Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Invasion cycle: the review


We are finally here people! This post contains my review of the Invasion cycle, but you might want to read the summaries of Invasion, Planeshift and Apocalypse first, if you have not already done so.

Initially I wanted to split this review into two parts, first talking about whether the Invasion cycle worked as a story, and then about whether it worked as a capstone to the Weatherlight Saga. But that division is not so easily made. The story is that it is the capstone of the Weatherlight Saga. If you are not already invested in that arc large parts of these books are just a random bunch of monsters attacking a random place with random people defending. There is some characterization here, some of it is even very good, but most of it is in broad strokes, or very short. Tahngarth’s apprehension towards meeting other minotaurs rings hollow if you are not already familiar with his attitude towards his mutations seen in Rath and Storm or Mercadian Masques. And Barrin’s suicide is set up mostly by his relationship to his daughter shown in A Timefor Remembrance and the death of his wife in Prophecy.

Still, there is something to say about the writing style that has nothing to do with the rest of the saga, and some continuity concerns that have little to do with the quality of the story. So I’ll start off talking about the story itself before moving on to continuity stuff. It will just be more of a gradual development than a clear divide.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Apocalypse


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Brom
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in June 2001

SUMMARY
We open up on Gerrard and Urza kneeling in front of Yawgmoth in the Ninth Sphere, which has been formed into an arena. Yawgmoth tells the two to fight for their greatest desire: the resurrection of Hanna and the chance to study under Yawgmoth respectively. So they do. For almost half the book. Urza has a number of near-wins, but each time Yawgmoth comes up with a reason why it doesn't count. During the fight Gerrard learns to manipulate the flowstone all around him and eventually he manages to decapitate Urza. Yawgmoth then blesses Gerrard with a tenfold increase in strength, endurance, intelligence and will. But Gerrard had shaken off the command of Yawgmoth during the battle, and when it looks like Hanna comes forward to collect Urza's head, he strikes her with his halberd instead, correctly guessing that the Hanna-simulacrum would be where Yawgmoth hid his essence. Before he can follow it up with a killing blow Yawgmoth ejects him from Phyrexia, back to the Stronghold.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Planeshift


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Brom
Back cover art - Donato Giancola
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in February 2001

SUMMARY
We pick up directly where the last book left. Everyone is still at Koilos as the Rathi Overlay starts dumping hordes upon hordes of invaders all around. The coalition army braces itself for the oncoming wave, but then the nine titans suddenly planeswalk away, transporting the troops to various positions across the globe. The Weatherlight and the metathran army end up on Urborg, where Crovax has set up shop (after eating Tsabo Tavoc for her failure). Eladamri and his half of the army are taken to Keld, where the Skyshroud forest has just materialized.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Invasion


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Erik Peterson
Back cover art - Michael Sutfin
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in October 2000.

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm doing things a little differently for the Invasion cycle. Today I'll put up just the summary, trivia and continuity references for Invasion. Tomorrow you'll get the same for Planeshift, and next week for Apocalypse. Next week I'll also do a separate post with a review and continuity/timeline discussion for the entire trilogy.  They reason for this is that this trilogy is really just one big story, written by the same person. As such a regular review of Invasion wouldn't be able to go into a whole lot of plotlines that don't wrap up until later in the trilogy, while any comments on the writing style in the next two reviews would just go "Wel... what I said last time still counts".

SUMMARY
We open up on the Weatherlight desperately trying to get to Benalia, but their planeswalking is disrupted by three massive Phyrexian portals in the sky. Eventually they manage to close them by going through them to Rath and blowing the portal generation ships up from the other side. But when they finally land in Benalia City to warn the people there of the invasion they get chucked into jail for Gerrard's desertion, alongside a mysterious Blind Seer who was preaching doom at the Weatherlight's landing spot. Benalia is utterly Routed by the Phyrexian commander Tsabo Tavoc while the crew escapes. They head of to a prison colony and recruit the prisoners there for their crew, and face Tsabo again, as she had stowed away in the ship. Again they escape, but Hanna ends up infected by the Phyrexian plague.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Quick update!

Hi everyone!

As you probably noticed, things have been pretty quiet on the blog this month. What a tease I am, dropping of the map so close to the conclusion of the entire Weatherlight Saga! Don't worry, I have not lost interest in the project! The entire Invasion cycle has been read, and I've already got all my notes in order. All that remains for me to do is turning it from a pile of cliff notes into a text that's actually readable. It's just been a really busy month for me. I finished the last essay and presentation of my traineeship and am now a certified Record Manager (think archivist, but with computers and digital files instead of paper and filing cabinets) and I'm currently on a Prince2 management course. Oh and, you know, I've got my regular job in addition to all that. Which is eating into my Magic time as well. Oh, the joys of adult life...

