The recent "Greatest Generation" wave seems to have been mostly focused on the Ground Forces- but the US Navy played a huge role in the war as well- eThe recent "Greatest Generation" wave seems to have been mostly focused on the Ground Forces- but the US Navy played a huge role in the war as well- effectively fighting a war on two fronts. This book covers that effort at the highest level- focusing on four famous admirals. The story starts with their graduation in the Naval Academy and works towards the Pacific.
Along the way, it gets into aspects of their character, and relationships - with the big becoming a useful study of the social aspect and behaviors of the pre-WWII Navy. Since the book covers senior officers, there is not a lot about the detailed battles- but a lot about the political fights, particularly between the Allies and different branches. General Douglas McCarther does NOT come out particularly well- but I gained tremendous respect for Nimitz. A lot of time of the staff officers is writing briefs for these meetings- similarly to any modern co-operation- but with the fate of nation's at stake.
For anyone who thinks of our soldiers as "warmongers", the book will challenge that presumption. You come very impressed with the intellectual capabilities of the Navy. Nimitz was for all purposes an Engineer who designed major changes in our submarines. King a master of history.
Lastly, the book handles the fortune of war. There are leaders who are incorrectly blamed for losses, or make the wrong impression on a Senior officer and banished to a lesser role. Many of these men lose sons and other relatives along the way, and a lot of classmates.
A good read for any history fan- particularly WWII- and any fan of American life....more
A got a chance to catch-up on recent non-fiction and this book had been in my eye for some time. The book focuses specifically on the workings and strA got a chance to catch-up on recent non-fiction and this book had been in my eye for some time. The book focuses specifically on the workings and structures of the Chinese Communist Party, which given modern times is a critical topic for anyone to understand- right after the American government. Unlike most books on China that either focus on economic events, or the dichotomy between a free-wheeling private sector and an overbearing public sector.- Richard McGregor focuses on the party, and portrays that the old coverage is false- the public and private sector in China are almost one and the same.
There is a lot on the machinations of the party, and how it's successfully replaced the Mao-style personality structure with a process- though sometimes hard-elbowed and brutal, for peaceful transitions. He also dives into details of how deep the Party pervades Chinese Society- the Military, the Media and even supposedly private corporations are all connected into a tentacled structure that points not to central government- but the Communist Party.
At the same time, he does a good job to show the nuances and very broad range of views and factions within the CCP. This is not the Soviet Union's Communist Party, or even Mao's. It's own that willingly embarked on the greatest capitalist experiment in modern times and embraces millionaires within it's structure. The party has jettisoned any idealogy- save preserving it's full power, and to do that it needs to deliver stability and economic growth.
The book was published right after the Financial Crisis if 2008 and the great recession- when China and the other BRIC's looked like a challenger brand to the developed economies. In this and other areas- the fast moving pace of events in China have made some of the book outdated. Xi Jinping has centralized power to a greater degree than the previous leadership, and China's "peaceful rise" policy has collapsed into a tangle of regional conflicts and claims with Japan, and Southeast Asia. But despite this, the book has become the guidebook for how China really functions.
The book covers a lot of great personalities - the corrupt officials, the honest- but brutal disclipine division of the party, the military and corporations. In addition are some great individuals- small court lawyers, historians and even party loyalists who become take on the system from a sense of social conscience that amaze you with their bravery.
The West often talks of China as a state in a process of becoming, and when democracy comes we can fully embrace- but the book gives you a sense of the CCP as a survivor, a lot more flexible than the Soviet version....more
I admit I didn't love this book. I picked it up after strong recommendations on several "Best Graphic Novels" lists, and of course loved the idea of cI admit I didn't love this book. I picked it up after strong recommendations on several "Best Graphic Novels" lists, and of course loved the idea of cats as weapons- but it kind of dissolved into generic hipster-ville- which a bunch of hummus eating protagonists fighting a big monster. Some of the other reviewers have compared it to Moebius and China Mieville - but I feel that insults those works and artists. The art is 70's NYC subway graffiti, the characters are forgettable.
It would have been a fun read in a used-bookstore, but I am reselling my near mint copy. Based on this I am avoiding Walrus by the same artist....more
A friend of mine whose graphic novel recommendations are usually on point showed this book. I like Brian Wood, I love dystopian sci-fi and I love NewA friend of mine whose graphic novel recommendations are usually on point showed this book. I like Brian Wood, I love dystopian sci-fi and I love New York City- so it looked like a slam dunk. Unfortunately it wasn't. First I struggled with the premise of a new american civil war- between a set of "free states" on the Jersey shore, and Brooklyn/Queens being held by the USA and Manhattan is a demilitarized one between them (DMZ- hence the title). The "Free States" are apparently a loose coalition of people against our pre-emptive wars, with the USA being the traditional government. First of all, the "next civil war" has been done time and again in US fiction- usually poorly- with the last attempt by Orson Scott Card in "Empire". Second- Manhattan as a lost DMZ was also done already in the classic "Escape From New York" - so the premise is neither original, nor plausible.
