Comic book-wise, I am still recovering from the amazing Saga (and eagerly awaiting the second paperback collection). But then I remembered another awesome science fiction comic series on my TBR pile. Léo keeps up everything he did right in the first cycle and adds cool new aspects. We meet old characters and get to know new ones. It is difficult to find fault with these books – except maybe how unknown they are.
Published by: Dargaud, 2001
Hardcover: 48 pages each
Series: Bételgeuse #1 – 5
The Worlds of Aldebaran #2
My rating: 7/10
First sentence: Papa! Viens voir! Vite!
Follow the continuing adventures of our Aldebaran heroes. Mark and Kim are sent to Betelgeuse to look for survivors of the spacecraft crash that killed 3,000 people seven years earlier. They do find survivors, among them Tazio Menegaz and Colonel Logan, who tell them the colonisers had been divided over whether the Iums (indigenous creatures) are as intelligent as humans. If they are, the humans would have been forced to abandon their colonising enterprise according to UN laws. Kim decides to investigate for herself.
Once again, the blurb tells a lie. Kim, our spunky heroine from the first cycle in the Worlds of Aldebaran series, is sent on a mission to Betelgeuse in order to look for survivors of the spacecraft Tsiolkowsky. Other than in the first “season” of the series, we don’t follow one single point of view. Instead, we are introduced to other chraracters right away and there is no narration to keep their perspectives together. Inge and Hector get a lot of time in the first volume and I liked their characters well enough. But they fall rather flat in the subsequent books.
The story – and the art through which it is told – are stunning. Betelgeuse is a planet mostly covered in desert land with one lush canyon full of incredible plant and animal life. Léo puts wide shots of flying cars, people walking across plains, to good use by showing us the characters (drawn small) against a backdrop of strange creatures and plants, often in the middle of catching their prey. These images lend a depth to the new planet that would be difficult to establish in prose without sounding info-dumpy. Léo does his world-building almost exclusively through pictures.
Because we lack a single narrator, the plot feels somewhat convoluted in the beginning books. The survivors now living on Betelgeuse have separated into two opposing camps – one group who thinks the Iums (the creatures you see on the cover) are highly intelligent and the colonization must be stopped – and one group who believes they are simply smart animals who don’t use tools or create art. It so happens that the latter group have also set up a pretty dictatorial village. Kim is the feminist voice when she enters this place ruled by men, where women are given domestic tasks and used as birthing machines. One child per woman per year – and the partner is picked by the authorities, in order to guarantee a good mix of genes for the future generation. Kim arrives and – within minutes – questions these rules.
The message here is maybe a little blunt but I was happy to see it nonetheless. Betelgeuse also offers a surprising amount of diversity when it comes to characters. It is set in the future so humanity has probably ingermingled enough that you can’t really call anyone an African-Betegeusian or Asian-Betelgeusian anymore, but it was wonderful to see a cast of characters that are not all white. You get POC characters who were depicted as human beings – some good, some bad, some misled in their beliefs, and others ignorant.
There were a few things I didn’t enjoy and I was hoping until the very end that a good reason would come up for why everyone falls in love with Kim. She is a cool, confident woman, yes, and she is pretty to look at. But literally (I am using that word correctly) every male character in contact with her falls head over heels in love with her. And they like to declare that love by telling her how hard it is to keep their hands off her or asking her to sleep with them. There is no romance to be found, everybody states their love business in as blunt a fashion as possible. At first, I thought these were the repercussions of that pill she is taking from the mantrisse on Aldebaran. But if that is the explanation, we never officially get it here.
Betelgeuse also features a young girl, Mai Lan, who plays a very important role in the beginning – being the only human who can get close to the Iums, talk to them, and even ride on their backs. Sadly, when she makes an appearance in the fourth and fifth volume, her character is downgraded to an anxious teenager who constantly worries about the size of her boobs – and nothing else.
Speaking of breasts. I enjoyed how normal nudity was in Aldebaran and that it was depicted tasetfully. It is still tasteful here, but there is an excessive amount of women undressing and men commenting how – if they looked – they couldn’t hold themselves back. Not only did this do nothing to further the plot it also wasn’t particularly sexy. It’s a small complaint but happens often enough for me to have noticed it.
The last instalment of Betelgeuse finally offers some revelations (which, in turn, create more questions) and paves the road for the sequels. Unfortunately, the most interesting background information on the mantrisse is delivered in a massive info-dump. Pages upon pages of two characters’ faces in conversation. Why Léo didn’t do his signature move and show them in a wonderful environment, I don’t know.
I enjoyed Betelgeuse, but it lacked the character depth and development of Aldebaran – we will see how the third cycle, Antares, will hold up. Because no matter the Kim-insta-love, I will continue reading these comic books. That is, if I can get my hands on the French editions sometime soon.
THE GOOD: A great setting shown through wonderful, if old-timey-looking drawings. Kim is as strong a character as ever.
