Monday, March 28, 2011

Having a busy, frustrating weekend, and I'm not sure I'll be able to carve out the time for the Batman blog that's percolating in my brain. If that shows up later today, you'll know I managed it. If not, here are the reviews I posted on Goodreads and Amazon about books I read last night:

The Spider: Burning Lead for the Walking Dead by Mark Wheatley

Veteran artist Mark Wheatley writes and draws an adventure of the classic pulp hero, the Spider, as he tries to stop the evil Cannibal Queen's plot to turn the city's elite into flesh-eating cannibals. Will he succeed? What do you think?

Wheatley's art is as fantastic as ever, and really captures the crazy air of weird menace that typified the old Spider adventures (Or so I assume, not having ever actually read any.) Unfortunately, while the writing may very well capture the same spirit, it doesn't make for that fascinating a story. I understand the desire for fans of the old pulps to pay homage to them, but if all we get is a story that's right out of the old pulps, what's the point? Why not just read one of the originals?

I love those old stories as much as the next person, and thrill to reprints of the old Doc Savage and Shadow books. But if someone were to write a new story about them today, I'd want it to feel more like a contemporary novel about those characters. Or create new characters that also pay homage to spirit of inventiveness that the best pulp writers displayed.

Sadly, this book gives us characters with thin-to-no motivation or background. Lots of crazy ideas and weird imagery, but not enough to hold it all together. It also doesn't really give us the background of the heroes at all, instead presuming knowledge of stories from 60 or 70 or more years ago. (Fortunately, since the story depends not at all on the characters having personalities, that doesn't really matter.)

Recommended for long-time fans of the character, I suppose, but for the rest of us, it's no more than a brief diversion.

iZombie: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

Gwen Dylan works as a gravedigger in a Eugene, OR cemetery by day. By night, she hangs out with her friends, tries to figure out the meaning of her life, and tries to just survive.

But her friends are a ghost and a werewolf (or, more accurately, were-terrier). Gwen survives by eating brains once a month, in the process absorbing the memories of the recently-deceased and -consumed and finding herself compelled to resolve any unfinished business they've left behind. Because Gwen is a zombie, but not just a mindless, shambling corpse. She is still the same person she was before she died (as far as she can remember, which isn't 100%). Why is she so special? That's what she wants to find out.

She and her friends aren't the only monsters in Eugene. There's a pack of vampires, running a paintball range. And there's a couple of monster hunters, including Horatio. Gwen should probably stay away from him, before he finds out who, or what, she really is. If only he weren't so darn cute!

Chris Roberson creates a group of interesting, three-dimensional characters in iZombie, and through them tells a story that's both hilarious and horrifying. But it's never predictable. Mike Allred's art is clean, clear, and detailed. He gives each character their own distinct look, and perfectly captures the tone of Roberson's story.

This is only the first installment in the adventures of Gwen and her friends, collecting the first five issues of their monthly comic. I can't wait to read more!