Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Next to Last Stand by Craig Johnson - Book Review

From the publisher: One of the most viewed paintings in American history, Custer's Last Fight, copied and distributed by Anheuser-Busch at a rate of over two million copies a year, was destroyed in a fire at the 7th Cavalry Headquarters in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1946. Or was it? When Charley Lee Stillwater dies of an apparent heart attack at the Wyoming Home for Soldiers & Sailors, Walt Longmire is called in to try and make sense of a piece of a painting and a Florsheim shoebox containing a million dollars, sending the good sheriff on the trail of a dangerous art heist.

Next to Last Stand is the latest in Craig Johnson's terrific Walt Longmire series, and it's a nice change up from the past few stories, which all dealt with some really heavy topics and subject matter. I read somewhere that Johnson wanted to give Walt a reprieve of sorts and Next to Last Stand does that, without taking anything away from the challenges and risks that Walt and his crew face.

Next to Last Stand kicks off with the death of a Charley Lee Stillwater, a veteran who had been living at the Wyoming Soldiers' and Sailors' Home. In the process of going through his things, $1,000,000 and what looks to be an old painting are discovered. This intrigues Walt, who begins the process of trying to discover where the money came from and the authenticity of the painting. This leads Walt to the story of Custer's Last Fight, a famous painting that was destroyed in a fire but prints of which are in bars all across America. Things go from there, fairly quickly at times.

One of the highlights of the Longmire series, for me, is the characters. Next to Last Stand involves many of the usual group: Sheriff Walt Longmire, of course, a little older, a little more beat up, and still recovering from a near death experience; Vic Moretti, the undersheriff, foul-mouthed, sassy, and a take-no-prisoners attitude; Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne and Walt's best friend, a steady influence; and Ruby, Walt's dispatcher and de facto organizer. Throw in a "Count" who has a shady past but a lot of knowledge about art; his assistant; his ex-KGB bodyguard; and some colorful vets at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home, and you've got the makings of a classic Walt Longmire mystery.

Johnson's Longmire books always have an intriguing mystery, but part of the joy of reading these stories is the knowledge of Wyoming and the Big Horn Mountain area that comes in to play. This time, there is a focus on Gen. George Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn. Johnson, usually through Walt and Henry, loves to share his passion for his home state (and the bordering states) with his readers. I always pick up a little knowledge, and enjoy Walt's sort of non-stereotypical characterization as an educated (particularly literature and history) man, rather than just all action-oriented.

Overall, Next to Last Stand by Craig Johnson is another enjoyable Longmire book. I always enjoy the opportunity to spend some time with Walt, Vic, Henry and the other denizens of Absaroka County Wyoming. I would recommend this both to longtime readers of the series and also to new readers, as it would be a fine read all on its own.

I received a preview copy of this book from Penguin Group publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi - Book Review

From the publisher: The Last Emperox is the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling Interdependency series, an epic space opera adventure from Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi.

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction . . . and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known.

Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people form impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough.

Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization . . . or the last emperox to wear the crown?

The Last Emperox is the final book in John Scalzi's Interdependancy trilogy. It brings to a conclusion the storyline begun in The Collapsing Empire and continued in The Consuming Fire. So, is it successful at resolving the story? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, too, but maybe a little more complicated than that.

When The Last Emperox begins, the empire of the Emperox Grayland II (also know as Cardenia) is in the midst of fragmenting due to the collapse of the Flow streams which provide a way to travel between star systems. As detailed in the first two books, this will isolate each system, eventually resulting in the deaths of the great majority of humanity as they know it. Grayland is continuing her attempts to discover a way to save everyone before all systems are cut off from each other. Assisting her in this task is her boyfriend/chief Flow expert Marce Claremont, the sentient starship Chenevert, and the foul-mouthed and sex-crazed but very calculating Kiva Lagos. In the meantime, she continues to have to deal with attempted coups and assassination attempts from various factions, including her own noble family (the Wu's) and her perpetual foil, Nadashe Nohamapetan. Political maneuverings, scientific discoveries, and an ending I did not see coming all come together to make this an exciting story and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

As in previous books, Scalzi has written some interesting and engaging characters. And by this time, the readers are very familiar with their quirks and personalities. They continue to grow and develop, particularly Kiva Lagos and Cardenia/Grayland II. Both characters have nice arcs that you can trace through the other two books, and the conclusion for each feels genuine, if a touch unexpected. I also enjoyed reading about Marce and seeing him take on a bit larger role. Scalzi's humorous writing style mixed with sarcasm is evident in the characters, which is something I enjoy when reading (I don't really like it when everything has to be Serious all the time).

