The Ravenstones: Death and Life

The Ravenstones: Death and Life by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

Volume 4 of The Ravenstones saga (Gains and Losses) ended in setback: the enemy triumphant, our heroes on their heels, needing to regroup. Eirwen the polar bear and his Heimborn cousins had made great strides in their fight for freedom, gaining control of Aeronbed’s capital, Manaris, and the Kingdom’s heartland, winning support of formidable allies: old friends, the gray wolves and new ones, the lions. But these gains came with reversals: two of the Ravenstones lost and a bloody encounter with the panther general, Parthanyx, leaves the allies demoralized.

In Death and Life, Empress Dona Morana wields new weapons. Her agent, the fox Vulpé, insinuates himself into the allied camp, and the long-forgotten wolves of Blakvul rise from their slumber. Parthanyx goes on the offensive, with new allies to command.

Eirwen aims to keep his friend Fridis out of harm’s way. His misguided strategy brings both menace and reward. Uncovering the truth about the gemstones takes Fridis to distant and hidden locations, where she meets a creature who never was, threats she couldn’t have imagined and unexpected answers.

While Eirwen leads the defense of Manaris and of Heimborn, questions emerge in the lions’ camp over the alliance with the bears.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ravenstones: Death and Life is the fifth entry in the Ravenstones saga. Eirwen, a noble polar bear who has fashioned himself into a legend, and Fridis an eider duck who is intent on discovering the secret of the magic gems she once possessed continue their adventures in this volume. Eirwen must fend off an attack from an enemy army with much greater power than his own while keeping his friend Fridis safe. Olwen, a lion queen who is still learning how to wield her own power has allied with the bear and must show strength to her people while still following direction from Eirwen. Meanwhile a crafty and persuasive fox named Vulpe has his own agenda and is willing to apply as much diplomacy, conniving and subterfuge as possible to come through for his empress.

Up to this volume, all of the books in the Ravenstone series have been intriguing, complex, and full of twists, turns, wins, losses and surprises. It’s an epic quest filled with battles, palace intrigue, shifting alliances, and magic. This volume is no exception. The story overall continues to hook the reader as much as any fantasy fiction can. C. S. Watts has delivered, once again, a book which leaves the reader wanting more while still neatly resolving many of the open questions of the series.

If you are not a fan of books that have complex plots, plenty of action, a decent dose of magic, surprises at every turn, and fine writing as well, then this is not the series for you. While it is definitely not recommended to start this series at the fifth volume in the series, Watts does do a fine job of reminding the reader of events and characters we have seen in past books and why they are important. Even more impressive, he does this while never taking away from the narrative of the current story. And he manages to introduce a large amount of new characters who I am sure will prove essential to the series.

While a book with talking animals may be off-putting to some, this book delivers for any fantasy lover open minded enough to read it. It’s got the feel of Watership Down while still delivering an original story. If you really are not into books where a lot of political intrigue is essential to the plot, this may also not be the series for you, but even with those scenes included, there is still plenty of action and magic here to come back to.

As a reviewer of many fantasy books, I must admit this series is one I think about a lot and I wait for the next volume in eager anticipation to see what will happen in the Ravenstones saga. If you have not picked up this series, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love epic fantasy. This series and this volume in the series is a must read.

The Sandman (Netflix) Flash Review

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in episode 106 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m going to give my initial impressions of the screen adaptation of the comic book series The Sandman. This review will be for what I think of the series overall but in future posts I will do an in-depth review of each individual episode and talk about how the show relates to the comic book series.

I have to be honest to start here. This was a review I dreaded doing. A lot of people who are into comic books had the experience I did with Sandman. When I was a kid I absolutely loved comic books, especially super heroes. But when I went to high school these books dropped off my radar for the most part. Until I started to hear about a series called The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. It had a horror feel to it with some amazing art, a bit of a connection to the DC heroes, but still stood all on its own as a story. And, upon reading the series, it felt like this was one of the series that would help the medium of comics to grow up and be taken seriously. In a phrase, I loved The Sandman and I probably wouldn’t still be reading comic books now without it.

In my mind, the only thing worse than having no adaptation of the series would be to have a bad adaptation of it. It’s the one series I’ve always wanted to see but been much too afraid it would get screwed up. If that happened, I knew people would come to dislike the comic series and we’d never get another good Neil Gaiman story adapted. So, with all that in mind, I was very hesitant to watch this series. I would not be able to take it if it was done poorly.

