A touching story of parental neglect and isolation leading to loneliness, friendship and compassion. With monsters. If George R. R. Martin had written...moreA touching story of parental neglect and isolation leading to loneliness, friendship and compassion. With monsters. If George R. R. Martin had written it, it would have ended with blood and black magic. Sometimes, though, people arrive at good ends despite bad beginnings.
The artwork reminded me a lot of Maurice Sendak's work on Where the Wild Things Are, though this story is a bit more complex.(less)
Still strong, Usagi Yojimbo maintains its high quality over a long run. It's interesting to see the influences in Sakai's creation. He clearly was inf...moreStill strong, Usagi Yojimbo maintains its high quality over a long run. It's interesting to see the influences in Sakai's creation. He clearly was influenced by Aragones, as he worked with the man for years on Groo, and this influence is most clearly seen in wide shots of crowd scenes, which look almost identical to Aragones' work. But in this volume, in the story following Chizu called "Escape!," I was struck by a similarity to Herge's work on Tintin: in several frames, Sakai uses the bottom of the frame as the floor for the characters, as if we are viewing them in a diorama. It's fun reading, and Sakai continues to impress me with his ability to engage me so well with such a variable art style, which goes from cartoonish to very serious and back again, sometimes on the same page. Of course, this is very much a manga style, so completely appropriate, even if the line work of the cartoons in very Western (again, a lot like Aragones' line work).
We follow a lot of characters here: Gen, Usagi, Hebi (I always want more of this hideous snake villain), Chizu, Kitsune, Kagemaru, Kimi, and even the demon "instrument of the Gods." Like any good comic with a long run (or a favorite hero of oral tradition), Sakai makes all these storylines work together well.(less)
I found this to be a pleasant surprise: a children's novel with a number of atypical choices, enough so that it felt nothing like a typical "turn the...moreI found this to be a pleasant surprise: a children's novel with a number of atypical choices, enough so that it felt nothing like a typical "turn the crank, produce another book according to formula" juvenile fiction story. I've railed about this in many other reviews, but the thinking in children's fiction for the last eighty years or so has been that the writer has to get the parents out of the way in order for the children to have adventures, as the parents would obviously protect the children from any danger if they were present. This is a device that almost every children's author uses, and usually the reason for the parents' absence (car crash, divorce, alien abduction) is tossed off at the beginning and rarely revisited. It's what "A Series of Unfortunate Events" was parodying. While Mathilda's father is absent in Handbook for Dragon Slayers, this book joins the ranks of the very, very few children's books (I'm looking at you, A Wrinkle in Time!) to actually incorporate the parent's absence into an integral part of the protagonist's character development.
Handbook for Dragon Slayers is set in 12th century Germany. Mathilda's father has left for a Crusade and never returned. As events play out in the novel, Mathilda finally comes to recognize her father's actions (which she is imitating) as selfish, and so learns something about herself and grows a bit, able not only to see herself in a positive light, but to consider the welfare of others. This is a big deal, because the dominant reality in Mathilda's life is that she was born with a hideous deformity of her right leg. Living in a Dark Ages Christian world where many superstitions are actually real (the Fae, magic, curses and the like), she is naturally shunned as her deformity is the manifestation of some inherent wickedness, or perhaps just the outcome of some evil of her parents. Her mother has done a yeoman's job of shielding Mathilda from most of this, but the girl is aware of it nonetheless, especially because the pain of her twisted body is never far from her. One of her favorite respites is to escape into books, particularly reading the lives of the saints as well as classic pagan Greek and Roman authors (which would have been the majority of any library in the 12th century, aside from the Bible itself). As she is close to useless for most active work, Mathilda is trained to do any sort of book work: balancing the ledgers and other accounting, as well as lots of scribe work, as all books are copied by hand (Gutenberg being two hundred years in the future). Haskell provides a lot of detail about books and scribing - in general she provides a wealth of detail about medieval life - in a refreshingly matter-of-fact way that avoids being didactic. As a teen, Mathilda is naturally self-centered, and she has her deformity that turns her even more inward. Between the saints, the pagans, her daily routine and the rest of her thought life, I was very entertained by her first-person perspective monologue, and that's even before the magical stuff.
Mathilda lives in a world where all the magic of folklore is real, so inevitably she encounters it in her travels. The stakes are raised several times, and frequently the plot developments surprised me with their unpredictability. I can't properly express how delighted I am with a children's book that can surprise me at this point. I highly recommend this one for that and all the other things that I've described.(less)
This is a comic book series "inspired" by The Little Prince, which is sure to get a lot of people's danders up, seeing as how that book is almost univ...moreThis is a comic book series "inspired" by The Little Prince, which is sure to get a lot of people's danders up, seeing as how that book is almost universally loved. If you loved the book (and you've read it recently, as an adult, and still love it), then you probably won't like what's been done here. I can't tell whether the authors of this comic loved the ideas of the book as children and based a comic on their fuzzy memories of the book, or whether they intentionally departed from the book's themes, but what I can say is that, for me, this is so much better than the book!
