Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interlude: All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder Volume 1

The friend who lent me both Volume 3 and 5 of Star Wars Tales also lent me All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder Volume 1. He told me it was a really good story. And it totally was. All Star Batman & Robin is a reimagining of the origins of Robin. This volume starts with Dick Grayson's parents getting killed in front of him at the circus. The cops of Gotham are still crooked, and they take the boy. Batman follows them and saves him (while looking like he kidnapped Dick), having decided to recruit him as his protege. He sets about training Dick in much the same manner as he trained himself. Or at least he tries to - Alfred won't have much of that and takes it upon himself to feed Dick hamburgers and help him where he can.

This takes place at a time where Batman isn't established yet, and neither is the Justice League. The Justice League consists of four people: Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Plastic Man. And they aren't happy with the Batman's actions, especially now that he's kidnapped a kid. Wonder Woman wants to go hunt Batman, but the rest of the League insist on talking with him first. So they send Green Lantern.

This led to a hilarious encounter between Batman and Green Lantern. I didn't know this, but apparently the colour yellow is Green Lantern's weakness. So Batman and his new sidekick Robin (named after Robin Hood - Dick Grayson styled his costume after the hero, wanting to be called "Hood." Batman removed the costume's hood and called him "Robin" instead) paint themselves and the meeting place completely yellow. Green Lantern is unable to use his powers against them. Robin also manages to steal the Green Lantern's ring, leading to a fight between the two where things almost turn tragic for Green Lantern when Robin hits his windpipe. Batman has to perform a tracheostomy to save him.

In the aftermath, Batman realizes that he has failed in his teachings. And more importantly, he hasn't given Dick the time he needs to grieve for his parents. So they stop in the cemetary to grieve together.

All Star Batman & Robin was a lot darker than I was expecting. But it was a really good story all the same, giving origins for several super heroes (like Black Canary). I'm really glad my friend lent it to me!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Library Book: Cowboys and Aliens

I recently watched the movie Cowboys & Aliens starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. I really enjoyed it and decided I wanted to read the graphic novel it was based off of as well. Luckily the Library had a copy, so I put it on hold and picked it up yesterday while at work.

I have to say: the graphic novel is nothing like the movie. Well, there are some similarities, like the cowboys, Native people and aliens are fighting. And the cowboys have to work with the Natives in order to defeat the aliens. But other than that, this is a very different story from the movie.

The main difference is the very narrative. The prologue opens by comparing tha aliens to the way the Europeans looked at the Native people of North America (and pretty much every non-European in the world): their ways are inferior and so they must move aside, join us (but as inferior savages) or be elliminated. The aliens do this to another planet. So when the aliens actually do show up to Earth, they look at all humans as savages. (And from their point of view, they have good reason to. They have the superior technology, having travelled through space. We have mastered only steam technology at this point, far inferior to them).

I also liked that the graphic novel characterizes the aliens in a way that the movie didn't. In the movie, the aliens are gross monster-like things, doing experiments for no explicable reason (other than to "learn our weakenesses"). Here the alien leader is a jerk who thinks he's superior and is damn well going to show it (ie. kill people) through all his technology. It was a lot easier to relate to him and his followers. Plus they were some sort of galactic slavers (a friend of mine compared them to pirates), which again made more sense than whatever they were doing in the movie (I know what they were doing, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers here. But it really did make less sense than the graphic novel's version).

Don't get me wrong, I really like the movie. It had a great cast and did a fantastic job of being a Western turned on its head. But I think the graphic novel was better.

Monday, February 20, 2012

List Update

This really isn't much of an update. I got rid of a couple of books I hung onto but don't think I'm going to reread ever. To that end, I also discovered that I had two copies of Legends 2. I thought I'd gotten rid of the first one a long time ago, so I rebought it to read a story. Apparently the first copy was on my shelf the entire time. I'm keeping the first copy. I was also thinking of getting rid of the Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy, but I'm pretty sure there's a Neil Gaiman story I want to read first. I think I'll do that tomorrow and get rid of that book, too.

After reading Life As I Blow It, I've decided I'm going to read through some of my books before I read anything else, with the one exception being another graphic novel the same friend who lent me Star Wars Tales Volumes 3 and 5 lent me. This other graphic novel is a Batman story, so I'm excited about that. I'd also like to get his graphic novels back to him. :)

But yeah, I have 134 books currently on the List that need reading (although that number may go down because I may be removing a few like the aforementioned Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy). And I've also decided I'm going to read some of the books I have no intention of keeping once I've read them. These are books like The Help, Twenties Girl and The Lovely Bones. They're all things I'd really like to read, and once I do I can free up some shelf space for the things I really want to keep. Like my Terry Brooks.

I do have a few other library books out right now though. And I wanted to read two of them before writing an article for work. So I may have to wait until I read them before I keep my resolution to only read my books. So as of right now, I will not take any new library books out until I at least read some of my own!

