Friday, October 21, 2011

The Avid Reader for September 2011

It’s Not Easy Being Green and Other Things to Consider by Jim Henson, the Muppets, and Friends

I have always been a Jim Henson and the Muppets fan, and so when I was in the American History Museum and saw the ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ book, I just had to get it. It is a ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ book. It has brief sayings from the Muppets, the Muppeteers, and Jim Henson himself, talking about following dreams and building a group of friends and co-workers to build that dream with. The five areas that the book is broken down into are: ‘Listen to Your Heart’; ‘Dynamite Determination’; ‘Together We’ll Nab’; ‘It Starts When We’re Kids’; and ‘A Part of Everything and Everyone.’ The book’s first quote from Jim pretty much sums up the positive message of the book: “I believe that we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me.”As a Muppet fan and dreamer, I can truly appreciate the message, and am taking a lot of what the book says to heart. I give ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ an A.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9: Millennium: The War of the Prophets by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Often, the middle piece of a trilogy can be the weakest, and I’m afraid that is true in this particular series, too. It had a very powerful beginning, and you’ll see that I felt that the end was quite strong, but the middle section had a few too many coincidences for me. The main characters of DS9 are flung forward through time and meet a very dark future. The Federation has fallen, the Klingons and humans are nearly extinct, the Romulans are essentially slaves trying to get out from under the thumbs of Cardassians. The ‘coincidences’ had more to do with how the DS9 crew got divided up and who went where. The story did have its moments as the Mirror Universe, as well as Time Travel, were brought into the story, just to add to the confusion. Also, have the Wraiths be divided against each other in the forms of Weyoun and Dukat was very interesting. The storyline did hold together pretty well. B.

The Heroic Age
The Heroic Age was my little gift to myself at the end of the summer program. I was really looking forward to getting it. The Heroic Age was an event where they set up the new Avengers teams and characters, essentially creating a nice new starting place for Marvel. It thought that it was going to be its own self contained story, much like Seige and Secret Invasion. I was wrong. It was the first issue of all the new Avengers comics – Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Avengers AcademyHawkeye and Mockingbird, Agents of Atlas, Black Widow, among others. I was very disappointed. I didn’t need the first issue of all those comics. I would have loved to have the compilation and complete plot of any of those comics, but instead I got a tasting of them all, and I didn’t find it satisfying. I give The Heroic Age compilation a D+ because of the lack of complete story. I was very disappointed.

Belgarath the Sorcerer by David Eddings
Belgarath is a 7000 year old sorcerer who was a featured character throughout David Eddings 10 novel series. He was also my favorite character in the whole thing. He was a pragmatist who really didn’t care what anyone else thought, and he was powerful enough to get away with it. This book tells the important pieces of his 7000 or so years of life. It covered his early thieving life, his time as a disciple to Aldur, how he met his wife, how he reacted to her ‘death,’ and what happened when he stole the Orb of Aldur back from the evil god Torak. It filled in a lot of questions, but of course generated more that will be answered in the last book of the series. One important note is that David finally shared credit with his co-writer/wife Leigh in this book. In the forward he said that it was about time since it was the worst kept secret in fantasy writing. I enjoyed the novel, even though it did have several contradictory statements in it, such as finding out about Torak’s three disciples, but in the later series him not knowing about Urvon, one of those three, and how Beldin learned sorcery. Even with its inconsistencies, It is a worthy addition to the Belgariod series. A-.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9: Millennium: book 3: Inferno by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
In the last of the Deep Space 9 books I read, it all got tied together. These books used so much of what made DS9 the best of the Star Trek series: the Bajoran religious story arc, the Wormhole and the Prophets, the Mirror Universe, time travel. I enjoyed the story. They return to the fall of Terok Nor (DS9) and they find out exactly what happened to the Cardassians and, for some of them, to themselves. They also confirm what happened to the other time travelers Picard, Vash, and Nog. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the series. I give it an A-.

