Monday, April 30, 2012

Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder Art by Francesco Francavilla and Jock

Dick Grayson has had a pretty odd career path.  Orphaned as a child, taken in by a masked vigilante to run around in bright red tights and green chain mail underwear as Robin, striking out on his own as a teenager to become Nightwing, and finally becoming The Batman after Bruce Wayne was sent back in time.  Now Bruce is back, but is off trotting the globe making Batman a franchise operation, so Gotham and all its depravity is under Dick’s protection.  Now a very unwelcome face from the past comes back and wherever he goes people die horribly.  Is Commissioner Gordon’s son really a monster or is someone else the killer.  Dick has to solve the case before the killer strikes again…and again…and again.

Scott Snyder really puts the Dark into the Dark Knight.  Did I say ‘Dark’?  I meant gruesomely, nihilistically, bleak!  But in a weird creepy way it truly works.  It sometimes feels like Saw meets Batman and people looking for happy endings and ‘fun’ may be put off by such a grim Batman yarn.  However, the art is great, the mystery and characterization are top notch, and Dick Grayson makes a great Batman.  All in all, it’s a good read for Batman fans and not a terrible place to start for people wanting to see what’s new with the World’s Greatest Detective.
Check out The Black Mirror in our catalog here.

The Grave Doug Freshley by Josh Hechinger YP FIC HECHINGE

Doug Freshley keeps his promises.  When the Delancey gang attacks he promises his friend and employer Shane McNally to keep his son Bat McNally safe.  And he certainly isn’t going to let something like being dead stop him.  After a bullet in the head kills him he gets right back up and uses his new found power of not dying to hunt down every last rotten Delancey and bring them to justice, but when he’s done he has a duel with Death to deal with…literally.

This book does a wonderful job upending the conventions of both westerns and zombie stories.  Sure, there’s the good guy getting the bad gang element of the western, but it’s handled with humor and irreverence.  And Doug is far from the normal zombie or undead.  He looks and acts normal; he just can’t die without keeping a promise.  The kooky and oft kilter plot is well matched by the art, which has simple and exaggerated artwork that is a mix of classic western comics and cartoon design.  Best yet, Hechinger tells a story with a beginning, a middle, and GASP an actual end without stringing it out interminably.  He leaves room for further adventures, but rewards readers with a very satisfying story.  Check it out.  It’ll be the best zombie western comic you read this year!

Check our catalog for The Grave Doug Freshley here.

The Hidden by Richard Sala YP FIC SALA

In the blink of an eye the whole world changed:  Monsters stride the sky, ghouls run the streets, humanity is doomed.  One man knows why, but finding the secret may destroy the remnants of humankind.  

This is a delightfully bizarre reworking of the classic Frankenstein mythos that has a fiendish and almost gleeful look at how hard humanity works at its own destruction.  Part send up of horror movies, part classic Gothic horror, part brutally violent murder fest, The Hidden is a completely off the wall graphic novel that looks like a simply drawn demented picture book about the gates of Hell opening on earth.  It’s superbly and refreshing in its unsentimental look at total annihilation.  Richard Sala has a totally inimitable style and this is maybe his best and oddest work yet.  It is a weirdly fun and almost upbeat apocalyptic tale, because the forces of darkness are having such gleeful fun at our demise. One of the most twisted and enjoyable looks at the basic darkness behind the pursuit to master life and death you’ll read this year in comic book form!

Check our catalog for The Hidden here.

Any Empire by Nate Powell YP FIC POWELL

Stuck in a small town, a group of kids look anywhere for escape.  Sometimes this escape is the hyper violent fantasy of daydreams of war and conquest and sometimes it is casual cruelty.  When this leads to the a series of turtles being tortured, one girl vows to find the culprits leading to a spiraling series of events that will tear apart siblings, bring together friends, and lead to a final confrontation years later that could save or doom them all.  

This is a bizarre and brutally accurate look at the horrors of the average adolescence.  Boredom, apathy, cruelty, isolation, loneliness, confusion, and sadness are all commonplace and unchanging.  Powell is an amazing artist and storyteller.  His Swallow Me Whole is an equally frightening look at the dark side of adolescence and his artwork on The Silence of Our Friends is equally stunning.  For the first 90% of this book I was thinking it might just be his masterpiece.  It’s powerful, honest, and raw and pushes the story slowly, but very well.  Unfortunately, the last pages introduce an inexplicable twist from realism to a science fiction parable that ends without a resolution and left me looking back many times to see if I lost some pages that would make any sense of it.  And then the story sort of just ends.  It’s all very avant garde and surreal and very confusing.  I found the sudden surreal ending of Swallow Me Whole much more fitting and actually understandable, so this one does disappoint a bit with the ending.  However, there is a lot that does work with Any Empire and some readers may like the pure weirdness of the ending.  I definitely recommend it for fans of comics as a true artistic medium, just not as enthusiastically as I recommended Swallow Me Whole.

Check out my reviews of Swallow Me Whole here, The Silence of Our Friends here, and check our catalog for Any Empire here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Run: A Subject Seven Novel by James A. Moore YP FIC MOORE

The Failures are top secret mutant soldiers.  They’re unbelievably fast, strong, and vicious.  And they’re hiding inside the bodies of normal teenagers.  Now the Failures are on the run and running out of time.  The Successes (all the strengths of the Failures, none of the weaknesses, and trained to kill) are on their trail, their mutant other selves are weakening and may eventually destroy their human sides, and their one Hope is evelyn hope: the woman that made them and wants them captured, dissected, and erased from all human memory.  

Like, Subject Seven before it, this book is a fun twist on the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic. Run is a gritty, grimy, pulpy, fun time for older teens looking for a great cheesy action movie in book form.  It’s faster paced than Subject Seven, but anyone who hasn’t read the first book will have a tough time telling all the characters apart and relating at all to them.    The characters still don’t have a lot of depth or feel very ‘real’, but they work very well for the book.  The use of constantly shifting perspective works well as a way to keep you guessing who knows what and who’s really calling the shots.  It reminds me of a more rated R Maximum Ride series, which is a pretty awesome thing for teens that like gritty action and fast reads.  It may not change the way you look at the fragile humanity of humankind in a hostile universe, but it will entertain and have you looking forward to the next ride.

MILD QUIBBLE:  Gillikers is that cover atrocious!  They don't even use the SAME poorly-shaded-in-Photoshop models as the last terrible cover.

Check out Run in our catalog here and read my Subject Seven review here.