Monday, October 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1682- Robert E. Howard: Pigeons from Hell

Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell" begins as a classic ghost story, complete with haunted house, but one that is still genuinely creepy.

It's also uncomfortable in that it deals with slavery in the American south. As many critics of the latest book banning of To Kill A Mockingbird would tell you, that's okay. Not all literature should make you comfortable. It fact, much should challenge readers.

That said, while Howard thankfully calls out slavery for the evil that it is, his story is still racist overall. From what I can gather about Howard (the creator of Conan the Barbarian), he doesn't have any Haitian roots yet he stereotypes and appropriates their culture.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1681- Nagata Kabi, translated by Jocelynne Allen: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

Not sure how Nagata Kabi's My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness first crossed my radar, but I'm glad it did.

It begins with Nagata finding herself terrified and in bed with a female prostitute. This is her first time being intimate with anyone. From there the book backtracks to explore how she got there and then the ramifications that followed.

While the title might suggest a focus on the "lesbian" aspect, I'd argue that the book is more about mental health than anything else. It's not just loneliness that's explored, but depression, eating disorders, and imposter syndrome as well.

It's not a comfortable read by any means. For starters, and for me, the way Nagata depicts herself in her art, somewhat deprecatingly, she looks to be a young girl. And as a male reading a book with a naked young girl on the cover, it's something I avoided in public. I should note, however, that in that scene she's actually meant to be 28 years old.

But of course some of the issues are difficult as well and everyone's experiences with mental health and illness is unique. How easily she seems to beat bulimia might seem almost implausible. Her attraction toward her mother as a young girl may be off-putting, though it is rather Freudian and I'd like to think was one of the few times in the book Nagata didn't explain herself well.

That all said, there is a charm to it all and the subtle, dark humour helped me along. I also appreciated the non-sitcom ending: it's hopeful but far from resolved.

The art, while not spectacular, is quirky and sufficiently expressive.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Aviva Contest: A Healthier Library, A Healthier You!

Voting for Aviva has officially begun!

 I hope you will consider casting a vote for the Yellowknife Public Library. We believe our holistically healthy public library idea is the first of its kind in Canada and will reap positive benefits for the entire community: (you will need to register the first time, but you can cast up to 18 votes).

Also, please help spread the word to your friends and through your social media channels. You may use the link above and/or this video:

Monday, October 09, 2017

Reader's Diary #1680: Lauren Schenkman: The Removal

There's the briefest of seconds near the beginning of Lauren Schenkman's "The Removal" when the story approaches horror. A man named Victor is on an operating table, expecting to have everything "non-essential" removed. This is scary and tragic enough as it is. We're thinking cancer, right? Then the IV drip starts to flow and... oh my god, he isn't under and the doctor is starting anyway!

Or wait, maybe he is under and this is a near-death experience. The grotesque objects removed from Victor's cavity he understands to be resentments and jealousies and quite frankly, many of the things that unfortunately define what it is to be a man these days. But even as the doctor removes more organ meat than seems humanly possible, it's, I suppose, a hopeful story in that should Victor survive this ordeal, maybe he won't be such an entitled and sexist prick.

A fascinating story.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1679- Mark Waid (writer), Mike Wieringo (artist): Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection

I remember enjoying the first Fantastic Four movie. Sorry, the first official one, not the notoriously bad 1990s version that never made it to theaters but has since leaked to YouTube. I'm talking about the one that had Chris Evans as the Human Torch. Granted it was 2005 before Marvel Studios really proved what a successful superhero movie could be and so I'm curious how much I'd enjoy it now.

I bring it up because it was really my first exposure to the Fantastic Four movie and I've wanted these characters to do well. I really want them back at Marvel Studios. Still, I've not read a lot of their comics beyond their appearances in big event comics.

Mark Waid's Ultimate Collection seemed like a decent place to start as I did enjoy his work on Archie.

Thankfully, in this collection he was able to capture some of the fun and the familial bonds that the Fox Studios producers have so poorly delivered in the wake of that 1st attempt. (I should also acknowledge that I am one of the few to suggest they ever got it right). The stories may not be earth-shattering, but they perfectly highlight the characters' personalities (except maybe Sue Storm who could have been expanded better) while being wildly entertaining.

Mike Wieringo's art is suitable, expressive and fluid, though I did find his approach to hair quite odd and therefore distracting (it looks like people are wearing hairnets).

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Reader's Diary #1678- R.L. Stine (writer), German Peralta (artist): Man-Thing Those Who Know Fear

Earlier this year I read a collected volume of Man-Thing by Steve Gerber and while I didn't regret it, it was a bit of a let down, especially when compared to the DC equivalent Swamp Thing. I complained at the time that due to Man-Thing's almost complete lack of rational thought, there was hardly anywhere to go with the character.

In R.L. Stine's version, however, Ted Sallis (i.e., the man trapped inside the Man-Thing's body) has not only reclaimed his mind but even the ability to speak. However, he's at risk for slipping back into his more animalistic self.

This should make for a decent premise: a man trapped inside himself a la Metallica's "One." Unfortunately, it's ruined by ban pun after ban pun. I like Marvel's sense of humour, I even like puns (I'm a dad after all), but it's absolutely relentless here and it's quite awful. I went from wanting Man-Thing to be able to express himself more to wishing he'd shut up.

The art, I suppose, is decent and it would seem that some was at least inspired by the Swamp Thing's more surreal moments. It's too bad that it's undermined by Stine's terrible cheesiness.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Reader's Diary #1677- Jaume Cabré, translated by Liz Castro: Pandora

Jaume Cabré's "Pandora" tells of a gutless man who finds himself hiring a hit man to off his wife. However, when a different, more acceptable solution presents itself and he no longer requires this extreme measure to be rid of her, he is unable to call it off.

It's a great example of a story where the protagonist is not likeable but it doesn't much matter to one's enjoyment of the story. In fact, it just might help. In any case, despite the out of the ordinary situation, Cabré's descriptive inner monologue for this character sells the idea and even makes it relatable just as long as you've been in any situation that, through poor choices of your own, has spun out of control.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Reader's Diary #1676- Tsuina Miura (writer), Gamon Sakurai (art): Ajin Demi-Human

There's a lesser known Marvel superhero who belongs to the Great Lakes Avenger and goes by the name of Mister Immortal. He's played mostly for laughs which, though funny at times, is a bit of a shame because the concept itself need not be a throwaway concept.

