The Thunder Came

Weirdly enough, I have read the beginning of Jason Aaron’s run on Thor before.  It’s the story of The God Butcher, which I checked out from the library a while back.  Still, reading it in context, with Godbomb following it up, it does make more sense.

Let me back up.  The time before last I was at my local comic shop, they were having a sale.  And I’d recently seen a solicitation for Thor by Jason Aaron: The Complete Collection Volume 1.  It’s essentially the same idea s my Green Lantern by Geoff Johns bricks, but in paperback with smaller individual books.  I can’t yet say how many books there will be, but I’m assuming more than three, given that I think the contents of this volume were previously The God ButcherGodbomb, and a third trade paperback.  At $40 retail for this specific book, that is a savings from the smaller trades.  Luckily I only spent $20, thanks to the sale.  If not, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.

I’d never read the Godbomb storyline before.  I’ve seen it for sale, but not at the library.  And I wasn’t sure something called Godbomb would be worth spending the money.  And now I don’t have to buy that trade since I have it, and having read it a lot of things make more sense now.  I’ve kind of jumped around Jason Aaron’s timeline since I first became interested in his work on Thor, so being able to say that I’ve read the first eighteen issues he wrote helps a lot now.  I wouldn’t have known The God Butcher was the start of his run…it just doesn’t feel like a beginning.

Good news also includes the fact that I hadn’t previously bought any of the comics collected in this book, so I don’t have anything to pull from my shelves as I did with much of the Green Lantern books.

Read altogether, the issues here do tell an interesting story, and set a lot of the stage for elements that would be seen in much later installments to Aaron’s story.  After all, here we see Malekith freed from his prison and become, once more, king of Svartalfheim.  Without this, there would be no War of the Realms.  Among other things.

Frankly, I’m more than a little impressed by all the groundwork that Aaron laid for what would become a company-wide event.  Oh, I’m sure Blackest Night was similar, but I wasn’t aware of comics as a whole when I first read that one, let alone what effect that had on other series running at the time.  True, I don’t read a lot of comics compared to many other people, but because I’ve been keeping up with comic news and solicitations, I am somewhat informed as to what’s up in various series.

I will probably continue to collect Thor by Jason Aaron as new volumes are released, though I may try to ensure I only buy books that don’t overlap with my current collection.  For example, I have all books featuring the Goddess of Thunder.  Therefore, why spend money for a collected version of the set?

Anyway, that’s all I read today.  It’s actually a pretty thick trade paperback, as you might guess from the price, and I didn’t have as much time to read at work as I might normally.  I also spent a chunk of the evening beginning to assemble things for Worldcon.  I haven’t yet decided how many books I’m taking…but weight-wise, I think I could take all of the ones with authors present, if I chose.  I’m not sure I will do that, as it seems excessive.  I especially don’t want to lug a Year’s Best volume around, though there’s at least four or five people who could add signatures to it.  There’s a few other overly large and/or hardcover volumes that I’m not incredibly attached to the idea of getting signed.

On the other hand, there’s Michelle Sagara West.  And I have quite a few things for her alone to sign.  Not including short fiction in anthologies besides her own.  Like I said, there’s much consideration to be had.  Also I should pull out all of my pointless bookmarks so that I can make signers’ jobs easier, especially with the anthologies.  And maybe sticky notes, so that I know whose names are needed for a particular book.

Two weeks left.  So much to do in so little time.

A Better End to the Night

You may recall I borrowed three books from a friend.  The first was the novelization of The Addams Family Values.  The second, finished today, is Sorcerers!, an anthology edited by the classic team of Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.  Of the books my friend bought in Forsyth, this is the one they were most ambivalent about.  I for one recognized a number of the authors included, but decided to see for myself.

The first thing I had to remind myself of yesterday as I found myself disengaging and poking around in Games You Can Play…By Yourself last night was that this anthology was published in 1986.  Furthermore, not a single one of the thirteen stories included was written for this anthology, meaning that these are all well over thirty years old at the very least.  I don’t think they’ve all aged well, but let’s take a look.

Fritz Leiber opened the book with “The Bleak Shore” and I didn’t like it.  But this is more a factor of me not caring for any tales featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.  Part of that may be how every book I’ve read collecting one of their stories talks up the pair.  And I just…don’t get it.  I don’t see what makes these stories noteworthy.  To be fair, I have a similar reaction to Conan stories.  At least I’d never read “The Bleak Shore” before.  That’s the best I can offer.  Well, I suppose there’s an interesting idea here, I just really dislike Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and I don’t see that changing.

Following that up is “O Ugly Bird!” by Manly Wade Wellman, an author I have never heard of before.  This is apparently another story featuring a character who appears multiple times, though this one is Silver John.  He travels around an area that sounds like Appalachia, singing and playing his silver-stringed guitar.  The story reads like it could take place at any point over a hundred fifty year period in the Appalachians.  I didn’t have a strong negative reaction to it as I did with Leiber’s tale, but I wasn’t super into it.  The tale was more work than most others given that the dialogue is in dialect.  I’m guessing this is one of the stories my friend disliked most, since they’re not a fan of having to read accents.

“The Power of the Press” is the third story, from Richard Kearns.  I’ve read one story of his before, in Dragons of Light, but I don’t remember it.  This though, this is a story worth remembering and by far the absolute best tale in the entire book.  It’s incredibly creative, a bit strange, and highly entertaining.  It’s also not quite what you think.

Naomi Mitchison’s “The Finger” is meant to take place in the present – which is not today, or even 1986, but actually 1980, making it one of the newest stories in the book.  It touches on tribal magic in post-colonial Africa and while I have no real reaction one way or the other to the story, it does have a feel I associate with stories inspired by African tales.  That is to say, things are what they are, and the ending doesn’t necessarily feel like an ending, but it is.  It’s not like a European fairy tale where fairy tale logic is – the African-inspired stories, particularly after colonization has started – feel much grittier.  At least, this is my experience.  I read a lot, but I am no expert.

Now, I have read Usula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books.  Or at least, the quartet.  I was not interested enough to pursue things further if possible.  As I recall, they read like fairy tales, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but at that time it did not intrigue me further.  Also probably because I was a full adult when I read the books, instead of encountering them in my youth as so many of my peers did.  This is all relevant because “The Word of Unbinding” is a story of Earthsea.  But I don’t think you need to know much, if anything, about Earthsea in order to appreciate it.  After all, I did fine and I barely recall what I thought about Earthsea.  I certainly don’t remember specifics.  This story stands on its own and is one of the better ones here.

“His Coat So Gay” by Sterling E. Lanier is one of the most predictable tales in the book.  Which doesn’t stop it from being one of the more enjoyable ones.  Of course, the setup, in the end, is one I’ve seen quiet a number of times, so perhaps familiarity makes it more attractive?

Nobody is surprised when I say that I have actually read one of these stories before.  Actually, I should be surprised it’s only one, given that this is a collection of previously published works.  That story is R.A. Lafferty’s “Narrow Valley”.  In 1893, each of the surviving Pawnee Native Americans was allotted 160 acres of land.  Clarence Big-Saddle liked his land, but didn’t want to pay taxes on it.  So he performed a ritual to preserve his land and protect it from outsiders, asking the spirits that it be “always wide and flourish and green…but that it be narrow if an intruder come.”  Which means the story begins when someone comes to try and claim the land.  I don’t remember my initial reaction upon reading this in Treasures of Fantasy as collected by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, but here it’s definitely one of the better stories.

