DC Comics: Buy ‘Midnighter’ Before He’s Gone

This week in DC Comics, we might be seeing the last gasp of a few titles. In some case, like Batman Beyond, it’s not a huge loss, but in other cases, such as Midnighter, it’s a damn shame. But Suicide Squad fans, here’s your chance to check out Midnighter with an issue that shows how unique this run has been.

What else should you grab? If you like horror, Swamp Thing. Batgirl fans, the new issue is out and Black Canary’s back. Fans of Scott Snyder’s run on Batman should check out Batman & Robin Eternal, as there are major doings with Harper Row. But Ray and I won’t limit ourselves to just those comics. We read them all.

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS WEEK’S COMICS BELOW.

Swamp Thing #2, Len Wein, writer, Kelley Jones, illustrator

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Great Start Especially For Swamp Thing Newbies

Ray: I was a bit disappointed with the first issue of the relaunch, since it seemed to pull back all the development the character’s world went through in the previous series and set him back to the lone monster he used to be. Fortunately, this issue makes it clear that the goal is to pull Swamp Thing back into the sphere of the dark, supernatural characters in the DCU. When we last left off, Swamp Thing had been ripped in two by a rampaging zombie, a vengeful victim of a resurrection experiment gone wrong. Continue reading DC Comics: Buy ‘Midnighter’ Before He’s Gone

Shoebox Time Machine: Jeff Salyards Geeks Out About the Past

This week I invited epic fantasy/grimdark author Jeff Salyards to GeekMom to tell us what made him geek out while he was writing his Bloodsounder’s Arc series. The third book of the series, Chains of the Heretic, is out today in e-book (it can be found in hardcover on 2/9/2016)!

I’ve been a knucklehead my whole life (or “assclown,” if I’m being less charitable to myself). I still have the occasional outburst or episode now and then, as anyone who knows me even remotely well will testify, but back in my teens and twenties, I did ridiculously dumb things on a routine basis. Sometimes hourly. Continue reading Shoebox Time Machine: Jeff Salyards Geeks Out About the Past

Custom Made Disease: Geeking Out About Mutants With William C. Dietz

This week, New York Times bestselling science fiction author William C. Dietz joins us to tell us about what made him geek out while writing his Mutant Files trilogy!

Image: Ace/Roc Books
Image: Ace/Roc Books

Geeking Out is a natural part of writing science fiction, and vice versa. So when I wrote Graveyard, which is the third volume in the Mutant Files trilogy, I was in the full-on geek mode.

The book’s main character is a Los Angeles police detective named Cassandra Lee. The story takes place in 2069, a time when the entire world had been divided up into a patchwork quilt of green zones (where the norms live,) and red zones (where the mutants live.)

That’s the McGuffin, and to justify it I knew that it would be necessary to get some science on. The mutants had to come from somewhere, right? Continue reading Custom Made Disease: Geeking Out About Mutants With William C. Dietz

Poison Ivy: Plant, Human Or Something Else?

Last week, I talked about some of the books that star the lesser-known DC characters need more love. That’s even more evident this week, as Martian Manhunter, Titans Hunt, Poison Ivy, Secret Six and Doctor Fate come out this week with good issues. Yet Ivy is only a miniseries, Doctor Fate’s sales have bottomed out and the rest aren’t doing the sales that their quality indicates they should.

Then I read that the seventh issue of my fangirl favorite, Titans Hunt, will be written by Scott Lobdell, who wrote the awful Doomed and made a mess of the regular Teen Titans title. Worse, it appears the book will be ending the month after. Nooo…..

Which brings me to why readers may not be buying these quality books: if their cancelation is inevitable, why get invested in these characters? A cynical way to look at it but given that DC has a habit of using its lesser-known characters as cannon fodder in crossovers, understandable. But, I have to say, ya’ll are missing great stories.

As always, I’m joined in the recaps by Ray Goldfied, where we have a serious disagreement about an issue of Batman that includes a big turning point in the life of the new Bruce Wayne.

Happy comic reading!

Page 4 of Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics
Page 4 of Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1, written by Amy Chu, pencils by Clay Mann, inks by Seth Mann

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Everyone loves the Joker most of Batman’s villains but I’ve always the female antagonists more interesting, starting with Catwoman. However, Poison Ivy is in a class by herself, a villain motivated not by money or power but by scientific curiosity and her strange ability to commune with plants. She’s creepy and I had no idea if she would make a good protagonist. But she does, mainly because all her many facets are on display in this book, from her fascination with science to her boredom with humanity and, even, surprisingly, her relationship with Harley Quinn.

I’d not expected I’d be so intrigued but I am. That bodes well for this miniseries.

Ray: I’m a sucker for stories about villains trying to turn over a new leaf. They can be dark, like Magneto’s accounting for his violent past in Cullen Bunn’s run, or lighthearted like Riddler’s Detective agency in Paul Dini’s books. This new Poison Ivy miniseries seems to fall right in the middle of that spectrum, and delivers an entertaining story in the process. When we open, Ivy and a friend of hers are in Africa to obtain a rare specimen of an ancient long-lived plant, only to be accosted by local soldiers. Ivy makes short work of them and the plant returns safely to her new base, the Gotham Botanical Gardens, where she works as a scientist under her mentor, Dr. Luisa Cruz.

Cover to Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics
Cover to Poison Ivy, image copyright DC Comics

The Gotham Academy kids drop by for a tour, and we see Ivy settling into her new role as a research scientist – until a more noticeable visitor shows up. It’s Harley Quinn, who isn’t quite sure how she feels about her girlfriend’s new direction in life. I felt like anything here involving Harley was probably the weak link. I enjoy their banter and it’s always fun to see them beat up goons together, but the conflict felt very forced. Harley’s done the secret identity/normal job thing in her solo title – in fact, it’s the main thrust of her book – so her questioning of Ivy’s decision to go back to her old line of work was weird. And Ivy throwing Joker in Harley’s face just felt like a way to force a breakup. But Amy Chu has a great voice for Ivy, and does the perfect balance of smart and sinister. The issue ends with a sudden death that sets up an new miniseries involving the mysterious genetically engineered plants that Ivy’s been working on. There’s a few rough edges here, but it feels in line with the stronger work done on Poison Ivy, and I’m glad to see her finally get her spotlight.

Titans Hunt #4, Dan Abnett, writer, Stephen Segovia, pencils, Art Thibert, inks, Scott McDaniel, adult coloring book variant cover.

Corrina: My Titans!

Ray: 7.5/10

Corrina: I can’t separate my inner fangirl from my reviewer self with this one, so..::My Titans, SQUEE:: Continue reading Poison Ivy: Plant, Human Or Something Else?

The DC Comics You Should Be Reading

Each week that we recap the latest offerings from DC Comics, we invariably gush over a B-list book or character that deserves a much wider readership. That’s true this week too, as Constantine: The Hellblazer, Gotham Academy, and Starfire all are given high marks but all except Starfire are at the back of the pack in sales.

In print, Deathstroke‘s ‘meh’ title is selling more than Grayson, DC: Bombshells, Black Canary and We Are Robin. Martian Manhunter, Secret Six, Doctor Fate and Omega Men are bottom sellers. Gotham Academy, one of the freshest and most interesting ideas in the Batman mythos in ages, is selling only 16,000 print copies a week, which boggles my mind.

