Book Reviews: Mysteries and Comics, Some German

Arturo Toscanini
When I was young, I kissed my first woman and smoked my first cigarette on the same day. I have never had time for tobacco since.


Dead Woods
I’ve mentioned before that the Germans have taken over for the Swedes when it comes to the mystery genre’s European contingent, but I have to say that, compared to their Scandinavian almost-neighbors, these read a lot more like American. And just like in the last German mystery, something from the past relates heavily to this crime.
This story takes place in Hamburg, though in the suburbs, with very few forays into the city, so you don’t need to imagine much here, except at the end. Also easy to imagine are the detectives, who are not typical cops at all, with Lina barely five feet even sporting a punk haircut, and Max much more usual in look but not demeanor. Both are very likable, much more than the others in the department, who are more typical.
Other than one plot point about another murder which I found rather obvious, I enjoyed both the story and the dialogue, though at times it felt a little padded. The ending is a sea chase in heavy rain, which felt a little overdramatic but didn’t hurt the story.

The Fuse Volume 2: Gridlock
This graphic novel starts with a race between sci-fi snowmobiles in space around a floating station, televised though illegal. When they come across a dead racer, the plot takes off.
Despite this being second in a series, the world-building, or rather the description of such, is excellent; don’t feel like I need to see the first to get it. Also interesting was watching a crime scene investigation, now so usual on TV, in micro-grav. And despite the sci-fi setting we’ve got typical police detectives, with the typical hard-bitten banter, though with a German accent; funnily enough, one of the narc cops is obviously French. Lawyers, corporations, and slums also feature, just like Earth. And there’s regular shuttle service, so it’s not too far away; Mars is also mentioned a few times as possibly the Australia of its time, as in prison.
The plot flows from murder to drugs to terrorism and back. I don’t know if each issue has different writers, but at the beginning there was a lots of clichés in the dialogue. It also annoyed me that it took me a while to realize why the lead detective called her black male partner “Marlene,” but that’s just me. A blurb called the artwork “stark,” and that’s a good description, except from me that’s not a compliment. Still, overall it’s a fun read, a well-done mystery for a graphic novel.

As seems common now, I’m coming into a series other than at the start, this one being the third about a female FBI agent in the Pacific Northwest. This entry starts with a literal blast, an active shooter in a mall, with the agent cowering weaponless, trying to protect a friend who was shot, and coming face to face with the shooter, who doesn’t find her worth shooting.
There’s a major plot point that if I mention will be a big-time spoiler, so I’m finding it hard to write about the story. So I’ll instead talk about the characters, which are well-drawn, especially the lead and her lover, and the dialogue, which was serviceable but not a big deal. There’s a curious scene where the agent is having problems and cures a coming nervous breakdown with sex. The worst move done by the otherwise smart FBI agent is going to check the stakeout, where she’s seen by the bad guy, which not only confirms the trap but allows him to follow her.
The story ends with a chase scene in a hardware store. I’m not all that familiar with those places, but I do remember some aisles are built up, usually with heavy machinery, with various levels and such. I would have hidden up there; like Khan in the second Star Trek movie, this bad guy wouldn’t have likely thought in three dimensions.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes crossover graphic novel
This is officially called “The Primate Directive,” which got a surprised snort out of me; nice play on words. The original Enterprise crew finds out the Klingons—original Klingons too, not Worf-like—are conquering another dimension and go there, which turns out to be the Planet of the Apes, of course, Earth in the future. Even Spock is surprised by the talking simians. Of course they run into Colonel Taylor, who still wants to wipe out all those damned dirty apes, but Kirk’s applying the Prime Directive, so he gets mad and beams up to the Enterprise, running amok on the ship. For the Klingons we get that brilliant bastard Kor as the puppetmaster.
As I prefer it, the faces are faithfully drawn, even the simians. There’s a lot of backgrounds with gorgeously drawn crew women in miniskirt uniform, which I have no doubt Kirk appreciates, and Cornelius and Scotty get along famously.
A pleasant enough diversion, especially if you’re a fan of both, or even one.



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