Comic Review: Right Ho, Jeeves #1

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Today marked the release of Akrhaven Comics’ 2nd outing, the first issue of the adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s classic, Right Ho, Jeeves. I’m a reader who’s coming in not having read the book in which it’s been adapted from, so I can’t comment on how faithful it is to the original, and I come at this purely from a standpoint of “is this a good comic book?”

What’s interesting is by the nature of this story is there’s a lot of potential for talking heads. When I mention this in comics, it usually means a lot of “telling” or having people talk back and forth which doesn’t communicate a story well in a visual manner. Dialogue drives this book. It’s a humorous book based on wit and character alone, and it’s actually very daring as an adaptation as a second outing because of that.

I’m pleased to say that Dixon and Kwapisz managed to change the sceneries, the characters, and have them DO things to keep the story driving and flowing. It’s a cut above most comic books I see when it comes to heavy dialogue,and it’s a testament to the skill of the artist and writer how well they pulled this off.

Dixon introduces all of the characters in the story on the first page, giving a pertinent description along with a visual. The visual is where this really takes off as the characters are so well defined and cartoon-ish looking, just like they should be for a comedy like this. They nailed the classic cartoonist feel to a tee, and it instantly prepared the reader fo what was ahead.

As the scenes ensue, there’s a couple of plots going on — one in which Bertram (the main character and narrator) is forced to get a job, and another in which Augustus Fink-Nottle, a silly looking man, dresses as the devil to try to impress a woman at a party, and of course it goes disastrously wrong.

What’s amazing to me is how adept Dixon is at giving the characters different voices in the dialogue, while simultaneously ensuring that the reader has to read this in their minds with a British accent. Coming off reading a vastly different book by Dixon in Robyn Hood #1, in which he captures a modern girl playing superhero in her young 20s in America, the pure depth of voice and breadth Dixon can reach is really astounding.

Likewise the art by Kwapisz is amazing. There’s some extremely detailed panels, keeping with the cartoonish styles, but he even shifts the tone of his art for flashbacks depending on the vantage point. There’s one scene in particular in which Fink-Nottle sees himself a a hero and the art switches to his vision of the world and it’s very nice to look at. Bonus points to Kwapisz as he drew horses in the same cartoony manner and pulled those off — as any comic artist will tell you, horses are extremely hard to draw, let alone give distinct character like in this book.

This isnt’ an action-adventure comic. And it would be foolish to read it as such. This is a literary work turned into a literary comic with humor and cartoonishness playing a large part of the theme and aesthetic. And by Jove, Dixon/Kwapisz nailed it. If Arkhaven keeps up this kind of quality, they’ll be competing with the big companies in no time.

9/10

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My 2017 Planetary Awards Nominations

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It’s that time of year again. Last year for 2016 I nominated two very cool sci-fi stories, which I wanted to raise awareness for. For something like this, I like to try to put something out there not just that is great, but that other folk might not nominate because it didn’t cross their radars.

Most of my reading is in Sci-Fi proper or Mil SF, so it’s actually kind of odd this year that my two favorite stories I’ll be nominating for the awards are fantasy.

Without further ado, 2017 Planetary Awards Nominations:

For Short Story:

I’ve mentioned this several times before but my favorite short story of 2017 was “Trouble In An Hourglass” by Jody Lynn Nye which appeared in Straight Outta Tombstone. This is a weird western time travel adventure that I thought was supremely fun. It’s actually up there as one of my favorite short stories of all time. I’m a big fan of weird west in general, but Jody really nailed it with the characters in this book being people who are relatable. As a testament to how much Jody made me care about them as a reader, I actually started dreaming up scenarios where they have other adventures in my head (which is dangerous because I don’t have time to write more stuff this year!). The science is light on this, which is fine by me. It’s just pure fun. Jody is a big Dr. Who fan from way back, and her love for that style of adventure really shows in this story. It fired perfectly on every cylinder for me from world to pacing to character to concept. Great stuff.

