Saturday, 18 April 2015

Flashpoint: Definitive Flash

A Review By: Amelia
I never thought much of The Flash until I read The Blackest Night comics and now I can’t get enough of him! I obsessively watch the new television series and grab any comic book I can that I know Flash is in. Flashpoint is one of the first Flash centred comic books I ever read and it did not disappoint.

Barry Allen suddenly wakes up at his desk to discover that the world has changed. His mother is alive, he’s without any powers, and half the world is destroyed from an Amazonian revelry with the underwater city of Atlantis. Batman is a twisted soul not opposed to murder, The Justice League is nonexistent, and the Reverse Flash has his hands in it all. It’s a world on the brink of a cataclysmic war and The Flash has to figure out who altered the time line before time runs out!

The author of Flashpoint is the venerable Geoff Johns. Johns’ first comic assignments quickly led him to a critically acclaimed five-year run on The Flash. Since then, he has quickly become one of the most popular and prolific comics writers today, working on such titles including a highly successful re-imagining of Green Lantern, Action Comics (co-written with Richard Donner), Teen Titans, Justice Society of America, and Infinite Crisis. He’s received the Wizard Fan Award for Breakout Talent of 2002 and Writer of the Year for 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. The illustrator of Flashpoint is Andrew “Andy” Kubert is an American comic book artist, son of Joe Kubert, and brother of Adam Kubert, both of whom are also artists. He is a graduate of and an instructor of second-year classes at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, founded by his father (who also teaches there). He mostly works with DC but he’s had a few branching outs over his career.

The main character of the piece is the Flash. Kinda obvious given it’s titled Flashpoint. I’m going to be the first to admit that before last summer, I didn’t really care/know that much about the Flash: Batman and Wonder Woman were my two tops. But then I read the Blackest Night comics and fell in love with Flash. He’s just so happy and optimistic no matter what happens to him in his life; and he’s no different in Flashpoint. Flash is a hero who never lets the darkness overtake him and it’s honestly very refreshing considering how DC has taken its characters in recent years. Batman, Cyborg, Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman also take fairly large roles with some very large personality twists: Wonder Woman and Aquaman are fighting against each other in a war that was killed hundreds of millions of civilians. Cyborg is the self appointed head of a haphazard Justice League. Shazam is a collection of mostly apathetic teenagers. And Batman has thrown the whole ‘don’t ever kill’ rule out the window. Honestly, it’s all quite an interesting take on an alternate path that the DC superheroes could have fallen into really quite easily!

Now, the main competent of the graphic novel: the art style. Honestly, there’s not much to say about the art style of Flashpoint. It’s a realistic style with vivid colouring but also vivid shadowing. The facial expressions were very well done and the landscapes and backgrounds are detailed and just overall it’s good. I mean, it’s a style that’s been prevalent in mostly all superhero comics but it’s a style that works for the genre. It adds nothing new but it also doesn’t take anything away; and it’s pretty to look at, so why second guess it?

My final thoughts on Flashpoint are that it’s a very interesting graphic novel. I’m a nerd for alternate histories so it was immediately appealing to me. Add in the excellent art, the kickass Amazons and Atlanteans war, and the fact that The Flash is just such an amazing character and you’ve got a DC comic that everyone should pick up and read!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Wars: A Bloody Great Read

A Review By: Amelia
World War One is one of my favourite research stomping grounds and I can never get enough of reading about it. I mean, it was The Great War–the war to end all wars–what’s not to enjoy there? Well... except all the death and violence and misery. In the sense of literature though, it’s a marvelous subject and it’s why I love Timothy Findley’s novel The Wars.

The Wars is about Robert Ross, a sensitive, strange nineteen-year-old Canadian boy from a well off family living in Toronto. In 1915 he joins the army and is yanked from his suburban surroundings and thrust into the nightmares of trench warfare.

Timothy Findley is a Canadian author who first invented the term/style of Southern Ontario Gothic, was an author heavily influenced by Jungian psychology. There are recurring themes of mental illness, gender, and sexuality in frequent rotation throughout his works and his characters often carry dark personal secrets, and were often conflicted (sometimes to the point of psychosis) by these burdens.

