Superman Unchained by Scott Snyder

Superman UnchainedSuperman Unchained by Scott Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You should know, if there was a scale of ranking for heroes, I’d put Superman in the sub-zeroes. That’s how much I don’t like the character. He’s so damned boring and everything is super (heh) convenient for him. Yeah, no.

BUT.
This is Snyder. So he manages to make me give a 4 star. Because Supey is sort of interesting in this one.
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Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Vol. 4

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Vol. 4Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Vol. 4 by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Definitely not required reading.
Legends of the Dark Knight 4 is just a mish-mosh of Batman tales by different authors. A few are decent, some are just trippy, and a few downright suck.
But none of them are great.

I Hate it When He Does That tells how (a much too) young Bruce Wayne learns the art of fading into the shadows. He and Alfred find a girl in Thailand, help rescue her from corrupt government official, and she teaches him the Ways of the Force.
Why did Alfred ever agree to any of this bullshit? Toss that kid on a plane, and get the hell out of that cesspool!

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Riddler in the Dark is a decent story by Charles Soule. Unsurprisingly, Soule has written one of the better issues.
Riddler needs Batman to help him, but just can’t bring himself to ask the nice way.

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The Pain Cellar is about a childhood memory of Bruce’s that resurfaces, Arm Candy is about another new girlfriend, and The Notebook is about a reporter who’s shadowing Bruce for the day.
All of these are written by Frank Hannah, only a few pages long, and all make one (issue?) interconnecting story arc together.

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The Beautiful Ugly is a dark and depressing Two-Face story.
No redemption for you! <—That was me doing my Soup Nazi voice, btw.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Vol.1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 by Kevin Eastman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Hidden deep in the bottom of a cardboard box at the back of my closet was one of the most mortifying secrets of my adolescence. Nope, it wasn’t a stack of Hustler magazines (they were under my bed), a bag full of my neighbors underwear (not really my thing), or a rubber fist (I actually didn’t have one of those until I was in college). It was my collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics. There, I said it. I was/am a turtle fan. As if being an overweight role-player wasn’t enough to make losing my virginity a near impossible task.

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TMNT might have been my first exposure to indie comics and I LOVED it! My turtles didn’t skateboard around ordering Domino’s or shout COWABUNGA every other panel. My turtles were killers. The ninjas they didn’t cleaved with a katana or impaled on a sai got pushed off a roof top. My turtles all wore red masks and the only way you knew who was who was by actually paying attention (or their weapons, of course). A couple of things made the transition to the Hollywood version of the TMNT that continues to enthrall children everywhere. April made the cut. And as much as I enjoy staring at Megan Fox, she loses me as soon as she starts “acting”. Casey Jones made the first movie and some of the cartoons I believe, although the psychotic vigilante factor got toned wwaaayyy down. Vanilla Ice….I’ll just leave it at that. I know there were some other things as well. But that wasn’t my turtles. The comic really went for a more gritty tone, not quite Sin City, but it certainly wasn’t targeting little kids as its audience.

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This collection of the first 7 issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original masterpiece and the Raphael 1 issue micro-series is awesome. Eastman and Laird’s dark and cartoony vision of the turtles still does it for me. The first couple issues and Raph’s micro being the best of the bunch. Of course, Rapheal was my favorite of the group, the angry tough guy thing speaks to me. The stories aren’t exceptionally well written and the art is pretty basic by today’s standards and I don’t give a fuck. The original origin tale is a classic. Clearly they were riffing on other popular works of the day, but I can’t get enough. From Shredder, to the Foot Clan, to man-eating Mouser robots, this one’s got it all. I’m not as crazy about some of the sci-fi stuff the guys included towards the end of this one, but it was still fun.

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This book (along with a short list of others) was groundbreaking stuff for me. Little did I know that when Eastman and Laird would eventually make their mint and wisely sell their creations in return for what I hope was a butt-ton of money, I would be forced to hide my TMNT collection for fear of being doomed to rely on my right hand for companionship for the rest of my days.

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These oversized hardcovers are the only way to truly appreciate these books. Beautifully bound on nice paper with great extras including interviews with the creators and a couple sketches. I was actually lucky enough to stumble upon a “Red Label” edition super cheap that was signed by Eastman and had a kick-ass slip cover, but that stuff isn’t really necessary to enjoy this book. I would imagine that anyone with a fondness for the turtles will appreciate this collection and the beautiful black and white artwork it showcases so well. If you’re not a turtle fan or prefer the more mainstream version of the quartet, you might not appreciate this one as much as I do.

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The Nameless City

The Nameless CityThe Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

This is quite different from anything I’ve read by Hicks before. She’s also done contemporary stories with female protagonists, and The Nameless City is set in a vaguely Asian (maybe Chinese inspired?) fictional city with a male viewpoint character. Like I said, different, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I’ve really liked everything of hers that I’ve ever read, and this was absolutely no exception.

The title city is nameless to the inhabitants, named only by the many conquerors who cycle through. Currently, those rulers are the Dao, who generally treat the natives of the city as subhuman. The story is about the slowly growing friendship between Kaidu, a Dao boy who’s come to the city for military training, and Rat, a girl who’s native to the city. That’s the bones of the story, but what Hicks builds around it is really engaging. Partly because Kaidu and Rat bond as she teaches him parkour and he sneaks her food. And the characters themselves are very likable, Kaidu instantly and Rat a little more gradually so.

The art feels a bit rougher than I’m used to from Hicks. No less good, of course, and it feels more like a stylistic choice than a lack of effort. Not sure if it’s my favorite of her art, but I do like it.

This is apparently going to be a series, which is good. I got really interested in this world, and there are some intentionally unanswered questions left at the end. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of this.

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Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling

Delilah Dirk and the King's ShillingDelilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Not quite as much fun as the first Delilah Dirk book had been. That’s probably at least in part because this book is much more plot focused. The spotlight is really on Delilah’s past and her conflict with a corrupt British officer. Which is fine, except that the plot itself started to bore me part way through. Maybe it went on for too long, or maybe there wasn’t enough substance for the page count. It’s still good overall, and certain scenes are very good, but it just wasn’t as enjoyable as the first book.

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Red Sonja, vol. 3: The Forgiving of Monsters

Red Sonja, Volume 3: The Forgiving of MonstersRed Sonja, Volume 3: The Forgiving of Monsters by Gail Simone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Sadly, the least of Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja. The biggest storyline is just kind of ok. The message of forgiveness is kind of heavy handed. But it isn’t actually terrible, and I liked the story with the library. Sure, it was a little cheesy, but it was fun, and it actually said a lot about Sonja as a character. I guess what I’m taking away from Simone’s whole run on this book is that I like Sonja as a character, as Simone writes her, but I’m still not terribly into the whole swords and sorcery thing.

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