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January 2019

DC Bombshells (Vol. 4): Queens

I present… my shame. It’s been way too long since I last talked about Bombshells on this blog… please take this two-in-one comic and haul update as penance for my failure X,D

Deep in the jungles of Zambesi, Africa, Batwoman, Catwoman, and The Question are led by Vixen and her Hawkgirl to a dig site. What they’ve unearthed could change the tide of the war – for good or evil, depending on the hands the objects fall into. Strange mechanical beasts rise from the earth at the site: gods from an old forgotten civilization. The Bombshells, however, are not alone in their discovery. Barbara Ann Minerva, the Cheetah, is tracking these old gods as well, for her mistress Baroness Paula Van Gunther, and for the Reich. Old and forgotten these gods may be, but they will do anything to be remembered and worshipped once more. Who are the Bombshells, mere humans, to stand up to gods?

It’s probably been too long since I’ve read the last one, but this one moved into much more pulp territory than I remember – in a good way. With the introduction of Hawkgirl and Renee Montoya as The Question, plus grappling with Nazis over archaeological sites… this volume screams Indiana Jones, much as Athena Voltaire does. Indy could only hope to be so badass and good-looking as Athena and our DC heroines 😉

(There’s even an Indiana Jones joke in the book!)

That said, there were some odd skips in the writing in this volume. I found myself having to backtrack frequently to make sense of what I was reading. The art and layouts, while dynamic as ever, were a bit too overdone here, and it was hard to follow along in some passages. I think the story is also getting a bit too unwieldy, with trying to cram so much into one run. Overall a solid installment, and looking forward to the next, but wondering how it’ll all tie together in the end.

As promised, here is my latest haul! I bought Lois Lane back in November, just over a year after Killer Frost (linked above). I must admit getting engaged and trying to save for my wedding really pumped my collector’s brakes. There are some figurines that are now sold out online, and will be difficult to find later. The thrill of the hunt is part of the fun, though!

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“Hear ye, hear ye!”

(That is what I tell myself to console myself for not buying Supergirl instead of Lois. Though she is adorable, I really wanted Supergirl more. Brb beating myself up again)

This haul is a big one. I got promoted at my university job, and my fiancé and I went a little nuts. I wasn’t missing out on Harley Quinn again, so I got the Deluxe Edition and all the magnets, and he got Batman/Catwoman and shipped it to me. Teamwork makes the dreamwork =P

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I do love me some magnets and car decals!

I continue to be amazed by the quality of these figurines. I admit I regret buying Lois over Supergirl, but Lois is probably the sturdiest figure of the bunch. Only her front foot is pegged into the base, but her dynamic pose is balanced perfectly so she has an even weight distribution. I wouldn’t worry at all about putting her on a higher shelf.

I’m not even a Harley Quinn fan, and am seriously annoyed at the overabundance of all the Bombshells Harley stuff I have to buy, but the deluxe figure is gorgeous. The original sculpt is honestly kind of boring, and not really Harley at all. This sculpt is much more befitting of Harley’s personality. I’m only disappointed they didn’t set the cloud on top of the regular steel base – when I eventually display all of these together, this one will look out of place.

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Deluxe Harley, Gotham City bound.

But Batman and Catwoman. Let me give you a little bit of background. I hate this ship. I want off it every time it comes up. I understand they have comic history, but no. Just no. The only woman Batman belongs with is Wonder Woman. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when we were finally getting Bombshells Batman! … Only to see he was with Catwoman. I heaved a HUGE, WORLD-WEARY SIGH and resigned myself to a completionist buy.

But guys. I opened the box, and gasped in total awe. IT IS STUNNING. I know I say this every time, but I think this is my favorite figurine yet. Getting them out of the box and into the base was a little nerve-wracking (they are in one big piece, and the ends of Batman’s cape can easily snap off), but it was SO WORTH IT. The colors of each hero’s costumes compliment the other’s without being overtly “couple-y”. Both Batman’s feet are pegged into the base, to give Catwoman a sturdy leg up as she lifts the Batmobile’s keys from his belt. Is she kissing him to distract him from her stealing it, or thanking him for letting her borrow it? We can only guess 😉

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Bat/Cat – what started out as a completionist buy totally floored me.