Avram Davidson is an odd fellow.  For some reason when he shows up in a book he’s likely to have two stories instead of one.  I still don’t get it.  Anyway, “Sleep Well of Nights” is a strange story of the more rural areas of Central America.  Our protagonist is a Canadian who has rented his boat out to someone else and has a sudden urge to explore deeper inland.  It soon becomes clear he’s being driven and guided for some purpose.  I think…I think I mostly enjoyed this story, although I also feel like nothing really happened.  This is another tale featuring a recurring character though, so I’d be interested to see if the next story sequentially built off of this one at all.  Not enough interested to actually look up what that story would be and where I might find it, of course.

Joe Haldeman’s contribution “Armaja Das” is a story of Gypsies, the Romany.  And it is the darkest, most depressing story in the entire book.  I don’t require a happy ending to enjoy the story, but this was just…wow.  Old woman, you are a bitch.

“My Boat” comes from Joanna Russ, another author I’ve read a few times before.  For some reason, reading this story reminded me of reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories.  Which does make more sense upon looking up publication dates on the latter.  Most of “My Boat” is reminiscing upon a specific bit of time in 1952.  The original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books were published between 1947 and 1957, so yes, there’d be a lot of similarities despite the fact that the focus of the two is different.  Our protagonist, now an adult author, is reflecting to his agent on a Miss Cecilia Jackson, a young black woman who was transferred into his school, and how he got to know her.  It’s the sort of story that takes a while to get to where it’s going, but that’s the best part, once you realize what the truth is.  Again, one of the better tales in the volume.

Theodore Sturgeon’s story is “The Hag Séleen”.  Here, a young family has moved to a cabin in the Louisiana swamp.  But the Hag claims all of this area, and refuses to accept interlopers on her land.  It’s a perfectly fine story.  Engaging while you read it, though it doesn’t leave much to dwell on afterwards.  Which is why it ends up middle of the road, reaction-wise.

“The Last Wizard” is Avram Davidson’s other story.  It’s three pages long.  So, a short comedy or a long joke, complete with ending on a punchline.  Not the best joke.

Finally is Jack Vance’s “The Overworld”.  This story definitely has an A part and a B part.  In the beginning, we have the character Cugel trying to make some kind of living.  Then he turns thief.  The B story is where he’s trying to repay the magician he stole from by stealing something else.  And, I don’t care if it’s a spoiler but I literally cannot take the B part of the story seriously because they’re magic contact lenses.  Like, hard contact lenses, the type my mom wears, that change what you see.  Or how you perceive the world around you.  Hence, “The Overworld”.  But yeah, I cannot take seriously a story about magic contact lenses.

So, of the thirteen stories, six I enjoyed enough to have a positive reaction, one I truly disliked, and the other six were poor to average.  It’s not a great return, but not the worst either.  I’ve certainly read worse anthologies.  If I had the opportunity to buy my own copy of Sorcerers!…I probably would, because I did look up “The Power of the Press” for my friend, and this is literally the only book it’s been collected in.  Plus there were other good stories that I haven’t read before.

I’d skip Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser though.  I really would.

On an unrelated note, I really should find the time to reread Sandman.  You know, Neil Gaiman’s work.  I did actually reread a bit of it tonight.  Just a couple issues from volume 8, World’s End.  On Saturday I found something very interesting at the Newberry in their graphic novels section.  It is The Sandman Presents: Petrefax #1.  Fully a hundred pages of new story featuring Petrefax, last seen in the World’s End Tavern and Inn.  So of course, I had to reread about him before diving in to a new adventure.

Petrefax is a journeyman mortician trained in the necropolis of Litharge.  He, of course, knows a great deal about death and its rituals (though not nearly as much as his master Klaproth), but he still hungers for adventure, to see beyond Litharge.  Thus when the storm ends and all those who took refuge are free to leave World’s End, he chooses to catch a ride from a centaur and go exploring.  Thus his solo comic opens with him in the world of Malegrise.  In this world, every single person is born with sorcerous ability.  But some are more powerful than others, and women are not trained to use their magic.

Our young undertaker is looking for work – and finds it – when he falls in love.  Of course it’s with a dead girl.  But she’s not quite as dead as can be and more than anything else, she wants justice.  It’s the sort of adventure only Petrefax could find, but it’s wholly engaging.  I liked Petrefax as a character in World’s End and I laughed out loud multiple times at the sort of journey he has here in his own book.

My only question is…where to shelve it?  This may be a hundred pages, but it is actually a comic book and not a graphic novel.  I want to put it on the shelf next to Sandman, but I’m afraid it’s a little too delicate for that.  So I suppose I do have to put it with the comics for the time being.  Ah well.

But I really do need to reread Sandman sometime.  Hopefully soon.

What’s in Your Head?

Today’s is a short post.  I’m still working on my book, but I took a break to return to Top Ten Games You Can Play In Your Head By Yourself.  I’d thought to try a new adventure and went on to the second one: Space.  Unfortunately, I do not ever see myself playing this game.  I have no problems with space – see numerous science fiction books I’ve read over the course of keeping this blog – but I do have issues with a space ship that fits in a garage.  Even a two-car garage, which I do not have.  I know I know, you’re supposed to use your imagination, but my imagination has read a lot of fairly solid sci-fi and even assuming you were able to compress everything you needed, including engines, air filters, and human living space into a tiny house or smaller, that doesn’t change the fact that traveling from one planet to another is hardly instantaneous.  You are going to get very sick of your very tight confines fairly quickly, and you should probably have enough space to include all of the provisions you need.

So, because I cannot agree with the basic premise that starts the game, I can’t play it. It’s a shame, but if I was fifteen or more years younger I might have been able to.

The third game is definitely more intriguing, being titled Dungeon.  And I can think of a number of interesting ways to play it, I’m just not inspired to pursue any of them tonight.  But I should definitely come back to it in the future.  My only problem with this is the same problem I had earlier with the walkthrough in the book.  The whole “shadow self” concept, wherein you keep secrets from yourself.  I just…don’t play like that.  I play these games as roleplay, wherein I myself am the game master and my character(s) are simply that, with limited knowledge of the settings and worlds I imagine them in.  The whole “shadow self” thing is weird and I don’t like it.  I suppose it’s created as a way to allow someone less familiar with roleplaying handle details they the character should not know.  But the very idea rubs me the wrong way.

As promised, I’ll be returning to Games You Can Play In Your Head again periodically, as I find the time, mental capacity, and inclination.

Some Strange Stuff

In case it’s not obvious, when I start picking up books by author name alone, such as Mercedes Lackey or Tanya Huff, I spend less time and thought on actually looking up what the book is about. After all, I know I like just about everything I’ve read from said writer, so why bother spoiling myself.

That being said, it took me a little bit to get into Doomstalker by Glen Cook because I hadn’t realized the characters were not human. Also the cover art is…well, there’s a reason why I don’t usually buy books just for cover and usually ID them by spine. Anyway, this is book one of the Darkwar trilogy, though by the end of this book the term “darkwar” remains vaguely threatening. But goodness does a lot happen.

Our protagonist is Marika of the Degnan packstead. Think in terms of frontier homesteads, with the added caveat that the meth seem to be bipedal possibly canine omnivores. Anyway, the packstead consists of six longhouses, each ruled by a dominant female. Males are secondary and lesser beings who do contribute to the packstead but have far less power than any adult female. Marika herself is the daughter of Skiljan, one of the longhouse rulers. She and her brothers Kublin and Zamberlin are ten years old at the start of the book and it is a tough winter. Packstead life is not easy, but it is all she knows. But the older meth, especially the elderly Wise, know more and they fear that the Zhotak nomads will come down from the north…with cannibalism on their minds.

The packstead will do all it can to survive the terrible winter and the potential nomad threat. But there’s more to fear. Marika seems to have strange abilities of the mind, and one of her own longhouse’s wise, the sagan Pohsit, would like her dead for it. The sagan seems to be the religious leader of the longhouse, and Pohsit has no proof, but much fear. She also murmurs of “silth” and “witchery”, though young Marika does not know what those terms mean.

