Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps

Much has been said about Green Lantern’s Blackest Night, not to mention the subsequent back stories and tie-ups. In my “immersion” course into the Green Lantern Universe two years ago, collecting the many graphic novel compilations and tie-ups has been a journey for me and with Brightest Day Volume 1 released last year and Volume 2 and other tie-ins this year, I know my “work” is cut out for me. 

But for this time, I got pulled into collecting another tie in for the Blackest Night and this chronicles different Tales of the Corps; from the history of how Kilowog was during his own days as a Lantern in training, the becoming of Blume Godhead into an Orange Lantern, how St. Walker’s life was before and how he got drafted as a Blue Lantern, to the reason why Carol Ferris chose to be a Violet Lantern to the rise of Nekron as well as The Book of Black as written by Black Hand.

There are many back stories in this compilation to supplement one’s reading and sometimes after having immersed in the main storyline and knowing the full outcome of the whatever storyline, at times the back stories that were not included proves to be an interesting read. And it is to John's vision and writing that makes it so. 

Suffice to say that this is not compulsory reading for those who are merely after the main storyline of The Blackest Night, but nonetheless Geoff Johns has not held back on giving us some interesting reads and writing new historical data for Lantern nuts like me. 

Should I get pulled and compelled to collect the 2 remaining compilations of the Black Lantern Corps, consider me addicted and fully drafted. 

Go Poohzers!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Of Saints and Shadows- Christopher Golden

With True Blood author Charlaine Harris and Otherworld author, Kelley Armstrong both endorsing the novel, there was really some expectation for this novel to be good. And it really is and kicks butt.

I got introduced to the writing style of Christopher Golden when he penned the Gatekeeper trilogy for the Buffy The Vampire slayer tv tie-in books and I felt then that he was able to capture the essence of Joss Whedon’s characters and give us an adventure that most Buffy fans can dream of replaying it in their homes on their tv sets. But alas the story was only meant to be read. But that was enough to make a Buffy fan like me take notice of Christopher Golden and his ease and familiarity with the supernatural.

Fast forward, I read about Christopher’s Vampire series but haven’t had much luck in getting the book locally as it was not available. Luckily, I was able to get Book 2 at a Book Sale some years back and finally last year, the book that preceded and started the series, entitled, Of Saints and Shadows.

The whole novel apart from incorporating some canon information on Vampire lore that most people knew also included some massive reworking of that very same system into the heart of the novel itself. The novel centers on a vampire/private investigator, named Peter Octavian, living in the city of Chicago and discovering that the “random” case that he was working on may not be random after all. How could it not be when it involved seemingly indiscriminate killings of humans, with their corpses strewn around the crime scene and links to the Catholic Church. These same killings also coincide with the death of some prominent Vampires in their closed society as they are brutally hunted down by men of the cloth. One such Vampire happened to be Peter’s maker, a German Vampire who goes by his name of Karl Von Reinman.

In moments of his death, we are given an insight as to how Peter was disowned from Karl’s Coven for he claimed that the Catholic Church lied to them and was actually covering up the truth in the hopes of subverting their existence and keeping them in check. These truths consisted of misinformation and a form of brainwashing; for Vampires can actually withstand the rays of the sun, can change into any form at will and like Peter proved at a later part in the book, can in fact, enter the Catholic Church and not be barred from it.
Peter is no doubt the one who rallies his kind together in the hopes of exposing the lies that the Vatican has been spreading and hopefully inform as much he can of their kind; that all was lie. That the path for self discovery begins now.

My idol, author Anne Rice has always said that her Vampire books are about the mentality and the metaphor of a Vampire which represents the outsider. Peter Octavian for the most although acts alongside humans and suppresses his Vampiric nature. The fact that he has been cut off from his original Coven of the Defiant Ones (as the Church calls them), and his secrecy at keeping his true nature at bay to most humans save his blood supplier a new found woman, he proves to be the ideal Outsider in this story.

The other outsiders are the antagonists, consisting of Father Liam Mulkerrin, a Vatican Sorcerer after an old tome hidden in the vaults of the Vatican, called The Gospel of Shadows. The book itself is a prize to the Church but a truth revealer if in the hands of a Vampire. Golden’s writing is clear and accurate and makes any reader wish that this book would see the light of Hollywood if marketed right.

 But after reading this, I can contend myself in the fact that I would have to scour the many boxes of books I have in storage for the second book called Angel Souls and Devil Hearts and start looking for the subsequent books in the series of which

Book 3 called Of Masques and Martyrs (released last December 2010 and Book 4 (The Gathering Dark)

and Book 5 (Waking Nightmares) will be released subsequently in February and April of 2011.

Vampires. Vatican. Venice. Vengance. Vindication. Very Good! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Venturing into The Forest of Hands and Teeth

 Admittedly the title and the cover drew me to the book. A crimson sea shell surrounded by a grey marble background was striking enough for me to pick it up. And anyone who knows me knows that red will always catch my attention; with it being my favorite color. Reading the summary, my curiosity got piqued further as I thought I was being introduced to another supernatural being. I mean there are only so much vampires and werewolves can a reader take, right? 

 For this debut book by Carrie Ryan, the beings are referred to as The Unconsecrated, and they have been around for a century or so. People have barred themselves behind iron fences hoping to live out their lives as normal as they can and keeping these flesh craving beings at bay. 

This is the part that I find out that this is the Walking Dead. 

In spite of all the bleak and cordoned off existence as depicted in the book and smack dead center of it all is the books heroine, Mary, who yearns for a life outside the Forest before her. She takes hope from her mother’s story of life before the dawning of the Unconsecrated and dreams of one day seeing it. Not bad, right? 

