Simon Forward – Doctor Who Novellas: Shellshock
This is the first thing I’ve ever read featuring the Sixth Doctor. I disliked him immensely at the time and have yet to go back to revisit the character so there’s a lot of negativity in my head about him.
The story finds him and Peri landed on a floating wreck on a waterworld. Peri goes of snorkelling while the Doctor does some fishing. Unfortunately a little cyborg crab thingy takes it on itself to dynamite the wreck, sinking the Tardis and casting the two travellers adrift.
The Doctor winds up on a beach populated by a shellshocked soldier and more of the crabs. Other dangerous crabs turn up and invade the beach until the Doctor, the soldier and the (friendly) crabs escape and find their way to the research station where Peri has become absorbed into a sponge thing.
Throughout, the Doctor is a pompous arsehole but he does seem to care. This was an odd but strangely enjoyable read.
Matt Fraction & Gabriel Ba – Casanova: Luxuria
I’d been hearing about this book for such a long time on various comic forums that I was pretty stoked when I finally tracked it down.
It was fun but never really grabbed me as I wanted it to. What we have is Luther Arkwright as James Bond as re-imagined through the pens of Warren Ellis & Grant Morrison. It’s Gideon Stargrave channelling Spider Jerusalem on a cross dimensional robot sex doll – alternative dimensional – sci-spy trip.
I’m not even going to try and explain the story. It was a little haphazard but only in that it seemed to be throwing everything it had at the page. I’d have liked a slightly more considered pace. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t read more though as I most assuredly would.
Matt Fraction & Fabio Moon – Casanova: Gula
This is the second volume of Casanova. I read the first earlier this year and quite enjoyed it. It was a bit exhausting. A case of throw loads of ideas down in case I never get to do this again,.
This one was a lot more laid back and story orientated. It was, I think, all the better for it.
Casanova has gone missing and is urgently needed especially as his murdering twin sister is back on the scene.
The book is very much still in the vein of Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius or Morrison’s Gideon Stargrave and it was an absolute joy to read.
Matt Fraction & Gabriel Ba - Casanova: Avarita
This is the third and final part of the Casanova story and it finds him traversing the multiverse in an attempt to for the world of every possible version of the person who will be Newman Xeno. Is not a task that sits well with him and he soon starts to work to his own ends. Not everyone is best pleased with this and chaos inevitably ensues.
It's an appropriate end to a series that has been equal parts engrossing and confusing and one that has left me feeling like I've been on quite a fun trip that I was a little to distracted to enjoy fully and as such need to do it again.
Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders - The Five Fists of Science
The 'five fists' of the title are Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and his (one handed) assistant Tim who, along with Baroness Bertha von Suttner (whose fists apparently don't count), create and attempt to sell a giant automaton that will, they think, end war and ensure peace.
It's their attempts to sell this ludicrous 60ft tall robot that make up the majority of this book. Their inability to persuade anyone of it's viability leads them to stage a series of hoax battles against 'conjured' demons that are actually electro-static representations of Tim in a variety of silly costumes.
Their antics soon catch the eyes of the fiendish cabal of J.T. Morgan, Guglielmo Marconi, Thomas Edison & Andrew Carnegie who are in the process of constructing a giant tower 'tuned' to attract real demons.
Fraction is a solid writer and is always readable. He does have a slight tendency to come across as a mini Warren Ellis - mostly in terms of dialogue - but he does it well and with ample originality so we certainly won't hold that against him. His story moves along at breakneck speed and is full of wit and some fabulous touches (Marconi being a stress eater for instance). At times the constant cuts and perspective shifts did get to be slightly annoying but it certainly stopped ones attention from wandering.
Sanders is a new name to me. I've not even heard of him previous to reading this. His art is rich and sumptuous. He has a fine eye for period detail and costume. The characters are expressive and the layout is easy and natural to navigate. The automaton is an absolute delight. It's gangliness portrayed wonderfully - the panel showing it on the back of a train being a favourite. The demons seem to be where his heart really lies as he lovingly renders whole hordes of these.
I think I would have preferred this as a novel (and that's no criticism of the art) as the depth of the characters and the added length would have allowed the story more time to breathe and for the story to develop at a more rounded pace. As I'm writing this I'm thinking about how much it reminds me of 'Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack' by Mark Hodder which had the similar premise of recasting otherwise famous historical personages into steampunk science heroes. The size of that book however allowed the author time and space to develop his themes and side-stories. Here large parts are alluded to but not pursued like Tesla's crime-fighting, Shadow style, at the opening of the book. Why is he doing this? Purely to test the guns? Surely there are less dangerous ways than that.
These are quibbles though, it's not a novel, it's a graphic novel and is confined by it's length. That length is perfect for what you get and this was thoroughly enjoyable. Shame there aren't more to come.
Michael Jan Friedman - The Ultimates: Tomorrow Men
This is the first of these Marvel spin-off books I've read although I've checked out a couple from other publishers like Hellboy.
It was pretty much what I expected it to be. Mark Millar's original run on the Ultimates was a revelation. A subtle and invigorating reinvention of an outmoded concept. This novel is an attempt to cash in on that success but unfortunately has been written by someone too straitjacketed by their knowledge and familiarity with the old Avengers and also perhaps by their own lack of imagination.
It didn't suck, which is the best I can say. It provided a passable distraction between work responsibilities but that's all it was. It read like a typical 80s / 90s Avengers storyline. It didn't go anywhere and nothing particularly interesting, exciting or even fun happened along the way to help to pass the time.