DC Universe Rebirth (2016)

By Geoff Johns and multiple artists including Gary Frank

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In light of this week’s reveal in the current Captain America series by Marvel, it seems DC Universe Rebirth has been a bit overshadowed in the news I have seen. This fact disappointed me because, even though I am not the most avid reader of DC comics, I am interested in how they planned to handle the next transformation of the DC Universe. Plus, this issue also provided controversial information regarding the combination of universes published by DC that were probably never supposed to meet.

The Rebirth issue begins by deconstructing a watch. The quote inscribed on the watch is “every second is a gift.” Through art and broken narration, regardless of my knowledge of the DCU, I understand that the issue is going to be about lost time. The question is: what happened to cause time to be erased?

The entire comic follows Wally West as he races through time trying to find a friend who recognizes him so that he can stop running through time’s extra dimension. At first appearance this story seems to relate with Flashpoint, a rewriting of reality that led into the New 52 DC relaunch in 2011. Though I am not exactly sure how much, as I was not reading comic books regularly at the time. Nevertheless, what Wally discovers is that reality was not so much affected by the Flashpoint itself, but something else more powerful than Darkseid is driving the changes. This is a moment when I wish I was more familiar with DC characters and lore. It might be helpful for solving some of these mysteries. Then again, this is probably the creator’s way of getting me interested in reading more of the Rebirth series as a whole…

Due to my unfamiliarity with the source materials for creating this comic, I did a bit of research (not in-depth or anything), but I did discover just how much the Watchmen really had an impact on the new DC Universe. One of the things I truly appreciated about the comic was the focus on love and hope. Wally finds that love is what connects them and hope is what drives them to keep saving the world. This story is divided into five parts called Lost, Legacy, Love, Life, and Epilogue. There is an optimism that is integral to the world of superheroes and the creators wanted to break away from the Watchmen’s dark influence on the DCU and superheroes in general. However, the creators were not wanting to eliminate the influence of the Watchmen, but instead integrate them into the main universe. If there truly is going to be a more optimistic tone to the DC Universe through Rebirth, then I am excited about the future of the comics and I will look forward to reading more of their titles.

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn (2012)

On Nick and Amy’s five year anniversary, Amy mysteriously goes missing. As police begin to suspect her husband as a possible murderer, Nick is finding himself on an annual anniversary scavenger hunt left by his wife. What will he find at the end of the trail?

 

I probably wouldn’t have gone back this far in my readings, but Gone Girl left a very distinct impression on me when I listened to the audiobook a couple months ago. I also somehow still remember a majority of the scenes and plot (not all of which I will touch on here). If you know me, you would know that is rare. Also, I have yet to see the movie, even though I declared I would watch it immediately after completing the book. Oops.

Although I love reading and hearing stories from two or more perspectives, one of the best and most frustrating parts about the book is that both narrators are unreliable. Each have their own truth about their life and neither is willing to budge on their truth being right. My enjoyment of hearing a multitude of perspectives is no different for me in real life. When I hear a story from someone, I instantly wonder how the other person views the situation. Therefore, I praise Flynn’s ability to truly showcase each character’s limited view of the world.

At first, I fell in love with Amy’s character. Not just because she had the best name (which she does), but because her journal entries were fun. I could relate with her. In her journals she expressed wanting to work hard as a journalist and be a good wife who would give everything to help her husband succeed. Amy even left her life in New York to live with her husband in small town Missouri, where she loans him money to start a bar with his sister. Now, if I completely trusted Amy, I would have missed all the clues Nick gave about her being quite a bit different than her journal would imply. Since readers can see both primary characters inner thoughts, we can conclude that neither character is exactly likeable. I would elaborate, but I am concerned about spoilers. If you read the book or watch the movie, contact me and I’d love to discuss further!

