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Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Few Graphic Novels - Jan 2022


 A friend of mine lent me some graphic novels a little while ago and I finally got around to reading them today. 

First was Return of the Valkyries, a random story where Jane Foster brings more Valkyries back (?) in the middle of Marvel's The King in Black event.  Right off the bat I was kind of in trouble because I knew nothing about The King in Black (but the book does a good enough job of giving you the gist of things so I get that it's like a chaotic god named Knull is attacking the earth with an army of symbiote-dragons).  It opens with Jane Foster ferrying the best super-human, Sentry, to death because he failed to stop the mad god (I'm not a comics expert, but I have never heard of this guy before so his death meant nothing to me). :( On the way to the afterlife, they find the body of the Celestial whose head is being mined elsewhere (where the Collector lives in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie).  The body has been trapping souls and manages to snag Sentry's.  While trying to get him back, Jane frees another lost soul (and fellow Valkyrie). They return to Valhalla where Brunnhilde fills Jane in on what they're dealing with (the Celestial's body is tied to Knull.  Breaking the bond between the two will weaken Knull.  But the rescued Valkyrie isn't interested in joining the fight, so Jane hatches a desperate plan with two others.

I found this one kind of hard to follow at times.  Yes, I understood the main plot and what was going on.  But I had a hard time keeping track of what all the characters were doing and why (and also who was dead vs who wasn't, as the dead Valkyries all show up to help).  I also have no idea what the rescued Valkyrie's name is (I'm sure it says it somewhere, but I didn't catch it, even though I caught her dead lover's name, and the names of some of the dead Valkyries).  This story also kind of felt out of place to read it on its own - it would probably be a lot better within the context of the King in Black storyline.


Next was Star: Birth of a Dragon. Star (aka Ripley Ryan) is a character from Captain Marvel.  While interviewing Captain Marvel, Ryan was kidnapped and later gained superpowers, attempting to kill Captain Marvel (she failed, but I think she killed many in New York).  To stop her, Captain Marvel ripped a hole through her chest.  But she didn't die.  Instead she somehow ended up bound with the reality stone.  Sentenced to prison on the Raft, she breaks out and just wants to be left alone.  But her uses of the infinity stone are clumsy, and she suddenly has a whole pile of superhumans looking for her to obtain it!

 This was a really interesting read.  Ryan is suffering from PTSD after being kidnapped and having Captain Marvel punch a hole through her.  She's trying to deal with that while also trying to control her new powers.  And to make everything worse, guess who shows up, but Captain Marvel herself!  I think what really made this story shine was at the end when Carol Danvers doesn't understand what happened (and just how traumatized Ryan is by her), why Ryan chose to make a deal with the Black Order rather than fighting with her and Scarlet Witch. I'm not sure if that PTSD will feature in future stories with this character, but I'm definitely interested to read more!


Finally, I read Crossover Volume 1: Kids Love Chains.  This one has a really interesting premise.  All the people of all the comic books have suddenly appeared in our world, blurring the lines between what is real and what is fake.  The comic people have erected a barrier over one of our cities.  Any of the comic people caught outside of the dome are immediately surrendered to the police when caught.  

In the middle of all this is Ellie, a young girl whose parents were caught on the other side of the dome.  She works in a comics shop with Otto.  When a young comic girl, Ava, is found in the shop, everyone panics and the shop is lit on fire.  Ellie, Otto, and Ava escape, and end up embarking on a journey to return Ava to her world (and hopefully find Ellie's parents along the way).  

I really, really enjoyed Crossovers.  It was a really interesting look at what could happen if our world collided with the fantasy world of comics (in a very District 9 kind of way).  The one issue I had with it was that I didn't really know who any of the characters in it were (although there was a list at the end with thanks to people whose characters appeared in this, so that was helpful).  I loved the ending, and can't wait to read more of Ellie's adventures!

Friday, January 7, 2022

Noor

 


For my first book of 2022, I decided to read Noor by Nnedi Okorafor, one of the library books I have out.  I really enjoyed the worldbuilding in her Binti series, so I was looking forward to more of the same.

