Monsterland: Reanimated Review

Threads were left dangling at the end of the first novel, storylines are sure to be followed up on in this second novel, and there are also more monsters in play this time!
But can Michael Okon take what was a pretty damn good opening salvo and turn it into a series that’s worth coming back to again and again?
Can he up the game any more than he did last time?

As is my way, consider this your ***Spoiler Alert***

After an opening where Konrad’s head is rescued by his assistant, Igor, after a pack of wolves ripped it off at the end of the last book, we jump ahead 3 weeks to find a nearly depressed Wyatt Baldwin trying to understand his place in regular life after killing monsters and saving friends.
The government we knew is gone.
All contact with the world outside of Copper Valley is basically cut off.
Carter, Wyatt’s step pappy, is trying to get the town back in order and on its feet.
All while a sinister plot is about to unfold around them.

This adventure in Copper Valley proves, if nothing else, that Okon loves to subvert expectations.
This book is a lot like Kevin Smith’s Red State or The Last Jedi, just when you think it’s about to turn left or right all three just say fuck it and kick it in reverse.
The girl with my favorite arc from the last book, Jade?
Long gone is the kickass girl that was splitting heads, now she is almost childlike in her innocence and clinging to Wyatt.
She is replaced by a possibly shape shifting new girl named Lily in the badass department.
Though Jade does end up serving a purpose, Lily is a better and far more capable character from the moment she’s introduced.
Wyatt, our main character, seems to struggle with where he wants to be.
He can’t quite settle on being a cog in the machine of the group or its leader.

His friend Melvin, who offered himself up to be turned into a werewolf in the previous book, may well be my favorite character this time out the gate.
Last time he felt a little too weak and nerdy, but now he has grown to be a take charge leader of his hybrid Wolf/Coyote pack.
But he also leads to my sole major complaint.
Once The Blob like Glob shows up, Melvin’s pack sacrifices themselves to the gelatinous beast to save him.
Later in the book, which amounts to mere hours later, he rather nonchalantly has moved on and nipped a few other critters and started a new pack.
He really seemed to have a great bond with the 1st group, so moving on so quickly felt a little too cold.
Though there is a member of the new faction that makes it slightly more palatable.

The new monsters in this installment are great!
And, unsurprisingly so, that’s exactly the strength of this series, the creatures.
1st we have the alien fuel-like substance, that the kids call The Glob in honor of the aforementioned Blob, that sucks life out of humans to convert into energy.
The Glob is woven into the origins of 2 of the other new beasts, making for a great sense of comic bookery and continuity.
It also has a weakness that is set up in the 1st book in a deceptively nonchalant way that could almost blast by you if you don’t read these back to back, cause it’s easy to retroactively spot and appreciate it.

Next we have mummies, which I thought were pretty cleverly “brought back to life”.
The zombies that were snuffed out on opening night are wrapped in Glob soaked bandages which brings them back to life and makes them more mindless than before.
Vincent Konrad is revived through Glob as a Frankenstein’s Monster-esque behemoth, though with more intelligence off the bat than the inspiration, bent on world domination.
Lastly we have ghosts making the scene and helping our heroes to purge the scum of Konrad from their sacred site.

To start wrapping up, I have to say Okon balances all of these continuing threads and sets up so many potential future storylines with surprising ease.
It’s hard to put into words and not make it sound like a supreme clusterfuck trainwreck, you really need to witness the execution to understand and appreciate the plates this dude is spinning.
The relationship between Wyatt and Carter is the best arc this go around.
They sort of head back to square one after the quantum leap forward at the end of book one.
At the end of this book, there is no going back again and that’s a good thing.
And Wyatt walking off into the darkness at the end sets up so many potential futures, I can’t wait to see where it goes.

