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Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 3

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 3 - Walter Simonson, Art Adams, Gracine Tanaka 347-349: A skrull takes the Fantastic Four out of action and forms a new Fantastic Four with Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider as the members to take on her enemies!

This story was pretty superficial. It read like someone called Arthur Adams, the guest penciller, and asked him what he wanted to draw and had Simonson write a story around it. Skrulls, Mole Man, and lots of monsters. I suspect Wolverine and Ghost Rider were members of the surrogate Fantastic Four solely to drum up sales. It's a pretty good example of a soulless 1990's Marvel story. Shame on you, Walt!

350: Doctor Doom and his doom bots attack Latveria to unseat Kristoff. Things are going well until another Doctor Doom shows up. And Ms. Marvel makes a deal with the devil to regain human form.

And things are back to status quo, not just for the Fantastic Four but for Doctor Doom as well with Kristoff out of the picture. There seemed to be a shot taken at Steve Englehart when Doctor Doom talked about Ms. Marvel's origin.

352-354: As the remainder of the Fantastic Four battle Doctor Doom's defenses, Reed and Doom battle across time in a duel to the death until the Time Variance Authority get involved.

Funny how the top guys in the TVA look like the late Mark Gruenwald, the guy in charge of Marvel's continuity. With all the time travel that goes on in the Marvel Universe now, the TVA could use a monthly title just to clean up after it.

Closing Thoughts: Walter Simonson's run was a return to big stories featuring Marvel's First Family but they didn't really break any new ground and didn't accomplish much more than hitting the reset button. This last volume was a little weak but still gets a three out of five stars.

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 2

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 2 - Walter Simonson, Danny Fingeroth, Rex Valve 342: A kid kills himself with gasoline and a match, emulating his hero, the Human Torch. Torch vows never to use his powers again until the Seekers come after him.

Rusty Collins from X-Factor guest stars in the fill-in issue Walter Simonson has nothing to do with. It's not a bad story, though. Just the Torch dealing with some shit. Didn't they kill off Rusty Collins a few years after this?

343-344: The Fantastic Four find themselves on an alternate earth after the time bubble fiasco, a world where Dan Quayle is the president and Joseph Stalin still rules Russia, a world on the brink of nuclear destruction!

The Fantastic Four prevent the US and Russia from destroying one another with nuclear weapons AND fight Joseph Stalin in a giant robot battlesuit. It doesn't get much more 1980's than this story. Ben whips out the Thing armor that eventually Darla Deering uses in FF, which begs the question "Why didn't he wear it in the time bubble story they just finished?"

345-346: After leaving the alternate earth, the Fantastic Four wind powerless and running from their lives from dinosaurs on the island that time forgot!

The powerless Fantastic Four, plus some army guys, fight for their lives on an island full of dinosaurs. Simonson's signature looks like a dinosaur so you know he was dying to pit the FF against them. Overall, it was a pretty average tale in a pretty average volume.

Closing Thoughts: Simonson's second volume was passable but mostly dealt with fallout from the first. It was a bridging volume and read like one. 3 out of 5 stars.

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 1

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 1 - Walter Simonson, Rich Buckler, Ron Lim 334 - 336: With the super hero registration act looming, the Fantastic Four head to Washington DC with numerous C-list super villains attacking them every step of the way.

Walter Simonson's run starts by being shackled by the Acts of Vengeance crossover but he makes the most of it. It's very timely with Civil War in the theaters that the super heroes were battling registration almost 30 years ago. The Fantastic Four battle The Constrictor, The Beetle, the Shocker, Ramrod, Plantman, Quill, Thunderball, The Super Adaptoid, Congress, and a lot of other scrubs and come out on top.

337-341: The Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Ms. Marvel), plus Ben Grimm, Thor, and Iron Man, use the radical dodecahedron to go into the time stream to investigate a time bubble created by a renegade celestial.

The Fantastic Four becomes the Walter Simonson show at this point as Simonson does the art chores as well as the writing. Simonson picks up some threads from an Avengers story he was prevented from writing, which shows since Thor and Iron Man have pretty big parts. The FF, Iron Man, and Thor, with guest stars Death's Head and Gladiator, battle the Council of Kangs, the Black Celestial, and Galactus, en route to collapsing the time bubble and saving the universe. All in a day's work, really.

