In the year 2056 robots have supplanted humans in a futuristic world. Humans are no longer required to work, with newly sentient robots doing everything for them. An uneasy alliance has formed between the two factions, with each nervous about what the other is capable of.
The Walters family made up of teens Cora and Sven plus their parents have been assigned Razorball, a hulking giant of a robot who seems to spend a lot of free time in their garage tinkering on an unknown project. Tensions are high within the family, with the father being slavishly devoted to the robot while the mother and teens question this new way of life. While at first humans were grateful for the help and giving up menial labor, they are now perceived as little more as pets to the AI robots. Another wrinkle is that occasionally the robots malfunction and go on killing sprees.
But even the robots face obsolescence when new mandroids are manufactured, looking humanoid and making the metal robots look outdated. This obsolescence makes me think of the classic Twilight Zone episode The Obsolete Man when all that is good is brushed aside for technology and progress to the detriment of mankind.
The art is solid and was appropriately shadowy and moody considering the storyline. The artist Mike Deodato Jr is very fond of grid overlays and it works effectively. The dot matrix that often was used to convey shadows was very apropos for the storyline.
Author Mark Russell’s satire is spot-on, highlighting toxic masculinity, consumer society, corporate greed and white supremacy. Taken as purely social commentary, the narrative is biting, with a side of snark. Recommended!
I’m a sucker for zombie stories, so I picked up this new Year Zero series, which proved to be World War Z in graphic novel form.
In the first volume, the outbreak had just occurred and we were introduced to five different individuals all over the world. While I expected this second volume to pick up with those characters again, instead we meet four new ones a few months into this new apocalyptic world. There is the sadistic Columbian drug lord, a pregnant woman trapped in an Arizona big-box store, a Rwandan doctor consumed with guilt, and a Norweigan sea captain and her two grandchildren who are trying to elude pirates on their fishing boat. The fates of these new survivors were more at risk than in the first volume, which made it harder to connect with them, as some died and others had implied grim endings. We also get some world-building in the form of a few letters throughout this slim volume.
While Benjamin Percy remained the author, the artist and colorist changed to Juan Jose Ryp and Frank Martin. The art remains strong with great details, with coloring shifts for each location change, which helps somewhat with the constant back and forth. I do wish Percy spent more time with each character at a time, for often it shifted every two to three pages.
While I still remain interested in this series, I’m not up for volume three to introduce even more characters. I hope they start to connect the characters still left alive from these first two volumes, and begin to braid their stories together as they learn to cope with the new world order.
Most of the AWA Upshot titles I have been reading recently are dark- and this certainly fits the bill. Sharon, a former soldier who has been out of touch with her father, plans to go home to visit him for Christmas but discovers he was killed in the diner he owned. When she bullies the local policemen into giving her pictures of the crime scene she sees that an intertwining snake was carved into his chest.
Sharon enlists a friend to help and gains intel from a soldier she formally worked with, and discovers an evil network of truckers who work together to hide their serial killings. Prostitutes at truck stops are easy prey for them, and indeed it was one that escaped that Sharon’s Dad hid, that led to his murder. Sharon’s quest for vengeance pays off, and her fighting skills when confronting some of the truckers are second to none. While she does obtain justice in the end, the network still exists and other predators still remain out there. As this is labeled volume one, I assume Sharon has more adventures ahead of her.
Set in the winter in the Midwest, the snowy landscapes and bundled-up people are accurate to the region. As a Midwestern girl, I recognized many of the towns and highways they referred to. The story is illustrated well with good panel placement, but at times close-ups of faces can be a bit off. Appropriately dark-hued, the panels include pink and red tones when there is (much) violence. Letters from the creators and an early mock-up of the first scene, that changed, were included at the end.
This was an interesting read with a kick-ass heroine, but the violence and references to sexual assault were too much for me. I don’t mind gritty stories, but this story takes it to an extreme.
If the title doesn’t already give you a clue, this grindhouse-inspired graphic novel that is set in Kentucky in 1971, pays homage to Beowulf.
The story opens with a heavily armed man heading into a mine shaft, and shifts to his adult son Denny being told of his death. He calls his sister Marnie, who is the leader of an all-girl biker gang, and asks her to head home for the funeral. The two later find out that their grandpa as a teen had been a miner who had accidentally released a monster who demanded tribute, which led to prosperity for the town, so long as the monster was fed regularly. The siblings, and Marnie’s gang, plan to slay the monster and succeed, but if you are familiar with the Beowulf story, you should know what happens next. Much death and destruction follow.
