Category Archives: Round-Ups

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Should I use chapter titles?

The very first novel I ever completed had a title for every chapter. Digging through my old Word Perfect 6 documents (which OpenOffice really didn’t like, my book was not 7000+ pages with a bunch of numbers and symbols), I thought I’d share them with you (bear in mind this book was started in 1999 and finished in 2003):

  • Chapter 1 – The Proposal (solid)
  • Chapter 2 – The Problem (got a theme going)
  • Chapter 3 – Winning is half the battle (changing it up, nice)
  • Chapter 4 – What’s a ship without a crew? (good question)
  • Chapter 5 – Testing Phase (back to two words, good choice)
  • Chapter 6 – Sim-Central (don’t know what this really means, but I think they were using a simulator?)
  • Chapter 7 – Picking up the pieces (A little on the nose, but apparently they broke the simulator)
  • Chapter 8 – Cellular Christmas (wait … what?)
  • Chapter 9 – Scarecrow’s Dilemma (if he only had a … wait for it …)
  • Chapter 10 – Sarah Walker (Oh, now we’re using the name of a person, and remember Chuck hadn’t aired yet)
  • Chapter 11 – Unfinished Business (simple but back to solid)
  • Chapter 12 – Pre-launch Jitters (don’t you just hate those?)
  • Chapter 13 – Ready To Go (Okay so we’re ready now, right?)
  • Chapter 14 – Unto the breach (That doesn’t sound good)
  • Chapter 15 – Rapid Ascent (Wait, we were supposed to launch two chapters ago!)
  • Chapter 16 – Anticipated Arrival (We were expected?)
  • Chapter 17 – Crimson Sun Revisited (When did we visit it before? Answer, in the prologue which was titled ‘Galateia’ and not ‘Crimson Sun’, though Crimson Sun was involved. Anyway, moving on.)
  • Chapter 18 – Camping out under the stars (sounds nice)
  • Chapter 19 – Licking their wounds (maybe not)
  • Chapter 20 – Running the Gauntlet (originally misspelled Guantlet)
  • Chapter 21 – Awakened Spirits (meh)
  • Chapter 22 – Recovered Data (back to the theme I see)
  • Chapter 23 – Ghosts of Past and Future Days (seriously?)
  • Chapter 24 – Harkenings of Atlantis (is Harkenings a word? WordPress doesn’t think so.)
  • Chapter 25 – The Emerald City (Wizard of Oz?)
  • Chapter 26 – Behind the Curtain (Definitely Wizard of Oz, late in the game decision to go with this theme)
  • Chapter 27 – At long last (indeed)
  • Chapter 28 – Casual Conversation (eh)
  • Chapter 29 – The Greater Mysteries (getting profound)
  • Chapter 30 – For the future (inspiring)
  • Epilogue – Return Journey (There and back again)

There was also an interlude called ‘En Route’.

Here’s the problem. Obviously some of these are just dippy, darlings that even I wouldn’t recognize today. Some are straightforward and simple, others are bland and shapeless. Some make up words, some appropriate Moody Blues phrases, and some are too unspeakably clever.

This is why I don’t write chapter titles, and why my tendency has been for one or two word book titles. I’ve read a few books where the title really adds something to the chapter, but I’ve yet to write one. I do think that if you’re going to do it, you should make some conscious thoughts as to a consistent theme. It’s probably okay to break it once and a while, but only if you have a reason to do so. And “Ghosts Of Past and Future Days” is not such a reason.

I like titling parts of a book, as these can almost fell like mini-novellas, and those deserve a title. But beyond that, probably not. Hell, I have a hard enough time thinking of a title for each blog post.

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The True Meaning of The Simpsons

simpsons-christmas-7

Though many judge The Simpsons by its annual Halloween themed Treehouse of Horror episodes, I think some of the best yearly episodes actually happen at Christmas, starting with very first full length Simpsons episode ever. Unlike the Halloween episodes, most of the Christmas specials fall within the accepted Simpsons universe (though in recent years there have been a few in the anthology format). Especially in the 90s, The Simpsons treated these holiday episodes in the same ways as other sitcoms of that period, as an opportunity to tell a family story centered around Christmas.

