Saturday, 26 April 2014

Wonder Woman The Hiketeia: The Quintessential Comic Book

A Review By: Amelia
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Wonder Woman is a difficult subject (well, at least for most male comic book writers, but that’s a story for another day). Whether or not they don’t know what she stands for or how she should be portrayed (feminism is not her backstory nor the only part of her!) she just doesn’t get as much attention as her male superhero counterparts. 

The Hiketeia is the story of a young woman hunted by Batman for crimes she committed but protected through an ancient Greek bond by Wonder Woman. It’s a simple story: simple and sad, and nothing short of a modern day Greek tragedy. It was written by Greg Rucka with the art being done by J.G. Jones. Surprisingly, it was Rucka’s first go at writing for Wonder Woman and, even more surprisingly, he did it well.

The main characters of the piece are Danielle, a young woman who’s out for revenge against the men that wronged her sister, and, of course, Wonder Woman. Batman is also part of this story but he’s more a background character–kind of a passing thought–as he moves with the story (instead of the story moving around him). Danielle is a little cut and paste of a character as she goes through the motions of revenge and guilt and shame like they’re a mask instead of things she’s actually feeling, but Rucka’s handling of Wonder Woman is absolutely amazing. She’s a real person, not a cookie-cutter model of feminism or a ‘strong female’. She’s shown as thoughtful and caring: there’s even humour in her which is something you don’t see in a lot of other Wonder Woman pieces.

The art style is lovely in The Hiketeia. It’s a style with lots of shadows and
dimensions, but there is also a lot of colour and detail that comes through. Sometimes shadows overpower the piece, but they are in perfect balance in this graphic novel. The only thing I’d change about the art work is that some of the poses that Wonder Woman strikes are just wrong: her proportions or the angle she’s standing at just make it very put on, very a-man-drew-this-and-because-it’s-a-female-character-her-tits-have-to-be-visible in-every-picture-I-draw. As a female comic reader, that gets under my skin. Other than that though, the style is spot on, and those few sexist poses can be forgiven for the overall experience of the piece.

I loved The Hiketeia. I loved everything about it: the story, the art, the mythology, and the tone. More than all that though, I loved how it’s a story that shows that Wonder Woman deserves respect in the comic book world because she is just so very different from her male counterparts. Batman sees the world in black and white, but Wonder Woman knows that it’s only shades of grey. She’s capable of understanding people as the male superheroes never will and, honestly, that’s probably what makes her such a hard character to write for!

My final thoughts on Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia are that it’s a really great graphic novel. The art is beautiful, the story amazing, and Wonder Woman is treated with the respect she deserves! Probably the best aspect of the piece (at least for those trying to jump into Wonder Woman but having no idea where to start) is that you don’t need to know anything about Wonder Woman to be able to pick this up and enjoy it! There’s humour and revenge and, truly, what the world needs is more Wonder Woman work like The Hiketeia!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Mothman Prophecies: Conspiracies, Aliens, Abductions–Oh My!

A Review By: Amelia
The universe is infinite. Even if life on Earth was created by chance, the universe is so big that somewhere in the vast expanse of space, the circumstances that led to life on Earth, could also have occurred elsewhere. Is it possible that other life that has formed in other parts of the galaxy have visited Earth? Since the sixties, a whole form of study has formed around not only alien life, but the possibility that it’s come to Earth–that maybe it’s here right now. The Mothman Prophecies is a book dedicated to this theory.

John Keel was an American journalist and a very influential UFOlogist. He wrote scripts for Get Smart, The Monkees, Mack & Myer for Hire, and Lost in Space. His true love however, was for UFOs and in 1967 he popularized the term ‘Men in Black’ and created theories linking supernatural concepts like monsters, ghosts, and, demons to extraterrestrial visitations. He was prolific and imaginative and is considered a significant driving influence within the UFO field of study.

The plot of The Mothman Prophecies relates Keel’s account of his paranormal investigation into the Mothman: a large, winged creature that was haunting and harassing the people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966-67. This book combines his investigations and his own theories with various supernatural phenomena to explain who or what the Mothman is.

Keel was a man who knew what he was talking about. Whether you believe in aliens and their visitation of Earth or not, Keel wrote a book full of reasonable explanations and well presented theories and their ‘evidence’. As a narrative, or a case study, though, The Mothman Prophecies falls short. Keel had the facts, but how he presented them was a little muddled. He jumped around between what he had experienced, what he had researched, and what he thought just a little too often and a little too haphazardly.

My final thoughts on The Mothman Prophecies are that it’s okay. It’s not quite a memoir, not quite a case study, not quite a supernatural/horror/science-fiction thriller and that makes it just okay. I felt like the writer was using to jovial a tone and it took away from the tension that he was trying to create with his retelling of all the should-be-creepy stuff that happened to him. He’s done his research and I have no doubt that he believes all this happened because of aliens, but as a writer, he didn’t convince me of it. Still a book worth checking out if you’re interested in the topic, but not so much if you’re expecting a memoir, a case study, or a supernatural/horror/science-fiction thriller.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Journey: A Journey Into the Imagination You Won’t Want to Miss

A Review By: Amelia
I always found–even as a child–that books written for children try to force a message or a lesson down your throat. Authors and publishers of children’s books seem to think that unless kids are learning a life lesson that the book isn’t worth reading. I think that in itself is a terrible life lesson right there! With thoughts like this as the general mentality, amazing books like Journey–that don’t have a single word within its pages let alone annoyingly obvious life lessons–might be passed over and that is a serious shame!

