Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics



The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics
The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics
Edited by David Kendall
If it's dead, moving and hungry, you'll find it here.

   I’ve got to admit, I’m getting pretty sick of zombies, surely I can’t be the only one? In recent years the undead hoards have seen a huge resurgence, thanks primarily to comics and shows like The Walking Dead and games like Left for Dead. It’s got to the point where they’re pretty much inescapable. They’re on TV, in Movies and games, comics, novels, toys…aprons….they’re everywhere….

   Despite my growing disinterest in the Zombie genre however, I decided to pick this book up. Mainly because it showcases a lot of writers and artists whose work I’m unfamiliar with and I fancied something new.

   The problem with this book is one you’ll probably see coming. It’s an omnibus, there are eighteen stories in here of various lengths all with different creators. There’s going to be some you like and some you don’t. Personally I found the balance to be pretty even, maybe tipping slightly toward stories I didn’t like, but every reader of this book is going to have a completely different experience.

   In the case of most of the stories I didn’t like, the length was a major factor. Some stories come in at five or six pages and it’s just not enough space to tell any engaging stories. They feel like sections cut out of larger narratives and there’s no depth to the storytelling. The short strips basically contain the message “zombies are scary and will eat you”, there’s nothing more beneath the surface, they’re not saying anything.

   Thankfully though there are some stories with a little more meat on their bones. Pariah by Jon Ayre & One Neck and Zombies by Kieron Gillen & Andy Boor, are both short stories dealing with lone survivors of the apocalypse and the methods they employ to survive, Zombies especially has a very dark ending that I won’t spoil for you, but it’s worth seeking out.

   The main attraction in the book for me was Dead Eyes Open by Matthew Shepherd & Roy Boney Jr, a two hundred page story, a complete graphic novel in itself, that offers a unique take on the Zombie apocalypse. Shepherd’s zombies retain their memories and mental faculties. They’re the same person they were when they were alive, they’re just..well…dead… The story sees the zombies (called returners) rounded up into camps by the government and turns the gory zombie genre into social commentary dealing with civil rights and prejudice. It’s a fantastic story and, if you’re considering buying this book, is worth the price of admission itself.

   Whatever you’re tastes, you’ll find something here you like (well…as long as your tastes include zombies), from short gory tales like Black Sabbath (Stuart Kerr & Vincent Locke), Character driven pieces, Job Satisfaction (Gary Crutchley) or even zombies in space, Flight from Earth (Oleg Kozyrev & Roman Surzhenko).
   I doubt many will enjoy every story collected here, but it’s a decent variety that will keep you entertained. If you’re not sick to death yet of zombies, this one’s definitly worth picking up. 

panel from might of the living dead

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tank Girl: Apocalypse!



Tank Girl: Apocalypse!
Tank Girl: Apocalypse!
Alan Grant, Andy Pritchett, Phillip Bond & Phil Gascoine
    "Join everybody's favourite beer-swilling, chain-smoking, kangaroo-worrying lunatic as she 'bumps' her way through another increasingly bizarre escapade. Tank Girl's back and this time she's pregnant...yes, pregnant! How will our manic heroine cope with looming motherhood? Is it Booga's? What will it look like? And what do the followers of the Blood God Baal have to do with it? Not only does she have all that to contend with, but there's also a meteorite headed straight for Earth...all this and plenty more will be revealed in this final slice of Tank Girl's lunatic adventures."

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole



The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
Sue Townsend
 'If I turn out to be mentally deranged in adult life, it will be all my mother's fault.'


   This book begins right where its predecessor, The SecretDiary of Adrian Mole Age 13 ¾ , left off and retreads much of the same territory.
   The book is presented as the diary of Adrian Mole, now fifteen, and documents his daily life throughout the year.
    Over the course of the book we see his on again off again relationship with girlfriend Pandora take a rocky turn as she leaves him for another boy. The birth of his two siblings, half-sister Rosie (Fathered by his Mother’s ex, Lucas) and half-brother Brett, the result of his Father’s affair with Doreen Slater (the stick insect).
   Along with all this, Adrian has to deal with threats of exams, spots and the continual rejections of his poems by the BBC.

