Monday, July 28, 2014

The Leftovers - a review

The Leftovers - a review

Intrigued by the TV show, helmed by Damon Lindelof of Lost fame, I decided to give this book a read. I liked the premise very much. The idea of two percent of the world's population vanishing suddenly and without explanation fascinates me. It's also close in concept to an apocalyptic book on which I have been at work for years though I kill off 75% of the world's population. However, despite my affection for the premise, I did not like this book.

I am giving the book a rating of two stars, and it's truly two stars. I considered giving it one star, but Perotta writes well enough as a craftsman that one star would be an unfair assessment.

Perotta wastes his concept. He starts with a very good concept; as I mentioned, it's a concept into which I have put a great deal of thought. And yet, he does not do anything significant or thoughtful with the concept. Even if seen as a reflection on grief and the grieving process, the book is a failure. We do not see the characters do much grieving, and when we do see it, it's almost comical, and, really, there's nothing funny about grieving.

Stephen King wrote, in his piece in the New York Times Book Review that "The Leftovers is, simply put, the best Twilight Zone episode you never saw." I simply cannot agree. Based on the premise alone, yes. The idea of disappearing 140 million people and examining the aftermath for the world and a set of characters is a good idea for a novel. But this is not a good novel.

I am willing to admit that in part my reaction originates with my expectations. I just finished reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (which is why the King review quote bites harder), and I had become accustomed to a plot-driven, powerful story in which THINGS HAPPEN. The Leftovers is a character driven book with a great premise that fails to deliver on its premise. Technically, it is not poorly written. Tom Perotta is a deft writer with skill in handling language, scene, and character. And though I would like to know why the people disappeared and how, I understand the point of leaving this unexplained and uncertain. Where did they go? Why did they go? Will they be coming back? Will they have aged if they come back? The book leaves all of these questions unanswered, leaving the reader in the same state as the characters, but the character development and story do very little that is interesting or worth reading to compensate for not revealing the truth of what happened. Had I not been listening to this book on audio, I would have put it down after 50-75 pages, during which NOTHING HAPPENED.

Granted, Perotta's goal may be to create an aftermath story following a massive catastrophic event and show that very little changes, that very little happens. But this idea is not worth exploring in a novel.

In an interview following the audio book presentation, Perotta explains that he considers his novel to be a "comic novel." I was a bit surprised by this description as there is very little comic about this novel. What may have been meant as comic or absurd comes off rather than as ill-conceived and stupid. As I wrote earlier, there's nothing funny about grief. But given what happened, there's not nearly enough grief in this book.

Though I am a bit surprised to see that the book received 82 five star reviews and 109 four star reviews on Amazon, I am also pleased to see that it received 255 reviews of three stars and below: three star [103], two star [88], and one star [64].

I feel a bit hypocritical writing a bad review of any novel. As a writer myself, I know how difficult it is to just finish a book, let alone to craft a good story with engaging characters. On the other hand, as an unpublished writer seeing this book published simply on the strength of the author's previous work and success galls me to no end. If I submitted this book, I bet it would have been rejected by every agent and publisher whose desk it passed across because it's just not a very good book.

What little story there is here concludes much too quickly and uneventfully, which the author may argue is much like real life. Yes, that's true. But who wants to read about "real" life? The plot suffers because the characters are not very interesting. Had Perotta created more engaging characters and let them loose without bits in their mouths hauling on tack and bridle, he might have salvaged a better novel. As it is, the characters are wasted. His intriguing Holy Wayne character disappears without incident. The town Mayor avoids sleeping with his daughter's friend by chance and circumstance not through struggle and conflict. The devotees of the Guilty Remnant--a poorly explained, post-apocalyptic cult--engage in a sacrifice that in the end is even less explained and meaningful than the cult itself. The woman whose entire family disappears has the most interesting and eventful story of all, but even her story lacks impact because she is just not a very interesting character.

What I have seen of the TV show is already much more interesting than this novel. Lindelof changed much of the situations and characters and actually generated some actual conflict and some better mystery, and yet even so, the TV show is not very riveting.

Just when I wondered if I was losing my critical chops (as I wonder, here in my DOCTOR SLEEP review). Definitely, not lost yet.

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- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1407.27 - 8:48

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Weekly Comics for 1405.14


Weekly Comics for 1405.14

I am cheating. I am using Superman: Doomed as a masthead for this blog entry and now, in late July, I have still not read it. That seems disingenuous, yes? But is is a very cool image and worth showing off.

I could leave the spoilers thing here, but I am not planning too many in this post. Though I guess there are some if you have not read these comics even in my brief remarks.

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RE: SPOILERS: I don't have to explain that you read at your own risk, right?
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Given that it is a fun and a quick read, Afterlife with Archie is often going to take the top spot the week that it comes out. It continues to be a completely entertaining comic and an intriguing spin on the old Archie model.

I love these "slasher-film-esque" lingerie covers by Andrew Pepoy. Gorgeous Veronica cover here.

