“Wraithborn” by Joe Benítez

Wraithborn(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2006) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m giving this book 2 stars only because I saw that there was a story hidden somewhere deep down there.

The abovementioned story is a very simple YA plot: a girl who just wants to mind her own business is drawn into a world of darkness where she has to learn to fight against evil, when all she wants to do it continue her life as normal.

This arc has been used only a million times in YA novels, but if they continue drawing readers, including myself, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

However, everything goes downhill for Wraithborn after this. The plot doesn’t have anything that sets it apart from other similar books, the heroes are in no way charming, the villain is powerful only in words and offers no real plot twists or challenges, and last, but not least, the artwork is very unappealing.

Melanie, the main character, is very, very hard to like. She’s weak, lacks will power, and is very self-centered (although here we have to mention that many teenagers are self-centered in general). But the thing which bothered me the most about her is the fact that she’s not a person who wants to help others. She prefers staying off the radar and protecting her own ass. Then, a jump to the future, and she has been completely transformed into a savior of the defenseless. I’m not buying it.

Story-wise, Melanie would not have survived at all, had there not been deus ex machina in every single issue. Every time she is in trouble, there’s a masked warrior coming to her rescue, and in very special occasions, she has magic mojo that she can’t control just bursting out of her. Valek somehow knows that he needs to find her, and also guesses every time she would be in distress, and even though they barely talk, aside from battle grunts, by the end of the volume they have developed a special bond.

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I won’t even bother commenting the other characters because they are so shallow and only there so that it seems like there’s some characters.

What bothered me the most, though, is the art. The women are almost naked, always, they have identical faces (which makes it hard to understand what they mean when they say that Melanie is unattractive: She looks just like the rest of y’all?), and they all look like sex slaves. Now, I have nothing against sexy, but there’s sexy as in sultry and/or erotic, and sexy as in just cheap. I would not say that Valek, fighting alongside his sister, whose panties are there for all to see, is sexy. I would say that is kind of bothersome, actually.

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Classy: the man and the woman on the left, Valek and Kiara, you might have guessed, are siblings.

Bothersome is also the fact that although Melanie is the hero of this book, and apparently she is to become a big badass sometime in the future, on all of the covers she is just hanging there while almighty Valek is behind her back in a fighting position. Because even when girls are strong, they still can’t make it without a guy to protect them. Great message! Not.

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The cover of issue #5. As you can see, Melanie is a fierce warrior, she needs no man, and she… Wait. She’s just standing there looking confused and defenseless in the shadow of a strong male.

“Nowhere Me, Vol. 1: Fates Worse Than Death” by Eric Stephenson

Nowhere Men, Vol. 1: Fates Worse Than Death(Author: Eric Stephenson) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I will go with No. This is one of those books where the characters are over-hyping themselves and each other, because otherwise it would be hard for the reader to realize that something supposedly important is happening.

“Oh, these guys are rockstars!”, “He is a legend”, “Their research changed the world!” Okay then, if the author made his characters call each other brilliant, then we must be reading about truly amazing individuals. Not.

Nowhere Men is a very confusing, messy, and unconvincing attempt at sci-fi. There is no science anywhere in the entire volume, just a bunch of characters that make things happen and you are supposed to buy into the idea that they did it thanks to science. However, considering that the author doesn’t bother to give any information about the level of actual technological development in this world, or on where humanity was before the science Beatles came into the picture, this so-called “science” could as well be magic, for all the reader knows.

There is a large jumble of seemingly important individuals, including 4 interchangeable scientist gods, who did… something, and then… something happened, and some substance was created somehow. Sometime in the past someone somehow decided to put it on a spaceship for some reason, which created some kind of a virus, which is not actually a virus. Now you know as much as I do, having read the first volume.

If you stripped the story to its bare bones, you would find a striking resemblance to the Fantastic 4, including the design of the characters on the space ship. The science rockstars remain a mystery, as does their importance, however, the reader must be aware that even though they seem like a bunch of squabbling, greedy old assholes, apparently all of them are geniuses.

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It’s really hard to find any characters to care about, or to be convinced to believe in any part of the story. The self-explanatory articles and interviews with the characters don’t help. On the contrary, they make the story even more dragged out, and they nudge the reader into the land of “Who cares?”.

