Jodi Scaife

Jodi Scaife (162)

According to Merriam Webster, the word “outré” means “violating convention or propriety” or “bizarre.” Upon reading that the theme of issue two of the free comic anthology Outré was “hopelessness,” I was ready to jump on board with the standard definition for the work; however, by the end of the volume I, realized that outré has another meaning in this instance: unique, different, and utterly engaging.

Everyone has a past, but twenty-six-year-old Rachel Thomas is sure that if she stops running, hers will catch up and destroy all of her dreams and her chance at freedom. For three years she has bounced from town to town, refusing to make personal ties or allow anyone beyond her friend, Danielle, close, because putting down roots is just not in the cards. Then, bookstore owner Mark Jacobson breaks through Rachel’s carefully constructed walls and shows her how pure and sweet love can be; however, the young woman’s past is hot on her heels and will destroy them both: one for daring to run away; the other for daring to love a prized “possession.”

The Almighties Origins is a short comic that fills the gaps of their adventures in The Almighties #1 and their first official job for the US White House. The President has good reason to wonder about his new team of superheroes, since not all of them have the most pure motives for fighting crime.

The Vale: I Don’t Know What I Did Last Summer takes readers into a world where Lovecraftian-like elder gods have forcibly sundered the wall between their world and ours. Fay, elders, and humans mingle uneasily as everyone is a little afraid of what the others could do. Despite their differences, Shugg (an elder), Jan (a human), and Liam (a fay) have forged a close friendship. The comic looks at Liam’s stag party (roughly equivalent to a bachelor party in the US) where Shugg and Jan join the leprechaun-looking fellow’s other pals in Derry, Ireland, for a night of drinking and debauchery that will not be mentioned again. Due to the subject matter of the comic, this is definitely for mature readers only.

A rookie BBC news crew is paired with a veteran team of US soldiers for a dangerous transport from Kandahar to Naw Abad in the one shot comic Convoy of Corpses, which was created and written by Kelly Bender and illustrated by Van Choran. The journalists have a very naïve view of how to record their experiences along the trip, but, by the end of the trip, they’ve seen firsthand why Afghanistan’s Highway #1 has been dubbed “highway to hell.”

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson is the first book in a series (The Valhalla Saga) that seems crafted specifically for fans of History Channel’s Vikings who want something more, set in the fascinating world of Nordic warriors and their fierce pantheon of gods. Set in 996AD, Swords introduces readers to the conflict between the Christian King Olav and the pagan believers that inhabited most of Norway during the time period. The conflict appears to be loosely based on the real attempts of King Olaf I of Norway, who used violence and coercion to force his religion on his subjects and to spread Christianity throughout Scandinavia. I suspect that the full Valhalla Saga will cover his entire four-year quest to convert the region.

Renee Winters has always been a normal girl, except for her odd ability to find dead things wherever she goes.  She hangs out with her friends, has started dating the most popular guy at her California high school, and is excited to finally turn sixteen and get to drive; however, on her sixteenth birthday she finds her parents’ dead bodies in the redwood forest near her hometown, surrounded by coins and with gauze stuffed into their mouths.  The police claim the cause of death is simultaneous heart attacks, but Renee believes that something unexplained occurred.  Before she gets a chance to investigate, her estranged grandfather whisks her away to the gothic, mysterious Gottfried Academy in Attica Falls, Maine, where a similar death took place on campus the previous year.  Renee is sure there’s a link between her parents’ and the former Gottfried student’s deaths, but the Academy thrives on buried secrets and punishes those who try to uncover them. Eerily beautiful fellow student Dante Berlin also distracts the sixteen year old who finds herself drawn to him in a way she can’t explain.  The answers to all of Renee’s questions are hidden in the past, and they could change everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Robotslayer is an adventure story aimed at readers between 9 and 11 years old who love robots and want to experience a world populated with these mechanical wonders.  The physical book was simultaneously released with an iPad app, which allows the reader to more fully experience Leo’s battles and training.  Unfortunately, I have not completely sold my soul to Apple yet, so I do not have an iPad; I think I would have enjoyed playing as the Robotslayer throughout the storyline.

Forever, In Pieces by Kurt Fawver is a bittersweet collection of eighteen short stories that probe and investigate the nature of human existence. The collection from Villipede Publications is billed as speculative horror, but, for me, the majority of the tales felt less horrific or creepy than philosophical examinations on aspects of being. I realize this sounds like an intro to philosophy survey course description, but Fawver’s introduction to the book indicates that he also anticipates readers finishing his work thinking about complex ideas and their own mortality rather than being shocked or horrified by the monsters within it. Each story stands on its own, but they flowed easily, one into the next, as I read.  Like the concept of eternity, the eighteen tales form a circle, and I actually felt a little cheated when the book ended without looping back to the beginning to start the cycle again.

Dark Horse’s Berserk Volume 37 epitomizes the problems that a reviewer can face when plunked down in the middle of a long running series even when she has passing familiarity with the characters. In Japan, manga are serialized in magazines and often compiled into trade volumes when there are enough pages without much thought as to whether the stories make any sense together. This volume suffers from the practice as it has bits of three distinct storylines with no clear relationship to each other.

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