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.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Scorpion King 3:The Battle for Redemption






It's 2012 and we have another Scorpion King movie and we are now on a third actor playing the Scorpion King - Victor Webster.

Webster most natby had been in Mutant X and Continium He's fine in the role not as muscular as The Rock but he can hadle himself in the fights.

This movie is a sequel to the First movie (so for those following on the chronology goes Scorpion King 2, The Scorpion King, The Scorpion King 3, The Mummy Returns prologue.)

The kingdom Mathius gained in the first movie has falled and Casandra has died,  we see Cassandra as Matthius remembers his wife and it's shots of Kelly Hu from the first movie.

Matthius has returned to being a mercenary and is hired by King Horus (Ron Pearlman).  Horus is facing rebellion from his brother Talus (Billy Zane).  Horus has sent the Book of The Dead to his ally King Ramusen (Temeura Morrison) and Talus is attacking Ramusen to get the book.

Matthius is sent with a Teutonic warrior Olaf,  the pair make a good team. 

There's a good plot were we discover that the book can release Warriors and they challenge Mathius and Olaf in a battle.

There is a suggestion that The Scorpion King is a legend.

The movie is enjoyable and ends with Mathius getting a new wife and kingdom.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Mummy Chronicles 4:Flight of the Phoenix by David Wolverton

The fourth and final book in the Mummy Chronicles YA series.  Alex O'Connell is again at the centre of this book and Ardeth Bay has taken him for some more Medjai training.

It turns out that a Phoenix egg as alledgedly turned up and the Medjai decide to send out three recruits to investigate.  (great plan guys)

And Alex discovers that his friends Rachel and Matt have followed him.

So Alex has to protect his friends without telling them exactly what is going on while competing against one of the other Medjai recruits.

To make matters worse, as they catch up with the traders who have the egg, they are attacked by slavers and robbers who steal the egg and capture Rachel.

The assault on the brigand's hideout is quite interesting.

Now that I've finished these books, the animated series, the movies, the novelisations, and  the comics. (OK I have three Scorpion King movies left)  The Mummy series as a whole is enjoyable. 

In many ways The Mummy Chronicles and the Animated Series  cover a lot of the same ground.  Both focus on Alex, and his Medjai training  both take the series in exploring other supernatural beings outside of Mummies (something the Scorpion King does too). 

Surprisingly, they work chronologically,  the first Chronicles book is set in 1937 and according to the Mummy Annual the Animated series is set in 1938.

I wish Wolverton did more books and let the O'Connell family work together more.  I like Rick and Evie (and Jonathon) .  Those are the characters we met in the first Mummy,  I get it Alex is the stand in for the audience in these younger skewing formats but those original characters are who we fell in love with.

(I wish they made the fourth movie with an Aztec Mummy, that got bumped in favour of the Dark Universe.)