Monthly Archives: October 2014

Review: Fairest, Volume 4: Of Mice and Men

Fairest, Vol. 4: Of Men and Mice

Fans of Vertigo’s on-going comic book series Fables will find a lot to like in this spin-off. Collecting six issues of Fairest centering on Cinderella as a secret agent hot on the trail of a new human-rodent hybrid. Her adventures take her across the entire world, where she has various run-ins with familiar fairy-tale faces.

If you’re not familiar with the on-going plot threads from Fables and the first three collections in this series, you may be a bit confused at first. This comic series doesn’t follow the old Stan Lee rule of consider every issue to be someone’s first issue.

But even not knowing every detail, I was still able to dig in and enjoy some sparkling (at times) dialogue and a good fairy-tale spy thriller. Adding to my enjoyment of this book is a consistent artistic style that allowed me to identify each character from issue to issue with ease. The included single issue covers are also a highlight of the collection, paying homage to the spy novels and thrillers of a by-gone era.

Of Mice and Men reminded me that there are interesting things being done in comic books today and that I’m behind on a lot of it. It encouraged me to seek out other collections within the Fables universe and maybe get caught up a bit before the series winds down early next year. Maybe after reading some of the issues that lead up to it, I will give this one another shot and come away with a greater appreciation for how some of what I read hit fits into the larger narrative unfolding.

But even if I don’t, I still enjoyed the art, the story and the characters. A solid collection of six issues — and you won’t turn into a pumpkin if you don’t read it before midnight.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Flash: Going Rogue

goingrogueThere were moments of “Going Rogue” that reminded me of the first season of Lois and Clark.   This puts The Flash in good company since I’ve got a lot of affection for the first season of Lois and Clark.

Opening with Barry testing his abilities by dashing between three games felt like a montage from those early episodes of Lois and Clark, when Clark would do accomplish ordinary tasks in extraordinary times and ways using his powers.   The scene of the three games and pushing Barry’s limits both physically and mentally worked very well in the episode and it also underscored the theme of the episode — that being the Flash is more than just about zipping around from place to place quickly.  It’s about being part of a team.

Barry will need to remember that later in the episode when it turns out the latest super villain he’s facing isn’t one of the storm’s creation but instead one created by a member of his own team.  In the early days before Cisco knew if Barry would be a force for good or evil, Cisco created a freeze ray to thwart Barry.   Now said weapon has been stolen from Star Labs and put into the hands of a criminal who, at first, wants nothing more than to steal a very large diamond.   It was interesting to see Leonard Snart start as an average, run of the mill criminal who soon gets greater aspirations when he realizes the true power he wields.

Of course, it was hard to separate out previous “freeze ray” comic book tv show plots from what was unfolding here.  I kept expecting the diamond to somehow be a component of the freeze gun or a larger freeze gun that Captain Cold decides to experiment with.   Not that it couldn’t still happen, of course.  It’s also hard not to be reminded of the superlative Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Heart of Ice” featuring Mr. Freeze — especially since it feels like the cold ray looks and feels like something from that animated project brought into the live action world of The Flash. Continue reading

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Booking Through Thursday: Scary

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What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

I vividly recall reading Stephen King’s Cujo as a teenager and being utterly riveted and unnerved by it, especially the last third of the novel when two of our heroes are trapped in a car with the rabid Cujo outside, trying desperately to get at them.   King created such a palate in my mind that I’ve never gone anywhere near the movie version of the book.  One reason is that I am not sure it could EVER be as terrifying and unnerving as the novel was.  And the other reason is that I’m worried that it MIGHT somehow be as terrifying and unnerving as the novel was.

I few years ago, I wondered if and how the novel would hold up for scaring me.   So, I checked out the audio book from my local library and listened to it. (Review here, if you’re interested)  Twenty years later, it still had the same impact on me.

King has written a lot of other scary and unnerving books, but it’s this one that really got under my skin the most.


