Bryan Talbot - Grandville
Brian Talbot has long been a favourite here. I'll get around to reviewing some of his related earlier work (the 2 Luther Arkwright books) at a later date. In the meantime here is the first of his series of anthropomorphic steampunk books - the very wonderful Grandville.
This first Grandville book concerns LeBrock and Ratzi's attempt to investigate the murder of a British diplomat. The investigation leads them to Grandville where they find themselves involved in a plot bigger than they could ever have imagined.
Anyone who has followed Talbot though the years will know that he is a consummate storyteller in both word and image. His plots are tight and plausible, his characters utterly human (or in this case, animal) and his illustrations perfectly paced and beautifully executed with a warmth to the art that radiates from the pages. The world of Grandville is sumptuously illustrated and beautifully reflects the opulence of the city with the world at it's feet. The technology is interwoven into both the storyworld and the narrative with seamless ease and in LeBrock and Ratzi we have two characters who are compulsive viewing. Ratzi in particular has become a firm favourite.
Even with all this going for it Grandville is a hard sell. Growing up reading comics funny animal books were always a particular dislike of mine and that view hasn't changed. Even knowing I would love what was inside it took me a small while to invest the necessary readies and take the plunge into it's covers. I'm certain I'm not the only one who shares this reticence for anthropomorphism. It is however a reticence that is worth putting aside (at least in the case of Grandville) as one soon forgets about the furry / scaly / hairyness of the participants and is swept along in the wake of a cracking whodunit.
Grandville really is something wonderful and worth both your time and your money.
Bryan Talbot - Grandville: Mon Amour
This is the sequel to the fantastic first book in Talbot's anthropomorphosised steampunk series. Detective Inspector LeBrock is back home after the events that led to the deaths of both Napoleon and his beloved Sarah. He's in a bit of a slump having locked himself away and drunk himself into a stupor. It takes his friend and partner (the frankly magnificent and dapper) Detective Ratzi to drag him from his torpor in time to investigate (unofficially) the escape of his old adversary Edward 'Mad Dog' Mastock who, having escaped from his execution in the Tower of London has headed for Grandville (Paris) and begins a murder spree against the cities prostitutes. LeBrock and Ratzi soon discover a link between these killings, the escape and events that lead to the very top of the new British government.
As I mentioned in my write-up of the first volume, I am a long time Bryan Talbot fan having read his work for pretty much as long as I've been reading comics. This series is amongst his finest work. It is stunning! the characters are real, which is saying something considering the main characters are a gun wielding badger and a rat with a straw boater and a monocle. It's unashamedly a pulp romp filled with ne'er-do-wells and heroes but that doesn't preclude it from being tightly plotted and filled with the most gorgeous eye-candy artwork. As before it's a sumptuously realised piece of work that is as beautiful to look at as it is to read.
Bryan Talbot - Grandville: Bete Noire
In the previous 2 volumes of Grandville LeBrock had dispatched the King of France an the then both his Chief Inspector and the Prime Minister. This leaves him with a fairly large space where potential enemies could be in this 3rd volume. In actual fact we get LeBrock versus the middle class industrialists and their plot to overthrow the revolutionary government that has taken over France since the death of the king. And, we get a sneak preview of who is going to be the villain of the fourth book.
As with the first two volumes this was superb, maybe even better than the previous.
LeBrock is asked by his friend the French Chief Inspector to assist after the murder of an artist. LeBrock is soon hot on the trail of the killer through the artistic community of Grandville (Paris) and also the abundance of machinery / robots that are suddenly all over the place. He also revitalises his relationship with the feisty Billie who proves herself more than equal to him both intellectually and physically as she helps defend the barricades, alongside the always fantastic and very dapper Roderick Ratzi, whilst LeBrock is off tackling those at the root of the plan.
It keeps on getting better and better this. Full of action and intrigue but with well defined characters who are becoming even more so as they reveal themselves on the page
John Taylor – Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries & other Stories
Four stories, ‘An Inscrutable Masquerade’, ‘The Conundrum of Coach 13’, ‘The Trinity Vicarage Larceny’ & ‘The 10:59 Assassin’, read by Benedict Cumberbatch.
The stories were fun enough in their way but really pretty thin. The best of the set was the first in which Watson is confined to the house while Holmes investigates a murder only to discover from a visitor that apparently not only have he and Holmes quarrelled but somehow whist not actually leaving the house he has been seen in town.
‘The Conundrum of Coach 13’ was a rather obvious heist story and ‘The 10:59 Assassin’ was just silly. I quite enjoyed the ‘...Vicarage Larceny’ mostly because it had the feel of one of the originals.
Cumberbatch reads the tales in Watson’s voice which is a little strange as you know it’s Sherlock but your hearing a middle aged Victorian Watson. He reads well though.
Ben Templesmith - Singularity 7
I'll be straight here. I bought this for the art. The story wasn't even a consideration. I'm pretty cynical about artists who decide they are going to be writers. Which was just as well as story wise this was a bit of a non-event. It's an OK idea but there's no real meat to the plot. Nothing essentially happens and then the world ends but doesn't.
The pictures though...gosh! He really is in a league of his own. I really dug his 30 Days of Night art but vampires are never my favourites so I wasn't too into the book. Fell on the other hand was an absolute beaute. Teamed with someone who can write, plot and layout Templesmith absolutely shines. Hopefully there'll be more soon.
Paul Tobin & Patrick Scherberger - Spider-man: Secret Wars
I remember getting to finally read the Secret War saga in my late teens and not really digging it too much. I was never much of a Marvel fan which didn't help but it all seemed just too clunky daft for words - which is going some for comics at that time.
This re-look at that story is by the writer and artist of the Marvel Adventures line but unlike those others from that line it hasn't been made specifically for kids. It is pretty much of that ilk though and probably should have been.
Scherbergers art is nice. Bold, striking, cartoony and with a logical flow to it. Tobin's writing is functional although the story is barely so as it relies far too much on prior knowledge of the Secret Wars narrative. He's got a good way with dialogue though and the decision to write it from Spidey's perspective was an astute move as you're guaranteed an everyman take on proceedings. There's not a lot else going for it though.
Keith Topping – Doctor Who Novellas: Ghost Ship
I was quite looking forward to this one. A fourth Doctor adventure with no companion cluttering things up. It turned out to be fairly disappointing. The ending and the set-up and the characters were all pretty solid but the Doctor himself was all over the place.
For me this is the Doctor most at home amongst the weird. He’s the one I’d expect to thrive on a ship full of ghosts and instead he spends most of it running around in terror. It just didn’t sit right with me all the way up to the very unsatisfying ending that grew out of the genuinely nasty undercurrent that runs through the story.
Mike Tucker - Doctor Who: Snowglobe 7
Another Earth based romp for The Doctor & Martha as they find themselves inside a giant glacier filled dome near the beach in Dubai.
Odd prehistoric markings have been found preserved in the ice and a number of the research team have either lapsed into a coma or are just plain missing. The Doctor soon discovers that it is the last of a race called the Gappa (part spider, part monkey, part bat) which lays it's eggs in the heads of it's victims which is nice of them.
It was a fairly ragtag journey to the end with a fairly nice but awfully short zombie scene but nothing much else to recommend it. Again though, the writer seems at a complete loss as to what to do with Martha.