Sep 02 2015

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller vol 3

Continuing with Miller’s take on the blind vigilante, he produces a pretty good collection. The stories aren’t bad as they are well written with plenty of action and involve ninja, the Punisher, and the possible resurrection of the master assassin Elektra, so what’s not to like?! You definitely see how Miller is evolving as both a writer and an artist. 

Sep 01 2015

The Cute Girl Network – Greg Means & MK Reed

This cute comic’s name comes from the plot device that girls tell horror stories about people they date to stop others from dating them. Jane is just about the coolest girl that has ever existed in history, and she likes Jack, who is really just a harmless loser, but somehow dates a lot of hot women for extended periods of time. These women try to stop Jane from dating him. I enjoyed it but I can’t say there’s more plot than what I’ve just described, and maybe because there are two authors there are twice as many words as needed to tell the story (although Means is a librarian so I’ll forgive just about anything he does). It’s fun, but sadly not memorable. cute girl network

Aug 29 2015

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath – I.N.J Culbard

Adapted from the Lovecraft work the same name, Culbard continues his own quest to turn Lovecraft’s works into comics. Randolph Carter wishes to find the city of his dreams (literally of his dreams), but dark forces and well-wishers alike warn him to stay away lest he anger the gods of the dreamland. Like all good heroes, he ignores the warnings and travels forth. There are certain works that are more suited for adaptation than others and this is one that works rather well. Culbard’s somewhat simple, brightly colored, and lovingly rendered illustrations cut through much of the original’s purple prose leaving a well-crafted story of adventure. I am grateful to Cej for giving me this book, and to Culbard for continuing to produce them. Dream quest

Aug 28 2015

Outlander: season 2

My first response to the show is posted here, but that didn’t stop me from hate watching more of it. The show does some very disturbing things such as suddenly declare that a rapist is actually a homosexual (and apparently just rapes woman for the hell of it?), has rape victims only emotionally–but not physically–damaged by brutal sodomy, has most of its nude scenes directly related to rape and/or torture (this is a fiction show and the nudity is obviously for eroticism), continue to ignore the idea that if our main character’s husband’s ancestor looks exactly like him then she is never going to be able to truely see him the same way again (not that that matters much, this season seems to have her forgetting all about her actual husband), has her forget all about her friends that get killed, ignore the very obvious fact that telling people she’s from the future is a good way to get burnt as a witch, and the list goes on. Honestly, I can’t give a better reason for why I’m watching it than that I’m curious as to how much more ridiculous each episode will be despite that it always ends on a cliffhanger that is incredibly easily resolved in the first few minutes of the next episode.

Aug 27 2015

12 Angry Men

They actually aren’t all angry, but this makes for a better title. I read the play back in eighth grade and finally got around to watching the movie. It’s about a group of jurors charged with finding an 18-year-old guilty or innocent of the murder of his father. Wonderful acting, dialogue, characters, and suspenseful buildups, along with some very strong visuals (watch how the camera pans for long periods, rather than modern techniques of cutting back-and-forth between characters). A fascinating take on what takes place in a jury room and in the mind of jurors. 12 angry men

Aug 26 2015

Cyanide & Happiness: Punching Zoo – Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave

Apparently, it takes four people to write this comic featuring stick figures (and I’m pretty sure they are computer generated, at that), but who cares? The point is that the humor is quite strong and pretty twisted, and having these one step above stick figures cracking these jokes and comments just makes it more so. It doesn’t appear that all four work on each strip, rather they write independently, which must make meeting deadlines pretty simple. There is no story here; it is just a collection of comics, but there is a choose your own adventure (do kids even know what that isn’t anymore?) at the end, which was pretty good. Definitely my type of comic strip. punching zoo

Aug 25 2015

Red Hulk: Scorched Earth – Jeff Parker

The Red Hulk has been beaten, but now has a chance to redeem himself by helping defend the planet against doomsday projects put in place by the Leader and MODOK (mental organism designed only for killing (it’s a giant head, how cool is that!)). Naturally, this won’t be easy, especially as the hero community considers this Hulk to be a villain. I think it’s a great idea, unfortunately, the action scenes need more, well, action, and the soul-searching scenes just don’t have much to them. scorched earth

