Quick Reviews: Graphic Novels

Here are seven mini-reviews of graphic novels/collections that I’ve read over the last few weeks. Given that some of them are from now well-established series, I decided to keep them very short in order to not spoil things for new readers.

Batman-Vol.06-GraveyardShiftBATMAN, Vol.6 — Graveyard Shift (DC New 52)

Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Greg Capullo

In these tales from BATMAN #0, 18-20, 28, 34 and BATMAN ANNUAL #2, look back to the early days of the Dark Knight, then see the impact of the wake of the death of his son Damian! Plus, has Batman’s worst foe become…Bruce Wayne? This title also includes three pivotal chapters from the epic ZERO YEAR storyline, and a chapter that ties in to BATMAN ETERNAL!

Another good collection, but not the best. This book collects together the shorter and stand-alone stories. It’s a good, mixed collection. I miss the larger, multi-issue and more involved storylines, and I look forward to reading “End Game”.

A must for completists, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s essential. It is, however, also quite a good book to read if you want to sample Snyder and Capullo’s Batman work — they remain a creative force to be reckoned with.

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DetectiveComics-Vol.06-IcarusBATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS, Vol.6 — Icarus (DC New 52)

Writer: Francis Manapul | Artist: Brian Buccellato

Batman finds himself knee-deep in a new mystery involving a deadly new narcotic that has hit the streets of Gotham City. Can the Dark Knight stop the threat before the entire town finds itself embroiled in a deadly gang war that could burn everything — and everyone — down to the ground?

Collects: Detective Comics #30-34 & Annual #3

This is a great new instalment in this series. After Gregg Hurwitz’s run on Batman: Dark Knight ended, I’ve been looking for some new life in the Bat-family titles. I think Manapul and Buccellato are the pair to do it: “Icarus” is a great story, focusing a lot on the “Detective” part of the series title. A drug ravaging the city, Batman and his allies must get to the bottom of things in order to take the unstable, deadly substance off the streets.

A great first storyline for the new creative team. Highly recommended for all fans of Batman.

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Copperhead-Vol.01-NewSheriffInTownCOPPERHEAD, Vol.1 — A New Sheriff in Town (Image)

Writer: Jay Faerber | Artist: Scott Godlewski

Welcome to Copperhead, a grimy mining town on the edge of a backwater planet. Single mom Clara Bronson is the new sheriff, and on her first day she’ll have to contend with a resentful deputy, a shady mining tycoon, and a family of alien hillbillies. And did we mention the massacre?

Collects: Copperhead #1-5

Now this book was fantastic. A perfect transposition of the classic crime/cop story onto a weird and wonderful, Star Wars-esque science fictional setting. The writing and dialogue are punchy and perfectly paced, the artwork is fantastic. The characters are quickly established, the world and community Bronson finds herself in are great — populated by colourful characters and intriguing dynamics. Her supporting cast are interesting and diverse (in race as well as temperament), and Faerber and Godlewski give us some hints about their pasts and potential future storylines.

If you read only one new comic series this year, I’d highly recommend you make it this one. “A New Sheriff in Town” is the start of something awesome.

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Low-Vol.01-DeliriumOfHopeLOW, Vol.1 — The Delirium of Hope (Image)

Writer: Rick Remender | Artist: Greg Tocchini

Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy, to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart, in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope.

Collects: Low #1-6

This series was getting a lot of attention when it was first announced, and the first few issues were equally praised. It’s not difficult to see why — Tocchini’s artwork is striking and vivid, and Remender’s story is pretty cool. The dystopian setting is unusual and well-built. That being said, the story never quite gripped me as much as I’d expected. I like Remender’s work, and this series has some fantastic, weird and wonderful moments within. But… it also felt just a tad plodding. It was slightly predictable, too. Nevertheless, and while those may sound like damning niggles, Low is worth checking out if you’re a fan of SF comic and/or dystopian fiction. An interesting book.

