I think I might have loved this book even more the second time around, which I didn't think was possible. It still has the same charm and fun with the...moreI think I might have loved this book even more the second time around, which I didn't think was possible. It still has the same charm and fun with the added benefit of seeing all the small details I might have overlooked the first time.(less)
Lady Mechanika is a badass who happens to have mechanical arms and legs, demo...moreReview of issues #0-2, read the entire review at Working for the Mandroid
Lady Mechanika is a badass who happens to have mechanical arms and legs, demon-ish red eyes and more gadgets and weapons than any one person should need. She doesn’t remember who created her or where she came from, just that she woke up in a basement surrounded by dead bodies and random limbs some undisclosed amount of time in the past. She now spends her time searching for other mechanical things that might be able to lead her to answers about her past and also rescue mechs in danger of being hunted by the crazy redneck British guys who don’t like mechanicals.
In these three issues we get mostly set up. Lady Mechanika is independent and self-reliant, but has a working relationship with Mr. Lewis, an inventor who supplies her with handy gadgets and might have a tad bit of a crush on her. He’s also a drunk, but whatevs. By the end of #2, our heroine is facing three different bad guys – Lord Blackpool, a scientist who would like to take Mechanika apart, Commander Winter, the leader of Blackpool’s soldiers, and the yet to be really seen Mr. Cain, who might be using black magic to do very evil things. A vast and important history is hinted at between Commander Winter and Lady Mechanika and a previous short encounter with Lord Blackpool make up the events of #0.
In this small amount of pages, it’s hard to really create characters, but Benitez at least gives you an idea who all the players are and glimpses of who they might eventually become. There are hints to a much bigger world with much odder creations. This is only scratching the surface of what a wondrous world Benitez has the potential to create. I hope he’s able to realize even a portion of that potential.
Storytelling-wise, it’s nothing really new. There are some basic conflicts, people trying to kill other people, Lady Mechanika trying to swoop in and save the day. Then again, you have to consider that in the first three issues, there are only about 50-60 pages of story. That’s not a lot of room for much plot. Lady Mechanika is a private investigator that, so far, only takes cases that might tie back into her own lost history. It’s hard to get very original in such a short time period with that setup.
The dialogue in #0 hit me as very cliché and full of as many British phrases Benitez (who is American) could think up. He dials it down a little by the time to official story begins, but the overall lessons – of being different, accepting yourself, repressed memories – are nothing new and he’s not addressing them in any new way. But then again, that’s not really the point with this book, is it?(less)
There's a bit of an unofficial pattern with the Fables graphic novels so far - every even number volum...moreRead the full review at Working for the Mandroid
There's a bit of an unofficial pattern with the Fables graphic novels so far - every even number volume tells a concurrent story occurring at the same time as the story in the previous volume, just somewhere outside of Fabletown proper. Volume 4 muddles that pattern a little bit, but it splits its story between Fabletown and the Homelands enough to still fit. Like I said, it's an unofficial pattern.
That just means that there is not much about Snow, her flying wolf babies, the Farm, Fabletown or the epic failure of Prince Charming as a government figure anywhere in Homelands. Instead we figure out what happened to Boy Blue, who sneaked out early on in The Mean Seasons with only a magic cloak and the epic Vorpal sword of SNICKER SNACK Through the Looking Glass fame.
Homelands starts with a somewhat unrelated story revolving around Jack, of both Giant Killer and Candle Jumping fame. After being unofficially exiled for being the culprit behind nine out of every ten crimes in Fabletown, he heads to Hollywood to try his fate at opening a movie studio, backed with a vast fortune he'd stolen on his way out of town. I've never been that fond of Jack as a character, so seeing him succeed and then watching as everything comes crashing down was very satisfying. Bigby's hand in Jack's inevitable downfall made me giggle like a silly school girl. I love grumpy Bigby.
