Four Letter Nerd

Author - Cam Clark

4LN Comic Review – The Unworthy Thor #1

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Series – The Unworthy Thor
Writer – Jason Aaron
Art – Olivier Coipel, with recap by Russell Dauterman
Color Artist – Matthew Wilson
Publisher – Marvel

Summary from Comixology: “The Odinson’s desperate search to regain his worthiness has taken him out into the cosmos, where he’s learned of the existence of a mysterious other Mjolnir. This weapon of unimaginable power, a relic from a dead universe, is the key to Odinson’s redemption — but some of the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe are now anxious to get their hands on it as well. Can The Odinson reclaim his honor, or will the power of thunder be wielded for evil? The quest for the hammer begins here.”

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So Jason Aaron’s God of Thunder run is one of my all time favorite series.  It not only reawakened my love for comics, but cemented Thor as one of my favorite heroes.  Everything about it – from the villain, to plot, to the art (especially Esad Ribic’s) just clicked on every level.  When my local shop put up their poster for The Unworthy Thor, my interest was piqued.  I mean, Aaron just gets the character of Odinson (the god previously known as Thor), so I was looking forward to another series centering on the Thor from God of Thunder.

Let’s just say that Aaron knocks this book out of the park.  I haven’t been following the most recent Thor series, but I’ve kept up with the overall story.  This book opens with Odinson in a Sisyphean struggle to regain a Mjolnir (I say a Mjolnir because the cover shows the hammer carried by the Ultimates Thor), before going back three months to show us how he got in this predicament.  Both the recap and the main story have that sense of epicness that I felt was lost when the title transitioned away from Odinson.  I am not saying the other Thor was not good, just that Odinson has that extra mythological oomph that really pulls me in.

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Aaron is not the only Thor alum on this creative team either.  Olivier Coipel worked on several issues of J. Michael Straczynski’s run – the one that features Asgardia hovering over Broxton, Oklahoma.  This little geographical tidbit endears me to that title.  Because my family is from Oklahoma, and I love that fact that some podunk town in the Midwest had the gods of Asgard living alongside them.  Seriously though, I was reading that series while visiting my family in Oklahoma and thought about going to Broxton just for fun, but Google Maps showed nothing but farmland.  I didn’t even see a small-town diner.  Aaaanyway, it’s really awesome to have Coipel back in action.  I loved to see his take on this new version of Thor, and it’s fantastic.  There is a lot more realism in the art this time around, which is a necessity with the overall style, and Coipel just nails it.  The fight scenes are visceral, and the moonscape is damn near mythological in scope.

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The art team also includes Russell Dauterman who is responsible for the pages in the preview.  His art is freaking beautiful.  The small battle scene that opens the book is almost worth the price of admission in and of itself.  In a lot of ways, his art reminds me of a less stylized Juan Jose Ryp, and I love his art too.

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When it’s all said and done, The Unworthy Thor #1 is a great start to a new series.  There have only been a few books that immediately grabbed me and had me texting my comic shop owner to add it to my pull before the pages have shut.  Kudos to Aaron and the rest of the creative team for bringing the thunder in Thor’s continued quest to regain his hammer.

 

Music Pairing:
I am not as well versed in music as my fellow 4LNers Stephen and Bill, but I did find listening to Immediate’s Trailerhead:Saga a good fit for the mythic scope of this title.

An Interview with Derek Taylor Kent, author of Kubrick’s Game

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A few weeks ago, we put out a review of Derek Taylor Kent’s Kubrick’s Game, a puzzle-based adventure thriller that focuses on an elaborate mystery hidden within filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s greatest films.  The book was highly entertaining, and will entertain everyone from die-hard Kubriphiles to veritable Kubrick laymen.  We were fortunate enough to have a chat with Mr. Kent about his new novel, and a few other things.

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4LN – To help our readers get better acquainted with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started as an author?

Derek Taylor Kent – My name is Derek Taylor Kent. I’ve been an author and filmmaker since I was 15 years old. I started out writing children’s picture books, later transitioned into writing middle-grade novels, and have now transitioned into writing grown-up novels. Won’t go into it all, but you can see all my books, scripts, web series, theater work at DerekTaylorKent.com

 

4LN – What writers/novels had the biggest impact on you as an author?

