And Then I Read: AQUAMAN ANNUAL 2

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Aquaman and Wonder Woman team up to deal with a group of dangerous creatures recently released from an ancient Atlantean prison, as seen in AQUAMAN 29 & 30. Why Wonder Woman? They’re creatures connected to Greek mythology, perhaps in somewhat minor ways, but it works as a story with lots of action in a Ray Harryhausen tradition: heroes vs. monsters. The monsters themselves have individual personalities and talents, and they’ve used them to set up headquarters in a medieval castle in France, mind-controlling the locals to act as their servants and energy source. Diana and Arthur infiltrate, are discovered, and the battle is on.

A second story teams Wonder Woman with Mera, tracking down another group of the creatures on a remote island. I actually liked this better, and the art by Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez is excellent. It’s all fun in a summer reading at the beach sort of way.

Recommended.

Silver Anniversary

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Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the day I married my true love, Ellen. This is my favorite picture from the wedding. We’re still in love, and it sure doesn’t seem like that long ago!

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Today Ellen had an appointment in downtown Philadelphia, and I went with her. We made it a short day-trip to celebrate our anniversary, starting with a delicious lunch at this restaurant in the historic district. While the building and interiors look authentically colonial, I learned today by reading the fine print on the cornerstone that it’s a recreation of the original built in the 1970s. No matter, it’s still great fun. The food is excellent, and so is the beer. I had the Porter mentioned in the sign above, delicious!

Mural

Afterwards we walked around the historic district enjoying the atmosphere. We considered going in to see the Liberty Bell, but the length of the line discouraged us. I spotted the Curtis Building and had to visit the Parrish/Tiffany mural in the lobby there, which I love. A huge art installation, it was designed by Maxfield Parrish and executed in many thousands of pieces of iridescent favrile glass by the Tiffany Studios. It’s quite amazing, and impossible to get in one photo. Unfortunately, it’s poorly lit, which probably helps preserve it, but makes the colors hard to see and appreciate. I enhanced them some on these photos.

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In this closer shot you can see some of the small pieces of glass forming the mosaic picture. I’ve just looked up the details, it’s 15 feet high by 49 feet wide, and made of about 100,000 pieces of glass. If you’re ever in Philadelphia try to stop in and see it.

After that we stopped at a used book store, bought a few things, and headed home before rush hour made traffic too crazy. A nice break for both of us.

Sand Sculpting with Friends

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It’s been a few years since my friend Tim and his son Gabe were able to visit us in the summer. When they do, we always create some unusual sand sculptures, and that’s what happened this past weekend. Tim had some new sand sculpting tools,  WillySpheres, which do but one thing: make large spherical shapes, and we used them for our carvings. Continue reading

And Then I Read: DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL 3

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Annuals represent extra work for a book’s creative team which they may or may not have time for. Most often the writer does, but the artist does not. In the case of the team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, both work on the story, but Manapul does the art, Buccellato does the dialogue and colors, so it’s a more welded team than usual. For this annual, Buccellato does the writing alone, the art is by three guys, Werther Dell’edera, Jorge Fornés and  Scott Hepburn. I was curious to see how I’d like it. As it happens, I liked it a lot. This suggests Buccellato has a good handle on the writing.

While the story could stand alone, it does continue from the regular title, focusing on the drug Icarus. I’m not fond of drug trade stories, but this one has lots of interesting characters and complications. Batman is trying to track not only drug shipments but illegal weapons, all probably in the hands of a street gang making moves for power. Among them is a tough guy with a son who provides a lead for Batman, and another young man who plans to make one more big trade, then move on with his girlfriend…if he can avoid the temptation of the drug itself. Several story threads lead to a big confrontation between Batman and the drug lord armed with very powerful illegal weapons.

The art is in three individual styles, which is a little distracting, but they’re close enough that it didn’t pull me out of the story much. In all, this was well done.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HAWKMOON: THE RUNESTAFF by Michael Moorcock

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Image © Michael Moorcock.

I’ve now completed the quartet of books I’ve been reading over the last few months, all on my iPad or phone, featuring swordsmen Hawkmoon and D’Averc, warlord Count Brass, Hawkmoon’s lady love Yisselda, and on the opposing side the very evil version of the British Empire, Granbretan, its King Huon, Baron Meliadus, and Lady Flana, among many other characters.

It’s a very rigidly plot-driven story. So much so that when, in the beginning of this book, Hawkmoon tries to change the “fate” decreed for him by the ever manipulative Runestaff, he is driven back to the correct plot course by a huge storm. The Runestaff itself proves to be unimpressive, though it apparently controls everyone in the story to some degree. I’d call it a stand-in for the author himself. There’s lots of fighting, treachery, sorcery, scheming, betrayal, slaughter, and treachery, as well as a fair amount of bravery, cleverness, luck and skill on both sides. The final battle in the streets of Londra (London) is epic, but I found I wasn’t much moved by it, or by the fates of some characters I’d been following through four books. It all seemed too planned, too regulated by the dictates of the plot. Moorcock crafted a story here which kept me turning the pages, and offered many interesting characters, but after the first book most of the emotional involvement seemed to fade. Yes, it’s inventive in some ways, but too predictable in others. I was rarely surprised after the first book of the quartet.

I will probably try other Moorcock fantasy novels in the future, but I can only mildly recommend this group.