As a comic book geek, I can only revel in the obsessive breakdown of all things comics. Some of Tim Leong's charts veer into the decidedly insane, shoAs a comic book geek, I can only revel in the obsessive breakdown of all things comics. Some of Tim Leong's charts veer into the decidedly insane, showing unnecessary complexity to demonstrate that the world of comics can be sometimes exactly that - unnecessarily complex. But it's always fun.
Leong brilliantly intersperses some tongue-in-cheek graphs that break up the information overload, and there is indeed a TON of information to be found in this book. There's a smart smattering of humor and politics amongst the beautiful, clean and thoughtful design of the entire book.
I think you kind of have to be obsessed with comics to really appreciate the level of depth Leong goes into, but even for the casual reader there is entertainment to be found. Appreciated both as a labor of love and as a reference....more
Three stars because this book is, at many time, laugh-out-loud funny, and the crude drawings serve the stories well. Otherwise I'd give it two stars aThree stars because this book is, at many time, laugh-out-loud funny, and the crude drawings serve the stories well. Otherwise I'd give it two stars as a collection of ramblings that, while well-observed, don't really have a place to live. The book - if we can call it that, as it is more of an assemblage - feels incomplete and somewhat rudderless.
The stories of depression are very powerful, and it is what puts Allie Brosh head and shoulders above her train-of-blog cohorts. Her honesty is powerful and disarming, and she manages to find universality in an affliction that is oft misunderstood and judged unfairly.
Overall it felt like anecdotal stories told at a dinner party, which is nice, but for the most part serves the function of passing time and not a literary experience. Still, I would recommend it for the sheer humor and thoughtful insight. ...more
On a skill level the book is great - Bell's drawings and writing style is simultaneously authentic and slightly surreal, and it serves her narrative wOn a skill level the book is great - Bell's drawings and writing style is simultaneously authentic and slightly surreal, and it serves her narrative well. My main issue is the narrative itself, which really struggles for something to say. Of course this is my own hang-up, as I'm experiencing fatigue over young artists who don't like being around people and yet crave attention and respect, who lead bohemian lives in Brooklyn or Portland, who want us to love them and yet we must wait for them to decide if they're ready to love humanity back.
This is fear and loathing of a different sort, fear of the outside world and self-loathing to the point of narcissism. I realize that this book, and books like "Hyperbole and a Half" are memoirs / bios, but the greatest memoirs are the ones that understand one's place in the greater construct. If the point is that the author has yet to find her place, and she is struggling to achieve that, then maybe it is not yet time for her to publish a memoir. It's a self-admitted journal, and frankly, while journals might provide insight, there's very little connective tissue to form a cogent narrative, or at the least a statement of purpose.
Perhaps this is the problem with adapting the stories of young, confused lives, a la Mumblecore movies or blogged confessionals, which is that they haven't exactly figured out what they want to say yet. It's why these kind of narratives feel incomplete, hollow, and entirely self-serving. They are works -and lives- in progress, and while it may provide temporary illumination, it fails to give a complete story. Sure it can be open ended and ambiguous, but it must still have something to say. If the statement is that the author is lost in life and has yet to come up with a statement, then that's only one chapter of a bigger, far more interesting story. Otherwise it's a set of meandering snapshots, with emphasis on meandering. I don't really get the point of highlighting a moment if there is no greater context or purpose.
Authors like Oscar Wilde published musings and incomplete thoughts all the time, but they were always definitive statements and said with conviction. The musings of Gabrielle Bell are fey, foggy and undecided, and that makes for a failed musing, and an incomplete narrative. With that, this book and the many books like it are failing the form....more
Gorgeously rendered and brimming with pathos, Craig Thompson's Habibi is a touching tale of love conquering all. Following the life journey of two orpGorgeously rendered and brimming with pathos, Craig Thompson's Habibi is a touching tale of love conquering all. Following the life journey of two orphans sold into slavery in the Middle East, the book takes a circuitous journey that is as much enlightening and affirming as it is brutal and unforgiving. It is a complete experience delivered to us by one of the foremost talents in modern comics.
