When I finished reading Elfquest: The Final Quest Volume 2, I was faced with two thoughts. One, "Oh, god, how long do I have to wait until the third vWhen I finished reading Elfquest: The Final Quest Volume 2, I was faced with two thoughts. One, "Oh, god, how long do I have to wait until the third volume comes out?" And two? "This doesn't really feel like my Elfquest."
However, to quote what Richard Pini said in a recent post about the Final Quest storyline:
You have to want it (what it has to offer) bad, because it’s also going to put up a fight. It’s not going to go where you think it will, or should, or where you might wish it would, or to a comfortable place. With respect to the over-arching story, we’ve often quoted Bette Davis’ most memorable line, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” That’s true now, more than ever. Pack your Dramamine.
I can remember running home from school (yes, I grew up in the era when kids were allowed to walk home from school, even when said school was about aI can remember running home from school (yes, I grew up in the era when kids were allowed to walk home from school, even when said school was about a mile away) and turning on the TV to watch the reruns of Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter. I was allowed only a certain number of hours of TV per day and one of them was always taken up by this show, my favorite. Later on, I'd run outside, sometimes dressed in my Wonder Woman underoos, and pretend I was her (often with my older sister's silver cuff bracelet I'd stolen from her supposedly locked bedroom), deflecting the "pew-pewed" gunshots, lassoing the bad guys (usually an innocent tree, sometimes an even more innocent Patches, the family poodle), and generally looking like a goofball. But what did I care? I was Wonder Woman!
Reading this one-shot, with the utterly gorgeous artwork of Drew Johnson, the team of Matt Haley (who's also featured as a solo artist) & Richard Ortiz, and Jason Badower (my favorite) and the fabulous cover drawn by Nicola Scott and colored by Annette Kwok, was like finding lost episodes of the show. (Seasons two and three only, though, naturally, since the first season was set in WWII. But we all knew that, right?) Lynda Carter is there, in the pages, as both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman; Lyle Waggoner is there as Steve Trevor. And so are the wonderful '70s bell-bottoms, gigantic framed glasses, chest hair and gold chains and leisure suits, oh my! We even get a blonde, Kathy Lee Crosby-type Wonder Woman, hearkening back to the first live-action incarnation of the character, as well as the appearance (sort of) of Queen Hippolyta and Drusilla, Wonder Girl (looking an awful lot like Debra Winger who portrayed her in three episodes of the show in the first season). The five-page afterword by Andy Mangels, a history of the short-lived TV show infused with his love and admiration for it and the character of Wonder Woman, is like an inch-thick covering of caramel buttercream frosting over an already deliciously decadent Tahitian vanilla cake - completely unexpected and unexpectedly great.
In the end, you don't have to be familiar with or even a fan of the show to read this one-shot... You know what? That's a lie. This comic is a love letter from fans, to fans....more
Like many who watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I feel the need to read as many of the new stories coming out which both flesh out the new mytholoLike many who watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I feel the need to read as many of the new stories coming out which both flesh out the new mythology and add to that which we already know. I've just been a bit slow about it. (Blame my teeny-weeny budget.) Most especially, though, I want to find out about the newest members of the Star Wars family, Finn, Rey, and Poe. When I saw this book at my local Walmart a couple of weeks back, I snatched it up, making it my impulse buy of the day. Though I'd say this book is aimed more toward the YA crowd, there's no reason why readers of all ages won't enjoy this set of three short stories, each one exploring the slice of time in the characters' lives directly before the events of the movie.
We lead off with Finn, before he became Finn, when he was still known as stormtrooper FN-2187:
From the book:
FN-2187 was simply Eighty-Seven whenever one of the team wanted to shorten his designation. They didn't do it very often. He was, as far as the training cadre and his peers were concerned, one of the best stormtroopers anyone had ever seen. He was everything their instructors wanted--loyal, dutiful, brave, smart, and strong. Whatever the test, whatever the evaluation, FN-2187 consistently scored in the top 1 percent. So he was FN-2187, well on his way to becoming the ideal First Order stormtrooper. That was what everyone thought, at least. Except FN-2187 himself.
See, Eighty-Seven's got this one pesky problem plaguing him: empathy. And the First Order has no use for a stormtrooper who protects every last man. Even when it's one of his own team. The story was a fascinating look at the mechanics of stormtrooper training, life under the helmet so to speak, and it gives us glimpses of Captain Phasma and General Hux as well.
The second story revolves around Rey, an imaginative and resourceful scavenger on the desert planet Jakku:
When we meet her, Rey's riding out a massive sandstorm in the wreckage of a walker she's made into her home. But instead of doing nothing for those three and a half days, Rey uses the computer she'd jury-rigged into functioning and her precious data chip of a flight simulator to teach herself to fly. (Which explains, to all those who cried "plot hole" at the movie screen, how Rey was able to fly the Millennium Falcon. So there!) From the book:
So when she wasn't sleeping or just sitting and listening to the storm or tinkering at her workbench, she flew. It was a good program, or at least she imagined it was. She could select any number of ships to fly, from small repulsor-driven atmospheric craft to a wide variety of fighters, all the way up to an array of stock freighters. She could set destinations, worlds she'd never visited and never imagined she would, and scenarios, from speed runs to obstacle courses to system failures. At first, she'd been truly horrible at it, quite literally crashing a few seconds after takeoff every time. With nothing else to do, and with a perverse sense of determination that she would not allow herself to be beaten by a machine that she herself had put together with her own hands, she learned. She learned so much that there was little the program could throw her way that would challenge her now. She'd gotten to the point where she would, quite deliberately, do everything she could think of to make things hard on herself just to see if she could get out of it. Full-throttle atmospheric reentry with repuslor-engine failure? No sweat. Multiple hull breach dep-space engine flameout? A walk in the park. It was, if nothing else, a way to pass the time.