Either regular DC readers are unwilling to read anything even slightly  different than their basic superhero story, non-DC readers haven’t gotten the word that these non-flagship titles are inventive and fascinating, or people are buying a bunch of them digitally and, hence, the sales aren’t reflected in print.

It could be a combination of all three but I hope it’s the last reason because that means more people than it seems are reading the lower-selling print books. (Comixology.com doesn’t release exact sales numbers.) But, otherwise, some of my favorite books are going to be canceled. No! If you haven’t tried any of the above, please give them a shot.

(These figures are from November 2015, with a few sales figures taken from the October 2015 rundown. Let’s hope, at least, that the Robin War crossover spurred some interest in the lower selling Bat-books.

Now back to our regularly scheduled reviews….

Constantine: The Hellblazer #8 – Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV, writers, Riley Rossmo, finishes and cover, Brian Level, breakdowns

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: This book is absolutely at its best when it’s delving into the dark and creepy underworld of the DCU and balancing it with some twisted humor. When we last left off, Papa Midnite had Constantine’s new flame Oliver held hostage in order to get his attention. Turns out Midnite’s dark magic club has been taken over by some corrupt demons who stole it from under him, and he needs Constantine’s help to get it back. To “motivate” Constantine, he has his Basilisk bite Oliver, necessitating an antidote that can only be found in the Club. Although I don’t particularly like a same-sex rehash of the same old “love interest in peril” spotlight, one scene where Oliver refuses to take the Basilisk’s bait and condemn Constantine was good.

However, the issue really takes off when the two anti-heroes break into the Midnight Club. Rossmo is SO good at creating elaborate, creepy settings, and with Constantine and Midnight under glamours as demons, they’re able to have the run of the place. I loved how Constantine was able to figure out a near-impossible problem using his street-wise guile – the building is built over a non-magical shell, so it’s possible to bypass the dangerous magical traps by…taking the stairs. And on a personal note, I am thrilled to see one of my favorite ’90s villains, the pompadoured demon Neron, back in a major role. This feels like a fascinating horror twist on Ocean’s 11, and I can’t wait to see how the two reluctant allies get out of this. This is one of DC’s most underrated books.

The MIdnight Club, image copyright DC Comics
The MIdnight Club, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I spent a good five minutes examining all the artwork in the Midnight Club, hoping to spot easter eggs. Alas, I’m not steeped enough in Constantine’s mythology to have recognized any but I bet there are some in there. The story also, as Ray says, highlights John’s intelligence and outside-the-box thinking. He’s human, he’s sort of a demon, and he belongs in neither place. His disguise as a fun-loving demon with an agenda is a good metaphor for Constantine himself and the beauty of the character is that he knows this himself. Continue reading The DC Comics You Should Be Reading

Swamp Thing Oozes Into a Zombie Mystery in This Week’s DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights. (Looking for last week? Look here!)

Swamp Thing is back, Hal Jordan and Parallax are both on Earth and Superman in the video game is still evil and now we have the full slate of reviews, including the latest issue of Batman & Robin Eternal, plus more Bombshells, and a fine detective story for Jim Gordon in the latest issue of Detective. 

Spoilers for all issues. 

Batman and Robin Eternal #14 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, James Tynion IV, script, Fernando Blanco and Roger Robinson, art 

Ray: 9/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Finally Sold on the Series

Ray: I know Corrina named this issue as her favorite of the series, and I’m really curious to see why. I’m partial to last week’s Cass-centric issue. That’s not to say this issue isn’t excellent, though. The story is split fairly evenly between flashback segments and present-day segments. In the past, Bruce and Dick take the fight to Scarecrow and Batman dispatches Robin to defuse a bomb on the roof – so he can confront Scarecrow personally. Scarecrow makes an attempt to surrender, saying Mother’s deranged plan to essentially lobotomize a generation of children with intense trauma goes too far, but Batman has other ideas. He agrees to give Scarecrow protective custody only if Scarecrow goes back inside Mother’s organization and reports back to him. It’s pretty clear at this point that Batman’s involvement with Mother is all a deep-cover operation, and any regrets he had are all about not being able to do enough.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Mother has set up the base to terminate with Dick, Harper, Cass, and the evil Orphan inside. Orphan, however, isn’t willing to cooperate to get them all out alive, as he’s still a true believer. Cass’ penchant for self-sacrifice becomes clear as she willingly takes a knife through the hand to protect Harper without flinching, and the bulk of the issue becomes a mad dash to escape an army of killer robot defenses that the lair has set up to take them out. In between the chaos, though, we get some great scenes between Harper and Cass and a fantastic speech by Dick Grayson about why he still has faith in Batman. It’s like Tynion wanted to put all the worries people had about the portrayal of Bruce to rest with this issue. If the person closest to Bruce still believes in him, shouldn’t we? It doesn’t have quite the emotional punch of last issue, but it’s another fantastic installment in one of DC’s best books. I’ve never seen a weekly that maintains this level of quality on all fronts.

Corrina: My fondness for this issues goes to this scene, and full credit to Tynion, because he is great with dialogue.

Dick Grayson, Nightwing
Panel from Batman & Robin Eternal, image via DC Comics.

Continue reading Swamp Thing Oozes Into a Zombie Mystery in This Week’s DC Comics

Women Lead This Week’s DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights.

It occurs to me that this week’s favorites feature women. Cassandra Cain is spotlighted in Batman and Robin: Eternal, Lois is the co-lead in Superman: Lois & Clark, and Black Canary, of course. Sadly, Superman/Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman title suffer by comparison. On the good side, Plastic Man gets an excellent story that highlights just how dangerous he can be.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR TODAY’S COMICS BELOW.

Note: We’ve updated the list to include Omega Men, Doctor Fate, Harley Quinn/Power Girl, and Superman/Wonder Woman.

The Omega Men #7 – written by Tom King, art by Barnaby Bagenda

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: I remain a staunch supporter of this inventive series.

Ray: One of the most straight-forward issues of this series, it made me realize there’s a perfect parallel for what this book is trying to be – it’s Star Wars by way of Quentin Tarantino. Less violent than he often is, but that same sort of dirty, suspenseful thriller set against the backdrop of another genre. The world that King and Bagenda create manages to be distinctly alien, but full of familiar things that show that no matter how far the cast travels, some things never change. This issue turns the focus on Kyle Rayner and Princess Kalista, who have formed a tight bond since they both wound up as captives of the Omega Men – with Kyle, of course, not knowing that Kalista is the mastermind of the entire group. I’m a bit iffy on Kyle being seemingly okay with Kalista’s main problem-solving technique being stabbing people to death, but I suppose being a space captive changes your view on things. This issue finds them planning to make an escape from the planet on a smuggler’s vessel, despite being the most wanted faces in the galaxy. After trading a family heirloom of Kyle’s for passage to a shady smuggler (and reminding the audience that Kyle’s latino heritage is still continuity!), they pass through an alien version of the TSA that makes ours look friendly, only for Kyle to be the victim of a rather nasty double-cross by his “team”. Another great issue, and King manages to work in some cool Grayson crossover elements in the process. This book was never going to sell well in this market, but with DC allowing it to reach its conclusion, I suspect it’ll do well in collections for a long time.

