Tuesday, November 27, 2007

God Is Dead - Ron Currie, Jr.

No, it's not Christopher Hitchens' latest position paper; it's an innovative collection of short stories woven around the powerful titular premise. The strangeness inherent in God Is Dead is owed to the fact that though God is dead (a victim of the genocide raging in Darfur), we're still here. Surprisingly, the end of God does not mean the end of the world, though some of the characters in the book behave as such and some would be better off if it were. Taking up several viewpoints amid the aftershocks caused by the death of the most unifying (and divisive) force in human history, Ron Currie, Jr.'s book doesn't shy away from bold speculation and surreal satire.

The questions raised by the death of God are nearly infinite. To accept the death of God, you have to accept the existence of God. What's worse, the death of your god, or knowing that He was alive and you didn't believe when you had the chance? If there is no more God; what of Heaven? Where do believers turn now? Do they worship their children? Do they worship the dogs who feasted on God's corpse and gained a strange humanity? Do they worship tenets of philosophy, new schisms forming to take the place of sectarian hatreds? Do they succumb to the futility of life and seek its end now that there is no purpose (as hidden as that purpose may have been when He was still alive)?

Some authors would approach these issues with gentle ruminations; some with understated character studies. Luckily, Currie does us all a favor and turns the wheel hard, landing in a ditch of crazed imaginings, bold-faced irreverence and the audacity necessary to make you think without worrying about the consequences of your conclusions.

For more book recommendations, industry news, interviews and opinions open up: The Inside Flap

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rock On - Dan Kennedy

I was wrong again (it happens…let's just say 'occasionally'). I saw the title and cover of this book and thought 'Please, not another ironic hipster penning a love letter to his childhood wrapped tightly in a faux enthusiasm blanket while burnishing his indie rock cred.' (Okay, maybe my initial thought wasn't quite that coherent and profanity-free, but we're all great wits in retrospect. Also, 'Faux Enthusiasm Blanket' – possible post-emo/screamo band name.) Turns out, Rock On is sans hipster irony, and less of a love letter than a debriefing from one of the smoking craters caused by the music wars. Dan Kennedy is (or should be) well-known for his frequent and varied contributions to numerous McSweeney's publications. For those of you who don't know McSweeney's, rectify that posthaste.

As for Rock On; it's a smart and funny look at the author's disillusionment with an industry that poses as creative while seemingly ready to wring the necks of baby bunnies if it will get them another airplay for their 'product'. It's not a newsflash that when you have an industry controlling artistic expression the results seem less than genuine. It is, however, revelatory just how many decisions made in those ivory towers are driven by a combination of fear, laziness, and stupidity; and here I thought greed was the only boogeyman to aim for.

For eighteen soul-crushing months Kennedy fought the good fight in the marketing department of one of the biggest music companies in the world. His experiences would prove harrowing if they weren't hilarious, and by all rights his observations should be dripping venom. As a former employee of the world's largest purveyor of books (They Who Shall Not Be Named), I identified with Kennedy's day-to-day dread and deer-in-the-headlights inability/unwillingness to play the game with his superiors.

Tales of conference room status wars waged by embittered ladder climbers, near-fisticuffs over baked goods, the mad dash of prospective personal assistants, the inanity of making a point about selling out by selling out, and a parade of yes men who never got music in the first place make Rock On the perfect encapsulation of the wrongheadedness of 'big music'. Maybe Dan Kennedy's book is the first fragment of an asteroid coming to usher the corporate dinosaurs into their ice age. It comes not a moment too soon.

For more book reviews, interviews, and industry news (from more independent booksellers) check out The Inside Flap.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's Next: The Wrap-Up Edition

The booksellers at Schwartz Bookshop on Downer know how to put on an event (and I'm not just saying that because I work there). From the beginning, Jay Johnson and Joe Lisberg were accommodating, enthusiastic, and committed to spreading the word about "What's Next? Adventures In Sequential Art". They put in their time networking with local businesses and schools to get the word out around town and pelted the interweb with announcements (the fantastic promo poster by Joe's own Deep Sea Studios was spot-on and a great help). Store manager Doug James was supportive and willing to give up some of that all-important front-of-store floor space to make room for a cool display featuring the work of those speaking.

