Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Reader's Diary #2165 - Tatsuki Fujimoto: Chainsaw Man 1

When I compiled my year end lists last year, while I knew my reading was down overall, I was shocked to realize that I hadn't read ANY manga in 2020. I'm not a huge manga reader by any means, but with all the other types of graphic novels I read, there was no excuse for that. Thankfully, I'm already off to a better start with the first installment in Tatsuki Fujimoto's Chainsaw Man series.

The premise involves a world where devils regularly appear and terrorize people, giving rising to group of exterminators or "devil hunters." One such devil hunter is a real down-on-his-luck guy named Denji who happens to have a devil-dog sidekick with a chainsaw that extends from its face. One day, however, the devil-dog and Denji get intertwined, resulting in Denji taking on the ability to pull a cord from his chest and have chainsaw blades magically appear from his face and hands; a useful tool for a devil hunter.

Yeah, as I said, it's an over-the-top premise. I can find the fun in an over-the-top premise. There's a fine line between it and shock value and I prefer the former as it can be more creative than simply trying to offend someone. If I had any criticism of this first book, it's that it wasn't over-the-top enough! Once the premise is established, Fujimoto starts to build characters and while I can see they'll be interesting down the line, I wanted to see Denji turn in Chainsaw Man more often than he did. 

I think there's potential here, and the art is good (Fujimoto's jaggedy lines in action scenes are interesting), but as I'm terrible at finishing any manga series, it's unlikely this is the only one I'll wind up reading.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Reader's Diary #2164 - Kris Straub: Candle Cove

 Well, I learned a new term today. Probably familiar to a lot of you already, "creepypasta" refers to horror legends that have been shared across the internet. Kris Straub's creepypasta "Candle Cove" also falls under the banner of epistolary fiction as it's entirely made up of a chat on a message board. 

It revolves around an obscure children's show that the chatters are reminiscing about from the 70s. They're nostalgic at first, but as the chat progresses more and more details emerge about how messed up the show actually was, and then there's an even scarier reveal at the end. 

I truly loved this story. Straub captures the dialogue of chat boards and gen x'rs with such authenticity. And the descriptions are so vivid. It's not surprising that the story was adapted for tv.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Reader's Diary #2163 - Christian Staebler and Sonia Paolini (writers), Thibault Balahy (artist): Redbone

A lot of fans will judge a biography, at least in part, on whether or not they learned anything new. On this measure, I would count Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Band to be a success. That said, I truly didn't know a lot to start. I only listened to a single Redbone album for the first time about a year ago, and even now I can just recall two of their songs: "Come and Get Your Love" and "Witch Queen (of New Orleans)." (Both of which are excellent, by the way.) The fact that they were an indigenous band wasn't that new to me as they were highlighted in the excellent rockumentary Rumble but I knew little else.

In this book, I heard for the first time about their time playing on the Sunset Strip, their encounters with the Doors and Hendrix, and more about their indigenous identity than I'd known. The two songs above certainly don't hint at that aspect of their culture, but they certainly embraced it. One of their albums was called Potlatch and one of their songs was called "We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee," for just two examples. It's most likely no coincidence that their most successful work in the mainstream wasn't the stuff that a racist society would embrace but the writers don't delve into this to the extent that say Andrea Warner did in her recent biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie. Not that they hid it either but I felt it could have been expanded a little. 

That's but a small criticism though as it was otherwise quite well done, including the art which had a sort of scrapbook feel that fits a biography perfectly. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Reader's Diary #2162 - Ben Fountain: Rules of Special Measures

 Ben Fountain's short story "Rules of Special Measures" opens with a quote from the New York Times from an article warning of governments seizing power in the guise of emergency Covid measures. The newspaper article was published in March while the story it inspired in April 2020. Well, a lot has happened since then.

In the story it seems that an some undefined catastrophe has led to the government sending in men to remove items from peoples' homes. It's a provocative premise. What if it was "stuff" and not "freedom"? Maybe we'd care more then?

Of course, we've seen a lot of anti-masking movements since that time in which people are using that very same argument. "Wah, wah, our freedoms!" they cry because somehow that's easier than a piece of cloth in front of their nose while buying Pringles at Target. 

In any case, Fountain's story isn't poorly written, nor am I suggesting that we should never question government overreach. I'm merely suggesting that the time since this story was written has shown to me that it's not a simple right or wrong scenario.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Reader's Diary #2161 - James Thurber: The Curb in the Sky

 James Thurber's "The Curb in the Sky" tells of a man who winds up in an asylum due to his wife. A tragedy, I suppose, on the surface but the tone is more amusing than anything. The wife's biggest flaw seems to be cutting everyone off and finishing or correcting their sentences. Annoying, sure, and I suppose we're supposed to side with the husband, but to be honest I found him to be weak. I don't mean necessarily that he had to leave like so many other men had done prior, but never does it state that he tried communicating his frustrating to his wife. It's hard to blame her when she's never been told how her habit was so problematic. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Reader's Diary #2160 - Trung Le Nguyen: The Magic Fish

Trung Le Nguyen's The Magic Fish is a beautiful graphic novel for younger readers that tells of a mother and son who use fairy tails as a way to bond and communicate. Revolving mostly around the young boy Thien, there's a language barrier of sorts as his mother is a Vietnamese immigrant having difficulty with English plus Thien faces a personal struggle to come out to his parents. While their mutual love of fairy tales doesn't exactly erase all of these issues, their modifications to the classic tales help.

It's a story with a lot of heart and complexity, complete with beautiful art that reminded me somewhat of Little Nemo comics.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Reader's Diary #2159 - Tobias Haglund: Direct Democracy

 Tobias Haglund's "Direct Democracy" has a satirical tone and tackles themes of democracy including the ways it's manipulated to give the façade of democracy. 

But speaking of façades, I'm also hesitant to call it a short story as there's not much of one and instead it comes across more as a way to make political points using the guise of a story. Perhaps that's why it felt a little condescending at times, even if I agreed with many of the ideas presented.