Reread of Monster by Naoki Urasawa

I often come across people who enjoy comic books, but never have made the plunge into Manga. I think this is largely because there is an perception of manga as being quirky, comic, and romantic. The truth is that Manga spans many different genres, many of which would appeal to typical comic book fans.

One of the first Mangas I would recommend to comic book fans looking to venture into the medium would be Monster by Naoki Urasawa. The premise of Monster is that a brilliant Japanese surgeon (Kenzo Tenma) chooses to save a boy (Johan) rather than attending to a political figurehead that is rushed into the same hospital. This noble pursuit means disaster to his career, but this is only the beginning of his problems. A string of murders at the hospital is pinned on Tenma and he becomes a fugitive. Now on the run, Tenma seeks to clear his name, but more importantly — to stop the killer before more lives are taken.

Monster 1I read this series with the now out-of-print paperback editions of this book, but I now see that they have a 2-in-1 omnibus collection just starting called The Perfect Edition. I am dying to get my hands on these books! Urasawa is as good as any artist in the business and the oversized editions should complement his vivid and detailed artwork.

The first volume was released on July 14, 2014 and they are on a schedule to release a new volume every three months. The original paperbacks released in the US came in eighteen volumes, so I suspect that the Perfect Edition will contain nine volumes in total.

Urasawa is very good at blending intricate plot lines and balances the large, but unique character sheet well. There are many mysteries that are revealed throughout the course of the narrative, although some explanations were a little shallow.

I have already read the series twice and I suspect that Monster is a graphic novel that I will read more times again. It is lengthy, spanning 162 chapters, but it never feels stretched thin or meandering. For those who like psychological thrillers or horror and are looking to get into Manga, this is the place to start.

Review of Trillium by Jeff Lemire

TrilliumTitle: Trillium

Author: Jeff Lemire

Illustrator: Jeff Lemire

Publisher: Vertigo

Format: Electronic

Where I got it: Netgalley

Review:

 

I have long been a fan of Jeff Lemire’s work, particularly his creator-owned stories like The Underwater Welder and Sweet Tooth. His art — while perhaps not as visually stunning as some of the exciting illustrators in the field such as Fiona Staples, Sean Murphy, or Greg Capullo — provides a sense of unity to his comics. He is a true master at understanding the sequential nature of comics and his images evoke the right emotions and pacing that are hard to nail down.

Catching on the science fiction bandwagon with contemporary hits like Saga, Preacher, and Sex Criminals, Lemire pens a love story with the plot devices of time travel, alien cultures, and a sentient disease. One of the featured characters is a botanist named Nika Temsmith, who lives in the year 3797 when a disease has killed off all but four thousand people. Their only hope is the trillium flower, which grows wild on a planet where some mysterious aliens await Nika’s arrival. They stand guard around an Incan temple, which Nika comes to realize is more than just a pyramid of stone.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 1.45.19 PMIn the year 1921, WWI vet and English explorer, William Pike, also makes an expedition in search of the lost temple of the Incas. When natives attack his group, he finds himself face-to-face with Nika, completely unable to understand her language. Their encounter does not seem accidental and both experience a sense of deja vu, feeling as if they should know the other.

With the help of Trillium, William and Nika learn to communicate and find themselves sharing a bond with one another, leading to an adventure where their biggest adversaries are the very teams they were working with.

Trillium was released by Vertigo as an eight-issue story arc and binge-reading it in one collected volume (my preferred method of reading comics) made the story feel as connected and whole as Lemire’s recent work, The Underwater Welder. The illustrations are typical of Lemire’s style, with a sort of rough-sketched appearance. The panels are fully colored, blending a colored-pencilled and water-color appearance. There is an artistic quality to the drawings, but Lemire’s true art is in how he uses images to tell a story. Few writers understand how to use layout as well as he does and there is some good variation, ranging from templated-panel layouts to full page images with inset pictures to pages that need to be turned sideways to orient one’s self properly.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 1.47.37 PMThe main characters were rich. Nika, the altruistic and fearless scientist, was willing to disobey orders if necessary to achieve the proper ends. Yet her willingness of self-sacrifice should not be confused with a suicide mission. She is thoughtful and contemplative — empathetic to other cultures and open to love. William, suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome from the war, questions his own mind, but is willing to follow what he believes is right, even if his closest friends question his sanity.

