Sunday, July 24, 2022

The History of EC Comics

The History of EC ComicsThe History of EC Comics by Grant Geissman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the title indicates, this weighty tome tells the story of EC Comics. It's ordinarily expensive as fuck but Taschen had a sale, bringing the price down to expensive as shit so I was able to justify my purchase.

I already have Grant Geissman's Foul Play: The Story of EC Comics so I wasn't sure how much to expect in the way of overlap. Turns out, very little, surprisingly.

The History of EC Comics is a treasure trove of EC lore and artifacts, starting from MC Gaines at All-American Comics, and flowing through EC's humble beginnings, heyday, and dying years after the hysteria of the 1950s. Clearly a labor of love, the highs and lows of EC are explored in great detail.

Since this is a coffee table book, the visual presentation is a big part of the package and The History of EC Comics does not disappoint in that aspect. There is a cover gallery of every EC cover ever, a few stories are reproduced in their entirety, and there is original art galore.

I have to wonder about how American comics history would have went if EC hadn't given up on the New Trend books after Seduction of the Innocent had everyone clutching his or her collective pearls. Have comics ever really recovered from being spayed and/or neutered?

The History of EC Comics is a stunning look at one of the early high points of American comics. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Wrestling at the Chase

Wrestling at the ChaseWrestling at the Chase by Ed Wheatley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wrestling at the Chase by Ed Wheatley is a coffee table book about Wrestling at the Chase, the legendary wrestling program that aired in St. Louis from 1959 to 1985.

I'm a wrestling fan from way back and have hazy memories of watching Wrestling at the Chase during its dying days. My in-laws gave me this for my birthday, unlike other relatives who don't like to buy me books for some reason.

Anyway, this book chronicles Wrestling at the Chase and the St. Louis Wrestling Club. Obviously, it covers much of the same ground as Larry Matysik's Wrestling at the Chase book. Since this is a coffee table book, the history of Wrestling at the Chase is explored at a much higher level.

In addition to a broad overview of the history of the St. Louis Wrestling club, Wheatley presents profiles of wrestlers important to the St. Louis wrestling scene during its heyday, like Dick the Bruiser, King Kong Brody, Lou Thesz, Harley Race, and Ric Flair.

What the book lacks in depth it makes up for in photographs. The book is jammed with photos of wrestlers, buildings, merchandise, vintage ads, flyers, and everything else connected with the wrestling business, even some of Sam Muchnick's notes.

Sadly, Wrestling at the Chase ended the same way here as it did in Larry Matysik's book, eventually run out of business by Vince McMahon's expansion in the early to mid 1980s.

I prefer Larry Matsik's book but this coffee table presentation is a good addition to any wrestling fan's collection. 3.5 out of 5 piledrivers.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Drawing Perspective

Drawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply ItDrawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply It by Matthew Brehm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in some reviews for art supplies on Amazon lately, I've been trying to get back into drawing and cartooning after not doing much other than doodling during meetings for the past twenty years. I've taken art classes in the past but most of them were either time wasters or a learn by doing affair. I remember exactly one class period about perspective. Anyway, this book was highly recommended. Like writing, art is a "figure out what works for you and do that" kind of endeavor but there are still guidelines you should follow.

Instructional books are usually dry as hell. This book peps up what could be a yawn inducing subject. It's still a little on the dry side but that can't be avoided when you're talking about converging lines and such.

I found the book to be fairly engaging and the various kinds of perspective were explained in a way that easily made sense. Some of it took a little longer to wrap my head around than others but, conceptually, I think I had a grip on things by the end. Applying the knowledge will be a different matter. Luckily, there's a workbook section at the end if you want to practice. I plan on busting out one of my sketchbooks and experimenting when I finally get enough free time to do so.

Curvilinear perspective is some trippy ass shit, by the way. Since I primarily draw cartoony stuff, I doubt I'll use it, but the sections on one, two, and multiple vanishing points will be helpful. I like how the author acknowledges that the guidelines he lays out are just guidelines. While I was reading the book, I had to think that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were winging things 90% of the time.

