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Squirr-El (The metropolis, England.)
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Aquaman (2016-) Vol. 2: Black Manta Rising
Aquaman (2016-) Vol. 2: Black Manta Rising
Price: £12.44

5.0 out of 5 stars 20,000 leagues under justice, 23 May 2017
Aquaman TP Vol 2 Black Manta Rising (Rebirth) collects issues #7-15 of the Rebirthed series, though to be honest, I’m not sure that this one needed a rebirth, as it got one in the New 52 that returned it to heights of quality not seem since the 1960s (or 70s – whenever it was that Dick Giordano was editing it). I can’t remember whether Arthur and Mera were actually married in the New 52 continuity, though, so that may be an alteration.

Anyway, this volume sees Aquaman demonstrating to the reader just why he is in the Justice League, and the writer, Dan Abnett, demonstrating how to write ‘big’ stories that don’t bury the lead actors under the special effects, but harness the special effects (or artwork, as it is called in comic books) to show why the actors are the stars of the book.

This volume contains two linked stories, a 3-part and a 6-part, both part of Black Manta’s continuing war on Aquaman, though now he has the power of NEMO on his side. The first sees the return of an old JLA foe, and is a sort of superhero story; while the second sees NEMO starting a war between America and Atlantis, a real one this time, with real consequences. This second one, while also having Aquaman doing superhero stuff, is more about the head of state, ruler of the seven seas, side of his life, but with plenty of superhero stuff involved also. Mera also has a lot of stuff to do, which keeps her sidelined a bit, but for a good reason, and not just because she’s probably stronger than Arthur and would outshine him, which is not what this storyline is about.

Anyway, without, hopefully, giving away any spoilers, this is a superb book, outstanding even in a relaunch that has provided so many outstanding stories, and is as good as, if not better, than the New 52 series.

APPENDIX
Normally in my reviews of DC comic books, I am always whingeing about yet another apocalypse hitting Gotham, Metropolis or New York only months after the last one. Here I am saying nothing, because, as I said above, this story is good enough to lift it above the usual petty whingeing about continuity. I whinge so much about these things because the writers are using the apocalypses for their special-effect values, and not as a genuine part of the story: good writing lifts stories above petty continuity, and the continuity, like space around a dense object, should bend around it.


Aquaman TP Vol 2 Black Manta Rising (Rebirth)
Aquaman TP Vol 2 Black Manta Rising (Rebirth)
by Dan Abnett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.58

5.0 out of 5 stars 20,000 leagues under justice, 23 May 2017
Aquaman TP Vol 2 Black Manta Rising (Rebirth) collects issues #7-15 of the Rebirthed series, though to be honest, I’m not sure that this one needed a rebirth, as it got one in the New 52 that returned it to heights of quality not seem since the 1960s (or 70s – whenever it was that Dick Giordano was editing it). I can’t remember whether Arthur and Mera were actually married in the New 52 continuity, though, so that may be an alteration.

Anyway, this volume sees Aquaman demonstrating to the reader just why he is in the Justice League, and the writer, Dan Abnett, demonstrating how to write ‘big’ stories that don’t bury the lead actors under the special effects, but harness the special effects (or artwork, as it is called in comic books) to show why the actors are the stars of the book.

This volume contains two linked stories, a 3-part and a 6-part, both part of Black Manta’s continuing war on Aquaman, though now he has the power of NEMO on his side. The first sees the return of an old JLA foe, and is a sort of superhero story; while the second sees NEMO starting a war between America and Atlantis, a real one this time, with real consequences. This second one, while also having Aquaman doing superhero stuff, is more about the head of state, ruler of the seven seas, side of his life, but with plenty of superhero stuff involved also. Mera also has a lot of stuff to do, which keeps her sidelined a bit, but for a good reason, and not just because she’s probably stronger than Arthur and would outshine him, which is not what this storyline is about.

Anyway, without, hopefully, giving away any spoilers, this is a superb book, outstanding even in a relaunch that has provided so many outstanding stories, and is as good as, if not better, than the New 52 series.

APPENDIX
Normally in my reviews of DC comic books, I am always whingeing about yet another apocalypse hitting Gotham, Metropolis or New York only months after the last one. Here I am saying nothing, because, as I said above, this story is good enough to lift it above the usual petty whingeing about continuity. I whinge so much about these things because the writers are using the apocalypses for their special-effect values, and not as a genuine part of the story: good writing lifts stories above petty continuity, and the continuity, like space around a dense object, should bend around it.


Lonely Planet Pocket Reykjavik (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Pocket Reykjavik (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A readable and interesting guide, 23 May 2017
This 160-page book - the 2nd edition of May 2017 - is an interesting and readable guide to the capital of Iceland. This is a well-designed and presented guide, with useful maps.

