Book Review – Ultimate Iron Man by Orson Scott Card

Title: Ultimate Iron Man

Author:  Orson Scott Card

Illustrator: Andy Kubert, & Mark Bagley

Format: Paperback

Published: 2006

 

As I said last review the book there was only a short reprieve and I am here to present you yet another comic.  This time I bring you something from the Marvel Universe which isn’t all that common for me. Today I present to you Ultimate Iron Mann.  This is a comic that I almost didn’t pick up.  I saw the tile realized I should probably read a bit of Iron Man considering that I am rather fond of the movies.  Yet I saw the cover art and the way the suit is designed is very different, rather round and not what I’m used to as I have seen Iron Man featured in other comics such as the Guardians of the Galaxy comics which I will say is a must read!  (Seriously a 5 out of 5 if I were to review it.)   Yet, before putting it back I looked at the back and realized that the comic was written by an award winner and with that I decided why not it’s not like I’m risking money on this book as I was at the library at the time.

 

I picked up the book and was a little surprised that this was starting with the store of Howard Stark.  I was confused but continued to read and continued to be confused.  This story was something of an origin story but not in the way that I sort of know the story via the movies or what I have heard.  Pretty much Tony Stark was a genetically altered child.  His mother was exposed to a virus of sorts that was killing her and causing baby Tony to grow up as more than just a child but as a brain child.  He looks normal but all of his flesh is also brain matter so if you attack his brain in the normal sense of the word you have no effect on him.  In addition to brain being his entire body, he also has the ability to regenerate and re-grow body parts.

 

Because his entire body is a brain and his cells constantly regenerate Howard Stark uses a chemical on his son that acts as a personal shield.  No punches or punctures can harm a person with this stuff on and the only way it can come off is with anti-bacterial soap.  The side effect – Tony is blue, at least until they find a formula that is invisible that Tony can wear, allowing him to go to normal school and meet Rhodney. With a few more complications of issues, Tony also meets Obadiah and other familiar characters to the world of Iron man but it is all different than I know it as most of them are teenagers going to the same school.

 

If what little I’ve shared of the book is any indication it was a weird read and it took my thoughts and conceptions of Iron Man/Tony Stark and turned them on their head but there were little things that seemed to keep the same.  I don’t know if I would read more in the series but this oddity did keep my attention and I would also give it a 3 out of 5.

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Book Review – World War Hulk: X-Men

Title:  World War Hulk: X-Men

Author:  Christos Gage, Robert Kirkman, Dan Slott, & Daniel Way

Illustrators:  Stefano Caselli, Butch Guice, Javier Saltares & Andrea Di Vito

Format: Paperback

Published:  2008

 

This is a review that has been a long time coming I read this comic book in a desperate plight to avoid doing working on a paper.  I finished the book and found myself busier than I could imagine and never writing the review.  I came into possession of this book from my co-worker who is one of my comic guru’s.  While my one friend got me started and has me obsessed with Batman or more namely Robin (aka Tim Drake) my coworker is trying to ensure that I expand my horizons.  Thus he gave me his copy of World War Hulk X-Men, as well as another World War Hulk book I have yet to read.

 

The basic premise of the store is that Hulk being a danger to mankind was sent into out space to a planet that was habitable for the Hulk but was uninhabited.  He was sent by a group known as the Illuminati that includes various different Marvel heroes.  Unfortunately there was an error in the ship flight path and Hulk was sent to an inhabited plant where he was made a slave and worked and fought his way to being king of said planet.  He found a wife and had a child but the planet was destroyed.  Enraged by what happened the Hulk returned to earth to exact revenge on the Illuminati and any who got in his way.

 

This book is a multi-story cross over having a few issues of X-Men, a few issues of Avengers: The Initiative and issue of Ant-Man a few issues of Iron man and a few issues of Ghost Rider.  It is a rather expansive story line that hit several characters and tied into together each comic would reference the same events from different character perspectives.  It was interesting to see the different perspectives of the same event.   It is something I haven’t seen before but have wondered about.  What was X characters reaction to a situation why didn’t character Y get involved.  This book answers that and for that it is cool.

 

However, I also had problems with this.  Many of these comics, though part of the World War Hulk story line are only a small part of the over-arching story line for the different characters.  Many of these issues were part way through the characters story line and thus referenced things in their story that was not part of the Hulk story.  I can respect that, but it made it very difficult to follow along, particularly as I am very new to the Marvel universe.  I know of these characters and have a basic understanding of what they do but I don’t KNOW the characters I don’t know some of the back story from other sources like I did with Batman.  Most of my knowledge of the Marvel Universe was X-Men cartoons as a child and the recent Marvel movies.  There were a lot of things that I knew I was missing out on and it made the story kind of difficult to get into.  Like there was a mysterious character that I could tell I should have known who it was if I was familiar with the story arch but I wasn’t and it made me feel like I was missing out.

