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THE CAT'S MEOW: What's Good on the Shelf This Week-Year 3 - Week 8 _ _________________________________________________________________________
Reviews by John Norris, October 27 , 2008

Since this is the issue before Halloween, I thought it fitting to begin with a book that focuses on one of horror's most iconic characters.

DEAR DRACULA

Written by Joshua Williamson; illustrated by Vicente “Vinny” Navarrete

Publisher: Silverline/Image

Format: hardcover book

Concept: A young boy named Sam loves scary movies, especially the ones with Dracula! This year, instead of writing to Santa for Christmas, Sam writes to Dracula, asking the vampire king if he can become a real vampire for Halloween! Sam is in for a surprise as the most famous vampire himself comes to visit! A fun and fanciful romp through a young boy's imagination, drawn in an engaging style that will delight ALL AGES! (from imagecomics.com)

Review: We all love iconic characters, whether they be Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, Batman or Santa Claus. Those four, and many others like them, have been featured in many children's books before and are, for the most part, kid-friendly characters. So the great thing about this book is that the title character is someone who is NOT generally thought of as being kid-friendly. I really like that underneath the fun, Williamson has crafted an intelligent story that has something to say about fantasy versus reality and letting a kid be a kid while they're still young. As much as Sam wants to be a vampire in the beginning, he takes the time to really think things through and consider what he would have to give up as the story progresses. Dracula, on the other hand, wonders if it's better to gain a fellow vampire but lose a friend in the process. Both Sam and Dracula are wonderfully expressive characters, thanks in large part to Navarrete. His artwork is just FANTASTIC, and he really knows how to give characters life. This book is a rarity: a well-crafted, beautifully illustrated all-ages love letter to a horror icon. It deserves a place in everyone's library.

DEAR DRACULA is part of a new line of books from Silverline, an imprint of Shadowline Comics, published by Image. You can check out the ad in the back of this book and read brief synopses of other Silverline books. They look like high-quality books, and I look forward to reading them.

THE FAMILY DYNAMIC #3: “Secret, Secret, I've Got a Secret” (All Ages)

J. Torres (w); Tim Levins (p); Dan Davis & Lee Townsend (i); Heroic Age (c); Sal Cipriano (l); cover by Sean “Cheeks” Galloway

Publisher: DC

Format: three-issue miniseries

Concept:

In this issue : What's worse than being a sidekick who has to take orders from a senior Super Hero partner? Being a teenage superhero who has to answer to their superhero parents! Little Wing, Troylus and Terran face the music when they strike out on their own, deciding to battle the man-monster Monstero without super-parent supervision. (from dccomics.com)

Review: Facing Monstero on their own is proving to not be the best decision Little Wing, Troylus and Terran have ever made. Not just because Monstero is more than they can handle, but you just never know when someone's going to let something slip like, say, a hero's identity. With that, Torres sets the stage for a great scene in which everyone knows something about someone else, but nobody wants dad to find out. I probably don't have to say this, but I will: Levins' art is wonderful, especially Monstro's design.

INVINCIBLE #54 (Teen/Young Adult)*

Robert Kirkman (w); Ryan Ottley (p); Cliff Rathburn (i); Fco Plascencia (c); Rus Wooton (l); cover by Ottley & Bill Crabtree

Publisher: Image

Format: monthly series

Concept:

In this issue: FIGHTMASTER AND DROP KICK RETURN! They're back from the future to alter the past – can Invincible stop them – or will he be lost in the time stream forever? Also in this issue: Kid Omni-Man saves the day. (from imagecomics.com)

Review: What we have here is both a neat time-travel story and a real showcase for the talents of the great art team. There's nothing worse than having a romantic date interrupted by two guys whom you defeated. But Mark Grayson is just the person to have such luck. Then, of course, there's the issue of what Mark's expected to do in the future—and who he's expected to do it to. That is not for a review to tell you, but I can say that once Mark returns, Ottley, Rathburn and Plascencia present a couple of double-page spreads that rank among some of the best artwork the book has seen to date.

