Tuesday, March 31, 2015

POBB: March 28, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
March 28, 2015
Ray Tate

A short week with quality books means the Pick of the Brown Bag is on the air.  This week, I’ll look at Aquaman, Bart Simpson Comics, Batman 66, Batman and Robin, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Joe Frankenstein, Jungle Jim, Tomb Raider and The Valiant.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad might sound like the literal translation of a Japanese anime, but it’s really a Disney World ride.  

Disney owns Marvel.  So, Marvel and Disney got together to make comic books based on their amusement park attractions.  It sounds disastrous doesn’t it?   The key is that Disney allowed an enormous amount of creative freedom for the writers and artists.  The rides simply become the backdrops to original stories.  That’s it.  I’m guessing that Disney is just counting on osmosis and using the comic book medium for brand recognition.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attracted my attention for three reasons.  First, it’s a western, and like my father, I love a good western.  Second, it’s by Dennis Hopeless, who impressed me with Spider-Woman.  Third, the art by Tigh Walker and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu stands up as a pretty damn good flip-through.  Even better with a close up inspection.

The story begins with the introduction of main character Abigail Bullion, a classic Tom Boy in proper dress.  Wait.  Strong female lead, says you? Now, you’re just pandering to me.

Abigail is the daughter of the mine-owner who seeks to tame the wild filly he doesn’t know by putting her in boarding school.  She of course breaks rank and gets into mischief.

Abigail’s hi-jinks are highly entertaining.  Although she might seem anachronistic, the truth is women really did have a certain amount of equality in the west, as long as they could shoot and fight a man that is.

Abigail’s playfulness extends to exploring the mine.  Now, for me, a mine is a dangerous place where one can gain a new acquaintance with silicosis, Abigail has a completely original point of view.

The art in the mine is perfect, not too dark, with a strong sense of texture that makes the mine indeed a magical, otherworldly place.  We can also credit Hopeless for making the most of the setting—whether it be exposing dinosaur bones or referencing a period phrase popularized by Boyd Crowder in Justified.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is not A Fistful of Dollars.  It’s an all-ages title that doesn’t talk down to the audience.  It's a refreshing find.  While you can argue that the authenticity of the western town is about equal to that in The Apple Dumpling Gang, it’s still kind of grimy and gritty enough to surpass the polished westerns glorified in nineteen fifties.

Worst. Western.  Ever.  Actually hurtful.

Although not a games player, I’ve always liked the concept of Tomb Raider, and I’m always willing to try a Tomb Raider book.  What I’m looking for is a similar kind of depth that Angelina Jolie instilled to the icon.  I prefer the sequel, The Cradle of Life which is a lot more richer in pulpy goodness. 

With the advent of a new writer on the Dark Horse series, I was certainly willing to give “Dark Waters” a dip.  The story opens with a dream sequence, or is it a memory? Whatever it is, I don’t have a clue to what it means.  “Ruh.  Roh.”

Fortunately, Rhianna Pratchett dispels this glimpse quickly, and she lays out what’s going on succinctly.  Bad guys: The Snakes Who Walk.  Organized group of n’er do wells with eyes on Lara Croft.  Good guys: Lara, her friend Sam, Jonah and Kaz.  The Raid: actually none.  They’re out to save another friend named Alex Grim.

Pratchett puts some thought in the character dynamic, much more so than other writers from Tomb Raider’s past.  When I tried previous issues of Tomb Raider, Lara frequently seemed friendless and isolated, and that’s just not interesting to read.  One of the themes in Cradle of Life is that Lara has a friend in every port, makes friends readily and values loyalty above all else.   So, Pratchett is already on the right track.  Lara's friends create a loyal support team, and the whole plot is ostensibly about Lara helping her friend.  She furthermore makes another ally along the way.  However, the friendship motif also generates friction.

That’s the one scene that bothered me.  I just can’t see anybody let alone Lara Croft blowing off such a strange reaction.  Nobody, cranky or otherwise, goes “Leave me alone, John Smith!” People don’t use full names like that.  Otherwise, we have sharks, and it’s as fair a portrayal of sharks as in Cradle of Life.  Also, as you can see, Derlis Santacruz’s, Andy Owen’s and Michael Atiyeh’s art combine for a pleasant blend of accuracy, anatomy and animation.