Corrina: I’ve always said this should have been an original graphic novel rather than a series because every issue builds perfectly on what has gone before. To describe it as intricate wouldn’t be doing the plot justice. It mixes complicated politics with similarly complicated characters on all sides of this rebellion.

That’s why I disagree with Ray’s comparison to Tarantino. His movies are many things but his characters never feel real to me, only over-the-top people put in over-the-top situations. The Omega Men, despite their alienn-ess, feel all too human. This is basically a look inside a terrorist organization that passes no judgment on their cause but pulls apart their methods.  I’m glad to see the focus spring back to Kyle this issue. We’ll see what he becomes by the end of the series.

Once this is in trade, it’ll be talked about in the same breath as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and the other inventive, experimental comics that have passed the test of time. Continue reading Women Lead This Week’s DC Comics

DC Bombshells: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights.

DC Bombshells is spectacular this week, as is the final issue of Gotham by Midnight, Ray and myself are in love with the Titans Hunt series (the less said of the regular Titans series, the better), The Robin War zooms toward an ending, Bryan Hitch gives us spectacular splash pages in Justice League of America, and Dark Knight III: The Master Race goes in an unexpected direction.

Warning: Total Spoilers for this week’s issues. 

DC Bombshells #7, Marguerite Bennett, writer, Mirka Andolfo, artist.

Ray: 10/10 BOOK OF THE WEEK

Corrina: So Much Fun To Read.

Ray: This is a full-length adventure and I can’t say enough about how excellent this book is. It’s not just the best issue of the series, it’s one of the very best single issues DC has put out this year. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen a comic that tackles so many serious issues – many of which are still very relevant today – while remaining a fun, breezy read that’s incredibly accessible to young readers. The issue opens with a Jewish family in Gotham being robbed and evicted by their cruel landlord and his thugs for hiding refugee family members in their apartment. The daughter, Felicity, speaks up – yes, it’s that Felicity Smoak! – but the landlord boasts that he has the law in his pocket – until the team of Harper, Kathy, and Nell show up, in full Batgirl costumes, and give him a much-deserved beating. He calls on a corrupt officer friend of his – who turns out to be the same officer who rounded up Harper and Cullen years ago and dragged Cullen off to an orphanage.

After escaping, this chance encounter leads the girls to plan a break-in at the Orphanage, which has gone from a decent place for kids with nowhere else to go to a mysterious hellhole run by a cruel headmistress. To get in, they recruit a new ally who has history in the place – Alysia Yeoh, who is more than ready to strike back at the place that stole years of her childhood. In the institution, a boy named Tim Drake is starting up a rebellion, as the Headmistress is making the children build war machines which she plans to send abroad to help enemies of the US. One thing that impressed me here is the realistic way this book portrays Nazi sympathizers in the US – most of them didn’t actually see themselves as enemies of the US, but rather as “patriots” who were helping what they saw as the US’ true ally. That sort of twisted disconnect from reality is very accurate and rare to see. Pretty much every character in this issue gets a shining moment, from Bette Kane rising up in her cousin’s absence and using the power of her family name to make a difference, to Cullen Row being the tiniest one there and yet just as brave as everyone else. This issue has Alysia Yeoh finally getting to be the costumed hero she was meant to be in Gail Simone’s original plans, and her energy just lights up every scene she’s in. We get Nell and Kathy, two obscure characters who never really got to shine like they should have, making a perfect team. And Harper. Oh, Harper. Every line out of her mouth is a blast. Even this title’s Tim Drake is more likable than he often is in the main line!

My only quibble? Would have loved to have Steph and Cass added, but there’s still time! By the time I got to the last page of this issue, I was grinning from ear to ear. DC, there needs to be an ongoing title featuring these characters, in the main line in the present day. And it needs to be by this exact creative team. This may only be a one-off story in an alternate universe book, but there’s something special about this issue. This is the Bat-kids book I’ve been wanting to read for years.

Corrina: There’s not much add to Ray’s superlatives because this was an awesome issue from start to finish. This would be a great one-shot issue to give kids to get them into comics. It has the perfect blend of action and dialogue, plus protagonists to love and an antagonist to hate.

This is the perfect stocking stuffer for the kids. Get ’em hooked. Continue reading DC Bombshells: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

This Week: DC Tackles the Question of Where Robins Come From

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC’s latest releases.

Batman and Robin Eternal and We Are Robin explore the issues around having Robins in the first place as Jason Todd and Tim Drake throw down, while Harley Quinn has no qualms about expanding her army of Harleys for her nefarious? purposes.

Alas, Superman: American Alien fails to live up to the promise of its first issue, while the Darkseid War segment proves confusing, at best, and the Secret Six features Aquaman as the guest-star. In another guest-appearance, Spoiler teams up with Batgirl.

As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights. Warning: Total Spoilers for this week. 

Secret Six #9 – Gail Simone, writer, artist, Tom Derenick

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: I never knew I wanted a comic where an offbeat gang of anti-heroes traveled the universe awakening elder Gods, but here we are. The fusion of the Secret Six with what’s left of the Dark line was a brilliant move, and has given this already-great title a new burst of energy. Ferdie, usually my least favorite part of the series, manages to get one of the best scenes of the issue as he narrates the opening while Catman and Aquaman fight in the background, as Porcelain eventually lands their killing blow on the pillar, showing how their “brittle” powers work in epic fashion. From there, it’s on to a small New England town straight out of Lovecraft, as the team is after the second pillar and are greeted by a particularly creepy starving child. It seems a shapeless monster that reminds me a lot of Lovecraft’s shoggoths is lurking in the mines. Catman finds a rather hilarious loophole to destroy the pillar and release the creature – while not actually letting him out into the world.

The issue in general has a great balance of action and drama, with such absurdity as Ferdie’s narration and Strix’s choice of attire as they head to the town. And I was definitely pleased to see the phone message Scandal got from her wives. However, the heart of the issue is in Black Alice’s segments. While Ragdoll and Scandal watch over her, her powers continue to spiral out of control and summon all sorts of monsters. Eventually, she comes to a grim decision, putting Scandal in an uncomfortable position. I doubt the book will go through with it, but this is still some seriously dark territory to go into with a young character. No slowdown here, and as a fan of cosmic horror, I am enjoying the hell out of this arc.

Corrina: Simone seems to have all the DC characters she wants for use in this story or, at least the ones that fans of the series will be happy to see. I know there had to have been a few happy moments among readers as Scandal’s wives were definitely placed in continuity.

I love the touch this series has on characters, even in brief appearances like Aquaman. I’m even warming to Black Alice, who I’ve never enjoyed much. About the only negative thing I have to say is that Catman’s trick on the monster seemed a bit too convenient to actually work. But that’s a minor niggle. Continue reading This Week: DC Tackles the Question of Where Robins Come From

Ninja Turtles and the Robin War Make Gotham the Place to Be This Week

Note: This article has been updated with reviews of Constantine the Hellblazer, Starfire (featuring Dick Grayson), Catwoman’s first issue with a new creative team, and some Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover goodness. c

Welcome to our recaps of this week’s DC Comics. Ray Goldfied is our resident prototypical DC Comics reader, while I pick and choose among my favorites and whatever quality story grabs me from week to week.

