Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Jack of Fables

Since last week I've started re-reading my collection of Bill Willingham's Fables to get myself caught back up as one of my other current comics, The Unwritten, has a pretty major crossover with Fables and I'm really looking forward to reading that when the trade comes out (July 2014).

This week's character is also the star of the first major Fables spin-off, Jack (also known as Jack of Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, etc. etc. etc.).  Like the rest of the characters in the series, Jack was chased out of his own realm when an invading army arrived and has since moved to our world and taken up residence here.

Like the Jack of various fairy tales, this Jack is not above bragging about his own exploits (in the spin-off series, Jack of Fables, he actually writes the final caption of each issue, usually explaining all of the amazing things he is planning to do in the next issue - which usually do not come to pass) and he may not be the brightest bulb in the room, but what Jack is, is a pretty amazing trickster - he can usually talk his way in or out of any scenario and although he doesn't always succeed at his various schemes, he does became a very loyal friend to those who stand by him (not that there are many of them) .

If you've never read Fables, I would strongly recomend giving it a try, and Jack is one of the main reasons I love this strange world he inhabits so much.

Monday, November 25, 2013

First Impressions: Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Last week I managed to get the new PS3 video game Lego Marvel Super Heroes from my local library, and so far it's pretty fun!

Although the game itself is pretty simple - run around, smash things up, make new lego things out of them and run around some more, the game has a pretty great sense of humour, and offers me something I've never seen in any of the great Marvel Cinematic Universe films that have come out over the past few years; the Marvel Universe.

Yup, in this game Spider-Man can totally ignore the fact that he's owned by Columbia pictures and hang out with The Avengers (Disney), and even the X-Men (20th Century Fox) or any number of characters who haven't made it to the big screen yet.

Which is totally amazing; for the first few levels you pretty much play the Avengers (Hulk and Iron Man in level one, Captain America in level two, and Hawkeye and Black Widow in level three), but throughout you get to play as Spider-Man and even Mr. Fantastic for a while.

So far I'd say the game is pretty simple and aimed at young teens - most of the jokes are puns and the Lego theme keeps everything very family friendly, but as a guy in my late '30s, I'm still having a lot of fun playing the game and I get pretty excited every time a new playable character is added, because once you beat a level you can go back and do it again with any playable characters you have collected so far - and in the end the game includes dozens of characters (and yes Mike, that includes both She-Hulk and Squirrel Girl).

The game is pretty fun, and I think a lot of it comes down to exploring the Lego New York setting and just seeing all the neat ways in which these characters interact.

Definitely worth trying out.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A– Z Survey - Bookmonkey Style

One of my favourite parts of blogging has always been the fact that whenever I run out of stuff to talk about, I just have to scan through a few others blogs and I’m bound to find something neat to comment on.

Earlier today I was reading the blog “The Written Word” - which is itself a pretty fun read, sharing a lot of interests with my own tastes (I actually got there by looking up a good reading order for all of my Fables trades), so I thought I would both send a thanks to that blog for the list and then I found something pretty neat – a reading-themed A-Z survey – so here goes:

Author I've Read The Most Books From: Although friends may guess Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, it is actually Louis L’Amour – hands down. I’ve read all 89 of his novels, 14 story collections, 2 books of poetry and his autobiography. Man that guy could write!

Best Sequel Ever: The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King

Currently Reading: Fables #4: March of the Wooden Soldiers, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Craig Hamilton, Steve Leialoha, and P. Craig Russell

Drink of Choice While Reading: Fresh Brewed Coffee, first thing in the morning.

E-Reader or Physical Book: Physical book, but to be fair I have almost no experience with E-Readers

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School: Carrie White – although to be honest I’d probably have run when I met her mother…

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card – I don’t care if it’s basically a fantasy retelling of the found of the Mormon Church – it’s pretty amazing

Hidden Gem Book: Brooklyn Dreams by J.M. DeMatteis, one of the funniest, honest looks at remembrance, childhood and the teen years I’ve ever come across.

Important Moment in Your Reading Life: Realizing a book could talk directly to me while reading The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone

Just Finished: Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by Nick Offerman

Kind of Books I Won't Read: None – unless my wife says it’s horrible.

Longest Book I've Read: Probably the Bible.

Major Book Hangover Because: If I’m reading older paperback where the font size gets so tiny I need to use a magnifying …..

Number of Bookcases I own: approximately ten – but that doesn’t count the boxes in the basement or garage, or the DVD shelves I use as convenient book storage.

One Book I have Read Multiple Times: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Preferred Place to Read: Leaning against the kitchen counter in the morning and smelling coffee brewing.

