marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
126.Miracleman Book 1: A Dream of Flying by Alan Moore & Garry Leach & Alan Davis - Alan Moore hates secret identities. He rendered Rorschach unrecognizable when he took off the mask. Clark Kent wasn't even a factor in most of his Superman stories. It rather fits with his 80s deconstruction of superheroes to make the alter egos non-entities. I'm not sure if Miracleman was written before or after Watchmen but it does have a lot of the same obsessions with superheroes as power fantasies and the dangerous implication of actual superheroes walking the earth. Also Miracleman has a weird rights story where the original character was Marvel Man who was a ripoff of Captain Marvel who was a slight variation on Superman (almost certain that there were lawsuits). And when Miracleman made it to America, Marvel decided that they had a copyright on Marvel so Miracleman. And now Marvel has reprinted those original American comics and called Alan Moore "the original writer" because apparently Moore is taking his name off of his comic books as well.

So this is a pretty good introduction to Alan Moore. You got the shlubby guy who is just pathetic whose alter ego is the godlike hero. You got the godlike hero's former sidekick turned into a full blown psychopath (not really sure if "he was 15 and alone and really powerful" is a decent explanation) and then you got the conspiracies where Miracleman finds out that the funny evil doctor from his adventures was the guy who made him. All this leads to aliens and trippy impossible to understand prose that hints at future events. That's an Alan Moore 80s trope too. Every so often Swamp Thing or Miracleman would go crazy because it could. And he got a lot of praise even though it's not that great.

127.Miracleman Book 2: The Red King Syndrome - Well that was a load of shit. Ok, so Miracleman has discovered that Dr. Gargunza is his maker and just in time Gargunza kidnaps his pregnant wife. There is one cool moment and that is the guy with the sapphire teeth narrating one of the stories while decapitated. Like that's his last moment thought. But the rest is just a drag. Dr. Gargunza's plan involves putting his personality and soul into the baby. But his origin story is silly. Oh sure, we already got that he made the Miracleman family and that he kept them dreaming when they thought that they were having their fun adventures only to hit them with a nuclear weapon. But his origin story? Holy fuck that one is straight out of central casting. He was a poor boy trying to help his mother so he got in with a gang. But he was a genius so he managed to manage the gang activities enough to get everyone to kill the leader when the leader tried to rape him. And then he went to Germany and got in with the Nazi. The bit about being friends with Heidigger was funny. And then he started the program to become immortal and yeah, one of the people was a cute dog who becomes a killer demon dog when the right word is spoken.

And Michael Moran manages to find a way to turn the dog back (same word) and instead of just getting the dog as far away from Gargunza as possible beats the dog to death. And then brings Gargunza into the atmosphere and hurls him into earth. Then the baby is born and the baby can speak full words. In the next story will be the baby talking like an adult because weirdly genius level babies were the rage in the 80s. It is really rather dull like Alan Moore is just repeating all of his old tropes. I strongly suspect that Moore started this comic when he was an unknown in England and then finished it after he was super famous. But the story is on coherent story. It's just that it seems like the second book is showing signs of boredom.

128.Promethea book one by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III - The opening part doesn't have much hope since the origin story is very much like Miracleman. Normal person suddenly discovers that she is an all powerful super powered being and then she can't get back to her normal persona. Only this is Alan Moore several generations after Miracleman. He is deconstructing narratives sure but he's also celebrating the things that he loves. Promethea has a lot of snake goddess and Egyptian iconography but ultimately Promethea is about story telling and how it frees us up and how a story can take on many forms. So most of the story is in the hospital where the protagonist goes into the land of dreams and meets the various Promethea. Alan Moore also likes to use a lot of magic stuff including the four elements and Tarot cards but not necessarily in this one. The most Moore part of this is when a Promethea from the pulp era shows up and the villain is the pulp writer. The pulp writer is divided into the five different writers by the protagonist who did a paper on that era.

This is much more fun than Miracleman but it is annoying in the way that Moore seems to have problems with female friendship and depicting it. The protagonist and her best friend seem like bros engaging in a lot of gay panic humor instead of female friends. I know that I am engaging in sexual stereotyping here too but it just seems much more like bro talk.

129.Promethea Book 2 by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III - So the story begins still in the hospital. Alan Moore talks about transgender rights as one of the Prometheas is a comic book writer but it ends in the way that many transgender romances end in fiction. The male lover finds out and kills the transgender one. The weird Egyptian god assassins invade the hospital but the protagonist makes everyone into a Promethea and the trippy fantasy bits are quite amusing. There's also a bit where Promethea fucks an old wizard who says that she is going to end the world (she does end the world which is kind of cool but I don't know if that comic is at the library) and then when Promethea goes to the Temple to destroy them, she finds that they are having a child's birthday party. So instead of killing them (Alan Moore is no longer giving us heroes who kill puppies) she opens their minds and makes them see things from her perspective and engage in the stories.

The last chapter is about the Tarot Cards. Not surprisingly I would have read everything Alan Moore ever wrote when i was in college. Not so much today.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
125.One Punch Man # 6 by One & Yusuke Marata - Looks like I am getting closer to the part of the story that goes beyond the television show. This book is all about the same aliens who are really powerful and just destroying everyone. Of course, Saitama comes in at the end and just beats everyone in the spaceship until getting to the final boss who just wanted to come to earth because there was a prophecy that he couldn't beat someone on earth or he would find a challenge. Saitama calls him an idiot. It's very meta since this is the existential crisis of the hero who can totally beat everyone up without a sweat. So now they are challenging each other and to be continued.

Kind of frustrating. I think I am reading so many books because I count all these Japanese manga comics as one even though they are mostly chapters in a multi-part saga.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
124.The Book & the Sword by Louis Cha (translated by Graham Earnshaw) - So that's what a kung fu novel is about. Cool. I should say more. Ok, this is a kung fu novel which sounds like a strange misnomer since kung fu is movies not books. How are you going to just describe something that is so visual? But there are plenty of books about things that are visual or seemingly better told visual. There are war books and books about sports and books about driving. Sure it's better to see a character jumping to the wall and throwing the archers into the pit, but we all have imagination.

