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AMERICAN GODS Season 1 Episode 1 “The Bone Orchard” Review

Beginning with Vikings in the New World, we see violence and blood everywhere and see that mere mortal are only the tools of powerful creatures. If this first episode doesn’t exactly spell out what the world is really like, we get plenty of hints. First is the creepy and menacing Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who offers ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) a job. Then, there is Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), who insists on fighting him. All this on his first day out of prison thanks to an early release after being told his wife died.

The problems though are only just beginning with freedom. To have a name like “Shadow Moon” is to be drawn into the supernatural. Ricky Whittle plays this charming and intense ex-con with a great mix of apprehension and hopelessness. Plagued with foreshadowing dreams and visions, of course, things get worse. Not only is his wife dead, but his best friend who was supposed to have a job waiting for him, he’s dead too. Oh, and they died in the same car accident, in flagrante delicto, in fact.

The real peril is merely hinted at, the action is superb and the dialogue is sparkling. The humans in this story are not happy and the gods aren’t there to bail them out. Quite the contrary, it appears.

“The Bone Orchard” also ends with a brutal assault. Shadow is attacked at the behest of a digital avatar with no explanation. Clearly, he’s gotten himself into the middle of something bad, and even though there is still much to be revealed, everybody knows Shadow’s situation is completely beyond his understanding or control.

American Gods is shocking and disconcerting and so very intricate and compelling. It may even be one of those cases where it exceeds the source material in every way. This is a must see for anyone interested in the suspenseful and chilling whether you are familiar with the material or not.

AMERICAN GODS Season 1 Episode 1 “The Bone Orchard” easily earns a 9 out of 10 and a promise of so much more.

Book Review: The Dinner Party: Stories by Joshua Ferris

“There was dim light coming from the dark room and he was suddenly irrationally afraid, as he had been as a child, that if anyone stepped inside, if she stepped inside, she would plummet to the center of the earth.”

For those unfamiliar with Joshua Ferris, myself included, what better introduction is there to a critically-acclaimed, award winning-author than a collection of short stories? As introductions go, I’d have to say the pleasure was all mine. In The Dinner Party and Other Stories, Ferris proves to be a masterful storyteller who captures self-doubt, miscommunication, and uncertainty with exquisite deftness and beauty, and left me hungry for more.

Making an impressive first impression, Ferris serves his readers a variety of compelling tales with unusual twists. Each of the eleven stories in The Dinner Party is a mini-feast, some slightly more satisfying than others, but all deliciously rich and unexpected. From “A Night Out” and “More Abandon (Or Whatever Happened to Joe Pope?)” to “The Breeze”, his stories range from random acts of temporary insanity to insightful studies of emotional hunger and fear of futility, and yet at no time do they feel overly heavy thanks to the author’s sense of timing and humor.

The writing is crisp and the stories move, mostly at a city pace, but what stood out most for me was the various array of intriguing protagonists. Like the vegetables in his title story, Ferris’s characters are all “bright and doomed”. Neurotic, deluded and perfectly flawed, they each find themselves caught “abruptly in the middle of something” and are often guided by their own worst instincts. Yet despite the loneliness, despair and desperation, there are instances of hope and for a select few, maybe even redemption.

Click Here if you would like to purchase a copy of The Dinner Party: Stories

 

Detective Comics #950 | Review

Detective Comics – you know, the ‘DC’ in DC Comics – has released its nine-hundred-and-fiftieth issue, and to celebrate the longevity of this landmark series, DC is commemorating the event with an extended issue. And thankfully, despite being all of forty-eight pages long, Detective Comics #950 is filler-free.

Detective Comics #950 is comprised of three ‘separate’ (a term I use sparingly here) stories, the first of which, and longest for that matter, focuses on Orphan. Writer James Tynion IV does an excellent job here placing great emphasis on both the gracefulness and mysteriousness of Orphan, and it soon becomes clear that she is going to play a major role in upcoming issues.

The second story in this issue centers around Azrael and Batwing, and the art in this section happens to be my favorite of this issue. Artists Brad Anderson and Alvaro Martinez do an amazing job here by bringing some visual intensity and excitement to an issue that is relatively ‘wordy.’ And, any time that Azrael is worked into an arc, I’m excited to see what happens, and much like Orphan, there are certainly some big things in store for Azrael. Also, I think that Azrael and Batwing work very well together, and I hope that the two of them stay connected for a few more issues.

I know that I’ve said several times already that there are big things in store, but, the third and shortest part of this issue has me brimming with excitement. Part three of Detective Comics #950 is a dialogue-heavy flashback that focuses on Batman and Red Robin. Again, not much happens, but the ending is solid, and like I already said, I am very much looking forward to see what’s going to happen next.

Overall this was another solid Detective Comics issue, and despite not being entirely accessible for new fans, I think that it is definitely worth every penny of the cover price.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #7 | Review

Every now and then, one stumbles across an issue that takes them by surprise, and for me, this is one of those issues.

