Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oct.24, 2009

I read all these Graphic Novels:
Ultimate X-Men, volumes: 6- Return of the King, 8-New Mutants, 9-The Tempest, 11-The Most Dangerous Game, 12-Hard Lessons, 13- Magnetic North, and 19-Absolute Power. I'm gonna rate them as a big group here, because none of them really stood out form each other. I just never have liked the Ultimate universe as much as I do the regular Marvel universe, and although I love the X-men, the Ultimate versions just aren't as good. I almost rated this group a 2, but it was slightly better than that. Rating for all= 3
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Vol. 3- The Last Stand, story by Mark Millar, art by Terry Dodson, 2005. I read the first volume of this series back when I was still collecting comics, and it really had me on the edge of my seat back then. Someone (Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, of course) has learned Spider-Man's secret identity, and kidnapped his beloved Aunt May. Unfortunately, this Graphic Novel, collecting the final chapters of the story arc, just didn't live up to the promise of the earlier books. Rating = 3.

Oct.23, 2009

I read the following Graphic Novels:
Fables: Vol. 12- The Dark Ages, created by Bill Willingham, story/art by many artists, 2009. In case you haven't read my previous review on this series; this series is about as good as comic series get, in my opinion. Sandman? Watchmen? OK, but this is right in there. This series has won like 7 Eisner Awards since its inception. This is the first volume of a new story cycle, as the long war with the adversary is finally over. Still just as good as always. What else can I say? It's outstanding. Like graphic literature? Read this. Rating = 5.
The Ultimates 2, vol. 2: Grand theft Auto, story by Mark Millar, art by Brian Hitch, 2007. The second volume of the second Ultimates series. I like the Ultimates, but this was good, not great. I've been reading a lot of the Ultimate universe stuff lately, and I'm getting a little worn out on it, actually. Rating = 3.
Justuice League of America: The Lightning Saga, story by Brad Meltzer, art by Geoff Johns, 2008. I've always kind of liked the Justice League, even though I was always much more of a Marvel guy then a D.C. follower. I guess I tend to like team superhero books better in general as opposed to solo series. Anyway, this is very well done. Great story, excellent art. I recommend this Graphic Novel if you like this genre. Rating = 4.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oct.22, 2009

Lots of reading the last couple days, so lots of new stuff:
Ill Met in The Arena, by Dave Duncan, 2008. Fiction; Fantasy. I've been reading Dave Duncan for many years, starting with the weird but good stand-alone West of January. I'll review a lot of his books I've read in the past in the near future, as I plan to add "classic" reviews (translation: shit I read awhile ago) to this already tedious blog...but let me just say that some of his stuff is incredible (His two series about Rap- A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men- are among my all-time favorite books) and some just alright. Graphic Novels:

    This one was a stand-alone book, not part of a series. The book is set in a world where women rule and men are the protectors, and both are bred for increased psychic powers (mind reading and control in women, telekinesis-type stuff in men). This book starts a little slow, but once it gets going it is very good. I'd give it a 4.

Spider-Man: Until the Starts Turn Cold, story by J. Michael Straczynski, art by John Romita, 2002. Every one knows who Spider-man is; I've been reading him off and on since I was a kid. I like Straczynskis' writing- always have since I first read his Rising Stars series. And I like Romita; he always delivers solid art. I've read this before, but I enjoyed re-reading it. Pete tries to get back with his estranged wife (Mary Jane Watson) and deal with his Aunt May knowing he's Spider-Man. Worth reading. Rating = 3.
Marvel Zombies: Dead Days, story by Robert Kirkman, art by Mark Millar, 2008. I believe this is the 4th Marvel Zombies collection. I am a big fan of Kirkman; I've been reading his Walking Dead series and it's great. This series is kind of horrifying for a long-time marvel reader, as all the heroes get turned into zombies and eat a lot of people throughout. But t turned out good; Millars' art is outstanding as well. Rating = 4.
X-Men: Endangered Species, 2008. I've read a big part of the entire enormous X-Men/related titles storyline over the years, and I'm trying to catch up by reading all the ones I haven't read through the library's graphic novels. This one deals with Hank McCoy (Beast) and his quest to try and revive the Mutant genome after the events of the House of M storyline reduce the world mutant population to a few hundred, rather than the millions there were before. He eventually teams up with his evil alter-ego from the Age of Apocalypse reality, Dark beast, who is actually an interesting character unlike so many of the other characters from that reality (Sugarman, anyone....). A good storyline with a balanced view of Hank as he tries to navigate through the shifting moral stances he faces here. Good stuff, I rate it a 4.
X-Men: The End, story by Chris Claremont, 2009. In case you don't know, Chris Claremont was the writer who propelled the Uncanny X-Men title to the top selling comic book during its heyday. He left the X-Men for a long time, and then returned for various projects in the 2000s. He is good, although he tends to re-use the same lines and it can wear you out...if I hear any variation of "From your lips to God's ears" again, I may have to hunt him down and kill him. Try another turn of phrase, Chris! Jesus. Shakespeare didn't REPEAT the line "alas, Poor Yorick" over and over during each play..Anyway, this collection, which is a hypothetical future story about the end of the X-Men, is actually good. I give it a 4.
House Of M , 2006. This series chronicled the alternate reality created when the Scarlet Witch went crazy and used her reality-altering powers to change the world to one where mutants rule it, especially her dad (Magneto, if you don't know). A few heroes remember the "correct" world, and fight to restore it. I've read it before, and I liked it overall. I rate it a 4 also.
And last but not least:
From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, 1196(I think ? This volume was a 2006 edition). This is a MASSIVE graphic novel. The total number of pages isn't listed, but I think it is over 600 pages. This is "widely considered the most significant graphic novel ever published". Might be. This is a vast treatise on the Jack the Ripper killings in London in the nineteenth century. Very interesting, although at times tiresome in my opinion. There are 16 chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue, along with a long appendix citing sources, etc. for each chapter. Definitely a massive work and I'm glad I finally read it. I have no problem with anyone who wants to say Alan Moore is the best comic writer of all time (I'd at least put him in the top ten), but I don't think this is his best work. It's exhaustively researched, and grand, and fascinating. But I rate it a 4, not a 5.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oct.20, 2009

