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Weekly Book Buzz: The Latest Iron Man Novel

We Review The Art of Avatar

By Tim Janson     January 24, 2010


The Art of Avatar by Lisa Fitspatrick(2010).
© Abrams

 

Lots of strong releases out this week in both books and graphic novels. These include the new Connor Grey novel from Mark Del Franco, a new Iron Man adventure, and two new Star Wars Graphic novels from Dark Horse.
 
More troubling new for the Borders book chain… The company reported that their holiday sales were down some 14% from the same period last year. Borders seems to be finally realizing that it’s not going to be able to compete in the multi-media areas of CDs and DVDs, at least not in the brick and mortar stores.
 
Unperfect Souls (Connor Grey, Book 4) Mark Del Franco (Ace)
 
In the Boston neighborhood known as the Weird, a decapitated body floats out of the sewer, and former Guild investigator Connor Grey uncovers a conspiracy that may bring down the city's most powerful elite. As the violence escalates, Connor is determined to stop it-with help from one of the most dangerous beings of Faerie. Even if it means unleashing the darkness that burns within him.
 
Spider's Bite: An Elemental Assassin Book Jennifer Estep (Pocket)
 
They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South -- when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland . As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.
 
Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way -- good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction...especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.
 
Shadow Blade Seressia Glass (Pocket)
 
Kira's day job is as an antiquities expert, but her true calling is as a Shadowchaser. Trained from youth to be one of the most lethal Chasers in existence, Kira serves the Gilead Commission, dispatching the Fallen who sow discord and chaos. Of course, sometimes Gilead bureaucracy is as much a thorn in her side as anything the Fallen can muster against her. Right now, though, she's got a bigger problem. Someone is turning the city of Atlanta upside down in search of a millennia-old Egyptian dagger that just happens to have fallen into Kira's hands.
 
Then there's Khefar, the dagger's true owner -- a near-immortal 4,000-year-old Nubian warrior who, Kira has to admit, looks pretty fine for his age. Joining forces is the only way to keep the weapon safe from the sinister Shadow forces, but now Kira is in deep with someone who holds more secrets than she does, the one person who knows just how treacherous this fight is. Because every step closer to destroying the enemy is a step closer to losing herself to Shadow forever....
 
Night Tides (Lady of the Lakes) Alex Prentiss (Bantam)
 
One by one they go missing. And in the lake a voice cries out: “Save them. . . .”  In the darkness, in a lake in the middle of a prosperous college town, Rachel Matre feels the water caressing her bare skin, teasing her senses, drawing her body into a lush erotic embrace. For twenty years she has communed with the lake spirits this way—and told no one. The price is simple: She must help those in need.
 
But now a series of young women have gone missing. The police don’t have any bodies, or even a single suspect. Only the spirits seem to sense the truth. Through them, Rachel finds herself drawn into a madman’s web. She alone can save the missing women. But who can save her?
 
Conan Vol. 2: The God in the Bowl and Other Stories (v. 2) (Dark Horse Graphic Novel)
 
The critically acclaimed and award-winning creative team behind the runaway-hit revival are back with a brand new adaptation of one of Conan creator Robert E. Howard's best-known tales. Award-winning writer Kurt Busiek and artists Cary Nord and Dave Stewart render the glorious suspense of Howard's beloved "The God in the Bowl" in all its terrifying detail, as well as introducing not only Conan's most famed adversary, Thoth-amon, but a new female foil to Conan's exploits - Janissa, the Widowmaker, bound by a pact to a witch who has sinister plans for Conan.
 
Wizard's Tale Kurt Busiek (IDW Graphic Novel)
 
A magical story of redemption, The Wizard's Tale follows the aged Bafflerog Rumplewhisker and his young companion, Muddle, the woodcutter's son, as they embark on a quest to retrieve the magical Book of Worse - a tome that will ensure the land of Ever-Night remains as it is, a dark and gloomy realm of evil. But old Rumplewhisker's heart slowly warms on their journey, and a chance to restore a semblance of goodness to Ever-Night is possible - if he and his young charge can dare face the challenges ahead.
 
The Great Bazaar and Other Stories Peter V. Brett (Subterranean Press)
 
Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons--bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting and killing humanity for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.
 
But there was a time when the demons were not so bold. A time when wards did more than hold the demons at bay. They allowed man to fight back, and to win. Messenger Arlen Bales will search anywhere, dare anything, to return this magic to the world.
 
Abban, a merchant in the Great Bazaar of Krasia, purports to sell everything a man's heart could desire, including, perhaps, the key to Arlen's quest.
 
In addition to the title novelette, The Great Bazaar and Other Stories contains a number of scenes not included in The Painted Man (published in the US as The Warded Man) as well as a glossary and a grimoire, making it an essential guide to one of the most exciting epic fantasy series currently being published.
 
