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 we look at DEAD GODS

Fantasyland had gods, right? And now they are dead. Dead Gods are not forgotten though, often they are still just influential to the land as they were when living.

This turned out to be almost as difficult as the previous topic but I managed to think of a few examples:

Uranos of Greek legend. Cronos killed him to become the ruler of gods. (Of course, the next generation of gods overthrew him and his fellow gods and goddesses.)

Osiris of Egyptian legend. Of course, he doesn’t stay dead but becomes the ruler of underworld instead.

Almost all Norse deities: Elizabeth Bear’s All the Windwracked Stars is set after Ragnarok and only four characters from the Norse legends survive. Sort of. In some incarnation of Thor comics the pantheon is also wiped out (and then resurrected).

In Thor storyline collected in The God Butcher and Godbomb, a lot of deities from other planets are wiped out.

Greek gods except for Ares (and Aphrodite and a few others I think?) in Xena, the Warrior Princess.

The gods in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife books. People sometimes curse the dead gods but they aren’t mentioned otherwise. The first book is “Beguilement”.

I also have vague memories of a book or perhaps a comic book where a whole city was built inside (or on top of) the body of a dead god. But I can’t remember where! Has anyone else read it, please?

A humorous fantasy book.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 246
Publisher: Ace

The book is part of my TBR challenge and for once I got a book with the monthly theme. This month it’s books which were published over 10 years ago. I’ve already read 12 books from my TBR this year!

Kevin is the Prince of Rassendas and like many unmarried Princes of the Twenty Kingdoms, he’s come to woo Princess Rebecca of Deserae. The Princess is blond, beautiful, and buxom but also nicknamed the Ice Princess. To Kevin’s dismay, the Prince most likely to marry Rebecca is Lord Logan, a military hero. While Kevin has also served in the military, he was a supply officer. He also has a great disadvantage to begin with: his father in known as Eric the Cool and Kevin is desperately trying to earn a better nickname. Still, Kevin knows Rebecca because he’s been to Deserae before and they’re already in love. But the princess has to marry according to her father’s wishes and the king of Deserae is hugely influenced by his Council of mostly businessmen. So, Kevin and Rebecca are trying to make Kevin the best choice for the council.

However, when Deserae’s Ancient Artifact Model Seven is stolen by the local Evil Overlord, the king declares that whomever returns the Artifact, will marry Rebecca. Everyone thinks it will be Lord Logan who, after all, leads the Black Guards. But Kevin grabs “the Handbook of Practical Heroics” (not to be confused with the “Handbook of Practical Fly-Fishing” by the same author) and heads towards the Fortress of Doom. Meanwhile, Rebecca, or Becky as she’s referred to most of the book, thinks that if she can return the Artifact, she can marry whomever she wants.

The book pokes fun at many fantasy clichés. There’s discussion on if the Comic Sidekick has to actually be funny and how many dogs one has to kick to be declared evil. The Fortress of Doom has guided tours for tourists and the gift shop is almost inescapable. The book also pokes fun at clichés about male and female characters: a man will always (try to) sleep with other women no matter how in love he is and a woman will always lie to her man, even (especially?) when she’s furious about his lies to her.

Still, I think that best jokes center on the Evil Overlord, Lord Voltmeter (He Who Must Be Named). He muses about heredity governing systems vs (male) democracy:

That was not such a bad thing. When power went to the eldest heir, there was a pretty good chance that the man who inherited it would not be a complete lunatic. Whereas when men competed for positions of power, it was generally acknowledged that the ones who got it were invariably the ones who could least be trusted with it.
Men like Voltmeter.

and about his evil stance:

He stood in the center of the room, his head thrown back in silent laughter, his arms raised above his head, his fists clenched in that famous, overtly dramatic gesture known to theatre students everywhere as “milking the giant cow”. Yes, it was hokey and clichéd, and Voltmeter knew it, but he loved doing that gesture anyway, the quintessential stance of a man mad with power. He practiced it several times a week.

This gesture is actually more familiar to me from comics than fantasy; it immediately brought to my mind Dr. Doom, Ultron, and Kang.

Lord Voltmeter has the Evil Assistant and lots of minions, not to mention the Diabolical Plan to take over the world. While Kevin is somewhat unusual protagonist (a diplomat, not a fighter) and Becky is a plucky heroine, I think that Lord Voltmeter steals the show.

Collects AVX: Consequences 1- 5

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Tom Raney, Jim Charalampidis, Steve Kruth, Allen Martinez, Scott Eaton, Andrew Hennessy, Gabriel Hernandez Valta

Spoilers to Avengers vs. X-Men!

This almost feels like the pay-off for the huge cross-over. (I really don’t have anything against mindless, super powered fisticuff! Really!) Wakanda is now closed to all mutants when Black Panther tries to rebuild his nation (Hmm… I’m not aware of any Wakandan mutants. Surely there must be some?)

