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ElfQuest podcast premiere

My beloved ElfQuest is now a podcast! Yesterday the first episode, in a 13-part series, was released to the public. I was proudly part of the Kickstarter campaign over a year ago to help finance this new venture by talented creators Wendy and Richard Pini.

This movie begins with what happened in the first comics: “When a fierce tribe of woodland elves – the Wolfriders – are burned from their homes by hostile humans, their chief, Cutter, must tap every reserve of strength and will to lead his people to safety.”

This “audio movie” stars voice actors Cree Summer, Alejandro Saab, Osric Chau, Amber Benson, Aaron Douglas, Clare Kramer, Will Friedle, Zehra Fazal, Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, Ray Porter, and many more.

Make sure you turn in weekly to find out how the Wolfriders persevere and begin meeting more elf tribes from the land of Two Moons. Find this amazing series on Apple podcasts!

What a cast!

Wastelanders: Wolverine podcast

“Thirty years ago, Super Villains won. After killing the Avengers, the X-Men, and nearly every other Super Hero, the Red Skull assumed the office of President of the United States. Since that day, a traumatized Wolverine has wandered in a daze of survivor’s guilt and self-loathing over his failure to protect his fellow X-Men and their mutant students.”

Professor Logan

We are transported to Charles Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters thirty years ago when Logan was beginning his career as a teacher to mutant students. Jean Grey was trying to smooth out Logan’s unsophisticated teaching methods when a crisis occurs and all the students are shepherded to a safe location to escape. But we know almost no one survived Red Skull’s carefully orchestrated attack. Robert Patrick (always T2 to me!) voices him very well in this podcast with an authentic world-weariness.

Back to One

After a bad car accident, a disoriented Logan slips in and out of a dream fugue and wanders back to the school, meeting a young woman Sofia and her wolfdog. Sofia is an orphaned mutant who broke into the school a few years ago to hide out, and once realizing Logan is Wolverine wants to know where he has been for the last thirty years. He admits he was so distraught that he has been wandering the wilderness in a feral state.

On My Own

We get some insight into Red Skull and his colleague Crossbones, during a Christmas special, in which Red Skull wants to assert his dominance over his subjects. Sofia’s boyfriend Justin shows Logan an arsenal, however, the group is still in danger when a band of thieves breaks into the school.

Inakzeptabel

Red Skull and Crossbones are determined to find Logan and kill him for good and he utters Inakzeptabel which means unacceptable in German. Things go from bad to worse for Logan and Sofia when Justin abandons them and puts his interests first. But some intel from the Danger Room points them in the direction of a former colleague of Logan’s that he had thought was dead.

Trust Me

Justin sells out Logan hoping to have his father released who was taken in by Red Skull years ago. When things don’t go as planned Logan, Sofia and Fang head northward to Canada hoping to find Kitty Pryde.

Land of the Free

This podcast is moving much slower than the others. Logan and Sofia travel to Canada, where Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers (daughter of Cyclops and Pheonix) live. They all meet at the end of the episode, and Logan’s recollections of V-Day are much different than Kitty’s who is threatening to kill him.

Shock and Awe

When Wolverine is temporarily disabled by Kitty and Rachel, they tell Sofia what really happened that terrible day. As expected, this podcast is based on the Mark Millar story, Old Man Logan, in which Logan was mind-controlled into killing his friends when he thought they were villains.

The Other Side

Rachel and Kitty have built another Cerebro, so Rachel utilizes it and her telepathic skills to take her and Logan back in time to see what happened on V-Day. Red Skull’s collaboration with Shadow King enabled them to mask their intentions from Professor X. Now that his eyes are open to the truth, Logan is devastated. We are now close to the end of this Wolverine story, and it is not connecting with the stories of Star-Lord, Black Widow and Hawkeye which I am finding frustrating.

Awfully Sentimental

Logan processes his grief and plans to work with Kitty and Rachel to take down Red Skull at the White House. That’s all that happened- a lot of talking.

All That You Leave Behind

This was a rather anticlimatic conclusion- Logan, Kitty and Rachel go to the White House to fight Red Skull. Sofia is left behind, but then she has to fight Crossbones. Her mutant power was never really stated- I’m guessing it was being able to talk to/control animals.

Even in the last minutes, there was no connection to the surviving heroes in the previous podcasts. Are they supposed to? Is there one more story to tell? I read somewhere (I don’t remember where anymore) that there was going to be a Doctor Doom podcast- so will they all meet, after all? My interest in this series has been waning due to the lack of connectivity. I wish they left teasers like they do in the movies, so you’d be invested in the story and look forward to the next chapter of the podcast saga. So…I’ll keep an eye out if this Wastelanders series continues, but I am definitely frustrated with how it has unfolded so far.

Written and directed by Jenny Turner Hall

Voice Cast:

Robert Patrick as Wolverine

Isabella Ferreira as Sofia

Ashlie Atkinson as Kitty Pryde

Rachel Crowl as Red Skull

Jennifer Ikeda as Rachel Summers

Justin Min as Justin

Clarke Peters as Professor X

Wastelanders: Black Widow podcast

Just in time for Women’s History Month, we have the third installment in the Marvel’s Wastelanders audio epic, in which we meet Helen Black, the Black Widow!

