Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sunnyville Stories Volume 1 (Graphic Novel Review)

Sunnyville Stories by Max West

What has been missing from the field of graphic novel storytelling for some time is the innocence and journey of American discovery that has been embodied in the work of Charles Schulz and in a different medium, Norman Rockwell.  As newspaper circulation slowly declines with the advent of 24 hour TV news stations and the world wide web, where massive amounts of information are at one's fingertips, one of the victims is the comic strip.  I remember waking every morning, grabbing the newspaper and reading Garfield, The Far Side, Peanuts, and The Wizard of Id to name a few.  Those three panel comics were the source of many smiles to start off the day before school, but fast forward many years and I now don't even get the newspaper delivered.  Regular visitations to the comic store produce plenty of Marvel and DC superhero stories and no shortage of creator-owned mystery and action stories of the non-spandex variety, but lacking is the more innocent comic fare that served as my true introduction to the art.

Enter Max West's Sunnyville Stories.  The tale centers around a young feline named Rusty and his parents who move to a rural community from the big city.  For Rusty's parents, the move is one of opportunity, but is only a source of stress and unwanted change for their son.  Moving away from everything he knows (community and friends), Rusty must develop new relationships and adjust to life in an environment that is completely foreign to him.  Rusty may be a cat, but he is more like a fish out of the water on his first adventure to meet a new friend.  The writing is infused with a touch of  humor while dealing with an array of very real issues that many families face each and every day, which is all part of the charm of Max's flagship creative work. 

Rusty gets a little more than what he expects when he meets Samantha MacGregor who takes him under her wing and introduces him to life in Sunnyville, starting with her family as well as the Tanuki's (a family of racoons from Japan).  New adventures are just around the corner for the two, however, and Rusty comes face to face with a female canine (Rose) who is pretty unhappy with all of the attention Rusty Duncan has been receiving by the town.  The two decide to settle their differences over an overly competitive game of pinball.  Next, Rusty and Samantha get caught up in a criminal plot by some train robbers who steal a shipment of laundry detergent from the local launderers (a family of Greek ferrets).  Will the kids help Officer Carl (a dutiful bulldog) apprehend the weasel thieves?

To complete the first volume, there is a small bonus story which was actually a treatment made for art school featuring the two main characters of Sunnyville stories.

There are many more stories Max is going to tell that will continue to flesh out the world of Sunnyville.  Volume 2 is due to land (as of this writing) in March of 2014, which will contain four episodes and bonus vignettes and sketches, which we are looking forward to seeing.  Further, Max is releasing Von Herling, Vampire Hunter sometime in the next calendar year which will serve as his first commercial departure from the Sunnyville brand.

Max West is offering the comic world something that is decidedly different and something that is sorely lacking in the industry from our perspective.  As the art of graphic novels has decreased in circulation (much like most print media), companies seem to be serving a more mature audience.  The themes and content of a majority of works on bookshelves and comic racks are a reflection of this aging audience, leaving not as much room for newer and much younger fans with more discerning parents to identify appropriate material to enjoy.  And most of the age-appropriate material to be found is of the costumed super hero variety.  Sunnyville Stories is a perfect book through which to introduce children to the comic world and reading as a whole.  Kids will relate to some very real themes that will resonate with them and have the opportunity to learn some important life lessons along the way (just as Rusty has through the first three episodes of Max's work). 

You can find Sunnyville Stories Volume One on sale here at and other select retailers of fine creative works!

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comic Pick of the Week November 27th 2013

Great Stories selects.....

Conan & the People of the Black Circle #2 (Dark Horse)

Dark Horse has been doing a fine job with Robert E. Howard's creation.  They have re-released a ton of the old Marvel material under their own brand, while maintaining the regular Conan monthly title along with the occasional four to six issue King Conan story arcs, all in very capable hands from a story and art perspective.  Last month, Fred Valente and Ariel Olivetti began the adaptation of Howard's novella "The People of the Black Circle", with painted art as opposed to the standard pencils and the product is truly top notch.  The subject material works well with the artistic style, proving that beauty and grit can go hand in hand.

The first issue which we read last month was relatively Conan-free as the set-up of the story featured a King succumbing to dark magics and the tragic action that his sister was forced to commit in its wake.  Swearing revenge for her brother's death has caused her to deal with the man who she believes can bring about the end of those responsible, but things do not go as she anticipates.