While the characters in Habibi are exceptionally well developed and realistic, the setting of Thompson's narrative confounded me - I could not tell if this was an ancient tale or a contemporary one, and perhaps that is Thompson's intention. Regardless I found the world fascinating and rich, and the brushwork, while immensely detailed, never once in the novel's 600+ pages loses its artistic flourish. Thompson's artwork has beautifully evolved from his style in Blankets, incorporating an obvious affinity for Middle Eastern art and culture into gorgeously meticulous layouts. The design of the book, both interior and exterior, is simply stunning.
Like Blankets too, Habibi wears its emotions on its sleeve, never hiding its (slightly melodramatic) feelings for love, companionship and affections. That Thompson integrates his narrative into the mythology of the region and the writings of the Qu'ran lends an air of universality and immensity to the star-crossed romance. It's a wonder to experience.
A very high recommendation, with the caveat to more sensitive readers that the book is very graphic in its depiction of rape and suffering (there is copious nudity and flowery language throughout). I however applaud that Thompson did not try to sugarcoat the suffering of his characters, and the way that he handled their coping mechanisms is beautiful and revealing. ...more
Little Brother is a brilliant commentary on systemic paranoia, civil liberties and the dangers of a police state. It is a fascinati2.5 stars out of 5.
Little Brother is a brilliant commentary on systemic paranoia, civil liberties and the dangers of a police state. It is a fascinating look into a subculture of disobedience, an empowering story of citizens enforcing justice when they know the government is not doing so. Little Brother is all of these things and one more - it's not a very good book from a story perspective.
The main shortcoming of the story are the characters. Marcus, the heady protagonist who leads a digital rebellion against the Department of Homeland Security, suffers from a Superman complex. He's infallible, and his only weakness is that he is too relentless in his pursuit of justice. Marcus exists in the college application world of perfection - his politics are fully realized and idealistic to the extent of becoming talking points, he is supremely confident for no other reason than having an inexplicably encyclopedic knowledge of civil disobedience, government policy and infrastructure, and the innards of consumer network technology. Marcus is so smart that there is absolutely nothing left for him to discover, except maybe love. This too is idealized, as Marcus lives the techno-geek fantasy of having beautiful girls throw themselves at him for no other reason than he being who he is.
Marcus' friends, who are apprehended upon a massive scaled terrorist attack, undergo a horrific experience that would serve to bond a group of friends tighter than ever, yet in Little Brother these friends inexplicably disband and, for a good majority of the book, are never heard from again. The irrelevancy of the friends, who later only serve as plot machinations, renders the book heartless. This is further compounded by the technobabble of hacking and cryptography, which gives the narrative a cold, pedantic feel.
Cory Doctorow's heart is in the right place, and I wholeheartedly agreed with all of his cautionary warnings against overriding homeland security and legislation like the Patriot Act, but his main failing is his inability to incorporate these messages and facts into a compelling, emotionally resonant story. We might feel the true terror of the inquisition if we get to know the characters better, a literary right that we are denied.
I actually found the two afterword sections by Bruce Schneier and Andrew Huang to be more exhilarating, but only in the same way that I find a magazine or newspaper article about a subculture or civil disobedience exhilarating.
It's the old adage that the road to ruin is paved with good intentions, and in the case of Little Brother, Doctorow's good intentions overwhelm his threadbare characters to the point of banality. A good read for inspiration, but be weary of its literary shortcomings....more
That the human race is violent is no secret. But the ability to rationalize the implications and consequences of committing an act of violence againstThat the human race is violent is no secret. But the ability to rationalize the implications and consequences of committing an act of violence against another is what keeps the majority of the population from acting out on violent tendencies. Societal rules, common law and spiritual guidelines have formed some level of restraint and rationale to the violent animal brain.
In Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, our current standards of righteousness and justice are supplanted by wilderness of the American West, a lawless country conflicted between the battles of survival and the hungers of a perverse manifest destiny. McCarthy presents us with the human race as roving hyenas and jackals existing under the borrowed refinery of dead cultures, governed and haunted by a deity of death that rationalizes the rights of existence by the harshest realities of war. The book is a bleak testament to the darkest truths of predatory existence, that to survive, ultimately something else must die. In conveying this basic tenet of human physics in the most beautiful of language and scarring of image, McCarthy has in Blood Meridian crafted one of the finest works of literature in history.
