Archive for the ‘Comics & Graphic Novels’ Category


You Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

I read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds in one session. I couldn’t stop reading this wonderful, feel-good science fiction story by the Canadian cartoonist/musician who is famous for creating Scott Pilgrim.

The main character of the 300-plus graphic novel is Katie, a talented young chef who runs a successful restaurant called Seconds. She’s respected by her peers and in the process of opening a second restaurant that will be her own. Life looks good, but then it doesn’t anymore: her ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes bad, and then her best waitress Hazel gets badly burned during work. Katie needs to change things, but we can’t change the past, or can we?

When a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night, it seems Katie gets a chance to change one of her mistakes and turn her life around for the better. She only has to write down what she did wrong, ingest a magic mushroom and go to sleep. And when she wakes up, she has indeed changed the past. But for Katie, life still doesn’t seem perfect, so she goes against the rules and changes the past a second time. And a third, and a fourth, etc. But she soon discovers that going against the rules has dire consequences.

With Seconds, O’Malley taps into a desire most of us have, since we’ve all made mistakes we’d like to change or erase from our past. Obviously Katie will abuse the gift she got to change more and more details about her life, going further back into the past to fix things until she understands the valuable life lesson that we all have to accept our mistakes, learn from them and live with them. Although the plot is somewhat predictable, I really enjoyed its execution. Especially when the fairytale-like elements turn dark and the story becomes rather nightmarish.

Just like his famous comic series about Scott Pilgrim, O’Malley draws most of his characters in a cartoony, manga-esque style. So be ready for girls with big hair, large eyes and expressive faces. Manga-style artwork is an acquired taste; I guess it’s either your thing or it isn’t.

Art-wise O’Malley had assistance from Jason Fischer, a cartoonist from LA. Unfortunately the credits list doesn’t state in what way Fischer assisted, whether he inked the drawings or was responsible for the decors, for instance. What I really liked about the art of this comic are some of the big panels in which the artists treat the reader to a wonderfully detailed drawing of the scenery, like these two:

Also, Nathan Fairbairn did a wonderful job coloring the book. I will definitely read Seconds a second time.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.

This Just In: Comics & Graphic Novels

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Six Recently-Arrived Titles from the Comics & Graphic Novels Section:

Please be sure to contact our stores for an exact stock check!

Book Review: Iron, Or The War After by Shane-Michael Vidaurri

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Iron: Or The War After is a graphic novel by Shane-Michael Vidaurri. It’s an espionage thriller with a poetic quality, taking place in an anthropomorphic world.  That’s right: the characters are animals like bears, frogs, rabbits and goats. All walking on two legs, of course. Their natures represent human kind with all its complexity and nuances.

When the rabbit Hardin, an intelligence spy from the Resistance, steals information from a military base of the Regime, his actions set off a chain of events that reverberates through the ranks of both sides, touching everyone from the highest ranking officials to his own son, who desperately wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. Who the hero or the villain is depends on which side you are on, really. A high-ranking officer like tiger Captain Calvin Engel could at the end of the story be considered a traitor to the establishment.

Iron: Or The War After is Vidaurri’s first book as an author and artist. He has worked as a colourist and cover artist for publishers like Dark Horse, Image and Archaia. He also wrote and illustrated the first issue of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches.

The poetry is in Vidaurri’s wonderful art. The New Jersey born artist makes aquarelles with a monochromatic colour scheme. To tell his story about war and betrayal, Vidaurri uses earthly and cold colours like blues and greys to capture the cold of winter, occasionally placing a big splash of bright red in the form of a red cardinal or blood spatter. The visuals make reading this graphic novel a real treat and the interesting page layouts add a stilled quality to the book. The story has a tight plot, yet the visuals leave a lot of room for the reader’s interpretation.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.

Book Review: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, lets enjoy this video by My Chemical Romance first:

I hope you like the song and video, because the song, and the album that it is on, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys are actually the prequel to the comic, written by Shaun Simon and Gerard Way, who is the lead vocalist of My Chemical Romance and comic book writer of interesting stuff like The Umbrella Academy.

(Fun fact: comic book author Grant Morrison also makes an appearance in the music video. He’s the bald bad guy killing the Killjoys.)

The comic picks the story up a decade later. You see, the Killjoys were a team of revolutionaries who lost their lives while saving a mysterious young girl from the tyrannical mega corporation Better Living Industries. Today the Killjoys live on in memory, as BLI widens its reach and freedom fades. The girl is now grown up and in her late teens. A new group of revolutionaries, who live in the desert and get their inspiration from the original Killjoys, think the Girl is their saviour. It’s a role she doesn’t know anything about, but when the story unfolds she will play a pivotal role in the revolution against oppression. The group of outlaws consists of a bunch of narcissistic teens that seemed to be worried more about their hair looking good than the victims they shoot. As characters, these outlaws aren’t very interesting, and as a reader I didn’t care that much about their fate.

