Ring My Bell

Injection Volume One by Warren Ellis, drawn by Declan Shalvey. Image, 2015. 9781632154798. Contains Injection #1 – #5. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature.

Sarah: The pitch for Injection. (Although you sorta don’t find out ’till halfway through the book what the premise is…)
Gene: I know! But you have to have the pitch.
S: I would make someone promise: you have to read the book if I tell them why, but then they have to forget before they read the book. So: wait six months after reading this…
G: Or, like me, put it on hold at the library and then fail to remember why.
S: So a small group of people from different backgrounds in government and computing and folklore and magic get together and ask, what is the path of the future? What’s going to happen next? And what they see is a flatline. After all of this huge technological and cultural change, we’re going to go into this big lull. They try to find out how to change the world so that that doesn’t happen. And they come up with this awesome horrible idea, to combine artificial intelligence with magic with computer learning…
G: They animate an AI but they use magic, and then they release it into the internet.
S: And all of a sudden, things are happening!
G: And it turns out it can warp reality.
S: Oops. They call it the Injection. And not many people outside these folks know what’s going on.
G: Whatever it does looks like magic. Continue reading “Ring My Bell”

Who’s Your Daddy?

Star Wars Darth Vader Volume 1 by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado. Marvel, 2016. 9781302901950. Originally published as Darth Vader #1 – #12. Publisher’s Rating: T

Gillen is an amazing storyteller, Larocca a great artist, and Delgado’s colors make every page sing. I have to confess that I’m not a huge Darth Vader fan, but the story caught my attention with its conflicts and quality, and with the fact that it’s expanding the space between stories from the movies that I already know without endlessly repeating the tropes established by the films.

The story opens after the destruction of the first Death Star (and after events in the first new Star Wars graphic novel put out by Marvel, which is also great), with Vader on Tatooine visiting Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Vader has failed his Emperor, the Empire is besieged, and a deal must be struck with the Hutt and other crime lords. Vader chafes under the command of Grand General Tagge, who assigns men to watch over him, which is a problem because Vader has his own agenda: finding the X-wing pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and finding out about a man who is engaged in secret work for the Emperor. Gillen makes a few noteworthy additions to the Star Wars universe: Doctor Aphra, a young rogue archaeologist who reactivates decommissioned weapons for profit, homicidal versions of C3PO and R2D2, and a cadre of lightsaber-wielding warriors vying for Vader’s spot at the Emperor’s side. When will Vader do away with Aphra? Will the Emperor or his agents discover Vader’s personal agenda, or can he manage to hide it from Imperial investigators?

In its best moments, this graphic novel feels like a great heist movie. I’m hoping Tarantino will one day direct a film about the killer droids.

Uncertain Certainty

Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki. Machines of Death, 2010. 9780982167120.

This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki. Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 9781455529391.

Sarah: You may have already heard of this: Machine of Death!
Gene: Oh, I have heard of that.
S: I really liked it. It’s the first of two volumes, I realized I don’t have the second volume because I gave it to my brother for Christmas. But I have read both books. So! This is a premise that originated in a Dinosaur Comics strip, and it’s in the book. The idea is that there is a machine that is able to tell you, with a simple blood test, how you’re going to die. It will sometimes be obscure and sometimes it won’t be totally clear how that would cause your death, and no matter what you do you can’t change the fact that that is your destiny. Sometimes it’ll happen despite your efforts in a weird Twilight Zone twist. The book is an anthology by a bunch of different people all using that premise. It’s like the most wonderful anthology show, like if you got a Twilight Zone series where every episode was on one premise but interpreted radically differently by different artists. I would LOVE to see that.
G: It has a sci-fi feel?
Continue reading “Uncertain Certainty”

Not all that many

The Few written by Sean Lewis, art by Hayden Sherman. Image, 2017. 9781534302358. Contains The Few #1 – #6. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature.

Any dystopian graphic novel that opens by quoting Ursula K. Le Guin, as this one does, has my attention. There’s a lot to love in this book, including the smart bombs.

It opens with a young woman, Hale, running through a forest in what used to be Montana, chased by armed men, carrying a baby in her arms. That baby is wearing a gas mask. The pacing is perfect. The drawings’ eerie mix of sketchiness, textures, and screen tones say “ecological disaster.” It’s beautiful. The art reminded me of the sketchiness in FLCL and Ashley Wood’s robot/zombie books, and the use of color in Victor Santos’ Polar, but it has an energy all its own. Somehow, despite how stark it is, the drawings manage to give the characters a sense of grace. I haven’t loved a picture of a forest this much since being transfixed by a painting in a Baltimore art museum. (It was one of the pine forest paintings by Klimt. Photographs and prints don’t do it justice.)

