Ever want to hang out in a dirigible floating over New York City, sipping a Whiskey Sour on the rocks? Well, here’s your chance. In this fun alternate history of New York City during the 1920s Prohibition Era, the rum-runners established speakeasies in hot air balloons and dirigibles. But that doesn’t mean it’s legal, as Feds and the New York police try to take down the gangsters in the sky.
David F. Walker (Bitter Root, The Life of Frederick Douglass, Power Man and the Iron Fist) brings us another fascinating story in The Hated. The story is set in an alternate history, when President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis agreed to a truce to end the Civil War that devastated the nation. Under the terms of the agreement, the Confederate States would remain autonomous with slavery intact, though it would be illegal in the northern states. These laws have little meaning to the Confederate raiders who cross state lines to kidnap free Blacks and sell them into slavery; however, in North Kansas, there is an ex-slave by the name of Araminta who takes exception to this. Using her skill, wits, and sheer doggedness to hunt down them down, she discovers the raiders are venturing farther north, and she will risk everything to stop them.
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I not only run Kickstarters for my own comic, but back many, as well. So, I was delighted when I ran across an all-ages comic called Bird with Stick, a fantastical story featuring birds, magic, and the fear of the unknown.
Ghosts, djinns, and other supernatural beings inhabit this charming and fun alternate history/steampunk fantasy set in a Cairo, where the British have been expelled and Egypt has become a world power in their own right.
Working at a flea market in South Pasadena, Anna is an artist who specializes in making adorable stuffed dragons. Robert, who clearly has a thing for her, has the booth next door where he sells cool-looking armor and swords. When Anna decides to take a break, she discovers another vendor who sells some of the most beautiful material she has ever seen. Thinking the material is too expensive, the vendor agrees to give her the luminescent fabric as long as Anna promises to not only make dragons out of them, but to insert a piece of brimstone within each one. With the help of her friend, Mae, Anna makes good on her promise but wakes up the next morning to a brood of living, fire-breathing baby dragons! Little does she know that the vendor, Kalsaru, who sold her the fabric is more than she lets on . . . as is her neighbor, Robert. Will they come to her aid or try to take the dragons she has grown to love away from her? As with all magic, there is a price to be paid.
Back on Sampson, Iffy and Andy are introduced to a small human population that has survived right under the noses of Mother and her minions. Iffy figures out why pretty quickly which is annoying to the village elders, yet timely. Meanwhile, Mila, Telsa, and the crew have made it to Phages where Mila is attacked by the “ghosts” who are really gas-based life forms, but they are in for a surprise. Quon has survived and become part of the machine-world. Surprised to see a Bandit who has been damaged, he offers to repair the small, affable robot, hoping it might lead them to finding the Descenders. What happens next is pretty cool.
In a combination of alternate-history, secret society with a little steampunk thrown in, The Clockwork Dynasty tells the dual story of June Stefanov (an anthropologist who specializes in ancient technology) and the mechanical being Peter. After having found a unique automaton doll, June is unwittingly dragged into a centuries-long conflict between two warring factions of a world she never knew existed: a group of automatons who have been living among us for what might be over a thousand years. Rescued by Peter after she finds out that the automatons exist, June learns they are dying, and she and Peter must rediscover their primary power source in order to preserve their future. But the real question is: who made them and why?
Reminiscent of SAGA, this issue begins from Mila’s point-of-view. Mila, Telsa, Mizard, Bandit, and the rest of the crew that escaped Sampson are bound for Phages which is also known as the ghost planet. During their travels, Mizard attempts to teach Mila magic, but she’s more interested in playing with Driller and Bandit. Meanwhile, Andy and Iffy have survived the vampire attack with the help of a farmer turned warrior of God; his mission is to destroy the monsters that killed his family. On Amun, Mother - under the control of her sister - lays the groundwork to eradicate the UGC.
Next up on the review list from the Hugo Awards is N.K. Jemison’s Emergency Skin, the winner for best novelette for 2020. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Jemisin, she is a multiple Hugo Award winner for her Broken Earth novels, as well as other accolades too numerous to mention. Emergency Skin is part of the Forward Collection (Amazon Original Stories) which contains a total of six stories from Veronica Roth, Andy Weir, and four others. The editor, Blake Crouch, came up with the idea of asking some of his favorite authors to write about emerging technologies and how they may affect the earth, our society, and who we are.
I’m so glad I took the time to read the prequel series, Descender, because it seriously pays off in this latest issue of Ascender. I’m not going to ruin it for you, but if you started to read this series without reading the previous one, then I highly suggest you dive into it before reading issue #12. Now, on to the show…