Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NASA: Water Flows on Mars


Yesterday NASA confirmed that indeed water does flow on Mars. From their official report:

 "Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times."

So now we know. All I could think of though was this:


So both the MRO and the Doctor was right! Just as long as the side effects aren't as brutal.

For a little more real info and video check out http://mars.nasa.gov/news/whatsnew/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=1858.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Comic Review: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #11


After last issue's Tars Tarkas adventure, we return to John Carter and Dejah Thoris as they discover "Lost Empires!"

Still on their quest to find a potential way to save Barsoom, John and Dejah are knocked off course by a violent storm. When the two do find ground they discover a surprise-a lost city that has mooring posts, indicating one thing-a Citadel of the Orovars! But as usual they are not alone as a band of red Martians headed up by a former guard of Dejah's father, Pallias. With his cohorts and Carter and Dejah captive they dig into an ancient chamber only to find living sentries and awaken a new threat...

The first of another two-part story, "Lost Empires" gets off on a clever start, bringing in the Orovars and Barsoom's past before devolving into a standard "angry former fill in the blank from Helium seeks revenge against John Carter and/or Dejah Thoris" plotline. Maybe it was just meeting Pallias and his gang with no prior knowledge of them or the fact that this has been done quite a bit already in this series. Or maybe it's time to bring in some of the other characters from the novels to provide a more involving story than one-dimensional bad guys. Still the Orovar history is fascinating and if nothing else the final page is a real cliffhanger.

Ariel Medel's art helps keep it moving, with enough action sequence to show off Medel's style. No complaints there folks.

Hopefully the next part will pick up the pace and raise the stakes. Until next time folks.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Retro Comics: Warlord of Mars King-Size Annual #1


I said we would be returning to Marvel's Barsoom and here we are. The first of three "King-Size" annuals tells us the tale of "When Walk the Ancient Dead!"

Needing some alone time John Carter takes flight and finds the empty cities and desolate desert of Barsoom, giving him a chance to reflect. But when he comes upon a lone man fighting off Warhoons he jumps in. After defeating the green men he discovers that he has rescued a white man, Pan Dan Chee and that the empty city of Horz is inhabited. Oh and he has to die to preserve their secret. And that there is a mad embalmer below the tunnels of Horz and the preserved bodies of past rulers, who are not dead but rise. Luckily for Carter they don't eat human flesh but they want his blood for being a wizard who they believe has deceived them long enough...

If this sounds familiar its because it's (as the credits state) "loosely" based on the opening story from Llana of Gathol with some modifications, primarily no jetan game between Carter and Pan Dan Chee and no appearance by Llana. That said Marv Wolfman stays pretty close to the original, somber tale with some modifications to make it fit into then current timeline Marvel had set for John Carter. There is still enough action and surprises to make it a worthwhile read even if you are familiar with the original tale.

Helping out is the artwork by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan that captures the faded glory of Horz while managing to bring giant ulsios, beuatiful princesses and rousing action to life. Granted Pan Dan Chee looks like he escaped from Marvel's Savage Land (seriously he looks like Ka-Zar's cousin) and the green men aren't as menacing as they could be but that's small change for a great looking tale.

One down and two to go. Until then take care and Kaor!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: Star Wars Aftermath


No clever opening, just some thoughts on the first in the new "canon" to pick up where Return of the Jedi left off.

Picking up months after the Battle of Endor and the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader, the surviving factions of the Empire are trying to maintain their grip while the Rebel Alliance morphs into a "New Republic" While on a reconniassnce mission Wedge Antilles discovers several Imperial Star Destroyers parked above the planet Akiva but is captured before he can warn his allies. The imperials are meeting to decide their next move for survival, with various squabbles and debates either to give in, fight or just hide and wait. Of course their presence brings attention and eventually it's up to a ragtag group of characters-former Rebel pilot Norra Wexley, her rebellious son Temmin and his loyal battle droid Mister Bones, bounty hunter Jas Emari and former Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus-to try to stop them and prevent further bloodshed. Meanwhile the rest of the galaxy is coming to grips with life post Palpatine.

Advertised as the centerpiece of the whole "Journey to The Force Awakens" Aftermath is getting knocked for a variety of reasons-the complete discarding of the previous "Expanded Universe" series of books, the lack of familiar characters, writer Chuck Wendig's style, etc. Having finished it I found Aftermath an intriguing if somewhat frustrating but ultimately worthwhile book that if it fails to live up the hype (or past glories like Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy) is not the complete abomination that some Star Wars fans are making it out to be.

To get the bad-or dark-side of the book does suffer from some worn out cliches, most notably in Norra and Temmin's relationship and characterization. The former is a pilot suffering from PTSD while her son is really just a whiny brat who brings to mind (shudders...) prequel era Anakin Skywalker. It's not that I had a problem with Mister Bones or Temmin's development but his constant whining ultimately worn thin. The other major flaw of the book is the "interludes" which are uneven since they mostly center on characters we don't know or see much of. It's an interesting concept and some of them are interesting but only one starring everyone's favorite scruffy looking Nerf Herder and his old pal Chewie capture the flavor of Star Wars and sets up possibly where they were in that 30 years after Jedi.

But for all of that Wendig does deliver some good characters that might play out in future novels. In particular Sinjir, a former Imperial who decides that the Empire it self was flawed and possibly needed to be destroyed and Admiral Rae Sloane (a character introduced back in the novel A New Dawn), a loyal Imperial who sees that her attempts to form a solid leadership will fail and is setup in the final pages as a potential big player in the new universe. Wendig also delivers some rousing sequences such as a drop into Akiva by New Republic soldiers and the standard big space fight finale well.