A different kind of explorer ends up on Mongo.  He comes from the 1880s, and his name is Jungle Jim.

Massive divergence

Jungle Jim began as a comic strip B-Side to Flash Gordon.  Co-created by arch-illustrator Alex Raymond, Jungle Jim was a big game hunter from the 1930s.  He wasn’t a bantering British imperialist.

Whoever thought this change should be knighted.  It’s the kind of hilarity that livens things up in what could have been a straight-faced, politically incorrect bwana.  

Though Jim comes from the time of Imperialism, he’s clearly not interested in the enslavement of people.  Rather, he’s more of an adventurer in the purest of senses, and when he finds out about Ming, he decides to do something about him.

Things don’t go exactly as planned, but Jim demonstrates a remarkable understanding of the enemy’s psyche, thus leading to the cliffhanger of plan B.  So behind the jabber, Jim actually displays surprising cunning and a knowledge of how to use his shape-shifting powers best.

Well, you know that I’m going to buy a book with Batgirl in it.  Batgirl enters the picture when Robin has been dazzled by the Penguin’s latest scheme.  That’s not a euphemism.  

I have to admit that Batman 66 was very strange to read.  I’ve gotten so used to Batgirl being an integral part of the Batman Family, now embraced by all but the most Oracle-embittered, that seeing Batman and Batgirl as professionals in crimefighting but also strangers feels a little askew.

Yet it’s also interesting to see.  Jeff Parker’s Batman is a consummate detective, but he respects Batgirl so much that he doesn’t bother trying to figure out who she is.  That wasn’t always the case in the television series.  Batman occasionally gets tempted.  Besides delving into her secret identity would have been poor form since he asked Batgirl to accompany him to Japan.  

Batgirl and Batman follow the clues to Lord Death Man.  Lord Death Man is the whacked out dude on the cover.  Although, Mike Allred took artistic license.  He’s not really a skeleton, just a screwball in a skeleton costume kind of like something you would see from Super Inframan.

Those crazy Shaw Brothers

Lord Death Man appears obsessed with suicide by Bat.  He lures Batman and Batgirl into a mountainous trap, doses him with all sorts of mind-altering drugs and tricks him into believing in Batgirl's untimely demise.

Batman 66 is one weird trip.  I think most it will go over kiddie heads, but they’ll get that a skeleton man wants to kill Batman and Batgirl, which is strange in itself since most of Batman’s villains on the Adam West television series only saw killing Batman and his merry band as a side-effect in their want for ill-gotten gain.  The traps are also more based in reality, rather than giant typewriter guillotines and such.  Parker’s story could be edited into a serious Batman story, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t.  How does Parker write these things? I think Parker writes a bona fide Batman story first then starts tweaking it.

Incidentally, Parker’s aide-de-camp Sandy Jarrell is the same illustrator of Jungle Jim.  Jarrell’s art captures the look and feel of the Batman cast.  Both Batman and Batgirl resemble their essayers Adam West and Yvonne Craig.  In contrast to the pop sets and colors of the series, Jarrell evokes a haunting Japanese environ that could have been featured in authentic samurai films.  So, definitely something to add to the collection.

As place-holder Convergence rears its ugly head, two books end their volume run with  fortieth issues.  These titles will likely return after Convergence, possibly with new numbering, but for a few months we'll not be seeing Aquaman or Batman and Robin.  Both books are well worth your time and coin.

Damien returned from the dead with superpowers.  Batman has been for the past three or four issues attempting to adapt to his son being more powerful.  Rather than make this turn of events into a poignant drama writer Peter Tomasi turns Batman and Robin into a sly comedy.

Last issue, Batman introduced Robin to the Justice League, but their encounter was interrupted by an emergency in Japan.

This looks like a job for Robin.  It turns out that there's a reason a giant robot attacks Japan in emulation of the common anime.  Batman had a rationale beyond acquainting Robin with people having superpowers.

The cool story gives the Justice League the opportunity to cut loose and have some fun thanks to the youthful addition to their roster.  It's very telling that the League would get together on Batman's behalf, indicating that these heroes are more than colleagues.  Despite some rough patches in the formation of the team, they're now friends.