I guess this ended up a longer update than I originally thought it would be!

Library Book: Life As I Blow It

I was at work when I spotted Sarah Colonna's Life As I Blow It. I've never heard of Sarah Colonna before, but her book sounded like fun so I took it out. I thought it was a book of essays about random topics in her life. I guess it was, but it was more of a biography.

There isn't a lot to say about what's in this book. The cover pretty much sums it up: "Tales of Life, Love & Sex....Not Necessarily in that Order." But I would add "booze" to the list as well. A good chunk of her time seems to be spent drinking.

That being said, I really enjoyed reading Life As I Blow It. Colonna is a comedian among other things and that really came through in her writing. Her life has been rather eventful thus far, so that was a lot of fun as well.

But more than anything, I enjoyed reading Life As I Blow It because Colonna's life has been so different from mine. For me it was a lot of fun to see the differences, and to see what leading such a life might be like. I realize that not everyone would approach this book in that way, and that's fine too. It really is a good read on its own (I read it in a day). But as a glimpse of another life, this book really shined.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Interlude: Star Wars Tales Vol 5

The same friend who lent me Star Wars Tales Volume 3 lent me Star Wars Tales Volume 5. Yesterday I went to see The Phantom Menace in 3D, so to get myself psyched up for Star Wars, I read through most of Volume 5.

When my friend lent it to me, he told me Volume 5 was good, but not as good as Volume 3. I am inclined to agree. Volume 3 had some really awesome stories in it, none of which were matched by anything in Volume 5. But that being said, I enjoyed reading almost everything in Volume 5. Like my run down for Volume 3, I am going to talk about the tales individually; unfortunately there will be a few spoilers.

"Planet of the Dead" was a strange tale where Han and Chewie deal with the undead. "All for You" was a story about a village. A dying Jedi gives the village a Sith holocron to keep safe, but the younger generation disagrees and wants to give it to the Sith. "Phantom Menaces" was another strange tale, where Luke Skywalker visits Darth Maul's world and finds that the Sith Lord may not be dead afterall. "Ghosts of Hoth" involves the explanation of what happened to the people who inhabited the base on Hoth before the rebels. It's another story featuring Chewie. "The Apprentice" was an interesting story involving the Sith. A Master and his Apprentice are stopped by a Toydarian slaver. The Apprentice takes offense to the Toydarian and kills him. The Master tells his Apprentice to deal with the slave girl. Let's just say that things don't go as planned for the Apprentice.

The next story, "Dark Journey," was a really twisted tale. A Jedi knight has been tracking a serial killer who has murdered both her lover and some Twi'lek girls. She encounters another Jedi knight, who tells her he's here to bring her back to the Jedi Council. She retaliates against him with her Dark side persona, revealing that she has killed all of the victims, but in her Jedi persona does not remember doing the deed. The Jedi persona then discovers that the serial killer has killed once again, this time a Jedi knight, so she renews her vow to bring the serial killer to justice.

"Number Two in the Galaxy" is the first in a bunch of stories about Boba Fett. I really liked this one. A bunch of people, led by the man who is second only to Boba Fett, decide they're going to kill Fett. They attack him when he is most vulnerable, relaxing without his weapons and armour. Unfortunately for them, there's a reason why Boba Fett is the best in the galaxy. "Payback" was another Fett story, not as good as "Number Two in the Galaxy." Here Fett is hired to get someone either dead or alive. He is set up but still manages to win, collecting the bounty (and making his employer quite sad in the process). All in all, revenge doesn't pay. "Being Boba Fett" was another good story. This is a sort of day in the life of Fett. He wakes up, and while getting ready has to deal with the image of his father staring back at him in the mirror. He takes a job and successfully tracks his target. But his target, pleading for his life, tells Fett that he knows where a Jedi is living. So Fett goes after the Jedi, but discovers that the man with a lightsaber is not an actual jedi; he is the son of a jedi, who never knew his father. What's more, this so called "Jedi" is a father himself. The story ends with Fett returning to his initial target and telling him the contract calls for the target to be either dead or alive. Finally, Fett looks in the mirror and says good night to his father. "Way of the Warrior" was an okay story that featured a young Boba Fett helping his father on a mission. I liked that the young Fett had many questions at the end of the mission; this story shows how he learned what his father was really like (and that he was like that as well). "Revenants" was the final Boba Fett story and was completely different from the others. It followed an aging Han Solo who was doing a reconaissance mission, where he is attacked by Boba Fett. He is shot down and proceeds to do his utmost to survive against his dangerous foe. After fighting (and presumably killing) Fett multiple times, he realizes there's more than one man after him. He then comes face to face with the real Fett, who tells him this was a training mission for his new army. He thanks Solo for weeding out the weak ones, then tells him they're working for the highest bidder. Unfortunately, the Yuuzhan Vong currently have all the money. The Mandalorians leave, letting Han live.

