skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (mulan feminism)
[personal profile] innerbrat gave me the first volume of Princeless specifically so I would write it up, and I read it and thought it was adorable and then totally forgot to do so. BUT I'M DOING IT NOW.

So this is the protagonist of Princeless:



She's Princess Adrienne, and she's going to take her dragon and go on an adventure and rescue all her sister princesses from towers! If she can find some suitable armor, of course.



As you can see, Princeless is not exactly subtle; it is engaging with the fantasy canon in some VERY SPECIFIC ways and it wants to make very sure you understand them! So this is the kind of work where worldbuilding takes a backseat to beating cliches over the head with an angry mallet, and that's okay. Because some cliches need to get beaten.

Secondary characters include Adrienne's adorable poetry-loving twin brother Devin and her new sidekick, half-dwarf teenaged lady blacksmith Bedelia. Also, the dragon. They are all pretty great. But mostly, I'm really interested to see what's going to happen with Adrienne and her sisters and her family -- to my understanding each volume is going to focus on one sister-rescue-mission, and, uh, obviously I love complicated sister dynamics, so I am pretty excited about that!
skygiants: Bunny-suit Kenji from 20th Century Boys saying 'this is the defender of justice who's gonna save the world from danger' (love and peace are on hold)
So now that Yuletide is past and reveals have all been revealed, I can talk about some of the stuff I read during Yuletide season!

First up: Blue Beetle. Both of my roommates ended up writing Blue Beetle fics this year, which was my excuse to finally getting around to reading it. (The Jaime Reyes books, in case that wasn't clear.)

And it turns out Blue Beetle is basically almost everything I could possibly want in a superhero comic?

Cut for length and images! )

So . . . maybe if I tell the universe about how these are the stories I want they will give me more of them? ARE YOU LISTENING, UNIVERSE?
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (ooooh)
When [personal profile] jothra was here last month, I started trying to explain to her a book I remembered from when I was a kid that I had a vague desire to reread. It was called The Reluctant God and it was about the teenaged daughter of an archaeologist who accidentally wakes up a teenaged boy mummy and then they have a thing.

JO: That sounds just like a graphic novel by Joann Sfar called The Professor's Daughter!
BECCA: . . . there are two books with that plot?

(I should not have been surprised really by this, in hindsight.)

JO: Yes! It's great! Read it!

And I couldn't find The Reluctant God anywhere, so I did!

It turns out that The Professor's Daughter is not quite like The Reluctant God. For one thing, there is no buildup; the first page involves the professor's daughter taking her father's sexy mummy out on a Victorian-style date, and things spiral from there.



And by spiral, I mean AT LIGHTSPEED. There is A LOT of action. SO MUCH action. The professor's daughter accidentally kills some people! The mummy's evil mummy dad pops up and starts menacing people! Queen Victoria gets kidnapped, proposed marriage to, and then tossed in the English Channel!



It's all lols and hijinks and slapstick mostly, although I felt at times kind of weird about how much lols and hijinks and slapstick there was given how many people end up dead. Still, if you have been craving Victorian mummy romance, this is definitely the book for you!
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
Today is a day I think for talking about Jewish comics!

I've had Barry Deutsch's Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword on my list for ages and ages, because, I mean, the subtitle is "Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl" and how could I not? So when I say it does what it says on the tin I mean that in the best possible way.

Here are some things I love about this comic:
- Mirka is an awesome, clever and badass 11-year-old.
- BUT Mirka's awesomeness does not mean trashing her community - she might want to do things that are unusual for an 11-year-old Orthodox girl, but the values and religion she grew up with are also important to her and inherent to her worldview. You might need advice on fighting trolls, but you wait to ask about it until after Shabbat is over.
- Mirka's stepmother: long-nosed, argumentative, and also awesome!
- there is a dramatic chase scene involving an angry pig, and who doesn't love that?

So that was adorable and awesome. But even more than Mirka, I fell hard for Joann Sfar's Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East, which just - I can't even describ how much I loved this book. On the spectrum of Jewish literature, Klezmer exists somewhere in between Gentlemen of the Road and Isaac Babel. It's one of those books that's constantly balancing on the knife-edge between wildly funny and incredibly brutal; the art is loose and colorful and gorgeous, flowing from cartoonish to terrifying, and music underwrites the whole thing.

