Friday, December 31, 2010

Water for Elephants (Sara Guen)

Last review of the year! I read this book ages ago, during what I'm now referring to as the Black Fall (more on that in next weekend's 2010 Review Recap!). I let it fall to the wayside, but certain circumstances made me pick it back up again. Those circumstances are the newly released trailer of the film—in theaters April 22—and the terrible acting therein. I am here to assure you that it is not just the acting you'll need to watch out for.

Synopsis

Water for Elephants, which takes place during the Great Depression, tells the incredible story of one Jacob Jankowski, a young veterinary student who decides to run away after learning of the untimely deaths of both of his parents. For reasons that are not entirely clear—or at the VERY least not entirely justified—Jacob runs away during his final exam at Cornell. Just stands up and walks right out, a good ten minutes before he would finish his four-year degree and earn his diploma. Okay...

Jacob, not having anywhere or anyone to run to, begins to follow the railroad tracks on the outskirts of town, and eventually finds himself face to face with a real life, honest to goodness, GEN-U-WINE circus! And what luck! Even though the circus is on the brink of financial destitution, hasn't paid its workers in weeks, and has resorted to throwing some unfortunate bastards off the train in the middle of the night, they just happen to need a veterinarian! Isn't that just incredible, folks? The Lord truly works in mysterious ways. It's a mystery how this book ever got published.

Jacob ends up falling in love with Marlena, the circus' star performer and young wife of the mentally unstable head animal trainer, August. From what I can tell of the film via the trailer, whoever cast this movie got it just right: the useless and generically handsome young buck (Rob Pattinson) tries to steal the unnecessarily headstrong but ultimately personality-less trophy heroine (Reese Witherspoon) from the only character in the story with any real depth to him (Christoph Waltz).Oh, and there's an angry midget, and an elephant who won't listen to anyone.

Through a series of mostly predictable events, Jacob attempts to win over Marlena, while also attempting to teach tricks to Rosie, the elephant, so that they can all save the show together. Aww. August, who is completely demented and possibly bipolar, claims that he is Jacob's best friend, but also tries to kill the kid a couple times. Top it all off with a ruthless, money-hungry circus owner and you've got yourself a recipe for a #1 New York Times Bestseller!

Oh, and I forgot to mention: the entire thing is framed within the memories/dreams/possibly psychotic delusions of an old man in a nursing home who misses his wife and wants more than anything to be back with the circus again.

The one thing that got me through the abysmal plot was the painstaking detail that Sara Gruen goes into to make this world come alive. You can absolutely, 100% tell that she did her research, and did it well. I'm no expert on early 20th-century traveling circuses myself, but it seemed like Gruen got all of her facts straight. She should be proud of that particular accomplishment, and I'm sure she is, because in the book she often goes out of her way to explain some completely erroneous detail of circus life just to prove that she knows what she's talking about.

The writing itself is not terrible—Gruen is a competent individual who can string together interesting sentences—and the book is not without its compelling moments, but the predictability of the plot and the flatness of the two main characters seriously dampens any true enthusiasm that could be raised by the read. It's entertaining, it's readable, and there are a few times when it's even enjoyable, but on the whole this is a completely generic title.

Rating

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

Story—7
There is nothing unique about this story. It's Big Fish meets The Notebook meets Every Novel You've Ever Read Where There Is A Young Man Who Feels Out Of Place In A New Situation But Somehow Finds The Most Perfect Girl On The Planet And They Fall In Love But She's Taken Oh No What Are They Gonna Do?

Style—6.5
Nicholas Sparks' best book yet!

General—7.4
You will breeze through this book. Some of you might even enjoy it. I hope to God that none of you love it.

Overall—6.97



See you next year, Genoshans!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Lump of Coal (Lemony Snicket)


This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, and move itself around. Is there a more charming holiday tale to behold? Probably, but Lemony Snicket has not written one.
Merry Christmas Eve! Today I've got the perfect holiday stocking stuffer review, Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal! You may know Snicket, the pen name of author Daniel Handler, from his wonderfully morose set of children's books, A Series of Unfortunate Events. He has since written several other equally quirky children's books, but The Lump of Coal is so far my favorite.

Synopsis

"The story begins with a lump of coal, who for the sake of argument could think, talk, and move itself around." This lump of coal, saddened by the fact that he was unceremoniously dumped in a backyard by accident in the dead of winter, sets out to make a name for himself. His two great aspirations in life are to make charcoal art, or help to roast delicious meats as part of a bbq. After some minor setbacks, the lump of coal is placed in the stocking of a boy who has those same two desires, and they all live happily ever after. Sorry to spoil it for you.

The book is extremely short—only about 30 pages—but is delightfully charming. Also, even though Lemony Snicket has a habit of playing with the morose and strangely mundane, overall the book has a positive tone, going so far as to end with this bit of wisdom:
All these things are miracles. It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season—like all the other seasons—is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them, and that's the end of this particular story.
The book may seem at first to be depressing and offbeat, but in fact it isn't much more so than any other fable or morality tale. It teaches children to live their dreams and settle for nothing less; if an ugly black rock can do what he loves, why can't everyone? The Lump of Coal also includes beautiful color illustrations from Brett Helquist, the same artist who drew the interiors for each of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. This is a great little gift for the holidays.

Rating

The Lump of Coal
by Lemony Snicket (with illustrations by Brett Helquist)

Story—7.25
Not a whole lot going on in this book, but what's there is quality.

Style—7.5
If you like Lemony Snicket's Baudelairean style from A Series of Unfortunate Events, you'll love this one, too.

General—8
Great little Christmas story! You should read it to your kids every year!

Overall—7.58

Friday, December 17, 2010

Little Bee (Chris Cleave)

To be completely honest, I chose to read this book because of its cover. Seriously, the art is great and it’s got a nice glossy, textured finish. Also, the only insight you get from the back is that it’s a story about two women, and they don’t want to tell you what happens because the way it unfolds is apparently that good. They don’t want you to tell your friends what happens either, so they can find out for themselves. As this is my first review for the Genoshan, I’m not so sure we’re friends just yet. Are we? Well maybe we could be someday, and I think those back cover people have a point. Even though this wasn’t my favorite book, I still really enjoyed it so I’ll tell you enough to know that I did actually read it.

Synopsis

This book tells the story of Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee trying to gain asylum in England, and Sarah, an English woman who once visited Nigeria, and the twisted way that their lives touched once, and then once again, and were never the same. Cleave alternates the perspective each chapter, unfolding the story once from one woman’s side and next from the other’s, creating gaps and then filling them in along the way. This lets the story unfold in a unique way, building an experience for the reader full of suspense and rich with insight into two very different characters’ lives.

Within the first two chapters, I was intrigued by the characters, moved by Cleave’s prose, and eager to find out more about how any facet of these two women’s lives could possibly be related. Little Bee starts out stuck in an detention center for immigrants, Sarah lives in the suburbs with her four-year-old son who is Batman and you better not say otherwise. Little Bee is released from the detention center and goes to find Sarah and her husband, Andrew. That’s when they’re all forced to confront a mysterious shared moment in their pasts, and things get - well, different. From the start, you can’t help but feel like you’re promised a big pay off. Both main characters constantly allude to this painful past event that will explain how everything is connected, but for most of the first half of the book, this lack of information makes the story seem like it’s just dragging on. At times it seemed as though there would never be a big reveal, or that the secret would not be nearly as shocking, scandalous, or intense as the hype. And in some ways it’s not, but there’s more. Yet just when I started to believe that this really was the worst book with the best beginning I’d ever read, it all got kicked up about eighteen notches and the second half of the book indeed delivered the payoff I had been expecting all along.

