Category Archives: Reviews – Boom! Studios

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Alice: From Dream to Dream original softcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Giulio Macaione
Colors: Giulia Adragna
Letters: Jim Campbell
English adaptation: Jackie Ball
Editor: Shannon Watters
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $14.99 US/$18.99 CAN/10.99 UK

I hadn’t heard anything about this graphic novel for teen and ‘tween readers, so when it turned up on my doorstep, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Still, the art was inviting, so I started to peruse the opening pages. I was quickly captivated by Giulio Macaione’s characterization. The premise — about a girl with the ability/curse to experience people’s dreams with them when in proximity to the — is full of potential, but the real strength of the book is its down-to-earth characterization, its universal exploration of a coming of age, of the trials of adolescence and of the sense of powerlessness a teenager can feel when having no control over a life in purgatory between childhood and adulthood.

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Flowery Language With No Words

Petals hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Gustavo Borges
Colors: Cris Peter
Editor: Whitney Leopard
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Kaboom imprint
Price: $16.99 US/$20.99 CAN/12.99 UK

Poverty. Illness. Harsh weather. Isolation. These are all conditions that often bring out the worst in people, as fear and desperation can drive some to undertaken awful actions in the name survival. But there’s another path when faced with such hardships, and that’s the one down which writer/artist Gustavo Borges leads his readers in Petals. Published under Boom! Studios’ all-ages imprint, this American edition of a Brazilian comic will take you by surprise, but quietly. It’s an understated celebration of the human spirit, but more than that, it’s an exploration of the importance of community, of connection and of empathy.

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Soul Survivor

Run Wild original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: K.I. Zachopoulos
Artist/Cover artist: Vincenzo Balzano
Letters: Deron Bennett
Editor: Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $24.99 US/$32.99 CAN/18.99 UK

Boom!’s decision to absorb Archaia Studios five years ago was a blessing for the comics industry and the craft of sequential storytelling, as it ensured there would be a home for unconventional graphic novels such as this one. Archaia was always a niche publisher and remains so as an imprint, but it gives life to unique projects that will connect with a limited segment of the comics-loving audience. I completely understand why Run Wild found a home there, but unlike other recent Archaia releases, this book didn’t quite work for me. Run Wild is a hauntingly (literally) beautiful book, but it’s also nebulous and perplexing. I can definitely see its appeal, though, and I think fans of the films of Hayao Miyazaki will recognize elements they’ll truly enjoy and appreciate here.

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Keeping a Breast of Things

About Betty’s Boob hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Véro Cazot
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Julie Rocheleau
Letters: Deron Bennett
Translation: Edward Gauvin
Editor: Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $29.99 US/$39.99 CAN/£22.50 UK

This beautifully designed hardcover volume showed up on my doorstep (literally) this week, and I hadn’t heard a thing about it. I was intrigued by the title and the look of it at first, but it sat on my desk for a few days until I realized it was slated for release in just another few days. I decided I should check it out, and I found it’s a translation of a French work originally released as Betty Boob (I wonder if American copyright on the Betty Boop character prompted the change in title, or perhaps just an effort to avoid confusion).

About Betty’s Boob is actually a more fitting title, as that covers the entirety of her journey. This is a story about surviving cancer and then dealing with the aftermath. We’ve seen this subject tackled in the sequential storytelling medium before, but not in the same way. While writer Vero Cazot’s mostly silent drama explores some of the familiar beats about a woman’s struggles in the wake of a mastectomy, she presents those conflicts and the titular character’s triumphs as a fable, aided incredibly well by the magical, flowing and fanciful artwork of Julie Rocheleau. By the end of the book, though, one realizes About Betty’s Boob isn’t a cancer-survival tale at all, but rather one about casting off conformist shackles and celebrating all of the beauty and silliness and passion that surrounds us and exists within us every day.

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Elemental, My Dear

A Girl in the Himalayas original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: David Jesus Vignolli
Editors: Cameron Chittock & Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $16.99 US

Promotional material released in advance of this book indicates this is writer/artist David Jesus Vignolli’s debut graphic novel, but I just can’t believe. This is a fully realized fable, and it’s a hauntingly beautiful and touching tale. The deceptively simple title of A Girl in the Himalayas is actually quite fitting, because while it doesn’t touch on the literal magic that imbues almost every panel of this graphic novel, it focuses the reader’s attention on the spiritual magic of innocence that represents the ultimate redemption of humanity. And yes, while there’s a larger plot that examines mankind’s penchant for self-destruction, the core strength of Vignolli’s story is how it examines the notion of family, no matter how unconventional the circumstances that brings it together.

