Double Lives by Matt Cowper

Double LivesDouble Lives

by Matt Cowper
Series: Johnny Wagner, Godlike PI, #1

Kindle Edition, 380 pg.
2017

Read: August 23 – 26, 2017


Double Lives takes place in a world as overloaded with super-heroes and super-villains as The Tick (comic or cartoon), Powers (comic) or Powerless (TV). But our protagonist isn’t a super-hero, at least not any more. Now, he’s a P. I. — with a twist. A minor deity (whose name I will not try to type), nicknamed Dak has been merged with him and acts as his right arm.

Dak is a god of destruction, and will use power beams, super-strength and the like to achieve this destruction, as often as possible — even when it works against his host, Johnny Wagner, professionally or personally. He will also, at whim, start an argument with Johnny or anyone nearby, threaten them, or just sound off about whatever he wants to — again, even when it works against his host. Dak is really annoying, but will (mostly) grow on you. I did enjoy his origin story, I should add.

Johnny’s a typical down-on-his-luck P.I., there’s really nothing about him early on that will make you think hes anything but a comic book version of Marlowe-clone. Which is fine to start with, and thankfully Cowper doesn’t leave him that way. He is interesting enough to keep the reader engaged and interested.

The hero Captain Neptune has recently been killed by a laughable member of his rogues gallery, Gray Squirrel. The killing was very public, very definite, and very, very filmed. As such, Gray Squirrel is going away for a very long time. Until Neptune’s widow hires Johnny to investigate. She just doesn’t think that Gray Squirrel intended to kill him, and wants Johnny to uncover the truth about what happened.

Sadly, Johnny just doesn’t uncover that, but he unearths many things that people’d prefer were kept under wraps. There’s a decent bit of investigation that goes on, punctuated with some very well-written comic book fight scenes. I was less than impressed with the dialogue, which was frequently problematic, and the romantic storyline. The rest worked, in a heightened-comic book reality way. Which is not a slam, it’s a description — I’m a comic fan, I wish I could read more. I enjoyed the other characters — minor, allies, villains of various degrees of power, heroes (most of whom come across as real jerks), too.

The climactic battles were really well-executed, and even if I hadn’t been won over by the book by this time, I’d probably recommend the books just for them. Thankfully, I can say that there’s a lot more going for Double Lives than those two battles. It’s a lot of fun, and super-hero fans should find plenty to reward their time if they read this.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post. I appreciate the opportunity.

—–

3 Stars

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Miles Morales (Audiobook) by Jason Reynolds, Guy Lockard

Miles MoralesMiles Morales

by Jason Reynolds, Guy Lockard (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs. 53 min.
Listening Library, 2017

Read: August 7 – 8, 2017


It was Bendis/Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man that brought me back to comics after a decade-plus break, and no matter what else I read, it was one of my Top 2 titles on my pull-list. Financial concerns got me to stop reading/collecting about a year before Miles Morales showed up. I was able to deal with letting everything else go, but USM was tough — especially when I heard about this new kid. I never learned much about him, I know he’s Afro-Hispanic, that his uniform is the best one since Ditko’s original, I heard they did a good job showing Miles and his parents going through a Charter School lottery, I know he’s popular enough they brought him over from the Ultimate universe.

Still, I saw this cover floating around Twitter last week and thought it looked pretty cool, so grabbed it when I had a moment. There’s a lot of Miles, his family and his school, not a lot of Web Head. But when he shows up, it counts.

Miles is having some Spidey Sense problems, which is leading to problems at school — a suspension and some trouble with his History teacher. He’s not sleeping well — tormented by nightmares about his uncle’s death. Miles starts to wonder if people like him — descendants of criminals –should have super-powers, if he should be a super-hero. It’s hard to describe the threat that Miles and his alter-ego face, really it unveils itself slowly throughout the book. But it’s a doozy, and it’s not what it seems to be early on.

I think Miles is a great character, he’s Peter Parker-esque in the best sense of the word, while being his own guy. His parents are fun, his dad in particular is a wonderful character — a great dad, it seems. Miles’ best friend and roommate, Ganke is a hoot. There’s a girl, of course, because he’s 16. I don’t know if Alicia’s a fixture in the comic or not, but it’d be interesting to see how she is outside of this.

Oh, Miles having camouflage powers? That’s just cool.

I think Lockard went over the top occasionally with his narration. Maybe part of that is pandering to the 11-13 year-old audience that Audible tells me this is directed toward. Maybe he and the director are just excitable and/or excited. It didn’t detract from anything, it was just occasionally too much. By and large, his energy kept things moving, lively — just the way a Spider-Man story should be.