Rating

Story: 8 - A really unique story that manages to keep surprising you after you think that all of the surprising is done. It’s a well-done story of struggle told from two completely different angles, and Cleave manages to make sure that it never gets disjointed and everything has a purpose.

Style: 6.5 - I had a love/hate relationship with Cleave’s style in this book. Alternating the perspective each chapter did drive a sense of suspense throughout the story and I loved the extra dimension it brought to each character. At the same time, though, it contributed to about 100 pages of lagging plot. I also had some trouble getting the Nigerian speaking British English dialect, but I don’t necessarily fault the author for that since I’ve just never heard anyone speak like that before. At its best, though, the prose was incredibly cinematic. I felt like I could see Cleave’s descriptions as scenes in a movie, only to find after finishing the book that Little Bee is already in development as a feature film. I’d watch that.

General: 7.5 - Despite its shortcomings, I definitely loved Little Bee more than I hated it. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished reading it, and highly suspect that there are nuances in that first half that I missed because I was so skeptical that the ending would actually deliver. It took me about a week to get through the first half, but the second half I read in less than 24 hours. I’m not rushing to re-read it any time soon, but I do plan on it.

Overall: 7.33

Friday, December 10, 2010

DOUBLE REVIEW - Omega the Unknown

Steve Gerber is best known for creating Howard the Duck, America's favorite cigar-smoking anthropomorphic mallard (which would later be turned into an atrocious film produced by one George Lucas). But in 1976, he also created a lesser-known but critically acclaimed comic book character called Omega the Unknown, whose eponymous series was cancelled after only 10 issues. Then, in 2007, Brooklyn-based novelist Jonathan Lethem, author of Fortress of Solitude, and a longtime fan of the original Omega series, re-visited the concept, with the help of artist Farel Dalrymple.

Lethem ran with the original high concept of the series, but quickly took the story in his own direction. Gerber was initially angered by Lethem's re-imagining of his creation (at that point, still licensed to Marvel Comics), even going as far as to publicly denounce the series on his blog. The two writers eventually came to an understanding — Lethem persued the series out of an unabashed love for the source material, rather than an attempt by the publisher to retain the original copyright, as Gerber had originally expected. While the story of Omega the Unknown begins similarly under both writers, these are ultimately two very different tales that only share the same initial pitch.

Synopsis

Omega the Unknown follows the story of a young boy — "James-Michael Starling" in the Gerber story, "Titus Alexander Island" in the Lethem version — whose parents are tragically killed in an unfortunate car accident. Also? THEY'RE ROBOTS, as our teen protagonist quickly discovers. Meanwhile, there is a super hero — whom we assume is the titular "Omega," based on his costuming — who battles evil robots somewhere on a distant planet. In both versions of the story, Omega's battle with the robots ends up on Earth, right around the time that our protagonist wakes up from a coma. James Michael/Titus Alexander is remarkably verbose upon regaining consciousness; his syntax and diction are both incredibly formal, and notably evolved well beyond his age. James Michael/Titus Alexander is then attacked by the same evil robots (yes, I know) during his stay at the hospital, whom he destroys with energy blasts that burn the Greek letter Omega into his hands. Meanwhile, his dreams are consumed by the battle between Omega and his evil robot enemies.

James Michael/Titus Alexander is eventually released into the custody of an affectionate hospital employee, and attempts to live a normal life in Manhattan. He attends a public school Uptown, and deals with bullies and other typical high school problems, all of which are exacerbated by what seems to be a high-functioning form of autism. Meanwhile, Omega also attempts to live a normal life in Manhattan, seemingly guarding James Michael/Titus Alexander, despite the impending presence of GERA (Generic Evil Alien Robot Antagonists).

Review

Okay, so Omega the Unknown is a weird story in both forms. There's no denying that. Steve Gerber's version attempts to position itself within the greater Marvel Universe, with Omega battling established Marvel characters such as the Hulk, Nitro, Blockbuster, and Ruby Thursday. Jonathan Lethem, on the other hand, creates a shallow, arrogant, self-important stand-in super hero called The Mink to function as the tertiary antagonist (after the Evil Alien Robots, who are OBVIOUSLY the primary antagonists) (YES, I know).

The initial premise of both stories is undeniably enticing — what is the connection between our protagonist and the mysterious Omega? Throughout the course of both series, the relationship between the characters remains unclear. Steve Gerber realistically portrays James Michael's struggle as an intelligent and gifted (albeit strange and possibly alien) student in the New York Public School System, in a way that no other writer at the time would have dared. Jonathan Lethem honors this tradition in his re-imagining, himself a product of the New York Public School System. The way that James Michael/Titus Alexander deals with bullies and friends in high school is painfully realistic in both versions of the story, and his difficulty understanding human interaction is always endearing — you can't help but root for the poor kid. Meanwhile, Omega's struggle with blending in and functioning in a normal society while simultaneously observing and protecting the protagonist is equally fascinating — in Jonathan Lethem's version, for example, Omega takes a job working in a hot dog truck that parks outside of Titus Alexander's school, and his attempt to operate as a pedestrian while keeping a lookout for Evil Alien Robots is incessantly charming.


OMG ROBOTS!



Unfortunately, neither version of Omega the Unknown delivers a satisfactory conclusion to its undeniably intriguing premise. Steve Gerber's title was cancelled before he was able to answer all of its looming questions — in his final issue, Omega is killed, while James Michael visits his childhood home and discovers additional robot copies of his robot parents. Comic book writer Steven Grant revisited the story in The Defenders in 1979 and attempted to resolve the relationship between James Michael and Omega the Unknown, but this ending was neither adequate nor in line with Steven Garber's original intentions.

On the other hand, Jonathan Lethem's modern re-imagining of the story did come to a finite and intended conclusion; however, without an understanding of Gerber's initial design, it still falls flat. After building to an epic and explosive climax, Lethem's interpretation of Omega the Unknown crumbles in the final chapter, which is rendered without any dialogue at all. While this may seem like an interesting artistic decision, it fails to provide the reader with an adequate understanding of the story in which s/he has invested; the plot is complete, but the story is not, and the resolution is ultimately disappointing. The reviewer read both stories on Marvel's Digital Comic database, and upon reading the final chapter of Lethem's Omega the Unknown, initially thought that there was an error in the web presentation of the story. The broad thematic strokes are understood, but the prevailing mysteries regarding Omega the Unknown and his relationship to Titus Alexander Island remain unanswered.

Rating

Story: 6.5

The story of Omega the Unknown as it is presented in both versions is undeniably fascinating. The struggle of the autistic orphan savant James-Michael/Titus Alexander as he attempts to blend in to his Upper West Side High School after discovering that his "birth" parents are robots is absolutely captivating. Those who would seek out such a graphic novel can easily relate to James Michael's/Titus Alexander's struggle (robots and all! Well, maybe not robots), and will readily empathize with his attempts to fit in. Unfortunately, both Steve Gerber and Jonathan Lethem are capable enough writers to draw a reader in — and then leave him or her hanging without any form of adequate resolution. It's nearly impossible to keep yourself from investing in this tale — but unfortunately, such an expenditure never really pays off.