Issue five focuses on the Lodge butler Smithers and all he does to keep the Lodge family safe and sound. The story establishes how Smithers learned to be a great butler from his father, to be as his father advised "invisible."

Smithers is a great thread of continuity as he observes everything going on in the Lodge mansion, the refuge for the still living residents of Riverdale. Smithers observes the rather large cast, checking in with other students not often seen in the Archie stories. Smithers confronts a distraught Veronica, bemoaning that Archie went to Betty for solace for killing his zombified father and not to her.

Ultimately, Smithers helps after Archie convinces Mr. Lodge that they cannot stay in Lodge Manor until they are completely surrounded by zombies, who will find a way inside. As confirmation of his prediction, two zombies begin to climb through a heating vent. After they are dispatched, we learn that the zombies were Betty's parents.

This issue, which concludes book one of the series (due soon in a collected edition) show what's left of the gang escaping Lodge Manor, armed and ready to battle through hordes of zombies as they continue to fight for their survival in this dangerous new world.

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After slipping in the rankings, The Walking Dead #127 soars to number two, just behind the Archie book, which simply wins due to the fun factor. The series jumps ahead two years after the recent "All Out War" saga, which concluded the issue before. I skimmed some of the reviews online. Some reviewers felt this issue was too mundane given the high-tension, violence, and action of the previous ten or so issues. But this is to be expected and long-time readers of comics should expect it.

But it's almost a rule in comics that there must be some down time after a big story arc. Historically in a book like X-Men, thinking specifically here of several arcs during Chris Claremont's long run, after the team has been in space fighting Brood and were believed dead for eight issues, that they have a picnic and play softball in the next. Do readers need to see them play softball? Actually, yes, they do. The down time is necessary to re-establish character and work on down time.

But it's not all down time. The issue opens with a new group of characters in a tight spot. The new characters are rescued by a band from the new Alexandria community. Lead by Jesus, a cavalry leads a huge horde of zombies away from the stranded new group and then invites them to speak with Rick and earn a place in their community.

After the opening gambit, and Adlard's gorgeous two-page spread of a horde of zombies so massive that it stretches out of sight in the distance, the reader is treated to life around the new community, where Rick and the others have settled into a sustainable living arrangement, growing food and under-going the business of re-establishing civilization.

As the double-sized issue winds down, we see Rick talk with a very grown up Carl, a move that surely is meant to match what will need to happen in the TV show, as the young boy wants to strike out on his own and go apprentice at Hilltop. In the final scene, we see Carl go into a cellar and talk to how he tried to convince his dad to let him go to Hilltop, the other community. On the last page, it is revealed that this "confidante" is an imprisoned Negan. The story concludes with Negan asking Carl: "Do you still want to kill me?" and Carl replies, "Yes, Negan. You know I do."

This is an excellent transitional issue, setting up much of what is needed for the next story arc. Many of the criticisms leveled against it by comic book reviewers online rob Kirkland of his agency, of his ability to tell different types of stories. After the constant action and what seems like a dragged out conflict in the "All Out War" saga, this tale and set up of a new story that will develop slowly but feed the desire to see how the survivors survive is a nice change of pace.

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Fantastic Four #004 - It's no surprise that I am going to keep writing about and shilling for my favorite comic books.

If I have not made the point enough times on this blog, I established well on my T-shirt blog how much I love THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

Check out this entry for T-shirt #344 - Fantastic Four, which contains a lengthy review of the first new issue of this current run of the Fantastic Four comic book, plus a ton of Fantastic Four content and a collection of links for all of my previous Fantastic Four content on the T-shirt blog. Lest I forget, there was some Fantastic Four content on this blog. In fact, it was my first blog entry here at SENSE OF DOUBT:

THE “New and Improved” INVISIBLE WOMAN: Does she look like she needs protecting?

So, with this week, I come to the fourth issue of the current issues of Fantastic Four, better known as The World's Greatest Comic Magazine.

Here we have a return of the Frightful Four, who attacked Ben Grimm and a powerless Johnny Storm. Though Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman arrive, the battle goes poorly, especially without the Human Torch. The Thing gets clobbered by a new Bulldozer, a woman, the original's daughter, who has donned the gear and has a bad attitude for all things Fantastic. Just in time, the FF crew -- She-Hulk, Ant Man, and Ms. Thing -- show up and lend a hand. Turns out the whole thing was a lure. Unable to resist attacking Johnny when powerless, Reed Richards engineered a lure for the Frightful Four's vanity, knowing they would be beaten and captured.

Though this issue is not the best of the lot so far, it's a crucial story for what's to come, and the final scene sets up the next story. As the Fantastic Four return to the Baxter Building after bagging the Frightful Four, they find themselves locked out of their home, their children re-located to a "safe" location, and the team served with papers to appear in court.

More to come as it appears that issue #5 came out two weeks later!

