Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo

dr-strange

They’ve crossed the dimensions, purging each of all sorcery. Now the Empirikul are here. And with Earth’s Master of the Mystic Arts weakened beyond measure, is there any chance of stopping them? The Sorcerer is no longer Supreme, and he’ll find himself at the mercy of the Imperator! With his magic destroyed and his world on the brink of disaster, are there any more tricks left up Strange’s sleeves? Or failing that, how about some cool weapons? Plus: As the Empirikul wreak havoc on magic users across the Marvel Universe, discover Wong’s ultimate sacrifice, watch Brother Voodoo make a stand, and meet a new player just as she’s about to lose the game!

I’ve not read Dr Strange before and I picked this book up around the time the film came out in the hope of brushing up on some of the source material.

It took me several attempts to get into the story and it was only later that I realised the probable reason for this – when I brought it, I didn’t realise this was the second half of a story arc, and I haven’t read the first novel.  The Empirikul, having decimated other realities, have come to this world, and are decimating their way through the magical forces in the world. It is up to Strange and the other magicians to band together to prevent the loss of everything, sometimes making total sacrifices to achieve the end.

It’s taken me a while to write this review – I dont know the creators and I dont know the characters at all, so I dont know how well or badly those involved are performing, but judging by the other reviews around the place…..this is a poor second book, especially in relation to what is generally considered to be an excellent first book. Judging by the fact it took me so many attempts to get started, and it still took me ages to review, I generally agree with what else has been written about it.

So in summary: I have more than enough Graphic Novels on my TBR list that I need to read so I will not be in a rush to buy any more Doctor Strange stories.

 

Book Review: Fantastic Four: The End by Alan Davis

fantastic four the endAlan Davis writes and pencils the final story of Marvel’s first family Even the strongest family can be torn apart by tragedy – and in the futuristic world of tomorrow, the members of the once-Fantastic Four are divided and vulnerable to opponents from their past. What events could have caused the FF to go their separate ways, and how does their disbanding set the stage for a conflict that will send shockwaves across the galaxy and beyond? Collects Fantastic Four: The End #1-6.

20 years after the death of Reed and Sue’s children in a FF Fight, we find that the Fantastic Four have split up. Johnny and Ben have moved on, building new lives  – Ben has three children with Alicia Masters and lives on Mars, while Johnny has become the leader of the Avengers. Reed and Sue are not longer talking to each other and both are losing themselves in work.

The plot is fairly forgettable – aliens attacking from outside and within. All the classic villains are there, such as  Annihilus, and the long defeated Doctor Doom: Galactus shows up for the finale and it all seems to be driven by the Kree and the Skree, with the Watchers managing to meddle somehow.

Whilst doing some deep water archaeology, Sue meets Namor, and finds a long abandoned Kree site, including a Kree Orb. In the end, during a massive battle, a (still grief stricken) Sue persuades the FF to go back in time to rescue her children at the point of their deaths, using the Kree orb.

Whilst the overall Marvel series is classed as “The End” the FF part is as much about beginnings as endings. It is a “cast of thousands” story, that means it ends up as a bit of a mess and it’s not really clear to know where the threat is really coming from.

#ArmchairBEA: Visual Expressions

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes
Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

Visual Expressions
There are so many ways to tell stories. Whether it’s comic books, graphic novels, visual novels, webcomics, etc, there are quite a lot of other mediums to tell a story. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just words and use other ways to experience a story.

I live in the same city in the UK that I lived in in the late 1980s when I went to Uni. It was the 1980s and Uni that lead me into reading and buying comics – I’m not sure that the phrase “Graphic Novel” was heavily in use then. When I moved to Ireland in the mid 1990s, I unfortunately made the decision to get rid of my comics – of which I had a decent collection at that time. I moved back here in 2006 and have been collecting comics/Graphic Novels ever since.   The same shop (and some of the same staff!) is there from the 1980s.   There’s a great community around it, with fund raising, drinking down the pub, and even out of hours tweeting by and between staff.

I have several nieces and nephews and I have already converted at least one to enjoying reading Comics – including the English classics of “The Beano” and “The Dandy”. He has recently started reading some of the “Asterix” books too.

In terms of what I’m reading right now: Lots of Marvel and DC comics, so Captain America, Avengers, Spiderman, Wonderwoman etc. I am also trying to branch out into other houses and writers – the good thing about this year’s Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) which was on Saturday May 2nd, is that it seems that the comic book houses have twigged it’s a great opportunity to get new readers to view new stories, characters or lines. I managed to pick up several comics on the day and there are already new lines I have an eye on.

As with many industries, especially the general entertainment one, there has been some progression in terms of gender and sexual equality within the comic book world but plenty more still to do. Whilst on one hand there’s Orson Scott Card, on the other there’s Gail Simone.

 

Book Review: Saga (Volume #1) by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

saga graphic novelStar Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers, as new parents Marko and Alana risk everything to raise their child amidst a never-ending galactic war.

This has been on my shelves for a while, as have Volumes 2 and 3….

It starts with Alana (from the planet Landfall) giving birth to her daughter conceived with Marko (he from the moon Wreath) – they are from two opposing sides on a long running war, that noone really knows why the war is still going on. Both are soldiers, though Marko is really a vegetarian pacifist, who has a good line in healing powers.

