Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Bad Chili

Bad Chili Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A local biker is murdered and Leonard is the prime suspect. After being bit by a possibly rabid squirrel, Hap gets out of the hospital and starts investigating. Can Hap and Leonard escape a web of blackmail, murder, bikers, and less savory things?

My reread of the Hap and Leonard books I haven't written reviews for continues. In this, the fourth volume, Lansdale introduces a couple new characters to the Hap and Leonard mythos that will be important for years to come: Hap's hot nurse girlfriend Brett and Jim Bob Luke, the cockiest detective in the world. At least one long-running character makes his exit.

The case starts simple enough. A biker who'd been seen with Leonard's boyfriend is found shotgunned to death and all fingers point to Leonard, who goes on the lam. Hap tries to hide Leonard while figuring things out and steps in a hornet's nest of grease nappers and brutal videos of gay men getting raped.

This is the fourth Hap and Leonard book I've re-read and I'm continually shocked at how brutal the early tales were compared to the more recent ones. Even though the Lansdale humor is in full effect, I never get the feeling the guys are working with a safety net, a feeling common in series detective books.

As usual, the bad guys were pretty vile, although I wasn't sure who the true villains were for much of the book. Since I was a beardless young man the first time I read this, it was like reading a new book for the most part. The ending was pretty brutal, as a lot of Lansdale endings were in the early days. Uncle Joe sure doesn't mind putting his characters through the meat grinder.

The Hap and Leonard series continues to roll on, mojo style. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Two-Bear Mambo

The Two-Bear Mambo The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hap's ex-girlfirend Florida disappears while investigating the murder of blues musician's son. Hap and Leonard, on behalf of Marvin Hanson, go Grovetown, a racist hive of scum and villainy, to investigate. Will they find Florida and bring her back?

2016 Reread:
My quest to reread all of the Hap and Leonard books before the TV series drops so I can lord it over everyone else continues. In this, the third Hap and Leonard book, the boys go looking for Florida, Hap's ex and the current girlfriend of Marvin Hanson, their detective friend. Florida went to the most racist town in Texas investigating a jailhouse suicide that may have been murder and wound up missing.

The boys don't actually do a whole lot of detective work in this one. They mostly crack wise and get their asses handed to them. I'd forgotten the beatings Hap and Leonard take in earlier books.

Grovetown seems like a horrible place, backward and racist, but all too plausible. Lansdale peoples it with interesting characters, most of them with hidden depths. Since it's been at least a decade since I read this the first time, I'd forgotten most of the wrinkles of the plot and was pretty surprised by the ending.

The Lansdale wit is in full effect in this one. Even after reading mostly Lansdale in recent days, I still find myself surprised at his skill with colorful similes, like Raymond Chandler drenched in Miller High Life.

While it wasn't my favorite Lansdale book, The Two-Bear Mambo was still a very solid read, even the second time. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: FF, Vol. 2: Family Freakout

FF, Vol. 2: Family Freakout FF, Vol. 2: Family Freakout by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The FF plan to bring the Fanastic Four back to earth in time to stop Doctor Doom, Kang, and Annihilus from becoming Doom the Annhilating Conqueror. Things don't go as planned...

Matt Fraction and Michael Allred's run on FF ends with a bang. The FF take in Impossible Man's son Adolph, try to bring back the Fantastic Four, and go to war with Doctor Doom. Fraction does a lot to elevate Scott Lang in this volume and goes a long way toward dragging him out of Hank Pym's size-changing shadow.

The battle with Doom was very well done and Doom was true to his scene-chewing self. Fraction's portrayal of The Watcher was also pretty great and I loved the stuff on the blue area of the moon. Ahura stepping up for the war was also a nice touch.

Much like the last volume, this book reads like a modern day love letter to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby days of the Fantastic Four. It's a damn shame this is the last of Matt Fraction and Mike Allred on FF. It's been a lot of fun. Four out of five stars.

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Review: FF, Vol. 1: Fantastic Faux

FF, Vol. 1: Fantastic Faux FF, Vol. 1: Fantastic Faux by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The new FF are struggling to hold down the fort. Bentley gets up to some mischief. The future Human Torch awakens and the future he's predicted draws nearer.

Ant-Man and company continue trying to fill the shoes of the Fantastic Four and go up against a leviathan, The Wizard, Blastaar, and The Inhumans but their biggest enemies seem to be themselves.

That might be stretching it a little but Matt Fraction and Mike Allred have created a throwback to the Fantastic Four of the 1960's, a bickering team that still feels like a family.

I dig Matt Fraction's writing. Maybe not as much as Dan Slott's on the Silver Surfer but he does a good job of writing something that works to Mike Allred's strengths and fits his art style. He also gets some mileage out of The Wizard and the Inhumans, something I don't think many writers do a good job of. I also like how he's planting seeds for the next volume while doing some good character development within the FF cast.

