Thursday, January 31, 2013

Superman – “Red Son” (DC)

Superman-RedSon-TPBWriter: Mark Millar | Artist: Dave Johnson (#1,2), Kilian Plunkett (#2,3) | Inks: Andrew Robinson (#1,2), Walden Wong (#2,3) | Colors: Paul Mounts

Strange visitor from another world who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands... and who, as the champion of the common worker, fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, Socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.

In this Elseworlds tale, a familiar rocketship crash-lands on Earth carrying an infant who will one day become the most powerful being on the planet. But his ship doesn't land in America. He is not raised in Smallville, Kansas. Instead, he makes his new home on a collective in the Soviet Union!

A friend of mine at university had a copy of this, but I never got around to borrowing it. I thought it had a pretty interesting premise (despite my general aversion to alternate reality/multiple dimension comics). Another series that was included in the “Superman 101” sale on ComiXology a little while back (three issues, 99ȼ each), I’m glad I finally got around to it. I’ve managed to read some more of Millar’s work, which I quite liked, and decided it was time to give Red Son a try. I am left with mixed feelings about this mini-series, as it is part great, part run-of-the-mill, and part underwhelming.

[Be warned: There is a particular SPOILER in this review that may annoy people. Just so you know… It irritated me so much, I couldn’t leave it out of the review.]

“Final Crisis” & “Kingdom Come” (DC)


My continued education in the “classic” DC storylines and Events continues. This time, with the Grant Morrison-written Final Crisis and Mark Waid-penned Kingdom Come. As I should have expected, the former contains moments of actual originality and genuine interest and skill, but also a lackluster execution and a fair number of things I really didn’t like. The latter was more of a surprise, as I found it to be a rather intriguing premise, executed in a fashion that left me rather bored. It was a struggle to finish, in fact.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview with JAMES BARCLAY


James Barclay has been mentioned a couple of times on the site since it started, but as an author whose work I keep missing. Therefore, I have made a resolution to read at least the first in his Chronicles of the Raven series this year (I hope to get to it next month or in March). In the meantime, I got in touch with James and asked if he’d be interested in an interview. He said yes. So here it is. Read on for James’s take on the genre, his series, the wonderful people he’s met in publishing, and what it means to be an author.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

“The Smallest Detail” by Sandy Mitchell (Black Library)

Mitchell-SmallestDetailThe busy, dangerous life of a Commissar’s aide…

The ‘simple’ task Jurgen is sent on by Ciaphas Cain proves to be nothing of the kind… Just how much with the aide tell his master about what really happened?

It’s been a fair while since I last read anything in Mitchell’s Ciaphas Cain series. I also have to admit that I wasn’t hugely impressed by the previous one that I did read. As a result, I may have missed one or two. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the characters, and thought this short story sounded quite fun, centering as it does on Jurgen, Cain’s much-put-upon and odorous personal aide.

“Master of Mourkain” by Josh Reynolds (Black Library)

Reynolds-MasterOfMourkainA Warhammer Undead Short Story

Nagash is dead, but his legacy lives on as the vampire Ushoran embarks upon a quest to retrieve the Great Necromancer’s crown from Kadon, the deadly Master of Mourkain.

Previously printed in the Black Library Games Day Anthology 2012, this is a short story that ties into Reynold’s new Neferata novel, and also the Blood of Nagash trilogy by Mike Lee. It’s a great intro to both Reynolds’s writing and the Warhammer land of the undead. I really enjoyed this, and it whet my appetite for more of Reynolds’s work.

Monday, January 28, 2013

“Betrayer” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)


The Heresy continues, as another brother falls

The Shadow Crusade has begun. While the Ultramarines reel from Kor Phaeron’s surprise attack on Calth, Lorgar and the rest of the Word Bearers strike deep into the realm of Ultramar. Their unlikely allies, Angron and the World Eaters, continue to ravage each new system they come across – upon the garrison planet of Armatura, this relentless savagery may finally prove to be their undoing. Worlds will burn, Legions will clash and a primarch will fall.

Betrayer, the 24th novel in Black Library’s New York Times-bestselling Horus Heresy series, advances the cause of the traitor Legions. One more brother will fall utterly into the grip of Chaos, twisted and manipulated by another. Dembski-Bowden, probably my favourite author working on BL fiction, has written a nuanced novel – one that is thought-provoking, tragic and utterly compelling. Betrayer is another excellent addition to the series.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Upcoming: “The Oathbreaker’s Shadow” by Amy McCulloch (Random House)

McCullochA-OathbreakersShadowI’ve been looking forward to this novel ever since I spoke to Amy one day last year, and she told me about it. The cover makes it look a little Prince of Persia-esque, but I’m not sure how accurate that assumption would be. The premise certainly sounds pretty intriguing and tantalizing:

Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert.

Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all — not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin.

Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.

With luck, I’ll get a review up here in the not-too-distant future. I’m really looking forward to this.

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow will be released by Random House’s YA imprint in June 2013.