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Get the Heck Into Dodge

Dodge City #1
Writer: Josh Trujillo
Artist: Cara McGee
Colors: Brittany Peer & Cara McGee
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: McGee (regular)/Natacha Bustos and McGee (variants)
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Boom! Studios has become home to a number of licensed properties, albeit perhaps quirkier ones with greater nostalgia appeal. Nevertheless, the publisher also has a solid reputation for indy-type comics, especially those appealing to all ages. Dodge City is one such comic book. Populated by diverse cast of well-realized characters and brought to life by stylized artwork that conveys a lot of action and personality, Dodge City strikes me as the sort of thing we might have gotten if movie director John Hughes was still alive and looking to craft a teen sports comedy. Twenty years ago, this comic book likely would have been printed at a Kinkos on photocopier paper, still finding a fan base but on a smaller scale as a mini-comic. I hope the publishing under the Boom! banner will expand its reach, because it deserves it.

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Fighting Evil)

Lumberjanes #1
Writers: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Colors: Maarta Laibo
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: Noelle Stevenson/Maddie Flores/Lauren Zuke
Editor: Dafina Pleban
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US

I’m far from the target audience for this book, but there was such a positive buzz around it, I opted to fork over my four bucks to give it a look. I figured if I didn’t dig it, I could probably flip it on eBay to get my money back. After reading it, I definitely get why it has struck a chord with readers. Lumberjanes, as its title suggests, is a playful adventure book featuring a cast made up entirely of strong, entertaining female characters. It’s appropriate for pre-teen readers up to adults, and I’d be amazed if Boom! wasn’t eyeing this property as something that could spin off into other media. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be following the series — not because I don’t think it’s a good comic book. It is a good comic. It’s just one that doesn’t really appeal to my sensibilities.

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Laundry Day

The Rinse #1
Writer: Gary Phillips
Artist: Marc Laming
Colors: Darrin Moore
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Francesco Mattina/Paul Azaceta
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $1 US

Gary Phillips is a comics writer with a focus on the crime genre who consistently offers up compelling drama and strong characters, but with The Rinse, he’s really outdone himself. This is not only the most compelling comic book Phillips has written, but it stands out as one of the best crime comics I’ve read in some time. The Rinse, with its riveting, knowledgeable narration, is just as good as Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, and that’s really saying something. Phillips is joined by a talented artist who does an excellent job of capturing a sense of realism here, and a convincing look reinforces the strength and intelligence of the script. The main character is a thoroughly likeable figure, well-rounded and quite charming. But the character that really steals the show isn’t a character at all but rather than underworld trade that serves as the core premise of the book.

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Goo goo g’joob

Snarked #0
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Roger Langridge
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Kaboom! imprint
Price: $1 US

Poor Roger Langridge. He’s been crafting some fantastic comics in recent years featuring mainstream, pop-culture icons. He wrote one of the best super-hero comics Marvel has published in recent years, but alas, Thor the Mighty Avenger was cancelled after less than a year of publication. And before that, he did the impossible, making a TV variety/comedy show come alive in comics with The Muppet Show, published by Boom! Studios. Well, I’m pleased the folks at Boom! have given his new creator-owned project a home with its kids’ comics imprint. Langridge’s cartooning brought the same kind of fun and energy to Snarked that it did to The Muppet Show. It turns out that his characters aren’t entirely unfamiliar either… though I required something of an education as the source material and inspiration that led to the creation of this property. Snarked doesn’t have the same kind of recognizable cachet as those Muppets comics and won’t necessarily resonate as much, but it does demonstrate the irreverence and personality that makes Langridge such an appealing comics creator.

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‘It’s Not a Too-mah!’

Malignant Man #1
Writers: James Wan & Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine/Rael Lyra
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

I’ll say this about this comic book: the title does grab one’s attention.

This inaugural issue is made up of two very distinct parts: one is a human drama of a man’s despair in the face of an inevitable, painful death, and the other is an action-driven story of men in black, conspiracies and the paranormal. I found both stories to be compelling, but in completely different ways. The problem is that I found it difficult to resolve the two together. There’s obviously logic in the progression from one to the next, but in terms of atmosphere, of the reactions the two different modes evoke from the reader, they don’t work all that well together. Fortunately, I think this is a problem only with this first episode. The artwork is effective, but more importantly, the colors convey the mood and tension in the story incredibly well. Malignant Man proved to be a fun if flawed read with a rather unfortunate title.

