Monday, February 6, 2006

Old recs

Devin Grayson's "User": Quiet, down-to-earth, very heartfelt and well-written. It asks simple yet frightening questions about identity - personal, sexual, fabricated - and how we're never really what we say we are, or even think we are.

Kyle Baker's "Why I Hate Saturn": Kyle Baker's first and most hilarious graphic novel, full of manic energy and a surprisingly believable woman protagonist. What do you do when you've got lunatic millionaires trying to kill you, you can't get a date and your sister is Queen of the Leather Astro Girls of Saturn? Answer: road trip! :)

Frank Miller's "Martha Washington: Give Me Liberty": If the election of 2004 scared you, don't read this book. :) Martha Washington is a poor, black girl living in the ghettos. The higher she rises, the further the United States of America descends into corruption and decadence. The story suffers a bit for lack of a greater nemesis for Martha - but then, that was probably Miller's point, that for all her idealism there's not much she could do other than fight the personal battles.

Grant Morrison's "Kill Your Boyfriend": Grant Morrison playing Quentin Tarantino. Girl meets boy. Girl loves boy. Girl and boy go on mad killing spree. It's the love story Titanic should have been. :) One of the reasons I absolutely loved this story was because there's so much going on. On one level, it's a Tarantino romance where an average teenage girl falls in love with a dark and dangerous boy, and is swept up into his world of madness, murder and sex. Morrison goes for a modern-day interpretation of the Dionysius myth (more commonly known as Bacchus), but it's also a story of teenage rebellion taken to extremes, as the lovers break moral, judicial and sexual boundaries just because they can. Then there's the psuedo-philosophical debate on identities: the protagonists are unnamed. The Girl says it best: "We can be anyone." The problem, of course, is that no one really KNOWS who they want to be: the Girl's first boyfriend lives in a fantasy world, the politician is a cross-dresser, the "anarchists" can't bring themselves to actively cross the line and BECOME anarchists, the Girl's seemingly-normal family has corrupt secrets of its own... and the book itself reflects this confusion by not adhering to the conventions of a single genre. Of course, like all great romances, this one must end with tragedy. But we don't get a "Romeo and Juliet" moment where the lovers are united in death and a lesson is learned. The tragic separation of the lovers is compounded for the reader (but not the characters) when we learn something about the Boy that we didn't know before; and after the death, the other lover is prevented from following the same path by a twist of fate, and is forced to submit and become domesticated (though not without a hint of lingering defiance). And from the characters' perspective, that is the worst tragedy of all: to be shackled to a mundane existence after tasting true freedom.

Eric Shanower's "Age of Bronze": Forget "Troy". "Age of Bronze" is everything you ever wanted to know about the Trojan War. An uncensored, brutally honest and stirring account of what really led to the conflict that was eternalized in myth. A great read for people who thought "Troy" should have been more than slabs of beef parading about for the ladies (not that I had any complaints).

Brian Michael Bendis' "Jinx: The Definitive Collection": One of Bendis' earliest and finest works. Take three million dollars, two grifters and one world-weary bounty hunter. Add guns, explosions, a bunch of mallrats, gratuitous cursing, and Bendis getting shot in the brain, and you've got "Jinx".

Pat McGreal's "Veils": This beautiful graphic novel tells the story of a young English woman swept into an exotic, erotic world of magic and intrigue. On a visit to the Sultan's palace, Vivian Pearse-Packard is given a brief respite from her abusive husband in the harem. There, as her life story intertwines with that of a mythical queen, she embarks on a journey of discovery that will end in death... or glory beyond dreams.

Peter Kuper's "The System": Told entirely through visual art, without a single word bubble or caption, "The System" explores the interconnected lives of a group of city-dwellers who cross paths every day and never know it, even though they all have tremendous influence on each other.

Laini and Jim Di Bartolo's "The Drowned": A haunting tale of insanity, witchcraft and revenge. Theophile Finistere has spent the last five years in an asylum, tormented by shattered memories of his family and his home town. But when he is mysteriously compelled to escape, he finds himself tangled in the machinations of witches, demons, a cabal of warrior-priests and a loved one long thought dead. But what is real and what exists only in the broken delusions of a madman?

