Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Graphic Novels mini-reviews #31

Saga (Volume 3)

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan; Illustrated by: Fiona Staples

Published: 2014

My Thoughts: What a sad, sad volume. A large portion of this volume is about grieving for people and past relationships and learning to live again. After two volumes of our delightful little family being on the run and hunted it was nice to see them settle down and enjoy actually being a family. Not only is Heist's home a sanctuary away from the chaos of the warring worlds but it's a respite where Marko and Klara can attempt to deal with their loss and, as we see, heal and begin to create a new future for themselves. This is all true for the enemies as well. Gwendolyn and the Will and Slave Girl/Sophie get a glimpse at a new future, one that doesn't involve murder and revenge. But what makes this volume sad is how quickly these possibilities are wrenched away. Their little moment of freedom or happiness or love is just that, a little moment, and I'm left sitting here feeling very, very sad.

Deadpool Killustrated

Written by: Cullen Bunn; Illustrated by:  Matteo Lolli

Published: 2013

My Thoughts: The second I saw the cover of this comic, with Deadpool riding Ishmail's dreaded white whale and holding a bomb I knew I had to read it. Then two years passed. But now, now I have read it and I can say I was completely justified in thinking this looked like a terrific romp. The basic premise is that after the events of Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Deadpool decides to get to the source of the problem and eliminate the seeds of famous character archetypes. What happens is a brilliantly meta and intertextual look at the history of storytelling and character archetypes through an absurdly bloody and camp Deadpool story. When Deadpool kills an "original" like Dracula, he also kills all the characters that Dracula has inspired. That includes the obvious vampire characters from Anne Rice and Twilight, but also characters who may not be vampires but clearly drew inspiration from the King of Vampires. As he kills the original, they flit between this first form and the characters that developed from it and a great deal of my love for this comic comes from me trying to work out exactly who all the comic or literary characters are. Very League of Extraordinary Gentleman-y in this way, although without any of the subtly!

Deadly Class (volume one)

Written by: Rick Remender; Illustrated by: Wesley Craig, Lee Loughridge

Published: 2014

My Thoughts: High school is hell for a lot of people. There are hormones flying through the air, people are struggling to find an identity and there is far too much homework. High school is a whole different hell when the students have to deal with all of that AND train to become assassins. Add in a bunch of family/gang feuds and you have a high school where watching your back is even more crucial. Deadly Class takes a lot of the problems we all experienced in high school (being new, being different), adds assassins in training and transports it back into the 1980s. It's like Harry Potter, if there was no magic or fun in HP and it all took place in the Forbidden Forest. It's a mash of musical, literature and film references, managing to make me feel nostalgic for a high school experience nothing like mine, in a decade also not mine. The art was really interesting, it's very minimalistic and colour plays an extraordinarily important role - which you can get an idea of from the cover. I'm very interested to see where this series heads.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

Written by: Emily St. John Mandel

Published: 2014

Day one: The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports puts the mortality rate at over 99%.

Week two: Civilisation has crumbled.

Year twenty: A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and it threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild. (from library copy's blurb)

The wren goes to't

If you had asked me what was missing from my literary life I don't know that my answer would have been "a mix of dystopia and Shakespeare with just a smidge of Star Trek" but there you have it, it's exactly what was missing from my life.

Station Eleven is very successful at crafting a story about a world 20 years after a catastrophic medical disaster that both conforms to genre standards and completely leaves them behind. I, personally, love books and films about pandemics that decimate the human population. I love to see how people adjust (or straight up don't), especially considering the world we live in today is SO dependant on technology to do even the simplest of tasks*. I mean even farmers who you'd think would be in a pretty sweet situation would probably suffer since everything from milking stations to combine harvesters are almost entirely mechanically self-reliant. So you usually end up with these fantastic explorations of society falling backwards in terms of education or mechanics but also progressing forward in a cultural sense, for instance, community becomes far more important for survival, and bartering takes over from the traditional monetary system.

And you get tonnes of this good stuff in Station Eleven. The Travelling Symphony makes their way through tiny towns where people have tried to adjust to this new world. Reminders of the old world, Walmarts and airports and highways, of the previous world still linger but they're rendered useless in their normal form so they're transformed into storage spaces or homes for the people who managed to survive. And like folk did pre-cars, trains and planes, they become pretty insular. They might hear news from the next town over, but it takes weeks and only reaches them if someone happens to be moving through. And with this insulation comes, of course, a level of superstition. News travelling from one town to the next over a series of weeks tends to evolve like a game of whispers, something fairly innocuous is slowly warped and shifted until it becomes a warning or something to fear. As a great deal of this novel takes place 20 years after the Georgia Flu annihilated life on Earth, a lot of the characters were either born post-flu or were so young they can barely remember the life they used to have, which only exaggerates this disconnect between the world that was and the world that is. Stories of planes flying through the air and told to children who are amazed and also slightly disbelieving of their parents tales. I just find all of this stuff utterly, utterly fascinating.

