REVIEW: “LaGuardia” by Nnedi Okorafor and Tana Ford

I’m always on the lookout for new comics. I don’t follow the industry particularly closely, so a lot of titles slipped my attention. But I kept hearing about Nnedi Okorafor’s LaGuardia. It was part of Dark Horse Comics’ Berger Books imprint, a line of titles spearheaded by Karen Berger of Vertigo Comics fame – an editor whose work I’ve adored. It was a sci-fi comic that imagined an alternate Earth where aliens had integrated themselves among humanity – a premise that’s right up my alley. And it just won Eisner and Hugo Awards. So, I finally read it. And, man, it’s good. While I wish it was a bit longer, LaGuardia is a superb read. Featuring gorgeous artwork and intriguing world-building, it’s reflective of our current societal problems and a wildly captivating read. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: This review may contain spoilers.)

LaGuardia (written by Nnedi Okorafor, illustrated by Tana Ford)
In an alternate world where aliens have integrated with society, pregnant Nigerian-American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka has just smuggled an illegal alien plant named Letme Live through LaGuardia International and Interstellar Airport…and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding.

She and Letme become part of a community of human and alien immigrants; but as their crusade for equality continues and the birth of her child nears, Future—and her entire world—begins to change.

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REVIEW: Superman: Man of Tomorrow

I’m going to be blunt. I’m not much of a Superman fan. There’s nothing wrong with the character or anything, his stories just don’t do much for me. That said, there is something about a story that intrigues me. He’s an alien refugee from a war-torn planet who dedicates himself to protecting the Earth. So, I’m open to finding a Superman story I enjoy. That’s partly why I decided to watch Superman: Man of Tomorrow, the newest animated film from DC Comics. The other reason is that Darren Criss, whom I’ve been a fan of since his early Starkid days, was voicing Superman and I was curious to see how that turned out. Well, having seen the film, Superman: Man of Tomorrow is deeply enjoyable. It might even rank among my favorite of the recent DC animated films. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains mild spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow (written by Tim Sheridan, directed by Chris Palmer
Meet Clark Kent. Sent to Earth as an infant from the dying planet Krypton, he arrived with as many questions as the number of light-years he traveled. Now a young man, he makes his living in Metropolis as an intern at the Daily Planet – alongside reporter Lois Lane – while secretly wielding his alien powers of flight, super-strength and x-ray vision in the battle for good. Follow the fledgling hero as he engages in bloody battles with intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo and before fighting for his life with the alien Parasite. The world will learn about Superman…but first, Superman must save the world!

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: Out of Time” by Matt Fitton and Big Finish Productions

The Fourth Doctor is probably the most popular Doctor from the classic era of Doctor Who. Similarly, the Tenth Doctor is probably the most popular of the modern era. So, it only makes sense that Big Finish, who has the license to make audios with all Doctors but the 13th, would finally make an audio drama where these two beloved incarnations meet. The result? Out of Time, the first in a series of audios pairing classic Doctors with the Tenth Doctor. Written by Matt Fitton, Out of Time is a fun romp with two fan-favorite Doctors. Featuring great performances from Tom Baker and David Tennant and a fun and intriguing plot, it’s a great listen for all Doctor Who fans. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

Doctor Who: Out of Time 1 (written by Matt Fitton, directed by Nicholas Briggs)
The Cathedral of Contemplation is an enigma, existing outside time. It turns through history, opening its doors across the universe to offer solace to those in need.

Occasionally, the Doctor drops in – when he’s avoiding his destiny, it’s an ideal place to get some perspective. Only this time he’s already there from several lives earlier, so when dimension barriers break down, his past and present collide.

And when the Daleks invade and commandeer the Cathedral, two Doctors (Tom Baker and David Tennant) must unite to stop them – or face extermination twice over!

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REVIEW: “Auxiliary: London 2039” by Jon Richter

I’m always game to try an indie sci-fi book. Independently published books are always a bit of a gamble; sometimes they’re great; other times they’re not so great. But often you can find a great diamond in the rough by reading an independently published sci-fi novel. So, when the publishers of Auxiliary: London 2039 reached out to me and asked if I would like to review the book, I thought it was worth a read. It sounded reminiscent of Blade Runner and Altered Carbon, two stories I’ve enjoyed to a reasonable extent, so I thought it was worth a shot. And, having read the book, it’s not a bad read but it’s not a great read either. It’s perfectly fine, with a suitable mystery, well-written prose, and solid pacing, but it’s also not particularly original, and it feels like something you’ve read before. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: A copy of the novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own. Additionally, there may be spoilers ahead.) 

Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter
In a time where AI drives every car, cooks every meal, and plans every second of human life in London, a police detective named Carl Dremmler catches a murder suspect red-handed. The investigation seems open and shut, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the grisly crime, not him. As Dremmler pursues the truth, he must question everyone he thinks he knows and face down every terror 2039 has to offer.

