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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Reader's Diary #1866- Lorina Mapa: Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me

Lorina Mapa, a long time Canadian citizen who immigrated here from the Philippines years ago, has just been called back for the unexpected death of her father.

As we all know, and as such is the often the case during these emotional shocks, it leads to a flood of memories, depression, and introspection.

Recounting her life in the Philippines, Mapa begins by sharing a succinct history of president Ferdinand Marco's corruption and ultimate downfall in the 70s and early 80s. (For what it's worth, Imelda's depiction doesn't seem like a far stretch to find similarities between her and Ivanka or Melania.) She also presents a fascinating look at class, gender, and religion in the Philippines.

Largely though, this is socio-political background and it never fails to amaze me when writers from countries which have gone through such upheaval nevertheless capture the contrasting mundanities of everyday life, the stuff that's familiar to even a white guy from outport Newfoundland. In this case, it's largely her preoccupation with 80s pop music. (Eventually this will help pull her through her troubled emotional state.)

Mapa's art is pretty simple and I wasn't surprised to see a reference to Tintin in the background of one panel, but this makes, I think, a reader such as myself better able to empathize. Mostly in black in white, the use of yellow for one particular sequence is purposeful and more engaging.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Reader's Diary #1865- Jillian Tamaki: Boundless

I was a big fan of Jillian Tamaki's art when she collaborated with her cousin Mariko Tamaki on both Skim and This One Summer, so I was very curious to know how I'd take to her work when she was solely responsible for both art and writing.

At first I wasn't sure and was even surprised that I wasn't even enjoying the art aspect. The first few stories felt rushed and experimental. However, I started to get into them and in the end I'd say I'm still a fan.

Essentially these were short stories, many of which have a weird twist (a woman keeps shrinking away into nothing, teens are getting "high" from a sound-file downloaded from the internet) and there's equal doses of subtle wit and ennui.

The art is varied enough so that in addition to complementing the varied plots, also kept things visually interesting.

And sure, I didn't enjoy the first couple or so stories, but like with any short story collection, we pick and choose our favourites.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reader's Diary #1864- Kalman Andrasofszky (writer), Leonard Kirk (artist): Captain Canuck Aleph

I really want to like Captain Canuck but cannot get behind the character at all. I found the original by Richard Comely to be really really cheesy and poorly done, even compared to other superhero comics of the time which were themselves cheesy.

Still, I've seen loads of those other creations salvaged by newer writers and artists, so I held out hope that Kalman Andrasofsky and Leonard Kirk could revamp Comely's old work into something finally cool.

Alas, it's all just marginally better. It's less cheesy (though the villain is a bit of an unbelievable moustache twirler) and the Canadian settings are cool, but the story is convoluted and disjointed. Plus, Andrasofkszky focuses too much on peripheral characters for a reboot such as this and I thought the Captain himself got lost in mix.

Leonard Kirk's artwork is definitely 1000x better than Comely's but even then it's standard superhero fare, nothing overly inventive or exciting.

I think I'm giving up on this guy.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Reader's Diary #1863- Sinead Moriarty: Lost and Found

Sinead Moriarty's "Lost and Found" is an all too common tale of a deadbeat father and the emotional stress that puts on the mother.

The story zips along, not so much domestic imagery as one might expect, but more dialogue and insight into the mother's doubts and anger. Still, there's a hint of a humorous tone that (without trying to give too much away) gives way to some righteous wish fulfillment at the end.

Totally engaging.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Reader's Diary #1862- Thornton Wilder: Our Town

Though Thornton Wilder's Our Town seems on the surface like a rather simple, rather uneventful little play, I suspect there's more going on.

I was quite taken with the idea of the stage manager as narrator and with the almost complete lack of props. In this regard it's like Wilder didn't want us to ever forget it was just a play. On the other hand, it's "our" town, not "your" or "their" town and he also seems to suggest that this could be anywhere, reclaiming some of the realism after all.

And that push and pull, I think, comes together in the end when a deceased character, despite warnings, tries living a day over again realizing that she cannot.

I found myself wondering: which is the facade, our memories or our day to day lives?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Reader's Diary #1861- Joshua Corin (writer), Todd Nauck (artist): Deadpool Too Soon?

I'm not always a fan of Deadpool. What some view as freeing (that he can be R rated or higher) I think has actually worked against the character at times (mostly because sometimes the edgy humour feels forced, but to a lesser extent, sometimes he's just hard to root for).

In Deadpool Too Soon? though I feel that Joshua Corin struck the right balance. The story involves Deadpool inviting those Marvel characters he considers friends (incidentally, the more humorous ones: Forbush Man, Squirrel Girl, Groot, Rocket, Ant-Man, Spider-Ham, Howard the Duck and... er, the Punisher) over to his house to pose for a Christmas card (see, likeable!). Unfortunately, one by one the characters keep getting mysteriously murdered, decapitated to be precise. Deadpool sets out to solve the case, hoping to rescue whomever remains. And, while there's obviously dark humour, it doesn't get in the way of what is a surprisingly engaging murder mystery.

As an added bonus, Corin creates the unholy Squirrel Girl / Deadpool union: Squirrel Pool. Having the two of them together in the first place is always good for a chuckle (the two brands of comedy -- one being squeaky clean, the other... not so much) so the hybrid just ups the ante in a weird, should-be-more-unsettling-than-it was way.

Todd Nauck does an admirable job capturing the likenesses of each character in their more well-known appearances but blending them just enough so that the book feels like they belong together.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Reader's Diary #1860- Gail Simone (writer), Aaron Lopresti (artist): Wonder Woman / Conan

I've never seemed to have gotten a good sense of Wonder Woman, at least in comparison to some of the other DC Comics superheroes (Superman's the over-powered goody two shoes, Batman's the under-powered grumpy one), but I felt that I knew enough that I didn't think a Wonder Woman / Conan the Barbarian crossover would be a poor fit. He's usually presented as a violent, sometimes misogynistic meathead, while Wonder Woman is usually a balanced, intelligent, icon of feminism.

But the crossover was in great, capable hands with Gail Simone. It seems more like a Conan story in many regards (it's mostly set in his universe and Wonder Woman's memory has been mysteriously wiped so we have no idea for the longest time how she's gotten there). However, Conan is thankfully given a bit more emotional depth than usual as it's revealed that he had his heartbroken as a young boy and he's convinced that Wonder Woman is his long lost love finally returned. This angle is interesting in its own right but Simone has also developed a couple of awesome villains, the shape-shifting crow sisters, the Corvidae.

The art is decent with typical realistic looking comic book fare and the settings and colourings again mostly fit the Conan side of the story; slightly gritty and beige, looking like a Biblical / middle-Eastern fantasy sequence.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Reader's Diary #1859- Kate Harty: A Canadian Summer

Whenever we leave the country and chat with the locals, they most often follow the revelation that we're from Canada with the question, "Toronto?" When roughly a sixth of the population lives in the GTA, I suppose it's not a totally asinine question. And considering that the vast majority of Canadians live in urban centers, within spitting distance of the U.S., no less, I have to acknowledge that me and my family aren't exactly representative Canadians anyway, myself having lived my entire life on Canada's peripheries.

So when I see a story like Kate Harty's "A Canadian Summer" about an Irish family vacationing in the Canadian wilderness, it makes me a little happy that many realize that it's the nature and space here that makes the place special.

Harty's story is rife with adjectives like a high school writing assignment, but as it's predominately a setting piece, imagery without much plot, it's fitting. Plus, it's a high school writing assignment.

"A Canadian Summer" is a peaceful, introspective and Zen story.