Thursday, August 29, 2013

Let Me Go

Detective Archie Sheridan wants his birthday and Halloween to pass quietly and uneventfully, an unlikely prospect when Gretchen Lowell, a serial killer with a particular obsession with him, is still free. While celebrating his birthday with his ex-wife and his kids, he is called to a crime scene where a DEA agent is murdered, leading him to believe their undercover agents are now compromised. This includes Susan's boyfriend, Leo Reynolds whose father is notorious druglord. So, Archie finds himself of Jack Reynolds' Halloween party on a secluded island to make sure Leo is alive. After a strange night that he only remembers part of, it's clear that Gretchen is back and eager to give him her sick interpretation of a birthday present complete with an abduction and certain death for that person if she doesn't get her way. The latest book in the Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan series is thrilling, disturbing, bloody, and darkly funny.

This is the sixth book in this series and it shows no signs of slowing down or becoming stale. These characters are changing and growing through each book. Archie is more physically and psychologically healthy than we have ever seen him. He has a girlfriend (with a resemblance to Gretchen and a heart tattoo, but still a step in the right direction) and successfully kicked his drug habit. Susan isn't the naive, soft young woman she used to be. Interactions with various serial killers has hardened her and made her tougher. She has the same gung-ho attitude and flamboyant fashion sense, but she's not as trusting and careless to danger. Leo, usually the suave and annoyingly handsome playboy, is a shell of himself. Disheveled, emotionally broken, depressed, and borderline alcoholic, the role of double agent is significantly wearing on him. In the course of six books, these characters are not static, nor are they perfect.

At first, it seemed like Gretchen Lowell would be largely absent from Let Me Go like in The Night Season because she was on the run and there was no focus on her for the first half of the novel. Like many of the other books, her influence throughout the majority of the events becomes clear as the plot goes on. She is back to her old self after being medicated and transformed in prison. Her level of brutality and sadism is elevated and went places I never thought would be explored. We also see a different side to her and just how dangerous she can really be up close. Her early relationship with Archie is explored before she tortured him and before he knew she was a murderer. It shows more of her manipulation and the way she really screwed with Archie's head. Gretchen is one of the few female serial killers portrayed in fiction, but she's magnetic and repellent at the same time. You're curious to see what she will do, but you also dread it. Through 6 books, she (and her twisted relationship with Archie) is still interesting and dynamic

Let Me Go has a lot going on and it could have easily become a convoluted mess. Chelsea Cain rises to the challenges and keeps each thread of the story clear and detailed. I will read as many books as she will write with this series. I have had my doubts before, but she has earned my complete faith and I would read anything she wrote.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Panels Part 3: Magic, Jim Lee, and The Sandman

1) Magic: the Gathering

This year, Wizards of the Coast celebrates Magic: the Gathering's 20th anniversary! Yay! The panel consisted of Mark Rosewater, Mark Purvis, Jenna Helland, and Dave Guskin. One of the celebratory things is the upcoming From the Vaults: 20 that rereleases a card from each year that changed Magic in a significant way. Unsurprisingly, the most coveted and expensive card is Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which made standard play hell for its entire run. I was most excited by the alternate art to Akroma's Vengeance and Guilded Lotus.

Other cards in the set include Hymn to Tourach, Dark Ritual, Green Sun Zenith, Chameleon Colossus, Kessig Wolf Run, Char, Chainer's Edict, Fact or Fiction, Tangle Wire, Thran Dynamo, Wall of Blossoms, Fyndhorn Elves, Swords to Plowshares, Cruel Ultimatum, Venser Shaper Savant, Ink Eyes Servant of Oni, and Impulse. You can buy this for about $200 online or at a local game store. They talkd about the new versus deck, Heroes vs. Monsters, which plays into their new set. They also mentioned that a new Commander preconstructed decks would come out November 1st. These decks feature many reprints of older cards and 51 brand new cards, including this one:

Then they moved on to the upcoming set in a new block: Theros. It's heavily influenced by Greek mythology (which I love! It makes my nerd heart sing!) and features 3 main factions: gods, monsters, and heroes. Here is some of the gorgeous art of this set.

This last art is my absolute favorite. No cards were spoiled, but the new border for some of the cards was revealed and of course it's beautiful.

For the prerelease, events will give players packs in a way similar to the faction packs from Return to Ravnica except they will be monocolored and are different paths for the hero (you) and each pack comes with a different hero card that can be used to fight a hydra on game day.

I can't wait for this new set and I'm so excited to find out about the different cards. Not many cards have been spoiled yet, but I hope all the gods are enchantment creatures, which hasn't been common before.

