Category Archives: Graphic Novels

Comic Book Reviews: The Hypernaturals

Comic Book Reviews: The Hypernaturals

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s The Hypernaturals deserved a longer run than the 12 issues it got. On the plus side however, those 12 issues essentially tell a single story so the result is a maxi-series.

To put this comic in context, thing Legion of Superheroes only with a bit more edge and just a more modern feel to it. I’m generalising of course but it will give you the general feel and it’s an appropriate comparison given that DnA did write Legion of Superheroes for a while.

It’s a great mix of superheroics and sci-fi concepts. I don’t think any of the individual elements could really be called new, but the resulting blend is certainly fresh enough.

As well as the ongoing story arc which features a patched together Hypernaturals team (after the current team goes missing) we also get frequent flashbacks to previous incarnations of the team.

You’ll find many familiar archetypes amongst the cast like a speedster, super intelligent character, strong guy etc. but over the course of the issues the personalities gradually dominate over the powers.

Probably the most interesting character though (as is so often the case) is the villain of the piece, Sublime. Not only does he have a rather creepy design (see the picture below) but beyond being kinda crazy he does actually have a reason for his actions. Something that we gradually find out more about as the story develops.

In terms of art, to be honest I don’t have that much to say. His work here is solid enough but doesn’t stray from the average superheroic style and drifts a little towards cheesecake at times. It’s fine, but I didn’t come back for the artwork. It was the story that sold me on this particular book.

If you liked Abnett and Lanning’s work on Legion or the Marvel cosmic titles I think you’ll enjoy this too.

The series has been released as three trade paperbacks, and given that it’s really one big story I’d recommend getting them all.

The Hypernaturals Vol 1 – http://amzn.to/RidTsj
The Hypernaturals Vol 2 – http://amzn.to/1f5p2lb
The Hypernaturals Vol 3 – http://amzn.to/Njz8Zu

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Graphic Novel Review: Judge Dredd: Year One

17995222 Graphic Novel Review: Judge Dredd: Year One
In some ways the name of this story Year One is misleading. The story is set during Dredd’s first year as a Judge, but there’s really nothing about it that actually has to be.

Yes some of the character reference Dredd’s rookie status. But he doesn’t act like a rookie. He’s Judge Dredd! Writer Matt Smith is the editor of 2000AD so he knows the character well and this certainly feels like Dredd. It just doesn’t feel any different to normal. Maybe that’s the point?

Having got that gripe out of the way though, this is a good Dredd story with a bit of a twist towards the end that was nicely done. As a stand alone piece that just sits in very early Dredd chronology this isn’t going to go on any must read or best of list, but as an introduction to Dredd and the sensibilities of the comic book (as opposed to the movie) this is great.

When I reviewed the movie I noted that it got most of Dredd but it lacked the sense of satire. I think that might be because a lot of those satirical elements are in the over the top dress sense and the deadpan seriousness with which Dredd and the other Judges treat even their most extreme statements.

That doesn’t come across well on film but here on page and in color it’s great. It helps of course that in Simon Coleby we’re dealing with a seasoned Judge Dredd artist. Someone who knows both how to tell a story and how to present the world of Mega City One.

So that’s what we have he. A solidly crafted Judge Dredd story that serves as a great introduction to the character and the comics. It’s not really blazing new ground and it’s not showing you anything about Dredd that you don’t already know. But it’s a fun ride while you’re reading.

Judge Dredd: Year One will be released on November 5th 2013: http://amzn.to/1aLEkMP

In the mean time, if you haven’t seen it, pick up the movie Dredd: http://amzn.to/17vilHi

Graphic Novel Review: The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice

17671903 Graphic Novel Review: The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank TwiceGraphic Novel Review: The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice

This is a difficult story to review. Like the comic book series that it has spun off from, Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice is in part about the acts of writing and creating. In this stand alone tale we get to know the origins of both Tom Taylor and Tommy Taylor. Biological origins in one case and literary origins in the other.

And I’m guessing that those of you who haven’t read any of The Unwritten really won’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about by this stage.

