Mount TBR 2016 discussion

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Level 8: Mt. Olympus (150+) > Brian! Blessed!, Barsoom, And Me!

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message 1: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Once more onto Olympus, then, for 2016. This year I hope to get through a good part of the audiobook pile, as well as a portion of the traction books. This wil include The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Marlborough: His Life And Times, Detroit's Street Railways: City Lines, 1863 1922, and a whole host of others.

As always, best laid plans gang aft agley and I'll likely go completely random by February.


message 2: by Bev (new)

Bev | 715 comments Mod
Good luck for another year!


message 3: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Thank you!


message 4: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #1 - Youngblood, Vol. 1: Focus Tested by Joe Casey, et al

And right away I'm off onto a random late acquisition. This turned up as part of my first Comics Bento graphic novel mystery box just before the end of the year, and I figured I'd get it out of the way first...it's one of those ripping off the Band-Aid things.

Youngblood is one of the earliest Image creations, a product of Rob Liefeld trying to do his own version of the Avengers/Justice League/Teen Titans; the original comics are notoriously awful. Over the years there's been attempts to reboot the series, with this one remaking them as a government-backed group sold as a reality TV product for...reasons. Not all is at it seems, of course, things go off the rails, an alien harbinger of doom turns up...and the volume ends. Unfortunately, it was lumpen and a slog to get through, so I won't be seeking out the continuation.

Happy New Year! It gets better from here on, right? Right?

Right?


message 5: by RachelvlehcaR (new)

RachelvlehcaR (charminggirl) | 84 comments And you are off...

A friend of mine said, you need to have a few of those low rating books to really appreciate those 4 and 5 star rating books.

I hope it gets better for you. :)


message 6: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Oh, it's already improving. Also, the other books from that Bento box are likely to be much better reads. Usually I find that the books I end up reading in the course of the year are a reasonably mixed lot -- one in a while there's a five-star, and once in a while there's a one star.


message 7: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #2 - The Streetcars of Winnipeg - Our Forgotten Heritage: Out of Sight - Out of Mind by Brian K. Darragh

This is a bit of a rarity in the traction book business -- a history of a traction system written not by an enthusiast or scholar, but by someone who worked for the streetcar system he's writing about, having been on the line as a driver in the last years of the Winnipeg system (and thereafter driving both diesel and trolleybuses.) The result is a warm look back at the Winnipeg system, and an appraisal of just how much the streetcars affected the growth of the city (echoing the effect that the Pacific Electric had on Southern California in the United States.)

It's not the best book about streetcars, but it's one of the nicest, a most pleasant read peppered with pictures and topped off with an equipment roster and a glossary.


message 8: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #3 - The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth

One of my Audible purchases from last year, picked up as a Daily Deal because the description intrigued me. Quite glad I did, too. Quite enjoyable, and I look forward to rereading this down the line.

Occasionally the author is a little too clever for his own good, although I suspect I would have been less critical of the humour aspect had I heard this read by an English narrator -- Don Hagen is adequate to the task, but sounds a touch too dry and fussy for some of the witticisms Forsyth throws out, which blunts the effect. As a book on the way language develops and transmutes, though, it's very enjoyable, laid out like James Burke's Connections for English, and eventually coming back to its own beginning.


message 9: by Bev (new)

Bev | 715 comments Mod
Three down! I'm working on my third one right now...


message 10: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Onto the fourth for me! I'm hoping the pace maintains somewhat, although I will be slowed quite unsubtly again shortly, as there's a book on the KGB coming up, along with several very dense traction books, the complete collection of J.G. Ballard's short fiction, and some rather gigantic anthologies.


message 11: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #4 - The First Doctor Companion Chronicles Box Set by Martin Day, Ian Potter and Simon Guerrier

Big Finish have refashioned the Companion Chronicles somewhat, into multi-story box sets, rather than running annual seasons of stories as they had been doing. That means few Chronicles, delivered in sets centered around a particular Doctor.

This set focuses, as it says on the tin, on the First Doctor, with the focus on Susan in the first story (pre-"Unearthly Child" it would seem, as she's alone with the Doctor), then Vicki in the second. The third and the fourth are an interlocked pair of stories, starting with Steven many years post-departure, after his abdication as King, and then hopping back to an adventure with Steven, Vicki, the Doctor and Benjamin Franklin.