Drawing heavily upon the literary works of Melville and Faulkner, McCarthy eschews conventional plot altogether and constructs an experiential journey across the American southwest and the Mexican border. Loosely documenting the real-life exploits of the Glanton Gang, marauders-for-hire that were given the task of exterminating the Native American race and culture, McCarthy juxtaposes the unforgiving landscape of the untamed country with the disintegration of the human moral compass.
Seen through the inexperienced eyes of the fourteen-year old Kid, the American West is the embodiment of anarchy contained within a social order determined by selective pressures, where fitness does not dictate survival, rather it is the ability to disconnect human compassion from the directives of expansion and accumulation of perceived wealth. The Kid joins the gang of excommunicated scalp hunter John Joel Glanton, who was hired by the Mexican government to exterminate the Apache nation. Payment to Glanton's gang would be dispensed upon delivery of proof, demonstrated in the collection of scalps. The Kid is joined by a motley crew of killers and a lone anomaly, the ghost and golem-like Judge Holden, a nearly seven-foot tall, hairless hulk of a man who is learned in every trade and language, and is as much an academician and philosopher as he is ruthless sociopath.
As the gang sets out on a circuitous path through the Southwest and Mexico and ultimately to Southern California, the Kid play witness to the temptation of handsome payment, manifested in the brutal murder of everyone in the path of the Glanton Gang, the rationale behind the action being that once scalped, the identity of the head to which it belonged is indistinguishable.
What follows is an account of pure carnage, war and human depravity. McCarthy describes the bloodletting in poetic detail, inculcating his trademark run-on sentences with verbose accounts of the most infinite minutiae. The hard juxtaposition of literate beauty with the most repulsive of behavior, along with the dense philosophical musings of the Judge stitches together a contradictory and fractured vision of the American soul. Here we have the birthright to expansion and accumulation of wealth, and the freedom bestowed by the wilderness to pursue said destiny with no rule, law or conscience.
But the greatest contribution that Blood Meridian makes to the literary canon is McCarthy's realization of Judge Holden, without argument one of the most terrifying creatures in all of the written word. In Holden is personified the balance of mortal and moral physics, the notion that for one being to survive - as the Judge is hinted to be immortal - then others must die to maintain the cosmological balance, a law of thermodynamic that is empirically measured in crimson blood.
McCarthy's tale lacks a formal plot and structure and it is all the better for it, mirroring the anarchy and total entropic disorder of the American West. It is a book to be experienced page by page, unaware of the potential carnage and violence that may lay ahead. It imbues the sense of unpredictable danger that the Kid faces, not knowing if enemy or fellow campaign member will murder him in his sleep, behind his back, or in a decade's time.
The brutality and starkness of Blood Meridian is matched only by its austere pulchritude of language and description. McCarthy's vision of the American landscape is as simultaneously unforgiving and alien as it is nurturing and brimming with flora and fauna, an apocalyptic mother Earth that allows her children to live, and yet can destroy them with the smallest flick of the finger.
Blood Meridian calls for multiple readings and discovery. It is a work peppered with arcane language that requires a good dictionary, but the words are used with proper function and not for a showy display of verbal dexterity. That every choice, word and convention layered into McCarthy's discordant narrative has a purpose renders Blood Meridian as one of the most complete and fully-realized stories of our times. Daunting for the squeamish of heart and those intimidated by literary density, but required reading nonetheless. The effort put into reading Blood Meridian will be repaid in the wealth of introspection it gleans from the deepest recesses of the reader's soul. A genuine masterpiece. ...more
A probing and brutally honest depiction of coping with pain and loss, and how the fertile imaginations of children can interpret any given situation tA probing and brutally honest depiction of coping with pain and loss, and how the fertile imaginations of children can interpret any given situation that they do not fully understand.
While poignant and visually compelling, the story lags a bit before getting to the core conflicts, but the saving grace is that time is largely spend building characters and the dynamics between them. When the conflict finally does arrive, it is epic and beautifully rendered.
