Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Aquaman: Volume 7

Well, Aquaman Volume 7: Exiled was a bit confusing at first. It opens with Aquaman fighting Atlantean soldiers on the surface. Then it gives us a bit of back and forth between what happened in the past vs what's happening now. And it takes quite awhile for everything to come together and make sense. But once it finally does, it gets pretty good.

Basically, another world is invading ours. The other world, named Thule, was once a part of Atlantis. But when King Atlan succeeded in uniting Atlantis, a sect of wizards escaped by creating their own world. But now whatever magic kept them apart is failing. But they knew this day would come and so have spent centuries preparing for it, with the intent of conquering our world.
Arthur went to fight this threat on his own, leaving Mera behind as Queen of Atlantis. But when he came back to tell her that there are many innocent people who would be killed if he outright destroyed Thule, she accused him of being a traitor. So Arthur has been been trying to rescue the innocent Atlanteans of Thule while fighting the dark magics of the wizard kings AND evading the team Mera has sent to capture him.

Of course, Mera isn't actually Mera; her shapeshifter sister has taken her place on the throne. I was thinking she'd been mind controlled or something because the angry Mera on the throne was obviously not the regular Mera.
So Arthur fights everyone on his own for awhile until Wonder Woman confronts him. Then he gets the rest of the Justice League to help him invade Thule and destroy it while making sure as many innocents as possible get out. Oh yeah and he takes a little time out before this to go save Mera (but it's ok, she manages to save herself in the meantime - Mera is awesome!)

So while confusing at first, overall Exiled is a pretty good read. Still no war of the Seven Seas though (which was totally alluded to at the end of Volume 4). But apparently there's a Volume 8 coming, so *maybe* it'll be in there?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Aquaman Volume 6

Well, Aquaman Volume 6: the Maelstrom was better than Volume 5.  But still nothing about the other kingdoms being reunited.  :(

This time, Aquaman has to fight the Chimera, the crazy experiment a Triton Base scientist cooked up using the brain of an Atlantean monster.  The Chimera was able to camouflage as things, and had all the super powers of all the predators under the sea.  He thought he'd be able to mind control Arthur (especially since he was able to control the minds of fish better than Arthur), but he totally failed.  But he lived to fight another day, so I guess we'll see the Chimera again sometime. 

After that, Arthur invited Dr. Shin, Daniel Evans, and the Martian Manhunter into Atlantis to help him solve a problem: why are the seaquakes happening?  It turns out, they're because Arthur is king, but he is part surface dweller, so the living kingdom (it absorbs the thoughts and feelings of dead Atlanteans) has not completely accepted him.  It should have been fine when his mother died.  Which leads to a bigger mystery: where is Arthur's mother?  Her body should have been in its tomb/casket.  But it is missing.  So Arthur and Mera go off hunting through gates to find her.  They make their way to Katangala, the land of psychic talking apes.  And eventually find Atlanna's trail leads them to the Maelstrom.  But Atlanna was told Arthur and his father were murdered by her Atlantean husband's hand.  Will Arthur be able to convince her that he is who he says he is?

Oh, we also got the origin story of Mera (of how she left Xebel and decided not to assassinate Arthur).  That happened nearer the beginning of the volume, but was pretty out of place with most of what happened. 

Like I said, this was better than Volume 5 though.  The stories fit together a lot better, rather than being random weird, almost unrelated things. 

So *hopefully* I get the story I'm waiting for in Volume 7!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Aquaman Volume 5

This....was not the story I thought it was going to be.  Aquaman Volume 4 left off with Arthur Curry's half brother being visited by the king of Xebel, who was reuniting the rulers of the seven sea kingdoms to take down Aquaman.  It had long been thought that Atlantis was the last one.  Turns out that's false.  So I was super excited to read that story. 

Hopefully it's in Volumes 6 or 7?

Aquaman Volume 5: Sea of Storms was kind of all over the place.  Aquaman discovers there's a human base in the sea.  He wasn't able to deal with it at the time though (for reasons).  The base is experimenting with a piece of the brain of an Atlantean monster that Arthur had to kill.  After that, Arthur and Mera attended his high school reunion (where he discovered that many of the people he went to school with are still okay with him, even though he ran off from high school).  While he was at the reunion, an archeologist stole Arthur's trident and used it to open a portal.  He thought it would go to Atlantis.  Turns out it just went to Hell, releasing the Giant children.  So Arthur and Wonder Woman dealt with most of them.  Mera and Wonder Woman dealt with the rest.  But then there was a giant algae monster that Arthur had to deal with because it was killing a reef.  He battled the green avatar for no reason (the green avatar kept telling him to stop, but apparently Arthur Curry is kind of dense like that).  Eventually the green avatar went and dealt with it (but was almost nuked by Atlantis in the process).