I finished some Graphic Novels yesterday:
All-Star Superman, Vol. 2, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, 2009. I reviewed the first volume briefly before; this is the second and final volume of this collection. Let me say, I'll read almost any comic series once, but Superman has never been one of my favorites; I tend to enjoy him more teaming up with Batman or as a part of the JLA. But Grant Morrison is always excellent, and I love Quitelys art. They merge into a seamless team in this series, which may be the best Superman stuff I've ever read, anyway. This is a great work in this medium, and I would recommend it to all. Rating = 4.
The Ultimates 2, Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters. From Marvels' Ultimate universe, another tale of this "alternate Avengers" group. I'll keep it short. Good. I like the Ultimates as I read more of them. Not crazy about Ultimate Spider-man, X-Men, or fantastic Four, but I like this group. Rating = 3.
Fables, by Bill Willingham and others. Yesterday I read Vol. 2: Animal Farm and Vol. 3: Storybook Love, the only two volumes I hadn't ever read (out of the first 11 voulmes- I've got Vol. 12 requested from the library, but haven't read it yet). I also re-read Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons. I rate the collective first 11 volumes collecting this landmark series a 5. Yes; it's that good. If you haven't read this series, and you are a literate adult, and you like comics/graphic novels, you are seriously missing out. I am going to add a list of my recommended reads, and this series will be one of the few in the Graphic Novel/comic category. Let's see if I can clear this up: READ THIS SERIES IT IS DAMN GOOD STUFF.

Oct.19, 2009

I finished several books since my last post:
The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities : an unconventional compendium of health facts and oddities from asthmatic mice to plants that can kill, by Nick Bakalar, 2009. Non-fiction. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? The title pretty much explains it all. But it was hit and miss. The book is broken up into short sections about various medically-related stuff. Basically, this guy just took a bunch of facts that are readily available and mashed them into a book. I'd skip it unless you REALLY like this subject. Rating = 2.

The Dangerous World of Butterflies : the startling subculture of criminals, collectors, and conservationists , by Peter Laufer, 2009.  Non-fiction. This guy, a reporter and author of many books on more serious topics, explores the world of butterfly collectors, watchers, exhibitors, and breeders. I admit to being very prone to collection-obsession myself (although I can usually fight it off), so I always find books about collectors interesting, especially if they relate to natural history. (I'd recommend The Orchid Thieves, by Susan Orleans, as a well-written example of the genre). This one is well-written, and interesting, although the author (apparently also a radio talk show host) really slants the stories towards his view, and inserts quite a bit of unnecessary political commentary as well. I guess I feel he didn't pursue what I thought were some of the more interesting aspects of the story, at least not all the time. But, I enjoyed it overall. I rate it a 3.

The Wild Trees : a story of passion and daring , by Richard Preston, 2007. Non-fiction. You may know this guy, as I did, from his mid-1990s mega-selling book about Ebola in particular and emerging viruses in general. If you never read it, it still stands up today, even though many of the revelations in it are a little dated. The Hot Zone will give you chills at times. He also wrote a book about Mad Cow disease and the theory (fairly much accepted now, I think) that it is caused by a prion, rather than the traditional bacteria or virus, which was also a good book. Anyway, this one is defiantly a digression from the deadly pathogen genre. This book is about the tallest species of trees, especially redwoods, and the people who learned to find, climb, and research these massive behemoths. As with the other books I've read by this author, the book is a tauntly written, quick-reading, and engaging tale of true-life adventure, obsession (with giant trees- that's a little unique), and scientific exploration. Of course, I thought the subject was fascinating anyway. I really enjoyed this; I chewed through it in part of one evening. I'd rate this one a 4.

