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The Unwritten: Leviathan March 5, 2014

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11142767The irony of staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out what to say about the current volume of The Unwritten, it has not escaped me. Here’s where I’m stuck. The story, in which Tom Taylor is exercising his new-found powers over the world and the literary realms[1], was definitely lively enough to keep me interested throughout. The problem is, having reached the end and nodding along wisely as he explicates his own conclusions on the topic and re-dedicates himself to the fight those powers are meant to help him with…

Well, the problem is, I don’t really yet have any idea what either he or his opposition want to accomplish. The stakes certainly seem world-spanningly high, and it may be my fault for having spaced these books out too broadly, but I have no idea what the prize is supposed to be, much less the win condition. It seems like I should, and it’s hard to look back and care very much while I don’t.

I’m kind of asking, in fact. Does anyone else read this series and know what the fight is actually for? I don’t want spoilers if I shouldn’t know yet (as of Leviathan), but a confirmation that someone else does know or an appropriate reminder if I should know myself, these would definitely not go amiss. It’s all the more frustrating because I appreciate what Carey is doing here, and I think he might have something profound on his hands, but right now it, whatever it is, is as adrift as I am.

[1] Perhaps someday we’ll find out if he has powers over the world as well because he himself is a character in a literary realm. That might be far too meta and self-aware of the story, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. Probably I won’t until it happens, and if it never happens, I’ll be stuck always wondering if that’s what I was supposed to believe.

Ultimates: Disassembled March 4, 2014

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jpegI’m very nearly caught up on Ultimate Marvel comics again, after my year-long hiatus to read about a shepherd with a sword. Which is really good timing, because The Ultimates: Disassembled makes a good go at tying up every loose end that has dangled since the Ultimatum[1], not to mention a few from the Gah Lak Tus incursion. Plus, the Fantastic Four are finally reunited?!

Unfortunately, it cleans up those loose ends in such a way that I’m still not sure if what’s been going on with Quicksilver for the past three years or so has all been this, or different authors pulling him in different directions. (See, I was going to say, “If you want to know what’s been up with Quicksilver, here you go!” Only, I’m still not completely positive I do know.) If you want to see another convoluted time travel story involving Kang the Conqueror? Cool, here it is! If you care about the Infinity Gauntlet[2], this is where you’d find the Ultimate version!

What is fortunate is that this felt like a story instead of the series of tickboxes I complained about for the last Ultimates outing. An exciting story, with more than a dollop of consequences, and a big albeit possibly premature glimpse at the upcoming, what are they calling it this time, Cataclysm I think? I’ll definitely take that. But I am kind of sad at implications that my excellent character analysis of Ultimate Reed Richards (available upon request in comments, if I haven’t already told you it in some other written or aural format) may have just been undone. Thanks a lot, Kang.

[1] If there’s one thing that does make me happy about there being a new massive crossover event that will kill off half the populace or more all over again, it’s that I can at least start referring back to a new dividing line between “then” and “now”.
[2] Plausibly, I will someday care about this.

Seedling March 3, 2014

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51b094MgQYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Assuming you haven’t been here long (and are unwilling to click through the Deathlands tag): post-apocalyptic 22nd Century gun porn with teleporters and whiffs of Seven Samurai, in episodic format, series approximately 100 books in length. Okay? Okay.

Since I’m still reading them, it’s probably time to stop being surprised by how compelling they are, or at least to stop mentioning it every time. The real problem is that without that or the setting summary, and without massive spoilers, it’s hard to say much of a much. Plausibly, I should not concern myself with spoilers regarding a 25 year old men’s adventure series that nobody besides me is going to read, but it’s hard to think that way. The result of all of this being, there’s maybe a sentence, tops, I can put together to explain any given book.

In the case of Seedling, Ryan Cawdor and company stumble out of the latest abandoned secret government teleport installation into uptown Manhattan (or technically probably Queens, but whatever), where they discover the biggest collection of pre-nuke hardware and memorabilia any of them have ever seen, an unexpected mutant army, the expected levels of treachery and general Deathlands deadliness[1], and a deviously clever use of the book’s title.

[1] After all, it’s not named that because you’d want to buy into the timeshare.[2]
[2] Okay, fine, two sentences. But only barely.

Hack/Slash/Eva: Monster’s Ball February 17, 2014

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HACK_SLASH_EVA_MONSTERS_BALL_TRADE_PAPERBACKMonster’s Ball was refreshing in that it was an episodic slasher hunt without any accumulated baggage, exactly the kind of thing I’ve been asking for. It was problematic in that… well, see that “Eva” up there? Apparently this was a crossover between Cassie’s comic and Eva’s, who is a brunette hunter of monsters in tight, occasionally accidentally-revealing clothing accompanied by a hulking, inhuman, green-skinned monster[1]. I’m not precisely sure who is ripping off whom here, but clearly the creators must not mind so much, or else I doubt there would have been a crossover in the first place?

