Tag Archives: book reviews

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: THE ORIGINAL TEAM

Last weekend Balladeer’s Blog took a look at the 1970s and 1980s stories of Star-Lord. This time around let’s go even further back and examine Marvel Comics’ original Guardians of the Galaxy.

g of g picMARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18 (January 1969)

Title: Earth Shall Overcome

Synopsis: In the year 3007 A.D. the aggressive humanoid lizard race called the Brotherhood of Badoon invaded our solar system with their fleet of starships. They attacked Earth as well as the Earth’s extensive colonies on Mercury, Jupiter and Pluto, where millions of genetically engineered humans lived, bred to thrive in each planet’s unique environments.

In addition, Earth had reached the Alpha Centauri star system and on Centauri IV had formed a peaceful government with the native Alpha Centaurans. The Badoon also struck there, wiping out all of the humans and Alpha Centaurans.

defenders 26The Badoon killed every Alpha Centauran because they considered them and their control of the living metal Yaka to be a threat. Similarly, the lizard-like aliens committed genocide on Pluto, Jupiter and Mercury as well, because they felt threatened by large numbers of foemen possessed of the enhanced abilities of those genetically engineered humans.

On Earth itself, the Badoon allowed roughly fifty-three million humans to remain alive as slave labor, since baseline humans did not have any extraordinary abilities which might pose a threat to them. But the Brotherhood of Badoon had not killed off every single member of the Earth colonies like they thought they had. Four figures survived to oppose them in a war to free humanity, four figures who called themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy. Continue reading

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THE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

The Wreck of a WorldTHE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This novel is the sequel to Grove’s A Mexican Mystery, an ahead-of-its-time work about a train engine devised to have artificial intelligence. The machine – called only The Engine in that story – rebelled and took to preying on human beings in horrific fashion. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of that novel click HERE  

The Wreck of a World is not a direct sequel to A Mexican Mystery but does use one of that novel’s elements as its springboard: the deliciously frightening notion that the Engine’s artificial intelligence might have  included the capacity to design and build others of its kind. Though A Mexican Mystery never explored that concept, Grove deals with it in much more detail in this second novel.   

demon-1300-859-wallpaperOur story begins in what was to Grove “the far future” of 1949. After a fairly superficial depiction of the world’s political and scientific situation in this imaginary future the meat of the tale begins. All in all the author did not present 1940s technology as being much more advanced than what was available in the 1880s. Grove might have done better to set his tale in 1899 or just into the 1900s to detract from his lack of vision on this particular element.

The revolt of the machines begins with train engines, presumably as a nod to the memorably malevolent Engine from Grove’s previous novel. The engines begin constructing others of their kind with the same robotic arms and with each new edition flaunting deadlier and deadlier weaponry to boot.

The engines soon modify themselves beyond the need for train tracks and become more like tanks, so kudos to this neglected author for nicely predicting the advent of such mobile death-machines.   Continue reading

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ASK BALLADEER: KANG THE CONQUEROR AND IMMORTUS

kang picIn the past handful of days Balladeer’s Blog’s 2017 blog posts examining the Marvel Comics villain Kang the Conqueror and some of his other selves like Immortus and Rama Tut have been getting incredible amounts of hits. I looked into it and it turns out that when the latest Marvel streaming miniseries, Loki, ended, the cliffhanger involved Kang and Immortus at Immortus’ castle in Limbo, the realm outside the time stream.

immI thought that people were just going to my 2017 blog posts because they had no idea who Kang and Immortus are. Instead, I started getting comments from readers expressing thanks for the clarity of the “Timey-Wimey” nature of Kang’s labyrinthine saga. They said that the people writing the Loki miniseries plopped everything into the far later stages of the Kang/ Immortus stories, bypassing the earlier tales that would help people understand it.

