Profile for M. E. Volmar > Reviews

Browse

M. E. Volmar's Profile

Customer Reviews: 168
Top Reviewer Ranking: 24,448
Helpful Votes: 3639




Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
M. E. Volmar RSS Feed

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-17
pixel
Batman: Arkham Asylum (15th Anniversary Edition) A Serious House on Serious Eart h
Batman: Arkham Asylum (15th Anniversary Edition) A Serious House on Serious Eart h
by Grant Morrison
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from $30.00

166 of 175 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inside look at a madman's nightmare., July 27, 2005
First, there are two things anyone interested in purchasing or reading this title should know about it beforehand. One, that it is probably not for everyone's taste as it isn't your traditional Batman vs. the villain-of-the-week sort of story, but rather a darker, more disturbing kind of tale that focuses on a deep, complex exploration of madness, told alternately from three different points of view: that of Amadeus Arkham, founder of the asylum, that of Batman and his other persona, Bruce Wayne, and of course, that of all the madmen locked up at the asylum, including the super villains.
Two, that it is "Suggested for Mature Readers" on the back cover as it's probably one of the most unnecessarily violent and ghastly graphic novels ever published under the Batman title, although, I definitely think - regardless of it being at times a bit too disgusting for my taste - that it's also one of the most original and beautifully illustrated narratives ever created for the genre. The superb artwork is perfect for the story with its surreal, dreamy, and suggestive look, even if, on occasion, it gets a little difficult to follow, especially with certain clashing combinations of colors and typographies. Still, the lavish intricacy of the compositions and the broad range of techniques used by the artist are a spectacular visual feast worth the price of the book alone.
The dual story, told in a nicely interwoven parallel, on one hand, explores Arkham's past and how his reasons for founding the asylum derived from decisions he made during the most crucial points of his life, and on the other, focuses on Batman's present day mission to go inside the asylum and, while confronting the insecurities about his own sanity, regain control of the facility after it's been taken over by the Joker.
Arkham's story is from beginning to end an emotional journey through the situations and escalating tragedies that can slowly drive a man insane. It's marvelously shrouded in a veil of mystery and superstition, and brilliantly placed in time during the beginning of the 1900's both by the overall mood of the art and the historical details sprinkled here and there, including, among others, having Arkham meet and learn from both Carl Jung and Aleister Crowley.
Batman's story, told from both his point of view and that of the inmates' is, on the other hand, a lot darker, more twisted and sadly less consistent. Our hero's mischaracterization, present throughout the whole story, is obvious from his first line of dialogue, with which he's not only portrayed as a constantly daunted man, but also as one who reacts with shock and disbelief to the inmates' atrocities and maniacal behavior that he's so used to fighting. Contrastingly, the clever analysis of Joker's psychosis is brilliant right to very last page of the book, even in spite of the endless sexually perverted innuendos from him - who even hints at a homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin - that somewhat lessen the impact of the story's emotional momentum.
The story concludes with the most satisfactory ending I've so far encountered in any graphic novel - worthy of a 5-star rating on its own -, an excellent comparison of the contrasts and similarities between Arkham and Batman's sense of duty, the ghosts of their pasts, and the skeletons in each one's closet.
As you'd expect from the title, along with the Joker, a fair amount of villains make an appearance, enriching Arkham Asylum's decadent milieu, among them Two-Face, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Clayface, Prof. Milo, Dr. Destiny, Maxie Zeus, Black Mask, etc. The constant references to April Fools' Day and Alice in Wonderland, the changes introduced to Two-Face's alter ego, Harvey Dent, and the re-imagining of some of the other super villains, are truly delightful as well. But where the most pleasant surprises of the story lie for me are on Batman's iterated questioning of the "cures" administered to the inmates by the asylum's doctors, and the contemplation of the possibility that madness might not only be a physical illness but that it could also be a contagious disease.
Despite the fact that this book could use some degree of fine-tuning in a few places and a little less unwarranted violence in others, overall it holds its own and delivers a fantastic story about how different people perceive the world around them when they see it through their own biases.
This 15th Anniversary Edition includes a section with the original sketches and story conceptualizations done for this title that presents an amazing view of the artists' creative process.
Definitely a must-have addition to any serious Batman collection.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2012 11:35 PM PDT


Arkham Asylum: Living Hell
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell
by Dan Slott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.97
48 used & new from $6.62

