Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Phantom by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the back cover

"When Harry left Oslo again for Hong Kong—fleeing the traumas of life as a cop—he thought he was there for good. But then the unthinkable happened. The son of the woman he loved, lost, and still loves is arrested for murder: Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn't help deserting when he fled. Harry has come back to prove that Oleg is not a killer. Barred from rejoining the police force, he sets out on a solitary, increasingly dangerous investigation that takes him deep into the world of the most virulent drug to ever hit the streets of Oslo (and the careers of some of the city's highest officials), and into the maze of his own past, where he will find the wrenching truth that finally matters to Oleg, and to himself."


Phantom, one of my favorite Harry Hole novels, is one of the most personal entries in the series thus far. It has the usual in-depth character development [many of them ongoing], tight and corkscrew plotting, pop culture references, suspense and other genre elements that make Nesbø’s work addictive and top-notch. Be warned that there is more heartbreak than usual in this one, and its ending is a cliffhanger. When reading Phantom, you might want to make sure you have its sequel, Police, on hand.

Jack's Return Home (a.k.a. Get Carter) by Ted Lewis

(pb; 1970: first book in the Jack Carter series)

From the back cover

"Doncaster, and Jack Carter is home for a funeral - his brother's. Frank's car was found at the bottom of a cliff, with him inside. Jack thinks that Frank's death is suspicious, so he decides to talk to a few people. Frank was a mild man and did as he was told, but Jack's not a bit like that."


Return is a nasty, violent and excellent revenge–mystery tale that raises the bar in the crime genre. Carter is amoral, reckless and unrelenting in his quest to solve the mystery of his estranged brother’s death, meaning everyone around him feels the fire of his rage. Carter’s rampage through his hometown is a sometimes chatty journey, one that is memorable, not for sensitive, PC-minded readers. Fans of the twenty-four-book Parker series by Richard Stark, a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake, might enjoy this.

Followed by Jack Carter's Law.


The first film version, titled Get Carter, was released in the UK on March 10, 1971. It was released stateside on March 17, 1971. Mike Hodges directed and scripted the film.

Michael Caine played Jack Carter. Petra Markham played Doreen Carter.

Ian Hendry played Eric Paice. Britt Ekland played Anna. John Osborne played Cyril Kinnear. Tony Beckley played Peter the Dutchman. George Sewell played Con McCarty.

Geraldine Moffat, billed as Geraldine Moffatt, played Glenda. Dorothy White played Margaret. Rosemarie Dunham played Edna. Alun Armstrong played Keith. Bryan Mosley played Cliff Brumby. 

Glynn Edwards played Albert Swift. Bernard Hepton played Thorpe. Terence Rigby played Gerald Fletcher.


The American remake, also titled  Get Carter, was released stateside on October 6, 2000. Stephen Kay directed the film, from a screenplay by Dave McKenna.

Sylvester Stallone played Jack Carter. Rachel Leigh Cook played Doreen. Miranda Richardson played Gloria. Rhona Mitra played Geraldine. 

John C. McGinley played Con McCarty. Alan Cumming played Jeremy Kinnear. Michael Caine, who played the lead role in the original film, played Cliff Brumby. Mickey Rourke played Cyrus Paice.

John Cassini played Thorpey. Mark Boone Junior, billed as Mark Boone Jr., played Jim Davis. An uncredited Gretchen Mol  played Audrey. An uncredited Tom Sizemore provided the voice of Les Fletcher. An uncredited Frank Stallone, brother of Sylvester, played "Man at Funeral".

Friday, December 08, 2017

Essential Marvel: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 5 by “Stan Lee, John Romita, Sam Rosen & Friends”

(pb; 1970, 1971, 1972 and 2006: graphic novel. Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #90-113.)

From the back cover

"Granted amazing, arachnid-like abilities by the bite of an irradiated spider, Peter Parker has vowed to protect his fellow man! In this volume: The return of the diabolical Doctor Octopus! A side trip to the Savage Land that time forgot! The first-ever appearance of Morbius the Living Vampire! The death of Captain George Stacy! Plus: the wall-crawler's climactic battle with the grinning Green Goblin!"

Overall review

Caveat: possible spoilers in this review.

