Oct. 18th, 2016 12:10 am
ewx: (penguin)
Monstress vol. 1: Awakening, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.

I encountered the first issue of this as a Humble Bundle sampler ( and liked it, and bought it cheap on Comixology during a sale. From a high level, the setting isn’t the most original: the world is largely divided (with a literal wall) between humans and magical halfbreeds (Arcanics). However it’s a good implementation of the cliché and the plot and characters in any any case transcend it.

The previous hot phase of the conflict between the humans and Arcanics was terminated by some kind of major and very destructive magical event, with even the known details to some extent covered up. Maika, superficially human but in fact rather more complicated than that, knows her mother had something to do with it, and wants answers from her former colleagues. As the book opens she is tactically exploiting helplessness, but she soon turns out to be exceptionally dangerous, a repeating theme being others discovering this a bit too late. This could easily have been mishandled but by in practice it stays interesting throughout; her strength, or a least her willingness to use it, does have its limits.

Maika’s principle antagonists are a powerful religious order which when not exploiting enslaved Arcanics seems to be thoroughly overrun by its own members’ private agendas, a characteristic which extends (albeit mostly in less brutal form) to many of the other protagonists, adding a realistic gloss of human nature to a fantastical world.

The volume ends with a satisfying resolution, but with open questions and loose ends lined up for further issues. I look forward to them.
ewx: (penguin)

Some sampler issues that came via Humble Bundle a while back and I’ve only just got around to.

Black Magic #1. A witch who is also a policewoman. First episode works in isolation but is clearly intended as the start of a longer story. I liked this and could be tempted by more.

Citizen Jack #1. Brutish snowplow salesman makes a deal with a demon to run for president. Didn’t grab me at all.

Huck #1. Small-town superman-alike just wants to do a good deed every day. What happens when the media find out? Find out next issue! Difficult to assess as it’s basically all setup in this issue.

I Hate Fairyland #1. Small girl magically transported to fairyland wants to get home and (eventually) responds to persistent setbacks with anarchic cartoon violence. Amusing idea but I didn’t get a sense there was any more to it than that.

Injection #1. See here.

Limbo #1. Noirish amnesiac detective (reminds me of Dead Letters, which I enjoyed) with magic. The issue concludes at the point he thinks he's got a job all wrapped up, and there's a genre convention about that... Has potential.

Monstress #1. A physically and emotionally damaged witch tricks her way into the stronghold of her enemy in search of answers, but has to leave satisfied with nothing better than revenge. I liked this.

Paper Girls #1. Four ?1980s paper delivery girls in (I think) encounter some kind of alien intrusion, although not a hugely competent one so far. Curious to find out what’s going on.

Plutona #1. Spends the entire issue character-building the group of kids who encounter the eponymous superheroine towards the end of the issue. Difficult to asses for the same reason as Huck, but the setup is more character-building and less situation, which I think is promising.

Pretty Deadly #6. Nice artwork and creative panel layout. But the story seems to be mostly setup and I wonder how much I’m missing from being dropped in at a 6th issue. An odd choice of sampler?

Ringside #1. Lots of good character stuff around an ex-wrestler and others ... followed by what looks suspiciously like the setup for a revenge fantasy. Undecided.

Saints #1. Saints run around a dingy bit of the USA and find each other. Angels plot. Reminds me a bit of Lyda Morehouse. The authors clearly share my amusement at medieval depictions of Saint Sebastian.

The Goddamned #1. A blond naked white dude called Cain (yes, that one) kills a bunch of savages in order to recover his stolen clothes and stuff, then spends a few pages moaning about how horrible everything is. I didn’t really like it.

Tokyo Ghost #1. A pair of police-ish types track down a villain who might be at home in a crossover between Ghost in the Shell and Batman: The Killing Joke. Sanguinary but fun.

ewx: (penguin)

(Caveat: it’s a while since I’ve read most of these so they aren’t all very fresh in my mind.) Underlining marks the best of the bunch.