I’m now thinking Funko Pop Bombshells as centerpieces for my wedding… what do you guys think? ;D

– Kathleen

Bennett, Marguerite, Laura Braga, Mirka Adolfo, and Marguerite Sauvage. DC Bombshells (Vol. 4): Queens. 2017.

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Harrow County: Countless Haints

Harrow County is an eerie southern gothic fairy tale, and after recently reading Bone Parish and now this, Cullen Bunn is becoming a favorite author of mine.

The opening pages begin with the hanging of suspected witch Hester Beck. As she is hanging from a tree while lit on fire, she swears revenge and tells the surrounding crowd that she will be back.  This old burnt hanging tree is on the edge of the property of teen Emmy and her widowed father. Emmy is about to turn eighteen and is helping her father with a calf’s birth, when a traveling salesman and his granddaughter Bernice arrive on the farm. The two men speak privately about their worries that Emmy could be a reincarnated Hester, and that her birthday will reveal a hidden evil. Later when Emmy is exploring the nearby woods, she discovers her first haint, a skinless boy that speaks to her. It is his later warnings that alert Emmy that danger is near, and her seemingly kind father doesn’t even trust her. A showdown occurs, and secret alliances are revealed. Who can Emmy trust? Her father? Bernice? The skinned boy? Can she even trust herself?

The story has a lot of potential, as Emmy is shown as a young woman who is trying desperately to understand the mysteries of her possible origin and the decades long secrets that the townspeople have. This is a much better adaptation of that sort of story than the disappointing Wytches. The title hints that countless more ghostly haints will be discovered, and how Emmy reacts and utilizes them will certainly be intriguing.

Illustrated by Tyler Crook, he creates an atmospheric southern locale with believable and varied townspeople. His dark woods scenes are my favorite, with his spooky corners that could harbor sinister haints. He opened each new chapter with a two page spread that somehow incorporated the words Harrow County into the background, and I enjoyed looking for how he would do it each time. His artwork is reminiscent of Emily Carroll’s work in Through the Woods, and the comparison holds up because both Carroll and Crook draw their characters young looking with an apple cheeked motif. In this case, Emmy was drawn way too young looking. At eighteen years old, she should have been drawn as a young woman and not so child-like, but other than that complaint, the artwork is a perfect match for the story.

As this was the first of an eight book series, I aim to visit Harrow County more in the future and see what awaits Emmy!

-Nancy

Check out my other Harrow County reviews: Volumes Two-Four, Volumes Five-Six & Volumes Seven-Eight

Bunn, Cullen & Tyler Crook. Harrow County: Countless Haints. 2015.

I Heart Characters: A Character Overrun with Personality 

I ♥ Characters is a weekly meme hosted by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer to showcase blogger love for characters. Each week she supplies a topic and we supply the character from whatever media we love and link up so others can blog hop and share the character love. ♡

This weeks topic is:  A Character Overrun with Personality (This character totally bowls you over due to their powerful / expressive / in your face personality. Do you enjoy them or are they annoyance incarnate?!)

I am choosing Ensign Sylvia Tilly of Star Trek Discovery as my example of a character that has personality to spare. Typically Star Trek ships are shown to have crew members that are professional to the extreme. Set in the future, it’s as if crew members have evolved, and that they are never awkward or make mistakes. While it’s nice to think that people will develop, let’s be realistic. Discovery seems to be pushing boundaries on what fans consider Star Trek, and this is one example, as this series seems to be letting us see crew members as more realistic. As such, Tilly has become a breakout star in the cast, for many people relate to her.

Tilly is a new engineering crew member of Discovery and is very eager to please. She yearns for more, and gets accepted into the command track, as she has ambitions to captain some day. When Michael Burhham, a disgraced crew member from another ship is assigned to her as a roommate, Tilly teaches her empathy and helps Michael integrate better into this new ship’s crew. But despite her awkwardness, Tilly is very smart and a good soldier.