Closing Thoughts: After Steve Englehart's run was hamstrung by editorial decisions, Simonson gets things back on track after the Acts of Vengeance speed bump. The time stream storyline was the kind of big story the Fantastic Four is made for, even if they were overshadowed by the guest stars on occasion. I forget at what point Ben becomes the Thing again but Ms. Marvel is filling his shoes well for now. I actually don't like Simonson's art here as much as I did on Thor.

3.5 out of 5 fantastic stars!

Drunk Driving Champion

Drunk Driving Champion - Eric Hendrixson A hundred drunken drivers gather in Washington DC for a cross country race. With a million dollars and a new liver hanging in the balance, who will claim the prize? Will it be Will, the wine enthusiast with a daughter in the hospital? Or two second string racers looking to make names for themselves? Or a couple of Russian suits? Or those darn frat boys looking to save their frat house?

In that far gone year 2010, Eric Hendrixson wrote [b:Bucket of Face|9560650|Bucket of Face|Eric Hendrixson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347952547s/9560650.jpg|14443834] as part of the New Bizarro Author Series. When he told me he had a new book ready, I was all revved up and ready to go.

Drunk Driving Champion is a spoof/homage to car movies like Cannonball Run and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. True to the Bizarro genre, it also features cars that can only be started while the driver is drunk, a recently unfrozen 1930's starlet named Dottie and the equally-thawed 1930's super hero, Captain Video. Hey, super heroes were dropping into the North Atlantic all the time in the 30's and 40's.

The diverse group of contestants that survived the initial 60+ car pileup kept the book moving. The time and space-warping GPS units were a nice touch. You never can trust those assholes when you need them.

While I was pretty sure I knew how the race was going to turn out, Hendrixson had me doubting myself a few times, that magnificent bearded bastard! It's hard to sustain humor, especially that of the Bizarro flavor, for an entire book but Eric Hendrixson did a great job of it. There were many quotable lines but I was too busy to write them down and not drunk as some people would allege.

If you only read one book featuring a drunken cross country race in 2016, make sure it's Drunk Driving Champion by Eric Hendrixson. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Time Machine (Signet Classics)

The Time Machine - Greg Bear, H.G. Wells A Victorian-era scientist calls together a group of men and tells them of his recent adventure, a trip through time...

I had intended to participate in a reading of this with the Distinguished Society of Pantless Readers but once I had a taste, I wolfed the whole tale down in one sitting.

The Time Machine is probably the first time travel story and definitely a spiritual ancestor of every time travel story since. The nameless time traveler whips up a time machine and travels through time. What could be simpler?

The Traveler goes to the year 802,000 and encounters the descendants of man, the Eloi and the Morlocks. Wells uses the Eloi and the Morlocks to illustrate the class differences in his own time but the Traveler's speculation on the haves and have-nots sounded very familiar, a nice bit of timeless social satire. After some misadventures, he returns home and no one believes him. To show those assholes, he goes on another jaunt and was never head from again. At least at the time of the Time Machine's publication.

The Time Machine broke a lot of new ground. It was probably the first time travel story and it could be argued that it was both the first dystopian sf story and the first Dying Earth tale. It's also not much of a stretch to call it an ancestor of the planetary romance genre as well. There's not a lot separating The Traveler from John Carter of Mars, if you think about it.

While there's a lot of fun timey-wimey stuff going on, Wells' prose isn't easy to digest. Part of it is the writing style of the time and another part is that science fiction was still in diapers at the time this was written.

Wells' depiction of future Earth was a very memorable one, one that influenced countless authors that came after. Adjusting for the time period, The Time Machine is a fun yet somewhat difficult read. Four out of five Sonic Screwdrivers.

Thor: God of Thunder: Godbomb (Marvel Now)

Thor: God of Thunder: Godbomb (Marvel Now) - Jason Aaron Gorr, the God Butcher, builds a bomb designed to travel back in time and kill all gods. The present day Thor and the All-Father Thor united to stop him. But can two, or even three, thunder gods be enough?

Wow. The three Thors vs. the Butcher of Gods. It reminded me quite a bit of the Elric tales when multiple versions of the Eternal Champion would team up against some huge menace. Whereas the first volume was mostly setup, this one was all payoff, like a porno that's entirely money shots.

Aaron brought forth his A-game in this one. It was everything a cosmic fantasy tale should be. The three Thors kicked serious ass and ended the menace of the God Butcher. The carnage level was pretty huge but it seems to me that a story headlined by so many gods should feature wholesale destruction.

