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September 2017

Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse

As I’ve stated in previous posts, I love Green Arrow and Black Canary as a couple. They have a lot of history and are so freaking cute besides. This volume compiles various stories of Ollie and Dinah starting from the Silver Age. Some of my favorites were:

  • “In Each Man There is a Demon” by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin, and Joe Giella. One of the first GO/BC stories, in which various members of the Justice League have to battle their evil selves!
  • “Zatanna’s Double-Identity” by  Elliot S! Maggin, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Zatanna casts a spell that accidentally gives her the Black Canary’s personality – and she tries to get between Dinah and Ollie as a result!
  • “The Hunters” by Mike Grell, Lurine Haines, Julia Lacquement, and Steve Haynie. Ollie reminisces on the old days of crime fighting before proposing to Dinah. Her answer will change the course of their relationship. The art in this story was by far my favorite, and I want to pick up “Longbow Hunters” (the GO comic it’s from) as a result!
  • “Feast and Fowl” by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Jaims Sinclair, and Sean Konot. Contains Ollie and Dinah’s reunion after Oliver’s death, which is just the sweetest and most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read.

As with any compilation, the art and writing styles varied considerably throughout. There was only one I absolutely hated, but it’s one of the short ones so that was good! I really wish they would have put cover pages at the start of each individual story like they do in the Greatest Stories Ever Told. They did kind of at the end, where all the stories were connected – but they only wrote what was missing between them. This might not bother some, as it does make it a little more cohesive, but it’s something I didn’t know I appreciated until it was gone!

… For some strange reason, I felt some weird deja-vu as I read the first few stories especially. I felt as if I’d read them before. When I texted my boyfriend what I was reading, he said he’d bought that one and I must have flipped through it at some point. Great minds think alike =P

– Kathleen

Various. Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse. 2007.

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Ghost World: Book vs Movie

Spoiler alert: I HATED both. Truly hated both the book and movie.

I have read graphic novels I haven’t cared for before.  I didn’t like Sandman or Civil War II, but neither left me with such a bad taste as this story. I was angry at Enid and Rebecca, the two teen-aged best friends, who are so hateful and nasty. Truth be told, I have met people like this- people who are so unhappy with themselves that they strike out at anybody, hoping to elevate their own sorry selves.

A lot of comedies nowadays have characters that are jaded and say sarcastic quips to one another for laughs. But, in a tired trope, they always have a heart of gold and come though to help their friends and family. Well, I would have welcomed that trope here- for these two young women were miserable and petulant. I also did not like how they clung to each other, and would not let anyone else into their tight friendship. While I am blessed to have two best friends, I also have circles of friends from HS, college, my community and work. Why isolate yourself? What happens if the friendship ends for some reason-then you have nobody. Plus, I’ve always been turned off by intensely cliquey people. It’s an affront to my natural sociability.

The artwork in this relatively short book was unique. Drawn in black and white, a blue-green wash overlaid the panels, giving it an odd shading. The backgrounds were drawn realistically, but often the close ups of faces resembled caricatures, and were not attractive. The non-prettying up of the characters lent it some authenticity, as did some of the dialogue, yet I felt the author was trying too hard.

To top it all off- I never learned what Ghost World stood for. Was I not deep enough to understand a metaphor? By the end of the book, I didn’t even care if I was missing a huge clue, I just wanted to be done.

So why, after hating the graphic novel, would I subject myself to the movie? I was curious as to how the two well regarded actresses would portray the parts. Thora Birch as Enid, and Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca were well suited physically to the roles. They captured the world weariness and Gen X angst of the early 90’s. Some roles in the movie were expanded such as Seymour’s character, played by Steve Buscemi. If anything the movie was slightly better than the book, but I’d say it was because I liked the look of the movie better than the way people were drawn in the book. So while it wasn’t a true replication, it kept true to the spirit of the book, and was a faithful adaptation. Thus, I did not like it.

So this review ends up being less a review of the book and movie, and more a commentary of how I feel about people. Be nice! Be kind! Be inclusive! If you don’t have anything nice to say, then shut up. I know I live in a bourgeois bubble at times, but I can still be shocked at how mean people are. Do I have to have a harder shell to succeed? I hope not. At least this book got an emotional response from me, and for that, it was noteworthy.