King Javan’s Year by Katherine Kurtz
King Javan’s Year is probably my favorite of Kurtz’s Deryini books. It focuses on the most intelligent and most independent of King Cinhil’s children. The regents, who ruled the land with an iron fist, try to bypass Javan and hand the crown over to his more biddable brother Rhys-Michael, but Rhys-Michael himself and some knights loyal to Javan manage to get Javan installed as king, much to the chagrin of the regents. Throughout the book, Javan’s camp and the regents camp maneuver and try to find legal ways to get rid of the other, and both take steps into the darkness to meet their goals. The difference between the two is that Javan and his people feel bad about the cold blooded murder they needed to commit, and the regents don’t. Even though I knew that Javan could not win – the back of all the Deryni books have a family tree of Javan’s Haldane family, and Javan died one year after he ascended the throne – I rooted for him the entire time. Given a little more luck, he could have been an exceptional king for Gwynned, but he and his entire camp was struck down, and the luckless Rhys-Michael ascended the throne. This book always takes me a little longer to re-read because when something is about to go wrong, I have to put it down for a while because I really get into the characters and I feel bad for them. I give King Javan’s Year an A.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Transition to High School

30 years ago, I was going through one of the first major transitions in life. Going from the top of the heap in Middle School to becoming a lowly freshman in High School can be tricky, but for me, it was a good change.

I think the major changes had more to do with me growing up a bit than the actual environment. During eighth grade, I had grown up to almost my full height of 6 foot, and I think that gave me more confidence than anything. For a short while, I was one of the taller kids in school. It gave me a confidence that I had not had before. I was willing to stand up for myself, and I became more out-going.

I was always thankful for that boost in height, and for the friendships I had made with some of the older students. I wasn’t picked on by the upper classmen, and for the most part, my own grade had stopped picking on me as well.

I did try football for all of one day. I discovered something very important about myself that day; I really don’t like being hit. There are times when I think my sense – touch and hearing in particular – are more sensitive than other peoples. The collisions and smashing of football just rattled me so badly, I couldn’t face a second day. I’m generally not a quitter, but I made an exception.

My growth spurt also made me more clumsy; I didn’t know the dimensions of my body. I was always clumsy with my large muscle groups, but this made it worse. I’m still clumsy with those groups, although my fine muscle groups (such as fingers) are very dexterous.

I imagine that it is no surprise to anyone that I became a Fine Arts Geek. I loved drama, choir, band, and orchestra. I went and tried to talk to the art teacher, but I must have caught him on a bad day because he was a bit rude when I tried, and that was an automatic turn off. I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, so I did not take any drawing classes at all. So, I was in the performing arts.

That’s not to say I loved everything about the performing arts. My least favorite part was marching band. That may have something to do with my inherent laziness, but I think a definite part of it was the uniform. It was wool with those funky ‘water buffalo’ hats. Also, I was playing the clarinet, so I had to wear white gloves that had the finger tips cut off.

Marching band was an ordeal. The first parade we were in, in rained. Nothing quite like the smell of wet wool. We were soaked all the way through.

I also remember my dismay at some of the football games. It got sooooo cold, and there I am, wearing gloves with the finger tips cut off. The following years for marching band, I played bigger instruments where gloves could be whole. I much preferred marching sousaphone to marching clarinet.

At the first football game, I did learn a very serious lesson about good sportsmanship. I didn’t fully understand that good sportsmanship includes people beyond the teams; it includes the crowd. It’s one that is completely ingrained in me.  I don’t remember who PHS played, but we lost. I was there as part of the band, in uniform, and I remember ‘booing’ as the opposing team was walking off the field. Our choir director, who was there, immediately took steps, telling me – and whoever was with me, I don’t even remember that – that we don’t do that here and to be a gracious winner. I was embarrassed beyond belief. I did immediately put myself in the winning teams shoes, and realized how right he was. They had played a good game. Obviously a better game than we had played, and they deserved respect.

It’s a lesson that I took to heart. Even now, on the rare occasions that I go to a game, I will applaud for the opposing team if they make a good or great play. I never boo, hiss, or any of that sort of thing.

As I look at some of the professional sports, both players and fans, I wonder where their good sportsmanship went. I understand the intensity of the game and the drive of the players, but they should be helping their opponents to their feet when after they tackle or block them. And fans should most certainly not be beating up the visiting fans. They really needed someone they respect to tell them to knock it off and demonstrate good sportsmanship. (Fellow parents, that should be us from a very early age!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Avid Reader for August 2011

