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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pelé the King of Soccer by Eddy Simon, Vincent Brascaglia, Joe Johnson


Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Eddy Simon and translated by Joe Johnson, with illustrations by Vincent Brascaglia, this was an enjoyable graphic novel about the remarkable career of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known to the world as Pelé, who was an outstanding Brazilian professional soccer player.

He played for a club team at the tender age of fifteen and for his national team at the age of sixteen; at seventeen, he put in a sterling performance at the 1958 World Cup, the first of three in which Brazil won with him on the team. He's the only player to have been on three world cup winning teams, and he scored 77 goals in 92 games during those competitions. He averaged almost a goal a game throughout his career, scoring some 650 in 694 professional club appearances.

There was a less stellar side to his life in his multiple marriages and multiple affairs outside of those marriages, some of which brought offspring. The story doesn't delve very much into those or his son's conviction for money laundering. It keeps the focus mostly on soccer, recounting his career almost game by game.

This graphic novel tells the story well, with lively, colorful, and well-crafted illustrations, from his barefoot, ball-made-of-rags street soccer days of his early age, to this triumphs as a professional (in soccer boots and with a real ball!). His hero was his father who was also a professional player until he got a bad leg injury and could play no more, but he encouraged his son to excel and Pelé did not let him down. I commend this novel as a worthy read and a piece of sports history that's well-worth learning.


Madame Cat #1 by Nancy Peña


Rating: WARTY!

I went into this not really knowing what it was, but it had seemed appealing. In truth, it wasn't. What it was, was one of the most boring graphic novels I've ever read. Some authors, particularly those of the newspaper cartoon variety seem to think people will find hilarious nothing more than a drawing of an everyday activity. I don't. And that's what this was - the lifeless recounting of the mundane day-to-day experiences of a woman and her cat.

The author's illustrations were simplistic, but not bad, although her two main human charcters (the woman and her boyfriend) seem to have only one expression ever on their faces. It was the dumb stories which were tedious. This cat talks to its owner, and seems hell bent on total destruction of the owner's home, but there are never consequences, and some of the antics are just plain stupid. The biggest problem was that there was nothing funny here: nothing original, nothing new. This was, essentially, a waste of a good tree. I do not comend it and I resent the time I wasted reading it. This book makes a great case for ruthless DNF-ing.


My Amazing Dinosaur by Grimaldi


Rating: WARTY!

Translated by Carol Klio Burrell, this was a kids comic about a cave family's child named Tib and his absurd and anachronistic dinosaur playmate, Tumtum. Playing into the idiotic creationists hands by allowing that humans and dinosaurs co-existed (they did not, by some sixty million years or more) is only acceptable if the story-telling makes it worthwhile by being informative, and/or educational, and/or entertaining, and these stories were none of the preceding.

If I'd known Kirkus had praised this I would have avoided it and thereby saved myself the time it took to read it! The stories were trite, predictable and of the Sunday not-so-funnies quality, which is dismal at best and even more dismal at worst. I'd recommend steering clear of this Tyrannosaurus wreck.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Luisa Now and Then by Carole Maurel


Rating: WORTHY!

Published in French originally as Luisa: Ici et là (strictly speaking, Luisa Here and there), with this English version adapted by Mariko Tamaki and translated by Nanette McGuinness, this oddball time-travel fantasy brings a younger Luisa to the future to meet her older self, and neither is well-pleased with the other.

Teenager Luisa sets off on a bus trip and ends up falling asleep. When she awakes she's at the end of the line and gets out to discover she's nowhere near where she thought she was, not in space or time. A young, but mature woman to whom Luisa is loosely attracted helps her and slowly it dawns upon Luisa that this woman lives across the hallway from her own older self, so to the outside world, the younger Luisa feigns being a cousin of the older until they can sort out what happened and how to put it right. It's a learning experience, and not a pleasant one, given how prickly and persnickety the two of them are. Or should that be 'the one of them is'?

