Friday, June 30, 2017

I Am Groot #1

I Am Groot (2017-) #1

I Am Groot, Issue #1 starts off as a "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic, with the whole gang flying through space.  Star Lord is in command, but when he hits the head, baby Groot, who hasn't grown up much, takes control, flying them toward a strange object in space.  Just as they are trying to figure out what it is, Groot flies them through it into another dimension.  They get back just in time, as the anomaly is closing, but during all the chaos, Groot took an escape pod down to the planet.  The baby Groot is all by himself.

Anyway, that's the setup.  Issue #2 came out on Wednesday, but I wanted to see if I liked Issue #1 enough to keep reading it.  I am starting to read more comics, so if I get through all or almost all of the comics I bought this week, I'll buy Issue #2 next week.  I'm kinda' intrigued by someone trying to understand the language of baby Groot.  The fact that I read it at all today, with Titan, Issue #5; The Punisher, Issue #13; and Saga, Issue #44 all coming out this week is encouraging.  I'm interested.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Moby Dick or The Whale

Moby Dick or The Whale is a classic, and there's probably not much new I can say about it.  I found interesting the parallels between it and Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, for instance.  I always loved the scientific writing about Solaris, the planet, but I never knew that the interspersing of them into the story came from Melville, or apparently did.  Another thing that surprised me about Moby Dick was the ecological angle.  Although it was written a century and a half ago, Moby Dick discusses advanced issues such as extinction and overfishing.

What isn't mentioned is that whales are sentient beings worthy of protection.  Melville's characterization of Moby Dick is one of personification; he gives the whale human motives and behaviors.  Missing from the novel is the very sentience of whales in general, who are generalized as mere cattle, the catching of which is so simple that it deserves only the basest of descriptions.  Only Moby Dick himself is intelligent enough to avoid capture, making him supernatural rather than sentient.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Garden of Words

Image result for The Garden of Words manga

The Garden of Words is a highly acclaimed one-shot manga book from 2013 that was made into a movie the year it came out.  The basic story is of a 15-year-old boy and a 27-year-old woman who become friends in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo.  They meet one day when both are playing hookey, him from school to draw pictures of women's shoes, and her from work to drink beer and eat chocolate.  They initially speak very little, but when she parts with a poem fragment, he becomes obsessed, and they meet every morning it rains.  Later on, he finds out that she is a teacher at his school.

I love short manga like this, especially romance.  While Nisekoi has gone on for nearly 30 volumes and A Silent Voice for seven, The Garden of Words sits by itself as a simple work of 200 pages.  There's something to be said about these books, not traditional romance but more "slice of life," to use an overused term.  I absolutely loved it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Copperhead #12

Copperhead #12

Copperhead, Issue #12 begins with Clara Bronson reacting to the revelation from Issue #11 that Zeke has become the new mayor.  She doesn't like it, but Zeke claims that he won't be the puppet of Copperhead's richest citizen, Hickory, and that he'll actually do some good.  She goes home to find more trouble there.  Clay Ford is in town, and she and he have history together.  On top of that is the revelation that the old mayor wasn't killed by a bullet but by some sort of alien worm.

I haven't read much of Copperhead's third arc - I kinda' took a break from comics around the time it started - but somehow I remember all of the characters in it.  It's always been one of my favorite "what if" comics.  What if it had a long run?  What if it got some crossover exposure?  I really think it's good, for fans of Saga and Firefly.  I'll try to catch up next week.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Old Man Logan #21 and #22

Image result for old man logan #21

Old Man Logan, Issue #21 and Issue #22 form the first half of the "Past Lives" arc.  In Issue #20, Old Man Logan freed Asmodeus from prison only to become trapped, himself - in time.  Logan finds himself fighting the War of 1812, being tested on in Weapon X, seeing Jean Grey turn into Phoenix, and seeing other ghosts from his past.  Powerless to change the pasts he visits so far, he must keep hold of a magical medallion given to him by Asmodeus who controls Logan's body back in the present, where he's selling it to the highest bidder.

