Hellboy: The Midnight Circus ~ Mike Mignola

  • Title: Hellboy:  The Midnight Circus
  • Author: Mike Mignola
  • Artists:  Duncan Fegredo & Dave Stewart
  • Series:  Hellboy
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Format: Digital
  • Source: Review Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Young Hellboy runs away from the B.P.R.D. only to stumble upon a weird and fantastical circus and the few demons from Hell who inhabit it. An original graphic novel in hardcover!

Review:  Still a comic newbie, this was my first exposure to Hellboy outside of the cinema. The story follows the plight of a young Hellboy who wanders away from the protection of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.

The confused and lonely young Hellboy portrayed in this story was absolutely endearing. The tale did a good job of presenting the quandary of dealing with the potential expectation for evil from both sides. Yet, all the young Hellboy wants is love and acceptance, to be embraced as a real boy, just like Pinocchio.

The artwork is dark, of course, as is fitting to the darkness of the Hellboy story. Yet, the artists did a great job of capturing the wonder and innocence of the young Hellboy. The images carry as much of the story as the writing.

My absolute favorite cell in this book is the final image of the Professor cradling the tired and repentant Hellboy child in his arms after they find the lost boy. It depicts the affection between the Professor and Hellboy, and effectively captures the essence of the story.

I think Hellboy has captured my heart, as he did the Professor’s.


Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron ~ Brain Azzarello

  • Title: Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron
  • Author: Brian Azzarello
  • Artists:  Cliff Chiang, Tony Atkins, Dan Green, Amilcar Pinna
  • Series: Wonder Woman Vol. IV #3
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Format: Digital
  • Source: Review Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  In these stories from issues #0 and #13-18, a terrible betrayal forces Wonder Woman to make a deal with the gods who want her dead, and her “family” grows larger than she could have imagined. Will the mysterious Orion help Wonder Woman rescue Zola’s baby from the clutches of Hermes, or does he have darker intentions?

Review:  When I was but a young girl, I absolutely loved the Wonder Woman television series. I wanted to be Diana, Amazon Princess, a.k.a Wonder Woman. At the very least, I wanted my parents to change my name to Diana. Of course, they refused and as a result people fail to recognize my greatness, but that is a story for another day.

Fast forward to present day dorkorific DarthVal (ok, I added the Darth, but you must admit that it has a certain ring to it). In the past few months I have discovered that I enjoy graphic novels, further solidifying my place in dorkdom.

I was disappointed in my first female super hero experience (World’s Finest featuring Huntress and Powergirl), so I approached Wonder Woman with trepidation. After all, I did not want to tarnish those childhood memories. Plus, as an adult, I was not sure how I would feel about the portrayal of a super-hot chick running about fighting bad guys in her Underoos. I received an ARC for Wonder Woman Vol. 3, took a breath, and decided to just jump in and see what happened.

It is official. I STILL want to be Diana, last Princess of the Amazons. Wonder Woman is kick ass enough to flaunt what she’s got and still chastise anyone who dares to objectify her. She is sexy and intelligent, fierce yet fair and her compassion offsets her strength. Kudos to author, Brian Azzarello, for creating such rich characters. Beyond his vibrant heroine, the other characters were wonderfully crafted. In particular, I loved Orion. He was such a jerk, but at times, quite the charming jerk. I also found Hera to be a delightfully shallow she-bitch.

The story itself is told well. I particularly like how the graphic novel started with its back story introduction of young Diana, complete with retro looking artwork. As for the current thread, who knew Wonder Woman had such a messed up family??? (Probably everyone who is not newbie like me.) Jerry Springer’s guests have nothing on this bunch.

Finally, the artwork was FANTASTIC! Both the modern story and the flash back introduction were striking, providing the perfect visual experience to compliment a wonderfully written narrative.

So, I am now seated on the bus, on my way to take up my place in camp Wonder Woman. I just need to make a couple stops along the way pick up volumes one and two.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the Net Galley program.