The story itself is definitely serialized with the plot dashing around from secret societies to politics to one large set piece where everyone thinks that one family is responsible for the kidnapping of one member only to burn down the house before everything gets sorted out. And then there are points where the army separates everyone and somewhere in the middle is the favorite plot of many of these books, the one where the emperor is the brother to the head of the Red Flower Society (because he was switched at birth and is really Chinese and not Manchu). Next thing you know the narrative ends up in the Muslim territories with the Uighers and Chen is int he middle of a love triangle as he is in love with both sisters - one is an amazing tactician and fighter and the other one is beautiful. That's pretty much it for the latter. The father wishes that he was Muslim so if he married both daughters he would treat them as equals instead of as wife and concubine. Then they are running from wolves through the desert and there's another old couple that really thinks that Chen is just a player and tries to let the wolves kill them. The emperor comes back when even though all the main characters are totally beating the Chinese army, the Muslims completely lose off camera because history.

The ending is weird because both the main goals - kill the emperor or get the emperor to push out the Manchus - are obviously not going to happen. But it's still a thrilling bit at the end especially since most of the formerly invincible kung fu fighters start dying. I don't know if there are other Louis Cha books out there but I kind of want to see them. I mean there are other Cha books but are they translated? I don't know.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
120. American Vampire vol 2 by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque - When I initially did this, I was trying to see how much I could read in a year. Turns out that I can read about 100 books. Now it's book 120 and I don't feel like I've read more. But the difference is that I am reading more graphic novels. I always counted graphic novels but I also refused to count the ones that were just fluff like the Angel season 8 series that basically serves as fan service to people who want to know about Angel getting along with that dragon and nothing else. So now I am reviewing all the comics I read and i think I might have made a mistake in that endeavor, mostly because I am reading a lot of dumb ones.

This one isn't that bad. In fact, I like the American Vampire series and I've read most of the books, only this is the second book and I've already read the ones around it. This can't feel like anything but a place holder. Book three gave us WWII and Japanese vampires with our anti-hero sneering away at the heroine's husband for being mortal. I also read the fourth or the fifth one where the evil roommate from the first series comes calling and there's a big fight and the one non-vampire dies of old age with his wife very sad. So when I read this one, I just read the seeds being planted for those stories. The anti-vampire group is trying to find a way to kill Sweet. The married couple is living happily but she's worried about her husband dying and he's worried about her eating him. And the evil roommate is back and she's out for revenge, revenge that she won't get close to. There's also Sweet trying to kill a bunch of vampires in Vegas but this takes place in the 1930s so Vegas is dull. It's ok, but the series has done better.

121.Howard the Duck: What the Duck by Chip Zdarsky & Joe Quinnones - with the pun title and the cloyingly cynical story I was worried that Chip Zdarsky was also the writer of Squirrel Girl and that would have hurt to think that Squirrel Girl was written by a douchebag. But thankfully Zdarsky wrote Sex Criminals and this has the same "I'm way too smart for my own good. Ain't I the coolest" attitude. Sure, the running gag about Spiderman getting beat up is funny but the rest of this thing is just an exercise in attitude over substance.

122.Doctor Who: Weapons of Past Destruction by Cavan Scott and Blair Shedo - So what do you do when you are doing fan service comics that have to take place at certain parts of the narrative? It seems kind of stupid to give the reader cliff hangers about Rose getting lost in the time stream or Jack potentially dying when the television show is already canon. The rest of this story is a repetition of what the first season was all about which was that the Time Lords are gone and everything is a mess. I don't even remember the ending but there was one race that was trying to make things right and another race that was screwed over by this planning.

123.The Flash vol 1: Lightning Strikes Twice by Joshua Williamson & Carmine di Grandomencio - So much for thinking that DC Universe Rebirth was a breath of fresh air after whatever the fuck The New 52 was trying to do. Barry Allen is young again! The other Flash is his best friend's nephew. Barry Allen remembers Crisis death! But really a lot of people get the Flash power and they all need to be trained or something. So where do we go? Exactly where you would expect. Flash feels great to have new friends. Some of the new friends are not good people. He gets a girlfriend! Someone starts killing off the other Flashes! Boo! The girlfriend dies. Maybe she's alive. Has he checked the fridge? The killer turns out to be his best friend and he had a good reason. At least as far as he thinks. They fight. Flash wins! Let's pretend this plot wasn't out of a kit.
marlowe1: (Spinning Tardis)
So I know that not many people read this journal. Hell, not many people were reading livejournal and I am linking to that one but again Craigslist has put me on the shit list. I think it's CL itself since the flagging and deleting is too fast for competitor writers to go around trying to screw up things and get rid of my posts. Maybe they have bots who do it now, but of course this always comes at my slow months. I get that CL doesn't want too many people spamming away on their site but they already have a 3 ads within a 36 hour period rule. That should be enough to keep the spammers away from the site.

Instead they have an arbitrary rule about not posting too much in too many markets and they never follow it until they do. And then when they do follow it, they follow it to the point that everything is on a shit list. And one of the ways that they follow it is if you are making "too many posts" which means posting regularly. And of course, you are only posting regularly when your work dries up.

So when I don't have work, I post to CL and then CL starts noticing and at first it's one or two flagged and deleted posts. But the more I post the more eager CL is to delete me.