 

Over all the story was hard to follow and not that gripping to me.  I am actually dragging my feet to read the next book but seeing as I am borrowing I feel like I need to read it.  So it will sit in my desk drawer for a bit longer and I’ll give this book that I did read a 3 out of five pages.  If I knew what was going on the book would have been good but being a bit lost it wasn’t that great.  World War Hulk is not a good starting point for getting into the Marvel Univer

Book Review – Road to Marvel’s The Avengers

Title: Road To Marvel’s The Avengers

Created By: Various/Multiple Authors and Illustrators

Format: Paperback/Comics bound as a graphic novel

Written: 2010-2012

Published: 2012 (this binding)

This book features four ongoing comics – “I am Iron Man!,” “Iron Man 2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” “Iron Man 2: Public Identity,” and “Captain America: First Vengeance” – and runs at least a hundred pages (they’re not numbered, I’m totally guessing).

These are supposed to be the lead up to the Avengers movie (and movie cannon).  The first part was written after the movie and based totally on it.  The other two Iron Man parts are sort of a lead up to the second movie.  Captain America is a lead up to when Rogers was chosen to be Cap –so the first bit of the movie.

Here’s the thing, I tend to like comics for their artwork.  (There’s not enough substance to the story for me to justify them otherwise.)  The artwork in here was –dark.  It sort of lost a little for me.  Most of the backgrounds are dark, there is hardly any white, etc.  I think that it would have benefitted from brighter artwork.

And the story lines are meant to be related to the movies, but the drawings don’t exactly look like the Tony Stark or Pepper Pots that we’ve seen so many times on the big screen.  If this was really done as a way to bridge comic fans and the movies…  what did they draw?  A hybrid?  Whatever they wanted?  I’m not familiar enough with the comics to know if they kept that aesthetic or started a new one.  But for what it is, I sort of expected Tony Stark to have an uncanny resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr., instead of just sorta looking like they could pass for the police sketch. Nevermind Chris Evans – he doesn’t look a thing like the drawings of Captain America.

Which brings me to another issue that I have with this.  There’s like one page that mentions something about old magic and shows a drawing of Odin.  Not even Thor.  If this is really the road to the Avengers, why don’t we have a Thor story of some sort, something about Hulk, etc?  There’s a bit about Natascha (Black Widow), since she goes undercover to keep tabs on Stark, but that’s it, and not a single word/mention/nod in Hawkeye’s direction.  I would have liked to see it a little more rounded.

In fact, I think that if it weren’t for the Captain America/Daddy Stark connection that they would have considered discluding him, too.  (And yes, I probably made that word totally up.)  This also opens my rant that they did stuff bass-ackwards and I would very much have liked to see Cap before Iron Man, just so you get the chronology and Iron Man’s history in the right order.

In the end – if you’re a fan of the Iron Man movie franchise, go ahead and pick this up.  If you’re psycho into the Avengers, you should have it because I’m quite sure you have everything else.  But if you’re a casual fan, you can watch the movies, skip this entirely and not have missed anything at all.  Not sure where that fits on the pages scale, I guess a three?

Writer Wednesday – John Jackson Miller

When I met John Jackson Miller at MidSouthCon in 2012, I was immediately taken by him.  He started with Star Wars and went through his list until he got to something that I really liked – Iron Man.  But it was how he treated fellow writer Janine Spendlove that got me all googly-eyed over him – when he found out she worked in Washington, he started showing her a story line that took place in the very rooms she worked in – and then gave her a copy of each of the comics.  (She later took them and read them in several locations around the world.)  I’ve said it before – I like writers for the people behind the books (or comic books) and this is no exception.  Because of that, I bought a comic on the spot and it’s one of my most treasured posessions. 

Anyway, before I get all mushy, here he is…

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I am John Jackson Miller. Greetings.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
For many years I was the editor of the trade magazine for the comic book industry. Ten years ago I began writing comic books on the side, and for the last five years I’ve been writing comics, fiction, and games full-time.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I am the author of two Star Wars prose books: the Knight Errant novel and the Lost Tribe of the Sith short story anthology. I’ve also written more than 100 comic books which have been collected into a few dozen graphic novels. Those comics range from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Iron Man to Mass Effect.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Releasing this fall we have the Star Wars Lost Tribe of the Sith – Spiral comic series from Dark Horse. This is the comics sequel to the prose book available now from Del Rey. I also have been working on a number of Simpsons comics stories, with a couple of them coming out this fall and more next year. I also have a number of other fiction projects that I’m working on including a couple of things of my own, and some other things I’ve still got under wraps. People can find out more about what I’ve been doing on my website, http://www.farawaypress.com.

I am also a researcher into comic book circulation history, and my research can be found on my Comichron website: http://www.comichron.com.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My mother was a grade school librarian and so we always have had books around. I always joke that where other people’s mothers threw their comic books away, my mother encouraged me to put mine in alphabetical order. Then there was one summer during which I got to help her organize a school library that had previously fallen to ruin, and so spent almost the entire time hiding in a corner reading this book or that one. It was a great way to spend the summer!

