ALL-NEW X-MEN: Yesterday’s Xmen by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen is part of Marvel’s current soft reboot. The premise is that with Cyclops and Magneto using brute force to liberate mutants from government custody (not criminals, they’ve been picked up Just Because), the Beast brings the original teen X-Men to the present in hopes they can reawaken Scott’s sense of duty (as usual, the other X-Men consider political tactic but Suffering Nobly as a bad, bad idea). Unfortunately, when the teens see all that’s ahead, and realize Xavier will wipe out their memories when they go back, they refuse. I’m not a Bendis fan, but he does a good job with the more idealistic teens’ horror at decades of plotlines, friend deaths, turning dark and allying with Magneto.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Trial of Captain America by Ed Brubaker and multiple artists takes place some time before Winter Soldier, as Cap’s former partner Bucky—now wearing Cap’s uniform while Steve Rogers runs SHIELD—faces a trial for his crimes as a brainwashed KGB assassin, the Winter Soldier. Like most of Brubaker’s run this was excellent, and it’s one of the rare comics that actually tries to deal with the legal implications of mind-control. However I’m honestly not sure anyone who wasn’t familiar with the plotlines up to this point would get much out of it (though I’ve plunged into ongoing sagas myself and enjoyed them, so maybe). Likewise, the ending isn’t so much an ending as leading into subsequent battles with the Red Skull’s daughter, so it came off a little anticlimactic. Still, very good overall.
PALISADES PARK by Alan Brennert is a good historical novel following the protagonist from his first visit to the park as a kid to becoming a carnie there himself and dealing with ballyhoo, military service, love and betrayal before passing the torch to his daughter, a professional high-diver. Well researched, and occasional comics-writer Brennert shows his geeky side at times (not only does one character read Superman and Captain America but such obscure figures as the 1940s Vision and Ibis the Invincible). Not my usual cup of tea, but I liked this one a lot.
With the third volume, I’m starting to think of Lin Carter’s YEAR’S BEST FANTASY STORIES as more like an annual magazine than a genuine Best Of collection. This one, like the first, is heavy on sword-and-sorcery and on either Carter’s friends or writers from the earlier collections. It’s also unpleasantly sexist, from Gardner Fox’s sell-sword contemplating rape to Charles Saunders’ Imaro (even though the female lead is shown to be a good fighter, she winds up waiting helplessly for The Man to save her). That said, there were good stories, such as an early fantasy by George R.R. Martin (quite different from the style he’s now known for) and a short by a new writer named CJ Cherryh (the Year’s Best Books list in the back shows Patricia McKillip’s Forgotten Beasts of Eld was brand new this year too).
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ SYNTHETIC MEN OF MARS is the weakest in the series to date, as John Carter and a soldier of Helium set out to find medical genius Ras Thavas (last seen in Mastermind of Mars) after Deja Thoris lies critically injured from an airship crash. Unfortunately they discover Ras Thavas’ mad science has unleashed the eponymous artificial lifeforms on the world, with possibly dire consequences for all Barsoom. Unfortunately this spends a lot of time on the Synthetic Men, who are one of Burroughs’ least interesting alien races. Cover art by Michael Whelan, all rights with current holder.