Wednesday, July 26, 2017

BATMAN: DEATH OF THE FAMILY by Scott Snyder

Scott Snyder jump-started his run on Batman by putting his own stamp on it, Introducing a compelling new antagonist of his own original creation in the Court of Owls, and putting his own spin on Gotham mythology. It was well-received but many were bummed that he didn't include more popular and established Gotham villains in the first year of his run. But, after wrapping up that story, he goes full bore by utilizing the ultimate Batman villain. And man, does he! The product here is one of the most disturbing depictions of the Joker ever.

Snyder's Joker is even more of a complete madman than you would expect, not only allowing his face to be sliced off and put on ice, but then tying that face back onto his head like a mask before he embarks on an elaborate scheme to rid his favorite buddy Batman of his silly distractions, his closest allies!



The Joker's plan is gleefully depraved and the plot development is well thought out by Snyder. I had to keep reading to see how far The Joker would go and how it would all end. I've never been a fan of the whole Bat-family idea though. I feel like the Batman character works best as a solitary hero. I don't mind a small number of dedicated non-vigilante Gotham allies like Alfred or Jim Gordon, or even sometime reluctant partners like Catwoman, but do we really need Robin, Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, and Batgirl? It just seems silly after a while. And The Joker monologues a little too much here, even for him!

But if you want a creepy, nasty story featuring one of the most iconic villains out there, check this one out. It'll probably go down as one of the most insane, dangerous versions of The Joker to date.

GRADE: B



Saturday, July 22, 2017

PECKERWOOD by Jedidiah Ayres

Man, I really wish I liked this more than I did. Jedidiah Ayres was one of my favorite author discoveries of last year. So I was excited to read this one: his debut novel and a release from Broken River Books, probably the coolest publisher out there. But although I didn't have a problem finishing the book, I realized that that reason I kept reading was due to Ayers's stylish prose and his true potential rather than much engagement in the characters or what was happening. It read a bit like an early draft, with hints of really great characters and noteworthy moments that never really reach their full potential. It felt like all the elements were turned to 50 when I feel like everything should have been hitting closer to a 100 to be truly memorable to me.

Now, it seems like I might literally be the only person who feels this way, so there's a good chance that others would love it, but I didn't feel like it matched the same quality as his fantastic novella Fierce Bitches, or his tough and creative stories in A Fuckload of Shorts. But I believe Jed Ayres is ultra-talented so I'll jump on his next book.

GRADE: C

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

SEX CRIMINALS VOL. 2: TWO WORLDS, ONE COP by Matt Fraction

Our favorite couple has narrowly escaped Kegel Face and her Sex Police and now they want to lay low, settle down, and just be a regular couple. But like any new couple, the honeymoon phase fades and the real struggle begins!

The fun is over in Sex Criminals and in some ways, I thought the shift in tone was interesting. But it did mean that I enjoyed this volume a little less. I really wanted more time-stopping sex and CumWorld criminal hijinks but instead I got hefty doses of relationship woes and dealing with depressing mental health issues. Although it wasn't as fun, Fraction does do a great job with pushing the further development of Jon and Susie and the rest of the supporting cast.

It's still lovable and and comical (that porn parody of The Wicked and the Divine...hilarious!), I just wish that the plot momentum was consistent with the last volume.

Good stuff.

GRADE: B+


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SEX CRIMINALS VOL. 1: ONE WEIRD TRICK by Matt Fraction

This is the kind of book that's pretty mandatory to read in a physical form, if only to read it in a public place and have the decent people of the world give you weird glances after they look twice at the title.

The book's concept leaves room for so many possibilities and loads of entertainment. Jon and Suzie are a young, everyday couple, but they both share one special gift: they have time-stopping orgasms. No really, they literally stop time during the cum-down after sex. So once they hook up, they do what anyone with that gift would do, they decide to rob some banks! Let the games begin!



There are a couple of things in this series that elevates the concept above being merely juvenile and made it something distinctive. The first are the characters, who are relatable and charming if not fully likable, both endearing and multi-faceted enough to make me want to read much more about them. The second is Chip Zdarsky's artwork, which is colorful and witty, working perfectly in tandem with Matt Fraction's writing and a great fit for this fun romantic comedy. I also really love the light-streak effects that visually cue the time-frozen Cum World/Quiet. The lovely art is sometimes a character in itself, through it's attention to detail and it's subtle in-jokes that make you truly study the art on each page.

The whole thing is a great premise for a romantic comedy and it's a great way of looking at a new couple exploring sex and relationships and all their complexities.

GRADE: B+

Saturday, July 15, 2017

SAGA: BOOK TWO

We pick up again with our heroes as they try their hand at living a normal life on the planet Gardenia, with Marco taking up stay-at-home-dad duties while Alana wins the bread as an actor in shitty tv shows on the Open Circuit. Oh and Hazel is a toddler!

The first part here is really great as we really focus on the relationship between Alana and Marco and I thought it was a wonderful look at how doubts, trust and insecurity can strain a marriage even outside of the fact that the two are star-crossed lovers from enemy alien races. But just when the relationship is at it's lowest, the past catches up and the story is off again on an intergalactic adventure that's even more action-packed than before, involving new alliances, space heists, and a dangerous quest for dragon jizz. 

It's once again addictive, imaginative, and exciting, with characters you care about, proving once again why it's considered one of the top comic series being published right now. 

