Marvel's second best superhero team (aside from the X-Men) in another great Volume. Aside from maybe the Miles Morales series, this is easily Bendis'...moreMarvel's second best superhero team (aside from the X-Men) in another great Volume. Aside from maybe the Miles Morales series, this is easily Bendis' best current work. (less)
So then – Trinity War. DC’s first ‘epic’ scale event is what the New 52 has been building towards for about two years now. The anticipation has been there, and whilst some may have been disappointed by it, and I’ll admit – it’s not perfect, the event itself may very well give DC another point in their favour when it comes to events, with Rise of the Third Army, Throne of Atlantis, Night of Owls and Death of the Family (unless they’re more crossovers than events) also impressing. Whereas you compare it to Marvel, I’ve had negative experiences with Age of Ultron and Avengers vs. X-Men, although Infinity and Battle of the Atom have got off to promising starts.
The book itself is yet another hero vs. hero battle, something that we’ve already seen before happen in the early issues of DC’s Justice League, although not to this extent. However, to Johns’ credit, it doesn’t come across as a re-hash of that, or Avengers. Vs X-Men, which was basically Marvel’s far weaker attempt. I loved how Johns and Lemire, who was also working on the title, wove in the mystery element of Pandora’s Box, as opposed to yet another clash because of a misunderstanding, which is starting to become a cliché and a weak excuse to pit your favourite superheroes against each other. The arc also introduces readers to characters not encountered before in the New 52, most notably The Question, who I understand is a fan favourite.
However, despite the Question’s introduction, the Trinity of Sin, compromising of The Question, Pandora & Phantom Stranger, the latter two with their own ongoing series (it’ll only be a matter of time before The Question gets one, I think) don’t really get much page time here. However, when they do appear they only get some answers regarding their characters – maybe it’s because two of the three are in their respective series already allowing the writers of those books to answer these questions, but I haven’t read them so can’t really comment. The lack of answers really proves a problem through the course of this storyline, and like Age of Ultron, Trinity War offers more of a lead in to the next big thing, but instead of Hunger, it’s Forever Evil – and the first issue of that book has not really answered all of our questions as of yet (look out for a review soon).
On the other hand, the artwork was superb. The respective artists bring great work to their respective issues with some equally stunning artwork to the books, the standouts being Ivan Reis’ splash pages which mostly feature fighting between DC’s superheroes. The event as a whole really benefited from this awesome artwork, and the plot featuring the mystery behind Pandora’s Box was also quite interesting and I loved how the creative team chooses to weave the narrative over the Justice League, Justice League Dark and Justice League of America titles rather than create a mini-series just for this event, something that DC don’t seem to be particularly fond of.
This also allowed me to check out a title that I don’t normally follow, Justice League Dark – even if it was just for Trinity War, this allowed me to sample the issue and as a result, I enjoyed it. So much so that I went back and found a second or third printing (not sure which one, will have to double check) of Justice League Dark #1 from my LCS today when I had to go back to pick up Battle of the Atom #1. And whilst it didn’t impress that much, I had a brief glimpse at how the team handled well together.
As the event deals with several characters, obviously some are going to get sidelined. I liked how Shazam played a key role in starting the whole thing even if he and Superman seemed to react a little too over the top, if you get what I mean – and when the two came to blows it felt kind of contrived, making Shazam come across as a jerk – something that happens again later on in the event, even though he may have been possessed/influenced by Pandora’s Box. I also want to pick up Constantine #5 at some point to see the showdown between John and Shazam – something that was hinted at in the main events of Trinity War, as well as jump on board the book when I can, whilst the first two issues were less than impressive I’ve been meaning to give it another try and see how it develops, particularly as I have a better understanding of the character.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Constantine, it’s important to note that he also gets a bigger role in the series. I liked the fact that because he was already corrupt, he could touch the Box and not feel the same effects that influenced everybody from Superman to Zatanna. Of course, the more powerful heroes we got to see under the influence of the book longer, with certain characters like Wonder Woman getting time in the spotlight more than say Flash, or Vibe.
