Reading about war: WW I, War in Space and a Martian Invasion

BLACK MAX Vol. 2 by Ken Pepper and Alfonso Font follows in the same vein as V1, showing WW I pilot Tim Wilson and his Co, “Groucher” Grommett battling against Maximilian von Klorr and his squadron of giant bats. This works some variation on the premise, for example having von Klorr brainwash a British pilot as his agent; a rookie pilot getting in over his head; and Black Max turning one bat into an unstoppable giant after Tim wipes out the rest. Great fun.

URSA MAJOR: Resonance Books II by Casey E. Berger (a friend of mine but my enthusiasm is sincere) is a sequel to First Light in which ex-Marine Jaya and her various allies organize a revolution against Jaya’s father, who’s seized control of the Terran Empire. Unfortunately the Empire is massively increasing the number of super-soldiers its putting in the field so figuring out a kryptonite to stop them is as essential as organizing the colonies to fight back.This is good, with plenty of action on the scientific, political, and character-arc fronts. I’ll probably get V3 next year.

KILLRAVEN: Warrior of the Worlds collects Marvel’s 1970s sequel series to H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds, the premise being that the Martians attacked again at the end of the millennium, having immunized themselves against bacterial infection. A couple of decades later Killraven — former gladiator in the aliens’ slave arenas — launches an insurrection with his warrior skills, backed up by psi-abilities implanted in him by a human scientist.

The series started with Gerry Conway on script and Neal Adams followed by Howard Chaykin on art. Then came Marv Wolfman and Herb Trimpe, followed by what’s considered, I believe, the definitive team of Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell (their 1980s graphic novel wrapping the series up is included too).

Killraven has a cult following but it never clicked with me as a teen, nor now. It’s not awful but somehow it just doesn’t come together: the McGregor/Russell run, for instance, spends way too much time wandering around encountering odd creatures and cultures, as if the creators didn’t really care about the fight against the Martians. I did, however, enjoy Bill Mantlo’s Killraven/Spider-Man crossover in Marvel Team-Up because of Spidey’s horrified realization that despite everything he does to save people, ultimately they’ll be wiped out by the invasion (don’t despair, Marvel later retconned Killraven into a parallel timeline).

#SFWApro. Covers by John Romita (top) and Gil Kane.

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