Making it worse are the characters - who for whatever cloned dystopian future they are in- are really proxies for standard New York City characters. Are hero is the classic white "post-college transplant who moved to New York to achieve his dreams" character. Another character is the "female of color native nurse or other person in the healing profession who has a nurturing but unrequited love interest" in the hero. And then within, 5 pages, who meet the "white ex-college love interest of our hero" who was out of reach- is now a reporter or something and our hero becomes her source within NYC. (actually this sounds a bit like Saturday Night Fever)
This is every geeky new york transplants wet dream. Move to NYC. Be accepted by the locals and become "cool"- show off to girl/boy they couldn't get in the hometown. You have seen this in sitcoms, indie films and if you live in NYC- probably lived some of it. Top that off with long descriptions of boiling water and other germ worries- and this book died out for me by page 15 or sooner.
It should be noted that I do seem to be an exception- the book gets good reviews and notoriety- but I found it pretty boilerplate- and I am a big fan of Brian Wood's work elsewhere. For a good historical fiction read- check out Northlanders. Pass on this. ...more
While I am a comic/graphic novel fan- I am not a big DC fan - finding there heroes too "emblematic" to be useful for the genre, in addition to sufferiWhile I am a comic/graphic novel fan- I am not a big DC fan - finding there heroes too "emblematic" to be useful for the genre, in addition to suffering from some plain silly villains. Take away the Joker, and the none of the DC villains have the gravitas and complexity of Marvel's Magneto, Dr. Doom and of course Galactus. Even Darkseid is a plain old "evil for the sake of evil" bad guy. The Joker is the exception that proves the rule, being evil for the pure love of utter chaos.
Even so, I do occasionally pick up an issue or two to check out life on the "other side" and ended up discovering the gem that is Batgirl. The original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, is a recovered wheelchair bound victim from a Joker caused injury (The Killing Joke)....more
Like a post-modern english lit major, I admittedly struggle to separate my appreciation of Y:The Last Man as an artistic work, from it's signature repLike a post-modern english lit major, I admittedly struggle to separate my appreciation of Y:The Last Man as an artistic work, from it's signature representation of the state of the graphic novel (what used to be called comics today)- for both good and bad.
Artistically- it's hard to argue against Y and the comics revue corp rarely has. It's the probably endpoint to the topic breakout started by Watchmen. Whereas that signature work helped announce that "comics are coming! comics are coming! and are good" to the outside world- it still stayed tied to the mainly American comic fascination with super-heroes. Yes, it critiqued it and modernized the super-hero- but it was still a superhero comic. And in all respect to Alan Moore- his work reads more sexist and well "white" as time goes on. While "Watchmen" has become the standard "look at what graphic novels can do" book to give to a non-fan, "Y" seems to have taken over many "best ever lists"
"Y"The Last Man" has no superheroes- it has a science fiction theme with a small "s", similar to the Inception of Sunshine of the Eternal Mind (or whatever that was called)- where a major sci-fi topic is in the background- but the focus is more on gender politics and character.
To start - without spoiling things, "Y" takes part in a world where all males have suddenly died, for all species, save 1 survivor. This concept is introduced quickly, and the rest of the series runs with that theme- but "Y" doesn't descend into "I am Legend" textbook survivalism. This is not your boring "read how to make a non-electrical water cooler" sci-fi textbook. Is really about the last man, Yorick Browne- the last male human, and Agent 355 - his bodyguard - as they travel across the world.
That story, the pacing and characters are great. Brian Vaughan is a master of snappy dialogue, and well realized characters. A series of fascinating developments are created, and the story moves quickly. For the most part- it stays in the world of the plausible- and I am actually happy that it didn't descend into long, boring details about how to rebuild society. While the series does delve into gender issues- it certainly reflects a mature view- women are surviving and coping, but also grieving. An additional touch is that Yorick himself is far from the ideal emblem of masculinity- traditional or metrosexual. He is infantile, sophomoric and, well annoying. But he is real and a lot of fun. As is the rest of the crew- Agent 355, Dr Mann, Yorick's sister etc. In all it's a great series- and could stand on it's own as a Cable Television series. Which is my main dislike.
Don't get me wrong, as an old comic book fan, it's great to see the medium finally getting the credit it deserves in the US- matching what it receives in Europe and Asia, but this seems to have led to "this is just my day job" phenomenon- where a lot of the best comic book writers seem to be using the medium as a way to break into hollywood. On the one hand, this has been great for the medium- dialogue has really taken a step forward in the hands of Mark Millar, Michael Bendis, etc. - but the structure has started to approach a TV series- with writers taking hiatus' to write their movie scripts. But while this has helped the corny purple prose of yesteryear, it also erased the long deep introspective thought clouds of Stan Lee or Chris Claremont, moments that took advantage of the textual nature of the medium. There is no window into the inner world of today's characters - and before this is bashed as amateurism- it was a technique used by Shakespeare and Proust (Adaptation aside). This sense of "graphic novel" as an HBO employment pitch also permeates "Fables" and a lot of the Vertigo line (DC's line of creator owned comics).