It's an entertaining collection, although I'd advise giving some space between the first and second stories, and then between the second and the final two. Steven was never my favourite character, and Peter Purves wasn't really much of an actor, but he works pretty well here, especially playing Steven in weakening old age -- and Purves does a very good job of mimicking William Hartnell.


message 12: by Steven (last edited Jan 08, 2016 02:33AM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #5 - Battlestar Galactica, Volume 1: Memorial by Dan Abnett, et al

The further adventures of the rag-tag fleet searching for the shining planet called Earth. This is set in the period just before Galactica 1980, so you get bearded Adam (though he's shown in flashbacks as bearded as well, which is odd) and the presence of the pint-sized Doctor Zee, who, once the alternate timeline shenanigans et started, is reworked as a Galactica version of Dr. Who's Davros (except that Zee rides around on a modified Cylon.)

The plot: Cylons continue to attack, the Galactica is in dire straits, so Adama authorizes the use of previously forbidden temporal weapons. Things promptly go pear-shaped, and Starbuck and Apollo are propelled into an alternate timeline where things went even worse for the humans (and Starbuck's alternate is a fat pirate.)

It's typically lightweight, and very much structured like a TV episode. Not a bad way to spend an hour, but definitely inessential.


message 13: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #6 - JLA, Vol. 3 by Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Howard Porter, and various

DC's commitment to collecting the landmark Grant Morrison run on JLA from the 1990s has extended to gathering together the majority of the issues from the main series (which, following Morrison's departure, seems to have taken an increasingly steep dive in quality; I read Vol. 7 of this series in a library copy, and it was quite awful.) The original collections of this series left out the fill-ins by other writers.

This volume is very much a curate's egg, as Morrison and Porter got a bit iffy with deadlines, requiring a variety of fill-ins -- the best of which are by Mark Waid. Mark Millar's Atom-centric story is okay, but inessential, easily skipped in a re-read.

Morrison's own contributions aren't his best work, even his tribute to the original Justice League/Justice Society crossovers, "Crisis Times Five" (which is twice as long as any of those original crossovers.)

Also not helping here is the quality of the artwork -- several of the fill-in issues have dreadful artwork, and Porter himself was starting to slip in quality at this point. The result is markedly unsatisfying.


message 14: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #7 - JLA: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 4 by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, J.M. DeMatteis, Howard Porter, and various

Once again a bit of a curate's egg, as more fill-ins (including another Atom story) front-load the book on the way to Grant Morrison's epic final outing with the JLA in this series. That story, "World War III," is a fairly typical example of Morrison trying to generate a mind-boggling widescreen epic, but as often happens with Morrison he throws so much into it that the end result is cluttered and confusing, with entire subplots not only having random-seeming conclusions but a random progression in story terms -- the Oracle vs Prometheus story lurches from point to point without connective tissue, for example, while Luthor goes from masterminding the downfall of the League to suddenly being taken over by Mageddon's harbinger off-panel.

With Morrison passing the torch, Mark Waid then takes over for "The Tower Of Babel" in which Ra's al Ghul, that dear old demon daddy, decides again to wipe out most of humanity, and decides to cunningly use Batman's contingency plans to take down the League (Batman is always crazy prepared; why this shocks every other League member is baffling.) Given that these are Batman's contingency plans, of course, they're generally non-lethal (although the one applied to Wonder Woman is supposedly capable of causing her to die of a heart attack, eventually.) Painful, yes, terrifying, yes, lethal...mostly not. Why Ra's would thus expect them to completely stop the League is open to question...then again, Ra's is a crazy old environmental terrorist whose daughter is permanently annoyed at him. Or it could just be sloppy writing. In the end everyone is mad at Batman, who wasn't the one who actually implemented the plans (he himself was the victim of one, in fact) and Bats gets booted from the League.

Apparently this annoyed me more than I thought. Ah well. Given where I am in the piles, I'm just going to move on to volumes 5 and 6, so they're all done.


message 15: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #8 - JLA, Vol. 5 by Mark Waid, Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, etc

Four hundred and thirty-odd pages of Justice League action shouldn't feel quite as vacant as this feels, but that may be in part due to the attempt at huge widescreen action that spends all of its time trying to keep things on a personal scale, which produces impressive stress as the characters, dwarfed by the artwork, often struggle to be present. As much of the involves the team needing to regain their trust of each other and the ability to work with each other, this tends to cause periodic narrative bellyflops. Chuck Dixon's contribution is the JLA issue of his Joker's Last Laugh crossover, and it manages to get through the story with minimal fuss and confusion. The book slams to a stop with a goofy and very silly Christmas story and a smattering of "Secret Files" pages that would have been better placed earlier in the volume (or even at the end of the previous collection.)

