Just Giblets

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 6 & 5

21st January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 6 & 5

Here’s where really start to cook. The last six books on my list were all outstanding, in so many ways. Lots of speculative fiction this year, which is always a treat, as well as two titles by a favorite author.

Father's Day#6 Father’s Day by Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy’s forthcoming novel is a gentle look at a woman’s relationship with her father. Harvey is a commercial artist living in Paris. Her father, Jason, is coming for to visit for the first time, and as she carefully prepares a father’s day present that will recall milestones in their relationships, she worries about how he will react. While Harvey and Jason reunite in Paris, their life stories simultaneously unfold, with more than one twist in the mix.

In some ways this is a very straightforward novel for Van Booy. The language he uses is less lush, and more direct than some of his previous work. That sumptuous quality of language suited Van Booy’s gorgeous stories of love and longing between adults, but the love shared between a parent and child is more rooted in need and care, and the straightforward style he adopts works well for these characters. My one criticism revolves around the final and arguably the most vital twist to the tale which happens in the last 15 pages of the book It’s one of those moments where you stop and think back over characters’ motivations and decisions in a different light. In this case, I haven’t decided if it served the overall story all that well. Still, Simon’s a favorite writer of mine, and I will go on whatever ride he takes me on, and this one was overall, quite lovely.

The Just City#5 The Just City by Jo Walton

Jo Walton certainly doesn’t repeat herself. After scoring big with Among Others, a tale of a young girl with magical powers of the fairy, then moving onto My Real Children, which explored the alternate realities that show the different paths our lives can take, she now tackles Plato’s Republic in this delightful, philosophical fantasy, The Just City.

When the Greek God Apollo vents his frustration to Athene at having the nymph Daphne pray to Artemis to be turned into a tree rather than be caught by Apollo for a sexual tryst, he learns of Athene’s plans to conduct an experiment, creating Plato’s Just City, referred to in his work, Republic. Athene collects a couple hundred philosophers from across time, all of whom have read Plato’s Republic, and also prayed to Athene. They will be the governing body of this city at first, but then they will harvest ten thousand children, lost souls who were being sold as slaves.

Apollo gets in the game by giving up his godly powers and being born incarnate as a human boy and joining the ranks of children being raised in Plato’s Just City. He befriends Simmea, a brilliant young girl who is destined to be one of the gold philosopher-kings of the Just City (or at least give birth to one) and together with a controversial late recruit, Socrates, change the course of Athene’s experiment in dramatic ways.

Walton is an exceptional writer, with much of her latest novel coming in the form of debate and rhetoric. There is a lot of philosophy here, and lots of wonderfully delightful and original writing. Through Plato, Walton explores the role of women in society over history, relationships, both platonic and erotic, slavery and free will, and machine intelligence, just to name a few topics. I highly recommend all of Walton’s works, and this one is no exception

posted in Nonsense | at 8:50 am | 0 Comments
19th January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 10 & 9

After Alice#10 – After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire has an extensive bibliography, but he has made a name for himself by reinterpreting certain important fairy tales and other works of fantasy, most notably, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. He returns to this milieu with After Alice, an inventive and enjoyable read that posits, “what if Alice wasn’t the only little girl to tumble down the rabbit hole?”

In an effort to elude her harried governess, young Ada pursues her friend Alice right down the rabbit hole. She then proceeds to have an adventurous afternoon with many of the characters made famous by Alice’s journey as she tries to find her friend and somehow return home. Meanwhie, Alice’s sister Lydia must deal with her household… a widower father, the cranky staff, a some visitors, including the handsome Mr. Winters, and Charles Darwin himself. Add to that Ada’s harried governess who is frantically trying to find her charge, and the fact that Lydia realizes that her sister is missing as well, and it’s hard to tell which young lady’s adventures are more madcap.

Love May Fail#9 – Love May Fail by Matthew Quick
You might accuse Matthew Quick of the same sentimentality that protagonist Portia Kane is slammed for in reviews of her first novel in Love May Fail. But while Quick explores redemption and optimism, his lovely novel is heartfelt, complex, and a delight to read. I often say, “Just because a movie/book makes my cry, doesn’t mean it’s any good,” can also be written as, “Just because a movie/book makes me cry, doesn’t mean it’s not good.” Love May Fail explores the idea of the human spirit returning from crushing blows to contribute beauty and joy to the world. A theme that may sound trite, but in Quick’s hand is powerful and rewarding.

Told from four different points of view, Quick inhabits each convincingly. His supporting characters, particularly a particularly strident nun, add color and depth to an already entertaining read. Love May Fail picks up the strands of The Good Luck of Right Now in creating complex, damaged characters who struggle to do better, and sometimes fail, but often succeed. Love May Fail will hopefully restore, or remind the reader of the power of humanity.


posted in Nonsense | at 8:45 am | 0 Comments
27th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Vigil

VigilNew Zealand director Vincent Ward made a splash in the 90’s with the Robin Williams film, What Dreams May Come, before that indie film goers enjoyed his work on such films as Map of the Human Heart or Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.  But his first narrative, a little seen film called Vigil, made a major impression on me even though I’ve only seen it once, in the theater, back in the mid-80’s.

