Sunday, November 21, 2010

Graphic Novel Review - The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons


The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century

Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons

Publication Date: June 23, 2010

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: FC, 600 pages, TPB, 7" x10"
Price: $29.99
Age range: 16+
ISBN-10: 1-59582-482-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-59582-482-0

From Dark Horse:

A masterpiece nearly twenty years in the making, this archival volume contains the complete life story of Martha Washington, the twenty-first century freedom fighter created by comic-book megastars Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), now in a more affordable softcover edition.

Our story begins in the squalid corridors of a maximum-security housing project, where a young girl will rise from the war-torn streets of Chicago to battle injustice in a world insane with corruption. Her fight will take her far, from the frontlines of the second American Civil War, to the cold, unforgiving reaches of space. She will be called a hero, a traitor, and nearly everything in between, but all along the way, her courage, her integrity, and her unwavering commitment to that most valuable of rights-liberty-will inspire a movement that will never surrender.

* The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-first Century contains six hundred stunning pages of work from two of the top creators in comics!

* Collecting remastered versions of every Martha Washington story and featuring the same extensive behind-the-scenes section by Dave Gibbons and introduction by Frank Miller as the hardcover edition.

From the Alternative:

Okay, so I’m walking through the airport in New Orleans after The Voodoo Experience looking for something to read so I can eradicate a few hours before my plane takes off for Chicago. I see a rack of graphic novels and manga at the Hudson News as I pass so I decide to step in and browse. Now, I own my share of entertaining graphic novel’s including: Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Serenity, Maus, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, 1492, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc. But The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century is different from the very start. The cover caught my eye and while I waffled over purchasing it, mainly because of the fairly steep price, it kept drawing my attention. I picked it up once, twice, flipped through the pages. I even walked away from the store. But something about the cover intrigued me. Simplistic but political in nature, an uncharacteristic hero, and the names Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons finally solidified my purchase. I needed to know what it was all about.

My review of this book (nee graphic novel) will now take a sideways step from the typical simply because it is in no way normal. Politics, conspiracy, science fiction, aliens, the apocalypse, deception, space wars, meteors, a militant A.I. software program bent on taking over the world, and an atypical hero The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century scans more like a written narrative than a graphic novel and that is the highest compliment I could ever pay it. Don’t get me wrong. A graphic novel is suppose to immerse you visually and make no mistake, this one does. But I also felt like I was physically transported to 2030 America in just a few short frames. Quite frankly, I found very little not to like about this book. Most graphic novels and comics drag you in with those cool, jaw dropping spreads of great art or, conversely, they have superb, intricately detailed stories (i.e. Maus). Rarely do they contain both. But that’s exactly what makes this one so different. It is the perfect combination of concisely written story and remarkable artwork that makes Martha Washington a near-masterpiece and stand out performance.

I read a lot of Science Fiction every year as you can probably tell from the litany of books of that particular genus that I’ve reviewed over the years. It is, in fact, my favorite genre. Sadly, I have to admit that I had never heard of Martha Washington before I picked up this omnibus edition at the airport. Shame on me. Hopefully this review will help those of you unfamiliar with Miss Washington and her exploits get acquainted. Believe me, it won’t take long and it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Highly recommended if you’re into Science Fiction, great art, tight story-lines, politics, alternative realities, the apocalypse, aliens, nuclear warfare, trips into space, the colonization of Mars, blood and gore, intrigue, suspense, murder, military Sci-Fi, more blood and brains, artificial intelligence, cults, precognition, evil antagonists, world destruction, back-stabbing, or mayhem and face it, who isn’t?

Great story. Great art. Great time to go out and purchase this.

4 ½ out of 5 stars

Additional Reading:

Boing Boing Review

Martha Washington Wiki page

Frank Miller Wiki page

Frank Miller Official site

Dave Gibbons Interview @ Comic Book Resources

Blog review by Horus Kemwer

Goodreads page

Dark Horse Comics page

The Art of Frank Miller

Dave Gibbons Wikipedia entry

Dave Gibbons


The Alternative

Southeast Wisconsin

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review - The Lucifer Code by Charles Brokow

The Lucifer Code

Charles Brokow

Forge Books



368 pages

ISBN: 0765320932 / 9780765320933

Note: Review copy received through Early Reviewers.


