Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Booklist 2012: Part 16

All right! I'm tired of having this thing weighing on my mind. I want to talk about the books I'm reading now, not all these books I read in the past! The only solution is to go at it Emily Horne style. You might recall from years past that I got the idea to start keeping a record of what I've read after seeing the artist behind A Softer World do it. Her version, however, is much more condensed than what I've been doing. Regardless, these are the breaks. Somewhere near the end of this list I started getting sloppy and I'm pretty sure I left out a title or two, but what can you do. You also may have noticed that my numbering has been a bit off for the 2012 list and that was because I held off on some titles because I wanted to use a whole post to talk about them at length, but then never had the time. But I think I'll save those for a special post later.

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

178. Drop Dead Healthy by. A.J. Jacobs

I've gotten such a kick out of Jacobs's previous books, but I've gotta admit this one is his weakest one. It lacked both the narrative angle the others have and sense of progression towards a real goal, especially when he keeps jumping from body part to body part.

179. The Things They Carried by. Tim O'Brien

My amazing friend Hannah recommended this one and it was phenomenal. It's a collection of related stories about a group of soldiers. It is beautifully written and it provides one of the most intriguing looks at war I've ever seen. One of my favorite books of the year.

*[GN] 180,181,185. Y: The Last Man, Volumes 1-3 by. Brian K. Vaughn, art by. Piea Guerra

Y is such a great story. Sure it has a terribly dumb ending, but so what. Just do what I do which is avoid reading all the way to the end. I don't own the full series so that makes it easy on me.

[GN] 182. DMZ vol 1: On the Ground by. Brian Wood, art by. Riccardo Burchielli

A coworker lent me this one to read and it's quite good. I'm not sure if the story itself intrigues me enough to want to read the entire series, but it's definitely an interesting and well done piece. I can see why it's gotten such a good reception.

[GN] 183. Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer by. Dustin Higgins & Van Jensen

Did I read this entirely because of the title? Yes. Was it impossibly dumb? Also Yes. I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same thing, but trust me on this one: the idea more fun to think about then it is in execution.

[GN] 184. Swamp Thing vol 1: Raise Them Bones by. Scott Snyder, art by Yanick Paquette

So Animal Man and Swamp Thing are running parallel stories and because I love the new Animal Man comic I had to check this one out. Plus Scott Snyder is pretty great, so that helped. Overall there was quite a bit that seemed to be carried over from previous Swamp Thing stories...which I don't really know anything about because I don't care about old Swamp Thing stories very much. But overall I really enjoyed it. I'm really digging this whole Red Vs. Green Vs. The Rot battle going on in these.

[GN] 186. Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others by. various authors , art by. various artists

Oh, Hellboy. I've gotta admit a big reason I like Hellboy isn't so much because of the stories, but because I really enjoy Mike Mignolia's art style. I really dig the short story Hellboy format though, as it is a perfect vehicle for talking about myths and folktales and all that awesome stuff. But it's just no the same without Mignolia's imagery.

*[GN] 187. Barefoot Gen, vol 2: The Day After by. Keiji Nakazawa

Jeez, and I thought the first volume was graphic? Damn! This one goes beyond. I didn't think that was possible, but yeah. It's brutal. Radiation poisoning, you guys: Not. Pretty.

*[GN] 188. Barefoot Gen, vol 3: Life After the Bomb by. Keiji Nakazawa

There's more to the story, but I feel that this volume actually ends on a  pretty good note. I think if you didn't want to read everything, then just reading the first three volumes would provide a very nice abridged version.

[GN] 189. X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by. Chris Claremont, art by. Brent Anderson

I've always heard about this being one of the classic X-Men stories, so I finally broke down and gave it a try. Despite the fact that I kind of really don't like the aesthetic of old superhero comics. It was alright, although it got pretty heavy-handed with the messages sometimes. Yes, yes, we get it, the mutants are a metaphor.

