Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Oh gods, Oh gods I tried. I am not known to give up on a lot of books. There are even some books I give up on and decide I'll likely come back to....sadly, Paolo Bacigulpi's THE WINDUP GIRL is not one of them.
Now I am clearly in the minority here as the book has won both the Nebula award and tied for first for the Hugo (and I am pretty sure that China Meiville's THE CITY & THE CITY is more worth the win), but oh my god I was bored and annoyed.
Firstly, if you approach this book from any kind of grounded, believable scientific/futurist standpoint you will only be frustrated. This is the story of a future world where the human race can't seem to re-engengineer power after the oil industry goes south, but genehacking fruits and veggies is easy-peasy....but has also produced oodles of accidental bio-engineered diseases that kind of run rampant. Wait, so you're telling me it's a BAD idea to tamper with the genetic makeup of foods but everyone does it anyway.....to the point that calorie is king and currency? Who knew the future scientific minds were so dopey. Please. If you try to tell me that the worlds scientists will revert to coiled springs for power in a plant that is run by dirty marketeers and giant bio-engineered elephants turn wheels, and algea growing tanks that have these screens that take the skim off the top, and then there's these giant wooden pins that...
...are you asleep yet?
Cause I sure was. I can't even harp on this book properly cause it's so boring.
Emiko, the windup girl (artificial sex doll human) of the title, who is abused and degraded by her patron and Bangkok society at large, is at least a BIT interesting, but she just kind of gets lost in amongst the other crap. I mean here we have a character that could be the very pinpoint story in this book. The one that has all the conflict and humanity-shuns-robot thing...and what do we do with her? We give her over to the main protagonist Anderson Lake....and she stagnates there. Anderson Lake is completely irredeemable and unlikable entirely. Hock Seng, his factory worker who deals with day to day stuff and the like is actually worse, and comes off as petty, spiteful and ridiculously annoying. The young character of Mai is too connected to Hock Seng to be of any interest, and then there are the ministries of Environment and Trade....*snnnnoooore....snkkrrfkkk...* Wha? Hello? What were we talking about?
So yeah, you know that crap you didn't like in the Star Wars prequels about the whole Trade Federation and political blockades? Yup, that's the kind of bollocks that is going on in this book too, and it's more boring here. Things like the mob boss that Hock Seng is in cahoots with, and the Muay Thai person, and the other assorted characters...all boring.
This is a story for people who like politics, and environmental law and maybe a little bit of philosophy. Wikipedia calls it Bio-punk....and I loathe that word. Don't invent a word to describe a sub-genre of sci-fi that only qualifies as sci-fi LOOSELY. Beyond that the prose is kind of all over the place. It's not bad perse, but rather its kind of "scatterbrained". Then there's the constant need to use Thai and Chinese and Malay words in italics...which is odd. Bacigulpi uses them in the first chapter, explains them, and then continues to use them in italics. It's as if he's saying "Hey look! I'm am so smart! I can rock this in another language" which bugs me anyways, as the book is in english and while talking about people "wai" (hands pressed together to forehead) is appropriate as it is a cultural thing (though no need for the constant italics dude, we get it), it's a lot of then other terms used that don't really need to be in Thai. I mean, you wrote the book in English dude....why give sporadic words or terms (non-cultural specific!) unless you are just showing off? Offputting to say the least.
You've also got one decidedly overly-graphic rape scene and one that we don't see but is described. My god. I'm sorry, but I don't sit down and enjoy reading about a girl (creche grown or not) being raped by a champagne bottle. Sorry, to me that IS NOT entertainment. That's the sort of sick crap we hear about in the news. Personally, I read books to escape and be entertained, not to be disturbed on various levels. How this guy won the HUGO and Nebula is kind of beyond me. It's almost as if Fantasy/Sci-Fi Awards have decided to start awarding the big prizes to genre writers who are attempting a masquerade as contemporary literary authors. Note to Bacigulpi: You can do social commentary without it being overtly offensive or obvious...ask Alastair Reynolds how to do it, cause that guy writes readable books.
