Leverage is a major fandom for me and I want to like the books badly. But I can't even finish this one. I really can't. One of my beloved characters h...moreLeverage is a major fandom for me and I want to like the books badly. But I can't even finish this one. I really can't. One of my beloved characters has been kidnapped and we haven't heard from them in ages, and I am walking away because I can't stand my cringe level any longer.
I'm rather suspicious that the author has much of any familiarity with the tv show, as characterization here is sketchy at best (Parker's led "a sheltered life"? Nate's easily emotionally vulnerable? Eliot's practically dimwitted, and whiny?). Elements like the Elliot/Hardison banter that the author focuses on so intently are nearly generic and begin to grate. Action sequences are described so badly that I frequently have to reread passages multiple times to piece together what's going on. Dialogue is often stilted. The prose is clunky. The basics of proper sentence structure can't be relied on to show up consistently. There's a hell of a lot of the author explaining characters rather than showing them via plot or behavior. Even the geek joy of watching Hardison attend Comic-con is used poorly and wears thin.
I am fervently hoping that this was simply a rush job with the series' cancellation on the horizon, and that the books get better.(less)
I read an issue and a half, and I'm done for now. The artwork is amazing and there is some potential for exploring great themes in the plot. But right...moreI read an issue and a half, and I'm done for now. The artwork is amazing and there is some potential for exploring great themes in the plot. But right now it's centered on the emotional life of a bordering-on-smug golden boy and I don't have much patience for that.(less)
One of the basic premises Eisner returns to throughout the book is that there is a pretty specific universality of meaning: that there is a wealth of...moreOne of the basic premises Eisner returns to throughout the book is that there is a pretty specific universality of meaning: that there is a wealth of detailed meaning humans hold in common, for most every gesture, facial expression, character stereotype, symbol, etc. Eisner defines a lot of comic success through the creator having access to a detailed understanding of a given reader's response (drawing on this wealth of common experience he thinks they share) and the creator manipulating that response skillfully. This is so foreign to my experience of storytelling and of people that the book stays pretty dry and inaccessible to me. With any level of diversity in a group of people, that common ground gets smaller and smaller. So basing storytelling success on mastering that sliver of ground quickly becomes pointless, and other narrative-building goals must be found.
Additionally, instead of systematically distilling comics down to more universal tools that various artists can approach in a variety of ways (Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" does this quite well), there's a lot of meandering focus here on what Eisner thinks makes the best stories. I found this more useful as historical content than as instructional guidance. This may be of more use to someone who is a fan of his; though I know of his critical role in comics history I haven't read any of his work before.
Finally, as an echo of the first issue I mentioned, I nearly had to put the book down after the first 60 pages. Be warned that in that time we're treated to The Spirit's blackface-style African-American sidekick Ebony, a grown woman put over a man's knee and spanked, and multiple other moments of racist and sexist crap. Yes yes, that era, times were different, etc. That doesn't make it any less belittling, and that doesn't turn shit into good storytelling. It's not a coincidence that the artist who values stereotypes as the heart of his medium lazily relied on offensive available caricatures of any people with whom he did not share that much-talked about common experience.(less)
Bernhard has been practicing these habits long enough that her writing has a calming, devotional feel to it; that alone has a healing effect on me dur...moreBernhard has been practicing these habits long enough that her writing has a calming, devotional feel to it; that alone has a healing effect on me during a very stressful time lately.
While I've approached Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on mindfulness several times throughout my life - and have been deeply nourished each time - it is a profound relief right now to approach similar ideas through the specific lens of someone who has faced a lot of the same issues I face being chronically ill. Our illnesses and our social location are very different; I don't, for example, remember her ever naming money as a stressor in the book, which sets our experience quite distinctly apart. But Bernhard addresses very specific life changes and new skills needed by many of us facing chronic illness, and gives insights and suggestions that are profoundly nourishing. For this I am very grateful. While Buddhist in nature, these concepts and tools also reflect truths from the fields of cognitive behavioral therapy and Christian incarnational theology, for readers who care to approach them through that lens.
The biggest stumbling block for me is the same stumbling block I have approaching a lot of Buddhist writers (and other writers for that matter), and it involves the nature and source of suffering. One theme Bernhard returns to several times is the idea that no one is to blame for the suffering we face in being sick. I can relate to this in that I didn't cause my illness, and I can relate to the fact that there is a great deal of suffering and ill health that no one is to blame for. But there IS a great deal of poor health that is the direct result of unjust systems. There are whole networks of communities that are at far greater risk of adverse health and early death because they are treated as less than human by those with power and wealth, sometimes even being able to name specific actions and decisions of those in power that caused or contributed to their illnesses. I still struggle to find a nourishing and calming spirituality while acknowledging the reality of just how much human beings are harming one another. None of this negates the power of the book as a whole for me; this is a perennial issue that I struggle with and it's not a part of everyone's worldview. Even amidst the few tools in this book that directly approach the idea of a lack of blame, I can find suffering that I can address and minimize. Overall, I find a lot of techniques here to help me treat myself and others well.(less)
This is a beautiful, radical story that made me laugh, gave me chills, and evoked a tear or two at times. I'm really glad that when the authors' movie...moreThis is a beautiful, radical story that made me laugh, gave me chills, and evoked a tear or two at times. I'm really glad that when the authors' movie pitch was rejected, they found another way to share their imaginative look at trying to live nobly and care for each other under Empire.(less)
McCloud does an amazing job unpacking the basic form and structure of comics, examining elements that can be invisible to the casual reader. He also w...moreMcCloud does an amazing job unpacking the basic form and structure of comics, examining elements that can be invisible to the casual reader. He also weaves a basic history of comics into his narrative here, as well as some of his own theories of art that undergird his points. The entire story functions as an inspiring and impassioned interaction with the reader about what works in art, communication, and creative expression. This book was especially valuable to me as someone approaching the process of making comics for the first time, but I suspect it will also be highly accessible to folks with a variety of different interests in comics.
McCloud's approach has some basic respect for diversity of identity and experience that shines through in his storytelling style, and I believe this gives some breadth to the audience that could potentially see themselves in this story. I find some gaps in his approach to universality, and his appeal to a common human experience that I don't believe exists. There's also a "standard narrative" of the comic book artist that is reinforced by some of his plot here, to the detriment of the craft. But, rather than these being essential to the book and an obstacle to my enjoyment, they are a couple of points made in a much larger conversation. They're a few gaps that are simple to work around to access his high level of skill at approaching many other topics, from concrete uses of time, space, shape and motion in comics, to the relationship of comics to many other art forms.(less)