Pat McGreal's "I, Paparazzi": You might think being a paparazzi is all about stalking celebrities in their underwear, but for Jake McGowran, it's a way of life. But when he decides to go after the biggest, most powerful star in Hollywood, he gets in over his head and uncovers a horrible secret. Now he's being hunted by assassins, fashion models and conspiracy nuts, and worst of all, he's got a deadline... I really didn't know what to expect here: a renouncing of the controversial vocation through an unlikeable character? A glorification of celebrity and intrigue? This book's primary strength is its ability to keep you guessing; you're never sure exactly how to classify this book, even after the end. Is it an X-Files conspiracy story? A sci-fi thriller? Romance? Noir? A madman's dream? The ending is open enough to allow you your interpretation, but not so broad as to leave you without any conclusion whatsoever. The writer captures the world of the paparazzi very well and fleshes these star-stalkers out, makes them into human beings like anyone else. "I, Paparazzi" is an exhilirating ride that leaves you breathless and waiting for the next twist.

Warren Ellis' "Switchblade Honey": Warren Ellis writes, in his words, "The Anti-Star Trek". Sure, it'd be nice to think that by the 24th century mankind would be peaceful and benevolent and living in a tolerant utopia... but I wouldn't bet on it. A dark, intensely cynical look at what would happen if humanity reached the stars and stayed exactly as they were.

Frank Miller's "Ronin": In feudal Japan, a brave samurai gives his life to destroy his demonic archnemesis. Eight hundred years later, he is reborn into a world of technology and corruption, a world he can scarcely understand. Unknown to him, his nemesis has followed him into the future; and there, in the heart of a ruined metropolis, they will fight their final battle as the world crumbles around them. Interestingly, this book predates the popular cartoon "Samurai Jack", which used a very similar premise to great success.

Warren Ellis' "Ruins": The Marvel Universe is a place of wonders and heroes, a place where the fantastic is commonplace. But in another world, a heartbeat away from ours, radiation kills and mutation deforms, goddesses debase themselves and aliens wither away in concentration camps. Phil Sheldon (from Kurt Busiek's "Marvels") is unable to shake the feeling that this world is not right, and sets out to discover what could have gone so terribly wrong. Ellis masterfully dodges a rather fatal bullet, as his story was cut from four issues to two while he was writing it, leaving us with an abrupt ending... and yet, thematically, it's one which works perfectly.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's "Tales of the Marvels: The Wonder Years": Cindy Knutz was just an ordinary girl... until Wonder Man saved her life. Now she's the newest member of his fan club and she can't stop thinking about him. The line between love and obsession blurs, as deep down she knows they're destined to meet again. Then he dies and leaves her life in shambles. Can she survive without him?

Bob Hall's "I, Joker": Centuries after the death of Bruce Wayne, Batman's legacy has been twisted beyond all recognition. In this dark and filthy Gotham of the future, the Batman is a tyrant-god who recreates his enemies once a year to participate in a brutal and bloody hunt. But this year something is different. This year "Joker's wild", and things are going to change. An interesting take on what happens to the legend of a superhero when he or she is long dead.

Peter David's "The Last Avengers Story": This is for anyone who might have found Bendis' "Chaos" to be a bit lacking (to put it mildly). Looking for a better swan song for Earth's Mightiest Heroes? PAD delivers in spades. Keep in mind, though, that it spins off a somewhat antiquated Avengers team.

Ed Brubaker's "Deadenders": A dystopian urban drama. Beezer is just another disillusioned kid living in the slums... but he has visions of a better world, a world that may or may not have existed once. His quest to discover their origin and meaning takes wonderfully unpredictable turns in this sixteen-part series. Highly recommended for anyone looking for something a little different.

Jason Lutes' "Jar of Fools" Failed magician Ernie Weiss is on the brink of total despair: his brother has died, his girlfriend has left him, and his mentor is slowly slipping into senility. A powerful story about fighting to hold on to the ones you love.

Peter Milligan's "Enigma": What would you do if your favorite comic book suddenly started playing itself out in reality? Michael Smith finds himself face to face with his childhood hero, the Enigma... but there's a lot more under that mask than anyone suspects. Very off-the-wall and bizarre - but then, we wouldn't want Milligan any other way.

Mike Carey's "My Faith In Frankie": Surreal romantic comedy. Frankie Moxon is a college girl looking for love. She's also the sole worshipper of Jeriven, a minor deity who's watched over her all her life. But when an old crush of Frankie's makes a surprise return, Jeriven finds her devotions waning... and the weirdest love triangle you'll ever see takes off.

Nabiel Kaman's "The Birthday Riots": A simple but powerful story of disillusionment. Natalie is losing faith in her father, Max is confronted with reminders of the life he left behind and the mistakes he's made, while the gypsies seek a promised land they don't really believe in anymore. It's very touching, with characters that encourage empathy; utterly realistic without being over-the-top, poignant but not hopeless.

Well, that about wraps it up. Hope that's enough for decent filler. :)