Monday, March 28, 2011

Chew to be TV show on Showtime

This news is a few days old, but good news delivered late is still good news right?

I got the news via the Facebooks, and it looks like Showtime has bought the script for Chew the TV show.  They've already attached a director/executive producer, Stephen Hopkins, and have plans to make tweaks on the script.  It looks like the show will be a 30 minute deal, and from the sounds of things, will stay pretty true to the source material.  There was no word as to when a pilot might be shot, or when to expect a show to air...all in good time I suppose.

So, given where things stood back in December, it looks like things have moved along quite well in the past few months.  This is pretty good news, as it looks like with the success of The Walking Dead, cable networks are starting to view indie comics as a good source of material.  Hopefully Chew will have similar success. 

Really though, what this all boils down to is yet another TV show, along with HBO's Game of Thrones, that I will be missing out on due to my lack of cable television.  My fingers are crossed that one of my friends will get cable and let me watch those shows at their house. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Essex County

You might think a group of stories set in rural Canada might be a bit dull to read through, but Essex County is anything but dull.  Told in three separate, yet interconnected, stories, Essex County delivers a powerful emotional tale that is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The first part titled, Tales From the Farm, the story focuses on Lester, a ten year old boy who is recently orphaned and living with his Uncle on a farm.  Lester's relationship with his Uncle is a strained one, and the boy is mostly friendless and alone.  That is, until he meets and becomes friends with Jimmy Lebuef, the owner of the local gas station.  Together Lester and Jimmy escape their otherwise mundane lives and delve into a world of forts, alien invasions, superheroes, and pond hockey. 

The second tale, titled Ghost Stories, tells the story of the lives of brothers Lou and Vince Lebeuf over the course of seven decades.  The older brother Lou, is now deaf, and living out his days on a farm, and doing his best to avoid the ministrations of his traveling nurse.  Through the course of the story we see the lives of the two hockey playing brothers through Lou's aged flashbacks.  Lou's flashbacks aren't just scenes that depict hockey glory, Lou has a lot of guilt that has built up over the years due to decisions he made that caused a major rift between him and his brother.  As Lou revisits his life you can begin to see how the stories of Essex County interconnect with one another.

The third and final story in Essex County is titled The Country Nurse and focuses on Anne Queeneville, the one person who ties in with all the other characters of Essex County in some way, shape or form.  This story also follows up on the characters of the previous two parts and tells a side tale of Sister Margaret Byrne and the orphanage that she ran.  There is also a handy little Essex County family tree near the end that illustrates the families and the links that are woven into this story.

All told, Essex County is a wonderfully crafted story really pulls on the heart strings.  Though Lemire's artwork features his unique sparse style, with bold and chunky lines, he manages to deliver a powerful emotional punch with this story.  Simply put, this is probably the saddest story I've ever read, and nearly drew tears on multiple occasions.

The characters in this graphic novel are all easy to relate to, and have lives and problems that are not unlike those of everyone else on the planet.  Sure, not everyone lives on a farm in rural Canada, but at the basic level, that of getting by in a tough world, making hard decisions, living your dream, and making mistakes are things that everyone does, whether they like it or not, and that's what makes Essex County a true gem.  The fact that it tells a real story of humanity.

Though it is up against some tough competition, Essex County is the best graphic novel I've read this year, and I fully expect it to stay at, or very near the top of that list as the year goes on.  A truly beautiful story, and one that I will be recommending to anyone who will listen.  I urge everyone to give this one a shot, as I think it is wonderful.  Just be sure to wear your hockey pads to defend against punches in the emotions!

Grade: A+

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: The Hammer

When I picked up The Hammer, I had it in my mind that it would be my first K.J. Parker novel.  Well, a quick glance at the "By K.J. Parker" page jogged the clanky machinery inside my head.  Turns out, a few years ago, long before Battle Hymns, I read Colours in the Steel.  If my flaky memory is any indication as to how much I enjoyed that novel, I would say that it was forgettable to say that least.  So, with further scrabbling through the dark recesses of my memory I dredged up every little scrap I could recall about Colours in the Steel.  I came up with the main character's name, Bardas, I believe, something about fencing, some blurry details about how realistic the story was, not necessarily gritty per se, but real.   And lastly some very detailed, descriptions about the forging of swords...Now, please bear in mind that my memory is HIGHLY suspect, and Colours in the Steel may quite possibly be about none of those things, I merely put that little tid-bit out there to say that my memory of the past, complete with major gaps and blank spots, echoed, and played with my expectations, as I read The Hammer.

The first great thing about The Hammer is that it is a stand alone novel.  I actively seek out stand alone fantasy books these days as I have enough fantasy series started, and yet unfinished to make my head spin.  I'd been wanting to try out something by Parker for awhile now (at this point I thought Parker was a new author to me), and the cover caught my attention, as fantasy with guns is an idea that causes excitement in me.  The plot also caught my attention.   

