Monday, May 31, 2010

The Chill

Written by Jason Starr
Art by Mick Bertilorenzi

So what makes a crime comic a crime comic?  This seems like it should be a simple enough question, but when one starts talking about the Vertigo Crime series, it's one that I think has gone unasked.

My immediate guess would be that a crime comic is a comic that focuses on crime.  Murders, thefts, perhaps even the high-drama world of tax crime.  I wouldn't usually say that a comic about a demon-infested reality show would qualify. And, in the case of this book, I don't know that a story about a pair of immortal druids that practice murderous sexual rites as an easy candidate for a crime book.  Maybe the whole idea is that if a 'crime writer' writes the comic, then it's a crime comic.  Of course, by that logic, Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America would qualify...

Regardless of the strange choice of branding for this book, it's a strange comic in its own right.  To begin with, it never really establishes a clear protagonist.  Sure, there's this older Irish guy who was the first victim of our druidic pair, but for half the book, he just seems crazy.  There's also the cop who is trying to deal with all this, but he's basically a cipher.  The book lacks an emotional centre, and so it becomes a little hard to care about any of the characters or what is going on.  The druid stuff is kind of cool, but the whole mystery aspect just evaporates too quickly to have any real investment in it.

The art is quite serviceable in a faux-Eduardo Risso sort of way.  Bertilorenzi seems to be from the seemingly endless stable of Italian artists that Vertigo has been tapping the last few years.  His stuff is good, but not too special.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh

by Erykah Badu

This is a very cool album, although it has some interesting differences from its predecessor, New Amerykah Part One.  The earlier album had a number of stand-out hip-hop tracks produced by Madlib and Karriem Riggins, while this is a much softer affair.

There are still some amazing drums, but the general feeling of this album is both more gentle and laconic.  There are a number of gifted producers working with her on this, including Madlib, Riggins, Shafiq Husayn, James Poyser, and, at the very end, Georgia Anne Muldrow, her musical sibling.  Many of the tracks have live instrumentals, including drums by ?uestlove.  And, of course, there is a lovely little Dilla beat.

Lyrically, the songs are quite sparse and thoughtful, as Badu uses her small voice to great effect.  This is a rare album; it's consistent and unique.  I know that much of this disk got overshadowed by the short-lived controversy surrounding the video to 'Window Seat', but it deserves to be listened to and examined on its own merits.

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven

Written by Garth Ennis and Robert Kanighar
Art by Chris Weston, Christian Alamy, Russ Heath, and Joe Kubert

This is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Garth Ennis-written update of a classic DC war hero.  As the Second World War continues, and as Germany starts losing skilled pilots, an old friend brings WWI vet Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace, out of retirement and into the cockpit of modern fighter planes.

What makes this story work is the tension between von Hammer and his fellow officer, a Nazi functionary.  Von Hammer is an aristocratic German who is fighting out of a sense of duty to his country, but he has no patience for or interest in Nazi ideology.  There are some very funny scenes as the two square off, but since von Hammer is such an asset to his forces, there is little that can be done about him.

The artists, Weston and Alamy on the first half of the story, and Heath on the second, do an excellent job of conveying the excitement and drama of high altitude dog fighting, and you can tell they had a great time drawing all of these old planes.

Included in this book is a reprint of a classic Kanigher and Kubert Enemy Ace story from the 50s.  It's interesting to look back at the character's roots, and Kubert's work is always a treat.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unknown Soldier #20

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Alberto Ponticelli

While I'm not happy to hear that DC is canceling Air, I'm really bummed out by the decision to stop publishing Unknown Soldier with the twenty-fifth issue.  This title has been one of the nicest surprises to come out of Vertigo in the last decade.  It's a series written by an American, drawn by an Italian (I assume) about Uganda and its civil war.  Sure, it features an American citizen as it's main character (even if he is Acholi) and has an undercurrent of CIA black ops running throughout, but I don't know of any other comic series that has attempted to portray such an accurate and human accounting of such a foreign place.

In this issue, Moses is still running from the Karamojong cattle rustlers that began to chase him last issue, and when he finds a tactically secure hiding spot in some rocky formations, it is not uninhabited.  This forces Moses to work with a small widowed tribal family, hoping to hide its last three cattle from thieves.