The truth is, while not my favorite book series, I’m fully on board with this saga.
He definitely upped the game and went full tilt post-apocalypse, which is the logical step and bonus points because he pulled it off.
There are slight changes I would have made, I would definitely slow down the pace and spread these stories over a couple days instead of doing the 1 story in 1 day format.
But it does work as is.
Even as all of the heaviness settles in, it still has a tension breaking lightness that makes it accessible.
I repeat what I said last time: “half of me wants to say run out and grab this now, but the other half of me wants to tell you to hold off until book 3 comes out.
I think you’ll devour these 1st 2 fast and immediately be hungry for more.”
Now I have to start the long wait for book 3.
Damn you, Okon!

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Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.

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Episode 064: Like A Make-A-Wish Kid 2: Gas Powered Dildo

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In this episode, the Con talk continues as Doom recounts his recent trek to Cave Con in Springfield, Mo. to see some Monkeys what done comed from Space.

Fitz gets to sit back and relax as Doom talks about meeting and getting intro bumps from Impractical Joker & Kentucky Colonel Brian “Q” Quinn and Comic Book Man & Steve-Dave who Tells ‘Em Bryan “Pops” Johnson.

Also, we debut our 1st ever ***exclusive*** interviews with Comic Book Artist Lorenzo Lizana and Comic Book Man & host of I Sell Comics Ming Chen!

Cool people were met, great fun was had, shoutouts abound and an OBL was nearly poached, so strap in and enjoy this fun ride through the adventure that was Cave Con 2018!

Special thanks to @gigiamk30 for making this possible.

URL: Episode 064: Like A Make-A-Wish Kid 2: Gas Powered Dildo
Direct Download: tnb064.mp3

Monsterland Review

From time to time this book has popped up on Twitter in the last year or so since WordFire Press published it, and I have to admit that every time it pissed me off just a little bit.
This is such a great concept that it made me constantly wonder angrily why it took this long for somebody to think of this, hell why didn’t I think of it!?
The idea, at its most simple, is Jurassic Park meets the Universal Monsters, with a touch of political allegory.
But concept and execution are 2 vastly different things.
Can it live up to the genius concept?

As always, this is your ***Official Spoiler Warning***

Wyatt Baldwin and his monster obsessed friends are in their senior year.
But an obsession with monsters in this universe doesn’t mean you never miss an episode of Walking Dead or Supernatural, it means if you go to the seedier parts of town you could possibly run across a starving vampire or find a rotting corpse searching for a fleshy meal.
A pandemic broke out 2 years ago and now a billionaire, Dr. Vincent Konrad, has swooped in to try to save the world from the blight of these assorted beasts with 7 Monsterland theme parks on 6 continents.
Wyatt is in awe of Dr. Konrad and his philanthropic ways, but his newly christened step-dad isn’t impressed.

The worst thing I can say about this novel is that it moves a little too fast.
The vast majority of it takes place in the single night that the park opens, which makes sense, but it speeds along too quickly.
I would’ve loved to have lived in this world for a longer period.
Yes, Okon has said this is the 1st of a series (book 2 is out, he’s in the process of writing 3 & 4), but I wanted this introductory installment to last longer.
Like I’ve said time and again about Shamble, I really want to know more about this world.
The teases of future expansions to the park add to that wondering.
Now, if “this bastard left me wanting more” is the worst thing I can say, is that really a bad thing?

There is a fun sense of unease once they get into the park and you see the 3 different Monsters in their “natural habitat”.
Seeing the layout, the background, and the bullshit Konrad is spinning about the park is incredibly interesting, especially once it all starts unraveling.
And that’s key, when all hell breaks loose, it really hits its stride.

There are a couple moments that feel predictable early on, but he pulls a swerve in the end and doesn’t follow what feels like the obvious path and the book benefits from that.
For instance, early on a few too many mentions of Wyatt’s allegedly dead biological father telegraph that something is coming on that front.
He’s described as being a rather distant and cold lawyer that died and left his money to some “hole-in-the-wall charity”, so my guess was that he would be one of the masterminds behind the park.
Yeah, that isn’t the case…not by a long shot.
It was such a surprise and leads to a pretty impactful development with Wyatt’s stepdad that’s sure to come back around in the next book.

