Mini Reviews ~ Two Graphic Novels


My recent impulse checkouts from the library included two graphic novels:

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist: Volume 1

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist: Volume 1 by Michael Chabon, Glen David Gold, Bill Sienkiewicz (Artist), Howard Chaykin (Artist), Gene Colan (Artist), Steve Lieber (Artist), Eric Wight (Artist), Kevin McCarthy (Author)

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist presents the fictional history of the Escapist, the creation of Kavelier and Clay, the main characters of Michael Chabon’s novel. Yes, this is sort of meta. Chabon provides an introduction as a fan, treating The Escapist as one of those venerable comics that dates back to the 1940s. The stories in this volume represent a survey of issues from throughout that history. As such, there are some very representative of themes and art and writing styles that pull from the broader history of comics in general.

My favorites “issues” in this collection deal with Luna Moth, Kavalier and Clay’s female superhero. The art in all three of Luna’s stories is distinctive and beautiful. Jim Starlin’s “Reckonings” is a lovely story about Luna making a deal with death on behalf of someone else. Also included is “The Lady or the Tiger” penned by Glen David Gold, the author of Carter Beats the Devil—the spiritual brother of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA

Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, Niko Henrichon (Illustrator)

I was intrigued by this title. An alt-world history where Barnum, travelling with his circus, is an agent for the government? Sounded interesting. Niko Henrichon’s art is fabulously detailed and full of movement. Unfortunately, I didn’t get beyond chapter two. The main villain is Nikola Telsa and his paramour, Ada Lovelace. That’s just a level of alt-history that I’m not going to jump to. Plus, there was sort of an anti-science vibe that I didn’t care for. You can’t win them all.

Mini Reviews, Vol. 3 ~ Me Before the Kitten Holy in the Nightingale’s Eye


alt text Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen (Illustrator), Maarta Laiho

Lumberjanes was the perfect pick for 1am during the Readathon. It’s rollicking fun with a great cast of girls having adventures and being awesome. While I don’t require my adventure-having protagonists to be female, it’s really nice to see once in a while, you know? I wasn’t expecting the fantasy elements, but it wasn’t unwanted either. Lumberjanes totally lives up to the hype.

alt text “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A.S. Byatt

Despite the fact that they are a trope unto themselves, I think djinn are fairly underused in fiction. I always have my eye out for a good djinn tale.  This one is excellent, about how power over someone else can mold their destiny. Weighty, but it’s told with a light touch and is very funny on occasion. With many allusions to other literature and set against an academic conference, it reminded me of being in college.

Did you know that nightingale’s eye is a type of glass?
alt text Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I’ll be honest, I decided on this audio book after seeing a trailer for the impending movie. While not my usual reading fare, I was in the mood for a frothy romance. And, well, Me Before You has some of that…and quite a bit of seriousness too. I must say, I really appreciated the ending.

Review ~ October Faction, Vol. 1

This book was provided to me by IDW Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

October Faction Volume 1 by by Steve Niles and Damien Worm

Cover via Goodreads

The October Faction details the adventures of retired monster-hunter Frederick Allan and his family… which include a thrill-killer, a witch, and a warlock. Because sometimes crazy is the glue that binds a family together. (via Goodreads)

I had given up on requesting comics/graphic novels through NetGalley because ePub is a craptastic platform for viewing graphics of any kind. But in the case of October Faction, it was the art that drew me like a moth to the Adobe Digital Editions flame.

The story isn’t too shabby either. Frederick Allan was a monster hunter in his younger days, but now he finds himself surrounded by those very monsters, and they’re his family and friends. In the first five issues in Volume 1,  I didn’t get too much of a feel for the kids and his wife and their backstories, but those are stories for other times.

The art, of course, is what I enjoyed most. The brightest colors in the pallet are blood red and sepia. The backgrounds are a grungy combination of collage and watercolor, the characters sharp and angular. It provides a great October atmosphere. Why was I reading it in July?!

Publishing info, my copy: My Adobe Digital Edition edition doesn’t have a title page. Grr. Arg.
Acquired: NetGalley! Individual issues of October Faction are available where comics are sold. Volume 1 will be available August 11th.
Genre: Horror

Review ~ Tomboy

This book was provided to me by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Zest Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tomboy by Liz Prince

Cover via Goodreads

Growing up, Liz Prince wasn’t a girly girl, dressing in pink tutus or playing Pretty Pretty princess like the other girls in her neighborhood. But she wasn’t exactly one of the guys either, as she quickly learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher’s mound. Liz was somewhere in the middle, and Tomboy is the story of her struggle to find the place where she belonged.

Tomboy is a graphic novel about refusing gender boundaries, yet unwittingly embracing gender stereotypes at the same time, and realizing later in life that you can be just as much of a girl in jeans and a T-shirt as you can in a pink tutu. A memoir told anecdotally, Tomboy follows author and zine artist Liz Prince through her early childhood into adulthood and explores her ever-evolving struggles and wishes regarding what it means to “be a girl.” From staunchly refuting anything she perceived as being “girly” to the point of misogyny, to discovering through the punk community that your identity is whatever you make of it, regardless of your gender, Tomboy is as much humorous and honest as it is at points uncomfortable and heartbreaking. (via Goodreads)

According to Tomboy,  as a kid, Liz Prince was almost militantly anti-girly. You can’t blame her. As a tomboy, she’s slightly more accepted by boys, boys have the better toys, and, to young eyes, boys have the better lot in life. Why would anyone want to *make* her be a girl? The beauty of Liz Prince’s narrative is, even as we understand her point of view, we can see where there are definite flaws in her young self’s reasoning. Prince fumbles toward a more balanced view of others and herself in a realistic way. There is no epiphany; no Oprah “ah-ha” moment. Being a tomboy is an ongoing negotiation with the world. For a fellow tomboy, this is a book that let’s you know that you’re not alone. For everyone else, it’s a great insight into a different point of view.

