Batgirl: A Knight Alone, Kelley Puckett, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella, Coy Turnbull, Dan Davis
I found this second volume of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl a lot easier to digest, somehow, than the first one. Unfortunately for the character concept, it probably helps that she’s now able to express herself in words and understand the words of people around her. There were still some issues for me in understanding the backstory — for example, wtf is Batman’s relationship to the assassin who trained Cassandra? Why did he ever train under an assassin himself? Also, a couple of aspects were skimmed over — like the training Cassandra received from Lady Shiva.
Sometimes, reading this, I felt like the panels were badly ordered; sometimes it seemed to make more sense to read the page right to left. Which is fine, but it’s really not the convention in Western comics, so it throws me every time. Or maybe it’s just experimentation with layout — either way, it didn’t work very well for me, alas. The whole train of events feels unhinged sometimes. I just can’t see how we get from A to B, how the stories relate to each other. It feels like a much less defined arc of events.
Again, I’m still not a great fan of the art, though some of the expressions are great. I’m a little leery of the attention given to highlighting Cassandra’s breasts and butt; come on, she’s practically a kid, let’s maybe not sexualise her.
Still, Oracle continues to play a part, Cassandra proves her worth, and we see her being desperate to do justice. It’s a solid volume, and if I used half-stars, I’d give it 3.5 to show that it improved from the first volume for me.
Batgirl: Silent Running, Kelley Puckett, Scott Peterson, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella
I’ve been intrigued by the idea of Cassandra Cain as Batgirl ever since I heard about this series; I love the idea of a girl trained so intensively to be an assassin that she knows no language, but can interpret vast amounts from movement, even from tiny cues in body language. It’s fascinating because it’s to some degree possible; “feral children” without language who weren’t exposed to language during their critical period for learning it have existed, and who knows? Maybe they do learn to pay attention to other cues, appropriate to the environment they live in, which would be missed by those who rely on words to communicate.
In practice, though, Silent Running is kind of an awkward place to jump in. It’s not so bad for me because I know Barbara Gordon’s story, why she became Oracle, who she is — and everyone knows at least a little about Batman. But it feels like jumping into the middle of a run, not the beginning of one. The art style doesn’t greatly appeal to me either, and the storytelling is appropriately visual, which is never going to work that well for me (I just don’t and can’t think visually).
It’s also a little awkward because that uniqueness about this Batgirl is wiped out almost immediately: a psychic man rearranges her thoughts and gives her language, taking away her preternatural combat abilities by changing the way she experiences the world. It makes sense, but it does lose the thing that intrigued me about the character.
Also, Batman being paternalistic and judgemental, all the time. Gah. He should have some idea of how Cassandra was raised, you’d think, but somehow he spends the book denying it, and having a really weird tension with Cassandra when they’re working together.
I’m going to read the second volume, since I have it, but at the moment I’m not greatly enthused about following this version of Batgirl, which is a shame. (But might save me some money, since wow the TPBs can get expensive!)
The Movement: Fighting for the Future, Gail Simone, Freddy Williams II, Chris Sotomayor
Volume two of The Movement is a little disappointing in that it’s also the last volume. Some things are wrapped up, but really you’re just left feeling this frustrated sense of how much has been left undone, how much potential exists within this mismatched group of characters. I love the fact that the story itself brings this up, in a way: people warn Virtue that her team doesn’t fit in with how existing superheroes work and think, and she says essentially, well, one day they’ll have to. Change is coming.
Change is coming, and maybe The Movement was a little too soon, a little too blatantly diverse, a little too brazen about being a new sort of superhero team. Maybe it’s just that it’s difficult to launch a new set of superheroes without serious support — some of which the team gets, in Batgirl’s appearance in a couple of issues. Successful as the Young Avengers have been, they don’t have a current comic either, while Cap and Iron Man and all the mainstays are going on (and on, and on).
I love what we did get, though: a complex team made up of people who complement and clash with each other in equal measure. It’s a team of diverse voices, not only in terms of skin colour and country-of-origin and sexuality, but in terms of political ideals too. Katharsis is fairly blatantly not down with some of the more liberal ideas held by other members of the team. Burden comes from a religiously conservative background and is only just opening up to new ideas. It’s not just a liberal hippie love fest.
And on a lighter note: I love that we saw the hinted-at date between Virtue and Rainmaker. Cute.
The Movement: Class Warfare, Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II
It took me so long to get around to reading the second volume of The Movement, I thought I’d better reread the first. Perhaps it was very much of its moment, both in terms of the content and in terms of the effect on me: I wasn’t as taken with it this time round, though there’s still lots to love. The diversity of the characters, in terms of sexuality and gender and even political views. It’s great for the way the characters struggle against each other: they don’t automatically have the same opinions, and some of them clash on fairly fundamental levels (and yet friendship can win out — note to US politicians: try not seeing your opponent as total scum).
