Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Novels

Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman: The Dream Hunters (1999)

Three years after the Sandman called it quits, and just over 10 years after issue #1 hit the stands, the Dream Hunters was the best return the King of All Night’s Dreaming could’ve asked for.

I was nervous about this story: It’s structure is a departure for the Dreaming, being a novella with accompanying illustrations instead of a ‘comic book.’ I didn’t expect it could capture Dream’s trademark twinkle nearly so well — and I was wrong. This is the Sandman, and it’s one of Dream’s most powerful stories. Gaiman spent years evoking the style of myths of all colors to tell stories about — well — stories, and this is him exercising that experience to pay homage to Japanese and Chinese folklore.*

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner’s Sandman Midnight Theatre (1995)

Teddy Kristiansen’s artwork is incredible.

That’s about the only positive, and it’s a really big positive. Most of this crossover between Wagner’s Sandman and Gaiman’s more modern Sandman is hurt by being so incredibly boring. Nothing is gained, nothing’s learned by the characters. They meet, and then go back to their respective worlds.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Bryan Talbot’s Grandville Bête Noire (2012)

Grandville Bête Noire is the strongest Grandville story yet. Unlike the first two, Talbot isn’t just playing with pulp tropes, but is taking much more from his personal interests to enhance the world-building and lore. His personal interest in art history (and art history conspiracies!) means it feels like Talbot’s pouring a lot more heart into this story. There’s also a big helping of warm humor to fill in the LeBrock & Co.’s sometimes-boring archetypal boots with real character. (See LeBrock’s overwhelming and adorable discomfort at a formal dinner. The fact that I can attribute a word like ‘adorable’ to this heaping mass of muscle and testosterone is a good sign.)

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Bryan Talbot’s Grandville Mon Amour (2010)

Bryan Talbot’s a gifted-as-hell writer, and, like Gaiman or McCloud, an historian on storytelling and comics. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Talbot so far, including this, but this is the first book where the flaws really took away from the experience.

Grandville Mon Amour is the first sequel to 2009’s Grandville: A pulpy steampunk tale that thrives (intentionally, I presume) on cliches to tell gripping, silly yarns. It’s a huge departure from Talbot’s earlier, often abstruse trademark in that it’s all sex and thrilling shots of testosterone set in a steampunk Europe populated by anthropomorphic animals.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Mike Carey’s the Stranded and Faker (2007 – 2008)

The Stranded

a limited series of five issues (2007 – 2008)

Like 2005’s Spellbinders: Signs and Wondersthe Stranded is another of Carey’s paycheck stories. The Stranded is a five-issue adaptation of a script for a TV show pilot Carey worked on with Syfy back when it was the Sci-Fi Channel. The only front-cover quote states “…just might become the next great TV hit!” Nothing ever came of the show.

None of this really bodes well for expectations going in — and, not surprisingly, it mostly meets ’em at that low level.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, YA

Mike Carey’s Spellbinders: Signs and Wonders (2005)

Mike Carey is an excellent writer — easily one of the most talented names in the comics industry. He’s most lauded for his dense, philosophical work in the Lucifer series (a spin-off of Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman that’s woefully underappreciated next to its source material) and the more recent the Unwritten, both of which deal heavily with the nature / meaning / impact of storytelling (and arguably put his peers-in-reputation to shame).

Unfortunately, he’s also not afraid to knowingly write dreck for a paycheck. His the Sandman Presents: Petrefax miniseries — another Sandman spin-off — , Faker, his early superhero work: There’s little room in-between. He’s either at the top of his form, or writing lifeless cliches, where every word just follows a checklist of bad writing tropes.

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