Sunday, December 30, 2007

Madman

I really, really love Mike Allred, however I still have not read all of his most well known work, Madman. Fortunately, Image comics is currently rereleasing the entire series in some beautiful editions.

This series is great fun, and plays to all of Allred's strengths, both as a writer and an artist. It's clear that Allred just had a blast in the creation of each issue. Madman, an amnesiac, acrobatic, precognitive, lab assistant and sometimes superhero, is just a bizarre character with tons of story potential. The world which he inhabits is equally brilliant, allowing for mad scientists, G-Men from Hell (the inspiration for the movie), puke monsters, and tons of robots who all seem like mundane parts of Snap City. The only thing that detracts from this is that at the time these were written, then publisher Dark Horse, decided to have all of their pseudo-superhero character inhabit the same world. Thus this book contains a glaring cameo from Mike Mignola's Hellboy (little more than a visual gag), and a slightly more fitting one from Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow's Big Guy. But the book as a whole lives up to it's subtitle, "the world's snappiest comic magazine!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fourth World Vol.3

That's 3 volumes of the Fourth World down, with one to go (apparently I neglected to review the previous one), and my love for these stories has not faded in the least. The dialog is still hokey, the stories are still tainted by editorial mandates (such as launching a Deadman revival in the Forever People), and Jimmy Olsen is still an oddly physical character (he actually punches out a robot this time around), but none of that matters.

These stories are pure in a way that few can ever hope to be. It's just a shame that the characters have more or less languished (and are now being killed off) every since.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shazam! the Monster Society of Evil

Captain Marvel is an immensely important figure in the history of comics who is often overlooked. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that his name cannot appear in the title of his own books due to a trademark settlement with Marvel. But a larger reason is that DC has had a lot of trouble figuring out how to use him correctly after making the decision to incorporate him into the same world as their other characters.

Marvel is a magically powered God, who shares his body with a child, and who lives in a largely cartoon world. He's partnered with a talking tiger and his two biggest foes are a nearsighted dwarf and an alien caterpillar with glasses. Thus putting him next to Batman never worked all that well.

Which, made it very strange that DC took this long to publish a story that takes the character back to his roots. But this relaunch could only have been pulled off this well by Jeff Smith, possibly the best cartoonist currently working in the medium. The Alex Ross intro probably says it best, the book is charming. The only fault with it is the story feels a bit like an introduction to a larger story, that doesn't and probably won't ever exist (Smith is starting work on a new self-published book).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sun of Suns

It's been sooo long since I've seen an author take a real crack at telling a true hard s.f. space opera. These can be tricky to write, requiring a story with a great deal of momentum, some strong characters, thorough world building, and a technical background. Happily Karl Schroeder has pulled it off in Sun of Suns, the first book of his Virga series.

This book just does everything right. It's full of some absolutely brilliant ideas (the book takes place in a contained, artificially created galaxy without any land), every character evolves throughout the course of the story, and there are even a few battles with air pirates thrown in for good measure.

It's been a long time since a book has left me this eager for the sequel.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Black Dossier

Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill's third League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, the Black Dossier, took an extra year to come out, but I'm glad to say that it was worth the wait. This book is something truly unique, being a sort of literary collage, even more so than the previous two books about a covert ops team comprised of various fantastic characters from British authors.

Of that team, only two remain for this volume (Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain). The bulk of the story takes place in a post Big Brother 1958, during which Alan and Mina are on the run from James Bond, Emma Peel, and "Bulldog" Hugo Drummond after stealing the Black Dossier (a history of the League commissioned by Harry Lime).

The rest of the book is comprised of the entries in the Dossier, largely prose pieces written in styles ranging from a Shakespeare Folio (featuring Prospero as an analogue to John Dee) to a Tijuana Bible (based on 1984 of course). There's also two different Cthlulu Mythos stories (one tied into On the Road, the other, in the book's most brilliant portion, to Jeeves and Wooster).

All of this is also filled with so many blink and you'll miss it easter eggs that it's pretty much required to read the annotations provided by the great Jess Nevins. Just for a few examples, Monsieur Zenith is wielding Stormbringer, Edmund Blackadder can be seen fighting alongside A.J. Raffles at the Somme, and the Pancake XL-4 rocket is blown up to make way for the Fireball XL-5.

The book is not perfect by any means. A few portions of it (the Lovecraftian Beatnik poetry clearly comes to mind) are almost too difficult to read. And the parts of the book don't necessarily form much of a unified whole. But those parts are largely brilliant.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sick day comics

I caught a lovely cold while visiting my family for Thanksgiving, so I've trying to catch up a bit while laid up. So here's a brief 4 in one write-up.

First of all was Jellyfist, a bizarre round robin comic that marked the return of Jhonen Vasquez after the cancellation of his sometimes ingenious cartoon Invader Zim. This was one of Vasquez's more nonsensical comics, but it was fun nonetheless. And as a bonus each of the 1-3 page strips in the book included commentaries that were equally fun to read.