Suffice to say there are two intertwined stories in this book. One is a Harry Potteresque story of a young Tommy Taylor and his earliest years. The other is the story of an author’s carefully planned and staged campaign to write the book and release it on the day his son Tom Taylor is born. And the reason for doing this cannot really be understood without having read the comics that proceed this graphic novel. Though I think it’s safe to say that if you went on from reading this to the first volume of the comics everything would fall into place nicely.

The author and artist team from the comics handle graphic novel so it’s very much a continuation and expansion of what they have already created. Visually its wonderfully done with two different styles presenting the two stories and their radically different tones.

While Tommy Taylor’s story is quite openly a pastiche of Harry Potter and similar works, it also has enough depth to it to stand on its own as an enjoyable tale the second story of the creation of that tale gives even greater richness to the whole thing.

I’d call this one a must read. The only question is whether you should read volume 1 of The Unwritten first.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice will be  released on September 24th: http://amzn.to/16iaFGN

Which means there’s just enough time to grab The Unwritten Vol 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity and read that first: http://amzn.to/1502p3t

Graphic Novel Review: Justice League Vol 3: Throne of Atlantis

Justice League Aquaman Cross Over Throne of Atlantis Batman Geoff Johns DC Comics Trinity Comics Review Graphic Novel Review: Justice League Vol 3: Throne of Atlantis

Throne of Atlantis is volume three in the latest Justice League reboot and part of the so called New Fifty Two reboot of the entire DC Universe.

So what we get here is a a Justice League that is much younger and less established than we are used to. Which certainly opens up some interesting storytelling opportunities. Unfortunately here, mostly what we get is bickering. Well… what would a superhero team book be without bickering?

The name of this volume refers to the story which ran through issues 15-17 of Justice League and 14-16 of Aquaman. Yes it was a crossover, but they’ve given you all that material here to read so that’s a major plus.

There are actually two preceding issues in this volume as well which gives us a Cheetah story. It doesn’t really relate to what follows but I suppose it was two short to stand on its own. It’s okay, but unexceptional.

So back to the big crossover. Basically Atlantis gets tricked into attacking the surface world and Namor has to pick a side. Of course I mean Aquaman, but this is a storyline that’s been done to death on both sides of the comic book universe and it does come off as terribly familiar.

cover34381 medium Graphic Novel Review: Justice League Vol 3: Throne of AtlantisThere’s also the problem of a Justice League who are peculiarly hot headed (normal for Wonder Woman maybe but Batman and Superman?) and also apparently unable to distinguish between war between nations and crimes committed by an individual. This is the sort of material you’re probably better off avoiding in your flagship team book.

However, if we swallow the dubious notion that the Justice League are empowered to make decisions about America’s diplomatic status with another country the event itself is one great big fight and it’s a pretty fun one.

You’ve got three armies (yes three), giant walls of water, Superman getting ANGRY and all sorts of cool moments along the way. In monthly form this probably buzzes along pretty sweetly though it is a little more repetitive consumed all in one go.

I guess I’d liken this to a big summer blockbuster movie. Transformers maybe? Lots of explosions. Lots of action. Not much else. It’s enjoyable while you’re reading but you may never feel the urge to go back and read it a second time.

Ivan Reis’ artwork is not really to my taste though I’m having trouble fully identifying why. It’s a bit too angular. A bit too muddy. And some of the panel layouts were confusing to me. It didn’t flow smoothly I think.

So when it comes down to it, it’s not really a bad book, but I’m having trouble pointing out anything that stands out. As a monthly comic that you’re getting, yeah its fine. As a big collection… it’s just not a must buy.

Justice League Volume 3: Throne of Atlantis will be released on October 1st 2013: http://amzn.to/15Nu9WH

Graphic Novel Review: Kill Shakespeare Vol 3: The Tide Of Blood

17857529 Graphic Novel Review: Kill Shakespeare Vol 3: The Tide Of Blood
If I wanted to give a comic book reader a quick idea of Kill Shakespeare I’d probably say it’s like Fables only with you know… Shakespearian characters. Because, well, it is. Which is cool, because I like Fables.

