Friday, January 23, 2015

(Low Moon)



Low Moon is a book of five short stories by a Norwegian man named Jason. Each of them are very different from each other. I won't reveal the plot of every story, but I will delve into the plot of my favorite story in the book.

The story I like the most is about a husband and a wife who get into a fight. The wife storms into the kitchen where she finds an alien. She faints from shock and the alien takes her to his ship and flies away. The husband begins to build a rocket the next day.  His son soon starts to realize that his mother is not coming back. The next few pages follow the son as he goes to school, hits puberty, has his first girlfriend, goes to college, gets married, has kids and gets divorced. Finally the father calls the son to tell him that rocket is finished. The father and son get into the rocket and fly into space. I'm not going to spoil the ending for you, but trust me, it's very ironic. I know I'm not doing the story justice, but trust me, its really good.



The stories are 90% silent. When you're reading the book, it feels like you're watching a silent movie. There's a little bit of text here and there, but only when it's absolutely necessary. Speaking of silent films, someone on YouTube made a silent film of one of Jason's stories.

The work of Jason is very genre oriented. A lot of the time, he writes noir stories, but he has also done western, prehistoric and sci-fi. He once  said, in an interview, "Genres are sort of open frames that you can fill with whatever you want to talk about". Brilliant.
 
The art in this book is quite different then anything I've seen before. Most of the characters are depicted as humans with dog heads. They have blank eyes and extremely deadpan expressions. If I had been told of this choice of depiction before picking up the book, I would have assumed that I wouldn't like it. As a stage actor, I've been taught to be very expressive, but this really utilizes the theory that less is more. I know it isn't always the case, but this time, it is.

Low Moon is not for children in any way, shape, or form. The first depicts a little bit of that old sex-for-murder, and the fourth story also has some of the old in-and-out, if you know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge, whistle. If you think you can handle it, find Low Moon by Jason and buy it or borrow it.  I would give Low Moon 10 father-son trips to space out of 10.

P.S. Jason doesn't use a last name. It's not a typo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dungeon


Today I'm going to be reviewing one of my favorite series ever, Dungeon by JoannSfar and LewisTrondheim. This dungeon is not actually a prison as one might think. Its more like a big obstacle course which adventurers flock to with dreams of wealth and glory. There are piles and piles of treasure which entice the poor fools to try to brave the dangers that lie within the dungeon walls. They come to steal some of the treasure, but instead get massacred by the monsters of the dungeon. Their weapons and jewelry are added to the treasury.

The dungeon is run by the Dungeon Keeper, a short white bird with a top hat and a pipe that releases smoke in a skull shape, reflecting his mood. He started the dungeon when he was young. His most trusted employes include Marvin, a man sized, very religious dragon who serves as the Dungeon Keepers body guard, Herbert, a light hearted duck who has a long descent into evil, and Alcibiades and Horus, the two alchemists of the dungeon.

Over the course of over a dozen books, the dungeon becomes a major political power, and therefore gains all the problems brought by its position. Its attacked constantly and the system becomes more and more corrupt. They create their own secret police, participate in underhanded dealings, and accept bribes from neighbors who fear invasion.

 Dungeon is set during three major time periods in the dungeons universe. The Early Years follows its rise, Zenith takes place during the height of the dungeon's power, and Twilight is the story of the dungeons downfall into madness. Each one of these time periods has several books devoted to them. Even if you only get the books in one time period, you will have a very full experience. Each is like its own little series.

The art in this book is unforgettable. It looks very French, which makes sense considering that Joann Sfar is French (Joann Sfar is not the only illustrator, other artists draw short stories for the bonus books). There are a lot of very broad, flat colors in Dungeon. One of my favorite characters, Marvin the Red, a skinny little rabbit who thinks hes a brave warrior, who was exiled from his rabbit town because he was born with red fur, is a shade of red that never changes. All of the characters are designed to pop off the page. The world of dungeon look goofily cartoony, but It makes sense considering that all of the characters are anthropomorphized animals, monsters and magical creatures.
 
You will never find anything even remotely similar to Dungeon. It is its own thing which makes it all the more amazing. I warn you younger readers, there are some quite bloody and sexual scenes. The violence is never scary. Characters get their heads lopped off all the time, but its humorous because these awful acts are being carried out by these almost cute little animals. While detailed, the art isnt very realistic which makes the gore completely un-terrifying. With the holidays almost here, I think the complete set of  Dungeon is a perfect gift for anyone 14 to 65. I'm sure you'll all get hooked. I find myself rereading these books at least once every two months. I would give Dungeon 10 vicious red rabbits 10.    

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dead West



Today I am reviewing Dead West by Rick Spears. The story starts two years after an Indian tribe is wiped out by American settlers who want to build a town. The settlers massacred almost all of the women and children while the men were out hunting. When the men returned, they attempted to protect their families, but they were all killed as well.Years later, when the town had been built, the sole Native American survivor of the massacre comes back to the town and practices a ritual that turns all of the town's dead into zombies. The rest of the book follows the settlers’ attempt to survive the zombies. There is also a storyline concerning the Native American and his zombified father. Apparently his pappy doesn't approve of turning the town into a zombie infested hell hole, even though he himself is a zombie.


