by The Masked Bookwyrm

Miscellaneous (non-Superhero) - "M" page 3

Me & Joe Priest 1985 (SC GN) 48 pgs.

Written by Greg Potter. Art and colour by Ron Randall.
Letters: John Costanza. Editor: Janice Race.

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Suggested for mature readers

DC Graphic Novel #5 (tabloid size)

This was published back when the mainstream "big boys" of Marvel and DC were first experimenting with the "graphic novel" format -- usually involving over-sized (tabloid dimensions) format and sometimes "mature subject" matter. Though Marvel, which was first, tended toward a mix of super hero and original stories, DC initially tended more towards just original stories, often SF -- this being before their Vertigo imprint.

Me and Joe Priest is set in a kind of post-Apocalyptic future -- except one not brought about by bombs, wars, or mass destruction. Rather, everyone went sterile, resulting in a zero population growth...and a swift population decline (people continued to die...there were just no new babies to replace them). Lummox, the narrator, is a kind of biker who roams about the desolate Arizona desert with his gang seeking "experiences" -- in a future that seems pointless, their philosophy is just to experience whatever they can, while they can. And a new experience is when he encounters Father Joseph St. Simone -- a priest who is the last fertile man on the planet, and sees it as his God given mission to impregnate what few fertile women are left.

Oy! I hear you say.

Yeah -- though not especially graphic in visuals, the core concept is a "mature readers" one, and seems as though it's definitely trying to push a few buttons in a cheeky, snickering way. Which is actually kind of a problem. Because Me and Joe Priest seems a little like they weren't quite sure what they were going for. The premise seems a little like it wants to tweak the nose of religious conservatives, an impression further encouraged by Howard Chaykin's cheeky cover of a smirking priest looking heavenward with two beautiful women at his side. And there is an aspect of that. But very quickly it starts taking itself seriously, too. And it wraps itself around themes of faith versus logic, the heart versus the mind, so that, in a way, it actually isn't making fun of religion at all! It's a little as if writer Potter (a guy who popped up in the mid-1980s, then seemed to disappear) heard DC was looking for "edgy" material, so he pitched his outrageous concept -- "a promiscuous priest" -- but when it came time to flesh it out, he realized you couldn't get a whole story out of a one joke gag.

The religious aspect can also become a crutch as, once you get to the end, you realize that most of practical questions (why did people go sterile, why is Joe not sterile, how did he know this was God's plan) are just glossed over with a sheen of religious mysticism.

There's also a cult of rogue, villainous priests out to get Joe, but that too becomes problematic. They should seem like a formidable force but, other than hunting Joe, it's not clear what, if any, villainy they're up to.

After reading a number of "graphic novels", I'm beginning to wonder if 45 pages just isn't enough to tell a complete story. Barely do we feel as though we've been told all the pertinent information about the world and Joe's personal background...then we're suddenly moving into the climax. It's as if we've got Act I and Act III -- but are missing an Act II. As well, it's supposed to be a buddy story, involving the unlikely pairing of Lummox and Joe, but their relationship never quite gels into anything, and Joe inparticular never really becomes a person.

The art by Randall is basically serviceable, in that it conveys what needs conveying, in facial expressions and action, but it's not really anything more. Though the way he paints the sky line is rather striking (though contrasts with the more conventional way the people and landscape are coloured). Perhaps with a more dynamic artist, some of the weaknesses in the story could've been bandaged over a bit better.

The thing is, it's not that Me and Joe Priest is terrible (potentially sacrilegious aspects notwithstanding), but it doesn't fully come together as a drama, an adventure, a character study, a satire, or what have you.

Original cover price: $7.95 CDN./ $5.95 USA.

The Merchants of Venus 1986 (SC GN) 48 pages

Written by Neal McPheeters and Victoria Petersen. Illustrated and coloured by Neal McPheeters.
Letters: Todd Klein. Editor: Julius Schwartz.

Adapting the novel by Frederik Pohl.

Published in over-sized, tabloid dimensions.

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by DC Comics

In the 1980s, when both Marvel and DC were first experimenting with the "graphic novel" format, both companies toyed with over-sized volumes, and material not directly related to their main super hero lines. Julius Schwartz -- DC Comics editor and one-time SF literary agent -- oversaw a series of graphic adaptations of various classic science fiction novels.

