Civil War: Marvel Universe
(Graphic Novel with art by Paul Smith, Leinil Yu, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, David Aja, Scott Kolins, Roger Langridge,
Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, Marc Silvestri and Top Cow Productions)
A tie-in to Mark Millar's 'Civil War' which features a number of minor Marvel characters and their reactions to the Superhuman
Registration Act. First off is a story about She-Hulk. She's torn by her support of the Act as She-Hulk and her
obligations as the lawyer charged with protecting the rights of superhumans. Next up is a Venom, who decides to rack
up a few more bodies before signing up to serve in the Government-sanctioned Thunderbolts. The Irredeemable Ant-Man
is then called to act as a hero to protect an innocent caught between the two sides of the Civil War. In the next story
Iron Fist agrees to become Daredevil to fight in the Civil War. The fifth story features U.S.Agent as he too is torn,
this time between his duty and his dislike of Tony Stark. Things take a lighter tone as the irrascible Howard the
Duck reluctantly queues up for registration. Then, in 'Civil War: The Return' Captain Marvel is torn from another timeline
and tasked with guarding the superhero prison in the Negative Zone, whilst the Sentry struggles with both his conscience and
the Absorbing Man. Finally, 'Civil War: The Initiative' shows us the aftermath of the Civil War as Tony Stark attempts
to rebuild the Avengers, a new super team is gathered in Canada, the ex-villain Thunderbolts revel in their new sanctioned
positions and Ms. Marvel encounters the fugitive Spider-Woman. Overall, I didn't really like this book too much.
The stories are so short that they never manage to fully develop their better elements and the characters featured (with the
possible exception of U.S.Agent) just aren't ones that interest me. Also, very little of the political and moral tension
so prevalent in the other Civil War books is apparent here. It comes to something when the best story offered here is
the tongue-in-cheek Howard the Duck one ("You're a duck..." "And you're a civil servant. Let's not let our prejudices get
in the way of civil discourse.")
2 out of 5
Civil War: X-Men Universe
(Graphic Novel with art by Dennis Calero, Staz Johnson, Klaus Janson and John Stanisci)
Two stories tying in to 'Civil War' by Mark Millar, in which the Superhero Registration Act drives a wedge between the
heroes of the Marvel Universe. The first is about X-Factor and shows how they learn that the X-Men have been lying to
them about the events of M-Day. The ensuing sense of betrayal leads them to choose the side of Quicksilver, the architecht
of M-Day, over that of their former allies. The second story is the better of the two and features Cable and Deadpool.
When the latter is hired by the U.S Government to hunt down heroes avoiding the registration, it brings him into conflict
with his friend and ally (Cable) who has chosen the side of the rebel heroes. This latter story manages to perfectly
balance the poignancy of it's political statements against it's madcap humour. I particularly enjoyed Deadpool's reaction
to getting his ass kicked by Squirrel Girl.
4 out of 5
Dragonlance: The Best Of Tales
featuring Michael Williams, Roger E. Moore, Nick O'Donohoe, Nancy Varian Berberick, Mary Kirchoff, Paul B. Thompson,
Tonya R. Carter, Laura Hickman, Kate Novak, Richard A. Knaak
, Margaret Weis and Aron Eisenberg
A mixture of short stories, taken from the series of anthologies 'Dragonlance: Tales'. Generally the stories are
of good quality, giving a different perspective on events in the 'Dragonlance Chronicles' trilogy, but there are a few naff
ones. The Weis & Eisenberg story (the only new story here) is a bit of a disappointment and I'm not struck on Michael
Williams' narrative poetry, which I find lacks flow. However, Williams' story about a Solamnic Knight serving under
Sturm Brightblade during the events of 'Dragons of Winter Night' is exceptionally good. Another gem of this anthology
is the story of the recovery of a Dragon Orb from Icewall, one of the irritating gaps in the 'Chronicles'. This anthology
is what got me into the Dragonlance novels in general and is well worth a read.
4 out of 5
House Of M: Fantastic Four/Iron Man
featuring John Laymen and Greg Pak
(Graphic Novel with art by Scot Eaton, Don Hillsman II, Rick Magyar, Pat Lee and Dream Engine)
Two stories linking into the 'House Of M' event storyline in which the powers of the Scarlet Witch turn the world on
it's head. The Fantastic Four story is a bit of a surprise in that Ben Grimm is the only one of the FF featured.
