Review: The Unwritten, Vol. 1, Mike Carey and Peter Goss

For the Graphic Novel Challenge!

The Unwritten is about a guy called Tom whose father – long since disappeared without a trace – wrote an incredibly popular series of books about a character with Tom’s same name: Tommy Taylor.  However, it turns out that all the paperwork proving Tom is his father’s son has been forged.  At first it is theorized that he is a fraud, the son of Romanian peasants; then people begin to believe that he is, in fact, Tommy Taylor, brought into existence by the stories themselves.  The word made flesh.

The Unwritten is set in London, a place with whose literary history Tom is very familiar.  His father was always telling him stories about the places in England and how they connect to books and authors – this plays into the unfolding of the plot and will, I expect, do so more and more as the series goes on.  There is one scene that is set at the Globe, the Globe that I love, you don’t even know and words cannot express how much I love the Globe Theatre.  It is like Mike Carey wants to say, “I love literature and I know that you do too!”  If fiction is going to be meta, it should be meta exactly like this.

The final issue included in this first volume of the graphic novel is all about Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde.  While not closely connected to the main plotline, it does give us a glimpse into the means and methods employed by the villains and how it relates to stories and literature.  Also?  It has Oscar Wilde in it.  Oscar Wilde!  I love him so!  He was such a dear darling when he wasn’t being awful!

Two things that I like a lot are Oscar Wilde and London.  And metafiction – three things.  The three things that I like a lot are Oscar Wilde, and London and metafiction, and fictional characters coming to life.  Four – no.  Amongst the things that I like are such elements as Oscar Wilde, London – I’ll come in again.  (Sorry, XKCD.  I know you don’t like it when people do that.)

I have given in to temptation and subscribed to this comic on HeavyInk.  I know I shouldn’t be spending money on single issue comics, given that I will probably end up buying the collected volumes as proper books when they are released, but I cannot resist the alluring notion of getting comics each month, all wrapped up in crinkly brown paper.  Oh, HeavyInk, you seduce me with your sexy packaging.

Other reviews:

things mean a lot
The Literary Omnivore
Adventures with Words
Bibliofreak

Tell me if I missed yours!

Review: Peter and Max, Bill Willingham

I won Peter and Max from Cecelia of adventures of cecelia bedelia – thank you!  I was having a terrible day, and when I got home I had not one, BUT TWO packages on my doorstep.  One was Peter and Max, and the other was a package of two books and a bookmark from Jeane.  It was amazing.  It caused my day to stop being terrible, and be awesome instead.  (True story.)

If you haven’t read Fables, you should really do that.  In fact, go do that now, and when you have finished, you may come back and we can discuss how we are going to cast the television show they will eventually make of this graphic novel series.  I already have cast most of the parts in my head, but I am not satisfied with some of them, and I am willing to negotiate.  (Don’t you wish the lovely and talented Enver Gjokaj were taller?)

Peter and Max is a prose story, with occasional illustrations by Steve Leialoha, about Peter Piper and his brother, Max, who you pretty quickly figure out is the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  The story goes between the past, exploring Max and Peter’s relationship and Max’s descent into evil, and the present, as Peter tries to find and stop Max.  There are rats and thieves, and (spoiler, sort of!) Bo Peep is an assassin, and the pipes fight, which is cooler than it sounds.

When, about twenty pages in, I flipped back and read the end, and I thought: Well, that’s going to be an anticlimax.  All the build-up to the Final Battle Against Max and it’s not – let’s just say it’s not quite as Gandalf-and-the-Balrog-or-Harry-and-Voldemort-epic as maybe I was expecting from how scared everyone sounded about Max being back in town.  However, when I read through the book, and got to it properly, I found it was not an anticlimax at all.  Action-wise, I was right, it’s anticlimactic; but as far as the emotional journey of the book goes, I think it works just perfectly.

I think if I had to pick one thing about the Fables series that I do not love, it’s how everybody acts tough all the time.  I mean everybody acts tough, every single character, which I guess you are meant to put down to their all having lived so long?  But when I read the dialogue – and it’s more noticeable in a novel than in the comics – the characters all sound a bit the same.  I liked Peter and Max, but the flaws of the comics were present in the novel, and in the novel they jumped out at me more.  I suppose because I didn’t have the pretty drawings to distract me?