What I am saying is that is there any better site for finding the private clients that really pay my rent and bills? Craigslist is going to delete me and kill my postings for at least a month and there's no guarantee that I can do anything to get off of their shit list (even if I only post once a week they will kill that post). I should go to Cracked and send out more freelance pitches, but I like the semi-steady income that comes with people who need me to write all of their Criminology papers.
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
Professional writer available for all jobs. I have a Masters of English from Long Island University and my own publishing company (Dybbuk Press) through which I've published nine titles including She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror. I am available for all work including:
  • Term papers - MLA and APA
  • Thesis editing
  • Personal statements
  • Web site content
  • Resumes
  • Obituaries
  • Blog Posts
  • Dating Profiles
  • Business Communication
  • Publicity
  • Novel Editing
  • Writing Coach
  • Copywriting
I charge $25/hour. I take Paypal, Venmo and Chase Quickpay.

Please contact omanlieder-at-yahoo for rate quotes and samples.

Writing this since Craigslist keeps removing my ads.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
118. One-Punch Man 5 by Yusuke Muraita - And now we continue the saga of Saitama Gets No Love (but mostly doesn't care). This time the joke gets even bigger as the sea king is ultra-powerful and has to take down several all powerful characters as well as lame heroes like the dude on the bike who is the biggest hero in the C class but really is just a guy who rides a bike around and is brave. Of course, since Saitama's roommate/buddy/student is a cyborg he gets ripped to hell again. This is reminiscent of the ventriloquist coming back on the Batman cartoon just so they can complete rip apart his dummy in the most Saw way possible. And after the big monster destroys almost everyone Saitama comes along and of course he beats him, but then of course as soon as the danger is over there's one little asshole dismissing his victory as an easy. The rest of the book is about Saitama's quest to get enough change to use a vending machine. There's also the prophecy of the really big and nasty aliens who round out the Netflix show so this is exciting.

119.Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki - I had to read this one fast in order to take it back to the library. So thankfully I got the full impact as this book seems to be two books in one. The first book is a Beetle Bailey kind of book where very cartoon looking soldiers deal with piss and shit and spit. Even the deaths seem comical as two soldiers are moving through the river and when one looks back the second soldier is gone because yeah, he was eaten by an alligator. But then the Americans come and it becomes a very angry and grim book about the stupidity of war. Mostly it's about the stupidity of the military with the Japanese military being particularly stupid in its insistence that the soldiers all act like samurais going to their deaths while referencing Dai-Nanko who is the Japanese equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade or Remember the Alamo (I know that I probably shouldn't see everything Asian through a Western lens but in this particular book it's appropriate since hero-worshiping famous soldiers who died en masse is a propaganda technique that infects many societies).

And perhaps the main differences between these soldiers and the Western soldiers is they didn't experience the trenches of WWI and they didn't have a body of recent literature that basically came down to FUCK THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Or maybe I'm straining here. Regardless, Japanese soldiers did not surrender for the most part. This was something that westerners admired but as one of those soldiers who was ordered to charge in the "noble death" standard, Shigeru Mizuki is very pissed off about it. Even in the 1990s when he wrote the new introduction to this 1973 book he is still angry about the commanders who put honor about life. Soldiers are supposed to die and their lives are their commanders but their commanders should actually have a fucking plan and in the difference between modern Japan and imperial Japan there is a huge judgment.

No wonder Battle Royale was so popular. (hell there was a Seniors React video where most of the reactors saw one of the imitation movies - Hunger Games? - as a perfect metaphor for what societies do to their young people whenever there's a war.)
marlowe1: (Maggie)
117. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin - Because I was friends with N.K. Jemisin on Facebook I met a woman who knew her from the days when they both wrote Dragon Ball Z fan fiction. The thought made me laugh just because Nora is a bestselling writer who had several Hugo nominations by that point. But I kept thinking about that anecdote when I was reading this book and it felt serious respect for the fact that even when N.K. Jemisin was writing fan fiction for an anime that most people stop watching when they are 14, she was writing stories so great that years later, her fans from the Dragon Ball Z days were finding her and connecting with her on Facebook.

I can see why reading this book. There's a certain thrill to reading a book where you think you know what you are going to get and realize that it goes beyond your expectations. The opening chapters set up a world of politics where the protagonist is the leader of a tribal society in Darr who is called over to the capital of all the kingdoms by her grandfather, the lead Aramari and rule of all the hundred thousand kingdoms. The story thus far seems conventional as you have a central palace full of corrupt nobility and the daughter of the one noble who left that world being forced to come back to it and engage in the politics while learning about the world building. It's a good premise but it's also familiar. The fact that the rivals to the throne are going to be psychopaths is pretty much expected. Usually the twist is that the most aggressive rival is the secret ally while the one that seems harmless is the real villain.

Only when the first rival shows up with a "weapon" which is a human manifestation of the God of Night and we are in a completely different world. From a palace intrigue story the book pivots to a tale of gods and faith where the order of the universe is up for debate. The background is that three gods once ruled the universe but the Lord of Light killed Twilight and defeated the Night Lord and now the Aramari are charged with keeping the order in the universe. All of the court intrigue is still in place, but now Yeine is playing at a bigger intrigue than anyone else in the kingdoms can imagine.

The gods that are kept within the Sky are both terrifying and beautiful and the fact that Yeine has no choice but to partner with them only makes them that much more terrifying. But they are not just scary sociopaths like one finds in Tanith Lee. Despite the early scenes of Nahadoth committing genocide at the order of a past king who did not think things through when ordering him to attack the enemies, these are gods in all the existential pagan ways and they may seem random but they definitely have their wills.

Look. I feel like I am completely unprepared to even review this book. There are some books that are so good that they force you to read them all the way through and want even more. It's so much easier to review books that you hate because you can just slag off on them, but books that you love? Books that make you feel like you need to bring much more to your writing? Books that just grab you? If I was a professional reviewer (an interesting term since most book reviewers are freelance writers getting their feet in the door) I would have to write something amazing and profound about this book and send it off to the editor knowing that I didn't get half as much about what I loved about this book.

