Sunday, 30 June 2019

June Wrap-up

This has been a month of big changes. I am now writing to you from a completely different location. A completely different location which has decided to welcome me with a heatwave.

Obviously, my first port of call on Saturday was the library. Never mind that I have a triple-stacked shelf of books in my wardrobe, at least a third of which I have not read. No, I don't know how I plan to get to the graphic novels at the back either. In fairness to me, there are a lot fewer unread books than I thought.

Let's talk books.

News from the Reading Front

This has been a massive month for manga, so I'm now ten books ahead on my reading challenge. I would like to think that that is the kind of lead that makes it impossible to fall behind again, but I'm not willing to count my chickens quite yet.

(You are, after all, still you.)

Thank you, Ivy.

Here's what I read this month.
  • Assassination Classroom Volumes 20 and 21 by Yusei Matsui  
  • Rebirth: Detective Comics, Volume One: Rise of the Batmen by James Tynion IV (Writer), Eddy Barrows (Penciller), Alvaro Martinez (Penciller), Al Barrionuevo (Penciller), Eber Ferreira (Inker), Raul Fernandez (Inker), Addriano Lucas (Colourist), Brad Anderson (Colourist), and Marilyn Patrizio (Letterer) - 5 Stars - Review
  • Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor
  • Terra Formars Volumes 8, 9, and 10 by Yu Sasuga 
  • Rebirth: Titans, Volume Four: Titans Apart by Dan Abnett (Writer), Paul Pelletier (Penciller), Tom Grummett (Penciller), Tom Derenick (Penciller), Andrew Hennessey (Inker), Cam Smith (Inker), Mick Grey (Inker), Trevor Scott (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colourist), Josh Reed (Letterer), Carlos M. Mangual (Letterer), and Adriano Lucas (Letterer) - 3 Stars - Review
  • Platinum End Volumes 4, 5, 6, and 7 by Tsugumi Ohba (Writer) and Takeshi Obata (Artist)
  • Bitch Planet, Volume One: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Taki Soma (Artist), Valentine De Landro (Artist), and Robert Wilson IV (Artist)
  • Smokin' Parade Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 by Jinsei Kataoka (Writer) and Kazuma Kondou (Artist)
  • Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies by Marv Wolfman (writer), Cherie Wilkerson (writer), Dan Mishkin (writer), Erik Larsen (artist), Mike DeCarlo (artist), Tom Mandrake (artist), Chuck Patton (artist), Tom Poston (artist), Vincent Giarrano (artist)
I've signed up to take part in The Reading Rush. I know I always join readathons and then remember how much I hate them, but this one has achievement badges. I CANNOT turn down achievement badges! Anyway, The Reading Rush is a week long readathon that will take place between the 22nd and the 28th of July. You can find all the information you need either in this video or on their Twitter account. If you are also taking part, my profile is here. Feel free to add me as a friend. 

News from the Writing Front

I like to overload my schedule with goals that I most certainly cannot achieve whilst adjusting to a new town, so I'm considering signing up for Camp NaNo too. By "considering", I mean it literally just hit me that July is in two days and that means that I NEED TO MAKE A DECISION. If I do take part, I will not be giving myself a massive goal. The last week of July is completely out, after all.  

News from the Blogging Front

I am very proud of my new Twitter header. The last couple of times I tried to make one ended in disaster. 

Let's chat. How did June treat you?

Thursday, 20 June 2019

That Can't Be It?! (Rebirth: Titans, Volume Four: Titans Apart)

Barry/Flash: "You guys are friends. You have been since childhood. That friendship is a wonderful thing to see... but maybe it clouds your judgement." - Dan Abnett, Titans, Volume Four: Titans Apart

Writing: Dan Abnett
Art: Paul Pelletier (Penciller), Tom Grummett (Penciller), Tom Derenick (Penciller), Andrew Hennessey (Inker), Cam Smith (Inker), Mick Grey (Inker), Trevor Scott (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colourist)
Lettering: Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual, Adriano Lucas 

It is possible that it has been too long since I read Volume Three, because the Justice League blaming the Titans for the whole Troia mishap does not make a lot of sense to me. I mean, did they make mistakes? Sure. But the whole thing stank of do I say, not as I do. It also made me wonder who watches the watchers? I'm just saying.

Anyway, I could rant all day but my three main issues are as follows.

1. The Justice League's solution to Troia is more likely to send Donna down that route than keep her from it. It involves them putting a woman who has done nothing wrong on house arrest and isolating her from her friends. This plan has no definite end date or intended goal. Again, I ask, who watches the watchers?

2. The Justice League treat Troia as Donna's inevitable future rather than just one of many possibilities. Never mind that both alternate universes and possible futures are comic book staples. To give you the sheer scale of the ridiculousness of this, it's like locking Tim Drake up for the events of Super Sons of Tomorrow despite the fact that no one even bothered to call him about his evil future self dropping into the timeline.