“Almost thirty years after The Day the Villains Won (aka V-Day), Helen Black arrives at her new apartment in The Onar, a 161-story apartment complex in what used to be Midtown Manhattan. Owned and operated by S.H.I.E.L.D., The Onar has become the very embodiment of the dystopic wealth and inequality that’s engulfed New York City ever since V-Day.”

Houston, We Have a Spider

A young woman, Lisa Cartwright, starts a new job as a security analyst and clues in that Onar resident Helen Black is acting suspiciously. A co-worker Jordan shares his conspiracy theories that it could be Natasha Romanoff or Yelena Belova, but Lisa seems to have secrets of her own. Who is Lisa’s father and what is his connection?

You See More

Lisa comes on too strong on surveillance with Helen and is found out. Helen, who claims to be Yelena, threatens Lisa and forces her to be a mole. Jordan is also acting suspiciously, so he’s now a wild card as to not knowing where his allegiances are. I have to say, Helen doesn’t seem to be covering her tracks that well, but I’m sure it is just part of a big con.

Subtext

Helen goes on a date with Stanley, who might be a drug dealer. Lisa learns some fighting skills from Helen, who asks her to dig deep for Yelena’s case file. Jordan catches onto a conspiracy among some of the Onar residents that includes some high-tech nanorobotics. Although set in President Red Skull’s realm, so far this narrative is less cosmic than the previous podcasts about Star-Lord and Hawkeye, with no mention thus far of the Avengers or X-Men besides Iron Man.

By The Way

An enamored Stanley takes Helen out to a swanky nightclub to meet an associate of his, but her information gathering is cut short when she is arrested for brewing alcohol. Lisa had reported her for this small infraction hoping to throw her work supervisors off Helen’s scent fror the bigger issues. But now Helen is under house arrest, so she blackmails Lisa into doing more for her. Jordan is still suspicious of Helen, but his boss seems unconcerned. At this point, I’m not really digging this podcast. Helen is unlikable and it is not tying into the previous two Wastlanders stories yet.

I Thought About Letting Her Know

Lisa and Jordan continue playing different sides of the investigation of Helen, and more double-crosses are hinted at by other characters involved with the nanotech reveal. Judy and Hank, the bosses at Panopticog Solutions, are playing dumb, but I’m sure it’s a ruse. Who is conning who at this stage?

A Very Melancholy Answer

Why is Helen out of the action for so much of this podcast? Her house arrest means she sends Lisa out to do all her dirty work. Stanley’s partner Crispin and his fiance Samantha are now under watch, with suspicious motivations. Stanley finds out the truth about Helen and is devastated, as he claims he loved her. Jordan keeps poking around for answers.

Temet Nosce

Temet Nosce is a Latin phrase translated as “Know Thyself”. That leads us to Lisa- whose side is she really on? It’s obvious she’s keeping her own secret. An enormous hurricane is on its way to NYC, and the Onar apartment residents scramble to prepare.

Bonus

We finally get some intel! Helen reveals to Lisa who she really is, and explains how it could be and how she lost her anti-aging properties. But…suspicions remain because would the Black Widow reveal the truth 100%? Another secret identity is revealed, and yawn. Jordan and Samantha face off.

The Entertainment

Helen, Lisa and Judy team up, and utilize Jordan, to help them fight Samantha. Now we know who is Natasha and who is Yelena but they are at odds, with Yelena willing to let thousands of people die for her cause.

The Future is Mysterious

The finale did not make any sense! It was a muddled mess and there was no resolution or moving forward for any of the characters. It didn’t connect with the previous Star-Lord or Hawkeye podcasts, so this third in a series was a real disappointment, despite Susan Sarandon voicing Helen. I believe there will be two more- for Doctor Doom and Wolverine, so I hope the final installments will bring it all together in a satisfying manner.

Check out the previous two Wastlanders podcasts: Star-Lord & Hawkeye

-Nancy

Written by Alex Delyle and directed by Timothy Busfield (who is the voice actor of Star-Lord!)

Voice Cast:

Susan Sarandon as Black Widow

Chasten Harmon as Lisa

Eva Amurri as Samantha Sugarman

Nate Corddry as Jordan

Amber Gray as Judy

Melissa Gilbert as K.I.M. (Laura Ingalls aka director Busfield’s IRL wife)

Michael Imperioli as Stanley

Justin Kirk as Hank

LeVar Burton Reads: Season Ten

I love being introduced to new authors by LeVar’s podcast, and then serendipitously finding that author in other works and books soon after. This podcast always expands my reading boundaries and I look forward to listening to a new story weekly for several months at a time while each season lasts.

The Wishing Pool by Tananarive Due

Careful what you wish for! An adult daughter, Joy, finds her widowed father in ill health when she visits him at the family cabin, both physically and mentally as he has worsening dementia. She remembers a nearby wishing pool that she and a childhood friend would visit in the nearby woods, but her wish for her father has (of course) unintended consequences. This story was a perfect blend of the harsh reality of caring for elderly parents and then the fantastical.

Different People by Timothy Mudie

In this story, a man meets a refugee from another dying but similar dimension whose first husband was him in their world, and they end up marrying themselves. But he begins to doubt that they should be together, as he is jealous of the other him, and wonders if they were meant to be together in this world. This multi-verse storyline is very popular in sci-fi tales, as there is a lot to explore in why things are the same or different in other worlds and what that means to the characters living through it all.