We're presented with an alternate world where Reed Richards and Sue Storm died during their space flight and only Ben survived,
becoming the It. Inspired by this, Doctor Doom uses cosmic rays and sorcery to grant superpowers (which are similar
to those of the FF) to himself, his wife and his son. Enslaved by Doom, the It rounds out the Fearsome Four.
The story revolves around Doom's obsession with power and his attempt to wrest control of the planet out of the hands of Magneto
and his children. Sadly, this story was a bit too much 'mirror-universe' for me rather than tackling the more interesting
possibilites of the House of M reality. The second story features Tony Stark, the most successful human in a world ruled
by mutants. However, when his position is threatened by anti-mutant extremists he unveils his secret weapon; a suit
of remarkable armour. Iron Man soon becomes a symbol of hope to the human resistance but ultimately has to fight for
both humans and mutants against the machinations of his own father. This is a much better story and I really loved the
look of the armour shown here. Plus, how often do you get to see Iron Man fight Sentinels, eh?
3 out of 5
House Of M: World Of M Featuring Wolverine
(Graphic Novel with art by Javier Saltares, Mark Texeira, Trevor Hairsine, John Dell, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano,
Lee Weeks, Jesse Delperdang and Mike Perkins)
Four stories which link into Bendis' 'House Of M', in which the Scarlet Witch alters the world creating an alternate
reality in which mutants oppress the human minority and Magneto rules the planet. In 'Chasing Ghosts' we learn of Wolverine's
alternate life as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a great story in which Logan is shown to be a drug-abusing alcoholic
obessessed with the war against the humans and one man in particular, Nick Fury. Most interesting is the details of
the romance between Logan and Mystique, something only touched upon in 'House Of M', but revealed here in all it's 'what if?'
glory. The second story, 'Soul Power in the House of M', is about the few independent rulers of the world, Black Panther,
Storm, Sunfire, Prince Namor, and their attempts to resist the imperial depredations of Magneto and his ally Apocalypse.
What I enjoyed most about this story was the fight between Black Panther and Sabretooth. In 'The Pulse' a human
reporter, frustrated at mutant prejudice, encounters a man claiming to have been to have been brought back to life after dying
in an alternate reality. This is, of course, Hawkeye and his confusion and pain at the insanity of his predicament is
very well written, culminating in the destruction of a House of M monument. This story finally makes clear the details
of Hawkeye's disappearance halfway through 'House of M' and reappearance at the end. Finally, we are offered an alternative
history of Captain America. After helping to win WWII, Cap is ostracised for his tolerance towards mutants in a poignant
echo of America's anti-Communist witch hunts in the 50s. Forced to retire Captain America, Steve Rogers becomes the
first man to walk on the moon. As the mutant population increases, Rogers finds himself caught between his image among
humans as a mutant-lover and his outspoken views against the totalitarian regime being built by Magneto. Slowly his
world, his life, withers away until all that's left is a lonely old man. All told this little anthology is a great collection
of linked 'what ifs?' which enhance the main 'House Of M' story no end. However, if you haven't read 'House Of M', you'll
be completely bewildered as to what's going on here, so read that first (it's awesome).
4 out of 5
Judge Dredd's Crime File Volume One
(Graphic Novel with art by John Higgins, Bryan Talbot, Jose Ortiz and Ian Gibson)
Three stories featuring 2000AD's Lawman of the Future and one starring the Rogue Trooper. The first story is the
longest and best, involving Dredd journeying into the Cursed Earth to confront a group of bandits which includes such villainous
characters as Big Guy, Dinky Guy and Dog Guy. The second story has Dredd being attacked by four dwarves with a sad (fairy)
tale to tell, out to avenge their three dead brothers. Next up is Rogue Trooper's tale and is focused on the relationship
between the intelligences contained in his equipment. The last story has Dredd in hot pursuit whilst detaining another
perp over the radio. All these stories have the dark humour you'd expect but none of them is really outstanding.
3 out of 5
A brilliant concept in which the best authors of contemporary fantasy create new stories set in the fictional worlds
that have made them famous. King's Dark Tower story is very well written but (as with his entire series) is a bit of
a mind-bender. Pratchett's Discworld story was the disappointment for me, lacking the author's usual comic conceptions.
