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Best of 2013 Part 2b: Graphic Novels

A few days ago I did my best of 2013 list for the books I had read in the second half of the year. In a departure from previous such lists I divided the books and the comics into separate posts so that I didn’t have one massive post up. Massive posts are a bit tough to handle, especially when you are promoting them on social media. And with the split posts, the directions are different and there’s no unnecessary crossover.

So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite graphic novels of the year. A post with the best single issues will follow on later.

You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.

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

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Advent Review #18: The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Book Review)

Bradley’s Lays of Anuskaya series was on my radar this year thanks to all my Night Shade Books reading last year and it ended up going on my “25 Series To Read In 2013” challenge. When I read the first book earlier this year in February, I was quite struck with the scope of the world-building and with the characters. Not to mention the fact that I loved the (inspired-by) Russian setting, despite sometimes getting lost with the names and the familiar names. The Winds of Khalakovo is definitely one of my favourite books of the year and Bradley one of my favourite authors.

The second novel, set some time after the events of the first novel, goes further with the world-building and deals in concepts and cultures and locales that we did not see in the first book. That gets some automatic points from me, for sure, because I love that aspect in a second or third novel. Fleshing out the setting created and introduced in the first book is one of the most important things in a sequel that I look for, and Straits of Galahesh is enjoyable for that fact. But, some of the characterisation and the pacing did suffer this time around, so it wasn’t as smooth sailing as the first book.

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The Cover Art Mega-Post Part 3

So this is the third such post I have done for the blog. I took a 2-month break in between posts so that I could have some more material to showcase here, and it certainly has helped. There were a lot more books I wanted to cover, but I chose to stick withe magic number 17, the number of books I’ve covered previously.

A lot of the books on this list are next year’s releases, and just as before, they all sound great, even some of the ones that are second or third (or else) in their respective series. I’m not sure if I can put aside the time to catch up to them any time soon but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get around to some of them at least. We’ll see how that works out.

In the meantime, enjoy all these great covers and these books! Hope you liked the previous posts and that you’ll like this one as well.

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Monthly Report: August and September 2013

So once again, these monthly reports are delayed big time. They are just so onerous to write that sometimes I just don’t care really. But I do them regardless because they happen to serve as a good check on my writing, especially when I lose track of things, as I am often wont to do, for no reason really.

I still can’t seem to find the right frame of mind to work on anything fictional, while my non-fiction work and my editorials continue apace. Its really weird. You can find the June/July Report here.

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Comics Picks of the Week 18.09.2013

Once again, DC’s ongoing Villain’s Month meant that most of the comics I read this week were all focused on the various DC villains. There were some good ones, and some bad ones, as usual. I didn’t get around to reading anything other than DC all that much, just a couple of Marvel comics, a Top Cow comic, and something from IDW, after a long, long time, so that was kind of fun, especially since those were G.I.Joe comics, which I love and adore.

Once Villain’s Month ends, I should be back to reading some graphic novels, and I have a lot of them lined up, particularly a few Top Cow books that I’m really looking forward to reading. Fun times!!

In the meantime, here’s another edition of this new feature. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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G.I.Joe: Special Missions #1-3 by Chuck Dixon (Comics Review)

As a long-time fan of Marvel’s original run on G.I.Joe under Larry Hama, and the cartoon series that those comics spawned, I’ve had a really great experience with the various comics that IDW Publishing has been putting out of late. I found out about them last year in June, and I haven’t looked back since. I haven’t been able to catch up to all the comics as yet, and trust me, there are a fair few of them out there right now, but I certainly intend to do just that.

Recently, IDW did a reboot of sorts for their range of G.I.Joe comics, headlined by Fred Van Lente who is the ongoing writer for the excellent Archer & Armstrong series from Valiant Comics, and this reboot has led to at least two spin-offs, Special Missions by Chuck Dixon and Cobra Files by Mike Costa, both of whom have worked extensively on the previous runs of IDW’s G.I.Joe comics. I read the first three issues of Chuck’s Special Missions just an hour ago, and I find myself quite taken with the story.

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Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3 by John Layman (Comics Review)

Its the third week of DC’s Villain’s Month and alongside The Flash, Batman: The Dark Knight is the only series so far that has had three consistent villainous one-shots. Gail Simone’s Ventriloquist was the first, followed by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Mr. Freeze. And now we have John Layman’s Clayface. Fantastic stuff all around. Not all of Batman’s various villains have come out on top so far, especially not the ones I really expected to. So its a surprise for me when I ended up loving all these three issues so much.

