Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amazing Spider-Man: “Died In Your Arms Tonight” (Marvel)

AmazingSpiderMan-600-ArtWriters: Dan Slott, Stan Lee, Mark Waid, Bob Gale | Artists: John Romita, Jr., Marcos Martin, Colleen Doran, Mario Alberti | Inks: Klaus Janson | Colors: Dean White, Jose Villarrubia, Javier Rodriguez

The return of Doctor Octopus, Daredevil, a wedding you never predicted, and the return of one of the most important people in Peter Parker’s life. Doc’s back in town, but it’s only a prelude to darker days ahead as Spidey unknowingly prepares for a gauntlet he can’t predict. Also, several short features showcase some rarely-explored aspects of both Spidey and Peter’s life. And, finally, the second most important wedding day of Peter Parker’s life.

Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #600-601, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #36,
& material from Amazing Spider-Man Family #7

The book is rather uneven. It’s bitty, highly episodic, and the tone veers all over the place, dependent on the writer. The humour works at times, but at others it feels like it is trying so hard, it’s difficult to like it at all (imagine the quippiness of Gilmore Girls, but with a wall-crawling super-hero). It took longer than I expected to read all of this, as I just couldn’t get sucked in. It is not, however, without its moments. Thankfully, the book improved, once we got beyond the first, mammoth issue.

Mini-Review: Fatale, Vol.1 – “Death Chases Me” (Image)

CRIM008_cvrWriter: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Sean Phillips | Colors: Dave Stewart

In modern times, Nicolas Lash stumbles upon a secret that will lead him down the darkest path imaginable… to a seductive and ageless woman who’s been on the run since the 1930s.

And in 1950s San Francisco, reporter Hank Raines crosses paths with that same woman and gets caught in a vicious triangle between a crooked cop and a man who is more monster than man.

But who is Josephine and what is her secret? And how many men will die and kill for her?

Collects: Fatale #1-5

Brubaker and Philips’s Fatale is an interesting, if flawed blend of noir-ish thriller and horror suspense and weirdness. The series has enjoyed plentiful good and middling coverage in all comic-related corners of the internet. I’m not really sure I can add much to the discussion, to be honest. After finishing it, I found I had very little opinion on it – positive or negative.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Interview with KAREN HEULER


Last week I posted an excerpt from Karen Heuler’s much-talked-about and anticipated The Inner City anthology. Naturally, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to interview Karen as well, and ask her about the book, inspirations and also an old job with strange, alphabetical hiring practices…

Monday, February 25, 2013

The United States, if Redrawn like a Fantasy Map

I caught this over at a Buzzfeeds article about weird or alternative maps. I thought it was close enough in relevance to share on here:


Click to (hopefully) en-biggen

Green Lantern, Vol.1 – “No Fear” (DC)

GreenLantern-Vol.1-NoFearWriter: Geoff Johns | Artist: Carlos Pacheco (#1-3), Ethan van Sciver (#4-5), Simone Bianchi (#6) | Inks: Jesus Merino (#1-3), Prentis Rollins (#5) | Colors: Moose Baumann (#1-5), Nathan Eyring (#6)

Hal Jordan is back from the dead – now watch as he re-establishes his life as a pilot. Standing in his way, though, is one of the deadly Manhunter androids followed by the Shark.

Collects: Green Lantern #1-6

After reading Blackest Night, its prequel Agent Orange, and Green Lantern: Rebirth, I’ve finally got around to reading the first collection of Geoff Johns’s pre-New 52 run on Green Lantern proper. And I was… well, not exactly bowled over, but nor was I exactly disappointed. It’s a fun book, and I’m sure it would be a good buy if you’re a fan of the character, but haven’t managed to read that much of his back-story or pre-New 52 adventures.

“The Desert Spear” by Peter V. Brett (Voyager/Del Ray)

Brett-TheDesertSpearThe Epic sequel to The Painted Man

The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that arise as the sun sets, preying upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind ancient and half-forgotten symbols of power. These wards alone can keep the demons at bay, but legends tell of a Deliverer: a general-some would say prophet-who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. The Deliverer has returned, but who is he?

Arlen Bales, formerly of the small hamlet of Tibbet’s Brook, learnt harsh lessons about life as he grew up in a world where hungry demons stalk the night and humanity is trapped by its own fear. He chose a different path; chose to fight inherited apathy and the corelings, and eventually he became the Painted Man, a reluctant saviour.

But the figure emerging from the desert, calling himself the Deliverer, is not Arlen. He is a friend and betrayer, and though he carries the spear from the Deliverer’s tomb, he also heads a vast army intent on a holy war against the demon plague… and anyone else who stands in his way.

