Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY 24

AC24Image © Juke Box Productions

What a great cover that is. I think it’s the best ape cover I’ve ever seen, and DC used to do lots of them in the 1950s-60s. What makes this one so good, aside from the wonderful art by Alex Ross (which looks even better on the actual cover than it does on this scan), is the fact that this gorilla is NOT interacting with people in some silly way, he’s totally into his drumming, and that’s just what he obviously loves to do.

Inside, Sticks, the gorilla isn’t nearly as happy. He’s been practically forced into joining a super group, and he’s not feeling it as a career, even though he has what it takes to fight crime. It’s music that he wants to pursue, but when he tries going back to the group he joined last issue, it soon puts them in danger again. Writer Kurt Busiek has a solution, though, and it’s an excellent one. Have a read and see.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: GOING POSTAL by Terry Pratchett

GoingPostalThe leader of the Discword city of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, has an interesting method of hiring high-ranking government officials. He appoints condemned criminals. Moist von Lipwig is one, a clever con-man whose career of crime has brought him to a dead end, literally. Or, he can become the new Postmaster General of Ankh-Morpork. Seems like an easy choice, but as Moist soon finds out, the postal service is not only defunct, the very building he’s supposed to run is crumbling, rotting, and filled to the rafters with undelivered mail. Moist tries to run for it, but Lord Vetinari has appointed a tenacious warden — a very strong and unkillable golem named Pump. Wisely, Moist decides to make the best of it.

The decline of the mail service is due to a new and much faster system of sending messages called Clacks, a complex system of visual semaphore sent from tower to tower across the country. That system also has it’s problems, due to mismanagement and failing equipment, and Moist sees a chance to gain traction by challenging the Clacks and their owner, promoting the mail as a much cheaper and (somehow) faster service. Moist is at home with the kind of scam this seems to be, or is it? With help from his very aged employees, Pump and his golem friends, and other unexpected allies, Moist actually might make a go of this mail thing. And the invention of the postage stamp is just the kind of racket he knows well — it’s as good as printing money, especially when people start collecting the stamps instead of using them. But Reacher Gilt, the pirate in control of the Clacks, has other ideas…

Great read, not only clever and insightful, but often very funny. The characters are more than punchlines, though, and their struggles against bureaucracy and human nature are epic. As a former stamp collector, this book delighted me, but I think it would appeal to almost anyone. Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERN LOST ARMY 1

GLLA1Image © DC Comics.

A new GL title, but not really all that new, as it continues the stories of several familiar characters: John Stewart, Arisia, Kilowog, and Guy Gardner, as well as two newer Lanterns, Xrill-Vrek and Two-Six, and a wild card in the person of Krona, who has been both a Guardian in the deep past, and a villain more recently, I think. We are thrown into a new story, or at least it’s new to me, perhaps it continues from a series I haven’t read. There are intriguing elements and mysteries galore. Writer Cullen Bunn handles the characters well, artist Jesus Saiz handles them equally well visually, and I enjoyed reading this issue. At least we’re not in a massive cosmic battle for once, a good thing in my book. Earth is far away, as the title suggests, the characters are lost. That can work in the sense that any kind of story is possible. I’ll keep reading this one to see how it goes.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: SUPERMAN 41

Sup41Image © DC Comics.

Gene Luen Yang takes over for Geoff Johns as writer this issue, and as I was enjoying Johns’ run, I thought I’d give it a try. I liked it.

Superman is still trying to figure out his new power, which is a burst of nova-like energy he has a hard time controlling, and that leaves his powers drained for a while. Clark Kent, meanwhile, is receiving texts from a mystery person who seems to know far too much about him. How Clark attempts to deal with that is a large part of this issue, along with the news story that he, Jimmy and Lois are all working on about high-tech weapons in the wrong hands, and how they got there.

The writing seems fine, I’m intrigued to see where the story goes, and I’m still enjoying John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson’s art.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: MISTER MAX, THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by Cynthia Voigt

MisterMaxLostThingsCover art by Iacopo Bruno

Max Starling is the son of William and Mary Starling, owners of the Starling Theater where their popular theater company performs in the Old City part of Queensbridge. One day an extraordinary offer appears by mail, accompanied by lavish gifts. The offer is to perform exclusively, and at excellent pay, in a distant country. The Starlings have a fine life, but William and Mary find the adventure tempting, and agree. Max is told he will go with them, but on the day they are to leave by steamship, Max arrives at the harbor to find his parents have disappeared, leaving only a cryptic note. Max’s only remaining family is his grandmother, who fortunately lives in the house next to his, and Max concocts a plan to continue living at home in secret. The theater is closed, and all Max’s friends believe he’s gone with his parents, except for Max’s art teacher.

Meanwhile, Max and his grandmother begin investigating the disappearance of Max’s parents, and Max finds other opportunities coming his way to be a sort of private detective. He discovers he’s pretty good at it (except for the case of his parents), and with the help of a few new friends, Max becomes what he calls a “solutioneer,” a solver of problems and finder of lost things. This gives him enough income to survive, and the hope that he will eventually be able to find out what happened to his parents.

This book is charming and well written, the characters are believable and entertaining. The setting is sort of English Victorian, but kept vague, and the town of Queensbridge is nicely mapped so we can follow Max’s exploits from one end of it to the other, and beyond. Max’s new “assistant” Pia is a very talkative girl who can be quite annoying, but also resourceful and helpful. Max’s cases run from small ones like a lost dog to large ones like an extremely valuable silver serving spoon carved by a master silversmith. Hovering over Max at all times is the danger of being discovered as a parentless child living alone in his home, not going to school, and not under the care of anyone official. That makes the many disguises Max has borrowed from his parents’ theater props all the more important.

Great fun, and the first of a trilogy. I’ve already read the second book, and am looking forward to the third, which is out this fall. Cynthia Voigt has had a long career as a writer of children’s novels, and a Newbery award for her book “Dicey’s Song.” This series is lighter than some of her other books, but even more to my liking.

Recommended.