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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 17, Holiday Reviewarama: The Holy Qur'an

I know a lot of people who claim to know what the motives of those who are followers of Islam are. And, even should they be the least bit correct, I've never met one who knows anything about the religious words of the belief system of Islam, nor, the history of it. I try, as I did yesterday with George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, to give people a good reason to buy or acquire as a gift or loan an item. In this case the lack of knowledge regarding Islam in the West is vast, and the need to understand Islam is great. What better way to grow, intellectually, and perhaps spiritually than to read the Holy Qur'an?

At least the debates in America about religious centers, Ground Zero, and terrorism will be enhanced by even the smallest addition of knowledge. Because people who are on the left and right of the political spectrum all demonstrate remarkable lack of understanding of the religion and its followers.

I'll return tomorrow with something neither religious or political. So if the last two entries didn't please you, come back and check.

Day 16, Holiday Reviewarama: DECISION POINTS George W. Bush

I try to avoid overtly political posts here, for the reason that politics do not unite, don't create consensus and politics rarely help us come to any sort of moral decision. More and more the world is divided amongst groups and cliques and tribes, and no matter how modern we are, the US and Western countries are just as likely to separate on the lines of politics, religious faith and world view as any other...

But I think this book, however well written or not, is important. It isn't because I agree with the acts and decisions of former President Bush. Because I truly do not. It isn't because I am looking for ammunition for eventual arguments with people who don't agree with my views, from the left or right. It is because the world was subject to the decisions of this man, and for years we've been given his motives from bits and pieces and talking heads on television and radio and internet. In my life I've seen great presidents and bad. And I know people who thought Bush was tainted by impossible obstacles to success, and others who say he created such obstacles, and he made the situation worse than it would have ever been.

As a degreed historian I am quite sure that his decisions will be laid bare for motive and result for the next century. But cause and effect in the present and recent past are hard to distill no matter the motive of the scholar. So, for however right or wrong the author Bush is, at least the words come from him, directly, and if you hate him or love him, you can be assured that this is going to be a subject for debate beyond polite web discussions.

If you dislike him just get it from the library. If you like him, buy a dozen copies. I am not interested in how you get it, but for the discussions in the future, get it...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 15, Holiday Reviewarama Button Man by Rebellion UK

John Wagner & Frazer Irving
"Book IV: The Hitman's Daughter"
2000 AD #1551-1566, 2007

The Publisher

Harry Exton is a Button Man. One of a number of them. These "Button Men"are part of a dangerous, deadly, violent game. A voice directs them to the others, and the hunt begins. The object of the game is to kill your opponent obviously, but if they capture the opponent they take a finger, or joint. Once three have been taken, the result is death. But while Harry Exton is a Button Man, he is not altogether like the others. He isn't totally crushed by the work he does. He still has some ethics, if not, altogether, morals. This volume of the overall story follows a double cross between friends, alliances between otherwise enemies, and personal decisions that make this a wild ride and violent game.

This book was very well written and illustrated. It was a cinematic work, with very able story telling. Very impressive. But, for the great quality of it, it has an expensive cover price. But, for anyone enjoying the spy genre, or action films, this is one very fun ride.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 14, Holiday Reviewarama Judge Dredd the complete case files volume 15

Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files v. 15
John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon

The Publisher REBELLION UK

Writing about each story would be rather impossible for me, not because they weren't good, but rather because there were so many of them, and so many aspects of them that make that consideration a book unto itself. When the publisher calls this the complete case files, they mean COMPLETE.

Judge Dredd goes back a long way, and there are various works collecting his appearances, and this is devoted to his self titled series, and the Judge Dredd Megazine. When you think vigilante you think Batman. When you think protector of everyone you think Spider-Man. When you think keeper of the law, you either think of Superman or Judge Dredd. As such you need to keep in context the world of Judge Dredd as it does affect the law he lays down. Mega-City is as violent and crazed as possible, being a satirical version of future New York, with the odd takes of culture from the perspective of writers and artists from the UK.

