Category Archives: Words

The Walking Dead: A New Beginning

81muWBd8JoLI have been saying for years (that is, maybe four or five books ago?) that Kirkman is running out of scenarios and needs to go ahead and let this series find its ending. That whole period, though, has been devoted to the same extended storyline, which ended in pretty fine form last time. So this book, ironically named A New Beginning, is exactly what I’ve been waiting for: the chance to find out if I’ve been right or not.

And you know… I was prepared to be wrong. I really was. Months have passed, possibly short years, and the promised community is well on its way to being everything that was promised. This story could have been a coda. It could have, better, contained exactly the kind of bombshell change of status quo I no longer believed Kirkman capable of, via a plot twist I never saw coming. Instead… nope, it’s a new turn on the hamster wheel. I’ll keep reading the series, and I’ll keep being glad that the TV show has surpassed it, but I cannot really contain my disappointment, either.

He came so close to proving me wrong.

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man – Revival

51sHdZFm72LAs of Revival, I’m current on the Ultimate universe again, at least as it is released in collected formats rather than monthly. I hate to go all mysterious, but I also hate spoilers, so my review will consist of a short, open letter to Ralph Macchio or Stan Lee or whoever is in charge these days, and if you choose to read very much between the lines at all, you’ll be able to tell what I’m talking about and have your review, and if not, you’ll avoid your spoilers. In any case, I hasten to assure you that Bendis is still writing this series, and he’s still doing a great job, and I’m still eager to know what happens next. (Seriously, seriously eager.)

Dear Stan Lee or Ralph Macchio or whoever is in charge of Marvel story development these days,

You guys. Seriously. I cannot really take this anymore. I was unhappy when I learned the news in the first place, skeptical for a good long time thereafter, and only fairly recently have I come to terms with what you did. It was a big, bold, ballsy move, and it has paid off in more ways than I would have guessed back when I first knew it was coming.

I can imagine myself coming to terms with this too, not least because it gives me back what I want. But it’s not fair to the new guy that has been developing so nicely, and it’s also maybe not fair to the creation you’ve all been developing for the past 15 years now. I’m just saying, be careful.

No, that’s not true. That’s the least part of what I’m saying. What I’m really saying is this: pick a side. Stop fucking with me. I want clear answers, and I want to feel reassured that they’re really the real answers, and I know goddamn well that’s a ridiculous thing to expect from the comics industry, particularly around this kind of story development. Nevertheless, I can’t really take it anymore, and there we are.

You should know, though, that (like I told my so-called audience a few paragraphs up before the letter started) I did like the book, and I do desperately want to know how things turn out. Just because I’m roller-coastered out doesn’t mean I don’t want more. Also, holy shit with how cool J. Jonah Jameson was. It’s been a while since my jaw dropped reading one of your books. (And almost always because of Bendis. Hold onto that kid, okay?)

Sincerely,
The guy that runs this blog

Mr. Mercedes

81b6KKuWQ3LBack while I was only reading comics because the site was down, I remembered that a new Stephen King book was being published in November. But when I went to buy it, I learned that a different, slightly less new one had been published over the summer, completely escaping my knowledge. So, like, oops?[1]

Mr. Mercedes is basically a crime novel. It portrays the game of cat and mouse between a retired police detective and a locally infamous mass murderer who was never caught. Obviously I cannot say more about it than that, because the rest is deep into spoilers territory. But King has not lost the voice that keeps me coming back year after year for more, and I’ve always said it doesn’t have to be horror to make it work. I started to add dark fantasy or dark science fiction, but then it occurred to me that mysteries are dark by their nature[2], so maybe it does have to be dark. Maybe it doesn’t and just always is anyway? It’s not for me to recommend the man fight against a formula that obviously works.

[1] This is the kind of thing that very few people would judge me for.
[2] Well, adult mysteries are, anyway. Encyclopedia Brown and (usually) the Three Investigators[3] are allowed to be less dark, because, kidbooks.
[3] Oh, man. Why aren’t those on Kindle? Or are they? I’m torn between a Wikipedia / Amazon investigation and the urge to run the other way and keep my memories delicate and precious.

