Cover Art: Incarnate by Anton Strout (Ace Books)

Anton Strout is a name that comes up often when I’m moving through urban fantasy blogs at random every few days, looking for new authors to read and new books to try out. And the same goes for social media as well since I’ve seen his name crop up in certain circles every now and then. His Spellmason trilogy sounded interesting, especially since it was still in progress with a third book to come out later this year. Imagine my surprise then, when I was contacted by a publicist friend who was working with Anton and told me that she had a cover reveal to share with me for the third book itself!

Having gone through the covers for all three of the novels, I can definitely say that the cover for the new novel is definitely the best one, and I like the simplicity of the cover. The protagonist Alexandra Belarus is shown off rather nicely, without any sexualisation which is all too rare in the urban fantasy cover industry since most publishers and cover artists conflate urban fantasy with paranormal romance and that bleeds over into this final product. So nice to see that this is not the case with Incarnate, the third book. Given that the book comes out in late September, I now have some motivation to finally start reading this series, which I’ll hopefully be able to do soon. In the meantime, enjoy the cover, and enjoy the giveaway that follows as well!

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Deadpool #27 (Comics Review)

I’ve never really read any Deadpool. There was Deadpool vs Carnage #1 last week, or the week before that, but other than that I don’t recall reading any other comic where Deadpool had a starring role of some degree. Last year’s X-Men: Battle of the Atom obviously doesn’t count since Deadpool had a very, very small role in that event. Anyway, a few months ago Marvel announced that they were going to have Deadpool finally get hitched, that he would be getting married. Deadpool #27 is the issue where that was going to happen and the issue arrived this week.

For all the hype that this issue had, the reality is very different. This issue just doesn’t have the kind of grandiosity that the amazing world-record breaking cover by Scott Koblish and Val Staples has. Then, a lot of the stories in this anthology don’t quite click together, largely because I find Deadpool’s narrative skills and his monologue to be extremely distracting. Is he just that weird of a character or what? Getting into his head is really difficult, especially given how he wanders off into tangents all the time.

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Flash Gordon #1 (Comics Review)

Last year Dynamite Entertainment launched a new team book, Kings Watch, a mini-series that focused on three of the most famous pulp characters ever: The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician. These are all characters that used to feature in various comic strips in newspapers all over the world (the Phantom is still printed in some Indian newspapers I believe), and growing up, I used to love reading about all of their adventures. The Defenders cartoons were also excellent from what I remember and having read the first two issues of Jeff Parker’s Kings Watch, I can definitely say that he captures that essence and fun aspect of the original material quite well.

With Kings Watch now done, Jeff Parker and Dynamite have now launched Flash Gordon, a sequel ongoing series that deals with Flash Gordon himself in the wake of whatever has happened in Kings Watch (I haven’t read the recent three issues unfortunately), and despite my hesitation about not being familiar with the story, I can say that the debut issue exceeded expectations and is a damn good read. And the art, by Evan Shaner, Jordie Bellaire and Simon Bowland, is also quite excellent, helping complete the overall experience.

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Valvrave the Liberator Season 1 Ep 2-4 (Anime Review)

A few days ago I watched the first episode of Valvrave the Liberator, one of the newest anime shows on the mecha anime scene. It started off fairly generic, mimicking the opening of shows like Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED: Destiny but there was always the promise that the show was more, largely because of the epilogue that went with the first episode. As a huge fan of the mecha anime genre, the show didn’t appear to be offering something new but I decided to stick with it because I did enjoy the opening episode. Interesting characters and interesting plot, they both did the trick for me.

Having now seen episodes 2-4 of the first season, I can definitely say that while Valvrave The Liberator is cut from the same cloth as the above-mentioned mecha anime and bears the same tropes as those shows, it also stands on its own. The foundations are a bit rickety since the differences aren’t highlighted as much as they should, but it is developing into a fairly fun show that keeps you interested and coming back for more as soon as you are done with an episode. That’s the best kind of anime out there that is.