Rey's story was, I think, the most heartbreaking as it involved her learning to trust others and when that trust was ultimately betrayed, even though I knew it was coming, it made me weep on the inside just a bit.
The last story is about Poe Dameron, ace pilot for the Republic, who believes things aren't quite as calm and peaceful as all his superiors keep telling him:
When Poe goes against orders to track down the origins of a freighter attacked by the First Order, his actions bring him to the attention of General Leia Organa of the Resistance. And suddenly Poe finds himself exactly where he'd always wanted to be, but never knew. From the book:
The Resistance, Poe learned, was small, but among its personnel were some of the most dedicated and motivated people he had ever met, coming from all over the galaxy. Most of the core command staff surrounding General Organa were veterans themselves, many with experience dating back to the Galactic Civil War, and more than once he found himself speaking to someone who had known his parents, who had flown alongside his mother, who had been in the trenches with his father. It was, strangely, like coming home, as if this was the place Poe had been meant to be all along.
Poe's story is probably the most action-packed, as it involves dogfights in space, daring reconnaissance missions, and by-the-skin-of-the-teeth escapes. We also see a great deal of General (formerly Princess) Leia, and get a sense of how active she's been and entrenched she is with the Resistance and its forces. Toward the end of the story, readers are introduced to the key story element of Leia's missing brother, Luke, whom she compares to Poe in more ways than just his piloting his skills. Of course, I can't forget the most important character introduced in Poe's story, the roly-poly, comical, and descriptively named astromech droid BB-8.
There's a reason why this little droid became the breakout star of the movie, displacing even R2-D2 as the most adorable beep-beep-booper in the galaxy. Because he damn near steals Poe's story right out from under the man.
With fantastic lead-in and entr'acte illustrations by Phil Noto, this book is a great companion piece to the film, acting as a prequel of sorts and a way to fill in the blanks. Highly recommended for all Star Wars fans, of all ages....more
It was really interesting reading these volumes one after the other as I was able to see the evolution of comics, not just in the writing (both styleIt was really interesting reading these volumes one after the other as I was able to see the evolution of comics, not just in the writing (both style and content), but in the dynamics of the action as well style of layout. The first volume, which collected the issues from 1968 and '69, had a rather staid and restrained design, even taking into account the shake-up provided by the groovy hippie window dressings and the new storylines that came out of the decision to remove Wonder Woman's Amazon powers: the layouts keep to the methodical rectangular/square panels and the action stays confined within those panels; rarely are off-kilter shapes and designs used to enhance the action (usually a fight scene) and I can only recall one instance where a character, in this instance Diana Prince, was drawn coming out of her own panel and crossing into another (a technique a great deal more common in later decades) to show how dynamic her movements were. Volume two, collecting comics from 1969 and '70, is simply a continuation of the same; in fact, there seem to be fewer uniquely shaped panels than previously. About as wild as they get is some square panels with wavy lines—oooh, kooky! And the quality of drawing for the first two volumes is quite... artistic. Though it's doubtful any more effort was expended on creating those panels, each one looks as though it took hours rather than the mere minutes it more likely took. It creates a very classic comic book look, you know what I mean? Soft, rich, stylish.
But when we get to volume three, collecting the issues from 1970 to '72, things start to change. Immediately the artwork starts to look a bit rougher, not in a bad way, but certainly in a more modern way. (Except for The House That Wasn't which was drawn by Wally Wood.) Also, nearly all the panels are angular, uneven, layered; this time around, it's the more structured rectangular/square panels that are the rarely seen layouts. With volume three you get a lot of full-page action, sometimes all on its own, other times with smaller panels layered on top of that action, creating a truly rich environment for the eye to follow. Drawing angles are changed, too: not just straight on, but looking up, looking down, coming in from a side close up so that a body part takes up half of the frame while background action takes up the rest, etc. While the angles had begun to shift since volume one, these new perspectives combined with the intense action and somewhat harsher drawing style really gave this volume a different feel to the previous two, as though an even greater shift has taken place. Volume four continues this sensation, collecting the issues from 1972 to '73, and gives the impression that Wonder Woman has fully made the transition from the Silver Age of comics to the Bronze Age (even though it wasn't defined or thought as such at the time, that I'm aware of). But there's definitely a sense, especially at the end of the book, that something has come to the end and a new beginning has been written. Of course, this might have something to do with the last story, The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman in which Diana loses her memory, not just of her life as Diana Prince but her previous life as Wonder Woman. All she knows is that she “must get back.” To where, she doesn't know, but that doesn't stop her from stealing a jet, getting shot down and crashing in the ocean, riding a shark to the surface, and finally getting rescued by her sister Amazons. Upon discovering her condition, Queen Hippolyta (saddened her own daughter doesn't recognize her) has Diana taken to the Amazon Memory Bank. There she's strapped into a very squiffy-looking chair (which looks like a very uncomfortable metallic recliner), has a metal band full of Memory Electrodes placed on her forehead, and is taken through a total replay of history. Except for Channels 3 thru 5, whatever those are, because they're a secret Queen Hipppolyta believes Diana doesn't need to know. So we're taken through the history of how the Amazons came to be (according to Robert Kanigher who wrote The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman, and I'm rather curious as to which book of mythology he read in order to come up with said history), skipping over those mysterious Channels 3-4-5, of course. And as the Multi-Dimensional Memory Channels fade, Diana (Wonder Woman) Prince returns to her mother and the other Amazons of Paradise Island. Suddenly, a fully armored warrior woman appears, claiming that she is the true Wonder Woman. To prove which of them is truly Wonder Woman, the newcomer claims the Amazonian right to challenge the usurper, Diana, in hand-to-hand combat. Eventually, a tie is called and the armored newcomer is revealed to be... Nubia, Wonder Woman of the Floating Island, a fact which disconcerts Hippolyta mightily and sets up a new storyline which will be presumably explored in coming issues. Which is rather disappointing because the reader is left hanging right now: Who is Nubia? Why does her appearance disconcert Hipployta so? Why didn't she want Diana to see Memory Channels 3 thru 5? And now that Diana has returned to Man's world and reclaimed her alter-ego with a job as a universal translator at the U.N., will she ever reclaim her full Amazon powers and become Wonder Woman once more?