To finish up. I made it about 3 quarters through and then skimmed to the end. I want to be nice, so I WILL say that buried somewhere in this giant needless volume is a story worth telling, and I think it is mainly Emiko's story (minus the graphic rape), but it never goes where it should go to be worthwhile and in the end she is totally WASTED. This could be social commentary on the use of her as an object ect. (Like BI66ER in the Matix:The Second Renaissance) and seeing her freak out, but it never has the cleverness of that and ends up being decidedly heavy-handed and offputting. I could give two craps about Anderson Lake, Hock Seng, Mai, Lord Dung, Algae, Springs, Megodonts, Giant wooden spikes, gene-altered fruits and therefore diseases, and I care even less for trade and environmental ministries and the inner workings of factory lines. Seriously there is a chapter that describes how the factory line all works...and then it is destroyed. So Mr. Bacigulpi...please explain to me the need to put us through the tedious explanation of the factory line and the algae tanks if you are only going to destroy it i the next scene?
Like I said, I am in the minority here as A LOT of people like this book, but I guess the story just wasn't my bag and it only served to bore me. Sorry folks, I didn't get into this one and I tried as I heard so many good things.
If you’ve read one Hellblazer comic, you’ve read them all. The ‘blazer genre tropes are pretty well worn by this time; so writer Si Spencer just embraces what’s great about the character and rolls with it. As I mentioned when I reviewed the first issue I don’t get why this is being spun out into a mini but artist Sean Murphy’s work is so great that I couldn’t care less. Anyway, Constantine seems to have been possessed by a demon (or demons) and he can pass along this possession like an infection to anyone he meets. Of course normal people don’t deal with being infected by a demon very well and they tend to do lots of horrific and bloody things. I’m enjoying the hell out of the series so far, no pun intended, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
Actions Comics #894
In this issue Lex Luthor continues on his quest to seek the truth behind the black power rings from the Blackest Night event. Only Lex’s journey has been put briefly on hold while he comes to grips with the fact that he is, y’know, dead. Death, making a rare cameo outside of Neil Gaiman’s ever popular Sandman series, shows up to wheel, deal and help Lex accept his sudden change in status. This is a fantastic issue. In Paul Cornell’s hands Lex Luthor is still the same ruthless, irredeemable villain he’s always been, only now for some reason he’s a lot more interesting. Cornell manages to explore some of the seldom seen aspects of Luthor’s personality without invalidating who the character is at this core. And it’s always great to see that Gaiman’s Sandman characters continue to play a role in the DCU. If I thought there was any hope in hell Neil would come back to the characters I’d love to see this issue as a trial balloon to gauge reader interest in the franchise.
Avengers vs. Ultron vs. Future Avengers vs. Kang. There can be only one. Bendis’s first story arc on the reincorporated AVENGERS comes to a close. And with all things time travel related it was a great opportunity for the writer to drop some hints about future story arcs. I don’t have too much to quibble with here. The art was pretty and the story and dialogue were engaging. That being said, I’m dropping the title. I’ve always been a DC guy at heart and on top of that my budget can’t really float another 3.99 ongoing. But it was fun while it lasted and I have no issue pointing prospective readers towards the book if they’re looking for a good read.
Wait, is this series over? Because this issue reads suspiciously like a series finale. Being an Avatar release there are always about a hundred pictures in the back of the book, detailing the many variant covers of the company’s upcoming releases. And unfortunately I can’t see a solicitation for issue #22 anywhere. Given that series creator Warren Ellis is supposedly penning a live screen adaption of GRAVEL I find the timing of the title’s cancellation extremely unfortunate. Or perhaps it was always meant to wrap up in this way. Anyway, in this ish Gravel throws down with Bible Jack for control of London’s magic. There’s some magic, some gore, a little of the old ultra-violence and a bit of swearing. Happy Halloween!
