Monday, November 4, 2019

The Super Australians (2019) edited and conceived Chris Sequeira


Where to start? This book is a cleverly themed anthology to create an Australian super team ala Justice League or the Avengers. Chris’ idea harkens back to the classic Justice Society books – where the heroes get to together and recount their separate adventures with Wonder Woman as secretary.

I am certainly not aware of every Australian comic but most that I’m aware of are single character books – The Phantom Ranger, Crimson Comet, etc. I can only think of two or three team books Forerunners, that had a single title in the 90s, Southern Squadron from the 80s and 90s and the current revival of the characters of Cyclone Comics as Cyclone Force. (we’ll talk about Cyclone a little later) The story has 12 chapters with an prologue, interlude and epilogue written by Sequeira and drawn by Adam Yusoff with a character named Epoch. We don’t learn much about Epoch but he seems bent on dominating humanity. He sends out 12 energy lances in the prologue. It’s good premise to build the book around – the energy lances connect the tales.

Our first story is Paul Mason and Amanda Bacchi’s The Soldier Legacy story “...A Rock and a Hard Place”. The Solider Legacy is Paul’s original character and has appeared in several issues of his own title and in a couple of anthologies. Not surprisingly The Soldier Legacy is a legacy character with a focus on the latest bearer of the name and a parallel story with his ancestor in World War 2. This story opens in WW2 with that Solider Legacy going to the rescue of several soldiers trapped by Japanese masks. The present story has the current Soldier Legacy fighting against a right wing domestic terrorist group lead by The Gold Ghost. Each page alternates between the two stories with a speech by the golden age Soldier Legacy running over the current story and a lovely splash page of the World War 2 Soldier Legacy punching out Japanese troops on one side paired with the present day punching out The Gold Ghost. The story ends in the present day with the bad guys arrested and the police seizing one of the energy lances. I love Solider Legacy and I’m mates with both Paul and Amanda. I liked this story and wished it had of been longer. The Gold Ghost could make a fascinating villain for The Soldier Legacy – if the Soldier Legacy represents the best of Australia, the Gold Ghost could be a dark reflection of him. There are any number of incidents throughout Australian history that show the worst of Australia. The Lambing Flat massacre of Chinese miners during the Australian Gold Rush could be the beginning to the negative legacy of the Gold Ghost.

The second story “Djiniri” by Julie Ditrich and Marcello Baez. Djiniri is a new character, An ancient being “1200 years from home” her prison, what appears to be a jewellery box, is opened and she is released. There is a hint that this may be the effects of Epoch’s energy lance or it may be the presence of a ghoul or Ghul. Julie and I both had stories in “Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not” and had met at Melbourne Supanova promoting that book. I liked this story and how Julie weaved some of the mythology of genies and ghouls into the story. Baez does a really good job on the art. I am very curious how her prison jewellery box got from Arabia to the Pinnacles in Western Australia.

The next story Soundstrike, written by Komala Singh and art by Michel Gerencir features the titular character the child of a human and an insectoid alien. This gives him very sensitive hearing and “some sort of space magic”. I really liked his costume it had a real Power Ranger/Beetleborg vibe to it. The villain of the story is a collection of nanobots that calls itself Nan-a. Interestingly Nan-a communicates with Epoch. Singh really drops a lot of information and gives several hints to what is happening in this story. I really want to see where is goes.

Lyrebird is next. Written by Chris Sequeira and art by W. Chew Chan. Lyrebird had previously appeared in the Lyrebird Special way back in the nineties (you know I’m certain I’ve read a Lyrebird story before but I cannot find where it was) This is an interesting story and Chris has picked an Australian territory that I, and most likely other people, had no idea about the sub cable protection zone, which is Australian waters around the internet cable under the sea. The story is set during an upgrade to the cable and the superpowered mercenary Dynamica Tungsten is on site providing protection. But not as it seems and the Lyrebird mentions that Sonex technology has some bad side effects. There’s a fight and Tungsten is revealed to be murderer. Another solid story that makes me want to try to track down the Lyrebird special and find out more.