So yeah.  This was a super weird volume.  A different writer took over from Geoff Johns, so that might have made a lot of the difference.  Hopefully Volumes 6 and 7 will be more coherent!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Invader Zim: Volume 2

Well, no use in waiting.  I read Invader Zim: Volume 2 immediately after finishing Volume 1.  And Volume 2 seemed even crazier than Volume 1!

This time around, we had Zim applying for a loan in a human mech suit.  Gir is piloting the legs; when he sees popcorn, he sends the legs in an opposite direction, tearing the mech suit in half.  Hilarity ensues as Zim tries to track down Gir (and the legs).  Next, Zim and Gir crash land on barren planet.  They trigger something which causes millions of years of evolution to happen in mere moments.  And end up battling giant bugs to get their Voot Cruiser back.  Then we had the pants aliens conquering the planet at Zim's invitation, turning humans into pants zombies.  Next Dib became Zim's intern to try to get better footage of Zim's base.  And finally, Zim went on a hunting trip to bring something truly terrifying back to Earth to impress his classmates. 

Volume 2 is in some ways more wackier than Volume 1 was; I think it was by Chapter 2 that I felt "here it is, here's the show I loved."  I'm all Zim-ed out for tonight, which is fine because Volume 3 isn't out yet.  But I can't wait for when it is out - I think it'll be awesome! 

Invader Zim Volume 1

I've been buying a lot of comics lately.  I bought the first issue of Invader Zim thinking I'd give it a try because I am a big fan of the show.  Well the first issue was hilarious, so I bought the first volume (and second volume) because there were quite a few out and I didn't feel the need to buy each issue separately.

I didn't realize this at the time, but each issue (or chapter in the case of the graphic novel) is a separate story, rather like the cartoon (each cartoon episode had two stories in it).

I think the first story/chapter in Invader Zim: Volume 1 is probably the funniest.  Zim has been hiding in his house (in a toilet) for years, all as part of his nefarious scheme to make Dib fat and useless.  It works, but thanks to a training montage, Dib is back!

Chapter 2 is the second part to that story, where Zim is looking for the Gargantis Array.  After heading to every tacky tourist shop in the galaxy, he eventually finds the lady who will give him the codes.  But Dib isn't far behind (using Tak's ship!)

The remaining three chapters are all standalone stories.  First, Zim creates art installations around town to summon the Star Donkey.  Next, the Tallest send him their trash, telling him it is a super secret weapon that must be protected at all costs.  And finally, Dib unplugs Gaz's game.  She looks for a separate reality where non-gamers are punished for existing to get revenge against her brother (this one is weird, but has some fun game nods to things like Minecraft and the Binding of Isaac). 

This is a ridiculous collection of stories in true Zim fashion.  Can't wait to read book 2!

The Wicked + the Divine Volumes 3 & 4

I managed to get The Wicked + The Divine Volume 3: Commercial Suicide through interlibrary loans last week.  I can't remember the actual day that I read it, but I know it was around a week ago.  And I have to say, it was really, really hard to care about it.  After the crazy ending of Volume 2, Volume 3 felt like a big waste of time.  And it really sort of was.  With Laura, the main character, seemingly dead, this volume sort of waltzed around with no real meaning.  We had one Goddess commit suicide (with the help of Anake).  And a bunch of random other things that I can't really remember.  The only thing that had any impact on me was the ending, that a Persephone seemed to have a gig booked at some place.  It was a cliffhanger that was really too little too late in my opinion.

But then while wandering through Chapters aimlessly, I found Volume 4: Rising Action was already out.  So I figured, what the heck?  This would be the last chance I gave to the series.  And now I'm really not sure what to make of it.

Yes, Laura is not dead.  That was solved in the weirdest flashback scene ever.  Apparently Baphomet (who is really Nergal) didn't kill Inanna.  Instead the two of them went looking for Laura in time to see what was about to happen with Ananke.  Inanna saved Laura but died himself, and Baphomet brought Laura into the underground.  Ananke burned Inanna's body to make it unrecognizable just in time for Laura's parents to show up.  Laura has spent the last while moping in the underground with Baphomet, but finally got roused into action in time for this volume.

I have to admit, it was weird and kind of lame, but I knew something like this would be used to explain how Laura wasn't dead.

So now Laura and company are trying to unite the pantheon against Ananke.  For her part, Ananke seems dead set on murdering Minerva, the youngest member of the Pantheon.

