Friday, September 17, 2010


Dynamite Comics
Writer Matt Wagner
Artist Aaron Campbell

In the three years I’ve written Pulp Fiction Reviews, I’ve never bothered to shine a light on comics. I am making an exception here because of the quality and pulp strings attached to this marvelous title from Dynamite Comics. Okay, so the Green Hornet was never a pulp hero, having been born on the radio along about the same time as the Shadow and other great melodramatic heroes. He would also make the jump to the movie serials and comics casting him clearly in the same mold as the glorious pulp characters of his day.

Earlier this year Dynamite opened the Green Hornet floodgates and inundated the comic world with more Green Hornet titles than ever put by a single publisher before. There was Kevin Smith’s supposed old unused movie script and individual books featuring the various Katos etc.etc. For the most part most of these are lackluster affairs truly not worth any fans time or hard earned coins.

Almost lost amongst this plethora of mediocre fare was one singular gem, GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE. Conceived and written by veteran scribe Matt Wagner, it tells the story of the original verdant clad avenger and his Asian side-kick in a historically accurate time frame. It is the late 1930s and Germany and Japan are dicing up the world map to their own gratification and dreams of empire building. Against this background, Britt Reid, the bored, educated son of a Chicago newspaper publisher, decides to answer the call of wanderlust and go traipsing around the globe. He wants to have one big glorious adventure before he resigns himself to filling his father’s shoes and spending the next twenty years of his life behind a desk.

Meanwhile in the Land of the Rising Son, Hiyashi Kato has been raised by his noble sire to be a modern Samurai and live by their strict code of martial honor. When he is summarily drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army and becomes part of the invasion of China, he witnesses acts of brutal atrocity that challenge his very moral core. He deserts, choosing in the course of right and ultimately crosses paths with the young American, who saves his life in a freakish accident. Kato vows to accompany Reid and be his companion until his debt his repaid.

Wagner, realizing today’s audiences need action, jumps back and forth between these events and those occurring after the duo’s return to Chicago. Here they discover Reid Senior has died and left the running of the Daily Sentinel to his son. Once in this lofty position, Britt will come to understand the dept of the corruption infecting his beloved city by the criminal gangs, all of which will lead him to become a masked crime fighter with his loyal Kato ever at his side in the livery of a masked chauffeur.

Aaron Campbell’s art is so evocative of the times this story unfolds in, one has to wonder if he doesn’t spend every waking second in a library reference hall. His work captures not only the look but the atmosphere of these unsettling days when America, having just survived the Great Depression is on the brink another world conflict, unsure if the future spells doom or glory for the brash young country.

GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE is a terrific comic series and does justice above and beyond to one of the great classic radio heroes of all time. Any pulp fan worth his fedora would be wise to pick it up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


By James Rollins
Harper Books
506 pages

When a book mixes science, religious philosophy and secret societies dating back to the Nazis, you can expect a real spicy pulp stew. Veterinarian turned thriller novelist James Rollins delivers just that and the meal is absolutely scrumptious for the first page bite to the last closing line morsel. Easily one of the best modern pulp adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

The adventure opens during the closing days of World War II when allied forces are racing against each other to lay claim to Germany’s scientific innovations developed during the war to include everything from rocket propulsion to medical experimentation.
Amidst this chaos, one German commando unit is attempting to flee the invaders and smuggle out the results of an amazing breakthrough in quantum physics that could alter the shape of mankind forever. Along with these papers and artifacts is a baby unlike any other in the world; the first of a race of true supermen.

Like any good thriller writer, Rollins then jumps ahead in time to the present where members of a special Washington based group known as Sigma Force are involved with what they believe to two distinct missions. The first is an antique book auction being held in Copenhagen and the second is a distress call from a Tibetan monk residing in a monastery located deep in the Himalayas. Commander Gray Pierce follows the European case which centers around a group of killers eager to get their hands on Darwin’s Bible. It supposedly contains secret runes put their by a former German scientist involved with a secret project known only as the Bell. At the same time, Sigma Director Painter Crowe arrives in Tibet, only to find the monks have somehow gone insane and murdered each other. No sooner does he uncover this horror then he is captured and taken to a hidden mountain lair operated by the descendants of the very same German researchers who developed this mysterious Bell.

Rollins’ genius is that he keeps both plot threads moving at breakneck speed, constantly putting Pierce and Crowe in cliffhanger perils and then deftly jumping from one to the other. Thus the action seems to flow non-stop, scene after exciting scene. He also glues these action set pieces with thought provoking debates on what is evolution and where do science and religion meet in its process. Is there a grand design and will quantum physics someday open the blueprint to creation? That these weighty dissertations occur while men are being shot at, mountains exploding and mutated monsters roam the jungles of South Africa is all part of the roller-coaster ride BLACK ORDER delivers.

Recently a friend wrote asking me to passing along names of people I considered to be top-notch modern day pulp writers. James Rollins was at the top of the list I passed along and BLACK ORDER reaffirms that choice beautifully.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
149 pgs.

Modern day pulp writer, Barry Reese, eschews the traditional hero avenger fare for something much darker and violent with this thriller that borders on the sensational. One has to imagine he dove into this adult orientated tale with both trepidation and a palpable sense of unfettered freedom. There is plenty of gore, sexual brutality and blatant acts of depravity all meticulously embellished with not a gruesome detail omitted. If you’ve the stomach for it, Rabbit Heart is a savage reading experience but it is not for the timid.

The adventure begins with the death of the protagonist, a young girl named Fiona Chapman. She’s murdered by an outdoor serial killer who fancies himself the next Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. But Fiona doesn’t die, or at least in the same way normal people expire. Instead she somehow biologically evolves into another state of being, one in which she is incredibly strong and powerful. She soon learns that she is one of a handful of mythological spirits who have roamed the world for centuries known as the Furious Hosts.

These semi immortal deities exist only to kill and be killed. They are all players in a bizarre, savage game known as the Hunt. Each is filled with an unquenchable lust compelling them satiate their dark passions by preying on innocent humans while at the same time battling each other until eventually only one will remain. This is of course reminiscent of the Highlander movie series, but with a neat twist. When a Furious Host is killed by another, he or she will be reborn into another body at a later date to resume the contest. Thus killing them permanently is a problem.

Fiona, whose archetype figure she becomes when fighting is that of a sexy bad-girl warrior, is different in that she is actually repulsed by her new supernatural identity. She truly wants to no part of it but doesn’t know how to escape her fate. Then she meets an occult detective from the past who has been tracking the activities of the Furious Host and has come to her with an offer. His name is Ascott Keane and he wants to help Fiona take on the task of finding and destroying all the Hunters, ridding the world of them once and for all.

RABBIT HEART is by far the most accomplished of Reese’s writing to date. Unlike his earlier, fanciful pulp adventures, there is a steadier prose here that is precise and confident. The excess sex and violence is never gratuitous, serves the plot and avoids being pornographic by that masterful writing. I strongly recommend this book to my adult readers looking for something new. Final warning, this is a superior effort but NOT for the squeamish.