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A Week With The Perennials

by  in Comic News Comment
A Week With The Perennials

It’s been the kind of bad-news week where I find myself eschewing new books, instead gravitating toward some beloved old favorites for the week’s bus reads. Comfort food.

To me the essence of comfort food reading is the pleasure of the expected. It’s the same reassuring feeling you get from seeing a favorite band play the hits. Just for fun, I thought I’d share a few of those familiar old favorites with you this week.

Nostalgia drives a lot of it, I suppose. I know there are a lot of other bloggers that get really misty when they look back on G.I. Joe or Star Wars or Transformers; but me, I’m about a decade older than those folks. What does that for me is original Star Trek.

The thing is, though, I got the taste for Star Trek not from television, but from prose novels. First the adaptations from James Blish and Alan Dean Foster, and later with the original stories.

So when I am wanting to settle in with some old-school Trek, it’s the novels I think of first. Of those, the ones I never get tired of are Diane Duane’s. Particularly the books that have come to be known as the “Rihannsu” cycle, telling the story of the Enterprise‘s adventures following the defection of the Romulan vessel Bloodwing, commanded by Kirk’s old adversary Commander Ael t’Rllaillieu, and how the defection of Ael and her crew might very well provoke a new Romulan war. For the longest time there were only two– My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way, that came out in 1984 and 1987 respectively.

There were some loose ends but on the whole each novel is fairly self-contained. But then Ms. Duane gave us the rest of the story. Swordhunt and Honor Blade came out as separate books in quick succession in 2000, though they were originally intended to be one large novel.

These ended on a pretty big cliffhanger, with the Enterprise about to follow the Bloodwing into Romulan space to aid in a rebellion. Finally, six years later, Diane Duane wrapped it all up in The Empty Chair.

This came out in tandem with the omnibus edition Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages, which restores the author’s preferred text of the previous books in the series. This week, for the first time ever, I settled in with them and read them all straight through in sequence, and they were better than I remembered. These books are an amazing tour de force. Just a great, sprawling, complex story with the best of the old Trek mixed with lots of new ideas, a staggering display of extrapolation and worldbuilding, and a fair amount of hard SF. Not for the first time, I wished these books had been used as the source material when the Next Generation et al decided to revisit the Romulans. It’s not like they didn’t have Diane Duane’s number, she wrote a script for the first season of TNG. Oh well, we still have the books.

Speaking of space opera, another beloved old favorite I broke out this week was Nexus.

I had the entire original run and then lost it in a move in the 1990s– I suspect foul play on the part of an ex but I can never prove it– and have been smarting over the loss ever since. Although I was pleased to see the Dark Horse archive series, I knew I could never afford those.

But I could afford the ‘omnibus editions’ and believe me I was all over that action.

They’re the same price as a Marvel Essential or a DC Showcase, with roughly the same gloriously huge page count, but the dimensions are slightly smaller… on the other hand, these are in full color. I love that Dark Horse and IDW picked up all these great old First Comics titles. I also grabbed the Sable and Badger omnibus books IDW put out, but Nexus remains my favorite. I just never get tired of the demented universe Mike Baron created, and that Steve Rude visualized so brilliantly.

It was bizarre and funny and romantic and full of breakneck action. It was pretty much everything i want in a comic book plus a bunch more coolness I’d have never thought to ask for.

All of that AND Clonezone the Hilariator, the spacefaring stand-up comic.

There have been many times over the years I’ve tried to write a column about the glory that is Nexus, but I never seem to get beyond “Jesus this is just f’n AWESOME.” Anyway, you can get the Nexus Omnibus editions used for really not very much at all and see for yourself. You won’t regret it.

And finally, this poster popped up on my Twitter feed last week and awakened a desire to revisit my favorite year in comics– Marvel circa 1975.

Part of it, I suppose, is that I was just exactly the right age, and I was completely high on our local store putting in a new comics rack, as I documented here. But it also was a hugely amazing and experimental year for Marvel– that was when Iron Fist and Howard the Duck got their own books, it was the year that gave us the All-New X-Men, and also when Black Goliath and the Son of Satan got their own titles. Then you had Englehart-Brunner-Colan Doctor Strange, and Steve Gerber tearing it up on Man-Thing and the Defenders, you had the original clone saga unfolding in Spider-Man and the Celestial Madonna happening over in Avengers, you had the premiere issues of Marvel Preview and The Invaders and the magazine Doc Savage. Don McGregor had T’Challa vs. the Klan and then Jack Kirby was back on Captain America for a hell-for-leather run up to the Bicentennial. I was in for all of it, and blessedly, it’s all pretty much available in paperback or sometimes even in hardcover. This week it was the Guardians of the Galaxy– the original ones.

I have the two hardcovers pictured but you can find both volumes combined in the trade paperback Tomorrow’s Avengers Vol. 1.

I went for the Guardians because I was having a space opera kind of week but really you could point to almost anything on that wonderful Buscema poster and I’d be up for those comics, whether it’s Conan or the Monster of Frankenstein or Captain America. 1975 was the hell of a year.

Anyway, those are the old reliables I went for this week. Feel free to sound off about yours in the comments, and I’ll see you next week.

Comfort Food
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