Today, the topic for Top Ten Tuesdays is All About Dads.

There are plenty of horrible or absent fathers in media, so I decided to concentrate on the good dads:

Aral Vorkosigan by Lois McMaster Bujold
When Miles was little, Aral was the Regent of a whole planet so he had his hands full. Still, he apparently made time for little Miles. He also parented both Ivan and the young Emperor Gregor.

Cutter (and quite a few of the other Elfquest elves)
Since Elfquest follows the characters for hundreds of years most of them will become parents at some point. The elves are good parents: teaching and protecting the kids but also letting them learn themselves.

Jonathan Kent from DC comics
Martha and Johnathan Kent are the reason we have a Superman.

Ben Parker from DC comics
May and Ben raised Peter to believe that with great power comes great responsibility.

From tv:
Ruper Giles (Buffy)
We only see Buffy’s biological father a couple of times because he’s divorced and lives in another city. But Giles is the real father figure in Buffy’s life.

Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space 9)
Sisko and his son Jake go through some pretty terrible times in the show but also good times.

Rick Castle (Castle)
Rick and Alexis’ relationship is reversed from the way fathers and daughters usually behave. Alexis is the responsible, reliable one while Rick is the one who has strange adventures, plays poker, and stays out all night. They clearly love and support each other and I love their shared geekiness.

Jack Bristow (Alias)
Jack also supports her daughter, especially because they both work as spies and in the same organization. But sometimes he lies and keeps secrets from her.

Walter Bishop (Fringe)
Despite being a, well, not quite right in his mind, Walter, too, loves and supports his son.

Part of Marvel’s Secret Wars event. Collects Guardians of Knowhere 1-4 and New Avengers: Illuminati 3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato, Jim Cheun, Mark Morales

Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Lady Gamora are the Guardians of Knowhere, the giant Celestial head floating in space. However, Gamora has now cosmic powers and cosmic knowledge so she’s a heretic: she doesn’t believe that Doom is God Emperor. Also, she doesn’t stay on her own Warzone but travels to others, looking for Thanos and Quill (who aren’t supposed to exist in this world). So, Angela is now part of the Thor corps and she’s looking for Gamora to arrest her for heresy. While Angela and Drax are fighting, Yatot comes along and starts a fight with Drax, wanting to become the local crime boss.

Who’s Yatot? His backstory is told in the second issue. Also, the Nova Corps so up. In addition to Nova, they have Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, Venom, and Iron Man. Also, a giant blue woman appears and battles the Guardians and the Nova corps. Who is she? Apparently Kree. Nothing else is told about her.

Characters hit each other. A lot. The end. I think the biggest draw to this series is supposed to be that Gamora is apparently naked most of the time. There was some set up at the end, but er… the Guardians didn’t make it to the main series. Or at least I don’t remember what they did.

I have no idea why one issue of New Avengers: Illuminati is included. Maybe because Xavier was wrong. Because in this issue, he claims that the Beyonder is a mutant Inhuman. But Doom battled many Beyonders who wanted to destroy the whole universe. Clearly, they weren’t mutant Inhumans.

I was really curious to read this one because I play Marvel’s Legendary deck-building game and these Guardians are one of the villain groups from the Secret Wars expansion. Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

The first book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms fantasy series. Each seems to be a separate story with different characters.

Publication year: 2004
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 59 minutes
Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Elena Klovis’ mother died some years ago and her father married a woman who already had two daughters. When Elena’s father died, her stepmother took over the household and promptly made her stepdaughter a servant. Elena was forced to become a maid, a cook, and a cleaner while her stepmother refused her even a pair of shoes. Her stepsisters only made her more miserable. Her only friends were the two older women living next door; they help her when they can. The others in the town call her Ella Cinders.

Elena waited for a prince, or any man, to take her away. But the current prince is only eleven years old, and other men are not interested in her. And Elena’s 21st birthday went by without a prince in sight. The story starts when the stepmother and her daughters are leaving. They are heavily in debt and take everything they can from Elena’s home, leaving her behind destitute.

And Elena concocts a plan: she will sell herself as a servant to anyone (kind) who will take her. But nobody wants to cross her stepmother so nobody will hire here. But then a strange woman asks for her services. She turns out to be Madam Bella, her Fairy Godmother. Bella is the Godmother to whole kingdoms, too, so she has a lot on her plate. But she has been following Elena’s life and thinks that Elena will be a capable apprentice and eventually a Godmother on her own. Elena is used to hard work which is good because she will have her work cut out for her, even though it’s different sort of work than before. As she grows more accustomed to fairy servants, flying horses, and all sorts of magic, the only thing still bothering her is that there isn’t a Tradition for a Godmother having a consort. Will she have to be alone all her life?

This was a fun read! I haven’t read Mercedes Lackey before, but I’ve of course heard of her. I didn’t know quite what to expect but thankfully I liked this book quite a lot. It’s a Luna imprint so there’s a romance and couple of sex scenes, too, but they’re later in the book. This sort of romance, where we get to really know the characters well first, suits me much better than an ordinary romance book.