Style: 7 (Steve Gerber) 9 (Jonathan Lethem)

As with most late 70s/early 80s comic book writers, Steve Gerber teases his story with brilliance and poignance, but the prose suffers from being unnecessarily verbose. At the time, the parallel method of storytelling was revolutionary — the stories of both Omega and James Michael are equally intriguing, and the relevance of their connection is the investment that keeps you reading. Still, Gerber's writing style is fairly standard for the time.

The re-imagining of Omega the Unknown was Jonathan Lethem's first attempt at graphic fiction. Even when his efforts fall flat, however, his ambitions remain admirable. For example, Lethem narrates a good portion of the story from the point of view of a statue in the public park across the street from the apartment in which Titus Alexander takes up residence; even when this narrative device fumbles (in one chapter, the talking fountain head attempts to form a punk rock band, a subplot which, while entertaining, greatly detracts from the main story), Lethem's ardor and creativity still carry the story (until the very end). Furthermore, the use of The Mink as a stand-in for all Marvel Comics superheroes takes the story well beyond standard work-for-hire superhero pulp and positions in its own fantastical and infinitely more fascinating world.

General: 6.5 (Gerber) 8 (Lethem)

While I don't regret having read the original version of Omega the Unknown — as I said, the way in which the story realistically handles teenage life in Upper Manhattan was quite impressive for the times — I couldn't help but feel ultimately unsatisfied with what began as a ravishing narrative concept. While I understand that this was not necessarily Steve Gerber's fault, as the series was forced into cancellation before he had a chance to resolve many of his looming plot points, it still left me with a negative feeling, despite the positivity I felt while actually reading the story. Jonathan Lethem's take proved much more satisfying and entertaining — even though the final chapter was disappointing, Lethem more efficiently illustrated his ability to explore and present the ideas behind the Omega the Unknown concept. Even if the ultimate product leaves the reader desiring more, Lethem's story is almost fantastic enough to forgive its unsatisfactory conclusion. Almost.

Overall: 6.5 (Gerber) 7.85 (Lethem)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You: Twisted but Satisfied

In celebration of Thanksgiving this year, I celebrated by spending two nights straight nose-in to Jonathan Tropper's novel, This Is Where I Leave You.

Synopsis

The premise is simple: Dad dies and his dying wish is that his four kids sit shiva, a Jewish mourning ritual where the deceased's immediate family sits in short-legged chairs while everyone who's ever even heard of the deceased comes by to visit over seven days. It's a fairly reverent and dedicated form of grieving; a way to both remember the loved one who's passed while physically and - theoretically, anyway - emotionally being there for those left behind to grieve. The Foxmans, however, know how to suck the reverent out of everything.

The novel's greatest strength is found among its inhabitants: the relationships amongst siblings, between children and mother, between the Foxmans and their neighbors. Tropper succeeds at creating relationships that ebb and flow, changing not only based on the day or the mood, but also on who else is present in the room with them. You get the full sense of how people change based on who they're interacting with, and though Tropper overuses, for my taste, ellipses, the weaker parts of the book are easily forgotten when he uncovers the meat underneath.

Judd Foxman, having recently experienced the trauma of walking in on his wife having porn-grade sex with his boss, is the perfect narrator for the story. He has neither the patience nor the luxury of sugar coating his own anger and hurt or that of his siblings, and the result is a well-paced novel version of what TV series refer to as a bottle episode. Dad's death aggravates decades' worth of repressed anger amongst siblings and siblings-in-law and Judd, having lost everything including his wife, his job and his home, has no reasons left to play nice. He's vulnerable and finally able to come clean, laying everything bare without apology. Because of this he alternates between being a silent witness to marital tiffs and uncomfortable exchanges in the shiva room to instigating physical confrontations with his wife's new lover and yelling matches with his older brother Paul.

Judd isn't perfect in any other sense than he's a great venue through which to tell the stories of the Foxmans. He is a throbbing, festering wound of hatred and thwarted love and misunderstood intentions. As much as the others, he is beginning to realize the unalterable circumstances he now finds himself in, plagued by both the finality of the changes he's experienced and the replaying of the past moments when he could have avoided the path that catapulted him to his current reality. Tropper's characters don't just tell us how they're feeling, they make us feel it with them, experiencing as much confusion, conflict and resignation as we read, as they do experiencing it. Tropper tells so many stories at once, defying summation and complete resolution without bogging us down with reality; the characters are rich, complicated, and permanently sad, but also funny and so devoted to one another in both extremes of human emotion that we can't help but watch them burrow deeper into their problems, comforted only by the fact that they're doing it together, on really short chairs.

Rating:

This Is Where I Leave You

by Jonathan Tropper

Story - 8.0

Someone once said that happy families are all the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in very unique ways. Tropper creates such a uniquely unhappy family and forces them together to be unhappy in a tiny room, a perfect storm of misunderstandings and pent up emotion. Without the overwrought waxing philosophical so familiar in books containing funerals, Tropper appeals to the self-centeredness in all of us to empathize with the narrator.

Style - 7.0

One of the complaints about Tropper's narrator and voice was that it was self-indulgent, that there were jokes that fell flat or brilliant writing for the sake of sounding brilliant. For once, however, I read this book as a reader rather than a writer and those flaws struck me as justifiable characteristics of the narrator rather than shortcomings of the writer.

General - 8.7

I read this book in two days and no matter how much free time I have on my hands, I will not spend valuable chunks of two vacation days reading a book I don't thoroughly enjoy. Tropper's characters are rich and compelling, and his conflicts are satisfying and nuanced as well as big enough to shake these people's entire universe.

Overall - 7.9


Friday, October 29, 2010

Television Two-For-One!

I'm doing something a bit different today. I'm reviewing a television show, Sherlock on PBS, and previewing another, The Walking Dead on AMC. This should come as no surprise to those of you who read the Daily Genoshan regularly, as I have made my fondness for both Sherlock Holmes and zombies quite well known. Let's start with the review, shall we?

Sherlock (BBC/PBS)

Wow. I'm pretty sure my brain has melted out of my skull into a pool of awesome at my feet. The new Sherlock Holmes show—cleverly titled Sherlock—originated on the BBC, as all good television tends to do, but has been brought to PBS as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! series. Benedict Cumberbatch (random BBC stuff) stars as Sherlock Holmes, with the ridiculously amazing Martin Freeman (Love Actually, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, BBC's version of The Office, Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's upcoming version of The Hobbit(!!!!!!)) playing Dr. John Watson. The series places Holmes and Watson in modern-day London, and upgrades the tools that the famous detective has at his disposal. Holmes now utilizes texting, GPS, and internet research to aid him in solving mysteries.

Strangely enough, though, the series is about as close to the original works as you could get. The characterization is impeccable, and the attention to detail is otherworldly. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originally had Watson returning to London after being injured in Afghanistan, so they didn't have to change much there (wah wah). But the best thing about the new series is that it's actually pretty hilarious. Instead of being a brave but witless dolt, as he is sometimes portrayed, Watson is a highly intelligent man and compliments Holmes in a very natural way. I could watch Cumberbatch and Freeman go back and forth all day. There are only three episodes right now, but the BBC plans on making more, so that's something to look forward to going into the series. The other thing that's great about Sherlock is that you can actually watch the episodes online for free! The day after each episode airs, PBS streams the episode online! Go ahead, see for yourself! I would not blame you if you just ditched the rest of this review to go watch the first episode. Actually, why don't you go watch it and then come back. Go ahead, go watch it.

Did you watch it? Wasn't it spectacular? It was, wasn't it? It was.

