Robot reviews: Another lightning round

Comics, comics, comics. Lots of 'em. Teetering in a pile. Let's try to whittle it down a bit.

Love and Rockets: New Stories #2by The Hernandez BrothersFantagraphics Books, 100 pages, $14.99.

For the first time in a really, really long time, Gilbert's contribution to this venerable series left me completely cold. Oh, the first story -- involving Guadalupe's now teen-age daughter -- is decent enough. I liked how Gilbert told the story obliquely, using only dialogue from before and after the critical events to let the readers figure out what's going on. The main story though, Hypnotwist, is a bit of a dud. It harkens back to his experimental, Fear of Comics days, but has none of the juice or disturbing oddity of those works. it's just a series of seemingly interconnected, but ultimately random images, that never gains any narrative steam or acquires an ability to captivate.

Jaime's contribution on the other hand, is a whole 'nother kettle of wax entirely. I've gone on record several times here saying how much I love his Ti-Girls saga and how it seems to "get" the superhero genre in ways that the Big Two just don't seem to anymore. All that holds true here and more, with a wonderful, fitting ending for our heroines. I wonder what he'll do for an encore.

Reviews of Fables, Flight and more after the jump ...

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Flight Vol. 6Edited by Kazu KibuishiVillard, 288 pages, $25.

This is the strongest volume in this annual anthology I've read yet. In the past I've decried the various contributors for being strong on visuals and craft but weak on storytelling and structure. Perhaps the artists are finally maturing in their work, perhaps the editors just started reaching out to a wider pool -- whichever the reason the signal to noise ration seems much better this time around. Highlights include JP Ahonen's witty ninja tale, Bannister's "Cooking Duel," and Graham Annable, who never, ever seems to disappoint. Yes, there is the occasional twee contribution, but for the first time I closed the book without feeling like I had consumed too much sugar.

Fables The Deluxe Edition Book Oneby Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Mark Bucckingham, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton.Vertigo, 264 pages, $29.99

I like the Fables series. Though I think the quality of the tales varies wildly from story arc to story arc, it's got a great hook and Willingham and Buckingham make a great team, playing to each others' strengths rather well. So I'm happy (but not terribly surprised) to see the series get the upgrade to nice paper and a hardcover dress, though I dunno if that will draw in new fans, or if the old ones will want to make the upgrade.

Other than that I don't have too much to say about this one. I really don't think the series starts cooking until the "Storybook Love" arc -- "Animal Farm" is good, but the opener, "Legends in Exile" is straight out dull and awkward and remains so, glossy paper or no glossy paper.

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All and Sundry: Uncollected Work 2004-2009by Paul HornschemeierFantagraphics Books, 208 pages, $29.99.

I've never been one to put down a book for being too expensive. I've always tended to be a "judge the content, not the price tag" kind of guy.

Having said that, there's simply no way this collection of short stories, ephemera and sketches by the author of Mother, Come Home should be a $30 hardcover. They could have easily cut out about a third of the content and put it out in paperback for half the price. Because while Hornschemeier is an obviously talented guy, and Mother is a very good book, he hasn't built up a body of work stellar enough yet to justify this sort of vanity project. Is that statement unfair? Probably. But Hornschemeier fans aside, there isn't enough strong material in Sundry (although there are some good ones -- the Huge Suit story in particular) to justify its existence on its own merits. Not like this. Not in this fashion.

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Mercy Thompson: Homecomingby Patricia Briggs, David Lawrence, Francis Tsai and Amelia WooDel Rey, 112 pages, $22.95

This is probably the best of the Dabel Bros/Del Rey fantasy books I've read yet, though that really isn't saying much. You just have to be borderline competent to compete with something like Dean Koontz's Frankenstein. And that's all this really is. I could follow the action of the story well enough -- new coyote/human girl comes to town and unintentionally stirs up trouble -- but not so much that I could figure out the various characters' motivations or why I should really care about what happens to them. Ultimately, I didn't.

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