Jeff Lemire’s venture into science fiction was a welcome one. He remains true to his style, while appealing to fans of  Arthur C. Clarke or Philip K. Dick. The plot was reminiscent of other science fiction stories and the use of an ancient pyramid for traveling through space and time bore resemblance to Stargate. Nonetheless, the story felt new and original and was executed beautifully.

For fans of science fiction — and particularly those who want a shorter story arc — Trillium is a good choice. Lemire is one of the great writers in the industry today and I found this to be an exciting read that can be enjoyed in one complete and satisfying sitting.

 

 

Must-Read Manga: Naoki Urasawa

I go through Manga spurts — typically gravitating toward the SF story lines with titles such as Akira, Ghost in a Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. But SF fans would be remiss to pass over Naoki Urasawa. He interweaves intricate plot lines, has deep characters, and has a skill at writing with suspense. They are the kind of stories that leave you thinking about the psychological thrill-ride that Urasawa brings you on.

There are two series in particular that are, in my mind, required reading — and a third that I hope to start shortly:

monster

Urasawa kills it in his manga, Monster. Forgive my pun, for it’s the suspenseful tale about a serial killer and an altruistic doctor who is on the run, accused of committing the killer’s crimes. The characters, the plot, the pacing, the art, the suspense, the dialog — every element of this manga — is just spot on. I am only four volumes in, but am completely addicted to this series.

Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a Japanese surgeon who goes to make a name for himself in Germany to avoid working in the shadow of his adept, but older brother. His talents are unmatched in his new hospital and he soon finds himself operating on people deemed more important rather than those in the greatest need. This conflict of morals come to a pass when he saves a young boy against the administrations direction, leaving the mayor to die fatally in the hands of a lesser surgeon. The outcome of this decision has grave consequences for his life, his career and for a stream of future events.

This is a brilliant piece of work that deserves to be read by anyone with even a slight interest in manga.

20th century boys

For those with a bit more patience and a penchant for the strange and speculative, Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys is nearly equal to the much more straight-forward story arc of Monster. The story flashes between the late sixties, when a group of friends formed a secret club, to the nineties, when their childhood comes back to haunt them. It’s a story about how these boys band together to save the world, although the apocalypse and their role in it are in the early stages little more than a conspiracy. I’m still early into this series and it wasn’t until the end of the first volume that this one started to resonate with me.

pluto

I haven’t read Pluto yet, but I figured I’d toss in another popular series by Urasawa. This is on my to-be-read pile, with even a deeper sci-fi element about a future where robots pass as humans. Given that I am a big fan of books like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I expect that I will love this series as well.

Review: Locke and Key, Vol. 6 by Joe Hill

16164271Title: Locke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha and Omega

Author: Joe Hill

Illustrator: Gabriel Rodriguez

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Format: Electronic

Where I got it: Netgalley

Review:

Locke & Key has been one of my favorite comics to read over the last few years. It is the example that I use of a story that truly takes advantage of the graphic medium. There are elements of horror and humor, with characters who are coming of age at a time when a great evil is about to be unleashed on the world.

At the end of the fifth volume, Dodge came into possession of the Omega key, which had the power to unlock the gates to hell. To make matters worse, he inhabited Bode’s body on his path to unleash destruction. Victory appears certain for Dodge, but you never know with the death-defying persistence of the Locke children.

screen-capture

The setting takes place during prom. Ty and Kinsey both go to the school bash, where Joe Hill pays tribute to his father by reenacting a classic scene from Carrie. He has really come into his own and like his novel, NOS4A2, he no longer shies away from his heritage.

After the party, Kinsey is tricked into thinking her mother is back on the bottle and defies her mother’s orders by going with classmates to the cave where the door to evil lies waiting. Ty, fearing for his sister’s safety, becomes overwhelmed with shadow monsters and Kinsey and her friends are suddenly in a peril of their own.

The final volume of Locke & Key was an utter delight to read. All of the characters are brought back and old plot lines are tidied up. My only gripe is the lack of limitation on the keys, creating a sort of deux ex machina when their adversary seems unstoppable. But it is these keys that make the series so fun.

If pressed, I may consider Locke & Key to be the best comic series to come out in the last decade (although there are many good ones). If you haven’t read it yet, you are really missing out. Now that the final volume is coming out, there is no better time to immerse yourself in the magical world that Hill and Rodriguez have created.

