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Year End PDF Catch-Up Reviews Page – 2007 Edition
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Article by Scott Tingley, January 05, 2007

The big pile of comics and graphic novels I want to review (that are sitting next to my computer getting in everybody's way) are hard to ignore. I can do it, don't get me wrong – this level of procrastination takes a lot of dedication and hard work (I have a series to review that's been staring me down since this summer and I just took down the Remembrace Day posters in my classroom). But I'll tell you one thing that is not at all hard to forget – that's a pdf/electronic copy that a creator or publisher has emailed to me. I download it, put it in a file marked “Comic PDFs” and then, unfortunately, I often forget about it . When I am on the ball I regularly go back and check my emails and pdf file to be sure that I haven't missed anything – there are always at least a couple that I neglected to read, let alone include in an article or review. I don't like doing this, but I do it anyway.

That is about to change right here in my (in case you missed the title at the top of the page) Year End PDF Catch-Up Reviews Page – 2007 Edition!
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One of my favorite books of 2007 just came out a couple of weeks ago and that is Midnight Sun by Ben Towle. It is a black, white and blue 130 or so paged re-imagining of the crash of the Italian airship, the Italia in 1928.

The story is told in two parts, bouncing between the tale of the stranded airmen and the reporters/rescue team that are looking for the downed Italia. This is a well crafted story with moments of intensity mixed with periods of waiting. Towle's work is new to me, but he has quite a talent for pacing and using sequential art to do big things in subtle ways. There is a series of pages where the simple action of a crewman taking stock of the remaining supplies turns into a potential life and death situation. The rising tension comes across here in a way that it would not in prose or on film. I thought it was a great piece of storytelling.

This graphic novel is not meant to be an accurate retelling of the fate of the Italia, but it would be of interest to airship enthusiasts (I'm sure they exist), history buffs and anyone interested in a terrific, grown-up graphic novel. I had never heard of the Italia, but this book has gotten me interested in learning more. There is a little swearing, some drunkenness, and a hint about the possibility that crewmembers resorted to cannibalism, but it is the intensity of the situation that makes this for “Young Adult” readers and above (probably 14+ keeping in mind what I said about the content). I have only read the pdf version of it but, by all accounts, the final version is quite attractive.

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An Invited Threat is a Diabetes “Public Service Announcement” (psa) comic aimed at the Aboriginal communities of North America and, like its predecessor Darkness Calls (a suicide prevention comic) it is quite good. D.C. was a bit more subtle in its storytelling, but Threat is powerful in its message and not too preachy (again, a bit more than D.C., but still not bad). The three member family that writer/artist Steven Keewatin Sanderson focuses the story on go through a series of visions that show them the consequences of their dietary choices in a way that makes it personal for each person. When the mother gets a look at her future son and how the father/town general store manager learns his particular lesson elevate the book to well above forgettable – which most Public Service Announcements are. There are some parts I disliked – the look the menace in the mothers vision was hard for me to take seriously, especially knowing how well the creator can write the subtler parts of his stories.

I think An Invited Threat, Darkness Calls, and the third book in the series On the Turn , a gambling addiction comic book are all very good and deserver a wide readership. I don't know much about Steve Sanderson, but I hope we hear more from him soon.

Point Form review of On the Turn - gambling addiction comic book put out by the same group :

  • Does a nice job of ringing out into the open the relevant issue of teen gambling.
  • Not as strong as the other two in the Healthy Aboriginal Network series – but still better than most PSA comics and tv shows I have seen.
  • The writers of On the Turn are Jay Odjick and Patrick Tenascon.  Pencils by Jay and inks by Patrick.
  • Conclusion – good – get it for your school.

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Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits Created/Written by Dwight L. MacPherson Co-Created/Illustrated by Worth Gowell, Colored by Kevin Conley. Dwight is the writer/creator of the weird and beautiful and beautifully weird THE SURREAL ADVENTURES OF EDGAR ALLAN POO and he is back with another odd tale – this one about the life of a young Harry Houdini. Now, I don't know much about Houdini, and I was quite young when I saw the movie, but I don't remember Tony Curtis reminiscing to Janet Leigh about his youth in the circus solving crimes with his trusty band of disfigured, circus performing youths – so this comic should probably not be taken as fact, but it sure is a lot of fun. It started out a bit slow for me but there are lots of arguments and mysterious stuff going on in the first chapter that were enjoyable and will keep you reading. Please note that only the first chapter was available to me at the time of this writing, but what I read had promise. I just found out that this will be Viper Comics Free Comic Book Day issue for 2008. AND Dwight just emailed me to say that Houdini did in fact run away from home and work in a circus for a year. I stand corrected.

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Next up is Violet Rose , written by the 16 year old Emma Davis . VR is a comic that reminds me of a lot of other comics aimed at younger girl readers that I have read since starting this website a couple years ago. On paper it sounds very much like Oddly Normal meets Kat and Mouse (or Scooby Doo minus Scooby Doo)– young girl plus team out to solve a mystery. Not that the similarities are a bad thing, but this is not a copy of those books anyway. Violet Rose wears a monocle, solves odd mysteries in an odd town populated by all manner of odd things, she is a…thing whisperer I guess - and did I mention the monocle? I've only read the first issue. The main plot was a very simple done-in-one issue mystery, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes that will pay off later and the dialogue is clever. It adds up to a great start for this new comic writer. This was a fun issue and I look forward to more. I would recommend this for grade 3 or 4 girls or boys and up.

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The Goblin Chronicles is not really my thing (stay with me, this is not a negative review). I am not a fan of straight fantasy as a genre – I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, but I have no interest in second viewings. I liked The Princess Bride and the more recent Stardust, but that's about it. Sorry. That said, I did enjoy The Goblin Chronicles for what it was trying to be – a buddy fantasy adventure story…..I'm getting tired out here (I so envy those comic writers that can do a bunch of long articles and reviews every week – I find this stuff exhausting!) so I'm just going to quote Troy Dye , series writer and co-creator here:

The book is intended for a younger audience, but doesn't talk down to the reader. Because of this, I think adults will find the book a great read as well. It's really just a good old-fashioned fun-filled fantasy yarn. For those youngsters who'd like to express their artistic talents, I have some downloadable coloring book pages in the “Extras” section of the site. There are two pages there right now and I'm going to add two more in the next few days.   

Thanks Troy .

I liked it. I think it would appeal to fans of the genre, and the four characters involved in the quest aspect of the book would appeal to a young audience. The art is nice and very suited to the story. It is a three-issue miniseries from Ape Entertainment and is available for order now from your local comic shop (in the December Previews catalogue) and will be out in February 2008.
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The last pdf to review for now is a great one. It was sent to me for review a year ago, but since it is intended for older readers I didn't think it belonged on the site. But then I did this little write up for my "Best of 2007" holiday article, so I thought I would include it here as well. “BEASTS! [from Fantagraphics] is a classic mythological menagerie, comprised only of creatures that were thought at one time to actually exist, depicted by over 90 of the most acclaimed artists and cartoonists coming from the most avant-garde ambits of the art world.” (from the Beasts! press release) It is a really nice book. It features an amazing illustrations and informative write-ups of creatures that I had heard of and many that I had not. I have only seen the electronic copy, but according to the publisher's description, they pulled out all the stops on this one ( a 200 page, full-color hardback) to create a beautiful thing. With a couple of edits, this book would have been a favorite of grade four boys everywhere – as it is though it is an adult book (some risqué illustrations not suitable for younger readers). Seriously though - not for kids.



 

 


 

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