Book Review – The World of Flashpoint featuring the Flash

  • Title: World of Flashpoint Featuring the Flash
  • Author: Scott Kolins
  • Artists: Sean Ryan, José Marzán Jr., Sterling Gates, Adam Glass, Ig Guara, Oliver Nome, Rodney Buchemi, Joel Gomez
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: The Flash (Barry Allen), Citizen (Cap’t.) Cold, Bart Allen, Gorilla Grood
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/19/2016

The World of Flashpoint is a series of graphic novels that flush out Flashpoint giving the reader more details and greater depth to the alternate universe characters that we briefly met in Flashpoint after Barry Allen changes time to save his mother and creates a disastrous and apocalyptic world. This novel contains four stories. I liked two of the four, so it’s hard to even rate the book – the two good stories that of “Citizen Cold” and that of Kid Flash – Bart Allen I’d rate at 4. But the Gorilla Grood story I’d rate at 2 and the prison break story I’d rate at 2 or 3.

The first story in this collection is about Citizen Cold – the hero of Central City. Yet Leonard Snart is the same cold so-and-so we see as a villain. He’s killed villains – and anyone who might discover his secrets alike (including Wally West). He has a thing for Iris, and he’s desperate to save his sister who’s being held captive by the Rogues Gallery. And Cold’s Rogues, though similar or the same as the Flash’s Rogues that we know, are terrified of Cold. Cold’s a fascinating protagonist. He’s not precisely good. And he’s not out and out evil. And the way Snart is written in this story, reminded me very much of the way he’s played by Wentworth Miller in CW’s series Legends of Tomorrow, since this graphic was originally published in single-magazine form in 2011 and as a compilation in 2012, perhaps it did inspire the CW character. Also the art for the story is really excellent.

The second story, “Legion of Doom” is, essentially a prison break story. Remember the evil helmet headquarters of the Legion of Doom, the anti-justice league from Superfriends? In this story, it’s a prison for super-powered villains, and criminals without super powers but who are deemed too dangerous to be held in regular prisons. It’s the Flashpoint universe’s Belle Reve. Heatwave is taken into the prison, where he spends time learning how it works. He then pairs with a totally out of his head Plastic Man to stage his escape. They also fly the dark-helmet Doom prison to Detroit to destroy the place so Heatwave can have his revenge on Cyborg. None of this made any sense to me – but the Legion of Doom is not something in DC comics that I’m super aware of in terms of comics history. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the story. While Captain Cold is someone that isn’t exactly heroic to say the least, one can have some sympathy for his feelings of protectiveness for his sister. Heatwave has no redeeming factors at all, so there’s no one to engage you as a reader in this story.

The third story is “Grood of War” – the telepathic, talking, super gorilla has conquered Africa, with Capetown South Africa the last to fall (of all places). Grood’s lieutenant wonders what they will do next, and Grood plans a personal trip to Capetown to inspect the governmental facilities his troops have conquered. On the way there, the caravan is attacked. Grood and his troops destroy the attacking humans, all but one young boy. Grood however, rather than killing the boy, tells him that “he wants him to live, to spend his whole life hating him [Grood], planning to kill him, and when you’re ready – come find me and do it.” Even stranger, when his lieutenant says, “What next?” after Grood examines what’s left of Capetown, Grood announces they will invade Europe. Yet Grood says he hopes they will be destroyed. Why is the telepathic ape so suicidal? No one knows – it’s not explained. This was a weird story, and I found it difficult to follow.