Green Arrow #5
Green Arrow fights off an uprising of Blackest Night style super zombies while trying to save the life of an innocent bystander who was injured by the assassin Nix. Typing sentences like that reminds me why I can’t interest my wife in comics. Especially if I were to mention that GA beats the zombies by shooting them with slivers of wood from the God Tree. I enjoy how titles with the Brightest Day banner on them are still touching on Blackest Night plot points six issues later. Too often Big Two events are really just an excuse to mix up the status quo. Once the new status has been achieved the big events are quickly forgotten. I suppose that in the pursuit of new readers this reset button is a necessary evil. But I prefer to think of continuity as a boon and not a hindrance.
If there were a section for most irrelevant comic of the week, you’d be looking at it. DC apparently needed to plug some material into their Superman publishing schedule in order to cover for writer JMS’s ongoing illness. What the reader gets is an unnecessary fill-in issue with Lois reminiscing about the road untaken. Or at least, that was probably the intention. Instead it feels more like 22 pages of Lois whining and complaining about being stuck in Superman’s shadow, which is at completely at odds with her character. The art is flat, feels strangely unfinished and every so often the artist, Leandro Oliveira, throws in a canted angle that sticks out from the page like a chorus line of nuns doing the can-can. If you read just one Superman title this week, well, I hope it isn’t this one.
Ultimate Avengers 3 #3
Mark Millar. Blade. Ultimate Universe. Vampires. Mix liberally and apply to the infected area twice daily. Add a healthy dollop of Steve Dillon and enjoy.
Ultimate Comics Mystery #4
I forgot to pick up this issue. What can I say, it was a heavy week and it slipped through the cracks.
Ultimate Comics Spider-man #15
Only one more issue to go before this title goes back to it’s new, old number. Wait, did I say that right? Anyway, in this issue Peter Parker is attempting to regroup and pick up the pieces of his life after almost dying at the hands of the Chameleon Twins. His relationships with MJ and Gwen are falling apart. And even though he’s be lauded as a hero by the Daily Planet, somehow fighting crime seems to have lost its appeal. This is the first real pause for reflection this title has taken since it was rebooted fifteen issues ago. This is Bendis at his best, portraying complicated, nuanced character relationships with depth and feeling. Unlike so many other heroes in the spandex set, what makes Spider-man one of the greats is how he deals with his life when the mask comes off. Bendis has done a great job here reminding us of the timeless nature of the character.
As an aside, Marvel needs to pack in those absolutely terrible Spider-man\Mazda ads on the back over. I'm all for companies making a buck with cross promotions. I just don't think the serious car buyer is going to be won over by an ad on the back of his or her funny book.
Wonder Woman #604
This is how we do it! Unlike his work on SUPERMAN I’m enjoying JMS’s turn on WONDER WOMAN much more. I suspect a lot of that has to do with the fact that essentially Straczynski has been given a clean slate to play with the character. What you’re looking at when you pick up this book is the Ultimitized version of the character and, in my opinion, its really starting to come together. There are just enough familiar elements here to be comfortable to returning readers, but the take is fresh and new enough that new readers don’t feel hemmed in by decades of stifling continuity. In this issue, Wondie throws down with Ultimate Steve Trevor who, without Diana’s influence, has become a horrifically scarred mercenary for hire responsible for the deaths of all the Amazons.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Um hi....why is it no one told me that Michael Moorcock, one of the grandfathers of modern fantasy, decided to write an EU Doctor Who book?! How did that one slip past my radar?
Sigh. THE COMING OF THE TERRAPHILES sounds like a blast. It's funny, that the Extended Universe Doctor Who books (I've read a bunch that featured the Tenth Doctor and Rose or Martha [ one that was written by the great Dan Abnett explaining what happened to Martha during hear year before the Series 3 finale]) are SO much better than most of the Star Wars EU books. Basically the BBC commissions these books and they really are like episodes on their own and work really well as such. But then, most of the previous Doctor's enjoy healthy lives still in Audio book form and audio plays, not to mention comic books and graphic novels. It's really a universe worth checking out if you are a fan. It's not high literature, but these books are usually a hell of a ride...and one written by Moorcock? Yeah, I'll damn well be buying that when it comes out.
