Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn vol 1 by Waki Yamato


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Erratum:
"Beatiful black hair" on p220 Beautiful is misspelled.

The original Tale of Genji was written by someone with the honorific of Murasaki Shikibu. She was a Japanese writer and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period, and she lived around 1000AD. She was strictly speaking not a 'Lady'. The 'Shikibu' referred to her status as a relative of a high ranking official in a ministry, so 'Lady' is an approximation. Murasaki seems to have referred to the wisteria plant and its color which the Japanese probably did not differentiate between.

No one knows her real name, but some suspect she may have been Fujiwara no Takako. She was married for two years before her husband died, and later retired from court with her daughter. In between those times she wrote an ongoing 'novel' about a fictional character in the Heian court, known as The Shining Prince, and commonly referred to as 'Genji'. This guy was a bit of a playboy (as this pull-no-punches manga reveals), who having lost his mother early in life seems to have pursued a need to replace her with a lover who had her qualities.

He fell in love with his stepmother, something perceived as forbidden, but she's not the only one. Every few pages he finds another woman who inspires powerful feelings, yet every one of them seems inappropriate for one reason or another - that she's an older girl with whom he grew up, so there are sibling feelings involved, or that she's a lower class woman who lives in a small house in the city, and on and on. It's like he can only love she who is decidedly wrong for him to love!

I enjoyed this story and I'm now inspired to actually go read the original (in translation of ocurse! LOL!) that's been sitting on a shelf to my right as I sit typing this, for several years. The author published this manga some time ago and it has been rereleased to coincide with the opening of “The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated” at MoMA in NYC. To prepare for writing it, Waki Yamato traveled to the locations where the Heian court had existed and visited museum exhibits to see the kind of clothing they would have worn.

She even was able to don one outfit and have photos taken so she could see how it hung and moved. The effort was worth it, because the artwork is beautiful. My only problem with it was that the drawing style tends to render characters to look very much alike and it was at times confusing and a little harder to follow the story when one new character after another was whisked in and out.

The design of the book was a bit confusing too. This was an ebook, which slid up and down the screen on my pad, not left to right. It began at the front of the book rather than at the rear, as many manga do, yet the page had to be read from right to left, not the western left to right, and this was really confusing to begin with because some of the panels made little sense until I figured out what they had done here! Also page numbers are not visible, and there is no slide bar to navigate the whole book so you can't tell at a glance where you are in it. You can only see page numbers if you tap the screen twice or during the actual swiping form one page to the next.

This was also a bit annoying, especially since, in swiping up to the next page, if you accidentally started too low on the page it would bring-up my iPad's nav bar which then necessitated a tap on the center of the screen to dismiss it. That was also annoying! So not the best design for an ebook, but I'm guessing it was as usual, never designed as a ebook, but as a print manga which was then crammed into ebook format without much thought to practicality. Publishers really need to get on the ball with this and decide what it is they're publishing these days! A book cannot be all things to all formats! That aside, though, I really enjoyed the story and the art, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Catwoman Vol 1 Copycats by Joëlle Jones, Fernando Blanco, Laura Allread, John Kalisz


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a nicely done comic, written and illustrated by Jones in partnership with fellow artist Fernando Blanco, and colorists Laura Allread and John Kalisz. I liked this version of Selina Kyle: perky, confident, realistic, and not overblown into some pneumatic caricature. The writing was sensible and fun, and the artwork excellent.

She would pre-fur to live in relative obscurity at her new scratching-post away from Gotham, but unfortunately Catwoman cannot find the peace she seeks because of a cat nipping at her heels - or rather, several of them. There seems to be a veritable plethora of cat-women here. Why? Is it some sort of Meow-Too movement? Will the real Selina please stand and arch her back?

Making a feline for the answer, the real Catwoman stray-cat-struts her way boldly into the fray to tear down this caterwaul and see what's on the other side of it. I commend this as a worthy read.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Captain Marvel Down by various contributors


Rating: WARTY!

