Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The 2017 Book Mine Set Short Story Online Anthology

Another 52 weeks, another 52 short stories found for free and online. The links below offer my thoughts on each story and embedded in each of those posts you'll find links to the stories themselves. Though I've ranked them from least to most favourite, few were the stories I didn't enjoy at all.  My number one pick might cause a few groans as people tend to turn on stuff that gets too popular as this one surely did. But a good story's a good story.

52. Sevim Ak "Moving to a New House"
51. Björnstjerne Björnson "The Father"
50. Bruce Handy "The Year in Internet Memes and Social-Media Obsessions"
49. Barry Rosen "A Visit to Tim Horton's"
48. Mary Hallock Foote "A Cloud on the Mountain"
47. Lucy Clifford "The New Mother"
46. Linda Ferguson "This Heady Thing Called Love"
45. Mohamed El-Bisatie "A Conversation from the Third Floor"
44. Mikhail P. Artzybashev "The Revolutionist"
43. D.C. Archibald "Down the Line"
42. Lin Jenkinson "Transformation"
41. Peter Jordan "Broody"
40. Robin Quackenbush "The Oak and the Willow"
39. Eileen Register "The Hurricane
38. Ed Lately "Remain"
37. Madeleine Thien "10^80 Pieces"
36. Astrid Lindgren "Pomperipossa in Monismania"
35. Nicole Mullen "Read This If Your Child Was Eaten By a Pelican"
34. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman "A Stolen Christmas"
33. Karen Ovér "Lazlo and Laroux"
32. Mary Wilkins Freeman "Luella Miller"
31. Destiny West "The Forgotten"
30. Jaume Cabré "Pandora"
29. Frank Westcott "Oh, Oh Henry"
28. Jan Kaneen "Breaking Windows"
27. Devon Balwit "Down the Road"
26. Robert E. Howard "Pigeons from Hell"
25. April White "Luck and the Long Dark"
24. Doug Patrick "The Playground with Dad"
23. Tamar Merin "What You Looking At?"
22. Terri-Lynn Quewezance "Wapihti"
21. Diego Vecchio "The Tobacco Man"
20. Ted Chiang "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling"
19. Mezbauddin Mahtab "A Little Early Story"
18. Barbara Honigmann "Double Grave"
17. Tiana Reid "Stories From Saint-Martin"
16. Anna Paquier "A Potted Cactus"
15. Lauren Schenkman "The Removal"
14. Erin MacNair "Thin Crust"
13. Laolu Poe Alani "Adéláìdé"
12. Erskine Caldwell "Kneel to the Rising Sun"
11. Austin Bunn "The End of the Age is Upon Us" 
The TOP 10!
10. Donald Hubbard "Meat Shop"
9. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie "The Arrangements"
8. Kate Reuther "A Man Walks Into a Bar"
7. Heikki Hietala "Lord Stanton's Horse"
6. Gina Balibrera "Álvaro"
5. Sarah Selecky "The Cat"
4. Aruna Harjani "The Tour Guide"
3. Mensje van Keulen "Sand"
2. Chika Unigwe "The Smell of Home"
1. Kristen Roupenian "Cat Person"

Monday, December 25, 2017

Reader's Diary #1694- Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: A Stolen Christmas

There's a classic sort of vibe to Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's "A Stolen Christmas": the sentimental, moralistic, inner-turmoil kind of tale often attributed to folks like Charles Dickens or O. Henry. But there's a certain charm in that, like an old tacky Christmas ornament that finds its way onto your tree every year.

The moral in this particular tale is about materialism and envy; apparently as relevant to Christmas in the 1800s as it is today. In this case, a poor mother finally succumbs to the pressure and steals, which she soon comes to regret. She's not an entirely unsympathetic character, however. And of course, being the cliched kind of story it is, there's also a bit of a twist at the end.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reader's Diary #1693- Emma Jacobs (editor): Vinyl Me, Please

Vinyl Me, Please, subtitled 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection would make a great gift for the record collectors in your life. I started collecting vinyl a couple of years ago and have quite enjoyed the hobby. I'm not a big audiophile in the sense that I hear much of a difference between vinyl and say an mp3 (though I can on some!) and my love comes more from the product itself, but that's neither here nor there.

I keep a running list of must-haves that I've been whittling away at and the book only managed to add 3 new additional which doesn't sound like a good track record but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading about the albums recommended here and indeed, I owned some of them already (granted only 6 which also isn't a good ratio) and still others had already been included to my list.

With 24 music writers representing a great variety of musical tastes, it's a bit of an eclectic though rock runs largest. Therefore, genres like punk, metal, jazz, and hip hop are a little more scant. Country fares even worse. However, it still provides some good starting points.

A nice feature, though not employed often enough, is cocktail recipes to accompany some albums. I sadly didn't get to try any yet as mostly required liqueurs absent from my embarrassing excuse for a liquor cabinet.

A few negatives besides too few cocktail ideas: not enough background info on albums (the year it was first released, the track listings) and occasionally they seemed to intentionally veer from the obvious choice just for that reason even when the obvious was clearly more deserving (e.g., Sign O' The Times over Purple Rain or Amnesiac over OK Computer), but these issues are minor.

The contributors' love for these records shone through and even if I wasn't often able to drop a needle and listen along, I felt like I did vicariously.

