Wednesday, 29 May 2013

7 Billion Needles volumes 1 & 2 review

7 Billion Needles is a four volume science fiction manga series written and drawn by Nabuaki Tadano. This is his manga debut and it is based on the science fiction story “Needle” by Hal Clement. It’s an impressive debut for Tadano and his art was well utilized in the design of the covers for the four volumes. That’s initially what caught my eye and sparked my interest in this short (by manga standards) story. They did exactly what cover art is supposed to do, it grabbed my attention. I really like that the designer kept the original Japanese lettering in the speech bubbles.

Volume 1:
While on a school trip near the ocean, loner Hikaru, undergoes a transformative event when she encounters an alien life form recently arrived on earth. Before she can even make a guess as to what’s happening, she’s atomized and reconstructed by the alien entity. She remembered nothing of the even and the story quickly cuts to the present day. She’s going about her daily life as if nothing has changed until sometime later when the alien in question reveals itself to her by speaking to her telepathically.

Hikaru is incredibly chocked by this discovery. She’s a social outcast by choice, walking around with her music playing on her headphones in order to block out the world around her. She’s this way because of a personal tragedy. I almost missed this reason for her behavior while reading the first volume and it’s a key element to understanding Hikaru’s character. It helps you to understand and sympathize with her. She’s distant because of the death of her father she’s been this way for years. This alien, calling itself Horizon, is caught in the middle of an inter-galactic game of cat and mouse and forces Hikaru to join him on his mission while he’s on earth. She doesn’t have much of a choice either. When Horizon reconstructed Hikaru’s body, he did so while fusing himself to her, using Hikaru as a host body.

This book of alien possession or alien cohabitation is not in the traditional vein of shonen manga. The tone is more serious and it doesn’t preoccupy itself with “kewl” powers and overly deconstructed action sequences. The help Hikaru must offer Horizon is rather simple, investigate any strange occurrences in her community to try and discover the whereabouts of the other alien Horizon is tracking. Doing such a thing is a daunting task for Hikaru who has barely socialized in years. She proves to be up to the task however and the courage she demonstrates in the first half of this story, collected in volumes 1 and 2, is that of making friends and talking to others. That might seem like a completely underwhelming, especially for a science fiction manga that features aliens, but Tadano writes with such confidence and respect for characters and story that make 7 Billion Needles a compelling story about personal growth, evolution, and friendship.

The first volume felt a bit cold and distant but it reflected Hikaru’s feeling towards the outside world. She’s very secluded and introverted. She’s forced to cast her shell once she discovers the presence of Horizon but this is a slow process and it’s a bit slow but the first volume does provide plenty of action and a surprising amount of suspense I was a bit underwhelmed when I finished reading the first volume but the story stuck with me. I finished the book in one sitting and couldn’t keep it out of my head. The next morning I brought the second volume with me for my commute to and from work.  

Volume 2:
After Horizon’s face to face confrontation with the other alien, Maelstrom, at the end of the first and the beginning of the second volume, Tadano takes a short break from the science fiction elements and shifts his focus on Hikaru and her past. Again, there is a bit of a slow start but Tadano does most of his storytelling in the first half of the book, leaving the second half free to indulge in the sci-fi elements and the action. By setting the stage in this manner, the writer gives more weight to the action that follows and it’s a good technique, simply one I had to get used to.

Essentially, the second volume confirms that 7 Billion Needles is worth the attention I'm giving it. The first volume was a tried and test science fiction story using new tricks. It was unusual in its execution and surprisingly charming despite the protagonist's aloofness. Tadano also continues to pursue the themes of friendship, personal growth and evolution as well as increasing the tension of the conflict between the two aliens. The volume ends with a spectacular way that doesn't feel cheap. This isn't a twist for the sake of a twist. The revelation feels well deserved and it feels like a natural, if surprising, progression of the events that preceded it.

The art is very pleasant. The characters facial expression and body language is clear. Tadano is as good at drawing charming, quiet and moving pages as he is drawing horrific action that feels visceral and immediate. There is a powerful sense of intimacy to his art that added a lot of weigh to many key scenes in the book. My only criticism is regarding the background and scenery type panels. They’re so incredibly detailed and use a lot of what can only been some sort of computerized technique. They’re nice on their own but when combined with the cleaner, gentler lines used on the characters, it’s jarring. There is a cold and stiff quality to those images and it distracts from the otherwise skilfully rendered characters.

In the second volume, Tadano continues to pursue the themes of friendship, personal growth and evolution as well as increasing the tension of the conflict between the two aliens. The volume ends with a spectacular way that doesn't feel cheap. This isn't a twist for the sake of a twist. The revelation feels well deserved and it feels like a natural, if surprising, progression of the events that preceded it. The first half of 7 Billion Needles is an excellent science fiction story that manages to keep one foot planted in reality which contributes to it being an engaging story. The art is crisp and very detailed, if sometimes a little stiff. Tadano’s debut manga focuses on intelligent storytelling, drama, and conflict instead of shonen style superhuman brawling. This is a manga with heart and an interesting message for 21 century youth. It's also got plasma based aliens and other smart science fiction elements which make for a truly successful story. I look forward to reading the second half. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia review

Dave Wolverton, I had never heard of you before I picked up Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia but I’m glad you exist and decided to write this ridiculously delightful book. I decided to read this book in my mission to explore the Expanded Universe for three reasons: 1) it’s a standalone book and that’s always nice, 2) my friend has read it, enjoyed it and recommended I read it when I mentioned it to her, and 3) being a fan of Star Wars, how could I walk away from a book with such an awesome title? Seriously, could you have walked away? You’re going to go buy or borrow this book before the end of this review I can guarantee it. Before I talk about why I enjoyed this book so much despite its flaws, and there are quite a few of those, let me go over the story.

The novel begins five months after the events of Return of the Jedi. The former rebels are working tirelessly to establish the New Republic. Han Solo, now a general, has just won a deciding battle against warlord Zsinj who fiercely opposed the New Republic. He meets up with Senator Leia Organa on Coruscant where he finds a fleet of Hapan Battle Dragon ships in the planet’s orbit. We find out from Leia that she visited the planet of Hapes three months ago and requested assistance in defeating warlord Zsinj. It seems the Hapans have just arrived to offer that assistance. This seems a pretty simple day in the lives of Han and Leia post Episode VI. The Hapans travelled to Coruscant to offers gifts to the New Republic in the hopes of being allowed to join. Their strength would be a great contribution to the efforts of defeating the warlords and all other remnants of the Empire. One of the 63 valuable gifts given to Leia is a marriage proposal to the son of the Queen of Hapes. If she accepts, the New Republic gains a powerful ally. If she refuses, her relationship with Han is at an end and the New Republic must face the anger of the Queen of Hapes, who rules over a powerful system of 63 planets.

