Saturday, March 10, 2018

Review: The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939

The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939 The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939 by Norman Sherry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dense and exhausting tome covering the first 35 years of Greene's life, from birth to the dawn of WWII. Sherry delves deeply into not only Greene's own memories, but interviews with those who knew him at the time and a mass of collected documentation-- sometimes too deeply, as after fascinating accounts of his schooling and University day, a long and tedious picking apart of love letters with his first wife Vivien when courting threaten to derail the reading experience. Thankfully, the narrative regains its momentum when the minutiae of a very ordinary courtship are over and the book returns to detailing the extraordinary course of Greene's life, closing with his solitary journey through a savagely Anti-Catholic Mexico and returning to England to find war preparations very much afoot.

Although Sherry can't resist the occasional moment of hero-worship and self-aggrandisement, he generally lets Greene's life speak for itself, and the result is an impressively collated and thoroughly enjoyable examination of the insipirations and influences on one of the most important literary figures of the 20th Century.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Review: X-Men Legacy: Legion: Omnibus

X-Men Legacy: Legion: Omnibus X-Men Legacy: Legion: Omnibus by Simon Spurrier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning extension of the graphic novel art that is reminiscent of the high points of Vertigo's initial burst of creativity and experimentation. Superhero tropes are deliberately inverted, then examined and shown to be the ridiculous soap-operas we know they are. The ongoing X-plots and wider Marvel world are confronted and dismissed as irrelevant and trifling. And the book moves beyond them to explore deeper issues of individuality, personality, psychology and conformity through the lens of a potentially all-powerful mind who has finally escaped from years of psychological abuse at the hands of characters held up by the majority as heroes and examples to follow.

The writing is razor-sharp, the art and colours are swirlingly psychedelic, the characters are bright and unusual, and the whole thing grabs the tiger's tail and refuses to let go until the entire dizzy ride is over. Even the ending refuses to back down and soothe us with latex-clad platitudes. There are consequences, and finalities, and when the coup de grace arrives, it does so with *meaning*.

One of the best graphic novels I've read in years. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: Secret Invasion

Secret Invasion Secret Invasion by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's obviously a huge task to establish, narrate, and then wrap up a cohesive narrative in a single graphic novel, when that narrative has been the basis of a massive, company-wide story line that has run for a significant amount of time over a wide range of titles. Even so, this feels truncated and somehow lightweight. It breezes across all the major story points without given any weight or time to anything, leaving the result feeling like a series of random team-ups punching on without any coherence or consequence. Characters act without logic, turning points breeze past without any importance, and the climactic solution, when it arrives, pretty much happens within two panels, isn't explained our expanded upon, and leaves the reader wondering what the whole point of anything was. The whole thing is tied together with Bendis' usual character weaknesses-- everybody is witty, snappy, and ultimately, sounds exactly the same as everybody else. The whole thing is fun, in a kind of guest-star-of-the-week kind of way, but for the climax of a major story line, it all feels rather inconsequential.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Review: The Murder Of Nellie Duffy

The Murder Of Nellie Duffy The Murder Of Nellie Duffy by Stephanie Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An intriguing examination of a notorious Northern Queensland murder in the early years of the 20th Century, which picks apart the various personalities at the remote cattle station at which it happened, as well as the gross incompetency of the police and the possible interference on the part of the powerful meat company that owned the property. The insight into the treatment of women and Aborigines of the time is stark, and at times confronting. Narrated as a straight retelling of the known facts, it presents a compelling mosaic of the attitudes and culture of the time.

Bennett's style is slightly messy, and doesn't do quite enough to keep all the players on the board, so that when certain names crop up late in the narrative it takes too long to recall how they fit into the story. The book is further weakened by Bennett's predilection for speculating on motives and reasons, often spinning narrative chains with little more than supposition to go on. The second to last chapter, where she presents her own theory as to the murderer and the reasons for their actions, is gossamer-thin and weakens the book considerably.

Had she avoided the conceit of her own imagination, and simply laid out all the pieces of what is an engrossing mystery in its own right, this would have been a much stronger and more compelling read. As it is, it slips towards the 'amateur historian' style of writing, and is merely a good book when it could have been a must-read.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

Review: Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat

Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat by Giles Milton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolutely fascinating insight into the formation, development, and successes of a typically British endeavour: a disparate collection of professional soldiers, backyard garage boffins, Oxbridge Mafia types and gentlemen of ill-repute who were drawn together to create the definite rule book and arsenal of sabotage, assassination, and guerrilla warfare.