Upcoming: “Fearsome Journeys” ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris)

Solaris-FearsomeJourneysA very exciting new anthology will be landing in May 2013 from Solaris. The collection, edited by super-editor Jonathan Strahan, brings together some of the best and most exciting new and established authors in fantasy. Here’s the proposed line-up:

“The Effigy Engine: A Tale of the Red Hats” by Scott Lynch

“Amethyst, Shadow, and Light” by Saladin Ahmed

“Camp Follower” by Trudi Canavan

“The Dragonslayer of Merebarton” by K.J. Parker

“Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine” by Kate Elliott

“Spirits of Salt: A Tale of the Coral Sword” by Jeffrey Ford

“Forever People” by Robert V.S. Redick

“Sponda the Suet Girl and the Secret of the French Pearl” by Ellen Klages

“Shaggy Dog Bridge: A Black Company Story” by Glen Cook

“The Ghost Makers” by Elizabeth Bear

“One Last, Great Adventure” by Ellen Kushner & Ysabeau Wilce

“The High King Dreaming” by Daniel Abraham

Can not wait to read this anthology. Fearsome Journeys is already available for pre-order from Amazon US & UK.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Artwork: The Last Three Issues of “I, Vampire” (DC)

Just a very simple artwork post, in the wake of my earlier post about I, Vampire’s end. Here is the cover art (without text, etc.) for the final three issues of the Josh Fialkov-penned and Andrea Sorrentino-drawn series. Let’s start with #17 (published February 27 2013):


I just really like the composition and sinister air to this piece. The imminent violence and (possibly) execution of Constantine. It’s quite eye-catching.

Artwork: “Before the Fall” by Francis Knight (Orbit)

Continuing today’s Francis Knight theme, Orbit fortuitously just released the artwork for the sequel to Fade to Black, the first book in Knight’s series featuring Rojan Dizon: Before the Fall. The style is very much the same, but this time the perspective is top-down, rather than bottom-up, which accounts from the brighter colours, I’m sure. The artwork is again by the very talented Tim Byrne:


Before the Fall will be published in June 2013 by Orbit in both the UK and US. [I’m not including a synopsis, because it contains spoilers for Fade to Black, but if you can find it on its Goodreads page.]

The third book in the series, Last to Rise, will be published in November 2013. (I’ll be sure to post the artwork for the third book as-and-when it becomes available.)

“Fade to Black” by Francis Knight (Orbit)


The first Rojan Dizon novel

Mahala: a city built in the dark depths of a valley. A city built up in layers, not across – where streets are built upon streets, buildings balance precariously upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from its lofty perch at the sunlit summit & where the forsaken lurk in the shadowy depths of the Pit.

Rojan is a bounty hunter trying to make his way in the city. Everyone knows he’s a womaniser, a shirker of all responsibility, but they don’t know he’s also a pain-mage: able to draw magic from his own & other people’s pain. He’s not keen on using it (not least because it’s outlawed), but when his niece is abducted and taken to the dark depths of the Pit, he may just be forced to unleash his power…

Ever since I first saw the artwork for this novel, I’ve been dying to read Fade to Black. I was lucky enough to get an early copy, and damn did it live up to my expectations! Actually, it exceeded them. Given how much I enjoyed this novel, writing a review for it is unlikely to be easy, or do it justice. Part of me wishes to go ahead and write a calm, collected (translation: bit staid) review, while the other just wants to type “ZOMG! This is amazeballs!” and leave it at that. [Incidentally, does anyone know what the “Z” stands for…? Apparently, I am i-leet-arate.]

This is a great fantasy debut, introducing us to an intriguing new character, and the beginning of something really quite brilliant.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Sixth Gun, Vol.1 – “Cold Dead Fingers” (Oni)

SixthGun-Vol.01Writer: Cullen Bunn | Art: Brian Hurtt

During the darkest days of the Civil War, wicked cutthroats came into possession of six pistols of otherworldly power. In time the Sixth Gun, the most dangerous of the weapons, vanished. When the gun surfaces in the hands of an innocent girl, dark forces reawaken. Vile men thought long dead set their sights on retrieving the gun and killing the girl. Only Drake Sinclair, a gunfighter with a shadowy past, stands in their way.

Collects: The Sixth Gun #1-6

I really enjoyed this book. I have a real fondness for the Wild West and related fiction, fantasy or whatever, and The Sixth Gun offers an addictive mix of a post-Civil War American West and some sinister, supernatural shenanigans. The writing is great, and the art superb, making this a comic that works on basically every level.

“Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha & Omega” (Marvel)

Wolverine&XMen-Alpha&Omega-CollectedWriter: Brian Wood | Artists: Max Brooks & Roland Boschi

It’s Wolverine versus Kid Omega for dominance of the Jean Grey School. Wolverine will discover that the hardest prison to escape can be his own mind.

