May 2019


The Triangle has 10 episodes, all available from The Triangle’s page at Serial Box.

Publisher: Serial Box 2019
Writers: Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.
Format: eARC

In the previous episode, our heroes found out that they’re definitely not alone on the mystery island. Marie St Claire is unhappy that they still haven’t got food or water or reliable shelter. She’s trying to get the others to build a shelter. But Tessa Dumont is focused on getting a signal out and getting help. She’s also worried that they others are starting to agree that they’re stuck when they don’t work on getting away. She has no interest in staying on the island. Her fears just increase when the little girl, Olivia, show them a pool with fresh water.

Someone has been leaving small food gifts to St. Claire. She tries to shadow the mysterious person who is doing that but instead of catching them, she stumbles upon a wealthy couple on a beached yacht. She sees that they the items which were stolen from the group’s boat and finds them suspicious in other ways. When the others hear about the couple, they want to barter their antenna back. But why were the items taken in the first place? Why are these people on the island? Can their boat leave, and if not why not?

While we get a few answers, this episode gives us even more questions. That’s not a complaint! Of course, I don’t expect us to get most of the answers until the last episode, if even then, depending on what happens then. Another fast-paced and engaging chapter which urges me to read more!

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Collects issues 1-5 and annual 1.

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Pascal Alixe

The original Jean Grey is back! (In Phoenix Resurrection which I have mixed feelings about.) And she’s not happy about the state of the world and especially about the relations between mutants and humans. So, she’s determined to change things for the better. But to do that, she needs a team of both old friends and she also recruits some new ones. And she wants to rescue as many mutant children from bigots as she can. I really liked that premise. It seems that mutants are even more hated and feared than almost ever before, even mutant children are attacked and some humans want to confine mutants to their own ghettos. It all has a very strong parallel to our own world, unfortunately.

The collection starts with the Annual where Jean is reacquainted with her old friends but also with bigotry when the X-Men are hanging out at the school which has been relocated to Central Park. Some of the humans don’t want to see mutants. Jean teaches one of them a lesson, but it’s not enough to her. She also confronts Black Lightning, the man who killed Scott.

The actual comic starts with a mix of old characters and new. Kurt, Namor, and eventually Storm and Gambit are the old characters. Jean talks with people, she even addresses the UN. Her plan is to make mutants a nation, so that when (other) nations discuss how to “deal with the mutant problem”, the mutants will have a say as well. However, when Jean’s framed for killing the UK ambassador to UN right in front of cameras at the steps of UN building, she and her team are on the run. They go to Wakanda and later to Atlantis.

This was, in a way, a return to X-Men’s roots: humans outright hating mutants, Jean and her team hunted for a misunderstanding, powerful enemies at every turn. It’s also more tied to modern day problems than space adventures. The master villain is Cassandra Nova. I was a bit disappointed that Rachel (Grey) was again going to be someone’s puppet. In this case, Nova’s.

The idea of mutant nation isn’t new, either. Jean mentions Genosha and Utopia which both ended badly. She’s also not an elected leader and some mutants are criminals, so I’m not sure which way Taylor is going to take the story (since the comic ended with vol 2, not very far).

Jean is one of my favorite characters, so I’m happy that she’s back. Kurt is another of my favorite X-Men, so it was great to see them working together. X-23 (or Wolverine) and her sister Honey Badger were also good additions and so is the Indian mutant Trinary. She has technology powers. The later additions of two of my other favorite X-Men Storm and Gambit were also great. I already have the second volume.

The first book in an urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2006
Format: print
Publisher: Roc
Page count: 341

Harper Blaine is a private investigator in Seattle. The book starts when her current client’s step-father attacks her and beats her very badly. She sees, hears, and smells things, people, and places which aren’t there. A doctor tells her that she had been dead for two minutes but brought back. He gives her the address of a couple of friends who might be able to help her. They are Ben and Mara Danziger.

When she’s released from the hospital, she tries to dive back to work, to pay the bills. She gets a missing person’s case through her lawyer contact and a strange sounding man contacts her on the phone, asking her to retrieve a missing heirloom, a parlor organ. But her office is also burgled.

