Book Reviews comics

Graphic Novel Review: Cash by Reinhard Kleist

Definitely a must read for those interested in the life of Johnny Cash. I was really only familiar with Cash through his music and the film Walk the Line. Interestingly, both that film and this graphic novel but Reinhard Kleist utilize the Folsom Prison performance as the climactic moment in the story.

Kleist, however, utilizes Folsom inmante, Glen Sherley as a partial narrator. Sherley sent a song to Cash, which the latter performed at the famous concert.

Four stars for this visual take on the life of Johnny Cash.

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Review: Sea of Stars vol. 1 by Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum

Excellent! Part Jungle Book, part space opera, and part Bear Grylls, Sea of Stars is a new book from Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum.

In issue 1, a space trucker father and his son become separated in a cosmic incident.

The Dad is on a harrowing mission to find his son, but Kadyn has discovered that in the accident he has gained some mysterious powers. While the boy comes to thoroughly enjoy the space play that his powers enable, his newfound companions are baffled at what he can do–and especially what he can survive.

This book was endearing and intriguing. Plus it was beautiful. Stephen Green and Rico Renzi amplify the storytelling in all the right ways. It was cartoonish yet just gritty enough, fitting featuring an estranged boy and his badass dad.

Book Reviews comics

Review(s): Adventure Time Vols. 7-8

Adventure Time Vol. 7 by Ryan North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Still insane. Still funny. Still really colorful.

I have given up on the bright green text over white commentary at the bottom of the pages, as it’s been pretty low comedic pay off for a lot of work on the eyes.

Otherwise I still love all of the people of Ooo. PB and Marcelline are life.

Adventure Time Vol. 8 by Ryan North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This first non-Ryan North Adventure Time arc wasn’t my favorite, but it was still entertaining. The premise was fun and somehow terrifying (welcome to Adventure Time). The peoples of Ooo have forgotten how to prepare food for themselves. Chaos ensues! Turns out the solution was inside Jake the whole time.

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Review: Watchmen

Watchmen by Alan Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is iconic and a modern-day classic, finding itself on “greatest books” and the like. It’s difficult to approach reviewing it considering its status as one of the most popular works in its medium. That being said, I enjoyed reading it, even and perhaps especially as I was so disturbed by its events and cast of characters.

Watchmen helped open up a new subversive sub-genre within comic books. It’s dark and gritty, yes. But most noticeably it lacks a central character to guide readers morally and emotionally. I’m reminded of Millar’s Kick-Ass, featuring a young man who dons colorful tights and exposes the ludicrousness and brutality of the caped-crusader lifestyle.

Tied as it is to the Cold War, Watchmen did feel dated to me at times. The lack of moral clarity regarding sex and consent didn’t land well either. The moral ambiguity and lack of totally-sympathetic characters were both intriguing and frustrating. I was left unsure the degree to which certain characters were right or wrong.

However, I think Watchmen is a brilliant take on the superhero mythos of our time and the problem of nostalgia. Veering toward nihilo, it is above all concerned with the real and the here and now.

Four stars.

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Comic Reviews: Blackbird, Trees, and Kick-Ass 1

Blackbird, Vol. 1 by Sam Humphries

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nina Rodriguez always seems out of the loop on why her life sucks and why her family just can’t get it together. She’s always been sure that magic is real, but no one believes her. Nina is desperate for answers, but she is really desperate for some control over her own life.Blackbird is a delightful book from co-creators Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel. Bartel’s artwork makes it. The pages are just consistently beautiful.

This series is apparently on hiatus, which sucks considering all of the open-ended questions from book one. The Beacon and the Jackal? That cop who knows what’s up with the cabals?

Four stars for magical romp through Los Angeles with hopefully more coming soon!

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Trees Volume 1 by Warren Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think the world is ending, and it has something to do with aliens and some huge metal “trees” they left at various locations around Earth. There were so many times while reading Trees that I was unsure what was happening. The art style isn’t my favorite either, but…I want to read the second volume, so I felt I couldn’t give it less than three stars

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Kick-Ass by Mark Millar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Certain aspects of Kick-Ass have perhaps not aged well. The main character’s incel-ish-ness as a part of his whole tragic background story feels dated. Not to minimize his issues, but the whole horny, lonely, can’t-talk-to-a-girl trope is just overdone, to say the least. And then there’s pretending to be gay so that he can get closer to said girl. Yeah.