DTK – When I was 15 years old, I become obsessed with Dr. Seuss, and for the next ten years I was writing picture books in a very Seuss-ian style. I used his distinct meter, but was writing epic stories similar to Lord of the Rings and Wizard of Oz. In retrospect it was not a smart choice as picture books are only supposed to take about five minutes to read but mine were waaaay longer, so nothing ever happened with those. During college my next obsession arose, which was Harry Potter. I decided to put the picture books aside and focus world-building novels like those for which I wasn’t dependent on illustrations like with picture books. I don’t have any drawing talent so it might it quite difficult. My first foray into novel-writing didn’t land a book deal, but a spin-off of it led to the Scary School series, which got a three-book deal with HarperCollins. I was focused on writing those books from 2009-2015. Book 4 of that series just came out last year. In 2011, I read Ready Player One and it became my latest obsession. I made me want to write a puzzle-adventure based on my own passions, my biggest being director Stanley Kubrick since high school, which became Kubrick’s Game.

 

4LN – The puzzle found in Kubrick’s Game is incredibly complex. Not only do you weave clues throughout Kubrick’s movies, but you also include different fan theories, conspiracy theories, and cryptology. I can’t imagine what went into making this into a reality, and since I can’t imagine it I have to ask you: How much time and research went into making this enormous puzzle?

DTK – There was a bout a year and a half of solid full-time research, plus several months of dedicated puzzle-creation working with the puzzle mavens of Fantastic Race. I read every single book ever written about Kubrick and his films, read every single online essay/theory/analysis, and of course watched the movies frame by frame many times. It was the biggest creative undertaking of my life by far. When I do signings, I set up a display that shows how I compiled all of my research into a 1000-page tome so I had everything I needed in one place. Now, we’ve begun a whole new part of the process by creating a real life treasure hunt that accompanies the book. I once again worked with the puzzlers from Fantastic Race and created a very fun quest for everyone to play. It’s already underway, but there is still plenty of time to get into it. You can get started at DerekTaylorKent.com/the-game – you don’t have to read the book to play the first round, but you may find it helpful.

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4LN – Your cast of characters is extremely diverse and each one uniquely versatile. Was it easy to craft such an eclectic cast, or did you struggle at all writing their personalities and attributes?

DTK – It wasn’t terribly difficult as most of characters were based on people that I’ve known. UCLA is a very diverse campus, so I felt like I was reflecting the reality of the environment rather than making any conscious choice to be diverse. For instance, the character of Wilson is based on an African-American former child star who closely resembles Jaleel White (Urkel), who also happened to attend UCLA film school while I was there. You’ve previously written several picture books and middle-grade books.

 

4LN – What inspired you to make the leap into writing books geared towards adults, and what is different about the process?

DTK – Making that transition was the most difficult part of the process. I had to adjust my style from being one that an 8-year-old would have no trouble reading, to one in which even the most sophisticated readers would feel challenged and in competent hands. I had trained my brain to write short sentences with a minimal vocabulary and had to retrain myself to write longer, more complex sentences and use vocabulary and metaphors that an adult would relate to. There was a lot of work in the editing process that took about another year after the book was written, but I think it ultimately came out as well as I could have hoped for a first effort.

 

4LN – What advice would you give to an aspiring author looking to break into the industry?

DTK – First and foremost is to read and write as much as possible. That’s the only proven way to become a better writer. If you’ve finished a novel, make sure you give it to unbiased readers and editors before submitting to any publishers and agents and spend many, many months working on it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but should be in much better shape than your first draft. The submission process is enough to teach 3-day seminars about, which I’ve done, but have fun with it, write an awesome query, and get it out to everyone who might be into it.

 

Lightning Round (short questions, gut answers)

Favorite Kubrick Film

2001: A Space Odyssey

 

Favorite non-Kubrick Film

Back to the Future

 

Last book you read

Cake in Bed by Sheri Fink.

Currently reading Infomacracy by Malka Older

 

Favorite book of all time (at the moment)

Maus: Parts I and II by Art Spiegelman, Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut, HP: Deathly Hallows

 

Finally, You just started to realize you are in a Truman Show that’s centered on you. What do
you do now?

Take off all my clothes and never put them back on. Also put on the movie The Truman Show and play it on a loop to make my show very meta.

