Author Topic: Sam Reads Comics  (Read 15559 times)

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2015, 03:31:46 AM »
My recommendations :

The Ultimates V1 - I think you mentioned you read it in the AoU thread, but it's well worth a reread and a review
Fables - There are over 10 of them by now so I would recommend reading the first ones just to try it out (but I don't think you'll stop)
Watchmen - I think it's worth checking out for everyone who likes comics, Moore, superheroes or who has watched the movie. As a twist, you could do one of the Before Watchmen instead, in which case I would recommend Ozymandias or The Minutemen.
Invincible - I know you said you didn't like superhero stuff, but these are a delight. You'll be yearning for the expanded universe.
Something French - I get the feeling French comics (of which there are literally tons every year) don't make their way overseas. Among the best I count Blake and Mortimer (start with The Secret of the Swordfish), One Upon A Time in France (WWII story), Le Chat du Rabbin (humour) and of course the classics : Astérix, Tintin, Lucky Luke...

Can someone explain Sandman to me ? Is it a coherent universe or a bunch of unconnected stories under the same umbrella ?
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2015, 08:35:49 AM »
Sailor Twain



Folklore is one of those primal, all-transcending human experiences. All cultures and tribes have their own legends, stories, and tales of that which goes beyond human understanding, the unusual, bizarre, surreal, and fantastical. These legends often carry with them true weight and resonance, the stories themselves may seem silly, but behind them are powerful ideas that can tell us a lot about a culture.

Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain is simultaneously a book of folklore and an examination of folklore. The titular Sailor Twain, captain of a riverboat on the Hutson, tells the story and his own quest of examining folklore to understand his relationship with a mermaid. Running parallel to this story is the story of the boat’s owner: Lafayette, recently obtaining the boat after his brother, the previous owner, mysteriously drowns. Lafayette is on a far less intellectual mission, seeking to woo as many women at once as he possibly can.



What quickly becomes apparent about the story of Sailor Twain is how it uses the mythology of mermaids in order to explore concepts of love, desire, and sexuality. At first glance, it forces Sailor Twain to recon with these ideas as his marriage with his wife Pearl is rather placid. Not only is he often away, but she’s also an invalid.

Through this context, the mermaid is a representation of all the passion and desire Sailor Twain desires from his wife but cannot have because of both the distance from her and also because she is an invalid. In this way, mermaids are examined as a sort of fantasy of sailors in order to attempt satiate the desires they cannot completely fulfil at sea.


 
However, the mermaid is not simply an idea in the book but a flesh and blood character with her own motives. She drives men with a supernatural lust and there’s something perilous about her effect on men. This runs in parallel with Lafayette’s own quest for as many romances as possible, love and lust run rampant to the point that he is almost destroying himself for a desire he cannot sate. While this folklore flames a passion of love and sex, it also shows how those flames can consume ones being.
 
Within the narrative of the story, Sailor Twain seeks to understand the mermaid by pursuing the works of a mysterious author known as C.G. Beaverton. Beaverton’s latest book is the most popular work of fiction, speaking to the impact of folklore. Sailor Twain understands that there is something to be contemplated in folklore. They are not simply stories, but something that can guide and inform one’s life. 



And while Siegel’s writing weaves a rich spell with the fascinating look at folklore, his art also contributes a lot to the tone. The charcoal drawings fit perfectly into the setting of an industry-fueled city, a delightful choice given the riverboat setting. Many of Siegel’s images ooze with atmosphere, there’s an entire sense of haziness, an almost dreamlike quality that floats across every page.

If his artstyle has a weakness, it’s that Siegel’s detail isn’t always spot on. His drawings of faces, in particular, often shift in awkward ways and the titular character feels like he has the least visual definition of all the characters. At times, it’s so bad that only the characters referencing him as Twain make the reader aware that is whom they are viewing.

Even with that qualm, Sailor Twain is a gripping, memorable read. It’s strange that a book about folklore and love is written with such a fresh take, avoiding most of the clichés and tropes of the genre. The book develops more like a mystery story, unfolding and discovering the richness of folklore while celebrating in the same movement.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2015, 10:49:49 AM »
Astonishing X-Men (Whedon/Cassaday Run)



Note: This is a review of the first four volumes of Astonishing X-Men (2004): Gifted, Dangerous, Torn, and Unstoppable.

Picking up after the events of The Dark Phoenix Saga, Astonishing X-Men attempts to bring the group back together into something that resembles a team. Cyclops and Emma Frost run the school supported by Beast while Wolverine and Kitty Pride return to the school with some amount of skepticism. Tensions rise between the group, but when an alien known as Ord shows up, the group is forced to work together. 

As one would expect from the lead writer of shows like Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, Astonishing X-Men flourishes when it comes to character interactions. The rising tensions between the characters and the dialogue is smartly written. Whedon gets a lot of traction out of the characters and their conflicts.



Most notable is his treatment of Cyclops/Scott Summers. He’s often written as a boy-scout and a bit stuck up, and he’s still that way here. However, Whedon teases out his self-doubt and apprehensions while also recognizing the elements that make Scott worthy to be a leader. Even in spite of those apprehensions, Scott has a level head and often doesn’t jump to conclusions.

However, where the book starts to unravel is the absolutely abysmal plotting. The series starts with the Ord threat, but then shifts to a new threat when everyone discovers that a “cure” has been developed for the mutants. Only an issue or two after this idea is introduced, it’s shuffled away for another plot altogether.



The Danger Room becomes a sentient robot that wants to kill all the X-men, a new version of the Hellfire Club is using Emma Frost to infiltrate the school, and an organization known as S.W.O.R.D. is attempting to deal with Ord. While in and of themselves, none of these are particularly bad plot strings, the way Whedon organizes them makes for this jumbled, unfocused flow where the story schizophrenically jumps from one to the other.

