Graphic Novel Review of “Punk Rock Jesus” by Sean Gordon Murphy

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Awards

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About

From the pubisher, “A reality TV show starring a clone of Jesus Christ causes chaos across the U.S. of the near future in PUNK ROCK JESUS, a new graphic novel written and drawn by Sean Murphy, the acclaimed illustrator of JOE THE BARBARIAN and AMERICAN VAMPIRE.

J2 causes both outrage and adulation. Religious zealots either love or hate the show, angry politicians worry about its influence on the nation, and members of the scientific community fear the implications of cloning a human being at all, let alone the Son of God.

Thomas McKael is the clones’s bodyguard and former IRA operative, who despite his turbulent past is hired to protect the new Jesus—a baby who captivates the world, but grows up to become an angry teenager.

When falling ratings force the network to cut Jesus’s mother from the series the young star runs away, renounces his religious heritage and forms a punk rock band. And what starts off as babysitting for Thomas becomes an epic battle, as Jesus goes to war against the corporate media complex that created him.”

My Thoughts

I seriously can’t decide how I feel about this series. It is angry, defiant, thoughtful, and current. It reminds me of a manifesto written by a Catholic school teenager who wants to rise against his upbringing, It is really, really strange. Strange and a solid read.

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Chris is a typical 15-year-old Jesus clone. Angry at the establishment. The establishment being all of Christianity who have deified him as some supposed clone and destroyed and the chance he will ever have at a normal existence. Turned his life into the Truman Show, and killed his mother because she is weak for ratings. SO F#$% YOU, F#$% RELIGION, F#$% EVERYONE (cue guitar riff.) Somehow there is a scientist who has a pet Polar bear, a daughter who is really not her daughter, and the cure to save global warming.

As you can see, this is a book about extremes. Extremes in Christianity, extremes in religious fanaticism, all of America is brimming with fat, lazy and stupid people who don’t know their ass from their elbow. Everything is black and white. Life is not black and white at all, which is why this book reminds me of an angry teenager. The dialog, the plot, even the graphics and pen work are all done in this stark and contrasting style. Whether the illustrator/writer did that on purpose or that was just a stylistic choice remains to be seen, but it lends itself to the dialog. In a lot of ways, the pacing of this novel is a mess. It speeds and jumps around in gigantic leaps of time. The clone of Jesus is 1 years old, then 3, then 10, and then 15. Again, this might be a stylistic choice emulating the time jumps in the bible. If it is, that is a pretty nuanced plot addition.

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Hello, tame polar bear.

I feel like all these decisions the author made regarding the extremes in his storytelling where very specific and deliberate. He could have written a much better and more exciting book with the same plot and given it more heart and reality and less punk rockness.  But that’s just me. It is an entirely plausible thing for a Hollywood studio to do. Clone a famous person who is a deity to a billion people and watch the ratings soar.

My recommendation is, as usual, to read it. It isn’t great, it isn’t horrible. Just angsty enough for me to feel old and annoyed at the very same time. But kinda fun, and crazy. Again, what the hell is up with a polar bear. Make up your own mind, and drop me a note about it. I am curious about other takes.

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Novel Review – Kill The Dead by Richard Kadrey

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Awards

(for the author, not the “Sandman Slim” series”)

  • British SF Association Awards — for SF works published in the UK, voted by British SF Association members
  • “The First Man Not to Land on the Moon” (Back Brain Recluse #23 1997) — short fiction
  • Locus Awards — for SF/F/H works, polled by readers of Locus Magazine
    Dead Set (Harper Voyager) — fantasy novel — 25th place
  • Metrophage (Ace) — first novel — 3rd place Interzone Readers Poll — for stories published in Interzone magazine, polled by readers”Goodbye Houston Street, Goodbye” (Interzone #19 Spring 1987) — fiction — winner

“Let me make sure I have this straight. The cavalry just now rode into town and it’s a Czech Gypsy porn-star zombie killer. Have I got that right?”
― Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead

About

 

From the publisher, “What do you do after you’ve crawled out of Hell to wreak bloody revenge? If you’re Stark you turn to bounty hunting, tracking and decimating whatever rogue monsters you’re paid to kill. Stark hates the work, but he needs the money, especially the big bucks Lucifer is offering. In town as an adviser on a biopic of his life, Lucifer needs protection, and he wants Stark as his bodyguard. But the gig isn’t all bad; there is the very sexy, very hot French porn star Brigitte Bardo, a friend of Lucifer’s in LA to remake her reputation as a legit actress. While it isn’t love, it’s pretty damn good, and after 11 years of demonic chastity, it’s enough for now.

