Archive | November, 2010

Snap Reviews: Gakuen Alice Vol 1

30 Nov

-By Seema Kakade

Gakuen Alice is one of those rare masterpiece that somehow goes unnoticed due to an uninteresting start or perhaps the kind of image that was projected by the Anime version of the story to the viewers, shrugging it off as just another school romance. As it does have some amount of school romance squeezed in here and there, that later develops into a full fledged platform for the rest of the story to weave in, there is also another darker version of the story lurking around the corner, urging the readers to wait and see.

Volume One begins with an interesting life of Mikan Sakura in the unusual school meant for Alices, a special ability in a certain person, which does not quite reflect an impression of a masterpiece, although it gives a couple of hints of a greater story coming ahead. It’s just one of those stories that move in a pace that allows the reader to relish it and adjust to it at her own pace until the real story gears up and takes you on a roller coaster ride.

Gakuen Alice : The Storyline

Gakuen Alice opens with the main protagonist, Mikan Sakura, protesting the decision of the school she attends to, to close down due to inadequate funds. This, much to Mikan’s dismay, falls on deaf ears since her friends couldn’t care less about it and are in fact excited about moving to a better school. But her prayers are finally answered with her best friend Hotaru paying for the funds with the money she gets by agreeing to go to Alice Academy.

Several months pass and as Mikan fails to hear from her best friend, her anxiety gets the better of her as she sets off to Tokyo to meet her friend. But again, things turn out different from what she expected as she finds out she’s an Alice too and this new discovery gives her an opportunity to join the school. Mikan, being naive, happily agrees to it with no clue of knowing what a dangerous world she’s entering into.
This is proved as soon as she’s admitted to the class when the notorious Natsume Hyuuga, Mikan’s classmate challenges her to cross the dangerous Northern Forest to test the Alice that she herself is not aware of. With the help of her friends, Mikan manages to pass his little dare to be allowed to be a part of the class which also finally exposes her rare nullification Alice.

Pretty Shojo or Dark Shonen?

Surprisingly, Gakuen Alice is a rare mix of both. It’s neither a complete school romance nor a complete action with wars and bloodshed. Higuchi Tachibana is a talented story teller who has wrapped the dark and mysterious story around a delicate touch of shojo in a way that never fails to impress the readers of all tastes. Even though the beginning is slow, it still has a way to keep you flipping the page trying to see what happens next, as the author leaves behind a little cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. The art of Gakuen Alice is extremely unique, especially the light touch of a fairy tale feel that the author has managed to create which is again subtle enough to not drown the dark feel that surrounds the story.

Characters
The characters are extremely unique from each other ranging from a happy-go-lucky Mikan whose personality is as clear as water to a mysterious Natsume who is the hardest nut crack. The intricacy of relationships and emotions are brought about wonderfully in each character as they appear to care about people around them and find solutions to problems in their own way, be it openly like Mikan does or by sacrificing their happiness that is best seen in Natsume and his best friend Ruka.

Conclusion
The real story in Gakuen Alice has merely started by the end of the volume but here again, the author has weaved the story in a perfect pace that allows the reader to take their own time to understand the characters and the intricacy of the story and savor every moment of it. And like always, the author leaves behind another mystery and another loose thread that keeps the reader begging for more.

Quick Draw : A Short Reviews column

29 Nov

– by Stewart Loud

The Authority Book 3: Earth Inferno And Other Stories.(Collects #17-20, 2000 annual and Summer Special)

Writers: Mark Miller , Joe Casey ,Paul Jenkins ,Warren Ellis
Art: Chris Weston, Frank Quietely, Cully Hamme, Georges Jeanty

I only recently started reading this outstanding series after a friend recommended it to me and I can’t believe I’d overlooked such a gem for so long.This book continues its trend of the refreshingly original group of heroes that make up the Authority facing truly world shattering threats that always end up resulting in vast amounts of innocent civilians being wiped out in densely populated areas. The dialogue is witty and interesting, the fights are tense, the characters are engaging and the detailed artwork continues to do an effective job of illustrating the impressive scale of the disasters.
Only misses out on a higher score due to the last third of the book being taken up by an annual and a summer special containing a few simple filler stories that while being worth a read, don’t compare to the overall standard of the series so far.