From the 2015 Hugos packet:

Ms Marvel #1. A Muslim girl in the US gains super powers, and spends most of the book learning to cope, although some longer-term plot starts to pick up towards the end of this volume. Think Vimanarama but more American. Enjoyable.

Rat Queens #1. Four female mercenaries in a D&D setting. Praised as “realistic-looking female characters” and I guess that’s true by comic standards (i.e. discounting pointy ears etc). Well-drawn, some nice lines, reasonably engaging plot. Would probably read more (I’d have to re-read volume one to remember what was going on).

Saga #3. Continues the story. If you liked #1 and #2 (the latter of which I said a little about last year) you’ll probably like this.

Sex Criminals #1. Suzie discovers that time freezes when she orgasms, and as luck would have it meets Jon who has the same unusual power. Inevitably they team up and fight commit crimes. Enormously funny and I will be reading more.

Via Humble Bundle:

Alone Forever. 100 pages of mostly amusing ?autobiographical anecdotes about being single.

Bone #1. Weird little creatures who look like this gradually integrate with cute talking animals ... and find themselves caught up in obscure and rather darker than the setting would have suggested. I’ll be reading more.

The CBLDF Presents: Liberty. Huge collection of shorts, mostly touching on censorship and opposition to it. Mixed quality but fun overall.

Crime Does Not Pay #22-25. A 1940s collection of sensationalized accounts of crimes. Massively popular in its days, which was before a culture of self-censorship set in during the 1950s.

ElfQuest: The Final Quest. Elves doing nothing I found remotely interesting, I got bored and read something else instead.

Essex County. Small boy who likes comics grows up in rural Canada. I’m afraid I got bored of this one too.

Locke And Key. A family loses its father and, on returning to the ancestral home, becomes embroiled in struggle with an evil spirit, their principal weapons being a collection of magical keys unlocking a variety of capabilities for their users. There’s a lot in here and I couldn’t put it down.

Lost Dogs. Roughly-drawn tragedy. I made it to the end but I don’t think it was worth it.

Maggie The Mechanic (Love and Rockets). A vaguely futuristic setting provides the backdrop for meandering relationships between a collection of characters slightly too large for me to remember entirely clearly at this distance. Reminded me of Strangers In Paradise in many ways (not just the artwork).

Heartbreak Soup (Love and Rockets). Similar kind of idea but with an initially more claustrophobic and down-to-earth setting of a Latin American village.

The Madame Paul Affair. Chaotic goings on in a Montreal apartment block. It didn’t grab me.

March #1-2. Account of the US Civil Rights Movement as seen from the inside. Hard work at times but very interesting.

Morning Glories #1. Superficially an exclusive school but in fact the staff are torturing and murdering the students, among others. Might be tempted to read more of it sometime, not sure.

Mouse Guard. Sword-wielding talking mouse on a quest. I can’t really remember anything about this.

Parker #1-4. Career criminal repeatedly finds himself in ever bigger holes due to incompetence and/or betrayal by his associates. I remember this being fun to read.

Revival #1. The dead come back to life and cause all sorts of trouble. I don’t remember much about this but skimming it just is encouraging me to revisit it at some point.

Sidescrollers. A bunch of kids who mostly like playing video games get into scrapes. Fun though not exactly heavyweight plot. Wonderfully characterful greyscale artwork.

The Boys #5. Superpowered hit squad whose job it is to deal bloodily with the worst excess of the world’s superhero population, who seem to be at best criminally reckless. I think I probably suffered a bit from coming in at the fifth volume, but it was good enough that I’ll probably get hold of #1 at some point.

The Frank Book. Weird ?dog creature encounters weird things in a weird world. Quite nicely drawn but I got bored relatively early on.

The Little Man. Random ?autobiographical strips. I didn’t find it very interesting.

We Can Fix It. Jess Fink uses a time machine to revisit her past and generally interfere. A lot of fun.