Aquaman finishes it's impressive run with a reaffirmation of femme power.  You know back in the dark days of the post-Crisis, a woman would have been raped or killed just to justify the restoration of Aquaman back to the Throne of Atlantis.  

No woman suffers rape or dies in Aquaman.  I know.  Spoilers and everything, but really that’s something I think we can all stand behind.  Mera displays her remarkable control of water.  Aquaman’s mother demonstrates her power, and it's her acceptance of Arthur as her son that  provides the drama.   Aquaman exemplifies what makes the new 52 the strongest of all the continuities.  Gender-equality.

Family provides the impetus in Joe Frankenstein.  The creation sees Joe Frankenstein as his kin, and we discover a twist in the tale that makes it more than a metaphor.  Meanwhile creative partners Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan also build on the importance of Joe's adopted family, and the way in which Joe's Mom is a natural Mom.  

On the flip side, Dixon and Nolan turn a traditional protagonist into a villain, and the inclusion of a giant super computer just cements the feeling that Joe Frankenstein was a rejected Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the seventies, for adults.  If you know me, you know that's a high compliment.

Bart Simpson Comics offers two tales.  In the first, Bart becomes an employee at the Kwik-E-Mart to earn the bread necessary to buy tickets to a Wrestlemania type show.  James Bates story provides ample opportunity for amusement and outright laughter.

The second tale features an updating of Otto’s flexible work schedule; he loses his bus driving job again.  In Shane Houghton’s tale, Otto becomes a driver for an Uber like company.  The  giggles come fast and furious, and I particularly like how Mike Kazaleh and Alan Hellard give the characters a visual bounce in their step.

No laughs in The Valiant.  I'm not sure that writers Jeff Lemire and Matthew Kidnt deserved their unhappy ending.  Maybe I'm touchy about spinal injury thanks to Batgirl, but I really don't like investing in a new character just to see decimation for the sake of a timeline with rules not clearly delineated.  

The time travel angle seems to suggest linear time with a single history that must be preserved.  That said.  It doesn't quite add up and basically does what The Brave and the Bold did with Zatanna retroactively setting Babs up for The Killing Joke.  The ending to The Valiant just feels unnecessarily sour, but because I really don't know these characters, I can't work up any rage, similar to the vitriol I hissed on behalf of Batgirl.

Is it 2016 Already?

“Here, Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith for people in our state and this avalanche of intolerance has been poured upon the people of our state.”

Gay Klan burns cross on the yard of Christian Bakers Association.  Business as usual in Indiana.  “Somebody should write a law to stop this persecution,” bemoans Christian Florist.

Don't feel bad for Indiana Governor Michael Pence.  He wants you to feel bad for him, but don’t.  He knew very well what he was doing when he signed the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law.  He knew what the impact would be.  He cannot claim to be incredulous.  The Indiana Chamber of Commerce told Governor Pence in no uncertain terms what this bill would mean for business, and Pence ignored them.  

That's because Pence doesn't give a rat's ass about Indiana.  He's hoping to run for President.  In order to do so, he feels the need to court the whacko wing of the Republican Party.  That is to say.  The Republican Party.  That’s right.  This controversy didn’t start over gay rights or religious rights.  It was triggered by one man’s ego.

Pence hoped for a modest amount of bad publicity.  You know the chestnut, and to an extent it's true.  Pence wanted to draw attention and promote himself as the Ultra Conservative choice.  Well, not choice.  They hate choice.  Let's go with option.

What Pence didn't count on was such a passionate backlash.  What he didn't count on was being recalled along with all the other idiots in the General Assembly.  Already being discussed.  A recall vote doesn't look good on a résumé.   What Pence didn't count on was scrambling to institute damage control.  What he didn’t count on was deflecting straight yes-or-no questions posed by somebody about a million times smarter than him.  

What Pence didn't count upon was becoming a hilarious overnight sensation.  So the POBB would like to congratulate Governor Michael Pence for not only screwing himself out of even being a contender for the Republican nomination but also for screwing himself out of politics forever.    You see some Democrats don't like Hillary Clinton, but Pence's kind of stupidity is the sort that unites Democrats and convinces the many moderate rank and file Republicans to stay home.  I can’t wait to see what Jon Stewart does with this.