The Hammer has a colonial setting and probably occurs during the equivalent of the Renaissance era, (history however, like remembering things, is not my strong suit).  In this novel, a group of settlers have set up a small struggling colony on an island.  The colonists share the island with two other distinct groups: the indigenous "savages" and the met'Oc, a once noble family who have been exiled to the island for their role in a long distant civil war.  The met'Oc have a strained relationship with the colonists.  The met'Oc have a large land holding high up on a bluff, but are too proud to trade or interact with the lowly commoners, so when they need something they go on raids and steal what they need from the poor farmers.  The colonists tolerate the occasional raids because they know the met'Oc posses some powerful weaponry, and assume the met'Oc would protect them should the savages, who greatly outnumber the colonists, ever decide to attack.  

For the most part, the story focuses on Gignomai, the youngest brother in the current generation of met'Oc.  Gignomai is a bit of a black sheep in the family, and is prone to sneaking off and cavorting with the colonists.  This is tolerated when Gignomai is a kid, but when he gets older it creates a schism between him and his overbearing father.  Eventually, the control his father tries to exert over Gignomai becomes too much, and Gignomai flees, setting into motion a scheme that will change the colony, and the lives of every soul on the island.

It is interesting to me that the few things I remembered about Colours in the Steel; the main character, realistic story, and in-depth knowledge of certain trades during the historical time frame, were all strong characteristics of The Hammer as well.

In the realm of characters, Parker did quite well.  Gignomai, and many of the other supporting characters are very interesting to read, and their motivations and actions are very true to the type of person they are.  The Hammer isn't a very action packed novel, and instead focuses on the characters and why they do what they do.  The nice thing is that as a reader, I actually cared for them, and fretted over their actions.   Unlike many writers, Parker did not just develop two or three characters then let the other supporting characters fade to obscurity.  Instead he/she (?) created a strong cast of characters that are all quite interesting in their own way.

The plot itself was also quite solid.  There was a nice "air of the mysterious" to it, as for much of the novel you only get little snippets as to what exactly Gignomai is up to.  The variety of character's interests and desires made the plot a total toss-up as I had no idea what the final outcome would end up being.  This made for an enjoyable read.  I should add that though the plot has a lot of ins and outs, Parker does a good job of keeping everything clear and doesn't disorient the reader with unnecessary detail.

Lastly, as I read I got a strong sense that Parker put a lot of research into The Hammer.  The colonial setting has a very authentic feel to it, and the tools, and machinery and such all feel like they fit perfectly in the setting.  Parker's descriptions of how the flint-lock pistols and rifles operate was a nice touch too.  There was a fairly good deal of pre-industrial technology at work in this novel, and Parker's knowledge of these things shined in the narrative. 

I guess I could call this my second, first K.J. Parker experience.  It was a pretty good one too.  I didn't fall head over heals for this book, but I felt it was a strong novel, with many good qualities.  I'm not instantly slavering to get my hands on everything K.J. Parker, but I have a good sense that I'll read some more from Parker in the future.  All told, The Hammer is a strong book, with very few, if any, fantasy elements, so I think it could appeal to a pretty wide range of readers.  A solid early 2011 release.

Grade: B-

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Ex Machina v3 Fact v. Fiction

The third installment in what has been a solid series thus far, Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction gains some ground in the character development department, but in terms of story fails to live up to the two previous volumes.

Mitchell Hundred, once the world's first super hero, has already proven himself to be unlike the typical American citizen, but he proves himself to be even more of an oddball when he goes against all convention and participates in jury duty.  While the mayor is tied up with his civic duties, his police and security team are busy trying to catch a Great Machine copy-cat type vigilante calling himself the Automaton.   However, jury duty is proving to be a bigger event than Hundred could have anticipated.  During the deliberation portion of the trial, Hundred finds himself right smack in the middle of a tense hostage situation.  Though the hero "The Great Machine" has retired, you could use that same term to describe the workings of a big city like New York, and Hundred has to hope that all the parts of his new "Great Machine" are working together so that these unrelated crises get resolved.

There's a third story thread involved in this volume as well, but talking about it too much would spoil other aspects of the book, so I'll simply say that this bit of the graphic novel delivers some interesting character development.

Like I said earlier, I felt like the story being told in this third volume wasn't as strong as those of the previous two volumes.  Maybe it's just me, but the conflicts in this volume just didn't strike me as all that interesting or inventive compared to the others in this series.  Sure, the writing is still strong, and the characters are still compelling, but I sort of got the feeling that this story arc was a bit of a stop-gap to bigger things down the road.

On the artistic front, Tony Harris' work continues to be pretty amazing.  Harris can draw facial expression and body language better than any other comic artist I've experienced so far, and that ability lends a very realist air to the characters he draws.  I can really get a good sense for their tone of voice and inflection thanks to his skill.  Ex Machina is a very good example of the writing and art in a comic working extremely well together.

