Graphic Novel Review: Kingdom Come by Mark Waid

Kingdom ComeKingdom Come by Mark Waid

I should have read this a long time ago, but I’ve always had issue with DC comics. Their heroes have always been untouchable gods. Sure they have their flaws, but even Batman seemed to be above humanity thanks to his money and abilities. In comparison, X-Men, my biased favourites, were far more human, even with their more elaborate powers. They were character you could imagine yourself being, if something happened to mutate your genes.

Kingdom Come acknowledges the god-status of DC’s heroes, and then brings them down several notches because of it. X-Men choose to defend mutant kind and humanity, but anyone who wishes not to be a part of the men in tights brigade is free to try to live a normal life. Kingdom Come infers that it is the absolute obligation of superhuman beings to use their powers to this purpose. Furthermore, it is their responsibility to inspire us regular folk to do better.

And so, it begins with none of this happening because Superman has selfishly abandoned humanity after another superbeing, Magog, took justice into his own hands, killing the Joker, and being acquitted of it.

I’ve never liked Superman. Just too boyscout for my liking. But this series acknowledges that and calls him out on it. In fact, his own peers, particularly Wonder Woman, forces him to see the reality of his actions – and more importantly, the reality of his inaction.

Meanwhile, humans, some led by Lex Luthor and some our own world leaders, seek to take matters into their own hands, with plans to take back the world from superbeings. I have some issue with the fact that even the world leaders were willing to go to such major steps to stop the superbeings, but this was the only flaw in the story and it was not even enough to drop my opinion of the story.

Towards the end, there was a moment that surprised me. Surprised me because I actually cared about, or at least felt sorry for Superman in that moment – something I never thought I’d be able to say.


Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, #1)His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

If you’re looking for an action read involving war dragons, this isn’t it. There are a few skirmishes, but they are far between. Instead, this is a book about the relationship between a very unique dragon and a naval officer snatched out of the life he was used to when chosen by the dragon to become his master and friend.

The book takes place over a year, during which time, Temeraire grows and learns, while Laurence grows and unlearns. Their relationship is endearing and drives the story wonderfully. The descriptions of the various dragons and the processes and people involved with making them part of the various aerial forces is very interesting.

I love the unusually treatment of dragons in this book. They aren’t the typical force of darkness or mysterious wisdom. They are feared by those who don’t understand them but utterly loved and respected by those that do.

Side note: Weight is certainly an issue, but you’d think more would be done to armour the dragons to better protect them against each other.

Side note2: Head canon says that Temeraire looks exactly like this.


Book Review: Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

Bloodshot (Cheshire Red Reports, #1)Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

Aside from the overindulgence in semi-colons and “And” at the beginning of sentences, this was a fun read. The plot is a bit predictable and leaping from time to time, but the main character is interesting enough to keep me reading. Her neurosis goes overboard from time to time, but usually within context. She’s not a perfect character and her issues aren’t contrived.

I very much appreciated the fact that this was, I believe, the first urban fantasy with a female lead that did NOT spend ridiculous amounts of time describing the rippling hotness of the potential love interests in the books (bonus points for one of them being a “kick ass drag queen”). Not that Raylene was immune to this. It just wasn’t dwelt on with ridiculous detail and when a romantic moment came, it was tender and, well, romantic, instead of just hawt dirteh sex. That can come later.


Book Review: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles, #1)Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

A friend introduced me to this book and its opening line:

It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.

I loved the concept of this book – mobile cities hunting each other like animals, trying to survive in a post one-minute war future. London is one of the greater cities, but even it will falter if it does not find better hunting grounds.

The first protagonist we meet is Tom, a friendless orphan, who soon becomes wrapped up in the espionage brought on board London by Hester Shaw – a once pretty girl, hideously scarred by Tom’s hero, Valentine, against whom Hester seeks revenge. Valentine is also the father of Katherine, who in turn meets shy engineer, Pod, as she searches for the truth about her dad. The four of them are, typically,very unlikely heroes and, what I appreciated more, unlikely couples. I was pleasantly surprised by their ultimate fates and the fate of those they meet along their journeys. Not everything needs a Hollywood ending.

The book fails slightly on delivery. Some things feel a bit rushed, and I was frustrated by the change of tense that usually came when dealing with an ‘evil’ character. Initially the change to present tense is bound within the respective chapters, but when everything and everyone comes together in the end, it becomes an annoyance.

This isn’t enough of an issue to prevent the book from being enjoyable. It is part of a series based on an interesting concept, so I am curious to learn more about this future.