If I was an academic I could sit on this book, think about it, read other essays on it and then come up with a more comprehensive critical assessment. I will probably write about this book later. It really hit me that much.

But I am a blogger who decided to do this silly little project of reviewing all the books I have read this year and I have a couple of comic books that need reviewing before I get them back to the library. So I spent hours trying to get this right and still feel like I've inadequately described it. Basically any reaction from a reader of this blog short of "holy shit I have to read this book right away" is a failure but also I want to put every thought I had while reading this book. I can't. But you should really read it.
marlowe1: (Default)
113. Superman Adventures by Scott McCloud & Rick Burchett - While the main Superman stories were dragging the audience into a contrived Dead Superman story, the television show was giving audiences a Superman that is actually fun and hearkening back to the weird Superman stories of the 1960s. While Superman was still not as popular as Batman it had a goofy energy that allowed stories where Superman played baseball with aliens or Lobo showed up and did not necessarily have to kill planets. And of course, Scott McCloud is one of the best writers in the field. This is a Superman that can be framed with an American flag behind him and it doesn't feel silly or contrived in the slightest.

114.The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the Great Lake Avengers by Various - When I was reading Squirrel Girl I wondered why such a great character seemed to disappear after her initial introduction in an X-Men title. She's hilarious. She talks to squirrels and has a tail. That's her power. Why didn't anyone do anything with her before now? The answer is apparently they did do things with her, only it was the 90s and the 90s was full of this kind of ironic hipster superhero storytelling was popular because everyone in Generation X was a hipster as far as the marketing guys went and they wanted ironic appreciation of stupid things. It was the OK Cole marketing generation. So this comic has Squirrel Girl written badly but it also has several other heroes that were dripping with hipster irony like the guy who keeps coming back to life and the flat dude who is like Mr. Fantastic but 2 dimensions. There is Big Bertha whose superpower is that she can make herself really fat but then vomit it all out and go back to being a model. Speedball even shows up because he was the Marvel character that was supposed to counter all the grim and gritty dark stuff.

The stories are stupid. There are some laughs. There's a Caterpillar superhero who keeps dying. But mostly these stories are "funny" as opposed to being funny. It's basically every bad imitation of a great comedy ever made. You see one movie and it's funny but then you see a bunch of movies that recycle those same gags and they are so not funny.

This is also a collection of the Squirrel Girl stories in several books including The Thing, which is the one that especially bothered me because it was that big move to give their heroes ethnic identities without actually doing the homework. So The Thing has his Bar Mitzvah (very convoluted explanation as to why) and his TORAH PORTION is Job. Fucking Job. Job is not in the Torah. Job is not even in the Prophets. Job is wisdom literature and it's a philosophical novel that requires a lot more thought that "well I guess I don't have it so bad" which is the Thing's dvar Torah. It was fucking pathetic.

115.Attack on Titan book 1 by Hajime Isayama - I get that Attack on Titan has a lot of stuff to say about totalitarianism and how fascists collect their people and I assume that there is a twist about the Titans being operated by the fascist regime to keep everyone in place but right now there's just a lot of big monsters eating people. I will hang on for a bit longer.

116.Down Set. Fight! by Chris Sims & Chad Bowers - I did not think that this one would be much good, mostly because I'm not that into football and the first chapter is all about the talented rookie who is being pressured by his gambler father to throw the game. And then he punches out the mascot. But then the story kicks in where the mascots have gotten sick of getting beat up so they are fighting back and now the father is out of jail and taking bets on football player vs. mascot. So it's got some charm.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
110.Batgirl vol 1: Beyond Burnside by Hope Larson and Rafael ALbuquerque - I thought that the DC Universe Reboot was supposed to be the antidote to all that toxic crap that came out of the New 52. I think it might have worked in reverse in this case where one of the few decent titles from New 52 turned to crap with the reboot. And that's not fair. I think I respect this title as a lighthearted romp with Batgirl that gets over the darkness of the normal bat series. I just don't care about Barbara Gordon. She's out of the wheel chair. She is traveling Asia. She has the money to travel Asia. There are a bunch of kung fu masters trying to kill her old boyfriend who is a loser. They all have "student" tattooed to their arms and when she finds the teacher it turns out to be a scam artist who gives the students pills to make them smart and take their entrance exams.

I am sorry for spoiling things but when something sucks this bad it's more of a warning.

111. Memorpho The Element Man: Two Worlds One Destiny by Aaron Lopresti - What makes this one so aggravating is that these stories come from Legends of Tomorrow and every cover has better and more interesting characters. Metamorpho is just a dude caught in a trap who can make elemental crap going on. And then there is an evil industrialist with the daughter who helps Metamorpho because she was told and that's a plot twist we see coming a mile away (even without Ivanka to play the daughter with the fake conscience). She turns into fire or something. There are also pyramids and aliens and boring shit.

112. X-Men: Wolverine Gambit (Victims) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale - As I read this comic I knew that it wasn't recent even though the copyright was from last year. It was way too 90s when the bringing together of two big name heroes (Gambit was very popular at one point) was all you needed. This mini-series was probably hailed as a classic in its time. It certainly fridged a character in the opening page. She was Gambit's friend introduced solely for this title and she died in a Jack the Ripper murder that was maybe possibly done by Wolverine. It wasn't but the writers said "yeah fuck it, we can make people believe that it is Wolverine because why the fuck now" and then it turns out to be Arcade. And even better, Arcade is now a psycho killer who killed his assistant in their annual "hey let's try to kill each other" game. That's it. Arcade did it. Arcade used to be fun, the guy who did the Most Dangerous Game but no one ever died. But nope, now Arcade is going to kill people. No wonder I haven't seen him for a long time.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
108. One Punch Man vol 4 by Yusuke Marata and One - Saitama again points out that he is impervious to criticism and pretty much every other monster. The sea monsters make an appearance in this one and they are going to be a major threat. At this point most of the plots have been set and they are just variations. The monsters come. They are unstoppable. There is a lot of screaming and gnashing of teeth and then Saitama shows up and punches them and they are gone. There are variations. Saitama gets rid of the meteor but that just means that it fragments into dozens of pieces that still cause destruction. The joke at the end that I should not laugh at was the plot where the hero is in jail and keeps breaking out of jail to capture more villains so he can get them in the jail and fuck them. Prison rape jokes should have died out years ago, but that one is enthusiastic and so stupid, I laughed. I feel bad about myself.

