Recent Comic Reviews

The Eternal Smile - Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim

Comic: The Eternal Smile - Three Stories
Release date: May 2009
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Derek Kirk Kim
Publisher: First Second (:01)
Cover: full-color
Interior: full-color
Synopsis: The story of a prince who defeats his greatest enemy only to discover that maybe his world is not what it had seemed. 
The story of a frog who finds that just being a frog might be the way to go.
The story of a women who receives an e-mail from Prince Henry of Nigeria asking for a loan to help save his family – and gives it to him.  

The Deal

After having bought 'Missouri Boy' by the same publisher (and really liking it) I didn't think too hard about it when I saw this graphic novel in the sales section of a book store in England (for the life of me I can't remember what store it came from). I've never read the well known story of 'American Born Chinese' by Gene Luen Yang and 'Same Difference' by Derek Kirk Kim but I've read great reviews about those two stories. It felt like I was buying a book with a dream-team partnership. 

The Feel

I can almost copy and paste this section from my earlier review of Missouri Boy, also a 'First Second' graphic novel. I've since seen a couple more and it seems all their books are designed to the same specifications and probably printed by the same Chinese printer. 
Both the front and back cover have an inside flap and are made of thick sturdy paper that will keep your book in perfect condition. Unfortunately in my copy the glued part of the the front and back cover part has come loose from the interior pages. The perfect binding is still holding all the pages together but I have to wonder how long that will last if I keep reading the stories. But perhaps that's why it was in the sales section of the store? The interior pages are made up of full color printed bleached matte paper. The pages in my copy were cut perfectly straight and kept together with perfect binding. The front and back cover have been UV-spot coated on top of the typography and most of the artwork.

The Stories and the Look

Three stories with three completely different but very impressive drawing styles. The three stories are about the reality we live in and the reality we perceive. They're all stories with a twist, I won't delve into the details too deep so I'll give it away.

Duncan's Kingdom
The princess wants her favorite knight to kill the Frog King who killed her father. Will he succeed and what else will he find?
A story of reality and the power of a guilty conscience. The story follows through quickly. I thought it was nice but did see the twist coming so wasn't surprised at the ending. Did find that everything was explained at the end and it all fitted properly in the story. The people and their surroundings were realistically drawn. If you put the first and the last picture of this story next to each other you can fill in the story in between in many different ways. If I was a teacher I'd give these two pages to students and ask them to make the story in between. To me it felt like a classic reality story that felt re-hashed. I found nothing new or surprising in the story as it was told. I did however really like the artwork. It fitted the story, colors were dark and gloomy where they were supposed to be and happy and colorful where it fitted. Well done Derek Kirk Kim.

Gran'pa Greenbax and The Eternal Smile
I loved the artwork from the first page, like it came straight from a 60's comic. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Story wise it started out good and I was wondering what would happen, but the middle just got a bit crazy for me and I started to wonder where it was going. The ending came as a surprise but did make me think of The Truman Show a bit too much. 

Urgent Request
Janet meets an on-line Nigerian prince who promises to send her money if she'll let him use her bank account. I think we've all heard stories of what happens next.
The artwork is so completely different from the other two stories it looks like it's made by a different artist. The art is soft and has no hard edges. I like the changes between the colors of her real life and the fantasy she's living. I like how all the text and text balloons are outside the panels so they don't interfere with the artwork. The story was set up very nicely. I really felt for Janet at her office and felt for her as she sent out the first e-mail to her new Nigerian friend. I know these things happen with people who fall for these kinds of things hook, line and sinker. I thought it ended in the middle of the story, there could be so much more than this. I guess that's the only disappointment I have with this story. The art is beautiful, the story is nice and sometimes a bit crazy. 

The Conclusion

I feel conflicted about this graphic novel. It contains three stories and all of them have their good points but as a whole it's not quite where it could be. I liked 'Urgent Request' the most although I think there could be so much more to the story. It feels unfinished somehow. The three artistic styles drawn by Derek Kirk Kim are amazingly beautiful and very different from each other. 

How to get a copy

I found my copy on sale and got it for 4,99 GBP. I Googled the title and found it on a couple of websites, the cheapest was on Amazon USA. It was no longer available from 'First Second' publishers so your best bet might be to get it from a second hand store. 

