July 5, 2020
Though it sat on my shelf for a while, but “Bloodborne” wound up being the first “Souls-like” game that I finished. While it can be a very engaging game to play, if you’re willing to commit what it asks of you, “Bloodborne” absolutely isn’t something that you play for its story. What narrative it has is made up of scraps from conversations, item descriptions, and the combat itself -- and there’s a lot of room to impose your own interpretation of things if you so desire. That’s what writer Ales Kot and artist Piotr Kowalski have to work with her, and they actually deliver something quite interesting.
Not for its story, though. The comics I’ve read from Kot tend to not follow a solid narrative and can diverge wildly from your initial expectations depending on what mood the writer finds himself in. That’s less of a problem when you’re writing a “Bloodborne” comic where the story provided by the source material is pretty abstract already. So when I say that “The Death of Sleep” involves a genderless Hunter escorting a child with the Paleblood to safety, this description is mainly a hanger on which the style is hung.
The style in question, however, is pretty astounding! Kot manages to incorporate characters, monsters, and even gameplay mechanics into the story in a way that feels natural to someone familiar with the source material. Yet it’s Piotr Kowalski’s stunning work that really captures the feel of the game. His beasts and characters look faithful to the game, but not in a manner so slavish that you’re distracted by it. The art looks as moody and haunting as the game itself, capturing the spirit of the source material in a way that few licensed titles really do. At least, for anyone who has played the game. The uninitiated are likely to find “The Death of Sleep” to be well-illustrated gibberish, at best. Fans of the game, however, are encouraged to pick this volume up as it ultimately pulls off the tricky task of being a valid realization of “Bloodborne” in another medium.
July 4, 2020
Killian is your average twentysomething layabout in Dublin, playing videogames in between doing jobs for the local mob. What kind of jobs you ask? The kind that usually involve disappearing a corpse into the local wetlands. His partner on these jobs is an older, swearier gent named Keano, who has just come by with the latest one. It’s all business as usual until Killian finds himself wounded and on the run through the wetlands, forest, and countryside as he tries to survive the night. He’s not alone for long, however, as he winds up meeting a young woman who is also on the run for different reasons. Two heads are always better than one they say, but when one of them is a screw-up like Killian will he just wind up dragging them both down?
“Bog Bodies” comes to us from Declan Shalvey and Gavin Fullerton. Shalvey is better known around here for his art, and this represents the first time I’ve encountered his writing. It’s not bad, assuming you’re not put off by copious amounts of profanity and Irish slang. The real problem here is that his reach exceeds his grasp as what looks like a small-scale crime caper with black comedy overtones eventually tries to tackle weightier themes about cycles of violence and redemption without much success by the end. There’s also Shalvey’s attempt to work in the supernatural into the plot, and while it doesn’t completely derail things, the story would’ve been better served if the writer hadn’t gone there.
Things fare a bit better in regards to the art from Fullerton. He’s got a style that has a solid foot in the school of caricature, and if you can appreciate that then you’ll find that his characters serve the story well. Better still is how he manages to keep a story set at night in the Irish wetlands visually interesting while keeping the expected scenes of characters standing in front of a black background to a minimum. This ultimately leaves you feeling that while “Bog Bodies” isn’t exactly a bad graphic novel, the time you spent reading it could’ve been better spent elsewhere.
July 3, 2020
I thought that the first volume of Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren’s Texas vampire family drama was alright. The second one was too, though it didn’t do much to push the series off of my, “I’ll buy it at a deep discount,” list. Vol. 3, however, is where this title has finally clicked for me. While it starts off with Bartlett running off with a comatose Perry into the dawn, things quickly improve for the family and the reader as well. Not only does Bartlett have an idea as to where they can seek refuge, but the Bowman clan winds up thriving while they’re confined to the streets of Austin on the Order of the Parliament.
Yes, that’s right. There’s a Vampire Parliament in the world of “Redneck.” That’s just one of many interesting world-building details that Cates throws into this volume. You’ll also get to see a Vampire Wedding, find out just how long Johnson has been around, and his connection to their new overseer Ingrid. Yet it’s the character-building stuff that really shines here. Bits like JV learning to unwind, Greg learning new things about himself, and the funny/heartwarming conversation he has with his dad afterwards are as entertaining as they are insightful. Best of all, though, is seeing Bartlett reconnect with a former love who he did wrong many years ago and finally setting things right.
This is all handled capably, but not spectacularly by Estherren’s art. He has a spare style whose lack of detail keeps me from being fully drawn into the action. However, he’s quite good with the action and can deliver on ambitious scenes like the two 32-panel page spread near the end of the volume. Estherren’s ability to deliver on action is key as the volume ends with some righteous retribution against the Bowman clan. It looks like another terrible day for them, but the difference is that now I’m not going to wait in order to see what happens next for them.
July 1, 2020
It’s a 72-page original graphic novel that’s retailing for $17. How did it manage to get the top spot for this round of solicitations -- even though it’s also advance-solicited for October? Well, it’s coming from writer Alex De Campi, who has shown she can deliver quality pulp with “Grindhouse” and “No Mercy,” and artist Erica Henderson, who knocked it out of the park with “Assassin Nation” last year. Then there’s the solicitation text which promises a story that begins with Dracula being staked to his coffin by his brides, only for an aging starlet to raise those stakes in Los Angeles, 1974. Throw in a forgotten Harker descendant, crime-scene photographer Quincy, who is here to either lay this matter to rest or be used as quality bait by Dracula’s wives, and you’ve got a story that sounds bloody good time even with its page count and price point -- and the advance-solicitation.
