Sunday, April 30, 2017

The 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - April Roundup (Sticky Post— Scroll down for most recent post)

1. Click on the icon above
2. Add a link to your review. (Please link to your specific review, not an entire webpage.)
3. Add your name and in parentheses the title of the book, such as John Mutford (Anne of Avonlea)
4. In the comment section below, tell me your grand total so far. (ex. "This brings me up to 1/13")

And in prize news, congratulations to Irene for winning a signed copy of Elizabeth Purchase's Warm for Winter for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read a Canadian Picture Book. Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Reader's Diary #1584- Stuart Moore (writer), Ariel Olivetti (artist): Namor The First Mutant Vol. 1 / Curse of the Mutants

Though DC Comic's underwater superhero Aquaman is undoubtedly more popular than Marvel's Namor, Namor predates the former by a couple of years. With DC having pushed Aquaman into the spotlight more often, he is also the character I am more familiar with.

Still, the more snippets of Namor I'd gotten of Namor through other comics, the more intrigued I was. Especially interesting to me was the idea that he's not always the nicest of guys, possibly even venturing into villain territory.

It was high time I explored this character a little deeper.

The first thing I noted was that they refer to him as a mutant and on the cover he's wearing the X-Men symbol. I hadn't known that he was part of that world and I suspect there was some retconning going on. In any case, with the exception of a visit from X-men Emma Frost and Loa, his X-Men connection seems a bit forced and unnecessary.

Still, the story is fun, if a bit convoluted at times. It involves underwater vampires and so, a scuba diving Blade would have made more sense than the X-Men, but I don't want to be too negative— there were freaking underwater vampires. 

Ariel Olivetti's art is pretty great. Lines are crisp and the visuals are lifelike, with a touch of fantasy. The last issue has a new artist whose work was decent if nowhere near as good as Olivetti's. The colouring, too, was wonderful with Olivetti's run, with a murky blue overtone that fit the tone and setting, but still clear enough to see the details.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1583- John Semper Jr. (writer), Paul Pelletier (Artist): Cyborg Vol. 1 / The Imitation of Life

I'm not sure where I'd come across Cyborg's origin story before, as I'm pretty sure this is my first time reading a comic book devoted entirely to the character, but I wasn't wild about having to reread his origin again (as much as I do love a good origin story).

Nonetheless I did appreciate what John Semper Jr. took to the table. It is revealed this time around that Cyborg's father and creator had doubts that he actually saved his son by joining his mind and body to a computerized machine, or rather had simply downloaded a reasonable facsimile. When Cyborg hears this it does a number on his psyche. What if his father's doubts are true? It raises a lot of philosophical questions about what it means to be human. When Cyborg, for instance, feels different than others and unable to relate: is that because he's really a robot or is it just a normal human feeling?

And despite Cyborg being so unique a member of society, Semper also has tried to describe a typical African American experience. I cannot relate to this, of course, but I always appreciate being introduced to a lens other than my own.

The art is typically strong, very detailed and suited to the tale, right up until the 5th comic in the collection which, just like happened in the Xena collection I read recently, switched artists for no apparent reason halfway through. Not only is it jarring, the new style doesn't fit at all with its overly cartoony characters and vacant backgrounds.

5th comic aside, a solidly entertaining and intelligent collection.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Reader's Diaty #1582- Genevieve Valentine (writer), Ariel Medel and Julius Gopez (artists): Xena Warrior Princess All Roads

I was only vaguely aware of Xena the TV show when it first came out. I definitely never watched an entire episode and what little memories I have the show were not altogether great. It looked cheaply produced and I wasn't interested.

That said, I would have had to have lived under a rock since then to not be aware of its cult following and legacy. When I saw that it had been turned into a comic series, I was suddenly interested. I think this character is made for comics.

Unfortunately the execution is this particular run is quite terrible. The story, which sees Xena and her sidekick/girlfriend Gabrielle teaming up with a band of female warriors known as the Harpies to stop the violent spread of Rome, is decent but the attempts at character building flounder. The personalities and motivations of various Harpy women are teased but never fully explored, and worse, Xena herself seems never gets a good focus. Gabrielle is developed somewhat better, which is fine for her fans, I suppose, but it's Xena's name on the cover.

More problematic is the art which goes from serviceable at the beginning (the characters somewhat resemble their TV counterparts), to suddenly horrible. And when I say suddenly, I mean without warning, without rhyme or reason part way through the 4th comic, the artist switches and the style is an atrocious mismatch. Filled with squiggly lines and arbitrary scratches, colours that looked dripped on to the page, it's difficult to look at and gritty when there's no reason to be.

Majorly disappointing. I hope someone else has a go because I still think the character has potential.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1581- Paul Dini (writer), various artists: Zatanna

My first exposure to Zatanna was through Justice League Dark comics. While I loved those, I cannot say that I was particularly drawn to Zatanna herself. As a member of that team, I thought she got lost in the shuffle a bit, certainly not the most interesting of the bunch. Now I kind of wish that I had read Paul Dini's collection of Zatanna comics first. I feel I have a better sense of the character and I'd like to review those interactions with her teammates again.

Paul Dini is perhaps best known for having co-created Harley Quinn. However, besides their disdain for pants, the two characters have little in common. Despite being magical, Zatanna is quite a grounded woman, pragmatic, professional, and confident. She's not without flaws, but for the most part, this magician has her act together.

The premise itself is neat: a personal with real magical abilities has a Las Vegas stage act and the plots are helped along with a pretty great rogues gallery that challenge Zatanna's typically level-headed approach.

One small misstep came with the introduction of a few different writers here or there and the problems caused by an inconsistent understanding of Zatanna. For instance, in one story it is stated that her magic cannot be used on living tissue yet there are examples everywhere in the book where she does just that. Rare is a superhero whose abilities are consistent across time and multiple creators, but in the same volume it was slightly distracting.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Reader's Diary #1580- Sarah Selecky: The Cat

Okay, I'll admit it but only because Sarah Selecky has gone first. I sometimes pretend that my cat has the reincarnated soul of a human. In "The Cat," the feline in question is the narrator's father. But in an interesting twist, the father had more cat-like qualities during his living days than the current cat has human-qualities.

Obviously there's a quirky sense of humour at play here but the exploration of a father-daughter relationship that was less than ideal is genuine and one that I am sure many people can relate to. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reader's Diary #1579- Jeph Loeb (writer), Ed McGuinness (artist): Nova Origin Volume 1

Nova is one of those Marvel characters that has always been in my periphery, but beyond noting the ridiculous helmet (it looks like he swam into a starfish), I'd been almost oblivious.

I'm not entirely sure that this collection is the best jumping on point despite the "origin" in the title as it involves a passing down of the powers and therefore, I'm missing the origin of the original. That said, I suppose there's sufficient background.

The story revolves around Sam Alexander, son of a former Nova Corps fighter whose stories of previous outer space battles are chalked up as the ramblings of a drunken madman. However, once Rocket Racoon and Gamora arrive and Sam's powers are revealed when he dons the helmet, it is clear that there was much truth behind those tall tales.

I know some people feel origin stories are overdone, but I actually enjoy them. Seeing a character test out, make mistakes, and eventually learn how to control their new-found talents is typically very entertaining. As it was here as well, made more amusing by the presence of Rocket and Gamora. Beyond that, however, it was not particularly memorable.

Some of that lack of enthusiasm no doubt is attributed to the completely utilitarian art of Ed McGuinness. Expressions are exaggerated when the scene is to be funny, but it's all pretty unremarkable. Plus, Gamora is dressed in her skimpiest Vampirella-ish outfit, so I'll sexism on that.