Sunday, July 27, 2014

X-Force, Volume 4: Necrosha by Craig Kyle (Text), Christopher Yost, Clayton Crain

X Force, Vol. 4: NecroshaX Force, Vol. 4: Necrosha by Craig Kyle
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Oh man, this was crazy. At times, it was hard to track the fights going on, with so many different characters going at it. It's like the creators made a list of past X-Men Universe characters and threw most of them in this book. However, due to the nature of the story, there is an inherent sadness to it all. Not only sad, but creepy in the more cerebral and existential (if that's the right word) of ways. Poor James. He really goes to a dark place in this one, old griefs and horrors literally resurrected.

I freaking love this X-Force run. It's dark and bloody and visceral, but the it's also intense and gets you in the gut. There is no holding back from the team, because so much is at stake. The artwork is gorgeous. Clayton Crain is the artist, and he has a way of expressing images in a beautiful way even when the images are nightmarish and horrific. And in this series, there are plenty of both.

I can't give this a five star rating because of the fact that it was confusing and I wasn't always able to keep up with what was going on. But it's very close. Definitely 4.5 stars.

The villain is one of a kind. Truly a horrible being, with no concept of respecting life of any kind. Just understanding power and gaining more of it.

I'm going to be sad when I run out of books in this run. I know they have the Uncanny X-Force and Cable and X-Force, but the members are different. I like this team so much.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Irredeemable, Volume 4 by Mark Waid, Peter Krause (Illustrator)

Irredeemable, Vol. 3Irredeemable, Vol. 3 by Mark Waid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Plutonian's excesses and crimes against humanity escalate with each volume, and more pieces of the puzzle are revealed to the reader. In this book, we get in the head of the young boy that Plutonian once was.  His past is definitely a huge trigger for the future mental breakdown. It's terrible that such a physically powerful person could lose his grip on sanity, and this book depicts that horrible state of affairs.

We also learn about Bette Noir's connection with Plutonian.  Bette made some mistakes in her relationship with Plutonian and she has to live with that fact.  Too bad it added to his psychotic break. It's a lot of guilt to carry.  But at least her interlude with Plutonian gives the Paradigm a potentially powerful asset to use against him. 

There is a new adversary for the team to face in a government sponsored bounty hunter with a very demonic nature. 

I didn't like the demonic bounty hunter part at all.  It just rubbed me the wrong way.  But overall, I am still captivated with this series, although it does leave my nerves feeling very raw.  the good news is I can close the book and be grateful that it's just fiction.

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Avengers Arena, Volume 3: Boss Level Dennis Hopeless (Text), Christos Gage (Text), Karl Moline (Illustrations), Kev Walker (Illustrations)

Avengers Arena, Vol. 3: Boss LevelAvengers Arena, Vol. 3: Boss Level by Dennis Hopeless

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I take full responsibility for reading these out of order. The problem is, I don't care to go back and read the first ones because I know how it ends. 

I think my main reason why I didn't love this is because I'm not a big fan of the Battle Royale concept.  While in theory, it's kind of cool to see Marvel superheroes go at each other, I didn't like the idea of teens maiming and killing each other.  I'm not saying I like for adults to do it, but it doesn't feel as wrong to me as teenagers harming each other.

I wanted to take the mastermind jerk and bury him in the sand slathered with honey.  The worst kind of villain, the one who doesn't do any of his own dirty work, but runs things in the background where he's safe.

The different kids have some interesting powers and identities, so that was one of the high points of this read. Of course, I'm a pretty big fan of X-23, and it was nice to see her in this one. Some of the scenarios she was drawn into, not so much.

I can't speak to the coherence of this, because, like I said, I read it out of order.  It was pretty understandable, more or less.  The artwork is well done.  It felt like a arena/gladiator sport the way it was drawn. And I liked that they identified the different characters, since there are plenty of new ones for me.

Some readers might love this one. In my case, since it's going to a dark place that's outside of my comfort level, I didn't love it. Still, three stars since the quality is very high with this book.

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Team 7, Volume 1: Fight Fire With Fire by Justin Jordan, Jesús Merino (Illustrations)

Team 7, Vol. 1: Fight Fire With FireTeam 7, Vol. 1: Fight Fire With Fire by Justin Jordan

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I haven't gotten the chance to research Team 7 on the DC Comics Wikia, so my comments are based solely on my experience with them in reading this book.  I have to say I was underwhelmed.  While it was nice to get some backstory on Amanda Waller, a character I am coming to respect and maybe admire a little, and some exposure to Dinah Lance, I didn't feel that drawn to any of the characters. 

I love the tag team/line up-type scenario as much as any other genre fan, but this team didn't have the cohesion I expected. Also, some members seemed to get picked off randomly and I didn't understand if that was the point (short life span) or if their deaths were canon or not.

This seems to be a compilation of various stories that don't seem to go together very well or follow each other.  Some stories I liked more than others. I did like the climactic nature of the last story.  The way things ended, it makes me want to keep reading to see what happens next.  However, I'm not sucked into this series and it wouldn't be much of a loss to drop it now.

Probably not fair to compare, but I like Suicide Squad a lot more. It has more character, energy and the craziness makes sense in a strange way, while this book had me scratching my head more than a time or two.

I think I'll have to give this one 2.5/5.0 stars.

Gonna head over and read the DC Wikia now.

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Five Ghosts, Volume 1: The Haunting of Fabian Gray by Frank J. Barbiere, Chris Mooneyham (Illustrator)

Five Ghosts, Vol. 1: The Haunting of Fabian GrayFive Ghosts, Vol. 1: The Haunting of Fabian Gray by Frank J. Barbiere

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a lucky find when I was browsing my library's graphic novel collection.  I am a big ghost story fan, and I like the idea of a hero who has assumed the powers of different spirits.  It's not quite what I thought, but it's still pretty good.

There's a pretty significant old school vibe to this book. I think the creators were going for a pulp vibe.  The adventure and ready mix of supernatural elements.  The energy is evident in the artwork.  It's raw and somehow visceral. Using a lot of warm shades. The cover doesn't quite represent the color palette that dominates the book.

I really liked how Fabian Gray's spirit helpers are famous archetypes from fiction and literature, and how their abilities are harnessed and used by Fabian, although it comes with a price.

I can't give this the highest rating.  While there was much I liked about it, it wasn't ground-breaking and it doesn't appeal to me in the execution as much as other graphic novels I'm reading. However, I think it will be interesting to pick this series up again and see what adventure are next for Mr. Gray.

