January 30, 2013

Rabid Reads: "The Way of the Leaves" by David Tallerman

The Way of the Leaves
32 pages

I grew up with the woods as my backyard, and I can still remember those afternoons after school when I'd disappear for an hour, wandering paths and looking for cool little hideaways and such. When you're a little kid and the back door of your house faces out to a wall of trees, it can feel like there is a whole other world right at your fingertips waiting to be explored. These are the kinds of memories drudged up as I read David Tallerman's story, "The Way of the Leaves".

A young boy and his best friend, Charlotte, tear off into the woods in a small community in England. Through their wanderings, they happen upon a barrow behind thick brambles, and an opening to what's inside. Charlotte's curious nature takes over and she soldiers forth, while the young boy recounts his timidity and fear of going any further. When Charlotte comes out, she's found something, but loses it in the rush to get home before sunset. The boy promises to return to the barrow with her to look for it and explore further, but when they do sneak out, Charlotte disappears and the boy doesn't tell anyone when the grownups realize she's missing.

Charlotte is eventually found, but she's never quite the same, and even when the two friends grow up, the call of that barrow and what's buried inside is too strong for either of them to ignore.

Once again, I find myself utterly charmed and chilled at the same time by a Spectral Press chapbook. This time around, David Tallerman's wistful portrait of a boy's fears growing up into a man's heartbreak proved to be a memorable read. I can see why this story won the 2012 This Is Horror/Spectral Press competition. Despite certain facets of the story like Charlotte's broken home with a drunken father and long-gone mother, which felt like pieces of stories I've read before, it's all done with such sincerity that it only feels familiar because it feels true.

It's a brief, soul-stirring story that you should check out if you ever get the chance.

January 28, 2013

Rabid Reads: "The Frenzy Way" by Gregory Lamberson

The Frenzy Way
by Gregory Lamberson
Medallion Press (2010)
368 pages
ISBN 1605421936

Years back I read a book by Whitley Strieber called Wolfen, about a couple of NYPD detectives battling it out with giant wolves. Greg Lamberson's Frenzy Way kind of reminded me of that, at least starting out, since it involves NYPD detectives battling it out with werewolves. I didn't really enjoy the Strieber novel a whole lot, mainly because it played out like a police procedural with some horror elements thrown in. As I started reading Frenzy Way, I wondered if I was in for more of the same.

Short answer: no, I wasn't.

See, I'm not big on police procedural stories, at least the ones that feel like lost episodes of Law & Order or CSI. What I've sampled from the genre usually focuses on the tools of the trade (the techniques and technology), rather than the trade itself (the conflict and the intrigue). With my preconceived notions of what this book would be like, I had my fingers crossed the werewolves (one of my favorite monsters) could steal the show and drive the story.

Thankfully, that turned out to be the case. After a few chapters that had a heckuva lot of lingo and procedure on the part of Captain Mace and his investigators, the book livened up considerably with a genuine werewolf stalking the streets of New York and racking up a bit of a hit list. Mace, a celebrity cop in the wake of busting a famed serial killer, is brought on to an especially gruesome murder investigation surrounding a university professor who has been attacked and decapitated--and a bloody message left on the wall with the word "skinwalker." From there, what is already considered a career-killer of a case by Mace and others on the force gets even worse, as more murders occur by the killer, and more and more evidence points towards a wolfman.

The book plays out in very cinematic fashion, starting out as that straight detective mystery, then swerving into a built of a thriller as the killer emerges, and then to an outright action-horror onslaught leading into the climax. The characters take a while to shine, with even the villain getting a chance to do a lot more than twirl his proverbial mustache. The mythos involving the werewolves, the multicultural aspects especially, and a centuries old conflict with a Catholic sect of guardians really added depth to the story, too.

For me, this was one of those books that gets better as it goes along. I suppose all books should do that, but some that get off to a bit of an underwhelming start never find their footing. The Frenzy Way definitely finds its footing--or should I say its claws.


January 25, 2013

Chasing Tale: It's a good thing e-books don't weigh much, because ...

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the e-books I've recently downloaded and added to my to-be-read pile. Some are review copies forwarded to me, some are purchases from Amazon's Kindle Store or elsewhere, and others are freebies that caught my eye.

No time for chit-chat. Too many books. This is the last batch of review copies, freebies, and bargains I got so far this winter. Check 'em out (links go to Amazon.com):

Seasons of Insanity by Gill Ainsworth and Frank W. Haubold - I think I'll count this as my January pick towards my 2013 New Year's resolution. I wanted to read more work by international authors, and Frank Haubold is from Germany, so there ya go. Thanks to Apex Books for the ARC.