Friday, December 22, 2017

My Year in Review 2017 - Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

My year in comics, manga, and graphic novels was a productive one in terms of both quantity (105, or just a little more than 2 per week on average) and quality. On the surface the list probably looks like a mixed bag, but if you consider that I consider myself a student of comics, it might make a bit more sense. I explored (slightly) lesser known superheroes, I caught up on some major superhero crossover events, comics featuring non-white/non-cisgendered/non-male characters, I ventured into webcomics (ones that went to print anyway), and I went way back for some really early comics. I also tried to stay current on titles that critics and fans were talking about. And of course, Canadian comics. With that in mind, ranked from my least favourite to favourite, are all the comics, manga, and graphic novels I read in 2017:

105. The New Ghostbusters (Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening)
104. Xena Warrior Princess: All Roads (Genevieve Valentine, Ariel Medel, and Julius Gopez)
103. Overwatch Anthology: Volume 1 (Various) 
102. The Yellow Kid Comic Strips 1895 - 1898 (Robert F. Outcault)
101. Red Sonja: Wrath of the Gods 1-5 (Luke Lieberman and Walter Geovani)
100. X-Men Gambit: The Complete Collection Volume 1 (Tom DeFalco and Fabian Nicieza)
99. Hawk and Dove Volume One: First Strikes (Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld) 
98. Man-Thing: Those Who Know Fear (R. L. Stine and German Peralta)
97. All-Star Western Volume 1: Guns and Gotham (Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Moritat)
96. Elektra: The Complete Collection (Peter Milligan, Larry Hama, and Mike Deodato Jr.) 
95. Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider 1 Back in the Hood (Peter David)
94. The Unstoppable Wasp Volume 1: Unstoppable (Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier)
93. Luke Cage: Avenger (Various)
92. Little Lulu: A Handy Kid (John Stanley and Irving Tripp) 
91. Deathstroke Volume 1: The Professional (Christopher Priest)
90. Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage (Various)
89. Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1 (James Tynion IV, Freddie E. Williams)
88. French Milk (Lucy Knisley)
87. Josie and the Pussycats: Volume 1 (Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio, and Audrey Mok)
86. Conan: The Blood Stained Crown and Other Stories (Kurt Busiek)
85. The Creeps (Fran Krause)
84. Reggie and Me (Tom DeFalco and Sandy Jarrell)
83. XO Manowar Soldier Volume 1 (Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello) 
82. Sinfest: Viva La Resistance (Tatsuya Ishida)
81. The Shield: Daughter of the Revolution (Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig) 
80. Nova Volume 1: Origin (Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness) 
79. The Customer is Always Wrong (Mimi Pond) 
78. Cyanide and Happiness (Kris, Rob, Matt, and Dave)
77. Booster Gold Volume 1: 52 Pick-Up (Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz)
76. Namor The First Mutant Volume 1: Curse of the Mutants (Stuart Moore and Ariel Olivetti)
75. Hercules: Still Going Strong (Dan Abnett and Luke Ross) 
74. Captain Atom Volume 1: Evolution (J. T. Krul and Freddie Williams II)
73. The Man-Thing: The Complete Collection Volume 1 (Steve Gerber)
72. The Unbelieveable Gwenpool Volume 1: Believe It (Chris Hastings and Danilo Beyruth)
71. The Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (Chris Claremont and John Byrne)
70. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson and Troy Little) 
69. Eyes of the Husky (Doug Urquhart)
68. The Totally Awesome Hulk Volume 1: Cho Time (Greg Pak, Frank Cho, and Mike Choi)
67. A.D. After Death (Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire)
66. Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light (Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom, and Chris Claremont)
65. The Infinity War (Jim Starlin)
64. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (Nagata Kabi) 
63. A Girl Called Echo: Volume 1 (Katherena Vermette and Scott B. Henderson)
62. Ajin Demi-Human 1 (Tsuina Miura and Gamon Sakurai)
61. Fantastic Four: Ultimate Collection (Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo)
60. Heavy Metal (Jacques de Pierpont and Hervé Bourhis)
59. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe (Ryan North and Erica Henderson)
58. Attack on Titan Colossal Edition (Hajime Isayama)
57. Japan Ai (Aimee Major Steinberger)
56. Venom: The Complete Collection Volume 1 (Rick Remender) 
55. Justice League Dark Volume 3: The Death of Magic (Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, and Mikel Janin)
54. Rebirth (Geoff Johns)
53. Nightwing Volume 1: Better Than Batman (Tim Seeley and Javier Fernandez) 
52. The Worrier's Guide to Life (Gemma Correll)
51. Battlepug 1 (Mike Norton)
50. Hawkman Book One (Geoff Johns and Rags Morales) 
49. Nick Cave: Have Mercy on Me (Reinhard Kleist)
48. The Smurfs Anthology (Peyo)
47. Cyborg Volume 1: The Imitation of Life (John Semper Jr. and Paul Pelletier)
46. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline (Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams)
45. My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Emil Harris)
44. Shazam Volume 1 (Geoff Johns and Gary Frank)
43. Batman / The Flash: The Button (Joshua Williamson, Tom King, Howard Porter)
41. Warlock: The Complete Collection (Jim Starlin) 
41. Our Cancer Year (Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack)
40. Oglaf (Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper)
39. Zatanna (Paul Dini) 
38. Alpha Flight: The Complete Series (Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Dale Eaglesham)
37. Silver Surfer Requiem (J. Michael Straczynski and Esad Ribic)
36. Hip Hop Family Tree 4 1984-1985 (Ed Piskor)
35. Nunavik (Michel Hellman)
34. Invincible Ironman Ironheart Volume 1: Riri WIlliams (Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli) 
33. The Infinity Gauntlet (Jim Starlin, George Perez, and Ron Lim)
32. X-23: The Complete Series (Various) 
31. Scooby Apocalypse: Volume 1 (Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis)
30. Vampirella: Hollywood Horror (Kate Leth and Eman Casallos) 
29. The Flintstones Volume 1 (Mark Russell and Steve Pugh)
28. Old Man Logan Volume 1: Berzerker (Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino)
27. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers (Various)
26. The Arab of the Future (Riad Sattouf) 
25. Escape from Syria (Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche, and Mike Freiheit)
24. The 9/11 Report (Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón)
23. Snotgirl Volume 1: Green Hair Don't Care (Bryan Lee O'Malley and Leslie Hung)
22. Terms and Conditions (R. Sikoryak)
21. Plastic (Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard)
20. Uncle Scrooge "Only a Poor Old Man" (Carl Barks) 
19. Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick (Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky)
18. Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One (Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben)
17. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection (Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird) 
16. The Comic Book Story of Beer (Jonathan Hennessey, Mike Smith, and Aaron McConnell)
15. Secret Path (Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire)
14. Will I See? (Iskwé, Erin Leslie, David Alexander Robertson, GMB Chomichuk)
13. My Friend Dahmer (Derf Backderf)
12. Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness (Reinhard Kleist)
11. Vinland Saga: Book One (Makoto Yukimura)

THE TOP 10!!!
10. Tetris (Box Brown)
9. Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread (Nathan Edmonson and Phil Noto) 
8. Adulthood is a Myth (Sarah Anderson)
7. My Brother's Husband (Gengoroh Tagame) 
6. Secret Empire (Nick Spencer)
5. Descender Volume One: Tin Stars (Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen)
4. Paper Girls 1 (Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang) 
3. Black Hammer: Secret Origins (Jeff Lemire and Deam Ormston)
2. Bitch Planet 1: Extraordinary Machine (Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro) 
1. Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Reader's Diary #1692- Doug Wagner (writer), Daniel Hillyard (artist): Plastic

Imagine Dexter but with schizophrenia and then ramp up the dark comedy and you'd have an idea of what Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard's Plastic is like.