This is an interesting arc, and I by no mean want to disparage it, but it plays like a "Greatest Hits" album or a "Clip Episode" of The Simpsons.  It is being done with a new artistic team (E. Nguyen and Mossa).  I do love the old team of Sorrentino and Maiolo, but this team is just as good and definitely up to the task of revisiting pieces of Wolverine's past.  I also think that this may be one of the more memorable series I've come across in the past two years or so, perhaps worthy of an omnibus.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3)

Paradise is the third book in Craig Alanson's "Expeditionary Force" series, which runs four long novels and a novella.  In the near future, Earth is invaded by the hamster-like Ruhar and saved/occupied/enslaved by the reptilian Kristang.  In the series, humans are a technologically backward race, with even the Ruhar and the Kristang relatively low on the totem pole.  The protagonist, Joe Bishop, a shockingly young colonel in the UNEF, gets help from an artificial intelligence created by a long-gone race known as the Elders, and the series is off and running.

The A.I. gets the name "Skippy the Magnificent," and he is effectively the most powerful being in the universe, but his programming prevents him from talking with beings capable of interstellar travel, so he must talk only with humans.  He's by far the most interesting character I've read in science fiction in some years, perhaps ever.  He and Joe Bishop are constantly trading barbs, and the series would almost be sci-fi comedy if it weren't so tragic.

In this novel, there are humans on the planet Paradise.  They were brought there by the Kristang to supervise the local Ruhar population.  When the Ruhar retake the planet and humans cooperate with them in a desperate battle to survive, the Kristang decree the humans enemy combatants.  So, when the Ruhar trade Paradise and the humans on it for more valuable territory, Joe Bishop, Skippy, and their crew of "Pirates" must find a way to get the Ruhar to keep the planet.

I've read all three audiobooks in the past month and a half and the last two in the past week and a half, so you know this is a good series.  Alanson isn't exactly great literature, so I intersperse my reading with books that are; before reading Paradise, I read The Beautiful and Damned, and now I'm reading Moby Dick, although there is a great misconception that comedy isn't great literature or even great art.  There are also complaints of spelling errors in the original text.  Either way, I love these books.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Old Man Logan #20

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Old Man Logan #20

Old Man Logan, Issue #20 is the second part of the two-issue "Gone Real Bad" story.  In the first issue, Logan tries to persuade his magic-wielding friends to send him into his past, where he saved one of David Banner's grandchildren.  In that timeline, he abandons the grandson, and that grandson - under the influence of someone else - grows up to be the most tyrannical ruler the Wastelands have ever seen.  Logan has to go back to that part of his past (which is actually in the future) and save the grandson before he becomes evil.

Issue #19 sees Logan about to break Asmodeus out of prison.  In Issue #20, he does, bringing Asmodeus his scepter and robe.  To complete the spell, they must go to the secret location where Asmodeus keeps his sacred and magic objects, a storage compartment in New Jersey.  Asmodeus keeps his end of the bargain - he sends Logan into his past - but he doesn't send him exactly into the past Logan wants.  Issue #21 sees Logan fighting the War of 1812.

The Unworthy Thor #5

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor The Unworthy Thor #5 jason aaron

The Unworthy Thor, Issue #5 concludes the limited series.  Odinson finds the other Mjolnir, wields it, and returns Asgard to its place in the universe.  The big question is whether the other Mjolnir calls for him; it doesn't, so he leaves it on the ground on Asgard, where it waits for the person to whom it calls.  Thor continues on with his battle axe and his talking canine, freed from the Collector, along with the Collector's other creatures.

I'll admit it; I was swerved by the ending.  I thought Odinson would ride off into the sunset with his new Mjolnir and become regular old Thor again.  The story ties into an earlier story where the God Butcher tells then-Thor that all the gods are Unworthy.  Odinson realizes that he must remain unworthy, perhaps to become worthy in the future.  The story will be continued in Ultimate Thor.  I have read a few Thor limited series and series, but I've never been a huge fan, although Jason Aaron is starting to turn me around.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Beautiful and Damned


The Beautiful and Damned is F. Scott Fitzgerald's second novel.  Like The Great Gatsby, it's short on plot and heavy on characters.  Anthony Patch is a rich kid in 1910s America, and Gloria Gilbert is his wife.  Initially living on a trust fund, they find themselves totally incapable of living on their own once Anthony's grandfather, Andy Patch, disinherits him.  While Gloria totally fails as an actress, Anthony fails as a soldier, a salesman, and a general drunk.