Also in the Doctor Who world of news. Matt Smith's appearance on the youth spinoff show THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES concludes today with the second of the two parter "THE DEATH OF THE DOCTOR".
It's being reported that there is new speculation about just what is going to comprise the forthcoming sixth series and a book that was released has some tidbits from Moffatt himself....and seems to include some vague mentions of perhaps Alt Universe Rose, and Susan Foreman (the companion of the first Doctor who has not been seen since the B&W days in the 60's).
In some weird, book linky news, Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor) has been cast as Ragast in the long in development hell THE HOBBIT which is now back to being directed by Peter Jackson.
Finally, Chris and I were discussing that we think it would be awesome (and completely feasible) for Matt Smith's 11th Doctor to meet Alt Universe David Tennant Clone Doctor who lives with Rose...and the brilliance that would ensue from having them share the stage. Pipedreams? Maybe not what with the talk of Rose showing back up.....
Maybe you're like me and you have the original Tron on DVD. And when you're not using it to keep the opposite sex at bay, (why would you want to do that anyway), you're basking in the glory of what passes for cutting edge special effects a la 1982.
I think Tron: Legacy is going to put the first film to shame. Here's some new footage from the film, well, new to me anyway set to Derezzed by Daft Punk.
Monday, October 25, 2010
There’s a subset of sci-fi authors that I like to refer to as science teachers. They’re the brainy types who like to rattle on, at great length, about the physical composition of stars or spend whole chapters going on some technical term that leaves casual readers (ok, me) scratching their heads in confusion.
With these authors plot and character often take a back seat to thinly veiled essays on the nature of HOW THINGS WORK.
Larry Niven is better than most when it comes to walking the line between science and narrative, but even he can fall into this unfortunate genre trap. When I first cracked the cover to THE SMOKE RING, Niven’s follow up to his 1983 novel THE INTEGRAL TREES, I was confronted by a half dozen technical diagrams which explained the physical properties of the world of the story. I knew I was in trouble, this was going to be Niven at his science-y best.
Much like his RINGWORLD series Niven has crafted a world with a unique set of physical properties. The inhabitants of the ring live in a state of near free fall in a band of breathable air around a neutron star. There are no earth like planets in the ring so humans must live on trees, hundreds of kilometres long. The trees slowly orbit the star, drifting throughout the band, occasionally coming close to other inhabited dwellings.
Got all that? Clear as mud?
Human beings have come to live in this state as the result of a failed mutiny against the ship Discipline, and it's AI construct, Kenedy. THE SMOKE RING picks up about 15 years after the events of TREES. Jeffer the Scientist and his fellow refugees have carved out a life for themselves on Citizens Tree. Their only link to the past is the Cargo and Repair Module (CARM) stolen from Kenedy in their frenzied escape 15 years ago. Kenedy is able to monitor the tribe through the CARM but the inhabitants of Citizen Tree check in on the module very infrequently, so he is left with an incomplete picture of what is happening.
The tranquility of the Tree is disrupted by the arrival of a family of loggers, forced into free fall by an explosion on a tree they were processing. The loggers come from the Admiralty, perhaps the most technologically advanced section of the Ring. Manipulated by Kenedy, who is desperate to learn of the fate of the mutineer's descendants, Jeffer takes the CARM, a small group of tree dwellers and a handful of the loggers into the Admirality.
It's about here that Niven abandons his hold of the plot and turns the book into an extended series of snapshots on life inside the Ring. It becomes an intellectual game, how would vegtation and animal life develop in the Ring and what would it look like? How would human beings adapt, how would their socials codes change? Is there industry and growth inside a culture that is essentially cut off from natural resources?
Through Jeffer and his band of reluctant explorers Niven constantly places the group in a series of circumstances that are only designed to reveal what life is like in the Ring. Fortunately, the author is skilled enough to keep these vignettes moving right along. I found that while, as a reader, I was getting frustrated by the lack of narrative cause and effect at least I was being entertained in the process.
