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Video Review: Doug TenNapel’s Cardboard

Video Review: A Bag of Marbles

Video Review for Mercury

Highly Combustible Graphic Novels – The Web

I’m rather tired of these graphic novel adaptions of novels at this point. The Web was written by Jonathan Kellerman, adapted by Ande Parks, and lazily illustrated by Michael Gaydos. This shitty book is distributed by Random House.

Narrative: Some guy named Dr. Alex Delaware gets to go on a three-month island vacation by helping out an old fogey named Dr. Moreland search through a mountain of research at a leisurely pace.  Alex brings along his pretty lamp of a girlfriend, who has a name, I think, but she mostly just has sex with him and bravely holds onto a tarantula despite being deathly afraid of hissing roaches. As one would expect would happen when invited to a tropical island for no reason, bad shit starts going down, people get into deadly accidents or killed, and tensions rise with a politician.  Some other things happen but it’s mostly boring. Moving on.

Why It Sucks: This was actually well paced and filled with content compared to the other graphic novel adaptions of prose that I’ve read, but the added length and steady pace betrays the plot considering that it’s just so boring.  The artwork isn’t particularly interesting to look at and the characters can be hard to distinguish from one another. Michael Gaydos clearly didn’t care because he copy and pastes character poses and faces into subsequent panels all the time, sometimes even on the same page or in the next fucking panel, but just zoomed in a bit.

I mentioned earlier that Alex Delaware’s girlfriend is basically a pretty lamp and that trope is particularly obvious in this book, considering that the only character development she gets is her exposition about being comfortable with insects, and then this is undermined by her being scared witless by roaches later on.  Otherwise she just follows Alex around, fucks him and gets in a bikini.  From what I understand The Web is part of a long series featuring Alex Delaware, and perhaps this girlfriend is just one of several.  I would at least hope so, because if not than apparently no one involved in this process knows how to write women.

Final Words: The twist reveal at the end of the book is boring and I couldn’t care about anyone involved, despite some characters getting a fair amount of focus.  Alex Delaware is your typical mystery novel sleuth and is inexplicably competent considering that he’s supposed to be a psychologist, but I suppose at this point he has a lot of experience with getting into sticky situations.  The book ended before my patience with the copy and pasted character drawings completely blew up and I set fire to the damn thing, and considering that this book was public property, that wouldn’t have reflected well on me. Me and my long fuse.

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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General Update

Fifth Scott Pilgrim Essay is written up. Also, finished up a number of library books for review. Those will be coming.

This is the list of books I’ll be buying over the next few months for reviews:

Saints & Boxers (Gene Yang)
Insufficient Direction (Moyoco Anno)
Friends with Boys (Faith Erica Hicks)
Life Sucks (Many authors and illustrators)
Chester 5000 (Jess Fink)
Lost Girls (Alan Moore)
We Can Fix It! (Jess Fink)
A Matter Of Life (Jeffrey Brown)
Any Empire (Nate Powell)
Underwire (Jennifer Hayden)

Top Tier Graphic Novel - Seconds

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Looks like it finally happened, I found something so well crafted, structured and executed that I had to make a new rating category. Swallow Me Whole came pretty close, but Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds is truly a masterwork of the graphic novel genre. It doesn’t add anything revolutionary to the idiom itself, but there is a stroke of genius in just how well the story is fleshed out in a format that has pretty strict limits on the complexity and length of narrative due to page space being spent on images rather than compact lines of prose. It also has a little to add to the metanarrative. O’Malley worked on the book for three years, the other people who worked on it were Jason Fischer (Drawing Assistant), Dustin Harbin (Lettering), and Nathan Fairbairn (Color). The publisher is Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House.

Summary: Katie Clay, is 29, an accomplished cook, a prospective restaurant owner, and occasionally haunted by a girl on top of her dresser. To add to this, she lives above and needlessly lords over the restaurant Seconds, a restaurant that was built around her cooking and featured her as head chef before she decided to move onto owning her own joint. As is typical, progress sours on the building renovation for her new restaurant location, and during a workplace accident that she had a hand in causing; one of the Seconds waitresses named Hazel is badly burned. That night, she digs in her drawer to find a notebook and a mushroom with instructions telling her to write down one mistake, ingest one mushroom, sleep and wake up. She does so, and the accident never happened. Once Katie finds more mushrooms, she starts fixing more of her mistakes, with both mundane and dire consequences, although Hazel stays consistent between all life revisions. As is typical, this has implications that she didn’t initial predict.

