All quiet on the western front …

So it’s gone a bit quiet here again. No good reason just been busy at work and haven’t been reading any comics lately. Not that I don’t have a lot to read. Aside from my big stack of unread books at home I have also been taking advantage of the various sales at Comixology and Dark Horse and have a pile of digital comics to read including complete runs of American VampireTransmetropolitanThe BoysGrendelTerminal City and many others.

My reading time lately has been taken up with Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga – I have just started the second book Judas Unchained.

I have also been catching up on some TV series I have missed in the last few years such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Caprica and Arrow.

However, I have recently bought the final volume of Vertigo‘s Hellblazer series so I will try to read that before the end of the month but after that will probably go quiet until after the summer.

It’s oh so quiet

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately – sorry about that. Extended holidays and a touch of flu have meant that I have not been reading much in the way of comics recently – currently I am enjoying the the excellent Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks.

Anyway the New Year starts tomorrow – or at least gets back to normal – with a return to work. So hopefully I will get back on track working on the backlog of titles I have accumulated from various Comixology and Dark Horse sales.

And because I love her so, here is another burst of old school Björk.

Fables: Covers (2008)

 

Quote:
“If you’ll look again at any given Fables cover … in addition to being a compelling illustration that makes you want to read the story inside, it’s a story in itself.”

 

Something a little different this time. This is a beautiful oversized, hardback book collecting James Jean’s work as a cover artist on Fables. The book collects covers from the main series (#1-10 and 12-75), standalone books (The Last Castle and 1001 Nights of Snowfall) and the wraparound covers for the first 10 trade paperback collections.

The format of the book is pretty rigid. There is a double page spread for each single issue. The left hand page consists of preliminary sketches and paintings along with a relevant quote from the script for that issue and a thumbnail of the final cover as published. The right hand page is a full page reprint of the cover normally without logos, issue numbers, barcodes and other text or graphic elements unless these form an integral part of the design of the image.

The wraparound covers are treated slightly differently. These get 4 pages devoted to them. The first two have have the preliminary sketches, drawings and paintings with a thumbnail of the final cover and a short commentary from Jean himself on the cover. The next two pages is a reproduction of the cover alone without logos etc.

It goes without saying that if you love Jean’s work then you will love this book. It shows which covers went through a number of iterations before settling on a final image and which seem to have been fully formed from the start. Amazing as the final covers are, some of my favourite illustrations are clean line drawings – the details are amazing and sometimes get lost in the colouring process. Visit his web site which has lots of examples of his other work.

Rift (2010)

A beautiful book from Fables cover artist James Jean that is composed entirely of wordless illustrations. The book’s panels are concertinaed together to form a continuous whole. Within this structure are interweaved two distinct fantastical landscapes – a seascape and a strange procession across a weird landscape. The book allows for the panels to be combined in different ways allowing the viewer to construct their own narrative.

The reverse contains the pencil versions of the same illustrations.

Hard to describe but see the illustrative video for a better idea.

House of M: Spider-Man (2006)

 

Quote:
“Hope you don’t mind, Goblin, but I brought some of my buddies along.”

 

This book collects the five issue mini-series and was written by Mark Waid and Tom Peyer. I know Waid best from the Kingdom Come mini-series but he has had runs on other DC titles such as Flash and JLA and Marvel titles such as Captain America and Fantastic Four. Peyer was an editor on Sandman but I think this is the first book I have read for which he has a writing credit. The art was by penciller Salvador Larroca and inker Danny Miki. I know Larroca from the Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra and Ultimate Elektra mini-series and I don’t think I have come across Miki’s work before.

Peter Parker has the perfect life. He is one of the most famous mutants on the planet – as a wrestler and film star. He is happily married to Gwen Stacy with a small son and has the rest of his family around him including his uncle Ben. So why would anyone want to dirty his reputation? Who is the mysterious Green Goblin who passes the dirt, in the form of an alternate reality journal, to Parker’s personal whipping boy Jonah Jameson?