But the star of this volume is Boy Blue and his epic adventure in the Homelands to find his lost love, Little Red Riding Hood, and defeat the Advisory so he and his friends can all return home. It turns out, Blue is kind of a badass, something you would have never guessed from his clerical duties in the mayor's office or his trumpet playing in the basement. He's also older than ten, which I had previously thought as he was drawn seemingly like a young boy. No, he's definitely a guy who can wield a sword and chop off heads of those who stand in his way. There's a lot of SNICKER SNACK-ing going on in this volume.
I missed Bigby and Snow, but mostly Bigby. Even though Blue became a far more developed character and his epic quest was indeed of an epic nature, there wasn't the gruff sarcasm or logical instincts of the former sheriff. Instead it was a bit of a hearts-in-my-eyes quest of eternal love and devotion that, having read Blue's previous encounter with the real Riding Hood more than a year ago (possibly two), I didn't have a lot invested in. That's not to say that I couldn't appreciate his ingenuity and his playing of the long game. I loved seeing him be a smart vigilante even if it was only his own interests that he really had at heart, and I spent most of a three hour car ride with my nose firmly implanted in this comic (and with Cinder in my bag waiting to be started!).(less)
Bick manages to develop characters very quickly, despite often giving them a bank vault of secrets that they aren’t sharing. Alex, defeated by her prognosis and the amount of experimental treatments she’s gone through, is ready to die and yet she’s still an incredibly strong, smart and competent protagonist. Yes, she gets into scraps, but it’s not usually her fault. I wish the other YA books I’ve been reading lately had female protagonists even just half as awesome as Alex.
Of course there are two boys. Thankfully neither one is an asshat nor is a saint who can do no wrong. They come across as actual, potentially real-life boys complete with flaws and talents, fears and compassion while also remaining two distinctively different characters. I developed a fondness for them both, and worried for their well-being whenever they weren’t on the page. I cannot remember the last time I liked both boys in a YA title.
The writing is descriptive without going overboard. There is rarely a dull moment, which is saying something when over a hundred pages of it involve tramping through a vast forest with a whiney 8-year-old. About two-thirds of the way, the book takes a giant shift from action adventure zombie horror story to something more like a sinister creepy mystery story, and somehow Bick manages not only to make it work, but to keep the steady pacing and maintain the horror of the entire thing, just hidden a little more beneath the surface, the entire time.
On a side note, I really like what Bick did with the ashes theme. Not only is it in reference to the ashes of Alex’s parents that she carries around, but also the ash in the sky that leaves the moon a haunting color of green and the ashes of the world that no longer exists. I could go all English major and start talking about how the mention of removing cold ashes on a camp fire to reignite the flames was also a metaphor for learning how to live a life in a changing world, but I’ve been out of college for a few years and nobody wants to hear that.(less)
Upon finishing Volume 1 of Locke & Key, I turned to Fernando and said, “I need the next one. Get me the next one.” Too bad we were on an airplane at the time, which makes obtaining a graphic novel slightly more difficult. At least it was an airplane on the way to Comic Con, so I think I’ll be able to find the second volume fairly easily.
This is a great dark fantasy. Not Sandman: The Doll’s House dark, but more like the original version of Grimm’s’ faerie tales dark. There’s magic and strange supernatural presences that might have once been real life human beings and a kid who has gone completely nutso. I’ve never read any of Joe Hill’s fiction, though I’ve recently obtained a copy of 20th Century Ghosts, but he seems to be a master at pacing. He manages to tell a story that is slow going and quiet when it needs to be and then suddenly full blast speed when events need it. The dialogue flows well and each character has their own voice. Somehow in a matter of pages, all three Locke children are their own person through dialogue alone.
And then there are the keys. The wonderful, peculiar keys! Each key makes the same door doing something else. One will turn it into a portal for ghosts. Another will allow it to open to any location you can imagine. And in the end, a new key is uncovered, which is partially why I’m so eager to get my hands on the second volume. The other is the sudden and unforeseen twist at the end of the book. No spoilers from over here.
Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is some of the best I’ve seen recently. His character drawings are consistent through the 148 pages, making the three children not only look related with subtle changes to their basis face structure. Somehow Rodriguez manages to capture his characters as though he uses a camera instead of a pencil.
