Saturday, May 05, 2012

2012, Part 5

Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories by various. This graphic novel collects stories from three Valve games: Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2. "The Sacrifice" shows the backgrounds of the four main characters in Left 4 Dead, and how one of them sacrifices their life so that the others can board a ship and travel to the Caribbean to live safely on the islands there. It shows how the plague of zombies started, and how these four people are unaffected by it, while others are not. The Team Fortress 2 comics collect the WAR! Update comic, where the Administrator discovers that the BLU team Soldier and the RED team Demoman have become friends, and seeks to break them up and make them enemies. "Mac" shows the RED team Soldier, Scout and Heavy visiting a Mac store, and how much better the Mac products are than the ones Saxton Hale provides. Then Hale shows up and tries to buy the company after seeing the iBlewUptheMoon product. Loose Cannon details how and why the war between the two teams started, and Meet the Director shows how the "Meet the" videos were made and by whom. Finally, the Portal 2 Story, "Lab Rat" bridges the gap between the end of the original Portal game and the new Portal 2 game by introducing Doug Rattman, aka, the Rat Man, who watches the events of the original Portal and who helps Chell survive being put in cold sleep, as well as creating "Rat Holes" in the Aperture building for players to find in the game. I enjoyed each comic, even though I haven't played Left 4 Dead or Portal/Portal 2, but each story and comic was powerful and well-told. The Team Fortress 2 comics were more comedic and less serious (though quite bloody, given the nature of the game) and I enjoyed each story. I liked how the characters in "The Sacrifice" were not all good people, but even Francis, the thief and conman, supports the others in order to stay alive. This is a great graphic novel, very huge in both size and length (you might even say it is "Heavy Weapons Guy"-sized). Highly recommended.

The Legion of Superheroes: The Curse by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen collect stories from after "The Great Darkness Saga". As Princess Projectra and Karate Kid prepare to get married on Orando, Element Lad and his lover, Science Police Officer Shvaugn Erin, discover that one of the Legionnaires is not who they seem to be. As they go out of their way to discover the facts to convince the other Legionnaires of the truth, Brainiac 5 must help the brother of Ferro Lad find peace, the White Witch must help mystics overcome Mordru, who is making a comeback, Chameleon Boy must escort his father, R.J. Brande, to their home planet to return their lost powers, and deal with the shamans who want to force them to remain, a bunch of Legionnaires thrown backwards in time must deal with a group of Durlans posing as Greek Gods on ancient earth, and find their way back home, and then, the Legion must recover their member who has been replaced and discover why they were abducted. But will their missing member ever really be the same after what has happened to them? I love The Legion of Superheroes. It's so big that most characters never actually all fight together- they tend to split up into groups of five or six characters to take on a plot (the Great Darkness Saga being one major exception, and even then, the characters were fighting in separate places as separate groups). So it was nice to see these stories collected into a single, very hefty volume- the unifying story being about the missing Legionnaire and what happened to them, along with a bit of aftermath (and no, the character is not the same after their abduction and torture). I may have lost interest in the story after the Reboot and Threeboot, but as long as they keep putting out volumes with the old, classic stories, I will keep buying and re-reading. Well worth the money and highly recommended.

