Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: BATMAN, KINGS OF FEAR #2

Image © DC Comics, written by Scott Peterson, art by Kelley Jones, colors by Michelle Madsen, letters by Rob Leigh.

The amazing cover above by Kelly Jones is what convinced me I wanted to read this miniseries. The concept of a building with the personification of Batman villain The Scarecrow is a great one, but Kelley has made it superb.

This issue is easy and quick to read if you don’t linger over the art, but the art is the star, and must be lingered over. Scarecrow has dosed Batman with his fear gas, and now neither he nor we know exactly how much of what he’s experiencing, if any, is real. Another wonderful reason for Kelley to go to surreal places, and he surely does.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE PROBLEM OF SUSAN AND OTHER STORIES

Cover art and logo by P. Craig Russell

The newest in a long line of Neil Gaiman story adaptations from Dark Horse is this book containing four: “The Problem of Susan” and “Locks” by P. Craig Russell, colors by Lovern Kindzierski, letters by Galen Showman, “October in the Chair” by Scott Hampton, letters by Rick Parker, and “The Day the Saucers Came” by Paul Chadwick, letters by Gaspar Saladino. That last one is from 2013, originally appearing in DARK HORSE PRESENTS #21, the rest are new for this book.

In each case, the artist adapted Neil’s story, and all add visual elements to those stories that are unique interpretations of those artists. “The Problem of Susan” is based on Neil’s idea that, of the four children in the Narnia books of C.S. Lewis, only Susan is left behind at the end of the final book to grow older in our world. We meet a much older Susan as she is interviewed by a reporter, and the reporter herself is drawn into a strange dream about Narnia. That dream is creepy and horrible, and probably far from anything Lewis would have done, but it’s fascinating.

In “Locks,” we have a new look at the Goldilocks story as a father tells it to his young daughter, with the father’s adult view of the tale being quite different from the child’s.

“October in the Chair” has each of the months personified sitting around a campfire in the woods telling stories. It is October, and therefore his turn in as chairman. The story within the story has a boy who is teased and bullied who runs away from home and finds an unusual friend in a graveyard.

“The Day the Saucers Came” is a poem by Neil that has been illustrated a few times. Paul Chadwick’s version is seven full pages of detailed art that are a delight, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the lettering by my friend Gaspar Saladino, one of the last professional lettering jobs of his long and celebrated career.

Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: THE FIGHTING GROUND by Avi

This remarkable 1984 novel takes place near Trenton, NJ during the American Revolution. It covers just over 24 hours in time, but details events that will change young Jonathan forever. The war has been on for some time, Jonathan’s brother is fighting with Washington, and his father fought and was injured, so has returned home. He and Jonathan are planting spring crops, but all Jonathan can think about is whether he will have a chance to prove himself in battle. When he learns that a militia group is gathering in a tavern nearby, he sneaks away to see if they will have him. Despite the warnings of many, 13-year-old Jonathan joins the motley group of farmers turned soldiers led by a devious Corporal who seems anxious to take the fight to some Hessian soldiers moving through the area. When they do, it’s a disaster, and Jonathan is captured by three Hessians who seem lost. They take refuge with their prisoner in a farmhouse and spend a long, frightening night trying to understand each other, and the child found in the house. The Hessians speak only German, and Jonathan speaks none. When Jonathan escapes at dawn and finds his Colonel, the triumph he hoped to achieve turns to an even worse disaster.

The writing in this book is tense, cinematic and real. Jonathan’s dreams and illusions are shattered as he confronts the truth and horror of war. Recommended.

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #62

Image © DC Comics. Written by G. Willow Wilson, art by Xermanico, colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr., letters by Pat Brosseau, cover by Terry & Rachel Dodson.

In the final chapter of “The Just War,” the Prime Minister of Durovnia has come to what Wonder Woman thought was safe territory to discuss peace in the war-torn country, only to find Ares, God of War, ready to strike him down. Diana and Ares battle, but are halted by Aphrodite. Can Love conquer all? Read the issue to find out! I have been liking Wilson’s dialogue more and more as I read this story arc, and like it best of all this time. As Diana and Steve Trevor head back America, separately, I’m curious to see what’s next. The art in the book is also appealing, and I see no reason not to keep reading this series.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: IRONTOWN BLUES by John Varley

Cover art by Florian de Gesincourt

I’ve loved Varley’s work since first reading his short stories in the SF digest magazines in the 1970s. I think of him as a “Heinlein school” writer, and the inclination in his work to use the themes and settings of Robert A. Heinlein as stepping-off points or homages has grown over the years. As Heinlein is one of my favorite writers, I have no problem with this, and it’s not like he’s imitating or retreading, he goes his own way, but the love for RAH is evident and strong. This one is reminiscent of “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” taken further down the road, with other Heinlein novel elements in there too.

Chris Bach lives on Earth’s moon, but in his head he’s in 1930s film noir. He lives in an area where that era is recreated lovingly, and he works as a private detective, he and his partner Sherlock, a bloodhound. Sherlock is not an ordinary dog, he’s a CEC, Computer Enhanced Canine, with implanted links to the web and enhanced intelligence. Sherlock is a master of scents, of course, and he co-narrates the book with the help of a CEC communications expert who interprets his non-verbal language and translates it for us readers. Sherlock’s narration is often more interesting than Chris Bach’s.

As is expected for a private detective, Chris has a troubled past that we learn about in the story, he was part of a raid on some off-the-grid inhabitants of the Moon he thought was a simple clean-up operation, but it turned out to be much deadlier and more sinister. He barely survived.

Chris’s new client seems to want to drag him and Sherlock back to the place where it happened, Irontown. Chris is reluctant to go there for good reason. Sherlock wants only to protect Chris. Neither of them are going to get what they want or expect when they finally get to Irontown.

Great book, highly recommended!