Robert Ross, the main character, is an exceptional character. He’s sensitive but his sensitivity comes out in bursts of temper. He’s strange but strange in a way that manifests as caring and empathetic. Ross doesn’t think much of himself but the people around him do: he changes lives, for better and worse and he’s an amazing character to observe through the course of the novel.

Aside from Robert, the locations of the novel are my favourite bit. The book starts off in Toronto and then moves to Europe to the trenches of France and the country sides of England. It’s always interesting to read about a place where you’ve been in a novel (I currently live in Toronto) and see the author’s take on it. And of course my morbid fascination with war– especially World War One–made the locations all the more fascinating. I love the bleakness of war torn Europe: the trenches, no man’s land, even the soggy British countryside when the officers are on leave. War is a forever interesting topic and Findley’s take on it will leave you wanting more.  

The Wars is by no means a light read. It has a grim plot, grim characters, and grim themes from start to finish–not that that makes it any less enjoyable, just enjoyable in a grim way! There’s just something about what Robert goes through that’s so compelling to follow as a reader. He joins the army after the death of his sister hoping to replace that nightmare for the nightmare of war. He gets his wish and his life becomes nothing short of horrifying whether he’s killing enemy soldiers or having an affair with a rich English heiress. It’s bleak and heartbreaking but also enthralling and beautiful. Findley weaves his characters and themes impeccably together to create a unique story that you’d be hard pressed to find an equal to.

My final thoughts on The Wars are that it’s incredible. It shows a side of war that you don’t usually see: it’s not about politics, it’s not about stopping the war or winning it for the side of good, it’s about one man’s journey through it all and what that does to his mental state and the mental states of those around him. Read it. Read it now!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Adrift: A Horror Story That Won’t Leave You Adrift

A Review By: Amelia
I love horror stories. I love Japanese horror stories the most. There’s just something about the subtlety of J-horror that surpasses any other country’s horror. I suppose that’s why the short horror story collection Dark Water drew me right to it like a moth to a flame!

Dark Water is a collection of short horror stories all centred around water in one way or another. The story I’ll be reviewing (my favourite story in the book) is Adrift and it’s is about the crew of a fishing trawler, the Wakashio VII, that happen across an abandoned yacht which has suffered events similar to those that happened to the Mary Celeste. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Mary Celeste was an American merchant brigantine that was found completely abandoned in 1872. No one ever discovered what happened to the crew and it remains an unsolvable mystery. Very spooky inspiration if you ask me!

The author of Dark Water is Koji Suzuki. He’s a Japanese writer who wrote the Ring series, a few books about his hobbies (traveling and motorcycling), and many short stories. He is currently on the selection committee for the Japan Fantasy Novel Award. Even though he’s dabbled in other genres, horror is where he shines.

Dark Water, as mentioned above, is about a fishing boat that comes upon an abandoned yacht. They attach a line to the yacht intending to tow it but a man needs to be on it to. Kazuo Shiraishi volunteers believing that it will be a nice little vacation away from his job on the fishing boat, but when the other members of the crew speak of curses and bad luck, an inkling of fear is born in Kazuo. That fear only grows as he spends time on the yacht and begins to suffer from mood swings and horrific dreams. He struggles to solve the mystery of what happened on the yacht before it takes him too.

By far, the best part of Adrift was the location. The ocean is terrifying without adding abandoned yachts and ghosts on top of it! It’s vast, it’s unforgiving, and if you get lost on it, there’s a slim chance you’re coming back. Plus there’s the yacht. The atmosphere of hopelessness that Suzuki creates on the abandoned yacht is astounding. Kazuo’s mental state begins to deteriorate quickly and he has nowhere to escape too: his life is the yacht. He’s trapped, and you as the reader, are trapped with him.

Dark Water as a whole is sort of hit or miss. A lot of other people really like the story Water Colours but found Adrift not to their liking. Me, I love Adrift and didn’t really care for Water Colours. That’s the great thing about short story collections, you can pick and choose. Personally, I say if you get your hands on this book and can read only one story, read Adrift!

My final thoughts on Adrift are that it’s a damn spooky read! It’s got creepy dreams, a ghost ship, the solitude and inescapable hugeness of the ocean. The writing is smooth, graphic, and suspenseful. Read it at night, alone, and in silence–you won’t be disappointed!