Tag Archives: Supernatural

Comics Review: AFTER HOUDINI

AFTER HOUDINI by Jeremy Holt and John Lucas

Editor’s Note: This book is a Comics Grinder Giveaway. If you would like your own free copy, contact me and I’ll get it out to you.

After Houdini is a graphic novel that truly lives up to its promise: a rollicking adventure that taps into the mystery of grand illusionist Harry Houdini. You have here another riveting original tale with high production value from Insight Comics. The steampunk vibe is natural and spot on. Overall, the work looks and feels like it was fun to create. Written by Jeremy Holt; illustrated by John Lucas; Colors by Adrian Crossa; Lettering by A Larger World Studios.

Teddy Roosevelt runs a tight ship!

You are quickly swept up into a supernatural world with this comic. I think it’s the strange energy that all the characters are feeding off each other that is the true star of the show as opposed to any set of characters carrying the story. And I think that subtle distinction makes this special. By all the rights, the main character is Josef Houdini, son of Harry Houdini. But, as I say, it’s the magic in the air that overshadows everything. No one, not even a Houdini, is going to upstage that. It’s a challenge to convey that but this comic does it with wonderful pacing, gorgeous art, and one quirky tale to tell.

The steampunk vibe is natural and spot on.

All you need to know is that it takes a Houdini to rescue a Houdini. That’s an important point. The rest is, well, a fun and intriguing read. Any story that thoughtfully manages to include Teddy Roosevelt and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as active and viable players is fine by me. I see that another graphic novel, Before Houdini, is an upcoming follow-up to this book and I look forward to it.

After Houdini is a 112-page full color trade paperback. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Insight Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Insight Comics, Insight Editions

Seattle Focus: Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop

Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop

A true curiosity shop is something to behold. Certain things are a given. Antiques. Vintage. Oddities. The magic comes in when you feel that you’ve entered into another world. If you are in Seattle, then you have to go to Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop. I’ve been thinking about doing a post on this shop for a while now. What I’ve always enjoyed about Ballyhoo is its funhouse experience coupled with its orderly presentation. Ballyhoo invites you to discover new and weird stuff while also making it easy to gain access to it. So, see for yourself in person. For now, enjoy my video tour. I welcome your comments, likes, and subscribing:

It’s human nature to want to wander around and explore. Some people take it farther than others. Some people find a particular itch to scratch. What are you in the mood for? Something old with character or something that pushes the envelope? You can satisfy your cravings in so many ways– and with a touch of strange.

Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop

Ryan Robbins, owner of Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop, is a gracious beacon of light. The key to success in any endeavor is passion. That is exactly what Ryan has to share with all of his customers. With palpable enthusiasm, Ryan described his vision for Ballyhoo as evoking the feeling of being in another world, one where anything is possible. Maybe something out of the movie, “Gremlins,” or “Indiana Jones,” or a haunted house in New Orleans.

Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop

Enter Ballyhoo’s wonderland and you’ve entered a tidy collection of stores within a larger framework: nautical, ethnographic, fossils and minerals. The quirky alongside the esoteric. You’ve entered a museum and funhouse.

We want to be taken out of our comfort zone, at least those of us that like to meet at curiosity shops. We want to slip into the unexpected. And we’re smart, very smart, about it. Maybe we get a tattoo at midnight, but it’s something that we’ve been planning on for months, maybe years.

Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop

Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop

Whatever you may end up purchasing at a curiosity shop comes with a certain level of commitment. Are you ready to own a significant piece of taxidermy? Or how about a gem, a print, or a t-shirt? Some of the oddest items get snatched up by bar owners and tattoo shop owners. Other items find homes as much from tourists as from local shoppers. Yes, Ballyhoo has its share of regulars. So, rest assured, whatever your tastes, there’s something for you at Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop, in Seattle’s Ballard Avenue Historic District.

As always, I welcome your likes, comments, and following. Be sure to like and comment at the Comics Grinder Facebook page too. You help make Comics Grinder special.

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Filed under Antiques, Ballard, Ghosts, Haunted, pop culture, Seattle, Strange, Style, Supernatural

Comics Review: Scoop, Vol. 1: Breaking News

Scoop, Vol. 1: Breaking News

The comics I’m enjoying the most lately are coming from Insight Comics. Scoop, Vol. 1: Breaking News is a perfect example of their fresh and engaging content. This is an action adventure featuring 14-year-old Sophie Cooper, a red-headed Cuban-American, high school freshman.

