Friday, July 23, 2010

Baltimore - Bantam Books

A first rate read steeped in atmosphere.

If not for a three issue mini-series soon to be released by, Dark Horse comics, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, I would never have heard of this novel. If not for my fondness for the creative team of, Mike Mignola, (writer) and, Ben Steinbeck, (illustrator) I'd have simply dismissed, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, as yet one more vampire story in a market already over-saturated with tales of the blood-sucking night-stalkers. Only because of my fondness for, Mike Mignola and Ben Steinbeck, did I decide to add the mini-series, based upon a novel I'd never heard of, to my pull file.

Not wishing to read a comic book based upon a novel I'd never read in the first place, I looked it up on,, found a copy of it for a fair price and ordered it forthwith. I started reading the novel the day it arrived in the mail and didn't put it down until I'd finished it. Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, is as good a read as I've enjoyed in a very long time. This novel took me back to the days of my youth when the tales of, Edgar Allen Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft, introduced me to the horror genre. Like all good classic horror tales, Baltimore, begins on a moonless night in a field covered in fog. Men are at war, a human endeavor already fraught with unimaginable horrors, but on this particular night one soldier is about to come face to face with a horror that will change his life forever.

Wounded, slipping in and out of consciousness as he lies in a tangled heap of dead and dying soldiers, Baltimore, looks on in mounting terror as a strange flock of flying creatures descend upon the bodies strewn across the recent battlefield and begin feeding upon them. After drawing the attention of one of the winged monstrosities, Baltimore, finds himself fighting for his life against an ancient and fearsomely strong vampire. During the ensuing struggle, Baltimore, manages to inflict a terrible, but non-lethal wound to the face of his adversary. The enraged vampire leaves a wound of his own upon the thigh of, Baltimore, that will eventually cost him his leg.

Thus begins a tale I can only best describe as, Captain Ahab, versus the, Great White Wraith, that took his leg. Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire is a tale of revenge and retribution and the toll such pursuits take upon those who seek such bitter satisfactions. It is a good read that echos many of the great tomes that have preceded it in the genre of horror. The novel pays homage without copying or cloning other works. Once again, it is a good read and if you're planning on picking up the upcoming, Dark Horse mini-series, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, I would encourage you to find this book and read it in advance of, Mike Mignola and Ben Steinbeck's return to the world of, Henry Baltimore. If the comic book is even half as good as the novel, this will be a tale you won't want to miss.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brody's Ghost - Mark Crilley

Just plain fun and entertaining.

It was through MDHP (MySpace Dark Horse Presents) that I first came into contact with, Brody's Ghost. There was just something interesting enough about the premise of the story that led me to pick up the first graphic novel in what will be a six book series. All I can say is that this little book gives substance to the cliche, "good things come in small packages." If you overlooked this wonderful gem while shopping in your local comic book store I strongly encourage you to call your local shopkeeper and ask him or her to pull a copy of this book from their shelves and put it in your file before there are no more copies to be found. You just don't want to miss this story.

Mark Crilley can draw. I must admit to being a newcomer to his work, but I'm a fan now and I'll be looking up some of his earlier work as soon as possible. Even in black and white his illustrations breath with vitality and life. I was immediately drawn in to Brody's world from the very first panel and held there until the last panel of the story. Judging from the youthful look of the main characters this story is aimed at the young adolescent market, but anyone could read this book and find it entertaining.

The story revolves around a young man named, Brody. He's till steeped in the throes of a broken heart and living a very shallow and depressed life. Plainly put, he's a slacker. Everything in his life is going from bad to worse until one day he encounters the ghost. Her name is, Talia, and she's been temporarily locked out of heaven until she performs A life task--think, really good deed. Being a ghost she's somewhat limited in her ability to manipulate the corporal world and she needs the help of a, ghostseer, an individual with psychic powers capable of seeing, hearing and talking with ghosts.

Brody, up to this point in his life, has remained blissfully ignorant of his latent psychic abilities. In his current slacker-state of being he isn't going to be of much use to, Talia. She decides he needs training to awaken his abilities and she arranges for him to meet, Kagemura, a ghost sensei with the wisdom to educate young, Brody, in the ways of his psychic skills. The game is then "afoot" as they say...