Peter Parker is the superhero who gets the roughest emotional ride in the House of M series when his memories are restored. And that continues in this great series from Waid and Peyer in which his real memories are trying to come to the surface and he goes from hero to zero with Jameson’s revelations in the press. The book continues a theme common to a lot of the House of M related series – the so-called dream come true reality created by the Scarlet Witch does not seem like a dream come true in actuality. The only fault that I can find with it is that I felt the ending was a little weak but other than that well worth a read even without any knowledge of the main book.

Song of Ice and Fire – Final Update

It’s been a long time since the middle of June when I started reading the books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series but today I finally finished A Dance with Dragons.

My mind is still spinning with all the twists and turns introduced during the series but it has been a (mostly) enjoyable ride. The worse thing about coming to the end of this book is that I am now playing the waiting game for the next instalment. At least there is the TV series to look forward to in the more immediate future.

I think both books 4 and 5 have suffered for having been split in the way that Martin chose to do so. However the story has now become so vast with numerous different threads that it would be almost impossible to write a book that gives enough attention to each plot line to satisfy me totally – it can be hundreds of pages (or even books) between characters and story lines that I want to know more about. I hope that the TV series will mix these two books together when (if) it gets this far.

With my reading of the series finished I will have more time to read the comic books that have been gathering up and so will return to this blog more often over the autumn/winter.

Song of Ice and Fire – Further Update

As the summer feels like it is drawing to a premature close here so my summer reading of this massive series is drawing to a close (even if the series itself is still a few books away from completion).

After the major events in the third book, A Storm of Swords – with the weddings; the change in Jaimie’s circumstances and his relationship with his sister; and the deaths of many of the characters who were around in book 1 – the fourth book is a bit of a disappointment. The main reason for this is the fact that many of my favourite characters, such as Jon Snow, Daenerys and Tyrion, do not appear in this book. Instead the book opens up some new vistas with multiple character viewpoints from Dorne and the decision over the successor to Balon Greyjoy – both of which are fine but events in the north (in the aftermath of the fall of Winterfell) have been overlooked since book 2 and revelations there have been a long time coming. The main problem is the established character viewpoints in this book are not particularly that interesting to me or their quests in this book are not that exciting. [On the plus side I could finally listen to the Game of Thrones RevCast spoiler free!]

Of the characters chosen, Arya’s chapters continue to be the most interesting as more things seem to happen to her and she is exploring new lands – I would have liked more of these.

Samwell and Brienne are sent on journeys that lead nowhere and seem to have little relevance to wider events – these chapters, especially Brienne’s, sort of remind me of the wandering chapters in the Deathly Hallows where Harry and his friends are searching for horcruxes but have no clue where to start or how to hunt them down.

Sansa’s chapters are fine – she is still a hostage to fortune but her proximity to Petyr Baelish provides some revelations and the machinations of a master of political intrigue.

That leaves just Cersei and Jaimie.

Jaimie has become a more sympathetic character since the bold, brash warrior that was depicted in the first two books. However, in this book he is given the runaround by his sister and sent off to secure Riverrun and the constant self-loathing and pity in his chapters becomes wearing after a time.

Cersei assumes what she thinks is her rightful place as Queen and regent to the King and starts to govern the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately she does not have the cunning of her father, or her brother Tyrion, and so events in King’s Landing quickly spiral out of her control as she makes a series of increasingly poor decisions in her desire to discredit the young queen and rule without interference. While it was entertaining to see that she truly was as evil and idiotic as I believed her to be, I could not believe that it took as long as it did for the new High Septon to turn his attention to her lax morality.

Only one more (published) book to go and I am looking forward to finding out the fortunes of the characters sorely missed from this book – though given Martin’s explanation of how books 4 and 5 came about I guess I will be cursing him for not revealing the fates of Arya, Brienne and Cersei and the decision that Jaimie reaches.

Song of Ice and Fire Update

Still not reading very much in the way of comic books but have read another two books – strictly one and a half as book 3 is in two parts – of the Song of Ice and Fire series.

 

Book 2 was a bit strange in that I was looking forward to reading the Jon Snow and Daenerys chapters, as I was expecting an injection of more fantastical elements into the story, but they ended up being the most boring in the book as they didn’t really get up to much.

The most interesting chapters were those centred on events in King’s Landing – Tyrion’s and to a slightly lesser extent Sansa’s. Tyrion was moved into his element as Hand to the King as we saw his deviousness come to the fore.

