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Archaia Reviews – Berona’s War Vol. 2, Everlast, Immortals, Tales of Sand, The Storyteller, Killing Pickman and more!

Archaia is synonymous with quality and this year, especially towards the end shows off why we named them publisher of the year in 2010.  What you see below makes the case as to why they’re in consideration this year as well.  There’s a mix of genres and something for folks of all ages.  What you don’t get when reviewing digital copies is the quality printing as well.  The books are not just great reads but also beautiful to pick up and look at.

Berona’s War Vol. 2 – Fight for Amity

I loved the first volume of this series which chronicles the battle between two races on an island.  There’s something cute and twisted about the short stories throughout the book and the types of stories varies.  Everything from descriptions of missions, journal entries, one page jokes and prose can all be found.  Also included are the expected unit and weapon breakdowns that add depth to it all.

You’ve met the characters, you’ve seen their weapons, you’ve witnessed their war. And now, you can know their stories. BERONA’S WAR VOL.2: THE FIGHT FOR AMITY brings to life the blood-hungry warriors and races of Berona and takes you deep within their individual tales. Follow the soldier as he enters his final battle. Witness the elite teams at work behind the scenes. Learn the savage ways of the Condyle warriors, and the vicious speed of the Ele-Alta Slayers. Watch as the brave struggle for glory, obtain it, then live to see it stripped from them. Will it be a glorious death, or will it be the death of a coward? The battles have just begun to rage, and the War has so much left to claim.

Like that first volume I gushed.  This world is so rich and so entertaining and I found my emotions being all over the place.  Stories will get you choked up a bit and the next will get you to laugh.  My only complaint is it’s so long between the books, I want more!  And sooner!  Absolutely fantastic and beyond entertaining fun.

Story: Anthony Coffey and Jesse Labbé Art: Anthony Coffey and Jesse Labbé

Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy


Ok, I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive of this graphic novel written by actor Chad Michael Murray.  Seeing him at New York Comic Con I giggled a bit at all of the people flipping their lids over Murray.  The list of comics written by musicians and actors that are good feel few and far between and it all seemed like a vanity trip.  Boy would I have eaten my words here.  This graphic novel is pretty damn good.

A pre-apocalyptic tale, Everlast follows Derek Everlast, a man whose destiny in life is guiding others to a place of rebirth for mankind called Haven. Following an instinct called the Nudge, bestowed on him by a higher power, Derek is guided to the next chosen human destined to survive, a little girl named Melissa. In a harrowing adventure, he must deliver her safely to Haven before the End of Days. Everlast tells a story of choice, love, friendship, and, most of all, survival. Will you be chosen? Created and written by actor Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill.”)

The story is pretty cool, the whole time I was thinking how I’d like to see this as a movie or a television series.  There’s definitely an eye towards that feel, and that’s not a bad thing.  The art is cool, changing up a bit with each phase of the book.  The worst part of it all?  It ends.  I want more!  It’s clear we can expect a second volume that picks up on Everlast’s further adventures.

There’s also something cool about the world.  It’s not quite clearly heaven and hell existing in our world and we just don’t notice.  There’s more to it, as this is all just before the apocalypse.  With that aspect there’s a clock ticking pacing to it all.  I was surprised when I finished up reading it and the worst thing I can say is, I wanted to read more.

Story: Chad Michael Murray Art: Trevor Hairsine, Andrew Huerta, Robbi Rodriguez,

J.K. Woodward and Danijel Zezelj

Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Immortals: Gods and Heroes

I had no interest in seeing this movie at all.  I saw the ads and thought, well the visuals are cool, but I saw it all when it was called 300.  So, with that I went into reading this with some hurtles to get over.  On top of that, it’s a comic based on a movie, something else against it (I just think like comics written by actors and musicians, there’s more flops than successes).  Again, I walked away impressed.

Spinning from the upcoming epic 3-D film Immortals from visionary director Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell) and starring Mickey Rourke and Henry Cavill comes Immortals: Gods and Heroes, a stunning hardcover featuring ALL-NEW tales of Greek myths as you’ve never seen them before! Featuring incredible untold tales by Brian Clevinger (Atomic Robo), Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir), Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (Jonah Hex), Jock (Detective Comics, The Losers), Ben McCool (Captain America, Memoir), Ron Marz (Witchblade, Green Lantern), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) and more!

The graphic novel is a series of short stories all building up to the movie and fleshing out the background of the world.  It’s all familiar with gods and titans doing battle, but there’s also just enough that’s different to make it pretty unique and keep you on your toes.

The stories are varied but all are at least good, some are great.  The art is similar and varies from good to great.  But, by the time I got to the end of reading this, I actually wanted to see the movie.  There was enough here to get me interested and want to spend money to see more.

If you dug the movie, absolutely buy this.  If you like battles like Spartacus, Gladiator, 300 or Clash of the Titans, you’ll probably dig this as well.  It’s swords and sandals and really damn entertaining.

