Category Archives: comic review

Mom/Kid Review: “How I Spent My Summer Invasion, Hide and Eeek”

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WE Comic’s follows up its debut of the all-ages comic “How I Spent My Summer Invasion,” with the first half of a two-parter, “Hide and Eeek.”

Since my daughter, Molly, and I took a look at their debut one shot, we decided to see if writer Patrick Rieger and artist Mark Sean Wilson could keep their momentum going with a two-issue story.

On this second visit to this alien vacation hideaway, “La Galatique,” Tim and Russ have settled happily into their status as intergalactic bellhops, but enter Eleanor, a ‘tween alien-hunter who’s mom just happens to be the town’s Chief of Police. When they come to inspect the hotel, the boys’ lot goes from fun to frantic as they try to keep the guests properly hidden from prying eyes (such as fixing mind rays and breaking up luaus) and maintaining some human dignity in the process. Needless to say, it ain’t easy.

Here’s my two cents as a mom and comic fan:

The pros:

Still exceptionally funny with humor that will both appease the “visuals-happy” young reader set and a some word play that will amuse the seasoned geek.  I’ve actually had a similar “zombies vs. ghosts vs. aliens” exchange with friends.

The addition of new characters in the main story — and many, many new characters in the background — did give me the optimistic impression Rieger and Wilson want to keep building and improving upon their world. Parents appreciate that when their kids ask them to shell out bucks repeatedly for the same comic title.

I’m also a sucker for extras, and the inclusion of a kid-friendly puzzle and little “thank you” letter to readers was a nice touch.

The artwork remains colorful, fun and filled with little details that will inspire readers to go back and look at the pages more closely (I dug the little “tiki alien” hidden among the poolside guests and would like to see a story line featuring him).

The cons:

Not really anything to complain about, as this book gets the job done on being a quick and fun read, but I always tend to nitpick in the design area.

I would have liked to see a clearer, comic font used in the main story text, as this chosen one (forgive me for not knowing what it is) seemed a little too thin, blurry and sometimes hard on the eyes. A simple sans serif like “Legendary” might fit well with the fast-paced nature of the story.

As far as characters, the introduction of Elly as a foil for the boys is great, but I wanted just a comment or mention of the inaugural issue’s plotline (i.e. what might have become of Starlei), just to remind the readers they aren’t leaving any unattended plot holes in the future.

How did this story’s second issue hold up to the first in the eyes of the young reader? Here’s the scoop from Molly Kay Tate, age 10:

I thought it was actually pretty funny, you know, just the way they were trying to do everything at once and it never worked out.

One of my favorite parts was when (Tim) yelled “We’ve got rats coming up the stairs” and this big rat alien said “No Way! Cousin Jethro are you there?” That was sooo hilarious.

I also like the puzzle at the end, too and think they should do that more often.

 The new girl (Eleanor) was a little weird, though. She kinda thought she knew everything and it was sort of annoying.

Also, I like the surprise ending. It makes me want to find out what happens next.

There you have it, two issues in and holding its own among its readership. Good work, boys!

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“Jimmy Brass: 2nd Grade Detective” — A Grown-Up/Kid review

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WE Comics wheels out its latest all ages adventure, “Jimmy Brass: 2nd Grade Detective,” written by Jake Dickerman and illustrated by Jason Pruett.

Drawn in bold black in white like a film noir version of a “Nancy” comic strip, Dickerman found a way to hook the reader with an early on “what the what???” moment involving honor student, Molly Thorne, who may or may not be losing her mind with visions of…monsters.

Enter Jimmy Brass, a pint-sized Sam Spade complete with a signature fedora and wisecracking inner monologue complete, Sherlockian methodology (with borrowed catch phrases ripped from Doyle’s own works). His skills remain unappreciated however, by his own over-enthusiastic “hired muscle,” bodyguard, and little sister, Opal. Brass suspects monsters may not be the trouble at all, but that something much bigger is behind Molly’s madness, which just happens to come only days before the big spelling bee. And, he is determined to crack the case.

This a great “read it together” choice for young readers and parents, as it has fast-tongued dialogue for kids with inside references for grown up movie and sci-fi buffs (the monster-hunting pair of thorns in Brass’s side bear a striking resemblance to a pair of UFO-hunting FBI agents from the 90s).

There were a couple of jewels of one-liners, too. My personal favorite being “Out of my way or my kindergartener will beat you”  — a line I hope to use myself in the future.

The book had its kinks to work out, primarily in the design department. Most distracting was the use of heavy shadows and black background. I understood and appreciated the need for this effect, but they went a little over the top on the white text on black at times…that just gets uncomfortable to read when over used.  Also, I’ve found in trying to keep the plot moving fast, the author missed some golden opportunities for deeper character development; something I’m hoping Dickerman plans on paying more attention to as the story unfolds in future issues.

I could tell the both Dickerman and Pruett were genuine fans of the mystery/detective genre, and this could be a great bridge getting kids into it as well. I also appreciated how well they were able to wrap up the immediate mystery at hand, as well as add a nice “cliff hanger” ending. With the tendency for young readers to have short attention spans, I feel these elements just might work together to keep them sleuthing along with Brass and Opal.

Now let’s see what my resident “young reader” Molly Kay Tate, age 10, had to say:

I really liked all of the book and I want to read it again. Jimmy reminded me of Sherlock Holmes in the way he acted and talked, so I recommend this book to my Dad and everyone else who likes Sherlock books and movies. My favorite character, though, was Opal because I thought she was really cool and funny.