The Usual Santas by Mick Herron 

Set in London, eight mall Santas discover a ninth among them at the year-end Christmas Eve party. Is one of them an imposter, or could he be the real Santa? Who then led the crime caper at the mall, in which many gifts were given to orphans and the needy the next day?

Drones to Ploughshares by Sarah Gailey

A sentient government surveillance drone is captured while out on a mission and must determine what to do next when offered freedom. Is it a trap? A sweet, but somewhat light, AI story.

To Jump is to Fall by Stephen Graham Jones

Told in first person, a telepathic spy gives us a stream of consciousness as he freefalls after a jump off a plane. When he realizes his mission has gone sideways and he and the pilot are purely collateral damage, he makes a radical decision.

The Placement Agency by Tobias S. Buckell

A fresh take on the “Hitler Dilemma”- what do you do with mass murderers from history when time travel is available and you have a chance to rewrite the past? The short story started out slowly but gained traction as you realize the true nature of the temporary job that is outside of time and space.

The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell

*This story was originally in Season Four, but remixed with new sound* I found this tongue-in-cheek short story delightful. Sometime in the future, Earth has become a tourist playground for wealthy aliens, with Manhattan being the favored location. While aliens are looking for authentic experiences in the city, life for humans actually living on Earth has become anything but, as the entire economy is based on the service industry and catering to tourists. A cab driver, whose flying taxi is on its last legs, has to deal with an alien falling to their death from his vehicle and trying to avoid an interspecies war when the alien’s family investigates. While this tale is amusing, it’s also a reflection on how our society relies on social media with trying to make their life look perfect when really it’s only a facade.

The Final Performance of the Amazing Ralphie by Pat Cadigan

In deep space, an AI magician is utilized to entertain hospice patients, and during a performance, the patient dies. The caretaker, who already had strikes against them, tries to explain what happened during a review and discovers that the AI saw a situation unfolding and took steps to offer comfort to the dying patient. I didn’t vibe with the narrative- although LeVar offers commentary at the end of the story, I didn’t really get this story.

Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell

A sentient house, not quite a haunted house, aches for new owners. During an open house, it utilizes some powers to convince a father and daughter that it would be the perfect house for them. The house just wants someone to love it and live in it! A charming little story.

John Dillinger and the Blind Magician by Allison M. Dickson

Set in an alternative magical world in 1934, mobster John Dillinger goes to a speakeasy to find a magician to help him escape the feds. Two magicians get roped into the scheme, and of course, there was a double-cross. Meh.

Troll Bridge by Terry Pratchett

Set in author Pratchett’s Discworld (he has written 41 books set there!), this wistful short story includes a grizzled Cohen the Barbarian crossing a troll bridge and how the two old-timers reminisce about times gone by. This is a bittersweet tale, that stands on its own, about lamenting the past and reflecting on how much has changed in one’s lifetime. My husband and I recently had a conversation about how much has changed since we were children, and how things you take for granted then, are not around as an adult. While set in a fantasy world, this tale is universal and will pull at the heartstrings of adults who can relate.

The Last Truth by AnaMaria Curtis

The winner of LeVar’s first ever short-story contest was this bittersweet tale of how memories define us. Set in an alternative world, Eri is an indentured thief, who is forced to pick locks for her mobster employer. However, locks are opened by revealing memories, that then disappear from their minds, which results in a great cost for the thief. Eri meets a musician on board the ship they are on, and both wish to escape together, but will Eri be Eri any more once she completes the last required lock-picking? As Eri faces an uncertain future, readers will ponder if friendship, music and/or love can reestablish old memories. Will a possibility of good new memories renew her?

Afterlife by Stephen King

I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s short stories, so I read this story before in his collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, but as with other short stories that I have read before listening to on the podcast, LeVar can put an interesting twist on it. In this story, a man who recently died of cancer is given a chance to relive his life again, hoping to correct the wrongs he committed. But we find out he has done so numerous times, with no change, even to the atrocious sin he committed while in college. A disquieting tale, but I expect no less from King.

My favorites this season were Different People and Troll Bridge. I enjoyed listening to the winning entry, The Last Truth, from LeVar’s contest and hope he does one again. So, in the meantime I suggest you check out his podcast if you haven’t already, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”

-Nancy

Wastelanders: Hawkeye podcast

“Thirty years ago, the villains of the world rose up and killed all the heroes. Well, all the heroes that mattered. The sole survivor of the Avengers, Hawkeye is now a sideshow freak, re-living the worst day of his life for paying audiences. When the Brotherhood Traveling Circus, Carnival and Ringmaster’s Road Show arrives at the Kingdom, Hawkeye gets an unexpected visitor.”

This is the second season in a podcast series about an apocalyptic world that started off with Star-Lord, and will also include Black Widow and Wolverine. Will these scattered heroes be able to find one another and rise up against the villains who took over the world?