I really like what Matt Fraction is doing here and I'm keen to start the next volume. Four out of five stars.

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Review: Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals

Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: New Departure, New Arrivals by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reed Richards is dying and plans an expedition through all of space-time to find a cure with the rest of the Fantastic Four and the two Richards kids. Before they leave, the FF recruit their substitutes; Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa, and some chick the Torch was boning. The FF is only planning on being gone for four minutes of Earth time. What could go wrong?

Confession time: I have over 100 issues of Fantastic Four scattered in the various comic boxes in the Dan Cave. When I saw Marvel was doing a non-standard Fantastic Four series with Mike Allred doing the art chores, I waited patiently for this very volume to fall into my clutches.

This volume is split into two threads. The iconic Fantastic Four lineup preparing to leave earth for parts unknown, and the subs, Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa, and Miss Thing. I pretty much only picked up this volume for the second thread.

While the stuff with the iconic lineup is pretty good, I found the storyline of the subs trying to fill the shoes of the real deal to be far more interesting. I love future Human Torch coming back to warn the new team of a menace and the homage to Fantastic Four #1 from way back in 1961 in the form of Mole Man attacking the surface world.

Matt Fraction's storyline is very intriguing but I'd be lying if I didn't say Mike Allred's art is the main reason I was up for it. I've been a fan of his pop art style since Madman and love what he does with the Fantastic Four here.

Even though this volume is short, it stands alone pretty well on its own while leaving enough unanswered questions to get me to read the next one. Four out of five stars.

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Review: Silver Surfer, Vol. 3: Last Days

Silver Surfer, Vol. 3: Last Days Silver Surfer, Vol. 3: Last Days by Dan Slott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Silver Surfer and Dawn get trapped in a time loop, get stuck on a paradise planet, and try to rebuild the universe.

Here we are, the final volume, as of now, of Dan Slott and Michael Allred's run on The Silver Surfer. Honestly, it's kind of a mixed bag, though I can't lay the blame solely on the Surfer's gleaming shoulders.

The first story is a time loop that's depicted in a creative way, the panels forming a Moebius strip. First off, I thought this was very clever and pertinent to the story, not as gimmicky as I originally thought. I loved that the story featured Space French-speaking aliens and the area the Surfer and Dawn traveled through was called The Giraud expanse, a nice reference to noted French comic artist Moebius, aka Jean Giraud.

The second story was also pretty good. It turns out Surfer and Dawn never left the paradise planet they found in the first story. Paradise wasn't what it was cracked up to be.

The third story featured Dawn and Surfer taking the long way back to Earth, visiting everyone they met in the previous two volumes. It reminded me of the 10th Doctor's swan song before his regeneration and made me think I wouldn't be pleased with the final story in the collection.

The fourth story is what sucked half a star of enjoyment out of the book. It's a shame that this title's revolutionary run was derailed by Secret Wars. Still, it was cool seeing The Silver Surfer and Dawn attempting to rebuild the universe.

While I didn't like the abrupt ending to the series due to Secret Wars, Slott and Allred did a good job making chicken salad with the chicken parts they were given. I hear the series is coming back and I'll be ready when it does. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Honky Tonk Samurai

Honky Tonk Samurai Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When an old lady shoots some video of Leonard kicking the shit out of a dog abuser, she tasks Hap & Leonard with finding her missing grand daughter in exchange for not informing the authorities. Hap & Leonard are soon up to their eyebrows in a stew of blackmail, prostitutes, and a testicle taking killer called The Canceler...

The dynamic duo really stepped in a steaming pile in this one. Brett, Hap's girlfriend, bought Marvin Hanson's detective agency and the boys are now legit private eyes. Their first licensed case might be their last. Honky Tonk Samurai brings a few of the Hap & Leonard supporting cast members together like the A-Team. Jim Bob Luke, Cason, and Vanilla Ride all have pretty big roles as Hap and Leonard try to unravel the case. Booger, the newbie, was much more interesting than I originally thought. Complicating matters are a young woman who may be connected to Hap, bikers, the Dixie Mafia, the Barbecue King, and The Canceler.

This story is vintage Lansdale. The jokes are hilarious, the writing is crisp, and the violence is gore-soaked. Since it's Hap and Leonard we're talking about, I knew asses would be kicked and shots would be fired but the climax was even more than I expected.

Honky Tonk Samurai is much beefier than the previous two H&L outings but Lansdale's latest tale is balls to the wall for much of its 350 pages. I lost track of all the quotable lines I meant to remember in the mad rush to the end.

While the climax was great, one of the twists nearly had me shitting myself. One of my few complaints with the series is that all the wisecracking makes you forget lives are at stake. No more! The book left so many unanswered questions that I hope the next Hap & Leonard book is already at the press.

Four out of five stars. If you can handle 350 pages of pure Mojo, get it now!

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