Archive for the ‘This week I’ve been reading…’ Category

h1

Kraken by China Mieville – new book review

May 6, 2010

Just a quick note – I’ve set up a new book review blog and will be updating it regularly with reviews of books I read in between and around the Book Club selections. The latest book I’ve read is Kraken by China Mieville which comes out in the next couple of days. I’ve tried to make all of the reviews fairly general, looking at style, themes and characteristics of the author to give you a flavour of what the books are about without spoiling them. To visit the blog and read a review click on the following link.

Click here for a review of Kraken

Advertisements
h1

Good Comics – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28

March 21, 2009

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 from IDW. It’s not often I buy IDW books, mostly because they’re just not my kind of thing, but the basic idea for this comic struck me as interesting and intriguing. It’s also an unusual book for them because it’s a superhero comic. Then I read a bit more about the comic and it the unique perspective the story was taking and I was even more interested.

It’s not a spoiler to say the story begins at the end, with the death of Savior 28. The story then goes back into the past where we find out more about who he was and the influence he had on the world over the many decades he was active.

The entire first issue is the hook as it raises a lot of questions and it starts with murder and the mystery around it. It raises questions about who was responsible and why they would do such a thing, and then it goes back in time to study the man who was killed.

It’s written by J M DeMatteis and is very well done, with sharp, tight narration, some exposition is needed but its not too heavy, and the story keeps moving at a good pace. The voice of the character who is narrating the story is very clear and also very in keeping with his age and generation. In the first issue we get a lot, from the how, to where the character’s name came from and the type of person he was, both flawed and heroic in one package.

There are a lot of parallels and nods to other superhero stuff that’s gone before. There are lots of layers to peel back for the well read, but its also a fun and interesting read for those not in the know. At times it reminded me of the Death of Captain America by Ed Brubaker from Marvel, especially since there are a lot of similarities between Savior 28 and Cap and how they died. There are also shades of Batman and Robin in there as Savior 28 he had a young sidekick from the street. It also reminded me of Powers by Brian Bendis, as no one is totally good or totally evil. The cover was also very reminiscent of the first issue of Powers with the body of Retro Girl dead against a wall. It may not have been intentional but it made me think of it.

There are lots of other hidden gems, but they don’t detract from what is an interesting read and a superhero comic which isn’t run of the mill. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 is a mini series from IDW and issue 1 is available now.

h1

Good Comics – Back to Brooklyn

February 24, 2009

Back to Brooklyn from Image comics
“A brutal, bloody and compelling read”

Issue 1 of 5 opens with Bob Saetta, one of the key players in the Saetta Crime Family, walking into the police station and offering to give them everything. It seems to good to be true, and despite their dislike of him, the authorities jump at the chance. The story then takes an unexpected twist as Bob’s wife and children are taken hostage by his former friends and his brother. Bob is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Bob asks for the weekend to recover his family and get them to safety, after which time he’ll come back and go on the record against the Saetta Crime Family. The police and FBI are not keen to let their prize just walk out the door but he won’t give them even one name without his family.

Thus begins Bob’s one man crusade against his old friends as he returns to Brooklyn to rescue his family and try to get out in one piece.

Written by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, the story contains familiar Ennis hallmarks, unflinching violence and harsh language, which gives it a brutal and realistic edge that makes you feel more like an observer than a reader. Palmiotti is a New York native and he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, so this isn’t a whimsical story from someone who’s only visited the place and thinks they know it. This is his turf and his knowledge only adds to the realism which helps make it a compelling read. The artwork by newcomer Mihailo Vukelic is detailed and realistic with a weird twist that makes it unique. Back to Brooklyn is a great new mini series and I can’t wait to read the rest.

h1

Good Comics – Part 2

September 8, 2008

Echo and Criminal

Echo – Issue 5 – This issue ties up the first part of the story, in
Terry Moore’s new ongoing monthly series from Abstract Studios, his own
publishing company. Because this title is brand new, and because of his
new Marvel work (Spider-man Loves Mary Jane and Runaways), I suspect it
will get lot more attention than Strangers in Paradise. Echo is a very
different series than SiP in a number of ways. It still has all of
Terry’s strengths, fantastic artwork that looks so simple and clean, and
yet is elegant and deceptive for its simplicity, three dimensional
characters that feel like real people and eye-catching covers. Echo is a
much tighter series, in that it is an action/ sci-fi drama, and is
written more like a TV series for its episodic format. The pace is fast
and full of tension, but there are also character moments to flesh out
the main protagonists. I may be wrong but I believe this series is only
going to be about 18-24 issues, so the pacing is critical and it is a
much more focused story.