As a result of the group's adventuring they stumble across the remnants of a decomissioned CARM and when Kenedy links to it he discovers that his recollection of the human mutiny is not as complete as it could be. The group returns to Citizens Tree and Kenedy is left to ponder his next move as the caretaker for this wayward remnant of humanity.
This book reads like the second part of a trilogy. And given where the story wraps up, with Kenedy gently trying to steer humanity back to the stars, I can't for the life of me figure out why Niven didn't continue on with this story, given how he's left his reader's hanging. The story's greatest failing is that, at times, it never seems to go anywhere. Instead, it meanders, with characters conviently changing their personal motivation in order to serve Niven's goals of exploring all the nooks and crannies of the Smoke Ring.
I can't help but feel that a stronger narrative would transform this book from merely an interesting read to a really good one. The characters feel somewhat bland and interchangable and there's no real sense of urgency to their actions. Even when there lives, or way of life, is at stake they calmly mosey along, seemingly not really concerned with their fate.
If you're like me, THE SMOKE RING, is the perfect commuter book. Something light and interesting you can read on the subway; a tale you can easily put down when you reach your station. Not every book strives to be a home run. THE SMOKE RING has more modest ambitions, an over the wall double perhaps?* And it achieves those goals admirably.
*note book reviews and sports metaphors generally don't mix well. Mine was no exception.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Best of the Week
You know what makes this series so great? The fact that its an ongoing tale of the zombie apocalypse and the zombies are probably the least interesting thing about the story. Seriously, the characters, the pacing, the dialogue all mesh seamlessly with the art to create a near flawless experience. The story is fresh, interesting and month in and month out it’s always at the top of my pull list. In this issue a shootout at the compound draws the attention of a herd of nearby zombies, neatly setting up a story arc that writer Robert Kirkman has been building too since Rick and the gang escaped from the prison complex. If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out the premiere of the WALKING DEAD television series next Sunday. My only complaint is that I’ve read the comic so many times that there won’t be (m)any surprises for me. But I’m looking forward to seeing what Frank Darabont does with the source material.
Batman and Robin #15
Sniff. Grant Morrison’s ultimate Batman story is almost over. If you haven’t picked up a Morrison bat-title in the last few years, well, you’d better save yourself some time and skip to the next review; because there’s nothing for you here. Dick gets shot in the back of the head, Damien teams up with the Joker, an ancient Wayne ancestor is masquerading as Bruce Wayne’s deceased father and BW himself shows back up again after traveling thousands of years through time. Throw in some beautiful looking Frazer Irving art and you’ve got a damn good reason to read comic books.
Brightest Day #12
A Martian Manhunter-centric issue with just a dash of Firestorm thrown in for seasoning. J’onn J’onzz is one of those character who I don’t know all that well. I know his basic backstory and I’m familiar with his personality traits from his time on the JLA. But for a guy who’s managed to float his own ongoing series on a couple of occasions I know hardly anything about his past. Which is why an issue like this is a helpful info dump and provides some useful character context. Apparently D’Kay, our mystery Green Martian (yes, another one,) is an unscrupulous scientist who undertook immoral experiments on her own people and then tried to purge any who’s thoughts couldn’t be read by telepathy. It’s a good, solid issue with some gorgeous art by Patrick Gleason. Bonus points though to any reader with the eagle eyes who can spot the art slip up on page 7.
DC Universe: Legacies
It’s like reading a Wikipedia entry on comic book plots you already know. Years worth of stories condensed into 22 pages, only with really pretty pictures. Kudos to Len Wein for trying to keep it interesting by framing the whole thing through the eyes of an ordinary man. But that’s a trope that’s been overused in comics for years. Unfortunately the story doesn’t really add anything new to the DCU, then again, it was never meant to. The backup story, featuring the umpteenth retelling of Clark’s first visit by the Legion, is good for a chuckle though.
