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Review: Haiku Princess – Poems in Ascending Order of Profanity

Haiku Princess: Poems in Ascending Order of Profanity

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Writer – H. O. Tanager

This book of poems by H. O. Tanager delivers on its promise of ascending profanity, while doing little to prevent the dip in quality at each stage. The book is divided into five stages: Cradle, Maiden, Lady, Crone and Holy One, which seem to bare little relationship with the subject matter of the poems.

What makes the later sections boring is less the use of crass words for ejaculate, but the fact that several of the earlier Haiku’s in the cradle section are actually quite clever and evoke more of the imagery, mood and juxtaposition that good Haiku achieves.

Take this example from cradle:

Post big-bang,

did the infinitesimal point

sigh, wonder why we’d gone?

or this one:

How many times do I

have to tell you not to

lick people’s food?

Both are clever in their own way. The first is probably a more classic example of what everyone expects Haiku to be. The second is funny less because of the subject matter, and more because that phrase becomes a Haiku with a little rearranging.

And then we have this (probably one of the cleaner things I can share from crone):

What to say when she

catches you on a porn website.

You’re just in time.

I guess we do get a bit of a switch in the last line, so this is better than some. But I don’t know if it’s funny. Let me clear that I’m actually not against bawdy poetry (I am the owner of a book of 100 limericks by Isaac Asimov). But if it’s going to be Haiku, then it needs to surprise, and probably amuse. There are many examples in this book that fail to do either, and a few might even manage to offend.

The illustrations seem fairly disconnected from the subject matter, and are in different styles in each section. The author is talented at image manipulation, if not manipulating words into images.

Honestly, the best part of the book is the about the author. The author apparently has a background in engineering, technical writing, performance art, psychology, non-profit arts organizing and parenting. More overlap than I would have expected, though a bit of a hodge-podge.

You wanna read good Haiku? Check out Brian’s Haiku 365 project. It’s free and more likely to amuse or enlighten.

(2 stars | Maybe a couple of OK bits, but probably not worth reading the rest)

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Review: They’re Not Like Us Volume 1

They’re Not Like Us Vol. 1: Black Holes For The Young

Writer – Eric Stephenson, Artist – Simon Gane

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Tabitha has heard voices all her life and she’s had enough. No one will believe the voices are real, not her parents, not her therapist, no one. After a failed suicide attempt, Tabitha wakes to the face of a man who tells her that not only are the voices real, but she’s not the only one with abilities.

But the man who calls himself “The Voice” doesn’t care about saving people. The world has done nothing to help people with strange gifts, so why should they help the world? With their abilities they can take anything they want, and they’re willing to kill for it. And the first thing Tabitha must do if she wants to be part of their group, after surrendering her name, is kill her parents.

Eric Stephenson does very stylized work. His other well-known comic Nowhere Men, imagined the fab four as scientists and brilliant engineers. He’s good at concepts, but not always execution. It’s clear that some of the characters are more or less evil than The Voice and there’s a fair amount of manipulation going on, but there’s really not anyone to root for. If you find out that all of the people in a room have killed their parents so they can beat people up for cool vintage headphones, you’re not going to like those people. Sure some of them are more broken up about patricide than others, but they all did the deed.

The majority of the plot involves Tabitha (called Syd by The Voice) trying to reconcile finding other people like her with the terrible things they do. She can understand some of the vigilante justice part, attacking perverts who can’t even see where the hit is coming from, but that’s not the same as saying that regular humans are somehow less than you. She’s angry that her parents subjected her to psychiatric treatment, that they didn’t believe her, didn’t try to understand her, but she doesn’t want them dead.

Jordie Bellaire’s colors evoke a period feel to the comic though it’s set in the present day, while Gane’s lines give most characters an angular feel, pointy chins. and smirking expressions. True emotion does come through for Blurgirl and Syd, but for most others the look is mostly self-satisfied even when it’s not supposed to be.

The final confrontation with Tabitha’s parents is a nice bit of closure, but the setup for the next arc doesn’t have me that interested. The Voice is just a manipulative bastard, and I’m not sure I want to hear him talk anymore.

This looked interesting, and chapter one ends with a good hook. But by the finish I was ready for it to be over.

(3 stars | Expected more from this)

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Review: D4VE

D4VE

Writer – Ryan Ferrier, Artist – Valentin Ramon

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Man builds robots, robots rise up, kill man then everything else in the galaxy. Ah, the good old days.