The young Luisa refuses to believe that she ends up as this 'spinsterish' older woman whose life is unadventurous and downright boring. Yeah, she lives in Paris, but whoa, is this second-rate job the one young Luisa dreamed of getting? No! Older Luisa has tried to make her life pain-free, and appears to be in serious disagreement with Socrates that 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. In arranging her life thus, she's failed to realize that she's attracted to females and in particular, the very one across the hall that younger Luisa finds so appealing.

So far so good, but the longer they spend together, the more alike the two of them become and they realize that it's urgent that they split up before they become indistinguishable from one another. Young Luisa must return to her original time and place. This book is done as a fine art piece, with entrancing line work and watercolor painting, and it was a pleasure to read: fun, engaging, and overall a worthy read. I commend it.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a passable story of Rose, a girl beginning to venture into womanhood, told in graphic novel form by the Tamaki cousins.

Rose has been vacationing in a rented seaside cottage with her parents every summer since childhood, and each year she hangs out with her friend, Windy, who also vacations there. The two of them have fun, chat idly about all kinds of things, begin to notice boys, and realize they're much more observant of adult drama now than ever they were before, and much less able to discern any sort of role model in those grown-ups they see. And there seems to be a lot of drama in this particular vacation spot.

I've become a bit of a fan of the Tamakis lately, but their work can be very patchy. This was a cut above the patchwork and while the artwork was nothing spectacular, it was perfectly serviceable. The story wasn't exactly glittering, but it was enjoyable for a one-time read, and so I commend this as a worthy read.


Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo, Christa Cassano, Shamus Beyale


Rating: WARTY!

Written by Leguizamo based on his earlier one-man stage plays about his life, and illustrated really well by Cassano and Beyale, this graphic novel failed to impress me favorably.

The biggest impression was just the opposite: that the author was arrogant at best and a bit of a jerk at worst, and that he's really learning nothing from his life experiences. I could well be wrong on both those scores, but I can only gauge him by the impression his story leaves me with. It started out quite well, but the more I read, the less I liked the author.

No one is perfect, of course. We've all done dumb, regrettable, ill-advised things to one extent or another, and behaved improperly in one way or another. It's part for growing up, testing boundaries, learning rules and figuring out how to fit into a civilized society, but that's where the problem lay for me: in that he seems to learn nothing from his experiences, which are diverse and considerable.

Like Brett Kavanaugh (don't get me started!), he seems to be in a state of complete denial that he's ever done anything wrong. Yes, he had a lousy childhood and this haunted him throughout his life, so I can cut him (Leguizamo, not Kavanaugh!) slack for that. He deserves it, but for him to suggest this book might offer guidelines for others who might be going through what he did is stretching it, because it implies that he has some life lessons to offer, and none were in evidence as far as I could see.

Balanced against that are the amazingly lucky breaks he got that he squandered shamelessly. He's been spoiled, and I'm really tired of this implication that we should somehow idolize if not worship the bad boy made good, like they're some sort of gold standard of achievement. I want to see stories about the good boy making good because he was good, and hard-working, and grateful, and not abusive and intolerant. Why do those guys not get the credit they deserve? Because they're not as arrogant as some others? I think so. I can't recommend this novel.


Silk Sinister by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Veronica Fish, Tana Ford, Ian Herring


Rating: WARTY!

Okay, one more and then I'm done with this disaster! This was one more in a trilogy of Silk graphic novels I had from the library and they were universally disappointing.

The story was pathetic and the plot non-existent, but talking of sinister, as in left-handed, the artwork was even worse. It had so many hands all over it that it was itself all over the place from simplistic, but passable art to downright juvenile efforts that a child might have drawn - or at least that you expect to see in children's books, not graphic novels at this level. I don't consider myself to be an artist by any means, but having seen this work I now believe I could do a graphic novel if I chose to and not feel inferior - not to these artists anyway! For someone as critical of me as I am, that's saying something.

In the extra pages at the back, which feature variant covers and which I normally have little time for because they're so self-indulgent, I was arrested by a portrait done by Woo Dae Shim. It was listed as a 'hip-hop variant' although I didn't get the connection, but it was nothing short of amazing and if that had been the art standard for the entire graphic novel it would have been awesome even as the lackluster writing and the sad plot let it down. And you have to wonder about a comic book that has people work on it by the name of Fish and Herring. Do they work for scale? Just asking!