This week, as the title suggests, Gotham as the place to be. The Robin War goes down as the police get the upper hand in a series of issues that were an improvement (at least to me) from the beginning of this crossover event. Then the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hide out in Gotham’s sewers, still ordering pizza, while trying to stop the bad guys and get home.

Plus, more DC Comics Bombshells!

Batman and Robin Eternal #10 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, script, Roge Antonio and Geraldo Borges, art.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Without missing a beat, this issue continues the story of Jason and Tim’s mission in Santa Prisca, in the Church of St. Dumas, as they come face to face with the new incarnation of fan favorite Azrael. Surrounded by powerful goons who can terminate their technology, Jason and Tim struggle to hold their own against the evil Priests while their temporary ally Bane goes up against Azrael – and quickly gets dismantled, his Venom strain severed before he is subject to Azrael’s strange brainwashing power that gives him a painful form of clarity.

Jason and Tim escape and dig into the Church’s computer history, finding the records of Jean-Paul Valley, one of Mother’s children who is now Azrael. Before they can decide on a plan, Azrael attacks, and Azrael gets the drop on Tim, subjecting him to the same form of brainwashing. This is a weird acid-trip of a segment, with bizarre visuals that leave Tim nearly catatonic and rambling about how they failed Bruce.

Continue reading Ninja Turtles and the Robin War Make Gotham the Place to Be This Week

Eric Smith Geeks Out On Video Games, YA Romance, and Steampunk

Welcome to our weekly Geek Speaks..Fiction series where authors talk about the geekdoms that inspired them.

You could call Eric Smith a renaissance man — for his interests run the gamut from corgi fashion, photography, music and teaching — but really, Eric’s more of a millennium man, for his dedication to supporting others at the Philly Geek Awards, as a literary agent, and in the on-point nature of his literary achievements. Eric’s here to talk about what he geeked on while writing Inked, his first novel* (and Eric recently announced there will be a sequel!).

Hi there GeekMom! Thanks for having me.

So Inked is the first book in my little fantasy series for Bloomsbury’s digital imprint, Bloomsbury Spark. The second novel, currently titled Inked: Rise of the Unprinted (likely to change!) will be out in May of 2016. You can add that one on the ol’ Goodreads, to keep in the loop about it.

The short pitch? Inked takes place in a fantasy realm where teenagers are given magical tattoos that tell the world what they will do for the rest of their lives. And as a young teen named Caenum and his friends unravel the secrets behind the practice, the ruling powers of their realm come after them.

There’s a lot of magic and mayhem, complicated friendships and awkward romance… all the stuff we experienced as kids, just maybe minus the magic powers stuff.

What was I geeking out over while writing Inked? A lot of things.

Continue reading Eric Smith Geeks Out On Video Games, YA Romance, and Steampunk

We’re Thankful for ‘Lois & Clark’, Bat-kids & ‘The Omega Men’ This Week

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comics’ latest releases. Ray Goldfield is the proto-typical DC reader, while I’m the lapsed DC reader who needs to be pulled back in.

This week, when the stories were good, they were excellent but when they were bad, they were awful. The Batman line, of course, remains strong, but The Omega Men and DC Bombshells pull their weight. And we split on book of the week, with Ray going for Robin, Son of Batman while Superman: Lois & Clark is my favorite.

As for the worst, it’s good that Superman has the book mentioned above and that Wonder Woman has DC Bombshells because and the less said about their regular weekly books, the better.

Oh, and yet another sequel to the great Dark Night Returns came out. How doe sit stack up to the original? See below.

Robin, Son of Batman #6 – Patrick Gleason, script and pencils, Mick Gray and Tom Nguyen, inks,

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Not Book of the Week For Me But I Still Recommend It for the ‘Aww..”

Ray: The end of the first arc, before Damian heads back to Gotham to take part in the upcoming Robin War (which gets teased in another book this week as well). Surprisingly, the arrival of new Big Bad Den Darga actually takes a backseat this issue, with the villain fleeing to put his plan into motion, and the focus being on Damian and his odd supporting cast.

The opening segment shows one of Damian’s missions in the Year of Blood, which leads to him slaughtering a colony of Man-Bats. However, one young Man-Bat (who is sure to get all the fan art on Tumblr) survives, and Damian can’t bring himself to kill it. So he takes it back to his mother and gets approval to keep it as a warrior companion. It grows up into Goliath, natch. The powerful heart of the issue, though, is in Damian’s reunion with his mother now that they actually have time to talk. Continue reading We’re Thankful for ‘Lois & Clark’, Bat-kids & ‘The Omega Men’ This Week

Martian Manhunter Destroys Earth & The Secret Six Take on Aquaman in DC This Week

Welcome to our recaps of DC Comics’ latest issues. Ray is the prototypical DC fan. It takes a great deal for him to give up on a title. I’m the one who tends to have the quick hook, especially for titles are are just ‘meh.’

This week, the Bat-kids keep chugging along in Batman and Robin Eternal, the Secret Six get wet in a terrific issue featuring Aquaman, Martian Manhunter‘s many selves argue with each other about saving the Earth in a great whacked-out story, and the original Teen Titans try to get back together in Titans Hunt.

On the bad side, the title character of the Telos gets the most random origin ever, the aptly-named Doomed closes its run, and Jimmy Olsen gives in to the Dark Side in Earth-2 Society.

Batman and Robin Eternal #7 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Genevieve Valentine, script, Alvaro Martinez, pencils, Raul Fernandez, inks

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy the Series.

Ray: I was waiting for this series – which has been consistently strong since it started – to truly wow me with an issue. Valentine’s first issue as the script writer does just that as it turns the spotlight on Cassandra Cain and Harper Row and their growing friendship. The team is a bit splintered, as Tim Drake has gone off the grid and is following his own leads – accompanied by Jason Todd, who tries to get the young genius Bat to open up about his issues with Dick and Bruce in his own snarky fashion. I’ve really enjoyed the interaction with these two in this series, even though it’s a pretty clear indication that we’re wiping out their previous hostility.  The flashback segments continue to show us how Bruce got closer and closer to Mother in the past, but they’re brief.

The meat of the issue is in Harper and Cass’ undercover mission for Dick. Continue reading Martian Manhunter Destroys Earth & The Secret Six Take on Aquaman in DC This Week

Gremlins Galore! Geeking Out About Hideously Adorable Sidekicks

Magic, mystery, and romance are three things readers can expect in Beth Cato‘s steampunk fantasy adventure, The Clockwork Dagger. But what might not be obvious from the book’s description is that behind the airships and spies, there is another force at play: that of a race of little…well…read what their creator, Beth Cato, has to say about them! I’m very glad to know I’m not the only one who has a soft spot for little green “hideously adorably” critters!

I geek out over the gremlins in my Clockwork Dagger series. One of the amazing things about being a published author is that readers geek out over my gremlins, too. That made it all the more exciting to write a novella in my book universe that is all about these hideously adorable chimeras.