Scott is in prison after the things he’s done and he’s in a private prison which has a whole cell block just for mutants. Only Scott and one other mutant are there but apparently the plan is to eventually populate it with other mutants. Scott has an inhibitor on so he can’t use his powers. In fact, if he tries to activate them, he gets zapped with pain. Still, putting Cyclops into a prison built for humans is a big mistake. He’s also convinced that he did the right thing, except for the killing. Of course, the Phoenix force did restore mutants to the world so it turned out that he was right, after all.

Wolverine, Iron Man, and Captain America try to talk sense into him with varying success. In the end, Cyclops is a wanted murderer on the run from the law and Wolverine runs a school for mutant kids. Who could have predicted that one?

Meanwhile, Hope is trying to find her dad, Cable. He’s left a note saying that she shouldn’t look for him but she does anyway. She tries a little taste of “ordinary life”, too.

In the end, this leads to the All-New X-Men comic.

Each issue has a different artist but their styles aren’t drastically different so it wasn’t a problem for me.

Collects Avengers vs. X-Men #0–12, Material from Marvel Point One

Writers: Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Frank Cho, Jason Keith, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, Adam Kubert, Jim Mahfood, Oliver Coipel, Mark Morales, Adam Kubert, Kohn Dell

Once again, I read the Finnish issues which included also the A vs X issues, which essentially have just a fight between two characters, so they don’t really add anything to the storyline, with the exception of Hope vs Wanda.

The Phoenix Force is coming back to Earth and the Avengers are worried and want to stop it. But for some reason Cyclops thinks that it will bring rebirth to the mutant race. Everyone is convinced that the new host will be Hope Summers. Cyclops wants to train her and Captain America wants to get Hope to safety to, er, Avengers Tower I guess. Why he would think it’s a safer place than Utopia, I don’t know. And it turns out that Wolverine is so terrified of Phoenix that he’s preparing to kill Hope.

The Avengers come to the Utopia Island and, surprising no-one, an epic battle between the two super hero groups starts. After, Hope heads to the Moon… and both teams send a group to grab her. But they’re too late. While the two hero groups wound each other with fists, powers, and words, the Phoenix force reaches Hope whom everyone seems to have forgotten in their eagerness to pummel each other. But she rejects it and Tony Stark hits Phoenix with his disruptor weapon which he hopes will kill the force. Instead, the force is split into five fragments which bond with Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, Colossus, and Namor.

The Phoenix Five (and Hope) head back to Earth and proceed to make it a paradise. The Avengers, well, are suspicious of them and continue to, er, fight back against such generosity. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong.

Usually cross-over events end without anything changing. This one’s different. It launched the Marvel NOW line which changed the X-Men and the Avengers teams.

The storyline is essentially interesting: Cyclops is fighting for the survival of his species while Cap wants to keep the whole world safe. I for one don’t really understand why Scott thinks that Phoenix would do that. Of course, this is his batshit insane phase (I’m firmly convinced that somewhere before he started to cheat on Jean with Emma, he was switched with an evil/insane version from one of the other Earths) so who knows why he does anything anymore. The characterization of many characters is weird here; apparently they just follow their designated leader without any questions asked until near the end. Does that sound like the X-Men for you? Or the Avengers? In addition to Pietro and Wanda, the Beast and Wolverine and his whole school is on the Avengers’ side. So this is a very exiting plotting, at least on paper, and has great artists but it feels a forced confrontation to me, just an excuse to get a lot of hero versus hero fights. Much like Civil War felt to me, earlier. The last parts have some better characterization, though.

But it brought about interesting changes to the Marvel universe and that’s (usually) a good thing.

The second book in the Alex Craft urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 371
Publisher: Roc

After the events in the previous book, Alex’s life has changed only a little, at first. She’s still a grave witch, able to sense and channel grave essence from the land of the dead and able to raise shades (memories) of dead bodies. She still helps the local cops in murder cases and even though she’s not as struggling for money as before, she’s not rolling in it, either. And both of her romantic interests have vanished from her life.

The Nekros City police have just a foot from a dead body and they want Alex to find the rest of it. A bit reluctantly, she agrees to wade in a swamp looking for a body. Instead, she finds more left feet, hidden by glamour and full of magic. After that, one local independent fae threatens her.

When Alex is out enjoying coffee with her best friends, Tamara and Holly, they attacked by a huge monster which turns out to be mostly glamour – with a soul bound into it. Alex manages to stop it but in the process she tears a hole in reality.

Then things Alex did in the previous book come back to haunt her and this time, they will change her life.

“Grave Dance” is even more focused on the triangle romance than the previous book which was somewhat frustrating to me. There were a lot of unanswered questions about both her suitors: fae Falin and a soul collector Alex calls Death. A lot of things about Falin are answered, somewhat, but Death is still a mystery. I’m not a fan of that and I’m starting to think that Alex is stupid for trusting either of them, let alone both. Another thing I didn’t care for was that Alex hadn’t learned anything; she still didn’t ask questions she should have. She didn’t even bother to research her own heritage which was really disappointing, considering that one of her roommates is a fae: all she had to do was ask him!

