Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Vol. 1 - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, vol. 1

Despite my having spent three years working in a comic books and games store, the Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomena largely passed me by. Oh, I was familiar enough with the game in general – I certainly sold enough cards for it! But I never paid much attention to the animated series or the comic books based upon the card game. Why? Because I’ve been around long enough to know that out of all the comics and cartoons one can enjoy in this wonderful world, the worst are typically those built around a game.

Trust me. As a survivor of the dark days when Saturday mornings brought us cartoons based on Pac Man, Donkey Kong, and The Rubik’s Cube, I know of what I speak. What’s the point of these shows and comics, apart from promoting the game to those who aren’t already playing it? Wouldn’t you rather be playing a game rather than watching or reading something about somebody else playing a game?

The first volume of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s has done little to make me rethink that generalization. Set in the not-too-distant future of the same universe as the original Yu-Gi-Oh series, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s ups the ante (no card game pun intended!) by eliminating the drab scenes of teenagers standing around and playing card games and replacing them with scenes of teenagers riding special motorcycles called Duel Runners while playing card games. This is nowhere near as exciting as you might think, even with the added mechanic of “Sense” – a variable that increases the psychic damage a duelist experiences whenever they take damage in the game. In short, the faster a duelist is moving when they attack, the more Sense they knock into their opponent. *rimshot*

Our Hero, Yusei Fudo, is a good-natured boy from the poor side of New Domino City. As the novel opens, he is competing in a friendly duel against his sidekick, Sect. Upon losing, Sect performs a ritual to summon The Skeleton Knight – a figure of urban legend who is equal parts Grim Reaper and Bloody Mary. It is said that The Skeleton Man will give rare cards to anyone who summons him after a duel.

To everyone’s surprise, The Skeleton Knight does appear but it turns out he only gives cards to winning duelists and he is ill-pleased to have been summoned by a loser like Sect. And that is just the start of an increasingly strange day, in which Yusei will risk his own soul in a duel to save Sect’s life, fight a duel against the world champion Jack Atlas, meet a girl who is an even better duelist than he is and get an invitation to an exclusive card tournament.

The script by Masahiro Hikokubo is serviceable, but does little to develop the characters past the usual stock stereotypes. Yusei is The Hero. Sect is The Bumbling Sidekick. Jack Atlas is the arrogant jerk loner who preaches that friendship makes you weak and that the strong must stand alone to win. The artwork by Masashi Sato is similarly competent but only that. If this book were a card, it would be strictly common. Yu-Gi-Oh fans will probably enjoy it but the rest of us would probably rather play the game than read about it.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, vol. 1
by Masahiro Hikokubo
Art by Masashi Sato
ISBN: 9781421539638
Viz Media, 2009
Publisher Age Rating: T for Teen (13 )

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FAME: The Cast of Glee (unauthorized) - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: FAME: The Cast of Glee (unauthorized)

I believe there are several things I should state at the beginning of this review, in the interest of full disclosure. First, despite sharing a name with a certain popular star of stage and screen, I have no relation to “the other Matthew Morrison.” I should also note that I am not a “Gleek” – which is to say I am not a fan of the popular television series Glee. I have watched the show a few times and while the production values are good and the actors involved are obviously talented, the show is just not my cup of tea as I’ve never been a big fan of musicals. I mention this because I think it is important to note that I went into this book as a neutral party, who had no particular fondness or animosity for the TV series Glee and the actors and creative people involved in that show before I make the following statement.

FAME: The Cast of Glee is a complete failure on every level and it is easily the worst graphic novel I have read in recent memory.

Unlike previous Bluewater Productions graphic novel biographies, which featured such creative frames as Dracula telling the life story of Twilight scribe Stephenie Meyer, there is no plot to speak of in FAME: The Cast of Glee. All of our information comes from an unseen, unidentified and omniscient narrator. The book consists of a series of information dumps, which dispense random factoids on the lives of six of the actors from Glee and show-creator Ryan Murphy.

Curiously, there is quite a bit of inequity in just how the 36 pages of this graphic novel are distributed, with Chris Colfer, who plays the character of Kurt, only receiving one-and-one-half pages. I would chalk this up to his being a relative newcomer compared to many of his cast-mates, but the experienced comedian Jane Lynch only gets four pages, with one-half of one of those pages being devoted toward recreating a scene from The Forty Year Old Virgin. This seems curious to me, given that with what little I know of Glee, Kurt and Sue Sylvester are easily the two most popular characters and the two people fans of the show would like to know more about.

