CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett (all rights to cover with current holder) is an excellent fantasy set in a world where the current imperial power won that status by devising weapons that killed all the gods. After the death of an imperial historian visiting one ancient city ravaged by the god-killing, an imperial agent shows up to investigate. And discovers, unsurprisingly, that the divine power isn’t quite gone … very well done, with some nicely weird magic.
I was much less impressed by LUMINOUS CHAOS: The Mysteries of New Venice by Jean-Christophe Valtat, in which some of the losers in a political struggle are effectively exiled from the steampunk New Venice to Paris, only to have their psi-powered teleporter dump then in La Belle Epoque (1890s) instead. The style and tone are very different from the usual steampunk novel, but despite glowing review, they’re not better. This is slow to the plodding point and doesn’t have either the writing style or the depth of characterization to get away with that.
THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN: Goblin Nation by Dan Slott and various artists wraps up the long arc of Dr. Octopus taking over Peter’s body. It turns out that despite his efforts to shut down crime in New York, the Green Goblin has found away around his robot spies, and now an army of Goblin-serum enhanced villains are tearing down everything Otto built. Inside him, Peter’s mind is slowly struggling back to control … readable, but it didn’t entirely click with me, and Otto’s abusive childhood is just cliched as all hell (I notice that fictional brilliant kids are invariably abused for being Too Smart, never for, say, not getting good grades). I do love, love, love Mary Jane being so kick-ass here, immediately understanding what the Goblin is after and trying to thwart him (as she points out, this ain’t her first rodeo).
ANTI-VENOM was a Spider-Man spinoff (the TPB has several authors and artists) in which Eddie Brock, former host for the Venom symbiote, acquires super-powers of his own and uses them to fight crime. The story is pretty much by-the-numbers and Brock’s Anti-Venom MO (kill bad people!) isn’t much different from when he was symbioted.
I’m not a fan of Jonathan Hickman’s comics writing and AVENGERS: Avengers World by Hickman Jerome Opeña and Adam Kubert didn’t change that. The main villain, Ex Nihilo, is the High Evolutionary with delusions of grandeur and while the Avengers changing the roster is a time-honored plot, Hickman writes like they’d never considered it before. Not a winner.
THE ART OF WAR by Kelly Roman and Michael DeWeese tells of an American veteran who shifts into the near-future setting’s ruthless world of corporate warfare, joining the multinational force of Sun Tzu (named for the original Chinese philosopher who wrote The Art of War) against his adversary, The Prince (presumably named for Macchiavelli). The dystopian storyline is great, but I think it would have worked much better as a novel—the graphic storytelling didn’t work for me at all (not that the art was bad, it wasn’t the medium I’d have preferred for some reason). The constant quotes from the real Sun Tzu didn’t help much either.
And now, wrapping up my Hellboy/BPRD rereading (so my Chronology is complete until I finish one of the new ones now on my shelf) BPRD Hell on Earth: A Cold Day in Hell by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg and Laurence Campbell has the BPRD coping with the monsters suddenly going crazy after The Return of the Master: in Chicago, Johann leads an expedition to retrieve some lost agents, while Carla in Russia joins forces with Director Nicheyko and we learn how the demon Varvara got locked up in that jar. A good one.
ABE SAPIEN: Dark and Terrible and the New Race of Man by Mignola, Arcudi Scott Allie, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara , Max Fiumara (cover by Mignola, rights with current holder) seems to question whether Abe really is, as the Black Flame told him, the prototype for the humans of the apocalypse, or something else—and Abe himself, going off alone, seems ready to take the Hellboy role and deny that destiny. The first story is stronger, though I give them credit for trying something different (more like a mystery/character study).