Collects Uncanny X-Men #294–296; X-Factor #84–86; X-Men Vol. 2 #14–16; X-Force #16–18

Writers: Scott Lobdell, Peter David, Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Jae Lee, Al Milgrom, Greg Capullo, Harry Candelario, Brandon Peterson, Terry Austin, Andy Kubert, Mark Pennington

For a huge cross-over event across all x comics at the time, this held together quite well. The main enemy is Stryfe but Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse appear as well. Of course there are bad points, too. The cast of heroes is very big but most of them don’t make a marked difference. There’s even a point when Boom-Boom’s jaw is broken but in the rest of the issues it’s Polaris whose jaw is broken. There’s longwinded monologues from the villains, mostly Stryfe but also from the rest. Archangel makes a deadly mistake by not offing Apocalypse when he had the chance. Lots of unnecessary exposition. The whole thing winds around the Summers clan which some reader hate and other like. And people who apparently die, don’t stay dead. But the X-Men were mostly in character and I had a blast rereading it.

The event kicks off when Professor Xavier is at Lila’s concert talking about peace between humans and mutants. Some of the people in the crowd are listening but some talk back. Then, Cable appears and shoots Xavier! At the same time, Jean and Scott are kidnapped from a diner by Caliban and some other Storm Riders.
Xavier is quickly taken to the Mansion where the Beast and Doctor MacTaggert start to work on him. The professor has been shot with a techno-organic virus which is taking over his body but is still alive. The X-Men and X-Factor band together. Some of them go after X-Force who are the former New Mutants whom Cable took under his wing. Nobody knows where Cable is but the X-Men think that the X-Force will know. Unfortunately, they don’t but the X-Men take the kids as prisoners anyway. The rest of the X-Men go after the Horsemen and Apocalypse.

The Summers clan is at the center of the whole event, especially Jean and Scott. The writers don’t explicitly say it but Cable is the son of Scott and Madelyne (Jean’s clone) and apparently Stryfe is the clone of Cable. So, Stryfe has now decided to avenge his crappy childhood on his parents (Scott and Jean), brother Cable, and Apocalypse, the man who raised him. Jean isn’t his mother but he treats her as one. Of course, Madelyne is dead at this point so it’s not possible to get satisfaction out of her. Still, Jean could have protested as some point at being made to pay for things her clone had done. Mr. Sinister is also involved.

Still, the story sticks together surprising well and the art isn’t too different from one comic to the next. The only exception is Jae Lee’s art which I ended up enjoyed quite a lot. It’s more stylized and darker than the other artists’ work. However, I think following the story requires knowing the backstory; without knowing it the story can seem just a mess.

A short story collection.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 273
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This is another of the Fiction River anthologies. I’ve enjoyed the previous ones a lot and was looking forward to reading this one, too. I liked all of the stories but only a couple of them were outstanding to me. Still, some of them are part of ongoing or planned series and if I didn’t have a physical TBR pile of over 100 books (still…) I’d be very tempted to check them out. However, they work just fine as stand-alones. Only two stories have professional detectives (and three various agents), the rest are amateur sleuths.

“Case Cracked” by Joe Cron: Frank Dumpty is a detective in the Magic City Police Department. When a troll is killed Frank finally has a chance to go against one of the more corrupt characters in the city.

“Living With The Past” by Dayle A. Dermatis: A ghost of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator asks Nikki Ashbourne for help and even though Nikki’s life has just exploded, she can’t refuse.

“All She Can Be” by Karen L. Abrahamson: This is a prequel story to Abrahamson’s Cartographer series (which sounds very interesting!). Vallon Drake has the ability to control earth. She uses it in the service of her government and this is her first case; someone has changed US’s landscape and Vallon and her (asshole) partner have to take that person in custody and reverse the change.

“Under Oregon” by Kara Legend: Evangeline’s family has just moved to Oregon but their livelihood, the crops, are in danger. Evangeline makes a potion to save them but angers a local fairy.

“Role Model” by Kevin J. Anderson: Dan Shamble is a zombie P.I. His friend asks him to go to a Cosplay Convention and he agrees. One of the Stormtroopers is murdered. Shamble is on the case and he even gets a sidekick: someone cosplaying him. This was a lot of fun.

“Death In Hathaway Tower” by Ryan M. Williams: Emily Hathaway is the young Lady of the Tower and when a dead body turns up in her library, she has to deal with it. This setting has really ethereal elves which I’m always sucker for.

