Collects FF 12-17

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Juan Bobilo, Marcelo Sosa, Nick Dragotta, Steve Epting, Chris Sotomayor, Paul Mounts

The first four issues happen at the same time as the Fantastic Four “Forever” story and we finally get to know what “All hope lies in Doom” means. Also, the fate of the Reeds from the other dimensions is revealed.

Issue 16 is the aftermath of the big fight and the revelations about Franklin. Valerie has to also face the music for all the things she’s done behind her parents’ backs.

Then Johnny moves in with Peter. After returning from the dead, Johnny feels that he needs a change and so he becomes Peter’s roommate. Peter isn’t thrilled, to say it mildly.

This is an excellent companion volume to the “Forever” trade. It’s not absolutely necessary but it has a pay-off to the multiple Reeds storyline and the Doom story, too. I enjoyed following the FF kids and the Johnny/Peter issue is quite funny.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1971
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Page count: 319
Translator: Jukka Kemppinen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

Modesty Blaise is flying on a rented airplane over Kalimba, in Central Africa, and crash lands. She gets help from a nearby village where a missionary couple and a doctor are staying. Doctor Giles Pennyfeather has a lot of patients because of a bus accident nearby. He has medical training but very little in resources so Modesty ends up staying and helping him. Giles is a kind, honest, and decent man but also clumsy in both relationships and when moving around, and Modesty ends up liking him quite a lot. He also has an uncanny ability to heal his patients.

Then the local police orders all westerners to leave. But before Giles and Modesty can go (on Modesty’s plane), two thugs attack Giles. Modesty manages to fight them off. It turns out that a short while ago, the missionaries found a white man who had been terribly tortured. The thugs are convinced that the man told something to Giles but Giles insists that he didn’t.

The thugs work for a ruthless crime boss called Brunel. He’s a very short man but emotionless and specializes in brainwashing people to work to him. And now he wants Modesty to work for him and Willie dead.

The story almost has a two parts: the first part is set in London after Giles and Modesty return there. Brunel has documents which are dangerous to Sir Gerald Tarrant and Modesty wants to retrieve them. I really enjoyed the first part which has some hilarious moments but the rest is a very good Modesty Blaise -yarn, too. It has some quirky secondary characters, appalling villains, and lots of excitement. One of the best in the series so far.

My brother bought me the DVDs for Christmas and we watched it in just a couple of weeks. I really liked it mostly.

I liked the science part of it, even though it’s superhero science (magic really). Barry Allen is a crime scene investigator in Central City. He’s obsessed with his troubled past: his mother was murdered when he was young and his father was convicted of the murder and is in prison. But Barry knows that his father didn’t do it and is looking for evidence to free his father. When a particle accelerator malfunctions when its turned on during a violent storm, Barry is hit by lightning and becomes superhumanly fast. Other people also get powers during that event and Barry joins forces with S.T.A.R. labs’ people to fight superhuman crime.

The Flash is more lighthearted than Arrow, about the same as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first season, before that show went significantly darker. Right from the start Barry has a large cast of supporting characters: Star lab’s director Dr. Wells, Star labs employees Dr. Snow and Cisco (an engineering genius), Barry’s adoptive father detective Joe West, Joe’s daughter (and Barry’s love interest) journalist student Iris, and Iris’ boyfriend and Joe’s partner Eddie. Iris and Eddie don’t know that Barry is Flash. But Iris starts a blog about Flash and follows the sightings eagerly.

The show has both “monster of the week” episodes and an underlying larger story arch which worked nicely. Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like was that Barry was ‘protecting’ Iris by not telling her who he was. We’ve seen that so many time, in fact Arrow has exactly the same thing: Oliver ‘protecting’ his sister Thea and his love interest by keeping them in the dark. The problem is, of course, that things you don’t know can still hurt you. And we’ve seen this so many times; couldn’t they have thought of something else? Another problem is that it makes the woman (and it’s almost always a woman kept in the dark) so stupid when she doesn’t figure it out. The longer the story line is dragged the stupider she seems.

The series has two cross-over episodes with Arrow and those were a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the supporting cast: Dr. Wells was built well throughout the first season and Cisco is a great character with the jokes and upbeat spirit. Although we both wondered about why Caitlin was employed by the labs in the first place. Isn’t she some sort of medical doctor? I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about DC characters as Marvel so the series had some surprises.

The final episode ends in a cliffhanger. The series also has time travel and I’m still a bit iffy about that. But it’s going to be a long wait for the next season (Finnish Netflix doesn’t have Flash). So you US people are going to keep on watching it, right? So that we can all get another season.

Finnish TV is showing Arrow but not Flash.

The third book in the SF trilogy.

Publication year: 2004
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours and 5 minutes
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Gregory Linington

Unlike in previous books, which had multiple point-of-view characters sharing the spotlight nearly equally, this book has two major ones: retired Colonel Lyle Kaufman and 14-year-old Amanda Capelo. Others have far less time as POV characters. In this universe humans are at war with the alien Fallers who refuse to communicate with humans. The only information the humans have about the Fallers came from Marbet Grant in the previous book.

Kaufman and his lover the Sensitive (genetically engineered human who is extremely beautiful and can pretty much read others’ thoughts and emotions from small cues) Marbet Grant are looking for a way to get back to the World. But even though the planet isn’t officially quarantined, it’s very hard to get there. In the end, they have to resort of illegal ways to get there. Kaufman is troubled by the humans who were left behind when the last human expedition left and wants to save them. But it turns out that they don’t require saving; instead Kaufman and Grant realize that they have to find Tom Capelo. And in order to do it, they join forces with a very formidable woman.

