What I Read… March ’17 Edition. 

Okay. I admit. This was a bit of a long one. I had to make up for my dismal offerings last month. (see here.)

As my column of ramblings consists of me talking about the books I’ve read in the previous month, it should go without saying that some of it might be considered spoilers for some. But my editor assures me that it’s common courtesy to include a spoiler alert at the beginning for good measure. So here goes:

SPOILER ALERT! I will be stating my opinion about certain things I’ve read and that may or may not include plot points. Consider yourself warned.

 

Grizzly Shark (Ryan Ottley)

This is one of the titles selected for our March book club. Pure comical violence and nature gone wrong. If you like violence. If you like gore. If you like “When Animals Attack.” If you don’t need a deep and meaningful plot or characters to enjoy yourself. Then this is the book for you. It is not for everyone but by George, it hits its niche perfectly. Grizzly Shark follows a bunch of unlucky souls as they are hunted by sharks in the forest. Read that last sentence again. The laws of nature do not apply here, and that’s okay. Just wait until Grizzly Shark fights the Sea Bear in the third act. All in all I had a good laugh. I really enjoyed this book. 5/5


The Strange Talent of Luther Strode Vol.1 (w/ Justin Jordan a/ Tradd Moore)

This is the second of three titles selected for our March book club. On the surface this is a “dweeby kid gets superpowers” story. I won’t kid you, it is exactly that story at its core, too. It’s also the story of the price one pays to be extraordinary, to be able to do things no one else can. Well except the guy that gave the kid the opportunity to develop those powers. Yeah he’s an @$$hat. So Luther is getting picked on by the jock. Has a crush on the cute punk girl and has a best friend that is off the walls bonkers. Luther also has an abusive father that just got out of jail he and his mother are hiding from. Luther seeking to change his fortune sends away for one of those Charles Atlas type body building programs that used to be advertised in all the comic books. Not only does it arrive, but it actually works. Luther becomes superhuman. Speed, strength, perception. He gets it all, well not the confidence. But the cute punk girl does her best to help him with that. His buddy convinces him to fight crime, and that turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life. Can we say “retaliation is a bitch?” I am certainly interested in reading more. This book helps blur the line between vigilante superhero and psychotic spree killer. 4/5


Birthright Vol. 1: Homecoming (w/ Joshua Williamson a/ Andrei Bressan)

And this is our final selection for March’s book club. We’ve all read or seen some fantasy story about how a young child got transported to some other world because they were the “Chosen One” that prophecy foresaw would defeat the Big Bad and bring peace and freedom to that world. Good story right? But what about what’s happening on our world while the kid is playing hero? The kid was transported to the other world while playing catch with his dad right? So dad’s the prime suspect in the kid’s disappearance/potential murder. This pressure and suspicion is enough to break mom and dad’s marriage asunder. The brother that didn’t disappear now lives in a shattered home with the suspicion that his dad may be responsible for his little brother’s d…. (we don’t say death because this guy is holding out hope kid brother is still alive.) See nobody thinks or says anything about this side of the story. Because let’s face it, it’s depressing as hell. And it’s exactly how “Birthright” opens. The anniversary of little Mikey’s disappearance, mom’s served dad with divorce papers. Dad’s passed out drunk, as usual. But great news! There’s been a development in the case. A Conan the Barbarian looking guy came waltzing out the woods armed to the teeth with swords and daggers and enough other weapons to lay siege to a small town single handedly. When he is taken into custody he also has little Mikey’s backpack and notebook in his possession. He even has Mikey’s fingerprints. He tells a tale about what happened to him and now he’s back on Earth to hunt down some rogue wizard war criminals that were loyal to God King Lore. (spoiler: They’re not.) God King Lore being the Big Bad that Mikey was destined to defeat. (spoiler: Mikey lost.) He enlists his brother and father in his quest to kill the hiding wizards, starting with breaking out of the interrogation room of the police station. Yeah… this book is a lot of fun. The narrative flip flops from present day Earth to Mikey’s childhood on the other side of the portal, in Terrenos. I found it a lot of fun and looking forward to reading more. (I picked up Volumes 2-4 already last month.) 4/5