A reason why I connect so much with Tilly, is that she reminds me of myself. She is sweet, and can often be overlooked or not taken seriously because of her kindness. She is curvy and has wild curly hair plus a parent that she never could please. But she is also extremely competent and has a steely resolve that takes some people by surprise due to her being underestimated.

When the show was on hiatus between seasons CBS created four shorts to tide over viewers, and Tilly headlined the first mini-episode. Her big personality has made her a fan favorite, and Discovery would not be the same without her!

-Nancy

Aquaman

***Contains spoilers for Justice League and Aquaman***

A lonely lighthouse owner in Maine named Thomas Curry is strapping everything down before a storm, before something down on the coast catches his eye. A woman has washed up practically at his front door. He takes her in and nurses her back to health. She reveals herself as Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis, the nation under the sea. She was attacked while escaping Atlantis, and the arranged marriage that awaited her there. Eventually, Thomas and Atlanna fall in love, and they have a son they name Arthur.

Eventually, the Atlanteans come for her.

Atlanna fights them off, but realizes this is just the first wave of the army that is sure to come after her. She decides to go back to Atlantis and give herself up, in order to protect Thomas and baby Arthur. She sends the royal vizier, Nudius Vulko, to help raise Arthur and train him in the Atlantean ways. As the boy grows, so too do his questions about his mother. Eventually, Vulko reveals that Atlanna was sacrificed to the Trench for treason – falling in love with a surface dweller and having a half-breed son. Arthur, sixteen by that point, decides he wants nothing more to do with Atlantis or his mother’s heritage.

In the present day, a year after the Justice League defeats Steppenwolf, Arthur continues to use his Atlantean powers for good. He stops a pirate attack on a Russian Naval submarine, though he causes the death of the leader. His son, David Kane, vows revenge against him. An Atlantean named Mera comes looking for Arthur, pleading for him to return, dethrone his villainous half-brother, Orm, and reclaim his mother’s throne. Orm is marshaling all the forces under the sea to attack the surface world, and must be stopped. To do that, he must find and retrieve the mythical trident of Atlan, the first king of Atlantis. But it’s just a fairy tale, impossible to be true… isn’t it?

Will Arthur claim his heritage? Can he gain the trust of the Atlanteans, who view him as little more than a half-breed? Can Orm even be stopped?

DC is getting steadily better with their movies… hopefully, they are learning their lesson! I let this one sit for a few days before starting to write so I would be able to think about it more critically.

Overall, the tone was much better than past DC movies. Aquaman has very little of the doom-and-gloom of past DCEU installments. It struck a good balance between serious and goofy. There are moments of suspense, urgency, tragedy, and passion – but they are lightened by cheesy one-liners and Jason Momoa’s roguish smile. The bright color palette did wonders as well, especially in some underwater sequences.

Speaking of Jason Momoa… he is an excellent Aquaman. It’s true the man is VERY easy on the eyes, and it’s easy to just go in and just… stare… (not that I did that) but hear me out!

Aquaman has a history as the joke hero of the DC Universe. Though the character debuted in 1941, his appearance in the 1960’s animated Super Friends show did him no favors. He was portrayed as a lovable goofball with the weakest powers of the bunch. He became infamous for these reasons, leading DC to try rewriting the character multiple times to change public perception for the better. Thus, his arcs are convoluted… which also didn’t help much. Today, Aquaman is still a bit of a joke.

Jason Momoa has a presence about him. He’s a physically imposing dude with an intense stare. He’s best known, of course, for his role in Game of Thrones as Khal Drogo, the ruthless Dothraki warlord to whom Danerys Targaryen is married off to by her brother, Viserys. The Dothraki are a war-loving and hard people, and Momoa pulled off that stoic role perfectly. Yet, if you watch his interviews and behind the scenes snippets – he’s totally different! He’s funny, humble, charming, he drinks beer and throws axes. He’s someone you’d like to sit back and shoot the breeze with.