The plot revolves around a retired serial killer named Edwyn; retired as he has fallen in love with Virginia, a sex doll, who has subdued his violent appetites. This twisted serenity does not last however as Virginia is kidnapped and Edwyn is forced into becoming a hit man in order to get her back. Other characters include a dead mother, a dead police officer, and a runaway sexual assault victim who may or may not still be in a state of shock.

It's violent, and over the-top-violent, but even then the story comes first in one scene, for instance, a murder is "off-screen" as it works best in that case for readers to imagine what they will.

If you are not put off by dark comedy, Plastic is inventive and wildly entertaining. The art too is great, reminiscent of old horror comics like Tales from the Crypt and coloured in wonderful mood settings by Laura Martin.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reader's Diary #1691- Tatsuya Ishida: Sinfest Viva La Resistance

Tatsuya Ishida's Sinfest: Viva la Resistance was ultimately a disappointment. His cartooning is top notch, with a cast a well-defined, cutely drawn characters (think Jeff Smith's Bone series mixed with Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes). Unfortunately, the writing came no where close.

Supposed to be funny, it all came across as mildly amusing at best, sexist and juvenile at worst. The two most common themes are gender and religion and while both are worthy topics, don't expect anything in the way of profound insight. A heavy reliance on stereotypes and surface level analysis are about it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reader's Diary #1690- Katherena Vermette (writer), Scott B. Henderson (artist): A Girl Called Echo Vol. 1

It was difficult not to compare Katherena Vermette's A Girl Called Echo, Volume 1 of the Pemmican Wars series to David Alexander Robertson's graphic novels also published by Highwater Press and also illustrated by Scott B. Henderson. (There are even references to some of these collaborations in the book.)

While I enjoyed Robertson's books, I wasn't always a fan of the frame stories. Often they felt unnecessary. Interestingly, I almost found the opposite problem with Vermette's A Girl Called Echo: the frame story was more compelling than the other.

Echo is a teenage Métis girl who lives in some sort of home for youth, and visits her mother on occasion, who also lives in some sort of facility. At school Echo has at least one friend and seems unaware that she is being judged and mocked by some of her classmates. Largely she lives inside her own head, listening to (some pretty awesome) early 90s rock music on her iPod. She daydreams periodically about finding herself in another time, during the Pemmican Wars (early 1800s). At least, one is left to assume it is daydreaming; perhaps later it will be revealed that it is some sort of time-traveling magic. 

As you may have guessed by the description above, it's a very character-driven book and at only 44 pages, that means there is less room for a major story to develop. It's a small complaint, but I think this would be better as a full-length graphic novel rather than a series of short comics. Nonetheless, I am sure many will find Echo endearing enough to tune in again.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Reader's Diary #1689- Kristen Roupenian: Cat Person

Normally once December rolls around, my Short Story Monday posts are all Christmas related, but as Kristen Roupenian's "Cat Person" was trending on Twitter recently, I broke down and followed the crowd. I mean, how often does a short story get read and discussed these days?

For all the discussion, however, I avoided as best I could what people were saying so as to form my own opinions first.

It is a great story. On the surface it seems like a pretty easy, straightforward story but there were so many different things rattling around in my brain after. It's got a lot of details, which may be mere set-pieces, but they do make the situation feel authentic and dare I say it, even something many could relate to.

It's told from the perspective of a 20 year old who gets involved with a 34 year old and much of it is in the narrator's head. This, perhaps unfortunately, is the truth for many in the dating world. They see it as a bit of a game and rather than communicate with one another, they form opinions and fantasies and negotiate without ever consulting the other. Man, I don't miss those days.

I think it's worst these days because texting and social networking could lead people to believe that they are communicating when they're not, sometimes putting an even faker version forward than we did way back when. Man, I wouldn't want to be dating now.

Then there's a whole theme of, for lack of a better word, owing. What do we owe our dating partners? And isn't it scary that many feel that sex is owed before honesty?

Of course that leads to other issues, especially in male/female relationships and the balance of power. Without giving too much away, while the story is somewhat uncomfortable the whole way through, it takes an especially unpleasant turn right at the end.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1688- Fran Krause: The Creeps

Fran Krause's The Creeps is the Boaty McBoatface of comics.

Apparently readers submitted their fears to his website and he illustrated them. Sounds more promising than the results which were, quite frankly boring. Not scary, not funny.

The packaging didn't help. The publishers never took the time to really explain the process at all. In the back couple of pages Krause thanks those that shared their stories with him and gives credit to them by first name (though most are chalked up to "anonymous"). The fact that this was based on a webcomic and fears were submitted online isn't mentioned directly, not explained, just assuming I suppose that anyone bothering the read the book would know. Likewise, there's nothing stating that this was the 2nd volume of such books. How hard would it have been to include a proper introduction? Something other than than the short comic that merely, and incorrectly states the book will creep you out.

And the comics are just randomly assigned. Some fears are physical, realistic fears, some are existential, some are just bizarre and perhaps organizing them by such (or other) topics would have guided the reading a little, but it's like no one could bothered. Even Krause's style, which is pleasant and quirky enough, doesn't really add anything to the text. I found myself reading the fears and moving on, forgetting to even bother looking at the images.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1687- Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche, and Mike Freiheit: Escape from Syria

I don't know where one would have to live in the world right now not to have heard about the troubles in Syria and the plight of the millions of displaced Syrians. Canada too has done a share of welcoming refugees.

Still, unless you've encountered the Syrian immigrants, it's hard sometimes to put a face on the tragedy. It's news. Something that happens to other people.