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A convoluted telling of a weird, uneven tale., July 27, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Arkham Asylum is the psychiatric hospital of Batman's Gotham City, and this is a story about what being involved with it and living inside it entails to the doctors, to the orderlies, to the madmen, to Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, and even to Batman himself. The story is told mostly through the eyes of a sleazy lawyer, Warren White a.k.a. "The Great White Shark," who pleads insanity on charges of fraud to avoid going to prison, and thus gets sent to the asylum for a period of observation, being unlucky enough to arrive just before the inmates take over and the unavoidable chaos ensues.
But the interesting premise of this story soon dwindles into a disjointed parade of characters whose fleeting appearances amount to nothing more than a twisted, violent, incoherent and very disappointing tale that only allows glimpses of what could have been a wonderful collage of fascinating and correlated stories.
The best ideas, introduced right at the beginning of the book, are entirely underplayed: the development of some newly created characters and the provocative re-envisioning of some old ones, the exploration of the villains' psychoses and motivations, and White's perceptions of Batman's most dangerous enemies from the point of view of someone unfamiliar to their level of insanity. Instead, the story dawdles on scrutinizing what it takes to survive at Arkham as a patient, and on some other equally uninteresting subjects that add nothing to the story and are mostly left inconclusive by the end of the book: the schemes and intrigues of the inmates, the alliances between cellmates, the trade of smuggled goods, the privileges granted to some patients by the guards. Sadly, it also substitutes good storytelling with vast quantities of violence, bloodshed and gore as a way to grip the reader's attention.
But, without a doubt, this tale's weakest point is its conclusion. Not only it bewilderingly and repeatedly shifts focus without the slightest hint of a smooth transition, it also incorporates a supernatural element involving exorcisms, the undead, and even Jason Blood a.k.a. the demon Etrigan, which is so off-the-wall it seems to belong to an entirely different story altogether.
On the other hand, the artwork on this volume is so amazing; it deserves a 5-star rating on its own. With a masterful use of color schemes and rich, detailed compositions it perfectly conveys the mood of the ambiance and the attitude of each character even where the writing fails.
Still, this is a story that never develops to its full potential, and that is difficult to enjoy even for a die-hard Batman fan like myself. If you are interested in taking a look inside the world of Arkham Asylum, I recommend you read instead the far superior "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" by Grant Morrison.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar


Lexar Media 512 MB JumpDrive Sport Portable USB 2.0 Drive (PC/Mac) (Retail Package)
Lexar Media 512 MB JumpDrive Sport Portable USB 2.0 Drive (PC/Mac) (Retail Package)

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect match between design and performance., July 25, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This product, put simply, is just excellent. It combines the best portable drive design I have seen so far in such products, with an outstanding, dependable performance.
The 512MB, compact-sized drive measures 2 1/2" with the protective cap off and 3 1/2" with it on. It's made of hard, durable plastic, and has a bright green LED on its top side to indicate when files are being read or written.
The cap is molded from thick, but flexible, black rubber, and fits tightly not only over the USB port, but all around the drive as well, both preventing its accidental detachment and protecting the drive from any impact to its sides. Moreover, it conforms to the USB port so snuggly that even liquids won't get through. And its unique design incorporates a keychain loop that allows you to remove the drive for use, without having to move the cap from its usual hanging place.
I have already purchased 4 of these drives for myself, and I use them all daily on several computers - laptops and desktops - with different configurations, and with different types of files: documents, audio, video, graphics, programs. Not a single problem so far.
Furthermore, this product works perfectly with USB 1.x and 2.x, and its operating speed is ultra fast, whether you are transferring files, creating backups or even writing directly on a file in the drive. It also works under various Windows Operating Systems: 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, NT, and XP, although for 98 and 98SE you must first download and install the free, small driver file from the Lexar Media web page.
I have recommended this product to friends and family more times than I can recall, and have yet to receive any negative feedback or complaints from anyone.
My one discontent with this product is that it's only manufactured in one color scheme: red and black body, and green LED, but its nifty design and its outstanding performance for over 9 months now - and still counting - more than make up for this marketing oversight.
Overall, this is a superior product for storing and moving your information in a fast, reliable, and practical way. You won't be disappointed.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar


Smeagol (Re-Issue)
Smeagol (Re-Issue)
Offered by Fletcher Campbell
Price: $5.78
8 used & new from $5.65