Almost the entire issue is narrated by the disabled and mal-formed son of the family, and it gives some interesting insight into the region.  In a textpiece, Dysart discusses the issue of cultural appropriation, which has always been in the back of my mind when reading this title, and comes to some useful conclusions.  As always, the art in this book is fantastic, as is the incredible Johnson cover.

Scalped #38

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by RM Guera

Predictably, this is another brilliant issue of Scalped.  It's nice to see Guera back on art, especially for a one-off tale like this one.  The focus this time around is on Wade, Dash Bad Horse's father.  Wade was sent to fight in Vietnam, and had a string of early brushes with death that built up his reputation as someone who couldn't be killed.  After being discharged, Wade stuck around in Vietnam, shipping heroin back to the States for two ex-MPs who lived in the same area of South Dakota as he did.

Dash doesn't appear to fall far from the tree where Wade is concerned.  The father is a selfish bastard, looking out only for himself.  When Saigon falls and the good times end, Wade returns to the Prairie Rose Reservation, and we learn of another way in which the son's life parallels the father's.

In a lot of ways, the early pages of this book remind me of Aaron's The Other Side, his brilliant debut comic which was set in Vietnam, and they make me wish that Aaron would spend less time writing for Marvel and would give us another war comic instead.  He has an affinity for them.

The Secret History Book 9: The Thule Society

Written by Jean-Pierre Pécau
Art by Igor Kordey

It was a huge surprise to see the newest volume of this series out so soon after the last one.  I guess this is definite proof that Archaia's got their stuff together again, which is great for us.

Now that The Secret History has moved into the twentieth century, the story is slowing down by quite a lot, which only makes sense in that most packed century of human existence.  The Great War is over, and the Archons are now trying to gather up the new rune stones discovered at Kor.  Three of the houses now stand together, while Dyo and William of Lecce unleash the Spanish influenza on the world and build up their semi-secret Thule Society into a pre-Nazi organization.

The Secret History has always been about the power of symbols, so it only makes sense that 20th-Century Germany be the main battleground for what comes next, and that Hitler be a major player, even if he is never mentioned by name in this issue.

Where before I was often unsure of this title, now that it's so firmly grounded in events that are more familiar to me, I find it am enjoying it more and more.  As the pace of the book slows a little, the secondary characters get developed a lot more, and this makes the book more interesting for me.  I hope it sticks to a schedule like this too...

Northlanders #28

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Leandro Fernandez

The Plague Widow has been a pretty interesting arc of Northlanders.  It has focused on Hilda, the titular widow, and her daughter Karin, and their trials as their settlement on the Volga River put itself in quarantine to stave off the Black Death.  Most of the arc has been about Hilda's issues with Gunborg, the loutish alpha male who eventually took over the settlement.

This final issue is different though.  It chronicles Hilda and Karin's desperate flight from the settlement into the Russian winter.  The two are exiled and looking for some form of safe haven, and the entire issue is gripping in its suspense and sense of dread.

Hilda narrates the whole issue, and we understand the depths of sacrifice she will endure to not just keep her daughter physically safe, but to protect her young ideals.  Her biggest hope is that Karin will survive all this with her morality intact.

This has been a very long arc, and Fernandez has done a wonderful job throughout of portraying the harsh landscape and difficult conditions.  The characters have visually aged from the beginning of the story.  Recommended.

Garrison #2

Written by Jeff Mariotte
Art by Francesco Francavilla

I still don't feel like I know too much about what's going on in this series, but Mariotte's writing and pacing is very tight, and Francavilla's art is as wonderful as always.  I like his drawing because he manages to convey a very old school sensibility - his work reminds me of illustrators from the 70s - in a very modern and updated context.

What we do know about the story is that this man Garrison is on a killing spree in a near-future where surveillance is almost absolute.  There are a couple of government agencies looking to capture him, but after the events of the first issue, the NBS agent, Jillian Bracewell, is more interested in talking to him than capturing him, especially after he hinted that the HIA agent that he killed was planning on killing her.

