January 2021


Collects issues 1-8, published in 1989.

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Writer and artist: John Byrne
Publisher: Marvel

In an effort to cut down stress from (yet another) lockdown, I’m reading my old favorite comics. She-Hulk is a fun character and I’ve always appreciated that she’s not a broody or angsty. Byrne is one of my favorite comics creators so their union was lots of fun. Of course, he wrote Jen in Fantastic Four before starting this comic. This is a very 80s comic with lots of explaining the panels which I think are very clear, anyway. While Jennifer doesn’t have a constant cleavage, like the Black Cat or the Black Widow, she does spend time in her underwear, although not in every issue. But she’s also strong and awesome

These are stand-alone issues with one weird two-parter and continuing subplots. Also, Jen knows that she’s in a comic book and she speaks directly to readers and to Byrne. This was the first time I read a comic like that, so it made a big impression. This is mostly a fun comic with lots of jokes and humor. While many of the characters are from other comics (meaning they weren’t created to be funny) Byrne throws in some off-the wall original characters, too. (Doctor Bong, I’m looking at you… and laughing.)

In the first issue, Jen is in a circus and is hypnotized by the Ringmaster. She tells us her origin story and we also get a subplot of one of the weirdest Marvel enemies ever, the Headmen.

In the second issue, the Toadmen attack New York and the Headmen kidnap Jen.

In the third issue, the Headmen control the She-Hulk’s headless body! And make it attack Spider-Man!

In the next issue, Jen gets a new job as assistant DA and meets her gorgeous new employer… only to find out that he’s happily married. The Stilt-Man is after her new employer, so Jen must stop him. She also gets a new sidekick, who used to be the Blonde Phantom when she was younger. Brilliant stuff about aging characters.

In the fifth issue, we meet Doctor Bong!

In the sixth and seventh issue, NASA’s new FTL rocket is stolen and Jen hitches a ride to the stars. This is apparently a follow up story to some other comic but it’s still entertaining and wacky. Briefly guest starring Mr. Fantastic.

In the final issue, Jen gets her first legal case, trying to find some solid evidence to put a serial killer behind the bars. We also meet possibly the world’s strangest PI… who knows who is naughty and nice.

This wasn’t as hysterically funny now as when I read them years ago. Sadly, She-Hulk wasn’t published in Finland and this is the only collection I got my hands on. But now, thanks to Marvel Unlimited I will continue reading and I finally find out just who is that mysterious bald man who wants to get Jen because she’s the only one strong enough to defeat his arch enemy. He’s called Mister L and he drives in a large limo.

I thoroughly enjoyed this walk down the memory lane. Younger readers would probably be less enchanted with this 80s style.

Collects two Black Widow miniseries: Itsy-Bitsy Spider 1-3 from 1999 and Breakdown 1-3 from 2001.

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Writers: Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka
Artists: J. G. Jones, Scott Hampton
Publisher: Marvel

These stories have some connecting points but they’re very different in both plotting and art.

The first miniseries is drawn in a very conventional 1990s superhero style with skintight constumes and lots of ass and tit shots.

Both US and Russia send Natasha to Rhapastan to locate and destroy a deadly gas that first makes its victims murderous and then ages them until they die. The big complication is young Yelena Belowa who is willing graduated from the ”Red Room”. She’s a patriotic Russian and wants to become the real Black Widow, by killing Natasha, of course. Natasha is concerned with keeping the young woman alive and showing her the error of the ways while making sure nobody will get the gas.

In this timeline, Nat is in her fifties but the super soldier serum keeps her young. She’s dating Daredevil who appears in the story.

The second story isn’t a typic superhero story and the art is also very different with almost watercolor like colors.

Nat decides to make it brutally clear to Yelena just what a life as a spy means. To do that, Nick Fury helps her. In a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, doctors make Nat look like Yelena and Yelena look like Nat. Shield also helps put Yelena to Nat’s life. Yelena quickly becomes very confused. Nat also does some spy stuff, too.

