Battle for the Sol

Back in November, I mentioned that my wife had purchased all six issues of Cross-Cult Comics’ Perry Rhodan series for me in digital format. I read and discussed the first three issues almost right away, but then between the holidays and editorial deadlines, I had to delay reading the final three issues. Here’s the link to my first post: Perry Rhodan Comics

I finally had a chance to read the second three-issue arc, entitled “Battle for the Sol.” I suspect the pun is deliberate, since Germans would pronounce “Sol” the same way English-speakers pronounce “soul.” In this case the Sol is one of the long-distance space ships Perry Rhodan uses over the course of his immortal existence to explore the universe. One cool element of this second story arc is that the covers were designed to connect to one another, a fact I hadn’t realized until I assembled the image for this post.

Connecting covers for Perry Rhodan: Battle for the Sol

The second arc of the Perry Rhodan comic series takes up where the first arc left off. Perry Rhodan and the crew of the Sol have agreed to delay the search for their home galaxy so they help the insect-like Skra’Bji settle a new planet. However, the resettlement proves more time consuming than many people had expected and some members of the crew want to resume the search for the Milky Way Galaxy immediately without continuing to help the Skra’Bji. This is exacerbated when the Skra’Bji find the corpse of an ancient enemy, the Herayan, on the new world. For some reason the Skra’Bji begin to panic at the news of this corpse. One member of Rhodan’s crew decides to put an end to the Skra’Bji’s problems once and for all and plans to zap the Herayan corpse with a ray gun. Turns out that’s a big mistake. The energy from the ray gun revitalizes the enemy and it eventually makes it to the Sol, where it begins to rampage through the ship.

To make matters worse Rhodan along with Tr’Frel, the leader of the Skra’Bji, learn that a breach in the fabric of space will allow even more Herayans to invade the Umal Galaxy where the Skra’Bji live. Rhodan is sent on a quest for the sigil that will seal the breach which will allow the Herayan into the galaxy. In the meantime, Rhodan’s companions Gucky, Belayn, and Tolot must deal with the Herayan who have already invaded the ship. They succeed and learn that the Herayans remember all the galaxies they’ve been to and their brain patterns effectively contain a “map” that will point them back home. This strengthens the resolve of those who want to abandon the Skra’Bji to their fate and a “Humanity First” movement is formed and plots to take over the Sol from Perry Rhodan and his close companions.

Like the first story arc, the second was written by Kai Hirdt, illustrated by Marco Castiello, and colored by Michael Atiyeh. I liked the way the story explored the challenges of deciding whether to prioritize helping those who are “alien” or your own family and friends, especially when both groups are in need. Another thing I liked was that by sending Perry Rhodan and Tr’Frel off in their own quest, it allowed some of the secondary characters to shine. In fact, the second issue put the spotlight on Belayn Parcer who believes in helping the Skra’Bji and her struggle with a woman named Micaela who speaks for the Humanity First movement. Overall, the first two issues of this second story arc did a great job of allowing the artwork to tell the story. The third issue was a little exposition-heavy. Given the number of plot threads that needed to be wrapped up at the end of issue 2, this would have been hard to avoid without expanding into a fourth issue.

Also, like the first story arc, the second set of Perry Rhodan comics are only available in German. Once again, it was a nice opportunity for me to practice reading the German language and to learn more about one of the longest-running science fiction literary series. If you don’t speak German, but would like to explore the universe of Perry Rhodan, many of the early novels from the 1960s and 70s were translated into English and are widely available in used bookstores. Otherwise, the publisher J-Novel Club is translating the updated Perry Rhodan Neo series and releasing new volumes about every six weeks. I’ve been reading these as well and enjoying them a great deal.


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Perry Rhodan Comics

Given my love of comics and my recent dive into the world of Germany’s Perry Rhodan space opera series, my birthday present from my wife this year was a complete digital set the Perry Rhodan comics published in 2015 by Cross-Cult Comics. The comic series is written by Kai Hirdt with art by Marco Castiello. The only catch is that these comics are only available in German. However, it provided a fun opportunity for me to dust off my German language skills and explore some Perry Rhodan as originally written. Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series only ran for six issues and there are two three-issue story arcs. So far, I’ve read the first three-issue arc, titled “The Cartographers of Infinity.”

The comic is set in the year 3540, which places it well after the early Perry Rhodan adventures I’ve been reading in Perry Rhodan Neo, and before the ones in Perry Rhodan Lemuria. In the comics, Perry is leading a deep space expedition aboard the Starship Sol. The Sol is a massive starship 6.5 kilometers long, holding 10,000 crewmembers. Among the crew are some characters, who I believe are well known to regular Perry Rhodan readers. These include: Gucky, a “mouse beaver” who is a telepath and can teleport people and objects from point to point; Tolot, a massive warrior with four arms; Belayn Parcer, a space jet pilot; and Irmina Kotschistowa, a human mutant who can heal through touch.