I loved this book. I loved that I was given a span of uninterrupted time where I didn’t have to put it down. To me, there are no natural breaks in the story telling and I can’t imagine trying to read Locke & Key as a monthly comic. Everything fits so well and flows as it should as one overall story. I highly recommend this read for seasoned comic readers and newbies.(less)
I'm not quite sure I can fully express how much I loved this book. I knew I was going to like this book when I saw the footnotes. Fiction books with f...moreI'm not quite sure I can fully express how much I loved this book. I knew I was going to like this book when I saw the footnotes. Fiction books with footnotes tend to be snarky with a third party narrator making commentary on the story at hand. This was no different. So when the “A Word from Your Sponsor” section had a footnote on page 3 that said:
“You look worried. Really, you should relax. Reading is a pleasurable activity and worrying is bad for your heart.”
I was giggling like a fool and excited to see where Ms. Bray was about to take me. What followed was one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while that didn’t venture into the ridiculous (well, not much) yet had a really poignant message I probably needed when I was a teenager. The themes of self-discovery and “rampant consumerism is ruining society” verged on the heavy handed at times, but overall Beauty Queens is an endearing novel about survival and learning that perhaps the world isn’t a completely bleak place. At least until a corporation attempts to murder you for crash landing on their top secret weapon island, but that comes later.
The premise is simple: 50 beauty queens are on their way to a tropical resort for the Miss Teen Dream pageant when the engine on their plane explodes and they crash land on what they believe to be a deserted island. Only a dozen or so of the girls survive and find themselves in shock as tends to happen when you’ve just survived a plane crash (I know this because I watched Lost). The survivors cover any imaginable stereotype you would think might be associated with a beauty pageant: the overbearing type-A queen bee who lives and breathes the pageant, the sassy ethnic girl, the tomboy trying to win her mother’s approval, the incredibly blonde and stupid Southern girls who just know how to be pretty, the deaf girl, the delinquent trying to reform through pageantry, the undercover journalist trying to take the pageant down, the transgendered former boy band heartthrob, the pretty girl with a tray table permanently stuck in her head… you know, the usual.
If it was up to me, I'd give this book six or seven stars. It made me both love and hate robots all at the same time and now I'm a little afraid that...moreIf it was up to me, I'd give this book six or seven stars. It made me both love and hate robots all at the same time and now I'm a little afraid that my car might one day try to kill me...
The best thing about Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series – and there are many wonderful things abou...moreRead the full review at Working for the Mandroid
The best thing about Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series – and there are many wonderful things about this series – is her domineering leading lady. Even on the occasions when she needs to be rescued, she never backs down and still usually remains a thorn in her enemy’s side until everything returns to her liking. When facing entrapment within a burning warehouse district, only Alexia would think to bust a street lamp and use her parasol to hit a burning coal into a warehouse full of fireworks to alert people of her plight. She is always finding herself in the most ridiculous, unladylike of situations, and she always comes out on top. Alexia Maccon is my hero.
One of Carriger’s best skills, other than her world building and her fantastically colorful characters, is her ability to turn a phrase. With a slight tweak to the vocabulary, a somewhat innocuous common day saying turns into something giggle worthy. Made up words seem real in the context of her world. Describing a werewolf who can’t control his changing as suffering from “premature transfluctuation” showcases her clever word play and her ability to plug in a nonsense word and it make sense, as though transfluctuation is a word you often hear in conversation.
This incredibly stylized form of writing might be an acquired taste, but I find Carriger a clever story teller, using her third person narration to fill in the world she’s created. She is able to explore the thoughts and feelings of Alexia without the limited and often indulgent use of first person narration. Her use of language is a mix of modern and Victorian that allows the story to have the classic feel needed for the time period it’s set in while not ever becoming stuffy like a lot of actual Victorian novels.
