Posts Tagged ‘comic book’

#CBR4 Cannonball 31: The Sandman, Volume 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of YouThe Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Despite the fact that Dream himself isn’t much in this volume of The Sandman, it’s still a great exploration of the world of dreams. We get to see some nightmares in this volume, and they’re truly disturbing.

I love how Gaiman blurs the lines between dream and reality in this one. It leaves you looking at the room around you and wondering, “Is this real life?”

We find Barbie in New York City. When last we saw her, she was living with her boyfriend, Ken, in Florida, boarding at a house with Rose Walker, who turned out to be a living dream vortex (stay with me). She’s now living in a small apartment with a motley crew of neighbors: George, a seemingly innocuous man with a dark secret inside; Hazel and Foxglove, a lesbian couple about to face an unexpected crisis, and half of which we’ve met before; Thessaly, a “vanilla” girl who’s a lot deeper than she looks; and Wanda, who used to be Alvin.

We’ve seen into Barbie’s dreams before. But we’d never expect Barbie’s dreams to affect the “real” world she lives in.

Gaiman has found a clever and creative way to pose the question of how our dreams affect our everyday lives. It may be unconscious or conscious, but our dreams do play a part in shaping how we view the world around us. What’s important to us at the moment may actually be as insignificant as dust that will blow away in a moment, yet it leaves a lasting impression in our hearts and minds — much like Gaiman’s graphic novel.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 30: The Sandman, Volume 4: Seasons of Mist by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of MistsThe Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, wow. Just… wow.

Season of Mists moves the story of Dream along. He is one of the Endless, along with his siblings, Death, Desire, Despair, and Destiny. Destiny calls them all together and, as a result of this meeting, Dream goes to Hell to free someone that he wrongfully condemned there ten thousand years ago. But the going won’t be easy because he offended Prince Lucifer (often referred to as “Satan”) the last time he was there.

Things aren’t difficult in quite the way that Dream expected. This volume subtly makes the point that the harder option isn’t always the punishment that we expect it to be, and that the easy road isn’t always the boon we think it is, either. Gaiman tells a very subtle allegory here, and it’s beautifully told.

Neil Gaiman is a serious genius. I can’t wait to see what the next volume is like.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 29: The Sandman, Volume 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream CountryThe Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy cow, I had no idea just how good this series would be. Dream Country doesn’t even do all that much to move the plot forward, but it’s so compelling that it’s still nothing but a pleasure to read.

There are four unrelated stories told in this volume. The first is “Calliope,” about Richard Madoc, a writer who captures the Muse (like, I mean, the Muse, Calliope) and holds her captive in order to write brilliant things. She calls out to the Grey Ladies (the Fates) for help, and they tell her to ask Dream (known to her as Morpheus). We then see the terrible price of compromising integrity in the pursuit of success.

“A Dream of a Thousand Cats” tells the story of the world before recollection, when cats ruled the earth and humans were merely their pets. This all changed when, one day, a human started to dream of ruling the earth himself. This dream spread until a thousand people dreamed it, and it then became reality. A Siamese cat now roams the earth, telling her story and urging other cats to believe and dream, that they might rule the earth once more.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was a really fun one. It shows the first-ever performance of Shakespeare’s famous play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was implied earlier in the series that Shakespeare struck a bargain with Dream in order to become a famous writer. This performance of Shakespeare’s play is put on for the fantastical characters in his play, many of which are real, and friends of Dream’s. It’s a nice bit of meta.

midsummer night's dream

Oberon, Titania, & co. arrive to watch the debut performance of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

“Facade” is about Urania “Rainie” Blackwell, who is transformed into a half-goddess, half-human by coming into contact with the Orb of Ra. She’s lonely and desperate, unable to interact with humankind because of her grotesque, half-human appearance, and she can’t even kill herself because she’s part goddess. Death (Dream’s younger sister) happens upon Rainie as she returns from taking a woman in the building who fell off a stepladder. She can’t take Rainie, but she gives her some helpful advice that allows her to find release from her suffering.

The stories don’t appear to be linked in any way, but they help you to get a bit of a feel for some of the main characters in the story. It doesn’t do so by direct revelation, but rather by showing you the effects that they have on others, which shows the reach of their influence and presence.

