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Abadazad vol. 1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Road to Inconceivable

Summary: We’re introduced to Katie and her present situation as well as beginning to learn a bit about Abadazad…while Katie’s life changes forever…

abadazadvol01Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Drawings: Mike Ploog
Colors: Nick Bell
Cover Art: Mike Ploog
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children

This book has been a long time coming. For many, though, it’s a bit of familiarity, as we–like a certain character in the story–return, at last, to the world of Abadazad.
About two and a half years ago, CrossGen introduced a fairly unique and interesting new comic series–Abadazad. After just a handful of issues, though, CrossGen went down, and by extension, so did Abadazad.

Long story short (look stuff up online if you want more of the CrossGen story), Abadazad has found a new home, and an interesting new format.

This is no standard comic or graphic novel or TPB, etc. It’s a hardback book–reminds me offhand of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and a couple other series-I-don’t-know-the-names-of that I see lined up in the YA section at Wal-Mart all the time.

To open this book, flipping to the right page, it certainly looks like one of those sorts of books inside as well (as opposed to, say, some mass market paperback books reprinting comics and such).
Some very familiar images adorn certain pages, sometimes interspersed with the text itself, other times large singular images on a page opposing text, sometimes a full-page image or double-page spread. And still other pages, are actually in ‘standard’ comic book format–these taken from those original 2004 issues of Abadazad that saw print.

It seems that here we get a rather interesting–if a bit haphazard (mostly in a good way, I think)–mix of prose and “comic” and simply images to go with said prose. The prose is Kate’s narration, what she’s recorded in her diary…er…memoir…diary. And on occasion, it leads into the “comic pages” that give brief visuals of Kate and the situations she finds herself in, and the characters she interacts with.
This style feels almost like a voice-over-on-black that then leads into a scene, or a voiceover-into-scene transition, were one to visualize this as a movie or tv program or such.

Physical and style description aside, what of the story?

There’s just something about the story itself that draws one in. It’s at once familiar, and yet new. Not too far in, a reference is made about “through the rabbit-hole,” “over the rainbow,” “into the wardrobe,” showing an in-text awarenessof the likes of Wonderland, Oz, Narnia; another reference goes to Middle-Earth…perhaps the mention alone leads one to slightly shift their mind to try to see this in the same light as those classic stories.

We meet Katie–Kate–a 14 year old girl living with her mother. The father ditched them years earlier. Accompanying that, Kate had a younger brother–Matty. One quickly realizes that she’s writing about Matty in the past tense. Five years later, and she and her mother are still deeply traumatized at having lost Matty. Her mother–“Frantic Frances”–has distanced herself all the more trying to hide from the loss, while Kate herself has tried to harden her heart and move on without wanting to allow herself to dwell on her lost brother.

Her crazy old neighbor introduces her to the “truth” behind the stories she’s read since she was a kid–and had bonded with her brother over reading them to him. The truth leads to what will be Katie’s great adventure/quest/whatever, and the true meat of Abadazad.

DeMatteis‘ story is well-thought-out, drawing on the familiar while injecting some new to the concept of a fantasy-world-turned-real. Given the context of the story, the characters are very believeable, and while there’s not a LOT of depth yet, this is just introducing the characters, context, and world of Abadazad. This book’s story sets the stage for what is to come, presenting the reader with all they need to know to get the characters and know what they’re all about.

Ploog‘s art captures a great style that looks right at home simply as illustrations for a prose tale, but then lends itself to a rather realistic visual style on the comic pages–realistic, but a sort of ‘softness’ that mutes the seriousness of the story. This gives a tone that keeps the seriousness from totally weighing on the reader, while allowing for its presence. Additionally, the comic pages give visual on the settings depicted much moreso than one would get simply from single-image illustrations.

On the whole, while not entirely a prose book nor by any stretch a graphic novel, this book is a great blend of both, and while maybe not 100% original, is certainly comparatively unique in this blending. Adults should find a certain enjoyment of the story, and yet it seems pretty well-suited for a younger crowd (though as with anything, I wouldn’t indiscriminately give it to a kindergartener or such).