One scene I really like is when the calvary comes and starts fighting the zombies. What can I say? I'm a man who loves action. There’s not much artistic vision to this scene. It basically just looks really cool. I really love when the first of the soldiers becomes a zombie after being killed. He gets up and looks one of his comrades in the eye, then starts digging in. I think  a big reason I like this scene is because the other soldiers have no idea why this is happening. They don't understand why their fallen comrades are getting up and attacking them. I warn you though, this scene is pretty violent and bloody.


The art in this book is very creepy. The zombies look very flaky and dry. The people have lots of sharp angles and they all have off-putting grim expressions. Their faces really add to the dark, scary aura that this book generates. As with the scene above, there is a lot of blood throughout and it's quite realistic and violent.



I would strongly suggest reading it yourself before you give it to a child or someone with a weak stomach. Apart from the gruesome violence, Dead West is a very entertaining read. The characters are captivating, the storyline is engaging, and the art is beautiful. If you see a copy in a library or bookstore, get it. It’ll keep you entertained for an hour or two. I would give Dead West 7 zombified gunfights at the Ok Corral out of 10.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anya's Ghost

Today I will be reviewing Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. It's the story of a Russian-American girl who falls down an abandoned well. In that well, she finds a ghost of a girl who fell down the well in 1918. The rest of the story follows what happens when that ghost comes to live with her.
 
I really like this book because all of the characters are very realistic. Anyas mom is friendly but not overly friendly. The six-year-old brother isn't a stereotype of the annoying brother. I really love how the jocks and cheerleaders aren't the stereotypical bullies they're portrayed to be in other stories.

One scene I love is when Anya first meets the ghost. She wasn't afraid, but the ghost was so friendly that I don't think I would have been either. I really love how Anya treats the ghost the same way she treats her little brother.    When the ghost tried to touch some of her food, Anya snatched it away and glared at her.

 Anyas view of the ghost changes a lot throughout the course of the book. At first, she's distrustful of the ghost. She keeps her distance and constantly snaps at her, but when she sees the possible gain she could have from being friends with the ghost, she starts warming up to her.

I absolutely love the art in this book. It's thick like it was painted or drawn with a marker. It looks somewhat like the art style in Scott Pilgrim. The ghost is one of the best looking things in the book. She has hair that looks like a dandelion and big blank eyes. I also like the way the little brother looks. He has a big grin and huge shiny eyes, which is perfect for someone of his clueless character. He looks like a puppy dog trying to figure out what his master wants him to do.


I think that Anya's Ghost  is appropriate for all ages. There is no violence or inappropriate scenes. The art is beautiful, the characters are interesting, and the story is intriguing. Halloween is coming up, and this is a ghost story different from any you've heard of before. MUAhAHAhaHaHA! I would give Anya's Ghost 8 spoooooky ghosts out of ten.     

Thursday, September 4, 2014

BUDDHA

I'm sure you've all heard of the extremely famous Astro Boy series by Osamu Tezuka. Well believe it or not, he also made an eight volume biography of the life of Buddha

At first I thought it would be boring. I already knew the stories, how he was a Hindu prince and he sat in front of a cobra without being bitten. It was old news. But these books turned out to be a lot more interesting and entertaining than I ever could have imagined. I'm sure that some parts and characters are fictional, but that doesn't make them any less great. I love the evolution of the characters, specifically Buddha. I love how he doesn't just go from being an inexperienced teenager to being the all knowing and enlightened founder of Buddhism overnight. It takes him four entire volumes to become enlightened and three more to become the droopy eared icon we all know today.   

A scene I really like is in Book Three when Buddha/Siddhartha,who has just become a Hindu monk, meets a well trained young monk named Dhepa who has an obsession with undergoing ordeals. (Hindu monks would cause intense pain to their bodies for long sessions because they believed that lives greatest secrets are discovered while suffering. These sessions would be called ordeals). One of the first ordeals that Dhepa underwent with Buddha was walking through a field of thorns. Dhepa is able to walk through the thorns like they are nothing, but Buddha buckles over in pain after each step. This foreshadows Buddha making sure that the religion that bears his name has nothing to do with extreme physical ordeals, and I'm a big fan of foreshadowing.   

The art in Buddha is very beautiful. It looks like a less cartoony version of the style Tezuka uses in Astro Boy. Buddha’s appearance is always changing as he ages from child to young man to middle aged man to old man. Other characters evolve visually too, like his first disciple, Tata or Naradatta, a monk who was condemned to roam the world as a beast. I love the way the animals are drawn, specifically elephants. There are a ton of elephants featured throughout the story, and each one looks different.


The eight book Buddha series is not appropriate for all ages. There is quite a bit of nudity and heavy violence. There are no sex scenes, but I think that if you are a parent you should read it over to determine whether or not you want your children reading it. I was hooked on Buddha from the first chapter on. It is definitely my favorite series I've read all year. I would give Buddha 10 Brahmins out of 10.          

If you are interested, there was a movie adapted from the series. You can watch it free at this link.