-Nancy

The Goodreads Tag

Two weeks ago, I came across this writing prompt/tag and was inspired by Holly, the Nut Free Nerd, who did this tag. I love me some Goodreads, as I have had an account since November of 2012, close to five years ago. I love cataloging and reviewing books, some which get long reviews on GR and this blog, while some just get a paragraph. No matter what, I share my opinion!

What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Read this book! Will be on my favorites list of 2017!

What are you currently reading?

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes (review on Friday)

The Autobiography of James T Kirk by David A Goodman

The Late Show by Michael Connelly (audio)

What was the last book you marked as TBR?

I almost completely eliminated my TBR list, because it was stressing me out! I kept adding on, and I knew I would never/could never, read them all. I recently added one book that is co-written by a cousin of mine about Hudson Valley (NY) wines. I wanted to give the book some love, but once I read it, my TBR will go back to zero.

What books do you plan to read next?

Welcome to Night Vale by Jeffrey Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Wild C.A.T.S. by Jim Lee & Brandon Choi

Do you use the star rating system?

You betcha! If only I could give half stars though. Some books don’t quite make it to four or five stars, but I typically bump them up instead of down.

Are you doing a 2017 reading challenge?

YES!! I choose 100 books, but am already at 79. I will probably get to about 120 by end of the year.

Do you have a wishlist?

Yes, again! I have been slogging my way through graduate school at Dominican University and have not had the time or energy to read some books I would like to. Sometimes just a short graphic novel is a challenge some weeks. I have many longer and/or deeper books I would like to tackle. I graduate in December, so afterwards my first two are:

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Rereading The Wedding by Dorothy West

What book do you plan to buy next?

Truth be told, I rarely buy books. Library borrowing all the way! But…I have the pleasure of purchasing YA and graphic novels for my library, so technically I buy hundreds of books yearly 😉

Do you have any favorite quotes? Share a few.

“We who live in quiet places have the opportunity to become acquainted with ourselves, to think our own thoughts and live our own lives in a way that is not possible for those keeping up with the crowd.”  – Laura Ingalls Wilder

“I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.”  – Ray Bradbury

Who are your favorite authors?

I will not be impressing you with a list of deep and urbane authors- I like straightforward stories and am not a fan of tortured protagonists who speak in metaphors.

Some of them are (includes children’a authors): Rainbow Rowell, Silas House, Patrica Polacco, Richard Peck, John Sandford, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Virginia Lee Burton, Sheila Kay Adams and Wendy Pini.

Have you joined any groups?

Top 5 Wednesday

Hype or Like Friday

So there you have it…my love affair with Goodreads. Go ahead and friend me on Goodreads, and let’s discuss books!

-Nancy

*Goodreads Tag logo was made by MiRakelBooks

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

Roland Deschain, better known as the Gunslinger, became that legend at the age of fourteen. He defeated his teacher and earned his guns, two years younger than his own father did. All to kill Marten, his father’s friend and a powerful magician whom his mother is having an affair with. His father, recognizing the danger Roland has found himself in, seeks to get him out of Gilead. Together with his friends Alain and Cuthbert, Roland is to go to Hambry to find out if their Horseman’s Association is still loyal to Gilead. Seems pretty straightforward. But what no one expected is for Roland to meet the gaze of Susan Delgado… and the fate of these star-crossed lovers is entwined with the fate of Hambry, of Gilead, of all of Midworld itself.

Wow. Just… wow! This graphic novel was fully engrossing, and completely sucked me in. The tension of the story doesn’t let up until the very last page. The world of The Dark Tower is mysterious, dark, and violent – and the art reflects that perfectly. The lighting is sparse: characters are often silhouetted, or have their features mostly obscured by shadow. This adds to the tension and mystery, leaving us to guess at the character’s expressions and intents. I just! Loved the art!! So much!!! Multiple plot threads are started, and only some are resolved by the end, as it’s a tie-in to book 4 of the series. But for someone like me who has not yet read the books, the story and ending are complete and will only stimulate an intense curiosity for the novels – which I’m going to go read right now!!!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen, Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born. 2007.

The Cape

The Cape came recommended to me by Graham Crackers staff on several occasions. I want to know- what about me makes them think that I would like this incredibly dark story with an anti-hero who is so very twisted? But they were right…I really liked it.

