action heroine


The first book in the Pandora Project trilogy. It’s also the fourth Vigilantes book, a historical superhero series set in 1960s US.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Publisher: Beautiful Fire
Page count: 329

Colleen Knight’s mother Tina leads a mob family. Colleen’s grandfather tried to make Colleen into a mobster as well; he even threatened to hurt Colleen’s lover unless she did was he wanted. That’s why Colleen left Karen without a word six years ago. However, now her grandfather is dead and she’s trying to distance herself from her mother’s job. Colleen is also afraid of her fire powers; she’s killed people before and now she’s trying to avoid it.

But when Tina asks a favor from Colleen, she can’t say no, especially when she’s asked to save another powered person. To do that, she goes undercover on a river boat, assuming the role of a mistress of a known playboy.

Karen Gray is a spy for a government agency, the Bulwark. She believes that she’s doing good work when she hunts down powered people, sometimes killing them. However, she’s been deep undercover for some years now, as the fiancee of David James, the son of a rich man and powerful man. Karen is given the mission to retrieved yet another powered person from a river boat.

When Karen and Colleen meet unexpectedly, they can’t trust each other and their history together, especially the abrupt break-up, comes between them. But when they find out that the powered person they both need to retrieve is a black child, the mission taken another turn. Colleen and Karen must band together, for a while at least.

Colleen is a black woman and Karen is white. Through Colleen, we see the bigotry of 1960s USA, especially because the river boat is in southern US. But Colleen doesn’t let other people’s attitudes stop her even if sometimes she must bow her head and hide herself. She’s fierce and fights for what she believes in. Karen has also had to fight hard to be accepted as an agent and when she must face the growing evidence that her job might not be what she thought it is, she must decide what’s more important to her: her career or conscience.

Regular people know about powered people and some are afraid of them. Some people, especially the rich and the powerful, want to use powered people as weapons, no matter what that powered person thinks of that.

This is a fast-paced story with twists and turns. The characters are believable and they struggle with both personal feelings and with larger moral issues. The fight scenes are detailed and great. However, the story (as Heinrich’s other books, too) are more bloody than comics; both main characters kill people, sometimes in rather grisly way, while fighting for their lives.

There are some references to DC/Marvel comics, in addition to the names of main characters. I personally got a kick out of Liefeld.

I’m not a romance reader but this time I didn’t mind how old feelings rekindled in Colleen and Karen. Neither has forgotten the other and both were deeply wounded by their break-up. Of course, in 1962 their romance must be a secret.

It’s possible to read the story as a stand-alone but I’d recommend reading from the start. Colleen was introduced in “Shadow Dreams”.

The book starts with a short story “Mizuchi” where Alice as Serpent and Marco as Shadow Master confront a girl who can control water. She’s killing people and the local police are overwhelmed. However, things become more complicated when Alice and Marco realized that she’s barely a teenager who is only killing men who belong to the local Chinese mob.

The book doesn’t quite end in a cliffhanger but the story isn’t finished.

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Writer and artist: Yukito Kishiro

Originally started publishing in 1991. Finnish translation started in 2006.

After the tragic end of the previous story line, Alita has vanished. Her mechanic and adoptive father Ido is looking for her increasingly desperately, because she left without a word a month ago. When Ido comes across a couple of thugs trying to rape a woman, he hesitates but beats them up. The woman, Shumira, is immediately attracted to Ido, offering him a place to stay. Instead Ido asks if Shumira has seen Alita. Shumira takes him to the Motorball arena. Alita is there, as one of the contestants. Ido tries to talk with Alita but she just walks away, letting security drag him out. Ido is furious and joins the current champion’s team so that Alita will be humbled and return home safely.

Alita is heart-broken and throws herself into the fights. Motorball is supposed to be a just a game, but a lot of players are seriously hurt or even killed. Alita has a new team and a new body. Unba is her new mechanic and Ed is a former Motorball player who advises her. She also has a small, flying furball, which seems to be there just for a bit of comic relief. Alita is still in the third league but her team pushes her to fight so that she can rise to the first league.

After the more emotional previous plot arch, the new plot arch is focused on fighting or rather playing Motorball. Alita says that she’s starting to see small flashes of her former life while playing. Also, she meets rivals, such as Ajakutty whom she has to play against in order to get the player number she wants, 99. Her biggest opponent is the current champion Jashugan who fights with the power of his mind as well his cyborg body. Alita says that she needs challenges to make life worth living. However, in order to challenge Jashuagan directly, she needs a team of Motorball players.

We finally get another female character, Shumira. She’s much more sexualized than Alita, wearing revealing clothing and flirting with Ido. She’s the younger sister of Jashugan. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with her. On the last page, we also glimpse a third female character who is a Motorball player.

Despite the focus on battle, there’s some character growth as well, for Alita, Ido, and even for Jashugan. Ido wants Alita back and doesn’t care what the cost will be for Alita. No doubt he must confront his actions later. Alita has abandoned Ido in her pain and refuses to even talk to him.