So yeah, Sherlock, Sundays at 9pm ET on PBS (check local listings), and available online the following day. Also, in a mostly unrelated note, I would like to point out that, on the PBS website, the main page for the series is found by clicking a link called "Sherlock Home." I found that amusing.

Moving on.



The Walking Dead (AMC)

While I can't speak for Rubicon because I haven't seen it, all of the other shows that AMC has produced have been complete gold. Mad Men has won the Best Drama Emmy three years in a row; Brian Cranston of Breaking Bad has won the Outstanding Actor in a Drama Emmy three years in a row; Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad just won the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Emmy this year!

And I actually thought The Prisoner was pretty good... sorry.

Anyway, premiering THIS SUNDAY NIGHT(!), HALLOWEEN(!), is the first episode of the television adaptation of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. Normally, I would wonder how a television show about zombies could possibly sustain itself. Usually zombie flicks are all "survive or die." People either figure out how to save themselves, or they don't. How could you possibly keep something like running away from the undead over and over and over again fresh and exciting and interesting over the course of an entire series? Well, if you're basing the entire thing off of a comic book series that's already well into its 13th volume, then I'd say you've got some room to work.

I'm extremely excited for the premiere of The Walking Dead this Sunday night. It means that A) mainstream media is continuing to take comic books seriously, B) mainstream media is starting to take zombies seriously, and C) I will have something to do on Sunday nights now that Mad Men is over for a while. Seriously, folks, you might want to get on this.

Oh! And it stars ANOTHER guy from Love Actually! Love that movie.

I highly suggest catching both of these fantastic shows. Until next week, keep reading, Genoshans!

Friday, October 22, 2010

WHY BUY? Hybrid Bastards! (Tom Pinchuk & Kate Glasheen)


Why Buy Hybrid Bastards!?
by author Tom Pinchuk

Because it’s the weirdest comic in the whole wide world!

That may sound like a bold claim, but I’ve made it to countless readers over the years that I’ve promoted the book, and not one has called me out on it yet. Not a single one. Brian asked me to kick off the “Why Buy?” feature on Daily Genoshan, and I’ve found that that’s the best answer - - that’s the most succinct way to describe my comic.

After you read this official synopsis, I think you’ll be inclined to agree…

Hybrid Bastards! is about creatures born in a practical joke of mythic proportions. One night, the Greek god Zeus gets duped into being ferociously attracted to inanimate objects. For one mindless night, he sows his seed into cars, walls, laundry, and basically everything else you can think of. Because he's a god, these things get pregnant and they give birth. When the unholy offspring come of age, they want what all children want - - their Daddy's love. But he's disgusted by them, he wants 'em swept under the rug like so much dust, and there lies the battle of wills, the fractured family drama.

And as crazy as that sounds, that's only the beginning. The madness escalates from page to page, from panel to panel. Reading this comic is going to blow your mind so bad, your brains will be all over the ceiling. It’ll give you a charge that starts in your tail bone and shoots all the way up your spine until it ignites your hair into a furious blaze. It'll force you to divide your life into two eras: before reading it.... and after.

But you’re not big on hyperbole. You want hard facts.

How about some specs? Archaia, the publisher, has put together another gorgeous hardcover here (as has become their signature) that’ll make you look that much cooler for having one on your coffee table or on your bookshelf. Buy this on Amazon for a discount and you’ll get 77 pages of gloriously painted art, a totally-insane back-up short, criminally-cracked concept designs, and probably the most diverse selection of guest pin-ups ever assembled. And you’re going to get a full story. This isn’t the first of a planned series. We may come back and revisit these characters someday, but we made this with the attitude that there is no tomorrow. We didn’t save anything, we didn’t hold back on anything. We put everything on the table and packed everything we wanted to do into this comic. And I think anybody irked by leisurely decompression in comics will appreciate that.

But you want the really serious answer.

The serious answer is that comics can be too serious for their own good a lot of the time. Make no mistake - - I love Max, I love Vertigo, I love intense comics that you don’t want your Mom to see, I love comics that make incisive points about reality, politics, and philosophy. But I also love comics that flippantly throw the rules out the window because what they want do is simply more fun, and I sadly don’t see enough of those comics. I’m talking about Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run, Scud the Disposable Assassin, and Little Nemo in Slumberland. I’m talking about Silly Symphonies and Merry Melodies from the golden age of cartoons; back before Bugs, Mickey, Felix the Cat, Betty Boop and their pals had to start acting respectably. I’m talking about comics and toons that invited you into a living, breathing world of phantasmagoria where dream logic is king.

That’s my intention with Hybrid Bastards!, and that’s what that talented lunatic, Kate Glasheen, has helped me create. This book isn’t all snarky one-liners about Greek mythology and involved jokes about laundry creatures keying cars… even though it has plenty of that. Hybrid Bastards! is about giving you a comic that's genuinely unpredictable, that's so unique it defies categorization, that doesn't fit into any box, that gloriously smashes the high-brow and the low-brow together, that escalates in insanity all the way from panel one to the titanic twisted final splash page.

And that, sirs and madams, is why you should buy Hybrid Bastards!

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Feature!

I am extremely excited to announce a new feature that will appear on the Daily Genoshan occasionally starting next week! It's called "Why Buy?" and will be somewhat different than regular reviews. Instead of reviewing a book myself, or even interviewing an author to see what he or she thinks, "Why Buy?" will be written by the authors themselves! It will give creators a chance to really let the world know what they think is special about their work in particular. Why do they love their book? Why do they think you'll love it? WHY should you BUY it?

As I said, this new feature will premiere NEXT FRIDAY! So make sure you tune in, folks!

Friday, October 8, 2010

New York Comic Con

Sorry folks, but no review this week, as I'll be at New York Comic Con!

In the meantime, enjoy a webcomic!

Questionable Content

Friday, September 10, 2010

Old Man Logan (Mark Millar/Steve McNiven)

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Synopsis

The title, Old Man Logan, is pretty self-explanatory if you're a Marvel Comics fan. It's about Logan when he gets old. That should be pretty self-explanatory for everyone, actually. Mark Millar decided to write a Wolverine story set fifty years after all the supervillains teamed up and basically took over the world. 99% of all the superheroes are dead. Logan (Wolverine) is still around, but he lives on a farm in California, working hard to make rent payments to his landlord the Hulk, whose family of green rednecks (brownnecks?) has been threatening to eat Logan's wife and two kids. He hasn't popped his claws once since the day the heroes died, so when an aging Clint Barton (Hawkeye) comes looking to hire him as extra muscle on a cross-country smuggling trip, Logan has some thinking to do. He clearly needs the money, but has no desire to get into any of the mischief he knows the trip will bring his way. His need to support his family ultimately wins out, and the pair head for the East Coast in a rusty Spider-Mobile.

Let me just say that there have obviously been many pseudo-post-apocalyptic Marvel stories throughout the years, but this is far and away one of the best. The general consensus was that it was difficult to follow on an issue-by-issue basis as it was released, but this week Marvel put out the trade paperback, so you can now purchase all nine issues together—plus pinups and such—for the low, low price of $29.99. It is incredibly easy to follow, fun, compelling, action-packed—a little bloody, though, so don't buy it for your 7-year-old—,overall a fantastic read.