Next came the Goon: Chinatown, the first Goon story by Eric Powell to be released as an original graphic novel. This story was singled out from the ongoing series for a number of reasons. The story, which is primarily a flashback to when the Goon had has heart broken and his face mangled, lacks the humor (as well as the zombies and mad scientists), which the series is best known for. But it's a testament to just how good Powell is that it still feels like a perfect fit with the rest of the series. And Powell's art just keeps getting better.

Then this morning I read the 4th Scott Pilgrim book, Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together. There's really nothing I can say that I won't be repeating from my comments regarding the first three books. Every time I've finished one of these I just have a big stupid grin on my face, and I'm not sure what better praise there is.

Which, at last brings me to Flink, Doug TenNapel's latest book. This one feels a bit like TenNapel is repeating himself. It's still an excellent comic, but the boy and his Sasquatch plot feels a little too similar to his boy and his T-Rex book, Tommysaurus Rex.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

52

52 was one of the most ambitious comics projects in recent history. It was a series released weekly, with four writers, about a dozen artists, six intertwined story lines, and no definitive ending when the project began. What is really surprising is just how good a book it turned out to be.

The writing staff, comprised of mad genius Grant Morrison, crime novelist Greg Rucka, and then Geoff Johns and Mark Waid, two of the most talented straight superhero writers in the business, pulled off a minor miracle with the story. The main characters were all amongst DC's must human (ok with the exception of Starfire, the alien warrior princess), which grounded the comics beautifully. The comic never strayed from telling truly relatable character studies, even when verging into some more absurd territories (i.e. Archbishop Lobo and his alien dolphin companion Fishy).

And simultaneously with these smaller sorts of stories, the creators managed to tell an epic adventure in which characters died, were reborn, and witnessed a fundamental change to the entire universe. I've read the story twice now, and I'm still not sure how exactly this was all pulled off. There are flaws in the story to be sure, but they're mostly forgivable given the conditions the story was written under, and the commentaries provided in the new trades go out of their way to point them all out, which really just adds to the fun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Essential Marvel Horror

Man, if ever there was an Essential volume that didn't deserve the name this is the one. The Essential Marvel Horror is in fact a collection of stories featuring Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan and his sister Satana, the Devil's Daughter. These comics originally came out in the mid 70's while Marvel was going through their tame horror fad (out of which was only produced one good comic, Tomb of Dracula), and this was their attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Exorcist. These stories were also written with the comics code in mind, so no actual horror could occur in them.

Thus we have the Son of Satan, a demon turned exorcist who battles Satanists and possessed teens in St. Louis with the aid of his Netheranium trident (I can't make this up) and his demon-horse drawn Chariot. Even Steve Gerber writing a few of these stories couldn't save it.

Satana on the other hand was almost a decent comic, featuring an entirely amoral protagonist. However, due to various problems her story went through 4 writers, 6 artists, and 4 different comics over the course of a mere 8 stories. Needless to say things didn't work out and the character was unceremoniously killed off in a random issue of Marvel Team-Up.

Really not one of Marvel's higher points.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stop Forgetting to Remember

Last night the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum opened an excellent graphic novel exhibit and quite a few of the artists who were represented were in attendance. The highlight for me by far was the chance to meet Peter Kuper, and getting him to autograph my copy of the first issue of the System.

While I was there I bought a copy of his autobiography, Stop Forgetting to Remember, and actually got him to sign that as well. And today I read through it in a single sitting, and rediscovered just what a masterful artist Kuper can be. Kuper, via his fictional alter-ego Walter Kurtz, tells the story of his experiments with drug use as a teenager, his quest to lose his virginity, the birth of his daughter, his frustration with the Bush White House, and his attempts to publish the book I'm holding now.

The entire book is astonishingly honest, despite telling the story through a fictionalized version of himself (as well as admittedly exaggerating the quality of his studio). This is enhanced by the incredibly expressionistic artwork that mirrors the work of Edvard Munch on more than one occasion. The talk Kuper gave at the exhibit opening last night was all about the passion he holds for this medium, and its nice to see that his enthusiasm is not being wasted.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

God of the Razor

It took a few extra days, but I've now gotten through my annual Halloween horror reading. This year's entry was Joe R. Lansdale's God of the Razor. The book is actually a reprinting of one of Lansdale's earlier novels, the Nightrunners, along with an assortment of short stories that were influenced in part by it.

The main story is far from being one of Lansdale's best, but according to the author it is where he first found his proper voice. I can definitely see that in the book, although it does lack some of the pulp sensibilities he picked up when he moved into writing mysteries (not to mention the occasional Batman story).

