* = reread
GN = Graphic Novel
* 36. *
by. Terry Pratchett
The counterweight continent of the Discworld sends a request to the city of Ankh-Morpork to send their great wizard to help them. The wizards discuss just who is great enough to go on this incredibly dangerous mission across the disc and decide that “Great” and “Expendable” are basically the same thing, right? Now it’s up to the great wizzard Rincewind to save a far-off land from an oppressive government. Whether he likes it or not.
I hate to say this, because I adore Terry Pratchett so much, but...I found this book to be extremely racist.
To be clear, it’s certainly NOT the “Those people are TRASH”-brand of hatred-fueled racism, but it certainly IS very much the “Now I’m no racist, but I’m just saying that they’re all really good at math”-brand of ignorance-fueled racism.
The Discworld books always poke fun at the real world and I love that about them. But they always do it under the veil of fantasy. There’s a very important distinction between talking about a specific religion or culture and talking about ideas that were inspired by them. It’s the difference between talking about how the American education system is broken and talking about how some dummies can’t even located Canada on a map, right, Jerry!? Haha, ignorant ol' Jerry.
It’s an important distinction that this one blatantly didn’t bother with. The Agatean empire described in the book is Asia. There’s enough very specific references to make it abundantly clear. It’s not even a specific country in Asia, just that big lump that we ignorant people in the West think of as Asian. Fortune cookies, ninjas, fireworks, martial arts, foot-binding, rice, you know the place. It’s all one big stereotype.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Pratchett sets up this faux-Asia as being backwards, submissive, and in every way inferior to the Western ideals of Ankh-Morpork.
And honestly even if it wasn’t super racist (which is is), it would still be a Rincewind story. And let’s face it, Rincewind stories are about 1 part plot and 9 parts him running around aimlessly from joke set-up to joke set-up going “oh no, NOT AGAIN!” They are the laugh-track sitcoms of the Discworld books.
Thus this book is not only my winner for The WORST Discworld book, I frankly consider it a black-eye on the whole series. And you wanna know the worst thing about it? If you kept the basic story and took out all the Asian-stereotype B.S., it would have been a pretty fun story.
Even though it means breaking up the collection, I plan on getting rid of my copy.
“He wanted to say: how can you be so nice and yet so dumb? The best thing you can do with the peasants is leave them alone. Let them get on with it. When people who can read and write start fighting on behalf of people who can’t, you just end up with another kind of stupidity. If you want to help them, build a big library or something somewhere and leave the door open.”
Infographics Designers’ Sketchbooks
edited by. Steven Heller & Rick Landers
A look at how different infographic designers sketch out their ideas before fleshing them out into a finished product.
Found this one at the library and read it on a whim. It was slightly too bloated with all-too similar examples for my tastes, but overall it was pretty interesting. I liked seeing how different people all have their own styles and how those styles end up dictating what method they use for rough layouts/brainstorming ideas.
“John Grimwade, the graphics director at Condé Nast Traveler, has been producing infographics for nearly forty years...The pencil is his tool of choice. As he explains: ‘It goes back to my pre-computer career, when it was essential to fix the design before going to the artwork stage. In any case, pencil roughs are fun to make, and you don’t have to invest as much in them as you do in a computer-generated comp. Editors or clients also feel comfortable with the idea that they are concepts. They are clearly not half-finished artwork, so people are less intimidated about suggesting changes.’”
A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe
by. Tim Leong
A collection of infographics about the world of comic books. With such infographic gems as, “How Long Characters Stayed Dead,” “A Venn Diagram of Superhero Tropes,” and “Pizzas ordered in the first 10 issues of the original (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] comic series.”
This is such a silly book, but it’s quite a lot of fun if you’re a comic book fan. Some of the infographics are definitely better than other, but the fun of the gems certainly outweighs the duds.
* 39. *
by. Terry Pratchett
A young woman leaves her small town behind and heads to the big city of Ankh-Morpork to become a famous singer. However, there’s something wicked lurking at the opera house: the two local witches who followed her from home and insist on checking up on her! Oh, and also by the masked ghost that haunts the place and who keeps murdering people.
