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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Review of Suicide Squad: Discipline and Punish

Review of Suicide Squad: Discipline and Punish

Suicide Squad, Volume 4: Discipline and Punish by Aleš Kot

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Sometimes, when a shift in writers takes place, you end up with a jolt in the storyline. And Mr. Kot and Mr. Kindt were no exception to the tradition (spontaneously, everyone’s hale and healthy back in Belle Reve, with no big concern over Kurt Lance?). But the style and flow established in the previous three volumes? That didn’t change. And, personally, I welcome the snarky tags for the various characters – at least you get an idea of who everyone is. They aren’t particularly necessary for the main players in the game, but it’s helpful to have around for the new introductions. Because, let’s face it, Task Force X and the various members of the team bounce in and out like ping pong balls. But then we have the random introduction of the Syndicate, which I’m assuming readers are supposed to know from…well, my guess would be another comic. But without that little asterisk to send you scrambling for a different volume, it’s all smoke and mirrors and confusion. Suddenly, there’s no Belle Reve or even a Task Force X? Without an explanation? Don’t get me wrong – I loved the diversion into Harley’s little corner of the world, but it fell out of step with the established “status quo.” Where’d everything go? What happened? I double-checked my copy to make sure I wasn’t missing pages. I get that you want to feature new talent, DC, but there’s this thing called a story arc? And you should try to stick to it.



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Review of Suicide Squad: Death is For Suckers

Review of Suicide Squad: Death is For Suckers

Suicide Squad, Volume 3: Death is for Suckers by Adam Glass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I realize the first volume was labeled “Kicked in the Teeth,” but talk about a real kick in the teeth (for the reader)! Mr. Glass doesn’t believe in pulling his punches – for anyone. Of course, I have to applaud him setting Harley on her own two feet finally (much more in keeping with her character), even if he took a brutal angle in doing so. But he doesn’t cut ANYONE on Task Force X much slack – and that goes for Waller (though I suppose it’s a debate on whether you believe she’s a member of the team or not). However, it’s nice to get a little clarity on why they’ve been running ragged on some of these missions, tying a few loose ends into a whole. I still hold a slight grudge on the fact that I have no earthly idea who some of these characters are (Unknown Soldier, really? Is that an actual character, or did the creative team run out of steam and decide they couldn’t come up with anything better?), but that seems to be a running theme with comics. And it’s a small price to pay for well-written and executed entertainment.



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Review of Scott Westerfeld’s Imposters

Review of Scott Westerfeld’s Imposters

Impostors by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


(Yeah – I forgot that the Uglies universe happens in the present tense. That’s MY mistake. I was a little too focused on how well Mr. Westerfeld writes and my eagerness to dive back into that world setting. However, the tense issue always receives an automatic strike down when I can’t find a justification for using it)
Watching the world unfold post-mind rain? How can a reader not shiver with the anticipation of what might happen after the uproar Tally set in motion? And Mr. Westerfeld didn’t disappoint with a presentation of two different (three?) views. Shreve and Victoria stand on opposite ends of a delicate scale, with the rebels scrambling back and forth between the two. And while he doesn’t dive very far into the political landscape of this new world, you catch glimpses of it throughout the dialogue and plot. The questions posed could lead in a hundred different directions, promising characters and stories for decades. But instead of fulfilling that promise, he leaves you with a limping romance between unlikely sources – with a dash of action thrown into the mix to keep the tempo from sinking into the sludge.
Despite the text’s ACTUAL claims, Frey’s character is fragmented and clumsy. She begins as a ruthless killing machine, but she ends as a doe-eyed Juliet. And it takes no more than a handful of days for the transformation? It’s jarring. While her upbringing might suggest some level of inexperience and innocence (in certain areas), you wouldn’t expect rampant stupidity to fall in there. Yet she dissolves into a typical teenage girl at the drop of a hat. Then she’s back to a hardened robot in the next moment. It’s off-balance and makes no sense. While I grasp that this is only the first book, with the potential to iron out some underlying quirk, the gaps and questions pile up. You’re left wondering whether this timeline happened prior to the mind rain rather than after. As a protagonist? She’s tepid at best. At least with Tally, she had a definite, even temperament and personality throughout her story arc. Frey doesn’t come close to measuring up.



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Review of Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited

Review of Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited

Harley Quinn, Vol. 4: Vengeance Unlimited by A.J. Lieberman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Talk about an outlier in the Harley Quinn universe! Mr. Lieberman set her in a world of her own, apart from the quips and humor you usually expect. In their place, you get a grittier version where she stands firmly as a villain, wreaking havoc apart from any of the cast of characters throughout Gotham. Different? Certainly. Better? That’s a little harder to judge. Harley’s wit is one of her best features, and while an undercurrent of humor’s present, it’s dull and depressed, falling flat. How to balance an entire chunk of a character getting removed and set aside? The creative team didn’t need to sacrifice so much of that to stay gritty with this volume – at least in my opinion. (In comparison, Suicide Squad runs over the edge, but Harley’s off-beat humor remains intact) The ending came up skewed, as well. No one doubts Harley’s fragmented mental health, but the final chapters? They went beyond the realm of who she is within her heart (I’m reminded of Mr. Kesel’s treatment with Lewis, actually). I suppose it ties things in a loop (for someone’s timeline), but it rings wrong to anyone who knows the character that well.