SCORE 8/10

 


The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus.(Collects Incredible Hercules #138-141)

Writers: Greg Pak , Fred Van Lente
 Art: Rodney Buchemi

Hercules, Amadeus Cho, Zues (who has been reverted to a small child) and Herc’s sister Athena team up with The Avengers to take on the evil Hera and her army of Amazons, Titans and Gods at their New York headquarters to stop her from destroying the universe with her new secret weapon, Continuum! If this sounds stupid to you then you should probably avoid it. If not then give it a go. Lots of fun to read, plenty of humour, plenty of smiting and it gets surprisingly serious at the end.
Features Spiderman, Wolverine, Quick Silver, US Agent, Wasp (Hank Pym) and Spider Woman.

SCORE 7/10

 


Punisher Max: Tiny Ugly World(One Shot)

Writer: David Lapham
Art: Dalibor Talajic

Hot on the heels of the breathtakingly pointless Happy Ending and Hot Rods Of Death Punisher Max one shots comes a short story about a man who keeps his pickled penis in a jar after his mother cut it off as penance for the sexual relationship they had together when he was an adolescent. Frank himself only makes 2 brief appearances in this dreadful story that feels like it was written by a 14 year old who’d just read his first Garth Ennis comic. Seriously, sometimes it shames me to be a Punisher fan. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince people that comics are an intelligent and interesting form of story telling media, every bit as valid as books and films. This comic is not one of the examples I would use to convince them.

JUST BECAUSE IT’S VIOLENT AND WEIRD DOESN’T MEAN IT’S ENTERTAINING!

SCORE 3/10

 


Judge Dredd: Total War(Collects stories originally printed in 2000ad progs 1392-1399 and 1408-1422)

Writer: John Wagner
Art: Colin Macnei, Henry Flint,  Jason Bashill

Been a long time since I read Judge Dredd and after reading this book I’m gonna be reading a lot more! In this story the judges of Mega City One (a vast sprawling city of the future that occupies a large part of the east coast of America) face an ultimatum from the terrorist group Total War: either all the Judges leave the city and restore democracy and trial by jury or they nuke the city one block at a time until their demands are met. You won’t believe some of the things the Judges do as part of their standard operating procedure when trying to bring the terrorists to justice and and all the art is laid out in such a cinematic way you can imagine a lot of the scenes as something from a really well directed movie (the bit where the judges are looking through loads of CCTV footage to track a suspect especially).

The infringement of peoples civil liberties has never looked so cool.

SCORE 8/10

 

Halo graphic novel(collection of 4 short stories)

Writers: Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Brett Lewis

Art: Simon Bisley,Ed LeeAndrew Robinson,Tsutomi Nihiei,Moebius

4 short stories that attempt to add a bit more depth and history to the Halo franchise. Worth a read if you’re into the games but there’s not much here for you if you’re not. While the artwork is very good throughout, a lot of it’s confusing to look at making it difficult to tell what’s going on (I’m a big Simon Bisley fan but this isn’t his best work) and although the stories are interesting they’re not all told that well so after I bought this book hoping to answer a few questions about the Halo universe it just raised a bunch more.
Nice art gallery in the back though.

SCORE 6/10

 

Gears Of War graphic novel(Collects Hollow parts 1-6 and One Day)

Writer: Joshua Ortega
Art: Liam Sharp, Federico Dallocchio

Again, If like me you loved the Gears of war games then this is worth a look. The Character art and dialogue is true to the source material and it always feels like these are the games characters that you’re reading about. I was hoping that this book would explain a bit about the history of the conflict and E-day but that barely gets a mention. The story is set between the first and second game and follows Delta squad on a mission to investigate some “strange seismic activity”. Every bit as violent as the game with plenty of gun fights but I got the feeling that the writer had wanted to add a tactical edge to the action that the artist couldn’t be bothered to illustrate.
“Flank ’em Dom!” commands Marcus.
“On it!” shouts Dom as they both run at the enemy side by side, shooting from exactly the same direction.
I’m no military tactician but even I can tell you that’s not how you flank someone you pair of douche bags.