Frederik Pohl's The Merchants of Venus is basically a kind of gold prospecting yarn, relocated to the planet Venus. An ancient, extinct race, the Heechee, left Venus dotted with hidden caches of Heechee treasures and technologies, and amateur prospectors scour the inhospitable surface looking for them. Audee Walthers is a local guide, in need of money for a life saving operation, who hooks up with a couple of tourists, an enigmatic rich man and his girlfriend, and they set out to try and find a cache that'll make them all rich.

Although adapting established stories to comics might seem like a good idea, as they're drawing upon a proven concept, the trick comes about when shoe horning a novel into 48 illustrated pages. And material that might work well in a novel, might not read as well in a "reader's digest" version.

The problem with the Merchants of Venus is that, well, not a lot actually seems to happen. Perhaps in a novel, suspense can be better generated by teasing out a scene that, in the end, doesn't really go anywhere. But in the more abrupt comic, where we sometimes get condensed overviews of scenes as described by the narrator, you kind of find yourself waiting for something exciting to happen. Maybe they needed to leave more stuff out from the novel, but then better develop what they kept, better breaking it done into panels and dialogue, relying less on voice-over exposition..

Likewise, characterization is in a similar boat. Perhaps in a novel, our interest can be maintained by treating the story as much as a charactetr study of these three people, as anything. But in the comic, you don't necessarily feel like you get much feel for them. Oh, sure, they're well enough defined that, if this was a fast-pace action adventure, they'd probably be fine. But not if the characters themselves are supposed to hold our interest.

The plot itself is a bit unblieveable in itys simplicity -- which, again, may reflect an editing into the comic, more than the original novel. But it really doesn't seem like it's that hard to find Heechee hiding places!

The art is attractive in its vibrant colours (looks almost like coloured pencils) and bold figure work -- but there's also a certain cartooniness, too. Still, I liked it more than I didn't.

I'm unfamiliar with adapters Neal McPheeters and Victoria Petersen, and I certainly don't want to give the impression they did a bad job, per se. Nor did I think this was an awful work. It just seems a bit thin, a bit lacking in oomph, and I suspect the problems stem from trying to cram a novel into 48 pages.

Orginal cover price: $7.95 CDN./ $5.95 USA

Micronauts, vol 1: Rebellion 2003 (SC TPB) 110 pgs.

Written by Scott Wherle. Illustrated by Eric Wolfe Hanson, E.J. Su. Inks by Barbara Schulz, with Steven Hall, Clayton Brown.
Colours: Hi Fi Color Design. Letters: Dreamer Design. Creative direction: Josh Blaylock.

Reprinting: Micronauts (Image series) #1-5 (2001)

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by Image Comics for Devil's Due Productions

The micronauts was a line of sci-fi toys in the late 1970s, early 1980s -- inspired, presumably, by Star Wars. The villain of the toys, Baron Karza, looked a lot like Darth Vader (no, I mean, a lot). The toys gave rise to a Marvel comic book spin-off that, surprisingly, proved not only a decent commercial success, but also wasn't regarded too badly by critics (Marvel would score a few reasonably successful toy tie-ins, including Rom and G.I. Joe). Although I believe the comics out-lasted the toys, both had their day and were discontinued. But there remained a lingering affection for both in the consciousness of those who grew up with them.

And now, the toys have been re-released, along with some novel tie-ins and a new comic book series. Made by Devil's Due productions, not Marvel Comics, and distributed by Image Comics, the new series isn't a continuation of the Marvel series, but a re-invention of the concept. But the current creators are well aware that the Marvel comics left an impression, so there are plenty of subtle and not-so subtle homages to the original series. There's even a dedication to Bill Mantlo -- creator and chief writer of Marvel's version.

The story begins on earth, and a scientific investigation into a mysterious dimensional rift in the U.S. desert. Before too many panels have passed, armoured beings emerge from the rift, killing everyone save teenage Ryan Archer, who is dragged back through the rift. For what reason is the question...and it kind of remains the question for a long time to come.

Just out of nostalgic curiosity, I picked up the first issue of the new series and thought it was an O.K. but vaguely unsatisfying read. The art by Eric Wolfe Hanson was good, with detailed backgrounds and a kind of eerie, glowing cityscape that put one in mind of the 1980s sci-fi flick, Tron (also about an earthman drawn into an alien reality, ruled by a despot) -- although Hanson's Ryan didn't look much like the teenager he was supposed to be. The dialogue was O.K., but there wasn't a lot to the story. I picked up the second issue...and got more of the same. It wasn't bad...but there was nothing much to excite, either. The characters were largely ill-defined, the action was minimal (as Ryan continued being a prisoner), and the plot seemed to progress at a crawl. Without any hard feelings, I declined to continue with the series.

