And Then I Read: CAVE CARSON #6

Image © DC Comics.

Bear with me while I try to sum up this issue, which I found confusing. First we have wealthy company head Edward Borsten falling prey to the mental dominance of the mysterious evil presence that has reached into his mind from deep below ground. Then we cut to Cave and his crew, with his ex-wife and HER people, fighting monsters in their mole car. Meanwhile Edward in his newer mole car, and HIS crew are trying to free the great evil force. When they do, it’s another monster, a gigantic one. Soon, the two groups meet and more mayhem ensues.

I have to say I like the idea of this comic much more than the execution. I’d be happier with something more along the lines of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne, exploring underground wonders, lost civilizations and creatures. We’ve had a little of that, but it’s turned into a more predictable and less interesting monster fight at this point. The writing has it’s moments, usually the quieter ones, but is confusing at times, and the art is often difficult to follow, and too cartoony when I can follow it. I think this is the last issue I’ll be looking at. Too bad, I had hopes.

Not recommended.

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY #43

Image © Juke Box Productions.

Is it possible for a character to be cute, charming and kind of creepy at the same time? That’s how Tillie Armstrong struck me as she cheerfully took control of this issue from the guy with the purple balloons. Tillie breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to us readers as she recounts the story of her own personal hero, and a super-hero, The Gentleman, her dad.

Tilley is an earnest, innocent young girl in the mold of Billy Batson’s sister Mary, and could have been played well by a young Judy Garland. Her father is everything to her, a fine man who does all the right things until his heroism brings him down. Somehow Tillie’s great love for her dad brings him back to her as, not only a protective parent, but one with super-powers allowing him to fight crime in Astro City, all this taking place in the 1940s and 1950s. How exactly she does this isn’t clear, but he seems to be a real person to everyone, even though that can’t quite be right. He’s the spooky part. Incidentally, he could have been well played by Clark Gable, as I see it.

Other stories and characters are intertwined with that of Tillie and her father, but theirs is the most interesting one. Tillie has a journey of her own coming to terms with the unique situation she finds herself in. It’s all beautifully written by Kurt Busiek and wonderfully illustrated by Brent Anderson, with Alex Ross on cover. Great colors by Peter Pantazis and letters/design by Roshell and Deschesne of Comicraft, too.

Recommended.

Rereading: THE RINGWORLD ENGINEERS by Larry Niven

Cover art by Dale Gustafson.

Having enjoyed the audiobook version of the first “Ringworld” by Niven, I’ve reread the second. Louis Wu, the male human protagonist of the first book, has no intention of returning to Ringworld. He’s busy dealing with an addiction to a droud, which uses electrical current to directly stimulate the pleasure center of his brain. He learns someone is after him when his apartment is broken into, and he tries to escape, but is captured and soon aboard the ship of a strange non-human alien, The Hindmost, the life partner of his former Ringworld companion Nessus. The kzin warrior/diplomat “Speaker to Animals” is also there, also kidnapped, but now going by the name Chmeee. The Hindmost has press-ganged them into another trip to Ringworld to find treasures. The Hindmost, formerly the leader of her people, the Pierson’s Puppeteers, has been overthrown, and is hoping treasures from Ringworld can restore her position at home. While Louis and Chmeee are controlled in some ways, they craftily plot rebellion in others once they reach Ringworld.

Ringworld is that immense structure that orbits a distant star like a rotating ribbon, with millions and millions of acres of living space on the inside facing the sun. But the place was built long ago, and those who built it vanished. Ringworld has been gradually deteriorating ever since. It’s cities are mostly in ruins, its peoples of various sorts mostly reverted to savagery or simple agrarian and/or nomadic lifestyles. When the Hindmost and crew arrive they find things have gotten much worse: the ring has fallen out of balance in its orbit, and in a few years part of the ring will hit the central sun, destroying everything.

Through this fascinating example of creative world-building we meet many Ringworld inhabitants, and the mysteries of Ringworld’s creation and creators are gradually unlocked. Meanwhile, Chmeee and Louis Wu find ways to rebel against The Hindmost until she is forced to do exactly what they want. With help from some of the most knowledgable Ringworlders, Louis thinks he has a way to save Ringworld and some, but not all, of its inhabitants. The second half the the book is full of action and suspense as Louis tries to make his ideas work.

I enjoyed rereading this, especially since I didn’t remember much about it. In his forward, Niven admits that flaws pointed out by readers of the first book led him to write this one and come up with plausible solutions. The ideas are immense, the characters are appealing, and the storyline is top-notch adventure.

Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #14

Image © DC Comics.

Writer Greg Rucka concludes his Year One storyline in a fine and satisfying way, beginning with a defiant Diana confronting Ares, the God of War while her friends and colleagues look on, unable to help. Diana tries to use words and reason to placate Ares, but when that’s not enough, she doesn’t hesitate to take the fight to him. Ares plans to unleash a virus that will turn everyone on Earth toward hate and anger (as if we needed that), and claims Earth is already his. Diana opposes him in the name of peace, but how can she possibly win against a god? Great story, wonderful art by Nicola Scott.

Highly recommended.