It’s also disappointing that the book never quite seems to decide what it wants to be. The long running X-Men series is notable for its social commentary on the marginalized, and Whedon teases that idea here before crafting an action adventure decontextualized from the larger world. It’s disappointing to get a strong sense of world context only to have it all tossed away for a mind-numbing action-heavy book.



If that sounds like criticizing the book for what it isn’t, it’s more of a criticism that the book does a bait and switch that results in something Whedon’s not great at writing. As big action comics go, there are many comic writers who do a better job of making epic, intergalactic stories. Whedon works better in more personal contexts and the more he gets into an intergalactic storyline, the less interesting the book becomes.

On the art side of the book there’s not as much to say simply because Cassaday’s art is a lot more consistent and stronger than Whedon’s writing. As an artist, Cassaday’s strength is in drawing characters. His background can sometimes be a bit too simplistic, but those make his character designs stand out even more. And it’s the use of colors and the way he makes the tones and hues play off each other that brings everything to life.

As superhero comic books go, Astonishing X-Men is weak. While there’s some great character interactions, the storyline is not there. Great characters can only go so far in a weak story, and the story here only becomes weaker and weaker with each passing issue. It’s never bad, but its glimmers of greatness only make the overall result of mediocrity that more disappointing.


DarkeningHumour

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2015, 11:06:31 AM »

Picking up after the events of The Dark Phoenix Saga, Astonishing X-Men attempts to bring the group back together into something that resembles a team. Cyclops and Emma Frost run the school supported by Beast while Wolverine and Kitty Pride return to the school with some amount of skepticism. Tensions rise between the group, but when an alien known as Ord shows up, the group is forced to work together. 


Rectification : Astonishing picks up after Planet X, not Dark Phoenix, event though they both end with Jean dying -not that Jean doesn't always die.

I agree the plot is nowhere near as good as is often lauded, but I felt it was mostly because paradigm-shifting events (or at least events that should have been paradigm-shifting) are repetitively slingshot at the readers and resolved in a few issues and then swept under the rug when they should have decades-spanning consequences. I am thinking specifically of the mutant cure.
I am also not a fan of how Marvel casually introduces a new alien species to use it for a few volumes and then seldom ever mention it again.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #24 on: June 10, 2015, 09:06:33 AM »
Criminal: Lawless



After starting the series with the unusual and refreshing Coward, Lawless treads on more familiar grounds in the criminal world. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips still find a way to craft their own brand of noir-infused crime while playing with a lot of clichés of the genre.

Tracy Lawless is about as rough as you can get. After being convicted for a crime, he decides to join the army instead of doing jail time. Upon returning home decades later, he discovers that his brother Ricky died during his last crime job. Posing as a driver looking for a heist, Tracy decides to infiltrate his brother’s own crew and find his brother’s killer.
 


Playing on the primal quest for vengeance, Tracy is given a tiny bit of the moral high-ground as someone seeking to satisfy the laws of justice. However, Brubaker from the onset makes Tracy a despicable character. His introduction as a character is killing a man for no apparent reason other than that he disgusts Tracy. The audience still wants Tracy to bring his brother to justice, but at no point is there any delusions about Tracy being a good person.

By setting the context of this quest for vengeance within the family, Lawless becomes a backdrop for exploring how criminal life and tendencies are often perpetuated through family. The titular family name is a family of violence and crime. Tracy and Ricky’s father was a violent man and Tracy only escapes Ricky’s dark, violent downward spiral through his life in the army, which allows him for a more controlled, directed expression of violence.



What’s radical and shocking about this examination of the criminal world is the burden of guilt and remorse placed upon these reprehensible characters. The moral weight of the acts committed by these characters weigh upon them and begin tearing away at their psyche. As perverted as it sounds, violence is a temporary release from this moral weight.

Lawless is a morally complicated, conflicted book. It’s a world full of reprehensible characters, but also characters that are broken and ooze with human fragility. These are not the cool, emotionless antiheroes of the movies, but the flawed heroes of Greek tragedies.



Of note on the art side is Val Staples taking over as the colorist. While Val takes many cues from Elizabeth’s color style from Coward, the colors are a bit less of the sickly hues that made Coward as uneasy and unsettling. It still has a similar effect, but it’s not quite as jarring and dramatic as Coward’s look.

Lawless isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, but as a continuation of the series, it’s an excellent book. The way it plays on tropes of the genre but evolves into something more complex and sympathetic creates for a crime story that is far more human and compelling that the standard fare. 

philip918

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #25 on: June 17, 2015, 03:26:27 PM »
I picked up Criminal and Lawless after getting completely hooked on Fatale. Agree with your assessment. I actually barely remember what happens in Lawless and just read it a couple months ago.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #26 on: July 14, 2016, 03:29:52 PM »
I babble on about digital vs. physical, comics and the works of Matt Kindt:


oldkid

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #27 on: August 17, 2016, 12:16:52 AM »
I'm just catching up with these reviews now.

Bone is my favorite graphic novel... well, Bone and Sandman... and you hit it spot on.  Now I have to read it again.  But if I pick it up, then my daughters will insist that I read it out loud because that is our favorite read-aloud book.

Maybe I will pick it up.  I love Bone.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #28 on: August 17, 2016, 11:19:29 AM »
Bone is wonderful stuff. I'm on the fence about buying it because my library already has it.

I need to bring this thread back. I'm currently working through Rachel Rising, so I'm hoping I have enough thoughts to write something decent about that.

oldkid

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Re: Sam Reads Comics
« Reply #29 on: August 18, 2016, 01:19:21 AM »
Yes.  Yes, you do.
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