 

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Derek for chatting with me! Make sure you check out his website, read the first chapter of Kubrick’s Game here, and pick up the whole book right now!

4LN Book Review – Kubrick’s Game, by Derek Taylor Kent

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Summary from the Amazon: “What if Stanley Kubrick left behind more than just his classic films? What if he also left behind an elaborate puzzle cleverly buried within his films, which would lead the player toward a treasure that could change the course of human history?”

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To be honest, I was slightly hesitant to start this book.  I mean, I have seen a majority of Kubrick’s films, but I was not an Kubrick junkie (do Kubrick fans have a nickname? I will try a few out throughout this review).  I also usually have a pretty good idea what I am getting myself into book-wise.  Generally, I like to do some research on the book before I buy it – what can I say… I’m cautious.  However, having received an advanced reader copy, I dove in feet first (I know headfirst is proper form, but I’m not a great swimmer).

Kubrick’s Game fits squarely into the unique genre that Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One made so popular.  I’m not entirely sure there is name for it, maybe adventure/thriller, but it involves a high-stakes puzzle laid out by a genius at the top of their craft, and includes life/world changing reward (also, Spielberg gets referenced).  All in all, it’s sort of like the Da Vinci Code for pop culture geeks.  The main difference that Kubrick’s Game has with Ready Player One is that the puzzle is laid out by Stanley Kubrick and involves almost all of his biggest blockbusters (most notably Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and A Clockwork Orange).

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When most books have the phrase “page-turner” emblazoned on the cover, I generally take it with a grain of salt.  That being said, Kubrick’s Game is legitimately a page-turner, and I am not even a Kubritch.  The puzzle the Kubrick leaves behind is inSANEly detailed, and while it starts innocuously enough, the stakes get higher and higher.  After finishing the story, I can’t imagine how much time and effort went into developing Kubrick’s puzzle, but I imagine it was quite a lot.

The book centers of Shawn, an autistic film student, his former child-actor friend Wilson, and Sami Singh.  I really like that the author’s main protagonist was autistic.  It was interesting seeing Shawn work through the puzzle, while also working through his own obstacles throughout the course of the book.  Along the way, Shawn and his cohorts face multiple trials that test not only the bonds of friendship, but their resiliency.  The dialogue held my attention pretty much the entire time, and the shadowy organization trying to steal the prize is sufficiently malevolent.

What made this book even more enjoyable was the fact that I had no idea what was going to happen from page to page.  That’s not necessarily rare, as I generally try to just enjoy the flow of the story, but this book was particularly mysterious.  Again, I would like to emphasize that I am not Kubro by any stretch of the imagination.  I have seen a handful of his movies throughout my life – never more than once or twice – and I still had an awesome time reading this book.  Kudos to Mr. Kent for writing an enjoyable adventure for both Kubrickians and us lay persons alike.

Kubrick’s Game was written by Derek Taylor Kent, who previously wrote the middle-school series Scary School, and is available everywhere as of September 26, 2016.  I encourage everyone – from people looking for a good fall read to legitimate Kubriphiles – to head down to the their local bookstore/online store and pick up their copy today!

4LN Comic Review: Superman #7

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Series: Superman
Writer: Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jiminez, with colors by Alejandro Sanchez
Publisher: DC Comics

Summary from Comixology: “‘SON OF SUPERMAN’ part 7! In this epilogue issue, Superman considers the toll his battles with the Eradicator and Doomsday have taken on his family and the need for a normal life. But can the Man of Steel ever take a day off?”

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I love Superman.  If I had to choose just one superhero to helm my pantheon of favorite superheroes, it would definitely be him.  Unfortunately, outside of a couple of great arcs, the comics have been weak.  Like, the kind of weak Superman gets when he mainlines kryptonite under a red sun.  The N52 Superman was an attempt (I assume) to make the Big Blue Boyscout more edgy, and, for me anyways, it was really, really hard to read.  Luckily, DC’s Rebirth initiative has been pretty fantastic.  I picked up Superman on the off chance that it would do the Man of Steel justice.