Story: Brian Clevinger, F.J. DeSanto, David Gallaher, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Jock, Ron Marz, Jim McCann, Ben McCool, Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin Art: Dennis Calero, Kevin Colden, Steve Ellis, Trevor Hairsine, Scott Hampton, Phil Hester, Jock, Rafael Kayanan, Patrick Scherberger and Ben Templesmith Cover: David Mack

Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Inanna’s Tears

Inanna's Tears CoverInanna’s Tears is an interesting graphic novel mixing religion, politics a love story all together in an Egyptian like society.  The story pits two people, those outside the temple and those that rule within.  All with an art style you just don’t see a lot.

In Sumer, before the rise of the kingship, the prosperous city of Birith is known throughout the land for its devotion to the goddess Inanna. But after a thousand years of plenty, the city is in danger of being overrun by the nomadic refugees that swell in number outside of its walls. Even as her high priest makes plans to preside over his final ritual to Inanna and name a successor, powerful interests outside of the city begin to question the wisdom of continuing to submit to the Temple’s authority. When the role of consort is passed unexpectedly to a woman named Entika, she must overcome not only the prejudices of her own people but a cunning enemy backed by the rising tide of history. Collects and completes the INANNA’S TEARS series, a proto-historical romantic tragedy in five acts, 5,000 years in the making.

Overall, I’m kind of torn on this one.  It’s very unique, but felt a bit like a choir to get through.  It’s not bad in any way, I think it just wasn’t for me.  I felt a bit like I was in Sunday School hearing an extended story.  It’s definitely different, both in it’s pacing, subject and art style.  For that it gets points, but I can’t enthusiastically get behind it.  Might be for you, just not for me.

Story: Rob Vollmar Art: mpMann

Story: 7 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand

Think Jim Henson was all happy and kids stuff?  Think again.  Tale of Sand is a play on visuals and time.  Really, I’m pretty sure it was written on acid, it’s that out there.  But when it was over, I loved it.

Join us as we explore this missing piece of Jim Henson’s career in a celebration of his creative process. Discovered in the Archives of The Jim Henson Company, Tale of Sand is an original graphic novel adaptation of an unproduced, feature-length screenplay written by Jim Henson and his frequent writing partner, Jerry Juhl. Tale of Sand follows scruffy everyman, Mac, who wakes up in an unfamiliar town, and is chased across the desert of the American Southwest by all manners of man and beast of unimaginable proportions. Produced with the complete supervision of Jim’s daughter, Lisa Henson, Tale of Sand will allow Henson fans to recognize some of the inspirations and set pieces that appeared in later Henson Company productions.

To really go into the reasons why I dug this so much would ruin the story for you, but it just plays with visuals and the concept of time to create a unique story that I’ve never seen anywhere else.  Football players, cowboys, Indians, it’s all there.  And it’s perfect for the graphic novel form.  I think as a movie, it might have been horrible, but in printed form where you can linger on the art, it works perfectly.  I won’t go so far to say this is a modern classic, but it’s up there. I lingered on pages, went back and reread some to see the build up and the ending made me want to start again.  The graphic novel will throw you for a loop and it’s totally worth it.

Story: Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl Art: Ramón Pérez

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

I swear it’s Jim Henson month between the movie and all of the comic releases.  The Storyteller is classic Henson featuring an old man telling stories to his talking dog.  You can almost picture the gentleman telling them on tv to his puppet dog.  It’s just what I’d expect and love about Henson’s creations.

The much-loved, live-action/puppet combination TV show is now a graphic novel series! Archaia and The Jim Henson Company are proud to present ALL-NEW tales of fantastic wonder and extraordinary myth, as told from the tongue of The Storyteller and his loyal canine companion! Witness worded wonderment from a cavalcade of crafty creators, including Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show Comic, Thor The Mighty Avenger), Marjorie Liu (Black Widow), Ron Marz (Green Lantern, Artifacts), Jeff Parker (Hulk, Thunderbolts), Jennifer L. Meyer (Lady Pendragon), Tom Fowler (Green Arrow, Batman), Chris Eliopoulos (Pet Avengers, Franklin Richards), Colleen Coover (Spider-Man, Pet Avengers) and more! Plus: A never-before-seen story adapted from a screenplay by The Storyteller’s original author, Academy Award Winner Anthony Minghella (The English Patient)!

A series of short stories and some work better than others, but each feels like an episode.  They’re all moral tales as Henson seemed to do and entertaining at the same time.  It’s a great read and one I’d love to sit down with my nieces and nephews and read aloud to them.  This is volume one, lets hope we see volume two and see it soon.  Reading it just made me miss Henson’s genius that you could share with the entire family.

