Sunday, January 30, 2011

Madman: The Oddity Odyssey by Michael Allred

Madman is not your ordinary superhero. In fact, Madman's kind of an antihero. However, he is formidable. He has a yo-yo and the slingshot as his main weapons, and he's psychic through touch. He wears a strange outfit, which people comment on and wonder why, and even he doesn't really seem to know what his costume means. In spite of his eccentricity or perhaps because of it, Madman is oddly compelling.

In this story, Madman is trying to save the doctor who's frozen in the freezer in his apartment. Madman is told he has to find another doctor in order to bring him back to life. The arch villain is a would-be mad scientist who wants the other doctor's scientific discoveries on life and death for himself. 

The art is good. It's black, white, and blue, which is really kind of neat but also somewhat stark and abstract. It has been called pop art. Throughout the graphic novel, there are good action scenes, philosophizing, characterization, romance, and a ton of weird stuff. Madman really is a sympathetic, personable character.

Madman is sort of an offbeat comic with cult appeal. It really is an "odyssey of oddity" so the title Oddity Odyssey is apt. Michael Allred's Madman has generated a lot of all kinds of praise from seriously big names, as seen on his blog, Allred Art, which is in actual fact brand new. Check it out! And here is his official website. The first issue of the comic can be previewed at Madman: The Oddity Odyssey #1 on comiXology

Friday, January 28, 2011

True Grit (eGraphic Novel) by Dan Light and Ben Read

I saw over at Grasping for the Wind that there was a True Grit comic online: Free eGraphic Novel: True Grit by Dan Light and Ben Read based on the recent movie. So, having already seen True Grit (review), I read this e-comic. While it is well done, it's just an introduction to the characters and story of the movie.

It's basically the start of the film. In some ways, it's a better introduction. In the movie, the courtroom scene generally served to introduce the character of Rooster Cogburn. But in the comic, not only do we get the courtroom scene, but also we get to see it depicted graphically. In the movie, it was only told in retrospect. This provides a more active portrayal of the character in the movie, although it lacks the presence of the actor Jeff Bridges, who was nominated for an academy award as best actor for his role of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

This was an enjoyable read for someone having seen the movie and probably enough to get someone interested if he or she likes westerns. It also got me interested in finding out about more work from the authors, or the artist. Although, maybe I just liked reading it online at ComiXology, where you can click to view it frame by frame.

Speculative Horizons, Ed. by Patrick St-Denis

Edited by Patrick St-Denis of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, the Speculative Horizons anthology turned out to be fairly decent. There wasn't any particular theme. Each story had something going for it and was readable. I have found some new authors I would enjoy reading after this as well.

No story stands out more than the rest. The anthology is equal to the sum of its parts. A number of interesting ideas add together to equal a fine speculative fiction short story collection. 

Reviews of the individual stories can be found under the label: Speculative Horizons.

"The Stranger" by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

"The Stranger" by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is a short story from Speculative Horizons anthology edited by Patrick St-Denis.

A mysterious stranger arrives to stay at the narrator's family farm. The stranger appears to be a warrior due to his manner and weaponry. And during the story, he proves that he is indeed a valiant fighter.

It was a likable short story and my first introduction to the author's work. I liked the direct narrative style and the fantasy elements both at the forefront and in the background. I would definitely be interested in reading the Saga of Recluce series, the world in which "The Stranger" is set.

"Soul Mate" by C. S. Friedman

"Soul Mate" by C. S. Friedman is a short story from Speculative Horizons anthology edited by Patrick St-Denis.

Karen and Josie run a jewelry booth at an arts and crafts festival. They meet a mysterious stranger named Stephan Mayeaux, who Josephine starts to date.

It's a love story with a twist. There's not much more to say about it. I enjoyed it. It was skillfully written and very readable.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Evan Yeti

Evan Yeti is an entertaining webcomic. I want to see how -- or rather, if -- Evan will find his missing family. This is his quest and the Snowman Coal is kind of like his sidekick.

This sort of summarizes the plot so far. Them getting into trouble while looking for Evan's family. And  fighting walruses.