*[GN] 190. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by. Frank Miller

Here is the one and only Frank Miller story I actually like. It's played a very interesting role in the history of comic books. Plus I find the endings to Superheros to be rather fascinating. Creation stories are fine and all, but going into what happens to people after all the glitz and glamor has worn off? After they get old? Well, that's much more interesting. Fun fact: I lent my copy to one of my supervisors at work and then the next week he quit and he never gave it back to me.

*[GN] 191. Batman: The Killing Joke by. Alan Moore, art by. Brian Bolland

He also made off with this one!

This is a very strange yet very interesting title in the Batman workd. It's look into why Batman won't kill the Joker is something that really needed to be told. The main thing working against it is the fact that it brutally cripples Barbara Gordon for no real reason other than to provide male characters a chance to go "BARBARAAAA!! NOOOOO!!!" Which is a terribly sexist thing to do! And yet I can't dismiss the entire work like I normally would, because the story is just so bizarre and weird. It's extremely hard to hold up a scholarly lens of judgment to a comic that features a collared and naked Commissioner Gordon being attacked by a pair of pygmies.

*192. John Dies at the End by. David Wong

The sequel was coming out so obviously I had to reread the first one first. Especially in a book like this one. I'd like to talk about it more, but I'm actually about to reread it now, so I don't want to waste all my good material. Though, needless to say, I love this book. It's so strange and so silly and just so wonderfully different.

193. This Book is Full of Spiders by. David Wong

This is a the sequel to John Dies at the End and it puts it to shame. TO SHAME. Please note that I am a pretty big fan of John Dies at the End, so I do not say that lightly. The narrative in this one is much tighter and yet it still maintains the offbeat feel the first one did. The story is much, much creepier. And there are still so many wonderful laughs to be had. I couldn't put this one done. Not to mention that the character writing in this book is just brilliant.

194. Imagine: How Creativity by. Jonah Lehrer

Gonna be honest here, I don't remember anything about this book.

195. Wicked Appetite by. Janet Evanovich

UGH! Awful. Next.

*[GN] 196. 197. One Piece, vol 1-6 by. Eiichiro Oda

Eventually this series flames out, but the early stuff? The early stuff is gold. They've started making these 3-volume omnibuses of them so I got the first two (so essentially the first 6 volumes). So much cartoon silliness and quality action. Gotta love it.

198. Red Rain by. R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine wrote a horror story for adults? You'd better believe I'm all over that. I think I got my expectations up too high though. It's certainly a lot creepier than his Goosebumps books, but at the same time it's basically still just a Goosebumps book. I had fun reading it though. If you give it a try just go in expecting "Goosebumps with Gore" and you'll be fine.

* 199. Runaways vol 1: Pride & Joy by. Brian K. Vaughan, art by. Adrian Alphona

Upon rereading this one I think I might like the idea of this story more than the actual execution of the story. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun story, but I'm not sure how well it holds up.

[GN] 200. A Softer World: Truth and Beauty Bombs by. Joey Comeau & Emily Horne

Best Comic Strip Ever now in book form. I love it to pieces.

* 201. Night Watch by. Terry Pratchett

What, this? Oh, that's nothing. It's just MY FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME!

[CB] 202. Boy + Bot by. Ame Dickman, illustrated by. Dan Yaccarino

It's an alright kids book. Nothing outstanding.

[CB] 203. This Is Not My Hat by. Jon Klassen

The sequel to phenomenal I Want My Hat Back and it is also brilliant. Maybe not quite as brilliant, but it's up there. I have a copy of both of them and when I go out and buy a children's book because I like it so much then you know it's quality.

[GN] 204. Beartato and the Various Things That Happened by. Anthony Clark

If you aren't reading Anthony Clark's Nedroid then you need to do yourself a favor and go do that.

[GN] 205. American Vampire, vol 4

I was so enthralled with this story in the first couple volumes, and this is the one that finally killed it for me. I don't plan on reading any more. The main artist barely does any of it anymore and the stories insist on talking about things I don't care about.

[GN] 206. Scott Pilgrim Color Hardcover, vol 2  by. Bryan Lee O'Malley, colors by. Nathan Fairbairn

So. Freaking. Gorgeous. One of the greatest comics around is now one of the best to look at. I've read the series before, but the color adds so much that I won't count it as a reread.