The last, thankfully, of the four Captain marvel graphic novels I foolishly thought to read. All four were DNFs, and as of this one I am off Marvel comics altogether until and unless they offer me a seriously good reason why I should read even one more. DC isn't any better, just FYI. This one at least wasn't set on a dumb space station, but it was still as bad.

In the airless vacuum of space, Captain Marvel apparently has no trouble breathing or at least holding her breath, and no trouble speaking out loud - and being heard by others! Yet in this story, set under water, she needs a breathing apparatus? WTF???

So, underwater and of course she has to be set upon by sharks which as you know are hungry 100% of the time and always for humans. Barf. The artist needs to learn to draw shark teeth.

On that topic, the artwork was, as usual indifferent, that is until chapter two when it went seriously down the crapper. I never used to think I was artist enough to do a graphic novel, but now I'm of the opinion that anyone can do one if this level of "artistry' is acceptable. This was written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Christopher Sebela, and illustrated by Dexter Soy and Filipe Andrade, and none of it was up to snuff.

The plot was a tired, retreaded Bermuda Triangle story with bizarre robots (which were absent on the space station you may recall), now resurrecting themselves and which of course required Captain Marvel to turn all Dwayne Johnson (barf) instead of being Captain Marvel. It sucked royally. Captain Marvel is rendered repeatedly by these female writers into a pair of fists, no brain required. No woman required either, since there is nothing in these stories that would have to be changed if the female were erased and a male character substituted in her stead.

I don't normally do covers because the author typically has nothing to do with the cover unless they self-publish, but in this case I have to ask, if this is set in the ocean, why does the cover show Captain Marvel in space??? This had to be one of the poorest, dumbest comics I have ever partially red, and I refuse to remotely commend it.

It was awful, as were the other three of this quartet I happily didn't pay for, since I had them from my excellent local library for a preview of Captain marvel. Fortunately, I have more faith in the artists who write and otherwise create Marvel movies, otherwise I would have been turned-off the Marvel Cinematic Universe permanently by this trash. If I might borrow the words of Blue October: into the ocean end it all, into the ocean end it all, into the ocean end...all, good bye! Captain Marvel deserves better.


Captain Marvel Rise of Alpha Flight by various contributors


Rating: WARTY!

Well at this point I think I am done reading Marvel graphic novels. They are nowhere near as entertaining as the movies, in fact not well written at all and illustrated accordingly. I was very disappointed. The first problem being that Earth's Mightiest Her" is onfined to commanding a space station. WHY??? It's like having your prize race horse pulling a plow, or your best performing race car working for Uber.

I thought that with these four graphic novels being written, at least in part, by female authors (in this case, Tara Butters, along with Michele Fazekas, with art by Kris Anka), they might have something new and different to offer, but these were no better than the male ones. Again, a grave disappointment.

Despite being set in the future, there isn't a sign of robotics or AI in sight. What happened? Was there a technology apocalypse? Evidently not since these people are on an advanced space station - one shaped like a spinning top. Why people show stations designed like that in books and movies escapes me since there's no explanation offered for why it had to be designed this way!

I almost forgot what this one was about, but then, unfortunately, I remembered. There is an alien workforce on the station, taking charge of waste management. Why? Did we forget how to recycle? We've known that since Apollo days! And if there needs to be waste management, why are aliens from scores of light years away doing it instead of robots or humans on this station in close Earth orbit? Any why did an alien race which is starkly divided (as we later learn) into alphas and slaves, get hired in the first place? Did no one do due diligence? If Marvel had been doing her job as station commander instead of getting her fingers into every pie she could, maybe she would have noted this and prevented all that came later.<.p>

I'm sorry, but stupid characters, dumb-ass plots and indifferent artwork do not a great story make. This is garbage, manage that! I'm done reading Marvel superhero comic books until and unless I feel a huge compulsion to pick up another one.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Mighty Captain Marvel Band of Sisters by various contributors


Rating: WARTY!

My next foray into the world of Captain Marvel should have been a good one since it was both written and drawn by women, but this made no difference to the asinine portrayal of a female character, to her sexploitation in the form of improbable hourglass physiques, open crotch shots and leading with the breasts shots, and to the moronic storyline. What the hell is wrong with these female comic book creators??? If a renaissance in how women are portrayed in graphic novels isn't going to start with them when and where the hell will it start?

