This Christmas was the Year of the Books. In no order:
- “Valdez is Coming”, by Elmore Leonard – Western
- “Red Harvest”, by Dashiell Hammett – mystery, specifically noir
- “The Messenger”, by Markus Zusak – sort of mystery, sort of young adult literary fiction. Zusak is best known for his book “The Book Thief”, which (in a rare departure from my normal genre fare) is one of my favorite novels. “The Messenger” is…interesting. You may see a review of it on Superversive SF one day. Also, I am surprised to hear that it counts as young adult fiction – it certainly didn’t read that way.
- “Batman: The Long Halloween”, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale – Graphic novel/mystery (and believe me, it is as much or more a mystery as it is a superhero story). Really excellent stuff.
- “The Dark Knight Returns” – Supposedly Frank Miller’s masterpiece about an aging Batman who takes up the cowl again after a decade of retirement in an increasingly dystopian world. Early thoughts – eh, pretty good. Miller’s art style is interesting but not on the level of a guy like Mazzuchelli (who illustrated Miller’s BRILLIANT “Daredevil: Born Again” and his fun and atmospheric “Batman: Year One”), and I find myself somewhat unimpressed by the political satire.
As for the grimdark tone it’s worth remembering that when Miller did it, nobody had done it for a very long time, and he did it very well. Unfortunately, growing up in the wake of “Returns” and the influence it had on the industry means that everything feels far too familiar to me. The creativity that must have shone through when it was originally written is gone.
All of that said, I’m nitpicking more than anything. It is REALLY, really good, and I expect it will keep improving as I read on.
- “Kingdom Come”, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross – A beautifully illustrated graphic novel that sort of works as a response to the trends set by “The Dark Knight Returns”. The premise: The original superheroes – with the exception of the street level heroes like Batman, who always operated on their own terms for more specific interests – have retired. The new generation of heroes, some of them the children of those original heroes, have gotten looser and looser moral codes, culminating in a sort of “might makes right” ethos among the superpowered. Superman, long retired, is coaxed out of retirement by Wonder Woman, where they reunite the original superheroes and lay the smackdown on the 90’s antiheroes who have taken over.
I’m not far in, but this is really, really, really good so far. I look forward to seeing where it goes.
This year ended up being the year of the mystery, with no less than three mysteries ending up in my possession, as well as the year of the graphic novel (eh, comic book, if you’re so inclined). I’m pretty happy with the haul this year.