Lucifer, vol. 1

Lucifer, Vol. 1Lucifer, Vol. 1 by Holly Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

I requested this on a whim, mostly because I really liked the cover. It’s such an unusual style for a Big Two cover. And I was at least somewhat familiar with this version of Lucifer, from Sandman. As it turns out, not nearly familiar enough. It seems to continue directly after the end of the previous Lucifer series, and I do mean directly. I never read that series, so the book keeps going back to things that happened before. I wasn’t necessarily lost (maybe a bit confused at times), because Black did a fairly good job of trying to explain what she’d brought in from previous books. Even so, it’s like hearing something third hand, so I can’t be sure I really understand all the nuances that she may or may not be playing off of. I can imagine that having read the previous incarnation of the series would be enormously helpful, especially early in the book.

The story itself is a bit meandering at times. When Lucifer and Gabriel go to Dreaming, it felt almost like a digression (though maybe that was intentional) and not an integral part of the story. I’m not sure if Black felt obligated to enter Dream’s realm, or just really wanted to, but either way it felt more like a time out from the story than a continuation of it. Things get really interesting in the last couple of issues, enough so that I’ll probably read the next volume, when it comes out. And interspersing the story with scenes of humans kind of puzzled me at first, but I ended up becoming really attached to them. Overall, there’s some rough spots here, and I think I probably wasn’t quite prepared for the book, but it is good.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year 4, vol. 2

Injustice Gods Among Us Year Four Vol. 2Injustice Gods Among Us Year Four Vol. 2 by Brian Buccellato
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Greek pantheon was probably a poor choice of theme. The DC versions simply aren’t very interesting, especially since Buccellato seems to only remember that a handful of them exist. He didn’t even touch on all twelve of the Olympians, much less the plethora of more minor gods and demigods that Zeus should have been able to use. But I guess Apollo, Artemis, Nike, Eris, and Phobos are all on vacation or something. I’m not saying they all needed speaking parts or even panel time, just… maybe mention they exist? Of course, DC’s version of the Greek pantheon can’t sustain an entire year of Injustice, so the New Gods are brought in to actually make a story. That’s when things finally get interesting. On the bright side, it looks like the next year will be villains, and the issue that sets that up is really good, probably the best issue of the year. This year was just a misstep in theme. I think the book would have been much better served if it had been entirely New Gods

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Mythic, vol. 1

Mythic, Volume 1Mythic, Volume 1 by Phil Hester
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I imagine that this will get compared to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I was reminded far more of Warren Ellis’s Planetary. I loved Planetary. And I think I could have loved this book, too. I love the premise of a secret organization of mythical characters keeping the myths that run the world going. And there’s some solid characterization here, plus the book largely looks really good. It’s just that the plot quickly falls apart. Here, I think the problem mostly because there’s too much story squeezed into too few issues. Because there isn’t really any major issues in the plot structure itself, it’s just missing the incredibly important factor of motivation. We never really get to know the villain/s, on any level, not even enough for me to be sure if it’s a singular entity or a conglomeration in charge. Nor are there any clearly defined motivations. It’s a shame, because there’s an interesting idea in here.

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Art Ops

Art Ops Vol. 1Art Ops Vol. 1 by Shaun Simon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

What a miss. At first glance, the premise sounded interesting. Unfortunately, it’s half baked. First, there’s the concept of “saving” art by relocating the human figure inside it. Which means, I guess, that art without human figures is somehow less real? Put aside, I guess, how totally cool the people in the paintings are with being people in paintings, and with a modern world they really shouldn’t know much about. Ok, whatever. Now let’s get to the villain, who’s apparently motivated by the fact that people looked at her painting less because she’s “ugly”. She’s drawn in a sort of cubist style, which we all know is totally unpopular and that absolutely nobody spends hours obsessing over the works. Oh, wait, they totally do. It’s very strange that this book equates (morally) good art with conventional notions of beauty, and (morally) bad art with anything that isn’t strictly representational. It’s a bizarrely regressive view of art. If I felt like the author was setting up that view to knock it down, that would be one thing. It would be a point a few decades past its prime, but I could follow that. I sincerely don’t get that sense here.

Aside from that, the main character is obnoxious and I cringed every time he was on the page. Most of the characters are at least a little annoying, but that’s mostly because they’re blandly characterized. Mona Lisa in the real world could be any number of previously sheltered princesses, and there’s absolutely nothing about her that follows from being a centuries old painting. Main character Reggie Riot (ugh, seriously?) is on a totally different level. He’s the sort of juvenile wannabe punk who thinks it’s hilarious to tie up a cashier because he doesn’t like the clothes sold in the store she works in. I wanted to slap him.

