Friday, September 26, 2014

YALSA top ten GNs 2014: The Adventures of Superhero Girl

The Adventures of Superhero Girl
Written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Published by Dark Horse (2013)

I used to live in Halifax, and while I was there The Coast (the free weekly newspaper) ran two comics by local creators: True Story by Mike Holmes (which my friend Jen appeared in) and Superhero Girl. I thought that I read The Coast every week, but there were times where I felt that Superhero Girl didn't make any sense and that I must have been missing pages. I checked online but I hadn't actually missed any, leading me to assume that reading this comic at one page a week was a pretty terrible format (at least sometimes). There were one off stories but, as there's only so much you can do in half a page, there were also multiple part stories that I clearly was incapable of following when serialized.

As for the story, Superhero Girl is a superhero in a not very large city where while there are still supervillains, they are kind of crummy and are more likely to be the type to thrown marshmallows than destroy the city. Superhero Girl  has to deal with trying to keep a secret identity (she is bad at this), figuring out how to pay rent (she is also bad at this), trying to have a social life (ditto), and fighting crime (she's actually pretty good at this). It's goofy and funny, and I really have to say that it reads _much_ better in collected form.

I've written before about Hicks' art (and how much I liked it), and it's still good here. Her character designs are good and she's great at expressions. Plus there are kitties and ninja and evil future duplicates and... The worst thing about it probably comes from the fact that it was told at the rate of one page a week. I'd rather have just read a complete story about Superhero Girl. Still, Hicks' has said she'd like to draw more at some point, so maybe some day...

Monday, September 22, 2014

YALSA top ten GNs 2014: MIND MGMT

MIND MGMT (Volume 1): The Manager
Written and illustrated by Matt Kindt
Publisehed by Dark Horse (2013)

Perhaps the strangest thing about MIND MGMT volume 1 is that it is a volume 1. The story kind of loops in on itself, and I'm left wondering what volume 2 will even be about. Is it going to follow the same main character of the first volume? Or pick up on supporting characters and develop their stories? Of course, I"m getting ahead of myself...

MIND MGMT is a spy/mystery comic that begins with an interesting premise: a plane takes off and when it lands nobody can remember who they are, and one passenger has disappeared. Enter Meru Marlow, a true crime writer who is attempting to figure who what happened on the flight. She soon gets involved in shady goings-on between various top-secret organizations and people with psychic abilities. She travels to a variety of exotic locales staying just one step ahead of the people after her (or does she?).

My main problem with this book is that I didn't really feel that enough happened. This was originally published as single issues, and each issue seems pretty much the same: Meru goes somewhere new, gets some tantalizing clues as to what's going on, almost gets killed, and then heads off somewhere else. Rinse. Repeat. I felt the story was artificially stretched out because of the format it was originally told in (every issue has to have an action scene!).

Now back to the problem I had above in that the first volume (this one) doesn't seem like a first volume. According to Wikipedia Kindt structured the first volume as a standalone in case it didn't sell well enough to continue. That's all well and good, but I really felt that it lacked a hook to draw me in to future volumes, so I think I'm done with the series for now.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

YALSA top ten GNs 2009: Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne

Atomic Robo (Volume 1): Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne
Written by Brian Clevinger. Illustrated by Scott Wegener.
Published by Red 5 Comics (2009)

Oh Atomic Robo! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1. You are a robot
2. Your arch-nemesis is a time travelling velociraptor called Dr. Dinosaur
3. Your comic is awesome

But really if you're not interested in reading a comic about a robot who punches giant monsters in the face you should probably just give up on this review and find another comic. Atomic Robo is a great example of that genre (monster punching) and, while I love it, I know it's not for everyone.

The most basic description of Atomic Robo is "It's like Hellboy, but...", and it even mentions that in at least one of the introductions to this series (I read, or re-read, the first seven volumes recently and they call kind of blur together a little). So yes, the series is reminiscent of Hellboy in that a non-human guy travels the world and fights lots of monsters and Nazis (for decades, so the stories can happen pretty much whenever). But saying that is kind of a disservice to Atomic Robo, as it goes places that Hellboy doesn't.

Firstly, Atomic Robo is a scientist! He does science! (Frequently this leads to things exploding.) Second, there is time travel! Third, it uses its humour in a more obvious way.

This third one is probably the most obvious difference. Hellboy certainly has its funny parts, but Atomic Robo is much willing to do utterly bizarre things because it's humourous. This isn't to say that the stories can't have serious parts, but I think you're more likely to see Robo sneaking out from Nikolai Tesla's lab so he can go on a date or judging a science fair.

The art by Scott Wegener is not something that I would immediately think was great, and if you just showed me specific panels I might think it was a little bizarre looking.  But his designs work well for the characters, and his style works overall for the types of stories that are told.

Of course while I think Atomic Robo is great, you don't have to take my word for it. There are a bunch of free Atomic Robo comics on the website. I think the best is "Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur", but they're all pretty good.