The short stories are a bit more interesting, although their exact ties to the Nightrunners are often a stretch. Two of them are only in the collection because of descriptive passages that were cribbed from the larger work. And then there's Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, which was probably included because it was recently made into an episode of Showtime's Masters of Horror. It also just so happens to be one of the creepiest stories I've ever read and it certainly made for a nice Halloween capstone.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Scott Pilgrim

A few weeks back I posted about Bryan Lee O'Malley's first Scott Pilgrim book. Now, thanks to the same friend who loaned me that book, I've had the chance to read the next two, and my enthusiasm for this series has only grown.

O'Malley has created a world (a.k.a. Toronto) where the rules keep becoming more absurd, and yet it feels like reality. Granted it is a place where Vegans have psychic powers, evil ex-boyfriends can be turned into coins and power ups, and where the fourth wall is broken at every turn, yet it all feels grounded. O'Malley just makes this legerdemain seem completely effortless and fills every page with happiness.

The fourth volume in the series comes out today (I've got my copy on order) and I don't expect to be disappointed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Making Money

There's been an enormous wave of f and s.f. literature recently that has been focused on economics. I think this started with Cory Doctorow's reputation based economy in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, or possibly Charles Stross' bandwidth based economy 2.0 in Accelerando.

Anyway, my point is that it was only a matter of time before Terry Pratchett got involved. His newest Discworld book (the 36th if you count Strata and Where's my Cow?) , Making Money, is a sharply written fictional history of the end of the Gold standard and the birth of the treasury department. And once again Pratchett proves why he is the best satirist working today.

He's been writing at least a book a year in the same series for 2 decades now, and he still manages to keep the series fresh with his sped up industrial revolution and stand alone story structure to the series. Furthermore I still think he has the best understanding of mass behavior of anyone alive, he could probably show up most sociologists.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Metal Men

Yes it's a bonus review today thanks to the benefit of an overdue lazy weekend. This time it's the first volume of Showcase Presents: Metal Men by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru. The Metal Men are one of DC's quirker comics, it even has a mad scientist at it center, and probably because of that they've always been relegated to cult status, with the low sales that entails.

Which is really a same because the Metal Men are some of the best characters DC has, as this book shows. The stories are simple (typically a giant space robot of some sort attacks the Earth for some poorly defined reason) but that doesn't matter at all. There's just so much fun and downright joy to be had in this book.

I Killed Adolf Hitler

I Killed Adolf Hitler is the latest comic from Jason, Norway's greatest comics creator. This book is up there with his best works, Sshhhh! and the Left Bank Gang, and somehow manages to stand out despite maintaining all of Jason's usual hallmarks. All of his books feature a very minimal page layout and a cast made up of some combination of fuzzy animals and Universal Horror characters. This is his first book to appear in color, and I'm pleased to say that Jason's line work supports that flat color used in the book very well.

The story itself is hard to describe without spoiling it. Roughly it's a romance about aging and apathy, but with time traveling assassins, and of course Hitler. But despite that description the book feels more like an Ingmar Bergman drama than it does a piece of fantasy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

A friend of mine has been begging me to read Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim for a while now. It's great to have those sort of friends. I read the book over a long breakfast (I had one bite, read the book, and then finished my cold pancakes and coffee). In all that time the big stupid grin I found myself with never left my face.

It's been a while since I've read anything that was filled with this much joy. And the best part is there are still more books in the series to be read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Of all the things the internet has brought to mankind over the last few years; lolcats, dancing rodents, maps, etc..., the greatest by far is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. For those who may not know, the church of the FSM (a.k.a. Pastafarianism) was created as a protest to the Kansas City School board when they wanted to add Intelligent Design to the science curriculum. The idea behind this being, that if they wanted to teach an alternative view of creation in the schools, then they should allow for the teaching of all such views, and thus Pastafarianism was created to be one such view.

And now (well actually last year) the church has its own Gospel. Unfortunately, it doesn't add very much to the mythos that hasn't already been covered on the website (see the link above). Admittedly I prefer a book to a website any day, but I was really expecting something more from this.

However, if you're coming to the religion as a newbie then this'll probably be a great read. The two central jokes of the gospel are brilliant (the FSM's role in unintelligent design and the divinity of pirates), and the rationals behind these are equally wonderful. However, the joke can get a little stale by the time you reach the end of the book and have processed the ontological, teleological, mathematical, theologebraical (yes the book makes that a word) and even corporate proofs of the gospel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson is one of those books that I've put off reading for quite a long time. I'm not entirely sure why. It's a shame really because it's a great, immensely readable book with a fascinating plot concerning the fall of the Soviet Union, gorilla marketing, and alternative means of video distribution. Oh and the protagonist has a debilitating phobia of trademarks.

