Search

Graphic Novelty²

Tag

Kieron Gillen

Once & Future: The Parliament of Magpies

This third volume of the Once & Future series is as strong as the first two, and I am loving these twisted King Arthur tales!

The story starts out innocently (I’m not fooled), as Gran relaxes with one of her many cigs out on the patio of her senior home, when six magpies fly to her. She recites two nursery rhymes that would correlate with the six birds and realizes they are a bad omen of what is to come. Of course the colored orbs surrounding them is always a clue that magic and mayhem are around the corner. She calls her hunky ginger grandson Duncan over to help and he brings along his love interest Rose along as she has some foretelling powers.

While the story continues with a dark King Arthur and Merlin, some other English tales and characters are incorporated- such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Elaine of Astolat and Elaine of Corbenic. All of these mentions made me have to look up Wikipedia entries on them all, as my knowledge of Arthurian tales is rather scant. The way that Gran, Duncan, Rose, and Duncan’s mother Mary twist all of these legends around to suit them can be a bit confusing, yet it works. Rose is incorporated more into this story, as she takes charge of a beheading and then later befriending a flying dragon.

The concluding pages seem to put Arthur and Merlin to rest, but of course there is a twist that brings them alive once more. And now because of someone’s stupidity, the dark magic is out in the world for everyone to see, not just monster hunters and sinister government agencies. The strange creatures on the last page are creepily awesome. I look forward to what author Kieron Gillen and artist Dan Mora have planned next for readers!

-Nancy

Make sure you read The King Is Undead (V1) and Old English (V2)

A simple nursery rhyme foretells the chaos to come!

Once & Future: Old English

In the first volume of Once & Future, British academic Duncan and his monster hunting Gran, Bridgette, fought off an un-dead King Arthur that some Nationalists had reanimated to keep Britain pure. While they were successful in defeating him, the king is now down but not out with the Otherworld in disarray, leaving other legends and deadly creatures to emerge and fight for power. 

The second volume begins with Duncan rightfully angry at his grandmother, who had kept secrets from him his whole life, and now he has to be on his guard for new dangers. His colleague Rose, who is also a love interest, uses some magic to determine where the next problems will pop up and he is exhausted keeping up with it all. But when Beowulf appears, King Arthur and an evil Merlin try to harness his strength to their advantage. And for those familiar with the Beowulf mythology, there are additional monsters such as Grendel and his mother, who show up at Bridgette’s assisted living home and cause havoc and destruction as Duncan races over to help. 

The artwork continues to be amazing, although I did notice a change in making some facial reactions extreme and anime-like. I prefer a more realistic approach, as the monsters and mayhem were always detailed and naturalistic, and I don’t want the hunky Duncan to become a caricature.  The Otherworld had vivid almost hallucinogenic colors, with the floating orbs a clue that magic was moving into the regular world and they should be wary. 

I continued to enjoy this new series, and look forward to more warped British mythology. King Arthur remains a threat, and Duncan also has to contend with his family disfunction as his long-gone mother and half-brother are part of the Nationalist group that opened the portal into the dark world. That the volume ends with a real-world politician ready to make an unholy allegiance open the story to more exciting plots! 

-Nancy

I love how Bridgette is so kick-ass!

X-Men: Origins

This graphic novel gives us the origins of six X-Men: Colossus, Jean Grey, Beast, Sabretooth, Wolverine and Gambit. Each story is told by different authors and illustrators, thus there was some inconsistency in how each story unfolds.

Colossus by Chris Yost and Trevor Hairsine

Pioter is a young Siberian teen who is devastated when his older brother Mikhail is killed in the line of duty and during his grief turns into Colossus for the first time. A friend of Mikhail witnesses it but keeps the secret, but the Russian secret police suspect something. A baby sister Illyana is born and Pioter finds it harder to hide his powers so this gentle giant leaves his home and joins the X-Men to keep her safe. This story was my favorite, for despite its short length told a cohesive story that gave you enough details on his origins. The art was well done, especially a splash page of Pioter saving Illyana’s life. 

Jean Grey by Sean McKeever and Mike Mayhew

The story introduces Jean Grey as a teen who is so overwhelmed by her psychic abilities that she has become a recluse so her parents reach out to Professor X to help her learn how to control her abilities. He gets her past her trauma of feeling a friend’s death and teachers her to harness her gifts. But as a teen, she is still unpredictable and leaves the academy alone where she needs to use her powers to help when a crisis occurs. While chastised at the end by the Professor, you see Jean is healing. The art in this story was the best of the six, with a photo-realism style similar to Alex Ross. 