For Novel:

It’ll be no surprise given other awards nominations I’ve been touting that I’m picking Robyn Bennis’ The Guns Above. It’s Steampunk, but it nails the aspects of Steampunk I love: detailed airship combat, a cool fantasy world, exciting war where the stakes are really high for the characters. Tone wise, it’s a little darker than my usual fare, but Robyn propels a beautiful adventure with these characters. Josette is supremely capable as a character, and though she’s also very jaded, it’s fun to watch her progress into her own command. Bernat’s arc, though he’s extremely annoying, is really what makes the book, because it ends up being somewhat about redemption and it adds a little light heartedness to the very heavy story.

Lots of war. Lots of death. Lots of drama. And airship action. Hopefully Robyn will be getting book 2 out here quickly!

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Quickshot Comic Reviews

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I hadn’t been to the comic shop in a couple weeks with the unprecedented craziness that went down last week, but I did yesterday, and I caught up on my comic reading last night which was very fun. Here’s a little bit of what I’m reading and my thoughts on it:

The Tick #2 by Cullen Bunn, Jimmy Z Johnston and Duane Redhead. This was a lot of fun. I thought the first issue was really amusing, but this was even better. Ninjas vs. clowns! The Tick meanwhile is poisoned with some drug that’s making him relive his origin while Arthur tries to keep him from hurting himself or others by accident. It’s fun, fast paced, and actually decent for all ages which makes me happy.  8/10

Grass Kings #11 by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. Anyone who follows me knows I’m a huge Kindt fan. Grass Kings is honestly the best book out there no one’s talking about right now. It’s about the quirkiest story I’ve seen in a long time, no superpowers, no supernatural stuff, just pure character drama in a really cool concept set up. This issue resolved the first arc but still left a lot of questions, and it was very intense character drama. I love the pretty watercolor indie art. My shop also got me a variant cover (pictured above) which is one of my fav covers I’ve seen in awhile as well.  10/10

Star Wars Forces Of Destiny: Rey #1 by Jodie Houser and Arianna Florean. This is a “grrl power” gimmick event by IDW. Female creators! Strong female leads! Finally! It gets really old seeing one of these month after month by publishing companies. But judging from the book itself and not the editorial mandated event, Jodie Houser actually crafted a pretty fun book. Rey and BB8 are on Jakku trying to survive in a tale set in the middle of The Force Awakens. It’s just action, survival and fun. Art is pretty decent too. The style works really well for this kind of story. I had fun with this 8/10.

Bloodshot:Salvation #5 by Jeff Lemire and Lewis LaRosa. This art is just stunning, like most Valiant books, but it’s still the wrong feel for a book like Bloodshot. It’s the gritty “Punisher Max” sort of attempt to make Bloodshot more a “real” character. This answered some questions from #3 and concluded a fight, with a Deus ex. Ninjak element to it. I’m glad we finally got to some action in this series. That with the pretty pencils was enough for me to enjoy the conclusion to this arc. 8/10

Dejah Thoris #0 by Amy Chu and Pasquale Qualano. I picked this up because of the 25 cent price tag. Art was pretty decent all the way through, but I found it a bit hard to be gripped. A lot of setting the stage and telling us what’s going on, and the pacing was a little bit slow on it. It was alright enough that i might pick up the #1, but hopefully that issue has a little bit more to it. 7/10

Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe #1 by Eliot Rahal and Joe Bennett. This was everything I wanted out of a Valiant book and have been asking for forever. It was pure fun. Action. spy drama. Superheroics. Crazy antics. There’s a little suspension of disbelief issue with the plot but I don’t care because it was just that fun. Art was nice and fit the book’s tone perfectly. Valiant should more more in this direction than trying too hard to be arty with their superhero books. 9/10

And that’s it for this week. If you like my tastes or thoughts on fiction, you’ll probably like my fiction even more. I deliver short stories to my Patreon subscribers every month and more! It keeps the blog going, keeps me writing, and helps me to make my own comics. Support and get some of the best content in the business! 

