A leaner, sleeker MHI novel! This entry in the series is about 1/3 shorter than the previous three and, while miss a lot of that extra detail, I under...moreA leaner, sleeker MHI novel! This entry in the series is about 1/3 shorter than the previous three and, while miss a lot of that extra detail, I understand perfectly why Correia might have left it out. This novel takes place over a weekend at the first annual monster hunter conference in which all the world's hunters (and related parties -- including "monsters' rights" activists, politicians and academics) gather in Las Vegas to network and discuss things relevant to their field. As such, this novel actually takes place during a very limited time-frame and there isn't as much need for all the extra action and information which occupied the other novels. Also, unlike the first two (in which Pitt witnessed excerpts from other peoples' lives) or the third (in which the reader is witnessing things from multiple points of view and reading excerpts from Earl Harbinger's memoirs), this fourth novel involves only a single "memory vision" and no excerpts from anyone else's POV or memories.
So does it work? Yes. It works very well. It weaves together the most important elements of the idiosyncratic third novel with the defining features of the preceding two, and escalates the meta-plot -- things are getting worse and the end of the world looms. Pitt has been trying to avoid his destiny, but the events chronicled in this novel make that impossible; likewise, there have been clear power struggles going on within the various government agencies charged with containing and obfuscating the nature of the "real world", and those struggles lead to an almost untenable situation over the course of this monster hunter conference.
My two complaints? We never learn the fate of "Management" (though i suppose we could guess, it really isn't even clear enough to be implied) or Agent Franks. Dagnabbit, I demand answers!(less)
Good, but not Correia's best. I think my main problem with this book is that, overall, it's only okay. The characters are ok, the setting is ok, the a...moreGood, but not Correia's best. I think my main problem with this book is that, overall, it's only okay. The characters are ok, the setting is ok, the alternate-history is ok, the magic system is ok, etc., etc. Nothing felt especially memorable or engaging for me. None of the characters even stood out to me, whereas in Correia's "Monster Hunter International" series, even the faceless extras in the background were interesting. *shrug* I'll read the next in the series, but it won't be a priority.(less)
In which we: are treated to two harrowing and exceedingly bleak tales about the cubs Therese and Darien; have confirmed Mr. Willingham's commitment to...moreIn which we: are treated to two harrowing and exceedingly bleak tales about the cubs Therese and Darien; have confirmed Mr. Willingham's commitment to the original tone of fairy tales; witness the death of a noble old creature; discover that Bigby cheated fate to secure the life he now leads; and learn that, for dear Ambrose at least, things work out all right in the end.(less)
Unlike the previous volume, I actively disliked the opening of this one. Whereas the first one began...moreThis book was an odd duck, and a very odd sequel.
Unlike the previous volume, I actively disliked the opening of this one. Whereas the first one began with a little bit of normalcy, then rushed immediately into action and followed it with more normalcy (establishing a rhythm and letting the reader breathe as the characters, setting & plot developed), "Monster Hunter Vendetta" rushed right into the action and never really slowed down. I was about 1/3 of the way through the book before the Orcs came on the scene and made it enjoyable again, and that's disappointing to me. It improved from that point on, but I still can't forget how much I disliked the opening.
Like the previous volume there was a plot twist I found immediately obvious from the novel's opening, as well as two revelations about characters, and there seemed to be far less in the way of subversion of (and far more in the way of cleaving to) the cliched tropes of the genres. I'm also not sure whether the author actually intended one of the revelations which tied into the previous volumes, or just pulled it out of...thin air...to explain some things.
The introduction of the gangsta' gnomes helped improve the tone, as well as the scene in which torture is shown as a potentially valuable tool but most of the characters are too squeamish/moral to go about it. The past-reading flashes were an interesting development, as was the revelation of what the tattooed man's mark will do to Julie. There was also a death I absolutely did not expect, which is something I had long since thought impossible in fiction! Mr. Trashbags was a delightful surprise, the final 1/3 was excellent, and the creature "Feeder"...*shudder*.
As I said, this is a very odd sequel. I have all these nits to pick, but I also remember really enjoying the book after the rough first 1/3. I'll definitely read the following volume, but I'm a little warier now.(less)
"Fairest" is a series designed to explore the lives of the various female Fables (largely princesses & queens so f...moreWell, i was not expecting THAT.
"Fairest" is a series designed to explore the lives of the various female Fables (largely princesses & queens so far) from Willingham's larger series, "Fables". It's the second such spin-off, improving (so far) on the rather tiresome antics of Jack of Fables (whose spin-off series concluded in 2011 with the title character's death and what I now suspect was a parody of all the big "world-changing" "event" comics DC & Marvel have been shoveling down the line for the last three decades).
