Graphic Novel Review Bites

hinges2Hinges Vol. 2: Paper Tigers

With thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this graphic novel.

This is a very quiet book. As in, it doesn’t often use words to tell its story, instead relying, as it should, on the images. The main character, Orio, rarely speaks unless it is necessary, and her partner, Bauble, says nothing at all. But Bauble certainly knows how to get Orio in trouble. Such is the nature of an imp, and it is because of this that Orio is forced to leave the clockwork city she’d just settled in. Imps are considered evil and dangerous but by the end of the book, it is clear that there’s something more to Bauble and that Orio’s loyalty is not unfounded. Volume two also introduces a new character, Abernathy, who has left troubles in his own home to find other cities. Together, they find lots more trouble that leaves them in a literal cliffhanger situation after they discover a city filled with danger and secrets.

I love this series. The stark monochrome and the expressive panels are powerful and the quiet threat that looms within and without the city–and perhaps within Bauble as well–lends an ominous undertone, and Abernathy is a curious addition. He seems trustworthy, but looks are deceiving. Meredith McClaren always offers just enough in every aspect of this story to lure me in further and further…


4384407-princess_leia_1_coverStar Wars: Princess Leia

Leia finds herself without a home or a role in the rebellion and the few of her people that remain don’t think too highly of her ice queen persona. Why doesn’t she grieve, they wonder? As if everyone must grieve in the same way. Leia imposes herself on an Alderaanian pilot named Evaan with whom she wants to be friends, though the woman keeps herself at a carefully caustic subservient distance. They take off to scour the galaxy for pockets of survivors to gather them together before the Emperor wipes them out completely.

The exploration of Leia’s feelings and actions following the death of her planet has the potential to be a great read, but that’s not really what we get here. In fact, I can’t really say that this is a Leia story at all since the character often doesn’t resemble Leia at all in her actions. She’s brash and bold, and quick to drop pretenses and subterfuge — which is good since every time she “disguises” herself, everyone immediately recognizes her. Probably because she wears bright white and has got that telltale hair thing going on. She impresses the wayward Alderaanians with her courage and willingness to sacrifice herself, but the storytelling just doesn’t dig deep enough to make any of this convincing. This is a complaint I’ve had with a few graphic novels recently where perhaps too many assumptions have been made about the character and their survival to tell a convincing story. I suspect that some of the problem is the medium. The limited space in a comic doesn’t give a lot of time for exposition and character introspection. Alternatively, perhaps if Leia’s mission had focused on one or two groups rather than bouncing around to three, it would have allowed for greater detail and depth. I found myself comparing this to Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge that dealt with a similar adventure but (a) the format allowed for more depth, and (b) the plot stayed put in one place, with one group of Alderaanians.

The art was Terry Dodson standard which is to say that it is good and I like it, but in my maturity, I’ve grown tired of “same face” syndrome. Occasionally Leia looks like Carrie Fisher, but mostly she just looks like every other character in the book and every other character Dodson has ever drawn.


baldur's gateDungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate

This was a quick and fun read that follows some pretty basic fantasy roleplaying game standards. It introduces several new characters, but draws in fans of the Baldur’s Gate series with the inclusion of Minsc. I’m not familiar with the character, but what’s not to love about a man who leaps into battle wielding a big ol’ sword and a hamster and yelling things like, “If there is danger, then I shall dange it!” The other characters are a formulaic heart of gold rogue duo, and an elf sorceress who is searching for her brother. She is hunted by a dragon cult who, oh I really don’t have to explain it. This is the plot of just about every basic fantasy series ever. But as I said, it’s quick and it’s fun in both art and story and sometimes, that’s all I need.


broken frontierBroken Frontier: Anthology

This anthology is the result of a Kickstarter that I supported–a worthy investment. It collects numerous short stories that cover a broad spectrum of science fiction, revealing just how diverse the genre is and should be. As with any anthology, there will be hits and misses, but this time, even with the stories that didn’t speak to me as much as the others, I was so impressed by the creativity and honesty that went into their telling and illustration. It seems that it is the mandate of the collection that each story end with a cliffhanger or a big reveal that gives the sense of vastness and wonder–a frontier yet to be explored if we dare.


dragon ageDragon Age, Volume 1


U MAD, Gleam?

I’ve heard bad things about this but read it anyway because. Dragon Age. The bad things were true. Orson Scott Card apparently took the basic notes he received from Bioware and, well, wrote a basic story filled with two-dimensional characters doing two-dimensional things. It starts with a templar and a mage falling in love and making whoopee. This is not a good thing at the chantry. Not good for the mage, that is, who is hunted down and killed when she tries to escape with her child. She manages to get the child to safety, but in a shocking twist of events, the child grows up to be a mage that is forced into situations that cause her to use her magic and attract the attention of her templar dad who has to hunt her down. The most entertaining and unpredictable part of this book are the awkward poses and facial expressions of the main character.



tomb raiderTomb Raider Volume 1 : Season of the Witch

I had no intention of playing the new Tomb Raider game after its initial shitty marketing campaign. Gail Simone felt the same way at first and turned down Dark Horse’s request to write this series. She was later convinced to try the game and discovered that their marketing department is full of idiots who thought showing sexual assault was great advertising. On Simone’s recommendation, I tried it too and am glad I did, especially since it allowed me to better appreciate the particular scene within the intended context.

Anyway, I’m fairly certain that Simon played the game before writing this series because it might as well have been DLC. The return to Yamatai isn’t unexpected, plot-wise, since the island did have such a hold on Lara and the crew of the Endurance, but the story could have taken a more inspired direction rather than rehashing the kidnapping and resurrection process players endured in the game, complete with the re-kidnapping of Lara’s friend Sam. The game took the time to explain how Lara becomes the killer that she is, doing what she has to do to survive and protect her friends. This starts off with Lara dealing with the psychological and emotional aftermath of that. An important road to explore for the character, but it might have been more interesting if told on an adventure that wasn’t so similar to her last one.



11 Comments on “Graphic Novel Review Bites

    • Alas, such is the risk of the reader. At least comics aren’t quite as much of a time investment as novels, so I’m less frustrated when I read ones that don’t work out.


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