Vigil centers around Lisa, an 11-year-old girl on the cusp of adolescence who lives on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere, with her parents and senile grandfather.  When her father dies in a tragic accident, her grandfather hires an itinerant hunter  named Ethan to help the family survive.  Their antiquated farm is ever on the verge of literal collapse, and while both Lisa and her mother react with aversion at Ethan’s intrusion into their lives, soon a passionate love affair erupts between the widow and this quiet newcomer, driving Lisa to the point of near madness as she copes with grief, puberty, and what she feels is a menacing invading force.

Anyone who has seen Ward’s films knows that he is a visual stylist beyond compare, and Vigil shows this burgeoning talent beautifully.  The remote hills of New Zealand look like a lost, timeless world, well before Peter Jackson ever conceived a a Middle Earth down under.  When Lisa’s emotional quagmire starts to manifest in hallucinations, the audience, seeing the entire film roll out through her eyes, can’t help but be caught up in her mania.  Young Fiona Kay, who later appeared in An Angel at My Table, soars as a young actor in her first film.  Her affecting, natural performance is what’s makes it possible for the audience to join her on this journey.  Vigil might be a tough film to find at this point, never having been transferred to DVD in the U.S. as far as I know, but do try to catch it if you ever get the chance.  I’d also recommend Ward’s later film Map of the Human Heart starring Jason Scott Lee and Anne Parillaud.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nonsense, Nostalgia | at 7:28 am | 0 Comments
24th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Kandahar

Not being a very proficient blog poster, I’ve decided to try something that will get me to at the very least, post more often.  For the last 25 years or so, I’ve been enjoying a lot of independent, documentary, and international film.  I’ve attended a lot of Film Festivals… heck, I started my own independent film society!  So many of the films I’ve loved have been seen by so few people.  This morning in the shower, something made me thing of a film I saw back in 2002, that has stuck with me pretty well, although I probably haven’t thought of it in years.  It’s probably also a film not many people saw.  Then I started thinking about other films that a lot of people probably heard of, much less saw.  I decided I would try to post a film a day that probably hasn’t been seen by a lot of people.  Hope you get a chance to see some of these films and enjoy them!

Caveat:  Some of my friends and fellow Chlotrudis members may think that the films I choose have actually been seen by a lot of people.  The films I’m selecting are films that most of my non-Chlotrudis friends have probably never seen.  If you’re in Chlotrudis, you’ll probably have a higher percentage of viewing rate.

KandaharKandahar (2001)

directed by Mohsen Makhmabaf

Kandahar is the tale of one woman’s journey. Superficially, Nafas is returning to her native Afghanistan from Canada, to save her sister. On the last full moon of the century, Nafas’ sister, who lost her legs in a mine accident, will commit suicide. Now Nafas must race against time to arrive in Kandahar in time to prevent the tragedy. Along the way, she must record in her tape recorder, the hope that her sister has lost.

Nafas is our guide as a woman arriving in Iran. We watch as she must cover herself completely with the traditional burka, and find her way to Kanadahar without any of the rights or status befitting a western woman. We witness with her, the horrors of a war-torn country, and the irony of women, completely hidden from view, putting on lipstick and other makeup.

Kandahar is powerful, with some unforgettable images. None of the actors are professionals, which shows a bit, but this is still a film not to miss.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nonsense, Nostalgia | at 7:34 am | 0 Comments
9th January 2014
by Michael

Top Books Read in 2013 – the Full List

Returning to my favorite books read in 2013, here the full list.  And, I’ve got one book in the bag for 2014, with a second nearly finished.  I’m on a roll.  Let me know if you read and enjoy (or dislike) any of these books!

  1. The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  2. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wacker
  3. The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
  4. The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
  5. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  6. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  7. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
  8. The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
  9. Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint
  10. The Kept by James Scott
  11. Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington
  12. News from Heaven: the Bakerton Stories by Jennifer Haigh
  13. The Star Attraction by Allison Sweeney
  14. Help for the Haunted by John Searles
  15. The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

Tomorrow I will be back with my Year in Comics for 2013.

posted in Nonsense | at 8:29 am | 0 Comments
5th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 14 & 13

#14 – Elza’s Kitchen by Marc Fitten

Marc Fitten’s second novel follows the difficulties of a middle-aged woman working a successful neighborhood restaurant in Hungary, rife with romantic entanglements, magical cooking, and a fearsome gourmet food critic. Elza is a complex and flawed woman, yet strong-willed and fascinating.  Her journey through her middle-age is believable and engrossing, even when Elza makes foolish choices based on emotional reactions.  The setting of the Hungarian city of Delibab is beautifully drawn and detailed giving the reader a taste of a different world.  Part fable, part life-affirming story, Elza’s Kitchen is a beautifully-written, lovely tale about a real, complex, independent woman.