Quarry by Max Allan Collins - I haven't read much of Collins' work beyond a couple short stories, so early in the month when there was a 99 cent sale from some of the TopSuspense Group, I decided to buy this book and give it a go.

Sacrifice by John Everson - This was originally published by Dorchester years ago, but now has a new home with Amazon's 47North, so Everson's chances at royalty payments just got a lot better. I believe it's a followup to Covenant, which I read and enjoyed back in 2009, so it's about time I added another of his books to my shelf.

They and Shapeshifter by J.F. Gonzalez - I've never read Gonzalez's work before, but I've heard his name bandied about on occasion by the likes of Brian Keene and other stalwarts of the horror crowd. A few of his books were on sale over the holidays, and I thought these two looked enticing.

An Image of Death by Libby FischerHellmann - This is the first in a mystery series, of which I have the second book sitting on my TBR pile, so it was nice to get this one for a buck after seeing a notification from Scott Nicholson about it as part of the Epic Kindle Giveaway.

Alone by Brian Keene - I already bought Keene's other novella, Scratch, in December, but when this was on sale over the holidays I just had to get it, too.

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke - I've seen the cover for this book on so many book blogs I lost count. It didn't appeal to me at first glance, but after reading a couple reviews, and seeing the thumbs up from talented authors like Jaye Wells and Phillipa Ballantine, then saw it on sale from Orbit Books, I decided to buy it and give it a chance.

Forever Man by Brian W. Matthews - When I received the Journalstone newsletter in mid-December, it included a couple links to some free fiction, including this new novel that is set for release early this year.

What the Dark Brings and Hope for the Wicked by Edward Lorn - Ed is coming into his own it seems, with Dastardly Bastard and a couple shorter works hitting the market last year, so maybe he'll have a breakout year in 2013. These two books have already been added to my review pile.

Angel Board by Kristopher Rufty - Samhain's horror line features another debut novelist, this time an independent filmmaker turned author. This book was offered free the week before Christmas, so I figured I could download it and give it a go some time in the new year.

Scavengers: A Zombie Novel by Nate Southard - While I was scooping up Kindle books at a buck a pop on Boxing Day, I stumbled across this novel. I've never read one of Nate's novels before, but I've been meaning to, so I figured this was as good a place to start as any.

The Serial Killer's Wife and The Inner Circle by Robert Swartwood - I've read a couple of Robert's books, liked them, and already have a couple more, but when they're cheap, they're irresistible. Like other authors, Robert had some of his books priced cheap over the holidays, so I scooped these two up.

Within This Garden Weeping by Lee Thompson - This is the followup to Lee's novella, Before Leonora Wakes, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He put his protagonist, Red Piccirilli, through the ringer the first time around, so god only knows what's in store with this book. I actually blogged about this book just a couple days ago (WLW#129).

Fat Vampire by JohnnyB. Truant - I'm a podcast junkie and one of my recent discoveries is the Self Publishing Podcast, co-hosted by Johnny B. Truant, so when he offered up his quirky novella for free during the holidays, I thought I'd get it. Heck, it's got a catchy title.

Westlake Soul by Rio Youers - Chizine Publications doesn't disappoint when it comes to the books they publish. And when it comes to this novel, I've seen it recommended by enough people to at least add it to my TBR pile.

Butterfly Potion by Trent Zelazny - Nightscape Press offered a couple freebies over the holidays and this novella caught my eye. Credit a link from Joe McKinney and a blurb from Neil Gaiman in peaking my interest. Pretty nice cover, too.

L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories from Rockstar Games - This is a little anthology that came out at the same time as a video-game of the same name, but back then I couldn't buy the book because it had one of those regional restrictions on the Kindle Store. Then, by sheer coincidence, it popped up on my "recommendation" list for a buck on Boxing Day, and when I got to its product page the regional restriction was lifted.


My Kindle weighs more; that's how many e-books I've collected this winter. What books did you buy this month?

January 23, 2013

Wish List Wednesday #129: Lee Thompson's "Within This Garden Weeping"

WLW is a recurring blog segment in which I highlight a book I have on my wish list. Sometimes it's a new release, sometimes a beloved classic, and sometimes it's a hidden gem.

