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.
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: (Maggie)
81. American Vampire vol. 5 by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque - Unlike the third volume, the Hobbs & Book story in this one is actually pretty entertaining, mostly due to "the Renfield" a job for a smiling bastard who keeps trying to get Dracula to raise from the dead. And yep, they finally brought Dracula into this thing. It's a temptation too great for vampire series that go on for a long time. But this Dracula is the mind-controlling Dracula who scares all the other vampires so that's got some claim on the world building. Now for the Skinner Sweet & Pearl story, there seems to be just a lot of cleaning up as they go after the old producers from the original issue and they even bring back Pearl's deceptive roommate. Scott Snyder is a great writer and I enjoyed this book, but I guess I wanted something more out of it. This just seems like an intermediate chapter in a long series with one chapter that makes it clear that another old vampire is rising.

82. Deadpool Classic: Deadpool Team-Up by Various - Literally various. I only see one name in the credits for the various titles that reappears twice. So by the late 00's when these titles were being written, it seems like Deadpool Team-up was the title that Marvel gave to writers who were looking for one-shots. Actually now that I write that I should look it up. Anyhow since Deadpool is the hero that can do anything, the writers could have a lot of fun by throwing out all the normal conventions. There's also a reference to Giant Sized Man Thing which has a character trying to tell Man-Thing why that's funny.

83. Powers: Bureau by Bendis & Oeming - This is the last Powers book at the library and I am a little worried that the series is not going to continue much past these stories with Walker and Deana in the FBI now. Walker's disappearance from the last series is resolved at the end of the first issue where Deana just finds him and says that he's in the FBI now and then they chase after a super-sperm scam that leads back to the mafia family that was a big deal in the earlier ones. This one was fun but like the American Vampire volume above it all seems perfunctory and a greatest hits compilation. I guess Bendis is busy these days.

84. One Punch Man vol. 1 by Yusuke Murata - What else is there to say about this book. It's the anti-comic comic. The one joke comic that still yields gold. I don't know. Saitama punches huge monsters that seem unstoppable and then he punches them. Even the mosquito woman is able to be taken down with a punch. But he picks up a cyborg and then there are other cyborgs and it all ends with a gorilla cyborg being all threatening until he's lost and then going "ok well sorry about that. Here's the story" and that's the end of the book. Also Saitama is in an existential dread that is rivaling The Stranger.
marlowe1: (Spinning Tardis)
76.All New Captain America: Fear Him by Dennis Hopeless, Rick Remender & Mast & Geoffo - In the 80s, superhero comics found their adolescence. So many heroes were angsty and trying to do the right thing and living in a world with very clear messages. The messages seemed pretty deep if you were a teenager but were pretty blatant is you weren't. By the 90s superheroes regressed into the power fantasies with way too many damn mutants all over the place and Superman running out of stories so they decided to kill him. Somewhere in the last couple decades, they finally grew up and started telling stories that went beyond the power fantasies.

Ok. I'm still a little surprised that I like superhero comics again. Who knew what a little character development could do?

So anyhow, this one has Sam Wilson fighting a supremely silly villain who might as well be a clone of the Scarecrow villain from Batman. He even has the silly mask and the freakout juice. The heart of the comic though is Sam and Steve's son (who is Nomad, I guess) running around the sewer systems and finding a colony of runaway kids. The part where Sam agrees to leave them alone while tripping balls on the fear juice is quite great.

77. One Punch Man 10 by Yusuke Murata - There's a joy in One Punch Man fucking around with the narrative tropes of the genre. No matter how dangerous or nasty the villain becomes, the ending is right there in the title. This is the first one I've read and I immediately put the rest of the series on hold at the library. Sadly, they don't have them past this collection yet so I will have to wait awhile to find out how our hero fares in the big martial arts contest where he's in disguise. But the first part where Garo is the monster who is beating all other heroes is the best setup until he just runs into our hero at a grocery store and Saitama goes "what are you bothering me for" and knocks him out as if it's no big thing. This joke might get old but not yet.

78. Powers: Gods - One of the insights into Raymond Chandler is that his mysteries are often not mysteries at all. No matter how much corruption Philip Marlowe digs up, the answer the to mystery is often just the client or the daughter of the client. The world is still a mess but the mystery itself is simple. Most of the Powers stories fall into these patterns. There's someone dead at the beginning, a lot of investigation that hints at a huge world of corruption and conspiracy, and then the killer is just some guy. Sometimes there's a big world changing event (like the Superman character killing a bunch of towns) but mostly it's a simple solution to a mystery with complex implications. The first few series were about superheroes as rock stars (including one where it turns out that the superhero just had a heart attack while fucking a groupie) but after the series went to Marvel the rock star metaphor went to a straight detective story.

So this one is totally a Raymond Chandler type with the background of superheroes who are powerful enough to be Greek gods, or at least they claim. Damocles is dead and the rest of the gods are not forthcoming. Hades is fucked up and Hecate is living in a church. There's a lot of talk about how gods can be superheroes as this is a takeoff on the Marvel titles. Artemis dies and who the fuck knows what's going on. And then a couple of humans who took the superhero juice that makes them crazy were super pumped and killed the rest of the gods. For revenge. For a rape. And a cover-up.

The epilogue seems more like an afterthought to lead to Bureau than an actual ending. Everything is done and then the last goddess alive in the pantheon gets pissed and tries to flood Chicago. All the big heroes disappear and the cops become FBI agents.

79.Captain Marvel: Rise of Alpha Flight by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters - I just looked up the writers and found out that they were the producers on Agent Carter. They also wrote Dollhouse episodes. This was still pretty dead. I don't really like Captain America that much and putting her on a spaceship to negotiate with a kill spaceship that recognizes her as Kree because of her symbol and then gets all genocidal is too Babylon 5 for my taste. Interesting to see Alpha Flight but they got boring since I was reading the John Byrne run.

80. Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson and Jacob Wyatt - Kamala Khan is the best. Actually Ms. Marvel is why I am trying to read Captain Marvel and being bored all over again the Carol Danvers. Maybe Ms. Marvel is why I don't like Captain Marvel because damnit Captain Marvel screwed up as a mentor. This continues the Inventor/Mr Edison who is half-bird and also using millennials as batteries there are plenty who think that they are useless (political points tend to be obvious in the comic just because they are still looking for teenage audience). But the sight gags are great. The part where she gets Lockjaw to protect her and she's hugging him for her parents is adorable. And how many superheroes run into Wolverine and start talking about their Wolverine fan fiction?
marlowe1: (Serenity)
74. The Stranger by Albert Camus adapted into a graphic novel by Jacques Ferrandez - I don't know why this novel is so fascinating. How do you tell a story about a guy who is so cut off from the rest of the world that he doesn't care when his mother dies or that he is killing someone? He doesn't even care that he is going to die and his speech to the priest at the end serves as the theme. Sure, he's a response to Raskolnikov who denies his humanity but is overcome with guilt. Instead he is the modern man who doesn't care. And moving around that plot is the implication of the story where a white man is so cut off from society that he kills an Arab character who is known only the Arab and refuses to feel bad about it. Kind of like most white dudes who have a filter that doesn't allow them to see the Other as anything beyond danger or victim. I don't know if The Stranger is a critique of imperialism. I want to read it as a critique of imperialism, else I am just enjoying a book that is about a man who is just a killer without remorse. It feels deeper than my reading of it but am I reading too much into it. I like Camus but I'm not certain that this book is anything more than an idea book for smartass teenagers.

75.Beef with Tomato by Dean Haspiel - I was wondering why I hated this graphic novel when I seemed to like other Dean Haspiel books. I had to look him to realize that I liked the books that he illustrated but he didn't write them. So he's great when he is writing other people's stories and his style is reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke, but when he writes his own stories they are really fucking boring. In fact, they are Gentrifying Asshole manifestos. The character of Dean Haspiel depicted in the comic is a boring white guy who moves from Manhattan to Brooklyn and bitches about how everyone considers him to be a gentrifier when he's really poor. He rides his bike around. He likes restaurants and there's a naked woman in the next apartment. He name checks the blackout and 9/11 as bookends, but at heart is a boring white guy who thinks that every insight is fascinating and every story is the gift of the gods to mortals. Sure, there are minority characters in his neighborhood but they are merely props to this guy feeling a little nervous.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
69. Faith: Hollywood and Vine by Jody Houser and Francis Portela - This is a comic book that I admire more than I like. I actually wonder if that's an issue for me. There are various movies that I admire and I wonder if I would like them as much if I didn't admire the way that they serve as a corrective for a problem that is plaguing Hollywood movies. Movies like In a World, Dear White People and Spare Parts are all enjoyable movies that I suspect I would not recommend so much if they weren't outright working against a lot of baggage. In a World has a funny female character breaking the glass ceiling and refusing to be slut shamed (and a love story that is basically two characters who just like each other and want to give it a chance.) Dear White People has interesting black characters who are not stereotypes and Spare Parts gets away from the saintly white teacher guiding the stupid Hispanic students trope that is ironically the worst when Edward James Olmos was the teacher in Stand & Deliver. But then there's The Obvious Child which is a movie that I also admire but I don't like. So do the comics and movies with women become the ones I admire without liking?

Anyhow Faith is a superhero comic without fat shaming. The heroine is a superheroine who is full figured and she is comfortable in her non-Playboy model model. Also she is adverse to killing people and likes conflict resolution. The rest of it with the cult and the ex-boyfriend who is doing a superhero reality show doesn't work for me. And the main character isn't that engaging. She feels like a refutation to other books but not terribly well drawn.

70. American Vampire vol 1 by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque - This is a really well put together story. Skinner Sweet is a scary and intriguing character and the picture of him emerging from his coffin and swimming to eat the divers is one of the most memorable ones in recent memory. This book is about his origins as an outlaw and how he got some vampire blood on him when the bank owner turned out to be a vampire and how he evolved into his own type of vampire is contrasted with the hero of the comic which is the woman that he turns into a vampire in the 1920s after she is attacked by vampires. Pearl Jones allows Snyder to tell the old Hollywood scandal stories where young starlets are eaten alive (and famous actors lure disposable women into horrible places). Sweet is a western tale where the good guys are working for evil plutocrats and the bad guys are folk heroes. And murderers. So this is a great beginning.

71. American Vampire vol 3 by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque - So what do we do now that Sweet Skinner and Pearl Jones are equal characters in the same era. This one skips to the 1940s but not before giving us a prologue of sorts that connects the two stories from the first volume. Skinner Sweet watches an old timey wild west show in 1913 and then kills all the actors, except for the woman who turned him in. She explains that he would have died anyhow but this way they both could have gone out together. He accepts her explanation but the important part is that she looks like Pearl which kind of explains why he made Pearl into another American Vampire (sun is great, but gold is bad).

Once that's dispensed with, we move into WWII where Pearl's husband is drafted by the vampire squad and ends up on a South Pacific island with new Japanese vampires that don't have eyes. Just big mouths. Also Pearl comes in to try to rescue him and Sweet is bullying him. When the whole thing is over Sweet is dead (officially) and Pearl is telling the vampire squad to fuck off.

And then there are the boring characters. When Sweet was the outlaw, he made his main enemy into a vampire like him and that enemy killed himself because vampire, but not before getting a woman pregnant and now the daughter of the bounty hunter is with the vampire squad (I may remember the name) and is trying to get into a Nazi hold in order to find out what the vampires are up to. Apparently there are old giant vampires that most of the vampires are trying to destroy. Also there's a vampire toddler who can be cured. I don't know. I find her whole story with the vampire squad to be boring. More on this later.

72. Spiderwoman: New Duds by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez - I seem to be on a permanent crusade to get pissed off by alt-right assholes claiming that diversity is bad and that comic books that have diverse titles are just not very good. I get mad at them when I see them spouting off their bullshit and then I read really great titles like this one and I get extremely pissed by how stupid and ignorant they are in talking about titles that they don't read. Jessica Drew is a great character as Hopeless writes her. She is funny and she is always questioning herself and better yet, she isn't afraid to admit that she's wrong like in the story about the super villain girlfriends disappearing. Eventually she finds out that her crusade has been counterproductive and after getting some promises, she leaves everything alone. And her give-and-take with the weird villain of Porcupine, a villain so inept that he's got no problem becoming a sidekick instead, is energetic. I feel like reading some of these comics is just an exercise in going COME ON READ IT! You'll love it. Also Spiderwoman now has a costume that looks comfortable and there is one reference to her googling SPiderwoman's butt which is a nice way to promise that they won't ever give us a cover with her ass in the air again.