#13 – The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Judith is tormented by her schoolmates; one boy in particular, because she lives alone with her father and they belong to an evangelical religion that believes armageddon is imminent and that it is their mission to save others. She copes with her torment by creating another world in her bedroom made from rubbish and discarded items that she called the land of decoration after a passage from Ezekiel. It is a diorama of the universe (including miniature planets, oceans, factories, rabbits and dragons) that she’s built in her room out of orange peels, soda caps, twigs, pipe cleaners and other odds and bits.  But one day, after a mysterious, perhaps divine voice, begins to speak with her, her favors change, and she finds she has great power, and with that power comes repercussions that she cannot imagine. The Land of Decoration is a tough read, wrenching our hearts and keeping us reading to discover Judith’s ultimate fate. it’s a page turner and an emotional roller coaster.

posted in Nonsense | at 11:30 am | 0 Comments
26th November 2011
by Scot

I Saw…

Stealing the idea from A.J. Bond, who I hope one day to grow up to be.

The Descendants

Road to Bali


posted in Nonsense | at 11:45 pm | 0 Comments
6th October 2011
by Michael

The rest of the DCnU’s new #1’s

Picked up my remaining #1’s from DC’s new 52 for September, and like the first batch, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I’d have to say more consistently enjoyable books. Again, I principally stuck to the books I had marked as Yes, Definitely, Yes, Probably and Maybe, with a single title being added on a whim. I also read my first two digital comics, both of which I ended up buying in paper format as well. I enjoyed the digital comics more than I thought I would. It’s a nice way to keep up with titles that I really like when I can’t get to the comic book store in a timely fashion. And now, on with the reviews.

Wonder WomanWonder Woman, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – What I like about Wonder Woman is her nobility, her dignity, her strength, her wisdom… the fact that everyone respects her. I know that can make her boring for some people, or difficult to write as being a character the reader can relate to. What bothered me a little during last year’s relaunch was the fact that some of characteristics were lessened by making her younger and more like Buffy Summers. Fortunately, by the end of that arc, she had slowly returned to the character I loved, and Brian Azzarello certainly picks up with that character. Some people have criticized Wonder Woman #1 as being confusing and new-reader unfriendly. I didn’t find it so. We all started reading comics at some point in the middle of a story. If the story is good enough, you get drawn in and over the next couple of months, you fill in the gaps. You don’t have to start reading a new comic with a complete knowledge of the character at your fingertips. I don’t mind the violence in this book so much due to its background in Greek mythology, and the warrior aspect of Diana. As someone who sleeps in the nude, I certainly don’t understand the (few) complaints about Diana doing the same. An Amazon from a Greek Isle sleeping in the nude? I can’t imagine! And Chiang never draws Diana in a cheesecake pose. Azzarello’s Diana doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time in this first issue, but she’s tough and compassionate, and off to a good star in my eyes. 4 1/2 stars.

Justice League DarkJustice League Dark, Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin – While some have scoffed at the idea of a Justice League title made up of mystical characters, I was excited by the prospect, and Justice League Dark lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them. Written by Peter Milligan, JLD reads like a super hero comic Vertigo style. The choice of characters is intriguing, with two strong female leads. Madame Xanadu and Zatanna are great characters, and they come off well here. Milligan always writes Shade the Changing Man well, and as unlikely as it sounds, it will be interesting to see Deadman and John Constantine interacting with teammates, especially given Constantine’s past associations with these characters (if he still has them in this new continuity. The use of the main Justice League characters works as well. I especially appreciated Wonder Woman’s acceptance of a mystical threat as opposed to Superman (who is vulnerable to magic) and Cyborg, a man born of science and technology. Milligan’s use of Enchantress/June Moon as the pieces villain and victim is also well done, creepy, and complex. Mikel Janin’s gorgeous artwork is icing on the cake of this terrific debut. I hope this book lasts, because I will be following it for the duration. 4 1/2 stars.

