Comics Vol 1: Invisible Mafia by Brian Michael Bendis is a spin off from the Man of
Steel miniseries also by this author. Superman is dealing with the
gossip at work about why is wife left while dealing with the fact someone is
setting fires across Metropolis. This is the work of a new group of villains
called the Invisible Mafia. Their plan had been to get away with stuff while
working by not drawing attention.
Instead, they have
been dropping bodies because of the actions of “Red Cloud.” She is a meta-human
who is young, arrogant, and believes she is powerful and smart enough to hang
with Superman. She thinks she can fight and beat Superman because she can turn
into a red toxic cloud. She also now has the attention of Lex Luthor.
This means Red
Cloud and her origination, Invisible Mafia, have the attention of the two
powerful people of Metropolis. Before now, neither dealt with them because they
never noticed and never cared about them. They now do. Instead of leaving town,
they double down on the stupid and start covering up what they are doing. That
just makes their situation worse.
In addition to the
great artwork, there are a lot of little jokes throughout the story. One
example is when as Superman investigates a crime; his clue is that a bad guy
who is bald did it. Some he checks his multi-page catalog listing of bald bad
guy villains and does so with this oh so serious look on his face. Another
funny moment is when he is question one criminal who claims he barely knows the
other criminal he is with. The other guy shouts out about how the two are
A lot of new
characters are introduced in this book and most of them will most likely be ignored
by future writers because there just not that interesting and kind of stupid.
One of the better parts of this story is Perry White, the Daily Planet Editor, who
points out why people are stupid throughout the read. This is especially true
in regards to the rumors the Invisible Mafia is trying to spread about
Superman. They are pushing the story that Superman killed somebody though
Superman has a perfect and very public alibi. At the time in question, Superman
along with several other heroes, were fighting an alien invasion in Seattle and
the whole deal was broadcast on live television. This was going on at the same
time he supposedly was killing a low level criminal. Instead of killing Lex
Luthor, Darkseid, Brainaic, and other powerful villians, he allegedly killed
some random low level criminal. Yeah that makes sense… Lol.
This story is a good place to start for new readers and is fairly
enjoyable. Red Cloud has the ability to turn in to a toxic red cloud and she
thinks she can beat Superman who is busy shattering asteroids and stops an alien
invasion from space. She seriously over estimates her abilities. What does not
work so well is the fact that Lois makes some questionable parenting decisions
that Superman is very cool with for some reason. While I can’t go into it
without giving spoilers, it is clear to this reader that she is a pretty bad
Despite the flaws, Superman
Action Comics Vol 1: Invisible Mafia by Brian Michael Bendis is a funny
story with original villains and interesting plot. This Superman story is not
the best, but it is enjoyable and fun.
After his all new review
Big Bad City by Ed McBain last week, it seemed appropriate to run again
Barry’s review of THE LAST BEST HOPE. For the full list of reading suggestions,
check out Todd Mason’s Sweet
THE LAST BEST HOPE (1998) by Ed
Jill Lawton comes to attorney Matthew Hope's law office in Calusa, Florida
to get a divorce—with alimony—from her long-gone husband Jack. Nine months
earlier, Jack had gone north, ostensibly in search of freelance graphic design
work, and she has not heard from him since. Jill hopes to invoke the Enoch
Arden Law, but Matthew explains that not enough time has passed for this to
apply, and that they'll have to find Jack and serve him with the divorce
It's not long thereafter that a man's body is found on a beach in Calusa,
the face gone from a shotgun blast. A driver's license and Visa card in the
man's pockets suggest he's Jack Lawton. But when Jill is summoned to positively
identify the body, she instantly determines from the absence of a miniscule
blue dot on his Adam's apple that the man is not her husband.
Matthew puts a firm of private investigators on the case, and on his own
phones a precinct in the city where Jack was last known to have been. The city
is unnamed; the precinct is the 87th; the detective Matthew talks to is Steve
Thus McBain melds two series and the sleuths therefrom, each working in
different locations on the same case.
As the body count increases and surprises unfold, McBain with the skill his
fans know and love conveys the story's past and present from different angles
and viewpoints, switching among the various investigators and multiple
villains. The reader is taken into the heads of the characters, all of whom are
believably fleshed-out, and comes to know them from their conversations with
others and their internal monologues—another McBain trademark.
The Last Best Hope never lets up—it's a superb example of a
"page-turner"—as characters and events converge in a wild climax
tense with excitement but leavened with humor situational, coincidental, and
authorial. The lyric from a song in a James Bond movie aptly sums up Ed McBain:
"Nobody does it better."
Please welcome author
Tom Sawyer back to the blog today.
Attribution in Prose – An Opinion or Two...
Thomas B. Sawyer
Coming to narrative fiction
somewhat in reverse from most writers – in that I began as a screenwriter –
afforded me more than a few attitudes. And definitely not least was/is on the
topic of dialogue attribution.
In novels and short stories I
had long been struck by what I see as the rampant, mindless use of “he said,”
“she said,” “said he” and the like. I know that many highly regarded and/or
successful writers and teachers believe such usage as a kind of pinnacle of
simplicity. I agree, but not in the affirmative sense of “simple.”