Margaret Stohl (lousy writing) and Michele Bandini (sexploitative art) are the guilty parties here. The story is nothing but one long fight - and in space, where a startling number of super heroes are able to breathe unaided. There's no reason a woman shouldn't be able to kick ass, but if all you're going to do with your female super heroes is have them behave exactly like the male super heroes traditionally do, then what the hell is the point in fussing about whether females are represented in comics or on the silver screen???!!! They're just men with tits! And thereby hangs a tale!

The hilarious thing about being in space wasn't the fact that they could breathe as though there is air out there. It was the fact that there was no physics out there. At one point Captain Marvel punches this villainous dude and he shoots off backwards, but she remains in place, unmoving. Apparently one of her super powers is to suspend Newton's third law of motion. That's fine, but what I had a hard time trying to figure out was how Captain Marvel managed to maneuver in space where gravity isn't a fact in free-fall, friction is essentially non-existent, and she has no rocket assistance! Then I figured it out! The answer was revelatory!

There are no page numbers of course - it's a graphic novel after all so why would anyone want to reference a page? But counting each leaf as one page, this scene took place after page nineteen. There was a full page spread on the left and on the lower right, a full breast spread as Captain Marvel's Mammaries took pride of place in the center of the panel. They were huge. Now turn that leaf and six more, and on the left there's another full-page spread, but this time Captain Marvel has no mammaries at all! Do you see? She is really flat chested, and her 'boobs' carry compressed air, which is how she maneuvers in space! The air shoots out through her nipples allowing her to jet around, Clearly that second frame caught her when she was in need of a refill! Now it all made sense to me!

Not.

So hopefully it's needless to say, even if it needles to say, that I was out of there. Captain Marvel DNF'd again. I have two more to go through, and I am hoping - but have little faith - that they will offer me something to marvel at. This one is warty, period.


Captain Marvel Civil War II by various contributors


Rating: WARTY!

Because of the impending advent of Captain Marvel on the silver screen, to which I'm very much looking forward despite its shamefully long-overdue portrayal of a lead female Marvel superhero, I decided to pick up some graphic novels on the subject from the library to read ahead (after a fashion!)! I was sorely disappointed. I got four of them and the first two were complete duds. I'm glad I didn't read the Marvel graphic novels before I saw any of the movies because I would never have gone to see the movies had I imagined they would be as roundly dissatisfying asa the novels.

This one was a series following Captain Marvel's involvement in Civil War from which she was omitted completely in Phase 3 of the Marvel movie universe. Unfortunately it wasn't the first in the series, but that doesn't matter because I'm judging it only on the quality of this particular volume, not the whole series, and the quality sucked. It was poorly written by Ruth Fletcher Gage, Christos Gage, and the average to indifferent art was by Kris Anka, Marco Failla, Thony Silas, and Andy Owens, which might explain the patchy quality.

Apparently Carol Danvers was romantically involved with Colonel Rhodes of Iron Man associations, and he's either dead or severely wounded. it was hard to tell with the poor writing. Captain Marvel - billed as Earth's mightiest hero - is somehow under the thumb of a bunch of asshole guys dictating to her - to Captain Marvel - what to do. Never once did she flare up at these condescending and patronizing jackasses. The story was only this all the way through - and the occasional fight. It was boring as hell, and a waste of my time. I should bill Marvel for my reading time since I took no pleasure in it.


Queen Bee by Chynna Clugston


Rating: WARTY!

Why a female author would want to denigrate women by creating a graphic novel about two high-school girls being outright bitches to one another is an utter mystery to me. I thought there might be some wising-up and resolution here, but the only resolution was to continue this garbage into a second volume. Even the teachers are painted clueless which is an outright insult to teachers. It's stinking trash. My opinion and advice is to treat it as such. I'm done with this author.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending by India Desjardins, Marianne Ferrer


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a wonderfully well-illustrated (by Ferrer) and written (by Desjardins) short story about a fifteen-year-old girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. I was unable to discover if this is a true story or not, but in a more meta sense, it must be, because there are remarkable recovery stories, and this was one of them.

