Two things got me through this book: 1) my audiobook app's 2x speed feature, and 2) spite.
Cronin basically abandons horror and suspense here. The maiTwo things got me through this book: 1) my audiobook app's 2x speed feature, and 2) spite.
Cronin basically abandons horror and suspense here. The main story-line feels like a dull action movie, with machine guns and explosions and even the requisite leveling of a major city, just like in every franchise action or superhero movie you've seen in the last decade. The extended flashback is an even duller campus novel (!) which culminates in the shocking revelation that the Big Bad's motivation for 100 years of terror is...heartbreak. If his college crush hadn't chosen the more charismatic guy over quiet, sensitive him, this whole vampire apocalypse never would have happened! Blech.
The Twelve already killed all affection I had for the series' main characters, so all I could focus on this time around was the terrible dialog and the trite, sentimental messaging about love and faith. Of course, the stuff that really bothered me was the ending, so SPOILERS from here on out...
First, we get the Everybody Goes To Their Own Personal Heaven ending, which is an extended rehash of the worst part of The Twelve. Even Fanning (in life a murderer and attempted rapist, in after-life, a vampire responsible for the violent deaths of billions) gets a happy ending where he can hang out on a beach forever with his true love. Why? Cronin seems to think that he's created an antagonist who is tragic and intriguing and deserving of some reader sympathy. He hasn't.
Then, we flash-forward 980 years into the future and....human culture and language are the same, as though these things were frozen in amber. There's even a university where the new boring protagonist gives a powerpoint presentation (!!!) about everything we just read. Then we spend about 50 pages on his divorce and his professional troubles and his new girlfriend. 980 years into the future, and this is what Cronin focuses on! Then our New Boring Protagonist goes to the Oregon cabin and gives Sad Immortal Amy his permission to die. The end. I feel like a sucker for enjoying The Passage. ...more
The "edgy" antisocial vibe hasn't aged particularly well, but the art is timeless. Otomo draws bodies in motion better than any other cartoonist I canThe "edgy" antisocial vibe hasn't aged particularly well, but the art is timeless. Otomo draws bodies in motion better than any other cartoonist I can think of, and the extended chase sequence in the middle of this volume is an absolute masterpiece. I'm excited to keep reading this series, and hoping it develops more of the political/moral/emotional weight that's hinted at underneath the layers of nihilist chic. ...more
A riff on the old "Quirky Teacher Inspires a Class of Misfits to Believe In Themselves and Each Other" plot. The gimmick/twist here is that the quirkyA riff on the old "Quirky Teacher Inspires a Class of Misfits to Believe In Themselves and Each Other" plot. The gimmick/twist here is that the quirky and inspirational teacher is a tentacle monster that's destined to destroy the Earth on Graduation Day, and he(?) is training his students to assassinate him before that happens.
This book takes both the "Teamwork and Learning" plot and the "Oh My God We Have to Kill This Terrifying Tentacle Monster" plot just seriously enough to keep readers interested, and there's lots of fun visual jokes thrown in for good measure. Overall, the art is workmanlike but appealing. I don't know if I care enough to continue this series (it's one of those Shonen Manga with like 20-odd volumes), but I am glad that it exists. ...more
These are stories about money. Having it. Wanting it. Hating it. Spending it. Losing it. Going crazy over it. Scrooge emerges as a complicated charactThese are stories about money. Having it. Wanting it. Hating it. Spending it. Losing it. Going crazy over it. Scrooge emerges as a complicated character; someone who came from nothing, sacrificed his happiness to get rich, and is now totally neurotic about money. Occasionally he glimpses at alternate modes of life where money is not the most important thing, but he always ends up back in his money bin at the end of the adventure. Donald acts as his comic foil, a rube forever getting duped into get-rich-quick schemes. The youngest ducks are the obvious role models here - they work hard and they always demand that their uncles pay them a fair share for their labor.
The sociopolitical elements are fascinating (and others have written much more thoroughly and intelligently about them than I have), but these are still primarily adventure comics. As works in this genre, they are very good, but they don't quite match the level of the best "Donald Duck" comics. The flat 2 x 4 grid Barks uses throughout this collection does not serve the stories as well as the lively page layouts he experimented with in "Donald Duck" stories like "Vacation Time." Some of the art, too, looks a little rushed compared to Barks' usual high standards....more
Dave Klein is having trouble sleeping. When he's not at his usual gig as the commander of LAPD's vice squad, he's working around the clock as a slumloDave Klein is having trouble sleeping. When he's not at his usual gig as the commander of LAPD's vice squad, he's working around the clock as a slumlord, an extortionist, and a mafia hit-man. The Feds are circling his whole dirty department, and his Chief of Detectives (Edmund Exley, making a return appearance) is setting him up to draw heat. Plus, his new partner is acting mighty suspicious, and this peeping tom case they're working keeps reminding Dave of the incestuous feelings he has for his sister...