However, Flash and Vibe got a pretty interesting confrontation together, and Vibe’s reluctance was a nice touch – he’s clearly, like Stargirl – not used to this sort of thing. The exchange between Vibe and Hawkman as the Justice League of America headed to Kahndaq with the intent of pulling Shazam (who was there to lay the remains of Black Adam to rest) out of the country, which by National Law is off limit to superheroes – added a nice humour element to the situation, where Hawkman suggested that he could handle both Flash and Aquaman for Vibe. The interactions between Hawkman and Vibe seem to be a frequent source of amusement, and although not that frequent, the first meeting between the two was a nice moment of comic-relief as well when Vibe pointed out that Hawkman was covered in blood, but it was clearly not his own.
The Crime Syndicate also get a key role to play in this book, although they don’t appear to til the very end, as evil versions of the heroes that we know and love. With the Sea King (Aquaman’s Counterpart) dead upon their arrival to the present Earth, things are shaping up to be very interesting indeed, with the rooster compromising of Ultraman (Superman) Superwoman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman’s counterpart) Johnny Quick (Flash), Power Ring (Green Lantern), Deathstorm (Firestorm), and Atomica, who plays the role of the Mole inside the Earth-One Justice League. It turns out that Trinity War didn’t really mean the confrontation between the three Leagues after all (although that played a pretty big involvement), but Earth-Three, the world where these characters hail from. It’s a universe that I’d love to discover more about as I went into this book completely in the dark, so the end revelation left me a bit confused, but surprised – as to the whole origin concerning these characters.
In conclusion, then – minus a couple of problems here and there, Trinity War is a stunning success. DC seem to be handling events a lot better than Marvel at the moment (although, like I’ve already mentioned, Battle of the Atom and Infinity may redeem my faith in Marvel to tell strong event stories, and I’m glad that I gave this event a read in its entirety (aside from the tie-ins) rather than just sticking with certain issues. The only major problem that I had was that it didn’t really serve as a closed event with several questions left unanswered, but the fact that we could jump straight into Forever Evil the week after with its first issue lessened the impact a bit. This event is worth checking out regardless, and it’s one worth buying all the issues for rather than just reading the ones from the comics you follow. Top notch stuff.
More like a 2.5 than a 3. Think it would have been better if it had collected the whole of the Lights Out Event but I think that's being released as a...moreMore like a 2.5 than a 3. Think it would have been better if it had collected the whole of the Lights Out Event but I think that's being released as a separate collection. (less)
“I never expected The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare to be as good as it was. It took me completely by surprise and turned out to be quite possibl...more“I never expected The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare to be as good as it was. It took me completely by surprise and turned out to be quite possibly one of the best novels from Strange Chemistry books to date. Forget popular books like The Hunger Games & Twilight, M.G. Buehrlen’s debut novel is something that every young adult fan should read.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.
And will stop at nothing to make this life her last."
Time travel has been a great part of science fiction and fantasy culture primarily due to the 50-year old British Science Fiction TV series Doctor Who and the Back to the Future trilogy. The subject genre has also given us novels like Stephen King’s 11.22.63, and of course the classic H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine. With such a vast subject to cover it’s amazing that beyond the aforementioned titles you’ll probably struggle to recall and really exceptional time travel material in both novels and film that has been really, truly brilliant. Despite the fact that M.G. Buehrlen’s The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare may not look like much on the blurb, sounding like another time-travel romance story, but despite the fact that romance does play an important part in this book the main focus is on the time travel, and the plot actually moves forward rather than just being about two characters falling in love. It’s compelling, page-turning and a really quick read – something that will appeal to fans of both young adult and adult fiction alike.
