Monday, 12 September 2016

Bad Little Children's Books: Kidlit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs and Offensively Tweaked Covers by Arthur C. Gackley (Abrams)

Oh dear...! Not one that I could possibly review on Read It, Daddy this one. Despite the appearance, this anthology of spoofs and parodies of "Golden Age" children's picture books - by fictional author Arthur C. Gackley, is definitely not one for kids. In fact you will have to hide this away from their prying eyes, lest they feast their peepers on some pretty questionable stuff.

"Bad Little Children's Books" is an idea that's been floating around on the Internet for quite a while. Classic children's book covers are subtly 'tweaked' for shits and giggles, spawning an ever-increasing whirlwind of madness and hilarity for those of you with a distinctly warped sense of humour, the sort of kids who spent way too much time hovering over anthills with magnifying glasses in our misspent youth.

The cover sets the table for what you'll find inside pretty well - an image of a lactose-intolerant little girl yakking up her morning milk. It really doesn't get much better from there...

Eek. 

The core idea isn't that bad, but some of the jokes fell hopelessly flat while others were the sort of jokes you nervously laugh at if a colleague at work blurts one out during coffee time.

Ack.
As I said at the top of the review, you really don't want this getting into the hands of your little ones!

Slightly worrying that I can think of a handful of folk who would probably love this as a christmas pressie stocking filler, and I can well imagine it doing very well in the run up to the yuletide season. It wanted to be cleverer than it actually was though, parodies really only work on me if they're smartly intelligent AND funny, not just the equivalent of someone farting into a cushion then holding it over your face.

"Bad Little Children's Books" by Arthur C. Gackley is out now, published by Abrams.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Hello dark blog, it's been a while. I had to come and revisit you purely to talk about Saga Volume 6 which dropped into my hands a couple of days ago.

There comes a time in every comic fan's life where they reach a point in a long-running series where they start to wonder if they're just spinning their wheels waiting for 'something' to happen.

Saga, one of the most refreshing and original comics in decades, has wowed me consistently. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have designed a grown-up comic world that has always felt like it's talking about ordinary everyday life situations put through a blender on the highest speed setting, whizzed up into a surreal sci-fi smoothie that you can't help but guzzle down in one greedy gulp.

Actually make that 6 greedy gulps so far because, without following the comics themselves and just waiting for each collection as I do, you really are on a slow burn with this series as we follow the exploits of an interstellar child, the product of a man and a woman who should be trying to kill, not kiss, each other.

Hazel is the pint-sized narrator for Saga, talking about her life from birth to now - and the 'now' sees Hazel as a toddling kindergarten kid who has probably seen and experienced far more than any kid should have.

Her parents, Marko and Alana switch from being fugitives on the run in this volume, to parents who will stop at nothing to get their daughter back after she was kidnapped at the end of Volume 5.

Hounded by Prince Robot IV, the once-enemies now join forces to find their children, marooned across the galaxy.

Saga's genius has always been in the way that it underpins the main storyline with sub-plots that feel scintillatingly saucy and no holds barred. We catch up with The Will, who has become fat and docile and even more mentally unstable than ever before since the death of his sister and his former lover. The Will is also hunting for Prince Robot IV's offspring to exact a terrible revenge.

Hazel's story is still as fresh and vital as in previous volumes though there were times where I felt this volume lost a head of steam it had been gathering nicely. Still though, there are seldom few comics that can do uber-violent sexy and feminist all within the space of a few pages. In some ways it keeps reminding me of a more adult and risque version of Lexx, the genius surreal sci fi series from the 90s that really ended way before it was due. I'm not really sure why.

Vaughan and Staples know where they're heading with this. We don't yet, but I get the feeling that this is a series that could carry on for a very long time to come. So in answer, it hasn't quite reached that point where the series has lost traction. Grab the collected first three volumes now, and then guzzle down the rest as soon as you possibly can.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Hark, a Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Jonathan Cape)

Kate Beaton's "Hark, a Vagrant" website is required reading for cerebral folk who love a bit of alternative history but also don't mind snorting coffee out of their noses.

