Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Reader's Diary #2067- Motley Crue with Neil Strauss: The Dirt

There's a crap ton of rock books out there and I'm a sucker for all of them. Yet despite the Motley Crue autobiography The Dirt having the reputation as one of the wildest, I'd not read it. I suppose it may have been the recent Netflix adaptation that finally pushed me into doing so, but I've not seen that either-- but after reading the book, I'm not sure I want to.

Motley Crue reminds me of a close high school friend. We'd all claimed "our" bands; I was Metallica, Mike was Guns n' Roses, and Darryl was Motley Crue. It was most likely through Darryl that I grew an appreciation for Motley Crue, but I definitely never became a super fan. After The Dirt, I'm even less so.

Without a doubt, it's a book that kept drawing me in, though it quickly went from annoying to repulsive. There was all of Tommy Lee's adolescent bro talk, to delusions of grandeur (putting down other hair metal bands of the time despite that fact that they had just one great album in their entire run). Then we get to the rape, DUIs causing death, and spousal abuse.Truly awful stuff.

Even when they tried to show remorse for past actions, blaming a lot on drugs, it came across as insincere, still bragging about their wild exploits.

The most fascinating thing about it all is that they survived.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Reader's Diary #2066- Ian Couch: Asshole Island

With a title like "Asshole Island," you might assume this short story by Ian Couch has a Chuck Palahniuk/ Bret Easton Ellis sort of vibe. You'd be right.

It's about an uninhabited island of Vanuatu where people are sent as punishment for being "assholes." Not criminals necessarily, just jerks, and the narrator is one of them. It's amusing, though I suspect only tolerable in this very short form.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Reader's Diary #2065- David Stewart: Eau de Newfoundland

For a piece of flash fiction, there's almost a sensory overload in David Stewart's "Eau de Newfoundland" and this is a very good thing, indeed!

You get the smells (of the Atlantic-- which is one of the things us ex-pats miss the most), the visuals (majestic icebergs), and the sounds (I'll save this one as a surprise).

Plus, it's got charm and humour. It also features the word Newfie, which tends to rankle some feathers, but not me when it's used as it is here, without malice or connotations.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Reader's Diary #2064- Bridget Canning: Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain its Romance

Bridget Canning's "Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain its Romance" is actually part 2 of a series of flash fiction stories from Canning, but I think it largely works as a standalone.

I say largely because I did find it jarring when I first realized that the province is being personified. Not that there was anything wrong with that (Wayne Johnston also did it pretty effectively with Colony of Unrequited Dreams) I just wasn't expecting it and I wonder if Part 1 set it up better.

Still, it definitely captures it. The line "Those who've left you get served a lifetime of nagging desire, a leaky faucet of yearning they can't turn off" particularly resonated with me.

I'm also a sucker for stories written in the 2nd person.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Reader's Diary #2063- Seanan McGuire (writer), Rosi Kampe (artist): Spider-Gwen Ghost-Spider

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider is an off-shoot of Christo Gage's Spider-Geddon run. There's a scene in the latter in which Spider-Gwen is zapped away and trapped in another parallel universe and this tells her her time away.

In this reality, she encounters another version of herself who has succumbed to the dark side, become a villain in the vein of the Green Goblin (Gwen-Goblin). Spider-Gwen agrees to help Peter Parker and Mary Jane capture Gwen-Goblin and revert her back to hero-dom. In return, they agree to get back to the universe where she left to help all the other Spider-people defeat the Inheritors.

The Gwen-Goblin story line is okay. And I suppose there's something to be said about how we can can be pushed or pulled by life into good/bad directions, even a message about redemption-- but really that's been explored in the Spider-Verse stories before. I thought the collection worked best, however, once that Gwen-Goblin arc ended and Spider-Gwen returned. It maybe didn't work as well at that point as a standalone but as an extension of Spider-Geddon, it revisited some of the deaths that occurred and gave them more emotional heft than we'd been given previously.