Wholly earnest and at times even terrifying, I Kill Giants is yet another shining example of some of the stellar work coming out of independent, creator-owned comics today. Recommended.
There's no doubting Bill Sienkiewicz' prowess as an artist, as he has, for the past few decades, remained at the forefront of graphic expression in coThere's no doubting Bill Sienkiewicz' prowess as an artist, as he has, for the past few decades, remained at the forefront of graphic expression in comic books. Stray Toasters is my first exposure to him as a writer, and for an artist I'm shocked as to how verbose Sienkiewicz' writing is.
The tale is a compelling one - in an undisclosed future, a serial killer is on the prowl. The targets are young boys who face a grisly fate of having their insides turned to pulp. Revolving around this case are a host of psychologists, divas, cops and demons, each of whom may-or-may not play a role in the slaughter.
Sienkiewicz tells the story through fractured internal monologues, populating his gorgeous fully-painted panels with endless, incomplete word balloons. The technique aptly reflects the psychosis and dysfunction of the characters, but conversely it also detracts from the readers' ability to figure out what is going on. While the disorientation works in doses, to carry it throughout the entire narrative is the biggest factor in keeping this book from being truly great.
Given Sienkiewicz' obvious mastery of the visual image I would have preferred if he had refrained on the excessive verbiage and assaulted us with telling images. When his art is allowed to tell the story is when the book is at its strongest.
Stray Toasters is a difficult work to pin down. It looks and feels like an important milestone in comics, and certainly strives to be a such, but it is so cluttered and disjointed that it will take multiple reads to fully grasp its intentions and impact. Such a task is not a chore, given the sheer beauty and terrifying underbelly of the narrative. A challenging and difficult work, and rewarding for those willing to revisit it and pull it apart. ...more
Being unfamiliar with Western novels, my knowledge of the code of the cowboy - the credo - has come from cinema. If there was one steadfast pillar ofBeing unfamiliar with Western novels, my knowledge of the code of the cowboy - the credo - has come from cinema. If there was one steadfast pillar of the credo which I learned from John Ford's My Darling Clementine and The Searchers, from Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West and Don Siegel's The Shootist, it was the iron commitment of the cowboy's word.
The word of the cowboy was not too different from that of the soldier, the samurai, or the alpha animal of a pack, and it was a commitment sealed in blood, to be fulfilled by either completion or by death. The cowboy never turned their back on their word, and always, always placed the objective ahead of their personal want.
We get a complete study of credo from Claire Huffaker's western masterpiece The Cowboy and the Cossack. The novel starts with the arrival of a cargo ship on the shores of 19th century Russia, a country being suffocated and trampled underneath the fractured rule of the Imperial Tsar and tribes of skilled and relentless nomadic warriors, the feared Tatars.
Onboard the ship is an unlikely cargo - 500 prime heads of cattle being shipped in by a ragtag but deftly-skilled group of Montana cowhands. The herd was purchased by a town in central Siberia, and the task on hand is for the cowboys to deliver the herd safely to their final destination.
From the outset, it becomes clear that this task is far easier said than done, as the brutal and unforgiving politics and geography of Russia stand to make the journey impossible at best, and fatally dangerous at worst. After facing a seemingly insurmountable blockade to get the cattle ashore, the cowboys are met by a menacingly intimidating band of warriors - a group of fifteen highly-trained Russian soldiers, the Cossacks, who have been sent by the town to provide security for the cowboys. The cowboys and the Cossacks meet face to face, and it becomes no secret that there is a tremendous level of distrust and doubt for each respective camp. Psychological and prejudicial walls are built up on both sides, and the journey into Siberia begins on a tenuous and dangerous balance of ego-driven bravado and prejudicial self-preservation.
The unforgiving landscape of Siberia, fraught with fierce predators both human and non-human alike, come onto the caravan wave after wave, and each assault forces the cowboys and Cossacks to depend on one another not out of choice, but rather necessity. As Shakespeare once wrote, "misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows," and the unforgiving terrain of Russia brings the men closer together in very unexpected ways.
