Book Review: Incredible Hulk: Dogs of War by Paul Jenkins, Ron Garney

The Hulk has been hounded by armies before. But this time it seems more personal than usual. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross blames the Hulk for his daughter’s death, and his colleague, General Ryker, has decided the time has come to bring him down for good. The Hulk doesn’t necessarily disagree with Ross, since his gamma-irradiated body caused the radiation poisoning that killed his wife, Betty. The stage is set for a battle the likes of which have not been seen before. Ross brings everything in the army’s arsenal to bear in this war. The Hulk must fend off mutated soldiers, radiation-injected hounds and even tries to turn the Hulk’s own body against him. It’s a battle for the ages, but not without a price being extracted from both Ryker and the Hulk. The aftermath may leave the army poorer for the experience, but it also leaves the Hulk and his Bruce Banner alter-ego in less than stellar shape.

Hardback in the Marvel series, picked up from my local Comic Book Store.

The book includes the two part Snake Eyes as a precursor to the full 9 issue “Dogs of War” storyline.  It centres on Banner having both lost his wife Betty, as well as finding out he has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is dying and doesn’t have anything left in the world to live for. Continue reading

Book Review: Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, Divya Srinivasan

A talking tiger is the only one who may be able to get a princess to speak in this beautiful picture book set in a mythic India by Newbery Medal-winning and New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, illustrated in bold colors by Divya Srinivasan.

Previously available only as an audio book, Cinnamon has never been published in print before, and Divya Srinivasan’s lush artwork brings Neil Gaiman’s text to life.

This stunning picture book will transport readers to another time and place and will delight parents and children alike.

Picked up in Foyles, Grand Central, Birmingham.

I didnt know this was coming out until I saw it displayed prominantly as I came in – I know that at least one member of staff is a Gaiman fan like me, so I wasnt surprised it was out, front and centre.

The text for this was originally released in 1995, according to the copyright, but I understand this is the first time it’s been released in print. This is, in effect, a children’s picture book, much lighter in text and visual than the author’s The Sleeper and the Spindle (for instance). Therefore this is little character development (though the Rani’s aunt is annoying in only a few lines).

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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.

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Book Review: Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee, Peter David, Colleen Doran (Illustrator)

amazing fantastic incredibleIn this gorgeously illustrated, full-color graphic memoir, Stan Lee—comic book legend and cocreator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, and a legion of other Marvel superheroes—shares his iconic legacy and the story of how modern comics came to be.

Stan Lee is a man who needs no introduction. The most legendary name in the history of comic books, he has been the leading creative force behind Marvel Comics, and has brought to life—and into the mainstream—some of the world’s best-known heroes and most infamous villains throughout his career. His stories—filled with superheroes struggling with personal hang-ups and bad guys who possessed previously unseen psychological complexity—added wit and subtlety to a field previously locked into flat portrayals of good vs. evil. Lee put the human in superhuman and in doing so, created a new mythology for the twentieth century.

In this beautifully illustrated graphic memoir—illustrated by celebrated artist Colleen Doran—Lee tells the story of his life with the same inimitable wit, energy, and offbeat spirit that he brought to the world of comics. Moving from his impoverished childhood in Manhattan to his early days writing comics, through his military training films during World War II and the rise of the Marvel empire in the 1960s to the current resurgence in movies, Amazing Fantastic Incredible documents the life of a man and the legacy of an industry and career.

This funny, moving, and incredibly honest memoir is a must-have for collectors and fans of comic books and graphic novels of every age.

Christmas 2015 gift from my boss. Cue “Do you know who he is?” “Something to do with Marvel ain’t he?” “Something….?” Sputters. Sometimes I think she does it to wind me up, other times….