This was very unusual story, in the spirit of the Face/Off movie.

This gives a rather strange view of Natasha. It’s an OK collection but very clearly made in 1990s.

Collects issues 6-10 from Black Cat and Annual 2019.

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Writer: Jed Mackay
Artists: Mike Dowling, Travel Foreman, Kris Anka, Joey Vasquez, Natasha Bustos, Juan Gedeon

The collection starts with Felicia going on a date with Batroc. She’s having a good time, especially when they do a bit of burglering, too. But her mentor the Black Fox is having a terrible night because he’s fighting ninjas from the NYC Thieves guild. And the thieves capture him and bring him to their leader, Odessa Drake, who hates both the Fox and the Cat.

In the next issue, and with a startlingly different art, Felicia attacks the various guild outposts, trying to beat the Fox’s location out of the ninjas. Meanwhile, the Fox and Odessa have a heart-to-heart talk about their mutual past and about why Odessa hates him and Felicia. Felicia manages to rescue her mentor but Odessa declares war between them.

In the next issue, Felicia and the Beetle hit Rand Tower. Yes, it’s the Iron Fist versus the Black Cat. Sort of. Felicia also tries to persuade her mom to leave New York, which isn’t easy. We get to know a bit more about her family.

In the next two issues, Felicia, Doc Korpse, and Bruno go to Madripoor! Partly it’s to let Odessa cool down a little but also because the team must steal a painting from someone called Mr. Patch. Felicia doesn’t know who he is but us loyal X-Men fans do, of course. Felicia gets a couple of surprises. First of course when she finds out who Patch is and because when she breaks inside, he has already been cleaned out. So, the guest star and Felicia team up to get Patch’s stuff back.

In the annual Spider-Man and the Black Cat get married! Of course it’s also a heist. They want to break in to Maggia’s centuries old treasure trove and use a weird mobster ritual to get there.

This was a lot of fun. While the guest stars weren’t as interesting as in the first collection, they worked well with Felicia.

A short story collection about spies of some sorts.

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Publication year: 2019
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 284

This Fiction River focuses on spies. They are set in modern or historical times, a few I think are alternate history. The only fantasy story is about mice and a cat. A couple are near future stories.

Most have a spy main character but in the other stories, the main character is close to a spy. Most are serious tales but a couple are just funny and fun.

“Spy in the Sky” by Tonya D. Price: Set in Cuba in 1960s, Roberto MacAllister is a very bright young man but he’s also the son of a traitor. His dream is to escape to the US and work with rockets. Instead, he catches the eye of a prominet Russian scientist.


“Meeting at the Rise and Shine” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Susan is very worried about what the actor-turned president Reagan is doing. Worried enough that she’s agreed to meet with a reporter, carrying secret documents with her. But is she doing the righ thing, after all?


“Highpoint” by Michael Kingswood: Jeremy analyzes satellite images, specifically nuclear sites in North Korea. One day, the images are missing.


“Through the Eyes of a Dog” by Angela Penrose: Shawn loves dogs and when a dog-loving billionare couple wants a dog trainer, he’s more than happy to apply for the job. But he has another motive, too.

“Cat and Mice” by Jamie McNabb: Lionel the orange cat has started to eat a mouse one a week. The mice decide to do something about him.


“Our Man in Basingstoke” by Sabrina Chase: This was a fun story about an older British man who offered his manor house to the war effort during WWII. He didn’t expect what the War Office would require him to do.

“Night Flight” by Jonathan Kort: Marcel is a Jew living in occupied France during WWII. He and his fellow Jews are trying to survive and perhaps do something better.


“End of the Line” by David H. Hendrickson: Ferguson is getting older and getting the shittier assigments. But this is a new low. He needs to go to a retirement home and talk with an old friend, an old spy, and see if he still has his wits about him. If not… well, the Unit can’t let him talk about anything really secret.

