February 2014

Collects issues 0-7 of the comic.

Writer: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger
Artists: Steven Sadowski, Carlos Paul, Adrian Moreno
Publisher: Dynamite
Publication year: 2008

Bruce Carter used to be a superhero called the Fighting Yank but now he’s an old man who can feel his death approaching. Suddenly, an American flag by his fireside springs to life and accuses Bruce of doing terrible things but also that he could make amends. The flag calls itself the American spirit and it contains the spirits of everyone who has sacrificed themselves for US.

Bruce reminisces about the past, when he was a superhero during WWII. It turned out that Hitler had Pandora’s Box and Bruce was sent to retrieve it. One of Bruce’s powers is to talk to his ancestor who has a soldier working for George Washington. This ghost tells Bruce that he can end all of evil in the world but at at terrible price: he would have to imprison all of his superpowered friends into the box along with evil because the supers represent hope which has to be locked up along with evil. Not surprisingly, the other heroes not only refuse this suggestion but also refuse to believe it. So, working slowly Bruce has imprisoned his friends into the box.

The American spirit says that the ghost was wrong and has led Bruce astray. Bruce agrees to try to make things right and the trio (Bruce, America’s spirit, and the ghost) travels to Shangri-La to see the Green Lama, one of the few old heroes Bruce hasn’t imprisoned. Bruce is afraid that the Green Lama, Jethron, will kill him for what he has done. Instead Jethron agrees to help Bruce. Together they set out to shatter the box and free the heroes.

I quite liked the storyline, despite some similarities to other stuff I’ve read. We see most of the story through Bruce’s eyes and get to know that he feels terribly guilty for tricking his friends. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to know any of the other characters much. I think the large hero gallery (which is all white and has only two women in it…) works against the story. We see a lot of fight scenes and males in colorful costumes but I for one didn’t know who they were. Most of the time, I didn’t even know their powers. For example, Black Terror (who is actually a white man) looks cool but the only thing I know about him is that he’s really angry and wants to find his sidekick Tim. Samson is the only one who stands out of the crowd a little and he is only in a couple of scenes. So it’s very hard to care about any of them.

However, I read from the net that the series is apparently based on some old heroes, which cleared up some things. Maybe I was supposed to know them but I didn’t. The collected edition even has some pages from the Yank’s journal but unfortunately they don’t actually introduce the characters at all.

I really liked the world building so it’s a shame the characters were left so vague and clearly old-fashioned. The USA is practically run by Dynamic Industries which is owned by a former hero Dynamic Man and his Dynamic Family. They have given power armors to the police and control media. They have also made soldiers into Frankenstein’s monsters: dead soldiers are put back together and put back to the fight. They even look like Frankenstein’s monsters.

The library has the second volume so I’ll be reading that, too.

Collects World’s Finest 1-3, a miniseries.

Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artists: Steve Rude, Karl Kesel
Publisher: DC
Publication year: 1992

This team-up comic was done in the 1990s when Batman and Superman were uneasy allies rather than friends. Rude does a great job here drawing out their differences: Batman moves mostly during the night and furtively, and his face is in shadow while Superman lives in the light of day and moves about openly. Also, shining Metropolis and dark Gotham are drawn quite differently. Rude is in great form here and I loved the artwork. I especially enjoyed the starting pages without any text or dialog, and the scenes in the orphanage where the cast of Bat and Supes secondary characters get to interact.

Unfortunately, the story is a bit confused. The story starts in Midway orphanage which is in the middle point between Gotham and Metropolis. Apparently it was run by a man who used the orphans as his private criminal organization, Byron Wyle. Wyle was an old man and apparently very near his death he regretted his crimes and wanted to build something better for kids. People from both cities have been invited to hear about that, among them Bruce Wayne, commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane. However, something fishy is going on in the orphanage, of course.

