action/adventure


A collection of six Modesty Blaise short stories.

Publication year: 1972
Format: Print
Page count: 214
Publisher: Souvenir Press

I thoroughly enjoyed these short stories; O’Donnell is in excellent form here. If you’ve read any previous Modesty books or comics, you pretty much know what to expect. Like almost all of the MB stories, they’re stand-alone and don’t require any previous knowledge about the characters. The stories are set in 1960s. Both Modesty and Willie are very competent fighters with various weapons and in hand-to-hand combat. They’re best friends for life and can always depend on each other. But they’re not lovers; in fact they often have other lovers.

In “A Better Day to Die”, Modesty and Willie are going to see a dying man who used to be part of Modesty’s criminal organization. However, their car breaks down. Willie stays in a small village to repair it together with the local men, but Modesty chooses to ride in an old bus. The bus is full of young women whom a priest it taking to city to work there. But the priest, Jimson, has heard of Modesty and her skills in violence. Jimson is a fervent believer in pacifism to the point that he think it’s better to die than to defend oneself. He lectures Modesty about the evils of every kind of violence. When a group of guerrillas stop the bus and take the passengers, Modesty is practically unarmed and must adapt to the situation.

“The Giggle-Wrecker” is set mostly in East Germany during the Cold War. Tarrant asks Modesty and Willie to smuggle out a defector – who is Japanese and therefore very easy to spot. The duo must think their way very carefully. Also, they get to do some of my favorite stuff: disguises.

“I Had a Date with Lady Janet” is remarkable because it’s the only MB story told in first person, Willie’s. He’s on a date with his sometime girlfriend Lady Janet when a killer tries to kidnap him. Willie manages to turn the tables and finds out that an old enemy has returned. He already has Modesty but wants Willie, so that he can see her die brutally. This time it’s up to Willie to save her.

“A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck” features two recurring characters from the book “I, Lucifer”: Steven Collier who is a paranormal investigator and his wife Dinah. Dinah is blind but she’s loyal, tough, and has even has a supernatural power or two. Modesty, Willie, Steven, and Dinah are vacationing when they hear about a series of robberies. During a party, they’re also robbed.

In “Salamander Four”, Modesty’s long time millionaire boyfriend John Dall wants a wooden statue of Modesty. To do that, he hires an eccentric Hungarian artist who is living in Northern Finland. When Modesty is modeling for the artist, Alex, a wounded and half-frozen man staggers in. Modesty helps him but Alex, who has suffered in war, doesn’t want to get involved. However, the wounded man turns out to be an industrial spy who has info with him. A very dangerous organization called the Salamander Four are after him. Modesty decides to help him over the border to Russia.

The final story, “The Soo Girl Charity”, is the shortest. It begins very lightheartedly but turns out to be the most disturbing of them. Modesty has been coerced into selling flags for a charity. One man turns out to be too grabby and he seems to be a really nasty man in other ways, so Willie and Modesty decide to break into his house and steal some money to give to the charity. They find out a lot more than they expected.

While these all feel pretty straightforward adventure stories, they all have some sort of twist. They were written in the 1960s, so they show the attitudes of that time, casual racism and sexism. O’Donnell tries to do better but his attitudes are dated. For example, in the first story several men rape a teenaged, sheltered girl who seems to get over it quickly. Of course, she’s a side character and this is an action story, but the attitude is still too casual. Of course, neither Modesty nor O’Donnell condone it.

Two of the stories have disabled female characters who are shown in very positive light. Both are very good in their own jobs, bright, loyal, and have partners who clearly appreciate them. Dinah was born blind and Janet lost one of her legs in a car accident. Both are recurring characters in the comics.

Overall, I really enjoyed these despite the attitudes of the times. I love Modesty and Willie and their adventure and their great camaraderie. They have good villains and a great cast of supporting characters. I was thrilled to see one of the stories set in my native Finland, although we didn’t get to see Finnish people much. I also enjoyed the humor in the stories.

A stand-alone thriller with science fiction elements.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook
Page count in GoodReads: 472

Jennifer Adams a research assistant to Doctor Elias Storm at the Massachusette’s Maritime Academy. She’s separated from her husband Mark who is a computer expert. They have a twelve-year-old son Reese. When Jen’s leaving from her work, Mark calls him to tell that their son has disappeared but when she’s answering her cell she find her boss murdered, in her own car.