Two of my favorite Simpsons Christmas episodes are “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” and “Marge Be Not Proud”. In “Miracle” Bart tries to sneak a look at his presents early, only to accidentally set the tree on fire and destroy all of the gifts. Rather than fess up, Bart hides the evidence and blames the disappearance of the tree and gifts on a burgler. The story of someone who stole Christmas airs on the local news, and the people of Springfield dig deep to give the Simpsons the Christmas they deserve. Bart is already feeling guilty, but this is made even worse by the donation of a dollar from a couple of kids at the local orphanage who are obviously very sick. Bart doesn’t want to take it, but the kids insist. The Simpsons proceed to buy a new car with the money which is promptly totaled (falls through a crack in the ice and explodes) and Bart’s lie is exposed to the whole town just after he admits it to his parents. The town turns on the Simpsons, who attempt to earn back some of the money on Jeopardy only to go even deeper into debt. The town eventually forgives the Simpsons, collecting their debt by taking everything out of the Simpsons home except a washcloth.

While “Miracle” is more of a gags show with no particular message, “Marge Be Not Proud” shows us a badder and a better Bart than usual. Personally, as bad of a kid as Bart seems to be, and as poorly as he does in school, I don’t like the Simpsons future episodes that posit he’ll be a loser with no job prospects. I actually think Bart is just a normal kid who will grow up and find some happiness. Even Homer has a loving wife, and a beautiful family and I think Bart will have this too, as evidenced by episodes like this one.

Bart desires a violent video game called “Bonestorm” which Marge refuses to buy. After seeing Nelson and a couple of the bullies shoplifting, Bart tries to steal a copy of the game but is promptly caught. The store security guard bans him from the store and calls his parents but only gets their answering machine. Bart is able to intercept the tape and keep his parents from finding out, until they decide to get Christmas pictures taken at the same store where Bart tried to steal the game. Bart’s theft is revealed and Marge is very disappointed, unable to specifically punish Bart, who begins to realize how much he has hurt his Mom. The Simpsons carry on with typical traditions, including making snowmen, but they fail to include Bart.

Bart worries that he’s lost his mother’s love, and tries to make it right. He returns home with another bulge in his jacket, which Marge takes for stealing until she realizes its a picture of Bart to replace the one he ruined by being yanked out of frame by the security guard. Taped to the frame is the receipt. Marge tears up and  hugs Bart, and even lets him open a present early, a putting video game which is pretty dull but Bart feigns happiness anyway.

What are your favorite TV Christmas specials?

Some additional “Holiday Flavorites” can be found here:

“Mr. Plow” – Homer runs a snow plow business, but soon must contend with his rival, Barney “The Plow King”.

“Grift of the Magi” – If you ever needed a reason why Furbies should never be sold again, this is it.

“Simpsons Roasting on an open Fire” – First episode ever, and explanation for Santa’s Little Helper.

 

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Manga Madness

Well, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, and finally have a good morning to sit down and do it. As I’m typing my fingers are being gently massaged by my vibrating keyboard as my laptop does burns. Again, these are all books I received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, including Pride and Prejudice which I actually had to request (more on that later).

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Anomalby Nukuharu

51uYmefdybLThis is actually a collection of stories from indie Japanese Authors, published by Gen Manga Entertainment. The cover story is so-so, featuring a man with a hundred eyes all over his body helping a man to see, but then holding that gift over him. “You know those eyes I gave you? Pretty great huh?” We’ve got a detective who solves crimes by reenacting the actions of the murderer and victim with his male partner (so if you like a little yaoi action there you go). The later stories are more interesting, in part because they stray into weirder territory that seems very distinctly Japanese.

Next is a man falling in love with a demon (yokai), who he’s known since childhood. She mainly loves for him for the delicious spells he utters, and even gives him the chance to turn back the clock when he is nearly killed by demon spirits, to live his life again happier. But my personal favorite of the collection is the girl who wants to hug demons (even if they don’t want to be hugged). To accomplish this goal she tries to become head of the demons with the help of her guide, who also happens to be her schoolmate. In this case the demons possess a human carrier, and manifest by being vaguely ghostly creatures with cute pig eyes, a jagged mouth, and little horns. What’s not to love?

The translation on a few of these might be a little rushed, and admittedly none of this is top-grade material. But the art is excellent and varied between the different authors, and the dialog is punchy in spots. There’s probably something for everyone to love in this collection. Most of the stories have a pretty light touch, so don’t expect horror in the traditional sense as you might have assumed from the product description. (4 out 0f 5)

Outlaws of the Marsh (Volume 1)by Wei Dong Chen

51TAHRbPsBLThis is a manga adaptation of an ancient Chinese epic (which is sometimes also known as the Water Margin). This is an epic in every sense of the word (the Amazon copy of one of the more well-known translations of this story is 2008 pages, the sample alone feels like a book). 108 spirits are let out into the world and must be defeated.