“Kid Flash Lost” I really enjoyed – it features Bart Allen as “Kid Flash” (but he’s described as an “Impulsive” young man, and Hot Pursuit. Bart wakes from a virtual reality prison of sorts and finds himself on an alien spaceship belonging to Brainiac who’s taken over the Earth in Bart’s time. Bart is shocked – this isn’t his time. But he and Hot Pursuit (Patty Spivot) have to figure out what’s going on. When Patty dies, Bart realizes the best he can do is go back in time to see that none of this happens – and thus everyone will be saved, including the future he knows. Bart travels to the past and meets Windrunner in the Old West, but when Windrunner reaches out to him, he’s destroyed and Bart jumps forward. Bart arrives in Jay’s time – but he’s been murdered. He also arrives at a cemetery only to see Iris mourning the recently dead Wally West. But then Bart realizes the Speed Force is propelling him forward so he can reach Barry – and as the White Flash, pure Speed Force energy, he can urge Barry to put things right and save everyone. In the end, Bart sacrifices even himself to help Barry make it.

Again, the first and last story in this collection were good, and the last one, especially was really good. But I wasn’t as impressed with the other two.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect

  • Title: The Ripple Effect
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Malorie Blackman
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2016

Doctor Who – The Ripple Effect is part the of Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Books series of mini-books. The Ripple Effect features the Seventh Doctor as played on the BBC television series by Sylvester McCoy and his companion Ace (aka Dorothy McShane). The mini-book opens with the Doctor and Ace in the TARDIS and they are stuck. They are in the space/time equivalent of the Sargasso Sea – becalmed and utterly unable to move. Other ships are also stranded. While the Doctor works on the TARDIS console trying to fix it so they can get out of the time/space trap, Ace watches out the viewing screen at the greyish exterior. Then she suddenly sees the TARDIS. But the Doctor dismisses this as an illusion.

The Doctor makes a desperate move, and the TARDIS is kicked free of the trap. They “auto-land” on a planet, which they soon discover to be Skaro. But rather the home of the militaristic, xenophobic, racist, bullies we know as Daleks – Skaro is home to a race of Daleks who are the center of teaching, medicine, and research for the entire galaxy. People of all races and of all ages come to the Academy on Skaro to learn, study, and do research. Even the Time Lords have come to Skaro to say thanks for the Dalek medical team that saved the life of the Lord President of Gallifrey.

The Doctor, of course, knows this to be wrong. Ace also remembers her own fights against vicious Daleks, but over time she comes to accept the new world she’s on, and the new universe.

The Doctor, however, continues to investigate – and although the Daleks are as good as they seem, this alternate universe isn’t stable – and in the end, he and Ace must do something about that.

The Ripple Effect is an excellent story, in that it’s really about prejudice – the Doctor’s previous experiences with evil Daleks make it difficult for him to accept that these Daleks are good. Ace at first agrees with him, but she gradually accepts what she sees with her own eyes, despite her memories, these Daleks are good. Ace even becomes friends with one of the other students – which makes the end even more tragic.

This is an excellent and very short story, as all the other stories in this series are short. Recommended.

Book Review – World of Flashpoint featuring Batman

  • Title: World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman
  • Author: Brian Azzarello, J.T. Krul
  • Artists: Jimmy Palmiotti, Peter Milligan, Eduardo Risso, Mikel Janin, George Pérez, Fernando Blanco, Scott Koblish, John Dell, Joe Bennett
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: The Flash (Barry Allen), Batman (Thomas Wayne), Dick Grayson, Deadman, Helmet of Fate, Deathstroke
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/18/2016

**Spoiler Alert** This book takes place in DC Comics alternate Flashpoint Universe – in Flashpoint Barry Allen has gotten fed up and travels back in time to prevent the murder of his mother. Or so the Reverse Flash claims (see Flashpoint or the animated DC film Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox). This has had a cascading Butterfly Effect – changing everything to the point where the world will be destroyed in a war between Aquaman and the Atlanteans and Wonder Woman and her Amazon Sisters. The World of Flashpoint series goes into details about the main characters we meet in The Flash: FlashpointFlashpoint featuring Batman consists of four stories of three parts each. These are: “Knight of Vengeance”, “Deadman and the Flying Graysons”, “Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager”, and “Secret Seven”.

