Comics You Should Be Reading: Green Wake

Whether you're looking for a comic with psychological or supernatural themes, or just feel like something other than a superhero book, you should be reading Green Wake. Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo's title has grown to be one of my favorite titles on the market. Here's why.

Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #1

He's the best at what he does. And what he run the Jean Grey Academy? Professor Wolverine is kind of a catchy name, but I at least hope that his professoring isn't very nice. Check out our take on the latest adventures of Sniktbub and his crazy crew of X-Men here. Bub.

10 Comics That Would Make Great Cartoons

Comics and cartoons go together like a Batman and his current Robin. Cartoons adapted from comic books have a long history of being great, and we here at the 52 Review welcome more of them. Here are 10 comic books we think deserve their own animated series.

Review: Spaceman #1

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso team up again for the 9 issue Vertigo miniseries Spaceman. 100 Bullets is a tough act to follow. Does Spaceman measure up? Find out what we thought of the first issue here, or take advantage of the $1 pricetag and try it for yourself.

Review: The Flash #2

The first issue of The Flash blew us away. Does the second one measure up to the early promise of the series? Or is Barry Allen already starting to slow down? Find out what we thought of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's second issue here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The 52 Review is Moving!

The 52 Review is moving! We'll be merging with nerd culture site CSICON. You'll still be able to find any posts you enjoyed here, and you'll still be able to read future updates by heading on over to their site.

We hope this move will allow us to share even more great comic book content with you, and that it'll give us a chance to geek out over some other things as well.

If you have any questions about our move, or any new content you'd like to see us write, let us know in the comments!

By Marceline with 1 comment

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters

It went like this: Neil Gaiman was hired to work on the localisation of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, and through that process he met artist Yoshitaka Amano.  They made plans.  Somewhere in the heavens the stars aligned, and in my world a little piece of heaven fell to earth.

The Dream Hunters is a stand-alone story within the extended Sandman universe so it doesn’t require any special knowledge of what came before; and despite what Gaiman playfully claimed, it’s an original idea not based on any pre-existing Japanese myth.  A fox and a raccoon make a bet with each other, whichever of them is able to drive a humble Buddhist Monk from his home should claim it as their own, for a home like his is much better than a draughty old hole in the ground.  The two conspirators summon up pretend demons and other forms of trickery to scare the Monk away.  The Monk’s intelligence is tested and his worth displayed as he confronts each in turn.  It would be a short book if the animals succeeded so readily so it makes sense that things go wrong.

It’s a love story of sorts between two of the three main characters.  It introduces an antagonist, a selfish and wicked onmyoji (a kind of magician), with an agenda that complicates things further.  His story is played out parallel to the Monk's, and can be seen as almost a mirror image.

It wouldn’t be a Sandman story without the Lord of All Dreaming making an appearance, and when he finally does make his entrance he remains his usual seemingly impassive self.  There are a few familiar faces along the way for the fans, none of which are named so as not to overcomplicate the simplicity of this story but if you’ve walked these paths before you’ll be able to put the names to them yourself.

As it unfolds the story takes on a life of its own.  It feels as if Gaiman is simply the chronicler, as the narrative flows like something organic.
The love story of the primary narrative is the main focus but similarly embedded in the subtext is a loving homage to the power of myth and the enduring beauty of storytelling.  That same beauty is reflected in the brush and pencil strokes of Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano.  The Japanese artist doesn’t do comic books in the traditional sense, so instead he gives us a great number of fully painted full page illustrations that sit alongside Gaiman’s prose.  His paintings are almost translucent at times, with grace and confidence in every stroke.

I’ve met people that dislike Amano's style because beneath those graceful lines he leaves sketchy guide lines and his mistakes are clear to see but I find that honesty appealing.  Some of the paintings are evocative of Gustav Klimt with wonderful use of gold and cluttered perspectives that make you work hard to find the focal point.  Basically, the illustrations will be a love it or hate thing, and may well be the deciding factor in whether or not you choose to purchase.

