And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERN NEW GUARDIANS 33

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

I’m finding the Guardians of the Galaxy as they’re written now more interesting than the previous bunch. These are a group that was locked away by their fellows for billions of years, so they’re not up to speed, and in some ways are treated like dependents by Kyle Rayner and Carol Ferris, who are accompanying them in a tour of the galaxy. This time the Guardians have been captured by Psions, creatures once raised to intelligence by the Guardians who have held a grudge ever since. It’s an interesting encounter, and these Psions seem quite powerful. The writing by Justin Jordan and the art by Brad Walker and company is all good.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: JUSTICE LEAGUE 32

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

It’s been a long time since Lex Luthor was the pure evil villain of the stories I read as a child, and the first Superman movie, but writer Geoff Johns is doing an excellent job of playing Luthor as a complex character with an intriguing mix of good and bad intentions and schemes in this book. Meanwhile, we have Johns’ vision of The Doom Patrol after a twisted version of Green Lantern’s ring on the finger of an unwitting victim, creating another moral dilemma, and the Justice League itself finally getting into the fray. All nicely told with terrific art by artists Doug Mahnke and Keith Champagne.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: BIRDWING by Rafe Martin

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Image © Rafe Martin, cover art by Matt Mahurin.

One thing storytelling is about is “What happened next?” A good story will leave you with that question, and sometimes you’ll continue thinking about the characters and what might become of them for a long time. Author Rafe Martin has taken that idea to great lengths in this novel, and very effectively. It’s based on the Brothers Grimm story, “The Six Swans,” in which six brothers are turned into swans by a witch, leaving one sister with the very difficult and years-long task of saving them. She succeeds, or almost. The youngest brother does not change completely back to human, he retains one swan’s wing. From this idea, Martin creates the world of Prince Ardwin, known derogatively as Birdwing. His wing is a great trial to him at times, but also a unique blessing, as it helps him remember the time when he could fly, and still allows him to understand and talk to animals. Ardwin’s life is often difficult, and many mock and scorn him, but he perseveres, learning to fight with bow and arrow, sword and spear, and making friends among those in the castle where he lives with his father.

Then emissaries arrive from a warlike neighboring king with a proposal and a gift. The proposal is to ally the two kingdoms through the marriage of Ardwin to their princess, and the gift is a mechanical golden arm. If the king were to accept this offer, Ardwin’s wing must be cut off. If the King refuses, war is likely. Horrified at the idea, Ardwin runs away with two friends, and later continues on his own. His first goal is the far northern lake where he and his brothers spent their summers when they were swans, and Ardwin has a very tough road there. What happens when he arrives is sad rather than comforting, and Ardwin is soon going south again, where he’s attacked by a snow lion, only the beginning of many more adventures. And, while the book at first seems a somewhat open-ended travel adventure, characters and plot threads weave together into a very satisfying story arc and resolution.

I thought this book was excellent in every way. It kept surprising me, the characters were terrific, and the creative imagination of the author in bringing this world to life is impressive. Highly recommended. I’ll be looking for more books by Rafe Martin.

And Then I Read: VERTIGO QUARTERLY: MAGENTA

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Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Before I discuss the contents of this anthology, some words on the cover. While it’s true that, in today’s market, cover appeal is not as important as it once was when readers needed to be enticed to buy off the newsstand, I still feel this design scheme for the QUARTERLY is misguided. First, it reveals nothing about what’s in the book. Second, it wastes prime space. Third, it’s an insider joke that, even as an insider myself, I find uninteresting. Perhaps the oddness of it might get a few folks to pick it up and look through it, but I don’t think that’s enough reason to go this route.

As for what’s inside, I’m afraid I didn’t find very much that appealed to me. The opening story by Rachel Deering and Matteo Scalera has nice art, but a violently unlikeable lead character. Rian Hughes’ “Magenta is not a Colour” is at least on theme, and the art is attractive and clever. The story did not do much for me, but that might be me. “Captives” by Moreci and Mutti has nice art, but again not much of a story, it’s more of a story fragment. “Gloves” by Lindsay and Edwards delivers a complete story, and not a bad one. The art is impressionistic and well done, though not really to my taste. Fabio Moon’s “Pink Slumber” is probably my favorite entry in the book. Clever writing, attractive art, a little light on content, but not bad. A few other stories didn’t work for me, and I have to say the lettering and/or the art was off-putting. Books like this are meant to give newcomers a chance to try things, and that’s great, but it doesn’t mean readers will want to read them.

Mildly recommended.

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.