Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book List 2012: Part 4

* = reread
[GN] = Graphic Novel
[CB] = Children's Book

42. [GN]


Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: John Cassaday

A group of super powered agents investigate paranormal situations.

I've heard things about this series for a long time and I finally got around to checking it out. I went in with pretty high expectations and they definitely weren't met. I honestly just don't understand what it is about this series that people love so much. I'd be interested in finding some fans and talking to them about it.

The agents are billed as archaeologistsArchaeologists of the Impossible in fact which intrigued me to no end when I heard first about the series, but it turns out that they really aren't. There's no digging, no extensive specialized knowledge about ancient civilizations, and little to no investigation of artifacts. If anything they are essentially just elite government agents called in to investigate paranormal every other paranormal detective story out there. However, unlike most other series, these detectives are super powered! (which only serves to make them all the less interesting). So it's mostly a superhero comic with hints of a detective series.

So yeah. I just don't get it. But maybe it's just not meant for me, because some people seem to just adore it.

This is an exemplary turn-of-the-century mainstream comic book. During a period when many comics seem to have lapsed into an exhausted mire or else go blundering on ahead without the merest shred of a coherent plan, the work in Planetary has a glow and freshness that is all its own, a signature eruption of the neurons into novel, interesting patterns at the turn of each new page. It is at once concerned with everything that comics were and everything that comics could be, all condensed into a perfect jewelled and fractal snowflake. Read on and enjoy the remarkable comic book product of a remarkable comic book moment. And think Planetary.

-Alan Moore from the forward

43. [GN]

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Ultimate Collection

Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

A team of b-list heroes realize that their agency is actually working for the baddies. Upon hearing this they they steal a vehicle and set out to foil their former boss's plans.

Planetary might not have been up my alley, but this series definitely was.

Technically 1/2 of this one is a reread. I own the first collection and have read it multiple times. But only recently did it occur to me that I've never read the conclusion of the story. So I picked up a copy of the series' complete run (or the ultimate collection as they like to call it) from the library.

While I get a kick out of this series I should mention that it's possible others wouldn't. A lot of the humor is coming from jokes about superhero comics. There are jokes about the team, which is made up of all these small time names that have been floating around the marvel universe. And there are jokes about the superhero genre in general, from the origin stories to the beat-em-up nature. But the comic is still very kooky and fun in general, thus I think anyone might be able to appreciate the absurdest humor of it all, but it does take on a whole new level of hilarity when you're a little familiar with the genre.


Mommy was a slut-lizard that did the bad thing with suggestively-shaped piles of nuclear waste, and nine months later --


Has been burning with the need to mate since 1956!


Has absolutely no genitals whatsoever!


Oh, you cannot imagine how annoyed he is.


“Oh my God, It's wearing underpants."


St. Lucy's Home for Girls Who Were Raised By Wolves

by. Karen Russell

A collection of short stories set in partially fantastical worlds.

[I've got a lot of books to get to, and since I already wrote a review for this on on Goodreads, I'm just gonna post that instead of writing a whole new one.]

The collection is full of stories that are each set in a world that exists on the border between fantasy and our own. The set-ups are all highly inventive and interesting, and yet my big problem is with the conclusions. Personally I felt that not a single one of the stories had a satisfying conclusion. Instead of creating stories that started strong and meaningfully led to an interesting conclusion, they all ended on rather odd notes. It seemed as if the author ran out of steam towards the middle of each story and just created an ending then and there to be done with it. Despite their faults, I felt that two of the stories made reading the book worth it. "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" was a wonderfully imaginative story of the life of wolf girls being taught how to be human. It's obvious why it was chosen as the title story. And then "Haunting Olivia", the story of two brothers searching the sea in the shell of a crab for their lost sister, was darkly fascinating. Almost a ghost story of a sorts. Except it's haunted by sadness instead of fear. These two stories are what I'll end up taking away from this collection, but I can already that I'll end up forgetting all the rest.

At first, our pack was all hair and snarl and floor-thumping joy. We forgot the barked cautions of our mothers and fathers, all the promises we'd made to be civilized and lady-like, couth and kempt. We tore through the austere rooms, overturning dresser drawers, pawing through the neat piles of the Stage 3 girls' starched underwear, smashing lightbulbs with our bare fists. Things felt less foreign in the dark. The dim bedroom was windowless and odorless. We remedied this by spraying exuberant yellow streams all over the bunks. We jumped from bunk to bunk, spraying. We nosed each other midair, our bodies buckling in kinetic laughter. The nuns watched us from the corner of the bedroom, their tiny faces pinched with displeasure.

