Good, solid ending to season 10. I like the Anya finally got a death worthy of her and showed her at the height of her powers. Don't know how it's goiGood, solid ending to season 10. I like the Anya finally got a death worthy of her and showed her at the height of her powers. Don't know how it's going to work with this new "council" going forward, might make it too political versus rooted in the characters, which would be a shame, but still, I only have to wait until November for the new (and final!) season....more
Captain Henry Baltimore led a night attack in the Ardennes that would forever change the world. As his entire battalion is cut down he survives the initial onslaught but is left to die with a leg wound. Out of the night sky comes large bat-like creatures, carrion eaters to feast on the dead. But there's something not right about them. One sees Baltimore and decides that he will be his feast. Lashing out Baltimore injures the creature but in return the creature destroys his leg. Later in hospital, a man appears beside his bed, and Baltimore knows he's one and the same to the creature on that battlefield. This "man" tells Baltimore that he knows not what he has done and the world will pay for the injury Baltimore inflicted on him. After this incident there are three people that Baltimore confides this story to, his three friends; Captain Demetrius Aischros, Thomas Childress, and Dr. Lemuel Rose. They know not of each other until one night when Baltimore asks them to meet him in a pub whose air of decrepitude and despair matches that of the rest of the world since the plague took hold and the Great War became of no consequence in the face of this new threat.
There they sit, waiting for Baltimore. In the interim they tell their stories because it is obvious that in order to have believed Baltimore's story, without hesitation, they too must have had some experience of this supernatural evil that walks the earth. Dr. Rose, besides treating Baltimore, also treated a man who believed he was responsible for the death of all the men he was stationed with. Dr. Rose couldn't believe this to be the case, but after a night in the woods keeping watch, believing Baltimore later was a given. Captain Aischros helped escort Baltimore home after he was invalided out of the war, if he wasn't convinced by what he saw on Baltimore's island home he was by an experience years earlier. Aischros recounts a tale from his youth when he was walking the coast of Italy and came upon the town of Cicagne, famed for their puppet shows, and barely escaped with his life. Childress is the last to tell his tale, having grown up with Baltimore on Trevelyan Island, he knew Baltimore all his life, but it was an incident while working for his own father's company in Chile that opened his eyes. They talk and wait hours, the pub becoming oppressive. They aren't sure if Baltimore is going to show, but they feel the final battle with the monster from that day in the Ardennes is at hand.
If you are a fan of good art and good storytelling then the only explanation for not knowing who Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are would be that you've spent the last few decades under a rock. While I knew of them individually, in fact meeting Christopher Golden at a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Convention in upstate New York and fangirling over his videogame script, it was in a roundabout way that I learned about Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. Before I started this blog I was very cunning in getting press passes for events. In February of 2007 I was supposed to go to the New York Comic Con with a friend of mine but the train from Chicago to New York was snowbound and the trip was cancelled because I wouldn't be able to make it in time. I insisted that my friend go and meet Christopher Golden knowing she would love him as much as me and it so happened that he was signing posters for a new collaboration with Mike Mignola. I still have the signed poster on my office wall next to my computer. Beautifully enlarged drawings from Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire of the church in Reveka and the church interior at Cicagne, and a weeping angel that would forever slightly freak me out after the Doctor Who episode "Blink" aired later that year. THIS I knew was a book written and illustrated just for me.
What is interesting about these two authors collaborating is that both are very familiar with vampires. Mike Mignola worked on the inadvertently hilariously awesome Bram Stoker's Dracula as well as Blade II, and the Angel comics. Whereas Christopher Golden, besides writing the scripts for both Buffy the Vampire Slayer Video Games also wrote comics and books for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. So their individual and combined vampire street cred could hardly be surpassed. But what struck me so much about this book was that it wasn't just a way to shoehorn vampires into the first world war, a time when these opportunistic creatures could flourish, instead it was almost a reinvention of the vampire for a new generation. They were carrion eaters awoken by the violence of men further spurred onto creating a destructive plague by violence against one of their own, The Red King. They lived in a symbiotic relationship with man, feeding off their dead and dying. Rarely are vampires shown as creatures there to keep the balance, keep the scales from tipping. The Red King in fact lays all the vengeful ills that have befallen mankind on Baltimore lashing out to save himself on that battlefield. It's almost as if the plague is a result of hurt pride, making the vampires pitiable more than anything else.