The interplay between the three Thor incarnations was worth the read alone. I like that this tale is how the young Thor finally become worthy to wield Mjolnir. Old Thor drops some tantalizing hints of things to come, hopefully during Jason Aaron's run.

Four out of five hammers.

Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1 - The God Butcher

Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1 - The God Butcher - Jason Aaron The Gods of Indigarr are dead and all signs point to Gorr, the God-Butcher, a being Thor knows all too well. Can the Thunder god defeat the God-Butcher once and for all?

Most of the Thor comics I've read over the years were pretty forgettable unless Walter Simonson was involved. The God Butcher was an eye-catching title so I decided to give this a shot and I'm very glad I did.

The God Butcher tells the tale of Gorr, the Butcher of Gods, and his conflicts with Thor over the years. Aaron weaves a tale in three timelines. One of a young Thor in the age of the Vikings, before he earned the right to wield Mjolnir, one of present-day Thor, and one of old King Thor, a one-eyed, one-armed god, the last god of Asgard. Pretty cool, huh?

The God Butcher is essentially a murder mystery with Thor piecing together the God Butcher's motives and whereabouts. Gorr, for all intents and purposes, is a serial killer gods. Aside from his great power, the scariest thing about him is that he thinks his cause is just. The way Aaron weaves the three Thor tales together is pretty skillful and present-day Thor joining forces with old Thor to save what was left of Asgard was bad ass.

That's about all I have to say. The only mark against this volume would be that it doesn't tell the full story but I'll be glad to read the second volume. Thor is one of those characters that's so powerful it's hard for me to care about his exploits. Jason Aaron has made me care. Four out of five stars.


Misery - Stephen King To celebrate completing a novel, writer Paul Sheldon goes on a champagne-fueled drive in the Rocky mountains. He winds up in a near fatal car crash, but never fear. He's rescued by Annie Wilkes, his #1 fan...

I watched the film version of Misery in those antediluvian days before Goodreads, hell, before the Internet, and decided to finally read the novel when it showed up on my BookGorilla email one day. It was $2.99 very well spent.

Misery is a tale of obsession, addiction, and obsession. I wrote "obsession" twice but it's a such a big theme I thought it was justified. Annie Wilkes is obsessed with her favorite series of books starring Misery Chastain, written by that dirty birdie Paul Sheldon. Paul is obsessed with finishing the book Annie has demanded of him and probably addicted to writing. Also to codeine.

I've said it before but I'll say it again. If Stephen King wasn't addicted to scaring the bodily fluids out of people, he'd be a literary writer of some renown. The guy can flat out write. Just because he cranks out a best seller more often than most of us go to the dentist doesn't mean he's the real deal.

The scariest horror stories are the ones that could actually happen and Misery is one of those. Who among us hasn't had visions of being held captive when driving through a remote locale? Annie is so much more than the scene-chewing maniac she could have been. She has dimension and believes she's in the right, which is the mark of a great villain. Her background is very fleshed out and my heart sank as I learned her past along with Paul. How the hell was he going to escape that monster?

Paul's journey is painful, both to him and to the reader, thanks to King's skill. I had to make sure my foot was still attached a couple times. Annie puts him through hell and he finally gives her a taste of her own medicine but the ending is far from happily ever after.

As is usually the case, the book was a notch better than the movie. I've been easy with the 5's this year but I'll give this one a cockadoodie 5 out of 5 stars just the same.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 5

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 5 - Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez Miles Morales has been out of the super hero game for a year when Spider-Woman shows up, trying to bring him back in. Meanwhile, teen heroes Cloak and Dagger are after Roxxon oil in a big way...

I enjoyed the super hero action in this book, even if I didn't care for Cloak and Dagger that much. The Ultimate version of Taskmaster was much more fearsome than the main universe's version. Bombshell was more interesting than either Cloak or Dagger to me.

The partnership between Miles and Spider-Woman was my favorite part of the book. The super hero action was pretty spectacular. Miles continues to prove himself worthy of the Spider-mantle.

My only gripe with this series is the pace. It's agonizingly slow and there's way too much talking. Bendis writes good dialogue but he doesn't have to write so much of it. After more minimalist comics like [b:Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon|16002136|Hawkeye, Vol. 1 My Life as a Weapon|Matt Fraction|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1360413248s/16002136.jpg|21502266] and [b:Moon Knight, Vol. 1: From the Dead|20898006|Moon Knight, Vol. 1 From the Dead|Warren Ellis|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1415018723s/20898006.jpg|40257728], I feel like I'm working my ass off. I respect what Bendis has done but I'd prefer someone not as long-winded to chronicle Miles' adventures at some point. Three out of five stars.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 4

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 4 - Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, Sara Pichelli The Venom is in town looking for Spider-Man. And thanks to the late Betty Brant, he thinks Spider-Man is Jefferson Davis, Miles Morales' father...