Milton draws on multiple sources to provide a comprehensive and seamless narrative, including the campaign of obstruction that was waged against the department by members of the military hierarchy, particularly Air Command. The result is an intricate and compelling account of a hidden war that defied the known rules and brought enormous success to the Allied cause, as well as the complex and unusual personalities who drove it. Fantastic stuff.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: Justice League of America: Power & Glory

Justice League of America: Power & Glory Justice League of America: Power & Glory by Bryan Hitch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Superman is a religiously-gullible rube, The Flash is an idiot, Green Lantern is a morose quitter, and once again the JLA is confronted by an impossible to beat antagonist, only to defeat it by a combination of mysterious, one-time only outsider assistance and because-the-narrative-requires it. And yet, Hitch manages to make everything progress so smoothly and at such a pace that it all seems to work, and you find yourself happily swept up in it all. The wheels fall off towards the end, as the narrative begins to creak under the weight of the spiralling absurdity and lack of logic, but it's still enjoyable, and the kind of slick escapism that is perfect for a lazy afternoon on the sofa.

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Review: JSA: The Golden Age

JSA: The Golden Age JSA: The Golden Age by James Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gorgeous artwork, a beautiful balance between superheroic nostalgia and historic paranoia, and plenty of over-the-top revelations that carry the whiff of the best of 1950s B-grade monster movies, all delivered with a straight face and a perfectly balanced respect for, and love of, the various elements. A wonderful volume for the geekiest of JSA fans, those with a memory of the-way-comics-used-to-be, and those who enjoy a finely balanced combination of artwork and narrative.

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Monday, January 08, 2018

Review: Writers on Writing

Writers on Writing Writers on Writing by James Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An absorbing and educational collection with writers from the 2000 Adelaide Festival of Arts. The majority of advice within is on-point and sensible, even 17 years after the fact, and most of it is delivered with a refreshing lack of pompousness and self-aggrandizement. A worthy addition to any writer's shelf, and valuable for simply dropping in and out of or ploughing right through. Inspirational and essential.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2011

The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantastic collection of crime stories, running the gamut from hard-boiled to cozy, from urban to rural, and from the humorous to the downright chilling.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Review: Green Lanterns, Volume 2: The Phantom Lantern

Green Lanterns, Volume 2: The Phantom Lantern Green Lanterns, Volume 2: The Phantom Lantern by Sam Humphries
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good, solid Green Lantern story, clearly identifying enemies on two fronts and leavening the action with crisp dialogue and lightly-handled interactions between the main and supporting characters. The character arc of the titular antagonist makes for a potentially worthwhile addition to the Lantern Rogues Gallery, and deals directly-- and in a more effective way-- with the question that consumes the rookie Green Lanterns Baz and Cruz: what if you give everything you have to the cause, and it still just isn't good enough?

Two GNs in, and my main quibble with this series remains: I still struggle to see what the point of creating 2 new GNs *is*, particularly as Baz and Cruz remain little more than an assemblage of tics without any real sense of a character arc. Perhaps they'll grow into something extraordinary and ground-breaking. Right now, the writing and plotting far exceeds the characters themselves.

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Review: The Who's Who of British Crime: In the Twentieth Century

The Who's Who of British Crime: In the Twentieth Century The Who's Who of British Crime: In the Twentieth Century by Jim Morris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Short entries, as befits a Who's Who, with length seemingly determined not so much by notoriety or impact as how easily available the source text was. The writing style is variable, indicating a slapdash approach or weak editing of a manuscript collated over an extended period of time, and there are numerous lapses in both language and viewpoint-- Morris strays regularly from a factual detail to engage in philosophical moralising of the man-at-the-end-of-the-bar variety.

Handy as a quick flick-through book in support of other, meatier texts, but not an essential part of any bookshelf by a long way.

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Friday, December 01, 2017


The final days of the 18 Month Plan (tm) are now in full effect, and one of the things I need to accomplish to make our new adventure work is to simplify things as much as possible.

So, after nearly 15 years, and over 1650 posts, it's time to close the Battersblog. For the last year or so, I've been slowly moving operations over to my website at The Batthaim, and all my new posts will appear there from now on.

If you've been following me here for any length of time, my thanks, and I look forward to seeing you at The Batthaim for wine and nibblies. If this is your first visit here, feel free to look around and join us when you can.

Feel free to catch up at my Facebook and Instagram pages. And if you'd like to splash out a dollar or ten per month to help me continue to create art, and you're attracted by the thought of receiving exclusive stories, cartoon art, critiques writing exercises, and more, you might like to check out my Patreon page.

Either way, goodnight Battersblogians. On to the Batthaim.

Friday, November 24, 2017


I've uploaded the first exclusive, Patron-only, 500 word story to my Patreon page. Resurrection is a nasty little tale of betrayal, and revenge, with a lesson: if you're going to hurt someone, be very sure of just whom you're hurting. And the only place you'll read it is on my Patreon page.