73.The Manhattan Projects 2 by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra - I don't know what the fuck is going on in this one. There are aliens. I think that Einstein is a hero. There are presidents who are crazy. I think that Harry Truman is dressed like the villain in Temple of Doom. The art is good but the story is a fucking mess and I'm not going to blame myself for not being able to follow any of the threads.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
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.
marlowe1: (Spinning Tardis)
61. Sex Criminals Vol 3: Three the Hard Way by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky - It's very strange to call a book sex criminals these days. Back in the 70s, you could be transgressive with the phrase because a sex criminal could be anyone from Oscar Wilde to Roman Polanski and since the 70s came out of a repressive 50s and challenging 60s, there was a great deal of confusion over what was accepted as a sex crime. This remained pretty much the same into the 80s where the flip side of the equation happened where all the sex crimes were terrible. AIDS paved the way for a lot of acceptance of gay people only after Reagan murdered them by not taking the AIDS crisis seriously. But the 70s was a time when NAMBLA could make an argument that they should be accepted into Pride Parades and outright predators like Jimmy Savile joked about all the teenage girls that he was raping in a wink wink nudge nudge manner.

So now even Rush Limbaugh gets that the difference between sexuality and sex crime is consent. Of course, he doesn't outright accept that belief.

I write about the title because I don't remember much of the book beyond the fact that these people can stop time by having sex. And then they commit crime, so they are sex criminals. The only memorable chapter is about an agent who is asexual and how lonely that felt growing up since everyone else was having a great time and she just couldn't be bothered.

62. Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman - I did not think that I would like this book as much as I did. Margaret Sanger is still a divisive figure even among people who love her overriding mission. There's that combination of ignorance and the certainty of her enemies that has tarnished but even though 90% of the "Margaret Sanger was a genocidal Nazi creep" talk is bullshit there was the kernel of truth in the fact that she did like eugenics and she did promote it. Not all eugenicists were the psychopaths that inhabit historical dramas these days who are busy sterilizing teenagers and denying health care to black people (can I mention right here that The Knick is a slog through a hellish cultural judgment where all the assholes win every time?). So even though she is being political when she asks for black leaders to help her distribute birth control and birth control information throughout the black community because she doesn't want to be accused of genocide and that got taken out of context (as in she really is in favor of genocide and just wants to cover her tracks) there are other things that can't be taken out of context.

This book doesn't necessarily give us both sides of the Sanger debate but it does change perspectives to the point that one perspective is Sanger telling her story and the other one is her family, friends and lovers grinding an axe at everything she's done wrong. Her lawyer mocks her for wearing black dresses like a nun even though he admires the strategy of hiding her free love tendencies. Her children are neglected and her husband is left by the wayside. And yet it really makes for a compelling narrative even as it circles around the plot.

63. Radioactive Spider Gwen: Greater Power by Jason Latour & Robby Rodriguez - This one plays more with the alternate universe Spidermans. Peter Parker is still dead in her world but Harry Osborne became Green Goblin in order to take revenge. Spiderwoman shows up and is pregnant (and really fun). Daredevil is an evil lawyer for Kingpin and Frank Castle is in the cops but he's still obsessive. There are also more lizards. The part that I really liked was how she actually has a heart-to-heart talk with Harry Osborne about how they are both guilty over Peter Parker. It's really pretty damn good and finally Gwen gets a personality.

64. Sandman Dream Country by Neil Gaiman - Sandman still holds up. I do have less affection for Gaiman these days because I read his short story collections and they were clever but not decent. But the Sandman comics are still amazing. This is the one with Calliope being held prisoner as the muse of a horror writer who experiences great literary success from raping a muse in his attic. There are some very pointed bits about how he always thought of himself as a feminist and the question "where do you get your ideas?" floating around. It's a writerly fantasy from a writer who was still a fun cult writer at the time. The beats of the story of the success almost overwhelm the horrific aspects, but then again that fantasy of writing anything you want including epic poetry and screenplays and being successful and richer at everything with everyone asking how you did it is a fantasy in every amateur writer's head. Anyhow there's also teh Midsummers Nights Dream story and the cat story. There's also the one where the character from Doom Patrol is very sad. And dies. I didn't like that one.
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
59. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce - This was the weakest book in the quadrology. It is still pretty good though and I was impressed. Alanna in the desert among the desert people could have turned into white savior, but thankfully everyone in the tribes were multi-layered and not just waiting around for Alanna. Alanna's entry into the tribes as the tribes is based on her skills that she worked on and the fortune to get rid of some ancient demons that tend to nibble at the edges of these books. I rather love how Pierce doesn't feel the need to explain everything that is going on in the world so there is just enough to tantalize without going into long narrative digressions.

The part that gets to me is the end of the book where she has learned and taught all that she needed to learn and teach with the tribes and gets to the point where she finds out that Roger is back. It's all a lot of cliffhanger plotting which can be forgiven since anyone who is reading the third book in a four book series can reasonably be expected to want to buy the fourth book.

60. Lioness Rampant - When I talked about how much I liked Protector of the Small, one of the reasons people cited for liking the Alanna series more was the fact that Alanna was a lot more energetic and sexual. They thought that the character of Protector of the Small was too good while Alanna had flaws. Alanna also had a string of boyfriends. With respect to the Alanna fans, I did not like the fact that Alanna was stuck into another love triangle. The Prince is now a king and there's a lot of idiot plotting going on in the capital, but first Alanna takes off with a ninja warrior to find a magic icon. Having giving away that Roger is back from book 2 and that George is fighting rival gang leaders so all the adventure into the war torn and then the magic mountain feels like a distraction, even as she is collecting the people required for the ending.

Anyhow the last part is kind of anticlimatic. Alanna comes back, finds out that Roger is back from the dead and then wonders why her brother Alan is looking sick. THere are plots but they are fairly straightforward. The part of the book that bothers me the most is the fact that Roger has to be brought back from the dead for tension but then no one kills him or throws him in jail because the old king was just too sad or something. So again Alanna has to take care of him while he springs his plan.