[GN] 207. Friends With Boys by. Faith Erin Hicks

I don't recall too much about this one. I do recall finishing it and being rather, "Well, that was pretty good."

[GN] 208. Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by. Kazu Kibuishi

Oh, Kibuishi. There's something about his style I really like. His stories tend to not be the sharpest ones on the shelf, but he's got so much style that it makes up for it a little.

[GN] 209. A Softer World: second best isn't so bad by. Joey Comeau & Emily Horne


210. The Best American Poetry by. various authors

I don't remember much about this one. It was alright I guess. A handful of gems, but overall it didn't impress me much. I also don't remember which year's edition I read, but I have a feeling that my review of such things would always be the same.

211. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by. Jon Ronson

Another book I don't remember very well. I blame this on the books being forgettable and not on me being forgetful. I do recall that most of it wasn't nearly as interesting as it should have been and that some of it was just out-and-out dull.

212. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm retold by. Philip Pullman

Gotta give Pullman props, these were quite good. One of the better Grimm collections I've come across.

213. Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by. Amy Stewart

Not as in-depth as I was hoping for, but still very intriguing. Kind of makes you a little terrified of plants. I was definitely underestimating them in terms of danger.

[CB] 214. Under the Deck, And Under Some Sticks... by. Scott Bevan

I picked this one up on a whim because it was pretty cheap and I have a soft spot for kids' books that are weird and dark. It's certainly not the most polished piece under the sun, but I enjoyed it.

[CB] 215. Waking Dragons by. Jane Yolan, illustrated by. Derek Anderson

I got this for my nephew as a Christmas present. It's really very good. The art is delightful and the writing is fun. I like how the story goes through things little kids do when they wake up, because it provides an easy way to create a dialogue with kids about books and show how books can relate to your life. I'm probably thinking too much about this though...

* 216. The Hobbit by. J.R.R. Tolkien

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I went back and reread it because of the movies. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I do not care for Tolkien. He is not my cup of tea. I get why people like him, but just not my thing.

The End

Monday, April 22, 2013

Booklist 2012: Part 15

Well, I put it off and put it off and now I've kind of shot myself in the foot. But I will complete you, Book List 2012! I had too much going on near the end of the year so I wasn't able to properly write reviews/take down quotes, so I'm going to have to switch to a more succinct structure here.

* = reread
GN = graphic novel or comic anthology
CB = children's book

[GN] 163.* 164.* 165. [GN]


by. Jeff Smith

RASL is a scientist turned interdimensional art thief but now his old research lab has sent someone to kill him and steal his research notes.

With an assassin tracking him across dimensions and everyone he cares about in jeopardy, the past he's been trying to run from is catching up and he'll have to face it head on in order to set things right.

Jeff Smith, as you might know, is the outstanding man behind the brilliant comic BONE and for the record: BONE is my favorite graphic novel of all time. RASL represents his next big project and it is pretty brilliant in its own way. The art is gorgeous and the pages are extra big, so you're getting more gorgeous artwork for your buck there. The plot is interesting although not quite as grand as it could have been. There's a lot of extended bits that just talk about Nikola Tesla for pages and pages. But all in all I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and was interested and excited all the way through.

[GN] 166. [GN]
Scott Pilgrim, Vol 1:
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

Hardcover Color Edition
by. Bryan Lee O'Malley
Colored by. Nathan Fairbairn

Scott Pilgrim is a 23 year old with a band, a cool gay roommate, and no job. But when he falls in love with a strange new girl he learns that he'll have to defeat her 7 Evil Exes in order to win her heart.

Comics are the masters at rereleasing material, aren't they? They'll put out a comic, then they'll put out variant covers, then they'll put out trade paperbacks, then they'll put out an omnibus, then they'll put out a special edition exclusive content omnibus. Then they'll start back at square one, but do it all in COLOR this time.

It's ridiculous.