Fortunately, the Ajin Demi-Human series explores the idea more fully. In this world, there are a few such people with such abilities and as you'd expect, they trigger a lot of fear and curiosity in the rest of the population, so much so that many have gone on the run so as not to be torn apart in the name of science.

I liked the first volume enough; besides the philosophical and ethical ramifications, the action is great, and the art reminded me somewhat of Akira which is a plus. I wasn't crazy Miura decided to give these immortal folks and few extra supernatural abilities as well, wishing he just focused on the unkillable aspect, but I'm a fan of superhero comics which are typically guilty of the same, so I can't come down on it too hard for that.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Reader's Diary #1675- Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishii: My Brother's Husband

My Brother's Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame, is one of the more unexpected treasures I've discovered so far this year. It's a poignant and touching story of a Japanese single father named Yaichi, who is visited by the husband of his deceased and estranged identical twin brother, a Canadian named Mike.

I was surprised at first by the addition of a Canadian character in a Japanese comic, but an even better surprise was how well Tagame handled such an issue heavy book. Themes of homophobia and mourning run large and yet the issues do not compete with one another, nor does it ever feel didactic. Instead it feels like an organic, quietly beautiful story.

Holding it all together is the daughter, Yaichi's young and irrepressibly cheerful Kana who is too young yet to have learned prejudice.

Finally, Tagame's artwork completely complements the story perfectly. At first glance it's simple, yet it's also tightly focused and the character expressions are rich and realistic.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1674- Ernest Vincent Wright: Gadsby

If you've heard of Ernest Vincent Wright's novel Gadbsy it's most likely as a novelty book owing to the fact that it has over 50,000 words none of which contain the letter e. I've been curious about it for quite some time as I have long been of fan of poets like Christian Bok and the Oulipo who set up arbitrary constraints for themselves yet were still able to create works of art. Does Gadbsy have any artistic merit then or is it merely a gimmick?

First off, when I say "merely" I cannot pretend that this wasn't a lot of work. It is quite amazing that Wright was able to pull it off. (50,000 words is about 157 pages, by the way.) While I did begin to notice certain tricks he used (such as writing a lot of lists, for instance of zoo animals that did not contain e), I remained impressed. I only briefly entertained the idea of writing this post without any e's before I appreciated once again how difficult this must have been. No the!

As for whether or not it's truly art, I suppose that's too subjective to really answer but assuming quality factors into the assessment, I can at least speak to that. Without the e gimmick, I don't think this is an altogether enjoyable book. It does have a consistent voice (slightly pretentious but with a wry sense of humour) and there's a plot of sorts (Gadsby recruits the ideas and energy of youth to help build a remarkable city), but it tends to get boring. There is an antagonist but he does very little to prevent anything and therefore the book essentially lacks any real conflict. It's also sexist at times, stereotyping gender roles and diminishing the contributions of females. I suppose the pro-youth message is at least a little uplifting, especially in light of all of the current anti-millennial sentiment out there-- unless, of course, you're female, then the book would be far less uplifting.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reader's Diary #1674- Jeremy Whitley (writer), Elsa Charretier (artist): The Unstoppable Wasp, Unstoppable! Vol. 1

I was very excited to find a trade paperback of Wasp  as I really enjoy female-led superhero comics. I was less excited, however, when I found out it featured Nadia in the role of the Wasp as I'd been hoping to learn more about the original Janet Van Dyne version (who does, at least, have a cameo).

Even after reading this collection, I'm on the fence about this Nadia incarnation. There's nothing terrible about her, but there's nothing particularly exciting either. She's super smart, she's always upbeat, she's a feminist. All good of course, but she seems like half a dozen other current female superheroes but without their flare or charm or any idiosyncrasy that would have helped set her apart (give me Squirrel Girl, any day!). It probably didn't help matters that it seems to take forever to even show her superhero powers.

A separate story at the end, written again by Jeremy Whitley but with an assist by Mark Waid, helped humanize Nadia a little better by showing how she reacts to stress. It didn't win me over entirely, but I'll at least acknowledge that perhaps the character is not the problem.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1673- Erskine Caldwell: Kneel to the Rising Sun

Given the recent news out of the U.S., perhaps it's no real surprise why I chose Erskine Caldwell's "Kneel to the Rising Sun" this week.

This is a difficult read but not in the sense that it's poorly written (it's actually quite engaging), but for the topic of racism. Nonetheless it's a powerful story, one that could be especially helpful for those struggling with how to be an ally. (Spoiler: have more courage than Lonnie in this story.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reader's Diary #1672- Tim Seeley (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist): Nightwing Vol. 1 Better Than Batman

I've spent the better part of this year exploring lesser known or at least slightly less popular superheroes in the Marvel and DC Comics canon. Nightwing barely fits that category, as Dick Grayson (once known as Robin) is certainly pretty popular. That said, I've still read very little about Dick Grayson; even most Batman comics I've read didn't involve him or have involved later incarnations of Robin. No time like the present to fill in my knowledge gaps!

As an added bonus, I also learned a little about the criminal underground organization, the Parliament of Owls. This group apparently first appeared in comics in 2011 but are becoming increasingly relevant at the moment. I wonder if DC is hinting at a connection to Nite Owl as they slowly begin introducing Watchmen characters into the mix.

In any case, I found Dick Grayson a compelling character while I wasn't overly found of the Parliament of Owls.

One of the things I liked most about Dick was his dependency on others. Though trying to break out on his own, he still finds himself partnering with others. In this book it was with anti-hero Raptor (who was also excellently developed). All in all, Dick is just an all around likeable guy; sometimes trusting to a fault, learning but not giving into cynicism.

The Parliament of Owls just reminded me of Marvel's Hydra or the Hand. And, I suppose it's not DC's fault, but I'm just getting tired of these shadowy, insidious groups that simply cannot be defeated.

