Monday, January 19, 2015

The Book Shelf/Fellow Author Shout-Out: Fade to Black: Awake in the Dark Book 1 by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus

From time to time in this blog, I'm going to be doing reviews of books by fellow authors that I've met either through the wonders of social media, or out in actual real life(crazy, I know). Anyway, it's always good to help out a fellow scribbler by writing a review of their books, and hopefully these folks will be willing to do the same when I'm at that stage, you know, actually published and all. But in the mean time, let's kick this off. 

So what do you do if you’re a 27 year-old slacker who keeps having seizure-induced dreams of hooded man repeatedly strangling you to death in an alley? Well, if you’re Jeff Grobnagger, you hook up with Glenn Floyd, an excellent cook and expert on secret magical societies whose daughter Amity has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Also, someone starts trying to kill you in real life. So yeah, that pretty much sucks. But one thing Fade to Black by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus doesn’t do is suck. Quite the opposite, actually.

Fade to Black is the first book in McBain and Vargus’ Awake in the Dark series, and it’s an excellent start to what I’m sure is going to be a great series. The book pulled me n immediately right from the first line. Overall, there’s a great dry, sarcastic tone to Vargus and McBain’s writing. In a way it reminded me of Victor Gischler, and that’s definitely a compliment. Fade to Black was a book that I just didn’t want to stop reading because I found myself actually caring about Jeff and what was going on with him.
Jeff’s a great narrator for the story, and his dry, sarcastic and often self-depricating way of talking about the mind-numbing weirdness that happens to him had me rocketing through the book at a lightning pace and laughing out loud several times. Definitely one of the easiest reads I’ve had so far this year. Yeah, we’re not that far into the year, but I read a lot of books, so that’s also a compliment. Hehe.

When I started the book, I was expecting a wild ride through secret magical societies, astral projection and just all in all strangeness, and I got that in spades. What I didn’t expect was the extremely personal, often heart-breaking philosophical musing that goes on at several points in the book. Just another thing that really made me care about Jeff and Glenn and anxious to know what happens to them next.

That brings me to the one complaint that I had about the book, the fact that it ended just a bit too abruptly for my taste. It was right in the middle of a really tense, gripping situation, and it just stopped. A bit on the frustrating side(I might have actually said, “Oh, come on!” out loud), but really all that did was make me want the next book in the series, pretty much right away. And oh look, the second book is already available, awesome! I’ll definitely be picking that one up too.

So, in conclusion run, do not walk to your tablet, smartphone or other e-reading device and get yourself a copy of Fade to Black. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Bookshelf: Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson

Late October's a special time of year. Halloween is almost here, the weather's getting cooler, those favorite jackets can start coming out of the closet, and sadly, it's usually High-Octane political ad season. I've noticed there's a distinct shift in the flavor of political ads that changes as it gets closer to election time. Early on you get  ads that pretty much say, "Hey there, folks, I'm CANDIDATE FOR OFFICE. Nice to meet you. You know, I've done a lot of cool things to help people, seriously, check out all the cool stuff I've done. *LIST OF COOL CRAP HE/SHE HAS DONE* See? I'm awesome. Vote for me for OFFICE. Paid for by People That Know the Sun Shines Out of THIS CANDIDATE'S Ass.

And that's fine, one must market oneself in this day and age. The thing I always have a problem with are the types of ads you get the closer you get to the election. The closer you are, the more mud-slinging that goes on. That's when you start getting ads that sound more like this:

Don't vote for CANDIDATE A. CANDIDATE A hates freedom. CANDIDATE A hates you too. Seriously, we were talking about you the other day and CANDIDATE A said, "Screw 'em. What a douche. I hate that person!" Also, CANDIDATE A poured sugar in your grandma's gas tank while kicking puppies and stealing candy from wounded soldiers' babies.Seriously, don't vote for CANDIDATE A. You don't hate freedom, your grandma, wounded soldiers' babies and puppies do you? Vote for CANDIDATE B. I'm CANDIDATE B and I approve this message, because screw CANDIDATE A.