THE BAD: Too much falling in love, especially with Kim. The relationships take a soap opera spin in every instalment.
THE VERDICT: Recommended. If you’ve read Aldebaran, you will want to learn more about the mantrisse and you definitely do in this cycle. It was nowhere near as good as its predecessor but still offered some fun hours looking at terrifying creatures and beautiful scenery.
RATING: 7/10 – Very good
The Worlds of Aldebaran:
- Aldebaran (5 volumes)
- Bételgeuse (5 volumes)
- Antares (4 volumes)
- Survivants (2 volumes so far)
- The planet
- The Survivors
- The Expedition
- The Caverns
- The Other
So, I’ve been hearing good things about this new comic book series. It was the subdued kind if good things, the recommendations on blogs, from readers who actually enjoyed it. There is no hype swamping the internet (although if you go looking for it, you will find tons of rave reviews). This is the kind of graphic novel that everybody seems to recommend without the publisher making a big deal out of it. So naturally, I had to buy it. I read it yesterday in one sitting and… Wow – this thing is brilliant. When’s volume two coming out?
Published by: Image Comics, 2012
Paperback: 160 pages
Series: Saga #1 (duh)
My rating: 9/10
First sentence: Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting.
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
This volume collects the first six issues of the smash-hit series.
My love for graphic novels is, in the big scheme of my reading addiction, a late addition. I started with the “classics” of the genre with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Moore’s V for Vendetta and Watchmen, the Sin City series and then went on to more experimental (not as tested by the community) comic books such as The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin. My boyfriend has been telling me to read Transmetropolitain and The Boys but while they interest me, no recent graphic novel spoke as much to me as Saga. The cover alone promises Tons of Cool Stuff. And it didn’t disappoint.
We enter on Alana giving birth to her child, with her horned boyfriend Marko helping as much as he can. It becomes clear very soon that (a) they are on the run and (b) there will be a fight about the baby’s name. Writer Brian K. Vaughan doesn’t only combine fanasy and science fiction, he also weds humor with horror, action with emotional scenes and generally adds a bonus of awesome to every page. He also adds something that we rarely see in actiony stories – the protagonists are brand-new parents! Having a baby is challenging enough in a stable world with help from family and friends and I suppose few fantasy writers take up the subject because it complicates everything. It makes for particularly heartstopping moments when not just our competent heroes are in danger, but so is the helpless baby. Plus, I really enjoy reading about relationships after the first bumpy get-to-know phase.
Saga Volume One did so many things right. The dialogue is snappy and brings the characters to life incredibly easy. After only two pages, I felt that I knew – to some extent – who Alana and Marko were, and their love became an inevitability, their voices clear and distinct. Of course, this Romeo and Juliet in space offers more than just a couple of new parents on the run from their respective armies. It is the newborn child that narrates the story and gives this first volume a sense of being a very small part of a bigger picture (which I cannot wait to discover). While they are running away, trying to keep their child safe, they meet all sorts of curious creatures all of which benefited from this story’s medium. I doubt that prose descriptions of the author’s imagination would have done quite the same job. I was especially fascinated with The Stalk and Izabel, both because of the way they are drawn and who they were.
The art in general was totally up my alley. There are characters that are mostly human-looking, but some that are anything but. To my delight, this graphic novel is also full of little details that don’t necessarily pertain to the story but that make you smile when you notice them. For example, the greasemonkey Marko talks about way in the beginning turns out to be an actual monkey mechanic. Call me silly but things like that make me happy. I hope the thought police doesn’t come knocking at my door for liking this little quirk, telling me how wrong it is to portray a group of people (namely mechanics) as an animal, thusly disrespecting them, etc. etc. I don’t mean it that way and you know it. At this point, I must also mention the visit to Sextillion, a place with lots of sexy time going on. Apart from the fact that what The Will finds there is utterly disgusting and made me wince, I was impressed with Fiona Staples’ way of drawing lots of naked ladies (and gentlemen, although I’m not sure about their manners) without going too far. If you are sqeamish, if you have a problem seeing naked breasts or the occasional penis, then this is probably not for you. Also: swearwords. Lots of them. Alana has a filthy mouth and always finds the best insult for every situation.
Alana and Marko aren’t the only characters we follow in these first 6 issues of the series. Naturally, people are out to get them and these people have leaders in high places. One hires a mercenary to kill them and retrieve the child, another one, a robot prince with a TV instead of a head, has to hunt them to get his father’s approval and finally be done with this war. The TV-robot-guy, prince IV, opens a whole world of possibilities because sometimes emotions (or memories?) flicker across his TV screen. I have nothing more to say to that except awesome!There are multiple layers to each of these characters and we only get glimpses for now but enough of a taste to make us beg for more.