It’s not that Auxiliary is bad, far from it. It’s an intriguing mystery that is well-executed and frequently enjoyable. It’s filled with multi-dimensional characters, fascinating ideas, and great action scenes. So, what’s the problem, then? The problem is that much of the novel feels very familiar – so familiar that is often distracting. Now, to be fair, a story being familiar isn’t inherently a bad thing. Lots of sci-fi builds off of the ideas of other stories. The problem for me was that there just weren’t enough new elements in the story. Instead, it just felt like a remix of old ideas and new technology.

For starters, Dremmler, our protagonist, is every detective from any pulp novel you’ve ever read. He’s troubled, he’s an alcoholic, he often plays by his own rules, he’s frequently misogynistic, and he even has a tragic backstory. He’s Blade Runner‘s Deckard meets any film noir detective. In fairness, this all seems intentional – the whole novel is a riff on film noir detective stories and even briefly starkly comments on Dremmler’s flaws. The problem is that that’s all it does with the trope. One throwaway gag doesn’t get you off the hook for using such a trope. It felt like there was plenty of room for the novel to try to subvert Dremmler’s characterization, but every time it comes close to doing so, it fails to commit. Now, again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a character like Dremmler. I just have no interest in journeying with such a character in a story that doesn’t seriously examine their flaws in any meaningful way.

The same problems plagued many of the novel’s other elements. They’re all familiar ideas presented in a new context but without any further changes. The newest element of the story is probably the specific technology used – an Alexa-esque AI called TIM, who has access to, and control of, almost every facet of society – but even that just feels like a slight update of the way Androids have been used in earlier cyberpunk stories. The novel tries to put some twists on its ideas through its central mystery – who is behind this seeming malfunction of a TIM-controlled limb, and why – but it never manages to be particularly surprising. There are satisfying twists and turns, but almost all of them are predictable before they happen – even the book’s climax, which tries to shock you at times but merely ends up confirming suspicions you’ve had the whole time. Now, I wouldn’t mind this much on its own, but couple it with the other examples of the novel feeling like an old room with a new coat of paint, and it starts to feel like a pattern. 

However, despite all this, Auxiliary still manages to be a lot of fun. Some of that is down to the fact that even a predictable mystery can still be a fun one but much of it is due to how good Richter’s prose is. It’s a fast-paced novel, and Richter never spends more than more time than he needs to on a scene. He litters the novel with action scenes, constantly propelling the narrative forward. He expertly builds tension in a way that makes you worry for the characters even though you have a good idea of how things will turn out. The book moves so fast there’s never a chance for you to get bored. And even if many of the elements feel very familiar, they’re still competently repackaged in a manner that’s fun to read and enjoyable to experience.

So, at the end of the day, Auxiliary: London 2039 is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a familiar take on familiar ideas but doesn’t bring much new to the table. However, it’s still presented in an easy-to-read, fast-paced, and enjoyable manner. The characters feel developed, if archetypal, and the mystery is well-executed. It makes for a fun read if you’re looking for this kind of thing. It’s enjoyable enough, and if you want something in the same vein as Blade Runner, it’s well worth checking out.

3.5 out of 5 wands.

DC Fandome – A Recap of All the News and Reveals

Today was DC Fandome, an event designed to rival this year’s Comic-Con at Home. Promising exclusive panels, clips, and reveals, it was the big day for DC to present their upcoming projects to audiences in an attempt to create hype. I love DC Comics; they’re what I grew up on and I will always want the films and television shows to be good. So, I tuned into DC Fandome with a lot of nervous energy and unsure expectations. Comic-Con at Home was a bit disappointing, so I hoped DC Fandome would be better. And, largely, it was, thanks to some great edition from the DC team to make it look better than glorified Zoom calls, some great footage and announcements, and some panels filled with a lot of fan-interactions. On the whole, it was a great event that made me very excited for future DC movies and games. But, the things that everyone’s most interested in are the reveals and trailers. So, let’s break that down.

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REVIEW: “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff

Lovecraft Country was one of those books I always meant to read but never got around to doing so. I love revisionist takes on old genres, especially ones that bring something new to the table. In Lovecraft Country’s case, that was prioritizing the stories of Black Americans by placing Black characters as the leads in various genres that have often underserved them. But I just never got around to reading the book. Until now. In light of the imminent premiere of HBO’s adaptation of the book, it seemed exactly the right time to finally read it. And, man, I’m so glad I finally did. I really wish I’d done so earlier. Reading Lovecraft Country is like watching a season of a great show contains elements of serialized and episodic storytelling. There is an overarching narrative at play, but each story stands alone while being wholly entertaining, quite frightening, and extremely poignant. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: There may be mild spoilers for Lovecraft Country.)

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

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REVIEW: “Project Power”

I love a good twist on a familiar trope. We see so many superhero movies these days that it’s hard for any of them to feel particularly unique. It’s not as simple as just making a serious one or a comedic one; you have to find a new twist to explore with superheroes, otherwise, it just feels like more of the same. This is where Project Power comes in. Premiering recently on Netflix, Project Power is a superhero movie that focuses less on the super-heroics of the story and more on how individual characters might react to living in a world where superpowers are not only common but easy to obtain. It’s a new spin on a familiar genre that prioritizes the voices of characters often underrepresented in the world of superheroes, and it’s well worth a watch. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: There may be mild spoilers for Project Power. You have been warned.)