NightwingNightwing, Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrow – I’ve never followed a Nightwing title before, and while I’ve always liked the character, there was never anything about his solo exploits that drew me in. But recently, I’ve been intrigued by the Dick Grayson character, and Eddy Barrow’s art and Nightwing’s new costume design (which reminds me of Batwoman) are gorgeous. I felt this relaunch was the perfect opportunity to give him a try, and so far, I’m very pleased with the result. Dick is a character that’s easy to relate to. He’s a kid sidekick who has managed to transition to an adult who can stand on his own. He’s basically optimistic and likeable, but works well in the dark underbelly of Gotham City. Not having a lot of experience with his solo back story, I appreciate the exploration of Dick’s past by having him pay a visit to the circus where he was raised. Some have criticized Dick’s lack of concern over the death’s of two policeman that he might have been able to prevent had he not take the time to change into costume, but I felt the narrative conveyed that he misjudged the situation and took responsibility for it. It will be interesting to see what kind of supporting cast writer Kyle Higgins builds for Dick, but I appreciated the attention on the main character for this debut issue. If the quality of the writing and art remain this high, I will continue to read Nightwing, which was only a ‘maybe’ on my initial list. 4 stars

Birds of PreyBirds of Prey, Duane Swierczynski, Jesus Saiz – While it was nice to have Black Canary have a brief interaction with Barbara Gordon to harken back to the glory days of Birds of Prey, I am looking at this version as a brand new thing with nothing in common other than the name of the book. Actually, I was positively surprised at how much I enjoyed Birds of Prey. My expectations were pretty low, as superficially, it seems like a random assortment of superheroines thrown together to mimic a concept. Still, Black Canary is a strong leader/focal point for the team. Starling is a new character, and it will be interesting to learn about her. I’m not thrilled with Katana’s redesign, but I’ve enjoyed the character during her early Batman and the Outsiders days, so I’m interested in seeing her interact here. Poison Ivy is the big question mark. While I like the character, she seems rather shoehorned into this title. Of course, post-relaunch, I have no idea what her motivations will be. The writing is good, opening strongly with a mystery, then slowly revealing tidbits in flashback. Jesus Saiz’ artwork is clean and dynamic. He manages to fill a book with attractive women without making it seem like a teen’s wet dream. I’ll stick around for this. 4 cats.

AquamanAquaman, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis – I’ve always kind of liked Aquaman, and I always give his books a try. They often start off strong, but then lose of shift focus after a time and I lose interest. Then there’s Geoff Johns DC’s superstar lead writer. Not part of the Green Lantern bandwagon, and not a fan of excessive violence in comics, I’m very hit-or-miss with Johns. His writing does come off like fanfic, but that’s no always a bad thing. It works pretty well here in Aquaman. Aquaman stops some crooks, then stops for a bite at a seafood restaurant while all around him bystanders belittle him: “Does he need a glass of water?” “How can he eat fish ‘n chips? He talks to fish! They’re his friends!” Okay, it goes on a little too long, and is a little bit like being hit in the head by a sledgehammer, but he does show Aquamqn as a powerful hero, sets up a dangerous (and sure to be very bloody, with lots of dismemberment) threat approaching. Most important, Johns is a fan of Mera, and she will be an important element of this comic. That, in and of itself locks me in as a reader. Oh, and thanks Ivan, it’s really purty to look at too. 4 stars

SupermanSuperman, George Perez and Jesus Merino – With all the debate on decompressed storytelling in comics, it’s refreshing, and almost overwhelming to pick up a book written by George Perez. The book is thick with text, with small panels and incredibly detailed artwork. His books have got to be the least decompressed comics on the market. I’ve never really been a follower of Superman, but with Grant Morrison on Action Comics, and Perez on Superman (for the time being), I figured that this was the time to give him another try. Perez spends his time setting up the situation in Superman #1: introducing us to his supporting cast, laying out the world of journalism in today’s internet age, and setting up a dangerous and interesting menace for Metropolis and Superman. While I’m not enough of a fan to really care about the much-talked about dissolution of Lois and Clark’s marriage, I do think that there was much more to explore with them married, than rehashing their on-again/off-again attraction, or Clark’s unrequited pining for Lois. Again, it’s only been one issue, and I’ll keep reading at least as long as Perez is on the title (which is only going to be 3 or 4 issues based on recent press announcements — too bad.) 4 stars

Legion of Super-HeroesLegion of Super-Heroes, Paul Levitz and Francis Portela – What can I say? I’m a long time fan of this title. Not that I’m a Legion zombie. I’ve dropped the title before. But never while it featured the first and original version of the team. That said, so far, (and come on, it’s only been one issue) LoSH is merely adequate. It picks up pretty much where it left off before the relaunch, and after the events in the other DCnU Legion title, Legion Lost. I’m glad DC didn’t try to revamp this title, after doing so just over a year ago. I like the fact that they finally added some new members pulled from the Legion Academy, but why not Gravity Kid and Powerboy? A gay couple is exactly what the Legion needs (and I’m still hoping that Vi and Lightning Lass just come out finally and get married or something!) We’ll see where this title goes in the future, but I’m pretty certain I’ll be along for the ride. 3 1/2 stars