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Hobbits..., July 25, 2005
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Smeagol (Re-Issue) (Toy)
This figure is Toy Biz's take on Sméagol, the Hobbit that was turned into Gollum when he succumbed to the power of the Ring, as he appears in The Two Towers movie.
It's a two-piece set, the figure and an Electronic Sound Base. The figure is a vivid representation of the computer-generated character from the movie. It's not a traditional hard plastic figure, but a bendable figure, molded in soft rubber with inside wires for an endless variety of poses. The paint job is remarkable, pale and pink stipples on his skin give a realistic impression of a delicate, unhealthy flesh. And the amount of details for such a simple creature is extraordinary: you can clearly see the wrinkles on the palms of its hands, the lashes on its back, the thin strands of hair on his head, the irises of his eyes, the fibers on his loincloth and even the outline of almost every bone and tenuous muscle underneath his frail skin.
The Electronic Sound Base on the other hand is made of hard plastic, and it simulates a salient of rocks with vines and a dead twisted tree branch. When you push a button neatly disguised as a stone it plays one of the two alternate recorded phrases, "Nice Hobitts" or "Sméagol," in the voice of Andy Serkis, the actor who voices both Sméagol and Gollum in the movie trilogy. And although the base doesn't have pegs to secure the figure by its feet, it has plenty of space for the figure to stand on without fear of having it suddenly tumble down.
I should also point out that this is the same figure that was released for the Return of the King series under the name of "Gollum with Authentic Movie Phrases," the only difference between the two is the face sculpt, whereas Sméagol displays a frivolous look underlined by madness, Gollum wears an evil grin wrapped in hatred for his Hobbit companions and desire for the Ring.
This is the best Sméagol figure so far, and it looks especially good displayed alongside Frodo and Sam, so don't wait too long to add it to your collection.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2011 8:09 AM PDT


Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
by David Gerold
Edition: Paperback
52 used & new from $1.75

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional, noteworthy reference., July 24, 2005
Although this book doesn't qualify as a traditional how-to reference, but mainly as a collection of tips, tricks and techniques on improving your science fiction and fantasy writing, it does rank high above the majority of references available on this topic, which are usually only aimed at psyching up the reader with nothing more than fluffy, feel-good advice that's completely useless to anyone with little more than some basic schooling, some common sense, and a few hours of writing practice.
Award-winning author David Gerrold, particularly well known to Trekkies for his Star Trek Original Series' episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," presents this book in such a pleasant, entertaining and enthusiastic style that you'll be enticed not only to read it through on your first sitting, but also to keep coming back to it time and again.
The short and very easy to find sections into which the book is divided go straight to the point without overlooking anything of importance and retaining all the necessary ideas to clearly explain the points being made. The selection of basic and not-so-basic topics included range from conceptualizing your first ideas (characters, settings, plot) to editing and selling your completed manuscripts. The chosen examples, picked out of both the author's own work and classic sources of the genres, are always accurate and easy to understand. And the very practical suggestions on technique and the reminders on style sprinkled throughout the book will undoubtedly help you create and maintain healthy and fruitful writing habits if followed.
Whereas, in this volume, the ever-present anecdotic remarks of the author might be more appealing to the practiced writer who's lived through similar experiences than to the beginner, the sound information on the craft of writing itself will certainly be useful to both. This may not be the ultimate reference on science fiction and fantasy writing - for that I would turn to either "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card or "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Crawford Kilian - but it is definitely a useful and enjoyable reading. Buy this book, enjoy it, and take the counsel it gives as you would that of a good friend.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar


JLA: Pain of the Gods (Jla (Justice League of America))
JLA: Pain of the Gods (Jla (Justice League of America))
by Kurt Busiek
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.71
58 used & new from $1.78