So, the weakest installment thus far, but still of a pretty high quality, and by far a better "Super Hero" book than any other out there.  There is definitely a downward trend happening here with this series, but I have high hopes that it'll pick back up.  I have the next four volumes waiting on my shelf, so I'll be getting around to them sooner than later.

Grade: C+

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: We

In We the world is a far different place.  Everyone is controlled by the One State, in place of names, everyone has an identifying number and daily life is one of unwavering precise routine.  People's passions and instincts have been mastered through the use of drugs and scheduling, and even that great untamed beast, nature, has been driven back and partitioned beyond the walls of the city.  Though it seems like mankind has mastered it all, they haven't been to space yet. 

That's about to change, thanks to D-503, the chief architect of the Integral, the vessel that will make mankind the masters of the universe.  To document his thoughts and moments of interest in the days leading up to the launch, D-503 decides to keep a journal which he hopes will one day benefit the less advanced societies that the crew of the Integral are sure to encounter.  However, D-503's life takes an unexpected twist when he meets the lovely I-330, and starts to discover that he is more than just a number.

It is with deep regret that I have to say that I did not like We.  I've had my eye on this book for about a year, and when I finally pulled the trigger on purchasing it, I knew it wouldn't be long before I gave it a read.  I've had this book recommended to me by those near and dear to me, and I've read promising accounts of others, who's opinion I trust, liking this book as well.  Unfortunately, it was all for naught.  I simply did not enjoy this book.  I want to say up front though that I believe it to be a matter of personal taste, and not due to any flaws of the book which is decent enough.

So what did I not like about the book?  Well, the biggest thing I can put my finger on is that I was completely unable to get lost in the narrative.  Instead of reading and seeing the events of the story unfold as seen through my mind's eye, I just read the words, and cataloged the story in my brain...the type of reading comprehension that I usually experience when reading a text book.  This was a pretty big hang up since I prefer my reading to be an escape from textual reading.  If this were to happen with any other book I would have just set it aside and moved on to something else, but I felt pressure to carry on and see if I could grasp what made the book so special to others.  Yes, the story itself was pretty good, but I never once got lost it.

Aside from that major hang up, I think We might have been a very bad case of wrong book at the wrong time.  The setting of We is one drab, dull place, much like Seattle in the winter.  So, the book, and the physical location were a bit too similar to be compatible with my tastes.

So, positives?  Well, even though the story didn't speak to me, I think there are some interesting themes that will be well liked by others.  If you are a fan of dystopian novels such as 1984, and Brave New World  then this novel is in that same vein, and worth checking out.  For those of you wondering, I've read 1984 before, but I have plans to read it again soon, and review it here.

I sort of feel like We really got a bum steer, so I think I'll file this one away on the shelf and try to give it another go sometime down the road.  Hopefully my gripes with the book are unique to me, and others will find some enjoyment if they chose to read it.  If you do, let me know what you think.

Grade: D

Monday, March 14, 2011

Comic Quickies or Clash of the Titans

The Intrepids #1:  I know I've been saying this a lot lately, but The Intrepids is another awesome debut brought to us by Image Comics.  This one is sort of a spy thriller, with a healthy dose of mad science mixed in.  The team is comprised of Doyle, the strong man, Rose, a rocket pack wearing daredevil, Chester, the computers expert, and Ms. Crow, gunslinger, and team leader.

This issue kicks it into high gear early on with a mission set in Russia where we get a taste of the team's abilities as they battle it out with henchmen, and my comic reading highlight of the month: a battle with a cyber-bear!  The battle is awesome, and there's a nice little nod to Stephen King's cyber-bear, Shardik in there as well.  From there The Intrepids gives some more back story, and sets up the teams next target, the awesomely named Darius Dread, and what looks to be the main bad-guy, Doctor Koi.  From the looks of things there's some bad blood between Doctor Koi, and Dante, the team's handler and backer.  The issue ends with everything set up quite nicely for the second issue.

Overall, this was an exciting debut issue complete with solid writing and some unique and cool looking art.   I spoke to both the writer, Kurtis J. Wiebe and the artist, Scott Kowalchuk at comicon, and they're super nice dudes, and were excited to hear I'd picked up their comic.  They both warned me that though the first issue is quite awesome, the second issue is off the hook.  I can't wait.  Definitely one of my most eagerly anticipated comics.

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #1: Speaking of eagerly anticipated: new Axe Cop comics, and in full color glory!

There's a new planet in the solar system, and Axe Cop and Dinosaur Soldier are pretty sure it's a bad guy planet.  Before they can head back to the Axe Cop station and do some tests, they get held up by the normal cops for speeding.  One faint bomb and some stolen tires later, they are at Axe Cop Station, and discover that the new planet is growing super duper fast and that it'll soon squish the earth.  It seems like a simple fly to space and explode the planet mission, but the normal cops, the army, and a couple of psychic bad guys who, have stolen a powerful machine, and can shape shift are messing up the plans.   It looks like the fate of the earth depends on Axe Cop, and his team.

