World War III has ravaged the earth and if you’re not a member of a ruthless street gang, you’re probably a hideously deformed mutant. While carnage h...moreWorld War III has ravaged the earth and if you’re not a member of a ruthless street gang, you’re probably a hideously deformed mutant. While carnage has enveloped the majority of the world, it’s business as usual in the North Pole. While Santa is still delivering presents to the few children who believe in him, there’s a plan hatched by The Marauders – a ruthless gang out of San Francisco – to take down Jolly Old Saint Nick once and for all. Can Santa fend off the forces of evil and restore some joy to a hopeless planet?
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
I was browsing Netgalley for something new to read when I spotted a comic written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn. I’m a big fan of the team’s work on the new Deadpool series so when I saw that they had written a gore-splattered, darkly comedic take on the holiday season, I knew I had to snatch this one up.
Literally conceived over a game of Halo on XBOX Live, the two friends took Santa and injected him into a post-apocalyptic action movie filled with over-the-top violent scenes and fantastic one liners. While it did take a while for the story to pick up, the last quarter of the book kicks ass. There’s one panel near the end – and I absolutely refuse to spoil it – that had me laughing until I cried. If you’re a fan of movies like Army of Darkness or Shoot 'Em Up, this one is for you.(less)
After doing a stretch in San Quentin, Johnny Hayden decides to commit to a quiet life in middle management. While saving up to buy a local motel and q...moreAfter doing a stretch in San Quentin, Johnny Hayden decides to commit to a quiet life in middle management. While saving up to buy a local motel and quietly completing a correspondence course in hospitality, Johnny is approached by an old friend with a con to end all cons. Reluctant at first, Johnny eventually caves after careful analysis suggests the plan is a sure thing. The only hiccup? There’s an amateur involved. Will the scheme go off without a hitch or will their accomplice’s inexperience lead to their downfall?
Hard Case Crime has become my go to when I want to relax with a swift read between larger, more demanding novels. This isn't a slight against the quality of work – not at all – I just find the stories read like swift punches to the gut. The writing is very clean and clear and the plots are always interesting. Charles Ardai sure knows what he’s doing when he puts that stamp of approval on a crime novel.
Most of the novel takes place in the Northeast United States as well as Toronto and the scheme itself involves purchasing land in the Canadian Midwest province of Alberta. Knowing what we know now in just how vastly rich that province is, it almost would've have been worth their while to hang onto the land. Johnny and Doug could have been oil tycoons!
Block’s prose is just so easily digestible. I know it’s a short book – only 251 pages (with a very racy cover I might add) – but I flew through this in just two sittings. When it comes to the plot, it’s hard to believe Block hasn't set up one of these cons himself, everything seems so flawless. Well, it’s either that or he was once taken by a smooth-talking grifter himself.
Man, what an ending. I thought I had it all figured out but Block goes and blindsides me like a snow storm in July. It’s everything a Hard Case Crime novel should be, it’s unexpected and brutal. It just goes to show the timeless quality of Block’s work. With the exception of one major difference – lessened security at the airport (no fault of Block’s) – this novel holds up today despite being published nearly 50 years ago.(less)
After years of battling the wall-crawling menace, Doctor Otto Octavius (or Doctor Octopus if you prefer) was about to kic...moreSpider-Man is dead.Or is he?
After years of battling the wall-crawling menace, Doctor Otto Octavius (or Doctor Octopus if you prefer) was about to kick the bucket thanks to an incurable disease. In a last ditch effort to save himself as well as defeat Spider-Man, Doc Ock successfully managed to “switch brains” with his nemesis just in time for Spidey to die imprisoned in Doc Ock’s former body.
There’s just one thing Doc Ock didn’t account for – while he has full control over Spidey’s body, he’s also infused with the memories of Peter Parker. Upon realizing exactly why Parker does what he does as Spider-Man, Doc Ock pledges to lead a good life and strive to continue Spider-Man’s legacy. Unfortunately for him, it’s not that easy to switch sides when you’ve been spending years as a self-absorbed evil genius.