From beginning to end, it’s ridiculous. The plot is ridiculous. The characters are ridiculous. But that’s what makes it so much fun. The image of two Victorian dandies tossing an eight month pregnant woman from balcony to balcony is funny. Knowing that, in the end, this waddling, tired, mother-to-be will save the day while almost always irritating her husband is part of the charm. And in the end, Carriger still managed to surprise me. I love when I can’t exactly predict the ending and I love what she chose to do with Alexia’s baby. That should make the fifth and final book even more intriguing. (less)
**spoiler alert** This final volume left me devastated. I knew there was no way for this to end happy, that in war people die, but my god was this dif...more**spoiler alert** This final volume left me devastated. I knew there was no way for this to end happy, that in war people die, but my god was this difficult to get through at times. Yet at the same time, it's so well written and the pacing is so on that it's even harder to put down. The confusion and discombobulation of Katniss is so easy to fall into along side her, the fear and the pain stemming from everything she has to go through.
This book made me hate adults, which is kind of sad because I am an adult (sort of). But with the exception of Katniss' mother, all the adults in this series are puppetmasters, never telling the trust and always pulling everyone's strings to manipulate them to do things that they (the adults) don't want to do themselves. It's very upsetting.
And in the end, the one person I didn't think would possibly die... does. That's what finally got me. Everyone else, to me, had a clock over their heads that was quickly running out of time, except one.
Obviously after a night's sleep, I'm still not over this. It's so good yet so painful. I'm going to have to rethink how I recommend this to others.(less)
Despite being over 600 pages long, this book never dragged. It was never boring and it never seemed like it was becoming too convoluted. With a cast o...moreDespite being over 600 pages long, this book never dragged. It was never boring and it never seemed like it was becoming too convoluted. With a cast of characters so long and intricately woven together that the book starts with a family tree, it never got overwhelming. There was disturbing imagery at times, but nothing that didn't contribute to the story or character building.
I loved Lisbeth, the badass hacker/private investigator who has her own definition of justice. Her motives were authentic and her take on how best to get back at not only the Vogels, but also the financial industry that got Mikael stuck in jail for libel charges.
Speaking of, I found the information regarding Sweden's financial industry, libel law, money laundering and corporate espionage intriguing and it really added to the story, though I could see how others would think it dragged the story down in minutiae.
While the ending to the main mystery of "who killed the niece" was pretty predictable from the beginning, it didn't matter. Though it was framed as the main mystery, there was so much more tied into it that it became secondary to the madness
A thriller in every sense of the word, this book held up to all the hype. I have absolutely no idea how it contributes to two sequels, but I look forward to finding out.(less)
The government is trying to figure out how to deplete the Stupidity Surplus now that the CommonSense party is in charge. The Book World is trying to s...moreThe government is trying to figure out how to deplete the Stupidity Surplus now that the CommonSense party is in charge. The Book World is trying to stop the falling Real World read rate, and Thursday faces the increasingly dangerous Thursday from the trashy novel versions of her SpecOp/Book World adventures. Not to mention an alternative version of her son is threatening to replace her lazy, unwashed, real version of her son.
This is probably my favorite of the Thursday Next books after "The Eyre Affair". The sudden jump in time from the 1980s to 2002 really gave a lot of mystery to what had been going on in Thursday's life. The usual underlying theme of time travel causing events and Thursday fighting to put things right were mixed with two Thursday "clones" (from the meta-TN books with the Thursday Next books) working in the book world. Multiple copies of her son, a ghost of her great uncle, an imaginary daughter, the disbanding of Spec Ops and the subsequent underground version of Spec Ops that formed, and the usual shenanigans from the Acme corporation just added many levels of interesting subplot to what might have otherwise just been another adventure to save the world.
In an alternate version of England where dodos are no longer extinct and Neanderthals have been brought back to life, Thursday Next works for a litera...moreIn an alternate version of England where dodos are no longer extinct and Neanderthals have been brought back to life, Thursday Next works for a literary detective agency, breaking up forgery rings and protecting original copies of literary works. When the original copy of Jane Eyre disappears from a secure glass case in the Bronte family home with no trace of tampering, Thursday is brought in to track it down. What follows is a string of events that get progressively weirder as she learns a former professor has gone bad and is killing off fictional characters to ruin great works, and the only way to stop him is to jump into the books herself.
