Comic Triple-Shot: Green Lantern, Ultimate Comics X-Men, Batman and Robin

Green Lantern Vol. 1
Green Lantern Vol. 1

Of all the New 52 titles so far Green Lantern is one that remains relatively unchanged and simultaneously majorly overhauled. After spending considerable time returning Hal Jordan to his rightful place during Rebirth, DC tossed him right back out the door again with the New 52 reboot. Sinestro, with all his crimes, is back in as GL (through Gardner, Raynor, and Stewart still bear rings as well) while Hal has been thrown back to Earth sans ring. It is quite the change and the Hal of New 52 is kind of an ass despite his experience (not quite the man-child glimpsed in the New 52 JLA reboot) and a far cry from the somewhat more mature Hal of the original continuity. All these changes might be somewhat more tolerable except that they also seemed to have kept much of the original GL continuity in tact. There are still multiple corps of different colors, Kyle still bore all of the GL power at one point, and Sinestro was still the leader of the Yellow ringbearers. As a result GL sort of feels like a half a reboot and the changes that have been made just sort of feel like they were made for changes’ sake. To make matters somewhat more frustrating we’re still hammering on the “Guardians are emotionless bastards” angle that has seemingly been a staple for the longest time ever. I’m definitely glad I waited for the trade and I don’t think GL will be making it back into the monthly rotation. Despite solid writing from GL veteran Geoff Johns and fantastic art by GL veteran Doug Mahnke I found Volume 1 of Green Lantern to be a major disappointment.

Meanwhile the reboot of Ultimate Comics X-Menwas a bit more up my alley which is strange because this series is relying quite heavily on the “world that hates and fears them” angle that X-titles have been using since the sixties. Nick Spencer (whose work on Morning Glories is awesome) has taken a neat twist on the nature of mutants, that the U.S. Government created the X-Gene, and totally run with it. Spencer follows the

Ultimate Comics X-Men Vol. 1
Ultimate Comics X-Men Vol. 1

revelation and its repercussions on the lives of mutants throughout the book and it really does a wonderful on exploring the nature of identity and perception. Paco Medina’s art definitely works well here and his huge splash pages detailing the situations mutants now find themselves in are particularly fantastic in capturing the tone of the story. Ultimate Comics X-Men also tosses Johnny Storm into the mix who, despite lacking an X-gene, constantly refers to himself as a mutant (much to the annoyance of many characters). The Johnny Storm/Bobby Drake pairing is a natural one and given Reed Richards’ history in the Ultimate ‘verse it’s nice to see the Human Torch getting some play elsewhere. I’m already an avowed Nick Spencer fan so I’ll definitely be on board with while he as the helm.

One thing the New 52 definitely got right were the Batman titles. I’ve already professed my love for Scott Snyder’s Batman and the same definitely goes for Peter J. Tomasi’s’ Batman and Robin. I’ve always been a fan of Tim Drake as Robin but the more I read of Damien as Robin the more I come to enjoy Bruce Wayne’s biological son. Brash, arrogant, and yet strangely naive the League of Assassins trained Damien Wayne is one of most interesting additions to the Bat universe in years. As the title suggests Batman and Robin is as much a book about the relationship between the two characters and in this instance father and son. I’m definitely enjoying how each of the Batman titles (or at least the two I’ve read) manage to take the same character and shift the tone just ever so slightly to produce a book the feels distinctly different. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Batman and Robin Vol. 1
Batman and Robin Vol. 1

were a great duo on Green Lantern Corps and they continue that trend here. Gleason has a real talent for kinetic action and he brings a degree of physicality to the art really makes the action scenes pop. Gleason is aided by some vibrant color work, a bit atypical for modern Batman title, subtly balanced by the inks of Mick Gray. With Batman and Robin DC has nailed yet another Bat-reboot and I look forward to seeing how this title and the haughty Robin, Damien Wayne evolves.

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Review: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer
Jim C. Hines
DAW, 2012

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines is a book written specifically for fans of science fiction and fantasy. It is a 285 page love letter to speculative fiction fandom. It is a novel about the magic of books; magic both literal and figurative. It is also a fun, action packed novel, that serves up a healthy dose of entertainment alongside a heavy vein of a nostalgia. This also marks the first Hines novel that I’ve read, despite being quite aware of him for sometime now. He is fairly active on his blog and his outspoken nature about the portrayal of women in fantasy (both in word and in photo, check out his Striking a Pose photo project) is admirable. Given the number of times that I’ve come across is pressence on the internet I feel a little ashamed that I haven’t read any of his fiction until now.

Libriomancer is a difficult book to ignore. As I said above it is the type of novel that seems explicitely crafted for me (a feeling other fantasy fans will likely have when they pick it up). The book introduces reader to Isaac Vainio, our titular Libriomancer, a magician who can reach into books and draw out objects. Fallen from grace in the eyes of his superious he has since been relegated to cataloging new fiction in the Libriomancer’s database. A nice sedate job far from the action that saw Isaac flirt very close to disaster. Of course trouble, in the form of two vampires (creatures who are actually born from fiction, made real by their collective pressence throughout numerous books), comes looking for Isaac sending him on a quest to find the missing founder of the Libriomancers Johannes Gutenberg. Yes, that Gutenberg.