In “Knight of Vengeance”, Thomas Wayne is Batman – following the murder of his son Bruce; and his wife, Martha who became the insane Joker. He also runs Wayne Casino and literally owns Gotham’s private security force (which has replaced the police). The Security Force’s top man is James Gordon. Joker has kidnapped Harvey Dent’s two children. She arranges things so that Gordon accidentally shoots and kills the young boy – and then kills Gordon. Batman goes after Joker, but having already met with Barry – he knows there’s a better world. He tells Martha there’s a world where their son survived, and they need to sacrifice themselves for that world to exist. Martha runs from Thomas falls off a cliff onto a stalagmite and dies. The Batman story was very good, but tragic.

In “Deadman and the Flying Graysons”, Dick Grayson is an acrobat and flyer in Haley’s Circus, with his parents, John and Mary. Also in the circus is Deadman – an aerialist who flies without a catcher, using wires, and also the mysterious Helmet of Fate. They are trapped in Europe by the war – and hunted by the Amazons who want their helmet back. The circus is constantly on the move, but they are tracked down. Mary Grayson is shot as she takes her bows at the end of a show. As the circus tries to escape, John is shot down as well. With his dying breath, he gets Deadman to promise to watch over Dick. When Deadman is later killed – his ghost watches over Dick.

This was my favorite story of the four – I loved the idea that Dick’s parents, at least, survived. Though it turns out to be “not for long”. Bringing in Deadman was an interesting touch. And, although I would have liked to see more with Doctor Fate, I found it fascinating that the Helmet would end-up in the care of someone who had no idea how to use it.

“Curse of Ravenger” was my least favorite story of the bunch. Deathstroke is a pirate, searching the seas for his kidnapped daughter. I’ve never liked Deathstroke, and making him a pirate just makes him less likable, even with his “noble” cause of trying to find his daughter. Note that one of Deathstroke’s new metas on his crew is a girl, Jenny Blitz, with Firestorm-like powers.

The last story is definitely the weirdest. “Secret Seven” features the more magical/mystical heroes of this universe. But six of them are dead, and when The Changing Man (looks like Firestorm – different powers), tries to gather a new group of seven, he’s kidnapped by Sagan Maximus of Neta Hightable to be “rationalized” – this process is interrupted. Yet again, the seven are nearly all killed, except for Abrakadabra who calls a press conference to reveal the names of the Seven, and a traitor who is working for the Amazons.

Overall, the graphic novel is worth getting, especially if you want more background on the various alternate-characters in Flashpoint.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Something Borrowed

  • Title: Something Borrowed
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Characters: Sixth Doctor, Peri
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/27/2016

Doctor Who Something Borrowed is the sixth book in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 books – 12 Doctors collection of mini books. This one features the Sixth Doctor (as played by Colin Baker) and Peri, and is told in first person from Peri’s point of view.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on a planet who’s entire civilization is based on Las Vegas in the 1960s. The planet is an intergalactic tourist attraction, making money from hotels and casinos. They are also known for their elaborate weddings. And it is a wedding that brings the Doctor to the planet, as he’s received an invitation from an old friend to his son’s wedding. But the natives on the planet also have a unique biological capability that only happens during wedding ceremonies – the Phasing, when natives of the planet take on a whole new appearance.

The Doctor and Peri arrive among chaos as Pterodactyls attack the populace but not them. Escaping the attack, they find the Doctor’s friend and are taken to his mansion. Peri is sent off with a servant to get “cleaned-up”, and she discovers almost by accident who is not only behind the Pterodactyls attack but who the intended bride really is – an old enemy of the Doctor.

This surprise enemy of the Doctor’s holds Peri and the servant-girl hostage, but soon the Doctor arrives to rescue them. And before long they are off to stop the wedding.

This was a fun and light read. I enjoyed it. The first person narration is highly unusual for a Doctor Who novel, though it’s been used on some of the audio plays. Recommended.