In this story Silk is working for villain Black Cat, but you know she really isn't, so no surprises there. The thing is that Black Cat really isn't evil here, so no surprises there, either. Of course petty Peter Parker has to poke his prying proboscis into her affairs yet again despite her telling him to leave her alone - and more than once. So, uninventive, unoriginal, and creepy in parts: nothing to see here folks. I DNF'd it and didn't look back. It's more sick than silk and not in a good way.


Silk The Clone Conspiracy by Robbie Thompson, Irene Strychalski, Tana Ford, Ian Herring


Rating: WARTY!

Given what a huge clone Silk is of Spider-Man and all the other spider 'heroes' Marvel has cloned, is this title an in-joke at Marvel?

I've pretty much said all I had to about this trilogy of graphic novels written by Thompson, illustrated by Strychalski and Ford, and colored by a Herring. This particular novel was about people being cloned, so there's nothing new there. I couldn't figure out why it was an issue. I mean I can see how it can be an issue in real life, but I'm talking about why it was so in this comic book world, because the only one whose story was gone into was J Jerk Jackass Jamison, and he was thrilled to have his wife and kid back.

I readily admit that I was not paying sufficient attention because I was bored with the comic, so maybe I missed something, but I finished the comic without feeling like I missed nothing but he time it took me to page through it. It wasn't inventive, fresh or new and it offered nothing to excite the senses. I saw this as another good reason why this series was cancelled. The only Clone Conspiracy here is the cloning of Marvel heroes instead of inventing new ones, and the regurgitating of tired Marvel villains instead of creating new ones.

Silk is Spider-man with tits, period (that too, which never seems to affect female super heroes does it?!), and even then the real Spider-Man is stalking her all over the place. If you're going to give a series to a female hero, then for goodness sake let her have her own series and don't keep pointing out how weak she is by showing how she has to be shored-up, demeaned, and validated by peter parking or the Spastic Four.

And finally, if you're going to draw an Asian, make her look Asian! I have no idea if Silk, aka Cindy Moon, actually is Asian, and the reason for it is that she looks so westernized that the pretense that she's in some ethnic group other than your standard comic book Caucasian super hero, is farcical. The Chinese are a sixth of the Earth's population! The Indians are another sixth. Non-whites are the overwhelming majority of Earth's population! Deal with it Marvel (and DC)!

I do not recommend this series at all. And there's still one more volume to go!


Silk, Volume 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Annapaola Martello, Tana Ford, Ian Herring


Rating: WARTY!

This was a classic example of Marvel's cluelessness in comic books. While building a powerhouse of a movie industry, in their comic books, once a sterling example of inventiveness and original story-telling, they have faltered and slipped, and tripped and fallen. In my opinion, the reason for this is simple, and it's the same problem DC has: that inventiveness and original story-telling has gone. Instead we get the same villains over and over and endlessly over again, matched up against a different super hero to the one they originally danced with, like this is somehow going to make everything new and fresh. No, it really isn't. It doesn't help at all that none of these collections have anything on them to identify in which order they should be read.

Worse, Marvel is introducing ridiculous new characters with no originality whatsoever. Instead of coming up with brand new super heroes, they present clones of existing ones which are warmed over cookie-cutter non-heroes and which offer nothing for the reader that hasn't been done to death already.

Did Marvel's universe really need yet another spider character to add to the half-dozen spider characters already out there? No! Yet regardless, Marvel brings us Silk, which I am happy to report has been cancelled, and deservedly so because it's a classic and shameful example of Marvel's increasingly rampant self-cannibalization. The blurb tells us that writer Thompson "fills this new story with his unique blend of antics and feels" No. He doesn't. He gives us the same warmed-over garbage.

