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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Peter & Max: A Fables Novel

Title: Peter & Max: A Fables Novel

ISBN: 9781401215736

Price: $22.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2009

Artist: Steve Leialoha

Writer: Bill Willingham

Rating: 4/5

This story stars Peter Piper and his incorrigible
brother Max in a tale about jealousy, betrayal and revenge. Set in two distinct
time periods, prepare to travel back to medieval times and learn the tragic
back-story of the Piper family, a medieval-era family of traveling minstrels.
Then, jump into the present to follow a tale of espionage as Peter Piper slowly
hunts down his evil brother for a heinous crime, pitting Peter's talents as a
master thief against Max's dark magical powers.

Based on the long-running and award-winning comic
book series FABLES, PETER AND MAX is its own tale. Readers don't have to be
familiar with the comics to fully enjoy and understand this book.

As you all know I love, love, LOVE Bill
Willingham and his Fables! When I heard Bill Willingham had another piece of
literature coming out I was very excited. Upon further reading I found that
this was a novel set in the Fables land and that it would provide some
background to different characters such as Bigby wolf and Frau Totenkinder so
clearly I had to own it!

Peter and Max is the story of two siblings, Peter
and Max Piper, the sons of a traveling family of minstrels. The story
alternates between the present, where Peter and his wife Bo Peep are living in
a quiet area of Fabletown and the past, where both Peter and Max partake in
many adventures and trials that mold them into the adults they become. In the
present day, Peter gets word that his evil brother Max has resurfaced in their
world and takes off to find him and kill him once and for all.

The flashes from their childhood shows the
friendships between the Piper and Peep family, especially the close ties
between Bo and Peter. One evening, Peter’s father gives him the magical flute,
Frost that has been handed down to the eldest son in each family for
generations. The only problem is that Peter is not the eldest brother, Max is.
Peter is the best musician, which is why their father deems him worthy to wield
Frost, but Max becomes extremely jealous and soon hatred starts to eat away at
him. Soon, the families are forced to flee due to the Adversary’s men
infringing on their land and the families become separated in the Black Forest.
Peter grows into a courageous, well-rounded man and eventually finds some sense
of peace. Max, on the other hand, meets up with an ally who gives him his own
flute, one he names Fire, becomes the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin and seeks to
kill both Peter and Bo.

One of the best things about this book is the way
in which Willingham takes what would be considered nursery rhymes and twists
them into something dark, mysterious and epic. Willingham manages to re-write
Peter Piper, who both eats a pickled pepper and stuffs his wife in a pumpkin
shell, the story of Little Bo Peep, who does lose her sheep in a rather dark
way, and the Pied Piper, who rids the town of more than rats; while also
introducing new plots and background stories for beloved Fables characters
before they changed their ways to fight on the side of good and not evil!

Though I don’t think Mr. Willingham should put
aside his Fables and work strictly on novels I have to say that I loved this
book and I believe that it would be enjoyable to readers who haven’t read and
loved his Fables series. However, for those of you who have read Fables and are
picking Peter and Max up for the first time you should know this book fits in
right after Fabletown’s attack on The Adversary and Peter and Bo both play their
own parts in the war by the end of the novel. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sandman Volume 10: The Wake

Title: The Sandman Volume 10: The Wake

ISBN: 1563892790

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 1999

Artist: Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth, Charles Vess

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Collects: Sandman  #70-75

Rating: 3.5/5

In the final installment in Gaiman’s Sandman series, we read the story of Dream’s wake. Or at least, the three first chapters are about Dream’s wake. We meet up with a number of people who we were introduced to in previous installments, and even get a few cameos of other DC comic book characters (Clark Kent, Batman, etc.).

The last three chapters in the book are all stand-alone stories in the Sandman universe. I think this book was one of the stronger ones in the series… but that said, it wasn’t without its flaws. I really wish the three standalones had been included elsewhere in the series, because the series ended so perfectly after the wake. SO perfectly – normally, I hate the sort of endings that implies everything was a dream, but since the series is about Dream of the Endless, WELL, it was so very, very fitting.

I also quite liked the fact that we got to see other characters again – though I have to admit that because there are so many characters and it’s taken me so long to read through the book, I forgot who half of the characters were… Whoops.

I feel like I have to go back and reread the rest of the series again.

As for the last three chapters… well, they could not capture my interest. It felt as if the story was over before reading them, so even though I tried to get into them, I already had that sense of closure and they felt… well… unnecessary for me.

Wish that this had ended after the third chapter, In Which we Wake…. it was a perfect ending to the series right there. The rest seemed like “oh yeah, I forgot to tell you this story.” Anyway, other than that, was totally a solid ending to a wonderful series.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City Family Album

Title: Kurt Busiek’s Astro City Family Album

ISBN: 1582400342

Price: $19.95

Publisher/Year: Image, 1998

Artist: Brent Eric Anderson

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Collects: Kurt Busiek’s Astro City Volume
#1-3 & 10-13

Rating: 3/5

This trade has four distinct stories and their only connection is that they
happen in Astro City.

In the first story, a man and his two daughters move to Astro City from
Boston. They are trying to get used to seeing all of the super folk and the
super level fighting around them. The man, Ben Pullam, and his daughters are
all normal people and Ben feels quite inadequate compared to the super people,
at least at first.