That is probably my only negative thing to say here – while the characters were fully fleshed-out and felt real to me (despite the horns, wings, TV heads, etc.), I would have liked to spend more time with them. Action scene follows on action scene, guaranteeing that there is not a boring moment in sight, but I felt this story deserved at least an extra 50 pages. And also, I lied a little. There are quieter moments that focus on the emotional drama, rather than the physical. I realise this is just the opening chapter to a bigger story and I’ll leave it to you to interpret my slight diasppointment. I wanted more. Because it was that good? Yes. Because the story told in this first paperback could have been spread out a bit more to give us more insight into the characters (especially The Will and Prince IV)? Definitely. But if you think about it, me wanting more of the same, and in a larger chunk next time, can’t really be counted as negative, can it?
THE GOOD: Incredible characters, fast-paced action, emotional levels to everything the characters do, and a world that begs to be explored more.
THE BAD: It was too short. The Stalk’s story arc was the only one that really suffered from the abrupt ending point, but I would have liked more in general.
BONUS: Lying cat. Also, The Stalk. That bitch is straight out of my nightmares.
THE VERDICT: If you haven’t guessed yet, I am going to recommend this book to everyone. It’s a fast-paced science fiction odyssey with Romeo and Juliet bickering along the way and super creepy creatures lurking in the dark. It is fun, it is original, and the art is beautiful. Go out and get it (or maybe wait until the second paperback comes out so you don’t have to suffer like me…)
RATING: 9/10 – Pretty close to perfection
- Why You Should Be Reading Saga (comicbooked.com)
- Review: Saga, Vol. 1 (inbedwithbooks.blogspot.co.at)
- Graphic Novel Review: Saga vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (http://classicvasilly.wordpress.com)
I like the French. They make great food, they make great wine, and they treat their comic books right. Even in the tiniest book store, you will find an entire wall dedicated solely to comics and graphic novels. It’s not just for geeks and it’s not all SF. One of my resolutions (every year) is to read more in French. This series is also available in English and it comes highly recommended.
Published by: Dargaud, 2011 (1995)
Hardcover: 48 pages each
Series: Aldebaran #1-5
My rating: 8,5/10
First sentence: La catastrophe avait été précédée de plusieurs signes avant-coureurs que malheureusement nous ne sûmes pas interpréter.
In the world of Aldebaran, readers live through the most fantastic sagas. Author Leo recounts humanity’s first attempts to colonise distant planets. Marc and his companions will come across strange creatures and face the dangers of unknown worlds on their travels. They will witness the destruction caused by mankind’s madness. In the first album, Marc and Kim, another teenager who has survived the annihilation of their village, set out to look for an explanation for this terrible catastrophe.
I’m a bitch when it comes to comic book art. Usually, I like a modern approach, art that doesn’t necessarily look like real life but ist just, you know, pretty. I realise “pretty” is both a silly and subjective thing to say but I didn’t find Leo’s drawings particularly pretty. However, they were perfect for the story he wanted to tell. His realistic characters stand in stark contrast to the strange flora and fauna that is Aldebaran. All characters have distinct features and aren’t perfect. I especially liked the big gap between Monsieur Pad’s front teeth – it gives him personality (not that he needs any more of that). So I didn’t love the art as in “I want to stare at it for hours” but I thought it worked incredibly well for the story – and that’s what comic book art is supposed to do right?
The story itself grabbed my attention immediately. It starts in a calm little village, Arena Blanca, with Marc’s teenage boy troubles of how to convince a girl to be his girlfriend. The people are fishermen and live a quite life. Until one day all the fish seem to have disappeared from the ocean and a sea creature is found stranded and dying on the shore. Strangers come to Arena Blanca and tell the most ludicrous stories about an immense creature that threatens the entire village. Nobody believes the strangers and – as they say – catastrophe ensues.
I don’t want to give away more than the very beginning because discovering Aldebaran volume by volume is part of the fun of these books. We follow Marc, who narrates the story, his younger and, according to him highly annoying, friend Kim, as well as a few other characters. I didn’t expect it at first but I grew to love them all. Marc and Kim have wonderful bickering matches and stumble from one problem into the next. The action works surprsingly well even though I admit my eyes were usually drawn to the next page where some big, scary creature waited to snatch our heroes away. Apart from running for their lives, they also have to face the craziness of growin up. Action and calmer moments that teach us more about the world or the characters alternate in a nice fashion. I never got bored but I never felt it was all action and no substance either. It just works.
Apart from the mystery of the sea creature, politics on Aldebaran are a mess, not all people are what they seem, and the future of humanity on Aldebaran is everything but secured. In an attempt to make the population grow, the government requires all women to have their first baby at the age of 17. There are organisations working against the dictatorship but the future doesn’t look too bright.
I have been reading these books for most of January and now that I’m finished, I am a little sad to leave the characters behind. There is a lot more to learn about Aldebaran and the ther planets humanity has attempted to colonize. Personally, I hope for a reunion with Marc, Kim, Alexa and Monsieur Pad (what a rascal, that one!) but whether they’ll feature in the next cycle or not, I am now a fan and will continue reading Leo’s fantastic comic books.
