book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

42423832X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore

Rating: XXXX

Published May 14th by Titan Books

“Within her, the power surged. Fiery, unstoppable; ancient and new all at the same time, all barely contained by her desperate will. Fueled by rage, bound for vengence, burning with the primal energies of the universe.”

Piloting a shuttle through a deadly solar flare, Jean Grey saves the X-Men, but is possessed by one of the universe’s most powerful forces–the Phoenix. As she adapts to her new powers, the mutant team launches an assault against the clandestine organization known as the Hellfire Club. Once inside, however, Jean is tricked by the villain Mastermind into betraying her teammates. She becomes first the Hellfire Club’s Black Queen and then Dark Phoenix, as the power to destroy worlds bursts forth uncontrolled. Shooting into deep space, Jean destroys an entire star system, then encounters a cruiser piloted by the spacefaring race the Shi’ar. When the cruiser is obliterated, the Shi’ar queen decrees that the Phoenix must die. But only the X-Men can hope to stop Dark Phoenix, and save Jean Grey.

Growing up one of my favourite things to do was the watch the ever-loving heck out of the animated X-Men show. This was my first real introduction into superheroes, this and the animated Spiderman show, mainly because they both had EPIC openings and are tunes that are basically wired into my DNA at this point. ANYWAY, not only did the animated X-Men show have people with superpowers, it had women and girls with superpowers, (and I was a girl so obviously this meant I could also have superpowers), it had some sweet beautiful angst, amazing romances, hilarious one-liners and some of the most 90’s costumes I have ever seen in my life (and I grew up in the ’90s). This show stole my heart and rocked my world, even more so when The Phoenix and Dark Phoenix story arcs started. I loved that Jean became so incredibly powerful and when she became the Dark Phoenix I have to say it made me feel incredibly empowered and the Dark Phoenix became my first villain/anti-hero obsession and I think very possibly where my love for seriously angsty stories came from.

Years later I had devoured the Phoenix story again in comic form when I was finally old enough to buy and source them myself (my mum didn’t approve back then) and then we got X-Men: The Last Stand and everyone hated it but I ADORED it and although it obviously has some problems I still love the version of the Dark Phoenix we got. Skip ahead and now not only do we have the Dark Phoenix film that just came out (that’s a WHOLE other post trust me) we have also been treated to another Marvel prose story, this one by highly decorated author Stuart Moore and it’s all about Jean and the Phoenix force. To say I was excited is an understatement and thanks to the lovely folks at Titan Books I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Not only was this my favourite X-Men story, Stuart Moore’s X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga is an updated retelling as well. I find comic stories can be very subjective, especially the older ones and absolutely the origin stories, they change so much over the years and I think this was a tale that was definitely due an upgrade and when comparing it to the comic version and honestly, it was brought forward perfectly. I had another look through the comics after finishing this book (it’s been a while since my last readthrough) and it’s such a faithful adaption in that we still get all the key moments and beats, even some of the iconic lines are the same they’re just enhanced by being able to look beyond each frame and into the minds of these characters and really get a read on their thoughts and feelings which is fast becoming my favourite thing about these Marvel novelisations.

With a more in-depth look into each character, we also got to see a lot more character development as the story progressed from Scott finally beginning to understand Jean, Jean accepting herself, Xavier owning his mistakes (a rare find) and Logan actually being pretty damn amazing. For me, other than Jean, Logan was one of my favourite characters, he’s somehow rough and animalistic while also being a sweetheart who just respectfully loves this woman so much and he doesn’t make a fuss that she’s with someone else, he just loves her in his own, unobtrusive way and gets on with things while also understanding the hard truths and being able to deal with them and know his own limitations. I’m really glad we got to see this side of the Wolverine in this novel.

Another character I hadn’t expected to have enjoyed so much was also Emma Frost, she always seems to get the eye candy treatment so it was nice to see what her game plan is, how she feels about Shaw and the others as well as the way it seems she feels towards Scott and one of the big differences I noticed was Emma aiding the X-Men briefly for her own reasons but I won’t go into details for fear of spoilers, I just wanted to mention it because I felt it really helped to build a real personality for Emma.

There were some characters who did appear in the Dark Phoenix Saga novelisation that I hadn’t expected to see and that were brief cameos by Peter Parker and Doctor Strange as well as a small chapter featuring a group fo the Avengers. Although they seemed a little out of place and didn’t have any impact on the story at all I did enjoy them turning up, however briefly. In the original comics, we have one frame each for the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer as well as Spiderman, Doctor Strange and X-Man turned Avenger Hank Mccoy (Beast). In the true spirit of this being an updated retelling the Avengers we see in the book are the ones we have come to know via the popular films set in the MCU at present and I’m curious if including them was a prerequisite by Marvel themselves to tie it into the success of the MCU at the moment or some personal wish fulfilment by the author in seeing these heroes all truly occupying the same space like we should have seen in the films if it hadn’t been for the rights to the characters being all over the place. Either way, I loved the inclusion, I wanted to be miffed they had no bearing on the story but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to be more than slightly annoyed by it and even that didn’t last long.

I didn’t find much that surprised me but in a faithful retelling that’s to be expected and sometimes welcomed, one thing I did have trouble with was keeping track of some of the action, there would be times when I think I’m following okay and then someone is on the opposite side of the room to where I thought they were or fighting someone completely different, it made sense enough when I stopped and reread the text again but I think some of it was just lost on me.