I am a sucker for weddings. To me, weddings are where two souls come together to declare their absolute love for each other in an elaborate or simple ceremony and celebration (depending on the personalities of the couples getting married). I hope every union leads to lifelong marriages. But instead of a “happily ever after” story, Flynn considers how a couple can trudge through life together, not truly loving and not truly hating the other person. They simply exist beside each other and never fully learn about the other person in their bed. The question Flynn poses is: how well can you truly know your spouse? She argues that no matter how much you think you know someone, there is always something you don’t know about him/her and that can either be scary or exciting. In Nick and Amy’s case, it was frightening. Neither Nick nor Amy wanted to be real with the other for a multitude of reasons, but in marriage honest communication and mutual trust is essential. They probably would not have stayed married either way, but I feel like a lot of their issues could have been resolved or dissolved through practicing open communication and trust, rather than cheating and contempt. But then again, if that happened, we wouldn’t have such a thrilling novel…

 

My love for Outer Space – Reviews

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In case you didn’t know, I am in love with outer space, which means I will naturally gravitate toward stories set in outer space.* For example, last week I wrote about Joyride, which is about a girl who wants to explore the universe. This week, I am going to discuss two comics: the first issue of Satellite Falling by Steve Horton with art by Stephen Thompson and a sample of the graphic novel Mooncop by Tom Gauld from Free Comic Book Day (Saturday, May 7, 2016). Both comics, so far, are only a small snapshot of their overall stories.

I had high hopes for Satellite Falling. I wouldn’t say it disappointed me, but I did not quite get the enjoyment I wanted out of it. The story follows Lilly, a human who has left Earth to get away from dealing with the death of her significant other. She operates as a bounty hunter and works closely with the police department to bring in criminal aliens. Lilly has an intensity about her that makes her a powerful female protagonist. I appreciate that. Nevertheless, with comics like Copperhead out there (it also has a strong female lead), this story needed a “wow” factor for me to continue buying it each week. Truth be told, I prefer Copperhead with Sheriff Clara Bronson, she talks more. What can I say? I am a sucker for characters that talk and are witty in their banter. Lilly has good reasons for acting the way she does in Satellite Falling, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy her personality. I will give credit to the artist, Steven Thompson, who created fascinating backgrounds and crisp characters. I appreciate the detail he put into each panel. The aliens are also well designed and quite colorful. Overall, it is not a bad story and has wonderful alien art. I would check it out if you are interested in a space story with a strong female protagonist and enjoy watching said female kick butt. I, however, will stick to Copperhead for now.

On the other hand, Mooncop was on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of art. It was simple and minimalist. It reminded me of reading a comic strip in the newspaper. The story does not start out any more complex than the art. A cop is summoned to help a lady find her lost dog on the moon, where he runs into a famous astronaut. The pace is slow, which may have been more obvious due to reading this directly after Satellite Falling. The slowness only enhances the mood on the moon, a community that is no longer thriving and the residents are beginning to return to Earth. I only read sixteen pages of the ninety-six total, so I cannot give a full review of the graphic novel. Though, I will say that this sample made me eager to purchase Mooncop when it is released in September 2016!

*Note: Despite my love for outer space, I do not read Star Wars. If there is something Star Wars you think I should read, please give me the specific title and it better have a distinct ending. I am so deep in other comic universes that I cannot spend the time learning about the comic universe of Star Wars. I do watch the movies. I enjoy them.

This One Summer

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By Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Recently, This One Summer was removed from a public school in Minnesota. Therefore, it has been the subject of many online library and comic book articles of late. Within the last year or so, I purchased this graphic novel at my local comic shop during their semi-annual sale. I liked the art and the overall feel of the book. I couldn’t remember any reason why it should be taken from the school completely, so I took the opportunity to reread it. After rereading it, I still do not agree with the school’s decision to remove it. I understand that the school has students ranging from elementary to high school, but I believe that middle school, high school, and university students would greatly benefit from reading this graphic novel. In addition, I fully believe that parents should read it too. It would be a great opportunity for families to bring up hard topics and have real-life discussions.