Bone did the whole "It's back and this time it's Colorful" thing and I've never considered buying the color versions. Jeff Smith's black and white art is just too good and the color really didn't seem to add much to the story. So, as you can imagine, when I heard that Brian Lee O'Malley's brilliant comic Scott Pilgrim was being rereleased in hardcover color editions I scoffed. O'Malley also works in black and white, and he's no Jeff Smith, but he's very good. However, I happened to see the book when I was at the comic book shop and took a peek inside.

And damn.

I mean, daaammn!

I bought it right then and there. It is flipping gorgeous.

Best coloring job I've ever seen. No holds barred. The color adds so much richness to the story. I found myself just oggling pages they look so nice. UGH! I want all the color volumes to be out right now!

Going Postal

by. Terry Pratchett

A conman is given a choice by the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork: become the new Postmaster General of the city's dilapidated and obsolete Post Office or...die.

A personal Discworld favorite of mine. It's got an amazing underdog setup as this rundown post office tries to compete with the cellular-like services of the Clacks system. It's full of Pratchett's amazing wit and satire. The characters are all charming and memorable. And it has a really wonderful romance in it too! The relationship is so unlike the usual kind you see in stories. The characters love each other for their flaws and not for their attributes, and there's something about that that is so much truer to life than the reverse. Plus the story lampoons corporations, and marketing, and even crime with all of Pratchett's outstanding wit.

Making Money

by. Terry Pratchett

Conman turned Postmaster General Moist Von Lipwig is back and the Patrician's returned with another proposal. Either he can stay and work at the revamped Post Office or he can choose to paint a target on his back once again and take the job as the head of the Ankh-Morpork Bank.

The story isn't quite as epic or as well paced as Going Postal was, but I would say the satire is even better. Moist is such an interesting character and I'm ever-so-pleased that Pratchett took him out for another spin.


by. Mary Shelley

Every once in a while I will break down and read some pieces of classic literature. I tend to avoid them because more often than not I hate them with a passion. Yet every so often I find one that I really adore, so I can't write them off completely.

Anyways, Frankenstein is a terrible book. I don't care what anyone says, this book is terrible. It's by no means as bad as Jane Eyre, but it isn't good. Which I really don't understand! Similar to Jane Eyre, this book has so much great material to work with and yet it continuously ignores the lot of it. I swear to you that the vast majority of this book is people telling you their life story. There is honestly a part where a brother is telling his sister about how Frankenstein told him about how the monster told him about the life story of some random family of no importance. It's life-story Inception up in this book. You've got a murderer made out of reanimated corpses telling you stories about random dumbass families. You cannot tell me that that's what you were hoping to be reading about.

If that wasn't enough, the characters are all terrible. I hate everyone in this book. They are all powerfully dumb. I mean you've got the monster over here talking about how he learned compassion by watching this family, and he secretly helps them out, and then he goes up to them and says "Hey, guys, I've been secretly stalking you for months now and I love you let's be together" and then they're like "Who the fuck are you! What are you doing in our house! Why are you made of corpses! Jesus Christ someone get the gun!" And that dumb-ass monster is not only surprised by this logical reaction, but then decides "You know what? I used to have a good heart, but not anymore because this family has rejected me for choosing the worst possible way of introducing myself to them, I'm just going to go ahead and start murdering people."

Or how about Frankenstein? He reanimates a man he made out of corpses and the first thing he does after seeing it's alive is go have a nap. An honest-to-God nap. Really? You're not going to lock it up so it doesn't freak out the neighbors? You're not going to try to make contact with it? And he won't shut up about how he needs to kill the thing, but then never seriously tries to kill it. Here, here's how you do it, shoot it! Stab it? Wanna get fancy with it? Well then tell it you've finished making it a bride and when it goes to check, blow him the fuck up! How hard is that? You're a brilliant scientist, I think you can handle making some explosives. So stop whining about how its stronger and faster than you are and use your damn brain.