Journey is about a lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

Aaron Becker, the writer and illustrator of Journey, has worked as an artist for such film studios as Lucasfilm, Disney, and Pixar, where he helped define the look and feel of characters, stories, and the movies they become a part of. With Journey, he created characters and worlds of his very own using traditional materials and techniques and it is, surprisingly (because it’s so amazing) his first book!

The main character of the piece is one lone girl who’s ignored by her family and seeks her own entertainment in the form of a red crayon and her own vivid imagination. Without ever saying a word this young girl comes off very whimsically. She emotes perfectly and you feel such immense empathy for her within the first few panels as she’s ignored by her family that you forget that you don’t even know her name!

The main character within Journey is also the creator of all the locations. She imagines her surroundings and then draws (with her red imagination crayon of wonder) any objects that she needs to help traverse them. An example of this is how she rides down a gentle river in a boat and ends up in a city made of nothing but different levels of canals. Becker’s amazing style and use of colour really lends themselves beautifully to the little girl’s imaginative journey. 

Without a single word this children’s picture book can ensnare children and adults alike. It’s a dazzling debut that will sweep everyone off their feet with the immense detail and amazing colours. It’s intricate and creates such a longing to just sit and imagine your own fantasy worlds or just to go back and look over each page over and over again.

My final thoughts on Journey are that it’s a book that should be on everyone’s shelf. It can appeal to everyone: children, adults, artists, writers, the fantastical, and the whimsical. You’ll find something new every time you open the book and will inspire you to no end. This is a fantasy environment that will draw you in and keep you coming back!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: Do Yourself a Service and Read This Series!

A Review By: Amelia
I’m a huge fan of Dark Horse and–conveniently for me–they frequent English adaptations of one of my favourite kinds of manga: anything darkly humourous. That’s how I stumbled upon Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service–funny characters mixed in with a dark plot–what’s not too immediately love? 

The story behind The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a simple one that gets a lot more complicated the further into the series you get. Put simply it’s about five recently graduated university students who have formed a company which specializes in dealing with the dead and their last wishes.

The author of the series is Eiji Ōtsuka and the illustrator is Housui Yamazaki. I couldn’t dig up much on Yamazaki, but Ōtsuka is a social critic and novelist that has a degree in anthropology, women’s folklore, human sacrifice, and post-war manga. In addition to his work with manga he’s a critic, essayist, and author of several successful non-fiction books on Japanese popular and otaku (a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests) sub-cultures. Aside from Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service he writes Multiple Personality Detective Psycho.

The characters this manga series follows are a rag-tag group of young, Japanese adults that–for one reason or another–have a strange talent or connection to the dead. There’s Karatsu who is able to speak to recently deceased people by touching their bodies. Sasaki is the brains of the operation with excellent hacking skills and a general computer expert. Numata is the heavy lifter (the one that lugs bodies around) and uses dowsing with a pendulum to locate dead bodies. Yata is a timid guy who channels a rather crass alien through a puppet on his had and has a vast knowledge of things like math and literature/urban legends. And last, but not least, there’s Makino who is a licensed and very talented embalmer–which is a rarity in Japan as most are cremated and not buried.

This colourful cast of characters are all so good: I could gush about them forever! They’re all very human and, even though they all have such weird and peculiar talents and lives, they’re very relatable. Numata and Karatsu are my favourite pair because they’re hilarious together! All the characters will give you a good laugh here and there, but these two are consistently comical. Of course that makes their tragic back stories all the more heart breaking when you learn of them (Numata’s especially, at least by my standards of seriously tragic).

The art in Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is great. It’s a realistic style of art, and when I say realistic I mean the characters are proportioned like actual human beings and buildings and landscapes aren’t stylized. Some of the characters expressions can be a little wild but they’re not at, say, Sailor Moon manga level. Besides, it’s a manga after all–allowances have to be made!

One of the creepiest story lines featured this thing here!
Everything this manga does is just right. The art style? Just right. The characters? Just right. The ‘monster of
the week’ formula? Just right. The number of creepy things this manga presents its readers? Just right. This is a seriously dark, creepy, funny, compelling manga series and–even though I just said it, I’m saying it again! Everything this manga does is just right!

My final thoughts on Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service are that it’s great. It’s so super disturbing and gross and for mature audiences only–I can’t stress that point enough! Despite being one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is also one of the funniest, saddest, most touching manga I’ve ever read. If the gore puts you off, please–I beg of you!–stick with it anyways; this is a manga that should not be missed or ignored. Trust me, you’ll want to read this before the corpse delivery service comes for you!