Hemlock Volume 3 Review

Volume 3 is fairly self-contained but builds directly off of previous volumes. Starting at the beginning is best.

** This review contains no spoilers for Hemlock volume 3 but will have them for previous chapters. **

This installment of Hemlock feels different, as it’s both shorter and more focused on a single story than before. The combined effect makes it feel even shorter than it is (still a very respectable 46 pages). There’s a brief flashback to open, then the remainder of the chapter features Tristan’s cousin Kolya looking for some answers regarding Tristan’s death. It doesn’t feature the slice of life feel previously established nor provide a lot of information, but it’s still a nice character tale that follows up on the status of Tristan’s family and drops some tantalizing hints about future story progression.

Though a bit of a departure to the established and not quite as strong as the first two parts this installment of Hemlock is still a good entry in the series that fleshes out a supporting character and adds to the overall mythos being built.

Hemlock Volume 2 Review

Volume 2 of Hemlock stands relatively well alone but builds directly off of volume 1. Starting at the beginning is best.

** This review contains no spoilers for Hemlock volume 2 but will have some for volume 1. **

This volume continues the everyday adventures of the quiet witch Lumi and her new familiar Tristan, the three eyed frog. It took me a little bit to get into the comic’s initial volume but I ended up really enjoying it. Here that momentum is kept and the story is intriguing and compelling from start to finish. We get a lot of information about Lumi’s past and present, including things about her last familiar, her husband, and other witches. Everything is logically connected, well layered, and nicely paced. Like volume 1 what’s here is a complete tale on it’s own but sets up future developments and plot lines.

The thing I like most about the comic is how well formed and interesting the characters and world are. Lumi and Tristan are terrific leads and really make me want to read more about them.

The art is quite good. Appropriately dark but very detailed and incredible as far as expressions and body language. The author is excellent at conveying emotions of the characters and situations.

Hemlock is shaping up to be an excellent comic and has a ton of potential going forward.

Hemlock Volume 1 Review

A look back on a old favorite.

Hemlock is a black and white webcomic about a witch named Lumi. She lives in a friendly giant snail’s shell and is about to cross paths with a young man named Tristan who dreams of a more academic life than that of a farmer’s son.

I was uncertain about Hemlock at the start but got drawn in fairly quickly. The atmosphere and tone is really well done. Lumi’s quasi-boredom at times and Tristan’s distress combine to make the introductory stuff quite interesting. There’s a great balance here between setting the stage and moving things along and a lot of intriguing things are foreshadowed for the future. This is also a nicely complete story in it’s own right in addition to being the first part of a longer tale.

The art’s a little too dark and abstract in a couple of places, but is very good overall with a unique, well executed style. The character designs are excellent, particularly Lumi and Tristan. Fenton is very good at conveying emotion through facial expressions and body language.

I’ve read this both online and in printed form. While smaller in paper size than most comic collections, in does not detract from the reproduction of the art and the paper and printing quality are high. The content holds up well to subsequent reading.

A good start overall with a lot of potential going forward.

Usagi Yojimbo Vol 33 Review

The Hidden is volume 33 of Stan Sakai’s samurai epic, Usagi Yojimbo. It’s a single volume-length story, so while it benefits from having read Usagi’s previous adventures it would also be a suitable jumping on point.

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For those who are new to Usagi, a comment from my review of Vol. 1 on Sakai’s choice of medium that has remained relevant throughout the comic’s long run:

“The use of amorphous animals as the characters might seem unusual to first time readers, but it gives Sakai more visual diversity and symbolism to play with, and is executed with such finesse that it quickly becomes impossible to imagine the book without this choice. Don’t mistake the presence of animals as people as a sign this is a ‘kid’s book.’ Usagi Yojimbo covers a period of war, political unrest, and an unhealthy level of danger and can get dark and bloody at times.”

As mentioned above the entirety of this volume is dedicated to one story (with a short chibi-Tomoe strip included at the end). It features both Usagi and series regular Detective Ishida, who’s grown into a huge supporting role. The Hidden, perhaps unsurprisingly since it’s a bit of a spotlight for Ishida, is another mystery and weaves together a number of disparate elements and plot threads in a thoroughly engaging way. I was particularly impressed with the interesting use of certain themes, as well as its careful subversion of expectations.