Collects: Wolverine & The X-Men:
Alpha & Omega

I picked this up during one of Comixology’s 99c Marvel Monday sales, and I’m glad I did. I’ve enjoyed the handful of Wolverine & The X-Men issues I read last year, and was interested to see how Brian Wood (author of DMZ, one of my favorite series ever) would approach the characters. Overall, this is a pretty good mini-series.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Interview with PAUL WITCOVER


I must confess that I only discovered Paul Witcover’s latest novel (which I erroneously believed to be his debut), The Emperor of All Things, completely by accident. When a copy of the book arrived in the mail. I did some investigating (i.e. read the back cover blurb) and thought it sounded great. It promptly was slotted into my TBR pile, and I got in touch with Paul for an interview. Read on for more about his writing, processes, and his love affair with reading.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Audiobook: “Chosen of Khorne” by Anthony Reynolds (Black Library)


Performers: Seán Barrett, Rupert Degas and Saul Reichlin

Khârn the Betrayer takes to the field of battle as the champion of his old comrade Argus Brond, but his own motives go far beyond the petty squabbling of rival Chaos warlords... Deep within the Eye of Terror, the followers of the blood god Khorne war amongst themselves to win their patron’s favour, and for the right to lead a new crusade against the Imperium in his name. Argus Brond, berserker champion of the old World Eaters Legion, has called upon his old comrade Khârn for assistance – surely, this legendary warrior will break the deadlock and secure victory for him? But Khârn, known with good reason as ‘the Betrayer’, is far more than just a crazed killer, and his own agenda will always come first...

This was a much better audio-book than the last one I listened to, and mainly on the strength of the acting and narration. The story is very strong, as is the norm for Black Library audiobooks, and all the more so because it features one of my favorite Chaos characters, Kharn the Betrayer. However, unlike some other audio-dramas from this publisher, the delivery was, in my opinion, entirely suited to the story. This is an excellent audio-book.

Captain Marvel, Vol.1 – “In Pursuit of Flight” (Marvel)

CaptainMarvel-Vol.01Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick | Artist: Dexter Soy (#1-4), Emma Rios (#5-6), w. Richard Elson, Karl Kesel, Al Barrionuevo | Colors: Wil Quintana, Javier Rodriguez, Jordie Bellare (#5-6) | Inks: Alvaro Lopez (#6)

The “Mightiest” of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is back!

Ace pilot. Legendary Avenger. One hundred percent pure bad-ass. Carol Danvers has a new name, a new mission – and all the power she needs to make her own life a living hell. As the new Captain Marvel, Carol is forging from a challenge from her past! It’s a firefight in the sky as the Banshee Squadron debut – but who are the Prowlers, and where has Carol seen them before? And how does secret NASA training program Mercury 13 fit in?

Witness Captain Marvel in blazing battlefield action that just may change the course of history! Avengers Time Travel Protocols: engage!

Collects: Captain Marvel #1-6

After spotting a preview of this series, I knew I had to read it. True, I still waited for the collected book, but the artwork for the first four chapters of this book are great. As it happens, the story is great as well. This was a very pleasant surprise, and the story exceeded my already high expectations.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Grimm Universe UNLEASHED: The next Zenescope Event


Zenescope Entertainment, the publisher of Grimm Fairy Tales and Wonderland hit comic series (among many others) has announced its plans for an upcoming, major cross-title event, “UNLEASHED”. This is, I believe, their first since The Dream Eater Saga (which I actually have, but keep forgetting to read…)

The event will be spread across six separate mini-series, clocking in at a total of 24 issues (including some “oversized” issues), and the story will tie directly into Zenescope’s popular Grimm Fairy Tales Universe (or “GU” for short). In true Zenescope style, the story focuses on reinterpretations of classic horror monsters and myths, and will be told from the perspective of their hunters.

UK vs. US Covers: James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell’s “Blood Gospel” & “City of Screams”


James Rollins, author of the Sigma Force scientific thrillers (which I’m rather fond of) has teamed up with Rebecca Cantrell to write a new series of thrillers, this time with a slight Dan Brown-Da Vinci Code slant to it. Only, hopefully much better. As I say, I’m fond of Rollins’s Sigma novels, so I have high hopes that he’ll do as good a job with this new venture. (I have a copy of the book, and it’s inching its way up the ever-growing Mt. TBR.) The series also includes an eShort prequel (of sorts), the artwork for which was recently unveiled. I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of the US and UK artwork for the two, as they are quite different.

“Wolfhound Century” by Peter Higgins (Gollancz/Orbit)


An intriguing new voice in… well, a number of different genres all at the same time…

Investigator Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist – and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist.

But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head.

I didn’t know what to expect from this novel. I didn’t know a whole lot about it before I read it, either, save for the excellent cover artwork. What I found was a really interesting mélange of genres, mixed together to create an original, compelling and atmospheric whole. Wolfhound Century excellently bridges the gap between a speculative urban fantasy and a crime thriller. With a great Russian-flavor, too, this novel stands out even more. This is a really strong debut novel.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Spider, Vol.1 – “Terror of the Zombie Queen” (Dynamite)

Spider-Vol.1-TPBWriter: David Liss | Arist: Colton Worley

One of the most celebrated pulp heroes of all time is back, and re-launched into the 21st century!

Richard Wentworth is a decorated war hero who has sacrificed everything, including the woman he loves, for duty. But the New York City Wentworth returns to is riddled with crime and corruption. With the police overwhelmed and a populace helpless, Wentworth becomes The Spider, a vigilante as ruthless and merciless as the criminals he hunts. But now there’s a new danger on the rise. A deranged woman called Anput has begun a series of attacks that turn ordinary citizens into mindless zombies, bringing New York and the police force to its knees. Wentworth will stop at nothing to save the city he's sworn to protect, but in the process he will risk his family, his friends, and the woman he still loves.