GRADE: A-

Friday, July 14, 2017

THE FORCE by Don Winslow

This is the the type of great book you don't see everyday; that you might go all year without reading. A book where you simultaneous want to see what the hell happens on the next page but also want to slow down your reading because you don't want it to end. A book that on one hand is crazily entertaining but also makes you hit Google and read articles to learn more about its timely issues.
Hell isn't having no choice. It's having to make a choice between horrific things.
At the risk of this sounding like hyperbole, Don Winslow takes a crooked cop story that's a combination of The Shield and The Wire (yes, it's just as amazing as that sounds), and crafts: 

1) One of the best books I've read this year

2) What might have to be considered the Best Cop Novel, perhaps ever.

3) The best Richard Price novel Richard Price never wrote.

This is the third book by Don Winslow that I've given an A grade to. The guy really does have a talent for slinging stories that are both heavily engaging with a lasting effect and also very researched and informative. A great storyteller that should have the same success as the most popular authors. One of the things that really impressed me was how awesome Winslow's attention to detail is and how EVERY SINGLE THING matters by the end. Everything character, every idea, even every setting connects in important ways and it always excites me to see an author so dedicated to making that happen. 
You tell yourself what you gotta tell yourself to do what you gotta do. And sometimes you even fuckin' believe it.
The story of Manhattan Task Force Detective Denny Malone is the epic tragedy of a crooked city cop at the top of his game slowly losing his grip on his kingdom. Throughout the novel, it's mesmerizing to witness him struggle to keep control and to get his head out from under the slowly rising waters of corruption, lies, dirty deeds and violence created by both he and the system he's a part of. 
All cats are gray in the dark.
Trust me, this will be seen as one of THE books of the year.

GRADE: A

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

BATMAN: THE CITY OF OWLS by Scott Snyder








This second volume of Scott Snyder's Batman run concludes the well-conceived clash between Batman and the Court of Owls, a shadowy cabal who have secretly ruled Gotham for centuries. The story was a bit more disjointed in this one (what was up with the intriguing but totally random Mr. Freeze story in the middle?) but the ideas continue to be great as Snyder goes all out with creating his own Batman mythology, as if it might be his last and only time ever writing a character he's always wanted to tackle. I applaud him for that. But damn, what I don't applaud him for is falling into that superhero comic trap of constant, non-stop dialogue during fight scenes! The opening attack on Wayne Manor was creative, dangerous, and engaging but damn, some of the other scenes (like the fight with the final Talon) were confusing and the chatter went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on………

GRADE: B-

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME by Rick Remender

This is the case of an otherwise decent graphic novel being nearly ruined by its artwork. It has a great concept in the premise of the country essentially making street crime obsolete, making paper money worthless and switching to electronic money, and the group of old-school criminals trying to hit the one last score that can set them up for life after the switch-over. The book had a lot of double-crosses and some bits of great dialogue as well but I kept getting taken out of the story my the mushy artwork by Greg Tocchini. I had a difficult time telling the difference between characters because of the lack of recognizable facial detail, and I thought that the action scenes were terribly rendered. I kinda wish that the cover artist Alex Maleev worked on the whole book! I've been curious about Remender's LOW series but I'm having second thoughts because Tocchini draws that one as well.


GRADE: C


Friday, June 30, 2017

PEEPLAND by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips

Peepland is the best of the graphic novels that Hard Case Crime has released so far as part of their new line of hard-boiled crime comic books. The book is written by acclaimed crime authors Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, and the story was spawned by Faust's experiences in her past career working in the New York City peep booths back in the day. It takes place in 1986 NYC and is about Roxy Bell, a peepshow artist working a booth at Peepland in Manhattan, who, after agreeing to stash a VHS tape for pornographer Dirty Dick, finds herself caught in a conspiracy that turns increasingly more dangerous every day.

This book does such a great job of dropping you into the world of pre-Guiliani 80's Manhattan (filled with porno theaters, pawn shops, and graffiti) and the people who roam the island. In their own way, Faust and Phillips touch a lot on what was going on in the society in that era as well, like the Central Park Five or the AIDS epidemic. The art by Andrea Camerini is effective and playful, with the saturated colors that we've come to expect from 80's stories.

There seems to be a real command of the story here. It's confident, well-structured, and a bit addicting actually. I found myself really caring about the characters in a very short amount of time and wanted to see where their story went. I loved the way the story developed in a way that all the lives surrounding Peepland were affected by this interconnecting plot. The dialogue is great, and each character was memorable and efficiently developed. And most important, despite its downbeat ending, the book is lots of fun to read. You can really feel the passion behind it all. By combining Faust's  knowledge of the time and place from her past life, Gary Phillips's experience of writing for comic books, and both of their solid crime fiction sensibilities, Hard Case Crime rocked it with this great release!

GRADE: A-

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

REVOLVER by Michael Patrick Hicks

This fierce, punchy novelette is is what we would get if Richard Bachman was still writing today during our social media age. It's reminiscent of his classic work in it's dystopian critique on society today. Hicks paints a picture of a world that's uncomfortably possible, where religious zealots and a rich family essentially take over America persecuting women, minorities, and homosexuals and where the masses morbidly watch poor people kill themselves on national primetime tv. It's passionate and well-written, and I love how it all took place in one room but you still got a sense of society outside. Using the increasing mob violence in the outside world really upped the tension. Good stuff.

GRADE: B+