Sentient by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Steve Wands

Sentient by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Steve Wands

Lemire does it again. An utterly thrilling sci-fi adventure.

Like most of Lemire’s best work the themes of family and making the best of terrible situations are explored with a typically deft touch.

The shocking opening of the book left me breathless. I read this in one sitting flipping through the pages with more haste than the brilliant artwork deserved. Walta’s work here is lovely. The design of the spaceship and characters is realistic yet striking. While all the action scenes are terrifically choreographed, the book really soars when our protagonists are talking to each other, all the pain and uncertainty writ large across their faces as they seek to find a way through the awful circumstances they find themselves in.

Melancholic yet unsentimental Sentient is a story of survival and love that is just wonderfully told.

Brilliant stuff.

Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy. Please consider using this affliate link to buy to the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Elecboy by Jaouen Salaün

BOOK REVIEW: Elecboy by Jaouen Salaün

The artwork here is engrossing. Salaün world-building and character designs are spectacular. Every page is rich with detail. It is a beautiful thing to look at. The painterly colouring adds depth to each panel.

Salaün demonstrates equal finesse with balls to the wall action sequences as they do with quite dramatic moments. Much of the book is about Joshua’s troubled relationship with his father and the tensions his family has with the ruling elite. The sections of the book where the loathsome Sylvio argues with his father or is conspiring with his grandfather are particularly good.

The world that Elecboy takes place in is weary and on the verge of breaking down. It clearly has taken some inspiration from other post-societal collapse stories such as Mad Max, I Robot, Akira, and The Postman. That said, there is a lot of original stuff here. The harsh desert landscape looms large over the characters.

The characters themselves are very much archetypical. Joshua is a rebellious young lad disappointed in the father he loves. The scheming chief is conniving and vicious. Sylvio is a desert Joffery. The two most well-rounded characters are Joseph, Joshua’s dad, and Vittorio, Sylvio’s father. Despite the obvious hatred between them, there is also mutual respect. How their feud resolves itself is one of the most gripping things about the plot.

That said, this is not a self-contained story. Which I felt was disappointing. The book asks more questions than it answers, setting the scene for what comes in the next. The good thing is that I was intrigued and interested in finding out what those things are going to be. A lovely book to look at, with an intriguing set-up that is slightly let down by the characters. Despite that, it is very much worth reading.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please consider using this affliate link to buy the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Planet by Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald & Nick Filardi, Crank!

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Planet by Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald & Nick Filardi, Crank!

Rogue Planet evokes memories of Alien and Aliens in a very good way. The blue-collar crew of a salvage ship encounter supernatural and inhuman terrors on Lonely Orphan.

Bunn’s script is gripping from the off. We are introduced to a cast of characters with enough foibles and eccentricities to make you wonder which one of them will be killed off first and indeed how many if any of them are going to survive. Bunn’s dialogue is occasionally a bit heavy-handed and cheesy but no more than you would expect from a sci-fi/horror story. However, there are also genuine tender and humorous moments between the crew that cruelly made me care about the characters. There is a nice mix of action set-pieces and slower anxiety building sequences (one scene of the crew trying to navigate their back to the ship after an ambush is particularly good).

The art is quite simply fantastic. Both the inks and colours bring to life the creepy and weird alien beings that are hunting the crew. As someone who has seen a few horror movies, it is always nice when an original monster is brought to the page. Some of the creatures are so unnatural looking it took me time to process what I was looking at. Always a good sign in monster design.

The plot itself hits all the horror story beats but it does so with aplomb. I’m not sure there is enough here for non-genre fans but for anyone with a passing interest in sci-fi or horror Rogue Planet is definitely worth picking up. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please consider using this link to buy the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball & Stacey Robinson

BOOK REVIEW: Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball & Stacey Robinson

The massacre that happened on Black Wall Street is quite rightly being given greater visibility. The Watchmen TV series is an example of that. Whereas many tellings of the evil that occurred in Tulsa focus on the violence, or the events immediately preceding, Across the Tracks focuses more on what was lost. It tells of how Greenwood was founded, why it flourished, and the important people in the town’s history. Many of these remarkable American deserve their own books.