It’s not like Peter Parker is totally gone either. He’s still swinging alongside his former self as a ghost, acting like a sort of conscience to Doc Ock as he struggles to maintain his new role. While Doc Ock can’t see him or actually communicate with him, Parker acts as a comedic companion to inject some lightness into a few of the heavier scenes.
There’s also this strange Spider-Man/Black Cat one-off in the middle of the book that really took me out of the story they were trying to tell. Not sure why the decision was made to inject it as a sort of bridge between the final issues of Amazing Spider-Man and the renewed Superior Spider-Man series.
The whole idea is completely ridiculous and it should have fallen flat on its face but somehow, Dan Slott makes it work. It took a decent portion of the book for me to really get invested in the story but by the end I was ready for more. I’m hoping I can get my hands on the following two volumes and catch up to the point where I can start reading this monthly.(less)
With volume six, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have closed the book on their nearly six year long journey through Lovecraft, Massachusetts...moreIt’s over.
With volume six, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have closed the book on their nearly six year long journey through Lovecraft, Massachusetts with the Locke family. At the conclusion of volume five, things were about as dark as you could imagine. Dodge had gained possession of the Omega key and was ready to unleash his dark forces upon Lovecraft. Will he ultimately succeed or will the Locke family prove too much to overcome?
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
When a series, be it comics, books, television or otherwise, announces that it’s closing up shop, there’s always a worry that they’ll leave things on a sour note. Rather than let the story seemingly run on forever, Hill and Rodriguez made the difficult decision to end things while they were still on top. Honestly, they could’ve continued the series for a number of years, running the story until the creative juices stopped flowing. However, the creators had an endgame and no level of critical praise was going to keep them from finishing it the way they wanted.
It’s hard to really say anything about the series at this point that I haven’t already said. I know, I know, as a reviewer, that line is such a cop out but it’s true. Rodriguez’s art continues to blow me away and Hill’s writing is pure perfection. In simple terms, they knocked it out of the park; which is impressive considering both Hill and Rodriguez knew that expectations were at a fever pitch. In fact, I’ll be shocked if I find anyone who’s disappointed in the direction the co-creators went to end the series. To steal a cliche, it’s an emotional roller coaster that readers will not soon forget.
Along with DC’s Gotham Central, I feel that Locke & Key is one of the strongest series I've ever read. At no point in the entirety of this story did I feel like the creators were just mailing it in. With a collaboration as successful as this, Hill and Rodriguez owe it to themselves to work together in the future. I’d put their partnership up against any duo out there today in terms of pure creative chemistry. If you haven’t started the series, now is the time to do so.(less)
A boy scout troop sets up camp on an island off the coast of Prince Edward Island. A planned retreat away from everyday life, the boys and their scout...moreA boy scout troop sets up camp on an island off the coast of Prince Edward Island. A planned retreat away from everyday life, the boys and their scout leader envision a quiet weekend where they can gain valuable survival experience while earning merit badges. Unfortunately for everyone involved, there’s nothing in the boy scouts handbook in regards to surviving a scenario seemingly plucked from a classic Stephen King novel.
I received a free copy through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
A few years ago, my friends and I would get together once or twice a week and hit up the local Blockbuster Video. We’d head straight to the new release wall and try and find the most horrific looking horror movies on the shelf, grab some snacks and head to my place for an evening of entertainment. We never took the movies seriously, in fact, we often spent the entire evening making fun of them, trying to spot errors in production or ridicule the terrible acting. It was a blast and I honestly miss those nights more than I could ever tell you.
While most of them were of the “b-movie quality”, we did manage to grab a few of the major releases. Many of them often succumbed to the same tropes of the horror genre but had access to a bigger budget. Rather than using those resources to craft a better story, they’d often just use better post-production CGI or on set special effects. However, on two occasions, we managed to get two films that really bothered me – 28 Days Later and Cabin Fever.
I’ve never really been all that OK with horror movies that feature a kind of infection or disease as their central element. As a plot, it’s fine – it’s just that there’s something about that kind of story that chills me to the bones. While Cabin Fever certainly had its elements of comedy, the story revolved around a highly contagious flesh eating disease. The same goes for 28 Days Later with a blood borne infection that turned its victims into sort of zombies (but still not zombies). It’s that losing control aspect that disturbed me, that you just had to sit and wait for the infection to take its course and turn you into something you’re not.