Green Lantern Corps #53
Chapter One of the new story arc, The Weaponer. One of Sinestro’s former Qwardian allies comes to Korugar, which looks suspiciously like Earth, in search of the former Green Lantern’s daughter. The Weaponer plans to take his revenge through Sora for some crime that never seems to be explained. Unable to find her, he decides to throw down with Kyle Raynerin an obligatory fight scene. This was a fair issue although it certainly had its low points. The artist, Tyler Kirkham, chose to portray the clothing and architecture of an alien world an awful lot like Earth, right down to the baseball caps and hoodies. Kyle spends a lot of time boasting about his credentials as a galactic warrior and then gets taken out in six pages. For a man who’s defeated every A-list baddie in the DCU he goes down quickly and quietly. If you’re a rabid fan of the Green Lantern world, this issue will hardly turn you off. For a fan just passing through it’s a bit like listening to the elevator music version of one of your favourite tunes.
Britain’s favourite street magician is going through some hard times. John Constantine is one of the few character’s in comic books who actually ages with the years. Lately he’s gone mad, hacked off a thumb, nearly sliced off his arm, lost one girlfriend (dead), lost a second girlfriend (abandoned in the past) and now’s he the target of some very bad people who reside in a very tropical hot spot. It all sort of feels like it’s building to something doesn’t it? After 272 issues Constantine’s life has gone through some drastic changes, but in the end he’s still the same cynical (and lonely) mage he’s always been. Thank god Brian Buccellato is around make even a grizzled old fart like Constantine seem rugged and fabulous.
Justice League of America #50
I love Mark Bagley. Getting to watch him draw the hell out of the JLA-lite for 50 pages is a treat for me. This issue is all big dust up. The Crime Syndicate of Amerika is trying to take over the world and the JLA is naturally duty bound to stop them; with their fists. There’s a sub plot here with Dr. Impossible and some dark version of the New Gods that I know nothing about. Presumably it came during the time I temporarily abandoned the title.
Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates #4
For a line that was supposed to eschew restrictive continuity, line wide reboots and unnecessary character revisions the Ultimate Universe has proven its not immune to these overused plot devices after all. In this issue Jeph Loeb continues to tinker with the Ulti Uni by reimagining Ultimate Thor more along the lines of his 616 version. Gone is the peace loving hippie and in his place is the rage filled warrior. Perhaps there will be an interesting and compelling reason for the change. More likely, brawny Nordic warriors with squinity-yelly faces and a propensity to start brawls are considered to be more interesting than one who chooses to use his powers for unconventional means. I suggest reading this comic just because you like to watch Frank Cho draw the hell out of things. I mean, that’s a pretty good reason right there, isn’t it?
Monday, October 18, 2010
I am a flag waving, card carrying supporter of David Petersen's Mouseguard series. I love the art, the story, and basically everything else that goes along with it. I have hardcover versions of both Mouseguard: Fall 1152, and Mouseguard: Winter 1152, and I don't plan for this next volume to slip me by either. Currenbtly Petersen is writing Mouseguard: The Black Axe, which is a six issue series which began in Sept. Of this year, and on the horizon is also Winter War of 1149.
Very exciting. I realize it is close to a year away from release, but I only just learned of it, so I deemed it the type of post we all need on a crappy Monday morning.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5
The current chapter of Grant Morrison’s Batman epic is drawing to a close. And even the most casual fan of either the writer, or the character he’s playing with, has to respect the lengths to which Morrison has gone to mine the lesser known aspects of the franchise and reconcile some of its more fantastic elements. Suddenly, everything is on the table, because it all happened. Every cockamamie Silver Age story that was wiped away by CRISIS OF INFINITE EARTHS with an embarrassing shrug actually took place. It’s like the Batman franchise has been rebooted on the sly and decades worth of stories are now relevant again, or at least deserve a chance to be re-examined in the wake of Morrison's stint.
Hellblazer: City of Demons #1
I’m not sure why the Hellblazer franchise decided to spin this story out into a miniseries, because right now there’s nothing taking place in these pages that can’t be handled in the main title. Is Vertigo sitting on a backlog of ‘blazer stories and wanting to see some return on their investment? Anyway, I would have passed on this if it wasn’t being pencilled by the fantastic Sean Murphy. You might remember him from his work on JOE THE BARBARIAN and Learning with Wolverine. There’s nothing here that you don’t see in a straight of ‘blazer story. John Constantine drinks, smokes, acts like a dick and is apparently still British. All good in my books, but I’m still curious to see what makes this story so special.
