Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hellblazer: Joyride

Hellblazer: Joyride
By: Andy Diggle
Illustrated by: Leonardo Manco
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Language: English
February 2008, $14.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

The years have not been kind to John Constantine. Fallen friends, cigarettes and a life spent staring into the abyss have reduced the prideful prince of Britain’s occult underground from calling the supernatural shots to cleaning up the messes left behind.

That’s about to change.

A desperate plea from an old acquaintance puts Constantine on the road to reclaim the man, and the mage, he once was. His trip will take him from cutthroat prisons and crime-soaked slums to the high-rolling holiday spots of England’s elite, and neither the darkest secret of his past nor a powerful new enemy will stand in his way.

John Constantine is taking back what’s his, even if doing it means death, damnation – or worse.


+++++++++++++

I love John Constantine and I loved Mike Carey’s work with the piss and vinegar magic user, though I will say Carey made John a bit morose. I wasn’t sure how Diggle was going to do with Constantine, but I saw this and figured why not give it a go. It’s Hellblazer, enough said.

In Joyride Diggle reinvents Constantine, or rather gives him that old swagger and arrogance back. Which, to be honest, he needs. When we see him at the beginning of this run he’s not a happy camper. He’s been through a lot and rock bottom has been his home for some time. It was time that he got rid of the demons that lurked in his head and his heart. I mean I love a down on his luck john, but its about time he got rid of the emo thing.

I like an arrogant, thinks he cannot fail ever again John. He’s entertaining and he has that tough, who gives a frak exterior again. Maybe it is all pomp and circumstance and when he is doomed to fail it’s going to fit fairly hard, but that’s why I like the series. There isn’t much of the magic thrown in, or at least as much as I would have liked, and yet it’s all about Constantine getting back to his roots. He’s having a midlife crisis and winds up the better for it.

One thing I really loved was the artwork so a shiny gold star goes to Leonardo Manco. I loved his renderings in the first half of the volume with the drowned souls as much as his work with the horned shaman. It was a delight to read as much as it was to ooh and awe over the pretty and sometimes horrific drawings.

In short, it was a nice change of pace for Hellblazer and because of it I think I need to catch up a bit on my dear friend Mr. Constantine.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Postcards: True Stories that Never Happened

Postcards: True Stories that Never Happened
Edited By: Jason Rodriguez
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Villard
Language: English
July 2007, $21.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

You’ve seen them at flea markets and in antique shops and used-book stores across the country: Vintage postcards inscribed with handwritten notes, evocative messages that capture a thought, an expression, a concern, a snapshot of someone’s life once upon a time. Jason Rodriguez, acclaimed editor of Elk’s Run, collected a remarkable array of these correspondences, dispersed them among thirty-three of comics’ greatest creators, and asked each to craft a story about the person who sent it. The result is a vividly imagined, gorgeously rendered graphic anthology illustrating tales of romance, adventure, hardship, and mystery. In Postcards, these gifted artists share some of the richest and most inventive work of their careers.

+++++++++++++

On one of my many trips to the bookstore I spotted this with a bunch of other new graphic novel releases. I liked the idea of taking old postcards and then creating stories around the picture and the writing that was on them. The people of involved also made it worth picking up especially when I noticed that a friend of mine from Sioux Falls, Tony, did the illustrations for one of the stories. Of course, this means I had to buy it. It was completely worth the money. I absolutely loved it.

The stories range from touching love stories, to inspiring insights and well…downright creepy stuff. Who knew that ‘Send Louis his underwear’ could inspire a creepy little story or that ‘Cora’s Dress’ could nearly break my heart. Of course I am a fan of ‘Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland’ which Jay Busbee and Tony Fleec did. There are 16 stories, each with amazing artwork and takes on such a simple thing as a postcard. Not only do we also get to see the actual postcard and the writing on it before the story, but Jason writes a bit about why he chose that particular postcard and why he gave it to the team he did. Of course some stories are stronger than others (oddly the story from Harvey Pekar just didn’t quite work for me which is strange since Harvey and Joyce usually delight), but I found myself liking them all in the end.

