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Batwoman: The Many Arms of Death

Typically not a DC fan, and definitely not a Batman fan, I decided to give the rebooted Batwoman a try. Kathleen has recently enjoyed previous recent titles about her such as Hydrology and Elegy and had great things to say about both, so I gave it a go.

I went in totally unfamiliar with Batwoman, so I appreciated her origin story in the beginning to get know what shaped her into who she is now. As a child her twin sister and mother are killed in a failed kidnapping (although you just know her twin will reapppear again- if not in this volume, a future one). We then see Kate as a cadet at West Point and when her sexuality is discovered, she won’t deny it, thus she is kicked out. Next the heiress is seen partying it up, but it’s obviously a mask to hide her pain.

Then the timeline really starts to dart around. Kate has a “lost” year between leaving West Point and becoming Batwoman. She is stranded on the island of Coryana with a head injury and falls in love with her beautiful benefactor Safiyah, who is the leader of this lawless nation. Safiyah’s previous lover Tahani is pushed aside for Kate, which fills Tahani with rage. Years later Tahani is back for revenge and the storyline becomes James Bondish, with an actual Moneypenny character. Kate is very unlikable at this stage, and Tahani speaks some truth to her, which Kate just ignores. As soon as I finally was becoming comfortable in this one stage of her life, there is another timeline jump into the future.  No mater what timeline she is in, Kate jumps from one lover to another, and is condescending to all. I’ve never been a fan of “bad boys who need redemption” character types, so I wasn’t a fan even with the gender switch. No matter who you are, or love, be nice. I guess she’s similar to Batman- whose brooding nature I have never liked.

Three artists are listed, and as such sometimes the art style shifts from one issue to the next. All illustrate well, with a dark color palette and varied panel structure. It’s certainly not the art I have a problem with. What I don’t get is her supposed secret identity. Hello- her flaming red hair is a huge clue! Is everyone supposed to think that Batwoman can’t be Kate because Kate has short red hair while Batwoman has long? Its a wig people, attached to her cowl!  And does she she wear it under her clothes? There was one scene in which she is dressed as Kate and one second later she is in her costume. I actually looked to see if there was a page, or at least a panel, that would explain it.

I received this digital copy through NetGalley for a fair and unbiased review. I let the excitement of being approved for the volume to override my usual avoidance of Batman stories. Truth be told, Kathleen would have been a better reviewer for the story. I’m not sure if me not liking it had to do with my distaste for Kate or if the time jumping made it too choppy for me to enjoy. While I welcomed the needed LGTBQ superhero storyline, Kate wasn’t the right person to carry it off.

-Nancy

Bennett, Marguerite & James Tynion IV. Batwoman: The Many Arms of Death. 2017.
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Justice League

*Spoilers ahead*

I took opening weekend off to go visit my fiancé. I desperately needed to get away. Honestly, I was so excited to go be visiting him for the first time in way too long that I kind of forgot we were seeing this movie XD So I got comfy in the theater chair and hoped it wouldn’t be terrible. Obviously nothing DC can do will top Wonder Woman, but I figured the rewrites and reshoots they did would bring more of the heart and soul elements that WW had into JL.

Superman is dead. The world is left without hope. And in the place where there might not have been any hope in the first place – Gotham – it just got worse. Batman has been tracking and trying to capture these mysterious beings: bug-like creatures who feed on fear, but they keep exploding whenever he gets near. Amid all the green goo, they leave a mysterious pattern behind. Three boxes in a triangle formation.

Diana Prince knows exactly what the symbol means. The Amazons have lit the beacon as a call to war. She reveals to Bruce Wayne that the Amazons had been guarding a device called a Motherbox on Themyscira. Steppenwolf had tried to conquer Earth once, thousands of years ago. Together, the Amazons, Atlanteans, and tribes of men defeated him, and he retreated. Each tribe was charged with hiding and guarding one of the three Motherboxes. If the Amazons have lit the beacon, it means that the box has awakened, Steppenwolf has returned, and he’s gained the Motherbox the Amazons had been guarding.