The Australian Antarctic Territory is the setting for the next story featuring Aethyric Man. Aethryic Man is tracking his brother Mister Erebus and we come in the middle of the story. Mister Erebus has attacked Mawson station and killed several of the dogs and one of the researchers when the story opens. Aethyric Man is talking to the Mawson staff and tells them that Mr Erebus isn’t evil just on a different level of humanity. Aethryic Man tracks his brother, there’s what I think is a one panel flashback, the brother’s fight. Mr Erebus goes “Oh my God brother you were right.” And the fight ends. There’s a bit at the end where we discover that Mr Erebus has one of Epoch’s lances. This is probably the weakest of the stories in the collection. Jules Farber’s style is radically different to the other artists and feels closer to Garfield than Superman. It’s not bad per se but it has a different feel to it which took me out of the story. Bruce Mutard’s script didn’t help me either. In the story itself we never find out Aethryic Man’s name – not his secret identity but that he is called Aethryic Man. I had to look at the index. I have no idea why he has a giant yellow Y on his costume. This story didn’t let me in and give me something to latch onto. With the other stories when they raised questions I wanted to know the answers this one didn’t.

Next is Princess in “Beauty is a Beast.” Written by Jason Franks and art by J. Scherpenhuizen. This one opens with a press conference with Lisa Mambray CEO of the Mambray group opening a new facility when superpowered eco terrorist Brother Nature attacks. We discover that Lisa has a Hulk like alter-ego Princess. They fight and in the confusion one of Mambray’s security grabs Epoch’s rods. I’d definitely be curious to see more about how Lisa and Brother Nature got their powers.

The seventh story is Rogue Host written by Jonathon Saunders and art by Ana Maria Mendez Salgado. The idea is that our hero Christopher Stevens was accidentally given a military parasite. He believes his girlfriend has been attacked and he tries to save her. I’d be interested to see where this one goes, Saunders gives us enough background to let us know what is going on. Salgado’s art is very stylised but I liked it.

Dragonblade by Ian Gould and Christian Roux, was probably one of my favourite stories in this collection. It introduces the heroic Dragonblade and the villainous Stonefish with quick origins and gets right to the battle. The characters are quite funny. Would love to see more of these characters.

Next up is Longcoat written by Gregory Stewart and art by Matt Lin. Longcoat appears to be a werewolf or something similar and he works with ASIS which appears to have an “X Files” type of team where he works with Agent Cullinjarra on what appears to be a freelance basis. Epoch’s powerlance has gained the attention of the Darragan, demonic type creatures. I liked this story Stewart dishes enough to make speculate about Longcoat and his history and Lin’s art has a nice roughness to it.

Cosmosia by Naomi Hatchman and art by Queenie Chan. This feels like it’s set, say, fifty years in the future with a manned Australian geosynchronous satellite. Cosmosia is a robot on the station and she battles a hacker named Cryptus who is using Epoch’s rod to hack the satellite. The futuristic setting threw me a little but there is nothing to say all these stories take place now. Ultimately I liked this story.

Gary Chaloner’s The Jackaroo gets a story written by Cefn Ridout and art by J. Scherpenhuizen. The Jackaroo was a character who has been around since the 1980s and he’s a jackaroo who wears a mask and fights crime. I was so excited to see a new Jackaroo adventure and it’s an older Jackaroo taking his son, Jake, to MONA in Hobart. Epoch’s rod creates a new villain Kai Mera who sucks the life force out of people. I especially liked the line after Jake has stolen the staff Kai Mera says “Return it or I will drain your father’s life.” Jake’s report “Na, me Mum’s beaten you to it.” Just had me laughing. Top stuff this. Reminds me to get more classic Jackaroo stories.

Which brings us to the last story “The Public Servant” written by Karen Beilharz and art by Anthony Calvert. I quite liked Calvert’s art on this but the story had me a little lost as a nameless Canberra public servant of Asian heritage tackles a racist politician named Natter. Natter has one of Epoch’s power rods and it turns him into a lizard person called Vox Populist while the Public Servant becomes a giant glowing energy being . it’s implied in the text that the rod affected her to make her grow but the art doesn’t reflect that.