My gremlins are like green-skinned furless cats with bat wings. They are creatures melded out of magic and science, very steampunk stuff, and cobbled together from bits of other living animals. Most of them can’t speak with words, though they comprehend human speech and mew, purr, and use other means to make their opinions known. Continue reading Gremlins Galore! Geeking Out About Hideously Adorable Sidekicks

‘Secret Six’ Goes Mystical In an Excellent Overall Week From DC

Cover to Secret Six #7, image copyright DC Comics
Cover to Secret Six #7, image copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the prototypical DC reader and I’m the agnostic, lapsed DC fan.

When this week was good, as with Secret Six, Titans Hunt, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Gotham Academy, Batman & Robin Eternal, Doctor Fate and Justice League, it was very good. Also excellent was Clean Room #1 by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt, the new Vertigo mature readers comic, and that earned a bonus review at the end of this column.

When it was bad, well, it was awful. Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman hit new lows. Continue reading ‘Secret Six’ Goes Mystical In an Excellent Overall Week From DC

The Bat-Crew Is Back Together, Including Cassandra Cain

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the committed DC reader and Corrina is the somewhat lapsed DC fan.

This week sees the debut of Batman & Robin Eternal which also features the return of a fan favorite character, another chapter in the complicated and intense Omega Men story, the continued adventures of that crazy couple, Midnighter and Grayson, and indie legend Carla “Speed” McNeil delivers a fine Wonder Woman story in Sensation Comics.

Batman & Robin Eternal #1 — James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, story, James Tynion IV, script, Tony Daniel, pencils, Sandu Florea, inks

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy It (But I have reservations)

Ray: The second act of the greatest DC comics weekly ever begins here, and it does not disappoint. With a new creative squad in place and once again headlined by Tynion and overseen by Snyder, all the pieces are in place for another runaway hit. While the issue does push some buttons that might upset people, it’s been very clear with Eternal that things are rarely what they seem, and in terms of character, the Bat-family is rarely done better.

Continue reading The Bat-Crew Is Back Together, Including Cassandra Cain

Laura Anne Gilman Geeks Out on Muppets, X-Files & Leverage

Welcome to our weekly Geek Speaks..Fiction series where authors talk about the geekdoms that inspired them.

Our guest today, Laura Anne Gilman is the author of nearly twenty books, including the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy.  Her next book project, SILVER ON THE ROAD, is the first in the Devil’s West series from Saga / Simon & Schuster.

I am a child of fandom. Be it the Muppets or Star Wars (my childhood favorites), or X-Files, (my first “adult” fandoms), I’ve been one of the quiet but dedicated fans, who may not wear my heart as cosplay, but was cheering those cosplayers along.

You will never hear me saying “oh, I don’t watch tv.” I think television has been one of the greatest storytelling devices of our lifetime, up there with the commercial printing press and digitally-adjustable font sizes. Is there crap out there? Absolutely. But theres also genius.

And when I look at my own work, I can see their influence, from the very earliest to the most current productions.

  1. The Muppets. There is nothing about the Muppets that I do not still geek over, from the opening number to the guest stars, to the way their scripts managed to remain true to the ‘reality’ of their lives without ever losing the madcap glee of being a muppet. It was my first real experience with an ensemble cast, seeing how disparate stories interweave and overlap, without ever getting tangled. I learned how to snark from Statler and Waldorf – the fine and surprisingly delicate art of cutting without drawing actual blood – and how to love characters that are utterly self-absorbed from Miss Piggy and Fozzie, each in their own delightful way. Farron, the east wind magician in SILVER ON THE ROAD, inherited those balances, and his interactions with Gabriel carry the same real “on the same team but not friends” vibe that the Muppet Show brought out, every single week.

Continue reading Laura Anne Gilman Geeks Out on Muppets, X-Files & Leverage

Rape by Deception in ‘Aquaman #44’ is Poorly Handled

Welcome to our recap of this week’s DC Comics releases. Ray is the seasoned DC fan, I’m the more cycnical and lapsed DC reader.

We usually focus first on our favorite issue of the week, and work our way down from there but we’re making an exception today. There was one comic with such a problematic plot element, a rape by deception, that we have to start there.

Sorry, Batman Annual #4, our book of the week, and Grayson Annual #2 with your team-up with Superman. We’ll get to you after.

Aquaman #44 – Cullen Bunn, writer, Alec Morgan, layouts, Art Thibert and Jesus Merino, finishes
Ray: 3/10
Corrina: There’s bad writing and then there’s problematic writing. This is both. Continue reading Rape by Deception in ‘Aquaman #44’ is Poorly Handled

Geekomancer: You’ll Totally Want This Power

Michael R. Underwood (aka: Mike) has traveled the world, knows why Tybalt cancels out Capo Ferro, and rolls a mean d20. He was raised in no small part at his local hobby game store, and he spent so much time helping out they eventually had to put him on staff.

He is the author the several series: the comedic fantasy Ree Reyes series (Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, Hexomancy), fantasy superhero novel Shield and Crocus, supernatural thriller The Younger Gods, and the forthcoming Genrenauts, a science fiction series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiancée and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he plays video games, geeks out on TV, and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show. Visit him at michaelrunderwood.com and on Twitter.

Last year, Fran had me on GeekMom for a special Cooking The Books/GeekMom crossover, where I talked about Attack the Geek, a novella in the Ree Reyes world. Now I’m very happy to talk about Hexomancy, which follows directly after the events of the novella.

cover courtesy Mike Underwood
cover courtesy Mike Underwood

The Ree Reyes series is about geeking out – Ree, the lead, is a Geekomancer, which means that when she geeks out, she can do extraordinary things – watching a favorite film or TV show lets her emulate the power of its heroes (watch The Matrix and do wire-fu, watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier and get Cap’s strength and speed, as well as a dose of old-timey righteousness), channeling the collective nostalgia for props to bring them to life (while emulating Captain America, she uses a prop shield and it comes to life as an actual vibranium shield), or using collectible cards like spell scrolls – tearing up a Green Lantern card to make a one-shot lantern construct to help her while chasing an enemy. Continue reading Geekomancer: You’ll Totally Want This Power

‘We Are Robin’–An Inventive and Unique View of Gotham

Welcome to our weekly recap of Wednesday DC comics issues. Ray is the long-time DC reader and fan, while I’m the lapsed and more cynical reader. This week, we enjoyed all of the offerings that include a Batman connection, particularly We Are Robin and Gotham by Midnight, Batman ’66 and Scooby Doo Team-Up. The last two make great use of Batman history.

However, best to avoid the titles featuring villains and Flash is becoming a serious disappointment.

We Are Robin #4 – writer, Lee Bermejo, penciller, James Harvey, insks, James Harvey with Diana Egea.

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Buy It.

We are Robin #4 splash page
We are Robin #4 splash page, copyright DC Comics

Ray: I’ve been loving this title since the start, but my one complaint is that we were introduced to a big group of original characters right out of the gate without any real setup, making several of the teen heroes besides Duke blank slates. We even lost one, Troy, without knowing much about him.

