Book Review – Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye vol. 1

  • Title: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye Vol. 1: Going Underground
  • Author: Gerald Way
  • Artists: Jon Rivera, Michael Avon Oeming
  • Line: Young Animal
  • Characters: Cave Carson, Chloe Carson, Mad Dog
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/13/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is one of four books in DC Comics Young Animal Imprint. I’ve read two other books in the imprint since the beginning in softcover: Mother Panic and Shade, the Changing Girl, both of which are excellent. Cave Carson is just weird. The colors are psychedelic and jarring. The basic plot is actually pretty simple: Cave Carson was a famous spelunker and adventurer. He discovered a underground civilization, and we’re not talking a political movement but a literal civilization that’s underground – like something out of Jules Verne novel. He meets and falls in love with the civilization’s princess, makes her his wife, and the two have a daughter. After a few years of continuing their underground explorations and adventures, the three settle down to a “normal” life on the surface.

But all this is backstory – the graphic novel opens with Cave’s wife, Eileen, having recently died from cancer and her loss ironically reuniting the estranged Cave and his college-aged daughter, Chloe. But no sooner than they reunite than there’s trouble. Cave steals his mothballed Mighty Mole machine and returns to the underground civilization, only to find the civilization’s been attacked and most of the people killed. Cave explains to his wife’s parents that she’s died – which is bad news as she was the royal princess. But as that is going on – things get really weird. There’s a underground monster that the civilization has been imprisoning in a crystal, known as the Whisperer – for it’s ability to psychically manipulate people. There’s a corrupt corporation that, after years of stealing crystals from the underground civilization has been influenced by the Whisperer to launch the attack and free the whisperer. It gets weird.

Overall, I’d give this book a 3.5 stars. One of the major characters, besides, Cave Carson, is Mad Dog, whom I really can’t stand. He’s just not a character that I like at all. I know (or hope) that some of his statements are for ironic effect – but he’s still rude, stupid, and sexist – and I don’t like him at all. Second, Cave himself, feels like a “hero” from the 1970s – this is a very “male” book, and it’s like no one’s ever considered women to be human. Considering the strong and unique female characters in the other two Young Animal books I’ve read (not only the title characters in Mother Panic and Shade, the Changing Girl but secondary characters as well), Cave’s pulp all-male attitude is annoying at best. The story is actually relatively simple. The only thing this book has going for it is the art and colors – which is out there – way out there. It’s definitely a unique look, that’s for sure. Overall, not really recommended. I didn’t totally hate it – but I didn’t like it all that much either. I’d rather recommend the other two Young Animal books. (Oh, and I haven’t read Doom Patrol at all in either softcover or as a collected graphic novel.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Doctor Who: The Episode Guide

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Episode Guide
  • Author: Mark Campbell
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/15/2012

When I found this book, I was so excited. Finally, an updated Doctor Who episode guide and in hardcover! But the book is awful! It fails to point out on the back or in the book’s description that this is an opinionated guide to Doctor Who and the opinion of the author is he doesn’t like it very much!

Not only does Campbell not like Doctor Who, he really doesn’t get it. I’m not going to insist the show is perfect… far from it, it’s had it’s issues, and there are stories and episodes that are just plain bad. But Campbell seems to relish ripping up many of the series best episodes, while extolling many of the worst ones, such as “The Gunfighters” as the best TV has to offer? “The Gunfighters”, Really? May you be cursed with “The Ballad of Jonny Ringo” in your head for years. Campbell also praises “Love and Monsters” one of the few David Tennant episodes that I really hate, and having seen it twice, have no desire to ever watch again.

However, this book even fails as an episode guide. The summaries are too short, frequently only a single sentence. The cast lists for each story are incomplete. And, again, I could have done without the commentary. Completely.

Save your money and skip this book. Try to find Jean-Marc Lofficier’s Doctor Who The Programme Guide instead, it’s out of date, but at least it’s accurate and has the minimum of annoying, opinionated, ridiculous commentary.

Read this instead: Doctor Who the Programme Guide by Jean-Marc Lofficier.

Book Review – Trinity vol. 1: Better Together

  • Title: Trinity vol. 1: Better Together
  • Author: Francis Manapul
  • Artists: Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Brad Anderson, Steve Wands
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Superman (Clark Kent), Batman (Bruce Wayne), Wonder Woman (Diana), Lois Lane, Jon Kent
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/30/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I read Trinity twice, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some parts that are a bit confusing, especially at first, but it’s a wonderful story – about Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The story opens with a monologue by Lois Lane who is now married to Clark Kent and the two are raising their son, Jon. Bruce Wayne and Diana arrive at their farm house. Young Jon experiments with his powers, which he can’t quite control. Next, he’s in the barn, Jonathan Kent is unconscious on the floor, young Jon is freaking out, and Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman arrive in their costumes. Jon flies off. The costumed heroes save Jonathan then go after young Jon. They find him, and later, Superman begins to wonder what just happened, though he’s happy to have seen his parents again.

