Category Archives: Words

All-New Ultimates: Power for Power

51Cmme49xoLI have mixed emotions about the All-New Ultimates. For one thing, well, there just aren’t a ton of familiar characters left alive in the Ultimate universe, and most of the ones that are left moved on to the Future Foundation. It’s not that I don’t want to see Spidey and his Amazing Friends battle street crime, it’s that it seems silly to shoehorn them into the Ultimates, just so that team is still “alive”. Same plot, different title? I’d… well, I’d still have some complaints.

Because, all of that said: I’m not sure I saw the point of Spidey and his Amazing Friends the Ultimates taking on street level crime in the first place. I mean, okay, the gangs seem to have powers, at least a little? And there are leftover renegade scientists from the Oscorp and Roxxon days finding new ways to screw people up. So on paper (heh), it’s a reasonable conflict. But: the Serpent Squad? Really? Which is me complaining about how the villain side of the equation is just as depleted as the hero side. That’s a structural complaint, but I also have a related plot complaint, which is that it seems like I should have heard of any of these gangs before, if they’re supposed to be a big deal now.

But then, all of that is balanced by the team’s make-up. Spider Woman, newly christened as Black Widow, is the leader. Then there’s Spider-Man, Bombshell, Kitty Pryde, and Cloak and Dagger. You’ve heard of maybe half of those, which is why my point is not coming across, which is that the Ultimates is comprised of four ladies and two dudes, neither of whom are white. Get these people some actual villains and storylines, and I could find myself very excited by what Marvel is doing right now.

Also, just give Jessica Drew (that is, new Black Widow) her own title, already.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

71E+64So-kLAlthough not the concluding third day of his Kingkiller Chronicles[1][2], Patrick Rothfuss has recently released a book set in that world.[3] The Slow Regard of Silent Things is about a week in the life of one of the residents of, um, that magic college place not named Hogwarts where Kvothe is known to hang out. Which description is proof that I’ll need to reread these books once the finale is announced.[4]

But anyway, it’s about Auri, who hides from everyone and has reminded me just a very small amount of Lazlo from Real Genius if he were a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but without the sexual connotations. Which throws me headlong into what I had thought I was going to be edging towards. See, I have this website, where I write reviews of things. Although it’s dressed up a bit in the theme I have chosen, there’s really no connection between what I use it for and what it is named. It’s just that back in the ’90s, I really wanted a domain, and the domain that I wanted the most was the one named after my very favorite character in all of Sandman[5].

The upshot of which is, except for my reviews of the actual Sandman books, Auri in this story is the closest I’ve ever come on my website to finding Delirium in the wild, as it were. She is by turns breathless with happiness, reckless as lemmings, crushed under by the weight of the world, determined as any hero, or hopelessly lost at sea. I smiled with her and my heart broke for her, sometimes at the same time. I guess my point is that I cannot imagine a story more calculated to enchant me, personally. I cannot say that I identify with her, or even wish that I did. But as with Delirium herself, I wish I could heal her.

But I guess a point of those stories is that perfect delight cannot long survive the world.

[1] Spoiler alert for footnote 2
[2] Total number of kings killed thusfar: zero
[3] Also, the author’s afterword indicates there’s a short story I missed sometime in the past year or two. I kind of hate how easy it is for that to happen. Thanks a lot, compilations!
[4] On the one hand, I like not waiting for a series to be complete before I read it. On the other, I resent having to reread books by the time I’m getting near the end, since I’d rather just have the knowledge stored up and read new stuff instead. But my memory is not so eidetic as I’d like. It is a conundrum!
[5] And high in my top five favorite fictional characters, period.

The Walking Dead: All Out War Part Two

81hYcJq6KNLSo, I finally reached the point I’ve been anticipating for like four books? Five? Years, anyway. All Out War (part 2) does not have a part three. Storyline resolved. For all that it matters, it was resolved satisfactorily, with clever turns, expected, unexpected, and subverted. I am quite satisfied with this book.

I am far less satisfied with the fact that another book will follow it. (In fact, already has. This is the kind of behind I fall when I’m not allowed to read for two plus months.) I hope I’ll find out I’m wrong, since I know I will find out, but I really doubt that Kirkman has new stories to tell. And I can’t even comfort myself by saying of course he had to write more, this one ended so terribly. Because, nope, wind or not, this was an ending. …could have been, anyway.

Ultimate FF: Strangest Ever

81hWGc63i3LThe newest wave of Ultimate books is finally here! Which is to say, they dropped within a week or so of the site coming back up, and despite there being three of them already, that’s just a timing issue and I’m not nearly as far behind as it sounds. Unlike if you were to be talking about Brust or Rothfuss or King or Butcher, to name a few twitches I’ve had lately.

Strangest Ever is certainly a book that lives up to its title. It’s not the Fantastic Four like you’d think (unless you’ve been following these plotlines, in which case you’d think that’s entirely ridiculous). Instead, it’s the Future Foundation, which is basically Tony Stark’s and Sue Storm’s brainchild to defend the planet against extra-dimensional incursions of the type that came so close to wiping out all life, a book or so ago. And that’s a good idea, as far as it goes. It’s just that it seemed to turn into an excuse to trot out every bizarre event that has ever happened in the Marvel multiverse. It turns out I have limits?