2) Jim Lee

Jim Lee is a comic book artist for Marvel comics and Image comics. This panel is a live demonstration of his art. I expected it to be mildly interesting, but he was hilarious. He talked about his life, his family, and his art. His family really wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer when he was growing up. He talked about choosing the name Jim (after James T. Kirk) when he moved to America from Korea. There was no real organization to anything and he just commented on what he drew or whatever he wanted while he drew. He called up 3 people from the audience to help him fill in some areas in black and then gave away the art using a bizarre method of serial numbers on money. Here are the completed works that he gave away. (Sorry for the bad pictures. His hands moved a lot.) This first one is of Death from The Sandman.

This next one is of the Joker from Batman with very scary teeth.

This last one wasn't completed, but it was of Superman bursting through some boulders. There were lots of jokes about the sleep-like face and the fascist arm position.

The panel was unexpectedly delightful and I will definitely go see it again next year.

3) The Sandman: 25th Anniversary and Beyond

The Sandman series has been completed for quite a while and this year marks its 25th anniversary. Recently, it has been announced that a prequel will come out. Most of the panel was dedicated to looking back on The Sandman and the great many comic book covers for the artists, author, and others to reminisce. The panel consisted of Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, Todd Klein, and J. H. Williams III. The interesting thing to note about these mixed media covers is that there was no photoshop then. It's an amazing feat to create them anyway, but when limited to actual photographs and drawings that can't be easily resized or manipulated in photoshop is even more amazing. Here is one of my favorites.

The new Sandman comic is called The Sandman Overture, written by Neil Gaiman and J. H. Williams III. The first issue will be released October 11, 2013. They showed the cover art, an alternate cover art, and then the first couple of pages.

I can't wait to read this, but I will probably wait for the trade paperback just because I don't have much room for individual comic books.

That's all the panels! I count myself very lucky to have gone to so many.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Panels Part 2: Lockwood, Penguin, MLP, and Monster High

1) Todd Lockwood

Todd Lockwood is an extremely talented fantasy artist who has done lots of work for Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, and fantasy book covers. His panel was based on looking at his work over the years. He talked about how he started in advertising. This is his favorite ad because he had to make a streamlined plane into something super bulky.

Then he worked for TSR, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, which led to being hired by Wizards of the Coast and becoming successful as an artist. His work is singular, recognizable, and beautiful. His dragon work is amazing because he thought out what kind of musculature and skeleton that would actually make sense.

Here are some of my favorite works by him.

2) The Penguin Books panel was kind of boring. They just read the synopses of upcoming books and gave some away. There were some interesting ones like a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but nothing super amazing. I didn't win anything and it kind of dragged on. I won't be going to the panel next year.

3) My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

I was pretty lucky to get into this panel. My Little Pony has lots of rabid fans, as does Monster High (which was the panel after) and Magic: the Gathering (which was after Monster High). There was lots of fans cursing other fans for taking up space when they might not want to see whatever that panel was, but they really should be in a bigger room to accommodate more fans for each fandom. Anyway, My Little Pony was pretty awesome. The panel included Daniel Ingram (composer), Tara Strong (voice of Twilight Sparkle), Megan McCarthy (writer), Cathy Weseluck (voice of Spike), Andrea Libman (voice of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy), and Jayseon Thiessen.

They started talking about Equestria Girls, a film about the ponies as humans. I initially thought it sounded pretty dumb, but the story sounds interesting where Twilight travels to our world and finds people who remind her of her friends. Plus the song they showed is super catchy and awesome.

Then they talked about Season 4 and showed a few clips with the mane 6 as superheroes and Luna turning back into Nightmare Moon. They promise more movie references, more Zecora, a soundtrack (yay!), and a Rarity episode (finally). Then they showed this clip, which obviously isn't finished, but the song is adorable.

Can't wait for season 4!

4) Monster High

I had heard of the show and dolls, but never really knew much about it. Apparently it's about a high school with classic movie monsters with a focus on fashion. The problem I have with it is it doesn't seem to be very well written and appeal for those outside the focus age group is low. It seems to be trying for a teen audience, but the writing is more suited to middle school or elementary school aged children. They also seem to care more about selling and producing more dolls rather than making good stories and developing the characters they already have. The only thing I really like about it is that it's marketing horror specifically to young girls, which doesn't happen that often.

More panels to come!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Panels Part 1: Soska Twins, Bones, and SHIELD

I went to tons of panels this year, mostly due to the fact that my boyfriend and I got 4 day tickets with preview night. Before, the time seemed much too precious to waste standing for hours in line just to get into a panel. I still like to stick with the smaller panels, but I did get into one or two popular ones.

1) The Soska Twins

The Soska Sisters, twin directors extraordinaire, were in 2 panels. The first was on Warp Comics, an indie company actually called First Comics that published comics from 1983 to 1991. They are reopening and publishing new material. The majority of the panel was Ken F. Levin talking about the history of the company. While interesting, no one else on the panel really got to say anything. The time could have been used more effectively and even having the audience ask some questions would have been nice too. It was just kind of dull and sad.

