Live! In the Link Age 04.17.15

RareGemsIn the latest Gailsone adventure (“Rare Gems” / By Casey Glanders / First Printing: February 2015), the spotlight shines on Aika Fukijima and Allison Gailsone, two former ruthless killing machines who are struggling to reinvent themselves as superheroes. As we know, Allison lost her sister Meredith in a botched Purge assignment (see our review of Gailsone: Red Rook). Now we discover the sad details surrounding Aika and her sister Nanami. Known professionally as Lotus, Aika was once regarded as the deadliest assassin in the world. Her skills were legendary, and her martial arts techniques were forbidden and deadly. She was a woman who prided herself on perfection in everything she did. Sadly, however, she made one terrible mistake in her life and that mistake continues to hang over her head like a dark cloud. How Allison and Aika work to resolve their familial tragedies is a big part of this ongoing Gailsone series. We’ve got our fingers crossed that everything works out for the best. Shine on you crazy diamonds.

The Pen and Cape Society (a klatsch of authors dedicated to superhero prose fiction) has released its second collection of short stories. The Good Fight 2: Villains (First Printing: March 2015 / ISBN: 9781310310799) contains 11 all-new adventures from the wrong side of the law. In alphabetical order, authors include: Nick Ahlhelm, Scott Bachmann, Mike Baron, Drew Hayes, Sir Ian Thomas Healy, Hydrargentium, T. Mike McCurley, Landon Porter, R.J. Ross, Cheyanne Young, and Jim Zoetewey.

Writer Alan MacDonald and artist Nigel Baines are set to release three kid-friendly books featuring students enrolled at Mighty High School, a secondary school for superheroes that proffers lessons in supervillain-spotting and tight-wearing. The Revenge of the Green Meanie (ISBN: 9781408825235) and Alien Attack! (ISBN: 9781408825242) come out in June, and Curse of the Evil Custard (ISBN: 9781408825259) comes out in October. Collect them all.

Face front, true believers. Stan Lee has written a graphic memoir titled Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir (available 10.06.15). With a little help from writer Peter David and artist Colleen Doran, Lee tells the story of his life with “the same inimitable wit, energy, and offbeat spirit that he brought to the world of comics.” Continues the publisher: “This funny, moving, and incredibly honest memoir is a must-have for collectors and fans of comic books and graphic novels of every age.”

A few months ago, Reed C. Dixon sent us an email to promote his upcoming novel, Evil in the Heart of Man: Ghana the War Chief. And now (finally) the book is available. It is, says the author, the story of a character named Ghana who is “tasked by God to purge the evil from the heart of man.” To accomplish this goal, he forms the Freedom Fighters of America and fights for the rights of all people who have been enslaved, manipulated, and tossed aside. Joining him on his crusade is Beauty Queen, Shaka Speed, and Booker T. Obama. The series, says Dixon, is “historical, spiritual, and pure entertainment.” Check out the author’s Facebook page for more information.

Of interest (or maybe not): Candorville: “ISIS Ruined Everything” by Darrin Bell.

Interviews: Samantha Bryant, author of Going Through the Change. J.R. Ramsey, author of Fennec. Stefan Mohamed, author of Bitter Sixteen.

Reviews: Less Than Hero by S.G. Browne (here). Nightingale by Anthony Karcz (here). Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn (here). Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (here). Tigerman by Nick Harkaway (here). Pulpsploitation edited by Nicholas Ahlhem (here). The Incredible Hulk: Abominations by Jason Henderson (here). Shrike (formerly titled The Masked Songbird) by Emmie Mears (here). Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed (here). All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman (here).