If you’ve not read Echo yet then the first trade which collects issues 1
through 5 has just come out. A very brief summary of the story without
spoiling it is – there is an explosion over the desert caused by a
cutting-edge military test gone wrong. The repercussions have some
unusual results on a couple of locals, including the main character, a
photographer called Julie Martin, and a Park Ranger called Dillon. Each
is trying to understand what has happened whilst the Powers That Be want
it buried and covered up before the truth gets out about what they were
doing. Suspicious characters and dodgy men in suits, unusual objects
raining from the sky and conspiracy theories are abound.

5 word summary – Intriguing, conspiracies, fast-paced, tense.

Criminal (volume 2) – Issue 4 – This issue marks the start of a new four
part story about a character we’ve seen before who appeared in an
earlier story, Lawless. Despite his previous appearance it isn’t
necessary to read Lawless to follow the story and you don’t feel as if
you’ve missed out on anything. Weaving the fate of characters together
and intertwining their stories gives the city a more realistic feel and
long term readers are rewarded for their loyalty.

Jacob writes and draws the Frank Kafka cartoon strips, a piece of
meta-fiction the characters often discuss themselves, but Jacob wasn’t
always a cartoonist. We learn that he used to be a forger who has gone
straight, mostly, but it seems as fate has something else in mind for
him and a random meeting in a diner lands him into trouble and personal
danger he’s not seen before. Jacob isn’t a fighter or top of the food
chain. He’s just a low-level crook who wants to be left alone and yet
somehow trouble always seems to find him, even when he’s doing a good
deed. Once again Brubaker hooks you from the first issue, by creating a
character who isn’t particularly likeable and yet you care about him and
want to see him succeed. This is crime fiction at its best.

5 word summary – Moody, unpredictable, violent, femme-fatale.

h1

Good Comics – Part 1

September 1, 2008

Spider-man Loves Mary Jane, Captain Britain and MI:13

Both of these titles are outside the usual CBO discussion area, but they’re on my reading list and since we’re not opposed to Marvel or DC in general, I think both are worth a mention. Also both titles are slightly off centre in their own ways, as SMLMJ is set in its own pocket universe, so isn’t affected by events or continuity, and Captain Britain is something I’ve been after for a while, the UK’s very own corner of the Marvel Universe.

Spider-man loves Mary Jane – Issue 1 – The new first issue of this quirky series by Strangers in Paradise scribe Terry Moore and artist Craig Rousseau gets off to a promising start.

The series was previously written by Sean McKeever who set a particular tone as the majority of the events were seen from Mary Jane’s perspective instead of the familiar Peter Parker’s or Spider-man’s point of view. Terry Moore proves from the first issue that he knows the material and that he knows how to write character-driven stories. Mary Jane feels like a teenage girl and I should also point out all of the characters look their age, not twenty-somethings with giant bazookas pretending to be fifteen. She’s awkward, struggling with family issues, trying to grown up and find her place, determined, flawed, and ultimately human. She feels like a real person. This first issue is the perfect continuation of the story and it is Mary Jane’s first day of school in her sophomore year of high school. All the usual faces are there, Flash, Liz, Gwen and of course Peter, but he isn’t the focus.
This is very much MJ’s story and he just happens to be part of it. The artwork is clean and light, the backgrounds are simple and sometimes just washes of colour, all of which helps to set the tone of the book.

All in all I found the first issue intriguing and curious, with a few seeds planted for future storylines. I want to know more about MJ and as yet I have no clue where the story is going, which is a good thing.

5 word summary – refreshing, bright, character-driven, teenagers.

Captain Britain and MI:13 – Issue 1 – The first issue of this came out maybe two months ago but everywhere I went was sold out, which is good for writer Paul Cornell and artist Leonard Kirk, but less so for me. So I had to wait for this second printing in order to read it. The story focuses on a team of British superheroes and it consists of familiar names like Captain Britain, Pete Wisdom, Spitfire and the Black Knight, but it also has a couple of new faces, one being a Skrull who looks like John Lennon and a woman doctor. At the moment the Marvel Universe is in the throws of Secret Invasion, the big event that was masterminded by Brian Bendis. In a nutshell, shape changing aliens called Skrulls have infiltrated governments and military organisations by killing and replacing key personnel. They’ve also bumped off or displaced various superheroes. The UK is no different and we’ve got dodgy aliens in the Cabinet and the intelligence community. So it’s up to Captain Britain and friends to beat them back, find out what they want in Britain and save the day. Saying much more will give the game away, but suffice to say this first issue is jam-packed with action, nice character moments (including a reference to Captain Midlands, but I’m still waiting for a Geordie Captain, well I can dream can’t I?) which all has a very British feel to it. Since Paul Cornell is from England the dialogue is realistic, but it is also witty, and full of references to the history of various characters. So if you’re in the know it’s great and if not you get enough without it slowing you down.

5 word summary – explosive, English, exciting, funny, inspiring.