Sunday, January 23, 2011

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

Alan Moore
Kevin O'Neill

Rather than go in-depth into all the references in the text, or even try to explain the non-existant plot of this book, I will write about what a massive waste of time it was. Art aside of course, Kevin O'Neill does fantastic work as usual. Even in the 3D section of the book. It's all presentation, though, all the unpleasantness lies in the story and the book design.

We all know Alan Moore is obsessed with his prose work and forces it into his sequential work. Sometimes it works fine (Watchmen) sometimes not so much (Black Dossier). Black Dossier is not enough prose to be a novel, and there's not enough sequential art to qualify as a comic book, and the result is tedious and hard to read. In theory, it's fun to write in the styles of different genres but in practice it comes off as phony and, god forbid, amateurish. This is particularly true in the "beatnik novel- The Crazy Wide Forever" (UGH!) section of the book. It's so cringe worthy it caused me to give up on the book, once. I really have no idea what happened in those five pages! This an error in design as well as pretentious writing. The mass paperback novels they are trying to imitate are usually about 4 inches wide, so that even though the text in crammed in the sentences are an easy to read ten or fifteen words long. The Black Dossier is much, much wider and the sentences are longer but the text is still crammed in (for authenticity!). It makes reading laborious!
The strange format doesn't just affect the design of the book, but the story shifts gears and doesn't feel like a LOEG story at all. Here's the plot- Mina and a young Allan Quartermain steal the Black Dossier from Vauxhall (Military Intelligence HQ) they take a detour to Greyfriars where they find out the members of the Big Brother party, and all English spies went to this same school, and then head to the Birmingham Spaceport, where they escape in a rocket to Dunbayne and they meet their contact and they travel to the Blazing World. They were chased by James Bond, and in the prose works we learn a lot about this England and all the incarnations of the LOEG, as well as in France and Germany. Mina and Allan are actually reading the book with you, so it's all impossibly boring!
Other than to meet indirectly the character of Orlando, and to introduce copious amounts of sex there's nothing in this book that is necessary reading to understand volumes 1 and 2 of LOEG! Nothing! The essays talk about anything from the creation of Gods to Shakespeare to erotic literature to Mina's first encounter with Nemo, and in the end you are left with jumbled images of a greater story. The worst sin is that Mina, Allan (and all the rest) KNOW they are "supernaturals" of this world. That they are special and magical, because of their adventures. The other books gave you the idea that these were regular folks whose infamous exploits were recorded in books (Mina mentions reading Quatermain's stories twice!) and in a world were EVERYONE is a literature character, why are they so special? It cancels the concept of LOEG! It make's it another fantasy story.

The other unpardonable thing Alan Moore does is waste the Orwell and Lovecraft mythos. Mina and Allan were in America during the Big Brother years which seemed to have been very easy to live through, and when they return to England in 1958, it's a society shaking off a few years of extreme socialist regime as if nothing really affected them. The Elder Gods are reduced to a few mentions here and there, and a hokey short story. Of all the times to NOT imitate genre, Alan Moore forgoes the heavy and paranoid writings of Lovecraft heroes for something light and stupid.

It would have been much better if Alan Moore had written two different stories each dealing with Elder Gods and Big Brother than this self serving mess.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Carnivorous Carnival

Lemony Snicket

This is the eighth book in the A Series of Unfortunate Events collection. The books follow the misadventures of the Baudelaire orphans as they escape from Count Olaf, who makes his living by killing families and children by setting their homes on fire to steal their fortunes. The Baudelaires prove too smart for his schemes though, because Violet is a fine inventor, Klaus is a fine reader and Sunny (the baby) is a fine biter and recently a fine chef!

Their lives since their parents died have been a series of miserable adventures, where not one of the adults who are supposed to take care of them do a good job. Count Olaf disguises himself and he either murders the Baudelaires' guardians, or sends them running. We know all this, because Lemony Snicket is researching the lives of the Baudelaires, and one of the most charming aspects of the books are he tantalizing tidbits he drops of HIS adventures and connections with Count Olaf.