For your reading pleasure: “Gailsone: Turnabout” by Casey Glanders. Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale by AshleyRose Sullivan. Heroes in Exile by F.M. Beasley. “Trainee Superhero (Book One)” by C.H. Aalberry. Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers by Jon B. Cooke. Superhero Plague by Jonathan Johannes. I, Superhero and Magical Girl by Sugou Kudan. Fandemic by Jennifer Estep (available 06.02.15). The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris (available 06.02.15). The Avenger: The Sun King by Matthew Baugh (available 06.09.15). Attack of the Alien Horde by Robert Venditti and Dusty Higgins (available 06.16.15). Reconstructed: Building a Hero (Book 1) by Tasha Black (available 07.04.15). Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 by Mark Voger (available 07.07.15). Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (available 07.14.15). My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons (available 07.21.15). Ultraman Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Tomohiro Shimoguchi and Eiichi Shimizu (available 08.18.15 and 11.17.15). Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette (available 11.10.15). Superheroes Don’t Eat Veggie Burgers by Gretchen Kelley (available 01.05.16).

Posted in Live! In the Link Age | Tagged , , , ,

Our Violent Century

Violent CenturyWe remember reading initial reviews of Jonathan Lethem’s novel, The Fortress of Solitude. Many critics were clearly baffled by the author’s decision to include a superhero in his giant, messy semi-autobiographical novel.

But those early critics were quickly silenced by the consensus. Released in 2003, Lethem’s masterpiece of race and culture is now considered by many to be one of the greatest novels ever written about New York City. With The Fortress of Solitude, Lethem deftly proved that comic books and superhero tropes have literary merit.

In many ways, author Lavie Tidhar has done the same thing with his novel, The Violent Century. He’s written a knotty spy thriller about mid-century global events and he fearlessly added superheroes to the mix. Imagine that.

But Tidhar’s book isn’t a secret history. Nor is it an alternative history. It’s mostly a parallel history. The real world is full of marching armies, rockets, atomic bombs, and death camps. These things align perfectly with comics and “cheap novels.” Consequently, when superheroes show up on the beach at Normandy in 1944 it totally makes sense.

In this pre- and post-WWII era, the Nazi Übermenschen Korps battle the League of Defenders (from the U.S.), and the Union of Socialist Heroes (from Russia). The British have their own group of beyond-men too: the BSA (the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs). The novel focuses on two of these British superheroes: Oblivion and Fog.

Even though both men had special gifts (Oblivion could “make things not exist,” and Fog could manipulate fog and smoke), their duty to King and Country was to simply observe and gather intel. But as we all know, to observe something is to change it. And that’s what happened. Oblivion and Fog ventured into the war zone and accidentally uncovered the biggest secret imaginable.

Supermen, over-men, beyond-men, übermenschen – they were all created by the Vomacht wave, a device that unleashed a quantum blast allowing humans to harness the basic power of the universe. But what nobody knew was that the Vomacht wave was not a single, observable occurrence. Rather, it was a sustained confluence. It did not happen and then pass. Oblivion and Fog discovered that it was still happening. The world, they realized, was forever changed.

In the end (spoiler alert!), the Axis Alliance was defeated. But before he shot himself, Hitler changed the world forever. He rose to power and rewrote world history like a lurid paperback. The quantum bomb created a new era of super men who acted within a moral vacuum of nihilism to create a new set of values. “We won the war,” said the head of the BSA, “but we lost ourselves.”

[The Violent Century / By Lavie Tidhar / First U.S. Printing: February 2015 / ISBN: 9781250064493]

Posted in Published in 2015 | Tagged ,

Fringe Noir

FringeSinsSins of the Father, the third Fringe novel from Christa Faust, is somewhat similar to her Hard Case Crime hardboiled adventures. It features a con man, a high-stakes sting, and lots of gunplay. Let’s call it Fringe noir: things start badly and quickly get worse.

The year is 2008 and Peter Bishop (our anti-hero) is in Bangkok to squeeze some money from a group of trigger-happy Koreans and Chechens. Bishop wasn’t particularly a brave guy. But he needed a quick influx of cash to settle a lingering debt. Being reckless was part of the game plan.

Scams like this weren’t new for a grifter like Bishop. He’d been on the road constantly since he was a teenager – picking up odd jobs, engineering a variety of shady rackets, and then moving on. Over the years he had become a master manipulator. “That was his secret power,” writes the author. “The ability to think on his feet, and talk his way in and out of any situation.” In addition, Bishop was unburdened by quaint, old-fashioned concepts of morality. He just made sure his sliding moral scale always tipped in his favor.