My only complaints about The Last Emperox are the same I had for the previous two books. First, every few chapters, there seems to be a chapter that is a huge information dump, tons of exposition with little dialogue. For me, these chapters would bring my reading momentum to a screeching halt, as the speed and flow of the story would come to a near halt. Additionally, there is a lot of cursing, particularly the "F" word. While it is part of a character's personality to use this word so much, it seems a little excessive to me. Finally, the amount of sex in the book can be gratuitous, although not graphic. I will say that of the three books, this one had the least amount of sex in it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Last Emperox, and the Interdependancy series as a whole. It was relatively fast paced and engaging, with interesting characters and some newer takes on space travel and science concepts. John Scalzi did a terrific job of telling the story he intended to tell and resolving it well in The Last Emperox. He also left enough threads left untied that he could easily revisit characters, ideas, of the Interdependancy universe without messing with this trilogy or undoing the choices in this series. I would recommend The Last Emperox (and the series) to Scalzi fans, general science fiction fans, and readers who like a bit of humor and sarcasm in their stories.

I received a preview copy of this book from Tor and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi - Book Review

From the publisher: New York Times Best Seller
USA Today Best Seller
io9's New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You Need to Put On Your Radar This Fall
Kirkus' SF/F Books to Watch Out for in 2018
Popular Mechanics Best Books of 2018 (So Far)
Goodreads' Most Anticipated Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

The Consuming Fire—the New York Times and USA Today bestselling sequel to the 2018 Hugo Award Best Novel finalist and 2018 Locus Award-winning The Collapsing Empire—an epic space-opera novel in the bestselling Interdependency series, from the Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi

The Interdependency—humanity’s interstellar empire—is on the verge of collapse. The extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible is disappearing, leaving entire systems and human civilizations stranded.

Emperox Grayland II of the Interdependency is ready to take desperate measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least an opportunity to an ascension to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are prepare for a civil war. A war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will between spaceships and battlefields.

The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, as are her enemies. Nothing about this will be easy... and all of humanity will be caught in its consuming fire.

The Consuming Fire, book 2 in the Interdependency series by John Scalzi, picks up fairly close to where the first book, The Collapsing Empire, left off. And, it basically jumps right into the action, as Emperox Grayland II tries to shepherd all of humanity through the upcoming collapse of the Flow streams and the end of civilization as they've known it for the past one thousand years.

While The Consuming Fire is a space epic type of book, it really isn't concerned so much with battles and such; it's more focused on saving humanity and the political battles that Grayland II is dealing with. These schemes are interesting in and of themselves, as it's sometimes hard to know who to really trust, and Scalzi plays his cards very close to the vest, not revealing everything until the climax of the story. The other part of this book that I found really interesting was Marce Claremont's arc. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll say that it reminded me a bit of the Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath books by Jack McDevitt. The two threads (Grayland's and Marce's) dovetail nicely together.

Scalzi does a fine job with character development, as he mostly focuses on the same point of view characters we followed in the first book. Grayland II continues in her acclimation to being Emperox, becoming more formidable and confident. Marce Claremont sees his role expand and become extremely important. Nadashe Nohamapetan shows up again, and continues to act as a foil for Grayland, although in a different capacity. Kiva Lagos, and her foul mouth, are once again embroiled in conflict with the House of Nohamapetan. Additionally, Scalzi introduces or expands on some characters who were not really a part of The Collaspsing Empire: Countess Nohamapetan, Archbishop Korbijn, Lord Terran, and more members or employees of the Houses of Wu and Nohamapetan. All told, this is a varied and interesting group of characters whose interactions make for an enjoyable read.

The plot of The Consuming Fire is constantly moving forward, and Scalzi fits all the myriad pieces together very well. A little more than halfway through, there is a big reveal that propels the story forward at breakneck speed, and the conclusion, while a fine ending to this book itself, totally expands the scope of where the final book can take the story of Grayland II and the Interdependecy's quest to save themselves from disaster. It wasn't something I saw coming, but all the seeds are there. As far as negatives, I have a couple that are more along the lines of personal preferences: Scalzi's characters use the F-word a lot, enough where it is a little distracting to me when I'm reading; sex is also a driving force for some of these characters, and while not graphic by any means, it seems a bit superfluous at times; and finally, there are a few chapters were it is one paragraph of exposition after another, and while these are necessary, they slowed me down after chapters that pushed the plot forward with snappy dialogue and humor.

