Review: Men of Wrath

Men of WrathMen of Wrath by Jason Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Men of Wrath is a short, but oh so sweet, piece of southern noir that I really fuckin’ dug. Jason Aaron continues to feed my jones for hardboiled crime fiction with this mean little ditty.

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No convoluted story here, just a straight gut-punch of a tale about the men of the Rath family and their legacy of violence passed from father to son with each new generation. Ira Rath’s brimming with the crazy maliciousness that seems to have corrupted all the men of the Rath family tree. He’s the definition of an ice cold sonofa’ bitch. This book narrowly focuses on Ira, the enmity between him and his son, a house fulla’ guns, and a bloody climax that kept me on the edge of my seat right to the end.

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This one is heavy on the cruelty and right to the point. 5 issues and done. Sometimes it should be like that. Plenty of violence and very little mercy to go around. Aaron’s doesn’t seem as long-winded in this one as in some of his other, more well-known books. I’m cool with that. Plus, he’s got Garney ridin’ shotgun with this book. Aaron seems comfortable to allow Ron to do his fair share in tellin’ the tale.

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Ron Garney really impressed me. I’ve been ambivalent towards most of his stuff in the past, but it’s usually of the capes and cowls variety. No web-shootin’ or claw poppin’ here, and he nailed it. Either his style or my tastes have changed, because I also went for the more recent Wolverine stuff he did with Aaron a little ways back. Here’s to hopin’ that these two boys hook up again for another book down the road.

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If you like happy endings, sensitive characters, and lots of profound dialogue look elsewhere. If you’re cool with mean folks, doing horrible things, with lots of bullets and blood, this one’s worth a look-see.

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Review: Rat Catcher

Rat CatcherRat Catcher by Andy Diggle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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This one’s another from the short list of worthwhile entries from the Vertigo Crime imprint. Andy Diggle’s Rat Catcher is his own version of a “Keyser Soze”-like criminal that’s been killing informants in the witness protection program for years. Pretty solid story that takes a lot of the mandatory twists and turns along the way before the final climax. The conclusion may not deliver for some, but I liked it, so there. I also appreciate Diggle’s ability to write conversation. He’s really able to sell his characters as real people to me in that regard and this had me hooked early on.

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Who is Victor Ibanez and why the hell isn’t he doing more comic work? The real crime here is this guy isn’t doing more stuff. I really liked his art here and I’m shocked to see that he hasn’t done anything else per Goodreads. (Turns out he’s done some stuff for Marvel on Storm, but not much else.)

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Pretty good comic that crime fans should probably check out. Andy Diggle hasn’t been the most consistent writer, but I think this one falls on the “worthwhile” side of the fence when compared with the rest of his body of work. And will someone from Marvel, Image, DC, or Dark Horse get Victor Ibanez some regular work…What a waste.

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Review: Area 10

Area 10Area 10 by Christos Gage

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Vertigo Crime imprint hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype for me. No stupid-great noir tales despite having some pretty talented folks writing and/or drawing a few of them. That said, Area 10 is pretty good. Not off the hook, but certainly an entertaining read.

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Christos Gage’s fast paced book focuses on the hunt for a serial killer dubbed “Henry the Eighth” and the one cop in particular that’s trying to bring him in. Fairly standard fare. The thing that makes this a little more unique is the cringe-worthy injury that allows the killer to stay one step ahead of the law. Couple of twists that I didn’t see coming and the characters ultimately grew on me.

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Not overly psyched about the art. I like a lot of black and white stuff, but it took a while for me to come around to Chris Samnee’s work in this one and I enjoyed his recent run on Daredevil. In the end it was certainly serviceable enough.

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While it’s built on a familiar foundation, Area 10 does do a couple of things different and has enough originality to warrant a read if you’re a fan of serial killer fiction or noir comics. I was unaware that Gage had written for Law & Order: SVU prior to reading this. SVU is one of my wife’s favorite shows and this sorta reads a little like one of their episodes. And that’s not a bad thing.

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Review: Velvet, Vol. 2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men, by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

Velvet, Vol. 2: The Secret Lives of Dead MenVelvet, Vol. 2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally. I’ve been waiting for something great to sink my teeth into, and who should become available on NetGalley? Why my old friend Ed…Brubaker that is. Alongside for the ride is his other frequent collaborator, Steve Epting. (Winter Soldier arc of Cap).

I read and loved Volume 1 of Velvet, who’s like Ms. Moneypenny if she’d been an even more lethal machine than Bond.

In the last volume, Velvet found herself framed for murders she didn’t commit…unfortunately for ARC-7 (The Agency) she retained all of her field training and experience as an asset from before her 10+ yrs as the secretary to the Director.