The Baudelairse have been hiding in plain sight as freaks in the Carnival, while Olaf has been getting hints about the kids whereabouts from Madame Lulu, a fortune teller. Everyone is looking for the Snicket File which may contain information about who survived the fire in the Baudelaire mansion. The kids have hope that one of their parents is alive. They also want to know about V.F.D. which can mean many, many things. However, Olaf proves too wily for the kids this time and the ending of The Carnivorous Carnival is truly heartbreaking.

The theme of this book is whether trying to please everyone is a good thing since, if you give everyone what they want, you may end up giving in to the desires of murderous people like Olaf. It also teaches us to not give in to what other people expect of us, just because you are freaky doesn't mean you can't function in society. It also talks about how people enjoy violence and messy eating, which is a good definition of "Reality TV" as any.

I can't explain the charm of these books without mentioning just how clever they are. The writing is witty and super smart. There's a lot for the adults to enjoy, they are the most mature children's book you'll ever read. They are complex, and funny, and sad, and wonderful. You'll fall in love, I guarantee it.

Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol. 3


More setup in this volume, with Sinclair making more Reanimen, in a storyline that's been boiling since the beginning, and the Martian (who took the astronaut who was left on Mars' place) gives being a superhero a chance.

Invincible meets his Dad, Nolan who's married and has a baby. He's been living in another planet hiding from the Viltrumite Empire. They find him, and have bloody fight and in the end Invincible is left to take care of his half brother, and Nolan is captured by the Empire. Invincible takes his baby bro to his Mom, and she finally has something to make her stop drinking.

When Mark and Amber take a vacation to Africa to visit Eve, Angstrom Levy (the guy who could travel into alternate dimensions and ended up absorbing all his "alternates" information about said dimensions but was disfigured in the process) beat up Mark's mom and tried to kill Invincible by throwing him into dimensions. After, a while Invincible got the upper hand and accidentally killed Levy. He's stranded but the FUTURE Guardians of the Globe save him which begs the question, could Levy time travel? Because I thought he traveled to dimensions with different times...

The plots in this volume move at a nicer pace and the cliffhanger was really good. Even though I complain that the story-lines simmer too much, I must say that Kirkman does a great job at tying up loose ends, nothing is wasted but it's not predictable.

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman

I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman's comics and novels (who isn't?) but I'm the first to admit that sometimes it's hit or miss. Neverwhere and Stardust are good, though not as great as American Gods or Coraline.

The Graveyard Book sadly, falls into the good not great category. Neil Gaiman has stated that this is his version of The Jungle Book, which I haven't read. I'm sure that most of my complaints about the story are because this is a retread of The Jungle Book and not a truly original story.

The story follows a little baby whose family is murdered by one of the Jack of Trades. The baby wanders to the Graveyard and is adopted by the ghosts, and given Freedom of The Graveyard. The books are divided into short stories from Nobody's life (the little baby), and his guardians (the ghosts and Silas- a mysterious creature). There were a lot of great ideas in the stories, and in true Gaiman fashion all the threads are tied neatly in the end. Still, the big picture doesn't flow at all, some important elements are abandoned for Bod's relationships with the ghosts, and the ending is a bit unsatisfying, and it's all because Neil Gaiman was set on doing The Jungle Book. The Graveyard Book would've shined as a comic, but as a novel it's just ok.

Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol. 2


Mark is dealing with going to college, and with the dissolution of his family. His father is MIA and his Mom is drowning her loneliness and sorrow with drink. Mark's good attitude abides, though, so he approaches every challenge positive that he'll figure a way around it. As far as his personal life, he's devastated over his family, but he knows to put it aside so he can be a student and a superhero. This is what I like most about Mark, he doesn't dwell, but he's not denying his emotions, they're boiling underneath the surface.