This is fun book, it is violent and humorous, and goes way beyond entertaining, but, in buying it for yourself or others you still should take into account the audience. If you like violent stories this is good. If you prefer more cerebral work, this is not your series.

The art and story both are incredible, and again Rebellion kicks much butt with their standards of production.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 12, Holiday Reviewarama Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 2 from Archaia

Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 1 and 2
Thomas Siddell

Someone told me once that my reviews were more like PR with a slight difference that I brought my opinions into works and hoped to give people reasons to like what I was discussing. My buddy Michael May said my reviews were like a carrot, and a person who wrote, rather negatively upon his then site Comic Book News was like the stick. I rather agree, but not that reviewing is actually either/or, since the person I'd read for reviews is Michael May, who is both carrot and stick. You can smash people over the head for the creative talent or publishers not doing what you like, or give them reason to do it well by supporting them when they succeed.

Thereby, I am at a loss here, because I think this is a really good work, but it really DIDN'T strike my taste zone. It involves students in a bizarre magic training school, somewhat like the Harry Potter books but suitably different to be its own work. But, having referenced the Potter books, I didn't like those much, and this work is not the same so, entering in to read I had hope. The writing was intelligent and worth praising, the characters seemed well developed and the dialogue and plots were very nicely done. The art mixes animé fusion and straight forward western comic book styles. It is pleasant to look at.

But, ultimately, while I think that this is a work that is sincerely done, smartly aimed, intelligent and nice to look at, it isn't my taste being written towards. So, I give it a full recommendation to someone who likes Harry Potter, but add Johny Test from Cartoon Network and then wrap it in some beautiful production work by Archaia.

My guess is the target audience is more female, is young adult, and would be a welcome addition to most high school libraries across the US and the English speaking world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 11, Holiday Reviewarama JAPANESE CULTURE

Today’s recommendation comes from a desire to share something that changed my life. In 1991 when I graduated from university I had no idea what I would do other than write. I wanted to make a living sure but, my skills and talents were nowhere near what the real world wanted. I could write poems well, and I knew about history. Big deal. I’d sent out hundreds of resumes and frankly, I never was a great employee, but even with a college degree living in a place where that was rare, no one wanted me to even think about working for them. So I decided to take the time I had to reinvest in my self. I read hundreds of books and dove directly in to Japanese culture. Doing so gave me a mindset to address some issues I had, gave me a hope of how to use my skills and talents, and led me to getting accepted in Grad school where I finished a Master’s degree and led to further things down the road. I viewed my religious life, academic life, private life, sexual life all through a very different lens. And I am grateful to have done so.

So here are some works to consider if you wish to change your life similarly, or, just to give a fan of the culture something to smile about.


Author link
Buy It


Author link
Buy It


About the Ceremony
Buy It


Photographer link
Try to Buy It

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 10, Holiday Reviewarama DAYS MISSING from Archaia and Roddenberry

Phil Hester, Frazer Irving, David Hine,
Chris Burnham, Ian Edginton, Lee Moder,
Matz, Hugo Petrus, Dale Keown

Steward is a being who has existed through history, changed human event, manipulated things so that humans could go on, also, so that events that happened might not. As a result of the futzing with human events, there are "Days Missing" from existence, entirely. As in zapped. YOINK.

The stories told in this volume are really very interesting, and, more interestingly, tell the stories that are perhaps tangential to a central theme, a broad single minded plot. And, it is to me a very fresh approach. I don't really always like a story or universe idea enough to read episodes in the development of the grand tale. But here, I see the world around the edges, I see a portion and fragment here, a piece there. And by doing so I am able to see more, without being force fed a plot or idea. Instead it is an organic organization of information.

The writing and artistic talent on this work is stellar, and the production standards show in the nearly perfect presentation here. For an introductory chapter of what will be a longer work, I think it succeeds brilliantly.