Meanwhile, it is becoming apparent that Garisson doesn't know who he is either, although he does seem to be experiencing some flashbacks that may shed some light on that as the series progresses.

This is a pretty cool light sci-fi espionage story, and I'm enjoying it.  It's nice to see Wildstorm publish things like this and Sparta: USA again.  It was this willingness to experiment with unorthodox titles that made them a favourite publisher of mine a few years ago.

Wolfskin: Hundredth Dream #2

Written by Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer
Art by Gianluca Pagliarani

Ellis and Wolfer are using this Wolfskin series to really explore the myths and religious beliefs of their Barbarian character's world.  This issue starts with the various characters pictured on the cover talking about the end of the world stories of their own cultures, and of some others.  Most of this stuff is based on established legends in our world, although the writers have put their own little spin on things.

The rest of the issue is taken up with the journey to one of the character's homelands, which is being threatened by some form of black beast.  Along the journey, we see that the Wolfskin has a deeper aversion for machines or technology than we had thought.

It's an interesting comic, so far almost completely lacking the brutality of the other Wolfskin outings, which I find kind of interesting.  It's a little like Wolfer and Ellis decided that, if they were going to tell any more stories with this character, they would need to add some depth to the proceedings.

This is not the best of the Ellis Avatar series, but it's definitely decent.

The Hellboy Project: Hellboy Vol. 6: Strange Places

by Mike Mignola

This has to be the strangest of the Hellboy trades I've read so far.  It consists of two stories set in the time after Hellboy leaves the BPRD to set out on his own.

In the first story, his trip to Africa leads to him being trapped under the ocean in the possession of the Bog Roosh, yet another ancient creature that has plans for our hero.

The second story has Hellboy finally emerge from the ocean onto a strange island, where he ends up in conflict with yet another demon creature thing who also has designs on his right hand.  This story finally tells us the history of the Ogdru Jahad, the big bad of the Mignola-verse, and explains how many things fit together in terms of prophecy and big stone hands.  To be honest, stories like this kind of fly past me.  I have a hard time staying focused on the mumbo-jumbo, and prefer to see the more character-based stories. 

What I enjoyed most in this volume were the strange settings that Mignola created.  This book doesn't look much like the other Hellboy stories, and I appreciated that.  I also think it very strange that the first story here started out as a Sub-Mariner adventure before being re-purposed for Hellboy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Okko: The Cycle of Air #2

by Hub, with Emmanuel Michalak

This issue surprised me.  It's hard to talk about this issue without bringing up a pretty pivotal event that happens in it.  We learn that the big guy that showed up in the first issue is Kubban Kiritsu, is a fierce demon hunter who wears a custom bunraku - basically a medieval Japanese Iron Man suit.  He's chasing down Noboru, Okko's friend and apparently half-demon companion.  This means he has to fight Okko, and that's where some crazy stuff happens.

I've liked this title since I first started reading the Cycle of Earth issues, but I've never really felt like I've had a handle on the characters, mostly because I didn't read the first series.  As this book progresses though, I find myself more and more drawn into this world, which is so strange and interesting.  I am curious to see what happens next in this title, as it is intriguing and wonderfully well-drawn.

Life Sucks

Written by Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria
Art by Warren Pleece

This is a fantastic little graphic novel that came out with very little fanfare, and was criminally overlooked.

Life Sucks is Twilight meets Clerks.  In the Life Sucks world, classic Old World vampires sire themselves slave to run their business empires while they hang out in a wood-paneled club-house hidden in a scary old castle.  Dave is stuck working for Lord (Radu) Arisztidescu at his all-night convenience store, where among other things, he sells 'Blood Beer' and 'Blood Orange Juice' to a certain select group of customers.  Dave has to do his master's bidding, and so he is trapped in this menial job.

One of his closest friends is a vampire working for one of Radu's friends, as his Wes, his nemesis.  Dave's roommate is not a vampire, but is fully aware of his friend's status as a 'vegetarian vampire', refusing to hunt and drinking only blood bank blood.  Dave has fallen hard for Rosa, a local Goth girl who festishizes vampire culture.