Arrow Vol. 1 ~ Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg

  • Title: Arrow, Vol. 1
  • Author: Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
  • Artists:  Mike Grell
  • Series: Arrow Vol. #1
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Format: Digital
  • Source: Review Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  Spinning off directly from the hit CW television series ARROW comes the Emerald Archerer in these digital-first adventures! Show creators Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim team with some of the industry’s best artists, including Mike Grell (GREEN ARROW: THE LONGBOW HUNTERS), Phil Hester (GREEN ARROW: QUIVER) and others to fill in the gaps between episodes of one of TV’s hottest new series.

Collects Arrow #1-6 and #1 Special edition.

Review:  This was my first foray into the world of Arrow. I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe a modern day spin on Robin Hood mythology? I can see some of that – the main character used his mad archery skills to take down rich and greedy bad guys. However, where Robin is dashing, Arrow is brooding. Very brooding.

The plot follows Oliver, heir to an empire, who appears to be trying to fix his father’s legacy by fighting the corrupt and powerful. The storyline is not bad, just a bit disjointed. There are a lot of flashbacks to fill in the back story, which is to be expected within a comic narrative. However, combined with random encounters, the story just does not have a clear flow to it.

The artwork itself is really dark. I love dark. In this case, however, the darkness makes it difficult to differentiate some of the characters. There is one frame that I found particularly appealing, when Arrow kills the police chief with a medallion. The cover is super-hot, so bonus artwork points for that.

Right now, I am still experimenting to figure out which graphic novels I like best. This one wasn’t bad, but it just doesn’t compare to the story lines in Batman and Superman Unchained. Perhaps I would enjoy it more if I followed the television series.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the Net Galley program.

World’s Finest #1, Huntress and Power Girl ~ Paul Levitz, George Perez

  • Title: World’s Finest #1, Huntress & Power Girl
  • Author: Paul Levitz
  • Illustrator:  George Perez
  • Series: World’s Finest #1
  • Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Good Reads First Read
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  • New ongoing series featuring POWER GIRL and HUNTRESS of Earth 2!• PAUL LEVITZ teams with amazing artists GEORGE PEREZ and KEVIN MAGUIRE.• Discover why these two heroes are stranded on our Earth – and what it means for the heroes of the DC Universe.

Review:  Basically you have two sexy women (whose hair miraculously seems to fall back into place perfectly despite any major battles) with super powers that run around in skin-tight outfits getting their butts kicked a lot. They come from an alternate Earth and whine a lot about wanting to go home. Meanwhile, they use their powers to attain a lot of money (hello ethics) and sleep around, when they are not battling and getting their butts kicked.

Despite the fact that I was clearly not a fan of the story, I did feel that the artwork was well-done. I just wish it had had more substance to support it.

Based on this book, I won’t be continuing with the World’s Finest series. But hey, I can see where it might appeal to tween boys, so maybe there is a market for it, after all.

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 ~ Gail Carriger

  • Title:  Soulless: The Mnnga, Vol. 1
  • Author:  Gail Carriger
  • Series:  The Parasol Protectorate Manga #1
  • Genre:  Graphic Novel, Manga, Fantasy
  • Format:  Paperback
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating:  5 out of 5

Description:  The life of a spinster in Victorian London isn’t an easy one on the best of days, but such a life becomes infinitely more complicated when said spinster is “soulless” – a preternatural bridging the gap between the natural and supernatural worlds. Miss Alexia Tarabotti has this unique distinction, and when she is assailed at a formal gathering by a rove vampire, an encounter that results in the death of the half-starved creature, her circumstances become exponentially more complicated indeed! Now caught up in an intrigue with life or death stakes, Alexia must rely on all her talents to outmatch the forces conspiring against her, but it may be the man who has caught her eye – Lord Conall Maccon – and their budding flirtation that truly drives her to her wit’s end!

Review:  Let me begin by admitting that I am not quite sure that I fully understand what distinguishes something as manga or not. Therefore, I cannot speak to how mangarific this graphic novel may or may not be. What I can offer is this reader’s testimony of sincere pleasure in the manga version Soulless.

