Monthly Archives: February 2011

Graphic Novel Thoughts

Over the weekend, I read through some comic book collections and graphic novels.  Here’s a few thoughts.

Spider-Man: The Gauntlet, Vol. 2: Rhino & MysterioSpider-Man: The Gauntlet, Vol. 2: Rhino & Mysterio by Joe Kelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading Spider-Man off and on since I discovered the character on the Electric Company. It’s a lot easier (and more affordable) these days to just keep up with the character by checking these collections of various story arcs out of the library.

But as with classic “Doctor Who” serials I have to consistently remind myself that these stories weren’t meant to be read in one big gulp, but instead were meant to be read with a bit of time to allow the stories to breath in between.

The current storyline finds a host of Spidey’s famous foes coming back to haunt him, just as his life as Peter Parker is going to hell in a handbasket. This one features the return of two of what I’d call the second-tier of Spidey villians, the Rhino and Mysterio. Of the two storylines, the Rhino story is the far more affecting and interesting. The Myesterio one seems like it’s working too hard to set some things up for the longer story arc with various mobsters plotting to take over the underworld of New York and fighting for territory.

And while the storylines themselves are good, the artwork is frustrating at times. It changes so much from issue to issue. Again, I grew up on reprints of the early days of the comic and during a time when the art work went for a more realistic tone and look. The current look of many Spidey comics leaves me cold and this collection has a couple of exceptions. I know artists want to put their mark on things, but it’d still be nice of characters are consistently drawn from issue to issue.

Spider-Man: The Gauntlet Book 3 - Vulture & MorbiusSpider-Man: The Gauntlet Book 3 – Vulture & Morbius by Greg Weisman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Clearly I’ve missed a few issues in the grand scheme of the Spider-Man universe. At what point to the Vulture go from being an old guy who could fly to some kind of new acid-spewing guy? It seems like this was done just for the gross-out factor. But maybe I’m not the target audience for these stories.

Continuing the storyline of “The Gauntlet”, Spidey faces the new look (and spewing) Vulture and his old foe Morbius. Neither story is exactly that impressive and I can’t imagine the old team of Lee and Ditko coming up with something like this.

What does work is Peter Parker’s latest personal turmoil. He’s dating Black Cat as Spidey and apparently alienating a lot of the women in his life. It’s interesting to see how Pete’s having to run off to be Spidey is perceived by various women in his life (one realizes he’s just using her..and while Pete is fairly aware of this, he doesn’t realize how deep the hurt goes). And then, Pete makes a mistake to help his boss, J. Jonah Jameson and it ends up costing him his job with the city and possibly his professional reputation. Given how Pete’s burned some bridges professionally, this could be an interesting development in future installments.

But my main issue with this series is the wildly inconsistent artwork. Take me back to Ditko or John Romita’s glory days please!

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories (TPB)Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you like “Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” (and how could you not?!?), you’ll enjoy this collection of stories about various characters before the events of epic web series.

The most interesting story is that origin story for Moist. A relatively minor character in the original story, the story is quick, to the point and poignant. The story about Bad Horse is less amusing than it could have been, but still ends on a solid enough joke.

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Booking Through Thursday — New or Used

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All other things being equal–do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical speciman, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?

It doesn’t matter to me really, as long as the used book is in good condition (aka, minimal wearing of the spine, binding still in tact.) In the end, it’s the same book and sometimes going used is a great way to get more books for your buck. Also, I have a great used book store in my area and every couple of months I trade in some I’ve read and don’t plan to read again and get trade credit.

I don’t collect a lot of books so I’m not too concerned with leather bound editions, though they probably look nice on a book shelf. About the only collectible books I have are some autographed copies of some favorite books that I keep together on a shelf. I’ve made sure that my family knows if something happens to me, where they are and which ones they are.

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Review: Silencing Sam

Silencing Sam (Riley Spartz, #3)Silencing Sam by Julie Kramer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a disappointing second entry in the series, Julie Kramer gets back on track with the third Riley Spartz novel.