The trade paperback The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys collects all the six chapters of the story. Not knowing beforehand the comic was a sequel to a record, I felt kind of lost in the first two chapters, getting to know this Strange New World of Way and Simon, but I got into the groove of the story soon enough and especially enjoyed Becky Cloonan’s energetic art work. Cloonan seems to take some visual cues from manga comics even though she uses the grammar of American comic books.

Basically, there are three storylines that unfold simultaneously. The first storyline concerns the Girl coming of age and finding her destiny. The second storyline is about Korse, the Scarecrow that originally killed the Killjoys (Grant Morrison in the video). He’s a homosexual who has a secret relationship that gets discovered by his BLI employees. For Korse there is no alternative than to go head-to-head with the head of the company. The third story arc is about two porno droids trying to escape Battery City. I found their journey to be the most compelling.  Interestingly, it is the droids that show the most human emotions.

Stories such as these always call to mind outstanding literary narratives such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. To me, Killjoys is just another modern-day, blockbuster variation on the dystopian future as depicted in these aforementioned classic novels. The BLI corporation on the surface seems like another version of Big Brother as it runs Battery City, in which regular citizens are like enslaved consumers, living in fear for breaking the law set by BLI. Draculoids and Scarecrows enforce this law. They are scrupulous and scary employees of BLI who wear white masks and heavy artillery. In Battery City everything seems easy and secure. People can erase their emotions through tablets and get off with porn droids. As BLI considers emotion to be a weakness, whoever steps out of line gets neutralised.

It’s not hard to recognize in BLI’s wish to strip citizens of their individuality and making them into mindless consumers, a nod towards the way the Western world is heading today, which makes this futuristic story quite relevant. Nowadays, big corporations seem to be more powerful than governments. Citizens are brought up to be compliant consumers. With our everlasting addiction to our smart phones, apps, the web and other consumer products, it seems that the vision of the citizen-as-robot the comic book makers present us doesn’t seem to be too far off reality as it is.

Having said that, even though the art work looks good and on the whole The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is an enjoyable read, because it plays with familiar dystopian tropes I did feel like I’ve read this story already, many times before.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.

Book Review: Over Easy – Mimi Pond

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Review by Michael Minneboo

Have you always wondered what sort of world is hidden behind the counter of your favourite bistro, bar or restaurant? Well, if you read Over Easy by Mimi Pond you’ll get a very entertaining and revealing look in the world of waiting.

Frankly I couldn’t wait tables if my life depended on it. I am simply too clumsy to be a waiter. Thankfully, Margaret Pond isn’t. When she is denied financial aid to cover her last year of art school, Margaret gets a job as a dishwasher in the Imperial Café and soon becomes a waitress.

Over Easy is Mimi Pond’s freewheeling graphic memoir about her life and times at Mama’s Royal Café in Oakland, California, in the late seventies. An era in which the sensitivities of the hippie movement faded away and were replaced by Punk’s angry outlook on life. It’s also the era in which the staff of the Imperial Cafe, besides having a coffee and a fag, take a recreational sniff of coke on their lunch breaks.

Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She has created comics for different publications including the Los Angeles Times. Television credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

On the menu we have an interesting collection of colourful characters, Margaret’s colleagues. There is the friendly Lazlo Merengue who runs the place – if you apply for a job and tell a joke he likes, you are hired. There is Sammy the cook and wanna-be poet, who marries one of the waitresses on a whim while they’re spending a drunk weekend in Reno. And then there are the lovely waitresses, each with their own outspoken personality. They all imagine themselves to be the stars of the little dramatic theatre that is the Imperial Café. All the regulars and the staff have pseudonyms and Margaret is christened Madge.

The book is filled with well-written observations, and I especially liked the way Mimi portrayed the characters. Her voice-over is very witty and light of tone. For instance, this is how she describes Helen, one of the waitresses: ‘Helen is tall, and without being what you’d call classically beautiful, manages to pull off this punk Lauren Bacall thing that drives men wild. She has deadpan delivery, and she hardly ever smiles. But when she does, all men become her slaves. And if you make her laugh, well, the clouds part, the sun comes out, life looks great again. I am determined to learn her secrets.’

The Imperial Café community seems to be as without direction as the plot of the book, which moves along at a slow, free-wheeling pace. The story climaxes at a poetry night on Halloween, if one could call it a climax. Actually the book is pretty much open-ended and on the last page the story seems to be far from finished. Let’s hope Pond will have a sequel finished soon.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.