This first issue was pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the brother creative team of Ethan and Malachai Nicolle.  Lots of crazy and weird things happening, and little to no idea where this thing is going, but you know it will be awesome.  Bad Guy Earth is shaping up to be yet another awesome comic.

Chew #17: This issue of Chew finds FDA agents Tony Chu and John Colby investigating a food fight that turned deadly at Tony's daughter's school.  The food fight massacre seems to be the doing of one Peter Pilaf, another character with some food related powers.  Pilaf has the ability to whip up recipes that give him the power to control people...which might somehow tie him to the space station Okroshka, which blew up recently under mysterious circumstances. 

Three really great things happen in this issue, the first, that I already mentioned, is the revelation of a new food-power.  The second is the fact that John Colby really gets to shine in this issue, and it is absolutely hilarious.  The way he goes about cracking a case is unorthodox to say the least, but incredibly effective.  The final great thing is that we get to see a bit more of Olive Chu, Tony's daughter.  She was a great surprise addition to the series and I'm looking forward to learning more about her and her backstory.

Not too surprisingly, another great issue of Chew

Sweet Tooth #19: This issue serves as a prelude to next story arc and the narrative focuses on the ladies of Sweet Tooth, Lucy, Wendy, and Becky.  The story starts out with the three women going for a walk in the woods near their party's campsite, and as they walk, each character talks a little bit about their past.  The really nifty thing is that each little piece of back-story is drawn by a guest artist to the series.  Nate Powell draws the Lucy vignette, Matt Kindt draws the Wendy story, and Emi Lennox draws the Becky section.  While these tales are being spun, the intervening, present day sections are drawn by Jeff Lemire, and the girls get lost in the woods, then run into even bigger problems...

It was nice to see a little bit of character development on the part of the ladies as they had only been side characters up till that point.  It'll be pretty interesting to see how their story turns out.  From the way things are set up, the next story arc looks to be quite awesome.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Umbrella Academy v2 Dallas

Following the events of the previous volume, Dallas picks up soon after the superhero family has saved the world from a near apocalypse which was caused by their estranged sister.  At the start of this one, the team is once again more or less kaput, with each team member doing their own thing.  Spaceboy, once the de facto leader, has totally let himself go, and sunken deep into the trappings of day-time TV and gluttony.  Seance is busy preening himself and working on his celebrity image, while the Rumor gets even with her near world destroying sister.  While all that is taking place, Number 5 is busy betting up a storm at the dog track.  The Kraken, never one to sit idly by, has been hard at work investigating Number 5's comings and goings.  Before you know it, the team is tangled up with some time traveling cartoon headed assassins named Hazel and Cha Cha, traveling through time, fighting in the Vietnam war, and at the scene of the crime during the JFK assassination. 

While I thought the first volume of The Umbrella Academy suffered a bit in the character development department, that was definitely not this issue this time around.  By seeing how each character reacts to the near-apocalypse that was caused by their sister I really got a sense for what each character is really like.  Not only did each character come off as a much more developed and nuanced individual, the character building seemed much more natural this time around.  Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, and Way does a great job of having those qualities fit into their team dynamic. 

The plotting of Dallas was also much more intricate and layered this time around.  Every section of the story had meaning and purpose to the overall tale, but Way did a great job of masking how all the pieces fit together, and when he finally did show you all the pieces at once, it made for a very nice pay-off.  All around a pretty incredible piece of writing in this volume.

Once again, the artwork by Gabriel Ba was top notch.  The guy can just flat out draw really cool looking stuff that doesn't actually exist, but he still makes it look awesome.  Cartoon headed psycho killers in nazi uniforms?  No problem.  A human body with an enclosed goldfish bowl, complete with goldfish, in place of a head?  Yeah that's in there too.  A killer Lincoln Memorial?  Yep.  Ba can bring the wildest idea to the page and make it look incredible.  But he doesn't just draw weird stuff really well, he can draw everything else really well too.  The world of The Umbrella Academy has a familiar feel to it, but at the same time it is like nothing you've ever quite seen before. Hell, I don't even know where exactly the books take place, but everything looks great, and is beautifully drawn.  Truly a great match of imaginative story telling and art that brings the imagination to life.

The improved writing and character development really made this graphic novel stand out.  While I enjoyed Apocalypse Suite, I thought Dallas was near perfect, and it left me wanting more Umbrella Academy RIGHT NOW!  Not sure if that is gonna happen though.  Hopefully there is more from this title in the future, because if there is, I am in.  Lots of great stuff to love in this one.  Give it a read and thank me later.

Grade: A

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dark Tower News

Thanks to Aidan from A Dribble of Ink for breaking the news!

