These are reviews of things that are really too thin to be considered graphic novels, but they have spines and their very own ISBNs and do contain complete stories (more or less):
Playing the Game
by Dorris Lessing & Charlie Adlard
Blue-tinged Spacer Jo, aided by the exotic brass-skinned Francesca Bird, attempts to escape from his mundane existance by playing a game of metaphysical Snakes and Ladders. They roll the dice and travel through dimensional levels both heavenly and hellish until, um, something happens and it ends. It's page after page of things happening without much reason. I suppose this could be viewed as visual poetry--a view supported by the dialogue, which is all spoken in short, poetic fragments that are basically nonsensical.
Rating: 2 (of 5)
Hip Flask: Unnatural Selection, Widescreen Edition
by Richard Stakings, Joe Casey, & José Ladronn
This oversized hardcover edition of the first Hip Flask comic tells the origin of the Elephantmen, anthpomorphs genetically engineered by the Mappo corporation to be super-human soldiers. It's a fine story, and Ladronn's art has risen to a new level, practically indistinguishable from his early Kirby-meets-Giffen days. But if you paid $30 for this, I'm sorry, but you have way too much money.
Rating: 3 (of 5)
The Acid Bath Case
by Stephen Walsh & Kellie Strom
Diminutive detective Nat Slammer takes on the case of a serial killer who bathes his victims in industrial acid in this period detective story. It's not very good. None of the characters are sympathetic, and in the end it's unclear as to exactly what happened.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)
Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Devoted Friend / The Nightingale and the Rose
by P. Craig Russell
The first adapted tale in this exquisitely illustrated collection is the story of a poor gardener and the rich miller who abuses their 'friendship' to no end. Although written more than 100 years ago, one cannot help but read the story as an allegory for a certain point of view held by many today, which I suppose speaks sadly to state of how little things have changed. The second story tells of a student who requires a red rose to gain the attentions of a professor's daughter, and the nightingale who makes the ultimate sacrifice to help the student's dreams come true.
Rating: 3 (of 5)