The setup actually allows for an interesting story. How is Han affected by the proposal? What about Leia. Will her feelings for Han trump her responsibility to the republic? What about Prince Isolder? Why did his mother, Queen of Hapes, select Leia as the suitor for her son (this itself isn’t entirely true as we find out later in the book)? Would there not have been an easier way to gain the New Republic's favour and join the Republic? It's not just the Star Wars fans that are shocked by Wolverton's decision to have an alien prince propose to Leia, the characters are also surprised by this odd course of events. That's the story here.

It’s such a strange little start to the book. Wolverton kicks things off with some politics and diplomacy to quickly throw in a heavy handed romantic storyline. It’s simultaneously interesting, thought provoking and quirky. In the first handful of pages Wolverton shows the reader that this will be a strange Star Wars book. Wolverton has a good grasp on Star Wars politics. The way Leia spoke about the difficulties of finding a new planet where she and other refugees can establish New Alderaan is interesting and well thought out, if a tad simplistic for such a complex and populous universe such as Star Wars. His understanding of Star Wars political structure adds a feeling of verisimilitude to Han and Leia's situation. Then Wolverton makes everything stranger and more exciting by having Han kidnap Leia, bringing her to a relatively unknown planet in the heart of warlord Zsinj’s territory. Soon, the rest of the cast follows suit and a madcap, often ridiculous, story ensues.
A part of me is sad my copy of Courtship doesn't have this cover. It's so awesome.
At this point in the book, it was exactly what I was expecting to read. Courtship was as ridiculous as its title made I seem but it was also more than that. This book accomplishes a great many things and as silly as it is, I also found it to be charming and at time surprisingly thoughtful. When organizing my thoughts about the book, I realized the good far outweighs the silliness and the book’s major faults. Sure, Wolverton’s writing is nothing more than serviceable but he uses it to introduce interesting additions to the Expanded Universe and takes the time to pepper the book with interesting thoughts on cultural relations which adds a bit more depth to what could have been a terrible book.
"Kiss my Wookiee!"
Courtship actually accomplishes quite a few things. At first, the focus of the book seems to be on Leia making her decision to accept Isolder’s proposal but once she’s kidnapped, the book goes off a few different directions. The Battle of Endor may have been won but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done in order to put a complete end to the Empire and to establish the New Republic. Furthermore, this New Republic is composed of many different minded individuals. People like Leia and Mon Mothma are more diplomatic and political in nature whereas someone like Han is more militaristically minded (and barely, even so). Other people who played a big role in striking the decisive blow to the Empire, such as Luke, seem more concerned with other matters. He’s focusing on re-establishing the Order of the Jedi while still occasionally lending a hand to other events such as he does in Courtship.

Wolverton also make some important contributions to the Expanded Universe. It ranges from small additions such as the Arallute flower and the Whuffa worms. Arallutes where a trumpet shaped flower native to Alderaan. In their culture if a couple found an Arallute growing in their yard it would signify they were about to have a child. Families of newly webs would plant the flower under the cover of night. It had to be done in complete secrecy because being caught was considered unlucky. The flowers also served a purpose when they died. The flower’s petals would wilt into a ball shape trapping the seeds within and mothers would give the dead flowers to their children who used them as rattles. Whuffa worms are large, up to 250 feet long, worms that exist on Dathomir. Locals would lure the worms out of their holes with a pungent fermented liquid. Once a worm has exited its hole, the locals grab it and forcefully pull it out and kill the worm. Once killed, they hand the worms on trees to let them dry out in the sun. Once dried the leathery skin is used for a multitude of purposes and Wolverton lists theses off throughout the book.

Han has the best relationship advice. 
Wolverton’s biggest contribution to the Expanded Universe is the planet of Dathomir and their inhabitants, the Dathomiri. Essentially, they’re witches. Well no, that’s not entirely accurate. They’re Force-sensitive near-human beings who are descendants of an exiled Jedi. Throughout the centuries their limited teachings in the force has led them to forget the real origins of their magic and how to properly use it. Men are often unable to wield the magic but some do exist. The women are the primary users and they can only do so using words and sometimes song. Their powers in the Force are as limited as their knowledge of it but they rely on it daily and it forms the basis of their society. The Dathomiri are but one of two matriarchal societies that Wolverton develops in Courtship. The other is the Hapans. The Queen of Hapes rules a society that reduces the importance and the role of man. Only the male heir has an important role to play, that of selecting his wife and therefore the next queen. Both societies have their differences, in fact, few similarities exist other than the ruling body being composed of women.

Unsurprisingly, Wolverton also takes time to write about love and relationships and he has some interesting things to say. He realizes that love and relationships are dry complicated subjects and he tries to keep things simple while also adding multi-cultural nuances. For the Dathomiri it's almost a game. The women hunt, capture, buy and steal strong men with which to mother strong daughters. For Isolder love is more political. He considers what he Nd more importantly what his people can gain from his marriage to the woman he selects as his bride. We also learn how Luke, Leia and Han consider love and it all contributes to adding depth I what I had thought was going to be a rather silly book. 

As I started to mentioned earlier, the book also has plenty of silliness such as Han enlisting Threepio’s help in wooing Leia. Threepio does so by writing a song about Han and he sings it for Leia. It’s terrible but like some of the worst songs, it manages to get stuck in Leia’s head. There are other weird moments like Leia complaining about the cost of an inter-galactic video call to Luke. I had always assumed that such technology was free in Star Wars. I bet those roaming chargers were a pain for Leia when Han kidnapped her and brought her to Dathomir. Her plan doesn’t allow for that!