Aug 24 2015

Ms. Marvel (vol 1-3): No Normal & Generation Why & Crushed – G. Willow Wilson

Remember yesterday I said: “All I want for Christmas as a young adult oriented comic revolving around strong female characters. This title is not it.”? Well this title isn’t it either. The big to do about this comic is that the teenage girl, who develops strange bendy powers because she is really an Inhuman, is Muslim. Okay, that might’ve been interesting twist. You know what else might of been an interesting twist? Writing a good comic that actually had characters in it, an exciting plot, and maybe some dramatic interaction. Just about every character is absolutely superficial (you’re my best friend, now that I said that, you don’t need to be in the series for a couple of issues, and when we do see you again you’ll have nothing to say), and while the art by Adrian Alphona can be quite fun I’m not sure if that’s the proper tone for a comic that’s trying to be “important” (to be fair comicsalliance.com claims it’s important but they’re absolutely wrong). I guess I just don’t understand what they’re trying to do with this comic. Isn’t it hard enough for the typical comic industry to produce an interesting comic about a woman or a Muslim, so you are going to take it upon yourself to do both? So you can fail twice as fast? By the way, Ms is not an abbreviation, it’s a feminist terminology to counter the all or nothing distinction between Miss and Mrs. (notice that the last one is an abbreviation which is why it ends with a “.”). And if you’re going to use Ms. Marvel, why not just give her the same powers? This mix of Mr. Fantastic with Pym particles is rather annoying. And perhaps you would’ve been better off with an established villain to at least ground the comic (so you could’ve avoided what you’re forced to do in volume 2, which is throw in the guest stars). And the whole plot line of kids being brainwashed and then immediately un-brainwashed and empowered just read as completely pandering to what some old guys believe a YA audience wants to hear. Another disappointment. ms marvel

 

Ok, update, the library had the 3rd volume and I figured: “just once more”. Honestly, it wasn’t bad (wasn’t great either, but…) as I found there was more attempt at humor even if a big plot-line was unrequited love and crushes that go terribly wrong–hey, it’s a book about teens, I get that this needs to be part of it, even if I think it wasn’t a great job. Despite my above mentioned problems, there may still be hope for the comic (maybe). ms marvel

Aug 23 2015

Gotham Academy (vol 1): Welcome to Gotham Academy – Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher

All I want for Christmas as a young adult oriented comic revolving around strong female characters. This title is not it. With manga style art we are introduced to Hogwarts–sorry–Gotham Academy, a mysterious school with a mysterious past and mysterious going ons and a mysterious part of the grounds the students must mysteriously keep away from. Olive is our main character and she’s suffering from some amnesia from events over the summer and so she doesn’t want to talk to her boyfriend, and there’s this rich girl who’s mean to her, and her boyfriend’s little sister is hanging on to her too much, and there’s this mysterious gorgeous boy who reads classic literature, and a wild pseudo-criminal guy–really, the cast of characters seems like a mixed gender boy-band, yet there is really nothing to this story. We know nothing about the boyfriend character except that he’s understanding, gorgeous, and a tennis pro; his sister seems to have no friends, yet apparently plays a Dungeons & Dragons-like game nonstop (with whom?); the rich girl secretly is nice (because they all are); the brooding boy is right out of a Gothic novel; oh I could go on, but why bother? This is just not a very good comic and don’t understand why I should care about the mystery or the characters involved. gotham academy

Aug 22 2015

The Salon – Nick Bertozzi

It is the beginning of the 1900s in Paris, and someone is decapitating avant-garde artists, so just such a group must ban together to save their own necks, uncover the mystery, and stop these deplorable crimes, while still getting totally drunk and creating the foundations of modern art. Trust me, that sounds more interesting than this really is. Part of the problem is I don’t know much of about half the artists that make up the characters in this supernatural story (and by the way, while using historical characters can be clever, it is rather unfair to the reader who may not know much about them, and it’s pretty cheap of the writer who does nothing to help illuminate the characters, but instead relies on the reader’s knowledge to make up for characterization). The art was somewhat interesting, and the different colorizations were hit and miss, and while I don’t know if it’s true that Georges Braque was really the brains behind Picasso’s Cubism (what’s the matter Picasso? Feeling insulted? Oh, are you going to have another blue period?) I like to believe it is because everything I hear about Picasso makes me think he was a dick. The end result was I didn’t care much for this comic, although I could easily see others liking it–like the four people who wrote blurbs praising the story, who were also conveniently thanked in the acknowledgment page (perhaps some quid pro quo?). salon

Aug 21 2015

Slavoj Zizek: The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology – Sophie Fiennes

Fiennes presents Zizek lecturing about philosophical meanings behind concepts of ideology from (often literally) the backdrop of popular culture (where we see Zizek speaking within reproductions of sets from the films he discusses). While it is quite fascinating and hilarious this is only for a few who are specifically interested in such a subject matters, and even still they might be frustrated over Zizek’s halting English. I thought it rather fascinating, but I warn people to take what he says with several grains of salt. For example, Zizek claims that consumers used to feel guilty and donate to charity, but now that, again for example, Starbucks tells us that they donate a percentage of their coffee money helping poor farmers blah blah, and so we no longer feel guilty, consumed with confidence, and don’t bother feeling guilty or donating any longer. However, where is his evidence to suggest this? Were consumers feeling guilty? Did they then go out and do something? Do they now no longer feel guilty? And do they now no longer do something–because, after all, they are doing something by consuming? We do have evidence that strongly right-wing consumers will shop at Chick Fillet because of their political stance, and they won’t buy products labeled “green” even if it is cheaper and more efficient, so that’s something (something he doesn’t talk about), but Zizek is big on making sweeping statements without providing hard (or even soft) evidence, and complaining that others are making false generalization. Still, very interesting. Pervert's guide to ideology

