Ravine Volume 2

1607067684.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Ravine, Volume 2 by Stjepan Šejić
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The epic fantasy Ravine gets bigger in “Volume 2” as Stjepan Sejic delves into the background of one of his primary characters, one whose anti-hero past is both dark and surprisingly light. Not only does Sejic grow the scale in the story “proper” but his appendix entries makes one wish he had the chance to draw them in epic art instead of prose.

Stein and Lynn join together in their journeys out of Palladia into the territory of the city-state of Wade during which Lynn comes to like the Wanderer, though Stein only tells his traveling companion half-truths about his life while avoiding the darker patches of his personal history. Meanwhile Lynn’s true past surprises and/or angers members of her former Dragoon squad who are sent to meet up in Wade. However Stein’s previous actions and his dark past have him being followed by the Captain of the King’s personal guard who along with a former rural guard-turned-travelling companion interact with someone close to Stein, how they are connected is easily guessed and later confirmed in the appendix tales. The end of the volume has Stein and Lynn facing off with a insane dragonrider terrorizing the trading routes in and around Wade and Palladia, the encounter makes the reader want to see more.

Unfortunately for readers who love both Volumes of Ravine with Sejic’s magnificent art and great storytelling, Volume 2 did not sell well and thus Sejic had to put this series on hold after waiting 11 years to publish this story. If you enjoyed Ravine as much as I do then I encourage you to spread the news about how great Ravine is and get a following for it so Sejic can be able to publish more of this story in the future.

Volume One

Oddly Normal (Book 1)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The trials of middle school are front and center in Otis Frampton’s Oddly Normal (Book 1), but unlike other young adult reads the young protagonist just can’t find any luck in either our world or the realm of Fignation. As a fan of Otis’ artwork I’ve known about his relaunch of this series for a few years, but I wish I had grabbed this book earlier than I did.

Oddly Normal, the non-magical daughter of a witch and a normal human, has green hair and pointy ears thus subjecting her to middle school hell. On her 10th birthday she wishes her parents would go away and strangely enough they do. Whisked away to her mother’s home realm of Fignation by her Great Aunt, Oddly enters a new school and finds herself back in middle school hell because instead of being a half-witch in the real world, she is a half-human in the imaginary world. And then she barely escapes an attack on her life.

This young adult graphic novel is not another story in which an social outcast goes to a new school and becomes someone special, it’s a story in which a social outcast goes to a new school and is still a social outcast…if not worse. The artwork and story by Frampton are both excellent and will draw any young reader in because at some time in our younger days we felt like social outcasts, but it seems that poor Oddly has it worse and that makes the reader want to see her overcome things and discover what happened to her parents.

If the ‘young adult’ tag puts you off personally from reading Oddly Normal then direct a middle school that you know towards this book and let them follow along as a green-haired, pointy-eared 10 year old tries to navigate not one, but two middle schools in which doesn’t fit.

Book Two
Book Three

Ravine Volume 1

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been an admirer of the fantastic artwork of Stjepan Sejic for years and could not wait to get my hands on Ravine after seeing preview pieces on his DeviantArt account. The book’s is named after the continent on which this epic fantasy story takes place in numerous kingdoms amongst several different cultures and religious beliefs that influence the world in which the main characters find themselves and by the end of the book the reader finds out those two characters are not well thought of.

Dragons, humans, and in-between half-blood species form the populace of the continent of Ravine separated into several kingdoms and tribes, however there are some individuals that are not bound by borders or laws—Wanderers. These individuals are the hands of Fate, bonded to their magical grimlas weapons and we follow two of them—Stein Phais and Lynn de Luctes. Stein begins “Ravine” as a notorious Wanderer while Lynn is a dragonrider-in-trainer and ends the book a newly bonded Wanderer. Between following these two individuals Sejic builds the world they inhabit especially the growing tension between the sectarian and religious powers in the continent’s grand Alliance, but Sejic also teases a look at the nefarious elements that are making those tensions worse because of their own plans. After around 140 pages of story, Sejic ends the book with almost 20 pages worth of worldbuilding material that further develops the background of the continent of Ravine and makes the reader interested in seeing what will happen in Volume 2.

Characters, story, and art all make Ravine a must read for any epic fantasy comic readers and those who just enjoy epic fantasy in any medium. Stjepan Sejic’s 11 year development of his world results in a magnificent first installment.

