Monday, May 24, 2021

Masters of the Universe: Dark Reflections

 Masters of the Universe Volume 2: Dark Reflections opens with the Masters trying to stop Skeletor from entering a tomb.  Unfortunately they are too late and Skeletor finds what he is looking for: the Elixir of Schneidor.  He plans to use the elixir to open a dimensional gateway into Castle Grayskull.  But the Masters of the Universe follow him to Grayskull in the hopes of stopping his plan.  Man-At-Arms attempts to disable the gateway Skeletor and his forces have constructed, but a blast from Skeletor knocks him through the portal, which was damaged in the fight; Tri-klops says there is no knowing where the portal may lead.  Skeletor decides to destroy the portal as it's no longer useful to him, trapping Man-At-Arms inside.  But after Skeletor leaves, the portal somehow opens once again, ejecting a comatose Man-At-Arms!

The Masters rush him back to the capital.  Meanwhile, Stratos arrives, seeking aid: mysterious blasts are destroying the city of Avion!  He requests the aid of Man-At-Arms, but since he is still comatose, He-Man and Man-E-Faces are sent in his stead to try to figure out what is happening.  While they're gone, Duncan awakens, claiming he needs to speak with King He-Man about the rebels.  After being restrained, he breaks free and makes his way to Castle Grayskull, determined to find King He-Man and stop the so-called heroes led by Keldor.

This is a really fun story with dimensional travel that makes me think of He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse (which I apparently forgot to write about reading on here back in April - I'll have to remedy that, perhaps with a reread because it was so good!) I knew Man-At-Arms was going to end up being evil (you can just tell from that cover art!) but it didn't matter, the story was still really good.  It's unfortunate that these graphic novels don't seem to be a connected story (which I was expecting since they are volumes 1 and 2 by the same creative team), but that's okay, they're still fun reads.  They're also making me want to re-watch the 2002 show (which I have watched since I originally read The Shard of Darkness back in 2010 - it's super good!)

Masters of the Universe: The Shard of Darkness (reread)


I first read Masters of the Universe: The Shard of Darkness over ten years ago.  At that time, I felt that it really starts in the middle of the story, and that you're missing what happens first.  While that's still true, with Man-At-Arms and Prince Adam initially discussing the new-found powers that Prince Adam now had responsibility of, I didn't feel like it was a problem.  Most people reading this would already know Prince Adam is He-Man, so why wouldn't he have to figure things out once he newly has his powers? 

When they're called to deal with a minor emergency, they discover that Orko has found the Shard of Darkness, a piece of the Shakarran Crystal, which the Eternian Elders had used to contain an ancient evil long ago.  The Sorceress tasks He-Man to journey alone to find the remaining shards that remain on Eternia so that they can be banished from the world.

Meanwhile, Evil-Lynn is also after the Shard of Darkness.  She plans to use its power to overthrow Skeletor and take over the world in his place.  To that end she has enlisted the help of Trapjaw and Tri-klops.

I have to say, I liked this a lot more this time!  While the story is relatively simple, it still fits really well with the Masters of the Universe.  I liked how Skeletor's henchmen (and woman) were all backstabbing each other (often without you ever really sure who was backstabbing whom!) And I really liked that He-Man was unsure of himself and his powers, yet still manages to overcome great odds, even as Prince Adam.

One thing that I found particularly interesting this time around was the Sorceress.  I've always thought of her as a caring and somewhat motherly figure.  But she seems quite cold here, trusting to prophecy without explaining herself to Man-At-Arms and He-Man.  I'm interested to see if the series will continue and have her grow, as well as Prince Adam?  Well, only one way to find out - I'm reading Volume 2 next!

Some Library Graphic Novels

 I took out a few graphic novels from the library recently and decided to just write one post on all of them together.  

The first one was Covid Chronicles.  I was impressed that a graphic novel was already out talking about the pandemic (although honestly it's not that surprising since this has been our reality for over a year already).  This was a collection of short comics talking about the early days of the pandemic.  While there were some really great comics (I really liked the one that talked about the various pandemics that we've seen over the last 100 years or so), overall I found this a really difficult read because I wasn't ready to be reliving this stuff (which isn't really surprising since we're still living it).  I think it's a fantastic book that's going to have great historical value, but it's too soon for me to be reading or really thinking about it.  

But kudos to all of those creators who documented it!

Next I read Join the Future by Zack Kaplan, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.  I liked this book.  Join the Future takes place roughly 50+ years from now.  Small towns are disappearing; their populations are encouraged to join the megacities where all of their needs will be met.  When no one is left in the town, terraforming machines descend and reclaim the land, erasing the town from existence.  

But not everyone wants to sacrifice their freedom.  This is the story of Clementine Libbey who refuses to join; she wants revenge against the people who killed her family.  

Clementine is a great character.  She's got real grit and refuses to compromise on her values.  She's also an asthmatic who is a terrible shot, which makes her quest for revenge all the more interesting because there is a very real chance that she's going to get herself killed.  She's also a minor, so the grownups around her don't exactly take her seriously (and there was one scene in particular that really pissed me off - because she's a minor, the state decided that they could sign for her and send her to the megacity when she refused).  You just can't help but root for her against these terrible odds.  I definitely recommend it!