The sequel to excellent The Painted Man is another epic instalment in Brett’s highly-successful Demon Cycle series. With the third novel in the series just released, I decided to finally catch up. The Desert Spear is a tour-de-force fantasy epic – brilliantly written, wonderfully realised, and highly addictive. I loved this.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

“Green Lantern: Rebirth” (DC)

GreenLantern-Rebirth-TPBGeoff Johns re-boots the Green Lantern series

Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Ethan van Sciver | Colors: Moose Baumann | Inks: Prentis Rollins (#2-6) & Mick Gray (#5-6), Marlo Alquiza (#6)

Hal Jordan was considered the greatest Green Lantern of them all. But Jordan lost control, allowed himself to be corrupted and transformed into the villainous Parallax. Later, Jordan reappeared and made the ultimate sacrifice – a sacrifice that allowed him to become the Spectre, the Wrath of God. After several years of activity on Earth, The Spectre became restless and sought a way to prove himself worthy of that noble reputation. See how a man born without fear and seeking to rebuild his life, puts cosmic forces into motion that will have repercussions not only on Earth but across the universe.

Green Lantern: Rebirth is the book that re-booted the franchise and character pre-New 52. Penned by Geoff Johns (who is fast becoming one of my favourite comic authors), it explains how Hal Jordan, who killed himself while possessed by the malevolent entity Parallax, comes back to life. As super-heroes are so very wont to do. It’s not a bad place to start, but this could be because I’ve read other Green Lantern books and series, not to mention later chapters in Johns’s run (don’t ask why, but I’m reading it entirely out of order).

Official GAME OF THRONES Season 3 Trailer

This has been doing the rounds already, but I thought I’d share it here as well. I’ve really enjoyed the first two seasons, and am (despite never reading the novels) really looking forward to the third season.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Upcoming: “Before the Fall” by Francis Knight (Orbit)

KnightF-RD2-BeforeTheFallI loved the first novel in Knight’s Rojan Dizon series, Fade to Black. I thought it was a fun, well-written and fast-paced fantasy thriller, in a very well-realised world. I have, therefore, been keeping my eyes open for more information about its soon-to-be-released sequel, Before the Fall. I’ve posted the artwork before, but was waiting on a synopsis. Which I now have. So here it is:

With the destruction of their main power source, the towering vertical city of Mahala is in crisis.

Downsiders are verging on a riot, and the mage Rojan Dizon is just trying to keep his head down and some power back to the city — whilst staying hopeful that he won’t get executed for using his magic. Then things go from bad to worse when a Downsider and emerging mage is found murdered. It’s a crime that divides all sides, and the result is mayhem.

But Rojan’s worst nightmare is just around the corner. When he discovers the killer’s identity, he’s either going to be responsible for all-out anarchy, or for a war with Mahala’s neighboring countries that no one is prepared for.

And there’s nothing Rojan hates more than being responsible.

Before the Fall will be published by Orbit in both the UK and US on June 18, 2013 (in paperback and eBook editions).

Upcoming: “Inferno” by Dan Brown (Transworld & Doubleday)

BrownD-InfernoUKSo. The Da Vinci Code. A lot of people read that book. An awful lot of vocal people despised it. The Vatican said it was blasphemy (thereby guaranteeing excellent sales worldwide).* Lots more people complained about it, and also its prequel, Angels & Demons, and follow-up, The Lost Symbol, saying it was terrible or poorly written, and any number of criticisms. They’re not high-literature, nor are they the best historical-crypto-thrillers out there. They are quick and engaging reads. And, as always, any book that sells a bajillion copies (probably the real number) is good for the publishing industry as a whole. Be it Brown’s novels, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight or E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey (all sneered at by people from all walks of life, most by those who haven’t read them), they all go some way to supporting other novels that will appeal more to CR readers and general SFF fans who don’t, to their detriment, read CR…

BrownD-InfernoUSI will probably read Inferno. There’s something comfortable and reassuring about a novel that you know will give you exactly what you’re expecting. Suspend your disbelief and pathological need for realism, and I’m sure this will be a fun read. Regardless of what you may think of the author, Transworld have commissioned a pretty nice cover (above, right). The American cover, from Doubleday, isn’t too bad (left) either, but is basically a good example of the sub-genre’s standard style.

Here is the (US) synopsis:

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces... Dante’s Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust... before the world is irrevocably altered.

Inferno will be published in both the UK (Transworld) and the US (Doubleday) in May 2013.

* When I write my novel, and if anyone is kind enough to publish it, I will do everything I can to get the Vatican to publicly black-list it. I can’t think of a better publicity strategy…

Friday, February 22, 2013

“Blood Blessing” & “Reaper” by Sarah Cawkwell (Black Library)


I have been woefully slow about reading Sarah Cawkwell’s full-length fiction for Black Library. I therefore decided to address this and, to get me in the mood for Valkia the Bloody, I thought I’d read the latest two (of three) short stories that feature Valkia, daemon princess and consort of the blood god Khorne (the third I have already read and reviewed). Both of these stories were considerable improvements on what I’ve read by Cawkwell in the past, and I really enjoyed both.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Ultimate Avenging Spider-Men Review (Marvel)


I’ve been doing a fair bit of comics-reading the past couple of weeks, but I haven’t been reviewing much. Therefore, I’ve decided to clump some of them together. This time, as the title may suggest, I deal with some Spider-Man series: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol.2, Spider-Men and Avenging Spider-Man Vol.1. A mixed bag, but overall some good stuff on offer for fans both new and old.

