Runaways: homeschooling/ Immonen & Pichelli

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Issues 11-14.

Military craft crashes to their home. Some mysterious and probably dangerous package that’s hinted. The Runaways have a casualty. Then an uncle shows up.

TBC.

Includes a short story: what if the Runaways became be Young Avengers.

Astro City: the dark age 1 – brothers & other strangers/ Busik, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair

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Set in the 70s US, with the Watergate political scandal and involvement in the Vietnam conflict as backdrop.

Storyline revolves around two brothers, who ended up pursuing different paths on life after the tragic deaths of their parents. One is a cop and the other involved in crime.

The interesting thing about Busik’s style is that the whole superhero thing develops in parallel, often anchored to the two brother’s individual narratives. Like the controversy over the superhero vigilantes, the superpowered battles. The Silver Agent has a central role in all that is happening but we are left with hints and curiosity.

Gotta look for book 2!

The dragons of Babel/ Michael Swanwick

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I recognised the author’s name from previous Scifi Best Of anthologies and magazine stories in Analog (or Azimov?)

Then the blurb made me take the literary hook.

Check this out:

“A war-dragon of Babel crashes in the idyllic fields of a postindustralized Faerie and, dragging himself into the nearest village, declares himself king and makes young Will his lieutenant. Nightly he invades the young fey’s mind to get a measure of what his subjects think.

Eventually forced from the village, Will travels with female centaur soldiers, witnesses the violent clash of giants, and acquires a surrogate daughter, Esme, who may be immortal. Evacuated to the Tower of Babel — infinitely high, infinitely vulgar — Will rises as an underling to a haint politician and meets his one true love — a high-elven woman to whom he dare not aspire.”

Wow.

War-dragon. Centaur soldiers. Just conjures up fantastic visions and promises of action; the sort that guys stereotypically like. Which I believe we do.

Plus the hints and promise of romance and intrigue.

The main protagonist is a man-child called Will, whose origin was of a mystery even to himself. His life changes when he is forced to work for the war-dragon. From there till his meeting of the centaur soldiers is pretty slick and exciting stuff. You’ll hate me if I give the plot away.

Will meets Esme, a young child who seems to have exceptional luck. Along the way, Will finds himself a mentor by the name of Nat, who is a con-artist and has plans for a grand scam.

The trio ends up in Babel, which is like the main hub of high civilisation. Will finds work with a politician, learns to be city-smart. There’s an exciting side-adventure where Will finds himself leading a band of underground insurgents.

The conclusion is also coherently slick. All the seemingly hidden agendas and disparate plot lines come together into a final coherent reveal.

Gene Wolfe called this work a “machine-age fantasy universe”. I call this Steam Punk. But not quite, because there is an element of the fantastic: magics and elemental mythical beings.

Maybe its a universe where Faeries acquire technology. Or perhaps it’s a advanced industrial society that chose to shape itself along mythical lines, built to a level that technology is indistinguishable from magic.

It’s a refreshing concept for me, whatever the case.

Almost immediately into the first few pages of the novel, I was reminded of Gibson’s Neuromancer, McCaffery’s Dragons of Pern and Pratchet’s An Mor Pok. Or, World of Warcraft meets Halo, in the realm of electronic games.

Whatever I might call it, this novel was definitely unputdownable. I devoured this in three days. Less, if I had the entire day to read. Definitely one of those books that give reading fiction a great reputation.

Btw it’s a 2007 story first published in 2008 (paperback edition came out in 2011). I think this will be a timeless classic.

The dog said bow-wow/ Michael Swanwick

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Michael Swanwick is definitely one of my favourite Fantasy/ Scifi/ steampunkish author.

This book is a collection of 16 short stories (published in various places) compiled as one book.

Includes stories of the two cons, Darger and Surplus. There’s also the Faerie/ steampunk stories that are part of the Dragons of Babel novel.

Stories range from Scifi (“Hello,” Said the stick) to Epic Fantasy (Urdumheim). Everything in between is a mix of both, which I think is Swanwick’s style.

Funny intro by Terry Bisson (a creative fictional piece of Swanwick being interviewed in a talkshow).

Stories:

“Hello,” Said the stick.

The dog said bow-wow.

Slow life.

Triceratops summer.

Tin marsh.

An episode of stardust.

The skysailor’s take.

Legions in time.

The little cat laughed to see such sport.

The bordello in faerie.

The last geek.

Girls and boys, come out to play.

A great day for brontosaurus.

Dirty little war.

A small room in koboldtown.

Urdumheim.

Halo: bloodline/ Van Lente & Portela

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Story unveils the relationships among a Spartan team (Team Black) and a Convenant warrior pair.

Both find themselves stranded and (here’s where I reveal a little more than what the blurb says) have to make a choice to team up to survive.

Well, won’t share more or else i’ll be giving the whole plot away.

But I can add there’s a sub-plot about some relationship angst among the Spartans.

Could be something that might be expanded to a novella, though expectedly this graphic novel version offers the surface-level Hollywood treatment.

Halo: Helljumper/ Peter David & Eric Nguyen

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Centers around a pair of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST). Not enhanced Spartans, btw.

Plot: best of buddies are part of a deployment to investigate a Convenant raid. Find themselves cut off; fight their way through and show more of the self-sacrificial buddy-hero stuff.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading it. It’s light leisurely clean stuff.

The new avengers: illuminati/ Bendis, Reed & Cheung

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The Illuminati of the Marvel Universe is: Iron Man, Professor X, Black Bolt, Sub-Mariner, Mr Fantastic, and Dr Strange.

They secretly band together to (as the blurb says) “take on threats no one else can handle” and “learn of secrets that will change the way we look at the Marvel Universe” (I left out the exclamation mark).

It’s one of the more interesting read, perhaps proving again that Brian Michael Bendis’ touch is there (apologies to Brian Reed; I loved Spider-woman: Origin, btw).

The backstory is that Earth has just beaten back a Skrull invasion, thanks to the Supers. The graphic novel starts with the Illuminati going to the Skrulls and warning that if they ever try to invade Earth again, the Supers are going to woop their behinds again.

The Skrull King of course doesn’t take this kindly (if he did, no story right?)

So events unfold and… That’s where you have to read the rest of the story yourself. The Skrulls and the Illuminati do meet again but sort of leaves the end of this series on a cliff hanger for another story line.

Ok, why Sub-Mariner? A way to bring back an old-school character?

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