Suspended Animation

Michael Vance   Mark Allen   Michael Vance Books
The longest-running comics review column in America perhaps the World!

Review Index: 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
For information on the exciting Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection and Toy and Action Figure Museum go to  

     Dear Editor,

     This is one wonderful graphic novel although I must admit my initial confusion over its
intended audience.

     Spiral-Bound is drawn in a style common for children's books written for pre-literate kids who must be read to, or beginning readers. All of its characters are cute little talking animals like baby elephants, puppy dogs, rabbits, frogs and kittie cats.

     I loved the sperm-whale in that huge glass bubble on wheels. But I can't imagine a hardcore fan of, say, The X-Men thumbing through this book and buying it.

     Making this graphic novel look like a spiral notebook was a nice touch although that also makes it look as if it is intended for very young readers.

     In addition, I thought the art was visually imaginative, the story was visually well told (except for a few awkward scene changes), and the characters and settings were fun to oggle. That statement won't attract Batman fans.

     So, whom do you wish to buy this book? Because when I read it, I immediately found simple but delightful dialogue that, at least on the surface, seemed to target very young human beans. But I also discovered that Spiral-Bound is simply too long and complex for very young, pre-literate children or beginning readers.

     In fact, Spiral-Bound is well-written, clever, and fun to read with lots of twists and excellent character development. Its surprise ending was completely satisfying.

     So whom do you wish to buy this innovative graphic novel? I'm admittedly a bit slow, but I think I've figured it out.

     Spiral-Bound is meant for people who love to read to children and for those who just love good work created by the marriage of words and pictures.

     It is highly recommended by yours truly,

     Review by Michael Vance

Order your own copy of the all-Michael Vance horror paperback Apocris 1 at  
Northwest Passage  
     The time is 1755. The place is called Rupert's Land. And it's home to a great British hero. However, after years of the challenging life of a two-fisted, bold-as-you-please explorer, Charles Lord has now settled into a comfortable life as governor of a frontier trading post. Set to retire, Lord discovers that his past is not so easily forgotten, when a long-time friend whom he hasn't seen in years shows up barely alive, and with a grave warning.

     And, thus begins writer/artist Scott Chantler's highly entertaining, and fair to say,
experimental, comics project. Why do I say experimental? "Why, it's not at all what the
general comics-reading base is accustomed to! It's not super heroes! It's digest-sized. It's (gasp!) black and white!!" All true. And thank the good Lord, above. Don't get me
wrong; if I'm making fun, I'm making fun of myself, as much as anyone. I mean, I like
super hero comics. But I also like a change every once in a while. Northwest Passage,
with it's better-than-average characterization, great story pacing, and magnificent art
work, is just the change I'm looking for.

     One of the most captivating aspects of NorthWest Passage is Chantler's highly-
expressive animation-derived pencils. His style resembles that of the late Mike Parobeck, an artist probably most well known for his work on D.C. Comics' The Batman
Adventures. Chantler would seem to be heavily influenced by Parobeck's style. Nothing
wrong with that, as far as I, and I'm sure, many other fans, are concerned. His characters, though more simply rendered than in some styles of realism, are individually evocative. No cookie-cutter patterns, here.

     All-in-all, Northwest Passage is well worth the ticket price. Speaking of ticket prices, it's recommended for those who wouldn't watch just one specific type of movie, but enjoy many different cinematic genres. Why, that would be just about everyone, wouldn't it?

     Northwest Passage, published by Oni Press, 72 pages, digest format, $5.95. Find it at your local comics shop.

     Review by Mark Allen


Never miss a review! Fill in your email address below and we will notify you every time we post a new Suspended Animation.

Your email address

Subscribe Unsubscribe

Worry not, we'll just notify you when a new column arrives.


 Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed? 
Write: 1427 S. Delaware Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74104. Or email Michael Vance.


2006 Starland, PO Box 24955 Denver CO 80224-0955 Ph 303.777.6800 Fx 303.200.9009