This volume is really action packed.  The climax leaves off at a place where like anything can happen.  But I'm still left wondering if I care?  Laura murders Ananke (after it looked like the rest of the Pantheon talked her out of it) and says they can do whatever they want.  But it didn't seem like enough of a hook to keep me reading.  Of course I said that last time, so who knows what will happen when Volume 5 eventually comes out?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Maus II

Wow is Maus II a different animal from Maus IMaus I leaves off with Anja and Vladek arriving at Auschwitz.  While their journey has been tough, it is nothing compared to what they go through in the concentration camp.  For one thing, they are, for the first time ever, separated.  For another, death is EVERYWHERE around them.  We don't get to know exactly what happened to Anja, only that she survived thanks to Mancie keeping her close.  But we get Vladek's trials in great detail.  How he taught someone English which kept him out of hard labour for a few months.  How he managed to convince people he was a tinsmith or a shoe maker, which helped keep him alive.  How he managed to get food in exchange for other things (and used that food to bribe his superiors so they would do their best to keep him around).  How he got lucky and hid in the bathroom during an inspection when he was sick and would have been killed for sure.  How he was marched out of Auschwitz, left in a train car to die only to survive.  Escaping that train (near the end of the war), he was picked up by more Germans and thought for sure he was going to die before morning; only to wake up and the Germans had run off.  This happened twice.  And how he worked for the Americans near the end of the war before making his way back to Poland and Anja, who was waiting for him there. 

On the other side of this story is Vladek's story with Mala.  Mala leaves him, so he calls his son and daughter in law to come and stay with him.  How his health is deteriorating but he refuses to pay for a live-in nurse or enter a retirement home.  His son can't stand being around him for too long and doesn't want Vladek to move in with him and his wife; he keeps hoping that Vladek and Mala will get back together (which they do in the end).  Oh, and how Spiegelman's wife picks up a hitchhiker and Vladek is incredibly angry and racist because the hitchhiker is a black person - both Spiegelman and his wife point out how Vladek of all people shouldn't be racist after his experience (but he says, not in these words, that his experience with black people is why he IS racist towards them).

So yes, Maus II is a very different book than Maus IMaus II is a much darker story, which I found much harder to read at times (I had to take a break from reading after Chapter 3 because it was just so heavy).  While they are different books, they are both good in their own way.  I'm glad I finally made the time to read both Maus I and II.  I haven't read much Holocaust literature, but wow did these two books make the experience so human and personal.  They are definitely both worth reading.

Maus I

I've been meaning to read Maus for quite awhile.  Back in school, people recommended it to me, saying how good it is.  Later both my brother and dad read it and loved it.  My brother lent it to me and it's been sitting on my shelf since then.  But today, since I wasn't feeling great, I decided that reading Maus was a good use of my time. 

Maus is a Holocaust story.  The comic artist Art Spiegelman wants to get his father's Holocaust story down.  So he goes over to his father's house on a series of visits to hear the tale, later turning it into this comic.  He's made the people into animals, with the Jewish people of the tale mice (and the Gestapo are cats, which I thought was a nice touch). 

Spiegelman's father, Vladek, has remarried, so we see scenes from his new life interspersed around his Holocaust tale as a framing narrative.  Vladek is still very much in love with Anja, Spiegelman's mother who survived the war but later commit suicide. 

The story starts off before the war, showing what Vladek's life was like before the Nazis invaded Poland.  Vladek was a very eligible bachelor prior to meeting and falling in love with Anja.  Anja was from a wealthy family who lived in a nearby town.  The family prospered until the Nazis arrived; although they managed to stay together for quite a long time, they lost their fancy lifestyle and were slowly pulled apart. 

This Holocaust story is broken up by scenes from Vladek's present life.  He has remarried a woman named Mala who also survived the war.  The two do not get along.  Spiegelman ends up in the middle of their domestic fights: Vladek says they are always arguing (generally about money) and Mala says she feels like she is stuck in a prison with a very miserly man.  This argument is at odds with Vladek's earlier tale where he has been paying people off left and right in an attempt to keep his family alive and together.   

Maus I ends with Anja and Vladek, the last two of the family, trying to make it to nearby Hungary.  But they were sold out by the smugglers who were helping them and have been taken to Auschwitz.  But it's nearing the end of the war, so I'm very much interested to see where things go from here.

Oh, an important note: Vladek has just admitted to his son that he burned Anja's diaries after she died.  He found the memories too painful to deal with in the aftermath of her suicide.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me

I saved Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me when it was withdrawn from the library (along with several other books I really didn't need).  Tangles is a graphic novel showing the progress of Sarah Leavitt's mother's Alzheimer's disease.  Leavitt's mother was very young (in her early 50's) when she was diagnosed with the disease.  Leavitt herself wasn't around for the entire disease's progression because she lived across the country (she said it took a full day of flying to go home to visit her parents).  So she was only able to chronicle the times she went home for a visit.

Tangles is a very sad read.  Alzheimer's is, in my opinion, one of the worst diseases because it robs you of your memories (and as Leavitt shows, what makes you "you").  While there are some laughs along the way, Tangles shows the very sad, slow loss of an amazing woman who is gone far sooner than she should have been gone.