Overall, I would recommend The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi. It's both a terrific sequel and a fine book in its own right. Scalzi has written a quickly moving, engaging story with humor and well-rounded characters. I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion, The Last Emperox, in the near future.

I received a review copy of this book from Tor Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi - Book Review


The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man's War

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster than light travel is impossible—until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.

Riding The Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal—but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals—a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency—must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

I'm a fan of John Scalzi's Old Man's War series, so after a little indecision, I decided to give this new series a shot. And I'm glad I did. The Collapsing Empire was a fun and fairly quick read. There were interesting characters, political intrigue, multiple viewpoints, and enough of Scalzi's trademark humor and sarcasm to keep the mood from becoming too grim. Scalzi also does a fine job of keeping the plot moving along, so you never really feel like the story gets bogged down.

Quick summary: Humanity has spread throughout the stars thanks to something called "The Flow", which appears to be like a river (Scalzi's own description) that connects star systems. Without faster-than-light travel, the Flow is the only way for humans to settle other planets. All these communities are joined together as an Interdependency. The Interdependcy was created to keep humanity from fighting, making them all dependent on each other for survival (its somewhat more complicated than I want to describe here). Currently, the Interdependcy is ruled by an Emperox, who is a combination emperor-head of the church-businessman/woman (and maybe something else, I can't really remember). The Emperox has a council composed of military, church, and economic leaders to help them make decisions, but ultimately the Emperox rules over all. Then several things happen seemingly at once - the current Emperox dies; a rival trade house makes a bid for power; and the Flow begins collapsing. The biggest problem is the Flow, because without it humanity will be cut off from each other, resulting in the potential extinction of the human race.

The Collapsing Empire is the first of three books about the collapse of the Flow, the new Emperox, and humanity's struggle to avoid certain doom. With a little extra time to read, I found myself pretty engaged in this novel, and I'm looking forward to reading the next two and seeing where Scalzi takes the story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

ROBIN 80TH ANNIVERSARY 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR #1 by Various Writers/Artists - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: DC Comics celebrates Robin the Boy Wonder’s 80th anniversary in style with an all-star creative team representing each iteration of the iconic character across eight decades of history! From the high-flying adventures of Dick Grayson to the tragedy of Jason Todd, the enthusiasm of Tim Drake and the arrogance of Damian Wayne, the persistence of Stephanie Brown and the rebelliousness of Carrie Kelley-the mantle of Robin has been worn by many, but always represents one thing: a hero.

Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 (Robin henceforth) is a compilation of short stories by many authors, some who have a long history with the character(s). Dick Grayson is one of my favorite DC characters, so I was looking forward to reading this. It touches on all of the people to wear the costume, except for Carrie Kelly (in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns series, etc.). There are three stories starring Dick Grayson (2 as Robin, 1 as Nightwing), one with Jason Todd, two with Tim Drake, one with Stephanie Brown, and one (I think) with Damien Wayne, which actually sets the stage for some upcoming storylines with the Teen Titans and possibly Batman.

Robin was a fun read and I enjoyed all the various takes. There is such a rich and varied history to Robin; this book captures and celebrates that diversity very well. The authors (some of whom placed Robin in the era they actually wrote during) and artists took great care to capture the feel of the time period their stories were set in. For example, I believe Chuck Dixon wrote the Nightwing story, which took place during his run on the first volume of Nightwing, and felt very much like it might have been a missing story from that time. This creates a nice variety in Robin, rather than read and look at stories that are uniform one after another. Changing Robins and art styles added to the enjoyment of Robin and showed just how great a legacy the character has, which is great since this is the 80th anniversary of Robin.

I really enjoyed Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 and recommend it to all fans of Batman and any of the various Robins.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

THE DREAMING #19 by Simon Spurrier - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: A lost dream has returned to the Dreaming to rally the troops against the rule of Wan-but without Dream himself, do his subjects have the strength they need to prevail? Or has the unconsciousness of humankind already been changed forever?

Yes! Finally, Simon Spurrier, you begin to reveal your master plan. The Dreaming #19 is more than a year and a half in to Spurrier's story, and it seems we are nearing the climax. Arcs and characters that at times seemed unconnected to each other have finally been shown to all be part of one big tapestry. And while this issue isn't the end of the story, it does seem to be the beginning of the end of the story.