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Didn't I just write about Justice League United  #0? Indeed, see COMICS FOR 1404.23.
My comments for Justice League United  #1 are much the same. Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone. These two creators together will get me to buy the book no matter what it is. Start a comic with a throw down between Lobo and Hawkman? Love it. Adam Strange fully outfitted and featured in a full page spread taking flight: awesome. And best of all, some great stuff with Martian Manhunter, ending in another full page spread in which the alien blasts apart a giant monster once it's made of wood (as its composition kept changing). Strong writing, beautiful art, some of my favorite characters. Already, this title has catapulted above where I rank either of the other Justice League comics.

Looking forward to more!

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As for the rest, given that I am writing two months later, many of these were forgettable. The various Avengers books at Marvel are such a mish-mash of story upon story upon story without resolution that I have no idea what these dealt with. I did like Avengers #29, despite Leinil Yu's art. Good Doctor Strange stuff. And as I write this, two months later, it seems like Joaquin Phoenix may play the good doctor in the forthcoming movie. If nothing else, Frank Cho's cover for Avengers #29 grabbed me.

I am liking Starlight #3 as a rumination on what happens when John Carter (the source on which this character and story is based) gets old and can't quite do what he used to do and yet still gives his all to save the other world where he's more than a hero, he's a savior. Millar writes deftly enough, and Parlov's Moebius style art is beautiful.

Lastly, I would like to confess my weakness for weekly episodic narrative. The New 52: Future's End series at DC has just enough of the right elements to capture my attention. The cast is better than the previous 52 weekly that ran from 2006-2007. With Firestorm, Grifter, Frankenstein, Batman Beyond, Mister Terrific, Robin, Lois Lane, and more, this series has just the right cast to keep my interest enough to buy a weekly comic book. I like the premise of stories set five years in the future with some serious and disturbing outcomes having befallen the big name heroes, such as Superman, Batman, and Green Arrow. Slated to run weekly for a year, 52 issues, ending in March of 2015, at first, I was not ordering the comic, expecting to give it up at some point, but with the last month's order, I decided to pre-order the issues. This is not the kind of comic every one will embrace, even the most hardcore comic readers will shy away from this due to lack of interest and/or lack of commitment to a weekly comic. And yet with Azzarello, Lemire, Giffen, and Jurgens writing and a bevy of artists including Zircher, Merino, Jurgens, Lopresti, and others, the book has some quality names behind it. It's worth the price of admission.


WEEKLY COMICS LIST

Afterlife with Archie #5
The Walking Dead  #127
Fantastic Four #004
Justice League United  #1
All-New X-Men #027
Avengers (Original Sin) #29
New Avengers #018
Uber #13
Starlight #3
Stray Bullets: Killers #3
Iron Man #025
Secret Avengers #003
Batgirl #31
Captain Marvel #003
Captain America #020
Superman: Doomed #1 (one shot)
Superman/Wonder Woman #8
The New 52: Future's End #1
The New 52: Future's End #2
Batman Eternal #6
Fables #140

BACK LOG
Avengers Undercover #004

SPECIAL PURCHASE
Locus  Issue 640 Vol. 72 No. 5

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- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1407.27 - 9:34

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Weekly Comics for 1405.07



Weekly Comics for 1405.07

The image atop today's entry comes from the excellent comic book series CLONE from Image created by David Schulner, Aaron Ginsburg, and Wade McIntyre (writers) with art by the incomparable Juan Jose Ryp and Andy Troy (colors). The book is gorgeous and the story arresting, which is about all I want to share about it now, though I will probably doing an extensive review of just that book some time soon.

Most notable about this set of comics from May is the last comic in the stack: The Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl #1.1. Though I bought this issue out of curiosity, somewhat reluctant as I am not a fan of these side series and tangents, this retelling of the early years of Spider-Man's life rivals another similar comic, The Untold Tales of Spider-Man, that ran from 1995-1997 helmed by Kurt Busiek with art by Pat Olliffe.

Since this week when The Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl #1.1 ranked at the bottom of my stack, the subsequent issues have risen to higher ranks as you will see in weeks to come.

On a related note, the two comics in the back log, Batman: Detective Comics and Green Lantern have been rescued. I let both of these titles pile up until I had 4-5 issues of each, which I just read through last week, so that's clear. Since I am writing this in July and this list comes from the beginning of May, there's many other comics in the back log, in fact, some of these comics, such as Batman/Superman  and Real Heroes are both still sitting in the unread stacks.

In other news, as I am showing in the image below, I finally clawed my way to the top of the Rotisserie league for which I am the commish. There's the image from the league page with my team, Creepy Mama's Boys, at the top of the standings. I had been stuck in second place for at least two months, unable to overtake the other team. As you can see, I hardly have it locked up either. a stat here or there could change my standing, though, I have managed to stay in first place for two whole days.

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RE: SPOILERS: I don't have to explain that you read at your own risk, right?
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Original Sin #1 of 8

I like finding new sites with reviews and comic book news, such as the one following for BAM SMACK POW.