The fifth volume of The Amazing Spider-Man shows Peter Parker maturing, in fits and starts, and sports some experimental – for the series – storylines and backdrops for the webhead to explore and fight in. There is less adolescent melodrama and less roll-your-eyes filler issues, making this one of the better entries in this series. Even the oddball issues that do not work, and there are a few, have something interesting in them, something that later issues build upon in a more effective way.

The artwork continues to be, well, amazing. Vol. 5 is worth owning, and includes a section with diagrams showing how Spider-Man’s web shooter and belt-camera work, as well as Doctor Octopus’s tentacle harness – interesting, well thought-out stuff. Be warned that this graphic novel ends on a cliffhanger note. Followed by Vol. 6

Story arcs

And Death Shall Come!” (#90): In this carry-over storyline from issues #88 and 89, Spider-Man is still battling Doctor Octopus, a.k.a. Otto Octavius, resulting in the death of a major character.

To Smash the Spider!” (#91): Sam Bullitt, a corrupt politician, tries to exploit the death of police Capt. Stacy, Gwen Stacy’s father. Bullitt does this by framing Spider-Man for murder.

When Iceman Attacks!” (#92): The frosty X-Man, believing Spider-Man responsible for Capt. Stacy’s death, tries to bring the web-slinger to justice.

The Lady and – the Prowler!” (#93): Hobie Brown, a.k.a. the Prowler, comes out of retirement to try his hand at capturing Spider-Man, still thought to be a killer. [The Prowler was last seen in issue #87.] Meanwhile, a grieving Gwen Stacy struggles with a decision – whether or not to stay in New York City, or move to London, England, with her distant relatives.

On Wings of Death!” (#94): Spider-Man’s origin story is recounted. Also, the Beetle is back, with the intention of stealing something mysterious. While doing this, he kidnaps Aunt May!

Trap for a Terrorist!” (#95): Peter Parker flies to London, England, to look for Gwen Stacy. While there, he tangles with terrorists.

. . . And Now, the Goblin!” (#96) – “The Goblin’s Last Gasp!” (#98): Norman Osborn remembers his criminal past as the Green Goblin – as well as secret identity of Spider-Man. The Goblin’s mission this time: to kill his arachnid-enhanced foe. While this is happening, Osborn’s son (Harry) struggles with drug addiction, and Peter Parker’s separation from Gwen Stacy reaches its conclusion.

Panic in the Prison!” (#99): When rioting prisoners take their warden hostage, Spider-Man swings into action. This roll-your-eyes filler issue has a remarkably upbeat finish – if only all hardened criminals were so innocent and agreeable!

The Spider or the Man?” (#100): In one of the more boneheaded and bizarre issues, the web-slinger – seeking to rid himself of his super powers – drinks an untested laboratory formula. He has an issue-filler dream, and mutates in a theme-consistent way.

A Monster Called Morbius!” (#101) – “Vampire At Large!” (#102): Panicked by his mutation, Spider-Man goes to the Everglades in Florida to see if Curt Connors – sometimes the Lizard – can help him undo his boneheaded experiment in the previous issue. The situation is exacerbated when a vampire (Michael Morbius, also called Morbius) shows up, sparking a three-way battle between Spider-Man, the Lizard [a transformed Curt Connors] and Morbius.

This is Morbius’s first appearance in this series.

Walk the Savage Land!” (#103) – “The Beauty and the Brute” (#104): J. Jonah Jameson leads an expedition into the Savage Land, a beneath-the-earth realm located in Antartica. The reason: Jameson wants to publish a series of stories about a mysterious monster said to be there. His fellow travelers include Robbie Robertson, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.

While they are there, another monster – Gog, an oversized reptilian alien – snatches Gwen and escapes into the prehistoric forest. Spider-Man, with help from Ka-Zar and his sabretooth tiger (Zabu), goes after Gog to rescue Gwen. The giant reptile is not the only threat to Gwen, it seems: Gog is the pet of Kraven the Hunter, a villain familiar to the web-slinger and Ka-Zar. . . These issues were especially fun and out-there for this title.