“Trouble Aboard The Flying Scotsman” by Alistair Kimble: Harland Stone has just resolved the Scottish Affair for His Majesty’s Dashing Chaps and is looking forward to a quiet train ride to London. But then the conductor claims that something has sabotaged the train and only Stone can help.

“Containing Patient Zero” by Paul Eckheart: Zombies in this world result from a virus – except for patient zero. Leroy Star is a reality TV star and also a convicted serial killer who is about to be executed. Unfortunately, he’s also patient zero and Doctor Joseph Nelson is brought in to see Leroy. Fortunately, Joseph knows who can help Leroy and prevent a zombie plague. Unfortunately, that’s person unlikely to help.

“Canine Agent Rocky Arnold Vs. The Evil Alliance” by Judith Nordeen: Rocky is a German Shepard who belongs to an FBI agent. But when the agent takes her dog to the dog park, Rocky is the one who has to figure out a mystery. Another fun story.

“An Incursion Of Mice” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Five rescued cats live in one house with their two human servants. Wall T is their boss and should have caught the mice incursion.

“They’re Back” by Dean Wesley Smith: A Poker Boy story where a vanquished villain returns to torment our intrepid heroes.

My favorites were “Death In Hathaway Tower”, “Under Oregon”, and “Containing Patient Zero”. All had strong atmospheres. As a dog person I also liked Judith Nordeen’s story a lot.

Publication year: 1942
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 CDs
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Narrator: Lars Swedberg
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1972
Translator: Eva Siikarla

Jerry Burton is an injured RAF pilot. His doctor suggests to him that he and his sister Joanna should go to a peaceful country village to recover. They go to Lymstock but quite soon they notice that the village isn’t quite as tranquil as they expected: someone is writing anonymous and very malicious letters. People throw the letters away and pretend that they’re all nonsense but some start to say “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Jerry comes aware of the letters when he and his sister receive a letter which accuses them of being lovers and not siblings.

Then a woman apparently kills herself over one letter and the police gets involved. Also, Jerry and Joanna start to help Meghan who is 20-year-old woman but whom everyone treats like a school girl or even ignore her completely. Meghan’s mother divorced her father when Meghan was just a little girl but Meghan’s mother has remarried and seems to devote all her time to her husband and young sons.

This is written in Jerry’s first person POV. Ms. Marple doesn’t appear until after the half-way point and is very much in the background until the very end. The book focuses on the people of Lymstock who just love to gossip. The village has a collection of people you’d expect to find in a small English village, such as the doctor and his spinster sister, the vicar and his wife etc.

This is a quick and entertaining read. I didn’t figure out who did it.

The 8th book in the series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: print
Page count: 432
Publisher: Del Ray

William Laurence washes up in a sea shore. He has no idea who he is and how he has gotten there. Fortunately, he’s saved by a local nobleman.

Meanwhile, Laurence’s dragon Temeraire, the dragon transport ship, and the rest of the dragons have problems. Laurence fell overboard during a storm and the ship was damaged. Temeraire wants to go immediately to look of his captain even though the nearest land mass is Japan which doesn’t allow foreigners. However, he has to help with the ship and Iskierka is having their egg and wants Temeraire to make sure it’s safe before he goes.

Back in Japan, Laurence has remembered his name… but doesn’t remember anything about the last eight years. He thinks that he’s still a ship’s captain and dealing with the very suspicious Japanese is difficult. Fortunately, he speaks Chinese and lots of the Japanese speak it, too. Laurence manages to escape but not without help and he meets the local dragons, too.

The book has three parts. The first is set in Japan, the second in China, and the third part returns our favorite dragons to the fight against Napoleon.

The amnesia forces Laurence to take a long hard look at his life and the people around him. This brings quite a lot of angst and slows the pace a lot. However, I quite liked the Japanese dragons and the clash of different sort of honor definitions and rules.

The rest of the book advances the overall plot and the book ends in a cliffhanger. And I have no idea when the next book might come out.

Overall I liked this book a lot. Amnesia plots are a bit hit or miss with me. They can be hilarious (Buffy’s “Tabula Rasa” comes to mind as well as Star Trek TNG “Conundrum”) but can also go very, very wrong. This is in between for me. Not hilarious at all, since it just brought more angst to, well, everyone and it seemed that Laurence is really unsatisfied with his life which is sad. Other things bring to humor to the book, though: Iskierka is jealous of Temeraire’s Chinese lover and it was fun for a few incidents but got old really fast.

The clash between cultures is always interesting and there are several cultures here compared to the British (and each other). Novik also references a few historical incidents which I almost always like.

