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March 2018

Bloodshot Salvation: The Book of Revenge

So…there’s a lot of blood in Bloodshot. Who woulda’ thunk it?

Having read virtually no Valiant titles except for Faith:Hollywood and Vine, I only had a passing recognition of Bloodshot, but no real understanding of who he was or his backstory. I picked up this digital copy because Jeff Lemire (who must be an android and not sleep because his output of titles is amazing) is the author and I’m a sucker for a good revenge story.

Bloodshot aka Ray Garrison is a former soldier who worked for the shadowy Project Rising Spirit, and whose nanites in his bloodstream could transform him into a killing machine with healing powers (shades of Wolverine from Marvel). His memory has been wiped several times, but he has escaped from the decommissioned PRS in the previous Reborn series, and has established a family with his girlfriend Magic. They have a baby daughter who seems to be perfectly healthy and free of Ray’s powers.

It’s all too good to be true, and frankly Ray decides to f**k everything up by going after Magic’s father who is a cult leader and has been harassing her to rejoin his compound. Plans go sideways, his daughter Jessie gets sick and PRS gets new funding and doesn’t want any former soldiers on the loose. There are time jumps, transfigurations and many many deaths. Then there is the required twist and cliff hanger to make you come back for future volumes.

The artwork is excellent, with a gritty realism and a subdued color palate. The artists are very fond of exploding eyeballs and showcasing gore. But I do have a complaint: the front cover is misleading. It shows Jessie as a young girl with the trademark white skin next to her father. This scene did not happen, and in fact, Jessie has not seen her Dad in years at this point. While I assume they will be reuniting in the next volume, this cover was very inaccurate.

I’m glad I had a chance to read this title through NetGalley, as Vin Diesel is signed on to portray Bloodshot in a movie adaptation, and now I have a passing understanding of the Bloodshot saga. I’m rooting for Ray’s family to have a happy ending, but we all know it won’t come easy.

-Nancy

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Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View

I love Star Wars! I love short stories! Together this anthology was a win-win for me.

Forty authors celebrated forty years of Star Wars by contributing a story of a minor or supporting character from the ending of Rogue One to the finale of A New Hope. I listened to these stories on audio, but also had a copy of the book to refer to when I wanted to double check a detail or if I didn’t like the way a story was voiced. There are a few spoilers, but I did my best not to give it all away! 😉

Raymus by Gary Witta   4/5

Captain Raymus Antilles holds onto hope to the very end that his ship carrying Princess Leia away from the Battle of Scarif will escape from the Imperial Fleet.

The Bucket by Chrsitie Golden   4/5

Stormtrooper TK-4601 begins to have feelings of dissent with the Empire after he meets Leia. Not an immediate deserter, but the seeds are sown…

The Sith of Datawork by Ken Liu   5/5

A fun tongue-in cheek story that will be appreciated by the many of us who feel that paperwork is endless at their jobs and in their homes. Arvira, Imperial Logistic Datawork Officer, knows her forms and helps Bolvan, the gunnery captain who let a certain escape pod go unchecked to Tatooine, cover up his mistake with layers of reports.

Stories in the Sand by Griffin McElroy 4/5

Am amusing tale of little Jot, a Jawa who doesn’t erase R2-D2’s memory like he typically does with other droids for resale. By watching other droid’s chips he sees there is more to the universe than the gritty Sandcrawler he works on.

Reirin by Sabaa Tahir  3/5

We meet Reirin, a female Tusken Raider, who is willing to leave the safety of her clan for the mysterious charms of a green crystal she finds.

The Red One by Rae Carson  4/5

A surprisingly poignant story about R5-D4, the red droid that Uncle Own picked first from the Jawas. His malfunction was truly a sacrifice made for the Rebellion.  It was fun to start getting outsider’s views of Luke as we first meet him in A New Hope.

Rites by John Jackson Miller 3.5/5

Three young Tuskens want to make names for themselves in their warrior society. They meet Obi-Wan, whom they consider a wizard, and Luke whom they call Sandy Hair.

Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey 5/5

Obi-Wan receives a visitor and because of their conversation realizes he needs “to think of death as only the beginning of wisdom”. While I was surprised at this entry, as he formally was not part of A New Hope, the visitor’s wisdom would have always remained with Ben.

Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot 5/5

LOVED this story! Author Meg Cabot gave Aunt Beru a beautiful backstory and a voice in how she loved raising Luke. I was tearing up as I listened to this story, for Beru was more than an aunt, she was a MOTHER to him and should have been recognized more for being the loving woman who shaped Luke into the man he became.

The Luckless Rodian by Renee Ahdieh  4/5

Greedo…and his last hours before his fateful encounter with Han Solo.

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Not for Nothing by Mur Lafferty 4/5

A supposed excerpt from one of the Bith band member’s memoirs about why they were playing at the cantina, after a forced extended stay at Jabba the Hutt’s “palace” . The music must go on…

We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here by Chuck Wendig 3.5/5

A character study of Wuher, one of the bartenders at the cantina. My biggest take-away from this story is learning that Ackmena, the barmaid from the Star Wars Holiday Special,  is now canon!

The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction 1/5

When are we going to leave Tatooine??!! Why was the worst story also the longest story? I did not care one whit about the crime planned to take place at Chalmun’s Cantina.

Added Muscle by Paul Dini  5/5

Luckily the next story balances the previous story by being short and fresh. We learn Boba Fett’s recollections of what happened between Han and Jabba in Docking Bay 94.

You Owe Me a Ride by Zoraida Cordova  4/5

Twins Brea and Senni Tonnika live on the edge of society, unwillingly trapped at Jabba’s palace. The sisters begin to scheme how they can leave the sandy planet forever.

The Secrets of Long Snoot by Delilah S. Dawson  2/5

Are we STILL stuck on  Tatooine??!!  Not every bounty hunter is successful and suave, and Long Snoot skulks along the fringes hoping to pick up easy information he can then pass along to the Imperial Troopers hoping for enough credits to reunite with his family.

Born in the Storm by Daniel Jose Older  4.5/5

Stormtrooper TD-7556 relates his recent mission on Tatooine in an incident report form. Turns out he was one of the soldiers who sent Obi Wan, Luke and the droids on their way- “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.   This stormtrooper is no mindless drone, he is funny and sarcastic and the story was a fun read.

Laina by Wil Wheaton  5/5

OMG the feels! A widowed Rebel soldier wishes to send his beloved daughter Laina to safety and makes a video for the toddler. He recounts to her information about her mother and the reason why he is fighting against the Empire. Already a poignant tale of a family being separated, it takes an even more heartrending turn at the end. ( I have re-imaged the last bit in my mind to make a happier ending)

Fully Operational by Beth Revis  3.5/5

General Tagge uncomfortably witnesses Lord Vader’s reaction and choke hold of Admiral Motti. Previously believing the Empire’s greatest weapon was the Death Star, he now realizes it is Vader himself.

An Incident Report by Mallory Ortberg   3.5/5

Admiral Motti gets his rebuttal and blusters about his importance to cover up his shame of being humiliated in front of other staff. He refuses to see Vader’s power and relies entirely on the Death Star’s technology.

Change of Heart by Elizabeth Wein  3.5/5

The indomitable Leia unknowingly influences another Imperial soldier to rethink his alliance after he witnesses her strength when Alderaan is destroyed. Having two stories like this was over kill. I have huge Leia love, but to have two soldiers completely change their ways just by observing her was too much.

Eclipse by Madeleine Roux  4.5/5

A heartbreaking look at the last hours of Breha and Bail Organa. Despite them realizing their planet’s impending doom, they cling together in love and with hope in their hearts that their daughter is safe.  On a side note- I had a hard time imagining Leia growing up there. Things at the palace were so ornate and orchestrated, instead I thought of Padme.

Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo  4/5

Evil Empire leaders are taught not to trust anyone else and to only look out for themselves- but if Tarkin and Krennic had been able to work effectively as a team, perhaps then they could have been more powerful than Vader.  I appreciated the shoutout to Galen and Jyn Erso at the end.

Far Too Remote by Jeffrey Brown 4/5

Surprising and funny one panel cartoon from the author/artist who writes children’s books Vader’s Little Princess and Vader and Son.  See book for dialogue! 😉

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The Trigger by Kieron Gillen  3/5

Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels. .

Of MSE-6 and Men by Glen Weldon 1/5

Why again are the worst stories the longest stories? Told from the perspective of a mouse droid found on the Death Star.

Bump by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker  3/5

One of the stormtroopers from the Tatooine unit that let the droids by, due to Obi Wan’s mind tricks, is called up to report once that data has been reviewed. He knows he’s in for it, but remains true to the Empire until the end.

End of Watch by Adam Christopher   4/5

Commander Pamel Poul is at the end of her shift on the Death Star and just wants to be off duty. But there seems to be a small problem in one of the detention blocks, and an odd message from an alleged soldier there doesn’t seem to follow protocol…

The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor   5/5

When a creature is taken from their home planet and taken to the Death Star, I wondered where in the world the story was going. Then I realized it was the garbage disposal monster and I was intrigued. I found this story strangely appealing!

Time of Death by Cavan Scott   3/5

This story had me torn. While in one way I liked having more time with Obi Wan, his after life is a delicate subject matter to tackle. There was one little remembrance that I enjoyed- a missing piece of his lost years at Tatooine when he interacts with a young Luke and his Uncle Owen.

There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt 3.5/5

This pushed canon a bit too far. While I have always wondered why Leia never trained to use the Force, this story has a certain green somebody quite opposed to training Luke, claiming that Leia would be more suitable. Maybe so, to a degree (see picture below), but he missed Palpatine being a Sith Lord, so maybe just maybe he could be wrong about Luke. (And he was.)

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Palpatine by Ian Doescher 4.5/5

An interesting soliloquy from Palpatine’s perspective that I first listened to and then read to get the full power of his thoughts as it was written in poem form.

Sparks by Paul S. Kemp  4.5/5

Told from the perspective of Dex, a Rebel fighter pilot, during the battle of Yavin 4. This was an action packed story that had an expected sad ending for Gold Two.

Duty Roster by Jason Fry   4/5

Not every Rebel pilot gets to fly when there are not enough ships and Col, aka Fake Wedge (to his chagrin), is not chosen. He is furious at not being picked when newbie Luke Skywalker is selected, but as most of the pilots die, he survives for future missions.

Desert Son by Pierce Brown  4/5

Oh, Biggs Darklighter, we barely knew you…and you seemed so appealing! If only you and Luke had been able to reunite but your heroics helped ensure Luke’s victory.

Grounded by Greg Rucka  4.5/5

Chief Nera Kase, an integral part of the Rebels for her mechanical knowledge, watches as the pilots and ships she cares for head into battle. Not every body can be the flashy hero, but her behind the scenes work is an heroic as any pilot or leader’s contribution. I always root for the solid characters, who often don’t get their due because they are quiet and unassuming.

Contingency Plan by Alexander Freed  4/5

All good leaders should have contingency plans, for even the best laid plans can go sideways in a moment.  Mon Mothma is no exception, and the Rebel victory gives her renewed vigor for the cause.

The Angle by Charles Soule  4.5/5

With the new Solo movie coming out, I couldn’t help but think of our favorite caped scoundrel as being a mix of Donald Glover and Billie Dee Williams. The audio version had this guy voiced perfectly, as he wonders why in the world his fellow rogue Han would risk his life.

By Whatever Sun by E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein  3.5/5

Captain Miara Larte and her crew witnesses the medal ceremony for Luke, Han and Chewbacca. While perhaps it can be argued it was a premature celebration, she feels that the joyful occasion is needed in a time of sorrow. This character was another one I was unfamiliar with, as she is from the Ahsoka book that I have not read yet.