The Spider Slayer!” (#105) – “Spidey Smashes Thru!” (#107): Dr. Smythe, who has built a new arachnid-like robot, is once again hired by J. Jonah Jameson. Their goal: to kill Spider-Man. Dr. Smythe also appeared in issues #25 and #58.

On the friends-of-Peter Parker front, Harry Osborne – fragile in his recovery from drug addiction and longing for Mary Jane Watson – returns home. So does Flash Thompson, back from the Vietnam War – and it seems he is afraid of something, though he won’t say what. Not only that, his yen for Gwen Stacy, Parker’s girlfriend.

Vengeance from Vietnam!” (#108) – “Enter: Dr. Strange” (#109): Flash Thompson is kidnapped by Vietnamese monks, who hold him responsible for the death of their leader. This prompts Spider-Man to save Thompson, with unexpected help from Dr. Strange, who has additional information about the monks. This is Dr. Strange’s first appearance in this comic book series.

The Birth of. . . the Gibbon!” (#110) – “To Stalk a Spider!” (#111): Spider-Man meets the huge, ape-faced Martin Blank, a.k.a. the Gibbon, and tries to discourage Blank from embarking on a superhero career. Blank, who has low self-esteem, takes this the wrong way and is manipulated by Kraven the Hunter [thought dead at the end of issue #104] into joining forces with the vengeful hunter – Kraven is still raging against the web-slinger about previous defeats, as well as the death of his friend, Gog.

Spidey Cops Out!” (#112) – “They Call the Doctor Octopus!” (#113): Peter Parker, worried about the disappearance of Aunt May, considers – for the zillionth time – quitting the superhero gig. His self-pity session is interrupted by the accidental reappearance of Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus, who was laying the groundwork for a new criminal scheme while fighting a turf war with Hammerhead, whose head-shape and attitude reflect his moniker. This is the first appearance of Hammerhead in this comic book.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Ritual by Adam Nevill

(pb; 2011)

From the back cover

"Four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.

"Lost, hungry and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, they stumble across an isolated old house. Inside, they find the macabre remains of old rites and pagan sacrifices; ancient artefacts and unidentifiable bones. A place of dark ritual and home to a bestial presence that is still present in the ancient forest, and now they’re the prey.

"As the four friends struggle toward salvation they discover that death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees."


Warning: possible spoilers in this review.

Ritual, a folkloric, black metal version of James Dickey’s Deliverance, is a good first draft of a novel. It has a lot going for it – an impressive immediacy, dread-hued atmosphere, lots of action, and a mostly worthwhile protagonist (Luke) who does not deserve the boneheaded characters  and forest hell he is forced to endure. 

Unfortunately, Ritual’s promise is not realized because its 417-page nightmare runs too long. At two-thirds its length, it would have been excellent; however, Nevill saddles Luke with character-inconsistent doubts and chatty friends who make dumb decisions – their idiocies even threaten to infect Luke for a brief period, as evidenced by his last-hour interactions with them.

Not only that, there are ill-advised point-of-view/tense changes in certain parts of the book, which jarred me out of the novel. Want to show that a character is dreaming while remaining tense/POV consistent? One way (given Ritual's chapter structure) is to start the chapter with: “Luke dreamt,” then describe the dream. To do otherwise feels artsy, forced. . .  and then there is that telegraphed and slice-of-life aphoristic finish, which could have been written by a Hallmark card writer. This, for me, made that overwritten one-third galling, not just a nuisance.

Casual horror fans who do not mind overwriting will probably not mind Ritual’s length or bonehead characters, and that is good (for them), because Nevill is a talented author who has it in him to be a wordsmith -- provided his work gets tighter editing.


The resulting film was released in the UK on October 13, 2017. It has not been released stateside (yet). It was directed by David Bruckner, from a screenplay by Joe Barton.

Rafe Spall played Luke. Robert James-Collier, billed as Rob James-Collier, played Hutch. Arsher Ali played Phil. Sam Troughton played Dom.

Maria Erwolter played Sara. Paul Reid played Robert. Kerri McLean played Gayle. Jacob James Beswick played "Fiend". Francesca Mula played "Witch".