When the police leave, Mark reveals that the kidnappers have left a note: they have four days to find Dr. Storm’s answer. Jen is desperate to get her son back but she doesn’t know what the kidnappers mean. So, she drags Mark back to the academy to search Storm’s office. But while there, a group of British soldiers threaten them. Quickly, the solders tell that they know a lot about the kidnapping and that Jen and Mark should go with them. A little reluctant, Jen agrees. The soldiers take the couple to a submarine and head over to a underwater research station. It’s at the bottom of the sea, five miles down, and has been abandoned for thirty years.

Meanwhile, in Washington detective Craig Larson and his partner Dawson are asked to look into the kidnapping and research the mysterious eco-terrorist group which could be behind it.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It has an interesting premise but I didn’t really care about any of the characters and some of the plot twists didn’t really work for me. For example, I find it really hard to believe that Jen and Mark would trust the British soldiers and just go on a submarine to adventure to the unknown, when their son has been kidnapped and they have a pretty tight deadline. After the end reveals, I don’t even understand why the villains wasted time kidnapping Reese at all. The underwater base was mostly great and I liked the characters exploring it, but what they found there just didn’t add up. Also, I found it very unlikely that an achievement like the underwater station was just abandoned without a pressing reason. Also, the book has lots of spelling errors.

I mostly enjoyed reading it but when I think about it, the plot just falls apart.

Roderick Thorp: Nothing lasts forever
Later published as Die Hard. A stand-alone action/adventure book.

Publication year: 1979
Format: Print
Page count: 191
Finnish publisher: Viihdeviikarit
Finnish translator: Pasi Junila

This was surprisingly similar to the movie which was based on the book. The basic premise is the same: a man alone in a huge building against a group of terrorists who have hostages, including the man’s family. And it’s Christmas.

The main character of the book is Joseph, Joe, Leland, a former police officer and currently a high paid security consultant. He already knows the leader of the attackers, Little-Tony Gruber, who is a notoriously ruthless terrorist. He’s come to LA for Christmas to see his daughter Steffie and her two children. Joe thinks about his marriage which ended in a divorce years ago and his ex-wife has died some years ago. He’s alone and barefoot when the terrorists attack and realizes that he must find out how many terrorists there are and to take them out one by one.

While Joe skulks around the building, he thinks about his life and especially his failures. He also knows how people get so desperate that they have nothing to loose and muses on that. The action is somewhat slowed by his thoughts but they also make Joe far more human and McClaine in the movie. Joe’s afraid and tired.

A couple of scenes are almost straight out of the book, but most have been changed or adapted. The attackers have different motives and the ending is quite different.

Still, this was quite an enjoyable read once I got to used to the way that Joe’s musings slowed the book down. This is a second book in the Leland series. I haven’t read the first one and based on reviews it seems to have quite a different tone.

The first book in the second Roma Nova trilogy. It can be read without reading the other books first. In fact, if you don’t like spoilers, I recommend starting with this book because it’s a prequel to the first trilogy.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Pulcheria Press
Page count: 370

It’s 1960s and Aurelia Mitela is one of the elite Praetorian guards in Roma Nova. Her mother, the leader of the politically powerful Mitela family, is trying to make her to contract with Caius Tellus whose family is also politically powerful. Contracting is sort-of like marrying except that the man doesn’t own the woman’s property and the man joins the woman’s family. Aurelia has known him from childhood but she also knows that he’s not a good man; in fact he might be a psychopath. So, she firmly tells her mother no.

Aurelia’s assigned to a training exercise at the mountains bordering Prussia and Roma Nova. By accident, her group almost catches a group of smugglers but the last of the smugglers gets away, leaving only derisive laughter echoing behind him. Aurelia is notified that her mother, Felicia, was in an accident. It leaves Felicia mentally incapable of doing much at all. Aurelia tries to take over for her, but when she exhausts herself trying to do everything, she pretty much retires to do just the family paperwork. However, imperatrix of Roma Nova sends her to Berlin. She’s sent to find out who is behind a silver smuggling ring and to generally spy on the Germans.

In Berlin, the pace quickens and the plot has many twists and turns.

