White Rocket Books proudly announces the release in trade paperback and Kindle e-book formats of I. A. Watson’sBLACKTHORN: DYNASTY OF MARS, a new novel that reveals the shocking secrets of Princess Ariawhile continuing the bold and exciting adventures of John Blackthorn, PulpArk Award winner for “Best New Character of the Year.”
Eldest child of her world’s ruling dynasty, Aria is also the daughter of the evil Black Sorcerer—one of the dreaded First Men of Mars—and has been imbued with his sorcerous might. Rebelling against her father’s tyranny, Princess Aria has joined forces with a human soldier and a savage Mock-Man, and now dares to challenge the First Men’s rule. Will Aria’s power be enough to tip the balance in John Blackthorn’s favor, and free her world—or will she betray the rebels to her father—or worse—and bring all they have fought for crashing down?
BLACKTHORN: DYNASTY OF MARS, by award-winning author I. A. Watson (Robin Hood; Sherlock Holmes) and with a spectacular cover painted by Adam Diller, takes the saga of John Blackthorn and his brave companions to the next level—and beyond—with a grand adventure stretching down the centuries and across the war-torn face of post-apocalyptic Mars!
Created by Van Allen Plexico (Sentinels, Lucian) in the spirit of “Thundarr the Barbarian” and “John Carter of Mars,” the Blackthorn Saga has already been nominated for seven PulpArk Awards and one Pulp Factory Award.Now, says Plexico, “ Ian Watson has pulled back the curtain and given readers the chance to dig into the rich history of future Mars, and to witness the rise of Princess Aria from pampered aristocrat to powerful leader of a planet-wide rebellion—along with a couple of guys named Blackthorn and Oglok. If you thought you knew the Blackthorn story, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
White Rocket Booksis a leader in the New Pulp movement, publishing exciting action and adventure novels and anthologies since 2005, in both traditional and electronic formats.White Rocket books have hit the Amazon.com Top 15-by-Genre and have garnered praise from everyone from Marvel Comics Vice-President Tom Brevoort to Kirkus Reviews.
On sale as of July 28, 2012, BLACKTHORN: DYNASTY OF MARS is a 250-page, $15.95, 6×9 format trade paperback from White Rocket Books, and a $2.99 e-book for Kindle.
I’m not the world’s biggest Jason Bourne fan. Not by a long shot. I’ve seen and enjoyed the movies but I haven’t read any of the books. But two days ago, as I was sitting in the theater awaiting The Amazing Spider-Man (for the ComicMix Mixed Review), I saw a trailer for the latest chapter, The BourneLegacy. It’s a continuation of the series… but without Jason. As I was watching the trailer, I was thinking in the terms of my trade.
We can argue if this is a genuine reboot or not, but let’s ride with the concept for a bit. My next thought was “why do the teevee and movie people do successful reboots of major properties, while in comics we butcher it every chance we get?” Which, by the way, is way too frequently.
Recent media reboots have included James Bond, Doctor Who, and Sherlock Holmes – the latter, twice. Other reboots have included Superman, Batman and the aforementioned Spider-Man. Only the former lacked enduring success. The Batboot was stellar, and we’ll have to wait and see about Spidey. So, of the five major characters, only one was a bust.
Allow me some jealous feelings here. To paraphrase Paul Simon (the singer, not the dead politician), after reboot upon reboot, the comics biz is more or less the same. Yes, there’s usually a solid sales bump and maybe it lasts long enough to make a difference, but that’s almost always short-lived. Is the Spider-Man marriage thing resolved? Is Jean Gray forever dead? What about Uncle Ben? Are you sure? Go ask Captain America and Bucky.
