It’s September, so Carl at the Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the ninth R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, or R.I.P. IX. I’ve had fun with the challenge in previous years so I’m joining this time, too.

I’m currently enjoying a sci-fi binge but I’m also a mystery/supernatural fan so I’m looking forward to enjoying some RIP books.

September 1st is right around the corner. It is time to begin.

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules:

1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

As I do each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have too many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

R.I.P. IX officially runs from September 1st through October 31st.

I’ll be joining

Peril the First:
Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux… or anyone in between.

TBR: The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman (mystery), Vampire Empire book 1: the Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffiths, some Elizabeth Peters’ books, and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

Happy reading, everyone!

Collects Ms Marvel vol 2 issues 47-50. The final collection for this volume.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Mike McKone, Rob Disalvo, Derec Donovan, Sana Takeda, Ben Olivier, Veronica Gandini
Publisher: Marvel

Issue 47 is a light-hearted change of pace after the long and serious Karla plotline. Carol and Spider-Man go out on a date. As you might guess, things don’t go smoothly.

Next up is the final series. Carol is still on the run from Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R. organization when she hears that one of the Church of Hala priests have been hurt. She finds out that someone masquerading as Captain Marvel has been attacking the Churchs for several weeks now. Of course, she has to investigate. She comes to the conclusion that only one person can be behind it: Mystique.

I enjoyed Mystique in these issues and also the start where Carol had to briefly go undercover and use her head a little. However, this collection didn’t really rise above an average superhero slug fest.
Overall, I wasn’t too happy with this series but I enjoyed it enough to stick with it to the end. Some of Carol’s new supporting cast had potential but they were dropped off suddenly and never seen again, such as Wonder Man and the Operation Lighting Storm team which I had expected (when I first read the series) to help Carol during Dark Reign and War of the Marvels (or possibly oppose Carol…). My initial fascination with Carol actually came through Rogue who has been one of my favorite Marvel characters since the long Claremont/John Romita Jr. X-Men run and I don’t quite see this book’s Carol as the same confident spy who occasionally took control of Rogue.

Next, Carol will become Captain Marvel; a series where I enjoyed the writing more than here but not the art. Ah, the joys of reading comics. :)

Collects Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #42-46

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Sana Takeda, Sergio Arino, Philippe Briones

This is the culmination of the past three collections. Obviously, you should read them before this one.

Carol is supposedly dead, but nobody really believes that. The strange energy women combine into Ms. Marvel but she acts strange; her power levels fluctuate and she doesn’t seem to actually think about anything, instead she just charges into situations. Karl and Osborn try to imprison her.

However, we soon see that a Carol-look-a-like, Catherine Donovan, is a very successful writer in LA. But she also feels uncomfortable in her own life, like she isn’t Catherine Donovan after all. And we readers of course know that she’s an alias Carol made up for herself. Catherine travels to New York in order to find out what’s going on.

Most of the collection is devoted to Karla Sofen and her identity struggles, though. We get to go into her head and find out her big traumas. Meanwhile, Carol and Karla are fighting for the right to use the Ms Marvel name. Osborn and the New Avengers guest star.

To me it felt that the real star of this collection was Karla, Moonstone. That felt a little weird because she hasn’t been in the comic earlier. Storywise this is one of the better collections, though. In the final issue Carol really shines.

Unfortunately, I felt that the art actually detracted from the story. Takeda’s art is very pretty, manga influenced, but it makes the women look very young and some of the poses are very exploitative. The other two artists’ styles are very different from Takeda’s so there’s no unified style.

The second book in the Jenny Casey SF trilogy.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Page count: 368 + an excerpt of Worldwired
Publisher: Bantam Spectra

Scardown continues right after Hammered and most of the familiar characters return. Jenny Casey has been partially reconstructed; she’s a cyborg with metal parts, enhanced reflexes and strength, and an artificial intelligence in her head. She’s also now a pilot to a spaceship. The technology comes from an alien ship found on Mars and the humans don’t really know how the faster than light drive works. However, thanks to humanity, Earth is on the brink of destruction and space seems to be our only hope. Unfortunately, Canada isn’t the only country with a spaceship – China has one as well, and both countries are determined to be the only ones who get to leave Earth.