   The book retains the style of the previous entry in the series. The narrative plays out much as it would in real life, there’s no traditional three act structure and events unfold with the same uncertainty you’d expect of the real world. Adrian’s writing is still really funny and there are plenty of laughs to be had from his cockiness and gross misunderstandings of how the real world works.

   The main problem with the book is how little has changed. While I can understand Townsend’s wish to pick up straight where the first book left off, I personally would have preferred a bit of a gap between the two stories.
   Because no time has passed, Adrian is the same character he was in the last instalment. For me the joy of following a character throughout their life is the process of them growing up, their opinions changing, their perception of the world maturing. I’d hoped to see a side of Adrian that the 14 year old version would have been incapable off and, while there’s plenty more books in the series for that to happen in, it meant that this instalment felt like just “more of the same”, which was a real shame.

   Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very enjoyable book and if you loved the first chapter of Adrian’s life you’ll love this one too. I’d have just preferred a bit of a gap between the two, if that’s not the sort of thing that’s likely to bother you, I’d happily recommend you pick this one up. 

Sue Townsend

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Monday, 12 May 2014

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A visit from the goon squad
A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan
 "Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa."

   How do you describe A Visit from the Goon Squad? It’s pretty hard. It’s certainly not a straight forward narrative, each chapter deals with a separate character and each contains a different writing style. All the characters are connected, playing roles, some small some large, in the lives of the others.
   Of them all, I suppose you could say that the characters introduced in the first two chapters, kleptomaniac Sasha and he music company exec boss Bernie are the main characters. They’re certainly the characters who have the widest circle of acquaintances and make the most appearances, but both still only have one chapter to themselves, and they’re both pretty short chapters, so…can you really say they’re the main characters?
  I’ve seen Goon Squad called “a short story collection disguised as a novel”, and, while the comment was used negatively, it does sum it up quite neatly. It’s a collection of short stories that, when taken as a whole, weave a complex and interesting network, a sprawling narrative that documents the roles we all play, whether knowingly or not, in the lives of countless others around us.

   It’s a wonderful book, packed with memorable characters and terrific dialogue. The various writing styles that Egan uses to differentiate the characters could come off as a gimmick but instead add an extra dimension to the story and are highly enjoyable. Chapters can be dialogue heavy, description heavy, told in past or present tense, first, third or even second person. My personal favourite is a chapter close to the end which is told as a powerpoint presentation that the character uses instead of a diary. It allows Egan to break family dynamics down into bar graphs and Venn diagrams. It’s interesting to read and very unique. I loved it.

   The book isn’t without its flaws, there will be chapters, characters and styles that you don’t enjoy as much as others and, although each character getting one chapter to themselves is an interesting idea, there are some that you wish would get more time than others. Certain characters are interesting and enjoyable enough that you want a whole book dedicated to them, so having them arrive and leave within thirty pages can be a little annoying, while there are over arcing themes dealing with life in the music industry or life as an outsider, the fact that none of the individual narratives ever reach a full conclusion can be frustrating.
  
   Annoying as these flaws are however, they’re worth sitting through to get to the good stuff because when this book gets it right, it’s fantastic. Brief as their time on the page is, many of these characters will stay with you long after you put the book down. You’ll find yourself constantly thinking back to them, piecing together the timeline and the web of connections tying everyone together.
   Jennifer Egan has managed to craft a unique experience, something really special. It may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.

Jennifer Egan

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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Tales of the City



Tales of the City
Tales of the City
Armistead Maupin
 "San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous - unmistakably the handiwork of Armistead Maupin."

Saturday, 3 May 2014

I'm sick of Star Wars

I'm Sick of Star Wars

To celebrate Star Wars day, here's a video about...well..about not celebrating Star Wars.....

May the 4th be with you.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Age 13 ¾



The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Age 13 ¾
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Age 13 ¾
Sue Townsend 
"Friday January 2nd
I felt rotten today. It's my mother's fault for singing 'My Way' at two o'clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children's home."