There are quite a lot of specifics here which add up to a story with unique depth and dimension. Sophie’s dad, the kind and responsible type, has been framed and placed under house arrest for embezzlement and money laundering. It is up to Sophie to prove her father’s innocence which leads her to become an intern at a local news station. One thing leads to another, and Sophie is piecing together Cuban history that is somehow connected to some pretty crazy secret lab experiments. I can see why this is just the first volume!

Scoop, Vol. 1: Breaking News

A growing trend for comics publishers is to feature more diverse main characters. Within the last few years, leading the way has been the character of teenage Kamala Khan, Marvel Comics’ first Muslim character to headline her own comic book, Ms. Marvel, which debuted in February 2014. Another compelling title, in the same spirit, is the soon to be released limited series, She Could Fly, featuring Luna, a 15-year-old hispanic high school sophomore, from the Dark Horse Comics imprint, Berger Books. This brings us to Sophie Cooper.

With Sophie Cooper, writer Richard Hamilton (Dragons: Race to the Edge) gives the reader yet another authentic voice. And artist Joseph Cooper (Marvel, DC, Valiant, Dynamite, and Image) proves to be an excellent collaborator. Rounding out the creative team are colorists Peter Pantazis and Alba Cardona. Some of the best comics are the result of a finely-structured collaborative process. That is certainly the case here right down to the details in production. This is a book that is a pleasure to read and behold.

Scoop, Vol. 1: Breaking News

Getting back to specifics, this comic will keep the reader engaged with various added touches. As explained in the afterword, nothing was left to chance. Pantazis and Cardona were careful to find just the right skin tones and just the right shade of firebrand red for Sophie’s hair. When it comes to evoking a sense of urgency and distress, Joe Cooper was sure to depict Sophie’s cracked cell phone and chewed fingernails. And, in story that includes UFOs and alligator-men, Richard Hamilton deftly adds various historical references including the 1953 attack of the Moncada Barracks that ignited the Cuban Revolution.

The unlikely team of Hal Ritz and Sophie Cooper.

In the course of this first volume, we follow Sophie as she navigates her way as an intern for a news station that is not exactly ready for prime time. Sophie discovers she has a nose for news and ends up helping the station’s veteran reporter, Hal Ritz, who shamelessly takes credit for an implausible lineup of journalistic achievements. But Hal is no fool either and readily spots Sophie as a rising talent and someone to keep an eye on. This unlikely team will need all the help they can get as they quickly find themselves well over their heads.

The Devil is in the Details.

Paranormal mystery meets conspiracy thriller in this action-packed comic for young adults. This has a fresh and original kick to it.

Scoop, Vol. 1: Breaking News is a 96-page full color trade paperback available as of June 19, 2018. For more details, visit Insight Comics.

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Filed under Comics, Cuba, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Insight Comics, Insight Editions, mystery, Paranormal, Supernatural, Thriller, Young Adult

Review: THE BLOODY CARDINAL by Richard Sala

THE BLOODY CARDINAL by Richard Sala

Everything is always perfectly distilled in a work of comics by Richard Sala. Everything from a dramatically constricted pupil to a young woman’s dainty feet. Sala has a way of cutting to the chase: he knows that he wants thrilling motifs and pretty girls–and he does a beautiful job of it. Sala is in fine form with his latest graphic novel, “The Bloody Cardinal,” published by Fantagraphics.

This new Sala villain makes quite an entrance and certainly looks pretty menacing. The Bloody Cardinal is no slouch, either, when it comes to murder. Clara Clarette, a charming young woman who had just purchased a mysterious book, is killed by the bird fiend. Enter Inspector Coronet, and his trusty compatriot, Dr. Sun. The good doctor has a mystical quality about him. He senses a malevolent bird-like creature is responsible for this crime. Sala does not miss a beat and paves the way for the reader to be undeniably hooked.

If you’re new to Sala, you are definitely in for a treat, especially if you enjoy a devilishly good mystery. At its heart, this is a good tightly-wound mystery. The narrative keeps popping along at a brisk pace. Each panel is a wonderfully rendered watercolor. Some cartoonists, like Sala, also happen to be painters at an accomplished level. You can’t help but appreciate how Sala distills scenes and characters to their essence.

The evil eye.

“The Bloody Cardinal” is an online serial, which follows in the tradition of his early classics, “The Chuckling Whatsit” and “Mad Night.” Perhaps it was one of these previous titles that was your introduction to his work. Sala has enjoyed a career spanning over thirty years with no signs of letting up. He has perfected a vision that, inspired by Gahan Wilson, Edward Gorey, and Charles Addams, he can safely call his own.

