Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Farewell to 2011... and Blogspot.

As we close out 2010, Take the Helm fades to black. Yes, I am closing down this blog (though it will remain as an archive). Don’t worry though, because...

the Super-Powered Fiction Files are far from over! All the articles you know and love will continue along with new content on our new full-fledged website:!

So please follow us over to the new, fully functional site, and thanks for following Take the Helm for all these years!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Super-Powered Prose: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Super-powered fiction in prose form has come along way from Weird Heroes and Wild Cards first made the idea work in the seventies and eighties. Many writers have tried their hands at characters with super powers since, but it took even me by surprise when one of those names was Kathy Reichs.

If you do not recognize the name, you’ve probably not read too many forensic mysteries. Ms. Reichs has a successful series of books focused around the character of Temperance Brennan. Tempe sometimes goes by the nickname of Bones, or in the case of the successful television show based on the series, always goes by the name Bones. I have never really been a fan of the series in either form, but when I heard the concept for her new young adult book I knew I needed to give it a read.

Virals is the story of Brennan’s grand niece (she’s older in the books by a bit) Tory, a young girl living on a small island off the coast of Reichs’s home city of Charlotte. Tory only recently moved to the city following her mother’s death, but quickly finds herself embroiled in a mystery.

The story takes two interconnected paths as she finds a dog tag on the island where her father works for a scientific facility. It is while she investigates the tags that she discovers and rescues a captured dog in a remote lab of the facility. That rescue will alter Tory and her three friends Hi, Shelton, and Ben forever.

The dog has been infected with a lab-created parvovirus, designed to infect not just dogs but humans as well. The virus has unintended consquences for the four teenagers, as they all suddenly end up with powers closely linked to the animal they rescued.

While they all suffer through the transformation their new power brings to them, the dog tags lead them in to a murder mystery with huge ramifications for them and their city. In the end, only their powers will allow them the freedom and skill needed to uncover the secrets of the crime.

Ms. Reichs uses her background in forensic science to help shape the continuing story, but unlike the Bones novels never lets it overwhelm the tale. While I could nitpick about a few sudden (if minor) leaps in logic or the skills of the four teenagers being just a bit much to believe, none of that really matters in the end. Ms. Reichs crafts a quick, easy to read story that just flashes by page after page. The tale flows extremely well and makes the entire book hard to put down. I actually read the last two hundred pages in one sitting, an odd occurence for someone so used to reading different things at once. But Tory and friends’ tale is just compelling enough to keep you turning that page.

This book seems clearly set to be the beginning of a series (and maybe a set up for another TV pilot as I could definitely see it easily turned in to a overly-pretty-cast mix of Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars. Still on its own, Virals is an enjoyable read and that’s why it is Recommended.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pulp Empire closes out 2010 with a special Christmas story!

Over at Pulp Empire, Libby Cudmore has written a wonderful little Christmas noir short called “Merry Christmas, Mr. Taylor” just in time for the holidays! PE will be taking next week off so this is your last chance to get some holiday pulp cheer in before the end of the year!

And remember that all three Pulp Empire books are still available at our Lulu Store. Ms. Cudmore's tale is featured in our most recent edition. If you're interested in doing some Christmas shopping a little late or just want a good deal on great books, also remember that Lulu is running all kinds of great holiday sales with their Daily Deals. So feel free to pick up a copy, won't you?

Thor's Day 10: The Wild Hunt

Mighty Thor 346 opens with Roger, the old man (the son of Malekith’s victim last issue) as he contemplates his given task. He’s attacked by Malekith’s servants but escapes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New at Metahuman Press!

This may be the most story heavy week in Metahuman Press history, and it’s just in time for Christmas.

David Kachel’s five part weekly story reaches its penultimate chapter with “Saints and Sinners”!

The bi-weekly tale of our other David, a.k.a. Mister Perlmutter, continues as well with its fifth chapter.

Finally, Mark Oldfield’s Invasion continues with “Rescuer”.

As always, the previous chapters are available for new readers! So give yourself a (free) Christmas present and go read some superhero stories!

Wrestling Wednesday: WWE Year End Review

These guys were kinda important.
I may have missed last week’s installment, but I am back with this week’s, as I take a look at the year in WWE, how it played out, and what it means going in to 2011.

Head over to the Examiner and give it a read.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tyler Marsh's tale continues in a new installment of Arc!

Tyler Marsh's prose adventure continues this week over at Arc! Be sure to come check it and the previous forty-five pages of web comics from little ol' me and the amazing Jay Rainford-Nash!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Buy This Right Now #2: Lady Mechanika #1 and Black Panther: Man Without Fear #513

So I have posted my latest columns on the joys of recent comicdom over on the Examiner, but forgot to link one of them to this blog last week! So everyone gets two for the price of one this week as I bring you two links to two great comics!

Yes, she is a steampunk bad girl!
First is Joe Benitez’s excellent first issue to Lady Mechanika! Gorgeous art and a great story make this a great debut from the folks at Aspen. Check out the full review (with art) here.