Like any good coming of age story, Wyatt has his eye on a seemingly unattainable girl, it follows the path of the 1st Sam Raimi Spider-Man in that respect.
This nerdy kid, who has more friends than Peter Parker, pines for the girlfriend of the school football star, Jade.
I really think her arc is probably my favorite.
In the earlier chapters, Jade comes off as that super cute girl next door.
But by the end of the book a history of darkness is revealed and she gets to have one of the most kick ass moments in the story.
I hope the sequel picks that thread up and runs with it.

Bottom line, it does live up to its concept and takes it interesting places, executing and elevating.
It’s shorter than you’d hope, but I wonder if that’s purposefully done to make you want to dive into the sequel even faster.
For a book I keep calling short and fast, I’ve barely scratched the surface on the many storylines, but I’ll leave those for you to discover.
Half of me wants to say run out and grab this now, but the other half of me wants to tell you to hold off until book 3 comes out.
I think you’ll devour these 1st 2 fast and immediately be hungry for more.

Share this lost on Twitter with the hashtag #TNBBookReview

Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.

Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover Review

So, a prequel to a video game sounds good, but they do have a tendency to feel a bit uneven.
Sometimes the switch in format in cases like this makes it feel like a shift in the voice of the author or narrator when it needs to feel like a continuous story.
I have played the game and I love it, it is truly great.
The delivery of the story feels like a pure injection of the Spider-Man we all know and love just with a slight twist.
But how does this book feel?
Does it set up the game well?

This is your ***Official Spoiler Warning***, gang.
Now let’s dive in.

Kingpin has come back to New York and is rehabbing his public image after fleeing to Europe post-trial and nearly getting thrown in prison, which Spider-Man helped bring about.
Fisk is back, creating jobs by building lower income housing all throughout the city.
Spider-Man doesn’t really believe the sudden change in attitude, but once an imposter Spider-Man shows up wrecking havoc and turning the public against the true (red &) blue Spidey, his plate starts getting fuller than he can handle.

I hadn’t heard of David Liss before this book, but having gone on this nearly 400 page journey with him at the wheel I kind of hope he gets the chance to write Spidey and his world again cause he fuckin’ nailed it!
The set up for the game is pretty damn good and his writing style is crisp and easy to read.
The humor and personality of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is as true to form as you can get.
He delivers information economically, giving you a sense of the history of this specific universe and it’s Spider-Man.

We see Spidey meet Yuri Watanabe, a cop that has as much of a hard-on for Fisk as Pete does, for the 1st time.
Pete & MJ say farewell to Harry Osborn, who heads to Europe to find himself.
Mayor Norman Osborn makes his impact felt, putting on a bit of a show in a coffee shop.
J. Jonah Jameson takes his first steps into audio broadcasting.
MJ gets her job at the Daily Bugle and starts chasing the tail of Fisk.
All of these threads continue into the novel, the only one that feels weird in both is MJ’s because it feels a little too close to Lois Lane.
And given that she looks A LOT like Smallville’s version, played by Erica Durance, it makes it all the more weird.
BUT, even I have to admit, that’s a bit nitpicky since it doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Liss clearly establishes that she had an interest for years, studied it in school, but never really pursued it until now.

One of the other things that slightly bugged me about this book were the rather vague time jumps.
A few weeks here, a couple months there, it somehow manages to make a 398 page novel feel a little thin.
Those fast and loose jumps make me wonder though if Liss has specific guidelines he had to follow.
As if they wanted the story to build over time to the game, but they didn’t want to flesh out the story of this particular world too much just so continuity didn’t fuck them in any sequels or follow up stories, such as the current Spider-geddon storyline.

The web he wove with the 3 main villains definitely feels like a perfect set-up for a sequel game or the upcoming DLC, the description of a certain Kingpin related character (that I won’t spoil) is just too visual and her thread, which is left dangling, is just too damn ripe with potential to not come back around at some point.

