Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - May 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")

Monday, May 30, 2016

Reader's Diary #1319 - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: Treaties

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's "Treaties" took me back to that time in university, in my undergrad days, when I'd been there a while and the sheen of all those new ideas was just starting to wear off, when I was realizing that, exciting and enlightening as all of this had been, it was largely fake. The world at large didn't feel the same way as my campus.

Such times have potential to be soul-crushing. Identity crisis combined with a sense that you may have just wasted a lot of time and money. But like most times of personal crisis, those of us with strong roots (like the narrator in Simpson's story), come to rely on those to help get us through.

Two interesting questions linger after reading this short story: the meaning of the title and the purpose of avoiding capital letters. It would take a few more readings in order to determine if my theories are plausible, but it's my early idea that the "Treaties" title comes from the fact that the narrator is of a First Nation and she is forming a sort of agreement to reconcile that supposed campus enlightenment with her culture and traditions. The lack of capitals may be a way of showing that undergrad experimentation, disregarding accepted norms.

Again though, these are just guesses and would take a few more reads to know if they even make sense or hold up under scrutiny.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Reader's Diary #1318- Mark Waid (Writer), Daniel Indro and Ronilson Freire (Artists): Green Hornet Volume One Bully Pulpit

Wanting to start exploring some non Marvel or DC superheroes, I turned to the Green Hornet, a character I knew next to nothing about except that Seth Rogen did a movie about him a few years back.

Interestingly, in Mark Waid's intro he insists that the Green Hornet is not a superhero stating that there's always been "a huge gulf between the Hornet and characters like Batman or Spider-Man." Spider-Man I'll give him, but I'm not so sure about Batman. A little less flamboyant perhaps, but I still thought Mark Waid's version of the Green Hornet had much in common with the caped crusader. What both lack in superpowers, they make up for in gadgetry and souped-up cars. They both have a sidekick (complete with subtle homoerotic undertones). They both wear a mask to conceal their identities. They both kick ass. If Batman is a superhero, then so is the Green Hornet.

That aside, it's awakened a new interest: pulp fiction heroes. Getting his start in radio dramas, I'm looking back to that time for other inspiration. Dick Tracy's next on my list, but I'm looking to read some Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, then possibly Zorro and the Lone Ranger as well. All of these characters were always sort of there in the background, but I've never paid them much attention.

But that's neither here or there where Green Hornet Volume One: Bully Pulpit is concerned. It's an entertaining story for sure, giving Green Hornet newcomers like me enough background to follow along. It's the 1940s and Britt Reid, aka the Green Hornet, has inherited his father's successful newspaper, the Sentinel. By night, however, he has earned the reputation of a crime lord, infiltrating the city's organized crime circuit in order to take them down. It's a compelling approach as occasionally he has to do things, even criminal things, in order to keep his credibility. In such cases, his sidekick Kato acts as his more assertive Jiminy Cricket, questioning and calling him on bad decisions. To be sure, the Green Hornet makes many bad decisions but the worst are made when he becomes overly confident, jumping to the wrong conclusions with disastrous consequences.

I was surprised to read such a psychological story, expecting pulp fiction to be all plot-driven, not character driven. Waid has struck a nice balance: enough dust-ups and drama to keep the energy up, but with characters who are just compelling enough to keep me intrigued.

The art is fine, if very typical of superhero comics. I especially enjoyed the brownish green, almost sepia tones, befitting of a 1940s Chicago story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reader's Diary #1317- Victoria Jamieson: Roller Girl

For a place the size of Yellowknife, I'm forever impressed by the opportunities that exist here. For sports, it's no exception. If it's mainstream you're after, we've got baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, and so on. But there's also more niche activities; broomball (our teams often take the world's championship), kite skiing, and in recent years, thanks to Diamond City Roller Derby, roller derby has taken off.

Not knowing much about the sport, I was surprised and intrigued to find a junior graphic novel on the subject. It involves a 12 year old named Astrid who also discovers the sport and a lot about herself in the process.

My first take on the book was that I wasn't wild about the art. The characters were drawn so simply almost to the point of uninteresting. Think For Better of For Worse only with less caricature. That said, I came to appreciate it and as the just as the game began to make life more interesting for Astrid, it also made the book come more alive. When it was time for Astrid to make her first "war face," it was more powerful because it contrasted so well.

Also, as much as this is a roller derby story, or a coming-of-age story, it's also a pleasant tale about friendship and that uncomfortable realization that ones' interests might be pulling them apart.

Roller Girl is fun, funny, educational, and powerful all at once.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reader's Diary #1316- Neil Gaiman (Writer), Mark Buckingham (Artist): Miracleman The Golden Age

Remember that scrawl at that beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope that got into all of that history that you were expected to read in order to understand the current context. Yeah, I'm not sure many kids at the time really grasped all of that backstory, but obviously it hardly mattered.

In the Neil Gaiman run on Miracleman, unfortunately, the backstory does matter. It doesn't say anywhere on the cover that this collection begins at book four, the previous books having been written by Alan Moore. Moore's story is summed up on a single page at the front. It sounds convoluted when summarized like this and does little to aid the clarity of Gaiman's take.

I'm reminded somewhat of my disappointment reading World War Hulk: Frontline. I'd wanted the World War Hulk tale and felt like I'd been given scraps. But to be fair, Miracleman: The Golden Age wasn't that disappointing. If I've been lamenting lately that superheroes only seem to be taking on one another and us muggles seem to be forgotten, then Miracleman: The Golden Age takes us on in a most compelling way. The presence of such beings changes our entire culture. Whereas WWH Frontline seemed pointless, Gaiman's story seems like it would have been an intriguing companion piece. Alas, I didn't start with the companion.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Reader's Diary #1315 - Edward Riche: Questions Surrounding My Disappearance

Edward Riche's "Questions Surrounding My Disappearance" is an amusing look at the meaning of one's life. Not the meaning of life, you understand, but the meaning of your life. I'm sure we've all had these moments, these feelings of insignificance, but while most of bleed just to know we're alive, Riche's narrator takes a different approach. And for the time being, yes, he's gotten some acknowledgement. Such as it is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Reader's Diary #1314- Jennifer Holm (Writer), Matthew Holm (Artist): Babymouse Queen of the World

I suppose I could complain about the lack of originality in creating yet another cartoon mouse, but I'm not sure what the point would be. Aimed at kids, I'm guessing that those mice of yore (Mickey, Mighty, and so on) aren't as relevant as they once were and kids today won't really care.

Actually, the look of the mice in Babymouse Queen of the World! (there are other animals), reminded me of those in Spielgelman's Maus so there are worse mice one might want to emulate.

Unlike Spiegelman, however, Jennifer Holm's story is much lighter. There is a message (be grateful for the friends you have because the grass is not always greener), but again mostly a quick fun story for kids.

While there's nothing groundbreaking, I do think this series could be a good gateway to graphic novels with just enough creativity behind the entertainment. In one of the better scenes, Babymouse is trying to impress Felicia the cat and rambles on and on. The speech balloon and the words don't all fit onto the page and it hardly matters that we're not getting all of the words, because the true point is, she's rambling. I also enjoyed the limited white and pink palette; not only did it fit the tone, but how Matthew Holm mixed it up so that the main story was white with just a touch of pink while daydreams were pink with just a touch of white, was also a nice touch.