Riders! In Space!

Space Riders Volume 1 by Fabian Rangel Jr. and Alexis Ziritt. Black Mask, 2015. 9781628751093.  Collects Space Riders #1 – #4. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature.

“There’s nothing subtle about Space Riders, and that’s what makes it so great!…”  – John Arcude (BPRD, Rumble) from the back of the book


If Benjamin Marra (Terror Assaulter, American Blood) and Jack Kirby had a baby that collaborated with Johnny Ryan on a space opera graphic novel, you might get this. Which means it’s full of cursing, violence, old school art and colors that seem to demand to be placed under black light. There’s a green woman in an armored bikini, a spaceship that looks like a skull, and more gunfire and laser blasts than is reasonable. Plus lots of classic Kirby Krackle. (But none of that Kirby Krackle though it’s also awesome)

You don’t need to know any specifics about the plot. If you are drawn to any of the above, you’ll love this.

Underground Comix

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye Volume 1: Going Underground by Jon Rivera, Gerard Way, and Michael Avon Oeming. DC Comics / Young Animal, 2017. 9781401270827. Publisher’s Rating: Suggested for Mature Readers. Contains #1 – #6 of the comic series.

An amazing creative team resurrects a mostly forgotten DC Comics underground adventurer for this weird and somewhat hallucinatory title, part of Way’s new Young Animal imprint at DC.

Cave Carson’s wife has just died. (She had a secret origin, which plays into the story later.) His daughter is at school, and probably a bit screwed up by their past as a family of adventurers plus, you know, her mom’s death. Cave has an office job at the company where he stole the original Mighty Mole (imagine the Batmobile if it tunneled underground). Oh, and Cave has a robot eye that lets him see things. The company is training a team of young folks to go underground in the Mighty Mole Mk 2 and then… well, some kind of creature erupts from a Muldroogan warrior who has come to tell Cave of the danger to the underground city. Cave’s boss wants his daughter’s help, because he somehow knows her secret. Soon Cave, Chloe, and Cave’s friend, a hockey mask wearing hero called Wild Dog are on their way to the underground city in the once again stolen Mighty Mole, pursued by company agents in the Mk 2, ready to face creatures right out of Dune and Hellboy. It’s violent, kinda psychedelic, and really lighthearted, and Avon Oeming’s  art makes the whole story skip along like an old Hanna Barbara cartoon.

Dusk is dawn is day

LOW Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist), Mariane Gusmao (color assistant). Image, 2015. 9781632151940. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains LOW #1 – #6.

LOW Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist), Dave McCaig (colors). Image, 2015. 9781632154699. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains LOW #7 – #10.

LOW Volume 3: Shore of the Dying Light by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist), Dave McCaig (colors). Image, 2016. 9781632157089. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains LOW #11 – #15.

The art and color in this series creates an amazing, dizzying post-apocalyptic world. Remender’s style is to jump right in without a lot of explaining, which is one of the reasons why I love his comics so much. But here the art and story together may seem a bit intimidating. It took me a few fully focused running starts to totally get into this graphic novel series, and it was completely worth the effort. This is not a series you can enjoy while watching TV — it demands your attention. And it’s not a series you can start in the middle. (And look at the cover of Volume 1 when you’re in a good bookstore — what an amazing use of spot gloss!)

The sun expanded prematurely, cooking the earth. Humanity sent out probes millennia ago to find a new home, but that didn’t work out. People retreated to a few undersea cities, and those aren’t going to last much longer. The Caine family have always used the helm suit (it’s bonded to their DNA) to help feed and protect their city, Salus. Stel Caine recalls a probe back to Earth in hopes that it’s found them a new planet, then she and her husband Joel take their daughters out of the undersea city to teach them to use the helm suit. They quickly locate a mammoth class animal big enough to feed everyone in Salus. And then they’re ambushed.

The story then jumps forward ten years. Stel still hasn’t lost hope. She thrives on the irrational optimism that her daughters have survived, and that the probe, which has now returned to the Earth’s surface, will point the way to humanity’s new home. Stel and her son Malik (a gifted mechanic turned immoral cop) set out on a grand adventure. They soon end up in a place ruled by the man who took her daughters, where he entertains the populace with blood games pitting citizens against sea creatures. (Minor spoiler) He’s been raising one of the girls. Malik is soon thrown into the gladiatorial games.