Last year, I sat down and read what is essentially the very first book in Lee Thompson's Division Mythos series of stories, Before Leonora Wakes. It was a coming-of-age dark fantasy novella about a young boy and his imaginary friend out to save a young girl. I thought it was one of the best novellas I read last year--heck, one of the best stories I read last year, period. Well, while Lee has quite a few books published within that universe, I've been awaiting the arrival of the direct followup to Leonora, and it looks like it is finally here.

Within This Garden Weeping rejoins Red Piccirilli in the wake of the first book. Here's the pitch in Lee's words:

Still recovering from his brush with the magical, Red Piccirilli’s parents move them out of town and down a dead-end road where they feel things will be safe and quiet for their son. But when a strange old man with an agenda visits Red’s mother, the boy is quickly thrust into another world. He’ll learn from a broken god how to harness the incredible power that has been lying dormant since his last encounter with Glory on the Green…

If you read my review for Leonora, then you ought to know that I'm sold on this idea. Lee is a heckuva writer and I'm eager to see what the next chapter has in store for Red Piccirilli.

January 22, 2013

Rabid Reads: "New Moon on the Water" by Mort Castle

New Moon on the Water
by Mort Castle
300 pages
ISBN 9781937128395

Before I read this short story collection, my only familiarity of Mort Castle work came from his nonfiction, particularly On Writing Horror. That was one of the first books on writing that I bought when I started putting pen to paper. You'd think in all those years I'd have sought out his stories. Go figure. Well, New Moon on the Water helped remedy that.

Now, the way I understand it, this book from Dark Regions Press is a re-release of sorts of an earlier collection called Moon on the Water. The key difference being there are over a dozen new stories added in this new version. It's all new to me, though.

Right off the bat, I realize this isn't the usual collection that I'm used to, as this one contains some pieces that explore style and form to degrees I find utterly uncommon in fiction. Literary, perhaps. Evocative, undoubtedly. "Defining Horror" is a fast little piece that feels like a staccato essay on the genre and what it is and what it can be. Then it gets into what I would call the red meat of the book, with a story called "If You Take My Hand, My Son," as Johnny confronts death, regret, bitterness, forgiveness, and the father he never thought he'd forgive. That one, so quick into the book was a real kick in the teeth. A similar story, as far as impact goes, was "Love, Hate, and the Beautiful Junkyard Sea" and an unrequited love story that was as unsettling as it was romantic.

A favorite from the collection was "The W.W. II Pistol." A bitter, anger man with a beautiful wife and no friends finally hits a tipping point with the less wholesome folks at the bar he frequents. I guess the daily threats of blowing everyone away with his W.W. II pistol got to be too much aggravation for them and now it's time for Joe to pay. There was this tea kettle vibe through the story, never sure if or when things would come to a head, and when they finally did it didn't play out anywhere near how I expected. Another one that really stuck out with me was "The Running Horse, The High, White Sound." That was a sad, angry revenge tale. Misspent youth and senseless violence, and even more senseless vengeance. It felt like a period piece set in late-20th century New York with all the grime and grit one could hope for.

The book runs the gamut with little bits of flash fiction like "14 Short Horror Stories," some humor twists like "Upstairs, Downstairs, and All About", Vampires", and combinations of the two like "Bonds." Not all of the stories reach the bleachers, with a couple feeling quite murky as I read through them, one or two feeling a bit too disjointed for my tastes, but the overall impression I had was the collection certainly deserved to be brought back onto store shelves. I don't think I can sum up Mort Castle's writing in this book any better than this blurb by Jack Ketchum: "Mort Castle is a writer who loves word play, but like every writer worth his salt remembers that even for kids, play is a serious business."

That about says all you need to know.

January 21, 2013

Writing Like Crazy: The "Arcane II" Anthology Is Available Now!

Cold Fusion Media has just released a brand new anthology called Arcane II, which features one of my own short stories titled "Tree Hugger". It's available for purchase in digital form via all the major sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the usual suspects, with a projected trade paperback release in the near future.

