Archive for April, 2013

Seventh Heaven


Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

The second novel by British writer Adam Christopher is actually more of a pure superhero story than his first one was. This one is set in the city of San Ventura, the only place in the world where there’s still a functioning superteam — the Seven Wonders — because it’s the only city where a supervillain — the diabolical Cowl — still operates.

We’ve got a pretty wide collection of characters to follow. There’s Tony Prosdocimi, working class schlub, who suddenly finds himself gaining superpowers; his somewhat mysterious girlfriend Jeannie; the Cowl himself, perplexed by the slow loss of his own powers; Blackbird, the Cowl’s sidekick; Sam Millar and Joe Milano, hard-working cops on the Cowl’s trail; and the Seven Wonders themselves: the powerful leader Aurora, the telepathic Bluebell, the speedster Linear, the alien powerhouse Dragon Star, the godlike technologist Hephaestus, his robotic creation SMART, and the shapeshifting warrior Sand Cat.

Once Tony discovers his powers, he becomes obsessed with becoming a hero, so he can defeat the Cowl and confront the Seven Wonders about their negligence in dealing with the murderous villain. At the same time, the Cowl is following a scheme to get his hands on a weapon so powerful and destructive that the Seven Wonders hid it and then made themselves forget where it was. And there’s an even more dire threat looming on the horizon — a crisis so dire it will force heroes and villains to unite to try to stop it.

There’s not a lot more I can tell without giving away spoilers. But I will note that more than one character switches sides, from good to bad, and from bad to good. Lots of people die — and some of them even come back from the dead.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good, rollicking story, excellent action, mystery, and intrigue, and it reads pretty dang fast — it’s real easy to keep the pages turning.

Characterization is, at times, very good. Some of the characters are very interesting and well-created. Others are contradictory — several of the characters who switch sides appear to have done so just so the plot could have some characters who switched sides. While it keeps the plot moving, it can be very jarring. “Well, I was a good guy — time to embrace monstrous evil!” And some of the characters seem just barely sketched-in — they seem to be there to fill a spot on the stage, to help with battles, or to die somewhat dramatically.

It’s also a bit of a shock when our viewpoint character completely exits the story for about a third of the book.

I guess this is a certain amount of nitpicking, because, like I said, I did enjoy the book quite a bit. But I also wished I’d enjoyed it a little bit more

Still, certainly worth reading for fans of superhero fiction. Go pick it up.

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Dirty Laundry


Lost in the Wash

Picked this one up recently — written by former Lubbockite John Ira Thomas, with art by Will Grant, from Thomas’ Candle Light Press.

The story is set in a tiny town in the Colorado mountains called Isco — it used to be called Francisco ’til the locals changed the name in a burst of misguided patriotism prior to the Iraq War. Still, for a town with a population of just 60 people, it’s got an unusual collection of amenities — an occult bookstore (which doubles as a tattoo parlor and a paintball range), a fairly large laundromat, and a castle. And a ghost. Maybe several ghosts…

Walt and Terisa run the bookstore/tattoo/paintball parlor (and try to drum up support for something they call Gothic Colorado, which gives the local punk/goth population an excuse to try to scare themselves with ghost stories and rituals), while Darrin runs (and lives in) the laundromat for his tyrannical uncle Sal, who lives in the local castle. Darrin has a seriously rotten life — he refers to himself as a ghost, because no one notices him, no one cares about him, he’s invisible to the world because he lives and works in a laundromat, plus his uncle pretty much owns him and heaps abuse on him at every opportunity.

And there’s a monster living inside the washing machines.

A giant snake, in fact, made out of water. It periodically emerges, sucks some poor soul dry, and vanishes ’til the next time it gets hungry. And this leads to even more questions — why is Darrin so good at throwing scares into the goth kids at Gothic Colorado? What is Sal really doing in that big castle? And is Darrin even alive at all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good, fun, spooky story, and I bet you’d like it.