In addition to that, I've also been delayed because I'm actually writing all three reviews of the Invasion cycle at the same time. Which brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk about: I'm going to use a slightly different format than usual for the Invasion cycle. You see, this cycle is, surprisingly enough, the first time we cover a trilogy that really is just one long story. We've done the Ice Age cycle a while ago, and Greensleeves a loooooooooooooong time ago, but in both cases it's more like one story with two sequels. Here though, the story just barrels on with only minor breathers between books. As such my reviews were ending up a bit skewed. In the Invasion review I was constantly saying "Well, I'd love to talk about this character/this plotline/etc, but let's see how things turn out in the next novels first", while in the Apocalypse one the phrase "what I said last time still applies" was used in overabundance. As that wouldn't make for the best reading, I decided that instead I'll first do three posts covering just the summary, trivia and continuity references of the individual books. Then I'll do a fourth post with the review, continuity problems and timeline sections.


So, that's why it's been very slow going here. But things are nearing completion (compleation?) now, so the Invasion and Planeshift summaries should be going up this weekend, with Apocalypse and the cycle-wide review following the week after that! Hope you will all forgive me for the delay and stick with me a little while longer!

If you are dying for some Magic storyline stuff, I've put up a post with a quick look at the Invasion promo comic that appeared in TopDeck. You can find it just below this one, or by following this link. And while I'm sure most of you will already have listened to it by now, I also want to plug the Magic Story Podcast that went up on the mothership a week ago. In it we got the reveal that the Mending happened 60 years prior to the current story, which for me was probably the biggest bombshell to come from the Magic storyline in years! Which might sound like I'm slamming the regular stories, but is really just showing my own idiosyncrasies. I had expected that after Future Sight I would have to break my timeline into two, one pre-Mending and one post-Mending, but this might just enable me to integrate the two! Obviously that's still a good long while away, but it's exciting to me nonetheless!

Thank you for still sticking with me, and hopefully I'll see you all this weekend for the new, proper, review!

Invasion promo comic

After Mercadian Masques, Nemesis and Prophecy, Invasion was the last Kev Walker comic published before TopDeck was discontinued. Like all its predecessors it is very well drawn, but only contains the very start of a story. The Weatherlight finds Phyrexians, goes to Rath to fight them at the source, is overwhelmed but escapes... buy the book to find out what happens next!


  

If you don't feel like opening all these pictures separately, you can also go over to www.MagicInvasion.com to find a (barely) animated version. It's under "Invasion" and then "Story". We'll get back to that website after I've covered the book trilogy though.

Actually, this comic deviates a bit more from the novel then the previous ones. There the Weatherlight goes to Rath with a much clearer goal in mind: to destroy the Phyrexian portal ships, which only exist on that side. On Dominaria the portals just manifest as big gaps in the air. (Despite what you might have seen on the cards, which clearly show the portal ships on Dominaria as well.)


And while this comic ends with Benalia well and truly Routed as the Weatherlight arrives, in the novel they actually arrive before the Phyrexians but get thrown in jail because Gerrard is seen as a dirty stinking deserter, with Benalia City being overrun as the crew sits in their cells.

As always I'm going to say that no matter how pretty it is, the comic is the non-canonical version of the story, with the novel being the one that counts. But it is a very good way of generating excitement, that's for sure!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Of Trolls and Chinese Whispers

So, I’m currently reading Apocalypse for the blog, and I was struck by its dedication.
“To Jaya, Dragontrainer, and all the fans”
For those who don’t know, Jaya and Dragontrainer were posters on Phyrexia.com, a website of old especially focused on the storyline. And when I say old, I mean its front page still wishes us a happy 2009. Its continuity section and forum have been… a bit of a mixed blessing for the storyline community really. On the one hand, it was crucial in keeping old information and stories in circulation long after the comics and magazines they originated in ceased publication, and it was visited by several Magic authors over the years who revealed behind the scenes info there. On the other hand, it suffered from a lack of critical reading and citation. Fan theories got presented as fact a bit too often for my tastes.

Today, I want to show you how easily the entire storyline community got duped due to a lack of annotations and the obscurity of some original sources.