Next, is Bruce’s story – he’s too late to see his parents before they die, or to prevent the horrible events of That Fateful Night. He sees a counselor, who gives him some medication to control his fears. This causes horrible, frightening hallucinations. Superman, adult Batman, and Wonder Woman have to save Bruce. By this point everyone is getting suspicious.

Next, Wonder Woman takes a boat, with Bruce and Clark, to Themyscira. By now, the three, including Wonder Woman, know nothing that is happening to them is real. The Amazons test the three, and they pass their tests. Hippolyta offers “Wonder Woman”, as she introduces herself, the chance to stay, but says the two men must leave. Diana decides she must go with her friends. Meanwhile, young Diana, is incensed at this and follows them, then begins to lead them through. They discover that Mongul, under the influence of the Black Mercy is behind everything. However, he had contacted Poison Ivy, Avatar of The Green, whom he manipulated to help him escape. The third person that is behind the dreamworld is the White Mercy – something created by Mongul’s need to escape and his boredom. The White Mercy, who appears as a child, appears to Poison Ivy as a child – she wants to use Superman to free her “daughter” the White Mercy. Mongul wants to escape the dream world of the Black Mercy. Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are caught in the thrall and dream world of the Mercy plants. Ivy even goes after young Jon. However, though, basically a construct, the White Mercy learned from the three scenarios he had Clark, Bruce, and Diana experience. In the end, he helps them escape the dream world. Mongul is returned there, Ivy forgets everything, including her “daughter”, and the White Mercy? It may have escaped to the real world.

This is a beautiful book – the art is gorgeous, with a marvelous painted look. The panels reflect the characters, as well, forming the famous symbols for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at times. Though at times it was hard to tell what order to read the panels in. All three interwoven stories really explain and stress the strengths of Bruce, Clark, and Diana. It’s a great book and deserves a spot on any DC Comics fan’s shelf. Highly recommended.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Chicks Unravel Time

  • Title: Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who
  • Publisher: Mad Norwegian Press
  • Editors: Deborah Stanish, L.M. Myles
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/15/2012

This essay collection is the sequel to the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords. I really liked it. I enjoyed it more than the previous book. Each essay addresses a season of Doctor Who and the book covers the original Classic series (1963-1989), the TV Movie (1996) and the new series (2005-). The BBC Eighth Doctor books and Big Finish audios are also mentioned.

The essays in this book cover a number of topics while also reviewing each season, and the essays are organized thematically, not chronologically. I would have preferred chronological organization, but as the Introduction points out, I can always re-read the book’s essays in chronological order. Also, the subtle theme-order makes sense. I did find it helpful to have an episode guide handy while reading.

Below I’ll mention one of my favorite essays, but I’m not going to go through all the essays, there are just too many.

“A Dance with Drashigs” by Emma Nichols focuses on the Doctor & Companion relationship, specifically in Season 10. But more specifically it focuses on Jo Grant — and in a positive manner. Jo is a companion who gets no respect in Who fandom, and she’s often unfairly compared with the companion before her (Dr. Liz Shaw) and after (Sarah Jane Smith, often perceived as the Classic series fan’s most favorite companion). Yet, I’ve always really liked Jo, though I tend to be quiet about it. And, as this essay points out, it’s because I saw “later Jo” first — the first episode I saw with her was “Frontier in Space” and Jo kicks, um, butt, in “Frontier in Space” — she’s rescuing the Doctor, getting herself out of cells, successfully resisting the Master’s hypnotism, and figuring out just what the deal is with the Drashigs anyway (as well as the rest of the plot, which involves perception of an “enemy”). When I saw Jo’s first episode I understood why a lot of fans didn’t like her — but what I also like is she evolves and she takes it upon herself to learn and grow. This essay legitimizes my opinion of Jo and adds to it. I also enjoyed the fact that a new Who fan actually enjoyed classic Who (perceived “wisdom”, especially in the Moffat Era, is that a New Who Fan can’t possibly be interested in Classic Who. Yeah, right.) Or as Nichols put it: “…when Rose encountered an Auton in Hendrick’s basement, I had never seen an episode of Doctor Who. By the time she was crying on a Norwegian Beach, I’d seen every episode of Doctor Who. And then there were the 70-ish eighth Doctor novels and dozens of Big Finish audios…” (p. 24). I simply love that.

Course, it was the comments of one of the editors praising Jo Grant at a Chicago TARDIS convention panel that convinced me to go straight to the dealers’ room to buy my own copy!