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Deathstroke, Volume 1: Legacy by Kyle Higgins (Goodreads Author), Simon Bisley (Illustrations)

Deathstroke, Vol. 1: LegacyDeathstroke, Vol. 1: Legacy by Kyle Higgins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slade Wilson is a jerk. Let's be honest.  He has put his desire to be the best warrior before everything.  He will take on just about any mission just so he can achieve the recognition and accolades of completing the mission. It's not about the money.

I found him hard to like.  That makes it's difficult to root for a character when he's so insufferable.  I appreciate how incredibly kickbutt the man is, but his colossal ego and the enormous chip on his shoulder ruins things for me.

This is a very violent comic.  Lots of blood and decapitated heads flying.  I think the body count is easily in the hundreds.

At the root of it, this is a story about the consequences of dysfunctional families on a person's psyche. Because Slade's father was abusive and pretty much a rat, he became obsessed with being the biggest and strongest, and this nature destroyed his relationship with his own son, Grant.

This wasn't a bad graphic novel, for the subject matter.  It has action from beginning to end. I just don't like Deathstroke. His motivations are shallow and the fact that he places no value on human life about his own ego are a real turnoff for me.

I doubt I will keep reading this series.

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Suicide Squad, Volume 3: Death is for Suckers! by Adam Glass, Various (Illustrations)

Suicide Squad, Vol. 3: Death is for SuckersSuicide Squad, Vol. 3: Death is for Suckers by Adam Glass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this was intense.  I definitely liked it better than Volume 2.  Harley definitely has some relationship drama to work through (when an old boyfriend shows up).   I am finding I really like Harley, although it's a strange thing to say.  I guess it's because I don't see her murdering innocent people in panel (well, sort of). I'm sure if I did, my opinion would change. I like the way she handles her old flame who is as crazy as crazy can be.

The beginning is the resolution to the massive cliff the creators dropped us off at the end of the last volume.  I was really worried, but I thought that the bad news at the end of the last volume wouldn't be the end, and I was right, but then something crazy happens at the end of this volume. It's never-ending!

I really like the artwork in this series. It's bright and energetic and crazy! It matches the insanity of this storyline.  Team X is continually put into the fire, and this time is no different.  You can really live vicarously through the Team X members, especially if you have slightly homicidal urges and like to go on rampages in the name of justice (sort of).  Let's hope you don't have homicidal urges though. Let's just say if you want an adrenaline rush graphic novel series, then this one might meet your needs.

I never know what to expect in this series, and I like that about it.  I hope my library keeps getting these.

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Moon Knight, Volume 1 by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev (Illustrator)

Moon Knight Vol. 1Moon Knight Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Moon Knight is a new comic book hero for me, but I find I like him quite a bit.  I like the concept of his identity, and the fact that he is in fact, suffering from what appears to be schizophrenia, in that he hears voices talking to him.  At first, I didn't get it when Wolverine, Spider-man, and Captain America show up to give him a pep talk. I thought they were there in real life!  Nope, they are a manifestation of his mental condition.

Also, I liked how this book shows how the Avengers were building up their West Coast hero roster, since some of the crime outfits were fleeing the Eastern seaboard for greener pastures.

And the coolness escalates when Marc (Moon Knight) recruits an ex-Avenger, Echo (real name Maya) who is deaf and Latina. His gadgets man is an ex-SHIELD agent who is black.  I appreciate cultural diversity enormously. I'm a black woman, and I can tell you from experience that many comic book and movie geeks are black, and we like to see people who share our culture/background in the genre.

Moon Knight definitely knows how to kick butt.  He relies on his physical adeptness, fighting skills and gadgets to do his thing.  On Marvel Wikia, he's described as Batman with mental illness.  I can see where they are coming from with that.

The art was really well well done. It has rustic feel that I liked, and it uses plenty of shading. This adds to the noir feel of the storyline.

I am happy to keep up with this series. Marc Spector is a distinctive kind of hero, some traits recognizable to other big heroes, but others off the beaten path.  I like that he's a big time actor who uses his income to finance his crime fighting activities.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars


This was a really cool story idea and a fun read.  I'm a huge fan of classic horror, particularly really creepy ghost stories.  While this is a modern published book, it has a favorably classic vibe.  The ghosts in this book are portrayed in the most harmful of ways.  They aren't just shades who have forgotten they are dead and harmlessly roam the world of the living. Instead, they have great potential for injuring and even killing humans. As a result of the "Problem", a huge rash of ghost hauntings that no one can explain, a group of organizations have been created to confront this issue.  Because children have heightened senses and abilities to perceive the ghosts, they are used to do most of this dangerous work, under the supervision of adults.

Antony Lockwood has decided to cut out the middleman. He started an agency of his own, with no adult supervision.  His one partner is George, but he interviews and takes on Lucy as an assistant. Lucy has a troubled past work experience in the north, where most of her crew were killed in a haunting that turned out to be worse than it seems.  She decided to take off on her own and ends up in London to find a place with the big ghost-hunting agencies. She has gone from agency to agency, rejected as an employee, but finds a home with Lockwood and Co.

Each child has distinctive abilities.  Lucy is able to hear the dead, and she also can touch things and feel the emotions of the person who owned the object.  Lockwood can see death glows (where people were violently killed) and has very keen eyesight for spectral information.  George is a superb researcher. Together, they make quite a team. However, the government agency who oversees hauntings has it in for them, because they don't like the idea of children going off on their own dealing with ghosts.

Lucy forms a strange connection to the spirit of a murdered girl (a fifty-year-old unsolved murder case) in a local house. They barely escape her vengeful ghost alive, but the house is burned as a result.  The resulting fine and bill from the owners could put them out of business. When a wealthy industrialist hires them to investigate his very dangerous haunted mansion, they can't say no. Even if the whole situation seems mighty fishy.

My Thoughts

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by British actress Miranda Raison (she was on MI-5), and her voice was excellent. She has good pitch, and is talented at modifying her voice for both male and female voices. Also, able to convey anger, menace, age, pomposity, and humor by varying her voice. Each character sounds different.  I would recommend listening to this, because it feels even more eerie in the audio form. 