What do you think of when I say a comic is “wholesome”? Sunday newspapers? Charlie Brown and Garfield?  Wholesome might be a major selling point for a superhero comic, especially in the age we live in, but I can’t think of another word for this issue.  And you know what?  I loved it.  As the summary above describes, this issue finds Superman realizing that his wife and son deserve some level of normalcy so he joins them on a trip to the county fair.  The simple story is accompanied by some really strong art, especially the short action sequence at the very beginning.  All told, this issue, while not for everybody, was a lighthearted Superman story that reminded me a lot of Superman for All Seasons, which is one of my all time favorite comics.

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I think what appeals to me most about this series is that it really puts an emphasis on the hopefulness of Superman.  This book is about him trying to be as good of a father and husband as he can, while figuring out his place in this universe’s world (quick side note: the New52 edgy, t-shirt wearing Superman died at the end of the New52 run. This is the pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark from a different universe. They ended up in the N52 Superman’s universe somehow during Convergence. Anyway, this is why they are laying low in a small town in California). The optimistic tone stands in stark contrast to a lot of the previous Superman series’ and it’s been a joy to read them.  Parts 1-6 are great and are worth a read, so I won’t spoil them here, but 7, which serves as an epilogue, stands on its own.  It’s the reader’s chance to breathe after the Eradicator tried to do what his name suggests (and his name sure as hell doesn’t suggest that he makes bagels for a living).  It also serves as a fantastic jumping on point for new readers, since it doesn’t necessitate one go back and read the previous issues to fully grasp what’s happening (but I really liked those books, so I suggest you go back and read them as well).

It really feels like Peter J. Tomasi and company have their collective finger on the pulse of what makes Superman such a great character, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store in the upcoming arc.  One thing is for sure, Superman benefited greatly from DC’s Rebirth.

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4LN Comic Review – Hadrian’s Wall #1

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Series: Hadrian’s Wall
Written by: Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Art by: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics

Summary from Comixology: “When an astronaut on HADRIAN’S WALL is murdered, pill-popping detective Simon Moore is dispatched to investigate the ship’s crew, including his own ex-wife. But if Simon’s not careful, what he finds could make the interstellar Cold War go red hot. From the creative team behind the critically-acclaimed series C.O.W.L. comes a gripping, locked room murder mystery where the secrets of everyone involved are as dark as the space that surrounds them.”

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This teams previous effort, C.O.W.L., was one of my first Image titles, and it was awesome (seriously, go track down the trades).  It was like Mad Men meets the Justice League, if the League was in a corrupt union in the 1950’s.  The story was really interesting, and Rod Reis’ art is so unique.  Anyway, whenever it ended it left a hole to fill, and HADRIAN’S WALL looks to fill that hole.

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While both of these titles could be considered noir, the settings are vastly different.  As stated previously, C.O.W.L. took place in 1950’s Chicago, while HADRIAN’S WALL takes place in space, aboard the titular ship.  After a member of the crew is murdered, Simon Moore is sent out to investigate.  Things get complicated when we learn about Moore’s history with both the deceased astronaut and said astronaut’s wife, who happens to be Moore’s ex-wife.  Not the best of circumstances considering they are confined on a ship in the middle of nowhere.

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The tone of this issue is really neat.  The set pieces look like they were pulled out of the 70/80’s sci-fi aesthetic, and the idea of a noir murder mystery is definitely intriguing.  Higgins and Siegel have already proven that they can spin a great noir yarn, and this issue is not an exception to that rule.

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I know that the sci-fi genre can be hit or miss, especially with the genre being flooded, but this creative team put out a great first issue that has enough humanity in it to ground it.  Not to mention the gorgeous visuals, particularly the two-page spreads, provided by the fantastic Rod Reis.  If you are a fan of 80’s sci-fi, murder mysteries, or James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series, this is definitely a book for you.

HADRIAN’S WALL is out today so make sure to pick up you copy ASAP!

 

4LN Comic Review: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Vol. 1 TPB

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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Vol. 1 TPB
Written by Kyle Higgins and Steve Orlando
Art by Hendry Prasetya and Corin Howell, with colors by Matt Herms and Jeremy Lawson
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Summary from BOOM! Studios:

  • Dive into the first collection of our best-selling, modern, ongoing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series.
  • After escaping Rita Repulsa’s mind control, Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, joins the Power Rangers to combat the onslaught of evil attacks plaguing Angel Grove. Any semblance of a normal life is gone for Tommy now, but with his newfound family there lies hope for a brighter path.
  • Collects issues #1-4, plus the prequel issue #0.