This time around, they’ve caught on and they’re coming at her hard, but tons of questions arise, and Velvet turns the tables on them. She finds someone who might be able to help her, but with her desire to work alongside someone else, has she lost sight of the most important rule? Trust No One.

It’s great to have a female hero who kicks serious ass and is still sexy, even in her 40s…We don’t have nearly enough characters like that, and when leading writers like Brubaker do it, you know there’s going to be copycats soon. It won’t be the same as Ed’s work, but it’s great that they don’t all have to be young men.

The twists and turns sometimes can be ridiculous and forced in many spy/thriller books, but here it feels natural and legit.

I’m so very pleased to have got a chance to read this, and a thank you to Net Galley for making the ARC available. This is my honest review I give in exchange for getting to read this fantastic book.

Go out and grab this now! If you haven’t, start with Vol. 1!


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Review: The Fade Out #1; by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

The Fade Out #1The Fade Out #1 by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like we’re spoiled by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. They go so well together, like PB&J, Cookies & Cream, Lono & Dead Hookers…they really are a dream team.
But it’s not like they’re doing anything crazy that’s changing boundaries or going outside of the norm; they’re just creating fucking awesome crime/noir stories that feel timeless. The kind of thing you read and are then convinced you’ve read before or seen a movie version of. (and I mean that as a total compliment, I’m not saying it’s just run of the mill).

Their latest, The Fade Out, seems to have a few things in common with ‘Satellite Sam’ Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s book about TV in NYC in the 50s. Except this book is in the movies in the late 40s in Hollywood, and is much better. There’s still sex, drugs, dames, scandal, but Ed and Sean show how to make it the best it can be. Every time I start a book of theirs, it feels like I flipped across the channels late at night and came across a great Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade movie, with the narration of the main character, all world weary, smoked a few too many cigarettes, had a drink or 5, and always had stories about women who’d done you wrong.

There really doesn’t seem to be much I can say about these guys, other than I hope they live forever, and keep producing such masterpieces. As much as I love Ed’s superhero work (Captain America especially) I think this really is his calling. Why he’s not making movies yet is beyond me. Screenplay, direct, whatever, I feel like Hollywood needs to take some of these and make them into the talkies.

So ya, I will for sure be checking out the rest of this series, and thanks to Humble Bundle and Image for a winner.


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Stray Bullets Vol. 1 by David Lapham

Stray Bullets, Vol. 1Stray Bullets, Vol. 1 by David Lapham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is a collection of interwoven crime/noir stories. They’re interesting enough to keep your attention, also kind of depressing as many are about the pointlessness of violence, and what Stray Bullets can do…
It’s about broken lives, how they break over time, and showing the cumulative effects of bad decisions, violence, abuse, anger and rage, and crime.
Not every story seems to be connected, but I think if you read more of them and pay a bit more attention, you will find more. Kinda like Pulp Fiction without the music and comedy.

There’s definitely something, but it’s a sad kinda crime/noir that leaves you feeling like you spent 10yrs sitting alone in a crappy apartment with one lightbulb in a gravy-stained tank top drinking bourbon out of a paper bag with your revolver laying on the table beside you as you contemplate if you want to face another sunrise…
That docked a star for me, because I read it during the day and I was in a good mood…lol, now I’m all woeful and pessimistic.

Good solid stuff, Black and White adds to the atmosphere, I would read more, but I won’t go out of my way to rush.

Thanks again Humble Bundle!


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Review: Satellite Sam, Vol. 1; by Matt (overworked and undersexed) Fraction & Howard (I remember the days of black and white so I don’t use colour) Chaykin

Satellite Sam, Volume 1Satellite Sam, Volume 1 by Matt Fraction
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Ugh. Seriously, I see what Image did…they showed you the flashy stuff (Saga, Walking Dead, Sex Criminals) the big writers (Fraction, BKV, Aaron) and they got you to pay for that, while also unloading on you a ton of mediocre stuff and some downright turds. But…I’ll still buy the next Humble Bundle, just for the value alone of the great stuff. I’m willing to suffer the shit to get to the gooey nougat centre.

Between successful/popular Matt Fraction writing, and old dog/well-known/respected Howard Chaykin doing the art, you figure Satellite Sam would be a winner.

Well, you’d be wrong.

I’m also starting to think that Matt Fraction is becoming a little obsessed with sex in comics. Sex Criminals had humour and a balance of lightness and more serious stuff, a mixture that goes down easy. This is just the seedy sex of the depraved behind closed doors 1950s.

I never watched Mad Men, but this seems like Mad Men the comic, in a TV producing environment instead of an Ad Agency.

I also have to admit a secret…while I respect Howard Chaykin, and can tolerate his stuff, I don’t really LOVE his style of art. In black and white, it’s hard to tell some of his characters apart, and frankly, between that and the storyline, I didn’t make much effort to.

