“The Unwritten Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Vertigo, 2010)

The Unwrittenstarstarstarstar

In their first full series collaboration since the award-winning Lucifer, writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross present The Unwritten: a unique story about tales and writing and magic, taking the reader on journeys into different and unusual worlds with some familiar and recognizable characters and some very unpredictable happenings.

A bestselling fantasy series that is as big as Harry Potter features a hero by the name of Tommy Taylor.  The creator of the series, Wilson Taylor, has gone missing, disappeared, and hasn’t been seen in years.  Meanwhile his son, Tommy Taylor, is reaping the benefits of the series, attending signings and conventions, and has become a worldwide sensation.  “A literary legend made flesh.”  Only rumors have started that Tom Taylor may not actually be who he says he is; and while the well-known man flees from angry crowds, he finds himself joining up with unusual characters, as well as finding elements of the story he knows so well somehow coming true.

Mike Carey and Peter Gross have created a fresh and original series that explores a fantasy world and a world of supposed real life and then magically blurs the borders, both with powerful words and incredible art, keeping readers thinking, but completely hooked, wanting to know what’s going to happen next.

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Originally written on January 25th, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Stephen King’s The Stand Volume 1: Captain Trips” by Roberto Aguire-Sacasa, Mike Perkins, et. al. (Marvel, 2010)

Captain Tripsstarstarstarstar

After the success of the popular graphic novel series of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Marvel has decided to take on the epic story of Stephen King’s The Stand.  For those not familiar with the story: a government-made lethal virus gets out of the lab after an accident that has the now infected guard fleeing for the hills with his infected wife and kid.  The virus spreads at an alarming rate and soon there’s only a select population left.  These people have dreams of two people: Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg; they will have to choose whether they’ll be fighting on the side of good or evil.  In true Marvel style, the artwork is stunning, combining elements of the TV mini-series, as well as incorporating exact scenes from the book; but Perkins also establishes his own style and look for The Stand.  In Captain Trips, readers meet our main characters and see just how devastating this virus is, and to what extent the government will go to to prevent panic and keep things quiet.  A must for any King fan, and for anyone interested in The Stand.

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Originally written on December 21st, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Fables Volume 12: The Dark Ages” by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, et. al. (Vertigo, 2009)

Fables the Dark Agesstarstarstarstar

The Eisner award winning comic book series returns at a poignant moment.  The great war between the good and evil fables is finally at an end.  All should be right with the world.  The fables should be able to return to their Homelands.  Everything should return to normal, as it once was, centuries ago.

Except this isn’t the case.

The fables in our world are slowly recovering from the war, surprised at the few numbers that died, while on the Adversary’s side, the number of dead are immeasurable.  That is except for Boy Blue, who suffered an injury from a magical arrow.  The fables’ best doctor thinks he has him all cured, but Boy Blue isn’t getting any better; in fact each day he looks much worse, one step closer to death, which would be wrong for one of the greatest heroes of the war.  Meanwhile there are those in the Homelands who are searching through the spoils, and they inadvertently awake a dark and terrible creature, a bogeyman that haunts our dreams, hides under our beds at night, and terrifies us from the closet.  He is the one whose power the fables have been using for so long to use their magical devices, and he’s very angry.

The Dark Ages starts a fascinating new plot line, reassuring any Fables fans that now the big war is over, Willingham isn’t done by any means, but merely with an important chapter in the Fables storyline, with plenty more tales to tell.  The use of magic and power for the war was at an immense cost, as The Dark Ages shows.  The question now remains who will live and who will die with this new evil loose amongst the fables.

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

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” by Neil Gaiman, et. al. (DC Comics, 2009)

Batmanstarstarstarstar

Neil Gaiman, bestselling author and writer of the renowned comic book series, Sandman, was asked to write a two-part series about Batman and was given complete choice of what story he could tell.  In his introduction, Gaiman talks about how Batman was one of the first TV shows he watched as a kid, and this was then the first comic book he ever read, and regardless of all the comic books he read after, and all the characters he created, he always had a special spot for Batman.  Because Batman never gave up, no matter what.

In Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Gaiman does the story of what happens when Batman finally dies and can rest in peace.  Brilliantly illustrated by Andy Kubert, and inked by Alex Sinclair, they perfectly capture the noir, colorful look of Batman, while combing the styles of all the different artists who have illustrated for Batman before.  The deluxe hardcover edition also features Gaiman’s four other Batman stories, the most entertaining of which is A Black and White World featuring Batman and The Joker behind the scenes waiting to go on.

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader blends the fantastic world of Batman with all the familiar characters, combining Gaiman’s writing skill and some incredible artwork, making it a must for any Batman fan.

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

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Northlanders Volume 2: The Cross + The Hammer” by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice (Vertigo, 2009)

Northlanders Volume 2starstarstar

Wood continues his powerful Northlanders series in this second volume, after Sven the Returned, with a look at two cultures fighting over one piece of land.  The year is 1014, the place is Ireland.  The Vikings have invaded, quickly taking over and subjugating most of the people, claiming what they consider to be rightfully theirs.  But there are some who disagree, including one hero, Magnus, who seeks to wipe out any Vikings he sees, while doing what he must to protect his precious daughter.  Magnus is a powerful warrior, who seems unstoppable, yet his one failing may be that he has lost his mind.  But Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson thinks little of this, stopping at nothing to end Magnus and clear the way for a full Viking conquest.

In The Cross + The Hammer, Wood takes a brief break from his main character, Sven, to address another part of the world where the Vikings are making themselves known.  Even with a different artist, the work is fresh and interesting,  maintaining an acuteness to detail and accuracy, while Wood does his work in telling a story that may well have happened at some time in the eleventh century.

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Originally written on August 22nd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Ball Peen Hammer” by Adam Rapp and George O’Connor (First Second, 2009)

Ball Peen Hammerstarstar

While the cover and title will certainly be misleading for some readers who look at this graphic novel for the first time, I recommend they read the inside flap for a description.  It’s not about S&M and violent sex games, but in fact a world where a sickness has wiped out a considerable amount of the population.  In the style of Children of Men, people are fighting to survive, fighting for food, and fighting to get a sample of the vaccine that will cure them of the lethal sickness.  With a harsh, rough art style that lends greatly to the dark and doomed storyline, Rapp introduces a subplot on top of all the sadness with the murdering of innocent children.  If the characters don’t comply, they will suffer for it, so what choice do they have?  Rapp does introduce some happiness with the girl depicted on the cover searching for the musician whom she fell for, but Ball Peen Hammer ends before this is possibly reconciled, leaving the reader wondering if there’ll be more or is that the bleak end of it all?

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Originally written on August 22nd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

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

Color of Heavenstarstarstar

In this concluding volume to the Color of Earth trilogy, Kim Dong Hwa takes the relationship between Ehwa and her mother to a new level, for the little girl is now seventeen and a blossoming woman.  The women find they have more in common than they thought, as they wait and yearn for their lovers who are far away, wondering when they will return.  Nevertheless, Ehwa still has some crucial lessons to learn from her parent.  But Hwa must bring the series to a close, and he does so with Ehwa’s betrothal to Duksam, and their beautiful wedding.  Her mother says goodbye to the daughter she’s had in her home for so long, and while her lover now returns to her for good, she finds herself once again looking out from her home, waiting, this time for the return of her daughter who she now misses greatly.  Kim Dong Hwa’s artwork and scenery continue to astound, while The Color of Heaven does an incredible job of revealing facets of Korean culture rendered in such a beautiful way.

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Originally written on August 8th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.