-pg 225



by. Terry Pratchett

Commander Vimes is taking a vacation in the country with his family; the idea wasn't his. However, a cop's always a cop (even when he isn't), and Vimes can't help but notice that something isn't right in this bucolic countryside. The entitled nobles are hiding something and there's nothing he likes less than people who think they're above the law.

Oh, what can you say about Discworld books? They are the best. Especially the ones about Vimes. Like any book in a series I'm not capable of judging it against all books, but can only judge it against the other books in the series. It wasn't as epic and well done as Night Watch, The Fifth Elephant, and Thud!, but I'd say it was better than the other guards books. One should be aware that I am not slamming it, and in fact I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but it is competing not only in the category of one of my absolute favorite series, but also in my favorite subcategory there in: the Vimes stories. The competition is fierce and my standards high.

But like I said it's a lot of fun. It's full of that Pratchett charm and wit. And once again Pratchett manages to effectively use fantasy to make some interesting and poignant observations about reality. Ideas that this one goes after include such things as: civilization, law, racism, and class systems.

Vimes took a deep draft of very hot coffee, which at the moment suited him just fine. He said, “This is true? I'm sorry, I don't know what to say.”

Tears of Mushroom was watching him carefully, ready should he feel a biscuit attack coming on. They were in fact pretty good, and to hide his confusion he thanked her and took another one.

“Best not to say anything, then,” said Miss Beedle. “All slaughtered, for no reason. It happens. Everybody knows they're a worthless people, don't they? I tell you, commander, it's true that some of the most terrible things in the world are done by people who think, genuinely think, that they're doing it for the best...”

pg 185.


We Are The Engineers

by. Angela Melick

The first collection of comics from the autobiographical webcomic about a Canadian Engineer: Wasted Talent. This first collection contains an assortment of her first strips which detail her life in school to her degree in engineering.

I really enjoy this comic, but I find that it's sometimes a challenge to explain what exactly I like so much about it. I'm not an engineer, I'm not Canadian, the punchlines won't have you in hysterics, and it's got an art style (that I enjoy) that I can't come up with anything to compare it to.

But there's a subtle charm at work that I find truly endearing, but have a hard time communicating. For one thing she has an especially uncanny ability to draw absolutely hilarious poses and facial expressions. The humor of her strips rests not on the back of its writing, but on the back of its images. This enables it to better capture the feelings and moods that comes along with all the silly moments in our lives. And because of this it is able to transcend its own jokes. You don't have to know about engineering school to appreciate and get a good smile out of her strips.

Did I mention that this collection features redrawn strips? Which was an awesome move. If you go to her site you can compare the art from the old strips to the new ones, and as you can imagine her skills have improved greatly over the years. So it's great seeing her old stuff redone.

Your Wasted Talent site is doing pretty good, Little Doot!


Yah, it's grown a lot, see?

What are people even searching to find you? hm...

'wasted talent'

'engineer webcomic'

'crazy squirrel'...

Whoafive people found it by searching 'Extreme Underwater Basket Weaving'??

That's AWESOME!!

pg. 44


Horror Business

by. Ryan Bradford

A horror obsessed kid is trying to make his own scary movie. But his love of horror, the death of his twin brother, and life keep getting in the way.

This book was quite different from other horror books I've read. It had elements of a ghost story, a zombie tale, and a slasher. It was kind of fun how he'd switch between all those elements.

My favorite parts were the ones about the boy's dog. I won't ruin anything, but I will say that those parts really gave me the heebie jeebies.

My biggest complaint is that while it does play around with elements from multiple genres, I didn't feel that the majority of those elements were fully explored enough and so at the ending I was left feeling a little bit unsatisfied.

Overall, the book was a fun light read (it only clocks in at about 150 pages) and has some parts that are quite memorable. Not to mention that you can read it for free! So despite any problems I had with it, I'd go ahead and suggest you give it a try if it sounds like your kind of thing. I mean, really, how unsatisfied can I really be? After all, it gave me some great scenes, a few good scares, didn't take much of my time, and didn't take any of my money.

If you're interested Ryan Bradford offers a free download of it on his blog.

The girl looks magnificent blood-drenched. The sidewalk glistens with
gore and I put her hands into a mangled, Egyptian-walk-like stance to
accentuate the writhing of her final moments. The blood looks good,
but I adjust the contrast and aperture of my camera to make it darker,
more deathly.