In terms of information, these biographies are about on par with the average biography written about a hot young star written for a juvenile or young-adult audience. One could glean the exact same information from these celebrity’s Wikipedia pages. Indeed, after a quick web search, I suspect that is exactly where writers CW Cooke and PR McCormack conducted most, if not all, of their research. I should note, however, that Wikipedia apparently has stricter guidelines for spelling and grammar than Bluewater Productions, as I found the word “lead” being used in place of the word “led” on two separate instances in FAME: The Cast of Glee.

I’m not sure what to make of the art in this book, which apparently required the efforts of an artist (Beniamino Bradi) and “Graphics” (Darren G. Davis). Apparently Bradi followed the example of his writer colleagues and turned to the Internet to find photo references for the various actors he depicts. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – a lot of artists use photo references for their art. But many of the scenes depicted in this book appear to have been traced over from the original photo… badly. Indeed, only one thing prevents me from thinking that the art team just pulled pictures off the Internet and then used the filters in Photoshop to create their art and that is the fact that if they had done that, the artwork would look much better than it does.

FAME: The Cast of Glee (unauthorized)
by C.W. Cooke and Patrick McCormack
Art by Beniamino Bradi
ISBN: 978-145074429
Bluewater Productions, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: Kids, Teens, Adults

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer!

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Thirteen: Kick My Heels Up And SHOUT!

Me: And hello to you too.
Arngeir: Ah, my apologies, Dragonborn. I am unused to greeting visitors. Indeed, I am unused to speaking at all, save to read the prophecies of the dark times to come or to shout the Thu'ums. Why, the last time I DID speak...
Me: Yes, yes. I understand. So... you wanted to see me?
Arngeir: Indeed. We must test you - to see if you are truly a Dragonborn and then train you that you may use your fabulous powers.
Me: So... what do I do? Hold my sword over my head and shout "By The Power Of High Hrothgar?"
Arngeir: Well, you DO shout. Indeed, I sense you have already learned one of the dragon powers... The power of Unrelenting Force.
Me: I have?
Arngeir: Indeed. With that power, your voice will force the mightiest to fall before you.
Me: Awesome!
Arngeir: Indeed. Let us try it now. Simply focus your will and aim...
Me: FUS!

Arngeir: Agggh!
Me: Woah! Cool!
Arngeir: NOT THAT KIND OF SHOUTING... AHEM.... not that kind of shouting. Just... lower your voice. Please.
Me: Sorry.
Arngeir: It's okay. Now... let us go outside... where if that happens again, at least it will not be echoing off our walls.

From The Saga Of Matthias The Bather; Written by Sven

And so, after a shaky start, the Greybeards did teach Matthias how to focus his shout of force. More, they taught him how to harness the Thu'um to move like the wind and dash forward at tremendous speed. Finally, after a day of intense training, Arngeir took The Dragonborn aside.

Arngeir: Your quick mastery of a new Thu'um is... astonishing. I'd heard the stories of the abilities of Dragonborn, but to see it for myself...
Me: It's nothing. I have a lot of experience running quickly.
Running head-long into danger, no doubt.
Me: This from the woman who set off how many traps in the Felmar cave?
Uthgerd: Point taken.
Arngeir: Regardless, I believe now that you are The Dragonborn - the one the prophecies spoke of. Only one thing awaits before we can complete your training.
Me: And here it comes... the part where you ask me to kill the man who nearly destroyed your order, corrupted your teachings and even now threatens to destroy all you hold sacred... yet only I, an untested student, have any hope of defeating him when you four experienced wizards .
Arngeir: No, but that does sound like a good story. We merely require that you retrieve a horn.
A horn?
Arngeir: Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his ancient tomb in Ustengrav. Then we shall complete your training!
Me: Tomb?
Arngeir: Yes.
Me: Filled, no doubt, with some form of restless undead guardians?
Arngeir: Dozens.
Me: And no doubt probably infested with some sort of giant insectoid vermin.
Arngeir: Almost certain.
Me: Do I have a time limit on that?
Arngeir: Well, the dragons do fill the skies and boldly attack large cities. The portents bode ill. The end times are nigh and the doom of the world approaches. But, we have nothing else to do but read the prophecies and await your return...
Me: Right. Well, I'll try not to die then.
Arngeir: Good plan.

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Twelve: Top Of The World.

