Category Archives: Graphic Novels

Fiction or non-fiction stories depicted in part or whole by graphics. Includes comic books, graphic novels, compendiums and collections of art and works of art.

Attack on Titan 1

Attack on Titan is an incredibly odd story, even for a manga or anime, which is where I first was introduced to this world. Humanity live in huge walled cities and outside the walls are giant steam monsters that look like naked humans and that eat humans if available. No one knows where they came from or what their goal is. Survival is the focus.

Attack on Titan 1
By Hajime Isayama
Kodansha Comics
June 2012

In manga 1, we meet Erin, the overly angry teenage protagonist and his friends, the smart thinker friend and the powerful warrior friend and the inexplicable enemies. Anime tropes = achieved. If there isn’t something introduced to make this story stand out quickly it’s easy to see how some readers would lose interest. (Like I did when I got so freaking bored watching Erin take his lessons on the anime – I wasted adventure; not high school drama.) Fortunately, things do get a little better as [Spoiler Alert] Erin gets eaten at the end of manga 1.

I’ve already queued up manga 2 and intend to finish all 22 prior to watching the live action Japanese movies (2014) with my daughter, who loves this story.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Kobane Calling by Zerocalcare

A graphic art non-fiction account of the artists visit to Northern Syria / Rojava (Kurds) and first hand account of his impressions on the factions currently at war.

Kobane Calling
by zerocalcare
Lion Forge
October 2017

I don’t accept the stories as gospel, because there is simply too much confusion and propaganda on all sides. But I do accept these stories as his experiences and will continue to dig deeper into this crazy abyss that currently has so many nations in a sort of proxy war over this area. It was fascinating and, if true, heartbreaking. Definitely worth taking a look at.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Live Blog: Day 2, 2017 #WizardWorld Comic Con


Welcome to BookGateway.com’s Wizard World Comic Con Nashville 2017 live blog! Join me (Scott Asher @ashertopia) David Mason (resident comics-know-it-all), and David Warren (photo and videographer) as we blog everything that happens on during Day 2 of Comic Con Nashville 2017! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @BookGateway and #WizardWorld! Video will also be posted next day on our YouTube channel. On tap today: Whedonverse cosplay, Saturday morning cartoons, Batman the Animated Series, Star Wars cosplay, Harry Potter, Firefly cast reunion, and more!

(CLICK ON TITLE TO VIEW LIVE BLOG)

Live Blog: Day 1, 2017 #WizardWorld Comic Con


Welcome to BookGateway.com’s Wizard World Comic Con Nashville 2017 live blog! Join me (Scott Asher @ashertopia), and David Mason (resident comics-know-it-all) as we blog everything that happens on during Day 1 of Comic Con Nashville 2017! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @BookGateway and #WizardWorld! Video will also be posted next day on our YouTube channel. On tap today: Opening thoughts, CinemaSins, DC Cosplay, voice actors, writing fantasy, and more!

(CLICK ON TITLE TO VIEW LIVE BLOG)

Megaskull by Platts

Nobrow is so hit or miss. I get that they want to allow people to be creative with no editing or censoring, but the fact is that most artists and writers need editors who can help them develop their ideas, to cut out bad ideas and cultivate good ones. But at Nobrow, the artists get to do whatever they want and most of the time it’s pretty mediocre. This time it was terrible.

Megaskull
by Kyle Platts
Nobrow
December 2012

Kyle Platts is the writer and artist in this book that is a series of supposed-to-be jokes. The art style is very late night cartoon network-ish: bright, exaggerated and violent. The stories or “jokes” are pretty terrible. None of them are funny. Not a single one. Most don’t even make sense. They are often based on absurdity, but don’t hold up well actually fleshing them out.

Consider two dads standing in their driveway watching a kid ride their bike for the first time. One says, “Good job son! You’re making me proud.” The other says, “What if he just kept biking for like ever, like Forrest Gump?” The first just looks at the second like the dork he is. No one thinks, I should make a two page comic about this one second, lame joke. But Platts did. And this whole book is like that.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Unlike the Marvel movies that take place on Earth and in spite of what may be expected based on the otherworldly colors and characters in Guardians 2, this movie is the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to almost exclusively focus on familial relationships in a deep, believable way – while still being fun.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Star-Lord, still doesn’t know who his father is at the start of this film until Ego (Kurt Russell) shows up by saving the Guardians from an armada of space ships and says he is Peter’s father. Not quite sure of the connection, but willing to find out, Peter, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) travel with Ego and his companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to his home planet.