ORIGINAL SIN REVIEW - BAMSMACKPOW

Like a lot of comic books fans, I grow a bit weary of the big crossovers. I know it's all about sales, but it;s not always about telling a good story or meeting the deadlines for the delivery of the book, such as the most recent and much delayed Forever Evil by DC Comics. Publishers have solved this dilemma somewhat either by getting enough of the book in the can before releasing the first issue or using multiple artists to be able to meet the shipping deadlines.

One of the things I like best about special events and crossovers is the featuring of comic book heroes who do not have their own books and whom we do not see that often, such as Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, Black Panther, and Ant Man herein.

As big summer Marvel events go, this is a clever change of pace from big alien wars (Skrulls) or the heroes fighting each other (Civil War).

I love Deodato's art, and, after his success with Thor, primarily, it's nice to see Jason Aaron get a marquee venue for his talents.

Since I so far behind with my weekly posts, this series has almost run its course already with a bi-monthly ship schedule. I will save the remainder of my remarks for a catch all review when the series concludes.

Moonknight #003

This book takes second ranking for the week because I was more eager to read the first installment of Original Sin yet the book stays highly ranked more for more appreciation for Warren Ellis' work than because this book is the second best one to be released this week.

Ellis is somewhat apologetic to fans that there's not more meat in the bones here in his short run on Moon Knight.



Here's his comments from his June 5th ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter:

 MOON KNIGHT #4 came out yesterday, as did the announcement that Brian Wood will be taking over MOON KNIGHT from me with #7. Dec is also leaving with me after issue 6. Issue 1 went to three printings, and 2 and 3 went to two printings, and so I consider that a job reasonably well done. The job has been, simply, reactivating MOON KNIGHT as a productive property for the Marvel IP library. And, in personal terms, producing six single stories that held together, because I thought it would be amusing to provide a book that could be entered at any point and still give the reader a complete experience. Which goes against the grain a bit, because the modern commercial-comics reader has been very much entrained to expect long arcs rather than singles. I’m sure there are plenty of complaints out there about the lack of character arcs or long stories. But the book is still getting bought and reordered. So I guess we found an audience after all.
Six issues and out. Fun.
Okay, then. Fine.

If I had my druthers, I would ask for something with more meat and longer arcs. But this is fine. Each issue has been interesting and has hit the top five in my stack, unseating other regular favorites like Aquaman and Ultimate Spider-Man as we see this week.

Of the run so far, this is one of the most interesting issues as it shows Marc Spector's relationship with his past and what happened to him in Egypt and how Khonshu fits into his current mythology. Directed by Khonshu, Spector digs through his archeological holdings and dons a suit of armor for fighting the dead and proceeds to kick the asses of ghosts that beat the crap out of him at the beginning of the story. Now, with the suit of special armor, that makes him look like a giant white bird, he is able to do damage to them whereas before they could do damage to him and he could not touch them.

Awesome.



Even if the Ellis/Shalvey Moon Knight comics are not quite what I would prefer, they are entertaining and unique enough to differentiate themselves from the herd of super-hero books I read each month.

Bravo! Oh, and if you want to see my review of issue #002: LOOK HERE.


Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #001

Though I know it boosts sales, I grow weary of the re-launching of comic book series to keep publishing titles with a number one on the front. This sales engineering practice is less irritating with a book like Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man than with longer running books, such as Detective Comics and Fantastic Four. I do not mind so much with the re-launching of Ultimate Spider-Man as Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man because what if Peter Parker is "ultimately" returning to the Ultimate universe?

Ultimate Spider-Man has been one of my favorite comics since its original publication starting in 2000. I was also on board when Peter Parker died, ending the run of nine years and 160 issues and the comic re-launched in 2011 with Miles Morales, again re-launching after 28 issues here with this issue in May of 2014.

The strength of the comic is showing how a young boy copes with having Spider-Man's powers while juggling his life as a high school student. He also struggles with whom he lets know his secret identity. His friend Ganke knows, but, currently, Miles struggles with whether he should tell his girlfriend Katie Bishop.

The genius thing about these comic books is that Miles interacts with Peter Parker's friends and family, who give him special spider advice, especially for how he will cope with keeping his secret. He also adopts Spidey's villains, such as the Green Goblin, starting in this issue. Although this issue has a bigger cliff hanger as Miles confronts an intruder in the vacant apartment where he used to live with his dad, an intruder who looks just like PETER PARKER.

I did discuss the end of the former run, somewhat, here in Comics for 1404.02.

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Green Arrow continues to be deftly written an beautifully drawn, staying near the top of my stack. Iron Fist: The Living Weapon stays highly ranked simply due to my love for the character as I am disappointed with this creator and this title. I am really enjoying Alex + Ada, which I will review in its entirety if it's a closed series or at least after a few more issues come out. Though it's not as good as VELVET, I am really enjoying Black Widow, which probably deserved a higher ranking given how much I have been enjoying it. She-Hulk has won me over and stays ranked high, though it will drop in two months as the quality of the art drops. And once again, I am very fond of Aquaman and the Others. Granted I am a big Aquaman fan, but I like this team and how they all have one of the ancient Atlantean artifacts and how (now in the new 52) Aquaman adventured with them in his younger days, which provides plenty of back story to fill in. This comic is going interesting places. I look forward to many more issues and hope for a long, successful run.