Samya Kullab's Escape from Syria helps personalize the crisis, following one specific family. It is probably best aimed at mature juveniles, teens, and adults, as she doesn't shy away from the violent images when they are necessary. There's an explosion on the very second page. There are heads on spikes later.

It follows a family first as they escape to Lebanon and try to gain some semblance of normalcy. The country is over-burdened however and their efforts begin to look in vain. They are a resistant sort however and eventually they get sponsored to come to Canada. They are worried that the culture shock will be too much and that they will not be accepted.

Kullab offers a very balanced picture, perhaps owing to her journalism background, and any sentimentality comes across as genuine, unforced.

The art is deceivingly simple. I was first reminded of old Sunday school comics. However, artistic touches help elevate the tale. I especially like the use of repetition to hit home points. In one scene for example, Amina the teenage daughter is studying. Her position on the floor with a book in front doesn't change while her family enters and leaves in the background across several panels. In one, they have placed a blanket over her as the night has grown cold.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Reader's Diary #1686- Allie Brosh: Hyperbole and a Half

Thanks to Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half, a few nights back my wife gave up on trying to sleep beside me and instead videoed my laughing fit. I'm talking tears down my cheeks, stomach muscles clamping up, the works. Eventually she stopped recording and told me I wasn't allowed to read it anymore that night. I put it down and attempted reading Canterbury Tales instead but then I'd recall a detail from a story in Hyperbole and a Half and the giggles would come on again. It was ridiculous.

I honestly did not expect to like this book that much. I've seen the character around before; the crudely drawn character supposed to represent Allie Brosh herself. I'd never been clear on what it's supposed to be: a worm? a penis? And that yellow-triangle on her head? A hat? Her hair?

But my god does she squeeze emotion out of that thing. That, along with the sarcastic, self-deprecating, slightly dark humour and I was won completely over.

On top of that, Brosh offered a few genuinely touching stories about depression that captured what it feels like like nothing else I've ever read.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1685- Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig (writers), various artists: The Shield Daughter of the Revolution

Archie Comics, still on a high, have wisely decided to revisit the superhero line (published under their Dark Circle label). Also wise is their decision to modernize and take the opportunity to get things right.

The Shield was one of the cheesier properties with its over-the-top patriotism. That's not a huge hurdle to clear as Marvel has managed to keep Captain America relevant and as popular as ever. But he was also yet another straight, white male character. With this relaunch they at least change one of those. This time the Shield is female. She's still white. Her sexuality didn't come up.

Revamping a character also requires an origin story and while I've never been one to mind a good origin tale, I know some folks are tired of them and I think even they would be pleased with how it's handled here. Rather than told in a straightforward manner, a modern day Shield finds herself having bizarre flashbacks to the American Revolution. She knows this is impossible (or believes so anyway) and so her origin story is revealed slowly as she pieces clues together and starts reclaiming more and more memories.

Even the patriotic angle is well done as it is unclear at some points who's side she is on and whether or not flag-waving for the American government makes her a hero.

Despite wrestling with her identity, she is presented as both physically and mentally strong and dressed in a cool uniform that is appropriate for fighting.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Reader's Diary #1684- Richard F. Outcault: The Yellow Kid Comic Strips 1895 - 1898

Many students of comic books have heard of Richard F. Outcault's Yellow Kid comic strips, but I'd venture to guess that a relative few have actually read them.

Outcault is often credited with the first comic strip, though that is debatable. Less debatable is his simple innovation that would change comics forever: the speech balloon.

I'm not sure that in itself warrants reading the comics, but the art isn't bad. Mostly depicting children from a fictional slum and home to a large immigrant population, the line work is somewhat reminiscent of John Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland illustrations. Many aren't true comic strips but rather cartoons (single panels and therefor non-sequential), but even these are filled with activity and detail. I would not be surprised to hear that they held influence on Norman Rockwell or Will Eisner as I can similarities in both.

The writing is, however, not great. I suppose some of it is lost through time. No doubt some of the satirical targets have been forgotten. But attempts at humour are not great. It's mostly people spouting misspelled phrases (trying to capture accents and grammar, I suppose) and some poorly done slapstick.

It's also racist but perhaps not in the way you'd think. While "yellow" is sometimes used by racists to refer to Asians but in this case it only refers to the colour of the kid's gown. Black people, however, are really treated poorly; as caricatures, as lower-class. The N-word is used, as is the word "coon."

UP History and Hobby who published this collection was careful to note these offensive depictions but offering the book as is nonetheless as a historical artifact. That said, they could have taken more time with the production. It's really just coloured photocopies of the originals and so, some of the text is too blurry and should have been restored. One page is photocopied twice.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Reader's Diary #1683- Jacques de Pierpont (writer), Hervé Bourhis (artist): Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal was my first music love. So, when I found this "Little Book of Knowledge" on the subject, I had high hopes that Jacques de Pierpont and Hervé Bourhis would do for the genre what Ed Piskor did for Hip Hop. I also hadn't been really attentive to heavy metal for sometime now and so I was hoping that it would help me get caught up.

First off, it's not as readable as Piskor's books which tend to treat hip hop legends almost as story characters. Heavy Metal is more like a chronologically arranged book of heavy metal trivia. As luck would have it, I'm also a fan of trivia so this wasn't a huge problem.

Secondly, a large portion of the book dealt with the history of the music and so I didn't necessarily brush up on as many new artists as I'd hoped. Still, it was nice to revisit some facts and figures that I'd forgotten and I did get a few new names and songs to add to my playlists. I also never really paid much attention to anything heavier than thrash and de Pierpont more than adequately delved into death, black, and doom metal.

Bourhis's illustrations were good; stylistic, heavy on the black ink (appropriate), though without much of a narrative, it's hard to say how he'd deal with sequential art.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1682- Anna Paquier: A Potted Cactus

Anna Paquier's "A Potted Cactus" is labeled on the Short Edition website as humorous, and indeed it's that. There's a quirky sensibility that is helped by the quick pace of the tale.

It is, however, still about a young man who has been hit by a truck and near death. There are themes about the afterlife and it could provoke readers to consider what they would do with their own lives if given a second chance.