The other panel was called Horror on the Panelled Page. In this one, all of the panelists, which included Mark L. Miller, the Soska sisters, Tim Seeley, Brandon Seifert, Matt Pizzolo, Mark Miller, and Adam Egypt Mortimer, were asked questions about their opinions on horror and there was time for questions from the audience. The most memorable question was one from a woman asking how they felt about violence in the real world, heavily implying that it was at least partly their fault for creating horror fiction. Some said that making horror helped them cope with horror in the real world. It allows the viewer to get close to something they normally would not be able to walk away from and leaves them unscathed afterwards. I really enjoyed the panel and I want to read more of some of the panelists' work, such as the Hellraiser graphic novel and the Witch Doctor comic books.

2) Bones

I waited in line for Ballroom 20 for about 2 hours to see Agents of SHIELD and got in just in time to see the Bones panel. I don't watch the show, but I'm a fan of David Boreanaz ever since he was Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I figured it would be cool anyway. It turned out to be a blast. The two stars started out by reading scenes from the last season finale, but reading as the opposite character. Deschanel as Booth had a deep, surfer dude kind of voice and Boreanaz as Bones was super high and squeaky. There were spoilers galore. Booth and Bones will finally get married and Boreanaz showed what a proper proposal to Bones would look like. Most of the fan questions were directed at Boreanaz and mentioned his previous Whedon work like what kind of character would Deschanel be. The panel was awesome and hilarious even though I have never once seen the show.

3) Agents of SHIELD

I purposefully avoided any sort of spoilers involving this show so I would be surprised if I somehow made it into the panel. So the panel started with a Q&A, which I thought was odd since they hadn't talked about the show at all yet beyond introducing those on the panel, which were Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Clark Gregg, Ming Na Wen, Iain DeCaestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Chloe Bennett, Brett Dalton, Jeffrey Bell, and Maurissa Tancharoen. The last question asked about a clip. Joss Whedon mentioned some legal difficulties with Disney, but said we would then watch the whole first episode. It was amazing! There were lots of Whedon alums, such as J. August Richards, Ron Glass, and Colbie Smulders. The writing makes the characters come alive. Each of them has their own flaws and fully realized personalities. Of course there is the trademark Whedon humor and rapidfire dialog. The episode introduces SHIELD outside of the Avengers, some sort of nefarious and unscrupulous organization, and a conspiracy theorist that lives out of her van. I can't wait to see the rest of the show, which premiers September 24 on ABC. Because it isn't FOX, maybe the show will last more than a season or two.

More panels to come!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Mailbox: Comic-Con Edition

Comic-Con is the one time of year I can go on a shopping spree plus there is tons of free stuff everywhere. Here is some of the stuff I got.

* Books

- Conspiracies and Curtsies by Gail Carriger - sequel to Etiquette and Espionage. So excited!
- Krampus by Brom - A twisted retelling of the Santa Claus tale.
- White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland - 3rd in the series that just keeps getting better. The author was there, but I didn't get to see her. :(
- A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesl Schwartz - Fun looking steampunk novel!
- Magic Kingdom for Sale by Terry Brooks
- Hounded by Kevin Hearne
- Newsflesh series box signed by Mira Grant

* Plushies

- Harley Quinn Skelanimal
- Chlamydia giant microbe
- Intestines! from I Heart Guts

* Hasbro stuff

- Magic the Gathering M14 planeswalker promo exclusive

- Vinyl Scratch figurine
This stuff was the biggest hassle to get due to the Hasbro Toystore having the most insane situation ever. I'm so happy and lucky to have gotten these and I hope Hasbro either gets their shit together and fixes their mob situation or they don't have anything I actually want next year.

* Pins ad Miscellany

- My Little Pony voting pins - got them all! It was so hard to get Rainbow Dash!
- Princess series pins from Adventure Time
- Plants vs. Zombies 2 pin
- Carrie pin
- Luigi gold coin from Nintendo zone

- super awesome cephalopods made from cured leather made by William Thomas Damon. The purple one is also a hair clip or a pin.

* Book swag

- hand sanitizer from Parasites by Mira Grant - clever marketing AND practical. Con crud is very real and disgusting.

- candy from Fiend by Peter Stenson - fake crystal meth to market the novel based around meth addicts during the zombie apocalypse. Tasteless or funny? I can't really decide.

Panels tomorrow!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Best Cosplay Part 2

More of the best costumes at the Con!

* Jaime and Cersei Lannister - I especially liked the detail in Jaime's armor.

* That big red T-Rex with the little arms - This costume made me smile like a maniac. Just adorable.

* Awesome ensemble Mass Effect cosplay

* Lum! This was one of the first mangas I read. Apparently it's not well known even thought it's by Rumiko Takahashi, but I totally nerded out and had to get a picture of her costume.

* Communist Superman - I had no idea until today that there are actual comics (called Red Son) of this character where Superman landed in and was raised in the Soviet Union. Very cool costume of a unique facet of the character.

* Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ensemble - I saw them last year with an Elsa, but the costumes are still amazing and crazy accurate.

Stuff from Comic Con tomorrow!