Star Attraction

We are introduced to a new section of the Wastelanders world in the southwest, this time in the kingdom ruled by Zemo. Improbably, we discover a blinded Hawkeye (Clint) is the star attraction in a traveling circus, which makes him relive the day that the heroes fell to the villains, leaving him the only Avenger left. The smarmy ringmaster’s narration gives us background on the last few decades, and an edgy teenage girl watches the show in disgust. In the concluding minutes of the episode, we learn her name is Ash and she is the estranged daughter of Hawkeye. After finding him, she asks her poppa if he will help her kill someone for revenge.

Cards Up

Ash explains why she has sought her father out after ten years apart, she wants vengeance against someone who killed her high school best friend. She has figured out that someone in the circus is selling a drug that is dangerous and led to Max’s death in an explosion. Clint, of course, doesn’t want to help her become a killer, and we get some backstory on why he left her years ago. Details are such that you are not sure if she is adopted, and who her birth mother is.

School’s Out

Clint teaches Ash how to shoot, and baits her, pushing her to the edge, but she proves her mettle. We get a bit of Ash’s past, from her loving adoptive mother Bobbi, formally known as Mockingbird, to her high school life and romance with Max. We also learn a secret about Hawkeye and his long wait for revenge.

Trick Shot

It is revealed who Ash’s biological mother is, and I’m not surprised. She says something enraging to Bobbi, and also clues her into Clint’s hunt for members of the double-crossing Thunderbolts. It was interesting to learn more about the Thunderbolts, a sometimes villain/sometimes hero group that were mutants, and I ended up doing some internet sleuthing to find out more about them.

Leap of Faith

A bit of a filler episode- we get some backstory on some of the other circus performers and for Kate Bishop. Everyone is rude and sarcastic to each other and their banter annoyed me, plus I am not warming to Ash as a petulant teen.

Straight to the Heart

Kate is pissing me off! While she might be Ash’s biological mother, she is not her “real” mom, Bobbi is 100%. Kate just wants to sweep in and have Ash fall into her arms, but that’s not how it works. While she wants to throw Clint under the bus with the morally grey things he does, she is the one who choose Clint and Bobbi to raise Ash, whose full name is Natasha Cassandra Bishop Jones (nice shout out to Natasha Romanoff & Cassandra Lang). There was some food for thought in this episode- as Clint’s thirst for justice and consequences does make him a killer, and he choose that life over raising Ash with his wife Bobbi- yet, I could see the validity of his arguments.

Two Graves

“Seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for yourself” proves true, as Ash discovers someone who she thought dead is alive, and that Clint’s sabotage runs deep. Has he gone too far in his quest for vengeance?

Shot in the Back

Kate and Clint continue to bicker because it is obvious that Clint has something huge planned for the next day when Zemo will be visiting the circus, and Kate hopes to dissuade him. Ash is back after learning what Junior is up to and she continues with being a hot head herself. I hate to say it, but I dislike almost everyone except for Bobbi.

Bullseye

The day has come for the circus performance with Zemo in attendance. Clint is trying to stay the course despite pleas from Bobbi, Kate and Ash to stop, plus details are slipping out of his control. I do appreciate that there are some characters in the circus that are morally grey, who make bad decisions for their own ease but don’t seem like evil people.

Justice is Blind

The ending was predictable- Clint came to realize blind vengeance benefits no one. There is a surprise about Zemo, and a change of leadership occurs. This will now put cracks in the villains’ hold across the former USA, making it easier to overthrow in the future. I thought there would be a lead-in to the next season, but nothing new was revealed in the final end credits.

While I didn’t engage with this season as much as the one about Star-Lord, or some other Marvel podcasts, I am still very much invested in this series and look forward to the next few seasons!

-Nancy

Written by Rachel Chavkin and directed by J. Holtman

Voice Cast:

Stephen Lang as Hawkeye

Sasha Lane as Ash

Michelle Hurd as Bobbi

Tracie Thoms as Kate

Bobby Moreno as Junior

Joe Morton as Ringmaster

LeVar Burton Reads: Season Nine

Season Nine was dominated by speculative fiction that LeVar loves, so he ran a writing contest looking for writers to send in short stories from this genre, with the winner’s entry read next season.

The Bank of Burkina Faso by Ekaterina Sedia

We are all familiar with the scam of a foreign-born prince who needs our help in attaining his funds… but what if were true? In this short story an exiled prince now living in Moscow teams up with the widow of a military general to recover their fortunes from the Bank of Burkina Faso. This magical realism tale weaves together dogs and dreams into a very odd conclusion.

Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot by Robert Olen Butler

In this odd little tale, a husband is reincarnated as a parrot and bought unknowingly by his widow who is now dating the man that the husband had been jealous of. In fact, that jealousy had led to his death and he pines away for his wife, as a lack of communication then and now prevents him from ever being happy with her.

Dark Spaces on the Map by Anjali Sachdeva

A 107-year-old woman is interviewed about her experiences as a form of cultural anthropology and she needs to decide what she is willing to share in this speculative fiction story. Memory becomes subjective when compared to photos and verified documentation, but it also takes away emotional weight from the person remembering the past. Does everything need to be shared especially when it could put someone in a bad light or the facts can be manipulated to fit an agenda? This story was timely, for I recently saw a friend from middle school, and she shared stories that I barely remembered or remembered differently, and it made me really ponder memories and how perspective can adapt a shared experience into different memories of it.

