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The Last Days of Krypton
By Kevin J. Anderson

One out of ten stars (assuming zero isn't an option)
Shelves: Library, science fiction

The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson was disappointing and lame - so lame that I only got about 130 pages into it before returning it to the library.

Okay, I'm being a little harsh here. Actually, as modern SF goes, I've certainly seen worse (see the execrable Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, which was co-authored by Anderson. Or rather, DON'T see it if you value your sanity, as it may be the worst book ever written. But reading it gave me an insight into why I hate the vast majority of modern science fiction so passionately: it's stupid.

It seems to me that the current generation of SF editors and publishers came into the field after the Golden Age - in most cases, post-1970s. Lots of people working in the business now wouldn't know Roger Zelazny or Fredric Brown if they leaped out of their graves and bit them on the ass.

And I believe they think of science fiction as "childish" literature, for immature, adolescent minds.

Which, of course, it has often been from the very first. But there were always exceptional authors - the cream that rose to the top - who wrote truly intelligent, imaginative, and adult science fiction (and fantasy, of course; I'm not making a distinction between the two right now).

The problem is that back then, there were at least some editors and publishers who could recognize greatness. Now, those perceptive and mature people in the SF publishing industry seem to be gone - probably, I suspect, because the whole industry is far more commercialized than it used to be, far more integrated into the craptastic Hollywood culture that dominates American society. They're all looking so hard for the next Harry Potter that they would not only MISS the next Cordwainer Smith - he wouldn't even be able to get in their door.

I fear that the same must be said for fans. It may be that the vast majority of younger fans simply don't know what good writing is, because they've never seen it.

There are still a few good writers out there, of course, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Like Hercule Poirot, I'm not going to pretend that I'm stupid. I'm more intelligent than the average reader (I have other flaws, but I'm not stupid). So maybe that makes me more sensitive to having my intelligence insulted. I can tell when I'm reading something written by someone who is dumber than I am, to put it crudely, and I'd say that 97% of everything new being published these days is either written by a relatively dim person, or deliberately slanted for an audience that the producers of the product consider to be - there's no other word for it - idiots.

And even so, the people producing this crap are not bright. If they were, even their dumbed-down writing would show it - and it doesn't. Typos, logical failures, unbelievable characters, the same tired old cliches again and again and again...lord! I'm so sick of it!

Anderson is a really awful writer, and should never be allowed near a keyboard again. Perhaps he could take up some useful trade, like shovelling raw sewage.

Okay, that's not fair. He's not quite that bad. He'd probably be a very adequate ditch-digger. Just keep him away from a keyboard!

Note: A comment on the original post of this review (elsewhere) asserted that it was unfair of me to criticize a work based on a comic book, by comparing it to high art. The comment also questioned my criticism because I am not a published author. Here's my reply, editing out the quotes from the original comment:

I do see your point. In the same vein, since I have never been a professional chef, I should never criticize any meal served to me at a restaurant, not even if they hand me a dog turd on a plate. Why didn't I see that before?

Okay. Sarcasm aside, although I have never been a professional author - I did make one sale, but the magazine folded before they paid me or published the story - I have indeed written a lot of stuff over the years, and have published both online and in several different amateur press associations. I have one of the older continuously-operating websites still in existence, and have received plenty of feedback, both positive and negative. I don't see why any of this is necessary to justify my low opinion of "The Last Days of Krypton", but there it is. More to the point is that I've *read* a lot.

If my review gave you the impression that I had expected "The Last Days of Krypton" to be high art, you can chalk that up to my lack of professional credentials as an author. I have strong feelings about the decay of modern science fiction and publishing, and inserted those views into the review because that's when those thoughts happened to come into my mind.

However, the fact remains that it is possible to judge quality even when dealing with a genre or class of works which are of generally low caliber. You can taste the burgers of McDonald's and those of Burger King or Wendy's and make perfectly valid comparisons and judgements between them; there are degrees of quality both in swill and the sublime. Merely mentioning that the sublime exists does not invalidate criticism of swill when it fails *even as swill*.

