Monday, August 31, 2020

Reader's Diary #2192- Joan Baril: The Snail House

 I don't typically read creative non-fiction pieces for Short Story Mondays, but I read this one before noticing and honestly it felt like a short story so I've decided to include Joan Baril's "The Snail House" anyway.

It involves a camping trip in Northern Ontario to visit a bizarre snail-shaped house where a hermit lived and mysteriously died years before. It's very descriptive, well-paced, and felt almost like a horror story, especially with the description of the abnormal number of mosquitoes (even for northern Ontario). Had it been an actual short story, I'd have liked the mosquitoes to have tied back into the death of the hermit, but otherwise, a very entertaining piece.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Reader's Diary #2191- Vivek J. Tiwary (writer), Andrew C. Robinson (artist): The Fifth Beatle

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story
is an excellent graphic biography of the famed Beatles manager written by Vivek J. Tiwary with art by Andrew C. Robinson and with Kyle Baker taking on their ill-fated trip to the Philipines.

While there have been many people nominated as the supposed 5th Beatle, Epstein was the only one that Paul McCartney suggested could really wear that title. No doubt he was instrumental in their success. But while I've heard much about the Fab Four, I can't say that I knew much about this man and indeed Tiwary makes the case that he was a fascinating fellow. 

Notably, he was gay at a time when the world was even more unaccepting of gay people than it is today. This would result in a lot of anguish for Epstein, threatening his career, mental health, and life itself. You can sense that success of the Beatles was one of the bright spots that he needed as much as they needed him.

The focus here is absolutely on Epstein, not the Beatles themselves, sometimes to a fault. While Tiwary acknowledges, for instance, the absence of Pete Best in the book it nonetheless jumped out at me, as it would with most people with just a bit of knowledge of Beatles history and honestly, could have been covered with a panel or two without distracting from Epstein's story more than the omission did. 

Another minor issue is the shoehorning of a matador analogy. Perhaps Epstein was obsessed with matadors, maybe even fancied himself as one, but the constant references here seem strange and poorly fitting.

However, the art is gorgeous. It has really strong caricatures reminiscent of Mort Drucker's work for MAD Magazine (I thought I noticed this going through and was pleased to note in an essay by Robinson at the end that Drucker was an influence) which are coloured stunningly. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Reader's Diary #2190- Gail Simone (writer), Adriana Melo (artist): Plastic Man

It was only recently that I read a comic with Plastic Man, DC Comic's equivalent to Marvel's Mr. Fantastic, and enjoyed him enough to look for a solo title. He's just as funny in Gail Simone's take on the character and quite likeable in a flawed way. 

The story though didn't do a lot for me. I enjoyed parts (his origin story, his unlikely role as a father figure to a transgendered kid) but there was a lot going on at times, too much. It involves Plastic Man investigating possible impostors in the Justice League but there's also the set up to a future story getting in the way involving a mafia boss who's trying to recreate Plastic Man's abilities in his girlfriend. 

Still, Plastic Man is one of the DC characters that I actually like. Then, he's essentially a Marvel character: he's funny, sometimes breaking the fourth wall, and not overpowered, or gritty like the majority of the DC crew. 

Adriana Melo's art is suitably fluid and cartoony to match the high pace and comedy. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Reader's Diary #2189- Nino Cipri: A Silly Love Story

It's quite an achievement to let a reader know right up front what they can expect, even how it will end, and yet still maintain the reader's interest. Nino Cipri's "A Silly Love Story" is quite like that; it's a silly love story and as is hinted at early on, it's got a bit of a threat of danger lurking just beyond the ending. And okay, it's not really silly, it's quite lovely.

It's about a young guy named Jeremy, a bit of a struggling artist, who's falling in love with Merion, a bi-gendered person. He also might have a poltergeist in his closet. 

The story itself reminded me somewhat of Merion. Sometimes it's a supernatural story, sometimes it's a love story, sometimes it's both or not really either, and yet it all fits together into a wonderful whole regardless of the label. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Reader's Diary #2188 - Charles Forman: I Am Not Okay With This

I can't say I'd heard of Charles Forsman's graphic novel I Am Not Okay With This until it was adapted into a Netflix tv show (which I've still not seen), but is was pretty good. 