This gets very tiresome, and some people might be on the hint for something to read that feels like it gives politicians a good kick up the backside. Well look no further, folks because I've got just the book to recommend to you to read or even reread during election season, and that book is Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72 by the late great Hunter S. Thompson. Trust me, this isn't your daddy's election coverage book, unless of course your dad is super-cool. hehe. It's no civilized, reasonable account of covering an election. No, this is Hunter S. Thompson at his Gonzo Journalistic best basically tearing the 1972 Presidential Campaign a new one in the way you'd expect from the guy who wrote Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. It's a great read at any time, but it's especially good to read during election season when you're just sick to death of all the political ads that assault your senses 24-7. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it.

Actually, I wish that Thompson was still with us. I'd love to read his take on all the shenanigans that are going on in our government today, but that's a post for another time.

Carry On Smartly

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Introduce Yourself!

Oh good. Another random guy with a blog. Just what the internet needs! Fair point, I suppose. Still, I've been out of the blogging game for several years now, and for whatever reason, I've decided to get back into it, mainly as an exercise for myself, but if anyone else happens to stumble upon it and enjoys my (undoubtedly mostly) nerdy ramblings, cool!

Basically, the point of this little corner of the net is for me to run off at the fingers about, well, many things. I'm pretty sure that most of the things I write about will be comics, books, movies, television shows, and my own steps towards becoming a writer professionally. Yeah, I know. Another aspiring writer, even MORE unique! Hehe.

Anyway, pretty much everything in here is going to be my opinion on various things. If you happen to agree with me, that's great. If you disagree, hey, that's cool too. How boring would life be if we all agreed with each other all the time about everything. Plus, this is Internet. Quickest way to see people on the internet go nuts? It's a simple two step process. 1) State an opinion about anything. 2) Wait. Hehe.

Anyway this is my blog. Yes, there are many like it but this one is mine. Welcome. Hopefully you'll find my ramblings entertaining.

Carry On Smartly,


Comic Relief: Lobo #1, The New 52

So let's kick this thing off good and proper, shall we? What better way than with a review? Well, I'm sure there are plenty of better ways, but I'm going with this one. Now before I get into this, I will say that normally when I do a review, I'm going to do my best to be as spoiler-free as possible. I figure that spoilers are far too easy to find pretty much anywhere else on the internet and usually, they'll be unwelcome here. Sometimes though, something is going to annoy me enough that I'm not going to concern myself if I "Spoil" it, usually with something I don't like. Such is the case with this post, where I'll be reviewing issue #1 of the New 52 reboot of Lobo from DC. Beware! Here be spoilers! You have been warned.

I'll admit going into this that when I read this issue, I was biased. I was expecting not to like it, and sadly, the issue didn't disappoint me. For the most part, I'm not a fan of reboots and Lobo #1 didn't do a damn thing to change that opinion. I've been a huge Lobo fan since back in the 90's when I first read the excellent Lobo: The Last Czarnian by Keith Giffen, Simon Bisley and Alan Grant. I loved the fact that since he started, Lobo has been an unabashed parody of the Ultraviolent characters in comics, guys like Wolverine and The Punisher. Lobo was rude, crude, he was pretty much the ultimate badass who threw down with everyone and did it with a wicked grin on his face. The violence was excessive and over the top, but you always got the sense that even though he was a comic book character, Lobo himself was in on the joke. So yeah, ever since then, I've been a huge Fraggin' Fan Boy of The Main Man.

Cut to last year when the new look for Lobo showed up on the net. Like a lot of people I had the Nerd Rage. I saw this overly skinny, pretty-boy thing that they were saying was the new Lobo. "No way," I thought, "The Main Man would tear this alien Bieber into bits without breaking a sweat."

Well, it turns out, no. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Lobo we all knew from the 90's on was an impostor that had stolen the "Real" Lobo's identity and rep. Hearing that made me even madder than the redesign did, and I vowed to myself that I'd have nothing to do with the New Lobo. Then my mind was drawn to other things and I forgot about the reboot until earlier this month, when I stumbled across the issue at my local seller of funny books. Out of morbid curiosity I broke my vow and picked up the issue, took it home, and with a gulp, I read it. I wish I'd saved myself the 4 bucks, because there are many MANY things that are wrong with the new "Real" Lobo.

From the get go, killing OG Lobo in the first three pages was just insulting to a long-time fan of the Main Man like me. You're asking me to believe that this skinny pretty boy version of Lobo was able to defeat The Main Man and we don't even get to see the fight? Come on! If the series was going to go that way, at LEAST the first issue should have been New Lobo finding and fighting OG Lobo, not a rushed and completely fumbled passing of the torch. Sadly after that, the situation doesn't improve.

