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The Books I Read in March 2017

My reading continued to be a disappointment in March, but I am enjoying more of the books I’m reading. So, not everything is doom and gloom.

I already reviewed Every Heart a Doorway and The Collapsing Empire, so I will just mention them here.

On to the rest of the books.

I started the month reading Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey. It is a retelling of The Tempest. I read the first chapter or two and set it aside. I am not a fan of Carey’s style.

I also didn’t care for Chris Colfer’s Stranger Than Fanfiction. Colfer isn’t a terrible writer, but he needs to rein in his camp and metafictional fanboy impulses. I genuinely hope he improves.

Wanting to read some classic science fiction, I tried Sherri S. Tepper’s Grass. The descriptions are lovely. The story is boring.

I finally read Kirstin Valdez Quade’s Night at the Fiesta. I enjoyed the collection very much. I especially liked “Nemecia” and “Mojave Rats.” I will keep my eye on Valdez Quade’s future work.

My success with Night at the Fiesta inspired me to seek out a number of short story collections (with much less success). Among these books are: Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Tenth of December by George Saunders, Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke, The World to Come by Jim Sheppard, and Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh.

Keeping with George Saunders, I attempted Lincoln in the Bardo. Oh my, that book is weirdly structured.

After my success with Leviathan Wakes, I moved on to Abaddon’s Gate after Caliban’s War. I grow less impressed with The Expanse as the series progresses. A lot of my issues lie with the world building. But I also feel James S.A. Corey fall into the George R.R. Martin trap, too many point of view characters disrupt the narrative.

I’ve been wanting to read Brain Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades for years (ever since I listened to a podcast interview with Staveley). I finally got around to it. I feel a world building rant coming on. And I wanted to like this book. Damn it.

I had the most success this month, honestly, with several history books I read for research. These books are: Life and Society in the Hittite World by Trevor Bryce, Byzantium Greatness and Decline by Charles Diehl (translated by Naomi Walford), and Lords of the Horizon by Jason Goodwin. All of these are good. The best book is by far Life and Society in the Hittite WorldByzantium Greatness and Decline is outdated (but hey, it is what my local library has). And Lords of the Horizon is a good popular introduction to the Ottoman Empire.

I also had some success with the comics I read this month. Among those are: Scarlet Witch Volume 2 World of Witchcraft by James Robinson, The Mighty Thor Volume 1 Thunder in Her Veins by Jason Aaron, Batman Volume 1 I am Gotham by Tom King, Detective Comics Volume 1 Rise of the Batmen by James Tynion IV, and Wonder Woman Volume 1 The Lies by Greg Rucka. I really liked Scralet Witch. I enjoyed The Mighty Thor though I am tired of the Roxxon Malekith plot, disliked the handling of Loki, and have issues with Aaron’s world building. I am not a fan of either Batman comic I read. I would much prefer James Tynion IV writing a dedicated Tim Drake book. And the first volume of Wonder Woman Rebirth surprised me. But I am not a fan Rucka’s rewritting of Wonder Woman’s history so soon after the last rewritting of her history. I just really liked the handling of Cheetah. I feel a comic book rant coming on.

That is all I read in March.

On to April!

 

Double Post: A Big No and Excoriating Myself

This is a double post today. Today is a post of sadness, frustration, and anger. Let’s get to it.

No, No, No!

James Robinson, one of my favorite comic book writers, is leaving Earth 2, my favorite comic book series. This is very sad news. But Robinson’s last issue doesn’t drop until September with issue 16. So, we still have a few months before the end. 

So, now comes the question: who will replace Robinson? And what is their vision for Earth 2? Hopefully, the series will still be as successful. But, as with every change, there is also trepidation.

Where’s My Cat o’ Nine Tails? (I’m Kidding)

This afternoon I got into a flame war over the nature of Artemis’s divinity. I’m a passionate Greek Mythology nerd. And it annoys me to no end when I see pop culture or people bad information about the Greek myths. And the gods.

All I wanted to do was read up on the fight between Wonder Woman and Artemis in the latest issue of Wonder WomanAnd somehow, I got into an ultimately stupid argument over Artemis’s divinity. 

The frustrating thing, the thing that makes me angry, is that the argument was, ultimately, futile. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, the other commentator just refused to recognize that Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, is a Titan. Therefore, she was divine. She was a god. She was not a mortal. 

All the sources I know have Leto as a Titan, the daughter of Phoibe and Koios of the same generation of Titans as Rhea and Kronos.

Now, there is a reference in a Star Trek episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais?,” where Apollo claims Leto to have been mortal. But where does this come from? Is there an ancient source for this, or did the episode writers, Coon and Ralston, make it up? Is the source for this their own imaginations, like their interpretation of the gods as powerful aliens?