But that’s a matter of taste, which I accept. It’s not objective truth, like the fact that nobody wants to see a purple Iron Man. And it’s not something that clearly should be objective truth, like that nobody wants to see dead people come back. The whole Ultimate thing up until now has been so good about that, and okay, they had a really good excuse this time. They earn credit with me for not having used, much less overused, this excuse. But the reason why they have that credit is that they don’t do it. The whole thing makes me skeptical, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, my point is this: I look forward to seeing someone take the reins on the new era soon, and I especially thank my stars that Bendis has stuck around. Someone give him the reins, yo.

Words of Radiance

51RoBAb1oyLThe problem with your website being down for two months is, you can’t remember what happened in between. I mean, no. I’m fully aware that I thought Words of Radiance was a good book, that it did another good job of being largely self-contained[1], that it did a great job of throwing a lot of new information and a lot of really cool new magic- and world-building, that I stayed invested in the characters.

So all in all, I still have the sense of the thing. But themes? Discussion of specific plot points I might want to put behind spoiler space? I sincerely got nothing. The good news is, I haven’t read any other books in the meantime, and I’m bound to read this again, so probably you’ll get a replacement review which will be good, someday? And more importantly, no other shoddy book reviews!

Shoddy movie review(s?), though? Probably.

[1] That’s not what I mean, but I don’t know how to pithily encapsulate what I do mean. Which is that I felt like it told a complete chapter within its larger story, and did not leave me feeling cheated out of getting more Right Now. In short, it’s doing a good job of maintaining its place in third-wave epic fantasy.

Powers: Cosmic

71DwWGj1SOLHonestly? I kinda got nothing here. This Powers collection has retroactively justified my recent acceptance of Captain Marvel into my personal Marvel comics canon, since it is about the death of Earth’s Cosmic guardian and what that means for the planet’s future. (Because, you see, that’s what Kree-born warrior Mar-Vell’s story has eventually metamorphosed into.) But otherwise, it is by and large standard Powers fare, with murders to solve[1], heroism to be performed, and major plot-points to be incrementally moved forward.

If I could talk about said plot-points without big spoilers for previous parts of the series, maybe I’d have more to say. Because there’s definitely a building theme over the course of the series, one that I could not have predicted before being an unregistered superhero got outlawed and which now seems unavoidable in retrospect. But, yeah, major character and story arc spoilers lie in that direction. Next book, when things come to what I assume is an inevitable head, I’ll just have to duck behind the spoiler cut and talk about it anyway, but since both character arcs were in set-up mode this time, I can safely wait one more time.

Meanwhile, a structural discussion. Every issue in this collection started with a coffee-house-looking open mic night, with a different random character from somewhere in The City(tm) doing a different not-quite-comedic stand-up routine. It’s not that they were bad, by and large. It’s that they felt like they were supposed to be making some kind of thematic resonance, either within the current plot or maybe even issue by issue. And, I flat out did not get it. I have no point here, I just wonder if that’s on me or on Bendis.

[1] Notably, the one I already alluded to.

Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand

511fl0IJPOLThis is, what, the fifth Ultimate universe crossover event? Well, probably more even than that, but it’s certainly the second really big one, after the Ultimatum, which is cool because now I can start marking time from this instead of that. Based on the cover of this and many past books, I think it’s fair to say that if the Ultimate universe can even survive[1], this is certainly an event which changes everything, an event after which nothing can be the same!

And, okay, it’s a fair statement to make, right? The last time nothing could ever be the same, something like a third of the major and minor heroes died because Magneto flooded Manhattan and froze Europe solid. That’s some pretty hardcore destruction, and it certainly went after the highest density of heroes, with predictable and already-mentioned results.[2] If that sounds hardcore, then you can only agree that a confrontation with the literal purple-hatted Devourer of Worlds would be rather more Cataclysmic, right?

So, yep. Dire odds, check. Requirement for every single superhero to band together against total destruction, check. Desperate gambles, heroic sacrifices, senseless tragedies? Check, check, check. And of course, for anyone who’s been paying attention the last couple of years, we all know there’s only one person who can defeat Galactus, right? That’s some added conflict right there.

Like you’d expect, Bendis’ stories have the biggest emotional punch, but there’s really not a single bad moment anywhere in this event, which is far more than I can say for the muddled, incoherent mess that the Ultimatum storyline became. Let me say it like this: at the end of a story that featured significant amounts of Rick Jones, I do not currently despise Rick Jones. That? Is impressive storytelling.

And, y’know, it was valid claim after all. Nothing will ever be the same.

Probably.

[1] Spoiler alert: probably it can?
[2] Although, who could have predicted that the single largest impactful moment would have been the meeting between Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom in the epilogue? Honestly, it’s still not clear to me whether even the authors are aware of just how instrumental that was to subsequent events.