Satellite Sam is a TV show, and the star is found dead in a flophouse with tons of dildos and lingerie all over the floor. His son discovers that he’s also got boxes and boxes of photos he’s taken of all the floozies he’s fucked over the years…including the Female Co-Star of the show (who’s a born again Christian!). SCANDAL!

But this book goes for titilation over substance, and fails. Yes there’s a kind of lurid, dirty appeal to the forbidden sex acts that we all now take mostly for granted (I mean most people are going to see 50 Shades of Grey for Valentine’s Day FFS), but at the same time, it’s kind of tired.

I don’t really care much for the head of the studio trying to expand his network, or his appeals to the FCC to get a bigger audience share, or the technology of early TV. It is interesting material for a proper history/biography book for sure, but it falls nearly as flat as the Superhero Union Contract Negotiations of COWL.

The son, Michael is a raging alcoholic, yet somehow, the murder of his father seems to spur him on to discover who he really was (other than a raging horndog). There’s lots of sex here, but no connections, just the equivalent of sad handjobs from homeless hookers. (Lono’s fave!)

No one is happy, everyone has vices, and there’s always positioning for power. Yawn. It’s obvious Fraction finds the early age of TV fascinating, and in this digital edition, we also get a conversation between Fraction and Chaykin about the 50s and early TV, which is more interesting that the whole of the first Volume.

Sex, booze, broads, TV, lies, scandal, coverups, somehow this all just falls pretty flat for me as a reader. I’m not really emotionally connecting to any character, they all seem pretty useless. Then as a reason to continue the series, or prolong it at least, they throw in the angle that it wasn’t a random crime of passion, but a murder that killed Michael’s father….DAA DUHHH DAAHHH!

I’m sorry, I would have liked to enjoy this, but it just feels like it’s pandering to a teenage audience who hasn’t figured out how to use PornHub yet. This would have totally worked on me at 14, for sure, but now it just comes across as cheap and makes you feel like taking a shower.

I think that might even be the aim, so ya, we get it, the 50s were just as depraved as today, but people felt the shame of keeping things under wraps and to themselves. I guess it’s up to you to decide if that’s better than nude celebrity selfies going viral or not.

I’ll be missing the rest of this on purpose, and I think maybe if Matt Fraction is so interested, he a Howard should just have a nice long sit down chat, and put out a podcast or something…

Sadly disappointing, again, like a sad handjob…2 in 2 days…not a good start to the week…at this rate I’ll have to start reading FF.


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Nailbiter, Vol. 1 – There Will Be Blood (is a much better movie than this is a comic); by Joshua Williamson

Nailbiter, Vol. 1: There Will Be BloodNailbiter, Vol. 1: There Will Be Blood by Joshua Williamson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More from the Humble Bundle; the gift that keeps on giving…even if you didn’t ask for some of them.

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OK so Nailbiter almost lost me in the first few pages because it was just gross, and the kinda eww like papercuts in the spaces between your fingers and toes (EEEEEEE I’m squirming). I swallowed and pushed on through, and got into the story.

As others of my GR friends had commented already, this book owes much to the Silence of the Lambs and Scream…one is a masterful character study/thriller, the other is a shock horror/comedy. Nailbiter is neither of these things.
It’s a poor copy.

The characters aren’t given much time to be fleshed out, because they are running around after killers and always caught reacting and being 2 steps behind.

The Nailbiter himself is the most prolific serial killer in US history (other than legalized government agents) who got off scott free…Ya I don’t think so. Of course, one of the cops is a government specialist in “information extraction” ie. torture…but he never does much other than throw a few people around and scuffle with killers. I haven’t seen an ounce of torture skills or anything that makes me think this guy is anything special.

The Local Chief is a strong female character (with air quotes) who, of course, went to Prom with the Nailbiter…and he still loves to flirt with her. I’m sorry, you don’t think they’d get someone else from another town with no history to be the head of police? I mean really…

Everyone is suspect, from the grandson of the first serial killer the town produced (who runs a macabre store profiteering off the suffering of others) all the way down to anyone in town at all. There’s nearly no one to trust, and bodies start to pile up…

Also, the idea that one town produced 16 serial killers? That’s nuts. Were that actually the case, there would be law enforcement agents there in deep cover 24/7 and the government would probably have sterilized all the populace, and I assume most people would have moved away…but no.

Either way, there’s enough red herrings to start a fishmonger, and there seems to be a mystery figure pulling all the strings…making locals participate in bloody murders, and setting the detectives up for a final ending.

The end of the first Volume is mildly interesting enough for me to feel like it saved just a touch of potential…the actions of certain people aren’t what we expected, and some people show up who we thought were long gone. (That and one of the baddies at the end was kinda actually spooky!)