When the story really gets going, it's a pretty generic one that we've seen before. The "Real" Lobo is an amoral Anti-Hero who's great at fighting, but there are hints of a forbidden love and a tragic past? Yeah, we've NEVER seen that type of thing before ever. Oh wait, yes we have.

Sorry that this is going to devolve into a list of gripes, at least for awhile. Actually, no. Sorry, not sorry, which is apparently Lobo's catchphrase now. Yeesh. Anyway, onto THE GRIPES!

-"Lobo's" look. Basically, he's just another pretty boy anti-hero. Yes, he's got some of that Czarnian look that OG Lobo had, but they've added glowing patches all over him in random areas. On his arms, face, in his hair. It's almost like he's sparkling. I've had gripes with other things that shouldn't sparkling in the past, so from here on out, I shall dub the character TwiLobo. I know I'm not the first to come up with that, but I don't care, it amuses me, so I'm going to do it because I need SOME form of amusement related to this comic. Hehe.

-The tragic past is just something that's been done over and over again, and they don't do anything new with it here, other than the fact that this hinted Tragic Past bothers TwiLobo so much that he regularly undergoes surgery to prevent himself from achieving REM sleep, since the parts of his brain stem that he mutilates always grow back, owing to his Czarnian regeneration ability. Ugh. This is just so emo I almost threw the book down when I read that. Just get it over with and give TwiLobo a guitar to strum moodily when he's not out killing. OG Lobo didn't get emo about killing the rest of the Czarnian race, it was a vital part of his makeup as an unapologetic badass.

-The story. Again, it's something that we've all seen many times before. TwiLobo is hired to take out the eight baddest of the bad assassins in the universe, who have all been hired to take out one target. Well, the baddest of the bad except for TwiLobo of course which he bitches about more than once. *SIGH*

-There is a very slight bit of the OG Lobo's attitude to TwiLobo, but where OG Lobo did what he did with tongue firmly planted in cheek, TwiLobo is completely serious about what he's doing. Well, there are a few attempts at humor, but they just fall flat. Also, so many of the things TwiLobo does seem like bad updates or tweaks of things OG Lobo did. OG Lobo was comfortable using all kinds of weapons to frag his targets, but most of the time, he got the job done with his bare hands or his Big Damn Meathook on a Chain. TwiLobo has guns, swords and energy-bladed hooks on him all the time. It just seems cheap. Anyone can mess up random baddies if they're strapped with that much of an arsenal.

-One stylistic gripe that I have to put by itself because it bothers me more than the others is TwiLobo's lack of a Space Chopper. Of all the things to change, that should definitely have been left alone. But no, TwiLobo has a pretty generic starship and for tooling around on the ground, he's got this thing that looks like he picked it up at The Trade Federation's garage sale. I'm sorry, but tooling around on what is essentially a souped-up, armed Unicycle doesn't say "Badass" to me. What, is DC trying to reboot Czarnia as Space Portland?

Honestly, I hope that at some point it's revealed that OG Lobo didn't actually get killed and he comes back and mops the floor with TwiLobo. Maybe just before DC decides to cancel the book.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against Cullen Bunn and Reilly Brown. I don't wish unemployment on them, and I know that they're following the dictates handed down to them by DC. I read about their original concept for the series, where both versions of Lobo are together, tooling around the Universe like some really deranged Odd Couple. That could have been very cool, and I think Cullen Bunn could easily have pulled it off. I've read his main other work, The Sixth Gun and I really like that. Sadly, he doesn't really get to tell the kind of story I think he's capable of here. Also, as far as Reilly Brown is concerned, the art does look nice, but it's just nothing new. We've seen this type of thing many times before and while he does a good job, I just get the feeling that if both Bunn and Brown had been allowed to really go for broke, we could have gotten something much better and much more interesting than what we did get which is just a generic, forgettable story about another forgettable bad-ass killing his way across the cosmos trying to escape his tragic past. Hell, they could have gone over the top and made it a parody of that genre. Lord knows the ground is fertile enough. Sadly, no. Ultimately, reading The New 52 Lobo #1 left me feeling like OG Lobo himself probably feels...

I plan on giving the book another chance or two, just to see if it gets more interesting, but as it stands, I can't recommend this book. Spend your money on better things.