The first part has a lot of introspection and so it’s pretty slow but the last third makes up with that when the dragons join the war effort again.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is A LADY AND HER SWORD

Fantasyland is full of threats. A lady and her sword can keep those threats at bay.

The two who immediately sprang to mind:

Xena the warrior princess: she has many skills, including superior swordswomanship.

Buffy the vampire slayer: Buffy uses often her bare hands or stakes but she does use a sword, too.

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews: I’ve only read the first two books but even though Kate’s an urban fantasy heroine, who usually use guns, she has a sword.

Aliera e’Kieron by Steven Brust: she’s of the House of Dragon and currently she wields the Pathfinder which is one of the most powerful enchanted weapons in her world. It’s a sword.

Mira by Jocelynn Drake: Mira is a 600-year-old vampire and she has the natural ability to create and control fire. However, since her enemies, the naturi, use swords, she also often have to use them, too. And Mira does saves the world.

Eowvyn by J. R. R. Tolkien: she was instrumental in bringing down the Witch-King of Angmar.

Talia by Jim Hines: she’s also known as the Sleeping Beauty. She’s one of the three princesses starring in Hines’ Princess series. She’s an expert swordswoman with a dark past.

October Daye by Seanan McGuire: Toby is a changeling and at the start of the series she’s a private detective and a Knight. She uses a knife most often (easier to transport in modern San Francisco) but she also has been trained as a knight so she can use a sword and sometimes does.

by Robin McKinley: she’s the main character in the Hero and the Crown, a princess who is shunned because of her strange looks and lack of magical talent. She’s known as the Dragon-killer.

A stand-alone murder mystery/time travel story. It was part of Storybundle’s Time travel bundle.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Page count: 322
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Snipers is a murder mystery which also has time travel elements but the SF part never dominates. The past is Vienna 1913 and the present is Vienna 2005.

1913 has three storylines: one is an assassin who goes around killing certain people to prevent them from doing stuff, one is William who has a nuke with him and he trails his victim Stavros Papadopoulos, and the third is Johann Runge, a detective ahead of his time with regards to police procedure. The modern story follows Sofie Branstadter, a historian and a famous non-fiction writer who wants to write her next book about the Carnival sniper, and Anton Runge, Johann’s great-grandchild.

The assassin is determined to kill some people in order to change the future (his past). However, Johann Runge is hot on his trail. Runge even writes a non-fiction book about the assassin whom everyone calls the Carnival sniper. His book is hugely successful but because Runge didn’t catch the killer, he’s widely thought of now as an unsuccessful cop even though he solved a lot of other cases. Sofie’s parents were killed by an unknown murderer when she was just a little girl, so she’s fascinated by the Carnival sniper who is also world’s first serial killer. She wants to get new evidence and starts by exhuming the killer’s first victim, Viktor Adler. The Austrian courts agreed to Sofie’s request to dig up Adler’s body and see what can be learned from him. To her surprise her team finds strange kinds of bullets which seem to be top secret in 2005.

I’m a fan of Rusch’s SF and mystery stories so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed this book a lot. Sofie has her own problems and reasons for writing about the Carnival sniper and Runge is a meticulous detective. The assassin and William also have they own motivations so they aren’t just faceless lunatics. The story has quite a few surprises so I don’t want to tell too much about it.

Writers: Jim Lee, Scott Lobdell, Whilce Portacio, John Byrne, Fabian Nicieza

Artists: Whilce Portacio, John Romita Jr., Scott Williams, Andy Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz, Art Thibert, Tom Raney, Hillary Barta, Rurik Tyler, Josef Rubinstein, Al Milgrom,

Collects Uncanny X-Men #281–293, X-Men Vol. 2 #12–13, material from X-Men (1991) 10–11

This is clear example of 1990s X-Men: a large team, lots of plotlines, some of them “soap opera”. Bishop’s origins are intriguing and I always love time travel stuff. But his mystery is far from solved in this collection and I have vague memories that they weren’t really resolved at all. Also, it has a lot of stories which don’t have much to do with Bishop. The writing makes everything a melodrama and continues storylines which I think were started in X-Factor. But for me at least most of these were entertaining stories. Unfortunately, I don’t care for Portacio’s art. It also seems that the writers’ can’t handle happy couples: Jean and Scott were separated into different teams and Scott starts to dream about Betsy (!), and everyone else’s love life is a mess or a melodrama. I was also disappointed to see Morlocks killed off.