The second story centers, finally, around actual super people: Astra who is
the 10-year old, super powered girl of the First Family. Astra and the rest of
the First Family live in their own place with lots of technological gadgets and
away from other people. Astra wants to know other kids and to play ordinary
kids’ games, so she decides to go on her own adventure in a nearby school.
Unfortunately, her parents are worried sick about her and think that she’s been
kidnapped. We also get the First Family’s brief background story.

Then another one issue story which is about supervillain called the Junkman.
He was a successful toy designer until he was put on retirement and decided to
design gadgets for his own good. His first robbery is a success but somehow
that’s not enough for him.

A bit longer story centers on Jack-in-the-Box. He meets his three sons which
have all come from a possible future. One of them has modified himself through
cybernetics in order to kill his father. The son is embittered and somewhat
insane because his father died before he was born. The second son is also just
as embittered and somewhat insane. However, he has studied Jack, and what Jack
has said and done has become a religion to him. The second son is out to bring
bloody justice to every law breaker and when he realizes that Jack doesn’t want
him to kill anyone; he teams up with the first son and tries to kill their

Jack realizes that his eventual death will have dire consequences to his
family and has to re-think being hero all over again.

The final short piece is about an animated cartoon character Leo and his sad
story in Hollywood and outside it.

All of the stories were at least interesting. I enjoyed especially Astra’s
tale because of the obvious parallels with Fantastic Four. I was a bit
surprised that she looks completely like a human, though, when her grandfather
is the prince of Animal-Men and her father looks like Ben Grimm. Then again,
all comics’ women look the same, even when they aren’t mammals.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Marvel Zombies Return

Title: Marvel Zombies Return

ISBN: 9780785142775

Price: $24.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2009

Artist: Nick Dragotta, Andrea Mutti, Jason Shawn Alexander, Richard Elson,
Wellinton Alves, Scott Hanna

Writer: Fred Van Lente, David Wellington, Jonathan Maberry, Seth Grahame-Smith

Collects: Marvel Zombies Return
#1-5, Marvel Spotlight: Zombies Return

Rating: 3/5

After disappearing for the 3rd and
4th series, the original Marvel Zombies return for this series Marvel Zombies
Return. This series takes place right after the events of the story in Marvel
Zombies 2 when the infected superheroes are thrust through the time and space
gate. They now find themselves displaced on Earth-Z in different times - past,
present, and future. This new development gives the series a new sense of
vitality as a whole group of writers and artists have been brought on board to
craft each of the series individual chapters which each focus on a different
infected Marvel character (Ch. 1 - Spider-Man, Ch. 2 - Iron Man, Ch. 3 -
Wolverine, Ch. 4 - Hulk, and Ch. 5 - the Avengers).

Although each individual chapter
focuses on a different character, there is a unifying story to be told as
zombie Spider-Man tries to redeem himself by ridding the world of the zombie
plague once and for all. As written by Fred Van Lente, David Wellington,
Jonathon Maberry, and Seth Grahame-Smith, this story is as strong as the
previous entries in the series. On board in the art department is Nick Draotta,
Andrea Muth, Jason Shawn Alexander, Richard Elson & Wellington Alves, and
Scott Hanna whose artwork compliments each of their assigned chapters. This is
a series that could have easily gone wrong but the final product is one that
the Marvel Zombie fans should be proud of.

This graphic novel collection is
also one of the best as it not only provides all the covers for the individual
issues but also has extensive interviews with many of the creators behind the
series which include Van Lente, Mark Millar, Victor Gischler, and
Grahame-Smith. Whether Marvel continues to mine the fertile franchise or not
this would be a great way to go out on a high note.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Death: The Time of Your Life

Title: Death: The Time of Your Life

ISBN: 1563893339

Price: $12.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 1997

Artist: Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Collects: Death: The Time of Your
#1-3, A Death Gallery, Sandman: A Gallery of Dreams

Rating: 4/5

Neil Gaiman has a wonderful gift of
taking the profane and giving it life.  I have been slowly making my way
through Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels thoroughly enjoying the rich and
mystical world he has created.   

One of my favorite characters in his
series is the Sandman’s older sister Death.  Other personifications of
Death have been of a man in a dark cowl carrying a scythe.  Many stories
about Death are of how the Grim Reaper was outwitted, as death is something to
avoid, escape and cheat.

As he has done time and time again
Gaiman takes the myth and turns it on its head.  Gaiman’s Death is a
perky, optimistic and loving woman.  She dresses like a goth but does not
have a gothic temperament.  Instead of being menacing she welcomes you
into death with a loving embrace and a smile.  It is odd to describe the
character of Death to be as full of life but she is

The Time of your life is a spin-off
from the Sandman comics focusing solely on the character of Death. 
Foxglove and Hazel, other characters from the Sandman comics, appear as
well.  In this issue Foxglove has become a famous rock-star and Hazel is a
stay at home mother, pretending to be Foxglove’s secretary rather than her
lover.  Hazel's tries to make a deal with Death to extend a life and
Foxglove travels to the shadowlands save Hazel.  This issue takes the
reader through a journey of life, death and dreams.  It is explained that
there is no balance to death, no taking of one life for another, as death is

The graphic novel is illustrated
beautifully and it is easy to see how Gaiman and his team have created a series
that is widely praised and timeless.  I thoroughly enjoyed the deeper
exploration of Death’s character with an issue to herself and no Sandman. 
Four out of five stars.

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