Recently, though, Image has collected the first story arc in a TPB. Knowing, then, that there was some sort of resolution after issue five, I decided to track down the issues I missed, and give it one more try.

And the result remains pretty much the same. It's not that this is truly bad...but not enough really occurs to make it good. The art chores switch in mid-story to E.J. Su, who does decent work, similar enough to Hanson that the change isn't glaring, while not being as good, and with Su evincing a slight Japanese Manga influence. Su also ratchets up the gore a little -- perhaps warranting a slight "mature readers" caution.

By the end of this story arc, Ryan is still a vaguely defined character who spends most of his time saying: "I don't understand" or "what's going on". Allies he acquires, like the armoured Acroyear are not badly depicted, but you don't get much sense of what their driving motivations are. There's eventually a prison break -- this first story arc is basically about how Ryan is captured and then escapes with some friends. And there's some running about and shooting and fighting. But a character briefly explains to Ryan the machinations involved in arranging the break...and you're left thinking depicting that might have made a more interesting story than what we got. By the end of these issues we have a sense of why villain Baron Karza captured Ryan -- apparently he has some ill-defined je ne sais quoi that makes him important, and by the end is even demonstrating strangely prescient abilities. But it all seems just a tad...wishy-washy. There isn't even much use of the "Land of the Giants" concept -- that the micronauts, when on earth, are only a few centimetres tall.

Reading it, you find yourself assuming the reason writer Scott Wherle is taking so long to get the ball rolling is because he's got some grand plan mapped out in his head and, confident of his great epic, he's letting it unfold gradually. But then it turns out issue #5 is his last issue and one begins to suspect the opposite. Wherle's taking so long to go anywhere...because he's got nowhere to go. He's just keeping the writer's seat warm until the next scribe comes along, who may or may not have a vision for the series. Perhaps the fact that Devil's Due president, Josh Blaylock, is credited with "creative direction" is the problem. The actual writer isn't given a creative freehand, the way Bill Mantlo was with the Marvel series.

What makes this all so glaring is comparing it to the original Micronauts comic -- where Mantlo stuck around for some 60 issues or so. Whether Devil's Due's version is derivative, or an intentional homage, there are clear parallels in this story arc to the first issue of the Marvel series, in which the hero -- Arcturus Rand -- is imprisoned and hooks up with Acroyear and Bug, a bug-like inmate (in this series we have a Vaerian). Rand -- a more proactive character than Ryan -- escapes with his new allies, but not before we learn there is something mysterious about Rand that Karza fears.

Sounds like a synopsis of this story, doesn't it? But all that took place in just one issue!!!

And Mantlo still managed to work in weirder and more esoteric ideas, little hints of characterization, and even made things a little more plausible in that we at least had some idea of why Rand might have something special about him...whereas here, we still have no idea how Karza even knew Ryan Archer existed! In that one issue alone Mantlo established, not just the primary conflict with Karza, but a secondary one between Acroyear and his traitorous brother Shaitan. Plus it was all beautifully illustrated by Michael Golden.

When trying a comic, it can be argued that you need to read a couple of issues to get a sense of the story, or the characters. But after five issues, I still felt I had very little sense of either. Granted, since a new creative team will be assuming the mantle, perhaps one can't judge the whole series by this. But, frankly, if you're looking for a blast of space opera, miniature people and nostalgia, I'm inclined to suggest that you hit the back issues bins of your local comic shop for the original series. Issues #1-12 are nicely drawn by Michael Golden, and though many of those issues feature self-contained adventures, they comprise an epic story arc (there's a lingering plot thread, so I'd say #1-14 brings full and satisfying closure to the first storyline). It's uneven, with some logic lapses and some questionable ethics, but overall, it's by far a more satisfying, faster paced, and exciting read.

This initial story arc of the current Micronauts is not bad in scripting or art but, so far, it's been a tad underwhelming.

This is a review of the story as it was serialized in Micronauts comics

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $12.95 USA.

Moving Fortress 1988 (SC GN) 55 pgs.

Moving Fortress - cover by Tim TrumanWritten by Ricardo Barreiro. Illustrated by Qulque Alcatena.
Translated by Barreiro & Chuck Dixon. Letters. Timothy Harkins. Editor: Timothy Truman.