Both of these books were fun reads and they were tightly plotted but the flaws seem more apparent the more I remember them.
marlowe1: (Spinning Tardis)
Youtube's automatic next video feature combined with the fact that I can play youtube on my television (whether or not it is on) means that I can play Youtube Telephone where I just let the site lead me through dozens of videos just to see where they lead. I will play a Lorde video and it will end up on a Korean pop group in 24 hours. I will play an episode of Boogiepop Phantom and end up at a douchebag judging the videos by how many upskirt illustrations are in them (it's not always a winner). So when I started with a Bad Writing Advice video (videos that mock crappy books with advice like "make sure that your dystopia has a love triangle") I ended up on other videos with serious writing advice. Like the person who made the videos went through a lot of thought to come up with a weekly "vlog" about writing and how to create compelling characters or ramp up tension. She was actually better in the early ones I saw where she talked about bad female characters, etc. The writing advice was either very basic or very specific to her writing style.

The only thing I learned about writing advice is that it's good for some things but you cannot take it as a gospel because writing advice can be contradictory for a major reason. Everyone writes differently. And often their writing advice reveals their weaknesses. Stephen King says to just write without an outline and you can see how this plays out in his books. On one hand the plot does feel like it comes organically from the characters instead of a need to pigeonhole them into a plot and yet he rarely ends a book in a satisfactory manner. The longer the book, the more likely there will be an explosion that kills off most of the secondary characters.

Also amateur writers are the ones more likely to give writing advice. It's like how people who can't stay with their boyfriends or girlfriends more than a month are just full of relationship advice. In the case of this youtube channel, the woman has a self-published book with mixed reviews. It's like she thought of the success of being asked about her process without fine tuning her process.

But then this leads to the youtube debate over whether youtubers should write books. There are two themes that I noticed in the youtube videos entitled "Should Youtubers write books?" (go on google it). First, there was some woman who got a publishing contract and then a ghost writer for her book. Second, the videos are fucking painful. Like the people who are doing them can't be bothered to write down a script or even rehearse. So they just go around the subject and never get to the fucking point. They also think of exceptions to their statements as soon as they make them. Probably when they are making them. Sometimes they mention John Green but then kind of say that he doesn't count because he was already writing books or something. Anyhow, they probably aspire to be John Green who writes pretty good YA books and has a well produced set of videos.

The part that fascinates me is the fact that it's obvious that almost every single one of these youtube "personalities" (I'm sure they have fans) would love to make money in the book writing business. After all, book writing actually pays better than patreons if the books are bestsellers (big if) but they are probably just as bad as writing books as they are at speaking clearly with purpose when the camera is on. Only they can't write one and they are jealous of those youtube "personalities" who do get book contracts, citing the anonymous youtube personality (why the fuck doesn't anyone name her) who got a ghost writer. So they try to say that writing a book when you have a youtube channel is unfair, like you are jumping in front of the line or you are taking focus away from legitimate book writers. Of course, there are plenty of celebrities who write books so the "it's unfair" debate is pretty moot.

THere are also youtube channels where teenagers review books. It's actually kind of weird to see them want to talk about a book but take forever to get to it. It's even worse in the 10 Most Hated Books when you find out that the first book is a Twilight book.
marlowe1: (Default)
56. Shadow Show: Stores in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by Various - Let's just take a moment to enjoy Rachel Bloom's very first big hit. Man, we shared this one a lot back in the day (and if you aren't watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend you are a terrible person).

And now let's get to the stories in this thing - they aren't really that good. Mostly they seem like the writers - and they were fine writers - including Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman and Alice Hoffman - are throwing out their early works, the works that they did when they were teenagers and trying to imitate Ray Bradbury. They got all the Ray Bradbury elements including the small town, the monsters at the edge of the sea, the childhood innocence and the master manipulators. It reads more like Ray Bradbury fan fiction than actual story telling. The one that I remember is "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury" which is Neil Gaiman being clever. Neil Gaiman has been writing clever stories for so long that I was actually surprised to see that Sandman still holds up. The other ones are just forgettable. Ray Bradbury turns himself into a robot. A mysterious teenager shows up in the woods and manipulates two girls. Some shit about a father and daughter on a cruise.

Ray Bradbury is one of those writers that binds many genre writers, many writers. But I think that one of the things about Ray Bradbury that makes sense is the fact that everyone starts out imitating Bradbury but they have to let him go.

57. The Golden Age Superman vol. 2 by Siegel and Shuster. - Volume 1 in this series were the superman stories that I kind of remember. Superman lifting the car. Superman stops America from going to the war in Europe. Superman takes revenge on Lois Lane for her rejection of poor Clark Kent. So now that the years have passed and Siegel and Shuster are still writing Superman, what's up for the caped crusader? A lot of chasing after cars and racing trains. The world hopping mystical era of Superman was a long way away. In these stories SUperman spent most of his time spying on corrupt businessmen who were often out to kill Lois.

Sadly, this book is way too long not to get boring. I was going to use an anecdote abotu Siegel working for Marvel in the 70s and not being able to write to the market at the time. I think it fits here but I guess there were other places it could have gone. After reading SPirit comics, it's really easy to see that Will Eisner was a genius and a writer of classics while these old Superman comics were just old comics that sucked.

58.The Extraordinary X-Men: Kingdoms Fall - Nightcrawler drops Apocalypse from a great height in order to technically meet the deal made with him to free Colossus from some kind of a Four Horseman deal. Also there are demons. Lots of demons. Someone else dies. There are people becoming those Immortals or Invulnerables or whatever the fuck they are called because Marvel wants to do a show - Inhumans? But of course, the cloud that makes the Inhumans? - into superpowered beings (Yay Ms. Marvel!) is killing Mutants. So a couple mutants got to get rescued.

I don't read X-Men anymore but it all seems so much the same. That's the problem with the illusion of change. Who cares about the stories if the reset button keeps getting hit.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
53. The Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War pt 2 by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard - So I guess that's it for Negron. The Walking Dead does get into a lot of world weary circular plots where safety is always crushed by bigger threats, but the Negron story underlines a story that I didn't notice but Adam Troy-Castro pointed out on Facebook, namely that The Walking Dead is ultimately about rebuilding society after complete collapse. And at first there are going to be enclaves but then there will be cooperation by the various forces. Negron was the most prominent of the dictators and he was the most successful and it took a lot to get rid of him and once he is gone there are more communications between the various fiefdoms that have sprung up in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. The story of the end of Rome is full of warlords and political systems that can't hold together and when everything is rebuilt it's usually very strange. The Walking Dead doesn't give us the collapse (it happened fast) but it does make some interesting stabs at the rebuilding process. And now I know why the back covers were always about the freedom of society after everything collapses.

