Marvel Versus DC/DC Versus Marvel
(Art by Dan Jurgens, Josef Rubinstein, Claudio Castellini, Paul Neary, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan)
A crossover event which sees the characters of the Marvel and DC comics universes going to war. The inhabitants of two universes are bewildered when they begin to bleed into each other, with unfamiliar heroes and villains appearing at random, but the stakes prove even more dramatic when it is revealed that two cosmic entities intend a head-to-head contest with the losing universe being wiped from existence.
This was far from the first time that Marvel and DC crossed their characters over with each other (and I loved the fact that the Joker seems to be the only one who remembers a previous crossover - 'Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds' by J. M. DeMatteis) but this was the first time the two titans of the comic industry decided to make a full-scale event of it. Unfortunately, as with most major event storylines, the commercial impetus behind it is a bit too transparent; with the public voting aspect being particularly egregious. I was a teenage comics collector when this was originally published and, at the time, I missed that the writers themselves manage to sneak some meta criticism of this whole thing into the book itself. The most obvious time this happens is when Jubilee writes in her diary 'It's weird - creepy weird, I mean - how people are reacting, treating this like it's the Super Bowl or something. Maybe it's easier to do that than really think about the consequences.' I can't help but feel that the authors wanted to tell a much more introspective story about these two mighty universes clashing but were tied-down by the format they'd been given.
The biggest letdown of the book is how the headline match-ups play out. Not so much because of who wins and who loses (although, does anyone really believe that Storm would beat Wonder Woman?) but more because of the abbreviated and perfunctory way these things happen, in some cases in just a couple of pages. There is no depth or complexity to most of the battles because the writers have to wrap it up quickly and move on to the next one.
However, there is some really good stuff here, which explores what it would be like if these two universes overlapped in a major way. Pretty much everything outside of the actual 1vs1 fights is interesting, we just sadly don't get to spend as much time with those bits as we should. Among the highlights are seeing Bane try his back-breaking technique on Captain America, Robin and Jubilee's budding teen romance, Superman fighting Juggernaut and J. Jonah Jameson becoming the new editor of the Daily Planet. Really, it would have been so much better if this story had been a much longer event which had had time to develop some of these interesting 'what ifs?' rather than a short miniseries altogether too focused on fan voting.
My final note would be that I loved the resolution, in which Captain America and Batman become the exemplars of their respective universes. I've always loved both of those characters and it was great to see their unwavering dedication to justice being what the universes hinge on.
3 out of 5
Mistress Of The Empire
The final book of the Empire trilogy. After the ending of 'Servant of the Empire', you'd be forgiven for thinking, 'well that's it isn't it?' but the two authors prove that there is quite a bit more worth telling about Mara of the Acoma. The book begins with a devastating event that eventually unbalances the Acoma's apparently unassailable position. However, Mara must face more than simply her enemy Jiro of the Anasati as the Assembly of Magicians begins to consider her a threat to their power.
The book includes all the plotting, espionage and politics you might expect from the trilogy, but included here are questions about the Tsurani culture as well as Mara's quest to find answers in distant lands. The book is of higher quality than its predecessors and really makes you feel like you've gone on a journey, a feeling that other authors who write books of similar length sometimes omit (ahem, *Robert Jordan*).
You could conceivably skip the other two books of the series and simply read this one, although I wouldn't necesarily recommend it.
5 out of 5
Murder In LaMut
by Raymond E. Feist & Joel Rosenberg
Part of the Legends of the Riftwar series, this book is very different from Feist's other Riftwar books and, as such, has taken quite alot of abuse. I, however, am willing to go out on a limb and say that just because it lacks the epic scale or huge cast of characters or glorious battles of those other works, doesn't mean it's not a good book.
I actually quite enjoyed it and found Durine, Kethol and Pirojil to be wonderfully cynical and pragmatic characters. Their constant bending (and occasionally breaking) of the rules to get results is a nice change from the clean cut heroes of many other fantasy books. The prose is of a high quality and the freezing weather of LaMut will soon seep into you mind, leaving you shivering.
Generally speaking, this is not an epic fantasy tale and fans of that particular brand of the genre should steer clear. However, if you want an intrigue-filled murder mystery with a fantasy background then I would definitely recommend this book; it's not outstanding, but it is an entertaining read. Keep your eyes peeled for the bit where Kethol 'invents' snowshoes and fakes a Tsurani invasion!
4 out of 5