This book focuses on an angel and a demon, who have developed a rather unlikely friendship, living on Earth as the apocalypse rapidly approaches with all its biblical promise.
This book was so hyped-up by my friends and by reviews I'd read that I actually avoided taking the plunge myself for a very long time, for fear of not experiencing the book properly for myself. This was especially important since I'd enjoyed much of Pratchett's work and absolutely loved much of Gaiman's.
Eventually, however, I did get stuck in and, to my surprise, was still very disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book; it's a witty and entertaining look not only at some religious conceits but also at the somewhat indolent modern world. Pratchett makes his presence felt by any number of mind-bendingly comic concepts, as well as including an incarnation of Death which will be very familiar and very welcome to Discworld fans. At the same time Gaiman adds his own dark irony to the mix and gives the book a tone appropriate to the impending Doomsday.
The problem is that I had hoped that the combined talents of the authors would be greater than the sum of their parts, which would truly have made it the comic fantasy great that everyone says it is. Instead, each of the authors seem tied down by the other. Pratchett is unable to really indulge his flights of fancy and Gaiman is unable to develop the richness and depth that you see in books like 'American Gods'. I know many will think it sacrilege for me to say so, but I honestly think this book would have been better if written by either author alone, instead of as a collaboration.
Overall, an entertaining and witty book but which fails to live up to either the hype or the potential of these two great authors.
3 out of 5
Gotham Central: Book One - In The Line Of Duty
by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka
(Art by Michael Lark)
This series follows the work of Gotham PD's Major Crimes Unit, a team assembled by Comissioner Gordon before his retirement. The detectives of the MCU are all good cops who find themselves forced to tackle crime in a city where corruption runs rampant and the perpetrators of major crimes are often supervillains.
I love the concept behind this book; what does the work of a cop look like in a world where they have to face super-criminals like Mister Freeze or Two-Face? Brubaker and Rucka deliver on the promise of the premise perfectly too. This really does feel like a police procedural rather than a superhero story and I like the way that this is woven into the narrative, with the detectives determined to solve their cases without calling upon the Batman.
For me the book was set-up perfectly by two detectives accidentally confronting Mister Freeze, which leads to one of them dying horrifically. It causes us, the readers, to reflect on how little thought we give to the 'disposable' police officers who are always the nameless casualties in comics before the featured superhero turns up.
As well as weaving together police procedural and superhero themes, this book also tackles genuinely interesting personal drama when one of the detectives has someone try to ruin their lives by outing them as a lesbian. As someone who's not a monstrous homophobe (and yes, I know they're all monstrous) it's deeply upsetting to see the way that the detective's family and colleagues react, something which I'm sure will resonate with anyone who's had to deal with coming out to their friends and loved ones.
Overall, a great book kicking off what looks to be a great series.
5 out of 5
Gotham Central: Book Three - On The Freak Beat
by Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker
(Art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Jason Alexander, Kano and Gary Amaro)
Continuing the story of Gotham PD's Major Crimes Unit and set amid the 'War Games' event storyline, this book sees the MCU distancing themselves from the help of the Batman whilst pursuing the likes of Black Spider, Catwoman and Doctor Alchemy.
I continue to very much enjoy these stories of police detectives trying to solve crimes in a city where vigilantes haunt the night dressed as bats and where the criminals have the ability to unleash mutagenic chemicals. There's a great underdog feel to the good cops of the MCU as they're faced with problems that usually require a superhero to solve.
The characters on offer in this series are an interesting and appealing group too, although Renee Montoya's continuing battles with her own temper and the prejudice against her gay lifestyle are still the standout element in that regard. She's also the perfect character through whom the writers explore the GCPD's complicated relationship with Batman, particularly amid the events of 'War Games', in which the Dark Knight tried to seize control of the police to end the gang warfare tearing Gotham apart.
4 out of 5
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War - Volume One
(Art by Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Angel Unzeta, Oclair Albert, Prentis Rollins and Drew Geraci)
This book sees the Green Lantern Corps suddenly assailed by a horde of powerful new enemies. These enemies wield power rings fuelled by fear and are led by none other than the renegade former Lantern Sinestro. As open conflict errupts, a team of Lanterns, led by Hal Jordan, enter the anti-matter universe in an attempt to rescue Kyle Rayner, who has fallen prey to the entity Parallax.
This is very much a backs-to-the-wall, desperate last stand type of story for Hal and the Lanterns and you get a real sense that the Sinestro Corps has the potential to overthrow the Green Lanterns once and for all. One of the things that gives this sense of threat is just how powerful the villains arrayed against the Lanterns are. Not only do you have Sinestro and Parallax, but their allies include Hank Henshaw (AKA the Cyborg Superman), the Manhunters, the psychotic Superboy Prime and the Anti-Monitor himself (see 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' by Marv Wolfman).
There's also a lot of great scenes in this book, with my favourite being the Lantern's desperate defence of Mogo, the planet which is also a Green Lantern and the Corps' heart. I also liked the scene where Hal uses a bunch of captured yellow rings in a nice echo of Parallax Hal capturing the Lanterns' rings back in the day.
There is, of course, a cliffhanger ending; so I look forward to getting stuck into Volume Two.
4 out of 5
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War - Volume Two
(Art by Patrick Gleason, Angel Unzueta, Ivan Reis, Pascal Alixe, Dustin Nguyen, Jamal Igle, Ethan Van Sciver, Prentis Rollins, Drew Geraci, Vicente Cifuentes, Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira, Rodney Ramos, Rob Hunter, Mario Alquiza, Jerry Ordway, Rod Reis, Derek Fridolfs, Tom Nguyen, Dan Davis and Rebecca Buchman)
The tide of the war has turned against the Sinestro Corps but its most powerful members, Sinstro himself, Cyborg Superman, Superboy Prime and the Anti-Monitor, remain at large. They then unleash their endgame, targeting not the home of the Green Lanterns, Oa, but instead the lynchpin of the multiverse, Earth.
The first book of the Sinestro Corps War was epic in scale, showing battlefronts across the universe but the conclusion brings the war to Earth, giving it a more focused and, for Hal, Kyle, John and Guy, a more personal feel. Those four, who longtime fans will have followed for decades, all get a significant role to play and I really liked that, with some of the other Green Lantern books feeling a bit too much like The Hal Jordan Show.
The other things I really enjoyed was the continued expansion of the Green Lantern lore to include a whole spectrum of emotional powers. The Lanterns are the green of willpower and Sinestro uses the yellow of fear, but here we learn that there are five other corps which will soon have a significant role to play.
4 out of 5