The description of Han eating his meal would fit quite nicely
in a book written by Douglas Adams.
Unfortunately there is also a lot to dislike about The Courtship of Princess Leia. Wolverton’s writing is serviceable for the most part but he also writes some strange and sometimes just awful stuff. Sometimes, particularly in the beginning, he doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of Han and Leia’s characters. They say and do things that just don’t feel true to who they are. He doesn’t do a much better job with Luke who often sounds unnecessarily preachy. For some reason every second person he encounters is sensitive to the Force and he goes on by talking, nearly without end, about the Force and how it relates to all living things and then coaches the person in how they should act in order to have live a better life. It all makes him some like some annoying evangelist and it makes a few scenes difficult to read. Reading and mostly enjoying Courtship has not convinced me to search for more Wolverton books to read but it did encourage me to read more Star Wars books. They’re not all going to be like Choices of One which was dry, boring and unnecessarily long. Unlike Zahn’s book, Courtship offered a quick and fun Star Wars story filled with action, Force wielding and even a few interesting thoughts about science fiction politics. Oh, and there were rancors. Lots and lots of rancors. Wolverton has Han and Leia make references to sharks. Earth doesn't exist in the Star Wars universe. Stop that. 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Blog Fantastic 005 - The Eye of the World review

The Eye of the World, I loved you, I hated you.  I liked that you were an expansive and interesting fantasy world. An entire world I could let myself sink into and let it all wash over me. But you were too long and unfocused. You had no idea how to take advantage of your world with its interesting mythology and long, long history. Unlike New Spring, you weren’t just about two characters but for all the characters you had, you didn’t develop any of them. They had no depth. Rand, our main protagonist, would have been more aptly named Bland. Moiraine, such a cool character in the prequel book, has about one cool moment per one hundred pages.

I was worried before I started to read you. I was worried you would be too big of a book (you’re over 800 pages if you include the glossary). It wasn’t very encouraging to know that you’re the first book in a series of fourteen equally big, and sometimes bigger, books and that’s not including New Spring. Your size, ambition, and epic scope demanded I gave you all of my attention for weeks. If I’m ever to read the entire series, I’m certain it’ll take me years. That’s a big commitment for a reader and what if I'm not ready for it and what if you’re not worth it?

I decided to give in. I’ve already read New Spring. I opened my arms and invited your story to wash over me like the constantly rolling waves of the ocean. That’s the kind of fantasy you are. The depth of your writer’s imagination is impressive but unfortunately his prose isn't. Like the Wheel of Time, phrases, characters’ observations, motifs, foreshadowing, all of these things kept coming back. I feel like I’ve read the book dozens of times. The writing prevented me from being overwhelmed by the world of The Eye of the World because Jordan took it too slowly. I don’t even know what your world is called! You made a conscious effort to ease me into the story, so much so that your first 150 pages are near identical to the first part of The Lord of the Rings. Like the waves of the ocean, you kept pushing me back to shore and asking that I try to swim out again and again.

Despite being endlessly frustrating for your repetitiveness and your unnecessary length, I liked various things about you. Moiraine and Lan were extremely cool. There were wolves, a talking tree man, magic and even more magic, Trollocs, Myrdraals, villages being attacked, chases through the woods, ancient rivers with powerful  currents, ships, gypsy-like tribes, an evil lord, old Forsaken wielders of magic, cursed ruins, an evil dagger, and more. But you made it all boring by dragging it out! I wanted to like you, I wanted to discover that you’re the best fantasy book I’ve read in years and that I was wrong to have pushed you aside for so many years while I watched my father get excited every time a new volume was being released.

Is this simply not meant to be? You’re such a long book there must be something for everybody to enjoy. I found plenty to like about you but for every one thing I liked, there was at least one other thing I disliked. More importantly you were dry, you were boring and you didn’t fulfill the promise others made on your behalf by recommending you over and over. The overwhelming praise was a lie.

There is some good news though. I’m willing to give you another chance. It’s harsh to judge such a large series on just two books. I hope Jordan can trim some of the storytelling fat. I hope the tiny bit of momentum you built in the first 50-something chapters doesn’t fade away at the beginning of the second novel because that’s about one of the only things keeping me interested in you and your series. I already started to read and I’m going to continue to do so until I run off of momentum. Here’s hoping The Great Hunt, the second book, won’t bore me to death and Bland and his traveling companions start to do something. Before I go, I want to say thank you for the Ogier. Loial was far cooler than I expected and I can’t wait to see him do something badass. Thanks also for Moiraine who I could use more of and Lan who’s as interesting as he is stoic. You had some good qualities, The Eye of the World, but not enough to truly satisfy. Thanks for the long and unnecessary detours to what could have been a riveting and mind-blowing introductory chapter into what is, surprisingly, considered one of the best fantasy series of all times. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. I’ll be posting a more typical review of The Great Hunt in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Hunter by Richard Stark review

The first review I ever posted on the blog was of the comic adaptation of The Hunter. The Hunter is written by Richard Stark and the comic adaptation was written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. Since my first exposure to the Parker novels was through Cooke’s adaptations, my review of the novel will also be somewhat of a comparison between the two.

One of the first differences is quite obvious; the novel gives us more insight into the mind of the characters, particularly Mal Resnick. The novel more than the comic, really gets across how much of a slime ball he really is. This helps the reader understand Parker’s motivations which is very important. Unlike a lot of noir or crime fiction, Parker isn’t a private detective or a retired cop or a tough journalist or anything like that. He’s a crook, plain and simple. We discover in later that he does have a code of honour, but that’s not really important in The Hunter. He was double crossed and left for dead. He’s out for revenge, plain and simple.

Stark does a good job demonstrating that tracking down a man in a criminal organization when having next to no leads is a time consuming process. Much like the Outfit, Parker has his own connections and he uses then up one at a time until one of his past acquaintances led him straight to Mal Resnick. I'm not spoiling anything by writing about Parker finding Mal. Where else was the book going to go? Parker is too good at what he does not to find the man he's looking for. Stark exudes that confidence in the way he writes Parker, and he writes him just like Parker does what he does. The prose in The Hunter is direct, calculating and doesn't give a damn about how you feel. It has a job to do and its does it. When Stark describes a room it's because Parker is studying the room, he's calculating like that. When Stark writes about the possible actions Parker can take in order to get out of a situation it's because Parker has thought those things as well. The only time the Stark's writing seems to take its time and meander a little is when he's describing the prettiest woman in the room. But even then, Parker's giving her the once over as well. The writing is direct and strong, like shot of hard liquor, and I love it all the more for it.

As I mentioned briefly, the main difference between the novel and the comic of this first Parker story is in the number of steps it took for Parker to get to Mal and the number of steps Mal took in order to avoid his inevitable fate. Some of the scenes in the novel are exactly how I remembered them in Darwyn Cooke's comic adaptation. For his first adaptation of a Parker novel, Cooke played it safe and barely deviated from the novel. Now I see that that is one of the things that contributes to the quality of the comic. The novel’s ending is different that the one Cooke wrote in the adaptation. It's not a huge change. The way Cooke wrote it allowed him to adapt the third book, The Outfit, immediately after Parker: The Hunter. The ending, a pretty great one, is not lost however. Cooke uses it in Parker: The Outfit, it's one of the heist in the middle if the comic, albeit in a slightly modified form.