Other reviews:

adventures of cecelia bedelia (thanks again!!)
Stainless Steel Droppings
Vasilly
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
The Written World
with Tales of a Capricious Reader
Largehearted Boy

Tell me if I missed yours!

Review: Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, adapted & illustrated by P. Craig Russell

Oscar Wilde told André Gide that he had put his genius into his life, and only his talent into his writing.  It’s a typical Oscar Wilde thing to say, especially since he’d all but stopped writing at that point, and if you’ve read about Oscar Wilde, you’ll know it’s best to take anything he says with a grain of salt.  Because, you know, hello to the self-dramatizing!  But I have to say, in reference to this remark: although I read about Oscar Wilde all the time, I almost never read anything he’s written.  Sometimes I’ll get in a mood and just tear through my big pink Complete Works, but by and large, if I’m in an Oscar Wilde mental place, I’m rereading Gary Schmidgall or H. Montgomery Hyde or whatever.  So yeah, Oscar Wilde may have had a point.

That said, I love P. Craig Russell, and when I saw that the Graphic Novel Challenge has a mini-challenge for January to read graphic novel adaptations of classic works, I thought, hey, perfect opportunity to check out Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales.  My library had the volume with “The Devoted Friend” – where a woodland creature tells other woodland creatures about a miller who was such a terrible friend to a poor little gardener boy that the gardener boy eventually died – and “The Nightingale and the Rose”, where a nightingale kills herself to get a red rose for this guy who wants to give it to his true love, and then she scorns him utterly and he gives up love forever.

I felt so fond of both Russell and Wilde when I was reading this.  Russell draws really lush, gorgeous comics – must take him ages! – and Oscar Wilde, bless him, was exactly like Oscar Wilde was.  Which is to say, revoltingly overdramatic, and in the next breath poking fun at the thing he was just emoting over.  So he waxes maudlin over the nightingale giving her life to make the rose, and two pages later the student who wanted the rose in the first place gets rejected by the object of his affections and says:

What a silly thing Love is.  It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

And then the student goes off and reads a book.  It’s so Oscar Wilde.

Can I make a confession?  It’s been weighing heavy on my soul.  When I was in high school, my good friend’s dog had puppies, and as I had just then started to be interested in Oscar Wilde, and was spending all my time telling her the new facts I had learnt about him, she named one of the puppies Oscar Wilde.  He was very goofy and bouncy, and she used to call him “Mr. Wibbles” as a nickname.  She’d say, “Oscar Wilde!  Hey Oscar Wilde!  You’re my Mr. Wibbles!”  So now – um.  Well, sometimes now – please don’t judge me – when I am feeling exceptionally fond of the real Oscar Wilde, or when I see a picture of him unexpectedly, and all my love for him rushes to the surface, it unbalances me and I think of him as Mr. Wibbles.

This is the very real danger of a time machine, y’all.  Suppose someone invents a time machine, and I use it to go back in time and meet Oscar Wilde, odds are I’d see him and become seriously overset and call him Mr. Wibbles by accident.  And then Oscar Wilde would be like, I hate you.  And then, who knows what would happen?  I’d be really sad!  In my pain and misery, I might go way back in time and stomp on a butterfly, out of spite.

Review: The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch and Ordinary Victories Part Deux

See me starting challenges all over the place?  It’s a new year and I am on the ball.

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch, Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli

I didn’t start out my Graphic Novels Challenge reading with quite the satisfactory bang that I was hoping for (probably because I didn’t start by doing the January mini-challenge but OH that is all about to change).  The Facts, etc., etc., disappointed me.  Illustrated by Michael Zulli, this graphic novel tells the tale of a strange night out, with a strange woman whose real name wasn’t Miss Finch.  The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a good title, if you’re writing that sort of story, edged with primness rather than ferality.  I thought maybe Gaiman was intending to play up the contrast? But it didn’t really work.