Collecting together some of the earliest strips, the first "Hark, A Vagrant" Collection is out now from Jonathan Cape.

If you're after a flavour of what to expect, imagine history documented and chronicled by someone who has infinite respect for the subject matter, but also likes to royally extract the urine from it too.

Kate's versions of famous historical (and fictional) characters are raddled with flaws, often vainglorious, but pant-wettingly hilarious. I think I annoyed my wife with this book - partly because she thinks comic strips are a bit babyish, but mostly because the book caused me to laugh out loud spontaneously. Rarely have I ever read a comic strip anthology that's had this effect but Kate's illustrations and situational observation are both razor sharp as is her wit.

Image (C) Kate Beaton 2015

Of course, some of the strips are a bit on the sweary and adult side (which is why I'm reviewing "Hark, a Vagrant" here rather than on ReadItDaddy - and had to prise the book out of my daughter's hands before she read anything too rude) but maaan, can Kate ever swear with style and aplomb.

Check out the web comic and check out the two collected volumes (this and "Step Aside, Pops") - Both are fantastic.



Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Batman: Year 1 by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli (DC Comics)

Perhaps the reason I'm so fascinated by Batman is that there are so many different 'takes' on the character that attempt to revive what it must've felt like to encounter Bob Kane and Bill Finger's character for the first time.

Back in the mid 80s, DC wanted to update their catalogue of superhero titles which had descended into stale samey stories with seemingly no direction or vision. Most writers tasked with re-inventing DC's other mainstays like Superman and Wonder Woman took cues from movies and TV but Frank Miller drew on something entirely different. The seething criminal underbelly of the US at the time, and the complete departure from Batman's fairly campy trademark shenanigans towards something entirely dark and malevolent.

"The Dark Knight Returns" (a huge favourite of mine) dealt with Batman's later years, as he struggles to maintain law and order in a city that has no moral boundaries, is ruled by gangs and has no sense of honour or respect amongst the various villains who cross the Dark Knight's path. Here though in "Batman: Year One" we return to Batman's well-trodden origin story to show Batman's evolution from vigilante to the ultimate symbol of justice.

We also get to learn Jim Gordon's origins (and if you're currently watching "Gotham" on Netflix, you'll definitely see seeds of Miller and Mazzuchelli's work dotted throughout that fine series) - and explore more of Batman's world as we begin to see Gotham as a city where the rot sets in from two directions, up from the streets and down from the GCPD and the justice system which is corrupt and powerless to stop various factions carving up Gotham like a christmas turkey.

Batman does take a bit of a back seat as "Year One" gets up to speed, and though it lacks the immediacy and some might say the 'completeness' of The Dark Knight Returns, it definitely instigated a huge revival of interest in the character before Tim Burton's movies came along and underpinned the comic's dark tones with cinematic gothic tones of its own.

Now it's almost impossible to imagine Batman being anything other than grim and gritty. "Year 1" is an absolutely essential part of your Bat-collection though.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

"The Martian" by Andy Weir (Del Rey Publishing)

Though you could be mistaken for thinking that this book was about a space-suited George Michael at the height of his fame thanks to the cover, inside is a work of intricate genius centred around one man's mission to stay alive in the most inhospitable climate imaginable - the harsh surface of the red planet, Mars.

Astronaut Mark Watney is the victim of a horrific accident during a manned mission to Mars. Left for dead by his crew, Watney actually survives ending up with a flagpole through his chest (!) and thus begins his fight for survival. With meagre resources but a ton of ingenuity and inventiveness, Watney becomes Mars' first farmer and realises that even on a desolate barren and unpopulated planet, Mankind's previous visits may well save him yet.

Told mostly from Mark's perspective, "The Martian" is obviously well researched, is hugely tense and exciting and eschews the random pratfall Mr-Magoo-esque exploits of the movie "Gravity" for a thorough and fascinating investigation into what it would be like to be in Mark's place. Would you have the will to carry on when it feels like the whole planet wants to kill you in a variety of new and interesting ways?

Dark humour laces the story as Mark struggles to stay mentally healthy as well as physically. Andy Weird has a talent for perfectly describing the sheer danger involved in space travel and exploration and the myriad of things that could go horribly wrong.