The art by Javier Fernandez is great, slightly grainy and similar to David Aja's Hawkeye work, which fit the violence, and coloured smoothly by Chris Sotomayor in cool blues and blacks, mimicking the usual night setting and mood (not to mention Nightwing's costume).

Monday, September 18, 2017

Reader's Diary #1671- D.C. Archibald: Down the Line

D.C. Archibald's "Down the Line" is a fractured fairy tale based on Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter and a particularly busy tea party. Actually, I'd say it's more of an homage than a fractured take; the latter of which I tend to think of as being slightly subversive to the original.

However, while D.C. Archibald's tale really (and wonderfully) captures absurdist humor of Carroll, I didn't see it as particularly subversive. Granted, he does veer from Carroll, introducing L. Frank Baum's Scarecrow and Tin Man characters into the mix (both of whom, let's face it, could easily fit in with the Alice in Wonderland crowd). Also, there is a some rather dark imagery at the end that could, I suppose be counted as a subversive twist. However, for the most part, I just thought it was a fun piece, a piece that could have been written by Lewis Carroll himself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reader's Diary #1670- Dennis St. John: Yellowknife

I was more than a little skeptical of Dennis St. John's Yellowknife novel. I couldn't find any evidence that he'd actually been here or had any real connection and the photo on the front depicted mountains, of which there are none in or near enough to Yellowknife to see (the Mackenzies are far to the west bordering Yukon).

Turns out that the locale hardly mattered despite the insistence of the title that it does. What little time St. John does take describe Yellowknife, is not accurate mind you, but he avoids talking about it for the most part. He gets a few last names right (such as Football) but then other details makes it sound like Alaska or Yukon. At best it's a hybrid of the three. The Mackenzie Mountains are, for what it's worth, a major setting.

Unfortunately the book falters on so many other levels that accepting a fictionalized version of Yellowknife and moving on is not really a choice. The pacing is problematic, with character development shoehorned into one exceptionally long chapter, the action is implausible, and the character motivations are just bizarre. Attempts at philosophizing are handled clumsily and unnecessary.

With some editing, perhaps it could be salvaged as a genre action novel by scrapping any ambitions of being high literature.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1699- Eileen Register: The Hurricane

No real mystery as to how I found this story. Nonetheless, "The Hurricane" by Eileen Register is a good story that I assume does an admirable job of capturing what it must feel like for someone living through such an event. It's based on a childhood memory of hers. I've been fortunate enough not to have experienced this, though came close with Irma. We had tickets booked and reservations for St. Maarten.

"The Hurricane" is a little heavy on the adjectives for my taste and therefore I found them distracting. However, if you're not averse to such descriptors, you shouldn't have any issue.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1698- Iskwé and Erin Leslie (story), David Alexander Roberston (adaptation), GMB Chomichuk (art): Will I See?

Will I See? is based on a story by Iskwé and Erin Leslie, scripted for a comic by David Alexander Robertson. It tells of a teenage girl named May who is guided by a mysterious cat to various small objects across a city. May collects these and, with the help of her kookum, adds them to a necklace. It is her grandmother's theory that these once belonged to indigenous women who have been murdered and gone missing. Later, finding herself in danger, May draws strength from these women and their spirit animals.

It's a short but instantly engaging story with very important messages. It also has out of this world art by GMB Chomichuk, using, what looks to be, a blend of photo-manipulation, print making, and collage; black and white with dashes of red for dramatic effect.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1697- R. Sikoryak: Terms and Conditions

R. Sikoryak's Terms and Conditions is definitely one of the more creative endeavours I've seen in a while. He takes iTunes' "Terms and Conditions" (the American version) and uses it as the sole text, while each page of visuals is a take on classic or popular comics, drawn phenomenally in the cartoonists' style but with one of the characters given Steve Jobs' classic look (trimmed beard, hair slicked back, blue jeans, black sweater, and white sneakers).

The results are varied, but never unsuccessful unless the goal is to make you actually read the agreement for once. I'll grant that I read it more fully than ever before, but towards the end I'll admit that I was still merely scanning. But that in itself helps solidify a point: these terms and conditions are ridiculous.(Having them spewed from the mouth of Homer Simpson or Ziggy just helps underscore this point.)

I can think of no other product that inflicts such a contract on its purchaser. Imagine buying a shirt and being expected to read pages upon pages of instructions on what you can and cannot do with that shirt, going into tedious details about liability should you say, strangle yourself with the sleeve or some other unlikely scenario, describing the responsibilities and limitations thereof of the button manufacturers, and so on. There's less involved with buying a car! Probably less with buying a gun. And in most cases we're talking about a 99 cent song or a 1.99 app. They can argue all they want about music and so on not being a "product" in the traditional sense but nothing takes away from the fact that their Terms and Conditions are surreal overkill; once again proving that Apple is all about aesthetics and ignorant when it comes to user experience.

Besides subtly helping emphasize that point, Sikoryak's adaptation is a true gift for any fan and student of comics. I was thrilled to have identified as many as I did (and there's a cheat sheet in the back for those I missed) and more often than not, whenever I thought of cartoonists that I'd like to see, they'd suddenly show up. From classics like Herge and Carl Barks right up to modern artists like Roz Chast and Gene Luen Yang. I was especially impressed by all of the Canadians covered. On that note, I'll end of with a list of the Canucks parodied in Terms and Conditions:

  • Seth
  • Ryan North
  • Todd McFarlane
  • Fiona Staples
  • Kate Beaton
  • Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Mariko Tamaki
  • Jillian Tamaki
  • Lynn Johnson
  • Julie Doucet
(Did I miss someone? If so, please let me know and I'll them!)

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Reader's Diary #1696- Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (writers), Moritat (artist): All Star Western Vol. 1 Guns and Gotham

All Star Western: Volume 1 Guns and Gotham is set in the 1880s, but it almost could have been written back then, too.

This trade collection is made up primarily of a Jonah Hex (the scarred gunslinger) arc, followed by a couple of additional, shorter tales involving a couple of characters unfamiliar to me: El Diablo and Barbary Ghost.

