Monday, April 14, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND



I haven't watched professional wrestling for years. However, as a young boy I did and I remember watching when Andre the Giant became a bad guy and ended up fighting Hulk Hogan for the championship in Wrestlemania III. Besides, Hogan, Andre had always been a favorite and I couldn't believe he "flipped" over. Later, he came back around and ended his career as one of the good guys. Although there are a few kids book and WWE sponsored books about Andre the Giant, there really has never been a decent biography about Andre's life ( book was published several years ago, but is a terrible biography). Box Brown has attempted to fill that deficit with ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND.

ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND is a biography of Andre the Giant told in graphic novel format. Although graphic novels are still viewed as being "kid's books", ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND is not a children's book. It respects the man, but doesn't shy away from some of the less savory aspects of his life: drinking, swearing, sexual exploits, etc.

The book does an excellent job at illustrating Andre's life-long struggle with acromegaly. In a regular novel form, this struggle would be difficult to convey. However, a graphic novelization is a great format to convey and illustrate this struggle.

Some of the events the book touches upon will be familiar with diehard wrestling fans (e.g. Dick Murdock's birthday party). However, there are other events that aren't as well known. There's also the occasional interesting tidbit, for instance, the time Andre got a ride to school from Samuel Beckett.

It's difficult to compact the life of a man as big as Andre into a book, but ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND does a great job. It's an interesting graphical biography that both fans and non-fans of wrestling will enjoy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Short Book Review: BIG NATE; GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE

BIG NATE GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE is the latest collection of "Big Nate" comic strips. However, unlike collections of comic strips for of other comics, there's really no particular order for the strips in BIG NATE GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE: they aren't around a particular theme or topic or season of the year or storyline. They are just a hodgepodge of various "Big Nate" strips. Also, most of these "Big Nate" strips have appeared before in previous collections. Therefore, if you are a collector of "Big Nate" strips, you might want to skip over GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE because you probably own most of the strips in this book in previous collections. However, if you are new to "Big Nate", then GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE makes a pretty good introduction and primer to the world of Big Nate. The book includes a pull-out poster of the book's front cover.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: BENNY BREAKIRON IN THE TWELVE TRIALS OF BENNY BREAKIRON



Benny Breakiron is a loveable little boy with the superhuman powers whose only weakness is getting a cold. He returns in BENNY BREAKIRON IN THE TWELVE TRIALS OF BENNY BREAKIRON. In this story, Benny's elderly friend Monsieur Dussiflard discovers that a kind deed he and his friends did years ago might make them billionaires. However, someone discovers Dussiflard's secret and sets out to harm him and his friends. Dussiflard and Benny set out to warn his friends and along the way Benny completes twelve amazing tasks. I've only read the first BENNY BREAKIRON story, but I enjoyed BENNY BREAKIRON AND THE TWELVE TRIALS OF BENNY BREAKIRON even more. I look forward to reading even more adventures about Benny Breakiron.

Book Review: CHARLIE BROWN AND FRIENDS



It's difficult to believe that Charles Schulz passed away in 2000. However, Schulz drew nearly 18,000 "Peanuts" strips in his life and "Peanuts" continues to carry on after his death. CHARLIE BROWN AND FRIENDS is a collection of "Peanuts" strips that mostly focuses on Charlie Brown. These strips have been published at least twice before in newspapers: they were published once when Schulz was alive and they were republished again after his death. There are dates listed next to the comics, but these dates refer to the second newspaper printings and not the original newspaper printings. I'm a huge fan of Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" and I love seeing new books out that are being marketed towards younger people. Schulz always did that when he was alive and I'm glad that it continues.

At the end of the book there is a how to list of some activities kids can do: making a Charlie Brown mask, making a kite, making a flip book, and making puppy chow. There are also some facts about Charles Schulz as well as a short history of the Charles M. Schulz Museum as well as some questions for reflections. There's also a list of places to go for further information. Lastly, along the side margins of CHARLIE BROWN AND FRIENDS there is a flip book.

Overall, CHARLIE BROWN AND FRIENDS is not a complete collection or treasury. Instead, it's a collection of "Peanuts" comics mostly having to do with Charlie Brown and is aimed at children.

Graphic Novel Review: LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL



LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL is a Superman story that's really not about Superman. Instead, it's a tale about Lex Luthor, Superman's arch nemesis. At face value it seems strange that Superman's greatest foe isn't another alien or a human with super abilities. Most of the time when Luthor fights Superman, he doesn't even face him: Luthor uses others to do his dirty work and is a master of covering his trail. Instead, Superman's greatest foe is a man who believes just as strongly in the American Way as Superman does. Luthor also believes in man's ability to rise above himself. However, Luthor believes that he knows best and in his mind Superman must be stopped at all costs because he isn't human.

LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL is a five-part series that illustrates a plan by Luthor to bring Superman down. The plan is multi-layered and isn't completely revealed until the final few pages of the story. The story does offer a picture of Luthor that isn't always seen in the comics: a man who has risen above his circumstances to the highest echelons a human being can achieve, a man who really does believe humanity can succeed and excel on its own without help from a supernaturally gifted alien, and a man who desperately longs to be loved. Yet, although the story touches upon those aspects of Luthor's character, it never really delves into them. The reader is left understanding why he wants to get rid of Superman, but that's about it. There's no explanation of where Luthor came from or why he does some of the things he does.

Most of the story is like that, too. Superman and Batman have a fight, but we aren't given any explanation why Batman wants to fight Superman: they never really hated each other like that in the comics and the few times they did fight, Batman never tried to kill Superman. Until the end of the story, there's no real explanation of where Hope came from either. Even then, the explanation that is given is quite short and leaves more questions than answers.

Besides the lack of answers, I also didn't like the way that Superman is portrayed in this story. There is one shot of Clark Kent, but other than that, every time Superman is shown his eyes are either closed or they are glowing red. Superman's eyes only glow red when he uses his heat vision.

The illustrations are really well done. It's just a shame the story isn't as strong as the illustrations are.

Overall, although LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL attempts to provide an inside look into Lex Luthor, it really doesn't reveal anything new about Luthor.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN



Based upon the sketch from ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS, MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN is a series of comics that works as a sort-of sequel to the motion picture, MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN. This trade paperback brings together issues #1-4 of the new comic book MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN. There's some educational content and the puns are flying as Peabody and Sherman visit prehistoric times; have a "date" with the Mayans and their calendar; see the Teatro Novissimo opera house in Venice, Italy; take a ride with Blackbeard the pirate; get Archimedes to take a bath in ancient Greece; throw some apples at Isaac Newton; help invent gunpowder in China; inspire Shakespeare to write; and help Cyrano de Bergerac in matters of love. In addition, there are two tales of "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" from issues #3 & #4 of the classic Golden Key comic book BULLWINKLE AND ROCKY. Overall, MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN is a fun and entertaining book. Highly recommended for fans of "Mr. Peabody and Sherman", both old and new.