 

 

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The Super Hype Jon Del Arroz Book Of The Year

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I read a lot of great books this year. It makes it exceedingly hard for me to choose one or even do a top five like I am prone to doing. Of course, then it’d be just as easy to name one of my own books as book of the year, I mean I am rather partial to those…

But over the course of all of my reading, one book really stood out to me. Even though it’s been about 6 months since I read it, the book is fresh in my mind. The characterizations were so visceral, the worldbuilding so tight. It opened in a very unique battle sequence which was very intense, where unlike most fantasy/mil-sf I read, I felt the characters were in  overwhelming danger and not going to get out of it. The book took such a brave 180 as it got further into it, transitioning to another kind of battle — the battle for the main character’s heart.

Just the pure breadth and depth of this story meant it had so much to offer. The author has such a depth of connecting with character that it makes it hard to put it down once I started reading, all of which is positive.

And so… I decree the book of the year 2017 to be Wandfasted by Laurie Forest. It’s billed as a novella, but it’s really about the length of a short novel.

It’s a prequel to The Black Witch, and actually I believe was released more as a promotional tool for that book. It really stands on its own and I feel is superior to the main book it’s meant to support. Where I felt TBW bogged down with some pacing issues in the middle, this book was about perfect on that level. I keep saying Laurie is someone to pay attention to as THE NEXT BIG NAME IN FANTASY. If she keeps up work like this, she may be hailed as one of the greats sooner rather than later.

Wandfasted is available only via ebook, though I think her publisher should look into doing a limited edition hardbound run. Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Wandfasted-Black-Chronicles-Laurie-Forest-ebook/dp/B01N00Y9X9

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Comic Review: Port Of Earth #1

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Port Of Earth automatically made it to my excitement list when I  saw the concept — aliens use water for fuel  and  made earth into a stopping point along their transit routes. They built  a port, which is supposed to be away from human society and supposed to not have them interact with humans, in exchange, humanity got to get access to unlimited power, ending our energy dependency. Wow!

Of course, eventually, aliens act as tourist, and problems occur. Those problems lead to a  lot of deaths in situations, so an agency is formed  to both protect the aliens and the humans from each other.

The drawings are pretty solid, though  the colors are a bit washed out — I  guess which was an intentional stylistic choice, but it does make a  little monotony to the issue, which is amplified because of the  pacing.

The pacing of this book is really out of whack. It opens up with  several pages  of backstory “telling” which probably could have been condensed some. We don’t actually meet the main characters until the staple page —  halfway through the book. So the set  up, while it’s a great concept, is a lot.

Once  we get there, it’s very slow. The second half of the issue is pretty much filled with talking heads, that, with the washed out colors.

Now it sets up an interesting story where these ESA agents are going after an alien, and the media is actually going to watch them with drones to show what  they do.

The next high point in t he story is the characters. They’re  well written, rounded, and  people you can connect to as a reader. The we have one “straight guy”  character and  one over  the top type  who seems hellbent on getting them into trouble. The relationship between the main character and his woman is very well done also.This plus the concept and solid line art  is enough I’m certainly going  to pick up a second issue.

There were a couple dialogue spots where it could have used some editing. One panel has two complex sentences end in the same word choices in a row, which looks a little clunky, and there’s a couple of other spots that could use tightening up.  This didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment or the characters.

There’s a lot of potential here, but the issue itself suffered from those pacing issues.  Hopefully as the arc continues we get past the infodumpy portions. It’s worth continuing reading, and I’ll review issue #2 next week (it’s already out) to let you know if it picks up.

7/10

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Book Review: Dangerous Gamers

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I don’t usually review too many non-fic books here (well I did Scott Adams), but I just read  Dangerous Gamers: The Commentariat and it’s war against video games, imagination and fun. I have to say this is probably the most poignant and relevant analysis of our culture and it’s direction I’ve ever read.

It goes into depth on the armchair-quarterback social media outrage, it’s effect on entertainment news and its effect on culture itself. the main thing the book taught me which I’d never thought of before, is pop culture works we consider “political” actually have little to do with politics. I’ll let you read to figure out why, but it’s an extremely interesting hypothesis.

