Review: The Dreaming Volume 2: Empty Shells by Simon Spurrier, Abigail Larson, Bilquis Evely, Matt Lopes and Quinton Winter

‘Turns out it’s the diseased and the dying who feel it first when the whole world breaks like a heart.’

I have returned folks! I was lucky enough to have a mini Staycation in Galway with the boyf this week and I never got time to prep posts before leaving so this review is well overdue. As a lifelong Sandman fan (yes, there is a review coming for the Audible drama too) I have been more than happy to continue reading the Sandman Universe titles from the DC Black Label/Vertigo formerly. However The Dreaming, I have been struggling with.

Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely continue the stories of the characters from the award-winning The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman as Lord Daniel is introduced to the cold taste of heartbreak. And as expected, it’s not pretty.

Even the Lord of Dreams is powerless against the storm of lost love. As with his predecessor Morpheus, Lord Daniel will find love in the last place anyone could have hoped for…the realm of the mortals. And as with all romantic entanglements between mortals and the Endless, things are destined to be doomed. Meanwhile, a newly awakened mind in the Dreaming brings with it radical changes that may undo reality itself!

Collects The Dreaming #7-12

This was so hard to rate and even think of words for a review. I loved so much of the story, the art and the way this series is linking back to the original run but ultimately it was messy and disappointing with lots of the potential that was built on between issues 7-9 being left with so many plot threads untouched.

Think it’s best to start by explaining that issues 7&8 were the best so far in this series, both art and story wise. I love Abigail Larson’s art and often just stare at her instagram crying in Art Graduate. But the art works so well with this two part story. We see Lucien in recovery from his last encounter in the Dreaming in a hospital in the mortal realm while having Rose Walker tell her story to him.

I was more than happy to see Rose again, The Dolls House is one of my favourites of the Sandman stories and I often wondered how her direct heritage tied to the Endless might play out. She is not only confirmed as queer by flashbacks but she is a mother. Her daughter, Ivy, now the lover of Dream/Daniel. These both function as a wonderful standalone story with an ending that we do tie back to later and after this we return to where we left off at the end of Issue 6.

This for me is where the entire story fell apart for me and similarly ended poorly. Dora and Matthew take a trip through worlds using Dora’s powers to try and find the mising Daniel. The best part of this being the visits to old locations of the comics and meeting characters again. Other than that, the story is still not doing much in the way of exposing what is happening and relying on hints to keep the reader engaged.

Like I mentioned earlier the art remains to be utterly and totally perfect. Larson and Evely continue to keep the art to the standard this series has always had with breathtaking art to match the vast worlds and realms explored in the story. Evely and her spreads across pages to display the constantly expanding parameters of the realm of dreams works so well with Larson and how she uses smoke, vapour and cloth to frame panels makes me want to weep.

Honestly there is still a lot I love about this series. As well the most recent addition to the series, The Waking Hours, looks insanely promising. But all in all, this was a let down. Any other Sandman readers have a take on the story? Feel like this one is a great one for a discussion! Thanks for checking in everyone, happy reading.

★★★/5

Review: Shuri Volume One: Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor, Jordie Bellaire and Leonardo Romero

Black Panther is one of the best solo Marvel movies. Fight me. Wakanda forever and if Okoye punched me I would thank her for it. So when one of my favourite SFF authors was wriitng about T’challa’s genius sister on top of it, you bet I was on board. But, this wasn’t great.

The world fell in love with her in Marvel’s Black Panther. Now, T’Challa’s techno-genius sister launches her own adventures — written by best-selling Afrofuturist author Nnedi Okorafor and drawn by Eisner Award-nominated artist Leonardo Romero! T’Challa has disappeared, and everyone is looking at the next in line for the throne. Wakanda expects Shuri to take on the mantle of Black Panther once more and lead their great nation — but she’s happiest in a lab, surrounded by her own inventions. She’d rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it’s time for Shuri to go rescue her brother yet again — with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, of course! But when her outer-space adventure puts the entire cultural history of her continent at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat, can Shuri and Iron Man save Africa?

Okay hear me out when I say it may have been my own expectations that led me to not enjoying this book so much. Shuri reads even better on the page as she did on the screen, the presence of other Marvel characters such as Storm was excellent and the art was perfect. I still somehow felt a little left down by this somehow.

