A crown for everyone: a review of A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by Stephen Youll

OK, this one took me forever to read, and not because it’s shy of 1000 pages. Life happens.

Since this is a sequel, I’m going to discuss A Clash of Kings a little differently, so yes — SPOILERS will abound.

Click through for the review, or read my thoughts on A Game of Thrones.

Continue reading “A crown for everyone: a review of A Clash of Kings”

August’s comic book pick of the month: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

If you read my open call for comics back in April, then you know I’ll be spotlighting current comic book series (in addition to my graphic novel reviews) every month or so to inspire discussion. I’m also taking requests, so please — leave a comment or drop me an email!

Check out last month’s review of HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1.

A lot of you are probably fans of Joss Whedon. From The Avengers to Firefly, he rules a modest corner of the geek world. You’re also probably familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but have you seen past season seven? If not, then you’re missing out on plenty of new stories that await beyond the television screen and on the pages of Dark Horse Comics. Their Buffy adaptation is no small secret in the Whedonverse.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 8, as it’s called, was an extended run of the comics that lasted for 40 issues over four years. There were Angel and Spike books over at IDW Publishing, but now everyone’s favorite puppy-eyed and peroxide-headed vampires have relocated to Dark Horse, the home sweet home for all things Buffy in the shows’ afterlives. Faith is there, too — and even Drusilla and Harmony.

The latest run, SEASON 9, is already 12 issues deep, and can I just say … I love this cover!

Buffy Season 9 #12

Andrew Chambliss writes the return of Wolfram and Hart, the evil corporation that Angel toiled in Los Angeles to stop. Since Buffy broke the Seed, emptying the magic from the world, the demon-serving lawyers should be shut away in their own pocket of hell. But now that Buffy’s a Slayer-slash-bodyguard for the rich and powerful, she has an inside scoop on the business world — and one Internet billionaire is telling her the opposite. Wolfram and Hart wants him dead.

It’s cyber terrorism on a whole new level — well, dimension. To seal away Wolfram and Hart for good, Buffy and company must battle a Teuth demon and find which of startup Tincan’s servers to fry. But keeping the connection open could mean a last link to restoring Earth’s magic … or to righting wrongs with Buffy’s friends, including Kennedy and Willow.

Michelle Madsen provides colors, and Georges Jeanty (who designed the cover above) is on pencils. The combination is an artistic style that’s become iconic to the BUFFY series. But what’s best about this series is how believably the creators translate real-life actors in the television medium to cartoon figures in print, and how they turn near hour-long stories across 24-episode seasons into serial, bite-sized issues released across a much longer span of time. If you haven’t started reading these, now’s the time to get on board. You won’t be disappointed.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9 #12 (by writer Andrew Chambliss and penciller Georges Jeanty) hit stands on Wednesday, August 8.

July’s comic book pick of the month: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

If you read my open call for comics back in April, then you know I’ll be spotlighting current comic book series (in addition to my graphic novel reviews) every month or so to inspire discussion. I’m also taking requests, so please — leave a comment or drop me an email!

The ’80s are still alive, baby! New to DC Comics, HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1 is a blast from your childhood past.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my mail and found a radiantly glowing HE-MAN comic book hiding in my pile of new issues. And by writer James Robinson, no less! Do you know who that is? He’s only one of the coolest writers ever — he modernized STARMAN and turned it into one of my favorite long-running series. So good.

Aside from the gorgeous cover by Philip Tan and Dave Wilkins (a great eye-catcher), the first issue brings back the classic cartoon in style. Look past the first page, which poses He-Man in an awkward running stance, and you’ll fall in love with Philip Tan’s art and Richard and Tanya Horie’s and Carrie Strachan’s colors (on their respective pages).

He-Man won’t be shouting “I have the power!” anytime soon — at least not in this issue. Adam is a woodsman, “and that is all.” He dreams of swords and beasts and heroes, but when he wakes he’s back in the forest, chopping wood and caring for his senile father, who thinks he lives in a royal palace. Whatever reality has become for Adam and those around him, it’s not the stuff of legend. Robinson has given the comic a kind of FABLES vibe.

But the world is trying to make him remember. First a blue and orange falcon — Zoar. Then a monster that confronts him as soon as he leaves his home. His axe becomes a weapon; the woods his battle ground.

It might be different, but the comic still feels like the classic tale. The scene at the end, where Skeletor says “Adam must be stopped, and quickly!” is reminiscent of the cheesy kids’ cartoon. Robinson’s HE-MAN feels like a bridge between two eras … and I hope it’s here to stay for more than just six issues.

Happy 30th anniversary, He-Man.

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1 (by writer James Robinson and penciller Philip Tan) hits stands Wednesday, July 4.

June’s comic book pick of the month: Adventure Time

If you read my open call for comics back in April, then you know I’ll be reviewing current comic book series (in addition to writing graphic novel reviews) every month or so to inspire discussion. I’m also taking requests, so please — leave a comment or drop me an email!

Did you know comics require a lot more brainpower to read? The right side of your brain processes pictures, while the left interprets words. Okay, moving on!

I know what you’re thinking: “Adventure Time is a show, silly!” Whoa-hoahh, hold on a sec. It’s also a relatively new comic book series from BOOM! Studios. Before you groan and turn away, believe me, I understand any misgivings you might have. Like with any crossing of mediums, television-to-comic adaptations don’t usually work so well.

ADVENTURE TIME does.

Ryan North (creator of Dinosaur Comics) pens the issues, and Shelli Paroline typically handles art. Paroline is amazing. I know actual human likenesses are harder to authentically portray in illustration, but her work rivals Georges Jeanty’s on the BUFFY line (Dark Horse Comics). I can’t tell the difference between show and comic here, honestly.

(Also, I love her reproduction of Avatar: The Last Airbender.)

I’m a strong believer that the more recognizable a comic is to its original source, the more successful it can be — especially if it has talented writers working on it. Thankfully, North captures the humor and essence of Adventure Time without missing a beat.

In some cases, it’s better. (Gasp!) While music has always been a fundamental part of the show, I know some people are turned off by all the singing. I don’t particularly care for it myself except in episodes like “What Was Missing” (and I’m not even going to go into the weird controversy there).

ADVENTURE TIME #4 is my favorite yet. It’s amazing how effortlessly North and Paroline can recreate the unique characteristics of the show in still form. Here’s a quick recap: Recently Finn and Jake and co. defeated the Lich and reformed the world, only the desert kingdom isn’t quite where it’s supposed to be. This issue calls upon some princess power to set things right again.

The secondary stories placed in the back end act as fun side adventures that feature different contributing writers and artists. And for those who like variant covers, the incentive ones for ADVENTURE TIME are rather popular. Mike “Gabe” Krahulik of Penny Arcade even prepared one for issue #5. Talk about awesome!

You can preview and buy ADVENTURE TIME #4 online at ComiXology or your local comic shop.

ADVENTURE TIME #4 (by writer Ryan North and artists Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline) released on Wednesday, May 30. Issue #5 is now available.

My small claim to fame and fortune

So several months ago I might have mentioned that my name would be appearing in print. Well, now I can officially say it has.

I submitted a review of the film festival documentary Grandma’s Tattoos to the 55th issue (“Fame + Fortune”) of Bitch magazine — a “feminist response to pop culture.” It consists of only a few hundred words and a small section in the back, but it’s there.

If you’re interested, the magazine costs $5.95 for a print copy and $4.95 digital. My review appears on page 70.