From The Saga Of Matthias The Bather; Written by Sven

The journey to Ivarstead was a treacherous one, filled with dangers. Bandits... necromancers... and yet another dragon lay upon the roads. But Matthias and Uthgerd did survive these dangers. Moving around the Throat of the World, they came to Darkwater Crossing - a mining camp set near a cave known as the Darkwater Pass - the fastest way to Ivarstead, it was said. Pitting his wits against the treacherous Falmer - the lost tribe of barbaric snow elves - The Bather did brave the pass, facing their poisoned arrows and the giant insects called Chaurus, which they raised as herd animals.

Me: That's it, Gerd! Just hold them off a bit until they forget I'm here and I can sneak attack them!
Me: Oooh... did the paralysis poison kick back in again? Tough break.

And so it was, after much hardship, that Matthias and Uthgerd did come to the village of Ivarstead. After a night's rest, and much prompting from Gerd (whose back was quite heavy with Felmar weapons), Matthias did search for a general store. It was then that he was to have a fateful encounter with a woman in urgent need of a hero...

Temba Wide-Arm: BEARS! BEARS! BEARS!
Temba Wide-Arm: The bears! They are always working against me!
Me: Are they?
Temba Wide-Arm: Oh yes! Mauling my workers! Destroying my trees! Stealing my pic-a-nic baskets!
Me: Uh-huh. Well, clearly you are busy with your insane rantings...
Temba Wide-Arm: Why, I'd pay anything for someone to go out and kill some of those damned bears!
Me: So, you need someone to kill those damned bears, then?
Temba Wide-Arm: Yes. Or at least deliver unto me the skins of ten bears.
Me: Right. Fear not, madam! I shall not rest until those bears are dead. Or at least shivering in the snow!

After parting ways with the mad woman and agreeing to deliver some supplies to the Greybeard temple on behalf of a local merchant, Matthias did begin the long 7,000 step pilgrimage up the side of The Throat Of The World, making the treacherous climb to High Hrothgar.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Eleven: The People In Your Neighborhood

From The Saga Of Matthias The Bather; Written by Sven

And so it was, having nearly scaled the Throat of the World on bare foot, that Matthias The Bather did return to Whiterun. It was there that The Jarl informed him of a far easier path up the other side of the mountain - a pilgrim trail leading directly to the temple of the Greybeards from the village of Ivarstead. There was some arguing about whether or not the Jarl had mentioned this path before and The Dragonborn had not been listening.

Regardless, Matthias decided to wait a while before journeying to Ivarstead, his pockets fat with the bounty of the many giants and trolls slain upon the mountain slopes. And so it was that he decided to make the acquittance of some of the peasants he was now charged with protecting and sell them his junk.

And so it was that he came to the shop of one Belethor...

Belethor: Welcome! Welcome!
Me: Hi there. I have some loot I need to sell.
Belethor: Ah, well I can give you a fair price for anything you'd like to sell. I'd even buy your family members if you had one to spare!
Me: Really?
Belethor: Well, no. Not really. I'm playing the part of the sleazy but loveable merchant who would sell his own sister to make a better deal but truly has a heart of gold.
Me: Really? Because that's just the sort of line I'd expect to hear from the head of a vast conglomerate of slavers who was playing the part of a sleazy bit loveable merchant.
Belethor: Ha! Too true. *glances around* So do you have any family members?
Me: No. I DO have a rather surly housecarl.
Me: Oh. Well, how about some dragon bones and other assorted bits of stuff?
Belethor: Oh, well I'll buy that, sure. Everything except for that stolen iron mace.
Me: That's not stolen!
Look, me lad. I've been a merchant forever. I know stolen goods when I see them.
Me: How could you possibly know that?!
Belethor: I've got a sixth sense about these things. All merchants do.
Me: So - hypothetically - even if I had stolen from a completely different village from halfway across Skyrim, you'd know it was stolen goods?
Me: So how would I get rid of stolen goods - if I had any?
Belethor: I think you'd have to go find the Thieves Guild in Riften. If you had anything like that.

And so it was that Matthias The Bather did wander about the common folk of Whiterun, listening to their troubles and agreeing to aid them as best he could. He promised to look for two missing swords, a mammoth's tusk and ran an delivery for the Jarl's personal wizard. And once his pockets were heavy with coin, he returned to the Steward of Whiterun and purchased a house for his housecarl to tend to. And so it was that Matthias The Bather and his stout companion Uthgerd the Unbroken did set forth for Ivarstead.