But she still hears and sees strange things, so reluctantly she goes to meet the Danzigers. They tell her that because she died, she can now see, hear, and smell the Grey, as they call the misty, desperate place between life and death. The people she’s seen are mostly ghosts but can also be vampires or other paranormal creatures. Harper is called a Graywalker now. However, she refuses to believe it. But when people and stranger things attack her, she must at least know more to survive.

While this book came out in 2006, the tech level feels much older. Harper doesn’t have a cell phone, she uses a pager. Only one person in the book has a cell phone. Similarly, only one person uses a laptop others use desk top computers. I found this quite refreshing and it added to the overall atmosphere.

Harper is the book’s first-person narrator. In the first half of the book, Harper tries to reject the Grey and focuses on investigating her two cases. But in the second part, she dives into the vampire world of Seattle. She’s very down-to-earth woman and finding out that the paranormal is real is a shock to her so of course she resists at first. She owns a gun and must use it a couple of times but otherwise, she’s not great in battle. She’s also a loner; she doesn’t seem to have any friends or life outside her work. However, she has a pet ferret, Chaos. There are also two men who could be considered love interests but they don’t take over the book which was nice. Mostly, she actually does her job by investigating the cases she has.

I really enjoyed the Danzigers. Ben is a part-time teacher at the local university and a magic theorist. His wife Mara is a witch. They try to help Harper but their own experiences with the Grey are limited and they aren’t right all the time. Ben has a tendency to lecture and they both are sources of info-dumps but I found them quite interesting. Mara is the more practical person. Apparently her Irish accent is not Irish at all.

The vampires aren’t alluring in this book. They’re inhuman monsters. They probably have some powers to enchant humans but Harper can see what they really are. That adds to the atmosphere which isn’t horror but leans toward that more than most UF.

I quite liked the story and the characters. Its world-building is interestingly different. However, some of things were left open at the end, such as why Harper was such a special case. Surely, she can’t be the only person who has been dead for a few minutes but brought back. Yet, that was the only explanation for her abilities and why some characters are interested in her.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Top 5 SFF BFFs
— Discuss your favorite friends in Scifi and Fantasy, or characters you’d be BFFs with.

Even though a lot of main characters are loners (especially in fantasy) and romances tend to take the center stage, fantasy and SF have some great friendships, too. Because May is the Wyrd and Wonder month, I’m going to my favorite friendships just in fantasy:

1, Sam and Frodo by Tolkien
An obvious choice but they go through so much together. Tolkien has some other great male friendships as well: Merry and Pippin and of course Legolas and Gimli.

2, Shara Thivani and Sigrud by Robert Jackson Bennett
Shara and Sigurd are both spies, essentially. Shara has essentially rescued Sigurd and he’s very loyal to her and she to him. I think of them as fantasy’s Modesty Blaise and Willie Garwin; very close and loyal friends but not lovers.

3, Loch and Kail by Patrick Weekes
Loch and Kail are former soldiers and now they’re conmen and thieves. They’re gathering a group for a heist job to get back Loch’s property which was stolen while she was in jail.

4, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by Fritz Leiber
Fafhrd is a tall fighter from the frozen North while the Grey Mouser is short and nimble fingered Southerner with some magical skills. However, they’re united by their thirst for wealth and for adventure. They’re also great friends.

5, Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, and Rupert Giles
I just can’t end a list of fantasy friendships without the original four from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Triangle has 10 episodes, all available from The Triangle’s page at Serial Box.

Publisher: Serial Box 2019
Writers: Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.
Format: eARC

At the end of the previous episode, our intrepid heroes found something amazing: an old Soviet nuclear submarine and a city which seemed to glow golden. They decide to investigate the city first. The buildings seem to be made of metal but they can force one door open. Most of them are disappointed when they find just an old laboratory. However, Tessa Dumont stays to read the old notebooks which seems to date from the 60s to find out more about the mysterious island. Michael Hammond stays with her while the others want to explore the submarine despite vice admiral Segarra’s warning that the nuclear drive could be damaged. However, they’re soon captured and make a remarkable discovery: the submarine’s crew is mostly young and very much alive. Their captain insists that he’s not part of any faction but also says that he and his crew serve the Soviet Union. It fell 28 years ago and most of the soldiers look far too young to have been part of it. How and why has the submarine come there? It seems that they’ve been on the island a while, definitely more than a few months. Why haven’t they left?