The main story revolves around Jin Shi, as he goes from being a brash young man to a trained and disciplined fighter. There have been many inspired manga adaptations of this story, including Outlaw Star (a sci-fi Anime in the vein of Cowboy Bebop). This title does not live up to some of the other works in this genre. It is clearly aimed at children, and the dialogue is painful. Just about every awful foreign film trope is in here. Presumably the original is in better shape, though it’s hard to tell.

The artwork is blurry and again looks like something out of a child’s picture book. Even in the action sequences, you get little sense of the motion of the characters, and their expressions rarely vary. The main benefit to this story is making me aware of the longer epic which I might read some year when I have the time. (2 out of 5)

Pride and Prejudiceadaption by Stacey King

815KJlGdCKLI’m giving this book three stars, which if anybody knows me is like someone else giving it five. I’m not particularly a fan of Jane Austen’s work, but as is the case with a lot of NetGalley stuff, this seemed too weird to pass up.

The artwork is more in the style of Revolutionary Girl Utena, with pointed chins and sour expressions, though I swear the father is cribbed from the dad in Fullmetal Alchemist. The adaptation is pretty straightforward, with bits of humor in tipping the mother into full anime stereotype, with stars for eyes as she dreams of marrying off her daughters into money. The book proceeds in chapters which I assume correspond roughly to the chapters in the novel (though I’ll admit I didn’t pick it up to verify).

Probably the best bits are the little four panels comics in between chapters, that adapt more humorous or speculative scenes from the book. Even as I found myself wondering what the hell any of these people would want to do with each other, these comics gave me a chuckle. Again, if I was going to read Pride and Prejudice, this would be the way to do it. (3 out of 5)

Kamen (Volume 1) – by Gunya Mihara

81W48sIDyrLI actually caught a snippet of this in the Gen Manga collections sold on Amazon and had been intrigued, so I was pleased when I saw this on NetGalley. A man wakes up wearing a talking mask. If he takes it off, he will die, and because it is covering his mouth, he cannot speak. Throughout the whole volume, we learn only about the man through his actions, and the commentary of the mask which can sometimes be kind of funny.

The man is captured and brought into servitude in a castle under siege. The female leader of this group has challenged an outside opponent because of their corrupt ways and now faces the potential annihilation of her people, all while dealing with her uncle and his own political machinations. The masked man takes to protecting a young nearly dead girl and at one point fights off dozens of opponents while carrying her in one arm.

Much more of an action comic, this does fight sequences very well, and the design of the mask is intriguing and even vaguely familiar. I would suggest skipping to the back of the book for the character descriptions and some background information on the time period and geo-political situation. I found this a little confusing just from the information provided in the story. Overall, I’m interested to see where this is going, and was pleased to find Volume 2 now available on NetGalley as well. (4 out of 5)

 

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Batmen and Bastards*

*Bastards is used here in the literal sense as you’ll see from my review of The Illegitimates. Actually, for that matter, Damian was born out of wedlock too unless you think Bruce Wayne’s marriage to Talia Al Gul is actually binding.

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Running a bit late on getting a manga NetGalley post together so maybe next week. Probably one of the only ways I’m going to read Jane Austen though. More on that next week. In the meantime I’m pleased to share my review of a couple of hero titles, all featuring the sons and daughters of well known heroes.

First up…

Damian: Son of Batman (Deluxe Edition) by Andy Kubert & Grant Morrison

91lK2HiBbeL._SL1500_Despite growing up with Batman via the animated series and some of the movies, it’s really only been recently that I’ve taken the trouble to read the comics in any serious way. I’ve quickly learned that not only are some titles better than others, but some require you to do a little homework before even being able to read them. Hence, I’ve developed a set of criteria for a good Batman tale that I’ll use to evaluate this book.

