fakerWhat if you woke up one day and no one recognized who you were? What would you do? Would you think it’s a practical joke? Would you think something was seriously wrong?

What if you had lived your whole life hiding from memories of your past; terrible, horrible memories that you’d blocked from your mind? What if you had secrets you wanted no one else to know, be they good or bad?

What if all of a sudden someone else knew all your secrets, all your previous actions, and thought those memories were actually theirs? What would you do?

All of the above scenarios happen in Mike Carey’s graphic novel, Faker. In Faker, readers follow the lives of five college students: Yvonne, Marky, Sack, Jessie, and Nick. Jessie shows up a few days before the semester begins to meet with teachers and get everything sorted before the semester begins. After all of her friends show up and the house has been reunited, they decide to head out and party. Yvonne, Marky, Sack, and Jessie end up drinking in one of the science labs in the college with Marky mixing up drinks for them. Soon they all end up violently ill, throwing up everywhere, and passing out until morning when Nick finds them all incoherent on the floor. Thinking they are just hung over, all four go on with their lives.

Things quickly start to escalate out of control when people start not to recognize Nick. People that knew Nick from last year, people he worked with, people he even hooked up with have no clue who he is. Nick also seems to have access to memories that aren’t actually his. Everyone in the group starts throwing around ideas about what could actually be wrong with Nick, while some decide to do their own investigations. This graphic novel is a psychological horror story involving memory drugs, pharmaceutical labs, government conspiracies, and the strength of friendship as all hell breaks loose when no one knows what the truth really is. The beginning of Faker had a bit of a slow start for me, but toward the middle and definitely at the end, I was thoroughly hooked in the story and the conspiracy that was threaded through everything.

cyborgWhat is a superhero? Is it someone with a lot of money who makes costumes and weapons for himself? Is it someone living a normal life who then has powers mysteriously thrust upon him? Is it a god or creature from another world? Is it someone who has a near-death experience and is given superhuman qualities in order to save their life? A number of different qualities can factor into the origin story of a superhero, something that I wanted to expand my knowledge base and learn more about. My first stop: Cyborg.

Cyborg, Volume 1: Unplugged introduces readers to the life of Victor Stone. Victor has lived through a large number of near-death experiences, something that his scientist father has seemingly used to his own advantage by saving Victor’s life and implanting cybernetics into his body. As a result of having these cybernetic enhancements thrust upon him, Victor has become a cyber-enhanced superhero called Cyborg, a mantle that rests heavily on his shoulders. After traveling the universe and visiting other worlds to fight with other superheroes, his most recent brush with death, one that has changed and messed with his cybernetics, Victor soon finds himself heading back to his father’s laboratory looking for answers.

Victor and his father, as well as the other scientists in his lab, have a strained relationship, to put it nicely. His father only seems to see Victor’s enhancements, ignoring the man underneath. Exploring the newest changes to Victor’s cybernetics shows that his powers are changing and no one has the slightest clue why. Victor’s new tech seems to be communicating with other worlds, specifically with a group called the Technosapiens. This group wants to possess Victor’s new technology and they are determined to do so by any means necessary. As is par for the course of any superhero graphic novel, Victor finds help in the most unlikely of places: the Tekbreakers, a group of warriors from another world who have a plan to fight the Technosapiens. Victor just has to decide if he can truly trust them, considering they did try to kill him earlier… This graphic novel is a fantastic addition to the DC line and gives readers just enough back story to be able to follow along, while also drawing them in with vivid artwork and connections to other main DC storylines. Check it out!

TheWickedAndDivine_vol1-1Every ninety years, the gods return, merging into chosen young humans. They are loved and they are hated. In two years, they will be dead. What happens in between can inspire the entire world to greatness, or destroy it completely.

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act* opens in the last moment of the 1923 Recurrence. Only four gods remain and at the count of four, they are gone. Left behind is an old, nearly ancient woman. “Once again, we return” she says, weeping.

The next act opens ninety years later, January 2014 in Britain. Laura, a fan of the Pantheon, as the 12 gods are called, is attending a performance by Amaterasu. After passing out in ecstasy (a normal side effect of attending any of the gods’ performances) she is invited to a private audience by another of the Pantheon, Lucifer (although you can all her Luci). But the audience ends abruptly – sniper fire from a neighboring building smashes the windows, and Luci the obviously target. She survives, but the snipers do not, and Luci is arrested for the murder of the two men.