Amanda Capelo is home when she shouldn’t be and she witnesses the kidnapping of her father, the famous and grouchy physicist Tom Capelo. At first, she doesn’t realize what happened but as soon as she does, she thinks long about it and comes to the conclusion that she has to leave and reach Marbet Grant who will help her. Amanda takes with her some jewelry and tries to go to Mars where Grant is supposed to be. However, even for a very clever 14-year-old, the world can be a surprising and dangerous place. She’s rescued by a Catholic priest who turns out to be part of the anti-War movement. And he has plans for her.

Kaufman’s and Amanda’s stories are separate for almost the whole book even though their goals are the same. We’re also introduced to a bunch of new characters. The most significant of them is Magdalene, a woman who has overcome her past and become one of the most powerful information brokers in the human universe. However, I almost felt like I liked the idea of her (as a character) more than how she was used in the book. I also didn’t really care for the whole teenager shenanigans.

This time we barely see the Worlders who were a big part of the previous books. We see more of the Fallers but they aren’t nearly as distinct as the Worlders were. In fact, the book has far more human politics than xenoanthropology.

The book has its faults (for example we never find out who built the wormhole tunnels and other artifacts and nobody seems really interested to know or why backwater World had such artifacts) but I enjoyed it. It’s a good ending to the series.

Collects Fantastic Four 605.1-611

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Mike Choi, Ron Garney, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Karl Kesel, Ryan Stegman,

This collects a series of shorter stories with various artists. They feel quite disjointed after the previous long storylines.

In the first issue we get to see a Fantastic Four in a world where the Nazi Germany conquered USA.

In the next issue our familiar First Family does some exploring in dangerous circumstances.

Next up is a two-issue story set in Wakanda. T’Challa has had to abdicate the throne and his sister is the new queen. But T’Challa has another quest and he asks Reed to accompany him. Reed has to confront the magic which is the source of T’Challa’s powers.

Then, in another one issue story, the Defenders from the Future are going home in a strange way. Essentially, the Nu-World storyline is wrapped up here.

Then, it’s A.I.M. and the Wizard vs the Fantastic Four plus Spider-Man. A.I.M. has bought themselves a whole island and the US president is worried about it. So, he sends Reed’s team to see what the A.I.M. is up to. The story continues with Bentley, the Wizards’ young clone, in a FF comic which isn’t in the collection.

The trade ends with Dr. Doom which feels appropriate. In the FF comic, Doom was left on the Bridge to secure the others’ escape. Now, Reed, his dad Nathaniel, and the adult Valerie return to the Bridge.

Hickman’s run was a wild ride. I bought the individual issues and rereading them I remember the long wait between them. I got them about every four months, three-four issues at the time which turned out to be a good way to read them. He did use a lot of set-up which I understand can frustrate some readers but the pay-off was worth it. In these final issues he sets up future adventures, too, intertwining Reed and T’Challa’s destinies together and showing some of the background for his own stories, too. Most of the time I enjoyed them a lot. His characterization was very good, especially with Susan. He used classic elements and foes like Galactus and the Inhumans but also brought in new things. Great stuff! That said, this last volume isn’t a necessary read.

A stand-alone science fiction/horror book.

Publication year: 1956
Format: print
Page count: 200
Publisher: Gollanz

Scott Carey shrinks every day 1/7 of an inch. Now, he’s about the size of a spider and essentially trapped into his own cellar because he’s too small to get out. He battles the Black Widow spider, which also lives in the cellar, and scrounges for food and water. He knows that he has only five days to live before he becomes too small to exist, so he also battles despair. He reminiscens about his life: how he felt that the shorter he came, the less masculine he was. He went to see the best (and very expensive) doctors but they couldn’t help him. His fear, frustration, and insecurity come out as rage against everyone near him and he loses his job. He alienates his wife and daughter, too.

In the adventurous side of the book Scott is really tiny and his life is constantly threatened by the spider. Matheson shows us in detail how Scott has to work hard for everything we take for granted. But most of the book follows his story to that cellar. Matheson also describes Scott’s mounting frustration and humiliation because of his shrinking. When Scott’s small enough to be mistaken for a boy, he encounters dangers that children face: a child molester and a gang of other kids. Scott also pushes away his own family and so he feels very lonely and sexually frustrated. (Personally, I didn’t care how he lusts after an underage girl and justifies it to himself.)

Sometimes he thinks about suicide but in the end, he forces himself to continue the struggle to live.

I didn’t like this one as much as I liked “I am Legend” but it was a solid read.

Collects Fantastic Four # 600-605

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Steve Epting, Paul Mounts, Rick Magyar, Mike Perkins, Nick Dragotta

Most of Hickman’s long-term plots come to an explosive, and cosmic, conclusion in this trade. Issue 600 is a double sized anniversary issue where the Avengers and the FF unite to defend the Earth from the Kree Empire, led by the reborn Supreme Intelligence. We also finally find out what happened to Johnny Storm. He returns and leads his own army against the Kree. However, the huge fight escalates further with the appearance of Galactus and the three Celestials!

So if you have read the earlier trades leading to this one, it’s the big payoff. If you haven’t… don’t start with this collection. It’s an excellent conclusion to the story. Pretty much the only I dislike is the brief appearance and disappearance of the Inhumans. I found them more distracting to the story than adding anything, especially since they’ve changed so much since I last saw them. But maybe that’ll change after I read War of Kings.

I very much enjoyed Johnny’s story this time around and would have loved to see more of his Light Brigade (but I don’t think they were seen much after this story). But I think that I disliked his quick reappearance the first time I read these, simply because his sacrifice was written so well that his return felt like cheapening it. Of course, he did die, several times.

In the final issue, 605, Reed and his dad travel to the future of Fantastic Four, the Future Foundation, and the Earth and we’re shown Ben’s startling future. It was clearly a cool off from the previous issues and an epilogue of sorts but I’m not sure if it really added much.


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