Monday, January 18, 2010
Bunch o' reviews here!
Lola: A Ghost Story
Written by J. Torres
Art by Elbert Or
Published by Oni Press
Review by George Marston and Lan Pitts
Lola: A Ghost Story is a simple story that shoots for a high emotional response, and though it often falls short of that goal, it is expressive and subtle in an easily relatable way. Its opening pages promise a story frought with the bittersweet trials of growing old enough to understand the true nature of death, and the honesty of life. The art immediately invokes a dreamlike quality that, coupled with the cathartic nature of the story, is reminiscent of the work of Hayao Miyazaki. Unfortunately, the book rarely reaches the heights set by its first impression again. The story concept often feels like more than the sum of its parts. While accessible, it is curtailed by moments that seem designed to widen its scope, but more often detract from the central narrative.
The story focuses on a young Filipino boy named Jesse. He and his family travel from Canada to their ancestral home in the Philipines to mourn the passing of his "Lola," which is the Tagalog word for grandmother. Of interesting note is that author J. Torres is, himself, a Filipino born Canadian. Upon returning to the Philipines, Jesse finds that he is closer to his Lola than he ever knew, and through a series of twists that some may spot immediately, becomes embroiled in a ghost story of the most classic form. Throughout the story, we are treated to bits of Filipino culture, and blurbs explaining and translating the numerous Tagalog words and expressions used by Jesse and his family. Often, these bits bring us closer to the family and their heritage, but many times the scenes incorporating Filipino folklore simply feel as though they are included only to showcase the unique mythology of the Philipines, and not to serve the central narrative. One would not think that space would be at a premium for a simple story in a 98 page graphic novel, but many scenes feel as though they could easily be excised to provide more room for the sweeping emotional backdrop that lies at stake.
The art incorporates the best elements of the cartoon form, using the simplest lines to convey the basest emotions and characterization. It falls flat only when it ignores the scope of the story, and the surreal texture of the of the spiritual backdrop. Often times the sepia tones that serve as the only depth to the black and white form feel too ordinary. A full color treatment may have proved more suitable for matching the tone of the story, or, failing that, more full panels that strayed farther from the mundane. The stark ending, while a bit baffling, promises more to come in Jesse's story, and perhaps the further adventures of our main character will provide a glimpse at some of the vast world promised by this inaugural chapter.
All in all, Lola: A Ghost Story is a worthwhile read, and easily accessible to anyone who chooses to crack the cover. As a coming of age tale, it is relatable for anyone who grew up to realize that the life ahead of them was both more and less fantastic than they were lead to believe, and serves as a fine precursor to anyone for whom that revelation may yet be years in the making. Lola: A Ghost Story often struggles to make the most of its ambitions, but then, isn't that what the story is truly about?
The Unwritten #8
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
Colors by Chris Chuckry
Letters by Todd Klein
Cover by Yuko Shimizu
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
"Tommy Taylor belongs in a children's story. It's hard for him to get his bearings in a three-act tragedy." -- the Inside Man
I have reviewed this book for quite some time now, and one would think I would have adjusted myself by to Mike Carey and Peter Gross' compelling style of storytelling, but I was somehow proven wrong and once again, as I turned to the last page I found myself saying "oh, crap". Though not the way you would after finding a parking ticket on your car, but more of the "oh my God, this is great. Please, sir, can I have some more?" sort of way.
I found myself a little agitated last issue when Tom's story wasn't continued and sidetracked for the subplot dealing with the Governor's children, but I understand now that story had to be told for the sake of the tragic events in this issue. With mercenaries on the loose and gunning for Tom and company, a Warden who wants them dead, and a pair of Governor's children trying to save the "real" Tommy Taylor, you have a tension-filled issue that has its moments of fun and excitement, but ultimately turns to horror.
I found it weird I felt loss after what transpires at the end of the issue, especially knowing these characters for such a small amount of time, but as I mentioned, I was caught off guard. That is the magic of Mike Carey. On the art side of things, Peter Gross truly captures the chaos of the situation quite well within the 22 pages provided without cluttering up pages and in turn making them an eye sore.
You may remember I gave this book my "Gold Medal" for 2009, and it really is a gem of a book. The trade of the first five issues is currently out now, so I encourage you to pick that up, get yourself caught up, and see what you've been missing out on.
Catwoman #83 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): It's been a little over a year since we've seen Ms. Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in her own solo series. Tony Bedard takes a crack at her whip with this issue, but I'm a bit confused on some elements going on here. It felt more like a "Gotham City Sirens" issue rather than Catwoman, but Bedard excels at all the femme fatals characterization. For the follows of the book where #82 had left off, or for readers who had no idea what had happened, there is a quick summary of the past events and gets that out of the way for the rest of the story. I love the art style of the book, but why was there a need for a slew of them? I didn't notice any difference between who was who. Just seemed a bit weird to me. The ending was a bit of a twist, and hopefully they continue this on "Sirens", which I'm sure they will. Top notch all around.
The Anchor #4 (Published by Boom! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): Damn, this book is just plain cool. I could just stop right there, but what sort of review would that be? This issue ends the current arc, but seamlessly sets up the next one to come. I'm liking Brian Churilla's style, but this issue seemed sort of weaker in comparison to the previous installments. Phil Hester's knowledge on the supernatural really comes out and some of the imagery is horrific, but creative and unlike anything on the market right now. I know you may think the $3.99 is a bit weird for an indy title, but you get a solid story from beginning to end and it's ad free. It really doesn't get any better than that. Also, the Volume 1 trade is available which might come in handy when you want to catch up since these issues are selling out. And fast.