an absolutely stellar five-star read.

Though Burns' art is absolutely stunning, after reading about these kids for a while, it becomes just a bit redundant.

They lament the woes of their teenage lives, party, screw, lament, get high, run away from home, screw, lament, and so on and so forth.  Some moments were really unforgettable, memory-provoking (especially if you weren't the most popular kid at high school), and beautiful.  Maybe the further you get from high school, the harder it is to relate but while liking this book, it wasn't one that I was itching to get back to time-and-again as I made my way through the 300+ pages.

Bottom line, I guess: This book is visually stunning and unforgettable, but one (this reader at least) can only take so much high school drama, awkward sex, and drug trips before it becomes unexciting.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
18 down, 482 to go

Join me next time as I get back to yet another Vertigo comic in David Lapham's Silverfish. We'll then move on to our next Top 10 pick in Gene Kannenberg Jr.'s 500 Essential Graphic Novels with The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

I'm then going to to another set of five books in the same format I have been, with four Best of the Rest picks from Mr. Kannenberg's book building up to a Top 10 pick.  After that, I'm kicking around the idea of doing five or six horror books in a row to celebrate Halloween.  I love reading spooky stuff all during the month of October and I figured that'd be a good way to share some more of my own tastes and habits with you guys.

So anyway...  Come on back if you like what's on the horizon there and take good care of yourselves in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shade, The Changing Man: The American Scream

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Superheroes (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Shade, The Changing Man #1-6
Year: 1990
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Chris Bachalo (Penciller)
        Mark Pennington (Inker)
        Daniel Vozzo (Colorist)
        Brendan McCarthy (Original Series Covers)

Back again, fellow Comics Questers, and this time I've done an unintentional Vertigo two-fer!  I didn't realize when putting these in order to review (which, in truth, is kind of random, anyway) that I had two Vertigo titles in a row!  That's definitely good as I tend to enjoy Vertigo stuff.

Anyway, let's delve into the madness that is Shade, The Changing Man: The American Scream. (You may scream at this point before reading the review, if you'd like...)

We open with a girl walking down a street clutching a bottle of alcohol to her chest.  She's narrating and we find that her name is Kathy and that she's bugshit nuts.  We can discern this from all the insane, swirly, astral beings floating around her as she continues her walk.

She gives us the reason that she's so crazy by recounting a bit of her past for us.

She once was happy with her boyfriend.  She tells of a time where they set out to visit her mother and father, stopping along the way in a field to make love and stare at the sky.  It's the last time she was truly happy because as they conclude the trip and arrive at her parents' place, she sees them brutally murdered.  If this wasn't enough to drive the poor dear insane, police assume that her boyfriend (apparently because he's black and this is the South) is the one that had broken in and killed her parents.  They shoot him dead before her very eyes.

The killer was a man named Troy Grenzer.  We get a peek into his story next.

Troy is all tough in his last hours.  He's to be executed for killing Kathy's parents.  In the final moments, though, Troy's tough exterior cracks.  They pull the switch to electrocute Grenzer and he doesn't die...  because Shade, The Changing Man has taken up residence in his body, the first body he could inhabit when travelling from his dimension to Earth, to fight an ever-growing madness called The American Scream.

This book is weird...  And I come to you telling you this as someone who unabashedly revels in and often enjoys weird things.

It's got explicit killings, JFK conspiracy theories, the delusions of insane folks, spillings-in from other dimensions, psychedelic imagery, and all sorts of crazy things.

When we get right down to it, though, I think we can see where Milligan and crew are going here.  We Americans are going mad.  Mad with violence, mad with substance abuse, mad with film stars, mad with examining the things that cause our madness.  Mad with everything that we will let madness get the upper hand with.

This madness spun into a being, although a scary, trippy, crazy looking thing, is the American Scream.

Shade, Kathy and several supporters and detractors dance around with the American Scream in this book, fighting it, eluding it, reveling in it.  Kathy's madness is the insanity brought on by the murder of all her loved ones.  A character named Duane Trilby's madness is the poring over every bit of information he can find about JFK to find his assassin and also the dealing with the death of his little girl.  Pieces of society go mad on TV... 

Really, that's what I get from this book.  It's seemingly an examination of America and everything that we obsess over, worship, kill ourselves with, indulge too much in and addict ourselves to...  to the point of madness.

Shade has come to battle against all that.

The artists handle this whole vast and strange concept magnificently.  Bachalo and crew's work pops when an electric chair comes alive into a snarling demon, when a giant stone bust of JFK tears through the pavement and begins asking questions, when Shade transcends dimensions.

The original series covers are pretty sweet, too.  From psychedelia to horror to iconic superhero cover, cover artist Brendan McCarthy brought his A-game.

While a work that didn't have me blown away as I turned the last page and sat it down, even an hour later, upon further reflection, I'm beginning to realize how many levels it works on and wanting to go back and study it more.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 4 out of 5
17 down, 483 to go

Hey kids, it's October, so come on back next time and join me for a work that's listed in the "Horror" section of the book with Charles Burns' Black Hole.  It may be a few days, cuz that sucker's huge, but I'll try and come back as soon as I can for all you faithful.

Be well until then, guys. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Originals

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Science Fiction (Best of the Rest)
Contains: The Originals (Original Graphic Novel)
Year: 2004
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Dave Gibbons


We're 16 books into this thing and this is only the SECOND book in the science fiction genre that I'm going to review?!  How did that happen?! I rather like sci-fi!!!

Let's get to it, shall we?

Actually, as we begin, let me just say that if you're not a fan of sci-fi (I know at least one dear reader of this thing who isn't), you'd have little to worry about in reading this.  Really the only thing that's sci-fi about this book is the hovering scooters and motorcycles used by the rival gangs...  But you have no idea what I'm talking about that with any of that yet, do you? 

Let's fix that.