The57LivesofAlexWayfareThe main character is 17 year old Alex Wayfare, who’s a sort of time traveller. She lacks a TARDIS and a DeLorean, but what she does have the ability to do is move through fifty seven different lifetimes, in various bodies and actually live history rather than read about it in paper. The catch? When she time travels, she transports herself into different people’s bodies and it’s not always clear whose bodies she’s going to end up in. And then of course, there are rules – you cannot fall in love, or kill a person, because this may end up changing the future altogether. It’s clear that the writer has actually put some thought process into the idea of time travel and doesn’t make up new rules as she goes along. It’s good to see a sense of direction as well, because the plot rapidly advances and as a result allows for a really compelling read.
Alex Wayfare is a likable, rootable and engaging character. She’s the outsider at school – nicknamed “Wayspaz” by her peers, with little friends and a good ability to fix things. It’s not often that you get a well rounded character in young adult fiction nowadays – particularly female characters tend to be underdeveloped often, but Alex is one that certainly has been fleshed out and over the course of the book really grows as a character. And more importantly, Alex actually gets stuff done. You’d be amazed at how many young adult novels (and not just YA novels) there are where the female protagonist doesn’t actually do a lot of stuff other than fall in love with the man. When a book is written entirely through a first person perspective it’s important that you can connect to and root for the main character and that’s what Buehrlen does. Alex isn’t off-putting and never feels like a Mary-Sue.
The storyline is fantastic. It explores time travel in a way that most novels don’t – what if you ended up in other people’s bodies rather than time travel by yourself? Marty McFly didn’t have to deal with this situation, and neither does The Doctor. Buehrlen’s take on time travel is inventive and imaginative – and it’ll be interesting to see what direction she takes the book if there is a sequel. She does include a romance element which will normally throw people off but it actually works here, not bogging down the story and still creating a really compelling read. There isn’t a love triangle that most books seem to be so full of nowadays and it’s all the better because of that. If anything, The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare shows that you can write a good young adult novel with a female character that doesn’t have to deal with two separate love interests. It’s a refreshing break and makes Alex feel more realistic and less of an author’s wish-fulfillment.
Despite being a lot of fun, The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare does have two minor issues that could have been developed more. They don’t really detract from the overall enjoyment of the book but it would have been nice to see the secondary characters developed a bit more, especially when Alex herself was so well fleshed out. The other complaint is nothing to do with the writing of the book at all, it’s the fact that the cover is not as great as it could have been. A time travel novel has a potential for a great cover but the opportunity was really wasted here as it feels bland and generic, much like the “Man with hood” covers that epic fantasy seems to be full of nowadays.
On the whole, The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare is an excellent book that can be recommended to all lovers of young adult fiction, with something that readers of almost every genre will find something to enjoy here. It’s compelling, page-turning and something that everybody should check out upon its release. It’s one of the best Strange Chemistry novels yet and that’s no easy award to win – the publisher has given the reader some excellent books in the form of titles like Laura Lam’s Pantomime, Kim Curran’s Shift and Rosie Best’s Skulk. Hopefully, this novel will get a sequel – because Alex Wayfare’s world is something that should be very interesting to return to.
“A fast paced, fun and enjoyable read - Malodrax may not be the best Space Marine Battles Novel but neither is it the worst, with Counter proving just how well he can write the forces of Chaos. Unfortunatley, this comes at a price – and his Imperial Fists don’t leave as much an impression as they should.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Held prisoner for years at the hands of the Iron Warriors, Captain Darnath Lysander returns to the world of Malodrax with the Imperial Fists Chapter at his shoulder to exact revenge on his one-time captors. What bargains did he make to escape the world that had become his gaol and to what lengths will he go to keep those pacts veiled from his battle brothers?"
