Fantastic Four: Redemption Of The Silver Surfer Review

In my experience, Marvel’s First Family has, no pun intended, a rocky history outside of the four color realm.
I’ve read a few novels over the years that have been dull, to put it lightly, and, though I enjoyed the first two, the movies have been been generally derided by the vast majority of fans.
So going into this, I was a wee bit worried.
But were those worries unfounded?
Let’s find out, gang!

As per usual, consider this your official 22 year ***SPOILER ALERT***

Michael Jan Friedman is a dude whose work I have always dug.
I will admit I haven’t read all of his books and stories, but what I have read has never disappointed me.
The Marvel stuff he has written has always left me feeling like this is a guy that spent his time wallowing in comics and nerddom (a fact I also noticed while reading his X-Men/Star Trek The Next Generation novel, Planet X), this book does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
To put it plainly, he fuckin’ gets it, man!

It’s beyond obvious from the jump that he knows these characters well. Specifically Silver Surfer, who he quickly and economically gets across the back story and guilt of.
For those who may not know, this is a dude that spent too many years condemning entire planets, races, and civilizations to death for the devourer of worlds, Galactus.
Silver Surfer has spent all the years since he broke away from Galactus trying to balance the scales in anyway he could, which gives us our title and a solid A-plot that’s deftly disguised as a potential B-plot.

Which leads me to my only real, and admittedly minor, issue with this novel.
The Surfer is the star of this book, he’s not a guest in any sense, but our titular heroes do feel almost like guest stars.
I don’t hate that Norrin Radd is in the spotlight at all, but it does feel a bit like the Fantastic Four title was used for the wider general name recognition.
And believe me, it works perfectly to hook you in!
But I did finish the story wishing that I had gotten at least 1 chapter that focused on the FF together before the trip to the Negative Zone and maybe one at the tail end just to beef up their presence a little.

The fact that the Negative Zone and it’s inhabitants haven’t been the focus of one of the movies is a damn shame, and this book is full of all the evidence you could need to support that.
Reed, Ben, and Johnny are prompted into the alternate universe when an old foe, Blastaar, sets hostages up for slaughter right near their outpost in the zone.
Blastaar lures them in, not for a fight this time but for their help, having felt their combined power first hand, to defeat a coming threat – a destroyer of worlds, much like Galactus, named Prodigion.
The trio decide to look on as Blastaar tries to destroy Prodigion’s ship and crew as something feels off.
Johnny is injured and taken aboard the vessel, Sue and the Surfer show up to help, and things get even more complicated than any of them were led to believe.
The turns in this are great.
Prodigion going from villian, to hero, and back and forth again until his final reveal leave you with a great sense of mystery and suspense until the end.

Bottom line: Surfer’s story is suitably heartbreaking and involves a chance at happiness, and the aforementioned redemption, he has so desperately craved for the 1st time in ages and it’s handled with the care and ease of somebody who has the writing and in universe experience to give it the weight it deserves without being laughable.
If you are a fan of the FF and their supporting characters, snap this up if you stumble across a copy.
Now I’m gonna go searching for more of Michael Jan Friedman’s TNG work.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

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Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out Review

For those that may not know or remember, Monk was a USA Network TV series about a modern day Sherlock Holmes (with, somehow, more idiosyncratic quirks) and his assistant Natalie (for our purposes, Watson) who were consultants with the San Francisco Police Department to solve various murders and mysteries.
It ran for 8 seasons, and the series finale for this show even held the record for the highest rated single episode of television for a while.
In short, this was a major TV intellectual property, so of course there was a series of novels based upon it.

This particular book is the 10th original novel in the series, and it was written by a man that worked on the show and wrote all of the previous 9.
After working with a character for that long, one would imagine that not many could handle the world and its inhabitants better.
So let’s dive in and see just how good of a handle Mr. Goldberg has on Adrian Monk and his universe.

As per usual, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

The short reply is that Lee Goldberg may need surgery to ease up his grip on Monk, because 10 books in it’s still vise like.
The dude knows the ins and outs of every nook and cranny of Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, & Disher.
He knows every inch of their minds, quirks, assorted little ticks, and attitudes.

Here’s what happened: Monk gets fired as a consultant with the SFPD due to budget cuts again.
All the while one of the biggest trials in the history of the Bay Area is about to begin for a man, Bob Sebes, who stole billions in an insane ponzi scheme that fleeced thousands, one of that group being Adrian Monk.
Jobless and penniless, and with all of the witnesses that can put the palindromicly named Sebes in prison dropping like flies, Monk can’t help but solve the murders…no matter how much Natalie tries to stop him and save their jobs.

