Archive for April, 2021

Gone Again

Well, I think it’s time I put the blog back in mothballs again.

The major problem I’m having with it is that it takes a ton of work to update it — even without keeping to a regular update schedule. It still takes at least two days to write up a book review, and that takes up time I could be using to work on other, more interesting projects.

And not that I don’t appreciate all my loyal readers, but doing all that writing for just the five of you is kinda not great.

I still think blogs are a good thing. I think they’re a better way to talk to folks, without having to deal with the various poisons we have to deal with in social media. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve grown very tired of fighting my brain to think of new posts.

My main regret is that I’ve still got a tall stack of books and comics I’d love to review for you, and a decent number of RPG characters I think it’d be fun to share. Maybe I’ll be back eventually, if the drive to share some of this stuff gets too strong to resist.

But for now, I’m outta here. I’ll leave you with these important words to live your life by: THE ONLY GOOD NAZI IS A DEAD NAZI.

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The Greatest Comic Cover Ever!

Alright, class, let’s settle down. Everyone take your seat, thank you. It’s time for today’s lesson.

Namely, our lesson concerning HOW AMAZING THIS OLD COVER IS!

That’s Super Friends #16, cover dated at January 1979, and from the looks of it, art by the impossibly great Ramona Fradon herself!

I’ve never read this comic, but BAHGAWD, we can talk about what a fantastic cover this is, right?

We’re not going to talk about the fact that the old Super Friends art style, based on the old cartoons, is outdated, because the job of the artist was the replicate the limited animation style of the cartoons. No style points are lost here, and anyone who complains is getting their eye poked.

So let’s start off with the image that dominates the cover — that amazing superhero trap formed from an Impossible Cube, as imagined by artist M.C. Escher.

I’ve never seen anything like this in any other comic book, and I’m honestly furious about that. It’s such a perfect concept — how do you confine demigods with incredible powers? Well, you put ’em somewhere that has no ups or downs or lefts or rights, somewhere where they can seem to be right next to each other but still be absolutely isolated and alone. It’s a mathematical optical illusion — it can’t exist. But you make it solid or at least multi-dimensional, and it becomes the best way to capture and imprison four-color superheroes. This should be a way more common superhero trope just because of its glorious weirdness.

The last thing I want us to talk about on this cover is the alien’s word balloon. It reads:

“The Earth’s greatest super heroes are helpless to stop us… FROM STEALING THE SKY!!”

I think the only time I’ve seen a similar phrase is from the title of a book in an old Ace Double, namely “Tonight We Steal the Stars” by John Jakes.

I’ve read summaries of both of these stories, and big spoiler alert — no one literally steals the stars or the sky in either book. How could they? The stars are giant balls of gas millions of light years away, and the sky is, well, it’s everywhere. If it’s above your head, it’s the sky, and you just can’t steal that. But what if some villain… figured out how to do it?! You must buy this comic, reader! Or this book! Buy it and read!!!

Obviously, it’s a killer hook, and comics and science fiction could both use those kinds of fantastic, irresistible hooks.

So there ya got it. That’s a quick look at what may be the greatest comic book cover of all time. No gimimcks, just great art and great imagination.

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For Mercies’ Sake

Here’s a little piece of brilliance I just can’t believe I haven’t blogged about yet. Let’s review The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke.

Our setting in this very loose retelling of Beowulf is Vorseland, a generic medieval/fantasy version of the Scandinavian nations. And our lead characters are a small group of teenagers who are members of the Boneless Mercies, freelance mercy killers who roam Vorseland granting quick, merciful, painless deaths to the old and the sick — and sometimes to the healthy and abusive and cruel, if their victims will pay the fee to hire their blades and their poisons.

The Mercies are:

  • Frey, the leader, is a compassionate girl who has grown tired of the death trade and dreams of better things. She was apprenticed by an older woman named Siggy who died a few years ago.
  • Ovie, the oldest of the Mercies, maybe 19 or 20 years old. She’s also the quietest, and she wears a patch over her lost eye.
  • Runa, angry, skeptical, independent, the most likely to dissent and seek conflict.
  • Juniper, at 15, the youngest of the Mercies, comes from the Sea Witches, where she gets her magic skills and her pale, sea-green hair.
  • Trigve is not a Mercy because he’s not a woman. But he travels with them, the most light-hearted in the grim business, with his mind on matters of healing, not death.

But spending your life dealing out death, even if it’s welcomed, and spending decades shunned because of your profession — it wears on you, and the Mercies would kinda like to stop being Mercies someday. And when news starts circulating about a monster roaming the jarldom of Blue Vee, slaughtering warriors and innocents alike, and prompting Jarl Roth to offer a generous reward for anyone who can slay the Blue Vee Beast, Frey starts thinking she’d like to try her hand at fighting a monster, being a hero, and grabbing the glory she’s always dreamed of. But can a Boneless Mercy become a celebrated hero?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a fantastic book, and if you love heroic fantasy, kickass heroines, fantastic characters, cold and snow, and a constant sense of impending doom, this is something you’ll want to read.

The book is filled with beautifully realized settings, from the various inns and forests where the Mercies sleep piled together like dogs, to the Merrows, where the Sea Witches live atop their giant witch trees, to the Red Willow Marsh, home of the terrifying Cut-Queen and her fanatical army of murderous girls, to the desolate beauty of the snowbound and horror-stricken land of Blue Vee, to the lonely cavern where the Blue Vee Beast hides.

I absolutely love the characters in this book. Tucholke could’ve stopped with giving us our five outstanding lead characters and filled the rest of the book up with boring placeholder characters — but she didn’t. As the Mercies travel around Vorseland, they meet fellow Mercies like Sasha, Gunhild, and Aarne, facing terrible life-changing challenges; Mother Hush, wise leader of the Sea Witches and weaver of magics; Elan Wulf, the Cut-Queen, an utterly terrifying spell-caster and conqueror, whose power and charisma is contrasted with her surprising youth; Leif and Vital, members of the forest-dwelling archers called the Quicks; Indigo, a fierce, passionate warrior wandering through her life; Jarl Roth, watching over the slowly dying Blue Vee jarldom, strong and proud, but melancholy to find himself surrounded by death; Siggy, who we never even meet, but whose wisdom and kindness is reflected in everything she’s taught Frey and the other Mercies; and even the Blue Vee Beast herself, who has secrets no one suspects.

This is a beautiful and sad book, filled with glory and magic and blood. Every page — nearly every paragraph — reads like a lyric from an epic Norse ballad. You will dread the coming end of the tale almost from the first chapter, because quests that end in glory must also end in heartbreaking loss, but you will read the end more than once, and your heart will fill with pride and sorrow every time.

Go get this book, read it, love it. It’s going to be part of you forever after.

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