 Overall, I think this was a winner of an anthology with a couple of stories I wasn’t feeling. Look every anthology is going to have stories that may not work for you. There are 12 distinct art styles in this book and to have only one that I didn’t really like was pretty impressive. If I had one complaint each of the stories were too short I wanted more. I think some of the stories would have benefited from some more space, most I was being greedy and I wanted more. I’m keen to see where Super Australians 2 may go. Epoch was making villainous noises at the end of the book. Could we see the heroes interact with each other? (The Soldier Legacy and The Jackaroo, pretty please with a cherry on top). A villain swap maybe? A villain team up? Brother Nature and Stonefish had similar agendas.   


Monday, October 7, 2019

Girl Factory #3 The Man Made Woman by Robert Franklin Murphy

So I have previously reviewed Book ! and Book 2 in this series.

Back when I was researching book series for Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction (avaialbel from Amazon as hard copy and e-book)  a decade ago, part of my goal to to provide complete series lists for Serial Vigilante series.  Finding these lists not as easy as you would think.  The books would sometimes have ads  and series lists in either the front or the back of the books but they weren't complete.  Making things ever more difficult is that different editons ( such as the United Kingdom) may changed the series order or give the book  a new title .

There are very few reference books to help and the internet wasn't always as helpful.  One of the reference books that was invaluable to me was John E Simkin's The Whole Story:  3000 years of Sequels and Sequences.  But it wasn't perfect.  It listed The Girl Factory series as 2 books 1 The Girl Factory (The Man Made Woman) and 2 King's Mate.

I had the British edition of book 1 The Girl Factory and presumed that the American editorn was called The Man-Made Woman.  All good.  I also had the UK edition for King's Mate.I couldn't find anything to contradict that on line or anywhere else.  So I figured I had the complete series.

In 2014., I post the review for The Girl Factory, I get a comment from Tom Johnson asking about The Man Made Woman.

I decide to double check, as I joke if it's not on the internet come back in six months,  and I find the entry for Su-Lin Kelly on the Spy Guys and Glas website and The Man Made Woman is the third book in the series.  So off I go questing to find the thrd book.  Finally I find a copy for sale this year and it is reasonably priced.

I admit I had a couple of reservations about this book.  The first book revealed that Su-Lin was a clone.  The second has Su-Lin die and be cloned again.  my worry was that the cloning would be a major part of the series.

The cover did not ecourge me:


With Six different Su-Lin Kellys on the cover 

 The back cover blurb seemed to indicate that this was the case

Hands Off!  What do you do if you're a man an women just won't stop chasing you? If they just can't keep their hands off you? Give in? Or try to kill them off, one by one , after savouring each first?  DO you plunge your knife in, shoot your gun, prick tehm with a poison tip, or blow them up? And what do you do when you end up with as many as you started with? Do you accept it and say you're irresistable, they keep coming back for more? Or do you admit you have problem - one so big no single man or government can get a hold on it? What do you do when you are dealing science's greatest creation since man .. the clone, the bionic - the man- made woman."

Umm, I'm not sure what book the copy writer read becasue that is nothing like the actual book.  I have to admit that I am intrigued by that book.  (just for the record Su-Lin is not bionic)

No this book has a villian with trained sex snakes who act as his bodyguard. I repeat SEX SNAKES.

The story revolves around teh Chinese annexation of Tibet, where the Shan-Tal closter is located.  The Chinese are finding that parts of Tbet are not as easy to take over as they thought.  The villiage of Lhatse has the Dham D'hab Lama and is a hold out against Chinese rule.  Lhatse is close to the Shan Tal Cloister and allows the clositer to remain independant.

Wu Cho acting on behalf of the Chinese government is trying to kidnap or kill the Dham D'hab.  Wu Cho has the bodyguard sex snakes,  He is assisted by a beautiful woman.

American intellegence, in a leap of deduction, figure that Su-Lin Kelly is a beautiful woman who comes from Tibet so she must be helping Wu Cho even though she has worked for America in the past.  The secret intellenge agency The Nest, who have wored with Su Lin in the past try to presuade them otherwise.