And if the terrible characters weren't enough the entire logic of everything is warped to fit these idiots. Frankenstein comes back home and finds his little brother has been murdered. Apparently the lad had been walking around by himself while wearing an expensive necklace and they found him dead with the necklace missing. Frankenstein assumes that the monster must have done it because only a monster would be able to kill that sweet child. [I don't have to tell you that that is perhaps, one of the dumbest leaps of logic ever conceived.] It is ridiculous. Oh, but look at that! He was right. It was the monster. Of course it was. Because this stupid monster some how managed to track down his creator's brother, even though when he was first reanimated he couldn't see (let alone talk or reason) and he stumbled out of the house and into the woods and never talked to his creator at all. But yeah, sure, I'm sure he'd be able to track down that child and kill him.

Like Jane Eyre, this book bothers me more than a little because it isn't bad. It's got a lot going for it. The ideas of creator and creation and what one owes the other are fascinating. The idea of bringing dead tissue back to life? Fascinating. The idea of this scientist chasing his creation to the ends of the earth to try and end what he's created? Fascinating. But this book doesn't seem to care about any of those great things and would prefer to tell you the life story of every yahoo who walks by.

[GN] 171. [GN]
The Amazing Screw-on Head

by. Mike Mignolia

A collection of short comic stories from the creator of Hellboy.

I always love Mike Mignolia's work and, as much as I love Hellboy, it's always a lot of fun to see him working on something else.

If you like fairy tales and legends and silliness, then I think you'll get a real kick out of this comic. Personally I love all those things and thus have since bought myself my own copy. There's something I just love about well done collections of short-story comics.

Bunch of Amateurs:
A Search for the American Character

by. Jack Hitt

A look at Amateurism as a form of the American spirit.

I was really interested in the idea this book presented of amateurs as a metaphor for the American spirit, but I was disappointed to learn that it doesn't really work towards proving that thesis. The introduction and the conclusion certainly wax on the concept, however, the majority of the book is composed of extended essays about different types of amateurs with little or no attempt made to tie them into the main ideas of the book as a whole. Certainly the various examples and their respective chapters were kind of fun and interesting, but I just went in expecting something more.

So there you go. If you give it a try just go in expecting to hear some interesting stories about enthusiastic amateurs in unexpected fields and you won't be disappointed. Just don't expect anything more than that.

[GN] 173. [GN]

The Long Halloween

by. Jeph Loeb
art by. Tim Sale

Mob members are being murdered in Gotham City and each holiday that passes brings another death with it. Tension among the various mob families are escalating as Batman tries to uncover who is behind it all.

The Long Halloween is one of my favorite Batman stories. Actually, if you've ever seen the movie The Dark Knight then you might find yourself recognizing a number of parts from this story.

A lot of people try to put Batman in the Action genre and I can't help but feel that that's a mistake. The Batman stories that I love most are the ones that focus on Batman as a detective. I mean sure, there are plenty of action scenes, but the heart of the story is one of mystery and investigation. And that's what makes it so gosh-darn good.

[GN] 174. [GN]


 Deluxe Edition

by. Grant Morrison
art by. Frank Quitely

A group of lab animals are experimented on in an attempt to create cyborg animal soldiers. However, the animals learn that they're are going to be eliminated by their creators they escape and go on the run. Now the military is doing everything it can to bring these heavily armed and dangerous liabilities to a quick end.

I was really excited for this story when I first heard about it. It sounds like an action-packed Homeward Bound or something, doesn't it? But it's not!
The crux of my disappointment lies in the terrible lack of interesting characters. While the animals are given speech and advanced intelligence, they're still much too stupid to have the dialogue necessary to give them any real sort of persona. You can never really empathize with them because they never really become anything more than animals.

So like an animal you can feel bad for it when it's hurt or scared, and you can cheer when it saves someone, but it's still an animal. There's still that animal/person divide that hasn't been transcended. When a real character is hurt you want to be nervous for them, you want to be scared that they won't be able to tell their wife that they love her, or that they'll never be able to see their kid grow up, or any number of things like that. They have motivation, and back stories, and personalities. I mean you don't watch Die Hard and see Bruce Willis getting hurt and go, "Awww...poor baby!" You go, "Oh my God! That's gotta hurt so bad, he really loves his wife." And that's a pretty key difference, because one of those shows investment in the characters and the other is a clear sign of distance.