You know how some cyber-space experts say that what you post on the Internet remains forever? What that probably means to me in this case is that I’m eventually going to regret what follows. Be that as it may, herein lies one of my very few, very bad reviews. (Not that I’ve written a bad review…although that too may be the case. What I mean is that the book in question is on the receiving end of a bad review.)

In my opinion, The Lucifer Code is a disappointing read for many different small reasons and for one glaringly large one (more on this later). Is the book self-indulgent? Perhaps a little. Misogynistic? Probably. Waste of time? For most of us, unfortunately, I’d have to say yes. It seems to me that the first thirty pages or so simply drone on needlessly about how the main character, Thomas Lourds, is such a ladies man (and not in a good way). Oh, a lot of action takes place, to be sure, but it’s hard to feel involved or become immersed in it through all the sexism and objectifying. I might not have taken such extreme umbrage had Lourds been more charming and polished, like James Bond, for instance, or had that cool factor, like Cotton Malone. Unfortunately, he is neither. In fact, Lourds is so full of himself  that if you look closely enough you can almost see his ego leaking out of his ears onto the page. At one point I remember thinking, Yeah, yeah we get it. Age old story. Horny old man, wants to jump bones of every nubile, young thing he sees. Now, get on with the story, for crying out loud. Unfortunately, Brokow never does. On the surface, this book seems to have everything a good mystery needs to be successful. It contains a conspiracy, a kidnapping, random, gratuitous gunfire, a car chase, and a covert operation carried out by a remote, unemotional CIA operative. And that’s all in the first few chapters. But for me the story never truly coalesces, never really comes together. Most likely because I had to wade through all the skirt-chasing and womanizing to get to any real substance. Shot at, flipped upside down in a car wreck, and running for his life and that’s when the main character decides to get aroused? Look, I can root for the libido of an aging character, even connect somewhat with the ribald, lonely old man, but this level of philandering is too much even for a dirty old man like me. I can suspend belief for a lot of different reasons but there’s no way to downplay this character’s personality and he isn’t written well enough for me to overlook this huge personality flaw.

My advice, good reader? Don’t waste your time. And take with a mountainous grain of salt the reviews that loved this book. Do yourself a favor and move on. There’s actually good literature to be read out there. Spend the time otherwise wasted on this one searching for it.

1 ½ stars out of 5

Twenty minutes later… After re-reading my heavy-handed review it appears that I’ve assumed a truly harsh posture towards this book which is odd since I  completely understand how difficult it is to write a novel. However, in comparison and defense of my review, I’d like to add that just this morning I picked up Mark Hodder’s debut novel Burton and Swinburne in the Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack and simply couldn’t put it down. Now, I can’t wait to get back to it. I guess what turned me off almost immediately about The Lucifer Code was the lasciviousness of that main character. Without a doubt, both books contain characters of similar cut but Hodder’s Richard Burton is refined and likeable while Brokow’s Thomas Lourds has never matured from that annoying, sophomoric frat boy who’s sole purpose in life is to score and move on. The difference between the two is, like I said earlier, glaring.

In truth, I was somewhat ambivalent about The Lucifer Code until I actually started writing my review. Something changed as I began to put my feelings into words. Perhaps, it was because I started to think how my wife or daughters might view this if they were reading it. I can’t say for sure but I suspect most women readers will find the attitude of the main character offensive and disrespectful. I know I did.

Thirty minutes after that… I don’t normally give up easily when it comes to reading new material. Especially when I feel obligated to provide a review but in this case I had to quit reading after only 70 pages. A much younger me would have plodded through this book to find the payoff at the end, which I’m sure it has. The older me realizes that my reading time is finite and getting shorter each day. Time to find something I might truly enjoy reading rather than something I have to simply because I promised to review it.

The Alternative

Southeast Wisconsin