It's about a teenage girl who has a lot on her plate. She feels like an outcast at school, has unrequited love an older girl who is clearly with the wrong guy, she clashes with her mother, and her father is out of the picture, the result of PTSD and suicide. On top of all that she has the ability to inflict pain upon others just by thinking about it. 

It's that latter bit that I suspected attracted Netflix to the book, as it has that whole superhero appeal, but for all that it feels more like a novel about a girl dealing with stress and reckoning with her capacity for evil. These themes don't necessarily need a supernatural expression, though I can't say it didn't make it interesting. It's also very bleak.

The art is also very much NOT superhero fare, resembling comics from the Sunday funnies more than anything (think Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, or Popeye). For all that, it works. Maybe it balances the heavy topics. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Reader's Diary #2187- Various writers and artists: Mephisto Speak of the Devil

Everyone seems to have their limits on how they'll suspend their beliefs for a story. For me, that often relates to religion. My least favourite horror genre is demonic possession and when it comes to comics, in a reality where there are actual god characters, I find it bizarre when characters like Daredevil or Ms. Marvel are staunch Catholics and Muslims respectively. So, it was with some hesitation I picked up this collection of Marvel comics featuring Mephisto. Still, he's a character I've barely encountered before and so I was curious enough to give it a spin.

To be fair, enough of his lore suggests that he's not supposed to be the Christian idea of Satan just that as his motives are similar, he's kind of just run with it. 

Like most collections, it was uneven in terms of storytelling and art but I'd say there were more misses than hits. I especially didn't enjoy the earlier ones in which he's quite a cheesy character who seems to be defeated when a soul is just too good. However, I came to appreciate his powers and ability to pretty much always get away.

However, if any story in the collection makes it worth it, it's the Roger Stern penned Triumph and Torment which featured the unexpected team-up of Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange facing off against Mephisto. This was surprisingly well written, with neat twists and turns and excellent art by Michael Mignola (Hellboy). 

Interestingly, the only story in here I'd encountered before was the one featuring Black Panther and though I didn't enjoy it the first time around, didn't mind it so much now. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Reader's Diary #2186 - Gila Green: Cutty Sark

Teenagers can be melodramatic at times but of course, this doesn't mean they don't have reason to be. In Gila Green's flash fiction, "Cutty Sark," we're introduced to Dabi, a girl in grade eight who's been forced into a job she hates: running their convenient store in the evenings. Is she just a little whiny or is she justified? She does tend to overestimate how great others have it, but then again...

It's a well-paced story with a strong voice. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Reader's Diary #2185 - Mike Dowd: Chasing the Dream

I'm a little uneasy with Mike Dowd's "Chasing the Dream," a short story about a younger, presumably white golfer, finding himself differential with his assigned caddy, an older, shorter black man nicknamed Major. He's seems aware of the racial divide, stating when he finds out that Major had once caddied for Kathy Whitworth, a champion white female golfer: "[…] at the moment it didn't occur to me to consider how unusual it must have been to have a minority caddy at the height of the civil rights movement."

And yet, the story falls into the exact same "magical negro" trope that The Legend of Beggar Vance had been criticized for back in 2000. I think it's intended to be a nice story about appreciating the wisdom of the older, more experienced person but just feels slightly off. 

Monday, August 03, 2020

Reader's Diary #2184 - Alicia Fox: A Fresh Start

It's not a complaint, a whine about double-standards or any such crap, but I did want to say that I find it amusing that a short story like Alicia Fox's "A Fresh Start" is published in Cosmopolitan as "erotic fiction" when it's basically a porno story like you'd read in Penthouse: Forum only from a female perspective.

It's all good, a pleasant romp in the hay tale involving two old friends who hook up after denying that they could be more than just friends for years. It's got a lot of great imagery (yes, even the non-sexual stuff) and the tone is light and engaging.