Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly

I don't think I've reviewed any Matthew Reilly on this blog which is something I will have to rectify in the near future.  Let me just say after reading my first Reilly book he immediately leapt into my top ten authors.

I was lucky enough to meet him at the 2014 Supanova and I will be seeing him again at this year's as well as attending his talk at the Brisbane City Hall.

He has two series The Scarecrow series and the Jack West series with several stand alone novels.
The Four Ancient Kingdoms is part of the Jack West Series (although some of his other characters make a guest appearance in this book)  Jack West Jnr is an Australian Soldier with a bent for archaeology.  This is Indiana Jones ramped up to eleven with a team of special forces soldiers racing the world looking for ancient knowledge.  The Four Legendary Kingdoms is the fourth in the series following on from The Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones  and the Five Greatest Warriors.  Reilly has said that this series is counting down to something and I'm now super keen to see where this is going. 

Reilly is such a good writer each of his books is typically four hundred odd pages but they fly by.  I've spoken to other fans and they've all mentioned that they start one of his books and before they know it, it's 2am.  It doesn't feel like there is any padding in the books, yet each book tells an complete story and in the case of Jack West Reilly is able to seed the ideas for future books in an organic way that doesn't feel shoehorned in like some big blockbuster movies I could name **Cough Dawn of Justice***Cough**Iron Man 2**cough.

The story opens with Jack awakening in a world of trouble and we discover that he has been kidnapped to participate in a contest of champions.  There are similarities to his first book Contest which features a similar reluctant participant in a contest but in many ways it's like the final round of American Idol where the contestants sign their audition piece again and we see how much they have grown as an artist.  Similarly we see how much Reilly has grown as a writer  in this book by his utilisation of a similar idea to his first work. 

In the same vein characters from earlier Jack West books reappear and we discover that there is a larger history and back story than we first thought.  Jack is pitted in a series of challenges that explain why certain heroes like Hercules and Gilgamesh have similar stories.

I'd recommend all the Jack West books hell, I'd recommend all the Matthew Reilly books and The Four Legendary Kingdoms is a slam bang action ride and worthwhile reading

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Great Comics Reread: The Twelve

So a few years back one of the local comic shops had a moving sale every back issue $1.  Sweet I say and have a shopping spree.

Part of that haul was Issues 3-8 of The Twelve as well as The Twelve: Spearhead one shot and the zero and half issues.  A little bit of internet research told me that the series had not been finished.  J. Michael Straczynski (writer) had become in demand with Hollywood after the success of the movie Changeling directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie.  The artist Chris Weston (who did Spearhead solo) also moved onto other projects.  The general consensus on the net seemed to be that we'd never see the end of the story then in 2012 the last four issues came out.

 The idea is that twelve characters from the Timely Comics era (and hadn't been seen since) were found in 2008 in a bunker in Germany in cryogenic suspension.  The military tries to make them think it's still the 1940s but the narrator The Phantom Reporter soon sees through that.  In many ways the scene is reminiscent of the end of Captain America: The First Avenger which came out three years later. 

Many of the reviews I read claimed that JMS was trying to do a Watchmen.  I can certainly see the similarities - one of the heroes is murdered at the end of the first issue.  The use of defunct characters (the original plans for Watchmen were just that - the MLJ and later the Charlton characters) and the old Timely characters. Some might even say that JMS later work on Before Watchmen bears this out.    I won't go into the merits of this but Watchmen would certainly appear to be an influence on this comic.

I liked the idea that Marvel was embracing some of their Golden Age heritage - except for Captain America and Sub-Mariner there were few characters that seemed to consistently used in the Marvel Universe.  Some of the Characters only appeared in one or two Golden Age Stories some had more.

I wasn't quite so fond of JMS retconning of the character's histories.  The Fiery Mask's origin is revealed to be completely false  for example completely trampling over the Joe Simon origin.  I though his handling of Rockman's origin was better leaving the reader to decide whether the new origin was true or not.

The Phantom Reporter had three identities Richard Jones, cub reporter, The Phantom Reporter and millionaire Van Elden.  The Van Elden identity is completely ignored. (The millionaire playboy fighting crime trope was a little overused in that time and perhaps made him too similar to Mr. E who was already in the Twelve)

It would have been a big problem but the zero and half issues reprinted several of the Golden Age stories so readers would have had the opportunity to read those stories and see the changers that JMS made.

Another thing that I had an issue with was that Twelve was a way to bring these characters back into the modern Marvel universe yet several of the characters were rendered useless for that purpose.  The delayed ending would not have helped in this regard.  Several were dead or presumed so (The Blue Blade, Dynamic Man, Rockman and The Fiery Mask) others seemed to be operating in secret (The Phantom Reporter, The Black Widow, Master Mind Excello, The Laughing Mask, Electro and The Witness) .  Me E had retired. 

Some like Electro and The Black Widow had new bearers of the name running around but a simple name change like (the original Daredevil now referred to as The Death Defying 'Devil  in new stories)

Overall,  I enjoyed the series.  I liked the idea of bringing back the classic characters and giving them a new life.

The pulp style covers were nice.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Oz Comic Con Report

So on Sunday 20 September 2015, I attended the second ever Brisbane  Oz Comic Con.

Image result for oz comic con

It was a full day, I left home at 7am and didn't get back until after 8pm.

I got down and lined up before the doors opened.  Once the doors opened we flowed in fairly quickly.  Some other cons I've attended that hasn't happened.