Nick Cutter’s The Troop managed more of a reaction out of me than both of those movies – and that’s saying something.
The Troop takes all the over-the-top gore you’d see in any of those flicks and injects it into a well written, thrilling novel. While there are certainly moments that turned my stomach (i.e. the initial discovery of the source of the sickness) as well as a scene in particular that caused me to put the book down and walk away for a few minutes (a flashback involving one of the boys and a kitten), it’s both the writing and the pace employed by Cutter that kept me coming back.
The doomed boy scouts that Cutter crafted made the horror elements that much more effective. Sure, you could write a novel where it’s nothing but a slaughter-fest from beginning to end but you’re probably not going to make a lasting impression on the reader, the true talent lies in creating characters that enhance those brutal elements to a sometimes unbearable level. Each boy scout had his own personality which meant everyone reacted differently in the face of this unknown threat. What made the novel work so well was watching the way each boy dealt with what he was facing while attempting to ensure his survival. Cutter did a great job featuring flashbacks to flesh out the characters and give the reader a reason to care about them, root for them or cheer for their demise.
It’s weird recommending a book that I had such a challenging time getting through but the journey is worth it. Nick Cutter is a pseudonym but I have no idea why you wouldn’t want your real name on a book of this caliber.(less)
Bernie Rhodenbarr is approached by a customer with a proposition: steal a coveted first printing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When Bernie h...moreBernie Rhodenbarr is approached by a customer with a proposition: steal a coveted first printing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When Bernie hands over the desired document, he’s then asked to steal a silver spoon adorned with the likeness of Benjamin Gwinnett, a background player in the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
As if this isn't enough to keep Bernie busy, he’s approached by an old friend on the other side of the law for a consultation regarding a recent break and enter that left an elderly woman dead. Can Bernie steal the silver spoon and crack the case at the same time?
I had been reading a few of Block's earlier novels published through Hard Case Crime when I received an offer from his publicist to take a look at The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons. I was a little apprehensive at first because as a reader, I never read out of sequence. This isn’t as strict as Batman's "one rule" but it’s something I prefer to abide by. However, it's Lawrence Block and it’s an advanced copy of his new book – how could I possibly say no? Truth is, I’m glad I didn't.
Not having read the previous ten installments of the Burglar series, it’s impossible for me to judge whether or not I would have had a richer reading experience had I read them first but that being said, it’s hard to imagine needing a lot of back story going in. Block does a great job bringing the reader up to speed on Rhodenbarr’s world as a semi-retired burglar who happens to own and operate a bookstore.
It’s worth mentioning that Block is a damn funny guy. There were a few laugh out loud moments in the novel that I had to highlight and save for later, my favorite being:
"..'It was a real Playboy fantasy, wasn't it? She’s hot and gorgeous, she does everything you can think of and a couple of things you can’t, and then she’s gone. It doesn't get any better than that.’
'It could have been better. Around four in the morning she could have turned into a pizza.'"
When it comes down to it, this is light storytelling at its finest. While the history of the silver spoon was tightly researched and the reasoning behind its procurement had been interesting, the free-flowing conversations between Bernie, Carolyn and Ray were the highlight, leading to the pages breezing by. I will be seeking out the earlier Bernie novels for sure – I suggest you do the same.(less)
Struggling as an underpaid and undervalued sushi chef in New York City, John Hiro is having an existential crisis. He’s not sure that he’s the boyfrie...moreStruggling as an underpaid and undervalued sushi chef in New York City, John Hiro is having an existential crisis. He’s not sure that he’s the boyfriend that the lovely girlfriend Mayumi deserves nor does he have any idea where his life is headed. With all these questions floating around in his head, can he learn to relax and just accept things the way they are?
I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.
When this arrived in the mail from Tor, I honestly had no idea what I was looking at (don’t take this statement too literally, I knew it was a book). The cover looked interesting and the tagline of Scott Pilgrim meets Bruce Lee intrigued me (this despite never having read a Scott Pilgrim book) so I was excited to dive in.
