Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review of The League of Regrettable Superheroes

Book #31. The League of Regrettable Superheroes, by Jon Morris. Hardcover.  

This is a delightful look at a range of bizarre comic book characters from throughout the nearly eight-decade history of the medium. Morris covers characters with strange names, strange powers, strange costumes … anything that makes them “regrettable.” For each character, we are presented a page of text (sometimes more) and a page of their comic adventures (sometimes more).

Beginning with the Golden Age of Comics, Morris mentions a few characters that I had heard of, including Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Vagabond Prince. The Vagabond Prince was created by comics legends Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and was discussed in a book I reviewed a few years ago. But this section also included a range of bizarre characters that were total unknowns to me, including Captain Truth, Doctor Hormone, Lady Satan, and Fantoman. Reading about these characters was certainly an eye-opening experience.

Moving into the Silver Age of the 1950s and 1960s, we are faced with some characters or concepts who have re-appeared in comics over the years. This list includes, Dial H for Hero, B’Wana Beast & Congorilla. And of course there are many that have disappeared, and most of them deserved to. I don’t think I’ll need to track down stories featuring Gunmaster, Nature Boy & Brain Boy.

But the section on the Modern Age of Comics (from the 1970s onward), includes a range of characters I am familiar with, such as NFL Superpro, The Human Fly (whose adventures are occasionally podcasted about here) and US 1 (whose stories have been reviewed here and here). And Morris even includes the Super-Sons of Batman and Superman, which are indeed bizarre stories, but which my daughter Emily talked about with Michael Bradley on anepisode of his podcast.

Even my beloved ROM Spaceknight appears in this section, mostly because it was based on a toy, which I suppose is fair. And there are certainly some obscure characters listed in this section, such as Slapstick, Killjoy, and Thunderbunny.

To anyone interested in comic book history, and with a sense of humor about comic book history, I recommend this book. It was always interesting, and I even learned a few things.

Source: public library

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review of Three Act Tragedy

Book #30. Three Act Tragedy, by Agatha Christie. Unabridged audio.

My mother was a big reader, and in particular a fan of mysteries. Every few weeks, she would take a stack back to the library, and return with a new stack from the library. And of course Agatha Christie was strongly represented in those novels that hung around the house.

But I only read a few of them, and the ones I did read were in the Miss Marple series. It wasn’t until recently that I read anything featuring Hercule Poirot. And I have found the adventures of the Belgium detective entertaining and enjoyable.

In this mystery, a man dies after sipping a cocktail at a dinner party thrown by a theatre actor. Guests at the party include Poirot’s friend Mr. Satterthwaite. Another death at a similar party with many of the same guests finally gets Poirot involved. It is revealed that both deaths were caused by nicotine poison. With the help of the stage actor, Poirot is able to put his little grey cells to work to uncover the identity of the killer.

This was an interesting story, as Poirot was absent for long parts of it. This enabled the other characters to develop, making me care more about the victims and potential killers. I enjoyed this “take” on the common mystery story.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

This Week in Reading

Three-Act Tragedy, by Agatha Christie, pages 1 – 124.
The Paladin Prophecy, by Mark Frost, COMPLETED. REVIEWED HERE.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes, by Jon Morris, pages 91 – 149.

Animal Man 20-23, Annual 2
Gotham by Midnight 7
Maze Agency Annual 1
Ragman (1991) 1 –  8

Link: Chad Bokelman's Ragman blog

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review of The Paladin Prophecy

Book #29. The Paladin Prophecy, by Mark Frost. Unabridged audio.   

If the author’s name rings a bell, it may be because of the previous half-dozen or so novels he has written over the years. Or it may be because Frost the “other guy” who co-created the seminal 1990’s TV series “Twin Peaks” with movie director David Lynch.

Frost’s first YA novel has some of the hallmarks of his famous TV work, although at a much reduced level. The book include prophecies, conspiracies, secret societies and young people with odd powers. But despite these “out there” concepts, Frost manages to ground the world of this book by creating interesting and realistic characters.

Will West has always been told by his parents to stay “under the radar,” to draw no undue notice to himself, and to never excel in school or sports. But as the novel starts, his life is thrown upside-down by an attack on his parents. He barely escapes, but finds that he has physical and mental abilities that are way beyond average. And he realizes that his parents have been preparing him his entire life for this moment.

Will manages to make it to The Center, and exclusive school that has become interested in his “talents.” Comparisons to Harry Potter could be made here, but there are plenty of examples of YA novels that take place at schools. Frost does enough to differentiate his work from others. Of course, the school contains students in secret societies, faculty with hidden agendas, and administrators who may be too good to be true.

Some aspects of the story told in this novel do come to a resolution, but the broader story is clearly intended to continue into the sequel. The third book in the series is to be released later this year. I intend to pick up book two in the near future.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review of I Vampire, volume 3

I, Vampire volume 3 : Wave of Mutilation, by Joshua Hale Fialkov, with art by Andrea Sorrentino, Fernando Blanco, and others. Graphic novel, collecting issues 0 & 13-19. 

This title may be an example of a comic book that is best served by the mini-series format. I enjoyed the first arc (reviewed here) very much, and the series would have been best served if it has been able to take a break after that. The second volume (reviewed here) was also strong, but even a crossover with Justice League Dark was unable to stem the steady decline in readership.

The prior issues led to a battle of Cain versus Andrew Bennett versus Mary Queen of Blood versus Lilith. Over the course of the series up to this point, Andrew’s character arc went from him being the only good vampire in the world to the only bad one. But in this volume he may have to turn good again to finally achieve his final victory. In each of these cases, Bennett led a ragtag small group of followers against a much larger and more powerful force.

As is the case with just about every DC horror title, John Constantine, the “Hellblazer ex Machina” of the New 52 showed up to aid Bennett. But even the powerful guest star couldn’t save the title. This is the end of the line for this run of I, Vampire. It is always good when a creator knows when their work will end, and in this case, Fialkov was given the opportunity to bring this series to a conclusion, to a definite end. And that makes a big difference.

I do hope that Andrew Bennett will return one day, written again by Fialkov. Maybe as a 6-issue mini-series. I’d like that.