Tag: Reviews (Page 1 of 3)

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – A Recommendation by Nicholas Finch

    My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness makes me want a hug.

That’s certainly not because I’m the kind of person who takes any excuse for a hug, despite all claims to the contrary from lecherous charlatans or so-called “best friends”. I want a hug because, despite this book’s cartoonish appearance, it pulls no god damn punches.

Written and illustrated by Nagata Kabi, this manga is an autobiographical journey through the author’s experiences with unemployment, depression, chronic illness, virginity, and… well, the list continues. The structure of the story is not a typical series of acts, from setup to development, climax to conclusion; instead, it’s simply an account of Nagata’s life, divided into chapters based on revelations and experiences she has had. Some parts of Nagata’s life are glossed over, while others are explored in intense, moment-to-moment detail; you might find Nagata mentioning entire years of her life in passing, before going into a detailed monologue about the anxiety she felt over one specific moment. It’s a story that’s scattered, tangential and inconsistent: which feels like a perfect fit when going from page to page. It makes you feel like you are part of a conversation with the author, rather than just listening to a generic autobiography – and it’s why I read the entire thing in one sitting. In My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, the reader is not only the reader, but a friend being let in on the secrets and inner thoughts of a woman with a lot going on in her life, wondering if you can relate to her. And honestly, I can. I think a lot of other people can, too.

The art lends to what the author is saying rather perfectly, too. Nagata recounts long wanting to be a manga artist, and it’s easy to see why. Silhouettes in this story are distinct and clear, and every character recognizable – the only character who doesn’t have a consistent shape is Nagata herself. While she’s still instantly recognizable in every single panel, there are moments where she loses her form – moments of anxiety, depression, self-consciousness or sadness might cause her shape to melt like butter on a frying pan, sagging as the tears on her face visibly distort her head. Not only are you gaining insight into Nagata Kabi’s mind, but you are also seeing an expression of her soul: visual cues and imagery displaying a sense of hopelessness and sensitivity, right up until hope blasts into the book with a ray of bright light. The colours are an important part of this too: the white pages act as the comic’s negative space and the black acts as outlines for the characters and objects. It’s the pink that sells the art in this book though; it draws attention to each and every panel in a different way, from the sea of pink surrounding a lonely, isolated Nagata, or the pink splash of a sex worker slowly closing in to take up Nagata’s whole vision, losing her in a sea of intimacy that she was experiencing for the first time.

Now that I’ve brought up the subject of sex, what really surprised me about this book is its honesty – both about Nagata’s experiences with sex and desire, and her perceptions of them. Surprisingly, the book doesn’t discuss sexuality all that much, and her sexual preference is more of a backdrop to the story, rather than taking much time in the spotlight. It certainly plays a role, of course: from the way she perceives sex and porn with both men and women, to whether or not she views herself as a woman, to the issues she has with her mother… but more than anything, her largest desire is one to be held. “Loneliness” is the key word in this manga, and it’s prevalent in every panel, every action, every monologue. It’s why Nagata spends half the story recounting her life in a nebulous blur, and the other half pouring meticulously over her whirlwind of repressed sexual desires bubbling to the surface, expressing themselves in any way they can. Everything that happens within the book connects to that central idea of loneliness: to be loved, to be welcomed, to be held. That feeling is perhaps never more relevant than just before Nagata meets a sex worker, when she’s waiting at a train station. A thought goes through her head during that moment, and while it’s small and understated, it’s one of the most emotional pages of the book. It still sticks with me.

If you’re looking for a story of escapist fiction, this isn’t the book for you. Hell, if you’re looking for a story at all, this isn’t the book for you. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness reads like a confession: opening it feels like opening a person’s chest, exposing their beating heart to the world. It’s soft, it’s red, it’s delicate, but it’s filled with blood and life… and that’s about as far as I can go with the heart analogy before it gets weird. I think I can honestly say that this is the most honest and genuine book that I’ve ever read in my life. When you finish the book – the precursor to a series called My Solo Exchange Diary – you’ll have felt a rollercoaster of emotions, but the feeling that stands out the most is hope. Hope for Nagata, of course, but also – if you’re going through something and have nowhere to turn but the pages of this manga – hope for yourself.

Mister Miracle – A Recommendation By Nicholas Finch

Mister Miracle is an interesting beast.

It’s almost strange to do a review of it now, at the time of its physical release as a complete graphic novel – rave reviews were already being plastered on the cover of issue #1 before it was even released. The story is published by DC Comics, written by Tom King, former CIA officer turned writer, and illustrated by Mitch Gerads, a man who I entirely suspect is being controlled by his delightfully lush beard, like how the rat pilots the human in Ratatouille.


Seriously, just look at that thing.