I found Drawing Perspective to be a very useful resource for how to incorporate perspective into drawings. I look forward to referring back to it in the future. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 3, 2022

Dynamite & Davey

Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British BulldogsDynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs by Steven Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dynamite and Davey chronicles the rise and fall of The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldogs.

I've watched wrestling on and off for my entire life and the first tag team that ever caught my eye was the British Bulldogs. When this ARC fell into my lap, I took it like a superplex.

Steven Bell put in the work on this. The book has a more scholarly tone than most wrestling books. While I was reading it, I suspected he did a ridiculous amount of research. The sources cited in the back proved me right. Dynamite and Davey contains more verified facts than a lot of wrestling books.

I've read and/or watched a lot of what transpired in the book but it was still like watching two trains getting closer and closer to a junction on the same track and seeing debris fly in all directions. Tom Billington's early life is chronicled from his early days in England to training to ending up in Calgary, wrestling for the Hart family. Davey, Tom's cousin, gets the same treatment as Tom and also winds up in Calgary. They don't team together for a while but when they do...

It seems like Tom's career had already peaked when The British Bulldogs formed and Davey's still hadn't hit its apex yet. Already, drugs were a huge part of both men's lives. Like I said, I knew what was coming but the WWF run and the sad decline of the Dynamite Kid were still painful to read at times. People say the ambush by Jacques Rougeau was the beginning of the end for Dynamite but he was already sliding downhill before then.

Not surprising, Davey's story is also sad, sometimes sadder because Davey seems like he was a nice guy, not the hateful shithead the Dynamite Kid seemed to be a lot of the time. Drugs, injuries, drugs, injuries, and drugs did him in. He got to share the ring with his son, at least.

I really like that Bell ended the book with an account of Dynamite's sons trying to follow in his footsteps as the Billington Bulldogs. Always send the crowd home happy, as one huckster is wont to say.

I've read or heard the stories before but Steven Bell tells them well and sieves out a lot of the bullshit. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Call of Poothulhu

The Call of PoothulhuThe Call of Poothulhu by Neil Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Call of Poothulhu is a collection of ten dark Winnie the Pooh tales.

Since my son was born, I haven't taken on many ARCs. When Edward Erdelac mentioned this one on Facebook, I knew I had to message the publisher.

Reviewing a collection is tough but here we go. All the tales are well crafted. The first, The Celery at the Threshold, is even written in A.A. Milne's voice. The tales are of varying strengths of Lovecraftian flavor but most of them are pretty dark. A couple have little to no Lovecraftian elements. Some link the 100 Acre Wood to HPL's Dreamlands. Sometimes Eeyore is the one with knowledge of the Mythos, sometimes Owl, sometimes Piglet. Some feature Christopher Robin grown up. One even reminded me of Cabin in the Woods.

If I had to pick favorites, I'd probably go with The Celery at the Threshold by John Linwood Grant and The Very Black Goat by Christine Morgan. In a lot of ways, The Call of Poothulhu is the spiritual successor to Scream for Jeeves. Four out of five Small Elder Things.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Locklands

Locklands (The Founders Trilogy, #3)Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

8 years have passed since Shorefall Night. The world has changed in horrific ways, but it has changed in tremendous ones as well. Tevanne has enslaved much of humanity by conquering cities and taking over the minds of countless victims. However humanity still lives. Sancia, Berenice, and Clef have saved many people and become the founders of the nation Giva. Crasedes Magnus also resists Tevanne's advances through the strength of his permissions over the world. The time has come that running and hiding are no longer options. Tevanne intends to reset existence entirely and appears to have the means to do so. Sancia, Berenice, and Clef must venture into the heart of Tevanne's territory to save their nation and humanity itself.

Locklands is a fascinating tragedy. I wasn't sure how the book would go after the vastly different first and second books. Foundryside felt tangible with a touch of incredible magic with scrivings, while Shorefall felt as though scrivings had the power to do anything at all. Locklands merges the two styles for a heart wrenching conclusion.