Essentially (spoilers for the whole!), Miss Finch likes sabre-toothed tigers; she goes out with the narrator and his friends; they all see a very strange circus; and she gets transported back in time to live with (and boss around) sabre-toothed tigers.  And then everyone goes home and thinks about how strange it all was.  As a short story, this is already rather thinly plotted.  Put it into comic book form and publish it as a hardback, it just (of course) makes this problem more noticeable.  Then of course, the whole thing is framed by the narrator’s remembering it, and it hardly seems worth remembering.

Not that – well, I mean, obviously if that happened in real life, you’d remember it and talk about it a lot.  It’s not every day that you go out with a woman and she gets zapped back in time and prevents sabre-toothed tigers from eating you all up, and then trots back into prehistoric times to hang out there forever.  But that’s all that happens.  The story is more about the setting, than the plot, and although Michael Zulli is a good illustrator and makes a very beautiful setting, that doesn’t make up for how essentially dull it is.  Nothing happens to the narrator at all.  You are never in fear of their lives or anything.  I just – I know that Neil Gaiman can do creepy stories, and the reason I know that is that I’ve read Coraline.  I wanted The Facts – that title is ridiculously long – I wanted the book to be creepy, and it was dull instead.  Bah.  Plus, I’ve read this Gaiman story before, with the theatre show.  Several times.  Better versions.

Ordinary Victories, Manu Larcenet

Onward to Ordinary Victories: What Is Precious, which I got for Christmas from my lovely mum and dad (along with the original Ordinary Victories, which I reread and found to be as wonderful as I had initially thought it was).  I shall have spoilers in this review, for the first volume as well as the second.  The protagonist’s father has just committed suicide (this happened towards the end of Ordinary Victories), and he, his brother, and his mother are all struggling to come to terms with that.  Marc’s girlfriend Emily is longing for a child, and Marc himself is still not sure of his place in the world – as a son or a potential father or an artist.  Which is to say, many of the same elements that I so loved in Ordinary Victories were present in What Is Precious, especially the juxtaposition of very strong emotions with the tiny details of everyday life.

I didn’t like it quite as much as the first volume, though, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because I had expectations going into the second volume that weren’t present for the first.  Marc and Emily’s having a kid shifted the tone of the book.  I loved how Ordinary Victories was able to contain a lot of important, difficult issues, without giving the impression that it was Addressing and Attempting to Resolve them.  Once the kid shows up in What Is Precious, though, I lose all patience for the characters’ indecision and uncertainty.  That sounds very intolerant of me.  Another possibility is that I was cranky after reading Slaughterhouse Five.  I should have read The Ask and the Answer next, as a palate cleanser, and proceeded to What Is Precious subsequently.

Have you read either of these?  Let me know and I’ll put a link!

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, Josh Neufeld

A.D. is a graphic novel about seven people from New Orleans.  The author interviewed these people extensively, visited New Orleans, took pictures, and then created this book.  It tells the stories of people who left and people who stayed, wealthyish people and poorish people, black people and white people.

I liked reading this book, because it aligns very nicely with my memories of the hurricane.  The high school kids talked about how they were going to miss a couple of days of school, and everyone expected it to turn east the way they always do, and the doctor has a hurricane party.  I was in university then, and we all thought we were going to miss a few days of school and have some high winds, which is what had happened several times in past years.

And, of course, my most vivid memory from Katrina, the damn newspeople.  We were listening to the radio & watching the TV if we had power, trying to figure out what was going on.  My cousin had refused to leave New Orleans (and yes!  I am still cross about that!), and my other cousin was like, He’s an idiot but if he’s staying then I’m staying, so voila, two of my very excellent cousins were in New Orleans, and we were worried and wanted news about what was happening.  And all the news was like this:

Newsreader: We’re going to go out to Carol [or whoever] in a second, and give you the news on this hurricane.
My whole family: YES.  NOW we will learn if there are casualties, what’s going on in the hospitals, what the water levels are like, whether we should expect flooding–
Carol or whoever: IT IS VERY WINDY IN THIS HURRICANE.
Family: …
Carol: YES.  VERY WINDY AND WET.
Newsreader: Now, that sound we hear, that’s actually the wind, right?
Carol: Yes!  The wind is extremely windy!  I am being blown all around!  Woooooooooo!
Newsreader: Now, should we be expecting flooding?
Carol: IT IS WINDY!

