2014 Graphic Novel reading challenge


Collects X-Men #214-228, Annual #10-11, Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-4

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Bob Wiacek, Alan Davis, Dan Green, Jackson Guice, Mark Sylvester, Bret Belvins, Arthur Adams, Jon Bogdanove

The previous collection ended with Marauders murdering many Morlocks, mutants who live in New York’s sewers, and wounding three X-Men critically (Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler).

This collection starts with Dazzler. The marauder Malice has taken over the mutant singer and she’s using her powers openly. The X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke) arrive to warn Dazzler about their recent enemies and about the growing human hatred towards mutants. However, Malice prompts Dazzler to attack the team. Malice is an energy based mutant who can unleash a person’s worst side and so persuade them to attack others.

In the next issue the team splits up so FF vs X-Men seems to happen before the rest of the collection. Most of the team is headed to Muir island but Storm and Wolverine stay in the New York state. At the end of the previous collection, the Marauders attacked Morlocks, killed many of them and wounded three X-Men grievously. Shadowcat, Colossus, and Nightcrawler are in such a bad state that they’re going to the Muir island hospital. The new group of Psylocke, Rogue, Longshot, and Dazzler are both guarding them and also learning to work as a team with Banshee training them. Meanwhile, Storm and Wolverine encounter three new super beings, former soldiers who have taken it upon themselves to cleanse their country of criminals whom the justice system ignores for one reason or another. Unfortunately for them, they mistake Storm for a criminal. Issue 216 is quite a philosophical one: The old solders think that they are fully justified in taking “scum” of humanity and hunting them in the woods. This time their prey is Storm and a young woman who seems at first quite helpless but is actually a rich girl who sells drugs for fun and doesn’t shy away from killing. Storm thinks about her own values while evading the super soldiers.

In the next two issues, the new X-Men fight Juggernaut. First Dazzler confronts him alone because she wants to prove that she can and then they fight him as a team. Before Rogue turned into a hero, she attacked Dazzler and Daz accuses her of that, so they have some internal, personal grievances, too.

In the next issue, two old X-Men return: Havok and Polaris. Havok has gone to Xavier’s but returns with just nightmares. When he goes back to the mansion, to his horror he finds quite a different X-Men… and Magneto. However, after the initial misunderstanding, Havok rejoins the team. Meanwhile, the Marauders attack Havok’s girlfriend Polaris. She has magnetic powers and puts up a fight but in the end, the energy being Malice takes over.

Then, the next long storyline kicks into high gear: Storm goes to meet Forge to beg her powers back. However, Forge is gone, leaving behind just holograms of Storm and his own time in Vietnam, where he fought demons by using demons. Forge’s teacher, Naze, confronts Storm and tells her that Forge is a shaman who has been trained to fight the forces of Chaos but Forge has become evil. Naze needs Storm’s help against Forge and she agrees.

The next issues are intertwined with X-Men and Storm’s quest. She battles demons with Naze and we also find out that Naze is actually the bad guy and is training Storm to take out Forge. Meanwhile, the X-Men battle Marauders and Freedom Force while coming to grips with their internal strife. In issue 225, Storm finds Forge and tries to kill him, realizing too late that he was trying to keep Chaos at bay. However, they are whisked into another world where they stay for about a year. Storm gets her powers back and they decide to return to Earth and face Chaos with the X-Men. In the penultimate issue (for this collection) the X-Men and Madelyne Pryor make the ultimate sacrifice and die fighting Chaos.

The final issue (228) is a reminiscent story where where Dazzler writes a letter to her old friend, a bounty hunter, remembering their previous adventure together. Alison has a hunch that her friend is in trouble and leaves the team to help him. Wolverine follows. It turns out that the bounty hunter is in quite a deep trouble indeed and both Dazzler and Wolverine help him.

In Annual 10, Longshot makes his first appearance. The X-Men and Magneto are training in the Danger Room. Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler are in good shape so the story is set before this collection. Mojo sends Longshot to the Danger Room along with mystical goop which transforms the X-Men and Magneto gradually to children. The New Mutants want to investigate their condition but the X-Men run away to Mojo first. The New Mutants take up their individual uniforms and try to follow them. Instead, they’re forced to fight against the mind controlled X-Men.

I don’t have annual 11; it wasn’t published here in Finland.