SCORE 6/10
 

Indian Comics – Hope for the future

25 Nov

-By Manks
(This is second part of an article piece on Indian comics. The first one can be found at : here )

In the first article, we looked at what went before in the Indian comic scene. Now we are going to go a step further and understand what Indian comic scene looks like currently.

Present Scenario

 

Illustrated Orchids

Recently many more comics have started cropping up, some even backed by big business house, while Amar chitra Katha and Raj comics continue to hold ground.

Fluid Friction comics have partnered with an Indian firm to publish comics inspired by Indian mythology.
Illustrated Orchids , a company operated by Indian Singaporean diaspora has launched comics based on Indian mythology and culture. The artwork is based on Manga like art and is sold in Malaysia, Singapore, India and Europe.

Vimanika comics

Another company Vimanika has launched comics , again based on Indian Mythology for Indian and foreign markets, which are very good.

Do we see a pattern here? Yup, everyone seems to love Indian mythology. But enthusiasts  question the overabundance of such comics. However I cannot deny that Indian religion and allure of Indian mysticism sells, especially now that many Indians are settled abroad. They are also appealing to children in India, as they retell/ re-imagine the mythos that they have grown up reading about. So for business houses it makes sense to go with the safe and sellable product especially on foreign shores where there already is a comic culture. But what of our own comic culture? Will we never be able to look beyond religion and myth? Even Indians deserve variety. If the product is good, it will sell. Japan’s Manga industry is proof of this.

As if to answer this question, Campfire publications entered the market in 2009. They are publishing classics, biography and originals in graphic novel format.

Corridoor

Some Indians have also started independent foray into the world of graphic novels.
Corridor by Sarnath Banerjee is such an example.

Two more noteworthy additions to Indian comic scene are– “Jump” by Level10 studios and Comix.India who are trying to develop unique Indian content. The quality is debatable, though it’s a step in positive direction.

I am given to understand There are more on the way. Adventures would help unveil some of them as well 🙂

The picture is not all rosy however, and there is a long winding road to cover before victory.

An artist working freelance for one of these companies told me that by and large it is quite difficult for someone to work for Indian comic scene because they are not paid nearly enough. They need to have a full time job apart from comic industry to sustain them. Most of them are working in the growing Indian Animation scene as well. This is not true for all artists as some larger companies do pay well. But for a wider majority it is. Which I guess is true in any country. You need to have a certain level of skill before you can enter mainstream.

Additionally, Anime and Manga like everywhere else have caught up in India. With Anime associations forming in major cities. Though this is still at a nascent stage, their future is bright. I have randomly met two children of 8 years old who read Manga but are not aware of any other comics out there. Manga is catching them young. A feat that  may make many companies jealous. The reason is their free availability over Internet.

Manga

Companies like Dark Horse/Tokyopop/Viz may scowl at sites like Onemanga, but it helped introduce manga to country like ours where there is no availability of such items. When you contrast it to companies like Marvel and DC, not many people know beyond what they see on the silver screen.
Manga has infact started pouring in through select stores, especially in the south, and they are selling like hot cakes because of the readymade audience thanks to online availability.

The biggest news yet is an attempt at organizing a comic convention. The first ever for India. From what I know, currently the organizers are looking out for sponsors. But the thought is there and it may be very soon when we see it materialized.

For me, the icing on the cake was when I met an Indian artist working for TOP COW publishing, which clearly told me, we do have the talent, and we know readers seem to be growing. All we need is a big push from some more corporates to get Indian comic scene going again and things does seem to be going in the positive direction.

Here’s hoping for the best.

-Disclaimer: This is a reproduction of the article published at Bleedingcool.com by me. All attempts were made to be faithful to timelines and publishers. I also realise that I might have missed out on some publications from South India. However If there is some inconsistancy or some periodical that you think should be mentioned, let me know and I would sort it out.