This is my first time reading any Black Panther/Wakanda comics and I specifically wanted to start here since I have really enjoyed Okorafor’s SFF novels and novellas so that definitely made me more inclined to start here. You can definitely start here if you have very little starter knowledge outside of who Shuri is or even a passing knowledge from the films. The world itself felt very real and that combined with the art, it really gives Wakanda an even greater sense of scale. However it did feel that all the world-building was very fleeting, like you would see the place and boom. Next panel.

Something I did enjoy most of all were the characters. Shuri is the leader of this story but we do get to see more characters I wish we had gotten to see a little more of, Storm and Okoye for one. A few other familiar characters that Shuri interacts with really well like Groot and Rocket of Guardians fame. I love Shuri a lot, the version of her is great as, if not better than, the version of her from the movie. I think she is very realistic and very strong in her resolve of no. She won’t be the Black Panther again. I do think she could have done with more of an external conflict though outside of being made ‘do the thing’. Her internal struggles with taking up the mantle again (she died in all fairness the first time) are all totally believable with real struggle. But other than she being the ‘princess’ and ‘the genius’, she faced very little outer challenge.

The biggest plus and the biggest minus here was the art vs the story. The art being some of the strongest elements here along with Shuri’s characterization. This is very much a story pitched for the younger/teenage audience for Marvel and that is great since through out there are further references to other Black Panther series the reader can find. The vibrancy of the world, the clothes and just how much more technologically advanced Wakanda is are all made the brighter by the art. However as with all comics, no art can carry a weak story. The story never focuses for long on any one plot point and by the end, the story goes in the direction it was going in the first place.

All in all this was a promising beginning to what could have been a very strong series but it fell down in a lot of places. I really struggled to review this but mostly since I feel very meh about the entire book. I am however definitely going to continue to read Nnedi Okorafor’s work and more Black Panther comics so it’s not all bad. Thanks for checking out this review! Happy reading all!

★★.5/5

Review: The Walking Dead: Compendium One

You think that we hide behind walls to protect us from the walking dead? Don’t you get it? We are the walking dead!

I think it was 2014 or 2015 when I caught up with The Walking Dead TV show. I was obsessed and I’m not even joking when I say that. I was sharing Daryl Dixon pictures on my Facebook page, I bought the Telltale game (which I have yet to play fully) and you can guess the rest. Then the show tanked, it got so bad and the only good things left were Michonne and Negan. It’s taken me until now to read the comics. Surprise surprise, they are far better.

In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living. With The Walking Dead #1-48, this compendium features more than one thousand pages chronicling the start of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning story of zombie horror, from Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, his band of survivors seeking refuge on an isolated farm and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot, The Governor.

*****Trigger Warnings for body horror, gore, mutilation, death of a parent, rape, physical and sexual assault, suicide, self-harm and domestic abuse******

So lets get this out of the way first, this is a complete tome that is over 1000 pages and I was reading this for a while. However, something I really enjoyed was once I sat down and opened this sheer brick of a collection, it was very easy to be sucked in to the story. So if the sheer length of it scared you, it is very easy to sail through it.

This is a sad and bitter world with people reduced to relying on survival instincts. Trusting your fellow man isn’t an option and there are no laws or government. Nothing of our old world remains and there is this constant unknowing if there is a government still there and if society will return if at all. I really liked the bleak reality of it and it was done far better in the comics. I think this has a lot to do with the pacing (more on that shortly) but there is less exposition on when things will be fixed which I do prefer and more ‘we need to survive this, let’s get moving.’ to the world as a whole.

This is mostly told from Rick Grime’s perspective and the creators have advised before that this is his story. Rick is the main focus of the plot driving the whole story as he begins in this compendium as the small town cop who is looking for his family and how he becomes the ruthless leader of a group of survivors. Rick has always interested me since he can be very realistic, and he is by no means an always good man. He has genuinely frightening moments that make him just as much of a problematic character as the people he is trying to defend himself from. Kirkman made a really good point about Rick in an interview where he described him as much more of an every-man who is very gentle, making him the perfect one to challenge in this world where the zombies don’t disappear after the credits roll. This series is what happens after that.