Aug 20 2015

Capote

After reading In Cold Blood (and seeing the movie version) I was fascinated with how Truman Capote was able to accumulate such vast detail about the 1959 Kansas murders. With this movie, based on a book, I now understand how: the incredibly charming and brilliant writer ingratiated himself into the lives of just about everyone involved in the horrific murders (from townsfolk, to detectives, to killers), a fact completely missing from the so-called documentary fiction that Capote wrote. The truth, apparently, is that Capote was a manipulative bastard who used people heinously. This is not to say he didn’t later regret his actions, as they tormented him enough to cause permit writer’s block. This is not exactly a fast-moving film, and if you do not know the story behind In Cold Blood it is pointless to watch, but the acting is amazing and insight important. Capote

Aug 19 2015

Another Period

The sitcom is a spoof on reality shows about the rich and famous, the wrinkle is that this one takes place at the start of the 1900s, so a lot of the jokes point out the appalling situations for workers, minorities, women, and, well, everyone who’s not rich (so a real stretch from today’s society). While the show is often amusing, the comedic timing isn’t quite there, and the shaky camera footage just annoys the hell out of me. I think it can get better and hope it does.

Aug 18 2015

Why? with Hannibal Buress

Why is exactly right, such as why was this approved? And: why is this not funny?

Aug 17 2015

Hulk (vol 2): Red & Green – Jeph Loeb

These weren’t bad stories focusing on the Red Hulk, and the hunt the super human community engages in to find, stop, and figure out who he is. My problem was that I felt all the stories were taken from larger stories and, therefore, I was missing a more important narrative arc. red and green

Aug 16 2015

The Sculptor – Scott McCloud

I’m not exactly sure how to formulate this review. It certainly was a long work, one of the longest single graphic novels ever. And I did enjoy the art, with its blue coloring. And the theme was interesting: the idea of literally living for art, as a main character makes a deal to have the magical ability to sculpt whatever he can imagine under the condition that he will die in two hundred days (or less if he jumps off a cliff or something). And there’re certainly poignant moments, as he falls love and deals with the various vicissitudes of love and friendship. And there are some interesting statements about the fickleness of the art world. However, if you ask me: “Did you enjoy this work?” I can’t say “Yes.” It definitely wasn’t bad, and I just mentioned a lot of positives, but for the length of the work, there should’ve been much more depth of character: our main character seems rather ridiculously adolescent, and while our love interest does develop depth, she starts out as this pathetic caricature that exists only to be the spritely charmer that picks up our hero from the doldrums. 50 pages should’ve been cut from this, forcing McCloud to tighten up his storytelling, and, quite frankly, illustrate personality and plot through pictures and dialogue rather than simply telling us what is. In many respects this is impressive, but in many more it falls short. sculptor

Aug 15 2015

Hugo

I saw this movie version of the book years after reading the original, which was a good thing as I was able to view it with less expectation and more chance of surprise. The tale is of an orphaned boy working as the clock repairman of a Paris train station, his quest to repair a mysterious automaton, the power and history of film, and the people he meets. There are some very enjoyable portrayals in the movie and it is definitely fun. Despite my earlier statement, there must remain some vague memory of the book as I felt it didn’t have the same impact of the unique original telling. Still, check them both out and you won’t be disappointed.

Aug 14 2015

Shooting War – Anthony Lappe

This glossy book is about an alternate reality wherein our middle east wars and terrorism troubles are nothing compared to these and where a hipster blogger gets caught up working for a large media corporation and becomes a pawn in the larger geopolitical machinations. The work is long, wordy, and very busy in terms of art that includes photos and social media-like aspects. Because this is an alternate reality, Lappe can be somewhat over-the-top and provides cover for his veiled references; however, it undermines the impact that a more realistic war story might have and made me struggle to get through it. shooting war

Aug 13 2015

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences – Truman Capote

The book is a documentary account (no, I’m not entirely sure what that means) of the 1959 murders of a family in a small town in Kansas. Oddly or unfortunately enough there were plenty of other murders, just as pointless, just as brutal, but apparently not as shocking or well-known, around the same time, so don’t confuse the story as an end of innocence tale. Why Capote chose to write about this one, I don’t know, but he does so with great eloquence and empathy making this work every bit as exciting and unbelievable as fiction. If you’re interested in history–or in murder (I’m being flippant, but there’s fascinating insight into the mind of murderers)–then you may well enjoy, for lack of a better word, this book.

I also saw the movie, as I am planning to teach this text and I wanted to see what was covered and, more importantly, what wasn’t. Unfortunately, the film is from the 60s, and suffers greatly from the point of view of a modern movie-goer who expects action and adventure, although it did a somewhat decent job painting a vivid picture in two hours what the book took 340 pages to do. In Cold Blood

Aug 12 2015

Supergirl: Way of the World

This short collection about the cousin of Superman, mainly written by Kelley Puckett, and mainly focusing on her efforts to save a child from dying of cancer is really unimpressive. Yes, Supergirl is the hottest woman in existence, with the most rocking abs ever (and isn’t she underage? and doesn’t that make you feel kind of scummy?), but the stories lack excitement and, while not actively bad, there is simply nothing to recommend it. Supergirl

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