Milagroso by Isabel Yap

Milagroso means “miracle” and that is what Marty is looking for as he returns to his hometown in the Philippines with his family. Marty is a selfish scientist who helps engineer synthetic food and had turned his back on his dying elderly father, only coming back for an annual festival that promises a special phenomenon of real food being transformed from fake food. The miracle occurs and he is torn as to whether he will allow his children to eat the authentic fruit, as he and others are so brainwashed that synthetic food is better.

The Angel of Khan El-Khalili by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in 1912 in an alternative Cairo, this steampunk story is set within the author’s Dead Djinn series. A young woman, burdened with guilt, seeks a miracle from a mechanical angel in the Ministry of Alchemy. But every gift comes with a price, and she must reveal her dark secrets to obtain a gift to help her sister. Ultimately, this is a story about forgiveness and I thought the world-building was strong for such a short tale.

The War of the Wall by Toni Cade Bambara

This story is a refreshing slice-of-life story set during the Vietnam War instead of the speculative fiction that dominates his podcat. In this short story, two youth are dismayed that an artist is creating a mural in their city neighborhood and are worried that she will ruin the wall that so many people congregate near. She doesn’t seem friendly or responsive to other’s overtures, so the boys plan to graffiti the wall. But once back from their trip out to the country to visit family they come back to see the mural beautifully finished and honoring their culture and incorporating their community into it. The story really captured personalities and capably showed how change can be viewed with distrust but can end up being for the best.

You Perfect, Broken Thing by C.L. Clark

In this apocalyptic future, a degenerative disease has taken hold of the population, and medicine is in short supply. Athletes participate in a grueling race to win shots for themselves and their loved ones, but the training also speeds up the disease’s toll on their bodies. One participant pushes her body to the limit for a chance to save her lover and daughter, with a win at all costs mentality, but her sacrifices prove worth it.

The Years of My Birth by Louise Erdrich

This excellent tale is a layered story with a moral dilemma. When a white baby girl is born disabled she is rejected by her mother, who takes home her healthy twin brother instead. Tuffy is adopted by a Native American nurse and raised on a Chippewa reservation. Her new family helps rehabilitate her, leaving her with few signs of her original diagnosis and she knows she is loved. But years after her parent’s death, her biological mother contacts her and wants to meet with her, showing her true colors with an agenda that becomes clear quickly. Tuffy is faced with an unenviable decision regarding her brother and we are left not knowing what happens next, yet knowing Tuffy’s heart, we can guess what she will do despite how reprehensible her twin is.

 Words We Say Instead by Brit E. B. Hvide 

The story started out slow but gained traction, as a veteran space pilot is at a shady spaceship dealership, looking for old technology that has been banned by the government. Turns out years ago, she and other pilots were given AI ships that connected to their brain waves, and these ships became like family to them. When they were ordered to decommission their ships due to potential problems with the technology, she reluctantly complied but has regretted it in the decades since. Now she searches for bits of old technology that she hopes she can reinstall and seeks penance for betraying her AI ship years ago.

Shock of Birth by Cadwell Turnbull

A man who feels that he was switched into another body at a different age and in a different city plus there are details about the world at large that are incorrect, reminded me of the Star Trek: TNG episode The Inner Light. That is praise indeed, as that is one of my favorite ST episodes ever. As there is no proof and no way to switch back even if he convinced others of his new reality, he unhappily continues through life. Only at the end does he start to realize he needs to make the best of his situation and live in a manner that would honor his old life. No matter if we are time travelers or not, the message of blooming where you are planted is a good one! 

Tía Abuela’s Face, Ten Ways by Lisa M. Bradley

Coping with death can be very challenging, as a space anthropologist finds when she arrives back at Earth to find that her beloved great-aunt has died. Chided by some family members at not being there at the end of her aunt’s death, she takes it upon herself to honor her in an extreme way. Set sometime in the future, technology enables her to transform her face into what her Tía looked like. Although she seems sane, I felt this was an incredibly unhealthy way to deal with her grief. My mother and aunt both recently died within five months of one another, and while I miss them terribly and like to wear jewelry of theirs or use some of their household belongings in my own home, what this woman does is disturbing.

On the Lonely Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Best described as a Victorian Gothic with a fantasy twist at the end, the story builds slowly. Balthazar is an ailing young man sent to live seaside along with his companion Judith, as his family is strangely uninvolved. A romance develops between the two, although his health deteriorates and he seems to be dying, but Judith is more aware of his condition than he realizes. This atmospheric short story has a melancholy end, and its conclusion will leave you with questions.

My favorites this season were Dark Spaces on the Map, The Years of My Birth and The War of the Wall. I look forward to hearing the winning entry from the contest next season, so in the meantime I suggest you check out his podcast if you haven’t already, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”

-Nancy

Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord podcast

“In a post-apocalyptic future, Marvel’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord finds Peter Quill and Rocket a little paunchier, a little slower, and a lot saltier than they were during the glory days of the Guardians of the Galaxy. They quickly discover the Earth isn’t what it used to be either when they crash land 30 years after all the world’s super-villains seized control.”