The story is filled with a great many Shakespearean influences (much of Gaiman's output is) but don't expect that kind of complex narrative.  The language used is simplistic, like a child's fairytale, but is chock full of emotion.  I would love to hear it read aloud, around a camp-fire in a clearing in wood, I think that would be a perfect location to compliment it.

Characterisation is mostly handled through actions and reactions, leaving the reader free to project their own thoughts onto the players, this helps the story seem more personal than it otherwise could've been.
By the end you should come to understand the reason for everyone's actions with perhaps one exception, something remains unanswered and I am unsure if we are to give it meaning or if the absence of clarification in that is the true meaning.  There is a line uttered by Morpheus that makes me feel it is the latter.  I mention it only because I know other people have found it irritating; I found it very exciting.

Gaiman managed to make Dream Hunters both accessible to new readers and pleasing to existing fans, so if you're a Sandman fan it will sit beautifully alongside your other books, conversely if you've ever been tempted but equally hesitant to delve into Sandman because of its density and length then this is a perfect opportunity to do so.  It's easily read in one sitting and for me will be read time and again.

By Dr Faustus with No comments

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 TV Series That Would Make Great Comics

From Supernatural to Dexter to the popular Whedonverse comics, more and more television series are continuing stories or telling new ones in the comic book medium. It can be a great way to carry on plot points without worrying about actors, or to do things that budgets don't allow. I'm a huge fan of serialized fiction, and I think tv and comics are often great for pretty similar reason. So, in no particular order, here are 10 TV series that I think would make pretty great comic books.

1. Veronica Mars
There are few things as perfectly suited to serialized storytelling as a good mystery, and Veronica Mars offered those in spades. From its entertaining mysteries of the week to its grander mysteries that lasted an entire season, viewers at home could try and solve puzzles along with the title character, or just enjoy watching the way the pieces were put together. While Veronica Mars didn't end on a cliffhanger, the writers were hoping for a fourth season, and enough was left open that the ending felt unsatisfying to many a fan. While series creator Rob Thomas had suggested a jump forward in time for season four, I'd most like to see the show pick up right where it left off, with so many aspects of Veronica's world in shambles It'd even be neat to take advantage of the medium and pop back in time. There are definitely some loose endings from earlier seasons I'd love to see wrapped up. Both Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell have been trying to bring Veronica Mars back for a long time, and comics seem like the perfect place to do it.

2. Community
Some fans (I am not one of them) have criticized Community for its ever increasing levels of wackiness and metahumor. In the realms of comics, they could feel free to completely leave reality behind and dive headfirst into four color insanity. I'd love to see Abed apply his pop culture knowledge to the world of comic books, and it'd be great to see how Community would riff on common comic tropes. I feel like there are countless different ways a Community comic could work, from standard stories with the characters to self-insert tales written by Troy or Pierce, to our cast being plunged into a comic book world, fully aware of what's happened to them. The way the show is set up, the potential for awesome comic book stories is limitless. Community is one of the few TV shows out there that I make a point of watching faithfully every week, and I'd love to be able to follow it every month as well.

3. Dead Like Me
Bryan Fuller is incredibly skilled when it comes to making imaginative, interesting tv shows, but doesn't have the best luck when it comes to keeping them on the air. While the gone to soon Dead Like Me was able to continue its story via a straight to DVD movie, the movie was a largely unsatisfying experience, failing to feature some of the show's best characters and never addressing most of the plot lines that were left unfinished after Fuller's departure and the show's cancellation. A comic book would allow stories to be continued with or without certain cast members, and would give writers time to wrap things up properly while telling interesting new stories in the show's strange universe. I'd love to see what kind of stuff a skilled visual storyteller might come up with when it comes to the show's elaborate death sequences, but mostly, I just want a chance to see Rube, George, Mason, Roxy and even Daisy again.