Crap, I've gotta know. (I mean, I know she gets her powers back, but I've gotta know exactly how it happens.)
One thing that confuses me, though: if the Amazons are based on Greco-Roman mythology, why do they greet each other with the Spanish "Hola"? Wouldn't "Ave" be better? ("Avete" in the plural form.) It meant 'be well' and was used as both 'hello' and 'goodbye', much like "aloha." (And that would be pronounced "AH-way" as the 'v' in Latin is pronounced as a 'w'. Just as an aside. Two years of high school Latin, silver medal in the National Latin Exam here, folks! Not to brag or anything.) Sorry for the ramble. These are the kind of things that take up most of my mental processing, which explains quite a bit about me, probably....more
These collections keep getting better, I must say. Volume 3 of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman was the most entertaining volume so far, containing much lesThese collections keep getting better, I must say. Volume 3 of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman was the most entertaining volume so far, containing much less of the issues that plagued the previous two volumes (rampant sexism and racism) and a great deal more of pure, energetic action and adventure. Again and again, Diana Prince proves that even without the awesome powers of Wonder Woman, she can still hold her own in a fight, all the while wearing a groovy outfit and a kicky pair of shoes! (Seriously, some of the shoes these guys drew are totally awesome; I want someone to replicate them so I can wear them, too.) The weakest link is the story where Diana is once again teamed up with Superman (Journey to the End of Hope): at a student rally in 1971 that gets violent, a shooting death there somehow causes the world to end up in total ruins 200 years later; so a super-computer sends probes into the past to find the two most superior human specimens through computer dating(!). How does this super-computer do this? By the ability to implant thoughts in humans--don't ask me how. These humans were I Ching and Perry White, who convince Diana and Clark to fill out the computer dating applications so that they might come together at the right place, at the right time, for the super-computer to bring these two superior humans (never minding the fact that Superman isn't human) to the future in order to prevent this one potential eventuality. Yeesh! Thing is, the computer dies before giving them detailed information on who they must save, so they go back in time with only a general idea; when they get back to the rally, they manage to save the life of a student who matches the computer's description, yet someone else, a guard who also resembles the computer's description, gets killed. Was that the person they were supposed to save? As Superman so desperately says in the last panel, they'll never know until it's too late! It's so clumsy and heavy-handed, even for the crunchy, granola '70s. I just barely stopped my eyes from rolling right out of my head.
The one thing that bugged me, that continues to bug me is the insistence on using the introduction of "Diana (Wonder Woman) Prince" on every story. Yes, I realize this is a collection of issues, but still, even those who had missed an issue between June of 1970 and February of 1971, for example, would still know and completely understand that Diana Prince is, was, and will always be the alter-ego of Wonder Woman. That fact doesn't need to be drilled into the reader's head every. Single. Time....more
In a way, in many ways, this collection was almost worse than the first volume of this series. The sexism is more rampant thanks to stories in which WIn a way, in many ways, this collection was almost worse than the first volume of this series. The sexism is more rampant thanks to stories in which Wonder Woman fights Lois Lane for the attention and hand in marriage of Superman (The Superman-Wonder Woman Team) and Bruce Wayne hits on Wonder Woman while fretting over the hit his ego will take if he lets a woman and a blind man (yup, I Ching is still hanging around) save him from the bad guys beating him up (The Widow-Maker). And while I believe today's political correctness has gotten excessively, exuberantly out-of-hand, some of the incorrectness on view is just unbelievably... ballsy. The most egregious being the story Red For Death in which both Diana Prince and her companion, the red-haired, quite Irish-looking Patrick McGuire, are made up in "yellow-face": given a Asian make-over, complete with wigs, in order to pass over the border into RED CHINA and rescue I Ching. (And in the midst of this rescue, Diana finds the time to take a bath and wash her hair because we all know how important that is to us "girls." Yeesh.) Oh, and once again the big bad is the villain Doctor Cyber, who is neither a doctor nor any kind of robotic entity *scratches head in confusion* and still trying to take over the world with her gang of henchwomen. So basically, volume two of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman is a confused mishmash of whiz-bang action that flies at you with primary colors and high-flying karate kicks. You know, like the first volume. And, I have a feeling, as volume three and four will be.
And yet...I enjoyed it. It's a fun, unapologetic, energetic, entertaining read that, like all comics of the Silver Age, may not always know what the heck it wants to be, but will have a damn fun time exploring the possibilities. Just plop yourself in the paisley-painted sidecar, strap on some goggles, and come along for the ride!...more
I have such a hard time rating this. On the one hand, coming into the world of Wonder Woman comic books as basically a newbie*, I enjoyed the drawingsI have such a hard time rating this. On the one hand, coming into the world of Wonder Woman comic books as basically a newbie*, I enjoyed the drawings themselves, the style, the coloring, the old-style action beats ("POW" "KRWAM" "WAP"). The pure, vibrantly-colored joy on each page made the entire book so much fun to read. On the other hand... *sigh* On the other hand, good lord, I have never seen a woman cry so much over a man! "Oh, poor Steve Trevor, what have I done to you?" "Oh, Steve, will you ever forgive me?" "Oh, Reggie, you lied to me, you said you loved me!" And on, ad nauseam. And that's simply one of many egregious outrages perpetrated against this formerly awesome Amazon. In stripping Wonder Woman of her powers, they stripped her of her personality, turning her into a "girl" who is more concerned with her clothes, her hair, and her man than with anything else.