Excerpt from “The Inner City” Karen Heuler (ChiZine)

Heuler-InnerCityKaren Heuler’s stories have appeared in over sixty literary and speculative journals and anthologies, including several “Best of” collections.

She has published a short story collection and three novels, and also won an O. Henry award in 1998. She lives in New York with her dog, Philip K. Dick, and her cats, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

Karen’s latest anthology, The Inner City, will be published on February 26 2013 (ChiZine). To celebrate the new book, here is one of the stories it contains:

“The Hair”

Truly the most astonishing thing happened when that new employee Mindy walked into the meeting wearing Paulina’s hair.

Paulina’s hands immediately went up to her head. Bald. Maybe a little patch of stubble.

Paulina gasped, but her coworkers at the meeting smiled a bland welcome to Mindy. Couldn’t they see what had happened?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Quick Chat with LIESEL SCHWARZ


I went to an author event the other week at Forbidden Planet in London (great store, FYI), for E.J. Swift and Liesel Schwarz (both debut authors published by the new-ish Del Rey UK). I knew of Emma, having interviewed her last year (check out her book, Osiris), but I had sadly not yet heard of Liesel’s novels. Schwarz’s debut, A Conspiracy of Alchemists,is out now in the UK, and I thought it would be a perfect time to find out more about the author’s work and thoughts on the genre.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Upcoming: “Red Hood & the Outlaws” #17 (DC)

Mico Suayan is an incredible artist… I shared the art for Red Hood & the Outlaws #18 a little while back, but for some reason missed the cover for #17. Abhinav reminded me on Twitter, so here it is, in all its awesome glory:


I really like the play on the Death in the Family artwork, which chronicled Jason Todd’s murder at the hands of the Joker. This issue comes as part of the Death of the Family cross-title story-arc, lead by current Batman-writer Scott Snyder. (Which I have not read, I should mention – so no spoilers in the comments!)

Red Hood & the Outlaws #17 will be published on Feb.20th 2013, and is written by Scott Lobdell, with internal art by Timothy Green II.

Monday, February 18, 2013

“Berthold’s Beard” by Joshua Reynolds (Black Library)

ReynoldsJ-BertholdsBeardA Gotrek & Felix short story

When Gotrek and Felix agree to help an impoverished nobleman reclaim his birthright, they are thrown into a battle for survival against a creature from their darkest nightmares.

Previously printed in the Black Library Weekender 2012 Saturday Anthology, Berthold’s Beard is a quick tale featuring the Dwarf Slayer and his human companion. It’s quite fun, too, indicating once again that the Gotrek & Felix franchise remains in safe hands.

“Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha” by David Annandale (Black Library)

Annandale-Yarrick1-ChainsOfGolgothaAn excellent Commissar Yarrick Novella

From the ashes of the Second War of Armageddon a hero of the Imperium emerged. War-torn and bloody, Commissar Yarrick swore vengeance on the beast that escaped his righteous wrath, the despoiler of Armageddon – Ghazghkull Thraka.

Tracking down the ork warlord to the desolate world of Golgotha, Yarrick leads an armoured company to destroy the beast but does not reckon on Thraka’s cunning. Ambushed, his army all-but destroyed, Yarrick is captured and awakes to find himself aboard the beast’s space hulk facing a fate worse than death...

This is a very fine science fiction novella. Annandale has been writing for Black Library a while, now, and with each new release I am even more impressed. Taking on one of the most beloved Imperial characters from the Warhammer 40,000 canon, though, could be a daunting task. Annandale has risen to the task admirably, however, and has managed to capture the essence of Yarrick and his struggle against Ghazghkull excellently. Chains of Golgotha absolutely does his subjects justice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Upcoming: “The Divine Sacrifice” by Anthony Hays (Corvus)

Hays-TheDivineSacrificeThe Divine Sacrifice is Anthony Hays’s second Arthurian Mystery, following on from the well-received The Killing Way (2011). Sadly, I wasn’t able to get around to the first novel, but I have been interested in historical thrillers ever since I read some of Bernard Cornwell’s novels (true, not technically “thrillers” per se, but I history nevertheless). With the release of this second novel, I just might get my act in gear and try to catch up. Here’s the synopsis:

Welcome to fifth-century Britain: the Romans have left, the Saxons have invaded, the towns are decaying and the countryside is dangerous.

Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, an embittered former soldier who lost a limb in combat, is now a trusted advisor to Arthur, the High King of all Britannia. When a monk dies in horrific circumstances in Glastonbury Abbey, the Abbot calls for Malgwyn to investigate.

His search for the truth will draw him into an intricate web of religious, economic and political deceit - and a conspiracy that could endanger everything Arthur has fought for.

The Divine Sacrifice will be published in the UK by Corvus in April 2013. (It would appear that Corvus also has US eBook rights, as it is listed on as well.) The Divine Sacrifice was published in the US back in 2011 by Forge Books.

