It’s taken me over a month, but I’m finally managing to make my first blog entry of the New Year…there are a number of reasons for the delay, most of them not very interesting but simple procrastination played a significant role.
First up is a review of Will Murray’s latest entry into his new series of Doc Savage novels, The Phantom Lagoon.
Not only is the title evocative of the classic Doc adventures, the cover by Joe Devito is beautiful and suggests all manner of weirdness. If I’d seen that cover on one of the Doc paperbacks on the spinner rack I would have had the same geeked-out reaction as when I saw the cover of Brand of the Werewolf at age ten or so.
The Phantom Lagoon delivers all of the goods—it’s very fast-moving, action-packed, with a number of different exotic locales. There’s a long battle sequence with consequences that I don’t think any Doc fan ever expected to read. That section was equal amounts thrilling and poignant.
Because they’re working for hostile foreign power, the villains of The Phantom Lagoon have access to resources which few of Doc’s villains ever had—the Man of Bronze and his crew are really hard-pressed just to stay one step ahead of them, much less in a superior posture. Taken by surprise, Doc finds himself in a new situation—he’s outclassed.
Pat Savage (Doc’s beautiful and tough-as-whalebone cousin) has a strong role—in fact, she’s instrumental in helping Doc, Monk, Ham and Long Tom to get as far as they do when they push back against the villains.
There are also two exceptionally entertaining and irritating female characters who don’t quite meet the definition of heroine, but the mystery of Honoria and Hornetta Hale dominate the book, even when they’re off-stage.
Speaking of mystery—the so-called U-Men or Mermen add an appropriately creepy note to the whole adventure. With echoes of Lovecraft’s Deep Ones, the U-Men present a monstrous problem to overcome in a plot that strains the ingenuity of Doc and his crew to the breaking point.
The Phantom Lagoon is a superior Doc Savage adventure, full of the prerequisite blazing action, exotic settings, razor-sharp characterizations and mystery—not to mention just the right amount of humor…which in my opinion has been partially instrumental in keeping Doc Savage alive while most of his pulp contemporaries faded into obscurity.
And speaking of fading into obscurity…
It appeared for a time that the King Solomon’s Mines graphic novel by the legendary Pablo Marcos and me was heading for that exact same fate. Both of us were unhappy with the arrangement with the original publisher and we’d more or less back-burnered the project, even though it was close to completion.
Quite fortunately, pulp and comic historian Stephan Friedt of ComicsPriceGuide.com (http://www.comicspriceguide.com/) loved what he had seen of the graphic novel and offered to create an imprint (Ying Ko Graphics) to see the project completed and published.
So Stephan’s actions have been a big >phew< of relief to Pablo and I as well as a reachable goal in 2014.
I’m personally very fond of the King Solomon’s Mines project for a variety of reasons—partly because there’s never been a take quite like this on Quatermain and his 19th century African milieu, but mainly because I’m collaborating with Pablo Marcos, an artist whose work I’ve enjoyed and admired for many years.
And as long as we’re on the subject of graphic novels—production on The Justice Machine: Object of Power is proceeding apace. The explosive return of this beloved super-team is on track for spring of this year from Bluewater Productions (http://www.bluewaterprod.com/).
You can check on updates at www.JusticeMachine.com.
I always have more than one iron in the fire, but the one that appears to be heating up the most (other than King Solomon’s Mines and The Justice Machine) is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Challenger: The Islands of Dr. Moreau.
This is an updated version of the character who, other than Sherlock Holmes, is Doyle’s most famous creation.
It takes place in a world very much like our own, only populated by the descendants of classic popular literature and where the War of The Worlds a century before was the pivotal point in cultural development.
Edward George Challenger is the grandson of the man of who discovered The Lost World. He and his partner Major Loveday Brooke (a relative of the first female private detective in England) work for a small, very secret branch of British Intelligence known as the Diogenes.
Challenger and Loveday face off against Dr. Sirocco Moreau and her plan to “reimagine” humanity.
If you enjoy BBC’s Sherlock and if you’re fan of my Outlanders series, I think you’ll find a lot to like in Challenger: Islands of Dr. Moreau. More info about a release date in the near future.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon, so don’t wreck the place.