The Hunter is a violent book. Much more violent than any other Parker book I've read yet, more so even than Slayground. It's the most violent Parker book not because of the quantity of violence to be found in these 200 pages, but the context in which Parker is violent. One particularly poignant scene, Parker breaks into a second story beauty parlour to stake out a hotel across the street. Parker knocks out the owner while she's counting the days till after closing hours. Parker’s use of unnecessary strength in knocking her out, compounded with the woman's respiratory problem, results in her death. Parker is so wound up in getting his man and his money that his actions begin to affect the lives of otherwise innocent people that had the misfortune of being in his path. Stark gives us a few other examples of this throughout the book but it's never the focus of the story. This book is about Parker and never mind the collateral. The violence stands out, but not because here is a lot, but because it’s calculating and almost nonchalant in its execution.

The most surprising thing about The Hunter is that Stark set up the formula for a Parker novel without us really being able to realize it until later books. He accomplished this tour de force by executing the formula out of order and shifting our attention on the end game. The formula is as follows:  

1) Parker alone or with a crew prepares to pull a heist, 
2) They do the job, 
3) There is a double cross or a serious complication,  
4) Parker fixes the problem (for himself at least), and
5) Parker does everything he can to get his portion of the take.

That's ones of the things that make The Hunter so good. There is very little set up. This novel is 200 pages of Parker fixing what went wrong with the job and getting his money. That's only the second half of the Parker formula and that's why we don't fully understand it yet. The entire formula is there though. We get the setup, the job and the betrayal but it’s given to us in a way that is different from the other Parker books that followed (primarily in extended flashbacks).

Stark is a master of crime fiction. I was immersed in The Hunter despite having previously read Cooke's comic adaptation three times. It's a credit to Stark prose that I was so interested and engaged in reading a story I knew almost as well backwards as I do forward. If anything else, reading The Hunter is an encouragement to read other Parker novels by Stark. I really look forward to them.

Special Forces review

I quite like Kyle Baker as a comics creator. I haven’t read his entire output, but I’ve enjoyed and often loved everything I’ve be able to get my hands on. His art is difficult to describe in part because he’s proved to be rather versatile. The first comic I’ve ever read by Baker was I Die at Midnight, an original graphic novel for Vertigo Comics. It’s an excellent little comic and I encourage anybody who sees it to snatch it up since it’s long been out of print. Enough about my history with Baker, let’s talk about Special Forces!

The story is very simple. There is a military man, Sarge, who upon his return from a tour in Iraq was supposed to recruit a unit of soldiers to send overseas. If he failed to do so, he would be forced to go back for a second tour.  Two other military men (Military Police?) pay Sarge a visit, ready to take him away from his family and send him on his second tour since he didn’t find enough recruits. They decide to give him a second chance and in one day, he fills his quota – but he did so with criminals, homeless, degenerates and the mentally ill. On the last day before they’re sent off to Iraq, one of the recruits commits suicide and Sarge is forced to replace him. The rest of the story is about their mission to find and terminate the man known as Desert Storm, one of Al-Queada’s fiercest warriors.

Let me be clear, the Special Forces of the title are Sarge’s recruits. They’re special in the way school yard bullies call other kids special. These “special forces” are the expendable fringe of society sent halfway across the globe in order to wage war and, perhaps, die for a country that doesn’t care for them. They’re not special in the sense of an elite squad of soldiers. Then again, they kind of are. Zone and Felony are, despite and perhaps because of their limitations back stateside, super soldiers à la John McClane. The causes for their unnatural bravery and dedication to their job are explained in the first issue and continuously mocked throughout the duration of the comic. Zone, you see, is autistic and Felony is a young offender. Both of them were high school students before their recruitment.

Special Forces is a satire of the Iraq War by Baker. I’m not a fan of war politics which is a bad thing when reading this book, but it’s also a good thing because Baker also pokes fun at Hollywood action and war films and it’s through those lenses that I read this comic. Reading the comic through that filter, I found the satirical aspects of Special Forces to be more enjoyable than if the satires in the comic been strictly political. There is an over the top glorification of war in the style of the most ludicrous and sensational Hollywood movies. Characters are wearing tattered clothing that reveals just enough to tantalize the reader but defy all laws of physics. Baker mixes sex and violence in a high octane comic book cocktail that is sure to grab the attention of the most “special forces” of comic book reader. 

Felony’s clothing in particular is the remnant of what used to be a military uniform. There are but tattered bits of material left, just enough to cover parts of her breasts. What was once her pants are now the shortest of short shorts you’ve ever seen and in case the reader was wondering, Baker lets us know that Felony either wears a thong or goes commando. It’s my opinion that had she been wearing a thong, Baker would have made her flaunt it in the most ridiculous of acrobatic postures to ever been found in a war zone. Baker takes full advantage of Felony accoutrement to bend and contort her in the most tantalizing positions, simultaneously satirizing magazine advertisements and super heroine comic book postures. In some scenes we saw far more of Felony’s breasts and ass than we saw her face, and that’s just how we like it . . . isn’t it? Baker force feeds us what we want which seems to be over the top violence and near nudity. Even Zone loose his shirt by the end of the story just like many action heroes did in the 80s. Felony is a wartime supermodel and Zone is a prime example of machismo.

The best way to enjoy this book though is to admire the art. Kyle Baker is an impressive artist. Over the last decade or so he’s been experimenting quite heavily with computer generated art and computer modifications done to more traditional. There have been some mixed results but, somewhat surprisingly, he’s been able to retain his defining style and storytelling skills. He experiments with computerized art in Special Forces and again, it’s with mixed results but it’s all very interesting and, at the very least, admirable, even if I much rather see his more traditional style of art.

It was fascinating to see how Baker progressively included the computerized art in the comic. The first issue is uses the 3D effects sparingly. Soon, most of the backgrounds are photographs taken by Baker himself, or from another source, and modified on a computer. By the last issue nearly everything, characters included, are drawn on using a computer and they the effect is eerie. Insane characters doing impossible things yet they look so real. It’s a strange hyper reality that contrasts the preposterous events taking place.