They will need help to stop Steppenwolf from recovering the other two Motherboxes. Luckily, they have a few in mind. Barry Allen, also known as the Flash, in Central City. Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, and one of the Atlanteans that have been guarding the second box all this time. Though he’s presumed dead, Victor Stone, or the Cyborg, may be of some help as well. His father used the energy of the last box to integrate his body with machinery and bring him back to life after a terrible accident.

Even with all this power, they need one more. They need Superman. Bruce theorizes that with the power of the one box they have, they can bring Clark back from the dead. Some on the team think it’s worth a shot, and others think it’s a terrible idea. What if he comes back and doesn’t know who he is? What if he comes back totally changed? But Steppenwolf will not wait around until their minds are made up: they need to come to an agreement, and fast.

I genuinely enjoyed the movie. It was no WW, by any means 😉 But for the first time in a long time, DC put out a comic book movie that actually FELT like a comic book movie. The characters were compelling, and most of the fun is watching these big box heroes interact on the big screen for the first time. Casting for the most part was spot on! Each character felt plucked from the comics and placed directly onto the screen. None of them act in a way that you wouldn’t expect them to.

The story, though a little predictable, was written very well. It’s accessible, too! You don’t have to have watched the previous DC movies to understand what’s going on. They do reference some past events, but it’s always with a little context so new viewers aren’t left totally in the dark. Kind of smart of them, since I’m not sure I’d recommend any of the past DC movies that directly relate to this timeline!

There were moments that were touching and genuinely funny, and the movie lets itself be funny and a little lighter. We’ve come a long way from the tones of Man of Steel and BvS here, and it was refreshing – and relieving. I don’t think I could have sat through another one of those.

I have one huge complaint, and I called it when the first trailer dropped. Ezra Miller as the Flash. It was, by turns, better than and worse than I thought. He is the obvious comic relief for the movie, and he somewhat succeeds. Sometimes he really is funny! But most of his one-liners were so cringeworthy! It was so… UGH!!! FRUSTRATING!!! My fiancé, who had a much more open mind about this Flash than I, agreed that sometimes it was just too much. The Flash’s special effects were among the best in the movie (excepting probably Cyborg – holy cow! He looked great!!!), but that really is his only saving grace.

My two most favorite parts of the movie are actually the biggest spoilers, so I will save those for when enough of you have seen it >:D

Overall, Justice League is a great movie. It’s a little serious, but seriously playful – just what a comic book movie should be. The acting (save one) is spot-on, special effects are awesome, and the story is accessible and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Most of all, the characters feel genuine and true to their comic book counterparts. This is up there with the better DC movies they’ve put out in a very long time. Skip Man of Steel and BvS. WW and JL is where it’s at!

– Kathleen

Martian Manhunter: The Others Among Us

Martian Manhunter has found evidence of more Martians on Earth. As he thought he was the last of his kind, he is overjoyed that he’s the last no more – and anxious to find them fast, as it looks like they’re in trouble. He finds and rescues five Martians from their imprisonment. Soon, they find themselves tailed and targeted by the organization who captured and experimented on the Martians in the first place. They’ll do anything to get them back, to weaponize them against Manhunter. J’onn’s fellow heroes are concerned he’s going too far to help them – but when you find someone you’ve given up all hope to find, will all he’s doing even be enough?

I hate to say it, because I love Martian Manhunter’s character and this is the first comic of his I’ve read, but it was easily the worst comic I’ve ever read. I’m surprised I even came up with a coherent summary for this book. The story was so convoluted and incoherent I had a lot of trouble following it.There were a lot of time skips as well, adding to the confusion. To top it off, when the villain behind the whole plot is finally revealed, it’s 4 pages from the end of the book, and nothing is resolved by the end. The villain just disappeared from one page to the next! I actually checked my library copy to make sure a page hadn’t been ripped out! Just… what??? Who actually does that???

The art was atrocious to boot… cartoon noir is how I’d put it, and not at all in a good way. The resulting figures were overworked, too masculine (even the women looked like men), with shading that was much too harsh.

If I didn’t know anything about Martian Manhunter going in, I would easily swear off all MM comics after reading this book. However, I’m determined to find a book that does a much better job. Stay away from this book and stay tuned for a better one!

– Kathleen

Lieberman, A.J., Al Barrionuevo, and Bit. Martian Manhunter: The Others Among Us. 2007.