The third collection in English seems to have the chapters 13 through 17. The comic ends in a cliffhanger when Alita and her Motorball team are going to engage the champion of the second league.

The Finnish edition (Gunnm 3: Teurastajaenkeli) has chapters 12-17.

Writer and artist: Yukito Kishiro

Originally started publishing in 1991. Finnish translation started in 2006.

Alita meets Yugo, a teenager who is living by himself and working very hard to support himself. Alita is immediately attracted to him, his brash manner, and the way he admires Zalem, the city in the sky where the wealthy people live. When a criminal Alita is tracking attacks, Alita conceals her fighting abilities from Yugo, which I found very strange. Alita softens up the criminal behind Yugo’s back (literally) but Yugo kills him and claims the head. Alita has been disgusted with the practice of bringing in heads to get paid but when Yugo tells her that he needs to gather 10 million credits so that he can go to Zalem, Alita decides to help him. Yep, Alita has fallen in love with Yugo. Unfortunately for her, he doesn’t feel the same way, focusing on his jobs instead.

However, trouble is on the horizon, because Yugo is the infamous “spine thief”. Spines are very expensive. Yugo and his group of two other young thieves knock out cyborgs and steal their spines. However, Yugo leaves them always alive. But when the local big crime boss Vector notices what Yugo and his friends are doing, he wants to expand the operation, working quicker and killing the victims afterward.

Meanwhile, one of the bounty hunters whom Alita battled and humiliated earlier, wants revenge. He realizes what Yugo is doing and is determined to put a bounty on Yugo’s head, forcing Alita to kill her love or to defend him and make herself a rogue bounty hunter, fair game for the other hunter-warriors.

We also get to see Yugo’s life and what makes him tick.

This second collection deepens the world and the characters. It’s also not focused as much on combat, but instead on Alita and Yugo’s growing relationship (or rather Alita’s growing obsession over him), Alita’s insecurity because she’s not a ‘real girl’, and Ito’s concern over her. Alita is faced with tough choices and also feelings about herself. She worries that because her cyborg body is so much stronger than a human body, she can never be with Yugo.

I didn’t care for Yugo and it seemed like Alita fell for the first boy near her own (emotional) age. But of course they’re both teenagers and so very focused on themselves. I’m also not sure where her impulse to hide her artificial body and her combat skills came from. Ido surely didn’t teach her that. I guess it’s just a means to create conflict in her. While I didn’t care for the main story line, I still really like Alita, her determination and loyalty. She’s also very proud and quick to anger.

The second collection in English seems to have the chapters 8 through 12. The comic ends at an natural break in the plot.

The Finnish edition (Gunnm 2: Rautaneito) has chapters 7-11. It ends with a cliffhanger.

Collects Wonder Woman vol. 4. issues 7-12. The New 52 relaunch.

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

The previous collection, Vol. 1: Blood, ended in a cliffhanger when Haades took Zola (and her unborn child, of course) to the Underworld with him. Now, Diana and her team of Lennox and Hermes must get her back. To do that, Diana turns to Eros and Hephaestus. Unfortunately, things go wrong and while Hermes is able to take Zola back to the world of living, Diana must agree to stay and be Haades’ bride. The rest of the team tries to get her back. Getting to Hell again isn’t too hard because some of them have been invited into the wedding, along with Strife. Fortunately, Diana doesn’t need anyone else to save her.

Then the plot kicks up even higher when Hera sends Apollo and Artemis after Zola and her unborn child.

I must say that the unusual way the deities look is really growing on me. I didn’t even blink an eye when we saw Eros with double pistols. Artemis actually looked pretty cool as a pure white woman. The god of the forge looks like an ogre which seems oddly appropriate. The other thing I found strange was that the deities called each other by their (currently) primary sphere of influence. Hermes is Messenger, Hephaestus is smith, Ares is War, Artemis Moon, Eris is Strife. However, nobody calls Hera Marriage or Women or Fertility for some reason. Most likely, because it doesn’t sound cool. Of course, each Greek deity has several spheres so calling them with just one is strange. For example, Apollo could just was well be Muse or Healing or Diseases, as Sun.

However, I don’t understand why DC wanted to change the Amazons even further. This time we’re told that three times in a century, the Amazons go to ships and have sex with the sailors. Then they kill the sailors. All girl children stay with the Amazons but the boys are given to Hephaestus as virtual slaves. If he doesn’t take them, they’re killed. And apparently not one Amazon has a problem with that? That’s damn cold and very strangely different because previously Diana was the only child on the island and the others were all immortal. Now, DC has stripped them of immortality and made them mortals and pretty strange ones at that. So, from (mostly) noble women warriors to cold killers of lovers and babies? Not good. Then again, DC has treated the Amazons pretty harshly in the past, from the whole strange Amazons Attack story line to periodically destroying the Paradise Island.

Except for that, I rather enjoyed the adventures in the Underworld with various Greek deities. Diana was able to hold her own against them. In the final issue, she suddenly got a weird power boost from nowhere which was very strange. The collection ends again in a cliffhanger.