[SPOILERS] Ego is Peter’s father and proves it by showing Peter how to harness the power of the planet (Ego’s life force and actual body; Ego is the Living Planet in the comics). All seems great when Peter and Ego play catch with the globe of power Peter formed. But the enjoyment with finding his father is fleeting when Ego’s true plan is unveiled by Mantis after Gamora finds evidence of trouble. [END SPOILERS]

While there is a final battle and there are causalities and loss, what sets this film apart is how the creators challenge Peter (and Rocket,) to see relationships for what they are and finding family even in brokenness. Peter can celebrate those who were in his life rather than mourn those who chose not to be. In an America where divorce and step-parents are so unfortunately prevalent this is an important message.

There are also laughs and explosions, dancing baby Groots and swearing, fun and adventure, but the key message is family and that’s a good thing.

4/5 stars. Lots and lots of cussing, like Sh**, B**** and so on, as well as put downs and sometimes mean spirited sarcasm. No nudity (other than skin tight suits on most of the women). There are sex working robots depicted in a robot brothel that the Reavers frequent, where alcohol and possibly drugs or smoking take place as well. These scenes are fortunately very short.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review

As a fan of anime that goes back decades to when I was a child and Macross was on Saturday morning cartoons as Robotech and moving with anime through the decades to so many other great series and films, I was very much looking forward to this film. In anticipation for it, I watched the original 1996 version. After watching the new live action version I have great appreciation for both version and found quite a lot to enjoy, unlike so many other reviewers.

[SPOILERS FOR BOTH FILMS ABOUND] Though the 1996 version has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (46 total reviews), there was a lot to not like. Like many anime, 1996 Ghost suffered from an issue that wasn’t very clear to Western viewers (why did it matter if the Master uploaded himself into the net and moved on from humanity in the end?) and from a conclusion that didn’t resolve much (so Kusanagi is now merged or something with the Puppet Master? Wait, what?) Even with the lack of clarity, it was a visual feast. The animation was outstanding and holds up well even today. (Most of the positive reviews focus on the animation and difficulty of the film, rather than the story.) Major’s story is compelling – is she human or AI? – and support characters like Bateau and Aramaki are interesting. What the story lacked in final conclusion, it did a good job of setting up several other films in the series with the Major and Bateau working for Section Nine and saving 2029 Tokyo.

The current version, which I will call 2017 Ghost to differentiate, has a lowly 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 218 reviewers. There seems to be somewhat of a switch in review criteria from the 1996 to 2017 versions as most reviewers recognize the amazing complexity of shots, animation or CGI and outstanding visual effects in both, but 2017 reviews no longer count that as positive or view worthy. Also, both films find the Major struggling with who she is and how human she is vs construct (especially when her memories can be deleted at will.) The ultimate questions and the look of both films are the same. (In fact, there were several scenes that were almost shot for shot exactly the same, which for fans like me were awesome to see.)

[SPOILERS] 2017 Ghost takes the story of the Major and expounds on her lack of knowing herself, highlights and focuses on how she got that way – government testing – and explains the Puppet Master as a previous test subject. I don’t like the easy road of making the two test subjects know each other, but the fact that the private company that built the Major’s body was taking children and young people for testing explains more the animosity between Section Nine and Section Six/ Industrial Complex (which isn’t explained well in either movie – is this the government or a company or a hybrid). [END SPOILERS]

If this were a movie without source material like the original anime or manga, then I think this would be more in line with Johansson’s Lucy (67% RT), where Johansson works with CGI and in a science fictionalized world in the future and dealing (lightly) with the complex issue of what it means to be human and the score may have been higher (especially considering Lucy was a significantly worse film than 2017 Ghost, but is currently 22% higher.) But this movie isn’t being judged by how good it really is on it’s own. I think it is being reviewed through the lens of the so-called “white-washing” controversy of casting Johansson in the role of the Major.

I say so-called because that’s exactly what it is. Scarlette Johansson looks exactly like the Major in the anime. So does Bateau (Pilou Asbæk). Exactly like them. Just like the setting, this film is incredibly faithful to the look of the characters and 1996 Ghost. And if anything there is more diversity in 2017 Ghost with several other races and skin colors showing up in supporting characters while everyone speaks English and Japanese interchangeably. I don’t know why expectations exist for films being adapted from stories in one culture should only employ actors of that culture. It isn’t how any culture has done it previously. The Magnificent Seven films (1960 and 2016) are based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and none feature Asian characters as in the original film. This works for movies adapted in either direction. Is it because it is set in future Tokyo or that the original body of Kusinagi was Japanese? Those shouldn’t matter either, as cyborg bodies can be whatever race the creators want them to be and Tokyo 2029 is a melting pot of cultures (like Blade Runner) and shouldn’t be expected to have only one culture or race. All this to say that there should be no controversy just as the original director of 1996 Ghost, Mamoru Oshii, said himself.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) was a dazzling trip down memory lane for me as a fan of the original. It was eye candy with a little existential questioning and a lot of action. I found it very enjoyable.

