Author Archives: AJ

Secret Avengers #5 (Comics Review)

In the last four months Ales Kot and Michael Walsh have dazzled me with their take on this secret group of Avengers working for SHIELD. Hawkeye, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Nick Fury Jr., Phil Coulson and Maria Hill have been stunning almost every step of the way and this has certainly been one of the most impressive of the new titles launched by Marvel this year for its All-New Marvel NOW! initiative, marking the second major launch of its titles since late 2012. The four issues thus far have been impressive sure, but I think we are entering an all-new phase that is even better..

This past week’s Secret Avengers #5 deepens the character mysteries and really tones down all the action so that the plot moves along in a very different manner. It is given however that when Maria Hill and Nick Fury Jr, are involved, especially a straight-and-narrow guy like Coulson, there is going to be a lot of friction between them over all the secrets being kept, and the biggest secret on this team is that Modok is working for SHIELD! Ales Kot, Michael Walsh, Matthew Wilson and Tradd Moore are at their best in this issue and they deliver on the goods in a handsome manner.

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Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat

Tom Cruise is no stranger to action movies, and certainly not to science-fiction action movies, having done quite a few of them in his time, the latest up until a few weeks back being Oblivion, which was… tedious. I certainly didn’t like it, but Tom Cruise is a fairly decent actor, so he kind of gets a pass on that. When Edge of Tomorrow was announced last year, I was actually quite excited about it, especially since the trailer portrayed actress Emily Blunt in such a positive light, but I was wary of Cruise’s SF action after Oblivion and so when the movie came out, I was wary of all the hype it was getting.

I suppose that, in retrospect, I really should have had more faith in both Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, and certainly in a military SF movie like Edge of Tomorrow. Thing is, I went in with somewhat low expectations that were tempered by all the positive buzz I heard about the movie post-released, so I suppose that I was somewhat hyped for it, going in. And it proved to be really good. I enjoyed both Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in it, with great cameos by Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. The premise itself is a bit thin on the ground, but the execution is pretty damn good and visually the movie is excellent as well.

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Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con #1 (Comics Review)

Launched last year, Harley Quinn by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner and Chad Hardin has pretty much taken the market by storm. The first few issues were all chart-toppers and the series has continued a good sales run without any signs of serious flagging. I’ve loved and disliked the series in equal measure for while the story has mostly been good, the art has been less so, but that kind of fluctuates as well. Still, I won’t deny that Harley Quinn has been a most fun book indeed and that the fact it has managed to steer clear of any other book/event/crossover has been rather impressive.

When DC announced plans for Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con #1, I got really excited. Can you just imagine the sheer fun of such a title? The promise of lots of crazy antics, lots of surprises, lots of fourth-wall breaking, it is all there in this title. And when I read it last week, this title delivered on every bit of them. From the group of Joker cosplayers to Harley Quinn cosplayers, from Dan Didio and Geoff Johns and Stephen Amell cameos to Harley Quinn going to Jim Lee for an artist portfolio review, this issue was all-out fun. The art was a bit iffy and slightly inconsistent, but I’ll give that a pass.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-Series #5: Splinter (Comics Review)

Early last year, IDW Publishing did a 4-part mini-series in which it unveiled a new look at the history of the Foot Clan. Titled, well, The Secret History of The Foot Clan, it explained the bad blood between Splinter and Shredder, as well as other things about the Foot that I had never known before. And it was awesome. Writer-artist Mateus Santolouco did a brilliant job with it. And then IDW announced plans for several one-shots set in between its ongoing TMNT series that would each focus on a particular hero/villain, and having read a few of them, I have to say that they’ve done a decent job. Together, the micro-series and the 4-part have done much to inform me about the larger TMNT world, and it is all awesome.

The latest release of the Micro-Series is Splinter, the fifth in order of publication, and it takes a very interesting look at the history between the men who were once known as Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi, or alternatively, Shredder and Splinter. In many ways, the flashbacks in this issue inform more of what Mateus explained and showed in The Secret History of The Foot Clan and I found this issue to be a most fascinating read. Erik Burnham, who co-wrote The Secret History of The Foot Clan writes a gripping yarn about a father’s strengths and weaknesses, and artist Charles Paul Wilson II delivers some stunning visuals here.

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Best of 2014 Part 1a: Novels

This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.

With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Star Trek: Flesh and Stone (Comics Review)

Something I’ve remarked on before is that IDW Publishing seems to be doing a pretty good job with its Star Trek line of comics. They publish the books on a bi-monthly schedule, which is pretty impressive, and to go with that they also publish occasional specials and one-shots that expand on one area or the other of the entire franchise. I’ve had some good fun reading some of the recent comics, especially the Abramsverse line of Star Trek: Ongoing set in the new timeline from the rebooted film franchise, and am looking to delve further into the whole thing.

IDW’s latest Star Trek special, Flesh and Stone, is basically fan-service to every fan out there who loves some of the franchise’ most important leading heroes, the doctors of Starfleet Medical. About to gather for an important medical conference on Federation Starbase near the Tholian border, the doctors find themselves in a medical emergency and have to play medical detectives to find out the root cause and cure for the sickness that has claimed all the personnel at the Starbase. The Tiptons tell a wonderful and simplistic tale here as the Sharp Brothers do a damn good job with the artwork. More specials like this are most welcome.

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Silver Surfer #4 (Comics Review)

Last month Dan Slott and Mike Allred wrapped up their first arc on Silver Surfer, coming in at only 3 issues, and it proved to be a most satisfying read. For me, Dan Slott captured a very classic feel of the Silver Surfer, with some modernistic elements thrown in and that was a really great experience. Silver Surfer is one of my favourite Marvel superheroes, and to see him done so well, both in terms of the story and the art really pleases me. Dan Slott has really emerged as one of my favourite writers in the last two years and the same goes for Mike Allred as well, as an artist.