This isn’t for everyone, but for those who like the idea of a Spider-Man novel, for fans of Miles Morales, or those who are just curious about him — this’ll entertain. I won’t say I’ve read every Spider-Man novel printed in the last couple of decades — but I’m willing to be my percentage is pretty high. Miles Morales is among the best.

—–

3.5 Stars

Book Blitz: Love, Murder & Mayhem

~ Book Blitz ~
Love, Murder & Mayhem
 


About the Book
Love science fiction stories that all include
elements of Love, Murder & Mayhem?

 
Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!
 
With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark
and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah
Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert
Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron
Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ
Colchamiro.

 
You’ll never look at Love,
Murder & Mayhem
 the
same way again—and that’s just the way we like it.
 
 
About the Editor
Russ Colchamiro is the author of
the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking
comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor
of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his
wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself.
Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the
Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is
now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.
As a matter of full disclosure,
readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of
white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being
sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus,
for sure, but much quicker.
 
 
 

 

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine ComplexHeroine Complex

by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex, #1

Paperback, 375 pg.
DAW, 2016

Read: April 6 – 8, 2017


A few years back, the city of San Francisco was visited by trans-dimensional demons — they were unable to stay long before being driven back, but in their wake certain individuals were left with superpowers. Some powers were impressive, others were . . . well, let’s just say less-so. Most didn’t use their powers much, but some heeded the call of Ben Parker and used their abilities to serve the common good. Chief among them was Aveda Jupiter — who spends her days defending SF from further demon incursions as well as more mundane menaces.

Aveda is helped in her quest for justice (and good PR) by a fighting coach, a scientist studying demons and a PA. Her PA, Evie Tanaka, is her childhood best-friend and the only one who can weather her mood swings, demands for affirmation and schedule with good humor and grace (at least externally).

Events transpire, and Evie has to pose as Aveda at an event — and things go awry in a pretty significant way. Demons attack (while displaying some new characteristics that require a new long-term strategy for battling them) and Evie demonstrates a super-power of her own. In the next few weeks, Evie has to continue the ruse while learning how to use (and hopefully lose) her own power and learning how to adjust to a newfound confidence, level of esteem, a change in her friendship with Aveda, and even a love life — while trying to beat back the invasion force once and for all.

I’ll be honest — the plot was okay, but almost entirely predictable by page 50 or so. But name the super-hero story that’s not, right? Especially origin stories. What matters is how Kuhn told the story — with heart, charm, and wit. So that you aren’t getting to various story beats saying, “Yup, right on time,” (or whatever unintentionally pompous thing you say to yourself when you get to a point in a book like this), rather you’re saying, “Oh, I like how she did that,” or “that’s a great take on X.”

The characters and the relationships between them are the key to this — none of them act their best, none of them are really hero-material, all of them ring true. These could be your friends (not my friends, mind you — there’s not enough book talk, and a whole lot of things that happen outside of a house), or at least the friends of someone you know. If, you know, your friends are known for dressing in leather, beating up inanimate objects inhabited by pan-dimensional beings, and fending off the prying and gossiping eyes of a fashion/lifestyle blogger.

I don’t think I’ve done the best sales job on this, but I’m not sure what else to say. Heroine Complex is light, breezy and fun — a quick and enjoyable read with characters you want to spend time with. A great way to kill a couple of hours — I’m looking forward to Book 2.

—–

3 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

The Batgirl of Burnside by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr

The Batgirl of BurnsideBatgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart (Writers), Babs Tarr (Artist)

Hardcover, 176 pg.
DC Comics, 2015

Read: February 10, 2016


My dabbling into The New 52 continues . . .

Like everyone who has at least one social network account, I was deluged by images of the new Batgirl uniform back in 2015 — and I dug it. I liked the Cassandra Cain incarnation of the character — but had missed just about all of them post-Barbara Gordon, who didn’t do much for me (I was a big Oracle fan, in my defense). So I decided to give this a shot when I saw the collection. Oh, so glad that I did — the best of the New 52 comics I’ve read so far.

Barbara Gordon’s in some sort of tiff with Dinah Lance (I’m assuming it’s Lance, didn’t care enough to check), she’s moving out of her old digs into a very trendy, hipster part of Gotham (the part that Nolan or Burton never showed) with a roommate she met doing physical therapy while working on a Master’s/Doctorate with a predictive algorithm that will probably go on to turn Gotham into Minority Report or will be Oracle. Doesn’t take her long to need to do the Batgirl thing, so she slaps together a new costume (her old equipment was no longer available) — the purple leather coat and sneaker thing — and gets to action.

(you can really tell I’m into detailed research here in that paragraph, can’t you? Well, maybe not today)

There’s a new gaggle of friends, mostly university based, who help her tremendously. There’s a romantic interest or two, conflict with the cops, some good stuff with Dinah, a brush with celebrity culture, and a few laughs. It’s light-hearted when it can be, kick-butt when it has to be. Which pretty much sums up Barbara, too.