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different, but enjoyable look at the JLA superheroes., July 24, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Envision yourself as a superhero. Imagine dedicating your life to protecting innocents from crime, natural disasters, accidents, and the occasional super villain. Picture all the people you save each day and all the crises you avert. Now, think of what would happen if, regardless of all your superpowers and your constant vigilance, one day you suddenly failed, and the consequence of your failure meant the demise of those you swore to protect.
This paperback edition of the collected issues of JLA #101 to #106 tells us exactly what happens when six of our best-loved superheroes - Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and Batman - find themselves in precisely that situation, and are confronted by death, either as a result of their inability to prevent the loss of innocent lives, or through the questioning of their own mortality.
But this tale might not appeal to everyone, especially devoted fans of the comics' continuity: it takes us on a psychological exploration of the humanity that lies beneath each character's apparent omnipotence and shows us their fears, needs, desires, strengths, and weaknesses - even their hard to acknowledge limitations - reasonably departing from the ongoing storyline and characterizations on the JLA's and their own monthly issues, and appearing closer to their portrayals in the JL and JLU animated series.
Nonetheless, this is a wonderfully told story, where woven into every hero's tale is also a profound look at the value of friendship, highlighting the importance of the relationships forged through the JLA between these seemingly invulnerable and amazing individuals, and how those relationships provide them comfort and support when the burden of their missions becomes heavier with added insecurities and personal losses.
All the action and emotion of the story is perfectly captured by the superb illustrations that, while simple and as easy to interpret as a film's storyboard, are rendered with much attention to detail. Especially delightful is the choice of colors applied throughout the book. Not only does it correspond with the color scheme of the superhero on whom the story is focusing, but it also reflects his or her mood as the story's emotional weight shifts from one situation to the other.
This is a unique and satisfying title worth enjoying, and a deserving addition to any serious DC Comics fan's collection.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar


Lord Of The Rings Return of the King Collectors Series Action Figure Mount Doom Sam
Lord Of The Rings Return of the King Collectors Series Action Figure Mount Doom Sam
Offered by Toy Hutt
Price: $10.59
9 used & new from $5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There to the very end., July 21, 2005
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This figure is Toy Biz's take on Samwise Gamgee, Frodo's loyal friend and companion, as he appears in the Return of the King movie on the slopes of Mount Doom at the end of the journey to destroy The One Ring.
Its likeness to a weary but hopeful Sean Astin, the actor who plays the character in the movie, surpasses every other figure of Sam released so far. The sculpting, the painting and the delicate detailing on this figure are commendable: its dirty hands and feet, its ragged and disheveled clothing, its ruffled hair, and its pitiful eyes are particularly well done.
A part of the "Super Posable" line, it has 29 points of articulation, allowing for a variety of movements and positions that extends well beyond that of most figures. Furthermore, by combining it with Mount Doom Frodo you can recreate the scene in which Frodo is reclined against Sam on the slopes of Mount Doom after the destruction of the Ring.
From the scene before that one are the two phrases recorded in the actor's voice on the Sound Base: "Throw it in the fire!" and "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!" The base, which imitates a rocky slope, also comes with a couple of pegs that securely hold the figure by its feet when displayed standing on top of it.
The one disappointing feature the figure has is also its only accessory: Frodo's sword, Sting. This is the worst representation of it I have seen; its blade is too narrow, its hilt is too big, and the Elven engravings so carefully etched on previous models are too crude and sloppy on this one. It's really a shame that the manufacturers took so little care with it, especially after having taken the time to place such a beautifully decorated scabbard for it on the figure's left hip.
Still, it is a figure worth adding to any serious collector's display, especially when paired with Mount Doom Frodo.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
Comment Comment | Permalink


Lord of the Rings Return of the King Series 5 Figure: Mount Doom Frodo
Lord of the Rings Return of the King Series 5 Figure: Mount Doom Frodo
Offered by greenthirteen inc
Price: $12.45
7 used & new from $7.80

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the journey's end., July 20, 2005
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This figure is Toy Biz's take on Frodo, as he appears in the Return of the King movie on the slopes of Mount Doom at the end of his journey to destroy The One Ring.
At a glance this figure might seem unexceptional, but its merits lie on the things that are better noticed upon closer inspection:
* Its remarkable likeness to a gaunt and exhausted Elijah Wood, the actor who plays the character in the movie
* Its extremely good sculpt and detailing; the ragged and disheveled clothing, the dirt on its hands and feet, the despair in its eyes
* Its "Super Posable" construction that offers 29 points of articulation and allows for a wide variety of movements and positions far superior to that of most other figures
Furthermore, it comes with a unique neck design that lets its head bend forward and its chin rest above its chest to recreate Frodo's posture in the scene from the movie in which he is reclined against Sam after the destruction of the Ring.
From that scene too is the emotive phrase recorded on the Sound Base in the actor's voice: "I'm glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things." The base, which imitates a rocky slope by which a fiery current of lava slowly flows, also comes with a "Play" button disguised as a stone, and a couple of pegs that securely hold the figure by its feet when displayed standing on top of it.
My one disappointment with this figure is the result of a major oversight by the manufacturer: the Ring carefully painted hanging on a narrow chain around its neck had already been destroyed in the scene that the figure is meant to stand for. Even so, I still consider this figure worthy of being recommended as a good addition to any collector's display, especially when paired with Mount Doom Sam.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
Comment Comment | Permalink