The prose is enough to not be something boring to adult readers, but is simple enough for younger readers. It also provides a “hook” to bring readers into the story, and the comic pages in addition to providing visuals to small scenes serve double-duty by showing someone what comics are–and can be.

Even if for some reason someone disapproves of comics, this format holds more prose than comic, so might make parents happy seeing their kids read a prose story–but the comics enhance the story for someone who wants more than just a few ‘static’ images here and there in their story.

Whether you’re interested in this for having read the original comics, or this is the first you’ve even heard of Abadazad…I highly recommend checking these books out!

Ratings:

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Ruse #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Sigil #1 [Review]

Writer: Mike Carey
Pencils: Leonard Kirk
Inks: Ed Tadeo
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Rob Steen
Cover: Jelena Djurdjevic
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Asst. Editor: Sebastian Girner
Senior Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Crossgen/Marvel Comics

I’ve missed Crossgen. However, until this issue, I don’t recall ever reading an issue of Sigil. So, with this being a new take on things and not a continuation of the old…I come to it fresh. And perhaps for that, I greatly enjoyed this issue.

The issue opens with some disembodied voices talking about some past events, and we gradually move to seeing someone who turns toward the camera with surprise, and cut to a high schooler–Samantha Rey–waking suddenly from the dream, to an impatient father trying to get her up for school. She has an important history exam that day, and we learn she’s having trouble with school since losing her mother. Further exposition follows as daughter/father talk, and then as Sam stops by the cemetery on her way to school. Once at school, we see some of what Sam’s high school life is like, as an encounter with a bully forces her to race to class, where her teacher is not happy at her tardiness. Beginning her history exam, she blacks out to a vision, and finds an hour passed, leaving her in hot water with the teacher. We’re introduced to other students, and then Sam’s bully instigates a situation that causes Sam’s birthmark to flare up, and she finds herself facing the realization that her birthmark is something far more.

The art–perhaps simply for Sam having red hair–reminds me a bit of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, and the high school setting certainly contributed to that as well. The art seems fairly simple…smooth, and the coloring somehow lighter or “brighter” than I think I’m used to. Overall, nothing struck me in a negative light, and I had zero issue with the art. The entire art team provides a great piece of work that clearly conveys everything going on, and I really liked the art overall.

The story is quite solid. It’s got a lot of exposition to bring us up to speed on the main character in particular, to work us into her world, and while it’s rather noticeable as exposition…it still works for me. It seems the most important, core elements are presented in this issue as we should get from any first issue. The story provides a nice hook at the beginning, introduces us to the main character, to her family, to her school life, and then takes that extra little leap into what makes this story more than just some slice-of-life about some random high school girl. The cliffhanger leaves me eager for more, and yet I don’t feel shortchanged by what story was provided in this issue by itself.

Overall…this is a fantastic start to the series. For some reason, I have it in my head that this is just a mini-series…but I for one would absolutely love to see this as an ongoing, if every issue was up to the quality of this one.

As said above…I come to Sigil fresh. I recognize the name of the ship Sam sees–and caught myself grinning when I recognized it. Major plot point or simple nod to the past, its presence is a welcome inclusion. The use of the sigil itself reminds me of early issues of the original Crossgen stuff without feeling out of place…perhaps for its stylized modification from the original.

I also come to this just totally thrilled that it carries a $2.99 price.

I don’t often talk about a comic’s cover…but I really like the layout of this, what I believe is the “trade dress” for the new Marvel Crossgen stuff. Having Marvel‘s logo at the very bottom puts it virtually out of site, allowing the Crossgen sigil to stand as its own thing at the top, allowing the “branding” to stand on its own. The logo seems familiar, though I can’t presently recall the original to know how it compares to that. The main image draws the eye to the sigil, as a whole emphasizing that. There’s something to be said about such a close-up on the character, but the image doesn’t truly stray into particularly questionable territory.

This is a complete, totally fresh start…there is zero need to have ever read anything else before this. The art is easy on the eyes, and the story draws one in. While fans of the original Crossgen work may be disappointed at this not being a return to the original series…I think it likely that those fans will be able to appreciate this new start. And for anyone considering this…I highly recommend it! As a whole, I consider this a fantastic first issue that is more than the sum of individual story/art ratings…as seen below.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

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