Arcane II is helmed by editor extraordinaire, Nathan Shumate, and brings together twenty-one short stories that run the gamut of all things weird. The list of included stories looks something like this:
  • Libby Cudmore and Matthew Quinn Martin, “Convention of Ekphrasis”
  • Michael Haynes, “In the Paint”
  • Milo James Fowler, “Beneath the Surface”
  • Andrew Bourelle, “What It Means to Love”
  • Priya Sharma, “The Beatification of Thomas Small”
  • Craig Pay, “His City”
  • Patrick McGinnity, “The Dubious Apotheosis of Baskin Gough
  • Adele Gardner, “Triptych”
  • Eric Dimbleby, “The House That Wept Puddin’”
  • Jean Graham, “Nightcrawlers”
  • Nicole M. Taylor, “The Pianist’s Wife”
  • Suzanne Sykora, “Palace of Rats”
  • Michael R. Fletcher, “Fire and Flesh”
  • Steve Toase, “Fate’s Mask”
  • Miranda Ciccone, “Orpheus and Eurydice”
  • Joanna Parypinski, “Lakeshore Drive”
  • Harry Markov, “Hurricane Drunk”
  • Brooke Miller, “The Last Laugh”
  • Gef Fox, “Tree Hugger”
  • Philip Roberts, “90 Day Notice"

    A lot of the names of new to me, but I see some familiar ones, particularly Milo James Fowler and Harry Markov. I'm definitely looking forward to this one, and you can expect a completely biased blog post by me after I've read the anthology in its entirety. In the mean time, I'll simply encourage you to visit your favorite e-book retailer and have a glance at the product info and see if you'd be interested in purchasing a copy. 

    Available at the Amazon.com Kindle Store!

    It can also be found at: Amazon UKBarnes and Noble; and Smashwords

     

January 18, 2013

Rabid Reads: "13 Ghosts of Christmas" edited by Simon Marshall-Jones

13 Ghosts of Christmas
edited by Simon Marshall-Jones
204 pages

I know Christmas is nearly a month behind us, but it's never the wrong time of year to read a ghost story. Spectral Press, helmed by Simon Marshall-Jones, seems to have a keen eye for short fiction for the UK's wealth of horror authors, so it stands to reason they'd be a good place to look for a holiday themed anthology.

Thirteen authors each offer up a story that harkens back in some way to those old Christmas chiller tales from yore. Some are period pieces while others have a contemporary setting. Some have a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, while others will reach through your ribcage and snatch your heart out.

"An Odd Number at Table" by John Costello is the first story in the book, dealing with a young man meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time by spending Christmas with them. That's unsettling enough in a mundane sort of way, but it's when the man meets Aisla Farrell, the purported cousin of his girlfriend. It felt like a vintage bit of illicit intrigue set in 1991 Virginia and whet the appetite for more.

William Meikle's "Carnacki: A Cold Christmas in Chelsea" took a different tact, opting for a story and style that felt like it was plucked straight from 19th-century London. Fortunately for me, the story isn't bogged down by--let's be honest--the purple prose of the era, and focused keenly on the subject matter. Richard Farren Barber's "Where the Stones Lie" captured Irish folklore quite handily and squeezed it for every drop of suspense, too. Definitely hope to read more of both's works in the future. Thana Niveau had a story that felt like it'd make a great Twilight Zone Christmas special, as "And May All Your Christmases ..." offered up a monsters-in-the-snow story that dripped with the kind of isolated horror I tend to go for.

The whole collection was simply a treat to read, and sitting down to a couple stories at a time in the evenings over the holidays, with snow cascading onto the streets outside and cold winds raking across the windows, only made the reading experience that much better. While I'm sure a fella like me could appreciate this stories at the height of summer, I'll encourage folks to check them out now while the temperature is frosty, the hot chocolate is in season, and a crackling fireplace makes the perfect soundtrack.

January 16, 2013

Chasing Tale (1/19/13): Does Canada Really Need Its Own Kindle Store?

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the e-books I've recently downloaded and added to my to-be-read pile. Some are review copies forwarded to me, some are purchases from Amazon's Kindle Store or elsewhere, and others are freebies that caught my eye.

Amazon.ca finally has a Kindle Store, and my reaction to the promotional push from them is: so what?

If you've ever been to that site, you know it's like a hotdog stand compared to the sprawling megamart that is its American counterpart, Amazon.com.

Now, maybe I'd be a little excited if Canada's new Kindle Store had better deals, but from what I've seen the whole enterprise strikes me as utterly redundant. Things are working adequately enough on the U.S. site for me, so registering my Kindle with the new Canadian site would wind up causing more trouble than its worth. I mean, why even bother? It's not like Canada isn't already the 51st state.

Is it the language barrier? Yeah, that's probably it.

Bah, enough ranting. My last Chasing Tale blog post highlighted my Christmas shopping spree leading up to the big day, with well over a dozen books on that list. Well, after I received an Amazon gift card for Christmas, I went bazonkers buying even more.