It is a pocket-sized guide, being approximately 6” by 4 ¼”, with a fold-out map inside the back cover. It has a much more concentrated layout than the full-size Lonely Planet volumes, and concentrates on the city itself. This is not a glossy guide with lots of colour pictures, but it is well-designed and laid out, with colour illustrations used as part of the design, not to fill up gaps or break up blocks of small-print.

NOTE that being a “pocket” guide, this is for carrying around for quick reference to the highlights on short-stay holidays; if you are going for an extended stay, one of the bigger and more detailed guides will probably be more useful.

The Contents are
P004: Quick Start Guide (introduction to the city)
P021: Explore Reykjavik (sections on 6 districts each with a thorough description and mini-guide, plus 5 other locations highlighted as being “worth a trip” scattered around the guide)
P022: Old Reykjavik
P038: Old Harbour
P048: Laugavegur & Skolavoroustigur
P076: Golden Circle
P092: South Coast
P106: West Iceland

P125: Best of Reykjavik (things to see, places to shop, eat and drink, etc.)
P143: Survival Guide (getting there, getting around, “Essential Information”, etc.)
P150: Language


Rocket And Groot: Stranded On Planet Strip Mall] (Marvel Middle Grade Novel)
Rocket And Groot: Stranded On Planet Strip Mall] (Marvel Middle Grade Novel)
by Tom Angleberger
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars These are the voyages…, 22 May 2017
Rocket & Groot – Stranded on Planet Shopping Mall is a very illustrated story book – almost a comic-book script with drawings, as it is told in the form of dialogue, with captions describing the action provided by Veronica, the Totally Awesome Tape Dispenser, who is acting as Rocket’s voice recorder for his Captain’s Log.

There are illustrations, almost on every page, little scribbly vignettes, mostly, as well as a wide variety of typography (“fonts” is far too bland a description for the activity going on on every page. Rocket, Groot and Veronica all have their individual fonts, so you know just who is talking; and Veronica also has a separate font for descriptive captions, which it is her job to provide for Rocket’s Log.

I picked this up to just glance at, and found myself deep inside before I recovered my free will.

The story is reasonably entertaining, but the sheer design work makes it much more than just a story book.

I remember meeting Veronica the Tape Dispenser somewhere before, in what might have been a back-up series in a comic book collection, but I can’t remember the title. I think Rocket & Groot had been recruited by Mojo for one of his projects, and were escaping with her help. This could easily be a continuation of that series.

Found it! See Rocket Raccoon & Groot - The Complete Collection.

Anyway, kids ought to love this, and grown-ups who read the comics should find it excellent also.


Marvel Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Shopping Mall (Marvel Fiction)
Marvel Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Shopping Mall (Marvel Fiction)
by Tom Angleberger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars These are the voyages…, 22 May 2017
Rocket & Groot – Stranded on Planet Shopping Mall is a very illustrated story book – almost a comic-book script with drawings, as it is told in the form of dialogue, with captions describing the action provided by Veronica, the Totally Awesome Tape Dispenser, who is acting as Rocket’s voice recorder for his Captain’s Log.

There are illustrations, almost on every page, little scribbly vignettes, mostly, as well as a wide variety of typography (“fonts” is far too bland a description for the activity going on on every page. Rocket, Groot and Veronica all have their individual fonts, so you know just who is talking; and Veronica also has a separate font for descriptive captions, which it is her job to provide for Rocket’s Log.

I picked this up to just glance at, and found myself deep inside before I recovered my free will.

The story is reasonably entertaining, but the sheer design work makes it much more than just a story book.

I remember meeting Veronica the Tape Dispenser somewhere before, in what might have been a back-up series in a comic book collection, but I can’t remember the title. I think Rocket & Groot had been recruited by Mojo for one of his projects, and were escaping with her help. This could easily be a continuation of that series.

Found it! See Rocket Raccoon & Groot - The Complete Collection.

Anyway, kids ought to love this, and grown-ups who read the comics should find it excellent also.


All-New Captain America Vol. 1: Le réveil de l'Hydra (French Edition)
All-New Captain America Vol. 1: Le réveil de l'Hydra (French Edition)
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Tomorrow belongs to me!, 22 May 2017
Captain America: Steve Rogers Vol. 1 - Hail Hydra collects issues #1-6 of this new series, along with Free Comic Book Day 2016: Captain America #1.

Following the events of Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 2 - Standoff, thanks to the now-sentient Cosmic Cube, Steve Rogers has been restored to his former physical condition:
Sharon Carter: “Maybe next time you run into a magic Cosmic Cube girl who can make you young again - you mention your partner too, yeah?”