The writing is very good.  I am a big fan of juvenile/middle grade stories because they are imaginative and are designed to keep a readers interest (young readers tend to have a shorter attention span).  I especially like the ones that demand the attention of the reader, and stimulate their curiosity and intellect. Such is the case with this book. Stroud had taken the tried and true subject of ghosts, and given it a unique spin. I love the fact that he has created plenty of fictional references from the leading ghost hunters of the original time of the inception of Ghost Hunting.  The kids consult these books and apply the crucial knowledge gained to do their work and keep themselves alive.  Not only does Stroud add layers to the concept of hauntings, he gives it his own spin, with the idea of things like 'ghost-touched' and "death-glow".  I also like how he elaborates on the various accoutrements of ghost-hunting and protection against ghosts.

The tension is very well done. The encounters with ghosts build in such a way to keep the reader on the edge of her seat.  Each encounter is progressively more scary, and the trio's experiences in the haunted manor is not something you'd want to read before bedtime. It's kind of freaky and disturbing to think that children are put in these dangerous situations, while adults sit by on the sidelines and stay safe! But the kids are best equipped to see the ghosts, so they can act quicker and more decisively in hauntings.

I definitely recommend "The Screaming Staircase" to fans of ghosts literature of all ages. I think this book is intelligent enough to satisfy both an older and younger reader, and as I said earlier, it has a nice old school ghost story vibe that would make the Patriarch of the genre, MR James proud.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Suicide Squad, Volume 2: Basilisk Rising by Adam Glass, Fernando Dagnino (Illustrations)

Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Basilisk RisingSuicide Squad, Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising by Adam Glass

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

More Suicide Squad adventures, and the stuff really hits the fan in this installment.  Team X (as they are called by their leader Amanda Waller) takes on the super-villain terrorist cabal Basilisk, and they are way in over their head.  Not to mention being betrayed by their own.  It turns out one of their members isn't dead after all, but has suffered a fate worse than death.  They also get help in an unlikely person, and right when they most need it.

The fists, weapons, blood and body parts really fly in this volume, and we see Waller in action and find out her origins. There is also a cameo by a very special character in the DC Universe, whose power to 'come back' is willingly exploited by the calculating Waller.

I didn't like this one as much.  So much was going on, it was hard to keep up. Characters flip-flopped in their personalities, and that adds to the confusion. 

It's still a pivotal moment for Team X, as they face a major nemesis, and barely make it out intact, although suffering a major loss.  The cliffhanger was brutal!

I'd have to give it 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Punisher, Volume 3 by Greg Rucka and Richard Matthew Southworth (Illustrations), Matthew Clark (Illustrations)

The Punisher, Volume 2The Punisher, Volume 2 by Greg Rucka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm really sucked into this series.  There is a tremendous meeting of the minds between Castle and Cole-Alves.  They almost don't have to talk, but communicate via body language. This is probably a good and bad thing, because they both understand their rage and need to punish those who have taken their loved ones away and will do the same to others.  Even the secondary characters have an impact on the storyline.  I liked the dialogue between the two detectives on the trail of the Punisher and his new ally.  One represents the side of the person who is sympathetic to the Punisher, and who thinks he's doing the right thing, the other on the side of the law and true justice. I think they represent the duality of the reader, their thoughts on both sides of the equation.

The artwork is gorgeous.  I think the artist is excellent at conveying the sense of purpose and the intensity of the characters on their faces, making up for a lack of dialogue, and also conveying action on the page.

I especially liked the Punisher/Spider-Man/Daredevil crossover.  Daredevil is determined to steer Cole-Alves off the path she has taken, when he failed to do so with Castle.

I am going to be sad when I run out of this run of The Punisher. I still don't know if I'm ready to read the more hardcore Garth Ennis version, and I like the dynamic of Cole-Alves.

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The Unwritten, Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock by Mike Carey (Goodreads Author), Peter Gross (Illustrator), Yuko Shimizu (Cover Artist), Steven Hall (Goodreads Author) (Foreword by)

The Unwritten, Vol. 3: Dead Man's KnockThe Unwritten, Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock by Mike Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I preferred this to the last volume. I am still undecided whether I like this series as a whole. Good and bad. I love the literary nods and the concept of metafiction. How can I not as such a bibliophile? I find the imagination of this series infectious, but there is a lot of meanness with the storyline and the characters.

I feel a lot of sympathy for both Tom and Lizzie. They are both being manipulated by grand masters at the game. Lizzie is both better off in that she has more understanding of the situation than Tom, but worse off because of how she was used as a pawn. Her origins are pretty intriguing, in fact.

I liked the "Choose Your Own Adventure" part of the collection, but I couldn't figure out how to get past page 35, so I gave up and just read it panel by panel. Shame on me, veteran Choose Your Own Adventure book-reader.

The bad guys in this are truly evil, and I don't mean Count Ambrosio. The mustache guy, man I despise him. Waiting for him to be "written off," permanently. The rest are more of the corporate cabal type of evil (don't get their hands dirty themselves).

Tom is slowly gaining awareness of his situation and starting to realize he has power to shape his next steps in the battle against the Cabal his father sacrificed everything to fight. He also has two friends on his side, much like his literary counterpart, Tommy.

I'll keep reading.

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Deathstroke Volume 1: Legacy by Kyle Higgins (Goodreads Author), Simon Bisley (Illustrations)

X-Force/Cable: Messiah War by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Clayton Crain, Ariel Olivetti, Larry Stroman, Mike Choi (Illustrations)

X-Force/Cable: Messiah WarX-Force/Cable: Messiah War by Craig Kyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super intense set of stories.  This is the chronicle of Cable's efforts to protect the first mutant child born after "M" Day (named Hope Summers by Cable) from a once ally who becomes obsessed with killing the child, and in his mind, saving the future. Cable is from the future, one in which the mutant scientist created him using DNA from Scott Summers and Jean Gray (although his mother was a clone of Gray).   All Cable knows how to be is a warrior, and he proves that he won't stop until he sees Hope safe.

The artwork is gorgeous overall.  I really appreciate Ariel Olivetti's work. It looks as lavish and lushly colorful as museum pieces.  I wasn't as fond of the art in "The Life and Times of Lucas Bishop, but I definitely enjoyed the narrative on this former X-Men's life.  It is important to understand what could drive him to such extremes.  But seeing the world he was born and lived in, it clarified his motivations for me. 

I liked the tie-in to the X-Force arc.  I read this first, and recently read X-Force, Vol. 3: Not Forgotten, and that one takes up shortly after the climatic events in this collection.