But this sticky Korean/Chechen deal wasn’t going very smoothly. Bishop found himself in the middle of a complicated caper that would ultimately lead back to his father, Dr. Walter Bishop, his father’s best friend, William Bell (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy), and a secret war between parallel universes. Interestingly, the novel ends in an Iraqi hotel lobby. If you’re a long-time Fringe fan, you’ll remember this location as the place Bishop bumps into Olivia Dunham during the first episode of the TV series.

With this book, Faust has now written three prequels to the Fringe macrocosm (the other two books include The Zodiac Paradox and The Burning Man). Despite some road bumps along the way, we’ve enjoyed revisiting the series in prose format. If additional tie-in novels are in the pipeline, however, we’re hoping to see more characters involved, most notably lab assistant Astrid Farnsworth, FBI agent Phillip Broyles, meddling futurian September, and Olivia Dunham’s alt-universe proxy.

While on TV, Fringe created a complex and rich mythology. Of the three main characters, Peter Bishop probably got the least amount of screen time. And yet the entire show exists due to him. Walter Bishop was the brains, the heart, and the soul of Fringe. Olivia Dunham was the show’s conscience. But Peter was the catalyst, and, ultimately, the glue that kept Fringe Division humming. Hopefully this isn’t the last Fringe novel we’ll read.

[Fringe: Sins of the Father / By Christa Faust / First Printing: August 2014 / ISBN: 9781781163139]

Posted in Movies/TV, Published in 2014 | Tagged , ,

Marvel’s Agents of Z.O.D.I.A.C.

ZodiacConvergenceThe Zodiac Legacy: Convergence is a pretty straightforward origin story. It’s about a small group of youngsters who acquire ancient Chinese super powers via an astrological convergence. Each of the kids gets preternatural abilities appropriate to their birth date: Tiger, Ram, Rooster, Pig, and Rabbit.

What’s not straightforward, however, is the name they chose to call themselves. The kids spend the entire novel trying to think of a jazzy team acronym. Like, for instance, A.I.R.L.O.C.K.S. (Astrological Investigation Remote Locator Operative Central Knowledge Systems) or Z.A.P.P.E.R.S. (Zodiac Action Preparation & Protection Emergency Response Squad). At some point G.A.P.P.Z. (General Action Peril Posse Zodiac) is rejected because “it sounds like an FX for flatulence.”

These days it’s hard to think of an acronymic name that’s clever and unique. After all, WildC.A.T.S., T.H.U.N.D.E.R., S.H.I.E.L.D., and N.W.A. have already been taken. Eventually the kids run out of options and briefly (but not seriously) consider calling themselves the Private International Zodiac Zero Assembly (P.I.Z.Z.A.).

Beyond the ongoing branding dilemma, the Z-kids (led by Steven Lee, the Tiger) are busy defending themselves from a scary guy named Maxwell. Like all good villains, Maxwell (no last name needed, apparently) thinks he’s a good guy. But in reality, he’s a vicious war contractor, and a villain-for-hire with no principles. ”He has all the advantages, all the toys, and all the money.” If he captures the power of all 12 zodiac signs he’ll be unstoppable.

There’s no question that Maxwell is a major nutcase. “I am the whirlpool,” he says while in a supervillain trance. “I am fire and I am chaos. I forge the future. I accept the burden and loneliness of power.” He has a dash of Dragon juice within him and that makes him a formidable foe.

Despite being the most powerful of all zodiac creatures, the Dragon is confounded by the wily nature of its young adversaries. Working as a team, the Agents of Z.O.D.I.A.C. find a way to clobber Maxwell and his Vanguard paramilitary troops. It’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with a Stan Lee twist. Added bonus: the novel also features 71 pages of illustrations by Andie Tong.

“You think you’ve won,” says Maxwell to his vanquishers “But you’ll eventually destroy yourselves. And then you’ll destroy the world.” Get ready for more zodiac vs. zodiac action in the upcoming sequel. World War Z has just begun.