The Fury of FirestormThe Fury of Firestorm, Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, and Yidiray Cinar – I’m picking up Firestorm for one reason, and one reason alone: Gail Simone. I will give anything Gail Simone writes a chance. It doesn’t mean I will keep reading it, but I will definitely give it a fair shot. I actually used to regularly read Firestorm’s title in the 80’s (or was it 90’s?) I loved Pat Broderick’s art, and the concept of a fused being, especially one involving two such disparate characters (high school jock and brilliant scientist) was pretty fun. Well the brilliant scientist is dead, and the second half of this fused being is a brilliant high school student who happens to be African-American, which leads in this new version of Firestorm, to some well-written explorations on race. I tend to prefer Gail’s team books to her solo books (actually I tend to prefer team books to solo books in general) but I have faith that she will build a fascinating supporting cast. This first issue was entertaining and kept my interest, but hasn’t yet drawn me in and made me want to find out more about the characters. Hopefully that will emerge in the next couple of issues. 3 stars.

SupergirlSupergirl, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar – I haven’t read Supergirl in several years; not since her skirt got really short after Peter David left the title. I want to like Supergirl because I really want to support as many books as I can that feature super-heroines. What better time to give it another try than this new relaunch. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much given the solicits and the apparent story direction they were describing, but the first issue was intriguing enough to keep me reading. Not a lot happens in issues #1, other than give us pieces of Supergirl’s personality, and show us the range of her powers. And it sets her up for her first meeting/confrontation with her cousin (at least in the old continuity) Superman. The high cut of her shorts did distract me a little… especially since in some profile shots it looks like that she’s naked from the waist down, but other than that, I didn’t find the book to be all that sexist. 3 stars

VoodooVoodoo, Ron Marz and Sami Basri – I don’t know much about Voodoo. I read a handful of the WildC.A.T.S. issues when they first came out, but don’t really remember much about the character. I decided to give this series a try to see how it would mesh with the DC Universe, and to support another female led title. Yes, I read that she was a stripper by profession, more opportunity for some barely clad women for the men who like that sort of thing in comics, but at least it was in context. The book held my interest, and intrigued me enough to keep reading. Of the two main supporting character, the man was a dick and got his just desserts, and the woman being set up to be Voodoo’s nemesis could develop into an interesting character. The art is fine, and the story compelling enough to keep me interested enough to see where it will lead. I’m in for now. 3 stars

Green Lantern: New GuardiansGreen Lantern: New Guardians, Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham – While never a big Green Lantern fan, Kyle Rayner has always been by far my choice to wear the ring. Surrounding him with a team of lanterns representing the spectrum appeals to me as a fan of team books, especially with a couple of female members. Unfortunately, the first issue is basically a set-up issue, bringing the characters together, and giving Kyle what appears to be a new origin story. While I will miss the Kyle who has already mastered his ring and has an illustrious career of being a Green Lantern behind him, it could be interesting to see his maturation into a Green Lantern starting from ground zero. It’s enough to keep me reading at any rate. 3 stars

DC Universe Presents: DeadmanDC Universe Presents: Deadman, Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chaing – Deadman is an interesting choice of character to kick off this title, which will be a series of rotating storylines featuring different characters (and presumably different creative teams). I suppose given the attention Deadman was given during Brightest Day, and the fact that he appears in Justice League Dark means that DC thinks he’s a character that could succeed. I’ve never been a fan of solo Deadman stories, but Paul Jenkins does a pretty good job drawing me in with this one. We get retold his origin, of course, yet there’s no mention of his experiences in Brightest Day as yet. I think that story, along with his relationship with Dove, made him a more interesting character for me. Bernard Chaing’s artwork is crisp and clean. This title will depend largely on it’s featured character, of course, but the possibilities are endless. 2 1/2 stars

I,VampireI, Vampire, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino – Here was a title that I had no intention of buying, but for some reason, I decided to give it a try. I’m pretty much over vampires, but when I flipped through the book, the art caught my eye. Like Voodoo, I am somewhat interested in the integration of the vampire mythos being introduced into the world of superheroes. The story sets up a conflict between two long-lived vampires, one who feels it is time for vampires to stop being an oppressed minority and subjugate humankind, the other seeing that path lead to self-destruction when there are opponents like Superman in the world. The two characters have a long, involved history, as both lovers and foes, which could be interesting. I’ll continue to read this for a bit and see if it keeps my interest. 2 1/2 stars

Blue BeetleBlue Beetle, Tony Bedard and Ig Guara – I’ve never read Blue Beetle’s comic, but I grew to appreciate this new rendition of the character during is recent appearances in team books and crossovers. Jaime is a Puerto Rican high school student who becomes the host for a semi-sentient suit of alien armor that gives him super powers. I wanted to support DC’s nod to diversity by picking up this title. Like Green Lantern: New Guardians, Blue Beetle #1 is a set-up issue retelling Jaime’s origin and establishing the cast of characters. We don’t actually see Jaime in his Blue Beetle armor until the final splash page. Still, the story unfolds well, and I will continue to support the book and watch the storyline unfold. 2 1/2 stars