One of the aspects of, Brody's Ghost, I found most refreshing was that I didn't find myself having to shove aside an overabundance of female cleavage or don a welder's mask to protect my face from the flash burn of a nonstop barrage of the F-Bomb to enjoy the story. It was nice to read a book without feeling assaulted or challenged. It was more than entertaining, it was refreshing.

Mark Crilley has crafted a beautifully illustrated and delightfully written story that promises to deliver five more installments of quality entertainment. I can recommend this book without either hesitation or reservation to readers of all ages and genders. There's something here for everyone and I can't wait for more of, Brody's Ghost, to hit the shelves of my local comic book store. Well done, Mr. Crilley! I'm a fan for sure...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mog World - Yahtzee Croshaw

I do like the cover art.

Fortunately I was spared the tragic mistake of picking this up as an impulse buy by reading the extended nineteen page preview of the book at, Dark Horse Publishing's website. Make no mistake about it, whatever qualities you might find appealing about the online antics of, Yahtzee Croshaw, you'll be hard pressed to find a single one of them between the covers of this book. Unfortunately, this is one of those marketing team projects designed to make money solely on the basis of name recognition. You know how it goes...

Marketing team: "We love what you've got going here with the whole, Yahtzee, thing and we're here to help you capitalize on it while the iron is hot. Celebrity is fleeting, Mr. Croshaw. Especially the Internet kind and if you're going to benefit financially from your current popularity we've got to act fast before the opportunities available to you right now disappear faster than the video games you review."

Yahtzee: "Well, this is all kind of new to me. What do you have in mind?"

Marketing team: "We've already started production on a series of tee-shirts, coffee mugs and buttons, none of that cheap crap mind you, this is all first rate material, assembled in the, United States, and produced to order. All it requires on your part is a link on your website and a small percentage of each sale to cover shipping, handling and manufacturing costs."

Yahtzee: "That's all there is to it?"

Marketing team: "That's just the beginning! Have you ever thought of writing a book?"

Yahtzee: "I read one once, Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, or something like that."

Marketing team: "Don't worry about it. Just throw something together, we'll clean it up in editing, slap a, Grateful Dead, looking cover on it and find a small publisher to sell it online."

Yahtzee: "Well, I'm really not much of a writer per sey..."

Marketing team: "Yahtzee, my man, don't worry about it. You see, we're not selling the literary contents of the book, we're selling the name on the book, Yahtzee Croshaw. Besides, your fans are primarily gamers, not exactly top of the food chain, if you know what we're talking about. They'll probably never even bother to read it once they get it home. It's an impulse purchase..."

Yahtzee: "So that's it?"

Marketing team: "Why, that's just the tip of the iceberg! We're in the final steps of negotiating the closing details on a deal with an online hemp-jewelery company out of, Korea. We're very excited about the, Yahtzee, one hit wonder, line of glass bongs and we just received an email from our perfumer in, China, that they've just begun human testing on the first in your new line of cologne for men called, Joystick."

Sorry, Yahtzee, but in the words of, The Beatles, "You may be a lover, but you ain't no dancer."

Better luck with your cologne...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

R.E.B.E.L.S. - D.C. Comics

The best book nobody knows about.

This is one of the very best comic book titles being produced right now. Tony Bedard is just flat out writing his arse off. Issue after issue he's creating perhaps the most original book to come out of the D.C. talent pool and he's doing it with a cast of characters no one else really seems to care about working with. Tony seems to have found a way to circumvent the stranglehold, Geoff Johns seems to have over the creative process at D.C. and is producing original work that is both engaging and entertaining. R.E.B.E.L.S. is a book you can read without needing a degree in molecular engineering to understand it. There is an elegant simplicity to Tony's story telling that is a breath of fresh air in the current age of convoluted obscurity that passes itself off as dark and edgy adult entertainment.

