Bill & Ted’s Triumphant Return – Brian Lynch

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The aspiring musicians Bill and Ted are the protagonists of two classic sci-fi comedies released around the time I was born. Something like a combination of Wayne’s World and Doctor Who, the films revolve around Bill and Ted using a time-travelling phone booth to guarantee their destiny as messianic rockstars who establish a bizarre future utopia. They’re great fun, though the bit where their evil robot doppelgangers open their skin seriously freaked me out as a kid. Last year Bill and Ted returned in Boom Studios’ comic called, er, Bill and Ted’s Triumphant Return.

Written by Brian Lynch, the main story begins after the conclusion of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Bill and Ted are having trouble writing their second song, so they decide to visit their future utopia to plagiarize themselves. (I have no idea how ethical that is…) They get sidetracked when they encounter a younger version of someone who tried to murder them, and he’s so pathetic that they befriend him. From there, the duo have to deal with parallel timelines, depressed Martian scientists and a tyrannical society where all forms of music have been banned.

It’s a fun story. It builds from the concepts and characters introduced in the original film, but takes them in new directions that seem inevitable in hindsight.

There’s also a few short stories at the end. My favourite was one about Dante irritating the Bill and Ted version of death, but the Ryan North’s story about robots being affected by email spam was also excellent.

The art was bright and colourful, suiting the cartoony feel of the original series.

If Bill & Ted mean anything to you, you’ll enjoy to this comic. Now I need to go watch the originals.

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The Anubis Gates – Tim Powers

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I couldn’t find the cover of the edition I read on the internet, except for this unsatisfying small image, so I’m using this one instead. If anyone’s interested, my edition was published in 1986 by Triad Grafton. My cover has two men who are completely identical, except that one wears a tie and the other a cravat, running from a giant skeletal man in the sky, left hand outstretched, who has clearly survived a trepanning. In the right background totters a stilted clown, behind whom you can see the city of London and the dog-headed god Anubis. The left side of the lower background has three dark trees standing in an drab field. The cover artist is Richard Clifton-Dey. I apologise if this description is gratuitously comprehensive, but I really liked this cover and think that my readers deserve  to experience it in some form.

I’ve never pitied a villain like I pitied Dr. Romany from Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates. The poor guy, who is really more of a magical clone, sees all of his grand plans unraveled by his incompetent goons and a time-traveling historian who just got lucky, before being shunted back a century and forced to live through his failures twice. His motive is relatively sympathetic – his group wants to restore Egypt to its former glory and prevent the country from ever being dominated by Europeans. By the end, I didn’t want Dr. Romany to be killed or humiliated any more than he’d already been, I thought the ideal ending for him would be to spend the rest of his life in some sort of Home For Traumatised Villains That We Secretly Respect.

The Anubis Gates is about Brendan Doyle, a historian who taken back in time to hear Samuel Taylor Coleridge give a lecture and ends up trapped in a Dickensian London. (I’ve actually got a relative named Brendan, and it struck me that this was the first time I’d encountered a novel protagonist with the same name.) Also in the mix are the body-stealing lycanthrope Dog-Face Joe, a young widow crossdressing as a beggar boy, and the stilt-walking clown Horrabin whose terrifying voice is described by Powers as like that of Mickey Mouse’s. It’s a testament to Powers’  plotting ability that all of these crazy characters, as well as a few time travel paradoxes and bits of magical esoterica, are woven into a satisfying plot that ultimately makes a surprising amount of sense.

As I read the book, I decided to myself that it’d make brilliant television. The story is too complicated for a movie, but I figure that the BBC would have all the required sets and costumes lying around in some warehouse somewhere from all those period dramas they keep on making. Wikipedia tells me that The Anubis Gates is a beloved novel, winner of several prestigious awards, so there would be an audience for it. I’d pitch it to the television people as Outlander meets The X-Files, except for that close questioning would reveal that I haven’t seen the second show and would therefore be exposed as someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

The only other thing I’ve read from Powers is The Drawing the Dark, something about a Merlin and a grail quest in Austria. The book didn’t connect with me, perhaps because I was only around twelve at the time. I remember that one character painted over an image of the archangel Michael until it was darker than the night itself, and alcohol was important as well. I’m informed that his novel On Stranger Tides inspired both the Tales of Monkey Island games and the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Tim Powers is clearly a name I need to remember.

Anyone interested in science fiction, horror or even fantasy will find something to love in this novel. Historical readers might also like the setting, although I don’t know what they’d make of all the time travel and occultism. The author I have an easiest time comparing Powers to is the underrated Robin Jarvis, both writing novels involving contemporary protagonists being sucked into England’s past, a steady escalation of the bizarre and a love of the monstrous. (Powers fans should try out Jarvis’ Tales of the Wyrd Museam series or the Dancing Jax trilogy.) Readers who are squeamish should definitely avoid this one.

 

Godzilla: Awakening – M. Borenstein and G. Borenstein

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Another book I forgot to review immediately after reading, Godzilla: Awakening was far better than any reboot movie tie-in has the right to be. The plot was about a guy whose dad was involved a government agency dealing with monster security, I think, and there were lots of cool fantastic beasts. I’m definitely open to learning more about this world.

Monsters: Gorgo – Steve Ditko

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This is a bunch of comic stories about a Godzilla knock-off, drawn by famed Spiderman artist Steve Ditko. Gorgo’s points of differentiation are that he’s slightly more amphibious than his inspiration, and his close relationship with his even larger mother. My favourite story involved a Hollywood production crew getting tangled up with the monster. I was surprised by how often romance formed a counterpoint to Gorgo’s titanic struggles. Still, this collection didn’t do all that much for me.

The Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman

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Read this book.

The Sandman is the point of Neil Gaiman; I feel that everything else he does is merely extra curricular activities. As a whole, The Sandman tells the story how the Lord of Dreams learned that value of humility and changed. This new prequel, this overture, tells us how a mad star and a lost girl set him on that path.

The art is gorgeous. The art is diverse. The art alone would justify buying this book, if I was the sort of person to buy books.

I don’t know if you should read this book first, or read the other eleven and come back to this one. To be perfectly honest I think I worry too much about that sort of thing, and I’ll admit that I didn’t read this series in a linear order. But I’ll tell you this.

Sandman is the essential comic. Read this book.

Angel & Faith Season Nine Volume Two: Christos Gage

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The Angel & Faith series is so good I’m almost sad that it’s never going to be better known that its source material. Because it might actually be better.

The greatest thing that happens in this volume is that Spike cruises around space in his own little space ship, attended by insectoid aliens. That’s the way the Buffy biscuit crumbles, with a mixture of engaging characterisation, awful tragedy and the occasional dash of farcical whimsy.

Read some of this, if you ever get the chance. Don’t worry about reading it in the correct order or anything like that. This is fantastic stuff.

The Courtyard – Alan Moore

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I stand by everything I said in my review of Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales. Alan Moore is a literary genius and The Courtyard is yet more evidence of that.

The stories of H. P. Lovecraft are bone-chilling in much the same way that Marilyn Monroe was remarkably beautiful – more by reputation than anything else. Really, these days Cthulhu and his mob are easily as corny as a Frankenstein Halloween mask. That is, unless Alan Moore is writing about them. Lovecraft’s heirlooms, appearing in the form of allusions, actually freaked me out in The Courtyard. Some pictures I couldn’t even look at!

To describe the plot of a comic only forty eight page long is writing into spoiler territory, so I’ll instead end this sentence by saying you should read this book if you ever get the opportunity.