Obviously the “zombies” aren’t the main threat, more of an annoyance and a challenge for these people. If you like genuinely scary villains with messed up agendas and stories that really go there, you will probably love this. In terms of story arc, this book covers Rick and his awakening from his coma to the end of The Governor story line. The Governor wasn’t as compelling to me in the show the further it went on but the comics go there. He is frightening right from the start , he does everything the vilest human being you can think of could do and he takes it that step further. There is also the best damn revenge plot for him I will add. If it spoils sorry, but you might need to know.

Some smaller things stopped me from giving this a full 5 stars. One of them being that there are a few characters that are a bit too weird for me, not helping that I am comparing them to their TV counterparts. The other small thing I did have an issue with was the lack of emotional connection I had with any of the characters with how fast the plot moved. But that is to be expected so that’s just me.

The art is standout in this book. It’s black and white, totally scaled back and it really works to keep you consistently engaged in the story. This was a choice on behalf of the creators for both budget and the level of gore they wanted to go for. But even besides the fact it hides the very large amounts of blood, it really fits the mood of the story. You’re not going to care if this was done in any colour scheme once you get sucked into this story. Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard after him really managed a feat here with defining characters with limited options which does not take away from defining each character from each other. Yuo can easilt tell who is who and their feelings, it’s literally perfect.

This is the first 48 issues of the series and the culmination of the story cut through me. I honestly can’t wait to start the next compendium (thank you to my friend who lended these to me and who is super patient with me reading these slowly) Again, the size of these shouldn’t put you off. These are perfect for starting off while also being easy to get into. Do let me know if you are a fan! Happy reading all!

★★★★/5

Review: Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

Now it has been a WHILE since I covered comics on the blog. It has also been a while since I read a Teen Titans story. This book also was one of the graphic novels I couldn’t wait for last year since I have been following Gabriel Picolo and his amazing art for years. So naturally, I only read it last week.

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom–and Raven’s memory–she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school. Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before. But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past…and the darkness building inside her.

Re-imagining characters in a new way is a hard thing to pull off, especially in comics. People always come to a comic with the idea in their heads of how they experienced a character for the first time and how the new version compares. Like many, my first time meeting Raven was the Teen Titans cartoon on Cartoon Network and the subsequent DC animated works after. This vision of Raven measures up to everything and more that i was hoping for.

For a start, Garcia is the perfect choice for writing this. Choosing a YA writer to write a teenage character is generally always a good choice but here I think it works best of all with Raven being a character who is accessible now to younger readers. I think this is also a great jumping on point for adults too actually, especially if you never read a Teen Titans book.

Something that I find can be done very poorly in classic comics being brought into the current day is new characters that have never existed before. Both Garcia and Picolo together have created Max, Raven’s foster sister and new friend. I wish characters like Max had existed when I started reading comics, she is such a realistic teenager but she is also one of the few teens I have seen in comics who has a good relationship with her mother. Also as is revealed later on, Max has enough of her own shit going on and she handles it like a champ. Note, if you are a long time DC fan, you will spot a well known character connected with the titans here too!

Now to my favourite part. The art. Noone draws the Teen Titans like Gabriel Picolo. I will die on that hill. There are other amazing artists like Jen Bartel who draw the Teen Titans regularly but their appearance does tend to be based on Picolo’s vision. He draws them like teens would be dressed, in the style of Snapchats and just doing normal teen things. This was al before Raven was announced and I imagine that I wasn’t the only one that cheered.

There is a very particular palette as well in the story that keeps with Raven and her aesthetic and I honestly hope this becomes more common across other comics and graphic novels. There are generally two palettes I see in DC, and named them in my head. We have ‘the muddy’ for the edgier stories that are more along the kine of the Black Label and then ‘the bold’ for all the others. Some have both (looking at you Suicide Squad). This was a blessing to see.

I can’t not talk about the clothes. Holy shit if anyone can do fashion besides Kevin Wada, it is Gabriel Picolo. The way Raven dresses makes me long for that wardrobe in my own life. I think some of my favourites are her raven hoodie/jacket and her ‘Black is my happy colour’ shirt. Those shoes too, talk about goals.

There is thankfully a sequel being published this year (hopefully, looking at you Rona) that follows Beast Boy and I think I am safe to assume Raven will make another appearance there. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see what else this team has to offer.

I think I made the best decision to read this now of all times and get me back to reading. Again this is definitely a good place to start if you are reading either graphic novels and comics or to the Teen Titans. Stay safe everyone and happy reading to you all!

★★★★★/5