Thursday, 31 December 2015

The 10 Best Fiction/Non-Fiction of 2015

Another year of literary prizes – the Nobel, the Pulitzer, the Booker, and so on – and I’m happy to report I didn’t read any books that were awarded them! Like every year I read a few books that were published prior to this year like Alex Garland’s The Coma, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Man in the High Castle, and enjoyed them all.

But this list is about good books published in 2015 that I read and, luckily, there’s just about ten to fill it out – onto the books! 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Orc Stain, Volume 1 by James Stokoe Review

Orc Stain is set in a world run by Orcs where they’re as savage and stupid and conflict-driven as they’re portrayed in other media. Broadly the story is this one orc chieftain, the Orctzar, has risen to power and is uniting the other clans by taking them over but he’s especially concerned with finding a one-eyed orc who happens to be our protagonist, One-Eye.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Harrow County, Volume 2: Twice Told Review (Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook)

Didja like the first Harrow County? Then you’ll probably like the second book too. It’s more of the same southern gothic “horror” that’s kinda corny/contrived (this one part of the world sure is riddled with magical creatures!) and not-at-all scary but it’s drawn nice. That’s one thing I took away from this second volume: a deeper appreciation for Tyler Crook’s art, though I liked Cullen Bunn’s writing less this time around. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Nameless Review (Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham)

An asteroid 14 miles long and 6 miles wide is hurtling towards Earth at 50,000 miles an hour - it’s called Xibalba after the Mayan underworld, the “place of fear”, and the extinction-level impact will be in 33 days. An eccentric billionaire called Paul Darius launches a crew into space to save the world, among them the occult expert Nameless whose sigils will hopefully stop whatever evil is contained within Xibalba. It’s Armageddon by way of HP Lovecraft with a dash of Inception and Prometheus! 

Thoughts From Iceland: A Travelogue Comic by Lonnie Mann Review

In 2012, Lonnie Mann visited Iceland for a brief four days to create this comic of his experiences. He doesn’t do a whole lot on his trip. He hikes a glacier and falls over - that’s the drama - and then spends the rest of the time in cafes sampling fancy coffees and treats!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield Review

Bellman & Black wasn’t just the worst novel I’ve read all year (and I’ve read some humdingers this year!) but it’s down there amongst the worst novels I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. 

Star Wars: Shattered Empire Review (Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto)

Ugh, there are Ewoks in this thing - AND Naboo! Wait, come back, they’re only brief appearances (at least they didn’t show us any Gungans)! 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Warzones: Guardians of Knowhere Review (Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato)

This one’s not part of Brian Bendis’ ongoing Guardians title, this is a Secret Wars tie-in, part of the Warzones series. It’s also turrible! 

The 10 Best Comics of 2015

Lotta great comics came out this year so whittling down my favourites to a manageable ten was tough. Image, the third biggest comics publisher in the world, continued to be the main counter-programming to Marvel/DC’s superhero stranglehold on the market with some amazing, original titles.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Dragon Puncher by James Kochalka Review

Dragon Puncher is a grumpy cat in a battle suit that punches dragons. He meets Spoony-E, a baby-faced chap with a wooden spoon, and the two team-up to battle a gigantic James Kochalka-faced dragon.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Final Crisis Review (Grant Morrison, JG Jones)

Final Crisis is essentially a celebration of Jack Kirby’s contributions to the DCU couched in an end of the world “Crisis” event book between good (led by Superman) and evil, as Darkseid returns. His various minions are preparing Earth for his arrival in an attempt to curry his favour. A villain called Libra is trying to unite all the supervillains together against the superheroes, the Anti-Life equation is brainwashing everyone it comes across to Darkseid’s way of thinking, and the Green Lantern Corps has been infiltrated by a Darkseid spy. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2 Review (Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello)

Bruce Wayne is dead. Long live Batman? 

Except he’s not. And that’s why the start of this second issue cheesed me off a bit - of course Bruce isn’t dead! There’s no Dark Knight book without him so why are we spending a third of the issue on this water-treading pretense? 