However, I suspect some people require force fed story, force fed recognizable pathways. So, if you aren't the sort to enjoy differently told tales, this might not work for you. But I promise if you let it work, it does, and nicely so.

From the Publisher

Since the beginning of time, there has existed a being whose interaction and interference with mankind has shaped human history. His powers of time and intellect have allowed his secrecy and resulted in certain days being absent from any historical record. Their stories have never been told. Their details have never been documented. Their existence is not remembered. But, the occurrences of these days have forever changed the course of humanity's evolution. These are the Days Missing from our existence, and they are about to be revealed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 8, Holiday Reviewarama The New Old Red D&D box Set

Publisher Wizards of the Coast

Some might say the Dungeons and Dragons has lived a number of lives and existences, and editions. That said, the latest big thing from the new parent company of Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, (owned themselves by Hasbro) is thought by some to be a bridge from the old to the new. Paper and pencil role playing games started in earnest with D&D, and though with a WOTC symbol rather than TSR one, the Red Box, or Starter set returns.

Or does it? I've had a chance to look through, and consider the new Red box, and I am sorry to say for those nostalgic for the past that that has still passed from view. This version of the Red box is beautiful to behold, but the simple if arcane rules of the original system are lost within the maze of modern, and the old system can barely be delved by repeated reads. However, if you have never played D&D this is quite good. The 4th Edition from WOTC is a good enough system, and this set fits well with current offerings. New players can learn to play and have a great time. So, while I am not sold as a former player of the old system, I can easily see the worth of this 20 dollar set, for a beginning player.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 6, Holiday Reviewarama The Secret History Volume 1 from Archaia

The Secret History Volume 1
Writer Jean-Pierre Pecau
Artists Igor Kordey, Leo Pilipovic, Goran Sudzuka, Geto, Carole Beau, Manchu, Olivier Vatine

Firstly letting my bias be known, I am a sucker for alternative history, and have degrees in history from two different Universities. So I am likely in the perfect target audience of this work.

Let me say, this is a work of extraordinary research, because in order for it to succeed, which it does, there has to be a verisimilitude. That is, there needs to be a feeling that the history being changed from and to, is real. If you feel for even a moment that what was being changed was in fact not real to begin with, then you are left with historical fiction instead of alternate history. Alternate history relies upon the ability to let the reader see things he/she knows to be true, and change that truth, thus achieving a mental connection. I am not familiar with any other work Jean-Pierre Pecau has done. All I know is that this work was perfect. I saw the changes, through the eyes of the main characters, and they resonated with me.

The target audience is someone who likes historical works, and can see what the changes are. If someone has not a speck of knowledge of human events and history, this is still a very nicely done work, full of beauty and fine detail. But for the work to be so striking, a love of what is changed is needed.

There isn’t anything here that doesn’t work, just perhaps some less effective than others for certain readers. We aren’t all born of similar parents and have similar DNA of course.

From the publisher

“Four immortal brothers and sisters are entrusted with ivory cards in the dawn of prehistory by a dying shaman, and told never to use the cards together. Four immortal brothers and sisters, four archons, leaping through time, consumed in an epic struggle to influence and shape the history of Western civilization. From Moses' challenge to the Pharaoh to the origin of the Grail myth; from the Pope's extermination of the Cathars to Nostradamus' travels in Italy; from the Spanish Armada and the Great Fire of London to Napoleon's conquest of Egypt; and finally to the Angel of Mons appearing over the trenches of World War I. A secret occult history of the world told in seven chapters”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 5, Holiday Reviewarama THE SURROGATES

The concept of the graphic novel THE SURROGATES was not necessarily a simple one, but was a very powerful one and a very good one. Humans increasingly seek technology to make their lives simpler. By doing so, the premise considers, we are placing more and more of our life into vicariously lived means. We try to suffer less, we try to work less, we try to have to think less, and by doing so, what is the affect upon the others, ourselves and the world we live in? The world suggested then by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele is an important one to consider, for as we move further ahead into a technology based, post modernity morality, we become our own arbiters of ethics, morality and Raison d'ĂȘtre. But however well asked the questions the answers are not clear cut. The questions we face are not resolved by avoiding technology, but by understanding its role, and our own agency in existence.