Fables: Witches by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leiajoha, David Lapham, Jim Fern, Andrew Pepoy, and Craig Hamilton picks up where the last volume left off. The Fables have been forced to flee their Home in New York by the arrival of Mister Dark, and have taken refuge at the farm, upstate. Mister Dark has the ability to kill with a gesture, and when he eats the teeth of the deceased, he can revive them as creatures under his control. The book opens with the story of how Baba Yaga and Mister Dark were trapped. Baba Yaga and a Djinn are loose in the mayor's office, and only Buffkin, the winged monkey, is there to defeat them, along with the wooden heads from the former empire soldiers. But can he do it on his own? Frau Totenkinder returns to the Fable world to puzzle out the secrets of Mr. Dark, and in her absence, the Witches left among the Fables elect Osma to lead them. But Geppetto also wants to lead the Fables, and he is willing to do anything to be in control. After an assassination attempt leaves him imprisoned under the earth, can he win free and take power? And back in the lands controlled by King Flycatcher, a baseball game leads to a murder, and Fly is forced to make the decision of whether or not to kill one of his subjects in punishment for the crime. Will he be forced to choose punishment or mercy, either of which will send one part of his subjects into rebellion? Another excellent Fables volume. I am still not sure of the nature of Mr. Dark, and which Fable he comes from, but the separate stories were interesting and well-done in both story and art. I also liked seeing how Fly, a very noble and good King, dealt with his case of capital justice, how he overcame his curse, and how he found a woman to be his Queen. Highly recommended as a volume and a series.

Batman, Incorporated by Grant Morrison, Yannick Paquette, Chris Burnham, Michael Lacombe, Scott Clark, Cameron Stewart and Dave Beaty has Batman and Bruce Wayne going around the world to recruit new people to be Batman in their respective cities and countries, from Mr. Unknown in Japan (actually two men- an older detective and a younger man to do the fighting and legwork) to El Gaucho in Argentina, Man of Bats and Red Eagle in South Dakota, and others, Batman recruits new fighters to his team and attempts to uncover a global conspiracy to bring down the world by a senile former villain named Dr. Dedalus. Does Dr. Daedalus even live any longer, and is his senility a truth or a lie? And can Batman and his allies fight against the agents of Dr. Daedalus, like Papaguayo, and ensure that his scheme to destroy the world goes down in flames? And who or what is Leviathan, and who is in charge? Can Batman find out and overcome his foe before he, himself, is defeated? This was an interesting book and an interesting series. Batman is attempting to keep more people safe, and protecting his identity everywhere by recruiting Batmen from around the world to be his proxies. This will generate so many conspiracy theories about who Batman really is that his real identity will never be discovered or gain credence if it is. But this book is really two storylines, one about Dr. Dedalus, and the second about Leviathan. To be honest, the ending, and the identity of Leviathan's real leader was a shock. The book is very entertaining, with interesting characters and team-ups. Recommended.

The United States Constitution adapted by Nadja Baer and Illustrated by Nathan Lueth. This graphic novel explores how and why the US Constitution was written and the personalities behind it, as well as the reasons why each part was written the way it was, and how our government came about. It reveals that the Bill of Rights was written well after the Constitution itself, and how several states wouldn't ratify the Constitution without it. Contained within is the actual language of the Constitution itself, with illustrations showing what the words mean. I liked this book because it shows how fractured the original states were after the Revolutionary War, and why a single government was needed. It also demonstrates how the Constitution is filled with compromises necessary to get two very different sides to agree on issues, like Slave States versus non-slave states or the Small States versus the Large States. There were even sides that were not confined to states, like Monarchists versus Democratic Republicans and Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists. It's an illuminating book that goes beyond just the words of the Constitution to make it interesting. Highly recommended, especially if you are interested in history or the government.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic- Daze of Hate. Knights of Suffering by John Jackson Miller, Bong Dazo, Dustin Weaver and Dan Parsons follows Padawan Zwayne Carrick, now fleeing through the galaxy with a price on his head. But at a meeting thrown by Lord Adasca, Zayne meets up with his former mentor, Lucien, and both are taken Prisoner by Adasca, giving Zayne a chance to question his mentor. His mentor and the other Jedi Masters with him fear Zayne because Zayne no longer fears them, and because he is fated to bring down the Jedi and the return of the Sith. Adasca is having the meeting because he has found a way to weaponize space slugs by attatching hyperdrives to their tails, and letting them eat their way through any ships he sets them on. He is going to sell the slugs to the highest bidder- the Imperials or the Mandalorians. Lucien is there to stop him, but he is going to need Zayne's help to get free and do so. But can Zayne trust Lucien not to kill him, and can Zayne and his friends find a way to do something about the slugs and do something about Adasca before the auction is decided? Then, Zayne leaves for Taris to join the rebellion led by his friend, Gryph, who needs Zayne's help. Zayne was here before and befriended a young woman named Shel. But now Shel believes that Zayne was responsible for the death of her father, and she wants revenge on him, despite the fact that the Mandalorians are beseiging the planet. Can Zayne find out who was behind the deaths of the other Padawans on Taris and convince Shel that he was innocent of her father's death? Or will the Mandalorians kill everyone in the rebellion and all evidence that could clear Zayne's name? It had been a long time since I read the last Knights of the Old Republic title, and after so long, I found I didn't really care that much about what was happening to Zayne Carrick. But the story drew me back in, and after a while, I was rooting for him again. On the other hand, reading this comic makes it seem like killing off the Jedi in the prequel trilogy wasn't such a bad thing, because some of them are utter bastards. This comic is making me look at the Jedi very, very differently. Recommended.