I’m beyond happy to report this series turned out to be utterly phenomenal. That’s not to say there are no things I would change if I could, but there are so few that this is a nearly perfect series. And there is one episode which I think is maybe the best episode of television I have ever seen.

What’s more, this series is not only grand for those of us who love the comics, but also works exceedingly well for those not at all versed in the lore of The Sandman comics. I think the show will makes comics readers out of a good portion of the audience.

For this review, I really don’t want to get into spoilers in case anyone is wanting to watch but has not. The basic premise is that Dream, played by Tom Sturridge, is captured by mortal man and, let’s just say he is not happy about it. To say much more in this review would either be confusing or lead to spoilers.

The series is by turns dramatic, horrifying, fantastical, and brilliant. The acting performances here are knocked completely out of the park by everyone involved and I just felt like I was living in the world of Dream and his siblings the whole time I was watching it. Some episodes are more terrifying than others and some are slower paced than others but never did I feel bored while watching. There’s too much story here for there to be down time and I guarantee this is a series which will live in your mind long after you have finished watching.

What I want you to take away here is that the series is extremely watchable and a much better adaptation of a brilliant work than I could have hoped for. If you have not yet watched this show, put it at the top of your queue because it’s going to be better than anything else out there.

Next time I will get into the first episode with a deeper review, full of spoilers, but for now, if you watch the show, enjoy the ride because you are in for a fantastic time.

Dreamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Final Destination 5 – Movie Review

Final Destination 5 2011 Film

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey there, horror fans, it’s Slick Dungeon again. I’m back to review the last of the Final Destination franchise films, Final Destination 5.

It doesn’t seem like something with the title Final Destination could have five separate installments but here we are. Be warned this review may contain spoilers for the film.

As is true with all the films in this series, this one opens with a disaster that kills a group of people. This time it’s a bridge collapse where a bunch of people who are on a work retreat are inevitably killed in gory fashion. Also, as always it’s a series of truly unlikely random events that cause the accident. And someone in the group has a vision, warns everyone, and saves them from death.

Sam, the one who had the vision, has to put the pieces together as he and his friends start to die later, in the same order they would have died on the bridge.

Although most of the setup is the same, this one introduces a slight new twist, making it a bit more interesting than the last entry in the franchise. Tony Todd, the actor most famous for Candyman, reprises his role as coroner in this movie. He tells Sam that there is a pattern and it can be changed if one life is exchanged for another. This causes Peter, one of Sam’s friends, to realize if he kills someone, he can extend his own life.

The first two thirds of the movie plays out just like all of these do. But it does set up an interesting confrontation for the end.

However, even with this change, it still feels like this film is just on repeat until the very end. I won’t give away what should be the final twist in the Final Destination franchise but I’ll just say if you have seen the rest, you’ll appreciate it.

Also, like the other films, there is a good bit of gore here so if you don’t have the stomach for that sort of thing this is probably not for you. This one is no worse than any of the rest of them though.

All in all this turned out to be a solid franchise with pretty consistent quality throughout. I’d put these into the bucket of fun popcorn horror to watch sometime with your friends late at night.

If they ever decide to make another I will be terribly disappointed though because it ends in a way that feels inevitable.

Do you have a horror franchise you’d like me to review? If so, let me know in the comments.

Finally yours,

Slick Dungeon

Daemon Rises – Book Review

Daemon Rises by Christopher M. Knight

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

BOOK TWO OF THE REMNANT TRILOGY

THE CONSORTIUM IS ADVANCING

Encroaching upon the once-hidden world at the edge of Sol, scouring through thousands of kilometres of the void in search of some long-forgotten threat. It’s a threat that very few know of, that even fewer dare speak of, but it’s an essential piece in the puzzle of probability that the artificial god was designed to solve. What the Thread cannot comprehend, is whether or not that piece will fit.

BASTION IS CHANGING

Evolving, and not just in the fearful preparation that had overcome the isolated civilisation upon the arrival of two strange foreigners. While the Lu’um frantically prepare for a threat that doesn’t seem real, the planet they call home is preparing itself for something even bigger. Something that even the Consortium are not ready for.

