Pengboom Society

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything about web comics. (Here are part 1 and part 2 of a series I wrote a few years ago.)  But I, for some strange reason, logged on to tumblr the other day, scrolled through a few posts and found a recommendation from the amazing Kate Beaton. I checked out the site and now want to share it here!

All of the comics I mention can be found at the main site for the Pengboom Society. A word of warning: only 1 of the comics is finished (and it’s a very short wordless one) and the other two only have a little more than 30 pages each (which is not that much once you start reading!). Anyways. They’ve managed to hook me already so here’s to weekly updates!

A House Divided

Orphan Henrietta Achilles has just inherited her uncle’s mansion, an uncle she has never met and didn’t even know she had.

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There are all kinds of suspicious circumstances in town when she arrives and once she gets to the house, she is met by quiche stealing brigands.

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Yes, quiche.

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There are hints about a fortune and a hidden vault and I’m looking forward to the weekly Thursday updates.

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Kletschmore

It’s a bit harder to see where this one is going but here’s the official description: When man’s greed threatens their existence, the fey leave our world and take refuge in the realm of their ancestors. As the fairies rediscover the birthplace of their race, unspeakable tragedy disrupts the newfound peace: Murder. The first among fey.

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So far there’s a cute enthusiastic mouse, creepily beautiful walking fungi, and a sinister, mysterious hunting party.

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Beautiful art and updates every Monday!

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Eberhart & the Phoenix Chicken

Short, with no words, it tells the story of a anthropomorphic boar (I think?) and the chicken he discovers that also happens to be a phoenix.

Enjoy!

Brian K. Vaughan

About this time last year I discovered a really interesting new graphic novel called Saga written by Brian K. Vaughan. The third volume recently came out and, as I’ve enjoyed the series so far, I decided to see what else we have in our system by Vaughan. Three series looked promising so I’ve begun reading them all. Here are my thoughts, from worst to best.

Y: The Last Man

YLastManCoverI heard about this comic several years ago when it first came out. It sounded like it could be a worthwhile read. Something has killed every male human and animal on the Earth, except for Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand. There’s a lot of mystery in this story since it’s unknown why all the males died simultaneously. There are a couple of story lines going on, including one with Israeli military leaders. But… it’s really not that good. Yorick is a fine main character- he’s a pretty generic male character and very American. Maybe he grows a bit in further issues but so far, if he’s the sole hope of the human race, well, we won’t be lasting long. It’s also frustrating to see so many stereotypes. For example, all the men die, so naturally a group of militant feminists called the Amazons come into power and then spend the majority of their time and resources tracking down Yorick. Seriously? Am I really expected to believe that if men essentially ceased to exist, women like that would still be intent on trying to destroy the last remaining male? No. No, they wouldn’t because that would be stupid and wasteful and self destructive. My library only owns the first book and I won’t be making any attempts to find further issues. It’s an interesting premise that hasn’t been executed well so….on to better things.

Runaways

RunawaysCoverA group of teenagers accidentally find out their parents are super villains and members of The Pride. The first book deals with the fallout of this discovery and the realization that the teens are just as powerful as their parents. It’s light, it’s fun, and it’s a different take on superheros. Granted, I’ve only read the first book and I’m certain it gets more serious as the series progresses but it looks like it could be an interesting and unusual take on the standard superhero origin story with a fun teenage rebellion spin to make things really interesting. Side note: as a Marvel story, this seems to take place in the same universe as the Avengers. They’ve been hinted at already and I’m wondering if they come into play later on.

Saga

SagaCoverAlana and Marko are soldiers from the opposite sides of a war that’s been going on for decades. The war is no longer being fought on their homeworlds and has instead been outsourced to planets across the galaxy spreading death and destruction. Alana and Marko have fallen in love and given birth to a mixed race baby. This has caused panic among the higher powers and bounty hunters have been sent to find and destroy the couple and their baby. There are several side stories about the people searching for them and the people who help them. I’m only three books in but there have been several additions and subtractions to the main core of characters as well. Apparently, Vaughan can be very Martin-esque (George R. R., that is) in his willingness to kill off characters, so you’ve been warned. The art is beautiful, the story is engaging, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this story goes and who this little baby turns out to be. Disclaimer: the series has well earned its Mature rating. There’s sex, violence, and nudity, and while it is graphic, I don’t feel that it is gratuitous.

Is anybody else a fan of one or more of these series?

The Lost Boy

TheLostBoyWritten by Greg Ruth; Published 2013.

I really love graphic novels. I think they can be a great way to tell a story and a useful tool for younger readers who might be intimidated by pages and pages of unending text. It’s also a fantastic way to show off beautiful art and can, in some instances, do a better job telling a story than just the words alone. So I’m always eager to read graphic novels, whether intended for children or adults.

The Lost Boy, at least in my library system, has been classified as a children’s book but after reading it I’d definitely recommend it for older children. It’s about two boys separated by several decades. Nate, the present day character, has just moved into a new house. He’s not happy about the move but is allowed to choose his own room where he quickly finds old tape recordings from Walt, our other main character. Walt lives with his grieving, bitter father and both are struggling to deal with the loss (abadonment, not death) of Walt’s mother. Walt is recording his thoughts as a coping mechanism when he begins to notice strange happenings around town. Nate, along with new friend Tabitha, begins noticing similar phenomena after hearing the tapes. The forest surronding the town plays a large part in the story, as do strange toys, talking insects and decades old secrets.