Project Power (written by Mattson Tomlin, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman)
On the streets of New Orleans, word begins to spread about a mysterious new pill that unlocks superpowers unique to each user. The catch: You don’t know what will happen until you take it. While some develop bulletproof skin, invisibility, and super strength, others exhibit a deadlier reaction. But when the pill escalates crime within the city to dangerous levels, a local cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) teams with a teenage dealer (Dominique Fishback) and a former soldier fueled by a secret vendetta (Jamie Foxx) to fight power with power and risk taking the pill in order to track down and stop the group responsible for creating it.

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REVIEW: “The Intergalactic Interloper” by Delas Heras

I love a weird, quirky sci-fi book. There’s just something so inherently fun about weird sci-fi  – it often doesn’t take itself very seriously, freeing the author to let their imaginations run wild. It’s usually a lot of fun and I frequently find myself drawn to these kinds of stories – which is exactly why I ended up reading The Intergalactic Interloper. With a summary promising missing cats and two-headed alien turtles, I was immediately on board. And, having finished the book, it was well worth the read. While light on plot, The Intergalactic interloper is packed with fun and weird ideas and is immensely enjoyable. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: An advanced copy of the book was provided in exchange for a fair review. Additionally, mild spoilers for The Intergalactic Interloper may follow.)

Ollie, a young East Village musician, woke up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed: His cat is missing, he is in trouble with his boss, and his friends all think he has lost his mind. This last one may have something to do with the story he tells them about spying a giant two-headed turtle from outer space on a nearby rooftop. But he swears it’s the truth. Ollie’s bandmate Zara is skeptical, but she still signs on to help him track down his vanished pet. Together they follow a trail of clues that lead them to a bird-watching neighbor, who—spurred on by the ghost of a Civil War colonel—may be out for blood.

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REVIEW: “Regenerations” – A Doctor Who Charity Anthology

Doctor Who has a long history of charity anthologies. For decades, fans have combined their creativity and generosity into these anthologies, telling new stories in the Doctor Who Universe while raising money for numerous charities. The anthologies may technically be unauthorized, but they’re one of my favorite aspects of the Doctor Who fandom. Which is where Kenton Hall and Chinbeard Books’ latest anthology, Regenerations, enters. When Hall reached out to offer a copy for review, I jumped at the chance. I love Doctor Who anthologies and I love the War Doctor. And, having finished the book, it’s well worth the read. It’s a unique, clever Anthology that loving you played with Doctor Who canon while raising money for the charity “Invest in ME” – a UK-based charity that researches Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: The publisher provided an advanced copy in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own.)

Regenerations edited by Kenton Hall
The Time Lord formerly known as the Doctor has been fighting the Time War for as long as he can recall. His previous lives — all those triumphs and tragedies — have been boxed up and filed away, too painful to revisit. That is until something — or someone — begins tugging at the thread of the Doctor’s past. As familiar stories twist and shift, threatening the stability of the universe itself, the reluctant Warrior finds himself with only one option. He has to save the Doctor. 

A charitable anthology of twisted tales, raising money for Invest In ME .

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REVIEW: “The Living Dead” by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

the living deadZombies are one of my favorite horror story “monsters.” There’s something so haunting about a threat that is basically humanity but slightly… off. Zombies don’t have a motive; there’s no reason why they do the things they do. They simply operate off a basic needs-based system. They’re the very definition of id: they need to feed and they need to feed now. There’s something scary about a foe that looks exactly like us but cannot be reasoned with or stopped. But, all that aside, the most interesting thing about zombies is the way the stories that feature them force us to take a good look at ourselves. A common theme in most zombie stories is how the plague turns humanity into the real monsters. It’s one of my favorite tropes of the genre and something I love to see various storytellers sink their teeth into. Nobody was better at this than George A. Romero. His films pioneered the modern zombie genre by focusing their lenses on the intimate human stories rather than the epic, action-packed survival stories we might see today. Romero seemed most interested in how individual people react to zombies rather than what, specifically, caused them or how they might be defeated. It’s what made his films interesting and it’s what makes his novel, The Living Dead (completed by Daniel Kraus after Romero’s passing), interesting. The novel is more epic in scale than any of Romero’s films but feels no less intimate than the best of his work. It’s a brilliant achievement in the career of a man who had many brilliant achievements and it’s quite possibly one of the best zombie novels I’ve ever read. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(Mild spoilers for the novel follow!)

The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus
Set in the present day, The Living Dead is an entirely new tale, the story of the zombie plague as George A. Romero wanted to tell it. It begins with one body. A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead. It spreads quickly. In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead. We think we know how this story ends. We. Are. Wrong.

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