And even as swill, "The Last Days of Krypton" is abysmal. I've read my share of comic books, both crappy ones and those that transcended the former limitations of the genre; I grew up reading comics in the 1960s and 70s, and directly experienced the renaissance of the field in the 1980s and 90s. So I have some experience from a reader's point of view. And from that vantage point, I still maintain: "The Last Days of Krypton" is pure and utter *crap*, an absolute waste of time, and an insult to the intelligence of any reader who actually possesses a mind to be insulted.

To put it as simply as possible, it's a bad book. Really astonishingly bad, which at this point is pretty much par for the course for Mr. Anderson. That there are some who apparently admire it and him baffles me, but there's not much I can do to help such unfortunate souls; all I can do is post my opinion of his shoddy and idiotic work as a warning to others.

This have I done. If your opinion varies, go and do likewise!
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Triumph of the WhimTriumph of the Whim by Adam Thrasher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Funny as hell. The balls-out, totally over-the-top collected comic strip (not a complete collection, mind you) of the adventures of Space Moose, the most perverted moose imaginable. How perverted, you ask? Well, when he gets his hands on a time machine, he -

No. I won't spoil it for you. Let's just say that if coprophagy, misogyny, abort-o-matic machines, feces, gore, sheer insanity, ----, and lots more ---- don't make you cringe, and if you don't hold anything sacred, you'll find this a hell of a funny read.

Or rather, you WOULD find it a hell of a funny read. But you can't read it. Because it was only available direct from the author, and he's not doing that stuff any more. I have my copy (and t-shirt), but you're out of luck!

But don't be sad. The online web archive of Space Moose was taken down when the author discovered that the grown-up world of employment and grants doesn't have much of a sense of humor. Luckily, I, personally, had cached a copy of most of the site. And I passed it on to a few select people. Google "Space Moose" and you should be able to find a copy.

They're all there because I saved that site. You're welcome!

But FYI, there are a couple of strips in the book that were never published online, including the soul-stirring sequel to "F-----io Barn". The humor! The tears! The nausea! The, um...

Never mind. You'll just have to imagine it.

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Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest (Marvel Premiere Classic)Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest by David Michelinie

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Unbelievably putrid. Over and over I sat in stunned amazement, asking myself "Did they really publish stuff this bad back in 1981?"

There are two kinds of stories in comics. One tries to say something meaningful, or at least to present some sort of concept that the reader can be entertained by. The other is the visual equivalent of two three-year-olds trying to one-up each other. "My hero is a million times stronger than yours!" "Oh yeah? Well MY hero is a JILLION times stronger!" Over and over and over. There's no sense to it, and no point.

Which pretty much describes this "book".

Oh, and the authors completely abuse the Arthurian legend. In an incredibly lame "future Arthur" sequence, Merlin is "cool", saying things like - and I am NOT making this up - "Okee doke: One 'Return to Sender' spell, comin' right up!"

Merlin as Jar-Jar Binks. It made me want to beat the author with a club.

So to sum up, the only reason to read this thing is if you want to take a look back to see just how incredibly awful some comic books were, even as recently as 1981 (the art is pretty bad, too). And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to do something - anything - to drive the memory of that unbelievably idiotic writing out of my brain.

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I've been looking for this online for a long time. It's from Critters #50. I have the original in a box in the basement somewhere, but I never got around to digging it out.

Warning, it's not for the faint of heart! It's really funny, but doesn't hold back at all. It will try to turn you into a life-long vegetarian.

Without further ado, here's The Story of Beef!
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Found a PDF collection of the old Fineous Fingers comics online. They're as funny as ever!
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Batman: Dark Victory Batman: Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought long and hard before giving two stars to this one. It's possible that I should have given it three.

It was long, and a decent enough read. In many ways it resembles Frank Miller's acclaimed Batman: Year One miniseries. Much of the art closely resembles David Mazzucchelli's subdued, semi-realistic and oddly crumpled-looking style in Year One. That's not a style I particularly like, but I don't hate it either.

Many of the secondary characters from Year One appear in Dark Victory. But the storytelling style diverges more from Miller's, particularly in the latter half of the book.

In fact, that's the reason I ended up giving Dark Victory only two stars; it starts well, with a promising mystery that seems as if it might be a mystery - that is, that it might be a mystery which the reader could actually have a chance to figure out, rather than simply read and wait for a deus ex machina. The characters are interesting. But as the book progresses, it goes downhill.