The first three L.A. Quartet novels start out as hard-boiled crime novels before ramping up the Grand Guignol elements. Book 4 is an operatic nightmare from page one. Klein is the baddest in Ellroy's long line of bad cops. His story arc isn't about a fall from grace or a road to redemption. It's about a hard man losing his edge, finally worn down by years of violence. It's a fitting conclusion to the series.
At different points in the novel, Klein acts as stand-in for both the author and the reader. He has numerous chances to run away and save himself, but he stays in his poisonous environment because he is compelled to learn its secrets ("Tell me everything" is his mantra). Like any reader of pulp mysteries, he knows this stuff isn't necessarily good for him, but he just has to know what happens next. The famous final lines ("Tell me anything. Tell me everything. Revoke our time apart. Love me fierce in danger") are ostensibly written from Klein to a woman, but they could just as easily be Ellroy addressing his own creation: this monstrous, seductive version of L.A. to which he keeps returning.
Where L.A. Confidential was a sprawling thing, with tangents and subplots and blind alleys, White Jazz is dense to a fault. Everything and everyone is intimately connected, and the body count is so high that its difficult to keep track of who murders who, and why. There's also a weird sense of floating geography. Characters just kinda show up at spots where they are needed for the plot. Ellroy's telegrammatic prose (in "L.A. Confidential" he used this trick mostly for stakeouts and action sequences, here, it's on almost every page) creates a sense of you-are-there immediacy, but it also adds to the confusion. I just finished this book, and if you asked me to explain specific plot points, I couldn't do it.
Of course, the Hell-On-Earth vibe of this series is more important than plot mechanics, and White Jazz has that in spades. It's not my favorite of the Quartet (The Black Dahlia is still tops in my book; I'd say this ties for second with The Big Nowhere), but it is a damn good read if you, like Ellroy and Klein, are compelled to learn awful secrets.
"Island" is a new oversized anthology series edited by Emma Ríos and Brandon Graham. It showcases work on the more experimental end of the current Ima"Island" is a new oversized anthology series edited by Emma Ríos and Brandon Graham. It showcases work on the more experimental end of the current Image Comics spectrum. These aren't quite the capital-A "Art Comics" you'd find in a Fantagraphics anthology, but they are definitely more surreal and idiosyncratic than "The Walking Dead" or "Saga" (and I love Saga).
In the first issue, Marian Churchland provides interstitial material. Emma Rios writes and draws a sci-fi comic about body swapping and civil unrest (it's good) and illustrates a lovely personal essay by her Pretty Deadly collaborator Kelly Sue DeConnick (it's good too). Brandon Graham provides a new chapter in his on-going amiable ramble through a pun-filled fantasy universe ("Multiple Warheads"), and new (to me) cartoonist Ludroe delivers "Dagger-Proof Mummy," a street-art inspired comic about urban decay, the magic power of actually landing skateboard tricks, and a mummy vigilante that's impervious to daggers (duh). Everything here is fun, weird, and crafted with excessive amounts of care by people who all clearly give a damn. I'm excited to shell out money for Issue Two. ...more
My favorite of the three Abbott books I've read thus far. An intimate psychological portrait of a 13-year-old girl, and a creepy look at the ways sociMy favorite of the three Abbott books I've read thus far. An intimate psychological portrait of a 13-year-old girl, and a creepy look at the ways society "grooms" young girls into believing that it is their duty to fulfill men's every need and want. ...more
"The Land of Black Gold" - More notable for its context than its contents. It was started before WWII, but not published until after the war ended. Th"The Land of Black Gold" - More notable for its context than its contents. It was started before WWII, but not published until after the war ended. The villain is an evil German scientist/mercenary, which might explain why it wasn't completed or published during the Nazi occupation. The story derives its poignancy from the fact that Tintin is attempting to stop a war before it occurs. The comic itself is not one of Tintin's better adventures; it feels both disjointed and by-the-numbers, though there is some decent slapstick, and the Emir's bratty son is pretty funny. Depiction of Arab culture is more respectful than in previous volumes (and the "real" bad guy is German), but some of the visual caricaturing is still pretty damn racist.