Beast by Mike Carey and J.K. Woodward

We are introduced to Beast as a burly high school genius named Hank who is mocked for his appearance but then heralded as a hero when he helps the football team win State. A bit of an explanation of his origins is given when it is revealed that his Dad was exposed to a high amount of radiation before he was born, thus genetically passing it on to him. Then there is a villain who wants to use Hank as his pawn and Professor X gets involved. Without Hank’s consent, he wipes the memory of Hank from his parents and the community and enlists him to join the X-Men. I hated the Professor for doing that, how cruel to rip Hank away from his family without warning. The art was hideous in this story- the artist was aiming for a photo-realism style found in the Jean Grey story, but it was muddy and distorted. 

Sabretooth by Kieron Gillen and Dan Panosian

Long-lived Sabretooth is seen as a child in the rural late 1800s who kills his older brother over a piece of pie on his brother’s birthday. Horrified, his parents lock him away but he grows into a feral and cruel teen who eventually escapes and kills them. As an adult, he meets Logan who he befriends but then betrays and begins a tradition of finding him every year to fight on his birthday (or perhaps his brother’s birthday?). I was quite put-off when Logan’s lady love is a sexy Native American with the name of Silver Fox. It was a racist and inaccurate depiction of Native women of that era and took me out of the story.

Wolverine by Chris Yost and Mark Texeira

This story draws from the 2001 story Wolverine: Origin and how Logan’s power came to him as a child in Canada when he witnessed his parents being killed. The story then deals with later years and how Professor X tries to show him that he is more than a killing machine and that he needs to tap into his morality and become an X-Men. The art is solid with good depictions of Logan throughout the years along with his iconic yellow costume. 

Gambit by Mike Carey, David Yardin and Ibraim Roberson 

I love me some Gambit, so I was willing to overlook that the story didn’t truly show his origins. Instead, it begins with his marriage to Bella Donna. The whole idea of them marrying didn’t make sense, as they were from feuding clans – the Thieves Guild vs the Assassin’s Guild. It was supposed to have a Romeo and Juliet vibe but I think the marriage would have been stopped before the ceremony, not immediately afterward. But…the rest of the story shows while Remy briefly works for bad people, his goodness wins out at the end. The art was decent, but sometimes facial features were oddly puffy looking.

This wasn’t the strongest collection of stories, as the shift in writing and art styles kept it from being consistent. I felt the Colossus and Jean Grey stories were the strongest, both in writing and art. The X-Men were one of my first comic loves, and even though I haven’t been reading a lot about them in recent years, I noticed inconsistencies in the stories. It was an interesting early look at some X-Men heroes and villains but not what I would consider canon. 

-Nancy

Once & Future: The King is Undead

Do you think you know King Arthur’s story? Think again!

In this alternative fantasy world set in Britain, Duncan McGuire is a handsome but bumbling academic out on a disastrous date when he gets a call that his grandma is missing from her assisted living home. But his doobie smoking gran Bridgette turns out to be a monster hunter who has been keeping a lot of secrets from Duncan whom she raised. Soon he is in the middle of a crusade to block a woman Elaine from reanimating King Arthur who is not the kindly king of lore. In a Brexit-inspired plot, a group of Nationalists wish for him to keep Britain pure so they bring his remains back to life. Then it a race to prevent a dark prophecy from taking hold, with several twists and turns and improbable family connections.

Reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code plus The Mummy and National Treasure movies, the action is fast and furious and plays loose with history. In a familiar trope, an unsuspecting character is thrown into the thick of things and can shoot, fight with a sword and run like an Olympic sprinter as needed. (As an aside, I recently went to an axe-throwing business with my husband and friends and was disappointed that I wasn’t better. I had the strength but little finesse. What good will I be if a zombie horde or an evil reanimated king attacks my family? Unfortunately, I didn’t magically have the best skills like characters do in books and movies)

I really enjoyed the art by Dan Mora and how he drew the characters plus all the fantasy elements. Fond of many panels per page, the action flowed in cinematic-like sequences.  The only criticism I had was a certain female character was drawn too young- she was a mother to two adult sons and looked to be their sister. In comparison, her mother was drawn too old, so they should have aged the one a bit more and de-aged the other to be more believable. The colors by Tamra Bonvillian were superb, with rich colors and a psychedelic swirl of colors and floating orbs in the fantasy realm.