Enter the twists. After tragic events involving family, she is faced with the prospect of being a spinster and entering the Service of the Sisterhood. But with a keen mind and a curious will all to herself, we find Mary becoming the victim of her own choices. For a character who says she doesn’t believe in pre-destination and divine intervention, Mary, as the novel progresses after her isolated community is breached, becomes too selfish for her own good. From desiring another man when she has been promised to another to wilfully digging for clues that would support her growing suspicion of the Sisterhoods secrets, Mary is like a child with a loaded gun and still knowing that it is fires in direct consequence and result of her whim apologizes after and expects clemency for her actions, was just really pushing it for me. 

Clearly, not a good quality for a lead character to embody but it is the writing that propels me to read further and hope for some redemptive maturity for Mary as the novel progresses. 

At one point in the novel when Mary refers to her life as a series of complications, I wonder if it’s an excuse she makes to justify the choices she made; that her torn responsibility for love and duty drove her to be who she was. That the driving force behind each and every action stemming from each and every decision she made was because she was doing the best she can, regardless of the cost, even if these resulted in lives being compromised. 

There was also a line in the book, page 207, to be exact that says, “Who we are if not the stories we pass down.” And if that statement were to be applied to her, what would people say about the decisions that she made. Would she be considered na├»ve and foolish to think that one should pursue a vision of a dream regardless of the effect it has on others, especially when their lives are in jeopardy. And at the same time deferring the same dire consequence as a direct result of other people’s choices and not her own? Or is she vindicated at the end? 

With that statement, it was clearly also a choice for me whether to finish the book or not, considering that the third instalment will be released sometime this year. And my choice in spite of the mixed feelings I had about Mary and her life choices, was still to go further on into the book because Carrie Ryan’s writing simply draws you in with her simplicity and honesty. It wouldn’t be too much for a reader as well to admit acquiescing to Mary’s choices and her sentiments because Ryan writes it a matter of factly and doesn’t require Mary to apologize for her actions, but merely to acknowledge that her actions were not not-thought of, but were true to who she is and what she wanted out of the remaining years of her life. 

So venture into the forest for your own reason of checking out a new writer and what is it about her style that drew praises from critics or pans from readers alike. Either that or for the reason of discovering for yourself if Mary really was selfish or if her blind pursuit of her dream and being true to it came at too high a price. And once you have ventured into it, let’s see what you find at the edge of the forest. Let’s compare findings, once you’re done, ok? 

After Superman Secret Origin

With my Green Lantern fix and rededicated fascination for Graphic novels, I got introduced to the writing brilliance of Geoff Johns.

His writing consists of going for the emotional jugular of the character & thus affect us, his readers in turn. What he did in bringing back Hal Jordan was a real coup and instantly I became a fan. After reading his take on Superman, Geoff was finally able to give readers that component of relatability. He humanized Superman and literally & emotionally brought Kal-El down to our level; stripping him off the qualities that made him Kryptonian & gave Superman the qualities that made him like us, human. From his Existential quest to know why he is here, why is he different than others, to being resigned that he is both human & more than that.

Johns also did a great work on Superman's encounter with Braniac which continues on in New Krypton.

Having aced Green Lantern & now Superman & other DC titles, I can only imagine for Johns that the sky's the limit. Pretty much like Kal-EL or Superman

Saturday, March 5, 2011

After Marvel's ULTMATUM

Cataclysmic stories like these will always have some casualties. I get that. Stories that involved larger-than-Life conflicts depend on action for plot. I get that too. How the characters respond to the situation at hand frames characterization, development & perhaps even some surge of uncharacteristic behavior. Fine, the character goes thru an adrenaline rush to meet the demands of the situation. But radical changes in the plot that are justified (or is it) by wanton acts of violence and aggression and even feral behavior just to move the story forward is something I don't get. 

Reading some of the earlier reviews, I learned that this compilation is suppossed to be in line with the discontinuation of the Marvel Ultimate Line. Ok so you want to go out with a Bang! Great. But somehow along the way, the Bang became a Dud! 

Somewhere along the way, they felt it was ok to kill off some excess characters because the roster was too many & they didn't know what to do with some of them, if not all. Some if these "excess" characters were clearly of no use. Like Spider Man, Wasp, Ant Man, Doctor Doom, Dazzler, Emma Frost, Cyclops, Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X, Thor, Valkyrie and my favorite, Dr. Strange! (just to name a few) 

And since one was already in the process of trimming, no need for them to go out in a blaze of glory, because they're just too many & to highlight the tragic fall of each chosen "excess" hero would be emotionally taxing on the reader. After all it is a comic book right? And not classic literature that invokes introspection, relatability, and moral insights. 

Perhaps seeing the Wasp die at the hands of The Blob turned cannibal & Professor X's head being snapped like a twig should have clued me in on the "unpredictability" element of the Ultimate Universe. (not to mention graphic depictions of arrow-in-the-eye-shot, incinerations & limb tearing) But seeing my favorite character Dr. Strange so easilly defeated by Dormammu, and so easilly and blodilly dispatched as if he was a novice and Not Sorcerer Supreme was the last straw for me. 

I should have heeded my instincts to check reviews first before giving into impulse and buying this on the spot. But at least I have another compilation to cheer me up after this. Let's hope the Justice 
League fares better. 

In short, if you don't mind seeing some favorites die & you just wanna go for the ride then be my guest. But don't say I didn't warn you.