This chapter adds more questions. While conspiracy theorist McBride is part of the group who is captured by the soldiers, he knows to keep quiet and not start trading conspiracy theories with the soviet captain. So the chapter has less humor than the earlier chapters. I was a bit disappointed with how the golden city was down played; the submarine was explored far more. No doubt the city will be explored more in the upcoming chapters.

But the plot continues to be fast-paced with unexpected twists and the characters are interesting. I think the sub has traveled through time or perhaps the island exists on another time. However, the laboratory seems to have been unused for a long time so that seems to be a strike against time travel.

Can the submarine leave? And will the soviet captain take the group with him? How is it possible that such an island isn’t in the charts? Are all who have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle here? If so, why can’t they leave? Because if they could, surely someone would have left by now. Or maybe the other missing people, including a whole US battleship, are somewhere else? I can’t wait to find out.

Collects: Avengers (1963) 124-125, 129-135, Captain Marvel (1968) 33, Giant-sized Avengers 2-4, Avengers: Celestial Quest 1-8.

Writer: Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas
Artists: Bob Brown, Don Heck, John Buscema, Dave Cockrum, Joe Staton, Joe Giella, John Tartag, Jorge Santamaria, Scott Hanna

This huge collection has Avengers from 1960s and the Celestial Quest which came out 2001.

However, it’s quite a bit disjointed at the start. The collection starts not Mantis’ first appearance but the first version of her backstory. A criminal which the Avengers have just arrested, Libra of the Zodiac, claims that he’s Mantis’ father. But Mantis has no memory of him and doesn’t believe his wild story. However, Swordsman believes him and even though the Swordsman is wounded, he takes a quinjet and heads to Saigon to confront the man who killed Mantis’ (Vietnamese) mother, a crime boss the Swordsman worked for before. The Avengers follow him and find him defeated. The Avengers fight against a monster from the stars. When they return to the mansion, they’re drawn into an epic space fight against Thanos’ forces. These issues also establish that Swordsman loves Mantis but she doesn’t love him, that the Vision loves Wanda and she loves him but Mantis wants the Vision because Mantis wants someone more powerful that the Swordsman (who apparently doesn’t have any powers).

The Celestial Madonna story starts when a large star appears over the Avengers Mansion. Kang the Conqueror appears and claims that the star announces that the Celestial Madonna has come and since the Madonna will give birth to “the one” and her mate will be the most powerful man on Earth, Kang is determined to take the Madonna for himself. There are three women inside the mansion: Wanda, Mantis, and Wanda’s mentor Agatha Harkness. So, after defeating the male Avengers, Kang kidnaps all three women so that he can find out which one of them is the Madonna and he also takes the Vision, Iron Man, and Thor to power his robotic minions. The Swordsman he scornfully leaves behind but Harkness guides the Swordsman to where the women are kept prisoner. While he can’t free them, he meets with the most important ally the Avengers will have, time-traveling Pharaoh Rama-Tut. The Swordsman, time-traveling Rama-Tut, and Hawkeye go after Kang.

The Avengers are rescued but the Swordsman is killed. When he lies bleeding to death Mantis apologizes to him the way that she’s been treating him and confesses that she does love him. The Avengers and Mantis return the Swordsman’s body to the garden of Priests of Pama and then she returns to Saigon where she thinks she grew up, on the streets. Thor, Hawkeye, the Vision, Iron Man, and Thor accompany her. However, things aren’t as she remembers. Eventually, Kang and Immortus kidnap the male Avengers and Mantis again, this time to to fight against the Legion of Unliving in Immortus’ Limbo.

The story reveals the first version of the Vision’s past but, perhaps more importantly because they aren’t retconned as much, also the past of the Kree and the beginning of the Kree-Skrull war, alongside with the story of the Celestial Madonna which is actually very small part of the story. In fact, even the story titled “the Origin of Mantis” isn’t. It continues the origin story of the priests of Pama and the sentient plant the Cotati, and the Vision.