The Best Horror of the Year: Vol. One edited by Ellen Datlow - After getting three free e-books from Night Shade (Wastelands, Rob Ziegler's Seed, E.J. Swift's Osiris) through a promotional offer over the holidays, I couldn't help but go out and buy one more. Ireviewed VolumeTwo a couple years ago, but hadn't read this one yet, so I figured I'd add it to the TBR pile.

Soft Kiss, Hard Death (Sam Truman Mystery #3) by Tobin Elliott - All right, I officially have all four Sam Truman novellas. Now, I just have to read them. I liked the first one, with its hard-boiled approach to urban fantasy, so I'm hopeful for the other three.

The Burning Time by J.G. Faherty - Faherty will be stopping by with a guest post on the blog in February as part of his blog tour, and I received an advance review copy of his new novel. Kudos to Darkeva for organizing everything.

Hoodtown by Christa Faust - I haven't been a rasslin' fan for years, but Christa is a helluva writer, which is the real hook for this book. I love her Angel Dare series, so I'm curious to see what her imagination has cooked up with this book.

The Dead Man Vol. 4 created by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin - I found this one tucked away in my Kindle archives. Not sure why it went there and didn't download straight to my Kindle like most good little ARCs. I'm just starting my way through Volume 3, but at least I'm catching up on the Dead Man series, finally. This one has stories from Joel Goldman, Lisa Klink, and Phoef Sutton.

Ink by Damien WaltersGrintalis - I mentioned this new novel in the Samhain Horror line just a few weeks ago (WLW#124). Again, Samhain is doing a pretty good job scouting talent, and my gut tells me Damien's debut novel won't disappoint.

Corktown by Ty Hutchinson - There was an indy author giveaway hop during mid-December, so I checked a bunch of the authors' blogs out, including that of Ty Hutchinson. This one about a feisty FBI agent looked quite promising, so I threw my name in the hat. And, wouldn't ya know, I won a copy.

Hyenas by Joe R. Lansdale - A Hap & Leonard novella? Sold.

Berserk by Tim Lebbon - This one sounds like a wicked little tale involving an undead child aiding a grieving man out for revenge. I enjoyed Lebbon's novel, Bar None, but I haven't read any other of his novels since. I guess if I need a second dose of his storytelling, this book ought to suit me fine.

Rough Cut by Gary McMahon - Honestly, I saw Gary McMahon's name, then a 99 cent price tag. I couldn't buy it fast enough.

Inheritance by Joe McKinney - Evil Jester Press and Joe McKinney offered up this haunted house novel as a freebie over the holidays. Joe McKinney? Ghosts? Free? That's a trifecta, I'd say.

Fangs in Vain and After: The Shock by Scott Nicholson - Scott Nicholson is one of those tried-and-tested authors that I've come to appreciate, not just for being a really good storyteller, but also for the obscene number of bargains he's offered up to would-be readers over the last couple years.

White Picket Prisons by Kelli Owen - I'm already a fan of Kelli's work (The Neighborhood and Waiting Out Winter), and I already have another of her novels on my to-be-read pile (Six Days), so when I saw this novel on sale for a dollar, I just had to get it.

The Last Deep Breath, Frayed and Fuckin' Lie Down AlreadybyTom Piccirilli - While I was giving away a gift certificate to Crossroad Press on my blog last month, which sells quite a few of Tom's e-books, I bought a few books for myself, too.

Fast Lane by Dave Zeltserman - A little before Christmas, Dave Zeltserman put a few of his e-books on sale. This was the only one I hadn't already bought. A P.I. novel that sounds gritty as hell, I have a hunch it'll be another departure in style and tone from the other two of his books that I've read so far, Lorne Field and Blood Crimes.

That, boys and girls, is an effing ton of books. And ya know what? There are even more, but I'll highlight those next week.

January 14, 2013

Rabid Reads: "Clockwork Dolls" by William Meikle

Clockwork Dolls
DarkFuse (2013)

Do you remember how a few years back the new age gurus were hyping the bejesus out of The Secret? I had never paid much attention to all that stuff before, and it quite took me by surprise just how many people did. That "law of attraction" bunk seems utterly laughable to me, and yet there are people I've known since I was a little kid--people I took for granted to be of sound mind--who gobble it up like ice-cream. So, I found instant sympathy for the main character, Dave Burns, a man who calls B.S. on a woman who openly subscribes to that nonsense.