I’ve been very pleased with Marvel podcasts- Wolverine: The Long Night, Wolverine: The Lost Trail, Marvels and Black Widow: Bad Blood. On a whim, I checked if a new podcast was out and was pleased to see that Wastelanders had just started. Not typically a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, I gave it a try because I had felt the same way about the Fantastic Four and still enjoyed Marvels.

Record of a Fallen World

Quill and Rocket are sent to Earth on a mercenary mission, under threat of death to find a sacred object called the Black Vortex, just to find Earth in ruins and controlled by Doctor Doom. An alien-created “skinbot”, nicknamed Cora, accompanies them, and it is through her narration of record-keeping that we find out a lot of background information. This introductory episode gave us a lot of worldbuilding but in a way that didn’t seem like a huge info dump and seems to correlate with the Old Man Logan graphic novel timeline.

The Wastelands

Bickering constantly, Quill and Rocket explore South Dakota’s Badlands and are helped by a local named Red. Past trouble is inferred, but we are in the dark about what happened to the former Guardians of the Galaxy or the fates of their former teammates. At times the actor’s voice are hard to distinguish between Quill and Rocket, as they sound very similar.

Blood Farmer

Red gives them refuge on his farm, where he shares what happened thirty years ago, and how this apocalyptic world came to be. They lay some traps and lay in wait for the local thugs to come looking for them. After defeating them and taking their horses, Quill, Rocket and Cora head into the hills to begin their search for the Black Vortex.

Deer on a Spear

As Quill and Rocket head towards the contact that Red gave them they pick up on a signal for a broadcast that is televising Kraven the Hunter following the very man they were hoping to speak to in a Running Man/ Hunger Games type of scenario. Quill tries to save the man to no avail, and now their contact is gone, and Kraven is on to them. The broadcaster was so wonderfully smarmy, you could really visualize the hunt from his commentary.

Heaven and Hellfire

Although this duo is older, they are none the wiser, and luckily a former X-Men Emma Frost who owns a local bar comes to their aide. But she is keeping her cards close to her vest, so they are unsure if she is there to help or hurt them. I do need to add that Emma’s overuse of the word darling became grating. She sounded like Joan Collins from Dynasty and isn’t how I imagined she’d talk.

Trust Exercise

Splitting up to see if they can obtain the Black Vortex and get their guillotine collars off, nothing goes as planned (of course). But Cora ascertains that Emma is there to help, so there’s that.

Catching Fire

A Quill-centric episode establishes that Emma’s powers are fading as she ages, but she has given Quill and Rocket a window of opportunity after putting Kraven the Hunter out of commission for a few days. Quill thinks he has a lead on where the Black Vortex is located after interviewing the town’s forgotten librarian. Hell yeah- a librarian to the rescue!

Buried

Some backstory on what happened with the Guardians is established showing how Quill is racked with guilt and wants to atone for the deaths of his friends. An ally returns, but so does a foe, so all paths are converging as they try to infiltrate Doom’s compound.

Kraven’s Hunt

In this penultimate episode, Quill and Rocket are moving towards discovering the Black Vortex with Kraven on their heels, in another narrated hunt. Cora and Emma Frost rally their allies that include the Ghost Riders to prevent Kraven from killing the duo. Rocket’s poor health can’t be hidden anymore and he tries to prepare Quill for a future without him.

Dawn and Doom

Sacrifices are made, with a devastating death, but Quill and Emma Frost prevail. So although they have scored a victory, we know it’s not over, as the episode is only half over. There is a surprising double-cross with a new villain emerging, with definite tie-ins to what has happened (or will happen-I’m unclear exactly of the timeline) in Logan’s story. I am left wanting more, but that’s good storytelling, for I will definitely tune into future podcasts.

I started this podcast apprehensively, as I’ve never been a big fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the bickering between Quill and Rocket was annoying to me. Yet, this podcast grew on me so kudos to Benjamin Percy who also wrote the two Wolverine podcasts I enjoyed last year. In fact, I recently read a short story horror collection by Percy, Suicide Woods, that I found excellent. This podcast is supposed to be the lead-in to a new universe set in the Old Man Logan future with Hawkeye, Wolverine, Black Widow and Doctor Doom. I’m excited, as Susan Sarandon will be voicing Black Widow and I can’t wait for that story and how they will all tie-in together!

-Nancy

Written by Benjamin Percy and directed by Kimberly Senior

Voice Cast:

Timothy Busfield as Star-Lord

Chris Elliott as Rocket

Nadine Malouf as Cora 

Patrick Page as Kraven the Hunter

Vanessa Williams as Emma Frost

Danny Glover as Red

Elizabeth Francis as Joanna Forge

Hawkeye, Black Widow, Wolverine, Star-Lord

LeVar Burton Reads: Season Eight

I love being introduced to new authors by LeVar’s podcast, and then serendipitously finding that author in other works and books soon after. This podcast has really expanded my reading boundaries and I look forward to listening to a new story weekly for several months at a time while each season lasts.

Silver Door Diner by Bishop Garrison

A young boy stops in a diner and is taken under the wing of a waitress there. Thinking he is a runaway she tries to get a few answers from him, but the conversation goes sideways when he reveals he is an alien observing Earth before a nuclear war happens and a time loop occurs. Their conversation is sweet and the ending reveals that perhaps there is a chance for Earth after all.

