Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?

I'm a little late to the game to Dynamite Entertainment's The Boys -- I read volume one a while ago, and enjoyed some of it, but I think they're finding their stride in the 7th to 14th issues that make up the second volume.

The proprietor of the comic shop I patronize said he's enjoying it, but finds it a little too over-the-top. Nah, Garth Ennis' Preacher skewered more sacred cows and got more gruesomely violent, deviantly sexual and just plain gross. I loved it, but there was also a great plot running through that story that made it worthwhile -- what is religion, god, faith, etc?

The Boys is (are? am? no, "is" will do), so far, a bit less far-reaching. Billy the Butcher (who speaks like Bullet-Tooth Tony from Snatch), Wee Hughie (visually based on Simon Pegg), Mother's Milk (not as blaxplotiation-like as Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, but on that path), The Frenchman (insane, keen sense of smell), The Female (doesn't talk, doesn't like to be touched, very destructive) and The Terror (very cartoony bulldog), are CIA black ops to keep tabs on, blackmail and extort superheroes to keep them in line, and when they don't, take them down. But it draws the question of who watches the watchers? These guys are enhanced the same way as the superheroes in this universe. Hopefully, this will get addressed. As nasty as the boys can be, why are they the ones that are being used to reign in rogue heroes?

This second volume covers two stories: The first is a search for a killer of a young gay man, and it may be the Tek-Knight or his ex-sidekick Swingwing. I was a little disappointed by this, because it rehashes stuff as old as 1992's Brat Pack, and alluded to in the hoary old Seduction of the Innocent (1954). Not enough funny, and shows the Boys will beat the face in of any suspect out there. Call me a bleeding heart, but even vigilantes need some due process.

The second story is a lot more fun. The Boys go to Russia to track down what's going on with two supervillain's heads blowing up spontaneously... and leads to the possibility of a supervillain coup in Russia, and the involvment of corporations and gangsters. A lot funnier, and a lot more over the top without teeth and blood spraying. When a Soviet-era super team features "The Tractor", "Collective" -- OK I get it... but the fifth and surviving member, a huge bear of a man is called "Love Sausage", there's a game afoot. I was a little disappointed by a major change in the art in the middle of the second story. It wasn't clear in the credits what this change was, but it got a lot more cartoony.

Not anxious enough to pick up every issue, I'll keep grabbing the trades, because, after all, comic books are for Boys. (No, there's good stuff for girls too, I'll write about some of that some day)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Local talent: Kristine Smith's "Code of Conduct"

I just got finished reading Kristine C. Smith's Code of Conduct, the first of her Jani Killian novels. They were originally recommended to me on John Scalzi's blog, and I've got to say, I'm fascinated.

Smith's a Chicago area SF writer, and her day job (pharmaceutical product development) crosses paths with mine (software for the pharma industry), so there's an interest there too (I'd thought perhaps I'd worked with her in the past, but no, different company).

Code of Conduct follows Jani Killian who's been hiding out for 18 years after nasty fallout of a political situation with an alien race, the Idomeni. They're prehaps not as fleshed out as some of CJ Cherryh's, but they are at least truly alien, and it's impressive. The main idomeni character, Tsecha, doesn't think like we do. He thinks in different idioms, struggles with "humanish" concepts (toward the end of the book, his aversion to bodily contact makes him uncomfortable when the prime minister says he's "pulling her leg"), and has goals and influences that cross the human characters' objectives, but at different angles.

The characters are interesting: broken, on edge, stressed to their limits (another similarity with Cherryh), and the fact that there are a couple more books leads me to hope I"ll learn a lot more about the idomeni. But it's not perfect. Smith gets a little obsessive with a few "futurisms" in the language such as "trash-zaps" in every room which dispose of waste, "dispos" which are disposable containers, and "skimmers" that cover everything from gurneys to coffee carts to cars and trucks in various sizes and shapes. I'm hopeful her writing matures -- there's more books I want to read. I'd also hoped for more biotech in the story given her day job -- I'd expected a bio-oriented resolution to the story which may yet come in a subsequent book. More reading to come -- book 2 is in my suitcase. That reminds me -- I need to write more about Len Deighton too.