They have to go onto the move almost immediately as they are being chased by their enemies, including Prince IV (a humanoid with TV for a head); The Stalk and The Will, the latter two being mercenaries who have been hired to track the two of them down. Alana and Marko are to be killed but their child (now being called Hazel) is to be brought in alive.

Alana, Marko and Hazel are guided to an escape point by Izabel, a ghost – a young girl who is presented as being cut off at the waist, her entrails hanging neatly below her torso.

This is the beginning of the story (there are another three volumes, with more likely) so there are plenty of threads being kicked off and none of them really being resolved. The story is narrated by Hazel whose voice is portrayed as writing in the cell, foreshadowing what’s coming.

The artwork is thankfully away from that of the main houses, which allows for a more individualistic look, and where you rarely remember the wings or the horns of the two main characters. It has all the makings of a decent space opera and I can see why this, and subsequent volumes, are award winning. Certainly a set of books to keep an eye on.

Book Review: Batman Earth One by Geoff Johns

batmanearthoneBatman: Earth One by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Batman is not a hero.
 
He is just a man.
 
Fallible, vulnerable, and angry.
 
In a Gotham City where friend and foe are indistinguishable, Bruce Wayne’s path toward becoming the Dark Knight is riddled with more obstacles than ever before. Focused on punishing his parents’ true killers, and the corrupt police that allowed them to go free, Bruce Wayne’s thirst for vengeance fuels his mad crusade and no one, not even Alfred, can stop him.

In the tradition of the #1 New York Times bestselling Superman: Earth One, writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank re-imagine a new mythology for the Dark Knight, where the familiar is no longer the expected in this long-awaited original graphic novel from DC Comics

A new story (2012) that goes back to the beginning of the Batman Story.

Alfred arrives at the Wayne Manor for the first time (having served with Wayne Snr in the Army) on the night Wayne Snr is killed outside the cinema with his wife. Alfred is Bruce’s legal guardian, and is horrified when he learns what the grown up Bruce is doing, fearing him unprepared.

Meanwhile Mayor Copplepot (The Penguin) is the source of much of the corruption in Gotham and Bruce believes he killed his parents. He goes after the police who covered it up. In the mean time, Detective James Gordon (yet to be the commissioner) is joined by a good looking Hollywood detective who ends up getting Gordon’s daughter kidnapped by a serial killer.

All these threads are pulled together in the old Arkham Home (where Bruce Wayne’s mother grew up) with a bloody, violent end, that leaves more than one person devastated.

Book Review: Arkham Asylum (Batman) by Grant Morrison, Dave McKean

arkhamBatman: Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham’s detention center for the criminally insane on April Fool’s Day, demanding Batman in exchange for their hostages. Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and many other sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison. During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Dark Knight’s must face down both his most dangerous foes and his inner demons.

This is the critically acclaimed Batman story that helped launch the U.S. careers of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. The classic confrontation between the Dark Knight and his archnemeses, this story is well known for its psychological intensity and probing portraits of Batman and the Joker.ARKHAM ASYLUM includes groundbreaking art that influenced scores of artists by introducing a new school of storytelling and technique to comics. This special edition also includes Morrison’s complete original script, annotated by Morrison and editor Karen Berger, many of his original thumbnail breakdowns, step-by-step samples of how the story and art came together and much more.

The lunatics are running the asylum, where the inmates have taken over, and are demanding one final thing: Batman to come join them.

Batman finally agrees, whilst worried about what he will confront whilst in there – is the asylum actually where he will feel “normal” and “comfortable” – will it feel like coming home? He comes across many of the inmates, many of whom he has put in there, and some of his most iconic enemies, including Harvey Dent, The Joker (some of the best graphic animation in the book), The Scarecrow etc.

Running along side this narrative is that of the Asylum’s creator, who set up the asylum after the death of his insane mother, but who in turn, goes mad. The last few years of his life is spent creating a binding spell for one iconic figure – The Bat. Many of the inmates now believe Batman is The Bat foretold and hence his arrival and commitment will fulfil some supernatural spell.

Interesting to see Dave Mckean’s very early work and how over the years that style of drawing/colouring has become his established style, taking him (and Neil Gaiman) through Stardust and beyond

Book Review: Alabaster Wolves by Caitlin R Kiernan

alabasterAlabaster  Wolves by Caitlín R. Kiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For nearly as long as she can remember, Dancy Flammarion has fought monsters, cutting a bloody swath through the demons and dark things of the world, aimed like a weapon by forces beyond her control or questioning. But now, for the first time, Dancy finds herself alone–and the wolves are closing in.

First time I’ve come across Dancy, which I picked up whilst shopping in my local comic book store and deciding to try something new.

This hardback is a collection of the 5 story arc where Dancy is left by her Avenging Angel to face the monsters and Wolves alone (apart from the talking blackbird and the ghost of the werewolf she kills in the first story).

This is not an easy journey for Dancy, feeling alone and angry that she seems to have to do the dirty work for the angel but gets deserted at her most challenging time.

Story is good, graphics and lettering are decent and reflecting the disintegrating world that Dancy finds herself in