3. Batman thinks that they should have called more experienced heroes in to help - odd, considering that I'm pretty sure that these guys have been doing this almost as long as their mentors - and also thinks he's a better leader than Nightwing. 

(*Insert laugh track here*)

He also pulls the "I'm so disappointed in you" card to get Nightwing to cave and shut down the Titans, which is a complete dick move. Personally, I think Bruce should have more faith in (and respect for) the guy who took on all of his responsibilities back when he was MIA and did a better job of raising his son than he ever has. But. Here we are. 

Anyway. All this to say that I did enjoy this book. Hence the rating. 

After they get shut down, everyone goes their seperate ways. If you're a fan of Omen, Tempest, or Bumblebee, this is not the book for you. They disappear after the first issue. For the most part, this book focuses on Arsenal taking down a drug ring whilst Donna quietly frets in the background. After a misunderstanding, she sends Nightwing and Flash in to help him with all the wrong conclusions. The villains - two members of the Brotherhood of Evil - act as foils to the fractured team. Essentially, this volume is all about messy friendships and how they fall apart and come back together.

I really liked the conflict between Arsenal and Nightwing, because it highlighted their similarities. Case in point: Arsenal thinks about how anything is a weapon in his hands, only for Nightwing to immediately brain him with a pan and then the fridge door.

Ultimately, the fact that this is THE END of this iteration of the Titans confused me. Like, they've just defied the Justice League to save the world and now they're going to split up and form a completely new team? Why? Why would they do that? Where is the logic? Is this going to be mandated by the Justice League? WHAT IS GOING ON?

Let's talk about character conflict!

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

On Originality

The idea that originality gives a work value is a relatively modern one. It can be traced back to romanticism, a literary movement that did not began until the late 18th century. In fact Shakespeare, apparently one of the greatest playwrights of all time, never wrote a single original play, instead retelling mythology and history.

Nowadays, we talk about ideas that have been done and tropes that should be dead. Love triangles, for example, in YA fiction. Love triangles, of course, have been around since antiquity. Paris, Helen, and Menelaus. Hephaestus, Aphrodite, and Ares. I could pull several more examples from Greek Mythology alone. Love it or hate it, the love triangle is a zombie. Maybe they've had a bit of a moment recently, but it's still possible to come across a book with a love triangle that doesn't bog the story down. It's also a trope that I can't imagine will ever be abandoned completely.

And why should it be? After all, part of the fun of genre is playing with conventions. Mystery fiction is full of unreliable narrators and alcoholic detectives. Fantasy has rebellious princesses and heroes chosen by morally ambiguous wizards. Science-fiction has robo-apocalypse and alien invasion plotlines a-plenty. Sometimes these ideas are written how you would expect them to be - the detective solves the case, the rebellious princess flees an arranged marriage, the aliens attack the USA - but the writer can also subvert your expectations by adding a twist, or deconstruct the trope, or parody it to hell and back.

None of that is bad.

They became genre conventions because people enjoyed them. They enjoyed them so much that they wanted to read other people's takes on the same idea.

Ultimately, I think it's worth remembering the Harry Potter series. The books were a storm of well-worn fantasy tropes: chosen ones, prophecies, and older mentors who died tragically. Even the setting, a magical boarding school, had been written about before. What made Harry Potter so popular that it rose above all of those other stories was the way J.K. Rowling used those ideas. 

Do you think originality gives a story more value?

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Tonight Someone Dies (Detective Comics, Volume One: Rise of the Batmen)

Steph/Spoiler: "I am still so sore from yesterday. If this is another nightmare training session, I'm definitely going to - Is that Batman? Is that Batman losing?" - James Tynion IV,  Detective Comics, Volume One: Rise of the Batmen

Writing: James Tynion IV
Art: Eddy Barrows (Penciller), Alvaro Martinez (Penciller), Al Barrionuevo (Penciller), Eber Ferreira (Inker), Raul Fernandez (Inker), Addriano Lucas (Colourist), Brad Anderson (Colourist)
Lettering: Marilyn Patrizio 

I've been itching to get my hands on this for ages. I absolutely love team-up arcs! 

Sensing trouble on the horizon, Batman recruits Batwoman to train and lead a new all-Bat superhero team. He picks the members - Red Robin (Tim Drake), Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler (Stephanie Brown), and Clayface (Basil Karlo) - and also bans her from taking them out in the field immediately. It is worth noting that these characters are not untrained - Batman himself notes that Orphan is an unparalleled fighter, and that underestimating Spoiler always comes back to bite him - they're just untrained as a team. It is also worth noting that both Batwoman and Red Robin think that this is stupid and controlling of him. This is definitely a Batwoman story given the choice of villain, but there's also a nice subplot where Red Robin stresses over telling Batman that he's going to go off to college while Spoiler groans in the background because this should not be this hard!

