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Thursday, June 26, 2014

LAST RANGERS #01 - THE LAST RANGERS

This is NOT to be confused with another post-apocalyptic series called "Last Ranger". This is an entirely different series, publisher and author. "The Last Rangers", by Jake Davis, was released in 1992 via Berkley and is the first of a trilogy. I was intrigued by the cover and these statements on the front and back of the book:

"High-Tech Lawmen In The Texas Of 2035 A.D.!"

"Devastated by cataclysms of nature. Ravaged by scavengers. Crushed by high-tech crime lords. Welcome to Texas, 2035 A.D."

"The Texas Rangers Are Back - With A Vengeance"

All of those things combined with the book cover of a lawman holding an enormous futuristic weapon in the desert sort of leads you to believe this could be "Judge Dredd" meets "Walker, Texas Ranger".

No. A profound NO on that concept. As fun as that would have been...NO. 

This one weighs in at 180 pages and unfortunately has at least a half dozen storylines that are sporadic and amorphous in their presentation. By page 150 I still had no idea what the book was about. There aren't any Texas Rangers at this point, no clear villains or crimes and absolutely no setup. This is a big 'ole pile of poo-poo. 

The first 50 pages were extremely frustrating because it presented a cage full of prisoners being deposited on the door step of an underground fortress. Is this Stone M.I.A Hunter in on this nonsense? The author painstakingly provides page after page on each criminal in the cage and what they did leading up to the capture. Who the frig cares? One would think this is important going forward...but it's not! This whole concept is quickly abandoned along with the fortress setting and prisoners. Why was this even included? Why, Doris, why!?! 

The next 100 pages jumps around to a group of criminals meeting about some sort of plan they have to destroy something somewhere. I never could decipher what was going on and why they were attempting to create destruction. By page 150 we are introduced to a machine called Bird Dog as its travels through the desert doing something unknown with a prostitute named Rita. I have no Earthly idea why Bird Dog is important and why he is battling a gang in rural areas of Texas. Rita serves no purpose. The book ends with Bird Dog, a lawman named Amos Smith and Rita blowing up the original group of criminals that had their purposeless meeting around page 100. 

I seriously think Jake Davis threw together six or seven ideas he had about machines and locale and just used "The Last Rangers" as a sketch book to present the ideas to paper. It encroaches on "Transformers" but fails to deliver anything that is remotely sane or even uniform. "The Last Rangers" is absolutely abysmal and there will be no future reviews of the next two entries in the series. I could barely get through this one. Oh wait, I think I see book 2 over there...I gotta have that shit. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SURVIVAL 2000 #03 - FROZEN FIRE

The "Survival 2000" trilogy comes to an end with "Frozen Fire", the last entry of Laurence James' post-apocalyptic story line. At this point I've come to realize that the series is exactly what the title entails, "survival" as opposed to the typical "man with the biggest gun versus marauders" tale. I love that aspect of it but would still love to see some cronies get decapitated. Where's Martin Stone at man!?! Obviously the first two entries had the occasional gunfight and plenty of firearm jargon, but the central concept has always been the journey. This final chapter is no different as we see Dave, Lee and Zera move further north in their chase. A few
firefights are thrown in along the way but I found they were anti-climatic and "forced" more than surprising or exciting. Hell a portion of this book has our buddy Dave here trying to find a dentist to fix his mouth. It's the apocalypse dude, pull that thing out and move on. The last box of Twinkies is still out there. Once the final showdown came, roughly nine pages from the end, it was a brief struggle that led to an abrupt ending. Overall the series was okay but so many other novels and series' have improved upon this. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

SURVIVAL 2000 #02 - RENEGADE WAR

"Renegade War" is book two of the "Survival 2000" trilogy created by Laurence James, writing under pen name James McPhee...that lying no good hack.

The book picks up with David and Lee chasing after Sheever and his horsemen to reclaim their family. Yikes! Joining the trip is David's girlfriend Zera (canned green beans gets them everytime!) and a doctor named Keyle (who joins the group a fourth of the way in). Much like the previous book James centers most of the action on simply getting from point A to point B with a few excursions thrown in. Here we have a grizzly attack, a whorehouse shootout and...well not much else really. But there was that whorehouse shootout. I'm starting to wonder if our boy David here has the fruitsack between his legs to really survive this whole thing. He does some really stupid stuff over the course of the book and you just have to ask yourself if Davey is really that much of an asset when the Stovetop stuffing hits the fan. I'm using this guy for guns and some ammo and moving on down the line. 