As far as the main story, of Wonder Woman losing her powers and having to learn how to fight as a regular human (thanks to the miraculous appearance of the cringingly named character "I Ching"), in the history of Wonder Woman I can see how important it was, how much of a shake-up it caused, the idea of a divinely-created superhero suddenly becoming fully human and having to fend for herself with just some well-placed karate chops and judo kicks. The story wants to be progressive and feminist, especially in its use of villains, yet it comes off as neither. Instead, especially when looking back at it with modern eyes, it looks unbearably cheesy, occasionally lame, and at times a bit sexist. (One character distracts a female guard by pretending a mouse is chewing on her shoe; when he knocks the guard out, he says, "Never yet saw a chick who wouldn't be dumb if you gave her a chance!" I mean, ew!)
Oh, and then there's the strained attempt at "hippie talk" in the first story, Wonder Woman's Rival. All the "makin' the scene together" "cool your head, man" and one character calling Diana a "ginchy chick" (which reminded me of something, not Edd Byrnes from 77 Sunset Strip, but of a squeaky-voiced blonde woman from something else--it's bugging the crap out of me). Anyway, it was just so forced and hilarious.
But in the end I had to rate this a 3 star read because I did have fun with it, even if it was sometimes at the comic's expense. Okay, I did kind of girl-out over the "groovy" fashions. So sue me: I only ever pretended to be Wonder Woman.
*I grew up watching reruns of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter (who will always be Wonder Woman to me, just like Christopher Reeves will always be my Superman; I'm stuck in a rut that way) and playing in the driveway dressed in my Wonder Woman underoos (wearing my sister's cuff bracelet I stole from her supposedly locked room). I may have read an occasional random comic book that had been part of my sister's collection, but that was it. I certainly wasn't one of those kids who ran out to buy the latest issue. So I've been at the sidelines (though still adding my vocal opinion) of some of the biggest changes and upsets in the Wonder Woman universe. (That whole issue #600 and post-52 costume design change still gives me heartburn; WW doesn't have to wear a miniskirt, but pants are just.. wrong. Then again, at least it wasn't black bicycle shorts like back in the '90s. Oy)...more
As with volume 1, Arrow: Volume 2 collects the tie-in comics of the the CW show Arrow, in this case issues 7 through 12, into one book. And as before,As with volume 1, Arrow: Volume 2 collects the tie-in comics of the the CW show Arrow, in this case issues 7 through 12, into one book. And as before, the stories are arranged into a further 18 "chapters", each one a short vignette which takes place in the past or present of the first season of the show, taking a small part of the storyline or character development and adding a bit more flesh to it. As with the first volume--I feel like a broken record here--this compilation is really only for fans of the show rather than fans of the original DC comic character Green Arrow. That said, even though this is the second volume, both books are stand-alone as there's no cohesive, over-arcing storyline to them, so if one is read without the other, other than any niggling feeling you might have from reading a set of books out of order (or does that only happen to me?) you won't run into any problems.
Because each chapter is drawn by a different artist--some having come over from volume 1--once again you run into a range of style and talent. However, there seemed to be a greater consistency between the artists with this volume, not necessarily with them trying to emulate each other's work, but with the artists trying to achieve a more consistent look from story to story, i.e. the characters look more like the actors portraying them rather than generic "female victim" or "male hero." Each artist still puts his individual stamp on the story they're creating, obviously--there's nothing homogeneous here--but there's also no great disparity moving from one chapter to the next which could startle you out of the mood the book has created. You know, when one artist uses a lighter hand with his outlining and shadowing, creating a more delicate look, and then the next artist relies on deep shadows and heavy lines, creating a more raw or crude look. Does my rambling make any kind of sense?
As I stated earlier, Arrow: Volume 2 is most enjoyable for those fans of the show who would like to explore further the characters and history of the world Guggenheim et al have created. Anyone else might possibly enjoy the artwork or the stories for the interaction between characters without actually knowing who they are and why they're behaving as such . . . but I doubt it as I think it would simply raise more questions than answers for them. As for me, since I am such a squeeing fan-girl of the show, I got a great deal of enjoyment out of the book; I think my only disappointment came from the fact that the stories were so short, causing the book to end much too soon....more
Peter Caswell wakes in a silk-sheeted bed in a luxurious flat in London with only a song refrain running through his head to tell him who and where hePeter Caswell wakes in a silk-sheeted bed in a luxurious flat in London with only a song refrain running through his head to tell him who and where he is. You see, Peter is an assassin, the best in the world, thanks to his ability to blend in anywhere, but he never remembers where he goes or who he kills because of the implant in his head and the timed-release chemicals it contains. And that's just the way Peter wants it. The only thing he allows himself is knowing how many kills he's made and that only by the number of Sapporo beer bottles, out of twelve, with labels turned away, a count done in the moments before he reverts.
And so begins one of the most twisty-turning, heart-pounding, thought-provoking books I've read in quite some time. It would be easy to describe this book as a spy thriller wrapped up in science fiction. Easy, but probably not quite accurate, not to mention too simplistic for such a complex tale. Having never read any of Jason Hough's other works, I don't know if Zero World is characteristic for him or a story that shows him growing as an author, but I will say that what I read left me mightily impressed. It would be quite easy, with such a complex and fast-paced story, for authors to skimp on certain things such as character development or world building, but that's not the case here. In fact, I was completely blown away by how much thought Hough put into creating the parallel Earth on which most of the story takes place. The differences between our two worlds are often quite simple, yet at the same time truly innovative. (Such as opening a door: here we turn a doorknob; on the alternate Earth, a door opens by way of a foot latch. So simple, yet I dare say no-one would've thought of it had the question been posed. I know I wouldn't have. Or expressing appreciation: here we simply say “Thanks” whereas alt. Earth uses “Gratitude.” A subtle, yet powerful difference.*) Yet, those differences are never outlandish or thoughtless or untrue to the story; they feel completely organic to the culture Hough has created. Even the names of the characters populating the alternate Earth are a degree or two away from familiarity for us, yet a natural extension of alt. Earth's evolution. But what makes this world-building so amazing was how deftly Hough managed to insert so much backstory and so many details without any of it ever becoming overbearing or an info-dump. As a writer, I'm in awe. And I also kind of hate him. Just a little bit.