New in Sci-Fi
 
Star Trek: Inception (Star Trek Books)
 
As man expands beyond explored space, the need to find a way to make inhospitable planets hospitable grows greater. One young biologist, Carol Marcus, has a project that she is convinced can reshape planets. She puts together a team of young, committed scientists who dare to dream as she does: of a Federation remade so hunger is eradicated, where every world can be reshaped into a paradise. The belief that all things are possible, that man can strive to conquer space not with force but with science, is shared by James Kirk, a young Starfleet officer and her lover.
Leila Kalomi, a renowned botanist, is looking for a new direction. After hearing about Marcus's project, she applies for a position. She finds Carol's passion contagious, and a chance encounter with the Enterprise 's science officer, Spock, convinces her to join Project: Inception.
 
Four people just trying to find the balance between their careers and their personal lives, trying to make the right choice not just for themselves but for the betterment of all mankind. The choices they make will rewrite the history of the Federation and change forever how man explores space.
 
Iron Man: Virus Alex Irvine (Del Rey) 
 
 

In the clear blue skies above Long Island , two airplanes collide. Tony Stark watches the scene in horror and wishes he had the technology that is almost within his reach—a new hyperintelligent instant control system that could have given the aircraft advance warning. But Stark, an obsessive, increasingly troubled recluse, doesn’t know that his invention has been compromised. 

In fact, the collision was a carefully crafted hit on Madame Hydra, the final stage in Arnim Zola’s plan to seize control of HYDRA and get rid of Iron Man once and for all. The cunning adversary has already infiltrated Stark Industries security to develop a version of the instant control mechanism that will take over the armored suit and turn it against Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. While Tony races to track down the source of the intrusion, Zola unleashes direly ingenious computer viruses and the ultimate secret weapon: a murderous clone army based on Stark’s most trusted friend. A puppet master of self-replicating terror, Zola is plunging a city into a war that threatens to consume all in its wake.
 
Hardcore (Combat-K) Andy Remic (Solaris)
 
The Combat-K squad arrives on Krakken IV to search the planet, expecting an easy mission. However when the former inhabitants of  'Sick World' begin to rise, they are forced to battle for their lives.
 
Classic Dan Dare: Safari in Space (Dan Dare Graphic Novel) (Titan Books)
 
It’s chocks away once again as Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, returns! First published in classic British comic Eagle, this is perhaps the most seminal adventure of one of Britain ’s best-loved characters, presented in a gorgeous library edition.
 
Dan and his crew leave Earth once more, but this time for a very personal mission — Dan’s search for his test pilot father, who disappeared over thirty years ago. But when the Scottish scientist Galileo McHoo kidnaps Dan and co., their trip to the stars takes a more serious turn...
 
...Especially when it turns out that McHoo is looking for his own father, the co-pilot on Dan’s father’s fated trip to the mysterious “Terra Nova”!
 
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 8 - Destroyer  (Dark Horse Graphic Novel)
 
Knights of the Old Republic : Destroyer begins with an untold chapter from the lives of Malak and Revan - stars of the Knights of the Old Republic video game! From there, it takes us to a death-defying shootout on the face of a comet and into the heart of one of the cruelest organizations in the galaxy - the Crucible. Former Padawan Zayne Carrick risks not just his life, but also his sanity, to help his friend Jarael face her dark past. Zayne may have set off for adventure, but what he finds are irreversible consequences for himself and his crew in a dangerous, unforgiving galaxy.
 
Star Wars Omnibus: Shadows of the Empire (Dark Horse Graphic Novel)
 
Beginning with Shadows of the Empire, Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca are determined to foil Boba Fett's plan to deliver carbonite-encased Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. But these heroes are up against more than they realize. Darth Vader searches for Luke, hoping to turn him to the dark side, and a new threat, Xizor, the ruthless leader of the criminal organization Black Sun, seeks to gain the trust of the Emperor by killing Skywalker and overthrowing Vader! Then, in Shadows of the Empire: Evolution, a beautiful human-droid - previously an assassin for Xizor - searches to find her human side as Luke Skywalker tracks her across the galaxy, determined to bring her to justice! And finally, in Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand, the Emperor's personal assassin carries out her last mission, determined to succeed despite the death of her Master - even if it costs her life!
 
Star Trek: Archives Volume 8 - Best of Mr. Spock (IDW Graphic Novel)
 
Live long and prosper with this collection of the most logical stories of everyone's favorite Vulcan, Spock. Travel across space as Mr. Spock aides Captain Kirk and the rest of the crew aboard the Starship Enterprise in their quest to explore uncharted territories.
 
New In Horror
 
Darkness on the Edge of Town Brian Keene (Leisure)
 
One morning the residents of Walden, Virginia, woke up to find that the rest of the world was gone. Just…gone. Surrounding their town was a wall of inky darkness, casting Walden into permanent night. Nothing can get in, no light, no people, not even electricity or radio or TV signals. And no one can get out. No one who dared to penetrate the mysterious barrier has ever been seen again. Only their screams were heard. But for some of the residents-turned-prisoners of Walden, even the fear of that unseen death can’t keep them from trying to escape this living purgatory.
 