The entire story is set in Awago Beach, a small summer beach town. Each year Rose Wallace travels with her parents to spend the summer there, where she has the chance to reconnect with her summer friend, Windy. Windy travels with her mother and grandmother. Windy and Rose immediately set out to have fun at the beach, have meals with their families, and watch horror flicks (which is not necessarily an approved activity, but they are young teens and do it anyway). The reason they watch so many horror films is so that Rose can see Duncan, the cashier at the only store in town, basically a convenient store and movie rental shop. The store is consistently surrounded by teenagers who are vulgar and crass. They pretend to try to be quiet when the girls come through, but they don’t do a good job of masking their attitudes. It is through these peripheral exchanges that the girls learn more about the locals and they start incorporating the older teens’ vocabulary (much to the distaste of Rose’s mother). The girls learn that Jenny may be pregnant with Duncan as the father, but he is not supportive and won’t even talk to her till she goes to a doctor to confirm. Meanwhile, Rose’s mom and dad are fighting, which Rose assumes is all about her mom trying to have another baby and continually failing.

“You should tell her. Kids are…they get it.” That line told by Windy’s mother to Rose’s mother seems to sum up what the author intended to express about children, specifically young adults. Children are not dumb. They know things, they see things, and they hear things. Since the story is told from the perspective of young teens who are in the process of growing up, they only hear half of what the adults and older teens are saying, which causes them to formulate their own conclusions about what is going on. Their often incorrect assumptions only stresses the importance of families actually being present to talk to their kids, even if the kid doesn’t want to talk either. The girls talk with each other, but while Windy tries to be there for Rose, she is still a free spirit who wants to play and have fun. She is not burdened with all of the same stresses and certainly does not care about crushes and boys. Whereas, Rose is trying to grow up faster so that she can be more like the teens she is observing.

The beauty of this book is its discussion about pregnancy. Some people want kids and can’t seem to get or stay pregnant, while other people don’t want kids and can easily get or stay pregnant. This topic of pregnancy permeates throughout the graphic novel, but is only directly discussed on a few pages. I think the author and illustrator did an excellent job balancing such a difficult topic within the confines of traditional and non-traditional families. The dialog is real and the illustrations are perfect exposition. It is my opinion that this graphic novel truly earned the awards it achieved: Caldecott Honor Book and Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association (ALA) and should not be too hastily removed from middle school, high school, or public libraries.

 

 

Joyride (Issue 1 of 4)

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By Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly. Art by Marcus To.

A brand new comic by Boom Studios came out last Wednesday (April 27, 2016) called Joyride. What a ride it was! Uma, a young lady who feels trapped in Earth’s dome, wants to explore outer space. Her dream is realized through a fantastical plan and her best friend, Dewydd, having a job that involves flights to the Moon.

Uma embodies all of my childhood dreams of space travel. I wish I had had even half of the drive she has. Uma has no fear. She confidently declares that she will be free to travel the universe and literally nothing can stop her from obtaining her goals. Dewydd seems to be more easy going and tends to follow the rules, but right now he is following Uma’s rules and would do anything for her. Their relationship, not quite romantic at this point, is beautiful. They seem to work well together as a team. I am excited to see how they develop as individuals and as partners on this journey through outer space.

Overall, this is a solid first issue. I love the art; it is well illustrated and stunningly colored. I am glad that Randy from my local comic shop, Excalibur, recommended this series to me, despite me telling him a while back that I already had enough series on my pull list. However, this series is worth it and I look forward to collecting the other three issues in the coming months!

Savior (comic book)

Written by Todd McFarlane and Brian Holguin. Illustrated by Clayton Crain.

Issues published April 2015-November 2015. Trade paperback published April 2016.

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A year ago I picked up the first issue of Savior. It fascinated me. The art was beautifully colored and I enjoyed the premise of the story. What happens if a savior arrives out of nowhere? What happens when he doesn’t want any recognition for it and just disappears? Despite the intrigue, after issue four I simply stopped reading. I can remember no reason for my hiatus other than getting busy. Even though my issues kept dutifully coming in through my subscription with the local comic shop, they were not read. April 29, 2016, I finally sat down and read them as a complete set.