The plot was fast paced; she didn’t have the time to do research during the story, but she had a whole month before the story started. I liked the way her heritage made her life harder, though.

What I did like a lot were the fae courts. We got a glimpse of three of them and I’d love to see more of them. The Winter court is ruled by the Winter Queen and she’s a pretty stereotypical manipulative bitch, although quite well done. The other two were different but seen only briefly. I also like the quirky new characters, the brownies. In fact, I’d love to get a book just about the fae.

A detail that I really liked was the bloody hands: a fae who has killed has literally blood on his or her hands which shows when she/he is in Faerie.

Well, it seems that my review is awfully negative but I (mostly) enjoyed reading Grave Dance; only in retrospect I find it somewhat frustrating. Also, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the ending is almost a cliffhanger.

A Farscape novel.

Publication year: 2001
Format: ebook
Page count: 191
Publisher: TOR

John has a toothache and Zhaan gives him some worms, dentics, which should clean his teeth and get rid of the infection. The dentics die and he puts them into the biomatter recycler. Unfortunately, John’s alien germs affect Moya, too, and she becomes ill. The crew has to find someone to help Moya and they turn to Jansz, who is the leader of a large community of traders and pirates. Things don’t go smoothly, of course.

This is a difficult book to review. The writing is pretty character-oriented, focusing on Rygel and Chiana. She’s feeling like she doesn’t belong with the crew and that she doesn’t have any real friends there. She also has a lot of guilt because of her past action towards a man she loved. Rygel is concerned with rescuing someone; a female Hynerian whom he used to love.

Unfortunately, many of the details of the characters are just wrong but maybe this was written before those things were established on the show. For example, Rygel relives his past where he’s fallen in love with a Hynerian female. Instead of 1,437 wives, he has just one queen and the marriage requires a political match. Similarly, Chiana’s past shows her surviving alone (no mention of her brother Nerri) and there were no details about her Nebari culture which essentially brainwashes the citizens to compliance. Moya was born in a black hole where her mother was hiding from slavers – before the Peacekeeper civilization was born. Moya is also able to disgorge goo to feed her passengers. If our Moya had been able to do that, episodes centering on the crew’s desperate need to feed themselves wouldn’t have been necessary.

This can be read as an alternate universe Farscape but it can’t be reconciled with now existing canon.

The adventure is an emotional roller-coaster with Moya on the brink of death for the whole book and Chiana feeling so deeply an outsider that she betrays the crew for a chance to feel part of another group. The ending was rather abrupt and strange.
Jansz himself is an interesting character. He can take over other people and speak through them. The book also has Re who is a gestalt organism, living through other beings.

The first chapter is available to read on

Writers: Chris Claremont, Michael Higgins, Dana Moreshead, Scott Lobdell
Artists: Chris Wozniak, Josef Rubenstein, David Ross, Ron Wagner
Collects Excalibur 29-34

This collection starts with three one-shots and none of them are written by Claremont. The first issue is a weird and pointless cross-over with Power Pack. The Power family’s mother is taken to the Institute of Psychic Research which turns out to be far weirder than they thought.

In the second issue the team, and Alysande, are celebrating Alistaire Stuart’s birthday when Meggan suddenly turns into a vampire, knocks out Phoenix, bites Kurt, and flies away. Guest starring Doctor Strange.

The next issue is a Nightcrawler one shot. It’s pretty silly and the best thing going for it is that most of the time it has Kurt in a loincloth. ;)

The last three issues have two plotlines. Courtney Ross sends Kitty (who doesn’t know that Excalibur is back) to her old boarding school so that Kitty can get enough credits to get into Oxbridge. The school is quite a tough place and the students “welcome” Kitty in by reading her diary and stealing her clothes. Also, her powers don’t work on the school grounds. It turns out that the place on the edge of bankruptcy and eventually, the students band together to save their school. Meanwhile, Mesmero takes over the rest of the Excalibur with his hypnotizing powers.

Also the ongoing mysteries of Courtney Ross and Jamie Braddock aren’t resolved in these collections but in issue 56 when Alan Davis has returned as both writer and artist so some of these stories have a build-up without a resolution, unless of course you can get the single issues (issues 51 is the next to last one in Marvel Unlimited. The last one is issue 95. The intervening issues are not included.). I’m also not so sure that Courtney’s actions is this collection make sense in light of the big reveal.

Several of the stories here depend on Phoenix being somehow out of commission. For example, I really doubt that mere hypnotic powers could fool her but it turns out that Mesmero pulled exactly the same stunt with the original Phoenix, Jean Grey (the Uncanny X-Men issue 111). I’m still not convinced it’s actually possible. Overall, these are pretty silly stories.


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