Plus, it's set at Christmas, so an all around good read!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reader's Diary #1681- Gemma Correll: The Worrier's Guide to Life

Gemma Correll's The Worrier's Guide to Life reminded me somewhat of the type of humour my best friend/ cousin and I had as children: to be funny, you just need to escalate the punchlines to the point of ridiculousness. Of course, being young boys we had a lot of diarrhea jokes thrown in for good measure and Correll's comedy is decidedly much more mature than that, but the idea is the same. Take a milk moustache and then explore other dairy-based facial hair: yogurt unibrow, pat o' butter soul patch, etc.

So yes, it's funny and I'm sure most will find it amusing, but it's also a bit formulaic (list heavy). I'm not sure that it wouldn't grow tiresome in a longer or second book but that's for Correll to worry about.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Reader's Diary #1680- Kris, Rob, Matt and Dave: Cyanide and Happiness

Cyanide and Happiness is the kind of comic I think of when I think of webcomics. Simple, not particularly well-done art and quick punchlines. None of that is necessarily a criticism; as Scott McCloud explained in Understanding Comics, sometimes it's the simplest of cartoons that resonate the most.

The description in the introduction declares that there'd be a really good chance, especially if under 15 and over 50, that readers would be offended. A fan of dark humour, I welcomed it but many pages in, I wondered when it would ever become offensive. Then there was a comic strip in which a woman declares she's pregnant. The man in the strip kicks her in the stomach and says, "problem solved."

Yeah, there's dark humour and there's distasteful. The next strip was undoubtedly written to balance it out. In this one, a man says that he wants kids, a woman kicks him in the groin and again says, "problem solved." No, that's not even close to equivalent.

However, it's clear that the punchline in a good many of these is shock. I don't necessarily believe these guys condone the behaviours, but when shock is the entire joke, it's lazy. I would have loved it at 15.

I did like some strips at 40 though. More than just shock, I mostly appreciated the ones with puns and off-the-wall humour. My favourite in the book featured a son talking to his father. He asks how squids have sex and the father responds, "the same way I have sex." [pause] "With squids."

Finally, I enjoyed reading a little about how the comics came together. Apparently the four creators hadn't even met each other until four years after writing the comics together online. And, as each writer signed their own strips, I tried determining if I appreciated one creator over another, but it was remarkable how similar they all were.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1679- Nick Spencer (writer), various artists: Secret Empire (collected)

When Marvel announced that their Secret Empire story line would see Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, revealed to have been a sleeper Hydra agent, it was met with a fair bit of controversy. (Okay, mostly Twitter controversy, so not really.) It seems that for many long time fans, Hydra was synonymous with Nazis and this was akin to sacrilege. Creators and publishers involved quickly came to the defense urging fans to be patient and watch the story unfold.

More of a fan of the collected volumes and trade paperbacks anyway, plus never having been a huge Captain America fan outside of the movies, I was content to wait it out and weigh in after the fact.

I quite enjoyed it. In fact, as Marvel events go, this was one of my favourites. Never have I seen such a large cast of characters handled so well. Yes, I noticed the absence of a few (Spider Woman, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, etc) and yes, some had little more than a single line or appearance in a single panel, but by and large it was very well balanced. Much more so that any of Jim Starlin's major event storylines back in the day and everyone seemed to love those.

The story revolves around a bunch of cosmic cube fragments that have the ability to alter reality. The biggest change, which is revealed from the get-go, is that the star character Captain America has secretly been a villainous Hydra agent all along. He proceeds to encapsulate many New York superheroes within the city, bar the superheroes in space from entering Earth, and compete against the remaining superheroes to gather up the rest of the fragments. Once he gets those he plans to alter even more history and on an even grander scale: in this new reality Hydra will have always been in power.

It's not perfect. The use of various reality-altering gems, cubes, and other paraphernalia is so overdone by Marvel at this point that those aspects come across as a little lazy.

Still, it's entertaining and provocative but in a good way. With Trump having usurped and bastardized the American dream, the themes in Secret Empire are timely and thoughtful.

As for all the controversy, it wasn't the real Steve Rogers anyway and that was made clear right from the beginning. Furthermore, if anyone suggests that it glamourizes Nazis or even the fictional Hydra, they clearly haven't read a page of it.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1678- Sarah Anderson: Adulthood is a Myth

Continuing with my self-guided education of webcomics, Sarah Andersen's Adulthood is a Myth began life which began online as Sarah's Scribbles saw me laughing out loud late one night all by myself. Why is it that doing so instantly makes you feel pathetic? Like there's a shame in laughing?

In any case, Andersen's brand of introspective, self-deprecating, observational humour is right up my alley. Sure many of her cartoons are about being a millennial and menstruation, neither of which I can relate to, I definitely saw myself in the rest of these: the imposter syndrome! the social anxiety! the insecurities! Sounds like a downer, doesn't it? But no, it's all done in a friendly laughter-as-therapy sort of way, a solace-in-the-fact-that-others-feel-the-same approach.

Even the cartoons that would otherwise be just mildly amusing are elevated to hilarious in the simple but expressive cartooning. Andersen accomplishes so much just with eyes alone: altering the size of pupils, a few stress lines here or there, and so on, all to comedic and satirical effect.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1677- Nick Sibbeston: You Will Wear a White Shirt

I somewhat ashamedly admit to not having hear of, or at least not having paid attention to, Nick Sibbeston until 2015 when he published his autobiography You Will Wear a White Shirt: From the Northern Bush to the Halls of Power. This despite my having lived in the north for 13 years at that point.

Better late than ever, I've finally acquainted myself with the remarkable life of Mr. Sibbeston, former premier of the NWT, former Canadian senator, and residential school survivor.

An autobiography isn't always trustworthy of course (nor is a biography, for that matter), but he gained my trust somewhat by largely remaining humble and admitting to his flaws. That said, he still comes across as a determined man and someone who sticks to his convictions. I don't know that I'd have had the perseverance to keep failing English courses and redoing it over and over until I succeeded; to face depression, additions, and infidelity with lifelong faith and counseling; to overcome the abuse and neglect suffered at residential school.

Not to suggest that I agree with every action and opinion, but I did wind up quite admiring him. I particularly respected his dedication to preserving Dene culture.