Over at DC, they’ve pressed the reboot button more often in the past 37 years than a lab monkey on an crystal meth test. How long should a reboot last before it’s deemed successful? I don’t know; we’ve never had one that lasted more than a couple years. Is the New 52 successful? Well, yes, in the sense that Dan DiDio still has his job. But they’ve only got sales figures in for the first year, and over a third of the titles have either been cancelled or have endured new creative teams. That doesn’t make it a failure, but if simply cancelling some titles and changing the crew on others is all it takes to make a character work for a contemporary audience, then we don’t need reboots.
In fact, this is the error message we get over each reboot. There’s no system upgrade here. We could have provided stability and growth by simply cancelling some titles and incubating those characters within their universes, and by changing creative teams on others – creators who will not restart history, but simply put it on an exciting path out of the woods. This may be the real “success” of the New 52. We’ll see in maybe five years or so.
The fact is, the media people haven’t pissed all over the trust of their audience. Despite public perception, most all of the pre-reboot movies and television shows featuring James Bond, Doctor Who, Superman, and Batman made money (I really can’t say about Sherlock Holmes; he seems to have made PBS a lot of money in the form of enhanced underwriting and public support). Maybe not enough to support the highest-ups’ eight figure salaries, maybe not as great a return on investment to make the stockholders happy, but in an industry where they put tens of millions of dollars on the line with each project – more than enough in each case to support a front-of-the-catalog comic book publisher – a five million dollar profit might not be a desired return on investment, but it’s still five million dollars.
Comics executives and, more important, their corporate masters need to give the four-color medium the same degree of patience and, quite frankly, they need to give their consumers the same amount of respect.
We need a comic book industry with an attention span.
I wonder if this will move Yahoo’s stock price. From the AP:
Yahoo said Wednesday it is expanding its original offerings, partnering with Liquid Comics to offer motion-comics. The two companies said they’ll make the first two titles — created by film directors Barry Sonnenfeld and Guy Ritchie — available online later this summer through Yahoo! Screen.
Motion comics blend elements of comic book art and animation, offering some movement and action but on a limited scale. It’s gained ground and popularity in recent years as publishers big and small experiment with the medium, which can viewed online or on devices like tablets and iPads.
“This is compelling content from great storytellers, and we are excited to be adding Liquid Comics to our robust slate of premium content partners,” said Erin McPherson, vice president and head of video for Yahoo.
By partnering with Liquid Comics and focusing on animation, she said Yahoo is enhancing its premium original content.
Together with Tom Hanks’ new animated Web series, “Electric City,” ”motion comics are the start of a unique animated offering on Yahoo,” McPherson said.
Sonnenfeld’s offering is “Dinosaurs vs. Aliens.” The director of the “Men In Black” films tells the story of aliens invading earth in prehistoric times only to face off against dinosaurs.
Ritchie, whose films include “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and the recent “Sherlock Holmes,” will have his “Gamekeeper” transformed into a motion-comic written by Andy Diggle. It focuses on groundskeeper whose life is turned upside down by mercenaries.
Sharad Devarajan, CEO of Liquid Comics, said the titles, along with plans for more, will help expand the reach of graphic novels and comics.
“Yahoo’s impressive global reach will greatly enhance Liquid’s goal of pushing the boundaries of comic books through digital platforms and technology and enabling our creative partners to share their stories with audiences worldwide,” he said.
On Tuesday, Warner Home Video will release Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on Blu-ray Combo Pack or Digital Download and they have made two Blu-ray Combo Packs available for ComicMix readers.
Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room…until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large—Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over the renowned detective. Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the death of an American steel magnate… No one sees the connective thread between these seemingly random events—no one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty. Holmes’ investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.
To win, tell us which is your favorite Sherlock Holmes disguise from this film or its predecessor. All entries must be posted on our site by 11:59 p.m., Monday, June 18. The judgment of ComicMix’s judges will be final. Entrants must have a current domestic address, no post office boxes allowed.