The part that I did like, more or less, was the art. It was solid, well-made, and comforting. I was glad to see that they didn’t go for anything more experimental, because that would have added to the overall ridiculousness of the volume.

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Thanks, Nowhere Men, see you never. 

“Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Høeg

Smilla's Sense of Snow(Author: Peter Høeg) + (Year: 1995) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Denmark)


Review:

Smilla’s Sense of Snow depicts the victims in the world of the strong. The struggle of the outsiders in the country of their conquerors. It tells a lot about the systematical overtaking of the Danish culture against that of the Inuits. It also shows the cold world of power, money and desire for fame and glory, which is common for all people, but has no equal than that of the Western, developed, world, where people have already managed to get what they need to cover their basic needs, so they now have the spare time to struggle for things less essential, but just as important to them. Smilla’s Sense of Snow in some ways encapsulates everything that I have heard about the cold north of Europe.

This is also the point in which you can see the gap between the developed world and the third world countries. In the former, they fight for glory, in the latter – for survival.

However much Smilla’s Sense of Snow told me of Denmark, as a book it was a lot more mediocre than I hoped. While I do have my prejudices against people whose main motivation in life is power and money, I am not saying that I dislike the people in countries like Denmark. On the contrary, I have recently developed quite a fascination with this small and less loved Scandinavian country (especially as I have so many Swedish friends who dislike it). Therefore, I did have high expectations for Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

The first 100 or so pages were very good and riveting. The mystery developed fast and it went deep. I had no idea what to expect and I was eager to go further. After those first 100 pages, though, things started getting increasingly worse. There was a constant stream of characters who served the same purpose, had the same personality, and all hated the main character, Smilla. At one point, more than halfway through the book, I just gave up trying to keep track of everyone. Too many names, too many unimportant stories, too much fluff.

And don’t even get me started on the stories. From the mystery around the death of a young boy, this book took so many turns, went through so many sub-plots, so much insanity… The author didn’t stop for a second to throw one thing after the other. Each of these elements could have made a fine book all on their own, but Høeg was relentless: murder, drugs, smugglers, Nazis, meteorites, legends, science fiction, ships, agents, killer parasites, Inuit culture, snow, ice, ice, snow, BDSM, ice, missing mothers, dead fathers. Not one of the stories was even finished. Most of all, I expected some sort of a conclusion to the death of Isiah, but I did so in vain. Høeg tried, but failed miserably, to explain the death and give closure. And I was there asking myself “Was that it?” Not to mention that the meteorite story did not fit into the world of this book at all. It was as if I was reading two different books simultaneously, and neither me, nor the characters could understand what to make of it.

If you think that, taking all of this into account, this was a fast-paced book, you would be wrong. For every half a page of intense action, there were 20 pages of descriptions of how many centimeters there are from the door to the light switch, and what the quality of the silence in the room is, and last, but not least, ice and snow and ice. I know that the book’s title is Smilla’s Sense of Snow, but to be describing in detail every state of snow and ice for pages on end is quite special. Not in a very positive way.

Lastly, Smilla might be one of the least pleasant main characters that I have read about. She is extremely angsty, but I failed to understand WHY exactly that is. Sure, her life was not a fairytale, but for example, why did she hate her father so much? What was the reason for that? I never got it. I just knew that she hates him, so by default we have to hate him, too. Also, Smilla is so self-contradictory that she is not a realistic character at all. She spends 99% of her time in the present moping around and daydreaming about 50 shades of snow; and in her memories, she is spending extensive amounts of time reading to Isiah or giving him baths. However, while that was happening, she also managed to go to 20 expeditions to Greenland, to write 2000 papers, to get 89 university degrees, to be arrested 50 times, to tag polar bears, to spend time on ships, to be a part of a million institutions, to sit around and hate her father, to run away from home and go to Greenland without money or documents, to become a person of interest to the police, to investigate, to be well schooled in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering… Do you see where I am going? And now, her age: 37. As a conclusion, I would say that Smilla is not a very well built character. She is mean for no reason whatsoever, she hates everyone, despite having had a mostly good life, and she is rude and self-important.