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Volume 9: The Reign of the Black Flame Review (Mike Mignola, James Harren)

I think I’ve been looking at BPRD all wrong – up til now I’ve thought of it as this finite story, which is why its plodding pace has annoyed me so much; but I don’t think that’s what Mike Mignola/Dark Horse have in mind. They’re creating middle story with no resolution, ie. setting up their own Batman/Spider-Man-type template with BPRD. They want these guys to always be wandering towns and cities fighting kaiju and recurring bad guys like the Black Flame and never getting any closer to defeating them. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Hank Johnson, Agent of Hydra #1 Review (David Mandel, Michael Walsh)

Nick Fury breaks into a Hydra facility, knocking out two guards before continuing his mission. But we linger on one of the guards and then cut to him out of uniform sat at his kitchen table nursing his bruised noggin and looking miserable. This is Hank Johnson, Agent of Hydra! 

Batman & Robin Eternal #1 Review (James Tynion IV, Tony Daniel)

You know this story: kid’s parents are gunned down in front of him – but in Cairo, Egypt?! So begins the second “season” of Batman Eternal, renamed Batman & Robin Eternal. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Baltimore, Volume 5: The Apostle and The Witch of Harju Review (Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck)

I wonder whether this book would be published if a no-name writer wrote this? The fifth Baltimore volume contains two short arcs, The Witch of Harju and The Wolf and the Apostle. In the Witch, Baltimore and his crew find a witch in a village and kill her. In the Wolf, a different crew find a werewolf in a castle and kill it. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

B.P.R.D., Volume 11: The Black Goddess Review (Mike Mignola, Guy Davis)

The BPRD’s search for Liz Sherman takes them to a hidden Shangri-La on the Russian/Chinese border where a sorcerer called Memnan Saa plans to weaponise Liz’s untapped powers to save the world from the frog army. Cue big kaiju fighting and lengthy exposition! 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware Review

Twenty-six year old crime novelist Nora receives an unexpected e-vite from her old high school friend, Clare – she’s getting married and Nora’s invited to the hen night! Nora’s wary though as she hasn’t seen Clare in ten years and they parted ways bitterly – why reach out to her now? She agrees to go and, along with the five other guests, heads to the maid of honour’s aunt’s house in the wintry Northern England countryside for the party. Except foul play is afoot and someone won’t be leaving the house alive… 

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah van Sciver Review

“The Hypo” was a nineteenth century term for clinical depression and top hat enthusiast Abraham Lincoln was a lifelong sufferer of the illness. Noah van Sciver takes a look at a (relatively) little-known part of Lincoln’s life: his late 20s/early 30s, long before he became president. Lincoln was struggling with his burgeoning political career and law practice amidst mental problems and heartache from the troubled courtship of his future wife, Mary Todd. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sons of the Devil, Volume 1 Review (Brian Buccellato, Toni Infante)

Troubled twenty-something Travis was orphaned as a kid and bounced around foster homes. But when his foster brother claims to have found Travis’ biological father, he’s stabbed to death. Travis’ father was Satanic cult leader David Daly who sired numerous kids before his early death when the Feds raided his Manson Family-esque base in 1989. Today, David has somehow returned and decided to reunite with his children – a bloody union intended to bring the Devil to the mortal world! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Cartel by Don Winslow Review

Drugs are bad, m’kay? And so’s Don Winslow’s latest novel, The Cartel, m’kay? 

Ok, I’ll stop that (m’kay?)! 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Harley Quinn, Volume 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab Review (Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti)

Remember the #0 issue where a ton of artists contributed pages for Harley’s sugar-induced hallucinations? Apparently that’s now the format of the series! Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti write Harley waaaayy out of character and have fashioned her into a do-gooder type who’s created a mob of Harley-ettes who fight crime. That’s the feeble “story” of this nearly 200 page book!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Ms Marvel, Volume 4: Last Days Review (G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona)

In this book, Kamala meets her biggest threat yet: the whims of Marvel editorial! That’s right, Ms Marvel and her creators G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona all get sucked into the maelstrom of shit that is Secret Wars in this fourth volume, Last Days. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Star Wars: Kanan, Volume 1: The Last Padawan Review (Greg Weisman, Pepe Larraz)

Writer Greg Weisman takes his Star Wars Marvel comic in a slightly different direction than the others that’ve appeared this year by setting his before the original trilogy. Wuh-oh - that means we’re in prequel territory! But don’t worry, it’s begins right at the very end of Revenge of the Shit and afterwards the prequels are never mentioned again (except for one scene where the cowardly Obi-Wan pops up in a message - boo!). 