The artwork is dark and gritty and reminds me of Warlords of Appalachia, another rough and tumble tale set in Kentucky. Illustrated in traditional inks, the region and era are evocatively drawn, with a full-page fake newspaper being a special treat to find clues in. I have to admit, this lean story has some major holes in it, but I still came away pleased with the narrative. I’ve been very impressed with some titles that I have read from AWA Upshot, a new comic book publisher, and I look forward to more.
Finally, Free Comic Book Day is back at the beginning of May! I planned an event at my library to distribute free comics, and thus got a sneak peek at the titles. More than usual caught my interest which is great!
I’ve heard some buzz about this the upcoming graphic novel Clementine, which is set in The Walking Dead universe and is inexplicably based on a computer game. Written and illustrated by Tille Walden, an established YA author, it has potential for younger readers, but adults will notice some plot holes. Where is she going and why??? The issue also includes a story about a machine boy (skipped) and a fantasy piece about a pirate’s daughter that has lovely art.
Marvel Voices is a new series that are a collection of short stories around certain topics that have different authors and illustrators. This FCBD issue pulls together a few from already released collections, giving us an excellent sample so we will want to read the previous graphic novels. I think a YA audience will really connect with this series, as some of the topics addressed are Indigenous Voices, Pride, Words Do Matter, and Personal Heroes. The humor and art are a winning combination.
I always pick up the Spider-Man/Venom issue, despite my ongoing confusion between Venom and Carnage. In the Spider-Man story, Spidey has to battle a magical post office box that had turned into a monster. It somehow has to do with an evil Ben Reilly and Madelyne Pryor from the X-Men- so they are now pulling together characters from two franchises, which has potential. In the Venom story, a one-eyed Eddie Brock wants to keep his son safe, who is a symbiote himself. Don’t know the background for this family drama, but the last two-page spread with other monsters was cool.
I picked up this issue for the creepy front cover, plus I noticed that Jeff Lemire was the author. The art took some getting used to, but I warmed up to it. What intrigued me the most is that this is an introduction to a new horror universe that Lemire and artist Sorrentino have planned called The Bone Orchard Mythos. Stories will weave in and out of this universe in the next few years. This issue did the trick in capturing my interest and making me want to seek out future books by this duo.
Judgment Day sets up a battle between three groups- the Avengers, X-Men and Eternals. The Eternals are portrayed as smug assholes, who wish to eradicate deviants from the universe. So…the X-Men are mutants, thus deviants, and the Eternals have infiltrated their secret stronghold of Krakoa. Will the Avengers stand with them against the Eternals? I’m not excited about this storyline, for a few years ago I read Avengers vs X-Men, and came away disappointed. The fighting among team members trope is over-done, so I don’t have high hopes, although the art looks good.
My last comic is Primos which introduces a welcome new Latino superhero to a YA audience that ends on a cliffhanger. The story is printed twice, once in English and once in Spanish, which will bring more readers into this new storyline that honors those with Mayan heritage. The art is appealing, and a letter from the author is included that gives some background.
Free Comic Book Day did exactly what it is supposed to do- introduced me to some new stories that make me want to read further into the series and buy the complete graphic novel!
Five stories run parallel to one another to represent a microcosm of a global zombie epidemic- Sara is a polar research scientist who is the one who inadvertently finds the first zombie frozen in time, Daniel is a young orphan from Mexico City, Saga is a paid assassin in Tokyo, Fetemah is an army informant in Kabul and BJ is a doomsday prepper in Minnesota. These five individuals, deal with the sudden fallout when they become the few who have survived the apocalypse. We are only given a few pages of each person’s story before it shifts elsewhere, so the story doesn’t advance much in this first volume beyond them all surviving the first onslaught. But the artist and colorist did an excellent job in capturing each personality and the region they are from. In addition, there was a different color scheme for each of the five, which helped differentiate them.
I first picked up this graphic novel because I am a sucker for zombie stories, and I had been a big fan of The Walking Dead. But I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the author, Benjamin Percy, as I was first introduced to him through two Wolverine podcasts and later a horror short story collection, Suicide Woods, of his. With this entry, I will continue to seek out his work!
