Book review: The Boys by Garth Ennis

The Boys Omnibus, Volume One (The Boys Omnibus, #1)The Boys Omnibus, Volume One by Garth Ennis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The words you don’t want to hear from someone with superpowers: Because I can.

The Boys series by Garth Ennis shows us a world where superheroes are a marketing gimmick for a military-industrial company – Vought America – and these all-powerful beings – such as The Homelander – have to be kept from overindulging in hedonism, vice, and collateral damage. But there is more at stake, as Vought scheme and The Homelander plots.

It was interesting to revisit this series 7 years later as the TV series is set to commence. I remember enjoying the series for its interesting take on superheroes. Much like Irredeemable and Incorruptible, The Boys tries to imagine a more realistic scenario for how people with superpowers would behave. This gives Ennis a chance to pour in his trademark nudity, sex, violence, and toilet humour.

But underneath that facade is a much more interesting story. The Boys team are comprised of trauma victims who (mostly) have interesting story arcs. The superheroes are portrayed in a way that feels much truer to life; especially if you take them as a stand-in for actors, models, rich socialites or the like and the shady stuff we know they get up to. The political and business machinations throughout stands as a cautionary tale. And the series is pretty much one big swipe at the military-industrial complex.

I think I appreciated the depth of this series more on the second read. The Boys is worth reading, especially if you’ve seen other Ennis comics and ever wondered what he really thinks of superheroes.

A quick comment on the TV show: I’m hoping the series is good. From the trailer, it appears they’ll be doing some things a bit differently to the comics, notably The Homelander’s personality and the more prominent corporate criticism. Karl Urban, Antony Starr*, and Elizabeth Shue are great actors, so just their presence should make it worthwhile.

* Antony was the lead in the criminally underappreciated Banshee. If you haven’t watched that series, do so.

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Book Review: Rover Red Charlie by Garth Ennis

Rover Red CharlieRover Red Charlie by Garth Ennis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whenever the apocalypse happens in fiction there is always a plucky band of survivors trying to make it in the post-apocalyptic world. In real life post-apocalypse waits a few million years for the next species to come along and dig up the fossils and fail to learn from history. But in both these scenarios, no-one thinks about the dogs.

In Rover Red Charlie, Garth Ennis has journeyed back to his apocalyptic world of Crossed to ask the question, “What about the dogs?” How will they cope without their “feeders”, will they still be able to bark “I’m a dog”, and are they the ones who will inherit the planet once we’re all gone?

When I read Crossed three years ago I presented a one word review: “Disturbing.” It was quite possibly the most graphic depiction and the most depraved apocalypse I’ve ever read. Yet despite being set in the same world, Rover Red Charlie is quite light and fun; exactly what you would expect from the dog’s take on the apocalypse. The usual Ennis humour and social commentary is present (“The feeders went and messed up this world, guess they had to go.”) and the three friends and their journey of discovery is enjoyable.

An original take on the apocalypse and one for fans of Ennis and the genre.

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Book review: Hitman by Garth Ennis

Hitman, Vol. 1: A Rage in ArkhamHitman, Vol. 1: A Rage in Arkham by Garth Ennis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes you read something that leaves you scratching your head. I think this is one of those books. Either that or I need to change shampoo.

Garth Ennis’ Hitman is an interesting tale, almost something you would expect from a different publishing house to DC Comics. Tommy Monaghan is a freelance hitman working in Gotham city when he is bitten by a demon and picks up the ability to hear people’s thoughts, see through walls and wear sunglasses at night without looking like a douchebag. With his new abilities he makes the move into killing supercriminals. And since he works in Gotham, Tommy is soon confronting Batman. Well, Garth Ennis’ version of Batman….

I’m a huge fan of Garth Ennis’ work. He combines interesting story lines with humour and irreverence, simultaneously embracing and satirising whatever genre he is writing in. The Boys would have to be one of my favourite series, and Garth’s run in Punisher Max is legendary. It is these two series that leave me scratching my head about Hitman. There are a lot of similarities between Hitman and Punisher, and the main character of Tommy bears no small resemblance to Butcher from The Boys. So for me, having read Punisher and The Boys first, Hitman feels like a pale imitation – despite coming first.

So despite this being at times confusing (a poetic demon who inhabits a human discusses stuff with himself… oookaaay…) and unpolished versions of the above mentioned series, I did enjoy reading about Tommy killing people in Gotham.

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Tyson Adams’ 2013 Book Awards: The Awesomes

This is the third year of The Awesomes™, the award I give to books that had me staying up late to finish them, the books that had me rapt until the end, and sometimes past the end. I’ve read a few books this year (+70) so here are my favourites of 2013 and this year’s Awesome™.

