First Chapter, First Paragraph

I am currently reading the second book in The Hatching Series by Ezekiel Boone, “Skitter.” Pretty exciting stuff, although not quite the pacing and rhythm of the first book. 

“It was a big freaking spider. That was the only reason he screamed. He wasn’t afraid of spiders. Really. But the thing had been the size of a quarter, Right on his cheek. He’s been backpacking solo for fifteen days, and he hadn’t been scared once. Until his last day out, today, when he woke up with a hairy, scary spider on his cheek. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Fifteen days alone in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, not seeing another soul the entire time? Fifteen days of scrambling across scree fields, traversing open ridges, even doing a little free-solo rock climbing despite what he promised his dad? He’s be a complete moron not to feel a twinge of concern here and there. And Winthrop Wentworth Jr. – nineteen, the son of privilege – was not a complete moron.”

Graphic Novel Review – Criminal Vol. 1 (Coward) by Ed Brubaker

“Two hours later, against my better judgement I am walking into the Undertow”

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“Revenge. That’s what he had come for… But it didn’t really exist, did it?
Just empty regret and bitter heartbreak, wandering the streets.
The city around him, white and grey and cold, felt suddenly so small.
Hyde had been right about family, there was no escaping it…
Even when there was no one left to run from.” 
― Ed Brubaker, Criminal, Vol. 2: Lawless

About

From Harvey Award-Winning Best Writer Ed Brubaker, and Scream Award-Winning Best Artist Sean Phillips comes the first collection of Criminal, one of the best reviewed comics of 2006. Coward is the story of Leo, a professional pickpocket who is also a legendary heist-planner and thief. But there’s a catch with Leo, he won’t work any job that he doesn’t call all the shots on, he won’t allow guns, and the minute things turn south, he’s looking for any exit that won’t land him in prison. But when he’s lured into a risky heist, all his rules go out the window, and he ends up on the run from the cops and the bad men who double-crossed him. Now Leo must come face-to-face with the violence he’s kept bottled up inside for 20 years, and nothing will ever be the same for him again. Collects Criminal #1-5.

Awards

  • #895 of the 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die
  • #28 of CBH Best Comics to Read
  • 2007 Eisner Award for best writer

My Thoughts

CriminalIssue1-thumb-500x773-1016261.jpgThere are some things you need to know before starting this series:

  1. This graphic novel is straight up crime noir. There are no superheroes, magic, aliens, or mystical forces. What there is though, is dark searing dialog, blood, violence, and language.
  2. This is a very adult comic. Adult themes and imagery. The story is designed to haunt the reader. To sear some of the images on the frontal lobe.
  3. The protagonist of volume 1, and from what I understand continuing volumes throughout the series are anti-heroes.
  4. Each of the volumes is a different story arc all taking place in the same world.

Knowing all this if you want to continue into this world, it is quite a ride. The premise revolves around the protagonist, Leo Patterson. A former heist strategist who has left the life of crime to take care of Ivan, an old family friend. Ivan is addicted to heroin and has Alzheimers. At Ivan’s age, breaking heroin addiction becomes untenable so Leo provides palliative care to Ivan.  Leo agrees to the heist against his better Judgement, swayed by an attraction to recovering heroin addict Greta. From there, the story progresses through a series of backstabbing and double-crossing that leave various people dead.

The title of the book is coward. Which is ironic because Leo is anything but. His cautiousness and reservedness at the beginning of the story lead other criminals into thinking that he is weak, “he doesn’t just walk away from trouble, he runs.” What people don’t understand, and the reader soon finds out is that caution does not necessarily mean forceless. It could mean that you are thoughtful and very, very smart. Like in the case of Leo. He is pushed to the breaking point and becomes a force of nature abandoning all pretense of cowardness and serving up a side of badass on his betrayers. The bold and brazen end up dead or in jail while the cautious and calculating walk away with the money.

