Month: December 2010

The Electric Church

The Electric Church

The Electric Church cover

Last night I finished The Electric Church by Jeff Somers.  It is the first in the Avery Cates series, and the first I’ve read by Jeff Somers. It was published in 2007.

From the back of the book:   Avery Cates is scared. He’s up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry.

I enjoyed this book because the storyline was both original and familiar.  I liked the familiar feel of a ruined civilization, overwrought with the high-tech enhanced tools of a society split sharply between the haves and the have-nots.  I liked the storyline that put a “church” (that, in this story, has nothing at all to do with an actual religious organization) which is ruled by machines and makes converts by physically killing them and repackaging their brains.  This is really cool noir sci-fi, high-tech, futuristic dystopia stuff. And I loved it for that.

Avery Cates is a decent character. Developed enough that one can follow the story, and yet, we are not told everything about him immediately upon meeting him.  The rest of the cast of characters are definitely interesting and unique.  The overarching point of the book is that in this ruinous society, one cannot get “too close” or make “lasting friendships” because its all a struggle to survive to the next day.  There is a sense that the people Cates meets and interacts with are based solely on utilitarian needs.

This is the first in a series – I think there are three books in the series – and I would happily read the rest of the series.  I can appreciate that the ending of the book sets up the next book nicely, but the ending here could also, in fact, just simply be an ending to a standalone book as well.  There are no good guys/bad guys, per se, so to say the “good guys” won is also a bit of a stretch.  The trick to Cates’ character is that he has rules – he may be a criminal and a Gunner (mercenary), but he is not simply a thug without any moral code.

The concept of the Electric Church and their Monks is really neat, and I would love to see that concept expanded and developed.

Some parts of the book, though, were a bit repetitive.  How many times do we need to be told that Cates is 27 years old?  Once the point has been made, I do not think we need to be told every other chapter.  Also, some of the descriptions of the “city” and life in the ruined society are repetitive. I understand wanting to emphasize the scavenging struggle that occurs in the remnants of civilization, however, Somers seems to think each description is the first time he told us.  Its not horrible, but I feel it was slightly repetitive. I get it, now tell me something more.

Overall the story reminds me of the ruined society in the latter Terminator and Matrix movies – which I liked.

4 stars

Deadpool #26 – 28

Deadpool 26

Deadpool #26 cover

I recently finished reading Deadpool #26 – 28 and I have to say that they are better than the previous few issues. I have written many times that Deadpool is a character that is very unique and that readers either love him or hate him.  There really is no middle ground with Deadpool, which, well, is just another facet of his character.

These issues all focus on Deadpool’s personality.  While there have been plenty of issues in the past that have emphasized Deadpool’s comic relief and his mercenary skills, these issues present insight into the background and development of his personality.  Sure, we all know that Deadpool has been genetically-enhanced and used as a tool.  But these issues take a quick look at why Deadpool is as “insane” as he seems to be.

Issue #26 was actually somewhat heart-tugging, particularly with the Ghost Rider being part of it.  Deadpool leaves Las Vegas (and the “job” that he had taken on there). As he leaves, the Ghost Rider chains up Deadpool and hauls him out into the desert.  The Ghost Rider, in these frames, is drawn very nicely – just as imposing, hardcore, and scary as he ought to look. The Ghost Rider attempts to use the Penance Stare on Deadpool, but it knocks Deadpool out and it changes the Ghost Rider into Johnny Blaze – who is confused as heck.

Deadpool 27

Deadpool #27

The next pages of the story show how Deadpool, as a youth, tried to hang himself, but gets selected into Oscar Zero – a clandestine group operating under the CIA.  They want to use Deadpool as a mercenary. Eventually its discovered that Wade has thirty-four tumors and they present him the option of going to Canada to take part in a “project” that might help him.  The next frames show Wade strapped to a table and screaming in pain like some sort of Frankenstein.  When Wade regains consciousness in the desert – he punches Johnny. He asks him: “You’re the Ghost Rider?”  Johnny replies: “Sometimes” and Wade responds: “Well, I’m Deadpool. All the time. An’ I don’t need to be reminded of it!”

Johnny asks Deadpool what he saw during the Penance Stare, and says that the Ghost Rider wanted Deadpool to see something, because if it had wanted him dead, Deadpool would be dead. Deadpool asks Johnny if he thinks Deadpool deserves to die… Johnny says “yeah,” and Deadpool thanks him.

In issue #27, there are several flashbacks to Wade as child.  Wade is watching the news and he clearly idolizes Captain America. His father, however, tells him harshly that he won’t be just like Captain America and that he should stop dreaming. In issue #28, Dr. Bong, the evil villain of the storyarc, tells his underlings that Deadpool used to be a psychiatric patient of his. He says that if there’s one thing that Deadpool hates more than himself, its his friends. Throughout the issue we see Deadpool not understanding the circumstances that he is in, but reacting with anger when his so-called friends are just trying to use him.

Deadpool 28

Deadpool #28

The conversation continues as Dr. Bong explains that Deadpool’s advantage is not that he isn’t afraid to die, but that he does fear living.

While these aren’t the most amusing of Deadpool issues, they are significant because the backstory of Deadpool is seen from an angle that is not too often presented.  Most of Deadpool’s mental issues are not his own fault; he is insane, but not because of any of his own faults. In fact, the sense that I got reading these issues is that if Deadpool has a main fault – its that he is too trusting. He trusted every person who got involved with him and the majority were just trying to use him.  Deadpool’s inability to distinguish between friend and foe is a major concept used in his character development.  In fact, throughout all of the recent Deadpool titles, his inability to comprehend friendship is at the root of his problems.  Looking ahead to issue #29, I expect to see the same psychological subtleties in the storyline.

4 stars