The art is still awesome; I love Virtue and Rainmaker in particular. And Tremor. Okay, I just love the art, okay. I do wish at times there was a bit of a brighter colour palette — I can tell I’m reading a DC comic just from the gloomy colouring! Though it is also appropriate to the world that these characters are living in, so it does make sense. (Marvel’s Young Avengers are a much more privileged group, after all.)
Batgirl: Death of the Family, Gail Simone, Daniel Sampere
There’s a lot of individual elements I like in this book — Barbara’s bravery, her struggles with her anger at the people who put her in a wheelchair, her sheer ferocious intelligence (and yet she spends so much time punching her way through problems, sigh), some of the family issues that are brought up… But where it ties in with the other Batfamily books, it feels clumsy. I don’t know what’s going on with Damien, with Nightwing, etc. Nor do I really get chance to care, since it’s all a whirlwind of action.
The art is good, expressive, etc, but ye gods, I forgot how dark DC comics can be. Grit, grit, and more grit.
I do like Alysia’s coming out; I like the casual way Barbara takes it, and yet how important the moment still feels.
First full week of 2015; first chance for us to break all our resolutions and buy a load of books. How’s everyone else been getting along?
Late Christmas present from my dad. <3
At my parents’ place again for most of January, so this is what I got out of the library to keep me amused — as if I needed anything more than what’s on my ereader and on my shelves from their generosity at Christmas! Ahem…
Anyway, so far this year I’ve avoided buying any new books; I’ve finished the first book in my Open University course already, so I feel like maybe I deserve one, but I can’t choose. I do now have an Amazon wishlist which I’m trying to keep updated. If nothing else, it’ll serve as a list of ‘approved’ books when I do want to get something, and I’ve saved stuff I haven’t preordered yet onto there too.
Or, Stacking the Shelves: The Christmas Edition! I think I’ve probably had similarly large hauls before, but still… I had a very good Christmas, and if I could just tear myself away from my new game (Final Fantasy Theatrhythm: Curtain Call), I’ll show you all the details. Plus my giant literary giraffe, a gift from my dad.
His name is Charles Parker, after Lord Peter’s best friend.
He turns up when you least expect it. Turn around…
So yeah, that was a Christmas. And this is a haul…
The first four are from Mum and Dad — and don’t worry, I know it’s the first two feature Cassandra Cain as Batgirl, and the third Barbara Gordon — and the two Saga volumes are from my little sis. <3
One of you lot recommended me The Trouble with Physics, and Dad got me that and the book on Lucy. The other three came from the Kindle sale.
Little sister knows me well! Or, you know, remembered what I did some of my master’s work on.
That’s a real mix of gifts, sales and randomness.
I had credits to spend.
I also got a £20 Waterstones gift card, which I’ll be spending today, so watch out for next week’s haul, too… What’s everyone else been getting?!
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I Read in 2014”. This one you can probably predict if you follow this blog, but I won’t leave you guessing. Also, links don’t show up on my theme very well, so I’ll just say now that all the titles are links to the reviews I wrote earlier in the year.
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. Yep, you probably predicted this one. I just loved it to bits — I’d have happily gone back to page one and started all over again right away. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it was pretty perfect for me.
The King of Elf-land’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany. This is definitely not new to a lot of people, but it was new to me. I think I’d read one of Dunsany’s short story collections before, but not this one. It’s a lovely mythic/fairytale-like world. In style and the like, it’s not like the more typical modern fantasy, but that doesn’t put me off at all.
We Have Always Fought, Kameron Hurley. I haven’t read any of Hurley’s fiction yet; she may even be a writer who appeals to me more as a commentator than as a creator, since I did start God’s War at one point and put it down again. But I loved this collection of her essays. She very much deserved her Hugo.
My Real Children, Jo Walton. Again, probably predictable. I loved the characters in this — the sheer range of them, the ways small circumstances could change them. It was quite upsetting on a personal level because of the mentions of dementia, but the fact that it had the power to upset me only made me like it more.
The Movement: Class Warfare, Gail Simone. I think this is a pretty timely comic. This sums it up, from my review: “[T]his is a group of young people getting together against injustice. Not supervillains: injustice. Crooked cops who beat poor people and POC because they can. The whole system of privilege and disprivilege. It’s a team of heroes for the Occupy Movement, for the 99%, for the disenfranchised.”
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge. Read this all in one go on a train journey and resented every interruption. There’s a great atmosphere to this book.
