Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Make Comics Like the Pros by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente - Book Review

From the publisher: A step-by-step guide to all aspects of comic book creation--from conceptualization to early drafts to marketing and promotion--written by two of the industry's most seasoned and successful pros.

Discover the Secrets of Your Favorite Comic Book Creators

Do you want to break into the comics industry? There are many creative roles available—writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, editor, and more. Each creator serves a vital function in the production of sequential art at companies such as DC, Marvel, Image, and Valiant. In Make Comics Like the Pros, veteran comics creators Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente team up with a who’s who of the modern comic book scene to lead you step-by-step through the development of a comic. With these two fan-favorite writers as your guides, you’ll learn everything from script formatting to the importance of artistic collaboration to the best strategies for promoting and selling your own sequential art masterpiece. Pak and Van Lente even put their lessons into practice inside the pages of the book—pairing with Eisner Award–winning cartoonist Colleen Coover (Bandette) to produce the swashbuckling, adventure comic Swordmaids, and giving you front row seats to their creative process. Make Comics Like the Pros provides all the answers you’ve been seeking to take your comic book–making dreams all the way to professional-level reality. 

Make Comics Like the Pros, by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, is the latest in a recent string of books about creating comics.  Much like Brian Michael Bendis's Words for Pictures, this book is an excellent resource for the new and/or inexperienced comic creator.  Rather than focus on how to write or how to draw, though, Make Comics Like the Pros takes the reader through the process of creating and publishing a comic.  It is a very thorough examination, and appears to cover all the bases. 

The book includes chapters on writers, artists, the rest of the creative team (inkers, letterers, colorists, and editors), how to pitch your idea, getting your comic out via print or digital publishing, and finding/reaching/ keeping your audience.  Throughout the whole book, Pak and Van Lente have put examples of what they are discussing, usually from one of their own books.  Several of their colleagues also contributed advice.  Additionally, many of the sections discussed have their own list of "commandments"; for example, Commandments for Editing, or Commandments for Lettering.  Each of these commandments contain excellent and well-thought out suggestions.  Finally, Pak and Van Lente, along with artist Colleen Coover, have created a new 8 page comic called "Swordmaids" to illustrate each step of the process.  I found this to be truly helpful, as the writers were following their own advice.

I highly recommend Make Comics Like the Pros to anyone interested in the comics creation process, or anyone interested in creating their own comic. 

I received a preview copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fairest Vol. 4: Of Men and Mice by Marc Andreyko - Book Review

From the publisher: Cinderella returns in an all-new epic! After an assassination attempt on Snow White, Cind is called back into service to unravel an age-old conspiracy that dates back to that fateful midnight ball! Can Cind uncover the plot and prevent a massacre in Fabletown? By critically acclaimed writer Marc Andreyko (MANHUNTER, Torso, The Lost) and legendary artist Shawn McManus (CINDERELLA, SWAMP THING), FAIREST VOL. 4: CINDERELLA - OF MEN AND MICE ties directly into FABLES!

Collects issues #21-27.

The latest Fairest collection, Of Mice and Men by Marc Andreyko, was only average as far as the Fables stories go.  It had a lot of potential and plays a role in the overall storyline running through Fables, but it was a little disappointing to me.
To summarize, Fables associated with Cinderella are being killed, so she is called back into service to track down the culprit in a mystery that goes all the way back to her origins at the fateful  ball.  As she encounters characters from her past, Cinderella also finds herself on the run from an assassin.  Meanwhile, hints at a bigger overall conspiracy that will affect all the Fables of Fabletown are sown throughout.  As Fables and Fairest near the end of their run, plot points and characters begin to converge.
I really enjoyed the concept in Of Mice and Men.  Having Cinderella, Fabletown’s resident super-spy, return to her roots provides for a fun and entertaining story.  The fairy godmother and the mice (who were transformed into men) are great supporting characters.  This look back at the legend of Cinderella adds depth to a somewhat superficial story. Additionally, there are some fun twists on the consequences of using magic.
I suppose my problem is with the "adult content" and portrayal of Cinderella and several other characters.  While Cinderella is no saint (she is a James Bond-type, after all), her promiscuity and the portrayal of it is almost over done, as is that of Marcel Champagne.  Fairest is an adult comic, but this collection seemed to have sex and language in abundance simply for the sake of having it.  It was a distraction from the storyline, rather a complement.
Overall, I liked Of Mice and Men, but I look forward to the return of a little less of the adult situations in the final collection.

 I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Basketball Season Begins for the Knight Family

Lexi started off this year's basketball seasons with a win.  Her team, the Cardinals, won 22-16.  She did a nice job in her first game of school ball (as opposed to Upward).  There is a bit of a learning curve jumping leagues, but she seems to be catching on.  She had several shots that were close but didn't go in (she actually made one basket but her coach called timeout right before she shot), a couple of rebounds, some nice passes, and even brought the ball up the floor a few times.  She also played nice defense, constantly harassing her opponents.

Next game is next Saturday.  Cami and Griffin will be starting in a few short weeks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson
From the publisher: Ten years ago, Craig Johnson wrote his first short story, the Hillerman Award–winning “Old Indian Trick.” This was one of the earliest appearances of the sheriff who would go on to star in Johnson’s bestselling, award-winning novels and the A&E hit series Longmire. Each Christmas Eve thereafter, fans rejoiced when Johnson sent out a new short story featuring an episode in Walt’s life that doesn’t appear in the novels; over the years, many have asked why they can’t buy the stories in book form.

