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Comic Books, Video Games
Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #1-5
Written by Brian Clevinger; Illustrated by Scott Wegener
Red 5 Comics; $2.95/issue
One of the things I loved most about the first Atomic Robo series was that each issue stood on its own and told a different story from the others. Nikola Tesla’s greatest creation could fight giant ants in one issue and mummies in the next. You just never knew what you were going to get.
It was the perfect format for a monthly serial. In a time when I almost always wait for the collections on independent books, Atomic Robo made me excited to tune in each month for the next installment. There was no incentive to hold off and read the story all at once later on. It was all about instant gratification.
When I heard that the second mini-series, Dogs of War, was going to be more of a serialized story, I was worried that it would lose some of that spontaneity that I’d loved so much the first time around. It didn’t though. Dogs of War focuses on Robo’s service fighting Nazis in WWII and the stories are connected, but there’s still a great deal of variety from issue to issue. There’ll be a little more flow in the eventual collection than there was in the last volume, but it’s still very much an instant gratification kind of book.
Written by Andi Watson; Illustrated by Simon Gane.
I blame my love for Paris – a city I’ve never physically been to – on Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Gaston Leroux. Any city so full of swashbuckling musketeers, romantic revolutionaries, cathedral-dwelling hunchbacks, and catacomb-inhabiting phantoms is bound to be fascinating. When you figure in Bouguereau and éclairs, Paris tops the short list of cities on the Eventual Michael May World Tour.
My great hope for Paris the graphic novel was that it would come somewhere near capturing everything that I imagine I love about Paris the place. Not musketeers and hunchbacks necessarily, but art, architecture, bistros, coffee, and – oh yes – especially love. I was not disappointed.
Watson and Gane tell the story of a young, American art student named Juliet who’s come to Paris to study at an atelier. The back cover says that the story takes place in the early ‘50s. I don’t know enough about Paris’ cultural history to know why that’s significant – the details of the plot could’ve taken place yesterday as easily as fifty-something years ago – but the style of the thing is certainly nostalgic and romantic; like an Audrey Hepburn movie. Hepburn would’ve been out of place in this particular story, but right at home in the setting.
The Dreamland Chronicles, Book One
Written by Scott Christian Sava
Illustrated by Scott Christian Sava, Karen Krajenbrink, Ivan Perez, Can Tuncer, Marcello Bortolino, Peter Starostin, Jenn Downs, Kobi Alony, Joel Carlson, Peter Wong, Trung Tran, Jeremy Chapman, Frank Lenhard, Stefano Tsai, Antero Pedras, and Heather Shipman.
This review is based on the Blue Dream edition of the book. The Dreamland Chronicles is currently published by IDW.
The first time I read The Dreamland Chronicles was in single issues when it originally came out. I remember being impressed with the three-dimensional, CGI artwork and entranced with the story. I’ll come back to the story in a bit, but first I want to talk about the art.
It was about that same time that I read another CGI book (the name of which mercifully escapes me) that looked like a bunch of stills from a low-budget kids’ cartoon. In comparison, The Dreamland Chronicles was gorgeous. The character designs are wonderful; second only to the fantastic imagination that went into creating the cities, buildings, and countryside for those characters to inhabit. And Sava knows enough about comics to lay everything out in an exciting way, not a collection of static shots. His characters are dynamic and his panels flow very nicely.
Before I get to yapping, let me take a second and restate my criteria for what makes it on this list. This isn’t a list of everything that I’m buying for the month or even a list of everything I would buy if I had unlimited resources. I’m focusing primarily on new stuff: trade paperback collections, graphic novels, and debuts of monthly series. If a later issue of an ongoing series sounds extra-super-special-remarkable, I’ll say something, but that’ll be rare. For the most part, I won’t mention Marvel Adventures Avengers every single month, even though it’s always worth buying.
Also, this is really meant to be a discussion starter, so if you agree or disagree with anything here, please comment. That goes quadruple for if I left something off the list that I should’ve included.
And away we go…
Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery
Written by Dave Roman; Illustrated by Jason Ho, Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Zornow, Dave Roman, and Jen Wang
SLG Publishing; $10.95
I keep seeing the same discussion every time someone asks a bunch of Hellboy fans where the best place is to start in the series. On the one side, you have those who are really interested in the whole mythos and character development and discovering the secrets behind Hellboy’s origins. On the other side are the folks who prefer the standalone short stories and feel that Hellboy’s personality and humor comes through best in these mini-adventures unhampered by the darkness and heavy drama of the longer works.
Of course, every Hellboy fan will agree that it’s the combination of the two types of stories that really makes the series fun, but there’s still that polite disagreement about the best way to ease into the whole thing. I bring that up because Dave Roman faced a similar choice in introducing readers to the world and adventures of Agnes Quill and he made an interesting decision. It’s not the one I would’ve made, but I’m not sure it was the wrong one either.