Pulling this off with characters and settings from probably the best known name in western literature is a bit more difficult than shuffling around already heavily used fairy tale characters though. There are certain expectations here.

One thing you won’t get is full on Shakespearian verse. The writer makes no effort to mimic Shakespeare’s writing style in that sense. He does pull out the thees and thous on a regular basis though and also throws in some clever nods and references to various bits of dialogue that most of us will recognize. It’s probably for the best. More than that would likely have been distracting.

In this universe Shakespeare is a creator. He’s the creator of most if not all of the characters we  meet and interact with. Being the third volume in the series, you are expected to know something about what is going on by this point, but I found it pretty easy to get up to speed and if you can’t… well there’s always wikipedia right?

The story itself is a fairly simple one, but effectively told and it’s interesting to see how the familiar names and characters slowly twist and morph outside of their traditional stories. It doesn’t entirely feel like a complete story though. I mean this adventure does reach and end, but it just feels like it’s all set up for the next one. A minor criticism.

In terms of art, it’s quite cartoony and yet seems to fit the material very well. Andy Belanger clearly has a firm grip on storytelling and uses panels effectively on the page. In places it does seem choppy and abrupt, but again that fits with what is happening in the story at the time.

Not a must read book, but certainly interesting. I’d say give it a look, particularly if you like things like Fables.

Kill Shakespeare Vol 3 will be released on October 1st 2013: http://amzn.to/18Z2NMY

Graphic Novel Review: Masks

17864387 Graphic Novel Review: Masks
Masks is a rather ambitious cross-over for Dynamite gathering together a slew of golden age heroes that they either have a license for or who may have conveniently fallen into the public domain.

The Shadow, The Green Hornet and Kato, The Spider Zorro, the Green Lama, Miss Fury, Black Terror, and the Black Bat all feature in this eight issue series.

Some of these characters are well known, others much less so. None of them, however, have really been able to maintain an audience in modern comics. Writer Chris Roberson doesn’t attempt to update or modernize them, but rather gives us a story set in 1938 and emphasizes all their pulp elements. Which certainly plays to their strengths.

The story itself, of a fascist seeming “Justice Party” taking control of New York State is pretty far fetched, but I found it easy to just go along with the flow and it does present a threat large enough to justify this group of essentially lone vigilantes getting together.

Art is provided by Dennis Calero who produces some really nice painted work although at times it does all get a bit murky (these are heroes who like to lurk in the shadows after all.) And as a bonus we get cover art by Alex Ross, who of course loves these sorts of characters.

Despite being spread over 8 issues, the story does actually feel quite cramped due to the huge number of characters, each of whom has to get their spotlight time. You’re certainly not going to get much in the way of character here and the central mystery becomes fairly easy to figure out by about half way through.

No, this is an all action romp with fists flying in all directions. It’s fun. It’s pulp!

Masks will be released on September 10th 2013: http://amzn.to/17yji06

Book Review: ZVR: Diplomacy

18113986 Book Review: ZVR: Diplomacy
ZVR is short for Zombies vs. Robots. ZVR: Diplomacy is a prose offshoot of the ZVR comic books. It takes the same basic high concept… robots are fighting zombies and explores how this zombie plague is affecting other countries, namely Russia and Britain.

Diplomacy makes for a cool name, but let’s be clear there’s not a lot of negotiations going on here. Pretty much as far as the Robots or the Zombies are concern it’s just a great big fight. However, humans are caught in the middle and that’s the element that brings variety to this anthology series.

In fact the single most impressive thing about this is probably the variety of situations types of stories that are told here. The stories hit different notes, come up with different ideas for robots and in some ways the only constant is that inevitable hoard of zombies.

Now I haven’t read the original stories this anthology is based on, and it’s clear that elements from that setup are being referenced here. But it’s also clear that you don’t need previous exposure for these stories to work.

The common element throughout is the feeling that no matter what the outcome of any individual story is, humanity is probably doomed. That the zombie tide is so overwhelming that really they can’t be stopped either by robots or humans.

But along the way we get moments of heroism and cowardice, love and treachery.

Yes zombies have really been done to excess of late, but despite that it seems there are still are some new stories to tell.

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1c0sEII