Tag Archives: book reviews

CASH GRAB AND DOWNCAST 2: A PAIR OF GRAPHIC NOVEL SENSATIONS

Cash GrabBalladeer’s Blog is telling you this: From now on, instead of BC and AD, years will be recorded in terms of BCG and ACG, as in Before Cash Grab and After Cash Grab. Well, maybe not. But you will always remember where you were and what the weather was like and what you were wearing when you first heard about Cash Grab: The Graphic Novel by Cecil

Cash Grab, by internet cult figure Cecil of Cecil Says fame, has launched on Indiegogo. Reserve your copy now! If you miss the kind of gloriously irreverent – some might say sickening – humor of Mad Magazine or Marvel’s Teen Hulk from Crazy, you can find it in this graphic novel. Continue reading

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SPIDER OF GUYANA (1860): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION AND ANCIENT CREATURE FEATURE

Erckmann ChatrianTHE SPIDER OF GUYANA (1860) – Written by the team of Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian. Balladeer’s Blog’s previous looks at ancient works of science fiction have established how far back the “big bug” trope goes. Creature Feature movies were far from the first appearance of oversized insects and arachnids. And atomic radiation wasn’t needed to justify such outrageous mutations.

This story is set in Spinbronn, a resort town in the mountains of Germany. Sufferers of gout and other afflictions flock to Spinbronn to soak in its healing waters as prescribed by their physicians. Disappearances begin to plague the area. Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-FIVE: THE 1983 GRAPHIC NOVEL

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven in his glory daysKILLRAVEN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (1983) – Killraven and his Freemen continued their guerilla war against Earth’s alien conquerors. In the 7th of its official line of graphic novels, Marvel Comics let writer Don McGregor and artist Craig Russell wrap up some of the storylines left dangling by the cancellation of the 1973-1976 series of Killraven stories. In the previous post I detailed how McGregor had, in the meantime, transferred many of the Killraven story elements and time period to his independent 1978 graphic novel Sabre.

In the meantime Eclipse Comics had signed McGregor to write a regularly published Sabre comic book series. In late 1982 the original black & white graphic novel was colorized and reprinted in serialized form in the first few issues of the new Sabre series. Unfortunately for Killraven fans that immediately made our red-headed rebel leader into the proverbial red-headed step-child among McGregor’s works.  

Understandably – and fairly obviously – Don McGregor was already saving up his best ideas for his own Sabre title, reducing this last chance for closure on the Killraven saga to a rushed, mundane, unsatisfying mess devoid of much of what had made the original series worthwhile. Even the dialogue, despite a few flashes of the old KR style here and there, was lackluster and pedestrian.    

Killraven and his Freemen seemed like pale imitations being handled by a fill-in writer as Don McGregor virtually Rian Johnson’ed his own characters. I’ll examine that in detail as we move along, but first let’s look at some of the changes necessitated by real-world events in the years between 1976 and 1983.

Killraven 2*** First, through no fault of Don McGregor or the original Killraven artists, Darth Vader became a huge pop culture figure in 1977. KR’s main alien villain, the High Overlord (introduced in 1974), had worn full-body armor and a Japanese feudal helmet like the kind Darth Vader went on to wear in Star Wars. Obviously, Star Wars was so much better known than the canceled Killraven series that this 1983 graphic novel dropped the helmet for the High Overlord to avoid looking like their villain was a ripoff of Vader, despite the fact that the High Overlord predated Star Wars

              That alteration to the look of the High Overlord was far from fatal, but became another of the distracting elements undermining this continuation of the KR story. Those other elements: Continue reading

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THE LOG OF THE FLYING FISH (1887): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Log of the Flying FishTHE LOG OF THE FLYING FISH: A STORY OF AERIAL AND SUBMARINE PERIL AND ADVENTURE (1887) – Written by Harry Collingwood (William J.C. Lancaster).

Professor Heinrich von Schalckenburg, a brilliant German scientist, is speaking at the Migrants’ Club, an organization of explorers and scientific pioneers. Von Schalckenburg dismisses lighter than air vessels and claims he will prove the success of heavier than air vessels with two of his most recent inventions.

One of those inventions is a crystal powder which can be used as an explosive and as a source of electricity and gas. The other is a new metal alloy that the professor has dubbed “aethereum”, a light but strong substance.