I think that by casting Momoa, DC wanted to accomplish two things. First, they probably wanted to yet again try to change the public’s perception of Aquaman’s character for the better. To do this, they needed someone with the ability to look very serious, imposing, almost intimidating. Second, they knew from reviews of past movies that they needed to get away from their dark tone. They needed someone who, at the same time, could be light and charming, and be able to hold that balance between hulking and friendly well.

Boom. Enter Jason Momoa, our new Aquaman.

Casting for other characters was also excellent. Amber Heard portrayed Mera in the character’s cinematic debut. In the comics, Mera is often portrayed as Aquaman’s equal in powers, sometimes even more powerful. I appreciated that history placed in some scenes, where she saves Aquaman instead of the other way around! Willem Defoe as Vulko, Arthur’s mentor, was a surprise, but he pulled it off well. Patrick Wilson as Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and the self-stylized Ocean Master, had some of the best costuming in the movie. (Also, blond, he looks just like a younger Eminem, and it really threw me) His Ocean Master costume looked exactly like the comics.

Speaking of comics, you know who wrote for this movie? Our boy Geoff Johns. This is HUGE. So far, only one other comic book author has written for the DCEU movies, and that was Joss Whedon’s late rewrites for Justice League. Johns has written the New 52 Aquaman, part of the Blackest Night arc, mid-2000’s Green Lantern, and many more comic books, as well as the CW DC shows. The BIGGEST and MOST CONSISTENT nitpick I’ve had with the DCEU movies so far has been the shoddy writing and characterization. I was overjoyed when I saw Johns’ name in the credits and knew instantly that THAT is what made the difference in Aquaman. They got an ACTUAL COMIC BOOK AUTHOR to write the story, for the first time in the entire DCEU.

In short: THANK ALL THE POWERS THAT BE!!!

That said, the movie was far from perfect, and there were inconsistencies that are nagging at me. I thought it was mentioned pretty early on that only half-human, half-Atlantean hybrids could breathe air as well as water – yet, multiple full-blooded Atlanteans spent LOTS of time out of the water, doing just fine. The only instance where a full-blooded Atlantean struggled to breathe oxygen was during the Ring of Fire sequence, where Mera interferes and manipulates Orm into an air tornado.

(Also, wouldn’t Orm have won by default because Mera interfered with the trial? Those are some unresolved politics that are REALLY bothering me X,D )

The color palette in this movie was much brighter than in past DC movies, but in one respect they took it too far. Mera was too oversaturated for my tastes. I feel they wanted to make her pop and draw the eye, and make her bright on land to make her look otherworldly, and perhaps out of her element – but they took it way too far. Her neon red hair was glaring and distracting at times, especially during bright lit sequences. With her equally bright green costume, she forcibly reminded me of Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid… which was also highly distracting for me. It was almost as if they were trying so hard to get the audience to take Aquaman seriously that they threw poor Mera under the bus.

The movie was much too long for a standalone title only loosely related to the rest of the DCU. The thing that could have been cut was Black Manta. Yayha Abdul-Mateen II did a great job portraying the revenge-fueled villain – but his plotline really bogged it down. It was bare bones, for sure, but it added 30 minutes to what could easily have been only a 2-hour movie. Black Manta is Aquaman’s arch-nemesis, and I understand why they wanted to include him – imagine having the first Batman movie without the Joker. You can’t, right?

However, this movie was about Arthur’s struggle with finding his place and claiming his heritage in the sea after a lifetime on land. Orm was more than enough villain for this movie, not only as the big bad hellbent on world domination, but as Arthur’s foil: his half-brother, born in the sea, intent on claiming the surface world, hating it for taking his mother away. Black Manta’s sequence could have easily been cut down to the opening scene, where Aquaman foils the pirate attempt, and a post-credit scene with him building the signature helmet. That would have allowed for the unnecessary explanation of the connection between him and Atlantis that was in this movie to be moved to the next one, in flashbacks or as the opening sequence.