The Ultimate Version of Venom arrives and turns Miles' life upside down. Being Spider-Man has its drawbacks. Your family members wind up getting killed. It's not as if his family was in good shape before that. His dad was already shell-shocked after fighting HYDRA agents.

The action was great, the art was fantastic, but I still felt the writing dragged. How much talking can Brian Bendis fit into five issues of a super hero comic book? Quite a bit, it seems.

The collection ends with Miles having his "Spider-Man No More!" moment ala Lee and Ditko, which was a nice touch considering what happened. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol.3

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol.3 - Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez Miles Morales deals with his uncle, the Prowler, meets Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, and MJ, and goes to war with the Ultimates against HYDRA.

One chapter of the new Spider-Man's life ends as a new one begins. I thought the Prowler storyline was resolved abruptly, which is weird in this day and age when every story is stretched out for 4-6 issues. It was a good resolution, however, that will probably have lasting consequences.

Miles gets webshooters from Aunt May, passing the torch from the old Spider-Man to the new. He saves Captain America's life and joins the Ultimates against HYDRA, which he probably regretted.

It was a pretty enjoyable tale but wasn't nearly as fun to read as the previous two volumes. The Ultimate Universe sure was a much grimmer place, wasn't it? I reiterate that Marvel should have used Miles instead of Peter in the MCU. Miles winding up in the main universe after Secret Wars is a step in the right direction, though.

3.5 out of 5 stars. I'm hoping the next volume is better.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol.2

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol.2 - Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Samnee, Sara Pichelli, David Marquez While Miles Morales is adjusting to his new identity as Spider-Man, his Uncle Aaron has some ideas of his own...

Miles continues to try to fill Peter Parker's shoes. While the Ringer and Omega Red were good tests for his abilities, his uncle Aaron, aka The Prowler, is a much worse threat. I don't see anything good coming from Aaron knowing Miles is Spider-Man.

The story moved things along but focused more on Miles' inner turmoil than it did punching super villains, probably a good thing at this stage in the game. The art was well suited to a Spider-Man story and made Miles look like a young teenager rather than a small adult. It's hard for me not to feel somewhat paternal toward Miles since the kid is only 13.

Side note: Does anyone else feel like Marvel missed the bus by not featuring Miles instead of Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The way to get people behind Miles in the long run is to feature him in other media and the movies would go a long way toward that.

I'm in it for the long haul with this kid. Four out of five stars.

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray - James Renner True crime writer James Renner researches the disappearance of Maura Murray as his personal life goes up in flames.

I got ARCs of this from Netgalley and from Random House.

On the heels of reading [b:The Man from Primrose Lane|12476620|The Man from Primrose Lane|James Renner|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1431521815s/12476620.jpg|17460972], I just had to read more James Renner. When two opportunities to read this fell into my lap, I had to take advantage.

Maura Murray went missing after wrecking her car one snowy night. She was never seen again. True crime writer James Renner picked up the scent and dug into Maura's past while embarking on an unintentional journey of self-discover, finding himself in jail, dealing with substance abuse issues, and discovering he may, in fact, be as damaged as the guys he's chasing.

True Crime Addict is written in a style very much resembling the crime fiction I've come to know and love, making for one gripping read. I read most of the book in one sitting, neglecting both household chores and my girlfriend until I was finished. The ending irked me a little until I remembered I wasn't reading fiction. I was cool with it after that.

The case were very serpentine, as real life usually is. Again, I forgot I wasn't reading fiction for most of the book. As I said, the style was very engaging, the opposite of the other true crime book I've read, [b:The Monster of Florence|2198274|The Monster of Florence|Douglas Preston|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1306075698s/2198274.jpg|2204022].

I really want to gush over all the details of the book but it's best if you go into it unspoiled. It was one phenomenal read. James Renner is my new George Pelecanos in that I will now track down and devour his books one by one until there is a James Renner-shaped void in my life. Five out of five stars.

A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel

A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel - Jonathan Lethem Alexander Bruno is a professional backgammon player. After a run of bad luck and a chance encounter with a classmate from high school, Alexander leaves Singapore for Berlin, where he winds up in the hospital after suffering from a seizure of some kind during a game. It seems Bruno has a nearly inoperable tumor and only a doctor in the US can do the operation, a doctor that lives near Bruno's former classmate.