With our goals being to proselytize to folks the wonders of doing what you love and to foster a sense of community with our fellow indies, Alan, Randy and I all came away last night feeling great about the response. The audience was much bigger than I expected, but I'm an anticipatory pessimist. We took some great questions, and all involved had ample opportunity to speak to what we do and why we do it.

Max Estes and John Porcellino were both stand-up guys, willing to share their views and methods with the audience, us 'Shed Heads included. I had a chance to speak with both of them, and can wholeheartedly endorse their sincerity and devotion. Max and I were flabbergasted in tandem that with Milwaukee being as small as it is (comparatively), we had yet to run into each other. John was an inspiration; I truly felt that comics were instinctual and necessary when he talked.

The only unfortunate aspect to the night was a technical glitch removing a podcast from the equation. It would have been nice to be able to share the sounds of the event (John Porcellino admitting that everyone in comics is "sad and bitter" being my personal highlight), but I also see the positive in no one knowing what a giant windbag I can be in person.

I'm working on some new stuff at the moment, and having a chance to rub elbows with fellow creators provided an added spark to my typing engine (way to stretch a metaphor).

Thank you to everyone who attended and to those of you who keep your minds open and your wallets at the ready for independence.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What's Next? Adventures In Sequential Art

What's Next? Adventures In Sequential Art

Join Workshed Studio (Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology), John Porcellino (King-Cat Comics), and Max Estes (Coffee and Donuts) at:

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop
2559 N. Downer Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

The assembled panel, myself included, will be holding forth on all manner of interesting topics such as:

Life, love, and the mentality necessary to independently produce comics.

Here's the press release...

What's Next? Adventures in Sequential Art

Sponsored by Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops and cream city review

How many ways can you tell a story? John Porcellino (King-Cat Comics), Max Estes (Coffee and Donuts), and members of Milwaukee's Workshed Studio (Sawdust) discuss their individual work, their varying creative processes, and the interplay of words and pictures in storytelling.

Monday, October 15, 7pm Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, 2559 N. Downer Ave.
Website: insideflap.blogspot.com
Contact: Jay Johnson, jjohnson@schwartzbooks.com


Workshed Studio (Justin Riley, Alan Evans, Randy Malave, Jr) is a Milwaukee-based comic book studio. They're the guys who read too many comics, watched too much television, snuck in to too many movies and even paid attention to those books without pictures. They hope to take equal parts pop culture, social relevance and homage to the history of comics and mash 'em together into a fully enjoyable storytelling paste. They recently published Sawdust, an anthology of their work. (workshedstudio.com)

John Porcellino (King-Kat Comics) was born in Chicago, in 1968. He began writing and drawing at an early age, compiling his work into small, handmade booklets. His first photocopied "zine" was produced in 1982, at the age of 14, and he began his current series, King-Cat Comics and Stories, in 1989. Since then, King-Cat has been his predominant means of expression. Drawn & Quarterly has published two of his books, King Kat Classix (2007) and Perfect Example (2005). Porcellino currently lives in Denver with his wife Misun, and a small black cat named Maisie Kukoc. (king-cat.net)

Max Estes (cream city review) is a Milwaukee-based graphic novelist and Comics Editor for cream city review. Top Shelf has published two of his books, Coffee and Donuts (2006) and Hello, Again (2005). Max's comics, artwork, and short stories have been published in Canada, England, Spain, and the United States in various art books and comic anthologies. He is also a part-time instructor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design where he teaches Illustration and Sequential Art courses. (www.maxestes.com)

I've never met Mr. Porcellino or Mr. Estes, but am assured by a mutual acquaintance that neither gentleman harbors ill-will toward the general populace.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

One Third Of Workshed, One Third Of Awesome

Imagine my surprise when my friend and fellow Workshed creator Alan Evans told me he'd been interviewed by Firefox.org about our comic ventures. I think he does a good job (even though I'm the scintillating one). This may not be big news for anyone but Al, Randy and I, but I figured I'd pass it along...

Alan Evans interviewed about Workshed and indie comics

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Damn You, Diamond Comics!

First, many thanks to Lisa and Craig at Neptune Comics for the warm reception and good conversation. Second, DAMN YOU, DIAMOND COMICS!

"What's wrong, CBV?" you ask. (Note: This was originally posted on MySpace, where my handle is Comic Book Villain.)

Well, in most instances, having an appearance to promote a new trade paperback on a Wednesday would be the thing to do. Even if nobody's coming specifically to see you, there's bound to be people in a comic store on Wednesday. For, as the initiated know, Wednesday is COMIC BOOK DAY!! HOORAY!