This was a very appealing first volume of a series I plan to follow. The mythology was deliciously warped and I look forward to future adventures with Duncan and his ass-kicking Gran.

-Nancy

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Eight + Nine

These last two volumes bring this series to a close! Read on to find out if I found the entire run wicked or divine!

Volume Eight: Old Is The New New

This volume proved to be very atypical…it doesn’t continue with the big reveals from the previous volume…instead it is an interlude of historical specials that had been released at different times during the five year run of the series.

455 AD- You think you know how Rome fell to the German Vandals? Think again! Artist André Araújo drew great historical backgrounds but was not as precise with his humans.  Color by Dee Cunniffe and Matthew Wilson.

1373 AD- Lucifer and Ananke have a battle of wits, as Ananke reveals she has brought the plague to Europe and beyond which resulted in the Black Death. There are religious overtones to this story as Lucifer is a mix of demon and nun. Art by Ryan Kelly and colors by Dee Cunniffe and Matthew Wilson.

1831 AD- Love this one- it features the Gods as Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelly and Claire Claremont during their famous retreat in Geneva in which the novel Frankenstein (for a beautiful retelling of the real Mary Shelly’s life read Mary’s Monster) was started. The art by Stephanie Hans was dark, lovely and appropriately Gothic looking.

1923 AD- This story read more like an Agatha Christie novella for it was very text-heavy with limited illustrations. Previous visits to the past cycles were but vignettes, but this story was very fleshed out and had direct connections to the modern-day cycle. By the time you read this story, you can catch Ananke’s manipulations that will crop up again. The Art Deco type illustrations by Aud Koch were outstanding and really added to the story.

We then have the uneven Christmas Special that included some vignettes of the Gods before they were chosen and some afterward- let’s just say there was a lot of sexy time. Then there are the Funnies- that included other artists making fun of the series with the Scooby-Doo parody being my favorite.

Volume Nine: Okay

This is it! Can Gillen and McKelvie bring this series to a satisfying close? Since Volume Eight was basically an interlude (although two of the previous historical stories will tie-in to this one), we basically are picking up from Volume Seven’s action.

Woden, Minerva and Baal are planning a concert to suck the energy of the Gods and concert-goers to supposedly prevent The Great Darkness, although Baal is but an unknowing pawn in the first two’s evil plan. Sadly, Baal’s justification for this mass-murder is due to Ananke’s previous manipulations of him.

Persephone has clued into Ananke’s manipulations and who she is masquerading as. She rallies the remaining Gods to stop the concert…but things don’t go as planned (of course). There are some more reveals, some deaths, some rebirths and a lot of fighting and chaos that occurs as the remaining Gods group together for the final showdown. As I don’t want to spoil the ending or let on who survives and who doesn’t, all I can say the final confrontation is epic. Many puzzle pieces are finally joined together, with connections to the past, but ultimately it is our advanced, modern technological world that finally thwarts Ananke. An epilogue ends the series on a somber note, and its slower pace lets you reflect on the nature of how we perceive others and how we let other’s perceptions of us color ourselves. As Laura, formally Persephone, wisely states, “Dreams aren’t real”.

The art in this series was absolutely divine. For a huge cast of characters, each God was inked with attention to detail and was so incredibly distinctive. The colors added maximum visual impact -with certain hues matching each God’s personality. There were unique panel configurations and the story always flowed. McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles have a partnership that rivals any other artist teams out there, for their style, colors and lettering can’t be beat.

This contemporary fantasy skewered celebrity obsession and media culture in a truly thought-provoking way…and yet, it was so damn confusing at times! There were several times I almost gave up on this nine-volume series, yet I persevered because the unique narrative and outstanding art kept pulling me back in. Ultimately, this series proved to be more divine than wicked, and I’m glad I finished it.

-Nancy

Catch up on the previous volumes:  One, Two + Three, Four + Five and Six + Seven 

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Six + Seven

This series has been both fascinating and completely exasperating. It’s been a LONG time since I read volumes one-five but once I heard the volume nine would wrap up the series, I figured I might as well finish it, as I was already halfway in. Is that a ringing endorsement or what?

Volume Six: Imperial Phase Part 2

An opening page gives you a quick summary and a who is who of all the Pantheon, as Gods cycle through the ages in a perplexing manner every ninety years. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, and are making alliances with their surviving brethren, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism.