Catching up on DC’s New 52

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been trying to better familiarize myself with the comic medium over the last year. I am at a point now where I’ve read most of the staples, ranging from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns to Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman to Stan Lee’s original Spiderman comics. I was pleased to see that Saga won the Hugo yesterday, which I believe to be the best series on the market today. Also to mention are a few of DC’s New 52 that I have found to be worthwhile reads.

13223349 Batman is by far my favorite superhero, so it is no surprise that putting the character in the hands of Scott Snyder resulted in a good story. There is a new villain in The Court of Owls, a secret society of assassins that will put Batman to the test. I first read Snyder in his American Vampire series and while his story-telling is a lot more straight-forward than a writer like Grant Morrison, his characters still have depth. This comic features an extended family of crime-fighting cohorts in Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne. Greg Cupollo’s art is strong and complements the story well. The Court of Owls is not the greatest Batman story ever told, but it is still fresh and well worth a read for any Batman fans.

13227314 I picked up this comic for two reasons. First of all, I am trying to get more familiarized with Superman, given that Man of Steel was recently released in the theaters. Second of all, it was written by Grant Morrison — a writer who can be hit or miss with me, but often delivers a complex story that is rewarding. Action Comics, even going back to its 1930’s inception, is not the traditional Superman we know and love. He is a blue-collar hero who leaps buildings in a single bound. He is superhuman, but not infallible and certainly not the omnipotent Christ-figure that he later evolved into. This fact alone makes this comic a little harder to adjust to. I can’t say I loved this title, but I like what Morrison did with the characters. The story at times felt a little messy and my nostalgic bias also got in the way of me enjoying it at times. Nonetheless, I do think it is worth a read and it gets back to the roots of the most popular superhero in American history.

13227319 Wonder Woman has never been a favorite character of mine. I always found the invisible jet to be a silly concept and I hadn’t ever picked up any of her comics. In the New 52, Azzarello gives Wonder Woman a fresh treatment, providing a rich background that builds on the Greek mythos and Wonder Woman’s Amazonian heritage. This comic has a good story and while I dislike the cover for this title, much of the artwork is quite good inside. Given the lack of strong female protagonists in the comic medium that enjoy any form of popularity, it is nice to see Wonder Woman take off in the New 52. For someone like me who hasn’t read any Wonder Woman titles, this seemed like a good place to start.

13228357I became a fan of Jeff Lemire after reading the graphic novel, Underwater Welder a year ago. Lemire demonstrates a good understanding of how sequential art can reveal a story and his pairing with artist Travel Foreman seems to be the right match for this macabre tale. Animal Man does not have the name recognition of many of the other superheroes, but he has enjoyed popularity with several top names in comic books handling the character before Lemire. This story follows Animal Man and his daughter into another world, unlocking the mystery behind their superpowers in a fashion that reminded me much of a Clive Barker novel. I enjoyed this comic much more than I expected and would recommend it without reservation.

13532146 Okay, I admit that I only picked this novel up based on the recommendations of a few folks online. Vampires have run their course and I am already vested in Scott Snyder’s American Vampire series. Then this series comes, taking advantage of a shared universe that caught me hook, line, and sinker. What universe (city) you ask? Why it’s Gotham. The story takes place in a future where vampires have spread throughout the world and have reached in equilibrium with the human population. A multi-century-old vampire named Andrew Stanton has kept the human population safe, but his ex-lover, Mary, is raising a cult that will threaten Andrew and the entire human population. As strong as he is, he will need assistance to stop this army and in Gotham, we find that hope in Batman. This probably isn’t my favorite comic of the lot, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. The artwork was reminiscent of the art in American Vampire and the story is fast-paced and surprising.

Catching up with Manga

Akira TitleTitle: Akira, Vol. 1

Author: Katsuhiro Otomo

Illustrator: Katsuhiro Otomo

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Format: Trade Paperback

Review:

I have been meaning to get into Manga for a while. So if you are looking for a well-informed review of Katsuhiro Otomo’s seminal work, you may have found the wrong spot. In fact, it was only recently that I learned that it is pronounced “MAHN-ga,” not “MAYN-ga.” Perhaps I am premature in writing a review on a genre I have so little knowledge of, but we’re here to have fun and I’d hate to let a lack of experience get in the way. So after taking part in a guilty pleasure of mine — seeking out the internet for lists of the greatest (in this case) manga of all time — I settled on Akira for my introduction to manga.