But not 'HOORAY'. Not even 'Yeah' or 'hmmm'. Diamond Comics, the distributor for any and all things comic book related, didn't ship Neptune's delivery. ARGGGH!

Now, rather than keep quiet in the hopes of tricking people into coming anyway, Lisa and Craig did the right thing. They e-mailed their customer base and let them know what was up. In fact, they offered a discount for anyone who'd like to stop in and look around (and possibly meet Al, Randy and myself). Pretty solid on their part.

Turns out people just want their comics. This is understandable. So, long story short, Workshed didn't exactly get to press the flesh (unless you count handing a credit card to the George Webb's waitress next door).

Lisa and Craig were gracious hosts, and I think it's safe to speak for Al and Randy when I say that we all had a good time talking comics, industry and West Allis with them. Fine folks at a very cool store (an impressive selection of comics and associated merch).

All things considered, we should have seen this coming. Al, Randy and I, up to this point, had never appeared as a group to promote anything we worked on. Even if Workshed has been around in one shape or another for seven years, we're still in for some dues-paying. On a positive note, Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology is now available at Neptune Comics. You now have no excuse, Waukesha, Wisconsin.

So, once again, thanks to Lisa and Craig at Neptune, and here's to the next Workshed Studio appearance paying down the newbie debt even further.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Meet Workshed Studio Wednesday, September 26th

Workshed Studio (myself, Alan Evans, and Randy Malave Jr.) will be signing copies of Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology and meeting some of the fine comic book-reading folks of Wisconsin on Wednesday, September 26th. Stop on by:

Neptune Comics
141 E. Sunset Drive

Waukesha, WI

Unfortunately, we couldn't secure the pony ride permits, but it should be a fun time nonetheless. Festivities kick off at 6pm. Come talk comics and feed our egos.

No Country For Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

At this point, it may well be silly to recommend this book. It's been out for almost two and a half years, and the movie adaptation (by the Coen brothers – HOORAY!) will be in theatres in a few short months. On top of that, Cormac McCarthy has jumped on the Oprah train with his most recent book, The Road. The publicity machine running behind this phenomenal author and his amazing work doesn't seem to be hurting for fuel. All that being said; this book is so good that it would be wrong of me to read it and not say something.

Cormac McCarthy is the kind of author that people will teach classes about (perhaps they already do) and his work will be dissected for meaning, nuance and style. I'd say he was an exemplar of a certain crop of writers working the themes of dying culture, dried-up hopes and barren psychological landscapes, but he's not. He's not an 'exemplar', because no one else does what he does. Sure, some try, but no matter how much they get right, there is something altogether different and in my opinion, better about McCarthy's writing.

On it's face, No Country For Old Men is a story of a man who finds a case of money left from a drug deal gone bad and makes a fateful decision that alters his own and the lives of the people around him. But then it's more. McCarthy is famous for his reticence to discuss his work, and hearing opinions like mine, making it out to be grander in scope than probably intended is doubtless one of the reasons why. But here goes…

I easily viewed the protagonist, Llewelyn Moss, as a Promethean character. He's an everyman, stuck in his strata and desperate for more than life gave him. Desperate enough to steal the fire of the gods. Unfortunately, the gods in this time and place are gods of greed, violence and amorality. Moss is quickly out of his depth. There are no supernatural elements to the story (unless you count Anton Chigurh, the downright spooky killer on Moss's trail), but the willingness to wade into the morass of bloody retribution and risk what little he has at the story's beginning will make you question Moss's sanity. Chigurh is a representation of the forces that ordinary men have no business butting up against. He's long past humanity, in fact long past even the code of conduct expected of a man in his line of dirty work. The final member of the trio of perspectives is Ed Tom Bell, the sheriff whose life is turned upside down amid the chaos that ensues. Sheriff Bell is the standard set for community and order in an increasingly violent and, to him, senseless world. You can hear Bell's bones ache every time he reads a newspaper, every time he hears about the latest transgression against the people he protects. These three men represent the stages of a world going mad. The old guard, the new return to savagery, and the point at which one embraces the other.

