Monday, March 09, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/7

This post -- and those like it, every Monday morning on this blog -- exists because I review books, and because I feel guilty for the books I don't manage to review. So I list everything as it comes in, with whatever commentary I can think up on a Sunday evening, in hopes that it will help steer some readers to books they'll love (or away from books they'd hate).

This week was a light one; there are only three things to write about. So I'll start right out with...

Elric: Duke Elric, fourth in the current series reprinting all of Michael Moorcock's "Elric" novels and stories in the order in which they were written. (As distinct from the last major reprinting of the series, from Millennium in the UK and White Wolf in the US, fifteen to twenty years ago, which had big fat omnibuses organized by internal chronology.) This one has illustrations and a cover by Justin Sweet, as well as an introduction by Michael Chabon, and includes The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (from 1976), "Duke Elric" (serialized in the comic book Michael Moorcock's Multiverse in 1997-98), and the new story "The Flaneur des Arcades de l'Opera" (from last year's colelction The Metatemporal Detective). So this book jumps over one major story -- "Elric at the End of Time" (1984) -- as well as the two novels The Fortress of the Pearl (1989) and The Revenge of the Rose (1991) and even the most recent Elric trilogy of earlier this decade. Perhaps the two intervening novels will be in the next volume -- they would go best together, and presumably wouldn't all fit here -- but it does make this book seem a slightly random collection of Elric-stuff. But Sailor is one of Moorcock's best adventure novels, and one of the tightest links in the chain binding all of his "Eternal Champions" books together, so it's worth having for that. And the care put into the texts and design for this series are, as always, extraordinary and well worth celebrating. Duke Elric will be published in trade paperback by Del Rey on March 24th.

The second thing I have this week looks like a book -- it's squarebound, and quite hefty -- but it's actually a magazine. The Comics Journal #295 is the latest issue of the premiere print outlet for comics criticism for the last twenty-some years...and it's the first issue I've actually looked at in longer than I can remember. (I used to read it, at least semi-regularly, for much of the '90s, but I think I lost the habit when my then-regular comics shop, Middle Earth in Montclair, New Jersey, closed down in '98 or '99.) I've seen it on shelves in passing since then, and noticed that it switched from a stapled mag with formidably small type to this current squarebound format on clean white paper with somewhat larger print. This issue has an interview with Brian K. Vaughan, another with Gipi, a pile of reviews, and some columns that I suppose are the usuals. (And -- oh, my! -- I see Kenneth Smith is still bringing up the rear, and he looks to be as incomprehensible as he ever was: this issue brings "The Crypto-Revolution of Our Age, XXIV. Conclusions: (B) 'Soulcraft' As Soulless Techne (Second Part)". I'm unsure if the (B) and (Second Part) are redundant, or if this really is the second part of section B of the conclusions. I've only skimmed a few lines of the text, but it makes we want to cry: "Every year of my life I grow more and more convinced that the wisest and best is to fix our attention on the good and the beautiful, if you'll just take the time to look at it.") This was the January issue; The Comics Journal is published nearly monthly (two out of every three months), so the February and possibly the April issues should already be out.

Del Rey's Star Wars program is launching into another nine-book series, following up on "Legacy of the Force" (which turned one of the next-generation characters into a dark Jedi, for reasons I though were more plot-driven than internally plausible), and the full title of the hardcover from Aaron Allston is thus Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Outcast. If it follows the usual pattern, this book, #4, and the conclusion will be hardcovers, and that's where all of the important (pre-plotted) events will happen...and those will be the least interesting books, since the in-betweeners are the ones where events can be allowed to follow the writer's own ideas. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I'm not the audience for this book anyway. It's got Luke Skywalker on the cover (looking a bit younger than the sixty-ish he should be at this point) and a striking washed-out palette, so I expect it will be a big deal with the folks who (unlike me, these last two years) have kept up with the series. It's coming from Del Rey on March 24th, and Allston will be doing an eight-city tour in support of it starting at the same time.


Robert Hutchinson said...

... is that ("good and the beautiful" etc.) really a quote from the article? Because it's a direct lift of the goofiest line from, IIRC, the film Phantom Planet, which appeared on MST3000.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Robert: You get the gold star!

Smith is much less comprehensible than that, and much less funny.

Robert Hutchinson said...

Ah, all right. I suspected you were substituting something actually entertaining.

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