Review: FVZA: Federal Vampire Zombie Agency
FVZA: Federal Vampire Zombie Agency by David Hine
May's Review: First, let's clear up any misconceptions you might have about me. Yes, I have read Meyer's Twilight as well as watched the movie in a theatre and read the graphic novel. Yes, I do read the occasional paranormal romance involving vampires. And yes, I enjoyed watching Buffy on TV. But no, I don't think Robert Pattinson is cute. Nor do I spend all of my downtime fawning over how cute vampires are, how misunderstood they are, etc. As far as I'm concerned, vampires are meant to be vicious bloodthirsty creatures of the night meant to horrify not arouse you.
With this sentiment in mind, Hine portrays his vampires in FVZA as cruel ferocious killers with little to no regard for humanity. Unlike what you see on TV, Hine's vampires are deliberately ugly. My favorite line in this book was when the head vampire points out once a vampire is turned, he or she loses his/her physical beauty--meaning that the hair falls out, the skin turns ashen, the head starts to shrivel, etc. Gross!
Aside from the scary portrayal of vampires which is aided immensely by the terrific artwork, this graphic novel is also strengthen by a well-thought out storyline. The book opens with a FVZA (Federal Vampire Zombie Agency) agent named Landra Pecos ready to shoot her grandfather who has just been turned. In a series of flashbacks, we see her upbringing, her training and subsequent entry into the field, and the tragic deaths of both her brother and her lover which have brought her to this point. Intermingled with these scenes is the return of the vampires who were nearly wiped out by the FVZA in the 60s. This new wave of vampires is now plotting to utilize a zombie plague to bring society's to its knees by unleashing the virus into a small town. Ah, nothing like a little mayhem and chaos thrown in to amp up the adrenaline.
The story is obviously well-paced with a number of terrific plot twists at the very end. I won't reveal what happens with Landra and her grandfather but suffice it to say, you will be surprised. This was an enjoyable read from start to finish. Since there doesn't appear to be a sequel, if you enjoy FVZA, you might also want to check out Scott Snyder's American Vampire and Steve Niles' 30 Days of Night for the mere fact that their vampires are equally scary, vicious and just a tad bit crazy as well. Enjoy!
Classic sci-fi gets graphic novel treatment
Ender's Game - Battle School
I enjoyed this for many reasons, nostalgia being one and for the simple reason Ender's Game is one of my favorite novels of all time (if you haven't read it, I would highly recommend that you do). This is a decent adaptation, but woefully abridged from the source material. There's so much left out it's only made me want to go back and re-read the novel.
The growing trend to adapt classic novels into this format is one I'm on board with -- it's like waiting for my favorite books to get made into movies. And like film adaptations, sometimes the graphic novel format works, and sometimes it doesn't. It works here ... to a point. For me though, there's just too much good stuff left out for it to really work -- especially for those who have not read the novel. It's those readers who will be short-changed the most.
Ender's Game - Command School
This is an okay adaptation, but leaves way too much out for my liking. You get all the spoilers with none of the richness, complexity and reward that comes with the unabridged novel. This adaptation will rob of you of that experience and ruin the novel, so if you haven't, do yourself a huge favor and please read the book first. The illustrations are a little too simplistic for my taste, and just don't adequately capture the conflicting emotions or white-knuckled tension.
New Graphic Novels and Manga
The Best American Comics 2010 edited by Neil Gaiman, Jessica Abel and Matt Maden
Summary: The Best American Comics showcases the work of both established and up-and-coming contributors. Editor Neil Gaiman—one of the top writers in modern comics and the award-winning author of novels and children’s books—has culled the best stories from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Internet to create this cutting-edge collection.
Biomega, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei
Summary: Searching for the key to save a world beyond hope. Tsutomu Nihei's sci-fi horror epic! Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO-an island city in themiddle of the Pacific Ocean-in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus. He's not the only one looking for her, though… Agents of the Public Health Service's Compulsory Execution Unit are also in hot pursuit. Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun!!
Set to Sea by Drew Weing
Summary: The central character is a big lug and an aspiring poet who runs up tabs at the local bars by day and haunts the docks by night, writing paeans to the sea-faring life. When he gets shanghaied aboard a clipper bound for Hong Kong, he finds the sailor’s life a bit rougher than his romantic nautical fantasies. He helps rebuff a pirate assault, survives a gunshot to the eye, and learns to live—and love—a Conradian life on the sea, all the while writing poetry about pirates, bad food, unceremonial funerals, foreign ports, and unexpected epiphanies. By the end of his life, he’s found satisfaction in living a life of adventure and finding a receptive and appreciative readership. What more could one ask for?