It's wholly engrossing, one of those books you have to force yourself to put down once you've started in on it and now there's a movie on the table, get into the book first (just in case Ridley Scott does a "Prometheus" on this and turns it into a horrible mess!)

"The Martian" by Andy Weir is out now in paperback from Del Rey Publishing.

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (DC Comics)

To be entirely truthful, I'm fed up with losing this book and this will be the 5th and very last time I replace it (and it definitely won't be 'loaned out' to anyone ever again, never!). Clad in a new hard cover with Brian Bolland taking on colouring duties for this 20th Anniversary edition of (arguably) The Joker's darkest outing ever, it's not difficult to see why so many people stole my copy (yes stole, because I'd never willingly give anything this good away to anyone).

Origin stories are always tough to get right. Die-hard comic fans will always grumble and moan if someone comes in and interferes with an established character's genesis and it's always puzzled me why any new 'Superhero' movie or reboot feels the need to shove origin stories down your throat time and time again (please, spare us from ever seeing Peter Parker's uncle murdered, or Bruce Wayne's parents buying the farm in a dark alley).

But the Joker's origins? That's something that's been lightly touched on in movies (not difficult to see how Tim Burton used a few ideas from "The Killing Joke" in his first Batman flick) but never with a note that makes you feel sympathetic to the gibbering lunatic's plight.

Starting out with Batman visiting the Joker in Arkham, and finding out that someone's pulled a switch and the Joker has escaped, we're soon spiralling on a rollercoaster ride of madness and violence courtesy of the clown prince of crime.

I think the main reason I love this graphic novel so much is because Batman takes a back seat. He's there briefly in scenes where he is merely a foil to the Joker's chaotic and directionless psychotic behaviour, gunning down Barbara Gordon (that scene is one of the most brutal I've ever seen in a comic but you'll probably argue I don't read the right comics) and kidnapping Commissioner Gordon for no better reason than to lure Batman to his doom.

In the present day this plotline is fairly cliched and throwaway (Oh look, the Joker's found yet another dismantled Amusement Park to turn into a criminal base!) but it's when the story digs right into the Joker's early life as a failed comedian turning to crime to support his pregnant wife, his emergence as "The Red Hood" and his eventual transformation into the Joker after falling into a chemical pit that lifts this story right up there into the higher echelons of Bat-legend.

After almost 20 years without a copy, it's been refreshing to see Bolland's work restored in this way, with all the original colouring by John (Watchmen) Higgins removed, linework subtly improved and new digital colours added by Brian himself. Flashback scenes feel vastly improved with highlights picked out in stark contrasting colours to compliment the fantastic character artwork (Bolland's Joker is by far the ideal image of the character, closely resembling the mania and pure evil of 1940s Joker from the old Batman comics). Though many will argue the backstory doesn't fit with whatever sprawling and disjointed universal arc the Batman mythology has crawled on its guts through, this really depicts why The Joker is the way he is, why he doesn't care, and why no holds are barred when it comes to his pure evil because he really doesn't have anything to lose and really couldn't care less what he gains.

The 20th Anniversary edition also contains a short story reuniting Bolland with Batman for an imagined would-be assassin's fantasy of killing Batman. "The Man with No Name" shows that Bolland could've carried on producing the definitive version of Batman ad infinitim (but then again you could say the same of anything he's ever been involved in, his work is that good and I sorely miss his superior versions of Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson / The Dark Judges).

Coming back to this has made me realise why I kept lending it out though, why I wanted to convince people it was worth reading and why it never came back. It's astonishingly good and if you've never read it you might as well give up comics and take up fly fishing instead.

"Batman: The Killing Joke" by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland is still in print and if you want the definitive version of this masterpiece, this is it.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

"World of Trouble" (The Last Policeman III) by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)


So it all comes down to this. Ben H. Winters' brilliant trilogy comes to a cataclysmic end with "World of Trouble", the third in "The Last Policeman" series.

I received the book for my birthday from my mother in law and I was almost too scared to start it. How could Ben possibly end the tale in a satisfying way?

