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Review: 'Rocket Raccoon and Groot: The Complete Collection'

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Rocket Raccoon and Groot: The Complete CollectionThe title of this collection is misleading; it collects almost every issue Rocket Raccoon and/or Groot appeared in with the exceptions of any issues of Guardians of the Galaxy or books where they appeared as part of that team. As a side note, Rocket is the only Guardian who has been an active member of that team since the beginning (not counting the original, alternate future Guardians); even Star-Lord was momentarily kicked off the team.

But anyway, these are the solo adventures of both Groot and Rocket, plus their team ups, including their first appearances in Tales to Astonish #13 way back in 1959 for Groot (that’s right, Groot is over half a century old) and both of Rocket Raccoon’s first appearances. I’ll explain that better below.

All together, they form a great introduction to the characters, especially for fans whose only knowledge that these two characters exists comes from the upcoming movie.

This collection includes stories by Bill Mantlo, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and Larry Lieber, with art by Keith Giffen, Sal Buscema, Mike Mignola, Timothy Green II and Jack Kirby. The cover is by Mike Mignola, with a back cover by Skottie Young.

New York, NY, Marvel, April 2013, trade paperback $18.96 (264 pages).

Review: 'Mindline', by M. C. A. Hogarth.

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Mindline by M.C.A. HogarthThis is the conclusion of M.C.A. Hogarth’s The Dreamhealers Duology. I reviewed the first book, Mindtouch, here on September 1, 2013.

In that novel Jahir Seni Galare, the colorless elflike Eldritch esper, has just entered interstellar Seersana University. His roommate is Vasiht’h, a short, skunk-furred centauroid winged Glaseah. They are both espers, but Jahir is an involuntary telepath to whom the impact of other minds is painful. In the course of Mindtouch, the two aliens develop a strong friendship, Jahir learns to control his talent – somewhat – and the two graduate.

Jahir intends to use his telepathic talent to become the galaxy’s first xenotherapist, reading his patients’ minds to help heal them. The question is whether there is any danger of the esper medic’s becoming overwhelmed by his patient’s mind.

It would be just his luck to begin his residency by reporting to the hospital as a patient. Jahir Seni Galare, nascent xenotherapist, Eldritch noble and apparently complete lightweight, sat on a bench just outside the Pad nexus that had delivered him to the surface of the planet Selnor. He had his carry-on in his lap and was trying to be unobtrusive about using it as a bolster until the dizziness stopped. (p. 1)

Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, January 2014, trade paperback $15.99 ([1 +] 341 [+ 7] pages), Kindle $5.99.

'Freedom Planet': A furry platformer inspired by furry platformers

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Freedom PlanetWhat would happen if Sonic the Hedgehog and Sparkster from the the Sega Genesis game Rocket Knight Adventures had a love child? Well, apparently it would produce a purple dragon.

Most people would point out that this makes absolutely no biological sense. They would be right. I was talking metaphorically about game mechanics.

Yes, Freedom Planet is a platformer featuring anthropomorphic characters in high speed platforming antics. There are certainly plenty of those to go around. But the thing that makes this one stand out is that it really does capture the essence of what made those titles that inspired it successfully, all while creating a style of its very own.

Review: 'The Face in the Mirror' and 'Chained Reflections', by T. R. Brown

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

The Face in the Mirror These are the first two volumes of T.R. Brown’s Reflections series. Amazon.com has a special subcategory for them: Genetic Engineering Science Fiction. They should be required reading for every furry author who plans to write human-into-anthropomorphized-animal fiction. They are also good reading for everyone else.

The two are narrated by the protagonist, Todd Hershel. The setting is an unspecified future, but there are automatic/robot cars, artificial islands (“Libertarian Colonies”) for dissidents, personal computers that unfold from pocket-size, artificially-grown organ harvesting, references to a second American Civil War in the recent past and “the Vatican in exile” and bioengineered animal people grown for soldiers in wars. For legal reasons, these humanoid “neos” are required to look like the animals they are based upon.

