Headlines   2004 Review Index   February 11, 2004
Suspended Animation &

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

The most-circulated and longest-running comics review column in America
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Review Index 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
Isaac The Pirate: To Exotic Lands

     Isaac is an impoverished, French painter in either the 18th or 19th century who goes to sea to seek the riches he believes he needs to marry.  But the ship's Captain is a pirate who, weary of plunder, now wishes for fame earned from discovering new continents at...the South Pole!

     And no one in Isaac the Pirate turns into a mutant with superpowers! Yes, this is a graphic novel for adults with little or no interest in superheroes, science-fiction or fantasy.

     This is also a story filled with adult themes, characterization, believable dialog, several complicated and intertwined plots, and a central theme not concerned with an epic battle between good and evil.

     Of special note is author Christophe Blain's mastery of characterization. Readers will be intrigued by and care for his rich cast of landlubbers and seamen who are neither all sinner nor all saint. 

     This graphic novel is drawn in a distinctive, abstract, minimalistic style of sharp angels and physical exaggeration.  Artist Blain has created an internal, visual logic that is consistent throughout, therefore making suspen-sion of disbelief painless.

     Readers will yearn to read the soon-to-be-published conclusion to this marvelous graphic novel. Isaac is highly recommended for adults, and contains sexual situations, some profanity and violence.

     Isaac The Pirate: To Exotic Lands/96 pgs. & $14.95 from NBM/ sold in comics and book shops and at www.nempublishing.com.

     Review by Michael Vance

MINIVIEW: Uprising [Legacy] Some fanzines are amateur publications showcasing new writers and artists of varying artistic skill. This professionally packaged anthology of short superhero and science-fiction stories is for those who enjoy saying 'I knew him or her when he/she sang at the bowling alley.' - Michael Vance
MINIVIEW, TOO: The Watch: Casus Belli [Phosphorescent] Jumping. Hitting. Kicking. Mutant superhero team and mutant super-villain team. Although featuring better-than-average words and art, there is nothing here that stands out from the herd of super-teams now on the market for more that fifty years. Recommended for hardcore superhero fans only. - Michael Vance
Nick Fury, Agent of Shield

     A couple of years ago, I reviewed Marvel's Nick Fury: Agent of Shield - Scorpio trade paperback.  A collection of the first six issues of that Silver Age series, I touted the art and story by then-newcomer, now-comics-legend Jim Steranko.  I should also have mentioned his prequel work in  Marvel's companion trade; a collection of Shield stories from the long-running magazine Strange Tales, simply entitled Nick Fury: Agent of Shield. 

     This book collects some of Steranko's first comic work, and demonstrates his amazing adaptability as an artist, taking the pencil roughs of the legendary Jack Kirby, and giving them an added flare, influenced by modern art and advertising styles.  Highly-entertaining stories about espionage, and would-be world-dominators, up against the premiere spy force, S.H.I.E.L.D., along with Steranko's art and story-telling prowess, make this book a great way to spend a few hours.

     Nick Fury, Agent of Shield, published by Marvel Comics, 248 pages, $19.95.

     Recommended for everyone.

     Review by Mark Allen

Reviews vs Criticism

     Now for something a little different...

     Not long ago, in an online column, a comic art professional lamented the lack of "criticism" in the field, and the proliferation of "reviewers."  His basic premise was that a review told readers what was good, worth buying, entertaining, while criticism told us why it was those things.  My immediate reaction was pretty much what it is today; "So what?"  This gentleman (whose column I very much enjoy) seemed to believe that the industry needs criticism.  Maybe I'm thick-headed, but I wonder why.  Why do we have to know the reason we are entertained?  I don't know how my computer works, or why my car runs, or how they fit those big movies onto those small DVDs.  But, then again, I don't really care.  All of those things work, and that's what matters, to me, anyway.  And, I believe, to the average reader. 

     Is this man taking comics, a form which I dearly love, too seriously?


     Am I over-thinking the  issue?


     But, at least I'm thinking.  And, I could be wrong.

     Review by Mark Allen


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