And if it was on TV, instead of the radio, they would show some footage of trees blowing in the wind, and debris blowing down the street.  And then the newsreader would say, It is very windy and wet!  Everyone be careful!, and they’d remind us how Ray Nagin told everyone to leave, and that would be the end of the segment.

So it was neat to read a book that matched my memories so well, but taken altogether, the book didn’t have much to say.  The writer didn’t draw connections between the experiences of the characters, or put them in any sort of context.  There were good stories, sure, but it’s a book, and I wanted more than a collection of anecdotes.  A.D. didn’t say anything new or unexpected, and so I imagine it might be boring for someone who didn’t live through the hurricanes.  I won’t need to read it again.

But you don’t have to take my word for it: Page247 and nothing of importance also reviewed it; and if you did too, let me know and I will link to you!

Bayou, Vol. 1, Jeremy Love & Patrick Morgan

Jeremy Love‘s Bayou, evidently the first physical book to be created from DC Comics’ webcomic imprint Zuda, is about a little girl named Lee who lives in 1930s Mississippi with her father.  When he is accused of raping and murdering Lee’s young white friend Lily (who actually got eaten by an enormous monster in the bayou), and carted off to jail, Lee sets out fearlessly to find Lily and thus save her father from death.

Before I head off to bed*, I just wanted to say, Holy God, this book was scary.  I read about it (where else, for my graphic novel recommendations?) on Nymeth’s blog, and nowhere did she say anything like, In addition to its beautiful art and plucky protagonist, this book has the SCARIEST SCARINESS OF ALL TIME.  You know why I didn’t buy this book immediately after I finished reading it at Bongs & Noodles this evening?  Because I want to have kids eventually, and I don’t want them to find this book and read it and be scarred for life, as would inevitably happen, and then they’d get taken from me by CPS for abuse which I would deserve because that’s how scary this book is.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system – hang on, wait, I don’t feel like I have adequately conveyed how scary it is.  The kids thing wasn’t a good example.  Kids scare easy.  Let me try again.  Imagine the most terrifying nightmare you have ever had.  Now multiply it times six, and add a shark attack salad, a side of being-buried-alive, and a large scoop of public speaking.  Are you imagining that?  Because the scariness you are imagining right now has to go sleep in its parents’ bed when it has nightmares about Bayou.

You have now officially been warned, so when you pick up this book and start reading it, you will not be thinking, la la la, aren’t these illustrations beautiful; la la la, there’s going to be an enormous rabbit; la la la – trust me, you won’t be thinking any la la la at all.  And if you were (which you won’t be, once you read the rest of this paragraph), it would get knocked out of you the second you realized that the reason that child is diving into that bayou is to fish up the body of a kid that got lynched.  And that is not the scariest thing that happens in this book.

And now for something completely different: This book is so good.  How good, you ask?  Very, very, very good.  (Help, I can feel myself going into gush mode – this can happen when I shriek complaints about things for a while – it is like the universe needs to balance me back out – here we go…)

Bayou may be the best graphic novel I’ve read this year, and I read Fun Home and Ordinary Victories this year.  It is relentlessly wonderful with its beauty and brilliance and wonderfulness.  In the first place, Love and Morgan have made about the most gorgeous illustrations you ever saw.  The art is dreamy and cartoony and exactly real – it doesn’t feel that incongruous to see Lee (our heroine!) one second being knocked unconscious while her father is taken away, and the next second talking to a giant rabbit.  Lee’s journey to save her father takes her to some weird places (and, I’m given to understand, will be taking her to even weirder ones), in a rather Alice in Wonderlandy way, but the emotional grounding of the story means that you need Lee to succeed.

Bringing me to my next point: Jeremy Love’s ear for dialogue.  This book has perfectly perfect dialogue, and when you’re writing a story set in the past, it’s crucial to succeed at this.  Love’s dialogue does, of course, give the reader an incredible sense of place.  What’s even better, he gives his characters such distinctive, genuine voices that only a few lines between, for instance, Lee and Lily, or Lee and her father, convey their relationships perfectly.

