Wednesday, December 17, 2014


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


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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dogs of War

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan is one of the best graphic novels I've read all month. It has three stories about three different dogs fighting in three different wars. Each chapter is about a different dog. The first chapter is about Boots, a medic dog in World War 1, who would find the location of wounded soldiers in No Mans Land, then run back to tell the medic. The second chapter is about Loki, who was a rescue sled dog in World War 2, who would find lost soldiers or downed pilots in Greenland. The third chapter is about Sheba, who was a scout dog, sniffing out enemy soldiers in Vietnam.

I really like how the book gets me to sympathize with each character in such
a short amount of time. I thought that each dog would be really forgettable because not enough time would be dedicated to them, but I ended up loving each of them a whole lot. To be fair, Sheba was a little forgettable, but that's only because the chapter was more about her master than her.

The art in this book really added to my enjoyment. The drawings are very colorful and each chapter has a certain glow to it. Chapter one is dark violet, chapter two is light blue, and chapter three is dark green. Intentional or not, this little feature gives the book a lot of personality. I have a feeling that I would not have enjoyed it as much without these beautiful drawings.

I'm not sure if Dogs of War is appropriate for all ages. I'll leave that up to you. There are some fairly violent scenes and images in it. If you're reading it in a public place, I would suggest you shield the cover with your hand, because there is a Nazi with a big fat swastika on his arm on the cover. It's just a suggestion. I would give Dogs of War 9 military dogs out of ten.  

P.S. The dogs in the stories did not actually exist, but they were based on real military dogs.

P.P.S. If you want to know more about war dogs, heres a link to a very interesting site about animals in WW1

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lost Cause

I started reading Lost Cause by Jack Jackson a long time ago and refused to review it because a character named Hays, who I thought was meant to be one of the good guys did something really racist. It rubbed me the wrong way. I recently gave it another try and realized that the character was one of many villains in the book. I decided that since it's history and non-fiction, it deserved a chance.

The story follows the terrible, bloody feud between the Taylor and Suttons. The famed Texan gunslinger, John Wesley Hardin, plays a crucial role. He lived 42 years and killed about 40 people.

Just to be clear, I love Westerns, but lots of things in this one are way too complicated and confusing. I can never tell who are supposed to be heroes and who are supposed to be villains. Sometimes the Taylors are the good guys and sometimes their enemies are the good guys. I know that this is the story of real people, but I can never tell why I'm supposed to sympathize with them. A lot of the time the things they do seem completely unredeemable.

To be fair, there are some good parts in the book. I do like the beginning when the Civil War is happening, I also like the time during the presidential election of 1868. They add an extra layer of conflict to the mix. The parts I don't like are the millions scenes where people are caught illegally branding cows, then get hung. These scenes could have been represented in one page instead of constantly throughout the book.

The art is very detailed and in depth. I really like how the animals  are drawn. They look extremely realistic. One strange thing I noticed was that all the characters have such expressive faces except for the most important characters. People like John Choate, a middle aged rancher who joins up with the Taylors for a few pages, have faces filled with emotion, whereas Wes Harden has one expression, which is blank.

Lost Cause is definitely not appropriate for all ages. There are some very bloody scenes and a lot of people die fairly terribly. One guy who tries to steal Wes's horse is shot in the chest and left to bleed out. It deals with dark subjects like family feuds and racism. It also uses a very strong word that begins with n.  If books had ratings, it would be rated R. I would give Lost Cause 3 Mexican standoffs out of 5.