Collects: The Spider #1-6

I caught the first couple of issues of The Spider when the series was re-launched last year. One of the things that jumped out at me, alongside Liss’s great story, was Worley’s superb artwork. With this first collection, readers get the debut story-arc, which is a mixture of vigilante justice and horror, beautifully rendered.

Audiobook: “Perfection” by Nick Kyme (Black Library)


Good story, usual performance niggles

Narration: Gareth Armstrong | Actors: Jane Collingwood, Chris Fairbank, Jonathan Keeble, and David Timson

On a world besieged by the forces of Chaos, the Emperor’s Children and the World Eaters are forced into an uneasy alliance when the bodies of the fallen start to go missing… Under siege from Chaos Space Marines of the Emperor’s Children, survival for the world of Vardask looks bleak. Matters worsen with the arrival of the World Eaters of Khorne, but when the Champions of Slaanesh are slowly murdered in mysterious circumstances the enmity of the rival warbands threatens to turn them on one another on a scale not seen since the aftermath of the Horus Heresy. Are there no depths to which the scions of Fulgrim will not stop in pursuit of true perfection?

I’m not going to spend too much time with this review. I really liked the story, as I fully expected to do (Kyme’s a great talent). But, as with many Black Library audiobooks, I struggled to get past some of the accents. Overall, though, if you enjoy other Black Library audiobooks, then the chances are high that you will like this. And the ending… Yeah, Kyme has written a pretty cool, horrifying ending.

Upcoming: “Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void” by Tim Lebbon (Del Rey/Random House)

Lebbon-DotJ-IntoTheVoid(SW)I rather enjoyed the first story-arc for Dark Horse Comics’ Dawn of the Jedi series (they’re into their second arc, The Prisoner of Bogan, but I haven’t had a chance to read it just yet). Now there will be a series of novels set during the same time. The first novel will be written by Tim Lebbon, author of Echo City and The Heretic Land, London Eye and many more critically acclaimed dark fantasy and horror novels.

On the planet Tython, the ancient Je’daii order was founded. And at the feet of its wise Masters, Lanoree Brock learned the mysteries and methods of the Force—and found her calling as one of its most powerful disciples. But as strongly as the Force flowed within Lanoree and her parents, it remained absent in her brother, who grew to despise and shun the Je’daii, and whose training in its ancient ways ended in tragedy.

Now, from her solitary life as a Ranger keeping order across the galaxy, Lanoree has been summoned by the Je’daii Council on a matter of utmost urgency. The leader of a fanatical cult, obsessed with traveling beyond the reaches of known space, is bent on opening a cosmic gateway using dreaded dark matter as the key—risking a cataclysmic reaction that will consume the entire star system. But more shocking to Lanoree than even the prospect of total galactic annihilation, is the decision of her Je’daii Masters to task her with the mission of preventing it. Until a staggering revelation makes clear why she was chosen: The brilliant, dangerous madman she must track down and stop at any cost is the brother whose death she has long grieved—and whose life she must now fear.

Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void will be published in May 2013 by Lucasbooks (Random House). In addition, Lebbon’s latest novel is Coldbrook (Hammer).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Upcoming: “Speculative Fiction 2012”, eds. Justin Landon & Jared Shurin

SpeculativeFiction2012This is an upcoming anthology edited by two major talents in SFF blogging and already excellence: Justin Landon (Staffer’s Book Review) and Jared Shurin (Pornokitsch & Pandemonium). Here’s how Justin explained the project:

Last year, I began a partnership with Jared Shurin, co-owner/editor of Pandemonium Fiction, to release an anthology titled Speculative Fiction 2012, The Years Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, with proceeds to be donated to charity.

Our goal, if any such thing can be claimed, is to create a record of all the incredibly rich content being created on the web. We put out a call for submissions from the community at large and received over 200. Accounting for our own finds, that means well over 300 pieces of non-fiction that range from reviews, to essays about the field, to what it means to live the genre life (or something to that effect).

Over the next few weeks we’ll be narrowing that down under fifty, contacting authors to get rights, and writing our witty and charming introduction that will both highlight our complete capability as curators of taste and impugn our credibility with self aggrandizing adjectives. If all goes well, the book will be released in late February just in time for the ever important Ides of March holiday season.

I’ll be interested to know what’s in this book, and am certainly looking forward to giving it a read. I’m sure I’ll find many online writers who have managed to avoid my attention thus-far.

[The book’s artwork was done by Sarah Anne Langton.]