While I like Sherlock Holmes, I am far from a scholar nor have I seen every film adaptation or read every pastiche written. Still, I love the concept and the characters and setting are certainly appealing. Holmes, as created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is etched in the public mind as one of the most brilliant consulting detectives ever imagined with no clue going unnoticed. His encyclopedic knowledge is legendary and his eccentricities make him nothing but fascinating, including the desire to have Dr. John Watson accompany him as companion and official biographer, a level of narcissism unique in the late 19th century.
As a result, when it was learned Guy Ritchie was to helm a new adaptation with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, eyebrows rose around the world. Then we saw the 2009 release, and were generally pleased with the bromance between Downey and Jude Law, the latest Watson. This was a more athletic and handsomer Holmes, even capable of expressing desire for Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). The film horrified some and enthralled the rest, earning big bucks and prompting Warner Bros. to fast-track a sequel.
A Game of Shadows opened in December and did quite well at the global box office and now it comes to home video and digital download from Warner Home Video. After the first film established Holmes, Watson, and London, the time had come to introduce audiences to the greatest criminal mind found in literature, Prof. James Moriarty. He was teased at the end of the first film and this time we waste little footage making it clear he’s the antagonist. We’ve already adored Jared Harris’ villainy as David Robert Jones on Fringe so were pleased to see him cast as the intellectual equal to Holmes.
Holmes has determined that a series of unconnected events points to Moriarty manipulating economic and political events in Europe to push the countries on an inevitable path to war. It falls to the detective to thwart the scheme but the key difference between the two is the professor’s willingness to callously murder and destroy while Holmes remains a moral individual. It doesn’t take Holmes long to convince Watson the sum of his equation is correct and despite his impending nuptials to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), the doctor agrees to assist. And we’re off.
Along the way, we briefly see Irene before she is killed by the villain and the participation of Mycroft Holmes (a delightful Stephen Fry). Additionally, Holmes becomes intertwined with the affairs of a gypsy clan including Simza (Noomi Rapace) while Watson more or less parallels that with his confrontations with a former military sharpshooter Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson).
This time around, there’s a lot of sound and fury but in the end it doesn’t signify a lot. Moriarty is correct that the countries are headed inevitably towards war, as happens 24 years later in our world, but the geopolitical issues are never brought up and audiences are left to take the man at his word. His intricate scheme for war profiteering shows a certain level of impatience, a trait Holmes never exploits. Instead, there’s fighting, running, shooting, and lots of talk. The film’s rhythm feels off-kilter as some characters impossibly escape death one time too many while others are dropped with ease. The final confrontation between the two masters, over the clichéd chess table, is well done but by then we’re feeling somewhat exhausted and not all that invested in the outcome.
What is nice is that we get more Holmesvision coupled at the end with Moriartyvision and their final battle is nicely imagined until the final solution, which echoes “The Final Problem” on which the movie is most loosely based.
In the end, the film was a mildly entertaining way to pass an evening but it doesn’t measure up to the first and felt somewhat bloated. If they really move ahead with a third installment, one hopes they find a stronger story.
The video looks and sounds great allowing you to luxuriate in the costumes, sets, and nicely integrated CGI backgrounds.
The Blu-ray comes with the Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Downey, who snarkily asks if we’re unwell or it’s rainy out, the only possible reasons people would watch the film a second time with the extras. He makes some nice comments about the production, how things were choreographer and shot so we get the usual assortment of behind-the-scenes material so yes, if you’re looking to kill two hours (less actually if you skip ahead to just Downey moments) and like this sort of material, it’s worth a look.
There are 35 minutes of collected Focus Point featurettes in bite-size chunks focusing on the characters and situations. No deleted scenes or gag reels can be found here.
Additional material can be found on the Movie App with script-to-screen comparisons, maps, character bios and other material but that requires serious desire on your part and heralds a movie away from disc to the web for such content.
Spoiler Warning: In reviewing the second series on the BBC series Sherlock, I may discuss some plot points. If you haven’t seen it – and you should – and you want to remain unspoiled on plot twists, best skip this.