One more hefty volume of this to go, likely a downhill slide, and then I'm off to pastures new.


message 16: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #9 - JLA Vol. 6 by Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, Tom Nguyen, and various

Joe Kelly takes over from Mark Waid, and the general tone of the series shifts from mad science fiction to mad fantasy. Somewhere in the middle of the vastly overlong Obsidian Age story things cease to make much sense whatsoever, and it doesn't help that a lot of connective tissue isn't there (Superman is suddenly wearing a suit with a red-on-black symbol, Aquaman is now 3000 years in the past along with Atlantis, and Wonder Woman's mother is dead again, and Diana is having Mommy issues that drive the first part of this volume) thanks to a couple of event stories having occurred (Our Worlds At War, for one.)

Much of the writing rings false, too -- the original Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, has been brought back to life and is drafted into a makeshift League when the main League vanishes, but Kelly writes him as a cartoonish left-wing chauvinist who's leering at all the women (something he does with Plastic Man, too, minus the lefty ramblings.) The women don't get away unscathed, either -- Hawkgirl is a plastic blow-up doll, and Faith is written as an airhead with too much power and very little sense. Come to think of it, all of the characters are flat at best. At worst, they're Manitou Raven, who's every First Nations shaman stereotype rolled into one and given steroids (and at the end we also meet his wife...oh dear.)

So...not a particularly good run, this. And it got worse with the next volume, but I'm not planning to reread that.


message 17: by Steven (last edited Jan 15, 2016 11:14PM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #10 - Doctor Who: The Kingmaker by Nev Fountain
#11 - Doctor Who: The Veiled Leopard by Iain McLaughlin

In The Kingmaker, the Fifth Doctor, Peri, and Eminem are out to solve the mystery of the Princes In The Tower, in part because the Doctor is supposed to deliver a nonfiction book on the subject to a publisher far in the future (a publisher who keeps sending lethal reminder robots after the Doctor.) So...the Doctor heads back to 1485, while an odd mishap sends Peri and Erimem to 1483, after which everything becomes amusingly nonsensical in a plot that involves Richard III, jokes about Richard III (mostly fired off by Richard), the mystery of the Princes, coronation mugs, William Shakespeare, and the key discovery that Time Lords get completely snockered on a couple of glasses of ginger ale. It's chaotic, funny, silly in places, and includes the Fourth Doctor thanks to impressionist Jon Culshaw (whose Tom Baker impression is uncanny.) In addition, Stephen Beckett plays Richard with a vocal performance suspiciously close to Christopher Ecclestone.

The Veiled Leopard fits into sequence after The Kingmaker, and doesn't feature any of the Doctors -- instead there's Peri and Erimem in 1960s Monte Carlo trying to prevent the theft of the titular diamond, while Ace and Hex, companions of the Seventh Doctor, are trying to steal it. And in the middle is a female Robin Hood burglar who's after the diamond, as is a general bad guy. Hijinks ensue. It's an entertaining variation on the Companion Chronicles, and has an amusing caper soundtrack to match.


message 18: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #12 - The Avengers: The Lost Episodes - Volume 3 by John Whitney, et al

Ah, the original version of TV's The Avengers, back before Honore Blackman and Diana Rigg, before the martial arts fun, Steed's insouciant wit, and the rather daft spy-fi. The first series was centered not on John Steed, but on Dr. David Keel, a GP about to be married when a misdelivered package leads to his fiancée being murdered and Keel trying to track down the killer. Enter John Steed, very much the Old Boy type, and very, very lethal -- Steed was not a nice man in those days, nor was he initially given to an excess of wit (although this did creep in after a while.)

Most of the cases tackled by Keel and Steed were on the criminal level -- drugs, gambling, prostitution, a prisoner escape scheme, and so on, with the odd bit of espionage being thrown in along the way (and the first hints at the organization Steed worked for, which was very, very shadowy.) The episodes were written by a solid crew of British TV writers, including Brian Clemens and James Mitchell, and were mostly done live to tape -- which is where these audiobooks come in, as most of the episodes of that first season (and a few of the second) were lost along the way.

The "Lost Episodes" sets from Big Finish set out to recreate those episodes, using adaptations of the scripts and a basic idea of how they would have played, and taking an old fashioned approach to the production, with appropriate music cues and sound effects. The result is very old-fashioned, if slightly quicker in pace, with stories that take you right back to the fantasy 1960s of the actual 1960s. Overall, good fun.


message 19: by Steven (last edited Jan 17, 2016 08:59PM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #13a - The Confessions of Dorian Gray: Trick or Treat by Scott Handcock, read by Alexander Vlahos

Short story from the Confessions Of Dorian Gray series. Gray is at home, drinking his way through Halloween evening, and ignoring the knocks at his door. When a particularly late caller starts knocking, he finds himself answering....

