Hiatus

Posted June 15, 2010 by geekylibrarian
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I’m going to be taking a short break from writing here for a few weeks, as I have just received a new job and need to move across the state.

I’ve spent the last 4 years working as the technical services head at the Berkshire Athenaeum, which has been an incredible experience, especially for someone fresh out of school like me.  Besides getting to work on all the standard cataloging challenges, I got to toy with an enormous local history and genealogy collection, a collection dedicated to the work of Herman Melville, the library of Oliver Wendel Holmes, lead a number of workshops for patrons, host a number of sing-along to Journey nights (Rock Band) and of course drive a dump truck across Connecticut.

I can only imagine what new challenges await me when I get to the Worcester (sorry Wistah) Public Library in a few weeks.  I can’t wait!

Review: Essential Sub-Mariner Vol.1

Posted June 7, 2010 by geekylibrarian
Categories: Reviews

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I’ve been waiting years for Marvel to get around to releases this book.  The Sub-Mariner is the last of their silver age super-hero titles to have gone without an affordable edition in print.  For that alone I’ve been wanting this to complete the collection, but also I always loved the character of Namor, probably the most pompous figure in comics, and a lot of fun because of that.

But sadly I think I see why Marvel was hesitant to bring these back.  As it turns out, there are exactly two types of Namor stories.

  1. Namor has a misunderstanding with the human race and nearly declares war
  2. Someone tries to claim the throne of Atlantis from Namor

Now, this collection has stories from 35 issues, granted most of these are only 12 pages long, but still, these schticks get old pretty quickly.  And it doesn’t help that there’s a fairly glaring problem with the art as well that I just can’t get past, even with greats such as Bill Everett, Gene Colan, and John Buscema at work.  

Namely, no one can seem to remember that Atlantis is actually underwater!  Why does the city have paved roads!?!  Why are robes in fashion and why don’t they float!?!  Why is Dorma’s hair perfectly styled, only to appear wet when she’s out of the water!?!  You get the idea.

There are a few decent issues here, and in small doses the stories can be fun, but as a whole, not one of Marvel’s better efforts.

Review: Scalped: the Gnawing

Posted June 3, 2010 by geekylibrarian
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I’ve raved about Scalped a few times here and now I’m starting to run out of new ways to praise it.  It’s the best crime comic written today, and quite possibly the best ever.

The Gnawing is the latest tale, in which undercover agent Dash Bad Horse is tasked by Chief Red Crow to find the rat in his organization.  And if that isn’t bad enough Dash also has to attempt to keep a witness to a murder perpetrated by Red Crow alive long enough to testify.  And Red Crow has his own problems after inciting a war with his casino’s financiers.

The ensuing conflict is one of the most brutal stories I’ve ever read.  This is an epic tragedy, with no happy endings.  In fact, the saddest part of the book is the news that a character is pregnant and that the pain and suffering endured by everyone in the story is about to be extended into another generation.  It’s heartbreaking and ingenious writing that somehow made a great book get even better.

Review: Secret Six: Depths

Posted June 2, 2010 by geekylibrarian
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The newest collection of Gail Simone’s twisted super-villain series, Secret Six, is the first misstep she’s taken since writing the first mini-series featuring the characters.  Her grasp of the characters is as strong as ever, and the first two issues in this collection, which are both one-off tales, are excellent.  However, the main story in this volume is a ill-conceived team-up with Wonder Woman, which pretty much just exists because Simone was also writing that book at the time.

The Six are hired by a group who has forced a band of Amazons into slave labor in order to construct the world’s greatest prison.  What exactly the six are hired to do, is never really explained, nor is it explained why the would be warden has made a deal with Grendel.  Then there’s the problem that Wonder Woman and the Six don’t mesh together at all.  Oh and there’s also that this makes back to back stories in which the Six turn on one another and then somehow make up afterwards.

The book’s almost worth it for the first issue, being the most awkward date comic in history, but the rest is just a mess.