The storyline about Gods Morrigan and Baphomet, the underworld couple with an unhealthy dynamic broke my heart.   Morrigan, previously as a human and now as a God, excused Baphomet’s behavior in the name of love, but now has become abusive and controlling of him. These two can’t escape from another and bound together in agony. Persephone, aka The Destroyer, continues to be a confusing and complex character as she seems to want to fight for good yet gives into temptation over and over again. Several Gods are murdered, and while I won’t spoil who dies, I was glad to see that the God that I absolutely hated, die. A twist with Woden ties in with Ananke, as the concluding pages shows that Ananke (who we all thought was dead) is an even better manipulator than anyone guessed.

As always, the art is beautiful with swirling vivid colors by Matthew Wilson. Artist McKelvie managed to fit in his numbered panels again. Some interesting variant art covers by guest artists are featured in addition to some behind the scenes storyboards which shows how the story and art are carefully choreographed.

Picture from Gizmodo article that includes an interview with Gillen and McKelvie

Volume Seven: Mothering Invention

What the hell is going on? I’m beyond confused! Basically what it comes down to is that two sisters duel it out over the ages- and who are the two sisters? Why it’s Ananke and Persephone!

The dates have always been confusing to me, especially with my big gap between reading volumes, but now we have non-linear flashbacks dating back thousands of years to when this mess of 90-year cycle of Gods began.  I was fascinated with the pages that showed Ananke every 90 years in different parts of the world when she is shown hugging a God, destroying a God or being killed herself. While I had no clue what was going on, I loved looking at the panels, for the clothing of people through the ages in their region of the world was fascinating (but what was up with the clothing in 1738 North America?). I applaud the artists for all the research they did to reflect all the different cultures beautifully.

There was a heartbreaking conclusion to Morrigan and Baphomet’s relationship with absolutely outstanding visuals during their fight, and my favorite God Baal had a fall from grace that came out of nowhere.  The remaining Gods, who are pop-culture saturated enigmas, are in chaos as this story starts it’s wind-down.

I hope to get to volumes eight + nine soon and put a bow on this unique series!

-Nancy

Catch up on previous volumes: One, Two + Three, Four + Five

Star Wars: Darth Vader

Darth Vader gets his first extended graphic novel series penned by Kieron Gillen and it gives us a look at Vader’s life between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Not surprisingly, Vader is a bad ass here.

I recently joined a Goodreads group called I Read Comic Books and every month a new graphic novel is chosen to discuss. I wished I had joined this group earlier as they have discussed many books that I have enjoyed and reviewed in the past. March’s vote strongly skewed towards this Star Wars selection and I happily decided to join in.

In this first volume,  the action picks  up soon after the destruction of the Death Star. The Emperor is far from pleased with Vader and puts him under the command of Grand Admiral Tagge, a man Vader looks at as simply a data cruncher with no vision. Vader knows he needs to watch his back so while doing the Emperor’s bidding, Vader decides to build his own droid army. He employs some familiar faces such as Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett as well as a dark haired Wookie. He also conscripts shady Dr. Aphra and two assassin robots, 000 and BT-1, to do his dirty work. Interspersed throughout are his memories of his time with Padmé, and in the end the bounty hunters give him his first clue in identifying Luke as his son.

Last year I read the excellent short story collection Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View and I discovered a character that I didn’t know before that collection is in this graphic novel.  Double checking my review, I wrote of the story The Trigger “Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels.” And guess who wrote that short story? None other than Kieron Gillen! Gillen’s work in these Star Wars novels and The Wicked and The Divine series shows that he has an excellent handle on pop-culture.

The artwork was appropriately dark hued with black gutters. Artist Salvador Larroca ably recreated characters from the movies while creating new inhabitants in the Star Wars universe that fit in with the space look we have come to expect from the movies. I really enjoyed the cover art on chapter two from Adi Granov that showed Vader striding by a bunch of Stormtroopers and Tagge with his cape flying out behind him and the coloring by Edgar Delgado was spot-on.

This book fits in the approved Disney canon, but it didn’t move me as I am really only a fan of the Star Wars movies and I wasn’t invested in the narrative. Because all the action is between two movies you know the main characters will live while new characters will die, thus when Palpatine threatened Vader with replacing him with new apprentices, I was not worried in the least. So while I understand on one level that this is a well written and illustrated graphic novel, I will not continue with the series due to my personal preference for the movies.

-Nancy

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Four + Five

The Wicked + The Divine has been a challenge for me to read for the series seems to have a fantastic idea, but an incomplete follow through. I was intrigued enough after Volume One to read Volumes Two + Three, but then I took a big break. A recent review by the site Catchy Title Goes Here put it back on my radar and I picked up the next two volumes to see what happened next.