I like him. I have a weakness for losers. Invalids, foreigners, the fat boy of the class, the ones that nobody ever wants to dance with. My heart beats for them. Maybe because I’ve always known that in some way I will forever be one of them. 

Err… why?

“Morning Glories, Vol. 1: For a Better Future” by Nick Spencer

Morning Glories, Vol. 1: For a Better Future(Author: Nick Spencer) + (Year: 2011) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The good news is, it doesn’t totally suck. The bad news is, it’s confusing, weird and not very memorable.

I would not deny that there is a story somewhere there behind all the teenage angst drama and the glorification of the main character based on reasons unknown.

The story of Morning Glories is set in a prestige private boarding school where something dark and bloody is going on. The story is interesting enough to push you to read forward, but ultimately, there is not much satisfaction in it, because none of the important questions are answered. The volume ends on a giant cliffhanger, with no explanation about what happens to any of the characters or why.

More so, the characters seem to be more of a moving power for the story than the story itself is, as the two are far away from being linked as of the end of this volume. And the said characters are such sad cliches that there’s no fun in watching them do anything.

  • Exhibit A: A nerd. He who shall fall in love with the main character and will always follow her around.
  • Exhibit B: Emo-goth sad teenager who cries for her boyfriend a lot and always needs saving.
  • Exhibit C: Heroine. She knows all, everyone is after her, they love her and love to hate her. She is always behind every plan and the mastermind behind every escape.

I gave myself a day to mull it over and decide my final verdict. But I don’t think I have the patience or desire to keep on reading this series. I’m mildly curious about the main story, but there’s so much unnecessary fluff around it, that it kills my interest. This book is incapable of anticipating the emotions of the reader and of finding original ways to keep the reader’s attention. None of the characters acts like a real person would, that’s probably one of the main reasons it’s hard to care about them.

[Image Comics] First issues, part 1.

Last year I did two separate lists, The Good and The Bad. This year I will separate the posts, but not based on quality, as much as the fact that there are just too many of them. I will still order them by rating, but the rating is as much objective, as it is a comparison between the best and the worst. The reason for that is that, honestly, there wasn’t much good to pick from. I might be getting pickier with my comic books, but I noticed that the stories in at least half of this year’s batch were so similar that they could have been from the same universe. Also, there were two main trends that were entirely too visible: cults and werewolves. As well as the fact that I found the art on most of the issues just plain ugly.

Snotgirl #1Snotgirl #1 (2016)
Author: Brian Lee O’Malley

As gross as the title sounds, Snotgirl is absolutely the best first issue I read from this year’s Image comics Humble Bundle.

For starters, the art is gorgeous! Even when it’s kind of disgusting, it’s also drawn with style.

I had theories about the plot, but I didn’t manage to crack what’s actually going on with Snotgirl, but it a completely positive way, because I’m now very excited to continue reading on.

And also, happy to say that Brian Lee O’Malley is as awesome as ever!

Demonic #1

Demonic #1 (2016)
Author: Christopher Sebela

Not a spectacular one, but definitely enjoyable. Also, the fact that a lot of the rest were so bad made it stand out.

It’s a classic story of possession, confusion and a feeling of impending doom, but somehow, it offers a nice twist on the regular story. I felt almost claustrophobic, following the hardships of the main character, and having to experience how doomed he is when his family is on the line. It was not a pleasant feeling, but I think the story was built well enough to create it, so it must be doing its job well.

Also, I am still curious about some of the things that the character mumbled about only vaguely. Even though I smell a cult coming in the future.

Rockstars #1Rockstars #1 (2016)
Author: Joe Harris

This one is related to the cults and gods that I mentioned earlier. There have always been theories about rockstars being devil worshipers, about secret meanings in their music, songs being played backwards, etc. The protagonist of Rockstars is especially interested in that and is trying to solve the disappearance of two girls who went to a rock concert, one of them to later be found dead and the other one never to be seen again.

I was curious, still am, about where the story is going to go, so I would say that this is the second best issue from the bundle. The art was also very pretty, especially the way they drew the female characters.