Savior takes place in modern day America following a tragic plane crash in Damascus, Iowa. A man rescues a young girl who had been thrown from the plane into a nearby cornfield. She is in coma, but otherwise completely uninjured. The man, who does not remember his name or where he is from, is both a hero and a mystery, which cause some to believe he is God. The reader is even inclined to wonder about his divinity as biblical references are scattered throughout the series. The two main towns in the series’ present day are Abelsville, Kansas and Damascus, Iowa. Abelsville refers to the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis. Whereas the plane crashes on a country road approaching a town called Damascus, mimicking how Jesus blinded Saul on the way to Damascus. In the latter story, Saul’s name was later changed to Paul and he became the Apostle Paul who spread Christianity around his known world. These references are only the tip of the iceberg as the main character is seen bleeding from his palms and is shown using “Christ-like” abilities, such as walking on water and raising the dead. But do these signs mean that this man is actually Christ on Earth? Some believe he is, others question. Others even believe that the crash was an act of God to punish those sinners on the plane, going so far as to picket the town’s collective memorial service for those lost in the accident. I may discuss that group in more depth at a later date, but after consideration, I decided to focus on the larger theme for this post.

There is a mantra that echoes throughout the series: we believe what we want and we hear what we want. In the first issue, Cassie, a big time news reporter, is giving a lecture at her old high school in Damascus, Iowa. In her lecture, she discusses “confirmation bias,” which means that people will search for answers in a certain way that confirms their preconceptions, possibly leading to statistical errors or other prejudices. Her speech even goes so far as to bring up how the media camps have their own cliques and that there may be a day when people can go their whole lives getting information solely from sources they agree with. I would argue this is already happening to a degree, but I hope that most people are wiser than that and are searching through multiple sources to find the truth. I am also an optimist. Usually.

Although this theme of preconception is trickled throughout all the issues, the seventh issue has a government agent citing a statistic regarding the idea of believing only what we want to hear. According to the series’ version of the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA – an actual U.S. government agency), they say that 67% of people will believe misinformation if given through a reputable online source and that 31% will continue to believe it even if it is proved false through an authoritative source later. Now, are these statistics accurate? No idea. I may be a librarian, but I did not bother to thoroughly research it. This is a comic book and I take it all with a grain of salt. However, I am inclined to believe that many people will hold fast to what they are initially taught simply because they do not like their beliefs challenged and dislike change in general. I do. As much as I like to grow and learn and develop, there are parts of me and my beliefs that I want to stay constant.

I have not sat down and interviewed Todd or Brian to ask them exactly what they intended with the series, but after reflecting on an over-arching theme of presumptions and doubt, they probably wanted to create a story that allowed the reader to believe what they wanted about this mystery Savior and the tragedy of the plane crash. There are signs of divinity, but also many flashbacks to the main character’s past that imply he may just have been special in a way that may be more magical than divine. Therefore, readers are welcome to wrestle with the questions along with fictional bystanders. Do the readers relate to the townspeople who have to suffer through the loss? Do they relate with the nation who is watching from the media outlets? Do they think the people who died deserved it? Lastly, do they believe the hero is divine or just happened to be there at the right time? The reader answers those questions based on the facts presented and their own preconceptions, making Savior an entertaining and thoughtful read.

Welcome to my rambles!

I have wanted to write a personal blog for a long time, but because I have so many interests I have had a hard time narrowing down what I want to write about. First, I thought I’d do a nerdy blog by writing about comic books and anime, but then I thought about all my other interests and I became overwhelmed. Then it hit me, while I was cataloging a variety of books at work, why don’t I just write about things I’d find in a library?

Libraries hold all sorts of resources that come in many shapes and sizes and encompass a multitude of topics. I could write reviews, commentary on something unusual about the work, or just wonder why the author deemed it necessary to kill my favorite character. I may even do something library related in general to change things up on occasion. We’ll see! Please bear with me as I find my niche. I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I will enjoy writing it!