Originally published as "La Fortress Movil" (1987)

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by 4 Winds Publishing Group

In a fantasy land, a man, Bask de Avregaut, finds himself a prisoner on board a huge, wheeled fortress, moving inexorably to a confrontation with an enemy.

Billed as a "classic", Moving Fortress is O.K. on a certain, undemanding level, but it's awfully thin on story and characterization -- its seize-of-Troy-wannabe-plot could haave been told in half the pages (less even) without short-changing anything. Even the main character functions more just as someone to tell the tale than as a character in his own right.

Its main strength is the enthralling and intricate, black & white art by Alcatena, on one hand peopled by realistic characters, and on the other full of bizarre, dreamlike images in sets and costumes. It puts one in mind of a big-budget, special f/xs-heavy movie where you admire the production design, but wish they could have saved it for a stronger narrative.

To make matters worse, in his introduction, editor Timothy Truman goes the tiresome route of wrapping himself in the flag of school boy sophistication, decrying the "adolescent writing" of American comics, and claiming how much better comics in other countries are, where they're (supposedly) regarded as a mature, literary art form, with legions of devotees. In the pictures, the Argentinian-produced Moving Fortress is not unimpressive, but as a story, as an adventure, as a human drama evoking human emotion...well, give me an "adolescent" superhero comic any day.

I didn't hate Moving Fortress, nor would I necessarily run away from anything else by Barreiro or Alcatena, but without a more complex story and more penetrating characterization -- and emotion -- it leaves one feeling kind of...nothing.

Barreiro and Alcatena produced further exploits of Bask, at least one of which was published in an American translation, I believe.

Cover price: $12.98 CDN./$8.98 USA

Mystery in Space, vol. 1 & 2 2007, 2008 (SC TPB)

Written by Jim Starlin. Pencils by Shane Davis, Jim Starlin, Ron Lim. Inks by Matt Banning, Al Milgrom, Rob Hunter, others. Colours: Jeromy Cox, Jim Starlin. Letters: Phil Balsman, Jared K. Fletcher. Editor: Bob Schreck.

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Reprinting: Mystery in Space #1-5 (vol. 1) and Mystery in Space #6-8 plus the original The Weird mini-series (reviewed here).

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed: Dec. 2015

Published by DC Comics

This was collected across two TPBs -- for some reason, since it is meant to be a single story arc.

Mystery in Space is one of those odd projects which sort of comes out of nowhere (I think -- I mean, was anyone clamouring for a mini-series featuring Captain Comet and The Weird?) and is somewhat isolated from DC's mainstream -- even as it heavily draws upon and plays with existing mythos (meaning there are characters the reader is presumably supposed to know...even as it isn't that hard to follow the plot if you don't).

It's set in deep space on an artificial satellite, an intergalactic waystation inhabited by multiple races, called Hardcore Station -- which was featured in its own self-titled Jim Starlin mini-series a few years before. Central to the story is Captain Comet, an earth-based 1950s super hero whose latter day adventures included a stint as the hero-in-residence in the 1970s comic, The Secret Society of Super-Villains, and space-based adventures as part of L.E.G.I.O.N. in the 1990s -- and now he lives on Hardcore Station. But just to give the comic a slightly off-beat ambition, it's actually split between two features, telling a parallel adventure of The Weird who also arrives on Hardcore Station. The Weird being a character Starlin created for an eponymous mini-series a few years earlier. These aren't two stories. Instead their exploits run parallel to each other, presenting different threads in the same tapestry.

Jim Starlin writes the Captain Comet story and writes and draws The Weird story (Starlin began as an artist, but his pencils have become rarer over the years). And Starlin is one of those comics creators who can lay some claim to the term "auteur" in that there are often distinctive, recurring themes and ideas that crop up in his writing. On the plus side, that lends his work a sincerity, a sense he is pouring himself into the pages. On the negative side, it can feel like he's just recycling increasingly tired ideas to the point of echoing earlier, better stories he wrote.

He's reusing characters and settings he used before (The Weird, Hardcore Station) and in a sci-fi milieu (Starlin more prone to sci-fi comics than straight super hero -- though he did have a run on Batman years ago) and with the villainy instigated by a church/corporation (Starlin's criticism/satire of religion a recurring theme for him, from his classic Adam Warlock stories of the 1970s to Batman: The Cult). The story even climaxes with a kind of gritty, moral ambiguity, as Comet is forced to do something ethically problematic -- also something I associate with many Starlin sagas.