Unicorn Being a Jerk

51rt0NUfXwLMy girlfriend got this book for Christmas from her brother, and I read it myself over the course of about five or ten horrified minutes. You see, on the one hand, Unicorn Being a Jerk is an extremely accurate title. On the other hand… every time I thought I had a handle on how big of a jerk Unicorn was, I would turn a page and learn that I was the Jon Snow of this book.

If your reaction to things too horrible to look at is laughter, this is the book for you. If not… at least it’s short and there isn’t a whole lot of text? I suppose if you were kidnapped and forced to read it against your will, you could kill time figuring out the correct timeline of Unicorn’s life and how all the events relate to each other.

But, yeah, it was pretty funny.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

51wAAzcD2uLAs you probably know if you’ve spent much time on the internet over the last five years, there’s a bizarrely drawn website about (mostly) childhood, dogs, and/or mental health called Hyperbole and a Half. What there’s a slight chance you don’t know is that the creator of that site has also released a book compiled partially from what’s already on the internet and partially from new essays.

She’s funny, often relatable, and the book reads quickly. I’m not sure you’ll get a deeper insight into the human condition, although if you’ve never dealt with depression, maybe you would learn something? But people often don’t, if they haven’t seen it themselves, so maybe not. By and large, it’s a humorous essay book, and they all cover the same thematic ground. The specific circumstances of this one? Yep, funny.

I do really wonder about her self-image, though. Her drawings are all on par with each other, rough but good enough that you can tell there’s some real talent going into them. The dogs start out looking like caricatures of bad dog drawings until you realize how well she captures different poses and moods. All of the people look like people, and so forth. Except, her self portrait is of a worm with a blonde sharkfin, wearing a tubesock. This is universally true, every time, even amidst other perfectly normally (but still roughly) drawn people. It’s obviously a stylistic choice, I just… like I said, I cannot help wondering what it means, on the inside. The answer to that question does not, as far as I can tell, reside within this book.

But it’s still worth reading!

All-New Ultimates: Power for Power

51Cmme49xoLI have mixed emotions about the All-New Ultimates. For one thing, well, there just aren’t a ton of familiar characters left alive in the Ultimate universe, and most of the ones that are left moved on to the Future Foundation. It’s not that I don’t want to see Spidey and his Amazing Friends battle street crime, it’s that it seems silly to shoehorn them into the Ultimates, just so that team is still “alive”. Same plot, different title? I’d… well, I’d still have some complaints.

Because, all of that said: I’m not sure I saw the point of Spidey and his Amazing Friends the Ultimates taking on street level crime in the first place. I mean, okay, the gangs seem to have powers, at least a little? And there are leftover renegade scientists from the Oscorp and Roxxon days finding new ways to screw people up. So on paper (heh), it’s a reasonable conflict. But: the Serpent Squad? Really? Which is me complaining about how the villain side of the equation is just as depleted as the hero side. That’s a structural complaint, but I also have a related plot complaint, which is that it seems like I should have heard of any of these gangs before, if they’re supposed to be a big deal now.

But then, all of that is balanced by the team’s make-up. Spider Woman, newly christened as Black Widow, is the leader. Then there’s Spider-Man, Bombshell, Kitty Pryde, and Cloak and Dagger. You’ve heard of maybe half of those, which is why my point is not coming across, which is that the Ultimates is comprised of four ladies and two dudes, neither of whom are white. Get these people some actual villains and storylines, and I could find myself very excited by what Marvel is doing right now.

Also, just give Jessica Drew (that is, new Black Widow) her own title, already.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

71E+64So-kLAlthough not the concluding third day of his Kingkiller Chronicles[1][2], Patrick Rothfuss has recently released a book set in that world.[3] The Slow Regard of Silent Things is about a week in the life of one of the residents of, um, that magic college place not named Hogwarts where Kvothe is known to hang out. Which description is proof that I’ll need to reread these books once the finale is announced.[4]

But anyway, it’s about Auri, who hides from everyone and has reminded me just a very small amount of Lazlo from Real Genius if he were a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but without the sexual connotations. Which throws me headlong into what I had thought I was going to be edging towards. See, I have this website, where I write reviews of things. Although it’s dressed up a bit in the theme I have chosen, there’s really no connection between what I use it for and what it is named. It’s just that back in the ’90s, I really wanted a domain, and the domain that I wanted the most was the one named after my very favorite character in all of Sandman[5].