My problem with Rockstars is that this story was not necessary. People could have continued their lives without needing it. I will probably forget I read this, despite my interest. And also, I hated the main male character. He was just such a weirdo, and not in a cute way. (I imagine him as those people who stare at you on the bus, only to make you uncomfortable.)

Shutter #1Shutter #1 (2014)
Author: Joe Keatinge

Now this comic book has great art and lots of potential!

From the vert first page I knew this is different than the other things I read until I got to it. I really enjoyed the art as well as the concept, or what I got from it.

My problem with Shutter is not what I did find in it, it’s what I didn’t. For a comic book set in a world so much different than ours, there should have been a bit more introduction, and there was none. I just got the major idea that this is not our world, at least not our world today, and that the main character and her father used to be adventurers. Aside from that, it still remains a mystery to me.

However, I would say that if you are a fan of Saga, this might be a good comic book for you!

Black Road #1

Black Road #1 (2016)
Author: Brian Wood

Viking frontier? That’s what it felt like. The story takes place after the spread of Christianity in Norway (Norskk).

There’s nothing really spectacular about the story itself. It really reminded me of the setting of one of the comic books I read last year, The Goddamned. A tough, war-hardened viking takes a journey on a road full of dangers, blood and enemies.

What I did not dislike was the art. In comparison to some of the other issues, it was great. And that is to say, objectively speaking it’s not much more than mediocre. However, as a fan of the Vikings TV show, I saw a familiar setting and background, so I was cool with it.

The Black Monday Murders #1The Black Monday Murders #1 (2016)
Author: Jonathan Hickman

Another cult one!

I think there might a bright future ahead of this comic book. However, the first issue was so overwhelming. Remember what I said about Shutter above? Well, this is the opposite. There’s too much information, even though you have no idea what is happening. There are diagrams, sketches, names, dates, dictionary entries, historical facts.

Yeah, sure, the reader gets the gist of the story, but there’s also so much information that remains just hanging there, because you don’t know the characters, you don’t know the settings, you don’t know the symbols. What about the girl who kept talking gibberish? There was a family tree of the Rothschild line with some someone added with every generation? Was that her? What is that supposed to mean for me, as the clueless reader?

Also, there was a stark difference between the drawings of the men and the women. The females looked well drawn, while the males were usually a lot of messy lines and just blackness.

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And last, but not least: WHY IS TAYLOR MOMSEN IN THIS?

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The Discipline #1The Discipline #1 (2016)
Author: Peter Mulligan

*** 1.5 stars ***

CULTS.

Here it starts getting bad all over.

The Discipline, solely based on the cover, seemed somewhat spooky, so I was pretty excited for it.

It’s just SO CHEESY!

I would say it’s more or less Supernatural 50 Shades of Gray. The main character is a neglected, dumb 23-year-old housewife who is sorely lacking sex, so she, instead, likes to gaze at paintings with elements of bestiality. Until a mysterious stranger comes along, flashes his D(iscipline), and starts training her for a sex pet. Or something.

Romulus #1Romulus #1 (2016)
Author: Bryan Hill

*** 1.5 stars ***

Wolves! Secret orders! Cults!

The art is not bad. On the story I call bullshit. A secret order has super-ninja wolf-women, even though they also have much more formidable soldiers, and they keep the wolf-women until the women themselves are about to cause problems. Which implies that before that, they were preferred, instead of the super-soldiers. Okayyy…

Also, lots of angst, insecurity and “I’m not my mother”s.

Basically, I lost my patience with this one. I don’t see the point behind it being made. The story doesn’t have anything touching or badass, or even a thing you could root for.

Kill Or Be Killed #1Kill Or Be Killed #1 (2016)
Author: Ed Brubaker

This one begs the question: BUT WHY?

An extremely pathetic guy decides to kill himself because… because… well, uh, I guess because his best friend, a girl, is not in love with him? Or because she pities him? Something like that? And he is so f*cking pathetic that he fails at that too, by the way. As a result of his failed suicide attempt, a monster/demon starts visiting him to ask for souls, in exchange of his. And he finds out that he is a bloodthirsty psychopath.

There you have it. Whether you would enjoy something like that, or not, is up to you. I was facepalming the entire time.