You can find Conan &the People of the Black Circle #1 and #2 at your local comic shops.  Check it out if you are a fan of action-oriented fantasy done in beautiful painted art!

Great Stories are everywhere!

 Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Comic Pick of the Week for November 20th 2013

Great Stories selects.....

Velvet #1 (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the team responsible for relaunching the successful Captain America title back in 2004 bring to the page a strong female character in the title Velvet.  Velvet Templeton is an office admin with some decidedly deadly talents, as will be discovered by readers in this yarn that is chalk full of espionage, assassination, and mystery. 

There has been a wealth of female leads whose strength and purpose seem to hold significant sway of late.  Just look at Greg Rucka's Lazarus and Kelly Sue DeConnick's Pretty Deadly (both of which were featured as Great Stories top selections in their debut weeks).  Velvet is no different in this regard.  If you are looking for the women's equivalent of James Bond, you may have wondered onto her right here in these very pages.  Epting's art is effective in its gloom and he draws his characters with an appreciated level of realism.  Too many books of late draw angular or disproportional characters that just take away from the visual storytelling (see Marvel's Thunderbolts for a prime example).  The art in this book has enhanced the story beautifully and breathed life into panels that contain no dialogue whatsoever, and that is very much appreciated.

This book is seeing a second printing due to the highly successful debut just a couple of weeks back, and we are happy for that as you will have a chance to pick it up at a store near you (and we hope you do!).

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Comic Pick of the Week for November 13th 2013

Great Stories selects......

Wraith #1 (IDW)

How does writer Joe Hill follow up his masterpiece Locke & Key in the world of comics and graphic novels?  We have the answer here with a story ripped from the soul of his work N0S4A2.  For those who have not read the novel, it is about a scary denizen of evil named Charles Talent Manx, who drives around in a Rolls Royce that carries unsuspecting children to a strange and terrifying place called Christmasland.  You need not have read the novel to enjoy the story he has written spinning off of the source material.  Warning that reading this comic may cause you to shell out the extra dough to buy the have been warned!

Featuring the art of Charles Wilson whose work has been seen in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and independent The Stuff of Legend, Hill's story is wonderfully told both visually and in a wordier than usual way (by comic industry standards).  You won't be flipping through this book in a few minutes, but that is just fine because readers will be able to savor a bit more from this opening salvo of what looks to be a great series.

Wraith #1 is on sale everywhere comics are sold today.  Check it out and let us know your thoughts!

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fresh Popped Corn #8: November Theatrical Movie Trailers

Once per month, we will be taking a look at movies released for the upcoming month, and telling our readers where we would be spending our movie dollars each week, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers will be provided so you can see just what we are so excited about.  Movie release dates are subject to change.

November 1st
We are a little late this month with the movie trailer review, so for week one we are going to skip right to the chase and give you the trailer for Ender's Game.  The movie was seen last weekend by one of our loyal readers (thanks Seth Dargan!), and his very positive comments about Harrison Ford's return to science fiction has us excited as well!  So, without further delay, check out the trailer.  :)

November 8th
Today, Thor:  The Dark World attempts to hammer smash its way to the box office roost, and we would be absolutely shocked to see a different result.  Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins all return to their roles in this Marvel Phase Two film.  In Ass Backwards, two women who became best friends after finishing last in a teen beauty pageant get to attempt to redeem themselves as adults in another pageant competition.  Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael star as the bff's with a not often seen Alicia Silverstone appearing in support.  Justin Long gets two movies debuted this week.  The first is Best Man Down, Justin's best man tragically dies from alcohol poisoning at his destination wedding.  He and his new bride travel back home to find Lumpy's loved ones and deliver the news and come to find out how little they really knew about him.  In A Case of You, Justin plays a lovestruck guy who changes his persona to match the dating profile likes of a cute coffee shop girl.  Evan Rachel Wood co-stars.  In The Armstrong Lie, a documentary filmmaker following Lance Armstrong during his final Tour de France stumbles upon the biggest sports scandal of our time when the legendary cyclist is revealed to be guilty of doping in pursuit of glory.  And Charles Dickens classic, Great Expectations gets the big screen treatment starring Jeremy Irvine, Heena Bonham Carter, and Ralph Fiennes.  The Starving Games looks to spoof the mega-hit Hunger Games franchise.  How I Live follows the story of an American girl (Saorise Riordan) who is forced to relocate to the UK with relatives just before a horrible event leads to martial law in the country.   Being the Marvel fans we are, there is no possible way to not pick Thor: The Dark World, but for those of you who are not into the comic book stuff, we would like to recommend Great Expectations.  Check out both trailers below!

