Jul. 3rd, 2017

marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
85. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy - At the back of this book, there is a biography of Carol Danvers which hits upon most of her major plot points and holy fuck she is the punching bag of the Marvel Universe. For a genre where women are routinely killed off and objectifies (and there are some cheesy depictions of Danvers ass-first in the first chapter but less Playboy model after that), Carol is seriously the target for a wealth of horrible plot lines where she is fired, beat up, mind raped, discovers that her former teammates would prefer to hang out with the woman who sucked out her personality, goes through an alcoholic phase and throws Tony Stark out a window and her boyfriends keep ending up dead.

This very much feels like a transitional story between the comics of today which are (hopefully for good) diverse and entertaining and the comics of a few years ago which were about gritty realism and male gaze and doom. It's a fairly straightforward story about time travel where Carol takes a plane ride that her mother figure Helen Cobb gives her and ends up seeing Helen in various times and eventually figuring out that she wants the job even if it means having doubts about her ability to do it on her own (the irony is that the big story shows that she is a crazy drunk) and she's feeling pretty good about her life and her place in it because she reconnected with her surrogate family (and as the Job story at the end shows, her biological family is awful).

86. Astro City: Private Lives by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson - Kurt Busiek's superheroes with private lives and taking novel approaches to their lives was a revelation when I first read it. And now there are a lot more comics with superheroes who are multidimensional and have stories that are realistic in a variety of ways, even John Cheever and Raymond Carver approaches. Thankfully he got even better. Some of these stories are cute slice of life stories like the one about the personal assistant to the big wizard character and others are confusing or rather dull (the criminal who really wants to go straight but loves shiny shoes), but the last story made me cry. It had all the elements to do it - a miserable kid who was a super genius super villain, a set up that involves a birthday party for the super villain/evil genius and then a revelation where the evil genius realizes that he has a core of emotional vulnerability that he finally lets himself feel. There's also the element of the fact that as the town super villain, he does not know how to deal with the fact that the superhero likes him and is always trying to change him. He thinks that he can just reject it, but when he finds out that the superhero is the guy that he always resented as the head football player, it wrecks him. Also the superhero is the only one who knows that he is gender confused and at the end he has accepted his feminine identity and decided to be the superhero as a woman. I guess that the trans-identity part was wonderful as well but it wasn't what I was mainly focused on, except for the self-acceptance aspect.

The story of the old woman who repairs sentient robots and considers them her family is also sweet.

87.Superman vol 2: Trials of the Super Son by Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason - One of the saddest parts of Marvel: The Untold Story was the decision to end Spiderman's marriage because the writers wanted to write superhero comics and Peter Parker was just getting too damn old even in comic book time. They couldn't write about a happily married Peter Parker with a wife and (shudder) kids. So one of the novelties of this version of Superman is the fact that he has a son and he's living out in Smallville with Lois Lane. I am not certain if this is the canon version of Superman or an alternate universe version (it's in the DC Universe Rebirth title) but I am happy to see stories where Superman is going to the local carnival with his family and taking little breaks to foil crime, but mostly he's trying to juggle his family and work. The other stories are also great, but just the whole conceit of Superman trying to live a normal family life feels great, like finally superhero comics are marketed towards people who are past their teen years and their young years - people with spouses and children. We don't have to get Mephisto to make it so that Peter Parker was never married.

88. Spider Gwen: Weapon of Choice by Jason Latour & Robby Rodriguez - Spider Gwen is so great but this one is not one of the better stories. She is being stalked by Frank Castle and we have more of the tensions with the police department, which is especially powerful as Captain Stacy knows about her now. In the end her father turns himself in for something, I'm not sure what, and she makes a deal with Kingpin via Matt Murdock whose evil in this alternate dimension. It's all very silly and I kind of hate it when smart characters make stupid decisions. Still, there is a great one off about the Mary Janes going into Myterio's haunted house. And Jessica Drew shows up a couple times. Also she no longer has powers but can get them through a power pill thing or whatever. Anyhow, she's out of power and Kraven has one of her spider power vials.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
89. Patriotic Gore by Edmund Wilson - Edmund Wilson came of age during WWI and in keeping with the times, he became an extreme pacifist. Pacifism is awesome but Wilson takes it to the point that he can't conceive of any conflict where entering the conflict is a better option than letting things play out. His supposedly classic introduction lays out his philosophy which tends to skew towards WWII revisionist history and material about the Civil War where you know that you are in for a lot of bullshit about the lost South. This book was written in 1961 and it is certainly a product of its time and by that I mean that it's one of those books that thinks that it's very liberal but full of racist assumptions. Edmund Wilson also adheres so close to his cynical/idealistic take on war always being bad and corrupt that he writes such howlers as "no one know what caused the Civil War" when it's pretty fucking obvious what caused the Civil War. Another aspect of the book is that even though it's about the Civil War and the literature that came out of the Civil War, no slave narratives are in the mix. Not even Frederick Douglass who should have been known to Wilson as he wrote extensively after the war as well. So while claiming that slavery had nothing to do with the war but there was discussion concerning slavery, Wilson neglects to find writers who were most affected by slavery. In fact, there's only one black writer in the mix and she's a New England woman who attempted to help during Reconstruction and moved back home.

This book is a mixture of fascinating finds in literary history, interesting insight and a cavalcade of nasty stupid shit. I should have turned it into a drinking game whenever he mentioned the Radical Republicans who wanted to reform the South in the negative. It certainly would have helped. His critical assessment of many writers has a definite tsk tsk way, especially when he finds Ambrose Bierce to be a crappy human being who treats death in a cavalier manner (which is why he is still appealing) and a lot condemnation for the most hardcore abolitionists.

There are other moments when the editing becomes just fucking evil. For example, he's got a chapter on Southern writers and he writes about the rather melodramatic Cable who seems like a mediocre writer and then FINALLY gets to Kate Chopin, spends two pages on her and then returns to this Cable asshole. Same goes for John W. DeForrest who was supposedly a big deal in the 60s but is again forgotten. Oh maybe there are scholars for this guy but Wilson certainly didn't sell him.

Anyhow there was a point where I just felt like it was a chore to get through. Other moments, I felt like I was getting an interesting insight into what the 60s thought of the Civil War. Mostly this book pissed me off and there was just enough good stuff to keep reading the fucking thing, but thank G-d it's over.

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Tim Lieder

September 2017

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