“The Color of Water” by Kim Dong Hwa (Pantheon, 2009)

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In the second book of the trilogy, The Color of Water, after The Color of Earth, Ehwa is now a growing girl and boys are on her mind all the time, but readers can see the beautiful woman she will become.  And yet she still has a lot to learn about life, the world, and more importantly, men and what they can be like.  Fortunately she has her mother to educate her on the ways of the world and the ways of men and their desires.  Ehwa is a naïve young girl, but a fast learner.  With the expression “third time’s the charm,” Ehwa has high hopes for this third, new boy in her life, Duksam.  Friction grows between Ehwa and her mother, as the girl is always wanting to go out and find Duksam, while ignoring her duties and chores.  Ehwa has also attracted the eye of an old man who will do everything he can to get her.  There is also jealousy growing between Ehwa and her mother, who receives infrequent visits from her “picture man.”  Kim Dong Hwa continues his beautiful artwork and wonderful poetic words that combine simile through nature to educate Ehwa and readers about love and life.  Readers will be left anxiously waiting for the conclusion of the trilogy, The Color of Heaven.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on July 18th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge” by Josh Neufeld (Pantheon, 2009)

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Originally serialized in SMITH Magazine, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld is a remarkable graphic novel that manages to capture both the raw look of a city attacked by natural forces, but also to reveal the emotions and reactions of people who remained in the city, as well as those who watched from afar.  Told from the viewpoint of six New Orleanians, they each experience Hurricane Katrina differently, but ultimately suffer loss.  There is Denise, who experiences the pandemonium at the Superdome.    Abbas, and his friend Mansell, who live out the storm first within the market that Abbas owns and runs, and then on the roof as the water level rises.  The Doctor, who remains in the French Quarter throughout the hurricane, a haven for others, miraculously unscathed.  Leo – a comic book collector – and Michelle who leave New Orleans in time, but lose everything they own.  And Kwame, a Pastor’s son, who leaves before the storm and has his life irrevocably changed.   A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge is the next great graphic novel in a growing genre of journalistic or non-fiction graphic novels, that combine words and art to tell incredible stories of real life and real happenings.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on June 18th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Josh Neufeld check out BookBanter Episode 14.

“The Color of Earth” by Dong Hwa Kim (First Second, 2009)

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The first in a trilogy, the graphic novel The Color of Earth is now available to English-speaking (and reading) audiences for the first time.  While author and artist, Dong Hwa Kim, has published a number of graphic novels – or manwha as they are called in Korea – like My Sky and The Red Bicycle, this trilogy represents a new foray for him.  Ehwa is a young girl who doesn’t have a father, and her only role model is a single mother who is mocked by men at the local tavern she owns and runs.  In her early years, Ehwa looks down on her mother for allowing men to treat her this way, but as she grows into womanhood and becomes interested in boys, she begins to understand more.  Her mother knows that the men are harmless, but when they go too far, she is quick to stop them or at least stick up for herself.  The Color of Earth explores Ehwa becoming a teenager and her first simple relationships with boys, as well as her mother finding a new love in her life.  The trilogy is continued in The Color of Water, and has become a bestseller in Korea among both men and women, for Kim has a talent in telling a beautiful story, but also for getting to the heart of humanity.  It is a story that will grow on you and become a classic like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on June 18th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Science Fiction Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Seventeen” by H. G. Wells, et. al. (Eureka Productions, 2009)

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In this seventeenth volume of graphic classics one might’ve expected the series to have stretched beyond its ability to delight and entertain, and yet this volume offers some of the best stories yet, done with some great adaptation and some truly original artwork.

Volume 17 kicks off with a bang with the graphic adaptation of H. G. Well’s famous War of the Worlds.  Writer Rich Rainey must be commended for condensing the novel into just 48 pages, and yet maintaining enough storyline and action to be true to the original book.  The artwork from Micah Farritor helps set the scene of the nineteenth century, giving each of the characters a very human look.  As for the aliens, Farritor borrows from the classic look of War of the Worlds, but also adds his own style.