Jenny, her lover Gabriel Castaign, and Gabriel’s children are in the middle of the space race in a very intimate manner. Gabriel’s older daughter Leah has been accepted into the pilot program along with a dozen other teenagers. Jenny is both proud of her and angry at her government for involving children. She also has to deal with the Unitek, the corporation which is sponsoring the Canadian space race but in a ruthless way. Oh, and Jenny is in around 50 years old and a Native Canadian.

We also follow one of the Chinese pilots, a former gang leader Razorface from the previous book, Elspeth Dunsay who is Gabriel’s other lover and the maker of the AI program, and various other characters. The variety of characters makes the plot quite complex and I recommend reading the books close together. I didn’t do so it was sometimes hard to remember what was in “Hammered.” But I’ve learned my lesson now and will continue with “Worldwired” very soon. This isn’t an easy comfort read, but the reader needs to pay attention and connect the dots herself. Also, the setting is quite complex and the history isn’t spelled out for the reader. I really enjoyed connecting the dots, though.

Personally, I didn’t care for the Razorface storyline which felt tacked on but otherwise I liked this book more than the first one, although it’s a bit too grim and dark for me still. Jenny’s part is written in first person present tense while all the others are in third person and past tense. It can be a bit jarring at first but it didn’t bother me.

Collects Fables 1-5.

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton
Publisher: Vertigo

A group of fairy tale characters live in the real world, New York to be precise. They have their own little community and don’t want to interact much with the humans, or mundies as they are called. In fact, their most important rule is to keep the existence of fables a secret from humans. If a fable can’t keep a human appearance, he or she is sent to the Farm, a closed community in the countryside, where the non-human fables, like mice, geese, dragons etc. live. The city community is called Fabletown and it’s run by Snow White and the town’s sheriff is the Big Bad Wolf, except that he’s in a human form and supposedly reformed. Snow’s sister is Rose Red and she’s apparently been murdered. Rose’s boyfriend Jack (of various stories) comes to Bigby Wolf and says that he found Rose’s apartment full of blood and trashed. Bigby starts to investigate and Snow becomes quickly involved.

Right from the start, we are introduced to various familiar characters, such as Beauty and the Beast, Prince Charming, Cinderella, and Bluebeard. Most of them have twists, such as Snow being the responsible and rather humorless administrator and Bigby the sheriff. I rather enjoyed most of the characters, and they are going to get more interesting and enjoyable in later volumes. The fables have been driven from their own lands by the Adversary and his armies. We get a couple of peeks to the fight against his horde.

The mystery plot is actually pretty predictable and seems to be mostly just an excuse to go around town and introduce us to the cast. I enjoyed it the first time I read it but now it seems quite simple. Still, this first story arc was good enough to make me read quite a bit further into the series.

I really enjoyed the various side characters, such as the talking pigs and poor Flycatcher the janitor who was the frog prince. It’s fun to track down the references. Also, Prince Charming is quite a character in this series and one of those whom I enjoy reading about but wouldn’t necessarily enjoy his company. The sex scenes might put off some readers but they’re quite effective in establishing his character. Oh, and I really love the moody covers.

Booking Through Thursday

Do you read mystery novels? If so, why? Is it the mysteries themselves that appeal to you? The puzzle-solving? The murders? Or why don’t you read them? What about them doesn’t appeal?

Yes, I read mysteries. However, I don’t read much contemporary mysteries but stories set in different settings, such as science fiction, fantasy, or a historical period.

As for what appeals to me, it’s usually a combination of characters, the setting itself, and the writing style. And also, that the characters change and grow through the series. However, the mystery is also part of the package that keeps me reading.

Two of my favorite mystery series are superficially quite similar:
Amelia Peabody series written by Elizabeth Peters is set in the Victorian era. In most of the books, Amelia and her family are in an archaeological dig in Egypt and her husband Emerson complains about her tendency to start solving mysteries instead of concentrating on the main thing, archeology.
The series is written in a very humorous style and from Amelia’s point-of-view in first person. The characters change and grow during the series which covers several decades, enough for Amelia’s son to grow to adulthood and start his own family.