The fourteenth novel in the main multi-authored series set in the main Warhammer 40k Universe is Malodrax, written by veteran Black Library author Ben Counter. Counter has a sort of mixed reputation with fans and can either be hit and miss - both his early Soul Drinkers and Grey Knights novels have been enjoyable but Battle for the Abyss is widely regarded as one of the worst entries in the Horus Heresy series. When you’re putting Counter in a series that already has a reputation for being incosistent – the Space Marine Battles novels have seen more weak elements than successes, it’s always going to be a risky gambit. However, it’s safe to say that Malodrax is no Battle for the Abyss. It’s not something that you’ll struggle to get through. It is, in fact -a fun, action packed read that revels in bolter-porn, something that Counter is very familiar with writing. If you want the equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie in the grim-dark far future, Counter has established himself as the go-to-guy and that is very much the case with Malodrax.
MalodraxThe event of Malodrax is something that fans of Warhammer 40k lore and particularly those who have read at least the fifth edition Space Marine Codex will be familiar with. However, what will irk some fans is the changes to the story that was laid down in the Codex lore – don’t go in expecting a carbon copy. Changes to the lore will most likely be frowned upon by hardcore fans so if you’re somebody who holds what is written in the Codex as perfect canon and should not be altered in any way, then Malodrax is probably not the novel for you. However, if you’re open to change – you’ll be quickly swept into the engrossing, page-turning and action packed blockbuster that Counter brings to the table.
Malodrax mixes three ongoing plot threads with a mixture of success. You get a segment looking at Captain Lysander’s escape from the world of Malodrax, detailing how he survived. At the same time, you get the return of Lysander to the Imperial Fists and how the Chapter returns to the world to take revenge. Rather than be told in act breaks, the plots alternate every few chapters, which can make it difficult to follow especially with this many threads. Counter keeps the two entries separate which prevents them from being cluttered and even more complicated as a result, but you can’t help feeling that it would have been better if he’d split the book into the standard acts, shown how Lysander escaped from the prison first before showing him and his fellow Imperial Fists returning to extract revenge. However, that’s only the two main stories. One that doesn’t feel as successful as the main narrative primarily because it explores a different group altogether, and it seems its only purpose is to explore Malodrax in more depth that couldn’t be covered in the main story. This feels like the weakest part of the novel and it probably would have been better had Counter focused on the Imperial Fists and left the other group out of the storyline.
One thing that Counter does well is write the Chaos element of a novel. He really gets it. Regardless of what you may think of Counter’s writing you can’t help but argue that he’s one of the best people in Black Library’s writing stable when it comes to handling the worlds within the Eye of Terror and exploring them in all their full and gory detail – and it really works here. However, it comes as a price – the Chaos elements come at a cost to Counter’s ability to write Imperial Fists, and instead of feeling like the strongest elements of the characters like they should be, the Imperial Fists themselves feel flat with Lysander’s character only being really memorable because he is such an iconic character in Warhammer 40k lore.
If you enjoy Counter’s ability to write portrayals of Chaos forces and don’t mind a divergence from canon and don’t mind a fun bolter-porn read, then Malodrax comes recommended. Don’t expect an amazing novel by any means, but Malodrax is far from the worst book in Black Library’s arsenal and is something that can be cautiously recommended if you are familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 Universe.
SPACE MARINE BATTLES NOVELS: Rynn’s World by Steve Parker, Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Hunt for Voldorius by Andy Hoare, The Purging of Kadillus by Gav Thorpe, Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme, Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight, The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell, Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders, Architect of Fate by Various Authors, Wrath of Iron by Chris Wraight, The Siege of Castellax by C.L. Werner, The Death of Antagonis by David Annandale, Death of Integrity by Guy Hayley, Malodrax by Ben Counter (less)
“David Annandale really impresses with his take on the White Scars in this short novella. It moves along quickly and is a great example of how to write Warhammer 40,000 novels – action packed, swift and entertaining. David Annadale is certainly an author to watch out for.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"The green-skinned hordes of the Overfiend of the Octavius system have long been a thorn in the Imperium’s side – and now, with human worlds caught in the crossfire between the orks and eldar, that thorn will be removed. Temur Khan and his brotherhood descend upon Lepidus Prime to cleanse it of the green taint. The swift and brutal hammer to the Imperial Guard’s anvil, the White Scars strike hard and fast – but when the orks reveal a super-weapon, it may take more than just power to win the day?"
