Review of New Suicide Squad: Kill Anything

Review of New Suicide Squad: Kill Anything

New Suicide Squad, Volume 4: Kill Anything by Tim Seeley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Sometimes I finish a comic, sit back, and go, “What in the world was the creative team thinking?” Yeah, this is one of those volumes.
Personally, I feel Mr. Seeley and Mr. Ryan came up with the title first and then went from there. Or they felt no reason to connect this volume to the work that preceded it. Maybe they knew the comic was getting a new rebrand (it enters the Rebirth stage after this) and felt no obligation to do anything more than pile up a body count. Who knows. That’s about how much sense it makes.
While I loved seeing Chato make a return (he’s always a favorite), and the usual hijinks produce the expected laughter, it’s full of random questions and holes that leave you squinting. (Rose Tattoo? Come on, guys) I’m not one to expect logic from comics – much less one for Suicide Squad – but this one tripped over the border of left field and kept going. I’m sure the team had fun, though.



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Review of New Suicide Squad: Freedom

Review of New Suicide Squad: Freedom

New Suicide Squad, Volume 3: Freedom by Sean Ryan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Well, eventually, things need to veer off-course, right? And I’m not referring to the plot. (Okay, I AM, but it works on two levels here) It’s almost a given that as soon as a comic settles into place, moving on track, someone decides to toss a monkey wrench into the works. Then you get a trainwreck of a plot where everything slams into a brick wall of, “I guess that makes sense” and “All right, you sort of tied up a few loose ends.” Then they tack on a few “bonus” content pieces that don’t contribute any extra material or insight to the plotline. (And in the case of the Katana bit, don’t even provide you with an ending or the promise of more to come, much less a hint of, “Hey, go here to find out how this ends!”)
Is it worth the read? Sure. The creative team continued to do a better job than in the first run. However, it’s a little tiring to get into a groove and then end up tossed out of it. Comics and consistency are NOT friendly bedmates. They’re barely roommates.



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Review of New Suicide Squad: Monsters

Review of New Suicide Squad: Monsters

New Suicide Squad, Volume 2: Monsters by Sean Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Regardless of how bad someone out there is, there’s probably someone worse. It’s an idea that makes Suicide Squad one of my favorites (and, you know, the fact that Harley’s my idol). Mr. Ryan delves into the concept better than anyone else out there with this one, twisting the League into a bunch of dystopian psychopaths. At the same time, he FINALLY gets Harley out of that cringe-worthy getup everyone’s stuck to. (For that, you’ve earned a standing ovation)
The mind games in this volume aren’t on the page alone. And if you weren’t already invested in the characters, you find yourself taking notice. (Though, seriously, what is the point of Reverse Flash? Where’d he come from? And is it just me, or is Parasite a more repulsive version of Marvel’s Venom?) Everything slowly unravels in a way only Suicide Squad can manage. It’s the best characterization yet, and I applaud the creative team for their work.



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Review of New Suicide Squad: Pure Insanity

Review of New Suicide Squad: Pure Insanity

New Suicide Squad, Volume 1: Pure Insanity by Sean Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sometimes, when a new artistic team takes over a comic, you see a complete shift in things (and I’m not referring to the artwork). Plots go sideways, characters fall through the cracks, and you basically need to start over. Considering this was a rebranding of Suicide Squad, I expected the same to happen. But Mr. Ryan and his team picked up (albeit already scattered) threads of the previous teams and moved on coherently.
Now, I have to ding them on the stereotyping of the problem zones (can you call them villains given the nature of Suicide Squad?). It’s a tired trope, and it was tired in 2015 when the publication hit shelves. Seriously, let’s apply better imagination here. But the pitting of “bad versus worse” makes for an interesting concept. Not to mention the mental games and breakdown of such a team. They haven’t tackle that theme before (not outside of Harley, anyway). It’s a promising start.



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Review of Scott Westerfeld’s Shatter City

Review of Scott Westerfeld’s Shatter City

Shatter City by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


(Insert usual rant over books written in present tense here. Good? Let’s move on)
I know; I wasn’t over the moon about Impostors, but – overall – I’ve enjoyed Mr. Westerfeld’s writing. And the Uglies world IS intriguing enough for me to decide to stick with the trilogy. Maybe it’s a nebulous hope that things will improve and turn the corner.
Let’s say he delivered a 50:50 split on that optimism. The major “revelation” towards the end? Yeah, I called that about three chapters before it hit. There wasn’t enough drama or punch behind it to make the scene stand out or hold momentum. I don’t know if that’s because I saw it coming or due to the writing falling flat.
However, Paz and the concept of the feels posed an interesting thought experiment. I wish Mr. Westerfeld had explored things a bit more than he did. (As it is, Frey presses them like a kid popping candy. You get one aspect of the “science” but lose the potential at the same time.) The same with the self-aware cities. While I suspect he wanted you to marvel at the idea of a city taking an interest in the welfare of its citizenry, all I kept floundering over was how an AI managed to coordinate a physical presence a continent away – particularly given the “ancient” technology present in the region. The entire final third of the book felt clunky and rushed, going beyond “suspension of disbelief” to outright smoke and mirrors.
In short, your typical sequel in a trilogy where you wish the author took more time to think things through.