The genius of these books is that, again in Holmesian tradition, Natalie plays our narrator.
Now, in the series, there was no narration, so you might think it would be a bit jarring to suddenly go so intimately into a character’s mind and read their every thought.
But not at all!
Natalie, though often meek on the show, has the best position to tell you every detail of the mystery and then give you moments to cool down and mull over the progress and frustrations of the story when she’s away from Monk that an omniscient narrator would make feel cold and detached.
And you get to see more of her fiery side, which makes her a more fleshed out character and improves/shades Traylor Howard’s already great performance.
It was the perfect choice from the start of this series and it continues to serve it well 10 deep.

Much like his brother Tod (read my review of Tod’s novel Burn Notice: The Reformed HERE to see exactly what I mean), Lee has the ability to translate the characters from the screen to the page with impeccable precision.
Which makes me wonder what was in their water growing up, how the hell did it bring forth such skillful writing talent?
The dudes know how to tell an extended story (compared to the shows these books are based on) and not have it feel stretched too thin to meet a page count or not spin its wheels on any unnecessary down beats that bore.
Just out of curiosity, I have always wondered how many episode scripts these novels equate to?
It feels like 2-3, but I am interested to find a hard answer just for a better understanding of the content they provide.

So to wrap up, Monk has always been a tragic and tortured character, and while that is a bit more exaggerated in these books than it was in the show, these stories are a great way to understand and spend more quality time with a character that spent 8 years and more than 100 episodes showing us that it’s okay to be flawed or damaged.
It’s okay to be different or weird.
It’s okay to be…you.
You just have to find your path and your Natalie to help you keep your shit together, gang, cause it’s a jungle out there.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown Review

This book ended up being the final novel released in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, aka Legends, timeline.
I have no clue if Joe Schreiber knew at the time he was writing it that he was the penning the swan song for an entire line of continuity or not, but none the less he was swinging for the fences.
The question at this point is did he get it over the wall or did he swing wild and fling his bat at the pitcher, slamming him in the face and unleashing a torrent of blood, causing a bench clearing brawl the likes of which have never been seen before or since that will go down in history as…I may have gotten carried away just then, and I don’t even like baseball, but I think you see my point…let’s answer that question in less gory detail.

Consider this your official ***Spoiler Alert***

Sidious sends Maul undercover into a prison to meet with a mysterious weapons dealer to get a device to further one of his many secret plans and bring forth the Sith takeover we all know is coming.
Through algorithmic match making, this prison is a hub of fights and high stakes betting that brings the attention of the galaxy and some of its more seedy underworldy types.

This is the 3rd and final of Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars novels and I’m trying to decide if this is better than the 1st or not.
The race is so damn tight.
Death Troopers brilliantly handled Han & Chewie appearances while mixing in some kickass Zombie attacks.
This has Maul, Sidious, Plagueis, and Jabba in Pre-Phantom Menace action.
He has a way of dealing with these legacy characters that makes them feel less like untouchable art pieces and more like action figures that are going to get beat up and thrown back in the toy box for the next writer to take out and toss around for a bit, and I mean that in the best possible way.

His handling of Maul is great, displaying the pure stoicism of this brutal fighter is spot on.
Sidious takes lightsabers and the Force out of the arsenal of the horn headed apprentice, to keep his dark side allegiance secret, and it gives us a great insight into how his mind works and how he has been trained to adapt.
We see a new detective side to him as well as we follow him chasing down leads and rumors in the prison, hunting the arms dealer and coming to multiple deadends.
He almost comes off like The Punisher in that respect, and I loved it.

There are twists aplenty, and not a one had that all too familiar feeling of “are you seriously gonna try this hokey shit?” that can often be found in books/story that try to be too clever or deep for their own good.
They all have an air of “aw hell, why didn’t I see that coming?” to them.
One unexpected twist I’ll share is when Darth Plagueis shows up and starts undermining the plans of Sidious, confronting him about it to pretty much let him know he’s aware of the ongoing shenanigans, and then he cooly moves past it to discuss the grand plan for the approaching Sith takeover.
It’s tense as hell and almost worth the price of admission alone.

Tip to tail, this is a damn good book.
And while I enjoy the new main continuity, I hope at some point in the future that Disney/Del Rey will open the door and let the EU/Legends continuity thrive again.
Because if this is the level of story they were pumping out at the end, there were plenty more great stories to come.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.