I really appreciated the character work done in the book. The power Valeria granted Sancia has been slowly stealing her life away, but she won't quit. She's strong and capable even in the face of insanity. Berenice is much the same while having to watch her wife waste away. Clef and Crasedes however stole the show. It was clear there was more to the talking key and his monstrous son, but I never imagined how much more there could be.

I was glad to see scriving continue to evolve even though the descriptions of scrivings in action grew tedious. Watching Giva's growth with scrivings made Crasedes and Tevanne feel more grounded. It wasn't as hard to imagine how the two beings could gain such strength. I wish we could have witnessed more of that in Shorefall because at the time Crasedes and Valeria felt completely unbelievable.

Locklands was a solid conclusion to the trilogy and I'm glad to have read it.

3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Reaper

Reaper (Cradle, #10)Reaper by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lindon and company have managed to save Sacred Valley and drive off a Dreadgod. Even victory has its cost and the team all were forced to pay it in their own way. The time for rest has arrived, but before too much time has passed trouble raises it's head again. The team is forced to enter the labyrinth to seek knowledge to destroy the Dreadgods, all while dealing with the labyrinth's defenses and enemy forces...forces on their radar and those in the heavens above.

For any long time reader of the Cradle series, you undoubtedly have many questions you are seeking the answer to. Reaper is the book of answers. Not every answer, but certainly the important ones. I'm blown away as I'm reflecting on all the events and information we learned. I will be rereading Reaper, likely soon.

Reaper was an excellent book. The beginning has a combination of loss and learning to live. To fight a Dreadgod below Archlord is a risky affair and the team is lucky to have survived. The losses weigh heavily though. I really enjoyed seeing Lindon be forced to wait and live for the first time since Unsouled. Sometimes there is no immediate way forward and Lindon is forced to admit that. Seeing his choices in this time was truly refreshing.

I enjoyed the character development for some of the characters in the book. Lindon was forced into being patient after his goal of saving Sacred Valley. This allowed him time to learn about and become more in tune with his icon. I love to see how much he grows. Ziel is forced to look towards as his spirit mends. I enjoy Ziel as a character and I was glad to witness some change in him. Mercy learns more about who she is outside her mother. I feel for her, the expectations for her have been too great and she's so different from Malice. Jai Long learns he doesn't know everything and it's fun to see it. Kelsa is great even though she's weak. Her candidness is truly enjoyable to witness. That's not even mentioning Little Blue and Orthos, but that's best left to the book.

I wouldn't say there was anything I disliked, I just wanted more. I wanted more side characters to appear, if only to have some key moments. I wanted more key moments from all the side characters. I wanted to see Lindon's parents more than we did. I would have liked more time from Yerin's perspective as it felt as though she was shortchanged in Reaper. I was simply hungry for more.

Reaper was truly excellent and I continue to be impressed by Will Wight's writing. I can't wait to reread Reaper and to see what Will Wight writes next.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Fear of Death: Volume 1

Fear of Death: Volume 1 (Flares Of Serinor, #1)Fear of Death: Volume 1 by J.R. Dimesiss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The world of Serinor is a dangerous place filled with magic. Even in places such as these people try to live their lives. Army Cadet Daas lives a split life and does so with honor despite the shadow of death never far from him. Clora too has death creeping nearer. She'll do what it takes to survive, even though she may not know how.

My first thought after finishing Fear of Death: Volume 1 is that so much feels disconnected. The books description gives the picture of a more cohesive story than the book tells. The rising danger is described in Interludes that appear to have no impact on Daas and Clora's stories. Daas and Clora are the main point of view characters and their stories are entirely separate. If they didn't both live on the continent of Serinor, I'd say there was no reason for them to both be part of the book. I don't think I've read a book with point of view characters that don't appear to impact one another at all after the first book. There's not even a hint that they may cross over as the book concluded.

Fear of Death mostly revolved around dialogue. The characters talk to a lot of people and the world expands through the dialogue. There are a few interesting moments of magic being on display and people being engaged in battle, but otherwise it's mostly just talking.