Here's a short list of what to expect: Hulk babies; 50-story skeletons; mild superhero cosplay; Ultron as a loving husband and father figure; cannibalistic moloids; Venom T-Rex. In case you missed that last one, allow me to repeat myself: VENOM T-REX. Well played, Millar. Steve McNiven does an excellent job of making a clearly unrealistic world look frighteningly real. Old Man Logan looks, well, old. The rednecks look gross and hillbillyesque, the dinosaurs look very dinosaury. It's a very attractive book, I must say. This isn't my new favorite comic book story, not by a long shot, but it was very enjoyable. I mostly would've liked to see the world a little more. There were maps and references and all kinds of fun little goodies that alluded to the great war against the superheroes, but there wasn't enough actual content to satisfy me. You find out what turned Wolverine into a pacifist, but you don't get to see what the stories of very many other heroes. Millar, McNiven, if you do a sequel, I'd really like to know what happened to Squirrel Girl.

Rating

Old Man Logan
by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Story—7.17
The plot is strong, but the characterization is really only there for Wolverine. There's also that huge gap in the backstory that, while it isn't the story Millar was trying to tell, is hard to ignore.

Style—7.6
For there being so many of this dystopian future kind of thing just in Marvel alone (Earth X, Future Imperfect, Days of Future Past), I'm impressed that Millar was able to keep it interesting. I really do hope he writes a sequel someday.

General—8
It's a great story, well-told, with a lot of fun moments. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but you will definitely have a good time with this book. Highly recommended for sheer enjoyment factor.

Overall—7.59



Keep reading, Genoshans!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Disneystrology (Lisa Finander) and Year in Review

If you're a long-time fan of the site, you might remember last year's Year in Review post. Written shortly after my 24th birthday, it recounted my writing year and laid out some of my goals. I'm pleased to announce that many of these goals have been met, and several others surpassed, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Synopsis

One of the books that I recently picked up from Quirk is a fun little coffee table thing called Disneystrology: What Your Birthday Character Says About You, by Lisa Finander. As yesterday was my 25th birthday, I thought it would be fun to share what the book says about the day, September 2. My Disney character is Hop Low, the smallest mushroom in the Nutcracker Suite's Chinese Dance, from Fantasia. Now, I don't particularly like being called a tiny mushroom, but I do love Fantasia, so I guess it has some credibility. Here's what the book has to say about the little guy:
Hop Low: Your showmanship emerges at a young age. Before your talents are fully developed, your achievements already captivate others. You seek out older and accomplished mentors to help develop your skills. Focused, you work dilligently at becoming proficient in your trade, knowing exactly where you need to improve and what you must master to succeed. Others respect your efforts and surround you with positive reinforcement.
Magical Gifts: Hop Low bestows the gifts of patience, aptitude, and physical agility. With his help, you can reach your goals and take your place at center stage.
Keys to Your Success: Finding your own rhythm.
Hop Low's Story: Fantasia (1940)
So that's not too bad. Even if you don't find your Disney character accurate to your personality, it's still a fun book to check out, just to see what characters you and your friends are alleged to be. Just so you can get a better idea of what to expect in the book, here's a random sample of dates and their associated characters. Completely random. No significance whatsoever...
January 23: Mama Odie, from The Princess and the Frog
May 18: George and Mary Darling, from Peter Pan
May 26: Grand Councilwoman, from Lilo & Stitch
June 11: Mr. Soil, from A Bug's Life
July 18: Dallben, from The Black Cauldron
July 25: Luigi, from Cars
August 30: Eli "Big Daddy" Labouff, from The Princess and the Frog
September 4: Bernard, from The Rescuers
In case you're wondering about some of the big guns in the Disney Universe, Princess Ariel is October 8, Aladdin is August 7, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse are November 18. If you'd like to find out what your Disneystrology character is, write down your birthday in the comments section, or better yet, go out and pick up the book! It's not expensive, and it's a fun book to have around.

***EDIT***I will no longer be taking requests to inform people of what their birthday character is. I apologize, but the number of requests has been staggering, and a) I would love for you all to go out and buy the book, and b) I just don't have the time to get to them all. I will finish up those that I have now, but unfortunately that will be all.***EDIT***

So anyway, birthday characters aside, it has actually been an exceptionally good year. If you recall, my goals from last year, as ever, were the following:

1) Continue to perfect my craft.
2) Develop more disciplined writing habits.
3) Meet more people who were interested/working in the industries I was hoping to break into (comic books and poetry, mostly, but writing is writing).

I am proud to say that I've successfully continued on with all three of those. Achieving #1 comes from writing, reading and learning as much as possible. #2 comes from sitting down and actually producing work, which I'm excited to say has been the case this year. The past three months alone I've written close to 70 new poems, which couldn't have happened if I hadn't just sat down and started writing. #3 isn't always easy to control, but I've been very lucky in that regard the last 12 months.

Last Fall I was going into my final year of USC's Master of Professional Writing program. Through the implementation of summer courses, extra credits for teaching, and other small things here and there, I ended up primarily working on my thesis those last two semesters. While it might have been fun to have more classes with my fellow writers, this meant that I had more time to write, which is always a plus. Also, as Poetry Editor for the Southern California Review, I was still seeing plenty of my fellow students. With the help of my thesis advisor, the extremely talented Amy Gerstler, I wound up finishing my thesis collection of poetry a full semester early. This meant two things: one, I was able to shop out my thesis to publishers during the Spring instead of after graduation, which we'll get back to in a bit; and two, I was free to pick up an internship. I was lucky enough to find my way into an internship with Archaia Comics, a relatively small comic book publisher based right here in Los Angeles. The time I spent there was absolutely invaluable, and I'm much more informed about the workings of that industry now than I could have ever hoped to become on my own. The real news, however, came the morning of May 13, the day before graduation, when Quirk editor Jason Rekulak, well-known as the brains behind Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, gave me a call to say that Quirk would love to publish my thesis! It was the best graduation gift possible. I headed into the summer with an insane amount of work to do to get the manuscript ready, but it was a problem I was glad to have. I can't talk too much about the book yet, but know that I put absolutely everything I have into making it something that I hope everyone will enjoy! It should be coming out next summer, so I'll let you know more closer to the publication date.

I've also been fortunate enough this past year to meet plenty of extremely talented people. Some of these include writers we've published in the Southern California Review, whom I met at a conference in Denver. Others are comic book creators whom I was very excited to meet at conventions in San Francisco and San Diego, via my friends at Archaia. The icing on the cake this past year, though, was the recent inclusion of two of my poems in the Summer 2010 edition of Disquieting Muses Quarterly, a prestigious online poetry review. Having to work constantly at my writing is sometimes exhausting, but the joy of getting an acceptance letter or email more than makes up for the hours of hard work put into each poem.

One of the most exciting things about this past year is that I'm still here writing book reviews. Thank you all so much for sticking around and reading the Daily Genoshan! By this time next year, my book will be published, and I hope to have even more projects in the works and news to discuss, but the DG will always be my first love. In the coming year I'd like to expand and use more guest reviewers, as well as introduce new features to the site, but at its heart it will always be a book review blog.

Thank you for your support, and, as always, keep reading, Genoshans!

Brian McGackin

Friday, August 27, 2010

Android Karenina (Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters)

So in case you haven't noticed, lately I've had a slight bias towards reviewing books published by Quirk, a small press based in Philadelphia. This is partially due to the fact that I've loved everything I've read from them thus far (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, Old Man Drinks), and partially because they are actually publishing my book next summer, so they sent me a bunch of free stuff.

That being said, this week's review and next week's review are the last of the current batch of freebies. After that it will be back to the random stuff, though I will obviously try my darndest to get more free books in the future.