[The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence / By Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong / First Printing: January 2015 / ISBN: 9781423180852]

Posted in Published in 2015 | Tagged , , , ,

Candy Corps

FirefightIt’s been 13 years since Calamity begat a new breed of supervillains. These Epics (with comic book-inspired names like Steelheart, Mitosis, and Obliteration) were cruel and immune to comeuppance. They were like lions among gazelles.

But their reign of terror had recently been challenged by a small group of rebels called the Reckoners. When these insurgents killed Steelheart, the ruthless leader of Newcago (see our review of the series’ first book here), they made a bold statement. “The day of Epic tyrants is over,” said Jonathan Phaedrus at the time. “No Epic, no matter how powerful, is safe from us.” The Reckoners had declared all-out war on Calamity’s progeny. There was no turning back.

Looking for their next big kill, a trio of Reckoners travel to Babylon Restored (aka Manhattan). The city, now mostly submerged under water, was ruled by a crafty hydromancer named Regalia. Like Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, Phaedrus and his gang paddle into Regalia’s watery domain not sure of what fate had in store for them.

In tow with Phaedrus was David Charleston, the 19-year-old kid who took down Steelheart. In less than a year with the Reckoners, Charleston had killed almost a dozen Epics. Now known as Steelslayer, Charleston was a Reckoner rock star. Like it or not, he had become a champion and a hero for millions of people.

Once in Babylon Restored, however, Charleston turns his back on his pals in support of a cute Epic named Megan. The two had a flirty romance back in Newcago. And now hormonal sparks are causing drama again. No surprise: the power of love is everlastingly epic.

Author Sanderson is writing this series in a brisk, propulsive manner. Much like Dan Brown, James Patterson, and Naoki Urasawa, he knows how to keep a reader’s attention. Short chapters, endless cliffhangers, chipper dialogue, and a penchant for plot twists make Firefight fly by like a speeding bullet.

More than anything else, however, Sanderson keeps things light. It’s true that Epics are a vile and self-absorbed bunch (they have a tendency to quote doomsday Biblical scripture when obliterating entire cities). But Sanderson takes the time to temper moments of intense drama with spikes of quirky levity.

And, as it turns out, David Charleston is a pretty good conveyance for the author’s wacky humor. He may be an OMAC-like killing machine, but Charleston can’t escape his own goofball nature. “I felt like a cupcake on a steak platter,” he says at one point. And later, when trying to articulate his newfound ambivalence toward Epics (especially pretty ones like Megan), he tells a colleague: “I’m like a donut, and somebody has sucked all the jelly out of me.” Charleston’s (and Sanderson’s) penchant for confectionary similes make Firefight a treat for anyone with a superhero sweet tooth.

[Firefight / By Brandon Sanderson / First Printing: January 2015 / ISBN: 9780385743587]

Posted in Published in 2015 | Tagged , ,

The New Indestructibles

BreakoutIn the first Indestructibles novel readers were introduced to a team of young eclectic heroes — Solar, Straylight, Entropy Emily, Fury, and Dancer. Along with their mentor Doctor Silence, they were the new kids on the superhero block.

Now, in the follow-up novel, author Matthew Phillion has shaken things up a little bit. Most of the original charter members have been relegated to the sidelines and replaced by Alley Hawk, Coldwall, Bedlam, and Valkyrie. Forget the old Indestructibles. A new team of inextinguishable superheroes has assembled.

But that’s okay with us. After all, it’s been one year since the first book ended. Time inevitably marches forward. Doc Silence is lost in a Sandman-like alternative universe called the Dreamless Lands. Titus Talbot (the angst-y teen wolf) is on a personal quest to uncover his family history. And Solar, Straylight, and Entropy Emily are cooling their jets in a high-security prison made just for superhumans. The Indestructibles are still indestructible, but like everybody else they need a little help from their friends.

In Breakout, the team faces two seemingly unrelated crises. The first one involves a teenager who is maliciously spreading a lung infection that is more virulent than the bubonic plague. The second crisis comes from Agent Prevention and her Department of What minions.