My next Skyrim War Journal entry was posted on

SOURCE: The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Three. Skyrim Follies

I'm afraid I haven't been entirely honest with you all. While it was true that my blogging of late has been curtailed by computer problems, internet provider problems, my need to find a new image host and some busy days at my day job, there was another reason my Skyrim War Journal was put on hold.

The main reason - and I said nothing for fear of jinxing it - was because Doctor Who & Demon Knights scribe Paul Cornell had put out a call for funny Skyrim stories and I applied.

My story of how Matthias the Bastard tried - and failed - to make his way to High Hrothgar by scaling the Throat of the World on foot... only to then be informed of the 7000 step pilgrim trail on the other side of the mountain made the cut. :)

Enjoy. I'll be posting another adventure or two before the end of the week!

Itsuwaribito, Vol. 1 - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Itsuwaribito, Volume 1

“Someone who steals by sneaking into some place quietly without anyone knowing is called a burglar. Someone who steals by using words to trick someone is called a swindler. Someone who steals by using violence to beat someone up is called a thug. Someone who has perfected all of these… sneaking, tricking, beating, stealing… someone with this most evil, most awful occupation is called an Itsuwaribito.”

The first volume of Itsuwaribito opens with this helpful definition, though we quickly get to see several of the titular villains in action, looting and pillaging an orphanage. One of the orphans, Utshuo Azako, is a young man who swore an oath to never tell the truth ever again after he inadvertently brought about the deaths of his family by honestly answering the questions of a gang of thieves seeking a way into his house. Since then, he has devoted most of his time toward fishing and creating small bombs and poisons rather than doing his chores, much to the annoyance of “Gramps” – the monk who took Utshuo into the orphanage.

Offered a place among the gang of Itsuwaribito as they attack, Utshuo refuses to join them. Trickster though he is, he does not like the Itsuwaribito way of preying on the weak and helpless. After defeating the gang with his own lies and tricks, Utshuo makes a vow to follow the example of the monk who took him in and use his unique gifts for treachery to help at least one thousand people. As his journey begins, Utshuo tries to help (and eventually adopts) a talking tanooki he calls Pochi, who will become his closest companion.

Writer/Artist Yuuki Iinuma has come up with a winning concept here. Granted, as a life-long fan of trickster tales, my opinion may be biased and suspect, but there is much to recommend this story even if you aren’t a big fan of “heroes” who are lying, cheating, sneaking, stealing con-men. Utsuho is a truly unique character, being an earnest and open young man despite his commitment to treachery as a way of life. Ironically, the only things he is truthful about are his desire to help others and his position as an Itsuwaribito. Pochi too, is an oddity among Manga characters, being a wacky talking animal sidekick who manages not to be annoying or completely disconnected from the true action of the story. Iinuma’s artwork is fantastic too, seeming more thin-lined and elegant than the standard manga style requires.

I would recommend this series highly for older teens that may have been fans of Naruto or One Piece but are looking for something a little more sophisticated. The first volume has several graphic scenes of violence, with lots of blood and action as Utshuo pits his wits against other Itsuwaribito who favor the “thug” aspect of the occupation over stealthy and word-play. While this first volume is somewhat tame by the standards of what I usually associate with Older Teen manga, I would still plead caution, despite my own desire to read as much of this series as possible.

Itsuwaribito, Volume 1
by Yuuki Iinuma
ISBN: 978142153756
Viz Media LLC, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (16+)

New The Dark Knight Rises trailer officially released on-line.

SOURCE ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ trailer #2 officially online in HD

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Legend: The Labors Of Heracles - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Legend: The Labors Of Heracles

I’ve always been a fan of Greek and Roman Mythology but I have never been a big fan of Hercules – a.k.a. Heracles, a.k.a. Herkales, a.k.a. Hercle. Maybe it’s because I grew up with the image of Hercules being Lou Ferrigno and most of the Hercules stories of the time being built around the image of Hercules as the quintessential jock – strong of limb and slow of wit. This was an unfair portrayal, I found out later, when I finally saw the much better movies starring Steve Reeves which were more mythological accurate. It was in these films that I first saw a Hercules who showed off a head for strategy as well as his mighty muscles.

The “Herc” of Ryan Foley’s Legend: The Labors Of Heracles falls neatly into this later mold. He is a man of action but also a man of wit and cunning. Told through the frame story of a Roman teacher speaking to her pupil as they wander the city, this volume tells us the story of Heracles – a bastard son of Zeus, born to a great destiny. Despite this, Zeus’ wife Hera was jealous of her husband’s affairs and continually sought to kill the women involved and the resulting children.

