Category Archive: Reviews

Reviews of all kinds

Feb 18 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter Thompson

Rarely do I say a movie is better than the book, but rarer still do I read a book and say “it’s not very different from the movie.” The story is about the druggy journalist author and a trip (sorry) he took to Vegas, under the guise of writing articles for magazines, and the insanity he engages in. The book is like a speeding bullet and it is hard to even slow down never mind stop reading, and I really enjoyed it, but, honestly, in terms of a story, does it have character development, strong writing? no. You’re probably just as well off seeing the film.

Feb 17 2014

Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United

In honor of Presidents’ Day I warn you not to bother watching this poorly computer animated and un-inspiringly written , straight to video (is that even a phrase anymore?) film (is that even the proper term anymore?) that teams up, well, read the title, in order to take on an assortment of villains (that part was pretty cool, as you don’t alway see these guys). In the end, it doesn’t add anything to your life. Wasn’t Marvel once the house of ideas?

Feb 15 2014

Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student and Between Dark & Dawn – Gail Simone

Just as it might help comic trades to have titles for their volumes, so might it help to number them. Either way, as I mentioned last review, I read many comics in the order Cej lends them to me. So while I’m aware I may have missed some volumes, you could always blame him. I really like the idea of Birds of Prey, you have a strong (and female) writer presenting an array of (usually and mostly) female super-heroes of various power levels, tackling mysteries and crimes in smart and skillful ways. It’s great to read about so many underdeveloped, or at least underutilized, characters without them playing backup to male heroes.  Sensei & Student largely revolves around Black Canary and (yes, however unlikely) Lady Shiva as they attempt to avenge the death of their martial arts teacher. Between Dark & Dawn has Huntress undercover in a cult while Oracle fights off a cyberattack. The problem I have with the series (as oppose to the collections themselves, which were fine stories) is that on one hand they spotlight females of the DC universe in fine feminist fashion, but on the other, the art is total cheesecake! Scantily clad women with enormous, gravity defying, boobs in sexy posses, it’s as if Simone is writing serious work while, unbeknownst to her,  Ed Benes (and others) are drawing pin-ups! What makes it sadder still is that Simone must be aware of this fact, and the scumbag editors of DC get to eat their cake and have it too by claiming to have women oriented comics, but it’s not their fault there are no realistically drawn women in them. When was the last time you saw Superman half naked or the outline of Bat-Man’s crotch?

Feb 08 2014

Captain America (vol. 3) – Ed Brubaker

I really haven’t been paying attention to the volume numbers of this series, I just read them in the order Cej lends them to me. Not that it matters. This trade is complete in and of itself, and more to the point, this is a good story in and of itself. Brubaker is the best Captain America writer there is. Why? Because he can take some nobodies like Hydra and goofy heroes/villains from the 80s (the crying time as I like to think of it) and make a compelling action/crime story about terrorists, possible government corruption, justice, and relationships (love and friendship). In a word, he makes it: real.

Feb 05 2014

Fragile – Neil Gaiman

I imagine one of the greatest things about being a famous writer is the ability to put any piece of crap on a napkin and getting to publish it. Some of these stories even won awards, but I give less and less regard to awards every day. Mainly they are ideas that should have been either developed or chucked, but not published as it. Every story I asked myself “why am I still reading this?” and in the end I was actually glad I did, but only because of the final story, which is a short continuation of American Gods (a work I greatly enjoyed) and I feel there was actual effort that went into this story (even if it wasn’t perfect). Read only the last story, “The Monarch of the Glen,” and only if you liked American Gods.

Feb 01 2014

Looking For Alaska – John Green

Apparently, this was the big YA book being read by all the cool kids (for their high school english class that is). It got a Printz Award and was on the NYTimes best seller list, but, in the end, doesn’t deserve either. The story is about a bright, friendless, anorexicly thin kid who goes off to boarding school to seek, well, something, and he finds that and more. I’m not going to go into details (no spoilers for you) or even put up a picture of it since, why bother. The book attempts to give a realistic account of some kids’ lives in high school and the triumphs and tragedies they endure, yet it fails in that. The writing isn’t anything stellar, and the kids just don’t seem like kids to me, but to make matters worse–with one exceptions–there never are any really important/interesting stakes involved, and for a book trying to get away from YA genre lit and be realistic, it simply isn’t (yeah, the gangly, nerdy, loser kid aways finds exciting friends and gets hot girls, sure, you might as well throw a boy wizard in there too). Skip it.

