Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers by Zac Gorman

Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers by Zac Gorman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 54 pages
Published October 8th 2014 by Oni Press

First, I looked up "Costume Quest" to see what it is and found that it is a game and this is the first graphic novel based on it. This is an adorably cute Hallowe'en story that focuses on the creativity and smells of the holiday rather than the scary part. Fun little adventure about bullying and friends sticking together to overcome adversary in the end. I loved the cute little monster guys and, even though there are three main characters, they had a very Sponge-Bob & Patrick type of relationship going on which was endearing. Fans of the game will like this and I should mention the book is huge, it's oversized, large. Anyway, think I'll go take a look at the game myself now. Bye, bye.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman Vol. 1 by Gail Simone

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman Vol. 1 by Gail Simone, et al
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 168 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by DC Comics

Wonder Woman series

It is unclear whether these are original stories or re-imaginings of stories that first appeared in the original Sensation Comics, either way they are exciting and a ton of fun. Presented in the old format of comics where only one to three issues contained a storyline, the stories are otherwise unrelated. Some feature Wonder Woman as an adult, some as a child, some as an established superhero, others flashback to her time on Paradise Island. Each story arc has different writers and illustrators so WW is given different looks, some as we would expect and one I found very unsettling (she looked more like Arnold Schwartzenegger). The only thing that put me off were the PSAs dropped in about three times altogether. Perhaps this is in imitation of the original Sensation Comics, if so I'm sure I would find those campy and out-dated, but the modern PSAs here are incredibly heavy-handed, eye-rolling, preachy and could be offensive if you don't agree with them. That brings my rating down to a four, otherwise I was completely captivated by the stories which included a host of popular (and not so popular) villains and a few cameos from other superheroes. Delightfully enough one of favourites appeared: Deadman!

Behemoth #1: This is What You Are by Chris Kipiniak, illustrated by J.K. Woodward

Behemoth #1: This is What You Are by Chris Kipiniak, illustrated by J.K. Woodward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Digital Comic, 24 pages
Published April 15th 2015 by Monkeybrain Comics

"Theresa woke up to find herself changing into a monster. She's taken from her family and put into an internment camp with other kids going through the same thing. She is given a choice: she can surrender to becoming a mindless beast, or join Behemoth, a pack of creatures trained to kill for the U.S. government. But which choice will make her more of a monster?"

This is the start of a 4-issue digital comic mini-series. It's a fast-paced ride that starts off right in the middle of the action and tells us what is going on over the course of this first issue. By page two, I was hooked and ready to follow Theresa anywhere, a smart and tough girl who just happens to be turning into an aggressive creature attacking her own mother. Loved the art with the use of cold blues & purples and browns making it very atmospheric. Great first issue from Kipiniak (Spiderman) and Woodward (Star Trek)!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (A World War I Tale)

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (A World War I Tale) by Nathan Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 128 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Amulet Books

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (Book 4)

Wow! Impressive! Nathan Hale has successfully managed to tell the whole story of WWI in a graphic novel. Obviously not everything is covered but this is an impressive primer on the Great War: how it started, why it started, who fought who, the battles, the logistics, the chronology, how the US comes in at the end, the Russian Revolution's impact on the end of the war at the Eastern Front and the final days of how, why and when it ended. Amazing! I read a lot about the two world wars and I learned things I never really fully comprehended before from this. Hale also does something that very few author's of nonfiction books manage to do; he remains unbiased. There are a couple of pages where it looks like the Americans came in and basically cleaned up the mess and won the war for everybody but Hale's multi-pov shows it wasn't that simple.

A couple of things make this book different from the others in the series so far. First, it is very in-depth and I'd recommend it for older ages than the previous books simply because of the level of information. It'd even be great for teenagers studying WWI at school to read for fun and get a better understanding of the war as a whole. However, Hale does, of course, make the book accessible to his intended younger audience for this series by using animal characters in the vein of Spiegelman's "Maus". Each nationality is represented by an animal taken from the country's flag, shield or heritage, ie. Russia are bears, Germany are eagles and the British are bulldogs. Using this technique is controversial, in that some readers do not appreciate its use in nonfiction and Hale brilliantly addresses this by having two of the main characters, Nathan Hale and the Executioner, being of each opinion; debating and commenting on its use throughout the book. Finally, the riotous humour from the previous books is gone. It's still funny, but the scope of the book is so large it doesn't contain the outrageousness we've come to expect but rather a more toned down levity. I'm thoroughly impressed with the book though.