The story begins as protagonist Lel is walking through a city that's eerily retro and futuristic simultaneously.  As he narrates, he talks about finishing school, about all the stuff that grown-ups and teachers tried to shove down his throat, and about he and his buddy Bok really wanting to become Originals.

The Originals are nothing more than a glorified gang, smartly dressed, loving music and fashion, popping pills, and hovering around on their floating scooters.  They absolutely detest a rival gang which they call "The Dirt", who look like a crowd you might see at any modern day biker bar, wearing leather, swilling beer, and riding what look like (also) hovering Harleys.

Lel and Bok finally do get into the Originals by helping existing members locate and fight a group of Dirt louts.  They'rs invited to an upscale dance club that the Originals party in called The Place and they ascend to becoming full-fledged Originals, both scoring their own hovers (which is how they refer to the hovering scooters) and Lel beginning to sling pills to dope heads for Ronnie, the seeming leader of the Originals.

Lel meets a girl, tensions between the Originals and Dirt rise, and we go from there...

As I said above, despite its inclusion in the "Science Fiction" portion of Mr. Kannenberg's book 500 Essential Graphic Novels, this really doesn't feel like a science fiction read.  Again, the only thing sci-fi about it are the hovering bikes and scooters.  The rest feels...  If I had to put it into a phrase...  A post-apocalyptic mob flick.

The way that the whole dance club is set up, the way the boys are trying to get into this elite fraternity, the way they pander to the leaders of the Originals...  Yeah. It feels like every mafia movie or show I've ever seen except with another sort of edge.

It's also been said that these groups, the Originals and the Dirt are patterned to resemble the Mods and Rockers of 1960's Britain.  Lel even has Roger Daltrey's circa 1960 haircut, pops pills, and loves his tunes. 

However you want to look at it, though, this is a story in some future about a boy who wants to gain entry into a group, does so, and then gets maybe a bit more than he bargained for. 

The work is nice, short, and solid, bringing you into Lel's narrative nicely, enveloping you for the time that you need to be there, and then panning back out almost where we met him.  We see the character develop, smarten-up, make that transition from a boy to a man almost right before our eyes in a read that takes less than a half hour.

Gibbons' art, left in the black-and-white style, is perfect for giving this a sort of timeless feel.  We see the hovering bikes and such, but we also see the clothes, the manners, memories of the past.  It's hard for the reader to pin down when this might take place.  It's obviously the future with the hovers, but why does it feel so much like the past?  A fine quality of this work.

The book shows how markedly we can grow up in so short a time and does so against a backdrop of a world that's not overtly strange, but is like an odd memory of the future.  A brief, good read by Gibbons that any fan of his, Anglophile, or fan of gang or mob stories should check out.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 3 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
16 down, 484 to go

Join me next time for a return to my beloved superhero comics with Shade, The Changing Man: The American Scream.

Keep well until then. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September Roundup

Alright, guys...

The Best Comics Quest! blog has been in existence for a little over a month and I'd like to make it accessible for all who would come to check it out.  That means if someone new happening upon this blog doesn't want to sort back through all the posts so far but wants a summary of what I've read and what I thought of it, I'd like to give that to them.

Also, regular readers can check out a summary post like I'm about to do and perhaps recall books that they may want to check out or buy.

So here we go with a roundup of all that I took in for the blog in the month of September.

Let me first clarify that the first book that I looked at, WE3, was actually reviewed at the very end of August, but I'm gonna include it here for neatness sake.  That means, if you've been following the format I've been doing this thing in, we've got three little sets, each containing four "Best of the Rest" picks from Gene Kannenberg Jr.'s book 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and then working up to one that he has listed as a "Top 10" pick.

I'll list them all by my rating on a scale of 5 stars, with 1 star being bad, up to 5 stars being amazing.

So here we go...

The Best Comics Quest! September Roundup

5 Star Rated
 -WE3 - A cute little dog, kitty, and bunny are turned into animal weapons for the government.
 -Blankets - An autobiographic tale from creator Craig Thompson about growing up in a strict Christian home.
 -Identity Crisis - DC's heroes in a thriller/mystery after Elongated Man's wife is brutally murdered.
 -The Books of Magic - Young Tim Hunter is approached by four of the DC Universe's practitioners of magic and guided through the entire history of magic in attempt to recruit him to wield mystical powers.

4 Star Rated
 -Sshhhh! - This wordless work follows a central anthropomorphic crow figure through events in his life.

3 Star Rated
 -Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Power and Responsibility - The first volume of the revamp of everyone's favorite wall-crawler for Marvel's Ultimate line.
 -It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken - This faux autobiographical tale follows main character Seth as he becomes obessed with a 1940's cartoonist named Kalo and his work.
 -The Complete Terry and the Pirates, Vol. 1: 1934-1936 - This mammoth collection of strips follows our adventurers through China in search of a fabled gold mine.
 -Pop Gun War - A young boy, Sinclair, pilfers a crashlanded angel's wings and flies through the surreal dreamscape of this tale.
 -Whiteout - In the desolation of Antarctica, a troubled female U.S. Marshal investigates an unsolved murder and wrestles with her demons.
 -I Love Led Zeppelin - Part how-to and part chronicle, this book examines creator Ellen Forney and her collaborators' escapades in sex(ual things of all sorts), drugs, and rock 'n' roll, among MANY other things...

2 Star Rated
 -Why I Hate Saturn - Anne is a New York writer for a hipster magazine when her sister Laura shows up with a gunshot wound claiming she's the Queen of the Leather Astro-Girls of Saturn.
 -Hell Baby - A new father of two girls is shown his new babies. One is normal, one monstrously hideous. He discards the freakish one. She has her revenge.
 -Fun with Milk and Cheese - A drunken carton of milk and wedge of cheese beat the hell out of everything and everyone for laughs.
 -Leave it to Chance, Vol. 1: Shaman's Rain - Young girl Chance Falconer wishes to follow in her father's footsteps as the occult protector of their hometown of Devil's Echo.