There is an undeniably sexy aspect to Sala’s work, as evidenced by all the compelling and voluptuous female characters in this book. The key distinction is that these are sexy, but not sexist, depictions in the service of a bigger picture. You get a worldly sense of the world from Sala: a world of books, mystery, the supernatural, and compelling young women to keep one on one’s toes. It is sophisticated fare accessible to general readers much in the same way that Hitchcock provided that special kind of entertainment in film. You could indeed say that Richard Sala is to comics what Alfred Hitchcock is to film. All those little details add up: apprehensive rats, a demonic puppet hung from a string, obsessive note-taking. The journey we take with Hitchcock as well as with Sala, with its Mcguffins and moody atmosphere, is as important as the destination, even more so.

A harbinger of doom.

In an interview last year with Tim Hodler, for The Comics Journal, Sala provides a window into the motivation behind his work: “What has always appealed to me over everything else, beyond horror or comedy or whatever, is a sense of the absurd. I think I got that from reading Kafka in high school and feeling a shock of recognition. I felt a kinship with absurd humor and black humor. Having an appreciation of the absurd – along with my childhood love of monsters – helped me survive in what was a dysfunctional (that is, crazy) household. I was drawn to the surreal and the expressionistic and the unreal, which is where I felt at home.”

“The Bloody Cardinal” is a 96-page full color trade paperback. This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers: anyone, say, 13 and up. For more details, visit Fantagraphics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, mystery, Richard Sala, Supernatural

Review: WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 (of 4)

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 (of 4)

It’s that touch of strange that the best writers and artists tap into that makes all the difference. Writer Steve Niles says that his already odd story took some more twists and turns after he viewed what artist Alison Sampson had done with the first issue of their new limited-run comic book series, WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD. Soon, you’ll be able to see the results for yourself. This is an advance review so a word to the wise (comic book retailers stock up!) and mark your calendar for this Image Comics release on June 14th.

Isn’t it spooky when you thought you saw something out of the corner of your eye? That particularly creepy feeling, the mixing of the banal with the terrifying, keeps building in this first issue in a most satisfying way. We begin in the small American Southwestern town of Acton, one minute after midnight. There’s an orgy of violence with a Satanic ceremony that climaxes with the emergence of a portly and banal naked man declaring his return from the dead. Who is this portly banal man? All we know is that he stepped right out of the body of one of that night’s victims to sacrifice.

This disturbing uneven feeling of disconnection and terror is quite pleasing, and the credit all goes to the team of writer Steve Niles and artist Alison Sampson. With dynamic and moody colors by Stéphane Paitreau. And lyrically placed lettering by Aditya Bidikar. Our story seamlessly rolls along a nightmarish landscape with characters nearly oblivious to what’s going on. It’s more of that delicious disconnection at play.

Winnebago Graveyard!

For, you see, the Winnebago from this comic’s title symbolizes a slice of normal that gets caught in this big fat wedge of crazy. It’s your all-American family, full of equal amounts of wanderlust and dysfunction, that find themselves way off course, all too close to Satan’s country. But are they aware of what’s going on? Sampson depicts them as utterly disconnected in such a masterful way. After spending a whole day in what amounts to an abandoned amusement park, they seem to be getting a clue that they’re very much out of their element. For now, it all seems like a sleepy nightmare.

I was mesmerized by Sampson’s artwork in GENESIS, a one-shot with Image Comics, and wrote a review of that you can read here. This latest comic lives up to what I expected to see next in her work. This is a smashing first issue. You will also want to check out the two essays at the end of this comic. One is on horror movies set in the American Southwest by Sarah Horrocks and it focuses on the 1987 horror classic, “Near Dark.” The other essay is about Satanism in the real world by Casey Gilly and it focuses on Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and the potential motivations of its followers.

Both essays are part of a series that will run throughout all four issues. I am so glad to see these essays, which compliment the comic and, in fact, become part of the comic. As I like to point out to my readers, we do not live by comics alone. I make a point of writing about all sorts of things and they usually have a relationship to comics, even a quite meaningful connection, like my in-depth interview with novelist Jerome Charyn. Maybe I do things a little differently here but I’m not changing and I believe my readers appreciate that.

And let’s hold on just a bit. Yes, I would take issue with anyone who thinks a discussion about comics takes place in a vacuum. I don’t think anyone really believes that since, even the most so-called comics purist will veer off being strictly on topic. Life, the culture-at-large, bigger and brighter things, exist out there in the world. So, again, I say that the isolated prose, the two essays, in this comic becomes part of the comic. Gilly, in her essay, even directly refers back to the comic and asks the reader to question what the character Chrissie was really seeing. And Horrocks, in her essay, riffs so smoothly on the desert motif running throughout the comic. What a literate and artful comic! Buy it!