Upcoming: “Earth Star” by Janet Edwards (Voyager)

EdwardsJ-EarthStarIt’s not out until August, but I thought I’d feature Earth Star in one of this week’s Upcoming posts, because the first book in the series, Earth Girl, is one I wish I’d had time to read last year. It slipped by the wayside, sadly. I’ll try to get to it before Earth Star is published, but in the meantime, here’s the synopsis for Edwards’s second novel featuring Jarra in this dystopian future Earth:

18-year-old Jarra has a lot to prove. After being awarded one of the military’s highest honours for her role in a daring rescue attempt, Jarra finds herself – and her Ape status – in the spotlight. Jarra is one of the unlucky few born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Derided as an ‘ape’ – a ‘throwback’ – by the rest of the universe, Jarra is on a mission to prove that Earth Girls are just as good as anyone else.

Except now the planet she loves is under threat by what could be humanity’s first ever alien contact. Jarra’s bravery – and specialist knowledge – will once again be at the centre of the maelstrom, but will the rest of the universe consider Earth worth fighting for?

Earth Star will be published by Harper Voyager UK in August 2013.

Weather-Appropriate Art

Caught this on The Fantasy Tavern’s Facebook page, and because of the recent snow in the UK, I thought I’d share it here. The piece is Tom Garden’s “Frost Outpost”:


Friday, January 18, 2013

DC Comics: Latest Cancellations

DC Comics has been wielding its Axe of Cancellation once again, with a slew of titles getting dropped. First up, announced a couple months ago, will be the sixteenth and final issues this month from Blue Beetle, Grifter, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., and Legion Lost.


According to CBR, it’s not surprising that Blue Beetle and Grifter have been dropped, given that they “are definitely the lowest-selling books in the New 52”. It is a pity, however, as I rather enjoyed Grifter. Blue Beetle is a series I’ve been meaning to read, but I’ve decided to wait for the second and final collected edition to be released, and then I’ll maybe do a double review or something. I’ll probably do the same for Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Of the latest four cancellations to be announced, I really like two and have mixed feelings about another (the fourth I haven’t read and have no interest in doing so): I, Vampire and Paul Cornell’s Saucer Country (actually published through Vertigo) are the two I will be sad to see go. Both of them are superb, I thought, and I don’t understand why they haven’t been garnering enough interest to keep them alive. The former is a dark, beautifully illustrated horror comic, and the latter is an innovative, gripping mash-up of alien abduction lore and American presidential politics. Who wouldn’t like those?


DC Universe Present is a bit of a mixed bag: I enjoyed the first story-line from this variety series (featuring Deadman), but really didn’t enjoy the second story-line (Challengers of the Unknown). I’ve been keeping an eye on the recent story-lines and featured characters, and it actually looks quite good. I’ll pick up the final volume. The all-ages series Superman Family Adventures will also come to an end, but I don’t have any interest in reading that. These series will cease with their April 2013 issues.

Reviewer Emotions: That Didn’t Work As Intended…

There comes a time in every reviewer and blogger’s tenure on the internets, I’m sure, when we try something a little different. An attempt to be “clever”, “provocative”, and/or “funny”. Often times, this won’t work. If we’re lucky, readers won’t notice that were trying to be “clever”, “provocative”, and/or “funny”, and just think of it as a normal, perhaps slightly off blog post. If we’re unlucky, we’ll come across like unabashed internet trolls. So far, I think I’ve managed to avoid the latter. Regardless, when this happens, the feeling is often akin to this:


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Batman: “War Drums” (DC)

Batman-WarDrumsWriter: Andersen Gabrych & Bill Willingham | Artists: Pete Woods, Damion Scott & Brad Walker | Inks: Cam Smith, Damion Scott, Troy Nixey & Robert Campanella | Colors: Jason Wright & Guy Major

Familial discord lies at the heart of BATMAN: WAR DRUMS as Batman is taxed to the limit by new threats and trouble within his family. When Tim Drake’s father discovers his son's identity as Robin, Tim is forced to quit the team. Everyone must adjust as the Spoiler Attempts to fill his boots, with disastrous results.

Collects: Detective Comics #790-796, Robin #126-128

I bought this a while ago, but for some reason took my sweet time getting around to it. And damn it was good. I hadn’t really been sure what to expect from it, but everything from the writing to the artwork is fantastic. There’s a nice balance between Gabrych’s darker chapters and Willingham’s slightly lighter chapters, and I was hooked from the first page until the end.

UK Release: “Throne of the Crescent Moon” by Saladin Ahmed (Gollancz)


A new voice in adventure sword & sorcery, finally gets a UK release

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time—and struggle against their own misgivings—to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

I’ve already written a review of Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, so I won’t reproduce the whole thing here again. But, I thought I’d offer a compressed version of my earlier review, picking up on a couple of important things (in my opinion) – mainly Ahmed’s style and the world. I didn’t find the novel perfect (as is often the case with me, the issues lay in some pacing anomalies). Overall, though, this is a very strong debut novel, set in an interesting world populated by three-dimensional characters.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Recent Arrivals (January 2013)

I’ve recently got back to Britain for a short spell. Jet-lag has finally struck, so I’m afraid there won’t be a particularly involved post for a couple of days. I hope to get some more reviews up this week, but please bear with me…

In the meantime, here are some books that were waiting for me upon my return (you can count of at least a few of them featuring more on the blog in the future):


It’s a nice little haul, actually – four of the five are really interesting, two are must-reads (no prize if you can guess which two), and only one hasn’t completely fired my interest.