She’ll learn.

Doomstalker is a tragic origin story in so many ways. The Marika who celebrated her tenth birthday with her brothers while the adult meth muttered to themselves about the nomad threat would barely recognize the fourteen year old Marika who has somehow managed to survive to the end of this novel. And Doomstalker is clearly advertised as book one of the Darkwar Trilogy, so we all know there’s more to come.

What is most interesting to me is the fact that this book, for all its witches and strange powers, is science fiction. Not that Marika learns or can even begin to understand this until the second portion of the book. And even then her learning has upper limits. I, being a child of our fairly-advanced-in-comparison-to-the-packstead society, can make a number of guesses about what some of these vague references truly indicate. I can even make predictions about future paths for the story. Only time will tell if I am right or wrong of course.

On a semi-related note, yesterday I went to the Newberry Library’s annual book sale. And from what I’ve heard, I am very glad I do not plan my work schedule around it and make time to go the first day they’re open to the public. Apparently it was insanely crowded on Thursday, with a line wrapping around the block – and the building itself has a block all its own. One of my introvert friends said he only survived it by blocking out awareness of all the people around him. He didn’t even get inside a ring of tables where there were more sci-fi books on the inside that you couldn’t really see or reach from outside. This made a lot more sense when I got there for myself and discovered that there’s really only enough space for one person to enter or exit that inner bit at a time.

Still, I found about as much as I ever do when I go, and spent about fifteen dollars. Some of the books I bought were replacements for more damaged copies already on my shelves. One of them is the book one I missed getting at the Old Book Barn for a book two I’ve had what…three or more years now? At least this way it only cost a dollar. I also, amusingly enough, found the second Darkwar volume. So you know that’s coming up soon.

In the end, as far as new books go, I brought home five for myself from the Newberry. Then later I stopped at my local comic shop (my friend and I had gone to one in the city but I was not impressed with what they were asking for something of interest) and picked up some things from my pull list as well as bit more. Again, that’ll show up here once I read it. Overall, not a bad day at all, considering that I managed not to overspend. I really do not understand how it is that I go to the Newberry with people who do not read anywhere near as fast as I do, but still buy more books and spend more money than I do. I guess that’s a lifestyle choice or something. Even considering that I really should buy fewer books until I manage to reduce my Pile sharply. But again, that’s a lifestyle choice.

Anyway, I went on to read Warlock, the second Darkwar book by Glen Cook. Of course, I don’t have the third at this point, so it’ll be an unknown amount of time until I know how the story ends. What is most interesting to me as I finish this book is the fact that both have been read in what I consider to be a normal amount of time. This compared to the amazingly dense military fiction I’ve previously read from Glen Cook. I’m not really sure what to think of that, but I guess it means that this simply read like most other authors I’ve encountered, instead of having the same feel as the Dread Empire books or The Swordbearer.

So, Warlock opens right where Doomstalker ended. It even continues the story in a way that reminded me of Blake Hausladen’s books. As a reminder, he mentioned it as a fifteen book series, explaining that each published novel was actually five of the individual books. Here I found something similar. Doomstalker was made up of two books, Packstead and Akard, numbered accordingly. But Warlock opens with book three: Maksche, and follows that up with book four: TelleRai. Each book is named for the locale that will prove the chief setting for that segment, and follows Marika as she moves from the Degnan packstead of her birth in a Tech Two zone to higher population areas of increasing technology levels. Why, there are some silth who fly between the stars!

I think you may, if you are unfamiliar with these books, begin to understand why they are not at all fantasy.

Marika is a bizarrely selfish protagonist. She does not want power for its own sake, though she was born with a great deal of potential, should she survive to see it blossom. She sees more of the meth around her as people than her silth sisters do, and treats them accordingly. But if she is thwarted, rejected, or denied, Marika becomes a merciless vengeful bitch.

Early on in this book, she acquires a patron and sponsor. This is Gradwohl, most senior of the Reugge Community of silth. You see, the silth are not at all unified. Each separate Community of sisters is its own political and legal entity. The most senior is in charge, so each Community has their own. Being Gradwohl’s protege gives Marika a certain amount of protection, as well as notoriety. It’s also notable that in their first meeting Gradwohl observes with some annoyance that in their fear of Marika and her potential, the silth have given her no cause to feel loyalty to them or their Community. Which makes her the wisest meth we’ve seen to date.

But the violence that destroyed her home and family has not ceased and has gotten increasingly worse, especially given the higher and higher levels of technology involved. If political enemies started with the pretense of it being nomadic incursions, such a sham falls by the wayside at some point in this book. On the other hand, there’s rumors still of a powerful wehrlen, a powerful male silth. I do wish Marika wasn’t so self-centered that it takes the entire book for her to come to a logical conclusion there.

Warlock is your typical middle of a trilogy. We see the stakes upped, we see Marika grow and learn, and we continue to expand our understanding of her world. The stage has been set for a conflict, but given the events near the end of the book, a reader can no longer be certain what will happen in the big convention of sisterhoods. Certainly there’s more than a few loose ends that need tying up. But again, no one knows how long it will be before I can find out what happens next. That is up to the mercy of the used bookstores and library sales. On the other hand, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of other things to read while I search.

Speaking of, my impulse buy from the comic shop yesterday was the trade paperback for Infinity Warps. You may recall that I was rather intrigued when I saw the solicitation for Ghost Panther in an issue of Comic Shop News, and later that I also collected Iron Hammer. But it wasn’t until I started reading the new Secret Warps that I realized how engaging and intriguing all of these characters were. So I inquired at the shop yesterday. I’d been to another comic shop downtown earlier in the day and thought to browse through the back issues for more. I only managed to find Soldier Supreme #1, and they were asking $4.50 for it. As a note, the individual issues retailed for $3.99 when they were released, and I still do not understand the price increase less than a year later.

Anyway, I asked at my local shop and the owner was very surprised when he looked up. Firstly, Marvel seems to have an insanely advanced publishing schedule at this point. Meaning the Infinity Warps trade paperback was released in February which is maybe a month after the last comics came out. If that. He even told me there was a miniseries once where the final issue came out one week and the hardcover trade came out the next week. That’s…no little ridiculous. Anyway, this Infinity Warps trade, released in February, is already out of print. Luckily he did have a copy still on shelf, and given the reorganization has tended to Marvel and DC already in his shop, I could actually find it by looking for the proper place in the alphabet. So that was nice.

Now, there’s rather a lot in this book, which is no surprise for something costing $30. As a note, I’ve found that many of these trade paperbacks can be surprisingly cheap, down to around $15 for some collections. But it’s usually based on how many pages. In this case, there were five main Warps given two full issues. Then there were two more issues featuring multiple stories. So this book contains origin stories for Soldier Supreme, Iron Hammer, Arachknight, Weapon Hex, and Ghost Panther. The additional stories are about Observer-X, the Terrific Two, Moon Squirrel & Tippysaur, Green Widow, Foreverbush Man, Kamala Kang, Diamond Patch, and the Punisher Pack. And each of these characters interacts with their own warped crew, of course. I only vaguely know a number of these, so don’t expect me to be able to tell you exactly who got mixed here.

I think I mentioned previously when reading Secret Warps that the Soldier Supreme is a mix of Dr. Strange and Captain America. As per usual, Steve Rogers volunteers to be a lab rat for the sake of helping his country. But there’s not just a supersoldier formula that’s injected into him, but also magic. He has an instinctive grasp on it, but it will take years of practice to perfect. And given that Dormammu Red trapped him in the Dark Dimension, he’s had that time, as well as no reason to hold back from full strength while practicing. In some ways, the Dark Dimension beats being put on ice? Also, love the twist on the Winter Soldier.