Gollum (Re-Issue)
Gollum (Re-Issue)
Offered by Realdeals4every1
Price: $16.00
15 used & new from $7.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My...... precious..., July 19, 2005
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Gollum (Re-Issue) (Toy)
This figure is Toy Biz's take on Gollum, the creature a Hobbit once called Sméagol was turned into when he succumbed to the power of the Ring, as he appears in The Two Towers movie.
It's a two-piece set, the figure and an Electronic Sound Base. The figure is a vivid representation of the computer-generated character from the movie. It's not a traditional hard plastic figure, but a bendable figure, molded in soft rubber with inside wires for an endless variety of poses. The paint job is remarkable, pale and pink stipples on his skin give a realistic impression of a delicate, unhealthy flesh. And the amount of details for such a simple creature is extraordinary: you can clearly see the wrinkles on the palms of its hands, the lashes on its back, the thin strands of hair on his head, the irises of his eyes, the fibers on his loincloth and even each tiny, deformed tooth in his mouth.
The Electronic Sound Base on the other hand is made of hard plastic, and it simulates a salient of rocks with vines and a dead twisted tree branch. When you push a button neatly disguised as a stone it plays the phrase, "My precious..." - maybe even a bit too loud - in the voice of Andy Serkis, the actor who voices Gollum and Sméagol in the movie trilogy. And although the base doesn't have pegs to secure the figure by its feet, it has plenty of space for the figure to stand on without fear of having it suddenly tumble down.
I should also point out that this is the same figure that was released for the Return of the King series under the name of "Sméagol with Authentic Movie Phrases," the only difference between the two is the face sculpt, whereas Gollum wears an evil grin wrapped in hatred for his Hobbit companions and desire for the Ring, Sméagol displays a frivolous look underlined by madness.
This is the best Gollum figure so far, and it looks especially good displayed alongside Frodo and Sam, so don't wait too long to add it to your collection.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar


How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.96
133 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Undoubtedly the best reference on the basics of the craft., July 19, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
After having read almost every available book on writing science fiction and fantasy specifically, I think that the combination of this volume and Crawford Kilian's "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" constitutes the most complete, practical and useful source of advice and information for any writer interested in stepping into or perfecting the craft of writing in either genre, in any form, any length or any language.
This concise, well-organized, award-winning reference on the fundamentals of writing genre fiction is written by one of science fiction and fantasy's most prominent contemporary writers. His conversational style, enjoyable and entertaining, is perfectly paired with the book's user-friendly format for a delightful and smooth reading experience, whether you peruse the book systematically, cover-to-cover, or simply consult it on specific topics.
The wide variety of subjects covered include an introduction to both genres, techniques on world creation (clothing, traditions, languages, geography), advice on story construction (characters, viewpoint, plot, theme), keys to good writing, (exposition, leads, hooks, language, grammar), and the business of writing (markets, publishers, classes, organizations, awards). Solid examples, taken from well-known titles as well as the author's work, masterfully illustrate the points being explained, while delightful anecdotes of the author's growth as a writer - his struggles, his mistakes, his triumphs - give inexperienced writers a clear picture of what being a professional in this business really entails.
The last sub-section of the book, "Life at Home," is a genuinely special bonus to any writer; in it the author offers in a matter-of-fact and straightforward way some heartfelt, inspiring advice on how to commit to the craft and be able live a good and fulfilling life as a writer.
While reading this book won't turn you into a great writer overnight - only lots and lots of writing practice and lots and lots of reading from the genre you want to write in will make you master the craft - from reading this book you can expect three basic things: a) to get a clear picture of the craft, business and life of writers; b) to acquire a thorough understanding of the essential elements of the fantasy and science fiction genres; and c) to discover invaluable advice, nifty tips, and helpful techniques from a published author on how to improve your craft and avoid some common pitfalls that could hinder your development as a writer.
If you are serious about creating science fiction and fantasy stories fit to print, then get this superb resource and follow its advice, and you'll stay on the right track, guaranteed.
Also recommended: "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Crawford Kilian.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-17