I'm actually planing to hunt down more of Gibson's novels now. All I had read previously was Neuromancer (twice), which I never thought lived up to the hype. But this book proves that he can be a truly great writer, as well as proving that he has moved beyond the cyberpunk movement he began.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Daredevil

Sorry for being lax in my posts again. This is what I get for splitting my reading time. The upside is I'll probably end up finishing three books in a week.

Anyway, I just wrapped up vol. 4 of the Essential Daredevil. This book was really disappointing to me. On the creator side it had the great Gene Colan on art, and the holy trinity of Marvel 70's writers (Steve Gerber, Gerry Conway and for one issue Steve Engleheart) and it was still a complete misfire. Furthermore, this is the volume in which the Black Widow entered the cast as DD's sorta, kinda, but not really s/o.

This book should have been so much better. The art was good, but not up with Colan's better work. The Widow's back story interrupted the stories far too often, with her chauffeur/father-figure Ivan serving no function. The semi-famous story with the Black Widow standing trial for murder (or for as she puts it, "the crime of being a Russian"), was done in an issue and really never went anywhere. And taking DD out of Hell's Kitchen and putting him in San Francisco was probably the dumbest move in the entire run of the comic.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Doctor 13

It's always nice to see a author write something outside of their comfort zone. I can' think of a clearer example of this than Brian Azzarello's comic collection Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality. Azzarello is a writer mostly known for telling brutally dark crime stories. His series 100 Bullets is one of the few true masterpieces to have come out of the medium in a while.

And now he's written a meta-satire focusing on the more absurd corners of the DC Universe. The protagonist of the series, Terry Thirteen (a former supporting character of the Phantom Stranger) is a professional skeptic who adamantly refuses to believe in anything out of the ordinary. The absurdity of this being that he exists in a world in which things like aliens (Superman) and mystical beings (Wonder Woman) are not only accepted, but are fairly commonplace.

Throughout the course of the story he encounters a number of DC's other oddities, ranging from the relatively well known Haunted Tank to the truly obscure Anthro (a French cro-magnon). Together they go on a mission to defend their own existences against the forces of the architects (a very thinly veiled grouping of the writers behind DC's 52) who wish to make their fictional universe more relevant.

This book was simply the most enjoyable thing DC has produced in years. To see a story like this come out of a company that seems to have all but lost their sense of humor was something on the order of a small miracle. To see it come from the mind of Brian Azzarello just made it all the better.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Devil You Know

Mike Carey has rapidly become my favorite comics writer (with the possible exception of Ed Brubaker). His range as an author is nothing short of extraordinary. Over the last few years he's written metaphysical fantasy (Lucifer), high concept S.F. (Ultimate Fantastic Four), high-school romantic comedy (Re-Gifters, My Faith in Frankie), and is currently trying to salvage the X-Men franchise almost single-handedly.

And now he's written his first novel in a series that his publisher has no idea how to market. The Devil You Know is what you get when you combine John Constantine and Phillip Marlow, and attempt to make the result ever so slightly light hearted (thanks to the introduction at the end of the book of a token wacky sidekick). The cover seems to be aimed at the Dan Brown market, while the description on the jacket almost makes it sound like a comedy

But marketing aside, the book is fairly good. It's not up there with the best up Carey's work, and it's impossible not to compare it to his lengthy run on Hellblazer, but it's a lot of fun to read and the character's are all wonderfully fleshed out. If given the chance, I think Carey can make an excellent series out of this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

DMZ

Brian Wood's DMZ is the latest bit of genius to come out of Vertigo. The high concept this time around is that a new civil war has erupted in the U.S. leaving New York City as a demilitarized zone between the two stalemated armies. With that as background, Wood is free to focus on the lives of the bystanders still living in the city, while basing the larger story arcs around allegories of current events.

For this review I just finished the third volume of the series, Public Works, in which Wood turns his gaze on Halliburton. In this story Matty Roth, the point of view character for the series, investigates the thinly veiled company, encountering corporate leaders, civilians, and yes terrorists along the way. Yet Wood never lays his politics on too thickly.

This is a great series, and I think it's just beginning to hit its stride.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Defenders Vol.3

The Defenders is a wildly uneven comic, as you would expect from anything that's advertised as being a "non-team" team comic. But every now and then it just clicks, and the stories in this book are from one of those good periods. The first half is entirely written by the great (and often neglected) Steve Gerber and primarily focuses on a three way battle between the Defenders, a group of mad scientists who have all surgically altered their bodies, and cosmic deity-turned self-help guru Nebulon the Celestial Man. At it's best these tales are on a par with Gerber's work on Howard the Duck, at their worst they're still incredibly fun stories with Hulk fighting a man who glued his head to a gorilla.

The second half is a series of tales by David Kraft that succeed surprisingly well at replacing Gerber. Kraft makes the odd decision to add Hellcat to the cast and manages to throw in some great tribute stories to Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange and Steranko's Nick Fury, plus a lovely Jack Kirby inspired issue with some early Keith Giffen art.