Back in 2020, I read the first issue of The Resistance through Free Comic Book Day, and I said, “The evocative cover drew me in, and this story ended up being my favorite FCBD issue as it was a complete first issue of a new series, not just a taste like so many FCBD stories are. In fact, the narrative is eerily similar to what we are going through now, as a pandemic sweeps through the globe. In this tale, the pandemic is even more deadly, with a 95% fatality rate. But suddenly, the virus stops- as if a switch were turned off. The remaining world needs to regroup, with hints that there might be a mystical or otherworldly reason for what happened.”
Reading the entire graphic novel after a solid introduction was enjoyable- the world building was strong, for while the first chapter showcased a pandemic that changed the world order, the remainder of the book deals with the fallout. With only 5% of the world population remaining, political alliances are in turmoil, when suddenly millions of survivors begin to manifest superhuman powers (shades of the Marvel X-Men). What do these new powers symbolize- will these evolved humans bring hope to a fragile Earth, or are they super soldiers that were mutated by some aliens who plan to overthrow our planet? Governments step in to control these “reborns”, but many are cautious of the authority that is placed upon them, thus a resistance is born.
The art is solid and was appropriately shadowy and moody considering the storyline. The artist Mike Deodato Jr is very fond of grid overlays (see bottom picture) and it works very effectively. Deodato is an established artist, and his work reminds me both of Michael Gaydos’s work in the Jessica Jones graphic novels and a grown up version of the scratchy art I recall from Image’s early days in Wild C.A.T.S. and Youngblood.
Author J. Michael Straczynski offers fresh commentary about heroes and villains and ties it all into our current pandemic and certain fascist regimes. But he also has fun with it, as one of the chapters is just plain entertaining as you follow James, a new reborn being introduced to a superhero school, and he gets a behind-the-scenes look at how fake and controlled the heroes are. He was obviously inspired by the Marvel, DC, Invincible and Jupiter’s Legacy hero worlds, but makes it all his own. In his afterword, he mentions this will be a new universe that other AWA Upshot authors can connect into, so I look forward to this continuing story plus other tie-ins!
“True stories from the front lines of Covid-19” is the tagline for this somber but excellent collection of ten short stories about the current pandemic.
Published in December of 2020 (before another graphic novel with the same name and more contributors in February of 2021), these timely vignettes utilize the stories that NBC News used online that visualized life for front line and essential workers early in the pandemic.
These personal accounts span the globe, giving us intimate looks at people affected by this terrible world-wide crisis. Often times people become numb to mass suffering (which I first noticed during the 2004 tsunami) but connect with individual stories. Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, explains: When numbers simply can’t convey the costs, there’s an infuriating paradox at play. Slovic calls it psychic numbing. As the number of victims in a tragedy increases, our empathy, our willingness to help, reliably decreases. This happens even when the number of victims increases from one to two. (Vox.com, September 5, 2017– written well before this pandemic)
The book begins with a foreword by actress and activist Alyssa Milano who warns that we will not “enjoy” these stories, instead they are to be “experienced”. And that proved to be very true- they were difficult but necessary stories that showed humanity in the midst of sorrow. The following ten accounts were interviews that Ethan Sacks the comic book author, and former journalist for the New York Daily News, conducted with acquaintances and then branched out to other people willing to share their stories and photos for the artist Dalibor Talajić to refer to when creating his evocative illustrations. The art was deceptively simple, yet conveyed great emotion.
The ten stories varied in locale (US, China, Mexico, Canada, Italy) with a mix of stories about medical staff, patients and researchers. There was an opera singer in Italy that went viral (check YouTube video at end of post), a man visiting family in Wuhan and having to stay for four months vs a few days, a street medic helping during BLM protests in Tulsa (I found the behind-the-scenes prep very inspiring), a journalist who finds out during the interview that the mother doesn’t know her adult son just died, doctors making tough calls and scientists tracking the early spread of the disease.
As the foreword warned, I did not enjoy this book, yet I am so glad I read it. It brought back memories of my anguish of having my mother hospitalized twice last summer (not with Covid) and not being able to visit her in the hospital. But it also reminded me of the kind healthcare workers who helped me speak to her daily with phone and video calls. There is a lot of kindness in the world, and this book shines a light on people who have stepped up to help during this terrible time.