Stands Alone: To me, a good Batman tale doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of the current Bat continuity (which has gone through several iterations as a result of the crisis and The New 52). This book gets about a medium grade on that score. I was vaguely familiar with Damian from Batman: Son of the Demon (which apparently is only half in the continuity since it is an Elseworlds tale) and the first volume of Batman and Robin (new 52 variety). This book stands outside current established continuity (since Damian died sometime last year in the comic though you know how these things go, since there seems to be an event to bring him back this year). It didn’t do a great job of clearing up for me that Dick Grayson (the original Robin and later Nightwing) was Batman at the beginning of this tale. So when Batman is killed and Damian is avenging his death, for a long time I thought we were talking about good old Bruce (who shows up later). My understanding of this tale was greatly helped by reading Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son (though issue #666 seems apart from the rest of the material and only makes sense if you know the Batman and Son context).

Keeps the DC Universe out of it: I’m a bit of a purist. I know Batman lives in the same world as the likes of Superman and Green Arrow, but I don’t think it helps a good Batman tale when they show up (an exception being The Dark Knight Returns). The Long Halloween is a great example of a Batman only tale. Damian stays entirely in Gotham, where he should be.

Violence has a cost: Batman does not kill, but Damian as Robin sure does. It makes a little sense since he was raised by the league of assassins, but his violent tendencies force Bruce to come out of wherever he was hiding (seriously thought he was a ghost for a second) and challenge Damian’s right to wear the Robin or the Batman costume. It takes understanding Batman’s creed to really make Damian a worthy successor, though truthfully in Morrison and Kubert’s portrayal he still seems willing to kill. He just gets a little more upset about it and feels guilty when he has to.

Except no substitutes: Just as Damian is taking on the mantle of the Batman, someone is taking up the purple coat of the Joker. Bet the real Joker’s not gonna be too happy about that.

Summary: Like Morrison’s work, Kubert’s telling seems to leave out some crucial information, and makes some jarring plot leaps at times. But some of the humor, particularly in giving an origin story to Alfred the cat, does help to lighten the tale. Kubert’s work is the better part of this collection. Not a very good collection for people who aren’t more familiar with Damian or Grant Morrison’s Batman work. (3 out of 5).

DC provided me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Illegitimates by Taran Killam and Marc Andreyko

81kn9lt0gAL._SL1500_You might recognize Taran Killam from SNL (or from being married to Cobie Smulders), but apparently he is also quite the James Bond aficionado. So much so that he’s written his own “tribute” comic.

With a title like The Illegitimates I wasn’t expecting very much, but Killam displays a surprisingly good knowledge of Bond pastiches, even in his choice of mothers for his five … er …  successors to the Bond franchise. Well, okay not Bond, but Jack Steele, but you get the point. Agent Steele is killed by his arch enemy Viktor Dannikor in what I have to say is  unfortunately gruesome fashion given the tone of the rest of the book (think fighting on top of a train with a sudden stop from a tunnel and actually seeing the results). Now Olympus (Steele’s MI-5) must replace Steele with his five children out of wedlock, because his skills are genetic apparently.

Given Steele’s jet-setting lifestyle we’ve got a good ethnic variety of progeny, and most fall into particular stereotypes. We have the country hick\marksman, the Mexican Mama’s boy, a Japanese car enthusiast, an African espionage agent, and a computer expert because y’know, the story needs at least one techie. Can this team of misfits live up to their father’s legacy and defeat Dannikor? And who is the mysterious traitor inside their ranks?

Actually, quite enjoyable except for the bits of uncharacteristic violence, and a few unfortunate incest attractiveness jokes, but these are more than made up for with smart nods to the whole scope of Bond films including dams, space stations, and gadgets. (4 out of 5).

Have a good weekend!

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Robots, Rocket Girls, Meteors and Glow-y Eyes

As you might have guessed, it’s time for another NetGalley installment or “all Ben really does any more is read comic books”. Hey, I’ll have you know I also wrote 1000 words toward a new story this week, and 1000s more in a technical manual. So, hah! I honestly think there are some of you out there who will like these books better than I did, so don’t let my picky-ness deter you if something sounds interesting.

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Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

coverThis is miles better than Luna’s other work Girls (which I dropped hard after the first issue). That said, there are some pacing problems, and Luna’s artwork still has a tendency toward sullen, bored looking characters.

Alex is still moping after the loss of his girlfriend. His sexually precocious and apparently loaded Grandma suggests he buy an android to take care of his “needs.” Actually, she’s such a nice Grandma that she buys him one for his birthday.