I have read Iron Hammer before as stated, but I do want to mark how much I appreciate the opening pages here. They’re meant to invoke the old days of comics, when the first page was a splash of some strange situation with text hinting to the reader of how exciting it will be to find out how this image comes about. Between that and the narration, they’re really going for an oldschool feel. I still enjoy this story regardless, but wanted to make that point because I’ve talked about the content before.

Weapon Hex wasn’t especially interesting to me until I read her Secret Warps annual. She’s a combination of X-23 and the Scarlet Witch, born and raised to be a weapon and the vessel for…a demon? I’m not super clear but it’s a big black thing with lots of tentacles. Her story is a touching one even before her sister Speed Weasel comes along.

Having not yet read anything of Arachknight, I only had some half-remembered bits of a preview to tell me anything about him. Peter Parker was an ordinary boy out for a nighttime walk with his aunt and uncle when a big green goblin attacked the three. It bit Peter like a vampire and killed his family. The boy was dying but a kind spider decided to save his life by biting him and giving him spider powers…and a split personality. There are actually four inside of this body now – the original Peter, the superhero internally known as the Knight, a science expert, and a business CEO. I think they said that this is a combination of Spiderman and the Punisher? It’s an odd mix, but not a bad story. Just a bit disjointed, which is unsurprising given the four personalities bit.

Last of the big characters is Ghost Panther of course, the one who got me interested in the lot to begin with. And now that I’ve read more of the warps in general, I do have a further appreciation for the details of this particular story. I’m still not a huge fan of the art style in these two issues, but again, that’s because I’d rather see details. Again, I think the style does work for the story, it’s just not one of my personal favorites. I think something similar was used late in Sandman and I didn’t care for it there either. But a good story will go a long way to overcoming a number of problems.

So I guess Observer X is meant to be the Observer or Watcher or whatever and Professor X. There’s a lot of powerful figures that just kind of…keep track of shit and very rarely interfere in both Marvel and DC and they appear just often enough that I don’t actually care. He’s used to introduce the other three warps of the issue.

Moon Squirrel and her partner Tippysaur are utterly hilarious and everything about their story is done that way. The art style is cartoonier, the effects are bolder, the concepts are sillier, but it’s charming all the same. Also Tippysaur is a squirrel the size of a T-Rex wearing a yellow bow around their neck. Also Doom got warped with Galactus which…sounds like one of his power fantasies to be honest. Let’s hope the normal Dr. Doom never hears about it…

Then there’s Green Widow, who comes from Black Widow and She-Hulk. She’s breaking into a lab for reasons of who cares with a lookout in the form of Cat’s Eye, who’s an archer and hacker. Cat’s Eye is also a garrulous gossiper who talks all through the job.

The Terrific Two are quite simply a warp of the Fantastic Four. So there’s only the two of them instead of four, leaving Hot Rocks and Mister invisible, Ben and Reed Storm. I feel like this is one of the most stereotypical stories and could be any adventure of a superhero or two, with the only quirk being that they are warps.

The last issue has another powerful watcher in Foreverbush Man – I have no idea who he is made of. And frankly I don’t really care since he’s here a whole two pages. Nor am I familiar with the people making up Kamala Kang, who gets caught in discovering why you don’t change the past.

I have some serious questions about the Punisher Pack – a group of children on a mission of vengeance. I also wonder how the development of this warp relates to the new series Punisher Kill Krewe. See, in the wake of the War of the Realms, the Punisher seems to have found himself with a van full of kids, the implication being that he’s going to train them as his…team? I don’t know. I don’t really want to know, since the Punisher is generally a dark antihero.

Last is Diamond Patch who is half Wolverine and half…I’m not sure. He’s set up more as a villain in this case, though it’s hard to say as we only see him dealing with a subordinate of a rival gang and Deathstrique, who’s trying to kill him again. She’s a combination of Deathstrike and Mystique, I think I read.

Overall, I am much more interested in the main five warps, the ones who got a full two issues to explore their origin stories. The others range from okay to cute in terms of creators having fun and fleshing out the warped universe in other ways. They’re okay, but since I recognize very few of the characters they’re created from, and don’t care for all the ones I do know, I have far less investment in them. Which is probably part of why those ones did not merit even a full issue, let alone two of them.

It’s easy enough to theorize that part of what made them choose the five main warps was name recognition. Every character utilized has made it to the big screen at some point; Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, Thor, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, and the Punisher. True, not all of them are currently part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even the ones who aren’t are still known. Sure, my parents wouldn’t know the Punisher but I think they’d recognize Ghost Rider. But they aren’t even remotely close to a target audience anyway.

Overall, I have no regrets about spending the money for this trade. It’s certainly cheaper than tracking down another six issues of Infinity Warps (though that would not include Infinity Warps #1-2 because screw the “minor” characters). I didn’t know what to expect a year ago, and I didn’t really expect much. But that’s on me for underestimating the Marvel creators. I’ve been enjoying a lot of the current and recent work, so why should I expect Infinity Warps to be of lesser quality?

Ah well. Point being, it was good and I am happy.

Anyway, the best follow up to Infinity Warps would be my new copy of Secret Warps #4, the Arachknight annual. Which informs me that no, it’s Spiderman + Moon Knight, a character I have heard of and know nothing about. Which explains the white hood. Peter’s fighting Ulysses Klorb, a warp of Ulysses Klaw and The Orb, so therefore he has an ear for a head. While that fight wraps up, the Supreme Seven touch down. They’re from a different universe also within the Soul Stone and they’re here to destroy our heroes’ planet in order to anchor the multiverse inside the Stone. Because of course. They’re warps of a bunch of characters I’ve never heard of.

One nice bit in this issue is that Peter’s narration boxes change color to suit whichever personality is in charge. And when one of the Supreme Seven attacks his mind, we do have a lovely visual of the chaos inside due to four personalities. There’s also a backup story of how Arachknight met the Terrific Two and it’s kind of funny.

Of course the main story ends on a real cliffhanger while upping the stakes even further. Hopefully our heroes can get out of it before everything goes kablooey! Seriously, I’m loving the warped stuff and if they decide to make more, I’ll surely pick it up.

Now, since I was buying things at my local comic shop, there was a coverless comic thrown in as well. Which is notable because it’s actually been a while since I got one. Mostly it’s been Buffy comics with covers intact. Three of those, which again, were okay, but I don’t see myself springing for individual issues or trades. Though if I saw a trade at the library I might just check it out.

Anyway, today’s coverless comic was not at all what I expected. The main character is a redhead named Francine with an ability to predict the future that first manifested by preventer her mother from driving to the exact spot where a tree was about to fall over. Her father then determined to exploit his child by getting lotto numbers and winning horses out of her. Because, you know, once is never enough for some people.

It had started back in 1970 with the tree, and the present is 1978 where she’s in some sort of research facility as Six, the sixth person brought into a program concerning special abilities. And it turns out that her neighbor, from the house bought with her father’s lottery winnings, is also a part of the program. Which is about where the issue ends.

Most interesting of all is the comic’s actual title. Stranger Things: Six #1. See, I’ve never, ever watched Stranger Things. Oh sure, I know it’s supposed to be up my alley with geek culture and vintage setting, but it’s so popular I have no interest. I’ve been disinclined to seek out any real information and that’s been just fine with me.

