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September 2008
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November 2008

Kick open the door. Loot the room.

From conventions, web-surfing and word of mouth, a few things worth noting. We don't get paid for this (or, really, even acknowledged), so we're entirely trustworthy. Darnit.

- Geek chic clothing featuring vintage video games. Not just super-vintage (like Asteroids) but also vintage-but-I-won't-admit-it-because-it-ages-me-vintage, like their awesome line of Doom-inspired t-shirts.

- Cinebook Publishing. I'll review some Cinebook titles in more detail, but this company is bringing the best of Continental comics over to the UK in nicely-translated, sensibly-packaged graphic novels. From Largo Winch to Green Manor, I've yet to be disappointed.

- Genki Gear. Original silk-screen t-shirts. Don't be put off by the manga name and theme, their collection is wholly original, tongue-in-cheek and very wacky. Anything with rampaging monsters gets bonus points.

- Centipede Press. In one of the odder (and more personal) promotions I've ever seen, the confusingly-spelled Jerad is giving away one of his own books with every hardcover purchase you make. As if a hardcover from this press wasn't reward enough...

- Hippocampus Press. Hippocampus have announced their 2009 release schedule, and it is a doozy. This November (2008) will see a collection of criticism from S.T. Joshi. Next April will see a Robert Price-edited collection on the Hounds of Tindalos. And, in perhaps the gem of the lot, they've announced a two-volume collection of the letters of Lovecraft and Robert Howard. Pre-order and save ten bucks.

Green Manor by Fabien Vehlmann and Denis Bodart

Green Manor One of the best discoveries I made at this year's BICS was the Cinebook publishing house. Cinebook is dedicated to repackaging and importing the finest comics from continental Europe. In 2008 alone, Cinebook introduced a dozen new series to the British audience - and judging by the sample set I've read, there's not a loser among them.

My favorite of the lot (and this is saying a lot) is Green Manor. The first volume, Assassins and Gentlemen is a collection of macabre short stories about Victorian murders - each packed with clever twists and an entertainingly warped sense of humor. The closest comparison would be if Stanley Ellin started writing Asterix.

The framing device is that all of these villainous misadventures somehow involve members of the "Green Manor" gentleman's club, but, aside from some window-dressing, all of the stories stand completely alone. The writing is by Fabien Vehlmann, who does a terrific job of pacing the mysteries and making sure each is a self-contained gem.

The art, by Denis Bodart, is absolutely perfect. He fillsthe grim backgrounds of Green Manor's sinister London setting with a cast of hilarious caricatures. His style furthers the series' disconcertingly cartoonish vibe, helping Green Manor stay firmly within the realm of black comedy. 

Graphic Novel Round-up: Aliens and Other Visitors

RawrAnne here with this week's round-up - five recent reads.

Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy: Which was the best part - the baby dinosaur that turned bright red because it was briefly exposed to fire?  (Yes, like a cooked lobster.)  Jack Kirby's art, which had Devil the Ambiguous Species of Large Carnivore Dinosaur fighting a befanged triceratops?  

Or was it perhaps the author's note in the middle of the book, in which Kirby suggested that it is entirely plausible that dinosaurs and early man coexisted, because paleontologists said that the Ceolacanth fish had been extinct for 26 million years then found a live one in 1938, so clearly paleontologists don't know nuthin'.  (QED!) 

"After all," Kirby notes, "just where the Dinosaur met his end, and when Man first stood reasonably erect, is still shrouded in mystery."  Yes, that's right - in 1978, paleontologists hadn't yet figured out that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago and that humans and chimps diverged maybe 7 or 8 million years ago.  ("Lucy," by the way, was discovered in 1974.  Commonly referred to as the "mother of mankind," she's 3.2 million years old.)

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Round-up: Aliens and Other Visitors" »

Olympus Heights by Kevin Munroe

Olympus Heights Kevin Munroe's Olympus Heights is a self-contained graphic novel with a pretty straight-forward assumption: the Greek gods are alive, well, and pretty much just hanging around town. Although most of the gods have integrated with society, Zeus has turned into a supernatural vigilante - hunting down rogue mythical creatures, turning them to statues and then donating them to the local museum.

The story is told through the eyes of Oliver Dobbs, an assistant at the museum and a big geek in need of a father figure and a love interest (Zeus provides the former, the latter arrives via plot necessity). He gets tangled up in the adventures of Zeus, and serves as a sidekick, plot foil and excuse for explanation.

The art, also by Munroe, is very stylized. Exceptionally cartoony, it gives the series a feel of a collected webcomic. Munroe uses this to his advantage - mortals and mortal 'things' are universally pictured as weedy and nondescript. The immortals, however, are constructed like traditional superheroes. Side by side, this helps bring the story to life.

The graphic novel includes a series of short story (1-2 pages) filler content between each chapter. These have been added for the graphic novel, and, as far as bonus material goes, were a mistake. Munroe has developed a very graphic, very visual world for Olympus Heights and, when reduced to text alone, it becomes a third-rate American Gods.

Overall: campy, fun and easy to read. The concept of Olympus Heights doesn't challenge the readers, but definitely shows them a pretty good time. 

Warmachine: Legends from Privateer Press

Legendscover400pxWarmachine: Legends is the newest expansion to the popular Warmachine game from Privateer Press. Legends has been a highly-anticipated release since its first announcement, and, in many respects, it does not disappoint.

The sculpting, for example, has matured - vastly - from the early days of the game. Although Warmachine figures were always produced to a high standard of artistic quality, the new figures are almost universally stunning. The figures are much more detailed, and it pays off - some of them,for example, Nightmare, are just knock-your-socks-off brilliant. Even the less spectacular miniatures in this expansion have been crafted with an unprecedented level of intricacy.

The improving crafting of the miniatures is one symptom of the game's maturity, but there are others - and not all of them are good news.

Continue reading "Warmachine: Legends from Privateer Press" »

Paperback & Pulp Bookfair

This weekend, I heartily suggest swinging by the 19th UK Paperback & Pulp Bookfair. It will be on Sunday, between 10-4, at the Park Plaza Hotel (239 Vauxhall Bridge Road - right by Victoria station).

The fair collects a dozen dealers and their trestle-tables-of-treasures, all groaning under the weight of unbelievably cheap 1960's Penguins. There are generally lots of magazines and vintage comics as well. In the past, the occasional pulp artist or author would make an appearance, hopefully a few swing by this year as well.

Admission is £2.50. For once, this isn't taking place on the same day as Daylight Savings, so I won't be there an hour early...