Review: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Posted June 1, 2010 by geekylibrarian
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Seth Grahame-Smith became a publishing sensation with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but managed to somehow do it without a great deal of recognition for himself.  He spawned a whole publishing movement of weird classics adaptations, but none by him and all published as if they may as well have been, including a prequel to his own book.

So, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is his chance to prove he’s more than merely a publishing gimmick, and he mostly succeeds.  There’s not really a whole lot needed to explain this novel beyond the title.  It’s written as a biography, based upon Lincoln’s secret diaries, and Grahame-Smith puts a lot of effort into researching Lincoln’s life to blur the lines between history and fantasy as finely as possible.

This isn’t a great book, but its a very fun book, which is all the more impressive in that Grahame-Smith plays it totally straight.  It’s also the only vampire story I’ve enjoyed period since the current Twilight/True Blood/X-Men vs. Dracula, etc… fad made me sick to death of the subject (I picked this up because I have kind of a thing for silly Lincoln stories).  If you like the idea of the title, you will love this book, for everyone else, it’s very skipable.

Review: Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus

Posted May 27, 2010 by geekylibrarian
Categories: Reviews

With this volume, my favorite comic currently being published by Marvel comes to an end.  Well sort of, the story continues in an Amadeus Cho mini-series.  But this is really about as definitive an ending as anything in comics ever receives, and its a fantastic one!

The Gods Hera and Typhon have launched their plan to remake the Universe in their image, and bring the Gods back to replace the Marvels they feel have replaced them.  Only Hercules, his ex-wife, Amadeus and a squad of Avengers stand in their way, and before all is done someone will die.

The story shows off perfectly why this book has been great all along.  Amadeus & Herc remain one of the best partnerships I’ve read in any book.  The story is clever and incredibly fun (although I’ll admit freely I’m a sucker for anything that focuses on superheroes as modern mythology).  And then of course there are the sound effect easter eggs that the creative team keeps sneaking in (I particularly like the mechanical dragon that shoots fire with a deafening “Smaaaaug”).

I truly hate to see this book go, and I really hope that the Amadeus Cho mini does well enough that the story can keep going, but I’m ecstatic that the writers were able to finish the series in such a grand fashion.

Review: Annihilation

Posted May 26, 2010 by geekylibrarian
Categories: Reviews

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Annihilation was Marvel’s quite successful take at reviving their cosmic characters.  The cosmic branch of the Marvel Universe had been languishing for years under the weight of Jim Starlin’s legacy.  Starlin wrote epics of Godlike beings with nebulous powers who would battle across the stars while espousing cryptic philosophies.  His approach came to its head in the Infinity Gauntlet, a fairly legendary mini-series in the Marvel cannon, which everyone else to tackle this world has sought to emulate, never with much success.

Now the Gauntlet was published back in ’91, making it well past overdue for Marvel to try something radical, which is where Annihilation comes in.  It’s an event, comprising 7 mini-series, with 29 issues, and collected in 3 volumes.  The structure of this sort of thing is slightly odd, with 1 issue to launch the story, a big mini-series to wrap it up, and a bunch of more character focused minis between that serve to spotlight a pretty damn eclectic group of characters.  The Silver Surfer is there because there has to be one big name cosmic hero, but then there are stories for Super-villains Ronan the Accuser and Super Skrull, former teen pseudo-cosmic hero Nova, and one for a completely revamped Drax the Destroyer.

Their stories all bring them into conflict with the Annihilation Wave, an enormous army lead by the classic Fantastic Four villain Annihilus (a.k.a. the living death that walks).  Now I’ve always liked Annihilus for some reason, despite the fact that he’s hardly the most well-rounded villain, being someone who simply wants to kill everyone so he can be the last living thing in the Universe.  But as far as evil cosmic menaces go, that’s pretty good, and its kind of nice to see him actually trying to follow through on his goals after being around for 40 years or so.

So with that what we have he is a good old-fashioned space war, but maybe the best one ever portrayed in comics.  Worlds are destroyed, heroes fall, and in nearly every issue the status quo of the universe is changed.  And when it’s all over, Marvel cosmic is left a much more interesting place, not to mention one that’s proven to be able to sustain a few ongoing series for the first time in an age.


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