Interview with LAURA ANNE GILMAN


While at the 2012 BookExpo in New York last year, I spent a fair bit of time visiting the SFF Writers of America table. On one of these visits, I met Laura Anne Gilman, who was kind enough to sign a book for me. Laura writes a lot of urban fantasy-esque novels, though doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed. I decided, therefore, to get in touch for an interview, and asked her about her various writing projects, opinions on the wider speculative genre, and also received proof that she is not a cartoon character…

Monday, January 14, 2013

“Aloha From Hell” by Richard Kadrey (Voyager)

Kadrey-3-AlohaFromHellUKSandman Slim’s Third Outing

In Sandman Slim Stark came back from hell for revenge.

In Kill the Dead he tackled both a zombie plague and being Lucifer’s bodyguard.

And once again all is not right in L.A. Lucifer is back in Heaven, God’s on vacation, and an insane killer mounts a war against both Heaven and Hell.

Stark must head back down to his old stomping grounds to rescue his long-lost love, stop an insane serial killer, prevent both Good and Evil from completely destroying each other, and stop the demonic Kissi from ruining the party for everyone.

Even for Sandman Slim, that’s a tall order. And it’s only the beginning.

I’ve been catching up with Kadrey’s Sandman Slim novels, and I’ve been having a blast doing so. I love his visceral no-nonsense prose style, his just-on-the-right-side-of-anti-hero characters, and the stories themselves. Aloha From Hell, the third in the series, does not quite match the quality of the first two, but it is nevertheless one hell of a novel. [Yes, I went there. Deal with the punning!]

“Pathfinder” #1-3 (Dynamite)


Writer: Jim Zub | Artist: Andrew Huerta | Colors: Ross Campbell

Valeros can rely on only his sword arm and his friends, the mysterious and beautiful sorcerer Seoni and silver tongued quick-witted elven rogue Merisiel, but nothing can prepare him for the dangers that lurk ahead. The scattered and chaotic goblin tribes of Varisia are changing, growing in power and unifying in ways no one has ever seen before. At the heart of this strange evolution is an ancient evil looking to establish itself anew.

I know Jim Zub from his work on Skullkickers (review of volume one, soon), and I got recently had the opportunity to read the first three issues of Pathfinder. What I found was a story clearly written by someone with an abiding, deep love for classic sword-and-sorcery. It’s bloody, action-packed, a little daft, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Two (Actually Three) Amusing Musical Interludes for the Weekend…

Here are two of my favorite humorous music videos from recent years. Because it’s the weekend, and I don’t feel like catching up on the reviews I have to write…

First up, Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat”:

And secondly, Kyle Kaplan and Nick Braun’s “That Gotye Song”, which Gawker referred to as “A Disturbingly Accurate Portrayal of What Happens Every Time ‘That Gotye Song’ Starts Playing in the Car” (or, really, any massively popular song that worms its way into our heads…):

This video was the first time I heard the Gotye song, actually. It’s the only way I can imagine it, now, and I do exactly the same thing when it plays. I would also recommend the “The Star Wars That I Used To Know”, which brings this back to SFF:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Upcoming: “Mephiston: Lord of Death” by David Annandale (Black Library)

Annandale-Mephiston-LordOfDeathAnother Annandale book coming up, which I initially missed on Black Library’s website. This one seems to be a first novel in a whole new series from the publisher, “Lords of the Space Marines”, and focuses on Mephiston, Chief Librarian of the Blood Angels.

Chief Librarian of the Blood Angels, Master of the Black Rage, Lord of Death... By these titles is Mephiston known to his brother Space Marines. But deep within Mephiston’s tortured heart lurks another, the spectre of who he used to be before his death and rebirth on the war-torn world of Armageddon.  As Mephiston leads the Blood Angels into battle in the Pallavon system against the might of mankind’s archenemy, he must grapple with his inner daemons as well as those around him, as the ghost of Brother Calistarius, the man he once was, returns to haunt him.

In a move that will no doubt bother some people, this will only be available in this format for seven days, from January 25th to February 1st. The book is presented in a “red leather-effect slip case”, comes with an exclusive short story chapbook for Annandale’s previous Mephiston story, Eclipse of Hope, and also an artwork postcard. I must admit to not being bowled over by Eclipse – while I thought Annandale had done a great job of giving the Blood Angels their own voice, it didn’t quite work for me. Perhaps it will be different in Mephiston.


Upcoming: “Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha” by David Annandale (Black Library)

Annandale-Yarrick1-ChainsOfGolgothaWas just on Black Library’s website, and this moody cover really caught my eye. It’s for David Annandale’s upcoming novella, featuring on of the Imperial Guards’ most famous heroes, Commissar Yarrick.

From the ashes of the Second War of Armageddon a hero of the Imperium emerged. War-torn and bloody, Commissar Yarrick swore vengeance on the beast that escaped his righteous wrath, the despoiler of Armageddon – Ghazghkull Thraka. Tracking down the ork warlord to the desolate world of Golgotha, Yarrick leads an armoured company to destroy the beast but does not reckon on Thraka’s cunning. Ambushed, his army all-but destroyed, Yarrick is captured and awakes to find himself aboard the beast's space hulk facing a fate worse than death...

Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha will be published later this month as a limited edition hardcover and also eBook. I’ve enjoyed Annandale’s BL fiction to date, so I am definitely looking forward to this.

I really like the fact that the publisher has been working hard to get stories out featuring some of the best-known characters, fleshing them out even more.

“Sword of Caledor” by William King (Black Library)


The story of Tyrion & Teclis continues, as their enemies and Chaos gather

Tyrion – Unparalleled swordsman and tactician. Teclis – Greatest natural sorcerer of the age, his power rivaling that of fabled Caledor.

Together these twins are the greatest high elf heroes to still walk the earth. Tyrion and Teclis venture into the deadly jungles of Lustria on a desperate hunt for the lost sword of Caledor Dragontamer, the fabled Sunfang. While they search for this ancient artefact, the dark elves continue their assault on Ulthuan, sending the deadly assassin Urian Poisonblade to kill the Everqueen. And in the Realm of Chaos, the Witch King Malekith makes a pact with another enemy of Tyrion and Teclis – the sinister greater daemon N’Kari.

In this second installment of King’s High Elf trilogy, we start 100 years after the end of Blood of Aenarion. The High Elf twins have progressed in their respective fields – Tyrion has grown in stature and success, while Teclis’s studies into the arcane are starting to mark him as destined for greatness. Sword of Caledor moves the brothers’ story forwards, as a great evil finally executes its plan to dominate first the elves, and then the world. This is a great, classic-style Warhammer fantasy novel. One that is equally focused on action as it is the characters and society in which they operate.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Cover Reveal: “The Flames of Shadam Khoreh” by Bradley Beaulieu (Night Shade)

The Winds of Khalakovo, the first novel in Brad Beaulieu’s Lays of Anuskaya fantasy series, was one of the stand-out novels from 2011, for me. It was original, expansive, and excellently written. It was a very find debut. Its sequel, The Straits of Galahesh, is sadly one of this year’s Ones That Got Away – but, as I do own a copy of the book, I will remedy this ASAP (it will be read in 2013!).

Brad recently revealed the artwork on his website, and I thought it would be nice to share it here, too. It’s not the final cover (as you can see, there’s no text), but it’s a great piece of art…


The piece is by Aaron J. Riley. Here’s how Brad explained how the image ties in with the series chronology:

“The illustration is of Nasim. He’s aged a few years from The Straits of Galahesh (he’s about 18 here), and he’s deep in the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh, invading a crypt where he finds some unexpected things.”

And finally, the synopsis from Brad’s website for this third novel:

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh begins nearly two years after the events of The Straits of Galahesh. In it, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim, which has taken them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies. But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces. And the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.

Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

Also on CR: Interview with Brad Beaulieu, Guest Post by Brad Beaulieu & Stephen Gaskell

For more information about his novels, writing and more, visit Brad’s website and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

Interview with PAUL CORNELL


Paul Cornell has written some great comics (Demon Knights and Saucer Country most recently, but also Action Comics and more), as well as for Dr Who and other fiction. With the release of his latest novel, London Falling, I thought it would be a perfect time to ask him about some of his recent work. In this interview, we learn more about Paul’s writing, his thoughts on genre, and I also discover that he’s no longer writing one of my favourite series…

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Saucer Country, Vol.1 – “Run” (Vertigo)

SaucerCountry-Vol.01Writer: Paul Cornell | Artists: Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Braxton (pp.117-136), Goran Sudzuka (pp.138-143) | Colors: Giulia Brusco, Lee Loughridge, Cris Peter

Arcadia Alvarado, the leading Democratic candidate for President of the United States, says she was “abducted by aliens.” As the Mexican-American Governor of New Mexico, she’s dealing with immigration, budget cuts and an alcoholic ex. She’s about to toss her hat into the ring as a candidate for President in the most volatile political climate ever. But then... a lonely road and a nightmarish encounter have left her with terrible, half-glimpsed memories. And now she has to become President. To expose the truth – and maybe, to save the world. With the help of her quirky staff, Arcadia will pursue the truth of her abduction into danger, mystery and awe.

Collects: Saucer Country #1-6

Saucer Country, one of Vertigo’s late-2012 new series, is a brilliant, dark thriller that blends UFO mythology with American political intrigue. The series started shortly before the 2012 Presidential election, which was very nicely timed. Gripping and very well-produced, this is a great read. Saucer Country is one of my favorite new series.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Guest Post: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (Again)” by Gail Z. Martin


Gail Z. Martin is the author of some great, dark fantasy novels. Most recently, Ice Forged, the start of a new series: The Ascendant Kings Saga. Ice Forged is framed around a great premise, and I hope to read and review it very soon. To celebrate the launch of this new series, here is a guest blog from Gail…


“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (Again)” by Gail Z. Martin

GailZMartin-AuthorPicWhat is it about an impending apocalypse that captures the imagination?

Having just survived the “Mayan Calendar” apocalypse, the idea is pretty fresh in everyone’s mind. Thanks to the Internet, warnings of immanent doom seem to crop up fairly often, so much so that most of us roll our eyes, mutter “another one” and go about our daily business.