The Maxx: Maxximized Vol. 1 (Sam Keith & William Messner-Loebs)

I had never read the Maxx before. The cartoon on MTV is a vague memory of something I know of, but never really watched myself. So I was more than a little surprised by how heavy some of the subject matter is in this series. A good portion of the book deals with how people deal with traumatic events in their life, either through acknowledgement and working to move on, or through denial and ignoring the damage they may be doing to themselves. Even the Maxx isn’t unscathed by this. He’s a homeless guy in a purple and yellow costume fascinated with a social worker named Julie. He dreams/hallucinates that he’s in the Outback as a great hunter/protector to the Leopard Queen that bears an awful resemblance to Julie. Or is he a hunter that has nightmares about our modern cities? Maybe he’s both? It’s a great book and I really enjoy it. It’s not for everyone. I will be reading more. 4/5


The October Faction Vol 1-3 (w/ Steve Niles a/ Damien Worm)

The October Faction is the first Steve Niles book I’ve read in quite some time. I kept telling myself I was going to look into it but never got around to it until it was part of an IDW bundle on Humble Bundle at the beginning of March. This book follows an Addams Family/Munsters sort of family that sort of screams macabre to the civilians around them. Turns out mom and dad used to be big monster hunters back in the day. But they’re long retired now. Right? Wrong. There wouldn’t be a story if they weren’t pulled out of retirement to teach the children the family trade right? As much as I enjoyed these volumes I can’t give them high marks. The individual stories are interesting but feel rushed and thrown together. Few characters feel developed or given room to be more than a stereotype. There’s a surprising lack of overall story for a book that has three volumes worth of trades. Hopefully that’ll change. I’m keeping an eye out for a volume four, but I can wait. 3/5


The Nowhere Men Vol 1: Fates Worse than Death

(w/ Eric Stephenson a/ Nate Bellegarde)

Back with Image with this one. “Science is the new Rock N’ Roll.” I like that slogan. I wish it were true. But personal beliefs aside, this book starts with four world renowned scientist getting together to “change the world.” And everybody loves them. We’re talking Beatlemania levels of adoration. It’s awesome. But what happens when you get a group of people together and inflate their egos? A breakdown in group dynamics! Someone is forced to leave the group for weird, ethically questionable lines of experimentation. These experiments are then used to contaminate a super secret space station where another member had a team of scientist conducting their own super secret experiments under the assumption that no one knew that they were up there. These fine folks think that they’re sick with a virus, an illness. It’s worse than that. Their genetic makeup is being rewritten and no two people are reacting the same way. The results are wildly unpredictable. I have to say “Nowhere Men” certainly scratched the hard science fiction side of my brain. I would be interested in reading more when the next volume comes out. 4/5


Hot Damn (Ryan Ferrier)

Our protagonist is dead. Not only is he dead, he’s in Hell. Literally. He’s forced to go to group therapy meetings to discuss his sins. There’s an ex-girlfriend he feels guilty about. Some discontented angel decides to leave Heaven behind and in doing so kicks off the Second Coming. It’s a good read if you have nothing better to read. It just feels like mishmash of ideas and outtakes that Garth Ennis decided not to put into his Wormwood series of books. I couldn’t shake the idea that Hot Damn really wanted to be Wormwood. Not the worst I’ve ever read and I at least finished it. 2/5


Seven to Eternity Vol 1: The God of Whispers

(w/ Rick Remender a/ Jerome Opena)