 This comic is absolutely ludicrous but I did enjoy it. It’s pure pop art. Baker’s use of bright, clashing and often sometimes garish colours turns the whole thing into a parody of itself. Some pagers look like Andy Warhol wannabe paintings and it fits the tone of the comic perfectly. This is the same Baker that unleashed his ridiculous side on Deadpool Max. Unfortunately, the subject matter doesn’t really fit with the Kyle Baker I know but I really appreciate the effort and it’s still a better comic than the latest issue of Green Lantern or something else in that vein. This is my least favourite Kyle Baker comic to date and it’s still worthy of some praise. It also helps a bit that in the end, despite Baker’s sharp satire, there is some appreciate for what the US military does or, at the very least, what some of the people on the lower echelons.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Prophet vol. 1: Remission review

When I first heard about this comic, I knew I would read it eventually. I read Brandon Graham’s previous comic, King City, and I really enjoyed it. There was a creative vibe to it that I really appreciated. My feelings towards Prophet increased during its monthly single issue publishing. It was receiving great reviews and, more importantly, some bloggers and reviewers online whose opinion is close to my own (or whose criticisms of comics and entertainment in general are excellent) also praised it. Prophet is published by Image comics and it’s a reboot of a Rob Liefield comic of the 90s. That doesn’t matter at all though; this comic is carving its own path and is an absolute delight.

With his previous comic, King City, Graham's writing was loose and casual. With Prophet he's a bit more structured but he retains a very relaxed, almost improvisational, tone to the story. Like some of the best science fiction, Graham and his team of artists give the reader the time to settle into this future world and familiarize ourselves with its alien inhabitants. The story is captivating but not because of storytelling momentum, although Graham does built some of that. No, I was mesmerized by all the strangeness present in the comic. I was enraptured by John's mission to the towers of Thauilu Vah as well as the strangeness of the civilizations Graham put in John’s path as he journeyed across the desert landscape of what was once planet Earth.

I really enjoyed Graham's King City. Not as much as others, I found him to be too playful of a storyteller, but it's still a very, very good comic. With Prophet, Graham has impressed me with his skill as a writer. In a similar way that Sean Murphy did with Punk Rock Jesus. Graham impressed me in a different way, though. Few words are to be found on these pages but Graham makes sure they've earned their place. Most of the world building of the future Earth in the first three issues is done by the art alone. John Prophet barely utters a word and most of the dialogue we read is alien languages translated trough a floating device that hangs around John. The majority of the story is told with the use of narrative caption boxes. Graham gives us the name of some creatures and future cultures and technology. It adds just enough structure and insight into what's developing in front of our eyes to allow the reader to follow. 

I like how the artists gave John Prophet the appearance of a caveman. He is a member of an old, possibly extinct, species on a future Earth (men, or at least some form of primate still exist and are used as cattle, quite ironic when you think about it). Bugs and highly evolved bug-like creatures now rule the earth and John is nothing but an echo of what used to be. He barely speaks. He doesn't have to. His actions speak for him.

This comic is pretty dense compared to King City. It's not dense in the way a comic by Alan Moore is dense. No, Prophet has room to breathe. This comic is dense in ideas. There is so much imagination at play that the just sheer delight to take your time and read the captions that guide you through pages upon pages of fascinating, creepy and well thought out art. Unfortunately, many casual reviewers online have described this comic as being light and underwhelming. This frustrates me because too many people who read comics don’t give the art more than a passing glance. It’s a visual medium and often times, the art is more important than anything else. I want to blame superhero comics for this since they’re primarily composed of colourful characters in heroic poses with unnecessary exclamatory speech bubbles surrounding them. It could also be something more symptomatic of our society not taking the time to enjoy things any more.  It’s more important to watch an entire season of a TV series in one weekend than it is to actually stop and think about what we’ve just experience. I’m losing focus here. This is supposed to be about how great a comic Prophet is, especially for readers who took the time to connect the dots of what Graham and his artists were showing us.

The art here is as much I a surprise as anything else which is fitting since the art more than contributes to its fair share of the world building and storytelling. The story is also dense even though it doesn't appear to be. In six issues Graham and company give us four complete stories that all contribute to the larger story that is to come. I mentioned how the book has an improvisational feel but you also get an impression that the creative teams has a good idea where it's going even though some of the details might not be completely pinned down. Prophet is drawn by Simon Roy (issues #21-23 and 26), Farel Dalrymple (issue #24), Brandon Graham (issue #25), and Giannis Milogiannis (issue #26). Their styles all work well together and it’s not jarring to have a different artist from issue to issue. The first three issues tell a continuous story while the last three tell single issue stories that all interconnect in some way or another. I really liked the art. It played a crucial role in making this a great comic.

Prophet breathes fresh air into science fiction comics. It is at times challenging, gross, emotionally rewarding and absolutely fascinating to read. I would love to break down these issues page by page but that's the wrong approach for a review of a book like Prophet. Especially considering it’s still ongoing. The best way to enjoy Prophet at this point in time is to grab a copy, be it from a book store, a comic shop or a public library, and take an evening to enjoy the strange vision of the future Graham and his team of artists are unveiling.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Star Wars Episode VII: Disney Strikes Back

I debated whether or not I should upload this post on Shared Universe Reviews. So far all my updates have been reviews or something akin to a review. I stated in my Mission Statement that I wanted to stay away from comic book or pop culture news. I’m still doing that. I can’t think of a future where I would conceive of doing such a thing. The problem is that I continue to read such news. I even hesitate to use the words news to describe it because it’s little more than announcement of forthcomings projects, trailers and previews along with a very large dose of rumours and speculation. It’s not something I want to be a part of but I inevitably am because I still read the stuff. That’s why I’ve got some thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII. There are very few facts in this post and most of it is just me spouting off my frustration with the news of more Star Wars movies, specifically by Disney. You know what though? This is my blog so tough. I’ve written two other rants because of stuff I’ve seen on the internet (one on Mark Millar and the other on Jules Verne being called the father of Steampunk (NO!)) but this is the first time I’ve actually posted one. It feels good to be the master of my domain! Shared Universe is mine and I will post whatever I will, consequences be damned!! Enjoy the read.

Star Wars Episode VII is going to be a big disappointment. I don’t want it to be. I want a good Star Wars movie I can enjoy but, how can it be anything else but a disappointment? Fans of the Expanded Universe, be it video games, novels, comics, tv shows or all of them combined, have steadily grown over the years. These fans included people who generally enjoy Star Wars movies and will go see another one if and when it makes it to theatres. All fans, from casual fans to fans that have read and reread all Star Wars material they could get their hands on and have wet dreams of their girl next door crush dressed up in Leia’s golden bikini. Most of those fans, including myself, will be disappointed.