It's a frippery, kept brief enough, a little bit of a campfire tale.

13b - "American Changeling" by Mary Robinette Kowal (Daily SF, 9/20/2010)

A young fae conceived and raised in the mortal world after a civil war in Faerie has been trained all of her life for a specific mission...which proceeds to go pear-shaped a few months ahead of the actual schedule. While I appreciate the idea of subverting the Chosen One trope, the story itself might be much better at novella or even novel length as there's much hinted at here that Kowal doesn't have the room to explicate.

13c - "Picture In Sand" by Susan A. Shepherd (Daily SF, 9/21/2010)

A young woman in a world where artisanal talents bring things alive is trying to figure out what her talent is, when a simple accident reveals the truth. A straightforward conceit of a story, prettily written but otherwise basic.

13d - "The Man Who Said Good Morning" by Ralph Gemelli (Daily SF, 9/22/2010)

A solid conceit, short and to the point. In a society wholly reliant on telepathy, a businessman suddenly finds his voice. A raffish piece of storytelling that provides everything needed for its purpose without over-complicating matters.

13e - "The Jug Game" by Jennifer Moore (Daily SF, 9/23/2010)

Flash fiction. A young girl stumbles into a trap at a dilapidated fair. Barely more than an idea and a punchline.

13f - "The Fosterling" by Therese Arkenberg (Daily SF, 9/24/2010)

This is barely science fiction -- it's a fictional society, but the royal fostering idea has been tried occasionally in the past. Beyond that, it's more of a character piece about a Royal guardswoman who comes to terms with who she is and what she does, and, again, it comes across as less of a story than a teaser for a longer and more complex piece.

13g - "Long Pig" by Matthew Johnson (Daily SF, 9/27/2010)

Faint horror, this, in a short short with a twist the reader can see coming from the title. As a foodie of sorts, I found it amusing.

13h - "Sparks" by Mari Ness (Daily SF, 9/28/2010)

A very short story, concerned with failed poetry and successful imagery and the reasons why someone might replace their hands with wands. A curious piece, but eminently readable.

13i - "A Little-Known Historical Fact" - by Tim McDaniel (9/30/2010)

Approaching his inauguration, George Washington reflects. A flash fiction conceit that has me still going, "What?" I may be missing something here.


message 20: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #14 - Doctor Who: Short Trips - Volume 1 by Nicholas Briggs, and various
#15 - Doctor Who: Short Trips - Volume 4 by Richard Dinnick and various

Short stories featuring Doctors 1 through 8, read by an assortment of actors associated with the series. These take their cue from a print anthology series, and can be wildly variable, with some very serious tales, a couple of outright comedies (Colin Baker's "The Wings Of A Butterfly" in volume 1 has an amusing causality chain that's Laurel & Hardy cranked to 11), some quiet tales, and a couple of clunkers. Overall, though, not a bad way to spend a few hours lying in bed with the ruminous crud (unfortunately the reason why I ended up listening to this; too dizzy for aught else.)


message 21: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #16 - Doctor Who: Whispers of Terror by Justin Richards

Going back to the very early days of the Big Finish Doctor Who stories. This one has Six and Peri landing in an audio archive and being plunged into a murder mystery involving sound and memory. Notable mainly for being another step in the rehabilitation of the Sixth Doctor, whose characterization is deepened here. Nicola Bryant's weird American accent is still in play, but Peri's relationship with the Doctor is much improved over the TV series.


message 22: by Steven (last edited Jan 31, 2016 12:14PM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #17 - Doctor Who: Revenge of the Swarm by Jonathan Morris

Which brings back one of the least interesting enemies from the Fourth Doctor's run for another go-round in the Seventh's extended universe. The Swarm are a nanoscopic hive mind that can take over individuals, and here they used companion Hector (a mind-wiped Hex) to program the TARDIS to take them into what amounts to a paradox. The story suffers from dull writing, the aforementioned dull adversary, and an overamped performance from Sylvester McCoy that takes the vocal tics to an extreme.


message 23: by RachelvlehcaR (new)

RachelvlehcaR (charminggirl) | 84 comments Oh, you are one book ahead of me!


message 24: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments RachelvlehcaR wrote: "Oh, you are one book ahead of me!"

That will surely change. :)


message 25: by Steven (last edited Jan 31, 2016 07:22PM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #18a - Doctor Who: The Ghost Trap by Nick Wallace

Short Trip entry from th longer fifth series. The Doctor and Leela encounter a derelict spaceship and find the log of a salvage crew that was picked off one by one by a ghostly entity. Leela ends up in a fight for survival while the Doctor concocts a solution, releasing the trapped spirits of the original crew and the salvage team. Decent enough Gothic Who.