It helps that his tone is conversational and filled with astute observations. That said, those outside the north may be somewhat bored with the more politics-heavy second half. Northerners will likely still find it a least a little interesting how many of the issues in Sibbeston's early career are still relevant today. I also found the East vs. West stories fascinating. I moved to the north a couple of years after Nunavut was officially formed so to hear of the challenges of the NWT when it still encompassed that larger area and unique Inuit culture was very revealing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Reader's Diary #1676- Various writers and artists: Overwatch Anthology Volume 1

I learned a valuable lesson with the first volume of Overwatch Anthology: don't base a reading choice solely upon a book's standing in an Amazon bestsellers list.

Had I researched this a little more and discovered that it's based of a popular online first-person video game, I would have been far more reluctant to pick it up. I am gathering, in hindsight, that the book is only selling well to (the admittedly many) fans of the game.

Apparently the books and animated films are Blizzard Entertainment's attempts to create a media juggernaut. I suppose it worked for Pokemon, so why not. With little character development or backstory in the game, these other mediums are meant to enhance. Unfortunately the comics don't really stand up on their own. Rather than balance the action, which fans of the games would reasonably expect, against plot and character development, the focus seemed to me to be too much on the former. The result was a mess of nonsensical stories and characters I couldn't have cared less about. If it was meant to inspire me to check out the game or the films, it failed miserably.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Reader's Diary #1675- Frank Westcott: Oh, Oh Henry

Frank Westcott's "Oh, Oh Henry" is response of sorts to O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi". While initially having one of the characters mock the sentimentality, it later embraces it though it refocuses on gestures rather than gifts, tries to peel the commercialism away from the original.

Of course, it invites a comparison to the classic and while I acknowledge that O. Henry's is a bit over-the-top by today's tastes which tend to value subtlety, that story has been such a part of Christmas tradition that I've never minded it. Nor do I share the character's take away that it's all about physical, unaffordable gifts. Still I appreciate Westcott's use of the story as a conversation starter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reader's Diary #1674- Lael Morgan: Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush

Lael Morgan's Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush is a remarkable account of the prostitutes of Alaska and Yukon in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most applaudable is the amount of material she was able to uncover and collect on a subject and people not often discussed and from a time and place so remote. But almost equally impressive is the dynamic storytelling. I'm always in awe of historians who make nonfiction as compelling as fiction and Good Time Girls reads almost like a novel.

Of course, it probably helps that the characters in question aren't boring-ass politicians or bank tellers. However, despite these girls' trade, it's not a salacious book. She doesn't shy away from what they actually did for a living, but I can recall only sexual description in the whole book that even comes close to graphic. Likewise, for violence. She presents the women non-judgmentally and allows their rich and diverse personalities to shine through.

I was particularly fascinated with the women of Dawson City. While it's a sad reality that many are, and were, forced into prostitution, a lot of those in the trade there were adventure-seeking entrepreneurs who eschewed the mores of the day. Some, heaven-forbid, even enjoyed sex! They were not unlike their male counterparts, most of whom left the comforts of San Francisco behind to find thrills and riches in the north.

Almost as compelling were the johns. Many wound up falling in love with these women and often didn't even care when they continued to sleep with other men for money.

None of this is to suggest that Morgan presents an overly rosy picture. There were many hardships and heartbreaks and disease, abuse, suicides, prejudice, and poverty are all recorded.

Together it's a fascinating look at the women who were crucial to the culture and development of many northern towns.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reader's Diary #1673- Kelley Armstrong: Bitten

For the longest time, it seemed Canada had no genre fiction. It was all, for better or worse, CanLit. I'm sure there were always Canadian writers trying their pens at horror, romance, sci-fi and the like, but Kelley Armstrong was among the first to finally make it popular and profitable.

Despite that, and despite having met her a few years back, I'd not read anything of hers beyond a short story. Might as well start with the novel that kicked off her prolific career: Bitten, the werewolf romance/urban fantasy/horror book and first in her Women of the Otherworld series.

While I enjoyed it overall, it did feel rather like a first novel. Curiously, I was able to suspend my belief for werewolves but not for her rather faulty representation of a small town. Set by and large in Bear Valley, which at one point she mentions as having only 8000 inhabitants, it ebbs and flows between small town and major city. No small town I've ever lived in (and I've lived in many) would have had the rave described here and if an enormous "dog" wound up killing people at said rave, I can assure you that it would be front page news for a very long time.

Still, I liked the voice of the protagonist Elena. Though not always a trustworthy narrator (to be fair, she was struggling with inner conflict), she had a consistently conversational style. And while the plot itself seemed to struggle to find its footing, I admit enjoying not always knowing where the story was headed.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1672- Karen Ovér: Lazlo and Laroux

This is a pre-scheduled post to appear while I am on vacation in Curacao. 

A few week's back our premier made headlines by calling out the Prime Minister on the off-shore drilling ban in the Arctic. It's a complicated issue for sure and I'm sympathetic to both sides. On the one hand, people still need fossil fuels and people still need jobs. On the other, the environment is a mess and perhaps it will take bans and other extreme measures to push technological solutions.

Karen Ovér's "Lazlo and Laroux" is set in a post-apocalyptic world where fossil fuels have nearly been used up. The remaining have been taken by a select few who have walled themselves off from the rest of the world. And there are dragons.

It's an odd element to be sure, but keeps the story engaging. I'd have to read a few more times, however, before deciding that they serve a purpose beyond getting the story published on a sci-fi site.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Reader's Diary #1671 - Mensje van Keulen: Sand

(This is a pre-scheduled post to appeared while I am vacationing in Curacao.)

I absolutely loved the way Mensje van Keulen's "Sand" unfolded. It begins as a bit of a character study of a married couple having a disagreement. The husband throws out what should be a frivolous comment but the wife attacks it. Initially she comes across as shrill and unreasonable, but then as details emerge, the wife is granted more complexity allowing readers the opportunity to be more empathetic.

And then the story takes a 90 degree turn and goes off in a wholly unexpected area. I won't give too much of a trigger warning except to say that where it goes is very disturbing.

That said, I loved the writing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1670- Aimee Major Steinberger: Japan Ai

I'm not typically a fan of travel comics. I love the idea of someone recording their daily observations this way but publishing them seems a little self-indulgent to me. That said, Japan was a favourite vacation of mine and so I was definitely open to Aimee Major Steinberger's Japan Ai.