What initially leapt out at me was Chao’s style. While it’s certainly not overly flashy – electing to present the story in plain old black and white – it’s fun to take in. He’s got a great talent for putting so much emotion in the story simply through facial expressions and the body language of each character rather than hitting you over the head with narrative.
While Johnny Hiro isn’t anyone exceptional, he’s extremely relatable and that’s the biggest takeaway from this book. He spends so much time in his own head worrying about his station in life, if he’s a good partner for Mayumi or if he’s achieving his true potential. Through Johnny, Chao warns against this, that you need to slow down and appreciate what you have, to live in the now (sorry for the cliches) or you’ll grow to regret it. Despite the fact that there’s a giant monkey running around New York City, that Mayor Bloomberg is a featured character AND that there’s a flashback involving the Yakuza, none of these things seem out of place in Chao’s world. The characters are so well written and fully realized that you’re willing to follow them anywhere the story takes you.(less)
Despite what we’ve learned in recent years about the long term effects of fighting, hard hitting and cheap shots in pro hockey, there’s no denying tha...moreDespite what we’ve learned in recent years about the long term effects of fighting, hard hitting and cheap shots in pro hockey, there’s no denying that the foundation of the sport was built on the backs of “the enforcer”. When a team is down and their spirit is broken, they call on the almighty bruiser to run onto the battlefield and turn that momentum around. Whether it’s through a bone crushing hit that ignites the fans or a fight that shakes the confidence of their opponent, the goon brings that intangible that often isn’t measured on a score sheet.
With “Don’t Call Me Goon”, co-authors Greg Oliver and Richard Kamchen present a look at a select few of the toughest guys to ever lace up a pair of skates. While the argument between those who want to keep fighting in the game and those who want it banished is ongoing, there’s no questioning the impact a physical player has on the ice. Whether he’s talking trash, eliminating an offensive threat or dropping his gloves for a round of fisticuffs, he’s often known to have just as big an impact as a go-ahead goal.
Oliver and Kamchen do a great job tackling the early brawlers such as Joe Hall, Sprague Cleghorn and Red Horner as well as some of the heavy hitters of the original six era. However, I found the book really picked up when they moved into the expansion era. The punishing physical full team style pioneered by the St. Louis Blues and then adapted and perfected by the Broad Street Bullies Philadelphia Flyers had my jaw nearly hitting the floor. Players would often come down with a severe case of the Philly Flu, opting to sit it out rather than take that hellish beating the Bobby Clarke led squad would hand out. They were unstoppable from 1972 to 1978 when the equally destructive Montreal Canadiens would put an end to it.
The book then moves through some of the greatest tag teams like the late Bob Probert, a one man wrecking crew and his running mate Joey Koncur. It was until these two arrived alongside the legendary Steve Yzerman that the Detroit Red Wings turned things around in the late 1980s. The authors shine a light on former Maple Leaf heavyweights Tiger Williams and Dan Maloney as well as Anaheim’s Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson and his buddy Todd Ewen.
Oliver and Kamchen also take time to spotlight a few of the guys who could hit you as often as one of their shots would find the back of the net. Explosive multi-dimensional players like Clark Gillies and Wilf Paiement show that some ruffians are more than hitting machines.
Overall, I thought they presented an unbiased look at a few of hockey’s most memorable players. While it would be impossible to write a book about physical style hockey and not shed a light on the controversy it creates, both Oliver and Kamchen kept things light and managed to avoid having an opinion either way.
Don’t Call Me Goon is a swift punch in the face that won’t make you feel like you’re watching the clock, waiting for your penalty to end.(less)
The son of a prominent mob boss in Chicago muscles his way into Hell’s Kitchen with a plan to unseat The Kingpin. Shortly after taking the reins, the...moreThe son of a prominent mob boss in Chicago muscles his way into Hell’s Kitchen with a plan to unseat The Kingpin. Shortly after taking the reins, the new guy in town outs Matt Murdock to the world as Daredevil. On the heels of dealing with this PR disaster, Matt takes a case defending The White Panther, recently accused of murder.