Quote That Inspires You/Gives You All the Feels From a Book You've Read: “Once Upon a Time…”

Reading Regret: I wish I had read Catcher in the Rye when I was younger

Series You Started and Need To Finish (All the books are out in the series): Currently working my way through Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series – limiting myself to one title a month so I can enjoy them

Three of Your All-Time Favourite Books: The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Unapologetic Fanboy For: Nora Roberts Gallaghers of Ardmore Trilogy. Although Romance novels don’t tend to be my thing, I dare you to read these and not get swept away in these stories of destiny, love, and magic.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: Neil Gaiman’s upcoming sequel to American Gods

Worst Bookish Habit: Collecting series before I read them, not a great habit when you crack open book one and realize that it’s not really your cup of tea…

X Marks The Spot: Start at the Top Left of Your Shelf and pick the 27th Book: The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne

Your Latest Book Purchase: The Walking Dead Volume 19: March to War, by Robert Kirkman

ZZZ-Snatcher Book- Book That Kept You Up WAY Too Late:
Ironically, Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Lee Everett

Over the last few weeks I've worked my way through the five episodes that made up the 2012 video game, The Walking Dead.  Unlike pretty much every other zombie game I've ever played, the 2012 game, created by TellTale Games focuses almost entirely on the interactions between people in a world based on Robert Kirkman's comic book series, The Walking Dead.  In the game, you play a character, and this week's Genre Character, named Lee Everett (voiced by Dave Fennoy).

It's tricky to say why I like the character of Lee so much, as the way he acts and reacts in the game was pretty much up to me - rather than focusing on how many zombies you can kill, the game changes the focus to how you (as Lee) deal with a number of other survivors and try to either get along with them, ignore them, or act horrible towards them.

The first person you meet in the game (after the zombies take over) is a young girl named Clementine (voiced by Melissa Huchison), and together the characters travel across Georgia in an attempt to stay alive in a world overrun by the walking dead.

For my first time through the game, I basically looked towards the kid and whatever she seemed to like was the way my character chose to act - it seemed like kind of a strange way to go through the game, but at the same time, I felt pretty good being honest to this kid throughout the horrible events of the game.

If you've never tried a zombie game before, I would highly recommend it, and as very little of the game requires you to move with lightning speed, even newcomers to video games should be able to navigate their way through the game.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Review: Uzumaki

Although I've read a lot of manga over the years, the vast majority of it was either science fiction or fantasy based, so when I recently had to study a manga for my comic book course, I thought I would look for a good horror-themed manga.

Although the title I found wasn't recent enough for the assignment, the concept sounded so interesting I thought I should give it a try anyway.

Let me introduce you to Uzumaki, by Junji Ito.

The series follows a young girl named Kirei who begins to believe her small town is slowly turning into something horrible.  Her boyfriend Shuichi believes that the town is changing due to the insidious nature of spirals.  For some strange reason people in the town begin to become fascinated with the shape and then… things… start to happen.

I don't really want to get into any specifics, but let me put it simply - this 3-part collection really unnerved me - I've been enjoying horror stories for the last 30+ years, so believe me when I say, there is something truly unsettling about the story as you work your way through it.

The artwork is great, the story is entrancing, and it is a great example of why I try to find new stories from around the world, rather than simply sticking to what I know best.

Fair warning however, the imagery can get quite graphic and the concepts are very disturbing.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Things I’ve noticed: I’m falling behind in Fables

Last week I picked up a few new titles from my local comic book store and as I was shelving them at home I realized, I’m falling behind on Fables! Not in collecting it, mind you, but in reading the darn thing! When I first started collecting the title I would read each trade paperback collection as it came out, but for some reason or other (maybe Grad School, maybe a new job), I’ve fallen behind in the last few years and now have almost TEN collections I haven’t touched! To be fair, I’m including all three spin off series: Jack of Fables, Cinderella, and Fairest, in my total, but still, that puts me pretty far behind the current storylines.

The worst part is, I really like this series – I list it all the time as a personal favourite, I’ve read the tie-in novel Peter & Max and I got righteously indignant when Once Upon a Time first came out and stole all of Fables potential to become a television series in its own right. So now I’m about to revisit the first trade collection Fables #1: Legends in Exile for my current course on comic books and graphic novels in libraries, and I’m realizing I’m not as up-to-date a fan as I could be!

Luckily I do have a little bit of time between now and when I take an in depth look at the series for school, so step one is to figure out what order to read each of these titles in – as the various spin-off series also include crossovers, I want to make sure I’m not spoiling plot points for myself as I go along. So I make a quick stop at Trade Reading Order and then check out their list for Fables – even though the list isn’t quite up to date, it does get me 80% of the info I need, and once I register for the site myself I’ll see if I can bring it up to date.

So there you go, a little embarrassing, but at least I have a starting point for getting myself back on track.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Doctor Ryan Stone

For our anniversary last month, my wife and I spent the day running various errands and then got to take in a matinee of the film Gravity.

For those unfamiliar with the premise, the story follows Dr. Ryan Stone (played amazingly by Sandra Bullock), on her first mission in space, when a freak occurrence leaves the doctor and another crew member stranded in Earth's orbit, with no obvious way home.

Although the film has some of the most amazing effects I've ever seen, and the story kept us on the edge of our seats the whole way through (my wife described the film as delivering a terrifying mix of claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time), what really held the whole film together was the lead character, and our genre character of the week, Doctor Ryan Stone.