Also on CR: “Influences & Inspirations” Guest Post by Anthony Hays

Upcoming: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black (Little, Brown Young Readers)

BlackH-ColdestGirlInColdtownI have never read anything by Holly Black, sad to say. I have no idea why – a number of my friends have sung her praises. And, indeed, her novels all sound pretty cool. With her latest novel, to be published in September 2013, I may well finally address this oversight.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown has been described as a “story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing”. Here’s the synopsis:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Also? How cool is that cover? Very atmospheric and… well, chilling.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown will be published in the US by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and in the UK by Indigo (an Orion Youth imprint).

Upcoming: “The Shambling Guide to New York City” by Mur Lafferty

Lafferty-ShamblingGuideToNYCI’ve been waiting a while for this novel. (I’ve been aware of Lafferty as a blogger and author through Twitter for quite some time.) The novel still isn’t out, of course, but here is the synopsis and cover art for Lafferty’s novel:

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can’t take off her resume — human.

Not to be put off by anything — especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker — Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble — with Zoe right in the middle.

The Shambling Guide to New York City will be published by Orbit in May 2013. I’m really looking forward to this.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Appreciation: Terry Pratchett


Following on from today’s two other posts about Terry Pratchett, I reached out on Twitter to a few bloggers to get their thoughts on Sir Terry’s work. Here is what they had to say, as well as some of my own thoughts on one of the greatest, most-beloved fantasy series.

Appreciation: Django Wexler on Terry Pratchett


In the second post in the Terry Pratchett appreciation series, soon-to-be-debut author Django Wexler writes about his love of the Discworld series and Pratchett’s writing as a whole.

“On Pratchett” by Django Wexler

“Write a couple of paragraphs about your favorite Discworld books.” I should have seen the trap in that one. It’s hard for me to pick favorites at the best of times, but starting with the Discworld canon it’s an impossible task. For starters, there are so many of them, and almost all of them are so good! I have more Terry Pratchett books in my personal library than any other author. It’s not even close – there are at least two shelves-worth just for Discworld. I started reading them in high school and never stopped.

Appreciation: Tom Lloyd on Terry Pratchett

This is the first post in a mini-series focused on the work of Terry Pratchett, which will go up on the blog over the course of this week. Here, Tom Lloyd (author of the Twilight Reign series) discusses the impact of Pratchett’s writing on his own…


“On Terry Pratchett” by Tom Lloyd

Terry Pratchett has an entirely unique position in my book collection. I’ve got beautiful folio editions of Tolkien, a hardback collection of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, several first editions by BB I’m saving to read to my daughter, but the tatty, much-read Pratchett paperbacks still reign. For starters, I own more of his books than anyone else’s – they almost rival my own for the number of copies I have – and secondly, they’ve been read more than any other’s. I rarely re-read books, I’m a slow reader and simply don’t have the time, but whenever I’m stressed or too tired to keep up with a new book, I’ll grab a Pratchett as I head to bed. It’s a habit my wife’s taken up and a testament to the quality that some have had over a dozen re-reads and remain enjoyable. They’re not perfect, with fluctuations of style and missteps aplenty, but still I’m not convinced millions of readers and a knighthood is sufficient recognition for his body of work, given the sniffy attitudes of the large chunks of the reading public.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Batman: “The Man Who Laughs” (DC)

Batman-ManWhoLaughs-TPBWriter: Ed Brubaker | Artists: Doug Mahnke & Patrick Zircher | Inks: Doug Mahnke (MWL), Aaron Sowd & Steve Bird | Colors: David Baron (MWL) & Jason Wright

Witness Batman’s historic first encounters with his deadliest foe, The Joker.

A mysterious homicidal maniac is murdering prominent citizens of Gotham City, each time leaving a ghastly grin on the victims’ lifeless faces. Batman soon tracks down the killer: The Joker! This volume gives readers new insight into the early encounters between Batman and The Joker that led the Clown Prince of Crime down the path to insanity.

Guest-starring original Green Lantern Alan Scott.

Collects: The Man Who Laughs One-Shot (2003) &
“Made of Wood” (Detective Comics #784-786, 2005)

I knew nothing about this book until I saw it in the library (seriously, Redhill Library has a surprisingly good selection of SFF and rotating selection of graphic novels). I’m very glad I found it, though, as this is a pretty strong book. Even if the title only refers to the first chapter, and the second chapter is linked only by the fact that Brubaker wrote it. The bulk of the book is taken up by the “Made of Wood” story, which features the original Green Lantern. Both stories were very strong.

“The Oathbreaker’s Shadow” by Amy McCulloch (Random House)

McCullochA-OathbreakersShadowA great new voice in YA fantasy

Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert.

Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all – not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin.

Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is the first half of an intriguing, well-written and quite addictive new YA duology. It offers a great introduction to a new world, one in which the power of promises – and the consequences of breaking them – can make or break your entire life. Brilliantly imagined and brought to life on the page, this is a great debut.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Interview with AMY McCULLOCH


I first heard about Amy McCulloch’s debut novel near the end of last year, I think. Later, I got the chance to ask her about the upcoming book. Ever since, I’ve been very eager to read The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. I decided to pick her brain a little more, to find out more about her influences, experiences in publishing and as a writer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Another Spider-Man Bites the Dust?

Is Marvel bumping off another Spider-Man? I’m guessing probably not, and this is just a marketing gimmick.

I’m a little behind on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, so I’m not 100% sure how this story is going to pan out. But, the series has been one of the better new comics I started reading in the last few months.


Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #23, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Dave Marquez, will be published in May 2013.

Art: “Skybound Sea” by Sam Sykes – French Edition (Fleuve Noir)

I’m currently reading some of Sam Sykes’s fourth novel (not for review), which means there may be a bit of a delay before my next novel review appears on the blog (well, actually, I have one coming up on Thursday, but after that…). Therefore, and in keeping with my Sykes-mood at the moment, I have shamelessly pinched the French artwork for Sam’s third novel, Skybound Sea, from Staffer’s Book Review. Because it’s jaw-droppingly good:


That is so, so much better than the UK and US covers for the book. The artist is Marc Simonetti.

Kataria looks bad-ass, and Gariath… Wow. (He’s the big, red, demonic-looking fella in the near-background).

Dear Pyr and Gollancz: re-release the novel with this cover.

Thank you.

[NB: I’m only guessing about the French Publisher – they’ve published the first book, but I can’t find much evidence of book two or three… I’ll keep checking, and post correction/confirmation as I find out.]

Art: Skullkickers #14 (Image)

Just a quick artwork post, this time for the cover of issue #14 of Jim Zub’s Skullkickers comic series:


The cover is by Saejin Oh. The series is written by Jim Zub, with internal art by Edwin Huang and colors by Misty Coats. (You can check out a preview of the issue, here).

I’ve recently bought the first collected Skullkickers book, so expect a review in the near future (sort of: I’ve got a lot of graphic novel reviews now ready and scheduled).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ultimate Comics “New Ultimates: Thor Reborn” (Marvel)

UC-NewUltimates-ThorRebornWriter: Jeph Loeb | Artist: Frank Cho | Colorist: Jason Keith, w. Brad Anderson & Matt Millla

The devastating events of Ultimatum robbed the world of some of its most courageous heroes. Now, it’s up to Iron Man to gather those that survived to become the New Ultimates.

With the Odinson trapped in Valhalla, the team stand little chance when Loki unleashed the worst of Asgard upon the Earth. Their only hope of survival lies with Thor. But in order to escape from the land of the dead, he must be prepared to make a deal with the darkest of forces.

Collects: Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates #1-5

Another book in Marvel’s “Ultimate” line, this tells of an alternative timeline to Marvel’s “main” titles. The Ultimate initiative was basically that “anything goes”. Characters that die, will not come back in this setting. Which makes a nice change. This book, while beautifully rendered (if in an exaggerated manner), did not live up to my expectations. There’s certainly some very good content, but the story was let down by some flaws that I hadn’t expected form veteran writer Loeb.

NEAL ASHER finally coming to the USA! (Night Shade Books)


Neal Asher, British Sci-Fi author extraordinaire, is finally coming to the US! Properly. Night Shade Books, “in an attempt to catch up with the British” (as it was told to me), are publishing Asher’s Owner series in quick succession in 2013. Starting with The Departure in February, and followed by Zero Point in May, and Jupiter War in August. Therefore, to celebrate this news, here are some details about the first two novels…

“Ghostman” by Roger Hobbs (Doubleday/Knopf)

Hobbs-GhostmanAn exciting new voice in thrillers

I make things disappear. It’s what I do. This time I’m tidying up the loose ends after a casino heist gone bad. The loose ends being a million cash.

But I only have 48 hours, and there’s a guy out there who wants my head in a bag.

He’ll have to find me first.

They don’t call me the Ghostman for nothing...

This is a very promising debut novel. Set in the world of con-men and casino heists, Hobbs introduces us to a “ghostman” – the man you call if you want to clean up a heist gone wrong, or really any other criminal activity that requires subtlety and no fingerprints. The novel is fast-paced, highly-detailed, and very realistic. Despite some minor niggles at the beginning, this was a thoroughly engrossing, addictive thriller.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Upcoming: “Princeless” Vol.2, #2 (Action Labs)

I’ve just got hold of Princeless Volume 1 and also the first two issues of Volume 2. In advance of a review, I thought I’d share the cover for the second issue in the second volume, because it made me chuckle. It’s also a sentiment I agree with, and there are certain comics publishers who are entirely guilty of “bringing the whole artform down”, as the character says (long-time readers will know which ones they are, as I can’t pass up an excuse to mention it in my reviews)…


Review of the series coming very soon. This particular issue will hit shelves in March 2013.