All in all one of the better Essential volumes Marvel has released.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Nomad of the Time Streams

It took a while, but I finally finished this collection of Michael Moorcock's three Bastable novels. I grew up reading Moorcock novels, but his books still take a bit of adjusting to as none of them exist in a vacuum. At this point, nearly every word he has ever written is linked to his Eternal Champion saga in some way or other.

In Bastable's case, this is through a great many references to the Multiverse and the occasional appearance of the ever cryptic Una Persson. However, unlike many of his other novels, this series thrives on its own. Bastable is a simple soldier who is forced to reassess his principals when he is forced into various alternate versions of the World Wars.

Over the course of the three books, (The Warlord of the Air, The Land Leviathan, the Steel Tsar) Bastable fights across 4 continents, over land, sea and air, and gets to experience the bombing of Hiroshima twice. The stories move rapidly and are far quicker reads than my own lack of posts to this blog would attest to. I also found them far more engaging than most alternate histories (which I usually tend to avoid). Well worth the read.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Southland Tales

Over the last few weeks my normal schedule has gotten a bit wonky and my reading has suffered for it. But I'm nearly done with a 3-in-1 Michael Moorcock collection, and in the meantime I finally finished the last chapter of Richard Kelly's Southland Tales. This is Kelly's follow up to Donnie Darko, one of my top ten films and perhaps the only movie in recent years to generate an honest to goodness cult following. Needless to say expectations are high.

So, what Kelly has decided to do is write an overly ambitious story about the apocalypse occurring in Southern California. Now what really makes this such an unusual project is that the story takes place over 6 acts, and the upcoming film is only the second half. The first half was produced as three graphic novels, incorporating large portions of a film script. Unsurprisingly the early hype regarding the movie has been less than promising.

Which at last brings me to the comic. The story is a bit hit and miss as none of the characters are particularly easy to identify with. I found this particularly disappointing as that was what Donnie Darko did best. The books also suffer from the obvious lack of a resolution that film (which still doesn't have a release date) will provide. But there are plenty of good ideas in here and the art from Brett Weldele gorgeous. The story is certainly worth checking out, but I would probably say to wait for the movie.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Black Cherry

Doug Tennapel is a very odd writer, even by my standards. He thrives on crossing boundaries in his stories. He gleefully merges genres, throws in themes you don't normally see in fantastic literature, and even his inks have a tendency to bleed through his panels.

Black Cherry is quite possibly his most ambitious work to date. It's a first contact/mafia/exorcism story that takes some surprisingly dark turns for the person who gave us Earthworm Jim and Tommysaurus Rex. It's also his best book yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Thirteen Clocks

James Thurber in undoubtedly a genius, and the Thirteen Clocks is probably his best work. Not only that, but it is one of the best fairy tales ever written, up there with the finest of the Brothers Grimm. This story quite literally features tears of laughter, tears of joy, and "something very much like nothing anyone had see before". In this book are princesses and monsters and nonsense that would make Lewis Carroll proud. This book is a masterpiece.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Godland

I always get the feeling when reading Joe Casey that he must be the coolest guy in any room he's in. I still feel oddly smug that I can claim to have been of fan back when he was just doing fill-in issues of Cable. I've just finished the third volume of Godland, and this is probably the best thing he's written since the early demise of Automatic Kafka.

This book just showcases the author's love of Jack Kirby, and glorifies everything the King of comics accomplished, both good and bad. And if Casey's writing wasn't enough of a draw, there's Tom Scioli's art as well. Every panel literally crackles with energy (thanks to another Kirby tribute). This is just a great book.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Crooked Little Vein

I began reading Crooked Little Vein with very high expectations. When Warren Ellis is at the top of his game he's one of the best comic writers today, as well as being one of the few S.F. writers who still instills his books with a true sense of wonder. However, he also has a tendency to write situations that are so over the top that they obscure the story, which is very much the case here.

Overall the story makes for a pretty good novel, but I suspect it would seem better to those who are unfamiliar with Ellis comics work. Too much of the story rehashes themes from his previous books, which were better in many cases.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Eifelheim

It took awhile, but I've finally finished my Hugo reading list for the year with Michael Flynn's Eifelheim. Of this year's crop of nominees, this was by far the best written of the lot. Flynn is a very gifted writer, with an unbelievable grasp of European history (I had the pleasure of hearing him speak on the subject 2 years ago).