D4VE is a former defense bot pining for the glory days. He’s stuck in an office job he hates, in a marriage that’s falling apart, and with a son with no sense of boundaries. But there’s hope, in the form of a new alien invasion from a race called the Klarr. The robots have allowed themselves to become complacent about defense so D4VE may be their last hope.

Overall, I love the concept of this and there are imaginative and funny sequences, but some of the writer’s predilections get in the way of what could be a great story. One joke about catching the teenage robot son wanking off in the living room is fine … ish. But making it a recurring theme of the book? Ick.

There’s some clever word play in the ways that language, names and even swearing would be changed in a robot filled world. Instead of G–damn you get “Jobsdamn”, or “Holy Woz”. I like the nod, though I feel like this vocabulary isn’t switched on until midway through the first issue. And truthfully I don’t know how well Jobsdamn would roll off the tongue in a swearing context, but I like the way they’re thinking. Computer language is used to varying degrees of effectiveness throughout, though after a while it feels thrown in and without a consistent standard for usage. And as for names, pretty much all of them feature some variation of 4 being using instead of A. So we get S4LLY, TIN4 and HILL4RY.

Ramon’s art has a lot of hidden gems in the background of scenes, but it’s when D4VE returns to his defense-bot ways that it really gets a chance to shine. All of the imaginative ways D4VE finds to kick alien butt are pretty funny including a classic, ripping one alien’s spine out and using it to beat other aliens to death. Okay, it’s kinda gross, but it does a good job of balancing playful humor throughout.

The same cannot be said of the language and the crass content in this. Swearing loses its effectiveness if overused and trying to have D4VE’s catch-phrase be S—balls doesn’t help. Personally, the best catchphrase in the book is that of the boss who repeatedly tells D4VE he is a loser, only to follow it up with, “I really need you to know this.” If that kind of dry humor was consistent throughout the tale I would have enjoyed it a little more.

In short, this was fun, but could have been better with a little more restrained humor. Also could have done without the robot dropping nuts in fear.

(3 Stars | Amusing but could be better)

* I received a free ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Kinski

Kinski

Writer and Artist – Gabriel Hardman

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Kinski is the story of a man who ruins his life over a dog. Joe is unsatisfied with his job as a chicken feed sales rep, and needs to find meaning, which he does in the form of a black lab puppy.

Joe immediately assumes the owners must be irresponsible since the dog escaped somehow, and decides to take ownership of it for himself. When he’s forced to surrender it to the pound he tries to claim it as his own, only to find the real owners have reclaimed it. When he finds the real owners, and sees the dog happy with a kid, he decides to steal it anyway.

Maybe this an homage to the German art films Hardman is referencing, but I found this to be a meandering tale with no meaning. The puppy is just friendly by nature, and yet Joe thinks he has formed some special attachment to it, even though he has never owned a dog before, and only has an outside view of how to really care for one. He throws away his life largely on a whim and even though he seems to find some measure of happiness later, it’s only after pages and pages of one bad decision after another.

Hardman’s artwork is the saving grace of this book, and he does a good job of depicting a man going further and further off the deep end. His desert scapes and trailer park scenes are detailed and evocative. And the dog itself is cute. But that’s really all the book has going for it.

The tale moves briskly, which is just as well considering. The ending relies on two time skips of six months to give Joe some kind of a happy ending, and some plot elements happen completely “offscreen” as if Hardman was rushed to a conclusion. I guess I had the wrong impression of what this book was. I thought Joe would get embroiled in some mob dealings or something because of the dog, but frankly for most of the book, he’s the bad guy.

Want to read a book about dogs? Try Peanuts.

(2 stars | Disappointing)

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Review: Birthright Vol. 1 – Homecoming

Birthright Vol. 1: Homecoming

Writer – Joshua Williamson, Artists – Andrei Bressan and Adriano Lucas

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The Rhodes family suffers one of the most unimaginable tragedies, the loss of a son. On his birthday, Mikey Rhodes wanders into the woods and everything falls apart. It’s a year later and the family has split up, destroyed by the toxic thought the Mikey’s father might have killed him. When their son returns in the form of an adult barbarian hero a year later can the family recover and reunite with their son? And what has come back with him?

This book takes the typical fantasy trope of a young boy wandering into a fantasy world only to learn that he is a hero of destiny, and turns it on its head. We do get scenes of Mikey as young boy as he meets his comrades in arms, and the dangers of the new world of Terrenos, ruled by the evil God King Lore. He is an unwilling hero, only wanting to go home, something he learns he can only do if he defeats the evil Lore.

But early on we learn that decades of fighting have taken their toll on Mikey, and his return may not mean that he has returned victorious.