So, in the style of an FAQ, here are the links to my articles which let people in on the Kang storyline from the beginning, through his eventual metamorphosis into Immortus by way of Rama Tut II, the Scarlet Centurion and others. Think of Kang’s various selves like you’d think of the Doctor’s various regenerations on Doctor Who to simplify it. Anyway, here are the links for my reviews of early Kang stories up through the Celestial Madonna Saga. (And with The Eternals movie coming, Marvel may well work the Celestials into their movie universe, too.)

Originally, Immortus wasn’t overseeing a “Sacred” Timeline as much as he was making sure events played out properly to bring on the Celestial Madonna.

kang bid tomorrowONE: BID TOMORROW GOODBYE – Kang wants the Celestial Madonna (Mantis, who started out as an Avenger in the 1970s) and reveals she has been the reason he frequently targeted the 20th Century. Agatha Harkness guest-stars, from the years when she was the Scarlet Witch’s mentor. CLICK HERE.

TWO: A BLAST FROM THE PAST – The actual, REAL death of an Avenger as the team tries to stop Kang from obtaining the Celestial Madonna, whose offspring would grant Kang control of all time and space. CLICK HERE

THREE: THE REALITY PROBLEM – The funeral for that first Avenger to be killed in action, plus further investigation into Mantis’ mysterious past to learn how she became destined to be the Celestial Madonna. CLICK HERE. Continue reading

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RYAN DRAKE NOVELS BY WILL JORDAN

Will Jordan

WILL JORDAN

As far as Balladeer’s Blog is concerned, the search for a successor to Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy may be over. Author Will Jordan from Scotland isn’t even out of his thirties yet and, if you’ll recall, Ludlum didn’t pen his first novel until he was in his forties. If Jordan continues to master his craft – and if he stays in the espionage genre – he could well become one of the giants of spy fiction.

Will has worked as an extra in assorted movies & television shows, often in action or military stories. He went through boot camp and weapons training as part of that process. Jordan also reviews movies and television as the Critical Drinker, the most notorious “sustained role-playing” film critic since Mr Plinkett. Will’s hilarious but insightful reviews can be found at his YT channel HERE

redemptionREDEMPTION (2012) – The novel that introduced Will Jordan’s character Ryan Drake, a former British soldier now working for the CIA. Drake leads the elite Shepherd Team, which tracks down missing agents whether they’ve disappeared willingly or unwillingly.

In this debut adventure our hero frees a woman codenamed Maras and returns her to the U.S. only to wind up going on the run with her as assorted hostile forces emerge to prevent what she knows from ever being revealed. Ryan and Maras must dodge friend and foe alike as they piece together the ongoing conspiracy. Continue reading

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BIETIGHEIM (1886) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION/ ALTERNATE HISTORY

BietigheimBIETIGHEIM (1886) – Published anonymously in 1886 this work of alternate history accurately predicted some of the actual results and fallout of the coming First World War (1914-1918). Bietigheim is presented as a series of John Minor lectures about world history as seen from “futuristic” 1932.

First off, a summary of the book’s accurate predictions:

a) Tensions between Germany and assorted other nations cause a war that sweeps up many of the Great Powers as well as several other countries. 

b) American entry into the war proves decisive.

c) The German side loses the war.

d) The old European monarchies fall.

e) In the wake of Germany’s defeat a popular figure arises and rallies millions to him with his plans for the future of Europe and Russia.

Just before the 1890 outbreak of the war Germany and France are pushing their claims to Alsace-Lorraine, Italy is demanding Austria turn over portions of northern Italy, Great Britain and Russia are clashing over preeminence in India and Afghanistan, plus the Slavic nations are feuding with the Ottoman Muslim Turks over their own future and control of the Dardanelles. Continue reading

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MARVEL MANIA

mascot sword and gun pic

BALLADEER’S BLOG

At present pop culture is still Marvel’s world given how their superheroes continue to dominate movies and streaming services. Readers have been asking for a convenient one-stop blog post to use as an access point for Balladeer’s Blog’s assorted Marvel Comics articles, so here we go.