In Fantastic Four vs. X-Men the little Franklin Richards sees a disturbing dream where his father finds his old diary which leads to the FF and X-Men fighting and killing each other. Then Reed kills his wife and turns into Dr. Doom. In the real world Susan finds’ Reed diary and finds out that Reed had known about the cosmic rays and that they would transform the four. This makes her, of course, really angry with Reed. He protests that he couldn’t have written that but starts to doubt himself; what if he subconsciously had known about the problem? Magneto ask Reed for help with Kitty’s problem: she’s stuck into intangible state and her atoms are starting to drift apart. Reed has built a machine which could save Kitty but his doubts grow and he in the end he refuses to help, fearing that he will kill Kitty. The Dr. Doom offers his own help. The X-Men have deep reservations, but agree. I don’t really think that Reed was in character here. His confidence is taken away awfully easily.

Once again, I really enjoyed most of these stories. The artwork is quite variable and I don’t like Silvestri’s art as much as John Romita Jr’s but I really enjoyed Jackson Guice and Arthur Adams. The characters are the highlight, as usual. The only thing which really bothered me was Storm’s and Forge’s quick romance which suddenly grew into death defying love. I would have wanted them to at least spend some more time together before it developed. I mean they spent grand total of what three issues? four issues? together and during that time Storm was extremely depressed because her powers were gone.

Also, I felt extremely sorry for Polaris and Havok. Their happy life was disrupted and an extremely nasty villain took over Polaris. IIRC, they never recovered from it. Poor Madelyne Pryor is also hunted by Marauders and then have to tag along with the X-Men in order to survive. She also “dies” along with them.

I was also a bit surprised that Rogue is still considered such a rookie. She has a lot more experience than any of the others in the team. But I guess she was still stubborn and acted on impulse a lot. Like, um, 80% of heroes ever.

Overall, a great read.

Collects Farscape issues 1-4.

Story: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Script: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Artist: Will Sliney

After the events in the previous collection, Aeryn and John have a few clues where to look for answers concerning their son’s condition. Specifically, little Deke has an extra gland which presumably causes the weird time shifts John and Aeryn have been experiencing. Also, a mysterious assassin is after the baby. The gland was assumed to have come from John because he’s a different race than Aeryn but in the alternate timeline Aeryn’s fully Sebacean child also has the gland. So, it came from Aeryn. She assumes that it’s the result of a genetic weapon but she can’t remember where her regiment could have come into contact with it. So, she’s tracking down her former Peacekeeper comrades. A couple of them have ”retired” to a farming colony and Aeryn heads there. Once there, she finds out something weird: a religion based on teaching of Yemahl. And a man from her past reappears.

Meanwhile, John’s looking for the assassin. When he was in the alternate timeline, John got to know the assassin – or at least the person that assassin is in that other universe – and he’s now using the information he got. John knows the assassin’s name (Roiin), his ship’s name, comm frequency, and even his favorite vacation spot. He’s listening comm frequencies in the hope that something will come up. However, when that doesn’t work John and Chiana head for Liantac, a gambling planet where Roiin likes to spend time. When they finally find him, Chiana leaves with him, going undercover to find out who has hired him.

Meanwhile, Jothee and Sikozu are engaged in a battle of minds – by playing a strategy game. Mostly, they’re trying to force the other to make a move. This was short but hilarious.

The collection starts with Aeryn’s narration which was very interesting. She goes to a peaceful colony where the Sebacean settlers follow the god Yemahl, who doesn’t condone any kind of conflict. Not surprisingly, Aeryn thinks that that’s idiotic and observes how some of the settlers still have old-fashioned conflict, even though in a more underhanded way.

Chiana is put into a difficult position because she starts to develop feelings for the assassin. What began as a simple undercover job to help John, becomes much more complicated.

I don’t think we’ve seen Liantac on screen, or even the bird-like Lian people, but they’re in the first Farscape novel, House of Cards, which I’m currently reading, which was a strange coincidence. Liantac had a bit too familiar feel and the dancing girls looked like human women with red or blue skin, which was cheesy. Otherwise, I enjoyed the collection, although not as much as the previous one.

This time we’re shown a Sebacean religion which was a first. Aeryn immediately dismisses it as ”superstitious nonsense” and the sect’s people are behaving in a far different way than Peacekeepers. We also get to know more about Crais’ past and even Aeryn’s origins. I’m interested to know where the writers will take Aeryn. I just can’t imagine her as smiling and peaceful – without Nebari mindcleansing.

Collects Farscape: Gone and Back issues 1-4.

Story: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Script: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Artist: Tommy Patterson, Nick Schley, Juan Castro

After the last collection, I was a bit worried about this one, but I shouldn’t have because Farscape weirdness is back, in full force! I’m also a huge fan of alternate universes (in the X-Men and Star Trek style) and this one was great.

The crew has returned to Hyneria and Rygel’s doctor is checking out little baby Deke. The doctor attaches a bug to Deke but then the palace is attacked and John accidentally comes into contact with Deke’s strange extra gland and is sucked into some anomaly.