And, as my cover gallery will reveal, I have a weakness for Red Sonja. And it's NOT just the chain mail bikini.

WEEKLY COMICS LIST

Original Sin #1 of 8
Moonknight #003
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #001
Green Arrow #31
Aquaman and the Others #2
Alex + Ada #6
Black Widow #006
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #002
She-Hulk #004
Clone #16
The New Warriors #004
Batman Eternal #5
The Punisher #005
Batman/Superman #10
Red Sonja #9
Real Heroes #2
The Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl #1.1

BACKLOG

Batman: Detective Comics #31
Green Lantern #31

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COVER GALLERY










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- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1407.24 - 19:47

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Doctor Sleep Review

DOCTOR SLEEP REVIEW

I feel no embarrassment in confessing that I am a fan of writer Stephen King. I know that being a King fan is not all that unique or unusual. Given that he is one of the single best selling current authors and possibly one of the best selling authors of novels in publishing history, many people are fans of Stephen King, the writer. For years, I would qualify this fandom with comments like "he's the best of all the popular writers." I have stopped adding this disclaimer. Stephen King is just a damn good writer. PERIOD.


I reviewed Lisey's Story long ago in the early days of this blog. Check out the link and see for yourself.


I shared my Good Reads review of The Shining in the entry for T-shirt #274.

This time around I am not looking at Amazon reviews or other online review collections, which may just piss me off without providing any material of value whatsoever.


King proves his writer chops once again in Doctor Sleep, his sequel to The Shining, in which we ever faithful readers (and those casual and occasional readers) not only find out what became of Daniel "Danny" Torrance after the incident at the Overlook Hotel, but also established a new character and a new threat in the world of Stephen King. The review from the GUARDIAN, linked here and below, lauded the book well enough, though the reviewer, Steven Poole, does confess that there is nothing as frightening in this book as in The Shining, and he actually invoked the hedge animals, which I felt were the least effective elements of that book. In regards to the hedge animals, Kubrick's hedge maze works much better to increase fear factor through claustrophobia produced by being buried in the snow of a Rocky Mountain winter.

Though some of the tropes are familiar territory for Stephen King books, I found Doctor Sleep very entertaining, and I give it a high recommendation for people who like this kind of subject matter (which is not the cup of tea brewed the way everyone may like it). The flaw in Steven Poole's thinking is that a book must be scary to have achieved its goal. Why can't a Stephen King book simply aim to entertain without the need to frighten beyond all possible reason?

Then again, sometimes, I feel as if I have lost some of my critical edge. I tend to like the things I read. But I see other people's criticisms, and I find that my own, often effusive praise may have come from a complacency. Am I not demanding enough of my fiction? But then, I will read something that I do not like, and I will feel the strength of my critical faculties. It's more about the fact that what I read and liked is very good and other things are not. Doctor Sleep is a very good novel. I have moved on to the Leftovers, which is all right, but not quite the same fun-house ride of thrills and chills as Doctor Sleep. Plot drives the bus in Doctor Sleep. This does not mean that character is not present or important, but it's not the central focus. The Leftovers sacrifices forward movement of the story for long passages of character history, at least in the novel's first hundred pages. Whereas Doctor Sleep starts in the past, when Danny is still a child, to be able to dramatize (show don't tell) Danny's background post-Overlook and his continued relationship with Hallorann before it jumps ahead to the life of Dan Torrance, the adult.

From the very beginning, Doctor Sleep has top speed rather than needing to build to top speed. It's 528 pages of a fuel-injected, intense nightmare. King begins the story a few years after The Shining and shows us a young Danny Torrance still dealing with the nightmare ghouls (IE the lady in the bath tub). Seeking the help of Dick Hallorann, now Danny's teacher for all things Shining, Danny defeats the demon lady as Dick lays the foundation for Danny one day being a teacher himself.

Fast forward to Danny, now Dan, as a young man. His mother has died of cancer, and he has fallen victim to the same disease that caught his father: alcoholism. The strength of King's story is that he gives us these scenes in present time, advancing the narrative as needed to dramatize the groundwork needed for the time period in which the story will take place, which is yet to come. In this sequence, Dan makes a terrible choice that will haunt him for the rest of the story, his own personal demons that he will have to wrestle until they are disintegrated. Fast forward again as Dan has hit rock bottom. He crawls into Frazier, New Hampshire, where he settles, dries out, and begins to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

In his familiar New England territory, King builds his tale, alternating between three story lines, which will ultimately converge: Dan Torrance on the road to redemption still haunted by his bad choice that destroyed a mother and her son; Abra Stone, Dan's future pupil for the Shining, who catches the attention of some very bad people; and so, then, the bad people, known as The True Knot, the villains of the story. Unlike The Stand, which seems to veer off course when it switches gears from a post-apocalyptic survival tale to an almost Old West style show down between good and evil, here, the villainy is integrated from the start. The True Knot eat people's shine, which they call steam, and ultimately they want to eat Abra, as she has more shine than anyone they have ever encountered.

