Graphic Novel Reviews: Álvaro Ortiz’s “Ashes” and Steve De La Mare’s “AL15 2: Broken Dreams”

What better way to celebrate the month of love than talking about my love for graphic novels! I’ve got a double dose of books that I absolutely adored and you should check them out immediately after reading what I’ve got to say about them.

Álvaro Ortiz
Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions are a joy forever. Were I the type of person to call “dibs” on something, I would for sure call dibs on any Top Shelf books that come into the (virtual) BBP! Mailroom. I’ve got a long history with their books and, for me, they’ve become my ideal of what graphic novels should be. It’s rare and bordering on impossible that I’ve ever been disappointed by one of their books, as I am hard pressed to conjure one up right now that has done so.

With that lengthy preamble out of the way, we’re here to talk about Ashes by Álvaro Ortiz. Here’s the blurb on it:

Polly, Moho, and Piter haven’t seen each other in years. Now they’ve piled into a car for a loooong journey to a mysterious cross marked on a map. All their old personality quirks and conflicts are resurrected with new wrinkles as this surreal reunion gets underway. Up ahead are car chases, alcohol, roadside motels, banjo-playing thugs, a ship graveyard, violence, sensual tension, and, of course, a monkey!

Good stuff, yeah? 

Not wanting to ruin my streak, I loved Ashes . Álvaro Ortiz masterfully lays out an intricate story across 180-plus pages and the book never feels over-stuffed or rushed. It’s no small feat to craft a perfect ending, I’ve read countless books that fall apart in the last half or the ending is completely blown due to shoddy planning. With Ashes I got to the end and was totally satisfied with the ending. Just let that marinate…when was the last time you got to the end of a book or movie and said to yourself, “that was perfect. I have no notes.”

I’m not sure I could find fault with Ashes if I tried. It was a wonderful reading experience and I’ll be looking forward to Ortiz’s next offering. 

AL15 2: Broken Dreams
Steve De La Mare

Somewhere back in the long ago (May 2021) I covered the first AL15 from Steve De La Mare and I am ecstatic to let you all know that there is more of it.

Out now from Markosia is Broken Dreams, the next volume of the AL15 story and it appears that De La Mare hasn’t missed a step with this outing. The artwork is just as lush and gorgeous as I had remembered and the prose sections of the book slot effortlessly into rest of the book, bolstering the novel part of graphic novel.

I’m particularly enamored with the character design work in Broken Dreams. I think that a lot of mainline speculative fiction kind of shies away from “getting weird with it” and plays to our preconceived notions of creature and character designs should be. It’s always refreshing to see truly interesting artwork especially in comics where Marvel and DC have ruled the roost for close to a century now.

Check out AL15 2: Broken Dreams HERE

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