From Stephen King's website:

Dear Constant Readers,
At some point, while worrying over the copyedited manuscript of the next book (11/22/63, out November 8th), I started thinking—and dreaming—about Mid-World again. The major story of Roland and his ka-tet was told, but I realized there was at least one hole in the narrative progression: what happened to Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy between the time they leave the Emerald City (the end of Wizard and Glass) and the time we pick them up again, on the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis (the beginning of Wolves of the Calla)?
There was a storm, I decided. One of sudden and vicious intensity. The kind to which billy-bumblers like Oy are particularly susceptible. Little by little, a story began to take shape. I saw a line of riders, one of them Roland’s old mate, Jamie DeCurry, emerging from clouds of alkali dust thrown by a high wind. I saw a severed head on a fencepost. I saw a swamp full of dangers and terrors. I saw just enough to want to see the rest. Long story short, I went back to visit an-tet with my friends for awhile. The result is a novel called The Wind Through the Keyhole. It’s finished, and I expect it will be published next year.
It won’t tell you much that’s new about Roland and his friends, but there’s a lot none of us knew about Mid-World, both past and present. The novel is shorter than DT 2-7, but quite a bit longer than the first volume—call this one DT-4.5. It’s not going to change anybody’s life, but God, I had fun.
-- Steve King

Pretty awesome news, but I'm a little bit torn.  Part of me is super excited that in the fairly near future I'll be reading new material with Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy... a prospect that I thought was rather unlikely up until a few hours ago.   The other part of me sort of feels like, what is the point?  The series ended so well, and I don't see the sense in revisiting the characters mid-stream.  I'm always a bit skeptical of a writer/creator/artist revisiting or adding to old material.  Look how it turned out for George Lucas, and Dave Mustaine on the Megadeth remasters.  Hopefully Jamie DeCurry wont be the next Jar-Jar Binks.  I think there is less risk of that here, as there is a clear spot to insert the new material, and it likely wont mess with continuity or fudge around with what long standing fans feel is the essence of the body of work.  Either way, I'll be reading it. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Emerald City Comicon

My 2011 Emerald City Comicon experience was pretty much the polar opposite of last year's visit.  Whereas last year I was an awkward, uncomfortable comic newbie and pretty much directionless, attending mostly for the spectacle, this year I was a man on a mission. 

It's crazy how much can change in a year.  Last year my comic reading consisted of a few scattered titles here and there, and you could fill a library with everything I didn't know about comics.  A year later and I could still fill a library with my major lack of comic knowledge, but I certainly am much more well read in the medium, and I have a much better grasp on my comic likes and dislikes.  As a result, my comicon this year was a much more focused endeavor.

A couple nights prior to the con, I eschewed my pending schoolwork in favor of scouring the con guest list and taking note of all the writers and artists I wanted to see, and meet.  You could've titled the list: Who's Awesome Work Will I be Drooling Over on Saturday.  I even mapped out where their booths were.  Despite my awesome planning, I knew the droves of comic fans were equally, if not even more hyped than myself, so I got there early.

Being the planner that I am, I prioritized my list, starring the must-see names.  It should come as little surprise that John Layman and Jeff Lemire, were tops on that list.  I'm proud to say that every last Chew related item I own is now signed by John, (who actually remembered talking to me at a comic shop signing last December!) and a good chunk of my Jeff Lemire collection is not only signed but sporting some awesome original art by Jeff.  In the signature department, I also got the full Joe the Barbarian run signed by the super friendly and skilled artist Sean Murphy, and I got my Axe Cop graphic novel and the ultra new Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth comic signed by both the Nicolle brothers.  Getting my stuff signed by a six year old was pretty awesome, and my Axe Cop trade is sporting a sweet red lightning bolt along with Malachai's signature.  The signing aspect of the con was a complete success, as I got everything I brought with me signed.  I wish I could have lugged more around, but a backpack can only hold so many comics!

Aside from getting lots of stuff signed, I also got to talk to a lot of great comic writers and artists.  It was cool talking westerns with Brian Hurtt, the artist of The Sixth Gun, and talking about the pressure of working with Marvel characters with indie artist/writer Farel Dalrymple.  I had an interesting talk with Mark Rahner, the writer of Rotten, about how his gritty zombie comic set in the post Civil War era draws on some of the hot new items of our recent history.  Mark puts a lot of research effort into the comic, and it adds nice hidden nugget element to the comic.

I found myself spending a good chunk of time at the Image Comics booth, which was loaded with cool creators.  Probably the biggest highlight of the con for me was meeting Kurtis J. Wiebe, Scott Kowalchuk, and Nate Simpson, three young dudes who have some sweet looking comics already out or on the way this spring.  All those guys were incredibly easy to talk to, super nice, and grateful for my interest in their material.