"Different is good. So, don't fit in. Don't sit still. Don't ever try to do less than you are," she said. "When somebody tells you you're different, smile and hold your head up high and be proud. And as your villain, I would also say — cause a little trouble. It's good for you."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

POBB: March 18, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
March 18, 2015
Ray Tate

This week in the Pick of the Brown Bag….Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes, Simpsons Comics, Reyn, Princess Ugg, new Dodson project Red One, Legendary Red Sonja, new number one Invisible Republic, new Mignola book with one of the oldest characters in horror, The Frankenstein Underground, Batman/Superman and a double dose of Batgirl.

Julie's father the King intends to hold the princesses of the many lands hostage.  This may in fact be why he set up the school for princesses in the first place.  He’ll return the princesses for a price from each of the regions to enrich his domain to the point of superpower.  The King didn't count on three things.  Princess Ulga, her barbarian father and Ulga's influence on her fellow royals.

The tale begins with a duel against Malick, the King’s man.  The melee takes an unexpected course, and the twist catalyzes courage in the princesses.  They find they need no handsome prince to rescue them.  In fact somebody just may need to rescue the men-folk from them.  

Malick is no prince anyway.  Ted Naifeh introduced him as the pretty boy love interest, only to play with the conventions of the role.  He even played with the typical conventions that played on the conventions.  The result is what you see in the current issue of Princess Ugg.

When the wheel turns to ransom, Princess Ulga lives up to the promise she made to her mother.  Not only does she negotiate for peace between nations, she also progresses with the Frost Giants.  Naifeh turned them into bugbears through dialogue, but they appear much more benign when we meet them.   Lesson?

The conclusion to Princess Ulga's first story is worth every penny.  Naifeh’s unique art imbues the characters with life and emotions.  Often, the settings evoke remarkable beauty of exotic lands.  Part of this feeling can be attributed to colorist Warren Wugnich.  Princess Ugg would look a little flat without his warm, natural shades.

Legendary Red Sonja teams up with…Heh…See for yourself.

Why on earth wouldn’t you want to read this?  In addition to artist Aneke’s fantastic eye-candy, you get Marc Andreyko writing.  Marc “Manhunter” Andreyko.  So, the partnership between Red Sonja and Frankenstein’s second creature is about as feminist as you can get.  All right.  All right.  Let me, sweeten the pot.  The story also features at the cliffhanger one of the first mad geniuses in literature, but swathed in a whole new weirdness.  Trust me.  You want this.

Mike Mignola is cognizant of all the Frankenstein material that has come before him, including Agent of SHADE.  So instead of retreading all that, Mignola employs the unusual tactic of depositing the creature in Mexico.  Technically this isn't the famed figure's first displacement to Mexico.

Of course, the Mexican background of El Santo films is a given.  Mignola chose to position Frankenstein's Monster in Mexico, and he’s a smidgeon more literate.

The creature meets an old woman with the power to heal and learns of the Mexican gods.  That's certainly different enough, but Mignola escalates the bizarre upon introducing the Big Bad of the piece and his hench-things.

The Marquis is a collector of oddities.  Frankenstein's Monster certainly suits his criteria.  Ben Stenbeck illustrates the Marquis as if he were a white-haired Christopher Columbus, surrounded of course by vampire bat-nosed men.  I mean if you are going to do a villainous Christopher Columbus, bat-nosed men are a given, yes?

The Marquis' black-winged angel traps the monster in a dream-like state, and here Mignola shifts perceptions.  The supernatural phantasmagoria casts a plainer shadow in the real world and gives the reader an ample sampling of how Frankenstein Underground will work.

That of course is the opening to the newer seasons of Person of Interest.  The reason I bring it up is that Batgirl’s program, the one she lost in a previous issue, evolved into a life-form.  The trouble is that it’s nuts.

Batgirl needs to stop this crazy thing, and what I like about this issue of Batgirl is that almost everybody is wrong.  The A.I. isn’t Oracle.  The story's not Batgirl vs. Oracle.  That would be rubbish.  Batgirl wouldn’t need to fight.  Just climb some stairs.