Fortunately, after last issue’s shocker, this title slows down and gives us a done-in-one focused on the first of our new heroes, Riko Sheridan. This issue takes place in the immediate aftermath of Troy’s death, and deals with the fallout not just among their inner circle, but in the world of social media surrounding them. Guest artist James Harvey gives this issue a distinctly manga-esque vibe, managing to seamlessly blend Riko’s excitable inner fantasy life with the mundane reality around her. We learn a bit more about her personal and family life, as well as what led her to decide to join the Robins. Halfway through the issue, we shift to Riko going on a solo mission on the roofs of Gotham, and it soon becomes clear that she’s very much a rookie. Continue reading ‘We Are Robin’–An Inventive and Unique View of Gotham

Measuring FTL Travel For Fictional Worlds

SF, space opera, SF romance
cover copyright Christie Meierz

Welcome to our weekly guest blog for science fiction authors, Geek Speaks…Fiction, where writers geek out about what makes them happy.

Space opera fans, we’ve got a treat for you this week! Christie Meierz is the award winning, best selling author of the Tolari Cycle, novels of intrigue, suspense, and romance set in the future amongst the stars. Today, she joins us to tell us what made her geek out while writing her new release, Farryn’s War, the first book in a new series!

She will also be hosting a Facebook release party for Farryn’s War on Thursday, September 24. GeekMoms Corrina Lawson and Fran Wilde will be guests, and books and other prizes will be up for grabs. 

I’ve been an astronomy geek since the age of seven, when my mother bought a coffee table book on astronomy with a big color picture of the Orion nebula on the dust jacket. I picked it up for the pictures… and stayed for the math. I had just learned multiplication and division, and somehow never learned that girls aren’t supposed to be good at math. I spent a very happy afternoon working out the distances from the sun to each of the planets. In light-minutes. And light-hours.

Continue reading Measuring FTL Travel For Fictional Worlds

‘Prez’: Political Polemic or Entertaining Satire?

cover copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases where Ray Goldfield, long time DC reader and fan, and myself, more cynical and lapsed DC reader, give our thoughts. This week, we’re nearly 100 percent in agreement but where we disagree, we seriously disagree.

For instance, we both love Secret Six and Black Canary, but Ray believes that Prez is an absolute failure and I love it for its brilliant satire of the political world. He also thinks the current run of Wonder Woman is getting better.

If only.

Secret Six #6 – Gail Simone, writer, Tom Derenick, artist
Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Now that Secret Six has hit its groove, it is quickly resuming its place as one of DC’s best books. Continue reading ‘Prez’: Political Polemic or Entertaining Satire?

Horror Author Sam Sattin Creates an Imaginary Game For His Book

This week on Geek Speaks..Fiction!, horror author Samuel Sattin joins us to share what made him geek out while writing his new book, The Silent End, a chilling novel for mature teens and adults alike. His work has been described as being full of fun, terror, tragedy, and delight.
Welcome, Sam!

About the author: Samuel Sattin is a novelist and essayist. He is the author of League of Somebodies, described by Pop Matters as “One of the most important novels of 2013.” His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Salon, io9, Kotaku, San Francisco Magazine, Publishing Perspectives, LitReactor, The Weeklings, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College and an MFA in Comics from CCA. He’s the recipient of NYS and SLS Fellowships and lives in Oakland, California.

It’s not overly difficult to describe what I geeked out on while writing The Silent End, mostly because the main character is a grade-A certified nerd, seventeen and on the edge of emotional collapse in many ways.

Continue reading Horror Author Sam Sattin Creates an Imaginary Game For His Book

‘Batman #44’–A Definitive Batman story

cover via DC Comics
cover via DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the long-time DC reader, a prototypical DC fan, while I’m the lapsed and more cynical type.  But when we agree something is good, that means it’s darn good.

Which brings us to Batman #44, which Ray and I recognize as something special. There’s also great fun to be had in the latest issue of Starfire, and a road trip with Harley Quinn this week. Overall, an excellent batch of stories, and Ray is particularly high on the Green Lantern/Star Trek crossover that’s being published by IDW. (See end of post.)

If only this week was the last issue of Section Eight, an experiment that has failed spectacularly.

Batman #44 – Story by Scott Snyder, written by Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello, art by Jock. 

Ray: 10/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy This Masterpiece. 

Ray: Fill-in issues and done-in-ones in the middle of an arc are often throwaways, but that’s the furthest thing from the case here with this breather issue. Obviously, Snyder and Jock have worked together before, so it’s not a surprise that they’d do something special here, but I was really surprised how this story worked so well as both a small-scale, affecting story about Batman’s past and a piece of the puzzle in the ongoing superheavy story.

One of the biggest complaints about Batman from certain corners is that he’s “a rich guy beating up the poor and mentally ill,” but that’s always been a stereotype that doesn’t really work given all the work Bruce does for Gotham and its citizens. In many ways, this story shows how he got there.

It opens right after Zero Year, with two Batmen, present and future – Bruce and Jim – meeting to discuss a mysterious case of a teenage boy dead in a field. He has bullet holes in him, but Batman’s investigation reveals he actually died from a massive fall from the middle of nowhere. With the issue narrated seemingly by Gotham itself, Batman’s investigations lead him to a dark, twisty, and emotionally powerful tale that involves the boy’s run-ins with local gangs, rising Supervillains like Penguin, and a trigger-happy cop whose duty in the Corner (Gotham’s worst area) has left him brittle and paranoid. The issue takes on a lot of timely topics, like police brutality and gentrification, but it avoids easy answers and leaves a lot of shades of grey in every reveal.

In the end, it’s the story of a boy with very few choices who made a deal with the devil that led him to that field, and the reveal of just how he fell from a thousand feet up from the middle of nowhere is incredibly clever. Mr. Bloom factors into this issue, but I was a bit surprised that he was just a bit player (albeit a key one) and we know just as little about him as we did before. Jock’s version of him is fabulously creepy, though.

This is an incredibly strong issue, setting the stage for the man Bruce Wayne became as Batman and the man he is now, as well as a near-perfect stand-alone story of Gotham. If only all fill-ins and break issues could be this strong.

Corrina: Fill in? No, this is a masterpiece, a story so strong that if someone asks me why I love Batman comics, I could hand them this issue to explain why. The title is a ‘A Simple Case,’ and so it seems at first, the story of a boy trying to be a man caught in the middle of a gang war.

But, as Ray said, it’s about all of Gotham, it’s about why Batman does what he does, and why it sometimes works and why the job of cleaning up the city for good citizens is never easy. This reminded me of the classic Denny O’Neil/Dick Giordano story,  “There is No Hope in Crime Alley.”

It’s time for another addition to The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.

Gotham Academy #10 -Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher, writers, Karl Kerschl with Msassyk, art
Continue reading ‘Batman #44’–A Definitive Batman story

Bradley Beaulieu Geeks Out on Mother/Daughter Connections

Join GeekMom in welcoming epic fantasy author Bradley P. Beaulieu to Geek Speaks…Fiction!

Bradley Beaulieu fell in love with fantasy from the moment he began reading The Hobbit in third grade. While Bradley earned a degree in computer science and engineering and worked in the information technology field for years, he could never quite shake his desire to explore other worlds. He began writing his first fantasy novel in college. It was a book he later trunked, but it was a start, a thing that proved how much he enjoyed the creation of stories. It made him want to write more. 