He ends up in a world where both Zhaan and D’Argo are alive! In short order, he realizes that many other things are different in this universe. Chiana and D’Argo are married and Chiana’s greatest passion seems to be food. In fact, Chiana’s whole personality is quite different. Also, a strange alien guy Coron is part of the crew and… John is married to princess Katralla and they have a daughter. Aeryn has never been part of the crew – in fact they’ve never even met her.

John is convinced that he needs to find Aeryn and rescue her from the hellish life she still has as a Peacekeeper. He tries to explain that he doesn’t remember his life for the past few cycles, but needless to say, his family is quite angry with him about that. Oh and this isn’t an evil universe since John doesn’t have a beard, but a ponytail. 😉

This book is full of good Farscape weirdness and it was so good to see Zhaan that it might not matter if the story was good or not. But this alternate Moya crew seemed in their own way as tightly knit as the group we all know and love. Katrana, John’s and Katralla’s daughter, is older than two so she must have gone through some weird aging process or John ends up some years in the future as well as in the alternate timeline. They seem to be happy, although the girl’s now heartbroken and frightened by John’s apparent amnesia. In fact, all of the group seem to be happy with their lives, with the exception of Aeryn. So often in alternate universes the lives of the main characters and, indeed the whole world or setting, are worse that it was great to see a different take. Aeryn is still a Peacekeeper and the ”Look at the Princess” trilogy ended with Katralla joining Moya’s crew.

The book also advances the bigger plot by answering some questions about Deke and the mysterious black clad man who has tried to kill Deke a couple of times now.

About the only thing I didn’t like was the ridiculous ”bond” that this universe’s Aeryn supposedly has with John – even though they’ve never met.

Collects the second miniseries.

Story: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Script: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Artist: Will Sliney

The comic starts with one of John’s strange dreams where he’s placed his family into a sit-com but even here the weirdness of his reality seeps through. He’s trying so hard to make them into a normal family but it just isn’t working.

After their latest adventure, Moya’s crew go to a commerce planet where things turn out to be rather weird. A supposedly happy Luxan couple start to argue over their union tattoos and a customer argues with a merchant. Quickly, they are using their fists and even weapons. The arguing spreads to our heroes, too. First Chiana ja Jothee argue, which isn’t unusual for them, but when they start to pull weapons on each other, it’s clear that something is very wrong. Even Pilot is arguing with Moya. And everyone is coughing.

John and Aeryn want their son examined and it seems like an increasingly good idea to go to the Diagnosans. It turns out that the hostilities are the fault of a virus, a very strange virus. And it has spread to Hyneria and beyond.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this volume as much as the previous one. The story started in a very interesting way but about halfway through I started to wonder how the spread of the virus could be stopped. It seemed to me that stopping a galaxy wide disease wouldn’t be something that Moya’s little crew could do all by themselves or quickly. It felt like a whole season spanning metaplot. However, it was all wrapped up in the final issue and this felt too neat to me. Also I really disliked John’s plan on how he was going to cure Aeryn. Even for Farscape, that was a bit too ridiculous.

The overarching plot about little Deke advanced only a little.

Collects the first Farscape miniseries comics.

Story: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Script: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Artists: Tommy Patterson, Michael Babinksy, Marshall Dillon

The story starts right after Peacekeeper Wars and continues the storyline which was left hanging in that miniseries. Jothee, Chiana, Rygel, Noranti, Aeryn, John, and little baby D’Argo are on board Moya and appear in the story. (Sikozu doesn’t despite being in the cover.)

This felt almost like a Farscape episode to me. At the same time it was shorter and yet the setting was something they probably couldn’t have shown in TV because the episode would have had a lot of puppet characters as extras.

In the Peacekeeper wars it was established that some of Rygel’s people aren’t happy with his cousin Bishan’s rule. One of Rygel’s 1,347 wives contacts him and says that Bishan has put a bounty on Rygel’s head but that a significant number of hynerians are willing to follow Rygel if he comes back to overthrow the usuper. Rygel pretty much glows in his underlings’ adulation. When Moya reaches Hyneria, Rygel, Chiana, and Jothee go down to the palace planet. They don’t expect trouble but of course they are ambushed.

Meanwhile, John and Aeryn are getting used to being parents. John nicknames the baby Deke and Aeryn is having difficulty calming little Deke down. John and Aeryn also experience a strange slow-motion thing (John’s words) which the Pilot didn’t notice. Of course, little D’Argo is doing it. Also, a strange ship piloted by someone with red eyes is following Moya. (Red eyes are never a good sign!) John decides to keep that a secret from Aeryn and instead they take a transport pod down to help the imprisoned trio. They also take little Deke with them on the pretext that his life would always be in danger anyway. This felt funny at first but it’s incredibly irresponsible.