Come February, all patrons pledging $2 or more will receive an exclusive story every month.
The page will feature 7 tiers of rewards, ranging from patron-only journal entries, to free stories, cartoons, the power to choose subjects for '5 for Friday' posts, writing exercises, WIP excerpts, and manuscript assessments (and more).

Check out Patreon to learn more about this arts patronage program. My page will officially launch in the last week of January. Isn't it all *terribly* exciting?

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I can't think of a single reason why I would have drawn this. Offered purely for a sense of completism. (It's a word: shut up)


"And in return, Management will commit to not shouting out 'Suckah!' in a (?) voice every time we pass a staff member in the corridors."

Friday, November 17, 2017


It's no great secret that I'm fascinated by murder. My bookcases are filled with True Crime books. My DVD collection is riddled with thrillers and biopics about infamous killers. I've written plenty of stories involving nasty people doing nasty things to people nastily.

One little sideline that escapes notice is the number of songs in my playlist that are devoted to murderers. Serial killers in particular. The truth is, serial killers may represent the basest and most disturbed corridors of the human psyche, but there is no denying that they are a fascinating sort of maelstrom for an artist to gaze into.

So here are five of my favourite songs about serial killers from the depths of my playlist.


Five for Friday: Serial Killer Songs

Jack the Ripper-- Screaming Lord Sutch.

Ah, what to say about Screaming Lord Sutch? True English eccentric. Founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. Artist behind the album widely considered the worst album of all time. And the man who turned this obscure Clarence Stacy song into the beginning of his descent into National Treasure status. It's 2 minutes and 50 seconds of horror-psychedelia insanity, as out of tune with the early 1960's England that spawned it as Sutch would remain. But if you love Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, early Genesis, Marilyn Manson...... this is the Big Bang, the dawn of the Universe. It remains delightfully loopy, a schlock-horror masterpiece to be treasured in exactly the way we love 1950s monster movies.

John Wayne Gacy Jr-- Sufjan Stevens

He's the modern-day Donovan for the Bible Belt: a dipsy waif with a voice that trembles somewhere between Tori Amos and Emo Phillips and a catalogue of beautifully orchestrated ballads about the weirdnesses hidden like pearls inside the mundane. And then there's this. Part of Come On, Feel The Illinoise, the second (and final) stop-over in his ill-fated 50 States project-- an ambitious intent to record 50 albums over 50 years, detailing the cultural histories of each American state-- Stevens' gentle delivery and heart-rending intonations almost... almost... do the unthinkable and get you starting to feel...... is that sympathy?...... for this tortured, torturing beast. It is an emotional tour-de-force of bewildering bedevilment.

Night Shift-- Siouxsie and the Banshees

From their insanely good 1981 Juju album, this is the Banshees at their brooding, post-punk best. And at their most confronting-- it's a first-person point of view reference to the Yorkshire Ripper released less than a year after the man himself was finally caught. The music swirls and fractures in time with lyrics that get progressively darker and shattered, all underpinned by one of the most chillingly deadpan refrains in popular music: that robotic repetition of fuck the mothers, kill the others; fuck the others, kill the mothers just gets creepier and creepier every time you listen to it. It's brilliant stuff.

Suffer Little Children-- The Smiths

At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum-- a song from the most emo band of all time, direct from Manchester, expressing the despair and heartbreak left by the crimes that swallowed Manchester, at a time when the killers had yet to fully admit their guilt and provide some release. There's no dancing around the subject here: this is the Smiths directly addressing the Moors Murders. They name names. They remind their audience of the children who were taken. The refuse to dress anything in analogy or innuendo. There's always the risk in a Smiths song that Morrissey's internal drama queen will override the message. Not here. It's direct, it's tragic, and he keeps his vocal performance just the right side of Johnny Ray. Listening now, knowing that the song was released when-- and names-- only 3 of the 5 Moors murder victims were known, gives it that extra tinge of tragedy. It's not for the easily upset.

The Ballad of Charles Whitman-- Kinky Friedman 

Okay, so Whitman was a spree killer, rather than a serial killer. But after all the doom and gloom, I think we need to lighten the mood a wee bit, don't you?

Kinky Friedman is an acquired taste. Think of him as a particularly puckish, bad-taste evil twin of Tom Lehrer, and you're in roughly the right territory. Along with his band, the Texas Jewboys, he's made a career of poking fun at the pomposity and bigotry of the flag-wrapped American Gold Old Boy, usually using his own pompous, flag-wrapped stage persona as the easiest target. And, if you get the joke, he can be fucking hilarious. None so more than here: a darkly black humorous ode to the man who popularised shooting up schools an all-American pastime. The fact that Friedman was a student at the University at the time of the shooting only adds another layer of black to the humour.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Da da da da da da daaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaahhhh, JOKE!

Sorry. I'm so, so sorry.


"I'm afraid the problem is simple. You're suffering from premature extermination."