Goodkind's Sword of Truth story (which was later republished as a separate novella and is reviewed elsewhere in this
site) was very enjoyable, if brutal. Card's story is well written, but I'm not really a fan of the Alvin Maker series.
Silverberg, who also edits the anthology, gives us a good, though not exceptional, Majipoor story. Le Guin's Earthsea
story and McCaffrey's Pern story both add a new facet to their respective series'. Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
story is also worth a read and so is Jordan's Wheel of Time story (which he has now expanded into the full-length novel 'New
Spring'). Ultimately the best contributions are those of Martin and Feist. Feist's Riftwar story introduces us
to a boy caught up in the destructive war against the Tsurani and Martin's Song of Ice and Fire story, my favourite of the
eleven, tells of Dunk the Lunk's rise from lowly squire to a knight fighting alongside and against princes.
5 out of 5
The first 'Legends' anthology was excellent but the second has trouble living up to it's predecessor. Don't get
me wrong, it's still good, but not great. Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings story is a gem that starts slowly, but develops
wonderfully. Once again, Martin's Song of Ice and Fire story outshines the others as we get a further tale of Dunk and
Egg. Card's Alvin Maker story is, once again, well-written and has the interesting additions of a tall man named
Lincoln and a man with a knack for knife work, Jim Bowie. Gabaldon's Lord John Grey story is a good read, but really
not a fantasy story at all. Silverberg, once again editing, brings an excellent Majipoor story to the mix and Williams'
plays with pop-culture and virtual reality, choosing to write an Otherland story rather than a Memory, Sorrow and Thorn one.
Unfortunately McCaffrey's Pern story is pants and Feist's Riftwar tale, although written with his usual skill, is nothing
he's not written before. Haydon's Symphony of Ages story is a great story of hope and futility and Gaiman's 'American
Gods' sequel twists reality and myth together with great tension. Finally, Brooks' Shannara has Jair Ohmsford setting
out to destroy a fragment of the Illdatch after the events of 'The Wishsong of Shannara'.
4 out of 5
(Graphic Novel with art by Amanda Conner, Joe Staton, Mary Wilshire, Peter Snejbjerg, Patrick Gleason, Jimmy Palmiotti,
Dick Giordano, Joe Orlando and Christian Alamy)
Originally Power Girl was Superman's Kryptonian cousin in the parallel universe of Earth-Two and her origins (a la 1975)
are presented here by Levitz, in the slightly camp way of comics of the time. When, in the 80s, DC collapsed their
'multiverse' into a single continuity with the 'Crisis On Infinite Earths', Power Girl survived the purging of duplicate characters
but a new backstory was needed (since Supergirl had the cousin-from-Krypton thing). Kupperberg gives us this new background
in the form of an odd and hard-to-credit story about a sorcerer from Atlantis catapulting Power Girl into the future.
Now DC are once more sweeping out their continuity in the run up to the 'Infinite Crisis'. In Johns' story Power
Girl is struggling with her identity after her powers begin to fluctuate and the real cousin of Superman arrives
on Earth. The ridiculously named Psycho-Pirate, another survivor of Earth-Two, uses his powers to cause Power Girl
to suffer halucinations of her possible pasts. This book helps to understand the confusing continuity involved with
Power Girl and her counterpart Supergirl, but it's not good for much else. The older stories predictably lack the polish
and depth of modern comics and the more recent one doesn't really go anywhere.
