Friday, September 30, 2016

The 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - September 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, Pooker has won a signed copy of Gary Dvorkin's Ransom's Voice for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read something by an author who had not yet been reviewed in all past 9 editions of the Canadian Book Challenge. Congratulations, Pookr! (Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reader's Diary #1391- Jody Houser (writer), Francis Portela (artist): Faith Vol. 1 Hollywood and Vine

There's been a lot of positive press about Jody Houser's Faith, the plus-sized superhero, but in retrospect, it was all about that single aspect. And yes, it's great, and overdue to see a superhero with a more realistic body type. But there seemed to be little emphasis on the story itself, except perhaps to say that her weight is never the plot, or even really an issue. Again, that's all good, but you can have the greatest and most inspiring character ever and without a plot, who cares?

And honestly, I just finished Faith: Hollywood and Vine a couple of days ago and I've already forgotten most of what happened. I do remember a plot about saving puppies (that was pretty funny, actually) but the rest of what I remember is mostly character building. I like character-building, of course, and I'd probably not have to go back many blog posts to find instances when I wished for more of it. I liked that Faith consistently had Walter Mitty-type fantasies. Besides adding doses of humour, it humanized her even more. Imagine, a superhero who needs to fantasize?! There were also references to Faith having once been part of a superhero team known as the Renegades. Not having followed Valiant superhero comics before, some of this was lost on me, but not so much I couldn't understand what was going on (honestly, there wasn't much going on, but more on that later). I was, I should add, a little disappointed that the men in the story didn't also have more realistic bodies, but I'm not a men's right nut, so I didn't lose sleep over it. Plus, I don't know how much of this (the love affair with the hunky Torque, for example) was carried over from Faith's previous writers so maybe we'll see a plus-sized love interest (a fat guy who isn't evil or clumsy comic relief or both?!) in the future. Finally, I'd be remiss to not mention how great it was that Faith was a comic-reading geek, but then, perhaps given the readers, this might be considered pandering.

And now we're to the story. It involved aliens, a cult, brainwashing, an exposing of Faith's secret identity, and that all sounds good, but good god it takes a long time to get there. Then, when the final dust-up happens it's over too fast except for a cheesy cliffhanger to continue in future comics.

Also, I really didn't think much of the art. I mean, it's capable and all, but it's pretty generic looking (Faith's larger body, aside). Likewise the colouring is nothing inventive, with a spray-painted by computer tone.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reader's Diary #1390- James Robinson (writer), various artists: Scarlet Witch Volume 1 Witches' Road

Ever since I'd seen those gorgeous covers by David Aja I'd been wanting to get my hands on the collected volume of Scarlet Witch comics. I'm not sure what I was thinking— I've seen enough superhero comics by now to know that it's quite common practice to have someone else do the cover art. It's also a rather annoying one as it doesn't exactly help readers know what to expect inside.

I really enjoyed James Robinson's writing on this series. Especially well done was the development of Scarlet Witch's character; she's had a troubled past for which she's trying to atone and it's even revealed that she's taking medication for depression. I thought she had a lot of depth and as she travels the world seeking to right the broken witchcraft, it's hard not to root for her.

The art, on the other hand, was more problematic and suffered most due to inconsistency. It starts off quite strong with Vanesa Del Rey's vintage horror look, very similar to Robert Hack's work on the new Sabrina series, but Del Rey's out after a single comic, replaced by Marco Rudy in issue 2. I suppose, given the globetrotting nature of the story, different artists can be justified somewhat to capture certain locales and Rudy does paint a beautiful picture of Greece. Plus, he's pretty inventive in his water colours, reminding me of David Mack's work; perhaps not as great as Mack, but still interesting. Then it starts to go down hill with the introduction of the generic art of Steve Dillon in issue 3. Chris Visions and Javier Pulido's work on issues 4 and 5 were better, but by this time I was just wishing for a more unified collection overall. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Reader's Diary #1389- Taqralik Partridge: Igloolik

The time will come, I don't doubt it, that I will have lived longer away from Newfoundland than I actually lived there. And, I suppose, I've made my peace with that. I'm no longer sure that I'd fit in anywhere but St. John's at this point, and I quite like living in the North. I might remain where I am, I might live there again, I might even wind up somewhere else. Who knows? Still, there are certainly things I miss about Newfoundland. The smell of the ocean is perhaps one near the top of that list. My wife, not from Newfoundland but with roots there, understands this. And while I won't suddenly break, suddenly need to return, I think she, above anyone else would understand and even support this.