#18b - Doctor Who: Foreshadowing by Julian Richards

The 8th Doctor and Charlie Pollard are apprehended on an Air Force Base, though their interrogator, curiously, is an Army Lieutenant. The tale he gets baffles him, though he's willing to accept it, given some of the evidence. A creature called a Time Roach has been released onto the base, and the Doctor intends to recapture it. This one aims for a touch of comedy, and throws in some self-referential elements as well that might be seen as perhaps just a little too cute. An amusing story, though.

#18c - Doctor Who: Etheria by Nick Wallace

The First Doctor and Vicki are trying to find Steven Taylor and get back to the TARDIS, but their search must take them through the Etherlands...a dangerous area capable of fogging their minds and killing them without guidance and assistance. But all is not as it seems.... This is a very muddy story, unfortunately, though it does have a grand moment of the Doctor showing off his lethal side at the end.

#18d - Doctor Who: Dark Convoy by Mark B. Oliver

A rarity these days -- a straight historical story. The Seventh Doctor and Ace land on the HMS Thunder, a Corvette escorting a North Atlantic convoy. Bad weather has scattered the convoy, and there is a U-boat stalking them. Fairly well done, although there are problematic bits -- Ace apparently falls for a young sailor after knowing him for five minutes, and the Captain of the Corvette is rather quick to accept the Doctor's input on their situation.


message 26: by Steven (last edited Jan 31, 2016 10:12PM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #19 - Doctor Who: You Are the Doctor and Other Stories by John Dorney, et al

Obtained as last year ran out, and thus the latest of these that I'll be writing about here (I will unfortunately be doing a lot of audiobooks, as they're easy to handle with my head presently engaged in a psychedelic trip -- without the aid of drugs, and without the more engaging effects.)

Four stories linked together by the theme of the Seventh Doctor teaching Ace to drive the TARDIS, and generally taking a somewhat lighter tone -- altogether too light in the title story, which parodies Choose Your Own Adventure stories and throws in some painfully broad comedy. Sylvester McCoy is admirably restrained here, happily, although Sophie Aldred has to deliver some overwrought readings as Ace.


message 27: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #20 - Doctor Who: Planet of the Rani by Marc Platt

Well, this is a little bit mad, but that's a Marc Platt story for you. He's hampered in the main by two things -- having to use the Rani as the basis of the story, and having to try and conform the logic enough in the story to avoid everything going off the rails into impossible confusion (one recalls both "Ghostlight" and several Marc Platt novels.) He almost makes it, although there are places where the sonic attempt to provide the picture that he's painting results in a mish-mash of noise against which Colin Baker's Six Doctor is left being ineffectually shouty. Siobhan Redmond has taken over as the Rani from Kate O'Mara, but is still left with the problem that the character is essentially just a time-traveling mad scientist whose grandiose schemes border on both incomprehensibility and boredom -- the character's introduction in this story is the most effective use of her, as it presents her as something mysterious and dangerous, Machiavellian, coldly logical, and with the patience of a Hannibal Lecter.


message 28: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #21 - Doctor Who: Starlight Robbery by Matt Fitton

The Seventh Doctor, with Dr. Elizabeth Klein and Will Arrowsmith, and, oh boy, trying to remember where the Big Finish companions go in each Doctor's timeline is headache-inducing. The story revolves around arms-dealing, the Sontarans (all of them played by Dan Starkey), and an extremely dangerous machine. The story is initially a bit confusing, but once it settles into a mix of con game and racing against the clock, it gels. It just isn't particularly engaging.


message 29: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #22 - The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure by Jack Handey

This turned out to be rather more tedious than anticipated...surreal, stupid humour read by the author, who feels moved to apologize to Hawaii at the end.


message 30: by Steven (last edited Apr 01, 2016 03:55AM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #23 - Justice League of America Archives, Vol. 1 by Gardner F. Fox, et al

Introduced in the pages of The Brave And The Bold in a three-issue run (collected here, along with Justice League of America #1-#6) the Justice League was meant to be the nascent Silver Age's update of the Justice Society (which the JLA would eventually find themselves teaming with on an annual basis.) All of DC's main superheroes would gather together and battle world-shaking threats...although this often saw them battling gimmicky crooks such as Amos Fortune or venal alien dictators such as Kanjar Ro, whose main ambition was to humiliate several other alien dictators.