Noor follows Anwuli Okwudili (or AO as she prefers to be called), a young woman who was born wrong (and later in a freak accident which made everything worse).  Against the wishes of her family and the larger society, she's had many cybernetic upgrades, which allowed her to walk.  But the larger society of Nigeria looks at her as a freak and devil as a result.  So one day when she goes to a market, one which she always thought was quite safe, where the people knew her, a group of men attacked her.  She fights back, and kills them.  Fleeing for her life, she makes her way north towards the desert and the Red Eye, a disastrous sandstorm that has cropped up on Earth that is similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot.  Taking herself offline, she fully intends to just go and die.  But she encounters a Fulani herdsman named DNA and his two remaining cows (GPS and Carpe Diem) who have also just escaped from their own tragedy.  And so they end up on the run together.

While the book is short (I think it's only 211 pages), I felt like it trudged forward, even during what should have been the faster paced action scenes. Which was odd, because then suddenly the book just seemed to end abruptly.  I will admit though, I did really enjoy the end, despite it feeling so hasty.

I also felt like it didn't spend enough time with the characters of the book.  I had a pretty good feel for AO, but I felt like I was being told about her, rather than being allowed to connect with her on an emotional level. That was true of the other characters too (although as you moved away from AO, I felt like you had less and less of a feel for anyone, including DNA).  

All in all, I found Noor to have some interesting ideas, particularly about identity and fitting in, but it just never came together as a whole for me. :(

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

 


Wow.  

A friend of mine recommended Christina Henry's Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook to me a few months ago.  We were talking about fairy tales after I read Beasts and Beauty.  The way she described it to me reminded me of Brom's The Child Thief (which, even as I was reading Lost Boy, is a very apt comparison).  

In Lost Boy, Jamie (the person we know of as Captain Hook), is Peter's first lost boy.  He knows he is special because Peter tells him so.  But over the years, Peter has brought more and more playmates to their island, and it's fallen to Jamie to take care of them because Peter could care less if they live or die on his island (just so long as they aren't annoying him and he's having fun).  But one day, Peter brings Charlie, a five year old boy back to the island.  Charlie is much younger than any of the other boys, and can't really keep up or play their games with them because he's too little.  So Jamie takes to protecting the little one, to Peter's great annoyance.  And Peter starts plotting in his sly way to get rid of the little one so Jamie's attention will be back on him for good.

This version of Peter Pan is very, very similar to Brom's: he's bringing children specifically into danger, and doesn't care because he can just get more of them.  And like in The Child Thief, the character of Captain Hook is fantastic (although these characters are very, very different).  Brom's Hook was a grown up trying to make his way home.  Henry's Jamie is a boy who is far older than he looks who grows up as he starts to see through Peter's glamour and lies.  Jamie felt so real, trying to care for everyone and keep them safe even though it was an impossible task and he didn't know all the rules (because Peter deliberately kept them from him).  

The supporting characters are also great.  The Lost Boys all had in ways childhood innocence that you can see falling away as the story unfolds.  This was most noticeable with Charlie, though you see it through some of the older boys like Nod as well.  

Henry wove a superb story which I couldn't put down.  I'm looking forward to reading more of her work (and also maybe rereading both this and The Child Thief one day)!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Estranged: The Changeling King


 I was very excited to get my hands on Estranged: The Changeling King after reading Estranged a few days ago.  This one takes place a little while after the first volume. Ed (the Childe) is trying to adjust to the World Above, and King Cinder is trying to rule the World Below justly.  But magic is fading in the World Below, causing more and more troubles in the outer lands.  And Ed's parents want to visit the World Below to try to make sense of what happened to their two sons.  

While I enjoyed reading The Changeling King, I didn't like it as much as the first volume of Estranged.  To me it felt like a bit too similar of a story - the World Below is in trouble once again, so it's up to Ed, Cinder, and Alexis, along with basically all their friends from the first book, to save the day.  Yes, there were differences - I wasn't expecting the mysterious queen to be Ed and Cinder's mother (I was honestly expecting their aunt, Hawthorne, to make a reappearance).  And the roots of magic were interesting, especially what needed to be done to obtain new seeds (I also misread that part - I thought the Queen said the Royal Family had to give a secret, which I took to mean the price was a secret or a memory, not that the process of tithing was secret). The end had a lot of running around and away from people, which again was very similar to the first book (where they were literally trying to outrun Hawthorne's guards). 