Questions of humanity regressing back to animalistic impulse are prevalent in McCarthy's work; the battle to hold on to ethical and moral standards seems to be going badly. At the end of the day, the visions of violence and depravity presented serve to contrast and enhance the dwindling few who strive to do right. There is something mythic at work in No Country For Old Men.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bad Monkeys - Matt Ruff

Confession time; I loathe high-octane action novels following rogue CIA/FBI/NSA agents as they untangle a web of government corruption while saving the president's daughter. Luckily, Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys is nothing like those. Sure, there's a national conspiracy, shadowy cabals on both sides of the good and bad seesaw, and a rogue agent shooting her way through the danger; but her weapon of choice is an 'NC Gun', 'NC' of course, standing for Natural Causes.

Bad Monkeys goes from airport read to a mindbender of a good time from the first chapter on. Ruff has done the action genre a service by weaving some fantastical elements into what would otherwise seem by-the-book spy fare. In fact, with these additions,The enigmatic Jane Charlotte is questioned about a murder she cops to in the name of The Organization. The Organization is an outfit dedicated to improving the world behind the scenes, and her branch takes care of the titular primates. Bad monkeys; too far gone to save, too diabolical to be allowed to go on living. It's Jane's job to hunt them down, using a variety of sci-fi tech and weaponry and the Big Brother-style surveillance provided by every eye they could hide a camera in.

Read on an action thriller level, Bad Monkeys would succeed easily. It's a good thing that Ruff wasn't satisfied with action thriller status. Jane's story is picked apart at every turn by a doctor and fed back to her in a more believable and less heroic form. The reader is left to figure out what's to be believed and who Jane is. The psychological aspect of Bad Monkeys is at least as important as the derring-do, and delivers on the Pynchon-esque promise of the premise.

Bad Monkeys reminds me of another twist-and-turn action story recently out in paperback; The Zero, by Jess Walter. I loved Walter's book for many of the same reasons I find Ruff's to be so engaging. It just goes to show; genre need not scare you away if it's used as a basis for expansion and experimentation. Both action novels succeed brilliantly by melding some sci-fi in with their grit.

Friday, August 24, 2007

'Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology' Update

Just a heads-up for all you readers in the Milwaukee area…

Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology is now available at:

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop
2559 N. Downer Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Of course, you can still get it on the website as well.
Thanks for the positive response.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wizard World Chicago Brings Families Together...

Or does it?

Flash forward ten years...

"Look, dad; I'm not Luke, you're not Obi-Wan, and mom DAMN SURE ISN'T YODA!!!"

Friday, August 10, 2007

Justin Pimps Yet Another Book.........This Time It's Personal!

As some of you may know, I do things other than read. Writing comics, for example. This week, I'm proud to announce the (self) publication of a trade paperback comic book collection I had a hand in. Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology is the collection of the four issue comic series of the same name put out by myself and the 'Shed Heads over the past year. It's chock-full of solid storytelling and eye-catching art; if you like action and adventure (ie. you are NOT a Jedi), check it out. Sawdust is available on the Workshed Studio web site (12 smackers and free shipping), Wizard World Chicago (special 10 buck convention price), and choice comic shops in the Milwaukee area (12 shekels and you get it with no waiting and a minimum of costumed fan interaction).

Still not convinced? Well, if you're in Milwaukee, here's some more food for thought...

Fun facts about Workshed Studio

-Workshed Studio is a group of local comic creators.

-Alan Evans (writer/artist Worldwide Solutions) was kicked out of The Taskmaster's Training School after repeatedly asking him to mimic wrestling moves.

-Radames Malave (writer/artist Ebon Guard) was convicted of a crime he didn't commit, but probably would have committed had he thought of it.

-Justin Riley (writer Worldwide Solutions, Fade) has all the rage of the Hulk, but none of the accompanying proportionate strength.

-No one at Workshed Studio has ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Not in Reno.

-Workshed is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

-Alan has encyclopedic knowledge of early gangsta rap, and will quote it extensively with no provocation.

-Radames "ain't scared of no ghosts".

-Justin doesn't feel sorry for anyone working on the Death Star. It's called THE DEATH STAR! Lousy fascist collaborators.

-No one at Workshed knows the meaning of the word 'quit'. We will be a buying a dictionary soon.

-Did we mention we're from Milwaukee?

-Alan owes a LOT of money to the 'wrong people', but would like to keep his thumbs. So buy the book, please.

-Radames once hired, and then promptly fired the A-Team when it became apparent that they couldn't shoot straight.

-Justin has danced with The Devil in the pale moon light, and doesn't see what the big deal is.