I like to compare the Fitzgerald novel to the "Impressionist" era of music.  Before Debussy and Ravel, classical music followed rigid rules and conventions.  These two composers wouldn't build up to a chord in the normal way; they'd just play it and let it sit.  For Debussy and Ravel, chords - as for Fitzgerald, characters - just existed to please the audience.  And Fitzgerald, like Debussy and Ravel, created his own rules and conventions to create the modern novel.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Punisher #12

The Punisher (2016) #12The Punisher, Issue #12 ends the C.O.N.D.O.R. storyline, but not the series, which is set to continue with Issue #13. There are hints in the back materials that the antagonist of the series, Olaf, will make a return at some point. Other than Olaf - who ends up in DEA custody - C.O.N.D.O.R. is finished. The remaining super-soldier drug EMC has sunk into the ocean, and the facilities to make more are destroyed. The good guys have won.

While I loved the EMC arc, 12 issues is about as long as it could have gone, and I'd be disappointed if Issue #13 involved it. EMC does make soldiers impervious to pain as well as stronger and faster, but a bunch of top mercenaries got their butts kicked despite being on it, so it doesn't seem so great. This is good stuff, and I'm looking forward to reading more. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Punisher #11

The Punisher (2016) #11

The Punisher, Issue #11 begins with Frank Castle tied up on a ship full of EMC, the super-soldier drug C.O.N.D.O.R. wants to sell to fuel its drug enterprise.  I don't think it's that much of a spoiler to tell you what happens next.  Of course, the Punisher gets out of danger, blows up the ship, and kills everyone - that's what he does - but the way he does it is imaginative and well realized, and I've become a fan of Becky Cloonan's Punisher.

The arc and maybe the series will conclude with Issue #12; I hope the series doesn't.  I haven't been reading too many comics, but this is one of the series that gets me right back into the swing of things.  I've been hacking for Lyft, and between rides I read audiobooks.  This has taken up a lot of my book-reading and comic-reading energy, but damn.  The Punisher is awesome, and I've really enjoyed this iteration.  I'll go back and buy Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 of The Punisher MAX: The Complete Collection as soon as I finish this and get to work on that.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Bildergebnis für specops alanson

SpecOps is the second book in the "Expeditionary Force" series by Craig Alanson, and it's very good science fiction.  A mix of military sci-fi and comedy, it fits a unique niche in the literary world.  Joe Bishop is an average guy who finds himself, along with an absent-minded A.I. who's millions of years old, in charge of a starship with a crew of 12 scientists and 56 soldiers from various countries, including himself.  Most of the soldiers are highly trained "special operations" forces.

I've continued to enjoy this textured and vast vision of the galaxy.  The books are longish at 15 or 16 hours, and I liked the first book so much that I bought the second and third right away.  The comedy mostly comes in the form of the A.I. named "Skippy," who's constantly forgetting things and constantly insulting Joe Bishop and the crew.  It is light entertainment, not as dark as its predecessor.  Since reading SpecOps, I've moved onto something denser, but I'm a fan.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Saga #43

Saga #43

Saga, Issue #43 comes to you at the blindingly cheap price of $0.25; it starts a new arc and briefly recaps the series for people reading it for the first time.  In Issue #42, Alana gets kicked in the stomach, and the baby is pretty much dead.  Alana will die if the baby isn't removed, but there are two problems.  She's eight months pregnant - and the baby still has a beating heart - so local laws don't allow an abortion.  Also, any abortion she does have will expose her half-Landfalian/half-Wreathian child to the world.

Saga doesn't shy away from controversy, but it still remains a great comic.  The abortion laws mirror those of Ireland, where a woman can't get an abortion for any reason while the unborn fetus still has a beating heart.  Baby and mother going to die?  Let 'em die, even if they aren't Catholic, even if they aren't Irish citizens.   I wrote about queer theory in my last review, and there's a trans character traveling with the family.  Hazel, Marco and Alana's daughter, asks the trans character about her penis, for instance.