Until the time it turns out to be true.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Fairest, Vol.1 – “Wide Awake” (Vertigo)

Fairest-Vol.01Writer: Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges | Artist: Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Steve Sadowski, Mark Farmer, Andrew Pepoy & Shawn McManus | Colours: Andrew Dalhouse & Shawn McManus

Balancing horror, humor and adventure in the FABLES tradition, FAIREST explores the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others.

The first 6-issue tale follows the misadventures of Briar Rose immediately after the events of FABLES #107 (collected in FABLES VOL. 16: SUPER TEAM), in which she was stolen away by the goblin army.

The first issue of Fairest was the first comic I’d read written by Bill Willingham. Since then, I’ve read the first five Deluxe editions of Fables, his expansive re-interpretation of fairy tales transposed onto a contemporary setting (New York, for example). He has quickly become one of my favourite comics writers. With a bit more Fables under my belt, I was a little better informed about some of the content of Fairest. This is a superb series.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Upcoming: “Terminus” by Adam Baker (Hodder)

Baker-TerminusI heard about Adam Baker’s third novel, Terminus back in August, when I met Anne and Francine from Hodder UK at a Pandemonium event in London. Ever since, I’ve been eagerly keeping my eye out for more information. Baker is one of those authors who, despite writing the type of novel I should be interested in, I have never actually read.

His two previous novels, Outpost and Juggernaut, are inching up my TBR pile, but I have a feeling if I get my hands on this novel soon, it may shoot right to the top. I have a weakness for fiction set in New York City, so I imagine I’ll be unable to wait, when I get my hands on this:

The world has been overrun by a lethal infection, ravaged by a pathogen that leaves its victims locked half-way between life and death. New York, bombed to prevent the spread of the disease, has been reduced to radioactive rubble. A rescue squad enters the subway tunnels beneath Manhattan, searching for the one man who can create an antidote. The squad battle floodwaters, lethal radiation and infected, irradiated survivors as they race against the disease that threatens to extinguish the human race.

Terminus will be published by Hodder in March 2013. (I was unable to dig up any details about a US or worldwide release, but I’ll keep you posted as and when more information becomes available.)

Also on CR: Interview with Adam Baker (video), Guest Post

Upcoming: “Six-Gun Snow White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean)

Valente-SixGunSnowWhiteComing at the end of January 2013, Catherynne M. Valente’s latest novella is a reinvention of one of the best known fairy tales, transposed onto the Old West:

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents – a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have.

Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.

I’m quite looking forward to this, and hope to make it part of my Weird Wild West series of reviews and interviews, which I’ll be highlighting throughout the year.

Also on CR: Interview with Catherynne Valente

Friday, January 04, 2013

“Fortress Frontier” by Myke Cole (Ace/Headline)


The Second Shadow Ops novel: Improves on the first

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers — summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier — cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place — Oscar Britton, public enemy number one...

If you’ve been reading CR for a while, you may have noticed that I am very much a fan of Cole’s debut, Control Point. When I read that, it fit my tastes perfectly and just worked on pretty much every level. A year later, and its sequel Fortress Frontier drops. And, I am happy to report, Cole has done a tremendous job of improving on Control Point in almost every way. This is, all-round, a better novel than its predecessor.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Free eBook: “Some of the best from 2012”, that great hub for all things SFF, has released a free eBook anthology! The book collects (as the name should suggest) some of the best short stories from the past year (10 of them, to be exact).

Now, these stories are still available for free on the website itself, but if you find yourself wanting to read them while away from your computer or internet connection, then this eBook will help you out.

The roster of authors is impressive, too: Gene Wolfe, Rachel Swirsky, Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Paul Cornell, Brit Mandelo, Katheryn Cramer, Pat Murphy, Adam-Troy Castro, Elizabeth Bear.

Kindle US | Kindle UK | Apple | Nook

Great Art: “I Love Trouble” #1, p.6 (Image)

I just stumbled across this series by accident, when I spotted a preview for the second issue on Comic Book Resources. I liked what I saw of the art, but couldn’t really tell much about the story. I did a bit more digging (including checking out the preview for the first issue), and eventually found some more information about the series. I Love Trouble, by  Kel Symons and Mark Robinson debuted in December, and follows the story of Felicia Castillo, a New Orleans grifter, who is on the run from mobsters. In the first issue, she discovers she possesses an unusual superpower in the middle of a plane crash. This is page six from that issue, in which Felicia realizes her strange new power. The page made me chuckle, so I thought I’d share it on here:


Excerpt: “Blood Riders” by Michael P. Spradlin (Voyager)


Following on from yesterday’s interview with Michael Spradlin, today I bring you an excerpt from his latest Wild Western Fantasy, Blood Riders.

*   *   *

Chapter One

Eastern Wyoming Territory

August, 1876

It wasn’t right, that’s all Hollister could tell himself. Three hundred yards away two wagons were overturned and smoldering with arrow riddled bodies strewn about. Not far away from the still smoking campfire, a horse lay dead in the dust. He couldn’t tell if the dead people had been shot or scalped from this distance, but something was wrong.