109.Odysseus: The Oath by Valerio Massimo Manfredi - This is the first of a two book series, at least I think it's a two book series. It is both slow and moves too fast. Odysseus starts as a child and tours throughout the mythology with his father constantly talking up Hercules and the whole "Hercules killed his family" story being played for thriller as it wasn't really Hercules but his deceitful cousin who shouldn't be king. The way the book was going I was certain that it would end with the beginning of the Trojan War but the Oath of the title comes around page 200 with Odysseus explaining that the Oath was because he didn't want all the kings fighting over Helen when she made her decision. But it keeps going and when the Trojan War starts, there is not much effort to flesh out the non-Homer material like with The Bronze Age. It skips years and comes to the point of Homer but from Odysseus' perspective. By the end of the book Odysseus feels bad about Ajax, Troy is destroyed and the sequel is going to be a retelling of The Odyssey. I just can't bring myself to care.
marlowe1: (Default)
107. The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein - I don't always choose a book because I know the author or am excited by the themes. I don't buy all the books in my library. In fact most of my books were taken from free book shelves or bought in lots with other books. I might have a slight agenda when I choose these books but there is often a feeling of "what's it going to hurt" coming through. I don't know where I got this book. Was it at a science fiction convention or did it end up on the free books bookshelf outside Starbucks? I do have a good idea as to what I was thinking when I grabbed it. It's a book by a woman. It looks like fantasy. There might even be a Jewish element. And then I put it on the pre-selection pile for the pocket books and went through the queue of dozens of books before it, many unreadable, and it came up.

So there was a pleasant surprise when I read this book and found that not only was it well-written but compelling as Goldstein depicts a shtetl in Hungary shortly before the Holocaust with the tension of the town rabbi and a visitor who is having visions. For the first 75 pages, that's the idyllic novel. Just a town with a rabbi and a visitor and his golems that never work. And then the Nazis come. At this point the book works on a Primo Levi level with the move towards what people need to do for survival. It doesn't go into the most disgusting details but there's enough trauma to make the third act when the few survivors come together and the rabbi and the magician have their final confrontation.

I find it odd that I don't mention Kicsi, the main character, when I am reviewing it. Even though she's the only character in the second act, for most of the first and third acts she is just the person who watches as the perspective character.

Anyhow this is a short one and if you can find a copy definitely read it.
marlowe1: (Default)
106. The Totally Awesome Hulke: Cho Time by Greg Pak, Frank Cho & Mike Choi - I have been arguing that Marvel's new direction is really amazing and I have a lot of examples to cite as proof that Marvel is a fun and diverse comic book company that puts out quality products that celebrate diversity and storytelling. Unfortunately, this is not one of the comics that I will cite in this argument. In fact, this might be the kind of comic book that the alt-right assholes would point to in that tired old "Marvel is just trying to push an agenda instead of telling stories" argument. That is a completely stupid argument because Marvel puts out white dude comic after white white dude comic that fail and they fall by the wayside. So here is an example of a book put out by Asian creators with an Asian hero and as much as I admire the effort, I found that it was ultimately a failure. The difference here is that I hope that Marvel puts out MORE comics with Asian creators and Asian heroes as opposed to the neckbeard contingent and marketing bros who assume that that's it. They got their shot.

But white supremacy should just fucking go away. It won't. But damn, it would be nice if I could just give a Hulk comic a bad review without discussing the diversity issue. If there were dozens of Asian superheroes with Asian writers in America, I wouldn't feel the need to address it. Maybe I should put everything on a global scale and compare this comic to One Punch Man, but of course that's ignoring years of cultural history on both sides of the Pacific and I'm already ignorant enough about Manga and Japanese culture.

Anyhow after you get past the "oh cool. An Asian Hulk" you have to deal with the fact that the main character is in that sitcom role as the fun loving horny dude who just wants to smash things with the sister who is the buzzkill. I've already talked enough about this subject, but yet this is really bro-ing up the bro culture. But also is kind of silly when you put women in that caregiver role. It's not THAT bad. The sister is stuck in the role and so is She-Hulk but there are villain women who are - um - sexy? I guess.

Also it took me a second to realize that the title was a crappy pun.

I really didn't like this one. The art was kind of cool but Cho Hulk is just annoying as fuck. And also why does She-Hulk get to be all cool and stable but all the dudes who are Hulk are raging hormones or temper tantrums. That just seems wrong.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
105. 1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline - Toward the end of the book, Cline outright rejects the title, stating that 1177 BCE is not THE year that Bronze civilization collapsed so much as one of the better dates to use since it was the year of a major battle. This was definitely a title that was made to bring in the readers. It even uses the Christian dating system instead of Common Era and Before Common Era.

Unfortunately the catchy title does not properly convey the rather dry academic work that is within the book. I do not feel like I am getting much context and many of these groups like the Hittites and the Myceneans fly by me with name checks of rulers that I never heard about before. There is a compelling story of a Hittite king but it all feels a little strained. The parts that I do latch onto are the parts about Israel (it was around before 1177 as it is named in a letter) and Troy because Homer. It's nice to think about how our western culture is held up by two epics about the collapse of the Bronze Age. But there is also the fact that neither of these events might have happened.

Most of the book is about the archaeological sites and these are great bits because a great deal of what we know about the Bronze Age is scattered, but this also presents a problem. How can we know what was going on in the Bronze Age, especially when most of the discoveries are recent? Most of this material is about the places where the cities collapsed.