Unlike the first book, "Renegade War" fails to have an exciting climax and left me wondering if half of this book could have been tacked onto the third book of the series or just left out completely. While not a great book it was interesting enough to bridge the gap to what hopes to be a definitive and enjoyable end to David's journey. Not!

SURVIVAL 2000 #01 - BLOOD QUEST

Author James McPhee is actually a pen name that was used by Laurence James. The British writer had a half dozen pen names that he utilized throughout his thirty year career. Dodging the old ex-wife I see. Fans of men's action adventure novels may know Laurence James as the creative force behind the popular "Deathlands" series that is published under house name James Axler. These damn pseudonyms! James wrote over thirty two of the series' entries including co-writing the very first novel. Gold badge.

With nearly six books a year being released under pen names Axler, McPhee or James, it is hard to imagine anyone working harder than William W. Johnstone ("Out of the Ashes", "Last Mountain Man") in the world of men's adventure. James may have been the most creative author in terms of total output in a two decade span. With his success in the post-apocalyptic sub-genre it is no surprise that he wrote other novels outside of the "Deathlands" mythos. 1991's "Survival 2000", released by Golden Eagle, was a popular alternative.


The three book series kicks off by unveiling an Earth that has been shattered by an asteroid in the year 2050. Why don't they call it "Survival 2050"? Civilization is left in ruins and we see the typical bandits, rovers and rogue Army sadists attempting to market their brand of Hell on Earth. If you call now we'll double the offer, operators are standing by! This paperback warrior is a former accountant named David Rand who is left backpacking the wasteland with his sixteen year old son Lee and pit-bull Melmoth. The two have a quest...a BLOOD QUEST...that they reach David's wife and two daughters in California.

Book one of the series, "Blood Quest", is simply the trek the two take to reach California only to find that most of the state is now swimming in the Pacific. With a few clues they find that their family may still be alive in a small town in Montana. As the two journey through a brutal nuclear winter they battle cannibals, animals and the elements. James is a rather technical author when it comes to firearms and all of these stories describe, in painful detail, every caliber bullet and make of weapon being used against assailants. I love firearms but I really just don't care anymore by page 100. Some of this is interesting but becomes rather long winded at times. 

Considering this is the first entry in the book it wasn't a huge surprise to find the action lacking the first half. The climax at the end was really effective and provided a rousing finish to a rather slow, albeit short, read. I was enthralled enough with the quest to buy the remaining two books of the series. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

SWAMP MASTER #01 - SWAMP MASTER


The "Swamp Master" series consisted of three books all written by Jake Spencer. This one was released by Diamond Books in 1992. From the synopsis and look of the cover one would think this is a hybrid of Native American western stuff super imposed over a "Doomsday Warrior" or "The Last Ranger" sort of nuclear wasteland. No, not really. In fact the cover and synopsis is really a load of horseshit. HORSE. SHIT. 

It turns out John Firecloud has been raised by his Seminole father Charlie and taught the way of the warrior complete with martial arts training and archery. Remember all of those kung-fu movies about Seminole Indians in Florida? I don't. Charlie also raised Firecloud's white brother Bill Coonan, a man who shows up early in the book and never makes another appearance until the last page. I'm not sure what purpose his role was here but it seems rather clear that Coonan has a good role in the second book. America has been nuked and what is left isn't described as the typically battle scarred wasteland that traditionally paints these landscapes. Instead this America has its share of marauders and mutants but it just seems few and far between. In fact Firecloud's village is actually growing crops and eating some semblance of a normal diet. 

The beginning of the book introduces us to the new regime of America, a faction called The National Front. This government is made up of sadists and racists and wages war with the Free States or territories that have ceased from The National Front union. Early on we catch a glimpse of Firecloud using a compound bow to take out a helicopter of baddies hellbent on rape and debauchery. Using just his feet, hands, bow and the occasional firearm he quickly disposes of seven heavily armed men...and what amounts to be an Apache helicopter. This guy is the KING of my kickball team. Soon Firecloud is at the bedside of his licorice eating father who passes on some spiritual nonsense about leadership. He passes away and now, apparently, Firecloud has turned the corner and officially become....SWAMP MASTER. 

I'm reading this sort of paperback adventure trash to get barrel chested warriors doing battle with hunchbacked radiated ogres. Instead this story involves a planned bombing in Atlanta that will bring chaos to The National Front and the Free States. We get pages upon pages of babbling nonsense about the planned bombing, who is carrying the briefcase, where it is being dropped at and somebody in a damn car accident. At one point I questioned whether Swamp Master was going to make another appearance and if his Seminole Kung-Fu fighting was just all a buncha jive talkin'. 

