Tuesday 7 December 2010

Book Reviews

Grandville Mon Amour
Bryan Talbot

Available Now - £16.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Set three weeks after the finale of Grandville, Inspector LeBrock is pitted against an old adversary - Edward 'Mad Dog' Mastock - a psychotic serial killer whose shocking escape from the Tower of London triggers a hyper-violent and exciting chain of events.

LeBrock, still racked by remorse for his failure to save Sarah Blaireau, embarks on a quest to redeem himself by tracking down Mastock and bringing to an end his horrific murder spree. Aided by Detective Ratzi, he follows the trail of carnage to Grandville. It's the largest city in a world dominated by France, a city used to violence following the years of terrorist bombings by the extreme fanatic wing of the British resistance during the occupation, the notorious Angry Brigade, of which Mastock was the sadistic leading light. With his customary tenacity, LeBrock stalks his prey through a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, an underclass of humans and automaton robots...

The original Grandville, released last year, was probably the best graphic novel of 2009. A subtle blend of Sherlock Holmes, Takashi Miike and Jules Verne, it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Grandville Mon Amour is at least as good as its predecessor (if not better than), although in subtly different ways.

Talbot is already a highly regarded artist, but it has to be said that the artwork is a vast improvement over the original (no mean feat!). The story takes things in a much darker and more violent direction than the original; this is much more Dirty Harry than Sherlock Holmes. That’s not to say that fans of the original won’t like it - there’s enough of the original tone remaining - but it’s obvious that LeBrock has been much more affected by the death of Sarah than the original novel implied.

There are a couple of minor grumbles. The frequent puns are of the “mildly amusing at first, become more irritating as it goes along” type, and the ending feels a little rushed; but these are not enough to detract from how amazing everything else is. If you aren’t on the train to Grandville, then it’s time you got on board.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent bloody hyper-violence and gunplay, murder and torture.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial furry nudity and depictions of prostitution.
Swearing: Frequent, but not strong.
Summary: An awesome pulp/action adventure from one of the finest artists working today. Equally grim and hilarious, Grandville Mon Amour is a great sequel. 9/10
Star Trek – The Original Series: Omnibus
IDW Publishing

Available Now - £18.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Another of IDW’s Omnibus collection series, this time chronicling the adventures of James T. Kirk and crew, is here. Omnibus editions, both from IDW and its Distinguished Hompetition can be fantastic value for money, collecting titles that are generally quite hard to get...but at £18.99, is this one worth the wonga?

This collection opens with with Klingons: Blood Will Tell, an evocative and moody story of Klingon politics, legends and warfare. Anyone interested in the ridgy headed ones will love this story, and the artwork isn’t bad either.

The complete run of Year Four is also included, and this is more than a little hit and miss. The artwork is rather sloppy and, all in all, the stories are very inconsistent.

Alien Spotlight: The Vulcans is a really good Captain Pike era story, although it does suffer from what I can only describe as “Spock Sucking”. Some Star Trek writers love Spock so much they seem to want to make every story revolve around him. It’s a little irritating, but it doesn’t spoil this from being an excellent story.

Alien Spotlight: The Gorn is a pretty lacklustre entry. It doesn’t really show us anything about the Gorn and it’s fairly predictable.

The final Alien Spotlight, The Romulans, is pretty dire. It contains several inter-show references that will doubtless have hardcore Trekkies fondling themselves with glee, but it doesn’t stop it from being a point of view that no-one really wanted to see (see also:
The Force Unleashed II Graphic Novel).

The final story collected in this Omnibus is the fantastic Enterprise Experiment, which feels like could have been a great two-parter episode of the original show. All the characters are spot on, and it’s a great Star Trek adventure.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
The usual Star Trek space combat, lasers, explosions and grappling.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None
Summary: A few duff stories stop this compilation from being essential, but there’s certainly plenty of bang for your buck. Great fun for Trekkies. 7/10
Warhammer 40,000: Fear the Alien
Games Workshop

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

This collection of short stories is themed around the many aliens of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, be it the mysterious Eldar, the bloodthirsty and brutish Orks or the devouring insectoid race of the Tyranids.

Fear the Alien benefits from the diversity of its stories. It could be a story of about the Imperium security force on a planet trying to track down an alien monster that is attacking the local citizens, or it could be about Terminators fighting against Genestealers. One such highlight is a story from the perspective of the Orks, which is a welcome change once you’ve read a several stories from the Imperium and fancy something lighter and more comical in nature. The variety of talent in this collection is also great, and includes pieces from WH40K veteran storytellers Dan Abnett and Nick Kyme.

On the downside, not all the stories are fantastic, I found a story about the Eldar Harlequins to be a bit too overlong and slow paced, but this may have been due to me not being a huge fan of the Eldar as a race. Seeing as it is hard to keep a compilation consistently fantastic, this is still a thoroughly enjoyable read, albeit one that will not entice new fans to the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of death via shooting, explosions and sharp alien claws. Just like everything to come out of the WH40K universe really.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few, but nothing really strong or that noticeable.
Summary: An enjoyable compilation of WH40K that covers a wide range of alien death and makes overall for a good read. However, there are a couple of slightly duff stories here, and the fact that you need to know your Tyranids from your Orks stops this being truly essential. However, if you love WH40K, there is plenty here to enjoy. 7/10

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