Again I enjoyed Chiang’s artwork a lot.

The third book in the alternate history action/adventure/thriller Roma Nova series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebooks
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Page count: 297

Set eight years after the end of the second book, Carina Mitela is now a major in the Roma Nova’s elite military force, the Praetorian Guard Special Forces (PGSF). She’s also the head of her powerful family now that her formerly formidable grandmother Aurelia is suffering from late-stage cancer. Carina’s husband Conrad is a legate in the military forces and therefore her commanding officer. They have managed to make it work, though, because they love each other and because they’re both committed to serving the state. They have three children.

But when they suddenly find out that Conrad has a daughter he never knew existed, their life is torn apart. The girl, Nicola, is already 25 years old and she’s in the British military. When she comes to Roma Nova, she wants everything she can get. Carina strongly suspects that the girl is manipulating Conrad but he won’t hear of it. He turns his back to his existing family, refusing any help from his wife. When Carina finds out that Nicola is a drug dealer who almost gets Carina and Conrad’s oldest daughter killed, Conrad refuses to hear of it. When Nicola gets the Roman Novan Imperial heir into trouble, Conrad still sides with Nicola, feeling guilty and that he must try to make up for the lost years.

This story is quite a roller coaster, involving the people closest to Carina. Nicola threatens not only Conrad and Carina’s relationship but also their children. Conrad siding with Nicola hurts Carina deeply but she does her best to serve the country. Also, Carina’s eldest daughter Allegra is 15 and in trouble. The imperial heir, Stella, is also a teenager. She’s unsure of what she wants to do in life and is used to being pampered. When she rebels against her mother, it’s more serious than an average teenager’s rebellion.

Also, Carina’s beloved grandmother is dying of cancer and Carina needs to step up as the leader of her extended family. All of this makes the story seem complicated but it’s written very well and I had no problem following the different plots. However, I was really very dubious about Conrad’s actions (once again) even though we do get an explanation, of sorts.

The series has a lot of secondary characters and we get to see most of them this time, too. Carina’s friends in the military play a big role but we get to see the others, as well. Stella and Allegra have their own character arcs, and while the girls could have been very similar, both reared up is rich, privileged families, they are actually quite different. I’ve enjoyed the cast of characters in the previous books and I enjoyed them a lot this time, too.

This is a great end to Carina’s story. There’s still a novella about her which I haven’t read. While “Successio” can be read as a stand-alone, I think it’s best to read “Inceptio” and “Perfiditas” first. The next book in the series “Aurelia” follows Carina’s grandmother’s story and I’m eager to read it.

Collects Wonder Woman vol. 4. issues 1-6. The New 52 relaunch.

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

While the previous relaunch was centered on Diana as the superhero, this one is focused on Azzarello’s version of Greek mythology. I mostly enjoyed that, when I got over just how bizarre the gods looked. Goddesses were very Western pretty. However, the art is quite different from usual superhero art style, which I thought fitted will with the mythology theme. Oh and no other superheroes were seen this time.

The story starts with weird people doing weird stuff: a very dark man killing three women in order to get them to prophecy for him and a naked woman in a peacock feather cloak butchering horses. Then we jump to a farm where a half-bird man is trying to save a woman and her baby from bloodthirsty centaurs. The man teleports the woman to Diana who kills the centaurs.

It turns out that the half-bird man is Hermes who is trying to protect the newest of Zeus’ by-blows who has born yet. The young woman, Zola, is pretty puzzled by all this. Diana agrees to protect her and the child when it’s born. Also, Zeus is missing, presumed dead and many powerful gods want to be the new king of the gods. The contestant include Poseidon, Haades, and Apollo. Hera also isn’t happy about any sort of demotion.

Also, for some reason Azzarello (or perhaps the DC editorial? I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t be able to changed that just by himself) decided to change Diana’s origin. Until this point, Diana’s mother Hippolyta made her out of clay and the gods just breathed Diana into life. Now, however, Diana is one of Zeus’ kids. I’m not sure why the change was made or why it was needed. At least, the way that Hippolyta tells it, it wasn’t a rape but mutual attraction. Still, she didn’t tell Diana about it which was even stranger and really not cool. So this was the main thing I didn’t care for. I also really didn’t care for the way that Hera’s only motivation in the story is to kill or hurt Zeus’ by-blows. Granted, that’s what the mythology tells us but it still feels awfully petty for a goddess, especially since Zeus is supposedly dead.

Like I said, art is quite different from normal superhero stuff. I mostly liked it. However, it was strange how the art didn’t have cheesecake for Diana and the Amazons but Hera was running around naked all the time… Since the male gods all got strange makeovers, like Hades being just a meter tall and lit candles on his head, they could have given the goddesses something similar.

Diana here is a confident heroine, a far cry from the previous relaunch. I remember that I really liked this when it first came out. While I still like it, not as much. I have the single issues, rather than the collection.

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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