The upshot of which is, except for my reviews of the actual Sandman books, Auri in this story is the closest I’ve ever come on my website to finding Delirium in the wild, as it were. She is by turns breathless with happiness, reckless as lemmings, crushed under by the weight of the world, determined as any hero, or hopelessly lost at sea. I smiled with her and my heart broke for her, sometimes at the same time. I guess my point is that I cannot imagine a story more calculated to enchant me, personally. I cannot say that I identify with her, or even wish that I did. But as with Delirium herself, I wish I could heal her.

But I guess a point of those stories is that perfect delight cannot long survive the world.

[1] Spoiler alert for footnote 2
[2] Total number of kings killed thusfar: zero
[3] Also, the author’s afterword indicates there’s a short story I missed sometime in the past year or two. I kind of hate how easy it is for that to happen. Thanks a lot, compilations!
[4] On the one hand, I like not waiting for a series to be complete before I read it. On the other, I resent having to reread books by the time I’m getting near the end, since I’d rather just have the knowledge stored up and read new stuff instead. But my memory is not so eidetic as I’d like. It is a conundrum!
[5] And high in my top five favorite fictional characters, period.

The Walking Dead: All Out War Part Two

81hYcJq6KNLSo, I finally reached the point I’ve been anticipating for like four books? Five? Years, anyway. All Out War (part 2) does not have a part three. Storyline resolved. For all that it matters, it was resolved satisfactorily, with clever turns, expected, unexpected, and subverted. I am quite satisfied with this book.

I am far less satisfied with the fact that another book will follow it. (In fact, already has. This is the kind of behind I fall when I’m not allowed to read for two plus months.) I hope I’ll find out I’m wrong, since I know I will find out, but I really doubt that Kirkman has new stories to tell. And I can’t even comfort myself by saying of course he had to write more, this one ended so terribly. Because, nope, wind or not, this was an ending. …could have been, anyway.

Ultimate FF: Strangest Ever

81hWGc63i3LThe newest wave of Ultimate books is finally here! Which is to say, they dropped within a week or so of the site coming back up, and despite there being three of them already, that’s just a timing issue and I’m not nearly as far behind as it sounds. Unlike if you were to be talking about Brust or Rothfuss or King or Butcher, to name a few twitches I’ve had lately.

Strangest Ever is certainly a book that lives up to its title. It’s not the Fantastic Four like you’d think (unless you’ve been following these plotlines, in which case you’d think that’s entirely ridiculous). Instead, it’s the Future Foundation, which is basically Tony Stark’s and Sue Storm’s brainchild to defend the planet against extra-dimensional incursions of the type that came so close to wiping out all life, a book or so ago. And that’s a good idea, as far as it goes. It’s just that it seemed to turn into an excuse to trot out every bizarre event that has ever happened in the Marvel multiverse. It turns out I have limits?

But that’s a matter of taste, which I accept. It’s not objective truth, like the fact that nobody wants to see a purple Iron Man. And it’s not something that clearly should be objective truth, like that nobody wants to see dead people come back. The whole Ultimate thing up until now has been so good about that, and okay, they had a really good excuse this time. They earn credit with me for not having used, much less overused, this excuse. But the reason why they have that credit is that they don’t do it. The whole thing makes me skeptical, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, my point is this: I look forward to seeing someone take the reins on the new era soon, and I especially thank my stars that Bendis has stuck around. Someone give him the reins, yo.

Words of Radiance

51RoBAb1oyLThe problem with your website being down for two months is, you can’t remember what happened in between. I mean, no. I’m fully aware that I thought Words of Radiance was a good book, that it did another good job of being largely self-contained[1], that it did a great job of throwing a lot of new information and a lot of really cool new magic- and world-building, that I stayed invested in the characters.

So all in all, I still have the sense of the thing. But themes? Discussion of specific plot points I might want to put behind spoiler space? I sincerely got nothing. The good news is, I haven’t read any other books in the meantime, and I’m bound to read this again, so probably you’ll get a replacement review which will be good, someday? And more importantly, no other shoddy book reviews!

Shoddy movie review(s?), though? Probably.

[1] That’s not what I mean, but I don’t know how to pithily encapsulate what I do mean. Which is that I felt like it told a complete chapter within its larger story, and did not leave me feeling cheated out of getting more Right Now. In short, it’s doing a good job of maintaining its place in third-wave epic fantasy.