The majority of the story deals with Dave's building up the nerve to begin to talk to Rosa, only to have Wes declare his interest in her.  In many ways, this book reads like a very intelligent sitcom, with the rivals competing for the girl's attention.  There are tons of small touches that are quite amusing, and the characters are very likeable.

A lot of credit has to go to Warren Pleece, who has never failed to deliver when working on a character-driven comic.  This is a fun, and funny, book, which should be adapted into film or would work well as the basis of a television series.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Proof #27

Written by Alex Grecian
Art by Riley Rossmo

Ever since its shipping schedule got shot to hell and the creators announced that the series was going to be finishing, Proof has gotten really good, with a lot more happening per issue than happened in some entire arcs earlier in the series' life.

This issue has some pretty major revelations about Leander and his (not dead) wife, including what was in the box she received, Proof's status as a singular being, and the death of the Dover Demon.  Also, Proof gets some action of a more personal nature, and the male fairies get up and start walking around.

Having given us a vision of the future in issue 25, Grecian is now starting to lay the groundwork of what led us there.  It's nice to see the momentum pick up some, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this is all going to lead when 'Season Two' starts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca

The character of Afrodisiac really stood out when he appeared in Rugg and Maruca's classic Street Angel series, and returning to the character in this slim hardcover was a really good idea.

This book is designed (brilliantly, I might add) as a series of excerpts from the lengthy publishing history of Afrodisiac, a blaxploitation character who supposedly had comics, cartoons, and toys based on his adventures through the seventies and into the early eighties.  Afrodisiac is a super-pimp, with a large stable of girls to watch over.

In the different comics, designed to mimic different styles from that era, his origin always changes.  What remains constant is that he's one cool badass.

What I like about this book is the amount of time and effort put into its aesthetics.   Pages are artificially yellowed, and Rugg works in a number of different styles.  There is very little substance to the book; it's all flash, and that's exactly what it's supposed to be.  This is one hell of a cool book.

Mulatu Steps Ahead

by Mulatu Astatke

I really like Mulatu Astatke.  I thought his earlier compilation cd was brilliant, and I really like this recent release of all new material. 

This is a much more Westernized form of jazz through much of the album, but the Ethiopian influence is never far below the surface, coming to the fore on some pieces, such as 'I Faram Gami I Faram' or other tracks that feature vocals.

As usual, I know next to nothing about jazz beyond being able to identify what I like, and I know that I really like this album.  Highly recommended.

The Hellboy Project: B.P.R.D. Vol. 4: The Dead

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis

This is the first of the BPRD trades co-written with John Arcudi, and he brings a very different pacing to the story.  In the wake of the revelation of the Frogs outbreak, the Bureau gets a new field commander and opens up a new office in some ex-military base up high on a mountain.

Captain Daimio is a bit of a jerk, but he's ex-military so it's all good.  He also was dead for a while, but not much is explained about that.  The new base has some secrets, including a sealed-up ex-Nazi scientist who has a plan to bring heavenly bug angel things into our world.

Much of this arc exists to set up Daimio and his relations with the other members of the team.  Roger is written as pretty dumb in this book, which doesn't exactly fit with her earlier characterizations, and felt kind of off.  Other than that, the story works quite well, even if it's a little more decompressed than this title was before.

There is a long sub-plot involving Abe Sapien tracking down the house he'd lived in before his transformation; a house still inhabited by the spirit of his dead wife.  Their scenes together, while short, form a nice juxtaposition to the rest of the story, and are kind of touching in their way.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Refresh Refresh

Written by Benjamin Percy, James Ponsoldt, and Danica Novgorodoff
Art by Danica Novgorodoff

First Second puts out some very interesting graphic novelsThis book is about a group of teen boys in a rural town whose fathers have left to fight in Iraq.  It's a military town; most families seem to be missing their men, and the boys are adrift now.  It's not so much that they are lacking their fathers' guidance - many young men get through that just fine - it's more that the uncertainty that has crept into their lives is working like a cancer.  It's not knowing what's happening or what the future holds that eats away at them, and causes them to act strangely.