Volume Four: Rising Action

Volume three utilized a gimmick of using other artists besides Jamie McKelvie to give their interpretations on the Gods, and I was very unhappy with it, as McKelvie’s art has been the one constant pulling me back into the often confusing story. Luckily the beautifully colored and vivid imagery is back in this volume.

An opening character list with a brief synopsis was very much appreciated, as not only is there a big cast but it has been months since I last read volume three. The Pantheon has always consisted of twelve Gods so Laura’s ascension to Persephone, the thirteenth God, has altered the status quo. Ananke, the God’s keeper, is thrown off kilter and struggles with what to do next. Woden assists her evil manipulations, and ties for the worst God along with self-indulgent Sakhmet. I’m confused as to what Ananke wants to do with Woden’s machine, and Persephone’s action at the end will be sure to throw everything into chaos.

 

Volume Five: Imperial Phase Part 1

This volume opens with mock magazine articles about a few of the Gods with The Morrigan,  Baal, Woden, deceased Lucifer, and Amaterasu getting shout-outs. Then the creators have a bit of fun with featuring IRL artists and writers in this fake magazine.

There is FINALLY way more character development with all the remaining Gods moving in and out of each others lives, and Baal stepping up to be a father figure to Minerva. Alliances are formed and then broken, as they prepare for “The Great Darkness” while their former mentor Ananke’s motives are still extremely suspect. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism. The ending remains anyone’s guess. I’m still terribly confused as to what is going on, but I will be picking up Volume Six that just came out last week next time I make a graphic novel run.

As a coincidence, as I was driving home last night, I was listening to Muse when the song Undisclosed Desires played and I heard the lyrics “You trick your lovers, that you’re wicked and divine, you may be a sinner, but your innocence is mine”.  Has this favored song of mine, unconsciously influenced my decision to keep on with this series???

-Nancy

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Two + Three

The first volume of The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act, was an intriguing book with fantastic art but a confusing story. It captured my interest enough to give the next two volumes a go, although I was apprehensive.  It turns out for good reason.

Volume 2: Fandemonium

In the first volume, we met eight of the twelve gods, while two are referred to but not seen, and the other two are mysteries. In this volume Laura meets two more known gods, Inanna and Dionysus, and again she is privy to the behind the scenes chaos of the Pantheon as she still tries to investigate Lucifer’s death. The reporter from the first volume, and two of her camera crew, are transformed into the Three Norns, completing the empty spot in the circle of the Gods. This devastates Laura who had hoped that she would be the last chosen.

We learn a bit more about the 90 year cycle of recurrence from Ananke, the God’s ancient guide. A tiny bit of backstory is given to explain why the Gods cycle through the ages, but in truth, it was more perplexing than enlightening. And we also learn that she is the not the benevolent leader she wants everyone to believe she is.

Artist McKelvie is obviously a fan of maps and charts, along with numbered sequences. His 1,2,3,4’s got a bit overused. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see them.

The volume certainly ended with a bang…

 

Volume 3: Commercial Suicide

This volume gives guest illustrators a chance to interpret the Gods. I was not a fan of this, as one of the only reasons I have stuck with this series is because I love the art. Although Gillen was still penning all the stories, some didn’t coalesce for me.

One story stood out, and it was basically a stand alone. We finally meet Tara, the most beautiful of all the Gods, and her story is a perfect example of all that is wrong with social media.  People love to build up and then tear down people who don’t fit their preconceived notions of what that should be, and this scrutiny tore at Tara, as she already had issues of this sort when she was still a human. I wish there was more to Tara’s story- as it was one of the best chapters in the story thus far, and I feel the abrupt ending was not justified. This story was Issue #13 when released in comics, and was illustrated by Tula Lotay, an amazing artist.

We also get back stories on Gods Morrigan and Baphomet, the underworld couple with an unhealthy dynamic. It broke my heart to see how Morrigan, both as a human and a God, excused Baphomet’s behavior in the name of love. I have been blessed to have a stable no-drama relationship, so I just don’t get women who let their significant other abuse them emotionally. Baphomet was undeserving of all the second chances he was given.

The other stories didn’t push the narrative far, with some Gods getting a lion’s share of the attention, while others remain an enigma.

So three volumes in, and I am still on the fence about the series. My library owned the first volume, and I recently ordered the next four. That leaves volume four and five taunting me. Should I read them? (Months later, I did! Volume 4 +5)

-Nancy

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