As a precursor to the cyberpunk movement, the 1982 graphic novel tells the story of members of a street gang in Neo Tokyo, a fledgling city recovering from the nuclear bombs dropped during WWIII. The story begins with the gang encountering a boy with elderly features and a strange telekinetic ability. His sudden appearance in the middle of the freeway sends gang member, Tetsuo, to the hospital.

akira1The gang’s leader, Kaneda, is macho, reckless, and impulsive. So when his fellow gang member is injured, you can expect that he will stop at nothing to bring justice to the man-child who caused his bike to crash. As a reader, there is only partial empathy for Kaneda. He has a hard edge and by occupation is a young street thug. But his ambition is admirable and there are so many mysteries that kept me fully engaged throughout the story. We learn there are several more people like this strange man-child and a secret government agency is fastidiously trying to get them under their control.

Kaneda, who is active in the drug trade, comes across a pill that he learns that is much too powerful for an ordinary person to take, yet multiple organizations are after him to get it back. Tetsuo is released from the hospital and is an entirely different person from the young man Kaneda knew before. The novel is filled with non-stop action and new layers of intrigue.

If Akira is any indication of the type of storytelling and art that comes from manga, I can see myself becoming a big fan. The art is more realistic than typical manga, with near-anatomical proportions. Otomo also has a great sense of perspective and well-crafted detail.

There are six volumes in this series and I expect I will finish all of them in the near future. This was a perfect introduction to manga and I hope to find some more works to acquaint myself better with the genre.

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93370Title: Akira, Vol. 2

Author: Katsuhiro Otomo

Illustrator: Katsuhiro Otomo

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Format: Trade Paperback

Review:

The second volume of Akira picks up right where the first one left off. It is full of action and we finally get a glimpse of who Akira actually is, although the extent of the experimental wunderkind’s psychic powers still remains a question.

I am really digging this series. It has great action, pacing and such inventive story-telling. In a Western sense, it could be compared to X-Men or Heroes, where a segment of the population has extraordinary supernatural powers, but it has a much different feel. It’s not a superhero story and the contrast between good and evil is not clearly divided. Foes are forced to join together to reach a common goal and the struggle is often focused on a fear of the uncontrollable.

Purists of manga may be critical of the novel’s Western left-to-right layout. It could alter the artistic intent of the story and I find it unnecessary to deviate from the Japanese style of writing. It doesn’t take long to get used to reading backwards.

But that’s about as far as I can criticize this volume. I love the action, I love the premise, and I can’t wait to pick up the next volume.

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13615

Title: Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom

Author: Tsugumi Ohba

Illustrator: Takeshi Obata

Publisher: VIZ Media

Format: Paperback

Review:

I wasn’t certain what to expect with Death Note. It is well-received among manga fans, but the plot, at its surface, seemed somewhat contrived. It is about a scholarly teenager named Light Yagami, who comes across a lost notebook that gives him the power to kill simply by writing a person’s name in it.

What seems like a novelty, quickly becomes compelling. Light soon encounters a Shinigami (part of a race of death gods), who counsels him in the rules of the notebook. Light learns he must imagine his target’s face for the notebook to actually work and only those who touch the notebook have the power to see the Shinigami.

screen-captureThe story starts out with Light using the notebook for (debatably) noble purposes — he writes in the names of the country’s most vile criminals, saving people from hostage situations and the like. But when Light finds that security agencies are after him, he begins to use the notebook illicitly for his own safety.

Death Note is pure fun. After the first chapter, I wasn’t sure how much I would like it, but the more I read, the more addicted I became. Light is a very bright kid and uses the notebook in very creative ways to thwart his pursuers. This is definitely another winner in the manga category and a series I intend to keep on reading.

Review: The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman

T15736709Title: The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1

Author: Jonathan Hickman

Illustrator: Nick Pitarra

Publisher: Image

Format: Trade Paperback

Review:

Having recently been nominated for the Eisner and Hugo Awards, I finally got around to picking up The Manhattan Projects. In a 1940’s alternate history, the US government has assembled the greatest minds to assemble the bomb. Familiar characters grace the pages including Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Richard Feynman.

einstein

The bomb is the simplest of their assignments and the team goes on to invent many more elaborate inventions, including a portal to other worlds and dimensions. The story is actually bizarre, so to describe it in a linear summary is somewhat challenging.