Also, it was less of a crossover and more of a boost for the Eva character, as far as I can tell. That is, it’s much harder to find any information about this person, despite the authorial duties coming from that direction, and also Cassie and Vlad were entirely guest stars in Eva’s enemy’s evil plot. Sure, some of Cassie’s old enemies made an appearance, but you could skip this and never know you’d missed anything, whereas even without knowing anything about Eva that I didn’t glean in this book, it’s obvious that her life altered significantly between the first and last pages of the story. So, cool I guess?

Even if other Eva collections existed (and they appear not to), I wouldn’t be seeking them out after this taste. Which probably tells you what you need to know.

[1] I mean, not the Hulk.

Ultimate X-Men: Natural Resources February 11, 2014

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61Djh0nXhuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If there’s one thing you can take for granted in any Marvel universe, it’s that while the mutants may have good days, they never, ever have good years. With this knowledge in hand, it was easy to predict how Natural Resources was going to go. Well, that and the knowledge that Kitty Pryde’s deal with POTUS has recently become her deal with the previous POTUS. And that’s before you take into account her array of other oppositions, foreign and domestic.

As spoilery as that whole paragraph feels, it’s all based on what has gone before. I have sincerely said almost nothing about the actual book in question. On the one hand, it’s really cool to see all kinds of plots coming together. Perhaps by the time I get through the next few books (one already published, two more out within the month), there will be almost no dangling threads at all, and I won’t feel like I’m wandering around lost and/or forgetful?

Ha ha, turns out that’s not speculation. The fourth future book is yet another comics-shattering event, after which I can expect another rebranding[1] and another contraction of what is being published. Well, sort of a contraction. It’s three titles, but since there are only three titles now (not counting one-shots), this may not count as anything especially impressive? Perhaps the goal is to have fewer one-shots. Due to there being that upcoming comics-shattering event, I will not reveal which titles are expected, since probably everyone not in them will be dead soon? (I have no proof, but Ultimatum is persuasive evidence as to how these things go.)

[1] Ultimate Comics NOW! The exclamation mark was not added by me, to be clear. Nor were the caps.

Death Troopers February 10, 2014

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DeathtroopersIf you’ve been saying to yourself (and who hasn’t?), “Man, I like the ninety or so Star Wars novels floating around out there, but why don’t any of them have zombies?”, then I am here to tell you that you’ve been ignoring Death Troopers, which has been sitting on my shelf for at least two years.

I’m supposed to be here to tell you more than that, you know? This was certainly a zombie book, in that it included a government conspiracy, a rampaging horde of dead people, plucky yet mostly doomed survivors, unpleasant trouble-making survivors, and multiple instances of chase scenes and grotesqueries. And it was certainly a Star Wars book, in that it included references to familiar types of aliens and droids, an evil Galactic Empire run by an asthmatic cyborg, and laser blasters instead of pistols and shotguns.

It was not, however, a particularly inspired version of either genre. In fact, it has just occurred to me, I did not at any point have a John Williams soundtrack thundering in my ears. So, wow. Probably worse than I thought.

Powers: Psychotic February 4, 2014

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DIG011309_1At the end of the latest Powers collection, in time to commemorate the 50th issue of the comic that rounds out the book, there is an extensive interview with author Bendis and artist Mike Avon Oeming. It is sometimes funny, often insightful, and constantly vulgar in exactly the way you’d expect from a series that has prominently featured a monkey’s vagina, and I recommend it to anyone who is reading the series or is interested in the nuts and bolts of the modern (ie, the past decade or so) comics industry. But it also makes the point that Powers is a series which constantly re-invents itself. If I have not made this point myself over the previous eight reviews, I certainly should have.

Psychotic does not precisely mark a re-invention (as the plot is still firmly centered around the consequences of outlawing the use of superpowers), but it certainly picks up a new theme: cops who commit crimes, cops who shield those cops, and cops who work to prove the wrongs that were done by those cops. And of course it does this in ways you would not expect, because Bendis is good at what he does.

Mostly though, the book is a placeholder while we all wait for Deena Pilgrim’s evolving circumstances to settle into a dramatic revelation of some kind. I’m not saying I’ve been waiting forever to see how this turns out or anything, though it has been kind of a while. But the sudden steep jump in the stakes? Definitely dropped my patience level.

Also, I said something about contrasting Powers and The Boys, as their worlds are somewhat similar in scope? Well, maybe I only thought it. Either way, it’s impressive that the two books I’ve just read do share an overlapping type of event, and it’s even more impressive how, even though the one in Powers was objectively the worse on an ethical scale, it also resulted in my feeling no resentment for the character involved.

The Boys: The Innocents February 2, 2014

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boys_vol_07I find that the triumph I should have felt at the second half of Ennis’ The Boys beginning with the plot turn I had been awaiting since pretty much the first book has turned to ashes in my mouth, since it simultaneously removed my empathy for usually likable lead Hughie, who was of course twice as likable for being based on Simon Pegg.