I got this from Netgalley.

My only other exposure to Jonathan Lethem was [b:Gun, With Occasional Music|16718|Gun, With Occasional Music|Jonathan Lethem|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1438840182s/16718.jpg|1119922]. When I saw this up on Netgalley, I decided to give it a shot.

A Gambler's Anatomy is a delightfully odd and wonderfully written book. Bruno's voyage into self-discovery is painful, grotesque, and somewhat sweet at times. Jonathan Lethem is very talented, phenomenally so, in some instances. I caught my mouth watering a few times at his descriptions of food and Bruno's surgery made my face hurt. His word play, use of allusions, and descriptive skills were dead on in this one. I have no complaints of any sort about the writing.

The characters were quirky but not unrealistically so. Stolarsky referring to Bruno as Flashman was pretty accurate since Bruno does a few Flashman style things in this one, including not really improving much despite everything he experienced.

The plot was secondary to everything else, which is the one ding I'll lay upon the book. Bruno was a passive lead, for the most part. There really wasn't much of a build toward a decisive ending. The antagonist just gave up and Bruno wound up back where he started. I know the journey is supposed to be more important than the destination in most books of this type but it would be nice if the journey wasn't a huge circle. Four out of 5 stars.

The Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War

The Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War - Roy Thomas, Neal Adams War has broken out between the Kree and the Skrulls and the Avengers are caught in the middle! The Kree Skrull War is one of the most revered storylines in the history of the Avengers. Thanks to Marvel Unlimited, I was finally able to read it.

The Avengers roster at this time, for those keeping score, is Goliath (Hawkeye with Hank Pym's gear), Scarlet Witch, The Vision, and Quicksilver. Anti-Kree sentiment is on the rise on earth, due to some suspicious activities by Captain Marvel and the existence of a Kree fortress in Alaska. Things escalate when The Avengers protect Captain Marvel from an angry mob and Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man disband the Avengers!

Or do they... They do not. Those were Skrulls. Things continue to escalate. The Vision collapses and Ant-Man goes inside to investigate. The Skrulls take Quicksilver, Captain Marvel, and The Scarlet Witch prisoner and Rick Jones is abducted by the Kree. The gang have a huge battle in Attilan before finally heading into space. The Avengers battle Skrulls while Rick Jones, the Supreme Intelligence, and Captain Marvel do all the heavy lifting.

There were a lot of good moments in these issues. Neal Adams and the Buscema boys did a fantastic job on the artwork. Roy Thomas' writing was ahead of Stan Lee's but still nowhere near today's standards. It got the job done though.

I loved the Vision in this. He's conflicted over his status as an android and his feelings for the Scarlet Witch. The finale with Rick Jones and Supreme Intelligence was also pretty bad ass. Ant-Man going inside the Vision was Hank Pym's finest hour. On the negative side, it took forever for the Avengers to actually get involved with the war. The Avengers almost seemed like spectators, taking a back seat to Rick Jones, Captain Marvel, and the Supreme Intelligence.

All things considered, this was a pretty enjoyable trip into Marvel's history and a fun story. 4 out of 5 stars, adjusted for the passage of forty-something years.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol.1

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol.1 - Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli Months before Peter Parker's death, Miles Morales is bitten by a spider with a number 42 on its back. Suddenly, he has the abilities of a spider! But with great power comes great responsibility...

Legend has it that Miles Morales came to be when Donald Glover was campaigning to play the Amazing Spider-Man. So far, I'm digging it.

Miles Morales is a 13 year old mixed race teenager, suddenly selected to go to a charter school and get out of his neighborhood. While visiting his uncle, secretly The Prowler, he gets bitten by a spider that hitched a ride when his uncle plundered Norman Osborne's lab.

These first six issues tell Miles' origin, his first few outings as Spider-Man, and his encounters with Nick Fury and some other super heroes. All the pieces are in place and I'm more interested in Miles than I have been in Peter Parker in the main Marvel Universe in years. Gone is all the baggage but all the Spidey themes are still here.

I also like that his power set isn't an exact copy of Peter's. He's got some kind of sting and can turn invisible. The costume is also bad ass.

Instead of constantly hitting the reset button and rehashing the same stories over and over, Marvel should chances and make more comics like this. 4.5 out of 5 stars.