Volume Two

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #1)

1477849106-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The graphic novel adaptation of the first of George R.R. Martin’s Dunk & Egg novellas, not only stays true to the originally written story but gives it life with fantastic renderings of all the characters, the locales, and the action.  Drawn by artist Mike S. Miller and livened by colorist Mike Crowell, The Hedge Knight gives both Game of Thrones book and show fans a great look into the history of the Seven Kingdoms by seeing the beginnings of two individuals, Ser Duncan (Dunk) the Tall and the future King Aegon (Egg) V, who impact the series even a century later.

The story begins with Dunk burying his mentor Ser Arlan Pennytree before taking his arms and horses to the Tourney at Ashford Meadow in an attempt to win a place in a lord’s house by winning a tilt and becoming a champion if only for a little while.  Unfortunately Dunk finds himself broiled in a family feud, but this family happens to be the dynasty of the dragonkings–the Targaryens.  Not only does Dunk find his temporary squire to be a Prince, but he punches and kicks Egg’s older (cruel) brother Aerion which could either leave him dead or maimed.  Dunk’s fate comes down to a unique form of trial by combat, which has ramifications not only for him but knightly families and the realm itself.

Of the work surrounding the graphic novel itself, I can only praise the work of Miller and Crowell who not only brought into visual life Dunk and Egg but so many other historically important characters in very consistent way throughout the entire book.  It is hard to find fault with the work of these two men save with pointing out a few continuity errors, which unfortunately happen in every graphic novel.  If anything after viewing their work I’m tempted to find more graphic novel either man has worked on given the good quality of work each put in this book.

If you’re a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire world and haven’t gotten this book yet I recommend you get it; if you’re a television fan of Game of Thrones I highly recommend you get this book to see how the ancestors of some of your favorite and least favorite characters interacted while also seeing the Targaryens on the throne.

A Song of Ice and Fire

Avengers vs. X-Men

0785163182.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Avengers vs. X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title Avengers vs. X-Men alone brings to mind many ideas and debates about who would win a contest, especially in light of how some have moved from one time to another over the course of Marvel history.  The epic event Avengers vs. X-Men is the result not only of recent events in the Marvel Universe but over the whole course of the Marvel Universe and how each side interrupts the advent of the Phoenix Force upon the Earth.

Overall the story is coherent through the entire saga, though there are several rough patches that disrupt things from time to time.  The custody of Hope Summers, the Mutant Messiah, and future host of the Phoenix Force is the trigger the conflict between the two teams.  But things only get interesting when Tony Stark seeking a scientific way to stop the Force instead makes things worse by splitting it into five pieces that inhabit five different X-Men.  The mistrust of the Phoenix Five’s work and intentions followed by the mistrust of the Five of non-mutants is a recipe for disaster that the darkening effect of the Phoenix Force uses to its advantage to become whole.

Those not versed in all the recent events of the Marvel Universe up to the start of Avengers vs. X-Men won’t be lost as the writers deftly put in hints without going into just plain dumping information on the reader.  The subtly of the Dark Phoenix, actions of others to cause conflict between members of the Five, and the mistrust of the Five amongst themselves over time was a wonderful subplot upon looking back upon the story.  The action and battles are drawn wonderfully, however they come at the cost of character development especially when it comes to the root cause of the conflict as well as the ultimate solution, Hope, who disappears the scene or is in the background for a large portion of the middle third of the story.  In addition, the mistrust of the X-Men to the Five resulting in them aligning with the Avengers is alluded to but not seen which hurt the concluding chapters of the saga.

Even with some story missteps, the overall work of Avengers vs. X-Men is very good and a delight to read.

Infinity Gauntlet

0785156593.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Infinity Gauntlet is one of those comic events that makes an impact when it debuts and then casts a long shadow in the universe in which it is set.  The story within the six issue collection is very well written and illustrated as it shows the effects of Thanos’ use of the Gauntlet as the universe’s new deity and as Marvel’s heroes, villains, and cosmic entities battle to save existence.  Starlin’s use of foreshadowing in the saga itself is well done for the conclusion of the entire story by reminding readers of previous conflicts, however this also undermines the entire volume.  Background of how Thanos achieved gaining possession of the Gauntlet is a big missing piece that leaves a hole in the narrative that hurts the collection for first time readers like myself.  But once a reader like myself is able to see how Thanos gained possession of the Gauntlet then this collection will really shine.