Anyway, Stan Lee turned 93 in 2015, and with the 75th Anniversary of Marvel comics, it was apparently time to produce his backstory in comic book format.   Due to the time span and the size of the book (a multi-volume, 1000+ page tome this ain’t), this doesn’t go into too much depth as to any event, and some are handled lightly if not at all.  Lee’s mother’s death is handled in a single frame, his father’s death not at all. Steve Ditka leaving Marvel and Spiderman gets a page, the legal troubles over the movie licencing gets 5.

Lee says he doesn’t know why Ditka, Kirby et al left Marvel (or incarnations thereof) and whilst I didnt necessarily believe him (is he really that self-absorbed that he knew nothing?) it’s easy to see this book for what it is and gloss over the negatives/omissions.

It’s a lighthearted and amusing tale of a man who has seen much in his 90+ years, knows that he’s probably been used along the way by various people (including Governments, Hollywood, Presidents etc), but who remains upbeat, positive, and is intent on getting as much out of life as possible, even when things are potentially bad (e.g. the death of his second dughter at 3 days old is mentioned so that he can recognise that it happened, but he’s not prepared to dwell on it).   As a man in his 80s, to start getting a new wind in cameos in practically ALL the Marvel movies and TV programs seems to be a delight to him – hopefully the link below will give you an indication as to what he’s done…

 

 

The story never gets too “heavy”, Colleen Doran—Lee manages to impart enough of the “Stan Lee” bravado/self -esteem so that the reader never has to worry about “Jeeze, not again” for Lee’s positivity to be too wearing.

In the end, the book is only as good as the source material. I know it’s flawed, but it’s a happy read and you come away feeling that anything can happen!

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 The Avengers: Birth of Ultron (Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection Classic #12) by Roy Thomas, John Buscema (Illustrator)

avengers birth of ultronWitness the startling creation of one of the Avengers most deadly foes: the insane automaton known simply as Ultron.

Discover what drives this metallic menace, as it undertakes a terrifying  (a scheme that will leave the Avengers changed forever! Plus, change is afoot as two mysterious new members, the Vision and Yellowjacket, join the team. Collecting Avengers vol. 1 #54-60 and Avengers Annual #2.

From my TBR pile, when at the time of reading, the second Avengers movie (Age of Ultron) is still in post production with an expected release in 2015, exact date dependant on region.

This is NOT the book of the film. This is a collection of early Marvel comics, charting the initial appearances of Ultron (Ultron-5), plus a few additional lesser known cast members in the Avengers canon.  There’s no “original publication date” I can see for the source comics, but judging on style, presentation etc, I’m guessing they were originally published in the 1960s. Of course, Marvel have a back history of the character.

The makeup of the Avengers here is not the team set up that modern audiences are currently used to (Thor, Iron man, Hulk, Black Widow etc). There is a “New” Avengers consisting of the lesser known Giant ManWasp, Black Panther, along with the better known Captain America) and Hawkeye.

The presentation as a Graphic Novel is lovely, with the hard cover, a collection of related strips etc. I have to admit that this is not my style of Comic Strip. I am very much a fan of the later style of  Comic/G.N. with related narrative, violence and design,  where as this is from the 1960s/1970s with a much more “innocent” (retro) style of cell construction, drawing and violence.  Cells colours are lighter and brighter, exposition and story line is progressed though chunks of in-cell text explaining what’s going on to the reader. There are also occasional handy arrows guiding you from one cell to the next in case you hadn’t worked out where to go next! It reminded me somewhat of the Adam West Batman series – all gaudy colours, cheese and make believe fighting. There is also some bad alliteration at the start of each episode as to who wrote or drew what.  These are the strips I would expect to see in the weekly “funnies” and that I would be able to pass onto Nieces and Nephews as a more “acceptable” level of violence.

Several characters are introduced, such as Ultron-5, The Vision  (an android sent by Ulton to kill everyone, only to have a change of heart), and YellowJacket – yet another SuperHero character for Hank Pym to add to his other alternate characters of Ant-Man, Giant Man etc.

In summary: nice to have read as a backfill to the new Avengers movie, but not really my style of Graphic Novel

Here is one of the trailers for the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie: