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Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Nine & Ten

I’m nearing the end of the series, with only two volumes to go after these two, and the action, humor and pathos never stops!

Volume Nine:

In the first half, Mark regains his powers, so he checks in with Dinosaurus who he left unsupervised. Big mistake! This dinosaurus plotline fell flat for me- it was just so talky about right vs wrong just for Mark to learn a lesson about understanding Cecil’s decisions better. So it’s ok that a million people died, so long as Mark realizes life is not always black or white. Plus, it has bothered me to no end that we never learned what turned mild mannered David into an insane dino/human hybrid. At least there was some amazing artwork with some very cool one or two-page spreads, as the various heroes dealt with the chaos that Dinosaurus caused, with all the faces of characters reacting to Mark’s “death” being a favorite. Another significant plot was that Nolan was revealed to be the Viltrumite royal heir and all of a sudden Thragg is overthrown. Eve reveals she is pregnant and won’t be able to use her powers as it could hurt the baby. A little joke with Mark attending a comic-con about hitting the 100 issues is appreciated, as Invincible was hitting 100 issue at this time IRL.

Angstrom Levy pops up again and he and his multi-verses of different Invincibles worries Mark, and despite Eve seemingly talking sense into Levy after he threatens them, Mark is concerned about what Levy could do in the future. We also get worrisome windows into what Battle Beast, Rex and Doctor Seismic are up to. Rex, especially, is unraveling and reveals his true nature to Mark.

Although Ottley is credited for all the art in this volume it seemed off. Eve and Debbie’s faces seemed different, and I double-checked that Walker wasn’t part of the art team in this volume. Speaking of art teams I should mention that Rathburn (inks) and Rauch (colors) always hit it out of the park.

Volume Ten:

Often in the Marvel & DC comics, heroes make decisions that are always for the best, but in this series Mark is always making mistakes. He often learns and grows from them, but chaos and death often follow him. His determination to kill Levy drives a wedge between him and Eve, and he has to figure out how to get out of a dimension that Rex stranded him in. Months go by, and Eve is nearing the birth of her child when he returns. Mark tries to warn people that Rex has gone insanely evil, but his pleas come too late, and Rex attacks all the heroes resulting in many of their deaths. In the midst of all this, the Viltrumite Anissa assaults Mark, demanding he father a child with her. She rapes him in a very uncomfortable scene. He understandably is reeling from her attack, and it throws him off his game while he deals with all that is happening around him. That his and Eve’s baby daughter is born is a bright spot in this grim volume.

Battle Beast and Thragg get into a fight to the death when they encounter one another, as Thragg has settled down on a familiar planet and has worked VERY diligently at increasing the Viltrumite ranks. The planet he picked is actually brilliant and his children will be ready soldiers in no time. Speaking of other planets, Mark & Eve with their baby daughter Terra leave Earth as they can’t cope with Rex’s betrayals and how everyone is looking past his choices. They meet up with Oliver, who due to his mother’s bloodline, has aged rapidly and they are now are about the same age. We meet Oliver’s girlfriend, Haluma, who looks like a giant lobster but turns Oliver on (love the mandibles joke).

As we now move towards the conclusion, some threads are being tidied up. We see Mark’s first girlfriend with a new boyfriend, and some bow ties are added to Art the superhero’s tailor, Eve’s parents and William & Rick’s character arcs. This was a more poignant story than usual, although you can’t have an Invincible volume without battle scenes throughout. The last page was a gut punch for what it symbolized, and in the enjoyable sketchbooks at the end of each book, artist Ottley said it was rough to draw.

I’m now ready to head into the last two volumes and see how everything gets wrapped up!

-Nancy

Who will win this epic battle?

Middlewest: Books Two + Three

The three-volume Middlewest series was a mash-up of the classic hero’s journey, steampunk and The Wizard of Oz. The first book had been intriguing- it was about a teen runaway named Abel and how the toxic masculinity that his father has modeled affected him as dangerous magic begins to transform him into a monstrous creature.

Book Two

Abel’s breakdown in book one has led to him turning into a storm monster at the carnival in which he was taking refuge from his father. Ashamed at the destruction he caused, he runs away. I thought there was some nuanced dialogue about following him, with a friend wanting to follow him immediately, but the older leader of the carnival making the decision to stay and help the survivors regroup. Abel journeys into a forest with his sidekick, Fox, and discovers his grandfather, who has transformed part of the forest into a hellish winter landscape. His grandfather shows his true colors, and his cruelness drives Abel away into a nearby city where he is kidnapped to become a slave worker in nearby farm fields. All the while Abel’s father Dale continues searching for him. A bleak story about lack of self-control and its consequences.

Book Three

This last book was message-heavy! Abel gets to know the other youth trapped as farmhands, and their sad backstories make him realize he is not alone. Maggie, the carnival leader, is able to put together a group that wants to help Abel and they pick up new followers as they follow Abel’s trail. Dale has also found Abel, so all paths are converging for a battle. The generational rage is addressed, with sorrow and forgiveness concluding this three-part tale.

The art by Jorge Corona was fun and the bright colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu incorporated a lot of pink, purple and orange that helped convey the emotional tone. This was a unique graphic novel series that brought up a lot of intriguing issues- but didn’t quite stick the landing. Dystopian and fantasy aspects tied into real and gritty personal plot threads, but I wasn’t sure at times what direction the narrative was going (and what happened to Abel’s mom?). Author Skottie Young has an interesting voice, and while this series didn’t do it for me, I will continue to seek out further work by him.

-Nancy

Middlewest

Skottie Young, known for his fanciful stories, does it again with Middlewest! It is an intriguing graphic novel that is a mash-up of the classic hero’s journey, steampunk and The Wizard of Oz.

Abel is a young teen living with his single Dad in the town of Farmington, and is going through the usual stages of teenage angst. But when he gets caught up with some friends and makes a poor choice his father overreacts and kicks Abel out of the house for an evening. They have words and his father flies into a fury transforming into a powerful tornado. Abel and his sidekick animal, Fox, escape onto a train but not before the tornado grabs him leaving a strange mark on his chest. Abel and the wisecracking Fox meet a hobo wizard that helps them escape from yet another bad situation, and eventually, they end up joining a traveling circus. All the while, Abel’s father is searching for him, and a mysterious woman at the circus might be able to help when chaos looms.

Jorge Corona’s art is reminiscent of Young’s I Hate Fairyland series, yet it is all his own. Abel’s world is an interesting mash-up of steampunk, fantasy and Midwest reality. The people are drawn with an exaggerated style that matches the fantasy aspect of the story. Corona includes details that will make you do a double-take, as he juxtaposes the every day with the fantastic.  Containers of some sort of pink liquid are everywhere, and while you assume they are fuel of some sort, it is never explained. The colors that Jean-Francois Beaulieu add are eye-popping, as they can veer between subdued colors of the surrounding countryside, and then they become bold especially in later sequences at the circus.

I was pleased with book one of this new series and will be interested in finding out what happens to Abel and how the toxic masculinity that his father has modeled will affect him as the dangerous magic is beginning to transform him.

-Nancy

Books Two and Three finished up this trilogy!

Young, Skottie, Jorge Corona & Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Middlewest. 2019.

I Hate Fairyland: Volumes Three & Four

I Hate Fairyland is fluffin’ over, with the third and fourth books bringing this series to a fantabulous conclusion! I applaud writer and illustrator Skottie Young for keeping this series to four volumes, for as I said after my review of volume two, “I am leery of falling into a candy-induced coma if I read too much of this series.”

Young has quite a distinctive illustrative style and is already well known for his past work such as Rocket Raccoon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Plus, his chubby baby superheroes are a fan favorite for variant art in the Marvel books. As such, he is the only artist I can imagine pulling off this storyline. Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu gives the residents of Fairyland a candy-colored motif that is a perfect juxtaposition for green-haired Gertrude’s nightmare.

Volume Three: Good Girl

Volume three opens with a fun shout-out to comic cons as Gertrude actually looks forward to the annual Dungeon Festexpocon. There she acquires a super-fan who admires the destruction that she has wrought over the community. But as usual, that pairing doesn’t last and Gertrude moves onto the next disaster. We also get a lengthy origin story to her guide, Larry the Fly, but I wasn’t quite clear if it was a memory or a dream.

Our favorite psychopath decides to try something she hasn’t before in her quest to leave Fairytown- she is a good girl. Could this be the key to going home? However, after the swath of horror she has inflicted upon the Fairyland citizens for over 30 years, the creatures do not believe her and former foes come back to kill her. A trip to Hell seems apropos at the end.

On a funny note, when I went to pull these two books from the graphic novel collection at the library I work at, I couldn’t find them, although the computer said they were checked in. A new shelver of ours had put these two volumes in the kid’s graphic novel section, due to the look of this volume in particular.  I hope no youngster was traumatized by accidentally flipping through the very mature content!

Volume Four: Sadly Never After

Hell is filled with Gertrude’s former enemies who wish to make her suffer. As Gertrude is still longing for home,  the Devil plays with her insecurities and sends her to an alternate reality of her parent’s home. But he soon deducts that the real agony for Gertrude is to send her back to Fairyland. Back in Fairlyland, we meet Queen Cloudia who was vanquished in the first volume and who has now become Dark Cloudia. Bitter, she wants to destroy her former kingdom so some of the council leaders appeal to Gertrude to defeat her. They tell her that Cloudia’s defeat will earn Gertrude a way home.

While Gertrude’s way home is not straightforward and easy, the short epilogue with a grown up Gertrude back home is bittersweet, as it’s not exactly what she had been wishing for…

I loved the little jokes that you could find in the background panels, with dark humor and satire interwoven into it. The art remained fresh throughout and even knowing what kind of story this was, some of the violence and mayhem continued to surprise me. I will miss this foul mouthed sociopath, as Skottie Young created an unforgettable character in Gertrude.

-Nancy

Make sure you check out Volume One: Madly Ever After  &  Volume Two: Fluff My Life

I Hate Fairyland: Fluff My Life (Volume 2)

Gert is back! And she is still the foul-mouthed violent sociopath that you remember fondly from volume one- Madly Ever After.

At the conclusion of the previous book, Gert has been crowned the Queen of Fairyland, and as you can expect her tenure as queen does not go well. She is unsuited for queenly duties, and as such her kingdom falls into chaos, albeit in a funny candy coated gory way. But author Skottie Young never intends for Gert to remain static, so she manages to get terminated from her job so she can move onto her next adventure.

As always Gert wants to get the fluff out of Fairyland, so she embarks on a quest with her trusty sidekick Larry the Fly. Never to think of anyone but herself, Gert leaves a wake of destruction across the kingdom as she follows different clues that could perhaps send her home. There is a very brief poignant moment, as Gert and Larry speculate what awaits her back home if she should actually leave. But the moment passes, and Gert is back to her destructive ways.  A showdown with a Manga-inspired purty princess leads her to abandon a vulnerable new character,  who will come back for revenge later.

Each book, or even issue, contains stories that are stand alone in nature. This series is geared to be a lighthearted romp, with dark humor and satire interwoven into it. The illustrations continue to be a treat, with a lot of pop culture references drawn in for laughs. Young recently drew a hilarious spoof of the series, I Hate Image for Free Comic Book Day and had Gert encountering other Image Comics series characters.  Young and his creative team continue to have fun with the series, although I must admit, too much of a good thing can start to get old. I will continue to look through future volumes, but am leery of falling into a candy-induced coma if I read too much of this series.

-Nancy

( I will be taking a brief break from writing for the blog, as my family is heading to Florida for a vacation. But never fear- Kathleen and I rearranged our Wednesday posts so she will be writing next week, and Michael from My Comic Relief wrote us an awesome guest post about Deadpool for next Friday. I hope to get some good reading done, plus I’ll still be peeking in at the comments and checking Twitter while I am soaking in the rays. Stay geeky my friends!)

Young, Skottie, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Nate Piekos. I Hate Fairyland: Fluff My Life. 2016.

I Hate Fairyland: Madly Ever After

Whoa, this book! It was so fluffing inappropriate,  bloody and over the top. So of course I loved it.

I first became aware of this book when one of my fav bloggers @ The Green Onion Blog reviewed it, and then a friend of mine on Goodreads, so afterwards I knew I had to check it out. When I requested it at my go-to comic book store, Graham Crackers, they asked me where I planned to keep it at the library, and after I assured them it would be in the adult section, they told me they knew I’d love it (They know me well!).

The writer and illustrator, Skottie Young, has quite a distinctive illustrative style and is already well known for his past work such as Rocket Raccoon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Plus, his chubby baby superheroes are a fan favorite for variant art in the Marvel books. As such, he is the only artist I can imagine pulling off this storyline.

The cover art and title page splash panels show us that we are in for a gruesome treat. We are then introduced to sweet green haired Gertrude in her home as she wishes for a fairy land adventure. The phrase “Be careful what you wish for” is accurate here, for she is unceremoniously dropped, or shall I say plunged into Fairyland. She is met by Queen Cloudia and all the cute citizens of the realm and told all she has to do is find a key back to her world. Expecting this would only take a day, she is given a map and a guide, Larry the fly. Things don’t go as planned, and although Gertrude does not look as though she has aged, 27 years has gone by, and Gertrude has turned into a foul mouthed psychopath.

The Queen is quite disturbed as Gertrude terrorizes Fairyland, still on her quest to get the muffin fluffing way out of there. As the queen can not be the one who hurts a guest of the land, she employs others to do her bidding. It doesn’t go well. The final straw for Gertrude is when another little girl is successful in her quest for the key, when Gertrude herself has been unable to find her way back home. All chaos breaks loose, with some hilariously gory sequences, and a twist to keep Gertrude in Fairyland permanently.

Read this candy colored comic book, only if you have a sick sense of humor and are not offended easily. If you meet the above criteria, you will not be disappointed in this violent comedic series, and it will become a guilty pleasure of yours!

-Nancy

Young, Skottie, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Nate Piekos. I Hate Fairyland: Madly Ever After. 2016.

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