Marvel Tries Something Novel with She-Hulk & Rogue…


On February 7th, Marvel Entertainment and Hyperion Books announced that they were teaming up to release two novels set in the Marvel Universe. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this…

Unlike previous books, however, these will not be mere novelizations of existing Marvel storylines (for example, Civil War). Rather, these will be “two action-packed novels featuring… strong, smart heroines seeking happiness and love while battling cosmic evil.” Both of the novels are scheduled for release in June 2013 – one will feature the Avengers’ She-Hulk, the other the X-Men’s Rogue.

Also different from other Marvel novels in the past, these seem to be aimed for the “chick-lit” market (for want of a better term). The fact that they’re not your typical “lad-lit” or super-hero action-adventures shows some welcome out-of-the-box-thinking from Marvel. The idea of this genre with added superheroes… is kind of intriguing. The plots do sound just a tad derivative, though, and whoever wrote the synopses basically had one general premise in mind. (There is much juggling and navigating of normal-life challenges and relationships…)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Upcoming: “Thor 2: The Dark World”

So the poster for the second movie in Marvel’s Thor series was recently released. The Dark World is coming to theatres in November 2013 (in the US, at least).


Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Zachary Levi, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander & others.

More DC Cancellations & Intriguing New Titles


It’s spring-cleaning at DC once again, with six more titles getting the axe. From the initial New 52 series, we see the end of Deathstroke, Fury of the Firestorm, and The Savage Hawkman – all with their 19th issues.

From the “second wave” of New 52, we see Ravagers cut at issue #11. And, perhaps more depressingly in terms of longevity, Sword of Sorcery and Team 7 – both of which were only launched in September 2012, will end with their seventh issues.


Of these, I’ve only read Deathstroke and Savage Hawkman, both of which I’ve had mixed feelings about, so I’m not exactly sad to see them go. Fury of Firestorm I was actually quite interested in, seeing as it was co-written with Gail Simone. I’ve decided to pick up the collected editions, once they are all released. I also recently bought the five-issue (2004-7) run of the character, written by Dan Jolley with art by ChrisCross, as part of this week’s ComiXology Black History Month Sale. I’m sure I’ll pick up the collected editions of the other New 52 cancelled series in the future.

In related news, DC has also announced two new titles that will be coming soon. Taking cues from contemporary American politics, these two titles – The Greem Team and The Movement – could be quite interesting, if they are done well. The fact that Gail Simone is writing The Movement certainly bodes well, though.


The two books were announced over on Huffington Post (which was interesting in itself), and Bryan Young was able to get Gail Simone on the record about The Movement:

“It’s a book about power – who owns it, who uses it, who suffers from its abuse. As we increasingly move to an age where information is currency, you get these situations where a single viral video can cost a previously unassailable corporation billions, or can upset the power balance of entire governments. And because the sources of that information are so dispersed and nameless, it’s nearly impossible to shut it all down… It’s an adventure story, but it really isn’t about mad scientists and jewel heists, it’s more about the injustices that can affect real people’s lives, just tarted up in costumes and superpowers.”

Sounds very Occupy Wall Street. It will be interesting to see what the team comes up with.

The tag-line for The Green Team – “Teen Trillionaires” – makes me a little worried, though. I’ve never been keen on books that feature kids as heroes or so centrally – there is a tendency, that I’ve experienced, at least – that the characters are invariably terribly written. Perhaps the only exception that I’ve been reading lately is Batman & Robin, in which Damian (Robin) is actually a complex, nuanced and compelling character (I’ve read up to #10).

Upcoming: “Fire Caste” by Peter Fehervari (Black Library)

Fehervari-FireCaste2In Fehervari’s debut novel for Black Library, he pits the Imperial Guard against the alien Tau Empire. I’d not heard of Fehervari before this novel was announced, so I was quite surprised to hear he’d been given a full novel contract. I’ll certainly be interested to see what he can come up with in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. Fire Caste will also be the first novel I read featuring the Tau, and only the second story overall. (For some reason, they don’t seem to have been particularly popular with BL authors…) Here’s the synopsis:

In the jungles of the Dolorosa Coil, a coalition of alien tau and human deserters have waged war upon the Imperium for countless years. Fresh Imperial Guard forces from the Arkhan Confederates are sent in to break the stalemate and annihilate the xenos. But greater forces are at work, and the Confederates soon find themselves broken and scattered. As they fight a desperate guerrilla war, their only hope may lie in the hands of a disgraced commissar, hell-bent on revenge.

Fire Caste will be published in March 2013 by Black Library.

Upcoming: “Blood of Asaheim” by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-BloodOfAsaheimChris Wraight, one of Black Library’s rising star authors, has carved out a bit of a niche for himself: the Space Wolves (my favorite loyal Space Marines). Ever since Battle of the Fang, I’ve been interested in everything he writes featuring the Sons of Russ. Here’s the synopsis for his latest novel featuring the feral Astartes:

After half a century apart, in service to the Deathwatch and the Chapter, Space Wolves Ingvar and Gunnlaugr are reunited. Sent to defend an important shrine world against the plague-ridden Death Guard, the Grey Hunters clash with the pious Sisters of Battle, who see the Space Wolves as little better than the enemy they fight. As enemies close in around them and treachery is revealed, Gunnlaugr and his warriors must hold the defenders together – even as hidden tensions threaten to their the pack apart.