The result, as often as not, is inadvertently hilarious...and more than a little charming. The relative crudity of the artwork comes through at times (and sometimes is quite surprising with its quality), the science is beyond bad (Gardner Fox just threw in whatever he felt like; keep in mind that this is a man who would claim that Golden Age Flash stories came to him in dreams), and, on the whole, it's downright clunky stuff. And yet this is fun to read, well past the lure of nostalgia -- an assessment echoed in Paul Gambaccini's lovely foreword (Gambaccini, an American journalist, moved to the UK and went to work for the BBC for decades; his deep love of comics is reflected in his being the model for superhero tailor Paul Gambi, a character who mainly appeared in the Batman titles.)

The Archives remastering is gorgeous stuff, too. While you lose that traditional cheap ink on cheaper paper effect of old comics, you gain in the crispness of the art and the way to primary colours pop against the heavy white paper.


message 31: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #24 - Showcase Presents: Rip Hunter, Time Master, Vol. 1 by Jack Miller, Ross Andru, Alex Toth, Will Ely, etc.

Good old-fashioned Silver Age comics, actually slightly less lunatic in the science division than the superhero comics were. While Rip Hunter predates the arrival of Doctor Who, and it's unlikely that Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman (who was Canadian) saw the comics, there are some fascinating parallels to the TV series and its development -- Rip starts out as a purely historical time travel book, but it isn't too long before the aliens have crept in and are behind assorted historical happenings. Unlike Doctor Who, Rip does occasionally veer into actual fantasy, although the first swerve that way was quickly countered with several stories playing the Man Behind The Curtain trope (usually aliens, of course.)

The Rip Hunter stories are also interesting from another perspective -- Rip's assistant (and, its suggested, girlfriend) Bonnie Baxter is not just a valued member of the team, and present on all of the missions, she's level-headed in the crunch, and absolutely no damsel in distress -- as often as not she pulls Rip's tuchus out of a jam. Alas, we also have Corky, the kid, who's a candidate for booting out into the time vortex. Overall, though, the Time Master has fairly interesting companions...curiously enough, two adults, and a kid; Jeff, the engineer, is a bit dull at times, sadly. The Time Sphere isn't bigger on the inside, though, nor does it cloak itself; however, it can be made to travel through space as well as time. Like the TARDIS, the Time Spheres can be awfully finicky, and break down regularly. Rip and company use translator devices to get around the language issues (these don't get mentioned until around #6 of the main series, though.)

The artwork is okay, nothing great -- the creatures tend to be the worst of it, and the main characters (except for Bonnie) have a certain DC-ish blockiness, much of which is to do with the work of Ross Andru on the interiors -- Alex Toth shows up briefly with much better artwork, while Nick Cardy contributes some very nice covers and interiors. The last few issues in this volume are drawn by Will Ely.

The black and white Showcase Presents volume does a decent job of presenting the stories, although I'm now hoping that we'll see an Omnibus volume with the complete series (this volume stops ten issues short of the end of the series.)


message 32: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #25 - Justice League International, Vol. 5 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, William Messner-Loebs, Bart Sears, etc

The hilarity continues as the Justice League International collections move out of hardcover to trade paperback and start collecting the Justice League Europe run, wherein Captain Atom is handed the reins of a spin-off team that's considerably more dysfunctional than he ever expected...with disaster raining down from all sides, a distinctly disenchanted French government casting a beady eye on them, and, most horrifying of all, French lessons for most of the team. Also, the amnesiac Metamorpho's ex-widow shows up. For extra icing, Flash, Wally West, is still an obnoxious sexist, which particularly aggravates Power Girl.

This won't be to the tastes of everyone, of course, given that the goofiness is front and center (with the exception of William Messner-Loebs' J'onn J'onzz story from JLI ANNUAL #3) and the plots take something of a back seat. Also, the artwork by Bart Sears has a craggy, big-hair ugliness to it that can be very distracting at times, particularly with Power Girl. The deliberate lack of political correctness will also unsettle some readers...Giffen and DeMatteis aren't fond of coloring inside the lines at times. Messner-Loebs cheerfully follows suit in Annual #3's first story, which introduces Kooeykooeykooey and its bizarre cargo-cult tribe.

I enjoyed this collection, but I happen to have a fondness for this era of the League.


message 33: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #26 - Justice League International, Vol. 6 by Keith Giffen, J.Am. DeMatteis, William Messner-Loebs, Bart Sears, Adam Hughes, etc

The schtick had to start getting tired eventually, and it pretty much starts running out of energy right at the start of this volume, with a crossover between the now-retitled Justice League America and the newer Justice League Europe, setting into motion the rather grim Simon Stagg arc (unfortunately, this volume ends right on a cliffhanger from that arc, as the Metal Men arrive to face down Metamorpho.)