54.Superman vol. 1: Son of Superman by Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason - Superman is dead again and there's an alternate universe Superman who is married to Lois and has a son in the middle of Kansas. Everything about this story is referencing the death of Superman story complete with a lot of material about that weird killer robot version of Superman with the sunglasses who turned out to be the guardian of his dead body. And this Superman in the story - this alternate and married Superman is the one who died in Death of Superman and came back with a stupid Dennis Miller haircut. I don't know why DC wants to throw all the mythology into a blender and feed it to us. It's like they no longer want to pick and choose what is canon and just made everything canon these days. Apparently the new Swamp Thing origin story is a convoluted combination of Len Weid and Alan Moore with neither story given much respect.

The only other part I liked here was the part where Superman invaded Batman's moon base. I suppose that's a nice way of meeting Batman's kill list. Superman totally smashes the Bat Moon Cave.

55. Spider Gwen: Most Wanted? by Jason Latour & Bobbi Rodriguez - Gwen Stacy was a boring character in the 60s and 70s. According to Marvel: The Untold Story the general consensus around the Marvel offices was that Gwen Stacy needed to die lest Stan Lee forced them to churn out Gwen Stacy stories indefinitely. Also, Stan Lee wrote Stacy to be the shiksa girlfriend that was his fantasy. So she was there to be an impossibly blond shiksa goddess and then the very first fridged girlfriend in comic book lore (unofficially fridged. The Green Lantern girlfriend literally went into the fridge in the 90s.) She got brought back as a clone and there was some dispute of the fridge designation since Mary Jane became much more mature after she died in order to replace Gwen in Peter's heart.

In this story, Gwen is in an alternate earth and Peter Parker tried to be the lizard and died. There's also an alternate Frank Castle (cop) and Matt Murdock (evil lawyer). Gwen is a fun character who keeps fighting with villains like Vulture but also trying to figure out her relationships with her band (Mary Jane is the lead singer, Gwen is the drummer. They keep breaking up). I find that I liked the sequel more since that one had more lizards. But this is a fine comic about an energetic heroine.
marlowe1: (Default)
Darkness I by Tanith Lee
Back when I started reviewing every book I read in a year, I tried to review the books that I hadn't read. After all, if I only reviewed the books that I could get through then that would be a biased sample and it would look like I loved everything. Of course, that thinking is flawed for several reasons. First, I read enough graphic novels that I hate to put in my crabby mean reviews, but also when I put a book down I don't want to deal with it. I want to forget it. And does anyone care if I just stopped reading or if I skipped over 50-100 pages hoping that things would pick up only to realize that nope, the thing is still boring?

The return to writing about a book that I didn't finish requires something special and that special occasion is when the book is written by one of my favorite writers, the writer that I push on other people, the fantasy writer's writer (like most of my writer friends love her and my non-writer friends have no clue). I actually thought that I was over being disappointed in the writers I loved in college. It's not like I'm ever going to re-read Tom Robbins or Starhawk. I pretty much figured that most of the writers that I still liked from college were still going to be great.

I still like Tanith Lee but the more I read her, the less patient I am with her meandering plots and her sociopath protagonists. Every Tanith Lee hero (with maybe a couple exceptions) is a cold-hearted fucker cut off from humanity with an inability to feel empathy. You know how Marion Zimmer Bradley got outed as a pedophile and many of her readers were not shocked because they had spent years being creeped out by her pedophilia (and we are still shocked that Piers Anthony isn't in jail)? Well, if anyone finds dead bodies on Tanith Lee's property, it won't be shocking.

But more than the lack of empathy with the characters, Darkness I, meanders all over the place. It's actually a surprise that she can write cold-hearted bastards who don't care about anyone with any interest. But this series is like the worst of the worst. I actually read the first two books in anticipation of this book because it was on my pre-determined book shelf, only I found that they were pretty bad. The first one was one that I loved in college but my enthusiasm for emotionally withdrawn incest vampire stories had faded. The second book in the Blood Opera series started out better as horror as the murdering incest vampire from the previous book was going into homes and then killing everyone. But she didn't kill the cats so it's all good. Then it falls apart when she gets roped into the family and a subplot about a father of one of the vampire groupies takes over and you just know that she's going to kill him.

So this book gives us the protagonist from the first book (the woman who gave birth to the incest vampire murderer) this time with a different daughter and a lover who is a transwoman who is the father/mother of the new vampire daughter (confused about how to talk about transgendered people who haven't made the physical transition. So is Tanith Lee). And for a few chapters it seems to be building a nice creepy atmosphere and then the whole fucking thing explodes. Lee keeps adding new characters and new situations. There are children who keep getting kidnapped and their parents are mocked for them missing. There is some bullshit about Egypt and the family going back to the Pharaohs but having Biblical names like Lilith and Cain.

It all just gets tedious, but more than tedious, it's confusing. Instead of expanding her incest vampire universe, Lee is just adding confusing to confusion with one set of boring characters to replace the set of boring characters. One character gets chained to a bed and addicted to heroin, but other ones just get written off as if even Lee knows that they are boring.

I am actually angry that I read 200 pages before skipping to the end. And then when I skipped to the end, all the children that were getting kidnapped because of some reincarnation bullshit get killed. And then Rachaela finds her lover and they live happily ever after.

I really hope this doesn't mean that I soured on Tanith Lee. I do get sick of her if I read too much. But this is the first time I hated one of her books.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
50. The Amazing Spiderman: Worldwide by Dan Slott and Christos Gage - When a Marvel executive blamed their low sales on diversity there was an outcry from various factions. But one of the most painful outcries to endure was from the neckbeard contingent who decided to crow about how Marvel's diverse titles are just no damn good and Marvel should stop bowing to the SJWs who want stories about people who aren't white dudes. This is a bullshit claim for many reasons but the main reason is the fact that the diverse titles are the best titles that Marvel is putting out. Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl and Wolverine (the female version. The male version is still dead) are really expanding on what comic book writing can be about even in the mainstream.

No more is this obvious bullshit than when you read the titles that are what the fanboys supposedly want. These are the titles that are showing the same signs of wear that they were showing when I was in high school. When I was proudly declaring that I was sick of comic books, especially superhero comics, I was thinking of titles like this one. I thought that Dan Slott was the same shitty writer who was making Captain America the Hydra agent, but nope, he's just the guy who had Doctor Octopus take over Spiderman's body for a time in what had to have been one of the stupidest stories coming out from Marvel that year (Marvel is full of stupid stories). So Dan Slott works really hard. He writes a lot of books and that can be commended. He is living the dream.