Of these three, the Jonah Hex story is the better and most salvageable. It revolves around him visiting the new city of Gotham, partnering with Amadeus Arkham, to take down a villainous and insidious crime gang. I'd wanted to know more about the Jonah Hex character and I felt I got a good sense of what he's all about. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy with his own moral compass, one that sees no issue with taking out the bad guys with gun violence. He often comes across as rude but we get a glimpse that even this is from his pragmatic outlook: those who get close to him usually wind up dead. The addition of Arkham, who the legendary Asylum for the Criminally Insane is named after in Batman lore, was an unexpected but pleasant treat.

However, there's nary a woman to be found and the first one who appears is a prostitute who is shortly killed off with her eyes poked out. The follow-up, non-Hex stories add cultural appropriation and stereotypes to the mix with ill-conceived Native American and Chinese characters. Good to see some diversity, I suppose, but I'm not sure this was the way to go. Of course, not being from those groups myself, I don't want to claim offensiveness on their behalf, but I'm skeptical the majority of folks from either camp would have been okay with this. It made for an uncomfortable read in any case.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Reader's Diary #1695- Linda Ferguson: This Heady Thing Called Love

Linda Ferguson's "This Heady Thing Called Love" is a fine story in that it's realistic, it's characters are believable. Unfortunately they're also annoying as all hell. It's told from the point of view of a woman who is in love with a smarmy, cheating, d-bag. Because it's her story and she doesn't really grow throughout the telling, it's also hard not to turn on her a little.

I wouldn't be able to take a whole novel of this character, but it's a solid piece of writing. I'm just thankful it's short.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reader's Diary #1694: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar: Gwendy's Button Box

It's been a while since I've read any Stephen King, so when I came across a novella, I figured it was an easy time to give him another go. Besides being short, it had the added attraction of being co-written by Richard Chizmar. I enjoyed King's previous co-authored projects with Richard Straub and I was also keen on discovering an author unknown to me.

Not long ago I had read Arthur Slade's Dust and commented on how the villain, Abram, reminded me of a Stephen King character. Reading Gwendy's Button Box confirmed my comparison. Mr. Farris and Abram were definitely cut from the same cloth.

However, this is the titular Gwendy's story, and it's very much a coming-of-age tale. As a young girl enters puberty and begins to mature, she realizes how much power she has to affect the world, for good or for bad. In this case, the power comes from a mysterious button box given to her by a stranger (Mr. Farris), but it wouldn't be difficult for readers to ignore the box altogether, or at the very least, write it off as a placebo.

There's also a message here about self-restraint and as such, I'm sure some readers will be left longing for more disastrous drama than the book provided. I, however, was content with the death count! It's certainly one of King's less morbid tales and I would even venture as far as saying that it's his first YA novel though I haven't seen it marketed that way yet.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reader's Diary #1643- Hajime Isayama: Attack on Titan Colossal Edition (1-5)

Reading the premise of Hajime Isayama's Attack on Titan manga series, I was expecting to find something along the lines of Jeff Lemire's Descender or Marvel's Galactus. Essentially there's a race(?) of giants (of varying sizes) that are terrorizing the Earth. The remaining humans (i.e., the ones that haven't been eaten) are held in a collection of walled settlements. Troops are constantly being trained for defense against the Titans, but they've had little to no success. The story mostly revolves around Eren who has a new ability that may finally help turn the tables.

I quite enjoyed the story, especially when it offered subtle commentary about how it must feel to be dominated my an outside force or culture. Not that this theme works as an analogy across the entire series, but it definitely pops up on occasion.

I was less excited by the art, especially the characters. Drawn in a rather sketchy style, they also come across poorly proportioned. Luckily this works for the giants as it gives them a scarier appearance. Also, I don't know if I just got used to it or if it began to improve, but I started enjoying the art more by the 4th or 5th book. There definitely seemed to be more effort put into the backdrops at that point.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reader's Diary #1642- Destiny West: The Forgotten

If I don't read another story as disturbing as Destiny West's "The Forgotten" ever again, I'll be fine.

Not that it's a poorly written story, but it involves women confined to their beds and a man having his way with them. There's a bit of a twist at the end, but it doesn't make anything better. It makes it worse in fact, but at that point you'll be horrified enough so that it hardly registers.

There are a few typos that need to be fixed up but I suppose the distraction they provide could be a welcome reprieve.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1641- Jordan Abel: Injun

Beginning Jordan Abel's Injun, I was immediately struck by his inventiveness with the English language. Fans of poets like E.E. Cummings, Christian Bok, and bpNichol, will be especially happy. If you think all modern poetry sounds the same (i.e., gloomy and pretentious), take faith that some poets, like Jordan Abel, are not content to let the English language stagnate. As texting and social media have taught us, language is ever evolving 😐

Bonus points for those poets whose works are better on the page than aloud. Nothing against oral or slam poetry, but some of us are textual learners!

It is not until the end of Injun (and I wonder about this placement) that Abel described his process of writing the book. It is not, as it turns out, just inventive use of language, it is also found poetry; that is, poetry “found” in pre-existing text, text that was previously not considered poetry, and manipulated into poetic form. This makes the book even cooler; rare are entire collections of found poetry. More importantly, subverting the source material (in this case, old western novels where cowboys were good and Injuns were bad) gives the poems a strong sense of empowerment, often, for instance, using racist words against their original writers. Deconstructing, then reconstructing, often to make a brand new point. Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Reader's Diary #1640- Luke Lieberman (writer), Walter Geovani (artist): Red Sonja Wrath of the Gods 1 - 5

Wanting to know more about this Red Sonja character, I recently found the Wrath of the Gods arc from Dynamite comics.

So, very early on, I began once again to despair about my gender. Sometimes I really don't get males. Red Sonja is supposed to be a kick ass heroine, leading one to believe her male creators were supportive of female empowerment. But then she's completely and constantly objectified. Always shown in an impractically skimpy costume (even in the snow!), scene and scene drawn from behind her so we get ass shots; it's all quite infuriating. Plus, the threat of rape is made several times.

I suppose the character herself remained compelling enough, but I think if I revisit her I'll read Gail Simone's take, who I've been told, has given her a much needed feminist makeover.