As you will have noticed, my reviews of books are more about my impressions of the book and talking about how much I liked the book, rather than a recap of the plot, etc. My reasoning behind this is simple, I want to say “read this book” to people rather than fall into my bad habit of spoiling the ending, or being a bitch about books I didn’t enjoy. My list is based upon what I have read this year, so obviously some great books have missed out due to lack of reading hours in the year (blame the rugrat). Also my read list does include some books that were published prior to 2013. There were also some categories that were sadly under-represented, whilst others had some very intense competition. Also, the fact that I finished a book shows that it was worth reading. I have my reading rules that stop me wasting valuable reading time on books I’m not enjoying. This means that any books on my read list are entertaining (well, unless I was particularly disgusted with the crappiness of the book in question).

Awesome™ of 2013
Luther: The Calling – Neil Cross
Killer Instinct – Zoe Sharp
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Never Go Back – Lee Child
Without Fail – Lee Child
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
The Secret of Excalibur – Andy McDermott

Zero at the Bone – David Whish-Wilson

Awesome Literary Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Mystery & Thriller
Killer Instinct – Zoe Sharp
Without Fail – Lee Child
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
The Secret of Excalibur – Andy McDermott

Never Go Back – Lee Child

Awesome Crime
Luther: The Calling – Neil Cross
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Zero at the Bone – David Whish-Wilson

Awesome Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Paranormal Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Science Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Horror

The Strain trilogy – Guillmero Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

NB: cheating here as it was only 4 stars, but deserves the nod as the TV series is now in development and looks like they might have a winner.

Awesome Romance
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Humor
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Nonfiction

Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

Awesome Graphic Novels & Comics
Midnighter – Garth Ennis
Batman: The Black Mirror – Scott Snyder

Luthur Strode – Justin Jordan

Awesome Indie
No 5 star indies this year, although several 4 star and a few non-mentionables.

Awesome Poetry
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Shorts/E-zines
I’m putting this category in just so that I can pimp:

Thrills, Kills and Chaos

Still Awesomes
I re-read – well in some cases I listened to the audiobook – several books this year. They deserve a mention for still being awesome. Sometimes books are better on their second outing, sometimes they are worse, sometimes you wonder why you didn’t throw the book out the first time (I’m looking at you Holden Caulfield).

Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams (better than I remember)
Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul – Douglas Adams (similar to how I remember)
Life, the Universe, and Everything – Douglas Adams (similar)
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (slightly better)
Game Keeper – Guy Ritchie and Andy Diggle (better)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. I hope that I have a chance to read more fantastic books from these authors again in 2014 and that everyone else does too.

Punisher fan film: Dirty Laundry

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of The Punisher. I hadn’t actually read many of the comics until last year and the reason I started was I wanted to make sure I wasn’t treading the same old vigilante ground as a genre defining anti-hero like The Punisher with my own work. Not only was I highly entertained by the Garth Ennis runs of The Punisher and the Punisher Max series, but I can now avoid treading on The Punisher’s territory; something no-one should do!

The problem with The Punisher has been the three terrible movies that have been made. The first starred Dolph Lundgren, enough said. The second starred Thomas Jane and just didn’t work; I blame Travolta and studio cheesiness. The third film starred Ray Stevenson and had all the right elements but managed to mess it up. Now we have a fan film starring Thomas Jane that bleeds awesome!

I for one would love to see a Punisher film that hits the mark. Either Jane or Stevenson would be suitable and clearly Jane is interested in reprising the role. So Hollywood: can you not mess it up this time?

Tyson Adams’ 2011 Book Awards: The Awesomes

I’ve read a few books this year (+140) and have decided that I needed to talk about my favourites of 2011.  I also thought it fair to award my favourite reads of the year an Awesome.

As you will have noticed, my reviews of books are more about my impressions of the book and talking about how much I liked the book, rather than a recap of the plot, etc. My reasoning behind this is simple, I want to say “read this book” to people rather than fall into my bad habit of spoiling the ending.

My list is based upon what I have read this year, so obviously some great books (Snuff) have missed out due to lack of reading hours in the year. Also my read list does include some books that were published prior to 2011. There were some categories that were sadly under-represented and some that had some very intense competition.

Also, the fact that I finished a book shows that it was worth reading. I have my reading rules that stop me wasting valuable reading time on books I’m not enjoying. This means that any books on my read list are entertaining (well, unless I was particularly disgusted with the crappiness of the book in question).

Awesome of 2011

10 hours of non-stop reading fun, 12 if you count meal and toilet breaks. I could not put this book down, it had me enthralled with Reilly’s fast paced thrills and explosions. This books defines The Awesomes.
Also, I would like to extend my condolences to Matthew and his friends and family on the loss of his wife Natalie.

Awesome Literary Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
Awesome Mystery & Thriller
This is one of two heavily over-represented categories in this year’s Awesomes. 
Awesome Crime

Blood Work – Michael Connelly
13 Hours – Deon Meyer (technically I started it in 2011, but only finished it this year)



Awesome Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
Awesome Paranormal Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
Awesome Science Fiction

Peace Army – Steven L Hawk



Awesome Horror

Dead Man Series – Lee Goldberg, Will Rabkin, et al.