Behind the Shock Machine, Gina Perry. I’ve always been fascinated by Stanley Milgram’s experiments, and this was a great way of delving into them — looking at it not from Milgram’s point of view, not looking at the results, but at the people he used in this experiment.
What Makes This Book So Great, Jo Walton. This is kinda cheating, in that it’s a book chock full of the books Jo Walton likes. Not limited to a top ten, of course, but I have a feeling it could furnish the whole contents of this list.
Spillover, David Quammen. Fascinating stuff, with some very obvious conclusions that apparently still need to be said. We are destroying habitats, forcing animals closer together and closer to us: we’re creating the perfect situation for a pandemic. It’s going to happen again, as it’s happened before, and we’ve just got to hope it isn’t something exotic and deadly. Even the flu is bad enough when it sweeps the world.
The Broken Land, Ian McDonald. This is the only book in this list I didn’t give five stars. But it’s stayed on my mind the whole time, and the issues it examines aren’t temporary ones that’re about to go away.
This is gonna be a really interesting week to check out other people’s lists; I’m looking forward to this! Make sure you link me to your list if you comment. I’ll always visit and comment back.
So, time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews! You know how I keep saying my haul post is going to be smaller “next week”? Well, next week it will be. I think? That’s the idea, anyway. Part of this I blame on going to Rainbow Rowell’s signing in Waterstones with Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts. I’d pick something up to look at it and she’d chip in with “that one’s good!”
Or I might just have no restraint. There’s always that explanation. Anyway, to kick off, here’s me with Rainbow Rowell!
If you look closely you can see a little frog in the picture. Which means this is a good time to plug my friend’s art project: basically, she’s made a hundred of the blighters and over the last few months, she’s been ‘releasing’ them into the wild, a few at a time. If you find one, take a picture of yourself with it and then move it to somewhere new! Most are in England, West Yorkshire area, but I know some have gone to London, some have been released in Cardiff and Swansea, and some are travelling round the world. If you’re going to Loncon, I have two to release there, so keep your eye out for Sad Frog Project!
My copy of Fangirl was signed, of course. I still need to finish reading it… But I loved the way Rowell spoke about it, spoke frankly about Cath’s social anxiety, spoke with enthusiasm about fandom. So I’m very glad to have a signed copy. As for the others, some I’ve been planning to get for a while — Two Boys Kissing and Code Name Verity. Leah forced Take Back the Skies on me, and we talked about the others enough to get me interested.
It’s a rather mixed bag, isn’t it? The first three were mentioned in books of essays I’ve been reading recently; I’ve enjoyed some of John Connolly’s other stuff; The Queen of the Tearling is getting interesting reviews; I thought my sister would like Premonitions but I’m gonna try it first; Permanent Present Tense is non-fiction and was mentioned in the neurobiology MOOC I’m doing; Liars and Thieves is a short by Karen Maitland, who I’m a big fan of!
An interesting bunch — I’ve been interested by The Copper Promise for a while!
I think I’m in love with Bookbridgr. I’m certainly super happy about getting The Vanishing Witch! I don’t think I’ve crossposted any of my Karen Maitland reviews here so far, but I’m definitely a fan.
Mostly non-fiction this week, as you can see; all my Steve Jones reservations came in, and I had a browse in the 610s-620s in the non-fiction section of the library. (Well, also the 560s, because dinosaurs.)
I didn’t actually magically get my hands on the second TPB of The Movement, but I thought it’d be silly to put up the cover of every single issue. So there y’go. And I imagine there’s no mystery as to why I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy.
Okay, I can’t believe how long this post has got, and I need to do a ton more things before I go to bed. When this goes live in the morning, I’ll already be out at the Race for Life, volunteering at a 10k event. And then on Sunday, I’m running in the 5k event. So I may not be very active this week, but I will visit back anyone that comments here, of course! Have a good week.
(Oh, and if you have some spare cash, sponsor me, please?!)
ETA: Except I can’t volunteer today due to travel problems, wah. But at least I’ll be around to chat to people!
Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome, Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna
On the one hand, this is a heck of an introduction to the Green Lanterns. There’s so many characters and concepts packed in, and I had to play a fair amount of catchup. I was never sure what was a New 52 innovation and what was established canon, how I should be judging the storyline. So I couldn’t tell you if someone was suddenly overpowered or turned into an enormous asshole.
I did enjoy it, though. It’s a bit thin on character because there are so many Green Lanterns in the story, but it gives us an introduction to the Corps and who they are, what they believe in. There are some interesting character moments for John Stewart, which I found intriguing: he makes some rough decisions and has to live with them, and does so honorably, to my mind.
I actually enjoyed this enough that I will pick up other Green Lantern comics in the future, at least to try.