In the last few years, I’ve become a big fan of the Man without Fear. I’ve made my way through Miller’s groundbreaking run in the 80s, Kevin Smith’s controversial Guardian Devil arc and have been up to date on Mark Waid’s current run. However, as of today, nothing has impressed me as much as the team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.
The incredible artwork really puts this one on a level above the others. The first quarter in particular where Alex experiments with a free flowing layout coupled with varying styles blew my mind. Eventually the artwork settles down and falls into a consistent style that works well with the darker material presented. Alex paints some beautiful full page shots of Daredevil exploring Hell’s Kitchen at night, soaked to the bone from torrential rain.
The great thing about this collection is that we’re presented with Matt Murdock just as much if not more than scenes with Daredevil taking down baddies. As much as I love getting great action sequences where Daredevil just obliterates his adversaries, the courtroom battles and the drama of Matt’s personal life can often be just as, if not more, interesting. The entire last story takes us into a New York City courtroom where forgotten crime fighter The White Panther is on trial for robbing an electronics store and subsequently murdering an on-scene police officer. Bendis turns the intensity up to eleven to the point where you’re never quite sure where the story is headed. He presents adequate arguments from both Matt and the DA where if you weren’t already aware of Panther’s innocence, you wouldn’t know which party to believe.
There’s so much happening in these pages that even at a staggering 400+ pages, I wasn’t ready for it to end. Luckily for me, I’ve got Volume two ready to go.(less)
Lance Hornby has been the official photographer of the Toronto Maple Leafs for more than 35 years. With his vast wealth of material, Hornby has put to...moreLance Hornby has been the official photographer of the Toronto Maple Leafs for more than 35 years. With his vast wealth of material, Hornby has put together a book detailing the history of one of hockey’s most famous arenas. Up until its closing in 1999, Maple Leaf Gardens has not only showcased the NHL franchise Toronto Maple Leafs but also premiere sporting events, memorable concerts and even famous wrestling and boxing cards. Hornby hand picked his favorite photos creating a celebration of Toronto’s premiere entertainment venue.
**I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Author Lance Hornby took this iconic photo of Maple Leaf Gardens before the start of that final season in 1998. A lot of people have tried to recreate it over the years but he can always spot his by pointing out two “ladies of the night” featured prominently in front of the arena. He’s deathly afraid of heights so in order to get the best shot, he needed to get onto the roof of an adjacent building and imbibe some liquid courage to get as close to the edge as possible.
That’s just a taste of some of the things you’ll learn in this book. One such story involves Hornby taking player headshots for the upcoming season and during one such session, sharing cigarettes with two NHL players who were trying to make the team. Can you imagine if the coach spotted you lighting a dart nowadays? You’d be off the team in a second! In fact, his favorite player to shoot was Chris Kotsopoulos who would often light his cigarettes with the team blow-torch used to curve sticks.
The book has shots of every aspect of the Maple Leafs team during their tenure in that building. In addition to action shots and team photos, you’ll get candid shots of equipment managers, locker rooms and the team gym.
In addition to a wealth of on ice photos, Hornby also throws in a few concert shots as well as a few WWF (now WWE) wrestling cards. It made me long for an experience inside those hallowed halls. When I finally arrived in Toronto, I was two years too late and the Gardens had already closed up shop. It’s nice to know that it’s been reopened and sectioned off into a multitude of outlets including a grocery story and athletic centre. Maybe it’s not too late after all to get back inside.
Oh, and this was by far my favorite shot of the bunch. My all time favorite player Doug Gilmour seemingly taking on the entire New York Islanders.
I haven’t read or watched a lot of fiction that has to do with war. I've only really seen a handful of...more"You’d be surprised what you can do to people".
I haven’t read or watched a lot of fiction that has to do with war. I've only really seen a handful of movies and the majority of them paint soldiers in a glowing light. I’m not about to sit here and criticize those who put themselves directly in harm’s way on a daily basis – a job I could never find the balls to do myself – I’ll leave that to others; others like Joe Hill.
