Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake (1969/Reissued 2009): Very funny 'Wrong Man' suspense thriller by the great and prolific Westlake, reissued by Hard Case Crime for the first time in nearly 40 years (!). Our first-person narrator, a New York cabbie with a bit of a gambling problem, gets pulled into an increasingly dangerous situation between two criminal outfits after he discovers the brutally murdered body of his bookie. The female lead is tough and smart, the cabbie likeable, and the plot both twisty and fair. The funniest bit involves a low-speed chase through New York with the pursuers on foot and the leads in a cab that has to keep stopping for traffic lights. Recommended.

Simpsons Comics Explosion 1: written by Ian Boothby, Paul Dini, Chuck Dixon, Sergio Aragones, and others; illustrated by Phil Ortiz, John Delaney, Mike Kazaleh,Serio Aragones, and others (2014): Bongo Comics has done a nice job of doing humour comics for 20 years now. 20 years! As a long-time reader of all comics, I find one of the small joys of Bongo is its use of writers and artists who don't seem to get work at DC or Marvel any more, or not enough of it anyway. Here, those names include Paul Dini (the reason Season 1 of Lost was the best season of Lost may have had a lot to do with his work as story editor), Chuck Dixon, and Sergio Aragones. This 96-page collection is fun stuff. Recommended.

Superman Unchained: written by Scott Snyder; illustrated by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Dustin Nguyen, and Alex Sinclair (2013-2014; collected 2014): Delayed so many times by Jim Lee, world's slowest artist, that it went from regular series to miniseries, Superman Unchained nonetheless gave us in the nine issues that came out over a two-year period the best long-form Superman story since Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman

Much of this is due to Scott Snyder's writing. His Superman is thoughtful, stubborn, and painstakingly careful about human life. One of the high points of the series involves the Man of Steel trying to think his way through a battle with a more powerful solar-powered super-being than himself. Snyder gives us other scenes in which Superman's problem-solving abilities are on display -- why DC doesn't have him write an actual Superman on-going is anyone's guess.

The series doesn't ignore the current status quo in DC's main line, in which Superman dates Wonder Woman and has never dated Lois Lane, but it definitely doesn't foreground that state of affairs -- Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are front and centre in the plot. Lee's work is its over-stuffed and often over-complicated self, though it works for the most part with all the shiny gadgets and giant aliens being thrown Superman's way. Highly recommended.

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