Kingbeast's Lair

Growling about the RPG industry and my gaming life. RPG and anime reviews from a passionate fan. (Formerly John's Hero HQ.)

Archive for the ‘Fun Reads’

Review Of Criminal And Fatale

October 09, 2015 By: John Taber Category: Fun Reads, Media Interests

Criminal Front Cover

-== Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1 ==-

Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips and Val Staples Layout: 7.5″ x 11″, 432 pages, hardcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: Marvel
Year Published: 2011

-== What is it? ==-

Criminal is an Eisner and Harvey Award winning crime fiction series from minds of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. Criminal is part of the Marvel ICON line of products. The Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1 hardcover collects Criminal Volume 1 issues 1 to 10 and Volume 2 issues 1 to 3. It also has some extras that include covers and sketches. I am reviewing a copy that I bought from my local comic store.

-== What I Like ==-

Wanting to try something new I decided to look into crime graphic novels. After doing some research I quickly discovered that Criminal and Ed Brubaker were at the top of many people’s lists. When I started researching Criminal most people seemed to recommend The Deluxe Edition books. Thus I gave Volume 1 a try. It did not take long for me to discover a new passion. Criminal is crime fiction writing at its very best. Stories ebb and flow but always seem to have a direction. The main characters in each story are broken shells who in the end get smothered by their sins.

The artwork in Criminal is full of shadow and angst. Sean Phillips pen and ink work is particularly good. The coloring is thoughtful and invokes the mood of the piece.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

Over the course of Volume 1 main characters from one story may appear in a different story. In these cases although the concept is nice these chance encounters sometimes seem forced and can actually distract from my immersion.

Criminal is definitely adult material. Sensitive readers will not appreciate the strong sex, violence, and language.

-== Summary ==-

Since reading Criminal I have read many other crime fiction graphic novels. Watch for some of these in future reviews. After reading many other recommended products I come back to Criminal. Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1 is the best hard boiled crime fiction graphic novel I have read. Masterful storytelling at the highest level. Pay off your local comic dealer for Criminal then never look back.

I give it 10 out of 10 paws.

On Amazon you can get copies of Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1 at this URL for $75. I think $75 might be above the cover price so check your local comic dealer first.

Fatale Front Cover

-== Fatale: Book 1: Death Chases Me ==-

Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips Layout: 7″ x 10″, 144 pages, softcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: Image Comics
Year Published: 2012

-== What is it? ==-

Fatale tells the story of a cursed protagonist and the people that enter and leave her life over time. The stories remind me of Midas myth in many ways. Stories are mysterious, terrifying, and grounded in a strong noir base. I read copies of all four Fatale trades that I purchased from my friendly local comic book store.

-== What I Like ==-

Fatale has a very different feel from Criminal. The stories have a Lovecraft sensibility that really sucks in the reader. As the stories take place over several generations of time, and not always in chronological order, I found it sometimes hard to follow the main character’s timeline.

The art and color by Phillips are a perfect fit for the hard boiled content. As long as Sean and Ed stick together they will have me entranced.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

Fatale did not immerse me in its world like Criminal. The stories are good and fun to read but I guess I did not care enough about the side character to get hooked.

Like Criminal, Fatale is a book for adults. If you don’t want the language, drugs, violence, or sex then don’t partake of Fatale.

-== Summary ==-

Fatale is a great read but takes attention to read. It can also get slow at times. Fatale is more proof that Brubaker and Phillips own this type of fiction.

I give it 7 out of 10 paws.

Get the Fatale trades here for roughly $11 each.

Review Of Stone And A Hard Place: Alastair Stone Chronicles Book 1

May 31, 2015 By: John Taber Category: Fun Reads, Media Interests

Stone And A Hard Place

-== What is it? ==-

Stone And A Hard Place is a modern urban fantasy tale of a quirky college professor who is secretly a mystic master. It was published in 2015 by R.L. King (aka Rat) through Magespace Press.

The book has a color cover and an entirely black and white interior. The book is 5.25” x 8” and is 363 pages in length. I am reviewing a print copy that I bought through Amazon.

