Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 2Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Injustice Year Two, Vol.2: More emotional highs and lows than a hormonal adolescent, all in less than 200 pages.

Spoilery review ahead.
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Black Magick, vol. 1: Awakening, Part One

Black Magick, Volume 1: Awakening, Part OneBlack Magick, Volume 1: Awakening, Part One by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Really interesting. I’ve liked most of what I’ve read by Rucka, so I requested this book without really investigating what it was or what it was about. I probably would have requested it anyways. It’s a blend of police procedural and Wiccan-flavored magic, and at least in this volume, it works rather better than it probably should. Main character Rowan Black is a cop, and a witch, and she’s being hunted. The question of who, or what, is hunting her and why is the central mystery of the series at this point, and it isn’t resolved at the end of the book. I’m more than interested enough in seeing how this plays out to look for volume two, when it’s released.

There are flaws, mainly that I’m having trouble connecting with the characters. The stellar art more than makes up for those minor flaws. I’m especially in love with the limited color palette, primarily shades of grey with color being used to indicate magic. It looks great, and it gives the book a look of its own, always nice things.

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Gotham Academy, vol. 2: Calamity

Gotham Academy, Vol. 2: CalamityGotham Academy, Vol. 2: Calamity by Becky Cloonan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

This is quite an improvement over the first volume. The book seems to have hit its stride, and I really enjoyed reading it. Olive’s mystery is, I think, more or less resolved, and it unfolds in a way that makes a certain amount of sense, by Gotham standards. It actually ended up being a little more interesting than I had expected. The group of main characters owes a bit to the Scoobies, which is not a bad thing in my eyes. I’m glad this book is still going, because I honestly think it’s showing some real promise now, and I think it could do really well with the younger female audience that DC had been losing to Marvel titles like Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl. And a more diverse audience is a larger audience, DC.

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Constantine: The Hellblazer, vol. 1: Going Down

Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going DownConstantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going Down by Ming Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

This is DC’s second try at making Constantine a part of the mainstream DCU, and it’s far and away more successful than the first attempt. Yes, it’s still a PG-13 version of the character, but he doesn’t feel particularly censored. Truth be told, by making Constantine’s bisexuality a matter of fact part of his character instead of something that’s occasionally alluded to but mostly ignored, he might be, on balance, less censored than ever. He’s still a bastard, though, because would we even recognize a Constantine who wasn’t?

The story, too, is way better. It actually feels like a proper Constantine story, instead of a box he was stuffed into because the writer wasn’t sure how to deal with him. As it turns out, you can write a Hellblazer story that’s rated PG-13 without taking out much of what is essentially him. Is it missing some bite? Oh, sure, and die-hard fans of Ennis’s take on the character, for example, will likely be less than thrilled. But I’m no Ennis die-hard. And if nothing else, the character of Georgiana Snow, the anti-Constantine, is a gift.

The art, though is… Well, it’s art, and it isn’t terrible, but neither is it terribly good. I got used to it, but I never liked it. On the other hand, it definitely gives the book a distinctive look, and that’s not the worst thing in the world.

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Prez, vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in ChiefPrez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief by Mark Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

This was actually a really pleasant surprise. I requested this book basically on a whim, because it was so different from the majority of DC’s offerings, and because I was curious to see what Russell would do with a mostly forgotten character. I can’t say that I had any expectations, but if I had, this book would have easily surpassed them.

I’m not familiar with the original version of Prez, only with the one that guested in an issue of Sandman, so I don’t really have a basis of comparison. That’s ok, because this Prez absolutely stands on its own merits. The premise: in a day-after-tomorrow future America, teenagers can become president and anyone can vote on social media. This doesn’t directly lead to viral video “star” Beth Ross getting elected, but it certainly helps. Rank corruption is what actually hands her the win, and it’s incredibly satisfying to watch play out. This is bitter, often biting political satire, and it will definitely strike a chord with a lot of readers.

But political satire on its own isn’t enough to make a full story. What really pushed this one over the top for me was the character of Beth herself. She’s instantly, incredibly likable. It’s heartening to watch her tackle the job of president, and it’s satisfying that she doesn’t win on every front all the time. There’s also a host of minor characters on the outskirts of the story who have interesting lives of their own. I really, really hope that there’s more issues coming, because I feel like there’s so much more that could be done with this book, and I feel like Russell has plenty of ideas left.

And I have to say how much I love Caldwell’s art. It suits the book, and there’s a lot of life and variety in his characters. Sure, I’ve seen better, but somehow this art is just right for this book, and isn’t that what really matters?

After a long series of disappointments from DC, it was so, so nice to finally get a really good book from them. This is something that they should be proud of, and I hope they are. No, it isn’t a modern masterpiece, but it’s a damn good book that’s entirely unlike the vast majority of what they’re offering. Well done.

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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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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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Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 3: Spider-Verse

Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 3: Spider-VerseAmazing Spider-Man, Vol. 3: Spider-Verse by Dan Slott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hey! It’s a crossover event that’s actually FUN!

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I’ve been getting burned out on these events lately, but Spider-verse has more going for it than some of the other stuff I’ve read.
Now, I haven’t read all of the other titles in the crossover, but I had already read Edge of Spider-Verse, Spider-Woman, Vol. 1: Spider-Verse, & Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2: Spider-Verse Prelude. Which was enough for me to feel like I was getting the lion’s share of the story.
I may go back for some of the other titles later. Maybe.

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The gist is that there is this family called the Inheritors who live on (I think!) Loomworld.
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Their sole purpose is to suck the life force out of Spider Totems (read: Spider-men, Spider-woman, Spider-bots, Spider-animals, & Spider-babies).
Spider-ham! Yuuuuum…

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Anyway, this is the volume where it all comes together! The final battle between the Inheritors & basically every Spider in the multiverse!
Boom! Pow! Sock! Ka-blam-o!

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Yeah, yeah…sounds goofy, but there really are some awesome moments in this thing!
Including a showdown between Otto and Peter, as the Superior Spider-man tries to prove he’s got what it takes to lead in the future.

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This is the conclusion of Doc Ock’s time as Spider-man, so fans of that title may want to read this in order to get one last glimpse of him.
sniffle

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Also, a pretty touching moment between Pete & Gwen…

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Everyone’s favorite Ultimate Spider-man, Miles Morales, shows up, too! Among other things, he takes a trip to (what appears to be) the Cartoon Universe.
Dawwww! How cute!

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And best of all?! THIS:

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I don’t want to spoil how it all goes down, but there were plenty of things about it that made this one a great load of fun to read. At least, it was for me.
And visually? It was Amazing<–of course!
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Now, if your aren’t into Spidey, then this may not be for you. It could be very confusing for someone who isn’t familiar with any of these characters, so I’m definitely not recommending this as a jumping-off point for any newbies. I honestly think it would be overwhelming unless you’re somewhat familiar with these characters.

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However, if you do know a bit about these guys? Yeah, go for it! Spider-verse was highly entertaining, so I’d easily recommend it for hardcore fans.

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