Blood of Asaheim will be published by Black Library in March 2013.

Friday, February 08, 2013

“Robyn Hood” #1-5 (Zenescope)

RobynHood-01C-ArtWriter: Pat Shand | Story: Joe Brusha, Raven Gregory, Ralph Tedesco & Pat Shand | Artist: Dan Glasl (#1), Larry Watts (#2, 4, 5), Rob Dumo (#3) | Colors: Tom Mullin & Jason Embury (#1), Andrew Elder (#2), Nick Filardi, Adam Metcalfe (#3-5), Slamet Mujiono (#5), Omi Remalante Jr. (#5), Wesley Wong (#5)

In the lands of Myst a tryant rules the city of Bree with an iron fist leaving its citizens living in fear and terror. But all hope is not lost when one man takes the first steps to finding the one person who might save them all.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Robyn has had a troubled life for many years since her mother’s death. In and out of foster homes Robyn now finds herself transferred to a special high school filled with the rich and over-privileged. But when Robyn crosses one of the popular kids she will learn first-hand the extent of torture they are willing to go to against those who transgressed against them…

In Zenescopes Robyn Hood, the creative team has reinvented the classic fairy tale of the robbing-the-rich-to-feed-the-poor vagabond. It’s been receiving a lot of buzz of late, and with the first mini-series complete, now seemed like the perfect time to review it. I’m going to review these issues as if they were a collected edition, so be warned that there will be spoilers for early issues. Overall, I thought it was a pretty interesting series, one that offers all the Zenescope tropes (good and bad). Most importantly, though, is that they have used the classic premise to create something fresh and interesting. [The review has ended up a lot more in-depth than I anticipated…]

“Dawnthief” by James Barclay (Gollancz/Pyr)

Barclay-CotR-1-Dawnthief2The Chronicles of the Raven Begin

The Raven have fought together for years, six men carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it…

It took me a rather long time to get around to reading Dawnthief. There’s no particular reason for this oversight, but for the longest time, The Chronicles of the Raven has been a series I’ve always wanted to try. With my New Year’s Resolution to finally get around to four particular fantasy series, I thought there was no better time. I’m glad I did, too. The book, while flawed and suffering from a number of rookie issues, is nevertheless addictive. I’ll certainly be reading more of the series. This was, given the pacing and events of the first third of the book, a tricky review to write.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Upcoming: Marvel “Secret Origins” (Or, “WTF, Marvel?”)

It appears that Marvel will be releasing a line of “Secret Origin” comics. If that sounds familiar, it’s because DC did that for a number of characters pre-New 52 (Green Lantern and Superman, for example, both written by Geoff Johns). First up is an image that is kind of disturbing…


I know I’ve been mocking Marvel a fair bit for the way they talk/write about their Marvel NOW “Not A Reboot Honest” initiative, but sometimes I think they are unaware of the fact that they’re not fooling anyone. I do enjoy a good number of their titles (old and new), and I will probably always read their series. Captain America by Ed Brubaker (and Winter Soldier, a companion series of sorts), Mark Waid’s new Indestructible Hulk, Avenging Spider-Man, and any number of others are superb. But seriously, stop pretending that you’re not playing catch-up with DC.

Short Story: “Dark Heart” by Anthony Reynolds (Black Library)

Reynolds-HH-DarkHeartThe beginning of Marduk’s legend

When the Word Bearers launched their surprise assault on Calth, it marked the beginning of their righteous campaign of vengeance against the hated Ultramarines Legion. But for one young acolyte of Kor Phaeron, it is not the sons of Guilliman that he seeks to bring low – through infernal pacts and daemonic power he strives to carve out a destiny for himself in the midst of the greatest war that the galaxy has ever seen. The name of Marduk shall be spoken with awe for millennia still to come...

Dark Heart is one of the stories that will be included in Mark of Calth, the next Horus Heresy anthology from Black Library. Normally, I don’t buy these stories early and separately. I always prefer to get the finished anthology, in one book, but at the time this was released, I was just really in the mood for some more Heresy after reading Betrayer (which I finished the day after this was made available on Black Library’s website). Overall, this is a very enjoyable short story, one that will certainly whet your appetite for the rest of the anthology.