The Aldebaran cycle is available in English, Dutch, Polish as well as German. As far as I know, there is a nice bind-up that will probably come a lot cheaper than 17 Euros per French volume (thank you, Mom).
THE GOOD: Great characters, a thrilling story and highly imaginative creatures.
THE BAD: Volumes 3 and 4 weren’t as strong as the other ones.
THE VERDICT: I highly recommend this for science fiction or comic book fans. I suspect this may also appeal to people who have never read a comic book and want to try it out. There is enough substance in the story to fill a novel, and enough eye-candy to help your imagination along a bit.
RATING: 8,5/10 – An excellent series
The Worlds of Aldebaran:
- Aldebaran (5 volumes)
- Betelgeuse (5 volumes)
- Antares (4 volumes)
- Survivants (2 volumes so far)
- The Catastrophe
- The Blonde
- The Photo
- The Group
- The Creature
- Aldebaran – The Catastrophe and The Blonde (comicsanonymous.wordpress.com)
Normally, I wouldn’t review a short story all by itself but as I’ve read this in the Legends anthology and bought the graphic novel (loved the Dabel Brothers), I thought this deserves an entire post devoted to it. It also happens to be awesome!
art by: Mike S. Miller
published: Dabel Brothers, 2005 (1998)
copy: paperback, hardcover
series: Dunk & Egg #1
my rating: 9,5/10
first sentence: The spring rains had softened the ground, so Dunk had no trouble digging the grave.
A century before the events of George R. R. Martin’s epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, a squire named Dunk picks up the sword and shield of his dead master and enters a tournament to begin his career as a knight. But “Ser Duncan” has much to learn about this world of knights and nobles, and as he attempts to find a sponsor who will allow him to enter the tournament, he makes friends and enemies readily. Dunk is a capable fighter and has a strong sense of honor, but is that enough for him to become a true knight in the eyes of the others, or is he just a young man living a delusion and putting those he knows in grave danger?
I would say it takes about two pages, in the novella and the comic book alike, to fall in love with this story. It starts with Dunk burying his old master, a knight, and remembering how he became his squire. Taking up shield and sword and pretending to be a knight, calling himself Ser Duncan, no less, may be dangerous. But Dunk feels it’s the right thing to do and desperately hopes to prove himself in the upcoming tournament. Good thing he picks up young Egg on the way, who is not only adorable and slightly mysterious, but also helps Dunk find his way in the world of sers and ladies.
The story is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t be as gripping as it was. But George R.R. Martin just blew me away with his writing. While set in Westeros (200 years before the events in A Game of Thrones) and very true to his style, the writing here is more poetic and, in some scenes, so beautiful it made me want to be a writer. Now that’s a sure clue for good writing. I still remember that one scene where Dunk slept outside, not having a tent like all the other lords and knights, and seeing a shooting star. That scene is as vivid in my memory as it was touching when I first read it.
Plus, we get to meet a former generation of Targaryens and it’s a lot of fun making connections about the history of Westeros. You don’t have to read these to enjoy the main series or vice versa but, let’s be honest, who can really resist more Westeros when there is more Westeros?
I love how George R.R. Martin mixes an element of mystery into his knight’s tale and just the teeniest hint of romance. The climax was fantastically done and while the story definitely leaves certain things open to explore later on, it is a well rounded tale that can be read as a standalone.
The graphic novel:
Add to all of the above the most beautiful artwork I’ve seen in a long time. It’s hard to review comic books because the drawing style and coloring are a huge matter of taste and everybody likes different things. This, however, is my thing. I like that the characters’ faces are clearly defined and don’t all look alike. Sure, most everyone is surprisingly beautiful and well-built, but I’ll forgive that.
This comic book does what the medium is supposed to. It adds a layer to an already great story, giving it texture and emotion by using colors and drawings. I actually prefer this adaptation to the original, simply because it captured all the spirit of the novella but it gave me so much more. Dunk has a face, Egg is just perfect and the scenery is amazing.
Overall, I would recommend this most warmly to any Song of Ice and Fire fan who hasn’t read it yet and especially to those who find the size of the series daunting and aren’t sure if they’ll like it. Try this story here – novella or graphic novel, whatever suits you better – and you’ll get a good taste of what George R.R. Martin can do (and you will probably need Neil Gaiman to remind you every once in a while that GRRM is not our bitch). If you don’t like this alternate universe, the history and culture and religion in the story, you probably won’t enjoy A Song of Ice and Fire either. But if you do like this, then you’ve got about 5000 pages of pure pleasure ahead of you. And I envy you.
THE GOOD: Wonderful characters, beautiful language and some of the most emotional scenes ever. The artwork is award-worthy and both novella and comic book are very much re-readable.