Stark has enough trouble juggling a diva devil and a scorching French bombshell without a zombie plague to complicate matters. And just what happens when a human-angel half-breed is bitten by the living dead? His human side begins to die, transforming him into an unstoppable angel of death—a killing machine devoid of emotion or thought, with no regrets or future to worry about. Not a bad way to be when your choices are limited. Now, Stark has to decide . . . if he does find a cure for the zombie infection, will he take it?”

My Thoughts

“Hell is hilarious if you’re the one in charge.” ~ Lucifer

I absolutely love this series thus far. It was one of the books I wanted to finish reading by the end of the year via this list. 10 Books I Want to Read This Year.. And Why

My blog post from earlier this year, Kill the Dead” by Richard Kadrey –   I read the first “Sandman Slim” book, aptly named just “Sandman Slim” and dudddde, holy anti-hero batman. Yaas. Bring on the “I don’t give a shit attitude.” I love that the language in Sandman Slim is punchy. Not overly wordy and detailed.  I want some concisely written words.”

I received everything I asked for and more from reading #2 in the series. Sandman Slim should be on more lists and garner more praise. It should be up there with the likes of Dresden, and October Daye; it is just that damn good. It is so refreshing when there seems to be so much unoriginal urban fantasy out there. Always the same sort of schtick. Not this book…

“Twenty percent? What am I, your waiter? I got you five vampires, not a BLT.”
― Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead

This story picks up a while after the first Sandman Slim story left off. We have our resident anti-hero having a hell of a time mentally, and in some ways physically while he tries to pay the bills by doing the odd killing or menacing here and there. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you enjoyed the first book in this series, “Sandman Slim” you will probably enjoy this one. They are a little different in style and texture. But, the dark humor and great story come through. There is a bit of a love interest, and a new interesting character getting fleshed out in Lucifer. I am going to keep this short, as this book is a pause in a longer story. But read the series. It is so worth it.

 

 

Review of John Dies at the End by David Wong

“Son, the greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing the world there was only one of him.” 

― David WongJohn Dies at the End

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”

― David WongJohn Dies at the End

This book is not for everyone but it is certainly for me. Weird and smart and rather wonderful.

I read a lot and because I read a lot I don’t often come across things that are new and exciting. So when I do come across something that is different I get really excited. This is different. This is a cross between bizarro, science fiction, horror, and comedy. It has the best of each of these genres in a mish-mash snowball of glee. I am not even sure I can adequately describe the plot of the story. It is secondary to the dialog of the main characters. They are a pair of sarcastic semi-losers thrust into a surreal situation. It also involves parallel dimensions, hell, and an exploding dog. They sorta just roll with every scenario they fall into.

The imagery is graphic and tinged with the gross, ““Fred said, “Man, I think he’s gonna make a fuckin’ suit of human skin, using the best parts from each of us.”

“Holy crap,” said John. “He’ll be gorgeous.”

Also includes a large use of the profane. “No, no. Keep driving,” said a soft voice in my ear. “She will not bite if you keep driving.” Fuck that. Fuck that idea like the captain of the Thai Fuck Team fucking at the fucking Tour de Fuck.”  C’mon that’s funny.

It was made into a so-so movie.

Just go with it. I know I am selling the hell out of it, but It is one of my favorites!

Review of “Paper Girls, Vol. 1 (Paper Girls #1) by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang (Illustrator)”

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Vaughan, B., Chiang, C., Wilson, M. and Fletcher, J. (n.d.). Paper girls.

Stats

4 out of 5 stars

Paperback, 144 pages

Published April 5th 2016 by Image Comics (first published March 30th, 2016)

Original Title – Paper Girls, Vol. 1

ISBN 1632156741 (ISBN13: 9781632156747)
Edition Language English
Setting Cleveland, Ohio (United States) 
Awards

Harvey Awards for Best New Series (2016)

Lincoln Award Nominee (2019)

Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best New Series & Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team (for Cliff Chiang) (2016)

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2016)

“I’m not going to stand here and be eaten by some bitch’s dinosaur. I am finally doing something with my life.”

― Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Summary

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From the publisher, “In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.”

My Thoughts

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I am just starting this series, so my review is limited to the first volume. With that said, I can tell you volume 1 is an absolute rabbit hole. Half the time I had no idea what was going on. There are dinosaurs, and crazy disfigured teenagers from the future, and some old dude with an Apple logo on his shirt. I have no idea what the four girls names are that star in the story. All I know is one is a Vietnamese, one is adopted, one Jewish, and one is a spirited red-head on her way to being a criminal. I wish I had a bit more than cliches to tell you, but I honestly have no idea.