I also read one Graphic Novel of note:
Amulet : Book 2- The stonekeepers curse, by Kazu Kibuishi, 2009. I haven't read Book 1 of this magna series, but it looked interesting, so I gave it a go. Kind of a weird mix of fantasy (evil, dark elves), steam-punk, sci-fi, and Warner Brothers-looking cartoon animals mixed with people. But well-done, with nice art (especially some panoramic landscapes), and an engaging cast. I'll read more of this series. Rating = 3.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oct.16, 2009

I finished a book last night:
Dry Storeroom # 1: the secret life of the Natural History Museum, by Richard A. Fortey, 2008.
     Non-fiction. This book is about the British Museum of Natural History, apparently now correctly known as the Natural History Museum. The author is a long-time (and recently retired) staff member who specialized in trilobites. I've always loved museums and the idea of collections (especially natural history collections) in general. Although I've never been to the Natural History Museum, I've always had an interest, so this book got my attention.
     The book is an amalgamation of anecdotes, profiles of present (and mostly, past) personalities from the museum, and discussions of the collections owned by the museum. It is interesting, although a bit unfocused. The author occasionally seems to feel the need to stop down and try and convince the reader of the importance of museums and collections, and the taxonomy derived from these specimens. This often seems a little forced, and I think is probably wasted on the mostly already converted readers for this book. I just can't see someone who thinks natural history and museums are pointless ever picking this book up to begin with.
     Well, I enjoyed the book overall. Of course, I love the subject matter, so bear that in mind. I'd rate this a 3.
I also read a few Graphic Novel collections over the last two days:
The Umbrella Academy: Vol.1-Apocalypse suite, by Gerard Way. You might know this guy as he is from the band My Chemical Romance. Very cool concept, nice art, and an interesting story. An undercover alien gathers a group of superpowered orphans and they save the world. Very well done, lots of twists and turns. I'd recommend you give this a try- I enjoyed it alot. Rating= 4.  
Green Arrow: The Sounds of Violence; Green Arrow: The Archer's Quest, and Green Arrow: Straight Shooter. I've never been a huge fan of Green Arrow, but the Keven Smith written re-make was well done, just as his reworking of Daredevil was previously. I'd rate these all a 3.
Superman / Batman : Vengeance.
A weird story involving alternate timelines. The art was good, and portions of the story were well done. Unfortunately, the story involved Bizarro (and Batzarro...dohh), as well as Mr. MXYZPTLK. Nothing gives me more tired-head than these characters. I think Jeph Loeb is normally great, but I got worn out trying to wade through this. Previous books in the series were great; this one I give a 2.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oct.14, 2009

I just finished a monster book this morning:
Drood: a novel, by Dan Simmons, 2009. 777 pages. Yes : 777 pages. Fiction- I guess I would call this historical fiction? Dan Simmons is an author I really like. He writes science fiction/fantasy, horror, mysteries, all kinds of genres. He doesn't seem to give a damn what category he writes in, and I find that kind of interesting in this time when it seems most authors get locked in to one genre, and are considered as authors who ONLY write that genre of story.
    For example, Stephen King is considered as a horror book writer (or maybe "the" horror book author), but I actually find some of his books should really be in a different genre- The Stand, is post-apocalyptic sci-fi, in my mind, and The Talisman is fantasy. Sure they have horror elements, but I think they fit better in those categories.
    Well, I digress. This is not uncommon...but back to this book, and Dan Simmons. Some of the best books I've ever read were written by Dan Simmons. His 4-book Hyperion series (I think the order is: Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion) is outstanding. His quasi-horror book The Hollow Man is one of the most haunting and emotional books about love you'll ever read. And his update of Homer's Odyssey into a modern, sci-fi setting (in Olympos and Ilium) was very innovative. He likes to incorporate historical figures into his sci-fi, brought back via cloning or computers or alien technology, but this one is about Charles Dickens and is set firmly in the time period in which Dickens actually lived (mostly in the last five years of his life (1865-1870)). The narrator of this book is Wilkie Collins, apparently one of Dicken's close friends and collaborators, a minor author that history has largely forgotten (I had). The book is drawn from an obsession from late in Dickens’ life with a shadowy figure named Drood, which was a real part of the end of Dickens’ life (according to the book jacket, anyway- I actually don't know much about that and haven't researched it, but the author provides lots of fodder for research in his bibliography section). Anyway. Interesting concept; well-written book; wasn't his best work in my opinion. His premise for how it all happened (can't tell you more- could spoil the book) just wasn't that great in my opinion. So, I would say read this book if 1) you find the era or Dickens himself interesting, and 2) you don't mind long books. But I didn't think it was as good as some of his other works. I rate this one a 4.