THE BAD: Nothing bad in the comic book. Some slowish passages in the novella, but really, I’m just looking for stuff to say here…
THE VERDICT: Highly recommended to fans and not-yet-fans of George R.R. Martin’s. A short, poignant and poetically told tale of a knight and his squire just trying to be good guys.
RATING (novella): 9/10 Nine almost impeccable knights.
RATING (graphic novel): 10/10 Perfection!
- The Hedge Knight
- The Sworn Sword
- The Mystery Knight
I wasn’t aware that comic books could win the Pulitzer Prize. And in this case, Spiegelman having won it had nothing to do with my interest for this book. Just look at this cover. How is it not going to catch your attention? A cat Hitler in front of a swastika, with two mice dressed in coats in the front. I understood this was a comic book about the Holocaust and was immediately interested. However, human bodies with mouse heads? Not sure if that’s my kind of thing. Well, let me tell you, it really doesn’t matter. Whether they’re mice, cats, pigs or dogs, the characters in this story are frighteningly human.
published: Pantheon Books 2003 (1991)
series: Maus #1 and #2
my rating: 8/10
first sentence: I went out to see my Father in Rego Park.
Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
Artie Spiegelman interviews his father Vladek about his time during the Second World War. And while Vladek’s narrative often strays to his current situation, the trouble he’s having with his second wife, the medication he has to take for his heart and his lungs, it is a tale well-told that really pulls you into that time and place of sheer horror inflicted on humans by other humans. I don’t believe I have to say much about the plot. If I tell you, Vladek made it out of Auschwitz, that gives you the basic idea. But it is the details that make this particular Holocaust story more interesting than others.
Vladek’s English is supposed to be heavily accented and it shows in his use of grammar and syntax. While this made it more difficult to read for me, it really made him more real. You can tell he’s not American. I don’t speak Polish but some of the syntax reminded me of German. It gave the story an extra layer of realism. As did the handful of photographs scattered into the story – real photographs of Vladek, and his first son Richieu.
What made this story special among others dealing with this topic was that Vladek, who has made it out of the camps by strenght combined with sheer dumb luck, is really not very likable. He’s racist, he’s terribly fussy and pretty much fulfills the cliché of the Jewish miser. Even Art mentions this as his drawn self in the book. Of course, you automatically accept certain things coming from someone who survived the Nazi camps but I found it was a nice twist that our “hero” is actually quite a dick. Because, despite his greed and obsessive want to save everything “for bad times”, I desperately wanted him to survive WWII and feared for him and his wife on every page (even though we know from the beginning that he does survive). Being a miser and bit of an unlikably guy does not mean you deserve anything like that to happen to you. And I must say, Spiegelman is the first author I’ve ever read who reminds us that not all the people taken by the Nazis were model citizens and flawless characters. They were regular people like you and me, some had character flaws, some we would have liked to be friends with – but not a single one of them deserved the kind of brutality and cruelty inflicted upon them by the Nazis.
It’s rare that a Holocaust book still shows me something new. I believe it’s important that authors never stop writing about that time in history but most of us believe we’ve read or seen it all, secondhand of course. Here was something new to me and I recommend the comic book for this very reason. There are the horrible conditions on the trains and in the camps but there are also stories about the time before Vladek got taken, a time of paranoia, of neighbour turning on neighbour and running from the Germans, hiding in barns and cellars and not being sure who to trust anymore.
That said, the frame story is almost as interesting as the Holocaust tale told by Vladek. Art Spiegelman draws himself and his father (as mice, of course) doing these interviews, dealing with the present time and even the publication of the first half of this comic. His struggle with what “message” he wanted to send out with the first volume of Maus, his own marriage and how to deal with his elderly father who manages to drive his second wife crazy every single day. While not as intriguing as the war stories, I found this frame story lended another layer to the characters. The fact that the author drew himself into his comic book makes it all the more real.
THE GOOD: A story about the Holocaust that gets under your skin, told by a hero who is not actually too likable.
THE BAD: Many side characters get lost along the way, but I wouldn’t call this a bad thing, just a simple truth of the time and circumstances.
THE VERDICT: A highly recommended comic book about the Holocaust that left me feeling uncomfortable and close to tears. It managed to portray emotions and events in a new way – it felt incredibly real.
RATING: 8/10 eight excellent Jewish mice.
When I lived in France I spent a lot of time at our local médiathèque – library, video store and study hall all wrapped in one – and decided to expand my horizons a bit. The French have a wonderful tradition when it comes to comic books. Not only do they write a lot of comics that aren’t only about superheroes but deal with very adult and partly grim topics. They are also proud of that and every bookstore I’ve been to in France had a comic book section that was as big as the English sections here in Austria are. Long story short, this is the best thing I’ve read during my stay in the country of baguettes and delicious cheese.
published: Vents d’Ouest, 1990-2004
copy: 6 hardcovers
series: Peter Pan #1-6
my rating: 9,5/10
This version story of the boy who would not grow up is written for adults. Peter starts out as an almost-orphan in the streets of London and is taken away to Neverland by a fallen star that turns out to be the fairy Tinkerbell. There, he meets with pirates, mermaids, Indians, and a group of creatures living in the forest. He also meets their leader. The satyr Pan.