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“…you girls… reminded us… of us…

…kids just trying… to make a living…

are always… the good guys…”

― Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Here are the things I absolutely know for sure. First, this series is an absolute nod to the 80’s and pop culture. The book is full of Bon mot’s about 80’s fashion, movies, music, language, and general attitudes about the world. This speaks to me. I remember being one of these girls in the eighties. Secondly, this book is no Saga, but that is ok. It doesn’t have to be. It has badass girls, friendship, space, time travel, and dinosaurs. I mean cmon. It is pretty damn impressive. Thirdly, it has tons of room to grow and develop. The first book is apparently setting the stage for more awesome. I am not in love with it, but the characters are fresh and exciting, the story is rad if not slightly confusing and the graphics are clean. Lastly, don’t get too deep into why this series is called Paper Girls. It isn’t some clever allusion to young girls with paper thin identities or emotions. The girls run a paper route… I am on to volume 2. Looking forward to it. It can’t get any weirder or more confusing but it sure is fun.

Novel Review – “Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

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“Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

Hardcover
96 pages
Published October 28th, 2008 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
Original Title: Tales from Outer Suburbia
ISBN:0771084021 (ISBN13: 9780771084027)
Awards
  • World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Collection (2009)
  • New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award Nominee for Patricia Wrightson Prize (2009)
  • Ditmar Award for Best Artwork (2009)
  • Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Young Adult (2008)
  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers Book of the Year (2009)
  • Aurealis Award for Illustrated Book / Graphic Novel (2008)
  • Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Bilderbuch (2009)
  • Tähtifantasia Award (2016)
  • Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Children’s (2009)
  • The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky (2008)
  • Adelaide Festival Award for Children’s Literature (2010)
  • Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Illustrated Book (2009)
  • Literaturpreis der Jury der Jungen Leser for Sonderpreis (2009)
  • The Inky Awards Shortlist for Gold Inky (2008)

About

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‘water buffaloes are like that; they hate talking.’

From the publisher, “Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.”

My Thoughts

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‘He was saying the same sentence over and over, ending with “tasoo-ke-te, tasoo ke-te.”‘

This review may come off as a bit biased because I love “The Arrival.” Honestly, it isn’t so much as an “apple to oranges” kind of comparison between the two books, but maybe a comparison of two of the most glorious pieces of fruit one can eat. Each is wonderful in their own ways.

Both of these novels are excellent, but they are different in a slight, albeit essential way. There are words in “Tales From Outer Suburbia”… The experience of Shaun Tan’s illustrations is a bit more on the nose.

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‘It opened into another room altogether… an impossible room somewhere between the others.’

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of fifteen nuanced short stories. All are threaded together with an exploration of the vapidness, bewilderment, joy, sorrow, and enlightenment of living in the suburbs; specifically the suburbs of eastern Australia. Each of the stories is captivating and a hell of a lot deeper than the two or three pages devoted to each. For example “Stick Figures,” is a story about wooden stick figures that are part of a suburban landscape. They move unimaginably slow, and their purpose is not precisely known. However, if you think about suburbia and the little bits of nature that come through the manicured lawns and the shopping malls, nature could very much seem like an unknowable creature that exists, but we have no idea the purpose of. As someone who has spent much of their life living in the suburbs and had to travel to visit nature, I get what he is trying to say. Nature can become the unknowable.

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‘How great it must have been long ago, when the world was still unknown.’

Another glorious story was “No Other Country.” This story explores what it means to be a person of two ideals. The unexplored model of what a place should be as one ideal and the current situation you live in as the other.

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‘The fire burned with astonishing intensity.’

What if you could escape to the ideal place at your leisure? Would that change how you felt about your current living situation? Again this taps into a lot of what Shaun Tan writes about in “The Arrival.” The idealized world and the reality. Would you appreciate your reality if you could escape it once in a while? It is a powerful short story, and absolutely worth the read.

I feel like reading a Shaun Tan book is meditative. They are never boring, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. However, his work is saturated with a calmness and purposefulness. His words and images are impactful without being jarring. You don’t see that often in any type of literary work. It speaks to a mastery of craft that I as a reader feel privileged to partake in. As you can probably tell, I am a fan and recommend his work. However, it isn’t for everyone. It is fanciful and calm and deep. Sometimes, that is not what one needs in their books. So my suggestion is that if you are feeling self-reflective or full of ennui, give one of his novels a try. I doubt that you would regret the experience.

Graphic Novel Review of “American Gods Volume 1: Shadows (Neil Gaiman’s American Gods: The Shadows #1-9)”

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Russell, P. Craig et al. American Gods.