Book 5 comes out at the end of this month (April 2015) and will go back in time to the 1800s and tell us the story of Harriet Tubman. I'm really looking forward to it as I live very close to her church here in Canada and can't wait to see how Hale handles her narcolepsy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by First Second

This is a big book at over 300 pages with a lot of text. At first, I found it hard to get into. The anthropomorphic insects (beetles to be precise) are the main characters in this animal fantasy quest. The misfit scientific beetles are positive there is more to their world than the 'oasis' where they live which is strictly run under the precepts of the god Scarabus, generally maintained and controlled by the order of the Scarabi. These rogues out on their quest to discover if other life forms exist and find sabotage and treachery amongst themselves. They are a motley crew with high scientific knowledge and each beetle species has special skills and talents useful to the expedition which eventually turns into a rescue mission. The more I read the more I settled into the story and certainly found the characterization the main element that kept me entertained. They are a lovable bunch with human emotions and personalities, even the robot. Throughout the book, the author manages to import factual information about beetles and entomology as the story progresses. Sometimes this works seamlessly, other times it felt a bit like a timeout for a lesson. I can't say I personally am too keen on learning anything about beetles or insects in general (except how they are used in forensics LOL) so I found the book fun and entertaining in parts and that it dragged and lost my attention in others. It would certainly appeal to the amateur entomologist and would make a great impact used within a science curriculum. The end of the book is full of copious page by page factual scientific annotations. Definitely worth adding to a library collection.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 128 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Amulet Books

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (Book 3)

I have to say this is my absolute favourite of the NHHT series so far! I have to say I was quite curious how he was going to keep the humour going with such a topic as the Donner Party. But just read the title and you can tell he takes an irreverent stance to keep this book funny, and probably the funniest of the lot. The author does become irreverent but, as a Catholic, I never thought he went over the line. It's a difficult subject to discuss without being judgemental and Hale has managed it. In fact, he's gone the other direction and suggests that cannibalism was/is a normal human response under such dire circumstances. But only one of his main characters feels this way, the other two have the normal human response of disgust. I think he's done the Donner Party justice and treated them respectfully. He doesn't focus on the cannibalism (hardly even using the word) but on the whole journey, the pig-headedness of Reed in using the shortcut and the final survival and rescue. In fact, we come away from the book just realizing how many actually safely made it home and the acts of bravery that some members unthinkingly committed. Of course, the story is full of violence and murder too. Just make sure you know this story well before handing it to a young or sensitive child and while I thoroughly enjoyed the humour I would caution that some may find this topic unsettling or offensive in this comedic setting. I love this series! On to book 4!

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 128 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Amulet Books

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (Book 2)

I read the first book in this series when it came out and highly enjoyed it, but three years have gone by before I got around to reading this next one! I loved this also but didn't find it near so funny. That may have been, though, that this was an entirely new subject for me. I have read many, many books about or take place during the Civil War but have never come across the navy aspect of it. Of course, I've heard of the Monitor and the Merrimac but this is my first introduction to them. This book is incredibly educational while being silly and fantastical at the same time. While Nathan Hale is the storyteller it is his sidekicks the Executioner and the British Redcoat that are the main feature of the series success. This is a wonderful introduction to all the people involved in the naval battles of the Civil War, what the military aspects of it were and how it was fought and won. The most intriguing character throughout this book is William Cushing, someone I'd love to read about again. Following the story, like the previous book, is a brief bio on all the major historical characters and a bibliography. The jokes are funny, the story is a riot and history comes alive. I'm really looking forward to the next book which is on one of my favourite frontier stories, the Donner Party!