However, I'm still leaning towards Blindsight for my non-existent Hugo vote this year. In a year packed with so many big ideas books that are actually well written to boot, Eifelheim just feels a bit underwhelming.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Rex Libris

We really are living in the golden age of fantasy stories about my chosen profession, librarians. James Turner's Rex Libris is possibly my favorite of these to date. It's got alien snowmen with compound eyes, world conquering sparrows, and librarians with arsenals. But more importantly Turner shows that he has an deep understanding of just what makes librarians tick, even if most of the time that simply a good danish, or the desire to turn a particularly unruly patron into swine (Circe at a circulation desk is just brilliant). Oh and this is a beautifully illustrated comic to boot.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Yes I jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon too, I didn't go to the midnight release, but I was there at 7am when Wal-Mart opened (even though it compromised my principles a bit to do so). I even stopped reading a book I was half way through (Michael Flynn's Eifelheim) in order to get through this before I heard too many spoilers.

And man was I glad I went out of my way to read this thing, it is a great book. The series comes to an incredibly satisfying conclusion, with every character, hero and villain, given a chance to shine (in many cases right before they die). The book is a bloodbath, which I was not expecting at all, but only once in the book did it ever feel excessive to me. After 7 books Rowling has earned her apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil, and she does not disappoint her readers in its telling.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!

This is a book I picked up because Cory Doctorow said too. I knew nothing about it going in besides the glowing review I saw, and Gary Panter's description on the back referring to it as magic jellybeans, and for some reason that description seems very fitting to me.

The comics that comprise this book are a bizarre collection of brilliant garbage. Fletcher Hanks has no understanding of anatomy, can only draw villains if they look constipated, and has a strange fixation with people being levitated against their will. But instead of feeling hokey and contrived every page of this collection feels unique and full of energy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Fourth World

I'm sorry it's been awhile since I've posted anything, but you can probably expect a whole slew of posts in the near future as I've been splitting my time amongst a few books (damn you Harry Potter). But the first of these I've actually managed to finish volume one of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus.

With the exception of the Demon, I'm a late comer to Kirby's work for DC. But I'm now at the point thanks to Marvel's essenial reprints of his work on the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Captain America, that I will pretty much buy anything he drew, with the possible exception of Devil Dinosaur (I just can't get past Moonboy).

The Fourth World books are just plain great comics, even with all of their flaws. DC had every panel that featured Superman or Jimmy Olsen redrawn, the story never had the chance to conclude properly, and I have to repress a shudder whenever Flippa Dippa has a line of dialogue. But none of this gets in the way of the sheer energy and creativity that shines on every single page. Plus Kirby has to get credit for making a septuagenarian S&M fiend (Granny Goodness) into one of DC's better villains. The only problem now is waiting for the other 3 volumes.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Eyre Affair

I had started reading Jasper Fforde's Jack Sprat novels a while back, but it took me until now to try out the Thursday Next books he started with. I went in to the Eyre Affair expecting it to be a bit more straight forward, focusing on literary mysteries instead of fairy tale ones. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Fforde is just as willing to go off the deep end and have some fun while writing these books as well. Vampires, time travel, government conspiracies, and a 150 year long war all combine into a novel that is really about an attempt to improve the ending of Jane Eyre. Lots of fun, even if you don't know anything about the Bronte's going in.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Other Side

Jason Aaron is a new writer, and I've been resisting reading him because the last thing I need is another prolific author that I need to buy a book from every other month. But in the end I picked up the Other Side anyway because it had some of the best Cameron Stewart art I've seen. Long story short, this was a phenomenally well written Vietnam story, and inevitably I'm probably going to wind up picking up Aaron's ongoing book, Scalped.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I finished Michael Chabon's latest novel at the beginning of last week. I was a little disappointed after hearing it compared to his masterpiece, the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It was a decent mystery, but in the end it just felt a little too gimmicky to me. It seemed like the idea of infusing Dashiell Hammett dialog with bits of Yiddish overrode the actual plotting of the novel. It was certainly an enjoyable book, and I would recommend it to any hard boiled fans, but I just feel that it could have been a lot better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Return

I'm finally back online after my move, and after my weekend at this year's Readercon. While there I had the chance to meet Karen Joy Fowler, Kelly Link, Peter Watts, John Crowley, Lucius Shepard, and a whole bunch of other great writers. I also added a few notches to my librarything account (I can finally read the Aegypt Cycle!). Anyway yes I did read a few things during this time (I had to do something while I didn't have an internet connection), but I think I'm going to drag those posts out a bit this week as I continue to unpack.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Normal service will resume...

I'm moving to Pittsfield this weekend, and won't be able to get the cable company to hook up my broadband connection there for a week, so I'm going to be taking an unavoidable break from this blog. In the meantime, if you happen to be in the Burlington, MA area you can catch me at Readercon.