November 15th
It is the dead week in between the Marvel and Hunger Games franchise blockbusters.  So, what films will serve as our bridge to these box office giants?  First up, we have Shia LeBeof in Charlie Countryman, in which a young man follows the directions given him by his late mother in a vision to travel to Hungary and falls for a young woman with a very dangerous ex.  Dear Mr. Watterson is a documentary covering the 80's and 90's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and the following it created.  The Book Thief stars the great Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson and follows the story of a young girl who goes to live with a foster family in WWII-era Germany and find the power of words as an escape from the madness that surrounds her.  Best Man Holiday stars Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau, Morris Chestnut, and Terence Howard as old friends who reunite 15 years later at Christmas and find that old flames and rivalries are not hard to reignite.  But our pick of the week is Sunlight Jr., starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as an uneducated and impoverished couple (Dillon also being paraplegic) whose lives get even more complicated when she loses her job after finding out she is pregnant.

November 22nd
As prevously mentioned, the second installment in another hugely successful franchise, Hunger Games:  Catching Fire gets a release and an almost guaranteed number one placement at the box office.  Delivery Man sees Vince Vaughn discovering that a sperm bank he regularly donated to in the old days has made some errors that have led to him being the father to over 500 children, many of whom are suing the clinic to know the identity of their father.  Bettie Page Reveals All is a documentary that examines one of America's most celebrated sex symbols.  Contracted looks to be a freaky flick that finds a young woman who is beset with an illness of unknown origin after a one night stand that is far more deadly than she can imagine.  And Philomena stars Judi Dench as a woman who desires the find her son whom she gave up for adoption many decades ago, and receives the help of a former journalist played by Steve Coogan who is interested in capturing a human interest story to put his career back on track.  While people flock to the theater to find out how Jennifer Lawrence disposes of a new batch of rivals, we are looking to put our money with Philomena.  Check out the trailer here.

November 27th
Frozen is Disney's latest animated musical spectacle which features the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff.  In Oldboy, the American remake of the Japanese cult hit, Spike Lee directs Josh Brolin who plays a professional businessman who embarks on a trail of vengeance as he looks for a reason that he was kidnapped and held captive in solitary confinement for twenty years.  In Homefront, Jason Statham plays an ex-DEA agent who retires to smalltown USA to give his daughter a safe life when a twist of fate puts him in direct conflict with local drug dealer James Franco.  Black Nativity is a musical starring Forrest Whitaker and Anjela Basset that features a rebellious teen who goes to live with estranged relatives and gets a little divine inspiration to turn his wayward life around. And finally in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Idris Elba takes on the role of the famous South African leader who led a movement of change in the Dutch colony.  Over the Thanksgiving break, we are definitely looking at some family fare and Frozen looks like it truly could become an instant Disney classic, so we will be looking to please the kids in our lives at the end of the month.  Oh who are we kidding...we love this stuff too!

What are you most looking forward to seeing this month!?

Chris (for the Great Stories team) 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Comic Pick for November 6th 2013

Great Stories selects....

Alex & Ada (Image)

Image does it again with another book that we are pretty excited to get into.  Alex & Ada starts off with a look into the post-mortem of Alex' relationship with a girl named Claire,  and his painfully uninspired view towards life in the wake of its destruction.  Not without his caring friends and family, who do their best to lift his spirits and help him shake off the despair.  Now, this is no ordinary relationship gone bad and heading towards the predictable victorious rebirth tale.  You see, Alex lives in a world where artificial intelligence is all of the rage, and robots are beginning to become the new face of human interface!  Even Alex' well-to-do grandmother has "hopped" on the bandwagon so to speak (in what may be the most cringeworthy scenes in comic this year), and her efforts kickstart her grandson's social life on his birthday of all days may change his world forever.

Alex & Ada is penned by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, and can be found at comic retailers everywhere!  Check it out and let us know what you think!

Great Stories are everywhere!

-Chris (for the Great Stories Team)