The Takeback Tango by Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse crafted an excellent layered story set in space about a crime heist but also went deeper about the evils of Imperialism and the fight against cultural appropriation. A young woman who survived a slaughter of her people on her home planet, and then later of her adopted family, wants to take back cultural artifacts from the invaders. She meets a young man at the gala she has infiltrated and while it is predictable that he will become an ally (and maybe something more) their banter was delightful. I really enjoyed this short story.

Daddy by Damion Wilson

Daddy, a short speculative fiction story, deftly combined the melancholy of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s with teleportation. The story begins grounded in the reality of a woman whose mother and sister are dead, with her recent divorce and her father’s declining mental capabilities weighing on her. When he starts appearing at locations far away from his assisted living home, she is confused. The fantasy/sci-fi aspect of the conclusion tie in nicely to this well-written tale.

Alluvial Deposits by Percival Everett

Everett is an evocative writer, he makes a town and its inhabitants come alive, so the town itself becomes a character. Robert, a Black hydrologist, needs to take water measurements in a small Utah town but runs across a racist older woman who runs him off her property but not before hurling racist insults at him. There are the required quirky small-town residents at the diner he frequents, and in the end, when he goes back with a sheriff to gain access to the property he has some compassion for the old bigot when he sees what a small life she lives. Healing and reconciliation are the themes of this short story gem.

The Regression Test by Wole Talabi

A regression test “is defined as a type of software testing to confirm that a recent program or code change has not adversely affected existing features”, and in this story, an elderly woman is asked to test some new software that is based on the mind of her mother, who was considered a genius during her lifetime. As she asks this AI some probing questions, she realizes there must be some glitches, and then the story takes a hard turn. Author Wole Talabi is also an engineer, and I like how he combined his skill set with a sci-fi twist.

Flyboys by Tobias Wolff

Flyboys was such a poignant coming-of-age story about the changing nature of friendships. Two boys are creating an elaborate airplane and realize they need a key component that a third boy has in his family barn. The boys head over to the third boy’s house, and the narrator shares that he used to be good friends with this third boy but had recently drifted away from him as he didn’t know how to handle that his friend had some medical problems and that his big brother had died. Instead of being there for his friend, he took the easy way out and befriended the rich boy, but that new friendship wasn’t balanced. The three boys work well together and the first two head back home with the part they need. What will happen next? Will the two let the third into their project and social circle? Or will they remain a twosome, excluding the third, as he was only good for what they could get from him? This story really made me look back at friendships from my youth. There were times I felt left out and discarded, but I also know there were times I did the same to others. Friendships ebb and flow, but a sudden ending of a friendship can be heartbreaking, and this story really brings that message home.

Killer of Kings by Anjali Sachdeva

This fantasy frames the real author John Milton who wrote Paradise Lost, as being inspired by an angel who becomes his muse. The angel inadvertently reveals some doubts about God’s infallibility, which works itself into his writings, and is later replaced by another angel to Milton’s dismay. This short story is solid, but I myself was not moved by it.

An Equal Share of the Bone by Karen Osborne

An Equal Share of the Bone was a melancholy sci-fi short story that grabbed me by my heart and didn’t let go. A trio of space sailors are on the hunt to kill a theriida, a type of space whale, filled with plasm that could make them rich. When they successfully capture one and begin the harvest, things go terribly awry, and hard decisions are made. Greed, loss and regret are capably shown, but a small nugget of hope remains at the end of the tale.

Salt by Rosemary Melchior

Sigga is a teen who has been banished to a penal colony on an icy island because her community declared her a witch when she spoke out against some injustices she witnessed. But her quiet determination hints that she is not to be underestimated as she leaves the relative safety of the penal settlement and heads northward towards her goal. What she is seeking to obtain revenge against those who wronged her was the perfect twist in this evocative story.

Getaway by Nicole Kornher-Stace

In this Groundhog-inspired tale, a heist goes very wrong, and the five women are caught in a never-ending time loop. The getaway driver tries hundreds of different scenarios but the outcome is always the same. But slowly as she learns from her mistakes, she realizes the loop is expanding to include more time, so perhaps sometime far in the future she will escape the loop, so she just learns to live with what she is given in the here and now.

Vaccine Season by Hannu Rajaniemi

A young boy visits his estranged grandfather in this speculative fiction tale, in hopes of giving him a vaccine that would help him in the post-pandemic world. His grandfather resists and shares some poignant back-story to explain why. In a moment of danger, the grandfather has to make a split-second decision in regards to his grandson. While it had a hopeful and thought-provoking ending, I did feel a choice was forced upon him unfairly.

St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk

A sapphic love story about a teen who finds out that the magic she uses to help her girlfriend comes at a cost. The tale has fairy-tale underpinnings as Theresa Anne was given to her mother as a first-born price paid by some anonymous couple who wanted some wish granted, similar to Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. She and her mother are witches aided by magical bees with sacrifices and destiny tied up into this melancholy short story.

This was an enjoyable season with Flyboys, Salt, and The Takeback Tango being my favorites stories. Try listening to the podcast yourself, “but you don’t have to take my word for it”. Plus, now that the season is over, give LeVar what he wants- the Jeopardy hosting gig!