It all begins with Robert Oppenheimer joining the secret organization. We learn of his birth and growing up with a sociopath twin brother, Joseph. Robert is eventually murdered by his brother and has his identity taken from him.

Even though this is an alternate history, I would have liked for the characters to be a little more true to the historical figures they represent. Albert Einstein is meticulous in his work and is at times aloof, so in many respects he shares the same persona with his real-life counterpart. Richard Feynman, on the other hand, seems totally out of character. In the comic, he is timid and comes across as serious. This is a far cry from the arrogant scientist who loved to play practical jokes on his fellow associates. I was hoping for him to playfully sabotage some of the other scientist’s pet projects, resulting in devastating circumstances. Instead, we see him cowardly groveling on his hands and knees in unfamiliar situations.

oppenheimer

The artwork has a distinct style, with contours drawn with hard pen lines and colored with a unique pallate. The pages are often mixed with red, blue, and green, which is somewhat harsh on the eyes. I suppose it helps add to the confusion of the setting, but it didn’t draw me in.

Overall, I found this comic to be an interesting read, but I don’t consider it as noteworthy as a comic like Saga. The Manhattan Projects has a brilliant premise that is often intriguing, sometimes confusing, and never ordinary. The comic definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, but often the characters do. If Hickman can reign in the multiple plot arcs and develop the characters a little deeper, The Manhattan Projects could certainly be one of better series out there to read. The story is fresh and I am fascinated by the great minds that are assembled and what they can create.

 

 

Review of Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid

8172Title: Superman: Birthright

Author: Mark Waid

Illustrator: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan

Publisher: DC Comics

Format: Trade Paperback

Review:

I am a few weeks after seeing the disappointing Man of Steel movie and was looking to connect with a modern Superman that stays true to its nostalgic roots. Superman: Birthright is an origin story, that holds true to the Superman mythos that we know and love, but tells it through the eyes of modern technology.

 

Unlike Man of Steel, Birthright has a very short episode on the planet Krypton. Kal-El’s (Superman’s) parents are the only Kryptonians who make an appearance and they send their boy off in a prototype life pod while their planet is imminently about to explode. There is no mention of General Zod or the politics that inflict Krypton.

screen-capture-1The story of Superman on Earth begins with Clark intervening in a political revolt in Africa. For twenty-five years he has hidden his powers, but his emotional connections with the people there drive him to take action when their lives are in danger. He has not yet created the persona of Superman — nor of “Clark Kent.” I am making an important distinction here, because Superman is who he is first, donning bright red to draw attention to his abilities. Clark Kent — with a suit jacket, glasses, and a clumsy streak — is his disguise.

 

In a similar fashion to the movie, Birthright tells of Clark/Superman’s upbringing in flashbacks. I found this approach a little jarring in the movie, but it works well here. The Man of Steel only makes passing suggestions of Lex Luthor (company logos, for instance), but in Birthright, Superman’s arch-nemesis plays a prominent role. Through a series of vignettes, we see a young Clark Kent trying to befriend the outcast genius in Smallville, even bringing him home for dinner. There is great level of detail devoted to understanding Lex’s psyche and how he became evil, which really enriched the story. I will be curious if the second Man of Steel movie will incorporate Lex into Clark’s childhood.

screen-captureThe use of technology was probably the greatest strength of the graphic novel. Lex uses drones to attack the Daily Planet, Clark communicates with his parents using the internet, and he artfully has to dodge the satellites’ field of vision whenever he flies. My only qualm was with Lex using Kryptonite to develop a telescope that could see into the past. I know it is hard to make a case about suspension of disbelief when the story is about a flying man who shoots lasers from his eyes, but I found Lex’s abilities to adapt a meteorite to such extremes was a bit convenient. He gained knowledge of Krypton’s advanced technology, but frankly, he is genius enough to develop whatever he needs on his own.