I think I would appreciate this one a while lot more if I knew anything about opera. Or even if I had ever simply read/seen The Phantom of the Opera. As it is though I’m always a fan of the adventures of the Discworld witches and I quite like the introduction of Agnes Nitt as a character too. So, the parts with the witches: Wonderful. The parts about Opera: Meh. The parts with both witches and opera: Enjoyable.
“‘I don’t understand! Is this man mad?’
Salzella put an arm around his shoulders and led him away from the crowd. ‘Well, now,’ he said, as kindly as he could. ‘A man who wears evening dress all the time, lurks in the shadows and occasionally kills people. Then he sends little notes, writing maniacal laughter. Five exclamation marks again, I notice. We have to ask ourselves: is this the career of a sane man?’”
[GN] 40. [GN]
The Search for Ray Palmer
Ron Marz, Sean McKeever, Peter Johnson, Matt Cherniss, Brian Augustyn, Alan Burnett, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Angel Unzueta, Jamal Igle, Kelley Jones, Eric Battle, Greg Tocchini, Travel Foreman, Kalman Andrasofszky, Jeremy Haun, David Hahn, David Baldeon
Former Robin (and former corpse) Jason Todd, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and Donna Troy (another former corpse) jump from parallel universe to parallel universe as they try to track down Ray Palmer (aka The Atom), the only man who can prevent the multiverse from being destroyed.
I’m not going to lie, I read this thing entirely because I heard it featured Earth 11: a universe where everyone is the opposite gender from the New Earth we’re used to. And I needed to know what Superwoman and Wonder Man were like!
The result: It’s all a pretty boring story to be honest. And Earth 11 was alright, but even that wasn’t as fun as it should have been.
“‘You’re also a lantern?’
‘Yup. My name is Kyle Rayner.’
‘I’m Kylie Rayner.
This is too strange.’”
[GN] 41, 49, 57, 58 [GN]
written by. Adam Beechan
art by. various
The cartoon Batman Beyond told the story of Gotham’s future, one where Bruce Wayne has finally gotten too old to effectively fight crime. After decades of retirement a grieving teenager with a need for justice named Terry McGinnis discovers his secret identity. McGinnis manages to convince Wayne to let him take up the cowl, but only with his direct supervision.
The comic picks up where the show (and subsequent movie) left off.
Full disclosure: I LOVE Batman Beyond. I love it so much.
I could go on and on about the myriad of things I love about it, but I won’t do that to you. After all, this is a book list and that was a TV. But if you haven’t seen the show then you shouldn’t be reading the comics. So go watch the show!
For those of you who’ve already seen it: If you liked the show, you’re gonna enjoy these books. Not only are they a return to the wonderful world of Batman Beyond, but they’re an expansion to it. If nothing else you should read the first volume Hush Beyond. Because it has a wonderfully heartfelt moment between Bruce and Terry that is just so great.
[Note: I accidentally read these in the wrong order. The proper order goes Hush Beyond, Industrial Revolution, 10,000 Clowns, Batgirl Beyond.]
“Ace, your master’s a stubborn, stupid old…
...told himself he let go of the cape, but never really did…
...because he never knew what he would be without it. He…’”
“Then this kid comes along, does the job, and does it so well…
Maybe not with my total Focus, but without all my Pain…”
- from Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond
[GN] 42. [GN]
Avengers, vol. 1:
written by. Jonathan Hickman
pencils by. Jeroma Opeña & Adam Kubert
The Avengers are putting out the call for new members as they look to expand their sphere of influence to a point where they can help the Earth on a global-scale.
I’m probably not fit to judge this thing, because I’ve lost touch of what’s been going on in these stories over the years. But I will say that I really couldn’t follow the train of thought to this book at all. It seemed to suffer from a severe lack of focus.
“When called, they all came for different reasons.
‘We have beer.’
‘We have money.’
‘Oh, thank God.’