King tells the story deftly and delivers many nicely turned surprises and twists as the story unfolds and marches toward the ultimate showdown between the True Knot, especially it leader, known as Rose, the Hat, and Abra, aided by Dan Torrance. In the end, Dan discovers that the lock box in which he stuffed the demons of his childhood are empty and that his own personal failure is not so terrible after all. Finally healed, his burdens vanish like steam out of a kettle.

For someone like me, who considers himself a writer, reading Stephen King is a tutorial in how to shape character and story seamlessly, how to deliver the most fantastic elements of one's imagination simply and without too much flowery nonsense, and how to ramp up action and tension to keep a reader riveted. There were many times when, as I had to set down the audio edition, that I wanted to continue reading in the traditional way, scanning the pages, doing whatever I had to do to find out how it all ended.

LINKS

DOCTOR SLEEP - Stephen King's Doctor Sleep and the art of the honourable scare

Stephen King damns Shelly Duvall in film of the Shining

KING interview - alcoholism and returning the Shining

DOCTOR SLEEP REVIEW

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- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1407.22 - 9:53

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekly Comics List for 1404.30


Weekly Comics List for 1404.30

One  of the most difficult things about being behind in writing these little missives about comic books is finding the comic books. I did a partial sort recently. I separated comics into categories of Marvel, DC, and Other. I pulled out certain series and set those aside knowing I wanted to write about them. I tried to isolate the comics from the weeks since my last posting so to be able to finish these weekly comics list. I am dedicated to try to roll them out more frequently in order to get caught up and to move on to other projects. This determination also means less review content, but I still feel I need to make a few remarks about some of the books each week otherwise my blog entries are going to be pretty sparse. Though I am aware that some would RECOMMEND that they be sparser.

In other news, as I was felled by illness earlier this week, I managed to almost finish watching the entire first season of MARVEL AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. I concur with the general sentiment by many viewers that the show starts slowly and then kicks into gear and becomes riveting around the same time as the release of the Captain America: Winter Soldier movie, which, like all of this year's super hero movies, I still have not seen. But like many of Joss' TV work, Buffy in particular, one must slog through the less worthy stuff for the better stuff to pay off and to be fully enjoyed. Those who jump into the February-April episodes will not enjoy the full impact of the surprises as those who have been watching all along.

Okay, so just a few remarks this time...

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RE: SPOILERS: I don't have to explain that you read at your own risk, right?
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Amazing Spider-Man #1

I already generated a lot of content recently about Spider-Man comics. I covered the bases of the conclusion of the Superior Spider-Man comics in Weekly Comics for 1404.16.

Now, after the Superior Spider-Man, and concurrent with the new Spider-Man movie (which wilted at the box office; I have not seen it), Marvel re-launched Amazing Spider-Man with Peter back in the suit.

I really liked this issue, even though I am not a fan of Humberto Ramos' art. Now that he's not drawing everyone with huge feet, and he has toned down the goofier aspects of his character rendering, I am almost liking his work. He's a fine artist. No condemnation of his skill. It's just that his style is not to my taste, which is a different argument than it not being any good; this is a distinction that not everyone can make.

Just seeing Peter Parker back in mind, body, and spirit warms my heart. Seeing him with his Aunt May, finally being his true and loving self, is all the better.

This issue did very well advancing the story into the next chapter of Spider-Man's life while tying up loose ends from the last two years of story line, especially in regards to what Peter will do with Doc Ock's lover Anna Maria Marconi.

Marvel also planned well to make this debut issue double sized by filling it with additional stories by other creative teams dealing with other characters in the Spider universe, such as Electro and Black Cat.

Also, Spider-Man having his suit get shredded so he must fight in makeshift web-underwear reminds us that only Peter Parker could ever have such problems and that the one and only Spider-Man is truly back in action, webby-tighties and all.



Hulk #002

I also reviewed issue #1 of the new Hulk comic in Weekly Comics for 1404.16.

I happen to agree with this review HULK #2 REVIEW from MAJOR SPOILERS.

It's always fun just to watch an artist I like take over a comic and such is the case here with Mark Bagley. As I mentioned in my previous review, despite Waid's smart writing, his work fell flat in the previous incarnation because the art was sub-par, and my enjoyment of this story is increased ten-fold by the much improved art.

The idea of a brain damaged, "stupid" Bruce Banner heightens the isolation and outsider-status of the character while exploring an as yet unexplored direction. It's too bad that the story will not continue long. Already, in current issues of Original Sin off shoots, Banner is a genius again, which is part of the problem with Marvel. The company has too many "magic tricks," in which it can employ cheap deus ex machina to fix a story line with a a wave of a godly magic wand rather than telling a story in which the character prevails through much hardship.

