Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Daredevil: Lowlife by Bendis!

Daredevil Vol. 6: LowlifeDaredevil Vol. 6: Lowlife by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Portions of this review are copied from the review on my Goodreads profile.

Summary: When Daredevil’s secret identity is publicly exposed, blind attorney Matt Murdock must deal with the problems and legal ramifications that have reared up as a result. Matt has little time to dwell on these problems though, as an intriguing new love interest appears in his office and sweeps him off his feet, and the Owl, “one of Daredevil's most dangerous foes” (really?) has set his berserker butt down in the empty throne formerly sagging under the enormous weight of the exiled Kingpin and is making all sorts of trouble.

My thoughts: Back in the nineties, I was on staff with Caliber Comics and had the opportunity to work with Brian Bendis firsthand on certain projects (and, boy, do I know some funny stories). He always impressed me as someone who could write damn good dialogue, and that's no different now than it was then, but where Brian has truly improved over the years (of cranking oodles of comics out for Marvel) is his plotting and pacing, and it shows in DAREDEVIL: LOWLIFE. The dialoging and pacing are both phenomenal. The only reason this graphic novel falls shy a star is due to its predictability. There are no surprises in this book whatsoever. But, it's still a damn fine read and well recommended to comic fans of all stripes and colors.

My rating: four stars (out of five). Technically, it's 4.25 stars. Highly recommended.

--

Next up in the series:

Daredevil Vol. 7  Hardcore

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Friday, January 28, 2011

A Four-Year-Old with Questions.

This morning…

Son: “Daddy, do I have a heart?”

Father: “Yes, of course.”

Son: “You have a heart, too, right?”

Father: “Yes, I do.”

Son: “Do toys have hearts?”

Father: “Uh, no. Toy’s don’t have hearts.”

Son: “But don’t hearts mean love?”

Father: “Uh, well, yes. Hearts do a lot of things, but yeah, hearts can stand for love.”

Son: “…well, how do toys love us? Like Woody?”

Father: “Oh, boy.”

Later…

Son: “Daddy?”

Father: “Yes?”

Son: “Why do vampires eat just blood?”

Father: “Uh… well, how come you only eat cheeseburgers?”

Son: “Daddy. That’s doesn’t answer my question.”

Father: “Oh, boy.”

Later still…

Son: “Daddy?”

Father: <sigh> “Yes?”

Son: “I love you.”

Father: “I love you, too.”

Thinking back…

Man, it’s deceivingly icy out there today. A coat of crusty ice slathers the pavement and parking lots, which makes walking your kid into his preschool more of an adventure than expected. I was on the way back home this morning after dropping him off and going to the grocery when I stopped at a red light. The intersection’s in front of my old high school, so I sat there at the light, looking at the building and thinking back.

justin-bieber-varsity-jacketA teenage boy jogged through the crosswalk toward the high school, and I found myself thinking, be careful there, kid. You know, because of the ice.

And I remember, like it was yesterday, running across the ice toward that very school.

I looked up at it again—it’s on a small hill overlooking the road—and then I looked at the boy and I thought, someday he might be sitting right where I am, just like me, 40-years-old and saying the same thing, “What the f—k, where did it all go? Time. Just… wow.”

And I’ll be 63 and saying, “I don’t know. I feel just the same.”

And then, bemusedly, I thought, someday that boy will be 63 and there will be another 40-year-old fella sitting there (who isn’t even born yet). And he’ll say, “What the f—k, where did it all go? Time. Just…wow.”

And the 63-year-old boy will say, “I don’t know. I feel just the same.”

…and then I’ll be sitting there, age 86. And I’ll say, “Eh? Did you young fellas say somethin’? Where are we?”

Monday, January 24, 2011

David Gemmell: A Short Story Exclusive

When writer David Gemmell passed away in July of 2006, just days shy of his 58th birthday, I felt like I had been punched in the face. It was one of those moments for me like the death of Elvis might have been for folks of the previous generation. That’s how much impact Gemmell’s work had on me. I remember reading about it online that very morning and yelling, “NO!” out loud and quite explosively. Hearing this and seeing the stunned look on my face, my wife asked, “What? What is it?”

I shared the news with her and, although she wasn’t a Gemmell reader, to her credit she understood and offered her sympathies. Wow, writing this, I remember the day so very clearly. I remember sitting there, feeling a sudden collapse in my gut and a surprising upsurge of emotion throughout the rest of my body. I remember feeling bowled over, and surprised by my own reaction, at the tears welling up. I looked at my wife and said, “Wow, I actually feel like crying,”which she knew was a big deal because I’m one of those men who has to fight the conditioning that tears are a weakness. Gemmell would have scoffed at that notion, I imagine. Although he wrote a type of fantasy where his warriors were masculine and hardcore, he was even more of a champion of the depths of humanity itself, and what it means to be a TRUE warrior and champion, tears included. I spent a good part of that day telling my wife more about the man I didn’t know personally but who I came to know through his words, and whose death had made such a striking impact on me.

