Pulp (2020) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

“That was one of the problems of getting older. You hit an age where everyone either ignores you, or treats you like some hassle they’re being forced to deal with. But inside, you still feel like the same person you were thirty or forty years ago.”

-Ed Brubaker

A few years ago, my brother introduced me to Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ brilliant crime comic book series Criminal. I quickly became a fan of the series and searched for other works by this creative team. That led me to Kill or Be Killed, a comic book series that explores the experiences of a young vigilante, and also contains a supernatural element. Another great read, I collected all twenty issues of the series. Now, when a new title by Brubaker and Phillips is released, I will usually buy it “sight unseen” because I know it will be of the highest quality.

Publisher’s Synopsis

“Max Winters, a pulp writer in 1930s New York, finds himself drawn into a story not unlike the tales he churns out at 5 cents a word – tales of a Wild West outlaw dispensing justice with a six-gun. But will Max be able to do the same, when pursued by bank robbers, Nazi spies, and enemies from his past?

One part thriller, one part meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything the award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips have ever done. A celebration of pulp fiction, set in a world on the brink. And another must-have hardback from one of comics most-acclaimed teams.”


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Happy New Ox!

Happy New Year from Wakizashi’s little corner of Japan!

2021 is the third year in the Reiwa Period (令和三年). The Japanese follow the Chinese Zodiac which has 12 animals for each 12-year cycle. 2021 is the Year of the Ox (or Cow). According to the Chinese Lunar calendar the New Year begins on February 12th.

Ox Years are: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

What kind of year can we expect?

Kathryn Wortley of the Japan Times writes: “The second animal of the Chinese zodiac, the ox denotes the hard work, positivity and honesty that will be manifested in all of us in the coming 12 months, according to astrologers.”


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Top Reads of 2020

Another year draws to a close, so it’s time to publish my Top Reads of the year. These are the stories that stood out for me over the past 12 months. They are listed in no particular order; just the ones I enjoyed reading the most during this crazy year of 2020. If you click on the title, it will take you to my review.


Best Books Read in 2020

Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah (1969) by Frank Herbert
Europe at Dawn (2018) by Dave Hutchinson
In the Forests of Serre (2004) by Patricia McKillip
Utopia Avenue (2020) by David Mitchell
The Folding Knife (2010) by K.J. Parker
The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman
Lancelot (2018) by Giles Kristian
The Stand (1978) by Stephen King


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Wonder Woman: Dead Earth (2020) by Daniel Warren Johnson

“Come closer, Diana. Put your hands in the clay. This is what you were made from. This core of the Earth, the strongest of what this broken world had to offer, gave way to the mass that makes you what you are now.”

-Daniel Warren Johnson

Publisher’s Synopsis

“Wonder Woman’s mission was to save Man’s World from itself. She failed.

When Diana awakens from a centuries-long sleep to discover the Earth reduced to a nuclear wasteland, she knows she failed. Trapped alone in a grim future, Diana must protect the last human city from titanic monsters while uncovering the secret of this dead Earth–and how she may be responsible for it.

The celebrated creator of Murder Falcon and Extremity and artist of The Ghost Fleet, Daniel Warren Johnson, brings bold sci-fi chops to his DC debut with a harrowing vision of Wonder Woman unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”


My Thoughts

I’d never been interested in reading Wonder Woman comics before this book. It was artist and writer Daniel Warren Johnson that convinced me to buy it. I loved his work on Extremity and Murder Falcon, and found both titles to be an absolute blast to read.

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Coffin Bound, Vol. 1: Happy Ashes (2020) by Dan Watters & DaNi

“I have a plan, Ben. I am expunging myself from the planet. Each mark I’ve made I shall scrub out.”

-Dan Watters

I really enjoyed writer Dan Watters’ recent run on the Vertigo comic book Lucifer. That’s what brought me to Coffin Bound, published by Image Comics. I wanted to read more stories by Watters and this was an original story by him and Greek artist DaNi. What can I say about this book? To make an understatement, I will say it’s pretty unique.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Cars! Guns! Entropy! Izzy Tyburn has promised the world that if it won’t have her in it, it’ll have nothing of her at all. Chased by an unstoppable killer, she’s re-treading her life, leaving nothing behind but burned rubber, ash… and the sun-scorched bones of those who get in her way. Ride shotgun on an existential road-trip through the tangled web of a blood-splattered life.


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Wakizashi

Like Tom Waits sang, “I’m big in Japan”; six foot two inches to be precise. They use centimeters over here, so that makes me around 189~190cm. Not significantly tall for a “Westerner”, but taller than a lot of Japanese people. I’m always easy to find in a crowd over here. That can have both its good points and bad points😉.

from IDW Publishing’s current run of Usagi Yojimbo
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The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman

Remember Lyra and Pantalaimon?

I read and enjoyed Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy back when they were first published just over twenty years ago. I’ve wanted to re-read them for a while, but I haven’t got around to it yet. I bought The Book of Dust Vol.1: La Belle Sauvage when it came out in October 2017. I enjoyed it overall, but felt that something was lacking. Perhaps it was the lack of familiar characters, as Lyra is just a baby in that story which is set chronologically before the His Dark Materials trilogy. But there were moments of magic in there; enough to make me want to read the next volume of the Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (2019).

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Why Write Reviews?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about why I keep writing this blog. It is one of my hobbies, and also something I enjoy doing, but why keep doing it? There are countless blogs out there that offer the same kind of content as this one. Many of them are much better written, more interesting, funnier, and more inspiring than mine. Yet, by some incredible stroke of luck, I’ve managed to pick up a few subscribers and regular readers over the last five years.

To pose another question, why do we read book reviews? Aside from a love of stories and reading in general? Our book reviews are always subjective to our personal tastes. A book we adore and rave about may be another reader’s idea of boredom or even torture. But we go on writing our reviews with the simple desire to spread the word about stories that we love, hate, and everything in between. So, is it just about spreading the word or the love?

What brought you, the reader, to this blog? What made you click that subscribe button? I’m hoping it was because you enjoyed reading one of my reviews. We probably have similar tastes in our reading choices. Even better would be you reading one of my many recommendations and really enjoying it. Then, letting me know about that experience via a comment or message. Which goes back to the idea of sharing the love of reading a really good story.

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The Folding Knife (2010) by K.J. Parker

‘War is an admission of failure.’

I recently reviewed K.J. Parker’s novella The Devil You Know and enjoyed it very much. This led me to try one of his novels, so I bought a copy of The Folding Knife after reading some positive reviews. I was also swayed by the fact that this is a standalone story.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man.

He is ruthless, cunning, and above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions, he’s only ever made one mistake.

One mistake, though, can be enough.


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The Best Introduction to the Mountains (2001) by Gene Wolfe

I want to share this fascinating essay on J.R.R. Tolkien by the American writer Gene Wolfe. I am a fan of both writers and I think that this is one of the best essays about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings I’ve ever read. I will post selected highlights from Wolfe’s essay, but I wholeheartedly recommend that you read the whole essay. There is a link to the essay at the end of this post. I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Wolfe wrote about Tolkien’s most famous books.


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