 For those new to the series, the world is about to end. A giant asteroid is on a collision course with the planet and there's nothing we can do about it. No last-ditch attempt to blow it to smithereens with nukes, no plucky team of miners landing on it in a pimped up space rover. Nothing, just the inevitability of the catastrophic event and the gradual erosion of civilisation as people attempt to bunker down and somehow survive. People except Henry "Hank" Palace, our dogged and determined hero who is still playing detective even as the world around him descends further into chaos. In the third book Hank is on the trail of his wayward sister Nico, who has fallen in with a survivalist cult and disappeared. Hank is driven to finding her, perhaps through family loyalty or just the need to be close to someone you know at the end. But the path ahead is dark, even darker than the forthcoming cosmic event which will inevitably wipe away humanity as easy as swatting a fly.

 Hank is not alone. With his faithful hound by his side, and a not-so-faithful nefarious criminal in tow, Nico is tracked to an abandoned basement, reinforced with a huge concrete floor to cover...what? Time is running out, but partially to preserve his own sanity and partially to find out what has happened to Nico, Hank continues his own methodical investigation but will there be time to wrap up this one last final case before the end? Ben H. Winters has pulled off the achievement of maintaining the momentum of the series right to the very last page of this final book (which, obviously, I'm not going to spoil for you).

With each plot twist and turn, the book has you asking of yourself the same questions Hank asks. What do we, as humans, hold dear to us? What drives us? Why do we do the things we do? The grand backdrop on which this story plays out is the distraction for what becomes, in essence, a story not about the cataclysmic collision but about humanity itself as each character we encounter in the story describes a particular human frailty.

Obsession, greed, mistrust, envy and above all the essence of self preservation that each of us has right up until the very end, sometimes but not exclusively at the cost of others. So now there's a huge gaping asteroid-sized hole in my life now the series has come to a close. If you want to experience a three-book-journey into the darkest corners of your own character, then "The Last Policeman" and its two stable mates will deliver that in spades.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Bad Little Children's Books: Kidlit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs and Offensively Tweaked Covers by Arthur C. Gackley (Abrams)

No comments:
Oh dear...! Not one that I could possibly review on Read It, Daddy this one. Despite the appearance, this anthology of spoofs and parodies of "Golden Age" children's picture books - by fictional author Arthur C. Gackley, is definitely not one for kids. In fact you will have to hide this away from their prying eyes, lest they feast their peepers on some pretty questionable stuff.

"Bad Little Children's Books" is an idea that's been floating around on the Internet for quite a while. Classic children's book covers are subtly 'tweaked' for shits and giggles, spawning an ever-increasing whirlwind of madness and hilarity for those of you with a distinctly warped sense of humour, the sort of kids who spent way too much time hovering over anthills with magnifying glasses in our misspent youth.

The cover sets the table for what you'll find inside pretty well - an image of a lactose-intolerant little girl yakking up her morning milk. It really doesn't get much better from there...

Eek. 

The core idea isn't that bad, but some of the jokes fell hopelessly flat while others were the sort of jokes you nervously laugh at if a colleague at work blurts one out during coffee time.

Ack.
As I said at the top of the review, you really don't want this getting into the hands of your little ones!

Slightly worrying that I can think of a handful of folk who would probably love this as a christmas pressie stocking filler, and I can well imagine it doing very well in the run up to the yuletide season. It wanted to be cleverer than it actually was though, parodies really only work on me if they're smartly intelligent AND funny, not just the equivalent of someone farting into a cushion then holding it over your face.

"Bad Little Children's Books" by Arthur C. Gackley is out now, published by Abrams.
Read More

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

No comments:
Hello dark blog, it's been a while. I had to come and revisit you purely to talk about Saga Volume 6 which dropped into my hands a couple of days ago.

There comes a time in every comic fan's life where they reach a point in a long-running series where they start to wonder if they're just spinning their wheels waiting for 'something' to happen.

Saga, one of the most refreshing and original comics in decades, has wowed me consistently. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have designed a grown-up comic world that has always felt like it's talking about ordinary everyday life situations put through a blender on the highest speed setting, whizzed up into a surreal sci-fi smoothie that you can't help but guzzle down in one greedy gulp.