Extensive dossiers on all the pertinent characters are included, and that was enlightening.  Also included was information about Cable's preferred weaponry and devices.  He is quite the gadget man.  Due to my obsessive nature, I love dossiers and character bios. When I get into something, I like to find out everything I can about it.  I like that the creators put it all here for readers.

I love that Marvel put this collection together. It's a great way to get caught up on some very important stories in the X-Men universe.  I think this was a great find at my library, but it is also worth it for bonafide fans of the Messiah War story arc and the character of Cable, Bishop or Hope Summers, and even other X-Force-related characters.

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Date with the Devil by Olivia Rupprecht

Date With the DevilDate With the Devil by Olivia Rupprecht

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1st Reread completed between June 30th and July 17th on Kindle Text-to-Speech.

I read this years ago in the print version from Loveswept, and I still have this copy. This was one of my favorites, and it's an excellent example of the stranded/marooned/survival romance theme.

Sterling and Deidre are stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.  Sterling saves Deidre's life by towing her on the shore and giving her mouth-to-mouth.  Sterling is a rough and ready ex-soldier who is experienced in survival and is also aspiring to be a ninja. In this book, ninja principles are a lofty goal for a person, kind of like the bushido principles/Way of the Samurai.  Sterling is very attracted to Deidre from the beginning, wages a constant battle between his lusty desires and the higher principles of his calling.  Deidre has been very sheltered, living in the shadow of her parent's unattainable aspirations for her, and hiding in books and working in a librarian.  Her experience on the island is the first time she's truly loved.  As to be expected, living in primal nature brings out the most basic and elemental natures in a person and also hones them into true survivors.  In the case of these two people, they find a powerful and intense love that will make an unbreakable bond between them, despite the secrets that Sterling keeps.

I really appreciated the tidbits on survival on an island.  Enough to feel realistic. And something that many books don't address but all women under a certain age have to think about every month.  The solution was pretty ingenious.

Let me say, if a woman doesn't like a man with, shall we say, bossy tendencies, Sterling would not be the man to be stranded with. However, this man knows his stuff, and he would definitely keep you alive and well. 

Rupprecht (who goes by Mallory Rush these days) definitely knows how to write sexual tension.  I mean, wow!  The buildup between this couple is explosive, and when they do the deed, it's a satisfying payoff.  She also deals with the emotional consequences of being stranded with another person, the bonds that form and the fact that it changes you. It's not like you can just go back to a normal life when you are rescued. You are changed too much. When Sterling's obligations come to light, Deidre has to face the pain of knowing that their life on the island can't continue exactly the way she wanted. But she has to believe in the true love between them and trust that a man like Sterling (his name tells you all you need to know) is honor bound to do the right thing, no matter how hard it is.

Although the Text-to-Speech is robotic sounding, it was still an enjoyable experience to listen to this book as I waited to fall asleep at night.  I could vividly picture what their life was like on the island, and the passage about the ghost ship was very eerie.

This book stands up to a reread. While there are a few dated aspects, overall, it's still a fantastic book, and definitely a keeper for me.

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Captives of the Past by Robyn Donald

Captives of the Past (Harlequin Presents, #952)Captives of the Past by Robyn Donald
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

"Captives of the Past" was one of those nostalgic grabs I made, having remembered this distinctive cover and that it was an angsty read. I do like angsty books, and I like how the old school HPs had a lot of emotional payoff.

Robyn Donald is known for her cruel, jerky heroes, and Rafe is definitely one of them. His treatment towards Jennet was reprehensible throughout the book. Yes, he does apologize and feel genuine remorse at the end, but he didn't quite feel redeemed to me, consider the pain and anguish he put Jennet through and how he turned a blind eye to her legitimate suffering, doing it all out of selfishness because he didn't want to love her or desire her because he resented her mother so much.

Jennet inspired a lot of sympathy in me as I read this book. Her situation was much like being between a rock and a hard place, although part of me wished she never returned to her step-family's cattle station. I understand why she did it, because she was concerned for her sister Melly taking up with her ex-husband, who was abusive, and was more than likely to continue being so, despite any excuses he might make.

It was inexcusable that Rafe would rationalize Jennet's being abused by her husband out of jealousy because Derek claimed it was after she initiated an affair with his cousin. Does that matter?

Rafe comes off as phenomenally self-absorbed, caught up in his unwanted feelings towards Jennet and his rage at his father taking up with Jennet's mother so soon after his own mother died. Funny how he was not angry at Melly existing, considering that Jennet's mother got pregnant with her immediately after taking up with his father. His feelings for Jennet were never rational though. While I like my possessive/jealous heroes, I think Rafe is definitely the dark side of that kind of hero.

This book is full of intense emotions and tackles some serious issues such as spousal abuse. While Rafe's viewpoint about it was ridiculous and reprehensible (even though it was because he was believing lies), I think the author gets points for making it clear that Derek's problems are his own, and that they are not Jennet's fault for not loving or being attracted to him. Regardless of how their marriage started, Derek's responsibility was to love his wife and care for her, and love comes as a result of being loved. Maybe if he had done that, things would have turned out different. Yeah, I know that wasn't likely based on this being a Harlequin Presents romance where Jennet was eternally in love with Rafe, but in real life, things aren't so cut and dried.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Justice League Volume 2: The Books of Magic by Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin (Illustrations)

Justice League Dark, Vol. 2: The Books of MagicJustice League Dark, Vol. 2: The Books of Magic by Jeff Lemire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this a lot more than the first volume, thus the higher rating. The storyline makes more sense to me, and it's quite menacing with a series of stories where the team is forced to give their 100% in working together to save the world, and a team of people who don't want to work together having to do so. I also liked the look back when Zatanna and Constantine meet, since it ties into the story as an old enemy from their past becomes an issue again.

Also, I liked the way the story leads into a huge arc that promises to provide plenty of fuel over this series. They have a special kid to protect, for specific reasons. Constantine, who is not quite a hero, has to man up and be heroic to save the world. But never fear, he's still up to his shifty tricks. Also, there were some cool cameos that sent me running to the DC Wikia page to do some research.

This story was fun but scary and has plenty of cool magical and action moments. There are plenty of twists and turns and the story feels more developed, cohesive and layered. It's definitely convinced me to keep reading this series. I would have done so half-heartedly before (just because of Constantine and Zatanna), but now I'm invested.

