Comics Briefly: American Vampire #31, Batman Incorporated #0, Captain Marvel #4, Star Trek/Doctor Who #5, Superman Family Adventures #5, Sword of Sorcery #0, Wolverine and the X-Men #17, X-Treme X-Men #4

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big week 9/26, although Sword of Sorcery came out 9/19

American Vampire #31 (The Blacklist, Part Four)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Colors: Dave McCaig

Oh, the beginning of this issue is nice. It follows from the bombshell at the end of last issue in a way that isn’t too pandering, and feels true to the characters. The rest is super strong too. I’m really loving this story arc. The gang’s all here...

Batman Incorporated #0
Story by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, Script: Grant Morrison, Art by Frazer Irving

Well, that was underwhelming. The art is bleck, the characters are boring. This was an incredibly dull re-cap/re-vamp of Batman Inc. Really, really dull, and just a reminder that they’ve written many of the characters I found interesting out of the series.

Captain Marvel #4
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Artist: Dexter Soy

I hope we start getting some answers soon, but I enjoyed this issue. Carol is awesome, and the Banshees are awesome. There is one single spoken line by a dude in the whole action-packed issue, and it’s a captured soldier being interrogated. Rock on, ladies.

Star Trek/Doctor Who #5
Written by Scott & David Tipton, Pencils by Gordon Purcell, Art by J. K. Woodward

Urrgh. The art is still nasty. What happened? There’s a few nice panels, and a lot of mediocre panels, and some just horrible ones. Basically nothing happens this issue. Blah.

Superman Family Adventures #5
Art and Writing by Art Baltazar and Franco

Cute as usual. I liked the introduction of cute Parasite, I liked how terrible Clark is at keeping his secret identity a secret. I even liked the very silly plot where Lex Luthor tries to get a job at the Daily Planet. Plus a little Titans cameo! I’ll be over in this DCU most of the time, thank you very much.

Sword of Sorcery #0
Writer: Christy Marx, Aaron Lopresti

Woo! I really enjoyed AMETHYST! This is a relaunch of a series from the 80’s about an Earth girl who discovers she’s heir to magic and power on other world. Amy and her mom have a great vibe, and I just love Amy’s rough edges and her bravery. Add in the pretty art and crazy fantasy world, and I think this just might be a worthy successor to the original. (There’s a Beowulf backup, but it’s boring.)

Wolverine and the X-Men #17
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Michael Allred, Colorist: Laura Allred

What? What was? That...I don’t even know. I think I enjoyed reading it, though. This issue focuses on the character of Doop, and it made no sense, but in kind of a good way.

X-Treme X-Men #4
Script: Greg Pak, Art: Paco Diaz, Colors: Jessica Kholinne with Chris Sotomayor

Steam-punk-ish Wild West world? With crazy mutants and an Evil Xavier? I can get behind that. I thought this was pretty darn fun, if nothing brilliant. It keeps to the light-hearted action that this series has been playing up.

Batman: No Man's Land: Volume 2

Monday, September 24, 2012

Batman: No Man's Land: Volume 2
Greg Rucka, Kelley Puckett, Denny O'Neil, Chuck Dixon, et. al., 2012
Issues originally released in 1999

Premise: Sequel to Volume One. It's winter in the ruin of Gotham. Batman's had enough of the anarchy, and he pulls in his people, old and new, to start bringing order back to the city.

At the start of this volume, Batman's attempts to make headway against the criminal organizations currently running most of the city get a nasty set-back. Later we finally get to the part (it's in every Batman epic) where Batman pulls his head out of his ass and says: hey, I have all these great people around me! Maybe I should get some help! In short, there's a lot more Batfamily in this volume, and I loved it.

Helena gets a bit shafted in these issues, mistrusted and shoved to the outskirts. Sure, she generally doesn't play well with the big groups, and I know Batman “wants” her to be the wild card, where her strengths are, but he sure is a jerk to her along the way.

Anyway, we have a new Batgirl to deal with in the meantime! These pages contain the introduction of Cassandra Cain, super-ninja and all around cool cat. I get it now! I get the love for Cass that the fangirls overflow with! She's a little broken, but so determined to be better, so straightforward in her feelings and her sense of right. Oracle believes in her. Now I love her too.

