The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time Trade Paperback by Dan Slott

Spider-man has always held a special place in my heart.  When I was a kid, I can remember going to the drug store on Valley Road and picking up the latest issue–whether it was Amazing Spider-man 275 (which I never got to read the 2nd half of) or a Marvel Tales reprint of the Looter issue.

So, when it got closer to my own son being born, I started to read the websites about Spider-man again.  I knew about One More Day and I followed some of the Next Big Thing that followed it, but once the BIG TIME collection came out, I knew I had to have it.

So, how was it?

It reminds me of Spider-man of old.  Peter Parker is having a stroke of good luck: new girlfriend, new job, and some positive press for Spidey.  Of course, J Jonah Jameson still hates him (and JJJ is the mayor now…), but things are good for Spider-man.  But Slott turns that good vibe on it’s side, challenging parts of Spider-man we’ve never seen before.  Spider-man loses a key power, and supervillains use that to their advantage.

Spider-man also decides No One Dies, and overtaxes himself to make sure that happens.

Overall, it’s great fun.  Slott understands that when it’s at it’s best, the comic is a soap opera with some superhero action on the side.  He spends a great deal of time building up Spidey’s support cast, and I expect a bunch of those plot lines to start to pay off in future episodes.

It was a great read.  I hope my son, Ben, enjoys it as well.

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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

First up, a confession.  I know Chuck.  Not know him like, hey, we hang out and drink beers, but we chat on Twitter as much as he feels like answering me.  I love his blog.  I find him to be an inspiration when I’m down and out on my own writing–which is often.

So, it was with trepidation that I started his new novel BLACKBIRDS.  Why trepidation?  Because I’m always nervous when I start a friend’s book.  I want to love them so bad, that I often raise my expectations too high.

The good news is BLACKBIRDS lives up to everyone of my expectations.  It stars Miriam Black, a woman who–if she touches you skin to skin–can see how you’re going to die.  Like, she flashes to it, knows the time, knows the cause, witnesses it.  She’s used to this, by now–sort of.  And now she kind of wanders America, dealing with her power–her curse.

And then she touches Louis, a truck driver.  And what she sees stuns her.  It’s not that he’s going to die.  And it’s not even how gruesome his death is.  It’s that, when he dies, he says her name.

To say anymore would spoil the novel.

And believe me, you don’t want this one spoiled for you.

Miriam drives this novel.  She’s a complex, deep, and very sympathetic character.  At the same time, she’s a badass, and she’s going to drag you along for this hell of a ride.  You can’t stop reading, because you NEED to know what happens to her.

The most compelling chapters–for me–were the interludes, where Miriam is interviewed by a young journalist and starts to reveal the secrets of her power.  It got to the point where I’d curse at the end of each interlude, because I know I was going to have to keep reading that night to get to the next one.

Chuck asked me, very early on in the process to pick out a beer for Miriam.  The choices are easy (well, not so easy, it took me a while to come up with them, honestly).  Rogue Dead Guy Ale or Left Hand Fade to Black are the beers to sip while reading this.

But as soon as you start, you’ll forget the beer and just be caught up in the pages.

Buy this book.

 

The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

Any Don Winslow novel comes down to two things:

1) After reading one of his books, I want to be able to write like Don Winslow, but realize I’d never be able to pull it off.

2) I want to read more Don Winslow, even though I’ve read everything of his there is.

The Kings of Cool, the prequel to Savages, is no exception.  It has Winslow’s trademark prose, which reads like someone telling you a story at a bar.  It has violence, short, dirty, awesome bits of violence that seem to happen more or less of the page.  I don’t know about you, but when I read Winslow’s violence, my stomach turns.  Not because of what he says, but because of what he doesn’t.

The tale picks up on Chon, Ben, and O before the events of Savages.  We learn how Ben and Chon got into the weed making and selling biz.  We learn about O’s hopes and dreams.  And we learn about who came before Chon, Ben, and O, because the tale goes back all the way to the late 60s.

This book is everything I hoped for.  A clear, solid follow-up to Savages.  It makes you laugh and cringe and breaks your heart. So far, it’s the best book of 2012.  If you haven’t picked this one up yet, go out and get The Kings of Cool now.  And if you have picked it up…. go buy copies for all of your friends.

Damn.  Now I want to go to San Diego and do more than just tour breweries…