Which makes me a little torn on this comic here. On the one hand, I think this was a very good opening and I am intrigued to see where it goes next. On the other hand, I still don’t want anything to do with a massive franchise and a very vocal fandom. I mean, you can argue that Marvel is a massive franchise and you’re not wrong, but I’ve been into that on a deeper level than most for years. I know a hell of a lot more than your average theatergoer, like my parents, and I do actively read comics. I still avoid the fandom, but that’s because I avoid fandom in general.

I guess you can also compare it to Game of Thrones. After all, I’ve turned up several short stories set in Westeros over the years. Of course, it’s also true that of those stories, only one is outstanding, one is fine but I suffer from lack of background, and the rest are pretty awful to my mind. And the one story I do like can be read as completely independent of the series if you so choose, which I do.

And that makes this Stranger Things comic immediately different from George R.R. Martin’s work in two ways. Firstly, I am quite certain it has a stronger connection to the series than “The Ice Dragon” does to A Song of Fire and Ice. Secondly, I actually enjoyed what I read. I won’t say it’s on a level with “The Ice Dragon” at this point, but I’ve only read the first issue of the story.

So I guess the relevant question is…how much do I want to know what happens next? I will admit to some curiosity. But I don’t think I’m curious enough to spend money on it. And I doubt another comic in this miniseries will find its way into my bag. However, I think I will hang onto this coverless comic for the time being, which is not the decision I saw myself making. And that says a lot now, doesn’t it?

Given the incredible mish-mash of things I’ve read today, I haven’t given any real thought to tomorrow’s reading. There are quite a number of options as per usual and most of them are reasonable choices. But I’ll worry about that in the morning. See if any thoughts get stuck in my head overnight that force a decision.

Tales of Tails

When in doubt on what to read next, read an anthology.  At least, that’s my go-to option.  Especially when I still have a number of them left in my Pile.  And that’s not even counting my plans for tomorrow…but more on that another time.  Let’s just say I will be hanging out with a friend and that friend is notably interested in cats.  Has two, to my knowledge, and loves them so as well as all of their brethren.  So in honor of those upcoming plans, today’s book was Magic Tails, an anthology of cat-themed fantasy.  From Martin H. Greenberg, of course, this time partnered with Janet Pack.

I will say that this was a first for me in terms of anthologies.  The cover informs would-be readers that there are fourteen stories within – a normal number for a DAW anthology of about three hundred pages.  But Janet Pack’s introduction mentions only thirteen.  She doesn’t list them out, but specifically states there are thirteen stories inside.  So I’m guessing there was a late addition and I don’t know which.  All tales were new for this volume, including Andre Norton’s, despite 2005 being the year we lost that incredible woman.  I guess that will just be one of life’s mysteries.

Without further ado, let’s talk tails.

Alan Dean Foster opens up with “Ali Babette”, an utterly predictable story about a lonely and unhappy woman in the greater New York metropolitan area who finds a djinn.  I could see where it was going from the start and while it’s not a bad story, I feel like such a notable author as Alan Dean Foster could have done more with it.

Then Elizabeth Ann Scarborough retells the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses with “Cat Among the Pigeons”.  The base of the fairy tale is there, but there’s a number of tweaks and adjustments to certain characters and bits.  I especially love the would-be suitor’s suggestion concerning the group of girls to the king.  Certainly an enjoyable tale.

“Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion” by Charles de Lint is the first truly good story in the anthology.  The narrator is very compelling – your ex-con who may not have a heart of gold but is genuinely trying to do better.  The situation touches on the edge of horror, but skirts it in the end.  And while the ending isn’t a conclusion, it shows a brighter hope for tomorrow than the start of the story, and sometimes that’s all you really need.

Jody Lynn Nye’s “Sleeping Beauties” is next.  It’s the first of more than one retelling of this particular fairy tale, which I do question overall.  I mean, you don’t need that many Sleeping Beauty stories in a single collection.  It weakens the individual stories because it invites comparisons.  I know that cats love to sleep, but given that the cats in question tend to be awake throughout it seems silly.  Anyway, this one wins points for being different from most versions of the story and was good in the end.

Then another heavy hitter steps up to the plate as Michelle West and newcomer co-author Debbie Ridpath Ohi introduce a modern retelling of “The Snow Queen”.  Now, this isn’t nearly as far-fetched as Joan D. Vinge’s version, but it’s still different from the traditional model.  And it is a solid, well-crafted story.  You know I had to love it – it is my favorite fairy tale.

Another new author to me is Edward Carmien, who wrote “The Devil’s Bridge”.  The story is…fine?  It’s fine.  It’s just nothing great or special to me.  It’s also the shortest tale in the book at a mere ten pages.

My great aunt has been trying to get me to read Lisanne Norman for years.  I haven’t really taken the plunge, but if “Pharaoh’s Cat” is anything to go by, I am definitely missing out.  This story is great in a way that classic fairy tales are.  You can take it out of the Egyptian setting and reskin it any way you want and this would still be an excellent tale.  I even made a little headcanon about the way the story ends, I was that invested.

“Cat-Friend” by Josepha Sherman may not hit quite as many buttons for me as the previous story, but it’s still new, different, and enjoyable.  The basis verges on horror at points, but shies away in the end, sticking to fantasy.  It’s a fairly simple little story, but then again, the narrator was quite young and naive when she experienced it.

Another new author is Edward Serken with “The Bedtime Story”.  This one definitely qualifies as horror in my books.  It’s an interesting one, to be sure, but there’s a lot going on and you almost wonder if the main character is going mad at points…

“Bargains” comes from Richard Lee Byers and posits a what-if I never considered.  What if Jack the Ripper had weird cat powers?  Obviously he got them from a bargain, given the title, but it’s a very interesting premise to spring a story off of.

When I saw the title of Mickey Zucker Reichert’s “All the Pigs’ Houses” I had to ask myself…is this really about the Three Little Pigs?  In a cat anthology?  Yes, yes it is.  And yes, there is a cat, though I feel like the feline is not front and center in the story as it should be for this particular book.  Still, it’s a cute little story.

“Ever So Much” by Bruce Holland Rogers has the feel of a traditional fairy tale, though not one I’ve ever read.  You have your poor and seemingly simple protagonist living in a poor village on the sea, and his pet cat.  You have your King who needs a problem solved, whether he knows it or not.  And it goes from there.  Definitely a decent read in a more traditional vein.

Jean Rabe is yet another author with a take on a fairy tale.  “Suede This Time” follows what happens after Puss in Boots got his master happily married.  You see, actions have consequences, as our fine-footed feline discovers…  Yet another strong addition to the anthology.

Finally, the volume is wrapped up by Andre Norton.  This is, of course, the only story I had read previously, in one of my Tales From High Hallack collections.  “The Cobwebbed Princess” is another retelling of Sleeping Beauty, though this one evokes Norton’s Witch World and other books of that sort with strange, lingering Powers of old.  The world lost a treasure when she died.  And how fitting, the ending of that tale, given her own passing that year.

Overall, Magic Tails is yet another decent DAW anthology.  There’s a few stories I particularly liked, a couple I wasn’t impressed with, and the rest are more than good enough to fill it out.  It’s about what you can expect from a DAW collection and that’s not a bad thing.  I certainly don’t think DAW is wasting my time or money when I read these, and I’m always happy to pick up more when I find them.

As per usual, I have no idea what I want to read next.  I promsie it will be a mass market paperback simply because those pack better in my bag.  As for content…who can say?  I have fantasy and sci-fi, anthologies and novels, even some novelizations left.  I even have a book I know to be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty!  (Hint, that one is NOT next and not just because of the specific fairy tale.)  Still, this was a good note to end the work week on.

What I’ve Sought

I’ve read a lot of novelizations.  Some good, some bad.  Some are as mixed as the movies they’re based on.  But today I finally read the novelization I’ve been looking for, however subconsciously, since I started actively reading them.  This is the novelization that is better than the movie.