My advice is if you didn't like the first volume, don't give up. This one is much better. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

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Justice League Volume 1 by Grant Morrison (Writer), Howard Porter (Penciller), John Dell (Inker), Mark Millar (Writer, Co-Writer), Oscar Jimenez (Penciller), Don Hillsman (Penciller), Chip Wallace (Inker), Ken Branch (Inker) , more…

JLA, Vol. 1JLA, Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first official Justice League comic that I recall reading. That's to be celebrated, even if it was not as good as I hoped.  I read some Batman in my youth, but my major exposure to the Justice League is through the "Superfriends" (regrettably that hasn't aged well), and the awesome Cartoon Network "Justice League" tv show (and also "Justice League Unlimited").

I don't know. This just seemed kind of hokey for lack of a better word.  It was an interesting idea, a space alien counterpart to the Justice League, who was sweeping in and stealing the JL's thunder by saving the world, even going so far as to irrigate and reseed the large deserts.  Their actions never rang true to me, but they seriously seemed to get to the JL psychologically.  Superman was even questioning if he was really living up to his well-treasured values regarding his mission to protect the Earth.

The reveal was fairly cool, and as always, Batman manages to outthink his enemies with his superb tactical and deductive brain.  That part was cool when the JL takes back their Earth-protecting laurels.

I'd call this a decent comic. Not great, but not terrible either.  Not the best start for my Justice League reading career, but them's the breaks.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

His Heart's Desire by Julianna Douglas

His Heart's DesireHis Heart's Desire by Julianna Douglas
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I’ve been friends with the author on Goodreads for several years (before she became a published author). I respect her as a human being, her tastes in books and her thoughtful manner of expressing herself on the books she reads, and now I can add that I respect her as an author.

When she asked me to beta read her novel last year, I said yes. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read “His Heart’s Desire” in its pre-publication form, and I am happy to write a review for it and recommend it to romance novel lovers.

My Review:

If you’ve been reading romance more than fifteen years, you might be experiencing a longing for the “Good Old Days” when stories were genuinely romantic, and not just an over-emphasis on graphic sex with just enough declaration of love to classify as romance novels. Books that made you feel strongly and made the hours pass away rapidly while you read them. If that is the case, you will probably love this book.

“His Heart’s Desire” does read like a fairy tale come true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like angsty stories where the heroine has had a tough life, and her dreams come true in more ways than one. In this case, it’s not just getting her prince, but it’s getting a chance to live a life of purpose and fulfillment she always wished for.

Becca made with friends with a guy named Ethan, not knowing that he was impressively wealthy and powerful in his own right. She liked his personality and they bonded over their love of animals. She had no idea that he had fallen head over heels for her, and nursed a long simmering affection for her that she was oblivious to. Becca always knew a guy like Ethan was way out of her league, but she loved spending time with him, and he was one of the few people in the world she felt she could trust and feel safe with.

Ethan loves everything about Becca. He just wants her to be happy. When her mother’s death leads to a colossal mistake, he’s there to pick up the pieces and help Becca rebuild her life after the tragedy and betrayal she suffers. He makes every day a day of joy and simple pleasures, but has to be careful not to trespass on Becca’s long-held belief in self-sufficiency. Becca could never imagine that a man like Ethan could love her that way, but it’s up to Ethan to convince her otherwise.

Ethan is a bonafide Prince Charming, and in the best way possible. He’s not the boring kind of prince that makes me long for a bad boy or a hero to make your heart beat faster. No, he’s the strong, masculine, endearing and exciting, kind of prince who saves the day by loving his heroine genuinely and steadfastly. As you can guess, I loved him. He’s just the right guy for a sweet, somewhat naïve and unworldly young woman like Becca. These two make sense together.

I liked that their relationship is based on the rock-solid foundation of friendship and respect. Becca hasn’t had a lot of reason to open up to people and trust them, but Ethan proves he’s worthy of it. While they have a few bumps in the road, they don’t spoil the story or seem like they are manufactured just to fit the romance novel formula. Instead, their relationship feels genuine.

The sensuality is perfectly tailored to this novel. The love scenes are well-written, steamy and emotional. The best combination for this reader. I like that Ethan respects Becca’s values and her past hurts and he also has a desire to treat her like she's the woman he's been waiting his whole life for. It shows in his every interaction with her. When they consummate their relationship, it feels right.

Overall, the secondary characters are fairly well developed and add to the novel. Lindsay’s character was a bit too ‘evil ex’ for my tastes, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Ethan’s family dynamic makes sense for his character (shows his values and why he's the man he is), and the tidbits about his siblings make me curious to read more about them. My favorite secondary character is Edna’s Becca’s older neighbor. She’s like a adoptive grandmother and a very good friend to the orphaned, lonely Becca, and she adds some comic relief with some of her dialogue.

His Heart’s Desire is an excellent first novel. It showcases strong writing talent and it is well edited. It's also very emotional and romantic (which is just what this reader loves in her romance novels) It’s nothing less than I would expect from Julianna. She’s a promising writer, and I’m excited to read more books by her.

I recommend this book to true romantics. Becca’s a sweetheart and Ethan truly is a to-die-for hero. I enjoyed reading this immensely.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

X-23: Innocence Lost by Craig Kyle (Text), Christopher Yost, Billy Tan

X-23: Innocence LostX-23: Innocence Lost by Craig Kyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The real monsters are the ones who try to create them.

A brilliant geneticist embarked on a quest to create the perfect weapon. Nobody believed in her, but when she finds a person willing to finance her research, Dr. Sarah Kinney comes to realize she has gotten into bed with real monsters.

With stolen genetic material from the legendary Weapon X, aka Wolverine, these fringe scientist create clones (to make more weapons, of course), only to realize that the clone embryos aren't viable because of the Y chromosome. Dr. Kinney hits on the idea to use a X-gene. Of course the male chauvinist pigs don't like the idea. She does it anyway, and X-23 survives. Her penance is to have to carry the embryo to term. This backfires on the researchers and the company, because Sarah bonds with her daughter, instilling lessons into her that will come into play in her life at a later time. Despite the fact that Dr. Zander Rice, a %$%* of the first order, exercises his complete misogyny on X-23 (and latent hatred of Wolverine, who killed his father), torturing her to making his weapon, and unleashing her into the world as a killing machine with the use of his trigger scent.