The collection starts with a bang: Hellfire Club’s Emma Frost asks for help from the X-Men. Apparently someone has been murdering the Club’s leaders and Emma could be next. Xavier sends the gold team to see what’s going on. Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Archangel, and Jean Grey go to the club and get into fracas with the Hellions. But that dies down quickly. Then Emma mind-tortures a young woman in armor who attacked her. However, a green haired man calling himself Fitzroy appears in some sort of power armor which is also able to withstand psionic attacks. He seems to lead the attacks on the Hellfire club.

Meanwhile a new group of self-repairing Sentinels attacks the Reavers in their Australian base (yes!). Their leader Pierce manages to escape through one of Gateway’s portals to the Hellfire club where both X-Men and the Hellions have to fight the Sentinels. In the end, though, it seems that both Emma Frost and Jean Grey are dead. The Sentinels leave, with the Hellions and Emma’s body. But Pierce is killed! (double yay!)

However, Jean was able to put her mind into Emma’s body which Xavier is able to sense. The gold team X-Men (+Xavier and Forge) track the Sentinels to their Artic base and attack. In the base, green-haired Fitzroy is in the process of sucking up life energy from his captives and using his powers to open up a huge time portal. Super powered people pour out from the portal and on their heels are Bishop and his two assistants, Randall and Marshall, who are some sort of mutant police intend on either killing or capturing Fitzroy and his goons. When Fitzroy reveals that he can’t send people back to the future, Bishop and his goons start killing the mutants.

When Bishop sees the X-Men, he’s at first filled with hero worship but when the X-Men stop him from killing, he turns against them, claiming that they are impostors. Bishop and some of the other mutants manage to escape. Meanwhile, Xavier puts Jean’s mind back to her body.

Then, the X-Men go to the Sahali Island where a void has opened up. The Japanese scientists try to control it by bringing in Sunfire. The scientists have built him an armor which will channel his powers more effectively than ever and they think that he can just blast the portal out of existence. Unfortunately, the portal absorbs the energy and strikes back with it. Also, strange creatures crawl out of the portal and attack everyone near it. However, soon the X-Men notice that the creatures are just people in armor. But too late: the portal sucks in everyone near it including Storm, Jean, Iceman, Archangel, Colossus, and Sunfire.

The team ends up on different parts of the world on the other side of the portal and meet different people. It seems that the portal leads to another planet where one group of people have seized power and others fight against them. Peter and Jean end up with the rebels and the leader of the dominant group, Avatar, brainwashes Warren to kill on her behalf. However, the strangest thing of all is that Peter finds his big brother in this world and he’s a mutant. Mihkail Rasputin is a former cosmonaut thought to be dead. Peter idolized him and is heartbroken to find out that Mihkail doesn’t live up to his legend.

Meanwhile, back on Earth Bishop and his two flunkies continue to kill mutants who have come from another time and the local people, including the police, think that what they’re dealing with is mutant powered gang violence and blame it on the X-Men.

Finally in issue 287, we find out Bishop’s story. He comes from a future where XSE is a mutant police force and the X-Men are revered. LeBeu is the last known X-Man and he seems to be in some sort of prison/guest house and access to him is very limited. During his last mission on his own time period, Bishop stumbles on a tape where Jean says that she’s the last X-Man standing and that the X-Men were betrayed by their own.

The X-Men capture Bishop and after a private talk with Xavier, he joins them. Some of X-Men aren’t happy about it. Xavier gives Storm the task of trying to acclimatize Bishop to current times.

X-Men issue 12 and 13 dig into Xavier’s past: it seems that his father worked alongside Ryking who confined his own son to an intuition once he found out that the boy was a mutant. The boy is now man and has come for his revenge on Xavier. Gold team tries to defend their teacher.

The rest of the collection is devoted to gold team’s adventures and troubles in their personal lives. Bobby introduces his Asian girlfriend to his parents and his father disapproves of her. The meeting turns into a fight with ninja cyborgs. Forge asks Storm to marry him but before she can give him an answer, he accuses her of being so emotionally stunted that she can’t have a life outside the X-Men and leaves the group with Mystique.

The last issues pit the X-Men against Morlocks. Now Mask leads the Morlocks. They attacked Callisto (who has a very shapely body now and lives among the humans) and when the X-Men attempt to investigate, they attack the X-Men (Storm, Jean, Archangel, Bishop, Iceman, Colossus, and Xavier). Also Mikhail Rasputin allies himself with the Morlocks and against the X-Men (and all of humanity). At the same time, Callisto and Archangel have to confront their past with the Morlocks.


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