-Workshed loves you for your mind. Everything else is just gravy.

-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Milwaukee!

I'm done whoring for now. Whoring for funnybooks, anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Collected Stories - Amy Hempel

These are stories that devastate you, and leave you in need of a stiff drink. Not exactly a feel-good comment on this collection, but I think it's entirely appropriate. Amy Hempel's writing is like a movie you fight tears through, or a song that reminds you of a personal tragedy. The characters within these stories are almost exclusively at their breaking points, or just beyond. It's in that melancholy space that Hempel operates to the greatest effect, inviting the reader to slip past battered defenses and bear witness to the pain and frustration resulting from disconnection and disillusion.

Engendering complicity with her readers in a way that seems voyeuristic yet compassionate is a magical feat on Hempel's part. You'd be forgiven for thinking that some of these stories are autobiographical; Hempel is that convincing in her first-person portrayals. The closest comparison I could make is Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. But, where Yates tempers his story of suburban decay with wry comic tones, Hempel serves up the discord raw and bleeding, any trace of humor distinctly of the gallows variety.

This is a beautiful book with emotion to spare. When you're finished, I'll pass you the tissue and the bottle.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This Is Not Cool, And Not 'Alternative' In Any Way

So, NPR, the bastion of independent thought and pride of lefties everywhere has stepped in it. For shame...

NPR rolls over for Amazon.com

For some independent booksellers' perspectives, check out......you guessed it......The Inside Flap.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Austin Grossman Interview On The Inside Flap

I just posted an e-mail interview with Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible, on The Inside Flap. Why don't I just post it here? Because I want you to go to the Inside Flap. Did I mention Inside Flap? Oh, I did? Okay.

Inside Flap

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Inside Flap

If you're one of those weirdos that enjoys actually feeling a book in your hands when you read it (just feeling it, NOT caressing it), then share the (platonic) love on

The Inside Flap.

Stop by and see what's caught the attention of the booksellers at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops. If so moved, post a comment.

Of course, if you really want to caress your books, there's no way I could stop you. We're on the honor system here, people.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

If You Liked School, You'll Love Work - Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh is probably best-known for his novel, Trainspotting. As with that book, the true enjoyment in his latest is the clever characterization and cultural immersion on offer. The strange situations and people encountered in If You Liked School, You'll Love Work are masterfully sketched, right down to the intentional misspelling of words to convey an accent; the Midwesterners say 'nat', instead of 'not'; the English bar-owner calls women 'gels'. It's touches like these that help to entrench the reader into the body and geography of the characters. Welsh is intricate but never overwrought; there are no wasted words, no descriptions that feel like padding.

Never one to shy away from sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, Welsh takes aim at the people obsessed with all three (and other vices). The characters on display in this collection are creatures of habit and environment; a common thread being the myopia of self-interest that leads to misunderstandings both funny and terrible. A tripping trio unprepared for the desert, a Sex And The City wannabe with WASP practically tattooed on her forehead, a bar-owning 'chubby chaser' convinced that his happiness is proportional to his control over the women in his life. There are no morality plays here, just people reaping what they sow.

Stereotype plays a big part in the stories as well. Preconceived notions and knee-jerk 'common knowledge' intrude on the ability of most of the characters to think clearly about the (admittedly strange) situations they find themselves in. Of course, without these limitations, the characters wouldn't be nearly as fun to read about. Happy, well-adjusted people are the province of some other writer not nearly as enjoyable to read.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I Love You, Beth Cooper - Larry Doyle

I Love You, Beth Cooper is the textbook definition of painfully funny. The story of Denis Cooverman; valedictorian, geek, punching bag; is full of those high school land mines that most awkward teenagers stumble into endlessly. The difference for Denis, is that he uses his graduation speech to take a chance and throw off the anonymity that intelligence and studiousness has brought him thus far. From a pool of sweat rapidly forming in his shoes, Denis has shakily spoken the five words that may change his life and could bring him everything he's ever wanted.

Too bad Denis threw in all that other stuff about his (thinly veiled) classmates' secrets and failings. And, is now really the time to proclaim your acceptance of your best friend's homosexuality? Oh, and did he totally overlook Beth Cooper's commando-trained, meathead boyfriend? Looks that way. Probably not smart. So, trashing your classmates, outing your only friend (though they protest to the contrary) and evoking the homicidal rage of a trained killer. You've got to wonder if that speech was such a good idea.