We’re left with everything up in the air for the next volume…I don’t imagine that I’ll rush out to find it, but if it shows up at the library, I might check it out to see what happens.

I generously give this 2.5+ stars, because it is fairly derivative of it’s sources, and there’s a lack of originality or character development, but for some reason I found myself mildly re-interested by the final chapter. It’s by no means awesome, but I was like…OK I’ll suspend my disbelief long enough to give you one more chance… (I’m very generous like that, but I’ve been on a horrid run lately, so mild interest is a lot better than flat out disdain I’ve felt for many other books lately).


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Review: Elephantmen 2260, Vol. 1 : Memories of the Future, by some dude on acid.

Elephantmen 2260, Vol. 1: Memories of the FutureElephantmen 2260, Vol. 1: Memories of the Future by Richard Starkings
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Not entirely sure what they were trying to accomplish here..also, I’m not sure if this series has already been going on for a while (this was issues 51-56?) so confused there.

Jack Farrell is a PI investigating a double murder or a murder suicide…he can’t tell…he’s accompanied by what we discover and assume to be the ghost of his dead girlfriend, Scarlet. Ya…

In addition, we have Flask, a gigantic Hippopotamus/Human Hybrid, one of the titular “Elephantmen”. I am guessing I’ve missed a lot, and I think Flask is actually the main character in the regular series, but this is sorta a spin off?

Anyhow, they’re both detectives, oddly matched, then they go all Lethal Weapon/48 HRS/Buddy Cop while investigating things…

Flask is attacked by a robot, controlled by a woman who’s working for badguys…
Jack is still trying to figure out what Scarlet being around means, though he’s having trouble remembering details of what happened, but it appears he might be guilty of something to do with her death…

There’s a big conspiracy uncovered, and we see that there’s a whole lab of Women being used as rent-a-wombs for the evil corporation making more Animal Human Hybrids…illegally of course.

That’s when shit gets REALLY weird, and takes on a sort of Blade Runner feel, like who’s real, who’s not, is someone dreaming, who can I trust? Not even myself? All that sorta jazz vibe…It’s hard to keep track of, but there’s a big reveal near the end, and a secondary one that just confuses me a lot.

I think the oddball pairing of detectives was mildly entertaining, and the weirdness of dream/asleep/hallucinating was kind of interesting but hard to follow, or maybe I just didn’t want to really concentrate THAT hard…

Suffice it to say, it was interesting potentially, in this future Earth, but not interesting enough to warrant a return visit or Elephantmen most likely…

Just plain odd…


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Review: Southern Bastards – Here was a Man; by Jason Aaron

Southern Bastards, Vol. 1: Here Was a ManSouthern Bastards, Vol. 1: Here Was a Man by Jason Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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My first Indy Week Buddy Read Shallows. Thanks to Humble Bundle for their last and superb Image Bundle. I will be flowing forth with tons of IMAGE reviews as such! (especially since I figured out how to load them onto my iPad!)

So this non-mainstream slice of Jason Aaron is his first since the glory days of SCALPED, a certain masterpiece of modern noir crime fiction. (I’m only in the middle of that series and I’m already hooked like a junkie for my next fix).

Aaron is in my Top 2-3 writers in the industry right now, no doubt. So when I read the jacket on the back of this one and look at all the names giving quotes and recommending this: Brubaker, Hickman, Fraction, Remender, Snyder; well holy fuck, that’s just like the 1927 Yankees talking about Gehrig or Ruth…a regular murderers row of talent. The best in the bizz.

Between that and the fairly accepted praise from friends on here who’s opinions I truly value, this was set up for greatness…

And boy, does it deliver.

Earl Tubb is one badass mofo. Having left the small Alabama town where his daddy was sheriff 40yrs ago, never to return…until now.
He comes back conflicted, and within hours, is knee deep in local bullshit all over again.
This feels like a Clint Eastwood movie just waiting to be made.
Cross Deliverance with Walking Tall and give ole’ Squint the reins.

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The county his father kept clean until his death is the usual Southern Hellhole, run by Coach Boss, a combination of Boss Hogg and the Coach in Varsity Blues, except filtered through Satan. The use of heavy reds and browns and yellows really give the feel of hell on Earth, heat, and damned souls.

Try as he might, Earl wants nothing more than to pack up his family house, and get the fuck out…but the murder of an old acquaintance is just a little too much for Earl to take when he sees the current Sheriff isn’t fixin’ to do a Good Goddamn thing about it.

This is the same kind of unflinching look at the real America of the South, that Scalped gave us of the Western/Plains Native Reserves. This is noir so dark, it’s black. It takes a chunk of you just to read it. Make no mistake, this isn’t some comic book, this is pure American Noir in the hands of a modern master.

If you haven’t already, grab yourself some fast, because like the best Ribs/BBQ, you DO NOT want to miss out on this.


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