I honestly wasn't sure what to expect, fearing that it would turn out to be exploitative (like "Jack of Fables") or excessively snarky (again, like "Jack of Fables"), but the first storyline turned out to be pretty dang solid. The bulk of the volume is taken up with the story of Ali-Baba and his imp Jonah, who together free Briar Rose and Lumi the Snow Queen from the former's enchanted sleep -- Rose & Lumi were last seen being carted away by Goblins in the pages of "Fables" and I was curious as to what would happen to them, so it was a pleasant surprise to see them popping up in their very own mini-series. Briar Rose is something of an enigma, as most of the times she's appeared in "Fables" it was as an agent or a weapon, but we get a whole heaping helping of Rose here and apparently she's something of a bitter loud-mouth -- though really, with the life she's had, who can blame her? But the real gem was the reappearance of Lumi, my favorite of Fables various female characters. I love winter and I love snow, and "The Snow Queen" was one of my favorite fairy-tales when I was a boy, so it makes perfect sense that Lumi would stand out to me. And for the first 2/3 of this story, she's the real stand-out: Ali-Baba is a typical rogue, but an extremely competent and realistic one; Briar Rose is, as i've mentioned, bitter and loud-mouthed; and Jonah is self-consciously obnoxious; but Lumi...ahhhhh, Lumi.
Lumi is powerful, confident, and witty. And over the course of this story we discover that her apparent devotion to the Empire was not all that it seemed, that she's been entirely absent from her kingdom since signing on to serve the Empire, and that she's more than a little unsure of what to do with herself now that the world has changed. We also learn that her shift from merry snow-maiden to cruel tyrant was not simply the result of Jack's betrayal and abandonment. Great character development and insight! Unfortunately, Willingham then saddles her with Ali-Baba as a love interest, something which makes sense in context (she's always had a thing for bad-boys) but which disappoints me as a fan of her character.
The final portion of the book is taken up with a one-shot palate-cleanser story set in the 1940s. "Lamia" is a noir tale involving Beast tracking down a rogue Fable in Los Angeles and it's dang good. I always enjoy these flashbacks to the lives of the Fables before the start of the series, and this one begins with Beast himself musing on the ways in which mundane literature and storytelling have forced him to take on different archetypal roles since his flight to the mundane world, from knight errant to master detective to P.I. And what a closing note! What a finale! If only the rest of the volume could have been as unerringly great as this little story.
Overall, i'm pretty pleased with this volume. The first story felt a bit thin, but did what it set out to do, and the second story was a extremely strong. I didn't enjoy the art in either story (the first was clumsily realistic and the second was excessively cartoonish) but the writing was crisp and quick and it works as a good set-up for "Fariest", establishing the tone and the themes of the series. I look forward to the next volume.(less)
So far I've been pretty unimpressed with DC's latest reboot of their universe. And, based on the number of "New 52" series canceled since the...more
So far I've been pretty unimpressed with DC's latest reboot of their universe. And, based on the number of "New 52" series canceled since the reboot, it would appear that I'm not the only one. The new Superman title made him an obnoxious, faddish "social justice" shill; the new Batman is too scatter-shot (5 titles? Really? FIVE?) and focused on the grimdark grimdarkness of the setting; the new Wonder Woman is just...feh...because the writer clearly doesn't understand the character at all. But Aquaman? Aquaman they got right. Aquaman is gold.
This title is a love-letter to everyone who knows Aquaman from the comics rather than from that old "Super Friends" cartoon (pretty much the sole source for all the "Aquaman-is-lame" jokes so popular with kids these days), Geoff Johns' first step towards atoning for his horrific crimes against comick'ry, and a wry tribute to Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The art is beautiful, the writing is crisp, the protagonists are sympathetic, and my only real complaint is that it actually feels like a very rushed introduction to the main characters and their plot-lines. I hope they'll improve the pacing as the series progresses, because "Aquaman" is now a title I might actually be willing to pick up on a monthly basis, rather than simply waiting for the collected editions -- and I haven't done that since Gaiman's "The Sandman" ended in 1996.
Good gravy. This is amazing. They even managed to reference Grant Morrison's run on the 1980s "Animal Man" title, and incorporate the aliens who gave...moreGood gravy. This is amazing. They even managed to reference Grant Morrison's run on the 1980s "Animal Man" title, and incorporate the aliens who gave Buddy his powers into their new mythology.
