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Invincible: The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1
Invincible: The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1
by Robert Kirkman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.19
67 used & new from $9.61

4.0 out of 5 stars It's A Fun Read, June 22, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There are superhero comic books, movies, and television shows that I would recommend even to friends with no pre-existing interest in the genre. That redefine what you think a superhero comic or cartoon can be. Or that employ the fantastic and phantasmagorical to address in metaphor the great ultimates of literary fiction.

This is not such a book.

What we have here is neither more nor less than an entertaining, well told, and engaging story. I wouldn't exactly say I came away deeply enriched by the experience of having read it, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless.

If you're looking for something a little more concrete, this is the story of an emerging teen superhero - "Invincible" - as he goes from finding his superpowers to finding his place in the world. So like I said, nothing genre-redefining, but it's a fun read. Of course, because this is an Image title as opposed to Marvel or DC, some of the places it's prepared to go are a lot darker and more violent than you're likely to find in the entrenched cosmologies of the old boys - at least in their canonical universes.

The art is simple, straightforward, and above all, uncluttered. Nothing to go into raptures about, but it does the job. Ottley, Walker and Crabtree all seem far more concerned with doing their part in telling a story than making a stylistic statement. It's at once the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of their work.

Bottom line: this is a good, solid, superhero comic. Good enough that I just ordered volumes 2 and 3. If you do love the capes and spandex set, this is definitely for you. But... if not, then you should probably just move on to the next option. Maybe a romance or a western. Or even a pirate comic.

Or whatever the Hell it is you people who don't like superheros read.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2016 10:05 AM PDT


Keep Calm Smoke Crack Worship Satan Funny T-Shirt
Keep Calm Smoke Crack Worship Satan Funny T-Shirt
Price: $19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spread The Good Word!, June 9, 2016
This is far and away the easiest way I know of to spread The Teachings.

At least until they put out a Chick Tract. Then we can start leaving them lying around in bus shelters and public lavatories.

Theo.
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2016 10:24 PM PDT


Ruby Gloom Season 1
Ruby Gloom Season 1

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unassuming but Charming, June 4, 2016
This review is from: Ruby Gloom Season 1 (Amazon Video)
This is an unassuming but rather charming piece of work that grown up animation fans like myself are almost certain to enjoy. I confess though to a certain feeling of frustration: it's just one of those shows where you feel the writing isn't _quite_ as smart as it could've been. Each time I watch it I wish it had just a _little_ more in it for adults: this could so easily have been a five star show. It certainly has moments where it is... But rather longer stretches where it isn't.

As for the aesthetic, I know another reviewer before me described it as "happy goth". I had to think that one over. Myself, I think I'm going to go with "chibi goth". Anyway, whatever labels we apply, the underlying feel is very, very close to what Tim Burton created in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

One last thing: because Amazon won't allow external links in reviews, I'm going to put one in as the initial comment immediately beneath this review. It's to what I personally consider one of the series' finer moments.

I hope you'll check it out.

Theo.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 5, 2016 9:40 AM PDT


Rick and Morty Volume 2
Rick and Morty Volume 2
by Zac Gorman
Edition: Paperback
47 used & new from $11.68

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of The Same... Mostly!, May 26, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a trade paperback that collects together what were originally published as four separate issues. I already reviewed volume one, and titled that review "The B-list Rick and Morty". To cut to the chase, the first three issues included in this, the second volume, do nothing to change that opinion. In both volumes what we get is pretty well exactly what you'd expect for the comic book version of a hit animated TV show.

So for those three issues, what I said for volume one applies again unchanged: This is an entertaining piece of work. It me laugh. It is in no way bad. Volume one was good enough to persuade me that I wanted to buy volume two, after all, and this is more of the same. My only caveat is that - as with volume one - it doesn't quite have the depth, the smarts, or all the layers of meaning we get in the animated original. And when the writer does try to put in those deeper layers of meaning, to be honest it just feels like he's painting by numbers.

Now the fourth issue, which properly speaking is issue eight overall...