And I did wind up learning about the character, which was my primary goal in the first place. In these comics she's fighting alongside Thor against Loki and Odin. I found this especially interesting as Red Sonja began in life in Marvel comics and it is their version of these other characters that are perhaps more currently familiar. On that note, it was fun to compare the Marvel and Dynamite versions, and to consider how different (or similar) this story would be had Red Sonja stayed at her original publisher.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Reader's Diary #1639- Carleigh Baker: Bad Endings

Admittedly, I was attracted to Carleigh Baker's Bad Endings by the beautiful water-coloured salmon courtesy of Katie Green. That said, I think bees wound up playing a more significant role in this collection of short stories than fish, but that's neither here nor there.

I thoroughly enjoyed these tales. As the title would suggest, they are sometimes bleak but more often, and surprisingly, not. While the characters in these stories were all experiencing endings of sorts, and there was always the stress associated with said endings, there was typically a sense that it was for the best and that it was but the end of a story, not of a book.

This perhaps suggests that the stories didn't feel complete in their own right, and I've heard this from non-short story fans, that short stories leave them wishing for a novel. However, I did not sense that with Bad Endings. Baker has an art with characterization and with observation and the end result are fully realized snippets of life. The characters learn. They grow.

I read these stories over a few lunch breaks and I would highly recommend short story collections for such a clumped period of time. They provide a thoughtful and satisfying diversion to help wake up the brain and stir the emotions.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Reader's Diary #1638- Gina Balibrera: Álvaro

At times Gina Balibrera's "Álvaro" reminded me of Wayne Johnston's Colony of Unrequited Dreams. A theme throughout the story is one of art, or an artist, adequately interpreting a place. For me, Johnston's book does just that for Newfoundland.

A secondary, and more subtle theme, is one of the artist vs. the art. On the surface it seems that the narrator is suggesting that for her, the music of composer known as Álvaro best encapsulates El Salvador, but the way she constantly fixates on the man, not the music, I wonder.

As an added bonus to this provocative story, it's told in the 2nd person.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1637- John Bennett and Susan Rowley (editors): Uqalurait

Uqalurait: An Oral History of Nunavut, does an admirable job of collecting and communicating the history of Nunavut through the voices of elders, the keepers of a collective memory, detailing life either before contact with Europeans or day-to-day life where and when white Canadians were largely irrelevant.

Of course, transcribed oral stories and recollections cannot completely capture  hearing these voices in person. We miss the gestures and inflections, for instance, that can add so much. It is one-way, whereas sometimes (not always) when a person is speaking we would be able to ask questions for clarification, or even to help steer the direction.

Nonetheless, it felt pretty darn close to being there and I found myself missing hearing stories from my grandparents. Because they were in my thoughts, perhaps, I also found myself comparing and contrasting these memories with the lives lived by my ancestors (white Newfoundlanders). I also spent a lot of time considering how the Uqalurait memories would be interpreted and accepted by younger Inuit living in Nunavut today. They would have so much more context to work with than I.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the culture and though there were many collective generalities, I also appreciated when individual personalities shone through. It really stood out to me, as an important reminder, when some of the voices disagreed (for instance, about which traditions and practices they are sad to have lost). Elizabeth Nutaraaluk's modern feminist comment "We women were treated as aaliit [outcasts] even though we were ordinary people just like anyone else" was particularly awesome. Less poignant, but still endearing, was the way Adam Qavviaktoq always declared that he was done talking. "I'll stop here for now."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1636- Sevim Ak: Moving to a New House

Sevim Ak's "Moving to a New House" is, in a word, strange.

The plot, of a boy who resents getting the smallest room in their house and decides to hide away from his parents out of spite, is reasonable enough. However the telling of it and the resolution are very odd.

The dialogue is stilted and rings untrue (possibly a poor translation?) and the ending seems to have no rhyme or reason. The author typically writes stories for children and perhaps with the right illustrations this would appeal to a child's imagination. As for me, I just didn't get it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reader's Diary #1635- Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz (writers), Dan Jurgens (artist): Booster Gold Vol. 1 52 Pick-Up

My first exposure to Booster Gold was with the Death of Superman comics and at the time I read it (just last year), I was not impressed. For a character as important as Superman, it felt odd that DC Comics wouldn't have sent in the other big guns as supporting characters; instead of Bat Man, The Flash, and Wonder Woman, we got Maxima, Bloodwynd, and Booster Gold.

To be fair to Booster Gold, I've since heard more about him and though he may not be the biggest name in DC Comics, he's got his share of fans. I was willing to give the guy another chance.

And though I'd not go as far as saying that the character has become a favourite, I didn't dislike him this time around. He's meant to be a bit of a laughing stock, but this time around Johns and Katz have infused him with more humility. He's been known (rather annoyingly, in my opinion) as being a bit of a fame whore, so it's kind of perfect that this time around, as a guardian of the "real" time line, Gold has to save the world behind the scenes. He's also made more likeable by his inability to get over the loss of his best friend (some argue, more than best friend): the Blue Beetle. Making him care deeply about someone other than himself was quite necessary.

Booster Gold is somewhere between a humorous character and an action character, but the writers, combined with Jurgens' expressive characters, find the balance admirably.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1634- Ryan North (artist), Erica Henderson (writer): The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

Any fan of Squirrel Girl can tell you, she may have the super powers of a squirrel but she's not to be messed with. She's beaten up the biggest of the baddies before (Thanos, Galactus, and Dr. Doom) so how does she top herself? By clearing the entire Marvel Universe. Sort of.

Actually, there's a bit of a cheat. It's not the original Squirrel Girl but rather her evil misguided clone. Nonetheless, she joins the ranks of the Punisher and Deadpool as the few who have taken on the rest of the Marvel heroes and survived (interestingly both of these guys also fall to her this time around).

It's a typical wonderful Squirrel Girl tale with Ryan North's irreverent brand of humour and Erica Henderson's balanced complimentary goofy art.

I'm still longing for Squirrel Girl to show up in something that feels like canon, but I'll take these fun stories in any case.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1633- Tiana Reid: Stories From Saint-Martin

Early on in Tiana Reid's collection of "Stories From Saint-Martin," I found myself questioning the way I read. This constant comparing and contrasting to myself. At first I almost gave myself an easy out: it's just human nature. She talks about body insecurities, I think about my own. This is the way we read, I told myself.