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Overall I enjoyed the story but felt that it suffers from a common problem with graphic novels, particularly juvenile ones: a plot that moves too quickly with not enough depth. Walt’s story progressed better since we discovered with him some of the weirder elements of the story (a talking cricket, a living doll, a sweater-vest wearing squirrel, etc.), whereas with Nate we just dive right in- it seemed that the heroes were off to fight the big bad guy within about 10 pages of meeting for the first time. Granted, it’s a children’s book and a graphic novel so it will be moving fast but that doesn’t mean it has to give up depth (for a really great example of a children’s graphic novel, see Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series).

The Lost Boy does have some really incredible art and that helps with some of the deficiencies in the story. Greg Ruth has created incredibly detailed, black and white illustrations that manage to remain interesting and convey unique characters. I get very frustrated with graphic novels sometimes because I feel that the artwork is considered secondary to the dialogue which results in poorly drawn characters and simple to nonexistent backgrounds (The Walking Dead comes to mind). I only wish they were in color.

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There’s plenty of room open for a sequel at the end (of course) and hopefully, if there are sequels forthcoming, a greater depth will be added to the story line. This wasn’t the best graphic novel I’ve ever read but it’s an entertaining read and I’ll be looking for any future additions.

For more information on Greg Ruth, visit his official page here. Lots of artwork!

Kids These Days

Are super lucky. Or maybe I just think that because I can appreciate what they have available to them. I don’t remember growing up with all the gorgeous books/movies/etc. they have now although that might just be because I’m getting old and curmudgeonly. Recently I’ve come across two graphic novel series for younger readers that I have fallen in love with.

AMULET – Written and drawn by Kazu Kibuishi. My first introduction to this series was through David Malki! on his Wondermark website. (Scroll down to the list of “good comics & art” on the right hand side.) I briefly glanced at the art on Kibuishi’s website and made a mental note to check on the series later. A week or so ago I was reading The Steampunk Bible and Amulet was mentioned as a series that was steampunk. So the next morning I checked out the first volume, The Stonekeeper.

The story opens with the death of Emily Hayes’ father in a car crash. A few years later Emily, her little brother Navin, and their mother are moving to an old house her mother has inherited from her grandfather. Strange things happen almost immediately and when their mother is stolen into a different world, Emily and Navin follow her in to try and save her. The rest of the series is about what happens to them there and how Emily grows into being the newest “Stonekeeper”.

Kibuishi has created a gorgeous world, filled with humans, animals, half-breeds, evil elves and robots of all sorts. The art practically tells the story for itself and makes me wish I could plaster my walls with it. At the moment only four volumes are published with Volume 5, Prince of the Elves, due to be released in September. I’m not sure how many more volumes there will be or if 5 will be the last but it’s definitely a series worth reading.

Stay up to date with Kibuishi and all his work through his website.

MOUSE GUARD – Written and drawn by David Petersen. I don’t remember how I first heard about Mouse Guard but fortunately I did and, even more fortunately, we had it at the library. It’s a lovely little series, but definitely for children.

Mouse Guard tells the story of the world of mice. They have cities and settlements like us and the Mouse Guard not only protects mice in the cities from outside threats but also act as escorts for mice traveling between the mice settlements.

The illustrations here are gorgeous and the stories are interesting but not the most well written. They move quickly though and are probably perfect for a young child looking for an entrance into a good graphic novel. Fall 1152 is the first in the series, followed by Winter 1152. Volume 3, The Black Axe, is a prequel and tells the story of a legendary Mouse Guard. Information about the series and lots of additional artwork can be found at the Mouse Guard website.

The Avengers

The Super Bowl was on a few days ago. Did I care? Not really. I went to a party for it though. Because the house was big with nice TVs and there were friends there. I’m still not entirely sure who won. (It was the Giants, right? The team without pretty boy Brady?)

Anyways, this caught my eye during the commercials:

I only saw a glimpse of it and didn’t hear any of it then (due to the aforementioned friends), but I checked it later. Pretty exciting! I’m not particularly a fan of comic books, and something tells me that it is probably better that way. Comic book characters usually have long back stories with numerous opponents and villains. How could all that story be smushed into a satisfying 2ish hour movie? Or even a trilogy? I don’t think it could. So being a fan of just the movies (which I am for the most part) means that I don’t have to worry about things like: Which villains will they choose?!?! How will they make it work?!!?

Back to The Avengers. Marvel has been preparing for this for a long time. And preparing well. The Avengers group is made up of Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Brought together by Nick Fury, director of S. H. I. E. L. D., The Avengers movie will have the heroes saving the world from the villainous plots of Loki.

Like I said, Marvel has been planning this one for a while. Each hero has been given their own origin movie, except for Hawkeye and Black Widow. The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton (replaced with Mark Ruffalo for this film) came out in 2008, as did Iron Man where we first met Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 came out in 2010 (where we first saw the Black Widow), followed closely the next year by Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. I have seen all of these movies at this point except for Thor, which I’m bit nervous about because I’m scared it will be so different from the actual mythology that I’ll have a hard time just enjoying the movie.

I’m not sure when Marvel first decided to do The Avengers movie, but if I remember correctly, Iron Man was the first time we saw Nick Fury in an after-credits clip. I suppose the success of the origin movies only ensured the production of this one.

The official details: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark, Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk/Bruce Banner, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Tom Hiddleston is the villain Loki. Directed by Joss Whedon (yay!), The Avengers comes out on May 4th. I’ll leave you with the official trailer.