By the time I was ten I had read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I love the characters, I love the settings, and I’ve watched many of the movie and TV incarnations of the world’s most famous detective. Basil Rathbone was my initiation to the cinematic Holmes and, for a long time, he was indelible. My major gripe with the Rathbone Holmes movies was that, with only the exception of one or two, they were all set in the era in which they were made, the 30s and 40s, and had little to do with the actual stories. I wanted the gaslight and the London fog; I wanted the deerstalker cap and the horse drawn carriages and the steam locomotives. The era was as important to me as the characters.
So – as you might guess – when I heard that the BBC was doing a new Holmes series (simply called Sherlock) and setting it in contemporary times, I was not keen. I would have given it a miss except that I learned that one of the co-creators was Steven Moffat (along with Mark Gatiss). I’ve loved Moffat’s work on Doctor Who as both writer and show runner; bright, intelligent, witty writing with vivid characters and real heart. I couldn’t resist looking at the new show and I was so glad I did.
The first series was brilliant and it absolutely worked. The creators obviously know the source material and respect it. In the original Conan Doyle stories, Dr. Watson is a former Army doctor who was wounded in Afghanistan. In the update – Doctor Watson is a former Army doctor who was wounded in Afghanistan. (How times don’t change.) In the original, Watson wrote up his adventures with Holmes as stories published in magazines. In the update, he writes them up as part of his blog.
The series is aided immensely by the two leads – Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson. In case you don’t know, Cumberbatch is slated to play (if rumors are correct) the villain in the next Star Trek movie and Freeman will be Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. The chemistry between them as Holmes and Watson is terrific.
Each series has consisted of three ninety-minute episodes and the first series ended in a cliffhanger. Holmes had confronted his nemesis, James “Jimmy” Moriarty; Watson has a vest full of explosives strapped on to him and Holmes has three snipers homed in on him. A complete death trap! How will they escape?
The second series updates/adapts three of the better-known stories in the Holmes canon: A Scandal in Bohemia becomes A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hound of the Baskervilles becomes The Hounds of Baskerville, and The Final Problem becomes The Reichenbach Fall.
The first introduced Irene Adler, The Woman in the Holmes canon, an actress who went up against Holmes over some compromising letters involving the royal family and she proved to be a complete match for the sleuth. In the remake, she’s a dominatrix who has compromising photos of a (female) member of the Royal Family on her cell phone. When Holmes calls on Adler, she greets him in the nude which leaves the Great Detective somewhat flummoxed and he can’t deduce anything from her because she isn’t wearing any clothes.
Oh, and Holmes himself winds up in the Royal Palace wrapped only in a bedsheet. This is not your great-great -grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes.
The Hounds of the Baskervilles deals with a possible spectral hound from hell threatening the life of Holmes’ client. The episode, The Hounds of Baskerville has that element but also brings in secret military testing and conspiracies. Changing “Hound” to “Hounds” is not just clever; it really ties to the secret at the heart of the mystery.
In the original “The Final Solution,” Doyle attempted to kill off Holmes by having him plummet down the Reichenbach Falls with his arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty. In this new version, Moriarty is out to destroy his enemy and his enemy’s reputation. It also ends with what appears to be Holmes’ fall to his death although the very final shot of the episode reveals Holmes still alive. The question that needs to be answered is – how? Hopefully, that will be answered in the third season of Sherlock whenever they get around to making it.
Performances throughout are first rate, as are the production values. It doesn’t make the series perfect. They get out of the first season’s cliffhanger by having Moriarty getting a phone call and walking away. Not satisfying. I also found the conceptualization and performance of Moriarty (by Andrew Scott) too over the top. It was Moriarty as Heath Ledger’s Joker. I don’t mind a different interpretation that works, such as Lara Pulver’s Irene Adler, but Moriarty as giggling sociopath didn’t work for me.