As I began to contemplate my
first venture into the form, I started to question such things more actively. Why,
I wondered, would experienced, quality writers who otherwise (rightly) bust
their humps to avoid repetitions and the use of clichés, surrender to these
without guilt? Or, viewed another way, when does a particular phrase cease
being “economical,” and morph into a mindless cliché?
And how many millions of trees,
I asked myself, have given their lives for such conceits?
To me, even worse – no, make
that dumber – is “she/he asked.” It’s dumber because, since it so often follows
a question mark, the reader knows it’s a question, right? So why repeat
And then there are “he blurted,”
“she exclaimed,” “he queried,” etc. If you must attribute, rather than
committing those atrocities, I guess “he said” begins to look attractive.
Did I have a solution? Yeah.
When I prepared to write my first novel, THE SIXTEENTH MAN, I set as a
goal/challenge for myself – a little secret bar-raising pact, if you will –
that I would never use any of those
phrases. Ever. And I never have.
The result? While hardly
revolutionary – I’ve since learned that numerous novelists do it – I’m
convinced that it has made my writing better, more readable, and certainly more visual.
Here’s my approach, and the way
I teach it.
Work on attribution the way you
work on the rest of your writing, with the care you give to your dialogue and
your descriptions. Will it make a dramatic difference to your readers? Not
likely. Will they even be aware of it? Probably not. But – will it make
a difference to you as a writer? Emphatically, yes. It’ll force you to think.
To challenge yourself about stuff from which most narrative writers take the
day off. So that all of your writing will become fresher. And
importantly, more visual about stuff that really
matters: your story’s drama.
And for me, in the process, I
found that it contributed to finding my “voice.”
It also contributed to some
criticism from certain literary types who warned me that as a novelist I could
not “write for the camera.” I submit that they are mistaken. The readeris the camera. The reader is seeing the pictures. Imagining
Think about conventional,
by-the-numbers dialogue attribution for a moment. “She said,” does almost
nothing to help the reader envision
the scene. It says nothing about the body-language of the speaker, or her
inflection. Where were her hands? Was her head cocked to one side? Did she,
during the speech, touch her face, or the person to whom she spoke? For me,
settling for “said” implies that the speaker is delivering lines with arms
hanging at his/her side. Again, for me as a reader, a brief description of
body-language counts for a helluvva lot more than knowing what the person is
wearing, or hair-color, or the texture of sofa-upholstery.
Or merely, identifying the
character who is speaking.
Admittedly, noting such detail
isn’t always important, but when it helps the reader “see” the action, it seems
to follow that it will also help the reader “hear” the words.
In my own case, as with
most-but-not-all writers, when it’s obviously clear for the reader which
character is speaking, I omit attribution. But when the speaker is gesturing to
emphasize a point, or is revealing, say, insecurity or anger or even an emotion
that contradicts his or her words, that is worth communicating to my
audience. Further, when a character’s response to another’s words isn’t
spoken, but is rather a gesture, or a look, that can be good
storytelling. And effective theater.
I think of it as directing my
actors – just as in my scriptwriting, describing when necessary
those actions that augment their speeches – or – as in non-verbal
responses – replace them entirely.
I urge any writer to try it. I
think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Edgar & Emmy-nominated, Tom Sawyer was Head Writer/Showrunner of the classic CBS series, MURDER, SHE WROTE, for which he wrote 24 episodes. Tom sold, then wrote 9 series pilots, was Head Writer/Showrunner or Producer on 15 network series. Tom wrote/directed/produced the feature-film comedy, ALICE GOODBODY. He is co-librettist/lyricist ofJACK, an opera about JFK which has been performed to acclaim in the US and Europe. Tom authored bestselling mystery/thrillers THE SIXTEENTH MAN, & NO PLACE TO RUN. His latest, a mystery/thriller-with-humor: A MAJORPRODUCTION!, 2nd in a series featuring NY PI Barney Moon, who doesn’t drive, sees LA as an Alien Planet, and is stuckthere. www.thomasbsawyer.com
was delighted to learn that Torie O’Shea has reappeared after a long hiatus.
Rett MacPherson published 11 mysteries between 1997 and 2008, the most in any
series I know of that uses genealogy as its theme. Torie lives in fictional New
Kassel, Missouri, a small town on the Mississippi River about an hour south of
St. Louis. Like many cities that sprang up along a river, New Kassel used its
historic past to develop a thriving tourism industry. Torie is a docent in a
local museum, giving tours of a restored mansion and researching family
histories. And, since these books were written before Ancestry and other online
research sites existed, she conducts her genealogy the old-fashioned way, by
reading census records and visiting courthouses and checking ship passenger
Bad to the
(Word Posse, 2018) brings Torie back, older, chunkier, with her children more
or less grown. Torie is happy that New Kassel is still thriving but she is
bored with life. In addition, her doctor told her she needs to lose 30 pounds,
and the idea that she has to give up sweets is more than she can bear. Why
can’t she eat pie twice a day every day? So unfair!
rarely is asked to assemble a family tree these days, as most folks are using
the online sites. So when the local Catholic church asks her to compile birth,
marriage, and death records and cross-reference them against the cemetery
inventory, Torie jumps at the task. While taking a break one day, she notices a
coyote who seems to be interested in a particular spot on church grounds. Torie
wonders what’s there and finds a bone that she is sure is human. She calls the
police, and they unearth a recent skeleton; a few yards away they discover
several sets of older bones. The presence of Civil War uniform buttons and belt
buckles places the age of the older remains, but the newer set is harder to pin
throws herself into the mystery of identifying the bones, older and newer.
