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Graphic Novel Friday: Summer Fantasy

Complete-EQLast time on GNF, we covered our favorite summer science fiction reads. This week, let’s talk fantasy. Fans of the genre know that fantasy tends toward the epic, which means it can sprawl into giant tomes that serve as bookshelf anchors—and fantasy comics are no different. This summer, publisher Dark Horse Comics unveiled two gigantic collections with enough heft to crush the laps of readers everywhere.

The Complete Elfquest Vol. 1 by Wendy and Richard Pini: You know it’s an epic fantasy when the title says both “Complete” and “Volume One.” I’m new to Elfquest—although I’m familiar with the fandom that surrounds it and the stylized elves who sport impossibly great hair. This one has been on my to-read list for a long time, but since the previous collections are out of print, it took Dark Horse Comics’ initiative to finally bring me up to speed. And wow, this is a great example of DIY creators who had a vision and made it happen. Do you like elves? Well, here are 700 pages of elves: elves riding wolves; elves descended from aliens; elves trying to live in peace but thwarted; elves, elves everywhere! Once the narrative finds its groove there is no turning back.

And for Elfquest obsessives, Dark Horse will release Elfquest: The Original Quest Gallery Edition, an oversized hardcover collecting the first five issues—scanned from Wendy Pini’s original artwork (October 2014).

The Ring of the Nibelung by P. Craig Russell: Adapting Richard Wagner’s Norse saga-influenced opera is a task that an artist like P. Craig Russell could attempt, and his achievement earned two Eisner Awards.  Now, the entire multi-volume saga is collected in one 400-page hardcover. The praise could stop at “It’s gorgeous,” but there is so much to love here, from the character designs, the depth of emotion in characters’ faces, Russell’s expert use of symbolism, and the never-ending high fantasy of it all.

This is an adaptation to end all adaptations of Wagner’s opera—and the fact that it was done in comic form is what makes this such a gem. Plus, despite Tolkien’s purported dismissal of any influence, there is quite a Lord of the Rings tinge here, with a character not unlike Gollum coveting a gold ring that curses anyone who wears it. Then there’s the rainbow road that leads to Valhalla (Hello, Mighty Thor!), and plenty more “A-ha!” moments for fantasy fans. Russell’s adaptation does an expert job of highlighting just how influential Wagner’s opera was on the epic fantasy storytellers of yesterday and today. With this new edition, the source material is sure to influence writers for many years to come as well.

Hark! Omni readers, what fantastic comics have you read this summer?  What say thee?

--Alex

 

 

Graphic Novel Friday: Sci-Fi Summer

There are still a few days of summer to enjoy, and everyone is talking about science fiction and the blockbuster that ruled them all: Guardians of the Galaxy. Heck, we covered the comics, too! If you’ve seen the film and want to read the next big things in the genre, then turn your star-gazer below to our top three picks of new graphic novels that explore space, time, and beyond:

Trillium by Jeff Lemire (Vertigo): Writer/artist Lemire goes off the deep end, and readers who follow him will be richly rewarded by the journey’s end in this 2014 Eisner Award Nominee for Best Limited Series. Protagonists Nika (from the year 3797) and William (from 1921) find themselves at a cross-time crossroads, their destinies impossibly intertwined. Lemire plays with the book packaging and panel structures to literally shape the two narratives, and he invents his own alien language (a key is provided in the collection). It’s heady, daring, and satisfying.

The Bunker Vol. 1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari (Oni Press): Originally released via comiXology, this title gained a strong following thanks to its topsy-turvy plot: five friends hike into a forest to bury a time capsule, only to find one already there when they start digging—and it’s big. The bunker they unearth holds envelopes with letters written by their future selves, detailing an impending apocalypse. Initially, the letters seem to encourage extinction prevention, but the present-day friends quickly realize that ulterior motives may color the messages. Can they trust their future selves—and if the letters are true, can they trust each other?

Letter 44 Vol. 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque (Oni Press): Two disparate stories, one set on Earth and one in space, rely heavily on paranoia and action. On Earth, President Blades takes office only to discover that the previous regime kept many disturbing things hidden from the American public—chief among them a mysterious, alien space cannon and the American crew sent up to intercept it. As Blades encounters increasing subterfuge and danger the deeper he looks to the stars, the crew engages not only alien technology but the terrifying truth behind it. Plus, one of the crew members is pregnant, and nobody will name the father’s identity. The tension mounts with each chapter, and the tiny moments of payoff only serve to keep the pages turning.