William Messner-Loebs steps in to share the scripting with J.M DeMatteis, and while the humor is similar, Loebs tends to bring in more seriousness. While there's still a great deal of silly stuff to be found in the Kooeykooeykooey arc, much of this volume moves hard toward melodrama. There's also a jarring note sounded in the art as Bart Sears continues on JLE, while Adam Hughes debuts on JLA, bringing a far softer and more graceful tone to it.


message 34: by Leslie (new)

Leslie You have passed Mt. Blanc already! Well done!


message 35: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Leslie wrote: "You have passed Mt. Blanc already! Well done!"

Thank you...unfortunately I seem to have managed to practically lose February, so I need to catch up somewhat.


message 36: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #27 - Bellisimo! - The Harry Bell Art Anthology by Harry Bell; edited by Rob Jackson

A splendid and amusing art book dedicated to the work of English SF and fantasy fan artist Harry Bell, whose amusing concoctions popped up across a variety of English SF fanzines and convention programme books.


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Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #28 - Barbarella by Jean-Claude Forrest

The movie was playful frippery, and was based on a playful frippery -- the Barbarella comic strip was a slightly saucy science fiction tale about an occasionally hapless Earth girl who veered between sex at the drop of a hat and helping to overcome tyrannical regimes on alien planets -- Barbarella and Flesh (not Flash) Gordon would have gotten along well, methinks. This first collection, wrestled into book form by Grove Press and graced with a somewhat clumsy translation (a later edition from Humanoids features a new translation by Kelly Sue DeConnick) has a tendency to be a bit abrupt in transitions thanks to the original format. Various of the seeds of the movie are here, though, including Pygar, Duran Durand (who was conflated with the Master Locksmith for the film), and even The Excessive Machine. Silly stuff, and always was, but an amusing read.


message 38: by Bev (new)

Bev | 715 comments Mod
Steven wrote: "Leslie wrote: "You have passed Mt. Blanc already! Well done!"

Thank you...unfortunately I seem to have managed to practically lose February, so I need to catch up somewhat."


Bet you'll be back on track in no time!


message 39: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Bev wrote: "Bet you'll be back on track in no time! "


I can but hope, although it's slow sledding at the moment, between another of those huge books (The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive & the Secret History of the KGB) and rather easily losing focus right now. However, I do have a plan! Well, 12% of a plan....

I keep acquiring books, too...there's some monsters on the horizon that could easily derail me again...well, at least they'll still contribute to my front-page numbers.


message 40: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #29 - Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Dick Ayres, Jack Kirby, and others

Not exactly Stan Lee's shining hour...Ant-Man was always something of a third string character, a bargain basement Reed Richards with an inconsistent personality, while the Wasp was presented initially as a flighty teenager with a crush on Hank Pym -- a romantic element that wobbled all over the neighbourhood like a drunken Lothario, again echoing Sue Storm's fraught romance with Reed. The plots tended to be silly, the soap opera element was generally absent (not surprising, given that stories could be written by Lee, his brother Larry Lieber, a combination of both, or even other hands entirely; art chores, while most often carried out by Dick Ayres, could be handled by any handy bullpenner.)

I'd claim that there's an awkward charm to the stories, but the truth is that even the warm glow of nostalgia doesn't cover up just how bargain-basement this series was -- even fiddling with the premise so Pym could be Giant-Man as well as Ant-Man didn't help, nor did having Hank and Janet become founding members of The Avengers (so little regarded, indeed, that they were left out of the lineup for the movie Avengers.) The oddest attempt to make the book interesting was the backup in a number of issues where the Wasp tells stories to kids -- stories that read like refurbished stories from pre-Fantastic Four era Marvel comics.

The stories are nicely restored, however, and this is a decently hefty volume at 440 pages. Sadly, it seems rather inessential.


message 41: by Bev (new)

Bev | 715 comments Mod
Steven wrote: "...I keep acquiring books, too..."

You and me both. So far, I haven't quite brought in as many as I've read...but the year is still young. :-)


message 42: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Bev wrote: "So far, I haven't quite brought in as many as I've read...but the year is still young. :-)"

I'm trying to stem the tide, but with little success -- in part because I give in to things like Humble Bundle and sales and the monthly free book through Amazon Prime. Between physical and digital acquisitions so far this year, I've added over a hundred new books. Goddess help me if I make it to a library book sale this year.


message 43: by Bev (new)

Bev | 715 comments Mod
Steven wrote: "Bev wrote: "So far, I haven't quite brought in as many as I've read...but the year is still young. :-)"

I'm trying to stem the tide, but with little success -- in part because I give in to things ..."