Moving on, there's a fun crossover with Young Justice, highlighting Robin (Tim), Superboy and Kid Flash stumbling into trouble in Gotham. Batgirl plays back-up to Azrael in a two-part adventure I really loved. Nightwing is sent to 'take back' Blackgate prison from the vigilantes Bruce put in temporary control, which goes about as well as could be expected. There's a really fantastic story revealing what's going on with Poison Ivy, and near the end of the book is a three-part Catwoman story where the art's kinda nasty but the writing was really fun.

Overall I really enjoyed this volume. Similar to the first, not all the art was to my taste, but I thought more of it was great in this one. There are some really fun stories in this book.

I have been getting such a kick out of these volumes. They're huge, and while they all fall under a longer arc, all the individual plots are between one and three issues long, so even if you don't like one story, you might like the next one.  

4 Stars – A Very Good Book (might have been 5 if not for the occasional unpleasant art.)

Pick up Batman: No Man's Land, Vol. 2 at

Volume Two Contains The Following Issues:
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #119-121
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #87-88
Batman #567-568
Detective Comics #734-735
Young Justice in No Man's Land #1
Robin #67
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #56-57
Batman Chronicles #17
Nightwing #35-37
Catwoman #72-74

Silicon Mage (The Windrose Chronicles, Volume Two)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Silicon Mage (The Windrose Chronicles, Volume Two)
Barbara Hambly, 1988

Premise: Sequel to The Silent Tower. Joanna is back home in California, but she might be the only one who knows that the periods of formless depression that seem to strike the entire world are not her imagination, but the machinations of a wizard from another dimension. With an explanation like that who could she tell? Horrified by her part in the events at the end of The Silent Tower and sick with worry, she plans to try to get back across the worlds, to find someone to help her, and try to rescue her love.

I liked this book quite a bit. It was full of complicated characters, all both abrasive and likable, who are trying to do their best, but sometimes screw up. And there's two sweet subtle romances, one of two young people both trapped by their choices and their oaths, one of two adults who care about each other beyond all logic, but know they can't promise more than right now. All of that is dealt with such a light touch alongside the plotting, action and danger that I just adored it.

It had been a while since I read the first book in this series, but I was absorbed back into this world almost before I realized it. Joanna and Caris and Antryg came back to me very quickly.

A few quibbles: I really liked Pella, an ally Joanna finds unexpectedly, but she was introduced so quickly that she felt a bit shoved in to the narrative. And then she disappeared again just as abruptly, which was odd.

Also the formatting on my Kindle copy had some serious issues. Occasionally there's a typo, but more annoying is that mid-chapter breaks often appear a paragraph before or after the break is clearly supposed to go. Sometimes this crashed the flow of reading and was very confusing, because a change of scene, character or time should be indicated by the break.

Despite this, I am glad I returned to this story and these characters. The blend between technology and magic is still well handled. The relationship between math, magic, logic and intuition works beautifully. Joanna is still a wonderfully unlikely heroine; I love the way she approaches her problems with her stubborn determination and her logical mind.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

One semi-spoiler: after the cliffhanger of book one, I was expecting the same here. However, this book and The Silent Tower make a little duology. A third book tells the further adventures of these characters, but this doesn't read like the second book in a trilogy.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Frank Herbert, 1965

Hugo Winner - 1966

Premise: A classic epic of modern science fiction. Duke Leto Atreides is moving his tactical base and his family to the desert planet Arrakis. He hopes that control over the essential trade of the drug known as 'spice' – found only on Arrakis – will help him in the constant political struggles within the factions of the Empire. But his enemies are moving, betrayal is coming, and his son Paul will be left to seek the truth of the terrible purpose he has foreseen since he was a child.

Where can I even start with this book? I read Dune for the first time a dozen or more years ago, and I remember liking it, but not loving it. It's fascinating reading it in the context of its time now, because it is easily the best of the Hugo winners yet, in my opinion. It's a modern, layered novel of politics, alliances, human choices and fate. It takes place in a grand setting: a complex system of planets, factions, families and governments.

This book confounds me, because it breaks many of my personal rules. It jumps perspective in the midst of a scene when it's useful to do so in order to give the full picture. It blends mysticism, science and fakery in a way that shouldn't work. It occasionally jumps to characters who have little or nothing to do with the main plot.

Yet, it works. And it works brilliantly.