I like Williamson’s honest treatment of how the loss of a child can affect a family, and how different members of the family accept or reject adult Mikey as their son. This part seems a little rushed but needs must for moving the story forward. An offhand remark later in the book I hope hints at some later development, as someone recognizes the jumpy and uneasy look of Mikey as PTSD. For all of the sprawling fantasy landscapes and creatures, this is a book that has humanity at its core.

The fantasy designs are good, but nothing particularly extraordinary. Some of the creatures seem Labyrinth or Dark Crystal inspired, which is appropriate given the subject matter. Mikey’s adult character design serves as contrast to the young boy we see in flashback, and it will be interesting to see how he changes.

Overall, an interesting first outing that hopefully will keep its center on family, while still delivering good fantasy.

(4 stars | Last page of this volume is a shocker)

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Review: The Fuse Volume 2 – Gridlock

Crime-procedurals in space, illegal races, drug smuggling and terrorism, The Fuse Vol. 2 has something for everyone.

The Fuse Vol. 2: Gridlock

Writer – Antony Johnson, Artist – Justin Greenwood

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Ristovych and Dietrich are on the case again, this time investigating the murder of the #1 racer of an illegal grid-locking league. But Starlight’s murder soon reveals connections to drugs, weapons smuggling, terrorism, and fights over television rights. The two detectives have to contend with the I-SEEC side of the wall, the DA, vice and homeland security if they want to solve this case. And what’s the real reason Ralph volunteered for this assignment to The Fuse?

Johnson’s second outing on The Fuse continues to be full of intrigue, humor and suspense. We get a better picture of the different social strata of The Fuse, not just the wealthy on level 50, but also the station’s slums, and the wall separating Midway city from the engineers and workers who don’t want all these civilians around. We also get some clues as to Ralph’s real motives for volunteering for this post (the last page is a real shocker). We get some softening of Ristovych both in the way she interviews certain witnesses, and a grudging respect for Dietrich, consenting occasionally to calling him by this real name. I’m still loving this character, her determination, dry humor, and take no prisoners attitude.

The case itself is a lot more complicated than the first arc, but Johnson does a good job of tying all the loose ends together in an understandable frame. I read a lot of these issues as they came out, and my only complaint is that it can be a little hard to keep things straight month to month, but that makes reading these trades all the sweeter. Overall I’m really liking this 6-month case structure, with ongoing mysteries throughout.

This collection does not include the backup story “Tabloid” though frankly that story didn’t live up to Johnson’s standard for the series. Getting a story in 1-page chunks over six-months never seemed like a great structure, and read together there’s only so much story that can be told in that few pages. Though the world of The Fuse is intriguing, it’s the relationship between the two detectives that keeps me coming back. The cover montage for the six-issues is pretty cool, and would make a decent poster for fans of the series.

I can’t wait for the new arc in August. In the meantime I’ll have to content myself with reading these two trades again.

(5 stars | Better the second time around)

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Hidden Star Trek Comics Gems

Instead of my typical review post this Friday, I thought I’d give some of the Star Trek and Comic Book fans a little treat. I’m always working on my digital and physical Star Trek collections, and in my Amazon searches I found four collections for 99 cents that contain some of the best Star Trek stories ever told.

As far as I can tell these collections are a bit of an error from IDW. Amazon does not have the resources to verify all of its content and leaves that responsibility to the publishers. I had this happen when I bought Batman #408 (Jason Todd’s first post-crisis appearance). It actually contained the content for Batman #409. I contacted Amazon, who contacted DC, who eventually corrected the issue. What IDW meant to collect here (I believe) was the individual issues for the Star Trek Archive: The Best of Peter David (for 3 of the 4 collections in this post). The content for each of these is actually whole Archive collections of 5-6 comics each, probably some of the cheapest graphic novel stories you can pick up.

Star Trek Archives: Best Of Borg

Listed as Star Trek: Best Of Borg

Writers – Michael Jan Friedman and Paul Jenkins, Artists – Peter Krause, Pablo Marcos, Steve Erwin and Terry Pallot

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This collection contains DC Star Trek: The Next Generation #47-50 (more commonly known as “The Worst Of Both Worlds” and Marvel Special: Operation Assimilation.

The TNG story is probably one of the best arcs in DC’s 80 issue TNG run. The Enterprise is pulled through a dimensional vortex into a parallel universe where the Borg have assimilated most of Earth. The Enterprise saucer section was destroyed during the rescue attempt of Captain Picard who remains as Locutus, over-seeing the Borg’s final assimilation of Earth.

