Riders! In Space!

Space Riders Volume 1 by Fabian Rangel Jr. and Alexis Ziritt. Black Mask, 2015. 9781628751093.  Collects Space Riders #1 – #4. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature.

“There’s nothing subtle about Space Riders, and that’s what makes it so great!…”  – John Arcude (BPRD, Rumble) from the back of the book


If Benjamin Marra (Terror Assaulter, American Blood) and Jack Kirby had a baby that collaborated with Johnny Ryan on a space opera graphic novel, you might get this. Which means it’s full of cursing, violence, old school art and colors that seem to demand to be placed under black light. There’s a green woman in an armored bikini, a spaceship that looks like a skull, and more gunfire and laser blasts than is reasonable. Plus lots of classic Kirby Krackle. (But none of that Kirby Krackle though it’s also awesome)

You don’t need to know any specifics about the plot. If you are drawn to any of the above, you’ll love this.

Underground Comix

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye Volume 1: Going Underground by Jon Rivera, Gerard Way, and Michael Avon Oeming. DC Comics / Young Animal, 2017. 9781401270827. Publisher’s Rating: Suggested for Mature Readers. Contains #1 – #6 of the comic series.

An amazing creative team resurrects a mostly forgotten DC Comics underground adventurer for this weird and somewhat hallucinatory title, part of Way’s new Young Animal imprint at DC.

Cave Carson’s wife has just died. (She had a secret origin, which plays into the story later.) His daughter is at school, and probably a bit screwed up by their past as a family of adventurers plus, you know, her mom’s death. Cave has an office job at the company where he stole the original Mighty Mole (imagine the Batmobile if it tunneled underground). Oh, and Cave has a robot eye that lets him see things. The company is training a team of young folks to go underground in the Mighty Mole Mk 2 and then… well, some kind of creature erupts from a Muldroogan warrior who has come to tell Cave of the danger to the underground city. Cave’s boss wants his daughter’s help, because he somehow knows her secret. Soon Cave, Chloe, and Cave’s friend, a hockey mask wearing hero called Wild Dog are on their way to the underground city in the once again stolen Mighty Mole, pursued by company agents in the Mk 2, ready to face creatures right out of Dune and Hellboy. It’s violent, kinda psychedelic, and really lighthearted, and Avon Oeming’s  art makes the whole story skip along like an old Hanna Barbara cartoon.

Dusk is dawn is day

LOW Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist), Mariane Gusmao (color assistant). Image, 2015. 9781632151940. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains LOW #1 – #6.

LOW Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist), Dave McCaig (colors). Image, 2015. 9781632154699. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains LOW #7 – #10.

LOW Volume 3: Shore of the Dying Light by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist), Dave McCaig (colors). Image, 2016. 9781632157089. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains LOW #11 – #15.

The art and color in this series creates an amazing, dizzying post-apocalyptic world. Remender’s style is to jump right in without a lot of explaining, which is one of the reasons why I love his comics so much. But here the art and story together may seem a bit intimidating. It took me a few fully focused running starts to totally get into this graphic novel series, and it was completely worth the effort. This is not a series you can enjoy while watching TV — it demands your attention. And it’s not a series you can start in the middle. (And look at the cover of Volume 1 when you’re in a good bookstore — what an amazing use of spot gloss!)

The sun expanded prematurely, cooking the earth. Humanity sent out probes millennia ago to find a new home, but that didn’t work out. People retreated to a few undersea cities, and those aren’t going to last much longer. The Caine family have always used the helm suit (it’s bonded to their DNA) to help feed and protect their city, Salus. Stel Caine recalls a probe back to Earth in hopes that it’s found them a new planet, then she and her husband Joel take their daughters out of the undersea city to teach them to use the helm suit. They quickly locate a mammoth class animal big enough to feed everyone in Salus. And then they’re ambushed.

The story then jumps forward ten years. Stel still hasn’t lost hope. She thrives on the irrational optimism that her daughters have survived, and that the probe, which has now returned to the Earth’s surface, will point the way to humanity’s new home. Stel and her son Malik (a gifted mechanic turned immoral cop) set out on a grand adventure. They soon end up in a place ruled by the man who took her daughters, where he entertains the populace with blood games pitting citizens against sea creatures. (Minor spoiler) He’s been raising one of the girls. Malik is soon thrown into the gladiatorial games.

I Dream Of Svið

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Harper Voyager, 2016. 9780062444134. 464 pp.

Gene: The book we both read this month but that you haven’t finished yet.
Sarah: I’m still going to finish it. I really like it a lot. (Later: I did finish it, and I loved it even more.)
G: I knew you would. It’s fun.
S: It’s been a while since I read science fiction. And getting back into it, I noticed there’s a lot of explanation needed to establish how this world that’s not like the one we live in. And I found myself not annoyed by that in this book, which is a sign of a very good writer. It’s in there in more natural ways. Rosemary is joining a ship as a new crew member. She’s been really sheltered, she grew up on Mars, this is her first time in deep space, this is her first time meeting nonhumans, so people get to explain things to her about being in space, alien cultures, and there are little bits of a future Wikipedia that is also written and edited by volunteers to fill in the info we need to know as she needs it.
G: And she’s a person who has studied other cultures and languages, so she’s looking up information she needs in an informed way. But I think what’s funny is I thought, okay, there’s someone new to the ship and we’re going to see the crew through her eyes. And that’s kind of true, but it’s not as true as it would be in other science fiction novels.
S: Yeah. Because we get to see through all of the crewmembers’ points of view. I really liked that. Their ways of seeing things, what they know and don’t know, is very different.
G: So the basic plot of the book — and you can’t pitch this book on plot much — is: a kind of kluged together ship that punches wormholes though space…
S: They’re like the highway building crew of the future.
G: …travels around with a crew that’s not just humans. At the beginning Rosemary is welcomed onto the ship by Corbin, who is the grumpy outsider on the crew. By the end of the book (I hope this isn’t ruining anything) everyone is completely a family. They get a big contract to go to a war zone and they’re going to make a bunch of money to punch a hole from there. But very little of the book takes place in that setting. The plot is so secondary to the characters that it’s just about them.
Continue reading “I Dream Of Svið”

Going, Going, Not Quite Gone

The Disappeared (A Retrieval Artist Novel) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. WMG Publishing, 2012. 9780615458564. 319pp.