Recently the penguin Hank was found under the ice, and the polar bear Charlie pushes Evan and Coal in there with him. Turns out its a Munch-a-Chomp tunnel. I assume the bear's intention was that they would help Hank find a way to escape. Unfortunately they run into the Munch-a-Chomp whose tunnel it presumably is...

Presently it looks like Evan Yeti is getting Munch-a-Chomped. Let's hope someone comes to his rescue! For what is a webcomic without its star?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"The Death of Love" by Hal Duncan

"The Death of Love" by Hal Duncan is a short story from Speculative Horizons anthology edited by Patrick St-Denis.

It's about an investigator of Erocide, which is the murder of a couple's cupid.  It's their real world manifestation of love for one another.  When you kill the cupid, the love ends.

It reads like a monologue, or a rant even, stream of consciousness. This made it fairly easy reading. It kind of reminded me of the style of Catcher in the Rye. Except while that book condemns vulgarity, this short story is extremely vulgar. However, it is not obscene.

"The Death of Love" is the result of a great idea, and exploring the idea is what the story is about. I thought it was an interesting concept and metaphor for love.

"Flint" by Brian Ruckley

"Flint" by Brian Ruckley is a short story from Speculative Horizons anthology edited by Patrick St-Denis.

It's about a shaman, Flint. His teacher and the former shaman Fifth Moon is dead. In the eponymous story, Flint must prove his mettle as the new shaman.

Long Dusk is sick and dying. Another person falls sick. So with a guide named Hare, Flint journeys to the spirit world to find out the source of the sickness. In the spirit world, Flint must confront and free the spirit of the vengeful Crow.

There are some bees which converge into an anthropomorphic bee monster. That's awesome. Flint finds some bones and summons a spirit in a dream. Flint summons this shadow, yet it is as if it haunts him.

“Flint” definitely contains some good ideas. Hunter–gatherers and shamanism. It also feels kind of philosophical. Ultimately, it was an interesting short story.

LTJ Bukem - Inner Guidance

Monday, January 24, 2011

Outlanders by Johji Manabe, Vol 1

Space opera! In Tokyo, aliens invade! Caught amidst the confusion and wreckage, a photojournalist named Tetsuya gets to see the aliens dropping down from the sky and photograph them. Meanwhile, the Japan Self Defense Force tries to fight off the invaders from the alien Empire. Oh my goodness. This comic was awesome. 

The fight is epic! Somehow, the aliens bring down the choppers the Japanese army sent in, so tanks are being called in as backup. Meanwhile, Tetsuya encounters an alien femme fatale with horns and a greatsword. He snaps a few pictures, but then is forced to fight her. After a brief clash, the girl drops her sword and runs away. Very mysterious.

I liked the art style right away. It's sharp, and has a distinct manga flavor while remaining accessible for someone familiar with comics. The buildings and vehicles are especially stunning. The story is really quite amazing, and I would like to know what happens next... Outlanders, Vol 1, by Johji Manabe is definitely the beginning of an epic adventure.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"The Eve of the Fall of Habesh" by Tobias S. Buckell

"The Eve of the Fall of Habesh" by Tobias Buckell is a short story from Speculative Horizons anthology edited by Patrick St-Denis.

It takes place in the city of Habesh by the Elkatoa coast. Five miles north, another city, Kopach, is being burnt by the Sea People, who are going to attack Habesh next. This puts a sense of impending doom in the story.

The magic system requires that you can only learn one spell. Teaching is a sin. Everyone gets only one spell. And the catch? Using magic takes away your life force, makes you old and wizened.

The protagonist Jazim is a contragnartii who appears to work for the city Habesh. Jazim has a target. The target is a beggar in the Market. The Market is alive with commerce. As is his duty, Jazim tries to arrest the beggar named Bruse, but the beggar blasts him with air. And runs away. Jazim gives a prematurely aged girl some coins and chases after the beggar. He chases him to a soup tent. He silences the beggar and fights him. But he lets him go because some kids say he's helping them.

Jazim goes to a restaurant and then some guards come in looking for him. One of them is a Locator. The guards march him out of the kitchen. Yamis, an Inquisitor, is after the children, who are apparently escaped factory workers.  Jazim is supposed to bring the kids back to protect the city against the Sea People. After the war, they are to be hanged. 