THE DAEMON WAITS IN STASIS

A long and silent slumber that hasn’t been broken in centuries. It’s a daemon that slaughtered hundreds, maimed thousands, and carved an entire starship into submission. With its primary function fulfilled, the daemon now sits in dormancy, destined to stay there until the end of time. Unless someone is foolish enough to wake it.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Following straight on from the events of Bastion Awakens, the second book in the series, Daemon Rises takes us into the heart of battles both physical and philosophical. While many of the characters from the first book have been separated or changed significantly from where they started in the first book, we still are able to check in on them and how they fare in this volume.

In the last book a God carved from ones and zeroes woke. But the deeper truth of what it is might just be even more shocking.

Much like the first book, this one takes a while to get your bearings to understand the larger picture of what is going on but once you do, the payoff is well worth the read.

This is a giant space epic with a huge cast of characters so at times it can be hard to keep everyone straight. It would have been nice if near the beginning of the book there might have been a bit of a summary or recap of events just to refresh readers memories but this is only a minor complaint. As you read through the book the story becomes more and more clear and once again the ending is worth the effort.

At times it did seem there were a few too many space battles and the action is fairly relentless. However, all of the action in the book is fun and entertaining. Just make sure you have time to read because this one is a page turner.

All in all this is a fascinating sequel of an already excellent first volume. Christopher M. Knight is remarkably adept at surprising the reader and making a story with tons of pieces fit together properly.

If you are a fan of space operas, action filled novels, or just flat out good stories, this one is for you.

It remains to be seen if the third volume can live up to the standard of the first two but my guess is that Knight will knock it right out of the park on the whole series.

Bastion Awakens – BookReview (re-post)

HI all, re-posting this as I will be publishing the review for the second volume in the series tomorrow and thought people might like to grab a copy of the brilliant Bastion Awakens before I do so.

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A sovereign empire, the Consortium, defies both science and religion in its race to colonise the Solar System. They carved a God from ones and zeros.
It searches for the Devil.

A hidden planet, Bastion, lies home to a descendant colony of humanity. Its original inhabitants are thought long gone.
But something stirs beneath the surface.

TAREV is a harvester. A moonblood. His life, indebted to the Consortium, entails trudging along the harsh, icy surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan. A life of struggle, harvesting methane for the rest of the Solar System to use, until he and his brother, Sevastian, discover something buried deep within the ice.

Something that will change their lives forever.

ELIA is a Weightless, a gravity wielder, after being injected with the biometal that litters the alien planet on which she lives. She’s also the genetic reprint of an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who paid the ultimate sacrifice over two hundred years ago. Elia struggles to live up to the expectations that come with being a Weightless. She struggles to live normally, while wearing the face of a Catalyst.

She struggles to live, when her planet refuses to die.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bastion Awakens is almost two books for the price of one. In one story we follow Tarev, a methane harvester from Titan. His life is not easy and he and his brother Sev do the best they can to make a living. Things seem to be set to improve when they find a huge pocket of methane to mine but they discover something completely unexpected while they are at it. The other story deals with Elia, a so called Weightless from Bastion, a hidden colony that has no contact with the other colonized planets. Elia not only is able to wield and bend gravity to her will, she is also a genetic imprint from an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who died over two hundred years ago. Needless to say, she has huge shoes to fill and is doing the best she can to live up to enormous expectations.

It takes a little while to get your bearings in the book (at least it did for me) but once you see how the stories reflect one another and start to understand the nature of the current state of civilization, the book is utterly gripping. It’s a huge space opera that touches on thematic elements from expectations brought about by ones surroundings, to grief, love, loss and self sacrifice. All this while still having a ton of action and life threatening situations to keep the reader engaged the whole while. And while a reader might wonder what the two stories have to do with one another, by the end, all is made clear, while still leaving questions out there that make one instantly want to read another volume in the saga.

To anyone who loves a good space adventure with intricate complexities and deep human emotions, you have got to read this book. While I am tempted to compare this to something like Dune, in that it takes place in space and there are complex politics happening,this stands in its own right as a unique story. By the end of the book the reader cares deeply about Tarev and Elia and can sympathize with all they have been through, gained and lost. To me this can stand with the best of space fiction and is an absolute must read.