I am a huge fan of the Parasol Protectorate series from Gail Carriger. This adaption of the first book, Soulless did not disappoint. It is a great light version of the original story, yet REM did a great job of capturing the adventure and sentiment of the book. The manga-style artwork even further captured the whimsical tone that permeates the Parasol Protectorate series. Facial expressions were really well-done, capturing the essence of the characters in each scene. I particularly enjoyed the frames that depicted both Alexia and Conall when they were especially aggravated. The cover art was visually striking, though not quite as appealing as the novel’s cover.

Obviously, this manga series will appeal to Parasol Protectorate fans. However, I do think that story is solid enough to stand on its own merit. Perhaps some manga fans will discover the PP series because of the graphic novels?

My favorite thing about this adaptation is that it provides a quick way for me to revisit some of my favorite characters without having to invest the time in re-reading the entire book. I am eagerly awaiting the manga adaptations of the rest of the series.

Spike: A Dark Place (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9) ~ Victor Gischler

  • Title: Spike: A Dark Place (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9)
  • Author: Victor Gischler
  • Artists:  Paul Lee
  • Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9: Spike
  • Genre: Graphic Novel, UF, Fantasy, Horror
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  Fresh from his latest attempt to get Buffy to act on her feelings for him, Spike has fled to the dark side of the moon. His trip leads him to a group of dangerous demons and a rude awakening from his reverie, which in turn leads him on an unexpected adventure to . . . Sunnydale! Collecting Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike—A Dark Place #1–#5.

Review:  I just jumped right into the on-going Spike graphic novels series with this one. Spike has always been one of my favorite characters in the Buffyverse. I have to say, jumping in mid-stream may not have worked in my favor on this one. I was kind of confused at the whole space ship and the bug-like creatures that seemed to worship Spike. I decided to just roll with it and take it for what it was.

The story arc itself was typical Buffyverse and worked well with Spike’s particular charms. All he wants is a quiet place to mourn his unrequited love of Buffy, when some big bads come along and try to force him to help them find a shard of the seed. This launches him on quite an adventure based on trying to use a shard to rekindle some lost magic. The fight scenes are excellent. The scene where he douses a cigarette on the toad-like creatures tongue and then batters him with a broken wine-bottle captures Spike’s bar room brawl fighting style.

Speaking of Spike’s charm, they did a bloody good job of capturing it. Throughout the story, he was all condescension and sarcasm, seeming to talk down to his bug-like minions. He is surly and truculent, yet, he still has that soft & vulnerable center that makes him so loveable. You can see this in the scene where he won’t allow himself to bask in the artificial sun and how he tries to let the succubus down. Sigh, I do so love me some Spike.

As with any Joss Whedon project, the snark is ripe & juicy in this one. Some of my favorite lines include:

  • I hear only the cacophonous clamor of my own failure.” ~ Sebastian
  • “So you like it rough, eh Kermit?” ~ Spike
  • “Well, if it isn’t Flowers in the Attic.” ~ Spike
  • “Have to give back the decoder ring, I s’pose.” ~ Spike

The artwork is good, if not as spectacular as the imagery of the primary Buffy series. As typically, the cover and splash pages are the most notable images. The best of these is the splash page of Spike all battered and bloody about to nurse his black eye with a bottle of whiskey. It is such a great depiction of Spike’s tough & resilient character.

Some of my favorite panels include:

  • The cold determination in Spike’s expression as he puts his cigarette out on the toad creature’s tongue
  • The panel that depicts sudden pause and Spike’s dawning realization that Sebastian may just be right about the existence of a shard of the seed remaining.
  • The panel that sees Spike go all vampy and launch himself at the succubus after learning that she does intend to open the hell mouth is a great action image
  • The visual of Spike and succubus dodging the blows of the animated Easter Island statues chasing them down with their glowy eyes is my favorite, but I really like most of the Easter Island images.

This was a jolly fun read. I now appears I have some catching up to do.

*DISCLAIMER: This book was provided to me at no cost by the publisher as an advanced review copy through Net Galley.*