Still, there's a good story here, and it's fun to see S.H.I.E.L.D. more involved as well, especially given how the TV show has increased awareness of the espionage subculture of the Marvel universe.

Bagley's Hulk work is gorgeous, and so it's even more fun to see him tackle a classic story line, such as the Hulk versus the Abomination.

Great stuff!



Uber #12 and more about writing

As far as I know, I am the only one loving Uber. This is not true as the book is selling well as far as I know, especially since it was originally a short series and has been renewed by publisher Avatar. And there is a great deal of chatter and reviews of it online. But I do not know anyone who reads it locally. I have talked it up quite a bit in the comic book store, trying to encourage the discerning readers to pick it up. Not sure if I have had success with that yet or not.

One of the strengths of Uber is author Kieron Gillen's back matter. I mentioned the back matter from this issue recently in the post for Comics from 1404.16. I am always very interested in a writer's process, and Gillen gives an excellent glimpse of how Uber comes from conception to completion. In this back matter, he discuss the Uber schedule, which is why the comic is coming out more than monthly, and he elaborates on how this creation process is different in comic books, as he's been feeding three artists as once to maintain this schedule. In addition to writing about how this issue focused on the character of Stephanie, but how he struggled to write it as he was working the time following the death of his father. He used this personal confession as a way to write about writer's block and how it does not exist (or he doesn't believe in it, that is). Gillen inspires me and motivates me as a writer much in the same way that Stephen King inspires me (as I am also writing a review of Doctor Sleep right now, which may be the next blog post ... or not).

I once had a supposed "friend" tell me that I was not a "real" writer because after a few years of being my friend she had not seen me finish anything, any novel. Though I am well aware that I have not finished a draft of a novel since the two I wrote in the 1990s, I took exception to her unkind and obviously bitter remarks. I feel that my recent blog work, including the t-shirt blog, proves this "not a real writer" thing as wrong.

I was also struck and affected by words of Stephen King that I read in an interview while working on my Doctor Sleep review. Here it is:

The biggest beef King has with mainstream literary culture is one of productivity. He was recently asked by the New York Times to review Donna Tartt's new novel, The Goldfinch. "And Donna Tartt is an amazingly good writer. She's dense, she's allusive. She's a gorgeous storyteller. But three books in 30 years? That makes me want to go to that person and grab her by the shoulders and look into her face and say, 'Do you realise how little time you have in the scheme of things?'"
It is 11 years since Tartt's last book, and King says, "I looked at it and thought, 'God help you, Donna, this better be interesting.'" And was it? He smiles. "It's very good." When people ask why he is so prolific, he smiles and tells them: "I'll stop soon enough" (GUARDIAN article).

For me, I am striving for the opposite of King's situation. I am striving to get started, for real this time.

WEEKLY COMICS LIST

COMICS FOR 1404.30

Amazing Spider-Man #1
Hulk #002
All-New X-Men #026
Avengers World #005
Avengers #028
New Avengers #017
Uber #12
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze #5
Silver Surfer #002
The Flash - annual #3
Uncanny Avengers - annual #1
Dream Police #1
Black Science #6

BACK LOG

Batman Eternal #4
Avengers AI #012


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- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1407.20 - 11:14

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weekly Comics for 1404.23

Weekly Comics for 1404.23

Yesterday was the second birthday (as in two years old) of our beloved Boo Boo puppy, officially Satchel Paige Tower, the wonder beagle (actually beagle/springer). Here is a picture of her via Piper, my step-daughter. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOO BOO PUPPY SATCHEL HER BOONESS.

I am a little ashamed to be writing about comics from April 23rd on July 17th. Nearly three whole months is a long time to let this post simmer in draft form. And, obviously, if I have this one to do, I have one for each of the intervening weeks since 1404.23 or April 23.

*sigh*

My goal is to catch up on these weekly comics list and move forward with my other projects. Obviously. But it's a slow process.

What's slowed me down? Thanks for asking. Though I found the time to write 365 blog entries on T-shirts, one a day, I was also out of school for the majority of that time period. Taking classes in subjects that I like but do not come as easily to me as they may have when I was 16 years old, plus my determination for perfection in school work, especially math, ate most of my available free time. But I think I need to step away for a longer period of time from the daily writing regimen after the year of blogging. No, that's not true. Rather, with each day that went by that I did not write, the job writing grew more enormous until it was an unmovable mountain. And then the recriminations begin for not being able to move the mountain, which just makes the mountain bigger and the force trying to move it weaker.

Also, I am a bit of an overachiever. Instead of keeping my entries short, so they are easily finished, I would launch into extended reviews of half a dozen comics, which would slow the process to a halt.