I don't like the way that the various supervillains are drawn, for one thing. Semi-realism goes out the window for them, and the effect doesn't work. Two-Face looks as if he's half Mafioso, and half Red Skull - but with a strange-looking nose that manages to be both weirdly long and pug at the same time (and not just on one side, which might make sense, but on both). The Joker is drawn so unrealistically that he might as well be from another universe; his head is twice the size of anyone else's, and half of his face is giant teeth. Again, the effect doesn't work. Robin looks as if he's drifting towards an anime look, of the typical "cute/frightened little kid with a tiny mouth" type.

The writing goes downhill even faster than the art. A major plotline involving betrayal is resolved in an unsatisfying, off-hand manner. The mystery, which began with such promise, sputters out with a whimper; no matter how I try to connect the interesting clues to the resolution, I can't make sense of it. Batman makes more stupid mistakes than he should, throughout; this is NOT a character who should often miss the obvious, and it's annoying when an author plays that tired old card to extend the story.

The addition of Robin to the story doesn't work at all. This is the "dark" Batman, or purports to be, and adding a cutesy/spunky sidekick to that character is a tricky proposition at best. I don't consider Frank Miller to be infallible, but at least he handled the same issue far more skillfully in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In this book, Robin is just annoying. I can see what the author was going for, an attempt to make the sidekick issue work with the "dark lone avenger" theme, but he simply fails to carry it off successfully.

I think I might have given this book three stars if it hadn't resembled a far superior work so closely in the beginning, and then failed so completely to fulfil its promise.

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Sam & Max Surfin the Highway Anniversary Edition Sam & Max Surfin the Highway Anniversary Edition by Steve Purcell

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are two possibilities when you first encounter Sam & Max. One possibility is that you won't get it; at best, it will seem odd and mildly amusing.

The other possibility is that your jaw will drop in amazement that someone out there speaks your secret language - the language of a style of humor that you didn't realize anyone else knew, apart from you and perhaps a few close friends. You'll feel as if you've been reading Sam & Max all your life, saying the same quirky lines back and forth with your friends. And you'll be laughing like crazy.

Sam & Max are freelance police, a six-foot-tall dog who dresses like a 1940s gumshoe, and a white rabbity thing with serious self-control issues. Both carry very large guns, and they're not afraid to use them on anyone or anything.

They live in a world that is completely insane, filled with volcano cults, frightening clowns, criminal rats, giant Moon roaches, ghosts that haunt Stucky's roadside restaurants, and accountants turned pirate - along with uncounted other oddities from the incredible imagination of Steve Purcell.

The violence is not extreme. Well...okay, there's a lot of shooting. A typewriter may have been hurled through an upper-story window. There may have been a disintegration or two. Perhaps an attempted human (dog? rabbit?) sacrifice. Children too young to understand irony probably won't get Sam & Max, but anyone over the age of ten or so would probably be ready.

Sam & Max have been published in many formats over the years. There have been a few comic books from different companies, a guest appearance here and there, some webcomics, a few animated computer games, a TV series with somewhat toned-down versions of the characters, and most recently a Wii game.

This book collects most of the print versions and many of the webcomics. Pick it up, give it a try! If you're one of the people who gets it, you'll be thanking me.

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Hercules amongst the North Americans Hercules amongst the North Americans by Mark Marek

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a f^&*ing funny book. It's also incredibly rare these days. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on a copy, grab it!

It chronicles the adventures of Hercules in modern-day America, circa the mid-1980s. Much of the modern world is confusing to the mighty Hercules; he mistakes a subway train for a monster and battles it to the death. Victory goes to the son of Zeus, of course! The many passengers who are casualties of the affair are an unfortunate side-note.

Hercules also works as a bike-messenger in New York, kills his psychiatrist and carries off his lovely receptionist, discovers the wonder of the Heavy Metal Gods (blasphemy!), and reviews several Greek restaurants.

These comic strips originally appeared in National Lampoon (back when it was funny) and High Times. They're drawn in a deliberately crude style that sets the perfect tone for the book. The whole book, in fact, is packed with good stuff; this is a gem that will have you laughing uncontrollably more than once.

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Marvel 1602 TPB (Quill Award Edition) Marvel 1602 TPB by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman ventures into Alan Moore territory for Marvel. Oddly, it's not a very exciting expedition.

