February 2019


Collecting the Siege prologue, Siege: The Cabal, Siege #1-4, and Avengers: The Way Things Are.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Lucio Parrillo, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Jim Cheung

This is what the Norman Osborn Avengers were headed towards: the final confrontation between them and the real Avengers. Let’s face it, we all knew that it would end like this.

Asgard has fallen to Earth and Osborn is increasingly paranoid about it. The cabal of supervillains he has gathered isn’t helping his paranoia. Rather, Loki is feeding it. After the Cabal has a falling out, Osborn contacts the President (of USA) and just tells him that Asgard is a security risk and must be destroyed. The President forbids him but Osborn leads his faux-Avengers, H. A. M. M. E. R. and the initiative against Asgard’s forces, anyway. They beat down Thor first on live TV. Of course, Cap and his allies come to battle it out.

Osborn’s biggest gun is the Sentry who shows his real dark side. Ares even turns against Osborn but Osborn commands Sentry to kill Ares. A few other characters are killed, too, but I’m not sure if any of them stay dead. Loki, at least, is back.

This is the end of Marvel’s grimmer age. The next stage is Heroic Age where the Avengers (and other teams) are reborn as more heroic characters. I’m not a fan of grim heroes and liked the lighter Heroic Age more.

The final story in this trade is set before the Siege. In it, ice giant Ymir had beaten Thor and New York is in danger of being buried under snow, in May. Spider-Man calls in the real Avengers but Osborn’s Avengers also show up. They and the real Avengers must team up to retrieve the Twilight Sword from the ice giants.

The Siege event itself doesn’t introduce the characters at all; the assumption is that the reader has been following the storyline and so knows at least most of them. But the final story somewhat introduces the central characters and the conflict between them so it was strange to but it at the back.

While the event has a lot of characters, it focuses on Osborn and to some extent Steve Rogers, which makes it clearer than many other events. Especially if you read the last story first, so that you get to know (or are reminded of) the characters a little first.

Overall, this was a good ending to the conflict with a hopeful future for the heroes.

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The first book in fantasy series the Dragon Seed.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 194

Benzel is a nine-year old boy who lives in the village of Heatherbloom with his family. When his pet rabbit runs away, Benzel chases it and then hears when the berserkers attacks the village. He hides, like his parents have taught him. His mother also told him that he should go to the neighboring village if something happens. Obediently, he walks to his aunt in the next village but the berserkers have destroyed it, too. The only one left alive is a toddler, a little girl, and together they travel to the next village where another aunt lives. There, they finally find sanctuary.

One berserker boy notices Benzel but leaves him alone because Benzel reminds the boy of his brother. Benzel doesn’t notice the boy or know that the boy saved his life.

12 years later Benzel and the girl, whom he named Snip, live with his uncle and aunt. However, Benzel wants revenge: he wants to kill all berserkers. When a wandering dragonslayer finds the body of a local merchant, Benzel takes his chance and goes with the dragonslayer to trade in the nearby port city in the hopes of finding information abut the berserkers. The only one who is able to tell him something is an alchemist. The alchemist summons… someone or something. And that presence makes an offer to Benzel. It will help Benzel murder all berserkers if Benzel will sacrifice his first-born child to it and return the worship of gods among the Northlanders. Young Benzel doesn’t want any children and so he agrees to the bargain. However, before he can go and search for the berserkers, he has other duties which will take some years.

In this culture dragons are considered animals but very dangerous. They’re big and their bite has poison which can’t be cured. That’s why dragonslayers patrol the villages and when one of them dies, another must be appointed and the training and selection takes time.

The berserkers are humans. They sail to villages killing everyone, raping the women and taking everything they can. However, they have become rarer in recent years.

The book also has a subplot set in another country which isn’t resolved here.

This is a story about life spent, or perhaps even wasted, on revenge. Benzel wants to kill every berserker alive but he can’t find them. Yet, his anger and hate doesn’t let him rest or give up on that goal. He abandons the sister he found and his other family for years to chase the berserkers. The story follows him from a child to middle-age but concentrates on a few specific events. In that way, the structure is a bit different than most fantasy books, which I found refreshing. However, sometimes we just hear about events that happened to him but don’t know the specifics. Also, revenge is a very common motive in heroic characters in fantasy but here the writer questions the validity of revenge which I also found very refreshing.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Top 5 Nostalgic Ships
— Discuss the first fictional couples you ever got butterflies over, or couples you used to be really into when you were younger.

These are my most nostalgic couples from comics:

1, Cutter and Leetah from Elfquest
The hotheaded young chief of the Wolfriders and his gentle healer lifemate, who is much older, sound like a cliche these days, but they’re excellent together.