Kiss-Off the Devil: 9 Short Stories by Terrance Aldon Shaw

(pb; 2015: erotic story anthology)

From the back cover

"The truth isn’t always 'nice,' and those who would dig down to the roots of human folly should expect to get their hands at least a little dirty.

"This collection transports readers to the realm of the forbidden, probing the dark, seldom-explored reaches of illicit desire and obsession where opposites attract and lust burns on any fuel it can find. Ranging in mood from the comically macabre title story, to the poignant realism of  'All the Things They Never Got to Say'. . . and 'Another Detour (Alternate Timeline),' these tales challenge our comfort zones and scandalize the earnest little angels sitting on our shoulders, while inviting their opposite numbers to come out and play.

"If the stories in this book were made into movies they would no doubt be rated somewhere between R and NC-17. Not so much for graphic content (though there is a fair amount of that) as for “adult situations.”

Overall review

Kiss-Off is a superb, memorable, vivid, entertaining, erotic and taboo-bursting story collection, one worth owning – if you are a mature, non-PC reader, not put off by works that are fearless, sensual and provocative.


"All the Things They Never Got to Say”: Cinematic-vivid tale about three foster siblings whose cruel adoptive mother drives them to tender and dark extremes. Excellent, erotic work that integrates close-to-taboo topics with Bible-based abuse. This is one of my favorite reads in this collection.

Birthday Girl”: A fickle and cruel young woman with a sleazy, alcoholic family tries to sexually “play” her her godfather, with dangerous results.

Muse in the Neon Twilight”: Good read about a young woman (Julia) who finds she has a strange attraction to her boyfriend’s long-winded and freak-minded professor.

A Girl From White City”: During a game of Truth or Dare, a young woman (Danni) tells her fellow players about her first interracial affair. What sets this work apart from other tales of this setup/ilk is Shaw’s brief-but-effective exploration of the inconsistencies of the human mind and desire.

Kiss-Off the Devil”: Excellent, plot-twisty work about a disgraced teacher with a penchant for adolescent girls, a sexy Tinkerbell (who seems to be of legal age), and her ex-boyfriend. This story is a hybrid genre piece that is often funny, always dark and un-PC, fearless in its just perversity. This is one of my favorite entries in this anthology.

 All the Surveys”: A physically unattractive and pervy-erudite educator speaks about his divorce, Wild Orchid (film, 1989) and sex in this eighteen-page “interview,” where the female interviewer remains unheard. This first-person point-of-view story read like an intentional, alternate version of “Kiss-Off the Devil” in certain parts.

 Becoming Roxanne”: Seventeen year-old Lois works her first escort gig with her best friend (Tegan). Their clients: the savvy, sexy Mr. Silverman and a grotesque, brusque Russian named Bruno. “Roxanne,” like other tales in this collection, is un-PC. It embraces sex and its professionals, without being cliché and cheap; this is an outstanding read, as long as you do not require romance and are not put off by smart, adolescent-themed desire.

The Why in Everything”: Chatty work about familial mortality, socially inappropriate urges, human nature and the thematic layers of the 1989 film Dead Calm. Excellent, unsettling and wise story.

Detour (Alternate Timeline)”: Two of the characters from “The Why in Everything” – siblings Dave and Traci – are shown in a variable take of events. This, like its co-dependent tale, is full of unsettling conversations about familial matters, the differences between lust and love, the underying BDSM themes of John Norman’s “The Chronicles of Gor” series, and how people – with their surprising layers – change over time. Excellent, provocative, standout stuff.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Leopard by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2009, 2011: eighth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the back cover

"In the depths of winter, a killer stalks the city streets. His victims are two young women, both found with twenty-four inexplicable puncture wounds, both drowned in their own blood. The crime scenes offer no clues, the media is reaching fever pitch, and the police are running out of options. There is only one man who can help them, and he doesn't want to be found. Deeply traumatised by The Snowman investigation, which threatened the lives of those he holds most dear, Inspector Harry Hole has lost himself in the squalor of Hong Kong's opium dens. But with his father seriously ill in hospital, Harry reluctantly agrees to return to Oslo. He has no intention of working on the case, but his instinct takes over when a third victim is found brutally murdered in a city park.