The story begins with the girl heading into the hospital with her parents to learn the verdict on her latest round of tests, and she is preparing herself to be told when she will die. As she walks the uninviting hallways of the building, she recalls episodes from her life that have taken place since she was first diagnosed.

She remembers her best friend, and her boyfriend, and her parents behavior and reactions. And of course, there's a happy ending! I thought it was beautifully done and gorgeously illustrated, and I commend it as a great story (even if not strictly true). It's honest and positive, and perhaps would make a sweet gift to a young someone who is going through a similar experience.


Isadora Duncan a Graphic Biography by Sabrina Jones


Rating: WORTHY!

Before I read this I didn't know squat about Isadora Duncan - not even what she was famous for other than her death which is probably better known than her life by too many people - myself a prime case in point. I also remember her name from a Beatles movie, although I forger the specific movie tile. It's where Ringo chants at one point, "Isadora Duncan worked for Telefunken." He either got it from a song title by John Lennon, or Lennon titled his song after Ringo's chant. I don't know which came first, but I never could get that line out of my head! Telefunken was at the time a German electrical appliance manufacturer the name of which had perhaps amused the Beatles during their tenure in the country at the outset of their career.

I'd rather idly assumed that Duncan had been a writer, maybe a poet, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover from this biography that she'd been known pretty much solely for dance in her own time. I enjoyed the biography and it was packed and informative, but for me, Isadora Duncan came off as a bit of a flake, and probably not someone I would have taken to had I ever met her. Not that that's chronologically possible since she died in 1927.

Her dancing seems to me to have been the visual equivalent of jazz music - free-form and undisciplined. I can't say for sure since sadly, there's no film of her dancing, although there are photographs, but such static snapshots cannot possibly give a good picture of how she moved or what her dancing was truly like. I'm guessing I would not have liked it.

Regardless of my personal preference though, she impressed very many people with her dance in her lifetime, and attempted at one time or another, to start schools to teach others to be free and self-motivated in their dance rather than rigidly adhere to preset forms. In this regard she was the Bruce Lee of dance, for he advocated precisely this same thing except that it was in regard to martial arts in his case. Whether he knew anything of Isadora Duncan I can't say, but the two of them would have probably gotten along quite well had chronology been such that they could ever have met.

Her death, for anyone who has never heard of it, was the equivalent of a hanging, when her flowing scarf became caught in the open-spoked wheels and axle of the open-top car in which she was riding, resulting in her being pulled out of the car by the neck, which broke. Death was instantaneous, we're assured, although I doubt many deaths truly are. She was only fifty and still had so much to offer the world, which redoubles the tragedy.

The thing is that her life was equally ill-favored in many regards, including that of raising children. She was not an advocate of marriage, She was very progressive and feminist, and a pursuer of free love as it was called. Today she'd likely be cruelly dismissed as a slut, but she had two children with her lovers who both died when the car they were in ran off by itself into a river. She later had a third child which died shortly after it was born. So tragic a life.

She was so renowned in dance that she was able to support her several siblings and mother (father abandoned the family when Isadora was quite young), but then she would go off on a tangent and embark upon some project - such as starting a dancing school or proposing an idyllic retreat in the hills of Athens, none of which ever really took off.

After those, she would find herself in debt and would began dancing again to raise money before launching a new venture - another school or whatever. At one point she had a dancing troop of six girls who toured, and were known as the "Isadorables" which is an amusing and charming name. Her professional reputation and influence lasted a lot longer than her schools did. The last of her Isadorables died quite recently, in 1987.

The book in general, I think, does a good job of conveying her life, but from subsequent reading I've done, it appears to omit some details, such as her private life becoming less private and more scandalous in later life, her drunkenness and her waning ability to pay her bills, so it seems that this book set out only to paint a glossy and positive picture, but that said, I feel better for knowing more about her than I did before, and I commend this graphic novel for getting me there.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

HP Lovecraft He Who Wrote in the Darkness by Alex Nikolavitch, Gervasio, Carlos Aon, Lara Lee


Rating: WARTY!

