Weekly Reading List 2/22/15-3/14/15

I’m going to start doing these weekly again, I swear.

Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor

Graphic Novel

Here’s my review. Go read it or something. It’s a really good book.

Lawrence Watt-Evans’ A Young Man Without Magic

Fantasy, Reread

Lawrence Watt Evans is a grossly under-appreciated writer. Primarily a fantasy writer, his books usually (though not always) center on average people caught up in situations out of their depth, rather than on the more normal prophesied hero/ heir to the throne/ unstoppable warrior/ powerful wizards so common in fantasy. A Young Man Without Magic follows a young man, Anrel, recently graduated from college in his nation’s capital, who becomes a hunted fugitive when he gives an inflammatory speech following his friend’s death at the hands of a local lord. Following a up and coming demagogue who uses political discourse and public speeches to fight his battles? That’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in fantasy.

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Weekly Pull Review 3/11/15

Southern Cross #1- Image

Hey, I’m giving a #1 top billing this week! Will you look at that? To be fair, none of the usual major heavy hitters came out this week (Saga, Sex Criminals, etc.), so I decided to push something a bit new. That’s not to say Southern Cross isn’t very deserving in its own right- I’m really digging it so far. Even apart from passing the Bechdel test, (the rarity of that in comics is extraordinarily depressing), it’s got solid art with an almost retro-futuristic look. Retro-futurism is most often applied to Buck Rodgers style futurism or 50’s futurism (Fallout), but Southern Cross feels like 80s retro-futurism. (And yes, that was three decades ago.) Grungy space stations and ships, industrial decor, headbands, transparent visors, actual naval outfits for starship personnel- it’s got the tone of so many of my favorite 80s scifi films. (My roommate thought of Cowboy Bebop.) The mystery set up has me interested, though there do seem to be hints of some sort of weird, semi-psychedelic craziness going on in the background- that, or the protagonists dreams are just extremely trippy.

East of West #18- Image

Babylon is really what this comic has been needing for a long time- a character you can actually sympathize with. There are abundant badasses and cool characters, but… yeah, I mention this every issue lately. Anyhow, Babylon gets to play with a giant horrifying demon that he sees as a giant hamster, Death and Lady Mao have a loving farewell, backstory backstory, the Endless Nation and the PRA plan out their war. Good times. I should backpedal on the character sympathy bit- getting to see Death and Lady Mao together actually goes quite a way towards humanizing the Horseman of the Apocalypse and the supergenius cybernetic despot.

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100 Random Wikipedia Articles

While doing research for another project of mine the other night, I found myself clicking the link to look up a random Wikipedia article. (Bet you that you’ll likely get an athlete if you click that link.) Out of a combined sense of boredom and curiosity, I decided to chronicle what would happen if I did it 100 times. My initial hypothesis was that the articles I would see the most of would be athletes and towns- assumptions that bore out pretty well, to be honest, with the exception of the very broad Entertainment category.

Some notes about how I handled difficult to categorize articles- Disambiguation pages presented the most obvious challenge, but I simplified that one fairly easily- I just counted the topmost linked article on the disambiguation page instead (with the exception of a disambiguation page for a surname, which I just placed under surname). In addition, the religion category proved rather difficult for me, since no two articles I got under there fit in the same subcategory- I got religious figures, specific churches, religious divisions… I grew frustrated there, and just jammed them all into Religious Topics. Most other categories worked out a bit better. Overall, there is a certain degree of inconsistency in the level of specificity of category, which is largely attributable to me doing this late at night. I made you a shitty pie chart, too! Anyhow, here we go, in descending order of quantity:

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Book Review: Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor

I’ve owned this graphic novel for less than two weeks, and I’ve already read it three times, and cried at the end each time. (Of course, because I’m clearly just so manly, I had to physically force the tears out of the ducts, and there were only one or two tears. Yeah. Totally.) Each time I’ve read it it just gets better and better.

Scott McCloud’s art does play second fiddle to the story, but the story couldn’t have worked without it- this is one of the definite examples of a story that wouldn’t be possible as prose, and I have doubts about whether it would really work in any other medium.

The Sculptor follows a young, down on his luck sculptor, David Smith (not that David Smith), who is trying to make it big in New York. With nothing going his way, he makes a deal with Death, gaining the ability to easily sculpt anything he wants with his bare hands- in exchange, however, he only has two hundred days to live.

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Weekly Pull Review 3/4/15

Saga #26- Image

Insert obligatory raving about Saga. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are continuing to keep this arc balanced on all three of the main stories so far- Dengo and his captives, Team Lying Cat, and the dads. This arc so far seems to really be one focused on character development, moreso than plot development, which isn’t a bad thing at all. (Especially considering how common the reverse is in the industry.) Dengo especially stands out in terms of growth- not that I particularly expected Saga to have anything less than a fully fleshed out, complex villain. Also, that ending splash page? Hooboy.

Descender #1- Image

Descender starts off with an interstellar (Alliance? Council?) at the height of its power, and on the eve before an attack by unstoppable, moon-sized humanoid robots. It then skips ten years forwards, into a world where over three fourths of the inhabitants are dead or gone, the planet lies in near ruins, and angry mobs have destroyed most of the robots in existence. When a childlike robot companion wakes up on an abandoned mining colony, a hunt for him begins as it is revealed that his model of robot might actually have something in common with the massive destroyers. I’m torn on this one. Dustin Nguyen’s art is fantastic, no question there. Jeff Lemire’s writing is solid in the sections revolving around the protagonist, Tim the robot boy and his robot dog, Bandit. Many of the other scenes, however, have some quite clumsy over-exposition, at least in my mind. There’s a comment I’ve heard bandied around about science fiction, though: That science fiction movies run twenty or thirty years behind science fiction novels in terms of ideas, which, to be fair, is pretty much spot on. I think that the same adage might be applicable to comic books, though perhaps not to the same degree. It’s not a commentary on the quality of the work at all, but it might have something to do with my reaction to the exposition here- it’s stuff that is already old hat in science fiction prose, so it just feels forced.

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