Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bat-Quest Prologue: "52"

Now, Batman has never been one of my favorite superheroes. I always thought he was too dark, too lonely, and too paranoid about other heroes. On the other hand, I have always liked the work of comic book writer    Grant Morrison. I much enjoyed his work on X-Men, I loved his work relaunching the Justice League in JLA, and was awed by the ambition of his poetic interpretation of Superman, in All Star Superman. I also knew that he had written a run on Batman that was considered one of the best of all time. 

I thought that maybe Grant Morrison could get me to like Batman a little more, so I read some of his Batman run, and was confused out of my wits. Every story was impenetrably dense with esoteric concepts, and non-linear story telling. Some parts were sheer genius, while others were turgid and incomprehensible. It was then I realized I was reading them OUT OF ORDER. So, I have committed myself now to reading his entire run on Batman, plus supplementary material IN ORDER so I can finally "get it", and will document it in a review series called "Bat-Quest".

The first story I started with was a collaboration series Morrison did with three other writers: Greg Rucka, a writer known for more down to Earth storylines, Mark Waid, an elder statesman in the comics world, and Geoff Johns, a hot shot writer with a knack for handling out of control plots. It chronicles several different story lines in the universe of the  DC comics company's superheroes, but here's the trick: not only does every issue span just one week in  a year, but after the events of another DC mega-event called Infinite Crisis, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are out of commission temporarily. While it didn't have enough Batman to be a real entry in the series, it did have a lot of elements that would tie in to Morrison's Batman stories later, so I made it a prologue. I loved how each writer balanced each other out. Each of their conflicting styles fused perfectly into a moving, action packed, entertaining, and uplifting story. 

Morrison's "big idea" fueled writing wasn't as frustratingly confusing, and even added a sense of cosmic unpredictability. The most compelling plot was probably the Intergang-Renee Montoya-Question plot, which tied all the other threads together, but a close second was probably the gleefully camp Science Squad plot which redefined the old  "revenge of the nerds" cliche, but doesn't get the top spot because of Veronica Cale, a sad-sack who weighs down the otherwise joyously bombastic plot. The change of artwork in the middle of every issue was disorienting, and the Lex Luthor-Steel plot dragged, at times  but overall, it was amazingly well done. The multiverse-changing conclusion had me clapping and cheering, and even crying. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys the adventures of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but wants to try something new, and as a sort of Morrison apertif.

Grade: A+

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A review of Simon Schama's "Citizens"

Simon Schama's Citizens is an in-depth analysis of the causes and effects of the French Revolution. Before reading this book, I knew cursory information about the French Revolution, mainly through free-associated terms: Louis XVI, Bastille, Robespierre, Reign of Terror, guillotine, Napoleon. Afterward, I learned that there was a lot more causes to the Revolution than just "the poor were dissatisfied in France and revolted". Although it may sound tedious, Citizens is actually quite entertaining. Schama works his usual historiography magic by making even the dullest of events interesting, and his irreverent, chatty prose makes the book zip along. Just when the book seems to have started to become dusty and boring, there is a cool little anecdote that spices up the story. Although Schama is regarded in "serious" history circles as a mainstream sellout, I can't front: I really enjoyed this book.

Grade: A-

A review of John Green's "Paper Towns"

John Green's Paper Towns is about the exact same thing all his other books are about. A whiny middle class      boy meets a mysterious woman and his life is changed forever when she turns out to not be as much of a goddess in human form as he thinks she is. My main issue with the works of John Green is exactly that: the main character often treats the girl he lusts after like a kind of obscure object of desire (shout-out to Luis Bunuel) who is outside of everything. The way the protagonist, a disaffected teen named Quentin "Q" Jacobsen makes the main girl character, Margo out to be more than human irritated me both times I read it. Margo's own lofty hipster-ish observations on life also are borderline annoying, but the plethora of witty side characters makes up for Q and Margo's shortcomings. There's Ben, Q's Rabelaisian friend who's a  bon vivant with  a heart of gold, Lacey, the surprisingly 3 dimensional "popular" girl, and Radar, the pragmatic intellectual who round out the cast, and all at one point bring Q back down to earth. The writing sparkles with erudite wit, the dialogue is as sharp as a tack, and the formulaic plot moves quick, so one can overlook the several quibbles I have with this novel.

Grade: B+

A review of Alan Moore's "Watchmen"

 The book I'm reviewing today is Alan Moore's seminal 1986 comic book miniseries Watchmen. This book, about a conspiracy to assassinate superheroes is full of dark twists and turns, and gives a convincing portrait of what a meta-human filled world would really be like. Although some parts of it are corny (Ozymandias' plan was to SPOILER ALERT destroy New York City with  an alien squid?), the references to the Afghan-Soviet War are dated, the plot got a little confusing near the end (wait, so what really happened with The Comedian and Silk Specter I?), and the characters are all annoying, self absorbed idiots, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, because of the deep questions it raises about power, gender, war, and the human psyche, but don't let that scare you away: Watchmen is at turns dark, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and action packed, and is a solid mystery story on top of that. If you're a fan of American comic books, you'll think deeper about the ramifications of the actions of your favorite heroes, but if you're new to comic books, Watchmen will provide a jumping in point.

Grade: A

Wednesday, June 13, 2012



When you think of summer, you think of BBQ, 4th of july, and so many other things. How about participating in the Teen Summer Reading Club: READING IS SO DELICIOUS! How cool does that sound? Let me explain. Teens, that are between the ages 12-18, can sign up for this. And it's so simple! I will explain in the next paragraph!


All you have to do is come to the library, go down the stairs in the Teen section, talk to a Liberian down there, and sign up! So simple! You will get a log that you will have to fill in. And the log is so easy! It's only 4 slots, you only have to read or listen to 3 books! Only 3! No matter the length. The 4th slot, is a special slot. It's a Wild Card! That means you can put down a magazine you read, volunteer at the library, and so on! The list is endless! Another great thing about this program is the prizes.



Once you sign up, you will get a fortune cookie that will have a cool message on the inside. Your cookie might have a fortune saying "you won a special prize!" If so, head to the library and they will give you a gift card to a hot dog place for a free hot dog! But that's not all! After you turn in your first log, you will get a insulated cold cup. You can fill it with pop, water, or your favorite instant tea. But that's not all.

For every log you turn in, you will be entered in a weekly giveaway for cool gift-cards. Such as Culvers, Starbucks, and Dunkin Doughnuts. Along with so many others. The more logs you complete, the better chance of winning. At the end of the summer, there will be a drawing for a very nice prize. A brand new I pod touch! How cool is that?!

However, the thing ends August 31st. So you better come to the library and sign up. Trust me, you won't regret it.