And Then I Read: EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN by Theodora Goss

Cover illustration © Kate Forrester.

A sequel to “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter,” which I thoroughly enjoyed, this one is just out recently. The premise is somewhat similar to that of Alan Moore’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” but with mainly female protagonists. The cast of the first book includes the main viewpoint character, Mary Jekyll, her young sister Diana Hyde (daughters of the two aspects of the Stevenson character), Catherine, the panther woman from Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” Beatrice Rappaccini, the poisonous daughter from the Hawthorne story, and Justine Frankenstein, the “bride” created for Frankenstein’s monster. Catherine is the writer of the book as we read it and she tells it, and the story is often interrupted by  comments from the other characters, adding details or disagreeing with Catherine’s narrative, an unusual narrative idea that occasionally gets in the way of the story, but usually adds to it. New characters this time are Irene Adler (Sherlock Holmes’ female counterpart), Mina (Harker) Murray and Count Dracula from the Stoker novel, and Lucinda Van Helsing taking off from the same book. Another important character makes a late appearance, which I won’t spoil.

As the title suggests, the Athena Club, as the women call themselves, are summoned to Europe initially to find and save Lucinda Van Helsing, who is being experimented on by her father. (All the women have been victims of similar treatment.) Mary, Diana and Beatrice lead off, and are followed separately by Catherine and Justine once the first three disappear. It’s a long book with many twists and turns, plenty of thrilling adventures, and exotic locales from Paris to Vienna, the Carpathian mountains to Budapest, all well researched. Other literary and historic figures make appearances, and each character has moments to shine, and moments to fail and be helped by her companions.

A work of fiction requires one to suspend disbelief. The characters must seem real. That’s even harder when the characters have pasts in other books. The one area in this one where I felt the author took a wrong turn was in the handling of Count Dracula. All the characters and their back-stories differ at times from their creator’s versions, but Dracula differs too much, in my opinion, and I could not accept the role he plays in this story completely. I kept waiting for the “real” Dracula to be revealed, and it didn’t happen.

In all, though, it’s a wonderful read, just the kind of thing fantasy and horror fans are likely to enjoy. By all means start with the first book, then read this one. I’m on board for the next one whenever the author can produce it!

And Then I Read: OTZI by Rick Veitch

Image © Rick Veitch.

Rick has sent me his latest self-published work, OTZI. The book is square, 8.25 by 8.25 inches, 142 pages, all in black and white except the covers. There are no dialogue balloons or captions. Every page is a single large panel. It’s a wordless story except for a section about two-thirds in where newspaper stories, signs, and text messages add information.

I knew a little about the real Otzi, nicknamed “The Ice Man,” among other things, whose mummified remains were found in a glacier in the Alps near the border of Italy and Austria. He was found by two tourists, a husband and wife, who thought at first he might be a more recent fatality, but when the remains were retrieved and tested, he was found to have lived between 3100 and 3400 BCE, or about six thousand years ago. The remains have been heavily tested and investigated, and provide many insights into the time period and the people of that time.

I knew a little about that from newspaper articles, but I did not connect the real Otzi with Rick’s story until the section where some text revealed it. Rick’s story is fantasy with some science fictional overtones. At first we see Otzi as he was, in his native ice and rock environment, but he is soon drawn into a phantasmagorical experience of stones flying in formation, and a meeting with a being that seems made of energy. I won’t spoil the story by revealing more, but simply say that Otzi is brought into the modern world and soon has a cult following before disaster strikes. I don’t understand the ending, which is again wordless, but the journey was interesting and visually stunning. The book can be found on Amazon.com among other places, and I recommend it, as I do all Rick’s self-published books.

And Then I Read: MISTER MIRACLE #9

Image © DC Entertainment. Written by Tom King, art and colors by Mitch Gerads, letters by Clayton Cowles.

This is a mighty eccentric and surreal book. It starts with the Jack Kirby creations of Scott Free (Mister Miracle) and his wife Big Barda, as well as the New Gods and their twisted counterparts, minions of Darkseid. Then it’s filtered through the possible madness of the title character (what is real, what is only in his head?). The reading experience suggests to me things like the novel “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller, the work of Franz Kafka, and the surreal humor of Monty Python and the Firesign Theatre.

We seem to be in negotiations over the end of the current war between New Genesis and Apokolips. At the negotiating table on Apokolips are Scott and Barda and Lightray. Across from them are Kalibak, Kanto and others of Darkseid’s elite. The negotiations are bizarre, and interrupted by side trips like a swim in the Apokolips firelakes. I don’t know what to make of it, but it has such unexpected and sometimes funny moments that I can’t help wanting to read more. Looks like Darkseid shows up in the next issue. That should be interesting.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HAL JORDAN & THE GL CORPS #47

Image © DC Entertainment. Written by Robert Venditti, pencilled by Fernando Pasarin, inked by Oclair Albert and Eber Ferreira, colors by Jason Wright, letters by Dave Sharpe.

Part Four of the “Darkstars Rising” story finds Hal Jordan on a distant planet with Hector Hammond, who has wiped Hal’s memories clean so he doesn’t even remember being a Green Lantern. Hammond hopes to fulfill Hal’s request for help with the Darkstars by himself killing all of them. Back on Earth, Guy Gardner, a newly recruited Darkstar, wants to take personal revenge on his own father. His friend Arkillo opposes him in that effort. On New Genesis, Kyle Rayner’s attempt to enlist the New Gods in their crusade has put him and his driver, Space Cabby, in jail, along with Cabby’s ship. Back on Mogo, GL headquarters, casualties are mounting in the war with the Darkstars, and it looks like it’s about to get a lot worse.

I’m enjoying all these storylines, even though I’ve never much cared for the Darkstars as either heroes or villains. Writer Robert Venditti is doing fine work here as he approaches his big finale in issue #50.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HAL JORDAN & THE GL CORPS #46

Image © DC Entertainment. Written by Robert Venditti, art by Clayton Henry, colors by Pete Pantazis, letters by Dave Sharpe.

As seen on the cover, Guy Gardner has joined the Darkstars, who the Green Lantern Corps are about to go to war with, once they line up some help. Guy’s first act of vengeance is against his own father, who beat him as a child. A good look at the sort of justice the Darkstars deal out. Hal has sprung Hector Hammond from an Earth jail, and taken him to a distant planet where Hal hopes to explore how Hammond can help him beat the Darkstars. Hammond’s ideas on this are surprising. John Stewart is enlisting help from the Zod family, formerly of Krypton. He needs some high-tech equipment he thinks they can provide…if they will. Kyle Rayner is having the least success on his mission to get help from the New Gods, and is in their custody as his scene opens.

This worked well for me despite, or perhaps because of, the four-fold  narrative. It reminds me a bit of the early Justice League of America issues from the 1960s, where each hero or hero team would have a chapter, all working toward a similar goal. In this case, of course, three are, one is not. Recommended.