Here's the deal: Dream has disappeared due to a plot against him. Dora, Lucien, Matthew, Cain, Able, and the rest of the denizens of the Dreaming try to get along in his absence. A leadership void occurs. Wan, a sentient AI, fills it. Things in the Dreaming and the real world begin to go haywire. It seems Dream needs to be restored to his throne/realm, but he is unable to do it. Wan has a "Dark Twin" that is going to wipe out the Dreaming and creativity, thus killing the human race. Enter Lucien, who has returned from near death stronger than ever. Lucien has discovered the key to defeating Wan, restoring Dream, and saving everyone, and it has to do with Dream's talismans of power. And that sets up the next issue.

Now, I'm not sure how many issues Spurrier is going to need to bring this story to its conclusion (however, five more would bring us to 24 total issues, or two years). But at this point, we are in the homestretch, and I've enjoyed each new issue more and more. As the greater plan becomes more clear, I feel like I have a better grasp of just how detailed and nuanced this story that Spurrier is writing actually is. It is hitting on all cylinders, and while telling a new tale, it actually hearkens back to Gaiman's original Sandman stories when the first Dream was in the process of escaping captivity and reclaiming his helm, bag of sand, etc., and reclaiming his kingdom. I've always appreciated the intricate storytelling of Sandman and I'm really pleased with how Spurrier has carried on that particular tradition. This feels like more than just another story, and I like it.

I would highly recommend The Dreaming #19 by Simon Spurrier. For those readers who've been here since the beginning, this is what we've been waiting for. If you are a new reader, what are you doing? Go grab the first 18 issues and get caught up. As for me, I can't wait until next month!

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #1 by Tom King - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: After winning five Eisner Awards and topping year-end “best of lists,” the comic book of 2019 was Mister Miracle. The comic book of 2020 will be Strange Adventures.

The Mister Miracle team of writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads are joined by fan-favorite artist Evan “Doc” Shaner to bring you an epic tale in the tradition of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and DC: The New Frontier—a story of blood, war and love that readers will be talking about for years to come.

Adam Strange is the hero of Rann, a man famous throughout the galaxy for his bravery and honor. After leading his adopted home to victory in a great planetary war, Adam and his wife Alanna retire to Earth, where they are greeted by cheers, awards and parades. But not all is as happy and nice as it seems, as the decisions Adam made during battles on Rann come back to haunt his family and threaten the entire DC Universe. And now a surprise DC hero will have to choose between saving Adam Strange and saving the world.

A story like no other, Strange Adventures is an ambitious, thrilling, shocking and beautiful 12-issue saga that will push Adam Strange to the breaking point—and beyond!

Strange Adventures #1 by Tom King, with art by Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner, is the opening chapter of King's latest exploration of deep topics using lesser known comic characters. In the past he has written acclaimed stories starring Vision and Mister Miracle. Now, he takes on Adam Strange. For those unfamiliar, here's a quick recap: Adam Strange was an ordinary archaeologist who was struck by a Zeta Beam and transported to the world of Rann. There, Strange became a jet-pack wearing hero in the battle against the Pykkts. On Rann, Strange found a new family, marrying Alanna and having a daughter named Aleena. He was hailed as a great hero and the protector of Rann. The only catch was that when the Zeta Beam wore off, he was sent back to Earth until the next time. Adam Strange has been around for decades, and there is a Flash Gordon or John Carter of Mars quality to him.

Now, in King's story Strange has retired to Earth with his wife, Alanna. He has written a memoir, and is in the midst of a publicity tour, which includes book signings, morning talk shows, and even a visit to the White House. But not everyone is happy with Strange; some people believe he isn't the hero he claims to be, and that he may even be more of a villain, with some veiled references to his actions against the Pykkts. After a video of a crazed "fan" confronting him goes viral, Strange is accused of murdering the man. To save his reputation, Strange must prove his innocence. To this end, he asks a friend in the hero community to investigate Strange and prove he is not guilty.

Just this story alone is very engaging. However, King is interspersing this modern day story with a story from Stange's past on Rann, where we see his actions against the Pykkts and also may discover just what happened to his daughter, Aleena (something that is aluded to in the present timeline). This dual storyline leads to one of the cooler aspects of Strange Adventures: the art for each time period is done by a different artist. The past on Rann is drawn by Doc Shaner, and looks very much like a comic from the 1960's, while Mitch Gerards draws the present in a more realistic style. The two contrast nicely and also add the weight of the story. The present day story is very heavy and serious, while the time on Rann is more adventurous and pulpy.