Monday, June 25, 2007

After Dark

Wrapped up After Dark by Haruki Murakami today. This was one of Murakami's more inconsequential novels. After reading Kafka on the Shore last year this really felt like he was just taking a break between larger projects. It was an incredibly well written character study, but in the end the novel just didn't amount to much of anything.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shadow of the Giant

Just finished the audiobook of Orson Scott Card's latest Ender novel, Shadow of the Giant. It's a well enough written story, with some excellent characterization, but at its heart it's a piece of military fiction that does not hold together at all. The book ends (I'm not too worried about spoiling this as the ending is revealed way back in Ender's Game) with world peace being declared, but such an ending just does not feel earned given the situation described in the novel. I think it's time that card gave Ender a rest (hopefully so he can finish writing the final Alvin Maker novel).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Feed

I finished listening to the audiobook of M.T. Anderson's Feed on my way home from work. This one is going to be with me in a while. It's been ages since I've had a book that honestly left me feeling devastated when it was over. This was just an absolutely pitch perfect novel, which was really surprising from a YA, apocalyptic, cyberpunk, satire.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Heart Shaped Box and some more comics

I finished listening to the audio book of Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box today. I have mixed feelings about this one. In the plus column it was the first horror story in quite some time that made me feel genuinely creepy at times. However, the book could have been pared down quite a bit. The end of the book had more epilogues than the Lord of the Rings.

I also finished reading Showcase Presents: the Flash, which reprinted the earliest Barry Allen Flash stories. By silver age DC standards, this book was phenomenal, the characters nearly had personalities. But more importantly, this is the book that began the silver age of comics, and it holds up surprisingly well. The stories are often brilliantly imaginative, particularly when the Mirror Master is involved. Although, I do have to mark it down a bit for the issue with Mr. Element (later Dr. Alchemy), who breaths in pure oxygen through a mask solely to bolster his villain motif.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Everything is Miscellaneous

The problem with working at a library is that every time you start a book you come across something new to read instead (I had just started Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union). And every now and then I really regret finding a book. Everything is Miscellaneous is a very problematic book for me to be reading. The central tenant of it is that in the computer age objects no longer need to be limited to belonging in a single category. One side effect of this being that the traditional practice of cataloging books (my profession) is becoming a bit anachronistic. It would be depressing if I didn't agree with the author to a certain extent.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sarah Canary

Karen Joy Fowler is an interesting writer. She launched her career in the science-fiction and fantasy field, earning some serious cred for co-founding the James Tiptree award with Pat Murphy along the way. Now she primarily writes literary novels (yes literature is a genre), or at least she ably disguising works of fantasy as such.

Sarah Canary is a perfect example of this sort of slipstream approach to writing. Fowler acknowledges this as well in the Q & A in the back of my copy. She says the title character could just as easily be an alien as the mental patient she is taken for throughout the book.

And as an aside, I'm greatly looking forward to her turn as guest of honor at this year's Readercon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale is probably the closest thing around nowadays to a classic pulp writer. He's able to bounce around seamlessly between genres while never losing his distinctive East Texan voice. This week I read two by him.

Sunset and Sawdust was a great western tinged mystery that started during a cyclone and ended in a plague of locusts. Then there was Conan and the Songs of the Dead, a fairly faithful to Robert E. Howard graphic novel illustrated by the great Tim Truman.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Choke

I'm not sure exactly why I like Chuck Palahniuk's novels as much as I do. Nearly every time I finish reading one I feel a certain amount of disgust for the entire human race. Choke is no exception to this. The protagonist spends the novel sexual addiction meetings to meet women and routinely pretends to choke to death in order to find sympathetic Samaritans he can later take advantage of. He also thinks he might be the Messiah. Yet he still comes across as sympathetic somehow, and the reading of the book just feels cathartic.

Next up, Sunset and Sawdust by one of my favorites, Joe R. Lansdale

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cathy's Book

I finished Cathy's Book by Sean Stewart today. Overall I was a bit disappointed with it. The interactive features added an interesting level of immersiveness to the story, but the story itself just wasn't that interesting, and Stewart can certainly write better.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Vonnegut

Finished listening to Breakfast of Champions today, which was far more meta fictional than I had expected it to be (Kurt Vonnegut writes himself into the story, presents himself to one of his characters as the creator, and breaks a toe in a bar brawl). Next up for the car is Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, someday I'll get back to more cheerful books for the ride to work.

I also read through the penultimate collection of Brian K. Vaughan's Y the Last Man, which seems to be heading for a promising conclusion. Not my favorite book by Vaughan (that would be Ex Machina), but still a great comic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cathy's Book

Started reading Cathy's Book by Sean Stewart today, after having picked it up at MLA two weeks ago. It's a so-so YA mystery/thriller at heart, but is noteworthy for being the basis of an alternate reality game.

I'm not entirely sure what the best way to read it is, whether to read the book portion straight through before tackling the interactive features, or if I should attempt to do both things at once. One of the key features appears to be the voice mail of the protagonist (the phone number is on the cover), but I need the passkey to unlock it, which has so far eluded me. So at this point I'm inclined toward reading the book, taking lots of notes, and then playing through the game.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hooray for long car rides!