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Like many kids born in the late ’80s, I was obsessed with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers growing up.  Many a recess was spent fighting Rita’s putties, and can we just talk about merchandising?  I had the 8″ figures, the Megazord, Dragonzord, the figures with the heads that flipped out of a compartment in their chest, various bedspreads/blankets, and the still-good Mighty Morphin Power Rangers videogame for the Sega Genesis (which I play with my three-year-old now).  What I am trying to say is that I was a bit of a fan of the first batch of Rangers, and the nostalgic part of my brain (a majority of my brain) was very interested to see what Higgins and Co could do with this colossal franchise.

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Previously on 4LN, I reviewed the first issue of MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS and thought that it was a great first issue filled with nerdstalgia from the original show.  The next three issues (and the #0 that I missed) fit well into that narrative.  Kyle Higgins does a fantastic job capturing the tone of the old episodes, while also updating them a bit so they don’t feel dated.  Like, the characters reference servers, have cell phones that aren’t the size of bricks, and even deal with more modern issues like the way PTSD effects people, but also talk just like they did in the ’90s.  While that might be jarring to some MMPR purists out there (and you know they are out there), I felt it was handled in a way that was respectful of the original content.  Higgins is a good writer, and he brings his A-game to this series.

This particular arc finds Tommy, still haunted by his actions as a pawn of Rita Repulsa, dealing with his struggle to find his place in the team.  Jason and Zack don’t yet trust him, and Rita is constantly in the back of his head causing him to doubt himself.  It would have fit perfectly as a multi-part episode that took place directly after the “Green With Evil” five-parter from the original show.  The characters interactions with one another feel spot on, and we see all sorts of notables from the show, like Scorpina (who plays a pretty big role), Finster, the putties, an exiled Goldar, and, of course, Bulk and Skull.

Moving on, let’s talk about the art.  There are some panels in this volume that are just fantastic.  The art teams absolutely nails the Rangers, the monsters, and the Zords.  While the scenes that take place out of uniform are light-hearted, for the most part, and almost cartoony (not in a bad way), the fights are gritty and paced perfectly.  There was never a moment where the action was confusing.  The best part by far is when we see the team morph for the first time.  I could just hear that opening guitar riff playing in the background, and it was perfect.  I was also excited to see all of the awesome cover art included in this trade paperback.  The regular covers, as well as the variants, include some amazing takes on the Rangers, and would’ve been plastered all over my bedroom walls when I was a kid (and probably would be now if my wife would let me).

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Look, if you are a fan of the original show, you need to check out this series, and the first volume is the perfect place to start.  This creative team is in tune with what made the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a cultural phenomenon in the 90’s, and this just might be one of BOOM!’s best series out right now.  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers vol. 1 hits the stands on September 14, 2016, and will be sure to bring back a little magic from your childhood.

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4LN Comic Review – Generation Zero #1 (+ Sneak Preview!)

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Series: Generation Zero
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Francis Portela
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse
Publiher: Valiant Comics

Summary:

If you have a problem… If your parents won’t help… And if your cause is worthy… Log onto network #ZERO…because Generation Zero is listening._ Years ago, the children of the experimental strike team known as Generation Zero were taken from their families by Project Rising Spirit, a private weapons contractor, and raised to be psychic soldiers. After years of taking orders, they have fought for and won their freedom. Now, the world’s most wanted teenagers have pledged to protect each other tooth and claw, while using their extraordinary abilities to right wrongs for a generation without a future… To fight for kids, just like them. One of those kids is Keisha Sherman, whose boyfriend just turned up dead after a suspicious car crash in Rook, Michigan – a newly booming tech town that sprang from rags to super-riches seemingly overnight. When Keisha makes a desperate plea into her webcam, the local high school suddenly finds itself with several unusual new students… But as word of Generation Zero’s presence spreads rapidly through the halls, this volatile band of teenage upstarts is about to discover that they’re far from the most extraordinary thing lurking behind Rook’s stainless-steel facade…

 

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This book has been on my radar since the Valiant Summit 2016 for multiple reasons.  Probably the most prominent reason is that it is written by one of my favorite writers, and all around nice guy, Fred Van Lente (you can check out our interview with him here).  Previously, Van Lente wrote ARCHER & ARMSTRONG (one of my favorite Valiant titles), IVAR, TIMEWALKER, and the fantastic one-shot 4001 A.D. WAR MOTHER.