Also… for a movie with a budget as big as this one’s was (at least $160 million)… the CGI was, at times, abysmal. We’re talking early 2000’s, low budget, TV show Smallville pilot abysmal. Overall, it was decent, but there were a few sequences that were truly awful. Consistently, the movement of the character’s hair underwater bothered me. It looked highly unnatural and was also distracting for me.

Aquaman was finally a step in the right direction for the DCEU. The writing by, thank all the powers that be, actual real-life comic book author Geoff Johns, truly sets this movie apart from all others in the DCEU. The casting of all characters was, as always, spot-on, but this time the actors actually had the writing to back them up, save for a few inconsistencies and a missed trip to the cutting room for an over-long plot. Gone is the grimdark of past DCEU movies: Aquaman ably jumps between serious and fun. You can go for Jason’s irresistible charm – but you’ll stay for the overall good time 😉

– Kathleen

Wan, James. Aquaman. 2018.

Star Trek: Discovery -Short Treks

Star Trek Discovery tried an innovative approach in keeping it’s audience’s attention and building interest- it put out four shorts (each approximately 15 minutes long), one each month starting in October. They were non-linear, with three of them showcasing fan favorites.

Runaway

Ensign Sylvia Tilly was featured in the first episode, with a short that featured Tilly befriending a stowaway alien.

Tilly, in all her awkward glory, has become a favorite of the Discovery crew for many viewers (including me!). In this short, she accidentally meets a new species of alien that can turn invisible. When the two encounter one another in the mess hall, chaos erupts, but when other crew members arrive for a meal, the shambles can be attributed to Tilly being known for unintentionally being a magnet for mayhem. I had to have a huge suspension of disbelief that Tilly never reported this alien, even for the somewhat valid reasons for her being there, and got away with transporting her back to her home world. Wouldn’t there be logs of those kind of transmissions? But I digress. The friendship between the two and the character development you see in Tilly make up for these issues, and it was a sweet slice-of-life short.

 

Calypso

This short proved to be the most atypical as it is set 1000 years in the future and is set on the empty USS Discovery, and the title name refers to a story in Greek mythology.

An unnamed human soldier, who later goes by Craft,  is found drifting in an alien shuttlecraft and inadvertently comes near the USS Discovery.  A tractor beam brings him inside the ship and he awakens in sick bay. Wary, he tries to escape, but he is calmed when the female speaking through the intercom is friendly and non-threatening. We find out the ship had been abandoned 1000 years prior by the crew, and the AI has evolved in that time and calls herself Zora. Craft shares that he was escaping a battle and wants to be reunited with his wife and child, whom he hasn’t seen in ten years. Craft and Zora (in holographic form) bond, and there is a poignant scene in which the two recreate a dancing scene from the movie Funny Face.  The ending harkens back to the title of this episode, and if you aren’t familiar with that myth, look it up!

 

The Brightest Star

 

Commander Saru gets an origin story that explains how the first Kelpien joined Starfleet.

We first meet Saru, living a quiet agrarian life with his father and sister, but the village lives in fear as an alien nation demands tributes on a regular basis. When the alien ship drops some technology Saru examines it on the sly, refusing to accept that this life is all there is. His questions to his father are rejected but he continues trying to send out a message to others beyond his home planet.  Time goes by, but he eventually receives a message from an unknown ship that they will arrive the next day. I gasped with who stepped out of the shuttle, and I’m sure all Trekkie fans started checking their Star Trek canon to see if the years matched up. While this story had a bit of a discrepancy with what Saru previously shared about his home world (edit- and a comment in the first episode of the second season didn’t match either), this was a lovely origin story. His last quote “I saw hope, in the stars. It was stronger than fear. And I went towards it” was perfect.

 

The Escape Artist

Harry Mudd, an expert on long-cons, pulls the wool over many bounty hunters and renegades in a clever way in this last episode.

