A Jim Butcher/Ms. Marvel Quadruple Feature: Two of Each!

Butcher’s sequel to Peace Talks, BATTLE GROUND: A Novel of the Dresden Files, improves on its predecessor though that’s not saying much. Had both books been a shorter story, it would have been great: the battle to save Chicago from the titan Ethniu and the array of evil creatures swarming in her work certainly packs in plenty of action, paying off the build-up in the first book. But after 100 pages the non-stop battles begin to pall and frequently require hand-waving (Harry can suddenly use the fear of the normals caught in the crisis as a power boost). I dislike what Dresden does with Murphy (though it doesn’t look like it’ll be permanent) nor with the crimelord Marcone: striking a deal with the Denarii doesn’t seem Marcone’s style, and it changes him from a Kingpin-like guy who can hold his own with the occult to just another supernatural player.

The ending also dissatisfies me. I’d really like more advance on the overall series’ arc but one shadowy player’s appearance here doesn’t do that, it just acknowledges they’re still around. And as I said when rereading Storm Front, the “power creep” problems of the series keep growing worse. We’re supposed to believe that the White Council casting Harry out means he’s never been more vulnerable but come on: he’s the Winter Knight of Faerie, he just took down a demigod, he has scary-ass allies to call on — he’s never been less vulnerable. No surprise that the next book’s villain is Evil Harry from a parallel world, who else could match him?

When I finished the library’s copy of Peace Talks I said I’d buy my own copy eventually — but I think I’ll stick with the library for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS: Cinder Spires #1 was great fun. It’s set in an alt.world where human cities let us live far away from the horrors of the Earth’s surface, with galleons and battleships traversing the skies (magical power sources but with sails as a backup for emergency). The various protagonists include a dishonored navy captain turned privateer, a talking cat, an aristocrat turned soldier and more, all caught up when a rival nation launches a military first strike. This was the first 600 page novel I’ve read in years that I didn’t think should have been half the length.

MS. MARVEL: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson and various artists has the superhero of Jersey City struggling to balance her increased crimefighting activity — she’s an Avenger now! — with personal life and finding it’s not easy. Can she help her brother in his love life? What about her almost-boyfriend who’s now found someone else? Worse, there’s a gentrification project afoot and they’re claiming Ms. Marvel backs them 100 percent! None of this is new but Wilson’s writing and Kamala’s personality make it feel fresh.

MS. MARVEL: Civil War II by Wilson and various artists was a disappointment. Carol Danvers, Kamala’s idol, recruits her for a special plan: there’s an Inhuman (I’d forgotten how Inhumans filled the mutant role for a few years) who can predict crimes so why not lock the bad guys up before they carry them out? Things grow a lot more complicated when the precog fingers one of Kamala’s school friends as a possible shooter …

I will give Wilson points for not going with the obvious out — the precog Inhuman doesn’t make mistakes so the threats he sees are real. But the response is a binary where Ms. Marvel either locks them up or lets them carry out their plans. Why not intervention? Or let them know they’re being watched? Possibly this ties in to Civil War II but given how much I loathed Civil War I I don’t care.

#SFWApro. Cover by Cliff Wu Chiang, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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