Synopsis

Like its predecessors P&P&Z and S&S&SM, Android Karenina takes a classic piece of literature and transforms it into something... else. Ben H. Winters is at the helm again—he did Sea Monsters if you recall—and his task is to turn possibly the greatest novel in history into a robotic social commentary. Hmm. Science fiction and Russian literature are probably my least two favorite genres, so I wasn't sure what to expect here. Sci-fi I can handle sometimes (Dune, Ender's Game, those Martian Tales I reviewed a while back), but i HATE Russian literature. I've never once been able to finish a novel by a Russian author. Crime & Punishment, Doctor Zhivago, even Lolita. Luckily, there is an exception to every rule.

Android Karenina follows the story of Anna, a Russian socialite who falls madly in love with the charming Count Vronsky, a young soldier, much to the chagrin of her husband Alexei, an official in the Higher Branches. So where's the mash-up? Well, in this version of Tolstoy's great epic, each character is accompanied by a "companion," an android servant built especially for their particular needs. The androids, as well as many other technological advances anachronistic to the 19th century setting, are are constructed after discovery of a miracle element called groznium, an incredible power source. Groznium makes possible technology comparable to what we have today. The real heart of the story, however, does not come from the science fiction. Of course there are aliens, cyborgs, and gladiatorial mech battles, but this is truly a novel about society, revolution, and above all else, love.

This is the first time that one of these "Quirk Classics" has made me want to go and read the original novel. Ben H. Winters steps up his game to a remarkable degree. This is a much better book than Sense & Sensibilty & Sea Monsters, which I admit I may have rated a bit too highly looking back. Obviously, Austen's witty banter and quick conversational style is replaced by Tolstoy's microscopic detail and attention to slight mood changes. Those inherent differences are certainly noticed. What really makes Android Karenina stand out, though, is the level of integration of the injected sci-fi elements. The robots do not ever feel tacked on, or part of some gimmick. Unlike in S&S&SM, where the characters are trying to go about their lives despite the presence of sea monsters, the characters in this novel fully depend on their technologies, especially their robotic companions. The "robot question" becomes a pivotal discussion point among the principal characters as the book progresses. As is often the case, the government has a different idea than that of its citizens of what is safe and unsafe regarding technological use. But really, as in the original, this is a love story, one of the greatest ever told. That's what makes this book so exceptional, the fact that, despite all the robots and explosions and revolutionary ideals, it all comes down to whether or not two people are going to end up together. Nicely done.

Rating

Android Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters

Story—8.8
Definitely a better story than Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, but that's mostly Tolstoy's doing.

Style—9.2
Definitely better integrated than Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, which is obviously Winters' doing.

General—9.5
These scores may seem inflated, but I genuinely enjoyed every moment that I was reading this book. It even gets a couple extra tenths of a point for being an accessible way to read a monumental classic that few people would ever have the patience to sit down and enjoy. Its 538 pages feel like a novella when compared to the original's 864. It also has one of those fun study guides in the back, like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies had. Love those things.

Overall—9.17



Keep reading, Genoshans!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Old Man Drinks (Robert Schnakenberg)

Are you a man? Not just a male, but a man? A really manly man's MAN? Yeah, me neither. I'm working on it, though. I have a feeling that this book is going to help me out quite a bit.

Synopsis

Old Man Drinks: Recipes, Advice, and Barstool Wisdom is a very manly book. From front to back, it is filled with nothing but alcoholic beverage recipes that old guys drink, things you've always wanted to try but had no idea what they were or when to order them. Drinks like the Algonquin, the Mint Julep, the Hot Toddy; sure, maybe you've had one once before, but did you even know what you were drinking? Old Man Drinks has the recipes, histories, and perfect occasions for each drink, all in a delightful, pocket-sized hardcover. That's not even the best part, though. The greatest thing about this book is that the author, Robert Schnakenberg, went around to different bars and interviewed actual old guys, and their pictures and comments are strewn throughout the book. Now, these aren't your usual pearls of wisdom dished out Benjamin Franklin-style by some lofty philosopher. These are curmudgeonly drunks with skewed and inappropriate views on life. Take for example Dennis, a 67-year-old musician:
There are times you drink 'til you fall on your face. Then there are times when you drink and someone else falls on your face. Here's hoping I have more of those times.
Or this gem, from 65-year-old Gary, a retired marketing manager:
Scotch goes well with anything, especially marriage.
Or my personal favorite, a lovely little anecdote from Richie, a retired limo driver:
My wife told me I should go out because it was nice out today. I said, "Why? I'm 84 years old. By now I know what a nice day looks like."
Quality.

Rating
Old Man Drinks: Recipes, Advice, and Barstool Wisdom
by Robert Schnakenberg

I never had a threesome, but it's bound to happen soon.
—Fred, 90, retired janitor

Honestly, there isn't much else to say about the book. If you're into drinking, recipes, or old guys, or know someone who is into drinking, recipes, or old guys, it's pretty much guaranteed to please. It's perfect for the elderly alcoholic looking to expand his palate, or the hipster college kid who wants to be cool by constantly asking bartenders for obscure cocktails, like the Mary Pickford (2 ounces light rum, 2 ounces pineapple juice, 1 teaspoon grenadine, 1 teaspoon Maraschino liquer, lime twist, shake well with ice). I will leave you with this final piece of advice, however, from Peter, a 77-year-old floor manager:
Here's to you and yours, and to mine and ours, and if you and yours ever comes across cross mine and ours, then may you and yours do the...wait, or is it the...ah, to hell with it. I could never remember any of that damn stuff anyway. Best to be original, right?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright)

Wait a minute, didn't I already review this? Nope! This is the film version, which just came out today. It stars Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jason Schwartzman, as well as many other talented folks. So let's get to it, shall we?

Synopsis

HOLY SHIT THIS MOVIE IS SO GOOD!

Rating

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
directed by Edgar Wright

Okay, just kidding. That would've been a terrible review, huh? There isn't going to be any actual rating, you can go to Rotten Tomatoes or something if you want numbers this time. I will, however, break it down into the usual categories and describe the complete awesomeness in greater detail for you.

Story—1,000,000
The movie follows the graphic novel very closely, a recap/review of which you can handily find here. The first half of the film is taken basically frame for frame from the comic, so it holds true to much of the content. Even when Edgar Wright decides to depart from the original narrative, he does so in ways that a) make sense, and b) are cool/funny/intriguing in their own right. It's masterfully done, really. The tension builds at a solid pace, the characters are developed exceptionally well, and the fight scenes are choreographed beautifully. The whole shebang is f*¢∞ing epic.

Style—1,000,000,000
Good God Damn. This is not just a fantastic adaptation, or a fantastic comic book movie. It is an absolutely irresistible, phenomenal film. Wright makes choices that no sane director ever would, and is definitely rewarded for his efforts. It's completely unlike anything that I've ever seen before, but somehow manages to convey the tone of the original work perfectly. Even better, all the quirky little effects and comic bookesque sound bubbles are consistent throughout the film. It never feels gimmicky at all.

General—1,000,000,000,000
I love the books, so I had very, very, very, VERY high expectations for this film, and I can honestly say that it surpassed all of them. Easily. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World beat my expectations to death with a crowbar and made me feel ashamed that I didn't aim higher. I saw it this morning, and I would go again right now. And tomorrow. And probably a couple times on Sunday. And every day for the rest of my life. Let me do a quick inventory of all the films I've ever seen... yup, favorite movie ever. Hands down. Excellently done.