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 (Of 4) is published by Image Comics and is available as of June 14, 2017. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Alison Sampson, Comics, Comics Reviews, Horror, Image Comics, Jerome Charyn, Satan, Steve Niles, Supernatural

Great Review of ‘Alice in New York’ by Henry Chamberlain

I really appreciate the insightful review by Stacey E. Bryan of my graphic novel, “Alice in New York.” Stacey is the author of the humorous supernatural thriller, “Day for Night.” Her review is a wonderful boost of acknowledgement. All of us writers and artists strive for just this sort of connection.

The Big Apple. For a lot of people, those four words would mean little or nothing. But for me personally, it means a lot, because I was living there in 1989. The Twin Towers were still intact. Our country hadn’t turned that strange corner yet and started accelerating down a slippery slope into the 24-7 fear-mongering which has left us in the mess we’re in today.

When you’re in a mess, there’s no room for magic. But in 1989, in New York City, the old gods, the old ways, were still intact, and this is the year and the setting where Henry Chamberlain captured that feeling tenderly and bravely with his graphic novel “Alice in New York.” […]

via Alice In New York: A graphic novel by Henry Chamberlain — Laughter Over Tears

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Filed under Alice in New York, Alice in Wonderland, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Henry Chamberlain, New York City, Supernatural

Review: SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

A young adventurous woman, her pro camera, her motorcycle, and a most top secret site bursting with supernatural activity. All these elements come together nicely in the new graphic novel thriller, “Spill Zone,” written by Scott Westerfeld, drawn by Alex Puvilland, colors by Hilary Sycamore, published by First Second Books.

You can’t stop a girl and her Canon camera.

One thing I do want to tuck in here: you rarely see a brand name in a graphic novel. But no harm in showing one on occasion. In this case, our main character relies upon a Canon camera. I say to that, bravo. You can’t stop a girl and her Canon camera.

Back to our story: something really weird happened to the little town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Was it an accident involving nano technology and the local nuclear power plant? Are space aliens involved? No one dares to enter the Spill Zone, except for the local thrill-seeking artist, Addison Merritt. She sneaks past checkpoints, takes photos, and sneaks back home.

Rules of the Game.

It’s now just Addie and her younger sister, Lexa, ever since the accident took the lives of their parents. Westerfeld’s script seamlessly brings in various details. Puvilland’s lean style sets the tone. Sycamore’s colors dazzle the eye as they match the story’s mood.

The best thing about this graphic novel is that it successfully takes a lot of crazy fun ideas and lets them run wild. For a while, we don’t know why Addie keeps risking her life to take photos within a toxic spill zone. A big part of it has to do with her stumbling upon a way to support herself and her sister. She sells her photography for top dollar to art collectors. But it gets more complex than that.

Addie and some toxic rats.

Both Addie and her troubled little sis Lex are being lured into something far more dark and sinister. By the end of this book, we have gotten to know these two girls fairly well. We have also gotten to know Verpertine, the doll that talks only to Lex. Vespertine dials up the creepy factor whenever she appears and is one of the compelling reasons to look forward to the next volume to this series.

SPILL ZONE is a full color 224-page hardcover available as of May 2nd. For more details, and how to purchase, go to the Spill Zone website right here.

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Filed under Canon cameras, Comics, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Photography

Review: AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

When it comes to a comic book that is a big deal, it does not get much sweeter than AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS, based upon the critically-acclaimed novel and upcoming Starz television series by Neil Gaiman. Published by Dark Horse Comics, this comic is: story and words by Neil Gaiman; script and layouts by P. Craig Russel; and art by Scott Hampton. The premise: “Shadow Moon just got out of jail, only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain as to where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard—thrusting Shadow into a deadly world of the supernatural, where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a brewing war between old and new gods hits a boiling point.”

Page from AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

Okay, you had me at the name, “Shadow Moon.” And a “Mister Wednesday” employs him to be his Shadow? And, meanwhile, there’s a war of the gods on the horizon?! Yikes, that covers all the bases! And it sounds like a story by Neil Gaiman that I want to be in on. So, I read and, yes, this comic book is a big deal. I never read the original novel and now I want to. It all starts with the little details back in prison as Shadow copes with his three years under bars for assault and robbery. It doesn’t matter what you did to get into prison, he concludes, all that matters is that you’re in.

