Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Final Descent

     Rick Yancey brings his masterful Monstrumologist series to a conclusion with The Final Descent, n a story with uncommonly mature themes for a Young Adult novel: alienating the people you love, letting your humanity slip away, the price of gazing long into the abyss.  Event-wise, there is plenty to entertain, regardless of age, as the doctor and his protege seek to recover the last specimen of what may be the world's very first monster.  But the examination of a young man plunging into his own heart of darkness offers a powerful and thoughtful read for teens and adults alike.
     This volume stands out, but the entire series makes for great reading, whether or not it's Halloween. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Over the Wall

     I receive comic books and graphic novels as a reviewer and as a librarian.  I serve on awards committees and I visit comic news websites and I visit comic stores and book stores on a weekly basis.  Even with all that, every now and then a book manages to slip under my radar until its sitting right in my lap.  And inside that every now and then, very occasionally the graphic novel in question turns out to be a little bit of a masterpiece.
     So it is with Over the Wall by Peter Wartman.  In his very first book, Wartman has managed to capture the eerie and the heroic and weave them seamlessly into the adventure of a girl who must leave her village and go over the massive wall that surrounds it to find her lost brother, even as her memory of him fades for dark and disturbing reasons.  The art and palate reflect this tone with a detailed cityscape and figures that, while realistic, retain a soft, accessible appeal.  A breathless, fast-paced and fast-to-read adventure, it nevertheless manages to build a compelling world and mythology, and ring some deeply resonating notes about love, loyalty and the importance of an unexpected helping hand. 
     A true treasure, not to be missed.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sometimes You Have to Listen

     After weeks of sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "I will not listen to you" at each other,  people who have a responsibility for the welfare of a vast number of lives finally seem to have paid attention.  While one might hope for more than "backing down" and "conceding," they did still manage to cooperate.
     Eighteenth Century writer and philosopher Voltaire said "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."  It's as fine a summation of democracy as I can imagine.  If you're going to devote your life and works to such a concept, as all those people with their fingers in their ears presumably have, it's a relief to know you can still honor the idea of cooperating for a bigger cause over the idea of just being right.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Battling Boy

     If the world of comics has a Punk Rock God, it can only be Paul Pope.  Pope's newest book, Battling Boy, is a screaming, beating, roaring, blasting jam session between heroic myth, coming-of-age story, Japanese monster movie and manga.  Beneath Pope's dynamic, sinewy
art, he plays out compelling themes of growth, responsibility, fortitude and -- in keeping with an unexpected element of his oeuvre -- urban bureaucracy.  A rare graphic novel that captures the brazen, funky energy of early superhero comics in a truly modern vernacular, this is not to be missed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


     The movie Prisoners works extremely well on several levels, including as a well-crafted thriller and as a showcase for fine acting (Hugh Jackman's rage is powerful and disturbing, especially from such a likable and charismatic actor, and Jake Gyllenhaal creates a mainly opaque character and accomplishes the near impossible by also managing to make him sympathetic and compelling).  Most of all, though, Prisoners stands out because it offers a complex moral palette that you almost never find in mass entertainment any more and, what's more, it invites you to engage with it, it asks you to ask yourself some uncomfortable things.
     The darker and more morally complex the actual world becomes, the more there is an urge for our entertainment to not make these kinds of demands of us.  But doesn't it seem like there would be great value in having a dialog with these issues in the safe context of fiction so that we can return to the real world better prepared?