To be fair, that’s not saying much.

I mean, I’ve mentioned that I have a thing for bad movies, especially bad superhero movies.  I own a number of them, including the one today’s book is based on.  That would be Elektra.

Now, let me start by talking about the movie.  That came out in 2005, two years after Daredevil.  As a reminder, Daredevil is the movie that got Ben Afflek and Jennifer Garner to hook up and their chemistry as Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios was great.  And, at the end of Daredevil, Elektra was seriously injured.  And she died.  Then her movie, I guess, starts with her coming back to life?  Look, it’s been a long time since I last watched Elektra and I’ve not seen it very many times, maybe once or twice, because I have never fully understood what on earth was going on.  I get the assassination thing.  I get the rebirth of a conscience thing.  But the rest?  Never made a lot of sense.

Well, I’ve never actually read a Daredevil or Elektra comic, so I don’t have that background knowledge to fall back on.  But really, if you want your movie to appeal to more than just comic geeks and people looking for female eye candy, your plot needs to be understandable.

Yvonne Navarro’s novelization not only allows us to get inside the characters’ heads, but it explains all that backstory and history that the movie skims over at best.  It helps me understand that Elektra truly does open the night she died in Daredevil’s arms, because being brought back to life by Japanese ninjas is how the whole story starts.

I could go put the movie on to refresh myself…but I don’t know that I really want to waste the time on something that really isn’t great.  Still, it’s only fair because of all the novelizations I’ve read, this is the only one I couldn’t play the movie in my head as I read.

So, how do they compare?  Well, I can certainly track what happens in the movie far better now.  They’ve tweaked the introduction to make this more of a “chosen one” narrative instead of one woman’s quest to find peace of mind with herself and her past so that she can actually have a future.  But the movie does a lot of jumping around.  Yes, the book does a lot of flashbacks too, but it’s more integrated instead of suddenly flashing to another place and time, or making Abby look like young Elektra.  And the book actually explains that Elektra has a limited ability to see into the future.  Or at least to see a potential future.  The movie tries to explain it, but doesn’t do a good job.

Now, Elektra was brought back to life and trained by a shadowy Japanese group known as the Chaste.  Their opponents, known as the Hand, have a couple of boardroom scenes.  The second one I could not help watching and thinking of how very much better the book did the entire scene.  We see Kirigi, the ambitious young man who very much wishes to rule the Hand, enter with his minions.  Each of them is dangerous in their own way, but the movie only expresses this by giving us plenty of time to look at them and their threatening walks and posture.  The book, however, has given us a scene with most of these people, showcasing their particular talents.  These include Stone’s physical power, Tattoo’s creatures that live on his flesh, and Typhoid Mary’s ability to kill anything.  Not only that, but when Kirigi tells Meizumi all of his people sent on a mission are dead, a servant brings out a tanto – the knife Meizumi is meant to use in committing seppuku.  True, the death happens offscreen even in the book, but Kirigi has provided all the elements for a traditional Japanese ritual suicide and it’s so much more effective this way.  Hands down, the book won that round.

The book also explains that the reason why all our villains turn to green dust and explode upon dying is because they’ve already died once.  Which leads in to the fact that this is post-Daredevil and the story really starts with Elektra being brought back to life.  Of course, the movie just starts with her killing a man and his hired guards instead of in an ambulance trying to save her life.  So there’s that.

In fact, the only thing I think the movie does better is just before the final showdown.  In the book, Elektra leaves the Chaste’s training ground and goes to her childhood home, a shut up and abandoned mansion.  She has some notion that the Hand is closely monitoring her and means to lead them away.  None of this makes much sense given that I assume (though I do not know) that the training ground and the mansion are in different countries, likely with an ocean between.  But neither medium tells us the locations of either.  Anyway, in the movie Elektra leaves and somehow magically telepathically contacts Kirigi and challenges him to “end it where it all began”, which is again, her childhood home.  Elektra spends the entire story working through a lot of mental shit, some of which stems from finding her murdered mother in her own bed and some of which is older even than that.  Anyway, I like the formal challenge and how it was phrased better than just going a place and trusting she’ll be followed.

In the end, Elektra is still an absolutely awful movie and I hope it’s another decade or more before I have a reason to put it on again.  The movie feels disjointed and sloppy, too focused on looking cool than on telling a coherent story.  The book is far superior because, while it’s not the best, you can at least understand what is going on at a given moment and get good setup and payoff throughout.

Like I said, this is the novelization I’ve been looking for, the one that takes a bad movie and makes it better.  Still not great, but I’ve read (and watched) so much worse and enjoyed myself.  I am much more likely to reread than rewatch Elektra.  Especially if I manage to get my hands on a novelization of Daredevil.  Which I actually like.

Although, it really seems like Elektra’s life is full of blind men who are way more capable than most sighted men.  She should probably watch out for that.

Over Forty Years in the Making

Well, at least someone did better on the branding for The Sorceress of Karres by Eric Flint and Dave Freer.  The font is still very fantasy-esque, but the image prominently features a space ship and while two characters seem elfin (I really doubt that’s what they look like) everyone’s wearing spacesuit/armorish stuff.  And there’s more spaceships in the background on top of, well, I guess it’s a nebula.  So, it’s better than The Wizard of Karres but still not great.

So while book two was published thirty-eight years after the original, in 2004, this finale came out in 2010.  Six years’ difference really isn’t much in the grand scheme of things and since I didn’t even bother reading any of these books until fairly recently, it means little to me.  Still, given what these authors were up to at the time (and still are), I’m not going to argue with a somewhat reasonable gap.

Not that there’s any real gap in the internal timeline of the novels.  As The Wizard of Karres picked up almost exactly where The Witches of Karres ended, so the same can be said of The Sorceress of Karres.  And, as I said, this book does conclude the set.  I guess you could say it retroactively makes a trilogy of the lot, given that I’m quite certain the original was meant to stand alone.  But this does what any good conclusion should.  It builds on what we’ve seen and learned in previous volumes, ups the stakes, clarifies a number of questions, and brings things to a satisfying ending.

Time travel is still stupid though, and it’s a significant chunk of this book.  To be fair, I think it’s handled fairly well for all that I hate most people’s execution.  It’s not out of nowhere, we can see cause and effect, and at no point do we lose track of what’s going on in the present.  I still have serious questions about bits of “I’m my own grandpa” in the books, but I guess we’ll just have to roll with that.  Let’s just say it doesn’t piss me off nearly as much as Anne McCaffrey’s Acorna books because that series really, really annoyed me in terms of time travel.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed all three books.  The original The Witches of Karres is a solid read with lots of hilarity, and the sequels build off of that foundation into something even bigger and more exciting.  Oh sure, there’s now some actual romance thrown in and the previously mentioned Lackey-isms, but by the time you get to The Sorceress of Karres these things are fairly homogenously folded into the makeup of the universe.

Frankly, my biggest problem, ignoring the covers and now that I’ve finished the newest book, is that I’m not sure where to put it.  See, I’ve got The Wizard of Karres mixed in with my Lackey hardcovers and oversized…but The Witches of Karres is with my other older sci-fi.  On the opposite wall.  To be fair, since Lackey’s not an author on The Sorceress of Karres that’s not a problem.  But my other books by Eric Flint and Dave Freer are all on the same wall as Lackey.  That one does tend towards fantasy, newer books, and my favorites.  And I really do prefer to sort things by author…except when series overrides that.  So then do I move the Telzey Amberdon books to the other wall?  I do have older books on there, largely because that’s where I found space when organizing.  Tolkien and C.S. Lewis most notably.  Actually, that’s probably the answer.  Switch one of those authors with Schmitz and get everything on one wall.  Rework the Lackey mass market paperbacks so that two of the Karres books can sit next to each other.