Once it gets to the conclusion, it feels anticlimatic. Mostly the author is noting that there are several theories like drought, earthquakes, the sea people, etc. and yet there seems to be many explanations and it was probably the interdependence that meant that many of these places were destroyed after one of them fell. After a lot this verbiage, there is a shrug that states that shit happens and maybe it's just natural that societies collapse and besides we wouldn't have Athens and Israel without the end of the Bronze Age.

Ultimately the subject is fascinating but this is not a good introduction book since it expects the reader to know a great deal without providing the background. Who were the Hittites and what made the Egyptians so powerful? I found myself thinking about the fourth Gunslinger book and how it conveyed the feeling of an imminent collapse. I was actually pretty disappointed when the comics continued the Gunslinger series from Wizards & Glass and the villain in that book was the villain throughout. I wanted another villain. But I still loved Wizards and Glass because it showed the ways that people tried to carry on even as they were doing their part to destroy the old world.

I am not asking for that from a book about the collapse of an actual society or Bronze Age. But I shouldn't keep remembering it either.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
103.Doctor Strange The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin - And I was just praising Vaughan too. But this is a mess, not even a decent mess, just a lot of crap based on the Dr. Strange mythos that keeps repeating his origin story (the doctor who treated his hands also found the Ancient One in a bad retcon twist) and reviving the troubling relationship between Doctor Strange and Wong, the manservant who keeps calling him master. Dr. Strange does say that its a voluntary servitude and he learned karate from him but yuck. I suppose this is one of those "hey new comic and new chance to introduce the characters" stories just like in the movies but it's so tired. It just goes over the same ground. Wong is Dr. Strange's servant (prefer the movie version where he's a cohort) and he is trying to find an elixer to save Wong that can also cure everything but you know it's not going to be allowed into the rest of the Marvel Universe since that would mean a disease free story telling tradition.

104.Hawkeye: Hawkeyes by Jeff Lemire & Ramon Perez - The art sucks on this one. I don't think that the artists were trying here. It's all blocky figures and maybe some kind of 80s New Mutants deal, but it's not really exciting. And then the story has a 30 years in the future element that is basically just serving to undercut the whole thing. At first I thought it was some time travel thing where the two Hawkeyes come together and will go back in time to keep them from giving up the New Inhumans (Mutants belong to Fox) but nope, it's just there to give us a post-apocalyptic future that goes badly for everyone. And then they come together in the present so what the fuck is that future all about?
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
101. Runaways The Complete Collection volume one by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona - Hey, I recognize that artist from Ms. Marvel! I know that Vaughan is a legend, but Adrian Alphona is impressive for the distinctiveness in the ways that people look and the expressions. Best of all, Adrian doesn't usually give us the butt first poses for women. There's a cover with the alien teenager flying that does that but mostly this artist is not objectifying and that's refreshing.

Beyond that, this book is a great story that was not planned out as an 18-issue miniseries but feels like it as it organically flows from one story to the next one as the six runaways come to realize their power, question everything that their parents were doing and take those tentative first steps toward figuring out their morality. I am rather sad that I didn't know about this comic until now and I find it even more ironic since I was publicly declaring that I was done with comics in toto when this came out (I also was talking about how I didn't want to read epic fantasy around the time that Game of Thrones came out with its third book but that's fine as I didn't have to wait forever for books 4 & 5).

The strangest part about this book was how Gertrude was supposed to be the hated teenager. She was supposed to be the know-it-all that no one liked and yet she was perfectly fine in the first issue. But later on, the parents take a special joy in beating the crap out of her and calling her fat, which just seems weird and cruel. It's only in reading the pitch where she's the hated one where it makes sense. So that's like the scene in High Fidelity where Jack Black states that Evil Dead 2 has the best soundtrack. It's only if you read the book and find out that the scene was taken word-for-word from the book except they were talking about Reservoir Dogs. So everyone is acting like Gertrude is a horribly obnoxious kid but she is actually a sweetheart with a pet dinosaur. Even the inevitable betrayal makes sense.

102.Astro City Victory by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson - This is the third Astro City I've read but the first one with a story that focuses on one character in a multi-part story. Maybe that's a coincidence. Maybe most of the comics are multi-part arcs and I just read the single issue collections. I like the single issue collections the most. Winged Victory is rather boring. She's too good and the story concerns a villain trying to ruin her reputation. I don't even remember the villain. I just grabbed the book to look him up and I still don't remember him. Karna-Something. Basically he's an alt-right troll who hates women. He's forgettable but the material about how she is doubting herself and how the group that gave her powers is also doubting her is pretty effective. Not nearly effective enough for me to love this story, but effective enough for me to like it.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
99. Ms. Marvel Civil War by Brian Reed et al - Carol Danvers is one of the most abused and messed up characters in the Marvel universe. It's like she is every writer's punching bag (and believe me I am thinking about the much more disgusting metaphors because they fit more). It's also that she cannot get anyone to write her as the badass superhero that she should be. Ok, lately she's been better but damn, she's had a long and a weary journey to some semblance of cool hero. And yes, I borrowed this comic because I was looking for Ms. Marvel titles with Kamala and figured what the hell when I got to this one. So there are two main stories here. The first one is the bullshit where Danvers takes Stark's side in the Civil War and harasses a bunch of heroes and I think "FUCKING HELL BENDIS" for writing that shit and then hating Marvel for making everyone else go along with it.