A day in the life of a man who looks much like George Jetson is the setting for the next story: Jules Verne’s “In the Year 2889.”  Stories from Stanley G. Weintraub and Arthur Conan Doyle are included, each presenting their own unique art style from a different artist.  Graphic Classics Volume 17 is a great addition to the collection, leaving readers looking forward to what’s to come next.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on June 18th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009)

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Artist and writer Shaun Tan returns with another spectacular piece of artwork. Unlike bestselling The Arrival, Tales From Outer Suburbia features both entertaining and moving short stories and flash fiction, combining with beautiful original artwork, making the reader savor each word choice and brush stroke on the page.

Like The Arrival, this is also a commentary on our current western civilized society of suburbia and what it really means to be ordinary and bland, with everything perfect and the same.  Tan looks to shake up this foundation with bizarre stories that have deeper meanings that go beyond a simple tale.  There is the story of Eric, the foreign exchange student, who looks and acts very different and is just strange, but upon going back to his home, leaves an indelible gift.  The story of the sea cow, or dugong, that miraculously appears on the lawn of a family going through personal troubles, giving the child something new and different in his life.  In “Grandpa’s Story,” grandpa tells the tale of the special journey he and his newlywed wife had to go through that was dangerous and life-threatening, but ultimately brought them closer together.

Tales From Outer Suburbia is a collection of unique stories that will have you grabbing it off the shelf at least once a month, perhaps to escape from the ordinariness of your life, or to just be entertained by the bizarre.  Ultimately, you will be comforted by these stories, as each of them serves as a cathartic tonic.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 27th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“I Saw You . . .: Comics Inspired by Real-Life Missed Connections” Edited by Julia Wertz (Three Rivers Press, 2009)

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The next time you pay a visit to Craigslist (and I’m sure you check it every day now for the job postings), look under the “Personals” column and you’ll see a option titled “Missed Connections.”  It’s where men and women seeking women or men recount a recent chance meeting with someone who captured their heart in the blink of an eye.  Perhaps it was a short but sweet conversation over the purchase of a latte; or gazing into one another’s eyes on the train to the work; or even a smile from a distance.  We all see people each day, strangers whom we wonder might be; strangers who might even be the one.  But then the opposite of serendipity blocks your path and you never see the person again.  If this is the case, then Missed Connections is for you; where you can pour out your heart to that human who stopped you in your tracks for a second, with the lone hope that he or she may one day read it and somehow find you.

In the fall of 2006, Julia Wertz, cartoonist and creator of The Fart Party, put up a blog requesting comic strips from volunteers inspired by “Missed Connections.”  Soon her inbox was overflowing!  In I Saw You . . ., Wertz collects them together, providing a short introduction to why and how she did this.  The result is a very entertaining book featuring a wonderful variety of artwork from some of today’s finest graphic artists as they take a sentence or two and turn it into something happy, or something sad, but always an entertaining piece of art.

So whether you’re looking for a laugh, or for your heart strings to be pulled by some sad words and some sad eyes, I Saw You . . . is the book for you.  A perfect paperback to read through in your spare time, while on the bus to work in the morning, as you glance up at that special someone looking right back at you, never to see them again.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 9th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Rasl Volume 1: The Drift” by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books, 2009)

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Writer and artist Jeff Smith, of Bone fame, returns with an original concept in Rasl. In The Drift, Rasl is a classic young tough guy who’s been messing around with magnets and magnetic fields and has invented a way of traveling across dimensions into parallel universes.  It takes a lot out of him each time he drifts, explaining his alcoholic ways.  For his occupation, Rasl is an art thief, stealing art from other dimensions to sell in his own.  But in this first volume, something is terribly wrong.  There’s an assassin out to get him, following him somehow across the dimensions.  It’s nonstop action for Rasl, as he tries to save his skin, while continuing to research the powers of magnetism that make it possible to cross the dimensions of space. Rasl is a great new story from Jeff Smith, who will be publishing two more volumes in the series.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on February 3rd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Volume 3: Wolves at the Gate” by Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, et. al. (Dark Horse, 2008)

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The latest collected volume of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 features a single issue scripted by Joss Whedon, as Buffy comes to a startling realization with her personal life that mixes with her job as the lead slayer over all the Chosen.  The development continues in the Wolves at the Gate series as an attack is made on the Chosen base in Scotland by a horde of vampires that can turn into wolves, fog, and even a swarm of bees.  Enlisting the help of a very old and forgotten friend who is a natural wealth of information on the events at hand, Buffy travels to Japan with her powerful army to find out who or what is behind the group of Goth Japanese vampires who have these incredible powers.