Indian Comics: Exploring the Past

24 Nov
-By Manks
India is a country of diversity. Consider this: India is the seventh largest country by geographical area and second largest by population (approx 1.1 billion people). It is the world’s largest democracy. It is a country where language (22 National Languages and 843 regional dialects) and culture changes drastically every few hundred kilometers so much so that it becomes unrecognizable even to those of us living here.
Talking about “Indian comics” in such a dynamic environment is no mean feat. This article attempts to look at the advent of comic culture in India and how it is faring currently. Along the way we would be pointing out some notable periodicals that made a difference to this growing subculture

The Advent of Modern Comics

Tintin

 As with most of the things, Modern comic arrived in India later than the west. Around four decades ago, there wasn’t much choice for the comic enthusiast. The only comics available were imported titles like Tintin, Asterix the Gaul, Archie and War Commando. Being imported, they were quite expensive and hence available only to children of wealthy. The notion that comics are for kids was prevalent here as well.

Indrajaal Comics: Bahadur
The true change came in mid 60’s when a national newspaper publication house – The Times of India – launched Indrajal Comics. This was the first serious effort to develop comic culture as these were well within the reach of masses and available at newsstands everywhere. Indrajal comics contained stories of King Features characters and were successful in making Phantom (the ghost who walks), Mandrake the Magician and Flash Gordon household names. It also went on to Publish “Bahadur” an Indian comic hero created by indigenous creators. Indrajal comics went regional soon thereafter starting with Bengali translations and by 1980 they were publishing comics in over a dozen Indian dialects.
The Glory days
Amar Chitra Katha
The success of Indrajal comics gave rise to another publication “Amar Chitra Katha” by Anant Pie. These comics focused on tales of historical figures and heroes in religious texts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikkhism ,Jainism and Christianity. These comics still continue and have proved so popular that it still influences Indian comic thinking till date.
Like Anant Pai, Cartoonist Pran created the next evolution when he went beyond historical and mythological tales. He created regular everyman characters that people could relate to and narrated their tales under the banner of Diamond comics. They were humorous strips and quickly caught people’s fancy. Some of his popular characters are Billo, Pinki , Raman , Channi Chachi , Srimatiji. Most famous amongst them however is undoubtedly the duo Chacha Chaudhary and Saboo known India wide. I can safely compare Pran to Will Eisner in terms of reverence and Walt Disney in terms of creative output.
Pran’s Chacha Chaudhary

After this a few other regional comic magazine started up like the ones by Jaico Publishing house, Chikara collections etc but none as noteworthy as the ones mentioned.

In the beginning of 80’s Amar chitra Katha launched a children Magazine “Tinkle” which focused on contemporary culture , folk tales and science. The magazine introduced numerous recurring heroes like amusing Suppandi, Mooshik the adorable mouse, Kalia the crow and the malicious minister Tantri.
Indian comic culture had truly begun by now. Almost all of these publications went into regional languages and established themselves amongst the masses.

The emergence of the SuperHero

Till about 1980’s comics were either imported, publishing foreign characters, tales of historical and mythical heroes or regular everyday-man strips. Nowhere was the eponymous SuperHero to be found, until the advent of “Raj comics” in the mid 80’s.


Raj Comics Superheroes



Arguably Raj comics introduced the colorful world of superheroes that we all love to India with unique Indigenous SuperHeroes. (One character that comes to mind which preceeded Raj Comics was “Fauladi Singh” by Diamond Comics). The most famous amongst them are Nagraj ( a snakeman) and Super Commando Dhruv (a highly trained circus acrobat with no superpowers – Reminds me of Nightwing!).

Bouyed by their success, many other publications came out with their versions of Superheros, most notable among them were Tulsi comics , Manoj comics , King comics, and Fort Comics. Even Diomond comics ventured deeper into Superhero Territory soon thereafter.

This was the hey dey of Indian comics. There were choices a plenty from companies to genre. They were ubiquitous and present at almost every newsstand. Comics reached millions and millions during this time. Many people I know have grown up with a healthy dose of these comics. If you were a kid in India and you knew how to read, you were reading comics.