But holy fuck, what a boring dream. Peter Parker is no longer a struggling college student like he has been for the run of the series, but now he's a high powered CEO. I suppose one of the parts about the Spiderman myth was that he was a genius who invented neat shit so why wouldn't he eventually make a fortune out of all those inventions. Of course, that begs the question of what the fuck he's still doing swinging around if he's got a major business to run? The rest of this story is about some guy who is bringing people back from the dead and how he wants to make a deal with Parker. But these are not clones. I think that's important to state in any Spiderman titles. These are NOT clones. Also Doctor Octopus shows up as a robot or the consciousness of a robot who goes a little crazy when the love of his life is not eager to get back with him.

51. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North & Erica Henderson - This is obviously a take on Punisher kills the Marvel Universe but also Spiderman is on hand to remind everyone that clones are really stupid. But that doesn't stop Tony Stark from cloning Squirrel Girl and producing a clone who just wants to beat up everyone in the Marvel universe. But it takes a long time for the clone to start beating on everyone (this is a one shot) and the joke about how a black out causing chaos until a rider on a horse comes to the dump and impresses everyone by break a rifle in half made me laugh. Also the fact that the Hulk is beaten by an adorable squirrel getting in his eyesight and making him all gooey was awesome. There's not much to this book (sadly it's not worth the $25 Marvel is asking for it), but it's so worth reading.

52. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: I Kissed a Squirrel and I liked it by Ryan North and Erica Henderson - There are two standalone stories in this one. The first story is a choose-your-own adventure that somehow fits in comic format (assuming that everyone read Choose Your Own Adventure to get to all the possible stories) and the last one is Squirrel Girl vs. Nightmare who is trying to drive her crazy but she keeps using computer programming language to thwart his evil designs. The best part of course is where she teaches Count Nefaria to count binary. But the main story is about poor Mole Man and how he's a creepy stalker. This is the story that feels like Squirrel Girl got serious (kind of like how Ms. Marvel was trying to get everyone to vote a couple months back) and it does handle the stalker attitude to some warmth and empathy. It's very easy to think that someone is nice to you so they must REALLY be in love with you, especially for particularly emotional fragile people. But of course, that's wrong and creepy and Mole Man has always been the loser nerd of the Marvel Universe from his first introduction in Fantastic Four.

Adding a dimension of Nice Guy personality is definitely true to that kind of character. This is wrapped up a little too neatly as the dragon who hangs out with Mole Man (is it a dragon) is really in love with him, but most of the time this is sticky and while it is terrible that a man is going to sink buildings in order to get a woman to go out with him (all the while believe that she REALLY wants him), it can be so so much worse. Usually it doesn't get worse but there are enough men killing women that they think are in love with them outside the domestic violence sphere to make this story a little less fun than usual (it's still fun but brings up a lot of issue).
marlowe1: (Maggie)
47.In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce - In the second book in the Alanna series, Tamora Pierce does something that surprises me just because I read so many Harry Potter books and other genre books that there is always a mystery that is revealed at the last minute. I figured that she wasn't going to say that the great powerful force that is attacking Prince Jonathan is Alanna's mentor in the hackiest of hack plot twists, but I was still surprised when Pierce led us to believe that Prince Jonathan's charming uncle was trying to kill him and then outright stated that yep, this is the guy. So much for that last chapter reveal where the suspected killer is actually the ally the entire time.

But it's actually quite ingenious that Uncle Roger (probably a different time when Roger wasn't such a loser name) is only suspected by Alanna and beloved by everyone else. I loved the subtext to the point that I was a little disappointed to learn that Roger was using magic to hide his motivations. It feels a little like the bit in Tristan and Isolde where a love potion makes them cheat on the king. But still I loved the way that this mirrors how every time something horrible happens like a Jerry Sandusky or an O.J. Simpson, there are always people who knew all the time and didn't speak up. But more importantly, there are people who were trying to warn everyone but they were ignored because he's SUCH A NICE GUY. Actually Bill Cosby is a better example.

Anyhow it's frustrating that Alanna knows exactly who Roger is but can't do anything about him. There's also a plot about his squire Alex trying to kill her that doesn't get resolved in this book. But it gets even more compelling at the end when Alanna finds Roger's magic and gets him into trial by combat when when Roger finds out that she's female gets angry as if she's the one in the wrong.

There's also a goddess and a magical cat.

48. The Flowers of Evil vol 7 by Shuzo Oshimi - I read the third volume in this story and it was the tribulations of a dopy guy with two impossibly gorgeous and interesting women wanting him. In this volume, the crazy chick talks him into a loud public suicide where they burn themselves up and then it's broken by first our hero jumping to the safe girl and the dangerous girl being stopped. Fast forward and he is in a new school and hanging out with a bunch of boys who are into ogling porn. Also there's a girl that he's interested in and this book does a good job of showing just how much peer pressure fucks us up since it seems like our mopy dopy protagonist is making a real connection with the girl - either friendship or romantic but mostly friendship - over their shared love of books. But all the douchebags that he is hanging out with see her as a prize to be won, or never grabbed because she has a boyfriend. So the book ends with him in her room looking at her books and her boyfriend comes along. Also her brother gets all creepy with that "oh hey my sister never took a boy up there" talk. So it's pretty frustrating. I kind of want to see the next chapter to see if the guy becomes like his douchebag friends or honestly knows that he's making an emotional connection.

49. Art Ops: Popism by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred - Oh fuck this thing. The central conceit that art can be alive is fine but it's such a smug bastard of a title with our hero impregnating the Mona Lisa and a group of 40something dads being the force for squares in the world (they laugh at Home Improvement) and some bullshit about contract negotiation. There's also a story about a child who draws death and his death goes wandering the world killing other kids and as an old man he forces it to catch up with him. It's an interesting one-off but mostly this book just sucks.
marlowe1: (Default)
Note - I will be posting Livejournal entries manually for a few days. Well when my regular work isn't too much.

