Adam Bender reviews… Comics!

Reading comics is one hobby that’s stayed with me since childhood. A new crop of writers and artists are keeping the genre fresh and telling smart stories that even mature readers can love.

Here’s some of my recent Goodreads reviews, reprinted for your bloggy enjoyment. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions on what I should read next!

Batman, Volume 1: I Am GothamBatman, Volume 1: I Am Gotham by Tom King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the great Snyder / Capullo run, I was skeptical of a fresh creative crew coming on board, but the new team of King and Finch really works! It’s a bit of a slow start with the initial “Rebirth” comic (which happens to be co-written by Snyder), but I raced through Batman #1-6, enjoying every minute.

King packs in the action without losing the intelligence of a good Batman comic. And whereas I felt Snyder sometimes gets a little excessive with trying to be epic, King’s narrative approach feels a little leaner and more streamlined. Finch’s art is also exceptional — it just has a real classic feel with action that’s easy to follow.

I also loved King’s superb work on The Vision, so I’m excited to find out where he takes Batman next!

Speaking of King’s Marvel Comics series…


The Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a BeastThe Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a Beast by Tom King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, Tom King knocks it out of the park again in the second half of his Vision story. This book’s got everything — a clever premise, memorable characters, beautiful art, robots with feelings… If you like sci-fi, even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a comics fan — you owe it to yourself to read this book. King is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers in comics today.

No need to have any background on The Vision, though you’ll definitely want to start with The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man. Maybe watch the second Avengers movie if you want a quick take on his origin, but not necessary.


Superman: American AlienSuperman: American Alien by Max Landis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fresh spin on Superman, this mini-series captures what it’s like to grow up feeling like an alien. It gives the Kryptonian a humanness that often gets left out of stories about the Man of Steel. The artwork varies in style with the tone of the story, showcasing some of the best artists in comics today.

The hardcover edition is beautifully presented with vivid colors and interesting extras showing original sketches and layouts. One complaint with that edition, however, is that occasionally part of the image and even text gets caught in the fold due to the way the pages are bound together.


Descender, Volume Three: SingularitiesDescender, Volume Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Volume 3 loses some of the momentum of previous books, with each issue focusing on flashbacks to flesh out the backgrounds of various characters. These characters needed more fleshing out, so it’s good to get to know more about them. Also, the issues about the robots characters are particularly clever. But like season two of Lost — when it took many episodes to resolve a single, short event — this book doesn’t do much to resolve the cliffhangers from Volume 2.

Of course, it’s hard to nitpick a book that looks this good. Nguyen’s watercolors shine once more, transporting the reader to a fully envisioned sci-fi universe. And Lemire continues to do a great job mixing action, humor and the bittersweet.

Just don’t come into this one expecting much progression of the main plot.


Well that’s all for today! Follow me on Goodreads to keep tabs on what I’m reading!

Adam Bender reads… Totally Messed-Up Possible Futures for the Human Race!

My reviews of Pines, DMZ and Injection

He also reads other people's books.
ADAM ALSO READS BOOKS BY OTHER AUTHORS

When Adam Bender’s not writing, he’s reading. Or doing other stuff, maybe. I mean, he can’t just be reading or writing all the time!

But I digress (and switch suddenly to first person). Here is a selection of my latest book reviews on Goodreads. If you’re a Goodreads user, please follow me to keep updated on what I’m reading. You can even review my books if you want! The shoe is on the other foot now, eh?

Hm, that’s a weird expression. Oh well. Without further ado, here are three books about totally messed-up possible futures for the human race! Thanks for the nightmares, Blake Crouch, Brian Wood and Warren Ellis.


Pines (Wayward Pines, #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pines, book one of the Wayward Pines trilogy, is a fast-paced thriller with a dystopian twist. The writing is lean with short paragraphs and descriptions that wouldn’t look out of place in a screenplay (Come to think of it, that probably made the story very easy to adapt for TV). And while not totally original, it’s undeniably fun.

Crouch acknowledges the influence of Twin Peaks on his novel, saying that he wished to recreate the feelings experienced when he watched the David Lynch show as a boy. It’s obviously a big influence (right down to the name of the town — whoever named “Twin Peaks” could have easily named “Wayward Pines,” too). But I was also reminded a lot of the Wool series, particularly the explanation for what’s going on. There’s also some elements that seemed ripped from Tarantino, like the Kill Bill-esque nurse in old-fashioned uniform wielding big syringe (of course, Tarantino probably ripped this off of something else). But even if Crouch is taking elements from other creators, I must admit that I admire his taste in influences.

Look, this book isn’t going to be on a list of best American literature, but I can’t deny I had a lot of fun reading it. It’s not overly time-demanding, and I even read it free through Amazon Prime. Next time you need a quick dose of Twin Peaks-y dystopia, you could do worse than the Wayward Pines series.


DMZ, Vol. 1: On the GroundDMZ, Vol. 1: On the Ground by Brian Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fast-paced introduction to an exciting dystopian future where America has entered a second civil war. As epic as that sounds, Wood keeps the focus on character to hook the reader in this graphic novel from Vertigo. It all feels very current, too, in light of today’s splintered politics.

Volume 1 just gives a taste of the overall story and feels very much like the introduction. It’s gripping all the same and left me excited to read more. I’ll definitely be continuing this series.


Injection, Vol. 1Injection, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d tell you what it’s about, but I think the author would rather you find out for yourself. This is one of those graphic novels where you don’t quite know what’s going on until the end, and even then you’re kind of like, “Well that’s messed up.”