A wasp lands on the corpse and hops around on her tight, white
shirt...The insect climbs further up still, idling between her clavicle and
where her neck begins. A little pool of blood has formed in the crook of
her neck, where the wasp has treated itself to a little snack. It almost
takes off, but then thinks better of it. The bug hovers over the girl’s
face. I have to make little circling motions with my camera to keep up
with it.

This is priceless footage.

pg. 11


Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit:

A Book of Changing Seasons

by. Il Sung Na

It's wintertime and a rabbit is going around to see what all the different animals are doing to stay warm.

Il Sung Na is the same author who wrote Zzz: A Book of Sleep. I was reading the reviews for this one on Goodreads and damn. Some of them were absolutely ridiculous. A lot of them complained that the title was misleading, because the book is about Winter and not really about the changing seasons. I guess that's a fair observation and they're right that British title of "Brrr: A Book of Winter" is a much better title. But really, it's about a rabbit. To the rabbit there are only two seasons: Warm & Cold. And both of those are represented in the book. And guess what? We all know what animals do in the warm seasons. We can see them doing it! Of course they're going to focus on the Winter. In conclusion: Who gives a shit what the title is?

Anyways, let's talk about the actual content (crazy idea, right?). Il Sung Na is an art god. My goodness. Everything they do is just beautiful. So colorful and full of life. It makes other kids books look so astoundingly bland in comparison.

You might remember that I said Zzz: A Book of Sleep had a color scheme perfectly suited for nighttime. Well, I will point out that this one doesn't. The color scheme to this one is much better for the day. It's full of bright and vibrant colors. Like before you can see artwork from the book on the author's website [then just click the Book Illustration link on the bottom of the page].

So in summary: it's a book that'll teach kids what animals do to keep warm in the winter, it's extremely well done, who gives a shit about the title, and it looks so gorgeous that I never want to draw anything ever again.

When snow falls to the ground and all the trees are bare, everyone knows it's winter...

...including the rabbit.



The Incorrigible Children:

The Mysterious Howling
The Hidden Gallery

by. Maryrose Wood

A precocious and inexperienced young woman named Penelope Lumley is fresh out of school and has managed to get a job as a governess for a wealthy family. However, she wasn't aware that the children she was to teach were raised by wolves. But she'll not let that get in the way of teaching them English, and proper hygiene...and geometry, Latin, French, and art appreciation if there's time.

I have a lot of feelings about this book. Mostly because this book confuses me to no end. I love parts of it and am utterly annoyed by other parts. More than anything I just can't put my finger on what the author was going for. It was also slightly odd to read a book about children raised by wolves so soon after reading "St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves". While St. Lucy's took a much more realistic approach to the idea, this one took a much for fantastical approach.

Pretty much every review of this book compares it to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I suppose that is an apt comparison. But one must understand that, while it is similar in style, it is certainly not on par with it. It is wannabe Snicket. It has many similarities such as the same third person omniscient narrator, and doing that thing where it'll use large words and then explain what that word means. However, the style isn't done as tight and proficient as Snicket's was. Like this example, for instance:

“Contraband means good which have been illegally obtained,” she paused to explain (she was still their governess, after all).

pg.185 of The Hidden Gallery

As I'm sure you know, that isn't what "Contraband" means at all. Contraband is an item that is illegal to import or export. For instance things like street drugs or grenades are contraband items for an average US citizen. Pornography & Knives are contraband items at most schools. Contraband items are items that No One is supposed to have. The author uses the word in this case to describe a stolen bicycle. A stolen bicycle is NOT contraband because a bicycle is not illegal to own. If you steal one you will be charged with Theft not with possessing contraband.

My biggest issues, however, are two things: Penelope and the Mystery.

I won't spoil anything, but the mystery in these books isn't very mysterious. They keep hinting at things, but really, it's all pretty obvious. And yet the author comes up with some bizarre go-arounds to try and prevent giving it all away. For instance Penelope's old head mistress meets with her and tells her that she must continue to use the hair tonic that she used while at school. Also, the children she's taking care of are in dreadful danger. Obviously Penelope asks the obvious questions "Why?" and "How so?" To which the headmistress basically just answers "Just do it" and "Don't worry about specifics, just be careful."

Are you kidding me? No, no, no, no. Even it was coming from someone I loved and trusted I'm not gonna put up with that secrecy shit. My kids are in danger you say? Fuck you don't worry about specifics. Either you tell me the specifics or you give me one hell of a good reason why you can't. Similarly fuck your hair tonic. You tell me why or I don't do it.