His decision is whether to help the kids escape or defend the city which he loves so much. He also has a brother shackled in the city. So it really is a tough decision...

"The Eve of the Fall of Habesh" is written in first-person and the present tense. It's a nice writing style. I enjoyed the setting and the character was fairly compelling. I'd like to see more stories written about this world. For a short story, it has almost too much detail. But I enjoyed it. I think the author's books would be good.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel

Dr. Jameson is a power-hungry scientist who wants to rule the world. He has conjured a demonic cat named Hellcat from Hades in exchange for his left hand. The doctor sends out a megaphonic call to bring a Giant Space Eel down to Earth. But the eel crashes into the Earth, because the eel call is too strong, and Hellcat gets zapped when he tries to turn it down. 

150 years later, the present story focuses on Dr. Ong, a scientist working for the government in a research facility commonly known as Creature Tech. His job is to go through boxes and research what's in them.

In one of the boxes, a monster and the ghost of Dr. Jameson emerge. The monster has a parasite on it, and when Dr. Ong defeats the monster, the parasitic alien impales Dr. Ong's heart and attaches to his chest. Now he has become the symbiotic host.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jameson uses the Shroud of Turin, allegedly Jesus's burial shroud, to resurrect himself. Revived, Dr. Jameson starts trying to put his evil plans into place once again and also creates an army of demonic cats to fight for him.

For the good guys, there's Dr. Ong's father, the caretakers of the Museum of the Weird, rednecks, and a giant mantid named Blue sent by the government to aid the doctor.

This graphic novel really surprised me. It's a zany story that's really creative and  amusing. The art is great. It's black and white, and kind of minimalist, but also extremely vivid, detailed at times, and full of contrast. The storytelling is excellent, and Dr. Ong is a protagonist you can't help but root for.

Creature Tech is an enjoyable graphic novel. Doug TenNapel is also the creator of Earthworm Jim, the Neverhood, and GEAR. I would certainly try another one of his comic books. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Nicodemus Weal is the wizard known as a spellwright on the cover and Spellwright's main character. He is tall with black hair, olive skin, and green eyes. He may or may not have a role in a prophecy upon which the fate of the world depends. He is also a cacographer, which means that he misspells text simply by touching it. This concept reflects the author's struggles with dyslexia, and it also makes for an interesting thematic element to this fantasy tale.

Nicodemus's teacher at the academy of Starhaven is Magister Agwu Shannon, the famous linguist and Grand Wizard. He has white dreadlocks, a short beard, and mustache. Pure white eyes, although he is blind, so he only sees the world through magic.

The book starts with the murder of a Magister. Shannon, who was a rival with the Magister, is a prime suspect, and consequently, so is Nicodemus. Also, there is a convocation going on, so sentinels have arrived as well as druids. A mysterious creature is in the area, and ultimately, Nicodemus has to flee Starhaven.

The overarching conflict is the War of Disjunction. The evil god Los and his minions are prophesied to lead the forces of the Pandemonium against humanity. Because of the war, the underlying basis of the novel is an archetypal conflict between good and evil. Still, the forefront is on the magic system, Nicodemus, and intricacies of the plot.

I perceived a lot of hype surrounding Spellwright. I saw it in stores. I saw lots of reviews. I think it generated publicity from being published by Tor, the irony and interest of a dyslexic novelist, and the fact that Blake Charlton has a personable online presence. 

When I read the book, it often surprised and interested me, but also, I had mixed feelings about it. It kept feeling like something was about to click with the story. For Spellwright to get started to where the blurb ends took more than half of it. Although the chapters are short, I found myself wishing it were faster paced and more narrative driven. Yet there were definitely moments of good action.

I like the fundamentals. The magic system is intriguing, vivid, and amusing. The characters are cool, despite some of the minor ones being underdeveloped. I think Nicodemus is a great fantasy name. I liked the descriptions, for example how Shannon has silver dreadlocks and white eyes, and Deirdre is a druid with a greatsword, and the demon Typhoneus. The prophecy and Imperials and the war of the Disjunction add depth to the plot. I also like how Nicodemus reads knightly romances.

