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.

1 comment:

  1. Given that I once worked in a post office, and I love romance, I think I know what the next book I read will be. :D