The first half we spend with Elena and learning about the Tradition, which is the power of fairy tales. The Tradition steers appropriate people into traditional (heh) storylines but sometimes something goes wrong. Elena was supposed to be Cinderella but her prince is too young for his role so magic just built around her without any place to go. If Bella had not rescued Elena, she could have become an evil sorceress. (Although I doubt it: Elena is too good-natured for that. But perhaps if she had grown bitter later.)

I really enjoyed the Tradition and the various side characters, such as Madame Arachnia. The unicorns were a lot of fun, too, and the various fairy characters. Elena is also in charge of testing Questers and rewarding the kind knights and teaching a lesson to the arrogant and cruel. If only we could have something like that in the real world!

Gerda Zackman was a great narrator and captured Elena well.

It seems that each book in this series has a different main character. I’ll certainly try the next one which is apparently based on Saint George and the dragon.

Collects issues 158-167 of Avengers vol. 1.

Writers: Jim Shooter,
Artists: Sal Buscema, Pablo Marcos, George Perez, John Byrne, G. Tuska
Publisher: Marvel

These are Jim Shooter’s old Avengers tales, first published in 1977. The longest story arch lasts for three issues but there are subplots which are present in most issues, namely the Beast feeling superfluous in a team which has many stronger characters, like Thor, Vision, and Wonder Man, as well as all-around geniuses like Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Also Wonder Man constantly doubts himself and Hawkeye is helping Two-Gun Kid to adjust to the 1970s. The Kid comes from 1873.

The core team consists of Iron Man, Wonder Man, the Beast, Vision, Captain America, and Scarlet Witch, but other members come and go, as well.

The collection starts with the Vision attacking Wonder Man in a rage of jealousy. Strangely enough, the Vision constantly calls himself an emotionless machine but when he sees Wonder Man aiding Wanda, when she’s dizzy after a battle, the Vision attacks. Iron Man interferes to stop the fight. This issue also introduces a very powerful new foe, Graviton, who imprisons the core team plus the Wasp and Yellowjacket. It takes Thor and the Black Panther to free the others and defeat Graviton.

The characters don’t really have any breathers. Only hours after defeating Graviton, the Grim Reaper returns. He wants to know if Wonder Man or the Vision is the real Simon Williams, the Grim Reaper’s brother. Then Ant Man attacks with his army of ants which are too quick for even Iron Man to evade. The Wasp returns and explains that Hank has lost his memory and soon Ultron tricks Hank into helping him transfer Janet’s mind to a woman made of metal.

The Avengers also face the Lethal Legion and Graviton again. In the final issue, they inspect a huge space constructs which is heading towards S.H.I.E.L.D.’s orbiting space station. The collection ends is a cliffhanger leading to the Korvac saga.

Even though the issues have a lot of battles and excitement, there are also long plotlines brewing. In addition to the three I mentioned above, there’s a mysterious old man who thinks he’s Wanda and Pietro’s father. Currently, the twins think that the old hero Whizzer is their father and that their last name is Frank. Also, Iron Man and Thor have their own adventures in their own magazines so they’re away a lot. Since Iron Man is supposed to be the leader Cap and even Wanda tell him to do a better job. Also, Iron Man’s identity is secret; not even the other Avengers know that he’s Tony, so it’s difficult for him to explain his absences.

Many issues which originated here have longer ramifications. Hank Pym’s phycological problems for example and the Vision/Wonder Man rivalry and brotherhood lasted for a long time).

On the other hand, Shooter seems to rely on Thor coming in at the nick of time to save the others so many times, that even the characters comment on it and he devoloped a mysterious force which whisked Thor away and back to the Avengers when they most needed him. While the Wasp and Wanda are pretty underused, only Wasp is kidnapped once; and the whole team is beaten a couple of times. Also, only two issues actually have Ultron…

Still, it’s a fun read and a blast from the 70s.

The new Marvel Star Wars comic, collects issues 1-6.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday

This story is set between “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”, in fact shortly after episode IV. The Empire has started to make deals with criminals, like Jabba the Hutt, to get supplies, and the rebels have decided to stop them. So, Princess Leia’s small team infiltrates Empire’s industrial complex at Cymoon 1. Han poses as Jabba’s envoy to get them in and blow the whole place up. Unfortunately for them, the Emperor’s negotiator is really tough and things don’t go as planned.

Later, Darth Vader deals with Jabba personally. Vader is looking for mercenaries to capture a particular rebel pilot. Meanwhile, Leia is trying to rally her troops for another mission. There’s even a Boba Fett subplot.

This one feels like Star Wars. It was exciting and funny. I could hear the actors saying the dialog and there’s a lot of big-screen action and humor. However, Empire having to deal with criminals for parts feels ludicrous, but in a Star Wars way. There’s even some character development for our heroes. However, I’m not too sure about Luke confronting Vader before receiving any Jedi training. And there’s a cliffhanger ending. Otherwise, very enjoyable.