My oxygen tank is just about dry, Omni readers.  What summer comics have you searching the stars for more?

--Alex

Even More End-of-the-World Books: Customer Picks

StandLast week I wrote about a few doomsday books out this summer, including Emily St. John Mandel’s forthcoming Station Eleven, Edan Lepucki’s California and Ben Winters’s World of Trouble.

I also asked for some suggestions from our Omnivoracious readers and Facebook followers. We received a handful of shout-outs for Cormac McCarthy's The Road (which was also on our original list) and lots of love for Stephen King's The Stand. On Facebook, Terry said King "brings it in that book" and Malina called The Stand "a must!" 

Here are more suggestions from our friends of dystopian fiction:

  • Michele: HELLO??? How about The Passage by Justin Cronin!
  • BlindTodd: I think "Blindness" always stands out to me as a book that shows us just how fragile society is.
  • Laura: Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh is very good.This follows a group of friends as resources become scarce and society starts to crumble. An interesting different view of what might be our end.
  • Patsy: Alas Babylon
  • Dave: #1: Walter Miller, "A Canticle for Leibowitz." #2: George Stewart, "Earth Abides."
  • June: The HAB Theory by Allen Eckhert. I read it in the 70's , long before global warming became an issue. It utterly moved me. I was running around for weeks telling people "we are doomed!" Warning, do not read the book's last sentence ahead of reading the entire book. actually, really should not have said that, 'cos now you will not be able to resist......
  • Elizabeth: On The Beach
  • Sarah: 1984 by George Orwell, The Stand by Stephen King ... can't pick just one!
  • Stacy: The Chemical Gardens series, Z for Zachariah, The White Mountain trilogy
  • Aaron: Samuel Delany's "Dhalgren" or maybe Gene Wolfe's "The Book of the New Sun"
  • Ralph: How could you leave out "The Stand" by Stephen King, and "Swan Song" by Robert R McCammon?
  • David: "Rescue Party" - Sir Arthur C. Clarke. (Actually a short story, but still...)
  • Ryan: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.
  • Andi: My absolute favourite? Z for Zachariah. Doesn't even matter that it's theoretically a kid's book.

 

How I Wrote It: Ben Mezrich, on His New Novel, "Seven Wonders"

BenaboutBen Mezrich is best known for his bestselling geeks-to-riches nonfiction stories, particularly Bringing Down the House and The Accidental Billionaires, both of which became major motion pictures. In Seven Wonders, on sale Sept. 2, Mezrich returns to his roots: fiction. Don't worry ... there are still geeks.

Seven Wonders features an Indiana Jones-type character, Jack Grady, an adventurous anthropologist who sets out to learn who murdered his estranged mathematician brother, Jeremy, who had uncovered some ancient mysteries and modern conspiracies during his research into the Seven Wonders of the World.

The first in a planned trilogy, writing Seven Wonders was a liberating experience for Mezrich, freeing him to write a thriller and at the same time indulge his lifelong obsession with mythology and ancient cultures. "I loved every minute of it," he said. "I felt untethered--although a lot of people have felt that I've been untethered all along."

Mezrich spoke with us during a visit to Seattle.

~

>See all of Mezrich's books

  Seven

YA Wednesday Sneak Peak: New Maze Runner Movie Trailer

MazeRunnerMTI

 

The Maze Runner movie is coming out next month (in theaters 9/19) and I'm already bugging the publisher to see if there are going to be any early screenings here in Seattle.   From the trailers I've seen, and early buzz, it looks like the film adaptation will do cinematic justice to this brilliantly imagined book that is truly one of my favorites. 

Another nod to doing it right is the movie tie-in cover on the book.  Often, these do not turn out well.  Really almost never, in my opinion.  But the new Maze Runner cover that you see here--pretty great, right?

If you need another reason to get excited about seeing the movie, check out the brand new trailer below--you can only see here for the next day or two.

 

Rick Riordan: The Weirdest Myth

PercyJacksonGreekGodsPercy Jackson's Greek Gods releases next week (8/19) and this Best Book of August is a look at Greek mythology as only the demigod Percy Jackson can do.  We already know author Rick Riordan is an avid mythology reader but wondered what myth he's run across that was more bizarre than all the rest (because, let's be honest, a lot of mythology is really strange).  Here's Riordan's take on the weirdest myth:

The Weirdest Myth

While writing Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, I came across a lot of weird myths. Even after all these years as a mythology buff, I’m still coming across stories I didn’t know.