Feb 01 2014

Rome (Season One)

I had seen the first two (and the last) episode some time ago, and actually thought that was all there was. Watching close to an additional ten episodes really fleshed out the show. The story, which is rather interesting and well done, traces the rise and fall of Julius Cesar, but does so by following the fictional narratives of two very unlikely friends, the anal retentive Lucius Vorenus and foolhardy Titus Pullo. Based on the label, this story continues with (at least) another season, yet I enjoyed this story and felt it complete, so I’m not sure I want to see it continue.

Jan 26 2014

Black Widow: Kiss or Kill – Duane Swierczynski

A senator is killed and his journalist son is about to follow suit unless the super-spy can figure out what is happening, why, and how to stop it. This was an OK story, but too much happens that we have no idea how and we’re suppose to just accept it. It read to me like a rough draft or a story that was suppose to have another couple of issues but was cut down.

Jan 19 2014

Captain America – Jason Aaron

Be aware that this is about the Ultimates version of America’s super-soldier, so its not the boyscout we all love. Aaron, who has brought us dark and dirty stories, takes on this mainstream icon with mixed results. Largely ripping off Apocalypse Now, Captain America goes deep into Cambodia searching for a Vietnam era super-soldier (you may recognize his look from decade old pages of Daredevil) who is helping rouge nations create their own human WMD. I enjoyed this, especially considering how stubborn so many political debaters are and intractable their positions in real life (read it, you’ll see), but just as glad that this didn’t taint the Steve Rogers I know.

Jan 13 2014

Confessions from the Principal’s Chair – Anna Myers

One of my nieces was reading this so I figured I’d steal it for a day and see what it was like. A frenetic read about an 8th grader who goes to a new school in a new town/state after her mom pulls her for bullying, only to be mistaken for the interm principal. What starts as a good opportunity to have a laugh turns into a tale of discovery as the girl, Robin, realizes that actions–good and bad–have consequences–good and bad. For the most part I enjoyed this and felt it taught an important lesson without being heavy handed or preachy. However, considering it was already over the top in basic plot, it didn’t need to go so far as to turn the adventure into a national issue that changes the lives of hundreds. In other words, the tale should have ended a chapter earlier and have made a delightful romp.

Jan 06 2014

1 Month 2 Live

This is a slapped together attempt by Marvel to create a poignent statement about mortality and the meaning of heroism. Perhaps if the story wasn’t chock full of cameros and seemingly randomly written by various creators, this tale might make a statement about how heroism is standing up for your beliefs and supporting your family. Instead, the story about how an average person develops Molecule Man superpower that are killing him becomes a statement about how only people with impressive abilities make any difference in our world.

Jan 02 2014

The Bookman Histories – Lavie Tidhar

Tidhar presents an alternate history where lizards rule the British Empire, robots hope for equal rights, America is ruled by (Native) Americans, and a terrorist (and things far, far worse) is at large. The stories mix fictional characters with real one, re-imagined in a wonderful world of delightful, realistic absurdity. In the end, I am, as always with contemporary fiction, disappointed. Its style is ubiquitously concluding a work by ending it. No, that does not mean having an ending (good, bad, ambiguous, whatever), but simply stop telling the story. Is there more to tell? Yes (as with everything). Are there narrative threads that are concluded satisfactory? Yes (as with everything). The point is that we are introduced to a story, conflict, series of characters, etc and by the time the pages end we are still left with most of that in almost as largely a state of potential flux as we began. Oh, ah, yes, that is so clever, and also trite, annoying, pointless, dissatisfying, and some other less pleasant words. The additional problem with the final installment was that Tidhar decided to throw so many characters at us without focus and without letting us focus on them (again, an attempt to be clever without fulfillment). Some much potential, so well written, so much for that.

Dec 27 2013

Regular Show

You could describe this show as about two twenty-somethings slackers that work a lame job at a park run by a high-strung boss and populated with strange characters such as a slightly insane son of the owner, a shaman, and some white trash nut-jobs. But you should probably bring up that the characters are often animals or (what should be) inanimate objects or even a yeti. Every episode is the same: the two main characters, Mordecai and Rigby (a bluejay and a raccoon), get involved in something mundane (e.g. getting a sandwich) that turns into something supernatural and usually dangerous (e.g. fighting magical ninjas). It’s great fun.

Dec 21 2013

Mad

While I find this short TV show the pokes fun of popular culture through parodies and bizarrely combining ideas, extremely clever and very funny (although not to the level of the magazine I grew up reading (and not fully understanding)), I absolutely hate the visuals that often involves collage-like animation style.