Stats

4 out of 5 Stars
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 13th 2018 by Dark Horse Books
Original Title American Gods, Volume 1: Shadows
ISBN 1506703860 (ISBN13: 9781506703862)
Edition Language English

Summary

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

― Neil GaimanAmerican Gods

30430From the publisher, “Shadow Moon gets out of jail only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard–thrusting Shadow into a deadly world where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a god war is imminent.

Collecting the first nine issues of the American Gods comic book series, along with art process features, high res scans of original art, layouts, character designs, and variant covers by BECKY CLOONAN, SKOTTIE YOUNG, FABIO MOON, DAVE MCKEAN, and MORE!”

My Thoughts

“Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”

The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.

“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.

“Fuck you,” said the raven.”

― Neil GaimanAmerican Gods

6050678-07Reading “American Gods Volume 1” was a challenge for me. It wasn’t due to the source material or anything like that. It is hard for me to remove my personal bias towards anything that is not the book. I have a similar difficulty with movies where I love the book. American Gods is a brilliant bit of urban fantasy. I mean it is Gaiman, so of course it is. Everything the man touches is fantastic.  The man could write a jingle for a used car salesman, and it would be magic.

This graphic novel was able to add magic to an already magical and well-done story. Since the prose is pretty much word for word of the source material, the magic was in the form of the stupendous graphics that were done by Scott Hampton and many others.

Much like a cinematographer, Hampton added atmosphere and aura to the words and gravitas of the scenes. He used a combination color palette of muted colors and psychedelic hues.  Some scenes, depending upon the action going on took a somber tone that matched the narrative. Other scenes, when the magic was buzzing, the images blaze off the page like a kaleidoscope of otherworldly colors. The whole story seems like a fever dream in a lot of ways. It is beautifully done and effective.

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Other illustrators took a hand in this volume, and they read like a who’s who in current famous comic illustrators and designers. They drew various vignettes and variant covers in their respective styles. Becky Cloonan from “Gotham Academy” fame and Fabio Moon who designed one of my favorite graphic novels of late, “Daytripper, ” among others.  The story lends itself well to many design interpretations, and this was demonstrated well here.

Conclusion

“All your questions can be answered if that is what you want. But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them.”

― Neil GaimanAmerican Gods

Volume 1 is grandly done. If you are a fan of the book or TV show, it can only add to your personal experience, and that is saying something. Most of the time, movies, and graphic interpretations screw it up. “American Gods Volume 1” is thankfully not one of those instances.

Graphic Novel Review – Revival, Vol. 1: You’re Among Friends (Revival #1) by Tim Seeley

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Stats

4 out of 5 stars
Paperback, 128 pages
Published December 12th, 2012 by Image Comics (first published November 1st, 2012)
ISBN 1607066599 (ISBN13: 9781607066590)
Edition Language English
Series Revival #1
Setting  Wausau, Wisconsin (United States) 

Awards

Harvey Awards Nominee for Best Artist (for Mike Norton)

Best Writer (for Tim Seeley)

Best Cover Artist (for Jenny Frison) (2013)

About

“Subtitle to the book is “A rural noir by Tim Seeley + Mike Norton”

For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. The sell-out hit series created by NYT Bestselling author TIM SEELEY and Eisner winning artist MIKE NORTON is collected with bonus material!”

My Thoughts

Revival is one of those odd little gems that you accidentally discover while searching for something to read. I started it on a whim and knew absolutely nothing about it.

It is gorgeous.

It calls itself a “rural noir” whatever that means, and has tinges of the supernatural. But really, it is a story about people put into unusual circumstances. Zombies sound trite. Shuffling dead people who want to eat your braaaaaains.  Zombies seem very overdone as a literary device, but this story puts some excellent twists on things and turns the genre on its head a bit.

“We stood up on two legs
And raised our heads above golden grass
He was there

We sharpened stone and steel
Used tools to harvest grass, beast and brother
He was there

We clustered together
In brick and mud swarming with rats and plague
He was there

We built nations and mistrust
Our fingers hovered over the red button
He smiled

Still we build
To rise above the golden grass
Away from the reach of his scythe

When he will harvest no more”
― Tim Seeley, Revival, Vol. 1: You’re Among Friends

The story is also slightly of the horror genre, slightly urban fantasy. Definite chills and shivers here in there.

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Shudder-inducing panel.

Check it out if you love deep characters and a little supernatural spice in your reading. Fair warning, this is a very adult, very very graphic novel where lack of blood and splayed organs are not an issue.