1 Star Rated
No books were rated 1 star.

So, there we have it.  I reserved my opinion of the books to simply listing them under the appropriate star rating.  I wanted to give any newcomers to this blog or the books the freedom to make their own judgement calls here.  If you want more of my two cents, all of the reviews are posted here in previous entries.

For the sake of just a few words of reflection, though...

I think I'd probably stick to my kneejerk reactions on most of these books, perhaps with the exception of moving Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Power and Responsibility and I Love Led Zeppelin up one star.  Thinking back on those ones makes me remember some parts that I really enjoyed and leads me to believe that maybe they should have rated a little higher.

My very favorite ones were, of course, the five star rated books, but forced to pick only one that I enjoyed the most and that I think will stick with me for a long time, I'd probably have to go with Identity Crisis.  My penchant for superhero comics and the love of Ralph and Sue Dibny make this one very special for me. 

The biggest letdowns for me were probably Whiteout and Leave it to Chance, Vol. 1: Shaman's Rain, wherein I went in to works that had been highly acclaimed, wanting to love what I found there and was met with what I felt to be mediocrity.

So there we have it, loyal readers.  A month, 15 books in and a nice little recap for those wanting a brief revisit to those books I've read.  Also, a nice starting point to just a taste of my opinions if you're new to the blog.

I again urge everyone to comment here.  Please feel free to say whatever you'd like.  Do you like what I've done here?  Do you agree or strongly disagree with my opinions?  Is there anything you want to say?  Please let me know.  In my little world, there can never be too much discussion on the fantastic realm of comics and sequential art.

With that, I hope you readers that have come have enjoyed my thrown-together ravings, I welcome anyone new, and I hope this post finds all of you well.

Oh, and before I go, how about a little preview of what books are upcoming as we get into October?

The first set of five will be as follows (annotated with how they're listed in 500 Essential Graphic Novels):
 -The Originals (Science Fiction, Best of the Rest)
 -Shade, The Changing Man: The American Scream (Superheroes, Best of the Rest)
 -Black Hole (Horror, Best of the Rest)
 -Silverfish (Crime/Mystery, Best of the Rest)
 -The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (War, Top 10)

So, there you go, guys.  I hope to get back to you sometime before the weekend concludes with the review of The Originals.

And with that, I promise I'll go now. :)

Be well...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Leave it to Chance, Volume 1: Shaman's Rain

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Adventure (Top 10)
Contains: Leave it to Chance #1-4
Year: Originally: 1996; This volume: 2002
Publisher: 1996: DC; This volume: Image Comics
Writer: James Robinson
Art: Paul Smith (Art)
        Jeromy Cox (Colors)

Hey, gang...

Well, provided I finish this post without spontaneously combusting, falling asleep from the toll of the work week, or otherwise keeling over, I think I've met my goal.  That was to get three "sets" (of five; each of which included four "Best of the Rest" books and one "Top 10" book from 500 Essential Graphic Novels) done before the end of September so I could steal yet another idea from my brother (who does a film blog similar to this one at ) and do a sort of end-of-the-month round-up for September.

And any of us could spontaneously combust at any time, so let's get to it!

We begin Leave it to Chance, Volume 1: Shaman's Rain with young Chance Falconer staring proudly at her father Lucas Falconer who is a practioner of the occult and protector of their town of Devil's Echo.  Lucas is giving a press conference after having just defeated a giant demon threatening the town and all the press want to crowd around, praise him, and ask questions.

Chance may be more enamoured with what her father's actually just done, though, rather than Lucas himself.  You see, Chance has just turned fourteen years of age.  The age when young Falconers undergo their first trainings in occult protection.

Chance's father doesn't share her excitement.

He's been scarred by his trade, losing a wife as a result, and besides...  Chance is a young lady.  Lucas Falconer wants a strong male heir to carry on his magicks.

The young, exuberant Chance won't seem to take "no" for an answer, though...

And here we begin the story...

This volume, which has had mountains of acclaim heaped on it, been nominated for Harvey and Eisner awards, and to which Mr. Kannenberg gives a weighty five stars in 500 Essential Graphic Novels leaves me with a simple one word question: How?

The work is an all-ages book that's seemingly perhaps geared at young ladies. I give it some accolades on that front.  Young ladies need their heroines and there's probably a shortage of good ones.  Chance is a fine one.  It's said to have found fans among males and even older readers, too.

As far as me, myself: I can't even say that this book isn't my cup of tea when just a few reviews ago I was raving about how Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic was an awesome journey through many a magical wonderland, exposing fantasies and daydreams come to life on the page.

We've got a bit of that here, but we've also got an oppressed contigent of goblins who've been drugged to attack sewer workers (?) and too many politics of a mayoral race for me to think that this might be enjoyed by a young girl.  That politics bit took me out of it.  I wanna see more crazy creatures from other worlds, not a rerun of evening CNN programming.

Speaking of what we did see, though, the artwork by Paul Smith and Jeromy Cox was nice.  It was fittingly cartoonish, but beautiful as the characters, dragons, beasties, and other fun things jumped off the page.

I don't know, maybe I've lost my youth and can't get into something of this nature.  Maybe this one just wasn't for me plot-wise.  I really expected an all ages story to pack more adventure and less politics, thugs (though they were cool-looking monsters), and fictional media coverage.

Bottom line from this reader: A fantastic young, little girl protagonist who just won't quit, but in the end too much real-life clutter and not enough escapism for this thirty-something dude to be carried away by.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 5 out of 5
My rating: 2 out of 5
15 down, 485 to go

Join me (hopefully and probably sometime within the next 24 hours) next time as I run down the month of September and give a final word on our first 15 readings here, folks.

I'll also give you the scoop at that time on the next five books we'll delve into as we begin October and hopefully get at least one of those reviewed this weekend, as well.