The art wasn't my favourite. It reminded me somewhat of Howard Chaykin's work, of which I'm not a fan. His line work especially looked rushed. For the most part it wasn't that bad but some panels were real doozies.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Reader's Diary #2062- D. Boyd: Chicken Rising

When my wife first started coming home from university with and meeting my parents, she was taken aback somewhat by our tone with one another. We were loud, snippy, and some mornings if we were up before her, she'd awake thinking, to our surprise, that we were in an argument.

In D. Boyd's memoir about growing up in New Brunswick, she doesn't mention the volume of her parents voices, but they seemed loud. They also seemed, at times, a bit cruel. Usually finding fault, that sort of thing. I related to that as well.

But Boyd recalls it all with lots of humour, glimpses of insightfulness, and love. Her mother eventually develops more as a character and we see the softer side. Her dad, not so much, though nothing comes across as bitter even if it's clear that Boyd still doesn't agree with many of their parenting choices.

The art is great, simple but with just enough exaggeration and expressiveness to sell the emotions and humour and great use of details and shading to highlight her great talent.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Reader's Diary #2061- Jody Houser (writer), Stefano Martino (artist): Stranger Things the Other Side

Yes, like many others, I'm a fan of Netflix's The Stranger Things. Still working my way through the third season, but it's been great so far. The third episode may be one of the best they've ever done.

Wondering what we'll do when it eventually ends, I was pleased to see that Dark Horse comics picked up the comic book rights as the sci-fi/fantasy/80's homage series seems tailor made for comics.

And so far so good with Jody Houser and Stefano Martino's The Stranger Things: The Other Side graphic novel. This story revisits the first season of the show, but from a different angle; showing Will's adventure in the Upside Down. A couple of notes on that:

1. If you haven't seen the show, you likely have no idea what I meant by "the Upside Down" and likewise, I'm not sure that the book can standalone.

2. Houser totally nails the tone of the show. I am curious though about stories beyond the show and if they (Dark Horse, Jody Houser if she's still on board) ability to tell brand new stories. This one's plot doesn't break new ground.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Reader's Diary #2060- Gay Degani: Abbreviated Glossary

Gay Degani's "Abbreviated Glossary" is a flash fiction unlike no other. Well, maybe. I was reminded in a couple of ways of Hemingway's classic "Baby Shoes." Imagine that story as a blink in a series of life.

It's powerful and speaks volumes about life's rapid fires. It's told in chunks but they fuse together almost miraculously.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Reader's Diary #2059- Christos Gage (writer), various artists: Spider-Geddon

I do enjoy the Spider-Verse, the idea of many Spider-People, variations on a Spider-Man theme across multiverses coming together. I enjoy it actually a lot more than I thought I would, initially fearing it would result in a too-crowded world and losing sight of solo characters. The movie especially showed that such concerns could be overcome, but I also enjoyed the Spider-Verse comics collection from a few years back.

I didn't, however, find Spider-Geddon to be as successful. First off, it's really just a rehash of Spider-Verse. There are a couple of new fun characters (a favourite is Spiders-Man, a massive mound of live spiders in the shape of Spider-Man and collectively acting, er...somewhat, as the singular hero) but this time around it does feel too busy. It's hard to even care about the familiar ones when their masks never come off and they only get a line here or there let alone connect to the newbies. Even the villains, the vampire-esque Inheritors are lackluster this time around. Especially annoying was their tendency to dismiss the Spider-people as non-threats when clearly they were defeated before. Now instead of making them seem threatening, they just come across as stupid.

More appealing for me were the one-off stories in the Spider-Vault at the end, showing some of the new Spider variations in action in their own universes. These felt more creative and finally meant to do some character development.

(As a side note, has their ever been a Spider-Man variation who was LGBT or Q? How about one that wasn't able-bodied?)

Friday, July 05, 2019

Reader's Diary #2058- Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan: Surviving the City

Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan's Surviving the City isn't long at 54 pages; more of a comic than a graphic novel, but like a good short story manages to fit a lot of great ideas in.

It deals with two teenage indigenous girls in Winnipeg, best friends. But one of them runs away, leaving the other devastated and worried. The streets are full of dangers.