Possibly the weirdest? The story of Erichthonious, the only son of Athena.

The thing is, Athena was a maiden goddess. She couldn’t have children. Yet the people of Athens wanted to find some way to claim that their king was descended from Athena, who after all was their patron goddess. They also thought it would be cool if their king was related to Hephaestus, since he was the god of useful crafts and the natural counterpart to Athena.

So the Athenians fashioned this rather weird story: The crippled blacksmith god Hephaestus fell in love with Athena, but of course Athena wanted nothing to do with him. Hephaestus tried to chase her down, but since he was crippled, Athena was faster. Hephaestus only managed to grab the hem of her skirt, and in the struggle . . . Hmm, how to put this delicately? Some of the god’s bodily fluid ended up on Athena’s leg.

Yuck. Athena got the nearest wad of wool and wiped off the aforementioned bodily fluid. She flung it down to the earth in disgust.

Sadly, divine fluid is powerful stuff. The essence of Hephaestus and Athena mixed together in that wool cloth, and a new life was created: a demigod baby, Erichthonius.

Athena heard the baby crying and took pity on him. She raised him in secret until he grew up, at which point he became the king of Athens.

And that’s how the Athenians got their ancestry straightened out. Their kings were literally the children of Athena and Hephaestus . . . though why they wanted to be descended from a discarded wool rag, I’m not sure.

Goes to show you: there’s a myth for everything. And just when you think mythology can’t get any stranger, it does. You can read the full story of Erichthonios, and so many more bizarre stories of the gods, in Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. Hope you enjoy! -- Rick Riordan

Dystopian Fiction: 8 Doomsday Books and "No More Avatars"

A flight from Moscow to middle America. Passengers carry a flu virus that explodes “like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth.” In a blink, the world looks like this: “No more ballgames played under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities ... No more cities ... No more Internet ... No more avatars.”

That’s Emily St. John Mandel’s take on doomsday, in her forthcoming novel, Station Eleven. As in other pre-apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic novels, survivors have become scavengers, roaming the ravaged landscape or clustering in pocket settlements, some of them welcoming, some dangerous. What’s especially touching about the world of Station Eleven is the author's homage to the small pleasures that were erased by the apocalypse. (St. John Mandel's editor at Knopf, Jenny Jackson, called the book “a love song for right now.”)

Station Eleven will be published September 9 amid a cluster of other summer dystopian novels, including Edan Lepucki’s California and Ben Winters’s World of Trouble, the third book in his “Last Policeman” trilogy. Coinciding with recent troubling global events--plane crashes, ferry sinkings, ancient sectarian conflicts flaring anew--those books have made me realize how writers continue to push the sub-genre of the end-of-the-world book into new literary heights. Here's how those books stack up against each other, and against a couple classics. This is hardly a definitive list, of course. It doesn't include Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy (a new boxed set goes on sale August 12). And I steered clear of zombies. If you’re a doomsday fan, send us your suggestions, and we’ll follow up with a customer list. If we’re all still here, that is.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (Sept. 9)

What the heck happened? The Georgia Flu--named for its country of origin--wiped out more than 99% of the population.

Now what? Twenty years later, a roving theater troupe, the Traveling Symphony, performs Shakespeare for wasteland communities. And there’s this culty prophet dude who calls the flu “the great cleansing” and says things like “we are the light. We are pure.” Watch out for him.

California, Edan Lepucki

What the heck happened? Seems like a slow-building combination of environmental cataclysm, loss of fossil fuels, illness, and social collapse.

Now what? A married couple, Cal and Frida, learn that Frida is pregnant and decide to leave the relative safety of their wilderness home and try to make it in one of the settlements. Which means they have to deal with other humans, both nasty and nice.

World of Trouble, Ben H. Winters

What the heck happened? A ginormous asteroid is barreling toward Earth. We don’t stand a chance, and everyone knows it.

Now what? As most humans prepare for the end with parties, prayer, or suicide, a quixotic police detective decides to leave his well-stocked safehouse and look for his missing sister in bleak small-town Ohio. He brings along his dog, Houdini.

A History of the Future, James Howard Kunstler

What the heck happened? You name it: pandemics, environmental disaster, no more oil, plenty of social and political chaos.

