Good Kids (2013)

Good Kids (2013)

Josh Paquette and Khadijah Silverglate-Dunn are two fifteen year old kids living in the 1990’s. Josh’s father and Khadijah’s mother are having an affair and because of this, the two teens vow never to cheat on anyone for the rest of their lives. Later, when Josh and Khadijah are in their twenties and meet again after a long time apart, they are each engaged to other people and have a difficult time keeping true to their childhood vows to one another once the spark is re-ignited and they find themselves becoming entangled with one another.

Benjamin Nugent, author of American Nerd, has crafted a mostly-effective tale which is part dramedy and part coming-of-age that will have you re-living your childhood if you’re a nineties kid and even if you’re not, it will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever tried to forge their own adult life and deal with the sea of complex nuances that come with it.

Nugent’s writing is pretty solid and had me laughing out loud and sharing passages (one involving a cock ring of all things) with people I was on a road trip with. If I had any complaints it would be that for some reason, the latter half of the book didn’t really contain the same punch as the beginning half. The book was pretty short and seemed almost more of a novella, so I think it could have been drawn out a little longer to wrap things up more neatly.

Still, if you’re a fan of Baumbach films, this book would be for you. It has that same sort of feel that you get when you watch The Squid And The Whale or The Life Aquatic.

Check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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The Sixth Gun – Book One: Cold Dead Fingers (2011)

The Sixth Gun - Book One: Cold Dead Fingers (2011)

 

The Sixth Gun – Book One is a trade paperback which collects issues of the Oni Press comic book written by Cullen Bunn with art by Brian Hurtt.

Six guns with individual arcane powers were found during the American Civil War by General Oleander Hume and distributed among his most trusted (and wicked) associates. Over time, however, one of them – with the ability to grant its wielder visions of the future – disappeared. Then, in a time of need, the gun makes its way into the hands of a young girl – Rebecca Moncrief – who is later joined by a mysterious gunfighter and treasure hunter, Drake Sinclair. The two of them must unlock the secrets of the gun and its origins and figure out a way to lose their pursuers who are none other than a long-dead-but-returned-to-life General Oleander Hume and his posse.

If you know me at all, you know I love comic books and that I also love anything having to do with the American Civil War, so this book was a natural choice for me to check out. I had seen it once or twice and then one of the local comic book guys I know reminded me to try the first volume and I picked it up.

The artwork by Brian Hurtt is really nice and perfect (in my opinion) for the type of story The Sixth Gun is. The writing was pretty decent, too. The story moved along at a nice pace and I never really wanted to take a break. I flew through the first volume and it has a real cinematic feel to it. I’m betting this will be a mini-series or a movie in the future. I liked the characters, too. They never really felt forced and some of them were kind of complex (while others were throw-aways).

If you’re looking for straight-up Civil War action, this book doesn’t have a ton. The Civil War aspect is more just for “flavor” than anything else and provides a bit of context for the story and the world this book is set in. I’m sure if you like magic or fantasy or westerns or steampunk, then you’ll enjoy this.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara is the flagship novel of author Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. (First King of Shannara actually takes place before The Sword of Shannara, but he didn’t publish that until later on).

Shea and Flick Ohmsford live in Shady Vale, a quiet community of hard-working folk living in peace. When evil from the North comes looking for the last living descendant of Jerle Shannara, aka Shea Ohmsford, a mysterious Druid by the name of Allanon arrives to help the two escape and embark on an epic quest to find the fabled Sword of Shannara, which has the power to destroy the evil Warlock Lord.

Many critics (and a few of my friends) have universally panned this novel because some say that it’s a blatant rip-off of Tolkien. Admittedly, there are heavy imprints of Tolkien’s influence at work here, but it’s only at the beginning. Towards the end, you begin to truly get a sense of what Brooks is trying to do with his characters, and especially in later novels when he expands to areas that Tolkien never touched and you get to see other elements besides Tolkien’s writing which he drew on, like mythology and history.

