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Comic Book Quick Cuts: Trades and Graphic Novels

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weirdingwillowsTHE WEIRDING WILLOWS VOLUME 1 (TITAN): The literary-mashup-thing has been done many times, most often with rights-free adventure stories of the 19th century, so you can’t blame me for being wary about Dave Elliott’s WEIRDING WILLOWS, which puts Alice, Peter Rabbit, Dr. Moreau, Mowgli, Frankenstein’s monster, and a slew of other classic characters into a nebulous fantasy setting. Although the backgrounds of the characters are woven together with an impressive sense of imagination, I kept saying in the back of my head, “AGAIN?” Then there were dinosaurs. Okay, I’ll keep reading. Then there were the main characters from my most beloved novel as a child, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. You’re catching me, here. And THEN… a werewolf. Sold. Done. I’m in. I never claimed not to be a sucker for certain things, and dinosaurs make everything better. 7/10


AfterlifeWithArchie_BookOne_001-600x941AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE VOLUME 1 (ARCHIE): Make no mistake: I am not an Archie fan. Never have been. Not even when I was a kid. (I think even then my reactions were always “Why is this supposed to be funny?”) So you can understand my skepticism when it came to this zombified version. I resisted until now. Except… somehow, it’s amazing. Somehow, the seriousness and violence allows the book to step back and subtly make fun of what typical Archie stands for. It also allows the characters to deal with real teen issues, like sexuality and jealousy and judgement, in a very non-Archie way. Best of all, it’s not even trying to be funny—just sad and horrifying. And it succeeds on a very troubling level, particularly if you like dogs (sniffle). You really won’t be able to put this one down. 9/10


Interesting-Drug-Cover-17c18INTERESTING DRUG (ARCHAIA): A new take on time travel! Well, sort of. Shaun Manning’s story starts off with the promise of an original angle before eventually devolving into a good guy vs. bad guy, gotta-change-the-time-stream, alternate-reality-creating tale of jibberish that never explains its science well enough to make the concept of time-travel-as-drug-addiction worth it. The last chapter just had me going “Huh? Wha?” over and over as I waited for protagonist Andrew to throw the smackdown on the sniveling, evil, Morrissey-esque Tristram—which of course happened, along with an acceptance of the past and blah blah blah. Anna Wieszczyk’s artwork is different, but not fascinating enough to elevate this graphic novel far beyond “ho hum” status. Oh well. 6/10


attackontitannoregretsATTACK ON TITAN: NO REGRETS VOLUME 1 (KODANSHA): Seeing as how I was completely underwhelmed by ATTACK ON TITAN: BEFORE THE FALL, I had my reservations about picking up another prequel spinoff. But my complete addiction to all things Shingeki no Kyojin, paired with the fact that NO REGRETS focuses on my favorite character, Levi, led me to grab this one, and it is a far superior exercise in tie-in storytelling. Gun Snark (how’s that for a pen name?) manages to maintain characterizations that make the original TITAN so compelling and even add new and dynamic characters that fit right alongside the existing ones. Of course, this is only the first volume, and I have a feeling that those new characters—given that this is a prequel—are doomed Titan fodder. But for now, they fully compliment Levi and the younger Survey Corps. The art, by Hikaru Suruga, is dynamic and faithful to the material, although NO REGRETS is further proof that nobody can render Titans as creepily as Hajime Isayama. 8/10


deadboydetectivesDEAD BOY DETECTIVES VOLUME 1 (VERTIGO): I’ve been reading this one in single issues and loving it. To my pleasant surprise, this collection even includes the one-off short stories featured in the previous Vertigo anthologies GHOSTS, WITCHING HOUR, and TIME WARP. Be advised that DEAD BOY DETECTIVES, originally a SANDMAN spinoff and now brought to life by Brits Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham, is a very, very British book about two dead British schoolboys that doesn’t always explain its every panel reference—or even its every design choice, as when Crystal Palace’s internet RPG-ing gives rise to an entiretly different color palate and IM-style text bubbles. But that makes rereads all the more potent and the third-wheel-esque love triangle that develops even more emotionally frustrating because each awkward moment is wedded so dearly to its own design. Totally delightful. 9/10


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