“The Florentine Exchange” by Dayle A. Dermatis: This exciting story has two women spies. Antonia is an experienced spy and she’s been ordered to train fastidious Libby. When Antonia’s ankle is twisted, Libby must take Antonia’s place at an embassy ball where she must give a thumbdrive to another spy. But on her way to the ball, Libby realizes she has two thumbdrives. Antonia is up to no good.


“The Message” by C.A. Rowland: This story is set during US Civil War. Sissie is a slave in the household of Miss Antonia. When the Union soldiers bang on their door, Miss Antonia orders Sissie to help hide letters.

“Not What You’d Expect” by Leah Cutter: The narrator in this story isn’t a spy herself. But she gets to know one, Patty, at their yoga class. When Patty needs someone to go with her to a conference to spy on her company’s competitors, it sounds like fun.

“Turkish Coffee” by Johanna Rothman: Mira was born in Virginia but she loves Jaffa. And now she works there. Her job is to discover people’s secrets. She and her parner need to find out who is trying to infiltrate reasearch nuclear reactors.


“The Path” by David Stier: Aisha and her brother Ebrahim escaped from Afghanistan to US. Their whole other family is dead. Ebrahim hates the infidels and tries to force Aisha to live in the same way as she did in Afghanistan. But Aisha wants to succeed and goes to English classes in secret.


“Trafficking Stops” by Lisa Silverthorne: Sawyer Smith because a victim of trafficking she was fourteen. She managed to escape and is now doing her very best to stop the horrible people who sell teenagers and children. But now she’s working with a partner she doesn’t know.


“The Spy Who Walked into the Cold” by Ron Collins: Set in 1969 Chicago. Carl is a former Green Beret suffering from PTSD because of Vietnam war. Now, he’s a rookie FBI agent and working with a man who is spying on the Black Panthers. That makes him very uneasy.

This was the most down-to-earth Fiction River volume I’ve read so far. I love spy stories and these are very good ones. There’s also a lot of variety because a number of them are forced by circumstances to spy on others rather than being professional spies. Now I’d love to see a volume of fantasy and/or science fiction spies!

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have another great Kickstarter project:
Colliding Worlds volumes 1-5.

It’s five volumes of science fiction short stories from Rusch and Smith. The stories cover just about every nook and cranny of the science fiction genre. From time travel to space opera to social science fiction. From hard science to parallel worlds to alien invasion. From historical to near future to far future worlds.

100 science fiction short stories from two of the best science fiction writers of our time.

It’s already funded and reached the third stretch goal. 12 days to go.

The stretch goals have more books: Fiction River Presents: Time Travelers, Killer Advice from Rusch, Laying the Music to Rest by Smith, and Life is a dream by Smith. For writers, there are Classic Workshops in the stretch goals and two SF Workshops in the pledges.

Collects issues 1-6 from She-Hulk (2004).

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Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Juan Bobillo, Paul Pellettier
Publisher: Marvel

I thoroughly enjoyed John Byrne’s She-Hulk run back in 1980s which was wacky and fun in many ways. So I was a bit concerned looking at this more modern approach. It’s not as good as Byrne but quite entertaining. While Byrne’s run concentrated on space battles and other superhero stuff, this one is very down-to-earth.

In the first issue, Jen is enjoying her live in the Avengers mansion: wild parties, sleeping with an underwear model, and hurrying out of the court room when an Avengers mission calls for it. But her life is turned upside down: Cap and the Wasp tell her that she must move out of the mansion because the underwear model is a security risk, the model dumps her, and she’s fired from the law firm.

A very prestigious law firm promptly hires her but under the strict condition that she be only Jennifer when working. The law firm had a new superhuman law branch and Jen is going to work there.

Issues two, three, and four each have a superhuman law case that Jen must deal as a lawyer. The last two issues are a two-part story, also involving a law case – and supervillains breaking out from a prison.