Space Operatically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Top 5 Space Themed Tabletop Role Playing Games

DriveThruRPG.com

Hi all, Slick Dungeon here. I’m not going to go into a long intro but I am going to give you a couple of caveats and disclaimers. First, I want to mention that although these are all space games, I did not include any Star Wars content. That’s not because those are bad games, it’s because I plan to do a different post about those games at a later date. Second, I don’t have Spelljammer from Dungeons & Dragons here because it is not fully released yet and would not technically be its own role playing game.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get into the list!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Traveller

Traveller Core Rulebook

Traveller by Mongoose publishing is one of the first, if not the first, tabletop roleplaying game set in space. It’s been around forever and has a storied history of being played anywhere people love role playing games and want to go out into space to do it. While there is plenty of action and adventure here, it can feel a bit clunkier than some of the others on this list. It’s still one of the greats, however, and well worth playing, especially if you don’t want to play in a known brand like Star Trek or Alien. Because it exists outside of those types of domains you can be a bit more creative about what your campaigns are all about. I find this to be better with people who have at least some role playing experience to begin with but it’s usually a great time.

Get Traveller here for $30: Traveller Core Rulebook.

4. Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford

Kevin Crawford is extremely adept at creating expansive role playing worlds, or in this case planetary systems, and Stars Without Number delivers an amazingly full experience here. It’s set in the far future but was inspired by old school sci-fi adventure. This was written from the ground up and the rule set is quite flexible for any kind of space campaign you may wish to run. The core rulebook gives you options for creating aliens, technology, and making your star systems more interesting. For anyone who loves a true sandbox style campaign this is an excellent system.

You can get the full set of rules for $20 for the PDF here: Stars Without Number

And while I do highly recommend getting the PDF (or even the hardcover book if you are looking to spend a bit more) the great thing is you can get most of the rules for free. Unlike most quickstarts or basic rules you can get for free these are very comprehensive and you could play for years with just the basic free rules.

That’s right, a ton of what you need to play is available for nothing right here: Stars Without Number Free Edition

3. Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventure: The Role Playing Game

It’s nearly impossible to have a list of anything space related without talking about Star Trek. Fortunately for us there is a solid role playing game which allows you to boldly go where no one has gone before. This is what you would expect from a Star Trek game. There is plenty of exploration to be had and a fair amount of conflict. You can play as most of your favorite types of aliens from the core rulebook but there are also expansions that can add to your experience. If you are a Star Trek fan at all, this is a really fun game and Modiphius, the publisher of the series, did a great job of adapting their ruleset to the Star Trek franchise.

You can get the core rulebook PDF for $20 right here: Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook

2. Dune: Adventures in the Imperium

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium: The Role Playing Game

If you are looking for something a bit more complex than a simple shoot-em-up space cowboy adventure you can’t go wrong with Dune: Adventures in the Imperium: The Role Playing Game. Dune has been adapted into an RPG before and it developed a strong cult following but for my money, I think the more modernized and updated rules from Modiphius in this current version are much more accessible and entertaining. Whatever you think of the books by Frank Herbert or the movies that have been made from those works, this game encompasses all of the greatest aspects of the Dune universe. It is chocked full of political intrigue, backstabbing, factional rivalries, and, of course, giant space worms. This one really does lean into the worlds of Dune so if you are looking to play this game, I do recommend reading at least the first book in the series. But if you are a casual fan who has just seen the movie you’ll still do fine, you just may not get quite as much out of the game. Anyway, this is all to say I really enjoy playing this one and it’s got hours and hours of role playing potential.

You can get the Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook PDF here for $25: Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook

1. Alien the RPG

Alien: The Role Playing Game

There are a lot of different reasons people play role playing games. I’m a fan of a bunch of different games for a bunch of different reasons. My personal tastes do lean a bit toward horror overall but that is not the only reason I have Alien: The Role Playing Game as my top pick. When it comes to sheer, outright fun in a space roleplaying game, I don’t think this one can be beat. While it feels like the universe of the movies, the game has enough variation and enough flexibility that it feels like nearly anything is possible. You won’t just be fighting chest bursters and Xenomorphs. As fun as those things can be, there’s actually a lot more to fight and explore. In fact, if you get the starter set, there isn’t a Xenomorph at all in the scenario they give you. To my mind, it’s better to start small anyway, considering a Xenomorph would be a big boss. And, much like in the best of the films, sometimes the most dangerous things you face are humans. All in all, this is just a fantastic game. Do be warned it does involve body horror (which should be no surprise if you have watched any of the films) and while you can ratchet the horror up or down to suit your party, I think this really is at its best when you can go into full scare/horror mode. If you play this one, you are going to remember it at night as you drift off to sleep, no doubt.