If you want something a bit different this is the way to go. I, for one, am really hoping that there will be a volume 2 in the future.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Marie over at Vintage Postcards can continue your postcard fanaticism.

More: Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Electric Church

The Electric Church
By: Jeff Somers
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Language: English
September 2007, $12.99
Genre: Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk

Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer - for the Right Price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He's up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag. Conversion means death.

+++++++++++++

I don’t read a whole lot of sci-fi, but I’d had this sitting in my TBR pile and Carl’s Sci-Fi Experience challenge finally got me to pick it up. My sister and brother in law sang its praise when they read it a while back and I can see why. It’s a great book. Call it a combination of a Cybermen episode of Doctor Who and Blade Runner except where the Cybermen are far creepier and your hero is a professional killer who you shouldn’t like at all, but wind up rooting for him anyway.

Avery Cates may be a bad man, but the brutal police force that keeps order in this dystopian world seems just as bad. When he kills one of the elite brute squad instead of being thrown to the firing squad he gets hired to take out Dennis Squalor, leader of the Electric Church. Don’t think the church is scary with its promises of immortality and redemption. You should. See, you have to die in order to become a member and sometimes you are converted without your approval. So imagine being locked away forever screaming, forever wanting it all to end, but stuck in a cyborg body. Not a fun day at the park. In fact, there is one scene in the book where we see where getting religion can be insanely disturbing and scary. Commentary on religion? Maybe just a bit.

I thought the pacing was great, the first person narrative worked and it didn’t take itself too seriously. I also didn’t have to sift through a bunch of techo babble which was nice. The characters that surround Cates are just as fun to hate and hate to love as our lead don’t call me a hero if you want to live is. None of the characters are people I would want to meet in real life. Even the cops are bad guys. Cates is the lesser evil, but like Hannibal Lecter you cant help but like him just a bit.

The book has its flaws. The dialogue could be honed a little and prose expanded a bit, what can I say I love words, but on the whole it was a fun and fast read. In fact, I cant wait to start reading Digital Plague. I was never bored with this one and I don’t imagine that the second one will be a disappointment either.

3.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hater by David Moody

I am sure you have being seeing this a bit on the book blogging front, but I have to admit that I am intrigued. One: I like the concept. Two: Moody self published Hater in 2006 and now it is going to be a film produced by a fave of mine, Guillermo del Toro. Shiny gold stars to any who self publish. Three: I got picked to be part of the viral campaign for the book launch which is coming to bookshelves on the 17th of this month and that is just plain neat.



REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL

Society is rocked by a sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals. Christened 'Haters' by the media, the attackers strike without warning, killing all who cross their path. The assaults are brutal, remorseless and extreme: within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. There are no apparent links as a hundred random attacks become a thousand, then hundreds of thousands. Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other difference, has the potential to become a victim - or a Hater. People are afraid to go to work, afraid to leave their homes and, increasingly, afraid that at any moment their friends, even their closest family, could turn on them with ultra violent intent. Waking up each morning, no matter how well defended, everyone must now consider the fact that by the end of the day, they might be dead. Or perhaps worse, become a killer themselves. As the status quo shifts, ATTACK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER becomes the order of the day... only, the answers might be much different than what you expect....

In the tradition of H. G. Wells and Richard Matheson, Hater is one man’s story of his place in a world gone mad— a world infected with fear, violence, and HATE.

To read the first and second chapters go here.

I know I am intrigued. How about you?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Faker

Faker
By: Mike Carey
Illustrated by: Jock
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Language: English
March 2008, $9.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Amateur extortionist Jessie Kidby, sports scholar Paul Saknussen, Yvonne Latimer (will hack for food), and sexual plaything Marky Sales have almost nothing in common - except that they all share the same house, went to the same insane party and puked up their insides. And the next morning there are holes in their memories that they just can't explain, but fortunately, their friend Nick Philo is there to comfort them all.