Gaiman may be the victim of expectations. I was a huge fan of Sandman and The Books of Magic. Frankly, nothing he's done since has impressed me half as much.

In 1602, he takes a clever idea - what if all the Marvel superheroes were alive in the time of Queen Elizabeth? - and does less with it than I would have expected.

But I'll admit that in part, that's because Alan Moore has done so much remarkable work with historical comics and heroes that Gaiman suffers by comparison. I'm used to incredibly dense, clever, brilliant stories - books that make you think, references to other works and historical events that are so complex and interwoven that it takes another book (probably by Jess Nevins) to annotate them all.

Gaiman has approached that level of cleverness in the past, with Shakespeare in Sandman. That's universally agreed to be a classic of the genre. But 1602...was just a comic book.

Oh, it's not a bad comic book. It was just surprisingly unimaginative. And oddly enough Gaiman's strongest suit, his sense of mystery and atmosphere, wasn't particularly notable here.

At one point I had to wonder if some editor at Marvel had interfered with the book! Because to my surprise the mystery of the book was killed dead with a somewhat laborious explanation.

Let me see if I can explain.

The book features many classic Marvel characters as they would be if they had been born and grew up in the late 1500s. I'll admit it: this is a neat idea. But it didn't need to be explained. Making the whole point of the story an explanation of why modern characters were somehow re-born in the past (the explanation provided via a certain deus ex machina character) really killed much of the fun out of the story! It took away the atmosphere and mystery.

It was fun the way it was. Why ruin it with a rationalization? Why kill the sense of magic?

There were a few clever and amusing points which I won't spoil, but they certainly didn't make up for the essentially leaden and unmagical tone of the book.

On the plus side, it was well-illustrated. And at nearly 250 pages, it was longer than most graphic novels; a decent way to kill a couple of hours. In a fractional system, I'd have given it a 2.5.

I just expected more from Neil Gaiman, that's all.

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Daredevil Vol. 11: Golden Age Daredevil Vol. 11: Golden Age by Brian Michael Bendis

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars


Sometimes, it's all about expectations. A mediocre book by one of my favorite authors is a greater disappointment than a poor book from a writer who's new to me. And a great book by a new author can be a greater thrill than an equally great book from an author that I know.

Which isn't to say that Daredevil: Golden Age is great, mind you. It's just that Marvel and DC have churned out so many steaming piles of dung in the form of graphic novels, that a relatively good one comes as a positive shock.

As this one was. To my amazement, it was actually well-written, funny, and even pretty intelligent. It managed to avoid the many cliches of the genre. I was - I'll admit it - even a bit impressed! And that's all the more surprising to me because I've never been much of a fan of Daredevil as a character.

To the specifics: the book deals with some of the history of Daredevil and Hell's Kitchen, the area that he...protects, I guess you'd call it. The art style is very reminiscent of the style used in Frank Miller's Batman: Year One; I call it it the prune face school of art, because most characters look like an implosion of wrinkles like the villain Pruneface in the old Dick Tracy comics. The exception is the hero(es) and their romantic interests; they're relatively smooth and cleanly-drawn. As you might guess, I'm not a huge fan of that particular art style.

The storyline itself has been put through what I like to call the Ronco Plot Disjoint-O-Matic. That is, the plot jumps back and forth between relatively ancient history (many years ago), less-ancient history (some years ago), recent history, and "now". The art style changes to reflect the era that's being represented, which is actually a nice touch; I liked it. Ancient history was black and white, and it worked well for me.

But while I understand the use of flashback and telling the story out of chronological sequence, I think that tool was overused here.

That was the bad side of the book from my perspective, neither complaint being particularly damning. The good side? The dialog never insulted my intelligence. The "ancient history" segments were actually refreshing; instead of battling each other, the heroes actually battled crime - organized crime. And yet Bendis was able to make that interesting. The whole thing had more of a "real" feeling to it than 97% of the comics that I've read (leaving out Alan Moore, that is).

Now that I think of it, there was a bit of a hero-vs-hero battle - but it's impressive that I didn't realize it until this moment. Even so, it was very well handled. In fact, it was part of the best sequence in the book: a delightfully terse and convincing explanation of why some people put on tights and fight crime.