Dream Country is a heady read, and could stand alone as its own work.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 28: The Sandman, Volume 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's HouseThe Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I said in my review of Preludes and Nocturnes that I trusted that the foundation laid therein would be put to good use. Well, Gaiman exceeded my highest expectations.

We already know that Dream is the king of the dreamworld, but he was imprisoned by an occult group for seventy years. Now that he’s escaped, he’s trying to rebuild his kingdom. But there’s a complication: a girl called Rose Walker. The girl is a human dream vortex, and unless she’s destroyed, Dream’s kingdom could be destroyed. That sounds so much simpler than it actually is, which is a testament to Gaiman’s genius for storytelling.

There are also some dream beings who have rebelled against Dream, and are trying to create kingdoms of their own. They’re trying to interfere with Dream’s attempts to rebuild his kingdom.

There’s little I can say to adequately praise the beautiful artwork and breathtaking narrative in this volume. Suffice it to say that I couldn’t wait to read the next one.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 20: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics: The Invisible ArtUnderstanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was never into comics as a kid. Part of that was because I didn’t have any money to spend on them, so I never had access to them. And, as I got older, I dismissed them as the trappings of pre-adolescent boys bound for lives of solitude and obesity.

I’m still not really into traditional comics, but I’ve grown a certain appreciation for graphic novels. When this post was published on Pajiba, it was right after I started using Goodreads, and I promptly added all of Seth Freilich’s recommendations to my reading list. It was a great introduction to the medium, and I’ve been steadily working through the list. I like to alternate between graphic novels and traditional novels, since it does feel a little like cheating, sometimes. It’s never taken me longer than a day to read through any one graphic novel (although I do take volumes a volume at a time).

Now that I have a few graphic novels under my belt, I’m glad that I had a chance to read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. The book is clearly a labor of love, and McCloud uses many clever illustrations (both literally and figuratively) to demonstrate the power of combining images and words into a single art form.

understanding comics

McCloud touches on the history of comics, and then proceeds to explain and demonstrate how the mind interprets images, which makes the comic book an especially powerful medium. Some of his examples really blew me away, and it’s clear that he gave a lot of thought to how to present his material. It’s really inventive throughout, and makes me think that kids would learn a lot more about all kinds of different topics if textbooks were presented as graphic novels. Some people (like me) are just visual learners, and we remember what we see a lot better than what we hear.

This book is a must-read for comic book lovers, and for anyone who thinks comic books are derivative and childish. There are some comics that are derivative and childish, but others are quite creative and moving. Understanding Comics is one of the best ones.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 17: Fables, Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham

Fables, Vol. 13: The Great Fables CrossoverFables, Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was the last Fables volume available at my local library, and I wish it had been better.

This volume is a crossover of all three of the Fables comics: Fables (original flavor), Jack of Fables, and The Literals. If you haven’t read any of the Jack of Fables comics, and I didn’t, it’ll be a little jarring to be introduced to so many new characters all at once.

At the Farm, the Fables are trying to regroup and figure out what to do. Mister Dark’s presence in NYC is affecting them, causing people give in to the darker parts of their natures. For Bigby and Beast, this means a knock-down, drag-out brawl. For Rose Red, this means sinking into a deep depression.

When Jack Horner calls, claiming to know how to prevent the end of the Fables, Bigby and Snow take off to see how valid his claims are.

The volume was rather disjointed for me. There’s a lot of meta references, which get to be just a little too twee after a while.

At least the artwork’s back to being good again.

Hopefully, my local library will get Volume 14 in soon. And, hopefully, Volume 14 brings Fables back to its usual levels of ossomness.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 15: Fables, Volume 12: Dark Ages by Bill Willingham

Fables: Dark AgesFables: Dark Ages by Bill Willingham
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dark Ages explored some interesting themes, but some of the artwork was just plain bad, and the skipping from artist to artist hurt my eyes.

