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Book Review – Ex-Purgatory

Ex-Purgatory (Ex-Heroes, #4)Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of alternate realities in comic books. Often they are a cop out because they allow the creators to twist characters around in all sorts of directions before resetting the world back to the norm, and undo everything in the story.

That being said, I really like Ex-Purgatory, probably because of the good use of an alternate reality.

As with the other books in Clines Ex series, We follow the adventures of superheroes St. George, Stealth, ZZZap, Cerberus, and others as they deal with a post zombie apocalypse Los Angeles.

Well, sort of. This book begins with our heroes in a world pretty much like our own, not even realizing who they are. Throughout the book, clues are dropped. Moments of superhuman ability, flashes of a nightmarish world, and one hero, Corpse Girl (introduced in Ex-Communication) who seems to remember the world that was. Can our heroes return to their own world? More importantly, why would they want to return to a world that is overrun with the undead?

Clines once again manages to evade the obvious pitfall that can come with zombie series. It is far too easy to put the main characters through the same heroes fight zombies pattern. But Clines doesn’t. In fact, the zombies are almost tertiary to the main plot in this book, acting only to remind the heroes of the world they should remember.

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5 Zombie Tales That Pass Muster

Night of the Living Dead screenshot -- a young...

Night of the Living Dead screenshot — a young zombie (Kyra Schon) and her victim (Karl Hardman). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have written how I feel about zombies in the past.  So many times,  I have seen zombie stories lose track of what is important, the people affected by the zombie outbreak.  In telling stories about the zombie horde, creators tend to allow character development to fall off, leaving the main (living) characters to become flat, almost like the zombies they are fighting against.  I’ve seen it happen with the recent World War Z movie, and with the multitude of Night of the Living Dead knock off tales that seem to gain more attention around this time of the year.

That is not to say that there are not a few good zombie stories.  You just have to find them, and that can sometimes take a little work.

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Book Review – Ex-Communication

Ex-Communication (Ex-Heroes, #3)Ex-Communication by Peter Clines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, the third in the Ex-Heroes series, kicks off with our heroes back in Los Angeles and under siege. However, the ex-humand outside the gates of The Mount are not the only thing they have to contend with. They must also deal with ghosts from their past as well.

This book does not fall into the usual pitfalls that many zombie oriented series fall into. The author remembers that the humans reacting to their situation should be the focus and not the zombies. He also manages to kick up the zombie threat in this book as he had done with previous books in the series, thanks to the character Legion.

The author also keeps things interesting within the walls of the Mount as well with good use of both new characters and returning characters as well.

As you might expect from the title, there is some exploration of religion in this post-zombie apocalypse world, exploring moral decisions of the heroes, but also new beliefs that arise among the people of the Mount.

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Book Review – Beyond Dinocalypse

Beyond Dinocalypse (Dinocalypse Trilogy, #2)Beyond Dinocalypse by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When last we left our intrepid adventurers the Centurions, they were tumbling through time. Beyond Dinocalypse picks up the story shortly after the first book of the series Dinocalypse Now. Our heroes, Jet, Amelia, Benjamin, Atok and Khan find themselves some years in the future, one dominated by dinosaurs.

This book picks up the adventure at the same pace at the first book. The time lost heroes are reunited with old allies, long since changed by the nightmare world they live in. The book leaves our heroes struggling with helping the people now, or trying to find a way of going back and fixing the world before it goes to Hell.

Like the first book, this one is a fast read that any fan of the classic pulp heroes will love. The story twists and turns as the heroes struggle to find their place in the new world.

Also featured in this book is the short story Truth and Illusion, which focuses on another Centurion and his role in things, both in the past and in the nightmare of a future.

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Book Review – Dinocalypse Now

Dinocalypse Now (Dinocalypse Trilogy, #1)Dinocalypse Now by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is perfect for fans of the pulp heroes like Doc Savage, The Shadow, and the Green Hornet, along with contemporary heroes like Indiana Jones and the Rocketeer.

The world of the 1930s is being invaded by dinosaurs, and the only ones who can defend it are the Century Club, a global group of stalwart adventurers. The action is fast paced as we travel of the globe with our heroes as they face everything from dinosaurs to talking apes to unscrupulous treasure seekers. It is a fun read that pulls you in from page one and does not let up.

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Book Review – The Angel of the Opera

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Angel of the OperaThe Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Angel of the Opera by Sam Siciliano

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am a major fan of Gaston Leroux Phantom of the Opera, and a fan of Sherlock Holmes as well, so you would think that this book, where the great detective meets the opera ghost would be perfect for me.

Sadly, I started to have reservations about this book when I read the “Dear Reader” section. In it, we find out that the narrator is not Holmes longtime companion Doctor Watson, but Dr. Henry Vernier, Holmes’ cousin. Furthermore, this section relates how Watson never portrayed Holmes accurately in his stories, which sent up red flags for me. The whole section seemed to serve as a justification for not writing a Sherlock Holmes story as Doyle would have, especially since Vernier plays out very similar to Watson for the rest of the story.