It may be worth mentioning that Spiderman make a short appearance, and adds a very nice touch of humor to the book.

All in all, if you're tired of the cliches of the superhero genre (or of poorly handled cliches), I'd say that Daredevil: Golden Age is well worth checking out. It's not utterly self-contained; clearly it's part of a continuing story. But even though I'm relatively ignorant about the character, I found it easy to follow the plot and very enjoyable. I plan to check out other books in the series.

In a fractional system I'd have given this a 3.5. To be honest, it might even deserve a 4.0...but I'm trying not to be swept away in reaction to my original low expectations.

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Origin: The True Story of Wolverine Origin: The True Story of Wolverine by Bill Jemas

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars


If you're going to try to create an origin for one of your most iconic characters, that origin had better be (*@#ing memorable. Look at Batman, for example. Or look at what Alan Moore did for the Joker in The Killing Joke. The origin should resonate for the reader.

In Origin, the story kind of lands with a dull thump.

Oh, it's not terrible. The authors clearly tried. They just weren't up to the task, that's all. And so they've created an utterly forgettable, inconsequential, run-of-the-mill...

I'm sorry, what were we talking about again?

Oh yeah. Origin. Sorry, I nodded off.

In a fractional system, Origin would get a 1.8 from me. At best, it was kind of cheesy. I mean, when you've got your character running and howling with wolves, it's a pretty good sign that you're in way over your head...unless you're a really, really good writer. Which these guys aren't. And maybe it was a warning sign that there were three writers on this turkey.

Hmm...if they'd had Wolverine running and gobbling with, that would have been memorable! :D

PS - the claws looked stupid to me. Claws should look like claws, not unicorn horns!

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Eternals Eternals by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman takes on one of Jack Kirby's creations for Marvel.

Despite the fact that these are two very big names, the biggest reaction I can muster is "meh". It was okay, but there was nothing that really grabbed me about it. Gaiman and the artist managed to squeeze the Kirbyishness out of it, without imparting anything particularly great or new.

It was okay, but that's about it. Nothing about it was particularly memorable; it didn't stay in my mind. In a fractional system I guess I'd give it a 2.5.

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Incredible Hulk Vol. 1: Return of the Monster Incredible Hulk Vol. 1: Return of the Monster by Bruce Jones

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

After plowing through a long string of stinkers from Marvel and DC, I finally found a decent one. And to my surprise it's from Marvel, which I generally consider to be the inferior of the two.

How did they do it? Mainly by giving up the tired old cliches, of course. The writing style is very sparse; there are whole pages with no dialog at all. What dialog there is, is actually handled surprisingly well. It's not aimed at the usual 9-year-old level, but more at the late teens.

Rather than the usual over-explaining (so many comic books seem to be written with the assumption that the readers are morons), there's a nice sense of mystery; you actually have to think a little while reading, which is a remarkably refreshing change from the usual Marvel fare.

The art is different from the usual style, too. There's a touch of manga to it, I think; it works, though.

As for the plot, it's based on Banner-as-fugitive with a fairly interesting admixture of mysterious super-agents and an X-Files-like quality.

The Hulk himself is extremely well-handled; he's seen only fleetingly, no dialog, with a sense of sheer size that's truly impressive. Kudos to the artist; the Hulk reminded me of Godzilla more than anything else, simply in terms of size, power, and danger.

Unfortunately the book leaves off without any sort of resolution. It also gets into an area that could potentially be a problem in the long run; the organization behind the agents chasing the Hulk can apparently bring back the dead with ease, which could deprive the series of a lot of threat potential down the road. If death becomes virtually meaningless, a major motivator has been lost!

This book left me wondering that the hell had happened. How did Marvel end up greenlighting this? Was it their main Hulk book? That seems inconceivable. Perhaps it was a mini-series? That seems more plausible. If this was a regular series (and I had the cash to spare), I'd definitely consider subscribing. Not that I was ever a huge fan of the Hulk, but I DO like decent writing and art.

I'd call this a strong 3.5, and if I liked the character more or if it hadn't ended on a cliffhanger, it could easily have been a 4.

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Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of Neil Gaiman's stuff, so when my wife and I were on a rare outing to see a movie, Stardust was a natural compromise.

