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Review: “Wanted” by Mark Millar & J.G. Jones

Title: Wanted
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: J.G. Jones & Dick Giordano (Flashback sequences in issue #6)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Image Comics, 2007

Every once in a while you run across a book like Wanted. Well written, excellent art, genius premise, a smart story and interesting characters….and a stated goal of offending every sensibility you have. In that, Wanted certainly succeeds. Am I recommending you go read it? That depends on who you are and how easy you are to offend. This one’s not for everyone. It’s been billed “Watchmen for super-villains,” if that tells you anything.

Wesley Gibson is the ultimate loser. His girlfriend is cheating on him with his supposed-best friend, he has a dead-end job with a boss who chews him out regularly, he’s a hypochondriac, and to top it all off he seems to be a clone of Eminem. But all that changes when a woman named Fox upends his life. It seems that Wesley’s father was the Killer, one of a cabal of super-villains who have secretly run the world since 1986. Now the Killer is dead, and Wesley stands to inherit not only his worldly possessions but also his place in The Fraternity. Before you know it, Wesley is a whole new person with a whole new set of…well, maybe not friends. Associates might be a better word. Tensions are rising within the Fraternity. After years of peacefully keeping the world subjugated, certain members are getting tired of living behind the scenes. Civil War seems eminent, and there’s no better time to be the Killer….

Imagine suddenly having the ability to do whatever you wanted, with absolutely no consequences. Blow away a restaurant full of people? Police have no suspects. Make your “friend” who’s cheating with your girlfriend disappear? Doesn’t even make the news. Whatever your fancy, it will be covered up. How? Because the super-villains are ruling the world. Do you remember the Heroes? No, of course you don’t. They’ve been relegated to cheesy TV shows and comic books. They never really existed. Or at least, that’s the story now. Turns out that in 1986 all the super-villains – ALL of them – teamed up and took down the mighty Heroes, rewriting reality so that they never even existed. A certain pair of caped crusaders now think they just played those characters on TV, and the world’s greatest hero spends his days in a wheelchair staring out the window at a world that has forgotten him, wondering just what he’s trying to remember. The gang’s all here, given a gritty update and with their names changed to protect the author from lawsuits. Some of them are recognizable, others less so. Remember Bizarro? The failed clone of Superman that turns everything opposite? He’s been translated into [REDACTED]*, a “Down’s Syndrome copy of the world’s greatest hero.” Clayface? Try [REDACTED]*, a creature made up from the feces of the world’s six-hundred and sixty-six most evil beings that have somehow become sentient. There’s more in the same vein. Fox is clearly Catwoman stuck in Halle Berry’s body. (No, I have no idea whether that’s a coincidence. The comic was released first, but I don’t know how far back the casting for Catwoman was announced.) Mister Rictus is a darker take on the Joker, a former priest who died for a few moments only to find that there’s nothing waiting on the other side. Now? Now he does whatever he wants, eats what(or who)ever he wants, fornicates with whatever he wants. Currently? He wants to take America from his old rival Professor Solomon Seltzer….

The content here is over the top offensive. There’s the obvious profanity, sexual content and gore, but there’s also adapting DC’s Bizarro to have Down’s Syndrome (and then making fun of him), or putting not-Superman in a wheelchair….just like the guy that used to play him in the movies. At the same time, the premise is genius. The characters are all incredibly well executed. The plot is a purposeful inversion of Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” theme. This is an incredible piece of work….except for how offensive it is. So, should you read it? I’ll let you decide.

CONTENT: R-rated profanity throughout. Explicit sexual content, including references to rape and bestiality. Strong, gory violence. Not for children!

*I keep this blog PG, even when the works I’m reviewing definitely aren’t. Redacted names contain profanity.

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Review: “Generation V” by M.L. Brennan

Title: Generation V
Author: M.L. Brennan
Series: Generation V #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: ROC, 2013

Once again I have the good folks at ARCycling to thank for a very fun book! I wish I would remember to note down the specific donator before I sign off….thank you to whoever donated this one! It was appreciated!

To date, my sole contact with the genre of “Urban Fantasy” has been The Dresden Files. Well, that and arguably Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel, but that doesn’t really count for these purposes. Plus, Libriomancer. I suppose a few stories from the Book Of Apex Volume IV might also fit the bill too….anyway, all that to say that I’ve not been thoroughly inducted into the myriad worlds the genre can contain. I should read some more, because I’ve been a huge fan of the little I’ve read.

Fortitude Scott is a lot like quite a few people in my generation. He graduated college with a film studies degree that does little but serve as wallpaper, and now he’s scraping by working a job he hates at a coffee shop. His girlfriend has all but dumped him, insisting on an “open relationship.” His family is bewildered by his desire for independence which borders on rudeness–he never calls unless his big brother Chivalry personally pays him a visit to ask him to come home. It’s understandable though, since his mother had his adoptive parents ripped to pieces in front of him when he was just a boy….Oh, did I mention that everyone in his family is a vampire? Fort himself is still mostly human, having not yet matured into his vampiric powers, but he’s in no hurry. Whereas his siblings were raised at home and are (to his way of thinking) frankly monstrous, Fort was allowed to be raised by a human family. You know, at least until he let slip one too many secrets about his monthly visits to his blood family, and his older sister was sent to kill them. You can see why he avoids them whenever possible. But now there’s a new player on the gameboard–a European vampire who makes Fort’s family seem like saints. Little girls are going missing, and Fort is the only one who seems to care. But even if he can convince Suzume, the kitsune bodyguard hired by his mother, to help him, Fort is going to be seriously outmatched…..

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is at all interested in the urban fantasy or vampire fiction genres. A solid plot is populated by a cast of incredibly interesting characters, and Suzume Hollis absolutely steals the show. Sexy and flirtatious, Suzume is the kitsune hired by Fort’s mother to protect him while the foreign vampire is in town. The kitsune are Japanese foxes that can shapeshift to look human, and have a reputation for being mischievous. Suzume is mischievous enough to unnerve even her family. Chivalry is also interesting, a callous vampire viewing most humans as simply food but with a soft spot for Fort that would undoubtedly make him lend a hand, if their mother hadn’t forbade his involvement. He’s completely devoted to his human wife, until death do them part….which it does with clockwork regularity every ten years or so, forcing him to find someone new. The human system isn’t designed for regular vampiric feeding, apparently. Fort is an interesting character in his own right, but his relative weakness leaves him somewhat of a passive operator for most of the book. He sets things in motion, and tries to help, but a lot of the heavy lifting falls to Suzume. That, combined with a very fascinating supporting cast, leaves the protagonist overshadowed. This has bugged a number of reviewers, and I can see their point, but I was fine with it. This was mostly setup for what is to come….and I can’t wait!

CONTENT: R-rated profanity, though not gratuitous. Strong violence, vampiric and otherwise. There’s a lot of flirting and suggestive teasing, mostly from Suzume just to get a reaction from Fort. The (most) villainous vampire is a pedophile who kidnaps little girls for obviously nefarious purposes. There’s no explicit depiction of his activities, but it’s disturbing nevertheless.

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