Don’t leave yet. Alex isn’t as much of a creep as some of Luna’s other characters. He doesn’t know what to do with this gift he doesn’t quite want and yet is intrigued by. The problem is Ada is too agreeable. She does whatever he tells her, doesn’t have an opinion of her own, and can’t really form much of a connection with him. Alex, intrigued by robots with more full intelligence and looking to mod or hack Ada, goes online and easily finds a community willing to make her into a real girl. Will Alex + Ada form a real bond, or will she run away screaming?

Well, you’ll have to wait till the next volume, cause Luna + Vaughn take an entire book to tell maybe two issues of story. There are some laughs with a robot asking for cheesesteaks as fuel, and, well, the sexually precocious grandmother, but it’s a long walk to get there. Luna’s depiction of on-line communities is interesting, if you really like hexagons. In short good, but you’ll need more to know if this is really going anywhere. (3 out of 5)

City: The Mind in the Machine by Eric Garcia

downloadWhat if you built a system that scoured every camera, every piece of data it could find, and tried to detect and prevent crime, re-routing resources where they could best keep your city safe? And what if this system was as dumb as a bag of hammers and couldn’t tell a group of kids playing cops and robbers from the real thing? Answer, the most common of sci-fi tropes, you need the human element.

Ben Fischer helped develop this system, Golden Shield, and conveniently (for the plot) lost his eyes in a train gas incident and now has been fitted with cybernetic eyes that also connect to his brain and to Golden Shield. Pretty soon he’s using expensive tram cars to stop car jackers and getting more play with the ladies, as all those who are cybernetically confident tend to do. But when he actually tries to track down the terrorists who bombed his train, his handlers in Homeland want him shut down, with extreme prejudice.

Look, it’s not bad, and it has a few laughs, but it’s basically any action movie with a few sci-fi trappings. Except for Golden Shield, and a few flying drones, everything is decidedly of this period. The story takes place in San Francisco but very little of the actual city bleeds into the plot. It misses some opportunities to really comment on our loss of privacy beyond being able to tell if your buddy’s popcorn is burning, or creepy amounts of detail for a first date. Good bubblegum read, but nothing to suggest this will be a thoughtful continuing epic. (3 out of 5)

Rocket Girl by Brandon Montclare

coverThis book has no pretensions of being profound, as evidenced by the reproduction of the conversation between the creators on its creation. That said, it is enormous fun. 15 year old New York Teen Police Office DaYoung is sent back to the past to stop the technologically advanced world brought about by Quantum Mechanics. She rockets (heh, get it) back to the year 1986 from an alternate future 2013 in which teens are cops because adults can’t be trusted, and DaYoung suspects Quantum Mechanics of sending its own tech to the past to invent it sooner.

Amy Reeder’s reproductions of 1980s New York and its alternate future are a visual delight, as are the antics of the Rocket Girl. Of course within a few pages she saves someone dangling off the statue of Liberty, and breaks up a robbery by sending fruit flying, all while eluding the cops in increasingly acrobatic, or clever camoflage ways. And I’m a sucker for the commissioner in 2013, a kid (well maybe he’s 20) in an over-sized trenchcoat with a big cigar. He looks hilarious and acts accordingly.

While there are some logical questions to be asked, like why the Quantum Mechanics scientists of the past would help the rocket girl thwart their own future success, or why DaYoung would want to take away a future where she gets to fly around and fight crime (except maybe for an over-developed sense of justice). That said there are twists and turns to surprise you, and a sense that even with the first arc closed, there’s a lot more to come in the past. The comic also does some great side-by-side panels of both timelines, unfolding the stories in parallel as if they are happening at the same time. All-in-all, great fun that’s bound to get even better. (4 out of 5)

Meteor Men by Jeff Parker

coverYou and a bunch of your teenage friends, and really everyone in the town, are sitting on your farmland looking at the meteor shower when something falls out of the sky. Suddenly you are the proud owner of a meteorite, well one that has split apart and has a suspiciously uniform hollow part to it. Between trying to assert your ownership of the rock from your over eager scientist friend, and finding a strange alien being in the woods who speaks to you telepathically and likes barbecue sandwiches, your life has suddenly become pretty hectic.

Turns out there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of these meteors that fell all over the world, and yet somehow this teenager out on the farm is the only one who can really communicate with them. And what happened to your boss at the gas station anyway?

This book is kind of E.T. meets Spider-Man 3 (trust me, you’ll get it when you read it). Of course you’ve got a government that over-reacts to the alien beings and tries to kill them all, only to discover they are basically invulnerable and can fling things really far. Oh and they seem to be really protective of this kid and misinterpret almost any action as a threat.

