Do I even have to tell anyone that this is an incredible book? It's a serious, important kind of a novel, and yet the main thrust, the entire point, oDo I even have to tell anyone that this is an incredible book? It's a serious, important kind of a novel, and yet the main thrust, the entire point, of it is that escapism is just as important and meritorious as any other kind of art. Truly, it is a book for me. What's more, Chabon is the kind of writer who can fill a book with those "oh my God, I wish I'd written that sentence" moments.
The only problem is the ending, and it's not that said ending is bad, per se. However, since the book has no real plot to speak of, and simply follows the lives of it's major characters for a good period of time, there isn't really any perfect point at which it should conclude. And so it just kinda ends... at the most fitting point possible, but it still feels as thought it simply stops.
That aside, a novel fully deserving of all the praise that's heaped upon it....more
Another great Hard Case Crime book, with alot more depth of character than in most of them. The big twist became obvious a bit too soon, but that neveAnother great Hard Case Crime book, with alot more depth of character than in most of them. The big twist became obvious a bit too soon, but that never really bothers me much in a book....more
As a big fan of the character and the genre, I was surprisingly disappointed. All the blatant attempts to update the character and shoehorn the storyAs a big fan of the character and the genre, I was surprisingly disappointed. All the blatant attempts to update the character and shoehorn the story into every version of Zorro mythology could have been overlooked if the writing hadn't so often abandoned dialogue for narration in times where the former would have worked better. I'd love to give this a more in-depth treatment, but since I don't feel like reading it again......more
At times an immensely confusing book, Chandler himself is said to have had no idea who committed one of the novel's murders--but a classic of the genrAt times an immensely confusing book, Chandler himself is said to have had no idea who committed one of the novel's murders--but a classic of the genre nonetheless....more
The From the Ashes period. Some beautiful work in here, as far as writing and art. It's here that my (much scoffed at by others) love of Cyclops as aThe From the Ashes period. Some beautiful work in here, as far as writing and art. It's here that my (much scoffed at by others) love of Cyclops as a character really grew....more
This volume has what is, essentially, the best superhero comic book story ever. It loses some of its significance these days, due to how cliche alot oThis volume has what is, essentially, the best superhero comic book story ever. It loses some of its significance these days, due to how cliche alot of it has become in the interim, but alot started here....more
The early years of the X-Men cause a lot of consternation for comics fans, I think. So much of what makes the X-Men a great series is there, but unlikThe early years of the X-Men cause a lot of consternation for comics fans, I think. So much of what makes the X-Men a great series is there, but unlike other Stan Lee creations from the period, so very much of it is not.
A lot has been said about these early years already, so I'm not going to expound on the corny dialogue, goofy villains, inconsistent characterization, or sexism (although that last one wasn't as bad as I expected) -- you can find others writing about that stuff everywhere. But reading these comics one more time was a very interesting experience: years ago, I came to these early stories already a fan of the X-Men's 70s and 80s heyday, so this time around I was already quite aware of the big differences between what's here and what comes later. This helped me to be more aware of smaller things, which was kind of fascinating.
Honestly, I wrote a fuck-ton of status updates on it, so just scroll down to those and you'll get a pretty good review as is, I think. Nonetheless, what stood out to me the most this time was the nuance (purposeful or not) of the "mutant as oppressed minority" theme. See, in past reads of this early stuff, it seemed that that particular subtext, so important to the X-Men mythos, was pretty much absent. This time around, it actually turned out to be more prevalent than I'd previously thought.
Well, maybe "prevalent" isn't the word. It doesn't stand out much in the early stories because it isn't much there, but the way in which it insidiously weaves itself into the background is just about the most mid-20th century Jewish thing ever. What I mean is, our heroes can pass, and as such they, for the most part, don't come up against much real bigotry. Oh sure, they're told by Professor X that humans may hate and distrust mutants, but we see no real proof of it. Over the first spate of issues, it's a possibility hanging somewhere in the background, referenced by the Professor as a possible problem, referenced by Magneto as a reason to strike first (and this is the early, pretty much entirely evil Magneto), and seen most explicitly in a flashback to Scarlet Witch in The Old Country. It's something that hangs over our heroes' heads, something that they know exists, and know can be turned against them, but which isn't readily visible. In this way, despite the early 60s timeframe, it really seems to reflect the bigotry that the creators were most accustomed to, at least at first. (Of course, the beauty of the X-Men concept is that, in the end, anybody can see their alienation in it, so I'm not saying that this is the only reading one can get from it.)
The first time one of our mutant heroes is directly on the receiving end of prejudice, in issue #8, it's Beast (the most lovable of the original team? probably). And, after being chased by a mob, he doesn't react in the gracious way so typical to the X-Men and their way of looking at the world. No, he flips the fuck out, yells at Cyclops:
I'm through risking my life for humans... for the same humans who fear us, hate us, want to destroy us! I think Magneto and his Evil Mutants are right... Homo Sapiens just aren't worth it! .... If the human race is gonna be my enemy -- fine! But I'll make the rules for my next fight!
Then he storms out and quits the X-Men. Of course, he's back by the end of the issue, but it's a pretty stark and hateful response for a superhero in the early 60s. It is also, of course, a totally believable and understandable reaction, and to see it come from the most level-headed (or almost anyway -- watching Jean flip out like that would've been amazing!) of the X-Men makes it all the stronger.
Strangely enough, near the end of the book it's Roy Thomas who really makes the "X-Men as outcasts" thing explicit. I say strange, because at the same time he stops pairing them with villains that relate to the mutant question in any way, instead using some really boring and silly no-name antagonists. He certainly borrows a page from the "Spider-Man: MENACE!" playbook in making them such, but that he has them framed for two different crimes and never really absolved in the eyes of the public or the government is pretty damn daring, and of course goes on to fuel anti-mutant feelings, even if we're still quite a way from the threats of the later Chris Claremont years.
Also: fun adventure, awesome Jack Kirby art, watching great characters begin to solidify, Professor X being a massive asshole, and making fun of beatnik culture. All in all, it's hard to say how much of this book is "good" and how much is "historically important" but then the two start to melt together and it doesn't much matter....more