-== What I Like ==-

My favorite part about the novel is the main character Doctor Alastair Stone. Dr Stone is an intriguing mix of a serious professor of magic and curious young man. Alastair is less Obi Wan and more 10th Doctor Who. His journey through the book takes him past many ups and downs and proves that he is not invincible. He is a careful planner but is willing to step up even though he knows he is far less powerful than his adversary. Dr Stone’s reason for facing these terrible threats, “somebody has to.” Love it. 😀

The way magic is explained in the book is by action. King does not spend tons of time explaining how magic works in her world but instead jumps right in and tackles the story. It is refreshing and allows the reader to focus on the characters and story instead of the “nuts and bolts”.

The antagonists in the story are pretty great. I don’t want to give too much away but the trio that oppose Stone are flawed yet powerful and undisciplined…a dangerous combination. At points I enjoyed reading their thread quite a bit.

The last 60 pages or so of the book ratchet up the tension to a powerful ending. I rarely read novels these days that hook me so hard that I can’t put them down. The end of Stone And A Hard Place did that for me. 🙂

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

I thought the beginning of the book was a bit slow. Some side characters needed to be introduced to the reader so that their importance to Stone was set. Sometimes it felt like they could have used less coverage.

At one point it became clear to me that one of the side characters was definitely going to be a “red shirt” (ala Star Trek). This is to be expected to make a punch to the story but it felt a bit too much like it was on rails.

-== Summary ==-

Rat has provided a great start to what I hope will be a long series of adventures for Dr Stone. A dashing opening act for a charming leading man.

I give it 9 out of 10 paws.

You can buy Stone And A Hard Place from Amazon in digital and hard copy. The hard copy is $14.99 at this URL. The digital copy is on $2.99. What are you waiting for!?! GO BUY IT! 😀

The 2014 Lair Awards

May 21, 2015 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Fun Reads, Games, Media Interests, Product Reviews


[ This year the awards are a “bit” late. 🙂 I got busy with my new campaign and blog posts have lapsed. I am hoping to get some reviews in soon. They are stockpiling! 😀 ]

Welcome to the fourth annual Lair Awards! It is again time to pick through the fumbles to uncover some critical hits. This year I will be adding a new category.

Here is how the 2014 Lair Awards will work. There will be five categories: Best Anime, Best Read, Best RPG, Best Board Game, and Best Session. To be eligible for an award the product must have been reviewed in the calendar year by me on the blog. There were a TON of great products released in 2014 but if I did not review them they don’t count. Also note that I often review products that are quite old. A product is eligible for an award if I reviewed it in 2014…period…it does not matter when the product was actually released. 😉

The envelopes please! 😀

Best Anime – No Winner!

This is sad. I did no anime reviews in 2014 at all. I watched several animated features but did not get a chance to review them on the blog. Of the animated series that I watched my favorite was Clone Wars. I watched all seasons and the Lost Missions (i.e. Season 6) with my boys. Great series.

Best Read – Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology

Batwoman Volume 1I reviewed four exceptional graphic novels in 2014. Two earned 8 paws and two earned 9 paws. The two 9 paw products included Paraiah Missouri and Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology. I would give the story nod to Pariah but the art nod to Batwoman. I chose Batwoman for the off the charts artwork. The broken panels, the coloring, and the stunning panorama views by J.H. Williams III are just breath taking. Go buy it. 🙂

Best Board Game – Memoir 44

Even though I only did one board game review in 2014 it was a great one. My 9 paw review of Memoir 44 on March 20, 2014 is the most thought out review I have ever done. After playing hundreds of session I had a lot to say but I wanted to say it in a condensed and considerate manner. I consider it one of my best reviews. If you don’t have Memoir 44 you should go buy it.

Best RPG – Hero Kids

Hero Kids CoverI read a lot of RPGs in 2014 but only reviewed around five products. Out of these products two stood out. I really thought the Trail Of Cthulhu Resource Book & Keeper’s Screen and Hero Kids were the standouts. I gave the nod to Hero Kids because of the enjoyment it has brought to me and my kids. Even now the boys beg to continue their Hero Kids adventures. Right now they are going through a kid friendly version of the Temple Of Elemental Evil and having a blast. I will have to write up some of the details from the run and post it to the blog. 😀 (Note that the Hero Kids article about our first session has also brought traffic and comments to my site which I appreciate. 😉 )

Best Session – Session #11 – Daring Tale #6 – The Palladium Peril

I played Daring Tales Of Adventure with my main RPG group in 2014. There were a TON of great sessions to pick but I went with Session #11. Session #11 had our illustrious heroes confronting a fencing master, performing a rescue on a train, and a cliffhanger at the Coliseum in Rome!

Please reply if you have any comments. 🙂