If you already like Morton’s style, you’re also going to love this one. It’s terrific alternate history thriller where Aurelia must fight for her own life on several occasions. It’s also full of interesting female characters, from Roma Nova’s empress to various soldiers. Most of the action happens outside Roma Nova in the 1960s, so Aurelia and the women around her are subjected to quite a lot of sexism, too.

Aurelia is actually quite similar to Carina because they’re both soldiers dedicated to the nation and they’re also both tough, competent, and (most of the time) sure of themselves. However, Aurelia has lived her whole life on Roman Nova and in a very wealthy and privileged family and she has a complex relationship with her mother Felicia who isn’t a soldier and can’t understand that world. Aurelia already has a 5-year-old daughter but her father isn’t seen in the book. There’s just a mention that he was unsatisfactory partner. Her daughter is also ill a lot. Aurelia encounters the love of her life in this book, but that aspect doesn’t take over. In fact, he isn’t seen much and remains a very distant character. Also, Aurelia doesn’t have any criminal contacts and isn’t tempted to go outside the system the way that Carina often does.

Her main enemy is similarly very intimidating and competent at playing havoc in Aurelia’s life. We find out some more about Roma Novan economy where silver seems to play a large part. While the previous books had some futuristic equipment, this one has 1960s technology.

Another very enjoyable Roma Nova book. Since the events are in Carina’s past, we already know how things are going to end up but we don’t know any of the details, just the broad strokes. It can be read as a stand-alone book.

I received the whole serial eARC free from the publisher! I’m going to review it one episode a week. I haven’t read a serial before so it’s a new experience for me. The Triangle has 10 episodes, all available from The Triangle’s page at Serial Box starting April 24th.

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

“Since two massive hurricanes hit the Bermuda Triangle region, ships and planes have disappeared, leaving behind a trail of haunting radio transmissions. A covert task force investigates, but finds themselves caught in a third hurricane and shipwrecked on an uncharted island. They discover something shocking there—and not just that they aren’t alone on the island. Can they survive long enough to escape the Triangle and tell the world?“

The first episode, of course, introduces us to the setting and the characters. The Triangle setting seems to be our modern world. However, there are hints that something supernatural or maybe alien is going on.

Tessa Dumont investigates plane crashes at the NTSB. She’s very good at her job, noticing small details that others miss. She’s also not comfortable around people or enclosed spaces. When retired Navy Vice Admiral David Segarra wants her to join his team of experts, she’s doesn’t want to go. But when he tells her that the target is the famous Bermuda Triangle and that even more ships and planes than usual have disappeared, and plays back the strange last transmission of one of the planes, she can’t resist joining the team.

Michael Hammond is a data recovery specialist. But after his fiancee died in a plane crash, he’s been unable to concentrate on anything. He distrusts anyone from NTSB because they ruled the crash an accident but he’s convinced that it couldn’t have been an accident. But when Segarra tells him about the mystery of the disappearances he joins the team.

But when the small team arrives on the secret underground base in the Caribbeans, they get another member over Segarra’s objections. Flamboyant Alastair McBride is an expert of Bermuda Triangle but he’s also a conspiracy theorist who loves to dig dirt about US government. Hammond loves his book while Segarra hates him and Dumont thinks his book is garbage. However, Segarra’s superiors order him to include McBride.

When it’s time to work, they each have theirs specialties and are able to put their differences behind them. They listen transmissions from the missing ships and planes, and find out that many of the pilots mentioned seeing a golden or orange light just before their transmissions end.

Among the missing is a whole battleship with more than 1000 people. Another is a private plane with two passengers, a father and his five-year old daughter. In the final transmission the child, Olivia, talk about someone she calls Mr. Babbit. It vanished five years ago.

The first episode does a good job of establishing the characters and their conflicts between each other and how they are still able to work together. I’m sure we also get to know much more about the characters as the story advances. They’re all professionals in their own areas, which is something I really like.

It also gives us a very good understanding of the mystery. I’ve heard of Bermuda Triangle, of course, and seen the X-Files episode about it, but I don’t know much beside it. We hear some of the last transmissions the planes and ships sent and the characters wonder about possible natural explanations but must dismiss that.

This is a very promising start. The first episode did its job and enticed me to read more.

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.

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.

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