Ed McDonald, Blackwing (2017)

Blackwing

Author: Ed McDonald

Title: Blackwing

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 378

First, an admission. I read a lot of books when my mental plate’s full, as they provide a bit of comfort and take off some strain from my overworked brain – when they’re good, of course, because bad books don’t help at all 🙂 However, by the same logic, I write no reviews when I’m stressed out, because writing demands a lot more from my already  overworked brain 😛 No surprise, then, that lately there are less reviews on our blog, even though the amount of books I’ve recently read has noticeably grown.

I’ve spent the last couple of months checking out some of the books our fellow bloggers recommended, and Ed MacDonald’s Blackwing had been favorably reviewed by many. A special shout out to Aaron at Swords & Spectres for persuading me to finally try it out, because it was definitely worth it :).

Blackwing follows the story of Ryhalt Galharrow (it’s a mouthful, I know – try to say it out loud a few times!), a former pampered noble and an ex-Army officer who now serves as a Captain of Blackwing: a private military unit in employ of a Nameless sorcerer called Crowfoot. Galharrow as we meet him is a down-on-his-luck cutthroat – a glorified spy/bounty hunter/enforcer to a ruthless, ancient being, who had not been seen in the world for a long, long time. Yet, as the war between the Nameless sorcerers of the republic with powerful Deep Kings of the Eastern Empire still brews on, centuries in the making, Galharrow soon finds himself in the thick of the bloody action.

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Nostalgia #3: Willow

Piotr: I have to admit I had some doubts about the series, whether we’d be able to continue it for long, but here we are, post no. three, and I love it! And revisiting this one has been a delight!

Ola: Indeed, we may not be overly timely with our regular posts, but Nostalgia posts appear every month as planned 🙂 And it looks like we’ll be continuing it in the foreseeable future, as there are many other topics to cover. There are some trips down the memory lane that we’d like to forget, like Robin of Sherwood, but there are others, fantastical and wondrous, and confirming our fondest reminiscences – like Batman: TAS, and Willow.

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Piotrek: Willow is a fantasy movie from 1988 that many considered to be Lord of the Rings light, made with the technology of the day. I’ve seen it ages ago, when the world was young and Peter Jackson was making shitty/cult horror movies, and it shaped my views on fantasy movies, more than any other 80-ties classic.Then LotR came and the new era of modern fantasy and I forgot about Willow.

Ola suggested we include it in our Nostalgia series, and I re-watched it recently with great pleasure. Obviously influenced by Tolkien, although not nearly as ambitious, it is a pretty good movie in its own right. Funny, imaginative, not too complicated, but at the same time quite skilful with its handling of the basic tropes. It’s a brainchild of George Lucas and he was good back then, when he did not try to make things too complicated.

Ola: Willow had been my first foray into fantasy movies, around the same time as my reading of Lord of the Rings – and it was a great experience. I enjoyed the child’s perspective of the camera, the fact that the titular hero’s strength did not lie in his sword skills or magical power, but rather in the very human ability of doing the right thing whatever it takes, and making friends:)

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Mark Millar, Leinil Yu, Superior (2013)

Superior

Author: Mark Millar (writer), Leinil Yu (penciler)

Title: Superior

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

What’s happening, another comic book review in a row? And what is that exactly, a love child of Superman and Shazam???

Well, to an extent ;). Though the fruit of Millar and Yu’s collaboration reads like an unabashed love letter to Superman, it had actually been published by Marvel. This comic is one of the more vivid examples of the blurred lines between what exactly in the superhero world is a property of one or the other powerhouses – and a solid reminder that ideas cannot be owned :).

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Nostalgia #2: Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

Our first foray into the worlds of our childhoods ended with a sad conclusion that some things age badly. Today, we present you with an animated series from quarter a century ago that still delights our cynical older selves.

Also, our second DC post in a row, what’s going on??

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Batman: The Animated Series originally aired from 1992 to 1995 and consisted of 85 episodes, unevenly distributed between Season One (65) and Season Two (20). This frequently awarded series is still considered one of the greatest superhero animations, and started many further animated DC Series, way before MCU.

Piotrek: In the world of animations, I had to wait till recent Spiderman to see a Marvel piece to rival this one. And it is, so far, one feature film, whereas Batman: TAS was consistently brilliant for 85 episodes!