Now what? The people of Union Grove, in upstate New York, continue to strive for a simpler "world made by hand" pioneer lifestyle. (This is book 3 in the "World Made By Hand" series.) But then, on Christmas Eve: a gory double murder. 

Lock In, John Scalzi (on sale Aug 26)

What the heck happened? A contagious virus causes "lock in"--known as Haden’s syndrome--in 1% of the population. They’re alive and aware, but can’t move.

Now what? A murder at the Watergate Hotel lures two detectives into an investigation of some complicated truths about Haden’s syndrome, and crimes possibly nastier than murder.

The Dog Stars, Peter Heller

What the heck happened? Similar to Station Eleven, a super-flu killed off 99.7% of humanity--including the wife of our man Hig.

Now what? Hig and his dog and their plane reluctantly venture outside their safety zone, hoping to find someone who doesn’t want to kill them. Maybe even start a new life. Maybe even find love.

The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker

What the heck happened? The earth’s rotation is slowing, the days and nights growing longer. Pretty soon, it's going to get really cold and dark.

Now what? As the world begins to panic, 10-year-old Julia tries to keep living her life, even as her comfortable suburban family unravels. Coming of age is rough when the Earth is dying.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

What the heck happened? Something nuclear. Doesn't matter. The Earth is dying, a cracked, parched, ash-dusted and dangerous place.

Now what? Total bummer. A father and his son walk through a wasteland, dodging psychos and cannibals. All they have is their love for each other, and the thinnest strand of hope.

~

Good luck out there, readers. Carry water.

Forget Sharknadoes. Boaricanes.

So you survived Sharknado 2. Big deal--a host of other unnatural disasters and biological portmanteaux lurk in the dim corners of our planet (and the SyFy Channel), waiting to unleash their terror on bikini-clad hysterics, real-life-talk-show-hosts-at-career-crossroads, and throngs of unpaid extras. Fortunately, we have a resource for countering the coming waves of these straight-to-cable CGI abominations: How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters: Fight Back When Monsters and Mother Nature Attack provides the essential information and tactics you'll need to combat Sharktopus, Redneck Gator, Pirhanaconda, and many more of Mother Earth's vengeful agents. Author Andrew Shaffer (with contributors Fin Shepard and April Wexler) have generously provided background on three of the most direct threats: Boaricanes, Bigfoot, and Dinoshark.

Godspeed, and keep one eye to the skies.

 

Boaricane
Boaricane Vitals

"Hurricanes are called 'triple threats' because of their strong winds, high waves, and torrential rainfall. Throw in hundreds of robotically enhanced wild boars, and a hurrican bumps up to a full-alarm boaricane. Double the size of regular feral hogs, "cyboars" have hydraulic-powered metal skeletons underneath their flesh and blood. Male cyboars sport stainless-steel tusks sharp as machetes. To power their robotics, they need to eat constantly, and often hunt in packs. The cyboars' heavy, squat bodies allow to maneuver with ease during hurricanes.When strong winds knock you off balance, cyboars descend in a feeding frenzy."


Bigfoot
Bigfoot Vitals

"STUDY: Incontrovertible proof of the creature's existence comes to us from a 2012 rock concert in South Dakota, where a Sasquatch was caught on film by dozens of attendees. Video from the event makes the classic Patterson film--tha shaggy, man-sized beast swinging its arms in the woods--seem downright quaint. One shocking video from Deadwood shows the the two-story Sasquatch punting rocker Alice Cooper a hundred yards over the heads of fleeing concertgoers. The vide has over 100 million views on YouTube."


Dinoshark
Dinoshark Vitals

"STUDY: In 2007, a large aquatic animal attacked a boat off of the coast of Alaska. The creature swallowed the ships emergency position-indicating radio bacon (EPIRB). In 2010, authorities tracked the EPIRB to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the site of additional boat attacks. Survivors reported seeing a twenty-foot-long horned sea creature. One witness went so far as to call it a 'dinoshark.' Marine biologist Carol Brubaker didn't believe a prehistoric shark was terrorizing the Mexican Coast."


Sharknado

 

Excerpted from How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters. Copyright © 2014 by Andrew Shaffer. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Graphic Novel Friday: This Weekend's Other Space Opera

While I forge my way to the Canadian wilderness for vacation this summer, I will be unable to see The Guardians of the Galaxy film, Marvel’s latest comic book blockbuster. With me, however, is another space epic: Twelve Gems by Lane Milburn.