GENERATION ZERO focuses on a group of young psiots who first appeared in Valiant’s lauded ARMOR HUNTERS event.  If you haven’t read HARBINGER, or the ARMOR HUNTERS event, you might want to go back and check them out after you read this – mainly because they are great – but they aren’t required reading to be able to understand what’s happening thus far.  They are teenagers with crazy mind powers, and that is all you really need to know to follow along.

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As you can see in the summary above, GENERATION ZERO starts off in the small but suddenly booming city of Rook, Michigan.  But not everything is hunky-dory.  Keisha Sherman’s boyfriend has been killed in a suspicious car crash, and the town of Rook has a decidedly “Silicon Valley’s version of Stepford Wives” vibe.  Keisha calls the only people she thinks can help – Generation Zero.  And, if I may say so myself, the make quite the entrance.  Portela’s art is fun, and there are some creeeepy baddies that pop up near the end.

I was really impressed with the story and overall tone of the book.  Maybe it’s that I binged Stranger Things, reading through Brian K. Vaughan’s PAPER GIRLS and old Stephen King novels, and watching movies like Firestarter and Predator, but I felt like there was a tinge of 80’s sci-fi interwoven throughout the first issue.  Again, it could be that I have been steeped in that sort of thing for the last few weeks.  Either way, I loved the kind of nostalgic feel in this title.  Like I said earlier, this is a fantastic jumping on point from a fantastic creative team.

GENERATION ZERO hits the shelves on August 24, 2016, make sure to go grab one!

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A Brief History of the First Age of Middle-Earth as Found in the Silmarillion and Other Writings

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In the beginning, eons before the first star was born, there dwelt a divine being known as Eru Ilúvatar. In his infinite wisdom Eru Ilúvatar stretched forth his hand and created the Ainur, the Holy Ones. Together they would create a Great Music that would form a vision of what could be, weaving together the very fabric of the universe. And so it came to be that light filled the void and Eru brought this vision to life by forming Eä, the “World that Is.”  While a great many of the Ainur remained in the Timeless Halls created by Eru Ilúvatar, a number of the Ainur were so enamored with this creation that they elected to depart and journeyed forth to Eä.  Those that made the decision to cross over into Eä would become the Valar, as well as the less powerful Maiar. The Valar and Maiar would reign as gods to those that would come to inhabit the land, which they called Arda.

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Ainulindale by Alassea Earello

The Valar and the Maiar worked in tandem to form a perfect world, but there was discord and war broke out amongst them. This was called the First War.  Eventually Almaren, the first kingdom of the Valar, was formed.  It was during this time that the two great Lamps were created to light the world, one placed in the North, the other in the South. This marked the beginning of the era known as the Age of Lamps.  However, the greatest of the Valar named Melkor, who would later be named Morgoth, revolted against the others. In his wrath Melkor laid waste to the kingdom of Almaren and extinguished the light of the Great Lamps.  In response to this devastation, the other Valar, led by Manwë, the Wind Lord, fled West and created Valinor, a land that was said to be even fairer than Almaren.

During this time the Valar dwelt in Valinor and enjoyed a period of blessedness known as the Ages of the Trees, for in Valinor there grew two magical trees from which their light the day and night were measured. During the Ages of the Trees the Valar created many diverse races, such as the Ents, guardians of the forests, the Eagles, magnificent winged rulers of the sky, and Dwarves, delvers of the deep and master craftsman, before awakening the Elves during the Age of Stars.  From thence Middle-earth entered into the Ages of Darkness and of Stars. Meanwhile back in Arda, Melkor ruled from his dark stronghold Utunmo, and his devotee, Sauron, ruled in Angband, a second stronghold. The race of Elves caught Melkor’s eyes and over time he sought to corrupt them, which lead to the return of the Valar to Middle-earth and ushered in the War of Powers. Many battles took place and when the dust settled the walls of Utunmo were felled and Melkor was shackled in unbreakable chains.  Without the corrupting influence of Melkor, the Elves prospered in Middle-earth and many traveled to the Undying Lands to dwell with the Valar.