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June 29, 2020
Now I can say that I’ve read at least one of the manga nominated for the “Best U.S. Edition of International Material -- Asia” Eisner this year. Thank Amazon’s recent “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” sale and my love of anything that features cats for that. As for the volume itself, you can thank the Louvre for it as this was one of several comics that were commissioned in cooperation with the museum. This is the first of them that I’ve actually read; though, I imagine I’ll get around to Hirohiko Araki’s “Rohan at the Louvre” eventually.
While “Cats of the Louvre” is certainly about cats, the approach mangaka Taiyo Matsumoto takes in dealing with them is best described as magical realism. This is because while they first appear as cats, Matsumoto draws them as cat-people whenever they’re alone. The approach is certainly more artful than the misbegotten “Cats” film from last year, and serves the story being told here better. It focuses on a kitten, Snowbebe, who makes a habit of exploring the Louvre during the night and day without regard for the trouble it causes his fellow cats in the attic. Yet its his appreciation of the art, and a strange ability he has that’s tied to it, that may solve the mystery of a little girl that disappeared in the museum over 50 years ago.
I’m saying that last bit with more urgency than the manga gives it for the majority of its length. Most of “Cats of the Louvre” is focused on style and mood as Matsumoto conjures feelings of uncertainty and restlessness for nearly all of the volume’s length. Snowbebe and several of the human cast know that they want something, but they just can’t figure out what it is. In the end, I think Matsumoto delivers enough closure to this idea in order to make this a satisfying read, but only if you’ve bought into what he’s been selling up to that point. Though I enjoyed this well enough, it’s not something I’d call Eisner-worthy. Not over “Die Wergelder” at any rate.
June 28, 2020
X of Swords: Creation #1
Event season never stops at Marvel Comics these days. What we’ve got here, however, is a gen-u-ine throwback here. Not only is this strictly an “X-Men” event, but it’s the kind of inter-title crossover that used to be a staple of the line. The last one of these we got was the ho-hum, Bendis-driven “Battle of the Atom” storyline, though I’ve got fond memories of “Messiah Complex” and “Second Coming” from around a decade back.
Jonathan Hickman is writing this inaugural issue with “House of X” artist Pepe Larraz illustrating it. This won’t be his first ride at the event rodeo, but it will be the first time he’ll be riding lead on an event with multiple writers. The current X-line of titles has been playing well with each other, continuity-wise, so the shift between writers should be a smooth one. As for what “X of Swords” will be about, most of the covers for the titles in these solicitations have featured… “Apocalyptic” imagery. So it’s probably a safe bet that the subplot about En Sabah Nur’s First Horsemen is going to get some payoff with this storyline.
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June 27, 2020
Octopath Traveller: The Complete Guide
Yes, I know this isn’t a comic. It doesn’t even fully qualify as an artbook as the solicitation text and subtitle reveal that it’s also part strategy guide as well. So what’s it doing here? For one, it’s an extraordinarily slow September in these solicitations as Dark Horse restructures its publishing schedule. Some of the titles that have had collected editions featured in previous solicitations, like “X-Ray Robot” and “BANG!” are now seeing their single issues being resolicited here.
Another reason is that if Dark Horse is going to keep putting out Nintendo-related art/guidebooks, then there’s one that I’d really like them to publish: XenobladeX: The Secret File -- Art of Mira. I’ve got the Japanese edition of this artbook for “Xenoblade Chronicles X” and it has a lot of pretty pictures in it. Most of them are accompanied by text that I can’t read. The fact that this “Xenoblade” game was published on the Wii U means that an English release for this artbook will have a limited audience, at best. However, if the other fans of this game feel as strongly about the game as I do, then every member of that audience would likely be willing to pay a premium for a proper English translation of this volume.
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June 26, 2020
Well, I can’t call these “Previews Picks” anymore…
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen?
I think Matt Fraction is a very uneven writer. His runs on “Invincible Iron Man,” “Uncanny X-Men,” and “Sex Criminals” were marked by parts that were really good, and parts that were really terrible. The one series of his that I, and pretty much everyone else, acknowledge as being pretty great from beginning to end was “Hawkeye.” There, Fraction, artist David Aja (and guests) took the B-lister and gave him a solo series which was so good that Marvel has been trying to recapture the magic it worked for that character ever since.
“Jimmy Olsen” looks to be Fraction’s attempt to get lightning to strike twice, this time with artist Steve Lieber. Working in the series’ favor is that the title character’s history (especially in the Silver Age) has always trended towards “weird” and the fact that no one really cares too much about him these days. That kind of status is essentially a green light for Fraction and Lieber to let their freak flags fly as far as they can on a mainstream superhero comic. The early word is that they succeeded, but I’m very much interested in seeing it for myself. Also, kudos to DC for collecting the entire 12-issue maxiseries in one volume.
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June 24, 2020
Wouldn't we all want to go live in a rural island community right about now?
June 22, 2020
Yoshitoki Oima showed with “A Silent Voice” that she could mix serious social issues with heartfelt melodrama and interesting characters to tell an interesting story in the present day. Even if the first volume and its illustration of bullying was a full notch above the six that followed. Her follow-up series is miles away from that. It’s a sci-fi fantasy story that’s set in a world that resembles the one from our past that seeks to tackle the big question of what it means to be human. This first volume shows that Oima’s skills with characterization and melodrama are still intact, even if she’s got some work to do with her worldbuilding.
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