But there are many, many brilliant essays in this book. I loved the one about my favorite Doctors and companions: What Would Romana Do?; I’m from the TARDIS and I’m here to help you – Barbara Wright and the Limits of Intervention; Build High for Happiness!, Ace, Through the Looking Glass. But I also liked essays that brought up topics I had never thought of before: Reversing Polarities The Doctor, The Master, and False Binaries in Season 8; The Problem with Peri; Identity Crisis, The Still Point, The Doctor’s Balls (not what you think!). And, without a doubt, many of the essays had me wanting to sit down and re-watch Doctor Who — in its entirety!

I highly recommend this book, everyone from the casual fan to fans like the guy who kept sitting next to me at Chicago TARDIS who could name every episode in order from the entire run (so far) — and did so, frequently, at length. (I look-up info like that, which is why Lofficier’s Programme Guide still sits on my desk). Anyway, it’s brilliant!

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 1 Review

  • Series Title: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
  • Season: Series 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: ABC (Australia)
  • Cast: Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Ashleigh Cummings, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Richard Bligh, Travis McMahon, Anthony J. Sharpe
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher is a vibrant, intelligent, modern woman, who enjoys fine clothes, fast cars, a comfortable lifestyle, and solving crimes. This series is set in the late 1920s in Melbourne, Australia. Phryne also has a habit of collecting and rescuing strays. The first few episodes of this series feel very much like your typical British cozy (despite being set in Melbourne, Australia) from the 1920s with mysteries set in a manor house, on a train, and in an underground jazz club. But as the series develops it gains depth – and darkness.

Phryne has experienced a lot in her life. She’s been a nurse in the first World War. But the defining moment of her life was when her younger sister was kidnapped and never found. Young Janey’s kidnapping goes from a few mentions as background, to subtly becoming the theme of the season. The penultimate episode features a mysterious death at Phryne’s Aunt Prudence’s house, during which the past is stirred up – and it leads directly in to the final episode in this set.

The final episode has Phryne and Jack investigating the most important case in Phryne’s career: discovering what happened to her sister. It’s a edge-of-your-seat episode, that I’m not going to spoil. But it takes something initially introduced almost as a simple “tragic background” and makes it pay off. This gives the season the satisfactory conclusion of a good novel. There are two more seasons of this series and I very much must see them.

The other theme of this particular season is that of rescuing strays. She meets Dot (Dorothy) Williams who is working as a maid in less than ideal circumstances and brings her in to her own household, as a lady’s maid, her companion, and tutors her in solving crimes. Watching Dot grow and become more independent and confident is one of the joys of the series. Phryne also meets two taxi drivers who share driving duties on their cab – both are unionists and one who is nearly a communist. She employs them to help with the heavy lifting so to speak. When she opens her new house, she hires a butler – named, appropriately enough, Mr. Butler. He reminds me very much of Alfred Pennyworth in Batman – as he cares for Phryne and her self-made family as well as running the household. Finally, Phryne adopts a young ward, Jane, who had been under the control of a Fagin.

Phryne and DI Jack Robinson have a flirting attraction, but it’s not pushed as they have only just met in this season.

Finally the clothes, hats, cars, jewelry, and settings are just fabulous! The filming is also terrific – at times moody, always colorful, and fitting of the 1920s setting. Overall, the series is excellent and I recommend it. I will no doubt purchase the next two seasons soon.

Book Review – Supergirl vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen

  • Title: Supergirl vol. 1: Reign of The Cyborg Supermen
  • Author: Steve Orlando
  • Artists: Brian Ching, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, Michael Atiyeh, Steve Wands
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Supergirl, Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers, Cat Grant
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/18/2017

**Spoiler Alert** To be honest, I’d like to rate this 3.5 Stars. It’s not bad, just a bit disappointing. Supergirl vol. 1 Reign of the Cyborg Supermen collects Supergirl Rebirth and the first six issues of the newest Supergirl series from DC Comics. This Supergirl is heavily influenced by the CW Series, it seems, but leaves out some of the best parts of that show. Alex Davers, Kara’s human adopted sister on the CW series is nowhere to be seen here. But 16-year-old Kara is being raised by two DEO Agents, Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers. At times, the Danvers act like parents. But at other times, they act like secret agents simply doing a job. Kara, herself, is sent to a regular high school in National City. Well, a science and technology magnet school, though Kara is confused by the primitive nature of the technology she uses at the school. It isn’t quite, “a keyboard how quaint”, but it’s close.

However, Kara and one of her classmates are soon taken out of school entirely to be part of Cat Grant’s Young Innovators program at her new Catco Corporation. Other than her determination to deny young people a normal education, Cat is actually one of the most interesting characters in this book. She is just starting Catco, and is remarkably astute, realizing both that she can be her own worst enemy and that to do what she wants with Catco, she needs the new ideas she can get from the young. I would have no problem with her Young Innovators program if it was a Summer internship, or even a “gap year” program, but taking young people out of school and putting them straight in to an incredibly stressful and competitive business environment, with no mentoring, structure, or help? That’s just not a good thing. 16-year-olds are too young to be told to sink or swim. But I digress.