Rusch founded Pulphouse Publishing along with Dean Wesley Smith back in the late 80s, and I loved almost every short story collection they published. (Their five volume edition of The Collected Short Fiction of Robert Sheckley is still my favorite.) Rusch edited The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy for a few years in the 90s, wrote some great books and short stories, and then kind of fell off my radar. I was weeding books in my garage, saw a few of hers, and realized I didn’t know if or what she’s been writing lately. It turns out there are lots of answers to that question (she’s still prolific), and my library had this one, the first in a 15 book series.

Human civilization has expanded beyond our solar system and has contact with several little-understood alien civilizations. When humans are on alien soil, they’re subject to alien laws. The problem is that the laws are little-understood, punishments are harsh, and the aliens are not really up for explaining ahead of time. And when they’ve been violated they are far from understanding. If they’re in trouble with aliens, and if they can afford it, humans hire a disappearance agency to help them start a new life with a new identity so that they (and in some cases their families) can escape justice.

Which brings us to the moon and several cases involving the man who will be our hero, Detective Flint. He’s supposed to help several alien species out for justice. One wants to send an attorney away for decades of hard labor that will probably kill her. Another is there trying to take two children, claimed for crimes their parents committed years earlier. (The crimes committed to warrant such punishment are a mystery until late in the book.) The only things on Flint’s side are the moon’s legal bureaucracy and his partner, a senior detective with a bad rep and little respect for him. Flint doesn’t really want to help the aliens, but he doesn’t seem to have much choice.

Hard to say more than that without ruining it. Hell, I feel like I can’t even explain what a retrieval artist is as it’s kind of a late reveal, and I recommend you don’t look into it ahead of time, either. There’s a manhunt, grisly crime scenes, great characters, intimidating aliens, and a few mysteries/problems to be solved, all written in Rusch’s well-plotted, straightforward style. It was a great read that I could not put down.

Alternate Futures, Alternate Pasts

William Gibson’s Archangel, script by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith, art by Butch Guice, Alejandro Barrionuevo, and Wagner Reis, inks by Tom Palmer and Butch Guice, colors by Diego Rodruiguez and Wes Dzioba, letters by Shawn Lee and Gilberto Lazcano, editing by Michael Benedetto, series editor David Hedgecock. Collects Archangel #1-5. IDW, 2017. 9781631408755.

In a post-apocalyptic present, the vice president is surgically altered to look like his grandfather, an OSS officer, and sent to 1945 to take his place and change the course of history. Back in the present, a technician reveals herself to be part of a resistance movement, takes over the time travel facility, and sends Marines and a stealth aircraft back to stop him. A British intelligence officer in 1945 tries to piece together what appears to be the fiery crash of a UFO and question its pilots, who look like tattooed circus freaks. Everyone has their eye on the bomb that will be dropped on Hiroshima.

The story is a rip-roaring, nonstop adventure — I wasn’t surprised to see that it started as a screenplay — with a good balance of cinematic action and science fiction tech.


Time Shifters by Chris Grine. Scholastic Graphix, 2017. 9780545926577. 272pp.

Gene: One of my favorite graphic novels ever is Chickenhare by Chris Grine. You ever seen it?
Sarah: No.
G: It’s about a half chicken half rabbit who is captured by a guy who collects really strange animals. There’s a bearded turtle and other weird things. Grine hasn’t done a new graphic novel for a while. Chickenhare was originally published by Dark Horse in black and white in 2006, and it was republished in color by Scholastic in 2013. I’ve been hoping that another Chris Grine graphic novel was on the way since then. And then this arrived, his new book.
I had no idea what it was going to be about, but I cleared my schedule and grabbed a beer and read it straight through. And it is fan-tastic. If I’d read it first maybe I’d love it more than Chickenhare
It opens with a very sad bit, two brothers, Kyle and Luke, being forced to jump off a cliff into a very shallow pond. Luke is fine but Kyle hits his head and dies. Luke, a week later, when his mom is trying to comfort him, he sees a crazy lightning storm in the woods near his house. (Aren’t the colors beautiful?)
S: They are!
G: He goes to investigate and runs into — dun dun dun! — a skeleton in a spacesuit, a mummy, and vampire Napoleon. (He just wants to be known as “Napoleon.”) They lose a device which allows them to move through dimensions, and they end up with Luke’s flashlight instead. Luke puts the device on his arm and then they’re after him. They’re working for some big bad boss. And they’re about to grab him when suddenly from out of nowhere appears —
S: This dinosaur chicken with a button on his head?
G: (laughing) This is very hard to explain. It’s a dinosaur from an alternate dimension where they were even more birdlike (so this one has a beak). It’s name is Zinc. There’s a ghost girl, Artemis. A scientist whose name I cannot remember. And robot Abe Lincoln. They are trying to keep the multiverse safe I guess…they grab Luke and take him to another universe in an amazing burst of color.
S: Oh yeah, that’s gorgeous.
G: And they land in a world that’s the old west but populated by bugs. Lots of spiders driving stagecoaches and wagons. Luke finally snaps and tries to run off and then passes out. (laughing)
Continue reading “Chickentime”