Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Frozen Heat (2012)

Author: Richard Castle | Page Count: 313
Just like back then, dazed, empty, and terribly alone, she watched a forensics team work that same apartment from the same perspective. Surrounded by broken glass and toppled furnishings, Nikki felt as shaken as any earthquake could cause her to feel, making the very ground under her feet suspect and untrustworthy.
The book series is following the same ramping up of the TV series as the plot is now getting more involved in a central plot rather than stand alone mysteries and the stakes are getting bigger. Detective Nikki Heat shows up to her latest crime scene of a murdered woman shoved into a suitcase and left in the back of a refrigerator truck, but is unaware of how this case will possibly upend her life and perspective just like the earthquakes that are shaking up New York.

This 4th book in the series feels both the same and different from the others. It still reads like an unused script from the show, but less so and doesn't follow the same pattern as the others. The characters are starting to feel like regular characters rather than the parodies of the TV counterparts that they actually are. Whether because it is written better or because this far into the series I have just come to accept it is debatable, but it doesn't change the fact that this installment felt much more enthralling and engaging than the others. The writing is still crisp with an effective mix of drama and snarky comedy. Just like the show it is tied into. Effective cross media stuff.

4 Assaulting your boss always nets a dream vacation out of 5

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex : Episode 004 : ¥€$ (2013)

Author: Yu Kinutani | Page Count: 256

Not even the shotgun can stop him?!

The previous book was a retelling of episode seven from Season One of the SAC Anime. Episode 004 jumps far ahead and recreates episode fourteen.

It sticks to the same plot, but there are some significant differences in how it gets from beginning to end. Kinutani has sexed it up with more suggestive POV angles and gratuitous panty-shots. That kind of thing has no place in SAC, but the changes made in other areas are interesting. The action scenes have been extended, or in some cases added anew, giving the work more immediacy. There’s some aggressive flashbacks that establish a deeper emotional connection and offer up a more sympathetic view of the antagonist.

Art is great as usual except for the occasional elongated limb that’s very unlike Kinutani. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from inbetweeners on a bad day.

The Tachikomatic Days episodes return. Yay. We get a double dose that makes up for their absence last time.

3 ghostless dolls out of 5

Edit: Fixed an error (see comments).  Thanks, Borderline.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The City (1994)

Author: James Herbert | Illustrator: Ian Miller | Page Count: 64

"Hey, Tinman.  Don't look now, but you got company."

The fourth entry in Herbert’s Rats books, but unlike the previous three (The Rats (1974), Lair (1979), and Domain (1984)), it's a graphic novel.  What’s even more unusual is that it’s a story told largely through imagery.  By the time it came out Herbert had developed a unique relationship with words, his descriptive language was a big part of his appeal, so delivering a story with minimal dialogue was a little out of character.

I’m limited in what I can say without touching on how the trilogy ended, so I’ll be brief.  It follows a lone figure as he returns to The City (London) in search of something he left behind.  The City is under the grip of a New Order.  There’s danger at every turn and eyes watching his every move.

The story is weak when compared to his other books.  It’ll be of interest to fans of the original trilogy but would probably be best avoided by everyone else.

Conversely, Ian Miller’s art is fascinating and is without a doubt the real star.  His blood red skies and swirling colour schemes help flesh out the grotesque perversions of normalcy and societal standings that are faithful in essence to the metaphor set up by Herbert in the original trilogy.

1½ bridges burned out of 5

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Ballad of Halo Jones (2013)

Author: Alan Moore | Illustrator: Ian Gibson | Page Count: 208

I go out and buy a gun, second-hand.  I tell myself it’s for self-defence, but that’s not true.  It’s because I’m bored. […]  I take the gun and go sit by the window.”

Halo Jones is an average eighteen-year-old.  She likes clothes, shopping and parties.  Halo likes to live.  The problem is that living in the year 4949 isn’t easy, especially in the Hoop, a cramped and dangerous ghetto created to house the unemployed.  Its people have never even seen a tree.  Halo wants to escape, to see the outside.  Quite often when someone experiences those kinds of feelings it’s themselves they’re trying to escape from, but that’s just not possible, is it?

The Ballad is split over three Books separated by time and degrees of depth and poignancy. Without having an insight into Moore’s mind I can only guess at the pitch he gave to the comic’s publishers, and his reasoning for structuring the three parts like he did.  Whatever it was, I'm sure glad they fell for it.