I was driving back from a meeting with a supplier and there was a semi pulling a load of scrap metal slightly ahead of me in the next lane. My car alerted me to be ready to take over manual control, pulling me away from the e-mails I had been working on. I saw the reason immediately. An accident a couple of miles ahead. An ambulance and other emergency personnel were already on site. That probably saved my life. […] the semi next to me had a blowout in the front wheel. […] Autopilots are good, but they can’t handle an emergency like that and, before the operator could take over, the semi jerked into my lane […] (p. 1)

Todd wakes up in a hospital two months later. His body was completely crushed by the scrap metal. Since this was an unplanned medical emergency, no substitute body has been prepped for him. The only suitable usable body that can be found on emergency notice is a brain-dead felis neo – a female, at that. Todd’s wife Colleen is not happy about that, but she agrees that the important thing is to save his life. They can worry later about getting a new human body, or at least a sex-change operation back to male and cosmetic surgery to make him look more human, later.

The first 50-odd pages are filled with the details of Todd’s exploring his new body, bioengineered from a panther to be a brawny feline soldier.

“We considered just putting your head on the new body,” Walt [a doctor] continued, “but, in addition to the aesthetic problem of a human head on a felis body, there would also have been tissue rejection to deal with.” (p. 9)

The Face in the Mirror; A Transhuman Identity Crisis, by T. R. Brown, Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2012, trade paperback $17.40 (501 pages), Kindle $2.99.
Chained Reflections, by T. R. Brown, Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2013, trade paperback $19.99 (558 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Review: 'Felix the Cat Paintings', by Don Oriolo

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Felix the Cat Paintins by Don OrioloThis is a beautiful but chaotic collection of full-color paintings of Felix the Cat, by Don Oriolo.

There are at least five title pages and subtitles, all different, plus a foreword by Craig Yoe and short essays or tributes by comic book and animation experts, historians and, in the book’s term, aficionados Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, David Gerstein and Paul Castiglia. The most important subtitles are A collection of paintings from the prolific imagination of the Felix the Cat guy and Curated, designed and edited by Rod Ollerenshaw. Another is The Felix the Cat Paintings of Don Oriolo.

To add to the confusion, there are websites and copyright statements for donoriolocollection.com, ollerenshawworkshop.com, © 2014 Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. and © 2014 Gussoni-Yoe Studio. Inc.

Included are full-page photographs of Don Oriolo with Craig Yoe, two of the essayists, actor-artist Tony Curtis and some of his paintings.

Foreword by Craig Yoe, San Diego, CA, IDW Publishing, February 2014, hardcover $34.99 (unpaged [168 pages]).

Review: 'Claws and Starships', by M. C. A. Hogarth

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Claws and Starships by M.C.A. HogarthWhen the results of Earth's genetic experiments fled their makers, they took their own name as they left humanity behind; centuries later, the Pelted have spread into a multi-world alliance of cultures and languages, cribbed from Terra or created whole-cloth. Claws and Starships collects six stories of the Pelted, ranging from the humor of a xenoanthropologist on the wrong side of mythology to more serious works considering the implications of genetic engineering in a far-future classroom seeded with the children of those laboratories. Come stamp your passport and visit the worlds of the Pelted Alliance in all their variety! (back-cover blurb)

If you want to say that I have a conflict of interest reviewing this collection as I wrote the afterword to it, go ahead. I have been a fan of M.C.A. Hogarth’s “Pelted Alliance” furry science fiction stories since I discovered them in YARF! and other furry fanzines in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I included one, “Rosettes and Ribbons” from Yarf! #58, January 2000, in Best in Show, the first anthology of furry fiction. I was glad to see this first collection of Pelted short fiction, along with six illustrations by the author, in an e-book in December 2011, and I felt honored to be asked to write this afterword, for this new trade paperback edition in June 2013.

Claws and Starships consists of the novella “A Distant Sun” and the five short stories “Rosettes and Ribbons”, “The Elements of Freedom”, “Tears”, “Pantheon” and “Butterfly”. These are the Pelted stories that do not feature Alysha Forrest, Hogarth’s feline-based Karaka’An woman, the main character in the series. The first Alysha Forrest stories were rewritten into Hogarth’s novel Alysha’s Fall (Cornwuff Press, September 2000), and she has starred in most of the Pelted short fiction since then.

But there have been these six other stories that show the Pelted universe is more than just Alysha’s adventures. Claws and Starships packages them together neatly for the fans of the Pelted universe, and of really good furry interstellar science fiction.

Illustrated by M.C.A. Hogarth, afterword by Fred Patten, Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, June 2013, trade paperback $12.99 ([2 +] 203 pages), Kindle $3.99.

Review: 'District 14, Season 2', by Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann

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District 14: Season 2I reviewed District 14, Season 1 on Flayrah on February 12, 2013, saying:

Wow!

I don’t know what’s going on, but wow!