This story is very tragic and also heartbreaking. I'm not sure if the writer intended to put so much pathos into the story, or if he was just trying to create a credible origin story suitable to Wolverine's daughter. The end result was a graphic novel that inspired a lot of emotion in me. Outside of my awe that X-23 is so awesomely kickbutt, is my sadness for her deprived childhood and what she was forced to do by her handler. I mean I can't help but appreciate an assassin of her caliber. But the idea of a child being raised that way and created to be a weapon, is heinous. It reminded me of Saber of the GhostWalker series by Christine Feehan (Predatory Game, which is a nice recognition, since I love that series. She was also cultivated as a child assassin (using her innocent, childlike appearance to infiltrate and destroy her targets).

To think I didn't even know who X-23 was six months ago. Boy was I missing out. Glad I discovered her. She's up there as a Marvel favorite now for me. Unfortunately, the Craig Kyle versions are out of print. But at least the awesome Marjorie M. Liu takes over, and those are still in print, so I will be checking those out.

Because of the storytelling and lovely artwork, I'd have to give this one 4.5 stars.

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Irredeemable Volume 4 by Mark Waid, Diego Baretto (Illustrator)

I'm at the point where I have hardly any sympathy for Plutonian. I'm sure that's the point. His nuclear-level, over-the-top temper tantrum has cost the lives of millions of innocents, and his homicidal impulses are unchecked. I mean, get over it. I think many of us have lived through being unpopular and didn't turn into mass murderers. The remaining members of his former team Paradigm are working to stop him. Bette has to face her demons about her massive betrayals of her husband, the other team members and the world for her omission in not volunteering crucial information about stopping Plutonian because of the way she gained the information. We also learn about how Kaidan came into her abilities. That was very cool. I am still sucked into this book. I think it's harder to read because more and more is revealed about Plutonian and while I can understand how lonely his life must have been, he makes all the wrong choices and decides instead of being accountable and holding to the high standard that comes with abilities like his, he'll just go the other way. Yes, there is mental illness involves, but many of his acts are willfully cruel in their execution. Also, there is a traitor among the ranks, and that's hard to read for me. Actually reading about a hero turning into such a horrible individual is quite devastating. He relishes in his meanness and the level of distress he is causing others. This story gets more twisted as it goes along. While there are some very wrong characters, each character is flawed in their own unique way. And more heroes fall in the quest to bring down Plutonian. I'll definitely keep reading, but I might take a short break between volumes.

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass, Ryan Benjamin (Cover Artist), Frederico Dallocchio (Pencils/Inks), Ransom Getty (Pencils), Scott Hanna (Inks), Val Staples (Colorist)

Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the TeethSuicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something absurdly appealing about this series to me. I guess it's because it's so crazy and out there. A team of super-villains is selected from the population of Belle Reve, a maximum security prison in the middle of the Louisiana swampland designed to house dangerous meta-human criminals. the only ones selected for the team are the ones who survived vicious torture without breaking. They have nanite bombs implanted that will blow their heads off if they don't come back to the prison after the mission is completed, and are sent into missions where their chances of survival are extremely limited.

I haven't read much Batman in a long time (queued up on my reading list), so my experience with Harley Quinn is based on watching Batman movies and tv shows. She's seriously crazy and homicidally inclined, but in a strange way, I kind of liked her. Don't judge me! I'm trying to process it myself. Deadshot, I think I might be developing a crush on him. Stop judging me! I find King Shark disgusting. I hope he dies. He's yuck. Black Spider is interesting, although I don't trust him. Not that I trust any of these guys, but he has a sense of superiority because he's a vigilante who likes to kill criminals. A bit of self-righteousness can make someone very dangerous because they are good at justifying even their most questionable actions. El Diablo is quite a character. An ex-street criminal who felt severe remorse after flaming down a house full of women and children. He has the ability to start fires, and his numerous tattoos are burnt off in the process. There are a few other characters who round out the very fluid team membership. Amanda Waller, warden of Belle Reve, is the no-nonsense command officer for the Squad. She don't take no mess. She is fierce, and lays down the law with the members. It's do or die for them.

I think the creators of this series like the fact that they can go for it. You don't get those moments where the 'hero' wouldn't do 'that' or they wouldn't cross that line. They are pretty much what you think: violent criminal offenders who have a personal agenda for what they do. Admittedly, some have a bit more of an ethos than others. Their first mission is about as crazy as it gets. Getting dropped in the middle of a sportsdome full of people infected by a technovirus. Yeah, crazy!

Can I admit I'm shipping Harley Quinn and Deadshot? Well I am.

Yeah, I must keep reading this series.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Hunter's Moon by Carole Mortimer

Hunter's moonHunter's moon by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice old school Harlequin Presents. Jonas has a repressed/dark/seething vibe that I found intriguing. Jonas is intense! He and Cassandra apparently couldn't stand each other. So why was he demanding marriage from her? This is one of those books that works better if you don't have the hero's POV. You have to use your imagination on what the hero is thinking and why he does what he does until the last few pages, and then you get the reveal and all is good.

It's a guilty pleasure of mine, but I love the blackmail marriage theme. It's harder to pull off in the newer books because most readers aren't going to go for a book with a heroine-limited POV, and it would almost surely spoil it if you know what the hero's thinking in this scenario. I think it can be done, but it would take some skills.

I liked that Cassandra decided to dive in and find out about the relationship between Jonas and his father. There is clearly something very wrong, and it very much affects her since she was married to his half-brother (she's his widow). Jonas's bitterness and lack of trust can be linked right back to his troubled relationship with his father, and secrets that come to be revealed about his father's marriage. It wasn't just selfish on her part, though. She correctly felt like it was destroying Jonas and he was missing out on a genuine relationship with his father, and she wanted to help, out of love for him.

I felt like Jonas was a "still waters run deep" guy when it came to his feelings for Cassandra (or at least I read them into his interactions with her). He is very fixated on her, and has been since they first met. I didn't think it was just about her having been married to his brother (and spillover resentment for his brother). I liked how the reveal wasn't just about their relationship, but how everything in Jonas' family's dysfunctional dynamic affected Jonas and his relationships as a grown man.

I liked his relationship with Cassandra's daughter, and it was an integral part of the story. You could see that he had a soft aspect to his personality in the way he bonded with her. He will definitely be a good father. He also did things for Cassandra that her first marriage didn't. She loved Charles, but Charles was kind of immature for his age, and she felt like the parent. With Jonas, he is able and willing to be the husband who is a protector and provider for his wife. While Cassandra is an independent woman, I think even self-sufficient women want a man who they feel will carry his weight as a partner/husband.