Ms. Prevention’s mission is to clamp down on our young heroes. “We can’t have a bunch of hyper teenagers running around without some sort of checks and balances,” she says. “My job is to prevent problems and losses, to lock things down, to keep variables to a minimum, to stop things from getting disorganized — to prevent chaos.” She sees the Indestructibles as a bunch of yappy puppies that need to be housebroken.

As the novel tumbles toward its conclusion, the teenage plague bomb, the persnickety government agent, and the “new” Indestructibles find themselves inextricably entwined in events that reach beyond their control. But that’s the way it goes. The world we live in is indifferent to mortal concerns. All you can do is keep your chin up, says Alley Hawk. “Even if everything I do turns to dust,” he says, “I make this horrible place better for a little bit. It’s all that I’m capable of.”

Like the first novel, Breakout is smart and funny and delivers a satisfying emotional moment at the end. It is also packed with all sorts of surprising pop culture cookies. For example, we don’t know how old the author is (probably somewhere close to 100), but his musical taste seems to range from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to Bobby Fuller and to Robert Smith. And yet, despite being a centenarian, he’s still able to breathe life into a gaggle of sassy teens. That’s impressive for an old geezer.

We also have a feeling that Phillion is a big movie buff. One of our favorite scenes in the novel is the showdown between Alley Hawk and the Vermin King. It reminded us of the fight between Mr. Fox and his cider-drinking rat nemesis down in Mr. Bean’s cellar. In each case, the fantastic Mr. Fox and the fantastic Indestructibles are doing the exact same thing. They’re trying to kill a couple of rats and make the world a better place to live.

[The Indestructibles: Breakout / By Matthew Phillion / First Printing: October 2014 / ISBN: 9780991427550]

Posted in Published in 2014 | Tagged , ,

Live! In the Link Age: Short Reviews of 2014 (Revisited)

9SuperGirlsThe 9 Super Girls (by Tigerlily Emi Kawasaki / First Printing: December 2013) is a self-published, one-of-a-kind portfolio of drawings featuring super-powered girls who punch, fly, swim, make music, wield swords, and control the weather. There’s even one character whose powers come directly from the spirit of Christmas. Without a doubt, our favorite is Punch Girl—she’s the toughest of the bunch. But we also have a fondness for Cat Girl (the most iconic) and Ghost Girl (the friendliest ghost since Casper). We can’t wait for the sequel. Coming soon, hopefully. [Review first published 02.24.14.]

BloodRust“Blood & Rust” (By Casey Glanders / First Printing: January 2014) is a short story prequel to the author’s first Gailsone novel, Big in Japan. In this adventure, young Allison is only 16 years old and still on the payroll at Purge, an organization that profits from villainy and tumult. She’s deployed to Indiana (!) to negotiate a business relationship with an upstart gang leader who’s building a drug and weapons cartel. Naturally, there’s lots of gunplay and wiseassery involved. In the end, Allison survives her mission (with the help of her benefactor, Alice “Dyspell” Gailsone). And she even finds time for a little romance too. We admit it’s nice to see Allison in action as a supervillain. But, really, not much has changed in her basic nature over the years. Even though she now hangs out with superheroes, she still comes on like a wrecking ball. [Review first published 03.22.14.]

PrimevalAnointed with preternatural powers by a council of Pakistani spirits, Ahad Bhai is slowly learning more about his newfound responsibilities as Sergeant Pakistan (“Primeval” / By Syed Hamdani / First Printing: April 2014). First on his to-do list is to squash a reprobate named Ba’al Hadad who recently escaped from an antimatter prison in Antarctica. Young Bhai still has a lot to learn about being a superhero, but he needs to get to the South Pole right away before things get messy. Call this one Sergeant Pakistan: The Winter Soldier. [Review first published 04.19.14.]