Luminae by Bengal Review

Luminae is the story of some scantily-clad women with magic powered weapons fighting a demon whose army is threatening a human castle.

If you think spectacularly shite writer/artist Bengal elaborates on that flimsy premise in this book, think again! He could not have written a less affecting story than Luminae. It’s so broad and bland, it’s staggering something with less substance than an outline/storyboard got published at all. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Secret Wars #8 Review (Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic)

Something AMAZING happens in Secret Wars #8: for the first time in the series, the cover actually reflects what happens inside the comic! 

Quite how the Thing has gotten to be giant-sized remains a mystery, as does how Galactus has gotten so (relatively) short, but they do punch each other. Woah… I don’t care. Maybe that’s exciting for some readers (likely wrestling fans)? 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Super Street Fighter, Volume 1: New Generation Review (Ken Siu-Chong, Jim Zub)

Besides death and taxes, the only other certainty in life is that comics based on computer games are always shit. Unless… is Super Street Fighter 2, Volume 1: New Generation – could it be? Is it… good? No. Not at all. Like death and taxes, it’s shit. Round 1 - FIGHT!

Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn Review (Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely)

The Dynamic Duo are back – Batman and Robin? No, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely - ‘ray! 

Batman’s “dead”! I know, I know, le sigh, cue eye-rolling, etc. But after his “death” in Final Crisis, a lot of great comics followed: The Return of Bruce Wayne, this great series as well as Scott Snyder’s The Black Mirror, culminating with Batman Incorporated. While Bruce is temporarily away, Dick Grayson steps up to don the cowl and become the new Batman with surly sidekick Damian Wayne as his Robin.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Violent #1 Review (Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham)

My latest review for Need to Consume was Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham's The Violent #1. Read the full piece here:

Star Trek: Khan Review (Mike Johnson, Claudia Balboni)

The framing of this book is set post-Star Trek Into Darkness but as it’s Khan’s origin story it’s set mostly in the past.

How does a white guy get an Asian name like Khan Noonien Singh? Plastic surgery! Wha… ? Yeah, there’s a few weird revelations about Khan here. Like how he started life as an Indian orphan and became tyrant of Earth in the late 20th century without, somehow, leaving any records from the time to verify this! 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean Review

It’s the post-apocalypse and a woman putzes around the desolate planet with her cat in her knapsack singing arias to herself. She’s trying to repair a large mech suit, which is important for no reason, while fending off cliched tribal survivors who are trying to kill her, also for no reason. That’s the whole book! 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman Review

(Some minor spoilsies ahead.) 

Our nameless narrator returns to his childhood home for his father’s funeral, triggering a book-length flashback to the time when he was seven years old and witnessed the age-old battle between good and evil – in magic form! 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities, Volume 3: The Orm of Loch Ness Review (Eric Powell, Kyle Hotz)

Billy and the travelling Freakshow head north to bonnie Scotland, home of Nessie, to rescue their reptilian buddy Callahan. But oh no, what’s this - Dracula?! Buh buh buuuuuh! 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Punisher MAX: Homeless Review (Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon)

No guns, no safehouses, no allies - no problem.

Tony Consiglio's Double Cross Collection by Tony Consiglio Review

This book collects a number of Tony Consiglio’s out-of-print Double Cross mini-comics from the series inception in 1993 to the present day. They’re mostly comedic slice-of-life short stories with some fiction and it’s not bad! 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Doctor Strange #2 Review (Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo)

If there’s something weird
In your librarian’s head 
Who ya gonna call? 
Strange doctor! 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D: 1952 Review (Mike Mignola, Alex Maleev)

I was hoping this one was going to be a throwback of sorts to when Hellboy appeared alongside the likes of Abe Sapien and Professor Trevor Bruttenholm; unfortunately, aside from the Professor making a brief cameo at the start, there’s no sign of any classic BPRD characters in this book, just a group of forgettable military types who accompany a teenage Hellboy on his first mission to Brazil. At least we’re well away from the current state of things in the BPRD series which is a static and increasingly tedious apocalypse-in-slow-motion. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters Review (Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening)

Donatello builds a stargate and accidentally teleports himself and the other Turtles to a different New York – the Ghostbusters’ New York! The two franchises proceed to putz around for as long as they need to and then it ends. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Barrier #1 Review (Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin)

The Panel Syndicate team behind The Private Eye – Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente – return for a great new digital comic: Barrier! 