Heracles proves to be too hardy for this, strangling the snakes Hera sent to kill him as an infant. Hera bided her time, waiting until Heracles was grown and married with children of his own. Enchanted to see his family as monsters, Heracles killed them in a rage. When he recovered his wits, he wandered until he came to Delphi, where Apollo’s oracle charged him to do ten tasks for his cousin Eurystheus as penance. And so begins one of the greatest epics of all time, condensed into eighty illustrated pages.

Foley’s script is a good one, neatly conveying all of Heracles’ struggles without seeming rushed – a mind-blowing task given the space involved. Sadly, the artwork of Sankha Banerjee doesn’t hold up quite so well. Banerjee’s realistic style suits the subject matter well but it is unevenly inked, appearing far too sketchy. The coloring is also inconsistent, with Hercules hair shifting between brown and blonde at different points in the narrative. But worst of all is the lettering, which employs a number of inappropriate fonts for the “WHACK!”s and “SLASH!”s in the action scenes.

This book, like all the Campfire Graphic Novels series, is meant (and I am quoting from the Campfire Mission Statement in the front of the book) “To entertain and educate young minds…” This suggests this series is aimed at children but there is a lot of content in this volume that seems remarkably out of place in a graphic novel for elementary school students. Hercules’ Ninth Labor, for instance, makes no bones about the fact that Hercules slept with the Amazon queen Hippolyta in exchange for her girdle. While there is no nudity, I found the images of Hippolyta in a form-fitting diaphanous robe romancing Hercules to be rather risqué and the narrator notes that Heracles’ was “a virile man” when discussing what Hippolyta demanded of him. Mention is also made of the ivory bull that became the obsession of the wife of King Minos of Crete and how his queen’s display of “uncontrollable passion” for the animal gave birth to the Minotaur.

I’d advise any librarians in conservative communities to be cautious about including this book in their collections. This is all true to the original myths, of course, but there are many illustrated guides to Greek and Roman Mythology that cover the same subject matter without being quite so explicit and are equally fun to read.

Legend: The Labors Of Heracles
by Ryan Foley
Art by Sankha Banerjee
ISBN: 9789380028279
Campfire, 2010

Harry Houdini Graphic Biography - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini is as much of a conundrum as his many tricks. He was an illusionist who hated dishonesty. He was a magician who didn’t believe in magic. He was, at the height of his fame, one of the most famous and beloved men in the world and yet nearly 100 years after his passing he is largely forgotten to the general public, save as the ultimate example of the “the show must go on” mentality of theater folk. All of these contradictions and more are explored in Campfire’s graphic novel biography of Harry Houdini.

Our tale is told through the perspective of two fictional characters –skeptic Dr. Buster Harper and his nephew William, an aspiring magician. We are told that Houdini and Dr. Harper cooperated on a number of efforts to “bust” phony psychics and that Houdini owed Harper a favor. Noting the increasing depression of his young nephew, Dr. Harper asks Houdini if he would take William on as an apprentice. Houdini agrees and as the final days of Houdini’s life play out, he tells William of his life, his illusions and his motivations. At the same time, Dr. Harper muses about what he knows of Houdini’s past in a series of journal entries as he ponders writing a biography of Houdini but despairs over what details should or should not be omitted for fear of embarrassing his dear friend.

The script by C.E.L. Welsh spares us little of these details. From his beginnings putting on shows for the other children in his neighborhood to the final performance he gave in defiance of a doctor’s instance that he must be hospitalized immediately, we are told every fine point of Harry Houdini’s life. I even learned a thing or two from this book, such as the suggestion that Houdini’s zeal to go after fraudulent fakirs came about not because of a skeptics’ commitment to logic and reason but because of a deep guilt that he and his wife were forced to work as mediums, conning people out of their money during the hard times before he became a household name.

Sadly, the art by Lalit Kumar Singh fails what might have been an otherwise excellent graphic novel. Singh’s attempts at photo-realistic drawing are competent enough when he is aping famous photos of Houdini but the character proportions are inconsistent and off-putting throughout. There are several pages where Harry Houdini looks less like himself and more like Flat Top from Dick Tracy! But what really makes this book an artistic failure is the lack of continuity. At one point we are treated to a depiction of Houdini’s great Milk Jug trick – a stunt where he locked himself inside a milk jug, escaped and then had the jug filled with water thus increasing the need for speed in picking the locks when he escaped a second time. And yet, in drawing this scene, Harry Houdini is depicted as soaking wet before the water is poured into the jug! Houdini may have been the greatest magician of all time but it will take more magic than even he had to make this graphic novel an acceptable purchase for any library.