91hsjgUvI6L.jpgBrubaker is the king of crime noir in graphic novels. A genre much changed since the 1950’s. Here Brubaker sticks to familiar themes, but he serves them up bruised, foreboding, and dark. Although “Coward” could be a standalone series, minor characters in this arc play much larger roles in other character arcs. It is really fun to dissect the minor details of the story when you go back and flip through. Pay attention because there are many offhanded comments in this story that play a larger part in others. This is just good storytelling plain and simple. The dialog, story, and graphics are top notch and it is absolutely worth the journey of discovery. I look forward to checking out the next story arc in “Lawless.”

The Five W’s Book Tag

The Five W’s. What are yours?

Books In Library
image courtesy of http://www.techcrunch.com

The Five W’s Book Tag

What a fun tag. I found this over at Thrice Read and loved the idea. So here we go.

WHO | WHO IS AN AUTHOR YOU’D LOVE TO HAVE A ONE-ON-ONE WITH?

Seanan Mcguire. There are a lot of wonderful authors out there. But, I have consistently loved her books, both Mira Grant, and as Seanan Mcguire and I think she would be a fun person to talk to.

WHAT | WHAT GENRE/STYLE DO YOU MOST OFTEN GRAVITATE TO?

Probably Science Fiction and Graphic Novels at the moment. But I do love fantasy as well. Most books have merit one way or another.

WHERE | WHERE DO YOU PREFER TO READ?

In Bed or bathtub. Gives me an excuse to take long baths.

 

WHEN | WHAT TIME OF DAY DO YOU PREFER TO READ?

All freaking day.

WHY | WHY IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?

That is an outstandingly hard question to answer. I think the Saga series really stands out for me right now. I have never been so shaken by writing in a graphic novel. It is superb.

BONUS: HOW | HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SELECTING WHAT BOOK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I check my multitude of lists. Hey, everyone has neurosis. Find one that looks tasty and go for it.

 

Comic Review – Max und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch

Where cruel children get eaten by ducks.

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By Wilhelm Busch – extract from original an book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1576406

Awards

#3 on “1001 Comics to Read Before You Die”

About

From wikipedia, “Max and Moritz: A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks (original: Max und Moritz – Eine Bubengeschichte in sieben Streichen) is a German language illustrated story in verse. This highly inventive, blackly humorous tale, told entirely in rhymed couplets, was written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch and published in 1865. It is among the early works of Busch, nevertheless it already features many substantial, effectually aesthetic and formal regularities, procedures and basic patterns of Busch’s later works.[1] Many familiar with comic strip history consider it to have been the direct inspiration for the Katzenjammer Kids and Quick & Flupke. The German title satirizes the German custom of giving a subtitle to the name of dramas in the form of “Ein Drama in … Akten” (A Drama in … Acts), which became dictum in colloquial usage for any event with an unpleasant or dramatic course, e.g. “Bundespräsidentenwahl – Drama in drei Akten” (Federal Presidential Elections – Drama in Three Acts).”

My Thoughts

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By Wilhelm Busch – Digitised book, Gutenberg Project, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48616276

Max Und Moritz is a German comic that was first published in 1865. It became a turning point for children’s literature which was created to moralize rather entertain. As far as what kind of entertainment this is, that is up to the reader. I found the two little kid, max and Moritz, to be absolute shits. However the end of the story is just as or more vulgar as the actions of the boys, they get ground up into grain and devoured by ducks. Wow. That is some dark children’s literature. Very much like Grimm’s original stories. Cinderella’s original story ends like this, “When the wedding with the prince was to be held, the two false sisters came, wanting to gain favor with Cinderella and to share her good fortune. When the bridal couple walked into the church, the older sister walked on their right side and the younger on their left side, and the pigeons pecked out one eye from each of them. Afterwards, as they came out of the church, the older one was on the left side, and the younger one on the right side, and then the pigeons pecked out the other eye from each of them. And thus, for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness as long as they lived.” Also somewhere in there, they chop off their toes… Must be a thing for early children’s literature.

 

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By Wilhelm Busch – Digitised book, Gutenberg Project, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48616007

I may not like the content, I am not a huge fan of grimdark, but I can understand and appreciate the importance of it as a piece of literature. It is one of the forerunners of the newspaper comic strip and a very important story in Germany culturally. The image of the two boys has appeared in everything from comic books, schools, to hot dogs. They even have an award for Best Comic from a German writer called the Max-und-Moritz-Prize. I don’t get it, but who am I to judge?