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Captain Marvel #2 (Comics Review)

Last month Marvel relaunched its Captain Marvel series following the cancellation of the previous series and it marked an important change in direction for Carol Danvers, who had left her identity as Ms. Marvel behind to step into the shoes of the alien hero she had taken her name from, Captain Marvel. While the series enjoyed great success among fans, sales weren’t up to the mark and Marvel had to axe the series. But relaunch it soon after they did, and now the series is here, and it is here to stay I think.

The first issue last month proved to be quite a good read, and I was certainly impressed, given that I had not enjoyed Kelly Sue DeConnick’s first arc on the series when it was launched as part of Marvel Now back in 2012. It offered up some nice characterisation of Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers and it told a really interesting story as well, which was all fine with me. And the art was up to the mark as well, which was a relief, although it was problematic. The new issue takes things even further and now since Captain Marvel is an Avenger-in-space, things are really heating up, and in a good way.

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Batgirl #30 (Comics Review)

When you’ve been with a series for a while, getting on into the full swing of things, and then a fill-in issue happens out of the blue, you really ask yourself what on earth happened. For some inexplicable reason, last year’s Zero Year issue for Batgirl wasn’t done by the series regular Gail Simone who has been on the title from the start, but new writer Marguerite Bennett. Like most other Zero Year tie-in issues it was a total filler story, and now Marguerite is back with another one-shot that breaks the overall flow of the story that Gail has had going for some time now.

Whereas before we’ve seen some excellent stories like the Wanted arc and the recent 2-issue arc featuring a vampire hunter in Gotham, this week’s new release sees Batgirl tangling with a Gotham-homegrown boogey monster, something straight out of an urban legend (how many of those does Gotham have again?). It follows a very predictable and set path, without deviation and the story overall is boring. The art, also by fill-in artists, does its best to work with the story, but since the story isn’t all that good, the art suffers from the resultant feedback. Its decent, but nowhere near as good as what we’ve been getting from the regular team.

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Agents of SHIELD Season 1 Ep 17 (TV Show Review)

For the previous four episodes, the show has been on a high and low streak, with one episode being good and the other being not-so good. But still, the show kept me engaged on some level and kept me coming back week after week to watch and see what would happen to these characters who often fluctuate between boring and exciting at the same time. Two weeks prior, the latest Marvel Studios movie Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier was released and it changed the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a very big way, something on a level where everything that follows is going to suffer through some big changes, especially Agents of SHIELD.

This week’s episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is set concurrent to the movie, in that it starts at the midpoint of the movie’s plot and ends where the movie ends. In that regard, this is the biggest crossover of the show with the MCU, but as a viewer I am left dissatisfied and even a bit disappointed since this was an absolute jumble of plots and subplots with an ending that served to only confuse, much as the last episode did. The show really needs to get better with its endings.

Note: Because of the nature of this episode and its tie-in to the new movie, this review contains spoilers about what happens in this episode, and that consequently includes spoilers about the movie as well.

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Nightcrawler #1 (Comics Review)

Last year Marvel launched Amazing X-Men, which brought back Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler back to life from years of being dead. The first arc of the new series pretty much dealt with the blue elf coming back to the world of the living after fighting with his demonic father Azazel, and now the character is back again and starring in another series. Nightcrawler has been among my favourite X-Men for a long time and it was great to see him get to star in Amazing X-Men, and now with his own title, I think it is a great time to be a Nightcrawler fan.

The new series is written by X-Men veteran Chris Claremont, who has written some stellar X-Men stories over the years and has a long, long history with these characters and with the entire franchise as well. His return to writing X-Men comics is off to a really good start I’d say, as he begins to acclimate Kurt to being alive again and returning to the Xavier school as a teacher this time, on Ororo’s recommendation. Todd Nauck, who does the pencils, turns in a fairly good as well, although there were some aspects of it that I didn’t quite like.