“Paranoia, Paranoia, Everybody’s coming to get me!” should be the theme song for this book. So the God of Whispers has made everyone super paranoid. The Osidis family has been cast out for daring to speak out against him when something could have been done to stop him. Now it’s too late, so in effect they are the only truly free family. Adam Osidis is summoned to meet with the God of Whispers after his father is killed for refusing to hear his offer yet again. Adam wants nothing more than to keep his family safe. Even if it means doing the one thing his father never would. What does he have to lose? Adam’s sick. Terminally so. What’s the harm in selling his soul and senses to the God of Whispers if it means his wife and children are safe, especially since he has no intention of making it home to spy on them. While he’s in his audience with the God of Whispers, all hell breaks loose. Some fighters have actually come to take the God prisoner and break the psychic hold he has over the inhabitants of the land. They can’t kill him, if he dies millions die with him. So now a diverse group of desperate people have the most powerful person on the planet locked up in a wagon and they have to transport him a vast distance across enemy territory while actively being hunted in a world of rampant paranoia? In the immortal words of Oliver Twist “Please sir, I want some more.” 4/5


Black Monday Murders Vol. 1: All Hail, God Mammon  

(w/ Jonathan Hickman a/ Tomm Coker)

When I picked this one up, I didn’t realize it was written by Jonathan Hickman. (East of West) So, dear reader, you probably aren’t all that surprised to learn that I really enjoyed this book. It’s dense. It’s heavy. There’s a lot of material here and it’s not all apparent the first time you read it. (I’ve read it twice.) It’s the kind of book that takes real world events and makes a narrative out of them. In this case, we get various stock market crashes starting with the one that kicked off the Great Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a secret cabal of elite rich bastards pulling everyone’s strings. Apparently the secret cabal of elite rich bastards (SCOERB) have made a deal with some otherworldly entity that ties their fortunes, power and lives to the market. The story is one part history lesson, and one part murder mystery. The history lesson portions give us background information that is important to understand the nature of the deal and what the SCOERB do to maintain power. The murder mystery involves a police detective that’s been tapped to look into the death of a member of the SCOERB. Why this detective? Because he’s solved some “unsolvable” cases using less than orthodox means. Some people think that’s a euphemism of magic and occult practices. He’s got a habit of making leaps in logic most don’t and having an open mind to different approaches to life. Unfortunately for him he’s about to find out that this rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than even he may have thought possible. 5/5


Winterworld (w/ Chuck Dixon a/ Jorge Zaffino)

Have you read this one? Go do so! Right now! It’s in my ever favorite post-apocalypse genre. But this time the world isn’t some desert radioactive wasteland, the world is frozen and covered in ice and snow. It’s that Kevin Costner movie “Waterworld” but on ice. The book follows a trader named Scully, his dealings with nefarious people, a young lady named Wynn he reluctantly lets travel with him until the next decent settlement because she kind of saved his life. Sadly, slavers have a different idea of how things are going to go. Scully eventually escapes. Starts feeling guilty for leaving the girl behind and hatches a plan to rescue her. The artwork is amazing. I’m sad I never read it sooner. 5/5


Winterworld: Better Angels, Colder Hearts (w/ Chuck Dixon, a/ various)

This collects the newer installments of Winterworld and the continuing adventures of Scully and Wynn. They find a nice piece of beachfront property that actually gets decent weather every few years. Too bad the locals are a little fond of their Wicker Man inspired harvest rituals. There’s a new lady entering their lives, well she steals their ride, but she needed it, seriously. To save the children. Won’t anyone think of the children?!? Scully and Wynn aren’t entirely without a conscience so they agree to help her. YAY! Sadly she’s too late for the children. Wynn also tells Scully a story of her childhood before they crossed paths. All in all a good collection of stories that continues the chronicle of our protagonist survivors. I just wish there was more closure at the end. 4/5


East of West Vol. 6 (w/ Jonathan Hickman a/ Nick Dragotta)

Alright boys and girls, this is what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how much I love this series. I’ve even complained that the pacing is something I feel is holding it back. Luckily for us, this is where all those plots and character arcs start to intersect. Orion gathers the Chosen for a meeting. All hell breaks loose and everyone starts fighting. Babylon adopts a wild boar and with the help of Balloon kills three mercenaries sent to kill him. And Death finally finds his son. Dammit, now I have to wait for volume 7.  5/5

 


Birthright Volumes 2-4 (w/ Joshua Williamson a/ Andrei Bressan)