"The victims appear completely unconnected to one another, but it's not long before Harry makes a discovery: the women all spent the night in an isolated mountain hostel. And someone is picking off the guests one by one. "


Leopard has the usual suspenseful thrills, twists-within-twists, and engaging and/or chilling characters as the two Harry Hole novels that preceded it. The bad guys are not hard to spot, but Leopard is more about the whys and hows the crimes were committed. This latest book runs a bit long in the end. That said, it is a minor nit, one that did not ruin my overall enjoyment of Leopard. Followed by Phantom.

Star Wars: Boba Fett -- Enemy of the Empire by John Wagner and others

(1997, 1999: graphic novel, collects issues 1-4 of Enemy and issue 1/2 of the Wizard Magazine comic book Star Wars: Boba Fett – Salvage. Published by Dark Horse comics.)

From the back cover

"Before the events of A New Hope, Darth Vader employs Boba Fett, on a mission to discover and bring to Vader a single small box, the contents of which could change the fate of the galaxy. But there's a catch: Vader trusts no one, and the truth of the box's mystery is too important to allow the bounty hunter to live! When Fett retrieves the prize, he finds himself the target of more of Vader's thralls. Also includes the hard-to-find 1997 Wizard magazine exclusive, Boba Fett #1/2."


Enemy is a fun, darker-than-usual Star Wars tale, filled with treachery, death and ambitious killers, as well the Brothers of the Ancient Order of Pessimists, whose fearful existence provides tone-appropriate laughter.

Enemy “takes place three years before the Battle of Yavin, as seen in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977).” If one does not take it too seriously, it is a good, light ride with decent artwork that adds a little backstory to the Vader-Fett aspects of Star Wars.

Enemy’s companion piece, Salvage, tells the story of Fett investigating a possibly-abandoned ship, Mingula, for parts and bounty. When the biology-based horror of Mingula is revealed, Fett must fight his way off the ship – without bringing that insidious infection aboard Slave 1 (Fett’s ship). Like Enemy, Salvage is a solid (if generic tale structure) ride: it even sports the same end-twist as Enemy. This graphic novel is worth owning as long as one does not mind light characterization or oft-used storylines.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2007, 2010: seventh novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the inside flap

"Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.

"Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer."


Snowman is an excellent, suspenseful read, with its corkscrew/character-centered plot twists, masterful pacing and engaging [or chilling] characters. Not only that, it sets up a possible future foe for Hole to tangle with! Followed by The Leopard.


Tomas Alfredson directed the resulting film, which was released stateside on October 20, 2017. Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini, and Søren Sveistrup wrote the screenplay.

Michael Fassbender played Harry Hole. Rebecca Ferguson played Katrine Bratt.  Charlotte Gainsbourg played Rakel. Michael Yates played Oleg. Jonas Karlsson played Mathias.

Ronan Vibert played Gunnar Hagen. J.K. Simmons played Arve Støp. Val Kilmer played Gert "Iron" Rafto. Toby Jones played DC Svensson. Jakob Oftebro played DC Magnus Skarre

David Dencik played Vetlesen. Genevieve O'Reilly played Birte Becker. James D'Arcy played Filip Becker. Jeté Laurence played Josephine Becker. Chloë Sevigny played Sylvia Ottersen / Ane Pederson.

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

(pb; 1971)

From the back cover

"It began as a mistake." By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost more than twelve years of his life to the U.S. Postal Service. In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mud-soaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the day-to-day trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkers.

This classic 1971 novel--the one that catapulted its author to national fame--is the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski.


Bukowski’s first, semi-autographical novel is a lusty, drunken and don’t-give-a-frak politically incorrect work that often made me laugh out loud. In it, Henry Chinaski drinks too much, loves and fraks numerous women, and sometimes works at the US Post Office. Post is a book that – had it come out today – would have been protested for its raw, honest and sometimes ugly depictions of a ne’er-do-well whose heart is evident even as he acts like a don’t-give-a-damn bastard. Excellent, focused and landmark with its humor and outlook, this is one of my all-time favorite reads. It is not recommended for the politically correct, the otherwise easily offended, those certain of their purity, and those who are oh-so-certain that there are no gray areas in life.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Essential Marvel: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4 by "Stan Lee, John Romita, Sam Rosen & Friends"

(pb; 1969, 1989 and 2005: Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #66-89, & Annual issue #5. Note that issues #66-68 are also republished in the previous graphic novel, Volume 3.)