Three years have passed since Season 1. As before, the main character is the mysterious Babar-esque elephant immigrant known as Michael Elizondo, with his recently made best friend, the reckless investigative reporter Hector McKeagh the beaver.

Season 2 continues the elaborate comic-art “crime noir” mystery set in an early 20th-century steampunk version of New York City populated with humans, anthropomorphic animals and flying-saucer aliens.

Wow, indeed.

Translation by Anna Provitola, Los Angeles, Humanoids, Inc., January 2014, hardcover $39.95 (358 [+ 1] pages).

Review: 'All Tied Up in Knotz', by Andres Cyanni Halden

Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)

All Tied Up in Knotz This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region. (publisher's advisory)

This is a M/M adult novella, but not in FurPlanet’s “Cupcakes” series. FurPlanet has rated it NC-17 for “graphic sexual situations”.

Synopsis: Carson really likes meeting guys over Knotz, his favorite smartphone app. He has little patience for conversation and even less for the idea of a relationship. However, after a hot bear quite literally knocks him off his feet, it seems there might be more to life than his job and searching for one night stands. (publisher’s blurb)

Carson, as the cover by Soro shows, is a young male red fox (usually more dressed in public) who works in a bookstore in St. Marx. He meets Peter Belov, a handsome and ridiculously rich Russian black bear, when the latter’s expensive car knocks over his bicycle in a minor traffic accident. Carson’s cell phone, ruined in the crash, is frozen on Knotz, a gay erotic site, so there is no doubt as to his sexual orientation. Peter offers to drive him home, and since Carson’s preference is obvious, Peter proposes a gay date.

All Tied Up in Knotz is well-written, but it is 100% for the gay male eroticism market. St. Marx appears to be a city inhabited entirely by handsome gay male anthros looking for friendly sex with no long-term attachments. Females and even families with children appear later, but the reader sees things from Carson’s point of view, and he notices little but the roving gay males.

Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, July 2013, trade paperback $9.95 (105 pages).

Review: 'Walking with Dinosaurs' is a bit literal

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Walking with Dinosaurs What is it with cartoon dinosaur movies and migrating?

Ever since The Land Before Time1 featured a group of dinosaurs migrating through a barren wasteland, animated prehistoric animals have been moving en-mass just ahead of some sort of astronomical, geological or climactic cataclysm – all three at once, if they’re unlucky – that is implied will lead to the extinction of all creatures not our heroes, whose species will die out with them. A rather bleak fate, actually.

Let’s see… Disney’s Dinosaur featured a mass migration after an asteroid strike and a horrible drought. And this doesn’t just extend to dinosaurs; when I said prehistoric animals, I meant prehistoric animals. The first Ice Age and at least two of its sequels featured mass migrations ahead of disaster (I still haven’t seen the one with actual dinosaurs, but I assume migration plays some part); even prehistoric humans are not immune, as The Croods proved last year.

Now comes Walking with Dinosaurs (sometimes retitled Walking with Dinosaurs: 3D or Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie), which is about dinosaurs putting on a prehistoric stage production of Les Misérables.

Just kidding, they migrate.

1 I’m sure there are earlier examples, but as child of the eighties, my knowledge of pop culture abruptly begins circa 1985; nothing, as far as I know, exists before - just like the rest of the Internet.

Review: 'Rise of the Penguins' and 'The Warlord, the Warrior, the War', by Steven Hammond

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Rise of the Penguins The War of the Species has begun. An ancient race of penguin has reemerged. From this race a powerful leader declares himself Overlord and unites the penguin clans of the world. His goal: to drive the human presence away from Antarctica and to exact revenge for the atrocities of the past against penguinkind. (Rise of the Penguins blurb)

Killer penguins are rising up in a war against humans for world domination! Is Steven Hammond serious? Judging by his hilarious Facebook page, hell, no! But his Rise of the Penguins series (published through CreateSpace, no matter what he says about Rockhopper Books), is so straight-faced that it is a good example of Rambo-type take-no-prisoners military fiction. With spear-carrying penguins.

Rise of the Penguins, December 2012, trade paperback $19.99 (8 + 722 pages), Kindle $3.99.
The Warlord, The Warrior, The War, September 2013, trade paperback $6.99 (6 + 112 pages), Kindle $1.99. Both by Steven Hammond, Clovis, CA, Rockhopper Books.