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Unwritten-Vol.09-FablesTHE UNWRITTEN, Vol. 9 — The Unwritten Fables (Vertigo)

Writer: Mike Carey & Bill Willingham | Artist: Peter Gross & Mark Buckingham

The worlds of FABLES and THE UNWRITTEN collide in the epic comic event by Mike Carey and Bill Willingham!

Tommy Taylor is thrust into the world of Vertigo’s hit series Fables! But a dark and terrible foe has seized the fairy-tale homelands and our world. In desperation, the witches of Fabletown gather to summon the greatest mage the worlds have ever seen. But they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Collects: The Unwritten #50-55

Long-time readers of CR have probably picked up on the fact that I’m a big fan of not only The Unwritten, but also Mike Carey’s fiction and Bill Willingham’s Fables universe. It was with great anticipation, therefore, that I started reading The Unwritten Fables. What I found was… disappointing. The story was fine, but didn’t come close to matching the quality of neither The Unwritten nor Fables. The connection felt forced, the story not as confident nor gripping as I have come to expect from both writers. The artwork is very good, of course, and is worth reading for that reason alone. Ultimately, though, I would not tell anyone that this is an essential book, and if you’ve been following either series, you wouldn’t miss anything by skipping it.

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Unwritten-Vol.10-WarStoriesTHE UNWRITTEN, Vol. 10 — War Stories (Vertigo)

Writer: Mike Carey | Artist: Peter Gross

The tenth volume of the critically-acclaimed new series from the Eisner-nominated creative team, Mike Carey and Peter Gross is the perfect jumping on point, as Tom Taylor is stranded at the beginning of all creation!

Lost in the unwritten scenes of all the world’s stories, Tom Taylor is headed back to reality — and all the gods and beasts and monsters ever imagined can’t stop him. But there’s a toll on the road that may be too high for him or anyone to pay…

Collects: The Unwritten Apocalypse #1-5

So, I liked this better than The Unwritten Fables, but the book still didn’t engage me as much as the first eight volumes of the series did. It’s still a strong series, and one I’d recommend to everyone, but this one meandered just a little more than I had hoped. The artwork in the first chapter/issue is fantastic and tries something new. This book kicks off a new phase in the story. Imaginative, innovative, and pretty twisty, if you’re a fan of the series, this is a must. If you’ve never read anything in this series before, I’d recommend you go back to volume one and get hooked now.

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Wayward-Vol.01-StringTheoryWAYWARD, Vol.1 — String Theory (Image)

Writer: Jim Zub | Artists: Steve Cummings, John Rauch & Tamra Bonvillain

Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can Rori unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late?

Collects: Wayward #1-5

This is a fantastic new series. I’ve enjoyed everything of Jim Zub’s that I’ve read in the past, but this may be my favourite. Set in Japan, the comic brings to the country and its culture to life on the page. Mashing it up with folklore and mythology, this has a Studio Gibli-esque feel, while very much maintaining its own identity. Magical conspiracies, amusing werecats, and pretty cool protagonists and antagonists. I can’t wait for book two. A definite must-read, and another success for Image Comics.

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Books Received… (June)

BooksReceived-20140614

Another good week (creating something of an overwhelming situation, vis-à-vis my TBR mountain). Below are the books, eBooks and graphic novels I’ve either received for review or bought over the past two weeks.

Featuring: Adam Baker, Terry Brooks, Carol K. Carr, Malcolm Cross, Emily Gould, C.B. Harvey, Ben Peek, Jodi Picoult, Gabriel Roth, Maggie Shipstead, Scott Sigler, Matthew Spektor, Jon Steele, Adrian Tchaikovsky, & Graphic Novels

Baker-ImpactUKAdam Baker, Impact (Hodder)

The world is overrun by an unimaginable horror. The few surviving humans are scattered in tiny outposts across the world, hoping for reprieve – or death.

Waiting on the runway of the abandoned Las Vegas airport sits the B-52 bomber Liberty Bell, revving up for its last, desperate mission. On board – six crew members and one 10-kiloton nuclear payload. The target is a secret compound in the middle of the world’s most inhospitable desert.

All the crew have to do is drop the bomb and head to safety.