Mudd is a recurring scoundrel in the Discovery series, based off a character that only appeared twice in TOS. Actor Rainn Wilson is having fun with this role, so his inclusion in one of the shorts was welcome. In this episode Mudd has been sold by a bounty hunter to an alien that was previously wronged by him. We see Mudd also trying to get out of previous jams with other aliens, so we don’t know if this current alien will fall for his tricks. The way he was begging not to be taken to the Federation made me think of Brer Rabbit, and the reveal at the end of exactly how this rogue got out of trouble again was ingenious.

All four of these shorts were strong, and each had a different feel. They were a wonderful lead-in to the start of the second season of Discovery and I hope they continue making them for future seasons. In the meantime, live long and prosper, my friends!

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is the most disappointing books you read in 2018.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

I was so excited at the premise of the story, that detailed what would happen if females were limited to 100 words daily, and how American society would shift because of this discrimination. Since our current administration seems to revel in discrimination, I felt this book was going to carry a deep and timely message, such as The Handmaid’s Tale did. Unfortunately, I could not connect with the main character Dr. Jean McClellan despite the strong start of the narrative, and felt her withering contempt for her husband was too much, especially in light of what he did at the conclusion. I wanted to like this book more, but it didn’t touch me as THT did.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

I was terribly disappointed with this book, especially after seeing many positive reviews by others. I am a fan of the zombie/dystopian genre (Revival, TWD, World War Z) so I thought this book would definitely be up my alley, but after a promising start, it fell apart for me.

Temple is a teen surviving alone in a world that collapsed about 25 years ago in a zombie apocalypse. She is practical to a fault, knowing how to fend for herself, but haunted by her memories of a younger brother who is no longer with her. During her travels she happens about a conclave of survivors in a nearby city but her independent streak makes it an ill fit for her. While there, she thwarts a sexual assault, and in self defense she kills the man. His brother vows revenge, and the rest of the book details the ridiculous pursuit between them, and reminded me of Jean Valjean and the obsessive Javert saga in Les Misérables. The people they encounter on their travels range from Southern Gothic wannabes to a deranged mutant family and of course endless zombies. The whole time people keep on remarking on how amazing and deep Temple was which annoyed me- for I felt it was pretentious, show don’t tell this characteristic. I kept on putting this short novel down which is never a good sign, and by the time the conclusion wrapped up everything, I simply did not care about any of the characters.

Artemis by Andy Weir

When I read The Martian, I was sucked into Andy Weir’s plausible science fiction story. His resourceful hero was funny and appealing and readers rooted for his survival. So I eagerly looked forward to his next book and was pleased to find a heroine living on the moon in his second novel. Imagine my dismay when my opinion of the book plummeted chapter by chapter.

You can read more about my dislike for the book in my previous blog post.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Vaguely reminiscent of Grisham’s book, The Litagators, this story delves into the world of everyday lawyers, not the high paid corporate lawyers from his famous earlier books. Students Mike, Todd and Zola are in their last semester at a third rate law school, and up to their eyeballs in debt, when a good friend commits suicide. Shaken by his death, they all impulsively drop out of school and start to masquerade as a law firm despite no degrees.

This is when the story went absolutely sideways for me. Upset that their loans are overwhelming and with no job prospects, they decide that committing fraud and hustling unsuspecting clients is a legitimate way to live their lives. They bumble around, get caught, but then decide to double down by getting involved in a mass torts case against the bank that worked with their law school giving loans to unqualified students. In the midst of this Zola is dealing with her undocumented family getting sent back to Senegal. Mike and Todd, who quite frankly are interchangeable, manage to keep one step ahead of the authorities and the whole ending is just preposterous.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I listened to this book on audio, which had received the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, and was prepared to love it. I didn’t.

At first, hearing Carrie Fisher’s voice was both wonderful and melancholy, due to her passing. I’ve been a big fan of hers for years, as she surpassed her Princess Leia persona, and was a well respected author plus funny as hell. The new set of Star Wars movies yanked her back into the fandom and people are eager for any tidbits about the original trilogy, so the finally confirmed romance between Fisher and Harrison Ford was big news. She writes of their romance, but yet I still did not feel it was fleshed out. She has every right not to share details there were too intimate between the two, but the romance remained an enigma to me.