Knight and Squire #1
Combining Paul Cornell, the current writer of ACTION COMICS, with Knight and Squire, one of Grant Morrison’s great reinventions seems like a recipe for printing money. In reality it’s neither good nor bad, but just kind of...there. The writing is solid, the art passable but not spectacular and its full of British-y goodness. Surprisingly, it does nothing for me. The story deals with heroes and villains that gather to socialize once a month at a local pub, prevented from fighting each due to the influence of ‘truce magic.’ As you might expect, the truce is broken and chaos ensues. I’m willing to stick with the story for another issue, but this title will really have to up its game if it expects to keep me as a reader.
Green Lantern #58
One of things that impresses me about Geoff Johns is the man’s ability to stick with a title. In today’s comic book market, some writers can’t stay with a book longer than an arc or too. Yet Johns frequently manages to write on a title for years, a rarity in any age and practically unheard of today. With Doug Mahnke rocking the pencils and Johns continuing to pen the story he’s been working on for the last five years this title is consistently at the top of my pull list. This month we’re treated to the continuing adventures of the Rainbow Raiders. Johns is doing an admirable job portraying the disparate personalities that banded together after the events of THE BLACKEST NIGHT in a realistic and believe manner. (Well, as realistic as a group of aliens with multicoloured magic wishing rings can ever hope to be)
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors
Peter J. Tomasi might not be gracing the pages of the GREEN LANTERN CORPS anymore, but he’s not too far from the GL franchise thanks to his work on EMERALD WARRIORS. I get the impression that Johns uses the main GL title to tie the franchise into the DCU and move events forward. This leaves GLC and now EW to pick up some of the dangling plot threads and flesh out the larger world of the Corps. Its a system that works really well for all the titles involved. And Fernando Pasarin is just killing it on pencils. I’m not used to seeing art this great on a book that I consider to be part of the expanded DCU and not a core title.
I’m conflicted. On the one hand I respect what J. Michael Straczynski is attempting to do with the Superman franchise. He’s trying to approach the character in a fashion that he believes has never been done before. And I respect that. On the other hand, I’m not sure he’s been entirely successful in his aims. Let’s face it, when you have a publishing history as long as Superman does there aren’t very many unexplored angles. While readers may never have seen it in such an elongated form, the concept of a reflective Superman has been done before, many times over. Done properly in the course of a single issue it can be a powerful tool. Spread it across an entire story arc and it can border on tedious. This month, Superman continues in his mission to walk across America. He gets in a fight, wins it and everything looks pretty much the same as it has in his world for the last 70 years. I’m not willing to write JMS off yet. But at this point I’m look forward to his SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE book more so than I am his work on the main title.
Say what you will about Mark Millar, and the man certainly has his fair share of detractors, but the man knows how to make the most of what he has. If he’s not promoting himself, or his work, he’s name dropping his Hollywood connections or stepping outside his traditional box to try new things, like directing a film for pete’s sake. The man is a shameless huckster and the comic world is better for it. Whether you like or dislike his writing most people seem to have an opinion about it. Which means you’re probably reading what he puts out and that’s the point of the whole thing. Anyway, SUPERMA…I mean SUPREM…er…SUPERIOR #1 is a straight up origin tale with Superman like overtones. Most origin tales are limited by what they can do as they’re too busy checking off the obligatory narrative plot points. With any luck the second issue will allow Millar to start monkeying around with conventions of the genre.
When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.
For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.
Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.
Deborah Harkness made her debut in-person on the panel at the New York Comic-Con that Del-Ray set up to discuss fantasy novels. She sat among GIANTS of the current fantasy stage, Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie and Brandon Sanderson to name but a few.
You were probably wondering, like me, "Who the heck is that woman? What is she doing on a panel with my favourite authors? Should I know who she is?"