Here's how clueless Marvel is: Marvel's senior vice president of print, sales, and marketing, David Gabriel reportedly said, "We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against." Let's not get into his own inability to create intelligent dialog as judged by that mangled sentence, and note that he also said, "That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked." There's a reason for that: the characters are not really new, David, and the stories sure as hell are not! Then he lied: "And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere!" - except into the trash can as this series has proven!

New? No! Exciting? No! Ideas? No! Silk is Spider-Man with tits and that's all she is. How is she different from Lady-Spider...or SP//dr...or Spider-Girl...or Spider-Girl of Earth-11...or Spider-Gwen...or Spider-Ma'am...or Spider-Woman...or the Jessica Drew's Black Widow spider character? The short answer is that she isn't. So she lived in a bunker for ten years. Was it ten? Who knows! It's hard to say with comic books.

She was bitten by the same Spider that bit Peter Parker. Wait, wasn't he bitten in August 1962? That would put Cindy Moon, aka Silk, in her sixties, but instead, the decade-in-a-bunker seems to have rejuvenated her so she looks like a seventeen year old! But wait, if she's seventeen now, that would have made her seven when she was bitten! How then could she had been on the school field trip with Peter Parker who was in high school? Or is she twenty-seven now? See what I mean? It's an insanely confused world and it contributes nothing to original story-telling or to original super-heroics.

As if that wasn't bad enough, instead of getting a female writer to write this, we get the usual white male writing an ethnic female and IT. DOESN'T. WORK. MARVEL! That's not to say that no white guy can ever write about women of color or vice-versa, it's just to say that having a house rule (which is the only explanation I can think of that fits the facts) that their comics are almost exclusively written by white nerds is a recipe for disaster - a disaster that Marvel is reaping with the failure of titles like this one.

Getting the same old guys to write the stories means we get the same old stories. Getting new writers with new perspectives and original ideas means better stories - we would hope. It would certainly mean more original stories. You can't judge by looks admittedly, but Robbie Thompson, the writer here, I have to say looks exactly like a stereotypical comic book geek! At least the artists were women so that helped avoid hyper-sexualized female characters. Instead we just got sexualized ones.

And the story was tired. We got old villains in this series (yes, Doc Ock, I'm looking at you, when I'm not looking at Black Cat), and Peter Parker poking his peck of pickled perspectives in every few pages which stunk of stalking. Can you not let the girl be? Oh, and how original, new and exciting this is: it's set in New York City! Where all the other Marvel heroes are.

I have to ask, seriously, how can there possibly be any crime at all in NYC, home of Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, the Fantastic Four, Hellcat, Sam Wilson, She-Hulk, Captain America, Wasp, Cloak and Dagger, Misty Knight, Moon Knight, Hawkeye, Silk, Punisher, Daredevil, Iron Fist (I'm surprised Deadpool hasn't weighed in on that name), Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, et al? Even Howard the Quack lives there. It has more super heroes than ordinary people. There can be no hope for a villain there. Why are all the villains not going to Miami or Chicago where there are no super heroes whatsoever?

What's that I hear? It sounds like crickets, Marvel. Now there's an idea! Cricket Girl! She lives in Tucson and is an Eskimo woman. Her Nemesis is Termite Tomboy and she hails from South Africa. No, wait, a cricket versus eusocial insect story was already done in A Bug's Life....

I can't recommend an unoriginal story like this. Unfortunately, I got three of these volumes from the library so I still have two more to plow through. Wish me luck!


My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon, Cat Farris


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the third Pamela Ribon Graphic novel I've read and I've been entertained by all of them. Besides, how could you not want to read a graphic novel with a title like that? Especially since it's quite literal! I admire a writer who can take an absurd concept and treat it as though it's an everyday thing and get an entertaining story out of it. I found this especially refreshing after reading and negatively reviewing a rather poor children's book about a bear. This was the perfect counterpoint to that.

If you have some feelings of eeww over a girl dating a bear, you might want to reserve them instead for the girl's old boyfriend, who is a complete creep and thinks he owns her. He's way more eeww than the bear could ever be, trust me - I am not a bear-faced liar..... You might want to consider, too, that this is a commentary - a metaphor - as is exemplified if not outright spelled out, by the awful guys she lists as previous dates. If a bear makes a better partner than these guys, what does it say about male attitudes towards women? In this day and age, this is a seriously important topic and any way of getting that across is to be welcomed, because too few men are getting the massage.