The storyline is told from the perspectives of both Peter Caswell and his alt-Earth counterpart, Melni, which is another way Hough gives us a greater view of the world(s) he's created. The thing is, as developed as Peter is, Hough didn't skimp on Melni's development to achieve that. Melni is just as fierce and dedicated to her mission as Peter is to hers and as the story progresses it peels away the layers of her character allowing us to find out what drives her, what scares her, what makes her Melni. Which is awesome. It's so refreshing to find a female co-protagonist who is neither a fainting wimp nor an aggro female who probably started out as male. Yes, Melni can be vulnerable and, yes, she can be hard-ass, but she never loses her humanity or her femininity. Even his secondary characters have a depth to them that gives the impression that, if Hough were asked to, could step up and become the center of the story without difficulty.
Then we get to the story itself, set sometime in the future, which is . . . complicated. I mean, you start out with an enhanced super-secret spy-assassin, then progress to space travel, wormhole travel, an alternate Earth, and one heck of a conspiracy that sets everything Peter ever knew or believed in on its ear, and you've got a story that can't be easily condensed into a short summary. At least not without giving a misleading impression of what you'll be reading or giving away any number of spoilers. For all its complexity and genre-bending subject matter, not to mention its hefty appearance, Zero World is a fast and engrossing read, sucking you in from page one and only reluctantly letting you go. It's one of those books that will keep you up at night, making you want to know what happens next and then what happens after that. Not to mention you get a bonus novella, The Dire Earth, at the end, allowing you to keep the adventure going when the main novels ends.
So, really, all I can say is if you like books of a sci-fi, spy-thriller, futuristic, alternate Earth, dystopic, action-adventure, military leaning (and who doesn't?), with just a dash of romance thrown in for good measure, I'd strongly suggest you pick up Zero World right this minute. And prepare to have your mind blown.
*About the only weakness comes from the main curse word Hough created. Where we say fucking, alt. Earth uses blixxing. Now, having gone through the arduous process of creating an adequately vivid and powerful curse word myself, I can appreciate what Hough went through to create blixxing and for that I can't fault him. But whereas fuck represents a clear, Anglo-Saxon directness, it's hard to imagine the linguistic path of blix (or is it blixx? I can't remember). I'm sure I'm in the minority with this kind of struggle and I fully acknowledge I am a linguistics geek, making this a petty quibble, but considering this was the only thing out of the entire book that gave me pause . . . that's pretty blixxing good!
I received an ARC through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review....more
Okay, for my review, a few things should be known: I'm an unabashed, squeeing, fan-girl fan of the show Arrow (same goes with its brother, The Flash);Okay, for my review, a few things should be known: I'm an unabashed, squeeing, fan-girl fan of the show Arrow (same goes with its brother, The Flash); I have a very sad and pathetic crush on the lead, Stephen Amell, mainly because of his salmon ladder pull-ups *hummina, hummina, hummina*; I'm deficient in any knowledge of classic Green Arrow comic history--my time at DC Comics was mainly spent communing with Wonder Woman. With those things in mind, here is my review:
Arrow: Volume 1 collects issues 1-6 of the tie-in comic for the CW show, Arrow. Inside this compilation are 18 "chapters", each of which takes a scene or character and expands upon what we learned in the first season of the show. Basically the "chapters" flesh out points of the show that may have only been flashes on screen, giving us a deeper look at the world of Arrow as created in part by executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg. Do these "chapters" provide a deep and insightful exposé? Not particularly. But if you're a fan of the show--which is really the target audience for these comics--you'll enjoy seeing what happened to Diggle in Afghanistan, for instance, or discovering the tragedy that made Helena Bertinelli into the Huntress, or getting a glimpse into Chien Na Wei's childhood before she became China White. And, of course, we follow alongside Oliver as he patrols the city, carrying out the promise he made to undo his father's wrongs and serve the city.
The storylines are pretty basic, nothing particularly striking or revelatory about any of them, but they are entertaining, full of quips and fast-paced action. The artwork is pretty good--as with any graphic novel or compilation that relies on multiple artists, the work can at times be hit-or miss. In some of the chapters, it's hard to differentiate between characters: the men all look the same and so do the women. I'd have to say the work of Mico Suayan and Omar Francia was the best, in my opinion, with Mike Grell and Xermanico as runners up. At times, the artwork is rather primitive, at others, overly cartoonish, but again that's what you get with several artists working together. In the end, it all evens out, I think, and there's nothing so overtly "wrong" with any of it that might jar the reader out of the book. So I count that as a success.
In the end, I honestly don't see fans, especially die-hard fans, of the classic Green Arrow comics particularly enjoying these comics or graphic novels as they're aimed at the viewing audience of the Arrow TV show. Even then I don't think casual or highly critical viewers of the show will find the need to read these or take much away from them as they probably won't answer the questions or issues they have with the show and will seem more superficial than beneficial. Me? Gimme more, gimme more!...more
Reading this made my inner child (who often escapes and runs amok as an outer child, but that's an issue to deal with another day) gleefully, squealinReading this made my inner child (who often escapes and runs amok as an outer child, but that's an issue to deal with another day) gleefully, squealingly happy. About the only thing that would've made the whole thing even better would've been the presence of unicorns. But that's just my horse-obsessed inner child speaking.