Except Nick has a problem of his own. His memory is crystal clear, but no one outside of his small circle of friends has any recollection that he actually exists. As the group search for the truth about Nick and themselves, they're led into a complicated game of cat and mouse through the wilds of Northern Minnesota. And in the dead cold of an unforgiving winter's night, there's a lot more at stake than life and death... because one of them may never have been alive in the first place...


+++++++++++++

Mike Carey’s name made me pick it up, but the story intrigued me enough to buy it. I think one of the reasons I like Mike Carey is that in his world’s there are no sunshine and rainbows. There is always this edge to everything he writes even when there are good things happening.

All four of the main characters in Faker are damaged goods. They each have secrets. Jessie uses her body to blackmail others to get what she wants, Marky is everyone’s sexual plaything, Yvonne will hack for food and Sack has some big insecurities. And then there is Nick. His secret is that after a night of partying he ceases to exist to anyone outside of the trio of his friends. Then again, maybe he never existed in the first place. It’s a great story, chilling at times and bizarre in others. Memory is a strange and powerful thing. What would you do if you best memories came to life? What about those memories you try every day to forget? And can you really lie, cheat, and fake your way into anything?

The art was great, matching the pace and tone of the narrative. It’s dark. It’s disorienting and without giving too much away I also thought it was very good. In fact it would make a great little Masters of Horror/Outer Limits type of story. Is it is his best? No, but I liked it because it was different. It’s a strange little story, but strange in a completely good way.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Ex Machina Volume 1

Ex Machina Volume 1
(The First Hundred Days)
By: Brian K Vaughan
Illustrated by: Tony Harris
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Wildstorm
Language: English
February 2005, $9.99
Genre: Comic

When a strange accident gives civil engineer Mitchell Hundred amazing powers he becomes America’s first living, breathing super-hero. Eventually tiring of risking his life merely to help maintain the status quo, Mitch retires from masked crimefi ghting and runs for Mayor of New York City, winning by a landslide. And that’s when his real adventure begins…

+++++++++++++

I am sure you are tired of hearing about my latest obsession with Brian K Vaughan, but I can’t help it. Have you read his stuff? So far there hasn’t been anything that I’ve gone meh over or regretted spending money on. Ex Machina won an Eisner for this and to be honest I think it was well deserved.

Mitchell Hundred was a simple civil engineer until a mysterious object exploded in his hands and giving him the ability to speak to machines, ultimately controlling them. Being a superhero, “The Great Machine”, has its pitfalls and triumphs. After all how would you react if a masked vigilante that looks vaguely like a futuristic Rocketeer comes swooping in to save the day? You’d probably call the cops. And Hundred discovers that there is a downside to being a hero in our society. However, he does some good too, most importantly he saves one of the towers during 9/11. But after he hangs up the costume, he searches for another purpose, another way to use his powers for good. His eyes eventually settle on the Mayor’s office and he runs for mayor of NYC and he wins. So what now?

Like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and others there is a realism in this comic and this alternative universe New York City feels reel. There is more to being a superhero or just a hero in general in the modern world. Mitchell Hundred wants to be a good man. He wants to be a hero, but is that really possible when the masses decide what is heroic and what is good? I like that Mitchell and the vast cast of characters go beyond your usual comic superheroes and characters. It’s a great what if. Just because he is now mayor, Hundred still has problems and some of them still rely on his ability to speak to machines. I can relate to Hundred. He has flaws, he has doubts and he has fears despite being able to do things that the average Joe cannot.

It reminds me of the Rocketeer meets West Wing. Vaughan is laying out some nice political commentary and as one of those wacky people that leans towards liberal, I can’t help but nod my head. Even better you get some great art to go along with a great story. I look forward to reading more.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

BIBLIOSNARK MONTH IN REVIEW - JANUARY

Total number of books read: 7
Number of pages read: 1412
Books Read:
1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2. Backup by Jim Butcher
3. The Reach by Nate Kenyon
4. Crossing Midnight Volume 1 by Mike Carey
5. Fables: Volume 2 by Bill Willingham
6. Guilty Pleasures Volume 1 by Laurell K Hamilton/Stacie Ritchie
7. The Ghost in Love by Jonathan Carroll

Authors
Male: 6
Female: 1

Last book bought: Postcards: True Stories that Never Happened Edited by Jason Rodriguez. I picked this up because Tony, a friend of mine did the illustrations for one of the stories. Plus I love the idea of taking old postcards and then creating a story around both the picture and the note on the other side. Haven’t read it yet, but I will of course let you know how it is when I have.