The story begins with a history of bad relationships, and this woman (no, her name isn't Ursula unfortunately, it's Nora) isn't really in the market for anything new, when a forest fire pushes a bear out of the forest and into her back yard. The bear and Nora make a connection, and she realizes he's a lot sweeter than any guy she's been involved with recently, but how will he be accepted by her friends and the world at large? Well, he's perfectly integrated, apparently. The Japanese sushi bar staff love him! As does one of her two closest girlfriends. The other? Not so much. It's interesting that the most accepting one was a woman of color and the least accepting, a white girl who, I'm guessing, inexplicably voted for President Lowlife. Her parents are a bit skeptical too. Curiously, Nora's father is more onboard than her mother.

Of course, not everything is smooth sailing. Sometimes life is as rough as a bear's fur. There are breakages, and bear claw marks are worse than cat claw marks (unless they're the marks of Cat Farris, the artist, who did a great job. We'll always have Farris...), but the bear finds work and helps out around the house, and Nora learns to interpret bear speak, so it's cool. Even when winter approaches and the bear is feeding heavily trying to pack on the pounds for the upcoming hibernation, they manage to make their budget work. But when he leaves for his cave, can she expect him to return in the spring? Only time will tell. Either Time or Newsweek. One of them has to have the story, right? So bear with the author and enjoy. I commend this story.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Jamilti by Rutu Modan


Rating: WORTHY!

Jamilti was a curious collection of short stories in graphic novel form - sometimes very graphically. Overall I consider this a worthy read, but it's quite patchy, be warned.

The art leaves something to be desired to my taste, but the perspective in the story-telling is interesting. It opens with a violent story of a suicide bomber, and follows with a wide-assortment of tales, including one about an OCD cosmetic surgeon, one about a fortune-teller supposedly blessed with real power, one about a Disney-themed hotel, and one about an Israeli musician who travels abroad hoping for a big break only to discover the whole thing was set up by an obsessive fan.

So like I said, a mixed and very odd bag, but enough to retain my interest. It just squeaked under the wire, and so I commend it as a worthy read.


How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis


Rating: WARTY!

This volume actually made me sad because I was hoping for so much more and got so much less. Not that I was expecting a recipe for happiness; that's not what the book is about as the author herself readily admits, which begs the title, but I thought it might be at least entertaining. It wasn't. Maybe the title is pure sarcasm?

All of the stories felt unfinished and the artwork wasn't great, but I don't demand that, as long as the story is engrossing, so this was a serious fail for me: that the stories were so bad. The stories are short and seemingly unrelated to one another - at least I saw no link between them other than their British authorship. I thought I might find some connection here; it's been a long time since I've lived in Britain, and maybe I'm missing things because of that, but the stories never seemed to go anywhere or even have anywhere to go.

I had the impression that the author was really doing nothing more than revealing her own odd view of her life and environs, which is fine, but if there's nothing for the reader to relate to, it remains obscure personal anecdotage with no appeal to a wider readership. This was a lot of work to convey so little, but others may find more to hook into than I did. As for me I cannot commend this.


Drama by Raina Telgemeier


Rating: WORTHY!

This author has an ear and an eye for middle-grade drama (as well as an amazing name!), and I loved the ambiguous title which related both to a musical play the school is putting on, and also to the lives of those involved in the play in one way or another. The production is "Moon Over Mississippi." I've never heard of it, and have no idea if it's a real play or not. I have no interest in sharing the obsession far too many people have with the civil war in this country. What the play was, was irrelevant to the story, but as it was, it was set in the civil war and was of course a story about love.

Callie is the girl and set designing is her game and she ends up with a triumph on her hands as one thing after another seemed to be set on derailing the production, but solutions were always at hand, even if some of them were thoroughly unexpected and entirely unpredictable. It would have been nice if the lesson Callie learned was that she did not need a man to validate her, but that was a relatively minor part of the story compared with the fact that - in everything except boys - she was a self-starter, and a smart, independent young woman who got things done.