He went on to write The Lays of Anuskaya series as well as The Song of Shattered Sands series. He has published work in the Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies. He has won the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award and earned a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination. Learn more about Bradley by visiting his website, quillings.com.

Brad’s highly praised novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, was released last week from DAW/Penguin Random House. Read on to find out what made him geek out while writing it!

When I start working on new books, it’s the world that gets fleshed out first. I write big-canvas fantasies, so it’s important to me to know the lay of the land, the kingdoms in play, their cultural histories, the political landscape, the magic, and so on. This is really important to me because I want to create characters that can believably inhabit this world. The world is the soil in which they grow, after all.

That isn’t to say that my characters aren’t individuals. They are. Of course they are. But this is the part that’s so interesting to me: Once you know the norms in this new world you’re creating—the social mores, the customs, traditions, religions, and so on—you can start to play with them and see where your characters diverge from those norms. They may hew closely to them, which may give clues as to how you can best challenge the character. Or they may diverge widely, bringing perhaps a more immediate and consistent sort of conflict as the characters struggle or fight against the norms.

The main character in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is a young woman named Çeda (pronounced CHAY-da, like mesa). She’s a pit fighter, and a woman who runs packages in the shadows beneath the nose of the twelve kings of Sharakhai. The kings, who have ruled the city with iron fists for over four hundred years, kill Çeda’s mother viciously when Çeda is eight. In some ways it comes as no surprise. Her mother, Ahya, had been tempting fate for a long while, running out on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir, when all are forbidden from roaming the streets and the ghul-like asirim come to the city to take tribute.

Çeda is shaped by many things, but foremost among them was her upbringing with her mother and the questions left in the wake of her mother’s death when she is hung by the cruel kings. Çeda begins to find the answers to those questions only years later when she too goes out on Beht Zha’ir to save her best friend, Emre.

One of the asirim finds her and whispers long-forgotten words in her ear, words Çeda has read before in a book left to her by her mother. It is through that one strange event that Çeda begins to unlock the secrets behind her mother’s purpose on the night she was killed. Like a blooming rose, the answers to those riddles complicate, leading to more riddles in turn. They point her toward the very night, four hundred years before, when the kings made their dark bargain with the gods of the desert to secure their power.

I often find that I don’t really know what a character is like until after I’ve created the first draft. Why? Because while I know something about them, I don’t know enough details to know who they really are. By the time the first draft is done, though, I know so much more. The characters are no longer plans in a character sketch. They have stories and accomplishments. They have hopes and fears. They have become real.

The connection between Çeda and her mother, Ahya, was one I expected to explore, but not as much as I actually did in the writing of Twelve Kings. So much flowed from that mother-daughter relationship: Çeda’s often-rocky adoption on the part of Dardzada, an apothecary who loved Ahya but now finds only pain when he sees Çeda; her befriending of Emre, a boy who becomes not only a close friend, but her best friend, perhaps her soulmate (a thing Çeda refuses to acknowledge); her ties to a desert witch that eventually changes her life; her connection to the kings.

All of it really opened Çeda up for me.

I found myself coming back to Ahya’s legacy often. It advised me, a compass by which I could navigate this complex tale. More than anything, though, it made me care for Çeda deeply. It’s a form of geeking out, I think, coming to love your characters, or hate them, or whatever we want the reader to feel about them, because it’s only when we truly feel for them that we can write truths about them on the page.

So there it is. I geeked out about Çeda. And I hope you will too.

About Twelve Kings in Sharakhai:
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite ompany of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

You can find Bradley P. Beaulieu at www.quillings.com and on Twitter as @bbeaulieu.

DC Comics This Week: You’re Gonna Love This Wonder Woman

cover copyright DC Comics.
cover copyright DC Comics.

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. Ray is the long-time DC reader and I’m the more skeptical, lapsed DC reader. As the last week of the month, it’s a relatively light week but the shining stars for me and Ray are twofold.

One, Detective Comics #44, which manages to be darkly funny and handles the cast of Gotham’s police officers better than any story since the late, great Gotham Central. This is what the Gotham show could be, if it focused on the right elements, instead of attempting to be an over-the-top villain fest.

Two, DC Comics Bombshells, which features a Wonder Woman we can get behind. Heck, the story in this issue would make a great start to a Wonder Woman movie.

But we part ways on Omega Men, a slow boiling SF story about terrorism, rebellion, and how far those oppressed are willing to go.

Detective Comics #44, Brian Buccellato, writers and colors, Fernando Blanco, art

Ray: Book of the Week. 9.5/10

Corrina: Buy It. 

Ray: Buccellato brings his  run to a close this month, making way for Pete Tomasi next month, and he closes it out in style.

This story could have easily gotten ridiculous, pitting Jim Gordon against a giant Joker Robot made from the power core of his own suit and piloted by the Joker’s Daughter, but the creative team has a deft touch that makes it work really well. The story doesn’t lose sight of the fact that Jim is very out of his element here, and his commentary on the absurdity of the situation is very welcome, as his practical, military-minded approach to taking out the threat. Continue reading DC Comics This Week: You’re Gonna Love This Wonder Woman

DC Reviews for 8/26: So That Was Lois’ Big Motivation?

Batgirl #43, copyright DC Comics
Batgirl #43, copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. Ray is the long-time DC reader and I’m the more skeptical, lapsed DC reader. This week, we find out why Lois Lane outed Clark Kent as Superman in Superman #43. It’s not as bad as I expected but it doesn’t quite work, either, Ray’s in love with the old-school Batgirl vibe present in Batgirl #43, and We Are Robin has become a must read.

Of course, there are a few clinkers. I’m totally bored with Sinestro and Deathstroke. And Teen Titans? Maybe DC should toss the Batgirl creative team at it. Check out the end for how several comic adaptations of the DC Universe.

Batgirl #43, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, writers, Babs Tarr, artist, Juan Castro, inks (pages 17-19).

Ray: 9.5/10 Book of the Week

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: I’ve said before that I think this book probably would have been served better if it had been the product of the hard reboot coming out of Flashpoint, as opposed to a soft reboot after Gail Simone’s run. The difference between the two Batgirls is so drastic that I’m not surprised a lot of people can’t fully embrace it.

That’s a shame, because it’s fantastic, and even my annoyance over Oracle being erased can’t ruin that for me. This title is easily the closest DC has ever gotten to capturing the same zeitgeist that lifted Ms. Marvel, Runaways, and Ultimate Spider-man into fan favorites. It’s got a perfect balance of superhero action, personal drama, and the two intersecting in interesting ways. While Barbara is dealing with both her father’s role as the new Batman and the return of her best friend Alysia – who’s getting married to her longtime girlfriend Jo – a new crisis emerges as Barbara’s friend Luke Fox’s tech company comes under attack by an escaped tiger that kills an engineer. Continue reading DC Reviews for 8/26: So That Was Lois’ Big Motivation?

Geek Speaks…Fiction! With Deborah Bailey

Deborah A Bailey’s Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance novels include suspense, a bit of mystery and a lot of romantic heat. Her science fiction romance books include Hathor Legacy: Outcast, Hathor Legacy: Burn, and a short story collection, Electric Dreams: Seven Futuristic Tales. The upcoming novel in the Hathor Legacy series, Hathor Legacy: Revelations, will be published in the winter of 2015.