Book Review – Flashpoint

  • Title: Flashpoint
  • Author: Geoff Johns
  • Artists: Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope, Alex Sinclair, Nick J. Napolitano, Jesse Delperdang
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: The Flash (Barry Allen)
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/03/2016

I have seen the Warner Brothers Animated DC Universe film of this graphic novel (Review of the animated Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox film), so many of the “shocking” scenes were expected – and I was actually surprised how closely the animated film adapted the graphic novel. There were a few bits here and there that were in the novel but not the film (and the fate of Krypto the Super-dog was very upsetting), but overall, point for point it’s the same story.

That said, though – what a story! Flashpoint is a major twist in the DC Universe, especially post the modern age and just prior to Final Crisis and New 52. This tale, hovers between the two. Barry Allen here is a Classic Barry Allen with his classic red suit with lightening bolt motif. Surprisingly, one of my criticisms of the film – is actually how the book works, Barry literally wakes from having fallen asleep at his desk at the Central City police department, only to discover is mother is alive and the world’s gone to, well, things are not going well – at all. Barry has to figure out this new world, before confronting Professor Zoom, aka Reverse Flash – who blames Barry for the entire mess. In the end, Barry, being Barry runs back in time and stops himself from changing time.

But after his success – he visits Bruce Wayne, tells him everything, then delivers a letter. Bruce opens the letter then collapses. Barry helps him to his chair in the Batcave – and Bruce cries as he reads the letter written to him from the alternate-universe Batman, his father, Thomas Wayne. It’s a poignant and stirring moment.

Flashpoint is a ground-breaking comic for The Flash – it sets off a wave in the DC Universe, and the new Rebirth series starts where Flashpoint ends. I highly suspect Rebirth will Retcon away New 52 (good riddance I say), though popular new characters such as Cyborg and Harley Quinn will probably survive the transition.

The art in Flashpoint is amazing, especially the full-page splash pages. The confrontation between Barry and Reverse Flash looks amazing (tho’ I still do not quite buy Reverse Flash’s explanation – how would Barry saving his mother cause Kal-El’s rocket to land on Gotham City rather than a farm in Kansas? Why would Barry’s actions cause a deadly love triangle between Arthur Curry (Aquaman) his one-time wife, Meara, and Wonder Woman? And why would Diana have an affair with Arthur in the first place? Besides – a woman scorned causes a war? How “Face that Launched 1000 Ships” of her.) Still, even with those faults the story is incredible – and the art is even better (one area where the animated film falls way short).

I have to recommend Flashpoint – for one thing, it seems to be integral to the new Rebirth series that’s rebooting DC and bringing back the classic feel.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Tip of the Tongue

  • Title: Tip of the Tongue
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Characters: Fifth Doctor, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/23/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Tip of the Tongue is book five in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors collection of short books or novellas. It features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, who journey to a small town in the US in the 1940s. Most of the story revolves around the people living in the town, especially a young German Jewish boy and a biracial girl. They’ve become outcasts as both are poor, living with single mothers, and, well, are not accepted by the WASPs of the town for unfair but obvious reasons.

This story gets the tone of the time period just right – and I could picture these characters perfectly. It also gets it’s vocabulary correct – the school Johnny and Nettie attend has a principal, not a headmaster etc. For once a Doctor Who story set in the US that doesn’t make basic mistakes of vocabulary, law, or common practices (like how to turn right on red – e.g. only after a full stop – where legal and not posted as otherwise), and the tone and the characters were so rich.

Unfortunately, that means the Doctor and Nyssa get short shift. Nyssa is in the story so little I had to flip through to see which Davison companion was in this story, when writing this review. And the Doctor has very little to do until the very end – when he strolls in like a police officer and “solves” the case and arrests the aliens responsible as well as releasing another group of alien slaves. But I get ahead of myself.

The story, taking place in a small town in the 1940s, involves a Jewish boy and a Biracial girl who become friends because they are both different and experience similar hardships. The boy, though, thinks he wants to be with a girl named Marisa – one of the popular ones at the school. So he takes $2.00, a fortune at the time, to buy a Truth Teller from his friend Nettie. The Truth Tellers are weird devices that are worn on the chin and will say a truthful, but ultimately hurtful thing about the person one is looking at. The Truth Tellers are brought into the town by Annabelle the daughter of the richest man in town, owner of the local shop, and the local factory. Annabelle is also the most popular girl in school – and a bit of a bully towards her friends. Marissa is, of course, one of her friends. The town finds the Truth Tellers to be annoying, but think they are fad that will go away on it’s own.