The first thing you'll notice is the art. It's just a little "off model". All preceding issues stick religiously to cannon. This one doesn't. It's just a little looser, with a lot more line-work in the shadows. But the second thing that strikes you is the writing. Zac Gorman, who has been doing the writing on all the issues, and who actually drew this particular issue as well, seems finally to have found his footing in the Rick and Morty universe. I still wouldn't say this issue is quite up to the standard of the TV show at its absolute best. Again, there are layers of meaning that don't quite make it all the way from the TV screen onto the comic book page. But it is every bit as good as at least some of the episodes produced for television. So a definite step up.

I'll genuinely be interested to see what volume three brings.

Theo.


Lucifer: Season 1
Lucifer: Season 1
DVD
Price: $24.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He makes me laugh, May 4, 2016
This review is from: Lucifer: Season 1 (Amazon Video)
There's a famous scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Eddie Valiant turns to Jessica Rabbit, and asks her (regarding her husband, Roger):

"Seriously, what do you see in that guy?"

Her response?

"He makes me laugh."

This is a show where Lucifer lands in LA and decides to try His hand at crimefighting. Yes, crimefighting - move over, Batman! Of course, being in LA, He even gets his own shrink.

It's.... perhaps marginally smarter than you'd expect, given that premise. But only marginally. Some good musical selections. And Old Nick himself gets a great set of wheels. Seriously nice wheels there. I'm wicked jealous.

If you're going to have a sympathetic devil, there are a lot of interesting places you could go with that. Think Holocaust theology.

But... this just makes me laugh. It's something to watch on those nights in where you really don't want anything that makes you think too hard.

Theo.
Comment Comments (17) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2016 2:10 PM PDT


The Powerpuff Girls Season 1
The Powerpuff Girls Season 1
Price: $19.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Ordinary, April 28, 2016
When the original Powerpuff Girls cartoon hit the air in the late 1990's, it was not only an absolute delight: it was unlike anything we'd seen before. Edgy-cute, downright funky in its own sweet way, and just ever so slightly subversive. It's not a co-incidence that the show first premiered as a one-off in the Cartoon Network's "What A Cartoon!" program - the network's showcase for fresh and original ideas.

The 2016 version... just feels like an inferior copy made by fundamentally less talented people. People who watched the original show carefully and then copied it to the best of their ability. On a superficial level they did a pretty good job, too. But on a deeper level something's missing. For all its innocence, the original had a spark and a sense of mischief that this one just doesn't.

Like so many remakes this is, if not bad as such, then at best deeply ordinary.

Theo.


Invader Zim Volume 1
Invader Zim Volume 1
by Aaron Alexovich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.36
63 used & new from $9.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Bit As Good As The Show, April 22, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Invader Zim Volume 1 (Paperback)
How often do we see a comic book version of a hit animated TV show that's just an inferior copy of the original? Well, not this time, my fellow pathetic humans! This is well and truly up to the standard of the original. Which is none too surprising, considering how it came to be. The exact history of how the original version went off the air can be a contentious one, but a I think it's clear that to some degree at least, Vasquez just got sick of working within the strictures Nickelodeon imposed on him. Anyway, this book sees Vasquez returning to his home turf, and clearly the medium in which he is most comfortable.

If you ignore that change in medium, these ARE fresh episodes of Invader Zim. The only difference, as some have commented before me, is that there's very occasionally a slightly stronger reference or language than would be allowed on Nickelodeon. Nothing major. You know that word that rhymes with "nerd" and refers to feces? That kind of thing. Purists need not fear, however: it never descends into the inane "reverse censorship" of the "Adult Party" version of Ren & Stimpy. What we find here is - dare I say it? - natural and organic. And yes, for the skeptics among you, I do mean that in a good way: definitely no fertilizer.

This is Invader Zim in its purest and truest form.

Theo.


Rick and Morty Volume 1 (Rick & Morty Tp)
Rick and Morty Volume 1 (Rick & Morty Tp)
by Zac Gorman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46
60 used & new from $10.90

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The B-List Rick and Morty, April 22, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Let's face it: a lot of hit animated shows get a comic book version. This one is pretty much par for the course. It's sort of like the TV show. Just so long as you don't look or think too deeply.

Rick and Morty - the show - is currently my absolute favorite thing on TV. It's smart, it deals almost effortlessly with some of the great "absolutes" of literary fiction, and it's rolling in the aisles funny.