I'm always interested in reading about other writers if they have anything interesting to say but for me, this graphic novel about Lovecraft was a fail. He wrote over sixty stories - most of them short stories, during his short lifetime (he died at 46 from cancer), but this didn't really delve into many of them or even keep track of his writing them, which seemed very odd to me for a book about a writer.

It did highlight some of his quirks and made a passing mention of his racism, but it seemed more focused on his inabilities rather than his abilities - his inability to live with his wife (a curiosity for someone whose name is love craft!) and his inability to focus on writing stories while effortlessly penning thousands of long letters - than it ever did in discussing his work or even mentioning it.

That said it is a graphic novel, not a biography, so some things inevitably get left out. It just felt to me that writer Nikolavitch left out the wrong things, and the art by Gervasio, Aon, and Lee was average at best, so I cannot commend this as a worthy read.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Despicable Deadpool Bucket List by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Christian Dalla Vecchia, Scott Koblish, Ruth Redmond


Rating: WARTY!

I'm a fan of the movie universes created by Marvel and DC - if you can call that latter a universe - so obviously more of a fan of Marvel than DC, but Wonder Woman is still the most kick-ass female hero so far in those movie worlds. Comic books have never been my thing. Even as a kid I was not a great fan, although I read quite a few. Since I left that phase of my life, they've mostly felt too juvenile for me, although I've read a few recently which transcended that problem. Comic books in general still have some big fish to gut before they can fry them, sexualisation of females being the prime one.

But that wasn't the problem here. The thing here is that there's nothing more asinine than two people locked in a supposed life-or-death struggle and exchanging quips throughout the fight. It's utterly ridiculous, but it's de rigueur in comic book hero fights. It occurs twice on the early pages here, once between Deadpool and Rogue, and once between the merc with a smirk and a villain who was too laughable to take seriously. And whose name didn't even register.

Not that there ever is an actual life-or-death struggle in comic books because no matter how "final" a demise is, the character always comes back whether they're good or evil. It doesn't matter, so the story itself didn't matter when you get right down to it. It's a farce and not even amusing in the best tradition of British farce.

Comic books are a Buddhist's worst nightmare - trapped on the eternally cycling wheel of suffering, and while a good Buddhist would never espouse this, the only solution is to kill off the villain! Don't lock them up in the same prison they already escaped from fifty times before. Slay them! Burn their bodies to ash! Seal the ash in lead, put that urn on a rocket, and fire it into the heart of the sun! End of story. Invent a new and different villain for next time instead of resurrecting the zombie villains of yesteryear. Quit taking the lazy way out.

Frankly, it really is boring to have the same hero battle the same villain over and over again, or if not the villain, then the villain's evil daughter - or some other relative. These writers need a new shtick. The Joker is a joke. The Mandarin is as toxic as Agent Orange. Find fresh villains for goodness sake! It's reached a point now where one universe isn't enough for the comic book writers and they have to bring in other universes/parallel worlds for no other reason than that they can lazily repeat the same stories, but with non-different characters.

By that I mean the character is supposedly different, but not really, and so we get the same stories warmed over with a different color palette. Winsome repeat is all they seem to have. This is why I quit watching The Flash TV show because every season was an exact repeat of the previous season: a "new" villain just like the one from last season - evil and faster than The Flash - and Flash had to defeat him, and always did. It was tedious.

The most annoying thing about this particular volume is one that seems to be common in Marvel's arena: writers cannot produce a comic about a super hero these days that doesn't grandfather-in a host of other heroes and villains from the Marvel stable. So we have Deadpool, who I love in the movies, supposedly going through a bucket list of items, each of which is apparently a cameo appearance of other notables from the Marvel world. Although I confess I did find Stevil Rogers amusing.

Deadpool cannot die. This is a given, so at least they're owning that fact of comic book super hero life up front, but why he thinks he's in a position necessitating a bucket list is a mystery. This was volume 2 and I didn't read volume 1 because celestials forbid that a publisher should actually inform the reader right there on the cover of which volume in what series this is! So maybe it was explained, but let's run with it, ready or not.