From the back cover

"After being bitten by an irradiated spider, young Peter Parker learned he had gained the proportional strength and agility of a spider. Combined with a keen "spider-sense" that warned him of danger, Peter became the hero we all know and love...Spider-Man! In this great volume, Peter will face some of his greatest challenges and overcome some of his most harrowing foes. Adventure at its best, true believer!"

Overall review

Volume 4 is a fun, action-oriented and youth-angsty read. There is less melodrama than usual in these issues – “frail” Aunt May still dotes too much on Peter, and he still does dumb things (even for someone his age) that make little sense. Also, there is the issue of the oh-so-sexist issue #86 with Black Widow, and the occasional, silly filler issue (e.g., Annual #5). This is a worthwhile graphic novel, if you can overlook the above elements, as the artwork – as always – is top-notch. Followed by Vol. 5.

Story arcs

"The Madness of Mysterio” and “To Squash a Spider” (#67-68): Spider-Man gets shrunk and tries to elude death in a trap-rigged mini-amusement park.

Crisis on the Campus” (#68) – “The Speedster and the Spider” (#71): Spider-Man is publicly accused of being in cahoots with the Kingpin, who tries to steal an ancient and priceless tablet. This leads to skirmishes with the cops and Quicksilver (who is trying to acquit himself and his wife, the Scarlet Witch, of unrelated false charges).

"The Parents of Peter Parker” (Annual #5): Peter accidentally discovers what really killed his parents – and what they were. Red Skull, from the comic book Captain America, makes an appearance. This storyline and inclusion of Red Skull feels silly and shoe-horned, the admixture of two unlikely elements. Still, there is plenty of action.

Rocked By the Shocker” (#72) – “In the Blaze of Battle” (#77): More mayhem ensues, centered around that ancient tablet, issues #68–71. The Shocker, whose last appearance was in issue #46,  takes the tablet, with the intention of ransoming it. Before long, others are caught up in the conflict between Spider-Man and the Shocker: the Maggia (mobsters), including the hard-punching Man-Mountain Marko; Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. the Lizard; Johnny Storm, a.k.a. the Human Torch. . . This is Man-Mountain Marko’s first appearance in the Spider-Man comics. The Lizard last appeared in issue #45.

The Night of the Prowler” and “To Prowl No More!” (#78–79): A desperate, down-on-his-luck window washer (Hobie Brown) turns his hand to thieving via a costumed alter ego, the Prowler. When his path crosses Spider-Man’s, they fight for a brief time. Also, Peter Parker stews about Gwen Stacy, whom he mistakenly thinks has dumped him.

On the Trail of the Chameleon!” (#80): Spider-Man battles the Chameleon, who steals an expensive painting. The Chameleon was last seen in issue #2.

The Coming of the Kangaroo!”(#81) A misunderstood man with the ability to leap about like a kangaroo finds himself at odds with Spider-Man.

And Then Came Electro!” (#82): Electro, out of prison and working as an electrician, battles Spider-Man on live television. Electro is aided in his vengeful desire by Daily Bugler publisher J. Jonah Jameson, whose laser-focus hatred of the web-slinger once again comes into play. . . Electro was last seen in comic’s first annual Spider-Man issue.

The Coming of the Schemer!” (#83) – “The Secret of the Schemer!” (#85) Two events reawaken the violent impulses of Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) – first, the news that his wife, Vanessa, has discovered that their son (Richard) is likely dead; and second, the clamorous appearance of the Schemer, a new mobster-esque villain whose main aim to take over the criminal empire that Fisk abandoned, after the debacle involving a priceless, ancient tablet (issues #68–71). 

Beware. . . the Black Widow!” (#86): Spider-Man crosses paths with the ex-Avenger and ex-agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, a minor fight takes place before they finally talk and sort out their misunderstanding.