It becomes clear very early that this isn’t your cute Disney version of Peter Pan. In the very first scenes, Peter has to bring a bottle of alcohol to his abusive mother – without any money, he is forced to indulge the pedophiles in the bar and let his pants down to “earn” his mother’s bottle of wine. The story starts out grim and Peter’s journey to Neverland offers little relief. Because Neverland is populated by its own cast of mythical creatures and plagued by its own problems. Be it Peter’s trip to the island of Opikanoba, which holds uncounted terrors, or the constant war against Hook and his crew, there is always trouble brewing.
There are many things that fascinated me about this adaptation of the popular children’s story. First, it’s not your happy paradise full of pretty fairies and adventures that always end well. It’s dark, it’s full of evil, there is frequent nudity (fairies wear next to nothing and mermaids and centaurs are naturally topless), there is murder and grime and a lot of blood. This is not a children’s story! Peter’s innocence and forgetfulnes bring wonderful contrast to how ugly the world is – whether it’s Neverland or our world.
The characters come alive in Loisel’s drawings and they seemed a lot more believable to me. A bunch of boys wouldn’t just accept Peter as the leader, they’d question him or want to take over his job. Tinkerbell, a fairy we know to be jealous, goes to extremes to get rid of potential competition for Peter’s attention. And Hook is a troubled man who is not only there for comic relief.
I love Régis Loisel’s style. Both his writing and his art are breathtaking. His squiggly lines gave Neverland a character and I particularly enjoyed how versatile his characters’ looks and expressions are. Female characters are usually voluptuously round, sometimes even chubby, and we get to see boobs in all shapes and sizes. Like I said, it’s not a book for kids but any grown-up will be delighted at the range of body shapes and creatures that roam this magical island. Tiger Lily and her Indian tribe use their own language and there are hints at sexuality all over – which also help to show just how much Peter wants to stay a child forever.
I devoured the first five volumes in one go at the library but the final volume wasn’t available. And before I could find a copy at a bookshop, I left France for home. Since then, I’ve been pining to find out what happens to Peter, Clochette (Tinkerbell), Hook, and Merilin. Finally, I got my hands on an affordable copy of the last book Destins and I was equally swept away and taken to that magical land that, as dark as it is, was wonderful to dive into.
The ending is surprisingly dark, even compared to the first books, and the last volume had a few moments that made me catch my breath. Barrie himself wrote a very appropriate last sentence to Peter Pan.
[...] and thus it will be going on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.
While these comic books can be read as a sort of prequel to the original story, they end on a similar note. The reader can be hopeful for Peter, the eternal child, yet there are some truly dark themes and Loisel made them more obvious than Barrie. Reading these left me uncomfortably touched. On the one hand, I’m enthralled and enchanted by the mythology Loisel has added to J.M. Barrie’s Neverland, on the other hand, he plunged me into the deepest, most vile places within the human heart and left me with an emptiness inside.
In conclusion, this is an emotionally wrecking work of art. There are moments of joy and moments of fun but the dominant note is a sinister one. And it will not let you go…
THE GOOD: Amazing new take on a well-known tale, grim, dark and gorey. Beautiful art that transports you to a different world.
THE BAD: Definitely not for children. At some points, people may be put off by how gruesome it gets.
THE VERDICT: Recommended to people who like Peter Pan, comic books, and stories that take unexpected turns.
RATING: 9,5/10 Close to perfection
- Mains rouges
This is one of those books that are more famous for their movie adapation. I have grown up with the beautifully animated movie and fallen in love with the story, the music and the myth surrounding Beagle’s unicorn. But – and that’s an important but – the book made me fall in love with this fairy tale even more.
published: Viking Press, 1968
my rating: 9/10
first sentence: The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.
The last unicorn leaves the safety of her forest to find out what happened to the rest of her kind. On the way, she meets Schmendrick, the magician, whose magic rarely works, and Molly Grue, who has waited her whole life to meet a unicorn. Together they make their way to King Haggard’s castle to confront the dreaded Red Bull and save the other unicorns. If it isn’t already too late…
Reminiscent of Le Guin’s Earthsea, Beagle’s style takes you to a place where fairy tales are real, where myth comes to life and where immortal beings don’t behave like your next-door neighbour. Poetic and poignant, the last unicorn’s story is character-driven as well as full of backstory. If you’ve only seen the movie, you know the basic plot this tale follows. But you don’t know how much depth even the less important side characters have until you’ve read the book. Schmendrick, the clumsy magician and Princ Lír especially, become more real and more interesting than they are in the movie. And the unicorn’s innate alienness comes through much better. Any immortal being should behave in what seems like strange ways to us mere mortals. She does and she’s not always likable.