This time, Riley finds herself the target of a newspaper gossip columnist. After a verbal altercation in a bar ends with Riley throwing a glass of wine in his face, the columnist ends up dead and Riley’s the prime suspect. Add in new competition at the station in the form of a uber-reporter Clay and Riley’s assignment on a story about windmill farms coming under attack and you’ve got all the various plot threads that run through "Silencing Sam."

Of course, as with the previous two novels in the series, events from each storyline work together in the final denouncement. But at least this time, I wasn’t able to easily guess who was the culprit behind the crimes and the stories all hang together better in the final final analysis. The only unsatisfying part is the relative ease of the resolution between Riley and her boyfriend. The hints dropped early in the story never pan out to much more than a red herring there.

While not exactly a mind-taxing mystery, "Silencing Sam" is still an enjoyable read with some nicely realized characters. Riley isn’t likely to change much over the course of these books, but spending a few hours with her here isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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Review: Married with Zombies

Married with Zombies (Living with the Dead, #1)Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While driving to their weekly marriage counseling appointment, Sarah and David notice things are a bit unusual. There’s little or no traffic in downtown Seattle, the parking lot attendant has vanished and their therapist is running late and gnawing on her previous appointment.

Turns out the zombie apocalypse has happened thanks to a fast-spreading virus that converts the bitten into zombies within ten to twenty minutes of exposure. Thanks to their mutual love of zombie films, Sarah and David are able to survive wave after wave of attack, all while working out their marital problems (turns out that the zombie apocalypse is far more effective than therapy…who knew?) and figuring out their next move.

It’s official that zombies are now the next big thing in publishing. And while they’re not quite as sparkly as vampires, the brain eating undead are certainly making quite a march onto the shelves, with varying degrees of success. In the column of zombies really working in the context of a story and adding something to it, I’d put up "Feed" or "Boneshaker." Then on the other end, you’ve got "Married with Zombies" where the role of the undead is being played for laughs.

At some points in the story, it works well. But clocking in at just over 200 pages, "Married with Zombies" feels longer than that. Another reviewer pointed out that the book quickly falls into a pattern of find supplies, get attacked, fight it off and retreat over and over again. And it’s not hard to argue with that. We’re treated to first-person narration from Sarah, who does get in a few one-liners and zingers that do work well. But one-liners and zingers do not a complete story make. In many ways, "Married with Zombies" has that feeling of a Saturday Night Live skit that starts off clever at first, but slowly becomes less and less enjoyable the longer the central concept is stretched out. The initial fun of a brain eating therapist and a marriage on the rocks becomes a bit less interesting once we come across a crazy cult of religious nuts who believe the zombie uprising in book of Revelation come to life.

And yet, I still enjoyed the book enough to be curious to see where things go next. Part of this could be that the relationship and ups and downs of Sarah and David intrigued me enough to see what happens next to them. And part of it could be that the hook that comes in the final pages is just interesting enough that I wouldn’t necessarily mind spending another 200 or so pages with this couple. You’ll be rooting for these crazy kids to survive–not only the zombies but each other.

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Booking Through Thursday — Romance

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What’s the most romantic book you’ve ever read?

(Mind you, I don’t mean the hard-core stuff you hide in plain wrappers under your mattress. I mean True Love, Romance, deeply emotional, heart-tugging, and all that stuff.)

And, secondly, did you like it? Is it your usual kind of reading, or did it take you by surprise?

The answer that sprang to mind first was “One Day,” but could be because I just finished reading it.

While I’ve read a lot of books with great love stories in them, I’m not sure which one is my favorite.  I do know I’m not a big fan of the bodice ripper romance novels, unless it’s to read them in Monty Python-like voices and to use the word “lovemuffin” in sentence….LOL


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Review: One Day

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley are friends from college who could be something more.

Starting on the day after graduation, the story chronicles their relationship from their first morning after over the course of twenty years. The hook is that "One Day" checks in with the couple on the same day each year, looking at where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re going. At times, Dex and Emma are the best of friends, much to the chagrin of their various romantic partners at the time. At other, they’re estranged, not speaking and only catching up through third parties.

