Secret Wars: A-Force (Complete series)

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When I started reading the “A-Force” series, the only other comics I had read were “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” and a handful of Free Comic Book Day comics.  Based on that, “A-Force” really impressed me.  But then I started reading “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water” and “1602: Witch Hunter Angela,” and my opinion of “A-Force” dropped somewhat.  And when the series finally ended and I had time to reflect on it as a whole, my final opinion wasn’t what I originally expected it would be.

After I read the first volume, I was very hopeful for the series.  It had a lot of female characters that I was excited to see kicking butt together in one comic.  There was some team tension, and a new character; all potentially great stuff.  Then I got through the series and was left thinking, ” What happened?  Where’s the rest of it?”  And not because of some cliffhanger.  See, the comic had all this potential, but didn’t actually achieve most of it.  The villain and villain’s motives were predictable; I guessed them in the first volume.  I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.  Emotional depths and quandaries were not explored like they could’ve been.

By the end I felt that “A-Force” was an excuse to stuff as many female heroes as possible into one short series, and then hope that readers would be too busy gushing over the appearance of their favorite character(s) to care about the plot.  And yes, I did my share of gushing, but if I’m going to dish out $4 per volume, I need some more meat to the story.

Ultimately “A-Force” was mindless fun, and certainly not what I’d call bad, but it’s not something I’d be recommending either.

Overall: 6/10

SpoilerAlert

Really, was anyone surprised that Lady Loki ended up being the villain?  Anyone?  As soon as I saw her in the first volume I thought, ” Here comes trouble.”

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Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water (#1)

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In the spirit of the Halloween season, I am reviewing a comic book with a creepy cover.

Chances are that a lot of people haven’t heard of this comic book, and it’s one you shouldn’t judge by its cover, although that’s basically what I did.  I was drawn to the comic by the fleur-de-lis on the cover, and then opened it and saw some panels clearly depicting a New Orleans setting.  I bought it, thinking I was buying a comic about a zombie apocalypse starting in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which would’ve been neat.  That’s not what it’s about, but it’s still kinda neat.

Bloodthirsty was funded through Kickstarter and the writer, Mark Landry, is originally from Louisiana.  The story is indeed set in New Orleans, but only the opening takes place immediately after Katrina.  There we meet Virgil, a New Orleans native and member of the Coast Guard who is helping to pull people off rooftops.  Some stuff happens that messes him up, and then we flash forward to the present.  A mostly-recovered New Orleans is facing a new hurricane, and Virgil unwittingly gets caught up in some drama/intrigue.

That’s about as much as I can say without spoiling things.  There are no zombies so far, and I don’t think there will be.  No signs of superpowers either.  There is what appears to be an evil crossdresser/drag queen though – forgive me if there’s a difference I’ve not discerned – to keep things from being too vanilla.

Most of this volume was set-up, but I think it did it well.  I did end up having some connection to Virgil, and I was intrigued by the mystery dangled towards the end.  The artwork is decent too; I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it beautiful, but I prefer it to the styles common to many mainstream comics, like Marvel’s A-Force.  I intend to try to follow this series.

Art: 6.5/10 (Although still not what I’d call beautiful, I think it’s noticeably better than most common/mainstream comic styles)
Story:
7.5/10
Overall
: 7.5/10

SpoilerAlert

Some stereotypical fat cat politicians and businessmen rose to power in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Virgil’s brother works for one of them named Wolfinger, and when he dies, it’s implied that his death may have been related to some gruesome bodies/murders Virgil stumbled across during Katrina rescues, and that Wolfinger and/or Wolfinger Labs is involved.  Also, the evil crossdresser looks kinda like the city’s mayor, who is close to Wolfinger. However, the how’s and why’s haven’t been revealed yet, so some of this is speculation.

Ryria Revelations

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I read all three of these books – a total of six stories – in a short period of time.  This will be a short review, partially to keep the first part spoiler-free, and partially because I actually read these a couple of months ago, so my impressions aren’t as sharp anymore.

The main characters of the series are Hadrian and Royce, a pair of mercenaries/thieves-for-hire.  They agree to take a job that turns out to be a lot more than they bargained for, and we get to enjoy the inevitable shenanigans, banter, and fallout.