The final eight issues are the Celestial Quest where Mantis has left her son with his father on the planet of the sentient plants the Cotati, and returned to Earth. Except that she has been split into several incarnations of herself (the freak, the mother, the prostitute, the priestess, and the avenger). When Thanos kills each incarnation, the remaining Mantises become more and more aware of herself until the next to last one is able to call to the Vision for help. The current Avengers (the Vision, the Scarlet Witch (who have broken up), Thor, and Silverclaw) along with the Squadron Supreme’s Haywire (who is grieving his girlfriend Inertia and is only with the other heroes because he thinks he’ll have chance to get her back by appealing to Death herself) accompany Mantis to the Cotati’s home planet to save her son Quoi from Thanos. On the way there, Mantis and Vision get together and Silverclaw develops feelings for Haywire. They also tangle with some reptilian space pirates whom later become Thanos’ minions, except for the only female pirate who eventually starts a romantic relationship with Quoi. Unfortunately, Quoi is rebellious a teenager who resents Mantis for abandoning him and he refuses to listen to her.

I rather enjoyed the older comics more, especially the middle part with the huge fights with Kang. Although Kang does come across as far more bluster than bite, he’s still one of my favorite Avengers villains. However, I really didn’t care for the odd “romances” which were straight out of E. R. Burroughs: the woman (both Wanda and Mantis) gets upset with her man (Vision and the Swordsman, respectively) and she’s cold towards him until he rescues her (or a revelation is made in case of Mantis) and then suddenly they marry. In fact, Wanda is only in a couple of the older comics because she’s learning witchcraft from Harkness and stays behind. She and Mantis constantly snipe at each other.

Mantis is a very different character from the movies. I’m not sure if Englehart wrote her deliberately as such an unlikable female character. If so, my hat’s off to him. Mantis a “mistress of the martial arts” and even defeated Thor with her skills. However, she doesn’t appear to have any superpowers except for some vague empathy. She’s a fearless fighter. But romantically she’s very capricious, turning her affections from the Swordsman to the Vision whom she knows is in love with Wanda. Mantis later explains that she wanted a super-powered man and that she felt close to the Vision because they were both lonely and felt that they weren’t really part of humanity. I don’t know if she tried to flirt with Iron Man or Thor but it seems a bit strange that since they’re both single, she wouldn’t try. (Of course, they both have their own comics and she wouldn’t appear in them, that’s probably the real reason.)

Interestingly enough, we find that Mantis is linked to another unlikable female character, Moondragon.

I was less happy with the Celestial Quest. Mantis’ son especially grated on my nerves. He speaks strangely and is far too much a grumpy, self-absorbed teenager to be a fun character.

The second book in the alternate history Lady Astronaut duology.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 384 including the historical note and bibliography

This book starts a couple of years after the end of the previous book, Calculating Stars. It’s 1961 and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a moon base where astronauts go regularly, they have Lunette on orbit, and planning the first manned Mars mission. However, the space program has still many obstacles. One of them is funding. While the most radical people on the Earth First movement are considered terrorists, their sentiments are echoed by a lot of powerful people. Elma is one of the pilots ferrying people around on the Moon. Unfortunately, she’s parted from her beloved husband for months at a time while she’s on the Moon.

Elma is again the first-person POV narrator and the Mars mission is the center of the book. Once again, Elma and the other women (especially the non-white women) must fight for their places. Even then, Elma and the other women are mostly seen as a good publicity stunt. However, without modern computer technology, all the computing has to be done by hand and all the computers are women. They do have some mechanical computers but everything must be keyed in by hand so they’re actually slower than a human computer.

Sexism and racism are again addressed and shown. South Africa is a large economic contributor to the IAC and their astronauts are very racist. Elma must also confront her own privileges. Most of the characters from the first book return and we get more insight to some of them. There are a couple of things I had a problem with but they would be considered spoilers.

Also, this isn’t glamourous or easy space travel, but more realistic

Over all, this was a great continuation of the duology and I enjoyed it just as much as the first book. Definitely read the Calculating Stars first.

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