But at each check-in, they’re somehow connected.

It’d be easy to chalk "One Day" up as a just "chick literature" and dismiss it. But with a cover blurb and recommendation by Nick Hornby, to do so would be to miss something that truly isn’t just a romantic comedy but is, instead, a love story that rings absolutely true and authentic. Dex and Emma feel real and both have flaws. At times, each acts like a fool while at others they are wise beyond their years. Even though you get the feeling that the two will eventually get together, the story keeps you guessing as to how and when it might happen.

And the final few chapters are where the book really steps up its game. Just when you think things should end with "happily ever after" Nicholls hits you with a gut punch and then spends several more chapters examining the implications of it and the fall-out. It makes for one of the more complete reading experiences I’ve had in a while.

"One Day" isn’t necessarily the type of book or story I’m usually drawn to. But if you’re willing to check your conventions at the door and just enjoy this character driven story, you’ll find one of the most enjoyable, engrossing stories and real examinations of what it means to love and be loved out there today.

Highly recommended.

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Review: Feed

Feed (Newsflesh, #1)Feed by Mira Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The year 2014 should have been a banner one for humanity with cures for the common cold and cancer hitting the market. But then something went terribly wrong as the two cures worked together to create a virus that turns human beings into zombies, bringing on the zombie apocalypse.

Twenty years later, the world is still dealing with the fallout from the creation of the brain-eating dead and working within the new world order. Professional bloggers and adopted siblings Sean and Georgia Mason are chosen to follow the presidential campaign of a young, rising Senator who hopes to lead the nation and world in the wake of the zombie uprising. With fellow team member Buffy, they hit the campaign trail and slowly become drawn into a vast conspiracy to not only derail their candidates campaign but may also have some frightening implications for the future of the world and humanity.

At close to 600 pages, "Feed" feels like and is an epic first entry in a new zombie trilogy by writer Mira Grant. Unlike many other zombie stories, "Feed" begins twenty years past the zombie uprising, looking at the implications and ramifications the zombie apocalypse had as well as how humanity is coping with day to day life in the new world order. In some ways, "Feed" is reminiscent of "World War Z" by Max Brooks, though I’d argue that "Feed" has a more solid and thought-out world than "World War Z."

In the world of 2034, regular routine blood tests are a norm for those who have yet to exhibit signs of the zombie disease. The novel establishes early that the zombie virus lives dormant inside of everyone either waiting for death or another trigger to set it off and create the brain eating dead. The routines and scientific methods to screen for infection are intriguing and pervasive throughout the story. It could be argued that Grant spends too much time concentrating on the every day scans for zombie infection but since there’s no cure for the disease, it’s easy to see she does.

"Feed" earns its epic running length from a fascinating set of characters and well-explored universe and story. In a future in which the media has been given over to blogging and where the life of the new breed of journalist is driven by your web ranking, Georgia and Shaun Mason are compelling, driven and fascinating protagonists. The story is told from the first-person perspective of Georgia, a woman so driven by the need to find and tell the truth that she rarely has time for many interpersonal relationships beyond the friendship she shares with her adopted brother. When the zombie infection began occurring, it was bloggers who got out the news and helped humanity survived. And that’s a responsibility that Georgia takes very seriously in her work to cover the campaign of the rising Senator.

Georgia isn’t a superhero though. She has her weaknesses and strengths. One weakness is Retinal KA, a side affect of the zombie virus that has damaged her eye-sight requiring that she wear heavy sunglasses or thick contacts in most light sources to prevent migraines and other afflictions.

"Feed" is fascinating, compelling and while it runs for close to 600 pages, the novel never feels long or drawn out. Grant expertly sets up the world within the first 100 pages and then slowly begins to examine the implications of what we’ve learned about her universe over the rest of the novel. She keeps revelations coming at a nice pace to keep readers interesting but also spaced out enough to allow the implications of what we’ve learned to sink in with her characters and readers. And the book does what any good first entry should–leaves you satisfied with the first installment as a reading experience but still wanting to explore more about the characters and universe in the next book.

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