Book: Assassin’s Code

"Assassin's Code"

When Joe Ledger and Echo Team rescue a group of American college kids held hostage in Iran, the Iranian government asks them to help find six nuclear bombs planted in the Mideast oil fields. These stolen WMDs will lead Joe and Echo Team into hidden vaults of forbidden knowledge, mass murder, betrayal, and a brotherhood of genetically engineered killers with a thirst for blood. Accompanied by the beautiful assassin called Violin, Joe follows a series of clues to find the Book of Shadows, which contains a horrifying truth that threatens to shatter his entire worldview. They say the truth will set you free… Not this time. The secrets of the assassin’s code could set the world ablaze.

I picked up Assassin’s Code because it was the fourth book off the Joe Ledger series of books. Which is a good thing. Because I don’t think I would’ve picked this book up based on the above synopsis.

Then again, out of the four Joe Ledger books I’ve read, I think this one is the weakest off the bunch. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not up to par with his other books. Especially not with the Rot & Ruin series. After four adventures, I think I’m starting to feel some fatigue for the shenanigans that Joe Ledger and his Echo Team keeps getting into.

Or maybe it’s just this book.

Unlike in other Joe Ledger books, author Jonathan Maberry’s pacing for this story seems off. Maybe because there are way too many things going on, too many characters need to process things, too many plot threads are let loose in the wind. The result? Chaos.

Ultimately, when you read the book, that seems to be the intent. But for a reader looking for a break from real life? Chaos needs to be reigned in. Doled out in small doses. Chaos needs a little order, to be easier to take it in. And that’s what I found lacking in Assassin’s Code. Order.

I think it became harder to read when the book reached its second part. When the interludes began? I didn’t need the backgrounder. And, spoiler alert, the interludes are spelt out in the end. So there really wasn’t a point in writing the interludes.

And don’t get me started on the fake chapter enders. Where characters would discover something important–but it wouldn’t be revealed to the reader. It was frustrating. More than pushing me to move on to the next chapter, I kept having to put down the book to remind myself that it would be worth it in the end.

But was it?

I don’t know. On the one hand, I didn’t find the book bad. As I already mentioned before. It’s not bad. It’s just not as good. And when you’ve already shown readers how good you can be… Well, let’s just say I would be a little more wary when I pick up the next book off the Joe Ledger series.

Book: My Midnight, The Graphic Novel

"My Midnight"

Midnight’s sister Dawn went missing when Midnight was still a child. Dawn, it is believed, was abducted by a strange ghostly creature.

A few years later, Midnight and her parents transfer to Candon, a strange little town in the province of Ilocos Sur–strange because vampires, rumors abound, roam the town.

Midnight hates Candon and wants to go back to Manila. But she abruptly changes her mind when she meets Yael, the most gorgeous young man she has met. Midnight instantly knows she is in love while Yael seems determined to stay away from her.

Yael, it seems, isn’t what he appears to be.

I’m taking whatever I said about Dark Side back. At least that had a semblance of an original thought. In comparison to My Midnight, the graphic novelization of Precious Hearts Romance book of the same title, Dark Side can be considered a work of art.

I’m not dissing for dissing’s sake. I want the local publishing industry to flourish. But why must we insult the intelligence of local readers?

My Midnight is localized Twilight. Twilight-lite, at that. Our main character has more powers than Bella Swan, but even less personality. I didn’t know that was even possible. And then there’s leading man Yael. At his worst Edward Cullen was a stalker, Yael trumps him with a split personality. But at least that’s a character trait, right? That’s a personality?

I came in to My Midnight with no expectations. I lowered my standards. You could step on the standards I was going to hold this book down to. And still the book didn’t hold up.

What’s wrong with it? Why don’t we list it down:

Story. Ripping Twilight off would have been fine if the story presented something new. Or, at the very least, improved upon the source material. That didn’t happen. Obviously. The story is all over the place as the writer (or should I say writers, since they’re crediting someone else for the graphic novel?) tries to make this not look like Twilight.

The lack of plot development. We get presented an event. It’s going to happen again. Except, by the third act, they’ve forgotten about it because villain has emerged with a bigger plan. Which leads me to:

Characters. We get introduced to a semi-villain who doesn’t really do anything and becomes an ally without an explanation. And then there’s:

Character development. The utter lack of it. Our hero hates Candon. She leaves town. And then she gets saved by Yael. And then she forgets that she wants to leave the place. Heck, she didn’t even think about her (character-less) parents when she decided she wanted to leave the place.

Structure. Things happen because they need to happen. It’s obvious that someone just wants to push the story along because nothing happens organically. And the bad thing is, unnecessary moments still pop up in the book. Like a bookstore scene where our main character just ogles at Yael.

Seriously.

The whole thing is inane.

I respect Precious Hearts Pages for what they are trying to do for the local publishing industry. But please, get your editors to turn down stories like this. My Midnight will not help the industry.

And don’t tell me that this wasn’t written for the intellectual public. Precious Hearts readers read things in Filipino, not English. If this was intended for them, My Midnight would also be in Filipino. It’s not.

Not that it would’ve done any good.

Now I’m wary of my last Black Ink series to read…

Book: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer – Season 9

"Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Season 9"

Has it been two years? I can’t believe it’s taking us this long to start and end seasons nowadays. Sure, the budget restrictions are gone now, but I fear that Buffy has lost something along with it: urgency.

I know Buffy has a niche market. I am very thankful to Dark Horse for even picking Buffy up as a continuing title. But after the blockbuster Season 8 that was just… too much, you’d have thought that Season 9 would have learned its lesson.