I thank all of you who have even glanced upon this page and invite each of you to start any discussion you'd like by commenting. 

Until next time... Be good, be well, and take care...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Love Led Zeppelin

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Non-Fiction (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Various comics from Ellen Forney's career
Year: 1994-1996, 2004 (This volume published 2006)
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Writer: Ellen Forney (w/ various others)
Artist: Ellen Forney

Hello, readers.  I've actually gone back to check and this actually makes three nights in a row, not last night (for those of you keeping score or who care).

Anyway, let's not waste any time and we'll get right into I Love Led Zeppelin.

As I suspected (and as I mentioned last night), this book really had little to do with the band Led Zeppelin at all.  Sorry if you've come here wanting to read about them, but maybe stick around anyway, huh?  It'll be fun...

Actually, the only mention writer Ellen Forney makes to the band is in a hilarious strip called The Final Soundtrack, in which she discusses what would be the coolest music to have playing in your cracked up, bad-ass muscle car as you die after running it into a tree.  She also fears having certain other music play...  Really good.

However there are multitude other things in this slim, yet text filled volume.

The whole thing starts out with a series of "how-tos" on seemingly random subjects.  They actually look to be factually accurate and meticulously researched, though.  "How D'ya Sew an Amputated Finger Back On??", "Old Glory: How to Fold the Flag and Present it to the Next of Kin", and "How to Fuck a Woman with Your Hands!!" (not kidding) are all fact- and hilarity-laden, offering concrete safety, tact, and procedural tips.

These are followed by short, mostly one-page strips chronicling some of Ms. Forney's travels and experiences, various sex tips, and even a list of Seattle's erotic landmarks!

At the end, we see some of Forney's earlier, more lengthy strips as she collaborates with some folks and focuses on the artwork side of things.  There are stories of odd meetings that were supposed to be dates but never happened, various parties and sexual escapades of all sorts, and even lengthy discussions about the importance of your hairdo and the state of Courtney Love.

If you hadn't put it together already, this book focuses a lot on sex.  Sexual identity and orientation, gender roles, first times, erotic (and hilarious) photo shoots, forays funny and factual.  Forney takes an unabashed look at all things sex and many other things besides.  One or two of them are her own experiences left bare for all the world to see.  Some are collaborations with others and we get to see how sexy, triumphant, or awkward they felt.  Above all, this book is a celebration of all of the things you might come upon in life and emerging being yourself (no matter who likes it or doesn't) and being happy with that and proud of it.

Forney touches upon sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, survivalism, ettiquette, cooking, travel, humanities, dating, art, pop culture, parents... with truthfulness and, above all, fun.  These comics may be filled with facts about a wide variety of things and stories of real peoples' joys and longings, but Forney makes them hilarious and fun to read along most of the way.

Mr. Kannenberg had this volume categorized under the "Non-Fiction" category, and the strips are just enough like the real world experiences we've all had to be believably true, but I think this one would have worked under the "Humor" category just as well, having been easily the most laugh-getting book I've read in all my efforts here thus far.

Funny, sexy, smart (all words that introduction writer Sherman Alexie didn't wanna use when doing the intro, but why shy from cliche when it's true?), these comics are all that.  They feel real and you can easily discern that Forney and the other writers have experienced these things and come out to be awesome folks on the other side.  The book screams, "This is who we are, this is what we've seen, here's what we love." and we've got no choice but to become empowered, let our freak flags fly, and love life right along with them.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
14 down, 486 to go

Be here next time as we move on to our third "Top 10" pick thus far: Leave it to Chance, Book One: Shaman's Rain. 

I hope you'll all be back and be well until then.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: General Fiction (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Sshhhh! (Orignal Graphic Novel)
Year: 2002
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Writer: Jason
Artist: Jason

Whoa!  Here we are back here again, faithful readers!  Is this the third day in a row?!  No, I really don't know...  Is it? 

Anyway, I wanna try and keep the blog going on a daily basis because I wanna try and do a sort of summarization of all the books we've looked at in September come the end of the week or this weekend.  If I get two more done this week, we'll have a sort of three set thing going on.  And by that I mean three groups of five that all ended with a Top 10 pick from the 500 Essential Graphic Novels book by Gene Kannenberg (click the link on the top right of the blog to buy) that I'm working my way through.

Now then, before I get started...  I've doled out thanks in the past and it occurs to me that I've forgotten one very special one.  I'd like to thank the Bridgeville Public Library and the Allegheny County Library Association for running smoothly enough that I can get books to review on here so easily.  If I were to want to do something like this and didn't have them, it'd be a LOT slower-going and I'd have to spend countless dollars on the books (something that I'm already probably going to do in finding things that I love from this list I'm going through). 

So anyway, a big thanks to all who make the Bridgeville Public Library and the Allegheny County Library Association do what it does.  You all have been courteous, timely, and just fantastic.

Let's get into Sshhhh!, shall we?

I'm going to try and get as long a review out of this one as I can.  There's really not much to talk about.

Let me start by saying that this is the only book in our little efforts here that I've read twice so far.  I did so because it only takes about twenty minutes to get through the book's some 120 pages.

But let's break it down for you like I usually do...

The book opens with the main character, an anthropomorphic cartoon crow character (in fact, I think ALL the characters in the book are anthropomorphic animals), sitting on the street playing a recorder-type-instrument and panhandling for money.  He gets a coin thrown into his hat, buys a hot dog, and soon retires to his nest to go to sleep.

This troubled character awakes the next day, walking the streets and feeling sorry for himself, seeing other upright-walking animal characters who have all found and are spending time with dear romantic loves.  He walks and walks, gazing at his feet, down and depressed, until he comes to a bridge where he decides to throw a rock into a stream underneath.  When he looks up, there is a lady crow staring into his eyes...