Actually make that 6 greedy gulps so far because, without following the comics themselves and just waiting for each collection as I do, you really are on a slow burn with this series as we follow the exploits of an interstellar child, the product of a man and a woman who should be trying to kill, not kiss, each other.

Hazel is the pint-sized narrator for Saga, talking about her life from birth to now - and the 'now' sees Hazel as a toddling kindergarten kid who has probably seen and experienced far more than any kid should have.

Her parents, Marko and Alana switch from being fugitives on the run in this volume, to parents who will stop at nothing to get their daughter back after she was kidnapped at the end of Volume 5.

Hounded by Prince Robot IV, the once-enemies now join forces to find their children, marooned across the galaxy.

Saga's genius has always been in the way that it underpins the main storyline with sub-plots that feel scintillatingly saucy and no holds barred. We catch up with The Will, who has become fat and docile and even more mentally unstable than ever before since the death of his sister and his former lover. The Will is also hunting for Prince Robot IV's offspring to exact a terrible revenge.

Hazel's story is still as fresh and vital as in previous volumes though there were times where I felt this volume lost a head of steam it had been gathering nicely. Still though, there are seldom few comics that can do uber-violent sexy and feminist all within the space of a few pages. In some ways it keeps reminding me of a more adult and risque version of Lexx, the genius surreal sci fi series from the 90s that really ended way before it was due. I'm not really sure why.

Vaughan and Staples know where they're heading with this. We don't yet, but I get the feeling that this is a series that could carry on for a very long time to come. So in answer, it hasn't quite reached that point where the series has lost traction. Grab the collected first three volumes now, and then guzzle down the rest as soon as you possibly can.
Read More

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Hark, a Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Jonathan Cape)

No comments:
Kate Beaton's "Hark, a Vagrant" website is required reading for cerebral folk who love a bit of alternative history but also don't mind snorting coffee out of their noses.

Collecting together some of the earliest strips, the first "Hark, A Vagrant" Collection is out now from Jonathan Cape.

If you're after a flavour of what to expect, imagine history documented and chronicled by someone who has infinite respect for the subject matter, but also likes to royally extract the urine from it too.

Kate's versions of famous historical (and fictional) characters are raddled with flaws, often vainglorious, but pant-wettingly hilarious. I think I annoyed my wife with this book - partly because she thinks comic strips are a bit babyish, but mostly because the book caused me to laugh out loud spontaneously. Rarely have I ever read a comic strip anthology that's had this effect but Kate's illustrations and situational observation are both razor sharp as is her wit.

Image (C) Kate Beaton 2015

Of course, some of the strips are a bit on the sweary and adult side (which is why I'm reviewing "Hark, a Vagrant" here rather than on ReadItDaddy - and had to prise the book out of my daughter's hands before she read anything too rude) but maaan, can Kate ever swear with style and aplomb.

Check out the web comic and check out the two collected volumes (this and "Step Aside, Pops") - Both are fantastic.



Read More

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Batman: Year 1 by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli (DC Comics)

No comments:
Perhaps the reason I'm so fascinated by Batman is that there are so many different 'takes' on the character that attempt to revive what it must've felt like to encounter Bob Kane and Bill Finger's character for the first time.

Back in the mid 80s, DC wanted to update their catalogue of superhero titles which had descended into stale samey stories with seemingly no direction or vision. Most writers tasked with re-inventing DC's other mainstays like Superman and Wonder Woman took cues from movies and TV but Frank Miller drew on something entirely different. The seething criminal underbelly of the US at the time, and the complete departure from Batman's fairly campy trademark shenanigans towards something entirely dark and malevolent.

"The Dark Knight Returns" (a huge favourite of mine) dealt with Batman's later years, as he struggles to maintain law and order in a city that has no moral boundaries, is ruled by gangs and has no sense of honour or respect amongst the various villains who cross the Dark Knight's path. Here though in "Batman: Year One" we return to Batman's well-trodden origin story to show Batman's evolution from vigilante to the ultimate symbol of justice.