In any case, the Eisner Award-Winning series has been released long enough that you probably have heard enough of its praises already. It’s been hailed as a master-class in storytelling, an excellent depiction of depression, and even the next Watchmen. Seeing as I’m writing this review for a comic store (and I wouldn’t be writing reviews for things I dislike), it’d be understandable if I repeated those sentiments. In some respects that may be a little difficult for me personally, as I’m not really a fan of Tom King’s work… but I do find myself strongly recommending this book regardless.

Do I think it’s the next Watchmen? No. Do I think it’s good? Great, even? Yes – but for not entirely the same reasons as others think. While I don’t think it’s the next Watchmen, I can see the similarities. The book is bold and unapologetic for the content it displays, which ranges from high action and visual comedy, to a family drama and a stark depiction of suicide. It’s a book that doesn’t mince words about its serious content – even if the characters might mince words, in order to avoid talking about the issue. The story opens with Scott Free, the titular hero, attempting suicide, yet he does not discuss the attempt with his wife, Big Barda, until issue #10 of the story. Instead, it hangs like a looming cloud, the elephant in the room that is pervasive throughout the entire story. Of course, there’s another name to the depression that Scott feels, too.

Visually, that depression is expressed astonishingly vividly with Mitch Gerads’ wonderful artwork. From his psychedelic colouring on the brutal landscape of Apokolips to the chilling glitch effects he sprinkles around the book (and doing this all with 9 panels each page), you could tell that Gerads was giving this book everything he had. It’s a perfect example of how much a comic stands out when it embraces its nature as a collaborative medium, and it feels just as much of a personal story for Gerads as it does for King. My favourite part of Gerads’ art, however, is his character work. Comics are commonly known for portraying every character as nothing short of a model, where every panel is a new, dynamic pose: impossible standards for many people to achieve. In Mister Miracle, characters are the inverse of this in the best possible way. They are still active, fit characters performing wonderful stunts in delightful action scenes, but you feel like they are people you could know: Gerads portrays the rolls of fat you might get when you sit down, the gross expression you might make during a fight, and the moments in between photos, where you might have tilted your head the wrong way to show off your chin at a bad angle. This is particularly evident when the reader experiences the home life of Scott Free and Big Barda – no matter if they’re dressed up in their best clothes, or lying on the couch and feeling gross, they always look at each other with the same passion and affection as they might in their best moments. It’s the perfect way to make the story feel grounded, despite its impressive scale, and I have nothing but praises for Gerads’ work in the story.

When I started reading the story, I was a little confused: Mister Miracle was said to be in-continuity to the larger DC Comics canon, yet it did not seem to fit before or after any story that I was aware of. In truth, it still doesn’t – though by the end of the story, you do get a ballpark of when it might take place. This honestly works to the story’s benefit, as it has a justification as to why this is the case (that ties into Tom King’s message at the end of the story). The use of Kirby’s Fourth World is somewhat awkward: knowing too little about the story might make the premise confusing, and yet knowing too much might betray that many of the “New Gods” in Mister Miracle are acting somewhat out-of-character. This too is remedied by the addition of a prologue, illustrated by Mike Norton, recapping the important details of Mister Miracle’s life before the events of the comic. This, I believe, precedes the rest of the graphic novel, and it’s a useful and valuable addition to the story, that helps set the scene for unfamiliar readers.

I mentioned earlier that I believed some of the “Fourth World” characters did not seem to act like their normal selves, from Orion’s stuck-up attitude to Big Barda’s abusive tendencies – there are several scenes that would not fly if the power dynamic was reversed, such as Barda slapping Scott to the floor and destroying things in anger (the side-lining of Barda’s issues is one of my biggest complaints of the book, despite her being an excellent character). While there is a justification for this within the story, it can sometimes feel like Tom King changes characters to fit his larger narrative, rather than stay true to their usual personalities. While I feel this is a much bigger problem in comics such as Batman and Heroes in Crisis – works of Tom King’s that I strongly dislike – most of the characters are obscure enough for it to work here. These complaints start to fade when you get deeper into the story, and when you realize how deeply personal of a tale this must be for King. It often feels like King is speaking to the audience through his characters in one way or another, so when you read Scott’s perspective on depression – represented by the all-seeing evil of the story, Darkseid – you feel a connection with King, thanks to what feels like a very honest representation of Scott’s inner turmoils. That isn’t to say that Scott acts as a stand-in for King, but the best writers write what they know; thus, when you’re treated to an uncomfortably real take on suicidal depression like in Mister Miracle, you feel like you might understand King’s mindset when approaching the book. This, I think, is the biggest similarity that this book has to Watchmen: it is less of the be-all and end-all of its subject matter, just as Watchmen was never meant to be the superhero story to end all superhero stories… but it portrays an insight to how the writer sees the world, even if you disagree, and asks you to travel along with them, and gain a bit of understanding along the way.

