Another disappointing week of reading. Hmm, could it be me?

Actually I don’t think it is. Certainly not in the case of DARK NIGHTS METAL: Dark Knights Rising, a TPB tying into the Metal crossover event. The premise isn’t bad, that several Batman from dystopian parallel worlds have gained the powers of another Justice Leaguer: Red Death stole Flash’s speed force, Dawnbreaker received the power ring that went to Hal Jordan (“With darkest black/I choke the light/No brightest day/Escapes my sight!”) and so on. If they’d summed up their origins in a couple of panels that would have worked; instead, they get one origin issue each. As there’s really no difference other than which hero Psycho Batman is taking power from, it gets tedious fast.

CHEW: Flambe by Jon Layman and Rob Guillory is a good deal better but it’s a disappointment compared to previous volumes (Taster’s Choice, International Flavor and Just Desserts). As everyone freaks out about mysterious flaming letters in the sky, Tony and is cyborg partner go about their usual FDA work, though it sure is funny how dangerous it’s getting — it’s like their boss wants to get them killed or something (spoiler: he does)! The execution feels like Layman’s just tossing off shticks and comic bits rather than telling a story, and using Poyo the Wonder Chicken to resolve one crisis felt more like a cheat than they probably meant it to.

As my friend Ross has often observed you could probably pick any year in the 20th century and declare it The Year Everything Changed. Elisabeth Asbrink’s 1947: Where Now Begins shows this year did have several turning points include India becoming independent and promptly splitting into two nations, the beginning of the Cold War and the struggle to brand the Nazi mass murder of the Jews as some new word “genocide.” Then again, Asbrink feels the need to pad things out with past and future events in several places, and a long memoir of her family history (which does not hinge on 1947) mid-book. Plus her very literary style isn’t the sort of thing I want in a history book.

The best of the week was undoubtedly SEX, MURDER AND THE UNWRITTEN LAW: Courting Judicial Mayhem Texas Style by Bill Neal. The author looks at a half-dozen Texas murder cases where the killer invoked the “unwritten law” that a man’s honor entitled him to execute his wife’s rapist or lover (though Texas written law allowed for this until late in the 20th century). Neal covers several cases, including one where a woman whacked the man who seduced and abandoned her, showing that juries were perfectly willing to overlook the finer points of the law (shooting was only acceptable if you caught the guy actually in bed with your wife (which is why Harry Thaw claiming unwritten law when he shot a man over a five-year-old rape was a real stretch, legally) to ensure the husband’s right to defend his property — er, the sanctity of marriage. The biggest single case, however, really doesn’t fit the subject: while Cullen Davis’ attempt to murder his wife (he got their daughter instead) is a wildly colorful legal story, Neal really strains to class it with the rest of the incident.

As I felt disappointed in this week’s books, rather than any of the covers I’ll use this Jack Kirby cover for illustration. Details like the tossed-off cars and the rooftops make me appreciate what a good craftsman Kirby was (though in my experience the insides never lived up to the covers [here’s a synopsis if you’re curious]).

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

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