You can get Alien: The Role Playing Game PDF for $25 here: Alien: The Role Playing Game Core Rulebook

Or if you want just a bit of a taste of the game before you dive in, you can find the Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter set PDF here for $20: Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter Set

So, there you have it. Do you have any space faring games you love that I missed on this list? If so let me know in the comments.

And, if you like these types of posts and want more of this type of content, consider purchasing one of the awesome games listed above through this post. It really helps out this blog when you do.

Spacily yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Final Destination – Movie Review

The Final Destination 2009 Film

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey film fanatics, Slick Dungeon here! I’m back to review the fourth of the Final Destination films. This was intended to be the last of the Final Destination films (see the irony here where something should end but just keeps coming back??) so they called it The Final Destination instead of Final Destination 4.

If you haven’t watched this, hop in your car and race yourself to the movies so you can get caught up because there will be some spoilers for this film. You’ve been warned.

Still with me? Great. The movie starts out in typical fashion for these films. A group of friends is about to do something. In this case it’s watch a NASCAR race when one of them has a vision of horrible death. Nick O’bannon, played by Bobby Campo has a freak out as he is predicting everything that is about to happen and he and a few other people end up narrowly missing certain death.

For a fourth film in a franchise this movie has some surprisingly recognizable faces. NIck Zano who you probably know from Legends of Tomorrow as Nate plays Hunt, one of Nick’s friends and Shantel VanSanten who you probably know as Becca from The Boys plays Nick O’bannon’s girlfriend Lori. And the security guard from the race track is played by Mykelti Williamson who you most likely know as Bubba from Forest Gump. This one does however lack Tony Todd who any horror fan knows played the extremely memorable title role in Candyman and was in the first two films and a voice in the third.

As usual characters who survived the initial incident start falling off through random accidents one by one. I will say in this one the deaths seem pretty inventive and there are a few times where it was genuinely surprising how the kill happens. And as usual, you do need enough of a stomach to handle some gore to watch this.

The characters find themselves sounding crazy and doing everything they can to try to prevent the impending deaths. This time the death order seems to be linear once again so as long as they can figure out the order of who dies, they can prevent a death. This skips to the next person though so they have to figure out how to stop everyone from getting killed.

The performances here are also a bit less cheesy than in some of the previous films and that helps make it believable. There’s even a moment where it seems like maybe the characters can win but it is turned right on its head.

And, as usual, it does seem like a lot of these deaths would be prevented by safety protocols and general upkeep. If you learn nothing else from these films, always remember, safety first.

Characters are killed off via impaling, dismemberment, and going through car washes.

While I wouldn’t say this is necessarily the best of the series it’s pretty good. And as usual, the real horror here is not at all how the characters die but the unsettling thought that these things could happen to anyone at any time. It’s a really crazy set of circumstances which usually causes the accident but for all of them they could potentially happen. This does elevate the horror a bit because you simply cannot fight inevitable death.

One thing I never get in this series of movies is there will at least one character who just refuses to believe they are next on the death list. This is always after the first character has proven they can see death coming and even possibly saved some people from it, yet they refuse to believe. I mean, why take the chance when someone who already proved they can predict this stuff tells you to get out of there. I’m not overly superstitious but I would leave a movie if someone had saved other people from a terrible death previously.

Anyway, this is a minor detail in an overall decent horror franchise and if you’ve gone this far with these movies you might as well continue. If you want to see something with a bit of gore and several interesting ways to die, this is worth watching as the franchise consistently delivers a decent, fun ride.

Marvel 616 Review – The Incredible Hulk #6

The Incredible Hulk Issue 6 Photo Credit: Marvel

Marvel 616 has a great history of introducing amazing and powerful super villains. Spider-man has the best rogues gallery outside of Batman comics with memorable menaces like Dr. Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, and the Vulture. The Hulk on the other hand, one of the most powerful beings in all of Marvel, has hardly any enemies worth remembering. However, there are occasions when we can see some experimentation with villains right in Hulk’s pages.