Whills by Tom Angleberger  5/5

Awesome ending! I adored the two Whills scholars debating how to chronicle the Star Wars saga. They debate both where to start the story (Episode IV!) and the wording that we have grown to love.

This book is a must read for all Star Wars fans! It strengthened and filled in gaps in the narrative and this new canon was a treat from beginning to end.

-Nancy

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Fables: The Deluxe Edition (Vol. 12)

Fabletown is gearing up for one last stand against the Dark Man. Pinocchio is assembling a team of the strongest Fables and, in what is seen as a hare-brained scheme by many other Fables, giving them costumes and superhero names reminiscent of those found in the comic books he loves to read. Meanwhile, at the Fortress of the North Wind, a motion to choose a new North Wind is underway. The North Wind has gone missing, leaving Bigby, Snow, and their children confused and hurt. The other Cardinal Winds move in, hoping to choose a child who’ll serve their own ends. The children think it’s obvious who the new king will be, but who ends up being chosen surprises all of them. Will the child step up to the challenge? Will Bigby and Snow be able to do what all parents must do at some point – let go?

What I like about this series is that nothing goes the way you expect it to – this volume was no exception. They could have titled this volume “Fables: Plot Twist Central”! I loved the arc about Pinocchio and his superhero scheme. This series isn’t afraid to poke fun at classic comic book tropes, and the end result is always hilarious. The cubs, thus far, have been more of a side story, and it’s fun to finally see them get more of the spotlight. Not much has gone on in Fabletown as far as “the next generation” goes, and it only adds a new element of intrigue to the story. I can’t wait to see where the story of the kids especially goes from here!

– Kathleen

Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Erick Shanower, Terry Moore, and Andrew Pepoy. Fables: The Deluxe Edition (Vol. 12). 2016.

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves

“Secure the perimeter. Protect the land. Preserve the family.”

When I first read Briggs Land (V1) I said it was an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering. So, would the second volume deliver following such a strong start? I’m glad to report- yes!

In this second volume an unsuspecting couple wander too far while hiking and inadvertently wander onto Briggs land from the southern border of Canada. They run into Grace’s youngest  son, Issac, a former soldier who panics that the couple will tell authorities that he is hiding out. While he doesn’t harm them, he locks them in a cabin and then consults with his mother and brothers Caleb and Noah on what to do.

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My husband and I hike a lot, so I couldn’t help but imagine us accidentally trespassing on someone’s land!

When the local media start to  piece together the missing hikers with the Briggs family, law enforcement jump at the chance to surround the compound and lay siege to the armed community. As we learned in the first volume, don’t underestimate Grace. She has an effective plan for dealing with the law and the locked up hikers.

In the midst of all this jailed patriarch Jim Briggs, furious that he has been supplanted by his wife as leader, plots revenge. He still has strong ties and allegiances within the village, and plans a way to hurt Grace and regain power. But we are given a poignant flashback as to how Jim had callously used his son Noah as a cover when he attempted to assassinate the president twenty years ago, and we see why Grace’s sons and many in the community have sided with her. We also get some additional plot threads about Grace’s daughters-in-law. We learn some of the reasons they joined the family and discover their mettle in dealing with authorities and outsiders.

Several illustrators are credited with the art, and as such, sometimes the style can change significantly from one chapter to another. This is somewhat distracting,  but the earth toned color palette throughout gives it enough consistency. I loved the guest artists that did the variant art and enjoyed their interpretations of the characters. I’ve read enough graphic novels by now, that often at first glance I can recognize an artist’s style and know who drew it before I even see their credit.

This series is a perfect read in our current polarized world, with all the outcry about guns and the NRA. While I am a strong proponent of gun control, I can still enjoy this nuanced view of a militaristic family and the morally grey area in which they lead their lives.

-Nancy

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Wood, Brain, Mack Chater & Lee Loughridge. Briggs Land: Lone Wolves. 2018.

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