People try to find outrage in everything now, and it’s based on identity of the creators more than the actual content of the messages of the entertainment itself. It’s so ridiculous, and though this book just got me thinking about it anew, the detailed, logical perspective it takes actually made me take a step back to look at the global trends.

It’s heavy, and it’s a little on the long side for the premise, but it’s worth the time if only to open up your mind to what the commentariat class is doing, and how it’s ruining everything for everyone.

https://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Gamers-Commentariat-against-imagination-ebook/dp/B071W99VMZ/

 

 

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Ninja-K #1

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The premise of this book is a relaunch (not retcon or reboot as it seems to follow the continuity and actually care about what Kindt delivered, actually referencing it in the script – which there’s a portion of in the Pre-Order edition I read), is someone’s going around killing all of the prior Ninja operatives still living. This is a 40 page book, and there’s a lot of interesting ideas, and issues with the writing in general, which i’ll get to in detail.

Conceptually, having a Ninja program with an A-K is pretty interesting. I don’t know if this was established in continuity before, but it makes sense and the history is interesting.  The problem is, leading the book with 8 pages of the history of the program and not just getting right into our characters we’re supposed to care about is a weird way to open a comic. The pages look like pin-ups as someone voices over talking about it, we eventually learn is Ninja-D about 4 pages in.  It cuts eventually to him as an old man and Ninja-K talking, where he asks Ninja-K if this was useful to him. It suffers from a “show don’t tell” aspect of comics in that it delivered us far too much backstory. I get Ninja-D needed to be established as someone important, and the history was important as well, but the lengthiness of it poses an issue.

Especially as it goes into a scene of Ninja-K going over in his head Ninja-D’s “rules of the trade” while he’s in battle in China, rescuing a kid from people we don’t learn much about. It’s a throwaway intro to show us the gadgets, his prowess, his abilities and establish we have a bonafide Ninja. This creates a problem as we already had 8 pages of establishing background, so we’re a full 16 pages in before an actual story starts. Now these pages were a bit more fun and enjoyable to read, but didn’t really grip beyond a generic fight.

After all this intro we are TOLD (not shown) Ninja-D has been killed. Ninja-K already knows and is gonna investigate. Very little tension.  Now this could have been way more interesting easily by having Ninja-D talk to Ninja-K on a call about the rules, training, history, while Ninja-K was fighting. Maybe even a flashback side-by-side comparison sequence to get that history in. The line goes dead after some gurgling, Ninja-K panics and flies back to see what’s going on.  An intro could have been done in half the pages that way and been much more exciting.

We cut to pause for a few pages of relationship drama – which is actually fairly good. I liked where it went on that angle, where Ninja-K is sleeping with Livewire (another valiant hero) which I’m going to assume was established prior to this. She’s not happy with the shallow level of their relationship and it kinda blows up. Solid few pages here.

That leads to the only SJW virtue signaling moment of the book. Ninja K after having the fight goes down, starts talking to himself in a line that added nothing and would have been easy to edited out and not play social justice politics with.  “You can seduce targets of any age or gender in twenty four languages if you’re being paid to do so…”

Okay, it’s weird enough someone talks to themselves (should have been dialogue box probably), but in the mental commentary we’re really worrying about “any age and gender?” It just made me roll my eyes as that line reads like it was out of Teen Vogue, not a super bad ass British agent.  It could be shortened to “You can seduce any targets if you’re being paid to do so…” and would have come across far more natural without the rather pointless signaling. This stuff isn’t brave or interesting in comics anymore, it’s just annoying and throws people out of the story. And the more I look at it, it’s got pedophillia implications I am really hoping are unindented and just missed by editorial.

