Tag Archives: Review

Review: Grayson Vol. 1

Grayson Vol. 1: Agents Of Spyral

Writer – Tim Seeley, Artist – Mikel Janin


Dick Grayson was the first Robin, then struck out on his own as Nightwing. Then Nightwing’s identity was revealed and Dick was thought murdered. Staying dead to protect his family, Dick infiltrates a secret spy organization known as Spyral. Spyral’s mission is to gather the Paragon organs which grant the ability to duplicate the powers of the Justice League, and determine their secret identities. He is partnered with Helena Bertinelli, daughter of a notorious Italian crime family, and assumed identity of the heroine huntress (who in reality is the Helena Wayne from Earth 2). Grayson must fight alongside Spyral, while feeding information back to Batman, his only connection to his past life and the only one who knows he is still alive.

This collection contains Issues 1-4, the Secret Origin story and a Futures End tale (this last was not included in my eGalley). The Secret Origins tale does a good job explaining where we are in the New 52 continuity for those of us not up to date on the latest developments of the Forever Evil storyline. However, because it is mostly plot exposition, interspersed with odd sixties psychedelic trappings, this leading part of the book drags a bit.

When we get the ongoing series Issues the pace picks up, as Dick deals with what it means to be a spy and not a hero. It’s obvious that Dick is having a hard time on this mission, enjoying the ability to stretch his legs without endangering his family, but he’s not comfortable with the compromises he has to make to get the mission done.

The third and fourth chapters are probably the best, as the series learns to drop the sixties affectations in favor of playing the story straighter. Issue 3 actually manages to make a character who can only see through the barrels of his guns human and relate-able and 4 is a playful tale, as Dick encounters the girls who are in the finishing school part of Spyral, training to be the next members of Moussad and other spy organizations.

I like the design of Bertinelli’s outfit, which hearkens to her alter-ego yet another person Huntress. Her relationship with Grayson should be interesting in future issues. However, the full page spread on issue 3 involving the correct usage of “Wing-night’s” name was unnecessary. There’s no reason to try to make this book Saga, and you can’t be naughty enough to get even close anyway. The alternate covers at the back (particularly the Lego cover) were a treat.

Overall, an interesting corner of the DCU. Titles like this and Gotham Academy give us a look at super-heroes from a more human scale level. Just with twisty faces.

* I received a free ARC from DC and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

(3.75 Stars | Dinged it 0.25 stars for use of “You don’t know Dick” and “Dick!” said in ecstasy in Issue 3.)


Filed under Book Reviews, Books + Publishing

Review: Dead Boy Detectives Vol. 2 – Ghost Snow

Dead Boy Detectives Vol. 2: Ghost Snow

Writer – Toby Litt, Artist – Mark Buckingham


Edwin and Charles might be dead, but that doesn’t stop them from being great detectives. Branching out from Sandman Volume 4, the Dead Boy Detectives solve the mysteries of their past and the supernatural netherworld of the Netherlands.

In Volume 2, Crystal Palace convinces Charles to seek out his half-sister Clementine, a monk living in a windmill with her scientifically oriented daughter Miranda. Charles learns that his father may have murdered his mother, a ballerina who fell to her death from the stage lights above the theater where she danced. As they pursue the truth they also learn of the danger to their friend Rosa, who is trapped in a coma dying but also trapped in a world between life and death, tormented by a creature named Nye and the “poppets” he creates out of the elements of the world. Charles must journey back to the boarding school where he was killed to save Rosa and to finally uncover the mystery behind his parents.

Though I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on with Rosa, Hana and the Netherlands (something presumably explained in Volume 1), I found Charles’ story touching. There’s a good deal of humor throughout, from Miranda who is skeptical of the boy’s existence, to the two ghost cats, and also in Buckingham’s fanciful but relate-able illustration. The budding romance between Charles and Crystal is charming and sympathetic.

I particularly liked the ties to the Sandman universe, with Edwin being terrified when someone dies nearby for fear the personification of Death will find him and force him to pass on. The side-tale involving ghosts connecting to an MMORPG and Edwin and Charles’ old schoolmaster being pulled in from a summoning is pretty funny as well, though the lines are less detailed than in the Ghost Snow storyline.

I definitely want to pick up volume 1 after reading this, and hope for more adventures with these two.

(4 stars | A little confusing if this is your jumping on point, but still a compelling family-driven story)

* I received a free ARC from NetGalley in return for my honest review

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Books + Publishing

System Shock 2 (13 Years Not Too Late)

It may seem strange to review a game from 13 years ago, but just because it isn’t the latest and greatest doesn’t mean you should ignore an old game. These underrated gems still offer unique gameplay, and System Shock 2 shaped FPSs and RPGs for years to come.

Level Design: I’ve played a number of sci-fi shooters before, but none with such a clearly laid out ship design. Instead of being shepherded down a single path, each deck is arranged functionally, with many different paths and countless nooks and crannies. This is one thing I love about game engines from this period, big open spaces with admittedly less detail but greater scope and less load screens. Authenticity of experience is more important than intricate detail in my view. And the environment changes around you, it really is a living ship (at least in one sense of the word). There’s a nice nod to the first game in the last level which shows the love the game designers had for this material.