But when the Liberty Bell crashes, the surviving crew are stranded in the most remote corner of Death Valley. They’re alone in an alien environment, their only shelter the wreckage of their giant aircraft, with no hope of rescue. And death is creeping towards them from the place they sought to destroy – and may already reside beneath their feet in the burning desert sands.

I’m a relatively recent convert to Baker’s novels, as I’ve mentioned before on the blog. My first of his was Terminus, last year, which I really enjoyed. When this dropped through the mail, I was very excited – I had no idea it was on the way (it was only recently added to Goodreads, and I just haven’t seen any mention of it before). It has also upended my reading plans for the next couple of weeks. Because I’ve already started reading it…

Also on CR: Interview with Adam Baker, Guest Post

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BrooksT-DoS1-TheHighDruidsBladeUKTerry Brooks, The High Druid’s Blade (Orbit)

Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life – until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world… and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him – and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.

It must be twenty years since I last read a Brooks novel. I believe it was either Sword of Shannara or Elfstones of Shannara. Maybe Magic Kingdom For Sale, Sold. Between then and my rediscovery of and happy disappearance down the rabbit hole of fantasy fiction in 2008, I also developed a very strong desire to only read series in order. Naturally, this caused some difficult when it came to Brooks’s continuing Shannara series. I can’t promise I’ll get around to this, but I would like to return to the world at some point. We’ll see.

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CarrCK-IB3-AndTheShadowsOfAnarchyUKCarol K. Carr, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy (Titan)

In Victorian London, India Black has all the attributes a high-class madam needs to run a successful brothel – wit, beauty, and an ability to lie with a smile. Luckily for Her Majesty’s Government, all these talents also make her a first-rate spy…

India Black, full-time madam and occasional secret agent, is feeling restless, when one of Disraeli’s men calls on her to meet the prime minister – alone. Even though all her previous meetings have been organized by the rakishly handsome spy French, it’s been decided this is a mission India must attempt on her own.

Revolt has spread across Europe and reached the shores of England – anarchists have begun assassinating lords and earls, one by one. Now India must infiltrate the ranks of the underground group responsible for those attacks, the sinister Dark Legion. To stop their dread plot, India will go from the murkiest slums of London to the highest levels of society, uncovering secrets that threaten her very existence…

An intriguing-looking steampunk, Victoriana spy series. I haven’t had the chance to read the first two books in the series, yet, but I am interested in checking it out.

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Various-JournalOfThePlagueYearMalcolm Cross, C. B. Harvey & Adrian Tchaikovsky, Plague Year (Abaddon)

The Cull swept the world in the early years of the twenty-first century, killing billions and ending civilisation as we know it. Only those fortunate to be blessed with the right blood were spared. In the latest instalment to the shared world of Afterblight Chronicles three fantastic authors lead us further into the apocalypse:

In Cross’ Orbital Decay, astronaut Alvin Burrows watches helplessly as the world collapses, and the crew on board the Space Station are murdered one by one.

In Harvey’s Dead Kelly, fugitive Kelly McGuire returns to the lawless city of Melbourne seeking revenge on his old gang mates.

In Tchaikovsky’s The Bloody Deluge (previously unpublished), biochemist Katy Lewkowitz and her friend Dr. Emil Weber seek refuge from the deadly cult of the New Teutonic Order.

Journal of the Plague Year is an omnibus collection of three unique novellas; it will thrill, enthral and horrify you in equal measures.

I have to admit that what sold me on this collection was the inclusion of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella. It is, I believe, his first published sci-fi/dystopia fiction. Don’t mean to be disrespectful to the other two authors, of course, but I am a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s already. I haven’t read anything else in the Afterblight Chronicles, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have past experience with it. If nothing else, I’m going to read Adrian’s story ASAP, and then get back to the other two at a later date (alternating between this and full-length novels, perhaps).

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guest Post by Adrian

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GouldE-FriendshipUKEmily Gould, Friendship (Virago)

Bev Tunney is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for New York bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living in a shared house, drowning in debt. Her friend Amy Schein is a charismatic and fiercely impetuous Brooklyn media darling still riding the tailwinds of early success, but reality is catching up with her – her job, her lease and her relationship are on the brink of collapse. And now Bev is unexpectedly pregnant.