Kurtis and Scott work together on The Intrepids a sort of science-gone-wrong action comic. Kurtis also works on the upcoming horror comic Green Wake, which looks pretty sweet, and Nate is writing and drawing the beautiful looking Non Player which is looking absolutely amazing.  Three dudes who have some great looking comics on the horizon.

I was totally pleased with my con experience.  Getting to talk to people who entertain and inspire me is always a treat, and it gives me greater appreciation for their work, but lets face it:  Part of going to comicon is to see people dressed up, so here you go, some con pics!

Ramona Flowers
It's sorta scary how much he looks like the real deal!

Wonder Woman might wanna keep an eye on Freddy.

The last unicorn.

These guys were doing a cool pose, but my camera is slow to turn on, so instead of a cool Darth Maul attack, I caught the post-battle hug.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Comic Quickies or Image Domination

Who is Jake Ellis #2: If you aren't reading this comic yet, you should be ashamed.  Ashamed!

The second issue follows up the excellent first issue with equal quality and snappy story telling.  The issue opens with a mysterious flash back to some sort of laboratory and gives a few hints as to how the Jon Moore and Jake Ellis partnership came into being.  From there we also get some death defying escapes from police custody, and plenty of action.  We also see that Jake Ellis, the mysterious guy in Jon's head might not the guardian angel he seems, and might be manipulating Jon in certain directions...

Another awesome issue, and at this point one of my most anticipated comics.  The story is pretty damn captivating, and the art is cool.  I have high hopes for this five issue series.

The Mission #1: Another debut from Image comics.  This one is about Paul Haskell, a regular dude who, after a doctors appointment, gets accosted in the parking garage by a slightly creepy old man named Gabriel.  Gabe claims that Paul has been chosen to play a part in the battle between good and evil.  Paul's mission: kill Neal Corman within the next 48 hours.

Paul might think he's simply the victim of some elaborate hoax, but when Gabe starts delivering veiled threats that appear to be coming true, he decides to give the Mission due diligence and spend a day tracking Neal.  What he finds may change his life forever.

At first this one reminded me a bit of Killer of Demons but The Mission is clearly on the serious side of things, and looks to go a bit deeper into the psychological aspects, and be much grittier than Killer of Demons.  For two thirds of this comic I wasn't too impressed story wise, but the final third was pretty great, and did enough to get me to stick around for at least another issue.

Memoir #2: In this issue our intrepid investigative reporter, Trent finally gets an interview with one of the Lowesville locals, who unlike the rest of the townsfolk, claims to remember all the events that led to everyone in the town losing their memory.

In terms of shedding light on the mystery that surrounds this series, there are some pretty good nuggets here, and of course, while some questions are answered, the answering generates even more questions.

The problem here is the main character, Trent, is an insufferable douche bag.  I'm sure this is deliberate, but I really can't stand the guy.  Its hard to read this comic, because events are seen and told from his perspective, and it takes a lot of the fun away.  Even though I want to find out what happened to the people of Lowesville, it would mean that Treat succeeds in his mission, and I kinda don't want the guy to succeed because I hate him.  Anyway, reading should be fun, and Trent sucks some of that enjoyment away so I won't be carrying on with Memior past this issue.

Turf #1:   This was easily my favorite read of the week.  Turf, a five issue series, got the ball rolling over a year ago, but the fourth issue has only been out for about a week.  I wanted to check it out, so I picked up the first three issues and was VERY impressed.  Mobsters, aliens, and vampires.  Need I say more?

Turf is set in prohibition era New York City.  The city is more or less carved up into nice money making chunks by various mob families.  The mobsters run the city, and the police get a cut to look ther other way.  However, someone or something has started taking out entire mob families wholesale.  These mass deaths might be related to the Dragonmir family, a recent transplant from Europe, but aside from smuggling human blood rather than booze, they appear harmless.

Turf's narrative jumps around to various points of view, which provides an interesting multi-faceted view of the events taking place.  We learn a lot about the main players through the eyes of Susie, a determined reporter who is looking to crack a big story.  Aside from Susie the story offers two other main view points; Eddie Falco, a mob boss, and Stefan Dragonmir,a young upstart vampire with grand designs.

It is hard to put my finger on one thing that makes Turf awesome.  There are a lot of cool, an interesting elements, and surprisingly, they don't get in each others way.    Despite it being a five part series, I got the sense that things will be pretty epic.  Also, Turf is dense.  There is a lot of narration and dialog, it took me about an hour to read through this first issue.  At times, the amount of text can overwhelm the art, but there some pretty cool things going on in this issue, and lots of bang for your buck.  I'm looking forward to seeing what is in store for the rest of the series.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Publication Date set for A Dance With Dragons!

HUGE news hit the interwebs today while I was still tucked into bed.  George R.R. Martin set a publication date for the long awaited A Dance with Dragons!  Here's what the man had to say:

 No.  Sorry.  Not done yet.
 I'm close, though.  Watch this space.  When the book is done, you will read it here.    Meanwhile... there is news.  Big news.  The end
is in sight, at long long last, and we're close enough so that my editors and publishers at Bantam Spectra have set an actual publication date.