Hell, I even skimmed “Adonais” by Shelley to see if the matter could be settled. But Apollo is only referenced once. As a reference to Keats. No Leto. No Leto as mortal woman. 

And there were a few other areas of argument- what could kill Greek gods, etc. 

Now, clearly, I’m a defender of the core myths. Modern adaptations who deviate too far, beware! I’ve ranted before about this (“Greek Myths on Film”). 

So far, I’ve liked Azzarello’s interpretation of the Greek myths. But that’s the thing. Shouldn’t we have been arguing Azz’s interpretation of the myths? Not irresponsibly citing the core myths, Star TrekHercules the Legendary JourneysGod of War, etc?

Yes, I feel the need to defend the Greek myths much like other fans feel the need to defend their passions. But fuck it all, it takes too much energy. And does it ever really accomplish anything when neither party will bulge. And when does it go too far? At what point should I say “fuck it” and walk away? I feel I should have said my bit then walked away. And ignore the subsequent replies. I never should have responded after my initial reply. 

I like to think that I’m willing to change my mind when I’m wrong. I know I did when Al Harron corrected some misconceptions on REH. And I’d like to think I’ll accept it when I’m wrong. No matter how passionate I hold my position. 

This was, perhaps, my second flame war/ stupid debate. I hate it when this happens. I just need to make sure I never do it again. 

Two Comic Book Reviews: Wonder Woman Vol. 1 and Saga Vol. 1

I’ve been procrastinating about doing my review of Saga. I read it last week, but I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. Should I begin with the story of how I acquired the volume? Or should I just jump into the review? 

And how should I explain my lateness with my Wonder Woman review? Well, it took the library a long time to get the book. Curse their preference for trade paperback! Oh well, I’ve read it. So now, I’ll review both. 

Saga Vol. 1

Where do I begin with Saga vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples? Is it one of the best new comic book series from Image? Is it one of the best new comic book series of 2012? Yes and yes. 

Saga is simply freaking awesome. The story is at turns both epic and incredibly personal. The sweep of an intergalactic war as seen through the eyes of a Romeo and Juliet couple struggling to protect their hybrid daughter. Just amazing. 

The writing is incredible. The juggling of the various story lines is almost pitch perfect. And the pacing is just rip roaring. 

Are there problems? Yes. While the series is wildly imaginative, there is a been there done that vibe as well. Especially with the usage of the bounty hunter characters the Stalk and the Will. I found the Will’s storyline to be a little cliche (which is actually brought up in chapter nine). And I have issues believing that Landfall and Wreath could force other worlds to participate in a proxy war. But those are minor concerns and quibbles. And I’m not the type of science fiction fan who goes crazy at the first sign of issues with world building. 

The art is, honestly, phenomenal. There is a playfulness that corresponds well to the highly imaginative universe envisioned. 

So, if you haven’t checked out Saga, do so. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood

Wonder Woman is, perhaps, the most important female super hero in comic books. But writing her is famously difficult. Except for rare instances, there has never really been a definitive statement on Wonder Woman’s personality. 

Well, I would argue that Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s New 52 run on Wonder Woman is that definitive run. 

Why?

Greek mythology. Simple as that. 

Wonder Woman is inspired by the mythology of ancient Greece. And, honestly, that rich tradition and story potential has been neglected by too many writers on Wonder Woman.

Well, no more. The gods of Olympus are running amok. Zeus is gone, Hera is raging at Zola and Hippolyta, Strife is. . . causing strife, Poseidon is a hoot, and Hades an imp. Just awesome. And the point is that none of them are exactly “super villains.” Not Ares, Wonder Woman’s former arch enemy, who has become apathetic to the throne of Olympus. Not even Hera, the arc’s main antagonist. Yes, she is vengeful over Zeus’s dalliances, but that doesn’t make her evil. Just a goddess who can’t help herself. 

The plot is simple (and classic Wonder Woman). Hera is targeting Zeus’s latest conquest (Zola), and Hermes and Wonder Woman struggle to defend the young woman. But in that simple mission, many complications arise. The truth of Diana’s parentage is revealed, the ripples of the contest for the throne of heaven, and Hades’s anger at being used. 

The art is interesting. I rather like it. And the coloring is quite good. But when it comes to long shots, the characters tend to be a little too simplistic. But still, the art is good. 

I’ve said several times that I’m enjoying the current Wonder Woman run. I really should have this series in my pull list. Now, I just need to get volume 2.

 

Comics: Buying and Collecting, with a Dose of Fickleness

Right now, I’m listening to the Comic Vine PodcastSo far, I’m enjoying it greatly. Especially since it marks the return of James Robinson. Hell, even if the podcast is nearly three hours long!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about comics lately. For this post, I want to forgo writing about writing comics. Rather, I want to focus on buying and collecting comics.