Aces: Curse of the Red Baron
Written by G. Willow Wilson and Shannon Eric Denton; Illustrated by Curtis Square-Briggs
AiT/Planet Lar; $12.95
It’s such a beautiful concept. A couple of Allied soldiers searching for the Red Baron’s lost treasure while his ghost keeps showing up to stop them. There’s even a vanishing island and a secret Illuminati group responsible for WWI. How could it go wrong?
As fond of high-concept as we are around here, concept only gets you so far and – unfortunately – Aces is an example of that. It starts off promisingly: an American infantryman and an English pilot both believe they’ve shot down the Red Baron and one of them has a map that he claims he took from the infamous villain’s pocket. It’s a map of an island that both soldiers come to believe holds all the loot taken by the Red Baron over the years. They decide to temporarily abandon their posts, “borrow” a Sopwith Camel, and find the treasure.
As they search, they learn that the island disappears occasionally and that the Red Baron may not be as dead as they thought he was. And then there’s the Black Hand, a secret organization whose operatives assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and started World War I. The Red Baron may or may not have been a member (I’ll leave that for you to discover if you’re curious), but he certainly does take a lot of meetings with “Wolf 1,” the female head of the Black Hand cell that our young soldiers keep running up against.
Age of Bronze, Volume 1: A Thousand Ships
Written and Illustrated by Eric Shanower
Image Comics; $19.95
The first time someone told me there was a comic book about the Trojan War, I fell asleep before they finished the sentence. I’m not really sure why that is. I like history – especially making connections that I’ve never noticed between events – and I even sort of like The Iliad. Homer’s poem does spend a lot of time with people arguing on the beach, but there’s some very cool battle stuff in there too. I’m also one of the few people who enjoyed Troy.
I think my initial reaction to hearing about Age of Bronze was due to my thinking that I’ve already heard this story a million times. And as cool as some parts of the story are (the death of Hector; any scene with Ajax), I really, really hate how the war starts: the idea of a thousand ships going to war over one woman; Priam’s stupid refusal to just give Helen back. I’ve never bought the premise and it spoils my enjoyment of the rest of the story. It’s like having to accept the concept of “Green Goblin: National Hero” in order to hopefully read a story in which Doctor Doom and Namor try to take over world and split it between the two of them.
But a while ago I started getting comp comics from Image and ended up with a few issues of Age of Bronze. I was amazed first at how detailed and realistic the art is. I can’t speak to its accuracy – though I have no doubt that it’s excellent – because I haven’t done the research, but even if Shanower had pulled the architecture and fashion out of his butt, his version of the ancient Mediterranean world absolutely looks and feels like a real, historical place.
I really like Chris Wright‘s art style. I like his not quite-abstract, not-quite cubist characters, and the way they’re knocked down to basic geometric shapes that intersect at odd and slightly uncomfortable angles. I like the way his line squiggles, harking back to classic strip artists like E.C. Segar while at the same time suggesting a nervious, barely containable energy. I like that his dialogue frequently sounds as though it walked out of the second act of an Ibsen play to knock back a few at the pub across the street. I like that he frequently goes crazy with the cross-hatching.
Written and/or Illustrated by Ashley Wood, Gene Ha, John Ney Rieber, Paul Azaceta, João Ruas, Macon Blair, Ray Fawkes, José Luis Ágreda, Fábio Moon, Chris Arrant, Walter Pax, Nuno Plati, Jack Kaminski, Antonio Fuso, Miguel Alves, Frank Beaton, Dan Hipp, Josh Wagner, Seth M. Peck, Ivan Brandon, Adam Hughes, Phil Hester, Mike Huddleston, Miles Gunter, Michael Avon Oeming, Meg Hunt, Andy MacDonald, Francesco Francavilla, Gabriel Bá, Juan Doe, Mat Santolouco, Jonathan L. Davis, Diego Sanches, Carla Speed McNeil, Rafael Albuquerque, Ben Templesmith, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Calum Alexander Watt, Niko Henrichon, Dave Johnson, Jason Aaron, CB Cebulski, Alice Hunt, Chris Moreno, Larry Hime, Antony Johnston, Bruno D’Angelo, Mark Sable, Fiona Staples, Paul Maybury, Luis Sopelana, Tom Williams, Andy Kuhn, Mark Ricketts, Justin Randall, Will Pfeifer, Robbi Rodriguez, Jason Latour, and Frazer Irving
Edited by Ivan Brandon
Image Comics; $19.99
That’s much better.
My last review at the old place was of 24Seven, Volume 1, and while I had misgivings about it, I was interested enough by the end that I immediately ordered the next volume. One of the comments to that post was a request for a review of Volume 2, so this is especially for you, Auguste Miller.
Before I get too far into this though, I should clarify that “Robot Reviews” has more to do with the name of this blog than the subject-matter of this anthology. Kind of appropriate that our first official review is actually about robots, but it’s not really on purpose.
I liked Volume 2 better for a couple of reasons. One is what I predicted after the first one: knowing what I was getting into made me better able to relax and enjoy the anthology for what it is. Instead of trying to figure out why there were robots in the art when most of the stories clearly were about human beings, I prepared myself for slice-of-life stories from the Big City. Continue Reading »