*Look out for: a panel in which Mark rips someone's head off

 

MARVEL ADVENTURES SUPER HEROES #4: “Klaw's Good Ol' Fashioned Country Revival” (All Ages)

Paul Tobin (w); Alvin Lee (p); Terry Pallot (i); Val Staples (c); Nate Piekos (l); cover by Roger Cruz

Publisher: Marvel

Format: monthly series

Concept:

In this issue: When Klaw, the master of sound, forms a country and western band, Iron Man, Spider-Man and the Hulk decide to investigate. Unfortunately, the Hulk gets hooked on Klaw's mournful music and, wanting to solve those cliché-ridden problems Klaw so beauuutifully sings about, starts returning every lost (and not so lost) dog to its owner, insists on driving a pickup truck, and goes in for some very extreme "Hulk-style" relationship counseling. While this draws a lot of media attention to Klaw's band, it's the Hulk (dang it!) getting all the press, making an irritated Klaw VERY jealous. The fight is ON! (from marvel.com)

Review: Stop me if you've heard this one. What happens when you play a country song backwards? You get your dog back, you get your truck back, you get your relationship back…the Hulk, apparently, will see to that. In this rather tall tale, former villain Klaw has gone straight, using his powers and knowledge for music instead of crime. Personally, I'd have thought he'd be more of a rocker, and who would possibly have guessed that the Hulk would be into country music? Musical preferences aside, it's nice to see a villain who has truly gone straight, and I like how the story ends. Lee provides some pretty cool artwork, especially Iron Man punching the Beetle through a wall and Spidey swinging through the city.

 

TINY TITANS #9 (All Ages)

Art Baltazar & Franco (w); art & cover by Baltazar

Publisher: DC

Format: monthly series

Concept:

In this issue : Mayhem ensues when Beppo monkeys around with Zatara's magic wand and turns the whole team into apes! The tree house quickly fills with more monkeys than you can shake a stick at. Plus, Bumblebee meets some new friends who are truly tiny. (from dccomics.com)

Review: It was bound to happen. Eventually, everyone in the DC universe gets turned into monkeys (as Robin points out on the cover), and now it's the Tiny Titans' turn, thanks to Beppo. Trust me when I say that Beppo goes, well, APE with Zatara's wand; I lost count of the number of times Robin gets transformed! There's some nice in-jokes in here, from the cover to the Atom's family (get it?) to Robin's comic book collection, which features actual covers for classic TEEN TITANS, BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM, and even Baltazar & Franco's own PATRICK THE WOLF BOY. Extras include a Tiny Titans Puzzler and an Atom's family pin-up.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #127 (Teen/Young Adult)

Brian Michael Bendis (w); Stuart Immonen (p); Wade von Grawbadger (i); Justin Ponsor (c); Cory Petit (l);

Publisher: Marvel

Format: monthly series

Concept:

In this issue : Carnage versus Venom for all the marbles! It's the big conclusion to the War of the Symbiotes as Eddie Brock returns to Midtown High after months away. He seeks out Peter Parker and demands that Peter either help him find the Venom symbiote that once was grafted to him or Peter's secret identity will be revealed. Who should show up at his doorstep but a very much alive blast from Peter's past! (from marvel.com)

Review: Man, Peter Parker just CANNOT get a break. It's bad enough that Eddie Brock turns up at Peter's school and gives him this ultimatum: find the Venom symbiote or his identity is revealed. Nor is it bad enough that Norman Osborn attacks the Triskelion. No, the bad news is that Carnage is back, along with a certain female host. There's not a lot of action, but it's still visually exciting thanks to Immonen's panel layouts which, combined with Bendis' words, take an otherwise dull situation such as Peter sitting at a computer and make it compelling. To say nothing of Spidey swinging around the Baxter Building .

 

USAGI YOJIMBO #115: “The Fortress” (Teen/Young Adult)

Written & illustrated by Stan Sakai; cover by Sakai & Tom Luth

Publisher: Dark Horse

Format: monthly series

Concept:

In this issue: When Lord Tadakazu died without leaving an heir, the Shogun himself took responsibility for dividing the lord's holdings. Mysteriously, an entire fortress was given to Lord Otomo, a rival of Tadakazu, with the provision that he personally take possession of the structure. When Usagi discovers that the Neko ninja plan to attack Lord Otomo, the rabbit ronin believes this strange gift may be part of a plot to assassinate the lord. Yet no ninja assault can compare to the surprise that awaits Otomo within the walls of his old enemy's fortress. (from darkhorse.com)

Review: According to the issue I read, it's Lord Wakame that dies without an heir, and Lord Awase is to take possession of the fortress known as the Red Cloud Castle . Usagi wants to make sure that the lord and his samurai get there; Chizu doesn't. Sakai provides some great action sequences, only to outdo himself with a scene that…well, I can only say that not since GONE WITH THE WIND have I witnessed a scene involving so many wounded people.

To be reviewed in next week's column:

ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #9

MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR #41

WOLVERINE: FIRST CLASS #8

X-MEN FIRST CLASS GIANT-SIZE SPECIAL #1

By thy side,

John “Figaro” Norris

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