Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles is rapidly becoming one of my favorite series and the only pulp noir urban fantasy series I’ve yet to come across. The series, which began in Hard Magic, continues in Spellbound picking with a flashback where a villainous active who feeds on the deaths of other magic users is dispatched during the last days of Great War leaving a trail of wreckage and death in his wake before he is eventually killed. It is a long while before the truth behind this man is revealed and it has massive implications for the world of the Grimnoir Society. Picking up a scant few months after the events of the first month Spellbound deals with the fallout of the events of the previous book. Needless to say spoilers for Hard Magic are below.
Caliban’s War (The Expanse)
James S. A. Corey
I was a big fan of 2011’s Leviathan Wakes from duo known collectively as James S. A. Corey and was extraordinarily excited to get started with the sequel Caliban’s War. Picking up not too long after the events of Leviathan Wakes, in Caliban’s War the alien protomolecule has taken up residence on Venus and watching from a distance humanity watches with fear in trepidation as the incomprehensible lifeform seemingly bides its time building something. The fragile peace of the solar system is shattered as fighting between Earth and Martian forces seemingly breaks out on the moon Ganymede prompted by the violent revelation that the protomolecule is not as contained on Venus as everyone had thought. Fearing the worst Jim Holden and his crew aboard the Rocinante fly off towards Ganymede to investigate.
Alistair Reynolds, known for his massive doorstopping space operas full of characters and packed to physics-defying density with ridiculously cool ideas, makes a jump to something a little more grounded in his most recent novel Blue Remembered Earth. While it too is packed full of ideas it offers them up on a narrower scope instead focusing on the legacy of a single family rather than the galaxy spanning multi-generational interwoven epic of his Revelation Space books. That narrowing of context and the grounding of the plot along a single family line make Blue Remembered Earth, all 512 pages of it, a positively breezy read.
Growing up in the nineties I was around for the genesis of Image Comics and as a result I am both constantly amazed at the quality of material coming out of the studio now. While the Image Comics universe has its own internal consistancy it is never so weighty as that in the other “big two” competitors and the lack of having to rely on a decades old universe (even if you throw said universe out) seems to allow the folks at Image to tell stories with an of creativity and pure fun that often far eclipse that of other major comic book publishers. The carbon copy heroes of Image’s genesis have faded into the background allow new talent and new heroes to jump to the foreground. While much of Image’s catalog still offers generous throwbacks to the publisher’s that spawned superhero comics, Image has really come into its own as a publisher.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is sort of a superhero story and sort of isn’t. It borrows much in terms of background from the violence and characters of Kick-Ass but ups the violence to new levels and tosses in a dose of the titular “strange” into the mix. Luther Strode is sort of your average geek. He lives with his mother and together he and his mom have survived they abuse of his father who is now in jail. On a whim Luther orders a goofy strength training manual and despite initial misgivings he finds that it works…maybe a bit too well. The primary question that the comic asks is what would happen if someone was given these amazing powers. We’ve seen this explored through Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility.” But with the Luther Strode that line seems to be more “with great power comes great power.” We all like to think we would be heroes but The Strange Talent of Luther Strode examines the question of just how much a hero an average person given seemingly unlimited power can be. This is an often shockingly violent comic, to the point of almost near nausea, but one whose violence is almost hipnotic and intrinsicly tied to the story’s plot. It is rendered in style thanks to the dynamic art by Tradd Moore whose style is similar to, and on par with if not better than, John Romita Jr.. The colorist Felipe Sobreiro deserves recognition for the vibrant work that makes the art pop and the fact that the copious amounts of red splashed across many of the pages manages to never grow tiresome on the eyes. This is an entertaining book that tells a complete and satisfying story with an ending that will weigh heavy on the reader’s imagination but will hopefully spawn future adventures in this universe.