As Amy and Bev are dragged into their thirties and genuine adulthood, they are forced to contemplate the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart. They want to help each other but can’t help themselves; want to make good decisions, but fall prey to their worst impulses; find their generosity overwhelmed by petty concerns. An unsettling encounter with an accomplished older woman, Sally, throws their problems into sharp relief.

Emily Gould’s dazzling debut novel traces the evolution of a friendship with wry sympathy, refreshing honesty and humour.

I like stories set in New York City. I’m in my thirties. Thought it might be a nice change to the SFF/thrillers I mainly read. I’ve been reading more in the contemporary and literary fiction genres, and I’ve found a lot that I like. True, there are certain tropes and structural consistencies across the genre, but I like them, too. Mostly. I’m looking forward to reading this.

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PeekB-C1-GodlessUKBen Peek, The Godless (Tor UK)

The Gods are dying. Fifteen thousand years after the end of their war, their bodies can still be found across the world. They kneel in forests, lie beneath mountains, and rest at the bottom of the world’s ocean. For thousands of years, men and women have awoken with strange powers that are derived from their bodies.

The city Mireea is built against a huge stone wall that stretches across a vast mountain range, following the massive fallen body of the god, Ger. Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice, is attacked and discovers she cannot be harmed by fire. Her new power makes her a target for an army that is marching on Mireea. With the help of Zaifyr, a strange man adorned with charms, she is taught the awful history of “cursed” men and women, coming to grips with her new powers and the enemies they make.

Meanwhile, the saboteur Bueralan infiltrates the army that is approaching her home to learn its terrible secret. Split between the three points of view, The Godless’s narrative reaches its conclusion during an epic siege, where Ayae, Zaifyr and Bueralan are forced not just into conflict with those invading, but with those inside the city who wish to do them harm.

I started reading this when I was really not in the mood for a new fantasy series. But, I read the first few pages while sorting out newly arrived books, and found it really well-written. Peek’s done a great job of crafting this world. I’ve put the book aside for a little bit, though, as I didn’t want to force myself to push throught he Fantasy Funk I’m in. I think I’m going to really like the rest of it. Watch this space for more.

Also on CR: Interview with Ben Peek

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PicoultJ-WhereTheresSmokeUKJodi Picoult, Where There’s Smoke (Hodder)

Even as a child, Serenity Jones knew she possessed unusual psychic gifts. Now, decades later, she’s an acclaimed medium and host of her own widely viewed TV show, where she delivers messages to the living from loved ones who have died. Lately, though, her efforts to boost ratings and garner fame have compromised her clairvoyant instincts.

When Serenity books a young war widow to appear as a guest, the episode quickly unravels, stirring up a troubling controversy. And as she tries to undo the damage – to both her reputation and her show – Serenity finds that pride comes at a high price.

I’ve never read anything by Picoult. Not really sure why, either. I spotted this in my Amazon recommendations, saw that it was a free short story, and jumped on the opportunity to give her work a try. It appears to tie in to Picoult’s upcoming full-length novel, too, so that could bode very well.

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RothG-TheUnknownsUKPBGabriel Roth, The Unknowns (Picador)

Eric has survived his ostracised teens in the school computer basement of the mid-80s and seems to have everything: the dot com millions, the beautiful apartment, the quick mind, and even passable looks. But he has never quite found love. Until, with all the glamorous alliteration of a movie star, Maya Marcom arrives on his horizon.

It’s not easy to pursue the most alluring woman in North America when you’re a misfiring circuit of over-analytical self-doubt and she has a killer line and a perfectly raised eyebrow. But as Eric refines his email technique, his date patter and his capacity to shut up after sex, he finds there’s more to Maya Marcom than meets the eye.

Will our loveable geek be able to conquer his dogged need to discover the whole truth about his lover – or will they continue in bliss and wonder? This is a story about the mysteries of the heart, and the ways in which one fragile human being is harder to really know than enough computer code to make a fortune.