Ola: And let’s not forget that it also paved way for some really good animated Batman movies targeted for a more mature audience – a rather rare situation in American animation industry, usually focused on kids. I can heartily recommend Batman vs. Robin from that batch, based on Snyder’s Batman: the Court of Owls storyline.

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Glen Weldon, Superman: The Unauthorized Biography (2013)

superman the unauthorized biography

Author: Glen Weldon

Title: Superman. The Unauthorized Biography

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 352

There’s one main reason for my recent incommunicado, and it’s life. Unpredictability of life has been discussed extensively elsewhere, so I’ll refrain from wallowing in self-pity and/or bragging and instead take care of the topic of this post :).

Superman. The Unauthorised Biography by Glen Weldon is a hefty book, worthy of the enviable long life of one of the most famous comic book characters (he’ll be 81 this year!). I freely admit, I have never been a rabid fan of Superman, nor even a dedicated one. Superman just seemed too super, too powerful and too idealized to engender any warmer feelings in me – especially in comparison to the morally ambiguous, brooding character of Batman.

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But Weldon’s book, impressive in its thoroughness, fanboyish love and respect for the source material, actually got me to appreciate Supe’s character and – especially – his cultural significance, predominantly for the American society.

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Nostalgia #1: Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

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It took us a while, but finally it’s here: our first nostalgia post. Digging deep into our pop-cultural pasts, we dredge up things sometimes forgotten, sometimes still living through many inspirations or even outright consecutive reincarnations – but always bearing a significant weight for our early formative geek years. We’ll be trying to introduce some old stuff, review it, and finally trace their significance in the modern pop-culture – we’ll see how it goes, our Two-shots are usually quite unpredictable 🙂

We’ve decided to start with a series which had had an enormous impact on our imagination back in the end of eighties, which had become a yardstick for all later Robin Hood retellings, serious or less serious, shaping the popular imagery of the character, introducing new, mystical elements to the old myths, and which – for all its significance and our nostalgia – we cannot bear to watch anymore…

Ola: First things first, however: the famous BBC series, Robin of Sherwood, had been created by Richard Carpenter for the ITV network. Meticulously researched, ambitious in scope, showing for the first time a fairly accurate image of 12th century outlaws (no tights for anyone!), the series won considerable acclaim and fame at the time. Consisting of three seasons, altogether of 26 one-hour long episodes, it ran in the UK in mid-eighties, and in Poland for the first time in the very late eighties/early nineties – which is when we watched it. Oh, those were the times! 😉

Piotrek: A long time ago indeed. I remember running home from school to watch an episode, and being angry at my parents for taking me for a Winter break trip – because I was going to miss some episodes. They were all played on TV, on fixed schedule, with no repeats and no chance to watch it any other way. Young readers won’t get that 😉

Ola: The series is notable for a change of the male lead – Michael Praed, who played Robin in the first two series, resigned from the role after two seasons, and Jason Connery took the role of the second Robin. As the two were nothing alike, [SPOILER ALERT] the first Robin ended being killed by the evil Sheriff. There was also a plan for a fourth series, but the producer, Goldcrest, resigned due to financial problems – and the whole plot remained mysteriously unresolved, somewhat adding to the series’ legend and cult following.

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Tom King, Mikel Janín, The War of Jokes and Riddles (2017)

The War of Jokes and Riddles

Author: Tom King (writer), Mikel Janín (illustrations)

Series: Batman

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

Where do I start? Maybe with the hype concerning Tom King as the new Wunderkid of DC Comics, one of the few authors who allegedly could take the post-Rebirth Batman and put some life into the character nearing its permanent retirement age (80 years next May!). Tom King’s approach was supposed to be ‘cerebral’, his stories realistic and full of suspense. Maybe some of them are – I am not to judge, since I’ve read only the one and I don’t intend reading any other. Because, in short, The War of Jokes and Riddles was a smelly pile of horseshit.

Let’s start with the art, because later on it will be one long rant. Art is mediocre at best, with Riddler inexplicably beefed up and Joker looking like a drawing of himself from some really bad old comics. Batman and Selina look correct if quite generic, and that’s probably the best I can say about them. The main problem I have with Janín‘s art is that it lacks dynamics, and the eyes of the characters seem dead. They make faces, all right, but nothing reaches their eyes. The panels depicting the war don’t really make much impact – they are there, and they show what happened. Maybe I’m spoiled by other artists, I tend to choose my comics carefully knowing there’s a lot of fluff and a lot of trash out there.

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