I owned (and maybe still own) a collection of essays about tomboy-ness that I never finished reading. The editor of that collection seemed to have decided that there were two kinds of tomboys: girls who grew out of it at puberty, and girls who are tomboys because of sexual orientation (i.e. they’re gay). Neither of these theories fit me and that was distressing. Liz Prince’s life experience doesn’t fit me either, but her version of being a tomboy is more familiar. I like dresses and cute shoes (only comfortable ones), but I don’t wear make-up or own a single pink article of clothing. I’ve always liked boys (even as friends!) and equally liked “boy” stuff like science fiction and action movies. I’ve never cared if that bothers anyone, but I do realize that my point of view is very different from most women.

Publisher: Zest Books
Publication date: September 2nd 2014
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir

Review ~ Houdini: The Handcuff King

Houdini: The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes (Writer), Nick Bertozzi (Illustrator)

Cover via Goodreads

Harry Houdini mesmerized a generation of Americans when he was alive, and continues to do so 80 years after his death. This is a “snapshot” of Houdini’s life, centering on one of his most famous jumps. As Houdini prepares for a death-defying leap into the icy Charles River in Boston, biographer Jason Lutes and artist Nick Bertozzi reveal Houdini’s life and influence: from the anti-Semitism Houdini fought all his life, to the adulation of the American public; from his hounding by the press, to his loving relationship with his wife Bess; from his egoism to his insecurity; from his public persona — to the secret behind his most amazing trick! And it’s all in graphic form, so it’s fresh, original, and unlike anything previously published about this most fascinating of American showmen. (via Goodreads)

Quick read last week; quick review this week. I can’t do a better job summarizing than the above. The storytelling is good and I appreciated the attempt at making Houdini flawed. Like Nikola Tesla, the world wants to make Harry Houdini an uber-hero. This is never the case with anyone, no matter how famous and lauded. Lutes also did a good job showing the some of the behind-the-scenes people involved in the act and the Houdini publicity machine. (Working entirely on one’s own is another aspect of hero-ization.)  The art was good, especially illustrating the underwater parts of the stunt. An enjoyable read.

Publisher: Hyperion
Publication date: April 1st 2007
Genre: Graphic novel, biography
Why did I choose to read this book? Interest in magic and therefore Houdini

A Fall into Reading question and Book #16-ish

Fall into Reading Wednesday Question

Katrina asks: How often do you re-read books? What does it take to make you re-read?

Funny thing, I joined a “Read Me, Baby, One More Time” challenge, thinking I could easily toss in a monthly re-read, but it hasn’t happened! Too many new books have come my way this year. I am re-reading, slowly, A Game of  Thrones and the rest of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice.

Why re-read? Sometimes it’s just the enjoyment of the book. I re-read Paul Kidd’s Greyhawk novels because the make me laugh. I re-read Ray Bradbury and Peter S. Beagle and Harlan Ellison because they write so beautifully. I re-read Shakespeare to puzzle through the language. I re-read Helene Hanff because I have to have a role model in writing that it wry and witty and loves books.

Most often, I re-read to learn about writing. If I want to know how to write a great opening chapter, I pick up Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. Tension? Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (hmm, might re-read that…). Action? Maybe some Richard Laymon or one of the Horus Heresy books. I’m always on the look out for pieces to pick apart, analyze and put to work.

Book #16a – New X-Men, Ultimate Collection Book 2 by Grant Morrison

When I was at the library most recently, I ended up by the graphic novel and comics shelf. I figured, “What the heck!” and checked out a couple collections. Due to the library being, well, the library I ended up with a sort of random selection.

Yep, that’s right, Book 2. (It wasn’t exactly easy to tell what volume it was anyway…) But it’s X-Men. I’ve read a little X-Men in the past, so I know vaguely what’s going on.

I was again reminded how similar comics are to daytime soap operas. In some ways they are produced in a similar manner. A certain quantity of material needs to be produced within a relatively short period of time. Story lines are alternately highlighted and then shuffled to the background. Occasionally, quality suffers. And you can kind of drop in at any point and time and just go with the flow, but you won’t get a very satisfying experience unless to spend a good deal of time in the world.

Book 16b – The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

I’ve read a little Gaiman in the past, but no Sandman. This collection is a group of stories about other characters in the mythos. Each section is about a different Endless, illustrated by a different artist. Again, I just had to jump in and go with the flow. The art is at best gorgeous and at worst appropriate to the story.

I have a feeling that I wouldn’t necessarily like other The Sandman books, because there are a couple of the Endless that I really like that I don’t think are very influential to the rest of the stories. (It’s kind of like when I started watching Heroes again just because of Christopher Eccleston and then realized he was only in three episodes.)

In any case, both of these collections were a nice change of pace as I switch to a winter groove.

Book I’m giving up on:

Doc by Mary Doria Russell. I don’t know how to read this book. It’s not a biography, it’s fiction based on a real man, John Henry “Doc” Holliday. And I would rather it be a biography or a narrative in the style of Erik Larson’s books. Larson takes primary sources and weaves them into a compelling narrative. I guess my point is, all I know of Doc Holliday is penny dreadful fiction so why do I want to read another fiction?