We also get to learn Jim Gordon's origins (and if you're currently watching "Gotham" on Netflix, you'll definitely see seeds of Miller and Mazzuchelli's work dotted throughout that fine series) - and explore more of Batman's world as we begin to see Gotham as a city where the rot sets in from two directions, up from the streets and down from the GCPD and the justice system which is corrupt and powerless to stop various factions carving up Gotham like a christmas turkey.

Batman does take a bit of a back seat as "Year One" gets up to speed, and though it lacks the immediacy and some might say the 'completeness' of The Dark Knight Returns, it definitely instigated a huge revival of interest in the character before Tim Burton's movies came along and underpinned the comic's dark tones with cinematic gothic tones of its own.

Now it's almost impossible to imagine Batman being anything other than grim and gritty. "Year 1" is an absolutely essential part of your Bat-collection though.
Read More

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

"The Martian" by Andy Weir (Del Rey Publishing)

No comments:
Though you could be mistaken for thinking that this book was about a space-suited George Michael at the height of his fame thanks to the cover, inside is a work of intricate genius centred around one man's mission to stay alive in the most inhospitable climate imaginable - the harsh surface of the red planet, Mars.

Astronaut Mark Watney is the victim of a horrific accident during a manned mission to Mars. Left for dead by his crew, Watney actually survives ending up with a flagpole through his chest (!) and thus begins his fight for survival. With meagre resources but a ton of ingenuity and inventiveness, Watney becomes Mars' first farmer and realises that even on a desolate barren and unpopulated planet, Mankind's previous visits may well save him yet.

Told mostly from Mark's perspective, "The Martian" is obviously well researched, is hugely tense and exciting and eschews the random pratfall Mr-Magoo-esque exploits of the movie "Gravity" for a thorough and fascinating investigation into what it would be like to be in Mark's place. Would you have the will to carry on when it feels like the whole planet wants to kill you in a variety of new and interesting ways?

Dark humour laces the story as Mark struggles to stay mentally healthy as well as physically. Andy Weird has a talent for perfectly describing the sheer danger involved in space travel and exploration and the myriad of things that could go horribly wrong.

It's wholly engrossing, one of those books you have to force yourself to put down once you've started in on it and now there's a movie on the table, get into the book first (just in case Ridley Scott does a "Prometheus" on this and turns it into a horrible mess!)

"The Martian" by Andy Weir is out now in paperback from Del Rey Publishing.
Read More

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (DC Comics)

No comments:
To be entirely truthful, I'm fed up with losing this book and this will be the 5th and very last time I replace it (and it definitely won't be 'loaned out' to anyone ever again, never!). Clad in a new hard cover with Brian Bolland taking on colouring duties for this 20th Anniversary edition of (arguably) The Joker's darkest outing ever, it's not difficult to see why so many people stole my copy (yes stole, because I'd never willingly give anything this good away to anyone).

Origin stories are always tough to get right. Die-hard comic fans will always grumble and moan if someone comes in and interferes with an established character's genesis and it's always puzzled me why any new 'Superhero' movie or reboot feels the need to shove origin stories down your throat time and time again (please, spare us from ever seeing Peter Parker's uncle murdered, or Bruce Wayne's parents buying the farm in a dark alley).

But the Joker's origins? That's something that's been lightly touched on in movies (not difficult to see how Tim Burton used a few ideas from "The Killing Joke" in his first Batman flick) but never with a note that makes you feel sympathetic to the gibbering lunatic's plight.

Starting out with Batman visiting the Joker in Arkham, and finding out that someone's pulled a switch and the Joker has escaped, we're soon spiralling on a rollercoaster ride of madness and violence courtesy of the clown prince of crime.

I think the main reason I love this graphic novel so much is because Batman takes a back seat. He's there briefly in scenes where he is merely a foil to the Joker's chaotic and directionless psychotic behaviour, gunning down Barbara Gordon (that scene is one of the most brutal I've ever seen in a comic but you'll probably argue I don't read the right comics) and kidnapping Commissioner Gordon for no better reason than to lure Batman to his doom.