Laura becomes one of Luci’s most ardent supporters, and, in a world where the gods of the Pantheon are treated as pop stars, she also gains the ultimate position within the fandom, although she learns it is not as glamorous or as safe as she once thought. She loves and envies the gods, but pities their short lives. As her life becomes more and more enveloped within the Pantheon, she meets and forms friendships with the others gods, learns of their personal struggles, politics, philosophy and who they were before they discovered they were reincarnated gods. In the following two volumes, Fandemonium and Commercial Suicide , the tension within the Pantheon and without grows, more gods are discovered and some die. One year into the Recurrence, and all is not well with the Pantheon. It nearly seems that there is a demon among them (though not the obvious one), and we may all be headed to apocalypse.

The Wicked + The Divine is as much a commentary on modern celebrities and fandoms as it is on youthful feelings of immortality and power. The mythology in the series is thick and intriguing**, and the art simple yet striking, all posing the question, what would you trade to be loved by all?


* As in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

** I highly recommending consulting the fan-made wiki The Wiki + The Divine after reading the series. But not before – too many spoilers!

 

letter 44 vol3Series books of any kind are one of my favorite things to read. I get hooked into the characters’ lives and find myself wondering just what is going to happen to them in the next volume. This is what was happening to me as I sat waiting for Letter 44, Volume 3: Dark Matter to be released for me to read. (I have previously read and reviewed the first two volumes, so check out the reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2!)

Letter 44, Volume 3: Dark Matter continues investigating into the lives of the astronauts on the Clarke and the people on Earth. At the end of the previous volume, President Blades released the knowledge of the presence of alien life in space to the people of Earth despite being warned of the disastrous consequences this could have for everyone involved. After the release of this information, world war broke out. Countries are battling for control of the planet, most notably a coalition of nations led by the United States and a secret second group that is being controlled by former President Francis Carroll and the barrage of secret weapons he had developed during his term as President.

While this battle for control of the Earth rages on, the crew of the Clarke has been captured and is being held somewhat captive by the aliens that they discovered in space. The only way for them to try to escape is to cooperate fully with their captors, much to the chagrin of some crew members. Left with a ship that has been partially destroyed and having no way to communicate with people back on Earth, they are left to rely on the small tidbits of information they can gather from the aliens. Gaining access to information through somewhat back channels and limited access to the aliens’ own communication devices, the crew learns that a massive threat is heading straight towards Earth, a danger that no one on earth knows about. Communications become a dire need and the crew of the Clarke is forced to use any means necessary to find ways to contact Earth. Massive world war, corrupt politicians, alien life, asteroids heading toward Earth, assassination attempts, and crazy high-tech weaponry make this an incredibly fast-paced read, action-packed, compelling, and gripping. I could not put this book down and am immensely looking forward to the next volume!

all-new captain americaCaptain America is a widely loved and widely known superhero, one who fights for good against evil while decked out in red, white, and blue. The origin story of Captain America is fairly well-known following Steve Rogers’ journey to ultimate patriotic superhero. Movies both starring Cap as the major protagonist and also as a supporting character backing up the Avengers helped bring up his popularity.

What happens when Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, becomes too old to fight? All-New Captain America, Volume 1: Hydra Ascendant follows the story of Sam Wilson, formerly known as Falcon, as he assumes his new role as Captain America. Sam is selected for this role after the original Captain America Steve Rogers is robbed of his strength and vitality, leaving Steve to pick from a pool of viable candidates to find the next Captain America. Sam is chosen. He must learn to hone the skills that he developed as Falcon in order to become the best Captain America he can be, one that has the power to stand up and fight without being weighed down by emotions, revenge, or vendettas.