There were some truly interesting characters created during this period and definitely deserves an examination seperately

At death’s door

But in 90’s things began to go bust. With emergence of cable television and animations, comics soon started to lose ground against them. It did not help that many started considering comics as “Low Brow”. In metropolitans came the Home Computer and the cultural shift towards a preference for English. This sounded the death knell of many a publications.
The first one to go was Indrajal comics on 16th April 1990 after nearly 27 years of publication. By the beginning of the new century many comics had either reduced their output or had gone out of business.

Resurgance

Despite the bleak scenario some comics did flourish in this decade by adapting themselves.
Amar Chitra Katha survived by offering a unique product. Tales of history and religious mythology in English (other regional languages as well). So they entrenched themselves as the elite and educational amongst comics. Tinkle evolved its format, similar to Japanese tankobans but in color.

Raj comics survived due to its deep penetration (and lone superhero company left standing) while Diamond due to cherished characters. Both have started to grow again.


Offerings by Virgin Comics


In 2006 Virgin comics took India to a global stage. They took a leaf out of Amar Chitra Katha’s book and started publishing Indian Mythological rooted comics but for a foreign crowd.

Gotham comics of Bangalore started publishing adventures of Dc/Marvel Characters in India, bringing the cost down. They however have gone MIA lately, making me wonder what happened to them? Does anyone know?
This completes a retro-look into Indian comics. In the next article we would try and look at what the future of comics entail for India?  Who are the players competing for Indian comic space now? How are people reacting to them and many other things!
See you all then.
– Disclaimer: This is a reproduction of the article published at Bleedingcool.com by me. All attempts were made to be faithful to timelines and publishers. I also realise that I might have missed out on some publications from South India. However If there is some inconsistancy or some periodical that you think should be mentioned, let me know and I would sort it out.

NadShots : The Ball Busting adventures of Deadpool

18 Nov

Yes that is the newly returned Steve Rogers (Formerly Captain America) Leg… And we already know Deadpool…

Of all the people who would do this to the Merc with a mouth, we never thought Cap would be the one landing the shot !!! I mean its Cap for crying out loud. the living embodiment of Truth , Justice and the American Way!.. We are suitably scandalised by the “Leg of Justice” as we would call it 😉

Though the expression on ‘pool’s face is priceless ….

Snap Reviews: The Punisher Vol. 3: Franken-Castle

17 Nov

The Punisher looks like Frankensteins monster! WTF?

Review of Punisher (8th series 2009) #11-#16 Franken-Castle
-Collected in The Punisher Vol 3 by Marvel Comics
 -Review By Stewart Loud

Now I’ve heard that this story arc has upset a lot of Punisher fans and I can totally understand why it would. To be fair it’s a really odd direction for Rick Remender to take The Punisher in after his outstanding run of Punisher comics during Marvels Dark Reign which I enjoyed every bit as much as Garth Ennis’ acclaimed Marvel Knights run. They did print a few messages on the letters page from fans moaning that the Punisher had been ruined by the changes and I have to admit that when I learned that Frank Castle was to be turned into a Frankenstein’s monster style abomination ,when I was already reeling from seeing my absolute favourite comic character get carved up by a B-list villain like Daken in The List, I was fully prepared to be upset by this story. But I’m a Punisher completionist and for better or worse I collect and read every comic with his name in the title. So read them I did! And do you know what? I’m really glad I did.

I don’t like the Punisher just because he kills criminals and has all his stories rooted in realism. I like him because of his uncompromising commitment to punish and kill evil people without being held back by all the moral red tape that prevents a lot of the other Marvel characters from killing serial murderers, rapists or whatever no matter how much they deserve it and that part of his character is very much alive in this storyline. Of course I like that he’s usually just an ordinary soldier with only his whit’s, training, experience and equipment to rely on ( I loved seeing him go up against the Hood and his followers in Remenders previous 10 issues. Frank just sees super powered villains as targets that need to be shot with a bigger gun!) but since The Punisher has been around for 35 years now this is not necessarily the way things have to stay all the time. In any case there’s still the Punisher Max for gritty realism and Frank isn’t gonna stay like this for ever anyway.