Overall—1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000



IF YOU LOVE YOURSELF AT ALL GO SEE THIS MOVIE PLEASE! The acting is so good, especially for such a large cast. And somehow none of the characters seem overlooked. I would go so far as to say the movie does a better job than the first few volumes of the book in fleshing out the characters. And nothing that they left out was so integral as to make the experience less enjoyable. The ONLY thing that I wanted to see that wasn't included was a single line from the first volume, when Kim Pine says, "This guy is toast. Doesn't he know that Scott's the best fighter in the province?" I think I can forgive them, though.

If I ever had my own office with its own waiting room, I would play this movie on repeat for all of eternity, and no one would ever want to come in to see me, because they would be so enthralled by this film in my waiting room, and that would be okay, because I would be in there with them. GO BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Each Crumbling House (Melody S. Gee)

So this is something new. As you might know already, up until my graduation this past May, I was the Poetry Editor for the Southern California Review, USC's graduate literary magazine. One of the poets who I chose to be in the last issue, Melody S. Gee, just sent the review a copy of her first book! Two of the poems we selected for SCR are included in the book, and she even went so far as to thank us in the back. Well, she thanks a lot of people, but this is still a big deal for SCR, DG, and myself personally. This isn't so much a review as a shout out to an emerging poet with an amazing debut collection.

Synopsis

Melody is a first-generation Asian American struggling to find her place in the mix of opposing cultures that is her life. Her first book, Each Crumbling House, is a collection of poems combining all of her feelings towards dealing with what is essentially a life in transition. Many of the poems are written through the lens of Chinese immigrants either heading off to an unknown land or newly arrived in the United States. She depicts beautifully their isolation among those whom they travel or work with. She also writes lovely poems about her own experiences, though. In the poem "In Translation," Gee tackles the issue of not always being able to properly communicate with her own mother. There isn't always a direct connotative match in Chinese for the words she would normally use in English.
I am reading out loud at the table
where she has left ripe
ancestor offerings, reading slowly
so she will hear the texture of desire

that climbs my throat,
which I can only translate as selfish,
to want,
or missing. Always
a word away from the word I need.
In "Giving" she addresses her issues with her family's practice of always providing food for their ancestors before a meal, even if it means going hungry. Gee's writing is intensely visual, but also evocative and emotionally clear. It's an excellent first attempt from a writer who I can only imagine will continue to produce beautiful work well into the future.

Rating

Each Crumbling House
by Melody S. Gee

As always, there is no real way to quantify merit in poetry. I will say this, though: I am extremely picky. The "reject" pile always towered over the acceptance pile at our SCR meetings, but Melody managed to get not just one but two poems past me (and almost a third, if I remember correctly). It's not always easy to put into words the reasons why certain poets or poems reach a person. Though it seems like Melody's work is the type that is not meant to be analyzed, anyway, but quietly accepted and understood. She reaches far enough into herself that she is able to find each one of us as well. I've never experienced the horror of having to leave my family to travel thousands of miles across the ocean and start a new life from scratch, but Each Crumbling House proves that it isn't always necessary to experience the same traumas in order to connect with someone on the most basic human levels. Very well done.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Devil Inside (Todd Stashwick/Dennis Calero)

Yay, Comic-Con! I had such a great time in San Diego last weekend, thanks for asking! It was a highly productive trip, both creatively and professionally. Soooo much fun. And it actually prompted me to try something new with DG this week...

Synopsis

As happens at conventions of this size and nature, I was fortunate enough to meet many extremely talented writers, artists, and other overall creative folks. One of these fine people was artist Dennis Calero, whose work on X-Factor I was already familiar with and enjoyed. Dennis and I talked about a new project that he's been working on, a weekly webcomic called Devil Inside. It follows the story of Jack Springheel, "an arcane drifter with a bounty on his head."

Now, new pages are posted every Wednesday. This past Wednesday, Dennis and his creative partner, writer and actor Todd Stashwick, put up only the second page, so this is really an opportunity to get in on a new webcomic right at its inception. Just from those two pages, though, I can already tell you that the art is going to be stunning. A lot of solid work has gone into this project so far, and I can only imagine that it'll get even better as the story progresses. It's hard to tell exactly what's going on this early, but there is still some evidence that the tone is going to be somewhat lighthearted, but with a definite gritty feel to it. The humor comes mainly from the first page, where Jack is dumped into the desert out of some kind of wormhole and simply mutters, "Women." On page two, Jack murders a man, using supernatural powers, even though the gentleman was kind enough to give Jack a lift. That seems fairly gritty to me. It also tells you that magic is involved, so when you think about it, there's already evidence of fantastic storytelling. You can deduce so much about what's to come just from these two pages. That takes talent.

Synopsis

Devil Inside
by Todd Stashwick and Dennis Calero

I obviously can't give this series a real rating yet, since there have only been two pages. As I mentioned earlier, this review was more to let you guys know about a brand new webcomic that's already showing signs of beautiful art and intelligent storytelling. It's a great chance to get in on the ground floor and not have to cycle through years worth of back issues. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (Bryan Lee O'Malley)

The final volume! It came out today, so of course I had to pick it up and read it for you guys. And then read it again, because it's that good. If you've forgotten what happens in the other volumes, make sure to check out DG's Scott Pilgrim recap. There's no spoilers this time, though, so don't fret. Also, today's post will take the place of a Friday post for this week, since this Friday I'll be at Comic-Con! Hooray beer! I mean, comics!

Synopsis

Poor Scott Pilgrim. Ever since his girlfriend, Ramona Flowers, left him at the end of volume 5, he's been descending steadily into depression. He sleeps all day, plays video games all night, and hardly sees his friends anymore. His old roommate, Wallace Wells, suggests getting out of the house more, maybe meeting new girls, trying out casual sex. This doesn't seem like the Scott Pilgrim we all know and love, however. Besides, everyone else seems to have moved on to bigger and better things, so why shouldn't Scott, right? Why can't he just forget about Ramona? He seems to be forgetting almost everything else these days. Maybe it's because Gideon Graves, Ramona's seventh evil ex-boyfriend, is opening up a new club right in downtown Toronto. Scott knows he'll have to face Gideon eventually. It's unavoidable. But considering his lack of training, lack of willpower, and lack of girlfriend to actually fight over, will Scott be able to survive the confrontation?

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour is a brilliant conclusion to a brilliant series. Bryan Lee O'Malley does an excellent job keeping the spirit of the series alive while tying together all of the loose ends he'd created in the earlier volumes. All the little things that didn't quite make sense before or seemed unnecessarily quirky are explained or justified here. In fact, O'Malley strips away his own backstory at times. It's revealed that things may not always have been the way that Scott Pilgrim made them out to be. We learn so much more about the characters, and they learn more about themselves. It's incredible how well-defined each individual has become by the last few chapters. Everything that happens is surprising, but it all somehow makes sense. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone—as much as I'm dying to talk about it!—, so I'll cut myself off short. Suffice it to say that Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour is one of the most satisfying conclusions to any series in any genre or medium that I have ever encountered, if not the most satisfying. Everything I wanted was in there, and so, so much more. You'll have a great time with this one.

Rating

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Story—9.77
I could not have asked for anything more from this book. To me, it sits right up there with The Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and issue #60 of Y: The Last Man. I'm just sad that it's all over.

Style—10
Bryan Lee O'Malley has developed such a unique voice. I can't wait to see what he does next.