The only complaints I have are the new version of Zatanna and Buddy's increasingly shrill and unreasonable wife -- dagnabbit, can't we have ONE story about a family impacted by the supernatural in which one of the parents doesn't wind up becoming intransigent and illogical?
Otherwise, this volume was worth every penny and confirms my growing feeling that this is the only New 52 title worth reading.(less)
A big disappointment. I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, Death Warmed Over, but this second volume fell distressingly flat. The plot see...moreA big disappointment. I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, Death Warmed Over, but this second volume fell distressingly flat. The plot seemed scatter-shot; the villains, twists, and revelations were all immediately obvious; and the author's approach to social commentary was heavy-handed and unnecessarily dominated the majority of the narrative. For 90% of the book I felt more like I was reading a thinly-veiled political tract than a detective novel. Tiresome. I kept getting the distinct impression that he's one of those political ideologues (in this case a Liberal) who isolates himself entirely from people with different views, and then perceives the entirety of the opposition as cartoonish strawmen who justify his a priori conclusions. This sort of political propaganda ruins the stories which are stretched loosely over its frame, and actually makes me feel antipathy towards the cause the author seeks to champion.(less)
This is the first Scott Snyder title I've read and, I'll be honest, I am profoundly disappointed. The writing was just...feh.
I understand that Snyder isn't Moore and that Moore has gone a bit...off...in the last few decades. But Moore completely redefined the characters, the themes and the purpose of the Swamp Thing series, all for the better. It still remains one of the best superhero/horror/fantasy comics I have ever read. Even Veitch's attempt to follow Moore after he left the title was pretty dang good. And everyone I know adores Snyder's work, praises him to high-heaven -- so I suppose I was expecting more.
This work actually had some of the weakest dialogue I have encountered in any post-Silver Age comic; and the only thing that kept me from predicting all the cliched plot developments was the fact that Snyder's reputation led me to believe I wouldn't encounter anything so banal. Like Brandon Sanderson, it would seem that Snyder's strength is in his background characters, because all the worst lines are reserved for the two protagonists. The romantic sub-plot felt hollow and forced, and some of the lines given to Alec Holland and Kerrigan- er, I mean, Abigail Arcane are so bizarrely overblown that they feel like they came out of a vapid Summer blockbuster, not an intelligent horror comic. Also, while Abigail is made into a tougher (albeit generic) character, Alec Holland spends nearly the entire book moping and whining and ignoring any and all sign that things are getting worse because of his commitment to "emo" inaction; I didn't want to read more about him, didn't care what happened to him, couldn't believe the supposed prophesies about him, and ultimately hoped he'd die again and the title would pick up with Moore's emerald elemental, because Snyder's Holland was a pathetic, obnoxious, self-centered mess of a character, and the only reason I kept reading was that the villains and the background characters were genuinely interesting. Every time he started spouting those trite lines about "not asking for this" or "not wanting it", I kept hearing Linkara's "Superboy-Prime Voice" (http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/vide...) in my head. I wouldn't at all be surprised if the next volume involved him shouting "I'LL KILL YOU TO DEATH!"
So with all these obvious, maddening flaws, why did I give this four stars? Why did I call this a gem?
Well, Snyder does get some things right. The overall plot is brilliant, a strange combination of picking up where Moore & Veitch left off and rebooting the entire series; and the new antagonistic force, the Rot (which I understand is also the antagonist in the rebooted "Animal Man" series) is delightfully grotesque -- with some fun artistic references to a certain villain in Moore's "Swamp Thing". The art style is a beautiful combination of Veitch's iconic designs and Paquette & Rudy's modern (if inconsistent) comickery. It picks up on almost everything thematic and atmospheric that defined the brilliance of Moore & Veitch's run -- excluding the characterization -- and grounds this book in an understanding of the violence inherent in the plant-world. I especially appreciated this last part, being the son of a Plant Pathologist.
So i may or may not pick up the next volume. There's a lot to like here, but there's also a lot to hate. I'm not sure if I want to pick up another Snyder title based on this volume, but I feel I should give him another chance. We'll see...
EDIT: Did anyone else notice the weird little figure on page 5? The hooded woman radiating red who doesn't seem to appear anywhere else in the comic? She's incongruous, standing out too much not to be noticed, and it actually feels like she was cut and pasted in there... I think I remember Linkara mentioning that she appeared in at least one other New 52 series, so maybe there'll be an attempt to tie all the series together...Or maybe it's a sort of "failsafe" in case even MORE of the New 52 series crash and burn, allowing DC to reboot BACK to the post-Criss, pre-Reboot universe? They can just say it was all that mysterious figure's doing!
