THE MANY WORLDS OF MAGNUS RIDOLPH struck me as minor Jack Vance when I first read it, and rereading doesn’t change that impression. The exploits of the elderly but cunning trouble-shooter dealing with everything from intelligent sardines to a planet of thieves are readable enough, but don’t particularly stand out from any other pulp problem solver. And like so many stories from the forties, the assumption everyone will be using tobacco in the far future now looks dated (though films such as Dimensions where apparently nobody in the 1930s smokes are just as dated in a different way).
SPIDER-MAN: Crime and Punisher is a mix of stories including a Punisher two parter, a story where Flash Thompson reflects on Spidey’s influence on him (easily the best in the book) and where writer Joe Kelly attempts to update the Bronze Age villain Hammerhead. Unfortunately while I can see Kelly’s reasoning that Hammerhead’s shtick (acting and talking like a 1930s Warner Brothers mobster) has been done to death, he doesn’t offer us anything better—he could have plugged the Rhino or Man-Mountain Marko into the story and gotten the same result.
FINDER by Carla Speed McNeil has a great rep, but I couldn’t get into it: the story of the titular wanderer Jaeger and his various relationships is well-written (as the intro notes, McNeil has a great feel for relationship scenes) but it has no dramatic arc or momentum, at least not in the first 200 pages (I gave up. Forgive me). I’m not sure if that’s the fault of “decompressed” storytelling or just a matter of taste, but either way this didn’t work for me.
CHEW: Chicken Tenders by John Layman and Rob Guillory is one in a series (Vol. 9) of oddball adventures involving Tony Chu, who gets psychic impressions from things he eats, with murderers, terrorists and a vampire with even greater “cibopath” powers than Chu has. Doesn’t convert me to a fan, but I’ll definitely look at this series again.