Each of the six stories has its own, self-contained plot, but they all also play into a larger over-arching plot.  I liked this structure because it kept you wanting more without any one ending being too much of a cliffhanger.  There is also a set of prequel books that the author wrote later, which I believe have the same set up.

Do these books have the depth of Tolkien, Sanderson, or Martin?  No.  It has world-building/history, but it’s not particularly deep, and there are not revolutionary of ground-breaking characters.  In fact, most of the characters are stereotypes or archetypes.  But that doesn’t make this a bad book.  It has action and humor and is a fast, enjoyable read, like a book version of a popcorn-flick.

Rating: 8.5/10

SpoilerAlert

There is one character that I have to say really bugged me, and almost made me knock a couple of points off the score.  She is introduced in either the second story or second book – I can’t remember which – and is originally named Thrace.  She comes across as ridiculously naive and innocent, especially for what she’s been through.  Then after her father and she becomes Empress Modina, but she’s in mourning.  Like, ridiculously deep mourning; she’s basically a mute, walking doll for months.  I think she was supposed to have catatonic depression – that’s a real thing, apparently – but nevertheless, I found her mourning phase to be very grating.  She mostly redeemed herself once she finally snapped out of it, but I thought this was a point that needed to be addressed.

Age of Misrule

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Misrule

Ancient gods and beings from Celtic myth are rising up and starting to walk in the modern world.  Technology starts to fail, and modern life as we know it seems to be at risk.  A small group of people – dare I call them a fellowship? – unite and go on a quest to seek out magical items to help face this threat.

Sounds great.  I had this book on my Paperbackswap wishlist for months, and was excited to finally get it. Unfortunately I couldn’t even finish the book.  I gave up on page 54, after the main characters – Jack and Ruth – spent a page discussing Jack’s taste in music.  In a word, the book is boring.

By page 54, Jack and Ruth have had one unpleasant encounter with a mythical being and have started to investigate what might have happened.  However, we don’t know what they encountered, or what it might forebode.  We know far more about Jack’s wife, his depression/mourning, and even his musical tastes than we do about anything mythical.  The focus of the story is obviously going to be on the characters rather than on the plot idea of re-emerging Celtic gods, which would be tolerable if the characters were interesting, but I couldn’t care less about Jack or Ruth.  If the main interest of the story is supposed to be the characters, then the characters need to be interesting.

The pace is slow, the characters are dull, and at times the writing is pretentious.  The book seems to aim for intellectual entertainment, but it missed the mark and it put me to sleep.  I’ve given up and am moving on.

Rating: 2.5/10

Schedule Announcement

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I’m not sure I have enough followers to really merit this, but figured I’d do it just in case.

Last month was the start of Fall college classes, and thus my return to school.  I have started pursuing a new degree that I hope will be more applicable in the job market than my B.A. in English.  Unfortunately this means I will have less time for leisure reading, and even less time to write reviews.  As of right now, I’m guessing I’ll be lucky to do one review per month, with maybe some “bonus” reviews over the winter break.

If you’re reading this, thank you for following me thus far.  See you all at the next review!

The Shadow Throne

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It’s probably been almost a month since I’ve read this book, and as is typical for me, a lot of the specific details have already faded.  This will be a sort of mini-review instead.  You can read my review for the first book in the series here.

The main trio of characters – Winter, Marcus, and Janus – have made it back to the capital.  Political shenanigans are afoot, and they most help thwart the ambitions of the Duke Orlanko.  Princess Raesinia is introduced as a new character that the readers follow, and she too is trying to undermine Orlanko’s schemes.

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I liked a lot of the soldiers from Winter’s regiment, but most only appeared briefly in this book, assuming they appeared at all.  Winter was given a task to do separate from Marcus and Janus, and when she actually left to do it, her character felt isolated from the rest of the story.  I didn’t like her as much in this book as I did in the previous.

Janus’ pragmatism is awesome to the point of being almost comedic.  If I had to guess, I’d say the time/world in this book would parallel the East India Trading Company and The Three Musketeers; so 1600’s.  Some of things women got to do – and that Janus allowed/supported – are highly unlikely for such a time period.  Even Marcus’ “old-fashioned” beliefs aren’t realistic.  But then again, there are plenty of books stuffed with sexism, violence, and other such things, so if you need that in a book to enjoy it, just read a different series.