I’d been hovering over buying this novel for some time. It sounded really fun and quirky. So, I eventually bought it. I’ll be reading it pretty soon, hopefully.

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ShipsteadM-SeatingArrangementsUKMaggie Shipstead, Seating Arrangements (Blue Door)

The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the New England island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to an impeccably appropriate young man. The weekend is full of lobster and champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust seep through the cracks in the revelry.

Winn Van Meter, father-of-the-bride, has spent his life following the rules of the east coast upper crust, but now, just shy of his sixtieth birthday, he must finally confront his failings, his desires, and his own humanity.

I’ve heard good things, and it was difficult to miss it for a while, if you spent any time in a UK bookstore. It then popped up as a Kindle Daily Deal, and I thought that left no excuse to give it a try.

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Sigler-3-PandemicScott Sigler, Pandemic (Hodder)

The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload – a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent… until now.

Days after the new disease is unleashed, a quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And our planet’s fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in.

I’ve always wanted to read this series, but it’s one of the ones that started when I was hopping across the Atlantic too frequently. This meant my copy of the first in the series got lost in the shuffle. I’ll be sure to pick the preceding two books ASAP so I can get around to this one. I’ve heard really good things about it and Sigler’s writing.

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SpektorM-AmericanDreamMachineUKPBMatthew Spektor, American Dream Machine (Sphere)

A big sweeping story of Los Angeles and of the rise and fall and rise of one man amongst the grit, glamour, desperation and ambition of the movie business in the ’60s and ’70s.

Beau Rosenwald – overweight, far from handsome, and improbably charismatic – arrives in Los Angles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood.

Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a battle that will reshape an entire industry. We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, forging and damaging remarkable relationships. We watch Beau’s partner, the enigmatic Williams Farquarsen, struggle to control himself and this oh-so-fickle world of movies. We watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, revelling in their successes and learning the costs of their mistakes.

This sounds really good. I caught wind of it quite a while ago, but for some reason I never got around to reading it. It popped up this week on NetGalley, and my request was approved! So that’s nice. I’m hoping to get to it pretty soon.

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SteeleJ-A2-AngelCityUKJon Steele, Angel City (Corgi)

Jay Harper, one of the last “angels” on Planet Earth, is hunting down the half-breeds and goons who infected Paradise with evil. Intercepting a plot to turn half of Paris into a dead zone, Harper ends up on the wrong side of the law and finds himself a wanted man. That doesn’t stop his commander, Inspector Gobet of the Swiss Police, from sending him back to Paris on a recon mission… a mission that uncovers a truth buried in the Book of Enoch.

Katherine Taylor and her two year old son Max are living in a small town in the American Northwest. It’s a quiet life. She runs a candle shop and spends her afternoons drinking herbal teas, imagining a crooked little man in the belfry of Lausanne Cathedral, a man who believed Lausanne was a hideout for lost angels. And there was someone else, someone she can’t quite remember… as if he was there, and not there at the same time.

A man with a disfigured face emerges from the shadows. His name is Astruc, he’s obsessed with the immortal souls of men. Like a voice crying in the wilderness, he warns the time of The Prophecy is at hand… a prophecy that calls for the sacrifice of the child born of light…

This is the second book in Steele’s Angelus Trilogy, following on from The Watchers – which, as with so very many books, now, I have yet to read. I really like the new cover designs for the series, too. Very good decision. I’ve heard pretty mixed things about The Watchers – some have said it’s amazing, others have been cool on it. I’ll be sure to form my own opinion. Just… not sure when. It does sound interesting, though. Probably good for fans of Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, and Anne Rice’s Seraphim duology.

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GRAPHIC NOVELS

Haven’t featured the graphic novels I’ve received for a while, so these go back a fair way. Some interesting ones, though…

BlackScience-Vol.01Black Science, Vol.1 – “How to Fall Forever” (Image)

Writer: Rick Remender | Art: Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Anarchist scientist Grant McKay has done the impossible! Using the Pillar, he has punched a hole through the barriers between dimensions, allowing travel to all possible universes. But now Grant and his team are trapped in the folds of infinity, the Pillar sending them careening through a million universes of unimaginable adventure, sanity-flaying danger and no way home…

Collects: Black Science #1-6

New science fiction series from Rick Remender, who’s doing some great work, recently. Therefore, I’m very interesting in reading this.