Because Across the Tracks takes this approach it makes the bitterness and agony I felt all the more acute when the violence does occur. Across the Tracks is superbly researched. The small details bought to the page by Alverne Ball script gives some scope to what was lost when Black Wall Street burned.

Stacey Robinson’s art has an earnest quality to it. They mostly play it safe with page composition and panel layout. However, the thickly inked lines and Robinson’s ability to accurately capture the likenesses of historical figures are both pleasing. As is Robinson’s knack for capturing emotions.

Overall this is a good graphic novel history of a shameful event in American history. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. Please consider using this link to buy the book.

BOOK REVIEW: Save It for Later by Nate Powell

BOOK REVIEW: Save It for Later by Nate Powell

Save It for Later covers a lot of ground. From exploring the confusion, fear and anger felt by people after Donald Trump’s election win to why it is every person’s duty to take an active part in every element of the democratic process, Powell takes an unflinching look at it all.

Powell’s illustrations are powerful. Moments of sadness and anxiety depicted at the erosion of America’s political norm and the realisation that hateful racists were always lurking in the shadows waiting to be given permission to share their views are all captured with nimbleness, humour and indignation.

There is a heavy criticism of Save It For Later which is that it very much is preaching to the choir. There is nothing in the book that would persuade someone not already aligned with Powell’s views to consider changing their minds. I personally also felt that Powell occasionally “others” people who don’t share his politics. Most people are good and genuinely want what is best for themselves, their family, and their country even Trump voters. Powell I don’t think gets this.

The other thing that grabbed me about this book is how full of love it is. Powell’s love for his family and country shine through. His daughter is brought to life as an achingly cute unicorn/human hybrid. The book is as much about Powell figuring out how to raise his children and the mistakes he makes along the way as it is about politics. Many of the most powerful images in the book feature Powell and his family.

I enjoyed Save It For Later very much.

Thank you to Nate Powell, Abrams ComicArts, and NetGalley for an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. Please consider using this link to buy the book.

Teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Hi guys. I am proud to announce I am a contributor to Teaching BJJ. It is a resource for anyone looking to learn how to teach #BJJ. Use the link, and they send me some money 🥺. https://www.teachingbjj.com?a=11 #brazilianjiujitsu #martialarts

Quarantine Comix by Rachael Smith

Quarantine Comix by Rachael Smith

A brave and wonderfully funny anthology of strips that accurately capture what a weird and painful experience that lockdown was. There are guffaw producing gags about cats and hygiene as well as more melancholy pieces about missing loved ones and being unable to get out of bed.

Racheal’s art is superb. It reminded me of Kate Beaton’s work in the way she has mastered comedic timing and knowing when how to use facial expressions to make her emotional points pack the most punch.

Rachel isn’t shy about sharing her mental health struggles which form a base for many of the comics. These struggles are used for both comedic and melancholic effect.

As a chronicle of Covid-19, this Quarantine Comix reveals much of what most of us were going through. How absurd and stressful the whole blasted thing was. Uplifting without being sugary sweet. Thank you, Racheal.

ARC courtesy of Netgally. Please consider using this link to buy the book.

Wahcommo by Luis NCT

Wahcommo by Luis NCT

Wahcommo is a staggeringly imaginative work of world-building that is utterly fearless, taking inspiration from Nordic, Native American, Japanese and Western cultures to create something on par with Tchaikovsky’s Echoes of the Fall or Avatar: Legend of Aang.

Kaya and Fox are flawed characters, young and brimming with confidence and self-importance. Despite the seriousness of the task given to them, the pair constantly bicker and undermine each other. Much of the book explores the burdens of tradition, why they are important to maintain and why it is essential for them to be challenged.

Wahcommo is an absorbing adventure story with plenty of thrillingly action sequences full of blood and magic. The slower contemplative moments where the sweeping vistas of the fantasy world where the story takes place allow you to catch your breath before our heroes go into the breach once more.