And I have a concern. As I’ve said, the writing on this series is very clever and, for me, enjoyably so. There’s such a thing, however, as being too clever and that’s the trap into which Sherlock could easily fall – and that would be a more deadly trap than anything Moriarty could devise. The series so far has skirted the edge of it but it could easily step over and, sometimes, you don’t know how far is too far until you’ve gone too far.
All that said, I think this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes to be one of the best ever, constantly and consistently entertaining. It has intelligence and it has passion and it captures the essence of what made the Holmes stories work. The changes make us see the stories in a fresh way. I’m looking forward to the next season – which will be whenever our two main actors come back from Middle Earth, where no one has gone before.
All Pulp congratulates Mark Maddox on being named the Rondo Artist of the Year by the Rondo Hatton Awards for his contribution to horror magazines and book covers such as Little Shoppe of Horrors, Undying Monsters, and Mad Scientist.
No stranger to pulp, Mark’s art has graced the covers and interiors of several New Pulp titles including the Captain Hazzard series, Sherlock Holmes, Our Man Flint, Kolchak The Night Stalker, Lance Star: Sky Ranger, and more.
This week marked fifteen years since the death of my sometime writing partner and lovely wife, Kimberly Ann Yale. Since here we talk about pop culture in so many different forms, I thought I would pose myself a question – WWKL? What Would Kim Like? What has come out since her death that she would really have gotten into?
Let’s start right here – on the Internet. First of all, she would have loved ComicMix and probably would have had her own column here. Kim was a terrific essayist – much better at it than me, I think. She was thoughtful, she picked words with care and grammar and punctuation really mattered to her. Me? If it gets past spellchek, I’m good.
In fact, I think Kim would have been all over the Internet. She would have had a blog or two or three, she would have been answering other peoples’ blogs, she would have been Queen of Facebook. Facebook was invented for someone like Kim. She would have had a bazillion friends on FB. I would have had to pry the computer from her.
Kim was also big into monsters and horror, vampires being her especial faves. I think she would have favored True Blood over the others because of the sex and the melodrama and the Southern-fried aspects of it all. (Kim’s mom was Southern and Kim fancied herself as a Southern belle. Kind of hard to do when you’re born up North but her mind worked it around.) The Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp? Eeeeeeeeee! She would be camped out for it right now.
I think both The Walking Dead comic and TV series would have sucked her in but she would have been tickled by Shaun Of The Dead. Kim had a terrific sense of humor and the world’s most infectious laugh. Trust me – if you were a stand-up comic or doing a comedy in the theater, you wanted Kim in the audience.
I wonder what she would have made of Cowboys And Aliens? She was the one who got me started watching westerns and they were among her favorite genre films and, of course, adding sci/fi to it would have really intrigued her but I’m not sure what she would have made of the execution. I only give it two stars and I think she would have agreed (Kim also worked as a movie critic back in Chicago for a small suburban newspaper, so she could really knew how to dissect a movie.)
On the cowboys and spaceships mode, I think she would have been into both Firefly and the movie tie-up, Serenity. And Nathan Fillion would have led her to the Castle TV series (she also loved fun mysteries and strong female characters).
Then there’s Doctor Who. Kim and I met at a Doctor Who con (actually, a combined Doctor Who / Chicago Comic Con) and she would have rejoiced at the Doctor’s return. I think she would have liked David Tennant’s Doctor the best; she would have described him as a “creamie” – as in cream your jeans. However, she would have liked all three incarnations that have come out since the series’ return and, as a writer, would really enjoyed Stephen Moffat’s writing and now running of the franchise. She would have also liked his take on Sherlock Holmes and on Jekyll and Hyde. I stopped watching the latter during its first season; not because it wasn’t good but because it really creeped me out too much.
On movies, she would have been amazed and ecstatic with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and would, as Mary and I are doing, been waiting impatiently for The Hobbit movies coming out. Viggo Mortensen would also have been counted as a creamie.