The story then has Su-Lin and her team working to save the Dham D'hab and discover that Cho's female assistant is Le Kahn.   Le Kahn grew up with Su Lin in the Shan Tal Cloister.  And we discover that Le  Kahn is the clone of Su-Lin's sister, who died in the womb when the original Su-Lin and her family were all murdered at the hands of bandits.

I really enjoyed this book - Wu Cho is an interesting villian helping the Chinese for vast sums of money.  Le Kahn makes for a  good match for Su-Lin as the two women know each other so well.

I'm glad that there was another Girl Factory book to read.



Sunday, July 7, 2019

Prodigy (2019) written by Mark Millar art by Rafaael Albuquerque



Mark Millar is a prolific writer, he's written for Marvel and DC before he branched off to his own creator owned studio, Millarworld. 

He created Wanted, that was basis for the Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy movie (okay very thin basis), Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, and Kingsman (or as the comic was known The Secret Service).

I liked those properties both as movies and comics so I keep an eye on Millar stuff - I collected CLINT magazine which printed Kick- Ass 2 and Hit-Girl miniseries as well as The Secret Service and Supercrooks.

As a general rule, I prefer low to no powers in my comic stories (I'm a pulpy guy),  so some of his Millarworld stuff I can take or leave.  

Then I saw a review of issue 1 of Prodigy, the second series from Millarworld after it was bought by Netflix.  The reviewer said that this was Millar riffing on Buckaroo Banzai.  

Millar does Buckaroo Banzai - I'm down for that story.

I read each issue as it came out and finished this the first arc just last week..  I then went back and reread the whole series.  

This series was a blast and a half - Edison Crane the Prodigy of the title is worthy to stand alongside Buckaroo Banzai, Doc Savage, The Destroyer, The Pretender, Sherlock Holmes,  Dillon and the Nekton Family from The Deep.

If you know me at all that's pretty high praise.

Ethan is a genius with a total recall, he owns a business and serves an unofficial troubleshooter. Like Banzai , he's off in a million directions at once - playing 18 simultanious games of chess, writing compositions, planning stunts, written three plays, created a new telecommunication system and a new cling wrap that keeps things fresh for a century. All before breakfast.

He's bored and decides to investigate unusual events in Australia. While there he;s approached by a CIA agent who explains that these events are part of a larger conspiracy.  Crane goes full Sherlock Holmes on her.  making deductions left,  right and centre.

Before you know it Crane and CIA agent Rachel Straks are globehopping looking for an ancient text that might be the key to it all.  

The fitth issues ends with a twist that plays out nicely in the final installment.  I did not see it coming but I feel that Millar didn't play fair with the reader, Crane saw the twist coming because he had knowledge that we, the reader, weren't privvy to.  

But damn if I didn't care because it was worth it see Crane bring down the bad guys.  because he is a dozen steps ahead of our villains - it was almost a reverse Watchmen.  Crane discovers the plot and goes yeah I figured it out thrity five minutes ago and made adjustments to foil your plot.  Oh and here's your handcuffs back.

I can't say more without spoiling it.

Give Prodigy a try if you like Doc Savage or Buckaroo Banzai and I look forward to the inevitable Netflix adaptation.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Australis Incognito: Behind the curtain.

So as promised here's a peak behind the curtain for the story behind the story of Australis Incognito.







Now I'd love to say the whole thing came to me in a one big hit but that's not true.  Some of the ideas had been floating around in my head for some time.  The Rusting Death had been a title that been waiting since the mid 90s when I mistyped the Doc Savage novel The Rustling Death for my book list.



But the story really started on Watchmen's 25th anniversary in around 2011.  Like many fans I wondered how things would have went after the events of Moore and Gibbons' story.  It's a world now without a superman just people in costumes.  Was there a third wave/generation of heroes, did the peace last?  What might a third wave look like?


I let myself imagine.  Silk Spectre II and Nite-Owl II would have kids The Nite Spectre, Silk and Nite-Owl III.  There would be a Rorschach II, the daughter of the original's landlady who believes that Walter Kovacs is her father.  There would be original characters like the Cutlass.