In the paranormal realm, her two books about a lion shapeshifter who runs a coffee bar, Family Pride: Love and Challenges and the upcoming Family Pride: Blood Fever, were inspired by her love for the TV show, Bewitched. In her other life, she’s a blogger and freelance writer specializing in small business topics, and her articles have been published in Working World Magazine, More.com, and CNN.com. She blogs at http://www.BrightStreetBooks.com and http://dbaileycoach.com.

Photo via Deb Bailey
Photo via Deborah Bailey

Thanks for having me!

I’ve been trying to remember when I haven’t been geeked out about something. When I was a little girl geek, I was a faithful Star Trek viewer, which is where my Mr. Spock fan girling started. Even as a child, I totally understood his character and loved all that Vulcan coolness. In fact, I still do!

During that time, I also bought tons of DC Comics. So many that I still have a huge box full of them. I was into Superman, Batman, and the Justice League of course.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]
Cover copyright Deborah Bailey
Back in the day it was the norm to have male superheroes, but there were women doing their thing as well. Though at times the stereotypes were overwhelming. For instance, Lois Lane had her own comic, though she spent a lot time competing with Lana Lang for Superman’s affections. Thankfully Lois’ character was ultimately allowed to have a character arc—and desires beyond becoming Mrs. Superman.

I think that change was reflecting the changes in the culture, which is what also brought a change in Wonder Woman’s story. She went from Amazon princess to human when she renounced her status, and for a while she was forced to sort her life out as a normal woman, Diana Prince.

Around that time, a rebooted female superhero was introduced as the second story in a Lois Lane comic. She was known as the Thorn. During the day she was a very meek woman, the Rose, whose police officer father had been killed in the line of duty, and at night she was an elusive crime fighter called The Thorn.

What struck me about her character was the duality. Which is probably the same thing that excited me when Wonder Woman had her Diana Prince interlude. The idea of a superhero who isn’t always a hero (or aware of being one) opened up a lot of story ideas for me. And you could say the Spock character has the same challenges. Is he human or Vulcan? What part of him does he claim? Can he really be both?

Electric Dream - High Resoluion
Cover copyright Deborah Bailey

Those ideas inspired me to create my character Nadira for the Hathor Legacy series. She has PSI powers that allow her to be a superhero of sorts on the planet, Hathor. Yet, she doesn’t always have a comfort level around the balancing act. Her mother had PSI abilities and her father was human, so she’s also in two worlds (though she’s only claimed one world so far).

What happens when you’re forced to choose? Is it even possible to do so and stay a healthy, sane person?

That’s what geeking out means to me. Asking these questions and exploring the answers while you create countless characters and worlds. There are no pat answers and no rules that must be followed.

It’s limitless and there’s always something new to look at and think about.

Back when I was running to the newsstand buying up my DC Comics stash, I never knew I’d be inspired to write my own stories. But the fun part is that the geeking never has to stop.

It’s not something I ever have to grow out of, and I never will.

DC Comics This Week: ‘Secret Six’ Is A Slam Dunk

Welcome to our capsule reviews of this week’s DC comics releases. Ray Goldfield is the long-time DC reader and I’m more the cynic. I might have faith in nothing but quality. I also look at these issues with an eye for a new reader. If it’s impenetrable to all but the most diehard of DC fans, I won’t recommend it.

This week, we have our biggest disagreements yet but we’re both happy to recommend Secret Six #5, which zips along dropping all kinds of revelations on the reader while it rights a serious comic book wrong.

The rest? Ray loves his Robin, Son of Batman. I’m already a tired of the pre-adolescent, arrogant assassin. But I highly recommend Martian Manhunter, which is an imaginative take on that a classic SF story, an alien invasion.

On the bad side, we’re waiting for the day we can announce the cancellation of Doomed and the ill-conceived Superman/Wonder Woman title.

Warning: total spoilers abound.

Continue reading DC Comics This Week: ‘Secret Six’ Is A Slam Dunk

Geek Speaks… Fiction! With Veronica Scott

geekspeaks

She’s the best-selling science fiction and paranormal romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today “Happily Ever After” blog. However, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history, and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Three-time winner of the Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!

Thanks for inviting me to be your guest!

I love doing research and for my science fiction novels, I’m often doing a deep dive into odd things that I’m going to adapt for my future galactic civilization known as the Sectors.

SF Romance
Cover copyright Veronica Scott.

The first topic I geeked out about for a specific book was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, because my first published SF novel was Wreck of the Nebula Dream, loosely inspired by the Titanic’s sinking. (I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic though.)

For that book, I researched anything and everything to do with the real-life tragedy, including the ship’s design, its passengers and crew, premonitions and superstitions connected to the event, the cargo… I enjoyed the creative exercise of applying that wealth of detail to a luxury cruiser roaming the star lanes. For my recent best-seller, Star Cruise: Marooned, I researched the world of the charter yacht, which is somewhat different in nature than a liner.

The second thing I’ve geeked out about for my SF world is Special Forces military operators.

My heroes are pretty much always in that line of work and my goal is to create men who could walk into any bar on Earth today where SEALs and Rangers gather, and be accepted as members of the brotherhood.

My late husband was a Marine, so I’m very supportive of the military in general, have had SEAL and Ranger authors as guests on my blog in the past… but as actual research, I’ve read numerous real-life accounts, asked a lot of questions, subscribe to a (public) Special Forces-oriented website to stay current, have been to at least one conference I’m not allowed to discuss….

Veronica Scott square photo
Veronica Scott, image via Veronica Scott.

I guess by now you can tell my definition of “geek out” isn’t about the hardware or the science, so much as it is about the world-building and the people.

I worked at JPL [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory] for many years and totally geeked out over everything built and managed there, from Mars rovers to space telescopes, so it’s not that I’m not into those things! We’ll count that as the third thing for this column.

Nothing like looking at the actual flight hardware that’s going to be on another planet or watching a giant multi-legged robot cross the street in front of you. And yes, a lot of the engineers and scientists who work there could be characters on The Big Bang Theory. Maybe slightly exaggerated, but there’s a resemblance. Being in the room with those guys and gals is amazing. Some of the finest scientific and technical minds anywhere on Earth. I feel very privileged to have supported the efforts from my business-oriented vantage point as a contracts person.

cover copyright Veronica Scott
Cover copyright Veronica Scott.

The fourth thing I’ve geeked out about, which certainly influenced me as an author, would be comic books. As a kid, I had thousands squirreled away in my bedroom, mostly DC comics. I wasn’t into Marvel then, other than Thor. Two of my all-time favorites were Magnus Robot Fighter and Brothers of the Spear.

More geeking?

Interviewing John Scalzi, which I got to do for my USA Today “Happily Ever After SciFi Encounters” column. Talking to him was fascinating! His mind goes a mile a minute in a good way and as an interviewer, I absolutely felt motivated to try to ask him questions he hadn’t been asked before a million times. Discussing the processes of writing a novel, comparing notes with him, was like a Masters’ class for me. Really a rare and memorable experience!

You can find Veronica Scott at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Her latest is Star Cruise: Marooned, on sale for just 99 cents:

Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.

Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.

But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised—the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.

Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?