She would have been fascinated by how CGI made superhero movies possible and what happened as a result. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, especially The Dark Knight, would have sucked her in and, come Hallowe’en, she would have dressed up as Ledger’s Joker, no question in my mind about it. I think, however, she would have been even more taken with Inception – Kim had an active dreamscape and tried to spend as much time in it as possible so the movie’s setting would have fascinated her.
She would have liked Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (less so the sequel) not only because he was so good (and he was) but because she was also a sucker for redemption stories and Downey’s reclamation of his career would have stirred her. She would also have really liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor (creamie) and the whole Captain America film and she would really be anticipating The Avengers, not the least because Joss Whedon is helming it.
I could go on much longer but I think I’ve tried everyone’s patience enough. I may be just projecting onto Kim what some of my own likes and dislikes are but it refreshes her memory in my own mind and heart, keeping the flame alive. She was full of life and she would have brought that with her into the future. Like all those we treasure, she lives on in me and in all those she loved and loved her.
Memory doesn’t die with the body, and neither does love.
Vivian Borne is an eccentric antiques dealer who lives in Serenity, a small Midwestern town situated on the banks of the Mississippi river. She lives with her daughters, Peggy Sue and Brandy. Together Vivian and Brandy solve murders that in one way or another deal with the business of antiquing. Which is the simplest way to describe this series, of which this book is the sixth and has been described by other reviewers as being a “cozy” series if anyone really knows exactly what that means.
As a fan of hardboiled detective fiction, I’m assuming “cozy” refers to those mysteries wherein the protagonist is a little old lady ala Agatha Christie’s popular Miss Marple books or the old Angela Landsbury TV show, “Murder She Wrote.” In other words, not my particular brand of tea; I prefer a headier beverage literature. Still, every now and then one desires to try something different. I decided I’d take a chance with “Antiques Disposal.”
It is probably one of the smartest things I’ve done in a while. Why? Well simply because the book is so damn funny, I honestly couldn’t put it down. And the characters! Oh, my God, is there a more dysfunctional group then the Borne girls? Remember I said Brandy was Vivian’s youngest daughter? Well she’s actually Peggy Sue’s daughter. Yup. Echoes of “Chinatown.” You see Peggy Sue got herself “in trouble” as a young, unmarried girl and left her baby with her mother to raise figuring it was best for the child. Did I mention Vivian suffers from a bi-polar disorder and is on medication? Never mind that Brandy herself has a daughter….oh, forget it. Its way too complicated for me to keep track of after only one visit with this eclectic bunch. The thing is the writing is so clean and precise, even though you haven’t read those first five books (something I hope to one day correct) the reader just goes with the flow. There is a charm and decency to these characters that immediately grabbed me and had me caring for them from page one.
Look, here’s what every true mystery fan knows as a fact, series fail or succeed not on how brilliant the crimes are staged and then solved, but on how appealing and original the heroes are. Don’t believe me, give this some thought. Early fans of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson came to demand more stories from Arthur Conan Doyle to read more about them and not the mysteries they dealt with, those became incidental. The same can be said of every solid mystery series from Sam Spade, to Nero Wolfe and Nate Heller. In fact one of those famous shamus plays a huge part in this book’s climatic dénouement finale in such a hilarious way, I will not spoil it for you. It’s just too damn funny.
Okay, if you really need to know the plot, here it is. Vivian and Brandy go to a storage unit auction, wherein the person who owned the unit stopped paying rental fees on it and the manager is legally free to sell its contents to recoup his or her loses. These auctions have become very common among antique dealers and I believe there is even a reality show based on the practice. So our two ladies end up winning the bid, begin transporting the boxed contents to their home and cataloguing them; everything perfectly normal and routine. Until they return to the storage facility for their second trip and find the manager dead in the now empty unit. The very next night someone breaks into Vivian’s home, attacks Peggy Sue leaving her unconscious and nearly kill’s Brandy’s loveable little blind poodle, Sushi.