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Bunker-Vol.01The Bunker, Vol.1 (Oni Press)

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov | Art: Joe Infurnari

On their way to bury a time capsule, five friends – Grady, Heidi, Natasha, Daniel, and Billy – uncover a metal bunker buried deep in the woods. Inside, they find letters addressed to each of them… from their future selves.

Told they will destroy the world in the very near future, the friends find, over the next few days, growing further and further apart.

Though they’ve been warned against making the wrong choices, how do they know what the right ones are?

Can the future really be changed, or will an even darker fate engulf the world?

Collects: The Bunker #1-4

I met Fialkov in September 2011, at a signing in Los Angeles. He was very affable, and chatted with me for a bit about I, Vampire, his other work, and gave me a couple of suggestions. This is a new series of his, and it’s been doing really well with critics and fans alike. I’ve just been really slow about getting around to reading it. Looking forward to it.

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DeathSentence-Vol.01Death Sentence Vol.1 (Titan Comics)

Writer: Monty Nero | Art: Mike Dowling

What would you do with superpowers – and six months to live?

That’s the dilemma facing three people who’ve contracted the G+ Virus, an infectious agent that gives you incredible superpowers – before killing you!

What will struggling graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel and roguish media personality Monty do in the time that remains? Fade away – or go out in a blaze of glory?

And if they choose to kick back… will there be anything left of the world when they’re through?

From the streets of London to the North Atlantic, from intimate betrayals to the death of thousands, from muses lost and futures thrown away to the fall of society – DeathSentence is the jaw-dropping next step in superpowered storytelling!

Funny, fearless and frightening, packed with shocks, dialogue you can’t stop quoting, and the character finds of a generation – don’t miss this unforgettable comics debut!

The collection comes with 26-pages of exclusive commentary by the creators.

Collects: Death Sentence #1-6

This is a really interesting premise. I read the first issue after a ComiXology sale on Titan Comics, and really liked it. As I am wont to do, I promptly forgot to get the rest of the series, as I was distracted by many other things. With the collection coming out soon, I was happy to get this for review. Should be fun. I’m halfway through it already. It has some pretty interesting commentary in there, but it does lean a little bit towards the “shocking” (which isn’t really), which buries the thrust of the story a little bit. Still, it’s pretty good.

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ForeverEvil-HCForever Evil (DC Comics)

Writer: Geoff Johns | Art: David Finch

The Justice League is DEAD! And the villains shall INHERIT the Earth! In a flash of light, the world’s most powerful heroes vanish as the Crime Syndicate arrives from Earth-3! As this evil version of the Justice League takes over the DC Universe, no one stands in the way of them and complete domination… no one except for Lex Luthor.

Collects: Forever Evil #1-7

One of DC’s latest mega-event things. Not really sure what it’s about, or how it ties in with the main New 52 series (both DC and Marvel seem to have gone down the cross-over rabbit hole in 2013 and 2014). It’s a pretty big book, so should be a nice, long read. Johns does good work, for the main, so I am cautiously optimistic.

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Letter44-Vol.01Letter 44, Vol.1 – “Escape Velocity” (Oni Press)

Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Alberto Alburquerque

On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close – assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination.

Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet!

Collects: Letter 44 #1-6

I picked up the first issue in this series a couple months back, and rather enjoyed the premise and writing, and the artwork is pretty good, too. This is the first collection, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the story panned out.

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SupermanWonderWoman-Vol.01Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol.1 – “Power Couple” (DC Comics)

Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Tony Daniel

Beginning a bold new series that details the relationship between The Man of Steel and the Warrior Princess as writer Charles Soule (Swamp Thing) is joined by artist Tony S. Daniel (Batman) to tell the tale of a romance that will shake the stars themselves. These two super-beings love each other, but not everyone shares their joy. Some fear it, some test it – and some will try to kill for it. Some say love is a battlefield, but where Superman and Wonder Woman are concerned it spells Doomsday!