Yes, Sharon is starting to look her age, whatever it is - she is definitely being drawn to look more mature than she has been portrayed in the past, and it is quite noticeable when she stands next to Maria Hill. There is also a Bucky-like figure at the back of the cover illustration, but I have no idea who it is - nobody appears dressed like that in this volume that I noticed. Bucky does appear, but with his Thunderbolts team and in his current look. It might be nothing, or it might just be a symbolic cover.

Now, there is an awful lot of stuff going on in this volume, much of which was stunningly unexpected, so I will do my best to avoid mentioning the biggest spoilers; but as I was reading the story and I came to something that appeared “wrong”, I said to myself “Cosmic Cube” and carried on, in the expectation that eventually it would all get sorted out - though not necessarily in this volume. So - if your head starts to spin when reading this story, just think “Cosmic Cube” and keep going.

So, Hydra has reinvented itself as a sort of non-denominational terrorist cult and is out to destabilise western civilisation as we know it. It does remind me of the Hydra from the (now non-existent) Ultimate Universe, and it may (or may not) be a sort of carry-over from the Secret Wars event, but whatever; it works. There is a problem, however, in that both Zemo and the Red Skull think that Hydra belongs to them.

The Red Skull is also unhappy, in that although he has had Professor X’s brain grafted onto his, being able to make people grovel before him is not as satisfying as forcing them to do it out of fear (fear and terror, fear, terror, and a nice crimson mask - I’ll stop now).

Captain America has also acquired a new set of sidekicks - Jack Flagg and Free Spirit - who apparently worked with him back in the 1990s, and have been brought back for some reason. I took much of the 1980s and 90s off from comic books, fortunately.)

Anyway, we have a dangerous threat to western civilisation, an underfunded SHIELD, and two major ex-Nazi villains struggling for control of said threat, one of whom controls vast telepathic powers and has a great fashion sense.

There is also a flashback story running through this featuring the six-year-old Steve Rogers and his family back in 1926.

All these threads slowly come together part way through the volume, as the Red Skull explains what he was doing at Pleasant Hill during the Standoff event.

At this point you start trying to rationalise what is going on by thinking “deep cover” and the like, but as the evidence builds up, I could only think “Cosmic Cube” and go with the flow.

This really is a mind-bending story, and superbly written and illustrated. When I reviewed the first volume of the old “Dimension Z” storyline, I asked “how do you follow Brubaker’s run? What would Kirby have done?” Well, this is the sort of thing Kirby would have done - try something really different and see if it works. Where it will go, I have no idea, but I hope that Sharon’s quote at the beginning of the review will be a clue to the finale.

THE SPOILER ZONE
The one flaw I could find with this storyline was that this is a “new” Red Skull (or was, before the Secret Wars event anyway), a clone (or something) sealed away in the early 1940s as a back-up. He therefore would have no connection to the Cosmic Cube, though the Cube itself might have made a mistake or not cared about the switch-over.


Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 4: #Takebacktheshield (Captain America (Paperback))
Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 4: #Takebacktheshield (Captain America (Paperback))
by Marvel Comics
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Four issues of filler and an oversized reprint, 22 May 2017
Four issues of filler and an oversized reprint
Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 4: #Takebacktheshield (Captain America (Paperback)) collects issues #14-17 of the Sam Wilson Captain America, along with the double-sized issue #344 from 1988.

It might be me, but this feels like the story is just marking time until the Secret Empire event is unveiled; wither that or it is a tribute volume to the 1970s or 80s, as I am reminded of the early Luke Cage stories, not helped by Misty Knight guest-starring – not that I have anything against her, she just reminds me of the old Luke Cage/Iron Fist series. She also gets a solo-story while Sam is on holiday, and even takes the shield with her on a case, which gives her a solo cover with it – and the caption “About time!”

Anyway, this is a collection of four stories which, on the whole, feature the supporting cast more than Sam, though he and Steve do get together for yet another public humiliation for him.

The reprint, which has Steve Rogers as the “Captain”, a Government appointee being Captain America at the time, dealing with civil unrest and Viper (the Madame Hydra one) kidnapping Ronald Reagan, but more importantly for this volume, sees D-Man fighting Battle Star, which they do once again in this volume.

This volume really does feel like a filler, with Sam taking a back-seat for too much of the time; and gets a little preachy also; but I don’t live in the US, nor am I a member of a noticeable minority, so we’ll let that slide. However, that still doesn’t stop it feeling like we’re just waiting for cancellation, due to all the supporting cast getting their time in the spotlight all in the same volume.

Alright, I’ll give you three issues of filler, there’s enough real story for one issue out of the lot.