From this point forward, both Vivian and Brandy are on the hunt for the killer and how they go about it so entertaining, pages simply fly by. Sure, I was playing along and looking for clues too, but honestly, it was the ride I was enjoying to the max. Bottom line, if all of the Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mysteries are as wonderful as “Antiques Disposal,” then sign me up for the long haul.
Hey, even if you end up not liking the book, did I mention there are recipes for chocolate brownies in it? Now how can you go wrong with that?
As much as most writers enjoy creating new series characters, eventually many of them, after writing the adventures of the same cast multiple times, start to feel the burden of familiarity.Add to the fact that each new volume often builds upon the fictional cast from allies to recurring villains so that eventually the poor writer is saddled with a huge ensemble that he or she feels compelled to include in each new story.These moments of repetitive angst seemed to be evident in Reese’s last volume of his Rook series.For the uninitiated, the Rook is a masked vigilante created by Reese years ago as his entry into the new pulp community and was an instant success among fans; this reviewer included.
Still, by the sixth volume of that character’s exploits, the sheen of newness had faded and the Rook stories started becoming more about the supporting cast rather than the central hero.Like Arthur Conan Doyle’s ultimate dissatisfaction with his own creation, Sherlock Holmes, Reese somehow seemed to be struggling to keep the Rook afloat.It was clearly time for him to move on to something new and with this collection, he has done just that in a most triumphant way.
Lazarus Gray is Reese’s new hero and is an homage to the classic Avenger series, wherein we have our mysterious leading man aided and abetted by a team of loyal assitants; in this case a trio.Together they are known as Assistance Unlimited.Although Gray’s creation was part of a shared world that included two other heroes, Reese clearly found his old muse with these new characters and has produced some of his best, most energetic and enjoyable fiction to date.These stories move at a breakneck speed and are filled with memorable characters and well delivered action to match anything done in the days of the old pulps.
At the beginning of the volume, we meetan amnesiac washed ashore on the beach of Sovereign City with a strange medallion around his name on which is embossed the words Lazarus Gray.Within minutes of awakening, an assassin dressed as a police officer attempts to kill him, but Gray is more than a match for him and is the victor.Perplexed at his background, he assumes the name on the medallion and sets about creating a new life for himself as a champion of the underdog, the lost and impoverished while at the same time investigating his own unknown past.
Along the way he acquires three unique followers: Morgan Watts, a one time crook, Samantha Grace, a blonde debutante with both brains and beauty and Eun Jiwon, a Korean martial artists. All three are fiercely loyal to each other and Gray for various reasons and always eager to go into battle with him.Reese’s ability to define this trio and breathe life into them is deft and although they do represent classic iconic pulp figures, he also injects original personal touches that set them apart in a truly refreshing way.
Having been a fan of the Rook series from the start, I had come to expect a certain level of quality from Reese.That this collection totally blew those expectations out of the water was one of the best surprises this reviewer has had in a long while.“The Adventures of Lazarus Gray” is by far the best work Barry Reese has ever produced and I predict will soon build an even larger fandom than that of his Rook tales.
One point does require mentioning and that is the last story in this volume appears in print for the second time.It was first printed in “The Rook – Volume Six” and is a team up between the two heroes.I have no problem with the publisher reprinting the story, but a notice of such should have been made in the book’s indicia.Which brings about a minor goof because this story was clearly written before the others, although chronologically it appears last.In this book Gray discovers his true identity as being one Richard Winthrop, yet in “Darkness, Spreading Its Wings of Black” we are told he was Richard Davenport.
Finally let me add this book is a gorgeously designed package with a wonderful cover by graphic artist Anthony Castrillo and superb interior illustrations by George Sellas. So what are you waiting for?Go pick up “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray,” you’ll be happy you did.You can thank me later.