You see. Like I said, he was only 58. So, one, I felt shortchanged. I was counting on dozens more Gemmell novels over the next two decades, at least.  And, two, I hadn’t discovered David Gemmell’s work until 1998. His writing career began around 1984, I think, so it was like finding a treasure within my midst, and I had a wealth of books to read since there were roughly 20 Gemmell novels published by then. Not since Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Lloyd Alexander, and the discovery of comic books had I been so literarily blasted away.

David Gemmell’s work was not only an escapist’s romp through the adrenaline surging nuances of heroic fantasy, but it also imparted lessons to its readers; despite undergoing criticism by some—who thought they knew better—of stories like LEGEND, WAYLANDER, and SWORD IN THE STORM for lacking plot and being based on archaic fantasy tropes (the Sword & Sorcery genre went through a definite low period in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but I’m happy to say it’s on the upswing again). What those critics missed, however, were Gemmell’s life lessons on: depth of character, on redemption, on fighting for what you believe in, on protecting those who are unable to fend for themselves, and the value of friendship and love and the lengths one should go to in order to preserve one, the other, or both. These were lessons that resonated with me as a man in his late twenties then, who was often still seeking a role model to cleave to; I found them in the pages of David Gemmell’s novels. They fashioned and molded me as a man, as well as a writer.

Thence, thus, and therefore(!), it’s a joy for me to have recently uncovered another Gemmell “gem.” In 2010, the folks at Fantasy Book Critic arranged with Mrs. Stella Gemmell, David’s widow, to reprint a short story that appeared years prior in a magazine called “Games Master.” That story went live on the 4th anniversary of Gemmell’s death (July 28th, 2010), and it’s called “The Birth of a Legend.”

Fantasy Book Critic summarizes thus:

This excerpt can be read as a preface to chapter 1 in The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend. As it’s the first three pages that detail Druss’s wedding day [which has not been seen in any of Druss’s books] and pages 4 and 5 deal with the first true fight Druss faces [parts of this are already found in the book. Think of this excerpt as a first draft of that scene].

You can READ IT HERE or by clicking the fantastic Luis Royo cover artwork to IN THE REALM OF THE WOLF (above), one of my all time favorite D.G. novels. Enjoy!

And long live Gemmell, the original Druss the Legend!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Game of Thrones: "Throne" Tease

Yet another awesome GAME OF THRONES update.

Ology.com states: It's looking increasingly less Harry Potterish and more adult… one of the stars, Emilia Clarke, just spoke about sex scenes in Game Of Thrones, saying the nudity was "scary."

Which is why this is on pay-cable, I imagine. It allows it to be more true to the actual novels. The first installment will premiere on HBO April 17th.

GAME OF THRONES is based on NY Times best selling author George R. R. Martin’s set of novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: The Weight of Blood by Dalglish

The Weight of Blood (The Half-Orcs, #1)The Weight of Blood by David Dalglish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Readers of David Dalglish should be drawn to label his novel, THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (TWoB), as RPG fiction, or gamer's fiction. At least this reader will. And that's not a bad thing, in my opinion.

Early on, Dalglish's straightforward storytelling and his choice of main characters made me wonder if the author was a gamer. Harruq and Qurrah Tun are half-orc brothers (they soon find out the other half of their blood is elven rather than human) eking out a living in a humano-centric world, and the details of their plight, as well as how Dalglish treats his characters and the setting around them, took me back to a wonderful time in my life when I couldn't get enough Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms fantasy. For those not in the know, these were some of the first novels released by TSR (now Wizards of the Coast) in the mid to late '80s, the very first offerings that launched a major publishing house based on their Dungeons & Dragons worlds. I ended up contacting the author online while reading this book and wrote that TWoB is conjuring up memories of early Weis, Hickman, and R.A. Salvatore, to which Dalglish responded, "Ding, ding, ding!" So, I assume I nailed it.

I enjoy TWoB for what it is, a dark and gritty fantasy spent with races of the D&D sort -- Harruq as a fighter, Qurrah as a necromancer -- who are faced with some hard decisions. Actually, not so bad for Qurrah, the more oppressed of the two and, hence, the more ambitious, who obviously has a low empathy "stat" and doesn't hesitate to grab for power when it's offered to him, despite it meaning he must fully give in to his evil nature. Harruq is much less evil than his brother, obviously having more of the elven blood in his veins than the orcish, but goes along with Qurrah out of love for his twin (so, yes, I got some of the old Caramon and Raistlin Majere nostalgia here, and you Dragonlance fans will know what I mean).

