THE MASK OF CIRCE by Henry Kuttner and CL Moore (various sources ascribe it to one or the other alone) didn’t work for me as well as I expected. We open with protagonist Jay Seward telling a stranger (the framing sequence struck me as unnecessary) how he was mysteriously drawn back to ancient Greece or an alt.version of it due to his ancestral memories from his forefather, Jason (yes, the Jason). It seems Hecate and her priestess Circe trusted Jason to help defeat Apollo (a rogue AI created by the advanced science of these alt.Olympians) but the ever faithless adventurer fled instead. Now Jay has to come back and stop Apollo before he does very bad things …
While Apollo is impressively intimidating, the ancestral memory stuff gets really complicated, and Circe is wasted — even given it’s not classic Circe, I’d expect a priestess of Hecate to play a bigger role in the action than she did (and she’s not really a romantic lead either). Hs it’s moments but not enough of them.
INVISIBLE COUNTRIES: Journeys to the Edge of Nationhood by Joshua Keating is an interesting look at countries that hover awkwardly outside the standards of what makes a nation, including the Knights of Malta (recognized as a sovereign entity despite not having an actual territory of their own), Somaliland (a peaceful secessionist area within Somalia that’s tried and failed to gain recognition from other nations), Kurdistan, island nations looking at their territory disappearing as climate changes and various attempts by private citizens to start their own countries. Keating points out that since the wave of decolonization and Soviet collapse in the last century, there’s been little change to the roster of nations, largely due to existing nations’ preference for stasis (the U.S. may be willing to replace governments it doesn’t like, but we don’t like it when the borders get redrawn). While that means Somaliland and similar secessionist countries get the short end of the stick, Keating has no illusions that secession is automatically a good idea: there’s always some group who doesn’t like belonging to the state they’re in, and ethnostates usually exist because of blood and violence in their past. Extremely interesting.
ANARKY by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle collects their brief attempt to turn Batman’s teenage genius adversary, Anarky, into the star of his own series (he got a miniseries of his own which I have yet to read). A teenage revolutionary and cynic, Anarky distrusts all authority, so sticking him in Washington dealing with corrupt politics and power brokers seems like a great fit. As I mentioned some years back, I like the idea of anti-authoritarian heroes who challenge the status quo but aren’t terrorists; that’s what prompted me to pick this up. And it does have some great moments, such as Anarky trying to convince R’as al Ghul to help people instead of scheming to commit mass murder.
But not enough moments. The first three issues are an uninspired cosmic adventure with Anarky battling a reality-warping monstrosity alongside the Justice League; I can understand wanting a solid guest cast for the opening issue, but it doesn’t fit where the series was heading, and it’s nowhere near as interesting. The final issue concerns Anarky’s fear his birth father is the Joker; that didn’t work for me either. That’s a lot of wasted space for a series that lasted only eight issues.
I still plan to get the collection of Anarky’s earlier adventures and see if that works better.
#SFWApro. Top cover by Michael Herring, bottom by Breyfogle.