And maybe it's because I was aware that Starlin has done all this before that it seems a bit by rote, Starlin not necessarily finding anything penetrating or provocative to say. The church is just cartoony evil rather than Starlin trying to explore what it offers to its followers to make them devout. At one point, the church brainwashes The Weird into being a (temporary) disciple -- but it's a fairly minor sequence (in terms of any impact upon the story) and without much effort expended upon presenting a convincing indoctrination.

The saga begins with Captain Comet being murdered -- yup, you read right. But don't worry. He quickly gets better, though now with slightly modified powers (another cliche, in a way -- when a writer dusts off an old character, then instantly sets about reinventing him, if only in a minor way). So Comet sets out to find out why he was killed and how he came back (though the latter is simply because of a chance encounter with the life essence of The Weird, who died at the end of his own mini-series, the two becoming reborn).

It isn't that there's anything especially bad about Mystery in Space -- even as it never really becomes that interesting. Both Captain Comet and The Weird are perfectly nice, agreeable heroes, without either of them actually being that charismatic, both fairly generic hero-types (a problem I had felt about The Weird in his own mini-series). There aren't a lot of supporting characters, and likewise they aren't more than agreeably-generic (Comet has an intelligent, talking dog, and is friends with the local police chief, Max -- another carry over from the previous Hardcore Station series). Comet has an aging, alcoholic friend, Star Hawkins, who is also an old Silver Age character, who then gets killed off -- and kind of makes one wonder if Starlin at some point was thinking of making this a kind of Watchmen-type series. Y'know, dusting off old Silver Age heroes, but presenting them in a cynical, deconstructed way. But Hawkins is the only character like that.

While the plot can seem a bit tepid. Partly that may be a result of my own misapprehension. By using the title "mystery in space" (borrowed from an old Silver Age DC Comics comic) I kind of assumed Starlin was going to present it as some complex, Byzantine mystery. But it's kind of slow moving, with limited questions posited, and with the villains (the church and its Deacon) revealed to the reader early. There is a bit of a mystery as to what the church is up to, and why they are interested in Comet, but it's not enough to sustain 8 issues (and is answered part way through). The first few issues can feel a bit slow -- not so much plodding, but meandering a bit. So it's strange when the story suddenly kicks into high gear in the last few issues, with the church attempting to take over the station -- because it can feel a bit like it comes out of nowhere, as if Starlin suddenly realized he was nearing the end of the series and he needed a climax. While other plot points feel too conspicuously like plot points, like a fusion bomb that is crucial to his plan -- even as its introduction only really seems to be so it can play a part in the climax. For that matter, the heroes' strategy involves exploiting a rift between two of the bad guys, The Deacon and Prime 7 -- when I'm not sure how they knew there was this rift to exploit, or even that there were the two villains!

In other words, for a 320 page epic told as two parallel but intersecting storylines, it can feel like some of it is Starlin just recycling ideas he's used before, and the rest is him just winging it, writing to a deadline.

Art-wise, though, I can't fault much. It looks good. As mentioned, Starlin himself draws the Weird chapters (with old pal Al Milgrom inking) and it's some of Starlin's best work. Maybe the fact that he doesn't draw as regularly means he was able to put more enthusiasm into it -- though his visuals, like his writing, tends to rely on certain recurring techniques and tropes (the aliens looking -- with lots of pointy ears -- like the sort of character designs he's used in Dreadstar, Warlock, etc.). While Shane Davis' art on the main Captain Comet feature is really quite striking, with realist faces and figures, hyper detailed and insanely busy backgrounds but -- and here's the important part -- generally presented with clarity. I've often complained about modern comics artists with their overly busy and detailed styles and how it can often just collapse in a mess of lines that my eyes have trouble deciphering. But for reasons I can't identity, Davis mostly avoids that (maybe credit the inker and colourist, too). Davis ends up bowing out toward the end, and frequent Starlin collaborator Ron Lim pitches in. Lim is one of those artists I tend to be mixed on -- I don't fault his basic skill, but he just rarely excites me. Yet with that said, this, too, is among his better work, and the shift from Davis to him isn't jarring (the two employing similar styles).

Ultimately, it isn't that I hated or even especially disliked Mystery in Space. But it fails to really justify its massive length. At 320 pages it really needed more plot threads, more characters (and more interesting characters and character nuance), better development of the plot it had, and maybe a subtler exploration of its themes of religious and corporate tyranny. Even the idea of telling it through two separate story lines doesn't really add any extra layers or perspective to the plot.