Well, it did. In the end. But, it took us two years to get there.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is not really about Buffy as it is about the relationships she has with her friends. And her family. When the team behind the Buffy comics started Season 9, they made a promise to bring Buffy back to its roots. And it did start out that way. Until it got out of control–again.

Suddenly Buffybot was back, and so was Spike’s bug ship, then zompires happened, we met Severin, Illyria came back–and although all of this were restrained and much more manageable than back in Season 8… it lacked the one thing that TV show had: its cast of lovable characters.

Willow was off having her own adventure. Xander and Dawn were mostly footnotes throughout the season before taking center stage near the end. And Spike was… Well, Spike was there and then wasn’t there and then was there again. And I felt Dark Horse broke its promise. Buffy didn’t go back to its roots. It just scaled down the problems of Season 8.

Of course, it wasn’t until we reached the last arc before I realized this. Xander going all-rogue felt out of character, not because I couldn’t imagine him doing what he did–it was because I felt unprepared for what he had done. We never really saw him much, so when he turned tables? It was a shock–and not the good kind.

Willow’s quest to restart magic ties in nicely to the end of the season–but because I was never able to find a copy of the miniseries here in the Philippines–I never really understood the importance of Willow’s journey. And without her side journey, the new seed felt like a deus ex machina.

Of the core team, it’s Buffy who stuck to what we were expecting. And stayed there. She didn’t grow, she didn’t evolve, she was just static. And I felt that, more than the spell that made her Stepford Wife, this was because we took out the people who would make her grow: her friends. Buffy became a lone wolf. A quippy lone wolf, but alone nonetheless.

Now that the season is over and we have a few months of rest before we begin Season 10, I hope Joss Whedon and whoever’s writing next would go back to what made Buffy really work: the relationships. I wouldn’t mind fall outs, I wouldn’t mind solo adventures–so long as they’re warranted. So long as we see it develop before our eyes. So long as they don’t come left of field.

Six years after the show has ended, I’m still a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And although I believe that Seasons 8 and 9 are the weakest yet (and consider the fact that Season 1 was abysmal with its effects), I continue to hold on to the hope that the Buffy I love still exists. Somewhere.

Please don’t turn me off, Dark Horse.

Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freefall Part Three

"Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"With the destruction of the seed, the fight against Twilight was brought to an end, and magic’s connection to our earth was severed. No more Slayers will be chosen. No more Slayerarmy. No more gang: Buffy’s a waitress in San Francisco; Dawn and Xander are attempting normal domesticity; Willow is struggling with the loss of her powers. It’s a new(ish) world, but there are still demons and vampires to slay–even as their popularity with the masses continues to grow–and Bufffy is on point to do what she has always done.

She is the Slayer.

Buffy just keeps bringing on the twist. After the second issue’s showstopper, where it was revealed to us (the readers) that there’s a new kind of Slayer in town, the third issue twists the twist anew. I think we have just met Season 9’s big bad–if he does turn out to be the big bad. He could just be the mid-bad. Or a small bad.

Nevertheless, the new season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is certainly hitting the right buttons for me. I’ve already said in my previous blog post how it’s more reminiscient of the television series than the season eight. And I would like to reiterate this. Buffy fans will no longer need to justify themselves when buying this title. Because everything they (and by that, I mean ‘we’) loved in the series is back. My gripe, if it can be called as such, is how slow stories tend to run–because we have to wait a month in between issues. And since an issue normally just takes up one episode body (a one-hour drama has four to five bodies in an episode), an episode of the comic series takes up four months to finish.

But that’s a small price to pay for quality story-telling, right?

Thing is, because the events of one comic book is too short for a full-fledged blog post, I’m going to have to end it here. Because if I get into details of what I liked about the issue–I might end up spoiling it.

Book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freefall Part 2

"Freefall" written by Andrew ChamblissWith the destruction of the seed, the fight against Twilight was brought to an end, and magic’s connection to our earth was severed. No more Slayers will be chosen. No more Slayer army. No more gang: Buffy’s a waitress in San francisco; Dawn and Xander are attempting normal domesticity; Willow is struggling with the loss of her powers. It’s a new(ish) world, but there are still demons and vampires to slay–even as tehir popularity with the masses continues to grow–and Buffy is on point to do what she has always done…

She is the Slayer.

Dead people are turning up at San Francisco and Buffy Summers is the number one suspect. And it sure doesn’t help when our heroine escapes detainment after the police catches her dusting a vampire.

I’ve been thinking if I should do a monthly thing with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I’ve done two previous reaction posts, if I remember correctly. I was wondering if I should make it a monthly thing with the start of Season 9, but I worried that the series’s run would be too much like Season 8–which wasn’t very self-sustained/independent. But with the release of Season 9’s second issue, I think I can put my fear to rest.

The first issue showed us the current status quo of the gang. We know where the core members are, and where Riley, Andrew and Spike stand with the group. It was pretty much self-contained, breaking only at the end with two plot openings–one of which immediately gets answered in the first few pages of the second issue. The other plot thread is left to dangle though, as we are introduced to what (I think) would push the story forward for the next few issues.

Someone is killing vampires–and leaving an actual body trail. Buffy is surprised. And so am I, actually. Vampires go poof. And we actually see one do so after Buffy slays it. But more and more vampires are reverting to their human form–dropping the “un” in their undead status. And the issue takes us on a short journey of Buffy’s wonder and confusion at this new development–two feelings that we, the readers, are wont to feel too–leading to the eventual reveal of how the vampires are being de-vamped.

It’s a great twist. It harkens back to the old days of Buffy, back in the WB era. And just like then, the issue ends. Sure, back in the day, this would only take us to a short commercial break. Nowadays though, we sit and wait a whole month to find out what happens in the next gap.

One thing’s the same though: we’re definitely going to want to find out what happens next.