I would liken this series to the lovechild of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, actually.

If you look past the initial similarities (and assuming you like Brooks’ writing style) what you’ll find is an enjoyable romp through the Four Lands and the beginnings of an epic fantasy adventure that seems to be more and more rare these days.

The characters are memorable, the settings are great, the monsters are scary. What more can you ask for?

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume One (2013)

Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume One (2013)

Publisher: Image Comics
Creative Team: Jimmie Robinson

Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume One collects Bomb Queen: Royal Flush #1-4, Bomb Queen II: Queen Of Hearts #1-4 as well as Bomb Queen VS Blacklight: Cat Fight, with art and writing by Jimmie Robinson (Evil & Malice, Avigon).

Bomb Queen doesn’t just govern New Port City…she rules it. After routing or killing not just all of the superheroes who would stand in her way…but her former teammates and other super-villains, she is the dictator of the city and the public just eats her up. But, being at the top means that there’s always someone who wants you to fall, and since she’s not into the business of making friends, her time in the spotlight may just be coming to an end.

The premise of this book is what sold me, really. What would it mean to live in a city of filth and moral absence? Bomb Queen hopes to explore that. Jimmie Robinson’s art style is sort of manga-influenced, and it also reminds me a lot of Amanda Connor’s artwork, though I do like her style better. The writing wasn’t anything super-special, so what we have here is a B-Movie in comic book form.

The vulgarity and the over-the-top cheesecake is a novel addition, though some won’t appreciate it. It’s highly cheesy and very kinetic. Bomb Queen is the epitome of sex and violence. Bomb Queen herself dresses in an impossibly skimpy outfit and other characters, including the self-righteous superheroes found within its pages, are no better….hiding bulging genitalia behind the thin fabric of their costumes, or going just plain nude.

In the hands of a better writer, this could be a great property. As it is, it seems a lot like a world similar to the one found in Escape From L.A., without Kurt Russel, of course.

Anyway, don’t expect anything too heady with this. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume 1
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X-Men #1 (July 2013)

X-Men #1 (July 2013)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel,

Jubilee is headed to the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning with a special baby in tow, hoping to give the infant the same chance at life she had when she first arrived at the (then) Charles Xavier School for the Gifted. However, she is being tailed by John Sublime, for reasons unknown. Storm, Rogue, and Kitty Pryde move to help her but they don’t realize what’s at stake, for them and for the Earth.

First off, I really dig Brian Wood’s (TMZ, Northlanders) writing. I am currently reading his Northlanders (links to my reviews HERE and HERE) series and so I wanted to give this X-Title a try. I haven’t really gotten into a lot of the newer X-Books, aside from All-New X-Men, but the novelty of an all-female team intrigued me enough to check it out.

Olivier Coipel’s (Legion Of Super Heroes, Thor) artwork is great and it works in concert with Wood’s writing very well. The issue reads somewhat at the same pace as if you were watching an action flick, despite being a little vague and confusing at times, which brings me to…

There were a couple things I didn’t like about it, but they were mostly minor. I think that having an all-female team is interesting, but I can’t help but think about the double-standard being held when almost every other book has to have strong female characters and not just have all male characters on teams. Also, the villain chosen for the X-Men to face in this instance is sort of underwhelming and seems set up (with him being an “attractive” male character, but also being evil) to deliver a sort of girl-power message in the end, after they face him with his slicked-back hair and unbuttoned shirts and all. Sure, this has been done before with the genders reversed (attractive, evil female) but this seems sort of forced, like it’s just because it’s an all-female team that the villain has to be a good-looking dude.

Still, with that said, if they can stay away from the same types of tropes that plague man-centric comic titles, this one should be pretty decent. New takes on team rosters and new group dynamics are always fun to explore within the Marvel Universe. In any case, I hope to give this a chance with a few more issues. So far, I am intrigued and can’t wait to see where the current story arc goes.