I think the funniest part was when the Monster Squad was trying to stop Jimmy from entering the crime scene and he said he would have his kindergartener beat them if they didn’t let him by. I did want to learn more about the man with teddy bear at the end, though, but I guess I will have to wait until the next issue.

Honestly, there wasn’t anything at all I didn’t like about the story. I loved it.

Wow. There you have it, a pretty glowing review from one who knows her kids’ comics. Although I think the teddy bear at the end was really a honey badger, but you know, if Honey Badger don’t care, neither do I.

Review: “How I Spent My Summer Invasion” from a grown-up/kid perspective

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Indie publisher We Comics’ new all-ages sci-fi series “How I Spent My Summer Invasion” written by Patrick Rieger and illustrated by Mark Sean Wilson, places a pair of rarin’ for summer-fun boys, Russ and Tim, unexpectedly in the service of a hotel that caters to extraterrestrial clientele complete with giant bug-like maitre d’s, free-roaming internal organs and even an alien princess.

Will this book hold pass the test of multi-generational readership? Here are a couple of thoughts from the grown-up/kid perspective:

Part One — by Lisa Kay Tate

For a new comic, I found this a witty story geared towards the ‘tween set, with just the right mix of mild and droll humor to hold that age group’s attention.  Nothing in the book was a particularly laugh-out-loud moment for me, except I did find the comment “If you’re not doing anything later, I’m hitting puberty in about three years,” pretty dang cute. The story did seem to be rushed along a little too fast in places, but I think as Rieger continues to grow as a writer this pace will even out. This story has potential to blossom in some rather clever places.

As for the art, I was taken with Wilson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” meets “Men In Black” style. The lines were crisp and the colors were fun and bold, which made even its kid-friendly “gross-out” moments kind of endearing. His work is a good pairing with Rieger’s words.

As a comic enthusiast who regularly finds myself drawn into fights with Ultron and near-world-ending Infinity Gauntlet searches, this book may not hold the interest of some adult readers. However, it was a refreshing break from the “over-the-top” cutesy plots or inane sight gags of some young readers books, as it managed to balance Tim and Russ’s misadventures with just enough silliness, as well as a lot of heart (and stomach and eyeball) to keep the pages turning.

My biggest gripe was it was just all too familiar, given the similar storylines of the non-conventional guests that are popping up frequently in movies and books; most notably the forthcoming Sony Pictures animated feature film “Hotel Transylvania,” and the 2011 children’s novel “Aliens on Vacation” by Clete Barrett Smith.

I’m always on the lookout for plots that are new and original, and I felt I needed a little bit more of that for this to be an entirely satisfying read for me.

But then again, I’m not 9…

Part Two — by Molly Kay Tate, age 9.

I thought this comic was extremely funny, and it reminded me of the book “Aliens on Vacation,” and I think that’s a very interesting type of story.

The artwork was pretty funny and cute as well, and my favorite part was when the bellhop just kept coming back even when he was practically getting all chewed up. My favorite character was definitely Starlei, especially since the way she was drawn was very pretty and colorful.

I thought the end was a little sad, though, and would have liked to see (SPOILER ALERT) the poor bellhop’s legs grown back, even when he was still missing his torso and his hands. Quick Mom interjection: not exactly sure how the latter suggestion would be anatomically possible, but we can always imagine.

I do want to read more and see what happens next, because altogether I really liked this story and think it is something kids will want to keep reading.

“Batman: Noel” — Christmas Storytime for Geek Moms

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It’s Christmas Eve, and you’ve put together that final mini-build from the Star Wars Lego advent calendar.  Now, it’s time to settle in and bring the minions down to a dull roar with a little holiday story.

My recommendation for geek moms with kids hovering around age 9 and older: Lee Bermejo’s nest graphic novel, “Batman: Noel.” Bermejo (“The  Joker”) is one of the trade’s finest illustrators and he’s woven and excellent story to boot, with the Dark Knight’s own take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

I know, I know. You’re thinking that story has been done to death…brought back to life and done to death again. I can’t argue there. However, this take on it is so fresh and so Fanboy/girl friendly, you will feel like you are reading the plotline for the first time.

The story places Batman himself in the Ebenezer Scrooge role as the wealthy loner so obsessed with his personal demons he not only has robbed himself of any worthwhile personal contact, he has forgotten that those around him also possess a soul.

The Bob Cratchit character is a small-time criminal, struggling as an impoverished single father of an upbeat but young son with a bum leg.

The remainder of the classic “Christmas Carol” roles are seen via giveaway the “Past, present and future” ghost cameos, but I’ll give you one spoiler hint: Batman only has one “late” partner suitable to don this tale’s yuletide tights.

The story worked for me on a couple of levels:

First, it satisfied the gritty world of The Dark Knight, particularly for someone who keeps up with at no less than three “Batman” comic titles at any given time.

Next, it left me with that toasty warm marshmallow feel that comes with Christmas time — yet without any saccharine sentiment to ruin it.

Lastly, it was an impressive piece of comic book eye candy: especially the glimpses of the retro-style Batman (and Catwoman) costuming as well as the very believable present-day garb of the winged vigilante.

I will say I found the reverse white font a little hard on the eyes a couple of times, but in Bermejo’s defense, text boxes and bubbles would have really damage the visual integrity of the book.

Read it with the family as a way to wind down before the Christmas morning mayhem, or get a blankie and curl up with a hot libation and pour yourself into a few moments of escape once the troops are in bed.

In the words of Joe Bob Briggs: “’Geek Mom says Check It Out.’”

It’s Christmastime in Gotham City.