This volume is mostly concerned with the aftermath of Fabletown’s war with the Empire. There was a lot of potential here to explore social and political themes, like what happens in a recently-freed land when the oppressor is gone and the people are left to fend for themselves. That was the direction I thought Willingham was going in initially, but, alas, I was mistaken. Instead, Willingham used it as an opportunity to introduce a new villain. I think that’s a missed opportunity, there.

Other than that, the action in this book is a little static. There’s a pretty significant tragedy in the book, but it feels a little bit manipulative and, in my opinion, doesn’t do much to push the book forward. Many of the other events are rather forgettable, although I’m sure Willingham will pick up those threads in the next volume.

It was still a decent read, but certainly my least favorite volume of the series so far.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 14: Fables, Volume 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham

Fables, Vol. 11: War and PiecesFables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is it. The Fables have gone to war with the Empire.

I was a little conflicted about this volume; it’s a fun read, sure, but I was a little disappointed that, after ten volumes of build-up, the war was finished in a single volume. That didn’t seem like enough, and it seemed like a bit of an abrupt resolution to the main issue of the series so far.

The tale is told well, however, and it’s lots of fun watching the action unfold, and seeing the Fables’ strategies playing out. As in any war story, there’s heroism and tragedy. There are battles and plenty of action. There are victories and defeats.

But it did feel rather condensed. I guess, though, if the war wasn’t a long one, there’s no reason to drag it out for the likes of me.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 13: Fables, Volume 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham

Fables, Vol. 10: The Good PrinceFables, Vol. 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boy, oh, boy, was this a good one. When it comes to straight-up action/adventure, I have to give this volume top props.

In Sons of Empire, we learned that Ambrose, also known as Flycatcher, better known to us mundys as the Frog Prince, was destined for an important future. The Good Prince tells the tale of Ambrose’s realization of his fate.

We take a trip down the Witching Well, and are reunited with characters that we thought were dead and gone from as far back as Volume 2, Animal Farm. The scope of the series has grown broader and more epic with each passing volume, and bringing back old characters from the dead is a great way to subtly point that out.

With the help of the Forsworn Knight, who turns out to be Lancelot of Arthurian legend, Ambrose returns to his homelands and establishes a new kingdom: Haven. He means for Haven to be just that: a place where people running from the oppression of the Empire can find sanctuary and solace. But the Empire isn’t going to just let them be. There’s action in the forecast, folks.

Willingham did such a good job of introducing us to Flycatcher early on in the series and painting him out to be little more than comic relief. But he then took the character and made him an unlikely hero, and did it in such a way that it was a complete and refreshing surprise.

It’s also still clear that, regardless of what happens between Haven and the Empire, Fabletown will have to fight its own fight against the Empire. And preparations are being made for just that.

This volume moves the action along at a great pace, and it’s my favorite of the series so far.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 11: Fables, Volume 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham

Fables, Vol. 9: Sons of EmpireFables, Vol. 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sons of Empire was a little up and down for me, but the little bonus at the end brought the volume as a whole back up to solid ground.

The Fables are continuing to prepare for the possibility of war against the Adversary, and the Adversary is now preparing his hostile takeover of the mundy world (that’s our world, y’all). This is especially tough for Pinocchio, who still loves his friends back in Fabletown, even though he’s under a loyalty enchantment to his father, Geppetto (also known as the Adversary).

Here’s one thing I don’t get: the wooden soldiers Geppetto creates to people his armies are so disdainful of “meat” people (humans). Yet, they hold their “father” in such high reverence. It doesn’t make sense to me that they’d think so ill of meat when their own beloved father is meat.

Snow & Bigby continue rearing their rambunctious brood of sons and daughters, and the kids are growing and learning all the time.

There are two special treats at the end of this volume. The first is a Christmas special, and we get to see the Wolf family take a special trip back to the Homelands to visit Grandpa: the North Wind. He and Bigby have a strained relationship, and we get to peek behind the curtain and see why.

By the way, the Wolf kids/cubs are absolutely adorable. Good job, artists.

The second special treat is especially fun. Over the years in which Fables has been in publication, readers have sent in thousands of questions. Willingham and the writers chose eleven questions to answer in one-page comics. Some of them are absolutely hilarious. This segment alone elevates an otherwise unremarkable volume.

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