In this, the narrator of Taqralik Partridge's "Igloolik" reminded me of my wife. She has been newly dating a guy and though she doesn't come right out and say it, falling in love. And though there is no reason to doubt that his feelings are mutual, it is also clear that he has another love: Igloolik (a town in Nunavut, far north of the Montreal setting of this story). At one point, one that she immediately regrets, she claims not to understand, though it is apparent that she really does and is just lashing out at the situation that threatens to pull them apart. It ends on an ambiguous but optimistic note.

It's a beautiful story, a story fighting hard to not be tragic.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Reader's Diary #1388- Sui Ishida: Tokyo Ghoul 1

I was more than 3/4 of the way through Sui Ishida's Tokyo Ghoul before I began to hypothesize that it was a metaphor. On the surface it's about a college student named Ken who, as a result of an organ transplant, becomes half ghoul. Ghouls, in this version of Tokyo, are human-looking creatures that feed on human flesh. Ken struggles to accept his new identity and to reconcile with his fully human-past.

But was it really about the common, and more real, college experience of realizing that who one has become no longer resembles who he was before, no longer fits into his former world?

As interesting as the theory is, and when I happen upon such ideas it makes the reading more personally satisfying, I was a little late in the game to see decide if the metaphor works throughout and though I did enjoy the story, wasn't about to reread it right away.

The art in the book was decent overall though I didn't enjoy the action sequences. I get that much of it was meant to be quick, but the speed lines and sound effects were overdone and it was hard to see anything and really understand what happened at those moments.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Reader's Diary #1387- Tom King (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (artist): The Vision Volume One / Little Worse Than a Man

There are a a lot of references to Shakespeare, specifically The Merchant of Venice, sprinkled throughout Tom King's first volume of The Vision comics. While the story has little in common with the plot of the play, there are definitely thematic similarities. In particular, the modern struggle we have with Shylock's character (is he a villain or misunderstood and much maligned figure?).

The Vision, whom Marvel fans know as the synthezoid (think an artificially intelligent robot with largely organic or organic-mimicking parts) superhero played by Paul Bettany in the Avengers movies, just wants an ordinary life. Ordinary, in his mind, equates to fitting in with the everyday humans. He creates a wife and twin children to complete the ideal. Granted, he's not trying to fool anyone into thinking he's human. It's complicated as he doesn't seem to try to be something he isn't, yet what he is he isn't sure.

As you might predict while dancing around the "just wants to be real boy" trope, things do not go smoothly. It starts when the super-villain Grim Reaper shows up and attacks Vision's family when he is not at home. Defending her children, Virginia (his wife) winds up killing the Reaper. Instead of coming clean about it, however, she buries the body in the backyard.

The compelling thing about the whole story is whether or not these actions (and the devastation that follow) are human-like. It would seem to me that plenty of humans would have made similar calls in the situation described above and the issue isn't so much that they're synthezoids, it's that they're living in a superhero world with super villains. Perhaps the more compelling proof that they can never be human is the Vision's naivete that they would ever be accepted. We have issues accepting other races, sexual orientations and identities, religions; what chance would a superhero synthezoid have? Then, I'm a pessimistic human, perhaps The Vision's optimism doesn't set him apart from other optimistic humans.

If you are assuming then that this is a tragic tale, yes, it is. And it's thought-provoking. One of the most intelligent and emotional superhero comics I've read in some time.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Reader's Diary #1386- David Mamet: Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross, at just 108 pages, is still not an easy play to read. At first I though the dialogue was off, but then I realized that just the opposite might be true: it may be too realistic. If you've ever transcribed an interview (I have), you'll know what I mean when I say that everyday speech is rarely an eloquent thing. You don't often notice it in actual conversation, but there are weird pauses, lots of ums and other guttural nonsense, sentence fragments and so on. You don't notice it because you're also reading facial expressions, gestures, you're aware of the context and so on.

Mamet's dialogue is full of this and of real estate jargon. I'm sure that if you've seen the play performed (or the movie adaptation) you'd have a much easier time following along, but reading it? It ain't Shakespeare and there's nothing pretty about these words.

Not that this is a condemnation of the play, of course; it was written for the stage, not the page. What is a condemnation is my lack of enthusiasm for the story even after deciphering it. I get that it's about alpha-males carrying too much about, and willing to stoop to any level to get, stuff that most us probably don't care about or wouldn't admit if we did, but plot-wise it drags and never amounts to much. I even read a convincing interpretation that the play is really about organized religions. Fine, but it's all just character, with barely a point and even less of a tale. It might have made a fine painting.