45. Mystery Girl by Paul Tobin & Alberto J. Aburquerque - So Paul Tobin has his niche of writing fun female protagonist who are always three steps ahead of everyone else but are utterly charming. They are so capable that one is tempted to accuse them of being either Mary Sues or Manic Pixie Dream Girls. They are not Mary Sues because Mary Sue as a character does not have a personality, merely an author's fantasy of a perfect life (and the pushback Max Landis got for declaring Rey to be a Mary Sue was very deserved) and a MPDG is in relation to the sullen male protagonist. Of course, it's strange talking about these character tropes since they are relatively recent and hell, I am friends with Nathan Rabin on Facebook who still seems a little overwhelmed by the storm one character description of Elizabethtown produced (of course, Rabin is one of those great writers that has a little trouble understanding just how great he really is - and it doesn't help that AV Club didn't just hire him back as a head writer when they all know that without him, they wouldn't exist). But yeah, Paul Tobin's characters cannot be reduced to either Mary Sue or MPDG but they do have the aspects.

Trine Hampstead starts out the book with the advantage that she just knows everything. It's a strange character trait but basically she sits in front of a building and people come to her with mystery questions and she just already knows what they are going to ask and how to solve these cases. The main variation is the fact that they have to ask before she can tell them. Also she doesn't know how she got these powers.

So she has to fly to Siberia to find woolly mammoth corpses to make her life interesting. Also she's being pursued by an assassin and unlike Tobin's other heroine Bandette, there is the possibility that the assassin might do damage since this is more adult themed (not much. I mean there is some nudity and her friends are strippers) so there is a little more tension. But ultimately she knows what is going on and that keeps her ahead of everyone and it is satisfying even though there are points where the author is keeping things from the reader in order to ramp up the tension.

46. Bandette vol 3: The House of the Green Mask - So this is the last book in the adventures of Bandette the tight rope walking charming chocolate eating thief and her merry band of helpers. This one has kidnapping and a mystery that involves a locked room and something like that. Anyhow, again there seems to be less to say about this one, but the material about famous art and French history is always great. I think I need to read more Balzac.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
So I can't just assume that Dreamwidth will always just take my livejournal entries and post them here. I thought that was going to happen. Maybe I was being foolish. Of course, what makes things even more annoying is the fact that I can't import the new journal entries like I imported the old ones.

Maybe I should just stop blogging. Or maybe I should just use dreamwidth exclusively. Of course, the Russians don't care about me so why bother either way.
marlowe1: (PIGGY!!!!)
39.Bandette Volume 2: Stealers, Keepers! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover - Sorry for giving all these books one entry. They are cool books and in the interest of keeping this short, I might not be able to talk about them. Or maybe I am just making excuses for the fact that I didn't have much to say about these books in the first place and I waited so long because I read most of them over Pesach when I was also in terrible pain from this fungal infection (this fungal infection that I made worse with ice packs and wrapping my thighs in bandages that increased the sweat/moisture and made my balls smell like raw sewage. Man, if the authors of this book ever finds this review he's going to be so happy that it's accompanied by talk about stinky balls).

Anyhow, this is the second volume in the Bandette series where our heroine jumps over laundry lines and acts like a major gymnast while stealing things and eating chocolate. She's basically Amelie. Well Amelie who is totally making the super secret organization pay for their crimes. ALthough mostly their crimes involve wanting to kill her for stealing their stuff.

40. I'm Watching You by Mary Burton - Ok, this is the book that titled the entry. Every book actually fits that title (surprisingly so, like wow, if you are a women in modern literature your life is in danger - especially genre). It's a book that I would not read again and maybe I wouldn't put it at the same level as Michael Connelly in terms of thrillers only because there's a stalker husband with infinite resources subplot that you know is going to crash into the main plot at the end. But this book is well written and has that "I gotta" factor that Stephen King talked about in Misery (I gotta see what happens next). It's also taking on the serious topic of domestic abuse and even though this is a fun thriller, it really reminds the reader that there are thousands of people living with domestic abusers who may kill them if they leave. It feels true in that the domestic abuser is not always the horrible bully but it does feel like being a frog slowly boiled alive in a pan of water. Poor frog. Anyhow, the main story is about our heroine, the domestic abuse worker with the past that involves her mother getting murdered by her father (who blamed her for all his problems of course) being stalked by a killer who is trying to protect her by killing the abusive men, but is also spying on her.

The one problem is that it seems like the killer is never really going to turn against the protagonist. He's too motivated by her past and her mother dying to go "hey, you don't like that I kill these guys, well I'm going to kill you" so that's why there is a subplot of the protagonist's roommate having a stalker ex-husband who is killing his way to her.

41.Over the Wall by Peter Wartman - This is one of those comics that uses South American looking architecture to make the reader think that maybe there is a myth that is being used. But it's just modern looking enough that it might be wholly created. A girl goes looking for her brother who wandered into the forbidden city as part of an initiation ritual. Everyone else came out but her brother stayed and his memory is being erased. So she goes into the city, finds a friendly demon and looks for him. It's really beautifully drawn and I don't have much else to say for it just because I liked it and it's still harder to say nice things about the books that I like than be awful to the books that I hate (even if I have come to hate that school of criticism).

42.Jack the Ripper by Francois Debois & Jean-Charles Poupard - Speaking of books that I hate, this is a Jack the Ripper book where Jack the Ripper is part of a conspiracy by those magic hypnotists who can convince people to become mass murders. There's not just one Jack but many many Jacks. The one Alan Moore book that I never read and never want to read his From Hell because he engages in that same Jack the Ripper conspiracy theory where it's always some royal conspiracy to get rid of prostitutes or protect the prince or in this case try out the hypnosis. There's a pretty nasty twist 3/4 of the way through when the next case after the first Jack the Ripper turns out to be his sister turns out to be a woman hypnotized into killing her sister and trying to find the clues. And then he is hypnotized into killing her and dundunduh!!!! He does the same murders!!!! The artwork is ok. But besides that, meh.

43.The Walking Dead vol 20, All Out War pt 1 - So this is probably contemporary with the show. I don't read as much Walking Dead as I used to because it seemed like an endless cycle of the gang finding safety and then safety being ripped away from them, but apparently it wasn't going in cycles so much as loops going up to greater engagement with the rest of the world. So I guess I am interested again because there is an expansion on how much we engage with the rest of the world from individuals to families to tribes to communities to war lords. Hell, the fact that every book has the EXACT SAME BLURB about a world without government, television, etc. makes more sense now than it did in the early days of the book as the plot about building society from scratch is coming into focus.

