June 2017


Collects Captain Marvel 1-5 (2016).

Writer: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Artists: Kris Anka, Felipe Smith

Marvel is clearly concentrating more on Carol and I’m happy about it. Carol’s life after Secret Wars continues as high-profile as before, but this time in space!

Alpha Flight is now serving aboard Alpha Flight space station and Carol has been asked to command the station. She was (mostly) happy to take a two-year assignment. She thinks that the job is mostly going to be a desk job. But she’s wrong: immediately she has to start being a diplomat and a combat leader. The diplomat role she’s happy to hand to Agent Abigail Brand while she leads the Alpha Flight into a battle against a mysterious space ship – which carries Carol’s Hala star. When Carol leads a small group to investigate the ship, it turns out to be organic. And that’s when the troubles start.

I’ve no idea why the Alpha Flight has become a space organization, or rather a part of it. Sasquatch, Puck, and Aurora are the only members left and none of them have powers usable in space. Instead, they use small space fighters. I also really enjoyed a new character Wendy Kawasaki who is the lead scientist on the station and she thinks her commander and job are very cool. Agent Brand I’m less thrilled about but she is a formidable character and of course we need someone to bring in friction, jump to conclusions, and challenge Carol all the time.

This is basically Star Trek: DS9 with superheroes. And for me, that a good thing! Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like was that Carol’s powers started to diminish. It’s such an old plot device and more often used on female characters. But hopefully that’s now done and we’ll see other adventures. The space station is Earth’s first line of defense against threats from space so there’s no shortage of possible plots.

The sequel to Indexing.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 18 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

Henrietta “Henry” Marchen and her team continue their fight against story lines who encroach on people’s lives. This story continues right after the ending of “Indexing” so Henry is in some hot water with the ATI Management Bureau with the things she had to do in “Indexing”. But when their previous foe escapes from the Bureau’s supposedly secure prison, the team has to be ready again. However, Henry’s unorthodox strategy means that a new character joins the team: Sierra who is Bluebeard’s wife and has a few peculiar abilities. The team isn’t thrilled.

Most of the book is narrated by Henry in first person but a couple of chapters are from Sloane’s point-of-view in third person. We also get to know Sloane’ backstory and see more about Henry’s and her brother’s relationship. McGuire also digs deep into the Snow White story. We get a few new stories, such as “the House that Jack built” but mostly we revisit most of the ones in the first book, such as “Cinderella”, “Snow White”, and “Hansel and Gretel”.

This was a great continuation to Indexing but you need to read the first book first.

The first book in a sci-fi series.

Publication year: 2008
Format: print
Page count: 350
Publisher: Tor

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s the book of the month for the Space Opera Fans group in GoodReads.

The January Dancer begins with a frame story: a nameless female harper in the Bar talks with a scarred man who tells her the story of the Dancer or Twisting Stone. They are on Jehovah, a planet which seems to be populated by religious humans who are against liquor but allow this one Bar to exist.

The Dancer is an artefact made by prehuman aliens (supposedly). We follow Amos January and his crew when they find the Dancer and three other prehuman objects. The others can’t be moved but January takes the Dancer. It seems that death and destruction follows the object because soon everyone wants it.

But January doesn’t have it anymore. He traded it to New Eireann’s planetary manager in exchange for repairs and promise of a percentage from future sale of the object to the director of the Interstellar Cargo Company. January and his crew are seen a couple of more times but we actually follow other characters.

Little Hugh O’Carroll is a former rebel leader, or the leader of the actual planetary government, depending on your point of view. But he’s in exile, at least until a mysterious figure calling himself the Fundir offers Hugh a chance to get his planet, the New Eireann, back without bloodshed. The Fundir is apparently an agent of much more powerful people.

The other POV characters are servants of na Fir Li. They are sort of policemen. One of them is an expert in moving without being seen and the other is the only woman POV character. She’s drop-dead gorgeous and uses sex as a weapon, leaving broken hearts in her wake (eye roll). Their boss sends them out for other jobs but they are drawn to the Dancer.

The setting is far into the future. Humanity has spread into the stars. The biggest powers currently are Confederation of Central Worlds and the United League of the Periphery. Something has happened to old Earth and a group of people, called the Terrans, want to return to it but can’t. They live in slums (called the Terran Corners) and the others look down on them. Also, apparently people don’t invent new technology anymore. Newton and Einstein are gods and science is religion.

