Monday, August 29, 2011

Comic quickies

Graphic novels are expensive. You have to really love something (or ignore your other bills) to drop $25 on something that takes an hour or two to read. So when Borders going out of business prices went to 50 percent or more, my wife and I went straight to the graphic novels.

I picked up three horror comics during my most recent trip.

Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore have pretty much set the standard for horror comics these days. I snagged "The Walking Dead Volume 1: Day Gone By" during the sale. I was hoping that the copy of the compendium would have still been on the shelf, because I wanted to start at the beginning at get as far as I could right away. I settled for Vol. 1, mostly because the next one available was Vol. 5 and I didn't want to skip that far ahead.

If you've been following "The Walking Dead" and it's basic cable adaptation, I have nothing new to tell you. You know the score.

If you've never picked up a copy of "The Walking Dead," start here and get hooked. The black and white artwork captures a level of emotion that color would just get in the way of. The image of small town cop Rick Grimes riding a horse through the zombie-ravaged countryside reminds one of the days when we had heroes that literally rode tall in the saddle.

"Stephen King's N." is a comic adaptation of the motion comics based on the short story of the same name. Confused? Don't sweat it.

Writer Mark Guggenheim joined with artist Alex Maleev to put together webisodes adapting King's story before the release of "Just After Sunset," the collection "N." appeared in. The two men then took what they had done, added some new material and put it to print.

The result is a startling tale of obsessive-compulsive disorders becoming contagious and the possible prevention of the end of the world. They just as easily could have adapted Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan" or any number of H.P. Lovecraft Cthulu tales to the same effect. BUt King is a thoroughly modern storyteller, so bringing his work into comics (which is becoming almost commonplace) and the web makes more sense than reaching back to the stories that inspired him.

Maleev's art has a creepy realism to it that is amplified by the unnatural story. Picking up this book for half price was a huge bonus.

Warning Signs reviewed the first volume of "American Vampire" earlier this summer. We loved it enough to buy volume two during this trip to Borders.

Creatoer Scott Snyder handles all of the writing for this second volume and did not let up from what he and Stephen King got started in the first volume. The central story takes place in Las Vegas during the construction of Hoover Dam. Skinner Sweet, the somewhat anti-heroic hero of volume one is much less heroic now. He's a Vegas casino pimp paired with another vampire to bring down a common enemy.

There are twists and turns and great character development. It does take some time before Pearl Jones, Sweet's progeny from volume one,  joins the story.

There are unannounced flashbacks that are hard to follow on the first reading, but make sense in the bigger picture of the story. And, like volume one, there is no shortage of good old bloody vampire action.

One of the things I like most about this trip to Borders and my purchases is that I managed to get three vastly different books from three different publishers. The art of comic books/graphic novels is alive and well. I just wish they weren't so expensive.

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