Arya’s chapters were also good as she is on of the few characters whose story actually involves taking part in some sort of action. While a blessing for the company producing the TV series, the fact that a vast majority of the action takes place off stage might be slightly off putting for readers expecting any real clash of kings. The physical action only really hots up in the last third of the book.

 

I have book 3 as 2 paperbacks so in a sense it would be unfair to comment on it as a whole as part one only covers about 60% of the story. I was pleased to see Jaime get a set of chapters to himself as he is a character I love and hate (or love to hate) at the same time. Tyrion has lost some influence after the events at the end of book 2 and Jon Snow’s and Daenerys’ chapters are starting to pick up after the disappointment of book 2.

All in all I am still enjoying the series. The only black cloud is that I am half way through the published books with Martin saying that another 2 or 3 will be required to close off the series (aaaaahhhh!).

The Nerdliest Thing That I Did Today

Since I buy trade paperback collections of comics much more than individual issues these days, I am starting to amass quite a collection. So I was thinking that I need to find some way of easily cataloguing them so I know what I have as some are on bookshelves but a lot are stored in the loft of the house.

Since I have a barcode scanner on my Android phone I thought that it should be possible to scan the books and have them automatically added to a cataloguing service on the web. And sure enough you can. There may be several such services but I settled on the app LibraryThingScanner that works with LibraryThing as I already had a web account there that I wasn’t really using much up till now.

So this afternoon and evening I have catalogued the comic books on my shelves (unread and stored books still to do) and I am pretty happy with the results – it was a much better experience than I had with some specialist comic cataloguing tools. So now, as well as just having a list of my books on the web, I can change the display easily to different views and download a csv file for consultation when I don’t have web access.

One of the views is just a display of the book covers only which is very cool – click on the image below (and again when you get to image shack) for a full size version:

One happy nerd tonight!

A Game of Thrones

So I have just finished A Game of Thrones and enjoyed it very much. It probably helped that the TV adaptation was so good in the first place and made me want to read the book.

As with any adaption there are going to be differences between the book and the show – such as missing scenes, characters delivering other characters words – but I’ve got to say that while these things exist to a small extent, the TV series was a pretty faithful adaptation of the book.

There were a few major differences between the book and the TV series:

1. The ages of the characters. In the book the characters are quite a bit younger than they appear to be on the TV series. Daenerys starts the book at 13 years old – which makes her brother and the things that happen to her even creepier than in the TV series. Eddard Stark’s children are all young as well – Robb and Jon (although I don’t think Jon is Eddard’s son but I guess I will find out if I am right later) are 14.

2. Sex. I was glad to see that the frequent sex scenes in the TV show are, for the most part, not a feature of the book. The sex scenes always seemed to be gratuitous in the TV show and I think the show suffers because of them. I read an article recently that was an introduction to SciFi for the novice and one of the elements they claimed that SciFi contained that might be appealing to new readers was sex. I don’t know what they based this on as I rarely encounter sex scenes in the books that I read (the writer must have been a big Laurell K. Hamilton fan). I would hope that they were not required to give a genre series or book mass appeal.

3. Ros. The prostitute Ros has not appeared in this book. Is she a totally invented character? Is her only purpose to provide a pretty, distracting background as a major character in the story delivers some exposition? This seems to have been her role so far anyway.

4. Shae. This is one character that is made more interesting in the TV series compared to the book. In the book she just appears and sleeps with Tyrion a few times. In the TV series she is more feisty and intriguing in her dealings with Tyrion. I hope this is the scriptwriters speeding up her development in the series compared to the book. I will be disappointed if Martin’s portrayal of her does not introduce some of these elements to her character.

Having come to the books via the TV series I was confused by the passage of time. In the series there is no measure of the passage of time – other than in the development of the direwolf cubs which are bigger almost every time you see them. I was sort of disappointed that this is reflected in the original novel. Is not until late in the book when Tyrion reflects on events and mentions that almost a year has passed that you get a sense of things moving much more slowly than the pace of the novel would suggest.

Anyway I will be pressing on with the next novel and hoping that the intrigue is maintained and looking forward to more fantastic elements being introduced via Jon’s travels beyond the Wall and Daenerys’ quest for revenge.