I’m fickle. It is a flaw I’m deeply familiar with.

A few months ago, I pointedly “dropped” Stormwatch and Teen Titans. And now, I’m kicking myself in the butt for it. Mind you, I haven’t read either of them in months. And I want to hop back on them. Of course I’ll have to scramble at some point to pick them back up. Especially Teen Titans (of which I only have two issues)!

This got me to thinking about what I like and don’t like in superhero comics.

I have a strong fondness for teen/ youth heroes. Even if I’ve dropped off of the Teen Titans bandwagon recently, I haven’t stopped being interested in what goes on in the series. And everyone knows I’m salivating about the relaunch of Young Avengers. Though I’m not so sure if I want to check out Avengers Arena. I’m not really feeling that one.

I’m also kicking myself for not focusing on Wonder WomanLike Teen Titans, I have only two issues of Wonder Woman (11 and 12). Damn it! I need more!

I’ve also dropped off of Captain Marvel. Although I don’t know if I really want to keep following that series. I loved the first two issues, so . . .

But, I really can’t afford to follow every comic I would love to. Especially when they cost $3.99 and come out biweekly. That explains why I’m not really following X-Men Legacy. The idea sounds interesting, but I don’t know. There are other books I want to pick up.

Let’s move away from superheroes and play a little with creator owned comics. I’m upset with myself that I still haven’t started picking up creator owned series (baring volume one of Morning Glories). I really need to make myself pick some up. But superhero comics are so damned addictive!

 

That’s it for today. I may have a post on writing up tomorrow. Until then. . .

My Comics Run at the End of July

My comic book buying is spotty and inconsistent at best. I cannot always go to Bankstons (the local comic book shop) or Hastings. Nor can I buy all the books I would like. So, I buy only those books I want to buy when I can buy them. Which makes for a very interesting run much of the time. So, how was my last run?

Pretty good, I must say. I finally picked up Dial H #3 and Wonder Woman #11. And I finally picked up my first Marvel comic in years with Captain Marvel #1. 

As far as Dial H #3 is concerned, I want to do another joint review with Earth 2. So expect a quadruple review when I get Earth 2 #4 and Dial H #4 this Friday (I hope).

But, let’s take a look at Wonder Woman #11. I will admit that I haven’t been following Azzarello and Chiang’s run on the series. And seriously? I’m kicking myself for it.

Writing a good Wonder Woman series has been troublesome for years now. In the past decade, how many different takes on Wonder Woman have there been? Personally, Azzarello’s take on Wonder Woman is what I’ve been craving. I love it that Wonder Woman is firmly entrenched within her mythological context. I agree with Sara Lima of Comic Vine when she calls Wonder Woman the Greek mythological version of Fables.

This new take works far better than anything I’ve read in Wonder Woman from the past decade, at least.

Moving on to Captain Marvel #1this book is freaking awesome. Kelly Sue Deconnick does an amazing job with this first issue. As someone who is unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel, I feel that I did not need to know all of her back story. The essentials are given in a way that seamlessly fits into the story. And the characterization, amazing.

Dexter Soy’s art work is amazing. I rather like the “painted” style of coloring that some Marvel series have been utilizing for a few years now. And the art work here is very good.

So, if you haven’t picked up Earth 2Dial HWonder Woman, and Captain Marvel, why not? Don’t kick yourself later!

Looking forward, I am certain to continue collecting Earth 2 and Dial H. Other DC titles I’ll probably pick up first issues or random jumping on points.  I would like to pick up Wonder WomanBatman, and Justice League Dark, though.

As for drops? Well, I hate to do this, but I’m going to have to walk away from a few titles for now. Stormwatch during  Milligan’s run has been very lackluster. So until the direction changes or a new team is placed on the book, I’m done with the title.

The same is true for Teen Titans. I haven’t really kept up with Titans, but what I’ve read and heard does not give me much hope. So, again, I’m done till a new creative team comes on board.

In a previous post, I mentioned that Marvel had nothing that interested me. Well, I was wrong. Captain Marvel looks to be a keeper. And I’m planning on checking out Gambit when it hits later this month.

Looking out to the future, I’m excited by Uncanny AvengersAll New X-Men, and whatever new Young Avengers/Kid Loki/ Teen Heroes book has been teased (as long as it isn’t written by Allan Heinberg).

I realize now that I’ve given Marvel a short shrift over the past few months. I’m positively kicking myself for not having gone after Remender’s Uncanny X-Force and especially Gillen’s Journey into Mystery. But, there are always the collected editions. . .

Anyway, that is it for this post. The months to come look to be very interesting in the world of comics.