Darksaber by Kevin J. Andersen

Darksaber is the second part of another trilogy in the Star Wars saga. The first part, Children of the Jedi, was the worst of the Star Wars books I had read so far. Part two was significantly better. Andersen took the story and put it back into the main stream of the extended galaxy. He expands on his creations of Admiral Daala, Kip Durron, and Dorsk 81. I have never liked his character of Kip; he turned evil much too easily, and came back too easily, as well. He has never really connected for me. Admiral Daala has more lives than a cat; it really is amazing how many times she survives. Dorsk 81 becomes a fully developed and likeable character, and then, of course, dies. He also took the Callisto/Luke relationship further, although that is perhaps the least interesting subplot going on. The Imperial PoV through Daala and Zahn’s Palleaon character was probably the most interesting part of the book. I did also enjoy the recollections of Bevel Lemeski, the designer of the Death Star, with the Emperor killing and cloning him so many times, and the Hutts trying to become a third powerful party in the arms race. Overall, Darksaber was an average Star Wars book, and I give it a C+.

The Seeress of Kell by David Eddings

Book 5 of the Mallorean, or book 10 of the world of Belgarion. I do love the series. The whole focus of the story has been Garion and his companions trying get Garion’s son back from the ‘big bad’ Zandramas. The world tour continued as Garion and the others  pick up the last couple of members of the group from the Prophesy. Throughout the book, we see many transformations, but none more than Garion’s opposite number Zakath, the emperor of Mallorea. He goes from a sad, cold man to someone with fire and the ability to love. Is it a perfect book? No. We knew from the beginning that one of the companions was going to die, and it was the one that I really felt the least connection to. Storywise, it made sense, but it didn’t quite have the same punch as when Durnik was killed at the end of the first quintology. (Of course, Durnik came back…) Almost all of the loose ends were tied up, and I found it a very satisfying end to wonderful series. I give The Seeress of Kell an A-.

Inman’s War by Jeffrey S. Copeland
One of the book club books this past summer was Inman’s War. It told the story of an African-American college grad and teacher and his training and service in World War II. The story was garnered from the letters between the main character and his love in St. Louis. Generally, I don’t read a lot of historical novels, but I’m very glad that I did. The story of Perc Inman and the connections  he makes with his  men. It deals with the racism of the army at the time, and how hard they had to work to overcome that prejudice. It reminds me of how far we have come, and at the same time, how far we have to go. Inman’s War was well written, easy to read, and an engrossing read. I give it an A.

The New Titans Archive Volume 1 and 2 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

It can be a little unnerving when comics that came out when you were a teenager are now considered classics. When the New Teen Titans came out in 1983, I bought issue one. Still have it. It came out during a time when DC was struggling getting decent series out and going. Written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by my favorite artist George Perez, the first 24 issues truly are classics. According to the forwards of the two compilations, Wolfman and Perez didn’t expand the series to last, but the characters that they used and created for the series came to life. Using the sidekicks of many of the ‘adult’ DC heroes – Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl, another teen hero known as Changeling (Beast Boy), and then three new heroes Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire – they built interesting stories, also creating fascinating villains who are still being used today – Trigon, Deathstroke the Terminator, the Fatal Five. They touch on the Greek myths, reach into the silver age of comics as they deal with the old Doom Patrol. All but one of the stories are penciled by Perez. The final story features Aqualad and Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy. Speedy is also the first major hero who was a drug addict. It was an anti-drug issue, although it is the weakest story in the whole series, both artistically and story-wise. It was obviously a filler issue.  That one story brings the grade for down to an A-.

The Essential X-Men Volume 1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

The Essential series of Marvel Comics are black and white reprints of some of the earliest Marvel series. This particular series follows the original teenaged X-Men – Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, and Beast- through their first set of adventures. It was an interesting read for several different reasons. One reason was that you could see Lee and Kirby try to figure out where these heroes fit into the larger universe they had been creating. At first, the mutant X-Men were like every other superhero group of the time. Eventually, Lee grasped the idea of the unwanted superheroes whose mere existence causes a serious amount of racism against mutants. It was also interesting as they tried to figure out the characters, in particular Beast. In the first couple of issues, the Beast talked like a big dumb jock, and it wasn’t until several issues in that got his unique personality of the smart man stuck in a big apelike body. The X-Men did not fit in well with all the other groups – Iron-Man, Spider-man, the Avengers, Hulk, and so-forth, but the comic did have some great characters and concepts for the world, including the Stranger and the Savage Land. It was also interesting having the X-Men try to mix in with the mainstream Marvel world – battling the Avengers, battling a number of Iron-Man foes. It was an amusing blast from the past, but I can certainly understand why it was considered a B-level book; the character development was spotty, they always had the deus ex machina character Professor X pull them out of the fire, and it always seemed like someone announced that they were leaving the X-Men just to come back in to save the day in the following issue. Is it any better or worse than the comics of the time; probably not. One other thing that lowers the grade of Essential X-Men Volume is that it was black and white. Having the color in a comic book makes a huge difference. The uncolored images just don’t have the same magic that they do in color. Overall, I give the Essential X-Men a B-. 

The Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr

It was a real relief to see the Avengers back. I was happy to see that they followed the JLA’s idea with the re-boot: take the most popular characters of the universe and put them into the premier superteam of the world. The Avengers, in its most recent incarnation is made up of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and a newer character now called the Protector. I still am a little torn about have Wolverine on the team; he’s perhaps my least favorite X-Man – I still don’t fully understand his appeal  - but as he is among the most popular, I can accept it. This storyline takes place right after two of the darkest chapters of the Marvel Universe – Civil War and Siege (i.e. the destruction of Thor’s home Asgard). Steve Rogers, the original Captain America is now the head of the anti-terrorism group known as SHIELD, and these are his Avengers. I enjoyed seeing the two friends Iron-Man and Steve Rogers trying to mend some truly broken fences. There were certainly some very good character pieces in there. Overall storyline I wasn’t that thrilled with in this first compilation. They go to a possible future where Ultron is taking over the world, is opposed by the old Avengers enemy Kang, who then breaks time and waits for the Avengers to come and fix it. Part of the story comes from the direct-to-DVD animated feature the Avengers: Next Gen where the children of the Avengers are featured. To a certain extent, it felt like this was a comic book tie-in so people would go buy the DVD. Something else that bothered me was the treatment of one of my favorite super heroes Wonder Man. They are setting him up as a traitor to the Avengers. He believes that the Avengers do more harm than good, and he attacks them when they reform. He also disintegrates during that attack, which will come back to later, I imagine, but I haven’t seen it yet. John Romita Jr’s artwork has become more and more stylized through the years. It is an okay style, it may be a little too blocky for a group book. The faces looked a little too much alike, and Thor’s face never looked quite right to me; he looked almost alien. The Avengers compilation was an okay read; I’ve always liked the premise of the Avengers. I guess I was hoping for a little more. I give the Avengers a B. 

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is a masterful author. I do find it reassuring, however, that she did have some misfires. This was one of them. It starts out with what seems to be a random accident. The main character is a former soldier at loose ends who stumbles onto the accident. His best friend is a bored aristocrat woman who pushes him into figuring out the mystery. The story is convoluted, at times doesn’t feel like a mystery but a wild good chase, and then both lead characters should be dead when they are saved by a minor character who has no business being there. Needless to say, I was not that thrilled by the novel. Shockingly, I give an Agatha Christie novel a C-. 

The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

The Dune series was started by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert’s father. Brian has taken the world his father created, the notes that his father worked from, worked with successful author Kevin Anderson and started writing what happened before and after the six books his father wrote. I’ve decided to read them in the ‘chronological’ order of the Dune universe. The Butlerian Jihad was mentioned in as an important historical event in the original Dune novels. Essentially, an artificial intelligence has taken over earth and many of the colonies of Earth. The machines – assisted by a group of ‘Titans,’ human brains preserved in robots – want to destroy humans to make the universe a more ordered place, whereas the humans are being…well…humans. There are many different sects in each side which create interesting politics and scheming. The most interesting juxtaposition was comparing the AI who had human slaves and the human planets who kidnapped people from other planets to be their slaves.  The book does a good job of introducing much of the technology, the noble families and institutions that are important in the later books.  It did feel a little forced at times, and the some of the dialogue and descriptions of location seemed stilted and incomplete. Overall, The Butlerian Jihad was an okay read. I give it a C+.