Harry Houdini
by C.E.L. Welsh
Art by Lalit Kumar Singh
ISBN: 9789380028255
Campfire, 2010

DC Superheroes: Green Lantern Series - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: DC Superheoes - Green Lantern Series

In spite of my mother’s best efforts to limit my exposure to comic books as a boy, I became a superhero fan. And somehow, out of all the more popular heroes I was exposed to through the cartoons and action figures of the time, my favorite superhero was Green Lantern. Why? To this day I’m not quite sure. Maybe it was the appeal of the costume, dark green being my favorite color. Maybe it was because when the chips were down for The Superfriends and Superman was powerless it was usually Green Lantern’s Power Ring that saved the day. Or maybe even then my pre-school self admired the power of imagination and realized that of all the super powers a person could have, the ability to will into existence anything you could think of was a darn good one.

I couldn’t help but think back on this while reading a number of Green Lantern books from the new DC Super Heroes line from Stone Arch Books. Having read through four of the series so far, I can only wonder how much easier it might have been to explain just how awesome Green Lantern was to my classmates if I’d had these books back then. Each book establishes the basic concept of The Green Lanterns well enough – how they are police officers armed with rings that allow them to make their thoughts reality, appointed by the alien Guardians of the Universe and assigned a different sector of space. The Green Lantern of our sector is an Earthling named Hal Jordan – an honest and fearless (though somewhat reckless) fighter pilot for the US Air Force. It is the duty of each Green Lantern to protect their sector. Protection, in this case, is not limited toward capturing criminals and fighting vicious space beasts but also involves diplomatic duties such as settling conflicts between interplanetary governments.

One of these conflicts lies at the center of Web of Doom, in which Hal must supervise the signing of a peace treaty even as he deals with the manipulations of an agent of the fear-empowered Yellow Lanterns and then finds himself needing to make an unlikely alliance with the Yellow Lantern to put down an even greater threat. In The Light King Strikes!, Hal returns to Earth and must match wits with the fiendish Dr. Light – a super-villain whose powers allow him to absorb any energy a Green Lantern can throw at him and grow stronger as a result. In Savage Sands, Hal Jordan is dispatched to Egypt as the immortal Vandal Savage attempts to raise an army of mummies and an animated Sphinx as part of a mad scheme to take over the world. Finally, in Fear The Shark, Hal Jordan tries to enjoy a rare day off only to have his day ruined as the beast known only as The Shark goes on a rampage.

Admittedly there’s not a lot of depth to these stories but they are good for what they are – simple chapter books for beginning readers with an interest in superheroic action. These books are novels, with illustrated pages depicting the action intermingled among the text. Curiously, the text is punctuated with colorful cartoon-balloon style fonts every time there is an instance of onomatopoeia. It is strange to see all the WOOSHes and KA-POWs in the text rather than in the artwork but this is a small distraction.

The artwork by Dan Schoening is reminiscent of the Bruce Timm style of drawing, with overly broad shoulders on the men and a simple, streamlined approach in depicting everything. Every book of this series looks good though I can’t help but think it might have benefited from being rendered as a true graphic novel rather than a hybrid. Despite this, I would recommend this series to anyone who has or cares for beginning readers that have a fondness for superheroes.

DC Super Heroes – Green Lantern Series
Green Lantern: Savage Sands
Written by: J. E. Bright
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226198
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434234056

Green Lantern: Web of Doom
Written by: Michael Anthony Steele
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226211
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434234070

Green Lantern: The Light King Strikes!
Written by: Laurie S. Sutton
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226105
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434230836

Green Lantern: Fear The Shark
Written by: Laurie S. Sutton
Art by: Dan Schoening
ISBN (Hardcover): 9781434226204
ISBN (Softcover): 9781434234063
Stone Arch Books, 2011

The Iron Saint - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: The Iron Saint

Our story begins at the height of Prohibition on an Earth that resembles nothing less than a steampunk Chicago, with flying cars, steroids that grant superpowers and mechanical limbs commonplace. Michael Iron is a “problem-solver” for The Syndicate – one of the three rival interests fighting for control of the city. After one of his fellow gangsters double-crosses him on a debt-collection job, Iron wakes up three months later with a price on his head, a cybernetic arm and an unlikely ally– Angel, the virginal daughter of the debtor he was supposed to collect from. Together, they will have to find a way to pay Iron’s debt to The Syndicate and avenge Angel’s father, even as every bounty hunter in town starts hunting for them.