I’m grouping these together, mainly because it’s the near the end of the month and I have a more or less self imposed deadline of wanting to have this column finished by the 31st. Obviously I like it or I wouldn’t continue reading it, right? These continue the adventures of the returned Mikey and his family as they come to terms with his disappearance and subsequent reappearance as super badass and Conan the Barbarian cosplayer. So Mikey wasn’t as special or Chosen as everyone hoped. He not only lost to Lore but is a host to the Nevermind. (a sort of sentient soul parasite that can kill Mikey if he steps out of line.) More backstory gets filled in, Mikey’s mom finds out she’s going to be a grandmother, we find out everything that happened is partially grandpa’s fault. Oh and Mikey’s brother is some sort of super mage! FUN! As before the art is beautiful and the story suspends belief enough for me to not question it too much. 4/5


The Wicked + The Divine: Year One

(w/ Kieron Gillen a/ Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles)

This is one of the few comics I buy month to month. I picked up the first 2 or 3 issues on a lark because I liked the David Bowie looking character on the cover. Flipped through one of them and people’s heads are mysteriously exploding and the character responsible is a woman named Lucifer. (Coincidentally she is the David Bowie impersonator on the cover) The art is beautiful, clean and crisp. The story is a little muddled and difficult to swallow at first but I’m glad I stuck with it. For those of you uninitiated to the story The Wicked + The Divine is about a Pantheon of Gods that come back to inspire mankind every 90 years or so. The story takes place with one such Recurrence. There’s a super fangirl, 17 year old Laura, who acts as the main protagonist/ central point of the plot. We follow her and watch her interact with her idols and other fans. That being said, it’s not for everyone. 4/5


The Throwaways Vol. 1 (w/ Caitlin Kittredge a/ Steven Sanders)

Question. What do a soldier with PTSD and the son of survivalist/paranoid militiaman have in common? Answer: Read Throwaways to find out. Seriously it scratched the military thriller/conspiracy theory part of my brain I didn’t even know I had. Come on, secret mind control/sleeper agent experiments in top secret black site locations developing human killing machines and people with psychic powers. What more could a guy ask for? Oh yeah. Shoot outs, chases and all the makings of a new Jason Bourne franchise. 3/5


Clean Room 1: Immaculate Conception (w/ Gail Simone a/ Jon Davis-Hunt)

And I’m right back into conspiracy theory territory, but this time it involves words like “self help,” “guru,” “Hollywood,” “cult,” “entity,” and “mysterious death.” This book helped confirm how seriously twisted my sense of humor actually is. The problem is I can’t tell if the writer intended it to be funny for everyone else. And since the thing I found the most awesome about this one is a major plot point I’m going to stay silent. Lots of blood, possessions, body horror, homicidal and suicidal acts are performed in this one. The art is beautiful and the story is twisted. I loved it and can’t wait to read more. 4/5


Suiciders (Lee Bermejo)

It’s pretty. It’s got some good action sequences. I should love it, but I don’t. I can’t explain why. It just didn’t grab me. But hey they can’t all be winners. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it. I’m just very ambivalent towards Suiciders. The story focuses on this sport where two gladiator type guys called Suiciders go toe to toe in armor with weapons in a death trap arena.  The main character is “The Saint” and he’s on top of the world. Too bad he wishes he had the life he gave up. 3/5


The Maxx: Maxximized Volume 2 (Sam Keith & William Messner-Loebs)

Continuing the adventures of The Maxx. If you haven’t read them before, like me, or never really watched the cartoon, also like me, then give them a whirl, like me yet again. What’s real? What’s imaginary? Who’s dream is this? Are we sure the Outback isn’t real? And what gives with the symbiotic nature between the Maxx and Julie? I don’t know about you, but I have five more volumes to read.  4/5


Shutter Volume 1 (w/ Joe Keatinge a/ Leila del Duca)