The bulk of this story follows Mal Greenfell, a soldier that returned from Iraq and is trying to adjust to life as a private citizen. Having died approximately ten hours before her arrival back in America, Mal’s father left her his home as well as his car.
Mal takes a job as a bartender and slowly realizes that she’s not the person she was when she ventured overseas, that her true self is who she is now – a careless and ruthless individual who isn't above violence and theft.
Following the arrival of a letter containing only a single fingerprint, Mal begins to question if someone is threatening her. Given Mal’s sordid past, she may have created several enemies.
Over the past year, I've become a pretty big supporter of Joe Hill having read his novel, Horns, as well as his awesome graphic novel series, Locke & Key. I thought this was pretty average; not bad but not on the level that he’s capable of. That being said, I thought it was paced well and had a decently satisfying conclusion. So a solid 3 stars.
**The above portion was taken from my review of the original short story. Below are my thoughts on the graphic novel adaptation.**
So I recently had the good fortune of reading the graphic novel adaptation by Vic Malhotra and Jason Ciaramella. Ciaramella has worked with Joe in the past, bringing his short story The Cape to life in a comic form. In my opinion, he knocked it out of the park, so a second collaboration was more than welcome.
Malhotra’s art is perfect for the story. Minimalist visuals coupled with drab and bleak colors paint the perfect picture of Mal’s post war world. The story moves along swiftly, keeping that frantic pace that enhances Mal’s growing paranoia as well as her search for the person responsible.
It’s a great mini-series compiled in a quick one shot graphic novel. Check it out!(less)
A deeply-flawed, drug addicted telepath acts as a police consultant to help bring down a serial killer. The stakes are raised when a vision puts him i...moreA deeply-flawed, drug addicted telepath acts as a police consultant to help bring down a serial killer. The stakes are raised when a vision puts him in the killer’s path. Can he bring down this murderous monster or will his premonition come sooner than expected?
I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a fair review.
Alex Hughes has crafted a compelling universe for her characters to play in. A self-admitted cop show junkie, Hughes mashed her love of police procedurals together with speculative fiction to create Clean, the first novel in her Mindspace Investigation series. The story picks up sixty years after the devastating Tech Wars, an event fought with computer viruses and self-aware machines. If it wasn’t for the psychic powered force known as The Guild, we’d all probably end up like Neo, floating in a pink sack powering our mechanical masters.
Where Hughes’ talent truly lies is in her world building. She’s clearly put a lot of time and effort into constructing the Atlanta of tomorrow. The scenes in which characters descend into Mindspace – a tool used by telepaths to detect changes and abnormalities in our environment undetectable by us normies – were fascinating and easy to grasp (fishbowl analogy was excellent). Given the events of the Tech Wars, the US government has scaled back its overwhelming reliance on technology. Heavy filtering procedures are in force when sending emails, net access is limited and hard copies are once again essential when it comes to paperwork. It’s not often you read a novel based in the future featuring flying cars but with reduced levels of technology.
Hughes mirrored a lot of the great hard-boiled protagonists by saddling the telepath with an addiction – a narcotic dubbed Satin – he cannot easily overcome. Knowing he’s only one mistake away from finding himself out on his ass, it leads to some intense scenes where he’s teetering on the edge without much to keep him grounded. That being said, the only real constant in his life is Swartz, his addiction sponsor, who is determined to keep him on the straight and narrow. While their interactions are minimal, their importance keeps the story moving forward. I would’ve actually liked a little more between the two.
Aside from his feelings for his partner Isabella Cherabino, he doesn’t have much going for him. In fact, my only real gripe involves some of the back and forth between the two. There’s clearly some chemistry there, but I found the telepath came across as whiny or annoying when he pined for her. I’m not advocating for the roles to be reversed – I’d dislike it either way – I guess I just wanted less romance; something that while not overwhelming, disrupted the flow of the story.
I’m very interested to see where this goes from here. Luckily for me, I’ve got the sequel on deck!
**Sidenote** The telepath does indeed have a name but it’s being withheld in this review as it would spoil one of the strongest moments in the novel.(less)