Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some reading not previously mentioned

Recently, I read Greg Bear's Hull Zero Three. The only Bear I'd read before was his short story "Blood Music"; I didn't read the novelized version. If you're interested, I give a full critique of Bear's latest in this discussion at the Asimov's forum. In short, the book was intriguing but disappointing, busily racing from one thing to another as if the writer, and not the character, were pursued by unearthly beasts. It's too bad, because Bear certainly had adequate material for a rich and complex novel, had he let it become fully enfleshed. It did move quickly, in any case, whereas some other sf I've read in the past few years—as part of the loose readers' group at the Asimov's forum—has disappointed but also been enormous work to get through.

As I'm on break, I felt compelled to order several comics collections (they aren't graphic novels, these) from the library.

For decades, I've heard about Marvel's famed "Kree-Skrull war." I own two of the Avengers issues in which the war takes place, but never had a full sense of what happened. Well, not much happened, as it turns out, and the storyline is borderline incoherent. Had this been a modern story arc, like Marvel's "Civil War," I'd suspect that what's missing is the narrative threads from the dozen or so other books implicated in the tale, but nobody did anything like that back in the '70s, and aside from some information and characters coming in from earlier stories in Thor, Fantastic Four and adventures with Captain Marvel, the tale is meant to appear intact in the Avengers. There's terrific buildup, especially in the penultimate, Neal Adams–pencilled issue, but the conclusion is something of a mess, with heroes from another age emerging from the head of Rick Jones . . . for about two panels each. Also, Rick Jones is sort of the Wesley Crusher of '70s Marvel: you really wish he'd move on or finally get killed. His catch-phrase? "Faaaan-tastic!" Not sure who's to blame for that, Stan Lee or Roy Thomas. Of course, all the characters speak too casually or pseudo-hip-ly, except Thor, who is utterly joyless. The collection has a new Adams cover which, for some reason, was chopped in half and stuck on the back cover of the paperback, which makes Roy Thomas's essay about it approximately 50% confusing.

Also read a Bruce Jones–scripted Hulk collection. (Everyone who gets killed comes back. I guess there's an explanation in a later collection. I've got more coming.) In addition, I read the first volume of Thor's return from the netherworld. I like the new costume. Looking at that, then going back to those old Avengers issues, you can see how hard Neal Adams had to work at not making Thor look like an idiot. The Buscemas were far less successful at this.

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