Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Interior World’ by Rob MacGregor

This was the last Indiana Jones book written by Rob MacGregor and also the sixth of the twelve ’90s novels published by Bantam Books.

I was kind of excited going into this one, as it featured Easter Island, a place that has always fascinated me. With that, I hoped it had some Tiki flavor and tapped into that stuff, which it did to a point, but then this gets more focused on what lies beyond the surface… literally.

The book also spends some time in South America and it draws some comparisons to my favorite MacGregor Indy book, The Seven Veils. But sadly, this didn’t match that one in quality.

I thought that the first few chapters in this were really good and it built up my hopes further, as I wanted to see MacGregor go out with a bang. However, it just kind of gets duller and duller as one reads on.

Overall this book turns into an acid trip and it doesn’t really embrace what makes the Indiana Jones franchise so beloved and that’s adventure.

I like that MacGregor ties his books together and the characters and MacGuffins bleed into other works but I just feel like the guy was out of steam here. Maybe he had a six book contract and he was just trying to get it over with, I don’t know. This just feels rushed and severely lacking.

Being that I’m now halfway through the ’90s Indy novels, I am going to take a bit of a break. I will review the other six in the near future but honestly, this one was just tough to get through and I have so many other books in my stack on my reading desk.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Comic Review: The New Mutants – Epic Collection: Renewal

Published: March 8th, 2017
Written by: Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo
Art by: John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Ron Frenz, Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Paul Smith

Marvel Comics, 520 Pages

Review:

As big of a fan of The New Mutants as I am, it’s been a damn long time since I’ve read the original graphic novel and their earliest stories. I got into the series around it’s midpoint and because of that, didn’t have all of the earliest issues until more recently. This collects that first year of the regular comic books series, as well as the characters’ appearances before it started.

This was neat to revisit and it brought me back to where I was in the late’80s, as a young kid just discovering comics. Back then, I really liked the youth superhero teams like Teen Titans and New Mutants.

This collection had a few stories I hadn’t read before. It kicked off with Karma’s debut story, which happened in Marvel Team-Up and featured Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

Additionally, I had never read the story that served as the debut of the Hellfire Club’s Selene and New Mutants member Magma.

Everything else here I’ve read but it was nice checking it out again and refreshing my memory, as my brain gets older and forgets more than it remembers now.

I loved the art style of this series, early on, and the Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo stories were solid.

Now I do have to say that this isn’t as good as the series would become. This is early on and it hasn’t found its grove, here.

However, this is the foundation of this group and they would eventually be faced with some really intense, life-altering storylines that would take this from just being a “Junior X-Men” comic to something unique and very much its own series, standing on its own strong legs.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.

Book Review: ‘The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway In the Sky’ by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, Paul Wolski

I pre-ordered this and got it late last year. It sort of got lost in the shuffle of my stack of books needing to be read but I finally got around to it and I should’ve sooner because I really wanted to kick back and enjoy this.

I’m glad to say that this big, oversized coffee table book was a really neat read.

Growing up in Florida, it was hard not to be captivated by Disney’s magic, especially when trips to the parks were fairly common in my childhood and ’80s through ’90s Disney theme park stuff always hits me hard in the nostalgia part of my brain.

In fact, I loved riding the monorails as much as I liked riding the actual rides. It was always a cool, fun experience flying along the rail, a dozen or more feet above the beautiful grounds of the Disney parks and resorts.

I suspected that this book would be like many Disney books about the company’s history. It was full of large pictures throughout the decades, showcasing all the different monorails, it’s creation, construction and every other part of the vehicle’s long and colorful history.

This also featured a lot of concept art and promotional material about the monorail system.

The chapters were all really interesting a well-written and alongside all the imagery, helped to paint the full story of this great attraction from Walt Disney’s earliest vision of it to being the easiest way to get around the Disney parks since its inception.

For those that also have a burning nostalgia for the history of Disney’s parks, this is a must-own. Plus, it wasn’t as expensive as one would think. I paid something like thirty bucks for this pristine, thick, hardcover beast.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other books about the history of Disney parks or theme parks in general.