SHANG-CHI: HIS FIRST TWELVE ADVENTURES – Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, is set to star in the upcoming movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This blog post covered his “senses-shattering origin” (R.I.P. Stan Lee) plus his first dozen stories, featuring his villainous father, his adopted brother Midnight (M’Nai), Black Jack Tarr and more. Click HERE

kang bid tomorrowKANG THE CONQUEROR, MANTIS AND THE CELESTIAL MADONNA SAGA – Plenty of Easter Eggs point to Kang’s imminent debut in Marvel movies and/ or tv shows, plus his true love Ravonna Renslayer has already debuted. Kang’s alias as Rama Tut even showed up in X-Men: Apocalypse.

              Mantis, though a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the films, started out as an Avenger in the 1970s. For my detailed look at her first appearance on up through her starring role in the original Celestial Madonna Saga click HERE.  TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO THE KANG PART CLICK HERE. For Mantis’ role in the first THANOS WAR click HERE and HERE.

AGATHA HARKNESS AND THE SCARLET WITCH – Their first meeting HERE.

adam warlock poseADAM WARLOCK, THANOS, GAMORA AND THE MAGUS – And speaking of Thanos, and with Adam Warlock having been hinted at since the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, here’s another 1970s Young Adult Classic from Marvel. Adam took on his vile other self the Magus, his galaxy-spanning 1,000-world empire and Thanos in his first post-Thanos War appearance. Plus Gamora’s very first appearance. Click HERE.

KIT HARINGTON’S BLACK KNIGHT – This post covered Marvel’s various incarnations of the Black Knight, from the heroic figure who fought in the Crusades through the modern-day supervillain version who fought the Avengers to his nephew Dane Whitman (Kit Harington), who became a hero and redeemed the family honor. Click HERE.

killraven poseKILLRAVEN – The heroic rebel leader and his Freemen take on Earth’s alien invaders on a war-torn post-apocalyptic world crawling with extraterrestrial tyrants and assorted mutated menaces. Click HERE.

THE X-MEN – For the first twenty stories of the ORIGINAL 1963 X-Men, featuring their initial encounters with Magneto, Juggernaut, the Mimic and the Sentinels, click HERE. For the NEW (Wolverine, Storm & Phoenix) X-Men from 1975 click HERE.

BLADE THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – With his own tv series on the way, here’s his early tales, from 1973-1983. Click HERE. Continue reading

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THE FIRST 20 UNCLE SAM SUPERHERO STORIES FROM THE 1940s

As the 4th of July approaches, Balladeer’s Blog presents one last red, white and blue-themed superhero – Uncle Sam, from Quality Comics. For over 20 more Quality Comics heroes click HERE.

uncle samUNCLE SAM

Secret Identity: Ezra Smith (assumed name)

First Appearance: National Comics #1 (July 1940) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1944.

Origin: During the Revolutionary War, a dying American soldier named Sam (last name unknown) felt such a fervent desire to continue fighting for the new country that he assumed supernatural status. Over the decades he incarnated as Uncle Sam whenever the United States needed him.

In 1940 he appeared to young Buddy Smith, whose father Ezra was just killed for opposing a Fascist organization called the Purple Shirts. Uncle Sam defeated that group and became Buddy’s substitute father, pretending to be his late father Ezra to legal authorities.

uncle sam againPowers: This hero had Superman-level strength and invulnerability. He could fly in a sense by making enormous Hulk-sized leaps. He had a mystic ability to know where he would be needed. Due to his supernatural nature, Uncle Sam could not be photographed or filmed.

Comment: When he was no longer needed in a given time period, this hero faded away, to once again incarnate during the next period of crisis for the country.

national comics 1NATIONAL COMICS #1 (July 1940)

Title: The Coming of Uncle Sam

Villains: The Purple Shirts

Synopsis: The origin of Uncle Sam, including his “adoption” of Buddy Smith, the scrappy kid in short pants depicted on the cover. Uncle Sam wages war on the Purple Shirts army, which is being financed by an unnamed – but obvious – foreign power.