It touches on a lot of themes and topics including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, systemic/colonial racism and danger, friendship, and cultural customs. In that regard, there's no doubt that the book was intended to educate. But the story is strong and enthralling and the art is rich and engaging in terms of colours and symbolism.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Reader's Diary #2057- Various artists and writers: This Place

This Place: 150 Years Retold is a collection of comics by various indigenous artists and writers. The "150 Years" is primarily a response to the colonial Canada 150 celebrations and it's all sort of brilliant that "Canada" doesn't appear in the title.The retelling, it could easily be argued, is about filling in conveniently ignored gaps in Canada's history and setting the record straight on some misconceptions and outright lies.

Each comic is drawn by a different team and addresses pivotal moments in First Nations, Metis, and Inuit history from 150 years ago up to the present and even beyond. Accompanying each story is an intro by the writer and a time line.

Clearly there's an educational intent of the collection but thankfully it doesn't come across as one of those Stay in School/ Don't Smoke / Beware of STIs type comics often foisted upon young readers because "comics are cool". The art and writing is typically incredible.

As a collection of course, there are bound to be ones you're more drawn to than others (for me Richard Van Camp's writing stood out, as did GMB Chomichuk's art) and there was a huge variety in styles and approaches and moods. There's anger, there's hope, there's laughter, there are tears.

It's all around a very solid anthology of artistic talent from "this place" filled with crucial stories.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Reader's Diary #2056- Frank Tieri (writer), various artists: Jughead the Hunger, Volume One

Archie Comics' horror line continues its surprisingly good run with Jughead: The Hunger series written by Frank Tieri and drawn by Michael Walsh, Pat and Tim Kennedy, and Joe Eisma. For me the 2 best horror comics they've put out has been the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Afterlife with Archie, but this is pretty decent too.

It sees Jughead as a werewolf, and with the subtitle "The Hunger" I suppose he's the obvious choice, but he was the main zombie in Afterlife with Archie, so I'd like to see another character have a starring role. Though it was a nice touch to have Betty Cooper as an undercover werewolf hunter.

On that note, I think the book managed to balance the old-school horror vibe with more modern sensibilities (making Betty a kick-ass, Buffy-type character). It's also got a little of the typical cornball humour that is trademark for Archie Comic, but the creative team was also not afraid to go for the more mature gore.

The art is pretty good, especially with the dark colours and panels typically in monochromatic reds or oranges. Similar to Afterlife in that regard.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Reader's Diary #2055- Roselynn Akukuluk and Danny Christopher (writers); Astrid Arijanto (artist): Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik!

Roselynn Kulukjuk and Danny Christopher's Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik is a perfect graphic novel for early readers. Telling a story of the mythical sea monster that garbs children who wander too close to cracks in the sea ice, they strike just the right balance of fun and scares.

For Inuit children, I'm sure it's great to see their own culture represented while non-Inuit children would also benefit from learning about other cultures. (Some may have already had exposure to this particular creature through the Robert Munsch / Michael Kusugak collaboration A Promise is a Promise).

Astrid Arijanto's art works wonderfully with the story, capturing the prettiness of a Nunavut spring landscape with simple but friendly and highly expressive characters that reminded me somewhat of Fisher Price Little People.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Reader's Diary #2054- ​Téa Mutonji: The Doctor's Visit

If you've ever gone to a mental health professional, there's a good chance you'll recognize the resistance of Kate, the roommate of the narrator in Téa Mutonji's short story "The Doctor's Visit" who recounts her first visit to a psychiatrist.The first time the doctor says anything close to a cliche, Kate balks. Dismisses her as an uncaring quack.

What I found most interesting is that the verdict is really still out on this doctor but the point seems more about recognizing how difficult it is to take that first step for help. I imagine, as is the case with Kate, it's even more so when that there's trauma as an underlying cause.

Finally, I also enjoyed comparing Kate's friend to the doctor. Though the narrator has given Kate lots of advice prior to the visit (even what beverages she should drink), when Kate begins to tell her story, the narrator simply listens. It would seem, at least from this early stage, that the friend may play a key role in Kate's healing as well.

Mutonji has done a remarkable job capturing complex human emotions.