Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Doll by Josh Webster

The Doll
by Josh Webster
1986 Zebra

For all the Zebra horror I've collected, this is the first I've read.  My main reference for evil dolls is the Twilight Zone Talking Tina episode, which this cribs a bit from, though mainly it draws from The Corsican Brothers.

A single mom working for a large corporation comes to a small logging town after a takeover, bringing us most of the way to a Hallmark romance.  She has twin daughters, Gretchen and Mary.  Gretchen gets a doll from her estranged father, a doll patterned after Cabbage Patch, though imbued with spiritual forces by an Aztec priestess who works for the doll company for reasons not quite explained.

Gretchen and Mary have a psychic connection causing each to suffer the other's injury.  Gretchen finds she can link her doll, also named Mary, into the triad, so that her sister suffers when the doll does, voodoo style.

Before we go to far this direction, Gretchen runs away from home and ends up drowning in a well and eaten by rats.  The doll is found with her corpse, it does a little bit of the Talking Tina routine by showing up in strange places, but very quickly we find that Gretchen's soul entered the doll, and she manages to swap with her sister, taking over her body.

The priestess tracks down the doll, feeling the psychic pain, kidnaps Gretchen/Mary, tortures her by peeling her skin off until Gretchen agrees to abandon the body, and is shot by the police.  The priestess is 100% the villain of the piece, selling dolls with psychic powers and being utterly baffled that a child would do anything to hurt their sibling.  Gretchen was just a little moody, and gets eaten by rats and tortured for it.

But mostly it's the mom dealing with chauvinism at work and starting to date again. This is a dull, dull, dull book.  We're halfway through before there's any hint this was supposed to be a horror novel, and every time an horrific or supernatural element is introduced, Webster pulls back and changes gears. I swear these Zebra authors had a bet with each other how little horror they could include and still get cool cover.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Series Showdown: Hook vs Bionic Commando

 Bionic Commando was surprisingly mature, while Hook was an off-the-rails murder spree.  Hook vaporizes the competition and moves up.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Gary Gygax's Cyborg Commando Book 1: Planet in Peril by Pamela O-Neill & Kim Morgan

Gary Gygax's Cyborg Commando Book 1: Planet in Peril
by Pamela O-Neill & Kim Morgan
1987 New Infinities

Earth 2035 is invaded by giant bug-like creatures from outer space. Cris Holman's family is slaughtered, and he finds himself evacuated to a military base where he volunteers to put his brain in a cyborg body to fight the invasion.

The first of three parts, and plotted as such, with Chris barely engaging in a skirmish before the end. The cyborgs are described only as wearing armor, and that they can be mistaken as human except they talk out of speakers. They can move at superhuman speed and shoot lasers and microwave rays.

The cyborg-making process seems resource intensive considering the microwaves are all that get the job done. Would seem more effective to use those on jeeps or shoulder mounted human troops. Normally I wouldn't take my RPG based cyborg vs alien fiction that seriously, but the book is written more seriously than it needed to be.

This is one of those books that has prose that stuck in my craw for the first few pages, but then I got used to it. Literate in places, but way too slow. Not padded, just took it's sweet time and was more serious than the premise deserved.

Paperback from Amazon

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Marvel 1964: Iron Man

Iron Man gets another makeover, slicking down his pointy eyebrows and giving him more face rivets

He loses the center column of rivets before the end of the year. Ol' Shellhead has largely stopped tinkering with transistors in the middle of fights as his gadgets are internalized.  Iron Man officially becomes Tony Stark's bodyguard, and is in charge of the factory when Stark is "away".

We also see more of Tony the playboy

I'd argue that the real reason Tony goes through women is less to do with the shrapnel in his heart and more that he's an a-hole and rich enough to get away with it. This still being a child friendly comic, the womanizing consists of him sitting at tables in fancy places.  We see his first and, to date, only drink.

I forgot to keep track of this last year, but Stark Enterprises always seemed like the number one source of supervillains, with most of his rogues gallery consisting of disgruntled employees.  This year his business practices inspired Wonder Man's brief stint as a villain, and his mere existence inspired Hawkeye and the Scarecrow.

The Watcher starts hosting the monster B story until he's joined by Cap in issue 59.

Tales of Suspense 49-60

Available from Amazon collected in Iron Man Epic Collection: The Golden Avenger

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Hook 1: Whirlpool Of Stars by Tully Zetford

 Hook 1: Whirlpool Of Stars
by Tully Zetford (Kenneth Bulmer)
Nell, 1974

It's the 100th Century, and the ship Ryder Hook is travelling in has an emergency evacuation. Most of the passengers are rescued, but if you weren't part of an interstellar Econorg the cost of flying you planetside would result in indentured servitude.

Ryder takes matters into his own hands and crash lands the escape ship.  The corrupt customs department demands cash or Hook has to work it off, and he fights his way out.  We get a few cycles of Hook, along with Pera, a stranded corporate secretary he's hoping to use financially, robbing, running, trying to get off planet, and getting screwed by corrupt authorities before slaughtering everyone and starting over.

Hook is captured by an alien Econorg leader and forced to infiltrate a rival's headquarters.  While there, he senses that this org is run by one of the dreaded Booster Man.  Hook is a cyborg with boosted strength, speed, and reflexes. He didn't finish the experimental process, but those who did turned evil and have infiltrated high positions of intergalactic society.

When Hook is in the vicinity of a Booster Man, also called a Novaman, he gains the ability to supercharge his speed, entering a hyperspeed mode where everything else almost stands still. He kills the Boosted Man, escapes, and with Pera's boss' help he finally gets off planet.

Some books you can tell didn't work off an outline - this one read like someone goofing around playing Grand Theft Auto before finally going on a mission.  Not a bad thing, but this runs out of steam even with the short page count.

The worldbuilding was ok, some neat aliens and almost cyberpunk corporate society. Where it really shined was the extreme violence with future weaponry. Rays that instantly burned bodies to a crisp, ballistics punching out spines, sausage shaped grenades that drained all the fluids from a body, and rays that melted bodies into piles.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

TV Obscura: The Last Precinct

 The Last Precinct
1986 NBC
8 Episodes

Hour long Police Academy knock-off with an amazing pedigree: created by Stephen J. Cannell
Frank Lupo, starring Ernie Hudson, Adam West, Wings Hauser, Keenan Wynn, and Randi Brooks from Hamburger: The Movie.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Marvel 1964: Hulk

We're still not at "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry", but starting with Tales to Astonish 59 excitement will cause Banner to change into Hulk, and strangely, more excitement changes Hulk to Banner.  Narratively speaking this is a bit of a mess, as presumably a big boss battle would be constantly exciting.  We'll see if this gets actively changed or just forgotten about.  

Still no exact measure on his strength, but stronger than the Thing, and he gets stronger the angrier he gets.

At one point he absorbs the entire blast of a gamma bomb, which was enough to kill him as the Maestro decades later.

Tales to Astonish 59-62

Available from Amazon collected in Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: The Hulk Must Die

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Series Shadow: Swordsman of Mars vs Warriors of Mars

The Swordsman and the Warriors were very similar.  More characterization from the Swordman, but better action from the Warriors, and that's what I'm here for.  The Eternal Champion moves forward.