Anyhow Negron and his baseball bat are being attacked by a confederacy of the communities and they are trying to let the zombies in. THey are also attacking his outposts and some are dying. THe women in peril angle is the woman who does her own suicide mission, gets captured by Negron and after a scene where Negron's twisted leadership is again shown by the fact that he will not let his men rape prisoners because he really sees himself as the savior of the humanity, she gets turned into a zombie and sent into Rick's camp. Thankfully I have the next book which was also at the library and I can read that one as well.

44.Alanna the First Adventure: Song of the Lionesss by Tamora Pierce - As I read this book, my first thought was that this is the kind of book that I SHOULD have been reading in middle school instead of Piers Anthony. Would I have appreciated it? I don't know. I absolutely loved Piers Anthony's sexist books where his women characters got naked at the drop of the hat and Chameleon's power was PMS. Would I have even read this book if it was offered to me? I was like most target market teenage boys in that I did not like to read books with female protagonists because I couldn't relate to them (hell, the Choose Your Own Adventure series had like ONE book where the "you" in the series was depicted as female in the illustrations). I did read books with female protagonists but not as early as middle school.

So I read the Protector of the Small so I know that Alanna does get through this series fine. Of course, I have the entire series and it's not like she is going to drop out of the school when she's pretending to be a boy. So there are the pieces that you expect from a book about a girl pretending to be a boy in order to go to knight school. She has to strap down her breasts and she has to figure out what is going on when she first menstruates and she has to be the surly one who won't go swimming with everyone else. These scenes happen and it's nice to get them out of the way for more important stuff like the friendship with Prince Jonathan and how it leads her to saving him and realizing that Jonathan's uncle is the one has very suspicious motivations. Jonathan finds out that she's female and since she saved his life, he's pretty ok with it. Also with keeping her secret. I also read the second book and so this one is harder to talk about because it's very much the first book in the series where we are getting to know the main character and her struggles.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
36. Superman The Man of Steel vol. 9 by Jerry Ordway, John Byrne, Roger Stern & Paul Kupperberg, etc. - In the 1990s, DC killed off Superman which led to consternation and tearing of hair from some who liked the movies and a giant yawn (followed by a "hey let's buy those issues so they are collectible" slobbering) among those who read comic books. Superman was a terrible title and had been a terrible title for years. There was nothing interesting about Superman and writers didn't know how to make him interesting. The fun days of the 1960s when Superman was having identity crises and playing with weird kryptonite. This book is so fucking boring. I actually kind of appreciate John Byrne who has that "also ran" status in the history of modern comics. He was never going to be a pioneer but when he was popular he was the most popular. And then Todd McFarlane made his style even more bendy and Todd McFarlane's imitators totally fucked around with perspective (Oh yeah, Liefeld). But at least Byrne's stories don't make me hate the characters. And there are less shots of Superman standing in a static formation and shaking his fist in an effort to say that he is going to avenge the deaths of all the humans on the alternate-but-not-quite-alternate earth. At a certain point the book has panels that cross the spine so that there are two page stories because why not confuse the readers? Something about Supergirl but she's not the real Supergirl. She's an alien mutant turned into Supergirl.

I was much more pissed off about this book when I read it a week ago, but Pesach has been long and my legs are sore so I have it in front of me and I can't remember the sheer boredom of reading it.

37. The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess and various authors - This book's TOC is like a who's who of 1990s fantasy authors. You have Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint and Jane Yolen. And yet, I find that I am sick of Charles Vess. His cross cut art is so twee and full of small nose clones. What makes it worse is the fact that while ballads may be great stories, they are only great stories because someone sings them. It's not enough to take them and put them in literary format, draw pictures and call it a day. Also the authors might be trying to expand on them (some are. Others just leave the words there and let Vess illustrate) but never enough to flesh them out. As much as we find ballads fascinating we like a lot of songs as stories and no one wants to see an illustrated version of Darling Nikki either (ok I want to see an illustrated version of Darling Nikki).

38. The Black Dragon by Chris Claremont and John Bolton - I looked up John Bolton and saw that he illustrated the first Book of Magic in the Neil Gaiman mini-series. I didn't mind him in that one, but Bolton needs color to really express himself. Or to properly express himself. With black and white, his stuff just gets all shadowy and dark and while this is a comic about a dude who is a gargoyle/dragon and somehow also the soul of Britain and if only his best friend would stop turning him into the gargoyle thing he would be much better at things. But this is Chris Claremont and the cheesiness of the book can only be that much more cheesy. The plot is based on flat characters being all moody and conspiracy doing. Also Britain. And Robin Hood. Because why the fuck not?
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
34. Village of Stone by Xiaolu Guo - One of the hardest things about reviewing books is just how hard it is to review a book that you love. What's even worse is the fact that now I want to read everything by Xiaolu Gao and she even has a couple movies with only one on DVD that is playable in the U.S. (UFO in her eyes). This is the first book and it's beautiful. I know it's a translation so I am also praising Cindy Carter, but it's like there isn't a line or a sentence wasted and every word is measured. The story itself is hard to describe well because on the surface it's about a woman living in Beijing with her boyfriend and remembering her time in a small village in the family that was the outcast family because her grandmother was an outsider and her father ran off. The main action in the present is the fact that these two characters receive an eel and while it stinks up their apartment, they realize that it's expensive so they slowly eat it. The past is full of sexual abuse and silence where a girl can get kidnapped and raped and held against her will and when she escapes no one seems to care.

One critic compared it to a dream.

35. The Pursuit of Happiness by Anne Roiphe - One of the characters turns out to be Roy Cohn. That was the only part that annoyed me. The character begins as a brat kid who lies about stealing and gets a nod of approval from his mother, shows up in the 1950s as an anti-Communist who is very dangerous and then dies of AIDS in the last chapters with his cats all going to a shelter to die. Did Roy Cohn have cats that were put down after he died? What the fuck? The rest of the book is surprisingly engaging as Anne Ropiphe gives us a multi-generational family that sneaks on over from the old country (the matriarch steals diamonds to get to America and then keeps the diamonds that show up whenever horrible things happen in the book). The framing story is a mother worried about her daughter in Israel and only in the last few pages do you find out why the daughter gets shot while the mother is almost a footnote in her own story. There's a lot of "dear reader, do you judge this character harshly" wording which gets a little grating, but somehow it all holds together.

Oddly enough, family trees seem like the literary equivalent of maps.


marlowe1: (Default)
Tim Lieder

September 2017

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