And we pretty much go from there, folks.  We go with this central crow character through all sorts of things.  He finds his love, loses her, is followed around by a skeleton character, meets more lovers, has a son, and so on and so forth...

You might be saying to yourself right about now, "Hey, pal! I thought you read this book twice! What's with the "central crow character" and "lady crow" and "skeleton character" bit?  What are their names?"

And, dear readers, I haven't the foggiest...

You see this entire book has not one word in it.  It's all pictures.  As I say that, I see the "DRRRRR" of the electric razor in the above panel, but aside from that (that's a sound effect anyway, smarties)...  There's not one bit of dialogue between the characters.  When they do speak...  For instance, the crow is at a cafe and he wants a cup of coffee.  There is a word bubble with a cup of coffee drawn in it, signifying that he's asking for a cup.  No "I'll take a cup of coffee please, sir."  No dialogue.

This is really a very interesting book being that it's in that format and for so many other reasons.  It kind of reminds me of Pop Gun War (which I reviewed on this very blog not too long ago), but it's nowhere near as obtuse in terms of plot.  The plot's there.  You can discern for the most part what's going on, but I don't think that means that this one isn't up for a bit of interpretation.

Could all these tales of our little crow be a metaphor for the life a human man and all the things he experiences, fears, goes through, endures, and thinks?  Could they be the dreams of the crow character after he climbs into his nest to sleep in the very first sequence?

I couldn't definitively tell you, friends, but what I will impart is this:  I had to go back and read this book a second time.  I had to experience all those things with the crow character again, especially since it was only going to take me another twenty minutes.  Those of you who know me know that I love to puzzle strange stories and films out and this one is definitely ripe for that.  And it compels you to want to do so.

Also, I couldn't stop thinking about the life and times of this little crow all day today as I went about my business.  There were events in these pages that were truly sad and touching, events that deserve pondering, events that will stay with you, even though there are only little cartoon animals in this book.

Could the plot be a little more overt? Sure, but then again, that may take a little bit away from this artistically.  And speaking of art, the artwork here is perfect for such a tale.  At once cute, strange, unique...  It fits.

Mr. Kannenberg says in his book as he reviews this work that it "leaves a deep impression".  Whether you love or hate this thing, I don't think it can be said any finer.  You're going to ponder this one for a while...

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 4 out of 5
13 down, 487 to go

Next time: "I Love Led Zeppelin" which, I expect, has little to do with loving Led Zeppelin.

Have a good one until then, guys...

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Books of Magic

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Fantasy (Best of the Rest)
Contains: The Books of Magic #1-4 (Mini-Series)
Year: 1990, 1991
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson (One issue each)

Hello, faithful readers...

Ahhh...  At last we've reached another one of my favorite creators and authors.  Mr. Neil Gaiman.

It had been ages since I'd read any of his stuff.  Even longer since I wasn't rereading something that I'd picked up that he'd written.  When I decided upon The Books of Magic and came to it in my little reading order I've got arranged for the blog here, I couldn't wait to dive in...  Especially given the premise.

We open with four DC Universe practitioners of magic and the occult (a man in a black coat, John Constantine, Dr. Occult, and Mister E.).  We flash back and forth between shots of these mighty wizards and a young, rather Harry-Potter-on-a-skateboard-looking young boy.  The magicians are discussing the young boy and how "he has the potential to become the most powerful human adept of this age."

Their task, and the premise of this volume, it seems, is to approach the boy (whom we come to know is named Tim Hunter), show him things of the world(s) of magic, and then present to him a choice.  Does he want to have anything to do with magic or not?

Each of the four mages get their turn with Tim (one in each issue, each illustrated by a different, very gifted artist), showing him different realms, explaining to him the histories and nature of magic, and guiding him through all sorts of varying experiences hoping to get him to make the right decision at the end of all their ordeals.

These four issues were simply stunning.

Gaiman takes young Tim from the beginning of time to the end of the universe with these four mysterious characters, touching upon everything from the Judeo-Christian version of the creation of the universe to druidic magicians draped in animal skins to the Egyptians to Merlyn to various practitioners of sorcery from the DC Universe (besides the four guiding Tim) to the absolute end of everything.  The ride itself, as we turn every corner with the young protagonist, is truly something special.  I've never seen such a study of so numerous and varied myths concerning magic.  Gaiman handles each as if he were a grand master himself.

And these various journeys that the guides take Tim on...  Amazing.

We are led through diverse landscapes in plot and artistry as Gaiman makes each issue so unique it could stand on its own.  The artists, though using a similar style to one another throughout, each put their own benchmarks on their art.  They lead us through near psychedelia, dark urban landscapes, faerie kingdoms, and massive cosmic wars.  A breathtaking exhibition...

Another amazing thing about this volume is that this was only the beginning, the warm-up, the getting started...  Tim hasn't even made his choice whether he'll wield the forces of magic yet and Gaiman and the artists wow us again and again in what was basically an introduction to a character that ended up getting another 75 issues to take similar journeys.

We've not seen the last of Tim Hunter here on Best Comics Quest!.  The first volume of the actual ongoing series entitled The Books of Magic: Bindings is here on the list in Mr. Kannenberg's book, as well.  If it's half as good as this one, we're gonna be in for a treat.

This book was a great read and certainly the best of the last few that I've read.  It was also a great return to Gaiman's work for me and something that's got me excited to potentially check out the entire run of The Books of Magic.  If you're even a slight Gaiman fan, are intrigued by the occult, or just down for a great adventure with all sorts of fantasy elements, you'll definitely wanna pick this one up.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 5 out of 5
12 down, 488 to go

Next time: SSHHHH!

I'll whisper at you then.  Be well, all...


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fun With Milk and Cheese

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Humor (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Milk and Cheese #1-4
Year: 1991-1993
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Evan Dorkin

Hello, fellow comics questers.