Mark's adventures as Invincible are varied, and this is the part I didn't like. This whole volume feels like a huge setup for Invincible's villains. The stories are vignettes that for now don't have much to do with Marks life. Whether, Invincible escorts some astronauts to Mars only to leave one of them behind possessed by parasites or Invincible unwittingly helping a new "kingpin" of crime take over, the payoffs will be in the future. The most tiresome of these setups, is the multiple dimensions storyline. Since we didn't actually see any of the other worlds, and I honestly didn't care about the characters, I found it tedious. Over all, even though most of the villains are interesting or funny, the pacing of their stories is slow, but since this is the result of focusing on Mark's personal life, I don't mind.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yotsuba&! #9

Hiyohiko Azuma

Asagi attempts to catch candy at a hot air balloon race. She's waylaid by the savage children. You can almost hear her "oomph!".

Batwoman #0

J.H. Williams
W. Haden Blackman
Amy Reeder

This story is all about Bruce Wayne trying to figure out if Kate Kane is Batwoman, and if Batwoman is trained and ready to be part of the franchise. This makes perfect sense because Bruce hasn't seen Kate or the whole Cult of Cain business. When Batwoman first appeared, Bruce was having his forty nights in the desert to exorcise his demons, and in Final Crisis almost no one saw Kate at all! She a was a "blink and you miss her" Female Fury. So now, finally, Bruce can see what all the hoopla is about. This is a great introduction to Kate-Batwoman for people who missed Rucka's run on Detective Comics.

What is really perfection in this comic, is Amy Reeder drawing Kate in civilian life, and JHW drawing Batwoman proper. Amy Reeder gives Kate an instant likeability by making her look modern (no more frumpy nineties clothes!!), cool and you know, like a regular young lady! JHW continues drawing a moody and feral Batwoman, with extreme closeups to vicious smiles drenched in red lipstick. The art is so good it makes your back teeth hurt.

Yotsuba&! #8

Kiyohiko Azuma

Yotsuba&! is the only manga that makes me laugh out loud much to Carla's chagrin. So instead of going over the whole story, I'm posting the panel that made me laugh.

Yotsuba was so scared by the haunted mansion set up in Fuuka's school that she ROLLED out. ROLLED!
Ahhh Yotsuba!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Batman #666


I usually don't buy a lot of Batman comics, but after RIP and all the new titles that started after, I decided to give many of them a chance. Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens I dropped pretty quickly, Detective with Batwoman and Batman and Robin became top of the pile choices. I must confess I really like Damien as written by Morrison in Batman and Robin.

So I took advantage of the New Year's Day sale and bought Batman 666 for $.99 through Comixology. It's the Future, I think it might be 20 years hence, and Damien is the new Batman. There's a heavy "Frank Miller" vibe with Damien monologuing and posturing. This Gotham is headed for the Apocalypse as orchestrated by the remaining replacement Batmen at the beginning of Morrison's run.

Bruce and Dick are gone, and Babs is the commissioner. A nod to the Batman Beyond animated series, maybe. She's very resentful of Damien and even has an anti-Batman policy. Damien kills the bad guys if he has to, a radical change of policy for Batman. However, he follows his father's other rules closely and he is always well prepared for any occasion.

What strikes most about this story, is that Damien doesn't seem to have an alternate personality. Bruce Wayne ditzy playboy or Dick Grayson's charm and idealistic young man were necessary respites from being Batman and Robin, but Damien has no other life than being Batman. He is alone, with no Robin to help him and no Alfred to keep him steady. Alfred is a cat, and Damien tends to his wounds alone. This is a stark contrast to the Batman: Brave and the Bold episode "Knights of Tomorrow" where Damien is Selina and Bruce's son and follows his father's footsteps by becoming Robin to Dick's Batman, and later on by having his daughter be Robin to his Batman (a clear nod to Dark Knight Returns).

There's also the fact that Damien alludes to selling his soul at the age of 14 to someone who could be the Devil or is actually the Devil in exchange for Gotham's survival. This is why he can get shot a couple of times and not die although he feels pain. So after fighting a Batman who thought he was the anti-christ, it turns out Damien is the anti-christ and he's waiting for the Devil to came claim him? Well if there's someone who can kill the Devil, other than the Saint of Killers, I guess it would be Damien. Bruce would be so proud!