Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blade Runner Sketchbook (1982)

Editor: David Scroggy | Illustrators: Syd Mead / Charles Knode / Michael Kaplan / Mentor Huebner / Ridley Scott | Page Count: 99

Many of the objects in this book, while fascinating, were either modified or eliminated for the final version of the film.’

I acknowledge that B+W ink and watercolour concept sketches aren’t the most exciting thing for most people but I usually find them interesting.  I say usually because this one manages to present the work in the dullest way possible.
‘Visual futurist’ (a fancy-schmancy name for industrial designer) Syd Mead’s work is rich in detail and his creations are so well researched that it’s easy to believe they could be functional if made in the real world.  The problem lies not with his work, but with the book itself because it offers very little insight into the creative process.  Mead’s lines are clear to see but there’s no information on his working method or the problems he’d have faced with the futuristic tech.

There are also a number of pages with costume designs from Charles Knode and Michael Kaplan that I didn't spend much time on, but someone with an interest in fashion design may may feel differently about them.

Like it says in the quote above, there are things which didn't make it into the film at all; they’re the most interesting aspect for that reason alone.
If you absolutely must own everything Blade Runner then check it out, but keep your expectations to the absolute minimum to lessen the disappointment.

1½ Ridleygrams out of 5

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lone Wolf and Cub: Omnibus: Volume Two (2013)

Author: Kazuo Koike | Illustrator: Goseki Kojima | Page Count: 712

"…[I]n this hardscrabble world, fealty won’t put food on the table!"

Ogami Ittō continues his journey across Japan in the second omnibus from Dark Horse. The manga is less linear than the films, so it occasionally jumps back to offer insight into earlier times. It tells us why Ogami and Daigoro are on the road, what sparked the quest for retribution and what happened to the young boy's mother, as seen in the first part of the first film, Sword of Vengeance (1972).

Ogami is strong-willed and fierce when it comes to dealing with enemies. Yagyū Retsudō's assassins and hungry mercenaries lie in wait at every turn, hoping to best the swordsman and claim the reward, but the rōnin remains resolute in his duty even when confronted with seemingly impossible odds. When not engaged in swordplay, he's comforting and practical when it comes to family matters.

Goseki Kojima's artwork continues to help define the series. There's often page after page without dialogue, but the imagery speaks volumes. He'll follow a two-page spread of excessive bloodshed and fury with a single branch of cherry blossom suspended over a still pond and it won't seem out of place. Instead, it'll seem like the most natural progression ever.

The ease with which he's able to convey what young Daigoro is thinking deserves the highest praise I can give. Daigoro is just three-years-old, so he rarely speaks, but his simple, heartfelt expressions mean we're consistently privy to the Cub's thoughts; even more so in this volume because he gets a lot more to do.

I noticed something about Daigoro's character that was given more significance this time, or perhaps I simply overlooked it before. Whatever the case, it's subtle but all-important to his worldview.

I neglected to mention previously that covers are by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, so aren't representative of the superior B+W artwork inside.

The book collects together chapters 17 - 27 of the original Lone Wolf and Cub manga (the remainder of Vol 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger; all of Vol 4: The Bell Warden; and most of Vol 5:  Black Wind). Make room on your shelf because if they release the remainder of the books in the same manner, with approximately two and half of the original volumes per omnibus, there'll be 11 books.

5 more steps along the white path out of 5

(EDIT: The DH website shows there to be 12 books in total.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight: Vol 1: Knight Terrors (2012)

Authors: David Finch / Paul Jenkins / Joe Harris | Illustrators: David Finch / Ed Benes / Richard Friend | Page Count: 208

The only one in any shape to talk is Two-Face but he hasn't said anything coherent since he conveniently started bleeding out of his eyeballs.”

It's been two years since we started this blog, meaning it's long overdue time we had some Batman on it. The New 52 seems like a good place to start because I hadn't read it before and just finally got around to it.

DC cancelled its entire line of monthly superhero comics and then started them over from issue one. It gave creators an opportunity to trim the roster, to have Batman do his thing alone, reliant solely on his skills and his experience in the field. It gave writers an opportunity to re-evaluate their approach and offer a perfect jumping-on point for new readers. Instead, they did exactly what they did before: they introduced the extended Bat-Family earlier than was necessary and further messed things up with an excess of villains. Why relaunch at all?

The inmates have broken out of Arkham Asylum. Again. Someone better resign over this shit because it's all too frequent. There's something unusual about each of them this time, so Batman digs for clues and chases a white rabbit down a hole of self-analysis that threatened to become something interesting in the second half but ended up being over all too quickly.

The dialogue offers an occasional flurry of style over substance but mostly it's standard comic book stuff. I'm not so naïve that I believe every issue can be a classic, but you'd expect a relaunch to pull out something special, not rely on a tired old plot with unrealistic dialogue. Alfred tries to help out by being sarcastic but he lacks any of the charm he ought to have.

Artwork is suitably dark and moody and much too good for the bland story that is supposed to underpin it. The two-page spreads are great.

The book collects together Batman: The Dark Knight issues 1-9.

2½ slow starts out of 5

Friday, November 8, 2013

Coraline: 10th Anniversary Edition (2012)

Author: Neil Gaiman | Illustrator: Chris Riddell | Page Count: 192

The names are the first things to go, after the breath has gone, and the beating of the heart.  We keep our memories longer than our names.”

Coraline is a children's book.  It follows the conventions of children's literature closely, not only in story but also in structure and wording.  It even has a “Once upon a time…” moment but in typical Gaiman style it doesn't come until near the end of page one.  It's good to bend rules but he doesn't do it often often.  If he did, it might be a little less formulaic, and a lot more exciting.

It’s not even a very original idea.  The basic plot about a little girl who finds a tunnel to another world throws up obvious comparisons to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).  It’s neither as imaginative nor as good as Carroll’s work but it’s darker in tone, and with it being Gaiman the way the fantastical is hidden in the seemingly mundane is well constructed.

The world and the people in it are described from Coraline’s perspective.  It’s not a first person narrative but she’s there every step of the way.  Her limited experience with the trials of life outside her safe home environment inform her decisions and her observations, which are then passed onto the reader undiluted and free of complication.  Children who are avid readers shouldn't have much difficulty with the language, although the very young may not understand the unsettling nature of some of the themes presented.
It'll likely appeal more to the kids that collect spiders in a matchbox than the kind that make daisy chains.

The 10th Anniversary Edition adds a short introduction by the author, and some black and white illustrations by artist Chris Riddell that weren't in the original release.  There's one full page picture before each chapter begins.  The actual story content is identical to the previous edition.

2½ eerie familiarities out of 5