This was fun, as Jen gets to know her new colleagues. Among them are a snide and very successful lawyer and the Thinker’s android who has developed sentience. Also, Jen’s new boss seems to have some ulterior motive for hiring her. A budding love interest or two is thrown her way, too. The series has several guest-stars, including Spider-Man and the New Warriors.

The comic shows a slightly different view to the superhuman community which was entertaining enough. I’m not sure how long Slott can keep that up, though. The art was quite different from the usual superhero stuff and Jen isn’t nearly as sexualized as, say the Black Cat in her series. That was refreshing.

For the most part, Jen’s personality is similar to what I’m used to. However, I was a bit surprised when Jen said that she doesn’t work out because her She-Hulk form is super strong. She did work out in other series, especially in the Fantastic Four. Also, she doesn’t like being in her original form. She feels powerless and vulnerable which I can understand. However, because she can change to She-Hulk at any moment, I didn’t think it was as huge a problem as Slott made it out to be.

A stand-alone mash up of Victoriana.

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Publication year: 2011
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: print
Page count: 424 plus seventy pages of extra material, including annotations of most of the Victorian characters appearing in the book, an alternate ending, and a part of a film script for Anno Dracula

The year is 1888. Van Helsing and his group sadly failed to end Dracula’s life. Instead Vlad Tepes is now the Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. The vampires he has made, and who have made even more, are everywhere: in the goverment, in the upper classes, in the middle classes, and among the poor and destitute. Turning to a vampire is both fashinable and a wise political move. The Prince Consort has brought his own Carpathian Guards who are keeping London in line. However, Britain isn’t the only place where vampires are increasing common; it’s the same around the world.

But not all vampires are the same. Among themselves they have racism, according to which ”bloodline” they are; to which vampire they can trace themselves to. The vampires who aren’t from Dracula’s ”bloodline” often look down on him and the vampires he has made.

The book starts with the diary of Dr. Seward. He’s obsessed with vampires and is killing vampire prostitutes with a silver knife, so he’s called the Silver Knife is the press. The killings recieve a lot of attention in the press and the police can’t find the culprit. So, the secret and very powerful Diogenes Club sends their own investigator.

Charles Beauregard is a servant of the club with some martial skills. So they send him. He doesn’t care for Dracula or vampires but serves his Queen loyally, even if Queen Victoria herself is now a vampire.

The other main character is an old French vampire Genevieve Dieudonne who is about 50 years older than Dracula but has never met him. She has no interest in making vampires or killing people. Instead she drinks from willing people. She works in Toynbee Hall which is now a free clinic for vampires. She works together with Dr. Seward.

The book has many other point-of-view characters, but I won’t spoil them here. Many of them are interesting but we only get glimpses of them. Others I didn’t care for. Dracula doesn’t appear until the last chapter.

This book is hard to review. If you like Victorian pastiches and books with more atmospere than plot, you might like this because it’s very heavy on atmosphere, but light on both plot and character development. The search for the Silver Knife seems like just an excuse for the characters to meet rather than a real plot. Also, it has only a couple of fight scenes.

But it has a lot of ideas and atmosphere. And lots of Victorian characters from various other writers. It was a lot of fun to spot them.

I’ve joined Pick&Mix challenge this year, too.

This challenge is for people who don’t quite match up with more specific challenges. So whether you are a super busy person who can barely find time to read a dozen random books a year, or someone who has a yen to read the whole opus of a fave author, this is the place for you. Happy reading!
Challenge Details
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
Challenge Span: January 2021 – December 2021

The Reading Levels are 10, 20, 40, or 80 books.
Once again I’m choosing just ten for the simple reason that I won’t be counting my Mount TBR books to this challenge. I also read some indy books which aren’t on this site.

Happy reading!