EDIT 2: Having FINALLY finished Swamp Thing, Vol. 6: Reunion (which somehow I had no idea I had missed all those years ago) I have to remove that fourth star. Snyder's "Swamp Thing" story tries for the sprawling, epic feel, but it is small and mean and insignificant when compared to the beauty and the majesty of Moore's run; even compared to the satirical strangeness of Wein's original run, Snyder's "Swamp Thing" is a petty, hollow thing. There is potential in it, I recognize that, and I hope that it will be nurtured and come in time to blossom -- but compared to the artists who preceded him? The man is a gnat who fancies himself a giant.(less)
Colour me unimpressed. Another author who self-consciously tries so dang hard to make his readers think he's brilliant and insightful, but mistakes me...moreColour me unimpressed. Another author who self-consciously tries so dang hard to make his readers think he's brilliant and insightful, but mistakes media for messages and content for substance. I'm giving it an extra star in large part because the author did at least attempt something incredibly ambitious. (less)
A very uneven collection focused on the characters' pasts and serving as a palate cleanser between the conclusion of the "Plague of Frogs" storyline a...moreA very uneven collection focused on the characters' pasts and serving as a palate cleanser between the conclusion of the "Plague of Frogs" storyline and the new "Hell on Earth" storyline.
The story about Liz depicts her as an obnoxious "troubled teen" cliche, and the story itself somehow manages to feel both shallow and cluttered. It's certainly vague in the execution and the twist at the conclusion is telegraphed from page one.
The story about Abe is...non-existent. Whatever the cover might claim, there is no real story about Abe here; it's about four pages of nothing, with as much - if not more - focus on Liz whining (again) as on Abe.
The story about Roger is actually great, with a return to the thoughtful, philosophical Roger we all knew and loved before Arcudi & gang decided he needed to be written as a childlike buffoon who hero-worshipped Hellboy.
The story about Johann Kraus is also great, finally exploring how Kraus wound up disembodied and how he came to work with the B.P.R.D. It also hints at his first (solo) mission.
Overall the volume has a couple of highlights, but i'd recommend it only to true fans and completists. It felt, ultimately, unnecessary.(less)
I first became aware of "Please Save My Earth" when the beautiful and subtle 6 episode mini-series ran on a local PBS station in the late 1990s. The s...moreI first became aware of "Please Save My Earth" when the beautiful and subtle 6 episode mini-series ran on a local PBS station in the late 1990s. The series relied on softness, on understatement and implication, which served to enhance the brief moments of action and revelation. It also dealt with themes one rarely expects to encounter, even in Japanese television. The only problem I ever had with the anime was that it ended so abruptly, seemingly mid-story, with a strange and incomprehensible series of images set to a recited poem -- this seemed intended to resolve the rest of the story, but it really only made me scratch my head in bewilderment and made everyone I showed it to say "Bazzuh?!?" It wasn't until a year or so later that I learned the show was an adaptation of a 1980s manga series, and that this incomprehensible finale was actually a montage of images from the manga original rendered in the style of the anime.
Now, after years, I have finally got my hands on translated copies of the manga! They're a bit battered, purchased used on eBay, but they're mine! Mine! Mine! And as it turns out, the manga is very different -- especially in terms of tone and characterization. This volume seems to have been the basis for the first episode (though I may have to re-watch the series to confirm that), yet all the polish of the anime is absent here. The pacing is off, the protagonists are annoying and poorly-defined, and the artist's style is very much a product of mid-1980s Japan. There are brief moments, brief scenes, which carry the feelings and artistry so perfectly captured by the anime, but based on the artist's notes in this volume she was deliberately trying to stretch and challenge herself by doing something unlike anything she had previously done -- and it shows. The manga shifts abruptly from what we might today call "emo" scenes to scenes of sheer goofiness to quality scenes which seem to carry sparks or seeds of the anime I love so much. The art is sometimes reminiscent of "Dragonball Z" or "Doraemon", sometimes reminiscent of "Neon Genesis: Evangelion" or "Mononoke Hime".
I'll keep reading, both because I hold out hope that the artist decided what she wanted this series to be before too many issues had elapsed, and because I want to know what finally becomes of the characters and what the strange images from the anime finale's montage are referencing. Overall, I'd probably just give this 2 stars; the extra star I'm giving it now is purely based on my knowledge of what is to come and the importance of this "set-up" volume for the rest of the narrative. (less)