I really liked the way the relationships between the characters were built up in this book. We don't see a lot of Cass in this arc (although enough to establish that she's the toughest fighter and knows it, thank you very much), but we see enough to establish that she's close friends with Steph. It's also heavily implied that she likes to be around people, given that she's crashing at Steph's instead of going back to her own place, and sitting up in the rafters watching lots of people people do ballet in her down-time. Steph and Tim are together, obviously. Tim thinks she's a bit reckless. Steph thinks he's a bit patronising. She also has a good read on the reason why it's so hard for him to tell Bruce he's leaving - he's suffering from Robinitis, also known as a chronic need not to let Batman down. 

Whilst Batwoman's complicated relationship with the main villain is interesting, the rivalry between Tim and Ulysses really stole the show. Ulysses is tech-savvy, an expert-hacker, and a Batman fanboy. He's a villainous dork and I love him. Him and Tim end up in a battle of one-up-manship, each of them hacking each other's gadgets to mess up their schemes and contingency plans. I'm not sure if Tim's sudden cockiness is down to character development or the fact that we're in a new universe (most of the other things I've read with Tim in are from the nineties), but personally I think his final decision in this arc, whilst noble, was careless. Possibly because he got too invested in outsmarting Ulysses. Competition can be intoxicating, after all. Either way, that was one hell of a miscalculation.

I loved the way this book felt connected to the rest of the DC universe. Usually, characters that could help, but aren't involved, and technologies that exist, but the main characters don't have access to, are ignored. Here, we had acknowledgement of Superman, and Midnighter's doorways. They were options, but the characters either sorted the problem before they needed to call them in, or couldn't get a hold of them.

The art was a bit up and down in places, but the picture of Tim taking on all of the drones was as beautiful as it was heart-breaking. It's followed pretty swiftly by a beautifully framed scene of Bruce and Steph - who are both closer to Tim than they are each other - reaching out to each other for comfort. It's also worth noting that I hate, hate, hate that Tim's Rebirth Red Robin costume is basically a Robin costume. (And I liked the "showgirl wings!")

What was the last thing you read that left you feeling satisfied?

Thursday, 6 June 2019

I'm Not Mad, I'm Just Disappointed (Adventures of the Super Sons, Volume One: Action Detectives)

Jon/Superboy: "It's the Summer of Super!"
Damian/Robin: "Seriously, I will pay you eight million dollars to stop saying that." - Peter J. Tomasi, Adventure of the Super Sons, Volume One: Action Detectives

Writing: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Carlo Barberi, Art Thibert, and Scott Godlewski (#6 only)
Covers: Dan Mora
Lettering: Rob Leigh

You may remember this book from my post, My Five Most Anticipated 2019 Releases. It wasn't bad - it still has all the things I loved about the Super Sons series - but it has its issues.

Let's start with the good.

This is still one of my favourite DC character dynamics. On the one hand you've got Jon, who's half-alien but completely normal. On the other, you've got Damian, who's completely human, but was raised as an assassin and has the social skills of a dead frog. (I blame the parents.) This series has the same writer, so everything picks up exactly how it left off, including the banter between the characters.

The art is also awesome. The new villains have some cool designs, especially Ice Princess.

But the plot. The. Plot. 

The first three issues are good. The boys get kidnapped by a couple of aliens who want the Hypercube that Superman (apparently) has in his Fortress of Solitude. In escaping, they cause the spaceship to crash. 

Then we hit issue four and everything goes off the rails. Creepy Gothic mansion? Good. Lampshading of the weirdness of both a breathable atmosphere and said mansion? Also, good. The cliffhanger at the end of issue #4? Just plain weird. And I say that as someone who has read (and watched) some pretty weird stuff. In some ways, I think it's clever, like the lack of differences between the two heroes and these new(?) characters. Obviously they were pulled from the minds of children. The future is a magical, far-off place where anything can happen, but we all hope to stay ourselves. Ultimately though, this plotline was too weird for me. It was also filler, which I don't see as a problem most of the time. For why it was this time, I refer you to the number of times I've used the word "weird" in this paragraph.

I am looking forward to the prison planet though. Like, yes! This is going to be good! 

Read anything that failed to measure up to your expectations recently?

Sunday, 2 June 2019

May Wrap-up

Things are looking up! The next couple of months are going to hold some big changes for me. It's terrifying and exciting all at once, but hopefully it won't stop me from posting.

News from the Reading Front

As I write this, I am on track with my Goodread's challenge. No one is more surprised than me. Let's take a look back at what I read this month.

Spring Bingo Wrap-up

Becca over at Pretty Deadly Reviews runs seasonal bookish bingo cards. 


News from the Drawing Front 

I'm not a big fan of drawing mermaids, mostly because I'm bad at it. With people, you can cut off the legs and claim that you were only drawing torsos. With mermaids... Well. It's not a mermaid without the tail, is it? But it was MerMay, so I gave it my best shot.

Prompt: Aquabat
As usual, clicking on the drawings will take you to the tweets I originally posted them in. Twitter is where I post my drawings first, so follow me if you're looking to see more.

I think I just made it this time, but, for future reference, how late is it acceptable to post a wrap-up post?