When the cover art was first revealed, I imagined it had been lifted from the backdrop of pinball machine located in a dingy cantina somewhere in the distant cosmos. A three-headed, horned monstrosity floating above space lava and encircled in glowing lights? Yes, I found my summer read. A copy recently arrived in the mail, and I diligently put it away so that I could save it for my trip. Only now my flight is delayed, I’m stuck in Denver and missing a day of vacation, and Twelve Gems is my only hope—and it’s delivering.

Part Heavy Metal, part Infinity Gauntlet, part progressive metal band's vinyl LP artwork, Twelve Gems offers a space opera send-up that reads like a serious good time. Writer and artist Milburn begins with an eccentric scientist, Dr. Z, who enlists three heroes (Furz, the heavy; Venus, the beautiful warrior; and Dogstar, the talking animal) to find the legendary twelve gems—what they do once collected, no one knows. All that matters is that Dr. Z wants them and he’ s willing to share in the reward, whatever it may be.

Across the stars, the three heroes (who aren’t so heroic) encounter robots, monstrous aliens, and more monstrous aliens, all of whom want the twelve gems for themselves. Dogstar develops a crush as Venus’ outfits only get tighter, and Furz keeps upgrading his murder weapons. It’s absurd how much fun this is, with double-page chapter breaks that would not be out of place on the side of a black van driven by two dudes wearing bandanas. Milburn’s throwback style, the heavy-lined and dense pages are only matched in goofiness by his dialogue: “You who wander this kaleidoscopic cosmos, who possess the mirror-trick of consciousness…speak!” 12Gems_panelAnd the crew can’t seem to catch a break even when they stop at a local space-bar--wherever they go they encounter thieves and assailants. “What?! We don’t get a moment to relax,” Venus bemoans as she readies her battle pose. “This galaxy sucks!” Furz agrees as they both hop into the melee. 

This is exactly what summer blockbusters should be, only Milburn’s is a singular vision. He exploits clichés by embracing them, and he busily captures hyperspace hilarity, while the black and white pages never feel overwhelmed by the dark backdrops or Milburn’s detailed designs. This compact paperback comes with Fantagraphics’ usual high quality paper stock and attention to detail, and I’m so glad it’s here with me—my vacation may have stalled but Twelve Gems gave it a warp core boost regardless.

See also The Comics Journal’s extensive interview with Milburn.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Miracleman Returns

Holy hiatus, Batman! The Graphic Novel Friday feature has been MIA for a several weeks, and I apologize. I recently moved, and my comics were all packed away in (too many) boxes, but one new collection stayed with me throughout the process: Miracleman Book 1: A Dream of Flying.

In the early 1980s, well before the gritty deconstruction of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the latter creator took to lesser-known 1950s United Kingdom hero, Marvelman, and did what he does best: utterly dismantle everything fans knew and rebuild the hero from a grim foundation. After decades of legal issues resulting in the name change to “Miracleman”—and even Alan Moore’s own dismissal of the project (he is now only credited as “The Original Writer”), Marvel Comics brings the out-of-print-run, with later contributions by Neil Gaiman, back to the bookshelves everywhere—and in celebratory fashion.

In Moore’s revamp, alter ego Micky Moran (ha!) has forgotten his superhero identity and slumps in middle age, in a lackluster marriage and job. His dreams haunt and hint at a greater calling, but everything is tinged with darkness, until a moment of panic forces Micky to utter the magic word that eluded him for so long: "Kimota!" And with that exclamation, Alan Moore changed comics forever.

This first volume includes a pre-Moore issue that leads directly into the deconstruction, and the overall story features all the sinister narration, disturbed villains, and pull-the-rug-out-from-under-the-hero origins that would later make Moore such a force in the superhero industry. It’s a revelation to read this story for the first time, to see the comics wizardry take form in an origin story of its own. It’s complemented by artwork from Garry Leach, whose classic lines give characters a subtle lurch. Midway through, an early Alan Davis joins the project, and his artwork, while hemming closely to Leach’s, is still his own—smooth and meticulous. The supplemental section is hefty, with a “Warpsmiths” story that will eventually tie into the larger storyline, and plenty of alternate covers—new and old, sketches, and more.

Welcome back, Miracleman. (Book 2: The Red King Syndrome releases this October!)

--Alex

P.S. GNF will now return to its regular bi-weekly schedule. Kimota!

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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