Visuals: Bryan Lee O’Malley shows a bit more diversity with his character designs in comparison to say, the style from the last Scott Pilgrim volume. The cast has more racial diversity in opposition to the parade of white people that the Scott Pilgrim series featured, and characters have more diverse body types as well, in contrast to the extremely limited male and female template that was used for much of Scott Pilgrim. The clearest difference is that all the characters have distinct eyeball shapes. As would be expected of the guy who came up with Ramona Flowers, there’s some creative hair to admire, although I do think that the semiotics involved in the character design has more to do with common signifiers for standard character roles rather than the specific characters. For example, Katie has bright red, spikey hair, which is usually a trope used to signify the lead character in manga styled media, but there isn’t much focus on why or how she has such a unique cut. seconds

Themes: The masterful mix of the mundane and the magical goes a long way toward making this book both relatable and interesting on a more creative level. Many of the graphic novels that I’ve liked lately have taken this approach, but I’d say that this one gets the seamless mixture just right. There are three main focuses for the narrative: regret, hubris, and morality being tainted by magic.

Katie’s regrets are the catalyst for her dependence on the mystic forces that she gets introduced to. Her ability to directly alter these events contributes to her hubris as the novel progresses, because her life changes drastically as a result of the revisions, but she never gets to personally experience the change as it happens, so the rewards that she gets as a result are ultimately hollow to her on an emotional level, and she can no longer understand who the closest people to her are, because she’s changed them so many times while she’s stayed stagnant. This sets up the truism that being rewarded without having to experience the hardship, advancement or maturity in a growing relationship is a meaningless gift.

This ties in well into an old as balls concept in fiction; that using a supernatural ability to get around the moral and ethical hardships of life can corrupt you. For example, in The Hobbit, Bilbo uses the invisibility ring to help his friends and save his life when he first starts using it, but as time progresses, he uses it to avoid obligations and to hide away from the Battle of Five Armies. This was showing that when people can take the easy way out, they are more prone to making unethical decisions. It was certainly more compelling than the reveal that it was the Ring of Power and it just corrupts people because it’s evil. Katie’s journey with the consequence-erasing mushrooms is a more effective way to tell this kind of parable, as it clearly outlines what Katie is missing out on by engaging in these life revisions, but it also gives her a constant chance to change things for the better, which fuels her desire to indulge in the path of least resistance even further.

Overall: What an enjoyable book. It weighs in at 320+ pages, so it is lengthy by graphic novel standards. Some little tidbits I’ll add are that O’Malley throws in a ton of references to the Scott Pilgrim series for those who are paying attention. Fortunately, the dialogue makes more sense than it does in Scott Pilgrim. I didn’t get into some of the mythological elements of the story because of spoilers, but it is quaintly internally consistent and the information is doled out in a slow pace that keeps the mystery interesting. I more than highly suggest it, and welcome it as the first book in my Top Tier rating. (Watchmen also fits this Top Tier standard, but I’m never going to review it)

Seconds On Amazon

Seconds: A Graphic Novel

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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Why the 77% median gender wage gap is relevant.

Little passion project I worked on this week.  It’s me explaining the details of the wage gap to people who deem it a myth or exaggeration. Aimed mostly at conservatives, libertarians, and anti-feminists, as well as the strange uprising of atheists and skeptics who question the stats. Feel free to engage or rebut, but I will be getting rid of comments that antagonize others or offer nothing but unfunny accusations of suckitude. (Funny ones can pass)

evans-alec:

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This is such unadulterated bullshit.

evans-alec:

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This is such unadulterated bullshit.

Delays

Been working on a video about the gender wage gap, but once I get the audio done I’ll be reading Seconds. 

For today

Going to be getting into Seconds after work and posting the video review for Doug TenNapel’s Cardboard.