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Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (read by Susan Duerden)
Hacette Audio, 2012

Daniel O’Malley’s debut novel The Rook is another one of those titles that goes down as something I wanted to really like but ended up disappointing me on some levels. It is also one of those audiobooks that whose narrator I wasn’t particularly fond of and who I have no doubt influenced my opinion of the novel on a whole. There are aspects of The Rook I definitely enjoyed and its premise is something I definitely found intriguing but as a novel I didn’t feel it came together quite as nicely as it aught to.

The Rook is a supernatural action thriller mystery adventure. If that sounds like an improbable mashup you are asbolutely correct but O’Malley does a valiant effort at making it all stick together. However, his tendancy to richochet back and forth between various themes, tones, and plots often leaves the novel a scattered and somewhat inconsistant feel. The novel centers around Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced, incorrectly, like Tiffany but with an M instead of a T) who wakes up in the rain surrounded by dead men in rubber gloves and no memory of who she is. A mysterious letter in her pocket, apparently written by her pre-amnesiac self, sets her on a journey fraught with mystery danger and the startling revelation of the Britain’s secret history. I don’t want to explain too much more than that, mainly because the slow unveiling of who Myfanwy is and just what the organisation she belongs to does is one of the best things about the novel. I will say that this super-secret government organisation is staffed my many people who have unique and often strange gifts.

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Review: Locke and Key, Vol. 5: Clockwork

Locke and Key, Vol 5: Clockworks
Locke and Key, Vol 5: Clockworks

Locke and Key, Vol 5: Clockworks
Joe Hill (writer) and Gabriel Rodriguez (art)
IDW, 2012

Stop. No seriously. Stop. Have you been reading Locke and Key? If you’ve answered no you have two options. Option 1: Start reading Locke and Key. Seriously, this is an awesome comic that is so consistent in its greatness that it boggles the mind. Option 2: Leave. Yes, get out. Come back later if you want but know that I will pity you for having not read any Locke and Key. Obviously, I’d prefer you take Option 1. It’d really be better for both of us, but if you aren’t a person who likes horror, or the supernatural, or are just a general curmudgeon who enjoys being contrary you can probably stop reading and go do something else. I should also point out that if you haven’t read any Locke and Key that this review will most definitely contain spoilers for the earlier volumes. You’ve been warned.

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Review: Death Watch by Ari Berk

Death Watch by Ari Berk
Death Watch by Ari Berk

Death Watch (The Undertaken Trilogy Book 1)
Ari Berk
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011

It feels to me that today’s YA market is supersaturated by a preponderance of speculative novels about werewolves, vampires, and faeries. Maybe that’s just my perception of the YA world post-Twilight, but it does mean that when I see a YA novel with supernatural elements that doesn’t include any of the aforementioned creatures I get rather excited. Originality is always something to be praised and the minute I set my eyes on the somber and minimalist cover of Ari Berk’s Death Watch I knew that I was in for something wholly different.

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Review: The Shadow Raiders by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes

Shadow Raiders by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
Shadow Raiders by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes

The Shadow Radiers (The Dragon Brigade #1)
Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
DAW, 2012 (Tantor Audio, 2012)

Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes’ Shadow Raiders, the first book in the new Dragon Brigadeseries, is a book that I am simultaneously excited about and which I’m a little disappointed in. I first came across Shadow Raiders when I discovered an introductory adventure to an RPG based in the same world and uses the Cortex system (designed by the folks at Margaret Weis Productions and first used in the Firefly RPG). While I’ve yet to try a Cortex game the world it was set in full of floating island countries, airships, swashbuckling, intrigue, and adventure was exciting enough that I decided to give the novel a shot.

The novel follows the adventures of a group heroes for hire calling themselves The Cadre of the Lost lead by Stephano de Guichen, the former leader of the Dragon Brigade (the unit has since been retired) The Cadre is sort of a Firefly-like band of misfits including the mercenary Dag, the pilot Miri, the simple and traumatized Gythe, and the rakish Rodrigo. Early in the novel the Cadre is hired by Stephano’s estranged mother, the Countess de Marjolaine, to track down a missing magical crafter who may be in possession of startling magical discovery. Simultaneously Father Jacob Northrop, a member of the Church’s Arcanun (the arm of the church tasked with dealing with magic) is hot on the trail of an infamous mage known as The Warlock. Norhrop, along with his bodyguard Sir Ander Martel and scribe Brother Barnaby are sent to investigate a massacre at an abbey. While these seemingly disparate plot threads at first appear unrelated it should be a surprise that the Cadre and Father Jacob soon cross paths and that both their missions are far more important than either realize.

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Review: Advent by James Treadwell

Advent by James Treadwell
Advent by James Treadwell

Advent
James Treadwell
Atria, 2012

James Treadwell’s Advent was a book that had me seriously excited. I mean it’s a modern day retelling of Faust with a touch of classical fantasy “boy hero” tossed in for good measure so it seemed like a sure bet to be a fascinating blend of something new and something old. While Advent definitely succeeds on some levels by and large I felt it to be a bit too muddled to really take off. What feels like might be two fascinating and moving stories on their own do not quite mesh together into a cohesive and engaging whole.

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