A DANCE WITH DRAGONS will be in your favorite bookstore on 

TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2011

Yes, I know.  You've all seen publication dates before: dates in 2007, 2008, 2009.  None of those were ever hard dates, however.  Most of them... well, call it wishful thinking, boundless optimism, cockeyed dreams, honest mistakes, whatever you like. 

This date is different.   This date is real.  

Barring tsunamis, general strikes, world wars, or asteroid strikes, you will have the novel in your hands on July 12.  I hope you like it.
(For what it's worth, the book's a monster.  Think A STORM OF SWORDS.)

The dragons are coming.  Prepare to dance.

And hey... thanks for waiting. 

―George R.R. Martin, March 3, 2011

Wow!  Pretty exciting.  Given the three month turn around between turning the book in and getting it printed that I've heard about, that would mean George only has about a month more of writing to do.  Yay!  That will be pretty awesome.  I've been looking forward to this book for ages, so I cant wait to get my hands on it.  I think I should probably squeeze in a re-read of A Feast for Crows just so I make sure I remember everything correctly.  Ahhh, so sweet! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Author Event: Patrick Rothfuss

Yesterday, the book every fantasy fan has been waiting for finally came out.  No, not that one, I'm talking about Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.  Even though I only had to wait like, four days, most everyone else has waited about four years.  Even sweeter than not having to wait ages, my city, Seattle, got first crack at Pat as the very first leg of his book tour.

The event was scheduled to take place at 7 pm, but when I showed up at the bookstore around 4:30 to purchase Wise Man's Fear there were already a few superfans milling about.  Their extreme earliness gave me a bit of a chuckle and I probably called them "nerds" or something under my breath.  Knowing there was still tons of time before the event, but not enough time to bus home and do something useful, I instead sipped some tea and did some reading in the store's cafe.  Around 5:15 I poked my head into the author event area and saw that 50 or 60 folks were already staking out seats for the event!  Bear in mind that 50-60 souls is about average for most of the fantasy author events I've been to at this store, however it was still a solid two hours before the event!  At this point I decided that all Pat Rothfuss fans were much more hardcore than I'd anticipated, and also that this Rothfuss guy might actually be a big deal or something. 

However, I am a stubborn bastard at the best of times, and I refused to claim a seat and just sit there for two hours.  Plus, I was hungry.  So I went and ate pizza.  When I came back around 6pm, any hope of getting a seat had long since disappeared, and I was relegated to standing room only.  By 7pm when the event began, my guess is that anywhere between 500-750 people were in attendance.  Easily the most people I've ever seen at an event there and even more than when GRRM was there touring A Feast for Crows.  As surprised as I was by the numbers, when Pat came out his jaw nearly dropped to the floor, and a huge smile made its way to his face.  It's gotta be an awesome feeling to go to a book signing the day your new book comes out and be greeted by hundreds of cheering fans. 

The event itself was also pretty great.  Pat cracked a lot of jokes, and of all the authors I've met, he wins the award for funniest...though I will say the fantasy book reading crowd is a pretty easy audience to get a chuckle out of.  Guess we're just a carefree bunch.  Pat fielded a lot of questions, and the event definitely had a "hangin' out with Pat" feel to it despite the massive amounts of people.  He also read the prologue, from Wise Man's Fear, took some more questions, read us some of his poetry, told stories, took more questions, and signed books. 

He mentioned that he anticipates the third book will be out in 100 years, and added that it could come out sooner than that, but probably not for a couple years.  Some other subjects his discussion touched on are buying the rights to Firefly, his extreme hatred of spoilers, (he once spit on a friend for spoiling part of season five of Angel), child rearing, and the world of The Four Corners of Civilization, which may or may not be flat. 

He also discussed how the Kingkiller Chronicles went from having all three books finished, to needing years of rewrites.  Rothfuss said that when he wrote the books ten years ago, he thought they were totally awesome.  However, back than he referred to himself as a "feral writer";  not part of a writing group and had little formal training.  Now, with improved skills, and hindsight, he said that some parts are still awesome, and other parts need rewriting, in some cases lot of it.  What impressed me was his dedication to writing the best possible book, no matter how long it took him.

Sacrilegious as this may sound, I did not stick around to get my books signed.  I know, what an idiot I am right?  Well, truth be told, I did stick around for about an hour of the signing session, but I was wedged pretty good into a corner and even after an hour of signing, the crowd hadn't thinned out that much.  Faced with pending school work, an ever increasingly less frequent bus schedule that was my only way home, and a line that seemed endless, I decided to call it a night.  So, slight disappointment there at the end, but that's just the way it is.  Still, it was cool to hear Rothfuss speak, and it's nice to know that he's a pretty cool guy, and definitely deserving of his hordes of fans.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: The Name of the Wind

My Dad always says "hindsight is always 20-20".  Looking back, I wish I had read The Name of the Wind a lot sooner, it's a pretty flippin' awesome book, but in many ways, my timing here is perfect.  Not only is the sequel coming out Today, but the man hisself, Patrick Rothfuss will be doing an author event thingy at my favorite local bookstore here in Seattle today as well!  So, I plan to pick up the sequel Wise Man's Fear and get both of 'em signed, which'll be pretty awesome.  But enough about the sequel, for now, I'm here to talk about The Name of the Wind.