Black Panther never looks happy.
Next-up is Black Panther: Man Without Fear by David Liss and Francesco Francavilla. I am a long time fan of Francavilla’s art (though not of his name that’s almost as hard to spell as mine!), and Liss comes off well on his second comic scripting assignment. While I am not a huge fan of the regular Simone Bianchi cover (the one above is Francavilla’s variant), the insides of this issue are everything a superhero fan can want from a comic. Check out the full review (with a four page preview) here.

A slight apology

Sorry about the sudden disappearance, blogospherions. It seems that when you’re on the slow progression of carpal tunnel you should be careful about how you chip ice off your windshield. My right wrist has been less than game for most of this week. The pain is finally starting to fade now and with a wrist brace on I can type with most of my regular skill (if not quite my regular speed).

And now you know why I really think I need to get a headstart on my upcoming columns! Hopefully, Wrestling Wednesdays and Thor’s Day will be back on track next week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The trailer for Thor has hit the web

Hey, look what came to the web just yesterday! It’s none other than the trailer for Marvel’s next big film: Thor.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor

First things first: go check out the trailer at the Examiner.

Now... that looks pretty cool, right? Thor, Loki, Odin, Sif, Heimdall, and the Warriors Three... not to mention the Destroyer! It looks like Marvel plans to continue what they started with Iron Man and create an interesting movie universe while still trying hard to play fan service to their fans.

The movies not out until May 6th, but I am already excited. What did everyone out in blog-land think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thor's Day 9: That Was No Lady!

Thor vs the world's creepiest mime!
We open Mighty Thor 345 in the office of Doctor Willis. The good doctor ties up his assistant Sheila Ordway and forces a burger down her throat. When the police arrive, Sheila’s vanished and Willis is the prime suspect.

Another woman approached him at the police station and it becomes quickly apparent that neither Doctor Willis or the two women are what they appear to be. And in the world of Thor, that means they could be anyone or anything.

Meanwhile, Thor continues to play second fiddle in his own title as Melodi/Lorelei continues to seduce him in to her plans.

Willis’s disappearance leads to packages being sent out, one to a mystery man on Long Island. We learn the older man is named Roger but still somehow Willis’s son.

A phone call to Jarvis brings Sigurd Jarlsen’s level of concern up as he learns that something has happened to the Casket of Ancient Winters. He runs out on Melodi again before she can give him her enchanted mead. (Where’s Michael Scott, when you need someone to say, “That’s what she said.”)

The people after him nearly corner him, but a raven-haired beauty named Angel drives up to his rescue at the last moment. She seduces and enchants him. Willis passes out, but first...

We didn’t forget this guy!

Seriously, Dr. Doom should sue.
Anyway, Angle gets out of the car and transforms in to his true form that of Malekith the Accursed! He leaves Willis dead and goes in search of the Casket of Ancient Winters, but as mentioned many times in this issue another threat looms.

A threat known as ...

The problem with an issue like this and a run like Simonson’s on Thor 20+ years ago, is you can never be sure what you are supposed to know. Had Willis and the Casket appeared in previous issues? It is never mentioned in the editorially star comments, but that isn’t necessarily a mark that it didn’t happen. Still, the mystery adds a bit to the tale, only we are left unaware of whether or not the mystery will be explained to us.

Wrestling Wed... Dang it! Thursdays: CHIKARA and the Rise of the Bruderschaft

In a follow-up to my Wrestling Wednesday column from September, I finally start my look at the Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes and their origins in CHIKARA. Over the next few weeks, I will review a few shows at my time as the Bruderschaft storyline builds up and take a look at how it will effect the promotion and wrestling as a whole.

For now though, take a look at their origin tale at the Examiner.

And comments are always welcome either here or at the Examiner page! Thanks!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Diamond Destinations: December for comics shipping in February 2011

I haven’t written a Diamond Destinations column since June, but as part of my new online status quo I will be regularly covering each and every issue of Previews, with more detail than I ever did in the past.

So much detail that it actually takes two articles to cover it all.

Right now you can head over to the Examiner to see them both.

Part one focuses on Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, and Dark Horse.

Part two focuses on the rest of the comics available in February.

So check out the articles, let me know what you think, and tell me if you would like to see me cover that last couple hundred pages of merchandise, toys, and whatnot.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wrestling Wed... er... Saturdays: IWA Mid-South "A Taste of Hardcore Sweetness"

Well, with this blog just coming back on the first, I may have sort of forgot that I should have posted a Wrestling Wednesday column up on that fine day. But rest assured, I haven’t forgotten for you wrestling and comic fans that read this blog. I made sure to review some (surprisingly) quality independent wrestling from Chicago area based IWA Mid-South. (Yeah, I know Chicago isn’t the Mid-South. Talk to Ian Rotten about that.)

The card had one really big highlight and that was the rematch between then-ROH champion Tyler Black and Jonathan Gresham, in a real mat classic.

Anyway, you can check out the full review at the Examiner.

Space-sharing with the Examiner

Here’s the dealio, blogosphere fans. In order for this blogging thing to actually be meaningful for me, I need to be able to occasionally work towards making a few pennies off of it. Everyone that clicks on a google link on here or MHP or anyone of my sites helps, but in order to make a real go of it, I need to also be able to pull in a few cents for posting as well. Otherwise, Metahuman Press, Pulp Empire, Arc, and The Dead Walk Again may eventually disappear in to the netherverse of the internet.