The problem with a new Star Wars movie that takes place after the end of the original trilogy is that so much of the story has been filled in already. How can you make a movie that respects all of the story elements, characters, political development, alien races, et cetera, that are now considered Star Wars canon? You can’t. With nearly every choice the Star Wars Episode VII film crew make, they will be upsetting several Star Wars fans. The most frustrating thing about this is that the fans you will be upsetting more than most are the lifelong Star Wars fans. I’m talking about the fans that have read some books and played some of the video games. It’s those very same fans that introduce younger generations to the many galaxies of Star Wars. They are the lifeblood of the franchise. Casual fans or people who have seen the movies a couple of times will probably be less disappointed because their criteria for a good Star Wars movie are more relaxed. Spaceships, Jedi Knights, lightsaber battles, some dude talking funny, all of which happening to a John Williams score, they’ll be happy. They’ll probably enjoy new movies but only just as much as any other space opera film with laser guns and spaceship battles.

The fact that George Lucas won’t be involved will also have an impact. Say what you want about Lucas, he’s still the guy that created Star Wars, including all good and bad elements to be found in the movies. More importantly, the visuals of Star Wars are integral to Lucas’s participation in making the movies. Without him, who will say yay or nay to new designs and story elements? Say what you want about some of his decisions in the past, he has a profound understanding of all things Star Wars. Most importantly, Lucas is a visual storyteller. The dialogue in Star Wars is nothing spectacular and, quite often, it’s borderline terrible. The visuals matter more than anything else. In the prequel trilogy, the story barely even mattered.

One of my other concerns is the Disneyfication the Star Wars universe. Star Wars will never be considered serious science fiction, there is too much of a swashbuckler influence to the franchise, which is apt, considering the Robin Hood influence on the original trilogy. But there was a shift in Episode III towards a distinctly more juvenile story. Check out this link if you don’t believe. An article on Film Threat extrapolates, point by point, just what I’m referring too better than I ever could have. I don’t agree with the whole list, but it does a good job of pointing out some of the reasons that influenced the difference in tone of Return of the Jedi compared to Episode IV and V.  

Lucas shifted the tone back to something that is truer to Episode I and II in the prequel trilogy. Sure, I’ll definitively agree that there are several points of contention to be had with the prequels, but there big brush strokes, the larger story and the thematic importance, are all there. I believe that will be the greatest shortcomings in Episode VII and beyond. This is also missing in some parts of the Expanded Universe which seems to have embraced the swashbuckling more than any other aspect of Star Wars (that’s not entire true. The novels tend to focus one a few elements of the movies and expand on them, few, from what I’ve read anyway, have dealt with all the star wars elements in a cohesive whole while providing the reader with interesting themes or character arcs).

J.J. Abrams at the helm also worries me. Like many others I really like the latest Star Trek movies but it’s not a Star Trek movie. It’s a Star Wars movie pretending to be a Star Trek movie. It’s all lasers and crazy space action. Where are the interesting human and alien exchanges of culture? Where are the philosophical and moral discussions based on problems the crew of the Enterprise are facing? The little bits of Spock questioning his identity don’t count because it’s something we’ve seen quite a few times before. If Abrams can’t even keep some of the most defining elements of Star Trek in his movie, how is he going to keep the difficult-to-pin down elements that make up a great Star Wars movie? Not only that, but we already have an Abrams space opera movie and a sequel! Why do I want more of the same? Challenge me as a moviegoer and offer me a Star Wars movie I haven’t already seen before. I don’t want a rehash of previous movies and I don’t want a diluted movie that panders to the most juvenile person sitting in the theatre and I don’t all my science fiction to be filtered through Abrams and I don’t want an R2D2 spin-off à la  Wall-E. You know what? Maybe I don’t want another Star Wars movie at all. Strangely enough, as soon as I typed that I was a bit sad at the thought of never seeing another Star Wars movie. What’s the solution here? Could it be the one-off Star Wars movies we’ve heard rumours of? There might be far more potential for good movie that focuses on one already established characters than there is with a new trilogy that follows the end of Return of the Jedi. What do you think? What are you concerns with new Star Wars movie and how would you address them?

One final note: have you seen the redesigned of Merida from Brave before Disney inducted her as the 11th Disney Princess? That’s the sort of nonsense I’ve come to expect from Disney. For more on that, check out this great web comic from Dork Tower.Nothing more needs to be said on that subject. Expect a ridiculous Disneyfied Star Wars Universe that will suck.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Mist review

The Mist written by Stephen King
This is the first book by Stephen King that I’ve actually read. I’ve dismissed him for a long time because he’s known primarily for his works in the horror genre. I have a tendency to dismiss horror as a whole even though I’ve experience some good horror entertainment (in various mediums) and I have some favourite horror stories. I'm glad I took another chance with King and I’ve got to admit that the comic adaptations and prequel comics of King’s famous Dark Tower series played a big part in that decision.  

What I liked the most about King’s writing in The Mist was the way he had his main character, David, observe his surroundings. King has been a writer his entire life and one of the things that clearly influence his writing are the observations he makes. In the story, David is an artist and he too makes very interesting and sometimes enlightened observations. The way he puzzles things about his situation is fascinating and has, perhaps, depending how you interpret the ending, saved his life and that of his son. 

The Mist is horror story I which a secretive science facility, the Arrowhead Project, opens a portal to another dimension. A thick mist inhabited by strange, terrifying and predatory creatures. It’s clearly a horror story but the focus is squarely placed on the characters. The story is quite mysteries as to what is actually happening. The answers King provides regarding the mist, its origin and the creatures that hide within it are limited to the origins of its appearance in the city where most of the story takes place: the Arrowhead Project.

Throughout the story King provides the reader with glimpses of the monster hidden in the mist. You have fragments of what happened to the people outside the grocery store. The only things you know about some of the characters are what David has been able to read from their behaviour. Most I the conversations deal with the situation that is happening. He characters aren't asking each other about their lives or their loved ones. They focus on what is happening or they fade away in the deepest recesses of their mind.

Some of the characters kept busy with meaningless or meaningful tasks from taking turns on sentry duty or preparing food for the others. Many other characters were happy to do the minimum requirement of thinking and barely acknowledge the presence of others. David, he observed. He observed and based on what he saw, he acted for the benefit of A) his son, Billy, B) his own survival, and C) the survival of others. His surviving instinct are directly linked to how he views and interprets his surroundings.