King seems to have a way of tackling deep subjects with his writing, and Strange Adventures looks to be more of the same. There is a heavy feeling hanging around Adam Strange's celebrity and retirement, a sort of sadness and lack of contentment. The relationship between Strange and Alanna seems fragile, with Strange carrying some sort of guilt and his wife trying to help him through it or just ignore it altogether. King excels at this sort of characterization and development, and I'm curious to see how they grow and change throughout the course of the story.

King has made two statements (in an interview with DC Nation in the back of this issue) about the story he is telling in Strange Adventures that I find interesting. The first is regarding the difference between the story we tell others and the story others tell about us. The second is looking at the nature of truth, particularly when it comes to 19th century European colonialism, and the gap between myth and reality (Strange, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, etc. being stand-ins for white European explorers). I'm really interested to see where King takes this story and what his conclusions in regards to this ideas are.

I highly recommend Strange Adventures #1 by Tom King. It is an interesting and engaging beginning to what should be an intriguing story. I'm looking forward to the next issue.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Leviathan Dawn #1 by Brian Michael Bendis - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Exploding out of the pages of the Event Leviathan miniseries, this all-new special blasts the DC Universe into a dangerous and brave new future! With Leviathan arrived, its leader’s identity revealed, and its plans known, what happens next? Now the heroes fight back! Leviathan changed the rules of the game, so now’s the time for the biggest players to get together and figure out a new strategy in this brave new world. It’s an extra-sized super-spy yarn from the Eisner Award-winning team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev!

I wasn't really impressed with Event Leviathan, Brian Michael Bendis's limited series that expanded on the Leviathan storyline that began in the Superman comics, and introduced both the character of Leviathan and the consequences of his group's takedown of all the major spy-like organizations in the DC Universe. However, when Leviathan was unmasked and his motivations were made known, the series just sort of petered out for me.

Leviathan Dawn #1, on the other hand, is more of what I was expecting. The storyline jumps back and forth between Leviathan (the man) and Leviathan (the group) coming to terms with what they started and pushing the master plan forward. Elsewhere, Steve Trevor is both rescued and recruited by Kingsley Jacobs, a mysterious man who has tasked Trevor with putting together a team from some of the other heroes and villains that Leviathan attempted to remove during his quest for power. They include Manhunter, Green Arrow, Mr. Bones, Talia Al Ghul, Lois Lane, and the Question. Together with Jacobs, they are forming the new Checkmate, a group who is determined to take down Leviathan. There is only one problem: Leviathan is now a legitimate group (I won't reveal how this happens), and any direct attack on them is likely to cause bigger problems than anyone cares to deal with.

I'm not sure what the next step for the Leviathan story is. I haven't heard whether it and he will receive their own series, if Checkmate will get a series, or if this story will be written into an existing book. What I do know is that Bendis just made things interesting for me. One covert group looking to take down a formerly covert, now globally recognized, group has all the makings of a fun read. I hope the focus remains on the spy shenanigans and the characterization and development of the various characters. Throw in Bendis's snappy dialogue, and I'm in.

I would recommend Leviathan Dawn #1 by Brian Michael Bendis to fans of covert, spy stories. This feels like it is built for Bendis's wheelhouse and I'm willing to go along for the ride.

I received a preview of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Flash Forward #6 by Scott Lobdell - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: The finale of Flash Forward is here, and Wally West must make the toughest choice of his life: save the day, or save his family. With the crack in the Dark Multiversal barrier reaching critical mass, Wally’s mettle will be tested in ways the young hero has never seen before…and this surprise ending will leave you speechless!