She ends up being very repetitive elsewhere in the book, and much of it seemed filler. She speaks wryly of life for an actor after their biggest fame is over, and the struggles and concessions they need to make to remain relevant and earn an income. As she re-imagines some conversations she has had with her fans at conventions, I had to skip ahead on the audio as they were painful to listen to. So I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the novel, and felt guilty thinking so. Nevertheless, her candor and humor make me want to look up more of her past works.

I rarely give up on books, and most of these books had promising starts, but they all ended on unsatisfactory notes. Did anyone else have similar feelings about these books?

-Nancy

The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit content passing his days sitting on his front porch, blowing smoke rings, and drinking tea. All that changes when the wizard Gandalf appears on his doorstep, asking if Bilbo would like to participate in an adventure. Well, hobbits simply do not have adventures! But despite Bilbo’s protests, Gandalf along with a large group of dwarves show up at his door for tea the next day. They are on a quest to take back the stolen treasure that is their leader Thorin Oakenshield’s birthright. One problem… the treasure was stolen by a dragon named Smaug. Bilbo, of course, is horrified… and intrigued. Despite himself, he finds himself travelling with the band of dwarves and wizard. Together, they meet elves, almost get eaten by trolls, get kidnapped by goblins, and confront the most feared dragon in Middle-Earth.

The subtitle stresses that it’s an illustrated edition, which I think in a few respects is true. While it is laid out like a graphic novel, and reads like one, this one is significantly more text-heavy than previous graphic novel adaptations I’ve read. It takes dialogue and expository passages straight from the book. As a result, there are many more text boxes into which the text was all squished. This made the text very small and hard to read at times. The book could have greatly benefited from a larger format (it was a little smaller than your usual trade paperback), or further editing to cut out some of the more unnecessary text.

The illustrations were lovely. They were whimsical and colorful and perfectly suited the lighter tone of The Hobbit. Even the darker places and passages were filled with a light and airy quality. I enjoyed them very much, and I could easily see the appeal for both older and younger readers. Like with the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions, I could see this edition being used by parents to introduce Tolkien to young children. It was in the teen graphic novel section at the public library I work at, but I’d say middle school children would be able to read it on their own.

While a bit too text-heavy for my taste, this was a wonderful adaptation of The Hobbit in graphic novel form. The illustrations will be the big appeal here, as they draw you into a whimsical and colorful Middle Earth.

– Kathleen

Tolkien, J.R.R. Adapted by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming. Illustrated by David Wenzel. The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic. 2001.

Bone Parish

Cullen Bunn has created a new dark and dangerous graphic novel series, and this necromantic horror story grabbed me on the first page and never let go.

A quick synopsis: “A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, while the demand only rises.”

The Winters family of New Orleans has discovered how to manufacture the ashes of the dead into a powerful hallucinogenic drug that lets the person snorting the drug to experience everything the dead person lived through when they were alive. In charge of this operation are Grace and Andre, with their four adult children. The oldest, Brae, is chomping at the bit ready to take over the enterprise and questioning his mother. Brigitte is the scientist who is the only one who knows how to turn the dead into ash properly and won’t reveal to others how to do so as to keep her position in the family safe. Leon and Wade end up doing much of the grunt work for the family, with both of them questioning the morality of it all.

As the popularity of the drug grows in the Big Easy, other drug cartels realize the scope of the operation and want in on the action. Several contact Grace with offers of buy-outs but she refuses. Not surprisingly they don’t take it well, and put a target on the family’s back. Some dirty cops are also involved, with Brae trying to control that aspect, but double crosses are part of the game.

There are a few twists and turns in the narrative, with a surprising revelation that will make you back track to look for clues. The story has potential for a thought provoking moral debate about drug culture and the sanctity of life and for the body after death. My excitement for this new series rivals what I felt for Briggs Land, another layered crime saga with an intriguing family led by a strong woman.