In The Incredible Hulk issue 6 we see what can only be considered a first pass at what Magneto will be in the pages of the X-Men comics down the line. Make no mistake, this “Metal Master” is no where near as interesting as Magneto but it is a first crack at an enemy who can bend metal to his will.

The issue starts (as so many Hulk stories do) with a missile test. General Thunderbolt Ross is waiting on Bruce Banner so he can test his newest rocket. Banner is already 15 minutes late and Ross is none too happy about it. Betty Ross worries something might have happened while Rick Jones realizes Banner’s had enough time to change back from being the Hulk.

Betty worries Hulk has taken Banner. Rick wishes he could let her know his secret but he knows how upset that would make Bruce.

When we see Hulk, he wants to get into his secret lab to change back but there’s a whole infantry of troops doing practice maneuvers there. He’s aware if he’s seen, the secret location of his lab will be exposed. However, it seems it’s also becoming harder for Hulk to go back to being Banner at all. If he doesn’t change he might be stuck in the form of the green monster.

He’s saved from having to fight the troops when the emergency alert from the base sounds and the soldiers all scramble back. Hulk is then able to use the machine to turn himself back into Banner but before he does it he says, “I hate havin’ to become that weakling Banner all the time!” I find this interesting because Hulk has most of the brain function of Bruce Banner at this point (he can speak in full sentences and make logical decisions so he’s not just a rage machine) yet he clearly sees himself as two distinct people. This further establishes the multiple personalities Bruce Banner will come to have. While this is pretty much a direct comparison to The Strange Case ofDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right now, it becomes much more complicated in the future.

In addition, changing from one form to the other seems to become more painful for both of them as time goes on. Oddly, this time when Bruce changes he retains a bit of Hulk’s strength so they are sort of merging together a bit at this point.

After the change is complete and Bruce loses all the strength of the Hulk he checks in on the base through a video monitor and sees Ross and Betty in major distress. He sees the test rocket he invented completely melted. In the narration of the panel we see this it says, “Bewildered, the trembling viewer switches on the sound portion of his amazing set, and hears…” I point this out because it’s a reminder cameras were not common, and color cameras with sound were exceedingly rare at best, in the 1960’s. In other words, Marvel could sometimes be predictive about the future, much the same way Star Trek predicted automatic doors.

We get our first glimpse of the Metal Master, an imposing figure with yellow skin and a strange red outfit who hails from the planet Astra. Basically, Hulk fights two kinds of enemies in most of his books, either aliens or communists. Or sometimes aliens who sympathize with communists. Don’t hold your breath waiting for something better because it takes a while for Hulk to get past this.

Anyway, The Metal Master demonstrates some of his powers while telling everyone how most people on his planet are artists but he was deemed a criminal because he wanted to use his mental control over all metal to conquer. Ever since, this dude has been on the lookout for a planet with plenty of metal resources. He comes across Earth and the lightbulb goes off.

Despite having just destroyed a weapon and demonstrated his powers Ross just says, “Someone grab him! He’s nutty as a fruit cake!” You would have thought the military would have already opened fire on this guy but this is a kids comic and they needed Hulk to fight the guy. Plus, bullets wouldn’t be that effective considering there is metal in them.

The Metal Master melts some guns and helmets and then goes big time by melting a whole tank. One of the soldiers realizes this guy is, “the single most powerful force on Earth!” Of course that soldier must not have met Thor, or the Hulk if he thinks that.

Next, the villain traps Ross and company in a cage of his own making. He demands control of the base and subsequently of the planet within 24 hours. The Metal Master leaves using a steel plate as a flying platform (a move Magneto will definitely use in the future). They try to stop him with rockets but those are also made of metal so it doesn’t work.

Rick Jones realizes the only hope for humanity is the Hulk. Bruce is already changing when Rick gets to the secret lab. But for some reason, this time Bruce’s face doesn’t change. Luckily Banner made some plaster cast molds of Hulk’s face so he throws one on. (Don’t ask me how he got Hulk to sit still long enough to do that)

Hulk goes into action saying, “I can’t fly like a blasted Human Torch–but these muscles ain’t just for show!” He leaps into the air and lands right where the Metal Master is.

They have a pretty typical fight where the villain is throwing stuff at Hulk and Hulk is jut breaking it. That is until Metal Master offers to team up with the Hulk. Hulk considers it for a moment, realizing the human race has been hounding him forever and isn’t going to stop. He decides not to team up with Metal Master, not because he likes humans but because he figures the Hulk doesn’t need any help from anyone. While Hulk is ranting, Metal Master knocks him out.