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Zero’s Tolerance

Soldier Zero #1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Javier Pina
Colors: Alfred Rockefeller
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine, Dave Johnson, Phil Noto & Kalman Andrasofszky
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

Back before Eye on Comics went on hiatus a few months ago, one of the last pieces I wrote was an editorial in which I expressed some scepticism about Boom! Studios’ plans for a new line of super-hero comics spearheaded by Stan Lee. Well, the time is almost upon us for those comics to see publication, and first out of the gate is Soldier Zero. At first glance, the premise is derivative… far too familiar in several respects. It’s comparable to a wide variety of other projects, from Avatar to Blue Beetle to X-O Manowar. Fortunately, there’s some character-driven content in the script that helps to set it apart. Writer Paul Cornell’s exploration of the experiences of a disabled person rings true and makes for some strong interpersonal moments in the story. That’s enough to hold my attention and for me to see how the whole alien-armor riff plays out.

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When Good Things Are Done by Bad People

Cassaday coverSale coverIncentive variant coverIncorruptible #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Jean Diaz
Inks: Belardino Brabo
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: John Cassaday/Tim Sale/Jeffrey Spokes
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve heard some criticism that with Irredeemable still not even a year old, it’s too early for Boom! Studios to launch a spinoff title that explores the opposite dynamic: the world’s most powerful super-villain turning over a new leaf to fight for what’s right. I really don’t understand that aversion to this new title. The way I see it, the publisher is simply beginning the expansion of its super-hero line in a shared-continuity context. No one took issue with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s efforts to develop a larger super-hero universe almost 50 years ago or any other comics creators who have done the same over the life of the comics medium as a whole. That being said, while I enjoyed Incorruptible, it’s a far cry from the strength of Irredeemable. Still, there’s a great deal of potential here, and it certainly looks as though one’s appreciation of the plotlines and characters of this title won’t be dependent one one’s knowledge of the other.

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Pixar on the Page

Wall-E #0
“Working to Dig You Out”
Writer: J. Torres
Artist/Cover artist: Morgan Luthi
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Jose Macasocol, Jr.
Editor: Aaron Sparrow
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom Kids! imprint
Price: $2.99 US

While I enjoyed Mark Waid’s take on The Incredibles for Boom! Studios, I found it paled in comparison with the movie that inspired it (which happens to be my favorite Pixar flick). Boom’s Toy Story comics were cute but clearly aimed the younger set and therefore lacked the all-ages appeal of the movies. And as for the publisher’s take on Cars, well, I didn’t care for the movie and therefore had no interest in the comic-book spinoff. So it was with some hesitation that I approached this latest Pixar-inspired comic book from Boom! Studios, especially given the fact that the premise imposes severe limitations as far as characters and dialogue are concerned. To my amazement, writer J. Torres has done for a Pixar comic book what Roger Langridge did for a Muppet comic book. Torres overcomes the challenges inherent in adapting what one could view as essentially silent film and captures the same kind of cuteness, curiosity and innocence that allowed a computer-generated robot character to mesmerize millions.

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Die Another Day

Die Hard coversDie Hard: Year One #1
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Stephen Thompson
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: Dave Johnson/Jock/John Paul Leon
Editors: Ian Brill & Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

When Boom! Studios announced it acquired the Die Hard and planned to present an “untold” tale of cop John McClane’s days as a New York beat cop, I applauded the idea. Die Hard certainly isn’t the kind of movie licence one expects to find in comics today, given that the bulk of the franchise is more than a decade behind us. Such properties usually get the comics-medium adaptation or use at the height of their popularity, but I think the folks at Boom! rightly realized that Bruce Willis’s McClane character is an action-movie icon that’s never going to go out of style. When you say, “Yippee ki yay, motherfucker,” I doubt there’s anyone 16 and over in Western society who doesn’t know exactly what you’re talking about, even though what you’re saying sounds like gibberish. Yes, a Die Hard comic is a good idea. Unfortunately, Howard Chaykin’s script doesn’t read like a Die Hard comic. It’s an interesting look back at the New York City of a different era, but it lacks the John McClane/Bruce Willis charm, the humor and the inventive action that made the Die Hard movies such successes.

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Poe and He in Motion

Poe #1
Writer: J. Barton Mitchell
Artist: Dean Kotz
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Marshall Dillon
Cover artists: Declan Shalvey/Jeffrey Spokes
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

As I began to read this comic book, I feared that it might demand that its audience be familiar with the full bibliography of the title character’s writings and his life story. As I’m almost two decades removed from my 19th Century American Lit class, my current level of information abut Edgar Allan Poe is far from exhaustive. Fortunately, one’s able to appreciate this supernatural detective story even if one’s only passing familiar with Poe’s past. Writer J. Barton Mitchell takes the tragedy of Poe’s later years and transforms him into a haunted soul, literally. Despite the darker aspects of the main character, this book is actually quite a bit of fun, as the creators offer up something more akin to a cross between Sherlock Holmes and B.P.R.D..

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