Wytches #1. Villagers sacrifice people to dark forces in return for all the usual gifts. The victims fight back. I found some of the artwork a bit hard to follow in places but the story was a good one.

ewx: (bananaman)

Humble Bundle are selling a bunch of ebook comics cheap. Sketch opinions so far:

Bee And Puppycat [*]. Magical temp worker and her cat perform daft assignments. I found it a bit thin.

Bravest Warriors [*]. Cupcake deathmatches, two-headed space kittens, sapient celery, clowns. A small band of cartoon characters save worlds from bizarre threats. Give me more.

Curse. Werewolves and dying children. Excellent artwork but I found the story depressing.

Day Men. Vampires employ humans to do their waking-hours dirty work, and consequently this is mostly about v-on-v feuding. I’d rather watch a few episodes of True Blood.

Dead Letters. A man wakes up with no memory of his past and almost immediately comes under attack. Then things get weird ... he spends the next four episodes learning about the background and odd properties of the world he’s in and playing the violent political game of its inhabitants. I really liked this.

Evil Empire. Slightly unlikely US political thriller with the occasional page revealing bits about the mid-future outcome. I didn’t find this that exciting. I don’t think I’ll buy more.

Hacktivist. Computer security thriller inspired the Arab Spring apparently written by someone who knows annoyingly little about computer security. Improves once it gets over the technobabble, on balance I liked it despite the initial irritation.

Hit. Hardboiled 1940s LA police take to shooting criminals who they can’t bring to justice by legal means, only to find things are dirtier than they look. Good but not quite excellent.

Imagine Agents. MIB types keep children’s imaginary friends under control through high technology and dust-ups. Not bad though fairly predictable.

Lumberjanes [*]. Resourceful girl scouts confront bizarre supernatural threats and earn the occasional badge. Fun, would read more.

Six-Gun Gorilla. A depressed librarian repurposed as a human camera stumbles around a war zone with bizarre physical laws, gradually learning a bit about what’s really going on and starting to affect it, with occasional assistance from the revolver-wielding simian of the title. Interesting and entertaining.

The Midas Flesh [*]. Starts well, with dinosaurs in space, and continues by elaborating the implications of Midas’s wish. Good stuff although I thought the body of the story held up better than the final revelations and conclusion.

(…time passes…)

The Woods. A US high school is mysteriously transported to another world. Some of the children head into the surrounding woods, encountering very hostile and friendly creatures there; the staff and the rest of the children stay in the school, trying to fend off monstrous incursions and rapidly descending into an unpleasant internal power struggle despite their precarious situation. The bundle includes the first three issues (of I don’t know how many). I’m curious what happens next.

Translucid. Nonlinearly told story of a superhero’s struggle, first with his childhood demons and then with his complicatedly motivated nemesis. First three issues of six, feeling a bit undecided about whether I care enough about the characters to buy more.

Suicide Risk. A policeman in a force largely overwhelmed by supervillians himself acquires super powers and starts to fight back. The action is made a bit more interesting by Leo’s initial inexperience and relative weakness and the villains’ numerical superiority, meaning that he has to deploy sneakiness rather than just brute force, though by the end of the second volume he’s overcoming some of these disadvantages. There is also some backstory about the origins of the superpowers and the occasional vignette concerning some individual villain. You could hardly say the concept was original but it does do a good job with it.

Polarity. Bipolar artist discovers that if he stops taking his meds he gains superpowers. Thumpings ensue, plus some discovery of what’s really going on, plus a romantic subplot to motivate the main character a bit. Entertainingly drawn and (at least at the ‘quip’ level) scripted but structurally speaking it didn’t impress.

Fairy Quest. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf flee the brutal Mister Grimm, who runs Fablewood with an iron fist. Naturally they meet a variety of familiar characters on the way, variously helping or hindering their escape. Another highlight.

Protocol: Orphans. A collection of young secret agent types with a slightly creepy naming scheme fight various kinds of bad guy. Much of the plot is driven by betrayal, unfortunately none of it really surprising enough to raise an eyebrow.

[*] indicates you need to pay $15 or more to get these four. Underline marks what I thought were the real hits.

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