Books read:
1, S. A. Chakraborty: The Empire of Gold
2, Mary Robinette Kowal: The Relentless Moon

3, Genevieve Cogman: The Secret Chapter

4, Dominik Parisien, Navah Wolfe ed.: The Mythic Dream

5, Martha Wells: City of Bones

6, James Lovegrove: The Ghost Machine

7, Lois McMaster Bujold: Masquerade in Lodi

8, Mur Lafferty: Six Wakes

9,

Collects Black Cat’s ongoing series issues 1-6.

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Writer: Jed Mackay
Artist: Travel Foreman, Nao Fuji
Publisher: Marvel

Finally, Felicia Hardy alias the Black Cat has her own series! I wasn’t sure what I expected from it but luckily, it’s lots of fun.

In almost every issue, Felicia and her small crew of two men steal something. There’s also a developing subplot with her nemesis Odessa Drake who is leader of New York’s thieves guild.

In the first issue, Felicia goes to a party and while the security guys are obsessed with her, her crew steals a painting. However, the thieves’ guild’s ninjas are after her as well. The issue ends with Felicia’s old mentor, the Black Fox appearing.

The Fox is an old thief and he talks her into the heist of a lifetime. This, of course, requires her to steal lots of other stuff, first.

In the second and third issue, Felicia and her crew steal something for Dr. Strange. That’s right: they break into the Sanctum Sanctorum while the doctor is away. However, they need a ”merlin”, someone to magic the doors and their mistake is to hire Xander the Merciless, or well, the depowered Xander. Hijinks ensue, of course.

In the fourth issue, Felicia goes on a date with Johnny Storm. Of course, she intends to steal something from the FF headquarters. Of course, an old FF enemy breaks into the FF headquarters at the same time.

On the sixth issue, Felicia goes on a date with Batroc, just taking a breather and having a good time. Meanwhile, the Black Fox is having a terrible time because mysterious enemies pursue him.

We also see some of the Black Fox’s background and how he trains Felicia.

The single issues on Marvel Unlimited have three fun short stories, too.

The only complaint I really have is Felicia’s cleavage being constantly front and center. I could have done without so much cheesecake.

Her crew I don’t know. Doc is a gadget guy (who doesn’t believe in magic, by the way) and Boris is the muscule. But they grew on me. The Black Fox freely admits that he’s a coward and avoids conflict as much as he can.

So, I enjoyed this a lot and I want to know how their big heist will go, especially after the cliffhanger ending of issue six.

I’ve joined up in GoodReads in the Action/Adventure group’s Bingo card 2021 challenge, where the aim is to complete a bingo with books. They can be any genre as long as they’re action/adventure and fulfill the square.

This year the categories are these:

1. Read a book that involves a Cyber Crime
2. Read a book with a Female Heroine: Genevieve Cogman: The Secret Chapter
3. Read a book that involves a Mystery
4. Read a book that includes a Lost World: Greig Beck: In Search of the Lost World
5. Read a book from a Series
6. Read a book that involves Survival: Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Moon Maid
7. Read a book that involves Magic
8. Read a book with a Two Word Title: Steven Brust: The Good Guys
9. Author and Title begin with Same Letter
10. Read a book involving Outer Space: M.R. Forbes: Hell’s Rejects
11. Read a book with a Hot Environment
12. Read a book that involves Archaeology
13. Read an action/adventure Book of your Choice
14. Read a book that involves a Team
15. Read a book that has a Green Cover
16. Read an AAA Group Read Book past or present: Dan Brown: Origin
17. Read a book with Organized Crime: T.L. Heinrich: Fire&Ice
18. Read a book of Short Stories
19. Read a book involving a Journey
20. Read a book involving Fantasy
21. Read a book that involves Vengeance
22. Read a book that involves Travel
23. Read a book published in 2021
24. Read a book that is a New to You Author: Seeley James: Element 42
25. Read a book involving a Spy

I managed to get two bingos last year. I’m aiming for one to start with.

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