Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2

Oh man. I was excited and looking forward to the start of Season 2 of The Walking Dead. After seeing the extended trailer I simply can't wait. It looks amazing. And frightening. And gory. And stunning. And frightening. Did I mention it looks frightening. I mean, Jesus, the trailer is terrifying.

I loved Season 1. For me it was one of the best shows on TV last year. I was already a fan of the comic book that the show is based on. Written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Cliff Rathburn and Charlie Adlard, The Walking Dead is one of the most intelligent, entertaining and affecting comic series I've ever read. I caught up with most of it through the trade paperbacks. Volume 8 of the trades was one of the most affecting things I have ever read. In terms of 'comic books' it is superlative. I have never read a page of a comic book as slowly as I did reading the scene with Tyrone and The Governor. The realisation of what was inevitably going to happen was shocking. I couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it. But no. They went and did it. And as for the rest of the book. It still haunts me.

As for the TV adaptation I had high hopes because of the involvement of Frank Darabont. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. From Andrew Lincoln's tour-de-force performance (and very convincing American accent) to the brutal special effects, the breakneck speed that the story moves along, together with the quiet, reflective moments, the cast of supporting characters (some familiar from the books, some new faces introduced for the TV adaptation), the heartbreak, the suspense, the drama, the horror. And the zombies. Well I had to use the word at some point. In the TV show the zombies are very frightening. They look horrendous. Greg Nicotero has done a marvelous job here and I'm so pleased he's continued on season 2. The whole thing was just brilliant. It was so much more than a TV show about zombies. So much more.

I implore you to watch it. Catch up on season 1, then get very excited for season 2. Trailer below.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

George Pelecanos - The Cut

 George Pelecanos’s latest novel The Cut introduces a new character Spero Lucas. I really hope it is the first of a new series featuring this character because as usual with Pelecanos he has produced another fascinating creation.

Lucas is an investigator of sorts, working mainly for defence attorney Tom Petersen. However he also takes on occasional side work, often working in the shadowy boundaries of the law, which immediately increases the potential for trouble in Lucas’s life. This potential is realised when Lucas takes on a job for an incarcerated drug dealer, who happens to be one of Petersen’s clients. Hired ostensibly to find out who has stolen a drug package, the job inevitably goes bad, quickly. Two of the drug dealer’s soldiers are brutally murdered and Lucas is suddenly thrust into a violent world which threatens to drag in his family and other innocent people Lucas comes into contact with. Things get significantly worse when Lucas is assaulted and kills his attacker.

Lucas is now in a position which can only lead to two outcomes. Either he kills the other people involved in the operation or he will inevitably be killed himself, and harm could come to the people closest to him as well. There is an unexpected twist at the end of the book and justice is ultimately served in a round about way, giving a certain sense satisfaction for the reader.

As mentioned above, Spero Lucas is a really interesting character. He is flawed, as many of Pelecanos’s characters are, but not in a clich├ęd way. His flaws make him more real. Lucas is presented as a respectful, generous man with a strong moral code. However as the book progresses these traits are brought into question. For instance we are left to question whether it was necessary for Lucas to kill the man who attacks him, when he could easily have used his military training to disarm the man. This is something Lucas questions himself, but not agonisingly. I think he ultimately accepts it as a consequence of the life he has chosen for himself.

Lucas is a young man who has been forced to grow up fast by his time in the military. As he says towards the end of the book, “I missed out on the good part of my twenties. When everyone else was in college, going to parties and whatever, being young, I was in the desert.” This is the most he has spoken about his time in the war but it is clearly such a huge event in his life which colours everything he now does. He’s trying to find his place in the world and he makes mistakes along the way, but he is trying to do the right thing.

He spends time with his family – his aging mother Eleni and his adopted brother Leo. Spero is also adopted, which gives a nice dynamic to his relationship with his white brother and their Greek mother. The paradox of his life is that he is trying to protect the people dear to him but his work inevitably brings them close to danger and violence. 

