The Walking Dead: New World Order

September 21, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

orderThe Walking Dead: New World Order by Robert Kirkman, et al.


I’ve said before that Kirkman manages to keep The Walking Dead a fresh exercise in survival and morality, but I also recognize that there’s going to come a time when it feels like he’s stuck in a rut. That comes to a head in New World Order, where he creates a new antagonist who doesn’t feel so much like an individual as he does a mesh of the Governor and Negan. I get it: Rick needs to continue being the moral reflection of the power-hungry, but there are only so many ways one can characterize those characters.

The good thing is that I’ve said something similar about other collections, and Kirkman still manages to make something distinct and effective come out of the story by the end. My biggest concern now is that he’s borrowing from earlier characters instead of creating a new one. I’ll wait it out and see what he does with it, though. Y’all know I’ve come too far now to give up on the story.

Started: September 17, 2018
Finished: September 17, 2018

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Monstress: Haven

September 20, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

havenMonstress: Haven by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda


It’s getting increasingly harder for me to follow what’s happening in Monstress. I’m willing to admit that it’s more me than the author, but I notice other reviewers are having the same issue with the title. What brings me back to the series, though, is the characters. Maika continues to be a complex, strong antihero, but Kippa and Zinn help temper out her abrasiveness, and they actually get some development this time around. Liu has set up some threads to resolve in future volumes; I just wish I knew which ones had been resolved in this one.

There’s so much to love about Monstress: the matriarchy; the characters; the mythology; and the artwork. The problem is the plots seem to take a back seat to all of that. I’m used to Monstress being a dense book that requires attention, but I wasn’t expecting to get so lost among the details that I couldn’t follow the plot.

Started: September 13, 2018
Finished: September 13, 2018

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Good Deeds Gone Unpunished

August 21, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

deedsGood Deeds Gone Unpunished by Rich Burlew


As I was reading this book, I realized that the reasons I like Usagi Yojimbo so much are the reasons I like The Order of the Stick so much. Aside from the honorable characters and the deep-seeded evil of both stories, there’s a general positivity to their works that you don’t see much in modern fantasy. Sure, people die, and sometimes they’re our favorite characters, but Burlew appears to write toward a general feel-good, heroes-win kind of fantasy. It still has an epic feel, and I know it hasn’t been concluded yet, but it feels like that’s where Burlew is going with his story.

Good Deeds Gone Unpunished is a collection of five short-stories, told in reverse chronological order, about the citizens of Azure City, featured in the collection War and XPs. We get glimpses into the lives of some of the major characters there, some seemingly innocuous, others profound and life-changing. There’s a good balance of exposition and revelation here, which is about all most of the stories have. The first four are very short, and hardly have time to get anything going, but the final story takes up about half of the book and feels like a novel of its own.

Burlew is a talented writer. This isn’t news to anyone who follows the online comic, but he’s a writer who deserves more attention. His stories are geared more toward readers who have a familiarity with Dungeons and Dragons (the early strips more so), but anyone who enjoys epic stories with complex plots and a strong sense of humor would find a lot to like in this series. One of these days I’ll get around to re-reading the story in the collected trade paperback.

Started: August 6, 2018
Finished: August 10, 2018

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Usagi Yojimbo: Mysteries

July 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

usagiUsagi Yojimbo: Mysteries by Stan Sakai


Stan Sakai can churn out a lot of Usagi Yojimbo. I don’t mind at all, since I have yet to come across a collection I haven’t liked. I’ve said before what makes the series so great — vivid characters, real history, a good sense of place, and honest conflicts — and that holds true with Mysteries, which of course is no surprise.

One of Sakai’s more recent character creations is Inspector Ishida, a police inspector who investigates the crimes in his district in feudal Japan. Usagi and Ishida are two characters who interact well together — both rely on people underestimating them, though for different reasons — and Mysteries is a collection of stories featuring the two characters. The collection would be a good one regardless, but with both of them featured in the entire book, of course it’s good.

I repeat myself a lot in my reviews of these collections, but the series overall is consistently good, and since Mysteries is volume thirty-two, it’s hard to come up with new praise for it. Regardless, Usagi Yojimbo is a series to read, for readers of any age. If you haven’t yet, now is the best time to start reading it.

Started: July 7, 2018
Finished: July 7, 2018

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo: Expanded Edition

June 22, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) ()

tmntTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo: Expanded Edition by Stan Sakai


I was unaware that this crossover event had happened. I wasn’t surprised, partly because this isn’t the first time that the turtles have crossed into Usagi’s timeline, and partly because I don’t follow the individual issues of Usagi. Once I saw it was available, though, it was a no-brainer that I would read it; I have 35 collections on my shelf to prove it.

This isn’t the tightest Usagi story, partly because it’s so short. What I like about the collections is the way they string stories together into an overarching story, and that’s missing in this crossover. We do get throwbacks to one of the major stories that has played a part in the series over the last several collections, which is nice, but I feel like I could have skipped this issue all together and not missed anything. Which, on the other hand, is probably what Sakai intended with the crossover — to bring something new to the constant readers without alienating readers who missed it.

Still, this is Stan Sakai, and the story has all the charm and history one expects from his stories. I think Usagi fans will get more out of this issue than Turtles fans will, since it’s all Sakai’s style. This is the expanded edition of the issue, which includes other crossover stories that have appeared before (in some cases, even in the collections), which is nice. It still clocks in under 75 pages, though, so anyone looking for a more solid Usagi story might want to look elsewhere. It’s more Yokai than Grasscutter.

