Here's a fairly short review: Rice Boy is a good comic and you should read it. I actually think the book version might be preferrable to the webcomic as it's a hefty story that lends itself to sitting down for a long stretch with it.
It's the end of the year and what better time to talk webcomics with a great group of interesting creators and commentators. For this year's roundtable we talked about favorite and new webcomics from 2009; iPhones and iTablets; developments in the business of comics; developments in the subject matter of comics; webcomic awards; and predictions for 2010! I'm joined by Gary Tyrrell, Delos Woodruff, Shaenon Garrity, Fesworks, Derik Badman, Larry Cruz, Brigid Alverson and Johanna Draper Carlson.
Adam Bourret has a lot of interesting life to work with in his autobiographical comic I'm Crazy. Bourret won the Xeric Grant this year and he used the funds to put out a more polished version of the book. He's also serializing it online. Unlike many autobiographical comics I've recently read, Bourret has problems way beyond being a mopey, shy cartoonist as he suffers from various mental issues (primarily it seems to be OCD that afflicts him) that profoundly affect his life.
Z-Blade XX is a new comic from Atomic Basement written by Steve Palmer and illustrated by Guy Lemay. It's a slickly-produced book -- nice colors, thick paper, etc. But for a first issue of a new character, it's not particularly satisfying. It's also, unfortunately, filled with a few unnecessary swear words and some visuals of explicit violence to be a good read for kids who might otherwise enjoy the straightforward story. All in all, I know I sound like a broken record sometimes, but this is another project where putting it on the web and working on it with more immediate feedback might have led to a stronger story.
I picked up True Loves and True Loves 2 at SPX this year. The two books by Jason Turner and Manien Bothma (husband and wife) chronicle the falling in love and thereafter of True Kilbourne and Zander Gunn. An odd experience for me reading the books before the webcomic (True Loves 2 is available in color at Serializer.net) but having both books to read in one stretch actually was a good thing. While I liked the initial True Loves tale, I really thought True Loves 2: Trouble in Paradise added a lot more to the entire tale to date (Jason Turner's note at the end of True Loves 2 says they're already working on True Loves 3).
Now that I have two book-devouring kids, I find myself much more engaged with books and comics for the 10 and under age bracket (I guess you'd call that pre-tween?). My kids read comics along with text books without much distinction at this point which is probably due to the pretty decent selection of comics in the children's section of our local library. (The Sardine in Outer Space series was a recent favorite.)
So I was pretty interested in getting an opportunity to review the latest installment in the Manga Math Mysteries series. Number four is titled The Kung Fu Puzzle: A Mystery with Time and Temperature. I think any book, comic or otherwise, should be engaging on its own merits. Educational value shouldn't be an excuse for a boring book. Kung Fu Puzzle passed that test with flying colors with both of my kids (I thought it was pretty good too). In fact I think my youngest daughter's biggest complaint is actually nice praise for the book -- she was quite annoyed at its somewhat open-ended finish. I think she was hoping that the story went on longer.
Is there any fantasy series in recent memory as beloved and praised as Bone? Jeff Smith began writing about the Bone cousins in 1991, but it was probably the publication of the books in color versions by Scholastic that truly launched Bone into the pop culture. It's a great sprawling story with a powerful conclusion. Bone: Rose is a prequel that fleshes out the story of Gran'ma Ben as a youth (i.e., Rose), a story that weighs heavily on the Bone saga proper.
The Ragbox is a comic written by Dave Kender and drawn by three artists: Mark Hamilton, Braden Lamb, and Matthew Reinke (each artist handling one of the three chapters). Kender is the founder of the Boston Roundtable group. This is a short book -- the pleasures in reading it are not really for the plot so there will be spoilers ahead. (It's also available as a webcomic here; you can buy the book at the store here.)
What do we call the 24-ish pages soft paper comic book these days with the explosion of graphic novels, collections of comics in print, etc.? I guess we stick with "comic book" as meaning a 24-ish page floppy book. Randy Reynaldo is sticking with the comic book format for his series about intrepid adventurer Rob Hanes.
Kazu Kibuishi once again takes us back into the world of Amulet in Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse which is due out from Scholastic in September 2009. The Stonekeeper's Curse is a compelling story with tons of actions and opens up in much wider ways the world of the first Amulet book. It's a thrilling tale, a fantastic piece of comics from Kibuishi and a worthy successor to the first book.