This spin of the morals of the vampires isn't the only way that this book stands head and shoulders above the rest. The main attraction for me was that this book reeked of Victorian Christmas ghost stories. The three men thrown together around a fire while the bleakness of the day bares down on them and they tell their terrifying stories couldn't have been more Dickensian if Dickens had written it himself. I literally couldn't contain my joy as a read this book into the late hours with chills going down my spin thinking that finally someone had written my own personal The Turn of the Screw, but with vampires and the Great War and totally not a lame premise! Seeing as I read so many stories with vampires predictability of plot and worldbuilding becomes problematic. You either have it modern, which can work, though I often like it without the tweaks to our world, or you can go all Bram Stoker. It's like there's an either or switch and you're not allowed in that middle ground. But that middle ground is where the best stories can be found. Think of one of the best episodes of Angel ever, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been." It was set during the height of McCarthyism and was approached in a whole new way. It wasn't Victorian stodginess and it wasn't new and hip. Much like here, we have a new spin that is quite fascinating and is able to harken back to the origin story yet while still keeping the feeling of another era.
This ability of the authors to not only capture but understand the era they are writing about and tweaking just made me giddy. Let's look at the basics. The Great War resulted in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic which actually killed more people than the war itself. So World War I is forever linked to a horrible plague, The Spanish Flu. But what Golden and Mignola do here is to cleverly expand on this. What if the flu had been worse? What if this plague was supernatural in origin? What if it wasn't just supernatural but was a vampire with a severe grudge for getting his face a little scarred? The truth is, they have taken real events and made a believable extrapolation of events to their worst possible outcome. I know I shouldn't be so happy about a vampire plague descending on the world, but they just wrote it so well. They made a compelling alternate history. If you want to extrapolate further you could even take this into World War II. Now you're probably thinking I'm talking crazy, but think about it. World War II was inevitable as soon as we placed such hard sanctions on the Germans. We created our own worst enemy and we made Germany want another war. Here Baltimore by lashing out at The Red King to save himself creates the plague. Sometimes in trying to protect we make matters far worse and the ramifications impossible to foresee. Plague, World War II, you see?
With all that this book has going for it, the feeling of Poe, the more relevant yet completely original vampire, the Dickensian Christmas, I wonder if perhaps the drawings weren't a step to far. Yes, I don't think it would be a true collaboration without the drawings, but I don't really think there needed to be so many. More judiciously used illustrations better positioned would have worked better in my opinion perhaps with some red as a spot color. Yes, this seems counter intuitive with me picking up the book in the first place because of the illustrations, but they just don't really work for me. I felt they were unnecessary. My main problem was that these images were forcing us to view the story in a certain way and that's not right. Words evoke images in the reader's imagination and it's the work of these readers to create the scene in their heads. To people the world of the book as we see fit. But here we are meant to view the language in a proscribed manner. Thus making the book closer to the graphic novel end of the spectrum. Don't get me wrong, I love graphic novels, they just use a different part of the brain, one where image is primary and text is secondary, and if we're lucky they merge into a cohesive whole. Instead here Mignola's illustration would draw me out of the text make me think allowed that that isn't how I saw it and also realize that if you've seen one skull or one peaked rooftop you've probably seen them all. I am interested to see how they transitioned this book into a series of comics... perhaps that will be the proper outlet for the drawings. Whereas the story? The story is something you shouldn't miss. Just never mind that skull or that one or that other one. ...more
This was a rather short but really tantalizing intro to the world of the Spectrum TV show that was woven throughout Con Man. I really appreciated theThis was a rather short but really tantalizing intro to the world of the Spectrum TV show that was woven throughout Con Man. I really appreciated the detail map of the ship. I just hope that the comic is able to infuse a little more of the humor that was in the series. Also Spectrum books coming soon too!?! Damn, I am so glad I helped fun Con Man. Also I have awesome friends who picked this up for me because I couldn't go to Free Comic Book Day....more
This issue was very odd. It seemed far more concerned with old plots from Angel than with Buffy. Firstly, the drawing of Lilah Morgan looked like FeliThis issue was very odd. It seemed far more concerned with old plots from Angel than with Buffy. Firstly, the drawing of Lilah Morgan looked like Felicia Day NOT Stephanie Romanov. Also, Lilah, seriously!?! Secondly, WTF, The Circle of the Black Thorn was destroyed, that is what the end of Angel was all about, and now icky pee pee guy is back and everything? I call foul! Andrew was being drawn back into his old problems again, I think Andrew has proved time and again he's better and stronger and these constant relapses are pissing me off. Other than that it was just a lot of bitching and whining and only one good joke, of course the demons would love Joffrey. Perhaps the issue was just stalling till the big final arc, but it just didn't work....more
Lady Elizabeth Witmore, the Countess of Rothford, can't stand her life. Orphaned and raised by her grandmother on their ever diminishing funds she is being forced into a marriage with a distant cousin who has a very overbearing mother. Her household is being scattered and she is surprised to find out that one of her maids, Ada, has been approached by The Glittering Court. The Glittering Court is in essence a mail-order bride service for those wealthy men who have a pioneering spirit and have relocated to the New World, Adoria. The Court spends a year training the girls in all the skills Elizabeth has had drilled into her since birth and then they are sent to Adoria where hopefully a bidding war will ensue. The Court makes money and the girls are given a chance at a life they could never have dreamt of. Though Ada seems oddly reluctant. She'd far rather go home to her family's dairy than go to Adoria. Which gives Lady Elizabeth an idea. She will take Ada's place. The idea formed in her mind has to be acted on quickly. The Court is picking up Ada that night. Elizabeth quickly sends Ada off to the dairy of her dreams and feigns a headache. As soon as she is alone she dons Ada's clothes and leaves her house as Adelaide, leaving "Lady Elizabeth" behind.