In the first few pages of Klezmer, an entire klezmer band in pre-WWII Poland is murdered by a group of rival musicians. One man escapes; he is Noah, otherwise known as The Baron of My Backside. The rest of the book is about the slow reformation of a band in two branches that eventually converge. Branch 1: the Baron, who can play just about anything, and Chava, who decides to ditch her quiet village and join up as a singer after hearing him play the harmonica. Branch 2: Yaacov, a clever, cynical ex-yeshiva student, who finds the corpse-filled caravan of the Baron's band and picks up a couple of instruments (which he plays cheerfully terribly). Along the way he also picks up Vincenzo, another ex-yeshiva student with anxiety, hypochondria, somnambulism, and a prodigious talent for the violin, and Tshokola, the token non-Jewish teammate, a pragmatic Gypsy guitarist out for revenge for his murdered family.

(One of my favorite parts is when Tshokola has to fill in as a storyteller for a Jewish audience because Yaacov has skedaddled off to talk to a girl. Relying on Yaacov's sketchy instructions on how to tell a Jewish story involving such helpful advice as 'replace all the princes and princesses with rabbi's sons and daughters', Tshokola gamely tells a story about a dragon-slaying rabbi's son featuring such gems as "'By the Holy Cross', shouted the rabbi's son, 'may Christ guide my arm!'")

I think the thing about Klezmer that gets me so hard is not just that it's very much about the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe who were my grandparents and great-grandparents, and not just that it's darkly funny in a way that feels very culturally familiar to me, but also that it's explicitly about skeptical Jews, agnostic Jews - Jews for whom their Judaism is emphatically not pasted on, but also not really about religion at all.

There are two more volumes that are only published in French, which I am nonetheless going to have to acquire as soon as humanly possible.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
I don't know if there's a precise word for someone who starts plying a friend with DC comics at exactly the same time that DC makes major universe-changing announcements that send basically the entire comics-reading world into an unhappy tizzy, but there really should be. (I'M TAKING SUGGESTIONS.) More specifically there really should be a word for someone (DEBI) who lends out all of their Oracle and Black Canary: Birds of Prey comics right as Oracle is being rebooted to Batgirl. Up to a few weeks ago I only had to care in a general sort of way! I could still feel smug about my wise decision to avoid all of DC comics! But my fatal weakness of feeling obliged to read anything that is personally shoved into my hands has struck again; now I have to acknowledge that I liked the Birds of Prey books and actually be personally angry about Oracle. SO THANKS, [personal profile] innerbrat.

Well, to be more specific, I didn't actually like the first Birds of Prey book - Dinah and Oracle are still cool, but all the plots were set in facepalminglystereotypedthirdworldcountryland and the dialogue was kind of awful - but things did improve a lot when the writer switched from Chuck Dixon to Gail Simone and the team expanded to include Huntress (whom I actually like best of the main cast, which surprised me; I was expecting to like Oracle best). Two things I don't think I will ever get over, though:

a.) superhero costumes will never fail to boggle, dismay and perplex me. Over the course of the run Huntress' costume goes from this to this and I just don't understand anything.

b.) the DC comics rule about never killing any bad guys ever also boggles and perplexes me. I mean on the one hand, yes, cool principle, I also am strongly against the death penalty! On the other hand when like sixty people are trying to kill you at once I also think that sometimes being careful not to accidentally kill any of them is something you can't necessarily worry about (especially when all forms of beating and maiming seem to be okay . . .?). Also, in a hypothetical situation like, say, an evil telepathic cult leader is telepathically forcing forty little kids to blow themselves up in the next forty seconds, and killing him will cut off the telepathic connection, I am pretty sure I would feel one hundred percent okay about killing that cult leader. (I think this is why I like Huntress best.)