Book One knocked on the door of the future, with a story about murder and false uses of others even when the others aren’t real. Book Two, despite being a prequel was about the world coming to terms with the world we live, versus the world we wish to live.

Both works are beautifully done, beyond my praise ability.

Fans of Bladerunner, Terminator and other future works would dig this.

From the publisher


The year is 2054, and life is reduced to a data feed. The fusing of virtual reality and cybernetics has ushered in the era of the personal surrogate, android substitutes that let users interact with the world without ever leaving their homes. It's a perfect world, and it's up to Detectives Harvey Greer and Pete Ford of the Metro Police Department to keep it that way. But to do so they’ll need to stop a techno-terrorist bent on returning society to a time when people lived their lives instead of merely experiencing them.

The Surrogates is a story about progress and whether there exists a tipping point at which technological advancement will stop enhancing and start hindering our lives. It is also a commentary on identity, the Western obsession with physical appearance, and the growing trend to use science as a means of providing consumers with beauty on demand.

This volume collects all five issues of the acclaimed comic book series. Packed with bonus content, inside you will find never-before-seen sketches and artwork, as well as commentary from the creative team that brought this breakout story to the page. -- 208-Page, Full-Color Graphic Novel, 6 5/8" x 10 1/8", Diamond: MAY063435

Book Two: Flesh and Bone

In a dark downtown alley in Central Georgia Metropolis, a juvenile prank goes too far and a homeless man is killed. When the ensuing investigation reveals that the attackers aren't who they appeared to be, justice depends on the testimony of a single witness -- a street snitch with a history of providing information to a uniformed cop named Harvey Greer. Harvey is placed on special assignment to track down the informant, but others have their own designs, including a wealthy socialite and an ex-con turned religious leader known to his followers as The Prophet. As days pass and anger among the anti-surrogate population grows, the city stands on a razor's edge. Will punishment be exacted in a courtroom... or on the streets?

Set fifteen years prior to the events of the first volume, The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone sheds light on the past that binds the cast together. From the streets of Central Georgia Metropolis to the boardroom of Virtual Self, Inc., it takes us on a journey through a city struggling to come to grips with its present. As much a cautionary tale as a story of suspense, this book reminds us that tomorrow will be determined by the choices we make today. -- 144-Page Full-Color Graphic Novel, 6 5/8” x 10 1/8”, Diamond: FEB098170


The blockbuster film SURROGATES, based on the Top Shelf graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, was recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray, and the Blu-Ray contains a 7-minute featurette delving deep into the original graphic novel. In this preview clip, you'll see interviews with both Rob and Brett, plus some amazing animated graphics that bring Brett's outstanding art to life in "motion comic" form. Both DVD and Blu-Ray are available at, but the Blu-Ray is the one you want. Don't miss it!

Preview of the featurette:

Surrogates Graphic Novels:

The Homeland Directive
by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston
$14.95 (US)
ISBN 978-1-60309-024-7 Pre-Order

A new thriller from the author of the New York Times bestseller The Surrogates!

As a leading researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Laura Regan is one of the world’s foremost authorities on viral and bacteriological study. Having dedicated her career to halting the spread of infectious disease, she has always considered herself one of the good guys. But when her research partner is murdered and Laura is blamed for the crime, she finds herself at the heart of a vast and deadly conspiracy. Aided by three rogue federal agents who believe the government is behind the frame-up, Laura must evade law enforcement, mercenaries, and a team of cyber-detectives who know more about her life than she does—all while trying to expose a sinister plot that will impact the lives of every American.