[GN] 43. [GN]
written by. J. Torres
art by. Elbert Or
A kid with supernatural talents goes on a trip to visit family members in the Philippines. But while he’s there he’s forced to confront the gifts he’s been running from.
Umm...not very much really happens in this one. Yeah. Not much at all. Plus it ends on a strange cliffhanger note which was a little odd, because I think it’s supposed to be a self-contained one-shot story?
“My parents grew up in the Philippine countryside. They love it here. Even after living most of their lives in Canada, they still refer to it as ‘home.’ This is my third visit. I like it less and less each time. It seems to get hotter and hotter. There are more and more bugs. I see scarier and scarier things…”
[GN] 44, 45, 55, 56 [GN]
Wolverine and the X-Men
written by. Jason Aaron
pencils by. Various
Wolverine has had it with Cyclops’ leadership, so he’s broken apart from the X-Men and, with the help of some old friends, created his own mutant school: The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. However, running a school of teenaged mutants is not an easy task...not an easy task at all...
I heard a brief mention of this Jean Grey school when Wolverine made an appearance in the Ms. Marvel comics and I was really curious to find out what that was all about.
Vol. 1-2 are both quite fun. It’s like a high school mutant action-comedy kind of thing, full of all the zany X-fun you’d hope for.
Vol. 3-4, however, are super confusing! Apparently, like always, Marvel insisted on doing some huge cross-title X-Men Vs. Avengers storyline and these were the all comics happening at that time. Because of this the plot is very different from the usual stuff, and it kept jumping all over the place, and lots of stuff doesn’t make any sense because things are happening in other titles that you’re not privy to in the pages of this title!
Sure, crossover stuff can be really fun, but jeez! I think the whole concept of having to read like 5 different series at once to have any sense of what’s going on in your favorite series is ridiculous. I don’t mind little things tying events in the Marvel Universe together. But when I’m reading a book about a school I generally would like to see what’s going on at the school!
Some highlight's from the school's class list:
“World History (1880-1950): An Eyewitness Account, with Headmaster Logan”
“Brain Spelunking: Exploring the Recesses of Your Own Mind, with Professor Rachel Grey”
“Ethics 101: Forgetting Everything You Ever Learned From Emma Frost, with Headmistress Pryde”
“Algebra Sucks: I Know, But You Still Have to Learn It, with Professor Bobby Drake”
“Diction and Linguistics, with Professor Rogue Sex Ed, with Professor Remy LeBeau”
-the full class list can be seen Here.
[GN] 46. [GN]
God of Thunder, vol. 1
“The God Butcher”
written by. Jason Aaron
pencils mostly by. Esad Ribic, but one issue was by. Butch Guise
The first time Thor was ever truly afraid was when he encountered the God Butcher: an incredibly deadly being that journeys across the universe murdering any and all gods it finds. He thought he had vanquished it centuries ago, but it’s back. This time it has prepared a weapon that can destroy every god there ever is, was, and could be, and it’ll take all of Thor's past, present, and future to stop him.
Usually I really don’t care about Thor at all, but a friend recommended this one to me and I’m really glad he did! It is actually pretty epic and great. The God Butcher is one of the best villains I’ve seen in quite some time. Supervillains are generally too over the top to actually be spooky for the reader, but this one is actually gave me a slight case of heebie jeebies at times.
The art is all done in this gorgeous painted style that really gives the story weight. Plus the story is a stand alone kind of thing, so you don’t need to know anything about plotlines or the marvel universe or anything to enjoy it.
The whole thing is like this wonderful mix of modern superhero fun, old Norse myth, and futuristic sci-fi. If you read only one Thor comic I suggest you make it this one.
“‘He’s triggered the bomb! What do we do? How do we stop it?!’
You hit it with hammers!’
‘Aye. That I can do.’”
[GN] 47. [GN]
Hinterkind, vol. 1
written by. Ian Edington
pencils by. Francesco Trifogli
A devastating sickness has nearly wiped humanity of the face of the map. Just when the pockets of survivors thought the worst was behind them the hinterkind (all the creatures we thought of as mere myth) began to come out of hiding. And they've got a serious bone to pick with the beings who forced them into hiding.
