I know it's kind of a heretical thing to say, but Sandman isn't my favorite comic series, and this particular volume of one-offs didn't do much for meI know it's kind of a heretical thing to say, but Sandman isn't my favorite comic series, and this particular volume of one-offs didn't do much for me. Yes, I know. I'm a terrible comic reader.
Which is not to say that this is a bad volume, though; in fact, it's objectively great. It breaks away from the larger events of the Dreaming to tell four seemingly unconnected stories that all have something to do with the power and danger of myth. In Calliope, a struggling writer acquires (in a very literal sense of the word) a mythical muse and reaps the benefits thereof, until she reaches out to Morpheus, the master of inspiration, for help. A Dream of A Thousand Cats introduces a feline prophet who tells a fidgety, apathetic crowd of her brothers and sisters of the things revealed to her during a journey through the Dreaming, and exhorts them to do what their human masters do so easily: dream together. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the first of the two plays that "Will Shaxbeard" writes after being commissioned by Morpheus in the previous volume, played on the green to an audience of very real faeries and resulting in the release of a well-known figure that is nothing like his fictional counterpart. Finally, Facade reveals the sad state of a Silver Age superhero who was created by a god to fight a mythical war, and has been left behind by everyone except for Dream's friendly, knowing sister, Death.
Midsummer Night's Dream in particular is interesting for the end, in which we get a definite feeling that we will see Puck again, and it won't be a good thing when we do. The rest made for good reading, especially when I looked for what connected each of the standalone stories. I was more diverted than engaged, though, and moved on pretty quickly after finishing. I think I'm still impatient to see all of these little threads Gaiman is unspooling weave into a greater tapestry, which I can sense at the edges of all three volumes I've read so far.
Ultimately, a nice break between large story arcs in the Sandman cycle, with all of the dark, deep storytelling one would expect from it....more
This is definitely a book about a place rather than a person, and it breaks the YA mold in a number of ways, most notably by eschewing the OMG PLOT OMThis is definitely a book about a place rather than a person, and it breaks the YA mold in a number of ways, most notably by eschewing the OMG PLOT OMG LOVE TRIANGLE OMG approach in favor of a very gritty story about teens who are forced by circumstance to be adults.
Set in a version of 1930s Australia that is swarming with ghosts and the violence that creates them, Razorhurst focuses on Kelpie, an orphan who can actually see and hear the ghosts around her and has relied on them to survive alone on the streets, and Dymphna, a well-known prostitute who is both younger and smarter than she lets on, and has learned to ignore the ghosts for fear of going mad. The two of them are thrown together by a murder which portends an end to the uneasy truce between Razorhurst's two criminal factions, and they cling to one another as everything begins to unravel around them.
I had trouble staying engaged with this book in the beginning because it defied my expectations a little. Kelpie and Dymphna both know right from the beginning how high the stakes are, and march forward with a grim, almost tired determination, making for an even and occasionally plodding pace. The story takes a lot of breaks for flashback; Larbalestier has broken the book into small, quickfire chapters that alternate between characters, and each comes with a tangential 1-2 page coda that gives a little exposition and almost reads like a vignette. But once I got used to the format, I couldn't put it down. The story doesn't offer much in the way of surprise, despite a number of twists halfway through the book, but that's okay; inevitability is one of the story's major themes, and the book winds to a very bittersweet but satisfying conclusion.
Like Bone Gap, this is a book that I'm liking more and more as I ruminate on what I just read. There's a lot to take in here, and I think this would be a hard road for some readers, both because of its unconventionality and because of its realistic, unflinching portrayal of sexuality and violence. But the evocative writing, the deeply layered characters, and the deft paranormal elements make this a fierce read for those who can appreciate it....more
This is a hard one for me to rate. It's a dark, fascinating mystery steeped in faerie lore, but something about it left me vaguely unsatisfied.
The stoThis is a hard one for me to rate. It's a dark, fascinating mystery steeped in faerie lore, but something about it left me vaguely unsatisfied.
The story largely revolves around Hazel and her brother Ben, who have grown up in a small town called Fairfold. Strange things are always afoot in Fairfold; tourists come to gawk at the faerie wonders on display, including the mysterious horned boy perpetually asleep in his glass coffin, and the locals know to don their protective charms and to avoid the attention of the cruel, capricious folk of the woods. Hazel and Ben, on the other hand, have been half-wild since birth, stalking the more worrisome creatures of the woods with a found sword and christening themselves the protector knights of Fairfold. But the years go on, and Hazel and Ben leave the magic of childhood behind as they enter adolescence and try to make sense of their singularly odd lives. When the horned boy is suddenly freed, his indestructible coffin found shattered, the horrors of the trees descend on Fairfold, and Hazel and Ben are forced to reckon with a pact carelessly made with the faerie Alderking when they were still children.
Black's return to the faerie lore she loves is as rich and textured as one would expect it to be. The fae are tricksy and dangerous, and the appearances of Sorrow, the well-known and much-feared monster at the heart of the woods, are chilling enough to border on horror. There are a few tense action set-pieces that lead to a thrilling ending, but much of the story relies on Hazel desperately trying to piece together clues in order to save the town (and, of course, everyone she cares about along with it).
Something didn't sit right with me, though. Aside from a few places in the middle and the last forty or so pages, I was struggling to turn pages. Something about the characters felt a little flat and under-explored to me, and it almost felt like there are two separate threads winding through the plot: the imminent danger of Sorrow and the Alderking, and the slower-burning and more contemporary journey of what the bad things Hazel and Ben experienced as children (not all of them supernatural) have done to them. Neither thread felt fully developed or integrated with the other, so while the ending was good, I didn't get the closure I wanted.