Dec 19 2013

Teen Titans & Teen Titans Go

When this cartoon of five super-powered teens hanging out, living on their own, and defending their city first appeared I didn’t care for it. I wanted something more along the lines of the Batman and Superman cartoons of the 80/90s. The manga-ish style threw me and I felt it was too kids oriented. Now I love the show. I think the manga flair is tons of fun and that the themes are balanced enough for all ages. Sadly, I can only catch this clever show when it is occasionally replayed. Enter the re-imagined version of Teen Titans Go.

This version of the Teen Titans is more cartoony and much more kid oriented than the original. It does pay homage to its predecessor with characters and references to events from before (and I think the same voices), but all I can think about is how much I would like the old one back. Does that mean I’ll love this version some day?

Dec 15 2013

Amelia Rules! Her Permanent Record – Jimmy Gownley

I love the Amelia books; I just have one problem: There have been so many different formats that I don’t know which collections I actually have. This edition, at least, has a listing of titles and covers so that you actually can tell what exists even if I have to re-buy some books. I happen to pick this one since it was the latest I could find and knew I didn’t have it (plus I was with Cej in DC and wanted to support the comic shop and link the memory of the trip with the book (yes, I know that’s weird)) even if that meant I had missed a storyline. I read this on the long train ride back to NYC and here’s the problem: The books are about the fun loving elementary school girl Amelia and her crazy friends and idol rock-star Aunt, and this one is too. Unfortunately, that is all this collection is. All the characters, all the elements, all the plot are present, and none of the depth. Because I know the characters and their history I could understand and enjoy the story, but there was nothing deep, moving, or really new about it. Overall a very superficial tale that first time readers would be bored with and many return readers will be disappointed in.

Dec 13 2013

White Tiger: A Hero’s Compulsion – Tamora Pierce and Timothy Liebe

It took two writers to make a comic that just made me say “huh” all the time. The new White Tiger super-hero fights crime (well, duh), that should be straight forward. So why did I feel that I had to keep reading passages and wondering both what was happening and why all the time. Maybe I was just half asleep while reading it (that could explain why I saw shadow images such as the  person jumping down from the fire escape after White Tiger on page two or the arrows that show you the order to read the panels in during the last issue). However, I think it was just that the story wasn’t very good. I will give props to having the Cobra as a major villain. Rarely do we have any attempts to make a C list character interesting. 

Dec 10 2013

Shadowland

The self titled collection along with Shadowland: Power Man and Shadowland: Blood on the Streets have two things in common. One, they deal with the fall-out of the blind vigilante, Daredevil, joining up with the Hand ninja clan to take over part of Manhattan and how NYC heroes deal with the situation. Two, they suck.

Dec 07 2013

District X: Mr. M – David Hine

It seems pretty good: Cops checking out various crimes in the mutant area of NYC. There are also hints of future character development, that if it pans out, could be very interesting. Just reading this collection, unfortunately, doesn’t thrill me. Perhaps because I don’t know any of the characters prior to the story and don’t feel I know them that much afterwards. 

Dec 05 2013

RASL: The Drift, The Fire of St. George, Romance at the Speed of Light, & The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla – Jeff Smith

I was a big fan of Bone and thought I’d give this more adult comic a try. The oversized formate and strong b/w art actually makes this seem like a coloring book until you read it. The story is about a scientist (as unlikely as he first seems), Rob, who is using his invention to cross into alternate universes to, well, rob them. While we know little of this character, we quickly learn that he is in way over his head. This first volume has many more questions than answers, but you’ll want to learn more ASAP. Smith is a great storyteller and wonderful artists. It is good to see him back. 

The second book, The Fire of St. George, give us more detail to the history of our hero scientist as well as my hero, the scientist Nikola Tesla, and the technology that allows Rob to cross dimensions (if that IS what is happening). Still a strong book, but I getting sick of ever gorgeous woman who meets Rob desperately wanting to instantly sleep with him. 

The creepy cover of the 3rd volume takes us to some new characters, or rather further presents some past one, but since about half this volume is notes on the creation of the comic (which can be great for some), we don’t get a lot of new info. The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla concludes our story, which I didn’t expect as I thought this was an ongoing series (or at least for a while longer). I admit I am somewhat disappointed with the ending; while most of the threads of this story are tied up the key word is most and I felt it would have been better to extend the ending and more fully delve into the various ramifications of all that had been brought up. Still, it has been an enjoyable ride and it is definitely worth reading. Again, this volume has some behind the scenes insights which is always cool. I would suggest you try to read RASL in one sitting as it is easier to keep track of various elements.

 

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