Rex Mundi Book 6: Gate of God Arvid Nelson (Dark Horse Graphic novel)
 
Doctor Julien Sauniere's quest for the Holy Grail has led him to a wild mountain valley in the remotest corner of France . The power-mad Duke of Lorraine wants him dead, but Julien finds an unlikely ally in Isabelle, the duke's own daughter. And no one, not even the duke himself, is aware of the Grail's ultimate secret. It's a truth so shocking it will literally cover the earth in blood! Bittersweet goodbyes, magical duels to the death, and miracles both great and small await you in the final installation of the Rex Mundi epic.
 
The Goon Volume 0: Rough Stuff Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
 
The nameless man, the zombie priest, had come to town to build a gang from the undead. But even the undead fear THE GOON. The Goon's earliest battles with the undead are mixed with stories of his childhood years, where we're introduced to his circus performing family, and discover how The Goon became head of a notorious crime family. Originally a self-published, black-and-white comic series, The Goon: Rough Stuff collects the earliest stories of The Goon and his wise-cracking sidekick Franky. This re-mastered, colored edition, also contains an expanded sketchbook section with notes from series creator, Eric Powell, that features the earliest concept designs of our leading man, The Goon.
 
B.P.R.D. Volume 8: Killing Ground (v. 8) John Arcudi (Dark House)
 
Something deadly is loose in the halls of the B.P.R.D.! The B.P.R.D. will need all of its new resources - from Johann's new body to Panya, the team's newest (or maybe oldest) member - to handle the deadly forces that have wormed their way into the heart of the its headquarters, as the line blurs between the hunters of the supernatural and their prey. Killing Ground returns the B.P.R.D. to its roots in visceral supernatural horror that will leave the Bureau forever altered.
 
Reviews
 
Luis Royo Malefic (NBM hardcover)
 
 

Our run on great art books continues this week with another one of my absolute favorites, Luis Royo. This is a newly revised and re-mastered edition of his seminal collection first published in 1996. While many modern fantasy artists are often content to work in the whimsical and light-hearted vein, Royo’s work has always been darker. Darker AND quite a bit more interesting, frankly. Royo uses color for effect as well as any artist in the business and nothing is ever applied without reason to achieve a look. 

Royo’s female vampires are alluring and seductive as in his piece “Night in Red”. Royo provides commentary on many of the illustrations in the book and talks about his various techniques and methods used to complete each work of art. Many of the finished paintings are accompanied by supporting rough sketches and pre-work leading up to the final result. Just check out one of the great pieces entitled “Under the Blues” above. This hardcover collection is pure brilliance. This is a must have for fans of fantasy art. Grade A
 
 
The Art of Avatar Lisa Fitspatrick (Abrams Hardcover)
 
 

James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster has garnered rave reviews from fans and critics alike for its state of the art 3D look. Lisa Fitzpatrick’s new book is the only book to document this incredible new achievement in filmmaking and takes fans behind-the-scenes as the film was being made. The book delves into the development of the film including bringing the 3D characters to life, set design, animation, visual effects, costume design, etc…

The book includes over 100 full-color images from the film as well as matte paintings, production sketches and drawings, and 3D animation and models. It’s a visually stunning book that includes comments from numerous members of the crew and creators including vehicle designer Ben Proctor, 3D designer Steve Messing, and creature designer Rob Stromberg. While the visuals are first rate I’d have like to see much more information about this landmark film. Ultimately its about 90% photos and illustrations and 10% text and at only 108 pages, it’s a slight volume for its $30 price tag. Grade B-
 
The Chill Jason Star (Vertigo Graphic Novel)
 
 

The Chill is part of DC Comics/Vertigo Crime label. A series of graphic novels that have a crime noir theme but with a tinge of horror or fantasy. Jason Starr’s tale revolves around ancient Celtic black magic known as “The Chill”. A father and daughter from Ireland are on a killing spree in New York City. The Daughter, Arlana, seduces men and during sex, uses the chill to nearly freeze them to death. Her father then takes over, killing the men with an ancient rite and stealing their life force to keep them eternally young. A victim who escaped their attack and is now living in Boston as a detective has tracked the pair to New York and attempts to aid the police there. They of course think the man is a raving lunatic after he relates his tale but as the bodies pile up, even the hard-nosed NYPD detective begins to realize these are no ordinary killers. 

The Chill earns a definite R-rating due to gratuitous nudity and profanity which all became a little much and didn’t contribute much to the story. This isn’t a bad story but its not one that seems to be deserving of an original graphic novel as say “Dark Entries” which featured John Constantine. While I’ve quite enjoyed the Vertigo Crime imprint, The Chill is the weakest entry thus far. 
Grade C

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