Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil - Jeff Smith

huzzah! the great jeff smith has done it again. here, collected into on hardbound graphic novel is smith's reinvention of the classic dc superhero captain marvel (can anyone tell me why dc has a captain marvel?). fleeing from bullies, street kid billy batson runs down a strange subway tunnel and into the presence of a wizard who instills upon him a magic word (if you guessed shazam then you win a cookie!) that will transform him into captain marvel, the superbeing that he will now share his existence with. along the way billy locates his long lost sister, befriends a djinn, and ends up having to save the world from evil (the monster society of that is) with the help of captain marvel (who likes mustard and onions on his hot dogs). smith's style that was so clearly defined in "bone" remains present in "shazam!", and the giant monster robots bare a cursory resemblance to the "stupid, stupid rat creatures" of the former, though no mention of quiche is made in the latter. this is a reinvention with a retro feel, and i promise that it won't disappoint smith's fans or captain marvel fans, or anyone who just digs a good fun superhero comic.

Spud - John van de Ruit

in the spirit of great schoolboy novels (epistolaries) comes van de ruit's "spud". i'm not sure why i put off reading this so long. i kept putting it up on display desperately willing someone to sign it out as i thought it looked like a great book, and tragically no one ever seemed to want to take it home. so i did. this is the story of john (spud) milton, 14year old scholarship winner to a prestigious all boys boarding school in south africa. the year is 1990, the end of apartheid, and this political event creates the backdrop to the story. the school is populated with the usual cast of bizarre teachers, and sadistic schoolboys. however, just because the characters are typecast doesn't mean they aren't realistically or sympathetically drawn.

throughout reading this images of "a separate peace", "the catcher in the rye" and "the secret diary of adrian mole, aged 13 3/4" kept swimming through my head. mostly adrian mole though. something about spud's diary style reminds me of mr. mole, and van de ruit even references the book once. i believe that spud decides that reading the "diary" of a spotty 14 year old boy who drinks too much lucozade written by a woman named sue townsend is stupid, but he can't help but admit that he did find the book rather funny (and adrian mole is, in that painful funny way that is particular to british comedies). diaries, schoolboys, bildungsromans (that's a fancy german way of saying "coming of age novel"), if you like these sorts of things then give "spud" a chance.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang

wow. i've been waiting forever to read this book. it was worth the wait. yang's printz award winning graphic novel was amazing. this story is really three stories that all come together somewhat unexpectedly at the very end. there's jin wang, the only chinese kid in a largely white suburb who wants desperately to fit in despite the racism he encounters. when wei-chen sun moves to the neighbourhood from taiwan jin is initially embarrassed to be seen and associated with this somewhat awkward newcomer. then we have the story of the monkey king, an old chinese fable about monkey who wishes to become a god. his desire to be accepted as something he is not eventually leads to downfall. and finally the story of popular all american kid danny who's cousin chin-kee (a horrible chinese stereotype) is ruining his life. what do these three stories have in common? how do they all come together? well, you'll have to read american born chinese to find out. and it's well worth it.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam - Ann Marie Fleming

one of my first questions when reading this is why would a filmmaker, who is a self-admittedly bad artist, decide to tell the story of the search for the truth about the life of her maternal great-grandfather in graphic novel format rather than through the medium of film? just happen to be wondering. anyway, fleming sets off on this journey to learn more about her great-grandfather who was apparently a famous and influential magician of the vaudeville era, a contemporary of houdini. her research takes her through the states, to austria, china and australia, and slowly, piece by piece she is able to put together some understanding of who this man was. it is an interesting genealogical road trip that is told through captioned photographs and poorly drawn stick person characters. an interesting read. seems to tie in well with gene luen yang's "american born chinese" in terms of searching for cultural identity, or jason lute's "houdini: the handcuff king" in terms of a historical document regarding vaudeville era magicians. however, i prefer both yang and lute's work to fleming's.

Fool's Gold Volumes 1 and 2 - Amy Reeder Hadley

just got in fool's gold 2 at the library, but found that i had to go back and reread fool's gold 1 to remember what had happened. something like a year and a half had passed between publication of volume 1 and volume 2. how irritating. each volume in this series ends with a fairly major cliffhanger that makes you want to keep going onto the next one. however, if there continues to be such a long period of time between publication of volumes in this series this whole cliffhanger business is going to get old really fast.

that said, this really is a series worth reading. very girl power. basically, penny, high school fashion goddess extraordinaire, is angry that her best friend keeps falling for his one guy who treats her like dirt. when penny finally convinces katie to seriously dump the jerk, she decides to go on a crusade to rid her high school of jerks. or to at least severely inhibit their social lives and ability to get a date for friday night. she does this by starting a club of girls that meet under the guise of a geology club (it's so boring that they don't have to worry about anyone actually wanting to join.... wait wasn't this done in hartinger's "geography club"?). they label the jerks "pyrites" or "fool's gold" (hence the title) and then place a ban on dating said pyrites. it seems to work amazingly well, the jerks are miserable, the girls are happy and the quiet nerds are getting dates. but you know it can't stay all happily ever after. in volume 2 things are really starting to fall apart. not sure how long hadley plans to keep this series going, but that could effect what happens in volume 3.

read this one cause you enjoy girly comics. read it because penny is a great character. read it because hadley's character design and fashion design in the series really, really rocks.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 - Hiromu Arakawa

this is a series that i'm a little less familiar with. basically the story behind this one is that the two elric brothers (edward and alphonse) try to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. this is a forbidden use of alchemy, and apparently for good reason. rather than managing to bring back their mother as they knew her they bring back some sort of zombie creature that dies and edward loses an arm and a leg and alphonse loses his whole body. edward manages to save his brother by sealing his soul in an old suit of armour. now the two, who have become state alchemists, are on a search for the philosopher's stone that they plan to use to restore al's body and ed's missing limbs. of course along they way they get into many an adventure and mix-up. and remember, this is a manga series, so don't expect it to reach any sort of conclusion anytime soon. i mentioned in my review of the bleach manga that g. tends to prefer the anime to the manga. i tend to be a little indifferent, and quite frankly enjoy both. however, i find in fullmetal alchemist an exception to this. i actually prefer this one in manga to anime. in fact i think i will quit watching the anime and stick to reading the manga for this one.

Bleach Volume 1 - Tite Kubo

i've been on a bit of a manga kick. reading the first volumes from a few different series. in most cases it's largely re-reading. i also tend to watch the animes associated witht the mangas, so it's funny to see wherein the differences lie. g. was saying that he likes the animes better because mangas look too unfinished, like storyboards for the anime. probably cause it's just black and white and on newsprint.

well now, back to bleach. what a great series! ichigo is one of my favourite manga/anime characters of all time. bleach is largely ichigo's story. ichigo kurosaki is a high school student in japan. he's weird for a couple of reasons. one is that he's a redhead (ichigo means strawberry in japanese) which means he get picked on a lot. the other is that he's able to see ghosts. when shinigami (death god) rukia kuchiki comes to the human world to destroy a hollow (bad spirit) their paths become inextricably entwined. rukia is injured and so passes on her shinigami powers to ichigo. the first volume is largely ichigo coming to grips with his new powers and a vehicle to introduce the some of the major supporting characters. this is an action packed series with lots of sword fighting. ichigo is always scowling and is considered to be a bit of a bad-tempered punk, but he's really a stand-up guy.