The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volumes I and II – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m one of those people who saw the film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen long before I ever read the comic books. I once thought the film was awesome, but after having the read the original stories, I now realize the movie could have been so much more! What’s so extraordinary about this league? I’m glad you asked…

Let me catch you up to speed if you’re not familiar with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The stories take place in England in the late 1890’s. The characters are icons of literature such as the Invisible Man, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, and Alan Quartermain. The government of England assembles them to battle extraordinary circumstances within its borders. The first volume deals with a famous villain who shall remain nameless, and the second volume deals with a Martian invasion, ala the famous tale by H.G. Wells. Both volumes are rife with literary allusions, so an old literature nerd like myself was flying high throughout.

The author of these volumes is the eccentric but highly respected creator by the name of Alan Moore. He’s brought us many classics, but he is most widely known for his masterpiece, the mid-eighties magnum opus known as the Watchmen, which is largely responsible for moving comics out of the “comics are for kiddies” paradigm. He is obviously a connoisseur of the literary classics, for he has so many references to works of literature throughout these volumes that two companion pieces have been produced explaining the dozens of nuances found within (think of it like Breaking the Da Vinci Code for Dan Brown’s ultra-popular novel). Although his writing is at times disturbing, Moore is an expert at what he does and his stories are always captivating. The further characterization of such classical characters and bringing them together in such odd situations and having them interact, well, it’s completely delightful.

The artist is a man named Kevin O’Neill, and I was largely unfamiliar with any of his previous work. However, his style is perfect for this type of story, and his careful attention to nineteenth century architecture and dress is phenomenal. Again, like the author, some of his drawings are quite provoking, but they are all magnetic in their execution.

I would completely recommend these two volumes for a reader wishing to break into only the best of comics in their trade paperback form. Be mindful, however, these comics were not released as mainstream works, so they don’t play by mainstream rules. Very gory scenes, matched with the first and only actual sex scene I’ve ever seen in a comic book, requires an open-minded and tolerant reader. You won’t be disappointed in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I’m quite certain of that.

Adam Strange: Planet Heist – A Graphic Novel Review

Up until just a mere few months ago, I honestly thought that Adam Strange was the lamest character ever created in the world of comic books. His costume was terrible, his entire storyline outdated, a relic of ’60’s sci-fi. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ever turn me into a fan of Adam Strange.

That is, of course, until I read the recently released Adam Strange: Planet Heist.

Thanks to a smart script and crisp dialogue from Andy Diggle, as well as jaw-dropping art by Pascal Farry, this trade paperback that collects an eight-issue miniseries has given me an entirely new (and prior non-existent) appreciation for this character.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the sci-fi space opera stuff, but it’s done so originally without all the old clichés that I didn’t even mind. It didn’t feel like the typical sci-fi comics of old. Adam Strange is now conveyed as a man in love who crosses galaxies to be with his other-worldly wife, a father willing to do anything to protect his only daughter, a stranger when on Earth, though he’s an Earthling, an alien totally at home when on his adoptive planet of Rann. And when the world he protects is seemingly destroyed, we witness Strange take on a grand voyage in the hopes of finding his loved ones, refusing to accept their demise.

Thank goodness, his costume was updated to one of the coolest looking outfits in all of comics today. He’s now got mind-blowing technology at his disposal instead of one idiotic, pistol-shaped ray gun, and he’s got the attitude of a hero, but also that of a commander of an army bent on protecting those he’s sworn to watch over.

We get lots of old, formerly goofy characters cast in a new, respective light, and we also have a lot of old plot threads summed up, and new plots born that are playing out in other comics even as we speak (figuratively, of course).

I bought this trade paperback for the exquisite artwork alone, but I was more than floored by the excellent storyline. This is a can’t miss. Oh, and, I promise, you’ll never hear me make fun of Adam Strange again.

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy – A Book Review

This was my first book by Cormac McCarthy, and I must admit he has won a reader for life. 

No Country For Old Men explodes with subtly and simplicity as it offers us Moss, a man who finds a drug deal gone bad in the middle of nowhere along the Mexican border.  Dead bodies are everywhere, and when he finds a case full of millions of dollars, he can’t help himself.  As you can imagine, there are numerable parties who’d like that money back.  And so the hunt for Moss begins.

Dialogue is terse, details are sparing, yet the story is absolutely riveting and I could not put it down.  For some McCarthy’s violence and unapologetic disregard for his characters’ safety may be upsetting, but I loved his dedication to giving us the story as it could only unfold.

We tend to shower accolades upon authors who give us specific descriptions on every conceivable object within a story.  I personally found McCarthy’s expertise with minimalism refreshing and quite admirable.

I completely recommend you read No Country For Old Men.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan – A Book Review

Long ago I read a book by this author called The Cement Garden.  While he was more than talented with mechanics and style, I found his content perverse and distasteful.