Meanwhile, the Joker has decided to terrorize Metropolis for a while and Luthor has moved in on Gotham. This makes our heroes nervous and they decide to switch cities for a while, each going after his own arch nemesis. I actually liked the art again here, showing how out of place Batman is in Metropolis and Superman in Gotham. But Superman unable to deal with the Joker? Oh, please! The rationale for the switch was laughable.

I also quite enjoyed the character interactions but the plot line wasn’t always clear.
Overall, a bit uneven series.

One of the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer books, set in the first season.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 178
Publisher: Archway

Buffy is dreaming very detailed dreams about a previous Slayer, Samantha Kane. The dreams are set in 1692, in Salem during the start of the notorious witch trials. It feels like Buffy herself were in Kane’s body. Then is turns out that Giles and Xander are dreaming about the same time period but in different people. Giles is convinced that it isn’t a coincidence. At the same time, Giles’ old flame Lora comes to Sunnydale. She and her husband organize séances. One of the spirits have contacted them and warned them that Giles is in danger, so Lora and Rick have traveled to Sunnydale. Also, a news reporter, from a TV show dealing with all sorts of supernatural things, is targeting Buffy’s mother.

All of these elements had some promise and they could have been quite amusing. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t click with me and I felt that the writing was somewhat disjointed. The customary Buffy humor was also lacking. Also, the final fight was very public; it’s quite difficult to keep people from noticing a zombie army.

A quick read but unfortunately forgettable

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Narrator: Emily Bauer
Running Time: 11 hrs, 20 m

Verity Price comes from a long line of Prices, who are cryptozoologists. Originally, they had been part of the Covenant of St. George, a group of people who want to keep humanity safe from all of those things which go bump in the night. However, when grandfather Price realizes that not all of the non-humans are evil or even capable of threatening humans, he decided to leave. After that, the Covenant decided that the Prices are just as evil as any non-human, and the Prices are trying their best to keep to the shadows. They have managed to keep hidden from the Covenant and some of the cryptids even think that the Prices are an urban legend.

However, Verity doesn’t really want to live her life in the shadows. She loves ballroom dancing and wants to compete, even though that means that she will be in the public eye, however briefly. So she takes on a role and a wig, and starts to compete. Her family objects but don’t stop her. In order to compete, Verity moves to New York. In order to live in New York, she has to take a job. So, she’s a cocktail waitress in Dave’s Fish & Strips, which is a strip joint, owned by a bogeyman. And during the night, she runs through the roofs and protects humans from the more dangerous non-humans. She even compares herself to Batgirl.

Verity is an experienced monster hunter and she has been trained to do it pretty much from birth. She doesn’t have any special powers, though. She’s also the snarky first-person narrator. She’s very protective of her family and those cryptids who are harmless. Although I would have thought that killing 15 women isn’t harmless…

The book is full of non-humans: Aeslin mice, Ahools, Bogeyman, Ghouls, Madhura and others. All of them are given at least a short description and most of them have integrated somehow into the humans world. McGuire’s website has descriptions of them.

The book has also a lot of entertaining characters, such as the Aeslin mice. They live with Verity in her apartment and they worship her as their goddess, cheering pretty much anything she does. I also really liked Verity’s adopted cousin Sara who is a telepath. But the best characters for me were Verity’s family, her brother, sister, parents, grandparents, cousins… it’s so refreshing to read about a character who has a, a family and b, family who cares and supports her. Lovely!

Apparently inevitably, the book also has a romantic interest, Dominic DaLuca. He’s from the Covenant. Yep, he’s one of people who want to kill the Prices. Sorry, but I thought the way they met was a bit stupid and I guess the whole romance was the most predictable part of the book. However, I did warm up to him when I realized that he isn’t the stereotypical alpha male and after they team up, I really like the mentoring relationship Verity has with him. That’s right the woman is the more experienced monster hunter and isn’t afraid to point it out when ever it’s appropriate.

Overall, the book has far more good points than bad ones and was lots of fun.

