Archive for April, 2009

American Jesus — Book One: Chosen

April 27, 2009 | Trades

American Jesus — Book One: Chosen Mark Millar, Peter Gross Image Comics $9.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) It’s a bigger comeback than John Travolta, Ozzy Osbourne and the 1999 Tennessee Titans combined. Jodie Christianson is an average 12-year-old boy, living in Peoria, Ill., when he begins to discover he has some rather immense, even biblical, powers. After surviving a car accident that should have been horrific (and very fatal), Jodie quickly begins to buy into his divine providence and promptly gives sight to the blind and turns water into wine. But not everyone is ready to believe the young boy is the Second Coming, including the faith-shaken local priest and Jodie’s divinity is put to the ultimate test. Writer Mark Millar and artist Peter Gross take the story of Christ’s return from the Book of Revelations and twists it into a brilliant slice of Americana with an ending that will leave you reeling.

Miss Don’t Touch Me

April 27, 2009 | Graphic novels

Miss Don’t Touch Me Hubert & Kersacoet NBM ComicsLit $14.95 96-page paperback *** ½ (out of five) There’s a killer on the loose in 1930s Paris and the only person who can solve the crimes is a sleuthing virgin with a grudge who works in a bordello. When Blanche accidentally sees what could be the infamous “Butcher of the Dances” — so named because his victims are nabbed on the way home from suburban socials and left in pieces — and an accomplice through a crack in the wall of the home she works and lives in as a housekeeper, it’s her sister, Agatha, who pays the ultimate price. And worse, Agatha’s death is made to look like a suicide so the police won’t investigate. Pursuing the only lead on the killer she has, Blanche sneaks into a high-class Paris bordello called the Pompadour, and lands herself a unique job that lets her keep her purity intact; as the in-house dominatrix: Miss Don’t Touch Me. The French husband-and-wife creative team of Hubert and Kerascoet craft a sexy and suspenseful tale in this newly translated book, with enough twists and turns to keep even ardent mystery fans engaged.

Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures – Vol. 1

April 27, 2009 | Trades

Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures – Vol. 1 Walter Simonson, John Byrne, Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Dave Micheline, Denny O'Neil, Kerry Gammill, Gene Day & others Dark Horse Books $24.95 (U.S.) 368-page paperback *** (out of five) If you were looking for a list of the top creators in comics in the early 1980s, all you need to do is spy the credits for first volume of Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures. Featuring work by comic icons like John Byrne, Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Denny O’Neil and even Canadian comic book hall of famer, Gene Day, these vintage Indy tales draw from these diverse talents and offer up more action than you can shake a whip at (and they might even be enough to banish Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from your memory). Granted, the three-part comic book adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark that opens this omnibus isn’t the best work of classic creators Walter Simonson, John Buscema and Klaus Janson. It’s not pretty or even entirely faithful to the highly popular film, either. But once you push past that, it’s over 300 pages of exhilarating, globetrotting archeological adventure sure to get you humming John Williams’ score in your head.

Catwoman: The Long Road Home

April 27, 2009 | Trades

Catwoman: The Long Road Home Will Pfeifer, David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez DC Comics $21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) The rumours of Catwoman’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Sure she came pretty close when her apartment blew up. And then again when she was shipped off to a prison planet (see JLA: Salvation Run) with the rest of Earth’s super-villains — many of who aren’t big fans since they know she often straddles that fine line between hero and crook. But you know what they say about cats and those nine lives. Now that she’s back, she's got some unfinished business with the person responsible for much of her misery over the past few months — a big bad known only as “the Thief” — and she’s going after him with an all-new level of feline ferousity. Writer Will Pfeifer and artists David and Alvaro Lopez wrap up the most recent Catwoman series with a handful of tales culminating, as many might expect, with the star once again going toe-to-toe with the person she loves — and hates — the most: Batman.

Soul Kiss #2 (of 5)

April 23, 2009 | Comics

Soul Kiss #2 (of 5) Steven T. Seagle, Marco Cinello Image Comics $3.50 US **** (out of five) Lili made a deal with the devil that she thought she could pay the price on. She owed him a soul — her soul, she thought. Turns out it was her boyfriend’s (thanks to the big, bad beast she reduced him to ashes with one big smootch) and if she want to get him back she’s got to lock lips with 10 more people in 10 days and send their souls south that famous hotspot. So the questions are: Can she go through with it and if so, who deserves the peck of death? Pucker up for a dark and delightful read, courtesy Steven T. Seagle (Like a Bird…) and Marco Cinello.

Justice League International Vol. 4

April 20, 2009 | Trades

Justice League International Vol. 4 Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Ty Templeton, Kevin Maguire DC Comics $27.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) One team of Justice Leaguers is a laugh riot. Two ought to be enough to cause milk to spray from noses far and wide. The fourth volume collecting the classic late-1980s tales of the humour-infused adventures of Justice League International, written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Kevin Maguire and award-winning Canadian artist Ty Templeton, opens up with the aftermath of the colossal DC Universe crossover, Invasion, which revealed that League CEO Maxwell Lord, previously unbeknownst to him, was a meta-human, too. While the invasion did nearly kill Max and many of the rest of the globe’s super-humans, it also afforded the cunning businessman a chance to network with some of the world's greatest heroes. The result is a new team in the successful spin-off series, Justice League Europe (and the renaming of JLI to Justice League America). Hopefully the collected editions of that series aren't too far behind this one. There are yucks aplenty as boorish Green Lantern Guy Gardner finally convinces naive teammate Ice to go on a date with him (one that features a triple-x movie and a super-villain's nervous breakdown) and as readers get a look inside Blue Beetle's mind (think women, lots of women), but the action isn't bad either as a brainwashed Beetle becomes a deadly foe for his fellow Leaguers and a weapon stolen from a god ends up in very dangerous hands. Still one of the most brilliant mainstream fusions of action and comedy in comics history, Justice League International truly stands the test of time.

