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This diamond indicates those titles included in the Top Ten Core List

 

Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon
ISBN: 0971024995
by Milton Caniff
Checker Book Publishing Group 2003

Ah, the end of the 1940's, when women had "intuition" and men who had fought "the Japs" pined for the excitement of a military life. Milt Caniff sketches an era of arch-eyebrowed villainesses with hearts of gold, and heroes who are almost as quick with a witticism as with their fists. Muscular and lantern-jawed, Steve Canyon considers himself a cowboy of the airways, seeking adventure in the cockpit of a plane as the owner of Horizons Unlimited, a freelance international shipping concern. According to his secretary, Steve is a nearly-bankrupt ne'er-do-well whose charm won't protect him much longer from mounting debt and a seemingly terminal lack of gainful employment. Just as the situation begins to look bleak, Steve and his band of ex-military pals are handed a break in the form of a shipping job for the proud and high-handed Copper Calhoon. Debt and a love of adventure call Steve away from Copper's side to assist a mining company in transporting some equipment before this relationship can blossom. Steve is once again catapulted into a scene of international high jinks, caught in a web of lies and treachery by gangster Big Red and her unwilling accomplice, the beautiful Delta. Just as Steve begins to see past Delta's deceptions to the smart and sensitive woman within, they are separated as Steve embarks on a world tour at the whim of a newly-made millionaire. Steve is still not safe from plots and counter plots in the third episode of our story, but he has finally found a woman who wants neither to kill him, nor to disappear... too bad she's one of those confounded know-it-all woman doctors! The Steve Canyon stories are all "ripping good yarns" which retain most of the humor and excitement for modern readers that they elicited when first published in 1947. Characters in Caniff's stories all eventually defy the stereotypes they at first seem to embody, lending this post-war story an interesting complexity, and plenty of unexpected twists.

review by Alison

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I Never Liked YouThe Tomb
by Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir
ISBN: 1929998953
Oni Press, 2004

This is a love story and a thriller wrapped up in one book: it's the story of an Egyptian Archeologist and a newspaper reporter who went to explore the house of a dead egyptologist and ended up finding more than they bargained for--the house turns out to be possessed by the ghost of its builder, staffed by ghosts, and full of traps that may kill anyone who enters. Can they find the source of the house's problems and get out of there before they get themselves killed? Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis tell an engaging mystery in The Tomb: readers who are fans of the Nancy Drew mysteries or Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries will enjoy this book. Christopher Mitten's black and white artwork is delicate and depicts the action scenes in this book very well. This is a great book for teenagers and adults: though the graphic novel does contain the occasional dead body, it has no other objectionable content.

review by gina

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Kabuki
By David Mack
Image Comics 2001-2004

Kyoto, Japan: the calm of a rainy night in the not-too-distant future is punctuated by a brutal murder inside one of the cityÍs most notorious nightclubs. As the words Target:Confirmed:Terminate play across our vision, a masked figure carrying two sickle-shaped knives leaves the area. The scene is set. read more...

Or on to the individual volumes in the series:

Kabuki: Circle of Blood (1)
Kabuki: Dreams (2)
Kabuki: Masks of Noh (3)
Kabuki: Skin Deep (4)
Kabuki: Metamorphosis (5)
Kabuki: Scarab (6)

all reviews by alison

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Queen and Country
By Greg Rucka
Art by Steve Rolston
Oni Press 2002-2005

This is not James Bond. This is not "The Bourne Identity" or Tom Clancy. This is better. Operation: Broken Ground establishes the world of Queen and Country, a grittier darker look at what it means to be a spy in the modern world. Tara Chace is Minder 2 in the SIS, a British intelligence agency roughly equivalent to the CIA. She is an operative, aka a spy. She is tough and good at her job. Her boss is Paul Crocker who has the unenviable task of walking a line between keeping his agents safe while getting an inherently dangerous job done, dealing with governmental superiors who donÍt understand the business he is engaged in, and potential misinformation from supposed allies. Read more...

The Complete Series:
Queen and Country Operation Broken Ground (Volume 1)
Queen and Country Operation Morning Start (Volume 2)
Queen and Country Operation Crystal Ball (Volume 3)
Queen and Country Operation Blackwall (Volume 4)
Queen and Country Operation Storm Front (Volume 5)
Queen and Country Operation Dandilion (Volume 6)

Related Titles
Queen and Country Declassified
Queen and Country: A Gentleman's Game

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Whiteout
ISBN: 0966712714
By Greg Rucka
Art by Steve Liber
Oni Press 1999

A crime story of a different color -- the glaring white of the Antarctic sets the backdrop for this story of murder, spies, and battling the elements. U. S. Marshall Carrie Stetko has come to love her world of ice and silence and is particularly angered when her peace is shattered by a murder. She begins tracking the killer, knowing it is one of five men scattered across the continent. Enter British intelligence agent Lily Sharpe, determined to figure out why this man was apparently murdered for mysterious ice core samples. Hardcore crime drama at it's most tense, and most exciting.

review by robin

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ronin hoodWimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector In The World
by Seth
ISBN: 1896597939
Drawn & Quarterly, 2005

Wimbledon Green is a rich old man who doesn't do much with his life besides collecting comics. This book is a portrait of its title character, told through two intertwining storylines. The first is a series of interviews and reminiscences about Wimbledon Green that takes place after his disappearance. The second is the adventure tale (with added rocket car action!) of Wimbledon Green and his comics collecting competitors attempting to cheat each other out of a mint condition copy of 'The Green Ghost #1.'