There are a few surprises, particularly the choices and attitudes and the end, but the ending also seems kind of abrupt given the setup. The artwork for the night sky is pretty good, and they do a pretty good job with the teenage moppet, but the alien design is pretty standard and most of the other characters fall into established roles. You’ve read this story, seen this movie, or watched this TV show before, but this is another competent execution of it. (3 out of 5)

Next week I might change things up and review some NetGalley manga. Till then, what are you reading?

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Things we come back to

My consumption and frankly obsession with media tends to be cyclical. I’m really into something for a couple of weeks, then it dies down for a little while, then often it comes back. I think some of this is encouraged by streaming services like Netflix, where you can simulate the cable TV model by watching a season of a show obsessively for a week or two, then catch it next year. Some interests are more sustained (like Star Trek), but even these wax and wane.

My current cycle seems to be watching things I watched years ago, in part again because of Netflix. And I realized that there’s a taxonomy of how we evaluate things we go back to. On the left hand side are things that on a second viewing we don’t like, and on the right are things we do like. I would further sub-divide likes and don’t likes into two categories:

Likes

  • Pleasant Surprise – It’s as good as I remember it.
  • Nostalgic – I like this, but probably wouldn’t if I was seeing it for the first time now.

Don’t Likes

  • Tastes Change – I may be able to understand why I liked this in the past, but I don’t now.
  • Holy Crap – What the hell was I thinking?

Some examples from my recent viewing (with the exception of Chapelle which was a few years ago):

Red vs Blue – Watched this pretty obsessively through college, one 3 minute episode at a time. The first five “seasons” are on Netflix, and even though I cringe at the distinction of this being the longest running sci-fi series (at 11 seasons and counting), these first seasons are as good as I remember. Sure the language is crude (sometimes imaginatively so), but the pacing and building storyline are hilarious even when I know what’s coming. (Pleasant Surprise)

Chapelle Show – Another college show. Maybe this one was more of its moment than I realized, because watching it again I couldn’t stand it. It was crude, it was gross, and it wasn’t nearly as clever as Key & Peele. I had bought the first season cheap out of memory, and promptly resold it. (Holy Crap)

Batman: The Animated Series – It’s a kid’s show and I am one of those people who contend cartoons were better in my day, based on my limited knowledge of current TV. This show shaped my perception of what Batman should be, and some of them are really quite good to go back to. But the dialogue is definitely a little hokey in spots and it lacks the stakes of more mature Batman tales told in the comics. This one’s somewhere between Nostalgic and Pleasant Surprise.

The Rescuers – What can I say, I love Bob Newhart. And it’s the rare Disney movie that doesn’t involve saving a princess and actually shows a woman (admittedly a mouse) being fun loving and capable, and even having to encourage her more nervous partner into bolder steps. I would love to show these movies to my kids someday. (Pleasant Surprise)

Foamy (Neurotically Yours) – This one’s a little trickier because I already sensed the quality dipping when I was watching this (again back in college). But truthfully as I get older I find less of this funny and just crude and gross, and occasionally sexually creepy. I still love the Matrix one, and the burping one about (when’s the last time I had a f-ing hot dog) but that’s about it. This one is somewhere between Holy Crap and Tastes Change.

I could go on, but I’d love to hear from you. What have you gone back to recently and how have you reacted to it? Where does that show, comic book, video game, book, or movie fall on the taxonomy?

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Unexpected Heroes

It can be a little tricky to find a theme for these NetGalley comic book review posts, but the four titles I’m talking about today all have very different sorts of heroes, from wooden boys, to demon hybrids, to a homeless guy. And the President.

Glory – The Complete Saga by Joe Keatinge

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The character of Glory has been around since the early 90s, with treatments by such comic’s luminaries as Alan Moore. She’s kind of a Wonder Woman, meets Thor, meets demon kind of super heroine. The original series ran 22 regular issues with a couple of specials and an Issue #0 by Moore.

The new Image series collected here is issues 23-34 and is intended as an extension of the original series but with significant retooling. For starters the character of Glory has been beefed up and scarred, in contrast to her 90s vivacious appearance.