The story is based off a short story written by Joe Hill in his horror anthology 20th Century Ghosts. I haven’t read it yet, although it is on reserve at my library so I can end up comparing the two. I am shocked I haven’t read this collection, as horror short stories are a favorite of mine. This review will actually be covering two stories, the original The Cape, and the prequel The Cape: 1969.

The Cape– Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, Zach Howard & Nelson Daniel

The story begins with two brothers playing superheros together. The older brother Nick plays The Streak, while younger brother Eric wears a cape and is named Red Bolt. While climbing a tree Eric falls onto a tree branch that pierces his head. Fast forward to the teen years and Eric is  slacker who inexplicably gains a beautiful and tolerant girlfriend Angie. After numerous surgeries, he is plagued by blinding headaches that he claims prevent him from attending college or gaining meaningful employment. A few more years go by, and Angie has become a nurse and Eric’s brother Nick is attending Harvard Medical. Filled with jealousy and resentment, the relationship ends, with Eric moving back to his widowed mother’s house.

In his childhood home he rediscovers the cape he had worn as a child that he thought his mother had thrown out after his accident. Putting it on for nostalgia’s sake, he is shocked to realize he can fly. He visits his ex-girlfriend Angie to show her what he can do, and this is where the story goes sideways. O.M.G.- what he does next! I will not spoil it, for you need to experience it yourself.

The narrative continues with Nick and their mother getting pulled in. There are some flashbacks, showing the boys with their mother, which does not explain the rage that Eric has inside him. He had a loving mother, a big brother that teased him but also protected him, and a supportive girlfriend. What shaped him into the monster that he became? A final showdown between the brothers occurs at the end, and a bit of dialogue found at the beginning is repeated at the end, this time with a different significance.

The artwork is a perfect match for the ominous story. A subdued color palette represents Eric’s current darkness, while a lighter more colorful palette show his happier flashbacks. The art has a gritty realism to it, with an interesting layout of panels. I definitely was reminded of the Locke & Key series that Hill also penned, although the artists are different.  For me, the only drawback of this story was how Eric so quickly became evil. I wish there had been more character development in his story arc to explain his choices. Perhaps after reading the short story this graphic novel is based on, it will add more depth, and I will understand how Eric became so depraved.

The Cape: 1969– Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Nelson Daniel  *This story was written by Jason Ciaramella, but based off Joe Hill’s earlier story and included his input.

This second story was an interesting prequel. We are transported back to the Vietnam War to explain how Eric’s cape came to have powers. First we meet Eric and Nick as even younger children with their mother reading their father’s letters from Vietnam. Their father Cory is a captain and is a medevac helicopter pilot. We learn he is MIA after his helicopter crashes in the jungle.

We are shown how Cory makes it out of the crash alive, but is quickly captured by the Viet Cong. Forced into a cage, he is later joined by a tattooed witch tribesman that the soldiers found living in the jungle.  The two men are pitted against one another by the cruel captors, with the intent for only one to survive. Cory is shocked when the mystical man begins to levitate, and despite the other man not seeming to be evil, Cory kills him so he can survive the contest. Before the tribesman dies, he touches Cory’s army patches on his shirt, and imparts his power to him. This begs the question- what’s the story behind the magical man? Unfortunately, we never learn more.

With this new found power Cory is able to escape his captors, but wants revenge. He comes back determined to kill all the men in the Viet Cong encampment. Instead of using his powers to truly leave and return to his family, Cory is determined to inflict as much pain on others as he can, and to no one’s surprise, it proves to be his downfall. Later another soldier finds some remains of Cory that includes the patch that is mailed back to his wife. She sews it on Eric’s cape to remember his father, not knowing that is is infused with power and rage.

The art is again excellent and very evocative of the era. Despite much of the story taking place in the jungle, little to no green is used. Instead, the camp is a dull brown, which I think embodies the loss of hope. Oranges and reds are used liberally in the Vietnam narrative, with the colors symbolizing to me the phrase “war is hell”. The colors definitely influenced my interpretation of the story, which was melancholy and grim. You knew as a prequel this story would not end well, and it did not disappoint on that regard.

Both stories were excellent but had plot holes that begged for more backstory. Looked at as a whole, I liked them, but do not go in expecting the stories to truly make sense if you start thinking too deeply about them. The violence is extreme, so consider that if you want to read the two stories. However, I would definitely recommend to mature readers who like their stories dark.

-Nancy

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