My Little Book of Dogs and Puppies
My Little Book of Dogs and Puppies
by Nicola Jane Swinney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to a selection of dogs and their puppies for younger readers, 22 May 2017
This 64-page book is an excellent illustrated introduction to dogs and puppies, aimed at young readers. It contains 27 two-page chapters each illustrating a different breed, with easy to read text (a large, clear font) and captions, and one large and two small photographs. There is also a Glossary and Index.

These books are ideal for young children to learn about dogs, as well as for grown-ups who like to look at (excellent) photos of dogs while helping children to read, or just keeping them occupied.

I read a library copy, which has a 'friendlier' picture of a Labrador puppy on the cover than on the Amazon listing.


Lonely Planet Austria (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Austria (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A readable and interesting guide, 22 May 2017
This 416-page book - the 8th (print) edition of May 2017 - is an interesting and readable guide to the Central European Republic of Austria. This is a well-designed and presented guide, with useful maps. This is not a glossy guide with lots of colour pictures, but it is a well-designed and laid out guide, with colour used very sparingly. It is intended to be a helpful guide to things to see and do, and not just a list of things to see and do.

It is broken down into four major sections:

Page 4 - Plan Your Trip:
This section is an introduction to Austria, what to look out for (Austria‘s Top 23), what you need to know in advance, and other touristy stuff.

On the Road (“The Guide”):
P060: Vienna (with a fold-out map inside the back-cover)
P121: Lower Austria & Burgenland
P158: Upper Austria (with 5 sub-sections)
P179: Styria (5)
P207: The Salzkammergut (3)
P227: Salzburg & Salzburgerland (4)
P269: Carinthia (4)
P291: Tyrol & Vorarlberg

Page 346 - Understand:
This section has articles on local culture - history, arts, Alps, etc.

Page 384 - Survival Guide:
This contains the A-Z Directory, information on transport, etc.
P402: Language
P409: Index


Batman TP Vol 2 I Am Suicide (Rebirth)
Batman TP Vol 2 I Am Suicide (Rebirth)
by Tom King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Because the Night, 21 May 2017
Batman TP Vol 2 I Am Suicide (Rebirth) collects issues #9-15 of the Rebirthed Batman series, continuing the storyline from the previous volume.

Now, due to the presence and interference by Amanda Waller in the previous volume, I was expecting the title of this one to refer to her deal with Batman struck back then.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be something almost, but not quite, completely different.

In the previous volume, Tom King, the writer, produced a ‘big’ story – crashing airliners, super-powered heroes, etc.: a widescreen action story. However, he didn’t go down the route of using clichés – his villain marched into the middle of the story, climbed up on a stage, and announced his name, but what you probably didn’t notice was the chap standing next to him. The secret of stage magic is misdirection – to get you looking in the wrong direction while the important thing is going on in front of you.

This story (a five-parter) is not quite as big as the one in the first volume, but the clichés are still avoided, there are twists and turns, and a huge shock (to me anyway) at the end of the first issue, when we meet the psycho-killer in Arkham’s most secure cell, the one who has 237 murders to their name, and is waiting to be executed for them.

Now, this is a ‘Rebirth’ story, and several dead villains make reappearances here, while one at least carries their New 52 continuity forward, as Batman recruits his very own Suicide Squad from Arkham’s inmates.
“Arkham, look around you. Look at the asylum I filled.”

The main plot of this one, apparently, is Batman and his team going to Santa Prisca to retrieve the Psycho Pirate from Bane (he’s needed in order to cure Gotham Girl). There is the usual breaking and entering, fighting impossible odds, and the expected betrayal by the psycho-killer; and because this is a Rebirth story, you aren’t quite sure if it is a set-up or not; it is pretty convincing (though the cover to the fourth issue gave me the answer before the story did).

There is, naturally, a big confrontation between Bane and Batman, both physical and psychological, and a comparison of origins, motivations and such like, much of which is lost on me, as I am slightly autistic.

There is, however, a superb resolution to everything, as the misdirection is finally revealed.

The second (two-part) story is an exploration of the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, the high-point of which is, for me, the scene where they reminisce about their first meeting, with two pages of intercut panels from the relevant stories – which for Batman is their first meeting in Batman #1 (that’s volume 1, #1, from 1940), while Selena remembers the scene from the Miller/Mazzuchelli Year One story; and because this is the Rebirth universe, they both can be true! Aren’t’ comics wonderful. That certainly nailed the fifth star for this collection. This story really does put the Bruce & Selina relationship back where it belongs.
“Alfred.”
“Yes, Ms Kyle?”
“When he wakes, would you tell him something for me.”

Now all we need is for Commissioner Gordon to let what he knows slip; maybe next time…


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