Enemies: There’s a nice mix of biological and technological opponents as well as things in between. The game has been criticized for the hokeyness of some enemies, including psi-monkeys and cyborg ninjas, but I don’t think this takes away from gameplay. Rather I think it adds a little humor to what is otherwise a serious story. Difficulty rises nicely with ability, but even grunts are not routine (those monkeys can be hard to hit)!

Story: This is by far one if the most unique features of the game. Rather than telling the story in cutscenes, bits and pieces are revealed through log entries, commuications with unseen helpers, scripted events and ghostly encounters. The logs especially add to the feeling of a living ship, portraying more than a dozen perspectives on the grizzly events. The story itself is pretty straightforward, a ship is in deep space when they are hailed by a nearby planet. Those that land bring back a hostile alien lifeform which infects the crew, turning some into zombie hybrids and others into far worse. But something else came onboard, a hostile AI with delusions of Godhood. She created the aliens and she wants you to destroy her rebellious children.

SHODAN: Easily one of the best villains of all time, with a creepy distorted voice, and no desire to hide her disgust for a worthless bag of meat such as you. And yet she needs you, at least for now. Her reveal in the middle of the game is a great twist and makes you see the game you’ve been playing in a whole new light. She’s not just evil, but lacks moral constraints of any kind, and has a great and terrible vision for humanity.


Content: Shock is gory at times but not to the degree of one of its contemporaries, Half Life. It’s more scary than gross, but the second to last level is disturbing, you enter “the belly of the beast” literally. Fortunately this section is short, though I wish they had called doors something besides sphincters.

RPG:A good blend of skills and weapons. It emphascizes hackers and psi-ops but that’s better than plain soldiers anyway.  Weapons degrade when used but I think maintenance is a better skill to emphasize than repair. Psi abilities are the most stable and have more ammo. You can change your strategy without restarting the game, which is more flexible than the upgrades in Deus Ex.

Overall a game you should definitely get your hands on, even at closer to a premium price. If you do get a copy you can use my guide to getting it up and running and enhanced. This is one I’ll probably be replaying in the near future (okay already am).

Leave a comment

Filed under Trube On Tech

5% of Five (#1) – 5 Free “Humor” Kindle Books

Damn you HundredZeros!

Thanks to you and sites like ManyBooks and the Baen Free Library, I now have more books than I know what to do with on my Kindle. I was already at the point where I didn’t have time to read all my print books, and you’ve gone and made it worse. There’s only one thing to do…

Make more snap decisions.

Introducing 5% of Five!!!!

5% of Five is the new irregular feature here at BenTrubeWriter, featuring reviews of the first 5% of five free books. Hopefully these posts will be helpful in telling you what’s worth your time (and lack of money), and what you’d be better off avoiding.

Our Rating Scale!!!!

5 – I really enjoyed this. I would (and may have already) spent money to buy other books by this author.

4 – I’m intrigued, I will have to finish this at some point.

3 – Some good parts, overall so-so.

2 – I’m glad this was free. It was pretty bad.


Today’s Books (Humor)

Kids Say The Cutest Things When They're DrunkKids Say The Cutest Things When They’re Drunk – The best part of this is the title. I was kind of expecting some bizarre narratives of weird things kids had done, but the book starts with a test on whether you’re ready to be a parent. Obvious warning signs that you’re not ready, you don’t want to clean diapers, lose all your free time (and money), and are a pedophile. If you want to read a funny book on parenting, try Mother On Fire, by Sandra Tsing Loh (Not free, but far more worth your time). Rating 1.

Silly SignsSilly Signs – I read 100% of this, in about 5 minutes. Mostly pun based humor. One or two laughs, but generally pretty lowbrow. The book is presented in cartoon format without a lot of variation. It might be worth your zero dollars, but I guarantee an instant archival after one reading. Also there seemed to be some formatting glitches (blank pages) on my Kindle. Rating 2.

Funny Jokes For AdultsFunny Jokes For Adults – By Adult they mean clean but “intelligent” humor. Probably at the level of “Humor in Uniform” or other such columns in Reader’s Digest. Nothing that made me laugh out loud, but maybe a few jokes that I’d retell with a little tweaking. Formatting is the biggest problem with this. The original document must have used very small fonts, since I had to turn my text most of the way up to make it readable. Rating 3.

Obama SutraObama Sutra – Another book where the best part is the title. I knew this would probably be pretty silly, but I was actually looking for some decent Obama based humor here. By the third page or so they were already making a Clinton joke, and most of the Obama jokes definitely came from one side of the political aisle. I bet in the right hands a more “fair and balanced” and far funnier book could be crafted with this title, but not this one. Rating 1.

The Book Of Biff #1The Book Of Biff #1 Target Practice – This book filled a need I didn’t even know I had, single panel comics for the Kindle. Biff is a bald man with some serious eyebrows and mustache who gets himself into all sorts of weird situations. Is he human, an alien, or a toaster? The Book Of Biff is an online comic by Chris Hallbeck that’s been going on and off for more than a decade. To date there are 10 collections of 100+ comics a piece, most $2.99 but this one is free! I’m not sure if I’ll buy the rest at $2.99, but I did pick up Volume 5 which is discounted at $0.99. Rating 5.

That’s it, our 5% of Five. What did you think?


Filed under Books + Publishing, Round-Ups