Monday, August 15, 2016

Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need to Know.

Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need to Know.

So, I grew up reading comics. But like many of my peers I didn’t have the funds to stay up to speed by getting my hands on every issue as it rolled off the presses. However, like any good comic book loving kid you learn to pick up a bit of trivia here a story arc there from anywhere you can. You talk to friends, you read over issues at the store; anything to get more of what is going on. Even so you don’t always manage to learn everything there is to know about everything.

Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need to Know is a 240 page fun filled guide to trivia, facts and assorted knowledge about all things Marvel published by DK Books. Written for ages 8 to 12, the book is actually a lot of fun for anyone big enough to read and loves comics.

This book is just a great big printed smile, to be frank. The pages are crammed full of noted events, characters, alternate timelines and more. Ever wonder just want law firm She-Hulk worked for? The answer is in there. Curious what Dr. Strange’s top 5 most useful spells are and what they do? You can look it up!

The entire book is littered with fun little bits of information. Everything is broken down into sections and if that isn’t enough there is a complete index to be found in the back. This index will not only allow you to locate the listed character’s entry but also virtually any time they are mentioned.

The only aspect I can ding the book on is a pair of minor issues that are mainly pet peeves. The first is the fact that there are a few entries in the index that unfortunately do not direct you to the correct page. Not a big problem as I didn’t find this to occur all too often. And the other issue is directly connected to the name itself.

With a name like ‘Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need To Know’ you can anticipate a massive amount of information. And this book does deliver that in spades. However, there are some well known figures that don’t receive their own entries or are merely relegated to brief mentions. High profile characters like The Punisher or Wolverine for example are mentioned but are never detailed quite like Namor the Sub-Mariner. I know there is only so many pages to go around but with such a title you kind of expect to hear a little bit about both the well known and the less well known, ya know?

Overall, the art is wonderful. The facts and trivia are broad in range and scope. And to ice the cake they even included behind the scenes details regarding the making of Marvel comics as well. The book is a gem and if you don’t believe me – let the Hulk’s textured face on the cover bring it home for you. Touch the cover and you may not want to let go… Lest you be smashed.

This one ranks in at about a 4/5 but only because I am neurotic. 

World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide, Updated and Expanded.

World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide, Updated and Expanded.

World of Warcraft is a game that has been around for quite some time. In fact, the source material that was the basis for it has existed even longer. And even for those of us who have been long-time players/fans there is always some bit of lore that may not yet be known.

World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide, Updated and Expanded, is a 216 page book published by DK Books. It is an updated version to a previous release that now includes the information from the game’s current expansions.

The key word about this book is; visual. From the first pages it should be readily apparent to any reader that no effort was wasted on the books stunning attention to detail. There are entire full pages of glossy artwork to feast your eyes upon. Every page is dripping with beautiful visuals in a number of different styles.

But don’t let the pretty looks fool you. There was no skimping on the written content either. The history of Azeroth is detailed with remarkable scope and depth. We are not talking massive scholarly essays or short asinine blurbs. What is presented is an array of pertinent information coupled with summaries that highlight things of importance.

This approach allows the casual reader to pick up the book and flip around leisurely to look up desired figures or events. This only adds a delightful element to the book. If you prefer to read through everything, doing so doesn’t real feel like it is droning on and on either. Everything is broken down into digestible sections.

It doesn’t matter if you are a collector, a fan, a player looking to know more or just wanting an interesting conversation piece for your coffee table/mantle/bookshelf this book would undoubtedly be worth your while.

Since I probably would have paid for something of this quality if it hadn’t been surprisingly delivered out of the blue I have zero hesitation to rate it at 5/5. It is a large book that doesn’t disappoint on quality, art or content. 

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded.

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded.

While books like character encyclopedias are never an unwelcome addition to my bookshelf, I must admit that I had never expected to receive this one. In fact, it surprisingly arrived on my doorstep (quite literally) alongside another book. And, seeing as to how I am a huge Star Wars fan I welcomed the opportunity to give it a good perusal.

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded, is a 224 page book published by DK Books and authored by Pablo Hidalgo. Its intended audience is readers ages 7 to 17. The book is, as the name suggests, an updated version to include new entries that include characters from The Force Awakens.

First, let me begin by establishing that I can understand what they were trying for here. Believe me. I get it. The whole design was clearly focused on being a fun little collection of info for kids/young readers.

With that in mind, it is understandable that this would not be a comprehensive dossier on all the complex figures that inhabit a galaxy far far away. It also means that an older reader can expect some simplification as to wording, grammar and yes – the information itself.

But here is one of the key problems that I found with this book; they go too far in this aspect of the book’s design. When benign aspects are repeatedly highlighted such as; ‘this is a belt/belt buckle’ things get monotonous even to a kid. You can write simple fact based entries for fictional characters without highlighting things in terms of; look, they have boots! I mean, come on. Just because your target audience is children doesn’t mean you have to insult their intelligence.

Furthermore, the art in this book also causes me an issue. When there is an untold wealth of images and art to draw on from character sketches, comic panels all the way up to digital artist renderings I have to question the logic behind decades old grainy vhs screen shots. Because that is what some of the artwork looks like to me. This is just sad.

I hate speaking ill of any book, especially one that covers a beloved brand. But this was one that I just found far too many short comings to ignore. I can applaud the attempt, I really can. However things were poorly worded at times to be clear to a younger reader, the art was cheap and honestly things were just way too watered down to retain the inherent value and appeal that Star Wars has.

I’d have to rate it 2/5 with one point for the effort and another for the range of material covered. Better art, tighter wording/editing and a more systematic approach to how the various entries were described would have gone a long way. A lot of kids will read about one creature and want to know where it is from etc and then question why the next doesn’t even mention such information. The devil is in the details and that makes this feel more like cheaply produced cash grab. This is disappointing given the quality I am beginning to expect and admire from DK Books.