Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “comic books”

Samantha’s #CBR4 Review #14: The Scott Pilgrim series, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I bought my husband Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Boxset (all 6 SP books) for his birthday, and at some point, I decided to just sit down and read them myself. Since they take about 30 minutes apiece, I don’t really feel appropriate counting them all separately (although boy, would that help my cause!) , plus given their episodic nature it’ll just be easier to review them as a whole, so that’s what I’m going to do.

First let me say that I’m not at all a comic book/graphic novel kind of girl. I didn’t really grow up with them (aside from the odd Archie comic here and there) and they’ve just never held that much interest, even as they’ve become much more of a literary genre over time. In reading the Scott Pilgrim series, I have realized that the main reason for this is that they’re just too busy for me, and make me a little ADHD. Attempting to look at both words and pictures and connect the two at the same time is apparently too much for my brain. Does anyone else have that problem?

Anyway, Scott Pilgrim! Scott is an underachieving 24 year old who has no ambitions in life and seems perfectly content to sit around in a studio apartment and freeload off of his gay roommate, Wallace.  He lives in Toronto,  plays bass in an apparently really crappy band (called Sex Bob-Omb) and has recently started “dating” a 17-year-old named Knives Chau. All of this starts to change when he bumps into a girl he’s only previously seen in his dreams. Her name is Ramona Flowers, and she’s  mysterious! And American! Scott is immediately smitten, but if he wants to woo her, in addition to breaking things off with Knives, he will have to fight all of Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes, who have apparently formed some kind of coalition for the purpose of destroying anyone who attempts to date her. Along the way, in addition to his video game-style fights with a motley crew of characters led by evil mastermind Gideon Graves, Scott will have to come to terms with himself, make peace with his past loves, and maybe do a little growing up as well.

These books have a lot going for them. They’re obviously a love song to the city of Toronto, to video games, and to comic books themselves. Additionally, they’re a funny and original take on the standard tropes of coming-of-age, and of love and relationships. In fighting the Seven Evil Exes, Scott and Ramona both have to work through their issues with past relationships in order to arrive at a place where they can make an adult attempt at maintaining the one they are in together. In realizing his feelings for Ramona, Scott has to come to some kind of determination about his own self-worth. He’s a pretty selfish and clueless character, to be honest, and as he moves along, he develops at least a little more depth and understanding, although I have to say that I didn’t find him to be a great deal more redeemable at the end than at the beginning. The secondary characters are generally more enjoyable than our hero; Knives is a fun caricature of a teenaged girl, Sex Bob-Omb’s drummer (and one of Scott’s exes) Kim Pine is biting and sarcastic, and serves, in some ways, as Scott’s conscience. Scott’s roommate, Wallace, is the voice of reason, or at least of practicality. Ramona herself is somehow sympathetic, although I feel as though we get a little too much of her through Scott’s eyes, making her less of a fully-realized character and more an object to be attained.

Mainly, I think it’s the format that I had difficulty enjoying.  Again, associating a brief piece of text with the images around it was somehow hard for me, and I often felt lost trying to keep things connected. Additionally, maybe I’m just not a visual person, but all of O’Malley’s female characters looked nearly identical to me, and I was never quite sure who was talking. In a larger frame it was ok; Knives has black hair, Kim has freckles, Ramona has a distinctive hairstyle, but in any kind of close-up image, they all just look like the same big pair of eyes. I had trouble with some of the male characters, too. I spend a lot of time reading picture books to my daughter, and I don’t have any issues there, so it’s something about the busy formatting here that bugs me. I do feelingly apologize to any and all comic/graphic novel/anime enthusiasts, and I gave it my very best try, but mostly reading these just gave me a headache.  I could definitely appreciate the finer points of the series as a whole, although I would have wished for a most sympathetic main character, and I can totally see why these are so popular. But I think I’ll stick with my overly wordy Victorian novels for the time being, if nobody minds.

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR4 Review #13.5 Marvel’s Civil War

Note, I’m counting this as half a book, because I didn’t read all the other tie-ins that would have given me a full understanding of the series’ plot.

I’ve been wanting to read the epic Marvel Comics mini-series Civil War for four years now. Comic book fans I know have spoken highly of the philosophical undertones in what might otherwise seem a gargantuan Superhero Battle Royale, it even made its way into the mainstream news media as an intriguing take on a traditional superhero story. So I giddily gulped down my first big comic book in quite a while.