Comic Review: Marvel 1602

Published: February 10th, 2010
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: Andy Kubert, Scott McKowen (covers)

Marvel Comics, 246 Pages

Review:

This started out as a really cool story and I enjoyed it a lot from the get go. However, it did lose steam after a few issues and wrapped up pretty weakly. I also thought the big reveal/twist was fairly predictable and that this didn’t live up to the high hopes I had for it and the past work of Neil Gaiman.

Still, it piqued my interest enough to make me want to check out some of the other stories that take place in this odd, alternative version of the Marvel universe.

I liked the setting and I really liked most of the character designs. I did, however, feel like too many characters and subplots were forced in for the sake of trying to make this a big deal, big event. A lot of the extra fluff was unnecessary and narratively cumbersome.

I don’t know if that was an issue with Gaiman’s writing or Marvel instructing him to throw in every major old school character. I feel like all the extra characters could’ve been saved for their own interesting spinoffs of this.

Beyond the rickety story, I thought that Andy Kubert’s art was pretty damn impressive. Artistically, this is one of my favorite things that he’s done and the style he used here fit with the story really well.

Also, the covers by Scott McKowen are some of my favorite from this comic’s era. They’re actually framed poster worthy and while staring at them, I thought about seeing if I could buy some.

In the end, Marvel 1602 was a fun experiment and it captivated me early on. But it was too dragged out and overloaded and with that, became more of a chore to read in the back half.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel alternative timeline stories, as well as other comics written by Neil Gaiman.

Comic Review: ROM vs. Transformers: Shining Armor

Published: March 14th, 2018
Written by: John Barber, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Alex Milne
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro; ROM the Spaceknight by Bing McCoy, Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema

IDW Publishing, 121 Pages

Review:

I liked occasionally reading ROM the Spaceknight comics when I was a kid. I was never a huge fan of the character, though, but I still thought he was kind of cool and I really liked the art in the original Marvel run.

It’s been decades since I’ve read ROM but since he’s made his way back into comics and Hasbro wants to make a crossover movie universe with ROM, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Micronauts and M.A.S.K., I figured I’d get reacquainted with him and his mythos.

So what better way is there to experience what Hasbro wants to do on a cinematic scale than experiencing it in the form of a crossover comic featuring both the ROM and Transformers franchises?

I thought the art here was pretty good too. And the story was decent but not great. I liked seeing these two properties merge, though, and they did it in a way that made sense for both universes.

This is also written like it was the first part of a planned crossover event that would’ve kept going. However, there doesn’t seem to be a proper follow-up to this tale.

This primarily follows a small group of Transformers characters that don’t include leaders like Optimus Prime or Megatron. This is basically a “first contact” sort of situation where these two universes meet for the first time and it seems like something much bigger should come out of it.

The leader of the Decepticons in this story is Starscream, where the Autobots have Ultra Magnus.

That being said, I thought that Ultra Magnus’ character was really off from his personality and it made me question if the writer really knew the source material. Since one of the writers is Christos Gage, I was more perplexed by this, as he’s done solid work with other Hasbro stories, previously.

Ultimately, this was an enjoyable read but some things left me scratching my head and because of that, this wasn’t as great as it could have been. And maybe that’s why there hasn’t been a sequel and also why Hasbro hasn’t really been able to get the crossover plans off the ground and into the mainstream like they had hoped.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other IDW Transformers and ROM comics.

Book Review: ‘The Conquering Sword of Conan (Book 3)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the third and final installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan collections in this series. It’s been a fun ride reading his Conan stuff in its entirety and this book didn’t disappoint.

After reading all three books, the quality between all these stories is pretty damn consistent and the ratings on these reviews only really reflect my own personal preferences of the stories collected in each one.

Out of the three, this one fits in the middle for me. It’s not full of just short stories and poems like the first volume or just collects a few novellas like the second, this book collects a handful of stories that fit somewhere in the middle.

The stories collected here are The Servants of Bit-Yakin, Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, The Man-Eaters of Zamboula and one of my favorites, Red Nails. There are some other miscellaneous things tacked on at the end.

With these stories you pretty much get what you’d expect. Conan kicks the crap out of monsters, goes on epic adventures, hunts treasure and wins over the women. Most of these, if not all of them, have been adapted into comic book stories. While I love both versions of these tales, there’s just something really cool reading them as Robert E. Howard originally wrote them.

Reading through all the Howard stories was a great experience and I’m glad that it’s a mountain I decided to finally climb in its entirety over the last few months.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.