The bottomline is that this may not be the Spider-Man you know and love every single detail of, but that’s okay because, MJ/Lois aside, there are no changes so drastic that it feels inauthentic or like something other.
I finished this and I wanted to know as much as I possibly can about this version, so I’m going to go grab my controller and go swinging around.
The whole time I’m sure I’ll be hoping Liss gets to write about this verse again soon so I can soak up even more of this great new world.

Special Thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.

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Burn Notice: The Reformed Review

Burn Notice is a show I loved, and in many episodes of the Pod I have gone on the record and said the novels I had read up to this point, along with the Monk and Psych novels, were among the best media tie-in novels I’ve read.
But, this is a new novel and there is always a chance it may not live up to the standard set by the others.
Time to find out!

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Michael: [VO] My name is Michael Westen.
I used to be a spy.
Until…
Voice on phone: We got a burn notice on you.
You’re blacklisted.
Michael: [VO] When you’re burned, you’ve got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history.
You’re stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in.
Michael: Where am I?
Fiona: Miami.
Michael: [VO] You do whatever work comes your way.
You rely on anyone who’s still talking to you.
A trigger-happy ex-girlfriend…
Fiona: Shall we shoot them?
Michael: [VO] An old friend who used to inform on you to the FBI…
Sam Axe: You know spies, bunch of bitchy little girls.
Michael: [VO] Family too…
Sam: [phone rings] Hey, is that your Mom again?
Michael: [VO] …if you’re desperate.
Madeline: Someone needs your help, Michael!
Michael: [VO] Bottom line: As long as you’re burned, you’re not going anywhere.

For those unfamiliar, that’s how every episode of Burn Notice opened.
And every single time I picked this book up to read a few more chapters, that rolled through my head.
Tod Goldberg has such a great grasp of this world that it’s stunning to find out he wasn’t in the writers room on the series.
In all honesty, the worst thing I can say about this book is that it feels a lot like Star Wars: Dark Disciple, in that it feels like an arc of the show that they didn’t film.
It really is like 3 episodes in 1 book.
I can see Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, Jeffery Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, and all of the rest of the cast acting out every single expression, muscle twitch, and flare of anger.
I can visualize the graphics explaining who is the client, bad guy, and asset.
It’s fantastic!

The story goes like this: a former street gang leader that Mikey knows from his youth and time as a spy found God in prison, turned priest, and is in the midst of trying to atone.
But now the collar’s new public image is being threatened with blackmail by a former fellow gang member.
After a chance meeting spurred by Madeline, Mike’s Mom, Mike takes him on as a client and gets dragged into this seedy underbelly.

This novel really crystalized one thing for me, something that would occasionally swim around in my brain from time to time as I watched the show.
That fact is that these characters are so strong and so well defined, far beyond most shows that fall into the same sort of villain of the week formula that this show did.
Mike is the strong leader who is capable on his own but isn’t afraid to rely on his friends and family.
Fiona is an incredible presence that I would dare say is one of the best female characters of all time, without falling into stereotypical female archetypes.
She’s occasionally soft and sweet, occasionally The Punisher in a dress.
And then we come to Sam, the wise crackin’ best buddy who is more than just comic relief.
He can actually handle himself and rescue the hero if he is forced to.
It all comes through so well, it’s perfection on the page.

Mike makes his plan to take down the baddie, who has cops on the payroll. After some clever twists to complicate things and challenge the crew, they unseat the villain, protect a mother and her child, save the priest and his youth workers he’s trying to pull out of the life.
And all is well, for now.

If you are a fan of this show, there is absolutely no reason you won’t love these books.
They legitimately feel like missing TV Movies from the middle of the first three seasons or something.
I don’t know exactly how Goldberg does it, but the dude does it well.
It’s a damn shame he only did 5 of these novels because in the absence of the show, that I deeply loved and terribly miss, these are a magnificent way to extend the experience.
I highly encourage you to check this and all of the others out.
Meanwhile, I’ll just sit here hoping he’ll get an idea some day and they let him do more.

Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.