HawkmanThe Savage Hawkman, Tony S. Daniel and Philip Tan – While I have enjoyed Hawkman’s previous series in the past, I wasn’t all that interested in this new “savage” take… especially without a Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman involved. Still, I decided to give this a try, with very few expectations. It wasn’t as uninteresting as I thought, but it didn’t really wow me. There’s an interesting take, almost similar to Blue Beetle, where Carter Hall is possessed by the Nth metal that defies gravity. I was interested enough to keep following the title and see where it goes, but I’m not optimistic. 2 stars

All in all I’m enjoying the DC relaunch. There are a small handful of books I really like, a large swatch that are pretty good and I will enjoy following, a very small group that I was disappointed in, and then a bunch that I didn’t try and I don’t feel I’m missing out on. Anyone else have any thoughts?

posted in Comics, Nonsense | at 8:38 am | 2 Comments
20th September 2011
by Michael

My first batch of the new 52 from the DCnU

Finally managed to pick up the first batch of comics since the release of DC’s new #1’s from the DCnU. (Okay, I got Justice League #1 a couple of weeks ago, but that almost doesn’t count.) For the most part I’m sticking with the titles that I marked as Yes, definitely, Yes, Probably, and Maybe, although at least one title that I just flipped through in the store did make into my purchase pile, and I will be continuing to pick it up for the near future. More on that later. On the whole so far? I’m pretty satisfied. Of the 13 titles I’ve picked up so far, I would characterize 5 as meeting or surpassing my expectations, 6 as being mixed, 1 as possibly not making it to issue #2, and 1 unexpected surprise. I’m going to go through each of my purchases with mini-reviews in roughly the order I enjoyed them.

BatwomanBatwoman, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman – Much anticipated after the outstanding run by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III in Detective, Batwoman lives up to expectations and is a welcome return. Clearly characters who are more recent with less of a backstory are more satisfying in the DCnU. With their entire history compressed into 3 years, Batwoman, who hasn’t been around much longer than that in real time, pretty much picks up where she left off. J.H. transitions from handling just the art, to picking up the writing as well, with able assistance from W. Haden. Fortunately, he knows the character so well that the transition is fairly seamless. This book is gorgeous, creepy, exciting, provocative, and a must-read. 5 stars

Demon KnightsDemon Knights, Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves – This is one of my bigger pleasant surprises. Initially I hadn’t even planned on reading this title. The Demon has never been one of my favorite characters, nor do I have anything against him. Then I started reading a little about the book, and interview with Paul Cornell. I read that Madame Xanadu would be included, and ever since Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder’s terrific Vertigo series featuring Madame X, I’ve been a huge fan. The medieval, fantasy setting is lots of fun, but Cornell gives it a decidedly modern feel, which is welcome. Plus, the fact that Jason Blood (The Demon), Madame Xanadu, and Vandal Savage are all immortal, makes for some interesting possibilities. 4 1/2 stars

Swamp ThingSwamp Thing, Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette – I’ve enjoyed all of the different versions of Swamp Thing since Alan Moore wrote his seminal reconstruction of the character, but I was slightly wary of the DCnU change that was born out of Brightest Day. After such a strong mythology regarding the relationship between Alec Holland and Swamp Thing, I wasn’t sure why you would mess with that. Yet Scott Snyder has crafted an intriguing tale that’s also a great starting place for a new or returning reader. He also quite firmly establishes Swamp Thing back into the main DC Universe with a guest appearance by Superman. Yanick Paquette’s art is beautiful and detailed and harkens back to those terrific horror comics of the 70s. 4 1/2 stars

Animal ManAnimal Man, Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman – Animal Man is the comic that many people are raving about. The breakout title that took many by surprise. Again, ever since Grant Morrison’s renaissance of the character for Vertigo, I’ve generally enjoyed Buddy Baker’s reluctant superhero with the animal powers. Best decision? Holding on to the family aspects of Animal Man. Ellen and the kids are what make Buddy unique, and focusing on his family life was a great idea. The kick-off story that Jeff Lemire presents us with is suitably creepy and intriguing. Foreman’s art is pretty stylized, but reminiscent of a Vertigo title, so it’s not off-putting. 4 cats

StormwatchStormwatch, Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda – Looks like Paul Cornell is the big winner so far, with two titles in my Top 5. Stormwatch is another surprise for me. I was mildly looking forward to this; always like Martian Manhunter, and enjoyed The Authority when they were first introduced. Cornell spins the story into the DC Universe by setting up Stormwatch as kind of a secret cabal; a DC version of the Illuminati, of sorts, protecting the earth before superheroes were household names. For readers unfamiliar with the characters, this first issues might be a trifle confusing as lots of members are briefly introduced in a high concept setting. The decision to reintroduce suphero comics’ gay super-couple, Apollo and Midnighter, plays out nicely and gives the title its first rumble. I think this is going to be one fun comic. 4 cats

