The 2014 Books in (Mini) Review

2014 may be over, but, like last year, there's still plenty of time to reflect on what made it by far the best year of my life. While it wasn't quite because of any of the books below, they certainly didn't hurt. Because, you know, there were some damned fine reads.

Silver Surfer Omnibus by Stan Lee and John Buscema

I read this in preparation for the newly launched volume of Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Mike and Laura Allred. What I expected, based on the more modern iterations of the character (especially my all-time favorite limited series, Silver Surfer: Requiem), was not at all what I got. This here is a Silver Surfer full of emotion and not afraid to break down and cry. Also one who can put on a trench coat and go full incognito, odd as that sounds. It was a great, dense read, and a beautiful primer for the newest volume.

Far different than later books in the series, The Gunslinger establishes the overall tone of “Dark Tower” but is obviously by a less-seasoned author. That isn’t to say it isn’t great. It is. But it feels like something that was written for a magazine (which it was) and collected only later (which it was). Not my favorite of the series, but by far the simplest and easiest to read and enjoy.

My favorite of the series, Drawing of the Three is an outright asskicker through and through that never stops surprising. It also tackles more themes than any of the other books by allowing us to view the different time periods and conflicts of the individual characters. I only wish the Three of the title wasn’t such a false lead.

Footprints by Joey Esposito and Jonathan Moore

This was a fun book. Seeing the Lochness Monster as a seductress was particularly inspired, but bending Bigfoot into a noir detective role was utterly fantastic. And, surprisingly, fit incredibly well. I do wish the book was in color, but I understand the cost constraints of self-publishing. There was a follow-up issue recently published, but I’m hoping for a full-on second volume.

Waste Lands cemented my love for Jake and Oy, but also ended with what could possibly be the most frustrating cliffhanger in all of literature. Thankfully, I didn’t read “Dark Tower” as it was released, so I didn’t have to put up with that longer than it took for me to take Wizard and Glass off the shelf.

Although it offers some of the best character work of the series, as well as a sweet, if not immediately doomed, romance, Wizard and Glass felt more like filler to me than anything else. It also was the first that seemed to really tie “Dark Tower” to the rest of King’s books, at least overtly. Really, I think it’s the series’ low point, though I know I'm in the minority there. Thankfully, that means it only goes up from here on out.

I had avoided the Potters for year, but finally read the series around 2009 or so because I was forced to write about it almost constantly. I’m glad I convinced myself, though, because although Rowling obviously took influence from past fantasy writers, she presents them in a nice new package and in a very family-friendly way. I read this to my unborn and later newborn, and he never seemed to be confused. So, that’s saying something.

The Last of Us: American Dreams by Neil Druckman and Faith Erin Hicks

I wish this never ended. This was just such a perfect series and prequel to what quickly became my favorite videogame of all time. While some was later repurposed/built upon in the “Left Behind” expansion, I could have sat there and read this over and over. I need more Last of Us.

Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad! by John Pfeiffer

I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, so there wasn’t much here that really surprised, but Pfeiffer nicely repackages that for the man here, in a way we can obviously relate (the chapter “dedicated” to men in What to Expect was more Everybody Loves Raymond than anything else). I’d recommend it for any husband or boyfriend or whoever about to take the plunge into fatherhood.

After an apparently huge break (though not so huge for me), King returned to his infamous series in grand fashion, but reading these all in a row does this book something of a disservice. He explains it off in the afterword, but compared to the first four titles, this one is overloaded with foreign language, mythology and otherworldly nonsense that fail to add much to the series, rather taking away from what had previously been a realistic adventure with touches of fantasy and mysticism. I liked it more than Wizards and Glass, but I wonder what the book would have been like had the pre-accident King written it.

Chamber of Secrets is a marked step-up from Sorcerer’s Stone, but still not at the heights of the later volumes of the series. Still, it has some fun ideas and introduces us to a ton of key elements in a less breakneck fashion than the first outing.

Susannah was my least favorite character of all “Dark Tower,” so much of this book just proved frustrating and a chore. It didn’t help that the pregnancy seemed tacked into the series in Wolves, never seeming as a very natural evolution from Wizard, or that King himself began showing heavily within the books, but at least the latter was fun and cool in an in-universe origin story kind of way.

The Killer, vol. 4: Unfair Competition by Matz and Luc Jacamon

I'm rather fond of this series, but Unfair Competition doesn't hold to the heights of previous volumes, which often surprised and kept me on edge while this simply continued along it's somewhat meandering plot. The art was still great, and the plight of the characters real, but it was lacking that certain something that makes this series so memorable.

I suppose my love of this book stems mostly from the fact there are two distinct endings: the happy and the impossibly sad. The latter is the stronger by far, and anyone who chose to dismiss it has done the series a disservice, but that’s only my own opinion. Regardless, it was satisfying in more ways than one, and a welcome end to the tour-de-force that was this series.

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

A bit of an aside placed in the "Dark Tower" canon, this was a fun little tale I'm thankful wasn't in the actual series, as it has little bearing on the overall plot. Supposedly, this is the first of a few similar tales, which I'd gladly welcome.

Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

I loved Black Dossier and enjoyed Century, but these latest Nemo books have been hit and miss from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen team. While Heart of Ice feels like a traditional adventure tale from the turn of the century or so, it’s lacking any of the pizazz and heart that made previous volumes so special. And do we really need to insert references just because they exist?

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

I haven’t seen the film version of 2001 in some time, but what I remember of it is confusion, particularly the final act. Clarke’s book takes a lot of the guesswork away and actually explains what’s happening, and, unless I’m remembering incorrectly (I need to rewatch the movie very soon), the ending is rather different as well. This is a modern sci-fi staple, and it deserves its place.

2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

Not nearly as memorable as 2001, 2010 suffers from walking in the former’s shadow and even goes so far as to include a few excerpts from the blockbuster. It’s also hurt by following the same basic structure as the original, though the continued concept behind HAL proved interesting and, as with 2001, the book remained a quick and engaging read.

2061: Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clarke

The final Odyssey I own was also the weakest of the bunch, as very little seemed to actually “happen” in 2061 compared to its predecessors. Sure, there were some fun set pieces, but the central premise surrounding the diamond mountain was telegraphed from the start and led to nothing quite remotely interesting aside from what seemed to be setup for 3001 (which I totally need to buy).

The Walking Dead Omnibus Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore Charlie Adlard

The issues that started it all are as good a read now as they were then, and comparing them to the show makes the book all that more fun. However, reading it over, I wish Tony Moore had stayed on the book past the six issues, as I much prefer his art to Charlie Adlard’s, which, though now prolific, is more lax with details and shadows.