This book... is the "Uncle Steve" version of Rick and Morty (you'll get that reference if you've seen season two, episode four of the show). The deeper layers of meaning aren't quite there, and when this book does try to put them in, to be honest it just feels like they're painting by numbers. Zac Gorman, who gets the writing credits on this one, isn't quite up to the standard of the people who did the writing for the show. As a result, this whole thing has a definite "B" feel to it.

Now, don't get me wrong: A "B" isn't bad. This book made me laugh. Often. If you expect no more from it than that, I think you'll enjoy it. Just don't let it infest your brain, okay?

It is a definite notch down from what we get on TV.

Theo.


Monkey : Folk Novel of China
Monkey : Folk Novel of China
by Wu Ch'Eng-En
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from $4.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true jewel of the imagination, March 3, 2016
I believe that this is one of the greatest books ever written.

Yes, I know that's quite a claim to make! But this book actually deserves it. It's accessible, it's a ripping yarn, and quite simply it's an absolute joy to read. All this it achieves while balancing profundity and pure playfulness with a lightness and deftness of touch that leaves modern fantasists like Tolkien trailing in its wake. I realise that many people will feel I've just committed sacrilege. But... Well, like I said before, this book genuinely deserves such high praise.

READ IT! Your life will be the richer for it.

If you're after something a little more concrete, here's a brief - and spoiler free - summary...

A 20th century translation of a 16th century Chinese classic, this book tells the story of one priest's journey from China to India to fetch Mahayana Buddhist scriptures. While it is very (and I do mean VERY) loosely based on an actual priest and an actual journey, that's really not the point. This is a richly mythologised account intended as fable, not history. Gods, demons, buddhas and bodhisattvas, and even Taoist immortals all get in on the action.

As with so many tales of pilgrimage, the physical journey becomes an allegory for something more. And because we are dealing with a Buddhist allegory, in this case the metaphor is for the journey towards enlightenment.

The only qualifier I want to insert is that this is a review of the Arthur Waley traslation of Monkey (or "Journey to The West" as it is known in China) in general. I have not seen the particular edition on sale here. I do, however, have one minor quibble about this edition: the subtitle "a folk novel of China" is highly misleading. This is no folk tale. It is a serious work of high culture - cleverly disguised as a fairy tale though it may be.

Incidentally, I do realize that much of what I've just said may make this book sound somewhat dry and ponderous. Religious allegory? Serious work of high culture? Doesn't exactly sound like fun reading, does it? Yet nothing could be further from the truth. From a less skilled author and translator, religious allegory may indeed be reduced to dry sermonizing. Not so here.

This book is, as I said in the beginning, an absolute joy to read.

Theo.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2016 6:57 PM PST


Mr. Pickles Season 1
Mr. Pickles Season 1
Price: $14.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and Obvious, February 6, 2016
This is a show about a family's pet dog who is supposedly "Satanic". Which apparently means he engages in endless acts of extreme violence and sadistic kinky sex. That's the joke.

I say "the" joke because really, they only have just the one. Although they do repeat it endlessly in a kind of perpetual loop - with no wit or creativity whatsoever. Just... endless acts of lethally extreme sadomasochism and pure gratuitous violence, performed mainly by the family dog. It's by far the most boring thing that Adult Swim has screened. Ever.

I'd like to stress that unlike most of the other folks who've so far given this show one star, I am not offended by the Satanic themes or the sex or violence. I gave The Satanic Bible four stars. And I think Strangers with Candy is one of the funniest TV shows ever made. It's perfectly possible for a show built around such themes to be hilariously funny.

Unfortunately, this one just isn't. It's the kind of show where sex and violence are thrust before us as if this somehow constituted humor in and of itself. It's the visual equivalent of a standup act where an endless litany of four letter words are sprayed at the audience as if they were somehow humor. The problem is, they're not. If you want to work blue, then fine: work blue. You certainly have my blessing. Just don't lose sight of the fact that doing it _well_ is every bit as challenging as with any other kind of humor. What we have here can only be described as a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This show is just plain bad.

The bad kind of bad.

I do, however, wholeheartedly accept one sentiment expressed in one of the five star reviews: "best watched while under the influence". On that I think we can all agree. If you hold any hopes at all of finding this thing funny, you'll need all the pharmacological help you can get.

Theo.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2016 6:52 PM PST


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