It is the style that made me love this book but it must also be said that the characters are surprisingly well drawn – certainly better than some authors manage on twice as many pages. My favourite is probably the cat, talking in riddles and caring only about himself. The author manages to make animal characters talk and yet retain their wildness.
The bittersweet ending was nothing if not appropriate. It made me weep when I watched the movie as a kid and didn’t even know why I was sad. Now, as an adult (officially at least) I understand what it is that makes the story tragic, hopeful and so full of magic. I have reread The Last Unicorns a couple of times but I feel obligated to mention the beautiful graphic novel adaptation. Sure, some of the backstory and depth gets lost in “translation” and the plot will not surprise you if you’ve ever seen the movie. But it features some of the most stunning art I’ve ever seen and is worth reading. Especially if you’re unsure about diving into the novel or if you don’t like Beagle’s style. The language can get a little flowery at times and while it’s a slim novel, if you don’t like the style, you won’t like any of it.
The Last Unicorn has been considered a classic of fantasy literature and, if you ask me, rightly so. I found it more suspenseful and interesting the A Wizard of Earthsea, though similar in style and pacing. Beagle did make me care for his characters and it’s obvious for anyone who’s ever read any of his books that either he’s simply really passionate about them, or he is a true believer in the existence of unicorns.
THE GOOD: Beautiful language, doesn’t need many words to bring characters to life, creates a mythical but believable world.
THE BAD: A bit flowery, won’t give you much new information if you’ve seen the movie.
THE VERDICT: A book that undeservedly stands in its adaptation’s shadow. A true classic of fantasy literature that is full of magic and beauty.
RATING: 9/10 Enchanting
Another Dark Horse graphic novel finds me, yet again, pleasantly surprised and wanting more of the same, please.
published: July 2012 by Dark Horse Comics
copy: ARC from Dark Horse Comics
my rating: 6,5/10
Trevor’s monstrous little brother lives in the barn behind the house. The boy’s only six years old, but he towers over his older brother, and possesses incredible strength. For years, Trevor has looked after his baby brother, keeping him from the light, but now that’s all about to change. His family’s secret is about to be revealed, uncovering the horrible truth of the small Midwestern town the boys have grown up in.
A dark story told in dark, haunting pictures. I picked this up because of the stunning cover art. Those bleak midwestern fields with that one house set up against a grey background looked like it might be just my cup of tea. Trevor is just a kid who wants to play outside and live his life in peace. With a father like his, however, that’s not always easy. Severe and menacing, the father controls his wife and son and wishes his second son Will were dead. Trevor seems to be the only one caring for Will, the deformed giant of a six-year-old.
Every time I read a good graphic novel I am impressed by the way simple pictures and very little writing can make me care for a character. But Trevor as well as Will were immediately dear to me. Will may be huge and incredibly strong but he’s never seen the world outside his barn and to me he felt like a small child who needs to be loved and wants to explore the world around him. Trevor is a caring boy who had to grow up way too fast and take things into his own hands.
The plot is solid. A creepy midwestern town full of the expected hateful villagers who are scared more by the unknown than by anything else. If there’s conflict, get your guns (America). As unlikable as the adults in this story were, their actions were believable and drove the plot forward. I would have loved to see a little more of the “freaks” interactions and maybe a slightly less abrupt ending, but overall I really enjoyed this story.
Greg Ruth’s art is perfect for a tale such as this. His sketchy lines and the bleak color palette bring this town to life. There aren’t any bright colors and it becomes clear from the story that this is also the case in Will and Trevor’s lives. Everything seems tinted with grey. Now I’m a fan of strong colors but with a story like this, the choice was perfect. It evoked that haunted, darkly sinister image that goes so well with a tale about the blackest pits of human hearts. Dark Horse Comics are slowly becoming a favorite of mine (and I still haven’t read any of the Serenity comics)
THE GOOD: Creepy, dark pictures telling an even darker tale. Surprisingly vivid protagonists.
THE BAD: Somewhat quick ending, could have had more coverage on the more interesting characters.
THE VERDICT: Very enjoyable read if you want a quick, sinister story about the small-mindedness of midwestern villagers and how children are often the better people.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be definitely checking out the Dark Horse Motion Comics on Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry channel on Youtube.
I am still a season behind on the amazingly funny webseries The Guild. Anything Felicia Day touches turns to gold – and she’s so damn likable you can’t even be jealous. The jump into graphic novels worked really well and I hope there’ll be much more where this came from.
published: 04 July 2012
copy: ARC from Dark Horse Comics
my rating: 8,5/10
Synopsis: Set before the first season of the show, these hilarious stories delighted fans and newbies alike and introduced plots that influenced the show itself, including season 5’s backstory of Tink, originally hinted at in these pages. Featuring a huge variety of comics’ best artists as well as many of the talents key to the web series, and leading directly to the moment Zaboo unexpectedly appears at a startled Codex’s front door in episode 1, this collection comprises a true “season 0” ofThe Guild! Collects the one-shots The Guild: Vork, The Guild: Tink, The Guild: Bladezz, The Guild: Clara, and The Guild: Zaboo.