While it has a pretty interesting premise, I just couldn’t get into this one. Instead of a fun survivalist adventure kind of story, it’s much more of a stereotypical hero’s journey kind of thing and it just didn’t grab me.
“‘We already KNOW their works! Human KIND, never was there such a contradiction! They drove us to the edge of extinction! They murdered my brothers and sisters! What more is there to learn?’
‘Your siblings...children. The last one? Torn from my arms as a babe two centuries ago. Time does not heal such wounds. We can only ENDURE them. If we are to sit in judgement on their race, we must be better than--’
‘Judgement! They’ve already been judged! Their cities rot! Their bones molder into the Earth! What we’re doing is merely...HOUSEKEEPING. Sweeping away the detritus that remains!’
‘No. Not so prosaic. When you mean to deal in death, call it what it is.’”
The Island of Dr. Moreau
by. H.G. Wells
The survivor of a shipwreck winds up on a mysterious island owned by a deranged doctor who has been experimenting in turning beasts into men. Now the man is stuck on this dangerous island and not sure who is the real monster: the beast-people or Moreau.
Bam! comics, comics, comics...classic literature! Just trying to keep y’all on your toes.
Anyways, I read this because it was mentioned prominently in the second season of a wonderful TV show called Orphan Black and I figured I wanted to read it before the next season came out.
I’ve gotta admit, I’m often quite disappointed with classic literary monster stories. Dracula? Bor-ing. Frankenstein? An Inception of pointless life stories. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one is pretty great! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s the kind of story that leaves you with a lot of stuff to think about when you’re done. And an especially poignant tale in this age of genetic manipulation we currently find ourselves in.
[For those of you who have seen the 1996 movie: apparently that whole love interest storyline was just added for shits and giggles, because it is not in the book at all! And I kept waiting for her to show up too! Like a fool!]
“But there are times when the little cloud spreads, until it obscures the sky. And those times I look around at my fellow men and I am reminded of some likeness of the beast-people, and I feel as though the animal is surging up in them. And I know they are neither wholly animal nor holy man, but an unstable combination of both.”
This is Not a Test
by. Courtney Summers
A zombie outbreak occurred and a suicidal girl has holed up in a high school with a small band of survivors. With the building safely secured and enough food and water to last them some time they all begin to deal with the pain of survival in their own ways.
This is kind of one of those books that’s really gripping when you’re reading it, but then a half-hour after you’ve finished you’re kind of like, “Wait...was there really much there?”
And I’m still not entirely sure. There is either a lot to this story, or not very much at all...I’m not entirely sure which.
I’m glad I read it though. So take that for whatever it’s worth.
“‘I wouldn’t have left you like that. Not like she did to me.’ I swallowed hard. ‘She always said I’d die without her and she left anyway.’
‘But you didn’t die,’ he says.
‘I did,’ I say. ‘I’m just waiting for the rest of me to catch up.’”
[GN] 51. [GN]
Bee and Puppycat, vol. 1
by. Natasha Allegri, et al
A collection of the comic books inspired by the webseries Bee and Puppycat, a show about a young out-of-work woman who becomes an intergalactic temp worker after meeting a magical dog...or is it a cat?
So the first part of this thing is the comic done by show’s creator, Natasha Allegri, and that one’s a lot of fun. However, it’s only like an a single comic book’s worth. The whole rest of the volume is just random little stories written by other people? It’s like one actual Bee and Puppycat story and then a whole lot of fan fiction. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed. I’m used to comics like this having little short stories by guest artists at the end, but never anything as truly excessive as this.
Color me extremely disappointed.
Eleanor and Park
by. Rainbow Rowell
Set in the late 1980’s, two misfit high schoolers with very different families fall in love.
I quite liked how this book showed that the weird kid in class might just be poor or come from a bad home environment. I think a lot of kids don’t realize that their classmates might not be as well off as they are. All in all though the book is a pretty standard teenage misfit romance kind of story. There were some a couple unique angles in there though. Some worked. Others fell flat.