This book is a good read, not just a romance book, but a book about the way that family relationships can affect our ability to relate with others in our adult lives, and that we need to seek healing so we can move on and love others in a healthy way. I was glad that even though things worked out with Jonas and Cassandra, he also reestablished a relationship with his father and knew how much his father loved him. This one's worth seeking out, in my opinion.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Brazilian's Blackmail Bargain by Abby Green

The Brazilian's Blackmail BargainThe Brazilian's Blackmail Bargain by Abby Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Abby Green has written a sizzling and emotional story about revenge tied up in a relationship built on unrequited lust turned to love. Caleb Cameron has Maggie all wrong.  He thinks that her bid to seduce him was a coldhearted action designed to cheat Caleb in the favor of Maggie's stepfather. The truth is Maggie had to act on a genuine attraction she had to Caleb or her mother would suffer the consequences. In the end, it backfires, and their tryst is unconsummated with ugly words said before they parted. And many months later, Maggie has to protect her widowed mother from the consequences of her unscrupulous deceased husband's actions, and Caleb's revenge.  Caleb will take everything, including her mother's house (from her first husband), if Maggie doesn't agree to be his mistress for two months.  Maggie still has feelings for Caleb, but it hurts that he believes so poorly of her.  However, she has to go through with their business for pleasure arrangement, and keep her heart locked away in the process.  When it's over, will either walk away heart whole?

Maggie is a very sympathetic heroine.  Her situation with her mother is tough, and she does tend to act as a sacrificial lamb, which may annoy some readers.  I can identify with her need to look after her very vulnerable mother. I couldn't blame her for the choices she made, especially in light of the fact that she still loved Caleb, and wanted a real relationship with him. But now that's not a possibility.  Maggie is a nice mix of emotional integrity, independent practicality and iron resiliency.

Caleb isn't really a bonafide jerk. He does come off as callous at times, and almost willfully determined to believe the worst of Maggie.  He's fairly emotionally brutal towards Maggie initially (although I think it was more of a deliberate act to protect himself).  That aspect is standard Harlequin Presents fare, but I think Ms. Green layers this story with deep emotion and poignant writing.  You actually see Maggie and Caleb getting to know each other and fall in love, and see that while their relationship seems sexual, it's much more than that.  I think his gesture near the end is very satisfying, and it has particular resonance for earlier moments in the story.

This is a satisfying quick contemporary romance read, and one of the Harlequin Presents books that very much captures the feel of the line, but also has deeper, powerful emotion that drives the story to a fulfilling conclusion.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Justice League Dark, Volume 1: In the Dark by Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin (Illustrations), Ryan Sook (Illustrations)

Justice League Dark, Vol. 1: In the DarkJustice League Dark, Vol. 1: In the Dark by Peter Milligan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The short of it:  This is weird!

For a supernatural fiction-attracted person like myself, the idea of a Justice League sub-group with members who are all gifted in the magical/supernatural arena was too awesome to resist.  It has some pretty weighty DC magical members, such as John Constantine, Zatanna (one of my new favorites), Madame Xanadu, and Deadman.  Add some new to me character like Shade The Changing Man and Mindwarp, and you have an interesting cast of characters.  Madame Xanadu is a powerful seer who foretells the end of the world, unless this specific group of people can work together long enough to set things right. That is much more difficult than it seems, with differing agendas and levels of commitment on offer. Not to mention a very powerful, very dangerous adversary, Enchantress, who has lost her human host and is going on a rampage.

Yeah, this was weird.  I think the thing I liked the most was the ensemble cast.  The storyline didn't really capture my interest.  It was pretty gruesome and just plain kooky.  Overall, made the book hard to follow.  Also, some characters had stronger roles than others.  I think that lacking backstory on some of the characters left a few question marks for me. I consulted the DC Comics Wikia and that definitely helped.

Of course, I'm not done reading this series.  It's sort of a mediocre start, but I can see some promise.  Plus, I just love Zatanna and I do have a sort of thing for that rogue John Constantine.

It's a three star rating for me. 

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House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel

House of MHouse of M by Brian Michael Bendis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This graphic novel is about the day that Wanda Maximoff, The Scarlet Witch, changed mutantkind forever.  It happens after a sequence of upsetting events break her fragile mind, and put others at risk due to her incredibly powerful, world-shaping powers.

The X-Men and Avengers have to decide what to do about Wanda. With her mental breakdown and her intact powers, surely she will continue to pose too much of a danger to others around her.  Her brother, Quicksilver, desperate to save his sister, convinces her to do something to distract the various superheroes and mutants from what she has done and is capable of doing.  As a result, the world changes into what seems like a better place, but some mutants cannot believe in its false promises. Particularly Wolverine.

Wolverine and a powerful mutant child named Layla seek out various mutants and superheroes and recruit them for a mission to go to the seat of the throne of of the House of Magnus (Magneto aka Eric Mangus Lehnsherr, from which he rules over a world in which non-powered humans are second class citizens, and mutants are superior.  They know this is a dangerous mission, but the world cannot stay in its broken state.

"House of M" reads like a "what if" set of stories.  Some characters have a much happier life, and it's devastating to them when they realize things aren't as they seem.  But they know that doing the right thing means sacrificing their own seeming happiness.

The end is even more devastating, and it sets up the events that lead to future events that unfold in various other Marvel titles.  I've been reading a lot of Marvel lately, and it's enlightening to see the puzzles come together.  Reading this book wasn't exactly an uplifting experience. It was quite sad and bewildering.  I guess I could fully empathize with the characters and their heartbreak as they navigate through a terrible situation that only gets worse.

This is a pivotal story arc in the Marvel Universe, so it's good that I was able to read this from my splendid library, even if it was a downer overall.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

House of Mystery, Volume 4: The Beauty of Decay by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Various

House of Mystery, Vol. 4: The Beauty of DecayHouse of Mystery, Vol. 4: The Beauty of Decay by Matthew Sturges
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Still not in love with this series. I think I will continue to read it, but it might be too dark and twisted and it's definitely somewhat incomprehensible to me.

I really like the idea of stories within stories, which is a prominent feature of this book. I just wasn't that fond of the stories, except I did kind of like the one written by Bill Willingham about a man trapped in a castle with the last surviving servant and the creatures who are stalking them. I despise cockroaches and I found the tale from the viewpoint of a cockroach utterly disgusting. Your mileage may vary. The Constantine story was interesting but sad. The poet, Eduard's backstory, not sure how I feel about it.