I finished listening to A Fine and Private Place by (and read by) Peter S. Beagle. It was a flat out beautiful novel and a very sweet love story to boot. It was even profound on quite a few occasions.

Now for a complete change of pace, I'm moving on to a reading of Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, read by Stanley Tucci. I'm about half way through the thing and it's a riot, albeit an exceptionally cynical one.

Over the weekend I also finished reading Mike Carey and John Bolton's latest graphic novel, God Save the Queen. The artwork was beautiful and the story was well written, but I think I've reached my limit on Vertigo books featuring Titania. I get the evil fairies idea already, it's time to move on. That being said, I do love Mike Carey a great deal, Crossing Midnight is rapidly becoming one of my favorite monthly titles, and I can't wait for his movie and his first novel to both be released later this year.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

I finally finished this monster today. It was just a flat out enjoyable book, madly inventive in the best possible way, plus there were minipirates. It probably could have used to be a little shorter, but Moers seems to just have a runaway imagination. The story was never anything less than wildly creative at any given moment, and he apparently had enough left over ideas for a pseudo-sequel, Rumo and his Miraculous Adventures.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Conference return


I'm back from MLA at last, and I'm taking the opportunity to write while the reference desk is quiet.

The conference was wonderful, I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to meet Gail Simone, Terry Moore, and Sean Stewart (pictures later). I bought books by all of them, got them signed, and read the two Simone ones (Villains United and Secret Six).

Thanks to the long drive to Sturbridge I also finished listening to the Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, and began listening to a recording of A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle (read by him as well).

All in all a great week.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Back next week

I'm off to this year's MLA conference in Sturbridge (with a quick stop to a Jonathan Coulton concert tonight). I'll be back with regular updates next week.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Audiobooks

I have discovered that apparently I actually enjoy listening to audiobooks. I'm currently going through the Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga. I'm enjoying it quite a lot, although it's a bit hard to listen to at times when it hits awfully close to my own experiences in high school (I can hardly mask my own fanboyness). The story resorts a bit too much to namedropping and fanservice at times, but then that is in keeping with the characters so I'm inclined to forgive it a bit.

I also had the chance to listen to the Golden Man by Philip K. Dick, the short story which the new movie Next claims to be based upon. I might have actually gone to the movie if Nicholas Cage was playing a mute intelligence-less paragon of male beauty, just for the laugh....shame really.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

PKD

I finished the audiobook of Martian Time-slip by Philip K. Dick on the way back from a conference today. I was a bit disappointed overall, although it may just be that this story hasn't aged as well as many of Dick's others. The story very much has that golden age s.f. environment where we all have flying cars and are living on Mars back in 1980. Not that there's anything wrong with that vision of a future that never came to be, especially since this was very much a novel about 1964, but Dick has written much better than this.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gerry Conway

Oh how I love Gerry Conway, the often forgotten writer of one of the best Spider-Man runs in history (which included both the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin and the introduction of the Punisher). However, here I'm going to talk about something at the other end of the quality spectrum, his 10 issue run on Marvel Team-Up.

Comics just aren't made like this anymore, awful on one level, but more fun then anything being written nowadays on another. Take my favorite issue from this run #28 as an example. In this issue Spider-Man and this issue's guest star Hercules are captured while failing to stop the theft of Manhattan. The entire island is ripped off its moorings and is towed into the middle of Atlantic where it is held for ransom. The two heroes escape their captors (scientists in mechas) and Hercules single handedly tows the island back to its original location (what he's standing on while accomplishing this feat is not entirely clear). The issue ends with both Spidey and Hercules ignoring the Mayor's complaints about the damages that must have been done to the bridges and tunnels (complaints that are actually echoed by the editor in the closing caption). This is just escapism at its best.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A long day's journey

New England is always so much fun. I had the pleasure of attending a meeting in Worcester today, which is just under a 2 and a half hour ride from my apartment. Along the way I passed more than a few snowbanks that were still lingering on, despite the temperature gauge on my car showing a temperature of 91 at one point.

It was fortuitous that I had just checked out an audiobook of Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick for the ride. It provided a nice bit of surrealism to go along with the weather.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

4-22-07

So, I finally got started working on a Library Thing account. I'm hoping to tie it in here and to start making some fairly regular postings.

A pretty good week for me. Just finished some very old school Batman comics (circa 1940) thanks to the Batman Chronicles Vol. 2 and finally finished rereading Grant Morrison's X-Men run, which I was very gratified to find was as good as I remembered it being. It's just a shame that none of the editors at Marvel could follow what he was doing.

As for the new stuff, I've finally picked up the 131/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, which so far feels like Baron Munchausen in Wonderland. Which brings me to Alice in Sunderland, which I think is the book that Brian Talbot is going to be remembered for (although I though that about Heart of Empire too). Then for this week's Silver age fun, it's the Essential Marvel Team-Up vol. 2.