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Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up

If I hadn’t read Ben H. Winter’s The Last Policeman trilogy this year, I might have enjoyed We All Looked Up a lot more than I did.

Both novels start from a similar point — an asteroid is bearing down on Earth, ready to wipe out life as we know it. But where Winters’ trilogy centered on a single character and gave us an extended view of how society might break down under the threat of imminent chaos and destruction, Tommy Wallach’s novel details only a few months of the final days and centers on four teenagers whose lives intersect during the final days of our planet.

Before the news that an asteroid is hurtling toward our planet, our four teenagers are presented as your standard cliches — the driven student, the girl with the bad reputation, the stoner guy and the jock. Wallach introduces us to each of them before the idea of the asteroid is brought front and center and shows us how each person got their reputation and self-image and whether or not its fully applicable to the person. (In most cases, there’s a hint of truth to it, but things have been blown out of proportion).

Then news of the asteroid shows up and everything changes. The driven student suddenly finds that all the sacrifices she made for the future her parents wanted for her have become less important since in all likelihood she won’t live to fulfill them. One of the other character makes a bet with his friend that he’ll sleep with the girl with the bad reputation before the world ends. There are some interesting observations about how society would collapse in the face of imminent destruction (one interesting observation is how very few people would actually use calculus with or without global destruction looming large). But the closer we get to the end of the world, the less interested I became in the characters as a whole. Once each character has shed his or her definition, it doesn’t feel like anything interesting or compelling really happens to them.

It leads to me walking away from the book a bit less enthusiastic about it than I was initially.

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Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline

Since I’m behind on my Doctor Who reviewing, I’m offering commentary on “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” in one post.  It’s two posts for the price of one!

Mummy on the Orient Express

mummy_orientIn the 80’s, the production team wanted to introduce audiences to a more alien, less likeable Doctor who would slowly mellow over time and become more and more liked by the audience.  The result was the sixth Doctor and the plan didn’t exactly go, well, as planned.  Colin Baker’s era was one of the most polarizing in the classic series run and led to the show becoming the target of a great deal in internal criticism at the BBC and the show going on hiatus for eighteen months.

With the Peter Capaldi era, I feel like that in addition to destructing the character of the Doctor, Steven Moffat has taken on that task of giving us a more alien, less likeable Doctor and is showing us how it could have and should have been done.   With “Mummy” we look into the question of just how the Doctor goes about solving the problem or defeating the alien threat facing him in each story.   Do the ends justify the means?

In this case, it’s a high body count (nothing new, just watch any story by Robert Holmes) that piles up before the Doctor can come up with a way to stop the Mummy from killing everyone on the train.    Does the Doctor have the right to ask each of these various people to sacrifice themselves in the interest of obtaining data on how to defeat the Mummy and Gus, who has lured the Doctor into this particular trap (interestingly, the Doctor has turned down multiple invitations to come on board and solve this until Clara threatens to leave him.  More on this later).   The Doctor realizes there is a way to stop the Mummy, but it takes data (in this case the death of innocent people) to give him the pieces he needs to solve the puzzle.

Of the stories we’ve seen this year, this one feels like it comes closest to the classic Who model of the “base under siege” story.  In fact, I’d say it felt a great deal like the Tom Baker era story “The Robots of Death” with people trapped in an isolated, locked-room location and a force coming to kill everyone on board.    Having the Doctor chose to take Clara into what can be summed up as “the most typical of classic Who models” for what she wants to be her last hurrah in the TARDIS is interesting.   The Doctor doesn’t give her a tour of the marvels of the universe and all the beauty within it, but instead a classic battle against the forces of evil that he faces.   And in doing so, he gives her a bit of insight into who he is now and just how alien he truly he is.  He also feeds her addiction to traveling with him — the excitement of the discovery and just how these various monsters are defeated. Continue reading

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The Flash: Things You Can’t Outrun

thingyoucantoutrunThe first two installments of The Flash were focused on establishing Barry and his newly found super powers.   With the third episode, the series expands the focus a bit and begins to give us some development of the other characters who are part of the Flash’s crusade against meta-humans.