A secondary undercurrent of this story seems to lead to a turning point in the series again, which makes sense given Usagi Yojimbo changed publishers after this story. The way it’s done is a little ham handed, but it’s fine overall and moves things in proper direction.

As always I really enjoy Usagi’s adventures, and I’m curious to see how things will progress in the future under new publisher IDW.

Usagi Yojimbo Vol 32 Review

Mysteries is volume 32 of Stan Sakai’s samurai epic, Usagi Yojimbo. It’s another volume that benefits from having read Usagi’s previous adventures but also stands reasonably well on its own and would not be a bad point to jump in.

 

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For those who are new to Usagi, a comment from my review of Vol. 1 on Sakai’s choice of medium that has remained relevant throughout the comic’s long run:

“The use of amorphous animals as the characters might seem unusual to first time readers, but it gives Sakai more visual diversity and symbolism to play with, and is executed with such finesse that it quickly becomes impossible to imagine the book without this choice. Don’t mistake the presence of animals as people as a sign this is a ‘kid’s book.’ Usagi Yojimbo covers a period of war, political unrest, and an unhealthy level of danger and can get dark and bloody at times.”

 

Detective Ishida is as much a main character as Usagi now, and I continue to enjoy the time the series is spending focusing on the two of them together solving mysteries. Things have a little bit of a different feel now that Usagi has been in one place for a while, but it still stays true to the heart of the series.

This volume starts with two single chapter stories, followed by two and three part stories respectively, then finishes with a couple short “Chibi Usagi” installments.

There are elements in the main stories that connect a bit, giving a nice sense of progression throughout the volume. The stories are interesting and the mystery elements well done as usual.

The inclusion of recurring characters Kitsune and Nezumi (in separate stories) is starting to present a characterization problem with Usagi. The lengths to which he trusts the thief who routinely takes advantage of him and distrusts the other (who has helped investigations and acts in a Robin Hood mold) are becoming exaggerated and risk making Usagi seem oblivious and borderline unsympathetic at times.

Outside of that though, this is another strong volume of intrigue and action. The Chibi Usagi shorts are light and amusingly silly.

 

 

Batgirl Volume 1 Review

Resharing a review of a favorite comic of mine I wrote on Goodreads before this blog existed. My opinion stands so this is presented without edits/updates:

 

This trade collects issues 1-7 of Brian Q. Miller’s Batgirl series.

Batgirl starts in the shadow of the events of Batman:RIP. Bruce Wayne is dead (for the time being anyway) and the various members of the “Bat-Family” are dealing with the fallout. For Stephanie Brown, this means trying to give up wearing the bat emblem and live a normal life. This doesn’t really work for her. She ends up taking the Batgirl costume from Cassandra Cain (who is successfully leaving the bat in her past) and continuing the fight in her own way. This doesn’t necessarily thrill anyone else…

 

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As presented here, Stephanie is a fantastic character. In over her head, but embracing it and refusing to give up because something inside just won’t let her. Her journey to make the Batgirl identity her own is well developed, comical at times, and a lot of fun to follow along with.

Stephanie is given a wonderful supporting cast, and watching their interactions with her and their relationships evolve is a real treat. Even though they are established characters from other series, one of the most impressive things about Batgirl is how well it reads on it’s own. It certainly helps if you have previous knowledge of Oracle, Damian, “Dick Grayson Batman,” etc., but Miller presents all the characters well enough that it’s not really needed.

One last compliment I’d like to give is to the artist. The art is outstanding and contains a ton of little touches that enhance the story (such as some of great panels of Stephanie next to Batman or a villain that clearly show their size advantage over her, something often glossed over in comics).

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move for me featured a great action pose capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)  from her for their most recent sets. For Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from Persona 5 joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two Persona cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of Fire Emblem’s Tharja, and Valkyria Chronicles 4’s Riley, as well as the Bombshells version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