Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Angel Catbird, vol. 1

Angel Catbird, Volume 1Angel Catbird, Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Is it a man? Is is a cat? Is it a bird? It’s Angel Catbird!

Ok, it’s a little retro; it’s kind of cheesy; there are so. many. puns! But I kind of enjoyed just seeing Atwood play with the format & the comic ties into the Canadian conservation efforts so … I’ll give this one a pass. Do whatever you want, MA.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft CountryLovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A novel presented in short stories/novellas, Lovecraft Country follows the Green/Turner families as they become entangled in their American heritage as descendants of slaves & whites who worshiped Lovecraftian tentacle monsters.

Right up front, I will say that I did not finish this book–I had two chapters until the end & I gave up. Not because there is really anything bad in the book; the narrative never elevated itself beyond the big ideas it sketches out. What if a black man was heir to a coven of racist old white dudes? What if a black woman could live out their fantasies of social freedom (whatever that looks like) if only for a limited time? What if you swapped stories about your painful past with a ghost who was trapped in a painful present? These are all good, interesting ideas but there was some heart or substance missing out of exploring them. Ultimately, I think when Jordan Peele adapts this into a movie or miniseries, the stories will fit into his directorial interests, so read the book now as prep & wait with anticipation.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me

Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases MeFatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Recommended to me by the awesome staff at Velocity Comics. Fatale mixes together tentacle monsters & gun-toting flatfoots in an adventure that flips back & forth through contemporary America. Picture a yellow-eyed creepy-crawly hoisting a tommy gun & if that doesn’t interest you, then skip the rest of the review.

The story follows a dark-haired dame who’s nothing but trouble as she seduces man after man to protect her & keep her from the crazy Cthulu-worshipping cultists that made her what she is. Fatale, so far, is a total pulp mash-up & as a result, the characters rarely become more than what they are meant to be. But that’s ok, I get the sense that this is really more about what cool things come out when mixing these two genres, not necessarily any deep characterization or story-telling. It’s ambitious, dramatic, & full of geeky genre fun.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful: Volume 1Penny Dreadful: Volume 1 by Krysty Wilson-Cairns

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A collection focusing on the immediate events before the Penny Dreadful series proper: Malcolm & Vanessa beginning their search for Mina.

Story-wise, the graphic novel is just ok. We get a little backstory on Mina’s actual choices under the thrall of Dracula & we find out what happens to her husband Harker. But the fun of the first season was seeing how the interactions between Malcolm, Frankenstein, Ethan & Vanessa deepened or subverted the original characterizations of the novel & with the original characters like Harker or Lucy Westerna returned, they don’t really have any substance or anything to do.

Art-wise, the book is freaking gorgeous. A hybrid of photorealistic drawing, sketchy kinetic layout & layers of color & symbols make for an impressive presentation that invites you to look further. This one is for the diehard fans & the completists, not really for the merely curious or those new to the show.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Rat Queens, volume #3: Demons

Rat Queens, Vol. 3: DemonsRat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hannah, no!

Sorry, I mean, this third collection starts off with our Rat Queens returning to the lands surrounding Mage University to find out what happened to Hannah’s father. Myriad plots are afoot: Hannah uncovering her parents’ student activism & it’s effect on her own upbringing; Dee struggling with her insights into the nature of N’Rygoth; Betty hiding from a bounty hunter with Violet’s help in keeping her secret from the others. There is a lot going on & our pace is set fairly quickly from the opening pages–so readers, you better keep up. This collection is also heart-breaking as all hell–Hannah’s troubled past ends up taking center-stage, leaving me to compulsively cry out periodically HANNAH, NOOOOOO!

So, what’s good here? There’s plenty of action that reveals our Queens’ backstories & relationships. Dee’s joyous exploration of the University library leads us into reuniting with one of her brothers leads us into Hannah’s troubles with her own powers leads us to the reckless argument that ends up dividing our characters. All amazing story-telling with high emotional stakes. The problem is that Wiebe takes his conflict to the very limits, leaving readers to wonder where the following issues are going to go or if one or more of the mains are going to be eliminated entirely. Excuse me a sec. (HanNAH, NOOOOooooo!) And the thing of it is, Hannah isn’t even my favorite character but her story is tragic & her pain resonated with this reader. Also, there are a few characters introduced that I would love to know more about that seem just to show up for plot-reasons. (Looking at you, Senoa.)

All in all, an intense, well-paced series that will leave you frustrated for answers & wanting more immediately.

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