But driving this entire tale is the word of the warrior, the commitment of both the cowboy and the Cossack. Each is willing and prepared to give their lives for the word they made - to deliver the cattle - and nothing, absolutely nothing can break that word. Not weather, not invading tribes, not insurmountable odds of a spectacular scale can drive these men to turn their backs on their word. Their credo is their life, and is an unspoken foundation of each character's existence.
Huffaker spends a considerable amount of time on character development, but he does so in a little more nontraditional way. He focuses on perceived weaknesses of each character and juxtaposes them against their American or Russian counterpart, and in doing so he makes the all-important discovery that either man is not too different from the other, and that the binding tie is the warrior credo. It's a timeless and heartfelt notion, and Huffaker does an amazing job, through dialect and action, of getting this across. His well-studied and simple-but-gorgeous passages of the minutiae of the warriors of the East and West, their habits, their preparation, and how they each cope with adversity all builds up to the universal definition of what it means to be a man of honor. As a reader, it's a humbling joy to absorb the enviable constitutions of these amazing men.
Huffaker further extends the concept of credo by also giving considerable study to the relationship between man and animal, particularly the relationship that a man has with his loyal steed. The partnership, like all partnerships of honor, is one based in mutual respect. The cowboys and the Cossacks alike revere their horses and cattle as they would their own family, and it is both touching and revelatory to experience the relationships that they develop.
The Cowboy and the Cossack is a highly emotional book, one that is based in the formation of eternal relationships and and friendship, a bond of love and affection that is forged on the edge of a steel saber and beneath an iron horseshoe. It is authentic to the relationships of men, the formation of a brotherhood that most men find difficult to explain, but carry out through understated, small, nuanced gestures. Huffaker never lets us forget that these men are as hard as steel, and they are not ones to share their feelings and emotions so readily or openly. But as with any great man of honor, their actions speak far, far louder than words. The story culminates in an epic battle, and the damages of war strike deep and elicit genuine sadness because we finally understand what these men mean to each other and to the code of honor. Every wound is earned, every death a noble one. No life - be it man or animal - is taken without honor and the defiance of the free spirit, and it is this revered and fiery blood that gives this story a beautiful, beating heart.
The Cowboy and the Cossack joins my ranks of my favorite books. I didn't want it to end and I can't wait to read it again. Beyond stoking the nostalgic love of the Western movies I saw as a kid, it purified my heart of the skepticism and cynicism that I many times feel plagues humanity. When a book can make you a better person after reading it, then you know you've stumbled onto something truly special. Highly, highly recommended. ...more
Upon reading the description of the book, I have to admit that I was very interested in the fragile dynamics of failed relationships - Leela Naidu, laUpon reading the description of the book, I have to admit that I was very interested in the fragile dynamics of failed relationships - Leela Naidu, labeled as one of the world's most beautiful women, fiercely intelligent and independent, having to deal with a failed high-profile marriage with twins in tow, all before she turned twenty. How would a young woman deal with this? What did society think? Did she care?
I'll never know.
When I finished this book I got very little of Leela Naidu's personal struggle, instead I got an exceptionally well-written account of the fabulous life of Leela Naidu, her achievements, her fabulous friends, and her charismatic pluck. While I enjoyed the anecdotes of a rarefied lifestyle, I wanted to see the other side of Leela. A woman who projected such perfection and physical beauty must have some darkness and ugliness inside, something which Naidu was unwilling to share.
That is her own right, and one has to respect it. But I do find the most compelling autobiographies to be the ones that admit flaws and faults, that portray life as pure joy that is peppered with authentic moments of gray. Challenges. Hurdles. Failures. Regrets. After reading this book I only got about ten percent of what Leela Naidu really felt and thought. Which is a shame, because she is an eminently interesting human being.
Leela Naidu is frank and open in some regards, but her lack of desire to share her life in its entirety makes for an autobiographical failure. As a reader I don't require schadenfreude to appreciate Leela's life, but to share in her challenges as a mother and wife would have lent an air of humility and accessibility to a woman of such grandiose poise and beauty. An opportunity missed. ...more