One of the weakest elements of the story has to be the ending. It’s ambiguous and we only get to see a part of it and the rest is left wide open for interpretation. Although I didn’t enjoy it, it fit with the tone of the story and with everything else that was previously established. Overall, King provided few answers and he doesn’t give any more answers with the ending. The most upsetting thing about the end is how King makes fun of it. The story was written by David and he mentions himself that he’s run out of paper and the “end” is not actually the end. He continues to travel and heads towards what is hopefully the end of the mist. He specifically mentions how a lack of ending is frustrating and he even describes it as “Hitchcockian”. I get the feeling King wasn’t sure how to end it and this is the best he could come up with. Still, it fits with what came before but it lacks any real emotional punch. It’s no real surprise that he’s been so vocal in his appreciation of the movie’s ending which differs quite a bit from what King wrote.

Before talking about the movie adaptation of The Mist, I have two side notes I want to address. The first is that there was a surprising amount of references, mostly to household products and pop culture. I’m not sure if the quantity is a lot compare to other non-genre fiction (I read mostly fantasy and science fiction). It did seem to be a lot to me personally. Maybe the main setting of the story, a grocery store, is to blame for this.

The second side note has to do with survival fiction. When I write survival fiction I mean survival stories that occur after post-apocalyptic events or other cataclysmic changes. It’s interesting how there are locations that seems to provide much better grounds for survival than others. King addressed this a bit in The Mist when he has some of his characters check out a pharmacy next door occupying space in the same plaza as the grocery store. The pharmacy could have been an equally effective stronghold against the creatures in the mist except for one minor detail which resulted in the death of all the people who were sheltered there.  

The Mist adapted by Frank Darabont
Overall the movie doesn’t work as well as the novella. The pacing feels rushed. The acting is wooden. I attribute the blame mostly towards the pacing and not so much the acting but it’s important to know that there are no amazing performances here. The simple reasons why the movie doesn’t live up to the book has to do with the two most important elements in the novella’s success are absent from the movies. That is, the sense of near absolute uncertainty and David’s surprisingly engrossing observations. The movie just doesn’t seem to have enough room to breathe to allow for those two important elements to be present. The movie is just above two hours in length and it begins in the second chapters of the novella. It skips the whole storm that sets off the events in King’s story.

The movie excels in two other aspects though. The first is the creatures in the mist. The creatures are very well done. This is a double edged sword since what made the novella so good was the characters and how they interacted with each other. The monsters are set dressing. They provide a potentially fatal and very threatening setting in which the story of the survivors can take place. The characters in the movie feel one-dimensional and drab. The monsters on the other hand are superbly designed and very, very gross.

The other problem with the monsters in the movie is that we see them but we know nothing about them. David’s theories and observations of the creatures is an essential part of the story. The movie limits itself to showing the monsters and scarring us and the survivors with their grotesque appearance instead of engaging us in the mystery surrounding them. The book took its time to think about what was happening. The movie does allow for any thoughts to be had. It’s too quick and it focuses on extended action sequences involving the monsters in the mist. On the other hand, the book focused on the study of characters, creatures and events as seen and understood by David.

The second aspect in which the movie excels is the ending. I won’t spoil it here but Darabont clearly thought about it. Much like myself, he must not have been satisfied with King’s original ending and so he rewrote it. Although King has expressed how much he loved the ending, I think Darabont rushed it. Another minute or two could have been used to give us a real feeling of what their situation really was. The characters agreed to easily to such a big decision. Props must be given to the actor playing David, Thomas Jane, because that was the most moving scene in the entire movie.

It saddens me that a filmmaker like Darabont chose to focus on the monsters instead of the characters in The Mist. He’s demonstrated his skills with dramatics stories in both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile (both also adaptations of stories by King). It’s particularly frustrating when King’s story seemed to focus on characters more than the monsters. In the novella, the monsters are little more than set dressing. They give the characters something to be deathly frightened of and the mist gives them a reason to think of the worst possible outcome their situation could have. What really matters though is David’s fight for survival and the protection of his son and what he does to try and achieve those goals. What he’s willing to risk is far more frightening than any tentacles or giant bugs, no matter how many pop out of the mist. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Doctor Strange: The Oath Review

I wanted to review one if Brian K. Vaughan's longer series but my other commitments on Shared Universe Reviews, mainly working on my larger projects and regular comic reviews, are keeping me pretty busy. Thankfully, Brian K. Vaughan has also penned a few shorter comic projects. I chose to read Doctor Strange: The Oath because I remembered really liking it but more specifically because Vaughan and Marcos Martin have published the first two issues of their new series: Private Eye .I quite like Martin art and I felt like reading a BKV story, The Oath seemed like a good fit.

BKV is one of the comic book writers that really encouraged me to read more comics. Not just superhero comics either. By following him I discovered other publishers, characters, and genres that exist in the comics medium. Because of Runaways I developed an interest in the B and C-list heroes of Marvel. Because of Y: The Last man I read such Vertigo series as Sandman, Transmetropolitan and Preacher. It's all BKV's fault that I discovered some of my favourite comics creators either because other series were compared to Vaughan's series or because he had a blurb on the cover of a new series or collection. 

Occasionally I feel a little bad for BKV. I would not list him as one of my all-time favourite comics writers but i do think he's better than most. Don't get me wrong, he's very good and he definitively cares more about the quality of comics he writes than the quantity. Still, I've always enjoyed a comic written by BKV, some more than others of course. I'm certain I will always continue to admire his desire to create new characters and series of his own as opposed to focusing all of his attention on the serialized adventures of the Big Two's superhero of the month.

What about The Oath? Where is it situated in Vaughan's body of work? It doesn't compare to his larger series, Ex Machina or Runaways or Y: The Last Man, but I think it might be his best mini-series. What makes this potentially Vaughan's best mini-series? For starters, having Marcos Martin on art duties does help out a lot. The creative team establishes the Night Nurse in the Marvel Universe, gives us a bit of her origin, offers us a short revamp of Doctor Strange's origin and also establishes his relationship with Wong. There’s also plenty of snappy dialogue and an establishing conflict as well as a few other nice moments where Vaughan uses the shared universe of Marvel to his advantage – and that’s all in the first issue! None of it feels dense though. Vaughan gives Martin the room to let his art breathe and the whole thing stays pretty balanced throughout all five issues.