Anyway, now at least I can say I've read some DC comics. Though I still don't think I'm going to be reading any, past or present, that aren't actually strongly recommended and shoved personally into my hands in a way that doesn't require me to give DC money.
skygiants: Rebecca from Fullmetal Alchemist waving and smirking (o hai)
It's possible I'm the last person in the world to read Scott Pilgrim. And I only read it after it was cool, with the movie and all, so it earns me precisely zero geek cred anyway. OH WELL.

Anyway, I have been slowly working through the volumes as they trickled in for me at the library since I saw the movie back in August, and I finished them last week, and I have thoughts! I don't think they're very deep or original thoughts. They basically go like this:

1. Scott is likeable only because he's an idiot. If he had any more intelligence - emotional or otherwise - all the self-centered and jerktastic things he does would make it much harder to like him at all. But because he's the kind of guy whose deep thoughts amount to making :D!-faces in an elevator because elevators just make him happy, he manages to sneak into the realm of the likeable anyway.
(1.a. Which is why I find book-Scott much more sympathetic than movie-Scott. Michael Cera totally doesn't have it together, but he doesn't radiate that kind of beaming obliviousness that book!Scott does that occasionally makes him weirdly charming in spite of himself. I just don't believe in Michael Cera's idiocy as much!)

2. Most of the plot is really pretty incidental to the year-in-the-life-of-a-bunch-of-post-college-kids-sort-of-getting-their-lives-together. Which is good, because I don't really care about the plot; the idea of a story centered around "dude wins girlfriend by fighting all her ex-boyfriends" is actually such a conceptual turnoff to me that I couldn't get past it to even read the comics to begin with until I'd seen it repeated over and over by people I trusted that it was a METAPHOR FOR EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE, no seriously Ramona is not a prize, it's cool! And it is, and often plays out hilariously, so I'm okay with it. But I was reading for Kim and Wallace and Ramona and everyone being funny and fumbling their way through growing up and growing out of some of their jerkishness, and it becomes increasingly clear throughout the series that that's what Brian Lee O'Malley is writing for as well, so that's cool.

3. My favorite kind of magical realism is lulzy casually-integrated-into-the-story magical realism. People hilariously getting their ass kicked by robots in the background while people are having casual chats about completely different topics? I am all about this!
(3.a. I have seen Scott Pilgrim described as hipster. This is probably true! But dudes, I live in NYC, and hipsterness is just at a whole different level here, so my meter for this stuff is all off these days.)

4. People who got shafted by this being Scott's story: Roxy. Envy. Julie, possibly. Kim (who is my favorite; everyone is shocked.)

5. Scott and Wallace's apartment makes me feel better about mine. Which I have to clean. TODAY. oh god so many dishes
(4.a. Wow, these thoughts are just getting less and less deep as I go.)

6. Okay, maybe I just missed it because I was too busy LOLing at the way the ending cranked the anime surrealistic craziness up to a whole new level - who's been watching Utena? YOU have, Brian Lee O'Malley! - but did we ever get it explained what really went down between Scott and Envy on The Night He Remembers Tragically In Scott-O-Vision? I mean, there are hints enough to build your own narrative either way, but I'm curious!
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (soldier boy)
I've finished Bone! [livejournal.com profile] jothra, you were right - that ending was SERIOUSLY EPIC.

To give the rest of you guys an idea of the trajectory of Bone and its tonality, over the couse of nine volumes we go from this:



(Look! A wacky cow race! Lolarious costumes!)

to this:



(Look! Badass Grandma Rose making an impossible stand to singlehandedly defend the city from AN ENTIRE FREAKING ARMY.)

Other plot points involve doomed love, family betrayal, attack of the giant zombie dragon, and, of course, the end of the world. (I would like to make an especial note about the doomed love, because when was the last time the tragic love affair between badass seventy-somethings was the major focus of a fantasy epic?) Tiny Ted the adorable bug also continues to play an important role. I would totally recommend this from beginning to end.

