Suspended Animation

Michael Vance   Mark Allen   Michael Vance Books
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ParaA horrific disaster left a supercollider, the granddad of particle accelerators, highly Radioactive. Every-one inside died. There were frogs imbedded in crystal, and ghost-like wisps of something moving in the shadows. Twenty years later, the daughter of the project's leader decides to visit what is now a mass grave instead of a failed experiment. Such is the premise of Para, a new graphic novel that reprints six earlier issues of a comic book series of the same title.
That sounds like the stuff of a great SF/Horror novel, movie, or graphic novel, doesn't it? Would you believe a pretty good graphic novel?

Let's look at story. Casual pacing never builds suspense, and certainly not horror. The frozen frogs that seem an important clue are forgotten about half way through Para, and the characters have a habit of fairly long, emotionless, dialog when confronted with apparitions and situations that would have left real humans speechless. 

To his credit, characterizations are realistic and engaging, this graphic novel actually reads like a novel, and the author (who shows great promise; watch this guy) gratefully shies away from graphic violent, profanity, and the sexual innuendo that many writers think makes their work 'mature'.


The reality-based art starts on the high end of excellent, and ends a bit sloppy. As a simple example, the team that travels into the super-collider wear radiation contamination suits that start as tight fits on tight bodies and end as loose and ill-fitting on ladies who suddenly 'got back', i.e. large butts.

One should remember that good is certainly not bad, and Para is recommended for a pleasant read on a long, winter's afternoon.

Para is priced at $19.95 and is 192 pages; Published by Penny Farthing Press; Story by Stuart Moore; Art by Pablo Villalobos, Claude St. Aubin, and Federico Zumel; Sold at comics and books shops and at

Review by Michael Vance

Metal Hurlant #8

Metal Hurlant #8Once upon a time there was a French comics magazine named Heavy Metal. It was an anthology title filled with beautiful art, often incomprehensible stories, graphic violence, and lots and lots of naked men and women. It went away in the good old U.S.A.

Then there was a French and American comics magazine named Metal Hurlant. It was also filled with beautiful art, but most stories were understandable and enjoyable, and the violence and sex was toned down a bit. It went away as well.

The eighth issue explored an American icon resurrected in the future only to be doomed by uselessness, a world where zombies are a commonplace nuisance, and a knight intent on slaying a dragon that is a little less and a little more than he appears. 

Yes, there are three incomprehensible stories; all are possibly chapters in continued stories. Intriguing art does not save them from obscurity. A simple summary of what had gone before sure would have helped otherwise befuddled readers.

The art, wildly divergent from story to story, is all excellent. 
Although Metal Hurlant is again extinct, there is much to recommend past issues to adult readers who aren't offended by crass language, nudity, and blood. This series, however, was never for children.

R. A. Jones is one of the writers in this issue of Metal Hurlant. He is a member of the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame.

Metal Hurlant #8/65 pgs. and $3.95 from Humanoids Publishing/various writers and
artists/sold at on-line auctions, storefront and on-line comics shops, and at

Review by Michael Vance

For information on the exciting Oklahoma Cartoonists Collection and Toy and Action Figure Museum
go to
Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril

Captain Gravity and the Power of the VrilMINIVIEW: Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril by penny farthing press; graphic novel. Excellent art and story in the grand tradition of the pulp magazines of the '30s and '40s! If you enjoy the high adventure of the Indiana Jones films, you'll love Captain Gravity!

Review by Michael Vance

Marvel: The Characters and Their Universe

Marvel: The Characters and Their UniverseSo, I'm walking through a Barnes & Noble store in Amarillo a few weeks ago, and I stumble upon a beautiful book called Marvel: The Characters And Their Universe. Now, I'm a sucker for comics history books. So, this incredibly beautiful leather-bound (or close enough to fool me, anyway) coffee table book, with a colorful raised illustration of some of Marvel's greatest characters, drew me in at first glance. Upon thumbing through the book, generously filled with lavish illustrations and photos, I was quickly hooked and headed for the checkout stand.

Author Michael Mallory has put together a respectable history of Marvel Comics, starting farther back than most who retell this particular story, with the inception of Red Circle, then a pulp fiction magazine publishing company. And, considering the fact that the book chronicles Marvel history up to 2004 (the year of publication), it can be considered quite comprehensive.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this book, however, is that it not only covers Marvel properties in print, but in other media as well. Covering just about every incarnation of any Marvel character on big screen or small since the '60's, Mallory's inclusion of the company's Saturday morning contributions and live action prime time projects were a pleasant revisiting of many beloved memories for this longtime fan. I especially enjoyed some previously unknown information (to me) concerning the '70's television show "The Incredible Hulk," as well as the various TV movie spin-offs.

This gleeful walk down a brightly colored memory lane will bring a lot of pleasure to current fans and former fans alike. It would also make a great Christmas gift for the comics fan in your life.

Find it at Barnes & Noble bookstores, as well as online retailers and auctions, where great deals can be found. Heck, I got mine at B&N for $25.00, a third of the retail price! Who says you can't "geek out" affordably?

Marvel: The Characters and Their Universe, Published by Barnes & Noble Books, 288 pages, $75.00.

Review by Mark Allen

Fantastic Four Presents: Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius Super Summer Spectacular

Fantastic Four Presents: Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius Super Summer SpectacularAh, to be a kid again.  To be a kid with incredible gadgets from a father who happens to be a genius scientist is even better!  So it goes in Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius Super Summer Spectacular from Marvel Comics.

Chris Eliopoulos and Marc Sumerac fashion five wonderfully entertaining tales of the incredible urchin, as he finds new ways to get into mischief.  All the while his robotic caretaker "H.E.R.B.I.E." attempts to restrain his near-catastrophic sense of adventure, or at least to hide all the evidence after the fact.

Whether Franklin is attempting to better his Little League game by employing kinetic amplification gel, taking the Fantasti-sub in search of a giant squid, using one of his father's inventions to switch brain patterns with H.E.R.B.I.E. or bouncing all over the city with the help of a molecular density recalibrator, there is never anything boring about the stories that come out of Eliopoulos' and Sumerac's fertile imaginations.

Then, there's Chris' art.  His style is simple, yet highly energetic and expressive.  It seems to be those simpler styles that sometimes most astonish us with their strange ability to make the characters "come to life".  His work does just that, as Franklin's wide eyes and broad smile communicate much about the innocent surprise and joy the world so often holds for a slightly ornery little boy.  And, really, shouldn't every little boy be at least a bit mischievous? 

Franklin Richards is recommended for all ages.  It is essential, however, for those adults wishing to introduce a young son, daughter, niece, nephew, etc. to the joy that is the well-done comics story.  It should be in elementary classrooms as well as doctors' waiting rooms.  One thing is for sure; it's going on my spinner rack, where my kids are encouraged to "forage" for sequential fun.

Find it at comics shops as well as online retailers and auctions.

Fantastic Four Presents: Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius Super Summer Spectacular, published by Marvel Publishing, Inc., 32 pages, $2.99.

Review by Mark Allen


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