However, he is widely respected and so I thought it beneficial to give him another chance.  I chose Amsterdam as my opportunity to get reacquainted with McEwan, mostly because it’s a very short read and I didn’t want to invest too much time with it.

Well, I was very pleased to see that The Cement Garden must have simply been the author pushing the limit and not necessarily his norm.  I enjoyed Amsterdam, though I don’t think I would recommend it to the casual reader.  The story, while not terribly captivating, was an interesting character study and, again, McEwan is very proficient with the written word.  His style and structures are a joy to study.

The 158-Pound Marriage by John Irving – A Book Review

This is the second book I’ve read by Irving, and I have to admit he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

The book is about two married couples who meet well after they’ve each established a family and mode of life.  Though neither couple seemingly would have considered such a thing before, they begin to swap partners without secrecy.  It becomes a normal occurrence for them, and they even go so far as to vacation together.

One of the characters is a wrestling aficionado (not an uncommon occurrence in Irving’s writing) and thus you get the title and all sorts of easily accessible wrestling lingo.  In fact, he dedicates a chapter to each character in the beginning of the book, establishing background, and he literally divides them by weight class. 

Of course, such things as spouse swapping are bound to fall apart, and the reader experiences the full implosion as both couples must deal with their “break-up” and the new dynamic it introduces both into their own marriages and with each other as “friends.”

Though the story was a bit more sexually graphic than I’m accustomed to reading, Irving’s style captivates me.  He is truly a master at craft, plot, and characterization.  And best of all, his stories burrow into your being and you can’t help but become enthralled with his character’s lives.

I look forward to reading more of Irving’s work.

The Bourne Ultimatum – A Movie Review

HUGE Bourne fan!  HUUUUGE!  That said, The Bourne Ultimatum wasn’t quite as good as the first two, and I’ll tell you why (without spoilers), but it’s still better than most of what’s out there.

The good-awesome, awesome, awesome action sequences.  Incredible stuff.  Damon is as intense as ever.  The locations are still gorgeous and realistic.  While there are obviously special effects, none of it seemed so outlandish that it couldn’t happen in real life.  Sure, Bourne must have nine lives, but it’s not like someone couldn’t survive all the car crashes and such.  Not likely, but also not impossible. 

The bad-I had a headache when I saw it with my wife, and the shaky-cam shooting style got a little nauseating.  Literally.  But, that’s my fault, not the movie’s.  We finally get some answers about Jason Bourne, and they can’t help but be a bit anti-climatic.  We so love our mystery men, and once they cease to be a total mystery, they get a little bit more like us, and let’s face it, most of us are kind of boring.  Furthermore, I really miss Bourne’s love interest, Marie.  Without her, I think an important component of Jason Bourne is missing, and he’s less relatable as a result.

So, in summation, while I loved the action, Damon’s acting, and the locations, I just didn’t care about the plot of The Bourne Ultimatum, and the plot is the soul of any movie.

Hot Fuzz – A Movie Review

Brought to you by the same blokes who gave you Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is the same brand of humor, though it parodies a different genre.

Hot Fuzz is about a workaholic London police officer who makes his department look so bad because they can’t keep up with his arrests that they send him off to a quaint little village where, supposedly, nothing ever happens.

Well, as you probably figured, there is more to this village than there seems and when gruesome murders occur, our hero won’t rest until he gets to the bottom of it.

Hot Fuzz, like Shaun of the Dead, is considered a comedy, but there are very few “laugh out loud” moments.  You’ll find yourself more amused than anything, and I don’t mean that to sound like it’s a bad thing.  And, just as Shaun of the Dead parodied the zombie movie, Hot Fuzz parodies all the super-cop buddy movies.  I think if you liked Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably enjoy Hot Fuzz, though the novelty has worn off with their latest offering.  If you didn’t like Shaun of the Dead, I doubt if you’ll sit through Hot Fuzz and its two-hour running time.

Oh, one more thing.  I am ecstatic to report that Hot Fuzz has Timothy Dalton as part of its cast, and it’s the first time I’ve ever enjoyed watching him in a movie.  He’s hilarious (but not in a “laugh out loud” sort of way).

Blades of Glory – A Movie Review

In Blades of Glory we have two male figure skaters played by Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.  Will’s character is an oversexed, womanizing sort and Heder … is the exact opposite.  They’re two of the best in the world, but through a series of circumstances I won’t spoil, they are banned from men’s competition and they soon lose all purpose in life.  However, after discovering a loophole in the rules, they return as the sport’s first male pairs’ figure skaters.

The movie is absolutely ridiculous, but I laughed all the way through it.  The gag overshadows any real storyline, though they tried to make the progression of Ferrell and Heder hating each other to working as a cohesive team as fluid as possible.  This isn’t an instant-classic like Anchorman or as funny as Old School, and Ferrell’s shtick is a little worn out with this particular character, but, like I said, it did have some funny moments that made it easy to overlook the film’s shortcomings.