Silmarillion

For ages peace reigned, until Melkor was brought before the Valar for judgement.  Manwë, believing Melkor to have repented of his past sins, released Melkor from his bonds.  Alas, Melkor’s deception ran deep and while appearing reformed he planted the seeds of discord amongst the Elves, and made a secret alliance with Ungoliant, the ascendant of Shelob.  United in dark purpose, Melkor and Ungoliant destroyed the Two Trees, killed Finwë, High King of the Elven Noldor and creator of the precious Simarils which gave light to the trees, and fled to Middle-earth with Simarils in hand.  It was here that Melkor, now called Morgoth meaning “Dark Enemy” or “Black Foe” in Sindarin, attacked the Elves of Doriath, who drove him back to his dark fortress of Angband.  This marked the first of many battles within the Elvish kingdoms of Beleriand.

Enraged at the death of his father, Fëanor and his kin the Noldor, swore an oath of revenge on Melkor.  The Noldor raced eastward seeking the famed ships of the Teleri.  However, when the ships were not given freely the Noldor set upon the Teleri and wrested their ships from them by force, slaying many in the process.  With vengeance on his mind, Fëanor set off at once, leaving many of his own people to make a long and treacherous journey to Middle-earth by foot.  Once they made land, Fëanor and his host drove back the forces of Morgoth at Angband, but in their victory Fëanor was slain by the dreaded Balrogs.

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From “The Silmarillion” Illustrated by Ted Nasmith

Many wars were waged between the Elves and the forces of Morgoth, and eventually all of the Elvish kingdoms of Beleriand fell.  It was not until Eärendil, the Half-elvin, sailed the Aman and persuaded the Valar to return to Middle-earth that Morgoth fell.  The Valar, alongside the Maiar and Vanyar, descended upon Angband, destroyed Morgoth’s armies and fortress, and cast Morgoth out of Arda and into the void.  So vast were the scars of war that ravaged the land of Beleriand from the fierce battles that took place that eventually it was swallowed by the sea, forever changing the landscape of Middle-earth.  Thus ended the First Age of Middle-earth.

(Editor’s Note: This piece was co-written by Josiah Po’e, Muindor)

4LN Comic Review – FAITH #1

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Series: Faith
Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Pere Pérez, Marguerite Sauvage, Colleen Doran, with colors by Andrew Dalhouse
Publisher: Valiant

Summary from Comixology:

AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES! Because you demanded it?the high-flying hero that captured the imagination of the world is back with a colossal new comics milestone! In a city under siege by robots, aliens, monsters and even worse? celebrities, there is only one woman the people of Los Angeles can count on: the stratospheric superhero called Faith! Aspiring reporter by day and dedicated crime-fighter by night, Faith has tackled every obstacle in her path with confidence – like those crushing deadlines at work, the long-distance boyfriend half a world away, and the missing back issues that plague her comics collection! But, unbeknownst to her, Faith is about to collide with the one force she never saw coming: an up-and-coming super-villain bent on snuffing her out once and for all! But who is lurking behind the mask of her new foe?and could they just be the one person capable of rendering Faith powerless? Jump on board now to find out why Valiant’s one-of-a-kind hero is inspiring a whole new generation! Be here as FAITH moves from her sold-out mini-series?and into the history-making debut of her first-ever ongoing series!

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Faith has become somewhat of a phenomenon in comics.  She’s a fangirl turned superhero that first appeared in HARBINGER, then got her own soldout 4-issue miniseries helmed by Jody Houser.  It was so popular that, during it’s run, Valiant announced that Ms. Houser would return for a FAITH ongoing series.  I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t completely sold when the first issue of the miniseries came out, but Jody Houser’s fantastic ability to tell an intriguing story and infuse it with so many nerd references made me a believer.  Needless to say, I have been pretty excited for FAITH #1.

Let me start by saying that Houser knocked it out of the park on this issue.  She just seems to get what it means to be obsessed with nerd culture.  Throughout the book we see references to Star Wars, Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons (called Mythos and Mayhem), comic cliche’s, how many superhero movie actors are named Chris, and so much more.  It’s just endearing, which is rare in comics.  Her love of comic books is what helped her through losing her parents, and she wants to use her powers for good because she enjoyed reading stories about people granted amazing abilities and using them selflessly.  She struggles with self-doubt, and is constantly struggling to figure out how to juggle everyday life with her extraordinary powers.