I never wrote anything down and at some point reality set in assuming that DC was going to do anything they wouldn't be hiring me anytime soon (and shorly after we got the Before Watchmen collection of miniseries)

As any Watchmen fan worth their salt knows the story was written with the Charlton characters.  DC looked at the story and realised that it would render their newly acquired characters unusable.  Moore then created new characters who if you squint looked a little like the Charlton Characters,



So I squinted - The third generation Watchmen siblings became The Dingo, Risque and Risk.  Rorschach II became The Question Mark II.  I left the Cutlass alone.  I dropped several characters and created new ones.

One of my new characters was the Aggressor, a veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq and fighting a bloody crusade against organised crime.  Then I found the Cutter series by James Hopwood - and also published by Pro Se Press.  Hopwood did what I was planning and in all honesty did it better.  So I changed tack The Agressor was active in the 1980s and was involved in The Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in the Queensland Government and police force, which worked much better for me.  So James if you read this - Thank you.



Around the same time, I was looking at myself as an Australian new Pulp writer and what I wanted to write.   I discovered a history of Australians creating pulp and pulp adjacent characters and I met several other creators who were crafting new stories in the same vein.

I wanted to write a big Australian pulp story. I had the basis for my story.  I pitched the idea to Pro Se as Oz Pulp.

The good news they liked the idea, the bad - they were not so keen on Oz Pulp.  I wasn't keen on their suggested replacement Aus Pulp.

I sat brainstorming when  I remembered that on old maps Australia was called Terra Australis Incognita - and Australis Incognito was born.  (Several Australian horror anthologies have used Terror Australis)

Australis Incognito became more than the title of the story but the collective name of my heroes and would go back to the settlement of New South Wales in 1788 allowing me to weave a backstory that allowed me to reference several characters I had read about.  It also gave me a reason that these characters all knew each other.

I had the idea for a villian so big that these characters couldn't battle them alone.  I distinctly recall the idea that one of the heroes was suggesting the unknown villian was a Moriarty-type.  The mysterious villian lurking over the skyline of Brisbane on the cover.



Around this time I had been invited to contribute to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Was Not (IFWG, 2019) an anthology that paired Sherlock Holmes with a different doctor instead of Watson.  I selected Dr Nikola, the villian of five novels by Australian writer Guy Boothby that were just as popular as the Sherlock Holmes stories back in the 1890s.  Nikola became a large piece of the this new story and his actions in the past served as a catalyst for this modern day adventure.



I had a great time building a world where modern pulp heroes could operate and link in with other Australian pulp and pulp-adjacant characters.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

AUSTRALIS INCOGNITO now available

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUPER HEROES FLY FROM DOWN UNDER-BRAD MENGEL’S ‘AUSTRALIS INCOGNITO’ DEBUTS
The Land Down Under, a land of crime and adventure.  For over two hundred years, Australia has been guarded by the masked men and mystery women of Australis Incognito.
The Dingo, Risqué, Risk, The Knight Errant, The Cutlass, The Question Mark and the Sai are the latest generation of crime fighters.
Now they are faced with an ancient evil, a mastermind committing impossible crimes.  A mystery villain who threatens to expose their greatest secrets and those of their predecessors. Australia’s heroes…and the world itself may not survive in Author Brad Mengel’s debut novel-AUSTRALIS INCOGNITO, now available from Pro Se Productions.
Featuring a haunting cover and logo design by Jeffrey Hayes and print formatting by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, AUSTRALIS INCOGNITO is available in print at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1074217349/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=australis+incognito&qid=1560997291&s=gateway&sr=8-3 for $9.99.
Mengel’s debut novel is also available as an eBook formatted by Lo Iacono and Marina for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Australis-Incognito-Brad-Mengel-ebook/dp/B07T3WD99Y/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=australis+incognito&qid=1560997378&s=gateway&sr=8-1 for only $2.99. The book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.
For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.
To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.



This has been a long time coming and I'm so pleased to see it finally come to life.  Massive shout out to the team at Pro Se and to Jeffrey Hayes for the awesome cover that exceeded my wildest dreams.