Midnight Crystal: Book Three of the Dreamlight Trilogy by Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz- The planet of Harmony may have been cut off from the planet Earth long ago, but the Jones and Winters families still exist and have scions there. Adam Winters is the latest one to fall victim to the family curse of the Burning Lamp and he needs a Dreamlight talent to help him or he will die. But as the third link in the chain, there is the one crystal in the lamp that has never been activated, one whose job it is to kill off the Jones family. So when Marlowe Jones rides into his life on her motorcycle, he realizes that she must be the one to help him, and that she stirs him beyond his control on almost every level. But when they become aware that someone or something has changed the energy emanations in the underworld, and the Burning Lamp is needed to recalibrate it. But someone has stolen the lamp, and strange, hot crystals are turning up- ones that can up your power for a time, but at the same time will really mess you up. But will the hot physical relationship between Marlowe and Adam help or hinder them in their quest to discover who and what is warping the energy of the underground? And will they survive a confrontation with the mind behind the problems in the Underworld? I love Jayne Ann Krentz, and i loved this book. It provided a real explanation behind the nightmares that the Winters men experienced from the lamp and why it attracted strong Dreamlight talents to them. But the best part of the story is that the love story is strong and intense, and a joy to read. Highly recommended.

Enchanted No More by Robin D. Owens tells the story of Jindesfarne, or Jenni Mistweaver. One of the last of her family, Jenni is part faery and part human. Her power is to balance the elements in a place to make sure that no one rules. She used to work for the Lightfolk and their presence in the human world, the Eight Corporation, specifically the Elemental Rulers and their mates. But when Jenni's family was slaughtered by Darkfolk when a ritual they were helping with went badly wrong, Jenni ran to the human world, leaving the lightfolk behind. Now, she discovers that the Eight needed her brother, Rothly, for a job and convinced him to do it. But, he has disappeared, and the Eight have sent Jenni's former fiance, Aric Paramon, to convince her to rescue her brother from the mists, and new creatures of the Dark that have appeared, including something called a Shadleech. Jenni, disliking the Eight for using her crippled brother in that way, is desperate to save him, and so reluctantly sgrees. Rothly is trapped between dimensions, but as Jenni works with Aric and the Eight to save him. they become aware of a greater threat to the Eight and the Lightfolk, and the greatest threat comes from within. But can Jenni give up her anger at the Eight long enough to save the Eight, and acknowledge her love for Aric? This is the first book in a new series, called "Mystic Circle". Mystic Circle is a street where everyone who lives there is either a Lightfolk, elf or has some connection to the elves or Lightfolk. And there are plenty of creatures besides elves to play with- Dwarves, Gnomes, elementals, shadleeches, and even Dark Elves- all have their place in this complicated, fascinating world. The tension runs hight, the love story is compelling, and the ending was everything I wanted from the book. Highly recommended.

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