4. Venture Brothers
Venture Brothers was originally conceived as a comic book, so it makes perfect sense to have a comic book run alongside the series. Fans often have to wait a long time in between new seasons of Venture Brothers, and being able to enjoy a new story every month would be pretty incredible. While I'd certainly miss the show's wonderful voice cast, I think the action scenes could be even better in the hands of a good artist, and a monthly format would allow writers to spend time on stories there might not be time for during an ordinary season. Some of my all-time favorite Venture Brothers episodes focus on character backstories, and the thought of massive comic book arcs that do the same has me way too excited. With a clever writer and a great artist, a Venture Brothers comic could rival the animated series in terms of awesomeness.

5. Terriers
Terriers was an incredibly awesome little crime drama that, for whatever reason, absolutely no one watched. The show was fantastic and well reviewed, but even that wasn't enough to save it from its dire ratings. Every one of its 13 episodes delivered great humor, brilliant dialogue, and jawdropping plot twists, and it's a shame more people didn't get a chance to appreciate it. While I'd never suggest comics as a place for a story to find a why audience, it could give Terriers a comfortable little niche where it'd have time to continue the strong character building it was doing over its run. Terrier's tight and often subtle storytelling would work wonderfully in comic books, and it'd give a series that ended much to soon a chance to shine again. It's not the sort of show that's typically adapted into a comic, and I think that would make it all the more interesting. People might pick this up who'd never consider grabbing an adapted comic book otherwise.

6. Kamen Rider
Those of you who know me know that I am a massive fan of all things Kamen Rider, and that I'd love to see any character from the franchise appear in comic book form. For the most part, each Kamen Rider series only lasts a single season, which means there are countless stories left to be told, especially when it comes to supporting characters. This is sometimes addressed through films, but I'd love to be able to sit down with a book about Sokichi Narumi fighting as Kamen Rider Skull, or about Kamen Rider Kuuga and Kaoru Ichijo fighting a non-Gurongi enemy. Tokusatsu and superhero comics appeal to me for fairly similar reasons, and I think a lot of longtime comic readers would fall in love with Kamen Rider if they were given a chance. Even the transformation sequences would translate to comics pretty beautifully. Whether Kamen Rider in manga or in Western comics, I just want to enjoy an ongoing book about all my favorite henshin heroes.

7. Adventure Time
Folks are always clamoring for more "fun" comics, and it doesn't get much more fun than Adventure Time. Adventure Time's weird and wonderful world is perfectly suited to cartoon form, but I'd love to see how the characters might be used in the comic medium. Would Jake stretch from panel to panel? Would we get to see action that might be too intense for a kid's cartoon? Comics would allow creators to spend a lot of time on concepts that were only mentioned in passing in the initial episode. Adventure Time always seems to have more ideas than it does time, and I'd love to see elements of the show's surprisingly rich mythology expanded on. DC already publishes quite a few CN based kids comics, and adding an Adventure Time comic to the mix seems like a natural move.

8. Reaper
I only saw a little of Reaper when it was actually on the air, but I completely fell in love with the series when I did a Netflix marathon. I'm always hunting for shows that have elements of Buffy to them, and Reaper fit the bill beautifully. However, as I neared the end, it was almost painful knowing that some building story lines would never be wrapped up. The cast of the show has moved on, but a comic would allow their stories to be continued regardless, and for the creators to do things that a limited CW budget might not have allowed for. There was always a bit of a cartoony element to Reaper, and a comic would be able to take that to the next level. When it comes to adaptations, Reaper even has a bit of a head start. One of the series creators, Tara Butters, is married to comic book writer Marc Guggenheim, so the show already has connection to the comic book world. It just needs to be put to use.

9. Samurai Jack
Samurai Jack's appeared in countless issues of Cartoon Network Action Pack, but he's never had a proper ongoing of his own. I mourn the loss of any Genndy Tartakovsky helmed cartoon, but Samurai Jack being gone hurts the most, even years and years after the fact. A comic would give writers all the time they needed to tell Jack's story, and would eventually give fans a chance to see Jack make it back to his own time. If the comic could retain the show's beautiful backgrounds, smart humor, and stylized action scenes, it'd be absolute magic. It's been gone for a while now, but that doesn't mean there aren't scores of people who'd welcome the return of their favorite samurai and his spectacular rogues gallery. Whether Jack's story becomes a little darker, or Samurai Jack is an all ages title, I'd be sure to read this every month. Get on it, DC!

10. Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks came so close to becoming a comic that it hurts to think about. A story was plotted, art was drawn, and the comic was even given a release date. However, when the proposal was sent to David Lynch, he stated that he wasn't interested in continuing the story of Twin Peaks in any way. The initial creative team, who did some great work, has said that they're still interested in continuing the story if Lynch ever changes his mind, and I hope that they eventually get the chance. Maybe in time, Lynch will be more willing to see people go back to the weird and wonderful world he created, and to let the story be continued past the season two cliffhanger. There's nothing else like Twin Peaks. When I go back and watch old episodes, I'm amazed that something so strange was able to air. The show makes me laugh endlessly, and often haunts me as I'm trying to fall asleep. I hope that someday, Twin Peaks comic books are able to do the same thing.

Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

By Marceline with 3 comments

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Demon Knights #3

It's a testament to how fast paced Demon Knights has felt that this issue felt like a bit of a breather. Sure, people may have been dragged to hell, heraldic dragons may have been dodged, and the enemy may have upped the ante, but this issue still took things slowly compared to last month's dragon slicing delight. While I always enjoy a rollicking good action scene, it was nice to get a better understanding of characters like Vandal Savage and Shining Knight. I have already gotten sick of double checking how to spell Exoristos' name, but she's growing on me more and more with each issue, and I suspect she'll be a favorite of mine before long. At times, Demon Knights feels like the truest team book on the stands. Paul Cornell seems to really appreciate why people enjoy team books so much, and does a great job handling the character balancing act.

One of the things that I've loved about Demon Knights from the start is its sense of fun, and while that's still there, I felt as though there was a little more harshness to this issue. I realize that's a silly thing to say about a book that blew up a baby halfway through its #1, but it's more about how these moments felt then what they were. No one reading this issue will be forgetting that Etrigan is a demon anytime soon, and people may regard seemingly sweet moments with a lot more suspicion. I don't expect the sacrifice Madame Xanadu made to last, but that she was willing to make it all the same is a pretty impressive moment for her character. Of course, given her duplicitous nature, there could be more to her actions than what we readers have seen. I appreciate that our villains, while very evil, don't seem to be stock characters or fools set up to fail against our characters. However, that probably means that there will be plenty more loss and bloodshed before this battle is through.

I'm becoming more and more curious about how Cornell will keep this crew together once they're no longer stuck protecting this town. None of them are really the team type- I think that's kind of the point- and there definitely hasn't been anything in the way of cliched bonding moments. Right now, I can only envision them sticking together if they're dropped headfirst from one adventure to the next in a sort of neverending cycle. I can't say I'd mind reading about that, but it'll be interesting to see if the book goes in that direction or comes up with a different sort of solution. I would like to see more friendships develop between the book's cast, even if they're screwed up, twisted ones.

The detail in Diogenes Neves' work continues to blow me away with every issue. He works in so many subtle moments that make the book a more entertaining read, from the reactions in the background of one of Vandal Savage's rousing speeches to the perfectly designed Madame Xanadu doll that Mordru clutches. His facial expressions have been great from the beginning, but for me, this issue is the best they've ever been, with nearly every character showcasing a wide range of emotions. He's the perfect match for Cornell's style of writing, and I hope these two keep working together in the future. Likewise, Marcelo Maiolo and Oclair Albert do beautiful work here. It's just a great creative team all around.