The story behind The Iron Saint is as interesting, if not so action-packed, as the story within the comic itself. Originally published in 2007 as a four-issue mini-series called Iron And The Maiden, the book was beset by troubles almost immediately as the band Iron Maiden threatened legal action over the title It was also during this time the creators at Top Cow Productions suffered the loss of a great artist and a greater friend – Michael Turner. Beloved by both his colleagues and his fans, Turner’s passing is noted by author Jason Rubin in his heart-felt introduction, where he also relays the story of the lawsuit and other details that offer a brief but fascinating look at how the comic industry functions behind the scenes. Michael Turner fans might be interested to know that the cover gallery at the end of this volume contains some of Turner’s last work before his untimely death; including the only comic cover he ever colored himself.

This cover gallery itself is worth the price of the book, boasting pieces by not just Michael Turner but artists such as Jim Lee, Chris Bachalo and Joe Madureira. Interestingly, Madureira did the initial character designs for this series and the main book art by Francis Manapul and Joel Gomez greatly resemble Madureira’s work on Battle Chasers, with lots of big men with big weapons. Most of the male characters are at least twice the size of the women and Iron looms most impressively over his Angel. But Manapul and Gomez are somewhat more grounded in reality than the more mangaesque Madureira, despite a number of characters having gravity-defying anime hair.

Fans of Film Noir and Steampunk will each find a lot to like about The Iron Saint. However, librarians would be well advised to shelve this volume in the same section where they keep Frank Miller’s Sin City books. There is one character, Mushmouth, whose manner of speech involves quite a few run-together and misspelled curse words, including the dreaded f dash dash dash word. While there is no outright nudity, there are several scenes set in a strip club, where Angel takes a job as a dancer so as to spy on The Syndicate. There’s also more than a few depictions of women wearing pasties that are close enough to topless to make this book inappropriate for most young adult graphic novel collections.

The Iron Saint
by Jason Rubin
Art by Francis Manapul, Joel Gomez and Michael Turner
ISBN: 9781607060796
Top Cow Productions, 2010

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Nine: The Quickest Way To A Man's Heart (Through His Chest, With A Dagger)

With no shops opening until dawn, I went to the one place a wanderer can always count on being open - the local pub. It was then that I was reminded of a certain mission I'd agreed to take on for a certain lady, who was looking like my best chance of getting laid.

Me: Excuse me, but are you Mikael the Bard?
Mikael: Aye, I am! Perhaps you've come to learn the bardic arts? There's a whole college up in Solitude where they teach the arts. Song. Lute-playing. Poetry.
Me: That's not why I'm here.
Mikael: Uh-oh. You have a sister?
Me: No.
Me: No.
Mikael: Wife?
Me: No.
Mikael: In my cups, did i mistake you for a woman and propose marriage?
Me: No.
Mikael: Did I propose something else?
Me: No.
Mikael: Then what do you want with me?
Me: You know a woman named Carlotta?
Mikael: I know of her.
Me: Quit trying to get into her pants. She's not amused, anymore.
Mikael: Bah. I know I can win her over!
Me: (Speech 30) No, you can't. And trying to do it over and over just makes you look desperate in front of the other wenches.
Mikael: Huh. I hadn't thought of that. Very well, I'll leave her alone. I just didn't want it to be said that there was a Nord woman alive that Mikael The Bard couldn't tame.
Me: And how many Nord women have you tamed so far?
Mikael: ... nearly one.

As I moved away from the sad, pathetic bard, I noticed a red-haired woman in full-plate watching from the next table over, chuckling at the display.

Uthgerd: Nicely done, though I would have preferred to see you bloody his face a bit, first.
Me: Well, I thought it best to save that honor for the ladies he bothered.
Ha! Well spoken. I am Uthgerd, called The Unbroken.
Me: I am called Matthias, called The Sexecutioner.
Uthgerd: Indeed. Want to hear a little Nord wisdom? You don't really know a woman til you've had a strong drink and a fistfight with her.

Me: Is that why you're here? Seeking a man who can prove your better in combat so that you can offer yourself to him as a prize?
Uthgerd: What a stupid idea! No, I'm here because those stupid Companions won't accept me.
Me: They don't want you in the Whores Guild?
Uthgerd: No! The great guild of fighters!
Me: You mean The Champions?
Uthgerd: No! They are The Companions!
Me: I'm pretty sure they are The Champions.
Uthgerd: I know damn well what groups won't take me and it is The Companions!
Me: You mean The Whore Guild?