I loved re-reading Dune; I think I caught many more of the bits of exposition about the world that were snuck in around the edges of the story. I understood the story a lot better, including the story under the story that I think is expanded in the second book – the story about the danger of the Hero.

I wondered how many other tropes, books, settings and ideas I love have their roots here. I don't think for a second that this is the first desert planet, but it's one of the most notable. (The sandworms are amazing, of course.) Is this the first, or the first very popular, work that used as its setting an interstellar empire of humans? No alien civilizations, just humanity spreading out to cover the stars.

Suffice to say I was transported, reading this. It struck just the right balance for me between action and meditation, between fight scenes and vision quests. It's a lovely piece, and it deserves its many laurels.

5 Stars – An Awesome Book

Get Dune on

List of Hugo Winners

Also, while we're here:

Comics Briefly: American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #4, Wolverine and the X-Men #16, X-Treme X-Men #3

Friday, September 14, 2012

All books new in stores on 9/12/12

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #4
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Dustin Nguyen, Colors: John Kalisz

It felt like not much happened in this issue. Felicia and Hobbes and their potential new allies are still on the run and arguing with each other. There’s some back story for Hobbes, but I wish we’d had more time with Felicia or the new guys.

Wolverine and the X-Men #16
Writer: Jason Aaron, Pencils and Colors: Chris Bachalo, Inks: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza and Al Vey

HA! In the midst of the crossover craziness, we get this weird little side trip to see what the villains are up to. The issue focuses on the recent adventures of the Hellfire kids, and pulls a nice balance between creepy and funny. This series doesn’t disappoint.

X-Treme X-Men #3
Writer: Geg Pak, Pencils: Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz, Inks: Dennis Crisostomo and Paco Diaz, Colors: Jessica Kholine, Beny Maulana and Sotocolor

Zany, ridiculous, action-packed, few sweet moments; this is better than Issue #2. I like Dazzler so much here, and I like the crazy alterna-folks she’s with and their wacky adventures. There were a few more reversals/reveals just for their own sake than I really like, though. It’s a decent issue, but to stay on my pull list, though, the book will have to pull together a bit more.

Catwoman Volume 1: Trail of the Catwoman

Monday, September 10, 2012

Catwoman Volume 1: Trail of the Catwoman
Darwyn Cooke, Ed Brubaker, et. al., 2011
Original Issues published 2002-2003

Premise: Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has been out of town for a while. After faking her own death, she's been laying low, but now it's time to get control of her life again. She needs a big job to get back on her feet, before she can even think about whether she wants to let being Catwoman become part of her life again. Collects Selina's Big Score, Detective Comics (backup feature) 759-762 and Catwoman 1-9. 

I adored this collection. The art, mostly by Darwyn Cooke, fits perfectly with the noir tone of the stories, and the mix of mystery, crime, romance and adventure is perfect for Catwoman.

The stories are split roughly into three sections, as they were published originally. The first is one complete story: Selina's Big Score. You can see the first few pages here. The second focuses on a private detective named Slam Bradley who's investigating the “death” of Selina Kyle and it takes place concurrently with the first section. The third section brings in more characters and starts a series of adventures about Selina starting to operate in Gotham again as Catwoman.

You don't have to know Catwoman's history to enjoy these stories; this was a bit of an in-continuity new start for her. I wasn't personally a huge fan of Catwoman's revamped origin circa Batman:Year One, but these stories reframe those pieces and later developments in a way that ties all the different takes on the character together, leaving a coherent story of a strong, complicated woman with friends, enemies, and a personal moral code.

The supporting characters fill out the stories without overwhelming the star. The return of her friend Holly in the second part is a good touch, I like bringing in Dr. Thompson, and the other new and re-purposed characters fit well into the setting.

Also, Batman was really well handled, which made me happy. Every so often he appears on the outskirts of the stories; he cares about Selina but won't step in where he's not wanted. It's a really nice portrayal of their on-again, off-again relationship at a time when they're more off than on.

I really can't say enough about the art. It's fluid and full or motion, Selina is sexy and powerful without ever looking ridiculous. The writing is strong: funny, poignant and action-packed.

If you love Catwoman or have always wanted to, or if you just like crime/noir stories, you should consider checking this out.