Again, it's been a good few days since I've posted here.  The work week got away from me and I had a couple of busy and stressful nights this last week and wasn't able to get any reading done.  We'll try and keep on a more regular basis from here on out.  I've got over ten books borrowed from the library to review for you guys, so I'd BETTER keep it going!

Anyway, we've come to the second entry in the "humor" genre of 500 Essential Graphic Novels in Fun with Milk and Cheese

Our two main characters here, despite looking cute and loveable enough to get my girlfriend to say that they were some of the cutest little things she'd ever seen, are very, very bad.  After all, that cover does read "Dairy products GONE BAD!"

Milk and Cheese are pretty much what they look like on the cover: a carton of milk and a block of cheese who run around everywhere!  Despite their cuteness, you will notice that on the cover that Cheese is holding a broken gin bottle rather menacingly, as if to glass someone with it.  That kind of sums up their behavior.

These two, when they're not sitting around watching and poking ridicule at TV, get drunk, overdose on sugar, run about the town, find seemingly anyone, and beat the living hell out of them while making some irreverant joke or another all the while.

Their violence isn't limited to one sort of person, religious group, social stratum, or type of bludgeoning.  They simply accost the first person they come across, whether that be a Hari Krishna, an infant, a cop, a hippie, a person of no distinction at all, and either burn, bludgeon, stab, beat, vomit on, or otherwise violate them.

It's a bit funny in some parts, and Dorkin does make some valid social observations even though we're viewing them through the exploits of walking, talking dairy products, but after a few of these one to three page adventures, if you're not one of the folks who find these comics "pants-crappingly funny" (as one blurb posits on the back of the volume), they're going to get old for you real fast.

I've got to admit, a tiny part of me not getting back here to the blog was me not being able to imagine sitting down and reading more of the belligerent escapades of a carton of milk and wedge of cheese.

I realize that a lot of this is for comedic fun and not to be taken TOO, too seriously, but one can only take so much vivid depicting of heads being smashed in, baby carriages being torched, and burning of people and cityscapes.

Mr. Kannenberg said in 500 Essential Graphic Novels that these comics were entertaining and funny in small doses.  Perhaps I should have taken his advice and not plunged through so quickly.  I can imagine maybe reading one of these a day on a website or something and finding maybe one or two days a week good for a laugh, but to sit and read a bunch of them in one night does kind of get old.

Dorkin does have a nice, busy, impacting art style.  I'd be curious to see his other work if it's in any sort of different vein or other subject matter.  His work is sometimes so busy it seems to move as your eyes dart around the page to see another panel of meticulously drawn work.

In the end, though, to say that this is something that is an essential read of the medium would be, for me at least, a bit of a stretch.  It's a work all its own and you're probably not going to see such dynamic, violent food products anywhere else, but for this reader, it's a bit over the top.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 2 out of 5
11 down, 489 to go

This book was the first out of four books that will lead us to our next "Top 10" pick in 500 Essential Graphic Novels.  Here's what we've got on tap in the coming entries.

-The Books of Magic (Fantasy, Best of the Rest)
-Sshhhh! (General Fiction, Best of the Rest)
-I Love Led Zeppelin (Non-Fiction, Best of the Rest)
-Leave it to Chance, Book One: Shaman's Rain (Adventure, Top 10)

I hope you'll all be back for those and remember: tell your friends, and ANYONE can comment no matter what your opinion of my thoughts!  Let's discuss!

Be well until next time, readers...

Monday, September 19, 2011


Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Crime/Mystery (Top 10)
Contains: Whiteout #1-4
Year: 1998
Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Steve Lieber

Hello, faithful Comics Questers.  Sorry it's been a few days.  I had a rather lazy weekend, then got wrapped up in (fantasy) football, napped, and battled a headache.  But anyway...

Here we are at our second "Top 10" pick of Mr. Kannenberg's great book and the first I've reviewed labelled "Crime/Mystery".  Let's take a quick look at Whiteout.

We open at the "Bottom of the world. Antarctica."  Tortured U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, whose husband passed from cancer less than a year after they were married and who killed a violent prisoner once upon a time, has come here to perhaps forget all those awful things.  She is, after all, though, an agent of the law and will continue to come upon her share of violence.  As the story opens, she's crouched over a dead body.

As you can see, the body is intensely frozen in the arctic ice and the face is mutilated.  We come to find out that the killer is one of five males in hundreds on "the Ice" (which is what the folks who live here call Antarctica).  Marshal Stetko begins investigating, but it seems everything and everyone may be against her.  Attempts at killing her and seeming double-crosses keep her hands full as she seeks her suspect.

Writer Greg Rucka has penned a good, solid story with compelling characters here.  U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko is a great character, dishing it out to those who'd stand in her way and struggling with the memories of her tormented past against a backdrop that matches her cold demeanor.  We never know whether the characters that she's interacting with are ultimately plotting to help her or to hinder her and Rucka (along with Lieber's art) keeps the tale taut and exciting.

Lieber's art is gritty, cold, dark, and sets the perfect mood for this mystery in Antarctica.  He goes into great detail about how the art came to fruition in a bit of extra material in the back of the volume, giving a bit of insight into the tools of the trade of making artwork of this caliber. 

As I said, the story is good and solid and I really loved some of the characters, especially Carrie Stetko.  She was tough, funny, mouthy, and relentless in the search for the killer.  A truly realistic and memorable character.

In the end, though, plotwise, this one isn't really all that groundbreaking.  We've got pretty much your run-of-the-mill murder mystery, only with very interesting characters.  Despite the very fine points that both creators have worked in here, the end result may not be something I'd deem "essential" and certainly not at the top of that heap. 

And with that, a short volume gets a short review. 

