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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Original Sin #6 (Comics Review)

Moving into the final phase of Original Sin, which just one more month to go before it all wraps-up, things are finally beginning to heat up for all the characters involved here. After all the startling revelations of the last two issues, everyone is in an uncertain place and I’m really loving how Jason Aaron has developed the story and how Mike Deodato and his art team have handled the artwork. The last few issues have been really good, and the title is certainly becoming one of my favourite reads of the year, and as an event comic it is certainly superb.

After the flashback-heavy content of the previous issue, Original Sin #6 moves full-steam ahead with the current story as heroes recruited by Nick Fury confront him aboard his secret satellite space station, even as the Avengers and the other heroes race against the clock to find out what the hell is going on with the “dead” Nick Fury’s body that they have and with the Watcher Uatu’s murder. Jason Aaron is absolutely superb in this issue and Mike Deodato and team don’t hold back either, making this the best issue of this series to date.

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Comics Picks For 09.07.2014

Well, it has been a couple weeks again since I did this feature. The week before, well, it was marriage week for me and I barely read 4 books, so it didn’t really make sense to do a post on just those four, so I skipped it. And it was a really slow week all in all, especially for blogging, so I just decided to let things rest for an entire week. But I’m back again this time!

The surprise hits of this week were Death Vigil #1 from Top Cow andGrayson #1 from DC Comics. The surprise flop of the week would be Spider-Man 2099 #1 from Marvel Comics. Expectedly great comics such as Fantastic Four #7 from Marvel Comics, Batgirl #3# from DC all delivered on their promises as well. Not a lot of comics this past week, certainly not as much as the week prior or my usual number of ~25/week, but definitely a good number at 21 issues. Might take a dive in the next week though!

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Batgirl #33 (Comics Review)

Just this past week, it was announced that Batgirl would be shifting creative teams in October and that the title would undergo a major creative revamp. Goes without saying that I’m going to be really saddened to see Gail Simone, Fernando Pasarin, Blond, Jonathan Glapion and the others leave the title because I’ve really enjoyed what they’ve done in the last year, especially Gail who has shepherded much of the title since the New 52 relaunch. Thankfully, it looks like she is intending to go out with a bang if the cliffhanger ending from last month’s issue is anything to go by.

Given that Batman: Eternal is currently ongoing and that some of the events of that weekly series are beginning to trickle down elsewhere, it kind of makes sense that Batgirl too would get sweeped up in the wake of it. Batgirl #33 is quite possibly one of Gail Simone’s best issues on the title, mostly for the fact that it includes three of my favourite DC leading ladies and the ending of the issue looks set to take things to the next level. The art is slightly fuzzy at times, but the action is crisp and awesome, so I won’t complain.

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Captain Marvel #5 (Comics Review)

Since revamping the Captain Marvel series with Carol Danvers as once again in the titular role, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick has been crafting quite an interesting story that somewhat ties into last year’s Infinity event, but also stands on its own, apart from what happened in that event. Her Carol Danvers is better than ever and it does feel like a serious revamp since the story this time around is so much better than what she did back in 2012 when she first got a chance on the title. And it helps that the artwork has been pretty stunning as well, whether we talk pencils or colours or what have you.

Captain Marvel #5 is where some of the mysteries surrounding the planet of Torfa begin to come together for a reveal. The reasoning behind J’son and the Spartax’s bid to remove the refugees on the planet and take control is finally unveiled and it is something major indeed, something worth even killing over. And more than that, we get some great political interplay between the ruling council on Torfa, with Carol herself becoming quite the figurehead. Kelly Sue knocks this one out of the part as far as the writing is concerned and the art isn’t far behind either.

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