This is a British literary geek's dream. The humor builds as things get more and more ridiculous. Thursday Next is a strong and smart protagonist in an insane world. The way Fforde twists classic literary narratives to suit his story (only to twist them back in the end) is ingenious and allows for clever plot twists. Literary characters are real living people... except now quite. I love this book and every time I read it, I'm immersed all over again.(less)
Volume 1, consisting of issues 1-8 of the monthly comic, fulfilled every one of my prior disillusions about the series. It’s d...moreMild not-really spoilers
Volume 1, consisting of issues 1-8 of the monthly comic, fulfilled every one of my prior disillusions about the series. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s gross, it’s scary, and it’s all in a world that’s just like our own except when it’s not. Death is the grungy king of dreams, trapped in a fishbowl for decades before going on his own hero’s journey. Batman makes an appearance. I mean, really, Batman. And John Constantine. John Constantine.
Okay, the brief synopsis: Dream is one of the seven Endless siblings. He rules over the entire realm of dreams and can play with people’s dreams accordingly. An awful occult artist attempts to trap Death in order to control her and live forever. He screws up and gets Dream instead. Mr. Occult steals Dream’s three symbols of power (a gas-mask like helm, a bag of power, and a ruby amulet) and traps him in a giant glass fishbowl until Dream promises to teach him everything he knows and therefore make him immortal. Wishful thinking, of course.
Eventually Dream gets out of his fishbowl. I mean, he has to or the story doesn’t go beyond an issue or two. Then we follow him as he discovers the state of his kingdom and goes after his three treasures. Along the way, he has run-ins with John Constantine (hee!), Martian Manhunter, Lucifer, Cain and Abel (yes, that Cain and Abel), and a host of other eccentric, seriously disturbed characters.
On the surface it’s nothing new. Hero’s Journeys are classic and everywhere. It’s the details that make this story so much more. Gaiman goes into the effects a missing king of Dreams would have on the populace at large. The relationships between immortal personifications of ideas and the people they play around with for fun and folly. And most of all, what do the things of dreams do when their king has abandoned them?
The cover art for each issue is deliciously creepy, but then again Dave McKean doesn’t know how to do anything that isn’t mysteriously sinister and full of otherness. I wish he and Gaiman would collaborate even more than they do. McKean’s art is the perfect fit to Gaiman’s bizarre gothic imagination. The main panels, while not nearly as abstract and creepy, fulfill the promise of Gaiman’s words. There are some seriously disturbed images in this book. This is definitely for mature audiences. There’s nudity, sex, drugs, gory gross graphic blood shed… all the things that I would usually roll my eyes at in a Capes-and-Tights comic, but it works (is my fangirl showing?). The story lends itself to the images inside and the artists, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcom Jones III, all of whom I’ve never heard of, go all out. Nothing is held back and the comic becomes more of a movie than still images on a piece of paper.
The insertion of other DC characters feels forced with the exception of John Constantine, who fits so well into this universe it might as well be his own. I think the wedging of other, more notable and known characters of the time stops after these few issues, but it was a valiant effort.
Attempting to insert new characters into the well mapped streets of Gotham is a difficult task, and Batman and the Justice League are just too much for a story with such serious undertones. Though I admit the use of Arkham Asylum patients and Scarecrow/Dr. Jonathan Crane was inspired and worked well (even if Scarecrow looked nothing like Cillian Murphy).
Was I disappointed that Delirium never appeared? Of course. She’s my favorite. I quote her all the time. I have both of Jill Thompson’s Little Endless storybooks (those I have read). But now that I’ve read this volume, it makes sense to only introduce Dream with his big sister Death showing up at the end to knock some sense into his broody self. There’s a brief shot of Destiny as well, but he’s not named. Cramming in all the Endless over the course 230 pages would be too much. Dream is our star. This is his story, at least for these eight issues.
This is such a GIANT universe with so many GENIUS ideas that I don’t know how Gaiman could possibly encapsulate them in even the 10 volumes that exist.(less)