Well, now that that’s decided, I shall go implement.  And consider what I’m reading next.  My friend did lend me two other books besides The Addams Family Values and I should return them the next time we meet, which is a bit over a week.  So those are definitely factors to consider.  Although, my friend is likely to forgive me if it takes a bit longer, so we’ll see.  There’s so very much in the Pile and so much of it I’m excited about.

There’s Yer Problem, Ye’ve Got Fantasy in Yer Sci-Fi

I’m sorry, but Baen’s branding will never not piss me off with these books.  I do not care of the main characters are klatha (magic) users or not, they live on a spaceship.  In space.  The whole book is about trying to get from one planet to another.  This is not a fantasy novel!

Yes, there is technically a space ship on the cover.  Two, even.  One of them is covered by all the authors’ names (Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer) and the other one is behind an artist’s rendering of one of the sentient bodiless entities attracted to magic and its use.  The artist has chosen to make this vatch look like a fairy.  Because of course.  And I don’t care that Hantis’ race are known as Sprites and have pointed ears and use klatha, that does not actually make her an elf.  This is not a fantasy novel!

Seriously, I think someone just looked at the title, The Wizard of Karres, and made poor branding choices based on that.  And again, this will never not piss me off.  After all, Andre Norton’s Witch World is science fiction (albeit in part because fantasy was not really a separate thing at that point).  Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series is pretty definitely science fiction.  In fact, the two are not at all mutually exclusive.  I just dislike making this book look like a fantasy novel specifically when it could have been presented as science fiction or something that could not easily be read as one or the other.  Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and sequels come to mind for covers that…really don’t tell you what to expect except that it’s going to be different.

Anyway, The Wizard of Karres picks up just about where The Witches of Karres left off.  And, as I mentioned the first time I read this book, it was published thirty-eight years after the first.  You can definitely tell that Schmitz didn’t write it either.  Lackey, Flint, and Freer use Captain Pausert’s name as frequently as you’d expect to see with any main character, while Schmitz almost always referred to him as “the captain” and even other characters would only use “Pausert” once every so many pages.

The book also has a number of Lackey-isms.  Such as joining the circus.  No joke, that is the main portion of the book, running around with the circus.  Oh sure, it’s fun and engaging and the characterization remains consistent with Schmitz’s work, but I just…really question the choice of the circus.  I know Lackey loves them and her gypsies and roving communities of the road, but I just have to say, “really?”  I mean, I do love Lackey’s work but I don’t need her to put a big red stamp on it to claim it.  I like her as an author because I enjoy how she writes and what she does with her characters.  Not because I like horses or birds or music or any of her other Lackey-isms.

Speaking of Lackey, a friend asked me today if I’ve read the new Valdemar novel yet. Obviously I haven’t, or it would be here on this blog, but that’s the series for the -isms.  That’s what the series is built on in many ways, and that’s where they belong.  Somewhat.

Everyone grows and changes with time.  You become more skilled at things you continue to do, which as an author helps keep audiences engaged.  C.J. Cherryh’s been working on the Alliance-Union universe for nearly forty years.  I can tell the difference between older books and newer ones…but it’s mostly based on technology levels and how they’re incorporated.  The author’s voice is largely the same.  But the content…that’s the important thing that I’m not sure Mercedes Lackey is seeing right now.  Cherryh doesn’t usually write the same book twice.  I mean, I’m pretty sure the Chanur books are comparable to The Faded Sun, but there are differences in how the two sets are handled.  I’ll have to reread Chanur at some point and do a more thorough analysis.

Point being, that I’m pretty sure Lackey is not doing a lot of progressing as an author, especially when it comes to her Valdemar books.  She’s just churning them out because the publisher wants one a year because people will keep buying them.  And they simply haven’t been as good in recent years.  Maybe there’s burnout involved.  Maybe she needs to stop for a bit and find some ideas that are worth writing the words.  Gods all know I’d like to see her step outside of her comfort zone a bit or take some time and explore other worlds she’s written.  I’ll still wish for another book in the Halfblood Chronicles.  I’d like to know when the next Hunter book is out…or if that series is considered concluded because it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way.  Or the next Dragon Prophecy book.  Or just something new and different!

Well, at least my next book will be new to me.  And Lackey’s name isn’t on it.

Some Sci-Fi

So, after all those new comics, I went back and chose to reread something.  Although this might seem an odd choice all things considered, as I pulled The Witches of Karres off the shelf.  As a reminder, this is a 1966 science fiction novel by James Schmitz.

Our captain (Pausert by name, though it’s used seldom) is young and on his own for the first time.  He’s got his ship Venture courtesy the father of the girl he’s promised to and is out to make a profit and hopefully impress the would-be father-in-law.  However, as he’s getting ready to leave a planet with his cargo, he hears a scream and goes to help.  Thus he ends up buying a slave, young Maleen of Karres.  Who then insists that he buy her sisters, also enslaved on the same planet.  The affair starts him in a load of trouble.

Things get stranger when, just as the authorities move to surround his ship as he leaves the planet, a strange drive kicks in, propelling the Venture far beyond the enemy ships’ reach.  That’s when the captain learns his new charges are infamous witches of Karres.

But again, that’s only the start of his troubles.  He takes the girls home and their people repay him kindly, but when he tries to go to his home he discovers that Karres is interdicted, prohibited, and generally the result of more misfortune for him.  Which doesn’t even cover the fact that one of the young witches is still on his ship for reasons of her own.

All the captain really wants to do is the job he determined, as a merchant trader.  But because he’s inclined to help when asked, he continues finding himself in more and more trouble.  And we readers aren’t the only ones to take a distinct and noticeable interest in him…

There’s good reasons why The Witches of Karres isn’t forgotten more than fifty years after its publication.  It’s an exciting ride with genuine humor and emotion.  Not to mention the cover art that just…explains everything.  Pausert sits in a chair, wearing a spacesuit.  Behind him, one of the girls is playing with his helmet.  In the foreground the other two are sitting around a fire, though one seems to be doing some kind of magic.  The captain himself sits with one fist on his thigh, the opposite elbow on his other thigh, and the corresponding hand sprawled across his face in a timeless pose of “why me?” or “what can possibly go wrong next?”  Both are fair questions throughout the book.

Regardless, it’s an enjoyable read that shows a timeless vision of a future.  And that is something I do appreciate, for so very many science fiction novels are rooted in technology as we can imagine it when they were written.  I did talk about the physical papers C.J. Cherryh employed in her earlier Alliance-Union books, though not the tapes which were just as clearly based on cassettes and videocassettes.  Here, there’s nothing of the sort being referenced, which is probably why a fifty year old book likely reads as much the same now as it did then.

And if you’ve been paying attention, you know what’s up for tomorrow’s reading.

Big Comic Day

I think we all know I’ve been working myself up to getting through that pile of Power Rangers comics I’ve been accumulating for a couple months now.  I meant to get to it yesterday, but that ended up not working out.  At least I got some chores done, which is still useful.  And it means that I had so much wonderfulness to read this morning.

Today’s reading encompassed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #37-40Go Go Power Rangers #19-20, and Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers #1.  As you might guess from past reading habits, issues 37 and 19 were rereads to remind myself what on earth was going on.  Which is no bad thing given that both series were approaching major climaxes.  So let’s start with the older and longer series.