Not to mention that at the end of the book there was a bunch of production notes and they kept saying how they were going to do all this revolutionary stuff with the comic's art form. But really all they did was use a lot of panels within panels as a way of trying to show the otherness and the senses of the animals or something. It really didn't add anything to the graphic flow of the story.

But speaking of revolutionary comic formatting...

[GN] 175. [GN]


written by. J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
art by. J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, & Richard Friend
colors by. Dave Stewart
letters by. Todd Klein

I've never been a very big fan of the extended Bat-family solo stories. But I had heard a lot of great things about this title and decided to request it from the library and see what the hubbub was about.

Long story short: I now have my own copy.

The story itself is pretty decent, but whatever, let's talk about the artwork instead! What really makes this title worth checking out is the artwork. It does all sorts of interesting things. Really, really interesting nonstandard format choices that are kind of brilliant. Lots of long flowing panels and interweave with one another. Lots of imagery that moves across the entire 2-page spread. Not to mention that it features multiple artists and will cut between the styles in such an interesting way. The level of artwork going on in this thing is just so far beyond anything I was expecting from a mainstream superhero story. Really, next time you're in a bookstore or a comic shop then find this one so you can page through it and see what I'm talking about.

 [GN] 176. [GN]

Queen and Country

by. Greg Rucka
art by. Various 

A realistic depiction of a group British spies as they do spy things.

Joey Comeau described the series as being, " The Wire, except about British spies instead of policemen." If you're expecting stuff like James Bond you're going to be disappointed. There's a lot more bureaucracy and paper work and all that fun stuff that goes on in real life.

It was okay I guess, but I hated the artwork so much that I couldn't pay full attention to the story. It was probably much better than I give it credit for, but even if it is, I personally didn't think the story was good enough to warrant dealing with the artwork.

 [GN] 177. [GN]

Gladstone's School for World Conquerors

by. Mark Andrew Smith
art by. Armand Villavert

A cartoony comic about a school for super villains? Hey, that could be fun!

But it wasn't.

It was super dumb.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Smattering of Poems

Once again I've come to deposit some of the poems I've posted on Facebook here in the vault. I've been experimenting with style and form a little bit. Trying new things and all that jazz.

The Cashier's Prayer

Now I clock right in to work,
And pray the Lord to spare the jerks.
But if I lose it before I'm through,
I pray the Lord will at least spare you.

Damp Lullabies

The bath is warm and inviting.
It holds me close and gently whispers
Sloshing lullabies.

Who could resist such comfort and wealth of being?
If I were to leave now
I would leave,
albeit sadly,
With the warmth of sweet memories
As my bedfellows.

But if I were,
to give in and fully embrace my situation,
to let my consciousness drift off into the waves.
Then I’ll be forced to bear witness to
The End.

To awaken to a world of dark absence.
To wake up
and wet
and alone.

Left to stumble out,
Waterlogged and deprived of warmth,
and attempt a proper sleep
while the back of my mind loudly dreads
What it’ll wake up to this time.

So, perhaps,
for once,
I’ll indulge in non-indulgence.

I’m starting to get pruney, anyhow.

Faceplant Romance

You’ve tripped me up.
You’ve knocked me down.
I can’t trust myself when you’re around.

I’m falling for you,
How ‘bout you fall for me?
Who cares if our friends might disagree.

Let’s fall in bed,
Let’s fall in love,
Let’s feel the heat
‘til we get a shove.

Let’s fall apart as we hit the street
And spill our asses onto concrete.
Road rashes and bruises
All our own,
To remind us that we don’t have to be alone.

Two left feet,
May I have this dance?
Let’s two-step to a faceplant romance.

I’ve already fallen
and can’t stop the descent,
But if you join me we can circumvent;
You fall for me and I’ll fall for you,
We’ll orbit each other like Pluto’s moon.

And then in time
when our world’s collide
We’ll just feel relief for leaving nothing untried.

So let’s fall in bed,
Let’s fall in love,
Let’s feel the heat
‘til we get that shove.

Let’s fall apart as we hit the street
And spill our asses onto concrete.
Road rashes and bruises
All our own,

Reminding us that we weren’t always alone.