Once again, I urge any and all fans of team books to pick up Demon Knights, regardless of their feelings about fantasy tales. It may not have a member of the Batfamily, but that doesn't mean it can't give Justice League a run for its money. As always, in honor of Etrigan, this review will conclude with a rhyme:

Just as things begin to look futile
Demon Knights #3 gets even more brutal
Etrigan has a chance to show his wrath
And comes off looking like a psychopath
But there are still plenty of smiles to be found 
And Vandal Savage is almost profound

By Marceline with No comments

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: Rachel Rising #1-3

I didn't develop an appreciation for Terry Moore until fairly recently. Somehow I missed out on Strangers in Paradise when everyone was raving over it, and I wasn't terribly familiar with his work outside of that and his brief run Runaways. Then, a particularly awesome person I know was kind enough to send me Echo, and it didn't take me long to see just what made Terry Moore so great. It only took a few pages before I was completely sucked into the comic, and every issue seemed to introduce new twists or ideas that I found compelling. There something about the way Moore drew people that appealed to me hugely. I don't know how to explain it other than to say they had a realness to them. There was something about them that made them feel like more than characters. It was a really neat quality that only increased my absorption in the story and made me anxious to check out whatever had coming next.

It so happens that that was Rachel Rising, a story about a girl who wakes up in a shallow grave with no idea how she got there. Moore takes a slow burn approach here- the first nine pages are virtually wordless- but it's  never dull, and it never feels as though a page has been wasted. Instead, the silent opening is an incredible powerful hook. Any reader is going to come away with countless questions- who is the mysterious women watching what's happening? How did she know what was going to happen? Is she what brought Rachel back? When you do get to the first bit of dialogue, it feels like a shock to the system. You're pulled straight from a nightmarish world into reality, but you can't help but feel like you never really woke up.

What really makes this work is how real the world Rachel Rising is set in feels. There are no stock characters, not even when it comes to minor characters with one or two lines. I feel like Terry Moore's fully developed personalities for everyone we've seen, even if they're destined never to appear again. The presumable villain in all this has never been given a name and has only spoken a few lines, but she's still been established as a powerful threat, and she's managed to creep me out on more than a few occasions. More important than anything else, I feel for Rachel in all this. It's easy to empathize with how terrifying all this must be for her, and how she must want answers but want things to go back to normal at the same time. I've actually flinched a little at lines spoken to her because of how much I could already relate to her. The characters keep Moore's work grounded in reality, and no matter how strange Rachel Rising gets in future issues, I feel like the comic's world will still read as authentic.

I love bright, colorful pages in comics, and black and white art can be a hard sell for me. I do think the pages would benefit from the occasional pop of color- especially when it comes to Rachel's eyes- but for the most part, Moore's art is so good that I can't imagine it being any better colored. He's a great visual storyteller, and while this isn't an action oriented comic, his panel to panel motion is excellent. As I said before, his characters genuinely look real, even though he doesn't draw in a hyper realistic style. His facial expressions and body language are really powerful, and his characters don't all look as they were drawn from the same mold. There are some nice little details in his backgrounds, and he does a great job at making things look creepy without going over the top. I'm not sure if the comic will stick to its current level of eeriness or move into downright ghastly territory, but I'd love to see something truly gruesome rendered in Moore's style.

The only thing that would make me hesitate to recommend Rachel Rising right at this moment is the wait between issues. Every issue of the comic so far has ended on a cliffhanger, and it can be intense waiting a month or two to see what happens next. Moore's serialized storytelling skills are excellent, but I have a feeling some readers may grow frustrated waiting to get next issue's answers. While I definitely feel like every issue has given me my money's worth, for some, this may be a comic that reads better in trades. To the best of my knowledge, a Rachel Rising trade has yet to be announced, but I'll be sure to announce it here when that changes.

Rachel Rising is an eerie, compelling comic that's interesting not just because of its mysteries, but also because of its well crafted characters. There are elements in it that are fairly terrifying, but I wouldn't classify it as a horror comic. It's just a really interesting story, and I'm happy to follow it wherever it goes. I'd recommend this to fans of Terry Moore, fans of well written female characters, and fans of character driven work in general. Moore is a great talent, and Rachel Rising is him at the top of his game. Whether you jump into it now or follow this one in the trades, you won't be disappointed.

By Marceline with No comments

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