It follows the rest of the book Ninja-K investigating and trying to figure out who killed them, with an explosion at the end.  There’s a lot of telling of the past, speculating on past villains like Dr. Silke (important in the Valiant Universe) and a femme fatale type who I’m going to guess is the major villain when it comes to it (we haven’t seen, we just have explosion).  This is the meat of the story, it’s pretty good, and though it’s almost all talking back and forth, it’s pretty interesting and tense, especially in the last couple of pages.

If they’re going to do 40-page comics, they need to pack more story into it than this, in my opinion. The set up took way too long to get to, in something that without all the exposition, we really could have gotten to in 2-3 pages to kick off the better action adventure.  Page 1: “Ninja-D, my mentor, is dead.” Page 2 “Who could have done this?” Maybe the femme fatale? Page 3: Explosion of the whole house!  Flip and let’s get into the action with the real bad guy.

The exposition didn’t add enough interesting worldbuilding or character (aside from the Livewire interaction) to really justify much existing. The story really only got started in those last couple pages.  If you wanted to layer in some more exposition, could flashback a little after that but on the storytelling level, it’s a bit disappointing.

Character wise, they all kind of talk the same. There’s one British dude who actually sounds British – he’s the guy questioned late in the book, but everyone else sounds pretty American. Same cadences, same verbiage. Everyone talks to themselves at that (shouldn’t have been more than one character doing that, it stands out when it’s multiple), and so the characters come across a little flat too.

Now it sounds like I’m roasting the story, but it’s got some potential. There are interesting concepts, interesting ideas where it could pan out over the next couple issues. With 40-page comics, I’m happy Valiant is trying out pushing the boundaries on that front too as most comics stick to 20 for monthly production.  The end pages was enough of a hook I’ll keep reading, but this story wise was a tough first issue that should have had more meat to it.

On the art front: Tomas Giorello makes it all worthwhile. I can look at the pages and they’re so beautiful I don’t care about anything else. Perhaps they were thinking that, and made this more of a pin-up book for him than anything else, and it worked to some level. His masterful and beautiful art made it a joy to flip through the pages, and almost made me forget the story issues until I went back and thought about it afterward.  I really loved his Femme Fatale late in the book, one of the most beautiful drawings of a woman I’ve seen in a comic in a long time.  I mean wow! No complaints there at all. The coloring is a bit on the darker side, but it works for the book as well.  I hope they can keep up the quality when it rotates artists on this monthly book, as I know there’s no way someone can keep up a 40 pages a month schedule for long.

Overall, the art saved it. An intriguing premise, but the execution really needed some heavy editing, and story wise, I feel we should be well into wherever issue 2 is supposed to be rather than where we’re at.  I’m still on board, but I really hope issue 2 has more meat to the story.

7/10

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Review: Win Bigly by Scott Adams

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Win Bigly By Scott Adams

As an author who enjoys the marketing aspects of my business, I am always hungry in good marketing strategies or psychological persuasion analysis. As such, I’ve been following Scott Adams for some time, as he’s been keen to talk about the topic. His citing of Robert Cialdini’s Influence only gave him more credibility in my mind, as I have read the book and apply several of its methods to my online presence.

That said, I was primed to feel as if I wouldn’t fill up on the content of this book. I’d read Adams’ autobiographical How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big, and while I enjoyed learning about the trials of his life and how he worked hard to overcome them, I felt like it was a little lacking in terms of deeper content applicable to me overall. But, by the same token, I still recall several phrases and life-advice blurbs he gave in the book, so perhaps it was better than I give it credit. But this is also a political book, and I’ve seen a trend of a lot of authors use their blog posts, retool them, and push a book out for marketing purposes. As I’m happy to support Adams because I do love his blogs so much, I did buy it. But I was firmly expecting there to be little meat to the book where I’d already satiated my interest in psychology with a good meal on his blog.

Getting into the book though, I found a nice refresher of the persuasion topics, The first ½ of the book or so delves deeply into that, the techniques both he and President Trump use in marketing, including some points I hadn’t paid attention to along the way of the election, or that Adams added for this book specifically in order to make it more substantive. While I’m typically a slow reader, If I have something I find incredibly compelling, I find I read a book in just a few days—and Win Bigly did that for me.

