“Serenity: Those Left Behind” by Joss Whedon (Dark Horse, 2007)

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With the incredible DVDs sales and cult success of Firefly, as well as the popular movie Serenity, fans are always looking for something more, which is why they should pick up the beautiful new hardcover edition of Serenity: Those Left Behind.  Originally released as a three-issue comic series to link up the end of the Firefly series with the Serenity movie, Those Left Behind features amazing artwork that makes it feel like you’re watching the show again.

This edition begins with a great introduction by Nathon Fillion (who played Captain Malcolm Reynolds) as he relives his childhood of reading comic books, how important they were to him, and what it was like to want to be a superhero; and how on the day that Joss Whedon cast him as Mal, he knew his dream had been achieved.  Each of the covers from the original comics are shown at the beginning of each issue, making up the entire crew, as it is explained how Inara and Shepherd eventually chose to leave the ship, as well as another grand adventure involving the whole crew.

In this edition also is a true gem: a pre-production memo that Whedon wrote for the making of Serenity titled “A History of the Universe, Circa 2516 A.D.”  Here we see Whedon’s ideas for where the characters came from, their histories, and what led up to them all being on the same ship.  The history of the universe is also explained, with the creation of the Alliance and the rebels who fought for freedom.  Also included is some original concept artwork for the movie.

Serenity: Those Left Behind is a wonderful graphic novel that goes much further than the story told in the original three-issue comic series, with incredible artwork, and gives fans and readers a sliver of hope that maybe, one day, there may be more to be told about Serenity and her special crew.

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Originally written on December 6th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Volume 1: Long Way Home” by Joss Whedon, et. al. (Dark Horse, 2007)

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For Buffy fans who felt that when the show ended there was still more to be said about the Buffyverse, writer and creator Joss Whedon thankfully has turned to something else he does just as well as TV: comic books.  With the first trade of what is officially being called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight” now out, it is clear that there is still much to be told by Whedon about Buffy and her friends.

Little time has passed since the town of Sunnydale was turned into a giant crater.  While there was originally one Chosen One, there is now a veritable army of “slayerettes” in training to be as good as the real thing.  There are also two doppelgangers of Buffy, one in Rome and one literally underground in a different world, each intended to distract any enemies from the real Buffy.  But at the same time there’s a secret government group – not the Initiative – which feels that the world isn’t safe when there’s such a powerful slayer on the loose, and with some help from some of Buffy’s old enemies, they intend to put an end to her once and for all.  There’s also a strange symbol that keeps showing up, indicating something much larger and more sinister going on.

Long Way Home features some beautiful artwork, giving life to characters that many fans thought were done with; the trade also has full pages of the alternate covers from the first five issues.  It’s the introduction to what looks to be a long series in the continuing story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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

Originally written on December 6th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Arrival” by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine, 2007)

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Shaun Tan was born and grew up in Australia. He has illustrated The Red Tree, The List Thing, and The Viewer and Memorial written by Gary Crew. Using a unique art style and form that seems modern but still comprehensible, it immediately catches the eye, making the viewer “read” on. In Tan’s latest work, The Arrival, he has outdone himself with a unique story of immigration and insertion into a new and very different culture.

The world is filled with different and diverse cultures, and when people immigrate to another culture, it is a very hard and trying life event to either be assimilated, or simply to fit in with this new culture. The many citizens of the United States have known this for centuries, while many these days are still dealing with the problem of how to keep their own culture alive, but to also be a part of the culture they live in. While some can understand and sympathize with people of different cultures who go through this great change, it varies from culture to culture as to what their lives will be like.

Tan has taken a unique step here in making The Arrival a story of immigration into a new culture universal and understandable to everyone, whatever cultural background they come from. A father must leave his wife and children and journey to a new country, get a job, and begin his life there. When he is ready, the rest of his family will join him. Except this is an alien world, with weird shapes and objects, people look strange, there are unusual creatures everywhere, and travel is done somehow by hot air balloon. There is a type of symbolic writing that seems uninterpretable to the naked eye. So the reader begins the journey with the man, trying to comprehend what is going on, what people are saying to him, trying to get by each day with some kind of understanding.

The result is a very special story that has incredible art from an alien world which is fascinating and enchanting, but at the same time is telling the story of the plight of the many over hundreds of years who have immigrated and begun their life over in a new culture with new and different ways.

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

Originally written on December 2nd, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Runaways Volume 1: Pride and Joy” by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (Marvel, 2004)

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In this first volume of the smash-hit series, Runaways, written by award-winning writer Brian K. Vaughan, which has now attracted the likes of Joss Whedon, we are introduced to a bunch of young teenagers who have little in common and don’t like each other that much.  Every year they are forced to hang out together as their parents meet secretively for some charity event, it is thought.  Except this time, things are a little different.  The kids are older, starting to take an interest in the opposite sex, which they immediately do, and their curiosity is insatiable.  They decide to finally find out what their parents are exactly up to.  Using hidden passages in the house they sneak up on their parents and discover two important things: 1) Their parents are super heroes, and 2) Their parents are not super heroes, but actually super villains.

Vaughan presents a very interesting and unique dynamic.  The teens immediately work on running away from their evil parents and along the way discover unique powers that they possess.  It is an enjoyable and ideal story for young teens or teens of any age who are looking for something in the vein of Teen Titans; but it’s also a very enjoyable story for adults also.  It marks the continuing tangent that Marvel has taken of late in looking into the early lives of their super heroes.