To my Australian mates,  ebook only on Amazon Australia.  Brisbane folks can order a hard copy at Pulp Fiction Book shop.  http://www.pulpfiction.com.au/

I'll post soon about the background for the story and how it came to be in a separate post.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Scorpion King 5: Book of Souls (2018)



So 2016 saw the announcement that Universal was trying again to build a bit of a cinematic universe (look guys you did it in the 40's - just build on that don't reinvent the wheel) called Dark Universe.  First cab of the rank - The Mummy (2017) which effectively canceled the existing Mummy/Scorpion King Franchise and killing a fourth movie with an Aztec Mummy (reportedly played by Antonio Banderis).

Imagine my utter surprise that 2018 had a new direct to DVD Scorpion King movie.  New actor Zach McGowan as The Scorpion King - the fourth in the franchise.

Zach came to Brisbane Supanove in November 2018, when was the movie release? December 2018.  So I couldn't have a copy for him to sign.  What marketing genius thought that was a good idea?

So I finally get the movie.  Matthius is working as a blacksmith in a small village having lost his kingdom and love interest again.  What's that like three now?
(from 1, 3, and 4 although 4 isn't as certain as the other two)  Maybe that's what causes his Mummy Returns heel turn - I'm sick of losing kingdoms)

And that's something that hangs over these movies - is this the one where he snaps?Where we see the start of his descent into villainy?  Because in all five Scorpion King movies, Matthius is pretty heroic.

The movie opens with the creation of The Fang of Anubis, a sword that steals the souls of all it kills.  A warlord Nebserek steals it and lays waste to  country.  He is obessessed with finding the Scorpion King.

The villains make the classic villain mistake - the hero is cheerfully minding his business - he might be on holiday.  The baddies hear he is nearby clearly the hero must be in town to investigate their evil plot, there is no other possibility.  We must attack first.  Our hero who would have cheerfully spent two weeks fishing and gone home is now aware of villainy in the area and he is rather pissed off that his holiday is ruined, someone tried to kill him, possibly that there is someone else died in the attempt. (my favourite version of this is Batman Forever)  Look Mathius would have been happy chilling in his smithy but you had to attack him and kill his friends.

He is left for dead and is rescued by Tala, the daughter of Balathazar (Michael Clarke Duncan) from the first movie and they quest to find the one artefact the Book of Souls that will destroy the Fang and release the souls.

It's an enjoyable movie, McGowan is good in the fights, the villain is suitably threatening making for a good final boss fight.  There's a nice twist on the nature of the book of souls.  There are some interesting new characters including a golem who is scared of fire.  (I kept thinking they were calling him gollum)

With or without McGowan, I'd be down for more Scorpion King movies.  (also I'd down for a definitive timeline )  

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (2015)

Victor Webster returns in this the next Scorpion King movie.  There is an another reference to The Scorpion King being a campfire story, a legend.

The movie opens and Mathius is a mercenary again, there's no reference to the events of the last movie but there is a reference to the first movie.

This movie could take place before three or after (I have to admit that there's part of  me that enjoys the idea that the chronology goes 2,1,4,3) 

I do kinda like the idea that we are getting legends of The Scorpion King each one is a standalone story with the Queens he has met and wooed.  Each adventure begins as a blank slate and Mathius is alone fighting as a mercenary, fighting for  a kingdom and winning over a queen only to start over in the next movie.  Chronology doesn't rellay matter.  Heck if he is immortal (as hinted in 2) then it may be a longer period between movie and he queen has died of old age.

Mathius has been training an apprentice Drazen who in a scene that gives a nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark betrays Mathius. and the ending references Last Crusade
Given Indy's influence on the Mummy movies that should come as no surprize.

There's a big speil that magic isn't real it's all just science except that there is true magic in the finale (and magic is real in the other movies in both this series and The Mummy movies)

It's an enjoyable movie with The Scorpion King fighting his old protege who has framed him for the kiiling of the king and the hunt for a legendary King's crown.
It's a fun romp that's enjoyable as long as you don't take it too serious.