Let’s talk setting a bit. Part of me wants to snark about how this tiny, tiny town in the mountains has so much odd stuff. A laundromat, a bookstore, and a castle? But on the other hand, part of it feels very realistic. When I was a kid, we’d often spend our summer vacation in the southern New Mexico mountains, and you quickly learn that folks up there are a bit quirky. No, not crazy or dangerous, but they’ve moved way out to the edge of civilization, and if they want to open a deluxe ice cream parlor or learn chainsaw sculpture or start an ostrich farm or cover their entire house with animal skulls — well, they’ll do it, and no one much is gonna complain. The large numbers of punked-out goth kids is a bit much, but the rest? I reckon I’ve seen weirder.

Thomas’ story itself is seriously offbeat — a mystical water serpent lurking in coin-op washing machines? — while still being tense, surreal, and frightening. There are threats here both mundane and supernatural, and we’re never really sure what’s the most dangerous, or where the next shock will hit us.

Grant’s art is fun, too — part surreal and jagged and enraged, part liquid and wet and flowing — appropriate for a story where water plays such a big role in the action. Seriously, plan to spend a little extra time to read through this carefully — the path of Grant’s art from one panel to the next and from one word balloon to another is not always in a straight line. You can’t control where the river may take you, after all.

It’s a good one, kids. Go pick it up.

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Friday Night Fights: Taken to Task!

Good gravy train, what a week. I don’t know about y’all, but I need at least four weekends, all strung together, to recover from the last five days. We won’t get that, unfortunately, so we’ll have to make do with the usual too-short weekend. But we can at least start things off the fun way with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from June 1980’s The Avengers #196 by David Michelinie, George Pérez, and Jack Abel, as Captain America and Iron Man meet up with the Taskmaster!




Remember to run over to SpaceBooger’s place, check out the other contestants, and vote for your favorite!

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Kiss Me Deadly


Worlds’ Finest #11

Huntress works to trace the source of the high-tech weapons and mercenaries that have often been set against them, quickly deducing that they all have their source with Apokalips. Karen Starr, meanwhile, is preparing for a tech convention in Las Vegas. Helena attends as well, as they’re both looking forward to talking to Michael Holt, better known as Mr. Terrific, who has been missing for quite some time. So what has Holt been up to, and what dire secret is he hiding?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Pretty good stuff all around. Nice investigative stuff for Huntress, and it’s very interesting to see the reveal on the last page.


The Hypernaturals #10

Thinkwell remembers an incident from his past, back when he was new to the Hypernaturals team, when he tried to interface directly with the Quantinuum hypercomputer that powers civilization in the future. His mind was overloaded by the vast knowledge he gained, and he encountered vast nonhuman intelligences on the edge of existence. But he’d lost all memory of this until just recently. He brings Shoal into his confidence and asks him to watch him to make sure he’s not being controlled by any of the alien intelligences.

Sublime is still not trusted by most of the team, and he’s very frustrated that Thinkwell believes hyperintelligent aliens are behind the plots against them, rather than the Quantinuum itself. Halfshell finds herself being pressured by the company that owns her armor to make a bid for team leadership, and Thinkwell and Shoal pay another visit to the Quantinuum, only to discover something they can’t remember. And the Hyperbads — who may be the genetically altered and mind-controlled former Hypernaturals are making a serious effort to destroy the galaxy…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really outstanding far-future sci-fi superheroics. Great characterization and a really excellent sense of mounting pressure and suspense. Y’all check it out, ‘kay?


Ame-Comi Girls #2

The unified team of superheroines and supervillainesses take on Brainiac above Earth while Power Girl takes her on below the Earth. And even if they can stop Brainiac, there’s still the matter of how to cure Supergirl from her Black Kryptonite infection. And how to deal with the parents of Batgirl and Robin, who don’t want their daughters fighting crime…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The battle against Brainiac was pretty short, which I considered a really good thing, ’cause I was waaaaaay tired of the Brainiac storyline. And I also liked the aftermath with dealing with the parents — it’ll be interesting to see how they’re going to get out of this very mundane threat…

Today’s Not Particularly Happy Links:

  • Just obits today. First Roger Ebert, one of the nation’s truly great writers.
  • Then Carmine Infantino, creator of an amazing number of comic book characters and the namesake of the world-famous Infantino Building.
  • And George Gladir, co-creator of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

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There She Is, Miss America


Young Avengers #3

Hulkling, Wiccan, and Kid Loki are being attacked by Loki’s father, the frost giant Laufey — who has been dead for a long, long time. They’re soon rescued by the newest version of Miss America, but they’re quickly confronted by her mothers, who have also been corrupted by the interdimensional parasite masquerading as Hulkling’s mother. Loki teleports all of them to a New York City nightclub, which gives them some time to compare notes. They learn that Wiccan’s power has been depleted by the spell he cast to summon the parasite, and he needs stronger finesse to dispel her. Loki has the finesse, but not the power — but he offers to borrow Wiccan’s power to boost his power, but Wiccan, possibly sensibly, figures it’d be unwise to lend the God of Mischief any extra power. Unfortunately, all this arguing isn’t getting them any closer to getting rid of the bad guys…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, art, action, humor, characterization, you name it. And we don’t even have the full cast on stage yet…


Finding Gossamyr #4

Denny, Jenna, and the other friends they’ve met in the math-focused fantasy world of Gossamyr have finally arrived at a safe zone — the city where the Roughhew live. Unfortunately, the Roughhew have decided that Denny is too powerful a mathemagician to be left with Jenna, and they hold a trial to have him separated from her care. And even worse — the Roughhew may not be as trustworthy and loyal as they like to pretend…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful artwork, and an amazingly fun story where being able to do high-level math gives you the power to do high-level magic. Hopefully, we’ll see this series continue sometime soon…

Today’s Cool Links:

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Alex Summers: Self-Hating Mutant

I reviewed the latest issue of “Uncanny Avengers” on Friday. And not too long after I posted it, there was this little controversy that hit the ‘net:



I barely noticed this when I read the issue. I remember at the time thinking, “Hmm, that’s kind of a strange attitude for someone in Havok’s position to have.” But I didn’t think of it much beyond that.

If you’ve read the link above, you’ll see some detail on why it’s such an odd thing for Havok to say. Alex Summers is a member of a minority group — namely, mutants — which in the Marvel Universe, definitely qualifies as oppressed. The government periodically tries to outlaw and imprison them and people sometimes kill mutants, all on the basis of their genetics. Sure, on the one hand, Alex just wants to be treated like any other human, which is something that every civil rights activist would agree with. But not wanting to be identified in any way as a mutant, and even considering the word “mutant” to be a slur, makes Havok look like a self-loathing mutant.

It’s been said that, as far as their political awareness goes, Charles Xavier was the equivalent of Martin Luther King, Jr., working to improve mutant rights through (mostly) peaceful means, while Magneto (and the current version of Alex’s brother, Cyclops) would be the equivalent of Malcolm X, working to advance mutantkind “by any means necessary.”

With that speech, Alex has been cast as, basically, many of the characters from TVTropes’ “Boomerang Bigot” page. If his fellow mutants don’t bust his chops over this in future issues, they’re not doing their jobs.

It probably doesn’t help that “Uncanny Avengers” has previously been criticized for being a team of white characters — and in this issue, they added a Japanese character and two more white ones. And it also doesn’t help that writer Rick Remender is reacting to criticism by unleashing his inner douchebag.

For all the complaints, however, it must be said that Marvel could’ve handled the whole thing much, much worse. DC Comics, for instance, can barely go a month without some horrific controversy where they kill off another non-white character or ladle on the embarrassing sexism when writing about their female characters. Marvel may not be perfect, but they’re closer to where they should be.

Anyway, it bugged me that this didn’t bug me more when I read the comic, but like straight white male Alex Summers, I’ve got more than my share of privilege issues that make it easy for me to overlook these things. I try to train myself not to let these things slide by me, but the big problem with privilege is that you often have no clue you’ve got it until it’s pointed out to you after the fact. The best any of us can do is try to be better people…

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