There’s some expert advice in here, but it’s on the reader to apply it to your own life or business. I’m fine with that as I’m good with taking abstract constructs and modifying them for my own use. I’ve built a brand on that kind of persuasion myself in the last year, and both some of my fans and critics have noticed it. Reinforcing the concepts was very useful for me in that regard. The sections on the Persuasion Stack and How To Design a Linguistic Kill Shot I found most flavorful and substantive.

The last third of the book for me or so was skim material. It had all the ingredients of the blog content I had been concerned about when I bought the book. For someone who already follows Adams’ content closely, it’s like the filler at a Poke Bowl restaurant where you’ve got your nice ahi on top with some of the good stuff, and the carbs of the rice or noodles on the bottoms are designed to fill you up a bit cheaply for the restaurant. Now Adams specifically says not to use analogies in persuasion, but bear with me in this review. Believe me, you’ll want to keep reading.

Going over the election cycle, process, all the scandals, all the persuasion points used, and the final victory didn’t do much for me, but if you didn’t read Adams’ blog every day and you’re not already in the know, the content is really compelling, even spooky (a word he often uses). I’m not sure I buy into how heavy his influence was on the election, as my vote didn’t change based on what he said, but he did change my life in the way I perceive the world. I’m chowing down bigly on the persuasion filter and it’s partially because of the way the events lined up and the way Adams described it. If you’re interested and you haven’t followed his work, the final third section might be the most compelling part of the book for you.

Overall, I enjoyed it as much as I do a good meal. Win Bigly solidified what I already believe in terms of influence and persuasion, brought up some fun new points and a couple of good laughs along the way. He did rely a bit on reposting blog content, but not so heavily that it deterred me from enjoying the book. It’s a must read for anyone new to marketing or with interest in the persuasion game of life. There’s a lot to chew on.

Overall, I give the book a 9/10. Entertaining, useful, and just about the right length to hold my interest.

Post Review Important! Read! 

Now my real persuasion plan with this review is to try to get Scott Adams to read and let me take him out to lunch. I live about 10 minutes from Scott Adams and it’s been on my bucket list as an author. I layered my review with food metaphors, in hopes that he reads it, it made him hungry and that he might reach out and contact me. We do have a lot of similar friends on the online presence and I believe we’re firmly on the same team. I’d even use WhenHub to let him know when I arrive, and I’m buying if he’s in! We’ll see if my persuasion was up to snuff. At the very least, I know I delivered a good laugh.

If you like persuasion and Trumpisms, you might also want to check out the new anthology MAGA 2020, some of the only pro-Trump pop culture out there, which features a story by me, a nice intro by Milo Yiannopoulos and a great essay by Ivan Throne. You can check it out here.

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Comic Review: Batman Dark Prince Charming

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Batman Dark Prince Charming comes in a nice hardcover package – a bit small for the hardcover treatment and at a bit of a steep price point at $12.99 for what looks like a thin book. It doesn’t help the book comes shrink-wrapped so if you’re not in the know in having researched it, you are gambling on the quality of the book. Marini being the only creator listed on the front was confusing to me too, as I didn’t know who that was going in. The cover art really doesn’t do the story justice either, with a very un-exciting look of a Batman mid-shot pictured above. Not sure why they went with that as it probably harms the book sales rather than helps it.

Enrico Marini is an Italian artist and writer who does the full duty from start to finish on the comic, as he’s done on several others published through a French press. It’s something we don’t see often in the comics world and so it’s intriguing by itself, but what’s inside is some beauty nearly unparalleled in comics.

His art style is one of my favorites. It’s that hyper-detailed pencil-to-colors look where you don’t get the broad strokes of the ink covering up the original drawings save for where the artist chooses to for the art’s sake. I personally think it makes for a very fresh looking quality. It’s one Tomas Giorello used on the first 3 issues of X-O Manowar, another Italian artist, and I wonder if their styles come from their training over there. Either way, once I saw the art, I was immediately in for this book. Even if the story was non-existent in this book, I would have  probably liked to flip through the panels just to get a glimpse at Marini’s drawings. They’re that good.