The below is a sample of the original text and English translation of the comic. I found it on www.davidgorman.com if you are interested.

Erster Streich / First Trick

Mancher gibt sich viele Müh’
Mit dem lieben Federvieh;
Einesteils der Eier wegen,
Welche diese Vögel legen,
Zweitens: weil man dann und wann
Einen Braten essen kann;
Drittens aber nimmt man auch
Ihre Federn zum Gebrauch
In die Kissen und die Pfühle,
Denn man liegt nicht gerne kühle.
To most people who have leisure
Raising poultry gives great pleasure:
First, because the eggs they lay us
For the care we take repay us;
Secondly, that now and then
We can dine on roasted hen;
Thirdly, of the hen’s and goose’s
Feathers men make various uses.
Some folks like to rest their heads
In the night on feather beds.

 

Review of “Scourged” by Kevin Hearne

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Atticus meet readers, readers meet Atticus. http://www.kevinhearne.com

 

Hearne, Kevin. Scourged. Del Rey, 2018.

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

Book Summary 

From the publisher, “Kevin Hearne creates the ultimate Atticus O’Sullivan adventure in the grand finale of the New York Times bestselling Iron Druid Chronicles: an epic battle royale against the Norse gods of Asgard.

Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. The Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that

“An owl hoots in the night, spooky as five hells and a jar of creamy peanut butter—that shite’s unnatural.”
― Kevin Hearne, Scourged

ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.”

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Truth, Oberon!  http://www.worldbuilders.com

My Thoughts

Some minor spoilers are ahead. I will attempt to not ruin the story, but ye have been warned.

Scourged is the ninth and final novel in the “Iron Druid Chronicles” by Kevin Hearne. Hearne did it, he ended it, and we are sadly at the close of Atticus, Oberon, and more. At least for now. Hearne has been quoted in saying that he may visit these characters in the future, but for right now their story arc is completed. Sadly, all I can say is book nine was weak sauce. It is easily the worst of the nine.

Book nine starts with a funny conversation between Atticus and his hounds. “Yes, Food!”

“Ragnarok will begin in the next few days, and it won’t end well for anyone, because apocalypses tend not to include happy endings.”
― Kevin Hearne, Scourged

They are lovingly talking about the joys of meats and gravies. Which most readers will agree with. Myself included. The almost impromptu conversations that flow between Atticus and his hounds throughout the series are Kevin Hernes’s writing at its best. Oberon’s commentary is a welcome addition to almost any scene in previous novels. Sadly, Oberon was sidelined for most of book nine. His missing analysis was sorely missed and the levity it brought.

Now into the meat of the story. Ragnarok is happening, and Loki is letting forth his pent-up daddy-issues upon the world.  It is time to marshal the troops in opposition. The gods and goddesses of various pantheons join together for the fracas. Thus enters some pretty interesting characters we have met before: Sun Wukong who is also known as the Monkey King, Granuaile, Owen, Coyote, Flittish, Laksha, the Morrigan. Each has a specific role to play in this war, both predestined and not. Here is where I think the story begins to go off the rails. Kevin Hearne wrote this book to be single fight scenes or dialog scenes that are strewn across the world. All happening at different times with the span of a few days. Loki’s actions have affected the world at large, not just small segments of it. Thus the main characters are needed in various parts of the world. These scenes feel chaotic and disjointed. Instead of exciting and climatic scenes, we get boring, unessential, and insignificant ones. The action scenes, which in previous novels where trim and concise, are so irregular and hardly understandable that it knocks the reader right out of the story. They are literally scratching their heads and saying “what the f$%?”

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Redheaded tart.

