And Then I Read: DOCTOR FATE #14

DoctorFate14Image © DC Comics.

Khalid continues working with his predecessor as Doctor Fate, Kent Nelson, in this issue, as Kent advises the young man on how to close a dangerous door his powers have opened. While willing to give advice, Kent wants Khalid to solve his own problems, and sends him off to the dangerous place on his own, where Khalid is soon over his head again, though willing to solve problems himself. In a second short story, Khalid and his friends and family attend an interfaith service that is threatened by protesters, who need some handling by Doctor Fate to set them right. Both stories are by guest artists, and both handle the characters quite differently from Sonny Liew, but writer Paul Levitz’s characters and dialogue and keep things on track and enjoyable to read.


At the Beach with Tim and Gabe

SlabsMy friend Tim and his son Gabe were with us this weekend for fun at the beach, including sand sculpture as usual. Tim always has a plan, and for the second year in a row we were taking inspiration from the abstract sand sculptures of Calvin Seibert, though we are on a far lower level of craft than he  is. It’s fun to try to duplicate at least a few of his ideas, though. Above is a sculpture block that appears to be surrounded by free-standing slabs, though it’s all one piece. Teletubby for scale. Continue reading

And Then I Read: UNFOLLOW #9

Unfollow9I really like the way writer Rob Williams is developing this story. With 140 plus characters to follow potentially, he had to narrow it to a few he found interesting, and they interest me, too. The killer in the elaborate mask, Rubinstein, is still on billionaire Larry Ferrell’s Caribbean island, and makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but before that we have a few of the targeted 140 in Russia taking refuge with members of a local mob there, for a price, and getting a ride on a massive plane that seems to be a real thing, new to me. In Marseille, France, another of the 140 is out on the streets alone, a very dangerous place to be. And a group of the 140 who have followed Akira back to his island compound in Japan discover that Akira seems to be rather less sane than they expected. Excellent art by Mike Dowling that reminds me of Frank Quitely for good reasons.


And Then I Read: THE OUTCAST OF REDWALL by Brian Jacques

OutcastofRedwallCover art by Troy Howell.

I enjoyed the first few books of the Redwall series, though I felt they had some major flaws, at least for me, things that took me out of the story. I gave up reading them a few years ago, but there are still two on my reading pile, and I chose this one for summer beach reading. My opinion has not really changed.

The story begins with a young badger held captive and being tortured by a band of evil ferrets and such led by Swartt Sixclaw. The badger escapes with the help of a young kestrel, Skarlath, and the two become friends, fleeing the ferret band together. The badger knows nothing of his background, and does not even have a name, but he and Skarlath settle on the name Sunflash for the bright yellow stripe on his head. Soon they meet a small group of moles and hedgehogs who take them in and hide them from Sixclaw and his band of marauders. Eventually Sunflash learns of his heritage and destiny as the lord of Salamandastron, a huge mountain fortress on the coast to the south, and makes his way there, where he is welcomed and trained by the warrior hares and other animals.

Meanwhile, at Redwall Abbey we meet the current generation of gentle animals, who are endangered by the approach of the evil army of Swartt Sixclaw. Sixclaw himself has craftily taken over an even larger band of warrior creatures by killing their leader, and now has a formidable army. He also has become a father, but cares nothing for his son, who is left behind after a mighty battle, and is brought to Redwall Abbey. There he is raised with kindness and given the name Veil, but his evil heritage surfaces as he grows, and eventually he is cast out of Redwall, though his caretaker Bryony and her friend Toggert, a mouse and a mole, decide to join and follow him, even though Veil rejects their company.

The army of Swartt Sixclaw eventually reaches Salamandastron where they battle the inhabitants and lay siege to the mountain fortress, and in the last part of the book, the personal battle between Swartt and Sunflash, as well as Veil, comes to a head.

So, my issues with this series are these: The animals are essentially people in animal guise, in a long literary and fantasy tradition, but they still have enough animal characteristics to make their interactions strange. Tiny mice fight alongside huge badgers with no mention of the size difference. Rabbits and mice are often fierce warriors. Animals that are predator and prey in nature are best buddies here, and all eat mostly plants, though with some fish, who are left out of the character roster. Accents and dialect are sometimes hard to understand, particularly the moles. Everyone is obsessed with feasting and food, and descriptions of food preparation are full of nonsensical made-up ingredients and silly food names. Descriptions of feasts are long and repetitious. Plot drives the narrative in ways that don’t make sense, even regarding the world itself. In this book, a large river seems to flow uphill toward the mountains in order to make the plot work, for instance.

When the action happens, the story is more interesting to me, and the characters are often well-developed and complex, but getting past all the above makes the books hard for me to get absorbed into. I think young readers may be more able to overlook or not notice things that bother me, and for them the books may well be enjoyed and even loved. I was less critical myself then!


FablesDeluxeV13HCImage © DC Comics, cover art by Daniel Dos Santos.

Just in, the latest in this series. By far the best way to enjoy FABLES, with much better printing and paper than the original monthly comic, and slightly larger art as well. Contains issues 114-129 with the delightful “Revolution in Oz” storyline as well as the heartbreaking “Cubs in Toyland.” Out soon!