But if it's truly human nature, why do schools spend so much time trying to teach it? Clearly it doesn't come natural to all readers. Maybe it doesn't natural to anyone, maybe it's all learned. Strong readers, we're told, make personal connections.

This makes the story all about you in a sense. I began to wonder, does this make us bad listeners?

Race, or more specifically racism against black people, comes up a few times in Reid's stories. As a white male, this is clearly not something I can truly relate to. I suppose that's where the "contrast" comes in (vs. "compare"), but I don't know, when I was reading those parts, I wondered if it wasn't wrong that I couldn't shut my brain off and just listen for once.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Reader's Diary #1632- Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (artist): Descender Volume One Tin Stars

I don't know why I keep being surprised by Jeff Lemire's work. I'm a diehard fan and it's like I forget that every time I sit down to read one of his books, only to be blown away by his talent once again. The man tells a story like nobody's business.

Descender is a superb piece of sci-fi with a richly developed world, emotionally resonant characters, and a plot that sees a surprise around every corner. Even the structure is creative. No where was this more clear than the second chapter when the robot boy Tim-21 is trying to escape from the villainous scrappers while every other page is a flashback in the form of his memories being slowly uploaded. Non-linear storytelling can be a difficult thing but it's achieved wonderfully here, the memory interruptions help build the tension yet are too beautiful to be frustrating.

Dustin Nguyen's watercoloured art helps gives depth to the story, especially playing up the more emotional angles. Try not to love Tim-21. It's impossible.

I cannot wait to read the next volume in the series.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Reader's Diary #1631- Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner (writers), Frank Stack (artist): Our Cancer Year

I was surprised to find, as I began Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner's Our Cancer Year, that so much of the story was not about Harvey's cancer, as the title would imply, but rather the Gulf War and how it affected the lives of Joyce's young friends.

This would soon change, moving these folks and this moment in history to the background. The cancer, not surprisingly, became all-consuming. This change in pacing and focus was brilliant. Harvey and Joyce's struggle was almost palpable.

I wasn't completely taken by Frank Stack's art, however. The settings were bleak, scratchy and inky, fitting the tone of the book wonderfully. I was less taken with his caricatures, or rather the inconsistency in his caricatures. Later in the book it made more sense that Harvey's look varied from panel to panel as the cancer and treatment took its toll on his physical appearance. It doesn't however explain why there was so much variation with other characters.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Reader's Diary #1630- Jim Starlin (writer), George Perez and Ron Lim (artists): The Infinity Gauntlet

I'll admit being super excited for the Avengers: Infinity War movie coming out next year. (Even more so since the trailer leaked online.) In the meantime, I'm trying to familiarize myself with the stories that inspired the movie and perhaps no comic has done more so than The Infinity Gauntlet story line by Jim Starlin back in 1991.

Of course, the comics are far less caught up with character usage rights as the movies and so, stories will be far from a perfect match. Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, and Cyclops for instance, are all in the comic but will definitely not appear in the movie as their rights are tangled up in Fox and Sony.

Furthermore, the MCU has yet to really unify its television and big screen properties. And as disappointed as it makes me, it's unlikely the television characters will join the Avengers in fighting Thanos next April. On that note, the comic does perhaps provide a clue as to how the movie will handle the fact that it would be rather weird that superheroes such as Daredevil, Cloak and Dagger, Quake, Black Bolt, and so on would be sitting on their thumbs. Early in the comic, Thanos simply wields his new awesome powers to blink half of the universe's life out of existence. (Later, Nebula returns everything to normal, so no lasting harm done.)

That was actually one of the more interesting plot lines in the collection and one that I think could have stood on its own. The impact of such an action should be huge and explored. We get hints here: pilots disappear causing planes to crash, Krees blame the Skrulls for tragedy and vow vengeance, and so on. Instead, however, the focus remains on Thanos.

Not a terrible problem, as he's a pretty interesting character, but the superheroes themselves though they are many remain pretty irrelevant throughout. You can bet that Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and the rest will NOT be irrelevant in the movie.

One reasonable concern in such a movie or book is whether or not it will feel bloated with such a giant cast. The comic handled handled it well by selecting a few for focus (besides Thanos, Warlock, Doctor Strange, and Silver Surfer get more page time), and I suspect the movie will just swap in the aforementioned big wigs. Though the rest will also be there in the perimeter and so, just as I don't think the comic was a good jumping on point for newcomers, the movie will assume a lot of familiarity with the MCU. It will be a fans-only affair for sure.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Reader's Diary #1629- Jan Kaneen: Breaking Windows

Jan Kaneen's flash fiction story "Breaking Windows" reminded me of the "Shut Up and Dance" episode of Black Mirror in that both use our fears of being spied upon by hacked webcams to create a compelling piece of fiction.

While the Black Mirror episode is more fully realized and vastly superior to Kaneen's story, I did enjoy the teasing of the reader:
I sneak my requests in on free downloads - movies or short stories. People never check the links they check. Have you any idea what you agreed to, when you started reading this? For all you know, my RAT just ran up your digital drainpipe, and is taking control of your webcam and microphone at this very nanosecond. 
Nice touch.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1628- Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio (writers), Audrey Mok (artist): Josie and the Pussycats Volume One

After enjoying the more modern, mature, and acclaimed titles from Archie Comics lately (Archie, Jughead, and Sabrina), I had high hopes for Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio's Josie and the Pussycats.

Unfortunately I couldn't get into this one at all. Largely it was due to the humour. Sure there were lots of jokes but they seemed to land with a thud, shoe-horned into the story without really adding to it. And I'll acknowledge up front that humour is a personal taste, maybe this just wasn't for me. It just seemed that the punchlines, by and large, weren't punchlines at all but rather references to something in pop culture, as if that alone made it funny.

I also didn't come to care for the characters. Josie gets more development than the other two Pussycats, and while her character grows, she's still not exactly charming, seems to want fame for fame sake. Her friend Valerie thankfully gets a little spotlight toward the end, but her other friend Melody is woefully neglected except for supposed comic relief. She's also a confusing character; is she supposed to be an airhead or a genius or what?