The denouement of some of these characters is a complete train wreck. At some point between book eight and book nine of this series, Hearne decided that a complete rewrite was needed for their personalities. It feels like he was very done with writing these characters. Especially Granuille. Her ending was ridiculous. It felt vicious, cold, and mean-spirited, in a very “kick them when they are down” kind of way. Which is out of character for her. There must have been a better way to carry out the meat of that scene without making her seem so coldhearted. Atticus made her into what she is primarily, and she kicked him while he was at the lowest point in his many centuries.  I suppose there is a school of thought that says writes owe their readers something when it comes to their characters. That’s not true. Writers owe their readers nothing. But it is in bad form for the author to take such a beloved character like Granuille and weirdly ruin her for many people. Bad form man, bad form.

Atticus deserved a lot of what was heaped on him, and I understand what Kevin Hearne was attempting to write regarding Atticus’s end of the journey. But instead of the bittersweet ending, he was looking for, it came off as a whole lot of bitter, and absolutely nothing sweet. Except for maybe his interactions with his hounds at the end.  This is a sad end for this series. It really felt like the proverbial punch in the gut.

Conclusion

I have no idea what to tell you to do. If you have loved this series as I have through all eight books and side stories, you will want to go on and finish the series. There is nothing for it, you need an end. But that ending will feel like someone dropped a load of rocks on your big toe while simultaneously stealing your wallet and telling you are ugly. If you haven’t started the series yet, I still say go for it. It is a fun and wild ride till the end where you will unceremoniously have rocks dropped on your toes, your wallet stolen, and be emotionally injured with name calling. You are seriously damned if you do or don’t.

Netflix’s Altered Carbon – Dark, Complicated and Beautifully Crafted

Netflix has crafted a dark and enthralling tale of noir that combines science fiction and cyberpunk with a straightforward detective story. It is visually stunning and does great justice to the sourcebook. Better yet, the plot additions to the original story that make it fit for TV add to the richness of the story. I know many people won’t agree with me on this, but I like how the humanized Tak. They gave him a slightly bigger heart.  They also expounded on the cyberpunk themes; what it means to be human and how one holds on to their humanity when facing forever. Humanity basically becomes an ouroboros and is not so subtly hinted through the story.

 

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Image courtesy of Netflix.

 

The Netflix version added a more substance to some of the supporting characters that fleshed them out. Especially the role of Poe who plays a Hotel and was the most intriguing character on the show. In the source material, the AI is played by Jimi Hendrix, but Poe is a much more fitting nod to the stories’ noir influences.  Instead of just going with a creepy over enthusiastic AI, they gave him a soul and a shotgun. It is ironic because Poe is both the least human and most human character on the show.

 

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Image courtesy of Netflix.

 

 

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Side by Side comparison.

I can’t say much more about the story because it is a “who done it,” and I don’t want to give it away. However, if you are a fan of cyberpunk, binge watch it. It is well worth the time.

 

 

 

 

Review of Gravel, Volume 1: Bloody Liars (Gravel, #7)

I have read a lot of Ellis over the years. A whole lot. The guy is prolific as hell and he has his fingers in a whole lot of pies. For me next to Neil Gaiman, 6498172he is my favorite graphic novelist and Transmetropolitan is absolute genius. Transmetropolitan is a Hunter S. Thompson fever dream.
This makes me very sad to say but this was just eh for me.  Ellis’s writing is always good, and graphically this is well done. Which is loads ahead of most writers, but the story was flat. I felt absolutely nothing for the protagonist. It was as if GI Joe became a magician and killed lots of people in creative ways. Even if Gravel is a badass, as a person or human or whatever he is, he will have downtime moments. He will have moments of humanity. If he sees a kitten the appropriate response to the said kitten is not to shoot it. This is kinda the vibe I got from the story. I wanted to like gravel but he lacked the hook that made me empathize or understand him at all. Plus, combat magician is kind of a thing in urban fantasy right now and sorry to say they did it better. Gravel reminds me of Dresden and John Constantine but without Dresden’s heart or Constantine’s swagger.
It’s still a decent read. I don’t think Ellis can put out anything terrible. He is like pizza, even when it’s sorta bad it’s still damn good. I just don’t think it’s one of his best. I’ll continue with the series if I come across them in the library but I think that is as far as it goes for me. Excuse me while I go hug my Dresden novels.