LEAVE IT TO CHANCE: Shaman’s Rain was the first in a series about Chance Falconer, a 14-year-old girl descended from a long line of mages defending the town of Devil’s Echo. Her father has ruled that out — she’s a girl, he’ll wait and train her son down the road. Chance, however, is both adventurous and compassionate so when trouble strikes — a shaman’s kidnapped child, a tribe of lost goblins in the city sewers — she jumps into action. This was inspired by Robinson’s love of Nancy Drew, and his personal favorite work, even more than Starman; I don’t know I’d rate it that highly but it is quite charming.
BEASTS OF BURDEN: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men by Evan Dorkin and Ben Dewey is a spin-off of sorts to the regular series (previous reviews here and here). The Wise Dogs who’ve been helping out the Burden Hill pets are off on their own mission (aided occasionally by human companions) against a nest of black magicians out in the countryside. It’s not as much fun as the regular series — more human-centric and the Wise Dogs come off as more conventional mage heroes than the pets — but it isn’t a disappointment either.
THESE SAVAGE SHORES by Ram V and Sumit Kumar is a fantasy set in 1700s India as the East India Company is tightening its grasp on the subcontinent and the various princes and sultans have to decide where their best chance lies. Complicating things are an immortal rakshasa (something like a werewolf in this mythos) and some vampires who’ve fled England for supposedly easier pickings. I don’t know if there’s a sequel planned, but it work well as a one-and-done.
SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP Vol. 5 by Sholly Fisch and Dario Baizuela continues with both the fun and flaws of previous volumes. In Karma City they encounter Green Arrow and Green Lantern on their search-for-America period (“Scooby Doo you have failed this city!”); the group’s ancestors encounter some of DC’s Old West characters (Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, Cinnamon); and in the final issue they meet most of DC’s Silver Age adventure teams (Cave Carson, Challengers of the Unknown, Sea Devils, Secret Six ..). These are fun but the Hanna-Barbera characters (Top Cat and Hong Kong Phooey) don’t give them as much to work with, though I admit I love the line in the Top Cat story that “Fake ghosts are the first thing they teach us in realtor school!”). Overall, though, a lot of fun.
100 YEARS OF AMERICAN COMICS: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, edited by Maurice Horn, was a 1996 book (thereby marking the centennial of the ur-strip Hogan’s Alley) covering famous strips past and present (Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Terry and the Pirates, The Far Side), forgotten landmarks and former hits (The Kewpies, The Gumps) and the failures both interesting (Vanilla and the Villains) and not (the SF feature Twin Earths). Interesting to see the countless trends that largely wore themselves out before I reached the U.S. (Westerns and aviation strips were still around but few in number) and multiple strips that lasted into the 1970s that I never even saw. As I no longer get the daily paper, I can’t but wonder how many of those listed as ongoing are now one with Nineveh and Tyre, though between the Internet and reprint collections a lot of it is still within my grasp (if not my price range)
BATGIRL AND BEYOND: The Dynamic History of the Heroines of Gotham City was an unsuccessful proposal Tim Hanley worked up for a book on the various Batwomen and Batgirls (given Batwoman’s presence on TV, I’m quite surprised); in return for making a charitable donation, I got a PDF. The section he completed covers Kathy Kane (not at all the same as the Kate Kane Batwoman), original Batgirl Betty Kane, Barbara Gordon through The Killing Joke (like a lot of Batgirl fans, Hanley sees this as her utter nadir) and on the Batman TV show, noting that in each case the characters were portrayed as highly competent but still kept getting sidelined (much like Doc Savage’s cousin Pat). This had some errors (the Moth that Betty Kane battled was unrelated to Batman’s earlier foe Killer Month) but I assume those would have been fixed in editing.
#SFWApro. Covers by Paul Smith (top) and Neal Adams, all rights remain with current holders.