Sunday, September 18, 2022

ERB and Not ERB

 Typically when people first read Edgar Rice Burroughs, it's the big three - Tarzan, John Carter, and maybe Pellucidar.  These are the best-known Burroughs for good reason, but there are some second-tier books I've read recently that I really enjoyed.  There are also plenty of homages, continuations, and pastiche that might be worth looking at as well.  Below, a few I've recently digested.

A ton of well-described fight scenes in this one.

The Monster Men (1913).  Burroughs' take on Frankenstein/Moreau - maybe - set in the South Pacific. It has monstrous created men, steaming jungles, and pirates!  I listened to this on Librivox and enjoyed it greatly.  Once I'd finished, I found myself wondering why this one hadn't been adapted to the screen.

A nice counterpoint to see how ERB does Carter that isn't Carter (if you've never read Carson or Innes, I guess).  Look, it has cannibal centaurs, that should sell itself.

Now that I've read the tales within, I have quibbles about this cover, but you can't beat an action cover that makes you want to read the book.

The Moon Maid & The Moon Men (1922...but some parts earlier...).   Burroughs stitched together a sword-and-planet adventure, a political tale previously rejected by editors, and an adventuresome part three conclusion into a solid thrillogy.  The first part, The Moon Maid, is the most Burroughsian at first blush due to the exotic location and classic tropes, but the three parts together actually feature a lot of Burroughs staples.  Good action throughout, including some fairly big battles.  I strongly recommend these.

Time's Last Gift.  I enjoy Philip Jose Farmer for the most part, and he has his share of pastiche characters.  "Spoilers" about this novel are all over the internet for you to read on your own if you wish, but suffice it to say there are Burroughs ties within.  A story of time-traveling researchers in the Magdalenian period, Time's Last Gift was a pretty breezy read, with some good drama and action.

It's not as "yass queen slay" as you might think.

Dejah Thoris.  Dynamite Comics.  The John Carter comics from Dynamite are kind of all over the map.  Warlord of Mars is a workmanlike retelling of several of the novels; the most recent series, John Carter of Mars, is just plain ugly.  In-between these, Dynamite published a 37-issue run of Dejah Thoris, featuring the princess' pulpy adventures prior to John Carter's arrival - and I really enjoyed this comic.  Nice art, enjoyable adventures, recurring villains and themes that tie the whole run together.  The second DJ series, and the limited series, aren't as good.  A little more detail on this comic here in my Twitter thread.

Airships versus giant laser colossus.  Come on, people, this is dope.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

D&D Comics, part one: the 5e era

Dragon vs Giant action from Frost Giant's Fury

 Various publishers have had the rights to Dungeons & Dragons in comic book form over the years.  As I read (or in some cases, re-read) through these volumes, I'll summarize my recommendations here on the blog.

Here's the bottom line: the D&D comics from IDW are a mixed bag at best.

While some runs are good adventure comics, others are a mess - featuring disappointing writing, sub-par art, or both.  The "Baldur's Gate" series of mini-series occasionally has some highlights but is burdened by its product-of-the-year tie-in nature, and the insufferable "comedy" of Minsc & Boo.  The lead characters in that run who are not Minsc do tend to grow over time and get more interesting.

None of these are "run out and get it!" recommendations, but sometimes you find TPBs marked down, or single-issues in bargain bins.

At The Spine of the World

At The Spine Of The World.  I liked this Icewind Dale mini-series - the art is nice, the story is well-presented.  Bonus points for being self-contained and having precisely zero Minsc in it.

Frost Giant's Fury

Infernal Tides


Frost Giant's Fury.  Best of the Minsc & Boo series as far as sword-and-sorcery action.

Infernal Tides.  One of the better Minsc & Boo outings.

Mindbreaker.  Minsc & Boo vs mind flayers.

Mindbreaker ties in with the Baldur's Gate 3 vidya game 


Legends of Baldur's Gate.  The start of our current troubles - the beginning of the Minsc saga.

Shadows of the Vampire.  Minsc & Boo in Ravenloft.  I note that one of the main characters gets a consequence in this run, but they have failed to pull the trigger on that obvious consequence 25 issues later.

Evil At Baldur's Gate. More Minsc & Boo.  So much investment in this series!

A Darkened Wish.  An ambitious story jammed incautiously into five issues of dubious art.

Actual action shot of a dragonborn from A Darkened Wish. 

Ravenloft: Orphan of Agony Isle.   Set in the reimagined 5e Ravenloft, this one's about Viktra Mordenheim, the brilliant scientist and abusive weirdo, as well as the girl she's experimenting on, and Viktra's former lover Elise (the monster).  The art is very 2022, and the pacing tells me the writer wants this story to be a slow-burn mystery and maybe a dysfunctional love triangle.  Unfortunately it's burning so slowly I can't possibly care about the characters.  Things look up a tad in issue #3 as Elise arrives, but I can't promise I'm going to finish this one.

Orphan of Agony Isle