Since reviews should last longer than one sentence if you are not Mighty God King, I will add that despite my belief that any redemption from Hughie’s horrible actions will feel contrived or else insufficient, I’m going to continue with the series for a few reasons. There are still a handful of characters who I do not despise, and a handful more who I am interested in learning more about. Also, there’s something big brewing in the superhero sphere, and the plotting has been good enough so far that I could probably choke past my dislike of humanity’s erstwhile saviors to find out how the actual savioring works out.

Then again, I need to shop for and buy the remaining volumes, since my free supply has run out as of this one, so who knows what I’ll actually manage? Because, ashes, I tell you. Ashes.

Knights of Badassdom January 27, 2014

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MV5BMTQ3ODEwMzY3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTkwMTQ5MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_The only real problem with Knights of Badassdom is its lack of depth. What you see is exactly what you will get[1]. And even that’s not precisely a weakness, because at least it’s really, really easy to decide if it’s the kind of thing that you want to get.

Let me break it down for you, and then from there it’s your call whether you’d be interested. So, you know Peter Dinklage (Tyrion from TV’s Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (River Tam from TV’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and Anna Paquin’s brother from TV’s True Blood? They got together with a couple of other familiar faces and made a movie about LARPing[2]. No, that’s not right. They made the movie about LARPing that all LARPers have in their heads while they are LARPing. Yep, in the middle of a war event, one of the mages accidentally summons a real live demon from hell, who wreaks havoc amidst the goings on and gives someone a chance to convince Summer Glau that they might be worth boning.

If you are a LARPer and feel that I have misrepresented any particular of your own desired experience[3], I look forward to hearing about it!

[1] Caveat: the climax of the film is completely unpredictable. Not in a way that adds depth, alas, but it’s still nice to know they had an ace up their sleeve.
[2] If you don’t know what LARP is, you are not the movie’s target audience. Basically, it’s SCA crossed with D&D. If you don’t know what SCA and/or D&D are, you’re definitely not the movie’s target audience.
[3] …that you couldn’t correct by replacing Summer Glau with Nathan Fillion, that is.

The Republic of Thieves January 22, 2014

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51yQAM+bCqLSometimes, I think I’m the easiest audience in the world. (The easiest mark? Okay, probably not that, at least.) Which is not to imply that The Republic of Thieves was less than good. It’s just that if I’m not stumbling over myself to spout reason after reason why it was great, it may be that my desire to claim it is great, by simple fiat, may not be entirely fair of me.

I mean, yes, I love the characters, and that could be the root of it. “I care about these characters beyond all reason”, while also an exaggeration, still fits the bill for an express train to Loss of Objectivity Township[1]. And yes, the book gave me everything I could have wanted out of this particular sequel: the long-referenced Sabetha not only finally given life, but given life and strength of character[2] well above and beyond the pale, purposed only for a string of villains to gain leverage over Locke Lamora, farcical reflection of an actual person that she could have become in the hands of, say, a comic book author; more information abut the Bondsmagi of Karthain, which I certainly craved; a new kind of con game for the Gentlemen Bastards to run; and especially the lack of a cliffhanger ending.

And on top of that, there were lots of little things I didn’t precisely know I’d wanted, but got anyway. Like enough information about the Eldren, however minimal, for me to believe they’ll be relevant before the series ends. (Which is cool, because ancient traces of civilization are inherently cool, and moreso if they eventually matter as more than set dressing.) And like the sense of a circle closing with these three books forming a trilogy within the larger sequence. And like the clinched certainty after said three books that if there’s one thing I can rely on in Lynch’s writing, it’s that whatever the characters and the reader think the game is, it’s always going to be something else[3]. And like that bitch of an after-the-credits scene. Because seriously, twelve pages of me shaking my head in less-than-mute denial over what I know in my bones is about to happen? Somewhere along the way, someone told a pretty good story if I care that much about, y’know, these characters.

It occurs to me that the structure of this review indicates a paragraph where I allowed for the book’s shortcomings, as a contrast to what had come before and fulfillment of my original desire to not falsely claim greatness. But over the course of putting this together, I’ve found that whatever flaws certainly did exist? I don’t care enough about them to dredge any up. So, there you go, I guess.

Also, there’s a fairly significant spoiler behind the cut.

[1] It’s a real place. In Montana. Look it up.
[2] In both the literary and… well, moral doesn’t seem to be the right term here, does it? So what I really meant for the second half was strength of personality, and now it’s not a clever, dual-purpose metaphor any longer. Luckily, nobody reads footnotes.
[3] If any of the characters actually learns that, in a meaningful way and where they can use the knowledge? It could be that they’ll finally win that big score they keep working toward. (Whether said score is physical or emotional in nature is left as an exercise for the author.)

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