Thursday, 15 April 2010

Book Reviews

The Simpsons Futurama Crossover Crisis
Matt Groening
Abrams Comicarts

Available Now - £15.99 (Hardback)
Review by Blake Harmer

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the Simpsons universe and the Futurama universe were ever to meet? Well Bongo Comics, makers of The Simpsons and Futurama comics, did. So when the evil brain spawn imprison the Planet Express crew inside a Simpsons comic book, it is up to them and the citizens of Springfield to figure out a way of getting the crew home.

Firstly, I would like to say that this collection is superbly presented in hardback form and even comes with a copy of the first ever The Simpsons comic in the back for your reading pleasure. However, the story is great too, the characters are perfectly captured and the jokes are filled with geeky references and comic meta-humour that you could expect from Futurama. You know Bongo Comics have done a good job when you can read the comic with the characters voice in your head and it fits perfectly.

The only real downside to this collection is that the humour, despite it being of a high quality, doesn’t quite match the TV shows at their peaks. However, seeing as this is such a well made collection with lots of artwork and extras, I can confirm that you wouldn’t be disappointed, especially if you consider yourself to be a whore for anything Matt Groening flavoured.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Plenty of comical violence as can be expected from an average episode of The Simpsons or Futurama but nothing truly gruesome.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few mild swear words such as you would expect from Futurama or The Simpsons, but again nothing really strong.
Summary: A great collection that truly captures the spirit of Futurama and The Simpsons and how they would react if their worlds were thrown together. The only thing that lets it down is the fact that, overall, the humour doesn’t match the quality of the TV shows at their peaks. However, if you love The Simpsons or Futurama, then you won’t be disappointed with this. 8/10

Star Trek - Romulans: Pawns of War
John Byrne
Idea & Design Works

Available Now - £14.99 (Paperback)
Review by Blake Harmer

Pawns of War tells the story of the Romulans forming an alliance with the Klingon Empire to share their technologies. But can this be true? Are the Klingons merely manipulating the Romulans and their power-mad Praetor in order to use them to start a war with the Federation?

This six issue comic book collection from John Byrne contains a lot that Star Trek fans will love: space battles, powerful ships and a strong story filled with plot twists. Fans will also love the fact there is a retelling of the Balance of Terror episode from the original Star Trek, but from the perspectives of the Romulans rather than that of Kirk and crew.

However, that is one of the biggest problems with this comic is that it has been made with Star Trek fans in mind, and makes it very difficult to follow the plot if you do not already have a grounding in Romulans, Klingons or anything to do with the original Star Trek series. Another glaring problem is the fact that the artwork doesn’t really help with showing what is going on very well, so the reader has to rely heavily on what the characters are describing. Whilst this would be fine in a book, it does render a comic completely useless and makes the story even harder to grasp.

In short, this is a comic that would have worked better as a book, and even then I would only recommend it to fans of the series. Newcomers should avoid like the plague.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of space battles but the poor artwork makes it difficult to discern what is actually going on a lot of the time.
Sex/Nudity: There is a scene where two Klingons have sex, but you don’t see much (Thankfully!).
Swearing: None to my recollection, but then again, the Star Trek franchise isn’t particularly well known for it.
Summary: A comic book that has obviously been made just for the fans, but is let down by some pretty shoddy artwork. There is a good story here that Star Trek fans will love, but unless you know your stuff, I couldn’t recommend it to casual comic book lovers. 6/10

This Is Not A Game
Walter Jon Williams
Little, Brown Book Group

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Once upon a time, there were four of them. And though each was good at a number of things, all of them were very good at games...

But when one of them is gunned down in a parking lot, the survivors become players in a very different kind of game – one that is played for the highest stake of all. Now they must draw on all their resources – not least millions of online gamers – to track down the killer. Imagine a game with no boundaries. Waiting in a parking lot, sitting at your computer, walking down the street – you could be called at any moment, and you’d better be ready.

The writing displayed here is flawless. Easy to follow, yet still containing subtle nuances and embellishments. Really, this is fantastic stuff. All of the characters here are solid and believable. The subtle manipulations between the real world and the game world, and the extent to which they cross over are fantastic. This is one of the most original cyber-thrillers I’ve discovered in a long time.

Whilst it is well-written and a fantastic concept, it doesn’t really seem to have the strength to carry it all the way through, and there is a very definite dip in activity around the three-quarters of the way in mark, but it ramps it back up for a fantastic ending.

If you like crime fiction or cyber-punk, this is one that is worth picking up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some scuffing, shooting and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Mentioned in conversation or vague flashbacks, but nothing explicit.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: A fun, cyber-thriller. Well worth a read. 8/10

1636 - the Thirty Years War, one of Europe's most vicious conflicts, is at its bloody peak. Spanish armies swarm out of the Artois region of the Netherlands and into Louis XIII's France. Only the sleepy border of Dax-en-roi stands in their way.

The Chevalier de Roland rises to the challenge but the household guard is no match for the invaders. Only one survivor escapes the brutality - a young boy named Andre de Roland - the new Sieur of Dax.

All hope lies on this boy's shoulders. He must honour his people and only he can decide their fate. A man with no honour is no man at all. A.L. Berridge's Honour and the Sword bears all the trademarks of yet another historical bestseller from Michael Joseph.

A.L. Berridge is Louise Berridge, ex-Executive Producer of EastEnders, whose resignation prompted a flurry of media headlines. She is now indulging her passion for history, and her love for anything involving swords.

Thanks to our friends at Michael Joseph, we've got five copies of Honour and the Sword to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to honourandtheswordgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Thursday 22nd April (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Predators, a bold new chapter in the Predator universe, shot under the creative auspices of Robert Rodriguez, stars Adrien Brody as Royce, a mercenary who reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors who come to realise they’ve been brought together on an alien planet... as prey. With the notable exception of a disgraced physician, they are all cold-blooded killers – mercenaries, Yakuza, convicts, death squad members – human “predators” that are now being systemically hunted and eliminated by a new breed of alien predators.

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