The Easytown series by Brian Parker is one of the most underrated cyberpunk series presently in production. Cyberpunk hit its heyday in the late 80s/early 90s with William Gibson popularizing the genre with Neuromancer before the Matrix sequels effectively killed it. Actually, I have another theory that technology, the internet, black hat hackers, corporate control, government surveillance, and tranhumanism made the subject no longer science fiction but just an accurate description of 21st century life.
I've already reviewed the first volume of this series and I stated my disappointment the majority of volume one was work by Frank Miller the artist versus Frank Miller the writer. While there were some classic issues in volume one like the introduction of Elektra and the Kingpin's transition from being a Spiderman villain to a Daredevil one, it didn't have the real heart of what I was looking for. That changes with volume two, which contains not only the introduction of the Hand but the classic Elektra and Matt Murdock arcs.
I'm a huge fan of the Carol Danvers incarnation of Ms. Marvel and really need to catch myself up to what she's been doing since becoming Captain Marvel. Then again, given it apparently involves leading the fascist side of "Civil War II" I might be better off just sticking with her legacy character. I refer, of course, to Kamala Khan the Pakistani American erstwhile heroine who decides she's going to call herself Ms. Marvel since Carol Danvers isn't using the name.
Frank Miller's Daredevil is awesome. I say this as someone who thinks Frank Miller, himself, is completely insane and has lost a lot of artistic credibility with his later works. Nevertheless, looking back, I can't trash talk the guy too much because he effectively created my childhood. Not only did he create Elektra, put the Kingpin up against Daredevil, and invent the Hand but he's also responsible for the fact all of these characters were ripped off for the creation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No, seriously, they were created as a parody of Frank Miller's Daredevil run and it's kind of a shame he never got any of that sweet-sweet turtle money.
As such, I feel compelled to do a review of the three book collection of Frank Miller's seminal Daredevil run which I encourage people to pick up on Kindle or in physical form. I, initially, didn't think I needed to do a review on the subject because everyone knows Frank Miller's Daredevil is awesome. Theoretically. I also, much to my annoyance, found out the people who decided to create this compilation of novels engaged in false advertising. Hence why I'm giving the first volume 2 out of 5 stars.
Basically, the first volume of this book is NOT Frank Miller's Daredevil. There's not really a way around that statement. The first two-thirds of this book have Frank Miller as the ARTIST rather than the writer. The comics here are written by Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, Roger McKenzie, and David Michelinie. Most of these guys are perfectly fine writers and Marv Wolfman's Daredevil is basically Nightwing (or Nightwing is basically Daredevil) but it's not what the book should be about.
The first two thirds of the book include a story where Spiderman and Daredevil team up to fight the head of the Maggia (the fiction mafia in the Marvel Universe because, I kid you not, they were afraid of offending the actual New York City mobs that transported comics in the Sixties until Nineties). Notable, this version of the mafia includes garishly dressed goons engaged in acts of terrorism to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.
The book also has Matt Murdock dumping the Black Widow who was his long-time girlfriend for a neurotic woman named Heather. The writers couldn't have imagined Natasha Romanova would have eventually become the fantasy girlfriend of an entire generation of boys thanks to the Avengers and Scarlet Johansen but even then, this should have been recognized as a bad decision. It has Matt Murdock facing a super-strong nutjob who thinks he's a Roman gladiator. Finally, it includes Matt Murdock fighting Bullseye, which I actually have nothing against.
As a "before and after" portrayal of Daredevil, this actually works as an accidental example of what was wrong with the comic before Frank Miller took over. Basically, Daredevil didn't really have much of a defined personality and effectively came off as a second-rate Spiderman. Which, ironically, is part of the reason why the 2003 Daredevil movie failed since they ditched the gritty treatment of the movie to capitalize on Sam Raimi's success.
The final third of the book, however, is gold and is almost enough to give the collection three stars by itself. The introduction of Elektra Natchios, one of my all time favorite comic book characters, and the story about how the Kingpin of Crime returned to power after retiring are both extremely well done. There's also a Bullseye story which involves him suffering a brain tumor and the moral issue of whether or not it's better to let someone like him die.
One thing I like about Frank Miller's Daredevil is, even during these first few issues, he is not actually that good at his job. Matt's actions in trying to save Elektra's father are what, arguably, gets the latter killed at the hands of the police. He also prioritizes getting the Kingpin's blackmail files over saving the mafia boss' wife, which results in her "death" (comic book deaths never stick) and causes Wilson Fisk to return to a life of crime. Matt Murdock under Miller is already an antihero but thinks he's a pure good guy.
In conclusion, this is probably a book to get so you have the complete set if you want to get the entire run in hardback but I can't say it's worth the money on its own. There are some extremely good and important comics with some extremely bad ones.
THE STATEMENT OF ANDREW DORAN is a Indiana Jones versus H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos novel with the titular character standing in for Doctor Jones. Andrew Doran is an adventurer archaeologist who was fired from Miskatonic University for suggesting they should maybe not openly share the supernatural books that have the power to destroy the world. Also, the fact he's a smug git. Unfortunately, Andrew Doran is needed because the Nazis have stolen the Necronomicon and plan to use its power to win the war.
MERCURY'S SON by Luke Hindmarsh is a Blade Runner-esque dystopian science fiction tale about conspiracies, technology, religious fanatics, and a series of gruesome murders. In other words, it is a book that is exactly up my alley. How much did I enjoy it? I enjoyed so much I've read it twice.
TEARS OF A CLONE is the second book in the Easytown Novels, which chronicle the adventures of a Deckard-esque detective named Zach Forrest as he does the Homicide Beat in a future New Orleans' Red Light District. I really enjoyed the first novel, THE IMMORALITY CLAUSE, and while I have some issues with the sequel, I think it's quite entertaining throughout.
THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES is the debut novel of Anna Smith Sparks and one of the best new works of dark fantasy I've seen. I'm intrigued by these new characters, her world, and how they play off of one another. Having just finished this book after finishing Deborah A. Wolf's THE DRAGON'S LEGACY and Anna Stephen's GODBLIND, it's difficult to say which is the best of the three debut novels this year. I did have some issues with the book and its characters but they were balanced out by how unexpected the directions their stories went.
DARKLANDS is the third volume of the Rhenwars Saga by M.L. Spencer, a series I've very much enjoyed. I've referred to it as "The Anti-Wheel of Time" and I think that's a fairly good description of it. It's a series which takes a typical battle between good and evil, epic romances, Chosen Ones, and Forsaken wizards then turns it all on its head. The fact the Wheel of Time did some of this itself doesn't prevent the Rhenwars Saga from serving as an effective critique. I also appreciate the books don't take forever to each their conclusion.
IRON KISSED is the third volume of the Mercy Thompson series about a Volkswagen auto-mechanic living in Washington State with her oddball collection of supernatural friends. Mercedes Thompson is a great character as she represents the best in what I consider to be "working class heroines." Characters who remain grounded enough in the quote-unquote real world that you can imagine them as real people in addition to their "normal" adventures.