If I haven’t put you off by going on and on about how pissingly terrifying it is, you should read it in book form (which is nice because it’s beautiful) or online here.  My computer is too slow to read it online, which is frustrating because I desperately want to know what happens next.  And if you are reading this and thinking, Oh, that Jenny.  She is exaggerating.  Nothing is scary enough to scare six times my worst nightmare plus shark attack & public speaking & being buried alive, just you look at pages 40-50 and you will see that I was not exaggerating.  At.  All.

*WHERE I WILL UNDOUBTEDLY HAVE HORRIFIC NIGHTMARES

Chicken with Plums, Marjane Satrapi

In Chicken with Plums, Marjane Satrapi writes about tar musician Nasser Ali, a great-uncle of hers who decides to die after his wife destroys his tar in a heated argument.  He tries and tries to find another tar that will be the equal of the one that was destroyed, but even the best of tars will not make the music he imagines.  He lies down on his bed and stays there for eight days, upon which he dies.  Chicken with Plums follows him through those eight days, through visits and memories and dreams and hallucinations.

The good: Marjane Satrapi charms me.  She writes with wry humor that spares no one, and interweaves the story of Nasser Ali with the history of Iran.  Despite how much I don’t care for Nasser Ali, the story is still emotionally effective.  I love how she used black backgrounds for the flashback sequences, many of which depicted the early relationship of Nasser Ali and his wife.  The shading difference provided a great visual reminder of how much their relationship has changed since they were first in love.

The bad (for me): I wanted to slap Nasser Ali.  This may have been the intended effect, but it took away from my enjoyment of the book.  He had children!  And left him!  And was unkind to his little son!  I do not condone the breaking of his tar, but mercy, I can see how his wife was driven to it.  So all the time he was moping in bed and refusing to get up and eat and talk to anyone, I was muttering unkind things about him under my breath.  Esp. after the chapter about praying for people not to die.  Hmph.  Absent parents, v. bad.

I have heard that you are not supposed to need to identify with the characters in books, but when I read a book with a protagonist that I think is a jerk, I often reach a place where I can’t be bothered reading any more.  Especially people who are whiny.  That’s why I couldn’t get on with Catcher in the Rye.  How do you manage books with unsympathetic protagonists?

Other reviews of Chicken with Plums: A Life in Books, State of Denmark, The Written World, Out of the Blue, and let me know if I missed yours!

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel

I love a memoir, y’all, and you know what I love more than a memoir?  A graphic novel memoir.  Delicious.  My library has a new section on their ever-growing graphic novels shelf, which is Biography.  When I went in yesterday (collecting films for my poor sick little sister and lots of excellent books for me), I took three of the five books from the new wee little section.  Including Fun Home – which I remember the library not having last time I checked, and I was well cross about it.

Fun Home is Alison Bechdel‘s memoir about her father, a closeted gay man who ran a funeral home and was (by accident or design) hit by a truck when she was nineteen.  In the book, she deals with his sexuality and her own, both their struggles with mental illness, and all sorts of things, painstakingly documenting everything with recreated photographs, letters, diary entries, and maps.

The structure of the book is loopy and self-referential, rather than chronological – she returns to crucial moments in her self-discovery and her discoveries about her father, several times in some cases, giving the reader more context each time.  I like this because that is what growing up is like – how you learn new things all the time, and then you come back to something familiar and you have to recast it in your mind, shedding the light of your new experiences on it.

I read an interview with Alison Bechdel where she said that she was nervous about herself as a writer when she began doing this book.  As I was reading it, I was struck by the elegance and thoroughness (for lack of a better word!) of the writing.  Where she’s describing scenes from her childhood, it’s very sensory, evoking the sounds and smells as well as, in the drawings, the sights.  And she is also very self-aware, exploring her own thoughts about and motives in dealing with her father – as an obsessive thought-examiner myself, I wondered whether this was another symptom of her OCD.