The second part of the story is where the title comes from: the Cyborg Supermen. Kara’s father, Zor-El returns. He is now a cyborg, and wants to return Kara to Argo city. Worse, his plan to bring back the citizens of Argo City involves turning them into Cyborgs who will suck the life out of humans to become truly living. Kara isn’t having it, and the fight scenes between Kara and her misguided father have meaning because there are emotional reasons behind why the two are fighting. And as misguided as Zor-El is, he has his own point of view. In the end, he only wants to save his people, the last city of Krypton. Of course, doing that by killing a city’s worth of people on Earth, in a strangely vampiric way, isn’t the best way to accomplish this – but at least Zor-El isn’t being evil simply for the sake of being evil. And Kara really, really gets to kick butt. She is powerful, strong, and ultimately defeats Zor-El and his super-powered cyborgs, both by using her wits and by physically beating Zor-El. That was enjoyable.

Overall, Supergirl in many ways feels like young adult fiction. A teenaged girl would probably enjoy the story more than I did. Still, I also did not hate it, I was just disappointed. I felt Kara was a bit too young. I didn’t like the “send Supergirl to high school” thing, and apparently neither did the writers, because no sooner than they sent her there than they pulled her out. Why not make her a 17 or 18-year old high school graduate at least? Or make Cat’s program a Summer internship? The plot with Kara’s father had emotional impact, at least, so that worked. Kara was strong throughout, which was also good. The art has a Japanese Anime look, though the colors are bright with a lot of red and blue, as a Superman family book should be.

Recommended with reservations.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Doctor Who: The Programme Guide

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Programme Guide
  • First Edition: Target Books (1989)
  • Fourth Edition: Mystery Writers of America Presents iUniverse Inc.; Originally Published by W.H. Allen & Co. PLC and Virgin Publishing Ltd. (2003)
  • Author: Jean-Marc Lofficier (4th edition – Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/15/2012

I couldn’t find my edition (published in 1989 with a foreward by John Nathan-Turner) of this book here on GoodReads but this (Fourth ed.) appears to be the closest I can get.

This is the best Doctor Who episode guide or program guide out there. Unfortunately it is out of date, and long out of print, but I’d like to see it brought back in an updated form.

Reasons that this book is superior to similar ones.

1. Full descriptions of all episodes from the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child” to “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”; episode titles and cast lists for all episodes including the last season of the Classic Series (up to “Survival”).

2. Full cast lists for all episodes that are covered.

3. True pocket size, it’s a normal paperback size.

4. Easy look-up format.

5. Includes production codes and number of episodes per story.

6. Very little to no opinion on the episodes. This really is a “just the facts” episode guide.

By the way, I have enjoyed many of the essay collections, especially recent ones, that are out there for Doctor Who but this one stays on my desk even though it’s out of date, because sometimes you just want to look something up.

Highly recommended, and one I’d like to see updated to include the New Who series.

Addendum: Fourth Edition – I now also have the Fourth Edition, which is a trade paperback size, so a bit less handy than the original paperback. Both copies stay on my desk. The fourth edition includes plot descriptions of Sylvester McCoy’s final season as the Doctor, full cast information (both actors and the characters they play), the production code, and the number of episodes and air dates – information included for every story of the original series. The book also lists the target novelization of every story, and in some cases the available video tape of the story (yes, OK, the book’s a date out of date for video editions, but it’s very worth it as an episode/program guide with factual not opinionated information about Doctor Who. If you are interested in factual information about Doctor Who on DVD you can’t go wrong with The Classic Doctor Who Video Compendium by Paul Smith.) In addition, the Fourth Edition of The Doctor Who Programme Guide includes the full cast and summary information for the Eighth Doctor TV Movie starring Paul McGann. The Fourth Edition also includes summaries and production information for Doctor Who The Missing Bits – various plays, unproduced scripts available as novelizations, and official BBC radio plays. The book does not include the Big Finish audios (a guide to those would be a book in an of itself, and probably one of several volumes). It also does not include the recent BBC Radio audio books (actors from the series reading books from the BBC Books New Who book series, such as The Stone Rose, or audio plays produced by the BBC. However, like the rest of the book, the Missing Bits section includes summaries, production information, cast information (for plays and audio adventures), novelization information, and the like – just like the rest of the book. The Fourth Edition is a fine updating of the original, but it doesn’t replace the original for me. Still both editions are highly recommended, and the Fourth Edition is probably easier to find.