A few minutes later a group of soldiers find Hulk and realize he has a mask on. They take it off to reveal… the same face as the mask. Banner’s secret is still safe. The soldiers manage to catch Hulk and put him in a special stone building made to hold the creature.

Betty is still worried about Bruce but Rick Jones realizes Hulk is the only chance against Metal Master. Rick goes to talk to the Hulk but the Hulk blames Rick for the soldiers taking off the mask. Hulk really starts to display some rage at both Rick and all of humanity here. This upsets Rick so much he asks about enlisting. Ross won’t let him though because he is only 16.

Meanwhile Metal Master goes on a rampage throughout the world destroying a bunch of metal stuff like oil rigs and bridges.

We check back in on Rick who is shown a ham radio by his friends. He then has the idea to form a club called The Teen Brigade who will keep in radio contact to help out the army, the police, and basically any good guys who could use a hand. I know it sounds cheesy but the formation of this group is actually important in the history of Marvel 616 and gives a bit more of a voice to the teenage audience.

Of course, Hulk busts out of his inescapable prison. Ross and Betty are talking and Betty realizes she cares pretty deeply from Bruce. They still haven’t found him so it’s upsetting her. Ross gets the news of Hulk escaping and Betty thinks Hulk has captured Banner.

Hulk goes back to the secret lab and changes back to Banner. This leaves him exceptionally weak this time but luckily Rick happens along. Bruce tells Rick he has a way to stop Metal Master but he needs help. Rick gets his teen brigade on the case.

While they gather supplies, Bruce recovers enough to turn back into the Hulk.

As this is happening Metal Master is stopping missiles and aircraft from all kinds of nations that are attacking him. When he destroys a group of airplanes he pulls a pretty odd move saying, “By merely melting the engine section of each plane, I permit the helpless pilots to bail out and float to safety!” Strange move for a guy trying to rule a planet but I guess he has a conscience? He says what he wants is for every living thing to serve him but I’m not buying that. The real reason is comics codes were fairly strict back then and you couldn’t actually show anyone in uniform (police, military, etc.) being killed or defeated. For that reason there were a lot of strange workarounds during what would likely be armed battle.

Hulk and Rick put together the device Banner cooked up while the rest of the Teen Brigade wait outside. The Brigade spots Metal Master heading to Washington. D.C. and the setup for the final battle begins as Hulk heads there. Hulk is armed with what looks like a huge gun. Metal Master tries to break it with his powers but nothing happens. The antagonizes the Metal Master and he gets closer to the Hulk.

Ross and Betty are still trying to find Bruce but obviously with no luck. Ross gets word of the showdown in D.C. and heads over there.

Hulk gets close enough to the villain to grab Metal Master and pretty much tells him he can get pounded by his fists or clean up everything he destroyed. Metal Master gets on his ship and heads off Earth.

Of course, the gun was just a decoy and not made of metal which is what tricked Metal Master. Hulk has moment where he actually gives credit to the Teen Brigade, proving Hulk doesn’t hate all humans. But the army moves in.

Hulk leaps off with Rick before anything can happen. The Teen Brigade tell Ross how Hulk saved humanity. That’s not likely to sway Ross but it’s some food for thought for him.

Hulk tries to use the machine to change back but he stays in Hulk form. He realizes the machine may have been used too much and now knows he is stuck in a form that will be relentlessly hunted by humans.

Betty is determined to find Bruce but still is having no luck. Hulk gets word he is getting a pardon because he saved the world. He’s unhappy because it’s not enough and he starts smashing stuff. And he suddenly changes back to Bruce Banner.

Bruce goes to see Betty but her father answers the door. Ross is enraged Hulk got a pardon and demands to know where Bruce has been. He says he felt under the weather so took a few days off in Bermuda. (Great excuse, definitely use that next time you miss a day of work)

Betty is overjoyed at seeing Bruce but Ross still thinks Bruce is a “milksop.” Betty knows there is some connection between Hulk and Bruce but he says he cares about her too much to tell her everything. Bruce hopes Hulk is gone for good but we all know that’s not the case.

After this issue Hulk loses his own title for a while and shares the pages of Tales to Astonish with Ant-Man for a while. But this is by no means the end of Hulk and his stories.