The parallel crew of the Enterprise enlists the help of the prime crew to retrieve Locutus and defeat the Borg. But First Officer Shelby and Miles O’Brian have other agendas that may spoil their plans for getting home.

The art’s a little simpler for this arc then you might hope for, but it does have some nice character moments, action shots and the cover art is stellar.

This moment alone makes the whole thing worth-while:

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The Marvel story details a Romulan Commander’s contact with the Borg. It’s been a while since I’ve read the special, but it’s pretty good. If you buy anything in this post, buy this collection.

Star Trek Archives: Best Of Kirk

Listed as Star Trek Archives: The Best Of Peter David #5

Writer – Peter David, Artists – James W. Fry and Gordon Purcell

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This collection contains DC Star Trek (Volume 2) Issues 7-12, highlighted by the story “The Trial Of James T. Kirk” (issues 10-12). It’s a shame issues 1-6 aren’t readily available in digital form, as the whole 12 issues forms a longer story-line with several episodes.

Here’s what you missed from issues 1-6: The Klingon empire has put a price on Captain Kirk’s head for perceived crimes against the empire. In the midst of this, Kirk and Company encounter a new race of religious fanatics headed by The Salla, who can cause a man to die just by telling him to. But not Kirk. Kirk is hunted by Captain Klaa (that Klingon commander from Star Trek V) and the Salla all while trying to settle a dispute on a warring planet.

His unconventional solution to the episode earns him further scrutiny from Starfleet and the presence of Federation observer R. J. Blaise who despite an antagonistic relationship, begins to take a liking to Kirk. In the midst of this, Sulu is being pursued by two women and Kirk is having to deal with the antics of one of his new, and over-eager security recruits.

In these issues (7-12) Kirk saves a dying planet from a plague, and a maniacal despot, though the circumstances of that rescue are unclear. He also encounters a bounty hunter eager to profit from the price on his head. Feeling his actions hampered by pursuit from without and within, Kirk consents to a trial in the federation counsel to justify his actions as Captain.

The scenario may be a bit of a stretch, but the characterization here is some of the best, both for the new and old characters. It’s a shame Paramount clamped down on extraneous characters because these secondary stories are some of the most interesting. There’s only so much freedom a writer can have with the big three, but with their own characters they can do anything.

Star Trek Archives: The Best of DS9

Listed as Star Trek Archives: The Best of Peter David #4

Writer – Mike W. Barr, Artists – Gordon Purcell, Rob David and Terry Pallot

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This collection includes Malibu DS9 1-5 and the Aschcan story “Hostage Situation”. Malibu started its DS9 run around the same time as the show itself, and it’s a shame it didn’t get as much time to play with the storylines introduced by Worf and the Dominion (the series ran for 32 issues). Still, the stories in this collection capture some of the best elements of the early seasons of the show, particularly a station that still had many unexplored sections and was clearly not a federation starbase.

Mike W. Barr penned these tales, and has had a relationship with Star Trek comics since the first DC Star Trek series (and a couple of Marvel tales from the best forgotten post motion picture series).

Deep Space Nine is always a series I want to see Star Trek fans get into, and these comics are a great entry point.

 

Star Trek Archives: The Best of Peter David

Listed as Star Trek Archives: The Best of Peter David #1

Writers – Peter David and Bill Mumy, Artists – Curt Swan, Ricardo Villagran, Gordon Purcell and Arne Starr

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This collection is the archive I believe was going to be split into individual pieces (that’s how it is listed on Comixology). It contains DC Star Trek (Volume 1) Annual 3 and DC Star Trek (Volume 2) Issues 13-15 and 19.

Issues 13-15 wrap up some of R. J. Blaise’s story with Kirk (though her real conclusion is in a later special) while telling the tale of some planetary heroes (who bare some resemblance to Lost In Space characters, hence Bill Mumy) who have been in hibernation for years and are now returning to their planet in triumph. But is there a home for them to come back to?

Issue 19 is a tale of Kirk trying to memorialize a member of his crew who died on a mission but is someone he didn’t know at all. As it turns out no on else knew him well either. It’s a nice portrayal of the death of a redshirt as a real human being.

Annual 3 is the best thing in the collection. Scotty learns of the death of one of his oldest loves and the tale is told backwards through their on again, off again tumultuous romance. It’s bittersweet, but shows a side of Scotty beyond just a grumpy engineer.

All in all, more than 20 issues for less than 4 bucks, across three crews and the best decade in Star Trek comics.

Note: Amazon can correct these at any time so you may want to back them up after buying if you want to keep the full version. On the other hand, if no one complains (and who would, really), then you may never have an issue.

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