28 January 2012

Review - Planet Hulk

Back in 'The Day' I used to read a lot of comic books. Probably not as many as many of my peers, but a fair number over the years. I've purged most of the comics I had collected; they were taking up space and most comics from Marvel or DC from the last 30 years aren't worth much. I sold them for what I could but saved a few short series I liked and a few "graphic novels."

However there was one more recent graphic novel I just had to pick up after seeing just the covers and learning about the concept of the original issues. That would be Planet Hulk.

Planet Hulk

The Hulk trapped on an alien planet becoming a slave and eventually ruler of the planet! Cool monsters, gladiator fights, The Hulk with armor and a sword, all sorts of goodness was promised by the covers of the original comic issues. All of that is collected into this graphic novel.

The basic story is the betrayal of the Hulk by a group of fellow heroes. They shoot him into deep space supposedly to a planet with no intelligent life where he can live in peace. Something goes wrong. The Hulk's ship falls through a wormhole and crashes on a world of violence, the world of Sakaar.

Our hero is weakened by his trip through the wormhole and is enslaved by the soldiers of the Emperor. He begins to quickly regain his strength thanks to the constant hostile stimulants he receives. He eventually befriends a number of fellow gladiators and they begin to work on gaining their freedom. The group eventually swears an oath making them Warbound.

Eventually the Warbound are given a task to finally gain their freedom that they are unwilling to perform. Luckily the obedience disks implanted on them are destroyed and they are able easily fight through the imperial army to freedom. They begin attracting more and more followers as the Emperor tries to have them destroyed.

After a long struggle against the insane Emperor the Warbound are victorious and the Hulk is proclaimed the Green King. His feats during the conflict were amazing and topped anything he has done in the past. At one point he even plunged into the cracking crust of the planet and managed to pull it back together, saving the world! Now he was victorious. He was now King of an entire world and had a queen and even an offspring on the way. The citizens celebrated their new ruler, they did not fear him. And while wanting to be left alone he now has the responsibility to rule a world; and it seems he will grow to fill that obligation.

However more happens in the last few pages that set they next stage of the Hulk's story in motion. I never continued on to find out what happened next. I knew what would happen next. The Hulk would get screwed and would never get proper vengeance. No need for me to read any of the comics that came after this.

I was never regularly read the Hulk comics, but I loved this story. A misunderstood being who just wants to live in peace and freedom who is betrayed by his friends and continues to try to live his life as best he can under constant unwanted events.

A short story related to the main one is also included. Amadeus Cho is a young man and the seventh smartest person on Earth. He is also a real friend of the Hulk. I love how Cho puts the evil Reed Richards in his place for Richards' part in the Hulk's exile. He even shows how the world's 'heroes' are more dangerous to the Earth than the Hulk ever was. "And you have to wonder if there wouldn't be fewer dead folks out there in your little civil war if you'd launched yourselves into space instead of him."

Rounding out the book are great write ups about the planet Sakaar and its solar system. A history of the world and its inhabitants including a map and other great information. All in all a great addition to the collection of comic book fans.

Sorry if this was light on details. Just trying to avoid any more spoilers than necessary.

PUBLISHER: Marvel Publishing, Inc.
GENRE: Graphic Novel; Science Fiction/Fantasy
2012 CHALLENGES: 150+ Reading Challenge 2012, 2012 Graphic Novel Challenge

19 January 2012

Third Sentence Thursday - The Myth of the Great War

Third Sentence Thursday
1. Take the book you are currently reading and post the third sentence of the third chapter. Feel free to share one or two of the following sentences, if you’d like.
2. Share your thoughts on the sentence (or sentences).
3. Post a link on Proud Book Nerd's Third Sentence for the week by clicking on the image above.
4. Visit one or two of the other blogs to check out their third sentence(s).

"The Russians had declared a preparatory or intermediate step toward completing mobilization on the twenty-sixth, followed by an order for a general mobilization on the twenty-ninth, which was canceled and then approved on the thirtieth." (from The Myth of the Great War by John Mosier)

I started this one today, I've read too much fiction that last couple weeks, back into World War One. The Russians seem to have fumbled a bit in their reaction to Austro-Hungary's partial mobilization against Serbia.