Although the film is set in space, in many ways it is a pure survival story, like 127 Hours or Castaway, and as with both of those films, the power of the film definitely comes from the way the story connects you to the character.

Although I'm very sure this film is going to be added to my home collection, I can't stress enough that this movie deserves to be seen in theatres, the movie works best as an immersive experience, and although I'm not generally a fan of 3D, it was pretty darn amazing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game

All right, to be fair when it comes to this story,  I'm pretty biased.  Although the novel came out in 1985, I didn't get around reading it until the mid-90s and it sits pretty high on my list of favourite science fictions stories.

Yesterday I took my daughters out to see the new film, and I've got to say it was pretty great.  For those unfamiliar with the original story, 1) go read the book, as fun as the movie was, the book a fantastic read, and 2) the story follows a child who is put through military training with other kids to prepare for a potential war with an alien race that has already attacked Earth in the past.

Although my favourite part of the book series comes after Ender's Game, the first story is a pretty amazing one and I'm glad my kids got to see it in theatres, as the visuals were pretty darn amazing.

Definitely worth a watch.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Things I think about while Installing Game Data

So I've been sitting for about five minutes this morning installing the game data for Batman: Arkham Origins for my Playstation 3 (which I just got from my local library by the way - I love epl)

As the game takes its time to load up I'm wondering exactly how far I'll be able to get over the weekend.

I've finished up much of my school work at a frantic pace specifically to be able to focus my weekend on this new game (and hopefully a movie) so now I'm simply waiting for the load to finish and get going on the new Batman Game.

I sure hope the game is worth the wait - not the wait on the hold queue at the library, but this amazingly long time spent loading the game onto my machine.

When I was younger and loading games on my old Mac or at friends houses watching games load up on the 386s, we could spend an afternoon watching a bar slowly move across a screen before we could start playing our Dungeons & Dragons or Civilization game.

This is actually taking me back, and not necessarily in a good way.

I'm now at 65% loaded…


…anyway, I think I'll head off to drop my daughter off at her party and hope the game is up and running when I get back.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Anya

I'm currently enrolled in a course called "LIS 518: Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries" which means I get to combine my love of comics with my current academic studies.

Also I get to read a lot of new comics I had never heard of before; case in point, Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgol.

The story follows a young girl (and our genre character of the week) Anya, a young Russian Immigrant living in the United States who is trying to make sense of school, her family and life, and then she falls into an abandoned well.

In the well she meets a ghost named Emily, who has been trapped in the well for decades and might be just the friend that Anya needs.

What I really loved about the book was just how relatable Anya is as a character, her life is very recognizable (and I'm saying this as a non-immigrant guy in his thirties) and you can't help but feel for her the whole way through the story as she works to better her life and help her new friend.

The artwork is also pretty incredible; it's straight-forward and does have a sort of Disney-esque feel, which in a coming of age story, fits very nicely.

If you haven't read the book yet, it is definitely worth a look.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

The Shining was one of the first adult horror novels I ever read – coming before it were Carrie (I chose it because it was really short), Salem’s Lot (Vampires!), and Firestarter (because how can you beat a title like that?), but the more of these books I read the more I needed to read. I read The Shining for the first time in grade eight, and I’ve got to say, the book really stuck with me.

I don’t know if it was the idea of this creepy hotel, or the claustrophobic feel the whole novel quickly began to build, but at the time it really unnerved me, especially as the lead was a five-year-old boy with some telepathic powers (called The Shining in the novel), desperate to save his family from the horrors of The Overlook Hotel.

By the way, if you’ve never read The Shining, you should definitely pick it up. Although the 1980 film has a lot in common with the original novel, the book is much, much scarier.

So decades later and in my late 30s, I pick up Stephen King’s newest book, Doctor Sleep, which follows Dan Torrence, the now grown five-year-old from the original novel, and his involvement with a deranged family that hunt for other kids with The Shining – and not to help them out.

I really don’t want to give away plot points for the book (It’s been on shelves for a few weeks at the point I’m writing this post), but it is well worth the cost and not just to see how things worked out for Dan. The new villains in the book are some of the more terrifying I’ve come across in recent fiction – except for Charlie Manx from Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 (which also has connections with this book), and it was incredibly hard for me to put down when I needed to be working or visiting with friends and family.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Things I've Noticed: Theme Months can be fun!

Having just spent a month focusing entirely on one topic, Hack/Slash by Tim Seeley, I'm back to do the regular bloggity-blog stuff now!

In some ways I view my theme months as vacations - even through I spent a lot of time focussed entirely on one topic, whether a comic, a YA vampire series, or a style of movie, what I also do is build up a backlog of posts to write in November.

Last month I saw more than a few great Horror movies I hadn't seen before, read the new Stephen King novel Doctor Sleep, and finished the PS3 Game The Last of Us.

So now, even though I've still going to have to write each of these posts, I've now got a whole bunch of raw material in my reserves, and all because I've spent my last month focusing elsewhere.

Which is pretty great.

So there you go - if you haven't tried a theme-month for your blog, it has all sorts of bonuses.