NCT’s art is stunning. Blending different fantasy elements influenced by different cultures is incredibly difficult to do smoothly. Here it just works. There are no awkward juxtapositions. The character designs are superb. You can tell a tremendous amount of research and work was taken in creating the look of everything in the world of Wahcommo. There is a tired and lived-in quality to everything on the page; nothing is shiny and new. It is a hard world full of hard people. The linework is rough, giving it a sketch-like quality where the colours adding a great deal of depth and richness to the illustrations.

The chase and battles scenes are up there with the very best. One chase sequence where our heroes are trying to escape capture by town guards that hard turning the pages faster than I could reasonably read and comprehend what was happening.

It is not without flaws. I have seen other reviews complaining that these sequences were difficult to follow, but I didn’t find that to be the case save for some pages towards the end of the book. The ending also felt somewhat rushed, which I think is a fair comment. The plot itself is also fairly basic, but who cares when it is propped up by art as gorgeous as this.

Wahcommo is a treatise on why civilisations rise and crumble disguised as a coming of age story. It is an exhilarating fantasy romp, and I really hope the NCT returns to the world they have created here with more adventures.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please consider using this affliate link to buy the book.

Primo Levi by Matteo Mastragostino & Alessandro Ranghiasci, Translated by Alberto Toscano

Primo Levi by Matteo Mastragostino & Alessandro Ranghiasci, Translated by Alberto Toscano

I hadn’t heard of Primo Levi before reading this graphic novel. Levi was an Italian Jewish chemist, partisan, Holocaust survivor and writer. The narrative device used to frame Levi’s life story is Levi visiting a class of school children to speak to them about the Holocaust and his time in a concentration camp.

Arranging the story this way cleverly negates the clumsy exposition often found in a history book. It is natural for Levi to explain what happened to him and his family and why. Levi is portrayed as a charming and determined man who is steadfast in his mission that the past not repeat itself. Mastragostino decision to have the children ask questions of Levi as to why he did or did not do certain things is impactful, as are their reactions when Levi recounts the hardships he underwent.

Ranghiasci art is purposeful and fluid, capturing moments of grief and solace with equal adeptness. They have a knack for drawing highly expressive faces. Despite the grimness of the subject matter, it is a smooth graphic novel to read. The text never overshadows the monochrome illustrations. There are sections of the book that feature drawings of dead Holocaust victims that are difficult to look at.

Overall, Primo Levi is a striking written and enthrallingly illustrated biography of a remarkable man that went through so much. It is the sort of book that acts as a perfect jumping-off point for someone looking to learn more about the Jewish experience in Italy during WW2. Levi’s attempt to resist fascist forces by joining the partisans is something that I’ll definitely be doing further reading on.

The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard

The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard

What a delight this horror anthology is. All the stories are just about perfectly paced, each panel intensifying the tension, deftly guiding the reader along a creepy passage. Horror comics are exceedingly difficult to do well. It, therefore, is a real treat to read something that is as refined as this. What Howard does with Crossroads at Midnight is put sympathetic well-written characters at the centre of each of the stories. Horror has a terrible reputation for being exploitative yet this is anything but that. The tales range from the body horror of someone having their skin stolen to a chiller about feuding siblings.

The linework is fluid and some of the creature designs evoke Junji Ito and some David Clowes creepier stuff. You can almost see the scratch mark of the pencils, cleverly using crosshatching and shadows to give us enough light to the characters and creatures in the comic. The Boy at the beach is one of the most disturbing antagonists I have seen on a page in some time. While the monsters are sinister and weird I think most of the praise should be aimed at how Howard depicts the emotions that the more human characters are feeling. Howard is able to frame the realisations of characters understanding how much trouble they have got themselves and more action-heavy sequences with equal aplomb.

For those looking for their next horror fix, this is superior stuff. Exactly the sort of thing that needs to be read late at night under the bedsheets with a torch. Howard is a graphic novelist to keep an eye out for.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Please consider using this link to but the book.