This comic is only very, VERY loosely based on The Little Prince, and I'm glad. To have an allegorical comic about a depressive space traveler in a codependent relationship with a passive-aggressive flower would have had me rending my clothes and gouging my eyes. What we have instead is a compassionate space traveler who can talk to animals. That's nice. But again, if you revere the source material, you're going to despise this, because the author here plays fast and loose with "The Little Prince:" he's now a cross between Little Nemo, Harold (of the Purple Crayon), and Green Lantern, a pacifistic action hero who can draw objects into being in order to defend the universe against evil. Oh, and the fox, who was such a jerk to him in the original, is his buddy and sidekick. And the snake, whom he loved so much he entrusted him with his lethal injection in the book, is now an evil cosmic force that he is dedicated to oppose on every world.
Can you see why I prefer this comic version?
In this volume, the Prince and the Fox arrive on a planet of perpetual ice, where airborne creatures resembling jellyfish melt the ice with their tentacles and then absorb the water to live. Humans live on the world in symbiosis with these floaters, as the only place they can survive is in the areas where the floaters maintain warmth enough for life. But the snake has infiltrated this society and is working to destroy it through a feud between the autocrat and his son.
The artwork here reminds me quite a bit of Amulet, which may be because of the color palette, or maybe the talking animals, but in any case it's a good thing. I really enjoy this reworking on the Little Prince as a hero out to help people (not just a coquettish flower). There's no allegory at all, and there's at least a dozen volumes in this comic book series, both of which are big positives for me. I will certainly continue to read this.(less)
Some blend of Jacob's Ladder, Buckaroo Banzai, and Brazil, RASL is a story of a man whose grasp on reality is slipping away...aided by the fact that h...moreSome blend of Jacob's Ladder, Buckaroo Banzai, and Brazil, RASL is a story of a man whose grasp on reality is slipping away...aided by the fact that he has learned to jump between parallel universes. It has a weird art style (our bobble-headed protagonist in the desert looks like he's covered in snot rather than that he's sweating) but I was engaged with the story. But then, I'm a sucker for any kind of reality-bending storyline, and our protagonist RASL's grasp is clearly slipping away. Smith does a great job of portraying this with background details: numbers and faces changing in the background, in addition to the disjointed story that jumps around in time as well as between universes. RASL even has a weird alien thing pursuing him through the "dimensions" (the characters all refer to parallel universes as "dimensions"). I like how RASL has to drink, eat and have sex to help him keep anchored to his current reality - otherwise his mind fractures and he can't keep anything straight (clearly he has trouble with that anyway). It's a fun character trait, and the only part that seems "noir" (as the book is billed). In that, it's a bit like Bigby Wolf's having to smoke all the time in Fables.(less)
I'm still enjoying this as much as any other comic I've read recently, and certainly a lot more than Kirkman's far more famous title, The Walking Dead...moreI'm still enjoying this as much as any other comic I've read recently, and certainly a lot more than Kirkman's far more famous title, The Walking Dead. There are, however, similarities: Kirkman does seem to like to have characters doing stupid things or just being generally obtuse. In The Walking Dead it got to be irritating as a literary device, exploring the ordinary pettiness of human nature and the idiocy of daily life with the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, which I found aggravating and frustrating, as I'd rather see how people actually pull together in extraordinary circumstances. The stupidity and pettiness of the characters drives me crazy in that title, but in Invincible it doesn't bother me quite as much. For one thing, it's not quite so pronounced - many of the characters are actually pretty smart most of the time, and the title character is an emotionally troubled teen, so I can make some allowances for lack of life experience. Although it didn't bother me so much, it does seem to be a motif for Kirkman.
Overall, however, I really like Invincible. It's funny and dramatic and a little bit mysterious (with the Viltrumites ever lurking in the background). In this second collected volume, Kirkman tones down the parody a bit (although he continues to ridicule Alan Moore's Watchmen periodically), or at least his parody switches to a more "meta" level...there's a lot of Stan Lee-narrator parody, including a running coy gag about characters having sex offstage, in which the narrator states that "after all, this is a family comic." That elicits a chuckle, as this most certainly is not something you'd want children to read, what with all the disembowelings, eviscerations, constant mayhem and other graphic violence, even if the sex is more Marx brothers innuendo than Vaughan-like penetrations. When it comes, the violence remains shocking, which suggests to me that it is being used to good effect rather than being gratuitous. Maybe it's also my perceptions, set as they are by decades of other superhero comics that tiptoe around the violence.
But this is all meandering; I continue to enjoy this comic and look forward to reading Volume Three.(less)