R.E.B.E.L.S. has managed to do in just eighteen issues what, Geoff Johns has failed to do in series after seemingly endless series of crossover events involving an average of thirty titles each. Tony Bedard has advanced his premise, developed his characters and provided genuinely poignant and compelling moments of story telling in the process. And most impressively of all, he's managed to do it without dropping the F-Bomb in every other sentence, covering up gaping plot holes with with bucketful after bucketful of T&A and offering more adult examples of creative problem solving than, "My powers-penis is bigger than your powers-penis!".

Before I journey much further along I'd like to point out how wonderfully the illustrations of the artistic team of, Claude St. Aubin (Pencils) and Scott Hanna (Inker) enhance this book. This team manages to flesh out more than breast size. The worlds and environments they create are beautifully rendered and a joy for the eye to behold. Theirs is a vision of the universe containing more than nipples, breasts and camel toes. Every time I turn a page I'm treated to alien landscapes filled with lush flora, fauna and architectural designs that spark my imagination and take my breath away. Truly this team engages the highest intellectual functions rather than stimulating the basest part of human nature.

Tony Bedard and his team are creating a genuinely articulate and intelligent piece of work. It is truly sophisticated and adult in every way. Unlike the elitist, pseudo-intellectual group of bohemian extremists currently in charge of the industry who're more concerned with force-feeding their vision of morality and artistic integrity upon the marketplace, Tony is doing what matters most to a real writer. He's telling a story in a manner that engages and entertains as many people as possible rather than alienating all, but the most narrow of demographic. Tony is using the art form to entertain, not to engage in some ludicrous, political crusade against the moral windmills of imaginary censorship.

If you're a reader seeking content more substantial than titillating pinup art to decorate your school locker with, R.E.B.E.L.S. is the book for you. This is a title that shows the very best of what comics can be. It may not be getting the push that some of the bigger projects at D.C. are receiving, but it delivers far more quality for the dollars you'll spend on it than just about anything else you can find in their catalog of books.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Doctor Solar - Dark Horse Publishing

This is gonna be so good...

At last a book has come along worthy of my leaving poolside to come inside, get on the computer and write about. Three times I've read this book now and it just gets better with each and every read. No, it isn't a perfect book. Yes there's a bit of rust around the corners of the dialog and yes, there were some ponderous moments where exposition around minute details seemed to get in the way of the story's pacing, but damn this is a book that we'll all be talking about once this title gets off the ground and running. This book was about laying the foundation for things to come and if you look at the things hinted at in this first issue there's a lot of very cool things coming down the road. Did you catch some of the awesome goodness in this issue?

Secret therapy? How cool is that!? Phillip Solar gaining unbelievable abilities and in the first few nano-seconds of possessing those goodies screwing up the world because he tried to save himself some personal humiliation? Doh! Or how about the, Captain Kirk, poster on the wall of, Whitmore Pickerel's, apartment? (Yeah, there's all kind of goodies in this issue.) Just who was, Bently, working for? And just what is, Tanek Nuro, CEO of Lovejoy International Inc. up to? And exactly what does happen when a hack writerreally can bring his characters to life? And poor, poor, brokenhearted, Gail...

If the foundation laid in this issue is any indication at all there's gonna be a fine house built by the time it's all said and done. And you know what? Jim Shooter's right. How the hell are you supposed to write a good book when most of the characters in the big two companies are so damn tied up for the next many years in plot lines revolving around "major event" stories? At, Dark Horse, Jim Shooter, gets to write without character restrictions fouling up every good idea he comes up with for them. Bravo, Jim! I'm excited and I'm looking forward to some real creative story telling.

This is a book that will suffer initially because of the teasers released to promote it. I too thought the book looked pretty hokey as far as the preview teaser went, but seen now in full context with the rest of the story the book looks pretty damn good. Let me be the first to tell you in no uncertain terms, don't be fooled by the previews, this book is pretty darn good and it's only going to get better as future issues are released.

Compared to other offerings in the marketplace this summer, this one really did manage to"brighten" my day. Nice job, Jim! Now, I'm off to lounge by the pool again. Ciao!