Book Review: Sorrow’s of Adoration by Kimberly Chapman

Sorrows Of Adoration by Kimberly Chapman

This is not a book I would have picked up of my own volition, but since it was written by a friend and lent to me by another , I initially started reading it out of that “obligation” of friendship.

At 2:00 Wednesday morning, I finally decided I needed to get to bed. And then I spent all of Wednesday in a melancholy book funk because I was so smitten with the characters and the what will happen next. That night, I was up until the wee hours again to finish it.

Sorrows of Adoration starts out in, what I assume, is a typical romance novel manner. (I say “what I assume,” because I don’t read that stuff. The only romance novel I’ve ever read is the one I snuck from my sister’s collection… the one about sexy aliens…). I didn’t mind the overindulgence of lovicuddles and kisses and proclamations of love, partially because I am a closet romantic, but mostly because I knew, based on the title and the blurb, that this wasn’t going to last.

Plus I know Kimberly Chapman. There is no way she was going to give me a squishy romance novel!

Soon enough, the Big Bad ThingTM happens, and the results of that event is where this book takes a dynamic twist that removes it from the ranks of silly romance. It delves deep into the darkness of emotion and relationships, proving the phrase “you always hurt the ones you love.” It even goes well beyond the feminist twist trope of a strong female who doesn’t need a man to save her.


Book Review: Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1)Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

What a fascinating book. I read Mind of My Mind first, where I met the main characters here, but as that was not their story, they did not have much depth. Reading Wild Seed, it made me somewhat disappointed that they did not have as much to do in the sequel, but as the book progressed, I came to appreciate their diminished roles in Mind of My Mind since their story was told so completely here.

The first striking thing about this book is that it takes place during the time of slave ships where tribes were kidnapping and selling their neighbours. Doro took many of these slaves for his little breeding project, but never treated them as other slaves were treated. But they were no less slaves. Through fear and/or reverence he controlled them. More often than not, his people loved him for what remains almost inexplicable reasons.

Meanwhile, Anyanwu, semi-immortal like Doro, becomes one of his people – as much as it is possible for Doro to tame the “wild seed” that she is.

Again, there is an all-mother/father theme, but one that is far different from what Mary creates in Mind of My Mind. Again, too, the notion of good and evil is forced on you. Is Doro evil for what he does? Is Anyanwu evil for allowing it?

In the end, I came to the realization that this book was, in fact a love story. A strange and twisted romance that crosses every taboo subject regarding sexuality, humanity, loyalty, propriety, marriage…


Book Review: Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah's Kiss (Moirin Trilogy, #1)Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

I’ve read the original Kushiel Trilogy three times, but haven’t been able to finish the last book in the series involving Imriel de la Courcel. I’ve had Namaah’s Kiss sitting beside my bed for well over a year and finally decided to pick it up and was instantly swept back into that world. Carey’s writing is so elegant and her ability to paint a picture with her words is undeniable. Of course, I could be biased because I already know the world and most of its history, but I don’t believe a new comer would be lost.

This trilogy begins many generations after the events of the last six books, which makes it a refreshing return for me. The histories of many events and people are often mentioned, but only in a way to quietly remind old readers and to subtly inspire new ones to seek them in their entirety.

Once again, we have a main character, Moirin, who is an outcast, but unlike Phedre and Imriel in the past, she is not a victim. She has grown up knowing unconditional love, which serves to guide her in finding her destiny as much as the various gods of her heritage do.

The blurb for this is misleading. It implies great adventure, but in fact, Moirin does not embark on the mage/warrior-princess/dragon-filled epic until almost 500 pages in. That leaves 500 pages where Carey artfully defines her character and all the intricate relationships and political intrigue of Terre D’Ange.

When it comes time to depart for Ch’in, the departure is just as jarring for the reader as it is for Moirin. Here it was a slightly less compelling read because of this, perhaps. Whereas with Kushiel’s Dart, the heroine’s journey climaxes in a war where we already know the setting and the people, here, it is slightly more difficult to appreciate these new characters and what is at stake.

Still, despite a somewhat disappointing ending because of the disconnect, it is still enough to entice me to read on…


Book Review: Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler

Mind of My Mind (Patternmaster, #2)Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler

This was a surprisingly short read, which I picked up as part of the Seed to Harvest series, but have read before Wild Seed.

I’m not sure what I ultimately expected, but what was there was a bit of a let down. There were many themes and issues raised, but none truly pursued. Most notably so was the issue of race. For the most part, characters physical appearances were only vaguely described. Most times, when we came to know someone was Black, it was because Mary was making a comparison or wishing/pleased someone was so (ie wanting to know why Doro had chosen a White husband for her, or being pleased that Doro appeared to her in a Black body). Rachel’s race is introduced as a non sequitur that serves no further purpose but to add to Jan’s “Oh god, niggers,” comment later (we learn earlier that Jan is racist when a Black boy happens past her and therefore we assume she is White, as there does not seem to be any other option but Black or White).