My final opinion: Even sensational characters, fantastically visually represented yet interacting in a run-of-the-mill plot equal middle of the road for this reader.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
10 down, 490 to go

Come back next time when we'll have a little "Fun with Milk and Cheese".  Be well and we'll see you then.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Identity Crisis

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Superheroes (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Identity Crisis #1-7
Year: 2004, 2005
Publisher: DC
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Art: Rags Morales (Penciller)
       Michael Bair (Inker)
       Alex Sinclair (Colorist)
       Michael Turner (Original Series Covers)

Well, kiddies...  To touch briefly on what I was talking about last post, "Crecy" did not arrive at the library so I could pick it up for review.  With the "Superheroes" genre being one of the more dominant ones in Mr Kannenberg's book and in my collection, I decided to head back in that direction and pick up "Identity Crisis".

I thought I had read this entire book before.  Like the insane person that I am, I went back to consult the list I keep of every book I've read since college.  I didn't finish it...  Which baffles me because having just finished it up within the last hour, I honestly don't know how I could have begun this magnificent story and not read through to the end.

We open with two lesser known members of the Justice League, Elongated Man and Firehawk, sitting atop a tall roof staking out some sort of weapons deal.  The two are discussing some things about members of the league, some myths, things such as that...  Firehawk's just a youngster and Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man) is a longtime member of the league.  She's sort of intrigued with all he knows about the more legendary members.

The conversation shifts to Ralph's wife, Sue.  Firehawk wants to know how they met, how they got together, all the romantic, magical, beginning-of-the-perfect-relationship stuff...  And it is perfect.  As Ralph tells the story, we can see how he fell for her, how adorable they were together, how much he loves her, always has, and always will.  He recounts the tales of their love with a sweet smile on his face.

But, as we might have anticipated it was going to, fate and plot would have it that this beautiful thing is going to come to an end.  Ralph gets a frantic call from his wife, Sue, the lady-of-his-dreams that he's just finished telling Firehawk about, and he panics and races to get home to her.

He's too late.

Artist Rags Morales gives that above image of what Ralph finds when he gets there.  His dear wife severely burned and murdered.

The best murder mystery superhero comic since "Watchmen" begins.

Identity Crisis was truly stunning.  It's been quite a while since I've seen a superhero story that portrays the characters as human as it does.  I mentioned "Watchmen" above.  It's likely since then.

In fact, they're so human that you may forget you're reading a superhero comic at some points.  I mean, it's very important to the whole concept of this thing that these people are superheroes, but it's just that: These PEOPLE are superheroes.  Meltzer's smooth characterization and dialogue coupled with the art of Morales, Bair, and Sinclair put me in the discussions that these characters were having and transported me into their world...  More fully than I have been for a long time.

Brad Meltzer employs all of his talents as a mystery and thriller writer and applies it to a superhero setting, as well.  There are several characters looking for Sue's killer the whole time, clues being dropped, and susupense being stirred up all the while.  This was the perfect superhero story for a writer with his skills to do and this mastery, paired with and matched by the art team, combined to make a great story and a great comics series all-around.

And while we're touching on the subject of artwork, Michael Turner's (rest well, sir) artwork on the original series covers was nothing short of absolutely fantastic.

Look at that cover (to issue 2) above.  Have you ever seen Hawkman look more bad-ass?  Wally (The Flash) look more sorrowful?  Ollie (Green Arrow) and Hal (Green Lantern) look more intense?  And what lovely ladies in the front there...

Yes, as I said, I don't know how anyone could start this and not finish.  It was absolutely great.  It's left such a mark on me that I've now got a new superhero comic to recommend to so many of my friends who aren't into the medium.  I think it might even be better than "Watchmen" in that capacity because perspective readers would see some characters that they recognize and instantly grow close to them, feeling their loss, pain, sadness, and humanity.

I really can't fathom anyone not finding at least SOMETHING that they'd like about this book.

My utmost recommendation to comic geek and non-comic-reader alike.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 5 out of 5
9 down, 491 to go

Please join me next time when we'll get into "Whiteout", the second "Top 10" pick from "500 Essential Graphic Novels" that I'll be reviewing.

Be well and I'll see you then!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pop Gun War

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Fantasy (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Pop Gun War #1-5 (plus new material)
Year: 2000-2003
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Farel Dalrymple
Artist: Farel Dalrymple

Knockin' out the reviews for the third day in a row here, folks.

Before we get started, let's see if I get any response with just a bit of a teaser.  I posted a while back (I think before that week or so long break I took) that I'd not spoil what was coming up.  Well, a person whom I know reads the blog said that maybe if I gave a little "coming soon" type deal, it might entice readers who are fans of or maybe had wondered about the upcoming works.

I'm gonna kinda go 50/50 on you guys with that whole theory because I honestly don't know what the next book will be.  I requested Warren Ellis' "Crecy" from the library and it still hasn't been shipped from the OTHER library sending it to my local one.  So when I get the chance to sit down and read the next book for the blog, I'll probably just grab something I already have here in my own collection, provided "Crecy" doesn't arrive before that.

Following that book, we'll have our second "Top 10" pick out of Mr. Kannenberg's "500 Essential Graphic Novels" in a book that I've wanted to read for a LONG time called "Whiteout", which some of you may be familiar with even if you're new to sequential art, because a feature film was made from the work a few years back.

So there's (an idea on) what we've got coming up.  Hope you'll check back and that you're enjoying everything thus far.

And now...  Pop Gun War...

This strange tale begins as a sort of monk-like-fellow steals a toy from a child, wins a glasses-wearing, large floating fish in a game of cards, and then gives a bunch of children on the streets stolen toys.  That's a sort of prologue.

Then we see an apparent angel, though he's all rough-looking and tattooed, crash-landing into a building and then paying a construction worker to remove his wings with a chainsaw.  He then throws them into a trash can, where the seeming protagonist of the story, a young boy named Sinclair, fishes them out of the trash, runs home, and attaches them to his back.

If you and I are of the same mindset, you're thinking, "Man, that's interesting.  And that art's strangely beautiful...  But it's a bit odd."  And the story only gets more strange from there, readers.