It was good to see the familiar characters again, but this story left me definitely craving for more. About one third of the collected edition is O’Bannon’s script so the comic was pretty short.

It was great that the whole hynerian thing was finally resolved. I’ve always wanted to see Rygel’s home and his homecoming. However, it’s wasn’t really surprising but rather standard Farscape fare, featuring even the return of one hard-to-get-rid of old foe in black leather.

On the whole, I enjoyed the comic. The characters sounded like themselves, bickering and cracking jokes at inappropriate moments. John and Aeryn even had a short discussion about who should go down and rescue the others which was so in character and hilarious. Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like was how indecisive and, well, helpless Aeryn was with Deke.

Recommended for the fans of the show. The characters aren’t introduced at all, so a new reader is likely to be rather confused.


Collects issues 11-18.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Marc Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Lan Medina, Bryan Talbot, Linda Medley, Craig Hamilton

This collection starts with a stand-alone tale of Jack. He’s the hero of several fairy tales, such as Jack the Giant-killer and he also had the magic beans. Issue 11 is set during the American civil war and Jack fought on the Confederate side. When the war starts to go badly for his side, he leaves. During his travel, he encounters a strange old man and plays cards with him. It turns out that the old man is none other than the devil himself and soon Jack is playing for his soul.

Next up is a two issue story where our stalwart fables unite against one human man in order to keep their existence a secret from humans. Tommy Sharp is a good investigative journalist and he’s dug deep into Fabletown’s history. He makes the mistake of calling on Bigby before exposing Fabletown. Now, Bigby, Jack, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, Boy Blue, Flycatcher, and Bluebeard have to protect their secret.

Next up is the Storybook Love storyline. At the end of the previous volume, Snow White was shot and she barely survived. She’s now well enough to move around slowly with a cane. Meanwhile, the villains from the previous volumes have teamed up and have hatched a plan to kill Snow and Bigby but out of town. Since they won’t leave voluntarily, the villains make a spell which forces them to go camping together in a place far away from everyone else. They have just one tent and the consequences of that are seen at the end of the volume.

Goldilocks is after Bigby and Snow with a rifle. After they survive their car crashing down a mountain side, they trek through the woods together and we get to know a bit more about Bigby. Back in Fabletown, Prince Charming has somehow ordered the mouse police, Liliputians riding intelligent, talking rats, to spy on Bluebeard.

The final issue is again a stand-alone. This time, Bigby tells Flycatcher about how the Liliputians came to the Farm and how they got brides.

Overall, this a good collection where characters face consequences from their previous actions and a significant plotline is started. I really enjoyed the way that the fables dealt with the reporter, which was quite funny at first. The final issue is also quite charming.

At his best, Willingham does a great job of balancing humor and horror, and the horror isn’t always violence and splatter. He’s not yet at his best in this collection but pretty good. The characters are starting to grow to their personalities, especially Bigby and Snow. Snow’s actually not a very exciting person; instead she’s a very good byrocrat: methodical and organized but without much humor or imagination. Bigby is very much like Wolverine: experienced warrior and killer who has a compassionate side and is struggling with his enhanced senses all the time.

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Marc Buckingham, Steven Leialoha

After the events in the previous volume, Snow is taking a banished character to the Farm which was referred to earlier. Unfortunately for them both, the people at the Farm are tired of the situation and are planning a revolution. Fabletown is where human fables can live, among the mortals and part of the larger world, but in their own little part of New York city. The non-humans are sent to the Farm which is literally a farm on the countryside. They even have a small town for lilliputians. But there’s not much to do and so they’re amassing weapons so that they can retake their lands from the Adversary. Wayland Smith is the man in charge of the place but when Snow and her sidekick (so to say, saying who it was would spoil the first volume) get there, they can’t find him. Soon, Goldilocks, the three bears, the Three Little Pigs, and various others are in full-scale revolt and even turn Snow’s sidekick against her. Unfortunately, they’ll first have to ”convince” or kill the other fables of their aims. And they start by killing one of the pigs.

Meanwhile, Boy Blue is trying to hold down the fort in Fabletown.

I really enjoyed this volume, more than the first one. It’s full of various fairy tale characters, like Cock Robin and Raynard the Fox in addition to the pigs and the bears. The bears are horrifyingly comical. And oh yes, the Jungle book makes the first appearance in the person of Shere Khan.

This volume still has some scene setting: the Farm and some characters are introduced to the readers. So, now that we know them, the writer can really start to torture them. 🙂

Note: I’m a fan of the series. I love most of the characters and have hugely enjoyed the ride. I first began to read the series about five years ago and without knowing anything about it.

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