In the present day this plotline is fairly cliched and throwaway (Oh look, the Joker's found yet another dismantled Amusement Park to turn into a criminal base!) but it's when the story digs right into the Joker's early life as a failed comedian turning to crime to support his pregnant wife, his emergence as "The Red Hood" and his eventual transformation into the Joker after falling into a chemical pit that lifts this story right up there into the higher echelons of Bat-legend.

After almost 20 years without a copy, it's been refreshing to see Bolland's work restored in this way, with all the original colouring by John (Watchmen) Higgins removed, linework subtly improved and new digital colours added by Brian himself. Flashback scenes feel vastly improved with highlights picked out in stark contrasting colours to compliment the fantastic character artwork (Bolland's Joker is by far the ideal image of the character, closely resembling the mania and pure evil of 1940s Joker from the old Batman comics). Though many will argue the backstory doesn't fit with whatever sprawling and disjointed universal arc the Batman mythology has crawled on its guts through, this really depicts why The Joker is the way he is, why he doesn't care, and why no holds are barred when it comes to his pure evil because he really doesn't have anything to lose and really couldn't care less what he gains.

The 20th Anniversary edition also contains a short story reuniting Bolland with Batman for an imagined would-be assassin's fantasy of killing Batman. "The Man with No Name" shows that Bolland could've carried on producing the definitive version of Batman ad infinitim (but then again you could say the same of anything he's ever been involved in, his work is that good and I sorely miss his superior versions of Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson / The Dark Judges).

Coming back to this has made me realise why I kept lending it out though, why I wanted to convince people it was worth reading and why it never came back. It's astonishingly good and if you've never read it you might as well give up comics and take up fly fishing instead.

"Batman: The Killing Joke" by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland is still in print and if you want the definitive version of this masterpiece, this is it.
Read More

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

"World of Trouble" (The Last Policeman III) by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)

No comments:

So it all comes down to this. Ben H. Winters' brilliant trilogy comes to a cataclysmic end with "World of Trouble", the third in "The Last Policeman" series.

I received the book for my birthday from my mother in law and I was almost too scared to start it. How could Ben possibly end the tale in a satisfying way?

 For those new to the series, the world is about to end. A giant asteroid is on a collision course with the planet and there's nothing we can do about it. No last-ditch attempt to blow it to smithereens with nukes, no plucky team of miners landing on it in a pimped up space rover. Nothing, just the inevitability of the catastrophic event and the gradual erosion of civilisation as people attempt to bunker down and somehow survive. People except Henry "Hank" Palace, our dogged and determined hero who is still playing detective even as the world around him descends further into chaos. In the third book Hank is on the trail of his wayward sister Nico, who has fallen in with a survivalist cult and disappeared. Hank is driven to finding her, perhaps through family loyalty or just the need to be close to someone you know at the end. But the path ahead is dark, even darker than the forthcoming cosmic event which will inevitably wipe away humanity as easy as swatting a fly.

 Hank is not alone. With his faithful hound by his side, and a not-so-faithful nefarious criminal in tow, Nico is tracked to an abandoned basement, reinforced with a huge concrete floor to cover...what? Time is running out, but partially to preserve his own sanity and partially to find out what has happened to Nico, Hank continues his own methodical investigation but will there be time to wrap up this one last final case before the end? Ben H. Winters has pulled off the achievement of maintaining the momentum of the series right to the very last page of this final book (which, obviously, I'm not going to spoil for you).

With each plot twist and turn, the book has you asking of yourself the same questions Hank asks. What do we, as humans, hold dear to us? What drives us? Why do we do the things we do? The grand backdrop on which this story plays out is the distraction for what becomes, in essence, a story not about the cataclysmic collision but about humanity itself as each character we encounter in the story describes a particular human frailty.

Obsession, greed, mistrust, envy and above all the essence of self preservation that each of us has right up until the very end, sometimes but not exclusively at the cost of others. So now there's a huge gaping asteroid-sized hole in my life now the series has come to a close. If you want to experience a three-book-journey into the darkest corners of your own character, then "The Last Policeman" and its two stable mates will deliver that in spades.
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