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May 2009
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Graphic Novel Round-up: Thank God for Small Dogs

Ultimates 3 Ultimates 2: Who Killed the Scarlet Witch? (Loeb / Madureira): Good lord, this was a terrible comic book. The story was essentially gibberish - a series of hop-skip-jump connected vignettes, each designed to show off a bustacular splash page and some 'cinematic' violence that made very little sense. 

The continuity was rubbish - this was something out of the Chris Claremont school of cross-over action; unless you've read sixteen other, parallel, simultaneous titles, there's no sense to be made. On top of that, this was over-the-top mayhem, with no grounding in the real world, no maturity to the plotline, no sense of adulthood, drama, character development, cleverness or even the vaguest whiff of accomplishing something new. Ultimates 3 was, in fact, everything that the Ultimates universe was originally created to avoid. This may not be the first nail in the Ultimate coffin, but it certainly is the longest. 

Laika (Abadzis): This lovely independent is drawn and written by Nick Abadzis, who painstakingly researched the (shockingly depressing) topic of Soviet space-flight for years before putting pen to paper. 

The story centers around Laika, the first dog in space, but in following the adorable mutt, Abadzis reveals a broad cast of characters all involved in the program. Scientists, politicians, ordinary people are all caught up in the dramatic race to accomplish one of mankind's biggest achievements - against impossible odds, and no matter what the cost. 

This is a beautiful book and perfectly illustrated. I'm curious to see what else Abadzis is producing - he has a unique style that fits this story perfectly. 


Thanks to the lovely people at Lijit, this blog finally has a search capability that isn't miserable. The searchbar is over on the left - the default looks through the blog, but you get a handy (if somewhat annoying) pop-over screen that also volunteers to snoop through Twitter, other (friendly) blogs, and your trash.

With over 150 'formal' reviews and a zillion off-the-cuff snide references, hopefully you find this as handy as I do...

Book Catalogs (i.e. Earth-Shattering Decisions)

Our living room

The book database I use - Collectorz - is fantastic. It took a long, long time, but in March, I got it up to speed with every book I own. 

This includes notes, tags and cover photos (I had to take over 2000...). I can't recommend it highly enough - it is a really excellent software package for new and old books alike.

Unfortunately, I'm now in a bit of a pickle.

Continue reading "Book Catalogs (i.e. Earth-Shattering Decisions)" »

RIP David Eddings

David Eddings, serial high fantastist, passed away yesterday.

While easy to critically assault, Eddings' contributions to fantasy can't be underestimated - he may have had the biggest influence on the genre of anyone since Tolkien. Eddings resurrected high fantasy, and moved it from the dusty corners of bookstores to proud displays in the front windows. This phenomenon was repeated later by JK Rowling (and arguably even more recently by George RR Martin), and is a marketing and cultural triumph. Even if they hate the books, every fan of fantasy should be hoisting a glass to the lingering halo effect of the man's success.

Continue reading "RIP David Eddings " »

Paired Reading: Preacher & Walking Dead

Preacher Last week, two volumes of Preacher (Dixie Fried and Salvation) showed up - the latter being one of the best in Garth Ennis' series. In both mid-series collections, Jesse Custer continues his meandering journey across America - looking ostensibly for God and privately for meaning. Both volumes avoid the larger plot of the series in favor of seemingly unrelated character development - probably why I enjoyed them so much.

They arrived alongside the latest The Walking Dead (Volume 9). Kirkman's Walking Dead is more realistic (a strange thing to say about the zombie apocalypse), but has the same set of nostalgic uber-American values. 

Both series feature an extremely capable, quietly masculine hero with a 'code' (to quote Omar, a man's got to have one...). Rick and Jesse both have a codified set of (slightly-dated) values that they struggle to enforce on a chaotic, amoral (and modern) world. Their beliefs give both men a strange sort of charisma - whether they're right or not, Rick and Jesse stand for something, which gives other people something to respect.

Similarly, in both series, although the plot-based conflict is external (zombies, The Grail, etc), the most compelling battle is internal. Rick's leadership comes under challenge whenever he's forced to make a tough call, resulting in occasional bouts of self-doubt. Jesse has assigned himself an impossible quest, and often has to take time out to rediscover his sense of purpose. Both men know - convincingly - what is 'right' or 'wrong', but when the rest of the world keeps questioning them, they sometimes have no choice but to question themselves.

Two great series. Both Kirkman and Ennis deserve credit for complex world-building, both with epic reinterpretations of America.  More importantly, both writers keep the narrative focused on the characters, with spectacular results.