In this case, we get a bit of expansion of Caitlin’s character, including a well done use of flashbacks to the night that everything went wrong at Star Labs.   As displeased as I was last week with the flashbacks, feeling them to be the weakest part of another wise solid outing of the show, this week I felt like the flashbacks were better connected to the character and storyline.  I also like the concept that the flashbacks don’t necessarily have to center on Barry’s past each week, but can instead be used like the ones on Lost were — to give us some details and insights into the character.

In this case, it’s Caitlin and her fiance Ronnie, who wasn’t supposed to be at the start-up of the particle accelerator the night it went up.  An engineer she met working on the project, Ronnie throws himself into the fray when things start to go sideways and ends up apparently getting killed in the process.  I say apparently here because given what we’ve seen about Wells and his ulterior agenda (more on that later) and that we never see a body for Ronnie,  I fully expect him to be back at some point, quite possibly as the biggest meta-human the Flash has faced up to that point.  In fact, I can fully see him returning for the mid-season or possibly season-ending cliffhanger to the show.  Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: New Series


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is looking at the top ten new series you’d like to start and/or add to the TBR pile.  I’ll admit that when it comes to starting a series, it can be a fine line for me.  There are times when I am averse to starting a new series simply because of the sheer number of books behind that I am and feeling a bit overwhelmed at having to catch-up (I’m looking at you Wheel of Time series).   But there are times when I’m ready to jump right in and start catching up, even if it’s slowly.

And so here we go with my top ten series.

longgoodbye1.  Phillip Marlow by Raymond Chandler — A local book store has started a book club discussing entries from the 1000 Books You Should Read Before You Die and the first selection is The Long Goodbye.  Given my love of Michael Connelly, I’m curious to delve into the Marlow series of books.
2.  The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson — I’ve got both entries in the series sitting on my shelf and I’ve heard great things about them from readers with similar tastes.   I’ve enjoyed several other Sanderson novels and really want to give these a shot before I get too far behind and feel overwhelmed by how much I have to catch up like The Wheel of Time.
3.  Joseph O’Laughlin series by Michael Robotham.  After seeing some reviews for the latest entry in the series, I picked it up and read it, not knowing it was an on-going series.  Luckily, it appears they’re stand-along mysteries with on-going character elements so I wasn’t too confused.  But I was intrigued enough to pick up the first two installments and add them to the TBR pile.
4.  The War Against the Chtorr by David Gerrold.  Gerrold penned a couple of episodes of Star Trek as well as a tie-in novel that I read and enjoyed.  I’m curious to see what his world-building is like in a universe that is entirely his own.
5.  Imperial Radch by Anne Lemke.   Ancillary Justice won the Hugo last year and I meant to read it before the awards were announced.  Now there’s a sequel out and I hear it’s a trilogy.
6.  Sandman by Neil Gaiman.  It’s hard for me to admit that I haven’t read the entire run of Sandman by Gaiman, despite a)my public library having all the collected editions and b)my love of Gaiman.  But I haven’t and I really need to cross this one of the TBR list.
7.  The Maze Runner by James Dashner — I’m curious to see what the buzz is about and I’d like to at least read the first one before seeing the movie.
annie8.  Hundred Oaks by Miranda Kenneally.  Part of it is that the series is set in Nashville and I love catching all the local references in the book.   And part of it is that Breathe Annie Breathe is a great young adult novel in which teenagers act like teenagers and the entire thing feels authentic.   These would be perfect books to listen to while on long runs.  I may have to look into that.
9.   The Expanse by James S.A. Corey.   Read and loved Leviathan Wakes.   Then got excited and tried to put book two on reserve at my local library only to put book four on reserve instead.  So now I’m back on the waiting list for book two.
10.  Silo by Hugh Howley.  Another one where I’ve read the first installment and need to read the rest of the series.