The library book sales (Spring--yet to come--and Fall) plus our Fall Community Book Fair will be my down fall.... Oh, and my birthday treat which is always a visit to my favorite used book store.


message 44: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments The last of our regular Library Book Sales (actually, Friends Of Pima Library sales) will be next month, as I recall, and after that we'll have the Mini Monsoon sales through the summer. I'll be relatively safe then until October. Relatively. I still have the problem of figuring out how to shelve the omnibus volumes I'm acquiring!


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Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #30 - Madman Vol. 1 by Mike Allred

The beginning of the story of Frank Einstein (who could have been Albert Sinatra had things gone another way, but there's a pun in the name.) At the start of the story, Frank doesn't even remember the name he's been given...he remembers very little, and is confused as to why he's wearing the odd costume he's wearing. A dying scientist gives him some clues (just before Frank sticks him in a freezer to preserve him for revival) and the first story is about what happens when Frank follows those clues.

The second story, from the full-colour Madman Adventures, takes the science fiction elements from the first miniseries and goes hog wild with them. It's at this point that the familiar Mike Allred art style and pop culture references start to appear -- the first story had a much rougher style in the artwork, and lacked the 1960s pop art attitude that Allred is known for.

Overall, if you're prepared for the relative crudity of the first half of the book, this is a lot of fun to read. It does help to have a certain fondness for the things Allred is inspired by though.


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Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #31 - Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, Vol. 1 by Oto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Al Plastino, Jim Mooney, and others

Often silly (although some of the stories address death) and inconsistent for a time (the setting for the Legion bounced from the 30th Century to the 21st and back again, before settling down; we also met an adult Legion and the children of the original Legion, who invited Supergirl to join them, after which they were forgotten), this initial Archives collection gathers together the first Legion appearances, and the first few actual Legion series stories, where a certain amount of continuity was built and the roster gradually expanded.

One thing that becomes very clear in the course of reading this, though -- the Legion were a monumentally dickish bunch of teenagers. Superboy and Supergirl are pretty bad at times, too -- Superboy condemns Mon-El to a thousand years in the Phantom Zone because his suspicions led to his poisoning the poor bugger with lead, which turns out to be fatally toxic to Daxamites, which Mon-El is. Supergirl, meanwhile, tries to get Superman married off to her lookalike, and effort that nearly kills the poor woman.

Gotta love the Silver Age! Also, Long Live The Legion -- they were always favourites of mine.


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Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #32 - Supergirl: Power by Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill

I've long been a fan of Supergirl, but I have to admit that the character has been often ill-treated since the original was killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s. Various versions have since been introduced (Matrix, Linda Danvers, Cir-El, the New 52 Supergirl), with this one being introduced in the pages of Superman/Batman, Vol. 2: Supergirl, in which she arrives amnesiac and naked and winds up being abducted and corrupted by Darkseid.

The solo debut, as with her arrival, was scripted by Jeph Loeb, and it does present problems -- aside from Supergirl's eccentric personality, the writing is slipshod, lurching from incident to incident, with the stakes constantly increasing for no real reason. until she faces off with Lex Luthor, gets split into two equally cardboard personalities, and is finally re-merged via a literal deus ex machina. Fortunately Loeb left the series after this.


message 48: by Steven (last edited Mar 24, 2016 02:09PM) (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments #33 - Vampirella Masters Series, Vol. 2: Warren Ellis by Warren Ellis, et al

Well, this was a surprisingly rotten read. Vampirella, approached right, can be a great deal of fun; approached poorly, or with disinterest, and the results will be dire and pathetic...and that's what we have here. Vampi is resurrected by her mother, Lilith, who is then killed by God (squished under God's glowing thumb,I kid you not) to hunt down and kill the vampires living under Whitechapel, USA. There's a psychic detective, a crooked cop, and something to do with a chaos-generating succubus whose boyfriend is a telekinetic who works in blood, and, you know, never mind. Warren Ellis can usually be counted on to at least provide an interesting journeyman effort, but here his apparent disinterest in the project is front and center.


message 49: by Bev (new)

Bev | 715 comments Mod
You're catching up to me!


message 50: by Steven (new)

Steven (wyldemusick) | 172 comments Bev wrote: "You're catching up to me!"

I still have a ways to go to get back to pace, though...I'm about four books behind right now, and would like to get ahead of things again. Oddly, I'm on pace once more with the regular reading challenge, and likely to pull ahead there.


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