Russia wanted to intimidate Austria in an attempt to limit the Empire's vengeance against Serbia. They had trouble with a partial mobilization since their plans and time tables were geared for full mobilization. They didn't want to antagonize Germany, but the Germans were itching for a fight.

Not long after most of Europe was at war. A war that would draw in much of the world including Japan and the United States.

(image from Amazon.com)

18 January 2012

Book Review - Tunnel Through Time

Third Sentence Thursday
This is the first time travel story for the year that I've read. It is an old Scholastic book I got off of Bookmoch.

A scientist exploring the secrets of gravity accidentally invents a time machine. After making sure it would be safe to send humans back in time a paleontologist friend of his becomes the first time traveler. However something goes wrong and the man doesn't return.

At this point the main character, a seventeen-year old boy, and the son of the missing man go back eighty-million years in time to find the boy's father. Encounters with dinosaurs and other strange creatures result.

Eventually they accomplish their mission and prepare to return home. The only problem is that they have to take smaller steps to get back to 1966. A brief stop in the Ice Age and then another stop about 20,000 years ago where they encounter early humans.

Bob Miller - the narrator and main character. The 17-year old son of the inventor of the time machine. Bob is athletic and brave.

Pete - the son of Doc Tom, the paleontologist. He has his 18th birthday while 20,000 years in the past. Pete is a bit of a nerd, not much of the physical type. But he does pull his own weight during the adventure.

Doc Tom - Pete's father and the world's first time traveler.... unless you count the primitive girl that ended up briefly traveling to 1966. Technically she became the first time traveler 20,000 years before Doc Tom did. I kept reading his name as Doc Tomorrow... I was picturing him as some sort of pulp hero.

There was also Bob's father, some other scientists, and numerous primitive humans.

This was a younger reader title. It was a quick and interesting read. The pseudo-science they used sounded pretty good for 1966. They only problem I had with it was where the characters got into a battle with some of the natives 20,000 years ago and had to shoot a number of them. Seriously, when they returned to 1966 they would have ended up in a totally divergent universe form the massive changes resulting in the deaths of a dozen or more people that long ago at the dawn of humanity.

PUBLISHER: Scholastic Book Services; 1967 printing; copyright 1966 by Lester Del Rey
GENRE: Science Fiction; Time Travel
2012 CHALLENGES: 150+ Reading Challenge 2012, 2012 Read 52 Books in 52 weeks, 2012 A-Z Book Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

15 January 2012

2012 Audio Book Challenge Sign-up

A few weeks ago I signed up for a number of reading challenges including ones for graphic novels and picture books. I found one for audio books that I just had to add to my list of challenges for the year.

Over at Teresa's Reading Corner is the audio book challenge for 2012. I'll be signing up for the 'Lover' level; that means during the year I'll try to finish 25 audio books. I'm part way through one right now. It looks like I'll have to visit the library to find some more and/or sign up with Audible.com to get through this challenge.

I'll be sure to post reviews of the books I listen to. My progress can be tracked on my Book Reading Challenges page.

14 January 2012

Book Review - The Divide

(image from Amazon.com)
William Overgard's The Divide is an alternate history tale involving a world where the Axis Powers won the Second World War. From what I could tell history diverged at a couple points, one being the election of an isolationist President in the United States and the second being a change in Germany's tactics that allowed them a quick victory over Britain.

It is 1976. Two-hundred years since the Declaration of Independence and thirty years since the United States surrendered to the Axis. The elderly Hitler and Tojo plan a historic meeting in the center of America at a place they call the Divide. America has been a peaceful place for a number of years, no real uprisings, citizens being willing slaves to their German and Japanese masters. All that is about to change.

A number of people get involved in setting the stage for a new American Revolution. It starts with the bizarre assassination of a Japanese general on the Fourth of July. The story then jumps between various characters - the trio of freedom fighters and their interactions with other rebel elements, an SS officer tasked with destroying the resistance, and other people whose lives are touched by the ongoing events.

Pieces start to fall in place and all of the threads lead to the meeting of the two rulers at the Divide. There are plenty of set-backs and a few twists and turns along the way.

