The Adolescent Demo Division are an elite group of teen gamers, raised from birth to test media and appear in their own reality show. Right from the beginning we can see that they’re not “normal:” they have highly elevated gaming skills, and seem incapable of interacting in the usual way with people in the real world. Their main goal is to graduate to the “next level,” a life in the real world in which they can meet their birth parents. But as the story goes on they begin to learn that their history may not be what it seems, and “next level” may not be what was promised. As usual Rushkoff weighs the story down with a bunch of media theorizing (including an invented slang that makes the members of the A.D.D. difficult to understand at first) and the end is telegraphed from early on. Still a pretty good read, though, mainly because it works so well on a purely action level, aided by the fine artwork.
The iZombie world is expanded by the addition of a major new villain, a creepy female college professor named Galatea. She has a Dr. Frankenstein vibe, but her ultimate goals are unknown at first. We also get an origin story for Scott the Were-Terrier (and another new character in the form of a chimpanzee inhabited by the spirit of his grandfather). The monster hunters face off against the vampires, who retreat and regroup. Gwen’s relationship with Horatio the monster hunter deepens, and her latest brain meal brings her into contact with her own past. And guest artist Gilbert Hernandez illustrates the origin of Ellie the ghost (plus her first meeting with Gwen) in the form of a “Harriet the Happy Ghost” comic. I find it remarkable that Roberson has continued structuring the book as an ongoing: there are no multiple-part story arcs, just a continuing story. That approach is rare nowadays, in Vertigo series as much as ongoing superhero series.
The monster hunters from the Fossor Corporation have shifted their attention to a zombie outbreak, after declaring a truce with the vampires. These are the traditional, mindless shambling variety, and they dominate the action in this volume. These issues introduce “The Dead Presidents,” which reads like an independent backup feature at first. But in the third installment it crosses over into the main title. They are a secret monster-hunting agency of the U.S. government–staffed by monsters–and they’ve got a history of bad blood with the Fossors. The two groups join forces to combat the zombie horde that has escaped from underground and now threatens the whole town. And Gwen has a shocking realization about her prior relationship with Amon, including how she became a zombie. Finally, guest artist Jay Stephens illustrates “Vampire Queen of the Amazon,” an issue which tells the story of agent Diogenes’s first Fossor Corporation mission (where he was partnered with Horatio’s mother). Plenty of action, plus an ever deepening history for these characters, who are more interrelated than they realize.
Marzi was born in 1979, ten years before the end of communism in Poland. So she lived through the social turmoil of the era: bread lines, martial law, and finally the establishment of democracy through the peaceful protests of the labor union Solidarity. Bleak times and exciting ones: but all seen through the eyes of a child. The narration never shifts to omniscient adult mode, so it’s always charming, regardless of the topic. As a child, Marzi is mainly concerned with her fear of spiders, desire for a Barbie doll, conflicts with her school friends, and other important childhood matters. She’s aware of the important events in the adult world, but doesn’t understand them very well. World events probably touch her most closely when her father is away from home for weeks participating in a Solidarity strike at the factory where he works. She tells her story through a series of vignettes: snapshots of home, school, shopping, and visiting relatives in the country. As we learn about Marzi’s life, we also learn about daily life in Poland in the 1980s. Terrific stuff, and Savoia’s illustrations capture the tone perfectly. This American edition is a translation of the French original, published in two parts in 2008 – 2009.
The first collection of Who is Jake Ellis?, the Image series written by Nathan Edmondson & illustrated by Tonci Zonjic, is optimistically labeled “Vol. 1.” The miniseries did so well that they announced plans to make it an ongoing, but so far there have only been the originally planned five issues. It’s a cool concept: spy Jon Moore has an invisible guardian–Jake Ellis–who only he can see and hear. Jon is literally on the run through much of the story. He’s trying to figure out what happened to him in the mysterious experimental Facility, the place he first saw Jake. Several shadowy organizations are after him; he’s not sure who the good guys are, if there even are any. Jon and Jake do make their way into the Facility by the end of this collection, and many questions are answered. Jon does his best to save Jake’s physical body, but the last scene implies that Jake has again become his invisible guardian. There are still lots of story possibilities, so I hope that the story will continue. The collection also includes a sketchbook of Zonjic’s artwork: covers, layouts, pencils, and inks.
Back with a series which continues to be a good read. I’m looking forward to those .5 issues, which I think will be in the next collection. This one opens with Lizzie and Richie casing an auction of Wilson Taylor’s effects to figure out how to get their hands on his personal journals. Tom Taylor makes a dramatic return from the series of novels about the sea where he had been trapped when we saw him last. He’s figured out an important fact: “the Source” of the power of stories is people, specifically people who read a story and get something out of it. When the group breaks into the auction house, they discover that it was a trap. They are to be auctioned off the next day, but puppetmaster Mme. Rausch interferes long enough for them to make their escape. But not before dropping a bomb about Tom’s DNA: it’s not really human. I’m betting there will be much more about this later. The title arc explores Wilson’s early life, when he was working for Pullman and the cabal. He decides to co-opt the new medium of comic books, targeting the superhero character called “The Tinker” and its creator, Miriam Walzer. The title of the arc is a play on the concept of “ontogenesis,” the development of an individual organism from the earliest stages to maturity. Wilson said it applies to stories as well as children, and his romantic involvement with Miriam entwined them quite literally. Tom finds that he can bring the stories in the journals to life by reading them at the locations where they happened, another development likely to impact the ongoing story. But the discovery that the cabal has been murdering everyone he ever met sends Tom on a new path of vengeance as this collection closes.