James Bowman (jeb1981) wrote,
James Bowman

Books I read in April 2016

One Piece: Skypiea 25-26-27, by Eiichiro Oda, 4/5 (B+)
Some solid stuff in the opening chapters in Jaya, but once we get into Skypiea proper, something undefinable is lost. Mind, the Skypiea setting itself is cool, and there's some interesting world-building. But the actual events that happen on Skypiea lack urgency. It's kind of like watching a filler arc in an anime, except that this arc is written by the actual creator. (I think someone I know actually used that analogy, years ago, but it definitely fits.)

Darkwing Duck: Campaign Carnage, by Ian Brill et al, 4.5/5 (A-)
Two good main stories here. The first features Quackerjack, in the culmination of his darker turn since the comic began. The other story (the main one) introduces a number of new villains centered around Darkwing's run for mayor. (There's also one short story sandwiched between them, by DW creator Tad Stones.) The new villains are overall good, with One-Shot being my personal favorite. Plus, there are also some fun cameos by classic villains, and not just from Darkwing lore...

Transformers: Monstrosity, by Chris Metzen and Flint Dille, 4.5/5 (A-)
Picking up where Autocracy left off, this continues its darker take on the Transformers' history. Lots of good stuff in here, including Megatron's exile to another planet; Scorponok as Decepticon leader; the events that led many Transformers to abandon Cybertron; and the introduction of the Dynobots. Plus a climax straight out of a Godzilla movie. Mind, the story doesn't quite jibe with some of IDW's previous TF canon (though it can be rationalized). Also, like Autocracy, the authors (or maybe just one of them) include gratuitous nods to the animated movie... though they're much better about it this time. Overall, however, this surpasses Autocracy, with more intensity and more surprises. Definitely recommended for Transformers fans.

Transformers: Primacy, by Chris Metzen and Flint Dille, 4/5 (B+)
Third in a series (after Autocracy and Monstrosity), this continues a darker take on the Transformers' backstory. Most of this volume focuses on Megatron's renewed assault on Cybertron after the events of Monstrosity, and the build-up and action are quite good. Unfortunately, the story ends on a weak note, with a nebulous new threat arising, followed by an overly easy resolution. Not the best finale, but at least everything before that was good...

Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers, edited by Hazel Newlevant, 4.5/5 (A-)
A comics anthology by women cartoonists on their experiences with games - mainly video games, but a healthy number of tabletop gamers and LARPers as well. Most of the comics are autobiographical in nature, and run the gamut from joy to sorrow, wacky fun to cold seriousness. My personal top picks were those by Sara Goetter, Rachel Ordway, Kinoko Evans, Sarah Stern, Aatmaja Pandya, and Elizabeth Simins. The collection was an engrossing read, and provided this male gamer with some welcome perspectives on the female gamer experience. Very recommended. (Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer for this book.)

Flash: Terminal Velocity, by Mark Waid, 4.5/5 (A-)
In the aftermath of DC's Zero Hour crossover, Mark Waid used this arc to establish a new standard for Flash stories. Wally West finds himself drawn to a mysterious force - a Speed Force - which is connected to all speedster superheroes. Unfortunately, he also has a vision of impending doom, forcing him to try and convince the newly-arrived Impulse to step up to the plate as his successor.

The story is exciting and fast-paced, as you'd expect of a Flash tale, although the villainous threat of Kobra almost feels like an afterthought here (and Waid basically admits as such in the afterword). Terminal Velocity is really about Wally and Linda Park's relationship, and Wally's connection to his fellow speedsters. We also get some good background on the previously mysterious Max Mercury, as well as solid character moments for Impulse (who had more of an attitude at this point) and Jesse Quick (one of my favorite members of the Flash supporting cast). While this may not be Waid's greatest Flash story, it's certainly one of the most iconic and important, and definitely good stuff.

Doctor Who III Volume 4: Dead Man's Hand, by Tony Lee, 4/5 (B)
IDW's Doctor Who comics end on a decently good note here, with the main story being a SF-western mashup. Also a few nods to previous IDW Doctor Who tales. (Unfortunately, this collection does not include the Doctor Who Special, "The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who". You'll have to find that elsewhere.)

Doctor Who: Trading Futures, by Lance Parkin, 4.5/5 (A-)
Another fine and highly entertaining Doctor Who novel by Lance Parkin, featuring the Eighth Doctor, Fitz, and Anji. Trading Futures mixes spy-fi and sci-fi in a not-entirely-implausible near-future setting, with secret agents and other powers competing over a time machine while America and Europe grow ever closer to war. Parkin does a great job giving all three of our heroes their own plotlines (especially Anji), providing us with an interesting supporting cast, and throwing in enough unexpected twists and one-liners to keep things interesting. Fun stuff, and definitely one of the better Eighth Doctor tales.

Sluggy Freelance: Ghosts in the Gastank, by Pete Abrams, 4/5 (B)
The tenth Sluggy Freelance collection collects comics from 2002 to 2003, mainly featuring the end of the Kesandru House plotline. Amusing and fairly entertaining stuff, with an interesting setting in The Never. The best inclusion is the bonus story at the end, "The Queen of Diamonds."

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part One, by Gene Luen Yang, 4.5/5 (A-)
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part Two, by Gene Luen Yang, 4.5/5 (A-)
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part Three, by Gene Luen Yang, 4.5/5 (A-)
A good Avatar: The Last Airbender story, although it does fall a little short of the previous sequel comics, mainly because it repeats some of their themes. (A more charitable view would be that it continues said threads, I suppose.) The Kemurikage were interesting, but the mastermind behind their plot wasn't hard to guess... although their motives were unexpected. This does appear to set the stage for some interesting things later on, in any case.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War, by Mike Johnson, 3.5/5 (B-)
This is a neat and unexpected crossover concept, importing the modern Green Lantern mythos into the rebooted Star Trek universe. The plot itself winds up being pretty basic (the Enterprise crew helps the Lanterns defeat an enemy from their home universe), but the fun part is what happens with the various rings once they're in the Trek galaxy. (For example, General Chang from Trek VI gets the yellow ring.) The downside is that the writer clearly only has a superficial knowledge of the Green Lantern mythos - outside of Hal and Sinestro, the characterizations are pretty weak (Carol Ferris especially) and most of the particular quirks of each ring are absent. That keeps it from being a truly great crossover, but it's still an entertaining read.
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