Legion LostLegion Lost, Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods – As a long-time fan of the Legion of Super Heroes, I was thrilled with the prospect of two Legion titles, yet at the same time, the premise of having a small team of Legionnaires trapped in the 21st century didn’t fill me with excitement. Depending on how it was handled, it could be a lot of fun; yet it seemed like a plot line that better served a miniseries than an ongoing. The debut issue itself was a little disappointing; it was rushed and slightly stilted. The characters weren’t introduced well for new readers, and the entire issue was slightly disorienting. Add to that the apparent demise of two members of the team seemed unnecessary and unwarranted. Still, as a long-time fan of the Legion, I’m willing to give this one a try for the long haul and see how it plays out. 3 1/2 stars

O.M.A.C.O.M.A.C., Dan Didio and Keith Giffen – O.M.A.C.; is my big unexpected delight of this first batch. This title was actually on my “doubtful” list, and was one I hadn’t expected to even flip through at the store, much less purchase. Still, some of the reviews had intrigued me enough to take a skim through the title at the store, and I liked what I saw. This is a major tribute to Jack Kirby, and kicks off very well for new readers. No knowledge of the character is necessary, and both plot and art are vibrant and intriguing. Things start off quickly and with enough mystery to draw the reader in swiftly. I’m definitely here for the time being and am looking forward to seeing how this story plays out. 3 1/2 stars

Justice League InternationalJustice League International, Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti – Big team books have always appealed to me, and Justice League International boasts a line-up with four superheroines… always a big plus for me. It’s a nice mix of established, underutilized and new characters that promises lots of potential. Writer Dan Jurgens sets up his pet character Booster Gold as the team leader, which follows nicely on the work he’s done with the character over the last few years. There is a lot of room for team tension and the fact that with the exception of Batman, none of these characters is featured in their own title, lots of room for character development. And yet there was something missing from this debut issue that kept it from ranking higher. Perhaps it was the very fact that there were so many characters to introduce, therefore few if any got much panel time. I expect much more from this title as it progresses, and I’m looking forward to following the team’s adventures. 3 1/2 stars

BatgirlBatgirl, Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf – Poor Gail Simone. She’s one of the most talented writers DC has at the moment, and she’s built up a strong fan base. And she’s a terrific person to boot! To saddle her with this assignment is just cruel. I truly believe that there were few people clamoring for Barbara Gordon to get back into the bat suit. Oracle was such a fascinating, strong, complex, kick-ass character, that bringing Gordon back as Batgirl just seems like a huge step back. Add to that the fact that the most recent Batgirl, one Stephanie Brown, was a fresh, fun, and unique take on the character, and you’ve got problems. I’ve got to hand it to Gail for deciding, well, even though I don’t necessarily agree with DC’s decision about this character, I’m going to write it so someone else doesn’t mess it up. Sadly, while the writing is strong and Ardian Syaf’s artwork is gorgeous, I read ,em>Batgirl #1 with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. It seems forced, derivative, unnecessary, and quite a regression in both the Barbara Gordon and Batgirl characters. Would it be a good jumping on spot for new readers? Perhaps. Will I keep reading? Yes. Gail Simone is one of the good ones and I will continue to support her. Plus, if anyone can turn this sows’ ear into a silk purse, it’s Gail Simone. 3 cats

BatwingBatwing, Judd Winick and Ben Oliver – This is a curious purchase for me. This is definitely one of those, okay, there’s-a-company-wide-relaunch-this-is-a-great-opportunity-to-try-new-titles purchases. A Batman in Africa could be pretty interesting provided that time and care is taken by writer Judd Winick to really try to make this relevant and accurate. Don’t lean too heavily on stereotypes. So far I’m on board. It’s a unique story from a very different point-of-view. Ben Oliver’s artwork nicely rendered. And it’s a brand new title, with brand new characters, yet tied to an established character with a rich history. The possibilities are endless. Here’s hoping it flourishes. 3 cats

Justice LeagueJustice League, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee – For their flagship title DC certainly opened with a pretty lackluster issue. I agree with what many reviewers have already said, if DC wanted to tell the origin of this new Justice League, they should have opened in the present with the entire group already together, then flashed back in a multi-issue arc to show how they came together. Instead you’ve got the premiere issue of their flagship superteam playing like an issue of Brave and the Bold featuring Batman and Green Lantern. Half the team doesn’t even appear in the issue, and for someone like me, who really could care less about Hal Jordan, I’m left with something I read and thought, “Meh.” Add to that the dated and frankly unimaginative Jim Lee art and there’s really not much to write home about in Justice League #1. 2 1/2 stars