The story starts with Dave in an interrogation room with a detective grilling him about the deaths of his best friends. It's not explained outright how they died, but it's pretty clear that Dave is the prime suspect and the story he recounts is not going to sway anyone. Dave's story starts with meeting Maggie, a woman invited to dinner by Dave's ex, Jane. Dave is still carrying a torch for Jane, but keeps it unspoken for the sake of his friendship with Jane and Jim, the friend he feels stole her from him. To bury his feelings, Dave drinks ... a lot. It's during one of his all-too-common drunken episodes that Maggie gives him a crash course in how the universe works, including that "law of attraction" stuff where you just have to wish the right way to get what you want in life. She coerces him and everyone at the dinner table to write one thing they truly want, put it in an envelope, and mail it out to the universe. What Dave writes winds up inciting a series of events that put his and everyone else's life in danger.

The relationships between Dave and his friends, and even Maggie, feel at once organic and befuddling. I think it is the enabling atmosphere they afford Dave as he continually drinks himself silly until he irritates everyone around him, even to the point of provoking violent reactions--he gets knocked on his butt more than once by these drinking buddies of his. Still, the history of these relationships feels real and helps carry the suspense through the story, as the wavy-gravy laws of the universe turn against them.

And the embodiment of Dave's deepest desire, as the universe apparently exerts itself on him and his friends, is something that doesn't become properly articulated until the very end with the big revelation. For supernatural bogeymen, it's a pretty good one that provides plenty of chills.

I've got a couple of Meikle's books on my to-be-read pile and this was the first one I picked up. I'm glad I did. It's a novella that takes a piece of metaphysics and turns it into a monster. Keep your Secret, gurus. William Meikle has the cure for what ails me.

January 11, 2013

Getting Graphic: "Action Comics Vol. 1" by Grant Morrison

Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
written by Grant Morrison
illustrated by Rags Morales and Andy Kubert
DC Comics (2012)
ISBN-13: 9781401235468

Collecting the first eight issues of the "New 52" iteration of Action Comics, this graphic novel marks my very first time reading a Superman comic book of any kind. My only familiarity with the Man of Steel comes from the movies, the animated series, and a couple video-games. The character is one of the single biggest icons in American literature and I'd never read a single story until now. But with this fandangled reboot by DC Comics, did all of my preconceived notions and the established canon from what came before ruin the experience?

Short answer ... no, I liked the book just fine.

The book kicks things off with Supes a few months into his emergence as a superhero, sans pajamas. He has his cape, an indestructible remnant from his spaceship, but the rest of his costume amounts to jeans and a t-shirt. Superman is also more brash than I recall him ever being presented in films or TV. In fact, there are moments when he comes off as kind of a dick. Not exactly the boy scout I remember, but definitely feels sincere.

As far as his alter-ego goes, Clark Kent is a lowly reporter, but for a second-rate newspaper (with some activist blogging on the side). Lois Lane is more of a professional rival with the Daily Planet, as well as Jimmy Olsen. Lois isn't much of a factor though, at least not yet, as Superman has to contend with Lex Luthor. Lex is more of the mad scientist type in this go-round, consumed with learning Superman's secrets and finding out all his alien secrets. Even at this early juncture, the world is well aware that Superman is an alien, and xenophobia is running wild. But when all hell breaks loose in Metropolis and a huge effing chunk of it gets abducted, which puts every X-Files episode to shame in its scope, who do the people turn to in their darkest hour?

As far as rebooting an iconic franchise like this goes, who am I to say if it passes or fails. As a pithead for the uninitiated to the deep mine that is Superman comic books, I'd say Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and Andy Kubert have done a darned good job. It must be a daunting prospect putting a fresh coat of paint on a cast of characters that have been around as long as dirt and then some, but I thought Superman came off as strikingly familiar by the end of the eight collected issues and still giving this distinct vibe of this ain't your granddaddy’s Man of Steel.

There were things in the book that felt like missing episodes from Smallville though, especially with Clark Kent's bumbling routine with his landlady and Lois Lane. It was really Superman that shined in the series, as elements of his legend came about in some rather contrived circumstances. Like his costume, which was liberated from a collection of Kryptonian relics that seemed to exist purely to furnish him. All things considered though, the story was slick and didn't do anything too outside the box. Everything that works with Superman and the other characters worked to great effect and it actually felt like a solid foundation on which to build the mythos all over again.

Now, I've heard some really harsh criticism towards the New 52, namely the conspicuous deficiency of female writers and artists on DC's staff. But when it comes to Action Comics, I've enjoyed it so far and I'm curious to see if the second volume can keep pace. And I'm probably going to take a chance on a couple other characters in the New 52, though I'll be keeping my expectations in check when I do.