General—9.67
I hope O'Malley eventually releases Kim Pine vs. The World or Knives Chau's Precious LIttle Life, because I am in love with all of these characters. Their emotional evolutions were all so completely realized. I'm going to miss these guys.

Overall—9.81


But that's not all, folks. Remember, we still have to compile the Ultimate Scott Pilgrim Rating to determine the series' overall position on the Daily Genoshan leaderboards.

Ultimate Scott Pilgrim Rating

Story—9.37
One of the most compelling love stories of all time...

Style—10
...and definitely one of the most interestingly told.

General—9.35
I dare you not to like this book. Go ahead, try.

Overall—9.57



Well, 9.5740740740740740... when you really break down the numbers, but who's counting?* That makes Scott Pilgrim the new reigning champion highest reviewed book here at the Genoshan, beating out Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by a mere one-hundredth of a point!

Also, don't forget to go see the film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, when it hits theatres August 13th! I've heard nothing but amazing things so far from the lucky few who've gotten in to preview screenings and such. I hope you've enjoyed the Scott Pilgrim recap! As always, if you have any ideas or suggestions for books to be reviewed in the future, or think you've got what it takes to write a DG review yourself, leave a comment! New voices are always welcome. Until next time, keep reading, Genoshans!



*Clearly, I'm counting. For those of you interested in how I came to that number, by the way, I kept track of the original Story, Style, and General Ratings for each individual book. Each Overall Rating is actually the average of 9 different scores, though you only see 3 on the site. There are other ways of averaging the numbers together, some of which would even result in a different rating (9.58), but this is the most precise, and the way I've been doing ratings since the very first review.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (Bryan Lee O'Malley)

The penultimate volume!

::SPOILER ALERT::

Synopsis

Happy birthday, Scott Pilgrim! On Scott's 24th birthday, he vows to be the BEST 24-YEAR-OLD EVER! His year gets off to a terrible start, though, when he's ambushed at a party by the twins Ken and Kyle Katayanagi, Ramona's next two evil ex-boyfriends, and their killer robot. Scott easily dispatches the robot, but Ramona doesn't seem impressed. Back home at Ramona's apartment, it becomes more evident that Scott isn't carrying his weight in the relationship. Uh-oh. Meanwhile, Sex Bob-omb takes a break from recording to rehearse for their upcoming gig. Too bad they suck now. Scott, Kim Pine, and Stephen Stills are all nervous and freaking out leading up to show time, but their only option is to play. While waiting for the band to start, Ramona is confronted by Knives in the bathroom. Ramona is snarky; Knives tries to drop kick her. Ramona whoops Knives' ass, but not before Knives unleashes a painful truth on Ramona: Scott and Knives were still together when he met Ramona. They leave the bathroom to find that the Sex Bob-omb gig is already over, as it was really just a set up to get Scott to fight another killer robot.

Armed with the knowledge that Scott is a liar and a cheat, Ramona tells her boyfriend that he should probably stay somewhere else for a few nights. After two consecutive couch surfing evenings—the first with Wallace Wells, Scott's old roommate, the second with Kim Pine—, Scott and Kim plan a way to get Scott and Ramona back together: Kim and Ramona meet for lunch and Scott just happens to show up. It works, but during the ensuing conversation, Ramona's head starts to glow in a way that it hasn't in several volumes. Kim comments on the glow, but Ramona dismisses her completely. What's the deal? Why's your head all glowy, Ramona? With Scott and Ramona back together, the three decide to attend another party, and Scott is forced to face yet another killer robot. Ramona, still angry with Scott, gets the glowy head thingy again, but Kim manages to take a picture this time. After Scott beats the robot, the three get wasted on tequila and things calm down for a few hours.

After the party, though, Kim is abducted by the twins, oh no! Ramona and Scott, who have no idea, head home for some make up sex and drunk sleep. Except Ramona can't sleep. Still too worked up about the fact that Scott cheated on Knives, she confronts him, going so far as to label him a future evil ex-boyfriend. He begs her not to break up with him, but then passes out, completely wastey-face. Scott wakes up in the morning to find Ramona gone, and freaks out for a bit until he realizes she's just in the shower. He then receives a text message from Kim Pine, alerting him to the fact that she's been abducted. He yells through the bathroom door to Ramona that he's going off to save Kim, but Ramona doesn't hear him and has no idea where Scott has gone when she gets out of the shower. This clearly pisses her off. She removes a towel from her head and reveals that she's cut her long hair, which Scott told her he liked, and has gone back to the hairstyle she had when she was with Gideon.

Scott heads to the abandoned building where Kim is being held captive and challenges the twins to a final battle. He quickly starts to lose ground, however, and the twins take this opportunity to reveal a few more terrible things about Ramona. Scott finds out how she cheats on everyone she dates, but is a horrible hypocrite who can't stand being with a guy who has ever cheated on a girl, even if that guy cheated with her. Kim, noticing that Scott is losing morale and about to be defeated, quickly makes up a lie that Ramona just texted her saying that she believes in him, hopes he's safe, and can't wait for him to come home. Invigorated by Ramona's renewed faith in him, Scott defeats the twins, earning $79.95 for Ken, $74.95 for Kyle, and a $2 Twin Bonus when they are reduced to coins. Scott frees Kim and rushes back home to Ramona.

Unfortunately for Scott, Ramona has actually given up on their relationship. When he gets back to their apartment, Scott finds Ramona in their room, packed and ready to leave him. He makes several futile attempts to convince her to stay, but in a sudden burst of glowy-headedness, Ramona disappears, leaving Scott with little other than Gideon the cat, a note she originally wrote for Gideon the ex, and a hole the size of Ontario in his chest. To make matters worse, when Scott leaves the apartment to go look for Ramona, Gideon the cat runs away, and Scott forgets his keys, locking himself out for good. Time passes; Scott searches for both Ramona and the cat, but is unable to find either. He switches off between Stephen Stills' and Kim Pine's apartments for places to sleep until finally his parents get him a place of his own. Eventually, Kim decides that she wants to move back home, and leaves Toronto. More alone than ever before, Scott starts to go slightly insane, imagining that he sees Gideon the ex everywhere. Finally, Scott remembers the letter that Ramona wrote to Gideon that she left at her apartment:
Gideon—

Don't wait up
for me, cause
I'm not coming
back. It's over.

—Ramona
Scott initially takes comfort from the note, until he realizes that it doesn't mean anything since she never sent it to Gideon. He has little time to ponder this, however. As the book approaches its conclusion, Scott receives a mysterious phone call. "This is Gideon. When would it be convenient for you to die?"

Rating

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Story—9.43
The subtle characterization and gradual shifts in conflict are superb. Bryan Lee O'Malley builds tension beautifully, culminating in a wonderful prelude to the final book.

Style—10
So good.

General—9.6
This volume turns a series that's often goofy and absurd into a truly suspenseful ongoing narrative. I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens to these characters.

Overall—9.68



July 20th! The final volume! Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour! All of your questions will finally be answered! Who is Gideon? Will Scott be able to win Ramona back? Can Sex Bob-omb ever recover from the loss of Kim Pine? Are Stephen Stills and Knives Chau secretly dating? Does Scott have what it takes to live in an apartment by himself? WHY DOES RAMONA'S HEAD KEEP GLOWING?!?! All this and more! Do it! Buy it! Read it! Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour! And don't forget, we'll have the culmination of all the Scott Pilgrim ratings into one final Ultimate Scott Pilgrim Rating! Until then, keep reading, Genoshans!

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