Texas cowgirl Liddy and her Mexican employee Balthazar find a horse’s head on her land, skinned of its hide and missing its eyeballs – is it a message from a Mexican drug cartel who’re using her land for deals, or something else...? On the other side of the border is Oscar, a young Mexican man, making the arduous journey of getting into the States illegally. 

Clown Fatale Review (Victor Gischler, Maurizio Rosenzweig)

Remember the Grindhouse fad from roughly ten years ago? Someone needed to have told Victor Gischler that Grindhouse-style “homages” are over now. That’s what makes Clown Fatale so boring, because Gischler uses “because Grindhouse!” as a constant excuse for lazy writing and a cliché-ridden script.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow by Dan Rhodes Review

World famous atheist and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, accompanied by his male secretary Smee, is going to the quiet English village of Upper Bottom to give a talk to the Women’s Institute. Unfortunately heavy snow leaves them stranded in the nearby town of Market Horten and forces them to lodge with a retired vicar and his wife. Let battle commence! 

Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities, Volume 2: The Ghastly Fiend of London Review (Eric Powell, Kyle Hotz)

Billy and the Travelling Freakshow are in merry old Victorian England during the time of the Ripper murders. At the behest of their friend, Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant Man, Billy and Fineas Sproule venture into Whitechapel to see if they can catch the killer. But Saucy Jack has some dark surprises waiting for them in the shadows… 

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Goon, Volume 15: Once Upon a Hard Time by Eric Powell Review

Once Upon a Hard Time is the second half of the Occasion of Revenge storyline and it begins immediately afterwards too so don’t pick this up until you’ve read that. 

Goon is losing it. The coven of witches, or "Magpies", have him on the ropes and his alliance with Don Rigatti is broken. He sees death in every outcome - even his own. Will Lonely St. lose its champion once and for all? 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, Volume 3: The Mysteries of Unland Review (Kim Newman, Tyler Crook)

This is the first new Witchfinder book in some time and it sees Mike Mignola step back as Kim Newman and Maura McHugh take over the writing - and unfortunately produce the only dismal volume in the series so far. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Secret Wars #7 Review (Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic)

Jonathan Hickman can sometimes - rarely - be a good storyteller; Secret Wars is not one of those times. 

So much has happened in between the last issue and this and it’s not clear when or how or why any of it happened - very sloppy writing. Maybe a lot of it happened in the spinoffs (Marvel are calling them “Warzones”) but I had hoped Secret Wars would be its own contained story and this issue proves that to understand how things went from issue #6 to #7 there’s going to be more than a few tie-ins you’re gonna have to read to fill in the blanks, which sucks. 

Archie Vs Predator Review (Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz)

I’m not really a fan of either Archie or Predator but I did want to read a comic where the cast of Archie get eviscerated by a bloodthirsty dreadlocked alien hunter! Is it worth explaining the premise? It’s a gimmicky comic in the vein of Archie Meets The Punisher. Predator comes to Riverdale and starts killing. That’s it!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Airboy Review (James Robinson, Greg Hinkle)

James Robinson is in a bad place. He’s spending too much time getting fucked up on booze and drugs because he’s dissatisfied with his work at DC and the pigeonhole he’s found himself in at this point of his career as “the guy who reboots Golden Age characters”. So when he’s approached by Image publisher Eric Stephenson to reboot Airboy, another Golden Age character, he’s hesitant but takes the job for the cash. 

The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig Review

This book collects five of Stefan Zweig’s novellas: Chess, Fear, Confusion, Journey Into The Past and Burning Secret. 

I became a Zweig fan after first reading Chess a few years ago – little did I realise that that was his only good book and the rest of his output is very poor! I am a Zweig fan no longer. 

The Punisher MAX: Frank Review (Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon)

Frank’s final encounter with Bullseye has left him half-dead and in prison. But what’s really shaken him are the words Bullseye whispered to him right at the end of the last book – the words he figured out that Frank said to his wife before she was killed along with their kids all those years ago. As Frank slowly heals, the prison gangs are circling him like vultures, waiting for their moment to slay the Punisher once and for all. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Confusion by Stefan Zweig Review

Confusion is about a university student who goes from party monster to serious student, becoming obsessed with his charismatic literature teacher – who has a “dark secret”! The two become close as the student helps the teacher write a book on Elizabethan theatre and then… things happen.