If Uthgerd had had a strong drink or two early in the night, it certainly didn't impede her ability to fight. But I've had to fight my way out of many a bar and the day I can't win a fist fight with a half-drunk valkyrie will probably be the day I die.

Had enough?
Uthgerd: Indeed. No man has ever punched me like that. I feel a great respect for you, Matthias.
Me: This isn't going to get weird, is it, with you getting all obsessed with me, is it?
Uthgerd: No. But I would like to see how you handle a few trolls now. If you ever need a blade to serve you, I will answer your call.
Me: Well, I do have this quest I need to go on. And I don't have anyone to accompany me.
You have me, milord.
Me: Correction. I don't have anyone to accompany me who is good for something besides carrying my loot.
Uthgerd: Just let me know when and I will follow you anywhere.
Me: Awesome.

Skyrim: A Journal of War - Chapter Eight: Holding Out On A Hero

As I got back to Whiterun, I heard a great shout echo forth from the mountain tops. I couldn't quite make out the words, but it sounded something like "GET OVER HERE!" I was surprised to find the Jarl awake and on his throne when I returned to his palace.

Jarl Balgruff: So... it is true. The Greybeards have called. The Dragonborn is among us.
Me: The moose bit my sister. The cock crows at midnight. Could you please give me a straight answer as to what is going on?
Jarl Balgruff: In short, you are The Dragonborn - a prophesied hero of great bravery.
Me: Ok.
Jarl Balgruff: The Dragonborn is said to have the power to slay dragons but also to claim their powers, usually brought forth by speaking the dragon language in a series of shouts we call Thu'ums.
Me: I can do shouty magic. Got it. And the Greybeards?
Jarl Balgruff: Great wisemen, who live in the monastery at High Hrothgar. They devote their lives to studying the Thu'ums and it is said that a single word from one of them could destroy mountains. If they have called for you, it would be wise to visit them as soon as possible.
Me: Yeah, I'll get right on that. The guards said something about a reward?
Jarl Balgruff: Of course. I owe you much for slaying the dragon and defending our town. Therefore, I bestow upon you the title of Thane.
Me: What's a Thane?
Jarl Balgruff: A hero of great honor and prestige.
Me: ... that's it? I thought there might be something more... substantial, to go along with a noble title.
Jarl Balgruff: Of course! I will also give you permission to settle here in the city. Indeed, a believe a house is available for purchase right now.
Me: Purchase? As in... pay for myself?
Jarl Balgruff: Yes.
Me: I'd think... slaying a dragon and all... maybe you'd just GIVE me the house. Not that I'm not grateful, but...
Jarl Balgruff: I understand. Which is why I will also give you a housecarl.
Me: A what?
Jarl Balgruff: A servant, to watch over your house. I have already summoned them to meet you here.
Me: *mumbled* ... great.
Jarl Balgruff: What's that?
Me: I said, great. Great. Don't want to speak too loudly until I get this dragon shouting power thing under control.
Jarl Balgruff: Ah! Good thought! Wouldn't want to accidentally knock down a mountain or something onto the keep.
Me: *dead pan* No. Of course not. That would be horrible. *muttering* Stupid Jarl. Stupid housecarl without a house. Probably some stupid, moldy old bureaucrat like that Precious guy.
Woman's Voice: Excuse me...

Lydia: ... but are you Matthias The Bather, Thane of Whiterun?
Me: ... oh gods yes!
I am Lydia. The Jarl has appointed me to be your housecarl. It's an honor to serve you.
Me: ... serve me?
Lydia: Indeed, milord. Your every wish is my command.
Me: Okay. I officially take back every nasty thing I was just thinking about The Jarl. I thought he was going to give me some moldy old butler but you... you are quite the nubile little slave girl.
Lydia: Begging your pardon, milord but I am a freeborn woman.
Me: So I can't order you to dust my house wearing nothing but a dog collar and a smile?
Lydia: You have no house yet, milord.
Me: Details, details.
Lydia: But your burdens are mine to carry, milord. In all ways not involving sexual depravity, I am yours to command.
Me: ... all my burdens, you say?
Fine. I've got about 400 pounds of iron weaponry you can lug around until tomorrow morning.

Watchmen Prequels in the works.

SOURCE: We Warned You: Watchmen 2 is really happening.

My response?