In fact, the disconnect between her can-do success with the play and her cluelessness with boys was rather amusing, and the idea that the boy she wanted kind of fell into her lap at the end was like a cherry on top. I know others didn't like it, but I thought it was funny.

This was an early example of the author's work - her second book of four as of this writing. I've never read anything by her before and it's good to know that she goes on to hopefully ever better and greater things that I still have to look forward to! The artwork was gorgeous and the color supplied by Gurihiru (a Japanese team of which I assume Kawano was the colorist) was wonderful.


Crossing the Empty Quarter by Carol Swain


Rating: WARTY!

I had no idea what this was about even having read about two-thirds of it and skimmed the rest. It looked gorgeous from the cover, but the interior was nothing like the cover, and the stories, some thirty of them, were meaningless, disjoined and unappealing. Bereft of entertainment value, even the artwork felt like a betrayal since it was black and white and of lower quality than the cover.

I'm used to seeing this in graphic novels - a sort of bait and switch with a stunning cover paired with an indifferent interior, but often that's made up for by the quality of the story, In this case, no. There was no story. Instead there was a jumble of stories, all equally uninteresting. It should have been called Bleak House, but empty quarter isn't exactly inaccurate. Empty to the back teeth would have been better. I refuse to commend it in any way.


Boundless by Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WORTHY!

After the disappointing Indoor Voice which made me want to scream, it was nice to read a real story, well-illustrated, and such a quirky tale, too. This tells several stories, beginning with the story of Jenny, who has broken up with her boyfriend and discovers that there is a mirror world - updates on which she can read in 1Facebook - the mirror image of this world's Facebook.

Personally, I have no time for F-book at all. It's a dangerous, highly insecure, and risky environment in which far too many people put far too much trust, a trust which has been abused time and time again. This idea of a mirror F-book amused the heck out of me, consequently. In 1F-Book, there is 1Jenny as our Jenny refers to her, and who is leading a rather different life than is Jenny of our side of the mirror. Jenny becomes obsessed with her counterpart to an unhealthy degree, and is rather miffed by the fact that 1Jenny seems to have her act together and to be leading a satisfying romantic life.

As if this isn't enough, in another story, a weird music file that isn't really music but isn't not music either, surfaces and obsesses people after one guy who discovers it renames it Sex Coven (even though it has nothing to do with sex or covens) and re-releases it onto the web. Listening to it the whole way through is supposed to be transformative.

In another tale communication with animals becomes possible presumably courtesy of the animals, because which humans would think of that?!

As if this isn't enough, Helen starts becoming smaller and less substantive, and eventually shrinks down to almost nothing and blows away in the wind. I don't know if this is intended as a commentary upon the diminishment and marginalization of women or the interchangeability of women in some blinkered perspectives as Katie White of the Ting Tings sang so eloquently, or the second class status of too many women, but it was certainly a fascinating journey and I commend this work highly.


Indoor Voice by Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WARTY!

The blurb claims this book "collects pen, brush, ink, watercolor, and collage experiments that show how Tamaki arrives at her illustration work, as well as more polished and personal comics work examining her relationship to her parents and their influence on her art," but I got none of that from it. As I mentioned in another review, to me this book felt like it was the author's rough sketch book and she sent it for publication by mistake, confusing it with something else she'd actually intended to send. That's how bad it was - scrappy and with no real content or story to it.

I don't buy the claim in the blurb that it was intended to show how the artist creates because there was no attempt at instruction at all - it was merely a set of sketches - scrappy, unfinished, half-formed, amateurish and uninspiring. I've grown fond of the Tamaki cousins, but this was well below the standards Jillian has set in other works and I cannot commend this as a worthy read. This voice should have been kept indoors!


Cuba My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez, Dean Hapiel, José Villarrubia


Rating: WORTHY!