So anyway Deadpool starts out fighting Rogue, who he evidently had a thing with in a previous volume. Rather than sit down and talk, they start smashing the hell out of each other. That's a great plan for a relationship isn't it? Never once did she consider bringing along a collar from the Ice Box and snapping that on him to take him down. Nope! They smash-up everything around them and take no responsibility for it. It's like Sokovia never happened. And given comic book penchant for redux up the wazoo, maybe it didn't in this particular universe.

So the story is that a male writer has a female hero take the brute force approach rather than an intellectual or cooperative one. You know, someone did a study of comic-book violence in terms of who perpetrates it, and it turns out that the super heroes are more violent than the super villains. How did that come about? It's reported at https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/aaop-gi102218.php. But I digress.

Rogue has apparently acquired many powers, including the power to fly and hover, as well as to recover from what would otherwise be debilitating - if not death-dealing - injuries. Good for her. After Deadpool escapes her, he takes on a complete nonentity and has Marvel guest star The Collector pick him (or her) up and cart them away; then it's Marvel Guest Star Captain America putting in an appearance to star in a redux of the Deadpool origin story where he gets pinned to the cement by a large, shaft of steel. Who says male super heroes aren't sexualized?!

After that we get a visit from Colossus and Kitty Pryde, which frankly sounds like the name of a cat toilet product. I'm sorry, but there really was no story here. It was all one long and tired cliché, and I refuse to commend something as unimaginative as this.


Battlepug by Mike Norton, Allen Passalaqua


Rating: WARTY!

I may have been unduly precipitous with my declaration that this is the year of the pug and not the year of the pig.

This was a rather bizarre story in which a small amount of entertainment was lost among crimes against women. The story is related by a woman to her two pet dogs, a pug and a small bulldog, both of which constantly argue with each other - yes, they can also talk. Why the woman had to be lying prone on her bed, gratuitously butt-naked in telling the story I do not know, but look at the gender of the creators, and all becomes clear. Y-Chromosome Norton is the writer and also the artist, and Y-Chromosome Passalaqua did the coloring.

As far as the story went, it had interest and humor, and the art was decent, but this was overshadowed. It featured a Tarzan-type character known only as 'The Warrior' and who was purportedly the last surviving member of the Kinmundian Tribe, a claim which I personally did not buy. My guess is there's also a female survivor out there somewhere, but this book was only the collected volume one.

The Tarzan impersonator reluctantly teams-up (which curiously isn't the opposite of teaming down any more than undertaking is the opposite of overtaking) with a giant pug and a wizard, to take on the villain. If it had been just that, all would have been well and good, but the nudity? Not appropriate. The guy wore a loin-cloth, so no real nudity there. What happened to equal time? And why only a loin cloth when he had been raised in the frozen north?

There was no reason at all for why the woman narrator, Moll, was naked. She could just as well have been clothed, but throughout the narration, she lay bare-assed and unembarrassed on her bed. She could have been putting the dogs to bed and telling them a bedtime story over a cup of cocoa while wearing a robe herself. It could have been a naked guy telling the story about a warrior woman, but that would have been considered odd now wouldn't it? And it would have been just as inappropriate.

If there's a valid reason for the nudity, then fine, I have no problem with that, but there usually isn't other than an enduring male writer's need to sexualize their female characters, and there certainly wasn't any reason for it here other than that these guys with the evident mentality of frat boys wanted to see a naked girl on a bed.

The comic was published in print form in 2012 after a life as a web comic, so it's not like it was written with antique sensibilities. I can't commend a comic that has female nudity without any reason other than male comic book writers and artists have evidently still not yet left the stoned age. It's for this reason alone that I rate this as an unworthy read, notwithstanding any other qualities it had.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack


Rating: WORTHY!

I encountered this in my luscious local library, and I could hardly not pick it up after writing Cleoprankster! I was curious, since both Maihack's Cleo and mine are roughly the same age (middle grade) what he had done with her.