The three boys at the heart of this book, Josh, Cody, and Gordon, box with each other constantly, trying to build up a level of toughness.  They also sneak into bars, try to pick up older women, and hunt in the woods (the ease with which these kids use guns surprises me, but I'm looking at things from an urban Canadian perspective).  They also check their e-mails constantly, looking for some sort of message or update from their fathers.

This graphic novel is based on a screenplay that is based on a short story, and it looks at a very modern aspect of warfare; the prominence of communication technology.  In the first and second world wars, or even in Vietnam, it would take some time for letters to arrive from the front lines.  Now that communication is instantaneous, it is hard not to read the worst into prolonged silences.  These kids know that their fathers have the ability to telephone or e-mail, and so when they don't, it gnaws at them.

This is a touching story, with decent, unpretentious art.  Novgorodoff captures the essence of these kids' waning youth, and the difficulty of the choices they have to make.  I thought the ending was brilliant.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It Was the War of the Trenches

by Jacques Tardi

This is a stunning book.  Tardi's graphic novel of the First World War is really a collection of short pieces concerning French soldiers on the front lines of that horrible conflict.  The stories stand alone, yet when read together they create a compelling portrait of life in the trenches, made more impressionistic by the fact that there is no visible border between one story and the next.

Tardi's soldiers lack many of the standard tropes of war fiction.  His privates care nothing for the war, and often cannot express why they are there.  They would rather befriend the German Boches who usually are hunkered down only fifty metres from them in equally miserable states than murder them.  They have no animosity towards their enemy except in immediate response to brutality, and usually reserve their most piercing hatred for their officers or the military police that urge them forward at the point of a rifle.

Tardi's soldiers frequently get lost in No Man's Land or behind the lines, and are almost as frequently executed for desertion or dereliction of duty.  Tardi has a very bleak view of the way the war was managed and fought, a view informed by his own grandfather's experiences, some of which are grist for Tardi's mill here.

It is this existentialist view of the war that places this beautifully designed book in the ranks of the great war memoirs and fiction written by the soldiers who actually served.  Looking at Tardi's fantastic establishing shots and detailed backgrounds brings to mind the etchings of Otto Dix or the murkier of FH Varley's war paintings.

This is a beautiful and haunting piece of work.  I love reading about the Great War, and place this book among the best that I've read on this topic.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

American Vampire #3

Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

I have really been enjoying this new series.  The lead story continues with Pearl's journey of self-discovery, as she figures out what her new abilities are, and begins to use them for revenge on the creatures that attacked her.  The back-up story continues to give us the story of Sinner Sweet, the first of the American Vampires, and Pearl's sire.

I like the system of telling the two stories at once, and the way in which information is being slowly revealed, the most interesting piece in this issue being that the 'American' vampires are weakened on evenings where there is no moon.

Of course, the best thing about this comic continues to be Albuquerque's art, which is phenomenal, but the story has completely drawn me in, and I look forward to future issues.

Joe the Barbarian #5

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

There's not much new to say about this book at this point in the series.  Joe is continuing his quest, which depending on which layer of reality you're thinking about, is either to get a soda from the kitchen, or to fulfill his destiny as the Dying Boy and protect or restore the Light to the Kingdom.

What I like about this series is the way that Morrison has arranged all of the different elements so carefully.  Back in the first issue, I remember it being odd that Joe left the front door of his house open.  In an establishing shot last issue, I noticed the dog standing out in the yard of a house on the same street.  Well, in this issue, the dog comes in to Joe's house.  It's a big scene in the story, and I appreciate the care that was put into setting it up.

As usual, the art in this comic is fantastic.

Welcome to Hoxford

by Ben Templesmith

I've long enjoyed Templesmith's work on books like Fell, Dead Space and the 30 Days of Night series (where his art is much better than the writing), but I wasn't too familiar with his written work.  His 30 Days of Night: Red Snow book didn't really work out for me, but I could see enough there to know that it was worth giving him another shot with this book.  And I'm pleased that I did.

Welcome to Hoxford is a twisted little piece of work.  Hoxford Correctional Facility and Mental Institution is a privately run (by a Russian corporation) institute of last resort for incurably insane violent offenders.  The men that are sent to this place are to remain there for the rest of their lives.  They are given no visitors, and the American government has basically washed its hands of them.  What no one knows is that it is a front for a group of werewolves who have immigrated to America.