I Love You, Beth Cooper is a book filled with humor and cringing in equal measure. A book for anyone who has tilted at social windmills or gathered their courage in a last-ditch attempt to speak up for themselves. Or, for anyone savagely pummeled by a commando for pledging his love to a cheerleader.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Terror - Dan Simmons

If you've written a complex, period-accurate adventure set in the arctic, you'd probably have a read for 'hardcore' fans only. Add to that the fact that the book is over seven hundred pages long, spans years in the telling, and follows a half dozen major characters, and you've got an intractable manuscript fit only for the diehards, right? Wrong! I'd read Simmons before, but would hardly call myself a completist. In some cases the sheer volume of his work was enough to make my eyes dart elsewhere on the bookshelf. I am now ready to admit what a mistake avoiding this fantastic author was. If he went on for another seven hundred pages I'd devour those too.

Set among the crews of two ships trying to force a northwest passage through arctic ice, The Terror drags you in with tantalizing whispers of what could go wrong. It's not enough having to navigate through tons of ice in experimental ships loaded with sailors of all stripes. It's not enough that the expedition's leader is jovially unaware at least and criminally incompetent at worst. It's not enough that all of the great arctic explorers back home called it lunacy to make the attempt. No, those warning signs should have been enough, but a combination of greed, ego and desperation have conspired to throw these considerations aside. There is however, one consideration no one thought to explore. This is where the whispers of what could go wrong turn to screams. This place is uncharted for a reason owing less to nature and more to evil. There was no accounting for the possibility that at the top of the world existed a force alien to 'civilization', malevolent in intent, and more than a match for anything human minds and hands could bring to bear against it.

If the only people to pick up this book are the author's sizable (but not nearly big enough) contingent of fans, that would be the real terror. This book is essential to any reader who loves action, adventure, iconic characters pulled from the mythic tradition and the feeling on the back of their necks as the hair raises.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman

I have to say, my expectations going in to Soon I Will Be Invincible were pretty high. As a comic collector of 18 years, I know what I like, and more importantly, what I don't about the genre. Austin Grossman fulfilled and then exceeded my expectations, much to my surprise and enjoyment. The pitch-perfect evocation of time-tested comic book archetypes in a novel setting was feat enough to win my praise, but Grossman took the opportunity to explore the concepts further, fleshing out what most would see as stereotypes on first glance. In letting the villainous Dr. Impossible tell his own story to the reader, Soon I Will Be Invincible portrays the character as the underdog (albeit a maniacally fiendish and amazingly intelligent one) who just won't quit. Sure, most comic heroes have that quality in spades (it seems to come with the spandex); but when was the last time you got the sense that the villain worked harder to prevail?

This book knocks some conventional comic book ideas on their ears, while preserving the spirit of the four-color adventures that only the bravest will admit to reading. For those still in the dark about just what comic books can be, this novel should be a wake-up call that there is a new mythology for those who care to study it, and it's been around for close to seventy years. Austin Grossman joins the ranks of Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek and Grant Morrison as explorers, preservers (and when needed, challengers) of the traditions of the comic story. If Soon I Will Be Invincible is the vanguard of superhero fiction, I think the genre is off to a great start.

Comic book novel? Yes. Full of strange people, strange powers, strange ideas? Yes. The treatment that some of fiction's most-underrated concepts and creators sorely deserve? By all means.

Crooked Little Vein - Warren Ellis

So, as a bookseller, there are some perks. The best, of course, is seeing cool books long before they are released. But, with great power yadda yadda yadda. That in mind, it's expected that if I see something good, I let people know. Here you go...

If Chuck Palahniuk was kidnapped, Raymond Chandler was resurrected, their DNA was spliced together, and the mad scientists responsible for those events wanted something to read on lonely nights in the lab, Crooked Little Vein would be the result.

Fans of Warren Ellis's comic book work know that he deconstructs genres as a function of breathing, and now he's brought his particular insanity to the literary establishment. This book flouts conventions long held sacred in noir stories. There is no square-jawed stoic gumshoe. Our hero is a dead-end detective whose defining feature is his impossibly bad luck. Corruption is not so much railed against as resigned to. To say Ellis forgoes understatement would be an understatement. It's all there in front of you, pulsing with strangeness and testing your stomach's resolve. Crooked Little Vein is vintage Warren Ellis, and it's time more people know just what that means.