Told in stark red and black, this is a story based on the writer's own life. In the story, 17-year-old Sonya has ambitions to be an artist in Habana, Cuba, but ends up joining the Castro revolution and becoming a doctor where she encounters the horrors of war during the Bay of Pigs debacle, and ends up being imprisoned as a CIA spy by her own fellow soldiers. She's tortured brutally, but eventually is released. Despite all of this and the now constant feeling of stress and insecurity, and despite what she sees happening to her country on a daily basis, she continues to believe in the revolution, but as six years slip by and nothing improves - in fact things only progressively become worse - she finally reconciles herself to leaving, and finds the opportunity to move to the USA.

This is what the real life artist and medical trainee did, and she says that the events depicted here were real, but some changes were made to the story. The story serves to show that any radical ideology on a national level like this necessarily becomes a brutal dictatorship and a series of pogroms no matter how idealistic it maybe have been in embryonic form, and no matter how well-intentioned its supporters were. The story is a depressing read, but essentially a true story and I commend it because there are lessons to be learned here.


Monday, October 1, 2018

She-Hulk. Vol. 1, Deconstructed by Mariko Tamaki, Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajić, Matt Milla, Andrew Crossley


Rating: WORTHY!

This is where my understandably one-sided love affair with Mariko Tamaki began! She wrote this and it was illustrated well by Nico Leon and Dalibor Talajić, and colored beautifully by Matt Milla and Andrew Crossley. This comic book was a worthy read. She-Hulk was problematical and a potential disaster when she was first conceived, apparently by Stan Lee during the TV run of The Hulk, so copyright would stay with Marvel and not with some TV production company in case they decided they wanted a female version!).

Lawyer Jennifer Walters (what is it with Marvel and super heroes who are lawyers?!) became a rather more subdued version of the original Hulk when she had a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (who was the original Hulk of course). By subdued, the effect in her is to become stronger and to turn green, but to retain her own personality and smarts, something which the Hulk isn't known for.

Despite it being named volume 1 (I wish they would not do that), this is not the original run of the comic; this version is well-along in the overall life of She-Hulk - post Civil War 2. With Bruce dead, his cousin trying to cope with that and find her place in the world. Her own original comic ran only for two years at the start of the eighties and after that she was reduced to guest appearances in other comics until more recently. It's nice to see her revived, and with a female writer who happens to be one I've grown fond of lately.

She-Hulk took a few pages out of Deadpool's book in one of her later incarnations, breaking the fourth wall, and mimicking cultural icons such as Demi Moore's bare-bodied, pregnant-and-in-the-magazine-cover pose. She-Hulk wasn't pregnant but held a beach-ball strategically! In this volume though, she's well-behaved and quite subdued. That doesn't mean it's all Jennifer all the time, by any means. The comic told an intelligent and believable story and I enjoyed it. I commend this one and will look for more of this series.


Invincible Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Kate Niemczyk, Taki Soma, Kiichi Mizushima, Marte Gracia, Israel Silva


Rating: WORTHY!

So I read the second volume of the Ironheart graphic novel - this is the one featuring a female (a young female - she's only fifteen, but already a brilliant student at MIT). I had some minor issues with this volume. It's supposed to be about this girl who is replacing Ironman, so I was disappointed to discover that the title made no mention whatsoever of Ironheart!

The first volume at least had the title as "Invincible Iron Man Ironheart" which was bad enough (it made no sense for one thing), but volume two excludes the Ironheart bit altogether, like the comic isn't even about her! WTF, Marvel? There really is no point in promoting a female super hero if all you're going to do with her is render her as an appendage of the previous male hero to hold that title. It defeats the purpose, you know? For goodness sake let her fly solo. And don't treat your readers like idiots who would have no clue that Ironheart is a female incarnation of Iron Man without you spelling it out on the cover - because clearly you have no faith in the cover illustrations accomplishing that aim! LOL!

That aside, the overall story wasn't too bad, although it lapsed a bit here and there. Tony Stark's AI presence is nothing but an annoyance to me. If it was amusing, that would be something, but it isn't, and having so many types of speech balloon (one for Riri suited-up, one for her out of suit, one for Tony, one for Friday?) means it's a mess. Clean it up!