Edgar Allan Poe adaptations

Edgar Allan Poe has always fascinated me. I love his work, as his poems and short stories have always struck me as the perfect level of macabre and creepy. I wrote a discussion post a few months back about if novels should be adapted into graphic novels once the author can no longer give their go ahead. But Poe’s works are now in the public domain so many feel his work is fair game, with some adaptations having greater success than others.

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Hinds, Gareth & Edgar Allen Poe. Poe: Stories and Poems. 2017.

I have been looking forward to this adaptation by Gareth Hinds that recently came out, for his previous adaptions of classics such as Beowolf, Macbeth and The Odyssey have received rave reviews. I was not disappointed, although I didn’t feel it was a home run either.

The Masque of the Red Death– Using vivid imagery, this story incorporates the theme of “death comes for us all” quite effectively.

The Cask of Amontillado– Revenge most sweet. Fortunato insulted Montresor one too many times, and his own vanity led to his demise with no guilt from Montresor. I have to admit this story appealed to me, for don’t we all at times wish revenge on those that have wronged us?

Annabel Lee– My favorite of Poe’s works, hands down. The poem of lost love and eternal devotion has always appealed to me. I didn’t care for the illustrations for this poem initially, but his interpretation of sacrifice and years going by grew on me.

The Pit and the Pendulum– Hind’s illustrations were evocative of the fear of the unknown as the prisoner awakes in a jail cell, in which he is tortured by unseen guards and has to use cunning to escape.

The Tell-Tale Heart– An interesting retelling of the tale of a guilty conscience, Hines frames the confession coming from an inmate in an insane asylum.

The Bells– I was not familiar with this poem, but the imagery Hines paired with the stanzas helped build the rhythm, and truly made the bell chimes seem real in your ears.

The Raven– Another of Poe’s stories that lament lost love, Hinds makes the choice to make the narrator look like Poe to great effect. This story’s illustrations were my favorite, and he incorporated little visuals from the other stories into this tale. The classical motifs were represented and the raven aptly symbolized the narrator’s grief and his descent into madness.

The illustration style skews young, where I almost felt I should place it in the Juvenile collection at my library, did it not have such dark themes of murder and violence. I feel that this is a strong adaptation, and with the author’s notes about Poe and his stories, it is an excellent introduction for younger readers to then make the choice to study Poe’s additional works.

 

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King, Stacy & Edgar Allan Poe. The Stories of Edgar Allen Poe, 2017.

I am typically not a fan of Manga books, but I was intrigued to read it in comparison to Hinds’s adaptation of Poe’s work, with both works coming out within months of each other.

The Tell-Tale Heart (art by Virginia Nitouhei)- The first story was challenging for me, as I felt the unnamed narrator was too perfect looking (aka Manga-like). But once I got past that, the illustrations told the story very effectively.

The Cask of Amontillado (art by Chagen)- The background of the festival where they two men meet and later the catacombs they enter were well drawn and really gave it a sense of atmosphere. The last page was chilling.

The Raven (art by Pikomaro)- The art work in this story is gorgeous. The visions that the narrator has of his lost Lenore were heartbreaking and the last page of the raven with the grieving man was perfect.

The Masque of the Red Death (art by Uka Nagao)- This ended up being my least favorite, for the story’s very essence centers around the colors of the rooms and what they represent. The lack of color affected the interpretation and it fell flat.

The Fall of the House of Usher (art by Linus Liu & Man Yiu)- I have never been a fan of this story, but the illustrated version of the story elevated it to me. The crumbling estate is aptly drawn and the madness of twins Roderick and Madeline is evident. The sense of impending doom and Gothic despair shine through.

This adaptation is the latest in a series of Manga classics, and I would recommend it if you enjoy Manga and already own previous classics from this collection. I would hope that readers would look at Poe’s additional works, if they enjoyed this strong version of five of his short-stories. I received the online book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and the timing worked out well for me to compare both excellent adaptations of the premier horror writer’s work.

And finally, just for fun, look at this video of Poe and Stephen King having a rap battle of who is the best writer. Poe for the win!

-Nancy

Picture of Poe is from artist Cris Vector on Deviant Art.

Top 5 Wednesday: Nostalgic Book Boyfriends

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s T5W topic is about characters you swooned over when you were younger!