The Name of the Wind starts out in a humble inn, located in a small, out of the way town.  The innkeeper is a man named Kote, but from very early on, it is pretty obvious that "Kote" is actually Kvothe (pronounced Quothe), a living legend for a wide array of reasons.  Kote appears to be hiding from his past, or maybe he's hiding from the future, as there are some hints at foul things ahead, but either way, Kote does not wish for people to know his true identity.  All of that is for naught, as a recently robbed man, known as "The Chronicler" is rescued by Kote from demonic spider-like creatures and  brought to the inn for patching up.  The Chronicler figures out Kote's true identity easily enough, and he even convinces Kvothe to tell him his life's story.  After careful consideration, Kvothe decides he'll share his tale, but the telling will take three days.  The Name of the Wind contains all the bits of Kvothe's life story that he told on the first day.

For the most part, The Name of the Wind deals with Kvothe's teenage years, but it also discusses his family life as a  member of a traveling performance troupe, where he began to learn some magical talents from an arcanist named Abenthy.  Though his early days seemed pretty idyllic, he soon winds up as a beggar on the streets of Tarbean.  After a few rough years on the streets, Kvothe gains enrollment at The University, a school that teaches magic.  There Kvothe hopes to learn about the Chandrian, a fabled, mysterious group who may be responsible for the greatest tragedy in Kvothe's life. 

For his sheer ability to spin a provocative and addictive tale, Patrick Rothfuss has gained me as a fan.  I got easily sucked into this story, and had a hard time putting it down.  The pace of the story moves quite nicely, and I found myself caught up in Kvothe's story quite easily.  That said, this wasn't the perfect debut novel.

For my money, too much time was spent at The University.  Yes, it plays a vital role in the story, and is crucial to giving Kovthe the skills he'll need if he's ever gonna become the legend that he hints at being, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading Harry Potter for grown ups.  He's got a teacher that hates him, a dick-head, pompous, and rich student rival, a school filled with secrets, drama with girls, and so on.  While all of this was well written and interesting, better than Harry Potter in my opinion, I still got a bit of the been-there-done-that feeling while reading those sections.  This personal gripe of mine should be remedied soon enough as Kvothe's tale moves past his time at The University.

Make no mistake, I truly believe Rothfuss is a skilled writer, and has potential to be one of the best in the genre, and his character building is a good example of his skill.  Kvothe himself is one of the most interesting characters I've come across, and I get the feeling that by the end of the series he'll be unforgettable.  His apprentice, Bast, The Chronicler, and the patrons of his inn all came to life on the page, and I got the sense that I was spending an evening with them all at the inn.  However, while the present day characters felt fleshed out and developed, I felt like many of the characters from Kvothe's past were a bit flimsy.  I had a hard time visualizing what Denna, Kvothe's love interest, was actually like, or what she looked like, and the same goes for his friends, teachers, and his chief rival Ambrose at The University.  I wonder if that was deliberate on Rothfuss' part, to make the people of the past to be less vivid than those in the present day, or if it was just a blemish in Rothfuss' developing writerly skills.

Like I said earlier, Rothfuss has an amazing ability for telling an engrossing tale.  The journey through Kvothe's youth was fascinating, and engrossing, and I love how it was entwined with present day events that seem to hint at amazing and epic things to come.  That said, I felt like the ending itself was a little bit bland, and anticlimactic.  Especially given that much more epic things had been hinted at throughout the narrative.  Still, having the sense that bigger and better things are on the horizon make me all the more eager for the next book.

One thing I noticed while reading The Name of the Wind is that it is all to easy to forget that this is a debut novel.  There are times when Rothfuss writes with the best of the genre, which probably makes the few weaknesses I mentioned stand out even more.  For the majority of the time Rothfuss is extremely eloquent and engrossing.  The writing is of a pretty high caliber, and the scary thing is, he'll probably only get better as the years, and best selling novels go by.

The Name of the Wind is an awesome beginning to what looks to be a great fantasy series.  The book hints at a lot of epic things just over the horizon, and there is a large degree of mystery involved too, which has me anxious for some answers.  I'm typically skeptical of brick sized fantasy novels, but Rothfuss drowned those fears in a great story, great characters and a setting I'm excited to read more about.  There's definitely a few flaws, but I have a good feeling about this series.  Definitely worth a read.

Grade: B+