Wolves at the Gate continues Buffy’s adventures in classic fashion, with all the main characters, leaving the reader impatiently waiting for the next collection, as well as to some possible answers to why Buffy is doing what she is doing, and what’s behind it all.  Clearly the writers have a master plan building that will hopefully see more light in the next trade coming in May.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 10th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Northlanders Volume 1: Sven the Returned” by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice (Vertigo, 2008)

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In a new graphic novel series from Brian Wood, author of DMZ and Demo, and illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, comes Northlanders Volume 1: Sven the Returned. Northlanders offers up a fresh historical graphic novel, like that of Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze and Warren Ellis’ Crecy, as Wood brings the world of the Vikings to light with the detailed and gory art style of Gianfelice.

Sven is a disowned Viking.  After his father is killed when he is a boy, and, as the heir apparent, he dishonors his mother by not protecting and defending her from his uncle Gorm who rapes her and takes control of the people and holdings, Sven flees from the north lands.  He is captured and made a slave for most of his childhood until he is set free and refers to himself as a Varangian: a Norseman who has left his home.  He spends his years in the great city of Constantinople as a member of the Royal Guard, until he is ready and returns to the north for revenge.  The year is 980.

His old home is in the Orkney Islands, and he finds it not much changed from when he left, but having lived in Constantinople for so long, he must learn to live in the harsh climes once again.  He also must gain the respect of his people.  Sven begins fighting back against Gorm, employing all the skill and knowledge he has gained.  The question is when he finally defeats Gorm and restores his family’s honor, will he still want to be king and rule?

Northlanders is a fresh historical graphic novel that is a little shaky at first with this new storyline, but there is good character development and potential for the future volumes.  With a fresh art style that captures the tone of the period, as well as being accurately detailed through the art, Northlanders is a series I look forward to reading in volume 2: The Cross + The Hammer.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 11th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Penny Arcade Volume 5: The Case of the Mummy’s Gold” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Dark Horse, 2008)

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The Penny Arcade team are back again with their next long-awaited volume of the online comic: The Case of the Mummy’s Gold.  Volume 5 features a Hardy Boys classic looking cover as Gabe and Tycho stand wary by a door in geeky-looking outfits that bare a resemblance to classic Star Trek uniforms, as a pair of mummy’s arms stretch from the open doorway.

Volume 5 features some familiar characters, including our infamous fruit crushing friend, as well as some new concepts like their take on the Oriental Last Rites comic.  With the advent of popular Mass Multi-Player Online (MMO) games like World of Warcraft and the Star Wars MMO, Penny Arcade embarked on a new chapter of online comics with lascivious praise on some games like the former mentioned above, and scornful berating and insult on games like the latter.  Penny Arcade also became aware of their growing popularity and the fact that many people read the blogs and the comic and took the advice they offered.  With this power they began ridiculing and mocking different companies in the games industry much to the amusement of the fans.  It’s what really launched the comic into superstardom as it began fighting back for the fans.

Whether you’re picking Penny Arcade up for the first time, or simply addictively adding the next volume to your collection (like me), The Case of the Mummy’s Gold will be a welcome recruit, with lots of extra sketches from the different conventions they attended, including the actual paper tablecloth doodles they made to pass the time.  And if that’s not enough, there’s always the entertaining comments they’ve made on each comic about whether they liked it, or thought the concept totally failed, or simply have no recollection of what they did or were attempting to do.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 7th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

Penny Arcade will be interviewed in Episode 29 of BookBanter available April 1st.