The White Scars Chapter have been one of the many founding Space Marine Chapters that haven’t seen much attention up until this point from Black Library. They’ve had the odd appearance in novels such as The Hunt for Voldorius by Andy Hoare but the serialized Scars novel by Chris Wraight was very much the first novel to give the Legion/Chapter the exposure that they needed, delivering a powerful read that was one of the stronger entries in the Horus Heresy series. It seems that now we’ve had the White Scars developed a bit more in 30k, we get to see more attention given to the Sons of Khan and that is no bad thing especially when you consider the potential that they have on offer.
The novella itself compromises of eight chapters in length and as a result, proves to be a very quick read and it shouldn’t take you more than a day to breeze through this book. Whilst it may be a quick read – it does give the reader a sampling of what David Annandale’s work is like, so that if they enjoyed this book then the reader may be inclined to pick up another of Annandale’s novellas or even his full novel, The Death of Antagonis, which also takes place in the Space Marine Battles series, but focuses on the Black Dragons as opposed to the White Scars which get the spotlight here.
The biggest achievement of Stormseer is what David Annandale manages to get across given the small amount of wordcount available to him. Readers will get a true sense of the scale of the invasion unfolding here, but he manages to keep the action focused primarily on a company of White Scars, supported by an group of Imperial Guard “Iron Guard” from the planet Mordian. The decision to focus on a smaller group of characters rather than have several ongoing stories across the entire system works here, and for the best – with just eight chapters there wouldn’t be enough time to develop several different narrative arcs to the point where they were satisfying. Something else will also please fans is that Annandale doesn’t change established lore or canon to suit his own needs, instead respecting the Space Marines and the Orks alike. Often, and this is a mistake that even writers more experienced than Annadale will make, is to have a tendency to favour one faction over the other and as a result this will annoy readers who are fans of the ignored faction. However, Annandale doesn’t fall into this trap and will deliver a read that will satisfy White Scars, Orks and Eldar fans alike.
The action sequences are written well, which is a crucial element to have when you’re writing tie-in fiction to a game that has the tagline “There is Only War.” The tactics used by both sides aren’t incredibly stupid for the sake of plot conveniences, and Annandale makes each fight scene feel fresh and varied with his skilled writing ability. The book doesn’t feel like bolter porn, despite the fact that the book is part of the Space Marine Battles series – and the Novella really works as a result of this. The novella feels fresh and engaging rather than just a tired repeat of the ‘Fight 1 leads to Fight 2′ formula which is a welcome change.
In short, Stormseer is a a good, fun novella and a welcome addition to Black Library fiction, proving to be entertaining and well written. This book is a great way of checking out a new author to see if you like their writing style or not – but even if you are familiar with Annandale’s work I’d still recommend this. It’s a fast paced read and will be sped through quickly, but is very much worth your admission fee. Highly recommended.
I read this as individual issues closer to their publication date, and this quite frankly has to be one of the worst events I have ever read, despite...moreI read this as individual issues closer to their publication date, and this quite frankly has to be one of the worst events I have ever read, despite its promising start. Not quite sure what's worse though, AvX or this. Both are equally bad. (less)
Very short read - my first Doctor Who book featuring 11 & Clara. Some decent stuff here - Colgan nails the personality of 11 & Clara pretty we...moreVery short read - my first Doctor Who book featuring 11 & Clara. Some decent stuff here - Colgan nails the personality of 11 & Clara pretty well. Full Review Soon!(less)
NetGalley copy. Enjoyed this more than Vol. 3 but there are still some problems with this series. Certainly reads better in trade than I can imagine i...moreNetGalley copy. Enjoyed this more than Vol. 3 but there are still some problems with this series. Certainly reads better in trade than I can imagine it doing in single issues.(less)