Even by the standards of the late Sixties, there is an underlying sexism that exists within the boy-centric tone of the Amazing Spider-Man universe. All of the female characters – “frail” Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy (with their catty rivalry) and the Black widow – are all, in one way or another, reliant on a man or his approval. Black Widow is an egregious example of this, as three characters (including Black Widow herself) refers to the ex-Avenger as a “copy” of Spider-Man, with her huge identity crisis. (Black Widow, with her powers, battle style and outlook, is not derivative of the web-slinger.) I have not noted this in earlier reviews of The Amazing Spider-Man because few, if any previous issues, were so in-your-face sexist (to my knowledge).

Unmasked At Last!” (#87): Peter, feverish with a mystery illness, reveals his alter ego to his friends at a party. He seeks  medical help. Hobie Brown, once the Prowler [#78–79], makes an appearance.

The Arms of Doctor Octopus!” and “Doc Ock Lives!” (#88–89): Doctor Octopus escapes from prison, hijacks a plane and creates general havoc – often while battling Spider-Man, of course. Be warned that this last issue-chapter of Vol. 4 ends on a cliffhanger situation.

Followed by Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 5.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Redeemer by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2005, 2009: sixth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the inside flap

"A 14-year old girl is raped at one of the Salvation Army summer camps. Twelve years later, at a Christmas concert in a square in Oslo, a Salvation Army soldier is executed by a man in the crowd. A press photographer has caught a suspect on one of the photos of the concert. Beate Lønn, the identification expert, is confused by how the face can change from one photo to the next. Inspector Harry Hole’s search for the faceless man takes place on the seamy side of the city, among those who seek eternal – or just momentary – redemption. And the gunman has not yet completed his mission."


Redeemer is an excellent, hard-to-put-down police procedural/suspense book, one with lots of effective, character-centric twists and nuanced revelations (relating to the ongoing storyline about Tom Waaler, dealt with in The Devil'Star, and corruption within the police department). It is a novel worth owning. Followed by The Snowman.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

(hb; 2017: twenty-fifth book in the Kinsey Millhone mysteries)

From the inside flap

"The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

"Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find."


Y is a dark and plot-promising read. While it is not terrible, it is marred by its overlong, chatty and predictable execution. For readers who need every little thing and character described and spelled out for them, bingo, this is a book custom written for them! For the rest of us, Y is a lesser entry in a series that started out as excellent, engaging and tightly-woven, and has slowly gone downhill from there. If you must read it, this is best borrowed from your local library, unless you are a spell-it-out reader.  

Insane Tales From the Dead, Vol. 1 issue 2 edited by Doug Randazzo

(pb; October 2014: graphic novel - comic book. Published by Caustic Comics. “Introduction” by Mike Howlett )

Overall review

Insane is a good collection of illustrated, horror-centric works that recall the bump-in-the-night humor, gore and morality of EC/Creepy comics while updating those underground elements with fresh-twist terrors and raw, artist-varied artwork. Once again “hosted” by The Grim Faced Pale One (a.k.a. the Grim Reaper), Issue 2 is more mainstream and less sexually explicit than Insane’s first issue. Issue 2 is worth owning.

Review, story by story

 1.Call of the Wolf” – Silvano and Doug Randazzo: While driving back from a Halloween convention, a man’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. That proves to be the least of his problems when a monster shows up. Good, familiar read.

2.Sub Alien”– John Schumacher, Doug Randazzo and Micheal Joseph: Excellent, clever and funny story about two stoners who are visited by four aliens on a heavy metal mission.

3. Torture” – Doug Randazzo and Chris Laskowski: Visually- and grammatically-detailed vignette about a slow, sadistic killing, sans whos and whys. Solid exploration of its titular theme.

4.Who Gives a Nut?” – John Schumacher and Doug Randazzo: A suburban housewife feeds birds and squirrels in her backyard, unaware that a predator lurks nearby. I love the subtle, nature-based horror of this work, as well as how the visual aspects add plot details to it. Excellent piece.

5.Tales From the Cesspool – S**twrecked”– Mark K. Allen and Doug Randazzo: Gross, imaginative and ridiculous story about the aliens and the end of our world. This is a good, fun work, if you are not squicked out by fecal humor.

<em>Phantom</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb;  2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett .) From the back cover...