3 out of 5
Predator Omnibus Volume 1
(Graphic Novel with art by Chris Warner, Ron Randall, Sam de la Rosa, Randy Emberlin, Steve Mitchell, Rick Magyar, Rick
Leonardi, Dan Panosian, Enrique Alcatena, Dan Barry and Leo Duranona)
Seven stories featuring the fearsome sport hunters from outer space, the Predators. The first three stories, 'Concrete
Jungle', 'Cold War' and 'Dark River' all by Verheiden, follow the adventures of NYPD Detective Shaefer as he attempts to uncover
the fate of his brother Dutch (Arnie in the original 'Predator' movie). Shaefer's adventures are all excellently written
with insightful text and dynamic dialogue. Also the quality of the idea behind 'Concrete Jungle' led much of it to later be
appropriated for use in 'Predator 2'. The one down side to these three brilliant stories is the increasingly far-fetched
ways in which Shaefer is drawn into conflict with the Predators. Next we're treated to two tales of the Predators in
Africa. The first follows a Massai warrior earning his passage into manhood and stands out for the fact that it's entirely
visual, having no dialogue. The second has 1930s Great White Hunters facing off against their alien counterpart and
what I liked about this one was that, in the end, it is the wilds of Africa that defeat the Predator, not man. The sixth
story of the omnibus, Barry and Richardson's 'The Bloody Sands of Time', stars a CIA lawyer investigating the Predator encounters
covered up in the past by his agency. The best bit of this story is where the discovery of a French soldier's diary
reveals the part played by the aliens in the First World War. The final story in this book is the worst due to it's
confusing dialogue and bewildering plot. It would seem that the main character is the reincarnation of a blind Samurai
who beat the Predators a century before, but why he suddenly remembers his past life or how he has infra-red vision despite
his blindness are a complete mystery to me. Overall this is a great collection of stories which nicely capture the feel
of the films and the spirit of the Predators themselves.
4 out of 5
Predator Versus Judge Dredd
(Graphic Novel with art by Alcatena, Rick Leonardi and Dan Panosian)
The majority of this book is the story of the title, as a Predator hunts Judges through the darkly futuristic streets
of Mega City One. Dredd is hot on the Predator's tale, assisted by PSI Judge Shaefer (who, in a nice little touch, is
supposed to be a decendant of Arnie's character in the 'Predator' movie). Predictably, the combination of the two franchises
works very well, providing an exciting and tense read for fans of either. The other story here is 'Predator: Rite Of
Passage' in which a Massai warrior returns from his lion-hunting rite of passage to discover his village slaughtered by another
kind of hunter. What I enjoyed about this story is that it has no speech in it whatsoever, meaning that the pictures
have to tell the story by themselves. And they do a good job of it too.
4 out of 5
Prelude To Infinite Crisis
featuring Judd Winick, Jeph Loeb
, Geoff Johns
, Jeremy Johns, Greg Rucka, Bill Willingham, Mark Andreyko, John Arcudi, Bob Harras, Gail Simone
and Andy Diggle
(Graphic Novel with art by Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund, Ale Garzo, Trevor Scott, Marlo Alquiza, Lary Stucker, Ed McGuinness,
Dexter Vines, Jim Fern, Matthew Clark, Nelson, Andy Lanning, Mike McKone, Don Kramer, Keith Champagne, Damion Scott, Sandra
Hope, Carlos D Anda, Shawn Mall, Kevin Conrad, Jesus Saiz, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justiniano, Livesay, Walden Wong, Ray Snyder,
Drew Johnson, Patrick Gleason, Christian Alamy, Marcos Martin, Alvaro Lopez, Ed Benes, Rags Morales, Mark Propst, Ethan Van
Scriver, Prentis Rollins and Pascal Ferry)
I've been out of the loop on DC storylines for about a decade and the blurb of this book promised to tell me what I needed
to know in order to start reading the major 'Infinite Crisis' stories. Well, the blurb was wrong. This book is
a collection of snippets from dozens of comics which are supposedly relevant to the Infinite Crisis story. I don't know
whether it's just the fact that they're fragments or whether the intervening text seems to have no connection to them in most
cases, but I failed to glean any important plot elements from this book. There are a couple of proper stories featured
here too, the Superman one being run of the mill, but the one in which Wonder Woman and Flash take on Zoom and Cheetah proved
to be very entertaining. So, in conclusion, fragmented, bewildering and not really worth the effort it took me to type
out the names of all the writers and artists involved.
2 out of 5
Realm Of Chaos
featuring Gav Thorpe, Jonathan Green
, Ben Chessell, Andy Jones, Rjurik Davidson, Chris Pramas, Rani Kellock and Mark Brendan
A Warhammer anthology and nothing too surprising here. It's all blood, guts, mutants and hard-bitten cynical
veterans. The stories are fine for a bit of visceral entertainment, but, as with most Warhammer books, this isn't
going to challenge your intellect terribly. The stories all try to deal with the corruption of humanity by chaos, but
rather than being morality tales or studies of human duality, they all turn out seeming shallow.
3 out of 5