Story by Cory Doctorow and Adapted and Drawn by Jen Wang

Written by Paul Pope and J.T. Petty and Drawn by David Rubin

Published by First Second

Reviewed by Marc Mason

To absolutely no surprise, First Second continues to turn out one brilliant graphic novel after another. Sorta repetitive, really…

in real life

The fine writer/artist Jen Wang has adapted Cory Doctorow’s short story “Anda’s Game” in IN REAL LIFE, an unbelievably timely graphic novel about a young girl gamer coming of age in an MMO environment. Anda, a charming young woman, finds herself flourishing inside a game where she learns teamwork, friendship, and responsibility while going on raids with her guild. But when she starts making real-life cash by taking out “gold farmers” (players who do dirty work in the game and then sell the spoils of said work for big money) she winds up meeting on who changes her perspective not just on her own behavior but on a culture far across the world. This also sees her interfere in a well-meaning, but kinda damaging way, and she must deal with the fallout from her actions.

Gaming and issues of sexism has been so prevalent as of late that it has made the pages of major newspapers and magazines, which gives IRL even more of a cachet than likely originally intended. Anda herself is a fantastic character; smart, moral, hungry to learn about herself and the world, and she is an excellent representation for so many out there who are just like her… in real life. The stakes in the story turn out to be surprisingly high, yet they are also incredibly personal and human. Wang gets everything right as both storyteller and artist, and the essay Doctorow provides to introduce the book is interesting and informative. I seriously loved this book – and I think you will as well.

aurora west cover

On the heels of last year’s BATTLING BOY, Paul Pope has allowed for the expansion of that “universe” with this first of two prequel volumes focusing on that book’s other protagonist. THE RISE OF AURORA WEST takes us back to a time before the young heroine’s father died and passed on the mantle of city protector to her. Here we see her as she is undergoing the early moments of her training, and as she investigates one monster-related crime, she discovers a clue at the scene that makes her question how she lost her mother many years prior. Perhaps what caused her mother’s death was a little more… personal… that anyone ever realized.

Pope works with writer J.T. Petty here to deliver a fast-paced, entertaining story, and artist David Rubin delivers work that stylistically matches well with Pope’s own. In other words, if you’re worried about Pope not executing all of it himself – don’t. You won’t even notice. The characters are fun, the action is lovely, and Aurora is a terrific character. She’s brave, inquisitive, and doesn’t take the idea of responsibility lightly. This is volume one of two, but it ends on a solidly resolute note so you don’t feel short-changed. Recommended.


Written and Drawn by Paul Pope
Written and Drawn by Simon Roy
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two excellent new trade paperbacks from the Image offices…

I’ve been enjoying Simon Roy’s work on PROPHET, finding it innovative and challenging, so I was intrigued to see a story collection of his solo work. Happily, once I dove in to JAN’S ATOMIC HEART AND OTHER STORIES I was rewarded with more phenomenal material from Roy. Diving into the strangest recesses of science fiction, Roy combines unique art and clever stories, delivering ideas that engage the reader and make him think. The title story is the superstar of the collection; Jan is a man who has been in a bad accident, and rather than being fully laid up in bed, he is given a loaner body, that of an aged robot. But as he meets up with a friend, he learns that this particular robot type is one that has been embraced by a terrorist group, and suddenly he realizes that he may have made a very big mistake. To tell you more would be criminal, so I’ll just say this: the result is brilliant. Honestly, there isn’t a dud story in the book, and it deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended.

Speaking of brilliant artists, you can’t have that conversation without talking about Paul Pope. MONSTERS & TITANS is excellent proof of why. This is not a graphic novel; instead, this is more of a tour program for Pope’s traveling art exhibition last year. BATTLING BOY hit shelves last fall, Pope’s first new work in a few years, so it was not a huge surprise to see the original pages make their way across country in a museum setting. This program shows the original art that went on tour, and it offers textual reflections on the pieces; what they mean, what Pope’s process was, and what his intent was for certain sequences. It’s informative, interesting stuff. The printing is over-sized, so it has a coffee table feel to it, and the text is done in English, French, and Italian. This is an unusual item for Image, but I love the fact that they did it. Recommended for sophisticated readers.


Written by Brett Matthews and Drawn by Sergio Cariello and Paul Pope
Published by
Dynamite Entertainment

The Lone Ranger pays a visit to a sheriff who isn’t quite the lawman he should be, and Tonto tells a story to a man waiting for the gallows, in LONE RANGER 11 which sort of ties up the second arc of the series and sort of starts the third. And while the book has remained A-level entertainment from the very first issue, this effort is extra notable. Not only does it offer up another great bit of story work from Brett Matthews, but the story that Tonto tells the soon-to-be-dead man is illustrated by the artistic legend Paul Pope. Buy a copy? Hell, that’s so cool you could buy two and it’d still be a bargain.

That’s not to say that Cariello is a slouch. The man has been doing brilliant work on this title issue in and issue out, and he’s no different here. Dean White doesn’t do the colors here, but Marcelo Pinto steps in and makes sure that the continuity of look on the book is intact. And the palate he uses on Pope’s material works nicely to “draw” the environment that the lead character (a wolf) finds himself traipsing through. Each issue on LONE RANGER feels like a tour through a land of nothing but quality, and it is still really Dynamite’s best and most consistent book. ZORRO may catch up to it, but it has to show it can stay at a high level over a lengthy period of time.

The upcoming re-start of a film franchise for the Ranger was in the news again recently, and while mention of this book was absent in those stories, you have to hope that intelligence will shine through and that the property will use this work as a foundation. The characters have never been this interesting or compelling, and the comic has been tailor-made for screen adaptation. If you haven’t read it, this is a pretty good place to start.

Marc Mason