Stephen Strange's origin story is about him putting aside his arrogant ways and learning to be compassionate and helpful towards his fellow man. Vaughan thinks up a story in which we get to see that he's really taken his lesson to heart and actually has changed for the better. It wasn't easy and Strange has moments if doubt but it’s his willingness to help his friends and his ability to overcome his fears that make him the hero he is. It doesn't have a whole lot to do with his powers as Sorcerer Supreme. Many other characters also have the abilities to wield magic and it doesn't mean they're all heroes. Mordo is a prime example of this. The guy is a villain, plain and simple. His power doesn’t instil in him the desire to help others. In fact, being powerful makes him want to take advantage of others and take actions that benefit himself. Vaughan does a good job of humanizing Strange while allowing him to have a dangerous edge. He's the Sorcery Supreme, after all. He is not to be underestimated.
One of the difficulties with writing a Doctor Strange story is the unpredictability of magic. Certain readers could find it difficult to enjoy reading a story in which a veritable deus ex machine exist as a primary story telling element. How do you write interesting conflict when your protagonist can just magic it all away? A lack of rules or an overabundance of rules to link the usage I magic in a story is an important and commonly dealt with element of the fantasy genre but it’s been a constant problem for Doctor Strange. Vaughan takes the time to address this problem directly without making it the focus of the story. It’s a little tough I appreciated and by defining how the magic works, Vaughan slips in with an emotional sneak attack near the end of the story. The guy had it planned all along!

Vaughan and Martin’s Doctor Strange comic effortlessly balances magical battles in other dimensions, philosophical debates on the use of power, and a sneakily emotional story. Doctor Strange: The Oath is a quick burst of superhero comics that actually has an interesting story to tell and doesn’t hinge on the fisticuffs of the title’s hero. It’s something we don't see often enough. BKV packs a nice amount of story and character development in five issues and gives it all a weight that is appropriate for a mini-series. The reader is neither overwhelmed and the story doesn't feel breezy or light. By focusing on telling an interesting and balanced story, BKV doesn't have to justify the existence of one more sock ‘em superhero comic on the stands. BKV knows he had one good Stephen Strange story and he told it, and stopped. He never even considered overstaying his welcome and instead leaves us wanting more once the last page is turned. I wish there was more of a demand for shorter superhero stories with some actually depths to the story than the endless parade of variant covers and summer crossovers that plague the market on a monthly basis.

Because I liked the art so much, here are more sample pages:

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Punk Rock Jesus Review

Even though I know Sean Murphy has written comics before (Off Road) I think of him primarily as a comic book artist. Murphy tried to prove me and possible other non-believers that he has just as much talent behind the keyboard than he has at the drawing table. 

Punk Rock Jesus is a story set in the future. A new reality TV show, J2, has impregnated a virgin woman with the clone of Jesus Christ. They’ve taken dead DNA material from the Shroud of Turin, revived it and cloned Jesus. The J2 compound is located on an island before the first episode of the show even aired, dozens of people are found outside the gates protesting. For obvious reasons, the show causes much controversy and like many things that are controversial, the show becomes hugely popular. Murphy sets up the story in a mere handful of pages. This comic is wonderfully dense and I really enjoyed that. The story spans several years in the life of the cloned Jesus and it’s all contained in six issues. In a market still dominated by decompressed storytelling, Murphy decides to head the other way and pack a satisfying amount of story in each issue. That alone makes this a worthy comic for your hard earned dollars.

Punk Rock Jesus gives us a chance to see Writer Murphy battle it out with Artist Murphy. I was surprised at the amount of smaller panels and that's probably because I consider Murphy primarily as an artist. He surprised me though. He has a large amount of caption boxes and speech bubbles on most pages but it doesn't crowd the page. That's one of the biggest a surprises here. The pages are dense with words and panels but Murphy's keen eye as an artist keeps it balanced and more importantly, he keeps the reader engaged in the story. I've found in the past that the more a comic is dense the more difficult it is to keep the reader at a suitable level of excitement. The density of a comic has a significant impact on the pacing of the story being told. Either due to impressive story or the stellar art, Punk Rock Jesus captivated my interest and never let it go. This story had some serious momentum. It’s also got tons of action. More than I was expecting. 

Sean Murphy, quite unsurprisingly, draws a great polar bear. It's name is Cola.
One of the concerns I had while reading developed over the course of the first issue. Murphy uses the media quite heavily. There are numerous reporters, news channel broadcasts and one news talk show host that take up a considerable part of the story. I'm not a huge fan of the media being used heavily in comic. It often comes off as expository and dry. I also find that it sucks the energy right out of the story. Few comic creators can and have used the media successfully in their stories. Frank Miller is particularly adept at using this technique (The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and Elektra Assassin are probably his best examples). Murphy proves he has a knack for using this story telling device in a way that is not only effective, but interesting.

Murphy's use of the media allows for him to increase the amount of story he can fit in a single issue. Yes, it serves a purpose as an expository device but it also serves to comment on the story while it’s happening as opposed to simply telling the reader what's going on or what has already happened off-panel. His use of the media isn't done in a vacuum. Several characters appear on TV shows and are interviewed about events that have are happening. It helps that Murphy intercuts the media segments with other stories happening elsewhere.

I wasn't prepared for Punk Rock Jesus. I thought this was going to be some sort of pseudo-cult type story where the loss of innocents of one or many characters was going to be the focus of the story. All I knew for sure before flipping to that first page was that the art was going to rock, and it did. Murphy makes the ordinary look extraordinary and the extraordinary just plain awesome. The art is easy to follow and it all looks and feels so damn energetic. I'm glad this book is in black and white. It's adds a raw energy to the story and art that perfectly fits Murphy's style. There are some artists that simply don't require any colour and Murphy is one of them. Murphy is the kind of artist I want to see draw. I would love to find a video of him attacking the page with pens. It's suitable that punk lifestyle and music play a role in this comic because Murphy's art exudes that same energy. It's go scratchy lines and it gives a sense of artistic and creative energy that’s let loose on the page.

I finished reading Punk Rock Jesus a few days ago and I've been thinking about since. The prevailing emotion is still that of pleasant surprise. I don't know when Murphy had the time to grow as a writer but since he’s arrive on the comics scene with Joe the Barbarian and a couple other Vertigo mini-series, he still had enough creative energy to give us this dose of a 21st century religious big brother that’s combined with a documentary of punk all of which has undertones of social responsibility. This comic will make you a Sean Murphy evangelist.