As I say, the writing was lovely, but there were times in the book when I thought there were too many words for the pictures – it got a bit frenetic sometimes, and I would have loved to have seen a few full-page or two-page spreads without any words in, to break up the words.

Oh, but she uses the word “perseverate”!  My anxious and obsessive (but self-aware!) family use “perseverate” all the time, just ALL THE TIME, but you don’t see it out there in the world all that often.  Shame because “perseverate” is one of those words that feels defining for my obsessive thinking – like my endless attempts to consider all the sides of any issue, and give a fair hearing to all viewpoints, it sounds like it should be a good thing, so close to “persevere”, which is a good thing.  But in fact it keeps going, past “persevere”, “perseverate”, doing it too much and it’s time to stop.  So I like seeing it being used.  Perseverate.

Bechdel makes use of myths and literature throughout the book – she talks about a book she read at a certain time in her life, then carries on talking about its relevance to her life, her sexuality, her relationship with her father, whatever – while the characters in the panel carry on discussing the book.  I am so impressed by this.  The captions shift focus, but the characters from her past are still paying attention to the literature, and she uses passages from the books/plays/whatever to deepen the meaning of what she says in the captions.  And I am not just praising this technique because there’s a chapter that features The Importance of Being Earnest, making beautiful use of Lady Bracknell’s lines.

(I’m not!  Really!  I mean, do I like it when a book makes reference to Oscar Wilde and how he is funny and brilliant?  Yes!  But do I require more than that to be happy with a book?  …Well.  No.  Actually.  Pretty much, you compliment Oscar Wilde and I am going to look upon you with favor. However, Fun Home would have been great without featuring The Importance of Being Earnest.)

And my perennial problem with memoirs: The Family.  In her acknowledgements, Bechdel thanks her mother and brothers for not trying to stop her from writing this book.  I had to go look up interviews with her – she says that she did let her family read it, and changed some of the things they objected to, and argued for keeping others.  Quote:

Bechdel indefatigably researched her family during the seven years it took to create Fun Home, whose title refers to their common abbreviation for “funeral home.” When her mother found out she was doing a book, Bechdel was cut off: ” ‘No more information about your dad,’ ” Bechdel remembers her saying. “She felt quite betrayed. And justifiably so. Essentially I used information she had given me in confidence over the years.” Currently, although “it’s painful for her to have the information out there,” her mother, Bechdel said, “also understands writing and the imperative of storytelling, and there’s a way that she respects the project, despite her discomfort.”

Eeek!  I feel so anxious about this when I read a memoir!  I am a very private person, and if I had had all these problems in my marriage and my life, I sure as hell wouldn’t want the whole world to know about it.  And look, neither did the mum:

I do feel that I robbed my mother in writing this book. I thought I had her tacit permission to tell the story, but in fact I never asked for it, and she never gave it to me. Now I know that no matter how responsible you try to be in writing about another person, there’s something inherently hostile in the act. You’re violating their subjectivity. I thought I could write about my family without hurting anyone, but I was wrong. I probably will do it again. And that’s just an uncomfortable fact about myself that I have to live with.

I am glad that she acknowledges this – at least part of my concern about memoirs is that the writers aren’t giving any weight to their family’s privacy, and Bechdel, with characteristic self-awareness, makes note that what she did was problematic.  On the other hand, Fun Home is very wondrous and if Alison Bechdel had felt the same way I do about (her mum’s and her own) privacy, it would never have existed.  So I don’t know. Does this bother you when you read memoirs – whether the family wants their secrets aired in public?

Other reviews: things mean a lot, Farm Lane Book Blog, A Life in Books, The Written World, Books for Breakfast, Valentina’s Room, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, A Striped Armchair, Bookish, and tell me if I missed yours!

Buffy’s eighth series

So I was mysteriously untempted by the Buffy Season Eight comics for a really long time, and then Fyrefly (inventor of the book blog search, hooray!) started getting all reviewy of them, and that reminded me that I love Buffy like a fat kid loves cake (or a skinny kid – any kid really), and today I went to Bongs & Noodles and (don’t tell) read all four volumes that they had, which was The Long Way Home and No Future for You and Wolves at the Gate and Time of Your Life, but there’s apparently another one after that.  But they didn’t have Fray.  So I wasn’t always sure what was going on with Fray.  Many will be the Buffy spoilers coming up, because, you know, I assume you’ve all already seen Buffy.  If not you should.  It is lovely.