At one point I actually wondered if I'd be able to give this a favorable rating, but then it picked up and it saved itself enough that I'm willing to pursue this at least as far as volume three. One of my problems with it, and this applies to more than this one comic, is Marvel's lack of imagination in creating new villains. DC is just as bad. Let's resurrect the Joker again why don't we? Never mind how many times we killed him off, let's really keep digging back into the ancient past and bring out the same villains over and over instead of going to the trouble of using our imagination and creativity. Barf. The Joker is a joke. The Riddler is ridiculous. Catwoman is a pussy and the Penguin is for the birds. Find a new shtick!

This volume did change it up a bit in that the two main villains were females, but they were female versions (in effect) of male villains. Instead of the endlessly returning Doctor Doom, we got a female clone: a psychotic despot who was queen of Latveria of all places. Seriously? Get a new shtick, Marvel. At least, as temporary queen of Latveria, after defeating this idiot non-entity of a villain, Ironheart shone. Later Ironheart went up against Lady Octopus (and to her credit made fun of her title - this was one of the things which amused me and brought the novel back into my favor.

I'm happy to say that despite the lack of any female writing input, the art wasn't appallingly genderist, perhaps due to the presence of Kate Niemczyk and Taki Soma on the team, but it's still not enough. I am still hoping for better, but for now this isn't too bad.


Invincible Iron Man Ironheart by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia


Rating: WORTHY!

I tend not to read many super hero comics because they often rub me up the wrong way and the poses the artists put the characters into all-too-often seem utterly unnatural when they're not uninventive, and the sexualization, particularly of females is not acceptable to me. Plus the dialog is a bit lame - especially when the heroes are exchanging smart-ass remarks in the middle of a fight. It's thoroughly unrealistic - even given the premise that superheroes exist - so it's not my cup of gamma ray-infused kryptonite, but once in a while I do read one for better or for worse. This one was for better as it happens, although there is still much to be done here.

This one threatened to annoy me from the cover alone because despite it being about Iron Man's replacement (in this comic world Iron Man is dead - at least as much as any super hero or villain is ever dead in these things), the female who is taking over still doesn't get top billing, although her 'real' name curiously appears on the cover at the bottom of the page. Normally I pay little attention to covers because the author has little or nothing to do with them and the artist typically hasn't even read the novel, as judged by how irrelevant or clueless the cover art is, but in graphic novels it's different: the cover does matter.

J Scott Campbell's risible (if it were not so serious) 2016 cover that caused such a controversy when it was revealed is almost as inexcusable as his being in total brain-dead denial about what an inappropriate cover it was. Marvel seems to have learned a lesson from that, but there are more they still need to learn - like hiring an artist who is a black woman maybe to draw Ironheart instead of yet another white dude? Was Nilah Magruder not available? Yona Harvey? Anyone? Ferrous Jewels?! There have to be scores of young black female artists who would love a shot at this. Afua Richardson? Taneka Stotts? It's important - it just needs to become important to the comic book corporations: not important to say, but important to actually do!

And what's with the name Ironheart? It was the name of a Japanese soft-porn knock-off of Iron Man and the content was certainly not appropriate to link to a fifteen-year-old black woman who's set to become a hero. What was wrong with Iron Girl? Was it ever considered? Tony Stark is cleared to be an Iron Man, but Riri isn't cleared to be a girl? Well, I guess not according to J Scott Campbell she isn't!

The story shows Riri - who is purportedly a genius, creating her own suit and starting out as a self-made woman, finally being mentored by Tony Stark's AI, and befriending Pepper Potts who is also a super hero now. The story was upbeat, fun and enjoyable, but there's much more to this incarnation of the Iron Hero. I enjoyed this comic and felt that Riri had a voice worth hearing, but maybe others will disagree. Pre-orders for this comic series slowly fell after issue one. I can't help but wonder if this was because the female wasn't quite so sexualized after that outcry or maybe it was something else. Maybe the writing isn't there. Maybe the plotting isn't, but I intend to read more of this story and see where it goes. I commend this issue at least.