What are your three favorite books?
Oh, that’s not a fair question… I don’t think I can narrow things down to that degree. There were certainly books that I was obsessed with that one time or another in my life. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010, for example, is one of the reasons that I took Russian in college. I’m a big fan of the novel and movie Contact by Carl Sagan. In college, I was on a serious Tom Clancy kick. I adore the Horatio Hornblower novels. I love all the books by P.G. Wodehouse. And that doesn’t even get in the comic books. So it’s hard to narrow down.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I have a terrible habit of switching between books. I have about 20 different books that I’m in the middle of and I return to them depending on my mood at the end of the day. So when I do dig into a book that I can’t put down, that means it’s pretty special. Most recently, the book that I’ve started reading is The Making of the President by Theodore White. I tenderly read a lot more nonfiction than fiction for fun.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…sometimes have a tendency to fall asleep. This is the problem when you reserve most of your reading for bedtime!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
There are some books that I’ve reread several times. Generally, that qualifies as comfort reading!

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Well, the book can get into the line, but there are a lot of other books in the queue already!

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I have done it now and again. I am unlikely to recommend a book I haven’t read yet, which may be why I don’t do a whole lot of recommendations. Because I have so many books that I’m still trying to get to, if it’s not often that I’m able to recommend a book in a timeframe that’s helpful for other authors’ marketing.

What do you look for in a good book?
What everybody also is looking for. Engaging characters, an interesting story, and something that will teach me something I don’t know.

Why do you write?
Take the previous sentence and switch all the subjects and objects. Basically, I right for the same reasons that I read.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Is “professional poker player” in the mix? Seriously, I don’t know. They say people switch careers many times over the course of a lifetime, but generally what I’ve been changing is the sort of things that I’m writing or editing books about. That has managed to keep things interesting and fresh for me.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I get a lot of inspiration from reading history books, old newspapers, and magazines. You would be surprised how many old stories are out there that can be used as inspiration for something that you might tell a story about that is set in the far future, or in a galaxy far away.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I think that I’ve always wanted to be a communicator. Whenever news broke I always wanted to be the person to tell other people about it, or to describe it in my own words. I think that is why I became a journalist years ago. I’m telling different kinds of stories now, but to a large measure it all comes from the same place.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I think my kids wonder what I do all day. Writing is a lot like time travel, in that you can sit down in front of a screen at noon and look up of couple of hours later and realize it’s 8 or 9 o’clock. I sometimes resent the amount of time that takes away from the rest of my life, but I would not give up what I’m doing for anything.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I think a lot of people have the mistaken impression that writers are all solitary and antisocial. It is true that we have to stay in isolation while we’re working, but I like nothing more than to get out of the house after I’ve been writing, and to talk to the people that are out there in the real world.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
I think people focus too much on the end result of their ambitions. They immediately set their sights on writing for this or that movie franchise or comic book franchise or something, and fall into a trap of not doing the intermediate steps which are not just training, but also our vital for getting a writer seen by editors.

And then, hopefully, getting them to a position where they can work on these bigger properties one day.

I worked as a journalist for more than a decade before I had my first comics story published. A lot of the things that I wrote about were not things that I was particularly interested in, or that were particularly glamorous. I even edited a line of trade magazines for the lumber industry — what I know about lumber would fit into your shoe! But it was important to do that because it established that I could write about anything, if I had to, and that I could make deadlines.

Write about anything, I say. Just write.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
It took me a while to make the transition as a prose writer from writing the way I did as a journalist to writing for the fiction reader. One of the things that’s ingrained in reporters is the quote-paraphrase-quote style of writing, where you summarize much longer pieces of dialogue for space economy. My temptation was always to short-circuit long sections of exposition by simply summarizing what was being said — when in fact part of the fun of reading is hearing things in characters’ own voices. So that’s something that I’ve learned to adapt my style for.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Oh, there are all sorts of media properties that I would be interested in working with. I’ve said for many years I would love to write a Die Hard movie script or comic book. But increasingly I’m also focusing on writing my own work. I joy working on licensed properties and will continue to do so but I need to balance out what I’m working on.

 You’ve written for some pretty well known characters/franchises – Mass Effect, Star Wars, Iron Man, even the Simpsons! Is it hard to write characters that are so well known?
It isn’t difficult in the sense that I have a familiarity with you the characters in these worlds, and how the characters should speak. The challenge comes with knowing that I’m writing to a group of readers who are particularly savvy about the world I’m writing about, and so they will let me know if I haven’t described something properly. So I try to do my homework whenever possible.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I talk to fans on Twitter and Facebook and on my website, and I also go to conventions as often as I can. There are a few message boards that I also check in on. I enjoy talking with fans and I appreciate their enthusiasm, and very much feed on the energy that they bring to reading the works.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That for some reason, I have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of television network program schedules in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. On second thought, if they’ve been following me on my Facebook page that probably know that already.

Anything else we should know?
Just that interested readers can find more about me on http://www.farawaypress.com, and also can follow me on Twitter at @jjmfaraway

Thanks!

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