Silver Surfer #4 sees the titular hero return to Earth with Dawn Greenwood and experience some really bizarre events, not the least of which is something that infuses him with a strong sense of personal horror, something really upsetting that he experienced some years back and which is now back in full force. This is quite a light-hearted issue and it features some excellent character beats such as the interactions between Silver Surfer and Dawn about the prehistorical eras of Earth and pop culture. Dan Slott’s writing is good as ever and Mike Allred’s art is just plain superb too.

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Banished by Liz de Jager (Book Review)

I haven’t had much of a chance to read debut novels this year, but I have read a few since this is sort of an unofficial challenge for me, to see how many debuts I can read in a year alongside all my other reading. Debut novels offer something very interesting and part of that is finding out a new voice, a new style, a new character, and a new story and world to go along with all of that. Of course, some debuts are good, some are bad. Some are really awesome, some are really terrible. It really runs the entire slider scale. And when a good friend and (former) fellow blogger makes it as a debut, then I have even more of a reason to read his/her book.

Banished is Liz de Jager’s first novel, and it is a superbly-crafted urban fantasy tale that takes some baseline genre concepts and then does quite an interesting twist on all of it, something that really works out well by the end. Kit Blackhart has become one of my favourite characters of the year, by far, and a lot of that is owing to how well she is characterized by Liz and the sorts of adventures that she gets dragged along into. And I really loved the whole “two minutes to midnight” feel of the story as well, which provided ample stakes and tension for the reader to latch on to.

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Robin Rises: Omega #1 (Comics Review)

Last year veteran Batman writer Grant Morrison finally killed of Damian Wayne, the character that he created along with artist-writer Andy Kubert almost a decade ago. The fallout from Damian’s death was a bit intense across the Bat-family titles (for most of them anyway), but then the titles moved on, and the gaping heart remained since Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Ra’s al-Ghul’s daughter Talia, was the current Robin and had apparently gained a lot of popularity among fans despite his many… flaws. I certainly didn’t enjoy what little I read of the character in various comics, but he was… interesting.

With Robin Rises: Omega #1, a one-shot comic, it appears that DC is looking to bring back the fan-favourite Robin from the dead, and I’m already turned off by it. I got this double-sized issue to see what kind of a story I was going to get here and because there was a good amount of buzz for it, and all I’m left with after reading through it is plain disappointment. Tomasi’s writing has been decent at best for me, but with this issue he really bored me from the get go. And while Andy Kubert’s art has been decent at best as well, I couldn’t get into it so much, although the art is definitely better than the story here.

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Ms. Marvel #6 (Comics Review)

The newly (re)launched Ms. Marvel’s first arc (sort of) wrapped up last month on a really nice melancholic note. Writer G. Willow Wilson really went to town to create a realistic modern teenaged character with some real personal issues and she made Kamala Khan’s story resonate. That has been something that has served this series in good stead, for most of the comics right now from the Big 2 really don’t focus so much on characters like Kamala. In a lot of different ways. And the uniqueness that results has made this series one of the best on the shelves each month.

The new Ms. Marvel #6 takes some time off from Kamala’s usual heroics and interactions with her family to focus on things like her religious instructor and mentor as the two interact really well together in quite surprising ways. And also, we get to see a surprise guest star in the second half of the issue (spoilers will be below!) and that really made my day, to see Kamala meet and hang out with this superstar superhero. G. Willow Wilson’s writing in this issue was spot on and consistent, though with Jacob Wyatt stepping in for a pencil guest-spot, the art isn’t to the usual high standards.

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Those Poor, Poor Bastards by Tim Marquitz, Kenny Soward and Joe Martin (Book Review)

In the short time that it has been operating, Ragnarok Publications has been doing some great work by all accounts. Their kaiju anthology that was released early this year, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters was an awesome piece of kaiju fiction that covered all different sorts of genres and styles and what not, and the men behind the publisher have been going full at it for a good long while now. A few months ago Tim Marquitz, Joe Martin and Kenny Soward launched a new series for Ragnarok, called Dead West, and it was promoted quite heavily as a new spin on an old and popular genre.

Those Poor, Poor Bastards is set in the American Mid-West during the mid-1800s and it features zombies and holy magic and the American Frontier and everything else that goes with all of that. Having read some of Tim’s fiction previously, I was expecting the story to be quite bold and brash, with some rough humour thrown in for good measure, and I wasn’t disappointed in that at all. Tim collaborates on this with his Ragnarok co-publisher Joe Martin and with author Kenny Soward, with the three of them turning out quite an interesting zombie western that unfortunately does have a few flaws.

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Future’s End #11 (Comics Review)

Time travel. Dimensional War. Death. Betrayal. Aliens. Superheropocalypse. DC’s Future’s End weekly comic has done it all in its two and a half months so far. What started off as a really dark title with superheroes dying left and right has matured into something a little light-hearted, something that has become a superhero mystery and an action-packed tale of “two minutes to midnight” rather than superhero horror. It started off really good, and thought it has wobbled a bit in the middle, it is still one of the best books that DC is putting out right now.

This week’s Future’s End #11 sees the continuation of several plots and the introduction of yet new players as the world moves towards an inevitability. No Grifter and Fifty Sue this time, but we get to see a fair bit of the Justice League of the future, as well as get some bonding time between Amethyst and Frankenstein, along with a really startling development from Mr. Terrific. In spite of all the changes that have happened in this series of late, it looks like there are many more yet to come and I loved that this issue acted as a launch-point for yet more stories, though I’m slightly concerned by how convoluted it is all getting.

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