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Her inner-monologue almost breaks the fourth wall in a great way.  She is still learning what it means to be a hero, and her love of nerd pop culture is the lens she views heroism through.  It makes the character relatable no matter what gender, shape, or color human you are.

The art team does a good job mashing up several different styles, and the colors really, really pop.  I like how the main story, the flashback sequence, and the dream sequence were all done in a different style.  It made the story much easier to follow, and provided some variety in the 40+ issue debut.

This is a killer first issue that not only sees Faith meet her first true arch-nemesis, but also does a great job filling in readers that maybe haven’t read HARBINGER or FAITH the Miniseries.  Jody Houser is a fantastic writer who injects a lot of humanity into her books, which not only makes the book fun to read, but relatable to what I imagine is a larger part of the population (excepting maybe the dude-bros and/or cynics).  FAITH #1 hits the stands on Wednesday, make sure to pick up your copy as soon as possible.  The Future of Valiant has begun, and it started off on the right foot for sure.

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4LN Book Review – A Hundred Thousand Worlds, by Bob Proehl

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A Hundred Thousand Worlds hit the bookshelves June 28, 2016, or, right when I needed something to read that was a little more portable than my giant 50th Anniversary, one-volume copy of The Lord of the Rings. I had been seeing the title popping up in different newsletters and Goodreads recommendations over the last few weeks, and decided that, even though I knew next to nothing about it outside of the setting (a road trip hitting several comic conventions across the US), I should give it a shot.

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Bob Proehl, bobproehl.com

Summary from Penguin Random House:

Valerie Torrey took her son, Alex, and fled Los Angeles six years ago—leaving both her role on a cult sci-fi TV show and her costar husband after a tragedy blew their small family apart. Now Val must reunite nine-year-old Alex with his estranged father, so they set out on a road trip from New York, Val making appearances at comic book conventions along the way.

As they travel west, encountering superheroes, monsters, time travelers, and robots, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars, from a hapless twentysomething illustrator to a brilliant corporate comics writer stuggling with her industry’s old-school ways to a group of cosplay women who provide a chorus of knowing commentary. For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.

A knowing and affectionate portrait of the geeky pleasures of fandom, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is also a tribute to the fierce and complicated love between a mother and son—and to the way the stories we create come to shape us.

Let me start by saying that even though this is Bob Proehl’s debut novel, it was packed full of emotion, beautiful descriptions of the ordinary, and multiple plotlines that interweave into a fantastic, heartfelt story.  Oh, and it is also stuffed with references, Easter eggs, and nostalgia that only a fan of nerd culture could spin together.  It’s the kind of book that is hard to describe while you are reading it, but impossible to put down.

The story centers on nine year old Alex and his former TV star mom Valerie Torrey as they road trip across the country making stops at various comic conventions along the way.  Val starred in the show Anomaly, which is a stand in for popular shows like X-files or Firefly, and is stopping to make appearances on their way to LA, where her ex-husband/former costar still lives.  Along the way, they meet indie-artist Brett who works for Black Sheep (think Image or IDW), Gail, a writer for National Comics (DC), and a pack of professional cosplayers.  Proehl uses these side-characters to explore the inner workings of the comic industry, and fandom in general.

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Like most good novels, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is tinged with a little sadness.
It is full of measured tension, but broken up with up with nostalgia and comic relief.  Proehl does a good job with Alex as a protagonist.  He is wise for a nine year old, but never seems too wise for his years.  His burgeoning friendship and “co-mission” with Brett is a fun side-story, and his commentary on life in general is fascinating.

In the Acknowledgements section, Proehl describes A Hundred Thousand Worlds as a love-letter to a medium that has been dear to his heart since he was a kid, and it really shows.  Proehl’s commentary on the culture of fandom is unique and interesting, and his story is one that will resonate with people.  Few books leave me with a book hangover, but this one certainly did.  I wholeheartedly recommend A Hundred Thousand Worlds to anyone looking for a captivating summer read.