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but you might imagine the direction Dalglish is taking this in, as we have the dark and selfish Qurrah, and then Harruq, who is much lighter in nature and can see more good in the world. Indeed, Harruq even manages to find love.

The author and I agreed on a book swap, so I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of a signed copy of THE COST OF BETRAYAL, which is book II in "The Half-Orcs." I'll be sure to keep you updated right here when I finish this next installment.

Four stars (out of five). Quite recommended for fantasists in general, and highly recommended for gaming enthusiasts or those who like their fantasy served dark with no cream and very little sugar.

--

Some other books in David Dalglish's "The Half-Orcs":

The Cost of Betrayal (The Half-Orcs, #2) The Death of Promises The Shadows of Grace


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Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Green Lantern: Rebirth by Johns and Van Sciver

Green Lantern: RebirthGreen Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I actually always thought GL was pretty cool, but never got around to reading any of the comics, I think partly because some of the members of the Green Lantern Corps just looked dumb to me. So, I decided, this mid 2000's relaunch by DC and Geoff Johns was as good a time as any to indoctrinate myself to Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, especially in “light” of the forthcoming movie.

GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH reprints the 2004-2005 WIZARD X and GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH issues 1-6. It's written by one of DC Comics' stalwarts, Geoff Johns, who has made his name on this title, redefining (or should I say clarifying) important but glossed over elements of Green Lantern's/Hal Jordan's back story, as well as explaining much about the existence of the Guardians of Oa and the Central Power Battery that is the source of energy for the Corps’ iconic rings.

The graphic novel does a fairly decent job of clearing up some questions that loyal GL fans may have had for a while, although new readers like myself might find this a little too snipped and fast-paced to jam into six or seven issues along with everything else (read on), and I have to admit the presence of the Spectre as housing the soul of Hal Jordan was lost on me (I assume I would need to have read earlier issues, specifically the “death” of Hal Jordan issues, to understand this part).

This story arc is chock full of hordes of staple DC characters. Other Lanterns, the Justice League, several of the classic GL adversaries, e.g., Sinestro, Parallax, even Batman to a point; in fact, Johns portrays the Justice League in a cocky, authoritarian, passing-judgement role, with Batman as Bully #1, that I suppose makes sense considering the DC Universe is constantly under threat from on-planet, off-planet, other-planet enemies, thought it does annoy me some. As an aside, this is likely because with the release of the YOUNG JUSTICE animated series a couple weeks ago, it seems like the Justice League is taking a big hit as the pushy strong-arm group among all the good guys throughout the DC Universe. Maybe they always have been and I just haven’t noticed?

The nits above notwithstanding, I really enjoyed reading GL:R and I certainly plan to continue reading more issues. I just hope Johns has an opportunity to slow down the pace a little now that he's settled the back story issues.

Since this is a comic series, I’d be remiss not to mention the artist, a fella named Ethan van Sciver (image: search), whose work I'm not familiar with previous to this series (some Justice League and Flash one-offs, mainly). This dude seems like he was born to draw the GREEN LANTERN comic books series. His art is very dynamic, very slick, very inventive, and quintessential. Every once in a while, he goes a little crazy with the pages being way busy, but we are talking about guys who can fly around and conjure anything their imaginations and willpowers can muster through their rings. That pretty much means once in a while, you're going to have to really scrutinize some details to sort out what you're looking at. I'm happy van Scriver is on the series for a while. His art alone makes me eager to read more.

GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH is a good stepping on point for new readers, and since this storyline is available in graphic novels and at several libraries, there's no reason not to put it off. You do plan to see the movie, after all, right?

Three stars (out of five). Recommended.

Green Lantern image by Ethan Van Sciver. Cool, huh?

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Today’s Randomosity: Pretty Young Things with Food

Which of these vivacious and clearly euphoric thunderbolts of youth and beauty appears to be en route to total and blissful satiety? Might it be the “Brunette with Burger",” clearly with a meaty Whopper in her wonderfully manicured digits—plainly imparted by The King Himself? Or does the “Blonde with Fruit Salad” seem to be taking to her bowlful of fruitacious edibles with more gusto? And, when all is said, done, and swallowed, who do you think shall have slaked her hunger in finest fashion?
 
Leave your comment (if you dare).
 

“Have it your way.”

<----------“I’ll have it her way.”

Bear in mind, too, that “SCIENCE” (that infallible new Lord and Master that has us all in its sway) has proven that if you’re attempting to bear fruit (e.g., be with child), ironically eating burgers increase your chances for a boy, yet consuming vast amounts of fruit salad does not.

If you want a girl, eat more chocolate.

Hey, don’t take my word for it. I’m just quoting “SCIENCE.” And, yes, I’m in a strange mood today.

 


This blog post inspired by today’s article on The Hairpin.