Our hero (if that term can apply in any possible way) is Raymond Delgado, an insane murderer with delusions of godhood.  His fellow inmates include cannibals, pedophiles, and necrophiliacs.  So basically, it's not a very nice comic.  Instead, it's a gloriously deranged story where horrible people get what's coming to them from more horrible creatures, at least until Raymond starts to fight back.

As usual, Templesmith's art is terrific, if you like his style.  I think I need to track down some of his other solo work now, as I definitely want to read more.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kill Shakespeare #2

Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger

With the second issue, the story seems much clearer, as Hamlet and Richard go on an old-style quest to track down the wizard Will Shakespeare that Hamlet has agreed to kill in order to bring his dead father back.  Of course, just like in Shakespeare's greatest play, Hamlet is a bit of a dupe, and doesn't realize that he is being manipulated by Richard, who is after Shakespeare's quill.

When MacBeth begins to renege on a deal he made with Richard, our scheming king leaves Hamlet to Iago's care, and departs.  It looks like there are schemes hatching within schemes, as plots thicken and other famous characters from the plays begin to appear.

This is a pretty interesting title.  I'm not going to pretend to know enough about the original plays to be able to judge characters' portrayals or motivations, but much like one can enjoy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without a detailed knowledge of Victorian literature, I am finding this to be a fun title to read.  I was going to stay on the fence for another issue, but I think I'm committed now to reading the whole series.

Air #21

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by MK Perker

I was pretty disappointed to hear the news this week that Air is being canceled with its 24th issue.  I've been enjoying this comic a great deal since its inception, and, because it is a Vertigo title not written by a big-name writer or featuring an old DC character, have been expecting this cancellation since about issue six.

Air has been a unique book for Vertigo.  It features a female lead who is, at least at the beginning, pretty screwed up and unsure of herself.  She has been swept along by events, but has slowly been exerting influence and control over her surroundings, especially in this month's issue, as she has to decide whether or not she is going to quit the 'trials' that she is being put through, or is going to embrace her new role in the world.

This comic has been intelligent and literary from the beginning, and has featured consistently lovely artwork.  While I'm going to be sad to see it go, I hope that both Wilson and Perker will be working on new projects soon, either together or apart.  They are both immensely talented, and are creators whose work I am guaranteed to purchase.

DV8: Gods and Monsters #2

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Rebekah Isaacs

I'm finding this series to be interesting, even though I have no real knowledge of the characters and very little is being done to fill in the backstory.  Wood has dumped these eight misfits on a strange world, and each of them seems to have found their way into a different tribe of barbarians, amazons or mystics.  Where Leon and Gem are working with the people they found, Bliss, another member of their team, is leading her tribe while posing as a goddess.

This book doesn't really read like a typical Brian Wood series at all.  It's much more a traditional superhero story, especially with the hints being dropped that these characters have been sent here for a reason (Wildstorm Secret Wars, anybody?).

Isaac's art is quite decent, and I really like this month's cover.

Resurrection #11

Written by Marc Guggenheim and Jen Van Meter
Art by Justin Greenwood and TJ Kirsch

It's hard to find new things to say about the main story in this book every month.  Guggenheim and Greenwood have been very consistent in their delivery of this story, and have been steadily building up their characters (those that survive) as they dribble out information about the Bugs and what they were up to on Earth.

In this issue, Sarah confronts the mutated citizens of Balitmore, and works to free Spock, the only Bug still on Earth from their clutches.

What does stand out month after month in this comic are the back-up stories.  This issue has a great story written by Jen Van Meter (whose superhero stuff I find pretty hit or miss) and TJ Kirsch, an artist I'm not familiar with.  It's about a group of 'high school nerds' who end up trapped in the school at the time of the invasion, and who have built their own little commune in the building, based on equality and exacting rotating work schedules.  When the guy who trapped them in the school shows up, a person they have built into the status of a legend for their children, everyone reacts differently.  I have always loved post-Apocalyptic kind of stories, especially when they focus on the daily life of survivors.  This story was exactly the type of thing I enjoy the most.