Although it may not come across on the first read, Red Hood and the Outlaws #7 is deep and wonderfully complex. Despite the plot of this issue being relatively stripped down, the focus that is placed not only on Bizarro, but also on Jason and his relationship with the big grey dimwit is fantastic. Clearly, writer Scott Lobdell was channeling his inner John Steinbeck when he wrote/crafted the issue’s ending, which, is practically torn directly from the pages of Of Mice and Men. And since this is the case, I am left wondering whether or not Lobdell is setting the stage for a tragic ending (for Jason and Bizarro’s relationship) that will be similar to the conclusion to Of Mice and Men. I don’t want anything to happen to Bizarro or his relationship with Jason, but a tragic ending would be fitting…

While I am not entirely sure that it was necessary for Jason and Artemis to learn from the team that created Bizarro that their creation is emotionally unstable, I did enjoy the emphasis that was placed the big guy throughout the issue. The way I see it, the more Bizarro there is, the better. (Now if I could only get a fresh serving of some of that Batzarro goodness…)

Mirko Colak takes over as artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws in Issue #7 and produces some captivating scenes towards the end of the issue. Aside from the last few pages, and some panels in the beginning, Colak left me wanting more as the artwork was a tad dull throughout the book. The good does make up for the bad though in this issue, but I feel like Mirko Colak is capable of far more than he delivered here.

Overall, Red Hood and the Outlaws #7 is definitely worth reading, so pick it up.

John Wick: Chapter 2 | Review

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I’ll say that John Wick: Chapter 2 is a non-stop thrill ride, and I’m glad this is in print, because it sounds utterly ridiculous when I say it out-loud. Ridiculous or not, it’s true. Before the opening credits are displayed, viewers are greeted with action as the start of the film contains two high speed chases, one of which results in a fair bit of damage and the title character kicking the ever-loving shit out of quite a few nameless goons. Yes, all of this happens before we even see the film’s title on the screen, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Chapter 2 starts with John Wick, Keanu Reeves (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), tying up loose ends (that I was completely unaware of), that the first movie left unfinished. After getting his car back and avenging his dog, John reburies all of his assassin gear in the basement. Just as he finishes this, he gets a visit from Santino D’Antonio, a former associate, who’s come to collect on a blood debt John owes him. When he refuses, Santino blows up John’s house. Knowing he has no choice John agrees to kill Santino’s sister, Gianna, so that he can take her place at the high table. A task that ends up being extremely easy, but that’s when things get ugly for our favorite assassin. Cassian, Common (Smokin’ Aces), Gianna’s right hand, vows revenge and Santino puts out a seven-million-dollar contract on John. This, of course, inspires the majority of the assassin world to try and kill him. Once the ball is rolling, we get to watch over an hour of John Wick straight up murdering anyone that gets in his way, which is really all we want from this film anyway.

I know that John Wick: Chapter 2 won’t be making any buzz come next award season, but who cares. Not every film that makes it to theaters has to be a Citizen Kane or a Gone with the Wind. This sequel not only delivers everything that it promises, but it also provides everything that fans wanted more of from the first film. Jonathan Eusebio’s fight choreography is intense and beautifully smooth, the story isn’t overly complicated or confusing, and the ending is a perfect set up for a Chapter 3. If you like mindless violence, revenge stories, and tons of action, then this movie is just what you’re looking for.

Bonus: Keanu Reeves and Common have a fight scene that rivals the unbelievably long and absurd fight between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live (1988). There’s no background music, it’s evenly matched, and it feels like it is never going to end. It’s pretty awesome.

Batman Vol.1: I Am Gotham

Batman Vol.1: I Am Gotham

Batman Vol.1: I Am Gotham | DC | Published 1/17/17
Written By Tom King | Illustrated by David Finch and Mike Janin

Following up Scott Snyder and his New 52 Batman, Tom King had some pretty big shoes to fill when it came time to write his own Batman; whether or not he will be deemed successful will come in time. Right now, we have before us, the first volume of King’s Batman that is part of the DC Rebirth. Batman Vol.1: I Am Gotham collects Batman: Rebirth #1 and Batman issues 1-6.

With Tom King now in the driver’s seat, it is clear that there will be some awesome (and terrible) things in store for Gotham’s defender. Also, the first several issues of the Batman Rebirth re-launch serve as a giant high-five to fans, as they remind us exactly who Batman is and why we adore him. King’s reasoning here is: to re-define Batman and to challenge the image that fans have formed over years of reading his comics, King must first remind us who the Dark Knight is, or more specifically, who we think he is, before adding depth to our already in-depth understanding. This way, when King decides to bring something new to the table it will be more impressive and will have more impact on long-time readers. To explain this simply, think about Horror flicks. The ‘gotcha’ scenes always follow an eerie silence, right? Batman Vol.1: I Am Gotham is the eerie silence…and the ‘gotcha,’ well, it’s on the way.

Spoilers Ahead

One of the main issues that I have with this collection of comics is that the newest threats to Gotham rise as heroes and fall as villains in the blink of an eye. Gotham and Gotham Girl aren’t nearly as developed as I would have liked, and unfortunately, this is a major let-down because I believe that there was some major potential with Gotham. Because of this, and some other plot points that go underdeveloped, Vol.1 reads more like a prologue to a great story than a great story. I feel this way, perhaps, because I am current with the series and know what’s coming, so take what I just wrote as you wish.

The ominous, ‘The Monster Men Are Coming’ echoes throughout the tale and incites interest, and perhaps fear, in what King has in store for Gotham City. Terror is on its way.

David Finch and Mike Janin both do a great job illustrating throughout the volume. Again, I prefer Janin’s work in the issues to come, but the art here fits well with the writing, and thus, is a success.

Score: 7 out of 10

Overall, this is a solid volume and I recommend reading it. There were some areas that weren’t explored as much as I would have liked – some points that went undeveloped – but it was good nonetheless. Batman Vol.1: I Am Gotham sets up future volumes well, and does so in a way that is entertaining. Pick it up.

General-DC Comics

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