The entire time I've been reading Scott Lobdell's Flash Forward series, I've been wondering if once again, Wally West was going to get a raw deal. I've said it several times, but other than characters who were no longer being written, Wally was treated the worst as a result of DC's New 52 initiative and then Rebirth, which was an attempt to fix all the problems that the New 52 caused, both with continuity and with fans. Wally was erased from existence.Then he was the impetus for all the heroes to "remember" their prior history when it was discovered he had actually been trapped in the Speed Force. When he was released, he found out his whole life was gone; his wife, Linda, didn't remember him and their twins, Jai and Iris, had never existed. Then, as Wally attempted to reconcile his new life at Sanctuary, he accidentally caused the deaths of a number of heroes and villains, including one of his best friends. The guy couldn't catch a break. But then Tempus Fuginaut recruited him to save the Multiverse from a Dark Multiverse that was threatening everything. Wally accepted as a way to atone for his mistakes, and Flash Forward began. Along the way to personal redemption, Wally saved multiple worlds, came face to face with a version of his dead friend, and best and/or worst of all, he found his twins, who knew what had happened to them. It seemed like Wally would have his life restored, as well as the hope he always represented. However, I kept waiting for Lobdell to pull the rug out from under him one final time.

This brings us to Flash Forward #6, the final issue in the series and the end of Wally's quest to defeat the Dark Multiverse. Without spoiling anything (I hope), let me just say that the ending was bittersweet. Through a strange circumstance involving the Mobius Chair, the creation of Dark Multiverses, and a father's love for his children, Wally was able to restore much of his life but at a cost (one I won't share here). It was a satisfying conclusion up to a point; I continue to wait for Wally to be returned to who he was before all of these reboots. On the downside, it appears that this mini-series was just a way of setting up yet another change for Wally West. Yes, it did some positive things for Wally, but it now seems like more of means to an end type of story. The ending is definitely leading towards something big (and we are pointed towards Flash #750 to see what happens next).

Flash Forward #6 by Scott Lobdell was pretty good. I was pretty happy with most of the outcome, and would recommend it to most Flash readers. But, I'm a little hesitant to keep reading about Wally West. I'm not really interested in seeing him become something different with every new series. I enjoyed reading about Wally because of who he was and what he represented. This doesn't mean I don't want to see him evolve or grow as a character, but if you are the Flash, and you don't do Flash things anymore, are you really the Flash? In my opinion, these characters should remain true to their core values, or you lose something that makes them beloved and important to many readers, much in the way Hal Jordan became Parallax. I'm definitely not finished with Wally, but I'll be keeping an eye on what he becomes.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. #1 by James Tynion IV and Peter J. Tomasi - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Alfred Pennyworth served the Wayne family for decades-even through the tragic loss of Bruce Wayne’s parents. His death at the hands of Bane is the only event that could possibly compare to that fateful night in Crime Alley, and it leaves Bruce at a similar crossroads. If Alfred was the glue that held the Bat-Family together, how will Batman deal with that all falling apart? And if the Caped Crusader is to be truly alone, he might either hang that cape up once and for all…or double down and carry on with this vengeful quest forever. Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. #1 celebrates the life of one of the most important people in the history of Gotham City, while also addressing questions about what’s next.

When Bane killed Alfred Pennyworth, it left a whole in the middle of the Bat Family, one that might be impossible to fill. James Tynion IV and Peter J. Tomasiuse Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. #1 to look at the immediate effects of Alfred's death, and it also serves as a wake of sorts for Bruce Wayne's butler and fill-in parent.

The issue opens with the gang gathering for the dedication of a children's hospital that has been built and dedicated in Alfred's honor. Following the ceremony, the group decides to meet together and talk about Alfred. They find a sleazy dive bar in a rotten neighborhood and have it all too themselves. With typical arguing and angst, the various Bat Family members offer a toast to Alfred with a memory of an impact he had on their lives. We hear from Damian Wayne, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Dick (Ric) Grayson, and Bruce Wayne. Together, their stories serve as a touching tribute to one of the oldest and most enduring characters in DC Comics history, let alone in the Batman books.

Alfred Pennyworth is often seen/referred to as the "glue" that holds the Bat Family together, and he served as Bruce Wayne's parent following the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. He has been a steady influence in the lives of the various members of the family, and has seen them through thick and thin. Tynion and Tomasi do a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and heart of Alfred Pennyworth, as well as the individual voices of the people he spent his life with. Additionally, it seems as if the artwork for each toast was reminiscent of the style during which each memory took place, reflecting again on just how far reaching Alfred's reach was. He will be missed, and I'm very curious to see just how he will be "replaced" (for lack of a better word), and how Bruce and the rest will adjust and deal with his absence. Also, I wonder if Alfred will remain dead, or if he will be brought back to serve another story at a later date. I know this is a tradition in comics, but it bears mentioning considering the impact Alfred Pennyworth's death has on Batman and company.