The story revolves around a very familiar theme, that of loneliness and not belonging and wondering if everyone would be better off if you just ran away. Believe me, as a teenager, I ran the gamut of these emotions, so I could fully empathize with Star, the protagonist of the story. As a black pegasus in a world where black pegasi aren't an everyday occurrence, Star feels like an outcast. Add in an ancient prophecy attached to those rare black pegasi, one of which is born every hundred years, which states that the pegasus foal will either unite or destroy the herds and become the most powerful pegasus in the land, and it's no wonder Star is either shunned or actively bullied by the other foals, not to mention many of the adult pegasi. As a final insult, Star doesn't fully belong to his herd: His mother had been driven away from her herd and was taken in by the Sun Herd, then died after giving birth to Star; the lead mare, Silvercloud, promised Star's mother she'd protect him, a promise she's kept all these years, to the detriment of her relationship with the herd's over-stallion, Thunderwing. So not only is Star concerned about his destiny, he feels guilty for destroying the lives of those protecting him. This makes for one sad, lonely little youngster. The fact that, on top of all these issues, Star is a pegasus who can't fly . . . Well, it's no wonder he feels depressed! In the end, Star comes through his trauma and finds his place in the world, but it's a bumpy road he has to travel before reaching that peak.
This is definitely not a light and fluffy book, an impression one might get upon hearing that it's all about pretty, pretty pegasi. But right from the start, in the first chapter, we deal with bullying and fear and the threat of death. From there the book gives us fighting between herds and even within the herd--fighting that ends in a lot of death--more bullying, physical violence, betrayal and vengeance, near-death experiences due to starvation and infection, a forest fire that kills yet more pegasi . . . you get the picture. But don't be put off and think it's too dark for a kid. Trust me, at heart kids are sociopaths, and I mean that in the most positive way: They're still forming their moral compass and books that show how things can go wrong, how life isn't always fair, but how things like love, compassion, cooperation, and sacrifice can save the day provide helpful guidance. Kids are plastic, elastic, and flexible; they can handle more serious issues that we adults might want to shield them from. But exposure to the darker side of life, even viewed through the lens of fantasy, gives kids a more well-rounded attitude and the potential to cope with any future issues that might befall them. They'll sympathize with Star and root for him even as they growl at Star's enemies, especially Brackentail; they'll cry when things go wrong and yelp for joy when Star finally starts to fulfill his destiny. In short, I can see both girls and boys devouring this book and any follow-up volumes.
I've noticed some people dinging the bit where Star's tears cause flowers to spring up in their wake, complaining it's too far-fetched and silly. Um, we're talking about a book concerning talking pegasi and a star on a hundred-year cycle that gives one particular pegasus a unique power. You're going to complain about the idea of flowers growing from tears? *opens mouth, pauses, shuts mouth and shakes head* Yes, Star's tears bring forth flowers, which I took as an obvious and overt sign that his destiny isn't written by an ancient prophecy. Star's destiny is one he will write every day, one of his own making. A destiny I'm eager to read about in however many sequels Ms. Alvarez decides to write (very, very many, I'm hoping)....more
Okay, I really hate Ann Aguirre. I am dead serious here. She writes the best action-adventure/sci-fi/fiction/YA of anyone out there today. To the poinOkay, I really hate Ann Aguirre. I am dead serious here. She writes the best action-adventure/sci-fi/fiction/YA of anyone out there today. To the point where I could literally swallow my tongue out of jealousy whenever I read one of her books. Hyperbole? Nope, not even close.
Horde is the final book in Aguirre's Razorland Trilogy, and what a finale it is! If Enclave was the skeleton and Outpost was the muscles and organs, Horde is the tattooed, punk-ass skin on this most awesome literary creation. Horde begins where Outpost left off: the town of Salvation is under siege by Freaks, the remnants of humanity gone savage, and in order to save the place they've come to love and call home, Deuce, Fade, Stalker, and Tegan must leave their families behind in order to find help in one of the surrounding settlements. But this is no mere rescue mission. Because things have changed. The Freaks are no longer just the mindless beasts they once were; they've become more cunning and resourceful, and in order to save her family and free humans from the threat of these mutants, Deuce will learn to lead an army which has forgotten how to fight. This war isn't just for the sake of her family or the families in Salvation, however. This is a war to save the entire human race, a war that must be won at all costs, and that's a burden Deuce might not be able to carry.
When I started reading this book, I promised myself that I would try to take it as slow as possible, in order to savor it, but I couldn't help myself. Aguirre throws you right into the action and makes it impossible to slow down. Which is probably why I stayed up until 6 a.m. the day I finished reading this. Even as I reached the end and was satisfied every step of the way, I mentally cried because I just did not want the story to end. (I might've also physically cried a little bit as well.) Deuce has been such a fascinating, deep, and rich character from beginning to end, and part of that comes from Ann's writing in that she's allowed Deuce to grow and to change as she learns more about herself as well as the people and world around her. Yet Deuce isn't alone; the supporting characters are all real and tangible individuals, making us care for them even as Ann plays with their “lives,” even going so far as killing someone off in a scene you'll never see coming. The bitch. And I mean that in the best way because it's only the bravest author who'll let a character die in service of the story, regardless of how much an audience might care for that character. With this novel, Deuce, already having come so far from where she started, has to keep fighting uphill battles every step of the way and Aguirre lets us see her weariness, lets us see when Deuce reaches her breaking point and very nearly snaps, feel her terror, her hopelessness, her confusion and despair. And yet she keeps moving, planting one foot in front of the other and in the end manages to come out of such blackness carrying victory on her shoulders. It's a journey that'll wring you out in so many ways, but is so fulfilling you'll want to cheer.