With that in mind, I have recently signed up to try my hand at being an Examiner. For those unfamiliar with it, Examiner is basically an attempt to make a massive multi-national internet newspaper. It’s success is somewhat limited on the local level, but it is a sure-fire way to make a bit of money. So while you will see some regular columns and reviews continue here (such as Thor’s Day, some of my blog posts will just be short introductions that lead over to Examiner pages. Please, please, please follow those links and enjoy all the quality commentary you love at this site plus a little extra (like more wrestling content) over at the Examiner.

And thanks for reading!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Buy This Right Now #1: Thunderstrike #1

Welcome to a new (mostly) weekly column here at Take the Helm with a simple concept: to tell you something cool out there that is worth buying. We open with something this week from a company I rarely recommend in these pages, but will do so today. Yes, it’s Marvel and it’s awesome.

This scene does not happen in the comic.

Here’s the gist of the story: Eric Masterson a.k.a. Thunderstrike died many years ago at the end of his own title. But now the character is returning in the form of his son, now teenager Kevin Masterson. Kevin has been a troubled kid since his father’s death and, well, is more Flash Thompson than Peter Parker. In other words, he’s a bully.

Steve Rogers knows that the world still needs heroes (a play on a tagline from the old book, “the world needs heroes”) so he gives Kevin his father’s old mace, also named Thunderstrike. It has been unusable since Eric died, but when Kevin stumbles upon an attack by Rhino it invariably comes back to life and transforms him in to... Thunderstrike. The exact same (in appearance) Thunderstrike last seen over a decade ago.

And that’s awesome.

Thunderstrike was one of the most underrated titles in the entire history of comics. While many of the Marvel spin-off books of the early to mid-nineties were produced by bland talent (and I use that term loosely), Thunderstrike took the team that was on Thor and moved them to the spin-off. Together, DeFalco and Frenz grafted a very strong 24 issues of story that unfortunately remain uncollected to this day.

That same creative team, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, are back for the new book and they haven’t missed a step. Plus if you never read the last book, DeFalco and Todd Nauck even get together for a nifty 8 page back-up recapping the original Thunderstrike’s life.

So yeah, if you haven’t got your issue, go to your local comic shop and shell out the $3.99. Then prepare to enjoy superhero goodness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thor's Day 8: Whatever Happened to Balder the Brave?

Mighty Thor 344 opens with a massive wolf, a creature of Odin, sent to the Nornkeep to find Balder. But for what purpose still remains unknown.

We return to Asgard and Odin. The king of the god reveals that his ravens’s quest in to the burning galaxy went poorly, though he fails to reveal how this relates to his recall of Balder from the land of the Norns.

Odin’s mission is simple: Balder must deliver a message to Loki, the god that only recently tried to kill him (in the issues proceeding Walt Simonson’s run). He agrees to the mission but only if he is allowed to continue his vow of pacifism.

Oh, and this guy is still at it:

(Can you imagine anybody doing this kind of thing nowadays for eight issues? Just a one page subplot over and over again with no link whatsoever to the current narrative?)

Anyway, Balder fights some trolls and invariably gets captured by Loki. There he meets an important figure in the coming issues of Mighty Thor, but let’s let Loki give the introductions (with a little commentary by Balder):

As Balder tries to reason with Loki, Thor plays comic relief back on Midgard as he makes his foreman think he might be a superhero of somekind:

Makes sense to me.

Balder battles it out with the troll minions of Loki, and in the process compromises himself, with consquences most dire for the Shining Realm.

Next time, Thor is back to center stage in “Dinner For Two or That Was No Lady!”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

...and we're back!

Oh yes we are.

And we should be back to semi-regular updates starting tomorrow. I am still working on monetizing this site more to keep it functional as a whole, but for the time being I will be running it like it has been running. For the time being, if you’re reading this, please go down a bit and click on one of those Google links. Every button press makes us a few extra bucks. It’s those impressions that are currently paying to keep the Metahuman Press family of sites alive so they are kind of important.

Now for the news from around the MHP family.

Metahuman Press

The old warhorse has debuted two new stories in the last few weeks with David Perlmutter’s offbeat The Pups and ShoaKi Girl by Charlie Thrun. Today we debuted David Kachel’s follow-up to Legacy, entitled Diary of a Genius. And the best news is that it will be running weakly. Five chapters over the five weeks of December!

Pulp Empire

Pulp Empire continues to chug along nicely. New stories have went up every Thursday. Right now we are running a 15% off sale on the first two books at the Pulp Empire store, so be sure to go pick those up. The sale will continue for the next few days, so get them while they’re hot. And need I mention they make a great gift?


Arc will update throughout December with the continuation of Tyler Marsh’s prose adventures. Stay tuned as things start to get a little crazy next week.

The Dead Walk Again

We need submissions! If you like zombies, please, please, please! send us your zombie stories for our little online journal. I would like to have an inventory before it launches in a few months.