And because I am terrible at following rules, I will give honorable mentions to two more series.  One is Fables by Bill Willingham and the other is the collections of the full run of Peanuts comic strips.


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Review: The Confession by Robert Whitlow

The Confession

Robert Whitlow returns to his roots with his latest character-driven legal thriller The Confession. After giving us a couple of novels that stretched both him and his readers, it’s nice to see Whitlow get back to a well-told legal story that is easily on par with some of his best works.

Years ago, Holt Douglas made a mistake — and his best friend died. Holt lied at the time and has been carrying around that guilt since that time. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at Holt’s life today. He’s an assistant DA in a rural Georgia county whose star is on the rise, he’s dating a successful and beautiful business-woman and he’s got a nice home complete with a friendly, lovable dog. But when a cold case is left on his desk, Holt begins to put his personal and professional future on the line as he begins to do a bit of digging into a mysterious death in the town’s history.

To help him dig into the past, Holt asks Deputy Trish Carmichael to delve a bit into the details of the cold case. Like Holt, Trish is dealing with some issues from her past that are clouding her present. And she’s also got a bit of a crush on Holt, which could be holding her back from a potential new boyfriend in her life, Keith. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: Year Four

Star Trek: Year Four

Maybe I’m expecting too much from IDW’s Star Trek comic book line. Every time I pick up a collection, I find myself coming away disappointed in some way. In the case of this collection of seven stories from Star Trek: Year Four, I came away with far more disappointments than I anticipated or wanted.

Freed from the limitations of a television budget, I was hoping for some stories that captured the spirit of the original series while taking full advantage of the nearly limitless special effects budget of what can be drawn within a comic book panel. Instead, what we get are some stories that feel like they’re trying to be too clever for their own good (including one where the crew stumbles across a planet that is addicted to reality TV shows and the Enterprise becomes the focus of one. It should have been fun, but the meta-ness and the feeling of the writers trying to be too clever for their own good quickly takes over. It even feels too long and it only runs about twenty or so pages) or end up feeling a bit too rushed into the single-issue running length. It’s ironic that many times reading modern comics, I can’t help but wonder if we’re getting one issue of plot spread over six issues of publication. But I kept thinking that maybe making some of these stories into two-part installments might have allowed them to breath a bit or given us a few more moments to enjoy a bit of time with the characters. Continue reading

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The Flash: Fastest Man in the World

theflashThe second episode of a series faces the hurtle of re-emphasizing the show’s premise and characters all while further attempting to establish its voice and build on the pilot.

For the most part, “The Fastest Man in the World” does a nice job of that — and I’d argue it gives us a better villain of the week angle, if only because we don’t have to spend as much time focusing on Barry Allen’s origin story and can focus on the back story for the bad guy in question.

In this case, it’s Multiplex, a guy who can split off into different versions of himself to attack various people.   I will admit that my knowledge of the Flash comics in next to nil, but I liked the motivation and realization of the character.  I was a bit concerned that the show apparently killed off the character.   I know that the pilot established that we’ve got a LOT of these types of people around Central City, but part of the fun of a super hero story is having a rogues gallery for him or her to face off against.

But as I said before, he was apparently killed.

I will admit that I found the thread of Barry doubting himself and whether he’s doing the right thing worked well.    I also liked that there is a limitation placed on him — he needs to consume enough calories to help keep his super speed going.   This could get interesting to see if and how this impacts him since his food bill looks like it’s about to triple.  And it could be interesting to see how long it takes for those not in on the secret to notice that his appetite has gone way, way up.

The one part that I didn’t necessarily like was the flashbacks.  These works well on Arrow, but I am not sure they work here.  It felt like they were trying too hard to create a formula for the shows.  And while last week featured flashbacks, I felt like it was the origin story filling in some things and not just flashbacks because they work well on our other show.

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