5 Stars – An Awesome Book

Check out Catwoman Vol. 1: Trail of the Catwoman on

Comics Briefly: Action Comics #0, Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #6

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Legend of Oz technically came out last week, but the shop I went to last week was out of copies. Luckily, I was able to pick it up today!

Action Comics #0
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Ben Oliver, Colorist: Brian Reber

A lovely first-days-of-Superman story in this issue. Clark being awesome and adorable by turns, Lois kicking ass. Just a sweet, fun ride. The backup by Sholly Fisch was fine with a few intriguing lines, but I’m not that interested in Adam-glowing-eyes-dude, and I don’t care about the origins of the villain I had to google to identify.

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #6 (of 6)
Writer: Tom Hutchison, Artist: Alisson Borges, Colorist: Kate Finnegan

Neat! This issue ends the miniseries, but it looks like the adventures of Gale and company will continue next month in an ongoing series! Woo! I really liked this one, from the style of the witches, to the parallels with the original story, to the awesome action scene, to the fantastic ending. If you itch for the sub-sub-genre of western-fantasy the way I do, check out this series.

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles, Day Two)

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles, Day Two)
Patrick Rothfuss, 2011

Premise: Sequel to The Name of the Wind. Kvothe picks up his story where he left off, eventually telling of how he left the University for a time to explore the wider world and began to truly forge his legend.

There isn't much to say here, honestly. This is more of the same: more brilliant, beautiful prose, more gorgeous blending of epic plots and earthy characters, more mystery, more adventure, more tension back in the “present”... it's not better than the first, but it is just as good.

More little observations on the nature of story, like this one on page 8:

"Death was like an unpleasant neighbor. You didn't talk about him for fear he might hear you and decide to pay a visit.

Except for stories, of course. Tales of poisoned kings and duels and old wars were fine. They dressed death in foreign clothes and sent him far from your door."

I was constantly amazed, in this book as in its predecessor, how the tangled plot progressed. I could look up from the book and realized that an insane amount had happened, that it should be surprising that all of this fit together. Yet, as I read it all flowed together naturally, and thinking back I understood each step of how the characters got to each new place.

There are a few bits where Kvothe glosses over a portion of his story that he decides is unimportant or boring, and his listeners object. On a practical level, this amused me because the actual unabridged life story of a character like this would take a lot more than three giant volumes.

Oh, did I mention that this book is insanely long? I remember thinking the first one was long; so much happened in it that I was surprised to check at the end and see that it was only 672 in hardcover. The Wise Man's Fear is almost a thousand pages. On his blog, explaining why the book was published in multiple volumes in some languages, Mr. Rothfuss mentions:
Well… to put it in perspective, The Wise Man’s Fear is more than twice as long as the final Harry Potter book. It’s longer than all three books of the entire Hunger Games trilogy (Which is barely 300,000 words all stacked together.)
Which explains why I wasn't able to devour this one quite as quickly as the first. I am absolutely loving this series, though, and highly recommend any fantasy fan put in the time to read it.

The one and single downside to reading this book is that it means I'm all caught up until The Doors of Stone comes out. And there were three-plus years between the release of book one and book two. Sigh.

5 Stars – An Amazing Book

Get The Wise Man's Fear at

Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Bryan Lee O’Malley, 2002, 2012, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

New Release! I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review.

Premise: Scott Pilgrim is a bit shiftless, but his bumbling charm seems to carry him along. And then he meets the girl of his dreams. No, literally.

I missed Scott Pilgrim the first time around, although I heard all the accolades. I did see the movie, which covers much of the same ground in the beginning as this volume. Since I knew much of the premise and, more importantly, many of the jokes, it took me a while to get into the book. Once the art started to shine with more inventive panels and splash pages, though, I really began to enjoy it.

The strength of Scott Pilgrim is the balance between “real-life” elements, mostly emotional beats and the characters’ down-to-earth attitudes, and fantastical elements, like subspace rollerblading and epic boss fights. It’s a really fun mix.

The characters are interesting, and the art style is pretty adorable. I can see why so many people like it.

If you missed it the first time too, Oni Press is re-releasing Scott Pilgrim in a shiny new colored version. I wasn’t sure at first whether the color added a ton to the art, but it’s pretty cool in the larger spreads.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Get the new Scott Pilgrim Color Hardcover Volume 1: Precious Little Life at