Audiobook: “Garro: Sword of Truth” by James Swallow (Black Library)


Performed by: John Banks, Toby Longworth & Ramon Tikaram

Nathaniel Garro, knight errant and agent of the Sigillite, returns from the battlefields of Calth to find a new mission already waiting for him – a ragged fleet of Space Marines from several Legions lingers at the edge of the Terran system. With the presence of the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children causing concerns among the loyalist defenders and drawing a grim parallel with his own frantic flight, Garro must look beneath the obvious if he is to determine friend from foe…

A new Horus Heresy tale is always welcome, and a Garro audiobook particularly so. In the first double-disc story, our newly-reassigned, loyal Death Guard must represent the Sigillite in an investigation of a surprise fleet that has appeared very close to Terra. Questioned loyalties, unflinching duty, and a deadly conspiracy await Garro and his companion Rubio. All is not what it seems. And in a time of civil war, tempers flare easily, and personal prejudice can overrule caution all too quickly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013



As is the case with so many debut authors these days, I tend to stumble across new names when a piece of artwork is released for their first novel. I have no idea why this is. Perhaps it’s a Universal Law or something? Anyway, I spotted the artwork for Zachary Jernigan’s debut, No Return, and did some more digging. Published by Night Shade (imminently), it sounds really intriguing. Zack was kind enough to say yes to an interview request, to talk about his writing, how he actually doesn’t enjoy it that much (but loves finishing) and his thoughts on the wider genre as a whole.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

iZombie, Vol.1 – “Dead to the World” (Vertigo)

iZombie-Vol.1Writer: Chris Roberson | Artist: Michael Allred

Told from a female zombie’s perspective, this smart, witty detective series mixes urban fantasy and romantic dramedy.

Gwendolyn “Gwen” Dylan is a 20-something gravedigger in an eco-friendly cemetery. Once a month she must eat a human brain to keep from losing her memories, but in the process she becomes consumed with the thoughts and personality of the dead person – until she eats her next brain. She sets out to fulfill the dead person’s last request, solve a crime or right a wrong. Our zombie girl detective is joined by a radical supporting cast: her best friend Eleanor, who happens to be a swinging ’60s ghost, a posse of paintball blasting vampires, a smitten were-dog and a hot but demented mummy.

Collects: iZombie #1-5

I’d heard a lot of good things about iZombie before I read it, and when I was in my local library, I saw they had this first volume. Not one to pass up a chance to read something new, I borrowed it, and actually really enjoyed it. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, either. This is quite fun.

Guest Post: “Fantasy in Colour” by Ben Galley

BenGalleyA short while ago, Ben Galley sent me the first two books of his self-published fantasy Emaneska series for review: The Written and Pale Kings. As anyone who has read my Reviewing Policy knows, I don’t accept self-published works. However, I had seen Ben’s work pop up on a few other blogs I follow, and I found myself intrigued despite my reservations. I intend to give at least the first one a read at some point in the future. In the meantime, I learned about another project Ben’s involved in: turning his books into graphic novels. Since Civilian Reader features ever-more comic and graphic novel-related content, I thought it would be nice to learn a little more behind Ben’s motivations for taking this latest step.


“Fantasy In Colour” by Ben Galley

I’ve recently embarked on a new chapter of my self-publishing career. With the help of the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, I’m attempting to turn my debut novel The Written into a graphic novel.

The question is, why?

It’s a damn good question. One with many answers. A lot of authors seem to be toying with the idea of migrating their tomes to artwork recently. The eminent Mark Lawrence, author of the Broken Empire trilogy, has been blogging a lot on his eagerness to turn his books to art. Even as I write this I see a tweet from Lauren Beukes of Zoo City and Moxyland fame saying:

Oh man, I would LOVE a graphic novel of Zoo City (hint, hint...)”

It’s a popular feeling, that’s for sure. Not a new one, though. Fantasy graphic novels already exist, and have for quite a while. A most recent and high-profile addition was the adaptation of Game of Thrones, following in the wake of the cash-cow that was the HBO series. Another example: Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World. Stab at merchandising or not, it seems to me, as an author and fantasy fan, that there’s a buzz around graphic novels at the moment. So, why? Why am I, and others, so keen to see their prose in paint, and is it a good idea?

Monday, February 04, 2013

“Fray” (Dark Horse)

Fray-TPBWriter: Joss Whedon | Art: Karl Moline | Inks: Andy Owens | Colors: Dave Stewart & Michelle Madsen

Hundreds of years in the future, Manhattan has become a deadly slum, run by mutant crime lords and disinterested cops. Stuck in the middle is a young girl who thought she had no future until she learns she has a great destiny. In a world so poisoned that it doesn’t notice the monsters on its streets, how can a street kid like Fray unite a fallen city against a demonic plot to consume mankind?

It took me altogether too long to get around to reading Fray. As a long-time fan of basically everything Joss Whedon’s written or created, it’s odd that it took as long as it did. Better late than never, though, and Fray was an absolute blast. I haven’t had this much fun reading a comic in a good long while. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

“Unholy Ghosts” by Stacia Kane (Voyager/Del Rey)

KaneS-DG1-UnholyGhostsUKThe Departed have arrived

The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased.

Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch, freewheeling Debunker, and ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for nailing human liars and banishing the wicked dead. But she’s keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that’s landed her in hot and dangerous water.

Chess owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it.

Hell, yeah.

I tried this on the recommendation of someone I know has exceptional taste (she works in publishing), and I am very glad I took the chance with the series. It’s original, engaging, well-written, and has a great, well-rounded and interesting heroine. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series.