I do have to give the creators credit for this — I read this in one sitting. Despite all the technical jargon coming out of the characters’ mouths, Injection never gets bogged down with a lot of exposition. And the artwork kept my eyes moving from panel to panel. But would I read Volume 2? I don’t know. Maybe if I saw it at the library.

It might be that none of the characters are that likable. They certainly have distinct voices, but … I found it difficult to really sympathize with or get behind anyone.

A warning for those sensitive to violence/gore: this book probably isn’t for you. It’s not that there’s a lot of action, really, but when the knives come out, they REALLY find their target, if you see what I’m saying.

If you’re a fan of Ellis and Shalvey’s excellent Moon Knight run, you might want to give this a go. But you may end up wishing you were reading a new volume of Moon Knight.


Well, that’s the end of today’s edition of Adam Bender reads … If you’ve read any of the above books, I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my reviews in the comments below! Or let me know what books you think I should read next!

Suicide comedy, zombie Jughead & epic gamers: What I’m reading

Authors are always reading. I mean… when they’re not writing, of course. Authors gotta write.

Personally, I like to write short book reviews on Goodreads (follow me!). Here’s a selection of some of my favorite recent books.

A Long Way DownA Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nick Hornby writes like people talk and his books are about ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives. A Long Way Down presents one his most dramatic premises — four people intending to commit suicide run into each other on the top of the same building.

Hornby takes a unique approach of alternating perspectives every chapter. The effect is not unlike a documentary, in which interviews with several people are woven together to create a single forward narrative.

Because of the three act structure, large amounts of dialogue and relatively static set pieces, I could really imagine this acted out on the stage. In that way, it felt a little less “novel-y” than other novels, but if that kind of thing doesn’t bug you, then full speed ahead.

I should add that this is a funny book. Yeah, okay, it’s about suicide. But it’s great fun watching the characters’ personalities clash. In many ways they don’t like each other, but at the same time they realize they need each others’ help to keep going.

I really got to liking each of the characters, too, even though they’d done things (and continue to do things) that are not completely likable. And really, it’s a testament to Hornby’s talent that he can pull off a comedy about wanting to kill yourself so effortlessly.

 

Afterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape from RiverdaleAfterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Who knew adding zombies to Archie would make it so good?!

I never really got into Archie Comics, but this fresh spin goes all in on the horror while preserving the characters everyone knows (yes, Archie is still waffling between Betty and Veronica).

I can’t say enough about the artwork by Francesco Francavilla — who is known for his horror stuff and not your typical Archie artist — so I won’t try.

So yeah, Afterlife with Archie is a total blast. Read it now!

 

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ready Player One is the geekiest book I have ever read. That’s a compliment. Gamers, sci-fi and fantasy lovers — this is your book.

Even if you don’t understand all the references, you’ll understand some of them and get a big grin on your face. Meanwhile, the fun narrative — mixing action, comedy and romance — will keep you reading every day until Game Over.

If I have to nitpick, I’d say there’s sometimes a bit too much explanation about how the world functions, both in the virtual OASIS and the dystopian near-future real world. The hero Parzival often pauses to explain the rules when probably the reader could figure these things out along the way.

In the end though, I think your enjoyment of this book ultimately comes down to whether you like fun. Do you like fun? Yes? Well, then…

Ready Player One!

Check out all my book reviews!

Noir, cowboys and asteroids: What I’m reading

Not sure if you knew this, but I regularly review books on Goodreads. I have an author profile there as well, so please follow! Anyway, thought I’d share a few of my latest reviews.

Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

I love the premise of this series. An asteroid is about to crash into Earth, destroying everyone… but Detective Henry Palace wants to keep on solving ordinary murders and missing person cases.

In the end, you get a compelling mystery that would work as a novel in its own right, surrounded by an equally gripping per-apocalyptic atmosphere, all injected with a healthy dose of conspiracy theory!

Countdown City reminded me what I loved about The Last Policeman (the first entry in the series), and I think Winters’ writing is even stronger in this second book. Looking forward to the next one!

Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard

I loved how compact and straightforward this Western was. It’s got everything you want for the genre–a character seeking justice, a power-mad cowboy, gunfights and chases through the desert.

My only complaint is that the love story is a bit thin and not so compelling.

Overall, this is a blast and a good choice if you’re just getting into the genre.

Scene of the Crime by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark and Sean Phillips

A gritty crime/noir from one of the best crime writers in comics. Ed Brubaker writes an interesting mystery and the memorable characters here really bring it to life. The people in this story feel human thanks to their flaws, baggage and, yes, senses of humor.

Also loved the art by Michael Lark — that guy knows how to draw a vintage car, man.

The deluxe hardback is a real treat. The printing really makes the artwork pop and I appreciated the behind-the-scenes look on how this story came together.

Change Comes to Gotham City

Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Batman Reborn Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been pretty resistant to the Grant Morrison Batman books because of all the radical changes: Bruce Wayne is dead, he has a son named Damian, Damian is now Robin, Dick Grayson (the original Robin) is Batman, Bruce Wayne is actually not dead but lost in time… It’s all a bit much.

Still, this first collection of the Batman & Robin books featuring Dick and Damian is a pretty good read. These are some of the most fun and yet dark/bloody Batman stories I’ve read in some time. And it’s nice to see a focus on two Batman heroes, rather than the veritable Batman family featured in the books preceding the Grant Morrison run. Unlike the dynamic duo of yore, Batman and Robin don’t always get along, but in the end they always come together to stop the bad guys. Morrison also invents a gaggle of psychotic new villains who fit into Gotham perfectly. And the artwork by Frank Quitely and Philip Tan is always colorful and expressive.

I’m probably still going to avoid the Bruce-as-caveman comics, but happy to see there still is good writing in Batman.

View all my reviews