The second story is an alternate universe Carol Danvers story with Rogue and it asks the question "should you forgive your rapist, especially if they feel really bad about it?" And yes, Rogue didn't literally rape Danvers on that bridge, but most of the symbolism surrounding the act make it very clear that both Rogue and Danvers treat it with the same gravitas. And it's a complicated question that remains complicated for the first half until alternate universe Carol Danvers turns out to be just CRAZY VENGEANCE SEEKING BITCH - the comic's perspective, not mine. And then it just becomes a fight and a chase sequence where Rogue is good and Alternate Carol Danvers is evil and one has to be saved from the other. It's a disappointing flattening of characters that does nothing for the story (at least when Joe Hill did it in Heart-Shaped Box, it snapped the narrative into something exciting and fun).

Constantine vol 2: The Art of the Deal by Ming Doyle & James Tynion - First reaction is "Hey John is fucking a dude now" which was always implied when I was reading the old stories but never expressly depicted. John Constantine's bisexuality always seemed to be a flavoring to his mostly and aggressively heterosexual life. So good for them for making Constantine attempt to have a relationship with a man.

And then fuck everything else about this book. It's like a Constantine Greatest Hits with Swamp Thing and Papa Voodoo and Nergal all getting their shots in the spotlight in a story that is taken straight from the anti-Thatcher issue of the Delano run where demons are trading souls on the bear market only to find out that the market dropped out. Also we get another reminder that John can't have nice things because everyone who gets close to him ends up dead or in hell, which is what happens to the boyfriend. Have a nice day!
marlowe1: (Default)
95. Esperanza by Jaime Hernandez - Scott McCloud wrote that when Love & Rockets premiered the number of Mexican characters in comic books automatically quadrupled. That doesn't really have much to do with this review, but it's nice to remember how fucking white comic books are. As a white male I am ok with not being catered to and I wouldn't even notice it if I had read this book earlier.

So this book is the continuing saga of Maggie and Hopey and their friends, but mostly it's about "Frogmouth" a woman who is emotionally unhinged but in that same way attracts everyone to her because she is exciting and crazy and wild. Ray is the one who becomes most obsessed and the book always implies but never outright states that he was there when her boyfriend was murdered. Maggie is also attracted to Frogmouth but Maggie actually has some sense. The end of the book is Hopey transitioning from bartender to teacher's assistant and this is the sweet ending to this one.

96.Ms. Marvel: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona - Kamala's mother knows! It's one of the sweetest most tear inducing scenes in the books and i love it. It's also the beginning of the Zoe/Nakia maybe romance, we don't really know that yet. At very least Zoe has a crush on Nakia and the silly dance party sequence that has ruined many a Dreamworks movies since Shrek is quite wonderful. And hell, Kamala's brother telling off her privileged ex-boyfriend was just great, not just because he's a jerk but also because there's an assumption that the religious older brother is going to be easily swayed by power fantasies.

One of the things i liked about the Spiderman Homecoming movie was just how much of it was about the characters and their drama with each other instead of convoluted plotting and action sequences. I think that Ms. Marvel is really a pioneer in this standard for comics. There is some plot going on here. She meets Captain Marvel and gets starstruck. Her ex-boyfriend tries to manipulate her brother who already hates him so that doesn't work and the world comes to a Secret Wars type ending to be continued in the big mucky muck series. But really none of it would matter without Kamala and her friends.

On the other hand, the insertion of two issues from Spiderman again demonstrate how fucking boring comic books can be. Also G. Willow Wilson is a great writer because whomever was writing those Spiderman issues does not know how to write Ms. Marvel. He thinks he does (I am assuming the writer is male based on the shitty almost-naked costume for Silk alone) but wow he's terrible. Ms. Marvel is reduced to the greatest hits for the character - particularly being starstruck in meeting heroes that she had been slash fiction writing for years, only we saw that Kamala. She did it with Wolverine. With Captain Marvel she was much more capable. Rehashing Kamala's meeting with Wolverine is not cute or even fun in a retro way. It's just a boring waste of a character.

97. A-Force: Hyerptime by G. Willow Wilson, Kelly Thompson & Jorge Molina - I'm not sure what to make of this one. It's G. Willow Wilson damnit and I don't like it. It seems like a clumsy way to bring the best of the B-heroines together into one team with Captain America, She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa and Niko from the Runaways all forming a team because some weird space anomaly decided that they were all friends during the Secret Wars so they should get together. I don't know if the Secret Wars already happened or if this is what they did with the first series which was to have all the characters come back and use the Secret Wars to fill in the blanks concerning Spiderman's black costume, Hulk's crankiness, etc. Also it's kind of obvious from other comics that Wilson isn't terribly fond of Captain Marvel. It's an origin comic and I will pick up a new one in the same title but thus far it's not much more than "hey let's meet. Oh hey Dazzler can't die. When did that first happen?"

There's also a pretty terrible story from the sixties where women get together to form a superhero team because Women's Lib. I suppose it's kind of amusing but also very irritating.

98. One Punch Man # 3 by One & Yusuke Marata - Why is there so much Kumba outside the door? That line made me laugh. Saitama is now using the monsters for his grocery shopping needs. Most of this book is about the ranking of superheroes which is probably a parody of manga tropes where the hero rises through the ranks of the superhero ranks like a video game character fighting increasingly dangerous monsters. Since Saitama is all powerful and can take out anyone with one punch, his ranking as a C-class hero at the bottom of the heap is just another joke, especially when he finds out that he has to do something heroic (like stopping a purse snatcher) once a week to stay in the club. (the joke in Spiderman Homecoming about Spiderman stopping a guy from breaking into his own car comes up).
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
91. Ms. Marvel No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona - This is the storyline that introduced Kamala to the world as Ms. Marvel and while the first issue is taking great pains to establish the character (she's a Muslim. She likes to smell bacon. Her parents are strict. Her best friend wears a hijab but by choice. Someone gives her alcohol and she gets angry when she finds out) that sometime seem a little overwhelming, all the wonderful stuff about Ms. Marvel was already in that first issue as blatant as the story was about establishing most of her personality (the fan fiction stuff and the fact that she wanted the big boot version of Ms. Marvel costume are wonderful and they never lost their charm under Wilson - although there's a Spiderman comic where it seems forced). So what else is there to say about this comic beyond how much you really should read it? I don't know, but I do think that Marvel is having a bit of a renaissance with character driven story telling instead of the old fashioned fight the bad guy superhero stuff and I rally think that this is the title that started it.