"Collapsing New Empires" was the first non-Fett story. This was a weird tale, where some crazy machine guy wanted to remove the weak flesh people from the galaxy, replacing them with his artist (and superior) machines. He is defeatd by Luke Skywalker and company. "The Value of Proper Intelligence" was a really short story that I enjoyed. The Empire arrives on a small planet, claiming it for themselves. Unfortunately the unassuming farmer they were talking to transforms into a monster who kills them all. It then goes back to farming, using their bodies as scarecrows for its field. "Rather Darkness Visible" was a sad story from the Clone Wars. A Jedi apprentice is sent with her Master to investigate the illegal cloning operation that is apparently operating out of a mine. They walk into a trap. The Master is killed but the padawan gets away, only to be blown out of the sky by Count Dooku. The miners were hoping to collect a bounty for both the Jedi and Padawan, but are only paid half of what they expected because they did not kill both. The miners are forced to leave their homes because they do not have the resources (or money) to survive there. "The Rebel Club" was a funny tale where Vader is running a class full of the Rebels. He instructs them all to write an essay as to the location of the Rebel Base. Mouthing off, Han Solo is rewarded multiple hours in the torture chamber. The rebels meet the janitor, Obi Wan Kenobi, who tells them the tractor beam is no longer operational, so they escape from the Death Star. "The Lost Lightsaber" is the story of Anakin's lightsaber, after Luke loses it in Cloud City. The lightsaber changes hands multiple times until it finally finds its way to Luke Skywalker's son.

"Into the Great Unknown" was a really different story. Han and Chewie make a blind jump through hyperspace and find themselves in parts unknown. They land on a planet which they mistakenly believe is Endor's moon. They are attacked by Native Americans and Han is killed. 126 years later, Indiana Jones comes in search of this Sasquatch, but after encountering Han's remains (which he says are "eerily familiar"), Jones decides to leave everything be. "Storyteller" was another different story. This takes place long after the Rebellion. A downtrodden race seeks a mysterious oracle. They discover the remains of C3P0, who tells them tales from the Rebellion. At the end they discover a hidden lightsaber, and begin to plot the freedom of their people.

"George R. Binks" was hilarious! It was the story of Jar Jar's father, a great whaler. Jar Jar doesn't listen to his father's instructions and they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. The father tries to get rid of Jar Jar, but Jar Jar's mother keeps stopping him. The story ends with the father in dispair, having chosen not to marry the love of his life because she could not bear him a son. Unfortunately, Jar Jar was the direct result of that choice.

"Who's Your Daddy" was another short story. Vader practices the line "Luke, I am your father," only to completely screw it up when he finally faces his son.

"Fred Jawa" was awesome! The Jawas show up to a family to sell more droids. The droids always fall apart right before the jawas are due back in town. Fred Jawa steps in, selling them an extended warranty. The farmer is proud of his investment, having paid to keep his droids running longer. But Fred Jawa is just another scam artist, having fleeced the farmer out of more money than normal for him and his other Jawa pals.

"Luke Skywalker Detective" was alright. Luke is framed for murder back on Tatooine, but manages to solve the mystery of what really happened to the victim. "Hunger Pains" is the story of the Wampa's starving family. He greedily eats the Tauntaun by himself, but when his kids show up, he goes to get them the human. Unfortunately, that human escapes and severs his arm. The wampa feeds his arm to his children. "Falling Up With Jar Jar Binks" was a weird story. Jar Jar is in power, and gets voted back into power because he is the lovable Jar Jar Binks. The Emperor tries to get Jar Jar on his side, but fails somehow because Jar Jar Binks seems to rule all. It was weird and I didn't really like it. "Nobody's Perfect" was another short comic where Anakin confesses to all the horrible things he's done. He tells Padme he understands if she doesn't want to marry him, but she is completely unfazed by his confession. "Problem Solvers" was pretty funny. Han was too busy to fix some computers like Leia asked, so he delegated to C3P0...who hired Ewoks...! "Melvin Fett" was a story about Boba's stupid cousin. He hunts Jar Jar Binks and "finds" him. It was a really silly story.

"Young Lando Calrissian" was the final story in the volume. Lando impersonates a jedi in order to fleece a tribe of aliens who had rancor troubles. Believing the rancor to be long gone, he finds himself having to deal with another rancor. He brings back proof of having vanquished this new rancor (who in reality just swam away), and finds that he was tricked by the people he was trying to fleece!

At the end of the volume, there were also some really short comics featuring the editor. They were pretty funny to read as well.

All in all, this was a really good volume of completely random tales from the Star Wars universe. It was a lot of fun to read, and you should definitely give this a try if you're a fan of the Star Wars Universe!