Finally I read Aquaman Vol. 4: Echoes of a Life Lived Well.  This is the conclusion of Mera's coma (and wedding to Vulko).  Mera gave Vulko some sort of command, but to carry it out, he decided he had to go through with their wedding.  Meanwhile, the princess, Andy, has been living with Aquaman in Amnesty Bay, cared for by their friends and all those sea gods and goddesses who are around now.  But one night she goes missing, and Aquaman will tear the sea apart looking for her, starting with his half brother, Orm.  Meanwhile, Jackson Hyde, Black Manta's son, goes to his father for help, asking for pieces of the Mech Lex Luthor made for him that is programmed with the personality of Black Manta's father (in order to use the mech to help find the missing princess).  This leads Jackson to Xebel where he decides to live up to his own expectations, not those of other people.

Out of all the Sue DeConnick Aquaman graphic novels I've read so far, this one was the best.  

Die Volume 2: Split the Party and Volume 3: The Great Game

 Huh, I didn't actually write about Die Volume 2: Split the Party on here before now. So I guess this post will have to remedy that!

This weekend, I finally sat down to reread Die volumes 1 and 2, and to read volume 3, The Great Game, for the first time.  The first time I read Volume 2, Split the Party, I wasn't really a fan of it, other than the fact that it was leading into something awesome based on the way it ended.  But last time, I read it without rereading Volume 1, Fantasy Heartbreakers.  But this time through, I read them one after the other and I liked Split the Party a lot more.

After defeating Solomon (and learning what happens to players when they perish in Die), the party splits.  Isabelle and Chuck lead the people of Glass Town away through a portal opened by one of the gods who took Isabelle's request literally: they are now the farthest away from Glass Town where they can be (and in a wasteland with no food).  Meanwhile Ash, Angela, and Matt make their way to Angria where they attempt to build allies.  Isabelle shows up to crash that party, admitting to everyone that the party is responsible for the destruction of Glass Town.

Split the Party has a lot more character development of the other characters other than Ash in it, so when read by itself it is a bit slower than the first volume.  But I found this wasn't the case when reading it right after Volume 1; it added a lot of missing context of what was going on in the world and in the lives of the characters, while not actually slowing down at all.

Then Volume 3, The Great Game happens.  With Isabelle's help, Ash has taken over Angria thanks to forcing Zamorna to marry her.  She intends to discover what exactly Eternal Prussia is doing in Glass Town.  Unfortunately, the people of Little England, who were eternally at war with Eternal Prussia, aren't too happy with Ash on the throne and declare war.  Meanwhile, Angela (who left after Ash was going to leave her in prison "for her own safety") joins up with Matt and Chuck.  They decide to travel to the Fair to get some answers.  Unfortunately the Fair are next set to appear in the Game Master's realm, a perilous journey far away.

The Great Game has some fantastic escalation of the story, as well as finally giving us some answers about just what is going on. I finished it feeling super excited to read more, but sad that it's not out yet.  I'll probably have to wait until either the fall or next winter to see how it all ends. :(

Monday, May 3, 2021

Dungeon Calamity

Book 3 of Dakota Krout's Divine Dungeon series sure took some crazy turns!  Dungeon Calamity opens with Cal being brought back to himself by a mysterious man who wants his "whispers" back.  The man was surprised that Cal even answered when he spoke to him, but with that settled, the mysterious man left the dungeon.  Cal's goblins, the Bobs (the Bobs are specifically clones of his original Goblin Shaman) are overjoyed that he's back - a month has passed and Cal went decidedly insane.  He was throwing crazy traps and mobs against adventurers and failing to clean anything up. Terrified that this reprieve from madness will be short lived, Cal starts making plans to go and find Dani.

To that end, Cal starts extending his influence downwards, looking for the molten centre of the planet.  He also gets the Bobs to help him start a new ritual which sets ley lines through the planet.  Finally, Cal fights his way into the Mage ranks, managing to tie himself to the most powerful concept in the process (the one that all the other ones originate from).

With Dale being his usual unhelpful self, and Cal losing contact with Minya, he embarks on his most daring adventure yet: controlled flight.  Using a gyroscope, he manages to get the mountain into the air and headed off to save Dani!

For his part, Dale was kind of doing more of the same.  Embroiled in the local politics, he manages to get a training school up and running in Mountaindale (that's the name of his new city).  The school is meant to be a place where people of all races and nations can gather to train, hopefully politics-free (although everyone is aware that they probably won't be able to keep all politics out).  He continues training with his Dark Elf teacher (and manages to piss his teacher off, so his teacher is now attacking him wherever and whenever).  But then when the nations of the world are attacked and decimated by a necromancer calling himself "The Master," Dale finds his and Cal's goals suddenly aligning.  

Dungeon Calamity was in many ways different from the other two books, mainly because Cal was without Dani (which was sad).  But it was full of really fund moments (and culminated in a crazy ending that I didn't see coming).  I'm looking forward to reading book 4! :)