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Review of Harley Quinn: Welcome to Metropolis

Review of Harley Quinn: Welcome to Metropolis

Harley Quinn, Vol. 3: Welcome to Metropolis by Karl Kesel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Maybe Mr. Kesel felt guilty for his previous volume because he definitely set out to make some improvements this time (some, but not all). Getting Harley out of the Gotham setting did wonders for her sense of self and confidence without losing the traditional character in the process. And while attempting to read Bizzaro’s dialogue could give any reader a headache (who dreamed up THAT character?!), the concept worked well. I couldn’t quite figure out the timeline or even setting (Jimmy was in space, but then we never mention space again?), and no one threw in those cute little references to other comics that I despise so much – but at least clue you in that you missed something. Discontinuity never wins much in the way of applause. However, the creative team’s segue between hell and the lead-up to Gotham City Sirens worked nicely (whether intentional or not), so I can’t get TOO angry. And the reconciliation (if one wants to view it that way) with Lewis? That settled my irritation there. All in all, it felt satisfying in terms of firmly placing Harley’s feet on the path toward independence. And I’m all for that!



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Review of Harley Quinn: Night and Day

Review of Harley Quinn: Night and Day

Harley Quinn, Vol. 2: Night and Day by Karl Kesel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I loved how Mr. Kesel started this series of Harley Quinn – as much as there were blatant touches of male dominance. And then this volume smacked me in the face. Why, why, why were there so many (incorrect) female cliches running rampant through this plotline?! Harley does have a definite character, but here she ended up twisted into this bubble-headed ditz that wasn’t worth admiring. A shopping spree, really? Focusing on romance to the exclusion of – well, everything? Everything felt discordant, other than the backstory. Oh, sure, Harley’s supposed to have the attention span of a gnat, but why? Why did she ignore everything around her? That isn’t accurate. And what the hell was the deal with Lewis? That isn’t true to her character – at least not the character she becomes down the road. It felt like the ultimate betrayal. (And maybe that’s my fault for reading “backward”) The costume-swapping is hilarious, of course, but it felt like too much of the “this is what girls do” came out in this volume. A sign of the time? Maybe. But it grated.



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Review of Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes

Review of Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes

Harley Quinn, Vol. 1: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes by Karl Kesel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Yes, yes, I know – I’ve gone backward on the Harley Quinn timeline. (Can you cut a girl some slack? I didn’t stumble across a list of all of the comics until recently) And while I can understand wanting to keep things in order, going into the development of a character is actually really interesting. Mr. Kesel laid down the groundwork for Harley’s independence and the first breakdown of her relationship with the Joker. It’s a little difficult to read at times – both as a stalwart fan and a female – but I genuinely feel the artistic team handled the storyline well. After all, this comic series predates the Rebirth revolution. We’re talking 2007 when females in the comic universe didn’t get the proper standing they deserved. Harley holds her own in a clearly male-dominated world, and comparing her with the Rebirth series is astounding. The lines and character remain grounded and true, which I love. And seeing her come out on top of everyone that underestimates her? You have to cheer and get invested in the plot. It’s the perfect introduction for this iconic character (you know, aside from the misogynistic slant to things).



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Review of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Review of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You know when you’ve glanced at a book over and over for AGES, setting it aside for no particular reason you can put your finger on? Then you decide, “What the hell? Why not?” (Or, you know, you’re To Read pile is looking a little weak, and you want to infiltrate some new author blood into it) And a quick peek into the first chapter confirms that it ISN’T written in the dreaded present tense that’s confined SO MANY other potential books back to the shelf. Suddenly, you’re ONE CHAPTER in and kicking yourself for waiting so long? Yeah – thank you, Ms. Taylor!
What is there to say? Within a handful of sentences, you find yourself swept up into this magical impossibility that’s real and concrete. Every character lives and breathes beside you in a way few authors manage. And the emotions are so vibrant that you can feel them twisting around in your chest. You bounce around, insistent on finding answers. (Not going to lie – I had SO MANY theories about the teeth. And not one was correct) And when Ms. Taylor finally lays them out at your feet, they make complete sense and fill in the stitches on the tapestry that is the Elsewhere world. Way too many nights, I forced my eyes open, determined to read another scene, another chapter – desperate to lose myself in the world. It’s so beautiful.
And, yes, when I finally closed the book? I kicked myself. I should never have dallied and waited to pick up the book. Mea culpa



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Review of Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden’s The Hive

Review of Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden’s The Hive

The Hive by Barry Lyga

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have to applaud Mr. Lyga and Ms. Baden. They tackled the concepts of cyber-bullying, social media distraction, and the involvement of politics in both in a thoroughly plausible manner. At no point do you find yourself uttering the thought, “Impossible.” Instead, you feel chills of reality creeping down your spine, and your fingers curl away any time you need to pick up your phone. It’s brilliant and eye-opening and should be considered mandatory reading for anyone, especially the younger generation who can’t go five minutes without consulting their various social feeds. A quick scan of any controversial post or tweet verges on the tipping point of a Hive Mob.
And Cassie is nothing more than a realistic teenager. She doesn’t possess special, superhuman powers. Nor does she think any differently than you’d expect her to. Her responses are those of almost anyone thrust into that kind of situation. It brings the horror to life, and I thank the authors for their consideration in making Cassie nothing more than REAL. (I also tip my hat to them on their casting of the president. It provided humor where it was needed, and there’s no question where they drew their inspiration. I give you a standing ovation for that – though you scared me to death when you granted him two terms. No one wanted that contemplation, okay?)
Had the authors NOT ended the book as they did, I’d have delivered a full five stars. Turning that final page? I wanted to scream and throw the book across the room. And while I can understand the logic of their decision – to drive the conversation – it only prompted exasperation and anger in my reader/writer brain. You CAN’T handle something so brilliant in this manner. The abrupt crash unforgivably undid all of their work. Seriously, guys, you needed to rethink it.



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