Cover price: __

Mystic: The Demon Queen 2002 (SC TPB) 208 pages

cover by Phil NotoWritten by Ron Marz. Pencils by Brandon Peterson, with Kevin Sharpe, George Perez. Inks by John Dell, Jason Baumgartner, Pablo Marcos.
Colous: various. Letters: various.

Reprinting: Mystic #8-14, CrossGen Chronicles #5 (2000-2001)

Additional notes: covers; couple of pin ups; re-cap of the first 7 issues.

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by CrossGen Comics

I'm not familiar with the CrossGeneration Comics' universe, and how various titles may or may not relate to each other. A character in this has a sigil mark on her hand, and CrossGen publishes another title called Sigil that looked to be a science fiction series (based on the TPB cover), but I'm not sure what the relationship is between the two. But I'm not sure it matters in so far as following this story is concerned. Mystic takes place on another world/alternate reality/whatever, where magic is a common part of life, and where the world is a mixture of the medieval (with castles and robes), the modern (suits and ties, or TV signals broadcast as "spellcasts" to crystal balls rather than TV sets) to light sci-fi (hover cars). The magic is largely focused in seven guilds, often at odds with each other.

The premise, established in previous issues (collected in an earlier TPB) is that the spirits -- the chief power -- of the seven guilds have come to reside in one debutante, Giselle Villard. This makes most of the Guild Masters rather unhappy, worried their prestige will fade if it is discovered none of them are the receptacle of their various guilds' guardian spirits. All of this is handily recapped in an opening page in this collection.

The story here has some of the Guild deciding to free an evil, all-powerful demoness, Animora, to slay Giselle -- a demoness it took the combined might of a previous generation of Guild Masters to defeat in the first place. Freeing her wouldn't seem to be the best idea. Meanwhile, Giselle, oblivious to all this, is slowly falling under the sway of Darrow, a charming but mysterious and ultimately sinister suitor.

Mystic: The Demon Queen is a reasonably enjoyable romp, boasting pleasant, detailed visuals, bold colours, and decent dialogue. But after all is said and done, it's a tad on the thin side. The main story is stretched out over seven issues...but I'm darned if I know how they did it. In content, it seems more like, maybe, a double-sized annual or something. That isn't to say that it comes across as plodding or anything, but writer Ron Marz seems to be able to stretch out a scene, no doubt helped by the artists' use of big panels and the like. Instead of a massive epic of twists and turns, threaded with Byzantine sub-plots, and rich character exploration, we get what amounts to an agreeable little adventure that happens to be broken up into seven chapters. There is, of course, revelations concerning Darrow, but even then nothing as complex as one might have imagined. In fact, with the sinister Darrow trying to exert influence over Giselle, I half thought we were looking at a Dark Phoenix wanna-be -- but no. Despite some minor scenes, where Giselle briefly turns on her friends, then everyone seems to forgive and forget, Giselle never falls very far under his influence.

The creation of a convincing reality never quite occurs, which should maybe be part of the point, whisking the reader away to this alien reality. But maybe because, as noted, the story doesn't really wander off on many tangents, we don't get to see much of the world or how it functions. The art, though attractive, is a tad plasticy in a way, though whether that's a problem with the pencils, inks, colours, or the shiny paper, I don't know. Still, it's Good Girl Art, with plenty of pretty women, and a fair amount of cleavage, for thems as likes that sort of thing, without being too crassly salacious or lurid to be distracting -- or offensive -- for those who don't. Character- wise, GGiselle and the other good people are pleasant enough without being especially interesting (though I enjoyed her talking cat-creature) and the book is an agreeable read, without quite being particularly memorable.

Overall, the book seems a tad breezy, and as if to counteract such criticism, chapter four (issue #11) tries an unorthodox visual trick with panels...but it's a little too self-consciously "artistic".

The final story, from CrossGen Chronicles, has Giselle learning the history of the earlier Guild Masters' battle with Animora. Like the main story, it's O.K., while seeming a tad thin and straightforward for its 32 pages. We know pretty early that something happens to one of the Guild Masters, but Marz doesn't really throw any curves as the story unfolds.

Ultimately, this is enjoyable enough, but nothing that screams "must read". With that price tag, it might be worth checking for in the discount bins first.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $19.95 USA

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