Several years on from the end of the series, Buffy and Xander are at Slayer Central handling up on a large-scale slaying the bad guys operation.  Willow is off getting trained in some super-fancy magics by a v. sexy mermaid type character, and feeling the Tara guilt (I miss Tara – couldn’t we bring Tara back to life?).  Giles and Buffy are not speaking, and Anya, as you may recall, is dead.  And Dawn has turned into a giant, a situation whose causes are unclear and Dawn’s not saying (until she does).  The Big Bad for this season (will there be more seasons?) is a shady character called Twilight, who is leading something that looks a lot like the Initiative, in that it’s American military and doesn’t like Buffy and Riley (pfft) is part of it.

Riley.  Oh how I dislike him.  Remember that time when he was all, “Yeah, Buffy’s great, this and that, I’m so in love…But she doesn’t love me,” throwing poor Xander and THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE into agonizing uncomfortableness for the rest of Riley’s story arc?  Blech.  How glad was I when he finally left?

I’m so pleased I took the morning to read these Buffy comics.  It is just like Buffy as a TV show – insofar as the characters all still have their same voices and relationships, and it’s all old friends again.  I would still like to see it as a TV show, although with all the different locations and special effects and Christian Bale fantasies, that might be difficult to swing.  I would especially like to see Michelle Trachtenberg do the Dawn storyline – she has such a fun storyline, and Michelle Trachtenberg is so adorable… I miss Michelle Trachtenberg!  I am going to watch the end of series five – except that would be the hugest downer ever.  I am going to watch some part of Buffy that contains lil Dawnie!

I will say, I have seen the writers of the comic say that it’s great to have a limitless special effects budget, and – well – I don’t know that it’s good for them to have an unlimited special effects budget.  There are only a certain number of monsters and destruction my eyes can take in all at once, and then I get tired and start flipping pages that aren’t all green and screamy.

However, I was enchanted by the fact that Buffy was having a fantasy featuring Little Women Christian Bale and Reign of Fire Christian Bale.  Not because I like Christian Bale, because I don’t, pretentious mouth face, but because I SO FEEL IT.  When my sister and I are picking out our dream casts for films and books that we like, we make cast choices like Snarly Hugh Jackman, and Charlotte Gray Billy Crudup (mmmm).

I know that it has been suggested that Buffy is too angsty about it being lonely to be her, but I never stopped feeling sympathetic with Buffy.  Oo, except for in the seventh series when she was being totally mean to everyone.  I don’t care how mean she is to Spike, but she was totally mean to Xander, who by then was my favorite character because everyone else had been evil by then.  But mostly, poor little Buffy.  It would be a total bummer to be her, and I can see why Satsu would be an appealing prospect.  I am completely enjoying this season, and I hope they continue and do a ninth one.  Is that greedy?

Making Comics, Scott McCloud

Again with the piles of information!  I had to read this one chapter at a time and then take a long break to think about all the things contained in each chapter.  In Making Comics, Scott McCloud gets down to discussing the specifics about creating a comic book – everything from the placement and spacing in word bubbles, to the construction of panels in a way that’s intuitive to the reader, to the interaction of words and pictures.  There can never be too much discussion about the interaction of words and pictures.  Seriously.

This book made me sad I can’t draw.  Although there were bits about telling stories, I felt like the book was more geared towards artists, than writers.  It may have felt this way because, while I can write, I can’t one bit draw, so my perception could be skewed on account of how sad I felt during all the drawing bits.  Compared with how fun the words-and-pictures bits were!  All nicely broken down into categories and everything!

Scott McCloud’s books about comics are altogether wonderful.  He’s good at explaining complicated concepts in ways that are easily comprehensible, and referring back to them frequently enough to keep them in the reader’s head.  He uses examples from a broad range of comics, and his love for comics shines through in every panel.  Also he is funny and self-deprecating and clever.  Hooray for Scott McCloud!