Old Glory

741914-glory

New Glory

Image-relaunches-classic-heroine-with-Glory-T0RUL2B-x-large

Glory has gone into hiding after fleeing to Earth, acting as a super-heroine for a while, then getting hurt and putting all of that aside. She’s found by Riley, a young girl who’s grown up on stories of Glory and finally goes around the world looking for her. She’s drawn up into Glory’s cause, protecting Earth from Demon’s and helping Glory to deal with her past (including a parents who are members of the opposing sides of a war and view Glory as a symbol of piece between them). Along the way there are furry funny sidekicks, an honest to God laser cat, and a badass younger sister.

This story ends better than it began but the first few issues are almost painful. The dialog is predictable and the worst comic book cliche, particularly Glory’s reaction to her mother’s apparent death at the hands of her father. The comic is also pretty violent in spots, with jaws being punched off, and Glory’s arm being torn to pieces at one point.

What redeems the book is Riley, who has the gift of seeing potential futures and sees the dangerous path Glory is on and what will happen if she fails to stop her. The humor picks up with a furry monster companion who collects old cameras and loves a good sandwich press. And yes, the laser cats. The ending is actually kind of sweet and ties the series up nicely, the quality of the book steadily improves as you go along (if you can survive those first few chapters). I could’ve done with a little less naked, brawny, scarred Glory, but that’s me. (3 out of 5)

Letter 44 Vol. 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule

letter-44-coverPart political thriller and sci-fi drama, Letter 44 kicks off quickly with its alternate present and never lets go. Stephen Blades enters the oval office shortly after being inaugurated 44th President of the United States to find a letter from his predecessor. Aliens are real and are building something just outside the asteroid belt. The Iraq war was a front for money to be shunted to alternative weapon research, and the construction of a spaceship carrying a crew of nine astronauts on a one way trip to find out what the aliens are doing.

The book splits its action between the first hundred days of President Blades term as he deals with meddling cabinet members, attacks on his chief of staff, and the subtle influence of 43 (not W if you’re wondering but close enough).

The crew meanwhile is dealing with a ship that needs constant maintenance, the loss of one crew member before they even reach their target, the unknown threat of whatever thing the aliens are building out there, and a commander who’s pregnant and doesn’t know which of her crew is the father.

Soule’s writing is taught and the artwork superb. I particularly love the characterizations of each of the crew and the scientists on the ground. A little gratuitous with the sex in space, but what ya gonna do? And the humor keeps everything well-balanced. This one is firing on all cylinders.

I devoured this one and can’t wait for more. I think it is already being developed into a TV series for SyFy and it would be a good fit. Kinda The West Wing meets Alien. (5 out of 5)

Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer by Dusty Higgins

pinocchio

Full disclosure here, this sounded way too weird not to at least give it a look. I am decidedly not a fan of things like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, or Jack the Giant Slayer but I like to keep an open mind about NetGalley stuff, and I’m glad I did.

So… vampires killed Pinocchio’s father Geppetto (after all of Pinocchio’s adventures from the Italian version if the story, don’t think Disney) and now his son is out to kill the vampires who took his life. With stakes made from his nose. Which grows when he tells a lie. Hilarity ensues.

This book succeeds where others like it might have failed by being both faithful to its original subject manner, and humorous in its application of the story, particularly in the lies Pinocchio must tell to make his nose grow. He’ll say something badass like “I’m going to kill you all.” His nose grows. “Well, maybe not, but I might at least wound some of you.” Etc.

The black and white artwork is charming and looked great on my Kindle. I like have comics to read on my eReader device (like manga) as the eInk is easier on the eyes than an LCD. This is actually a pretty long epic tale (and the NetGalley version only has about the first half of it) so I can’t wait to get the rest. (5 out of 5)

The Maxx: Maxximized Vol. 1 by Sam Kieth

The Maxx MaxximizedAnother Image Comics classic, this time reprinted by IDW. The Maxx is a superhero who lives in a cardboard box, wears a big garish purple costume with some mean looking teeth, and long yellow claws.

This first volume introduces us to The Maxx as well as his social worker Julie and his enemies Mr. Gone and the toothy black creatures known as the Isz. The Maxx combats these foes not only in the real world of New York city but in the fantasy but potentially real world of “The Outback” where The Maxx is a jungle protector, and Julie is his queen.

While this is another comic subject to exaggerations of the male and female form, it makes up for it with a truly unique hero, and foes to match. Exactly how much of this is mental delusion, or reality is unclear. And it’s kind of sweet the way Julie cares for the big guy, even when he thinks he’s taking care of her. The series ran only about 35 issues or so, so another manageable story to get yourself into. (4 out of 5)

What have you been reading lately?

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