Phryne Fisher series written by Kerry Greenwood is set in the 1920s Australia. Phryne herself is a flapper. She’s an independently wealthy young woman who bucks pretty much every taboo possible for that era: she drives a fast car and flies planes, she has handsome young men as lovers and has no plans of settling down. She and the cast of characters surrounding her are highly entertaining. The books are mostly written from Phryne’s point-of-view in third person but sometimes we also get other character’s POV. However, the characters don’t change nearly as much as in the Peabody series and the books themselves don’t cover much time.

My other favorite mystery series are science fiction. Perhaps closest to Peter’s and Greenwood’s series is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. It also covers decades of time and the main character and the people around him change quite a lot. Not all of the books have mystery plots, so it’s not a traditional mystery series as such. However, Miles Vorkosigan does more than enough of solving mysteries.
Most of the series is written in Miles’ third person POV. While Bujold has a couple of whodunnit plots, most have more in stake than just finding a murderer.

The Retrieval Artist series written by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is also science fiction. It started on the Moon, set in the domed city of Armstrong. It has multiple POV characters who are usually dealing with aliens and specifically some matter of alien law which is messing up the humans’ lives. Later books are set on other planets, like Mars.
This series again has characters who change and grow during a long period of time, but also quite alien aliens (not just humans with bumps on their heads, even though I do enjoy that kind of aliens, too), and various different planets as settings.
Also, Rusch’s books (in this series) are larger in scope than in Greenwood’s or Peters’ books: a city has been bombed and the main characters are trying to save people while finding out which group did the bombing or a mass grave has been found which affects the alien culture living near the grave in a massive way. In fact, they’re often like catastrophe movies (except good; sorry, but I don’t like catastrophe movies).

Collects Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #35-40.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Patrick Olliffe, Serge LePointe, Kris Justice, Rebekah Isaacs, Sana Takeda, Luke Ross, Rob Schwager

Dark Reign continues right from the previous collection. Carol is still on the run from the Osborn-led Avengers with her two friends, Rossi and Mason. The first three issues are titled “The Death of Ms. Marvel 1-3” and events do escalate towards that point. This is not a stand-alone collection but relies heavily on storylines from the previous collection and also from other titles. I haven’t read Dark Reign.

In the first issue, Carol finds out about a mass suicide in a Church of Hala, who apparently worship the original kree Captain Marvel. When a new Captain Marvel joins the Avengers, these worshipers killed themselves in protest. Carol investigates and runs into the new CM. Neither is happy about it.

In the next two issues, Carol continues her hunt of Ghazi who is selling some doomsday weapon and also tortured her years ago. Her powers are increasingly erratic until at the end of the third issue during a confrontation with Ghazi, Carol’s powers explode seemingly killing her. We also find out a startling fact about Rossi.

Osborn takes advantage of the situation and appoints Moonstone as the new Ms. Marvel, taking Carol’s old costume. However, she has to undergo psychological evaluation which ends up being quite unusual.

Next, Moonstone investigates A.I.M. and is shown that they are trying to breed a new type of superhuman, a combination of MODOK and the storyteller whom we met in the previous collection and in the very first issue of this series. However, instead of shutting them down, Moonstone has an offer from Osborn. Unfortunately, AIM turns it down… by throwing an asteroid into New York. It turns out that Moonstone has some weird mental connection to the fetuses which AIM has and she stole them and brought them to the Avengers headquarters. However, a mysterious (but not really) female figure made of energy is also interested in the fetuses and attacks Moonstone.

This is somewhat disjointed collection where one storyline ends and another begins. In fact, it might have been better to combine first three issues with the previous collection and start a new one with Moonstone as Ms Marvel. Also, Moonstone is not introduced at all, so the change came very suddenly and unexpectedly. My feelings of disjointedness might be heightened because Carol’s story arc was well developed (even though I personally felt quite frustrated with it at times).

It’s quite ironic to see how the former villain appears to do good and gets praised for it, even though she’s actually furthering Osborn’s evil agenda and even killing people in full sight of others, while Carol has been failing pretty consistently for a couple of years now.

One thing which actually helped the transition between the different storylines was the change in artist. Isaacs’ and especially Takeda’s art is much more manga styled than Olliffe’s.

The collection ends in a cliffhanger.

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