The fifth book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell. Published by Abaddon Books, this was Sarah’s first full-length non-Black Library work, and it proved to be even better than some of her Black Library work, which is saying something since I’ve always held her BL fiction in high regard. She was one of the first authors I started reading back when I was returning to BL fiction some years back, and she has never disappointed. An historical fiction novel about an alternate English history, mixed in with some great fantastical concepts, Uprising was one of my top books for the first half of the year.
The fifth set of comic covers I pick this year are for Batgirl #31 by Gail Simone, Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion, Blond and Dezi Sienty, with cover by Alex Garner, and Robyn Hood: Legend #1 by Pat Shand, Larry Watts, Slamet Mujiono and Jim Campbell, with the cover by Nei Ruffino. Alex Garner’s work on Batgirl has always been impresive since he stepped on to the title last year, and the one for Batgirl #31 is among my favourites, especially since it has one of my favourite Secret Six characters, Ragdoll. With Robyn Hood: Legend, I have less of a history since I only got into the whole Robyn Hood thing this year, but writer Pat Shand certainly made it a grand experience and Nei Ruffino’s cover, while a variant, is the best of all the covers commissioned for the first issue of the third Robyn Hood mini-series.
So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
A third straight week this time without me hitting my magic 40 number, which I really regret since a ton of comics have been coming out these last two weeks, but no matter.
Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, Dredd Uprise #1 from 200AD, and Swamp Thing #35-37 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and Hulk #9 from Marvel Comics. Comics which continued on with a good run yet again were Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #3 , Aliens: Fire and Stone #3, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #5 , Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program #3, Inhuman #9, Gotham Academy #3 and Vampirella v2 #7 among others.
No graphic novels this past week unfortunately.
Valiant Comics kicked off a new Eternal Warrior mini-series last month, Days of Steel, that explores some of the time that the titular hero spent in Europe during the years of the Magyar invasion of Frankish lands. Gilad was tasked with bringing a prophecy to fruition, a prophecy about a saviour of the Franks who must be guarded during his infancy and then taught to fight and lead his people. It was a pretty good debut issue that instantly made me a fan of the character and even of Peter’s writing and Cary Nord’s artwork, and the second issue is one that I’ve really looked forward to.
However, the second issue is nowhere near as good an issue as the debut issue last month and I find that quite weird. It is as if there’s this big switch in direction, both narrative and art, and that just doesn’t jive so well with me. Going into the third issue next month, I expected a lot of forward momentum in this issue, but we get very little of it actually. There’s a pretty big twist to the story early on and then towards the end, so that redeems the issue overall, but I don’t think the writing here was on-point as it was in the last issue, and the art also seemed to suffer in a lot of places.
Valiant’s X-O Manowar series wasn’t on my radar until the publisher launched its Unity team-book last year. I’d seen some stuff here and there and heard that it was a great title, but I never really got the chance to pick up an issue and read it, not until recently at any rate, when I read X-O Manowar #23, some months back. It was a fun issue I’d say, and the subsequent couple issues I read were similarly good at the least, though I kind of fell off the whole thing unfortunately. But Aric of Dacia still remains a favourite character to read about, that I can say for sure.
With the end of the Armor Hunters crossover event, the publisher’s line-up is going to go through some changes, and all the existing titles are presumably all going to forge ahead with new arcs. Interestingly enough, writer Robert Venditti is using this… grace period to tell Aric’s origins as a Visigoth warrior in the 4th century AD, and I have to say that he crafts a really intriguing tale of a reluctant and young warrior who wants to be something that his father wants him to and his tribe needs him to. This is one of Robert’s best issues I’ve read to date, and the art by Clay and Seth Mann and Romulo Fajardo is just excellent here.