Subtitled "A Tall Girl's Adventure in Japan," I wasn't expecting a lot of common observations, but height and gender themes weren't strong. Even when they were I found common ground. Her experiences being dressed as a geisha, for instance, reminded me of when my daughter did the same.

More common were the observations that most North American's would likely make there and I found myself smiling in agreement and nostalgia as she talked about the Japanese style toilets, the vending machines selling cans of hot coffee, and the Tokyo Tower mascot that... doesn't look like a tower (if you catch my drift).

For those westerners who have been lucky enough to have been there, I am sure you'll be like me and enjoy Steinberger's recollections. For those who haven't yet, it will provide a very accurate depiction of what to expect.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1699- Mike Norton: Battlepug 1

Continuing on my exploration of comics that first breathed life on the web, it's Battlepug by Mike Norton.

Battlepug is a wacky fantasy series with a giant pug who's a companion to a Conan-esque barbarian character. It also features giant terrorizing baby seals and a slave master Santa Claus. It's really a perfect blend of humor and action with awesome art (caricature style and beautifully rendered colours).

One small bone of contention is the gratuitous nudity. It's not that it's over-the-top (just a butt is shown) but the frame story comes off as a tad sexist. Could a beautiful woman be lying on her bed naked while telling a story to her dogs? Sure, I guess. Still, seems like a cheap way to appeal to the hormones of adolescent straight males.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reader's Diary #1698- Reinhard Kleist: Nick Cave Mercy On Me

Earlier this year I read and quite enjoyed Reinhard Kleist's Johnny Cash graphic biography I See A Darkness. I won't lie and pretend that I liked his treatment of Nick Cave Mercy on Me to the same degree, but largely that's simply because I was less familiar with Nick Cave's music before going in.

You could enjoy this book without any prior knowledge of Cave or his songs, simply as a portrait of a driven (sometimes obsessive) artist who, more than anything, shuns normalcy. However, as proven when Kleist worked in the few songs I did know (Mercy Seat, Where the Wild Roses Go), it helps one's enjoyment. Reinhard likes to intertwine fact and fiction, often incorporating song lyrics as elements of the singer's life, and so to really make sense of it and appreciate his point, familiarity can only work in the reader's favour. All that aside, as a music junky, whenever there were references to songs I didn't know, I immediately downloaded them and even if just for that, I'd be glad to have read this book.

Once again, Reinhard's style (inky, black, and scratchy) fits his subject. I'm curious though how he'd do with a biography of say Aqua or Barry Manilow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1697- Doug Bayne (writer) and Trudy Cooper (artist): Oglaf Book One

I'm forever trying to study comics and graphic novels and one area I've not explored much is webcomics. I've happened upon some print versions of comics that first appeared online (by folks such as Kate Beaton, Ryan North, and The Oatmeal), but didn't seek them out specifically for their origins.

So, this time I went looking for recommendations. I still cheated somewhat and stuck with ones that were later preserved on paper, but nonetheless I managed to come up with a list. I've begun my reading with Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper's Oglaf which came up most frequently on must-read lists, but most compelling always with a disclaimer that it is not safe for work.

And whoo-boy is it not. I would venture to say that 90% of the strips in this collection have punchlines about genitalia and/or sex. And the visuals leave NOTHING up to the imagination. Is it pornographic? I'd say it depends on your definition, but as the primary purpose of these comics seem to be humour I'd say not.

And it's dang funny. It helps that Trudy Cooper's characters give just the right expressions to acknowledge the absurdity of it all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Reader's Diary #1696- Diego Vecchio: The Tobacco Man

Bizarrely, Argentinian writer Diego Vecchio's short story "The Tobacco Man" is set in Alberta. But that's not the most bizarre thing.

The premise of the frame story is the recounting of the events that led to a successful lawsuit against a tobacco company by a writer for causing irreparable damage to his artistic career. Then there are a series of stories within this story that somewhat use the "butterfly effect" scenario and time travel.

I'm not entirely sure that the end result is more than a sum of its parts, but the parts themselves are fascinating enough.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1695- Scott Snyder (writer) and Jeff Lemire (artist): A.D. After Death

Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire's A.D. After Death is the second comic I've read this year dealing with immortality. Being a fan of both of these creators though, I was expecting to enjoy this one more.

In the end, I respected the ambition of the book more than the execution. The themes of immortality and memory are certainly lofty enough and the approach was very creative (illustrated prose pages are mixed with comics, images are a mix of realistic and abstract), but it all comes across as a bit of a fever dream. The story needed to be reined in and fleshed out more before attempting philosophical musings that ultimately distracted from the tale rather than blossom from it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1694- Peter David: Ben Reilly The Scarlet Spider / Back in the Hood

It seems that most of the positive reviews of the new Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider series were from fans of the character since the 90s when he first appeared as a Spider-Man clone.

Not having read those earlier books, I cannot say the character does anything for me now. I believe he appeared in Spider-Verse a couple of years back but he's so forgettable that I don't recall. Now with a whole trade focused on him, I cannot see what there is to like. He seems more of a Deadpool to tell you the truth. Snarky comments, more anti-hero than hero, scarred face, Spider-Man infatuation— the only thing missing is the 4th wall breaking. Even the villains seem like knock-offs. Slate has unbreakable skin? Umm, isn't that Luke Cage's thing? 

A plot about a dying sick girl is underdeveloped and if the point was to give the book some emotional gravitas, it sadly fails. 

I can think of at least a dozen other characters I'd like to see get their own comic run before Ben Reilly. Tigra please! Or Echo! But, if we're going back for a Spider-Verse character, I'll take Spider-Punk!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1693- Robin Quackenbush: The Oak and the Willow

The first three quarters of Robin Quackenbush's "The Oak and the Willow" reminded me very much of the Indigenous folk tales, parables, and origin stories that I've read. It is not until the end and mention of a prince that that effect was lost, but the story of a pair of sentient trees remained charming.