But where the book diverges from these more traditional aspects is where I think it truly shines. The book begins and ends on a stage in Canada as a cast perform King Lear. The death of the play's Lear on stage coincides with the beginning of the Georgia Flu but it was a heart attack and not actually the flu which ended his life. Even though this actor, Arthur Leander, dies in the opening pages of the book of a completely unrelated illness, he is pivotal to the book. The direction of the central characters, who haven't all necessarily met, are motivated by their relationship to Leander regardless of how tenuous that link may be. It's like this spider web of causality and influence and it's incredibly hard to explain here but it blew my mind. Seriously, I finished this book over a month ago and it is still blowing my mind how freaking gorgeous and complex the whole damn thing is.

Since I read it over a month ago I am blanking on some of the smaller details that I wish I'd noted down, but this book is really something else. I went into it knowing very little and that may be why it had such an impact on me. The writing is beautiful and yet it never got too flowery or Literary for the post-apocalyptic setting, a balance I think must have been incredibly difficult to maintain. The secondary characters aren't always incredibly fleshed out but because there's an element (or a feeling at the very least) of a play within a book I was able to push past those moments and instead appreciate the characters for what they stood for. There are large chunks of this novel which take place way before the outbreak of the Georgia Flu, most of them relating to Leander's life (which, damn, what a terribly sad story that is), so I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone who wants a straight-up post-apocalyptic tale but seriously everyone else, read it**.

*Obvs this isn't the case everywhere in the world. But since these books typically take place in the Western world I'm going to keep going with this.

** I think just about everyone in the world (blog world anyway) has already read it, but if you're one of the 10 people who haven't then GET ON IT.

Monday, March 2, 2015

February in Review


What I Read:

*The Supergirls; Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid (my review)
*The Returned by Jason Mott

100% male / 0% female
100% American / 0% International
50%white/ 50%POC
0% ebook / 50% audiobook / 50% physical
50% fiction / 50% non-fiction

It's very easy to get either amazing or terrible stats when you only read two books! On the one hand this is probably one of my highest months (stats wise) for POC reads, but it's also terrible for female or international respresentation. But what are you going to do? Maybe it was because it was a pretty busy month (made busier by the sudden requirement to move) but I really dragged my feet blog-wise this month. I struggled to get any of my reviews from last month written and I made barely any progress with my reading. Hopefully I manage to bump myself out of this funk in March or I'll have to return a whole bunch of books to the library unread (which is the worst, it feels like book abuse).


What I saw:

*Jupiter Ascending - directed by the Wachowski siblings. Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne
*Kingsman - directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson
*Big Eyes - directed by Tim Burton. Starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz

Ugh, not a great month for films. Thank god I watched First Wives Club on DVD.  Jupiter Ascending is, wow, so bad. Like actually offensively dumb. It's such a pity because visually/effects wise it's top notch. If only they put as much attention and care into their titular character as they did the designs of the ships. It crosses into the category of great-bad movie a lot, but the action sequences are so dull and Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis have so little chemistry that I recommend leaving it until it comes out on DVD. Even then you should accompany it with copious amounts of alcohol. Kingsman was mostly fun and Taron Egerton is a delight, but it was a solidly B movie for me. It was fine and I laughed a lot (also swooned at Colin Firth in his amazing suits) but I don't know that it'd hold up to a repeat watch. And Big Eyes ... *sigh* I wanted to like it, I really did, but I just found it incredibly dull. I feel awful because I really love it when Tim Burton branches away from his Johnny Depp aesthetic but I could not get into it.


I had my final seminar on Friday and it went well! That means I'm on the home stretch for finishing my PHD! The finish line is finally in sight. It's been a long 3 years you guys. On another front, I'm moving! Not far, just to a new house but hey, any adventure is good adventure right? Tom and i have been in our little home for 4 years but a couple of things came together and made it pretty clear it was time for us to move on. I am hating packing boxes (uggggh books I love you and i hate you) but I'm excited! And that's really about it (are pressing phd deadlines and moving not enough for you people?!),  oh except that I started an 8 week challenge last week at my gym and i hate my life. Haha. How is everyone else treading so far?


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