Thursday, December 13, 2018

Winter Intermission

I'm using these last weeks of the year to write manifold reviews and rebuild a buffer. Check back on the New Year for new reviews!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Revue September 23: Pride Of Baghdad

Raise Your Eyes And Prepare Your Soul For

 Based on a true story from the American bombing of Iraq in 2003, this work is a painful and powerful searching of our souls through the eyes of animals. The story in Pride of Baghdad  revolves around four African lions, the pride of the Baghdad zoo. When American military forces launched their airstrike during their invasion on Iraq, the wall of their enclosure is destroyed, and the pride escapes into ruined city of Baghdad.

What follows is fascinating and heart-wrenching. Pride Of Baghdad was written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Niko Henrichon. It can be read for free at this link and bought at this link. 

The Rating

A beautiful and arresting view of ourselves through the eyes of those we share the world with.

The Raves 

This is a story of the war that cuts through the politics. The endless recriminations. The self justifications. It is a stark story, clean and brutal as a lion's tooth. Through the clean sanity of animals focused on daily survival, we see our own insanity reflected.  Through eyes that see no justifications, we are forced to look at the true brutality of an urban war.
The art style is masterful in its atmospheric clarity. The writing is as clean as a knife blade. The characterization blends uncompromising truth and surprising compassion in an uneasy and well-performed dance. The writing is crisp, clean and witty enough to keep you engaged at all times.
As the pride walks bewildered through a world blown out of kilter, we are forced again and again to reflect on the choices made and the history that leads us to stand where we are in the world. It asks us to ask ourselves not only 'was this right?' but 'do we have the right?'

The Razzes

Nothing to report here. This work is heartrendingly gorgeous.

The Revue

More Americans, especially, need to read this comic. It is as beautiful and as painful as the sparkle of light on shattered glass in the street.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sunday Revue September 2: Abducted

Get In The Ship And Hang On Tight For

Ah travel. Learn new things, make new friends...and new enemies...
Asher is not having a good intergalactic trip. He didn't really want to go either. In fact, he was ABDUCTED. But now he's out in the galaxy with no way home. 
It looks like it's going to be a long week...

The work of Michael Battle, Abducted can be read at this link

The Rating

Your Sunday morning jaunt of choice

The Raves

The first thing that strikes a reader about this piece is the pacing. It is wonderfully reminiscent of the best weekend cartoons, clipping along on a sea of surprises, jokes and occasional slapstick, with deeper currents of lessons on self esteem and empathy. The whole thing is accented with hints of deep, dangerous mystery. 
It's a fun little story. It definitely keeps things simple (maybe a little simplistic at times.) An enemy is made when condiments are spilled on his suit, for example. But the tone fits the age of the character.

The comic is a wonderful example of evolution in art style. The creator began with a good grasp of the basic conventions and effects, and worked hard to improve a sense of proportion and master color and shading. At this point in the work, it's really coming into its own and is lovely to look at. Perspective, composition, anatomy, color and style are all nicely applied.

The Razzes

The thing that could use the most work: cat anatomy. Not a big deal, but since one of the main characters is an anthropoid cat and his anatomy is consistently off, it's worth working on.  In a lot of these images, Cairo's shoulders and neck seem uncomfortably small and overly straight. It doesn't strike the viewer as alien anatomy, but as poor anatomical drawing.

Here's one idea: add a fur ruff. Looking at cats, you'll realize that most of them have a thick ruff of fur around the throat. Without it, the feline throat just looks wrong.
Beyond that, shoulders. Feline shoulders are narrower than homonid shoulders, but they are neatly bunched and triangular when a cat's standing on its hind legs. They are still there.

Beyond those thoughts I think SilverBlood gives the best advice.

The Revue

Grab your fruit loops and give it a read. It'll be a good day.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Revue July 29: Romantically Apocalyptic

Pull Yourself Together And Get Ready For

After you meet Mr. Snippy, you'll never look at a bad day the same way again. His bad days include:
*Homicidal houses
*Insane travelling companions
*Getting tied up in a pink wig, while sober
and oh, yeah. Living through a nuclear winter. Or trying, anyway.
Some days are bad, and some days are Romantically Apocalyptic.

The brain-child of Vitaly S Alexius, the website tells us 'Romantically Apocalyptic was first conceptualized in 2005 as a series of post-apocalyptic paintings on deviantart by Vitaly S Alexius. It was developed into an online graphic novel in 2010 and grew into a surreal, collaborative, multimedia art project that includes: poetry, prose, photography, digital art, music and film.'
The current creative team is:

Art Director:
Vitaly S Alexius

Vitaly S, Oggy B, Chico G, Mabi.

Journal writers:
Vitaly S Alexius, Kaitlin Gossett.

Contributor Artists:
Mabi, Allyssa N / Hatsie, IIDanmrak, Andrey F, Christine Z, Ivan Yakushev, Malin Falch, Caroline H

UK Events Organisers:
Clare Cook, Oggy B

Chief Music Editor:
Oggy B

Ze Intern:
Tina Hoffman

Romantically Apocalyptic can be read at this link  and purchased at this one. Oh, and by the way, this comic's animated. It's definitely a work that takes your brain for a spin.

The Rating

A Topsy Turvy Tour De Force!

