Rivers of London: Night Witch by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan

Rivers of London: Night WitchRivers of London: Night Witch

by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan (Artist)
Series: Rivers of London Comics, #2

Trade Paperback, 128 pg.
Titan Comics, 2016
Read: January 21, 2017


I enjoyed the first collection of Rivers of London comics, Body Work, but it felt like something was missing — I’m not sure what. Night Witch, on the other hand, built on that good foundation and topped it. This one felt whole, complete — there wasn’t anything lacking here.

Some Russian bigwig’s child has been taken — his wife is certain it’s by someone/something supernatural. They try to take care of it on their own, recruiting Varvara Sidorovna — well, trying to. She tells them to get the police involved, specifying they request Nightingale’s involvement. It’s not that easy to sell official police involvement on this couple. The way they go about doing so isn’t really that typical, either.

Still, Peter and Nightingale get into things and start turning up all sorts of interesting magical things — including The Faceless Man and Lesley. Speaking of which — comics-Lesley? Perfectly creepy.

The story feels a little scattered, but when it’s all told, you can reflect on things and get all the pieces to fit into place nicely — moreso than you can when reading from front-to-back. But it’s easy to forgive that because the story is so strong — and the little character beats are great.

The art is good — it’s great to see the magic –as well as the characters — in these stories brought to life.

Bev’s way of dealing with a home invasion crew of Russian mobsters made me laugh out loud — I don’t know if Aaronovitch could’ve pulled it off in a novel, or if that’s something he only could’ve accomplished with the help of an art team. Either way, I’m glad I got to read it.

There’s not much more to say, a good story with some real enjoyable moments with these characters we want to spend time with. Sure, more novels would be nicer, but these do a good enough job helping to fill the time between them.

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3 Stars

Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan

Body WorkRivers of London: Body Work

by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan (Artist)
Series: Rivers of London Comics, #1

Trade Paperback, 128 pg.
Titan Comics, 2016

Read: April 30, 2016


The Folly — Peter Grant and his boss, Inspector Nightingale — make their way to comics in this collection from Titan Comics. The two are facing a threat right out of a Stephen King novel: a homicidal car.

There’s more to it, of course, but that’s it in essence.

The story was entertaining, and fully captured the feel of the novels (easier with the writer of the books writing these). This seemed slight — a bit too brief. But it wasn’t — maybe it just flowed so smoothly I didn’t notice. Maybe there wasn’t that much of a story, I’m not sure. I’m willing to give Aaronovitch and the rest the benefit of the doubt.

The best part of this collection is that it solidified my mental image of Grant, clarified my idea of Molly, and reshaped/corrected my idea of Nightingale. The art wasn’t dazzling, but it was good.

It didn’t blow me away, but it scratched the Peter Grant itch and made me want to read more. If I sound like I’m not totally sold on this, it’s because I probably wasn’t, but I’m glad I read it and should be reading the next collection in a month or so — so there’s that.

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3 Stars

This Damned Band by Paul Cornell and Tony Parker

This Damned BandThis Damned Band

by Paul Cornell, Tony Parker (Artist)

Trade Paperback, 160 pg.
Dark Horse, 2016

Read: October 12, 2016


I’ve struggled for a couple of days now trying to figure out what I can say about this. It’s all about the premise when it comes to this book (a collection of issues from a limited-run series).

This is a comic about one of the biggest bands of 1974, Motherfather, on what could be their last world tour — complete with a documentary crew, a gaggle of groupies, and a manager who could be the hybrid of Wilson Fisk and Colonel Tom Parker. Like many rock artists of the time, Motherfather makes a big deal about worshiping the devil as part of their stage persona. While on this tour (possibly with some psychopharmacological help), they discover they’ve actually been worshiping the devil.

Oops.

Things don’t go all that well from there.

If you like that hook, you’ll like this book. Otherwise, just skip it.

Paul Cornell wrote this, so right off that tells you this is going to be well-written. A little humor, some real people and real emotions, and some seriously messed up supernatural elements. Cornell delivers on the promise of the premise — and a little more. It’s exactly what you want to read given the hook.

As for Tony Parker? I don’t think I’ve seen his stuff before — but I’m going to keep an eye out for it. I honestly can’t think of anyone who could’ve matched the style and story of this book like he did — either in the film sections, the visions/hallucinations, or the rest. Really great work.

I should throw in a quick note here, if it’s not obvious from the subject matter, this is not for kids.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s pretty entertaining. If the concept strikes you as up your alley, it probably is — give this one a shot.

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3 Stars

Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope by Berkeley Breathed

Bloom County Episode XI: A New HopeBloom County Episode XI: A New Hope

by Berkeley Breathed

eARC, 144 pg.
IDW Publishing, 2016

Read: September 10, 2016


I have a hard time believing it’s been 25 years since the last Bloom County collection — but that’s mostly because I’m in denial about my age. Even if it’d only been 2.5 years, it’d be great to see the ol’ gang back together.

I really don’t know what to say here — what can anyone say about Bloom County at this point? It’s about as good as it ever was. I could be wrong, but I’m not sure that Breathed is as sharp as he was last time out, but who is? And when you’re world is as well-developed, with such a great cast of characters, and strong point of view, no one’s going to complain. Well, at least I’m not.

The author’s note explaining his return to the comic, the little bonuses hidden through the pages, and being able to read these offline make this a must for fans — whether you actually listened to the Billy and the Boingers record or if you first read them on Facebook. It’s not just a nostalgia trip, there’s good material here.