I highly recommend Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P. by James Tynion IV and Peter J. Tomasi. It is an emotional and heartfelt story honoring a beloved character. This is a must read for Batman fans.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Dreaming #18 by Simon Spurrier - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Rose Walker was a vortex, once. And as a vortex, she draws dreams to herself…and she is drawn to them. And it’s a good thing, too, because Dora, Matthew, and Abel are in well over their heads in the waking world-a world that is slowly destroying itself, as Wan’s plans for the collective unconscious of humanity have come to pass!

The Dreaming #18 finishes one story arc (sort of), but Simon Spurrier also sets up what should be (I think) the concluding story in a tale he has been telling since this version of The Dreaming began. That story is this: Where has Dream gone, and why did he leave? Over the course of this run, we've seen Dora find out what she is and what happened to her; why Dream left; an attack on The Dreaming; a new ruler, the sentient AI Wan; Cain's death; Abel's transformation; Lucien giving up; mythological-type beings disappearing; and a quest to fix things in both the waking world and the Dreaming.

Issue #18 brings back Rose Walker, a character who was a dream vortex in The Sandman series and who we saw earlier in The Dreaming. She is being pulled across an America where things are weirdly wrong, and she eventually arrives in the home of the now deceased man who is responsible for the mess the Dreaming (and the world) is in. There, she discovers Dora fading from existence; Cain and Abel trying to reconcile; and Matthew the Raven. What Rose does and the character who shows up unexpectedly set the stage for the battle/confrontation to come, one in which our heroes (?) must confront Wan and save The Dreaming, along with everyone in the waking world. Oh, and maybe restore Dream to his throne.

I've really been enjoying this series. Spurrier continues to capture the feeling that Gaiman instilled in his creations many years ago. Stories about stories, and myths, and deep connections are what the Sandman universe is all about, and The Dreaming is fully engaged in that. The quest to find Dream, along with Dora discovering herself, has been very engaging. Spurrier has been slowly spooling out information, all the while adding depth and texture to this universe. It can be tough to put your own spin on characters as well formed as the denizens of The Dreaming and to bring something new to a beloved story, and I've been pleased with Spurrier's effort. Every month, I look forward to reading the next chapter, and my only complaint is that I have to wait another month to see what happens next.

I highly recommend The Dreaming #18 by Simon Spurrier. I'm fully invested in seeing how the story wraps up, and can't wait to read the next issue(s) and discover how Spurrier ties everything together.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Detective Comics Annual #3 by Peter J. Tomasi - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Of all the mayhem and madness that "City of Bane" visited upon Batman's world, the death of Alfred Pennyworth had the greatest impact. As Bruce struggles to pick up the pieces of his life, the absence of the man who had always helped him is felt with devastating consequences. With new storm clouds brewing on the horizon, does Bruce Wayne have what it takes to honor his dearest friend's memory?

I have been behind in my Batman/Detective Comics reading lately, preferring to wait for the collected editions so I can have a full storyline to read. However, when I learned of the death of Alfred Pennyworth and that Peter J. Tomasi was going to write a sort of coda to his life in Detective Comics Annual #3, I decided to check it out. And I'm glad I did!

Tomasi starts the story off with a glimpse into Alfred's SIS days, and it's pretty cool. Very James Bond-ish from the normally fastidious butler. The story then jumps to the present, where a mourning (and emotionally lost) Bruce Wayne is confronted by a person from Alfred's past - Marigold . She was a fellow SIS/MI-6 agent and friend of Alfred's, and she brings Bruce a proposal: a chance to catch the "one that got away", a former friend turned enemy spy that Alfred never caught. Needless to say, Bruce jumped at the chance. A trip to the Ukraine, a fake American city used to train KGB operatives, and the NKVDBeast all make an appearance, as Bruce has the chance to help do something good in Alfred's name as a way of honoring him and dealing with his death. Tomasi does a good job of capturing Bruce's grief, as well as his other emotions. In addition, Marigold's character and relationship with Alfred add depth and resonance to the story.

There is a second, back up story that is a letter from Alfred to Marigold detailing his work week with the newly returned young Bruce Wayne. While the words of the letter accurately describe the action, they are somewhat humorous in light of the illustrations that depict Bruce's first attempts at crime fighting as Batman. It is a sweet and heartfelt letter/story, and a fitting tribute to Alfred, a man many readers (as well as writers and characters) considered the heart behind Batman.