Bastard Son: Murderborn, issue 1 by Frank T. Allen and Marco Fontanili

Comic: Bastard Son: Murderborn, issue 1
Release date: Soon
Writer: Frank T. Allen
Artist: Marco Fontanili
Letterer: Taylor Esposito

Cover: Full-color
Interior: Full-color
Synopsis: There is something very wrong with Ethan Welles. 
As a child, Ethan would wake every night to the sound of his own screams. Through terrified tears the boy would tell his mother of a monstrous figure that pursued him through endless dark corridors, whispering awful things in an inhuman voice. Eventually, to preserve the boy's sanity, professional help was sought. 
Now a grown man, Ethan thought the nightmares from his childhood to be a thing of the past. He thought the terror banished by years of therapy and anti-psychotics. 
He was wrong. The nightmares came back. He came back. 
The darkness inside Ethan won't stop until it claims him and it isn't alone. 
There are others. 

The Deal

I received an e-mail with a link to the finished first chapter/issue of Bastard Son: Murderborn. The link led me to Issuu where I read the comic. The co-creator of Bastard Son, writer Frank T. Allen, started a Kickstarter project at the end of 2015. However Christmas isn't the best time to have a project on Kickstarter because it failed. Now the creators are on the verge of starting a new Kickstarter and I hope they succeed. Unfortunately I wasn't available for a review then but now my schedule is clear and honestly, who can resist a proper horror comic?

The Feel

I'll hopefully be able to tell you more about the print quality once the new Kickstarter finishes, but for now there's nothing to touch, or lick for those so inclined. 

The Story

This first of the five total chapters serves as an introductory tale of Ethan, his family and the thing that has haunted his dreams ever since he was young. The beginning of a horror tale with snippets of things to come. The first impressions of Ethan and his family are good. You get a quick sense of who everyone is as a character and you can quickly get on with the story. The ever present feeling of despair and fright in Ethan is never far off. The digital version of the comic is a full 23 pages long, which does not include a splash or back page, just one story from the inside cover page to the last. 

The Look

Fontanili made a clear distinction between present day, the past, dreamworld and the dark devil worshippers environment. His use of color is fantastic, bright where life is good and dark where it needs to be. The line-art is crisp and clean. Shading is spot-on and Fontanili is able to support Allen's story with great art. Whether you're looking at the faces, background images or the colors, everything blends in perfect harmony. I like the subtle use of Photoshop brushes and textures on some of the clothes and backgrounds. The only thing I was a little disappointed by are the large eyeballs as featured on page three as I would have preferred these to be a bit more realistic. It feels a little out of touch with the rest of the art, which is fantastic. That being said I don't think a couple of eyeballs should deter you from purchasing this good start. 

The Conclusion

This is definitely not a comic for the younger crowd as there are many gory and scary details. If you're older than sixteen or seventeen and you love horror, well then you really can't go wrong with this comic horror series. I was left with a feeling of wanting more. Perhaps even needing more. I love a good slasher movie and this feels right up my alley. My gut says we haven't even gotten to the good part yet. After reading this first issue I am so ready for the next installments, which will hopefully include more blood, guts and gore. Bring it on! 

How to Get a Copy

Curious about Bastard Son? Want to read the prequel to the story and be dazzled by some amazing artwork? Please check out the Bastard Son Trailer  issue on Issuu. More information can be found on the Bastard Son website. A new Kickstarter campaign for the first chapter is about to kick off. You'll find the link here later when the Kickstarter goes live.  You can also get your hands on some of Fontanili's artwork.

Dragon Slayer: The Collected Edition by Devin Kraft

Comic: Dragon Slayer: The Collected Edition
Release date: August 2014
Writer: Devin Kraft
Artist: Devin Kraft, Matthew Warlick and Jake Ekiss
Publisher: Cheshire Cat Art
Cover: red, black and white
Interior: full color
Synopsis: Dragon Slayer follows a ronin, a king, and a dragon as they each seek revenge for their own reasons. 
It takes a man to kill a dragon. What does it take to kill the Dragon Slayer?

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