The A.I. believes it’s the true Barbara Gordon because Babs used her brain to organize the data.  The program was meant to be a predictive algorithm, but the data set was too large for a normal computer.  So, Babs being Babs used the best computer on the planet, her brain.  It makes perfect sense when you’re bitter about being shot and paralyzed by the Joker.

This to me is the best reaction I’ve seen from Babs after being confined to a wheelchair.  This is normal.  This is how a normal person would react.  Because the Powers That Be at DC were so bent on providing a positive role model for the disabled, they missed the fact that what happened to Barbara wasn’t a good thing.  It was a wretched event that should never have been ushered into continuity proper.  I’ve said that for twenty-five years, and you’ll never convince me otherwise.

The way in which Babs defeats the creature’s machinations resonates with violence.  The fight choreography should eliminate any concerns with Batgirl becoming too cute just because Babs Tarr illustrates characters in such a darn inviting style.

Now, that's a Batgirl dance I can get behind.

Batgirl furthermore cements the bonds with her erstwhile partner Black Canary.  They do this just as any male super-hero duo would, a team-up initiating some massive saves, ending in a positive victory.

Batgirl’s other book Endgame, ties in with something or other in the Batman titles.  It’s a wordless excursion into a zombie infested world where the victims have been infected with the Joker venom, and can probably be saved by the Big Bad Batman.

I don’t know much about Endgame, and this book I think is only meant to keep Batgirl involved in family business.  It’s a pleasant, wordless time-waster where Batgirl saves lots of lives, and focuses on one in particular. 

The art by Bengal keeps up with Babs Tarr and Maris Wick, but some of the colors seem off to me.  Would Frankie, who is black really turn pink even in the reflective light of a computer?  Oh, and  please stop giving Batgirl green eyes.  They're blue, baby.  


Anyway.  Batgirl: Endgame is for completist Batgirl fans.  Others may just want to stick to main title.

Batman and Superman finalize their battle against the Phantom King with expected cavalry rescues and typical deviousness from Batman.  

The cousins Superman and Supergirl do the heavy lifting against their brainwashed Kryptonian family and friends.  The heroes pay back the Kryptonian criminal with a helluva headache that's quite mean-spirited and in keeping with the new 52 heroes'  willingness to actually hurt the criminals they combat.  This is why the new 52 champions are so much better than their post-Crisis counterparts.  They seemed more concerned with holding back when fighting their super-powered psychotic rogues.  As a result, the villains appeared to run rampant.

Although there's tragedy associated with the aftermath of the Phantom King's attack that will resonate with the cousins, there's also a nice little upbeat surprise at the conclusion that very few readers were expecting.  If the issue seems abrupt, keep in mind that Batman/Superman is the finish of an excellent story arc featuring the most inventive use for Kandor in history.

Red One surprised me by being more than just cheescake.

Oh, there’s some choice slices to be had in this title.  We are after all dealing with the Dodsons, but Xavier Dorison’s central character Vera Yelnikov differs from the lovely Russian spies that habitually drop at the feet of Mr. Bond so readily. 

She would drop, and visa-versa, but seduction wouldn’t be necessary.  Although Vera serves the Brezhnev regime of the late seventies, the free-spirit grew up in Khrushchev’s Russia.  Khrushchev was until Mikhail Gorbachev the most liberal of Russian political thinkers to come into power.  He instilled numerous reforms to Russian society, and that environment would nurture somebody like Vera.  

In short, Vera’s philosophy and behavior doesn’t really match what we think of as typically Russian.  It may seem to be just Xavier Dorison’s whim, but I think some real thought went into building the characterization.  In any case, Vera is warm, appealing and feminist.  So, it’s very easy to like her.

Red One also seems less like a book where a Russian agent will go to America and become charmed by the patriotism and freedoms of Uncle Sam.  Instead, Vera is at the onset worldly and takes advantage of every opportunity her travels presents her.

Her knowledge of the United States is limited, but I imagine she’ll be a quick learner as the series progresses.  I also expect she’ll take advantage of the riches that the U.S.A. offers but still remain loyal to Mother Russia.  Yuri Andropov was on par with Brezhnev.  So, I can’t see her bucking the bear even after Brezhnev’s demise.

The Russian army sends Vera to the United States to eliminate the Carpenter, a homicidal maniac bent on cleansing whatever.  He has backing, tacit or otherwise, from another group of like-minded fruitcakes.

