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65. Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Frederic Jameson - I did not completely understand this criticism. I loved it, but I did not see everything that he was talking about with it. I think it was beyond me. I do like the insight that Raymond Chandler uses space in an innovative way and the fact that all the Philip Marlowe books end up at the beginning with some member of the family. But by the time we get to the butler doing it (ok, it's usually the daughter or the husband), there are so many bodies that the world has been completely changed. This explains why The Big Lebowski is such a welcome addition to the Philip Marlowe canon, where the mystery outright doesn't matter but it's so great to inhabit that world (Poor Donny). Basically this is a book that I am going to have to put back on my shelf and come back to it later. I think that my emotional connection is to second guess all of my choices in the detective book that I've been writing for years, but that entire book is a second guess since I started it with an excuse to engage in some toxic masculinity and somewhere in the revisions realized that I hated that type of human being and why imitate Chandler? So definitely recommend this one, but I can't discuss it until I re-read it.

66. Batman Arkham Knight Genesis by Peter J. Tomasi & Alisson Borges - This is a fairly forgettable comic book that is set up as a prequel to a video game. I don't play video games so I don't really get that much out of it, or more importantly I can't appreciate the greater world. I guess this is its own story and trying to judge it from its own story perspective is that it's not so bad. It's the story that they've been building up with Jason Todd back from the dead and really pissed off. There's also a great deal of material about how he doesn't like Bruce Wayne all that much but there are some father issues going on. Also Joker shows up, but just does the Joker thing.

67. Ms. Marvel: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa & Mirka Andolfo - There are two wonderful stories bookending this volume and one tragic one that makes up the title story that it feels like a major tonal shift. The first story is about a science fair where Kamala's friend Bruno blows everything up in order to beat the kids from New York and just makes trouble. Also Miles Morales is the leader of the New York kids and Nova is in there somewhere. So the fun superhero material that has been the most charming part of the series comes forward but it's evolved from Kamala from the ultimate fangirl of all the other superheroes to Kamala as an associate with Spiderman and Nova with all three trying to preserve their superhero identities.

Ultimately the Bruno material becomes the plot aspect that becomes important in the next story. While the Civil War II story is about Kamala losing her faith in Captain Marvel due to the precognition program that is way too close to the drug war strategies that saw millions of black teenagers in jail instead of college (while their white peers skated past all those indiscretions without too much consternation), the Bruno aspects are the tragic heart. In fact, all of Kamala's friends come to the forefront in this story and while they are all complaining that she is a big hero and doesn't have time for them, there is a serious Buffy the Vampire Slayer aspect where the big heroine is not a heroine on her own but in her relationship to her friends. It's the fact that one of her friends might blow up the school even though he doesn't mean to hurt anyone that drives the plot. Anyone else and you might think that this is some kind of terrorist story and ask why he shouldn't be locked up, but in this case the friend is just hurting and coming to dumb decisions which are dealt with when his ex-girlfriend (who was the resident bitch of the early stories) explains that she isn't into him because she is a lesbian and decided to be honest.

And not to draw too much of a parallel with Buffy but Bruno becomes the Xander of the group when he is the one who is guaranteed to be an idiot and try to blow up the prison. Bruno spends days in a coma and when he comes out of it, he's permanently damaged and wants nothing to do with Kamala. This is definitely the Buffy season 2 ending (damnit, Ms. Marvel is NOT Buffy. Stop finding parallels) where Kamala has to go on her own. Meanwhile the story with Captain America and her pre-cog crime fighting is resolved by trapping her into a particular situation where she has to confront Iron Man who also experienced the same loss. Basically, Kamala is the main character of the story, but as far as Iron Man and Captain Marvel are concerned, she's a walk-on character. More than the fact that Captain Marvel is crypto-fascist, the way that Captain Marvel figures that Ms. Marvel is her mini-me drives them apart.

The last story of this book is an immigrant goes "home" story where Kamala goes back to Pakistan and sees her extended family. It's got some wonderful material about how she feels even more out of place because instead of the Pakistani girl in New Jersey, she is suddenly The American in Pakistan. Material about how they are toning down the spices and how she doesn't understand local politics so how is she going to be a superhero in this town are pretty amazing. The local politics one might be a little too much of a point being made after all, how many American interventions were about good intentions and faulty knowledge?

68. The Invincible Iron Man: Reboot by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez - I actually don't remember the plot. I guess Iron Man is trying to stop an old girlfriend from killing a bunch of dudes because of magic, but mostly I remember Tony Stark referring to Dr. Strange as his Awesome Facial Hair Bro. It's a dumb joke but it's nice to see these character moments. The movies have rendered Iron Man a lot more interesting than he was when I was reading comics as a kid. Tony Stark is going to be the selfish guy trying his best to be a decent human being and not being such a self-involved cretin. I suppose you could say that Tony Stark is the modern man, uncertain about his past and trying to build up a masculinity that isn't based on the toxic masculinity, but maybe that's too deep. Mostly Iron Man is Robert Downey jr. Just deal with it. The movies have given comic book writers the template for what to write instead of vice versa. Also Dr. Doom is hanging out for reasons that are probably going to come up later.

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Tim Lieder

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