Star Wars: Legacy Vol. 5 — The Hidden Temple

April 20, 2009 | Trades

Star Wars: Legacy Vol. 5 — The Hidden Temple John Ostrander, Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons Dark Horse Books $15.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) Cade Skywalker has been deep inside the belly of the beast and survived — and he has no intention of going back. The descendant of Jedi hero Luke Skywalker, Cade has always relished his anonymity as a pirate and bounty hunter. But once Sith Lord Darth Krayt learned of Cade’s lineage, he captured him and tried to use his abilities to cement his grip as current tyrant of the galaxy. After a daring escape, Cade is free and along with his friends, Jariah Syn and Deliah Blue, and his uncle Bantha (also a secret Skywalker), he is left trying to find a safe place to hide and a plan to deal with Krayt and his Sith minions. When Bantha reveals the existence of a hidden Jedi temple, where many of the last survivors of this noble discipline reside, the crew think they’ve got a perfect place to start, but the arrival of several members of deposed Emperor Roan Fel’s Imperial Knights threatens to make an already dangerous mission an explosive one. A bit slow paced after the wild ride that was volume 4 of the collected editions of Legacy, The Hidden Temple does have some interesting revelations — including a whopper about Jariah Syn’s long-simmering hatred of the Jedi — and sets the stage for what should be a dramatic next story arc.

Birds Of Prey: Club Kids

April 20, 2009 | Trades

Birds Of Prey: Club Kids Tony Bedard, Nicola Scott, Jason Orfalas, David Cole DC Comics $21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback) ** 1/2 (out of five) The Birds of Prey are ready to soar — in five different directions. Club Kids jams together five standalone tales that weave in and out of the greater DC Comics’ continuity (touching on elements from Countdown and Final Crisis) and highlight a bevy of beautiful Birds. There are some heavyweight tilts: Team-leader Oracle vs. her arch-nemesis, the Calculator; Huntress vs. a school busload full of crooks; and Lady Blackhawk vs. a pair of baddies named White Star and Falseface. And while moments like the memorial service for one fallen Bird, the death of a member of the Secret Six and a startling revelation about the previously unknown relationship between two of the youngest chicks in the nest, Club Kids lacks a real cohesive thread and doesn't satisfy as much as collections of this series usually do.

08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail

April 12, 2009 | Graphic novels

The battle for the crown jewel of America's political kingdom has rarely been more compelling than it was in ’08. The U.S. Presidential race was one of the most engaging dramas of our time, pitting energetic Democrat newcomer Barack Obama versus straight-talking Republican veteran John McCain. But perhaps even more gripping were the party races that preceded the main event. With no incumbents running — president George W. Bush had reached his eight-year term limit (and was hovering around a 30 per cent approval rating) and vice-president Dick Cheney had his share of health issues and had no interest in the higher office — the race for the White House was wide open and it seemed like every Tom, Huck and Hillary was ready to throw their hat in the ring. In 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail (Three Rivers Press, 160 pages, $19.95), Michael Crowley, senior editor at The New Republic, and Dan Goldman, artist of 2007’s highly acclaimed Shooting War, use the power of the graphic medium to examine an assortment of angles from the campaign trail to the impact of McCain’s years in a Viet Cong prisoner-of-war camp to Hillary Clinton’s (possibly contrived) tearful breakdown just prior to the New Hampshire primaries to Obama’s crowning moment on Nov. 4 in Chicago’s Grant Park. Using actual quotes from all the public figures portrayed, and vivid likenesses of all the prime players including vice-presidential rivals Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, plus also-rans like John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and a supporting cast of real-life media members and political operatives, Crowley and Goldman craft an insightful and poignant memoir that gives life and energy to this odyssey that a simple history book, no matter how well written, could never accomplish. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Harvey Comics Classics: The Harvey Girls

April 12, 2009 | Trades

Mention the term “girl power” and many people's minds may drift back a decade or so to five leggy wannabes from England. A comic book fan’s thoughts may take them back much further than that, to the often innocuous adventures of three little lasses who brought sass, wit and attitude to the funny pages beginning nearly 50 years ago. The precocious Little Audrey, the obsessive Little Dot and the voracious Little Lotta get polished up and collected in Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 5: The Harvey Girls (Dark Horse Books, $19.95 U.S., 480 pages), the final volume of this wonderful series highlighting some of the excellent work from this now-defunct publisher that brought the world characters like Casper, The Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, and Hot Stuff. Seemingly far ahead of their time in their portrayal of girls who could do anything the boys could do — including play sports, stop crooks and get into plenty of mischief — these stories hold up very well since their original publication from 1952-62. The stories featuring the Rubenesque Lotta stand out, in particular, for their messages about being happy with one’s non-conformist self image — something modern comics too often neglect. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)