History is my jam, so every single character is from earlier centuries. I loved me some historical fiction series, and read these books over and over (and over) again.

Almonzo Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie series. This guy was actually real, and truly a hunk. He saved a town from starvation, drove Laura home every week from her far away teaching job, and was willing to take the word obey out of their wedding vows! Hubba-hubba.

Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series.  I was reading the book series during the same time as the mid to late 80’s tv mini-series with Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie so the handsome, kind and ever so patient Gilbert shall forever look like Jonathon.

Westley from The Princess Bride. While it was a book first, this is a major cheat, for it is Cary Elwes’s portrayal  in the movie that truly made my heart go pitter-patter. Look at the swoop of hair! So dreamy! I wanted to say “As you wish…” to Westley/Cary as he swept me away to a grand adventure.

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This is where my picks start to get embarrassing. The Sunfire series consisted of 32 books of questionable historical fiction. The main character was always a sixteen year old young woman at a pivotal time in America’s history that had to pick between two men who loved her. My favorite was the Jessica book set in 1873 Kansas and she had to pick between Wheeling Hawk or the widowed farmer Will. Spoiler alert- she choose Will and I was distraught. How could she not pick the far superior Wheeling Hawk? I mean look at those arms! For a funny review of this gem of a book read this post from Young Adult Historical Vault.

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I saved the worst for last. In addition to the Sunfire series, I was a fan of another atrocious historical series, White Indian. Set in New York State before the Revolutionary War, a white baby boy is kidnapped and raised by Indians to become a Seneca warrior. Renno was the greatest warrior of the tribe, and just happened to have blonde hair. My grandma had been reading this multi-generational saga and gave the books to my mom to take home and read herself. I swiped the first book and covertly read it in the car on the long way home from Florida. It had history, sex and  a hottie- I was hooked!

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So there you have it, my nostalgic boyfriends of yester-year. While I cringe at some of my selections, they all make me wistful for a time in which I was young and naive. But luckily for me, my real life boyfriend turned husband, turned out to be better than any of these book boyfriends! ♥

-Nancy

The Mystery Knight

One hundred years before the events of A Game of Thrones, hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Egg, are heading north to Winterfell, answering a call for men from Lord Beron Stark. Being sworn to no lords, hedge knights travel where they are needed, performing chivalrous deeds for the realm. On the way, they are waylaid by a wedding and the promise of what could be a very profitable jousting tournament. Lord Butterwell is marrying one of Lord Frey’s daughters at the newly built Whitehall Castle. Something seems off, though… many of the men there seem loyal to Daemon Blackfyre, the Black Dragon, who rebelled against his half brother, King Daeron Targaryen, for the throne 16 years previously. Duncan is unseated by a knight who makes him a troublesome offer in exchange for his arms and horse back. Egg goes missing. Only Duncan knows Egg is really Prince Aegon Targaryen, and if anyone has kidnapped him, they’re likely to have found out his secret. Can Duncan unravel the conspiracy in time, before Egg is hurt?

I would have really appreciated a cast of characters at the beginning of this book. There were so many characters, both present and referenced from the past, that I quickly became confused. There are family trees in the Game of Thrones novels, so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have something similar here. Even so, the story is excellently written, with all the conspiracies and suspense you’d expect from the novels. The art in this book was phenomenal. The figures are meticulously drawn, with lots of little details that made them come alive. The action scenes in this book are easily the best I’ve seen for a while. If you can keep everyone straight, this is a great way to live in Westeros for a bit longer.

– Kathleen

Martin, George R.R., Ben Avery, and Mike S. Miller. The Mystery Knight. 2017.

P.S. No spoiler in the comments, please!

Road Rage

Lately I have been on a Stephen King and Joe Hill kick, and Goodreads noticed. Recently I read The Cape and and on the “readers also enjoyed” sidebar Road Rage was recommended.  I was able to track down a copy and was pleased to see that the book included two short stories- the first written by the father and son duo of King and Hill, but also included an adaptation of the classic story Duel by Richard Matheson.

Throttle: Written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Nelson Daniel

With an introduction by Stephen King, the reader is given a homage to Richard Matheson, for this first story was originally included in He is Legend, a book collection of Matheson-inspired stories. King gives Matheson partial credit for shaping him into the writer he is today.