Story: Katie Cook, Colleen Coover, Nate Cosby, Chris Eliopoulos, Roger Langridge, Marjorie Liu, Ron Marz, Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin Art: Ronan Cliquet, Katie Cook, Colleen Coover, Tom Fowler, Roger Langridge, Mike Maihack, Jennifer L. Meyer, Craig Rousseau and Evan Shaner Cover: Patrick Scherberger and Mike Maihack

Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Killing Pickman

Um, I’ll just say it aloud, this graphic novel is fucked up.  It’s twisted and made me disturbed, which has to mean it was pretty decent.  The story is part Se7en and part Silence of the Lambs mixed in with a supernatural element.  It’s messed up and really entertaining.

Homicide Detective William Zhu has just made the arrest of his career. With the apprehension of Richard Pickman he has solved over 100 missing child cases, some of which date back over 30 years. The excavation of Pickman’s basement reveals horrors beyond imagination—the bodies of children mutilated in bizarre satanic rites. Frustrated with his role of clean-up man to the detritus of the world, Zhu makes what may be a fatal mistake: He decides to kill Pickman. Fatal, for Richard Pickman is no ordinary psychopath. The rituals he performed were not the work of a madman but sacrifices made to a very real demon. A demon who has granted Pickman near immortality. Killing Pickman is going to be a lot tougher than Zhu could have imagined. It may not even be possible.

You have the cop that wants to move on and the crazy psychopath that he needs to deal with.  But, that psychopath also has made a deal with a demon.  Is that part true?  Is it all just some psychological play?  It’s twisted is what it is.  The story is creepy enough but the layout and art just add to it all.  The layout is actually brilliant really using the book to enhance the story and for that it’s all enhanced.  The use of tape like visuals, the margins, it all blends together and makes the whole more.  If you like psychological thrillers, you’ll dig this.

Story: Jason Becker Art: Jon Rea

Story: 8.75 Art: 9.25 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury

Comic books are supposed to be fun and The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury is just that.  There’s a pop adventure feel to it all that made me tear through the graphic novel and come away wanting to read more.

She’s the greatest adventurer in this, or any other galaxy, the kind of old-fashioned, classic science-fiction heroine that can successfully defeat The Time Raiders of Xaxium, brave the wonders of The Glass Planet, survive The Perils of Yor, and battle The Infinity Class to a veritable standstill! All while facing the one enemy that perhaps even she cannot defeat, a microscopic poison rushing through her veins, courtesy of her greatest adversary, Cyrus Vega. With only one year left to live, Miranda Mercury will have her morality tested and values shaken to see her life’s mission completed.

I like the pulp stories like Flash Gordon and this has that feel to it all, showing off crazy worlds and crazier villains.  It also stars a kick-ass woman which just makes it even more of a treasure, since that seems to be lacking.  It’s a space adventure that’s perfect for kids and gives little girls a heroine to look up to.

The stories, art, it all just comes together to create a pulp world that makes me just want to read more.

Story: Brandon Thomas Art: Lee Ferguson

Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Mouse Guard: Black Axe #2 and #3

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #2 CoverI love, love, love Mouse Guard.  The Black Axe is the latest series that features this magical fantasy world featuring mice.  I really have no idea what to say to get people to pick it up, other than the various volumes are absolutely modern classics.

The new volume of the Eisner Award-winning MOUSE GUARD series continues! On an unmapped island, Celanawe and Em discover the land of Ilder ruled by a ferret king. Shipwrecked and with no sign of their ship’s captain Conrad, they become the audience of Ilder’s imposing sovereign and hear of his hunger, his power and his fear—all while a mythic weapon dangles just out of reach preventing destiny from marching forward for the bloodline of Farrer, forger of the Black Axe.

The story is great, feeling like the best that fantasy has to offer.  My only complaint is it feels so long between issues.  But, overall, I’ve gushed over Mouse Guard in the past and it’s a comic I’d put in anyone’s hands, especially when it comes to a comic the entire family can enjoy.  Much like previous volumes, this one is an instant classic.

Story: David Petersen Art: David Petersen

Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

The Sigh

Marjane Satrapi is internationally known for her classic Persepolis, which was utterly brilliant.  The Sigh is an illustrated prose book that reads like a night time story you’d read your kids before putting them to bed.

Rose is one of three daughters of a rich merchant who always brings gifts for his girls from the market. One day Rose asks for the seed of a blue bean, but he fails to find one for her. She lets out a sigh in resignation, and her sigh attracts the Sigh, a mysterious being that brings the seed she desired to the merchant. But every debt has to be paid, and every gift has a price, and the Sigh returns a year later to take the merchant’s daughter to a secret and distant palace. Written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi, author of the award-winning Persepolis.

I’m not the biggest fan of prose, and an illustrated story isn’t really for me.  I’m not the audience for the book, and I recognize that.  So for me, it’s a meh, not like her previous work at all, this is a kids fairy tale, not a story of political repression.  But, if I had kids, especially daughters, this would be one of the first things I’d be reading to them.  The story is cute and entertaining, great for kids.  So, if you’re looking for something to read to your kids, you can’t go wrong with this.

Story: Marjane Satrapi Art: Marjane Satrapi

Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Archaia provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review