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

FCBD 2017 Recap

Photo May 06, 1 43 43 PM

Hobbes has been stealing my comics again because its that’s time of year–Free Comic Book Day.  (I know, I know, it was actually on the 6th, I’ve been busy.)  & because Hobbes has to learn that he can’t hog the comics for himself, I thought I’d share my finds.  NPR has their own complete list here if you’re curious.

Free Comics:

  • The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius: I was really really looking forward to this small introduction to the larger project that Jodorowsky & Moebius started as a result of their failed Dune script.  First Impressions: sprawling & clearly influential in many different regards.  Something like The Fifth Element loses its luster when you see the panels of Incal, like it’s a retelling of a story that someone better had told.  (Also, this thin little comic smells like book glue & nice paper.  Bibliophile joy!)
  • World’s Greatest Cartoonists collected by Fantagraphics: A collection of short comics created by artists published by Fantagraphics.  I’ll admit I picked this up because I thought Liz Suburbia was going to be in it.  First Impressions: kinds weird & cool & opaque, like looking through a sketchbook shared by an artists’ co-op.  Also, apparently this is the issue where the meme frog Pepe dies, which I didn’t really register because I am unhip & unaware in the Internetwebz.
  • Hostage/Poppies of Iraq collected by Drawn & Quarterly: another one I picked up because I’ve read other artists that D&Q have published.  First Impressions: both stories are teasers for atmospheric, nonfiction graphic novels looking at people in conflict zones. An evocative reminder that nonfiction comics can be great too.
  • Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez: So these next three comics I picked up as my junky reads to go with my serious cred reads.  First Impressions: Boobs, steampunk guns & sass–that is all you need know.  I was surprised to see that apparently this comic has been around longer than something, like, Monstress.  Despite their similarities, I like Monstress better though.
  • Betty & Veronica by Adam Hughes: Confession time–I do not get Archie Comics.  My brain cannot track the appeal.  But since they are super-popular now, with the teen show & everything, I thought I’d try this intro to see if I’d like it.  First Impressions:  Nope, still not getting it.  …….the art’s nice though……
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Mirror Broken by David & Scott Tipton: You guys, you GUYS!  Buff Star Trek!  With everyone looking like they are posing for a ludicrous 1950s pulp novel.  How could I not pick this up?!  First Impressions: Gloriously brainless.  I didn’t even bother reading any of the text, just looking at the melodramatic action in the panels was enough.  Like watching a soap opera on mute–so good!

And because one should always be a good customer & buy something to show your local comic shop that you really do appreciate them, I bought 2 volumes of Saga by Brain K Vaughn & the first collection of something called Revival.  The flavor text on the back called it a country noir but with zombies & since I couldn’t picture The Walking Dead added to something like Winter’s Bone, I asked the guy behind the counter.  He said the horror is more existential-like, more like everyone’s whose come back is sad & not murder-y, so I thought I could give it a try.  I’ll let you know what I think.

Happy Belated Free Comic Book Day, everyone!

Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Electric Forest

Electric ForestElectric Forest by Tanith Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a near-perfect society, the ugly Magdala bides her time on the edges, waiting for the small luxuries she allows herself & to eventually die unnoticed. That is until the charismatic Claudio enters her life & presents her with more than she could have ever dreamed: beauty &, with it, power. Little does she know the price that she must pay for this fantasy.

If I could, I would give this as a fuck-you-very-much present to the character Roman DeBeers. Because the story certainly comes across as if Tanith Lee wrote it on a fit of pique, where every justification she gave for the story & its structure is driven by “because I say so.” Why is this story about a futuristic society presented as a book? Because it’s a part of an academic presentation & because I say so. Why is the subject avatars & displaced consciousness? Because the idea of changing personas can be used in unhealthy ways & because I say so. Why should readers who like “hard sci-fi” be interested in what is ultimately a story about relationships & self-perception? Because we should not “ignore the nakedness of humanity before the huge-wheeled vehicle of progress”, oh, and BECAUSE I SAY SO.

While the story itself is captivating (it is really more of a traditional noir story reskinned with tech), I found myself drawn to Forest’s meta-ness & how the main character flits in & out of awareness of the greater forces around her. I found myself not moved by Magdala’s struggle to define & redefine herself through her trials but by the pure idealism presented in the epilogue. It is a truly authentic statement about why the arts, literature, & chosen illusion remain important in a society that is constantly looking forward & outstripping its reach with cold purpose. But I’ve also read other stories by Lee & I know that her idealism is never starry-eyed & is always waiting to be grounded by reality. I loved it & will probably reread it soon to pick apart its structure with my new insights.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals

The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals (the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 3)The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals by Jordan Stratford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wollstonecraft Detectives are approached by paleontologist Mary Anning looking to rescue her dog from some blackmailers that want the scientist to authenticate a fake skeleton at the new British Museum. But the quartet’s mission is thwarted by Ada’s imperiously strict grandmother, a doctor whose over-eager with his use of leeches, and odd agents with a connection to the mysterious Nora Radel.

Stratford ups the stakes of his series here, splitting the four girls up & throwing obstacles in the way of their reunion. There’s interesting tension as a result & lets the story develop naturally to make sure that all our characters are on the same page. One shining example is the auction scene, where each person knows the group has a specific goal to work toward, but each has to improvise as one by one their party is thwarted. An elegant scene combining drawing-room drama & sleight-of-hand ensues. Unfortunately, due to constraints of the page count (I imagine) some action takes place off-page & leads to more exposition than usual, but Stratford covers this with word games & introductory logic puzzles for his young readers.

As an adult reader, I am still fascinated by the narrative acrobatics the author employs to skate over some of the more scandalous real-life aspects of his characters. Ada’s intractable mother is still a threat to the story & the presence of Allegra is explicitly mentioned as a problem as a result, but Stratford still manages to steer clear of the complication that Claire presents. (Claire is Allegra’s real-life mother, but in the story is still barely a teenager & has never met Lord Byron & also, this is a book for kids so there’s nothing even approaching sex-and-romance.) And I’m very intrigued by the included preview snippet for the next book in the back, which promises the appearance of Medora Leigh. (Really?! REALLY? How are you going to explain that one in your historical notes, sir?) Are you equally intrigued, dear Reader? If so, join me in speculation & try out the series.

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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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