As for messages one could take away, I'll have to spend some time thinking on that, perhaps re-reading the story. Though the fact that these are two different species of trees was not lost on me.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Reader's Diary #1692- Mary Walsh: Crying for the Moon

Ah Mary Walsh. I've been a fan of hers for such a long time. Of course, that was primarily for her comedic TV work, so the jury was still out on whether or not she could write.

I will say that her old TV characters influenced my reading of the book. Maureen, the protagonist, reminded somewhat of one of the "Friday Night Girls" from CODCO. Her mother reminded me a whole lot of Ma Reardon from "This Hour has 22 Minutes". There was even a character that reminded me Tommy Sexton's "Spook" character from CODCO. That all said, it's as if everyone had been given a gritty reboot as Crying for the Moon could not be classified as comedy. Nor would I say, it was a distraction or necessity to know of those TV characters. This is all pretty much an aside.

I'm not familiar with much of the perspective being explored by Walsh in this novel. Though I grew up in Newfoundland, it wasn't in the city and it wasn't in the late 60s. I also have no idea (thankfully) of what it's like to be an alcoholic or an abused woman. I will say that Walsh, to her real credit, makes it all seem authentic. Whether an insider would agree or not remains to be seen, but the story and characters in Crying for the Moon seem plausible and wholly developed.  Given Walsh's known love of literature, this should have come as no surprise.

The plot itself loosely revolves around a murder mystery but while that story is engaging, it pales in comparison to the frustrating but endearing Maureen. I found myself begging for her to gain some confidence, not to make that decision, to get her life on track. To be that attached to a character is the mark of great writing.

There's a resolution of sorts at the end, but it definitely leaves itself open for a sequel. I'd love to read more!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Reader's Diary #1691- Tom DeFalco (writer), Sandy Jarrell (artist): Reggie and Me

Reggie's always held a bit of weird spot in Archie comics, certainly more of a main player than say Midge or Dilton, but more like a 5th wheel to the big four. So getting his own title does make some sense.

Then, he's also a bit of a minor villain and even Veronica, who sometimes plays that role, has typically shared her title outings with the more affable Betty. So, to take the edge off, Reggie gets paired with his loyal dog Vader who also serves as the narrator.

The Reggie and Me collection is certainly entertaining, mildly funny with a none-too-serious plot and drawn well by Sandy Jarrell. I don't think, however, they really succeeded in making him likeable. That doesn't always, and shouldn't always, matter, but towards the end I sort of suspected that was the goal. He cries over his dog and I think that's supposed to be enough to make him a sympathetic character. But there's still a lot of rot underneath and to be honest, while he doesn't doing anything too outrageous in this book, it's hard not to think of such a person in real life and in real life, I'd think he'd be a bit of a psychopath.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Reader's Diary #1690- Jim Starlin (writer), Various artists: The Infinity War

Despite the title, I'm told that next year's Avengers movie of the same name will be based more heavily on the Infinity Gauntlet than this story line. Nonetheless, I'd be lying if I said that the upcoming film didn't inspire me to pick this one up.

The problem with this collection are likely to be an issue with the film: with an abundance of characters, it's hard to give everyone something to do. Starlin has clearly picked his favourites and Adam Warlock, Magus, Thanos, and Gamora get more "screen-time" than the rest. Granted, even as large as the cast of the movie will be, due to property rights they'll still have far less to worry about the book.

The Infinity War is a classic evil-power-grab story but has a strong space-opera component. In this regard, the film might do best to rely heavily on their Guardians of the Galaxy characters. And, if they're trying to give homage to the visuals of The Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity Wars books, perhaps best to rely on the special effects of Doctor Strange.

Despite the battle for control of the universe, it's mostly fluff fun with little in the way of philosophical ideas (though there is posturing). Perhaps those looking for such concepts would do better to turn to the more recent Secret Wars story line.

In all, a fun, wild ride but nothing earth-shattering.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Reader's Diary #1689- Mary Wilkins Freeman: Luella Miller

Mary Wilkins Freeman's "Luella Miller" is a unique tale of horror as it deals with illness as the only real symptom of a supernatural occurrence, though witchcraft is hinted at.

It tells of a woman who seems to have control over others, claiming to be too unhealthy to fend for herself yet outliving all of those who come in contact with her.

Published in 1902, it has the superstitious air of such stories that sought explanations for happenings that science as of then could not explain. This is not a criticism on my part as I prefer stories that could have rational explanations but nonetheless plant seeds of doubt.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Reader's Diary #1688- Joshua Williamson and Tom King (writers), Jason Fabok and Howard Porter (artists): Batman / The Flash The Button

I'm perhaps an easier sell for Batman / The Flash: The Button. No, I'm not a die-hard DC guy and in fact, consider myself more of a Marvel guy, but this comic uses two legacy series as its base and fans of those respective properties were understandably guarded against having such legacies tarnished.

The legacies in question are Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen and Geoff Johns' Flashpoint. (I realize that the latter doesn't have near the reputation as the first, but still.) However, as someone who thinks Watchmen is overrated and Flashpoint was just good, I didn't have reservations going in.

And I quite enjoyed this. The Flash and Batman are doing some real detective work, there's a wildly interesting mystery that even has larger religious themes, there's emotional heft with Batman meeting his father, and it was all pretty entertaining. I almost didn't even mind the ridiculousness of the "cosmic treadmill."

The art, too, is stellar and one panel in particular blew me away in how it captured the Flash's speed:

It reminds me of those warped panoramic photos that people share online of when people move or a cat walks through the scene.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Reader's Diary #1687- Matt Kindt (writer), Tomas Giorello (artist): XO Manowar Soldier Volume 01

Matt Kindt's XO Manowar Soldier: Volume 01 was a reading choice based almost entirely on glowing reviews. I wasn't particularly thrilled with Kindt's other critically acclaimed series Mind Mgmt but thought I'd give him another chance.

Again, unfortunately, I'm unsure why there's so much hype. I'll admit that some of this may be my issue. I'm sort of done with hyper-aggressive white males as heroes and this feels pretty much like Conan the Barbarian in Space. The set-up itself is also a tired trope: just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in. I will grant that some of the world building is impressive, but that's about it. Even the concept of the super-advanced XO armour is underwhelming, barely even being used in the entire trade paperback.

The art is decent, again with the creative world-building flourishes, touching on great in the 3rd story thanks to an assist from David Mack.