Monday, September 30, 2019

Reader's Diary #2088- Leona Brits: The Wind Blew

My wife and I always found it amusing that our daughter, even at a very young age, got introspective when near the ocean. Almost like she thought that was what you were supposed to do. But in all honesty, I also get it. Growing up near the ocean, times alone near it were often emotional experiences; a release, a silent argument, a plea.

So I also get Leona Brits' "The Wind Blew," a flash fiction story about a woman standing near the ocean on a windy day and feeling particularly defiant. The telling is perhaps more poetry than prose, but certainly still accessible.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Reader's Diary #2087- C.S. Pacat (writer), Johanna the Mad (artist): Fence Volume One

One volume down but I'm still on the fence about C.S. Pacat's Fence. Mostly though I'm leaning toward positive.

I liked that it was about fencing, a totally unfamiliar (and unexpected) sport, I liked that queer was the norm, I liked the heavily manga influenced art. I haven't, however, been won over by the characters yet and those, so far, seemed cliched. In this first volume we see a rivalry set up between Nicholas, a poor but ambitious fencing student and the arrogant Seiji, who's unfortunately and remarkably good at fencing. One saving grace here is the mystery as to why Seiji is found at Kings Row, a school without a great fencing reputation.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Reader's Diary #2086- Jim McCarthy and Brian Williamson: Metallica Nothing Else Matters

I liked music before Metallica's black album, but I didn't love it until then. At age 14 "Enter Sandman" became my gateway drug.

My love of comics, however, came much later and long after I'd moved on to other music. Still, coming across a comic book biography of Metallica? Not something I could pass up.

On that note, there wasn't a lot of history up to and including the black album that I hadn't read before. Maybe some I'd forgotten, but not a lot. Nonetheless, it was nice to revisit. Still it was nice to get a little insight into the behind-the-scenes stuff since then, though I was disappointed to see that the book was published in 2014 so there was nothing from the past 5 years. No mention of their Hardwired... To Self Destruct album. I'd also have liked something about their Antarctica concert or (and I admit it wasn't likely to make the cut) their concert in Tuktoyaktuk with Hole and Veruca Salt.

The story telling is good, with a documentary sort of vibe though it wasn't always clear who was saying what and there were at least a few typos that took away from my enjoyment. The art was good though, sometimes maybe looking like photos were traced, but black and white and put together in a scrap book sort of style that was very fitting.

Reader's Diary #2085- Lydia Davis: Everyone Cried

Lydia Davis's Everyone Cried depicts a world in which everyone cries whenever they are even a little upset, by the littlest of things.

She sets it up with an invitation, reminding us readers that to be upset is natural, normal, but once we've crossed over, decided that this is a story of which we can all relate, she takes it such an extreme. I quite enjoyed it and it made me think a lot about the way we discuss mental health. It's seen as healthy now to talk about, to share our emotions, and yet in Davis' world it seems so absurd and doesn't seem healthier at all to be honest. Is it?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Reader's Diary #2084- Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham The Complete Collection Vol. 1

I'm sure for a lot of folks, their first exposure to Spider-Ham was in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie. Of course, some die-hard fans have known of him since his introduction in the 80s. For myself, I remember seeing an ad for those comics back when I was a kid and desperately wanting to get my hands on them (I loved parodies) but not having a comic book store in my hometown, never did get one. So I was ecstatic to find a collection of those published this year.

No doubt I would have loved them as a kid, they are funny, have action, and the art is more in the line of classic funny cartoons rather than traditional superhero art. Reading it through 21st century, adult eyes, I can appreciate those things still, but am also aware of how casually minor racism, sexism, and even fat-shaming was thrown into pop culture.

I appreciated the comic more when it had those old-school slapstick gags of cartoons, sometimes bending the laws of physics or even the comic medium itself (stretching into another panel, for example) and when they played up the parody elements, especially seeing their takes on other Marvel superheroes (Captain Americat and Deerdevil, for example).

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reader's Diary #2083- Rachael Dunlop: Without Parallel

Rachael Dunlop's world in Without Parallel seems to be some sort of dystopia where people are born as twins, but one is selected to die shortly after their 19th birthday. The specifics, perhaps due to this being a flash fiction story, aren't exactly clear (is everyone born a twin? Was this a human created condition?) but it's still enjoyable nonetheless.

I particularly liked how in the head of one twin the story is. It leaves the impression that the other twin is not thinking such things, but a twist at the end reveals that's not necessarily the case.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Reader's Diary #2082- Russell Waterman: A Price Too High

Russell Waterman's short story "A Price Too High" takes the old urban legend about blues legend Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil and combines it with the "pass it on" trope of such horror movies as It Follows. It's clear that a love of music and of the supernatural could only add to your enjoyment of this story.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the setting. I've never lived in a place that could ever be described as humid and Waterman made me really feel it. It was also well tied into the stifling nature of the curse.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Reader's Diary #2081- Wendy Pini and Richard Pini: The Complete ElfQuest Volume One

I was recently participating in a local reading Bingo challenge where one of the squares required me having to get a recommendation from a staff member at the local book store, the Book Cellar. I was pleased at first to see that she'd recommended a graphic novel. I was then less pleased to discover that it was fantasy (not that I hate fantasy, but not particularly excited by it either) and it was 700 pages (I know comics are quicker reads than novels, but that's still a lot).

But I did enjoy it. The fantasy world building was quite good and I was especially impressed by Wendy Pini's art. I'm not surprised that she was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Her characters are ridiculously good, despite sometimes looking like Bratz dolls (a style that has rubbed me the wrong way before) with their big, bright eyes and oddly sexual bodies. Her line work was bold and defined, with hatching, cross-hatching, and thickly inked almost like wood-cuts.

The plots were fine, but there were annoying moments. The love triangle in the first volume went on for way too long. The fairy character in the last volume was the JarJar Binks of the series.

Still, I can definitely see why the staff member at the Book Cellar was such a fan.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Reader's Diary #2080- Stephanie Dickinson: Big-Headed Anna Watches Over

Stephanie Dickinson's short story "Big-Headed Anna Watches Over" opens on a scene where a 14 year old has just given birth. It's gut-wrenching and doesn't let up from there.

I'm reminded of the recent news story about the teenager girl who just got out of prison for killing her rapist. Though Dickinson's story is set in 1922, it's hard sometimes to think society has gotten any better.

This is a flash fiction piece, but in a short space, Dickinson has developed Angéle into a real character; something the males in Angéle's life never did.