Later, Emma angrily raises the issue of non-telepaths being referred to as “mutes,” which she compares to “niggers.” Beyond her brief tirade, this is not addressed again beyond the obvious comparison of mutes being used as slaves to the Patternists (though here, the mutes are all very content and mistreatment by Patternists is punished). Emma’s tirade is particularly hypocritical since she is as much a slave to Doro as all the rest of Doro’s children whom he keeps in line with violence and threats of death.

Overall, this was a very disturbing theme. The notion that one man is working to breed people with super human powers, particularly telepathy. Those who are failed experiments are left to die, while the successes eventually come together thanks to Mary, who is Doro’s ultimate success and thereby becomes his ultimate rival. Between the two of them, there are thousands of people running around the country with the ability to control minds, or inflicting horrible violence against others because they can’t control their own minds. Apparently, domestic violence is caused by this lack of control in active and latent telepaths.

There is an attempt to offer a mother/father juxtaposition, where Doro is the cruel male figure whom his children love, though they know he cares nothing for them and would quickly kill them. Mary is the mother figure whom we assume is the representation of nurturing, but in fact, while she displays much greater conscience than Doro, she’s most certainly not a Mother Theresa figure.

One thing I did appreciate was the fact that there was no good vs. evil. Doro might have been considered an evil worthy of destruction, but how much of Mary could truly be considered “good?”


Book Review: Supergods by Grant Morrison

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being HumanSupergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison

This book is a wealth of information and insight on the industry that even includes suggested further reading and a thorough indexing. The book inspired many interesting discussion points for my book club, but while I appreciate Grant Morrison’s passion for comics, Grant Morrison’s passion for Grant Morrison and his industry biases were quite clear.

This was a difficult read, mainly because of the writing itself. It is clearly written by someone used to having his words quickly translated into images. Without the images here, he was overcompensating and it began to seem as though he fell in love with all the words on his screen, reviewing each sentence, adding some more adjectives, then duplicating each sentence and switching in some synonyms.

Occasionally, his descriptions were aided by comic covers or pages. I would likely have less issue with the writing had this been written into a coffee table format book that included more images.

It is important to note that most of the images that did appear were from DC Comics, the company and characters which dominate the book, making it clear who’s side Morrison is on.

The book is subtitled, “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human,” which is addressed initially, mostly through Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but this focus is eventually lost, with the second half of the book focusing instead on Grant Morrison. It turns out, this is actually an autobiography (and blatant promotion of past and upcoming works) that, as a friend noted, probably didn’t have enough to make a full book, so add the comic history… To his credit, Morrison did manage to make it through over 100 pages before pointing out how successful Arkham Asylum was and remains, but by the second half of the book, entire chapters are dedicated to his works and his trials and tribulations with Marvel and a clear bitterness towards Image (though his description of Image characters, artistry and books is apt).

He did manage to speak with initial kindness towards Marvel and its earlier creations, with a surprisingly pithy description of the X-Men. Later, when he goes into his time on New X-Men, he at least shows some level of humility in terms of the criticism his storylines received.


Book Review: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

As a sequel of sorts to American Gods and based on word of mouth that told me that this was very much unlike the much darker predecessor, I wasn’t sure what to expect, although, anything centred around Anansi promised to be charming.

The book started rather slowly with an intentionally boring character, Fat Charlie Nancy, who’s greatest stress was an embarrassing father, something many a teenager can sympathize with. Knowing what we know of his father, the trickster god Anansi – which Fat Charlie did not learn until his father’s death – made the dull circumstances of Charlie’s life oddly compelling as, at some point it was certain that things would change. Change came in the form of his brother, Spider, who was very much Charlie’s opposite and proceeded to take over Charlie’s life, literally, with everyone falling in love with Spider, including Charlie’s fiance.

From there, the story continued on a reasonably expected path, with Charlie growing increasingly upset with his brother’s infiltration, until suddenly, the mythology of the Anansi stories and the reality truly came crashing together in odd and unpredictable ways that resulted in a book that I’m adding to my favourites list, if only for the strange smile it left me with.

I’ve known Anansi stories, but some how, I won’t look at spiders the same way again. Charlie and Spider are fascinating characters and their twisted relationship with each other and with their father is frustrating and endearing at the same time.

I understand now why Neil Gaiman is a favourite among fans. His imagination is immense and enjoyable. His reimagining of mythologies is impressive. Special consideration for the accurate portrayal of delightful old Jamaican ladies!