What I thought: Get your geek on! This collection tells each Guildie’s story leading up right to the beginning of season 1. We discover surprising depths in Vork’s character, the true extent of Clara’s brainlessness (in a very lovable way) and encounter Zaboo’s scary mother. You can tell that Felicia Day and her co-creators didn’t just want to do more of the webshow in comic form. The references to popculture, video games, movies and literature are numerous and laugh-out-loud.
They also played around with the medium, using it to its greatest advantage. We get a couple of in-comic games (great fun!) and scenes drawn in the style of popular video games. I don’t want to spoil the hilarious surprise so you’ll just have to read it yourselves. I was chuckling incessantly while reading this.
While every part – one for each character – is drawn by a different artist and I liked some better than others, they are all beautiful and render the characters well. Some stay more true to what the actors look like, others took a more comic-y approach, but they all worked.
Having actually seen The Guild may have been a bonus because I kept hearing the actors’ voices in my head and knowing what this crazy story leads up to makes it that much more hilarious. But I believe this graphic novel would be just as funny read as a stand-alone. Even though you probably won’t be able to stop after that. Thank goodness for more graphic novels and, of course, the amazing webseries. Make sure to check out Geek & Sundry where you can watch each uninterrupted season of The Guild and discover more geek goodness from Felicia Day, Wil Wheton, Sword & Laser’s Tom and Veronica, and Dark Horse motion comics (awesome, anyone?).
With a graphic novels, credit should go where credit is due:
writers: Felicia Day, Jeff Lewis, Sean Becker, Kim Evey, Sandeep Parikh
penciller: Darick Robertson, Kristian Donaldson, Ron Chan, Becky Cloonan, Tim Seeley
inker: Ron Chan, Becky Cloonan
colorist: Dave Stewart
cover: Georges Jeanty
THE GOOD: Hilarious stories, great art, and references to make any nerd’s day.
THE BAD: Really? It’s The fucking Guild… they have yet to take a misstep.
THE VERDICT: Recommended to everyone and anyone who is not opposed to the idea of fun.
RATING: 8,5/10 Pure nerdgasm
When I first found out that Marvel was publishing comic adaptations of Jane Austen’s work, I got excited and sceptical. Pride and Prejudice turned out really nice, however, and Sense and Sensibility absolutely blew me away. Marvel picked the perfect woman for the job of writing the adaptation, Nancy Butler, who makes the stories come to life without long narratives or exlpanations. While she’s been doing all of the Austen graphic novels so far, the artist has been a different one for each novel. And with Emma, I’ve been disappointed for the first time.
Art: Janet Lee
Adaptation: Nancy Butler
My rating: 4.5/10
First sentence: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, had achieved nearly twenty-one years with very little to distress of vex her.
Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.
I’m not going as far as to call myself an Austenite but I do enjoy Austen’s books and re-read them quite a lot. The transition into movies and graphic novels works surprisingly well and her characters feel as alive today as they must have in the 19th century. To call Emma “one of my favorite Austens” seems a little silly, seeing as Jane Austen only ever finished six novels, but this one is definitely up in my top 3. Naturally, I was excited to get my hands on the graphic novel, even though the cover already made me a little cautious.
This is surely a question of taste but I didn’t warm to the drawing style at all. In fact, I quite hated it. The characters just look ugly. The have round blobs on their necks and if it weren’t for different hair colors and styles I would have had a hard time knowing Emma from Harriet or Mrs Weston from Jane Fairfax. And I’ve read the novel many times! That’s a clear flaw in a comic book, if you ask me.
Plot-wise, many things and details have been left out but all the essentials are still there. My compliments to Nancy Butler who really has her Austen down and manages to deliver all the information needed to understand the story and watch the characters grow. Emma, in particular, didn’t lack any of the qualities I know from the well-beloved book. Mr Knightley may get a little less screen-time than I liked and Miss Bates’ silliness wasn’t quite as pronounced as in the novel or some movie adaptations. But it’s all there, more or less.
So why am I feeling so negatively about this comic book? It’s really just the drawings. While I devoured the other two Austen adaptations by Marvel in one go, I caught myself drifting from reading Emma, putting it down for a day or two and picking it up hopefully, only to sigh at the weird, shapeless lumps of characters and the pastel colors of Janet Lee. Sadly, this was my least favorite Austen experience (concerning the comics) so far but who knows? It might be your favorite…
THE GOOD: Fantastic adaptation. Even if you’ve never read Jane Austen, you should be able to follow the story and characters easily.
THE BAD: Drawing style and colors – I personally hated them.
THE VERDICT: Still a recommendable Austen adaptation but leaf through the first pages before you buy to see if you can bear the drawings.
MY RATING: 4,5/10