May is gone and Finland greeted June with… sleeting.
I ended up reading quite a lot of comics in May and the trend will continue. And I saw Wonder Woman! It’s not perfect (what movie is??) but I really enjoyed it and plan on seeing it again. Has anyone watched it in 3D?

I reviewed 7 books. I managed to complete my Pick&Mix challenge so I upgraded it to 40 books. I’ve also now completed my Graphic novel challenge and upgraded that to the next level, too.

Overall, May books weren’t as good as previous month’s books, though. Still it was hard to choose the best one between a Modesty Blaise adventure and Indexing.

1, Peter David: Double or nothing (p&m)
2, Seanan McGuire: Indexing
3, Michael Jan Friedman and Christie Golden: the First Virtue (p&m)
4, Glenn Song: The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies
5, Pierre Pevel: The Cardinal’s Blades (p&m)
6, C. Hope Clark: Lowcountry Bribe
7, Peter O’Donnell: A Taste for Death

But for nostalgia and sheer fun, I’ll choose:

I also read Marvel’s Secret Wars and several tie-ins to it. Next month, I’ll continue my Marvel reads with a few older selections and… more Secret Wars. What can I say: I really like alternate settings.

On the book (and novella) front, I’ll have to dig into the Hugo reads I haven’t read yet.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is Non-human heroes:

The Tough Guide assures us that HEROES are ‘mythical beings, often selected at birth, who perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against all odds.’ Furthermore, ‘if you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human, with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely)’.

HOWEVER. For good or for evil, some of fantasy’s most memorable Heroes are not human at all. Some look human, but aren’t. Others may look monstrous, but be ‘human’ on the inside. Others still never pretend to be anything other than what they are – and why should they? In nearly all cases, we are likely to Learn Something from them – usually that appearances can be deceiving, or that the concepts of both ‘Human’ and ‘Hero’ are entirely subjective.

I love non-human main characters. Some of my favorites are, of course, elves:
Shadow by Anne Logston
Logston wrote three very upbeat and delightful fantasy books where the MC is an elf thief who loves life and dangers. The books are “Shadow”, “Shadow Hunt”, and “Shadow Dance”.

October Daye by Seanan McGuirse
Toby is a half-fae who is turned into a fish for fourteen years. She deals with the fallout of that misadventure in the first book. In the human world she’s a private investigator and in the fae realm she’s a knight in the service of Count Sylvester Torquill. The first book: “Rosemary and Rue”.

Raine Benares by Lisa Shearin
Raine is the one honest person in her family full of criminals. She’s a Seeker who finds lost items. The first book: “Magic lost, trouble found”.

Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salvatore
He’s the only good dark elf in the underground city of Menzonberranzan. Not surprisingly, he leaves the city and his evil family to escape to the world above.

A few MCs are actually gods:
Selene DiSilva by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Selene is Artemis, the Greek maiden goddess of hunt and the moon. She’s lived thousands of years from Ancient Greece to modern day USA. She’s a private investigator but mostly she protects women. The first book is “The Immortals” and the second book “Winter of the Gods” is out and I need to get it.

Loki by Joanna M. Harris (also by Marvel comics)
Harris’ “Gospel of Loki” tells the Norse tales from Loki’s point of view. He’s abrasive, insulting, and very funny.

Vampires are quite common these days as MCs:
Lestat by Anne Rice
Louis and Lestat are the iconic vampire MCs from Rice’s books.

Mira by Jocelynne Drake
Mira is a six hundred years old vampire. She’s very protective of her small circle of people and an oddity even among vampires because she can create and control fire. The first book is “Nightwalker”.

Last but not least:
Corwin (and his family) by Roger Zelazny
Amber’s ruling family are immortal and eternally bickering with each other. When the patriarch Oberon vanishes, his sons fight viciously for the throne. The first book: “Nine Princes in Amber”.

Superhero comics, a bit surpisingly, don’t seem to have many strickly non-humans. Many Marvel characters are mutants but they’re human just with a different gene set. However, there are many who started out humans but were later changed, one way or another such as Victor Stone (Cyborg) and Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Binary/Captain Marvel). A case could be made for Inhumans being non-humans and the original Captain Marvel was a Kree man. But there are a couple of very prominent non-humans:

Superman
is from Krypton, of course, and therefore alien.

Wonder Woman
is an immortal Amazon. The other Amazons started as humans (at least depending on the current origin story) but Diana was created an immortal.

the Vision
is an android, although his brain patterns come from a human, Simon Williams.

Edit: I managed to leave out two of my favorite comics!
Cutter by Wendy and Richard Pini
and the rest of the elves in the Elfquest comics.

Dream by Neil Gaiman
The immortal Endless siblings are embodiments of some idea: Dream, Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire Delight/Delirium, and Despair each have their own spheres of influence.