I'm happy to report that this graphic novel is entirely different from my chapter book. Whereas I tried to be historically accurate and make the book educational - both to an extent! - this one went the other way and made a complete fiction of it, but I enjoyed it and consider it a worthy read.

In this introduction story, Cleo is abducted from Egypt and transported to a futuristic school out in interplanetary space, where she learns combat and weapons inter aliens. Fortunately everyone speaks Greek (which was Cleo's native language, although she spoke many others - at least as an adult - including Egyptian, which none of her Ptolemic forebears ever took the trouble to learn) so there are no language difficulties. Or maybe there's a universal translator in the air. I don't know. It's been a while since I read this! Anyway, Cleo goes on a mission and performs exemplary work, and that's about it. But then this is volume 1, so presumably there's more to come. I don't feel any great urge to rush out and get volume 2, but I might at some point, assuming there's one to be had.

As it is, I commend this as a fun and breezy story, although it won't tell you a thing about Cleopatra. She never did, for example, have a Louise Brooks-style 1920's bob. More than likely she was bald! Because of the head lice which were rife in Egypt, everyone shaved their heads, and kids ran around butt-naked. Cleo would have worn, if anything at all at that age, a wig which she could happily take off and have cleaned and maybe a short skirt. But its fiction, so what the hell!


Monday, December 31, 2018

Newsprints by Ru Xu


Rating: WARTY!

Despite her name, author Ru Xu grew up in Indianapolis. This graphic novel depicts a newsie - a newspaper delivery 'boy' named Blue, who is really a girl in disguise. She dresses as a boy so she can be involved in the preferentially male newspaper industry. As you might guess, this is not a modern tale. These days she would start her own blog. Blue is an orphan, and despite the push to have her, as a girl, do girly things to help the war effort, Blue has managed to escape all that and push equality to the fore, but she pushes a little too hard and a rival newspaper delivery gang resents her poaching on their turf. In process of escaping their pursuit, she discovers an old factory, which has a resident. In the course of interactions with this older man, Blue also meets crow, another person with something to hide, and a friendship develops.

I'd like to be able to commend this in some ways, but it really didn't have much of a story to tell. I wasn't appalled by it, but neither was I enthralled, so I can't say this was a worthy read I'm sorry to report.


For the Love of God, Marie by Jade Sarson


Rating: WARTY!

This novel announces itself as a winner of a graphic novel contest (Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition, 2014), but I couldn't see why. Maybe it was the only entrant? Marie is a good Catholic girl; id est a Catholic girl who is good at making people happy by granting them sexual favors and who sees this as, kind of, doing the work of god. That was it. It was boring, pointless and unentertaining. With a name like Sarson, maybe the writer was stoned when she dreamed this up? Or un-Henge-d? I dunno. Just making wild guesses, but there was no substance to this - 'nothing to see here' kind of thing. It could have been funny, but it wasn't. It could have been deep but it was shallow. It could have been philosophical but it was too sexualized. In the end it was nothing. I can't commend it.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson


Rating: WORTHY!

OK, so I'm willing to admit that I may have overdone it with the graphic novels lately! Anyway, here’s another one, this time aimed at a younger audience, but which entertained me despite that! It was amusing, decently-written, and contained some fun antics. I think kids will love reading or better yet being read to about the escape plans of these classroom pets, especially if you sit ‘em on your knee and activate the story by jogging the kid around a bit to match the pets’ escape activities. I commend it as a short, but colorful and fun story.


Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert, Fabien Vehlmann Kerascoët


Rating: WORTHY!

Set in 1930s Paris, this was a fun "naughty" (but not too naughty) novel about a young girl Blanche, who sees her sister Agatha murdered by the 'Butcher of the Dances'. No one will believe her, and Agatha is written-off as a suicide. Losing her job as a maid, Blanche seeks work at the Pompadour, an elite brothel, and the only place which might take her in. She's almost laughed out of even there, but once taken in, quickly establishes herself as a mistress of untouchability and the virgin dominatrix.