Von Schalckenburg says he is 100,000 British pounds short of being able to construct a craft capable of flying AND serving as a submarine. Mighty Jack, eat your heart out! Sir Reginald Elphinstone, a member of the Migrants’ Club, finances the professor’s project. Continue reading

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SOLO (1980) – BOOK REVIEW

SoloSOLO (1980) – Written by Jack Higgins. Solo is not exactly one of my favorite espionage novels but it is definitely my favorite by Jack Higgins. It’s the story of efforts to catch an international assassin code-named the Cretan Lover. Luckily that ludicrous codename is often shortened to just “The Cretan” throughout the novel. I’ll use the same review format that I used for my look at The Top Seven Robert Ludlum Novels.

TIME PERIOD: From approximately 1960 to the late 1970s.

MAIN CHARACTER: John Mikali, a Greek concert pianist of much renown who leads a double life as the aforementioned Cretan Lover aka The Cretan. Mikali is descended from a fictional naval hero of the Greek War of Independence in the 1800s. His family remains wealthy and prominent, with his grandfather being an erudite and outspoken critic of the Colonels who seized control of Greece.

Young John himself is a gifted pianist but after getting drawn into a vendetta against the man who accidentally killed his beloved grandmother he fled into the French Foreign Legion. Despite his fey background John Mikali thrived in the Legion AND in the Algerian War, proving to be a ruthless, cold-hearted man who could kill enemy soldiers or non-combatants with equal skill and nonchalance. Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-FOUR: KR, SABRE AND “SLOW FADE OF AN ENDANGERED SPECIES”

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven cornerIt’s no secret that when the original 1973-1976 run of the Killraven series was canceled, writer Don McGregor transferred many of the story elements he had set up for Killraven over to his independent post-apocalypse comic book Sabre

The original, self-contained Sabre volume came out in 1978, the same year as Will Eisner’s pioneering graphic novel A Contract With God. That format would find expanded life in recent years as independent comic book geniuses like Ethan Van Sciver, Richard C Meyer and Jon Malin would use it to pursue their creative vision outside the toxic corporate environment of the Big Two comic book publishers.

Sabre was hyped under the description “It’s the kind of comic novel you’d choose … If they GAVE you a choice.” That is definitely in the spirit of maverick publications like Jawbreakers, Cyber Frog and Graveyard Shift, the amazing creations of Van Sciver, Meyer and Malin. (NOT a law firm.)  

Sabre 1978 coverThe original Sabre graphic novel was in black & white to accommodate its graphic violence, sexual themes and its female toplessness. When McGregor brought back the character Sabre in a continuing, full-color comic book series at Eclipse Comics in late 1982 the original Sabre tale became more popularly known by its subtitle Slow Fade of an Endangered Species. Human beings were that endangered species, of course.

Before I review McGregor’s Killraven graphic novel from 1983 I must first examine the 1978 Sabre story since – in altered form – it continued and in some cases resolved assorted subplots set up in the 1973-1976 run of Killraven stories.

Let’s have fun with it:

Sabre pics*** Killraven wielded a sword, a photo-nuclear pistol and explosive throwing-stars along with his possession of The Power, a pre-Star Wars (as in 1973) version of The Force.

*** Sabre wielded a sword and a “flintlock laser” – a futuristic example of a trend toward exploiting nostalgia by packaging high-tech weaponry in old-fashioned, even historical, casings.  

*** Killraven’s 1973-1976 series saw him leading his Freemen in a guerilla war against Earth’s alien conquerors. That series ended with KR and company in Florida in the year 2020 (which was 44 years in the future at the time).

*** Sabre’s 1978 graphic novel began in Florida in the year 2020. He was rebelling against an authoritarian regime which had risen to power in the aftermath of a global apocalypse caused by poverty, famine, disease, nuclear accidents and periodic terrorist attacks.        Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-THREE: THE MORNING AFTER MOURNING PREY

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below. 

Killraven mourning preyAMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #39 (November 1976)

Title: The Morning After Mourning Prey

NOTE: I’m using the title that writer Don McGregor said would be used in the letters page of the previous issue, rather than the shortened title Mourning Prey that was actually used. The Morning After Mourning Prey has more of a Don McGregorish feel to it so I wish he and artist Craig Russell had stuck to it.

Killraven farewellIt is now January 2020, but we can just call it “44 years from now” as it would have been to 1976 readers. The setting is the Okefenokee Swamp, an unknown number of days after the previous issue’s New Year’s Eve celebration between Killraven and his Freemen and Brother Axe and his military-uniformed rebel colony.  

Synopsis: Our heroes continue their guerilla uprising against Earth’s alien conquerors. Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost (and her father Deathlok in my revisions) are being guided through the swamp toward a “seer” at “an enchanted village” which is obviously intended to be Disney World as surely as the Golden Arch several issues back was intended to be from a futuristic McDonald’s. Continue reading

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