4/5 stars. Some language. Nudity on the cyborg bodies, but not sexualized. Some sensuality but no sex scenes. Drugs and drinking in several scenes. Lots of violence and gun fighting.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

FIGHT! #2 (Nobrow Serial Box) by Teagle

Diablo isn’t a bad guy. Never mind his name, his look, his character that he wrestles with. He just wants to be a good guy for once.

FIGHT! #2
Nobrow Serial Box
by Jack Teagle
Nobrow Press
September 2012

This story is very Wreck It! Ralph-ish in Diablo’s “I’m bad but that’s good…” focus. He’s a wrestler and the son of a wrestler. Because of his red skin, horns and ability to breath fire (which I guess means he actually is a medieval demon) is called “devil” and plays the bad guy. He’s about to retire and in his final fight he faces eye ball headed twins who go to town on him. The fight starts out like a normal match but quickly it becomes clear that the twins want to kill him. The crowd sees him getting beat down and slowly turns in his favor. Emboldened by the positive cheering he fights back.

After the fight, we find an injured devil who just wants to be judged by the content of his character rather than the character he plays in the ring. He seems to be a young man (since he lives with his mom) and deals with insecurities that a devil in his shoes may. If this isn’t making a ton of sense or sounding like a very good story we have a lot in common.

I know that Nobrow allows their artists to create whatever stories they want to. I think this sounds better in thought than practice. Editors do a great job of helping focus stories; not just holding artists back ala “the man.” Art doesn’t need an editor necessarily. But graphic novels really do. This one does. It’s a meandering, non-sensical, rough cut story that goes almost nowhere. I didn’t care about the characters and didn’t get the metaphor or point of Teagle making the devil good and the bad guy [mild spoiler] look like a modern surfer Jesus, but is a drunk “good wrestler” who is really bad but no one knows it.

This is my second book from Nobrow and the second time I’ve been very underwhelmed. I’m not a fan of the content or the execution of the stories.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Happiness 1 by Oshimi

Makoto Ozaki made the choice to live. Now he has to live with it.

Happiness
Part 1 of 3
by Shuzo Oshimi
Kodansha Comics
September 2016

A vampire is loose. Makoto Ozaki is a young high school student who goes out one night to get a movie and ends up getting attacked by the vampire. She gives him the choice to live like she lives or to die. He chooses life. The rest of the manga is about Ozaki’s evolution into a vampire.

Previously bullied, now Ozaki fights back and accidentally finds himself in a position of power. He also finds that food isn’t satisfying. In fact, he finds a strong pull towards blood. As relationships change – that’s the main point of this story – and he grows we find a completely different Ozaki than we start with. But there is quite a bit of information that is hidden and surely to be revealed in the coming books. For instance, the cover has the female vampire that converts Ozaki but we see her only twice and we learn nothing about her. If my description of this story was all it was I’d be interested to see how it goes. But it doesn’t.

My main issues are with the unnecessary mature parts of the story. The mature rating of this book is due to the violence (in the vampire scenes) and also the sexuality. In one uncomfortable scene Ozaki masturbates to a PC monitor, taking time to pull down his pants and face the monitor. Fortunately we don’t see anything else. There is also where he get’s the smell of blood from while at school – clearly from girls who are on their periods. I found these distractions to be more young teenager fantasies than good storytelling.

The art is well done, exciting and conveys the story very well.

There are other parts to this story but I’ll not be reading them. The story barely gets going in volume 1 and the extra material don’t excite me.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

17×23 Showcase #1

An anthology by five artists who have ten pages to tell any story they want to. Unfortunately, most don’t actually tell a story as much as color in pages.

17×23 Showcase #1
by Isaac Lenkiewicz, Kyle Platts, Henry McCausland, Nick ‘Showchicken’ Sheehy, Joe Kessler
Nobrow Press
November 2012

From the start, the book seemed to celebrate a lack of clarity and purpose. There is almost no narrative in the stories. The art is interesting and visually most of the stories are appealing. But like the story about cardboard boxes, the vicious drum playing bird, or the son of the moon, there wasn’t much that made sense. A fact that most likely made the artists more satisfied with their work as they celebrate this anti-narrative achievement.

Being fifty pages with almost no dialog a reader can finish in only 15 minutes without any real effort. That same reader will, if they are like me, shrug, set the book down and move on to a better graphic novel.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.