Well, wonder no longer. I have some info about her first book titled A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, and the website that goes along with it. It appears that Del-Ray wanted to debut this new author to the genre by shrewdly dropping her into a panel with tried and true crowd/fan pleasers. Placing her into that standing-room only, packed to the rafters hall at NYCC has as good as guaranteed a concentrated audience who will, at the very least, go home and look her up. Let alone the fact that video from the panel has been posted online and has been making the rounds of fantasy blogs and message boards, including this one, causing likely the same desire to look her up.
What a recipe! If her book is as good as all that, then this will go a long way to market her debut and give it the teeth it will need to bust into the fantasy genre as a winner. As we fantasy/sci-fi fans are a fickle lot, it might be tough so let's hope she's up to the challenge. the book sounds promising and I am always willing to try out new authors.
Who knows, maybe she'll be the "IT" fantasy author of 2011, like Abercrombie, Rothfuss and Lynch were before her. My only issue may be the story once again of someone falling for a vampire....but at least this time it is a witch. I'll hold judgment on that front until I read it.
I kind of want to give a slow clap to Del-Ray on this one. Though entirely transparent as such, it was still a pretty savvy marketing move.
Monday, October 11, 2010
NYCC Panel Video: Fantasy Authors from Suvudu on Vimeo.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Ultimate Thor #1
I have a confession to make. I used to be in love with Marvel’s Ultimate line. When it first hit I thought it was fun, fresh and free of stupefying continuity. Then the line grew stale, Jeph Loeb happened and it never really regained its luster. ULTIMATE THOR goes a long way towards recapturing what made the Ultimate line so great. It’s about four years too late to turn the tide, but its a great read nonetheless. This first issue covers his Thor’s early years in Asgard, the fall of Asgard at the hands of the Nazi’s and his first Ultimized appearances on earth. Except for the 3.99 price tag, I can’t think of a single thing to complain about. Read it after The Ultimates 2 and I think it should blend into Ultimate continuity quite seamlessly.
Batman: Odyssey #4
Good lord, I’ve heard of purple writing before, but the scripting in this book is so overdone its hard to read it without breaking into laughter. I found myself constantly rereading several sections in the book, trying to get a handle on what’s happening in the various scenes and a grasp some feel for the flow of the story. I’m not sure why this title doesn’t have the Elseworlds logo on it. It’s clear that nothing happening in the title is part of the DCU proper. Instead, it seems like Neal Adams got inspired by Miller’s All-Star Batmanand is trying to push the character of Batman in the most ludicrous direction possible.
Brightest Day #11
While BRIGHTEST DAY may not meet the requirements to technically be considered part of DC’s strategy to put out a weekly comic, it certainly embodies the spirit of the plan. And, after 11 issues I feel confident in saying that it easily surpasses Trinity
Love him or hate him Alan Moore is a creator who continues to generate a fair amount of controversy in the insular comic book blogosphere. After reading the first issue of this title I found it helpful to spend some time knocking around online, perusing other reader’s analysis of the story. There were some interesting interpretations to be found that allowed me to look at the story on levels I hadn’t previously considered. But none of it prepared me for the visceral and disturbing imagery of the second issue. If, as Moore contends, there isn’t really anything interesting happening in comic books anymore then this is a nice little ‘up yours’ to comic readers. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but make no mistake, people will be offended by this book.
Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #3
Speaking of Elseworld titles, and we were, this one is a nice little throwback to years gone by when DC was afraid to throw a couple crazy ideas at the wall and see if anything would stick. It’s always nice to see Carey Bates play in the DC sandbox. Renato Arlem’s art doesn’t do much for me unfortunately. I find it flat and somewhat static. It’s not bad by any means, It’s just not my cup of tea. My biggest complaint with LAST FAMILY is that it falls prey to the trap that kills so many ‘what if’ stories. While initially these imaginary tales start off with bold new ideas on inflexible established franchises, too often they end up mirroring the current state\world of the character. Lex must always be bad, Kal must always be Superman and Clark must always end up with Lois. I’d be more interested in a renewed Elseworlds line if they took more risks with their properties and allowed creators to really push their boundaries with the characters.