Other human groups seem to be based on cultures from India and old Celts. Some of the cultural stuff I rather enjoyed and I would have want to know more about the setting and the prehumans. Unfortunately, the characters didn’t grab me at all and the plot felt needlessly complicated. Also, there are heavy infodumps when introducing Hugh and later the interstellar police. But on the other hand, some stuff is left (I suspect intentionally but frustratingly) unclear. And the characters speak in a variety of pidgin English. While most of it was clear, some of it was pretty hard to understand.

Interesting ideas and structure but it just didn’t fully work for me.

Today, the topic for Top Ten Tuesdays is All About Dads.

There are plenty of horrible or absent fathers in media, so I decided to concentrate on the good dads:

Aral Vorkosigan by Lois McMaster Bujold
When Miles was little, Aral was the Regent of a whole planet so he had his hands full. Still, he apparently made time for little Miles. He also parented both Ivan and the young Emperor Gregor.

Cutter (and quite a few of the other Elfquest elves)
Since Elfquest follows the characters for hundreds of years most of them will become parents at some point. The elves are good parents: teaching and protecting the kids but also letting them learn themselves.

Jonathan Kent from DC comics
Martha and Johnathan Kent are the reason we have a Superman.

Ben Parker from DC comics
May and Ben raised Peter to believe that with great power comes great responsibility.

From tv:
Ruper Giles (Buffy)
We only see Buffy’s biological father a couple of times because he’s divorced and lives in another city. But Giles is the real father figure in Buffy’s life.

Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space 9)
Sisko and his son Jake go through some pretty terrible times in the show but also good times.

Rick Castle (Castle)
Rick and Alexis’ relationship is reversed from the way fathers and daughters usually behave. Alexis is the responsible, reliable one while Rick is the one who has strange adventures, plays poker, and stays out all night. They clearly love and support each other and I love their shared geekiness.

Jack Bristow (Alias)
Jack also supports her daughter, especially because they both work as spies and in the same organization. But sometimes he lies and keeps secrets from her.

Walter Bishop (Fringe)
Despite being a, well, not quite right in his mind, Walter, too, loves and supports his son.

Part of Marvel’s Secret Wars event. Collects Guardians of Knowhere 1-4 and New Avengers: Illuminati 3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato, Jim Cheun, Mark Morales

Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Lady Gamora are the Guardians of Knowhere, the giant Celestial head floating in space. However, Gamora has now cosmic powers and cosmic knowledge so she’s a heretic: she doesn’t believe that Doom is God Emperor. Also, she doesn’t stay on her own Warzone but travels to others, looking for Thanos and Quill (who aren’t supposed to exist in this world). So, Angela is now part of the Thor corps and she’s looking for Gamora to arrest her for heresy. While Angela and Drax are fighting, Yatot comes along and starts a fight with Drax, wanting to become the local crime boss.

Who’s Yatot? His backstory is told in the second issue. Also, the Nova Corps so up. In addition to Nova, they have Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, Venom, and Iron Man. Also, a giant blue woman appears and battles the Guardians and the Nova corps. Who is she? Apparently Kree. Nothing else is told about her.

Characters hit each other. A lot. The end. I think the biggest draw to this series is supposed to be that Gamora is apparently naked most of the time. There was some set up at the end, but er… the Guardians didn’t make it to the main series. Or at least I don’t remember what they did.

I have no idea why one issue of New Avengers: Illuminati is included. Maybe because Xavier was wrong. Because in this issue, he claims that the Beyonder is a mutant Inhuman. But Doom battled many Beyonders who wanted to destroy the whole universe. Clearly, they weren’t mutant Inhumans.

I was really curious to read this one because I play Marvel’s Legendary deck-building game and these Guardians are one of the villain groups from the Secret Wars expansion. Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

The first book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms fantasy series. Each seems to be a separate story with different characters.

Publication year: 2004
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 59 minutes
Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Elena Klovis’ mother died some years ago and her father married a woman who already had two daughters. When Elena’s father died, her stepmother took over the household and promptly made her stepdaughter a servant. Elena was forced to become a maid, a cook, and a cleaner while her stepmother refused her even a pair of shoes. Her stepsisters only made her more miserable. Her only friends were the two older women living next door; they help her when they can. The others in the town call her Ella Cinders.

Elena waited for a prince, or any man, to take her away. But the current prince is only eleven years old, and other men are not interested in her. And Elena’s 21st birthday went by without a prince in sight. The story starts when the stepmother and her daughters are leaving. They are heavily in debt and take everything they can from Elena’s home, leaving her behind destitute.