The first hurdle happens almost immediately. Cedric Thorn, whom Ada and Elizabeth met that afternoon, is in the carriage and soon the alarm is raised for a missing Countess. But Cedric keeps her secret and when they arrive at the manor where "Adelaide" will be taught they reach an agreement, Cedric explaining how she mustn't excel, she must reign in all that is natural to her, and he won't tell anyone who she really is. Over the following months she feels freer than she ever has before. She has real friends in her roommates Mira and Tamsin. She has a future that is of her own making. But soon her heart starts to betray her. She's falling for Cedric and he's the number one person she shouldn't be falling for. As it turns out Cedric himself has secrets, and their bond grows stronger through the sharing of their true selves. Yet if anything, this friendship doesn't dampen "Adelaide's" desire to succeed, she throws caution to the wind and becomes the diamond in the crown of the Court. This might not have been the wisest plan, making herself so visible, but it affords her the greatest leeway in choosing a husband as well as helping to protect Cedric's big secret. Yet truth will out and soon life in the New World is more dangerous than just worrying about the natives.
When I was listening to the buzz surrounding this book I was all like, yeah, Elizabethan YA awesomeness, I'm so there! And yes, there's Elizabethan, but there's also Jamestown and Salem and the California Gold Rush and Braveheart and and and... there was too much and. The Glittering Court felt like a book with a multiple personality disorder, or to be more accurate a multiple period disorder. Richelle Mead clearly didn't know what time period she wanted to emulate so instead of forging the story's own unique blend she borrowed liberally from all these different periods. The key problem is this lack of integration. When the book is Elizabethan it's obviously Elizabethan, when the book is Salem it's obviously Salem. These abrupt shifts in period are jarring and take you out of the story. You never once get a true feeling for the world of Osfrid and Adoria, they are just aspects of our own past that aren't filtered through the narrative but clumsily transitioned to from one to the other. Each time period feels uniquely of it's own time never merging the story into a cohesive whole. Therefore the narrative never has a chance to be anything other than a clumsily told story that could have been so much more but instead is so much "other" that it never had a chance to be itself.
While these period shifts became more and more jarring I was surprised that I actually latched onto one of them. For a short while the book actually captured my attention. After Adelaide and Cedric have declared their love for each other and been ostracized from Adorian Society they try to make it panning for gold. This is obviously the California Gold Rush/Oregon Trail period of the book and totally not the Elizabethan book I had signed on for, but somehow it worked. By stripping the narrative of all the extraneous characters and customs and eras, by stripping it down to the bare minimum, all of a sudden I liked it. The book no longer had these multiple periods fighting for dominance and it proves 100% that if Mead had forged her own unique and simpler path then perhaps this book could have worked. Adelaide and Cedric panning for gold was delightful. For the first time you really felt their connection. Their relationship was no longer a plot contrivance and the HEA we were working towards. It was no longer them being thrown together, it was them coming together and forging their future. Plus, seeing the two of them outside their comfort zone and dealing with new challenges and everything this new environment threw at them was priceless. Cedric's lack of carpentry skills is truly a highlight of this book.
But this one little slice of the book didn't make up for how predictable and just plan meh it was overall. Literally each and every single "twist" was seen coming so far in advance it was like Mead was telegraphing the punches to come. Semaphore anyone? I mean as soon as I heard they had to sail to Adoria I'm all, shipwreck! And of course there is. But by that point I was all shipwreck fake out, and of course that was the case again. If I hadn't been trying to force myself to finish this book I might have been laughing at the book, instead I was groaning. I mean, seriously, the country they sail across the Sunset Sea to is Adoria!?! Horrid saccharine backlash, teeth aching from the sweetness. If at some point in your book about mail-order brides there is an attempted rape, perhaps tone down the Disney Princess vibe? The closest example to what this book reminds me of is the TV show Reign. Because despite being ostensibly about Mary Queen of Scots, it has modern pop music and dresses that sometimes look like they were designed by Dior. This combination of the Elizabethan time period and Gossip Girl works because of one key element, they know they are camp and play it up to the hilt and therefore it is fun. This lack of self-awareness, this inability to see what The Glittering Court really is it's downfall.