Any story concept ,no matter how strange it may seem, can be fun to read if it’s well written. Just as a great idea can be ruined by crappy writing. For example, in the 3rd series of the Punisher back in 1995 The Punisher became the head of a mob family which ,while sounding like an interesting idea, it really, really wasn’t. Then during the Purgatory mini series, Frank returns from the dead as some sort of angelic super soldier with infinite pocket space for holding weapons in a magic coat. Sounded ridiculous but it wasn’t bad at all. However, when they used the same story arc for a Wolverine/Punisher team up called revelations it was one of the biggest wastes of paper Marvel ever published.

Now I don’t want to give to much of what happens away (I hate reviews that do that) in case any of you decide to buy the comics but here goes. Frank Castle is resurrected by Morbius the living vampire who has stitched and bolted his remains back together along with a good measure of mechanical parts after the rooftop mullering he received from Daken son of Wolverine. Morbius, along with his comrades Manphibian and Jack Russel the werewolf (fantastic names) are part of the Legion Of Monsters who are attempting to defend the Earths largely peaceful monster population from a group of fanatical Japanese monster hunters led by a 150 year old lunatic called Robert Hellsgaard. Frank, having gone from being what many would call a metaphorical monster ,with a body count in the thousands after decades of punishing the wicked, to becoming an actual physical monster decides to make the Legion Of Monsters’ war his own as repayment for bringing him back from the dead. What ensues is one of the most violent storys the Punisher has ever been in! And not only violent but gory! As well as a lot of the characters and plot devices being straight out of a horror movie so are the fight scenes. For the most part the incredibly detailed artwork is done by Tony Moore. There seems to be so much going on in each panel that I can’t remember the last comic I read where I spent so much time examining every inch of the background and scenery. The fights are downright chaotic with limbs and heads flying in every direction which meant I spent even more time looking at these panels to try and keep track of how many villains The Punisher had dispatched! All the action is accompanied by The Punishers crisp, dry, trademark inner monologue that Remender does so brilliantly so that no matter how outlandish or surreal the situation gets you never forget who it is in the thick of it and who’s comic it is!
Tony Moore is also incredibly good at illustrating the emotion on the faces of the characters. Both human and the myriad of creatures that populate a lot of the pages. When you see a fish man learn of the death of his children you really can see the pain in his expression despite his inhuman appearance. I really did feel sorry for a lot of the monsters who were butchered by the extremists because of the obvious terror etched across their faces.

During this story you’re gonna see Frank in situations you probably never dreamed you’d see him in. Nazi zombies? any body who tells you they saw that one coming is a massive liar! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a total blast to read. If you really are a hard core Punisher fan then you’ll love this and if you’ve never read Punisher but you like horror and action then you’d probably love this too. I enjoyed all 6 issues from start to finish and I’ve already pre-ordered the graphic novel collecting these 6 comics, the following 5 Franken-castle issues and 2 tie in issues of Dark Wolverine. I should be getting that in early December so you can expect a review of that shortly afterwards

Rating: 7/10

——————-
About the Reviewer:

Stewart Loud has agreed to voice some of the deranged ramblings that are his opinions and write some reviews for the Adventures Of M.
He lives in England and his passion for comics began at age 6 with Transformers and now has grown to encompass titles such as 2000ad, Preacher,Aliens and The Walking Dead to Avengers, The Authority, Transformers (still) and his all time favourite comic character The Punisher (can you not tell from the pic?)
He is an absolute Punisher nut and owns almost every Punisher title ever printed along with a good chunk of his appearances in other titles.
If anybody wants to ask him any questions or discuss anything they can find him on the Adventures Of M facebook page regularly updating his latest reads.

The awesomeness that is Dr. McNinja

12 Nov

Dark Horse is going to Publish the Dr. McNinja webcomic in February’11.. The following comic pages should convince you why you need to buy it !!

Our Story Begins: Ronald Mcdonald is strategizing….

Sometime later….

After dispatching McZombies in fashionably Ninja ways .. The good Dr. Faces the Big Mac himself..

After a fight that puts Bruce Lee to shame.. The conclusion!!

Do yourself a favour.. Get this book !