This title is an experiment and I think most people will like it well enough if they give it a shot.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From X-Men #1
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Joe The Barbarian (2011)

Joe The Barbarian (2011)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy

Joe The Barbarian collects issues #1-8 of the limited DC/Vertigo series written by Grant Morrison (Batman Inc., Supergods) with artwork by Sean Murphy (Hellblazer, American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest).

Joe Manson is an eleven-year-old kid with type 1 diabetes. On top of that, his father died overseas in the ongoing war in the Middle East. It’s no wonder that he spends all day in a dream world of action figures and drawings of noble knights and scary creatures. However, after some school bullies steal his candy he gets home and begins to go into hypoglycemia, but unexpectedly also into another world…one so real he cannot discern it from reality. Traversing this new fantasy world, in the real world he is only trying to get to the kitchen. Realities blur and soon it’s apparent that there is a purpose behind the visions and that he must stay alive.

First off, I love Morrison and I love Murphy. Two great talents working together. Can I refer to them as M&M? Haha, no, but really.

The story is evocative of Alice In Wonderland and Tellos, sort of mixed together in one awesome stew. Tellos will always be my favorite but this book managed to capture that feeling and the wonder of that book, if a little bit darker….yet it had almost as much heart.

It was nice to see a story dealing with a character who must battle diabetes. Coming from a family where diabetes is a constant concern, Joe The Barbarian was especially poignant to me. My great grandmother recently died after choosing not to continue with her dialysis treatments but she’d been battling diabetes for years.

In any case, I loved Murphy’s work on American Vampire, and I think he did an amazing job with Morrison’s fantastical vision in this book. The art has a nice steampunky type of style to it, which somehow fit the theme nicely.

You should really check it out, especially if you enjoyed Todd Dezago and Mike Weiringo’s work on Tellos.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Joe The Barbarian
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Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly

Set in Viking-era Ireland, Northlanders Book Two: The Cross And The Hammer, collects issues #11-16 of the DC/Vertigo comic book series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, The New York Four).

It is 1014 in Viking-occupied Ireland. One lone man, only known as Magnus, refuses to bow to the will of the Viking overlords and is leaving a bloody trail of insurgency in his wake. Magnus has no ties, no weaknesses, nothing to lose…except his daughter Brigid. Magnus’ killing spree and defiance catches the attention of Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson, a forensic specialist and confidant of the King who becomes obsessed with finding Magnus and ending his uprising.

When it becomes apparent that the only way to draw Magnus out of hiding is to provoke him by senselessly murdering innocent Irish families, it sends the two foes into a circle of psychological warfare and intrigue.

I was really looking forward to this volume after having already read Northlanders: Sven The Returned, which was amazing…so maybe my hopes were a little too high.

First off, don’t get me wrong. I would rather read this volume than not read this volume. Northlanders is a great series, and Brian Wood is doing some great stuff. Even the premise of the arc in this volume is decent and had me intrigued, but it all ended up falling a little flat.

Ryan Kelly is a great artist but I was honestly, the entire time, comparing his style (without meaning to) to Davide Gianfelice’s, who did the art for the issues collected in the first volume. In some ways, Kelly’s artwork is better for this Irish story but in others it just doesn’t feel up to par. There was nothing wrong for it save for the flavor, and despite some great splash page work some of it seemed a bit cartoony.

On top of that, I was sort of brought out of the story some by the way Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson spoke/wrote in the way that you might see a character do on an episode of CSI. I kept thinking to myself “This is so modern sounding. WTF is going on here?

Another thing to watch out for is the twist ending. It seems to be all the rage nowadays to give a twist ending on everything, but I don’t think they had to do so, here. It wasn’t super-compelling as it was and then to sort of glaze over it all with a twist ending such as the one found within the pages of this TPB, it just dulled everything down even more.

Overall, I wouldn’t miss this entry into the series, but it could have been much better. I hear that Volume III is, indeed, much better…so I’ll have to check it out. So, give this a read if you follow along but I’m not so sure this will be a favored volume in the series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Northlanders, Vol. 2: The Cross And The Hammer
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