92.One Punch Man vol 2 by Yusuke Marata - In between reading this book and writing this review, I caught the show on Netflix and damn, it's great. Can't believe I missed this book until now but that's fine. I get to catch up on it. So this starts out with the story of the secret genetically modified group that Saitama just trashes and then realizes that he missed bargain day at the supermarket. Also the anti-work terrorist group makes up the end and they seem like broad parodies of student groups and a little too broad. It's fascinating in the same way that watching old 70s shows about "women's libbers" is fascinating. The conversation is entering society but people are purposefully missing the point (and this is the conversation about why we all have to work so fucking much. And apparently China is getting into the game as well as Bojack Horseman is popular among the "funeral culture" that considers Pepe the Frog in his original peeing all over himself form as an icon). Anyhow there's a super awesome killer dude who destroys that group and then Saitama just wants to stay out of it. That's the plot. The big faced crazy bug eyed fighting is also the draw but you can get that in a lot of manga. This is special.

93. Moon Knight: Lunatic by Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood - Just because I said that Marvel is going through a bit of a renaissance doesn't mean that they aren't putting out shit. This one came out last year and it's that old fucking trope of the main character waking up in a mental institution and being told that he's totally schizophrenic and everything in the series is just bullshit. It can be done well I think or I suppose or maybe theoretically you can see all the characters in a different light, but it's fucking old. It was old when Buffy did it and disgustingly inane when Smallville did it and there was a superhero vs. zombie series where it was kind of fun but only because I hadn't read the rest of the series. And this time I don't give a fuck about Moon Knight. There are some comic book characters that are established as part of the universe but weren't really famous when I was reading comics. When I was a teenager I think there was an attempt to start a Moon Knight comic and I think it was in the cool trippy shit genre of story telling that Marvel liked to do alongside Moonshadow and Blood, or maybe it was just normal. Anyhow I don't remember Moon Knight so this is supposed to sell me Moon Knight.

Instead it gave me some bullshit about Moon Knight being a dude who had a very elaborate fantasy life but is really a mental patient. But oh no, wait, he's actually Moon Knight and he's being fooled. Because that's the way these things always go.

94.Spiderman: Miles Morales by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli - Like Steve Moffat, I sometimes defend Bendis but it's usually a weak defense that goes along the lines of he's not THAT bad. In both cases, there are enough great moments and stories to appreciate him when he's good. Bendis was great with Powers but utter shit with Civil War. I think that Miles Morales was his character when he was doing Ultimate Spiderman and it's fun to see Miles Morales in the Marvel Universe but please for the love of G-d LET SOMEONE ELSE WRITE THIS CHARACTER!!!!

I didn't mind this titles until the grandmother showed up. I even liked the fat friend who knows his secret identity and is his best friend. That seemed to be the character from the new Spiderman movie like revamped Peter Parker went and stole Miles Morales' best friend in the movies. There was even some great stuff about him trying to balance school and work and even the changes in illustration styles from realistic to cartoony were pure joy, especially when Morales meets Parker Spiderman and wants approval.

Only these good points made the crappy parts that much crappier. A blogger gets really excited that Morales is black because his costume ripped and while that echoes the diversity discussions we've been having about genre, it still seems like it's way too obvious to really be done well. Ok ok ok Bendis, you are writing a minority superhero and you've been doing it for a long time. Take your cookie and make the story work.

And then we get the broadly stereotypical Hispanic Grandmother who is trying to whip her grandson into shape with tough love. She could have been a decent character in another writer's hands but Bendis just feels lazy like she's completely one note and just there to get in Miles' way. Even when Kamala shows up to see if he wants to patrol (a clumsy cameo if there ever was one since what the hell is she going all the way out to Brooklyn to "patrol" with Miles? And no, nothing I've seen in either characters makes it believable that she's got a crush on him and wants to date him) she's just kind of there to support his Tough Hispanic Grandmother. And then she disappears - back to Jersey City. I read another story with Kamala in Spiderman that's even worse when it comes to capturing the character but I think that Bendis' weakness is even more obvious when you realize that Morales comes off as a much more interesting character when he shows up in Ms. Marvel than he does in his own title. Not even going to compare cameo Morales to cameo Kamala because cameo Kamala is the worst, but G. Willow Wilson should find many equally talented writers and just take over the whole damn company.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
90.House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende - I remember loving this book and for the most part I read this book and I loved it all over again, but there is a definite classist undertone to the book and I am not certain that is completely purposeful. There seems to be a doubling of classist attitudes in this book where on one hand there is the purposeful depiction of class inequality with the treatment of the peasants at the plantation and the growth of Communism in the nation (which is obviously Chile). On the other hand, all of the heroines are privileged to the point of being misery tourists for most of the book and Estaban gets way too much love even as he is a bullying rapist. The most evil character is the grandfather's grandson from the peasants who is a child molester. It's almost like Allende is saying that there is a revenge rape deal going.

I still think that most of this is the point of the book. Maybe I am just finding more ambiguity in the book. I don't like the women in this book as much as I did when I first read it. They all mean well when it comes to class relations but they are also all full of unexamined privilege and their love affairs (even the platonic one) with the peasants all feel a lot like they are fetishizing the poverty instead of loving these men as equals. In fact, the only reason why the daughter finally marries her lifelong love (the one that Estaban tries to kill when he finds out) is because he has to flee the country and they can live in wealth in Canada.

I felt that this one was warmer than 100 Years in Solitude but maybe there is a great deal of remove from both of these books and that magical realism exists to deal with things that we cannot talk about.

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Tim Lieder

September 2017

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