Worse still for me, nearly all of the beloved characters of The Phantom of the Opera come across as quite horrible people. Well, everyone except Erik the phantom himself. Often times, Holmes and Vernier are simply there as the story plays out similarly to the original Leroux novel, often times only serving to belittle the characters of Raoul and Christine.

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Book Review – Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines

Ex-Patriots (Ex-Heroes, #2)Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book picks up some time after the events of the first book of the series, Ex-Heroes. This book does learn something from other zombie books my adding some twists to the zombie concept. The superheroes of the Mount continue to work to protect the survivors of Los Angeles. It would have been easy for the author to simply tell another hero versus zombie story, but he ups the ante this time around as the U.S. Military is brought into the mix.

The book isn’t perfect by all means. There are times when the characters sound remarkably similar. And a lot of what happens is telegraphed. But the action in the book will draw you in and keep you page turning until the end.

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Book Review – Superman: The Unauthorized Biography

Superman: The Unauthorized BiographySuperman: The Unauthorized Biography by Glen Weldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Almost a companion to Larry Tye’s Superman: The High Flying History of The Man of Steel, this book focuses more on Superman rather than on the behind the scenes chaos that Tye’s book covers. More than just a record of the history of the Man of Steel, this book also looks at Superman in context of the world around him. Most importantly, it looks to answer the question: How has Superman endured for so long.

The book reveals that Superman has become more than just the creation of Siegel and Shuster, covering how Superman has grown through numerous contributions, not just in comics, but on radio, in serials, television, and film.

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5 Superman Projects To Check Out

A CGC-graded 8.5 copy of Action Comics #1 whic...

75 years ago this week, Action Comics #1 hit the newsstands, introducing America and the world to Superman.  Since that day, the Man of Steel has become one of the most recognizable comic character in the world, if not the most.  And with the latest Superman movie set to premiere this summer, it seemed only fitting for me to look back at some of the great Superman projects over the years.

Think of it as a primer.

  1. The Adventures of Superman – A classic of television shows.  I remember watching these in syndication as a child, never knowing the dark history that surrounded George Reeves.  The series did not go in for the major villains, but it was still fun watching the Man of Steel break up criminal rings throughout Metropolis.  The series is available on DVD.
  2. Superman cartoons – Heading way back to the era of the matinees, Max Fleischer created a number of Superman shorts that ran in theaters.  Unlike the television show, Superman’s foes were more in line with the comics, facing mad scientists and robot monsters.  These shorts are available on DVD and Youtube.com
  3. Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye – This book covers the history of the Man of Steel, from his humble origins in the minds of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to the legal turmoil that has plagued Superman in recent years.  Tye’s book covers everything about the Man of Steel, including the radio shows, the Fleischer cartoons, the television show, and even the movies.  Tye does not pull punches in this book as he reveals the behind the scenes drama that has accompanied the Last Son of Krypton over the years.
  4. Superman: The Movie – Directed by Richard Donner and starring a stellar cast, this was the epic tour de force for the Man of Steel, covering his origins right up to his clash with Lex Luthor.
  5. The Man of Steel – In 1986, DC Comics had just created a major restructuring of their comics universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths.  In its wake, DC started to relaunch their flagship characters, updating them for the modern times.  Written by John Byrne, The Man of Steel retold Superman’s origin for the 1980s, but did so much more.  Gone were much of what had been created in the Silver Age of comics, making Superman truly the Last Son of Krypton.  Even Superman’s long standing cast of supporting characters were revamped, from a modernizing of Lois Lane, to the transformation of Lex Luthor from criminal mastermind to unscrupulous (and untouchable) businessman.  Much of what Byrne created in this series stood until later writers began to return many of the classic elements of Superman.  But, this mini-series still remains a great read.

Book Review – Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch

Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch: Skull-Crushing True Stories of the Most Hardcore Duels, Showdowns, Fistfights, Last Stands, Suicide Charges, and Military Engagements of All TimeBadass: Ultimate Deathmatch: Skull-Crushing True Stories of the Most Hardcore Duels, Showdowns, Fistfights, Last Stands, Suicide Charges, and Military Engagements of All Time by Ben Thompson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For those of you who have read and liked the previous Badass books, you will not be disappointed with this one.

Thompson brings the same testosterone fuel he had from his two previous books to this one, now focusing on some of the great battles in history. Thompson does not limit himself to the big epic wars either, but looks to some of the smaller scale fights as well. Along side wars like the 100 Year War and the Punic Wars are specific battles like Gettysburg and Rorke’s Drift.

I cannot verify the historical accuracy of the events as Thompson tells them. But, I am intrigued enough by what I read to seek further information about the events he relates, if only to seek clarification. But, Thompson’s unique style definitely pulls you into the story and does not let go.

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