The themes of family values, life choices and the importance of education, both scholarly and street based, are familiar ones Pelecanos often revisits. They are themes well worth revisiting because, as usual, they yield gold-dust prose and dialogue here.

The familiar tropes of music, film, books, food, sex, clothes and cars are also present in The Cut. It never fails to amaze me how easy Pelecanos makes it to imagine yourself in the story. The sights, smells and sounds of Spero Lucas’s world leap off the pages, freeing themselves from their confines of paper and ink and assaulting the readers’ senses. You are immediately there, living and breathing the world he has created.

I have read and enjoyed every book Pelecanos has written so far, and for my money he is one of the best writers around today, in any genre. The Cut is no exception. I loved this book and I loved the new characters it introduces. I hope to see more of them very soon. 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The good things in life

Woahhh. September has been a busy old month, both personally and in terms of stuff coming out. Let me clarify that last sentence. I mean there's been loads of activity in the world of comics, great TV (being broadcast on UK stations), books, music, so much 'stuff'.

It gets a little overwhelming sometimes. I recall Dara O'Briain doing a routine about the amount of stuff in his life - new technology, music, films, books, the internet - and the fact that it's impossible to keep up with everything. Then it overwhelms you and you long for the days when you had to buy a newspaper to read the news, go to the cinema to watch the latest films, and browse in book and record shops to find the latest new thing. Imagine that!

Now, I love the fact that almost any information I require is available at the touch of a few buttons on a keyboard or the touch screen of my phone. And I can view, sample, listen to watch things before I buy them online - fab. But I also love to SLOWLY browse in real bookshops and charity shops, rifle through second hand CD racks, and leisurely pick my way through the treasure trove that are the back issue boxes in my local comic shop.And I think all the above activities can happily co-exist.

Anyway, as I was saying, September has been an exceptionally busy month for cool stuff. Not least because of the huge relaunch of DC Comics entire line of monthly comics. 52 in total. Now I haven't bought them all, my budget would not allow it. But I have checked out more of them than I first thought I would. And some of the best titles have been the ones that have completely taken me by surprise. Titles which I thought I would check out the first issue and then drop straight away. A case in point is Animal Man by Jeff Lemire, with art by Travel Foreman. I was not familiar with either of these guys work, but boy they have produced a truly great comic as far as I'm concerned and judging by reaction on the internet a lot of people agree. I really wasn't expecting this book to be as good as it is. Animal Man is not a character I've had much exposure to but he is really interesting, certainly not your typical superhero in a Superman or Avengers sense. We meet him as a family man, concerned with environmental issues and torn between his hero guise and his home life. He is really well developed as a character in this first issue by Lemire and the art is fantastic, again because it isn't the slick superhero type art that you expect from the main DC and Marvel titles. I'm really excited to see how these guys develop this book.

I'm still reading this weeks DC titles but so far my favourites of the relaunch are Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Nightwing, Batman, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batwoman. Oh Batwoman. If you've never read a comic before I would heartily recommend Batwoman because it is absolutely gorgeous. A stunning achievment by JH Williams III which proves comics are an art-form.

I also read the new masterpiece by George Pelecanos this month. It's called The Cut and I'll be posting a review of it here soon.

Finally, for now, Hard Case Crime have this month released a brand-spanking new Lawrence Block book, writing as Jill Emerson. It is titled Getting Off and the cover alone is enough to make you want to buy the damn thing. You can’t deny it. Unfortunately it’s not released in the UK until January so I may have to utilise a popular online auction site to get my hands on a copy before then. You can read a sample chapter here and see the cover below. I told you.

Finally, again, I overheard somebody saying "Well the thing is, she likes the good things in life." My good lady pointed out what a strange saying this is. And she's right. I mean who doesn't like the good things in life? Are there people wandering around professing to like the bad things in life? It strikes me that it is something said from a position of jealousy and envy by frugal people about their more carefree friends. Well, I like the good things in life and I am not going to apologise for it. I will continue to indulge in the good things in life and tell you about them here.

I'm done for now.