Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: DOCTOR FATE #18

Image © DC Comics.

The final issue of this run of DOCTOR FATE is the second half of a two-part story that mostly stands apart from the previous issues, with psychedelic art by Brendan McCarthy and a pretty good story by Paul Levitz. This issue drops us into everything midstream with no recap or explanation. I suspect these issues were intended to be an Annual, but that’s just a guess.

The best thing in it is that Khalid finally gets to meet the god who powers his helmet and himself, Thoth. Taking a break from battling evil creatures, Thoth and Khalid have a wonderful conversation about wisdom and free will that’s worth the price of admission. The rest of the issue is fun visually but somewhat predictable. There’s not much sense of closure at the finish, another signal this was not written as a final issue, but in the DC Universe, Doctor Fate will go on to other iterations, so perhaps that’s okay. We can imagine Khalid’s future in our own ways.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #11

Image © DC Comics.

The first modern-day story arc by writer Greg Rucka and artist Liam Sharp concludes with an issue full of delicious, lush coloring by Laura Martin. Diana and Steve Trevor have arrived in Themyscira at last, but one that’s strangely different than either of them remember. Diana has a hard time recognizing this at first, and when she does, with Steve’s help, she is devastated. What has gone wrong? Meanwhile, Wonder Woman’s handlers and friends are facing a threat from within their own ranks that will tear that group apart. Fine writing, wonderful art, great issue.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: LOST AMONG THE STARS by Paul Di Filippo

While I grew up reading lots of science fiction and fantasy short stories in magazines and anthologies, I rarely read them now. Somehow I’m more drawn to novels, where you spend more time in one created space. This collection by my friend Paul Di Filippo was a nice change, and brought me back to the pleasures of short stories, which must work with economy to grab the reader and get him involved quickly. If anything, as Paul says, it’s harder to write short than long, and he does it well.

“City of Beauty, City of Scars” tells of a city where social status is architectural and human flaws are unforgivable. As the girl narrating rises in society and in the levels of the city, her beauty must remain perfect, leaving no room for emotion. Her ambition must leave everyone, even her family behind, and will the reward be worth the price?

“The Kings of Mount Golden” is a story of rivalry between two men, one an inventor, the other his rich patron, over the woman they both love, and then her son, Brannock, who is raised by the patron, but fascinated by his real father, the inventor. Brannock tracks down his father, only to find himself poorly used for a machine that can swap the shapes of two people, his father’s latest invention.

In “Adventures in Cognitive Homogamy,” a scientist is seduced and abducted, but finds his skills used in ways he never expected, and his outlook changing.

“Desperados of the Badlands” imagines a future where technological skins enhance the senses and abilities of those who can afford them, or have jobs that provide them, like Ruy Lambeth, sent to capture vandals in Alberta, Canada’s Dinosaur Provincial Park. These vandals have skills equal to his own, though, and a secret weapon that might bring dinosaurs to life.

Those are a few of the fine stories in this anthology, which I enjoyed a great deal, and recommend.

And Then I Read: HER MAJESTY, GRACE JONES by Jane Langton

Cover illustration by Emily Arnold McCully.

This is not about the singer, it’s a delightful novel for children written in 1961, but taking place in America in the 1930s. Grace and her family have moved from Boston to Ohio because Grace’s father was promised a factory job there, but when they arrive, that position has been put on hold. Grace, Will and their parents have a new home on a hill overlooking their new town, but almost no money. Everyone is angry with the factory owner, who keeps promising he will be in touch as soon as he can reopen that position, but meanwhile they must gradually sell off their belongings to get by.

Grace is full of imagination, and has decided that she’s secretly a child of the current King of England, and glories in her private royalty. She even writes the King a letter to see if he might help her family out in their hard times. Meanwhile, she and Will and their friends get into all kinds of trouble and adventures, always trying to think of ways to get a little extra money for the family.

When Petunia, the family car, has to be sold, Grace rebels by hiding out in the rumble seat and confronting the new owners angrily when they get the car home. This works out in the end, as the new owners are understanding, and agree to help out the family by taking them on errands in their former car. Other friends are found along the way, as everyone in the country is in much the same situation, waiting for better times to arrive. Grace haunts the mailbox waiting for the King’s reply. Will it ever come?

Recommended. (Previously titled “The Majesty of Grace.”)

And Then I Read: SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL 3

Image © DC Comics.

I find this is a title that goes in and out of focus for me. In focus, I like the story of an avian creature, Loma Shade, inhabiting the body of a human girl on Earth, Megan Boyer, who was formerly in a coma. Loma is reckless and now a criminal back on her homeworld, Meta, having stolen a madness vest, the means of her mental transformation, though her body remains there. On Earth, Loma is having lots of problems adjusting to human life, particularly because Megan turns out to be a cruel person who bullied and tortured many of those who knew her. It seems likely her coma was not accidental. Megan/Loma has made a few friends who try to help her, but mostly she’s hated.

Back on Meta, we follow the life of Loma’s friend Lepuck Ledo, and the search for the missing madness vest, and there things get hazy for me. Not sure where that’s going or why it’s important. Then there’s another hazy area, a threatening female form approaching Earth. Finally, there’s a Dial H for Hero backup that I can’t get interested in, but it’s just three pages.

I find parts of this book interesting, and want to read more, but I can only mildly recommend it.