The Way of Kings revisited

51WC999OnyLOn the one hand, there are so many new books I want to read right away, and I kind of resent the need to go back and read a book I’ve already read just to remember what would be going on in the sequel, now that it’s finally out three and a half years later. And then I think about other books I want to reread also, actively because I haven’t in a very long time rather than passively so that I’ll remember what’s going on as per that prior sentence. Not to mention just how much rereading I’ve done over the past couple of years.

All of that to say that (despite all my complaining), wow, The Way of Kings is still extremely good. Intriguing characters with real problems (I mean, besides the end of the world), highly alien setting with reasonable extensions of human societal development as a result[1], moral dilemmas, secrets to be explored, and of course exciting combat and magic sequences. I don’t think it would hold up to the kind of attention I paid Jordan’s opus, but that’s a reflection of how I’ve changed more than anything else. Which is why it’s nice to have followed along on the Tor reread as I dug through this one. Well, it was up until the last quarter of the book or so, when suddenly the authors and a lot of the commenters had read the new book and I had not yet. Bleah.

Because, seriously? It’s not all the details they teased out of this book that astonish me, although there are some pretty astonishing things being teased out. Someone translated runic script on a couple of the late book drawings? Someone else identified who all of the faces are in the chapter icons, associated them with thematic elements laid out in the otherwise bare glossary, and then proved how those faces / themes fit the chapters?! Are you kidding me? So, yes. Pretty meaty stuff, and kudos to Brandon Sanderson for that much depth and attention to detail at every turn. But then there’s all the connections they have drawn to his other works, which are all set in the same universe[2] and contain a same wandering character as well as the same pantheon of cooperative and opposed gods, some alive, some dead, spread out in the various corners they have decided to stake out and world[3] around with. Although I’ve read like 3/4 of his output, I would never have had the faintest clue about any of these interconnections. Which just makes me want to go back and reread all the rest of his books too, and if I resented the time for this, how am I supposed to find time for that?

Curse you, Sanderson!

[1] And if it seems like this alien of a world shouldn’t have humans in the first place, I’m nearly positive that’s by design and may well be addressed, implicitly or explicitly.
[2] Cosmere, they call it, and apparently the people on this book’s world, Roshar, are aware of said Cosmere and aware that travel to other places is possible. Answering how that can be is another missing piece I look greatly forward to acquiring somewhere down the line!
[3] Plausibly, world is not a viable verb? Then again, maybe it is. I’ve never Mormoned, so I can’t be sure.

Jack of Fables: The Big Book of War

51HD3y3QFQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_So, it happened the way I thought! (You know, thanks to the twin powers of authorial foreshadowing, logical consequences of previous actions, and foreknowledge of the subsequent book’s title. ….er, triplet powers.) Sure enough, all those inter-related Literals (who are living representations of various literary terms[1]) have proceeded with the war against each other to determine the fate of the Fables, who they all agree that they dislike immensely but apparently hate each others’ Final Solutions enough to shed each others’ blood rallying for their own specific cause.

You can imagine how that turns out for the Fables, I suppose, since this is a story and not real life. Plus also, there’s good old deceit-filled, beanstalk-climbing, always-has-an-angle Jack fighting on the side of himself, which is to say that he doesn’t want all the Fables to be destroyed since he is one and all. So: big war? Cool. Deeper understanding of what’s actually going on? Definitely cool, even if there are still pretty big gaps. Overall: it is 100% clear that the Jack stories just aren’t nearly as good as the main sequence Fable stories, and in fact that Jack himself is starting to be as unlikable to me as he was probably supposed to be all along on top of it; but still, they’re diverting enough to keep reading. (It helps that I know there aren’t many left.)

[1] For example, probably one of them I haven’t met yet is named Foreshadowing, and either knows what will happen soon or drops hints about what will happen soon without actually knowing that’s what he or she is doing.

Marvel 1602: New World

250px-1602_New_World_coverWhat do you get when you take the stable of Marvel superheroes, transplant their existence 350 years into the past (and initially across an ocean, but I think we all knew that wouldn’t last) and have the whole concept authored by the only comic creator ever to win the World Fantasy Award? Something that is, in all sincerity, pretty damn cool. What do you get when you follow-up on the aftermath of that first outing, using a completely other author that I’ve never heard of? Well, it’s a good thing I mostly like and am pretty familiar with these characters, at least.

New World, predictably, continues the story of the people of Roanoke, now that all of existence is no longer under dire threat. Instead, they have to deal with way too many “Witchbreed”, which is to say people with powers, and rampaging dinosaurs, and slimy land developers, and metal-suited men bent on revenge for historical wrongs. None of which was especially disinteresting, but the white man vs. indian plotline was trite and the rest didn’t hold a candle to its source material.

Most criminally for a story half of whose character arc was focused on Virginia Dare, she was barely present. I mean, she was there, working through her own “should I use my powers?” crisis, but that’s literally all any of her scenes were. “It’s too dangerous! I mustn’t! Should I?” Then, later, she decided. No process, no journey, just bad event leads to crisis leads to indecision leads to decision. Nothing reflective, no synthesis, nothing at all that would involve the rest of the plot, or some visible internal character growth.

I’ll say this, though: it’s nice that I expect comics to provide me with that. Hooray for a lot of people who are out there doing things right!