PW's Best Comic/Graphic Novels of 2010
A couple of months back, Publisher Weekly magazine released its annual list of the Best Comics/Graphic Novels of 2010. Here is their picks:
X'Ed Out by Charles Burns
PW's Verdict: The adventures of Tintin get a dark mirror image as a young man named Doug suffers teenage angst and a hostile universe of talking maggots.
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson
PW's Verdict: Gorgeous artwork and a smart, witty script elevate this tale of household pets who unite to fight occult menaces in idyllic Burden Hill.
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
PW's Verdict: An evocative, sometimes funny and often emotional recap of Glidden's birthright visit to Israel done with charming watercolors and no shortage of candid responses to the Jewish state and the Palestinian question.
Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines
PW's Verdict: A powerfully imagined and visually detailed experimental work set in an otherwise naturalistic world where animals can speak and argue the moral consequences of their treatment by humans.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by Greg Neri and Randy DuBurke
PW's Verdict: The origin of ongoing urban violence is explored through the true story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an 11-year-old from the Chicago projects who gained infamy after killing a 14-year-old neighbor.
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka
PW's Verdict: A crazy-intense achievement of spectacular artwork tells the story of Kate Kane, a gay former Marine who must save Gotham City from a crime-worshipping cult.
Bodyworld by Dash Shaw
PW's Verdict: A goofy yet gorgeously rendered, relentlessly experimental mashup of the high school sports hero and psychedelic drug novel genres that quite literally turns the book on its head.
Weathercraft: A Frank Comic by Jim Woodring
PW's Verdict: A disturbing fantasy of struggle from comics' premiere surrealist as the piglike Manhog endures the sufferings of Job from the cruel Whim.
Review: Kill Shakespeare: A Sea of Troubles
Kill Shakespeare: A Sea of Troubles by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
May's Review: The premise of this graphic novel is simple. Hamlet is banished from Denmark and while traveling to England, he ends up shipwrecked. He is promptly rescued and recruited by Richard III to kill the evil wizard, Shakespeare. But nothing is what it seems. Richard III is actually intent on building his own empire and with the aid of the lovely but dangerous Lady MacBeth and the traitor Iago, he is determined to win at all costs. Hamlet, on the other hand, is at a loss at who to trust especially when he is forced to join the "rebels", namely Juliet, Falstaff and Othello.
This novel is certainly a dark tale with some witty dialogue thrown in. The artwork was solid although I had to re-read some of the panels a few times because the direction changed from a one page to a two page spread that was a bit unexpected in some places. If I have one complaint, it is that I think the characterizations need to be a bit more developed especially with Juliet and Othello who seem somewhat dull in comparison to the villains.
Although I liked this graphic novel, I was not totally in love with it. Still, I will recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Willingham's Fables series and want to try something in the same vein.
Review: Out of the Deep Woods
Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire
May's Review: Yes I know. Based on the cover, you can definitely tell that I found and read a graphic novel that did not include zombies or vampires. Like most post-apocalyptic graphic novels, this story begins with the aftermath of an unexplained pandemic that nearly destroyed the whole planet. Pockets of humanity still exists but instead of hideous mutinous creatures roaming the countryside gradually picking off these survivors, you find half-human/animal creatures. One of these hybrids is Gus, a sweet naive child who is left to fend for himself after the death of his father. After Gus nearly gets himself killed and he is rescued by a drifter named Jepperd, he abandons his home to search for "The Preserve", is a refuge for hybrids. Luckily for him, he is accompanied by Jepperd as they embark on a journey that explores this devastated new world.
I personally liked this graphic novel and I can't wait to read the next volume in the Sweet Tooth series. It's a good action-packed story with a very likable lead character. A recommended read for anyone who enjoys the Walking Dead or Y: The Last Man series.
New Superman Graphic Novel
For those needing a bit of a refresher on the origins of Superman, check out this new graphic novel...
Secret Origin by Geoff Johns
Summary: Chronicling Clark Kent's journey from the cornfields of Smallville to the skyscrapers of Metropolis, you'll witness a whole new look at the beginnings of Lex Luthor, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lois Lane, Metallo, Jimmy Olsen, the Parasite and more of your favorite characters from the Superman family! It's a look at the mythic past of the Man of Steel with an eye toward the future!