My respect for Mister Miracle increased significantly in 2018, when I was personally hit with a bout of extreme depression. Rereading issue #1, a book that I initially thought was “decent”, I felt a much deeper connection with the character of Scott, the imagery and tone of the story, and, I like to think, the creators behind it. While I strongly disagree with the implications of the ending, Tom King and Mitch Gerads take us on a fascinating, gut-punching journey there for 12 all issues… so, by the time I did read the ending, I understood why it was written that way. I don’t know if I think it was the greatest book of 2017/18, but I do think it’s required reading: you will not find many books that offer a more personal insight into depression, or a more excellent example of narrative voice.

Also, there’s a scene where Mister Miracle’s ding-dong is out. A+.

Mister Miracle is out as a full collection right now at Greenlight Comics. Snag it as soon as you can, and an order can be placed for you if it’s sold out!

Wytches Vol 01 and Wytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special – A Recommendation By Nicholas Finch

To say that I am a fan of Scott Snyder would be an understatement.

As with most teenage boys with a passing knowledge of comic books, Batman was my gateway to the rest of the medium. There are a lot of essays about how the depth of Batman is what makes him so compelling, but if we’re being honest, the main appeal of the character is that he looks cool, and that he managed to get away with dressing like an animal without being labelled as a furry.

That doesn’t mean any Batman story is a good story, however, so it’s a good thing that Scott Snyder’s Batman stories were some of the best. From Court of Owls to Zero Year to Superheavy, Scott Snyder has proven to be adept at a wide variety of genres – but one of his best works ever was his first Batman story, The Black Mirror. Not to be confused with the British Television show where a Prime Minister has sex with a pig (based on a true story, Mister David Cameron), Snyder’s Black Mirror story was a gritty, sinister mystery, with illustrations by Jock and Francesco Francavilla. Some of Snyder’s best stories are when he works with Jock in particular, and it’s that creative team that works on the horror story from Image Comics, Wytches.

The first volume of Wytches was a dark reinterpretation of the classic concept of witches enacting curses on the townspeople around them, turning them into horrifying, ancient monsters – though, like the historical stories of witches themselves, the true monsters tend to be the regular humans involved with them. It’s an excellent and compelling first volume with some wonderful letters from Scott Snyder, and a great behind-the-scenes look at how the comic is made by the artist and colorist.

If the first volume of Wytches was a graphic novel, I suppose that the Wytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special would be more of a graphic novella. It’s bound like a regular comic, but it’s certainly much bigger than any traditional one, with 13 chapters (12 of which having been previously published in issues of Image +), along with another letter from Scott Snyder, and some fun BTS sketches. It is a prequel/side-story to the original Wytches book, and setup for the second volume, which will be made after Snyder and Jock release their Batman Who Laughs miniseries.

Scott Snyder has always relied rather heavily from first-person narration, and it’s as present here as ever – and while his dialogue is sometimes a bit too verbose, it does a great job of connecting you with the two boys, who serve as the main characters of the story in a setting reminiscent of some Stephen King tales. Every page is absolutely dripping with atmosphere, and while Bad Egg isn’t Scott’s scariest work, the writer and artist manage to make the story tense from start to finish, not making it clear who might make it out of the story.

More than the scare factor of the creatures themselves, Wytches: Bad Egg is about family – and the disturbing reality that not all parents care for their children, which can often be much scarier than literal monsters. The story is about the loss of childhood innocence, and coming to see your parents as people, rather than figures. While it’s a horror story, it’s also a good one for younger teenagers and parents to read, as it serves as a message to them in particular.

What really seals it for me is the letter at the end of the story, actually. It might be a bit of a cheat, seeing as it isn’t part of the actual story, but it’s a heartfelt and upsetting confession by the author, and it paints a picture of exactly why Scott Snyder wrote Bad Egg. If you’re a fan of horror – and more than that, if you’re looking for a dark story about the pretty and ugly sides of family – there’s not much of a better place to go than Wytches.

Barrier by Brain K Vaughan. Reviewed by Nicholas Finch.

Barrier – A Recommendation

By Nicholas Finch

Read Barrier.

…Oh, I guess I should probably say why. Okay, but the first sentence should be the main takeaway here. If you end up reading this comic, then I don’t particularly mind if my supplementary comments weren’t necessary. But if you would like to be convinced, I can do that too!

I’ve often felt that the perception of comic books has always resided in somewhat of a nebulous space between “mainstream entertainment” and “artistic expression”. Like any book or film, a comic can easily cater to either audience – in many ways, comics are one of the best forms to tell a story, as they allow for the high-concept visuals a movie can provide (without the budget), and the introspective narrative a book can provide (but also with pictures, because books are really long and have lots of words).