One note about format — you want this in paperback. I don’t want to complain, but this was a nightmare to read on my eReader. Paper is the only way to go with this.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from IDW Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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4 Stars

Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe

Thing ExplainerThing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

by Randall Munroe

Hardcover, 64 pg.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015


I’m not sure what to say about this beyond just regurgitating the Publisher’s Description. If that’s not enough to make you want to pick this up for at least a glance, I don’t think I could say anything that will.

But, quickly, the idea behind the book is that using drawings/diagrams and the 1,000 most commonly used words to explain how various and sundry things work — from ball-point pens to the Large Hadron Collider, and many points in between and beyond.

The artwork is like what you see on xkcd, the humor is similar — more broadly appealing (I think), however. The material is educational. That’s about it in a nutshell. I guess I should state that the artwork isn’t like the stick figure comics, it’s the incredibly detailed diagrams that show up at other times.

To give you a taste, some of the entries I found most educational/interesting/amusing were: Shape Checker (padlock); Bags of Stuff Inside You (internal organs); Hand Computer (smart phone); Stuff You Touch to Fly a Sky Boat (airplane cockpit). From Cover to Cover (literally) Munroe’s drawings will be teaching you a little more about how things work.

This is not a sit down and read cover-to-cover kind of book, period. It’s a grab it every now and then, flip through until you get to a page or two (or six) that you haven’t read, or one you have and want to re-read. I’m just leaving this around for my kids (and myself) to pick up from time to time. I wish I could’ve got a picture of the expression on my youngest’s face just now as he was reading through the book, I could’ve not said a word and simply posted it — I’m not sure how much he understood, but he was fascinated. I’d gladly buy a sequel — actually, I could probably use one.

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4 Stars

Some Assembly Required by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau

Some Assembly RequiredThe Bionic Man, Vol 1: Some Assembly Required

by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau (Artist)

Trade Paperback, 248 pg.
Dynamite Comics, 2012

Read: February 16, 2016


I was a big fan of The Six Million Dollar Man as a kid, and when I got a little older I stumbled onto — and devoured (repeatedly) — Martin Caidin’s Cyborg. Throw in a strong appreciation for Smith’s work? And I’m clearly the target audience for this (so why did it take me 3+ years to read it? Good question).

The main story hasn’t changed: Steve Austin is a test-pilot, horrifically injured — almost killed — when a test flight goes wrong. A team of experts save his life, rebuild him with bionics, and set him loose fighting for truth, justice, and the American way and so on.

The story was nothing special — good, solid action/adventure story. There were a couple of nice twists on the TV show’s story/characters. Just enough to keep it updated and fresh. I’d have appreciated something closer to Cyborg, but I understand why they made the choices they made. Austin goes up against his bionic predecessor, who has gone rogue and now is running around attacking and raiding technology companies. The battle scenes may have been a bit too big and epic — but they fit in with the current cinema trends, so, I guess they worked.

I was sure I’d seen Jonathan Lau’s art somewhere before, but from what I can tell, I haven’t. Which is a shame — it’s great. I’m not going to say that it’s my favorite comic art — but it’s exactly what I want comic art to look like. Which seems like a contradiction, but let’s move on. Yeah, some of the gestures are over-done, and a couple of the men are just too huge. But otherwise, dynamic, easy to tell character-from-character, nice detail, overall very attractive. I’d be willing to give a book a second look just because of his art in the future.

There are some nice references — visual and verbal — to the TV series that are pretty seamlessly worked in. Which I appreciated — looks like the next volume will be less subtle about it (which is not necessarily bad). I’m not going to say this was a great comic that leaves me chomping at the bit for the next, but it was worth the time and entertaining. Not much more to ask for.

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3 Stars

The Batgirl of Burnside by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr

The Batgirl of BurnsideBatgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart (Writers), Babs Tarr (Artist)

Hardcover, 176 pg.
DC Comics, 2015

Read: February 10, 2016


My dabbling into The New 52 continues . . .

Like everyone who has at least one social network account, I was deluged by images of the new Batgirl uniform back in 2015 — and I dug it. I liked the Cassandra Cain incarnation of the character — but had missed just about all of them post-Barbara Gordon, who didn’t do much for me (I was a big Oracle fan, in my defense). So I decided to give this a shot when I saw the collection. Oh, so glad that I did — the best of the New 52 comics I’ve read so far.

Barbara Gordon’s in some sort of tiff with Dinah Lance (I’m assuming it’s Lance, didn’t care enough to check), she’s moving out of her old digs into a very trendy, hipster part of Gotham (the part that Nolan or Burton never showed) with a roommate she met doing physical therapy while working on a Master’s/Doctorate with a predictive algorithm that will probably go on to turn Gotham into Minority Report or will be Oracle. Doesn’t take her long to need to do the Batgirl thing, so she slaps together a new costume (her old equipment was no longer available) — the purple leather coat and sneaker thing — and gets to action.

(you can really tell I’m into detailed research here in that paragraph, can’t you? Well, maybe not today)

There’s a new gaggle of friends, mostly university based, who help her tremendously. There’s a romantic interest or two, conflict with the cops, some good stuff with Dinah, a brush with celebrity culture, and a few laughs. It’s light-hearted when it can be, kick-butt when it has to be. Which pretty much sums up Barbara, too.

The art? Wow. I don’t know how to describe it, but it makes you think of an animated show, it’s fun, it’s dynamic — it absolutely wouldn’t work for a lot of titles, but this one has enough spirit, enough joie de vivre, that it works perfectly. It supports and doesn’t distract from the story, just what you want from comic art.

I really dug this, and hope that this version of her sticks around for a bit (as I write this, I’m fully aware that she’s likely morphed at least once into something more Christopher Nolan-esque) — I’ll be looking for more of this one for sure.

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3.5 Stars