Star Trek Deep Space 9: Millennium: The Fall of Terok Nor by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

While I am a fan of Star Trek, and I consider DS9 the best of the Star Trek series, I have not been a Trek book collector. I tried for a little bit in the early 90s, but the novels did not hold as tightly as the Star Wars novels, and were full of contradicting stories. Lucas has had a tight hold on the Star Wars novels, but no one had taken a tight hold over the Trek books, and it showed. I set them aside. My friend Paul was clearing out his collection – downsizing is so much fun – and handed me three DS9 novels, saying that these are among the best of the Trek novels. I read book one, and was entranced. I disappeared into the world of Star Trek once again. It was refreshing to stand on the Promenade and watch the aliens go by, and a wonderful chance to re-visit all the characters. I enjoyed it because I was a pretty close follower of the series, and knew the characters very well. If I didn’t, the story would not make much sense at all. However, since I am a fan, I will concur with Paul and say that this was an excellent Trek book. I really enjoyed the mystery part where the three main characters (Odo, Quark, and Garak) who were on DS9 when the Cardassians left the space station had no memory of that day, and it is Quark who pushes for remembering that day. The action, characterizations, the deepening religious and social pressures that surround the mystery all add together to a very tight, well written book. I give The Fall of Terok Nor an A-.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Avid Reader - July 2011

The Sorceress of Darshiva by David Eddings

Book four in David Eddings second quintology is ‘The Sorceress of Darshiva. Once again, I shall preface this review with the fact that I love this series. It is always a ‘palate cleanser’ for me. This particular one is quite strong. It fills in more of what is going on with the characters back home, as well as continue with the saga with Garion, the main character. He and his companions continue their world wide tour through more of the Mallorean continent. The characters continue to grow, and we learn more about Belgarath and his ‘brother’ Beldin. Some of my favorite scenes take place in this particular book, and we also see the Malorrean Emperor come to terms with his own role in the overall scheme of things. ‘Sorceress is one of my favorite books in one of my favorite series. I give it an A-.

The Harrowing of Gwynedd by Katherine Kurtz

The Harrowing of Gwynedd is the second (chronologically) trilogy of the Deryni series by Katherine Kurtz. This book picks up exactly where the previous book had left off – right after the death of Camber, the most powerful Deryni sorcerer in saga. This book focuses primarily on his daughter Evaine and the second in line to the Gwynedd throne, Javan, who is secretly gaining Deryni powers. The true focus of the book is on racism and how people in power can turn the power of the state against minorities, even powerful magic using minorities like the Deryni. It is a powerful transitional book. I did find myself several times really hating the racists in the saga. It does not take a huge stretch to take the allegory to our own world. There is a lot of deeper magical ideas in this book, as well as the state of Camber’s soul, and the sacrifice that must be made to free him. I enjoyed the book, despite my growliness at the blatant racism. I give The Harrowing of Gwynedd a A-.

Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly

Ever feel like you’ve come into the middle of a story, and you spend the first quarter of the book figuring out whom is whom? That’s what I felt like in the next Star Wars book ‘Children of the Jedi.’ I’ve been pretty careful to read the books in order, but this one really felt like I was missing the first book in this particular series. I’ve checked; I’m not. The Children of the Jedi, which, by the way, don’t really refer to the Solo children – ages 3 and 1 – but to theoretic survivors of the Emperor’s and Vader’s purge of Jedi at the beginning of the Empire. There are several characters introduced – a robotics and artificial intelligence genius lady and her newly droidized love interest whose back stories should have been books on their own but were given in exposition heavy handedly. We also meet Callista, a dead Jedi who was buried in a computer for the past several decades. I felt let down by the Children of the Jedi, even more than the Jedi Academy books. They felt complete compared to this one. This one gets the lowest grade I’ve given yet: a D.

With a Tangled Skein by Piers Anthony

Book 3 in Piers Anthony’s Incarnations series is a pretty good read. We get to see the three sides of fate – the maiden, the mother, and the crone. Whereas the books on Death and Time cover a short period of time, a couple of months or years, Fate’s book covers decades. Niobe, an `18 year old Irish woman, is married off to a 16 year old boy. They aren’t compatible to begin with, and it is a matter of Cedric and Niobe growing up to allow them to fall in love. They have a child, and then due to interference from Satan – the Incarnation of Evil – Cedric is killed. Long story short, Niobe meets all the Incarnations, and then she becomes the youngest part of Fate. They stall Satan’s plans, but the story doesn’t end there. Niobe takes up her mortal life again, marries, has another child, Orb, and then is called again to become Lachesis, the middle aged part of Fate, the mother. The connections to all the other characters in the book become a little overwhelming as we meet Zane/Death again, and we find out about Luna and the Magician, and so much more. With a Tangled Skein is a good transitional book. We have been introduced to the world concept in On a Pale Horse (Death’s Book), and we see where it may end in Bearing an Hourglass (Time’s Book). This book assumes you’ve read the other two books and have various ‘ah ha!’ moments. The book is well written and enjoyable, but only if you’ve read the other two books. I give With a Tangled Skein a B+.