It wasn't bad. It seemed, somehow, a little light and flat; amusing and well-done, but not something we would pick up on DVD.

You're probably thinking that I've forgotten that this is a book review site, and not a movie site. Fear not! I'm getting to it.

I'm a voracious reader. Picking up Stardust at the library was a no-brainer. I had to order it via inter-library loan, and when it came in I was disappointed to see that it was the non-illustrated version. It turned out to be slightly less interesting than the movie; one of those semi-rare examples where a movie actually improved on the book.

Later, I saw the graphic novel version was available at my library. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, but I found it better than the text-only version, and roughly on par with the movie itself. There are differences between the two, of course, but it seems clear that Gaiman's strength as a writer really requires a visual aspect as well; he needs to be paired with a good artist to do his best work.

Not that Stardust is his best work, of course. For that you'll need to read Sandman or The Books of Magic. But it's an interesting, entertaining tale that makes use of what was once a fairly original idea: the juxtaposition of the "real" world and the rather specifically English world of Faerie. That sort of tale is in danger of becoming a bit stale, I fear, but Gaiman was...not a pioneer of that form (I think Lord Dunsany was probably the first), but probably the preeminent modern popularizer of it.

The adventures of Tristan in Faerie are a good way to pass an hour or two, both as a graphic novel and as a movie. You're not likely to be forever changed by the experience, but what can you expect? Not every book can be a classic, even from a good author like Gaiman.

I'd give this a strong three stars. If it had been just a little better, I'd have given it a four. As it is, I enjoyed it...but not enough to go out and buy a copy. I might take it out again from the library in a year or two, if I can't find anything new that interests me more.

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Common Grounds Common Grounds by Troy Hickman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ever since I discovered that my library had a good selection of graphic novels, I've been reading lots of them. And I've learned a few things:

Anything from Marvel or DC is likely to be surprisingly bad, unless they're written by Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman. There are a couple of other writers who can turn out decent work too, but the vast majority of stuff published by the Big Two is just awful.

This can't be a coincidence. I can't believe that DC and Marvel simply keep having bad luck finding decent writers. No, the blame must lie with the editorial staff and management; they must want bad writing. Perhaps they've become overprotective of their big-name characters, who are now such huge media properties. It's ironic, because putrid writing is now killing those characters - at least in my own estimation.

Another thing I've learned from the library: there's still good work being done out there, and almost all of it is being published by smaller companies. Common Grounds is an excellent example of this. It's a series of stories based around a chain of coffee shops that cater to superheroes. It's an original world-setting, of course, but many of the heroes are reminiscent of some of the classic major-company characters. In fact, there are a number of references to that very point (for example, one high-speed "Flash"-like character is called "Speeding Bullet", and when asked about his name replies "as in faster than a - "). It's clearly implied (if you were wondering) that the world of Common Grounds includes comic books, the same ones that are published in the real world.

The stories are generally unrelated to each other; this isn't your typical never-ending serial, but rather a series of stand-alone short stories set in a common universe. There's also virtually no overlap of characters between stories. Each one focuses on a different character or set of characters.

And they're incredibly refreshing. There's almost none of the tired old cliches; instead, it takes a more real-world approach to the interaction of the characters, with a nice touch of humor. For example, how often are you going to read a story which takes place almost entirely as conversation between a superhero and supervillain in adjoining stalls of a coffee shop bathroom? There's a love story, stories about...well, I don't want to spoil it. All I'll say is that while every story in the book is related to superheroes (of course), none of them use the cliched plots that have been inflicted on the comic-book-reading public for so many decades.

All in all, the stories are very well-written. There are some slightly awkward spots, I'll admit, and the author gets a tiny bit preachy at times. He also has a small tendency to be cute (particularly with puns), and there's a slightly juvenile feeling to his work when compared to the works of Moore and Gaiman (although it's still far more mature and less insulting to the intelligence than anything that's normally put out by Marvel or DC). But these are very minor flaws indeed.

Just to be clear, I really like this book quite a lot. Enough so that I've now taken it out twice from the library, and I plan to buy a copy as soon as I get the chance. Whoops, almost forgot to mention: the art is very nicely done as well.

It's just a pity that the series didn't continue. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for Troy Hickman in the future.