Action ComicsAction Comics, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales – Not a huge fan of Superman, but again, with a company-wide relaunch, I figured this would be a good time to dip my toe in and see if I’m interested. After reading Action Comics #1 I’m still not sure. Grant Morrison has certainly set up a complex, intriguing story packed with information and promise. All the principles are there, Superman, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor… but I haven’t quite bought into this new premise yet… the Superman in T-shirt and jeans, mistrusted by us regular folks. The Superman in Grant’s comic seems much more like a SuperBOY to me, lacking the maturity that a Superman implies. Still, Grant Morrison’s books are nothing if not interesting, so I will give this a shot for a while and see where it goes. 2 1/2 cats

Resurrection ManResurrection Man, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino – Lots of advance excitement about Resurrection Man, and honestly, that’s part of the reason I picked this book up. I think I read this title in its earlier incarnation, but honestly, it clearly didn’t make much of an impact since I can’t really remember it. This DCnU launch boasts beautiful artwork by Dagnino, and an action-packed kick-off issue. There’s enough of a mystery to keep the reader coming back, but not a whole lot of character development. I don’t feel I know much of anything about our lead character… not even his name. Okay, it’s Mitch, I think. I just checked. There are two whole pages of Mitch taking note of a series of people at an airport that could have been devoted to fleshing out our main character a bit more. As it stands now, I don’t really care about him, and don’t have much of a reason to continue reading his exploits. Okay, it’s a lot to ask for a single issue, so I will keep going for a while, but this one might not last all that long on my pull list. 2 cats

Mister TerrificMister Terrific, Eric Wallace, Gianluca Gugliotta – Biggest disappointment so far. While not really a fan of the character pre-DCnU, I was really looking forward to the book as it was being reimagined. I wanted to support any books that featured female leads or any other sort of diversity, and the premise for the new Mister Terrific title sounded pretty fun. Sadly, the story is scattered, and frankly, pretty uninteresting so far. The interior art is pretty bad, which is particularly disappointing as the cover art is really stellar. I’ll pick up issue #2, but unless there’s a rapid turnaround, that’s probably going to be all she wrote.

In addition to the 14 comics I picked up from DC in the last few weeks, I also picked up 3 from Marvel (Alpha Flight: Fear Itself – 3 1/2 cats, X-Factor – 4 cats, and Heroes for Hire – 3 cats) and one from IDW (Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths – 4 cats). DC is definitely winning this battle.

posted in Nonsense | at 10:12 pm | 0 Comments
28th June 2011
by Michael

Thanks, I’ll Pass – and a Footnote

This last batch of titles from the new DCnU relaunch are titles that I have no interest in at all. It would take some pretty high praise to get me to even take a look. Not that they might not be anyone else’s cup of tea.

  • All-Star Western (Gray; Palmiotti) – Not into Westerns.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight (Finch) – I’m giving one Batman title a try. That’s enough.
  • Batman and Robin (Tomasi; Gleason) – Ditto.
  • Blackhawks (Costa; Lashley) – Only Lady Blackhawk would make me pick this up and flip through it.
  • Captain Atom (Krul; Williams II) – For some reason, this one just doesn’t interest me at all. And I really don’t like the redesign — at least what I’ve seen of it so far.
  • Deathstroke (Higgins; Bennett) – Not interested.
  • The Flash – If it’s Wally West, I’ll flip through it, but I’m pretty sure it’s Barry Allen, one of DC’s most boring characters, and one that really, really didn’t need to come back.
  • Green Arrow (Krul; Jurgens) – This character has been so damaged in recent years that I have zero interest in seeing where he goes from here.
  • Green Lantern (Johns; Mahnke) – I really dislike Hal Jordan, so this one’s out for me.
  • Green Lantern Corps. (Tomasi; Pasarin) – Eh. I’m already trying on Green Lantern title. That’s enough for me.
  • Grifter (Edmonson; Cafu) – Nope.
  • I, Vampire (Fialkov; Sorrentino) – Ick. This looks terribiel
  • Men of War (Brenden; Derenick) – Not a fan of war comics.
  • Static Shock (McDaniel; Rozum) – This character just does nothing for me.
  • Superboy (Lobdell; Silva) – I suppose this one might surprise me, and I don’t have anything against Superboy, but from what I’ve seen so far, not interested.

As a footnote, the one DC title that isn’t involved in the relaunch that I’ll continue to pick up in Vertigo’s Fables. I’m actually a little surprised that there is only one Vertigo book that I’m going to read, but unless they start to focus more on the supernatural side of things, that’s how it will be. I guess with characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Madame Xanadu, Animal Man, and Shade, the Changing Man all fully integrated into the mainstream DC Universe, there’s no reason to focus on them in Vertigo.

posted in Comics, Nonsense | at 9:24 am | 0 Comments
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