Now that that’s out of the way, though, Kick-Ass is fast-paced and action-packed. And while I was pretty over the titular character by the end of it, I was left definitely needing to read more Hit-Girl. This book is very violent. But the juxtaposition of said violence with the fact that the heroes in this book are freaking children, disturbing as it was, was very engrossing. Three stars for a…you know…kick-ass, rockin’ story with hopes for more Hit-Girl in the future.

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this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/31/20)

Graphic Novels/Comics

I’m behind on writing this week, but it’s okay, I compensated by reading a lot. In order to meet my lofty 2020 reading goals, I need to count graphic novels and comic books (TPBs not single issues–I’m not a total barbarian). This past week I caught up on some of the comics I had waiting on the shelf. Several upcoming reviews in the queue:

  • Kick-Ass (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr.)
  • Blackbird Vol. 1 (Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel)
  • Trees Vol. 1 (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)

For now here are reviews of Adventure Time vols. 5-6 (Ryan North) and Captain America, vol. 2: Captain of Nothing (Ta-Nehisi Coates).

On deck to read once I finish the aforementioned reviews:

  • Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl (Millar, Romita Jr.)
  • Adventure Time vols. 7-8 (Ryan North)
  • Watchmen (Alan Moore)–somehow I have never read this
  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (Damian Duffy, from Octavia E. Butler)
  • Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests (Ellis, Howard)
  • Superman: Year One (Frank Miller, John Romita Jr.)
  • Invisible Kingdom (G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward–I actually have all six issues of this series on order, as the first run was amazing.

I’m always looking for recommendations of great graphic novels/comics. I generally stray from Marvel/DC, but only because of the sometimes sharp learning curve and extended history of certain characters. I will definitely check out mainstream superhero books that pique my interest and seem moderately self-contained (and so Superman above). Have any other suggests? Let me know in the comments!


Otherwise I posted one other review this week–Annalee Newitz’s spec fic time-travel novel, The Future of Another Timeline. Find that here. I enjoyed this book, even more than Newitz’s debut, Autonomous. In both, Newitz weaves together the political, the social, and the personal with technology.

I finished The Hero of Ages this week (my third time through Mistborn Era 1) as part of my reread of the novels in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. I’m to the Era 1 short fiction (“The Lost Metal,” “Mistborn: Secret History”) from the Arcanum Unbounded collection. This is a bit of a deviation in my Sanderson reading plan, as I typically read the books in more or less published order (though always leading into The Stormlight Archive).

Tor, 2015

I also finally picked up a book that has been on my TBR for a long time: V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. I’m enjoying it so far! My introduction to fantasy was really through magic “systems,” e.g. The Wheel of Time and anything by Brandon Sanderson. While I clearly still dig Sanderson, my interests have been verging more toward the “low magic” side. Not that these types of magics don’t have rules, but the rules are neither necessarily clearly defined nor intricate. I’m thinking of someone like Neil Gaiman here, especially The Ocean at the End of the Lane. As it happens, Gaiman is one of Schwab’s big influences, so. Look for a review of the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy next week!

Book Reviews comics

Review(s): Adventure Time and Captain America

My wife and I got to have a weekend away recently, featuring Indian food, time to read, free perusal of Barnes and Noble, and time not spent focused on a two-year-old. I made it through some comics from the library that have been sitting on the shelf for a bit: Adventure Time vols. 5 and 6 (Ryan North), and Captain America, vol. 2: Captain of Nothing by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Not sure how large the overlap is between Adventure Time and Captain America readers, but it’s a great place to be!

Adventure Time Vol. 5 by Ryan North

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure what specifically keeps me coming back to Adventure Time. The weirdness and creativity are surely important, but it might just be the colors.

In Volume Five, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline need to save the Candy Kingdom from the bubblegum that has overtaken the brains of its people. The semi-sentient bubblegum was PB’s fault to begin with of course, in all of her mad scientists-ness. PB finally discover the acidic solution to their problems as they employ the help of the um…delightful Lemongrab.

These Adventure Time stories continue to use Finn & Jake as starting points for adventures, but are delightfully exploring other characters. I am specifically enjoying the backstory and development of Bubblegum’s and Marceline’s friendships.

Five stars for another fast-paced, quirky Adventure!

Adventure Time Vol. 6 by Ryan North

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For me the pacing of this book was off, especially in the first few issues. Things finally got rolling though, and overall I found Adventure Time Volume Six to be another delightful Princess Bubblegum-focused story.

Three stars for a decent AT book. Four starts for BMO and Ice King.