Originally written on September 13th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie” by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (Vertigo, 2007)

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The fairy tales we grow up listening to and learning from our parents and family are usually old; centuries old, sometimes ancient; all with one thing in common: they have elements of truth in them taken from history.  Every once in a while, a story will come along that seems like it is a great fairy tale like that of Hansel and Gretel; a story that has come down from history with those elements of truth, even though it has been imagined and created by a single writer and artist not too long ago.  Stardust is one of those stories: a story that feels like a fairy tale to be told and taught to children of all ages, everywhere, for generations to come.

Set in the time of Queen Victoria and when Charles Dickens was serializing Oliver Twist, there is a small and quaint town called Wall.  It is named so for it sits on the very boundary between our world and the world of Faerie.  Naturally, there is a strong stone wall stretching across the edge of town, along this crucial boundary.  There is one opening in the wall that is constantly under guard; the guard’s duty is to let no one pass from the village of Wall through this hole and across the boundary into Faerie.  Except that Dunstan Thorn, a sometime guard of the wall, wishes to see this magical world and one day sneaks through the wall and into another world.  He finds a market, an event that only happens every seven years at this location.  There he finds a beautiful woman who has been made a slave to a witch.  She gives him a gift for a single kiss.

Returning to Wall, he knows he cannot stay away from the girl who will not leave his mind, and returns that night to her.  They make love under the stars and then Dustan leaves the realm of Faerie and continues his ordinary life in Wall.  Nine months later, a delivery is left on his doorstep.  It is a newborn baby in a basket, along with an envelope with the name TRISTRAN THORN on it.  This is Dunstan’s child, and the message in the envelope for Tristran, his son, when he is old enough.

Years pass and Tristran grows into a young man living an ordinary life in Wall.  There is a young girl, Victoria Forrester, who has stolen his heart with her beauty and charm.  They have known each other since they were children, but Tristran has been unable to confess his love for her.  Then one night, under the stars, as they picnic together, they see a bright falling star plunge into the deep lands of Faerie.  Tristran promises then to go out and bring back that fallen star for Victoria, as a token of his love.  Victoria allows him, thinking it a joke, and says if he is not back in seven days she will marry the man who has asked for her hand.

So begins Tristran’s adventure into the land of Faerie in search of the fallen star.  Little does he know the fallen star is now a young girl who was knocked from the night sky by a jewel, an heirloom belonging to the King to Stormhold.  The King lies on his deathbed with three of his seven remaining sons by his bedside.  Whoever returns with the jewel will become king of Stormhold.  There are also three ancient witches who saw the star fall and seek it.  If they return with the human form of the star, they can sacrifice her and regain their magical powers, their youth and beauty.  And so Tristran must make this long journey, against all these odds; along the way he will meet many strange people – some friends, some enemies, some willing to do anything to get the star.

Stardust is a magical story that seems to possess elements of every fairytale ever told.  With the relative success of the movie that did not do the original story justice, this new and beautiful hardcover edition is an ideal addition for any Gaiman and/or Vess fan.  But it is also the perfect gift for those family members wishing to tell this story to their children.  Along with the wonderful layout and incredible illustrations full of color and life, this edition has unique illustrations by Vess never before seen in the development of Stardust, along with the original proposal by Gaiman and Vess with the cover art and further illustrations.

Stardust is a story you will want to have on your shelf for the rest of your life, to read it yourself on cold rainy nights, or to read it to you children and your children’s children.  It is a story to be told many times over and learned by many.

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

Originally written on August 17th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Preacher Volume 2: Until the End of the World” by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (Vertigo, 1997)

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In this next volume of the successful Preacher series we go back into the past of Jesse Custer and learn of his terrible upbringing under the cruel thump of his fundamentalist grandmother assisted by two inbred ingrates.  His father is shot and killed in front of him for not following the rules, while his mother suffers a similar fate later in his young age.  Whenever Jesse commits a sin, he spends time in the coffin – sealed airtight and dropped in the river with a narrow breathing tube, in complete darkness.  Tulip, his girlfriend, learns all this when they’ve been captured by said evil family and are to be killed.  But the Preacher is now older and stronger while his family is older and enfeebled, and with Tulip’s help, the terrible bloodline is ended once and for all.

In the second part of the book they rejoin with their vampire friend Cassidy who tracks down the murderer of his girlfriend, leading them to a sex-addicted fiend who goes by the name of Jesus De Sade.  There is also a sub plot going on here about a secret group who has been protecting the secret of the holy grail for thousands of years and it is in the year 2000 that the end will arrive and they intend to use Jesse Custer as their preacher.

The second volume reaches new levels with the storyline, revealing some important history and back story, keeping the reader rapt and wanting more.  Thankfully there are many more volumes in the series to come.

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

Originally written on July 15th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Preacher Volume 1: Gone to Texas” by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (Vertigo, 1996)

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Vertigo continues in another series with a “what if” involving the Christian pantheon. The preacher of the title is exactly that, although he has lost his faith of late, especially when he is possessed by a spirit from heaven and barely manages to escape before his church is burned to the ground with his congregation toasted inside.  Preacher is a graphic novel series that starts off with questions and intrigue, leaving readers wanting more.

The spirit that has inhabited the preacher is known as Genesis, a burning ball of fire with infant features who was conceived between one of the angels of the Seraphi and a demon from hell.  It’s an event that was never supposed to happen, and the result is a creation that can challenge the very power of God.  Upon the discovery of this devastating event, the Seraphi killed their member who coupled with a demon, while the Adephi are left to imprison and watch over the creation known as Genesis.  But Genesis manages to escape, coming to Earth in search of a soul which it finds in one Reverend Custer, the preacher.  Custer is soon joined by a former girlfriend and a new friend who turns out to have some most unusual eating habits.

In the style and graphic vein of Lucifer, Hellblazer, and other such classic Vertigo titles, Preacher is a series I look forward to continue reading.

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Originally written on June 29th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.