Overgard's style is interesting. There is a tendency to introduce new information and then spend a few pages telling the back-story of that new information, usually in the form of flashbacks. While this works in most cases, there were a couple of times I wished he would shorten some of the flashbacks and keep going with the events in the 'present'.

The Old Man (Wayne Stubbs) is the main character of the story. He has a checkered past involving accidentally injuring a prostitute, indirectly causing his wife to commit suicide, and then wounding another prostitute in an attempt to kill her while suffering the rage and despair following his wife's death. He then fled to Canada and eventually made his way back after America fell to the Axis. Not the most heroic of backgrounds but he now feels he has to make up for the past by saving the country's future.

The Cowboy (Cooper): This young man was raised by The Old Man. He was raised to be a hero and to be an inspiration for others in the coming revolution. He plays his role well but gets caught up in his first real encounters with women (he and The Old Man lived a very isolated and hobo-like lifestyle).

Claus Dieter is the antagonist from the SS. He is on the trail of the heroes after the July 4th assassination. He is an evil and deceitful man who, while smart, is usually in over his head. He tries to destroy the resistance while keeping his superiors from getting rid of him for any failures.

In addition there are numerous other characters, an Amerind girl, a Jewish woman who is putting the finishing touches on her father's bomb, and many others. Most of the characters are interesting and the liberal use of flashbacks in the novel gives us all the information we need about them.

A great story overall. I have mentioned the sometimes annoying use of flashbacks, but there were only a couple of places that this really bothered me. The ending, while it wrapped up the main story, did not reveal the eventual results of the new Revolution. In fact the last page was about Hitler's daughter being pregnant. I'm not sure if this was to set up a sequel or just to establish that history keeps chugging along, even after some really historic events take place.

As with life, there are not happy endings, just another day and new challenges following the last.

PUBLISHER: Jove Publications, Inc.; copyright 1980 by William Overgard
GENRE: Alternate History
ISBN: 0-515-05492-5
2012 CHALLENGES: 150+ Reading Challenge 2012, 2012 Read 52 Books in 52 weeks, 2012 A-Z Book Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, The 2012 TBR Pile Challenge

12 January 2012

Third Sentence Thrusday - The Divide

Third Sentence Thursday
"Centered between the olive drab of the Honda halftracks and Mitsubishi combat cars was the shine of a Toyota limousine, yellow CNC pennants snapping at the fendertips." (from The Divide by William Overgard)

Sounds like the Japanese military is on the move. Someone important, like a general, given the Toyota limo with the pennants.

Of course, looking at the cover these vehicles are probably moving somewhere across the western United States. I wonder what they are up to and how the Germans and American resistance will respond.

(image from Amazon.com)

05 January 2012

Third Sentence Thursday #12

Third Sentence Thursday
"I was conceived and born in 1888." (from A Feast Unknown by Philip José Farmer)

This was the third sentence in the Foreword. It was part of the first person narration of the main character, Lord Grandrith. Normally when I hear the year 1888 my mind jumps to one thing. Despite all of the events that took place in 1888; The founding of the National Geographic Society, the Washington Monument opening to the public, Susan B. Anthony organizing a Congress for Women's Rights, George Eastman's patent on a camera that uses film rolls, the crowing of Wilhelm II as the Emperor of Germany, and countless other events of that year.

No, the first thing I think of hearing 1888 is Jack the Ripper.

This time my instincts would be right. The fourth sentence of the Foreword is: "Jack the Ripper was my father."

(image from Amazon.com)

04 January 2012

Preparing for 1882

Tonight I've been working on more background material for a steampunk/superhero role-playing game I run on some Fridays. Its origins are a little complicated but after the one-shot adventure we decided to keep it going. The 2011 sessions of the game were set in 1881 and now that we have made it to 2012 it is time for my campaign to enter into 1882.

With 'four-color' power level heroes instead of pulp-level heroes (basically Power Level 10 in third edition Mutants & Masterminds) will easily change the world. Since it is going to be changed I started out with an alternate history. The first major change in the timeline was the Second French Empire defeating Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War. Now Germany is still a collection of Germanic states - the Northern German Confederation, Bavaria, Baden, Ruritania, etc. and the French annexed some German territory as well as Luxembourg. The French are in the process of constructing a tunnel to Algeria.