The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker, Doug Mahnke, and Patrick Zircher

While on a 17 hour bus ride to Washington DC, I devoured a whole series of Batman graphic novels that my buddy Paulie brought with him on the bus. The first one that I read was The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker, Doug Mankhe, and Patrick Zircher. A majority of the book is a telling of the first Batman/Joker encounter. It is pretty intense with several layers to it. The primary layer is that of the Joker killing people. There is a pretty intense scene where the police find a place where Joker has been practicing his sadistic killings. The second layer is the realization that Batman actually created the Joker by knocking him into a vat of chemicals, driving the man insane. The story is well written and well drawn. Brubaker definitely has a good grasp on the Batman and Joker relationship. The second part of the book features the golden age Green Lantern and Batman. In the current continuity, the golden age Green Lantern was based in Gotham City during the 40’s and 50’s. He talks about the difference between Metropolis and Gotham, with the difference really being hope and exhausted despair. The storyline follows a murder mystery started in the 40s, and when Green Lantern comes back to Gotham, he is not welcomed with open arms. Batman is not the most friendly host. The Green Lantern does stay and help solve the mystery. Overall, it is a good read. I would give The Man Who Laughs an A.

Batman: Contagion

Contagion was Batman comics event where a deadly disease is turned loose in Gotham City. Gotham gets hammered with the illness. Batman, of course, being the scientist, tries to find the cure. They discover that the illness was released once before, and that there were few survivors. Robin and Catwoman are sent to get the first survivor, but there are other powers at work that want the plague to spread. Throughout the books, it flashes between the diseased streets of Gotham and the rest of the world as Catwoman and the former Batman replacement Azreal raced around the world to find the cure. Robin catches the disease and is in terrible pain and becomes badly deformed in the progression of the disease. I personally found that the ending seemed a little bit too contrived. The disease was brought out of the group that helped create Azreal. At the end of it, there was no lasting effect on the city. Even Robin fully recovered and became un-deformed. I wasn’t as impressed with this graphic novel as I was with the first one. I give Batman: Contagion a C+.

Batman: No Man’s Land 1-5 by many authors, artists, and editors

Gotham City definitely gets the short end of the stick. I missed the earthquake that shook Batman’s city, but I did get to read about what happened after. No Man’s Land. Essentially, the US Government decides that Gotham is too much of a problem and proceeds to cut Gotham loose, sealing it off from the rest of the country. No humanitarian aid, nothing. Arkham Asylum is opened, the prison is opened. Ammunition is scarce, and Batman is missing. For one of the first times, Commissioner James Gordon is furious with Batman because he has deserted them. The villains – Scarface, Penguin, Two-Face, Killer Croc and more – control different areas of the city. They are reduced to ‘tagging’ areas with spray paint graffiti. This was a year-long event that stretched across all of Bat-books, and dealt with almost all of Batman’s supporting cast, both hero and villain, cop and civilian. It was a brilliant tale of cross and double cross, followed by a triple cross. It ends just as brilliantly with a death of a significant supporting character. The only thing that was missing was Nightwing’s part in the saga. They kept on saying Nightwing is taking care of the inmates at Newgate Prison, but we never saw that. It’s the one weakness in the entire saga. I really enjoyed the series overall. It was well written, gripping, and it had a full effect on everyone there. It also introduced the new Batgirl, with the previous Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) giving full endorsement. I give Batman: No Man’s Land an A-.

Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive by many artists, authors, and editors

Batman never quite gets a break, does he? Of course, if he did, it would be a very boring comic book. In one of the finest mysteries that comics has done in years, we have Bruce Wayne suspected of being a murderer, and there is no one to disprove it. Not even Bruce Wayne himself. Much of the first part of the story is told from Bruce’s bodyguard Sasha’s point of view, as well as from the other Batman supporting characters – Oracle, Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Alfred. The character analysis of Batman is also very well done. Bruce Wayne, when he talks to himself, calls himself Batman. In his mind, Batman is the real person and Bruce Wayne is the mask (as opposed to Superman, who really thinks of himself as Clark Kent). I don’t want to give much more away, except that the mind behind the scheme is the direct result of No Man’s Land. A brilliant twist. I give Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and Fugitive an A.