So this woman is an explorer like her father before her. She’s also pretty famous writer and photographer. But she quit and is leading a pretty dull and quiet and most importantly; a peaceful existence until she’s assaulted by multiple groups all claiming to have her safety in mind. Who are they trying to keep her safe from? Her siblings of course. And here she thought she was an only child. Turns out there was a lot of stuff that dear old father didn’t tell her while he was out doing his Indiana Jones gig. Ultimately I see the potential in the series but the first volume didn’t do a whole lot to get me hooked. I might give the second one a chance sometime in the future. 3/5


Chew Volume 9-11 (w/ John Layman a/ Rob Guillory)

If you haven’t started reading Chew, do yourself a favor and go do so. Seriously. Go! It’s a book that’s pretty damn close to perfection the whole way through. Intense interpersonal drama between characters, insanely hilarious fights and imaginative food based super-powers, wonderfully illustrated and great pacing. Seriously go check it out. 5/5


Devolution (w/ Rick Remender a/ Jonathan Wayshak)

I’ll say it outright. I am not a fan of this one. I love Rick Remender and I think this is the first time I’ve put one of his books down and said “I don’t like it.” It feels derivative, like I’ve read it 15 times before. It felt rushed. The humans are the real monster trope could have been skipped this time around. The premise was interesting enough without having to resort to it. So the premise is scientists think they’ve figured out a way to create world peace. They unleash their solution on the world and everything, and I mean everything takes a few steps down the evolutionary ladder, with the exception of those inoculated before deployment. Our heroine is searching for the antidote her father created in order to fix everything. She runs afoul of the first immune survivors she’s seen in years. With so many interesting ways to take the story, I’m stuck reading about a human antagonist. Eh. They can’t all be winners I guess.  2/5


The Cape (w/ Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella (adapted by) a/ Zach Howard)

This is one of our book club picks for April. Based on a short story by Joe Hill. I am a huge fan of Mr. Hill. Just ask anyone I work with. I sadly have not partaken of his short story work, yet. As such I was unfamiliar with the premise of the story only that he had written it. I got to say I really liked this adaptation. The art’s amazing. The story just flowed. It’s sick and a bit twisted. I have to say I was anticipating the classic “and it was all a dream” cop out that never showed up. The story is about this kid who’s dad was a POW in Vietnam. One day his footlocker came home. He did not. Well this kid and his brother would play superheros and he even had a cape that he never took off. His mom sewed one of his father’s patches onto the cape just to make it special. One day while wearing it in a tree, the branch he’s standing on snaps and he just hangs there suspended in the air like Wile E. Coyote. Then he plummets to the ground that results in a hospital stay and a long recovery. Fast forward to adulthood, he’s a loser. He moves into mom’s basement. Finds his cape and discovers it really did give him the power of flight. And like everyone else that feels wronged by the world he decides to abuse this power to get at the people that are responsible for his lot in life; his ex-girlfriend, his mother and his brother. 4/5


The Cape 1969 (w/ Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella  a/ Zach Howard)

Another book club selection for April, this one tells the story of the POW father from “The Cape.” Specifically his experience as a POW and his interactions with the flying witch that shares his cell. I’m not typically a fan of prequels. While this was a good story and a good read, it was wholly unnecessary. The great thing about short stories is you don’t have to explain everything, and this felt like an explanation being slapped together to bring some meaning to “The Cape.” End result is the central character is much more relatable and likeable than “The Cape,” but not a necessary read to both of these to enjoy the other. 3/5


The Pro (w/ Garth Ennis a/  Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner)

Garth Ennis’s distaste for the classic superhero tale is on full display here. Our third selection for April features a hooker that is given superhero abilities. She’s offered to join the Justice L…. I mean the League of Honor. It is quickly apparent that they don’t approve of her profession, her swearing and general sense of reality and how she deals with it. I loved it. 5/5


I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After  (Skottie Young)

The fourth and final selection for April. I’ve already reviewed it last month. But since I reread it for book club I figured it should make the list. Also worth mentioning that my initial opinion of the book hasn’t changed. 5/5  (link here.)

 

So that’s it for the time being. Any questions, comments or recommendations are welcome in the comments down below. Have a good one. I’ll be back with more.

 

-Will

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