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Archive for December, 2009

Reviewer: Eden Zacarias

Publisher: Vertigo Crime (DC Comics)
Writer: Ian Rankin
Artist: Werther Dell’edera
Genre: Graphic Novel (Hardcover)
MSRP: $19.99
Release Date: Available Now

Having been a devoted fan of the Hellblazer series since the introduction of chain-smoking occult detective John Constantine in issue #37 of “Swamp Thing,” I’ve seen Constantine survive many a nightmarish situation yet nothing is more hellish than reality television. In Dark Entries, brilliant crime fiction author Ian Rankin and artist Werther Dell’edera take John Constantine into darker territory … as a contestant on a reality television game show.

John Constantine has seen it all in his long career as a detective of the supernatural but the one thing that has him scratching his head is the popularity of reality television shows. Why would anyone want to tune in to see women viciously competing to become the next top model or voyeuristically watch the lives of a family falling apart before their very eyes? John has no answers but it isn’t until he finds a man he has never seen before in his house that he comes face-to-face with reality television.

You see, this man – named Matthew Keene – is a producer of a new hit reality game show called Dark Entries that is basically “Big Brother” meets “I Love Money” with a dash of “Scare Tactics” The object of the show is to place the contestants in a fake haunted mansion with a hidden room that contains a treasure so the first housemate to find it wins the game. All has been going well until all six contestants begin to react to horrors that aren’t produced by the show’s staff. Sensing a haunted set, Constantine decides to accept the job.

Then Constantine catches a glimpse of one of the contestants in the house named Stephanie from Nottingham who is terrified by something the camera doesn’t catch. Stephanie looks like somebody Constantine had known well, which is the reason why he allowed himself to sign a contract to appear on the show as a new addition to the household. What he finds are six contestants that are facing individual fears only they can see. For example, Stephanie sees a man on fire who is trying to communicate with her while Ishmael (the oldest contestant) sees the headlights of a ghost car that is heading straight for him. Then there’s a Japanese contestant who sees sharp syringes and an American contestant that sees a dead old woman.

It doesn’t take Constantine long to discover that this is more than just a case of a haunted mansion but rather something more unusual. As our favorite paranormal detective finds himself seeing a vicious cannibalistic murderer from his past, he comes to realize that the frights the others are experiencing aren’t CGI fabrications by Keene and his production crew. It doesn’t take him long to realize that each contestant is in some way connected to Stephanie.

Suddenly, the pieces of this mystery begin to make sense as Constantine realizes the truth about the house and the secret each contestant has unwittingly been hiding. What comes after Constantine learns the truth is true to the Hellblazer series so it’s great to see Constantine doing what he does best. Leave it to Ian Rankin to set up a truly memorable ending to this intelligently scripted story. While I enjoyed Dell’edera’s art in Vertigo’s own LOVELESS, it is not bad but not amazing.

In the end, what we have in Dark Entries is a classic John Constantine story that deserves to be among your collection if you’re a Hellblazer fan or simply appreciate a good suspense story with a supernatural twist. Ian Rankin simply does what he does best and thus makes this such an irresistible graphic novel true to Vertigo’s Vertigo Crime graphic novels. Trust me, this is one graphic novel you will not want to miss.

COMIC REVOLUTION RATING BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Despite the fact that he hates the reality television craze, supernatural detective John Constantine accepts a job that has him not only looking into the possible haunted reality TV show set but also becoming a contestant as well. Things are definitely not what they seem in this show.

ART: B+
Dell’edera’s art isn’t gorgeous but it does fit the theme perfectly enough to do justice to the supernatural creatures later in the series.

OVERALL: A
One of the best John Constantine graphic novels you will read this year, Dark Entries is a great read and a brilliant commentary on reality television. With master storyteller Ian Ranking and the art of Werther Dell’edera, you can’t go wrong and this graphic novel proves it so if you’re a John Constantine fan this is one you will definitely want to pick up.

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Reviewer: Emma Coverdale

Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Writer: Brian Talbot
Artist: Brian Talbot
Genre: Graphic Novel (Hardcover)
MSRP: $17.95
Release Date: Available Now

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of mysteries and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books – although brilliant as they may be – never really appealed to me. That is why I approached Grandville with the same, well, lack of enthusiasm only to find myself glad I was elected to review this hardcover graphic novel. You see, Grandville is a different kind of mystery with a different kind of detective and thus making this something of a unique reading experience even for those who aren’t fans of mysteries.

Set in an alternate retro-futuristic 1900s Europe where all the inhabitants are of the furry variety and humans are a race seen as inferior animal-servants, a diplomat escapes Paris, France and heads over to England where – hours later – he is discovered dead with what seems like a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It is Detective-Inspector Lebrock, who happens to be a big and strapping badger, who thinks that the otter didn’t commit suicide but was murdered.

Along with his assistant, a rat named Detective Ratzi, the pair head off to Paris that has been ripped apart by many politically charged confrontations between the citizens and the government. The city is also booming with new technology as well but none of this interests Lebrock who takes to the case in an old-fashioned way … knocking on doors and talking to anyone who might be connected to the deceased. In this case, Lebrock and Ratzi find themselves in a cabaret when Lebrock meets an attractive Badger named Sarah Blairow.

Of course, they also run into trouble immediately after that, taking on armed thugs and agents who want the two English detectives dead. Fortunately, Lebrock isn’t just a brilliant detective but he is also more than capable of busting some heads in and does so several times in the graphic novel. As they chase the few leads they manage to dig up, the pair find out that there’s something bigger at play with suspects that might be connected in ways that Lebrock and Ratzi haven’t anticipated.