Collects: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-6

This was a controversial title, when it was first announced. I don’t actually think I’ve seen anyone review it, among the circle of reviewers I pay attention to. This means I’ll be coming at it with no preconceptions or expectations. I am still hoping for a good New 52 Superman title – Superman has become rather bland, and Action Comics suffered from… well, Grant Morrison. Please let this one not disappoint.

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Umbral-Vol.01Umbral, Vol.1 – “Out of the Shadows” (Image)

Writer: Antony Johnson | Art: Christopher Mitten

AN INCREDIBLE NEW DARK FANTASY STARTS HERE!

The young thief called Rascal witnesses the horrific and brutal murder of the royal family – now the world’s dark legends will be relived, and only Rascal even knows it’s happening!

Master worldbuilders ANTONY JOHNSTON (Wasteland, Daredevil) and CHRISTOPHER MITTEN (Wasteland, Criminal Macabre) bring you a new fantasy world rich in mythology, history, and blood!

Collects: Umbral #1-6

Image Comics hasn’t steered me wrong, recently. This is one of their new series, so of course I’m interested in checking it out. Looks weird and potentially creepy. Bodes well.

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On My Growing Frustration with Marvel & DC Comics…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days. I’m not really sure what this post is supposed to achieve, either. But, I thought I’d write it down. Mostly, I think, it indicates a shift in how I’m going to read and review comics.

Since I started reading comics again, in September 2011 with the launch of DC’s New 52 reboot, I have slowly started to become more and more frustrated with the near-endless cross-over events. Sure, this is not a new complaint from comics readers, and certainly it won’t do anything to change things. But, it will change things for me.

I understand the business rationale for cross-over Events: it encourages people to try new series, which in turn could lead to consistent interest in previously-unread series. Or, at the very least, a short-term up-tick in sales that isn’t bad for the publisher, either.

For me, though, it is annoying. I’ve always approached Marvel’s titles with eyebrow firmly raised, because it’s a given that any title will be involved in an Event at least twice a year – and, in 2012-13, it seems like the rate of Events is spiraling so far out of control that the only conclusion is that Marvel’s brain-trust (or, more likely, executives) have zero imagination, and can’t conceive of any title surviving/succeeding on its own. Which is too much cynicism for creativity and long-term success, in my opinion. “Avengers vs. X-Men”, “Age of Ultron”, “Infinity”, and even in the Ultimate Comics line, we had “Divided We Stand/United We Fall” and the Ultimate Comics series will be brought to an end with the “Cataclysm” Event.

Let’s take a look at DC: First, there was the Bat-family “Night of the Owls” Event, which had one tie-in issue per series (more or less). Then there was the larger “Death of the Family” Event, which was pretty good (but a little flat, by the end), and quite expensive for anyone who wanted the whole picture/story. Now, Batman will also have the “Year Zero” event, which will include 10 tie-in issues from other series. Sigh. There was the “Throne of Atlantis” Event, which was relatively short, and only connected two titles together (Aquaman and Justice League). There is the just-completed “Trinity War” Event, tying together Justice League, Pandora, Justice League Dark, Phantom Stranger and Constantine. Now, we have “Forever Evil: Blight” (18 issues, total), which is a cross-over between Constantine, Pandora, Phantom Stranger, and Justice League Dark. In addition to this, there was the early, tedious daemonite cross-over mess that tied together too many series early on in the New 52’s history. Green Lantern series had the Rise of the Third Army and immediately-following Wrath of the First Lantern.

Valiant Comics have had at least two cross-over events, too. Which is rather excessive for a line that has only been going (after a renewal) for little over a year. And all of the Events mentioned in this post don’t account for all of the ones that have been unveiled, or are pending.