But she hasn't forgotten her sister and slowly begins to unravel the brutal crime, while fending off assaults from patrons, unwelcome attempts at relieving her of her prized virginity, and shifting allegiances among the call-girls. This made for a different and fun read and I commend it.


The Song of Aglaia by Anne Simon


Rating: WORTHY!

Based loosely on Greek mythology, this rather crudely-drawn graphic novel was a weird and wonderful exploration of the adventures of Aglaia, a sea nymph who is seduced and abandoned by a merman know as Ethel...no, I made that last bit up. There was a merman though, and the pregnant Aglaia is exiled from Oceanid by her cruel father and finds herself wandering until she's made welcome at Mr Kite's circus (yes, that Mr Kite!) and becomes friends with its star, Henry the waltzing horse. But it doesn't end there. It gets even more bizarre!

This first solo graphic novel by Anne Simon traces Aglaia's fall and rise and was a fun and different read from the usual retelling of myths. I commend it.


The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma


Rating: WARTY!

Written and illustrated by "Emma" and translated from French by Una Dimitrijevic, this is a book about how women are put upon from birth by gender discrepancies and pigeon-holing in how we're raised, perceived, and employed, but there is nothing new in here. Or at least there wasn't for me, so I found this boring. The author apparently has nothing fresh to say and no new humorous or stinging facet to put on it, and the guys to whom this might be new and fresh (and even instructional) are never going to read a book like this, not even if it's a graphic novel.

Worse than that, I also found it to be rather offensive in the implicit assumptions employed by the author that men are all alike and all are unilaterally abusive to and of women, even if only passively. I'm not like that and I do not enjoy being lectured to, that I am. I don't claim to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but neither am I the cartoonish, stereotypical, club-wielding Neanderthal that seems to be the author's opinion. I do not imagine for a minute that I'm alone in these sentiments, either.

The author is a computer technician living in Paris and I felt sorry that she has evidently been hanging out with entirely the wrong people if this narrow window she exhibits is her honest perception of life. I agree with her insofar as I would say there are still people who need to learn these lessons, and most if not all of us still have learning to do, both male and female, but this was published in 2018 as though it were 1958, without any acknowledgement that things have changed. Not enough, by any means, but certainly further than this book seems to be willing to allow.

People who write like this used to be part of the solution, but now, in continuing to write like this in 2018, they are part of the problem. You cannot fix a pendulum that has swung too far in one direction by swinging it equally far in the other. You fix a problem like that by nailing it in down the middle and never letting it swing again.

By writing as though nothing has changed in the better part of a century, this author merely demonstrates that she hasn't learned this important lesson, and that she needs to find better people to associate with if she truly is experiencing problems like this as we move into the finale of the second decade of the twenty-first century. At the very least, she desperately needs a more nuanced shtick to purvey if she wants to really make an impact and thereby a difference. I cannot commend a biased, blinkered, and insulting book like this.


Nancy Drew Girl Detective #14 Sleight of Dan by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of three Nancy Drew graphic novels I'm reviewing today. It's also the last Nancy Sue I'll ever read. I never read any of the original novels, and prior to these three graphic versions, I'd seen her in only two movies, once an older 'original' and the other a 2007 knock-off starring Emma Roberts who is evidently a lot more charming and mature in her movies than in real life as judged by her 2013 Montreal fight.

None of these graphic novels were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. Again, this particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was quite predictable.

Nancy-Sue, nuttily-named Ned, and some dude named George go to see Dan Devil's magic show. His assistant vanishes - and doesn't reappear. Of course Nancy can't not get involved. An encounter with a hungry anaconda somehow persuades her to become his new assistant. Ri-ight!

Isn't it weird how, in these stories, predators are always, but always, hungry? Judged by its ferocious and unnaturally lively pursuit of Nancy, the reptile evidently hadn't eaten in months. Boring. The largest anaconda is the green anaconda and it is not known to eat people or even large prey save for rare occasions. After a meal, an anaconda can go for six weeks before needing to eat again, so this story is not remotely realistic and is downright misleading, in fact. Shame on the authors. Inventive they may have been, clueless they definitely were. No commendo!