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February 2009
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Underground Reading: Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess

Saras FaceSara's Face (2006) is an intelligent, disturbing thriller from Melvin Burgess. Burgess is a popular (in the UK) author of young adult fiction, known for refusing to pull his punches. His books, despite their youth audience, deal honestly, openly and often graphically with drugs (Junk), sex (Doing It) and poverty (Lady). Sara's Face is Mr. Burgess's assault on the fame culture of modern, youth society.

Sara's Face is told as a cross between a mystery and a Lifetime biopic. An author is trying to reconstruct the tragic events involving Sara - a young wannabe - and Jonathan Heat - a disturbing and popular A-list musician.  The latter is a sinister cross between Madonna and Michael Jackson, combining all the worst traits of both.

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Graphic Novel Round-up: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

The Life Eaters David Brin and Scott Hampton's The Life Eaters and Si Spencer and Dean Ormston's Books of Magick: Life During Wartime.

The Life Eaters (Brin / Hampton): David Brin's short story, "Thor Meets Captain America" was nominated, rightfully, for a Hugo. It is an unusual - and bleak - take on alternate history, in which the Norse Gods pop down from Asgard to help Germany in World War II. In The Life Eaters, Brin adapts his own work into a graphic novel, and then extends the adventure.

Scott Hampton's work is stunning - beautifully painted scenes that do their best to add a certain Alex Ross-like gravity to the subject material. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much material to work with.

Brin, although an author of considerable talent, struggles with the comic book medium. Vast swathes of text dominate each page, and the graphic novel only intermittently drops down for brief interludes of dialogue and violence.

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Underground Reading: Death Trap by John D. MacDonald

Death Trap Death Trap, originally published in 1957, is one of John D. MacDonald's best stand-alone thrillers.

Hugh, a globe-trotting construction bum, spots that an ex-girlfriend's younger brother is about to be executed for murder. He is drawn back to a small Anytown in the hopes of helping his ex-girlfriend, Vicky, through the trauma - and also to ease his own troubled conscience.

Hugh invariably gets tangled up in detective work. Initially, he makes a haphazard effort to placate Vicky, but soon discovers that this small Midwestern town has a seedy underbelly. 

It also, in the best JDM tradition, has a violent deputy and a politically-minded sheriff, neither of which encourage Hugh's amateur investigations.

Hugh's efforts lead him into the depressing swamp of small-town juvenile delinquency and the frighteningly rigid adult system that created it. Hugh's interactions with the town's sordid teen populate - and its deliberately-blind authority figures - are the highlights of the book. With his outsider's point of view, Hugh can see that the town is built on lies, desperately painting over the corruption to preserve the status quo.

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Onion x Comic Book Cinema

The Onion's AV Club has put together a list of 24 other comic books that would make excellent movies. The list is of the usual quality (why are Onion critics so much better than normal critics?). Of the items I've read, there are only two that I wouldn't recommend for movies:

  • Cerebus: High Society. Granted, this is one of the more linear parts of David Sim's meta-masturbatory comic book epic, but it is still on the silly side of complex. And that's even before all the practical questions - would it need to be animated? Or would we be stuck with another Howard the Duck?
  • Sandman: Seasons of Mist. I say this mostly to needle LittleKidWithaBeard, but my concerns are half cautionary ("Could it really be as good as we'd want it to be?") and half rational ("Would it be any good without the larger context of the series?")

Three to add:

  • Criminal Macabre. Just finished this Niles/Templesmith collaboration. It is in the perfect, cinema-friendly middle between Fell (I'd love it, but it would be a terrible movie) and 30 Days of Night (they tried, but just a wee bit thin).
  • 1985. Another one I just finished (and reviewed). It'd be a great horror movie. In fact, the less you know, the better it may be... a horror movie about comic books coming to life would be fantastic. Although it'd still have lots of cameos in it for the Marvel zombies, of course.
  • DMZ. The first volume, at least. Although, now that we're Hope-tastic, are war movies passe?