But then the Doctor and Nyssa show up, right after the mansion built by the richest couple in town blows up. The Doctor explains the couple and their daughter “Annabelle” are not humans at all, but aliens. And the Truth Tellers aren’t a cute gadget but aliens enslaved by the first group (who look like upward-standing human-sized sheep when not disguised. I loved that description. Only Doctor Who would have human-sized sheep as evil aliens.) The Doctor takes care of everything, and Marissa steals Annabelle’s fur-collared coat. Johnny realizes he doesn’t care for Marissa at all, and smiles at his real friend, Nettie.

The story of Jonny and Nettie, oddly enough, reminded me of the classic children’s book, A Bridge to Terabithia but I think that was more the tone of the book than the plot. I was a child when I read A Bridge to Terabithia and although I know I loved it – I don’t remember much about it now. However, as a Doctor Who title, the lack of the Doctor and Nyssa was a bit of an issue in this short story or novella. Still, it’s part of a set, so enjoy.

Book Review – Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880

  • Title: Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880
  • Author: Tony Lee
  • Artists: Ardian Syaf, Aneke
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: Dynamite Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/03/2016

This is a wonderfully fun graphic novel. Based on the late 1970s/early 1980s version of the television series Battlestar Galactica but given an awesome Steampunk twist – it’s a joy from start to finish. The only negative is the book is too short.

The characters from Battlestar Galactica are slightly changed to fit with the Victorian/Steampunk design – Adama is an Archduke, Apollo is the crown prince. Athena really kicks ass – going practically on her own to find and rescue her brother (Apollo) when he disappears in battle and is presumed dead.

Starbuck, back to being a guy as he was in the original series, has been banished – and is a free trader, aided by his half-daggit (half-human) partner, Muffit. He’s in trouble with two pirate queens – Cassiopeia and Sheba. Athena approaches him to help rescue Apollo.

Meanwhile, Baltar has destroyed Caprica with his Cyclonic automatons, then launches an attack on Gemini. Adama takes the Aethership Galactica to protect the remnants of Caprica’s population, and joins Commander Cain of the Aethership Pegasus to defend Gemini – only to discover it’s a trap, the Pegasus has been destroyed, as has Gemini.

However, Starbuck, and Athena discover Apollo, on a prison planet as well as Jolly and Boomer, now cybernetic after Baltar’s surgeries to save their lives. They also discover Iblis – who with Athena and Baltar created the Babbage Machine Lui-c-fer that controls the Cyclonics. Since Jolly and Boomer can plug in and control the giant automaton Cyclonics, and Ibilis and Athena designed the Babbage machine – they decide to take the fight to Baltar.

Meanwhile, on the Galactica, Adama is thrilled to learn his son is alive, and even welcomes Starbuck, Jolly, and Boomer back (after they were exiled by the Quorum of Twelve). Adama agrees with the plan to take the fight to Baltar.

The battle actually goes well, even though Ibilis betrays them by uploading himself to Lu-c-fer. Athena – who had designed the Babbage machine – hacks it to melt down the machine and destroy Ibilis, the Cyclonics and Baltar. She also approaches the Oviod, an insectoid species and the Colonials former enemy, and forms an alliance with them to take out the Cyclonics.

This is a highly enjoyable graphic novel, suitable pretty much for all ages. The Steampunk aesthetic and costumes are great. Tony Lee’s take on the classic characters is more in fitting with those characters than Ron Moore’s recent television remake.

The art is good, but at times very, very busy – with panels that almost seem crowded. But, on the other hand, the ship designs and the costumes are really, really good. I’d love to see another volume of this story, or to see it made into an animated film. Highly recommended.