In this story, the Sol is lost in space and the crew is trying to find their way home. Fortunately, they find a space observatory crewed by an insect-like race called the Skra’Bji. Unfortunately, it’s under attack by a group of aliens called the Umal Pact. The crew of the Sol drive off the attackers, but they can’t read the data and the only surviving Skra’Bji named Tr’Frel is seriously wounded. So, they take her to her homeworld to find a blood donor. Once there, they discover her world has been occupied. Meanwhile, Gucky has entered Tr’Frel’s thoughts and learned her history and supports her cause.

The story is solid space opera adventure with lots of action. My only script complaint was that we have a few pages where it seems like someone is shouting NICHTS! (NO!) every two or three panels. The artwork feels very much like what one would expect to find in an American comic. The only character I knew before reading this was Perry Rhodan himself and he looked like the square-jawed American astronaut I would have expected from the books. I enjoyed the characters. The focus is largely on Perry and Gucky, but Belayn and Tolot both get great moments to shine. I can see a lot of story potential for Irmina and she had some great lines, but because she heals through touch, she’s dressed in a skimpy outfit and the artist does indulge in “male gaze” more than once.

If, like me, you know some German and enjoy space opera comics, Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series is a worthwhile introduction to the Perry Rhodan universe. Digital copies are available at Amazon.com for $4.99 each and a hardcover collection of the first three-issue story arc is also available. I had fun exercising my language skills. I spent a lot of the first issue using Google Translate to refresh my vocabulary but by about the middle of issue 2 I was mostly just using Google as a check on my comprehension.

As always, you can find my space opera stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com. Just look for The Solar Sea or the books in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series.

Perry Rhodan Lemuria

Two weeks ago, I shared my discovery of Perry Rhodan Neo. This is the German space opera series which the publisher J-Novel Club started translating into English and publishing in the United States this year. In effect, it’s a reboot of the original Perry Rhodan series, which contains over 3100 stories written between 1961 and the present day. I was curious whether any other Perry Rhodan stories had been translated into English after the Ace Books editions ceased publication circa 1978. I discovered a series of novels called Perry Rhodan Lemuria. This is a six-novel series that was published separately from the main Perry Rhodan serials, but fits within the original continuity. The first novel in the series was translated into English in 2005. The other five novels finally saw translation and publication as ebooks starting in 2015.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I first learned about Perry Rhodan because he inspired Bubonicon’s mascot Perry Rodent. I also have an interest in science fiction and fantasy published in other countries and languages. What’s more, I took several German language classes in high school and college. I’ve translated a few of the original Grimm Fairy Tales for my own interest, so it’s fun to look at modern science fiction from Germany.

Perry Rhodan Lemuria is set almost 3000 years after Perry Rhodan made first contact with aliens on the moon. He’s still alive thanks to a device called a cell activator, which gives him virtual immortality. In fact, one of the things I enjoy about these later Perry Rhodan books is how Rhodan takes immortality in stride. He doesn’t complain about living too long. Instead he enjoys the fact that he has time to see large swaths of human history and explore vast reaches of the universe. The Lemuria series opens with Perry aboard the prospecting vessel Palenque. He’s there to make peaceful inroads with a group of people called the Akonians. Meanwhile, the Palenque has sent out several of its exploration vessels and one is destroyed when a shuttle traveling near the speed of light collides with it. It turns out, the shuttle was stolen by a Lemurian named Venron, who has been aboard a generation ship. When Venron comes aboard the Palenque, it spurs Rhodan to seek out the ancient craft to learn more about it. Soon after they reach the craft, they discover the Akonians have also intercepted it.

In the Perry Rhodan storyline, it turns out the Lemurians are the progenitors of all the humanoid species around the galaxy. Not only that, but the Lemurians come from Earth itself. The idea is that a great space faring civilization rose to prominence on Earth, but it ultimately collapsed and vanished before humans again reached their potential and went out to the stars. Admittedly, having human-like aliens in your space opera helps to make them more relatable. Star Trek once suggested that many of the human-like species in the galaxy might share a common ancestor. That said, it does push my willing suspension of disbelief a little to suggest that such a common ancestor would come from Earth itself, but that’s never really a major plot point, at least in the first two volumes of Perry Rhodan Lemuria. Doing a little research, it seems the Lemurians have been part of the Perry Rhodan mythos since around 1966 and I would guess that changing their backstory wouldn’t be a simple matter. It will be interesting to see how and if Perry Rhodan Neo deals with the Lemurians.

Circumstances in the first novel send Perry and the crew of the Palenque after a second Lemurian ark in the second novel. That second ark ends up crash-landing on a planet. There, the idea of human-like aliens is turned on its head when the Lemurians and the crew of the Palenque encounter a group of energy beings who don’t seem happy about the human-like aliens on their planet.

Overall, the first two novels in this series have nicely woven plots, some interesting ideas, and characters I care about. The first novel seemed well translated, but the second one could have used some careful copyediting. I found several places where words were missing or sentences seemed a little too close to German word order for easy reading. The storyline has caught me well enough that I want to read more in this series and I was grateful to see an example of Perry Rhodan’s later adventures after he left the Earth and started exploring other worlds. I recommend it, especially if you’d like to get a taste of a very long running science fiction series published outside the United States.