On the meantime, the enemy has send their agents to look for the two foreigners that learned the possible identities of those involved in the murder. In one of the best moments in the story, Lebrock manages to take down a room filled with enemy agents that range from dogs to a rhino. The result of the battle ends in tragedy as Lebrock exacts his revenge on those responsible in a climactic race to stop the culprits plans.

I won’t say more about the story seeing as every twist and turn leads to the truth behind who killed the otter diplomat and what they plan to do and who it really involves. Brian Talbot is able to weave a tale that is every bit as suspenseful as any crime or mystery novel and does so true to the time period despite the interesting talking humanoid animal characters twist or the fact that this world is filled with robots and other technological gizmos.

To top it all off, the characters are even interesting; although Lebrock isn’t an amazing character he is a good central character. He’s not just a muscle-bound hero who relies on his brawn but he is also delightfully brilliant when it comes to deductive reasoning. He’s the kind of man who travels with his dumbbells and demands a hearty English breakfast. Lebrock might not be Sherlock Holmes but he’s likeable enough that we actually care about him.

Grandville is certainly a unique mystery with plenty of action and wonderfully original twist that keeps the story quite interesting even for the more casual mystery reader. Lebrock is actually the type of character that we wouldn’t mind seeing again so here’s hoping that Brian Talbot will bring us another mystery in the future. Until then, Grandville is a mystery worth unraveling.

COMIC REVOLUTION RATING BREAKDOWN

STORY: B+
The death of a diplomat begins an investigation that will lead Detective-Inspector Lebrock and his assistant, Detective Ratzi, to Paris, France where they discover that there’s more to the case than meets the eye. As the pair digs deeper into the death, a great mystery begins to unravel before them and there will be blood.

ART: A
Talbot’s art is colorful and nicely detailed so all the characters really do stand out and the retro/futuristic setting is a nice touch.

OVERALL: B+
An intriguing and different kind of mystery story, Grandville takes the thriller genre to unique new heights that make this a graphic novel that should be on the top of your list if you’re interested in the genre. That said, Detective-Inspector Lebrock isn’t a bigger-than-life figure but he is a likeable and brilliant chap that makes this graphic novel one of those rare mysteries worth a good look.

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Reviewer: Eden Zacarias

Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Genre: Comic Book
MSRP: $2.00
Release Date: Available Now

As an admirer of indie comics and artists, Jeff Lemire’s appearance on the scene has been like something of a breath of fresh air. As clichéd as that statement might be it is a statement of fact seeing as “Essex County” and “The Nobody” have made Mister Lemire’s work stand out. Now Vertigo brings us yet another unforgettable gem from Jeff Lemire with Sweet Tooth … a series that had us at Page 1 of the first issue.

Sweet Tooth introduces us to a Nebraska boy named Gus who lives with his father and never takes the Lord’s name in vain. He’s a boy who plays with a homemade slingshot and, unsurprisingly enough, has something of a sweet tooth. Gus is also – and this is the understatement of the year – very unique. You see, Gus might look like your average kid but he has antlers growing out of the top of his head. He’s a hybrid caused by an event that Gus’s father describes as “the accident.”

We also find out that Gus lives in a cabin in a Nebraska wildlife sanctuary away from the city folk and whatever event had caused children to be born with defects that turn them into human-animal hybrids. Sheltered from the outside world, Gus’ father makes it loud and clear that he shouldn’t go past the fenced off area. It also becomes clear to Gus that his father is ill and he doesn’t have much time left.

It isn’t until one day, as Gus gathers wood, that he sees something shiny on the road. This object is small yet it also seems to be wrapped in a bright red paper so it becomes too tempting to ignore. It turns out that the object was a candy bar and as he comes home eating the savory chocolate his father makes it loud and clear that such a thing can’t be a mere treat that fell from heaven. Rather, this is some trick to get him out of the sanctuary. You see, special children like Gus have been hunted down by men with guns.

When Gus’ father dies, the boy is finally alone and confused as to what to do with himself now that the only man that cared for him and told him how to take care of himself is gone. Living on his own, he encounters a deer one day when said dear is shot down. As Gus runs for his life he realizes that he’s being chased down until he sees no other course of action but to defend himself with his slingshot. As it turns out, hunters are on to him and ready to take Gus when a burly man with a rifle steps into the scene.

I won’t tell you what happens next because you really do have to read this comic. Jeff Lemire does a marvelous job of setting up the story as he slowly strips away the layers of what is sure to be something surprising in the end. His art is made up of uneven lines that might seem sloppy to most but yet you can’t look away or help admiring the detail in his artwork.

In other words, Sweet Tooth #1 is yet another brilliant work from Jeff Lemire and a series that we cannot wait to see what happens next. Simply put: if you’re looking for a deeply engrossing and original story with a lot to offer then Sweet Tooth is a comic you will certainly not want to miss out on so do pick this one up right away.

COMIC REVOLUTION RATING BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
In the aftermath of an unseen event that changed the world, a boy with antlers named Gus discovers the incredible sweetness of a candy bar laying on the side of the road in a place he cannot cross. Suddenly, a candy bar becomes the changing point in the life of a special boy in a world where hunters are looking for children like him.

ART: A
Lemire’s art is delightfully original and it works well for this series and his characters are just brilliant.

OVERALL: A+
If anything, Sweet Tooth #1 is proof the Jeff Lemire is the best thing to happen to comics in a very long time and believe me when I say that this story will hook you in and keep you hooked to the last page. This is also an outrageously imaginative and compelling read you know is just going to keep getting better and better.

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