Favorite Book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Not only did it win the Newberry but it is also being made into a film which will be directed by one of my favorite directors Neil Jordan. Cannot wait. Truly a brilliant book if you haven’t read it yet.

Bookish Ponderings: I am thinking about hosting a challenge, something along the lines of ‘The Other Side of Fantasy’ where people are reading some urban or contemporary fantasy that does not feature a snarky heroine with swords/superpowers/guns who has to choose between a vampire or a shapeshifter when it comes to her lovelife. This is the result of conversations had at work where urban fantasy is relegated to Laurell K Hamilton and such. Oh but there is so much more. There are authors like Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Martin Millar, Simon R Green, Emma Bull, China Meiville and more. What do you think? Good idea?

The Ghost In Love

The Ghost in Love
By: Jonathon Carroll
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Language: English
September 2008, $24.99
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

A man falls in the snow, hits his head on a curb, and dies. But something strange occurs: the man doesn’t die, and the ghost that’s been sent to take his soul to the afterlife is flabbergasted. Going immediately to its boss, the ghost asks, what should I do now? The boss says, we don’t know how this happened but we’re working on it. We want you to stay with this man to help us figure out what’s going on.

The ghost agrees unhappily; it is a ghost, not a nursemaid. But a funny thing happens—the ghost falls madly in love with the man’s girlfriend, and things naturally get complicated. Soon afterward, the man discovers he did not die when he was “supposed” to because for the first time in their history, human beings have decided to take their fates back from the gods. It’s a wonderful change, but one that comes at a price.

The Ghost in Love is about what happens to us when we discover that we have become the masters of our own fate. No excuses, no outside forces or gods to blame—the responsibility is all our own. It’s also about love, ghosts that happen to be gourmet cooks, talking dogs, and picnicking in the rain with yourself at twenty different ages.


+++++++++++++

I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked this up. Blurbs from Neil Gaiman and Stephen King exalting Carroll and that happy little back cover description certainly piqued my interest. I have not read any of Carroll’s other novels so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get it. It wound up being one of those books that I couldn’t stop reading and that induced its own sort of happy insomnia as I read it in the wee hours of the morning. It was a book that made me think, that made me laugh and smile and spurred my imagination. It short, it was great.

But how to explain the book? And will everyone like it? It’s one of those books that you can’t quite explain, can’t quite categorize without it sounding a bit too quirky for most people’s tastes. After all you have the lead character who can talk to his dog, see ghosts as well as himself when he’s a kid and a ghost who loves to cook and who has fallen in love with the lead’s girlfriend. Is there humor? Yes, a lot of it, but there is also a poignancy I didn’t expect to find. The book is about love both concerning other people and more importantly yourself. It’s about fate and destiny and what happens when you take control of your own life and destiny. It is about life and death and everything that happens in between and what you make of those all too brief moments.

One thing I also enjoyed was the prose itself. Sometimes you read an author whose descriptions give you perfectly clear images in your head, where they describe why a character falls in love with someone and you cannot help but do the same. Carroll is one of those authors. His prose was a joy to read as much as the story itself was. The last time I had that much fun reading the actual words was Diane Setterfield’s Thirteenth Tale which is one of my favorite books from last year and one of my top 25 of all time.

The plot isn’t anything new: someone dies before they are supposed to or somehow escapes the system and what happens afterward. However, I loved the way Carroll made it his own. But some people may not like it. They may find it pretentious and a bit too over the top. I just was not one of those people. I found it charming. I found it philosophical and lovely. I found it fantastic. Great read. I second Gaiman's love for Carroll. Now I have to go find some more of his books.

3.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.