Started: May 12, 2018
Finished: May 12, 2018

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Archie: Volume Five

June 21, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) ()

archie5Archie: Volume Five by Mark Waid, et al.


This was the first collection of the reboot I read since watching Riverdale, which takes a lot of liberties with the Archie characters. Waid’s take on the characters is much more traditional, which isn’t a surprise since his notes in the first volume were that he wanted to do no harm to the characters. After Betty’s accident in the last collection, though, I wondered if he had forgotten about that promise.

Waid wraps up that story arc well, concluding the events without resorting to cliches or obvious resolutions. He also avoids the “woman in a refrigerator” trope by having the accident affect Betty’s own resolve, instead of having it as a reason to develop the other characters. That happens, too, but it’s not the primary result of the accident. I had concerns at the end of Volume Four because it seemed like he was taking that route, but he pulled it off well.

I grew up on Archie, so I’m the target audience for this title, but I think it’s doing some impressive things with the characters. Where Riverdale takes the license as a place to begin a noir story that does what it needs to with the characters, regardless of their background, Archie is staying faithful to the characters as they’ve been for so long. It’s no surprise that I’m preferring the comic to the show (and I do like the show!).

Started: May 12, 2018
Finished: May 12, 2018

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Paper Girls: Volume 4

May 31, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

girlsPaper Girls: Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang


Finally, we get some answers! Vaughan has been raising more and more questions with each volume, and with Volume 4, we start to see what’s going on. We don’t get all of our questions answered, but we at least start to see some of what is happening behind the scenes.

This is the second time in the series that we see one of the paper girls interacting with her older self, and I hope this isn’t going to be a trend. It was cool and funky and startling the first time it happened, but the second time around, it feels a little stale. Will each of the girls run into her older self at some point in the story? If so, will the whole device grow tired?

I still like what’s happening in this series, so it’s not like I’m going to stop reading based on that one sticking point. I’ve just grown accustomed to Vaughan writing strong, strange, thoughtful stories, so I expect something more than just retreading an old device. I’m just glad we’re starting to get a better understanding of the bigger picture; I vowed at the end of the last collection that if he didn’t start revealing something of the story by now, I’d stop reading.

Started: April 14, 2018
Finished: April 14, 2018

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Harrow County: Dark Times a’Coming

May 30, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

darkHarrow County: Dark Times a’Coming by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook


Things are moving quickly in Harrow County. Emmy is struggling to maintain the haints while Beatrice is testing her own powers, all while the Family is moving to usurp Emmy, and Hester Beck’s return is imminent. Does it feel like things are coming to a conclusion? If so, that’s no surprise; Harrow County is ending with its next arc.

This news was a surprise to me, since I don’t follow the titles I read outside of when the next collection is due to be released. It also saddens me, because this series (aside from one collection that seemed superfluous) was strong, with realized characters and smart, thematic horror. Harrow County has been Good Horror since the start, and that’s a hard thing to find in recent years.

So, if you like horror, if you like Good Horror, and you haven’t read Harrow County yet, get on it. You’re missing out, and since the series will be ending before the end of the summer, you have a chance to binge through all of it in one sitting. You won’t be disappointed.

Started: April 14, 2018
Finished: April 14, 2018

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The Walking Dead, Vol. 29: Lines We Cross

May 11, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

linesThe Walking Dead, Vol. 29: Lines We Cross by Robert Kirkman, et al.


If you already like The Walking Dead, and if you’ve been reading it long enough to make it to volume twenty-nine, then there’s not much I can say about this collection to get you to read it. Chances are, you’ve beat me to it. Plus, I’ve reviewed enough of these collections so far to give you a good idea of what to expect out of the series, even if you’re not reading it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it gets harder and harder to review these collections (unless they’re not very good) the longer I read the series.

A couple of notable things here is that Kirkman introduces a new character to the saga, and that character is weirder than the last few characters he’s introduced. He also manages to make Negan out to be a fully sympathetic character. Sure, it took several story arcs (and several years) to reach that point, but it’s an impressive feat, nonetheless, since he came into the story bashing Glenn’s head in with a baseball bat. Considering that Kirkman makes him sympathetic without sacrificing the character traits that make him so unlikeable makes it even more impressive.

Plus, it was interesting to see how Kirkman manages the death of a significant character in the comic, when the show did such a poor job of managing the death of a different significant character in the latest season. I’ve said before that the show does a disservice to the story and the characters of the comic, but seeing how differently they’re handled, almost back-to-back, is enlightening.

I’m a committed reader, so I’m going to keep reading the series until Kirkman runs out of story. I recommend it to viewers of the show who are growing tired of the runaround and back-and-forth nature of the plot (not to mention if they want to see an Andrea who’s worth reading and a Rick whose character isn’t inconsistent), and want to see what the show could have been. I’m not one who thinks a TV show or movie should be exactly like the book, but the story in the comic is simply a better one.

Started: March 16, 2018
Finished: March 16, 2018

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HiLo: Waking the Monsters

April 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

monstersHiLo: Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick



Really. I can’t say much more than that. If you really¬†must know, then you can check out my reviews for the first three books, where I talk about my love for Judd Winick and the characters he creates. Or you can just take my word for it and start reading the series.

(Though you should really start with the first book if you’re new to the series.)

Started: January 16, 2018
Finished: January 16, 2018

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