Our hero invades the Purple Shirts’ secret stronghold at Box Valley in the southern Rocky Mountains. Uncle Sam clobbers the villains and rescues the U.S. President, whom they kidnapped earlier in a commando raid. Continue reading

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NEGLECTED DC SUPERHEROES OF THE GOLDEN AGE

With the bulk of Balladeer’s Blog’s light-hearted superhero blog posts featuring Marvel Comics characters, DC fans have been demanding some love. I previously looked at the Justice Society, so this time here’s my take on their overlooked Golden Age heroes.

air waveAIR WAVE

Secret Identity: Larry Jordan

First Appearance: Detective Comics #60 (February 1942)

Origin: District Attorney Larry Jordan became disgusted with the way so many criminals escaped conviction in the courts. He adopted the costumed identity of Air Wave and set out to fight crime on his own terms.

air wave picturePowers: Air Wave was in peak physical condition and was more agile than an acrobat. He excelled at unarmed combat and wore special boots which let him glide or skate along power lines and phone lines. He also had radios in his costume’s earpieces. In addition, his trained parrot Static served as his mascot.

Comment: This hero appeared in nearly 80 adventures from 1942 to 1948. Continue reading

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22 MORE WORKS OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION (1839-1911)

Balladeer’s Blog’s looks at “ancient” science fiction are always popular. Here are nearly two dozen MORE of those neglected wonders. 

fantastical excursionA FANTASTICAL EXCURSION INTO THE PLANETS (1839) – By an unknown author. An advanced alien life form makes contact with the novel’s anonymous narrator and takes him on a guided tour of other planets in our solar system. Among other things he encounters angelic creatures on Mercury, warlike males and females on Mars, enormous humanoids on Jupiter and a pack of Lovecraftian horrors on Saturn. For my full review click HERE.

THE SPIDER OF GUYANA (1860) – By Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian. It’s ancient Creature Feature time in this tale set at a health resort in central Europe. Curious patients of the resort discover that the healing waters of the place flow from a cave. Exploring the cave they encounter a gigantic spider, with a war breaking out between the creature and the patients at the resort. For my full review click HERE Continue reading

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FIRST 16 FIGHTING YANK STORIES FROM THE 1940s

fighting yank a picWith the big 4th of July holiday coming up, this weekend’s light-hearted bit of superhero escapism will combine some Revolutionary War nostalgia with some World War Two nostalgia. Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the early adventures of the Nedor Comics hero called the Fighting Yank.

For many more Nedor superheroes click HERE.

THE FIGHTING YANK

Secret Identity: Bruce Carter III

Origin: See below

Powers: The cloak bestowed upon wealthy Bruce Carter III by the ghost of his ancestor, a Revolutionary War soldier, granted him a large degree of super-strength, made him bulletproof and let him run at over 60 miles per hour.    

startling 10STARTLING COMICS #10 (September 1941)

Title: Introducing The Fighting Yank

Villains: Nazi Spies

Synopsis: Wealthy Bruce Carter III is the spitting image of his ancestor, Bruce Carter I, a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War. Unjustly accused of neglecting his duty Carter’s ghost has been wandering since then hoping to restore the family honor. He believes fighting in the expanding World War will provide that opportunity for his look-alike descendant, so he emerges from his life-sized portrait on the wall of the Carter home. The ghost leads Bruce III to the attic of the old family home and reveals to him a cloak which will bestow super-powers on the wearer.

              In his first adventure, the Fighting Yank rescues a Senator from Nazi spies who have replaced him with a lookalike. That lookalike has been using the Senator’s popularity to rally the people toward an alliance with the Axis Nations. Our hero exposes the deception and clobbers the spy ring. Bruce Carter III’s girlfriend Joan Farwell recognizes him under the domino mask and shares his secret identity with him from now on. Continue reading

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