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Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Some books you can read over and over without tiring of them. Others you return to as old friends, discovering fresh nuances you missed the first time around. And when you leave a gap of ten years between readings? Yeah, that’s where I found myself. When I spotted the tenth-anniversary edition on the shelves, my brain told me it was time to add the book to my collection (having borrowed it the first time around). I didn’t expect ten years to make a difference (or my memory to fail me so completely), but that’s why Mr. Gaiman’s hailed as such a genius wordsmith, isn’t it?
One thought remained solid: the conviction that EVERYONE – young and old – needs to read this book. Why it languishes, forgotten, in the Young Readers section is beyond me. Yes, of course, there’s that minor detail of Bod’s age. But the emotion and shading and subtlety of the story? There’s so much contained within the words and characters, and everyone will take something different away. No need to draw broad strokes; Mr. Gaiman conveys everything you need with the tiniest suggestions. You understand Silas, Ms. Lupescu, even Liza within a few moments. The emotion reaches into you, and you want to argue with the outcomes, even as you understand the motivations. It’s so beautifully REAL – for a tale of ghosts and graveyards.



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Review of Harley Quinn Black + White + Red

Review of Harley Quinn Black + White + Red

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red by Stjepan Šejić

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


How do you complain about such a dynamic team of writers and artists? Every chapter gets better and better, providing different levels, angles, and dimensions to Harley’s character – without missing the chance to include that tongue-in-cheek humor that works so incredibly well. It’s sheer brilliance! You get every iteration of the Clown Princess of Gotham (the perfect introduction for anyone who hasn’t ventured into her world, incidentally), and Mr. Šejić kicks things off brilliantly with reminders of her origin.
Oh, sure, I have my favorites from the collection (Chapters 2, 4, 9, 11, 12, and 13). But you can’t argue with the sheer creativity of any of the work. Everyone deserves a HUGE round of applause. (With a special shout-out to Ms. Conner and Mr. Palmiotti for sneaking in that dig at the people with nothing better to do than complain)



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Review of Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood & Starlight

Review of Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood & Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


More often than not, the second book of a trilogy falls flat. It provides enough material to get you from the punch of the first volume to encourage you to stick around for the rousing conclusion. But Ms. Taylor? She delivers a sequel that (exempting the fact you need the information from that initial volume to understand what’s happening) stands boldly on its own. She takes the reader into a deep dive into the characters they’ve already fallen in love with (hate with?) and fleshes them out into new and incredible pathways. At the same time, she provides new points of view that paint the worlds of Earth and Eretz with – well, blood and starlight. And you’re left sitting on the edge of your seat, the pages clutched between your fingers in a desperate need to learn more, to find that new revelation.
Is everything a surprise? Not really. You see the ending coming before the words reach your eyes. And while it’s irritating to guess where things bend, I can’t find myself angry. Ms. Taylor’s deft hand with her tale is too practiced. Like puzzle pieces fitting into a monstrous (no pun intended) jigsaw, you feel satisfied at the revealing image. And one wants nothing more than to dive into that final promised volume (that much of the usual middle book magic remains).



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Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Flashback

Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Flashback

Flashback by Shannon Messenger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have to applaud Ms. Messenger for one thing: she accomplished plenty of plot advancement, character development, and the introduction of new mysteries and questions – without having the protagonist leave a “hospital bed.” That’s no small feat! You don’t even notice how far you’ve delved into the book, either, before Sophie manages to escape the Health Center.
However, that playing with time (and the fact you start to question things like muscle atrophy, bedsores, and the lack of school work) raises the question of the story’s official timeline. We’ve been with Sophie and her friends for YEARS? That doesn’t add up when I look back over things. I get it, the books weigh a ton and SHOULD capture that much time, but the official count of months, weeks, and days doesn’t add up. I understand the need to advance Sophie’s age for the “romantic” side of things (and don’t get me started on that – I needed to have twelve cavities filled after reading through it), but some long-range planning when you start to write a series can clear up this kind of thing. Even if you’re not sure whether a publisher will pick up your idea and run with it (and, yes, I know, you only publish tomes like this once a year), you need to run headlong into things with high expectations. Some readers (who shall remain nameless) pick up series late in the game and notice these idiosyncrasies.
Still, all told, the overall questioning of emotional tolls and family expectations? Ms. Messenger handles it with the grace of a virtuoso. And that leads to the disappointment of the final confrontation. You want a twist, a revelation, a surprise to occur – not everything everyone’s told you from the first page. It made things disappointing. (And, no, the “cliffhanger” didn’t make up for it) It comes out as a balanced read – enough to keep me balancing those hefty books over my head night after night.



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(And since that hit my initial challenge of 60 books for the year, I’ve reset it to 75 books. Of course, I ended up buying five books on vacation…and I already had another five in my To Read pile. So there’s a pretty solid chance that number will need to go up again. We’ll see how it goes)

Review of Suicide Squad: Walled In

Review of Suicide Squad: Walled In

Suicide Squad, Volume 5: Walled In by Matt Kindt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Precisely HOW powerful is this Crime Syndicate that they can take down almost every superhero on the planet? (And why does it seem like Powergirl always gets relegated to the dregs? Other than her attitude problem, she seems on par with most of the elite out there) Clearly, I’m missing information from other comic sources. However, if I eliminate my comic ignorance from the equation, Kindt, Zub, and Ryan delivered a clear winner with this volume. Whether you consider the sheer brilliance (no pun intended) of The Thinker and his capabilities, or the underhanded layers Waller continues to demonstrate, they take the established characters and find new depths to explore. The fact Task Force X ever manages to accomplish anything remains a running gag throughout the series, and it’s so tongue-in-cheek, you have to laugh. Especially when they exposed the clear undercurrent of “antihero” in the obvious heroes selected by Thinker. It’s a hint of the duality present in every DC character, and it’s genius.



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