While genealogy does play a part, local and state history during the Civil War is
more prominent. This latest story in the series has all of the same characters
from the earlier books, a little older, but the dialog is similar to the
previous books and the characters relate to each other in the same way. Torie
uses her research skills to identify key clues, despite being warned away by
the police, as usual, and ends up nearly getting killed along with her son and
their newly acquired bear-sized dog. A satisfying read and a welcome return of
a favorite series.
who prefer to listen to the podcast directly on KRL, you can find a player here
for our latest one which features an excerpt of "A High-End Finish"
by Kate Carlisle, read by local actor Casey Ballard
Superman Vol 1: The Unity Saga: Phantom Earth by Brian Michael
Bendis is a spinoff from the miniseries Man of Steel. The main things one
needs to know from Man of Steel are spoilers, but you need to know them before
reading this book. One such deal is the fact that Lois and Superboy, aka
Jonathan Kent, left with Jor-El, Superman’s father (who is now alive as he was
brought back by a cosmic god to test Superman so that they would remain safe. Another
is the fact that the miniseries introduced a new villain called Rogal Zar who was
an alien that claimed he killed Krypton and everyone on it. Rogal Zar destroyed
the Fortress of Solitude, destroyed Kandour killing everyone in it, and wanted
to kill everyone on Earth. Ultimately Superman and Supergirl were able to
defeat him by throwing him into the Phantom Zone. Supergirl then left to
investigate Rogal Zar’s claims and what really happened to Krypton. Superman
sent Krypto along with her to protect her on her space trip. This leaves
Superman alone on Earth and since the communication device he had to talk to
Lois and the others was destroyed, he has no way to know if his family is safe
or where they are. He is alone.
Superman Vol 1: The Unity Saga: Phantom Earth helps establish the
new status quo for Superman in that he misses his family and has to create a
new headquarters to replace the Fortress of Solitude. He has to do that while
dealing with problems that only he can handle. One such problem is that the
Earth was thrown into the Phantom Zone and the people of Earth are being
poisoned by the atmosphere of the Phantom Zone. The bigger problem is that
Rogal Zar has taken control of the Phantom Zone which housed the worst criminal
Krpyton ever faced. Now, Rogal Zar is marshalling them under his leadership and
in intends to use them to kill everyone on Earth. Luckily Superman has help in
the form of various members of The Justice League such as The Flash, Martian
Manhunter, The Atom, and more.
Overall the action is impressive and
the story is pretty good. There are scenes that struck me as funny though I am
not sure they are actually intended to be funny. For example, the scene where
Batman reports he is too busy throwing up from the poison air came across as
funny to me.
At times the dialogue seems a little
off. For example, in a scene where Superman confesses to his son that he has a
love/ hate relationship with Batman, Superboy says that it is just like his
relationship with Lois. There are two ways to take the scene depending on how
you wish to read the dialogue. Clearly, one way would be to see it as that Superman
likes Batman in a romantic way and Superboy is asking his Dad if he is gay. I don’t
think the writer intended that, but the way the dialogue is written, one could
easily come up with that belief.
Bendis has a good understanding of
Superman, however I still don’t think Rogal Zar is that great of a new villain
for Superman’s Rogues Gallery. The author tries to hype him up. This is
especially true in regards to how strong and smart he is and yet the grand
attack plan is to lead a cavalry of flying charging monsters at the Earth while
Superman stands in front of the charge. Rogal Zar is supposed to be considered
stronger than almost any foe Superman has faced, but considering what Superman
has faced in the past, it is hard to understand why he would be scared of Rogal
Zar. It is also hard to understand why Superman tries to be merciful to him
throughout it all despite the fact that Rogal Zar has threatened to kill his
son and wife. In the previous stories where Superman’s family has been
threatened, Superman has not responded this gently. The fact that Superman
bends over backward to be merciful somewhat diminishes the idea that Rogal Zar
is a match for him.
Despite these flaws, Superman
Vol 1: The Unity Saga: Phantom Earth by Brian Michael Bendis is
enjoyable and a good place to start reading Superman. One should probably read Man
of Steel first, but one could start here easily enough.
Made the mistake of going out this afternoon in the heat to run a couple of errands. I did this after being out and about in public for awhile this morning. I overdid me, and then with the heat, am not well at all tonight. It did not help that we had an issue with the house AC this afternoon which is now theoretically fixed.
Will rest at home tonight with several fans blowing on my carcass, and hope to be better tomorrow. If you have sent me something or have news for SMFS, please be patient.
We roll into May 2019 with another classic review from Barry. Make sure you check out the full list over at Todd Mason’s blog . DRO...
Supporting The Blog
In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.