Overall I enjoyed the book and I feel it’s a fantastic and faithful revival of my favourite story arc. I enjoyed the personal look we got into the characters and I am excited to read more novelisations like this as there are quite a few Marvel storylines, even bigger ones I didn’t get into due to my late-coming to the medium as well as being perplexed by all the different titles, X-Men especially. Another X-Men title, X-Men: Days of Future Past penned by Alex Irvine (he’s written for Blizzard I’m VERY excited) which is out June 25th and you can bet I’ll be reviewing it so keep an eye out.

Is there a comic, tv show or other media you’d like to see get a faithful novelisation or retelling?

book reviews, book talk, Bookish Discuussions, Comics, spoiler free

Captain Marvel: Liberation Run

42583944Captain Marvel: Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe

Rating: XXXX

Published: February 26th 2019 by Titan Books

But nothing can resist the stars for long. And she was made of battle-worn-starlight – her own kind of fire, one that never went out.

Carol Danvers–Captain Marvel–narrowly stops a spacecraft from crashing. Its pilot Rhi is a young Inhuman woman from a group who left for a life among the stars. Instead, they were imprisoned on a planet where an enslaved Inhuman brings her owner great power and influence. Horrified by the account, Carol gathers a team–including Ant-Man, Mantis, and Amadeus Cho–and they set out to free Rhi’s people.

I was gifted this gorgeous finished copy of Captain Marvel: Liberation Run by the publisher, Titan Books in exchange for an honest review. When I was offered this book that comes out under two weeks before one of my most anticipated Marvel film releases, Captain Marvel hits cinemas across the world I thought this would be a great opportunity to really dip my toe back into the world of Marvel comics and familiarise myself with the story of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. I’m usually very much a DC Comics reader (Give me Green Lantern or Gotham City Sirens any day) but the films we’ve seen from Marvel over the past decade have really piqued my interest and I’ve found my way to reading a few of their titles. I was excited however to find an entire story in one novelised volume instead of having to wait months for any kind of conclusion such as we often find in comics (I’m impatient okay?).

In the comics… Labelled as Marvels biggest female hero and quite possibly the Marvels mightiest Avenger, Carol Danvers  first entered the Marvel universe in the 1970’s as the security chief of a restricted military base and later in 1977 took on the title of Ms Marvel in her own self titled series after she effectively became a human-Kree hybrid thanks to being exposed to energy from an explosion of a device that tried to meld her genetic structure to that of  the Kree hero, Captain Marvel who was also in the vicinity. Despite some horrific treatment to her story in the 1980s, which even the former writer considered “inappropriate”, the title alone was socially progressive for its time by using the title Ms. which was then associated with the feminist movement. In 2012 after going through a lot of changes and different appearances, Carol returns with the title Captain Marvel in a new series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick which leads the way for a newer, more progressive side to the character and a slew of female writers. Fast forward to July 2018 and we get a “retelling” of Carol’s origin story with her mother instead being of Kree origin and the explosion merely unlocking her latent abilities, writer Margret Stohl has also commented on the fact that the series will share some similarities to the upcoming film although that is still “it’s own thing.”  Currently, Captain Marvels (and Carol’s) story is being written by Kelly Thompson (of Hawkeye and Jem and the Holograms fame) and illustrated by Carmen Carnero.

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Captain Marvel: Liberation Run was everything that I could have hoped for in that it felt like your typical but enjoyable YA storyline but became so much more with the addition of Carol and the team she assembles to aid Rhi, an inhuman girl who, along with her people have been trapped in a hellish prison disguised as a “safe place” for the powerful women of her kind. Not only do we get a well written, moderatley paced and interesting storyline with Rhi and the other inhumans but we also get to see a little into the lives of Carol and Scott Lang (Ant-man) as well as some great story and dialogue from Mantis, Hepzibah and Amadeus (with a hint of Brawn).

The only thing that I found irked me about this book, and it completely a problem of my own making, was that I wanted to know more about each character. If you’re an avid comic reader you will probably recognise all, if not most, of the Alpha Flight characters but as someone who only dips their toe in here and there with the occasional series that interests me I had to rely on my knowledge gleaned from the popular films which are not always entirely in line with the comic releases. Although each character does get a bit of an explanation as to their powers etc in the story, at times it kind of felt, to me, like the name was dropped and we should know everything we need to know about from just that and to be honest that is a fair assumption as someone who is picking up a Marvel novel will more than likely have at least a passing knowledge about it’s characters. I do think there maybe could have been an additional glossary type feature with a little explanation of each of the “superhero” characters – I just want to know how they got their powers is that so much to ask? – but as I said this is a problem that not everyone will have and is more to do with my inherent need to know backstories than any real problem.

Aside from the characters themselves, the story holds well, even on its own, I may have been less inclined to have picked this up without the Captain Marvel name but it does read very much like a YA story I would happily read and enjoy outside of the Marvel universe as well. I think this is one of the most enjoyable feminist books I’ve read in a while too, it really hits the nail on the head with a lot of its points and moments that I really connected to without feeling like it was steamrolling over the plot, it was a part of it that helped make it a whole instead of taking centre stage.

Captain Marvel: Liberation Run has definitely made me more excited about the upcoming film and has certainly piqued my interest in checking out the comics, I just need to decide where to start!

Have you read a novel based on or tied into a comic at all? How did you find it and had you read the linked comics beforehand? Let me know in the comments and sound off if you’re also looking forward to seeing Captain Marvel on the big screen on March 8th! Don’t forget Captain Marvel: Liberation Run is out today!

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