"Destination Moon" - Captures the post-war period well, with the threat of nuclear weapons and the promise of space exploration hanging in the air. Some gorgeous artwork (that rocket ship!) and some fun Marx Brothers-eque bits with Thomson & Thompson, but this is just a warm up to the next story...
"Explorers on the Moon" - Tintin's biggest adventure, and maybe his best. Thrilling, funny, whimsical, and beautifully drafted. Along with "The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure" this is the one Tintin story that I would recommend to anyone. ...more
This is Lehane's swing at a sweeping historical epic. It takes place in Boston in 1918 through the Red Summer of 1919, culminating in the Boston PolicThis is Lehane's swing at a sweeping historical epic. It takes place in Boston in 1918 through the Red Summer of 1919, culminating in the Boston Police Strike. The primary POV characters are Danny, an Irish cop whose growing class-consciousness puts him at odds with his family's dreams of respectability, and Luther, a Black former baseball player on the run from some dangerous people from his past.
The historical aspects of the book are its most impressive and interesting. Lehane demonstrates how 1918-1919 were seminal years that shaped the current U.S. in deep ways. He incorporates the Influenza epidemic, the Red Scare, the rise of the AFL and the NAACP, and the early days of the FBI into his narrative in ways that feel wholly natural. Even the interludes with Babe Ruth feel of-a-piece with the rest of the novel, as they track Babe's rise from poverty to fame and fortune while the rest of the working class revolts.
When the narrative finally reaches the point of the Police Strike, Lehane renders it in a way that is surreal, thrilling, and horrifying. He alternates between on-the-ground action and the behind-the-scenes scheming of the police commissioner, mayor, and Governor Calvin Coolidge, giving you a complete sense of a city thrown into chaos.
Where Lehane falters is in his characterizations. The character of Danny is defined entirely by his central political dispute with his family. There's very little subtext here - Lehane tells us exactly what all his characters are thinking at all times, and in case you missed it, they often have clunky conversations that recap the novel's major themes. This type of literalism works in the shorter, tightly-structured novels that Lehane has had most of his success, but in a sprawling historical novel like this, it feels out of place. 700 pages is too long a time to spend with characters that are understood so simply. ...more
King isn't interested in conspiracy theories or Camelot or Cold War geopolitics. He's barely interested in time travel mechanics and alternate historiKing isn't interested in conspiracy theories or Camelot or Cold War geopolitics. He's barely interested in time travel mechanics and alternate histories. This book is more about him exploring his love/hate feelings towards the time of his childhood (a large portion of the book revisits Derry 1958, the setting of his biggest statement on 1950's nostalgia), and telling an extremely King-like story about an high school English teacher (surprise, surprise) up against incomprehensible forces. As far as these things go, it's a well-told King story, but it feels weirdly small and unambitious for a book of this size. I enjoyed it throughout, but I had a definite feeling of "Is that it?" when it was over. ...more
This is probably closer to 3.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because one of the characters lives in my old apartment building. The rooftop pool is stillThis is probably closer to 3.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because one of the characters lives in my old apartment building. The rooftop pool is still open, but the state shut down the prison it overlooks last year.
I'm grading on a curve here. The plot is a lazy and predictable re-working of old Western tropes, the female characters exist just to throw themselvesI'm grading on a curve here. The plot is a lazy and predictable re-working of old Western tropes, the female characters exist just to throw themselves at the protagonist, and Pelecanos still writes the most cringe-inducing sex scenes this side of a self-published "50 Shades of Gray" knockoff. The writing often devolves into lists of food, beer, fashion, book, movie, and music recommendations. Sometimes this is fun - Pelecanos has great taste in this stuff. Other times, it's embarrassing. I love The Hold Steady, but the scene where two people who've never met quote lines from a six-year-old Hold Steady album track to one another is awkward as hell.