We are introduced to a group of ten bikers, that have a Sons of Anarchy vibe, although they are called The Tribe. The three main characters are leader Vinny, Lemmy, and Vinny’s son Race, with the other bikers getting less face time. At a truck stop they are discussing a drug deal gone wrong, that resulted in a death, and their plans to try to recoup their losses. The leaders speculate that one of the truckers might have overheard their conversation , but figures “No one with any sense would want to get involved in their shitpull”. They were wrong. Out on the road the trucker comes after them, and blood and mayhem endue. You will just have to read the story to find out the trucker’s motives, and the resulting causality count.

The story is illustrated by Nelson Daniel who did the art in The Cape, also written by Hill. I enjoy his work, and liked his computer generated dot matrix that he uses for shading. He was able to make each biker unique looking, and had some great layout designs in his panels.

Duel: Written by Richard Matheson, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Rafa Garres

This story included a second introduction, this time by Joe Hill, and he recounts some fond childhood memories of road trips with his father. As a child he had been fascinated with the movie Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg, and he and his father had fun in the car imagining what they would do under the same circumstances.

The premise is simple, a traveling salesperson is on a deadline, and wants to pass a trucker on a desert stretch of highway. He does so, but the trucker is incensed and starts to play cat and mouse games with the hapless driver. The driver pulls over at a truckstop, knowing he will now be late for the meeting, but as he fears for his safety, he wants to let the menacing trucker go by. Unfortunately for him the trucker also stops as to continue their driving duel. To find out who wins the duel you must read this book and/or watch the movie! In fact, the movie is my Friday night plans, as I was too scared by it in my younger years to watch it to completion.

The art is reminiscent of the famous painting The Scream by artist Edvard Munch, with the swirling lines and emotion of fear coming through the work. Colored with a muddy palette the browns, yellows and oranges aptly depict the barren landscape. At first I was not a fan of the illustrations, and was turned off by the impreciseness of how the driver looked. But his seemingly melted face conveyed his terror as his day went to hell in a blink of an eye.

I would definitely give this book a recommendation, but it will come as no surprise to King and Hill fans, the book is for mature audiences as it has quite a bit of violence with some graphic illustrations.

-Nancy

A variant title page showing King & Hill!

 

DC Bombshell Figurine Review: Killer Frost

I just need to talk about this figurine for a minute ‘cuz

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Look at her!!!

I was just kinda “eh” about Killer Frost’s drawing; I’m not a huge fan of her to begin with and the variant cover with her on it looked a little stiff to me.

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But when I took the figurine out of the box (and it was a very tense 5 minutes let me tell you), I fell in love.

There are lots of fragile parts and there is assembly required. Be careful with the poles, as they are very bendy. The scarf is removable, and you have to attach the skis to her feet before putting her in the base. All the little details are breathtaking. Though she’s by far not my favorite character in my collection, she’s definitely my favorite figurine.

The only bad part was putting her back in the box. I was terrified I was going to snap a pole trying to fit the Styrofoam back together. But she’s safely boxed up again without incident =P

– Kathleen

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 3): The Truth

Diana is completely devastated after learning she has never been home. She has been deceived into thinking she’d been able to go back and forth between Themyscira and Man’s World at will. Her mind breaks, and Steve hastily admits her to a psychiatric hospital before fleeing to find Etta. Veronica Cale, leader of Godwatch, is still after Wonder Woman, thinking she can lead them to Themyscira. Steve, Etta, and Barbara Ann need to throw them off the trail. But Cale is relentless, and it’s only a matter of time before she catches up to them. How can they stop her when what she wants – Wonder Woman and the way to Themyscira – may be lost forever?

This comic hit me harder than it should have. Wonder Woman losing her sense of self, becoming hurt and confused, is very emotional. Rucka is not afraid to let her be human. With this volume, we are reminded that our heroes are human, too. We are also reminded that we can pick ourselves up, forge on, and eventually our faith will be rewarded. This is by far the best Rebirth title I’ve picked up, and I’m eagerly looking forward to more.

– Kathleen

Rucka, Greg, Liam Sharp, and Laura Martin. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 3): The Truth. 2017.

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