Somehow finding time for my regular entertainment activities seems to keep eluding me …
FORGET PARIS (1995), as I mentioned earlier this week, doesn’t hold up as well as it did on my initial viewing: The love story of basketball referee Billy Crystal and airline official Debra Winger hovers awkwardly between a romantic comedy and a serious love story and falls somewhere in the middle. What does work is the framing sequence (which I remembered much more clearly than the actual romance) in which Joe Mantegna tells fiancee Cynthia Stevenson that their Meet Cute is nothing compared to the Crystal/Winger Meet Cute (“She helped him bury his father.”) only to have Cathy Moriarty, Richard Masur and Julie Kavner fill in on elements Mantegna left out (“Did you tell her about the baby?”). “Never say famous last words—because they might be.”
RANGE OF GHOSTS is an excellent Asiatic fantasy by Elizabeth Bear in which the death of Genghis Khan (or an alt.version, at least) and the collapse of his empire leave one of his many sons at loose ends until he witnesses the woman he’s fallen in love with kidnapped by Assassins, leading to an alliance with a Chinese sorceress and a female Rakshasa; meanwhile, the Assassin cult continues its scheme to disrupt the nations of the world, set them at war and then sweep the playing board. Very good, with a nice exotic (but not unrealistic) feel.
ELIZABETH’S LONDON by Lisa Picard is an exhaustively detailed look at the London of the late 16th century, both geographically and culturally. While difficult to synopsize, Picard’s discussion of streets, fashions, houses, gardening, court politics, religion and trivia (such as the now-incomprehensible proverb “Never court a widow with a codpiece full of eels.”) makes for interesting reading—if I were writing something set in that era, I’d have this on my bookshelf.
HELLBOY: The Storm and the Fury by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo appears to wrap up a long-running arc much as BPRD: The King of Fear did: As Nimue embraces the power of the Oggru Jaghrad, the great serpent, the honored dead of England rise up to follow Hellboy (who wound up inheriting Excalibur in the previous book), who prepares for battle despite all the prophecies that he can’t possibly succeed … Well-done as a stand-alone (though I think most readers would be confused if they started here), but more powerful as a climax to this part of Hellboy’s destiny; I look forward to seeing where he goes with Hellboy in Hell.
FIRST WAVE by Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales introduces a new universe set in a retro-looking present day where crimefighters Doc Savage, the Spirit and the Avengers are joined by a vengeful new hero named Batman and investigate a mysterious case involving Doc’s father’s disappeared corpse, the Blackhawk mercenary team, Rima the Jungle Girl and a floating super-scientific city. An interesting attempt at revitalizing a lot of old characters, but not entirely successful—there’s almost too much going on for anyone to really stand out (and if they’re trying to make the Blackhawk’s Asian member Chop-Chop less stereotypical, making him a martial arts master probably wasn’t the way). Even so, I’d pick up the follow-ups (a Doc Savage and a Spirit series in the same world) if they ever TPB them (both series died with DC’s reboot).
BATMAN: Black and White has a variety of writers and artists, both indie and established at DC,take a shot at the Batman; while entertaining to read through, enough of these are mood pieces rather than plotted stories that it’s hard to synopsize. I will say my favorite is Walt Simonson’s account of a mother telilng her child bedtime stories about a legendary hero …