Cap finds a sidekick in his friend, Nomad. They work together to combat Hydra, only to discover that Hydra has infiltrated every aspect of society around the world. Nomad and Cap must rush to figure out Hydra’s ultimate plan, battle the Sect of the Unknown, and try to combat old villains as Steve Rogers’ band of villainous enemies start coming out of the woodwork to take down the new Cap and join Hydra. Sam and Nomad battle against the new generation members of Hydra, working out their battle techniques and trying to figure out what massive world-dominating plot this far-reaching network of super villains has in store. Once they figure it out, will they be able to stop or will this new band of fighting heroes be relegated to the sidelines as the public clamors for its original superheroes to come back and save the day? This new graphic novel definitely caught my interest and has me wanting to learn more about this new Captain America and his comrades.

brass sunDo you enjoy world-building? If you do, then I recommend Brass Sun, a science fiction and steampunk graphic novel by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard. In this graphic novel, Edginton and Culbard take the world-building idea often present in science fiction and fantasy novels and give it a quite literal translation. Someone actually built the Wheel of Worlds in Brass Sun and after its creation, the creator gave each world a piece of the key that when whole, would allow all of the worlds to reach and restart the sun. Sounds like a solid plan to make sure everyone gets along, right? Not even close.

The Great War broke out amongst all the worlds as some worlds clamored for all the pieces of the key, while others struggled to stay out the way. Hoping to lessen the damage, the tram/train system that connects the worlds is closed off, plunging the worlds into further chaos. After the Great War ends, the surviving inhabitants see their beliefs shift and the surviving knowledge about the Brass Sun and the Wheel of Worlds begins to be twisted.

Now this giant mechanical solar system is dying. It’s failing. The outer worlds are starting to freeze and inhabitants are dying by the millions. Sounds like a pretty cut-and-dry and fairly urgent problem that the governing party would want to solve quickly, right? Nope. INSERT ALL THE CHAOS!

First of all, there are MAJOR disagreements throughout the people in charge regarding who and how the world was created and for what purpose. There is this mysterious religious order who is literally burning people at the stake if they disagree with the common doctrine, ie. if these dissenters say that the cog is failing and the world is slowing down, they’re lying and must die! The Orthodoxy believes if you have faith, there is nothing wrong. There is also a whole class of royalty fighting amongst themselves with their dissent stemming from the aftermath of the Great War. On one of the worlds where ice is encroaching, a young girl named Wren is given a piece of the key by her grandfather and entrusted to save the galaxy. Thrust into this crazy chaos with absolutely no idea how to complete this task, she starts collecting a rather ragtag group of accomplices to help her. The power to save the galaxy rests in her alone though. The art in this graphic novel is stunning, the colors bright with brilliant world creation. The art combined with the elaborate storytelling hooks you in and definitely left me rooting for a positive outcome.

gi joe originsNeed a good old-fashioned American graphic novel about heroes? Look no further than G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1. This graphic novel has everything you could hope for in a superhero graphic novel, except that the characters are more realistic for kids to hope to become and to look up to. Nobody in this book was born a God with special powers(Heeeyyy Thor and Loki), none were bitten by radioactive spiders(Lookin’ good, Spider-Man), received their powers through some sort of solar flare/energy boost(Fantastic Four), nor do they have tons of money to buy all the fancy equipment they could ever want(Here’s looking at you, Iron Man). The people in the G.I. Joe program mostly all have military backgrounds with the skills and training they received as part of those organizations playing a major role in their initial selection to and their subsequent success in the program.

G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1 gives readers a much-needed glimpse into the origin stories of various members of the G.I. Joe team. Something I noticed throughout this volume was the level of secrecy that is shown in both the selection of new members to the team and the shadowing of the actual name of their organization. This level of secrecy is necessary for them to maintain once readers see the wide variety of highly dangerous and covert missions they go on.

The origins of the G.I. Joe team came out of the changing and new era of war. New kind of war and fighting means that the good guys need to find a fighting force. The war that the G.I. Joe team finds themselves fighting is not out on the battlefield; it is instead being waged within cities, involving more innocent bystanders and a new breed of villain that is willing to do anything to create havoc. Check out this graphic novel to learn more about each G.I. Joe and to really see how this team came together.

the fade outThe Fade Out: Vol. 1, Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is a gripping journey into the film industry in the 1940s. This dark graphic novel takes place in Hollywood in 1948, beginning with Charlie Parish, one of the writers for a film studio, waking up to find Valeria, the up-and-coming lead actress of his current film lying dead, sprawled on the floor in the room next door, obviously murdered with ligature marks around her neck. The noir film he’s working on has been stuck in endless reshoots with the cantankerous German director barreling down on everyone to do what he wants perfectly or they will have to face the consequences.

