Friday, June 30, 2017

The 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - June 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 once again to Melwyk for winning a copy of Christal Doherty and Carla Taylor's How Raven Returned the Sun for taking part in last month's mini-challenge to read a Canadian book not originally written in English. Canadian Book Challenge mini-challenges are exclusive to members via email.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Reader's Diary #1611- Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (writers), Dale Eaglesham (artist): Alpha Flight The Complete Series

I'd known about Alpha Flight for some time but admittedly it took some time for me to truly get interested enough to read them. Even now it was out of a pursuit to read the less popular superheroes. While I also knew they were supposedly Canadian, the fact that they were created by an American (John Byrne) dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. Also, they sounded a bit hokey.

If it's all as good as the Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Dale Eaglesham collection, I've been missing out.

First off, it's not as hokey as I thought despite having characters named Puck and Sasquatch. It's filled with Canadian stereotypes, but done lovingly so and once you move beyond that the characters are fully developed and complex in their own rights. There may be some issues with the First Nations and half-Inuk characters as such people have been exploited and misrepresented so often, but I am not in a position to analyze Shaman and Northstar, to weigh in on whether or not their representations are fair or authentic. I will say that as a Newfoundlander, I quite enjoyed the Marrina character, the alien raised by a Newfoundland couple and with many ocean related powers.

This collection details a new governmental party that uses an invasion to capitalize on people's fears and start stripping everyone of their rights and freedoms. Yes, unfortunately applicable in 2012 when this was written and still now in 2017. Perhaps more shocking with the Canadian setting but a good lesson for us not to be so smug and self-assured that it couldn't happen here (a corrupt government that is, not a hostile invasion from Asgardians or cavemen).

Dale Eaglesham (the only real Canadian on the creative team) provides crisp visuals coloured expertly by Sonia Oback.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Reader's Diary #1610- John Stanley and Irving Tripp: Little Lulu A Handy Kid

I've been mostly enjoying exploring old classic comic book and comic strip characters. Though, to be expected, most have at least a moment or two that underscores the times they were written, and usually in the most unpleasant of ways. I've encountered a lot of racism and sexism.

New with John Stanley and Irving Tripp's Little Lulu: A Handy Kid collection are issues of corporal punishment (spanking is the norm, even to the point of hauling down the pants of another family's kid and spanking them) and fat-shaming (one of the main kids is named Tubby).

If one can get past that, I suppose the farcical adventures of the little girl named Lulu and her gang of friends is mildly amusing. The art is extremely simplistic, which may or may not be a good thing. Maybe the weak gags would suffer from the slightest visual distraction.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Reader's Diary #1609- Mao Tse-Tung: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

Ah, some nice summer reading courtesy of Chairman Mao.

It may seem like an odd pick but I've been curious about it ever since I read a Wikipedia article on best selling books that put Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung on par with the Bible in terms of sales. Getting my hands on a copy and noticing how short it is, I figured, what the heck.

Nothing real surprising here. It's got that vintage Marxist propaganda vibe. Down with the Imperialistic Dogs! and so forth. But it's occasionally interesting.

First off the arrangement caught my eye. The quotes are not arranged chronologically but rather by topic. So you might have a quote from the 50s, followed by one from the 20s, followed by one from the 30s. (Though that's as wide as the range goes.)

I also found it intriguing to read how devoted and studied Mao was on Marxism. I usually hear of Western culture adopting Eastern philosophies, not so much the reverse.

Finally, whenever one reads something as dogmatic as this, whether it be the superiority of socialism, communism, democracy, or capitalism, it's always more than a little frustrating to see how in denial everyone is over the possibility of corruption. My way is the good way, the perfect way, and that's that and will never change.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reader's Diary #1608- Jim Starlin (writer), various artists: Warlock The Complete Collection

One of the big, after the credits reveals from the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 film was the coming of one Adam Warlock. For fans in the know, this was exciting news indeed. As for me, I was more curious. I immediately had to educate myself on this character.

I'll say that James Gunn is definitely the right person to bring Adam Warlock to the big screen. This character is weird and as Guardians of the Galaxy shows, Gunn knows how to sell weird.

Adam is an artificially created humanoid with a gamut of superpowers (strength, ability to breathe in space, speed, flight, and more). To top it off, he also has a soul gem which can steal the "souls" of his enemies. More accurately, it seems to take their minds; their memories and so forth become readable to Adam. It seems that these ultimate powers are a lot to handle and Warlock often goes completely mad. While this is all obviously fascinating, he is nonetheless not an easy character to care for. Always in an existential crisis, his seriousness grows wearying. Hopefully Gunn will be able to infuse him with that wonderful GotG humour to take the edge off.

As for the comics, despite not connecting well with Adam Warlock himself, the sheer strangeness of the plots and wonderful 70s space-psychedelic visuals by Alan Weiss, Al Milgrim, and Steve Leialoha kept me enthralled. I can't say for sure that there's anything really intelligent about it all (hard to find parables here to connect to real life), but it's certainly unique.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Reader's Diary #1607- Doug Patrick: The Playground with Dad

I'm sure all of us parents have had those moments when we were not shining examples of parenthood. Fortunately I have Doug Patrick's "The Playground with Dad" to remind me that hey, at least I'm not that guy. The father in this story is the male that we all talk about when we say that yeah, maybe it's not a bad thing if masculinity dies.

It's written from the perspective of a young boy who has not yet accepted that his father is at best a dud. Writing from such a point of view, as we all know, is always risky. It's hard to write an authentic sounding kid. By and large Patrick accomplishes it, though there's one joke where the kid mistakes John Lennon as John Lemon that is hammered on just a tad too long. Small complaint really.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Reader's Diary #1606- Patrick Ledwell: I Am An Islander

In a lot of ways, Patrick Ledwell's I Am An Islander reminded me of Nancy Gardiner's Hairy Leg News. Both are pretty short on focus, but both do an admirable job of using disjointed, humorous anecdotes to depict a pretty average life in their respective province/territory.

That said, Ledwell's is set in Prince Edward Island whereas Gardiner's is set in the Northwest Territories. In some ways the places appear similar (both seem to eschew the pretentiousness and pace of larger city life) but in at least a few ways, they are also different. The way Ledwell described how Islanders will not rest until they traced your family tree just would never fly in the north. It's way too transient here for that.

Not all of Ledwell's observations are necessarily unique to the Island or even an Islander's perspective, but that's fair. Likewise, some entries are funnier than others. Nonetheless, it's a lighthearted, entertaining way to get a feel for Prince Edward Island and the culture.