I have a feeling it's only the easily parsable books that are made into movies, those books that can be broken down into tropes and cliches and easily understood themes so that the dollar sign-eyed movie studio execs do a little dance for joy in anticipation of all the money they'll make off a new tentpole franchise.* Take, for example, The Hunger Games. Don't get me wrong, I read the first book and thoroughly enjoyed it as it's a well-written book. But, the thing is, The Hunger Games is also part of a trilogy, yet as much as I thought the first book was fabulous, I still have not read the other two. With the Razorland Trilogy, I couldn't not read each entry in the series even if I tried. The only way would've been to have physically stopped me, because I had to, I just had to find out what happened next. What trouble would next find Deuce, what would become of her relationship with Fade and Stalker, what Tegan would do to find her courage and place in the world. And those things may sound like issues common to any other YA book or series of recent publication, but with Aguirre's writing, there's always a little something extra, a different take or new angle on the situation. There's always more to the story. Out of the YA trilogies that have lately been made into movies or are in the process of being made, of none of them have I read beyond the first book, no matter how good that first book might've been. Though it may sound mean and counterintuitive, I really hope no movie producer or production company purchases the rights to the Razorland Trilogy, because no-one, no script writer, no director, no studio, could do it justice. Bold claim, perhaps, but just read the books and ask yourself if I'm exaggerating.
I'm not sure any of this is coming out intelligibly and I know I probably sound like some kind of squeeing fan girl. You know what, though? I totally am that squeeing fan girl and proud of it. Taut, tight, well-crafted, and often heartbreaking, her books have totally become my book candy, those titles I hoard miser-style, savor even as I speed through the pages, and turn to whenever I need a comforting pick-me-up.
*I had to edit my previous remarks to be a bit less inflammatory. You'll have to excuse them, and me, as when I wrote this review, I was coming off a major "OMG! I've just read the most awesome book in the world, finishing up the most awesome trilogy in the world!" high. In that kind of situation, enthusiasm overrules any restraint or common sense a person might possess, hence the rather bombastic nature of what I'd written. That said, I realize I'm still courting controversy and anger from others with what I've said in my review; however, I stand by my remarks and opinions....more
It took me a while for my attention to get drawn into this novel. Mainly because I discovered, only after I'd started reading the thing, that3.5 stars
It took me a while for my attention to get drawn into this novel. Mainly because I discovered, only after I'd started reading the thing, that it's actually the fourth novel in Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest series. Now, other people may have no problem picking up and reading a book from the middle of a series, but me? Um, yeah, that doesn't work for me. For better of worse, I tend to be rather OCD about book series: I hate reading books from the middle of one, and the idea of skipping around, reading the books out of order, positively drives me bonkers, giving me an eye twitch and the beginnings of a foamy mouth. So when I found out 1356 was number four in a series, I nearly screamed.* I also nearly stopped reading. However, I have such a backlog of ARCs I need to read and review that the notion of me trying to plow through the first three books (and that's only if I were able to find them at my local, woefully lacking, library in the first place) while still keeping up with my other ARCs just so I could be comfortable reading 1356 nearly gave me the same eye twitch as the one I was trying to develop due to reading 1356 in the first place. (Damn, that was an exhausting sentence!) So I took myself in hand (which is an idiom I've always found vaguely naughty, most likely because of my brain's permanent dwelling place in a nice and comfy gutter), gave myself a stern talking to, and soldiered on with 1356, suffering only the occasional eye spasm in the process.
I also had a rough beginning with this book as for the longest time I couldn't identify with or be sympathetic to any of the characters. It took some time for them to mean anything to me, even the main character, Sir Thomas Hookton, aka le Bâtard, leader of the Hellequin, a band of mercenaries working in France while serving under the aegis of the Earl of Northampton. Eventually, though, I warmed up to Thomas and his band, especially Brother Michael and the Irishman, Keane (the latter mainly due to his adoption of a couple of wolfhounds away from the Frenchmen who were hunting down him and Thomas; as an animal lover, it was a particularly satisfying scene).
The story itself is interesting yet oddly forgettable. Revolving around a mythical sword said to be the sword of Saint Peter, a sword said to grant whoever bears it certain victory over his foes, both the French and English army have sent scouts to find it in order to aid their endeavors. (If the year of the book's title doesn't hold any significance for you, it was in that year the Battle of Poitiers took place, which was the second major engagement of the Hundred Years' War. Edward, also known as the Black Prince—for what reason is still debated among historians—the son of King Edward III, had raided France that year, his second chevauchée [a destructive raid designed to inflict severe economic disaster on the enemy] through that war-torn country, spurring King Jean II of France to pursue him. The two ultimately met at Poitiers, and even though the English army was outnumbered, road-weary, thirsty, and exhausted, and though the battle was long, the English came out on top, capturing around 2,000 members of the French aristocracy, including King Jean himself, whose ransom alone—six million gold écus—was equivalent to about a third of France's GNP.) So each side believes they are in the right and that this sword, la Malice, will bring God's wrath down upon their enemies. In between battle scenes and personal dramas revolving around Thomas and his band we watch as this sword gets shuffled around from place to place and from person to person as it falls into the hands of those who would hide it and those who would abuse it. Eventually it finds itself in the possession of Sculley, a wild Scotsman marginally under the control of the Lord of Douglas, on the side of King Jean. After a brief but bloody sword fight between Sculley and Thomas, the fate of la Malice was something of an anticlimax. Maybe that was the point, but it just seemed rather disappointing. And that was the overall sensation I took away from my reading experience. It just felt as though the book was missing something, as though I was only getting part of the story. Perhaps it's due to the fact that it is number four in a series. Perhaps it's better read as part of a whole, when all the pieces fit together into a larger, more detailed picture.