After the big Shattered Grid event last summer, several rangers from various teams found themselves in another universe, known as the Void.  They found Elli there, the only Power Ranger of the Void, her enemy the Praetor, and mystery after mystery.  When last we saw our heroes, they’d found an entire planet made of Zeo crystals and the Praetor was making sneaky offers in exchange for betrayal.  Issue 38 dives into the history of the Void as well as the Praetor, and issue 39 the big climactic battle of the Beyond the Grid storyline that’s been running ever since the end of Shattered Grid.  Issue 40, funnily enough, goes back to where we left things in Shattered Grid #1 before moving forward.

Issue 40 is where the story takes another leap forward.  Tommy is back as the White Ranger, we now have Aisha, Rocky, and Adam in for Trini, Jason, and Zack, Zed’s in charge and Rita’s been banished (for now).  All your standard events from the TV show as we enter a new era for the Power Rangers.  And maybe the reasoning behind some of these changes is different and maybe it’s not; I’m sure we’ll get some additional backstory as the series continues.  At the moment, I’m pretty happy with the final wrap-up to Shattered Grid and Beyond the Grid, so I’m just going to roll with it for now.

Now, with Go Go Power Rangers I had stated from the start that this series could only ever have a limited run.  After all, these events cover from Arrival Day (when Rita woke up) to Tommy becoming the green ranger.  Because Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers opened just after Tommy had switched sides to join the team, we knew that there was only ever so much Go Go Power Rangers could encompass and issue…1 sees that conclusion.  And the last big obstacle the team of five faces before an evil ranger is somewhat predictable given the lead up, but not a bad thing.  Really, it’s the backstory of Zordon and Rita that made this segment all the more compelling, though a recurring villain is never a bad thing.

I’m not sure what’s up with the Forever Rangers #1 bit as it just seems to be the conclusion to the Go Go Power Rangers story, but I can wait and see I guess.  Point being, I had a very satisfactory morning with two major climaxes in these ongoing series.  As I’ve said all along, these comics are written by people who love the series as much as I do, and while they’ve updated any number of things and changed numerous others to suit the stories being told, it’s all done out of love and to keep the same feel that we latched onto as children.  Sure, the tv show was corny as all hell, but there was an actual story going on a good chunk of the time and we came to care deeply for the characters and what they were going through.

I know there’s bits throughout the series, especially with the Shattered Grid and Beyond the Grid sequences, that I don’t fully get simply because I have not watched every single season to ever air.  (Frankly I’m not interested in most or all of those seasons I haven’t seen.)  But I know that other people do recognize people and places and get a kick out of doing so, and more power to them.  And this…this is what a reboot should be.  Something that hits the main high notes of the original while adding to it in ways we fans can appreciate and telling its own story.  Gods all know we don’t want to see our heroes trapped in a giant pizza again (seriously, wtf show) but they still need to work out their own issues and interests while being superheroes just like in the show.

Long story short, I’ve loved these comics from the start and I cannot wait to see where they go next.

Welp, I’m back from the comic shop where I picked up Go Go Power Rangers #21.  I guess Forever Rangers was like Shattered Grid, a weird single standalone issue to mark a major moment?  I literally do not understand why you would do this.  The annuals make slightly more sense with each new year being a #1, but not that much. Ah, whatever.

In issue 21, Go Go Power Rangers skips from the days before Tommy to after the incident with the green candle.  Tommy’s powers are fading, just about gone, and Lord Zed has kicked Rita out.  Kim is trying to get him to still be her boyfriend, but Tommy admits he’s jealous of the group now that he’s no longer a ranger.  It’s a weird choice, I think, to do this time skip here.  I guess it makes some sense, given that Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers instituted a skip at the same time, allowing this series to still cover earlier events than the other, but I’m not sure I like it.

Of course, at least there’s the intriguing little bit at the end to remind us that not all is as it was, so there’s that.

Anyway, I had a number of things waiting for me at the comic shop in addition to that issue of Power Rangers.  Such as The War of the Realms: Omega, the finale to the big event.  We saw the climax in issue six, sure, but here’s more wrap-up.  Also lead-ins to new series starting in the wake of the War such as ValkyrieLoki, and Punisher:  Kill Krew.  Of the lot, I’m only really interested in the first, based on my previous reading by Jason Aaron.  I have a friend who dearly loves Loki as a character, but I suspect that she’d be less than thrilled at the differences in his characterization on paper as compared to in film.  And the Punisher is…a weird one.  I don’t have much interest in him save as a side character.

Still, I think it was a good wrap-up and transition to a post-War of the Realms world.  We’ll see how things go in Valkyrie.  I’ll probably end up reading the Thor books too, but not until they’re collected in trade.

Anyway, the last comics I picked up today were Secret Warps Parts 2-3, the annuals for Weapon Hex (X-23/Scarlet Witch) and Ghost Panther.  The main stories in both issues continue the tale from Soldier Supreme wherein the baddies have switched opponents in order to keep the heroes distracted while the forces of Hell do their thing.  Also time gets mucked up because of course.  Also also apparently something of what’s going on is legit cracking the Soul Stone containing all of this so…that’s bad.

More interesting are the backup stories.  The original Infinity Warps were origin stories, though I didn’t read all of them and am slightly regretting that now.  Again, note to self to keep an eye out for the trade(s?).  Weapon Hex deals with a…were-cat person.  (I have no idea.)  Also has her little sister Speed Weasel along for lulz and some useful things.

I like Ghost Panther’s backup story more, but I am also more attached to his character.  Plus his entry into the main story is rather entertaining.  In the backup, he’s gone to America.  His logic is that if he’s going to hunt down evil, why not do so before it comes to Wakanda?  Zarathos is taunting him while he sits in a church…and then he’s attacked by a woman who’s a warp of Blade and somebody else.  She realizes fairly quickly he’s not her enemy and they have an interesting conversation before fighting vampires.  And the issue ends on a great note and I love it because of course.

I think part of why I’m having so much fun with the Warps books is because while the characters have personalities and backstories, none of that has been established before.  For all intents and purposes, these are brand new characters making brand new stories.  In fact, I’m seeing this as a common theme in all of the comic books I’ve gravitated towards.  You don’t see me looking to collect the how-ever-many-eth retelling of Batman’s origin, or Spiderman’s, or whomever.  But the first time we’ve really seen a Goddess of Thunder as more than a What If?  Yeah, I’ll take that.  The Blackest Night event that redifined the DC universe in its context?  Sure.  And then I’ve branched out from there, fleshing out my understanding of those two instances and what happened to whom.

All you have to do is look at the Spiderman movies to understand why this is where my interest lies.  There are three big budget blockbusters that have been in theaters in the past twenty years showing Spiderman’s origin story.  And we’re all tired of it.  The only reason Spiderverse got away with it is because, firstly, the whole movie was Miles Morales’ origin instead of Peter Parker’s and secondly, because all of the Peters (and Gwen) summarized their tales in about a minute or less so we could move on with the plot.  Sure, origin stories are important.  But with an established universe, on film or in print, you don’t have to start with an origin for everyone.  You’re allowed to jump right into the action and show the audience something new, that they’ve never seen before.  I for one would much rather see them come up with some new X-Men stories for the silver screen rather than attempting or mangling one of the older ones again.

The point is, I like following the Secret Warps story and learning more about these strange new characters.  I appreciate that only the creators and the supernerds who poke into every release as soon as it’s announced and dig up as much supplemental information as they can find know more about these characters than I do.  There is no decades of history shaping Ghost Panther in and of himself.  Yes, he’s informed by the decades of work on Black Panther and Ghost Rider, but he himself is new, with different skill sets and restrictions.  And therein lies the appeal.  I don’t think they’ll ever create an ongoing series with the Warps characters, but I’m sure once these annuals are done it won’t be the last we see of them.

And, once again, I need to figure out what I’m reading on the morrow.  But for tonight, perhaps a movie.  Maybe even one with superheroes.