And Elena concocts a plan: she will sell herself as a servant to anyone (kind) who will take her. But nobody wants to cross her stepmother so nobody will hire here. But then a strange woman asks for her services. She turns out to be Madam Bella, her Fairy Godmother. Bella is the Godmother to whole kingdoms, too, so she has a lot on her plate. But she has been following Elena’s life and thinks that Elena will be a capable apprentice and eventually a Godmother on her own. Elena is used to hard work which is good because she will have her work cut out for her, even though it’s different sort of work than before. As she grows more accustomed to fairy servants, flying horses, and all sorts of magic, the only thing still bothering her is that there isn’t a Tradition for a Godmother having a consort. Will she have to be alone all her life?

This was a fun read! I haven’t read Mercedes Lackey before, but I’ve of course heard of her. I didn’t know quite what to expect but thankfully I liked this book quite a lot. It’s a Luna imprint so there’s a romance and couple of sex scenes, too, but they’re later in the book. This sort of romance, where we get to really know the characters well first, suits me much better than an ordinary romance book.

The first half we spend with Elena and learning about the Tradition, which is the power of fairy tales. The Tradition steers appropriate people into traditional (heh) storylines but sometimes something goes wrong. Elena was supposed to be Cinderella but her prince is too young for his role so magic just built around her without any place to go. If Bella had not rescued Elena, she could have become an evil sorceress. (Although I doubt it: Elena is too good-natured for that. But perhaps if she had grown bitter later.)

I really enjoyed the Tradition and the various side characters, such as Madame Arachnia. The unicorns were a lot of fun, too, and the various fairy characters. Elena is also in charge of testing Questers and rewarding the kind knights and teaching a lesson to the arrogant and cruel. If only we could have something like that in the real world!

Gerda Zackman was a great narrator and captured Elena well.

It seems that each book in this series has a different main character. I’ll certainly try the next one which is apparently based on Saint George and the dragon.

Collects issues 158-167 of Avengers vol. 1.

Writers: Jim Shooter,
Artists: Sal Buscema, Pablo Marcos, George Perez, John Byrne, G. Tuska
Publisher: Marvel

These are Jim Shooter’s old Avengers tales, first published in 1977. The longest story arch lasts for three issues but there are subplots which are present in most issues, namely the Beast feeling superfluous in a team which has many stronger characters, like Thor, Vision, and Wonder Man, as well as all-around geniuses like Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Also Wonder Man constantly doubts himself and Hawkeye is helping Two-Gun Kid to adjust to the 1970s. The Kid comes from 1873.

The core team consists of Iron Man, Wonder Man, the Beast, Vision, Captain America, and Scarlet Witch, but other members come and go, as well.

The collection starts with the Vision attacking Wonder Man in a rage of jealousy. Strangely enough, the Vision constantly calls himself an emotionless machine but when he sees Wonder Man aiding Wanda, when she’s dizzy after a battle, the Vision attacks. Iron Man interferes to stop the fight. This issue also introduces a very powerful new foe, Graviton, who imprisons the core team plus the Wasp and Yellowjacket. It takes Thor and the Black Panther to free the others and defeat Graviton.

The characters don’t really have any breathers. Only hours after defeating Graviton, the Grim Reaper returns. He wants to know if Wonder Man or the Vision is the real Simon Williams, the Grim Reaper’s brother. Then Ant Man attacks with his army of ants which are too quick for even Iron Man to evade. The Wasp returns and explains that Hank has lost his memory and soon Ultron tricks Hank into helping him transfer Janet’s mind to a woman made of metal.

The Avengers also face the Lethal Legion and Graviton again. In the final issue, they inspect a huge space constructs which is heading towards S.H.I.E.L.D.’s orbiting space station. The collection ends is a cliffhanger leading to the Korvac saga.

Even though the issues have a lot of battles and excitement, there are also long plotlines brewing. In addition to the three I mentioned above, there’s a mysterious old man who thinks he’s Wanda and Pietro’s father. Currently, the twins think that the old hero Whizzer is their father and that their last name is Frank. Also, Iron Man and Thor have their own adventures in their own magazines so they’re away a lot. Since Iron Man is supposed to be the leader Cap and even Wanda tell him to do a better job. Also, Iron Man’s identity is secret; not even the other Avengers know that he’s Tony, so it’s difficult for him to explain his absences.

Many issues which originated here have longer ramifications. Hank Pym’s phycological problems for example and the Vision/Wonder Man rivalry and brotherhood lasted for a long time).

On the other hand, Shooter seems to rely on Thor coming in at the nick of time to save the others so many times, that even the characters comment on it and he devoloped a mysterious force which whisked Thor away and back to the Avengers when they most needed him. While the Wasp and Wanda are pretty underused, only Wasp is kidnapped once; and the whole team is beaten a couple of times. Also, only two issues actually have Ultron…

Still, it’s a fun read and a blast from the 70s.

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