OperaMost people go to the opera for a night of music and spectacle. Dinner afterward might be nice too. But Alice Gailsone has other plans (“A Night at the Opera” / By Casey Glanders / First Printing: January 2014). She’s not interested in La Cenerentola or anything else by Gioachino Rossini. She’s come to the Sydney Opera House with hopes of bagging a foppish billionaire and squeezing a little bit of ransom money out of him. It was, she figured, an easy way to boost her employer’s bank account. Unfortunately, the night doesn’t end the way she thought it would. Secret identities, secret agendas, covert operations, drunken shenanigans, and a scary techno-shifting monster conspire against her. One good thing happens, however. Gailsone is left with a one-of-a-kind memento from her night in Australia—a selfie of her hostage with his face buried deep in her cleavage. Good times! [Review first published 04.19.14.]

Lightweight1When author Nicholas Ahlhelm announced (via Kickstarter) his intention to tackle a monthly publishing schedule for his latest project, we applauded him before a single word was written. Comic books have conquered episodic storytelling and it’s time superhero prose fiction did the same. “Dreams” (First Printing: December 2013) is the first chapter of Ahlhelm’s ongoing Lightweight serial and it introduces readers to a high school senior named Kevin Mathis with burgeoning telekinetic powers. In concert with his best friend Andy Case, and his wannabe girlfriend Millicent Bryant, Kevin butts heads with a school bully and a giant killer robot. “This is the end. My life just changed forever,” says Kevin after embracing his metahuman legacy. What he actually means, however, is that this is just the beginning. [Review first published 04.19.14.]

DateNightYears before she became a superhero sidekick, Allison Gailsone was a high-ranking officer and ruthless assassin in a premier global terrorist organization called Purge. By the time she was 16 years old she had killed more than 30 people. But even teenage killing machines need a little RnR. The latest Gailsone adventure (“Date Night” / By Casey Glanders / First Printing: February 2014) finds young Allison prepping for a romantic evening with her “boyfriend” Douglas. Because this is the pair’s first official date, Allison is a little nervous about her upcoming tryst and seeks advice from her aunt Alice: “Tonight, you’re a normal civilian,” says her guardian and mentor. “No projectile weapons or always-sharp knives. No explosives, no pellets, no nothing. Just go and have fun like a normal, non-psychotic teenager.” Think of it as a mission, the older Gailsone adds, “a sexy mission.” As expected, the date explodes in a burst of random violence. Which, as it turns out, is appropriate foreplay for a couple of young terrorists in love. [Review first published 05.17.14.]

CatgirlThere’s no question that “Catgirl: Heat of the Night” (By J.K. Waylon / First Printing: April 2013) is aimed directly at Catwoman fetishists and superhero horn dogs. That’s no surprise—people get turned on by all sorts of things, after all. But what surprises us is how well superhero tropes mesh with erotic fiction. It’s like William Moulton Marston and Fredric Wertham were right all along. There’s something tantalizingly illicit about superheroes, sidekicks, secret identities, and catsuits (especially catsuits). Yes, superheroes are for kids. But they’re also for adults who understand metaphor and subtext. In this case, former Olympic gymnast, Morgan Miles (aka Catgirl) is learning how to be a superhero from her mentor, Midnight Avenger. But like all sidekicks, she yearns to patrol the city by herself. Problems arise one night when she stumbles upon a burglary with no backup. Morgan’s strong like an Amazon princess, but the criminals soon have her subdued and begging for sexual release. That’s the way things go in Synne City. Give ’em an inch and “they’ll bang your butt all night long.” [Review first published 05.17.14.]

BlackbirdUp until this point, Alice Gailsone and her adoptive niece Allison have been the main focus of author Casey Glanders’ lively superhero serial. The Gailsones are former high-level terrorists who are struggling to reinvent themselves as clean living superheroes. There are a handful of other interesting characters in the cast, however. One such character is Victoria Green, aka Blackbird. She is the super efficient law enforcement operative who’s been butting heads with the Gailsone pair from the very beginning. “Blackbird’s Song” (First Printing: April 2014) lets readers see how Green overcame adversity at an early age to become a special agent for the FBI and eventually rise to superhero status in the Collective Good. Like the song says, all her life she was only waiting for her moment to arise. [Review first published 06.14.14.]