But the book is worth reading just for the setting, and for Black's sharp, adept take on faerie lore in a contemporary setting. My qualms with the book fall largely on my personal preference for character over plot, I think. Though it has a bit of an identity crisis at times, this is a great choice for those with a weakness for dark fantasy....more
This is a quick, diverting little read that follows the standard Manic Pixie Dream Girl format, though it does a few interesting things with it. The oThis is a quick, diverting little read that follows the standard Manic Pixie Dream Girl format, though it does a few interesting things with it. The odd title revolves around the moment that upends Higgs Boson Bing’s life: his clingy girlfriend asks (through a proxy) whether he would donate a kidney to her, and he vacillates because he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t. This sets off a chain of events that sends Higgs from his pedestal as the popular, wealthy, Harvard-bound king of the school down to the universally derided and mocked target of just about everyone, including those he thought were his friends. A chance meeting with a mysterious, abrasive girl who apparently lives in the woods gives him an unlikely confidant during his worst week ever, and his newfound outsider status gives him the opportunity to question whose expectations for his life he should be meeting.
The strength in this book is in the narrative voice, which carries this slim, quirky tale through a familiar story arc. The stakes stay pretty low throughout, Ivy League acceptance pressure notwithstanding, so the book's charm rests on Higgs's sardonic observations and the predictable effect that Monarch, the girl from the woods, has on him. Yee is an adept writer that wastes no scenes and puts prose to good effect, resulting in a fun, well-paced read.
Nothing really made this one stand out from its peers, for me, but this is a great read for somebody looking for a bit of romance, a lot of humor, and a dash of affluent existential crisis....more
If only my 15-year-old self could have acquired an illicit copy of a comic like this.
Let’s be clear: at this point, I’m going to read anything with MaIf only my 15-year-old self could have acquired an illicit copy of a comic like this.
Let’s be clear: at this point, I’m going to read anything with Matt Fraction’s name on it. His wit is turned up full volume here, and pairs perfectly with Chip Zdarsky’s art. This is all very good, because it makes this first volume incredibly readable despite not having much in the way of plot.
Suzie, our heroine, discovers at an early age that she can freeze time when she orgasms. She first assumes that’s how it always works, and later falls into using it as a quirky, secret coping mechanism. She eventually finds a kindred spirit in Jon, a hookup-turned-possible-boyfriend that can apparently do the same thing (though his discovery and childhood usage of the power are a tad more prurient), When done together (har har), they can exist together in that strange frozen pocket in time. After a whole lot of sex and refractory-period hijinks, it occurs to them that they can support a worthwhile cause by taking money out of a bank while time stands still in their afterglow. And that’s where the Sex Police come in.
There is a whole lot of nudity in this book, some of it legitimately sexy. Outside of that, though, Zdarsky’s art is sublimely attractive. Expressions, panel work, and compositions of different scenes all work well, bolstered by some lovely coloring and effects. The writing is consistently hilarious, as almost everything not mid-coitus takes place in dialogue. This is Fraction’s strength.
The thing is, this is an origin story. Again. The whole volume is in media res, with an abundance of flashbacks. We don’t really break out of the sex humor and into a cohesive plot until the very end. Granted, I was mostly okay with that, because I’m down to hover in the realm of naked and hilarious. Still, I can see why this volume might not land with those who aren’t as enamored with Fraction’s sense of humor as I am, or who tire of the raciness quicker than I do. Also, there’s a huge musical number in the middle— literally, a dance number to an entire song, accompanied by a clever little joke revolving around their inability to get rights to print the lyrics— which, while beautifully rendered by Zdarsky, feels like a joke that goes on too long. Which awkwardly reminds the reader how long the sex jokes have been going on, too.
I suspect this series is going to get much better. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt because it’s funny, it’s wonderfully drawn, and it’s rare to get a comic like this that is sexy and frank without being overly problematic. ...more
This is a very enjoyable version of Austen’s classic, especially for those (like me) who don’t really identify as Austenites. Pride and Prejudice in pThis is a very enjoyable version of Austen’s classic, especially for those (like me) who don’t really identify as Austenites. Pride and Prejudice in particular seems like a tough candidate to translate over to the comic format, due to the language and setting being a stilted veneer over a plot rife with inner turmoil. King has written a slick, readable adaptation, boiling a great story down to a truly enjoyable graphic novel. The art didn’t do so much for me this time around, unlike the last Udon classic I read (Les Miserables). Something bothered me about Darcy’s expressions in particular, and Elizabeth looked a little too fancy (though the artistic depictions of her sisters were absolutely spot on). That being said, the manga art style manages to mesh very well with the Regency setting, a rare thing that this line of manga seems to excel at.
All told, this is a great comic for both readers of Austen and those who prefer a more aesthetic approach to the classics. ...more
I'm still firmly in the Captain Marvel camp, but this is an incredibly smart and endearing title with a huge amount of potential. Definitely paying atI'm still firmly in the Captain Marvel camp, but this is an incredibly smart and endearing title with a huge amount of potential. Definitely paying attention to this one....more
"Hero" has no agency, simply doing everything the mentor character tells him to do. Female characters have even less agency, with the love interest at"Hero" has no agency, simply doing everything the mentor character tells him to do. Female characters have even less agency, with the love interest at one point being literally carried out of danger by the "hero." Incredibly frustrating read....more