As the superheroes struggled with the question of whether or not to relinquish their independence and join a firmly regulated federal agency (removing their secret identities), I quickly realized that the challenge of writing and designing an event this massive requires just as much skill and dexterity for the writers as any epic novel. But when the series is compiled into one thin compendium the authors have to leave out tie-ins and crossovers to dozens of other story lines and serials that help complete the series. In the brief book I bought, the swift shifts in Spiderman’s allegiances seem random, largely because he debated the matter in his own Spiderman series. The same goes for a subplot where villains are hired to hunt down independent heroes (such an exciting idea that I’m considering buying that series as well). Clearly the series flourishes when it’s at it’s most fleshed out, but the single volume of high points in the mini-series leaves a lot unsaid.

That (I hope) is the reason why I was underwhelmed by the philosophical nature of the book. I could see the potential for a great debate: do superhero teams constitute a “militia” under the second ammendment, and should they therefore be “well regulated? Or is this a time when, as Ben Franklin suggested: “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security”. These issues are never broached, instead the dialogue between the battles boils down to: “let’s change” v.s. “no I don’t want to.” Maybe I’m asking a bit much for Captain America to cite Thomas Paine, but as much as I enjoyed the spectacle of the superhero conflict, I missed the subtlety of the serious questions at hand.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews #40-42: Empowered volumes 1-3 by Adam Warren

The somewhat ironically named Empowered is a C-list superhero whose powers are given to her by her ultra skintight supersuit (so much so that she can’t wear underwear underneath it and even has to have very careful personal grooming so that nothing shows when she’s wearing it). While the suit is intact, she’s strong enough to lift and throw cars and even zap people from a distance, but the suit is also ridiculously fragile, prone to ripping if she catches on a nail, thorn, tack or say, gets shot at. The more the suit tears, the faster she loses a her powers, leaving her frequently captured, bound and gagged (in ridiculously skimpy, yet conveniently strategically covering tatters) by various super villains. Her team, “The Super-homeys” rarely take her seriously, and she’s most frequently used as bait. She’s blond and buxum, but has terrible self-esteem issues and is convinced that her butt is too big.

The first volume is pretty much a series of short vignettes, interrupted by fairly meta chapter breaks where  “Emp” explains her origin as a bondage prone sketch Adam Warren would draw for fans at conventions, then flesh out with a back story and turn into a surprisingly sweet and very clever satire on sexy superhero comics. Over the course of the first volume, Emp (her real name isn’t revealed until volume 3) meets her boyfriend, a sometime super villain henchman, and her best friend, Ninjette (who is unsurprisingly a ninja), and ends up sharing a flat with the “Caged Demonwolf”, a cosmic beast entrapped in alien bondage gear who lives atop her coffee table (possibly my favourite character). In volumes 2 and 3, the stories are longer, and continue to explore the world of Empowered, the Superhomeys, the various rather ridiculous super villains they fight, and the myriad ways in which  poor Emp can be captured, humiliated, bound and gagged.

While the art is very sexy, and Emp is frequently more unclothed than not, there is never any complete nudity, the book is very good about equal opportunity cheesecake art, with Emp’s boyfriend Thugboy frequently shown just as scantily clad as her. It’s clearly a aimed at an adult audience, with quite a few sex scenes in especially volumes 1 and 3 and quite a lot of violence (in a very manga style) in all 3 volumes. Refreshingly, as a female comics reader, I never felt this comic is as insulting to or exploitative of women as several more mainstream superhero comics. For all it’s near nudity and bondage prone heroine, the main premise of the comic is sweet. I very much agree with this article on Comics Alliance, that Empowered is a comic that gets sexy superheroes just right. I will absolutely be getting more, as soon as my budget allows it.

Crossposted with my blog, Malin’s Blog of Books.

Jelinas’ #CBR4 Review #26: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

preludes and nocturnes

As a general rule, I trust Neil Gaiman’s work. In the case of Preludes and Nocturnes, I was not disappointed.

Jelinas’ #CBR4 Review #17: Fables, Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham

the great fables crossover

For me, The Great Fables Crossover was like watching a TV show crossover episode of a TV show you like and a TV show you’ve never heard of: it’s serviceable, and there may be some parts you enjoy, but, overall, you wish that these unknown characters would get off your screen so that your show can go back to being your show.

Jelinas’ #CBR4 Review #9: Fables, Volume 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) by Bill Willingham

fables arabian nights and days

Arabian Nights (and Days) was the victim of too many new characters competing for attention. But it was still fun.

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