The point of view characters had some personality. Daas is serious, studious, and polite. He's an Army cadet who enjoys to read which seems to be an oddity in his world. Unfortunately for him, he has a secret that threatens to end his life if it's ever revealed. Cora is curious, uneducated, and vulnerable. She's lived a hard life in her short time being alive. Cora had been a captive and is determined not to go back to that life.

Fear of Death: Volume 1 is a story with some potential. I can't tell where the story is going, but in a bad way. Much of the tale felt aimless which is not a good thing for a first book. I'm mildly curious to see how the story progresses.

2.5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Shorefall

Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy, #2)Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sancia and her friends despite the odds, saved Tevanne and themselves from destruction. Three years later their firm Foundryside is trying to change Tevanne for the better by sharing scriving with everyone...and stealing it from the Campos when necessary. After the one of their most ambitious capers, Sancia gets a warning. Someone is attempting to revive one of the hierophants and Sancia and her friends hold the only chance of stopping it from happening. Hierophants are people who through their immense scriving ability, have convinced the world they are gods. Sancia and her friends must not fail. If they do, who can stop a god?

Shorefall is a book where the pace never seems to let up. After the opening sequence, we go from one disaster to the next. Each one seemingly worse than the one before it. It had a magical mission impossible sort of feel to it.

I have to admit that I forgot everything about Foundryside except Sancia, Orso, Clef, and scriving. I'd recommend rereading Foundryside before picking up Shorefall for that reason. Robert Bennet Jackson doesn't take time to slow down or go over much that happened in the previous book either. I really appreciate that generally, I just didn't remember much about the first book.

The book's main theme seemed to be the perils of human nature. Various characters pontificated on how every new technology eventually gets used to hurt people. The fact that the weak and needy suffer while the vile thrive. Three different groups were trying to change the world for the better, but none could agree what would truly change things for the better. That was largely what fueled the conflict.

I did appreciate the relationships between the Foundryside gang. Orso with his fatherly relationship with Berenice was especially touching. Gregor and Sancia wanting to belong and finally feeling as though they did. Sancia and Berenice's relationship was the backbone of the book.

Overall I enjoyed Shorefall and I'm curious to see how the series concludes.

3.5 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Arcanist Fables

Arcanist Fables (Frith Chronicles, #5.5)Arcanist Fables by Shami Stovall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

War is coming thanks to the Second Ascension and the birth of new god creatures. Members of the Frith Guild and the Second Ascension are making their preparations for the battles to come and the book shows those preparations from their prospectives.

First and foremost, if you expect to see or learn anything new about Volke Savan prepare to be disappointed. Volke is mentioned, but no notable information about him is discussed. With that being said, the book is incredibly illuminating in regards to the Second Ascension. I'd mention details, but they are all significant spoilers.

Arcanist Fables isn't quite what I expected. On a plus we do have multiple point of view characters including Illia, Adelgis aka Moonbeam, Calisto, Hexa, the Kirin arcanist Orwyn Tellia, Everett Zelfree, new characters Ezril Rivers and The Keeper of Corpses, Fain, Ryker Blackwater, Mathis Weaversong (Luthair's first arcanist), and Rhys. The downside is the stories aren't all told directly after the book World Serpent. Many of the stories take place during World Serpent and some are before it. I was hoping for more current information on the characters, but that's a mixed bag with this book. The majority of the stories that happened during or before World Serpent didn't feel that worthwhile, but those that happened afterwards did provide some interesting prospectives and information.

The majority of the characters behave just the way you would expect. I was not a fan of Ryker. I hope he's not whining all the time moving forward. Ezril Rivers and the Keeper of Corpses were an unexpected plus. It will be interesting to see what the story has for them moving forward. Though not being a point of view characters, we learn a lot more about Theasin Venrover and the Autarch. Everett Zelfree's opinion of Theasin continues to be proven correct over time. Theasin is a particularly vile individual. I hope we learn more about the Autarch as he's far more complex than the outright villain Theasin.

Arcanist Fables was a solid story and seem to be necessary reading for those who plan to continue the series.

View all my reviews