Set in the Orwellian present, The Homeland Directive confronts one of the vital questions of our time: In an era when technology can either doom or save us, is it possible for personal privacy and national security to coexist? -- A 144-page Full-Color Graphic Novel with French Flaps


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 4, Holiday Reviewarama Robo Hunter Volume 2

John Wagner, Alan Grant, Ian Gibson, Rian Hughes, Chris Weston, Simon Jacob


Sam Slade the Robo Hunter of title is a bitter, matured, cigar-smoking hunter of robots that have gone rogue. Homage and satire in parts, literate, cinema, politics and 1980s culture, Robo Hunter is a work that endures, but, has lost some of the shine that made me read it in the 1980s.

This work collects a series of stories wherein the future is filled with strange orders from robot Prime Ministers and his being is refused Heaven at his death, for the fact of a naughty clone of his flesh being upon the earth. Ultimately, although dressed in Science Fiction clothing, this is pure comedy.

Maybe because the concept is less serious we are left with something that has to be entertaining on the strength of the dialogue and the very nice art. Without the strength of an overall powerful story we are left with some characters that are fun, and some stories that are mostly cute but, the work is not altogether satisfying. The work by some of the talent is good, certainly the writing, and art by Ian Gibson, but, overall it was uneven.

The production and packaging of this work is great. No question with Rebellion you get your money’s worth. But in this case, the work and concepts within reveal their age more than the previously reviewed works from Rebellion.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 2, Holiday Reviewarama SLAINE: DEMON HUNTER

Written by Pat Mills.
Art by Glenn Fabry, Cam Kennedy, and Greg Staples.
Softcover, 160 pages, full color. Cover price $25.99.
Rebellion UK

Slaine is summoned by the Earth Goddess to travel through time and defend the Britons from Caesar's legions at the side of warrior queen Boudicca. But the Romans are not to be underestimated, especially with Slaine's old foe, the demon Elfric, at their side!

It would be true to say that I am a sucker for pretty pictures, and fine art. I am moved by beauty and there is no real point in denying that. As such, Slaine: DEMON HUNTER scores well with me. It has fantastic art with incredibly good standards of reproduction. The cover is both intense and speaks well to the standards of work within the pages. As to the story, well there is the real gem here. Slaine is a barbarian, he loves to be wild, kills with some glee, but he is a lover too. He cries for the things he will never see again. He worries that being moved through time to fight Caesar's Legions that he will never see home and his love again. The emotional content here is a major part of the success of the story telling, because while it is clever, it is also dark, and there is little to do but cringe at some of the bloodletting.

This is not for everyone. It borders upon an R rated film, but has real content, it is not explicit simply for the sake of that, but rather, to tell the story. So I give it a hearty recommendation, but with a caveat that some might think it excessive, in areas of violence, and even nudity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1, Holiday Reviewarama MOUSE GUARD

Mouse Guard Volume 1: Fall 1152
Mouse Guard Volume 2: Winter 1152

David Petersen
Publisher ARCHAIA

There is a great deal to like about the book MOUSE GUARD. The pages are beautiful, the characters are wonderfully imagined, and the story, of a small people, the Mice, and those that prey upon them, in particular the Weasels who are led by a warlord to take from the mice their land, and food.

The target audience would seem people who like cute characters, but, while the mice here look cute, the story is epic, heroic, and noble.

There is nothing nearly so cute or whimsical here, as you might expect. The war is brutal in reality, however tastefully displayed, and the wounds suffered by the living, are matched by the sorrow for the dead.

There are always stories that have epic proportions, some that are brutally told, others artfully. This manages to tell a sad story beautifully, and for the lover of beauty, the love of fantasy tales that are closer to truth than dainty fiction, MOUSE GUARD is a book for them. If you like cute, sure, go for it, I just see a helluva lot more. If however you dislike war tales, no matter how cute the characters look, you might be sad more than delighted. The stories are real, and like fairy tales do not always have the happy endings we think we deserve.

Consider this a well impressed reader.

The Publisher
The website for Mouse Guard