Steampunk isn’t exactly something that I’ve had much of an experience with. I can remember a few random examples here and there, nothing substantive. In fact, I think I’ve only read five steampunk novels to date, one in 2012, two in 2013 and two this year. Very, very slim pickings indeed here. As a genre, Steampunk doesn’t fascinate me all that much, not as much as straight-up science fiction (usually space opera at that) or epic fantasy, so that is perhaps one of the reasons why I haven’t explored the genre further and kind of what I am attempting to do with my “25 Series To Read in 2014” challenge. Then again, if more books are like Jonathan Green’s Unnatural History, then I’m willing to go further.
Unnatural History presents a steampunk-ified Victorian London where Queen Victoria is indeed still alive and is approaching her 160th birthday. The action centers on hero-adventurerer Ulysses Quicksilver of the Quicksilver who is noted the world over for his many adventures. His return after a particularly long adventure, one in which he was presumed dead, sparks off a new adventure entirely for him and he has to stop his nemesis Jago Kane from perpetrating yet another atrocity against the empire that he loves and is sworn to protect, Magna Britannia.
When I started getting back into the Warhammer universes back in 2010, one of the authors that I was following at the time was Sarah Cawkwell, a relatively recent addition to the ranks of Black Library authors who had written quite a few short stories around the time and who then went on to write two fantastic novels as well, one of which was her debut even! In all this time, Sarah has definitely emerged as one of my favourite authors and this is why I was really excited late last year when I found out that she was having her first full-length original novel published very soon. As someone transferring over from her Warhammer work, I was really anticipating the novel.
And it turns out that Uprising, the first novel of the Heirs of the Demon King series, is almost what I expected it to be (one of my 41 Most Anticipated Titles of 2014). Instead of the war-torn far future or the eternal war of the “old world”, this time Sarah tackles historical fiction and the series is built upon the premise that when Richard the Lionheart returned from his victories in the Holy Land, he brought back magic to England, and changed the course of history forever. The novel then follows some of Richard’s descendants and several magi as they clash over the best way to save the world from the evil designs of a most cunning villain, someone who intends to drown the world in blood and war.
A stable week for a change and this meant that I was able to read some more comics this time. Didn’t get through quite as many as I wanted to, and I certainly didn’t get around to reviewing as many as I wanted to, but that’s fine really. Gotta take a bit of an occasional lighter load I think. Most of the Marvel books I read this week weren’t all that impressive (as the top picks at the end will show), but DC was better. And Vertigo’s newest series looks to be damn good too, can’t wait to check out the second issue of that next month.
And I did manage to begin my Flash New 52 read-through finally with volume 1 last night, so that’s something there. Planning to read a lot of graphic novels this year, mostly in terms of catching up with series I’ve missed out on, so we shall see how it all pans out.
Author and artist team of Tim Marquitz and J. M. Martin got together last year to form their own publishing company, the small press known as Ragnarok Publications. As one of their first projects, they launched a kickstarter for an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with a very common theme: kaiju. The man with the idea here was Nickolas Sharps, a fellow blogger and writer who had recently seen the movie Pacific Rim and after enjoying the hell out of it, he got the idea to do an anthology about kaiju since it seemed as if the genre was rather sparse in terms of original fiction.
Needless to say, the kickstarter was mightily successful and just yesterday I finished reading the anthology in its entirety. As someone who had a tiny hand in bringing the project together (I suggested some of the authors who were accepted for the anthology), I’m really pleased with the final product. The anthology has exceeded my expectations and I’m quite happy to say that it is one of my most fun readings of the year so far, and we are only like 36 days in! Tim and Nick assembled some great talent for this anthology and their hardwork and that of J. M. has definitely paid off I think.
Last year, I blogged over at The Founding Fields about 25 book series from various genres, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, etc that I wanted to read in 2013. The intention behind that particular reading challenge was to read a broad variety of some of the most popular names in those genres as well as to try out several new authors and revisit some favourite classics. While I wasn’t as successful in the challenge as I might like, I’ve made it a new year resolution to make sure that I do indeed repeat the challenge in 2014 with new books, new authors, and finish it this time.
To that effect, here are the 25 book series I’ve picked for this reading challenge for this year. You can see the previous list for 2013 here.