Audrey Mok's art is fine, balancing realism against cartoonish expressions, and it's coloured wonderfully by Andre Szymanowicz and Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reader's Diary #1627- Doug Urquhart: Eyes of the Husky

I'll be honest; the only reasons I chose to read Doug Urquhart's Eyes of the Husky was the fact that it was a) comics and b) written by a northerner. I wasn't particularly impressed by the art on the cover and the example of humour shown was of the "men are [insert stereotype here] while women are [insert stereotype here]" variety.

I adapted more quickly to the art, which is better than the cover would suggest. Also, Urquhart provides side notes to all of the strips, and many times these explain his artistic technique. He clearly knew very well what he was doing.

As for the stereotypes, yes, those remained bountiful throughout. He seems to think that true northerners, especially the men, are all great outdoors people. He'd probably be disgusted that a homebound dandy like myself have managed to live happily in the north for 15 years. In any case, the stereotypes are usually used to show humorous contrasts (between scientists and bushmen, men and women, man and beast, northerners and southerners) and though grossly generalized all seem to be in good jest. And I'll even concede that often I found some kernels of truth. More importantly I did remain amused.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1626- Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Stefano Caselli (artist): Riri Williams / Invincible Ironman Ironheart Vol. 1

Not that I don't enjoy many DC Comics, but I'm definitely a Marvel man. One of the sticking points for me for DC was the Teen Titans, most of whom were just teenage versions of existing superheroes. Perhaps it's my Marvel bias, but I'm not, however, opposed to the new versions of classic Marvel characters, most of whom are also teenage (Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, the Hulk, etc). One reason I'm enjoying them more is because— and it's about time— they're not white.

Of course, the stories need to still be good. It needs to feel organic, not forced. By and large, Riri's first turn as Ironman's replacement, Ironheart, is a success. She's a rich character with brains and just enough emotional baggage to keep her interesting without being over the top. There are a couple of moments where she (or Bendis) are arguably proselytizing progressive attitudes but the case could also be made that Riri is just meant to be a very woke character (fitting for her age).

The art is pretty decent; standard superhero-brand realism, but great character expressions and colouring.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Reader's Diary #1625- Nicole Mullen: Read This If Your Child Was Eaten By a Pelican

I stumbled upon Nicole Mullen's "Read This If Your Child Was Eaten By a Pelican" last week and because of the title, I just had to read it.

I was enjoying it quite a bit; it was as funny and bizarre as the title promised, plus it's got great description and a modern voice. Then I came upon the line,
I should have known that those dock pelicans, emboldened by the generosity and passivity of the sockless, boat-shoed and pancake-breasted weekend warrior sailboat fags that populate the docks, would not only see my son as non-threatening, but delicious even.
Yeah, that word "fags" jumps out. Clearly an offensive word, it's distracting to say the least. It also makes the narrator far less likeable. That's okay, I rationalized, I don't have to like a character to appreciate a good story. And maybe making her a bigot makes her more believable?

Then I came to end and saw the two sentence author bio: "Just a fun mom and a teacher at a retarded school. I like recipes and my kids."

Hmmm. Retarded school? Does this woman still have a job?

So I clicked on the link to her Twitter page and it turns out that Nicole Mullen is a pen-name of comedian Nick Mullen. And Nick Mullen, it turns out, is no stranger to controversy. I'm not going to weigh in on that as I don't want to expend the energy going through his work. (I can appreciate off-colour humour if done right.) But back to story at hand, I'll say that the 2 words in question above add nothing to the otherwise good story and unfortunately even detract from it. Negative shock value.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Confession Redux

It was ten years ago that I confessed to not having read some pretty major titles, books that no self-proclaimed bibliophile should have skipped:

1. Harper Lee- To Kill A Mockingbird
2. Jane Austen- Pride and Prejudice
3. Joseph Conrad- Heart of Darkness
4. Bill Bryson- A Short History of Nearly Everything
5. Joseph Heller- Catch 22
6. Vladimir Nabokov- Lolita
7. Gabriel Garcia Marquez- One Hundred Years of Solitude
8. J. R. R. Tolkien- The Hobbit
9. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- The Hound of The Baskervilles
10. Charles Dickens- A Tale of Two Cities
11. Louisa May Alcott- Little Women
12. Ian McEwan- Atonement
13. Douglas Adams- The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
14. Don Delilo- White Noise
15. Carson McCullers- The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
16. Richard Adams- Watership Down
17. Scott O'Dell- Island Of The Blue Dolphins
18. Salman Rushdie- The Satanic Verses
19. Madeleine L'Engle- A Wrinkle In Time
20. Katherine Patterson- Bridge To Terebithia

It was shocking. I could barely show my face in public. But now, 10 years later (at an impressive rate of 2 books per year!), I can finally say I am well-read.

What's the sound of tires screeching while a record scratches?

Yes, apparently my ranking as a reader has only risen to amateur. To be a professional, I will have to commit to reading the following:

1. Geoffrey Chaucer - The Canterbury Tales
2. Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow
3. Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections
4. Anne Brontë - Agnes Grey
5. Ayn Rand- Atlas Shrugged
6. Charles Darwin - On the Origin of Species
7. Albert Camus - The Stranger
8. Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter
9. Henry Miller - Tropic of Cancer
10. Dante Alighieri - Divine Comedy
11. Unknown - Beowolf
12. Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man
13. Nalo Hopkinson - Brown Girl in the Ring 
14. Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart
15. Charlotte Brontë - Jane Eyre
16. D.H. Lawrence - Sons and Lovers
17. James Joyce - Ulysses
18. Frank Herbert - Dune
19. John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of Dunces
20. Marshall McLuhan - Understanding Media

So, yes, a few doozies in there, but I'm guessing that by 2042 I'll have knocked them off of my list. In the meantime, I call on all authors to put a freeze on writing anything important so I'll have a chance to catch up.

How many of this 2nd list have you read?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reader's Diary #1625- Various writers, various artists: Spider-Man Maximum Carnage

In some ways Spider-Man Maximum Carnage reminded me of Sam Raimi's infamous Spider-Man 3. Just as that movie was killed by bloat, so was Maximum Carnage. But just as there were kernels of good stories in Spider-Man 3, there was potential here as well.