All in all, Spellwright is a solid first effort and I will be interested in reading where it goes in the sequel Spellbound.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Acclaimed Books from 2010

There are a lot of books I missed in 2010. I went through some of the best-of lists and took some picks. I have put together a Goodreads list of these books. I noticed most of the following books on multiple lists, while some just particularly piqued my interests. I may not get to them all. I am also including books from 2010 I read and enjoyed. Some of the books are not yet released everywhere. Enjoy.

City of Ruin
The Dervish House
The Desert Spear
The Evolutionary Void
The Greyfriar
Hawkwood and the Kings
The Horns of Ruin
The Last Page
Leviathan Wept and Other Stories
The Noise Within
The Passage
The Quantum Thief
Retribution Falls
The Silent Land: A novel
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery
Terminal World

Monday, January 3, 2011


1985, New York City. World peace is at stake, and a group of retired superheroes is allegedly being assassinated. Watchmen is written by Alan Moore, illustrated and lettered by Dave Gibbons, and colored by John Higgins.

The Comedian, one of the older costumed heroes around, is murdered. He is thrown out of a window from high up. Rorschach, a vigilante with a black and white shifting mask, trenchcoat, and hat, is investigating. He theorizes there is a "mask-killer" going around and killing superheroes.

Besides Rorschach, the other heroes are as follows:
  • Dan Dreiberg, the Nite Owl. He has the vehicle, he has the charisma. He is also one of the new vigilantes, and was inspired by the original Nite Owl, with whom he remains friends.
  • Dr. Manhattan aka Jon Osterman, the blue man who got his powers in a scientific accident. One of the only ones with inherent powers. He is able to duplicate himself, teleport matter into thin air, and walk through walls.
  • Laurie Juspeczyk's mother was a superhero of the first generation and that's how she got her start. She separates her relationship from Dr. Manhattan to be with Dan Dreiberg. As the Silk Spectre, she is a compassionate vigilante and a competent fighter.
  • Adrian Veidt, who takes the name Ozymandias. A self-made millionaire with an Anarctic retreat and a pet feline mutant. He is considered the smartest man in the world. 
Left to right: Ozymandias, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan (back),
The Comedian (front), Nite Owl, Rorschach

There is a rich history within Watchmen. It is interspersed with written segments between chapters. These embellish the story with tidbits from the past, journals and writings of various kinds. Some are more interesting and relevant than others. There is a comic-within-a-comic that is being read by a man sitting on a New York sidewalk by a newsstand. It's interesting but slightly diverting. The vendor of the newsstand offers commentary on the current events that are going on. This thread, along with the flashbacks and written pieces, seems to take up at least half of the graphic novel. The history is so rich, it is still continuing to be unveiled even up to the penultimate chapter.

I saw the movie based on the graphic novel before I read the book. The movie is great. It was really well done in my opinion, and it helped me familiarize with the characters, but although I enjoyed the graphic novel, I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had not already seen the film, because I already knew the ending.

Watchmen is at times brilliant, long-winded, wry, and insightful. A fair amount of time is spent on character development. This is good because, in my opinion, it is the most interesting part of the novel. Visually, it is quite good. Watchmen is considered a classic and influential comic.

True Grit

True Grit is a Western film. It has shootouts. It has chases. It has vivid characters. It truly invokes the archetypal wild wild west.

It's a remake of the classic film True Grit (1969), which in turn was based on the book of the same name (1968). It was written and directed by the Coen brothers (The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men).... So that might give you an idea of what to expect. Of those films, the tone and intensity is closest to No Country For Old Men. If you liked that, it's safe to say you'll probably like this.

In 1877, a young girl named Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is after the murderer of her father, who stole his horses and gold. She enlists the help of two law enforcers to see this killer brought to justice, yet is also determined to be a part of it herself. Her unlikely companions are none other than the US Marshal "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon). This takes them on a daring adventure through the wilderness.

True Grit was action packed and spirited. I enjoyed the Wild West atmosphere. The music was also really well done. The characters are indeed gritty. The film is in theaters now.

Official website: True Grit