I dunno. Their relationship seemed kind of messed up if you ask me. They were WAY too into each other. Like unhealthily so. If you’re entirely reliant on someone else to make you happy, then you are in an unhealthy relationship. Just FYI.
And the whole ending seemed really abrupt. Kind of like, “OMG! THIS just happened! We need to do something- okay we just did. Yaddayaddayadda, y’all know where this is going. Peace out.”
“‘I don’t like you, Park,’ she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. ‘I...’—her voice nearly disappeared—‘I think I live for you.’
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
‘I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,’ she whispered. ‘Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it's been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?’”
* 53. *
Feet of Clay
by. Terry Pratchett
A mystery is afoot in the city of Ankh-Morpork and...ugh...clues are everywhere. Strange murders, political poisonings, omnipresent small-scaled gender discriminations, malfunctioning living machines! It’s all got to tie together somehow, right? Commander Samuel Vimes and the officers of the city watch are on the case and they’re not happy about any of this.
You can generally assume that if it’s a Discworld book focusing on the City Watch, I will enjoy it greatly & this one is no exception.
This particular one features a much more procedural cop format than the others, so it’s never quite as good as the first time you read it when you didn’t already know the Who/What/When/Where/ and Hows. And yet that really doesn’t matter, because the true brilliance of the Watch books isn’t found in the mysteries, but in the character development and their eloquent look at humanity. And this one certainly has those things.
“Besides, Lord Vetinari represented stability. It was a cold and clinical kind of stability, but part of his genius was the discovery that stability was what people wanted more than anything else.
He’d said to Vimes once, in this very room, standing at this very window: ‘They think they want good government and justice for all, Vimes, yet what is it they really crave, deep in their hearts? Only that things go on as normal and tomorrow is pretty much like today’”
[GN] 54. [GN]
20th Century Boys
21st Century Boys
by. Naoki Urasawa
When they were kids a group of friends created a secret sci-fi story about the end of the world. Now they’re adults and have all gone their separate ways. But someone has started actually carrying out the villainous deeds they described in their book and a villainous cult leader in a mask seems to be at the center of it all. With the world at stake these friends must reunite and put a stop to the horrors they were responsible for inventing all those years ago.
This is an epic 22-volume manga, so I’ve actually been working my way through this one for awhile now. But I finally finished it!
And wow. Talk about a unique manga. It’s this wonderful mix of Science Fiction, Drama, and Action. And it has a plot structure like nothing I’ve seen before! I found myself constantly thinking I could see where it was going and then being wrong every single time. It expertly takes the story back and forth in time, slowly giving you hints as to what might happen next, constantly developing its characters, and never letting you know what’s going to happen next.
Speaking of characters, the characters in this story are all so great! Every single character is fleshed out and so much fun. They all have character arcs and after awhile you find yourself loving even the minor characters.
Something else that made it all so interesting was that the author clearly has an interest in American culture, because he makes a number of references to American culture. I mean, even the title of the series is based on the 1973 T.Rex song “20th Century Boy.” Actually I put this song on as I reached the end of the series and it was pretty much the perfect soundtrack to the end of the series.
The only negative thing I can say about it is that it was a little too drawn out. Don’t get me wrong, it never got bad, but I think if he had wrapped things up sooner it would have made the story as a whole quite a lot stronger? But considering how long the series went on while maintaining its excitement and quality, that’s a small complaint.
I highly recommend you give this series a try. It’s really fun and very different from the stuff we Americans generally think of when we think of manga. There are some science fiction/fantasy elements at work in it, but they’re actually very minimal and the majority of the story is based entirely in the real world.
Just trust me on this. 20th Century Boys is a really great read.
“In 1969 there was this thing called the Woodstock festival. Over 400,000 people came to see a rock concert. They called it a festival of love and peace. But the world is still about money, without money they couldn’t have brought that lineup together. But the huge mass of people over-crowded the place, and tore down the fences and gates. It had suddenly became a free concert.
The world may be about money, but that’s not all.
If you truly put up a fight...
Something will break down and give way.”
-vol. 9, Ch. 90