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Batman: Eternal #1 (Comics Review)

When it comes to Batman in the New 52, DC is all about jumping up and down like crazy puppet. The New 52 launched with multiple books featuring Batman or Batman-related heroes and over the two and a half years of the new continuity, the entire line has been among DC’s top books, with an occasional dip here and there for some of the lower tier books. And now, with the character’s 75th anniversary in sights and to fill-out its 52 books a month roster, DC is adding a new weekly series to the mix, which will be anthology-styled and feature no less than four different creative teams.

Batman: Eternal #1 came out today and it kickstarts the whole deal. Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the other writers involved credited as consultants, and drawn by Jason Fabok, this first issue lays the groundwork for some pretty big changes in the status quo as the Bat-world moves on. Scott and James introduce a couple new characters into the mix, highlight some of the older ones, and bring about a pretty major twist into the story. Fabok, who has previous experience working on Detective Comics in the New 52, does a stellar job of showing the dark and seedy side of the city and the Bat-world.

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Comics Picks For 02.04.2014

In contrast to the previous week, I didn’t get to read as many comics as I wanted to because my iPad wasn’t working properly and I had to resort to reading comics on my computer, which didn’t work out so well. Especially when I have to travel, and I was rather counting on getting through at least 3-4 more comics.

Still, I did manage to read a fair few, and I am now done with my read-through of Forever Evil: Blight which proved to be a very interesting event indeed, far better than the main event or two of the tie-ins ARGUS and Arkham War and just on par with Rogues Rebellion. The ending was definitely unexpected and awesome too, I think, so that is something there. No other graphic novels, which is a shame, but since I’m landlocked for the next two weeks, I’m hoping to move through a few, so we shall see.

Anyway, here’s another edition of this new feature. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Red Sonja and Cub (Comics Review)

Dynamite seems to be doing lots of Red Sonja stuff once again. A few months ago we had the anthology-style Legends of Red Sonja mini-series and then a couple weeks back we had the Red Sonja: Berserker one-shot. Dynamite has a strong history of putting out one-shots and mini-series concurrent with an ongoing series, and this is all a part of that. For the most part, I’ve loved all of Dynamite’s Red Sonja comics that I’ve read, and the current ongoing by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani is pretty damn excellent in all respects.

This past week we had another one-shot, Red Sonja and Cub by Jim Zub and Jonathan Lau, which is another side-adventure featuring the She-Devil with a Sword as she gets drawn into a tribal conflict and ends up as a bodyguard for a chieftain’s daughter who is working to end an ages-long enmity between tribes. Jim Zub seems to be getting a lot of mileage these days and its pretty good time. He’s doing the excellent Samurai Jack comics for IDW and he recently did an Amanda Waller one-shot for DC which was fairly decent as well. He also did a kids-friendly Li’l Sonja one-shot with Art Baltasar which was pretty fun! This one-shot tells a really cool story with lots of action and drama, with the art by Lau and colourist Stefani Renee and letterer Simon Bowland being top-notch as well.

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Game of Thrones Season 4 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

Three years ago, HBO changed the course of science fiction and fantasy programming with its television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, bringing A Game of Thrones to people’s screens. The books had long enjoyed a decent popularity but with the television adaptation, things suddenly kicked into high gear. For a series that had been called unfilmable, HBO seems to have done alright, and now the show is in its fourth season as of this past Sunday evening, bringing the ostensibly second half of the third book to the screen, and it exemplifies both the best and the worst of the show (and the books).

I’ve never read any of the books, nor do I have any inclination to. They are simply too humongous, and when I tried to read the first book, I lost interest somewhere before the half-mark. Plus it takes Martin 4-6 years to write a book, and I just don’t have that kind of patience. So the television show it is, which I’ve been watching since it premiered. The new season and its premiere take us back to Westeros, but a changed Westeros, where the Starks as a family are no more and the Lannisters are ascendant. The deadly dance for ultimate power continues and we touch base with a significant number of characters, to learn what they have been up to, and how they’ve all changed.

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