For those still unfamiliar with the necessary Spider-Man lore, in the late 80s the world was introduced to one of his now legendary archnemeses: Venom. An alien symbiote that originally bonded with Spider-Man, it later did so with one Eddie Brock. Proving to be a quite popular character, Marvel kept him around and somewhat in the vein of the Punisher, made him an anti-hero. Yes, he went after bad guys, but his brand of justice was cruel and most often outright murder.  A few years later, however, Venom spawned a new symbiote that attached to a serial killer to create the psychotic Carnage. He was no hero, nor anti-hero, but a straight up murderous villain.

Having three characters in one book then should be a great way to explore the lines of vigilantism; where does heroism begin and end? But while this is touched upon in Maximum Carnage, it is sadly underdeveloped. Likewise, attempts at a debate regarding ends justifying the means were woefully inadequate.

Instead, the writers seem to just constantly toss new characters in and and out of the battle between Spider-Man and Carnage, often with little rhyme or reason. Spider-Man allies himself with no less than Black Cat, Cloak and Dagger, Firestar, Morbius, Captain America, the Iron Fist, Deathlok, Nightwatch, and Venom, while Carnage partners up with Shriek, the Spider-Man Doppelganger, Carrion, and Demogoblin.

Now I say the problem is one of bloat, but that's not entirely accurate. I don't think it's impossible to do a good story with an abundance of characters (Captain America: Civil War was pretty great), but quantity needs to be matched by quality for it to work. Sure I liked hearing the names of unfamiliar characters (I hadn't been aware of Carrion, Nightwatch, or Firestar before), but I don't feel that I really got to know them at all. They simply added to the noise.

As for the art, it was the early 90s, so it wasn't spectacular, but not terrible. A couple of exceptions that crossed the line into crap: Black Cat's impossible falling-off suit and this panel:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1624- Mary Hallock Foote: A Cloud on the Mountain

Mary Hallock Foote's "A Cloud on the Mountain" is one of those stories that would make for great classroom discussions.

It involves a woman named Ruth Mary who's destiny seems largely out of her hands, due largely to the sexism of the times. Analyze this story from a feminist perspective. Her family, who doesn't seem to really understand her at all (or make any efforts to), has pretty much arranged a marriage for her. But Ruth Mary is rather preoccupied with a traveling stranger who, in the end, remains somewhat indifferent to her. Is this stranger the "cloud" on the mountain?

So, yes, I did enjoy the food for thought. I was, however, left with a few stray observations. The beginning is odd and lead me to believe that it would be a story of a missing, perhaps kidnapped, child. (It's nothing of the sort.) Speaking of odd, there's a bizarre character named Angy whose slight unexplained, idiosyncrasies are distracting to the story. Finally, the perspective seems to follow Ruth Mary but suddenly switches to the stranger. The change is jarring at the moment, but makes a little more sense in the end.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1623- Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld: Hawk and Dove Volume 1 First Strikes

I first picked up Hawk and Dove: Volume 1 First Strikes as they were a couple of DC Comics characters I hadn't heard of before. That's when I noticed Rob Liefeld's name on the cover.

Where had I heard that name before?

Checking back over the blog, I hadn't read anything by him, but I soon discovered the online vitriol directed at his art. Yep, I'd definitely come across this article before. And while I do feel somewhat bad for this self-taught artist, his critics aren't wrong.

This Hawk and Dove collection came out in 2012, a few years after the linked article above, and sadly there were few improvements (less of an aversion to drawing feet, at least). Perhaps it's knowing his reputation that's the problem. The art is undeniably bad, but worse when you're intentionally on the lookout for it though the perpetually glowering, lipless, sphincter faces would be hard to miss regardless. And that asinine costume of Hawk's with the weird appendages sprouting out and back from his chest? What the hell are they supposed to be? Move over Dagger, Vampirella, and Hawkman; we have a new contestant for the worst superhero costume award.

If the story was stronger, I suppose, it would be easier to look past, or at least forget the shitty art. (Not that one should ever separate them in a comic.) But while the story in Hawk and Dove isn't terrible, it's just lackluster. It's marginally interesting, I suppose, that despite complementing each others' powers (she's an avatar of peace, he's an avatar of war); they are not a romantic couple, barely even close friends. Still what they and their villains are suppose to be, and what motivates them, is pretty ill-defined beyond a convoluted bird motif.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reader's Diary #1622- Barbara Honigmann: Double Grave

Barbara Honigmann's "Double Grave," a story about a Jewish woman visiting a gravesite in Germany with a Jewish scholar.

It's a deft tale of the way horrific and traumatic events (such as the holocaust) tend to split a person's identity. Still, it does not advocate for choosing one identity over another but rather acknowledging them as new parts of a whole.

Obviously not a light-hearted story, it is at least a thinker.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1621- J. T. Krul (writer), Freddie Williams II (artist): Captain Atom Volume 1 Evolution

While reading Geoff John's Hawkman collection last week I was pleasantly surprised to see a cameo from Atom, DC Comics' answer to Marvel's Ant-Man. Wanting to read more about him, I picked up J.T. Krul's Captain Atom: Volume 1 Evolution.

Wow, I thought, Krul's version of this character is a pretty wild and different interpretation. When's he even going to get small?

So, here's your comics lesson for today kids: Captain Atom and Atom are not the same person. Yes, they're both DC, but the latter is more Ant-Man while the latter is more Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan. And here's the second lesson: Doctor Manhattan was based on Captain Atom, not the other way around.

Captain Atom is blue and had godlike powers. He can basically rearrange atoms to whatever he desires. He turns jet fighters into feathers, he cures cancer.

Unlike Doctor Manhattan, this version of Captain Atom is made more personable as he's new to the powers and still learning how to control them, as well as dealing with how this will drastically who he is as a person.

This particular collection is very much an origin story and so the stakes are necessarily high. Still, the story is just interesting enough to encourage a further commitment.

This all said, I wonder how DC Comics will deal with him now that the Watchmen characters are being added to their regular universe. If having Captain Atom and Atom characters isn't confusing enough, will readers now also need to deal with two pretty much identical characters?