2, Cyclops and Phoenix from X-Men
You know, before Scott lost his mind. The graphic novel ”The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix” where Jean and Scott are transported to a bleak future to raise Nathan together is exactly how I always think of them.

3, Reed and Susan Richards from Fantastic Four
Still going strong after all these years. Even though Reed sometimes keeps secrets from Susan, most of the time they support each other very well.

4, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker
Married Spider-Man worked really well for me.

5, Meggan and Brian Braddock from Claremont and Davis’ Excalibur
They had quite a rocky road but were often really great together.

A historical murder mystery set in the year 512.

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 96 including a small glossary and a short explanation about the times.

Argolicus, a former Roman magistrate, has returned home to a villa near a town called Squillace. His uncle Wiliarit, who is a monk, comes to see him and his mother. However, soon Wiliarit and Nikolaos, who is Argolicus’ tutor slave, come across a body at a nearby meadow. The body has a violet head injury and was murdered several days ago. Only a distinctive ring reveals that it is Argolicus’ former friend Lucas. Lucas and Argolicus were friends in childhood but Lucas’ father doesn’t like Argolicus and his family because he considers them heretics. So Bartholomaeus forbade the boys to see each other. However, Lucas’ death is a blow to Argolicus.

Argolicus tells Vibius Horatius Bartholomaeus that his son is dead. During the visit he realizes that Bartholomaeus will not answer any questions that Argolicus has. However, Lucas’ sister gives Argolicus a small note and says cryptically “They are lying.” Later, the sister reveals that when Lucas left, he took with him a jewel encased icon from the local bishop’s vault where it was held for safekeeping. The icon was technically his but Bartholomaeus was furious. Argolicus has a difficult investigation ahead, especially because the culture considers murder a family matter.

Slavery is still in full practice; the Churches and people own and use slaves.

The schism between the two families is about religion: today, Argolicus’ family is called Ostrogoth, Arian Christians. In the whole country Ostrogoth’s culture and religion is the one in power but in this part of the country the Trinitarians are in power. The characters talk a bit about this divide and we also get to see other fascinating cultural differences to modern times. And of course similarities as well.

This was a nice little mystery. This time the pool of suspects is quite small and Argolicus doesn’t have ready access to them, except Lucas’ sister who asks for his help.

Unfortunately, the book has some editing errors. Otherwise, it was quite an enjoyable read.

For about a day, you can join the Kickstarter project to fund a novel length Agrolicus mystery, the Grain Merchant.

Collects X-MEN: GOLD 1-6, X-MEN PRIME 1.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Jay Leisten, Craig Yeung, R. B. Silva, Adriano di Benedetto

After the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, the X-Men are back and in a big way. Their mansion was previous put into Limbo so that the students would be safe from humans and the Terrigen Mists. Now, the mansion is back, in Central Park. Kitty Pryde is the headmistress and she’s also the leader of the Gold team which has Old Man Logan, Prestige (Rachel Gray), Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm. Armor and Rockslide are the students whom Kitty lets join the team on occasion.

Lydia Nance is the director of the Heritage Initiative and she’s warning the States that mutants are a huge threat. She wants to protect the world from the threat that mutants are. She’s coaxing ordinary people into hating mutants just for existing. At the same time, Kitty’s team fights Terrax and the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. When the villains leave behind damaged property and lives, the X-Men are blamed.

The next story arch starts in issue 4 with Gambit. He has stolen a small glass globe for Olivia Trask, of course, just so that he knows what Trask is after. The globe contains nanites. Gambit tries to blow up Trask’s work and instead he manages to cut loose the nanites which bond with a next generation a sentinel. Which start to rampage through New York, killing not just mutants but everyone who has any kind of mutation, like color blindness. New York’s heroes unite against it while Rachel is searching deep inside her for strength to overpower it mentally.

In a subplot, someone is killing mutants with military grade ammo. Logan and Storm investigate.

I liked this volume which I’m pretty surprised to say. I’m an old X-Men fan. I’ve read Claremont’s long run with Storm evolving into the team leader. I remember Kitty as Sprite, then Ariel, and later Shadowcat and now without a codename. I’ve read Claremont’s and Alan Davis’ hilarious Excalibur with Kitty, Kurt, and Rachel (along with Meggan and Brian). I love these characters (except Old Man Logan). And yet, all I can say is that it was pretty nice. Nice throwback to the previous adventures. Nice to see a grown up Kitty heading the team and the school. We even got a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, with Pyro and Avalanche who are supposedly dead (so they’re probably clones or “just two guys without an original idea between them” as Kitty puts it).

Still, a good beginning to a new series with familiar characters. It ends with a severely wounded Colossus and some subplots unresolved. At the back of the collection there are six pages of history for the characters which was fun.

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