The art by Jonas Scharf was perfect for the story, and was reminiscent for me of Gabriel Rodriguez who illustrates the Locke and Key series, which is high praise indeed from me. He establishes the Winters family in a distinct manner, showing a welcome diversity within the family, in addition to when he draws other characters and realistic crowd scenes. The colorist Alex Guimarães really sets the tone with the coloring with an earthen palette for the everyday life, and vibrant pinks and purples to signify the hallucinogenic effect.

As much as I loved the story, I have a few criticisms. The big one: how is the drug controlled by the user? How do they tap into the specific memory of the deceased, as they would have a lifetime of memories to choose from? How do memories from the past physically manifest in those who are taking the drug? Will this be explained, or do we just have to have suspension of disbelief and go with the flow? Also, while I love that Grace is portrayed as a powerful and still sexy matriarch of the family, she looks too young to be a mother to her children, especially Brae. I, myself, am a mother to three teens and I still want to be thought of as a hottie, but Grace should be realistically aged just a tiny bit more.

I believe this new series has a lot of potential for growth and I absolutely will be reading future volumes, as I wish to find out what consequences are in store for the Winters family and those who choose to take the drug. Thank you to NetGalley for approving me to read this novel early, as I believe this series could really take off after it’s release in March.

-Nancy

Kingdom Come

I’d forgotten until I was halfway through this one that Nancy has already read and reviewed it… but by that point, I was committed to finishing it! The show must go on, right? And I figured I’d see how similar or different our opinions were on it =P

Just before his death, the Sandman begins to have terrible visions. His friend, Pastor Norman McCay, is with him in his final moments – but then the visions transfer to him after the Sandman passes. The visions are horrible, filled with fire and blood and thunder. The Spectre appears to Pastor McCay, saying that he needs his help, because Armageddon is almost upon them. He needs a human soul to help him judge whomever is responsible for the impending evil.

It is a new millennium, and the superheroes of old have retired, or gone back to their homes, or gone into hiding. The new heroes – the descendants or proteges of those who came before – act without thought or reason. One of them, who calls himself Magog, killed The Atom, causing a nuclear fallout across the American Midwest. Wonder Woman appears to Superman, pleading for him to come out of his self-imposed exile and show the world hope once more. He reluctantly agrees, but the world is not what it used to be. Humanity hasn’t retained the same morality or capacity for hope. Is it possible for Superman to stick to his old morals to reach the next generation, show them the hero’s way, and save humanity?

… Holy crap. This book challenges the role of superheroes in a new millennium and an ever-changing society – and succeeds. Though it was written in the late ’90s, it still holds up extremely well today. The heroes you know and love are seen here as older, some jaded, some still hopeful they can make a difference. They are caught between their love of humanity, their deep-rooted morals, and the realization that sometimes the world moves on without you, and you have to change and adapt to it rather than expecting the world to bend to your will (even if you’ve superhuman will). I loved how these things conflicted within each character. This goes for our narrator Pastor McCay, and the villains who appear too, not just the heroes. Spectacular writing by Mark Waid all around.

The art… I cannot say enough about it. Two words: Alex Ross. He makes magic with superheroes. He works in more of a photorealistic style, making your favorite heroes really come to life. His sense of color and lighting, especially when it comes to the metallic aspects of some costumes, is unparalleled. Since his style takes longer to render than usual comic book art, he usually only does covers – seeing a whole comic with his art is a real treat. I’m not exaggerating when I say you’ve never seen a comic book illustrated like this before.

TLDR: As an artist, Alex Ross makes me want to quit daily X,D

In short, Kingdom Come is a must-read for any comic book fan. Waid’s writing challenges the place of superheroes in a new society, which is only augmented by Ross’ spectacular art.

– Kathleen

P.S. I didn’t read Nancy’s review until I’d finished mine so I wouldn’t accidentally borrow her thoughts and ideas. I only knew she loved it, but the reasons why ended up being pretty similar. Except for the “One Year Later” ending… I HATED IT! EW!! GROSS!!! Save for that, we’re of the same mind on this one 😉

Waid, Mark, and Alex Ross. Kingdom Come. 2008.

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