So why the three stars? Pelecanos' detailed, affectionate descriptions of D.C. and Montgomery County will never cease to make me happy. He captures everyday life and culture of the DMV so well, from Go-Go music and people complaining about Dan Snyder, to the diverse mix and clash of people from different national, ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The passages focusing on the protagonist's loving multi-racial family and the camaraderie between haunted Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are the novel's best. A different, much better book could be built by expanding those scenes and ditching the haphazard Elmore Leonard-lite plot. ...more
Barks at his very best. "Unca Donald" makes for a hilariously fallible American Everyman. He constantly pursues money or leisure, and he never finds eBarks at his very best. "Unca Donald" makes for a hilariously fallible American Everyman. He constantly pursues money or leisure, and he never finds either. Occasionally he tries altruism (the title story) or Lawful Evil ("The Golden Helmet"), but he doesn't have much success at those either. Barks' good-natured cynicism find a perfect match in the rollicking page layouts (those bent panels!) and the expressive, joyful caricaturing. ...more
Red Rackham's Treasure - Published during the Nazi occupation. Herge was forced to abandon the political intrigues of his previous comics. He respondeRed Rackham's Treasure - Published during the Nazi occupation. Herge was forced to abandon the political intrigues of his previous comics. He responded by turning to pure, joyful escapism. There's no bad guys, or even any conflict, really. Just straight-up adventure on (and under) the high seas. The cartooning is Herge's best to-date, with the submarine's design and the pirate flashbacks among the many visual highlights. The story's conclusion ("the real treasure was in our home all along!") is a little hokey, but I imagine it gave great comfort to children at the time.
The Seven Crystal Balls - An excellently-plotted, "Sherlock Holmes"-inspired mystery. The racial politics are a little odd (not a surprise in a Tintin comic); Herge pleads for his European readers to respect the culture and traditions of indigenous Peruvians, all while depicting indigenous Peruvians as murderers and kidnappers.
The Prisoners of the Sun - The sequel to The Seven Crystal Balls, in which Haddock, Snowy, and Tintin actually go to the Amazon. An exciting and hard-boiled adventure comic with rock-climbing, crocodiles, and the like. The same muddled racial politics carry over from before; Herge is obviously fascinated with Quichua culture, dress, and tradition, but that doesn't stop him from depicting the Quichua as violent and easily-duped antagonists. The ending, in which Tintin tricks the tribal leaders into believing he can control the solar eclipse, is particularly bone-headed. ...more
Fiffe applies an anarchic, anything-can-happen indie comix sensibility to this tribute to 1980's Big Two comics. I've never read the Ostrander/Yale SuFiffe applies an anarchic, anything-can-happen indie comix sensibility to this tribute to 1980's Big Two comics. I've never read the Ostrander/Yale Suicide Squad run that this most closely references, but I've read enough Claremont, Miller, and Simonson (Walter and Louise) to dig the general angst-ridden vibe. Fiffe is soley responsible for every aspect of Copra's art, writing, and design. He brings a sense of endless enthusiasm and creativity to the project, and you can witness him getting bolder and more skilled at his craft over the course of these first six issues. ...more
The stories in the middle (which Barks drew but didn't write) are entertaining trifles, and the bookends (written and drawn by the man himself) run frThe stories in the middle (which Barks drew but didn't write) are entertaining trifles, and the bookends (written and drawn by the man himself) run from very good to absolutely great. "Vacation Time," "The Magic Hourglass" and the title story are the best of the bunch - funny, adventurous, a little bit wise, and just plain beautiful to look at. ...more
Another trip to Ellroy's fever-dream rendition of Post-War Los Angeles. This time the prose is sharper and the story (and the body count) is bigger thAnother trip to Ellroy's fever-dream rendition of Post-War Los Angeles. This time the prose is sharper and the story (and the body count) is bigger than before. The trio of Very Bad Men at the novel's center are Ellroy's most well-defined and compelling yet. The horror, guilt, and paranoia is still present from The Black Dahlia and The Big Nowhere. There's also a new focus on ambition: the costs (to self and others) of prestige and material gain, and the even greater costs of redemption after the fall. The epigraph says it all: "A glory that costs everything and means nothing." A protagonists' prayer mid-way through the novel hammers the point home: "Safe passage for ruthless men in love."
I know this is many (most?) people's favorite of the L.A. Quartet, but I liked it slightly less than either of its preceding two novels. The size and the sprawl of the story means that there are some back alleys and tangents that don't connect as well as others, and the serial killer stuff is largely a retread of The Big Nowhere. Ellroy handles serial killers better than most writers - he treats them not as isolated psychos, but as symptoms of a sick society, aided and abetted by institutional rot and our own lack of empathy - but there's two different serial killer subplots here, and neither is appreciably different or better than that of The Big Nowhere. Female characters are never Ellroy's strong suit (they're almost always victims and/or symbols of redemption), but with the expanded length of this novel, I wish he'd spent a little more time developing Inez, Karen, and Lynn. The three of them are entirely defined by their relationships with the male protagonists, and Karen and Lynn are pathologically forgiving of their partner's faults.
Despite these faults, this is still a cut above almost any other crime novel. Ellroy's books are braver, crazier, more ambitious, more operatic, and flat-out better than their peers. ...more