Be sure to come back tomorrow, gang, for the launch of Fitz’s new Bi-Weekly Figure Feature!

The Nerd Blitz Question Of The Week #5

It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for a brand new Question Of The Week, gang!
Let’s dive in and get the conversation going.

Triple threat match time: Lord of the Rings vs. Song of Ice And Fire vs. Dragonlance
Which are you backing to win?

Leave your answer in the comments below or post it on Twitter with the hashtag #TNBQotW.

Special thanks to @SteBoost for our QotW logo.

Spider-Man: Goblin’s Revenge Review

Our story picks up the morning after Carnage In New York (read my review of that novel here) as Spidey heads to meet up with Reed Richards and deliver the serum from that novel, which is a fun idea…in theory…
As we know, sometimes creative changes can lead to an uneven feeling in the story and tone.

Does this feel like a good continuation?
Let’s find out!

As per usual, consider this your 22 year late ***SPOILER ALERT***!!!
And a quick thank you to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help with these reviews.

So, Spider-Man meets up with Mr. Fantasic and swings back home for some much needed rest.
As Spidey makes his way home, a new maniac on a Goblin Glider lobs a pumpkin bomb at the leader of the FF and snatches the serum away, setting up our conflict.
Quickly, Spider-Man’s world is turned upside down and we jump 2 weeks ahead in time.
As the webslinger tries to figure out who this new Goblin is and what his plans are, a mission to break Carnage out of a high security prison sets that monster free.

One of the best things about this novel is the focus.
It easily could have been a retread of the previous story, going for a personal story that cheapened the one from last time.
But instead, Dean Wesley Smith weaves in a surprising personal thread near the end (more on that in a bit) that is so different and works better because of it.
The main focus though is Pete stressing hardcore about the serum getting loose in the world, facing a lack of sleep due to a reoccurring nightmare that gives him flashbacks to one of his most traumatic failures.

The action is handled in the way you would expect from an author of DWS’s stature.
The guilt and stress the webhead feels about the serum getting out, though described through 3rd person narration, comes across as well as if you were reading Parker’s diary.
Dean Wesley Smith is a writer I know of, but don’t know his work well.
Having said that, I have really liked the few books of his I’ve read (2 Spider-Man novels and a Smallville novel for sure, I’m pretty sure there are a couple more).
The scene of Carnage at the airport, murdering hostages in a ploy to get Spider-Man to face him is gruesome.
As is the scene of the Glider rider chucking a dose of the serum into a group of mercs that have been pursuing our Sensational hero, they destroy one another quickly and bloodily.

MJ, seeing the weight of pressure and responsibility that Pete is putting on himself, tries to boost her husband’s mood by bringing together their old circle of friends, Flash and Liz…which unwittingly helps this new Goblin get something over on Spidey and brings MJ closer than she probably ever wanted to be to the climactic action.
The Goblin and Carnage bickering helps Pete take down the symbiotic monster and leads to a Goblin chase and reveal.

Given the described inexperience of this Goblin, if you know the Spidey Rogues Gallery it’s pretty easy to figure out who he is.
So there is some level of predictably, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
And in all honesty, that’s probably the key to all good Spider-Man stories, fun.
I know this story sounds depressing as all hell, but trust me it does have enough fun to meet that criteria.

The 1 thing that stuck out as odd to me would be at the beginning, Reed apologies to Pete for the FF not being around to help with Carnage last time and says he hopes to be there next time.
When Carnage pops up again, the FF is dealing with another crisis somewhere and are unable to help Spidey.
It 100% makes sense that the Fantastic Four would constantly be rushing off to deal with other problems, but it felt really fuckin’ weird to draw attention to that only to let it happen again.
It’s a minor nitpick, but I feel it’s valid to wonder about.

That aside, it does feel like a good continuation of the last book.
It’s shorter, but that makes for a tighter story with more focus on our hero and his problem.
I desperately hope I can find more of these books, because thus far they are all so true to character and an utter joy to devour.
Find them if you can, gang!