Captain America, Vol. 2: Captain of Nothing by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to live in a time in which Ta-Nehisi Coates writes comic books.

His Captain America run remains very engaging as Coates tackles the political and the personal. Steve Rogers is no longer sure what it means to be Captain America. What does that represent? Could the name–the persona–be doing more harm than good?

Steve must navigate the complex dynamics of those out to cheat the system in order to make it and those who are truly evil. People may exist along a moral continuum. Rogers himself may be morally ambiguous, as he is so often opposed to the government that he has perennially served. Though as Sharon Carter points out, Cap doesn’t serve a government but a country.

Steve Rogers may even be discovering a new future not in rogue libertarianism but in mutuality and support as he asks for help from the Daughters of Liberty.

Five stars for another great Marvel book from Coates!

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this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/10/20): Say Hello to Heaven

The Good Place

This week I jumped back into The Good Place. The Soul Squad has given up on making themselves good enough to get into the Good Place, but they’ve turned their attention toward helping someone from each of their pasts get there. Unable to carry on in ignorance, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason, are perhaps more free than ever to truly pursue the good. They ironically chase the best for those who hurt them, as Michael explains that they are eligible to enter the real Good Place, knowing the truth of the eternal game as they do.

I really want to see what happens in the upcoming final season of this show, even though I think it peaked in season one. The show has been interesting and engaging but in the big reveal/turnaround at the end of the first season, there was a certain something lost for the audience as well as the main characters. Giving more weight to Eleanor’s story has been a strength of season three, and Michael’s role has been very satisfying. However, that first season just felt so perfect, and like Chidi and co., viewers just can’t go back to the life they once knew.

The Future of Another Timeline

Made some progress in Annalee Newitz’s second sci-fi novel this week. Her interweaving of technology, speculation, and social issues is really engaging. This book really brings life to the concept of “speculative fiction.” I’ve been delighted by the ways in which Newitz has written a definite time-travel book without being cliche or only playing into sci-fi tropes. I’m at the point in The Well of Ascension in which there’s no turning back, so I’ll probably put a temporary pause on this one for a few days.

The Well of Ascension

I’ve been somewhat disengaged with this one. I’ve been wondering if that was due to it being my third time through, but I think it owes mostly to the book itself. It’s got some typical second book foibles. It takes some time for things to pick up. A lot needs to happen before book three which needs to happen…in book two. The love story is also super frustrating and annoying. (But then again…see the quote at the end of this post)

But! Today I crossed the threshold into the pre-Sanderslanche zone. The Sanderslanche is my lazy term for the end of every Brandon Sanderson book (Sanderson + avalanche, get it?). After a haphazard Google search I feel fairly comfortable taking credit for the term.

Brandon really brings it home for the end of each of his novels, and it’s one of those things that keeps readers coming back and makes true commitment out of curiosity.

The Well of Ascension is no different, and now that I feel the ‘slanche coming. There’s no turning back.

Other Various Media: Comics and The Silmarillion

If I’m going to make my lofty reading goals for the year, I need to jump into some comic books and graphic novels. I don’t feel great about counting some of these as a book toward the total. But I also like to see that I’ve read x amount of books and feel that totally unearned sense of accomplishment.

On deck for comics: more Star Wars

Kick-Ass, Book 1 by Mark Millar

Blackbird by Sam Humphries

Sandman, vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Adventure Time, vol. 5 by Ryan North

I have made no progress through the audio of The Silmarillion, and I probably won’t until I finish The Well of Ascension. I’m at that dreaded point in the Tolkien master-work where I wonder if I need to start at the beginning again.

Well, there’s another week in my fantastical adventures. From everything I’m hearing, I’m excited to dive into the newest series of Doctor Who after I’m caught up on The Good Place. Otherwise I’ll be a puddle on the floor from the emotional weight of the Well of Ascension ending.

So what did your week in fandom look like?

I’ll leave you with another selection from The Well of Ascension that points back to last week’s. Last week I looked at what Tindwyl of Terris thinks makes a good king, namely, trust. In the following snippet, Zane comes to make Vin run away with him, and she almost does it. But then she finally chooses Elend. Zane asks her why:

“Tell me what it is!” Zane said, tone rising. “What is it abgout him that draws you? He isn’t a great leader. He’s not a warrior. He’s no Allomancer or general. What is it about him?”

The answer came to her simply and easily. Make your decisions–I’ll support you in them. “He trusts me,” she whispered.

The Well of Ascension, 584.