700 followers

The 700th is you.

http://visual-inventory.tumblr.com/

(Source: thespacegoat)

Highly Suggested Graphic Novels - Cardboard

Well, it didn’t take me as long as I would have thought to find one of Doug TenNapel’s numerous graphic novels that is actually unique and memorable.  Cardboard is the latest book written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel and published by GRAPHIX, as its release date was in 2012.  It was colored by Der-Shing Helmer, who is well known as a biologist and for work on the webcomic, The Meek.

Summary:

The story starts with an underemployed man named Mike failing to find a quick odd job so he can pay for a birthday present for his son, Cam.  He runs into a vendor who looks like vaguely Uncle Ruckus and purchases a cardboard box from him for 78 cents, all he could afford.  Mike and Cam use the cardboard to construct a model of a boxer, who comes to life in the morning.  Marcus, one of the neighborhood kids, aspires to have this magic cardboard for himself and steals from Cam in order to create more cardboard creatures.  The sentient pulp dolls soon overthrow Marcus. Cam, Mike and the cardboard boxer have to team up with Marcus to put an end to the rise of the cardboard cretins.

Visuals:

Doug TenNapel’s style has changed a lot since Earthworm Jim, but this is the book that most reflects his old style from that series, mainly in the eyeballs.  The book also has a lot of creatures and that’s TenNapel’s specialty, so he can show off a little in this book.  The design of a few of the adults irked me, namely how their eye frame was larger than their jaw line in many cases.  Marcus’s design is stereotypical, but stands out in contrast to the other human character’s from TenNapel’s books.

Themes:

This book digs into childish creativity rather well, and has some relatable moments on that front.  My brother and I have literally done the exact same thing that Marcus and his lackey do in one scene, namely, creating a cardboard factory where you insert drawings of what you want in order to make something.  Unfortunately we didn’t have magic on our side, or even much knowledge of structural integrity.  Since TenNapel’s books are meant for young audiences, it’s nice to see one that actually has some insight into how then act

Overall:

The thematic elements and more characteristic visual style, plus the better coloring job provided by Helmer, are improvements on TenNapel’s previous works.  The story occasionally has some undertones of criticism of stereotypical American liberal values, which was annoying for me, but it isn’t a prominent feature of the book and really just made like the Marcus character more.  Other than that, I can’t say many bad things about this book, and I’m glad this one passes the bar of mediocrity and stepped into quality storytelling for young folks.  

Cardboard on Amazon:

Cardboard

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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It's here! Seconds is finally here!

kumathetyrant:

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It’s here! The moment I have been building up for seven weeks is here! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s newest Graphic Novel “Seconds” dropped yesterday and I picked it up first things and read it immediately. I want to thank you guys for reading these reviews and giving me the time of day, it really…

Err…Bad Graphic Novel – A Bag of Marbles

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A Bag of Marbles is a graphic novel adaption of Jeff Joffo’s memoir of the same name.  It was released in 2013 by Graphic Universe, the story was adapted by someone named Kris, and it was illustrated by Vincent Bailey.

Summary:

Considering this is a memoir, Jeff Joffo, in theory, is the main character.  The other prominent characters are the members of his family.  The six members of the Joffo family get thrown all around France in pairs as they avoid the Nazi SS.  The plot doesn’t have a great deal of structure, as it is based on real life events.  I’ve read a few accounts of Jewish experience as oppressed by the Nazi regime, so perhaps I should read the original book to understand the unabridged version of events, but as they are presented in the graphic novel, they’re rather disjointed and don’t lead to a conclusion.

Visuals:

Everything is done in watercolors and very thin ink (perhaps done with a small pen) and that adds a lot to the unique look of the book.  This is one of the few things that the book has going for it, each panel is rather detailed and unique.  I can give the overall visuals a nod, but the rest of the book doesn’t back it up.

Why It Sucks:

To be honest, there really aren’t thematic elements.  Considering that this is a true story, it doesn’t have to, but I would have much rather read the unabridged book by Joffo than this stripped down version.  Pretty much all of the proactive actions taken by characters are done off screen or are done by characters who are not our protagonist. Most of the characters deal with this over reaching and horrifying Nazi regime with relative simplicity. The book simply isn’t interesting and doesn’t even show a particularly bleak outlook on the situation. 

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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