“Pretty Deadly Volume 1” by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles (Image Comics, 2014)

Pretty Deadly Volume 1
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The key to a good story is that it is compelling and immediately sucks you in. When it comes to a graphic novel, the same rule applies, both to the story and the artwork. In the case of Pretty Deadly volume 1, a new series from Image Comics that feels like a combination of Sandman and Preacher, the story and artwork does exactly this.

A young girl named Sissy is traveling with her guardian, blind Fox, learning from the stories he tells. The most surprising tale is of the death-faced Ginny who is looking for Fox with vengeance. As Sissy hears and learns of the entire tale (as does the reader), it sparks off a series of events that will eventually lead to Sissy’s destiny.

Told through the lens of the old west with plenty of mythology and magic thrown in, Pretty Deadly is a great new series with some vibrant, colorful artwork that makes it feel like a dark fairytale. Fans of Gaiman will want to get their hands on it as soon as possible.

Originally written on July 27, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Pretty Deadly Volume 1 from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Wake” by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (Vertigo, 2014)

The Wake
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Scott Snyder of American Vampire, Batman and Swamp Thing teams up with Sean Murphy of Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian to create a standalone complete story about a doomed future in a cool world. The Wake embodies every possible meaning of the word and with some spectacular artwork and great storytelling, it’s a full graphic novel story that will suck you in and keep you going to the last inked page.

Lee Archer is a marine biologist who is contacted and brought in by the Department of Homeland Security to participate in a top secret project. She is taken to distant Alaska, beneath the waves in a hidden underwater laboratory where she meets an assembled science team, some members she knows, and one in particular she hates. After everything is in place, they are eventually shown the reason for all the secrecy: a new creature has been discovered from the vast ocean depths. The creature is not friendly and is deadly. Then things go horribly wrong when the team realizes this creature is one of a huge army and the rest have now been summoned.

We then cut to a future time where the creatures have overrun the Earth and people are doing their best to survive. We meet a host of new and interesting characters and one in particular who believes there is still hope for humanity, and when she hears a distant radio message from a scientist from the past, she knows she is on to something.

The Wake has a great pacing, setting up the start of the story and guiding you along to the doomed future, but still instilling you with hope and possibility. The artwork is impressive and colorful, though at times can be a little complicated and hard to understand what’s going on. The ending feels a little rushed, but overall the graphic novel is a fun riveting tale that shows you what great things can happen when you put a writer and an artist together to create something new.

Originally written on January 13, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Wake from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Sculptor” by Scott McCloud (First Second, 2015)


Scott McCloud’s new graphic novel door-stopper has a little bit of something for everyone, especially if you’re the creative type. It’s about a relationship . . . and about art and creating . . . and what it means to be successful and remembered . . . and what it means when you die and are forgotten . . . and why we all exist on this little planet in a giant universe and what’s the point of it all. The story is real and emotional and moving; you simply won’t be able to put it down.

David Smith is an artist, a sculptor, who loses himself in his work and really feels he’s going to make it one of these days, but he’s out of money and losing hope pretty fast. After having a conversation with a deceased family member he strikes up a deal with death and is able to create art with his bare hands. Now he feels he can create the art he has wanted to for so long, with no inhibitions, and will finally become the renowned artist he has always wanted to be. But because this is real life, even with a supernatural slant, things still don’t always go his way.

Then there is Meg, a pretty girl who has helped David along when he was destitute and who he is quickly falling in love with, but isn’t sure if she is interested in him. He has also made a promise not to tell her he loves her until she can do the same to him.

McCloud is clearly pulling a lot from past real-life experiences with The Sculptor to create a story that any reader and follow and related to and be moved by. It is art in many forms that whisks you away and never lets you go.

Originally written on January 10, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Sculptor from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 20: Camelot” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2014)

Fables Camelot
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To say that the comic book series penned by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Mark Buckingham has reached its twentieth collected volume is quite the astonishing feat, but when one considers that it has won fourteen Eisner awards, and is working its way through its second major storyline that continues to build and become more exiting with each volume, it’s not really a surprise at all.

After things continue to take a turn for the worse in the previous collected volume, Snow White, Camelot seeks to create a new hero to try to turn things around with Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. She takes on the role that she feels destined for, the Paladin of Hope, and what better way to do this than with a new Camelot and some brave Knights of the Round Table. One might also call them the Knights of Second Chances, as Rose Red is willing to wipe the slate clean if they prove themselves.

They travel from all the lands, creatures great and small, humans mighty and miniature, but only the bravest and true will succeed and be selected. Red even offers an old enemy a second chance, which sets her at odds against her sister. Snow White refuses to see her sister from now on, keeping what’s left of her family away from her also, feeling betrayal will inevitably come.