Awesome Romance
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
Awesome Humor
Right What You No – Tyson Adams’ blog
I’m allowed to be self-congratulatory. Plus I didn’t read any funny books this year.
Awesome Nonfiction
This is an oxymoron, so it is invalidated as a category. Having said that I did read several nonfiction books this year, mostly on climate change. I should make mention of On Writing by Steven King, which really had me agreeing with Steven’s insights.
Awesome Graphic Novels & Comics

The Boys – Garth Ennis

This is the second over-represented category on my list. 


Awesome Indie

Awesome Poetry
Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Book Review: Graphic Novels/Comics/Whatever

Graphic novel is a nice little term to make us comic fans feel like we have grown up and are reading more sophisticated fare than kids comics. If you want proof that there is no difference, just check the bastions of all knowledge: the Wikipedia topic discussions.

I’ve come up with a simple, definitive difference between comics and graphic novels: bad stuff actually happens in graphic novels. I remember the first Spiderman comic I read; he was fighting The Vulture and Kraven the Hunter. Spiderman got hurt, had work issues, women problems and had a cold. By the end of the comic he had defeated the baddies and only had women issues left to deal with, and they appeared to be on the improve as well. Kraven had the wind knocked out of him and went to jail. The Vulture was out cold from an electric shock and went to jail.

Let us compare this with Garth Ennis’ The Boys first edition. Within the first few pages a woman has been splattered against a wall and our protagonist is left holding her severed arms. A touch more graphic hence; graphic novel. Please excuse the homographic pun, I forgot to take my verbs this morning. Basically comics are not really for adults and graphic novels are definitely aimed at a more mature or adult audience.

As part of a Aussie Goodreads June Challenge I have decided to read a few more graphic novels. After watching The Losers at the beginning of this year I had already decided to read a few more of the works that were clearly taking Hollywood by storm (see what I’ve read here). I think it is always a good idea to follow trends from Hollywood, they always make good stuff.

Watchmen
What review of graphic novels would be complete without Alan Moore’s classic. Great story, great characters, great visuals, greatly depressing ending. Rorschach is quite possibly one of the greatest characters ever created. They made a decent movie of this, but you need the director’s cut with the Black Freighter story included.

The Losers
Andy Diggle wrote an interesting, humorous and offbeat series that was turned into a film in 2010. While the series is enjoyable I found that the witty dialogue and humour seemed to wane as the series continued.

The Gamekeeper
This is another Andy Diggle written work, with Guy Ritchie as the creator. Take one trained killer and give him a job as a manor gamekeeper, then have organised crime kill his boss; do you see where this might be going? Yeah, thought so.

Batman ala Frank Miller
Lets talk Batman: the non-superpowered superhero. Batman is one of my favourite comic book heroes and thank God/Christopher Nolan for actually making a decent film adaptation at last! Frank Miller took a comic book and made a graphic novel of it. Whether it be Year One, The Dark Knight Returns or The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Miller implores you to take Batman seriously. Oh and he has Batman beat seven shades of shit out of Superman.

Batman taken seriously

The Boys
Ever thought that superheroes were always just a little too uppity? Ever get the impression that the good guys would often cause just as much mayhem as the bad guys? Well Garth Ennis has written a series for you. This series seems to have stemmed from Garth’s work for Marvel comics and a specific edition of The Punisher: The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. This series has everything you would expect from an episode of The Young Ones. Fantastic.

300
I preferred the movie.

Witchblade
I started reading this Ron Marz series for two reasons. The first was that I had heard there was a movie adaptation planned. The second was:

Empowered women = good thing

Ron Marz and Mike Choi have created a visually stunning and intriguing series. Aside from the obvious teen appeal of the character depictions, it has to be said that the Witchblade series has some fantastic artwork on display.

The Punisher
Three pretty crappy movies have been made of this long running anti-hero series. In my mind there is only one Punisher author: Garth Ennis. I’ve read 3-5 years worth of Punisher comics and graphic novels this year, and I can actually spot when Garth has stopped being the author. You immediately notice that there is something lacking, or in some cases that it just plain sucks. Garth has had two runs at The Punisher, the first under the Marvel Knights imprint, the second under the MAX imprint. The MK series is, well, more aimed at people who don’t need to shave and think that vampires should sparkle. Garth makes it enjoyable, but really MAX is the graphic novel of Punisher. If they followed the Garth Ennis MAX story lines they might even make a decent Punisher movie before the second coming of Brian.

Reading Graphic Novels
I have a few tips for reading graphic novels. Buying your graphic novels as comic book reader (cbr) files is the e-book of the comic world: quick, easy and none of that pesky walking to a store. Of course, just like an e-book, you need a reader for your e-comics. Preferably you want an LCD or similarly sharp screen to enjoy the artwork (Witchblade really pops on an HD screen). Another thing you want to do is wait. Wait for your series to be finished and the collection to be released. Nobody wants to wait a month for the next edition. It’s like waiting for the next episode of Justified (or any other decent TV show), except instead of a week you have to wait a month. More frustrating than explaining the movie Inception to a blind and deaf insomniac.