I also felt that this story was mainly setting up for future volumes - the Wild Hunt will be after Ed now, and magic has changed within the world thanks to Alexis planting a seed in the World Above, so future stories will be exploring the consequences of that.  So while this story was fine, I am hopeful (and looking forward to) future volumes!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Estranged


A friend of mine recommended Estranged to me when we were looking at some new library books (Volume 2 had just come out). So I put Volume 1 on hold, but it took awhile for me to get it (hence I'm reading it a few months later).

Estranged is the story of the Childe, a human changeling who was raised by faeries, and Edmund, the fae who replaced him. When a fae ball is crashed by the evil Hawthorne, who changes the king and queen into rats and takes control of the World Below, the Childe and his faithful golem servant Whick go looking for help. They quickly determine they cannot trust anyone in the World Below, and so go looking for the Childe's counterpart in the World Above.

Edmund of course wants nothing to do with the Childe, fearing he will take Edmund's family (the Childe's rightful family) away. But when Hawthorne's minions attack, Edmund unfortunately learns that Hawthorne wants him dead because he is the rightful heir to the World Below. And so he ventures Below with the Childe and Whick to try to stop her (and to keep his family safe). 

I really liked how Edmund's big sister, Alexis, saw the three of them leaving and followed them into the World Below to find out what the heck was going on and why she has two brothers. She was incredibly welcoming to the Childe while not rejecting Edmund either, showing Edmund that maybe he doesn't have to hide who he is, and that he should try telling their parents the truth. Edmund was always terrified to do so because he was afraid of losing them.

Honestly, all of the main characters were great (and I liked the supporting cast too, especially the Nanny). I thought Ethan M. Aldridge did a fantastic job of showing how the two boys' upbringings changed them while also making them stronger in their own ways (although it was a shame that Edmund's art didn't feature more in the story beyond leading Whick and the Childe to him).

Estranged was at its heart about finding your place in the wider world, including you family. I thought it had some lovely themes about accepting people for who they are. I really, really enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to Volume 2!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

All About Anne


After finishing The Diary of a Young Girl, I was chatting with a friend and they mentioned flipping through a children's book on Anne Frank that had pictures and more information on the people in her life.  So I went looking at the library and found All About Anne by the Anne Frank House.  It gives a great historical overview of all the events surrounding Anne Frank's life.  I really liked how it even goes into detail on what happened after the diary ends, and how her father dedicated his life to getting her story out there.  I also really liked seeing all the pictures (although I was disappointed that there weren't photos of the other inhabitants of the Secret Annex, just Anne's family). It was a little weird though that this book had different names for everyone from what Anne called them in her diary (for example, the family who lived in the Secret Annex with the Franks were the van Pels according to All About Anne, but Anne named them the Van Daans in The Diary of a Young Girl, though Peter was still Peter in both books).  This mostly wasn't a problem, but I'm now not 100% sure which girl was Lies in The Diary of a Young Girl. 

But all in all, I found this a fantastic supplement to The Diary of a Young Girl, and am very glad to have read it! 

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Diary of a Young Girl


For Remembrance Day this year, I decided to read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. My brother and parents read it years ago, bur I was resistant because I thought it would be super depressing. So I wasn't at all prepared for what I found when I started reading: Anne was a superb writer! She was quite funny, and had a real talent for describing what went on around her in the "Secret Annex" where her family and four other people (another family and an elderly doctor) hid for two years before they were discovered by the Gestapo right at the end of the war (the afterword says the Franks were on the very last train in Holland to Auschwitz). 

Anne doesn't just describe the people and life in the Secret Annex; she also spends a lot of time examining her own character, and striving to become a better person. For a young girl (she was 13 when her family went into hiding), she has a remarkably deep understanding of herself and her faults. She admits her failings to Kitty (that's the name she gave her diary), and works hard to right the wrongs she causes. Over the course of the two years, she grows into an independent woman who knows what she wants in life.

As I was reading The Diary of a Young Girl, I was repeatedly struck by the sadness of knowing that the Nazis robbed us of a remarkable writer. Who knows what else she would have written had she lived?

All in all, I really enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl, and am very glad I chose to read it this Remembrance Day.