I am a novice when it comes to Superman comics, but another interesting commonality I noticed was the meaning of the letter “S.” In both Man of Steel and Birthright, it is a Kryptonian sign that means hope. Waid has a way of sharing information like this matter-of-factly, which educates the reader without being intrusive. The movie, which perhaps was written for a younger audience, lingers on this detail in such an opaque manner that it becomes distracting.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Birthright and it was a suitable story to tell through the lens of the twenty-first century. There is nothing that truly raises the bar for Superman like Grant Morrison did with All Star Superman, but it is still an entertaining read that actually develops the characters rather than focusing merely on plot points and action. For this reason alone, Birthright far exceeds Man of Steel in its storytelling.

 

 

 

Review of Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

9781607066927_p0_v2_s260x420Title: Saga, Vol. 2

Author: Brian K. Vaughan

Illustrator: Fiona Staples

Publisher: Image Comics

Format: electronic ARC (via NetGalley)

Review:

Let me start off by saying that in my review of Volume one, I called Saga my favorite comic on the market. I’m a binge reader when it comes to comics (as I am with television) and I almost always wait for them to come out in a collection before catching up. So here I am, with the pleasure of being able to read and review volume two.

I had forgotten why I loved Saga so much and the answer is really quite simple: it’s contagious. Once again, I couldn’t put the volume down, reading from cover-to-cover in one sitting.

Marko and Halana are Montague and Capulet in an interplanetary war. Marko is a ram-horned humanoid with magical powers and his winged bride is from a more technologically advanced society. Because of their forbidden love, both races have sent hitmen after them as they make their escape through space.

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But to tell you the plot, is really to miss the point in what makes Saga so special. First of all, the banter between Marko and Halana hits all of the right beats. She’s cynical and independent, but unabashed in expressing her love for Marko. And her husband’s no slouch either. He’s courageous and devoted to his bride, firmly defending her to his mother when she is not even present. But together they bicker in a way that many of us can relate to.

Besides the characters, Saga is also a delight to read because of its inventiveness. There’s a hitman (“The Will”) with his often troublesome lie-detecting cat (“Lying Cat”) and a teenage ghost (Izabel) acts as the child’s babysitter. When Marko goes to a planet to save Izabel, the planet itself is not what it seems.

Unlike the innocence of many space operas, Saga is raw and revealing. Vaughn’s ogres don’t wear fig leafs, leaving nothing to the imagination and his arachnid siren killer doesn’t bother to fasten a bra. The art of these otherworldly creatures is fun and a perfect complement to the writing. The story is honest and intimate, but most of all, Saga is a joy to read. The second volume held up equally to the first and I would love to see it take the Hugo Award this year.

Review of American Vampire, Vol. 5 by Scott Snyder

15791600Title: American Vampire, Vol. 5

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Dustin Nguyen

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

There are two things that make American Vampire unique and the best ongoing story about vampires in any form of media. First of all, the vampires in this series are not all of one species. There are several sects, each with unique powers and weaknesses, yet all draw on the common vampire mythos. Secondly, the story arcs are in the backdrop of US history. Each volume has taken on another decade, starting with the twenties in volume one, thirties in volume two, forties (WWII) in volume three, fifties in volume four…

And in volume five, we are still in the fifties. Early fifties, in fact. I had hopes when picking up this volume that we would now have a story taking place in a hippy-infested America with man striving for the moon. Instead, the setting has stalled in the fifties with two stories that frankly could have been told in any decade.

The first story arc deals with the reawakening of Dracula. He is the definitive vampire with power to control all of his subordinate vampires from miles away. Even humans can be bent by his will. Felicia Book and her song Gus are recruited by Hobbes to stop this lethal force, resulting in devastating consequences.

screen-captureThe second story arc is about Pearl, whose husband is in a comatose critical condition from a vampire attack in the previous volume. She joins the VMS to learn who was behind this attack and gets paired up with none other than Skinner Sweet. As they search to discover the secrets of the evil cult, Pearl is reunited with an old foe.

I was a little disappointed in this volume, but like I said — American Vampire is the best vampire story out there. Even in the less favorable volumes, the series shines with excellent art and storytelling. The characters  are fallible and we see many prominent characters die off like a George R.R. Martin novel.

There are essentially four comic volumes I am following right now — American Vampire, Saga, The Walking Dead, Locke and Key (soon to be completed). Even though the American Vampire time line stagnated in the fifties, the story still has momentum and I still eagerly await the next installment.