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.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil

  • Title: The Roots of Evil
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Philip Reeve
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Leela
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Roots of Evil is part of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors set of mini-books or novellas. This is the fourth book in the series so it features the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) and Leela (as played by Louise Jameson) from the British television series Doctor Who.

The Doctor says that Leela has been complaining about not ever seeing trees on their journeys, so the Doctor takes her to a space station that is a giant tree in space. However, no sooner than they land than the Doctor and Leela are in trouble. Leela senses something dark about this “tree”, and they soon meet Ven, which as he explains is short for: “Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-the-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths”. Everyone else on the space station/tree has similar names vowing revenge against the Doctor. However, when Ven falls into a digestion pool – the Doctor and Leela rescue him. This, and the Doctor’s way of getting people to trust him easily and quickly, means the young Ven becomes sympathetic to the Doctor. When the troops arrive, Ven insists the Doctor and Leela be taken to the Judicator – not the civilian/military/religious leadership. As the Doctor and Leela start to discover what’s happened, that the people of the station/tree are angry at the Doctor’s future Eleventh Incarnation and not the current one, the meeting hall is attacked. First the Chairman (civilian/military/religious leader) arrives to take the Doctor to immediate execution without trial. Then, tree spores begin to attack everyone.

This actually forces the various splinter groups together because survival becomes more important than petty disagreements. The Doctor also realizes that it was a future version of himself that caused these colonists to end-up in the tree space station in the first place; but every story has two sides. The original leader of the colony expedition was a racist and xenophobic nightmare. Having found a planet, he ignored the fact that an intelligent methane-breathing species already lived there, and began the terraforming process to replace the methane with oxygen (effectively killing the natives by smothering them.) The Eleventh Doctor stopped him – thus causing the chain of events. But even more interestingly – the original leader is still semi-alive, and is the soul of the dark tree. He is the one who wants vengeance. He’s actually so bent on destroying the Doctor that he’s sabotaged the natural ability of the tree to terraform a lifeless rock into a life-supporting planet, thus trapping the colonists in the tree/station for 900 years. The Doctor and Leela defeat the colonial leader who’s a nightmare, release the tree spores into space, and explain what’s happened to the clueless colonists – who will have a new home in a decade or so.

Despite it’s lack of science (a tree in space? Opening a window on a space station to let the spores out???) I liked this story. The society living in the tree, with their wooden tools and weapons, and pounded wood pulp fabrics is fascinating and very, very different. That the Fourth Doctor would run into something a future incarnation would do (had already done in fact) gave the story both a modern-Who twist in a Classic Who framework. The colonial leader was suitably annoying and evil. And the story showed that every battle has at least two sides. This is the first book in this series that I thought could have been much longer, because the society in the tree and the main characters could have been fleshed-out a bit more. Still, an excellent short story or novella. Recommended.

Book Review – Star Trek The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 2

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 2
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Tom B. Long
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

**spoiler alert** Star Trek: the Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation² vol. 2 picks up where the previous volume left off, with the Borg asking Picard to help them against the Cybermen. Picard’s answer is “no, absolutely not,” The Doctor and even Amy try to change Picard’s mind, to no avail. Finally, the Doctor takes Picard in the TARDIS to a tour of his (and the galaxy’s) future if he doesn’t stop the Cybermen. After this encounter, Picard agrees to try it his way. Picard and company, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory beam down to a planet to meet the Borg. They are introduced to The Conduit, a Borg incapable of assimilating other species, who becomes an ambassador. The Conduit explains how the Borg were approached by the Cybermen, their alliance, and how the alliance broke down. He explains that the Cybermen have destroyed the Borg’s executive library, thus most Borg are now inert.

The Doctor lets Picard know that gold (especially gold dust) is deadly to Cybermen. Picard goes to get gold from the mining planet that’s home to fish people as seen at the beginning of the first volume (the Doctor does tag along on the trip and shows off his negotiating skills with the natives). Then the Doctor, Amy, and Rory return in the TARDIS to the battle of Wolf 359 – they materialize the TARDIS on a Borg ship and manage to acquire a copy of the executive library, then return to the Enterprise.

The Doctor then leads Worf, an Enterprise Security Strike Team, Amy, Rory, Picard, Data, and the Conduit on a mission to install the Executive Library back in to the Borg aboard a Cyber Armada ship. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Geordie works to increase the Enterprise speed, and as we find out later, to develop a gold-based weapon that will work in space. Despite difficulties and an encounter with the Cyber Controller – the Doctor’s mission to restore the Borg is successful. However, they return to the TARDIS to discover the Conduit has merged with the alien intelligence of the TARDIS herself and is attempting to control it. Data stops this by briefly merging with the TARDIS and the Conduit is thrown out the TARDIS doors and into outer space. Data recovers. The TARDIS returns the Enterprise crew to their ship. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory leave the Enterprise.

I enjoyed this graphic novel. The art is beautiful, and has a painted quality. Everyone is in character, though with so many characters, some of them only get one good scene. I thought Rory was underused in this novel for example, though I liked the scene between him and Dr. Crusher where they discuss Rory being a nurse. One good point about this novel is that, although their are a lot of action scenes, they aren’t solved by fisticuffs. The security strike team does shoot at the Cybermen with specially adapted phasers, but cleverness is more highly valued throughout the story than mere violence. For example, Data helps Picard and company escape at one point by forcing open a door and holding it while everyone goes through then jumping through himself – it’s a fit of strength that reminds one of Data’s abilities. But everyone – Amy, Rory, the Doctor, Worf, Geordie, Dr. Crusher, Deanna Troi, Commander Riker, and especially Picard all get to use their talents in service to the story. Some only briefly, but they are there – which is important in a crossover.

Recommended.