The Dark Prophecy, by Rick Riordan – The follow-up to The Hidden Oracle continues the adventures of Apollo in a mortal body, with only occasional access to his godly powers when he least expects them. The previous volume established the conspiracy of resurrected Roman Emperors, and this time it’s Commodus who’s the most significant villain. Ruling towards the end of the second century, Commodus was said to have been very handsome, and considered himself the reincarnation of Hercules. In this story, he has a base in Indianapolis, which he plans to rename after himself, and a lot of folksy and not-too-bright blemmyae under his command. Apollo turns out to have been a former lover of his, and also responsible for his assassination. And yes, there are quite a few “commode” jokes about him. (As far as I know, there isn’t really a direct connection between the Emperor and the toilet. His name means “convenient,” and that came to be used as a French term for a chest of drawers, then later encompassed other furniture as well.) In order to stop the Emperor, Apollo teams up with characters both familiar and new, starting with Leo Valdez and Calypso, whose relationship is explored in more detail. They come across Hemithea, a former Hunter of Artemis whom Apollo had made immortal, but who retired and gave up eternal life to settle down with her wife Josephine. The god turned human is forced to rescue some griffins from the zoo (in case you’re wondering, their favorite food seems to be gold-painted Tater Tots) and confront his son Trophonius in addition to battling Commodus with help from the Hunters. Perhaps even worse to his mind, he has to scrub toilets and chop carrots. We see the deity develop as a character, which is saying something considering that he’s thousands of years old. Each chapter is introduced with a haiku, and as usual it’s quite humorous while still exploring some dark themes.
Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years – I guess I’m jumping on the bandwagon by checking out the comics after seeing the movie, but I had actually read a collection of early Wonder Woman stories before. I’d read the seventy-fifth anniversary collection of Superman stories and enjoyed that, but unfortunately this book seemed more haphazard. That isn’t to say there weren’t good comics in it, just that it isn’t really a good overview. Even with the short essays on the character’s history, it’s difficult to keep up with all the changes between stories. Too many of them are part of arcs and don’t do so well on their own. Maybe there just weren’t that many good stand-alone Wonder Woman stories, but somehow I doubt that. And while most comic characters are retconned from time to time, they went in some really weird directions with Diana. In the late sixties, DC decided it would be a good idea to take away her Amazon powers completely, and instead have her learn martial arts from a stereotypical Chinese guy. There were also a few largely similar but somewhat incongruous origin stories for her, and while obviously the first one had to be included, I’m not sure the others were necessary.