I also have to disagree with the blurb on the cover from George R.R. Martin in which he states “Bernard Cornwell does the best battle scenes of any writer I've ever read, past or present.” Well, I'm very sorry George, but the author who writes the best battle scenes is still, to my mind, Conn Iggulden. Cornwell writes vivid, bloody, stirring scenes, to be sure, but they're nowhere near as atmospheric and breath-taking as Iggulden's. That's not to say Cornwell's writing is flawed. I've read his Warlord Chronicles, which tackled the story of King Arthur, and like those books, 1356 is a cracking good read. The dialogue is fast-paced, accessible without being overly-anachronistic, the story moves along and keeps your attention, doling out information in just the right amount without slowing down the action, and he allows the characters to develop as the story moves along so that by the end, though they may not be complex creatures, they're far from cardboard cutouts. At least for his “good guys”; Cornwell's bad guys in this novel tend to suffer slightly from the Black Hat Syndrome in that they're after one thing or one person, their motives for going after that thing or person are narrowly drawn (i.e. revenge or greed or simply because they're a black-hearted knave who loves being bad), and as such become near-caricatures of people. Basically, they're villains because they're villains and nothing more. Thomas is the most three-dimensional character of all; he's obviously one of the good 'uns, yet he does shady, even downright criminal things, he has conflicting emotions between what he's doing and what he should be doing—basically he behaves like a human being, especially one who's often placed between a rock and a hard place and must choose the lesser of two evils in order to move. (Two clichés in one sentence, woo hoo!) That said, I suppose the goal of most writers is for you, as the reader, to empathize with the good guys and Cornwell certainly accomplishes that. Or at least for me he did. Every time one of the characters found themselves in a perilous situation, I suffered along with them, heart beating rapidly, palms sweating, lips gnawed raw as my eyes zoomed across the page, reading as fast as I could in the hope that the character would soon find an escape.
So, yeah, despite some flaws and a slow start, in the end I would recommend this book as a good read. However, I do believe it would've been even better had I gotten to it after first reading the three books that came before it.
*It doesn't help that this brought up one of my biggest pet-peeves about book publishing: Why can't publishers identify a book that's part of a series? How difficult would it be to put a small number somewhere on the spine, or place, in small typeset, a sentence somewhere on the front cover informing potential readers that the book they're holding is #__ in a series? Or, at the very least, place a page at the front of the book listing the titles, in chronological order, that belong to a particular series, allowing the person holding said book to exclaim, “Hey, this is book #4 in the series! I need to read these other books first!” Really, would it put such a huge dent in their bottom line? I think not. In fact, doing so would encourage more sales, in my not-so-humble opinion: First of all, people wouldn't get pissed off about picking up a book in the middle of a series, and secondly, in my experience, people like to buy in bulk, so when they find the first (clearly labeled) book in a series, they tend to pick up the second one at the same time....more
Agghhhhhh! I've finished it! There's no more book to read!
*pauses for breath, is startled by a new thought*
Agghhhhhh! I'm going to have to wait a yearAgghhhhhh! I've finished it! There's no more book to read!
*pauses for breath, is startled by a new thought*
Agghhhhhh! I'm going to have to wait a year or more until the next book comes out! NOOOOOOOO!
Okay, I will try to keep my gushing and fawning to a minimum, focusing instead on a review of the story. Though I can't promise some fan-girl enthusiasm won't slip through.
This, the second entry in Ann Aguirre's Razorland series, picks up where Enclave left off. Deuce, Fade, Tegan, and Stalker have found sanctuary in the topside settlement of Salvation. Each has found a place with a foster family and a place in the settlement, with varying degrees of success. Though it makes Deuce wary, she finds herself growing comfortable with the care she's given by her foster family, the Oakes, and while she isn't exactly happy spending her days in school when she considers herself full of all the knowledge she'll ever need, she complies as she doesn't want to make trouble. After all, she's already turned a few heads with her Huntress behavior, behavior seen as unwomanly and not in keeping with the strict religious tenets upon which Salvation was founded. But things in Salvation aren't quite as idyllic as they seem. The Freaks, or Muties as they're known by Salvationers, are behaving in ways never seen before. They're becoming smarter... and that is not a good sign for the people behind the flimsy wooden walls of Salvation.
Yeah, I don't think those are gonna hold.
Outpost is a more thoughtful entry in the series than the first book. Don't get me wrong, there's still lots of ass-kicking, especially by Deuce (who finds she has to prove herself all over again to the community--mainly the men-folk, that is), but even with the growing crisis outside Salvation's walls, there's time for Deuce, Fade, Tegan, and Stalker to grow in ways in which they never had the opportunity to grow during their adventures on the way to Salvation. There's more time for drama, confusion, mixed signals, romance, and character expansion. As we watch these kids (for that's what they are, no matter what they've been through or how they see themselves) mature, we delve deeper into their personalities, their pasts, how they think, and their hopes for a future. And though Deuce is at the center of the novel, this book is really where Tegan comes into her own. In Enclave, Tegan was a shell-shocked survivor, barely able to pull her own weight in the group dynamic, needing to be cared for by the others. When we saw her at the end of the book, she was half dead due to the massive injury she'd received to her leg. In Outpost, she's not only survived her injury, she's spreading her wings. She grows in confidence and discovers she has a lot more to offer others than she ever thought. She even finds it within herself to forgive Stalker for how he treated her when she was held captive by his gang, something she swore she would never do.
As with Enclave, the story is a page-turner, and the writing keeps you involved as you await each new development with breathless anticipation. Aguirre has a knack for writing heart-pounding action, yet she's also able imbue her characters with real emotions and depth. Once again, they grow and change, behaving just as real people behave. It's hard for me to express just how much I adore reading Aguirre's novels. My eyes fly across the page, and the pages flip by fast enough to raise a breeze, even though I try to slow myself down in order to savor the story rising up from those pages. All I can say is that if you'd like to get in on this new trend of post-apocalyptic YA novels, but don't know where to start, start with Aguirre's. Pick up Enclave and I guarantee, as soon as you finish it or perhaps even before then, you'll be rushing out to the store to grab Outpost. I'd say Hollywood needs to pick up these books and make it into the next series of blockbuster movies, a la "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games," but I'm afraid Hollywood would screw up the magic that is Razorland....more