Review of The Conformity by John Hornor Jacobs

The Conformity (Incarcerado, #3)The Conformity by John Hornor Jacobs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Angsty superheroes, depressed gods, human filth, and a whole lot of darkness. Welcome to The Conformity, by John Hornor Jacobs.

The Conformity is the third in John Hornor Jacobs’ Twelve-Fingered Boy trilogy, a series about a boy, and the group of damaged teens who surround him, learning to deal with the terrible things that have happened to them while simultaneously using their over-the-top psychic superpowers to blow holes in things, jack people’s memories, fly, and do all of the other things that people with superpowers do. The Conformity is the final book in this trilogy, and brings the story of Shreve to its conclusion (but I’ll let you decide what that conclusion is).

First off, John Hornor Jacobs has done a very good job with his ensemble in this book. The characters, though all depressed and filled with end-of-the-world angst, all feel very fleshed out and real. Each has a unique voice, which is a praiseworthy feat in itself, and even the unlikable among them have a place in the story that made me care.

The book’s plot, however, and the way the author handles that plot, is very dark. Gruesome. Sickening in places. Jacobs really accomplishes what he set out to do here, but what he set out to do is definitely not for everyone. A feeling of hopelessness pervades every moment, so much that I found myself carrying a dark cloud away with me from my reading sessions. If you’re someone who doesn’t like dark, or doesn’t like vulgarity, recognize that this will probably not be your next great read (though, if you’re thinking of grabbing this book, it’s likely you already know that from the previous two).

I also found myself a bit disappointed with the beginning and the extremely fast ending. The middle two-thirds of The Conformity was engaging and full of depth, but the bookends left me wanting more.

In all, a well-written action novel with intriguing characters, and a dark side that is as big as the Conformity itself.

Read The Conformity if you love dark superheroes with interesting, unpredictable voices, you read the previous two books and fell in love with Shreve, and/or you like the grotesque, the vulgar, and deeply angry and damaged.

Do not read The Conformity if you are easily offended, didn’t read the previous two books, or if you find it hard to stay engaged with intentionally unlikable characters.

NOTE: My reviews find both the good and the bad in the books I read, so take the information at face value, and use the rating as my own personal response to the value that is in the book. The effort of the author is valuable, and all audiences are different. Find what works for you.

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Only a little lost in Shutter #1: Wanderlost

Shutter #1Shutter #1 by Joe Keatinge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shutter #1: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca is a comic with a lot of potential–an interesting and fun alternate world, engaging yet not over-the-top artwork, and a story that has promise.

Kate used to go on great adventures with her father, but lately her real life has gotten in the way. Now, bounty hunters are bringing Kate’s past into full view, and with it the secrets her father kept from her all those years.

Throughout the book, I found myself alternately engaged and frustrated. Engaged, because this world that exists in Shutter: Wanderlost is rich and full of anachronisms, magic, dinosaurs, and animal people. Frustrated, because even though there is a rich and wonderful story to be found here, most of what I was most interested in was hidden in flashbacks and hints at the future of the series.

In the end, I found that I would rather have seen Kate’s adventures with her father than the admittedly interesting adult Kate story. The future of this series looks promising, though I would have liked to have seen more of that promise realized sooner.

Still, Shutter #1: Wanderlost is worth a read. There are some truly fun characters (my favorite being the not-quite-dead butler Harrington, and Kate’s old nanny, the “General”). Though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, I also got some hints of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book here and there, which is always a good thing.

Bottom line?

Read Shutter #1 if you like interesting and unique worldbuilding, solid art, and a story that takes a bit of investment. It might take a bit, but there’s something worth finding in there.

Do not read Shutter #1 if you get frustrated easily by plots that take a bit of wind-up, have problems with alt-worlds, or take issue with being kept on the hook for figuring anything out. There’s a worthwhile story here, but you’ll likely be too annoyed by the time you get to it to enjoy yourself.

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Review of Crimson Son by Russ Linton

Crimson SonCrimson Son by Russ Linton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bottom line, I enjoyed Crimson Son by Russ Linton, despite a meandering (at times) plot and a protagonist that was difficult to like.

Crimson Son’s greatest strength is also its weakness. Spencer, the powerless son of the world’s greatest superhero, is a bratty, smarmy, snarky older teen who I would have a hard time spending any amount of time with in the real world. Russ Linton has done a good job of creating a very unique and interesting character here, but sometimes his sarcasm grates on the nerves.

That’s a small concern, though, especially if you like that sort of thing. The story of Crimson Son is interesting, though at times I felt the flashbacks got in the way a bit much. Still, this take on superheroes by author Russ Linton has a lot of nuance going for it. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from this new independent author.

Read Crimson Son if you like comics, intricate plots, and jerks.
Do not read Crimson Son if you are easily offended, are repelled by sarcasm, and have no patience for flashbacks.

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Okay, yeah, I loved Superman: Red Son, too. What of it?

Superman: Red SonSuperman: Red Son by Mark Millar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, I’d be remiss if I didn’t review Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar. This Elseworlds tale is one of the most ingenious takes on a superhero I’ve seen in a while, and just the thought of a commie Superman is worthy of high praise.

Superman: Red Son delivers more than just a concept, though. The story is powerful, and does a great job of foreshadowing an ending that I didn’t expect (though, in retrospect, maybe I should have). The gist is this: instead of landing in Kansas, like the story we’ve all heard, our super-strong alien friend ended up crash landing in Soviet Russia, and becoming a beacon of hope for global communism. Forget red, white, and blue … let’s just have a hammer and sickle.

Millar handles the story well, though not without a few plodding missteps along the way. As the story progresses, we find more than a few places where the plot slows to a crawl, but it’s worth working through those moments in the end.

The art works very well in Superman: Red Son, often giving off a great propaganda vibe that fits the theme perfectly.

Read Superman: Red Son if you like Superman, concept pieces, politics, and thinkers.

Do not read Superman: Red Son if you aren’t interested in what-ifs, thought experiments, or fun.

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