Next up in the reading order we’ll be introduced to a new hero, one who has his very own suit of iron, in Tales of Suspense #39!

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Final Destination 3 – Movie Review

Final Destination 3 2006 Film

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s time for the inevitable yet again! It’s me, Slick Dungeon, back to review the next film in the Final Destination franchise. This is the film series where the only murderer is death itself. And eventually we’re all going to lose that contest. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet, get off that rollercoaster before it takes off because there may be spoilers to smack you in the face below.

Still here? Okay, let’s get into it. The first two films in this franchise centered heavily around the tragic crash of flight 180 to Paris where a group of people got off the plane because one of the passengers had a premonition before the plane took off. While the second film was less closely tied to the first one, there was a definite and rather interesting connection for all the characters.

This film starts six years after the original crash. The group of high school students in this film are not even tangentially related to the events of the first but they still experience an incident. Kim who is seen as a control freak among her friends has a vision of a gruesome and fiery death on a roller coaster. She gets off the ride after a bit of a freak out and a few of her friends do so as well, either willingly, or for other reasons. Kim’s boyfriend Jason stays and meets his inevitable fate along with a few other students.

Unlike the last two films, the deaths of Kim’s friends seems to really bother and stay with her and other students at the school. This does make the deaths feel a little more meaningful even if they are still shockingly bloody.

Like the first two there are smash cuts and jump scares virtually guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat. The group has to figure out how to outrun death. This is no easy task and as in the other films it doesn’t seem like anyone but death will win in the end.

There are a few clever twists and turns and the actors seem to be more committed to the story in this one but by the third time this is feeling like old hat. While the setup and payoff is rather familiar, the deaths in this film are even more inventive and bloody than the first two, and that’s saying something.

It’s still a fun ride (pun very much intended) and if you’re a horror fan this is worth a watch. Just maybe don’t get on any roller coasters afterwards.

Inevitably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #90

Journey Into Mystery Issue 90 Photo Credit: Marvel

While The Fantastic Four have been busy meeting The Hulk, Thor continues to face off against everything from communists to Loki to space aliens. The 90th issue of Journey Into Mystery once again presents an alien foe to the god of thunder.

This time Thor ends up fighting a race of aliens called The Xartans. These are aliens who are able to copy themselves into anything they see. Thus the title of The Carbon Copy Man (although there are actually several Xartans so the name doesn’t exactly hold up.)

Before the fight begins, Dr. Blake is just on the verge of telling his love interest Jane Foster that he is secretly Thor. Before this happens, Odin comes to Blake in a vision and warns him against doing so. Dr. Blake continues to look like a coward to Jane and she, of course, is thinking about her hero, Thor.

Soon, Dr. Blake is encountering people in town he knows doing strange things. New laws have passed saying cars should drive on sidewalks, billboards should go over office windows instead of where they belong, and worst of all, if people are sick but can’t pay to see a doctor they should be kicked out of the hospital. (That last one can be uncomfortably close to the truth and it’s interesting it appears here but I digress)

Dr. Blake is, of course, none too happy about any of this. He decides to investigate and ask the Mayor, who he appears to be friends with, although there has been no real mention of him before. The Mayor also seems happy with these odd changes.

Blake changes to Thor and tries to find out what is happening when he is trapped by a huge electromagnet. This separates him from his hammer and Thor turns back into Blake. This is probably good since all the actual people are in a spaceship operated by the Xartans. Blake tells the Xartans they are no match for Thor and so they should destroy him to take over the planet unimpeded. Jane’s not very impressed with this.

It does give Blake the chance to pick up his hammer and become Thor once again, however. There’s a fight with two of the Xartans using different methods to try to beat Thor but, of course, our hero wins in the end.

At the end of the story Thor tells the Xartans they have to change into trees. They do it, thinking they will be able to change back whenever they want. Thor may have outsmarted them because he figures trees don’t think so neither can the Xartans when they are in tree form.

This is reminiscent of how Reed Richards gets the Skrulls to turn into cows. Neither change is permanent and I’m sure we’ll see more of the Xartans in the future.

Overall, this story is fairly forgettable, other than the fact Odin really doesn’t want Blake to spill the beans to Jane Foster.

Next up on our reading list we’ll be catching up with the big green guy once again in The Incredible Hulk #6!