Despite a more-or-less accurate portrayal of aged comics collectors (most of whom are focused on collecting comics to the exclusion of anything else, like hygiene), Wimbledon Green manages to reframe these people with a portrayal of rocket cars, amnesia, car chases, and secret millionaires that brings whimsy and nostalgia for the days-that-never-happened to the stereotypes. Seth's art is simple and brilliant, reminiscent of the art in the comics his characters are collecting.

Wimbledon Green is a book that anyone who has ever collected comics-- or anything else-- will appreciate. This book is a humorous look at the comics universe, told so that it will be enjoyed by both long time comic fans and newcomers to the comics universe. This isn't the best book to introduce people to the medium, but it's a book that most comics devotees will enjoy.

Review by gina

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Battle Royale Volume 1
ISBN: 1591823145
by Koushun Takami
Tokyopop 2003

It is a sad fact of life that many YA books seem to reflect a teenage obsession with death. A teen does something stupid-- drinking and driving, unprotected sex, vacationing at Camp Crystal Lake-- with disastrous consequences; usually, most of the teenÍs friends die horrible, spectacularly creative, deaths. Works such as these form a subgenre of YA literature that I call "dead teenager books."

Battle Royale is the ultimate dead teenager book ¿ the members of the SHIRO IWA Junior High School Class B are enlisted in The Program, a government-sponsored game show. The rules are simple: put 42 teenagers on an island (21 girls and 21 boys), give them weapons, and the last teen alive wins. The moral center of the first volume is Shuuya Nanahara, guitarist and all-around good guy. Shuuya does not want to kill his classmates, and he is determined to hook up with his friends and turn the tables on Yomeni Kamon, The ProgramÍs vile host.

Battle Royale is not an original concept, but it is very well done; the work that came to my mind as I read is The Lord of the Flies. However, Battle Royale is a good deal more graphic than William Golding's classic. There is sexual depravity (rape, panty shots), bad language, and extreme gore (exploding heads, flying eyeballs, etc.). Battle Royale is exceptionally b material, especially in the wake of Columbine; it is not for conservative communities, and it is not for younger teens. The publisher has a Parental Advisory Explicit Content Warning on the cover, which says "Warning" to parents and "Read Me" to teens. Battle Royale could fit into adult collections or collections that cater to older teens and arenÍt afraid of graphic material. Be careful.

review by George

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From Eroica With Love: Volume 2
by Aoike Yasuko
ISBN: 1-4012-0520-8
CMX, 2005

In life, one needs the help of friends. Major Klaus Heinz Von Dem Eberbach AKA "Iron Klaus" has a slew of agents at his disposal, all named after letters of the alphabet to make his life easier. Earl Dorian Red Gloria AKA "Eroica" has James, his very stingy accountant, who also happens to be madly in love with him. These are the main players in From Eroica With Love, a classic shonen ai comic originally written in the late 1970s. In my review of From Eroica With Love volume 1 I was amused to finally be reading a comic I've heard about so often over the years, but a little unsure where the story was taking me. Volume 2 is where I finally started to understand the sheer addictiveness of this incredibly strange and wacky comic.

In volume 2 all the ridiculous hijinks continue. This time we've got jade statues, Russian spies, and international criminal and government conferences being held next door to each other. Klaus and Eroica inevitably meet, Klaus is as annoyed by Eroica as always, and Eroica hits on him as much as ever. Somehow, in the midst of all this, we also manage to have a plot dealing with shipping deals, terrorist plots, and secret microfilms. That's where needing the help of friends (and enemies) really comes into play.

From Eroica With Love is light, amusing, fast paced fluff. There still isn't a whiff of actual sexual content for readers to worry about, but there is a constant presence of homosexuality which some readers may not be comfortable reading about.

Actually, that theme probably bears a bit more discussion. Many of the characters within the story are gay and in every case either extremely flamboyant, effeminate, or both. These depictions probably had a much more painful bite to them when this was first published in 1976, but within the context of 2006 the over-the-top characters in their wild 70's clothes don't offend so much as serve to make the story all the more absurd and humorous. These are stereotypes that are so big, so ridiculous, and so removed from today's reality, that most modern readers wouldn't be able to give them legitimacy. It also helps that the expressions of homophobia within the comic are all made by characters that are just as over the top and during moments that are just as ridiculous, thus assuring that the no one in the comic has the credibility to really argue or prove something to the reader with these stereotypes. All of this is my very long-winded way of saying that ultimately From Eroica With Love seems to me to be fun and harmless, not offensive or cruel. This is a charged issue though and your mileage, as well as the opinions you hold going into this, may vary.

Review by Katie

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