fire_rama1Alice Gailsone finds herself in a sticky situation in her latest Purge mission (“The Impossible Door” / By Casey Glanders / First Printing: April 2014). Her employer wants access to a magical gateway linking multiple realties. This “door” is the Holy Grail of magic—more powerful than the Staff of Black, and more incredible than the Eyes of Perseus. Unfortunately, Gailsone also takes orders from a spiritual magistrate who has other plans for this mythical passageway. Enlisting the help of a famous superhero named Miss Major, Gailsone is able to complete her assignment and satisfy both constituencies. For her troubles she gets a dollop of soft-serve ice cream and a bottle of orange soda (and a pay raise). Plus: she makes an unexpected friend. As it turns out, nothing is impossible. [Review first published 06.14.14.]

ConundrumA monster made of sentient garbage is destroying Lower Manhattan. In Cairo, the Sphinx is rampaging across the landscape. In Arizona, an army of Apache ghost warriors has descended upon Sedona. Someone in Mexico is trying to raise Quetzalcoatl by sacrificing virginal eco-tourists. And a lava-demon is terrorizing the island of Maui. All this carnage is the result of a supernut who calls himself the Prehistorian (“The Eternity Conundrum” / By Stephen T. Brophy / First Printing: July 2014). He’s bringing back all the ancient immortal gods from beyond time to rewrite reality. Henchman Duke LaRue (aka HandCannon, last seen in the author’s debut novel, The Villain’s Sidekick) has signed on to help the Prehistorian achieve his nihilistic wish, but he doesn’t seem to be concerned that the world may be on the verge of collapsing. As he says, “As long as the money spends and civilization ends, count me in.” LaRue changes his tune, however, when he gets an unexpected phone call from his wife. Suddenly he has a reason to change sides and team up with the good guys. But don’t let it get around. Saving the world could totally ruin his reputation. [Review first published 09.08.14.]

GhostRiderGN01We’ve been reading (and enjoying) the “All New” adventures of Ghost Rider (Engines of Vengeance / First Printing: October 2014 / ISBN: 9780785154556). Author Felipe Smith is a unique talent who might be the most interesting creator currently working in mainstream comics. As an auteur he emerged from the dreadful OEL (Original English Language) manga movement. But he quickly redeemed himself when he moved to Tokyo to work for Kodansha as an honest-to-goodness mangaka. Unlike David Mazzucchelli, Paul Pope, and Takeshi Miyazawa (three artists we like very much as well), Smith was actually published during his time in Japan. Gold star emoji for him.

Smith is an incredible artist so it’s slightly disappointing that he’s “only” writing the new Ghost Rider comic book. But we have a feeling he’s providing detailed page layouts and thumbnails because artist Tradd Moore is doing a pretty good Felipe Smith imitation. The end result is totally weird in a good way. Smith’s comics always feature a jumble of influences and they inevitably spring fully formed from his hyperactive id. Ghost Rider, we’re happy to see, contains a small spark of his eccentric genius. For a better idea of Smith’s full talent, however, we recommend his manga series, Peepo Choo. It’s already been translated and released in the U.S., so it’s easy to track down. [Review first published 10.04.14.]

URWe first discovered artist Eric Haven back in the early ’90s. His three-issue series Angryman was an amazing absurdist scramble of Jack Kirby and Werner Herzog (if you can imagine such a thing). Since that time we’ve kept a casual eye on Haven’s erratic output. UR, his latest book (First Printing: October 2014 / ISBN: 9781935233305), is a compilation of previously published work including his “Race Murdock” strips from The Believer. It’s nice to see Haven is still channeling Kirby (along with Steve Ditko, Charles Burns, Chester Brown, and Chris Ware). And it’s also nice to see that he hasn’t lost his zing after all these years. In one strip, Race Murdock replaces his head with a “shiny new robot head.” Now infinitely smarter, he makes his fortune in the stock market, drives fast cars, and enjoys the company of beautiful women. “Race Murdock,” says Haven, “had finally found happiness.” Too bad penis cancer would get him in the end… [Review first published 11.01.14.]

Posted in Live! In the Link Age, Published in 2014 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,