This week I am blogging from the 73rd Annual World Science Fiction Convention, aka WorldCon, aka Sasquan, since it’s being held in Spokane, Washington. If you’ve never heard of WorldCon, or have but have never been, I strongly suggest you try to get to one soon. There is no better energy, IMHO, than what you experience at a WorldCon. Multi-generations of fans all gathering together in one place to celebrate science fiction and fantasy in books, comics, movies, and more, is enough to recharge this fan’s batteries every year.
Walking through the dealer room, I’ve come across classics of science-fiction comics, books like Strange Tales and Weird Tales, side by side with modern classics like Saga, Sandman, and more. While WorldCon is not a comic book convention, I’m still very pleased with the offerings available here and the love and attention paid to the art form I love—comic books.
At one table, a book caught my eye: JSA Strange Adventures from DC Comics. I know I don’t cover a lot of superhero comics here, but when I do, they tend to be the outliers. The Justice Society of America, though, holds a special place in my heart. Their stories and characters are iconic, and DC Comics as we know it today owes a lot to this team and its members. In this story, which is set against the backdrop of World War II, the members of the JSA find themselves pitted against an army of Cyborgs led by Lord Dynamo. With more people dying every day in the war, Dynamo leaves the Society with a tough choice; he’ll stop his army if they give up their powers.
The story harkens back to the Golden Age of the JSA, and does so quite well. Billed as a “story from the JSA’s secret files,” it felt like someone had plucked an old script out of a filing cabinet, gave it a little polish and update, and ran with it. The fun of those Golden Age stories is found here, plus the heroes I love: the original Green Lantern, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Starman, Spectre, and so many more. These are the heroes hinted at in the comics of my youth, the characters I later came to adore.
Believe it or not, this week you get a second recommendation.
Sitting not far from the aforementioned JSA book, a Star Wars graphic novel caught my eye. I’ve been a huge fan of the work done over at Dark Horse, especially with the Star Wars Extended Universe. I’m still very bummed by the turn of events which saw Star Wars leave Dark Horse and move over to Marvel. Even though I collected the original Marvel run, I had issues with some of the stories and the ways in which the characters were portrayed. Somehow, Dark Horse, even going as far afield as they did, made the characters and the Extended Universe feel so much more substantial.
Enter Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War. Long before the events in either of the movie trilogies, The Sith War reaches back into the rich history of the Jedi and talks about a darker time. The Jedi Ulic Qel-Dromo and Exar Kun have been visited by dreams depicting a new Golden Age, one where the Sith rule over the galaxy. They seek a Sith holocron, a repository holding ancient knowledge which could open up new powers and abilities. The story spans the galaxy and pits brother against brother, Jedi versus Sith, for control of the Force and the galaxy itself.
Written by Kevin J. Anderson, The Sith War feels very much like a sprawling epic space opera, dense and nuanced. I expect no less from Anderson and Dark Horse, who published the title. The book is filled with all sorts of names I can’t spell nor pronounce, like a good Star Wars book should have. I found the hints and callbacks to the Star Wars we know and love—given this is set much earlier in the history of the Jedi—to be well executed.
Both of these books were quick reads and fun romps. Even if you can’t be at WorldCon in Spokane this weekend, I suggest you try and pick these titles up at your local bookstore.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.