This is where I balk.  The massive group of protesters picket the premiere of a mainstream film because of apparently swearing and sexual content.  

I grew up during the seventies.  While the religious right did in fact gather strength during this period, they weren't as well organized as these screwballs.  This is something that would happen in the mid-eighties.  In a way, the seventies were a time of enlightenment.  Roe vs. Wade became the law.  The Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass, but at least it was a battle fought.  

Adult entertainment essentially became legal, despite Deep Throat triggering all sorts of trouble early in the decade.  Censorship grew dormant.  The religious right were justifiably labeled a lunatic fringe.  They could spout whatever nonsense they wanted, and nobody cared.  

The press furthermore didn’t take them seriously and seldom gave them soapboxes.  There was nothing like Fox News in the seventies.  Walter Cronkite was the bastion of journalistic integrity and every reporter wanted to be him.  So this, kind of protest at a mainstream movie wouldn’t have happened.  In fact the police of the day probably would have viewed such a flexing of muscle as charming and refreshing since most of the protests in the seventies involved Vietnam.  

Don’t misread.  Themes of religious hatefulness should definitely be exposed in any medium.  The more the sands of time fall, the more and more whack-jobs like that cease to be harmless, and the Dodsons’ character design for the leader of the movement Jacky Core is cunning.  The insane certainty in the cause gives quite a number of religious right escapees serene demeanors that conceal bilge. 

It’s twenty years too early, and the idea that the Carpenter and this gaggle could threaten SALT talks is absurd as is the idea of a woman being President in that era.  That won’t happen until 2016.  Although, I would have preferred a different catalyst for Vera’s excursion, the story’s nevertheless entertaining and the star a real draw.  Red One is a good B Book.

Squirrel Girl gets in a tangle with Whiplash on her way to deal with Galactus.  The deranged title continues to be a slap in the sensibilities, and there’s at least three things in the book that you couldn’t imagine to want to see.  

Doreen’s obsession with squirrels borders on genius.  Very few super-heroes use their powers with such unswerving and hilarious skill.  

The A and B stories in Simpsons Comics offers laughs galore as Lisa meets a previously undisclosed relation of Bleeding Gums Murphy and Homer becomes the most wanted man amongst VIPs for all the wrong reasons.  The way in which writer Ian Boothby digs his way out of the predicaments is inspired, and the artwork by Phil Ortiz, Mike DeCarlo and Art Villanueva on-model and stunning.

Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes is still wildly entertaining.  After making nice with Taylor, Kirk and the crew of the starship…Enterprise visit Cornelius and Zira.  Trading notes however can violate the precepts of the Prime Directive if you’re not careful.

I like that the Tiptons chose Scotty to be the most open with his Scottish burr.  The loquaciousness foreshadows his “how do we know he didn’t invent it” line in Star Trek: The Voyage Home.

Before Kirk and the others can get settled, the gorilla guerrillas of General Marius attack, and this means we get to see Spock use a Vulcan nerve pinch on one of the unlucky simians.  

That’s the kind of scene that makes a Star Trek fan giddy.  Also, on a personal note, I never thought I would use the phrase gorilla guerrillas again.  I love comic books.

The theme of the book is that wonderful chant “Ape Kill Ape” that accompanied the duel between Caesar and General Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

The Tiptons through the gist also redeem the character of General Ursus, from Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Ursus in that film was a bone-headed gorilla whose tactical skills were less than impressive.  Here, he seems reasonable, albeit skeptical, and loyal to Ape Law

I was absolutely right about Reyn.  We’re dealing with something bigger than sword and sorcery, and the writer Kel Symons and artists Nate Stockman and Paul Little never forget what drew you to the book in the first place. 

When all is said and done, Reyn is the tender story about the title character, a Warden, killing monsters.  Yeah.  It gives you a kind of warm feeling all over.

Last but not least, the Invisible Republic opens intriguingly with a reporter on a Dystopia looking for a good story.  He finds it in a random purchase that relates the memoirs of Maia Reveron.

It’s too early to say whether or not this title has staying power, but it’s got a grabber of a middle, and I like the humanitarian motif in Maia’s actions that contrast the behavior of her cousin, who rises to power and makes the narrative worth the broadcast.