The difference stands out when comparing "Y" to "Watchmen". For all the critical praise, and a bad movie adaptation- Alan Moore's signature piece was an definitive attempt to create a graphic novel based on the legacy of comics and defeat any attempt to adopt it. The "Watchmen" is proud to be comic book- and for all of it's revolutionariness- it is an actual celebration of the genre- using comics for it's own sense of intertextuality and commentary. In other words, to really "get it"- you need to have been reading comics.
The end results, is that while "Y" is great, and I love it, much more than I like Watchmen- it feels resolutely "safe"- it's definitely targeting the mainstream - and staying within those bounds. It's certainly the comic to give people who don't read comics- but it's not the one that resolutely says it belongs to the medium. For the latter- I would point someone to "Bone" a work of heart, whimsy and affection - or to Jaime Hernandez "Locas", as two items that are strongly of the medium, by people who love the medium and for the medium of the graphic novel.
But given all that "Y:The Last Man" is a fixture on my shelf. The story is tight and well structured, and unlike a lot of graphic novel series- neither sputters out of control nor feels like a tying up of loose ends. It has one of the best endings I have ever read anywhere- definitely check it out....more
When Jean Giraud or Moebius passed away, the international "comic book" or "graphic novel" lost the last of the 4 great giants who shaped the medium ( When Jean Giraud or Moebius passed away, the international "comic book" or "graphic novel" lost the last of the 4 great giants who shaped the medium (the other three being Osamu Tezuka, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby)- geniuses who combined an innovative and unique look and feel, with a tremendous breadth of work. While American exposure to Moebius actual comic book work was limited- his overall effect in terms of design and mass media can't be understated - first through the translations of "Metal Hurlant" into "Heavy Metal"- but then coming to full fruition as designer for "Alien", "Tron", Blade Runner" and "The Fifth Element". Arguably, while the techno-fetish side of cyber-punk was influenced by Japanese Manga (Otomo's "Akira")- Giraud gave it the "film-noir" aspect. And of course- cyber-punk went and informed everything else.
To re-read The Incal- is to revisit and artist at his creative prime, working with his best life-long collaborator - Alejandro Jodorowsky. The result is a great visual jazz riff between the two. Moebius lays down sheet after of stunning visual layouts and details- while Jodorowsky's plot twists and turns keep you running with the momentum. Reading this now, 30 years after it's launch, a lot might seem familiar- the work influenced a lot of current science fiction - "the Fifth Element" and even the Matrix- but that's because this is the source material for what we see now.
TBH- a feel this piece time-travels a lot better than "The Watchmen" or "Dark Knight"- it maintains a fresh, vital take on the world around it.
Hopefully, more of Moebius work will finally make it to the US. In the meantime don't miss this....more
Bone is quite possibly an excellent example of what the American Books Industry would have become if Frederick Wertham hadn't started the mass panic iBone is quite possibly an excellent example of what the American Books Industry would have become if Frederick Wertham hadn't started the mass panic inducing anti-comic book hysteria with his book "The Seduction of the Innocent". That panic that ended with comics censoring themselves and eliminating everything but the superhero- casting comics into a critical ghetto for 40 years, and even then forcing it into a "superhero/anti-superhero" dichotomy that, in truth, intensified with The Watchmen and Dark Knight.
In many ways - Bone is the free-est piece of graphic literature in the US in years- bypassing the superhero curriculum and simultaneously embracing the Lord of The Rings, Carl Banks classic Disney comics of the 40's and 50's - and most importantly Walt Kelley's Pogo- with a bit of Calvin and Hobbes. The story is itself is epic, ranging from the intimate details within the characters- to standard epic fantasy= "fight the dark lord- save the world". But it's creator Jeff Smith never loses touch with the character's at it's heart, and a sense of whimsical fun, that drives the stories pace as much as the epic battles.
The story brews it's sense of evil not from adult crimes- but the fears we have as children, and it also embraces the hopes of childhood- without the ever descending into a Disney level of sanctimonious or corniness. In doing so, Bone actually comes across as simply audacious and singular- a child's tale for adults and children, with no commercial empire providing any backing.
On the art side, his storytelling is amazing, with some of the best sequences having no dialogue whatsoever. He shares with Jaime Rodriquez to always use the perfect, simple line to express a character and their emotion. Jim Lee and the new 52 breed please take note.
Bone has moved to the top of my list as a universal graphic novel classic- the one that I would give to someone interested in the genre and how good it can be.