I’ve recently started reading John’s run on Detective Comics, with the current arc that focuses on the villain Wrath, and I’ve been enjoying all these issues. He definitely gets the dark, moody tone of Batman comics and the setting, Gotham itself. He really excels at it. While Clayface is more of a humor piece, it is still quite dark and gothic. Interesting dichotomy right there.

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The Flash #23.3 by Brian Buccellato (Comics Review)

Three weeks into DC’s Villain’s Month and I have to say that The Flash has come out on top so far with the best-written and best-drawn titles so far. Grodd was a fantastic issue that made me want to go back and read up on the Gorilla Warfare arc. Reverse-Flash was another oustanding issue that carried on the current arc, which I’m following, really, really well and ended on an awesome cliffhanger. And this week’s Rogues was a yet another excellent entry.

With each of these issues, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have given me innumerable reasons to catch-up on their entire arc for the New 52 version of the Scarlet Speedster. I’ve mentioned before that the first three issues of the run, which I read last year, didn’t hook me but that all the recent issues have and I really want to go back and read ’em all. Which would be a perfect thing to do since the second arc of the series deals with the Rogues and should prove to be excellent reading material.

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Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells (Book Review)

Earlier this year, in January, I set myself a very particular reading challenge. The goal of this reading challenge was to read through 25 different SFF series (link), from across the genres and across times. To be specific, I wanted to read through at least 12 of these various series, to get a start on them. I hit that mark sometime in July, with Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy #1: The Assassin’s Apprentice (review). As of last month, I added another notch to that reading challenge by reading Jaye Wells’ first Sabina Kane novel, The Red-Headed Stepchild.

Throughout the year, I’ve read all sorts of novels, good, bad, decent, meh, everything. Fortunately, Jaye’s novel proved to be one of the better ones. Urban Fantasy wasn’t all that big a genre for me until late last year and since then I’ve had a lot of fun with the genre. For me, The Red-Headed Stepchild stands as one of the better examples of the genre, a really fun and interesting story throughout, with a hell of a lot things to recommend itself.

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Aphrodite IX #5 by Matt Hawkins (Comics Review)

Reading Top Cow comics always gives me a thrill. Whether its the characters or the story or the art, everything is always spot on and entertaining. Having read a wide variety of their books in the last year or so, I’ve enjoyed almost all of them, whether monthlies or trades, and the experience has been very positive for me. Reading Matt Hawkins’ futuristic reboot of the Aphrodite property has been one of the highlights of that experience, and for good reasons too.

Characters like Aphrodite, in all her different incarnations, are very few and far in between in comics. In the Top Cow Universe, she occupies a very specific and niche place, built up on the concept of Artifacts that a few select individuals are heirs to. Ever since I started reading Ron Marz’s Artifacts maxi-series last year, Aphrodite has been one of my favourite characters, and Matt Hawkins’ recent work with her has only solidified that, and given me even more reasons to like her.

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Wonder Woman #23.1 by John Ostrander (Comics Review)

So here we are. When I reviewed Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman #13-15 earlier this year, I’d said that I couldn’t justify picking up the book anymore or recommending it for that matter. The plot was stuck in limbo, the characters were doing the same thing over and over again, and the process in which Azzarello was introducing new characters to the series was just getting frantic. Pointless things were happenning and my interest in the series was waning.

Fast forward to eight months later, now, and I’ve picked up my first issue of Wonder Woman since then. Thankfully, Brian Azzarello is nowhere in sight, which is just perfect for me. This issue here is written by John Ostrander and is part of the ongoing Villain’s Month line-up as the writer deals with one of Wonder Woman’s more iconic and recognisable villains, someone that we’ve briefly seen before in the pages of Geoff Johns’ Justice League.

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Batman #23.3 by Frank Tieri (Comics Review)

There have been two rather lackluster Batman Villain’s Month issues so far, Joker by Andy Kubert and Riddler by Scott Snyder (plot) and Ray Fawkes (script). They were also two of most highly anticipated issues for this month, so it kind of stings a little bit. The Riddler issue I’m still on the fence about, mostly because it seems to be a very low-key story for the character involved, but that doesn’t change my opinion on it all that much. Which is why when I read the new issue today, I was ecstatic.

I’ve never read any Frank Tieri comic before, to my knowledge, but after reading Batman #23.3, I certainly want to correct that oversight. While I don’t necessarily agree with how Penguin is portrayed, mucho serious and no comic-ishness, it was still a great issue and now I want to also go back to read Detective Comics Volume 3: Emperor Penguin, by John Layman. I’ve read some of the newer issues of that series and I love them, so that’s another motivation right there.

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