Stephen King's fantasy opus now a graphic novel
The Talisman Volume I: The Road of Trials (2010)
The spellbinding saga of The Talisman is now a stunning graphic novel, vividly illustrated by artist Tony Shasteen. Here's a bold new look at the classic tale of treachery and betrayal that could only have sprung from the imaginations of master storytellers Stephen King and Peter Straub.
In a run-down amusement park on a desolate beach in New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Jack Sawyer is about to learn some hard truths - about his father's death, about why he and his mother are on the run from his sinister uncle Morgan, and about the real nature of the mysterious realm Jack once called the Daydreams. Now, with help from his newfound friend Speedy Parker, this young man will reclaim his identity as Travellin Jack and make his first foray back into the Territories to retrieve the magical Talisman, an object of immense cosmic significance.
Yet even more important to Jack, the Talisman holds the key to saving his mother's life. In the Terrorities, where monsters lurk, evil watches, and an unbelievably precious prize awaits, Jack embarks upon a desperate quest to fulfill a destiny he never sought but cannot escape.
Many of Stephen King's classic horror and fantasy novels have been reimagined in graphic novel format. Look for available titles from the library!
Review: The Night Bookmobile
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
May's Review: I suppose that I really should like this graphic novel given its premise. A young woman encounters a mysterious bookmobile filled with every book she has ever read. Seeing her personal history reflected on the shelves stirs something within her. As the years go by, she becomes obsessed with locating the bookmobile again. To help pass the time, she reads more books and eventually becomes a librarian. However, her reunion with the bookmobile and her personal collection of memories is bittersweet.
I would love to say that it was the bittersweet ending that ruined the book for me. I won't spoil it for the rest of you but let's just say, it's not a "happy ever after" kind of ending. Also, I wasn't too impressed by how the story was laid out and how it was illustrated. It just seemed "clunky" for a lack of a better description. It's an okay read but I think the author could have spent more time developing a better and certainly a more uplifting story. At least then I wouldn't be left with a slightly bitter taste in the month after reading this graphic novel.
Tis the Season for Making Lists...
The editors of Amazon have released their annual list of best comics and graphic novels of 2010:
The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite
Summary: Jaime Hernandez’s moving stories chronicle the lives of some of the most memorable and fully formed characters the comics form has ever seen. His female protagonists, masterfully delineated with humor, candor, and breathtaking realism, come to life within California’s Mexican-American culture and punk milieu.
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka
Summary: A new era begins as Batwoman is unleashed on Gotham City! Marked by the blood-red bat emblem, Kate Kane is a soldier fighting her own private war - one that began years ago and haunts her every waking moment. In this first tale, Batwoman battles a madwoman known only as Alice, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable extras!
Market Day by James Sturm
Summary: Mendleman’s life goes through an upheaval when he discovers that he can no longer earn a living for his growing family doing the work that defines him—making well-crafted rugs by hand. A proud artisan, he takes his donkey-drawn cart to the market only to be turned away when the distinctive shop he once sold to now stocks only cheaply manufactured merchandise. As the realities of the marketplace sink in, Mendleman unravels.
King of the Flies by Michel Pirus
Summary: The book first appears to be a series of unrelated short stories, each starring (and narrated by) a different protagonist, but it soon becomes obvious that these seemingly disparate episodes weave together to form a single complex narrative, with events that are only glimpsed (or even referred to) revisited from different perspectives—revolving around Eric, a ne’er-do-well, drug-taking teenager at war with his stepfather and, apparently, the whole world. (He is the titular King.)
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt by Michael Mignola
Summary: When ancient giants begin to reawaken in the British Isles, Hellboy is invited to join an ancient band of fellow monster hunters called the Wild Hunt and help bring them down. But an unexpected betrayal sends Hellboy after a quarry far more deadly: the Queen of Blood. This newly reborn evil has her murderous sights set on all of humanity, and the only way Hellboy can stop her is to finally confront the truth about his own dark heritage.
Wednesday Comics by Neil Gaiman et al.
Summary: This oversized hardcover edition collects the entire critically acclaimed anthology series that reinvented the classic weekly newspaper comics section. It features 16-different stories starring the World's Greatest Super Heroes including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash, as well as lesser known characters including Metamorpho and Metal Men written and Illustrated by the comic industry's top talents.
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