Oz Comic Con allows you to buy autograph tokens which is a huge time saver and I was able to slip straight into the Richard Dean Anderson autograph line.  I was glad that I did as that line became massive fairly quick.  I was lined up behind a really nice family and we had a bit of a chat as Mum and Dad tag teamed in and out of the line.  They had a cast photo of Stargate SG1 signed by all the cast members except one Richard Dean Anderson. 

There I was the almost lone MacGyver guy in a sea of Stargate fans. I had taken my copy of the only MacGyver tie in from the 1980's an original novel MacGyver On Ice.  As best I can tell it's set before the TV series.  (The only other Tie In I've found is the recent five issue comic book miniseries.)

Richard Dean Anderson had never seen it before. So I was stoked.  I also mentioned how much I also enjoyed his one season follow up Legend.  It was a steampunk western about a dime novel writer Ernest Pratt essentially living the life of his hero Nicodemus Legend. "So you were the one." He quipped. I shook his hand. 

After that I saw that Mark Sheppard's line had no one in it.  Like a flash I was over there.  Mark's filmography reads like a list of cool genre shows from the last two decades.  Supernatural, The X Files, Charmed, Leverage, the list goes on and on. I grabbed my DVD copy of Soldier of Fortune Inc.  The show was basically an updated version of The A Team.  Mercenaries hired by the government.  In the second season, the name changed to Special Ops Force, Sheppard and a couple of other actors were out replaced by Dennis Rodman.  I quite enjoyed the second season myself but I never saw the first season except for the DVD I'd found with two episodes.  As far I could find that was the only release for the series.

Mark Sheppard was really nice, he made a comment about being nearly hidden on the cover (that's him over on the far left) as he signed it. I commented that I loved his work and shook his hand. 

The first panel of the day I was planning on seeing was at 11 and it was nearly 10 so I decided to have a bit of a wander.  I hit the Dark Oz booth and grabbed a copy of Retro Sci Fi Tales.  This a great anthology title of fun old school Sci fi stories.  If you see a copy I recommend grabbing it. (The companion horror title Decay is pretty good too.)
Image result for Retro Sci Fi Tales

I then got some issues of Birds of Prey signed by Nicola Scott and Greg Rucka signed my copy of Huntress: Cry for Blood.  I then saw Dr Paul Mason and grabbed a sweet print of the new Supergirl for Abbey.

After that I saw Jim Beaver and got him to sign Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting.  He called me an Idjit. (Why? Because I asked him to.)
Image result for bobby singer's guide to hunting

Then I was off to the first panel From Comic to Screen to Comic. Jim Beaver took a little longer than planned so I missed the start but it was interesting to hear the stories of adapting from one medium to another.  Everything I heard from Wolf, Tom and James makes me so keen to see The Deep animated series.  And the Fury Road tie in comics sound very interesting.

After that it was time for lunch and some more shopping before heading back to stage 3 for more panels.  I took the opportunity to grab a couple of Gesalt books Unmasked and Wasteland Panda.  I briefly spoke with Wolf mentioned how much I enjoyed the documentary Comic Book Heroes and got him to sign my copy of Wasteland Panda.
Image result for Wastelander Panda ComicImage result for unmasked comic Gestalt

Dean Rankine, Dr Paul Mason, Kylie Chan, Queenie Chan and Doug Holgate talked about the realities of publishing.  Very few people in Australia (and around the world) make enough from their art be it writing or drawing or other.  The need to have a second career.  Dean made a point that he would like to be JK Rowling and it's true we look to the outliers, the ones who got the million dollar advances.  I know I'm probably never going to make a lot of money from writing but I have stories I want to tell which is the same for everyone else on the panel.  It was sobering and Paul, I think, jokingly referred to it as the kill your dreams panel.

After that I quickly popped down to Dean Rankine's booth and grabbed The Itty Bitty Bunnies save Christmas.  This book is just the right level of messed up.

The rest of the day was filled with panels.

Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott's Black Magick panel was interesting and the presentation got me really excited to read this new comic.  Greg Rucka described it as "Witch Noir" which sounds intriguing and Nicola Scott's grey washed style makes this a must get for me.

Next was the Scrubs panel with Sam Lloyd and Rob Maschio.  While the pair did answer the questions asked there was a lot of joking around and by the end of the panel it was standing room only. 

That ended my time on stage three.  I must say that Amanda Bacchi and her volunteers did an amazing keeping things moving and making the panels enjoyable and interesting.

Next I was up to stage one to see Richard Dean Anderson.  Man he is funny and irreverent.  I think Jack O'Neil is probably closer to the real Richard Dean Anderson that Angus MacGyver.  There were alot of questions asking him to pick his favourite thing - favourite line, favourite cast mate, favourite show etc.  But there were some funny stories like the time his brother tried the egg to fix a radiator trick that MacGyver did in one episode.  It didn't work for the Anderson brothers but they did enjoy the scrambled eggs. Or the last time he came to Australia there was a water leak on the plane and it had to turn around.  The next morning on the new plane, the pilot saw RDA and said had he known MacGyver was on board he would have kept flying and gotten MacGyver to fix it as they flew.

Lovely stuff.

Next was the Kevin Smith panel.  I've enjoyed Kevin's movies over the years.  Clerks, Mallrats, Jersey Girl, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II are all enjoyable films and I'd heard that he is really funny.

I wasn't disappointed, he went over time but it didn't feel long.  Stories of film financing blended into stories about Johnny Depp and making a stupid walrus movie.

I liked the message at end about as long as you're not hurting anyone have a go at your dreams.

While a long day it was a fun and enjoyable day.