This endless crossing over, mixing is just too much. For me, anyway. So, I’m going to stick to a very limited number of New 52 titles, and also Ultimate Comics series, some older Marvel series (mostly Captain America-related), and explore more offerings from other publishers. Perhaps the only exception will be Vertigo Comics (the “mature” imprint of DC Comics), which has some truly excellent series – many of which are already complete, which makes it easier to plan purchases and reading.*

It’s just too expensive to get the whole picture with the Big Two. Marvel have been ridiculous for a long time. DC, after pulling off a great re-boot, seem to have caught the Cross Over Bug a little too hard, which has just killed my enthusiasm to fork over all that money. Getting the whole story is very important to me. As, I’m sure, it is for a lot of reading junkies. If you’re going to pursue a strategy that whiffs of gouging… Count me out. I have rent and food to pay for (which I can barely manage as it is).

So, yeah. I’m not really sure if this post really achieves anything. But there we go.

* That being said, even Vertigo are going to be running a Cross Over: Fables and Unwritten… It’ll hopefully be short, though, and does benefit from being comprised of two of my favourite comics.

Hack/Slash: “My First Maniac” (Image)

HackSlash-MyFirstManiac-TPBWriter: Tim Seeley | Artist: Daniel Leister | Colors: Mark Englert

Exploring Cassie Hack’s first case: 16-year-old Cassie has just been forced to kill her mother, the undead murderer known as the Lunch Lady! Now faced with overwhelming guilt, she must decide if she can make a life with her foster parents and at her new school, or if she should use her new-found slasher-killing skills to save other screaming teenagers! But does the apple fall far from the tree?

Collects: Hack/Slash – My First Maniac #1-4 (complete)

I don’t think I’ve read much else by Tim Seeley – maybe a taster for his new run on Witchblade. But, the other day I saw that Hack/Slash has finally come to an end, and decided to give it a try. Image Comics only published the final 25 issues of the series, plus a couple of mini-series spin-offs. Unable to hunt down the pre-Image comics on ComiXology, I decided to pick up this spin-off, dealing with Cassie’s first case. And I rather enjoyed it, in all its bloody, slasher-movie bonkers glory.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to characterise the overall feel I get from this book. A grimdark Buffy? Someone on argued that Buffy was already rather grimdark. So a grimdarker Buffy? Perhaps. I guess the series’ strength is that it can’t so easily be defined. It draws from many strong traditions of slasher-/horror-movies, adds a dollop of dark, dark humour, and spits out something rather original and engaging. It doesn’t shy away from the uglier side of human nature (of any age or social grouping), and Cassie goes through a lot of hell to grow into the monster-hunting/-slaying bad-ass she is at the end.

The series packs a lot into the first issue. But, this doesn’t slow things down at all. Instead, it makes for a substantial, intriguing and gripping introduction to this world. Cassie’s in foster care, and the issue tells of how she came to strike out on her own. The story of the rest of the mini-series develops as she moves around to Buffalo Center, chasing after rumours of a lurker. It’s brutal. It’s visceral. It’s very good.

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In Buffalo Center, Cassie connects with a couple of the local in-crowd, one of which helps her develop her goth-chick look. There’s a rumor surrounding an old farm on the edge of town. And kids are going missing… I didn’t predict how the story was going to develop, and there were a couple of interesting surprises sprinkled into the story.

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Seeley has injected a good, dark sense of humour into the book. It’s sometimes very dark, but always amusing. It’s not riotous, but I smirked and chuckled a couple times. It’s not exactly deep, but I can certainly see the beginnings of something complex and addictive. Seeley & Co. have created something pretty special and unique, here.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit. The art style is reminiscent of some of Zenescope’s covers and internal art, but the story is much stronger (in some ways, this is more mature – like Buffy meets Eli Roth in a dark alley, before they stumble into a Stephen King novel…). It’s definitely not for kids, or the too-easily scandalised or shocked. But, if you like horror fiction, movies, or comics, especially ones with a self-conscious, knowing sense of humour, then Hack/Slash could be the perfect comic for you.

I’ll definitely be reading more of this – and, in fact, by the time this review goes live, I will have read the first Image collection, “Vol.9 – Torture Prone”.

HackSlash-MyFirstManiac-Covers

Original Mini-Series Covers