Around the 120 page mark Swamp Master is introduced to the bombing exhibit through a third party; a female swat team member and her two martial arts dwarfs. Really? The three approach Swamp Master in the midst of his capture by a horny female mutant called Itchy Peg and her two inbred brothers. Swamp Master takes a beating and then is in the process of being raped and boob smothered by Peg when the dwarfs show up to lend a hand. From there they form a plan that involves going up the Florida coast to hijack a train full of carnival oddities so they can fetch a pilot there that can fly the Apache helicopter that was left behind in chapter two. I'm not making this shit up. This is REALITY. 

Once they get Zeno and he agrees to jump in as pilot they hatch another plan that involves Swamp Master boating to a fort on the water in St. Augustine, climbing barehanded up a thirty foot wall to C4 a jail cell and rescue a scientist that apparently is key to the survival of the Free States. He does all of this in the midst of missiles, bullets and a horde of baddies that spend their spare time eating faces and sewing extra limbs on their captives. Swamp Master defeats them all and rescues Zeno. Along the way we find that the baddies are still alive and they want Swamp Master dead...and they will use his brother as a pawn. Boom. Story sequel coming for YOU. 

"Swamp Master" is 232 pages of absolute nonsense. You and I love this stuff simply because it is over the top fun. Three fourths of this book is utter nonsense about planting a bomb in Atlanta and has no real connection at all with what Swamp Master is doing in the Everglades or the train full of carnival performers. Very little action, a ridiculous hero and bad guys that are middle of the road. I'm avoiding the other two books in this series and I'm begging - no pleading - for you to do the same.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

LAST RANGER #03 - MADMAN'S MANSION

"The Last Ranger has a special reason for wanting to penetrate this den of iniquity. He knows his sister April is there, kidnapped by the dwarf's henchmen - and about to be sold into white slavery...

He is America's Last Hope in American's Darkest Age!


With that well said preface we are off and running in the third entry of this post-apocalyptic series of bravado adventure. This was released in 1986 via Popular Library among the hysteria of the pending nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Those of you that have read my previous blog entries have already read my review of the first two books of this series. The premise is pretty simple...Martin Stone is the son of a high ranking, highly experienced US Army Ranger who died along with Stone's mother in a post-nuclear battle with marauders. Stone was left with a pit bull named Excalibur (fitting) and enough firepower and ammo to take out North Korea single-handed. Along with the guns, martial arts training and "survival" education is a motorcyle that is armed with missles (remember the 80s show "Streethawk"?) and Stone's enormous penis...which he typically sticks into any blonde bombshells that finds their way into Chapter Fifteen.


I really enjoyed the first two issues of the series. "Madman's Mansion" is a continuation of the story that book two, "Savage Stronghold", presented. Stone's sister April has been kidnapped by a wheelchair bound dwarf and taken to a Colorado ski-resort that is filled with baddies. These aren't just your normal "Mad Max"' hooligans, instead these are the baddest of the bad that are up to all kinds of tom foolery. This resort is filled with sex, bondage, slaves, drugs, gambling and...FIGHTING TO THE DEATH gladiator bouts. 


The beginning of the book gives us a wore out Stone on his way back to his secret mountainside fortress to indulge in sleep, eating and reloading. From there he travels by motorcycle through back roads of Colorado wilderness on a trek to the ski resort. He stops for the night in a small town and engages in the obligatory game of cards that results in a few dead cheaters and a friendship with a traveling salesman named Kennedy. He explains to Kennedy that he is going to the resort and OF COURSE Kennedy is going there as well. Apparently the traveling vagabond puts on a Christmas show in the resort every year and he can get Stone inside using a disguise. I am just guessing here...but baddies that are engaging in gambling, snorting, humping debauchery probably won't take the time to watch Mr. Kennedy's Christmas play...but maybe that is just foolish thinking. 

Once inside Stone penetrates a blonde bombshell in Chapter Fifteen (told ya!) and finds his sister being sold into sex slavery. He bids on her and wins but soon the disguise fails and the dwarf captures Stone and forces him into a water filled dungeon filled with snakes, giant roaches and killer rats. Conan couldn't escape this kind of nonsense but Stone manages to free himself with the help of Kennedy. A huge firefight erupts and Kennedy escapes the burning resort with April as Stone kills the dwarf and rides out using a Mack truck. The book comes to an abrupt end as Stone is left with a truckload of whores and Kennedy/April are somewhere in the vast wilderness waiting for Stone to rescue them in book four.