Yet even if Mead had camped it up or bothered to do some worldbuilding the book still couldn't have worked because of Elizabeth/Adelaide. I have so many issues with the lead I just want to smack her. Some of her faults could be blamed on her upbringing but keep in mind, she's fictional! So her tunnel vision, her self-absorbed, self-centered ways don't come off as quirks or obstacles to overcome, they just come across as annoying. Even when she's "helping" others it's really only to help herself. Oh, and her grief over her lost friend? Um... that seemed like self-indulgent whinging. Yes, there's pain, but she freakin' caused it by being so self-centered. If she had been a little self-sacrificing, perhaps she could have been redeemable, but even working the gold claim with Cedric is just so she can get Cedric. Every. Single. Thing. She. Does. Is. For. Herself. The ONLY aspect of her personality that I found interesting was her ability to forge artwork. This could have led somewhere, but instead it is a contrived plot device used as the deus ex machina. Imagine if this ability to mimic was used as a commentary on "Adelaide" herself? A girl who could be the perfect society woman, who could mimic what all the others did and in fact surpass them but in the end could never be unique. Now that would have added some depth to this book.
Yet, with a book titled The Glittering Court I should have realized it would all be surface, no depth. The old saying all that glitters isn't gold, just points out this is all glitter, the kind that rubs off onto your hands and gets everywhere. Because time and time again there were opportunities for depth, and time and time again they were pushed aside, and have resulted in a major plot hole. The central conceit of the book comes down to the feasibility of an actual "Glittering Court." Does this idea for fantastical Elizabethan mail-order brides seem possible? Well yes and no. Yes, what we've seen of it seems to work, but no because what about the previous brides? THIS is the plot hole. The previous members of the "Court" are mentioned ONCE in passing. Aiana is mentioned as an employee of the Court who checks up on the previous wives. But why is this the only mention of them? Don't you think that perhaps a goodly portion of these women are probably living in the main town in Adoria? Why don't we meet any of them? Don't you think that they could sell us, the readers, as well as the hesitant girls on accepting marriage proposals and the viability and success of this operation? But no, that's too much thinking for this book. Perhaps it will be addressed in a later volume. A volume which I won't be reading. ...more
I really really hope that all the awesome that Zander is doing (showing the demons all about architecture and "The Princess Bride" helps him to win DaI really really hope that all the awesome that Zander is doing (showing the demons all about architecture and "The Princess Bride" helps him to win Dawn back)! Plus, Wolfram and Hart! Oh, and all the "Labyrinth" jokes. Seriously, so good. Though I don't think that Buffy would EVER wear that green and black stripped shirt, yuk....more
I liked that Dawn FINALLY did something so grown up and useful. Also Zander was mercifully adult for the first time in a long time. Also, the Anya ploI liked that Dawn FINALLY did something so grown up and useful. Also Zander was mercifully adult for the first time in a long time. Also, the Anya plot was kind of figured out and I like that D'Hoffryn is turning out to basically be an evil genie. ...more
Seriously, why can't Christos Gage do both series? Good dynamic and Zander confronting ghost Anya, happy that's back and I can't wait to see where thaSeriously, why can't Christos Gage do both series? Good dynamic and Zander confronting ghost Anya, happy that's back and I can't wait to see where that goes. But the battle was well handled, felt more like the TV series, also the call back and perhaps benefit of Dawn being the "key" looks to be important again. Wish Andrew would joke about his total misunderstanding of that again. With having finished rewatching the whole series and being caught up on the comics, what am I going to do for my Buffy fix?...more
Can I say, no matter how horrid the interior art is, the covers seriously steal the show. Look at the use of negative space with Faith! I liked that tCan I say, no matter how horrid the interior art is, the covers seriously steal the show. Look at the use of negative space with Faith! I liked that the Big Bad was kind of sidelined to deal with the magic of magic town becoming corporeal, and hopefully therefore changing the name of magic town... though the release of Illyria seemed to be too, and here's a wrinkle to your efforts, mwahaha. Also, there is NO WAY Giles would have a huge painting of Jesus on his wall, no matter the historical or iconographic status....more