Tag: Mark’s picks

Staff Review – Vinland Saga, Volume 1

Mark-bigThe best thing about working in a comic shop is our customers and I have to thank one of them for recommending the awesome Vinland Saga. Thanks JJ!
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For some reason I’m going through a vikings phase, bingeing on Vikings, reading books about them, wearing furry underwear and horned hats. So Vinland Saga came at the right time.

You get thrown into the middle of a battle and introduced to the two main characters; the charmingly cunning Askeladd and the young but deadly Thorfinn. You can tell that these characters have a depth and history but starting with the story with a grand battle lets the story unfold and characters build instead of flopping it all out at once.

vinland-saga-6407221The creator, Makoto Yukimura was also responsible for one of my favourite series Planetes. It doesn’t have the angst or wonder that Planetes had, but its more visceral, its about hate, revenge, redemption and power.

The art is good, it veers from realistic to caricature but I don’t mind that, it’s a good story device. The storytelling and aesthetic is flawless. And the writing is deliberate and well paced, by the end of the first volume you get a good understanding of the basic themes and characters but you have no idea where the story is going which is intriguing.
If you haven’t read much manga, this is a good one to start with. 5 out of 5 meads!

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Staff Picks: 47 Ronin

Mark-bigEvery cinematic version of this classic Japanese story bores me to 47 ronintears so approached this retelling with some hesitation.
It is a classic story of revenge and honor, featuring samurai, lords, politics and corruption. The writer is Mike Richardson, the President of Dark Horse –  a very large man with a bad haircut who has not written very much. The artists, though, is Stan Sakai a veritable powerhouse of an artist, not flashy but he can tell a story. He’ll be recognised as a master one day.

The story is boiled down and presented in just over 140 pages; a corrupt politician goads a honorable lord to break the emperor’s law, the lord is duly executed for his indiscretion but his retainers vow revenge.

The simplicity though works – it doesn’t dwell or over explain, but Richardson doesn’t rush the writing either, nothing is glossed over. It has a good solid pace which Sakai gracefully accompanies with his art. Each panel captures something that propels the story forward; the body language, the backgrounds all work in harmony telling a classic story efficiently but beautifully.

I’ma big fan of Sakai’s other work Usagi Yojimbo but if you want a taste of his work, I’d recommend 47 Ronin.

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Staff Picks: Ghost World

Mark-bigIn preparation for Dan Clowes new book, Patience, I’ve been going back through his catalogue. Ghost World was his second book, reprinting strips from the much acclaimed Eightball.

Ghost World centers on two young adults, stuck in that time between leaving school and starting ‘life’. SurroSTK661291unded by kitsch dinners and sterile suburbs, they love their status as ‘outsiders’, they judge and mock everyone, even the people they like but they slowly realise their struggle to fit and need to find their identity.

I’m a sucker for these sort of coming-of-age stories; The Graduate, Breakfast Club, Rushmore, the 400 blows. Who am I? What am I doing?

At first, it’s quite annoying how Enid and Rebecca constantly talk about other people; telling each other stories of their encounters. It’s a comic, SHOW DON’T TELL!ghost world_44But it makes sense, that’s what we as kids did, talk about our relationships – about the people we meet – with our friends like some social sonar; pinging for their reactions. The struggle of Enid and Rebecca’s finding their individual futures and their relationship’s future is so excellently told and after my third reading I’m still picking up little nuances that add to the characters.

In my top 10. The graphic novel equivalent to Catcher in the Rye.

Staff Picks: Civil War

Mark-bigCompared to the comic book, the movie really is just a dozen guys brawling in car park. The number of heroes that appear is staggering, but for the most part they act as ciphers or props to keep the story going. However, if you miss something or don’t get a reference, you are not really left behind; there’s a enough to hold onto, and even the least savvy reader will get a kick out of this book.CIVWAR_HC_cover

Mark Millar tells a big story. He touches on reality TV, authoritarianism, being a hero and dealing with the repercussions of hurting the ones we love. He skims these ideas, never letting them bog down the action. Essentially, two sides of the superhero coin struggle to do what’s right by them and the society they protect. This is one of the few stories where Captain America is treated as villain, or more correctly, an anti-hero.

The artist, Niven, is perfect for this type of story. His detail and structure pack every panel with information to help keep the story moving, but also portray the grandeur this story deserves.
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You don’t need to know much to really enjoy this book. It’s the type you can share with your non-comic reading friends.

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