Steam Clean

Steam clean by laura Ķeniņš

Steam Clean takes place in a sauna for women in Europe, where a group of women has gathered for a queer party.  A lot of people don't understand why there's a "Q" in "LGBTQ," so I'll briefly explain: "queer" refers to all of the above in "LGBTQ" and more.  "Queer" doesn't assume binary genders or binary sexuality, so someone might be homoflexible, meaning they are mostly homosexual but occasionally go for other genders as well.  The group of women include a few friends, a FTM transgender who has had top surgery, and a goddess.

No, they don't all go at it once they get naked; get your mind out of the gutter.  They talk, about gender fluidity, sexuality, online dating, not fitting in, work inequality, date rape, and queer theory.  I found the longish (84 page) Retrofit title to be fairly interesting.  The artwork is done with color pencil, and it has detailed backgrounds with simple yet recognizable faces.  I can't begin to explain the techniques used because I'm not an artist, but the overall impression is one of tension.  The women argue and discuss sensitive matters.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Stories of Your Life and Others

File:Stories of your life cover.jpg

Stories of Your Life and Others is a 2002 collection of science-fiction short stories written roughly over the previous decade, the titular story of which was the inspiration for the movie Arrival (2016).  Spanning a number of topics from the Tower of Babel to language to enhanced intelligence, Stories of Your Life and Others brings to light an underappreciated art form.  The death of newspapers and magazines has gone hand-in-hand with the death of the short story.  While short stories continue to be the bases of popular movies, I'm afraid that soon, the only place short stories will be read is in the classroom, along with poetry and other vestiges of the past.

That is too bad because there are a number of great short-story writers out there, including Stephen King and Haruki Murakami.  Philip K. Dick wrote scores of popular short stories in the 1950s and 1960s, but he mostly gave up on the medium, as did other science-fiction writers, for a more lucrative form of expression, the novel.  I didn't love every short story in this collection - one never does - but these stories inspire me to look out for more short fiction, and that's the best praise I can give them.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Secret Garden

Image result for The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden is a book that haunted my childhood.  I hadn't read it before, but I was told its story by my grandmother.  One day, in the third grade, I was puking my guts out at school.  Me being picked up halfway through school was a rare occurrence, since any time I was remotely ill, I would whine and cry until my mother let me stay home alone and watch TV.  On that day, my grandmother picked me up.  She drove me home, and instead of letting me watch TV, she spent two hours telling me the story of The Secret Garden.

I always meant to read the book, but by the time I'd forgotten enough of it to enjoy the story, I'd already outgrown it, moving on to Isaac Asimov and Star Wars.  The previous two books I've read, Jose Saramago's Blindness and Alice Walker's The Color Purple, are decidedly bleak books.  I don't know if I was ready for a book as candy-red as The Secret Garden, but it was pleasant, nonetheless.  I think I'll get back into something a tiny bit heavier next.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Book cover of Ensaio sobre a Cegueira.jpg

Blindness is one of the most terrifying books I've ever read.  Written by 1998 Portuguese Nobel Laureate, Jose Saramago in 1995, it tells the story of a mysterious white blindness that infects Saramago's home nation of Portugal.  Just as Dante tortures Italians in The Divine Comedy, Saramago tortures the members of his nation, portraying them as quite awful human beings in addition to infecting them with an illness that basically wipes them out.  The heart of the novel takes place in an internment camp, where people struck by the blindness and suspected of being struck by the blindness are housed with minimal facilities and minimal food.

The first third of the book sets up the scene and the characters in the abandoned mental hospital that is used to intern the blind people in hopes of keeping the sickness from spreading.  It is dark, but one could almost imagine it being a high-school play.  Then it turns into equal parts Andersonville and Lord of the Flies, plus well, you can guess what they do to the women.  The final third sees the main characters escaping the camp as the blindness spreads to the entire nation.

I read the audiobook, which is a lot easier than reading Saramago in print.  Saramago doesn't use quotation marks or paragraph breaks to separate the different speakers.  This distinction is effected in the audiobook by the narrator using different and consistent voices for each character.  Blindness is an incredible piece of literature, and it was mentioned in particular by the Nobel committee when it awarded Saramago the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.  I've already bought another book by this author.