Winter’s plot was disappointing, but Marcus and Janus had some funny lines and the end of the book was exciting.

Rating: 7.5/10

SpoilerAlert

Winter is sent by Janus to infiltrate a group of women, where she crosses paths with her former [female] lover.  They had some drama and some flirting, and I had just as little interest in their romantic story line as I do with the vast majority of romantic story lines.  In the first book Winter had to put on a brave face and be smart and creative to overcome obstacles, but in this one it felt like she was Nero, fiddling over stupid emotional “dilemmas” while Rome/Vordan burned.  I’m very unforgiving regarding romance though, so some may like it.

River Road

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This is the second book of a supernatural/fantasy series set in Louisiana.  My review of the first book is here.

Several years have passed since the events of the first book, and in that time, apparently nothing has happened.  DJ hasn’t talked to Jake or Tish, and Jean Lafitte hasn’t called in her debts to him.  After some serious mixed signals between them, DJ and Alex are still just partners/co-sentinels.  The only difference is that DJ is now renting a space in a strip mall to act as her office.

Right from the start, the author has irritated me.  Either DJ has horrible coping mechanisms to go along with her chronic stupidity, or the author is lazy.  I’m inclined to believe it’s a combination of the two.  DJ is flaky enough that I could see her thinking avoiding situations is a good way to handle them, but I also suspect that the author didn’t want to deal with explaining events that happened between books.

Once we get past the “introduction,” we learn there are two clans of mer-people living in southern Louisiana, and they’re getting sick from swimming in the Mississippi River.  Both clans insist the river is poisoned and blame each other.  DJ is asked to step in, mediate between the clans, and figure out what’s going on with the river.

As the book progressed, we were treated to more examples of the DJ-brand stupidity and tepid “romantic intrigue” I disliked from the first book.  We also got hints that DJ is a speshul snowflake, shoving her into firmly into Mary-Sue territory.  My already less-than-impressed opinion of her slowly ticked down throughout the book.

Yes, this book was set in Louisiana.  Yes, it had magic and supernatural stuff and a potentially interesting story idea.  But while I could tolerate it in the first book, the flaws seemed more glaring and the missed potential more depressing in this book.  Unless you are a fan of YA romance triangles like Twilight, I’d suggest you steer clear.

Rating: 4/10 (At least I finished it)

SpoilerAlert

It’s already obvious to the readers that there’s something between Alex and DJ, even though Alex is supposedly seeing someone else.  At the end of the book – after DJ has been on dates with both Lafitte and Jake, mind you – Alex makes it clear he intends to pursue DJ too, to which I said “fucking finally.”  Not because I was interested in whatever feelings they might have for each other, but because I was so damn sick of the waffling and dancing around each other.  Maybe other people think it’s cute or romantic, but I thought it was just dumb.

Along with having some elvish blood, DJ’s magical elven staff is apparently rare and famous in the elven kingdom.  Because, you know, being pretty and having 3 good-looking guys interested in her wasn’t enough to make the readers see that DJ is awsum-sauce and that they should want to be her, so she had to have a speshul weapon too.  A speshul weapon that let her circumvent the restrictions/limitations of other Green Congress wizards, because wouldn’t it be boring if she had to use her smarts and creativity to deal with those limitations instead?

Considering what’s happened thus far, I’ll make some predictions about the rest of the series:

  • In at least one more book, Jake, Alex, and Lafitte will all continue to show interest in DJ, and there will be more waffling.
  • DJ’s ability to use the staff will prove significant.  Likely it will be because it’s a sign that DJ has a lot of untapped power/magic, that she’s descended from some royal elven bloodline, and/or because there’s a prophecy associated with the staff.
  • DJ’s heritage will eventually be a key plot point.
  • A hot male elf will appear at some point, and will be interested in DJ too.
  • DJ will play a pivotal role in a war between factions of the Beyond and the wizards/Elders.

I don’t intend to read the rest of the series, so if someone else does, maybe they can let me know if I’m right.