Meanwhile the witches and wizards of Fabletown are trying their darnedest to reassemble the glass shards of Bigby Wolf so he can be whole and alive once more. Side stories in Camelot include that of Bigby and Boy Blue in a sort of afterlife, as well as what Gepetto and Junebug are currently up to, and finally the Boy Blue Band go on an adventure into the Homelands.

For a special twentieth volume, Camelot is a nice long read, with a great main story that is ratcheting up the suspense with what is going to happen next, along with some great side stories. It shows that Willingham has so many stories to tell that the reader never knows what’s going to happen or who’s going to appear on the next page. Fables Volume 20 is a worthy addition to the collection that will be a delight to fans everywhere.

Originally written on November 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 20: Camelot from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“In Real Life” by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (First Second, 2014)

In Real Life
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Bestselling author Cory Doctorow, of Little Brother and For the Win, and Jen Wang, known for her work with the Adventure Time comics and her graphic novel Koko Be Good, join forces to create a graphic novel about teenage girls, massive multiplayer online games and what gold farming really means. It’s a funny, addictive, entertaining but also sobering story that any gamer will soon become a big fan of.

Anda, a chubby teenager, gets introduced to a massive online game (MMO) called Coarsegold Online where she joins a female-only guild and has lots of fun leveling and gaining loot. She soon learns about gold farming from a friend in game, which consists of players from developing countries illegally collecting valuable objects and selling them to players from developed countries. But she soon befriends one and discovers while it may be illegal in game, it’s this boy’s life and how he makes money and supports himself and his family. Anda changes her stance about gold farmers and wants to see if she can help her new friend in some way and help him improve his way of life.

Originally written on August 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of In Real Life from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science” by Philippe Squarzoni (Abrams Comicarts, 2014)

Climate Changed
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Except for those who choose not to face reality (and perhaps are ignoring some other realisms staring them in the face), climate change is taking place right now, and as each season and year passes, more signs seem to be made of its build-up to the inevitable that is quickly approaching in our near future. In Climate Changed, French author and artist Philippe Squarzoni seeks to educate not just the reader on the happenings of climate change, but also himself.

Climate Changed is partly a graphic novel of science and partly one of philosophy, as Squarzoni begins his tale with what a beginning really is, exploring the idea as himself in his own story, trying to decide where to begin to talk about climate change. As he gets started in this important story, he combines the facts with understanding and how he deals with them. There’s the juxtaposition of what scientists and experts are saying, as well as what the graphs and charts show to be an ongoing reality with Squarzoni in his own life agreeing to do various jobs and projects and then assessing the climactic affect he alone will have in doing said jobs.

Climate Changed is a sobering read, as it should be. It paints a bleak picture, because the future is now looking pretty bleak. Climate change is a reality and is happening right now and will continue to get worse as the years pass. It’s a fact. Not enough people are doing anything to really change it, and until we start having serious changes, such as water levels rising and forcing millions of people to leave their homes and move to higher ground; then changes will start to be made, but by then it will be too late.

As for the ending, there is no quick fix or easy solution. It’s already too late for that and it’s getting worse by the year. Right now it will take centuries for the world to return to how it was during pre-industrial times. Squarzoni spends the book showing the facts, but also grappling with his own personal demons over this. And at this point, that is what it has become a question of: not what can we do to stop climate change, because it’s already too late, but how do we live with ourselves, and what do we tell our children and grandchildren who are going to experience its effects far worse than us.

Originally written on August 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Climate Changed from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey” by Nick Bertozzi (First Second, 2014)

Shackleton: An Antarctic Odyssey
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From the author and artist of the popular Lewis & Clark graphic novel comes his next bold adventure, taking on the life and legacy of Ernest Shackleton. In this short but poignant graphic novel, Bertozzi covers a lot of ground historically with regards to Shackleton.

Told with short scenes where the adage a picture speaks a thousand words is put to full use, Bertozzi covers Shackleton’s failures in trying to reach the south pole in the heart of Antarctica, and his next bold mission to cross the great Antarctic land mass. Readers get scenes of Shackleton putting the team together, a hodge-podge of men who will soon become very close starving on the ice; crossing the ocean and reaching the frozen wasteland; and then their journey upon the Endurance through the ice until they become stalled and must make some monumental decisions.

Bertozzi uses his skill as a storyteller and artist, bringing humor to a seemingly dry historical subject, but also color and life to the various characters, making them real people suffering in these harsh conditions. Shackleton does a great job of telling a complete, emotional story in a short book that will provide useful quick reading for anyone wanting to know more about Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Originally written on August 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Shackleton: An Antarctic Odyssey from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.