Which brings us to Penelope. A character that is either humorously endearing or dreadfully awful. I honestly can't tell. I think she might be both. Either she has an over inflated ego and a pompous demeanor, or she is wonderfully over-the-top and ignorant in the ways of the world.

When she's the former she is an atrocious character. Mostly because she will just NOT shut up about the school she went to. She is constantly bragging about Swanburne Academy. Oh, I suppose not everyone was as lucky to receive a Swanburne education. At Swanburne we did things like this. Agatha Swanburne says this, Agatha Swanburne says that. Oh, my God, please shut up. Sometimes even the narrator will brag about! Like here for example:

“The children will be following the squirrel, that is the key,” Penelope mused, which led her to the intriguing question: If Penelope were a squirrel, where would she run? (Although admittedly intriguing, the question was also nonsensical. Obviously, if Penelope were a squirrel, it would be a highly unusual squirrel. It would be a Swanburne squirrel through and through, and, therefore, its behavior could not be considered representative of the high-strung and woefully undereducated furball that is more typical of the species. But Penelope was too flustered to think of this at the time.)

pg.233-234 of The Mysterious Howling

The braggadocio is so entrenched that it'll even lower itself to berate a squirrel for not being as smart as Swanburne Alumna. An honest-to-God squirrel. Did they think they were being clever by pointing out the literal failings of a common phrase?

And despite all that, when Ms. Lumley is shown to be smart yet ignorant about the ways of the world she is a very charming character.

Would she arrive at Ashton Place on time for her interview, or would masked bandits storm the train and take the passengers hostage? She had never personally encountered a bandit, but she had read of such things in books, and the very idea gave her goosebumps.

Would she be able to answer correctly should her prospective employers quiz her on, say, the capital of cities of midsized European nations? “The capital of Hungary is Budapest!” she had recited in her mind, in time to the clickity-clack of the train wheels. “The capital of Poland is Warsaw!”

Would she be served tea and toast upon her arrival, and if she were, would she end up with marmalade all over the front of her dress and run from the room weeping?

Clearly, being anxious is a full-time and rather exhausting occupation. Perhaps that explains why Miss Lumley, despite her inability to remember the capital of Norway and her reluctance to muss her hair by leaning her head against the back of her seat, had finally succumbed to the soothing sway and rumble of the train. For the moment, at least, she had stopped worrying altogether, for she was soundly and deeply asleep.

pg.2 of The Mysterious Howling

The problem is that sometimes it decides to show her as being over-the-top and overly ambitious, and other times it shows these traits succeeding again and again, legitimizing her ridiculousness.

I suppose I've been giving these books a hard time, but please keep in mind that I read both of them and if any more come out I'll probably read them as well. In conclusion: they're pretty easy books to read, they're pretty fun at times, the wolf children are really cute, there are wonderful illustrations by the amazing Jon Klasse, and Ms. Lumley is pretty fun when she isn't making you want to scream in exasperation and shake her.


Grandpa Green

by. Lane Smith

Follow Grandpa Green's great-grandson through a garden where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten.

-Inside flap

Lane Smith has a knack for coming so, so close to creating books I'd really like. She did that It's a Book one that had such a great premise, but such poor execution. This one, however, is done pretty well. It's about a kid learning about his grandfather. And the idea of someone using intriguing topiaries to represent memories is quite interesting. It's an interesting one. But it kind of lacked a certain flair to me. That spark that makes you want to get to the end. So you flip to a new page and go "Hmm...would you look at that" or "Oh, that's interesting" instead of something more like "hahaha oh, that's great" or "Awww that's so sweet!"


Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

by. Ben Loory

A collection of Ben Loory's modern short tales and fables

I went into this looking at it as a collection of short stories, so at first I didn't like it. But then I realized what they were: they were fables! These little legends, and fairy tales, that carry with them a little message. But the stories are open ended enough that you're free to take from it what you will. Once I changed what I was looking for, I loved this one. I'm a sucker for fairy tales and fables, legends and tall tales. Without question I would read this to a kid before bed. They have this fantastical element that gets your attention, and these endings that make you think about the story and carry it with you for a while. They also can have some rather profound ideas in them. If I ever see this one on sale somewhere I'm definitely going to get it.

The Television thinks it knows better than the family that's sitting there staring at it.

Why do they watch this garbage? it thinks. It's so empty—so stupid, so dumb.

So the TV decides to stop showing the family football and game shows and soaps, and instead it shows them only educational programs. Mostly opera, and shows about Winston Churchill.

The TV really likes Winston Churchill.

The family on the other hand, does not.

Why does it only show opera? they say. And what's with all this Churchill stuff?

pg. 59

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