I think what fans need to do is just put aside the Expanded Universe and try to give this book a shot. If you don't like it then fine but in the end Aftermath is not a total abomination either. It's a good-not great but good-novel that I enjoyed. Rating: *** out of 4.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Comic Review: Shattered Empire #1


With the "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens" now underway here's one of our first glimpses of what happened after the Battle of Endor. Spoilers and Ewoks ahead!

Writer Greg Rucka opens this issue right as the battle is still on going, introducing us to A-Wing pilot Shara and her husband Kes Dameron (SPOILER 1!) as the two attempt to survive the battle. Afterwards its time to celebrate and romance as the two get some time together. But that's short lived as intel reveals that some Imperial troops are holding out on the other side of the Forest Moon. With Shara akd Kes  accompanying Han Solo, Chewbacca and some of the Ewoks to the final stronghold they discover that's it not over yet...

Kicking off this limited series, Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto manage to knock it out of the park, setting up some new characters, showing us some familiar friends and providing the links between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens without it being too distracting. There's some great interplay between the characters, including Lando doing his ladies' man routine on Shara and the troops having as much trouble understadning Ewoks as Han does along with the standard action and narrow escapes.

The latter is handled greatly in Checchetto's artwork. His first splash pages are great, showing the intercutting between the air and ground battles and Luke Skywalker's fight with Darth Vader, while the latter quieter pages are also gorgeous to look at. The final actions sequence that wraps up this issue is also a stunner so if nothing else get this for the art and stay for an excellent story.

It's hard to say how this will play out and if the quality can stay the same but so far Star Wars: Shattered Empire is off to a great, exciting start. Next time a review of another "Journey" tale.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review: Tarzan-Return to Pal-ul-don


Tarzan returns in a new adventure! Beyond that I can't think of a snappy opening so let's just see what happens.

With World War II raging, Flying Officer John Clayton, known to you and me as Tarzan of the Apes, receives his first mission: Fly into uncharted African territory and find a missing intelligence officer code named Ilex. Going alone, Flying Officer Clayton finds the downed plane and the bodies of the other crew, as well as loyal Tantor he nicknames Torn Ear (after he gets one nearly torn off by a gimli). Before too long Clayton finds himself shedding civilization (and his uniform!) when he discovers he's back in Pal-ul-don. Only this time he finds Turtle Men, a new friend in a Waz-ho-hon warrior named Mu-bu-tan and a race of deadly spider pygmies. It isn't too long though before Tarzan has to put his wits, strength and will against these creatures to rescue Ilex and complete his mission.

If you want a brief synopsis of Tarzan: Return to Pal-ul-don it's "Tarzan Vs. Spider-Pygmies." That's pretty much all that happens for a good 2/3rds of the novel and frankly it gets a little winded after a while. Author Will Murray (who has also penned a couple of Doc Savage novels for the same publisher, Altus Press) starts off the novel with a good premise, working in Tarzan's wartime service that Edgar Rice Burroughs established in Tarzan and the 'Foreign Legion' and returning us back to familiar territory. Or at least somewhat familiar territory since Murray does not bring back any of the characters or races we read about in Tarzan the Terrible, opting for those spider pygmies and the Turtle Men. My major problem I guess is the lack of an antagonist for Tarzan. Most of the best stories have Lord Greystoke against a formidable adversary or villainous conspirators. While I can understand the desire to just pit Tarzan against a primitive group it might have worked more if there was an actual leader. Instead we get a bizarre homage to Aliens at the end and I'll leave it at that.

That's not to say that the book is a total wash. In fact it's an entertaining read that just could have used some pruning in the mid section. The opening as I mentioned is an unique setup for a Tarzan tale, with Tarzan going from civilized to savage over the slow period, which is a good transition. Tarzan's relationships with Torn Ear and Mu-bu-tan are also well developed, providing some needed character and humor. The action sequences are also top notch, with a level of suspense that kept me flipping the pages to find out what happened next. And while the spider pygmies get thin, they are creepy creatures in the beginning and their origin is straight out of a good horror tale.

Ultimately though the book is a good novel that just needed some editing to make it great. Tarzan fans will enjoy it for the references to previous tales and the return of the Lord of the Jungle but non Tarzan fans might want a little more from it. Rating: *** out of 4.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dark Horse Acquires 'Skies of Venus'


It looks like we might finally be returning to Amtor. A while back (actually a long time back) it was announced that a new entry in Carson of Venus series was being written by Neal Romanek called Skies of Venus. The book seemed to disappear but in a short blurb on ERBZine, Romanek has confirmed that "Dark Horse has bought the rights to "Skies Of Venus", a new installment in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Venus-Amtor pulp sci-fi series I wrote in partnership with the ERB estate." No word of when it will be released but I will update as soon as I find out. For more check out http://www.erbzine.com/mag49/4974.html

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

'Boba Fett' Gets a Cool Fan Trailer


With Force Friday coming up, a cool trailer for filmmaker Eric Demusey's Star Wars: The New Republic Anthology fan film has appeared. The trailer offers up Boba Fett escaping the Sarlaac Pit and beginning his new adventures. For a little more info on the project itself check out http://www.starwars7news.com/2015/09/teaser-for-upcoming-boba-fett-fan-film.html and watch the trailer below.