I also read the prequel, Rose, which I enjoyed but not as much - I am sorry, Charles Vess, your drawings are very pretty but somehow not as adorkably endearing as Jeff Smith's. Also I was bothered by how apparently fifty years ago, no one had yet learned how to use contractions. Also also, the ending, SO SAD. ;_; (I . . . am aware that I probably should not find it sadder than Bone, but Bone was also funnier! AND ALSO I'M SORRY BUT I DO.)
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (dickon mary cuteness)
I have been meaning to write these up for ages! So [livejournal.com profile] jothra recommended the Bone comics to me; I have now read through the first three volumes (Out From Boneville, The Great Cow Race, and Eyes of the Storm) and I am totally, utterly charmed. They're so adorable! There are also hints that eventually they're going to get Epic, but right now I am stuck on 'charmed'. I am also super impressed that Jeff Smith manages to write dialect that is neither over-cutesy or cringeworthy.

Basically, the story focuses on three cousins from a village that is apparently entirely composed of people who look like this:



This is our protagonist, Fone Bone, trying to write love poetry. (Despite having read Moby Dick multiple times, he's not very good at it.)

The Bones get kicked out of Boneville because of all the money-scams perpetrated by one of the cousins, Phoney Bone (the names: not subtle), wander through the wilderness for a while, and end up somewhere completely different cut for more images! )
skygiants: Drosselmeyer's old pages from Princess Tutu, with text 'rocks fall, everyone dies, the end' (endings are heartless)
My Little Yuletide Request That Could, although still pretty needy, is no longer The Neediest in the Land! I was so overflowing with joy at this that I went back and offered for several more Yuletide fandoms, which was possibly a mistake, but oh well.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of bookloggings that I'm sitting on until I finish the sequels, so instead I will try to catch up on my comics-logging backlog. (A word of advice: never tell comics or manga fans that you would read more comics if you knew where to start or could afford them.)

Over the past month, [livejournal.com profile] rushin_doll has lent me all of Gunslinger Girl that has been published in English so far (volumes 1-6) and I kind of love it. Although the title and basic plot description make it seem like a fairly standard girl-mercenaries story - physically damaged girls are recruited from hospitals, turned into child cyborg assassins, and paired up with handlers; you know, the usual. However, despite the assassinations and the chase scenes and all, I would have a hard time even classifying this as action; the series is actually a set of quiet and unnerving character studies of the girls and their relationships with their handlers and each other. The series does a really good job of maintaining the balance between showing the girls as teenagers with ordinary human feelings and concerns, and portraying the essentially dehumanizing nature of the conditioning and training and what that's done to them. I often have a hard time keeping the terrorists and their goals straight, but that's okay because I don't really care; I'm reading for the characters anyways.

PS 238 III: No Child Left Behind, on the other hand, which [livejournal.com profile] camwyn lent me, was pretty much just sheer adorable. Kids with superpowers! Doing dorky kid things! I don't have much to say about this except that it was continually tongue-in-cheek and a lot of fun.

Less fun, and the only thing on this list that I actually got for myself as opposed to having it lent to me by someone else: the conclusion of Y: The Last Man, Whys and Wherefores. Spoiler-cut even though it is several months since everyone else has read it, just in case. Lack of any coherent opinions within! )
skygiants: Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle with Calcifer hovering over her hands (a life less ordinary)
Typical of me, I only discovered my school library had a graphic novel section about a week before I graduate. Cue tears of failure! I went there looking for Persepolis, after narrowly restraining myself from buying it last week in Berkeley, but the copy has apparently vanished from our library. I weep more tears at this! However, while I was there, I discovered a beautiful hardback collection of Linda Medley's Castle Waiting. I zipped through it yesterday, and was left kind of stunned that I had never heard of it before. It does a few of my favorite things: focuses on everyday life in a fantasy world, rather than Big Epic Adventures, and draws a variety of female characters with different faces.

The series starts off in what seems to be a fairly typical twisted fairy tales sort of way, but becomes a slow-paced and lovely exploration of the characters and the world. I am particularly fond of the bearded ladies. It's not flashy, and sometimes I wondered where it was going, but . . . not everything really needs to go somewhere. And there are definitely strong story threads that are waiting to be picked up.

(Although I do have to try not to think too hard about the cross-species relationships. Begone, shades of Piers Anthony!)

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