Wait for Signs collects those beloved stories—and one entirely new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Bighorns”—for the very first time in a single volume, regular trade hardcover. With glimpses of Walt’s past from the incident in “Ministerial Aide,” when the sheriff is mistaken for a deity, to the hilarious “Messenger,” where the majority of the action takes place in a Port-A-Potty, Wait for Signs is a necessary addition to any Longmire fan’s shelf and a wonderful way to introduce new readers to the fictional world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

Wait for Signs, by Craig Johnson, is an excellent introduction to Sheriff Walt Longmire and the cast of characters living in Absaroka County, Wyoming.  Each of these twelve short stories, all but one originally written as a Christmas treat for Johnson's email list, is told from Walt's point of view, and gives a little glimpse into the man who is the law in Absaroka County.

The best parts of a Longmire story are the characterization and the setting.  Fictional Absaroka County is a vastly different place than the big city settings of many popular mystery series; this doesn't make it better or worse, just different.  It's a refreshing change to read about the wide-open spaces, small towns, and Indian reservations.  As for the characters, Walt Longmire is a complicated man with a very deeply held level of integrity. Walt always does what is right, but often does it in his own unique way.  Walt's best friend, Henry Standing Bear, is the perfect foil, while Longmire's daughter, Cady, also makes several appearances.  Sprinkled throughout the stories are other members of Longmire's cast of characters.  They combine to form a fine group, always interesting and each distinct in their own right.

While the mysteries in Wait for Signs are generally non-existent, the stories do serve as excellent slice-of-life pieces that fill in the blanks between the various Longmire novels.  Do yourself a favor and read this series; then check out the tv version, Longmire, and enjoy the visit to Absaroka County.

I received a preview copy of this book from Penguin Books First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age by Tom Taylor - Book Review

From the publisher: Once thought dead, Superman now returns to Earth to do the destructive bidding of Darkseid!

The Wonders of Earth 2 have struggled to keep the forces of Brutal and Darkseid at bay. But now with the return of Superman, they can no longer stand up to the wake of destruction he brings. But now, with the emergence of a new and mysterious Batman, comes the hope that he may know how to defeat the rogue Man of Steel before Earth 2 is destroyed completely.

Collects Earth 2 #17-20 and Earth 2 Annual #2.

Tom Taylor's Earth 2 is a fun and action-packed book.  The Dark Age collection is no different.  As the Earth is dealing with multiple fire pits (purpose unknown), a hostile takeover in a Middle Eastern country, massive destruction all over the world (especially Gotham), and the death or absence of all the major superheroes, a surprise is revealed: Superman is not dead, and has returned.  Unfortunately, Superman is now serving the ruthless Darkseid.  As the remaining heroes look for a way to defeat him, Batman returns with a vengeance, but its not the Batman we all remember.

The Dark Age deals with the war with Superman ably.  It is almost like an action movie in comic book form.  Over the course of the four parts of the story, the heroes are forced into new alliances and have to deal with disaster on a grand scale.  In my opinion, the best parts of the story are focused on the return of Lois Lane (in an unexpected form) and the new Batman, who is infinitely more vicious than Bruce Wayne.  There really isn't any closure at the end of this book, but the storyline functions as a transition into the next big event to hit Earth 2.

My favorite part of this collection is Earth 2 Annual #2, which details the origin of the new Batman.  The story is terrific and puts a whole new spin on the Batman mythos.  The reveal of who the new Batman is leaves some interesting stories to be told in the future.

One of the great things about Earth 2 is that the writers (in this case, Tom Taylor) are able to take familiar characters and put them through trials that would never be accepted in the regular books. This means changing the secret identity of characters and sometimes even having them die.  This adds a newness and unpredictability to the stories.

I really enjoy Earth 2, and liked The Dark Age.  Its a fun, loud, and interesting book.  I recommend it highly.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: Before the Batcave and Robin, the Joker and the Batmobile ... there was ZERO YEAR.

The Riddler has plunged Gotham City into darkness. How will a young Dark Knight bring his beloved hometown from the brink of chaos and madness and back into the light? From the critically acclaimed, New York Times #1 best-selling creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, BATMAN VOL. 5: ZERO YEAR--DARK CITY is the concluding volume to Batman's origin story, as you've never seen it before.

Collects Batman #25-27, 29-33.

Scott Snyder's Batman: Zero Year - Dark City is another awesome entry in his Batman series.  Following on the heels of Zero Year - Secret City, this current volume continues the story of Bruce Wayne's first year as Batman.

In the first story arc, Batman encounters a new villain known as Dr. Death.  Dr. Death has a connection to Bruce Wayne, and Bruce is determined to find and catch him.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Loeb and Det. Corrigan are determined to arrest Batman and take him off the street. This story is interesting, but it's biggest impact is as the set-up for the final arc.

The second arc is outstanding.  Riddler has taken control of Gotham; no one is allowed in or out of the city.  Bruce Wayne wakes up in strange surroundings after being out of action for some time and has to catch up with what Riddler is doing.  He and Gordon, with an assist from Lucius Fox (making his first appearance in the Batman's new history), must find Riddler and restore power to Gotham before time runs out.

The final part of the story has a nice coda, as Alfred imagines what life would be like for Bruce Wayne were he to stop being Batman.  It is a quiet tale, mixing hope and melancholy, and works as a brief pause in Batman's constant battle with darkness.

Synder is cementing himself as one of the legendary Batman writers, and Dark City is just further proof of his talent.  This was a great book, entertaining and suspenseful.  It also serves nicely to fill in gaps from Bruce Wayne's early time as Batman.  The characters of Riddler, Lt. Gordon, and Lucius Fox are fleshed out even more, helping to establish them as vital parts of the book.  In fact, I really liked Snyder's take on Riddler, who is too often played as a joke.  His intelligence and ruthlessness are brought to the forefront, making him a worthy opponent for Batman.

Once again, I highly recommend Batman Vol. 5: Zero City - Dark City.  This is a book worth reading, and Snyder continues his terrific storytelling.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.