The Raves

To begin with, this thing is gorgeous. With its grasp of artistic conventions and its offbeat sense of humor, RA takes you through a cracked looking glass and into some of your weirder dreams. 

Then there's the world building. Tech advanced and human nature did not. Eventually, the inevitable occured: our species decimated itself and the planet. Now the handful of survivors scrounge in the rubble, fight creatures mutated to survive so much better than they can in the wastes, use the bits of tech they're left to scrape a living and dream of other things. But you don't have to look so glum about it!

The characterization is a fascinating and fun exploration of altered states of consciousness and mental process. If Mad Max had sung kids' songs or if Bruce Willis had been on bad Prozac while creating his dire futuristic movies, they would have been a bit like RA. It's a trippy ride through the comforts of delusional thought, gallows humor and friendship in the grimmest of grimdark situations. 
The Captain and Pilot have gone so far down into their own dreams that reality can no longer hurt them.  They set up Christmas parties with skeletons and hold conversations with billboards. To keep the readers in their mindset, the realistic art is regularly broken up with chibi scribbles.
Funnily enough, in their situation this kind of dissociation isn't a terrible idea. If they didn't reinvent the world into something they enjoy living in, they probably wouldn't survive long.
Unfortunately for their 'friend' Charles Snippy, he's still sane. He's relying on sheer stubbornness and weary survival instinct. And he's getting really sick of these nutcases. The contrast between Snippy's dogged and nihilistic sanity and the rosy madness of his companions is disturbing, intriguing, and downright laugh-out-loud funny.

Surreal, silly and terrifying by turns, this is a story worth following.

The Razzes

Er...correction. This is a story worth following when you can. While I enjoy the explorations of altered states of consciousness, at times the story wanders so far into the surreal that it becomes incoherent. This is especially true in the primarily textual sections, which read at times like a narrative and at times like pages from a psych patient's diary. That's interesting for a paragraph, maybe, but it palls very quickly. As a reader I found myself scrolling past these sections, not invested enough to parse them for meaning. But there would be a picture that drew me back into the flow. That's the problem with experimental writing: some experiments blow up.

The Revue

Get some shots or a bowl and give it a read. You'll be glad you did. Allonsy!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Westercon/Malcon Amalgam Revue 2018

As Promised, A MALcon/Westercon Revue!

Over the 4th of July weekend, I attended MALcon 6, which partnered with Westercon 70 this year. Let's just say it was interesting.

 There are few venues with better staff. The Shiny Garden folks went to bat for us at every turn. Whether they were haggling with the hotel. walking the vendor floor to see who needed food ordered or water brought, or checking in with panellists, they did an amazing job on everything.Welllll...almost everything. They could have done a better job getting the word on the con's new date out. The attendance was underwhelming in the extreme. There were a number of musing conversations on the topic, and here were the general thoughts on the cause:
*MAL is usually in August, and a number of usual attendees may be blinking in bewildered dismay come next month.
*The college crowd is out of town, and they make up much of the usual attendance.
*Westercon isn't everyone's cup of tea
*People don't go to cons on the 4th of July, they go camping
*It was a weird start time in the middle of a weird week

Whatever the cause, if you went there for the crowds you were disappointed. But if you were there for the networking, it was a lovely event. Authors and artists, game creators and geeks of all stripes attended and enjoyed. Whether you wanted high tea on the 12th floor Steampunk Dirigible or a good game session in the games room, there was something for everyone.
One of Shiny Garden Events' greatest strengths is in their balancing of fun and responsible fiction, and this year was no exception. With panels like So Charming, Not Creepy and Artists & Moral Responsibility, the panels kept us on our toes in the ethical department, while panels like Weird Astronomy kept us laughing and building Blanket Forts was pure delight. The con is particularly marketed as a literary one, so panels like The Second Digital Age, Understanding Amazon, Marketing 101 and Characters are a Who, Not A What were fascinating and useful for indie authors. I myself was on a few panels: Overcoming Creative Fears (you never really leave them behind, you just tame them, and that's okay) and Religion in Fiction Outside the Western World were my particular favorites. I was able to sit with the lovely Stant Litore, writer of powerful Islamic spacefaring tales, and Amalie Howard , young adult and historical romance author, to discuss tales with our audience. In said panel, we did put together a Reading Outside the Western World list of books and comics. Need something to read? Click here for some ideas!
I did a little more vending this year...and maaaybe spent a little too much cash on lovely stuff...maaaybe... here's a sample of the lovelies on offer.
My non-comic work on the right and Nonir with their work through Wandering Jotun on the left.
Wandering Jotun is a place for all geeky pagans, go check it out! 

The fun and fast-paced work of Travis Heermann

The rocking Veronica Callisto selling her books, Starfish And Coffee and Diary of A Mad Black Witch

A sample of Ian Healy's wonderful writing. 

The lovely offerings of Revive Gifts

The Kimberlys, also known as Kimberly Kennedy and Kimberly Keane. Get ready for fun with these literate ladies, their books rock.

Dylan Edwards with some of his kickass queer-positive comics.

More queer friendly stuff with Out In Colorado

The con may have been smaller than expected, but it was well worth the time. Here's to even more fun and more conversations next year!