Yet I also find it’s pretty hard to get even a die-hard comic book movie fan to commit to some of the comics, or to see teachers introduce comic books within their education curriculum. Usually, the two biggest exceptions to this rule are Watchmen and Maus, which are widely considered to be some of the most acclaimed and popular graphic novels of all time. Usually, most people who have even a passing knowledge of comics will either know or have read one of the two.

If that’s the case, Barrier should be their immediate next read. It’s that good.

Put simply, Barrier is a 5-issue Series published digitally by Panel Syndicate, and physically by Image Comics, created by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. It’s about an American farmer (Liddy) and a Mexican immigrant (Oscar), learning to work together after being kidnapped by aliens. The story is told in predominantly two languages: English and Spanish, and the book makes NO attempts to teach you Spanish. To understand the story of Oscar, you simply have to rely on the artwork, letting the visuals tell the story of this man’s journey from Mexico, to America, to space. For Spanish-speaking people, the same would go for Liddy – being bilingual is not necessary whatsoever, though that would provide an interesting experience in itself.

More specifically, Barrier is a perfect primer for comic books because, like Maus and Watchmen, it displays and expands on ideas of what you can do in a visual medium from page to page. No name is more appropriate than “Barrier”: in equal measure, it refers to the barrier between countries, the barrier between planets, the barrier between panels, and the ever-present language barrier. This comic is also rather unique, in that it was published physically this year, but was made before the USA 2016 election, where immigration discourse was pushed to the front of public political discussion. It’s a good reminder that whether or not we hear about certain issues in the world, they still persist, and it’s important that we keep thinking about them, even when the media doesn’t give them attention.

Barrier is also unique in that it is printed horizontally, giving each panel a very cinematic feel to it. The book is surprisingly high-concept, and a lot of similarities could be drawn to the movie Arrival – between the language barrier to the abstract designs of the aliens. Currently, Barrier will only be printed physically in its five individual comics… which I personally don’t believe will be the case for long, but there’s currently no evidence to suggest they will be out in a singular trade any time soon.

Barrier is an absolute masterclass in how to stretch the creative boundaries of what comic books can accomplish. While the story is centred on American and Mexican relations, the messages of the book can and should resonate with all of its readers. Get it while you still can and recommend it to everyone: not only do people need to read a story like this to understand its important political statement, but it is also a prime example towards any skeptics you might know of what comics can do to meet the creative ambitions of movies and books – and even surpass them.

52 review

If you’re at all familiar with the DC comics landscape of the last decade, the number 52 will have some meaning to you. With a little research, you’ll eventually end up discovering the eponymous 2006-2007 limited series. On paper 52 seems like madness. The plan was simple: DC would bring together five of the best creators in the business and they would publish a weekly coming for one year. It was an audacious plan and the mere fact that each and every issue shipped on time would make 52 a singular triumph. It is, consequently, very easy to forget that hiding in the history lesson is a truly fantastic story.

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The Omega Men (2015) review

 In media res literally means “into the middle of things” and is a narrative device wherein the reader is dropped right into the middle of the story. The structure, while far from uncommon in the comic medium, is inherently risky. By forgoing story build-up the story has to grab the reader instantly, or they will simply lose interest. With the Omega Men, Tom King (currently helming a fantastic run on Batman) with help on art from the talented Barnaby Bagenda, drops the readers not just into the middle of a foreign story but into the middle of a foreign setting, with foreign characters. The first few issues are like trying to put together a puzzle without the box and having to start from the corners.

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Planet Hulk review

“Hulk Smash”, “Puny human, leave Hulk alone” essentially summed up the Hulk until Peter David merged the intellect of Bruce Banner and the power of the green goliath. Planet Hulk, though takes this quintessential characteristic of powerful monster who wants to be left alone and clearly casts him as the hero.

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KINDA REVIEW EP02 – Dan KINDA Reviews Birthright

Seven to Eternity Vol 1

Written by Rick Remender. Illustrated by Jerome Opena. Reviewed by Tyrone Burns.

Seven to Eternity is what you get when an all star team end up on the same page together!

Whether it’s Opena’s vibrant and detailed illustrations, Matt Hollingsworth’s amazing colour choices or Rus Wooton’s world class lettering, you know you’re in for a treat!

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Sex Criminals Vol 01 review

Sex-criminals-vol-01-releasesFor the longest time you thought you were alone. The sole occupant of a realm where everything has stopped. Until the day you discover another. Two people, whose ability to cease the flow of time is activated by sexual intercourse. What do you do with this power? Rob banks, obviously.Edit

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