Page from AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

Gaiman follows a smooth realistic narrative that only begins to hint at the supernatural at just the right moments. There are little hints like an agitated fellow prisoner and a disturbing lucid nightmare. Scott Hampton’s artwork follows suit with a gritty matter-of-fact style. Everything moves at a steady pace, only hints to anything otherworldly, only hints to anything out of the norm. And then things abruptly, dramatically, change. Shadow Moon, the lucky guy with a second chance at life, is in over his head all over again.

Page from AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

It’s hard not to have read some Neil Gaiman, especially if you closely follow comics. But, whether you are new or familiar with Gaiman, this is a series that should prove to be a treat for you. This first issue has been very careful to take its time with developing our main character, Shadow Moon, the ex-con about to face a colossal challenge. I’ll be back to see what unfolds. This can easily become your next favorite title.

AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1 is available as of March 15th. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Neil Gaiman, Supernatural

Review: COADY AND THE CREEPIES #1 (of 4)

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #1

Here is a comic with a twist on Scooby and the gang. Instead of a bunch of ghost-hunting teenagers, what if one of those meddling kids was already a ghost? Writer Liz Prince (Tomboy, Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?) and artist Amanda Kirk team up for this four-issue comic book series, COADY AND THE CREEPIES, published by BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios.

In this first issue, we are introduced to a triplet sister band, The Creepies, with Criss, Corey, and Coady Castoff. They are all involved in a tragic van accident that scars Corey, leaves Criss in a wheelchair, and kills their tour manager…and, unbeknownst to them, actually kills Coady. She’s now a ghost, you see, although not fully aware of it at the start of our story.

Page excerpt from COADY AND THE CREEPIES

A fun part to this comic is that this is not your typical pop band scene. Instead, Prince went with a punk scene and plays with that harder edge. It’s all about attitude and keeping face. The guys in the band, The Boneheads, are especially competitive–and obnoxious. Check out the energy in Kirk’s drawing, reminiscent of Gary Panter. This comic packs a lot of power!

This is an inventive and engaging supernatural/band on the run mashup. And there’s plenty of local flavor too. Just as Coady is getting a handle on not exactly being alive anymore, everyone must deal with the ghost of La Llorona who haunts the Santa Fe River. That definitely conjures up a Dia de los Muertos vibe. Lots going on for a first issue. In terms of a rating, I give it a full four stars.

Coady and the Creepies #1 is available as of March 15th. For more details, visit BOOM! Studios right here.

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Filed under Amanda Kirk, Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews, Ghosts, Liz Prince, Supernatural

Review: ‘Amiculus: A Secret History: Vol. II: Flagellum Dei’ by Travis Horseman

Amiculus Vol. II by Travis Horseman

Amiculus Vol. II by Travis Horseman

Romulus Augustus is one of the most vilified and controversial of leaders in history. Known as “Romulus Augustulus,” or “Little Augustus,” he was the product of a coup that was ill-fated from the very start. His father, Orestes, in charge of the military, pushed out the emperor, Julius Nepos. Then Orestes installed the boy as emperor. Romulus reigned over the last days of the Roman Empire. His reign lasted less than a year, from AD 475 to AD 476. Orestes, arrogant and distracted, would be overwhelmed by a mutiny led by one of his own senior officers, Flavius Odoacer. In short order, Orestes would be executed. Romulus would be sent into exile. The boy king remained an enigma, a mystery. Travis Horseman adds to this intrigue with his comic book series, “Amiculus: A Secret History.”

Procopius of Caesarea continues to find the true story of Romulus, the boy emperor.

Procopius of Caesarea continues to find the true story of Romulus, the boy emperor.

The details add up very nicely in this well-researched comic narrative based on Romulus Augustus. Travis Horseman has created one of the most unique works in comics which combines elements of speculative history and the supernatural. The second volume to “Amiculus: A Secret History” is truly a second act, an opportunity to delve deeper into the characters. We learn more about each player including the evil force lurking amid the shadows, the mysterious figure Amiculus. It is this demonic Amiculus who enables the barbarian hordes to overrun the western region of the Roman Empire which Orestes and Romulus only had a tenuous grasp on to begin with.

What is Amiculus?

What is Amiculus?

This comic is a fine example of what is possible when a creator gets fully immersed in a subject. Horseman has teamed up with a kindred soul in artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo. Both are driven and that resonates with the reader. While the narrative can get bloody, it is not exploitive violence. Essentially, it is strategic and, at times, only implied. Much of the blood is due to the ruthless Orestes. But this would not be story without his bloodlust. That said, I think this would prove a great gateway for teens to learn more about ancient Rome. I would also not be surprised to see the Amiculus series adapted for television or some other format on the screen. For now, we have this very inventive and engaging comic.

Keep up with Amiculus right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History