This story, as far as I can see, doesn't follow any traditional means of a plot.  I even flipped back through the work after I was finished to see if I was too tired or dim to get what was going on.  Satisfying myself that I hadn't really missed any key points, I resorted to the trusty interwebs to try and get some sort of explanation of any veiled concepts or anything that I could have overlooked.

I found nothing substantial except for a couple of folks comparing Farel Dalrymple to David Lynch. 

If any of you take an interest in film or stuff of a strange nature, you may be familiar with David Lynch.  I myself am a big fan of a few of his films after that fateful day my brother sat me down and showed me what I consider to be the masterpiece that is "Mulholland Dr." 

The thing with Lynch's films is that while absolutely entrancing and beautiful at times, you'll smash your head against the wall, loving them though you might not be clear on what all's exactly transpiring as you watch. 

I'd say that the people who compared Dalrymple to Lynch are pretty much spot on.

There are absolutely beautiful and disturbing moments in Pop Gun War.  Dalrymple's art is inspiring and (though I know I've been saying this a lot) like nothing I've ever seen.  There are grand scale sequences of pure artistic genius.  There are long snatches where you just scratch your head.  But it can't be denied that Dalrymple, here in what is his debut work, has created a thing of sheer magnificence in terms of what is VISUALLY portrayed within these pages.

The plot, though, if there is one, at least for me, is nigh impenetrable for now.  We see recurring characters in different manifestations, characters who seemingly can only be seen by certain other characters, images like the floating fish, talking disembodied heads, and all manner of other things that make us pinch ourselves as though we might be dreaming.

The lack of a plot, or at least one that may be flying completely over my head right now like Sinclair with his pilfered wings, is going to lead my knee-jerk reaction to this work to be one of mediocrity.  The art may be absolutely stunning, but I'm at a loss as to what may or may not be going on within this seemingly disjointed plot.

Who knows?  Curiosity may lead me to research and eventually find something more about what's taking place here.  Maybe I'll never find it or maybe the author intended an unconventional plot.

I hope to pick this work back up one day and, like that moment when my brother enlightened me to what was going on in "Mulholland Dr.", smack my head and say, "OHHHH!"

'Til then...

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
8 down, 492 to go

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hell Baby

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Horror (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Hell Baby (Kyofu Zigoku-shojo) (Original Graphic Novel)
Year: 1989 (Original); 1995 (Translation)
Publisher: Blast Books (Translation)
Writer: Hideshi Hino
Artist: Hideshi Hino

Hey guys!  Back already!

With staying up half the night last night to finish reading and blog on "Terry and the Pirates", I might have two entries here dated September 12th!  Ah, well...  That's OK.  You faithful had a bit of a wait between the previous two entries.  And while we're on the subject: anyone who counts themselves among the faithful readers of this blog, I THANK YOU!

I know that my dear brother Andrew (who does a film blog which was a major inspiration for this blog at always leaves comments on things and Mr. Mike McLarty just tonight showed me a little retweet love on Twitter. (By the way all you comics nuts should follow Mike if you're on Twitter, he's @MrDystopia.)

I thank and respect you both.  If anyone else is out there and wants to comment, whether you love or hate, wanna praise or curse, or just get ANYTHING off your chest about the reviews here, PLEASE COMMENT! 

We won't bite, we promise. (*shudders at the thought that someone may be saying to themselves, "Hey... Your BLOG bites, pally..."*)


Hell Baby...

It's a dark and stormy night...  Only we're not crouching over Snoopy's typewriter, we're at a hospital in Tokyo.  As rain pounds the window and lightning sporadically lights an office, a doctor tells a young father that his twin daughters have been born.  As the doc leads the new daddy through the eerily dimly-lit rooms, he says, "As you can see, your first-born is perfectly normal..." 

But the doctor struggles for words as he leads Dad into the room where the second daughter lay.  You see, she's not "perfectly normal".  She's...  Well...  Take a look below.

As you can see, she's pretty grotesque. 

Fearing for his family's honor, the father decides to keep the beautiful normal twin girl and asks the doctor to lie to his wife and everyone else about the existence of the hideous second child.  He then ties it up in a garbage bag, takes it to the local dump, and pitches it next to a heap of trash.

The vengeful journey of Hell Baby begins...

Here we have the first bit of manga on the blog and I was anxious to get into some of that, having read a little before, but not enough to have any working knowledge of it.  This book had to be read backwards and right to left.  I dug that.  Some of the original Japanese characters were still there and simply had English translations next to them.  I thought that this helped maintain the authenticity and feel of the work.

The story itself was a bit strange. 

Sometimes we had four or five panelled pages with very artful prose, almost as though we were reading an illustrated poem.  There were beautiful, meaningful panels here and there that left me staring, seeing perhaps something of a transcendant image, despite Hino's visceral art style.

But sometimes Hino embraced the gore.  Limbs and heads went flying, blood splashed walls, fluids of dead animals were supped upon...  He certainly picked some places where he didn't pull the punches.

As a whole, though, in my opinion, the whole thing was a bit slow.

I suppose we could view Hell Baby's journey as an extended metaphor for life, some of us being born viewed as ugly by unwanting parents, tossed into the garbage dump of existence, clawing our way through the dump and struggling on...  Even then, this would fail to excuse the relatively slow pacing of the plot.

There really were some touching, humorous, and shocking parts in this little book and Hino's art is like nothing I've ever seen before (even in my limited other readings of manga), which is cool.  But taking this one, sitting with it and visualizing it as it plays out leads to little more than the entertainment value of a B-rate horror film.  And remember, those can be LOTS of fun, but would you showcase them among the films that changed your life?

Hell Baby is a unique work with its own atmosphere, but by the time I get to novel 100 of this thing, I'll probably strain to remember any real impact it made on me. 

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 3 out of 5
My rating: 2 out of 5
7 down, 493 to go