Bauer’s perky, young voice is very nice for Verity but it’s a bit too much for the male characters.

Oh and it has lots and lots of fun, quotable lines:

“Cryptids like to live where humans don’t, but they also like to be close enough to steal cable.”

“Yeah, wow. I didn’t know people actually paused portentously in common conversation.”

“The Argentine tango isn’t here to play nicely with the other children. The Argentine tango is here to seduce your women, spill things on your rug, and sneak out your bedroom window in the middle of the night.”

“‘Telepaths have ethics?’ Dominic’s eyes narrowed, tone and posture united to convey his disbelief.
“My mother and I do,” said Sarah, letting her head settle against the back of the chair. “We mostly got them from Babylon 5, but they still work.”

“Mother Nature is a freaky lady who probably created pot just so she could spend all her time smoking it.”

Today, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life is Movies I’m Dying for in 2014.

I love superhero comics and I’ve been really impressed with Marvel’s movie line so:

1, X-Men: Days of the Future Past
I’m really, really hoping that this will live up to my expectations.

2, Captain America: Winter Soldier
The first Cap movie was a pleasant surprise so my expectations are pretty high with this one.

3, Guardians of the Galaxy
I have more mixed feeling about this one. Hopefully it will be as good as the other Marvel movies, though.

4, Hobbit: There and Back Again
More Smaug and Legolas? Yes, please!

5, Maleficent
A movie about Snow White’s evil step-mother? Could be fun.

A stand alone SF book. I have it as part of the Deep Beyond omnibus.

Publication year: 1985
Format: print
Page count: 208 in the omnibus
Publisher: Daw

The Cuckoo’s Egg is set in an alien world and the people who live there, the shonunin, look like lions. Duun is a shonun and belongs to a group called hatani; they seem to be a kind of jedi-like warriors and judges. However, they don’t own anything so they aren’t a ruling class.

In fact, Duun has been grievously hurt and his people can’t even bear to look at him. Still, he seems to have a very high status among them. He takes upon himself the task of raising and training an male alien almost from birth. He gives the hairless, clawless alien the name Thorn and trains him according to the best Hatani traditions. Essentially, he teaches the boy to become a warrior and not to ever trust anyone. We see glimpses of the political situation from time to time and more, of course, as Thorn grows.

This is again a tight book. There aren’t much descriptions and the reader has to infer pretty much everything from context.

Thorn is clearly an outsider just from the way that he looks and he wonders often about it when he’s growing up, but Duun never explains anything until the very end. However, Duun also raised Thorn as an outsider from shonunin culture; Thorn grows up on an isolated mountain and doesn’t meet other (shounin) people until he’s almost grown. Duun himself seems to also be an outsider but perhaps more by choice than birth.

Many times I felt sorry for poor Thorn who is thrust into to situation which seems quite cold and harsh both emotionally and physically. Sometimes I wondered if Thorn was even physically capable of the feats Duun demanded of him and surely in a human society Duun would have been accused of child abuse. But Duun doesn’t do it to be cruel but to prepare Thorn for what is to come.

However, I wasn’t really happy with the ending. I don’t think Thorn should have been able to do what was demanded of him based on just his genes.

I can’t believe it’s over!

I ended up reviewing 12 things, books, comics, and tv-shows. Just like our gracious host Carl, I fully intend to continue enjoying SF all through the year. Thanks, Carl, for an awesome event!

1, Battlestar Galactica: Season Zero Omnibus
2, Kage Baker: The Machine’s Child
3, J. G. Ballard: The Drowned World
4, Kage Baker: The Sons of Heaven
5, Battlestar Galactica: Cylon War Omnibus
6, Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination
7, Battlestar Galactica Complete Omnibus vol. 1
8, Ursula LeGuin: The Planet of Exile
9, C. S. Friedman: Black Sun Rising
10, Orphan Black: season 1
11, Stargate Universe: season 1
12, John Scalzi: The Android’s Dream