There’s an interesting premise in here, but it isn’t executed very well, and the views on art are weirdly outdated.

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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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Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Four, vol. 1

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four Vol. 1Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four Vol. 1 by Brian Buccellato
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Is this what we’re going to do now? Every “year” will have some sort of themed enemy that Superman will eventually vanquish? Last year was magic, and now we’re on to the Greek gods. So seemingly on a whim, the Greek gods have decided that Superman’s rule is a blasphemy against themselves, and so go to war with his side what Batman and company sort of… awkwardly watch? Because they’re very outclassed.

Still, even with slight plot justification, there’s some really fun stuff in here: Wonder Woman throwing down with Superman, the issue centered on Renee Montoya, and lots of scattered character moments that remind me why I look forward to each new volume of this series. There’s still a lot of good in the series, even if I do feel like it’s maybe losing its way a little bit. At this point, I’m kind of glad that the book will be ending after Year Five, because I feel like its losing momentum a bit. Still, that does make it easier for me to stay hopeful. Buccellato ended Year Three in a great way, and maybe he’ll pull something fantastic out for Year Four.

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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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The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 3: Commercial Suicide

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide (The Wicked + The Divine, #3)The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Definitely the weakest volume of WicDiv so far, which is intentional? I guess? McKelvie’s absence from the book (apparently to work on Phonogram) means both a volume full of guest artists who I just don’t like quite as much and an exposition filled volume that almost entirely ignores major plot developments from the last volume. But I knew all of that going in, and I suppose that there was at least a modicum of an effort to keep fan expectations low. Still, maybe not the best way to handle the situation, I don’t know.

So if we don’t get further development on the story, what do we get? A lot of character development. There are a lot of characters floating around the WicDiv universe who are really interesting, but haven’t had time spent on them beyond establishing their basic looks and personalities. And I really did like getting this extra insight, I just think it might have worked better being a bit more spread out through the series, instead of being one giant exposition bomb.

So, good stories, but no real storyline, which is something of a let down. But I’m a sucker for this series, even when it isn’t at its best, so I’ll be back for more. Of course.

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Where is Jake Ellis?

Where is Jake Ellis?Where is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Disappointing, after the first volume. This one felt far less polished, and the characters seemed somewhat dumbed down. Jon in particular makes incredibly foolish mistakes early on. Yes, I know that Jake was always the brains of the operation, but he does something that’s so jaw-droppingly absurd that it took me out of the story. Because, under these circumstances, why would you ever approach an American embassy for help? What happens is exactly what you would expect to happen, and it’s so frustrating that Jon never even considers that option, especially because he’s endangering others.

It’s more than that single narrative misstep, though. I’d loved the first Jake Ellis book because it ran smoothly on ever level, and this one just sort of stumbles around on all the same levels. Which is quite disappointing, because I was excited about this book. The one new and interesting thing that this volume does offer is the blind operative on the other side of the fence from Jake and Jon. I would have liked to see more of this character, but obviously there wasn’t quite enough room for that here.

This isn’t the follow up that I’d been hoping for. It isn’t terrible, just terribly disappointing. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t feel quite so let down if I hadn’t been waiting so long for it to show up.

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Batgirl, vol. 2: Family Business

Batgirl, Vol. 2: Family BusinessBatgirl, Vol. 2: Family Business by Cameron Stewart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

At this point, I’ve more than given this new version of Batgirl a fair shot, and I feel fully justified in saying that I just don’t like it at all. To me, this character simply doesn’t feel like the Babs I know and love. She’s an entirely different person trying to fill shoes she isn’t ready for. I don’t know, maybe I would like the character more if she were totally original, instead of an original character masquerading as a familiar one.

And maybe I’d be more ready to like this new Babs if she had a good storyline. But that’s a major miss. The closest thing to a big villain this books is a Cheetah rip off, a rich girl who likes tigers and… Yeah, that’s about it. But probably the worst of it all are Dick Grayson’s guest star appearances. Why, yes, Dick is indeed supposed to be dead, and is supposed to be deep under cover. That’s why his first appearance is a hopelessly cliched “hiding around every corner!” gimmick, but it doesn’t explain why he decides to blow his cover by approaching Babs at her friend’s wedding. I couldn’t believe that he’d risk his position so easily, and I still can’t. It wasn’t even in service of a good story, it’s just a half-hearted attempt to put distance between Babs and Dicks. You know what would have done that even better? Dick not blowing his cover.

I can see that a lot of people are really loving this book, but for me it’s such a big no. I miss the old Babs.

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