I'm not loving the overlying thread of the Conception and Cain. I guess there is some dark humor in the fact that Cain continually kills Abel (who then resurrects), but I am not a huge fan of that plot device. It's just kind of mean, honestly.

I do like some of the characters, like Fig and Harry and Pirate Mary, but this is one of those series where you never know if someone is going to get killed off soon, so better not to get too attached to anyone.

I'm trying to figure out what is inhibiting my enjoyment of this series. I really do think I have an issue with a lack of clarity in the concept. I feel that things are getting even more difficult to understand (instead of the opposite) and the subject matter is really quite unpalatable.

I would like to hold out and see where things go with this series, especially with the Constantine connection. And I hate the fact that I am so clueless about what's going on here. I'm stubborn. Always have been. I won't throw in the towel just yet.

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Iron Man: Civil War by Brian Michael Bendis, Various

Iron Man: Civil WarIron Man: Civil War by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is always another side of the story.

I read Captain America's Civil War first, and I think I am still sympathetic to his viewpoint. However, I can completely understand Tony's reasons for backing the Superhero Registration Act. He believes that superheroes shouldn't be going off half-cocked, with poor training and little accountability. Part of his view is informed by events in his own past and his guilt about his own alcoholism while he was also wearing the suit of Iron Man. While Stark is troubled by the moral complexities of the situation, he is determined to stay on the path set before him, and not unaware of forces in the government who want to manipulate the uneasy situation and him in their favor. Things are worsened by the fact that his stance has put him at odds with a very good friend who he deeply respects, Captain America. He thinks that Cap is a good man who doesn't understand that while he won't abuse his power, many are less able to avoid that happening.

This graphic novel explores his viewpoint and his conflicted feelings about the situation. I was captivated by this book. Stark's retelling of the King Pyrrhus of Ancient Greece, and the origin of the term 'pyrrhic victory' especially resonated with me, especially in light of the tremendous loss suffered in the aftermath of the Civil War. I felt for Tony and I hurt for him, because he was trying to stand up for what he believed is right.

While I don't want to bring in politics, I do feel that this novel reminded me of some of the battles that are going on in our society over moral issues and laws that have a tremendous impact on the expression and choices people can make. The book shows that many of these issues aren't cut and dried, because they involve human beings, and we are as far from simple as can be imagined.

The artwork is lovely, and I liked that it includes flashbacks to germane incidents that provoked the present Civil War, and that it touches on the resolution of the Civil War which is indeed a Pyrrhic victory.

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The Punisher Volume 1 by Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto (Illustrator), Max Fiumara (Illustrator)

The Punisher, Volume 1The Punisher, Volume 1 by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure about this series. I loved the first movie and hated the second (I'm totally excluding the very first movie with Dolph Lundgren, which was execrable), and I am not 100% sold on the idea of the Punisher. I like some vigilantes, such as Batman and Daredevil. I can understand what drives them to use force and violence in the cause of justice. In the case of the Punisher, his justice is very final and brutal. He doesn't kill innocent people, but if you're a violent criminal, you're fair game.

I decided to give this a try because I have read other work by Greg Rucka, and I figured this character would be in good hands with him. My conclusion is that I was right that he would do a good job with Castle.

Castle's motivations are completely understandable, and he doesn't come off as a sociopath or someone who has parted entirely with morality. Instead he is a fatal solution to the devastating disease of crime. With criminals of the sort in this book, I think Castle is probably necessary. I'm not saying I condone lethal violence in real life, so let me make that clear.

This story arc features a young bride whose entire wedding party (including her husband) were murdered. She survived and has to deal with the aftermath of losing everyone. Castle goes on the hunt for all the men who committed the savage mass murder. The survivor turns out to lead to a cabal of organized criminals who are even worse. They know the Punisher is on their trail and he won't stop until he's Punished them all. They take some measures to see that he is unable to get his work done, but they have underestimated how determined the Punisher is to 'punish' criminals, like the ones who savagely murdered his innocent family.

The artwork is good. While the imagery is violent, it's not over-the-top and too graphic. The movie Punisher: War Zone is an example of how excessive violence can be depicted in the wrong way, and stands in sharp contrast to the first movie, which was also violent, but certainly not shlocky about it. The artist has a way of capturing motion in an extremely vivid way that feels real time. The depiction of the wedding massacre was done in a way that was transmitted the horror of the situation without being gratuitous or exploitative. I liked that particularly violent scenes are given soft focus. While there was some gory imagery, it wasn't over the top.

I like the look of the Punisher. His spray-painted shirt and his slightly flyaway black hair. The rocklike expression that reveals little and inspires fear in his prey. It takes talent to depict a character like the Punisher without him appearing wooden. Instead, his face is a mask that hides so much emotion and thought, but most of all, sheer, adamant determination.

I'm glad I gave this series a chance. I really liked this book and plan to read more by Rucka. I'm not sure I'm ready for Ennis' incarnation, but we'll see.

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Lazarus, Volume 1 by Greg Rucka/Michael Lark

Lazarus, Vol. 1: FamilyLazarus, Vol. 1: Family by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A promising idea and a promising series!

In a post-apocalyptic society, select few families own all the resources, including land and supplies and people. The families have Lazaruses to protect them. My understanding is that a Lazarus is a genetically engineered human that has modifications that allow them to survive major trauma and injuries to the body.

In the case of the Carlyle family, their Lazarus is named Forever, and she thinks she is a daughter and sister of the family. She's wrong.

This is an intense action thriller book. Lazarus is thought-provoking as well. The future society make up is hardly an ideal place for most people, with a few families owning all the resources, possessing power over the life and death of everyone under their authority. In one scene, Forever has to execute an innocent man (who confesses to a crime he didn't commit) because the alternative is that all the serfs on the property will be executed.

Forever seems to have a conscience, moreso than her other family members, but she is used as a strategic weapon, and will in fact, do what is necessary for her family. A privilege they abuse with impunity.

Readers who love their heroines lethal will enjoy this. I'm not a big fan of dystopia, but the worldbuilding is interesting. The whole situation seems to be a powder keg about to explode. The house of Carlyle has traitorous forces within it, but the patriarch isn't unaware completely. Forever seems as though she has a crucial role to play in the whole situation, the one who can bring change and perhaps even justice. Which is why members of her family want her taken out of the equation.

I have a feeling that soon Forever will wise up to her situation and decide she no longer desires being a lethal weapon for anyone but herself. I will continue reading this series to find out.

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