Book I is a safe entry point.  Whilst reading you’ll maybe wonder why Halo is so well loved.  The drama revolves around a shopping trip.  Huh?  It feels like a soap opera taking place inside the mind of a fickle and diaphanous head, but that easy-life conceit was necessary to establish a parallel with the organic structure that follows.  After repeated readings you’ll get the answer to your question.

Book II ups the game, the danger level and the emotional content.  Bridging narratives are traditionally difficult, but Moore overcomes the difficulties.

By the time you get to Book III you’ll be fully invested in Halo’s story, feeling the pinch and pains of her situation.  It delivers the kind of experience Moore's famous for.  The journey to and through that third and final part is the reason HJ has endured for so long, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Ian Gibson's art is a perfect fit to Halo’s personality and world.  The flamboyant costume designs are like fashion sketches, constructed from graceful curves and angles.  As the story deepens his clean lines follow suit, becoming gritty and less airy, but even when forceful they're never ugly.

The new edition has a page size taller than the original 2000AD format, but there’s no distortion of the image.  That means there’s a large empty space top and bottom.  It also retains the beautiful black and white art.  The reprint by Quality Comics that coloured and skewed the perspective to fit the more traditional American-size comic book format is now just a bad, bad memory.

4 Hoop-life Heroines out of 5

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Darker Magic (1987)

Author: Michael Bedard | Page Count: 184
He sat up on the bed and suddenly caught sight of his reflection in the dresser mirror in front of him.
And then an incredible thing happened. It was as if the image rippled suddenly, like a piece of painted scenery in a play. And when it settled again he found himself staring at a totally different room. It was barren and devastated. Hunks of plaster dangled from the wall, leaving the lathing gaping through like bone. The walls were covered in crayon scrawl.
He swung around... The room was as it had been before.
A horror story about an odd teenage boy with an affinity for magic tricks and the 3 protagonists who cross paths with him and investigate his mysterious nature like why no one can seem to ever find him and what his possible connections are to an incident in an abandoned train depot decades earlier that has haunted the older schoolteacher ever since.

The tale is pretty standard stuff and really just a step above a cruddy campfire scary story, but Bedard is at least competent in his writing and does a decent job of giving world building detail to make the stock story interesting and the characters fleshed out enough to at least see it through to the end. If you are inclined to like such horror stories this might be up your alley. There are better options surely, but genuinely decent passages like the quote above put it above lesser choices. Plus it was clearly written for  a younger audience so I can't bash it for not being to my taste and it is pretty decent for being his first novel.

stabbing disembodied heads magic tricks... for kids! out of 5

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Judge Anderson: PSI Files Volume 1 (2009)

Authors: Alan Grant / John Wagner
Illustrators: Brett Ewins / Cliff Robinson / Robin Smith / Barry Kitson / Jeff Anderson / Will Simpson / Mark Farmer / Mick Austin / David Roach / Arthur Ranson / Carlos Ezquerra / Kim Raymond |  Page Count: 384

I’m hurting inside ... in the secret places only the PSIs know.’

When something is considered too weird for the regular Judges of Mega-City One to deal with they’ll often step aside and call in PSI Division. The PSI Judges have abilities that enable them to literally get inside the minds of criminals.

The best of them, Judge Cassandra Anderson, is a psychic and a telepath, with some limited precognition powers. Being receptive to the thoughts of others makes her a little eccentric. She’s accountable to the law the same as everyone but sometimes PSI Judges are granted special dispensations; she has been known to take advantage of such things.

Since Rebellion acquired 2000AD they’ve been re-releasing some long out of print material in very attractive editions with a large page count that would make any shelf envious. This first volume collects together Anderson’s earliest adventures in chronological order.

She has an outspoken nature from the beginning, but it’s not until tragedy hits her that she begins to really take shape as a unique character, so stick with it. There are a few missteps along the way but mostly the stories are entertaining and help distance her daily routine from that of Dredd’s. The early adventures that she shared with him, the ones that introduced her to the world, aren't in this volume, you’ll need to get the separate Judge Dredd Case Files for those. What it does have is the ‘Engram’ storyline that contains one of the most important revelations about the character; one that changed her forever in a deeply unsettling way.

It’s black and white art, which hopefully won't put anyone off. That’s how the original stories were published and that’s how they should remain. I’d have been very disappointed if they’d coloured it.

4 horrific truths out of 5