Review: 'The Mystic Sands', by Alflor Aalto

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The Mystic Sands The bad news: The Mystic Sands by Alflor Aalto is a funny animal novel. The characters, all anthropomorphized animals, are interchangeable surrogate humans. There is no reason for any of them to be raccoons, rabbits, foxes, weasels, squirrels, or anything other than humans. They are all human-sized, wear regular human clothes (imagine a human-sized squirrel wearing Victorian clothes), eat human diets, etc. They do occasionally refer to their animal natures:

And don’t you worry your fluffy ringed tails, my friends. (p. 36)

The good news: The Mystic Sands by Alflor Aalto is a ripping good page-turner, a guaranteed attention-holding light thriller of the 1930s Weird Tales sort with anthropomorphized animals that will have you wanting to finish it in one session. Go buy it!

Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley Comics, May 2013, trade paperback $20.00 (245 pages).

Review: 'Blacksad T.5, Amarillo', by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Blacksad Tome 5 Amarillo As is now usual, I want to thank Lex Nakashima for ordering this from Amazon.fr and loaning it to me for this review.

Spanish writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido met while working at an animation studio in Madrid in the early 1990s. After both moved to Paris, they met again and agreed to collaborate for the French comics market on this anthropomorphic crime noir/hardboiled detective series set in America in the 1950s, featuring feline private investigator John Blacksad.

The first album, Somewhere Among the Shadows was published by Dargaud in November 2000. The multiple prize-winning comics series has been published in 23 languages. So far there have been five 56-page cartoon-art novels, set in Hollywood, Chicago, amidst the Red paranoia/nuclear bomb-shelter craze, New Orleans and now the Midwest.

Paris, Dargaud, November 2013, hardcover €13.99 (56 pages), Kindle €9.99.

Video review: 'Red Devil', by Kyell Gold

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Isiah reviews Kyell Gold's latest novel, "Red Devil", set in his Dangerous Spirits universe.

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #20 ('GotG' and 'MLP')

Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)

Applejack party hat It’s another milestone issue, so we’re bringing back the “animals wearing party hats” tag. I couldn’t find a picture of Rocket Raccoon wearing a party hat, however. Seems he’s not the type to do something like that. But Applejack is the best pony for wearing hats (in addition to being best pony, period), and her Micro-Series is finally here, so there we go.

Also, since this issue number is divisible by ten, there’s another index of previous issues, in case you’ve been looking forward to it.

Review: 'Play Little Victims', by Kenneth Cook

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Play Little Victims This short but deadly satire is set in the U.S., but has never been published there. Does it cut too close to home?

In 2000 (this was written in 1978), God decides to wipe out all life on Earth by covering everything instantly with giant glaciers. (Actually, He intended to wipe out all life in 1000 A.D., but He forgot.) He misses one two-square-mile valley in the center of North America, inhabited by two field mice, Adamus and Evemus. Because God also scraps the laws of evolution, the mice immediately develop intelligence. Not knowing that God missed them by accident, they decide that they are God’s new chosen people; and since the small valley has a town with a radio and TV station, an automobile factory, and lots of back issues of newspapers, they assume that He wants them to model themselves upon humans.

In no time at all, because mice breed fast, there are enough of them for Adamus to appoint a Board to help him guide the common mice.

‘I mean,’ continued Adamus, ‘it is obvious to all that this wonderful world in which we live did not just happen by accident. There has to be a Divine Plan and we are part of that Plan. We have a destiny which we must fulfill.’
The mice all looked at each other and nodded wisely.
‘Well,’ said Adamus, ‘I have discovered what it’s all about. What happened was this: the source of all being is God, who made the Valley and everything else in the universe. To prepare the way for mousekind God sent a sort of vanguard of creatures He called Men, who might best be thought of as sort of supermice. These Men prepared the Valley for us and left us all these marvelous technological aids for our existence. They also left us a vast body of literature for our guidance. Our destiny in life is to fulfill the plan of God by making the Valley an extension of Heaven. To guide us in this task we have the Word of Man, so we just can’t go wrong.’ (p. 12)

Needless to say, the mice go wrong with almost every decision that Adamus makes. One mouse on the Board, Logimus, thinks for himself and has doubts about Adamus’ pronouncements about what God wants. But Adamus, backed by his Board of yes-mice, steamrollers right over him.

Rushcutters Bay, NSW, Australia, Pergamon Press, June 1978, vi + 87 pages, 0-08-023123-3, $A9.00. Illustrated by Megan Gressor.

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