Africa currently has a few scattered European outposts and the Cape Colony and Boer states in Southern Africa. With the discovery of an incredible new element in the African Kingdom of Nri an interest in colonization is increasing. However it will go very differently than in our world. The very fact that France won its war with Prussia changed how the partitioning of Africa will take place. Add the complication of a powerful mummy rising in Egypt named Hsekiu and the reluctance of either France or England to allow the other to gain control of Egypt as Ottoman power collapses is going to lead to some chaos. Without a base of operations in Egypt the Mahdist uprising in Sudan will also have a much different course.

On top of this the player characters saved American President Garfield from assassination - another change in the timeline that will have dramatic effects. On top of that are the incredible technologies being developed by Scientists the world over and it will be interesting to see how things transform during 1882.

For source material I mainly use Victorian era fiction with a few interesting comic book related cliches. With my interest in the Wold Newton Universe and being in the final phases of writing a Victorian era adventure novel this campaign is allowing me to do things and use materials that don't fit exactly in either of those categories.

Counter-factual histories are fascinating. Even without superheroes this one would have some very interesting developments. It helps to prove the importance of certain events or people to history. Sure there the size and power of certain nations will lead to the same long-term results regardless of the exact people involved, but the journey and surprises along the way are worth the effort.

It's also great for the player characters since they will be well aware that their actions will have consequences and that future history has not yet been written.

Has anyone else developed an elaborate alternate Earth history for a role-playing campaign? If so what did you do and how did the PCs react to it?

02 January 2012

Book Review - A Feast Unknown

I've finished reading my first book for 2012. I decided to start the years off with Philip José Farmer. I grabbed one of his books off my shelf that I had yet to read and picked A Feast Unknown. This book is certainly for adults only.

(image from Amazon.com)

While much of Farmer's writings touch on sexuality this book was at times a bit over the top on the subject. It is told first person by Lord Grandrith, an English lord who was raised by apes in Africa from the age of 1. Basically he is the real person behind Burrough's Tarzan series. Grandrith is attacked and hunted by the Kenyan military, Albanian mercenaries, and Doc Caliban (who was the 'real' person which the Doc Savage pulps were based on).

To the Grandrith's shock he finds that violence and death now cause sexual excitement and release while actual sexual activity does not arouse him any longer. Something similar is happening to Doc Caliban.

Behind it all are the mysterious Nine. A group of near immortal beings that control the world. Both Grandrith and Caliban are servants of the Nine and have their lives extended well beyond normal. Now the Nine are manipulating the two into conflict.

I won't go into details here, but many things are touched on during the story; infidelity, rape, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, and the general linking of sex and violence being experienced by the main character as I mentioned above. It is well written but if you are uncomfortable with such topics you may want to stay clear of this book. It is also clear that this book was written in the sixties.

The story leads all the characters to Grandrith's estates in England (well, all except the Kenyan military, I don't think they got through customs). A battle of a pretty large scale takes place between the various factions. After that Grandrith and Caliban battle each other for the right to fill an open seat in the Nine.

This book is not part of Farmer's Wold Newton universe. In this both Grandrith and Caliban are revealed to be children of Jack the Ripper which certainly does not fit the family trees created in Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life.

Overall I enjoyed this book. Nearly non-stop action. At times the violence was a bit silly, and Lord Grandrith's uninhibited descriptions of various sexual topics was uncomfortable at times the story was, in total, interesting. While I haven't decided what scale to use for rating all the books I plan to review this year I'll just go with a six out of ten for it.

PUBLISHER: PEI Books, Inc. Copyright 1969 Philip José Farmer, cover copyright 1980 PEI books, inc.
GENRE: Science-Fiction, Adventure
ISBN: 0-872-16586-8
150+ Reading Challenge 2012, 2012 Read 52 Books in 52 weeks, Read Your Name 2012, 2012 A-Z Book Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, The 2012 TBR Pile Challenge
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