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Steamboy Ani-Manga: 1 (Steam Boy Ani-Manga) Steamboy Ani-Manga: 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've been complaining that a lot of graphic novels are confusing. Usually, that's because they're badly written and poorly illustrated; that is, the drawing themselves are pretty eye candy, but they don't always make a lot of sense.

But what made Steamboy confusing was that it's backwards. It starts with page 181-something, and ends with page 1. The cover is on the back. And you read it back-to-front, right-to-left from panel to panel. The words themselves are read left-to-right, but even within conjoined word ballons phrases are read right-to-left.

That's freaky. It took a while to get used to. And there were times throughout the book that I found myself getting a little confused about which panel came first on a page.

I'll admit that the thought also crossed my mind that this back-to-front reading might mess up my mind somehow. :D

There's a weird system of sound effects ("FX") too, but I am not going to spend all my time flipping from the last (i.e. first) page and back to translate the weird symbols that represent sound effects. Life's too short for that sort of crap.

That said, it's not at all a bad book. The illustrations are nicely done with a sort of old-fashioned steampunk feel (which you'd expect in a book titled Steamboy, of course). The writing is rather sparse but reasonably well-done. Given the size of the book (over 180 extremely thick pages), I was surprised at how relatively little plot there was in it. This is the first installment of a series, but even so it seemed very...well, in 180+ pages I'd expect more to be accomplished.

Will I read the other books in the series? Maybe. They're available free in the library, after all. But I'm not particularly looking forward to it. All in all this was a clever-ish idea, and it has been decently executed, but so far my socks have definitely not been knocked off.

The upcoming movie may work better than the graphic novel(s), I suspect. Unless they filmed that backwards, too.

View all my reviews.
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Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (Top Ten) Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Call him what you like, but there's no denying it; Alan Moore is brilliant. And in Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, he proves once again that he can grip a reader without the usual "big name" comic-book characters.

That's not to say that the characters in TT:TFN are completely original. In fact, that's a large part of the charm; finding and recognizing characters who can't be identified within the text by name for copyright/trademark reasons, but who are identifiable nonetheless. Look carefully, and you'll swear you see Kal-El, or possibly his well as his earthly secret identity. You'll catch a glimpse of a certain Friendly Ghost, if you're sharp. Not to mention a well-known large-forearmed sailor man and his rather enormous nemesis.

I even spotted a rather ghoulish couple who frequently graced the pages of the New Yorker in days gone by, and were later adapted to television.

But that's just the frosting on the cake. The cake itself is a cracking good story; the story of a city after the end of World War II, a new city filled with the various super-powered and otherwise incredible characters who participated in the war (including to my amusement an analog of comic strip adviser Mary Worth).

I won't spoil the book for you. But the characters and plot are up to the usual high standards of Moore at his best. The art is also quite good, with a unique and memorable style that makes the search for familiar characters (on the second or third re-reading) a pleasure. This was a book that I didn't want to return to the library. And when I finished reading it, I wished there was more.

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Here are a few recent book reviews. They pained me.
The Number of the Beast The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I feel very conflicted about this book. It's one of the ones that I've re-read every year or two; it's large, and once you start it it's very hard to put down. Heinlein, whatever his faults, was a storyteller - and a gripping one.

Read more... )
View all my reviews.


Nov. 5th, 2008 11:57 am
bobquasit: (Default)
I took out some graphic novels from the library recently, including all three hardcovers that make up the DC series Justice.

It's about the Justice League of America. All their greatest enemies (except the Joker) team up and take them down. Lots of "big" stuff happens. And in the end there's a reset and everything is basically back to where it was.

My review: pretty lame. Not memorable. Confusing, but not because I was in over my head; because it was just NOT WELL WRITTEN. Pretty art, but that's about all that can be said for it.

More and more, I have to say that DC and Marvel are only good when they have one of the best writers working for them. But most of their stuff just sucks.

I also read Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore a while ago. Now HE can write - he's the best there is, I would say. The book was FASCINATING, even though Moore didn't have the advantage of working with classic characters like Batman and Superman. I read it over and over, and didn't want to return it to the library!

Geek Heaven

Jan. 8th, 2007 09:31 am
bobquasit: (Sam - Holy ^@%#!)