-Nancy

Marvels podcast

“Based on the graphic novel by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross Marvels takes place in the aftermath of the Fantastic Four’s battle with Galactus, high above New York City, for the fate of the world. One intrepid photographer, an ambitious college student, and a cynical journalist embark on an investigation to confirm or debunk one of the most super-powered conspiracy theories of all time”

I was a big fan of the Wolverine podcasts, The Long Night and The Lost Trail, so I aimed to listen to another podcast, this time about the Fantastic Four (although I’m not a fan of them, esp Reed). This podcast gives the perspective of everyday people living in a world populated with superheroes, villains and mutants. We see the world through their eyes as they try to make sense of the incredible things happening around them. *Some spoilers ahead*

Galactus Cometh

Set in NYC in the 60s, reporters Phil Sheldon and Ben Urich witness the villain Galactus fight the Fantastic Four which brings down ruin and chaos on the city. Each chapter opens with snippets of radio broadcasts that are an effective way to convey background knowledge. 

Retribution

Although the battle could be the story of the century, photographer Phil rushes back home to be with his wife and daughters, feeling his priority is with them in what could be their last hours. Although Galactus is later defeated, he doesn’t regret his choice although it hurts him professionally.

Truth & Consequences

Ben tries to help an elderly woman to safety amidst the rubble of the city when Galactus suddenly disappears. Did the Fantastic Four defeat him? Was it an illusion? Jonah Jameson, the editor of the Daily Bugle newspaper, believes it was all a hoax and public opinion seems to agree. Ben and Phil want the truth, for the clues don’t add up. 

Monsters

Phil and Ben along with Marcia Hardesty, a budding college journalist, interview Ben Grimm aka The Thing, about the day of the invasion. He seems to be toeing the party line in what he shares, but an overheard conversation that he later has with his girlfriend Alicia seems to poke some holes in the hoax theory.  Aside- it was cool earlier in the podcast to hear Grimm’s trademark “It’s clobbering time!” during audio of the fight overhead in NYC. 

Warheads

Marcia recounts the protest against mutants (X-Men) she attended on her campus led by Senator Byrd that devolved into anarchy right as Galcutus invaded Earth. Anti-mutant sentiment is high, and she counsels a good friend of hers, Gary, not to reveal his fire-making abilities. But he wishes to stand with his fellow mutants and tragedy befalls him as the crowd erupts in violence. That the protestors wanted to send mutants to serve in the Vietnam War as “warheads”- weaponizing their powers for evil and avoiding the draft themselves was heartbreaking. 

Interference

The trio of journalists, Phil, Ben and Marcia (plus Peter Parker tags along) separately interview Sue Richards and her brother Johnny the Human Torch about what happened between them and the fight with Galactus. They too don’t know where Reed was for some time. Sue’s statement “Genius is best left alone” could prove prophetic.

I Feel Fine

Our intrepid journalists visit high school student Charlie Martinez, a genius who is a protegee of Richard Reed. One of her experiments that manipulates reality in large ways might have been used by Reed without her authorization. She feels he would be too moral to do so, but the other three disagree. 

Limits

Phil and Ben have the opportunity to interview Dr. Richards and his arrogance reinforces my distaste for him. He has Godlike illusions about his part in the battle and seems to reinforce the hoax theory because mere humans couldn’t comprehend his true intentions. Did he use Charlie’s “ignifier” (not sure I’m spelling that right)?

The Herald

Phil, Ben and Marcia get a chance to interview the Silver Surfer, who used to be in league with Galactus and would herald his arrival on planets that were to be destroyed. But he broke with Galcutus on Earth and turned against him helping the F4 defeat him. Earthbound for now, genius Charle helps him be able to speak, as his communication wavelengths had been compromised. Aside- The Silver Surfer has been largely absent from the Marvel universe movies, except for the 2007 Fantastic Four movie sequel. I’m surprised he hasn’t been utilized in the Avenger movies. 

Eyes Open

The truth is revealed to the public by Dr. Reed at a rally held by Senator Byrd. Reed reveals he made a deal with Byrd as to prevent more anti-mutant violence and thus took the blame for the attack. While Reed came off as the good guy at the end, I still think he’s a prick. Marcia gives a heartfelt speech about her boyfriend Gary and the journalists are redeemed. Phil thoughtfully shares about how even heroes are flawed, and yet everyday people can be heroes too, or as he calls them Marvels. Make sure you stick around for the credits, for as Marvel movies do, there is a major reveal at the end, that could lead to the next story/podcast!

While not as good as the Wolverine podcasts, Marvels was very worthwhile and I already have the graphic novel that this story is based off on reserve. I liked the different perspectives of everyday citizens and how they deal with all the chaos that results from living in the Marvel universe! 

-Nancy

Voice Cast: 

Seth Barrish as Phil Sheldon                                                                                                  

Anna Sophia Robb as Marcia Hardesty                                                                                          

Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith as Ben Urich                                                                                   

Ethan Peck as Reed Richards (he plays a young Spock on Star Trek: Discovery!!!)

Gabriella Ortega as Charlie Martinez

Jake Hart as Ben Grimm

Louisa Krause as Sue Storm Richards 

Ehad Berisha as Johnny Storm

Teo Rapp-Olson as Peter Parker 

Daniel Molina as Silver Surfer 

Karl Kenzler as Senator Byrd 

 

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