Thus, I have renewed purpose. I am going to catch up on both blogs (as there are still unfinished T-shirt blog entries), and then move forward. And I am going to devote myself to some writing time every day, even if it's just fifteen minutes. I need to string words together. I need to re-energize my imagination, which has fallen into a fallow state, and now must be unearthed, almost like an archeological dig. So, there's excavation in process and more to uncover.

Meanwhile, Non-sequitur, I finally figured out how to apply vinyl lettering to my car's windows as seen in the above photograph.

I am also inspired by some other daily writings.

Warren Ellis has devoted himself to a daily post, a very short note, which he does at thing he calls MORNING, COMPUTER. And via Ellis, I found a very interesting writer named Dan Hon, writing about culture, mainly advertising, economy, and tech stuff in THINGS THAT HAVE CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. I recommend adding both your daily feed.

Oh, and though this may be more of a note for me than for you. Porpentine has a new zine with collaborator Brenda Neotenomie called TRASHGASM #2.

And those are some of the things that have caught my attention lately.


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RE: SPOILERS: I don't have to explain that you read at your own risk, right?
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I am not sure if my Weekly Comics Lists are interesting to anyone but me. Maybe other comic book readers. But I doubt anyone is waiting eagerly to see where I have ranked Aquaman this week, or in this case, where I ranked it in April. At the very least, it has been a fun exercise (which I have now been doing for over a year) to keep track of how I rank the comic books each week. These rankings are not strictly quality-based as often some of the best comics will be placed lower in the stack due to the time involved in reading them or the lack of urgency to dive into the story. Also, new crossover things like this week's Original Sin will often hit the top of the stack as I am curious about it. Though I am rather blasé these days about big crossovers and special event mini-series, I was captivated from the start by Original Sin. The idea of a murder mystery involving the Watcher is a great one. Art by Jim Cheung makes for an even better zero issue. Continued use of the new Nova is appreciated.

Creating a Justice League with some of my favorite DC characters, such as Martian Manhunter, Adam Strange, and Animal Man is going to get my attention. Having Jeff Lemire write it with art by Mike McKone is going to put it at the top of my list. This comic would have taken the first spot if not for Original Sin, which edged it only for the more unique premise.

I have probably made it clear enough between the T-shirt blog and this one that I am a huge fan of the FANTASTIC FOUR. Though dubious given James Robinson's recent lackluster work over at DC, the current Fantastic Four is always going to make the top five each week. This time it beats Aquaman, which often takes the top spot when it comes out given my affection for that character. Issue three was a transitional one from the previous sequence of the attack of other dimensional creatures caused by the a breakout from the Baxter Building to the next story arc featuring a battle with the new Frightful Four. Lots of character stuff in this issue and catch up Valeria and the Futures Foundation. Great issue.

There has been no drop off in quality in Aquaman since Jeff Parker took over. Though I was not as crazy about the re-envisioning of Hercules as other recent stories, the comic continues to deliver the best Aquaman material ever and is one of the best super-hero books in a more traditional vein being published at either of the big two companies.

Lazarus is a great comic book with top notch writing and beautiful art. Uber has also proven consistently excellent, though styled in Avatar method (lots of blood and gore and some extreme sex).


I was very tempted to rank The Walking Dead much higher this week. But all the issues that came before it, edged the zombie-apocalypse book by a hair. I felt that the "All Out War" saga with Negan played out too long. If read consecutively, probably not, and then two issues per week schedule helped, but this comic has always taken my top spot for the week and in recent months it had dropped from that station because I was not as engaged with the Negan story, which felt too long. Really, I should not make that criticism. If I were writing The Walking Dead, the story would have dragged on just as long or longer.

However, after last issue's cliffhanger, which I reviewed in WEEKLY COMICS FOR 1404.09, I was tempted to start my week with it. And yet, ultimately, despite knowing that Rick had cut Negan's throat in the last issue, I felt I could wait at least one day to read what happened next. I manage two-four comics a night on average. Sometimes, more but that's a good estimate of my average, which puts The Walking Dead up to be read at least one if not two days later. The comic is very good. I enjoyed the ensuing battle and the ending (seen above and left), but I was ready for the Negan saga to be over and to move on. Since I do not keep my finger on the pulse of the industry, I did not know that what comes next would jump the story ahead by years, which is an idea I dearly love.

WEEKLY COMICS LIST

Original Sin #0 (of 8)
Justice League United #0
Fantastic Four #003
Aquaman #30
Lazarus #8
The Walking Dead #126
Daredevil #002
All-New Invaders #004


Uncanny Avengers #019
Elektra #001
Uber #11
Guardians of the Galaxy #014
Batman/Superman #9
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season 10 - #2
The Flash #30
Batman Eternal #3
Sheltered #8
Secret Origins #1

BACK LOG
Avengers Undercover #003
Superman #30
Teen Titans #30
Thunderbolts #025
Catwoman #30

COVER GALLERY

















This old Aquaman issue came up in my hunt for the recent issue #30. It is worth sharing.

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- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1407.17 - 8:27