The art? Wow. I don’t know how to describe it, but it makes you think of an animated show, it’s fun, it’s dynamic — it absolutely wouldn’t work for a lot of titles, but this one has enough spirit, enough joie de vivre, that it works perfectly. It supports and doesn’t distract from the story, just what you want from comic art.

I really dug this, and hope that this version of her sticks around for a bit (as I write this, I’m fully aware that she’s likely morphed at least once into something more Christopher Nolan-esque) — I’ll be looking for more of this one for sure.

—–

3.5 Stars

Traps and Trapezes by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows

Traps and Trapezes Nightwing Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes

by Kyle Higgins (Writer), Eddy Barrows (Artist, with Geraldo Borges, Eber Ferreira, Eduardo Pansica, Paulo Siqueira, JP Mayer, Trevor McCarthy)

Trade Paperback, 160 pg.
DC Comics, 2012

Read: January 20, 2015

So all the New 52 Teen Titans were checked out of my local library, so I grabbed this to continue dipping my toe into DC’s experiment.

Nightwing and I go way back to my days reading The New Teen Titans, I read the issue where Dick unveiled his new identity something like 1.6 million times, and spent a lot of time following his solo title.

This was a different take on Dick’s return to the circus home of his youth, revisiting his parents’ death as well as other tragedies. Naturally, a costumed assassin comes after him and drops some bodies. Leading to Dick learning a lot more about the circus’ present and past (changing the way he had to look at many things).

There were a couple of brief detours from the hunt for the assassin. One was a brief supernatural story in the midst of all of this — it felt pretty strange in the context, but it worked. The other was a quick team-up with Batgirl to take down a shapeshifting thief. I really liked that story and the relationship between Dick and Barbara there.

Barrows art was fine — sometimes really good. Some of the other stuff? Eh, not so much (some of it was really nice, though). I thought it was an interesting choice to make the Flying Graysons’ costumes look like older versions of Nightwing’s costume, I remembered them being more classic Robin-y, but this worked for me. I’m not crazy about the red instead of the blue on Nightwing’s costume, but I can deal with it, I guess.

On the whole, there was nothing really “New” about this “New 52” Nightwing — Barbara as Bat-girl was nice, maybe some of the revelations in the last couple of pages — but basically this was a Nightwing story. Nothing wrong with that.

—–

3 Stars

It’s Our Right to Fight by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth

It's Our Right to FightTeen Titans, Vol. 1: It’s Our Right to Fight

by Scott Lobdell (Writer), Brett Booth (Artist)

Trade Paperback, 168 pg.
DC Comics, 2012

Read: December 17, 2015


I haven’t picked up a DC collection in ages — and longer for a single issue. The whole New 52 idea both intrigued and annoyed me, and I just didn’t want to invest the time. But I saw this on the shelf at the library the other day, and figured, why not? It was the Wolfman/Pérez run of The New Teen Titans that got me into comics as a kid, and I enjoyed the first twenty or so of the Geoff Johns version in 2002-on before I stopped reading comics for a while. So it makes sense, that if anything was going to bring me back to DC, it’d be The Titans.

So, we get a variation on the Superboy clone being deployed to take out young metahumans. Really? They reboot the entire continuity just to redo stories like this? ooookay. It was fine as far as that goes, nothing special, nothing terrible (although, I thought Superboy’s crisis of conscience could’ve taken a bit longer to resolve) — it was primarily used as a device to get Red Robin (as always, hate the name, love the Bottomless Fries) to gather the troops. We’ve got Cassie/Dont-call-me-Wonder-Girl, who is…okay. We’ve got a new-to-his-powers (or is he?) Kid Flash — he’s pretty annoying and cocky, really, but I’m willing to see him grow.

There are three new characters — Bunker, a name almost as dumb as Red Robin, sort of Ice-Man without the chill, I like him, but think he schtick could get old; Solstice — who seems to be serving the role Raven did back in the 80’s, but I could be wrong; and Skitter, a weird arachnid looking person, I’m not even going to try to guess what I think about her without more exposure.

This is almost all set-up, with just enough resolution to call it a collection and move on to the next. It’s hard to say what I think of the storyline or characters until I se some more, but I don’t mind it. I’m not sure I like it, but I don’t hate it.

Biggest beef: Red Robin freaks out at Kid Flash early on in a way that makes no sense for someone over the age of 6 to do. I really don’t get that at all.

Booth’s artwork was nice — nothing that blew me away, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read a new (to me) comic that had art that nice. It feels like I’ve seen his work before, but looking through his credits, I’m not sure where. Very dynamic, loved the creepy vibe of Skitter’s look.

—–

3 Stars