Charlie finds himself struggling to write, plagued with writer’s block, troubled at keeping the secret of Val’s death, and turning for help from Gil Mason, an ex-screenwriter who has been blacklisted by the studios for being a suspected Communist. Gil and Charlie have worked out a Everyone involved on-set and off-set, from the head of the studio to the press office to the head of security seems to be hiding something and Charlie is left to wonder just what is true and just what he can tell to the people he thinks would never betray him.

This graphic novel is full of suspense, leading readers down dark hallways and dimly-lit streets with Charlie as he tries to figure out what really happened to Val and why the studio is covering up how she died. The film noir feel is shown through the dark coloring within each panel and the accent colors that pop on each page. The colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser, really bumps up the impact the story has on the reader by adding in color that boosts the intriguing, dark, and mysterious nature of this book. Brubaker and Phillips even add in real movie stars to the book, something that I noticed when I saw that a couple of the characters looked familiar! (There is also a cast of characters at the front of the graphic novel for you to refer back to if you become confused.) The Fade out: Vol 1: Act One is a wonderful read and I highly encourage you to check it out!

strong female protagonistThis is a superhero comic book, but not your typical one. While there is a significant amount of crime fighting and struggling with inner demons, writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag have incorporated necessary humanity into the lives of their superheroes and villains, allowing readers to become more attached to their daily lives outside of being more than normal.

Strong Female Protagonist dives into the life of Alison Green. Alison used to be an active superhero. When she was younger, it was discovered that she was one of many teenagers who had “biodynamic anomalies,” in essence they were different than normal people. These anomalies allowed her to become Mega Girl, her superhero alter ego with super strength and invulnerability to injury, heat, cold, and many other things. Alison and other heroes went about life fighting crime on a day-to-day basis until she had an interaction with her nemesis, the villain Menace, who has the ability to read minds. This encounter forces Alison to take a close look at her life fighting crime and decide whether or not she wants to continue being Mega Girl. Flash forward and now Alison is going to college and trying to balance her superhero side with the normalcies of college life. She still wants to save the world, but does not necessarily want to be forced to do so while hiding behind a mask. She shouldn’t need a mask to be a hero. After all, everyone has different opinions on what really constitutes being a hero.

While this book follows a fairly straight storyline, there are some flashbacks, as well as a running commentary at the bottom of each page that allows readers to break away from the seriousness of the comic to revel in the writer’s witty commentary. I felt like those sentences added to the events happening within the book and even allowed me to garner a little insight into the writing and artistic processes that went into creating this book. Check this out if you want a break from the traditional superhero graphic novel, but still want to see some battles alongside a “normal” life.

letter 44 v1What would you do if you were thrust into a situation that you initially thought you could control, but then you found out that everyone who had prepared you had either lied to you or had been unaware of a certain MAJOR event? Would you panic? Would you want to tell everyone about the secret you just learned about? This is the predicament that newly-elected President Stephen Blades finds himself in on his very first day in office in Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity.

In this first volume, President Blades is ushered into the oval office to find a letter for him from the previous President. Opening the letter and expecting to have to dive headfirst into fixing the critical issues facing the nation caused by President Carroll, Blades instead discovers the one singular event and reason behind the country’s involvement in two major wars, the economy collapsing, and the healthcare system to be failing. It’s a national and world secret that only a handful of people are aware of: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, one that was able to cloak itself somehow and had the potential to be dangerous. In order to learn more about this, a team of 9 astronauts made up of both military members and scientists was sent into space to discover what is really going on.

This graphic novel divides focus between Blades and the group of astronauts who are almost to their destination. As the astronauts prepare to reach their destination, you learn their ship, the Clarke, is becoming increasingly damaged and should not have been sent on this mission so quickly. Secrets abound both in the air and on the ground, leaving readers to wonder what really is the truth and showing that President Stephen Blades has the ultimate power in his hands. All that’s left is for him to decide what to do with it.

Stay tuned for a review from Volume 2 (and be on the lookout for Volume 3)!