I can't tell you how much I wish that every one of you who is a gamer or genre geek was within driving distance of me, because there's a place I'd love to take you to. It would blow your mind.

Unfortunately the person I know who would probably like this place the best can't really travel; I'd never be able to get him there. And that's a real pity; not a cliché in this case, it REALLY IS sad that I can't get him there (and I'm sure he knows who he is).

I asked the guys in my D&D game about local game stores, and they told me about two of them. One of them is actually less than five minutes from where we play. Unfortunately, it's not very large or impressive; there isn't much for sale. They do have some amusing things, and Sebastian liked it, but there wasn't anything I wanted to pick up right away. I did order a couple of items (including a reversible Battlemat), but that was it. Incidentally, Teri thought that I seemed more knowledgeable about games than the guy who was running the store. That surprised me, because Teri's not that interested in gaming and she definitely wouldn't say something like that to pump up my ego; I'm sure she meant it.

The other store was in Worcester, Massachusetts, about a 45-minute drive away. According to the guys, it was much better; they had used games, comic books, and DVDs. I wanted to pick up some D&D 3.0 stuff, so on Saturday the three of us headed out. Sebastian didn't want to go (it was a horrible weekend for him in general; he was being really bad), but we managed to persuade him to come along without too much screaming.

Teri was driving. She usually does, and in any case she knows Worcester much better than I do (I don't know it at all, actually). I'd printed out directions from Google Maps.

Those directions sucked.

We went around and around in Worcester, and never saw the slightest sign of the street that we were supposed to take a left on. Finally Teri drove up to a couple of scary-looking winos in a very scary part of town and asked for directions. One of them gave us astonishingly detailed directions, and then asked us for four bucks for a train ticket. We gave him two, and then went on our way. I seriously doubted that the directions were any good. But I did that wino (and Teri) an injustice.

We were headed into an even scarier part of town, and I was pretty sure that we were lost. But suddenly I saw a small Armenian restaurant, and only a second later I saw It: That's Entertainment.

(Quick note: their website sucks. It's a clear case of someone going WAY overboard with an effect that they thought was cool, but which slows down the browsing process unacceptably and won't display well on every browser.)

As I was saying, it was a scary neighborhood. Worcester is a pretty tough city. The storefronts were covered with iron bars and grilles. The store itself looked dingy and dark from the outside. But the windows were covered with posters for Superman and other comic-book and computer game heroes. Sebastian got out of the car and got really excited.

We went into the front, which was a dimly-lit corridor with a lot of geeky posters on the walls. At the far end was a doorway. And through the doorway was...magic.

Which, in this case, was a huge room. It was dingy and old. And simply packed with new and used video games, comic books, roleplaying games, books, and memorabilia. They had plush Mario and Luigi. They had Cthulhu stuff. GI Joes from when I was a kid. Beatles model kits. Every old comic book I ever used to read. All the Mongoose RuneQuest stuff (not that I'd ever buy any of that). And boxes and boxes of D&D materials. Most of the D&D books were $9.95 each, and all game materials - both new and used - were 15% off on top of that.

I was looking for 3.0 Forgotten Realms material. I'd bought a new 3.0 DMG earlier that day for $30, and now I was kicking myself, because they had copies in good condition for less than ten bucks here. But I picked up the Monster Manual, Magic of Faerun, and Defenders of the Faith - that's the guidebook for clerics and paladins. I also picked up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which turned out to be a sucky game) for the Gamecube for Sebastian, and two Anita Blake comic books for Teri.

Then we had to leave, because my back was hurting and Sebastian really wanted to buy a $200 GI Joe storm trooper carrier (okay, that wasn't really what it was called, but it was a big vehicle about four feet long and two feet wide) from around 1970; I had to explain what "fragile" meant to him as we took him out of the store. On the way out I also bought him an Itchy & Scratchy mini-mug from a gum-ball machine. He is now determined to own the whole set. was just such an amazing place. I didn't get to check out as much as a third of it; for example, I didn't get to see any of the books or graphic novels. The prices were very reasonable, and there was more cool stuff in a single place than I've seen anywhere, even in New York or at Arisia.

We'll have to go back when I have some more money to spend. Thank goodness Teri liked it...and of course, Sebastian was an instant fan.

It's geek heaven. It really is.


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