Story wise, we have a standard Frank Miller-esque dark Gotham with a Joker who is kidnapping children, a Bruce Wayne who’s getting hit up for a paternity allegation, and a Batman on an obsessive mission to find the Joker and save the day. What I like about this that I don’t see in the current Batman ongoing  — which is where I think the Miller-esque Batman has gone a bit too far – is Batman doesn’t sit around whining about how he’s lonely or how he’s sad and how he doesn’t feel he’s making a difference. He’s being a hyper-driven Detective here by  every means possible, and so it’s more fitting with the character. We get some nice cameos from Killer Croc and Catwoman (who is stunningly drawn).

Other than that, it’s a standard Batman v. Joker fare. Joker is out of control insane, and leaving a trail in some ways to toy with Batman. He acts a bit shocking throughout – this is very dark, close to R-Rated in its  content. I usually don’t like that in a comic, but it fits here decently.  I wouldn’t say the story is mind-blowingly different in any regard to other stories I’ve read, but it IS classic Batman. It feels right, and that’s what’s important.

It is half a story as this is a part 2. So you are committing to $12.99 x 2 to get the full story here. But on the flip side, it’s clear the amount of art quality and time they took toward making this book, I’m all in on it and I’m waiting for more. Marini’s art has me wowed and I’m itching for the conclusion.

9/10

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Review: Rocky Mountain Retribution by Peter Grant

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Peter Grant’s Brings The Lightning was my favorite fiction work of 2016, so I was thrilled to see a sequel come out this year. The first story is one of travelling west, working hard, and persevering through all sorts of adversity. It’s really a testament to the American dream, perfect thematically for a western and the opening of a series.

Rocky Mountain Retribution opens with Walt being somewhat established with his business in Colorado, a small time jump in his life, but a sensible one. I think people can start with this book first no problem if they want to jump right into it, but there’s some character banter about characters from the first book, and I think you’ll care more about side characters like Rose if you read Brings the Lightning first.

This book proved equally as adept, and perhaps from a structural craft perspective is superior to the first. Whereas the first book was about a man making it and working hard, however, this book was much darker in its themes. It was truly about retribution—with an opening scene having Walt get into a battle with horse thieves, and one of his men getting killed in the process. Walt decides to be the arbiter of justice and it sets off a cascade of events of further retribution, this time from big criminal elements in Colorado down to New Mexico.

Walt sets into investigation to stop these thieves from terror, though with a nice mix of his own interests that make his character a lot more rational than standard altruistic investigators in fiction. It’s pretty tense the whole way through, with a stellar pace to the plot as it unfolds and spirals into bigger and bigger situations.

Unlike the first book, we get a lot of villain perspectives in the book, and Grant does a great job of switching between perspectives and making them sound distinct. I liked that the main villain didn’t end up feeling like a mustache twirler, but he was quite rational in most of his actions as well.

It’s brutal. The opening scene establishes this as well. Grant doesn’t mince words going into this and says right out “this is the wild west, and it’s going to be a lot tougher and scarier than the travel over.” It jarred me at first because Brings The Lightning was so uplifting in a number of ways—of which part of it continues with the way Walt treats his men right, something that distinguishes him from the villains and shows his personal code of ethics.

But there is, as mentioned, a lot of brutality. A lot of loss. It probably will appeal to a wider group of people because of that as I could see Rocky Mountain Retribution developed into a show on AMC or HBO easily. It’s hard to get into the points where the book really hits hard without spoiling it, but let’s just say the book goes much further than the “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” I usually see in westerns… to a full “this territory ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

Western fans won’t be disappointed in this latest effort in the least. Another solid installment by Grant in what I hope will be a long series. We could use more works like this series in modern American literature.

9/10

https://www.amazon.com/Rocky-Mountain-Retribution-Ames-Archives-ebook/dp/B06XX1J2SN

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