Killing off a beloved character can be challenging for a writer, and often the aftermath of the death is left for other writers to respond to. Tomasi does a great job in keeping with the spirit of both Detective Comics and Alfred Pennyworth himself. This is a worthwhile read and a fine epilogue to Alfred's life.

I highly recommend Detective Comics Annual #3 by Peter J. Tomasi.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Flash Forward #5 by Scott Lobdell - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Wally West has gotten to the heart of his mission to save the Multiverse...and the heart he found was his own. When it's discovered that the dark multiversal world that's threatening all of existence is the world in which Wally's children are alive, our hero must overcome his greatest fears, regrets, and anger to do what's right. But what's right is the hardest thing anyone would ever imagine doing...letting go.

This is the one. Flash Forward #5 by Scott Lobdell finally brings Wally West back together with his children, Jai and Iris. As part as his mission to save the Multiverse, Wally lands on a planet made entirely of Dark Matter. However, it also contains his two children, who seem to be aware that they were erased from existence as part of DC's New 52 reboot.

During the course of this series, Wally has been trying to redeem himself from his actions in Heroes in Crisis and to recover his lost/missing life, including his kids. Now that he is reunited with them, he discovers that the planet is trying to rip them away from him again. Additionally, the only way for him to save the Multiverse is to destroy the planet, which would kill his kids. Caught in this dilemma, Wally approaches Tempus Fuginaut and is put in contact with the Morbius Chair. Upon touching the chair, Wally receives all the knowledge he needs, which is where Lobdell leaves us.

All along, I've been reading this series with the hope that Wally will somehow be restored to his former self and life. It seems to me that nearly all of the heroes who disappeared or were changed have now returned, and there isn't really a lot that has affected them (see Legion of Superheroes and the forthcoming Justice Society series). However, Wally can't seem to catch a break. Now that he finally has the chance to reclaim his life, Scott Lobdell has him in a nearly impossible situation, and with only one issue left, I'm very curious to find out how Lobdell plans to resolve this story. In fact, I'm at the point that if Wally doesn't receive some redemption and return to normalcy, I might have to quit reading his adventures, because they are almost too sad and depressing. After all, Wally West is a beacon of hope and positivity, not a dark and brooding hero such as Batman, where this lingering darkness would be more at home.

I recommend Flash Forward #5 by Scott Lobdell with one caveat - by the time this series ends, Wally needs to have hope, and his life, restored to him. If that happens, then reading this story was worth it; if not, then it has been a waste of time. I'm counting on you, Lobdell. Do the right thing!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Dreaming #17 by Simon Spurrier

From the publisher: Wan’s takeover of Dream’s realm is nearly complete. As his identity slips away, Abel only has one secret left in his pocket. And poor, tortured Lucien, lost and without purpose, longs for nothing but release, and to return to the foundations of the Dreaming. So why can’t he go? Does he have a purpose yet to serve? If he wants to die...why must he continue to pay the high cost of living?

With issue 16's reveal about Dora and just what Wan, the new "king" of the Dreaming, is, The Dreaming #17 by Simon Spurrier has a tough act to follow. But Spurrier keeps rolling along, dropping more info and letting this story pick up steam.

Issue #17 has several storylines that happen simultaneously. In one, Lucien the Librarian wants to die, but only Wan can do that for him. However, Wan doesn't want to end Lucien. Matthew the Raven is looking for Cain, using eyes given to him by Abel (so Wan can no longer use Matthew to see what is going on). And Abel tries to tell Wan that what he is doing is destroying the Dreaming, even if Wan is unaware of it. Plus, there is a surprise at the end that I should have seen coming, but clearly didn't. All three stories continue to push the main arc forward, and I can only believe that Spurrier is very close to wrapping up the story he began in The Dreaming #1 (or possibly in the Sandman Universe preview - I can't quite remember). Dream has been missing and everything that has happened since has seemingly been building towards these past several issues and the next few (at least I hope so).

I've really liked this arc and feel like Spurrier is doing a super job. He is definitely putting his own take on the Dreaming mythos, while keeping Gaiman's original feel. One example of that is the Lucien storyline in this issue. As Lucien longs to die and end his misery, the various subjects of the Dreaming gather around him in what is a particularly touching sequence. It was reminiscent of The Wake from the Sandman stories in its feel and the emotions it evokes.

I highly recommend The Dreaming #17. With the second collection about to be released, you can grab it and get caught up if you are new to the series. If you have been reading all along, this issue is vital to read.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.