the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for November 2010

I can’t believe it’s the end of November!!  When did that happen?

It happened sometime after we talked about over 20 graphic novel and manga series here on the Little Red. twenty series? more than 25 posts?  Personally, I think that’s pretty cool. And it sure blew up the words “manga” and “graphic novel” in my word cloud. I wonder how long it’ll take everything else to catch up. 

Does that mean this is the end of graphic novels and manga here on Little Red?  Hell to the no!  Thanks to discussing graphic novels with other bloggers,  I’ve got copies of Maus II, Blankets, Persepolis and a bucket of other goodies screaming READ ME!!  And they will be read! I’ve got more Phil Foglio and Ai Yazawa to publicly drool over!   I’m just not going to torture you with  it every day. Links to discussions of graphic novels, comics, manga, and all things visual will always be able to be found under the Manga/Graphic Novels tab at the top of the page.

As much as I love graphic novels and all their iterations . . .  I am very excited to back to the business of novels. scifi, fantasy, steampunk, weird stuff, speculative stuff, more weird stuff. You know, the good stuff.  Reading a quicky graphic novel nearly every day in November actually freed me up to read more speculative fiction, so I’ve got some treats lined up for you!  In the next week or so you can look forward to reviews of novels by Lavie Tidhar, Joe Abercrombie, George R R Martin, Mary Doria Russell, Ursula K LeGuin and more. 

December is gonna be an awesome month.

How about you? 

What did you think of Graphic Novel November?  success? epic fail? somewhere in the middle? 

What reading goodies have you got on deck for December?

At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to make of Masahiro Totsuka’s Bamboo Blade. An abnoxious, impulsive, selfish Kendo coach? A diminutive high school girl who beats up bullies? Slapstick comedy? Sports? 

Was this going to work for me? Talk about genre mixing! 

Welcome to the manga genre called “Slice of Life”. We do it in American comics and literature too, but maybe not to the same extent. Slice of Life manga usually follow the day to day lives of young adults. Sometimes there is comedy, sometimes drama, sometimes relationships, sometimes all or none of the above. They are typically modern day pieces, with emphasis on everyday Japanese culture. Slice of Life stories push the boundaries of shonen (manga designed for a male audience) and shojo (manga designed for a female audience), and are often appreciated by a wider audience. 

When Kojiro was high school, he was a Kendo star (Kendo is a Japanese sport, somewhat similar to fencing. The sword is made of bamboo. Kendo is very popular with young adults). These days, he barely makes ends meet as a high school teacher. He runs the laxest after school Kendo club in the country, lives on instant Ramen, and dreams of his glory days. The members of the club barely show up, and when they do, they are usually beaten up by the two school bullies, who are also in the Kendo club. Sounds a little serious, but this is pretty much a slapstick comedy.

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We can’t finish out Graphic Novel November without a traditional historical Samurai tale. Ok, so maybe Blade of the Immortal isn’t super traditional. Or very historical. But it is damn good.

Manji has a problem. He can’t die. Infected with bloodworms, he recovers from injuries nearly instantly. After years of mayhem, and thieving, Manji finds himself directly responsible for his brother-in-law’s death. His little sister loses her mind in grief, and Manji vows to take care of her. When she is killed, Manji vows the only way to make up for having killed one hundred “good guys” is to kill one thousand “bad guys”, starting with the gang members responsible for killing his sister. Once he has killed one thousand bad guys, Manji will finally be able to die in peace.

But how to tell the good guys from the bad guys? Everyone suddenly wants to hire the bodyguard who can’t be killed, and Manji turns everyone away. Eventually he is approached by Rin. Rin was only fourteen when her swordsmaster father was killed right in front of her by the members of a rival dojo. She wants revenge and is a pretty good swordswoman herself, but even Manji can tell she’s no match for highway bandits that prowl the countryside. He agrees to help her, joking the whole time that he needs to protect her so she’s in good shape to sell to a Geisha house later.

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This review only covers the first 6 or 8 volumes of Deathnote, because that’s how far I have read. 

Light Yagami is a normal high school student with a normal life. His father is the chief of police , his little sister drives him nuts, and he’s worried about exams. Depressed by what he sees as a rise in corruption and crime, he idealistically wishes he could something about it, and that something should be done about it. 

Meanwhile, in the spirit world, Ryuk realizes his deathnote is missing. He must have left it on earth last time he was there! If a human touches the notebook, Ryuk won’t be able to get it back until the human dies or voluntarily gives it back! If the other Shinigami in the spirit world find out he’s lost another notebook, he’ll really be a laughing stock! Ryuk decides it’s time for an extended vacation in the human world. (Shinigami are death spirits who gain strength from the deaths of the living, be it a natural death or not) 

And who should find the notebook but Light? In the manga, each chapter starts with another “Rule” of the Deathnote. Early on, we learn if you write someone’s name in there and a time of death, that’s when they will die. You also have to know what the person looks like, and you can add in other details as well, such as how they die. Ryuk tells Light much of what the Deathnote can and not do, and although Light keeps waiting for Ryuk to be all judgmental, Ryuk just says he’s there to watch, to see what will happen. Light immediately pays much more attention to the local and national news. Someone arrested for some horrific crime and the person’s photo is shown on tv? They mysteriously die of a heart attack in jail. 

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Black Friday shopping spree?  no f’ing way, says I.  I’d rather sit home and read webcomics all day. and I think you should as well.   and honestly, does anything go better with a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce/potato sandwich better than webcomics? 

Yes, I said Webcomics.  You know, those freebies offered a few times a week or weekly for your viewing pleasure, often available at a later date in graphic novels or trade collections.  Even Cory Doctorow will tell ya the surest way to get someone to pay for something is to offer it online for free first.  

Much of the graphic novels and comics I’ve come to enjoy were either webcomics first, or are pure webcomics, so we can’t finish out Graphic Novel November without a shoutout to some of my favorite webcomics.

in completely random order, here are some  wonderful  scifi/ fantasy/ gaming webcomics you should be reading right now:

Freakangels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield – In a post apolcalyptic England, twelve special people tried to change the world and it went horribly wrong. Great art, snarky characters, goodies online dating back to 2008 and a handful of graphic novels available for purchase. I just recently started reading this (like, last week), and my work productivity has plummeted.

Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio – I talk about their graphic novels, but everything they print is first published online. It’s adventure! it’s romance! it’s mad science! it’s a sex comedy! there’s Jagermonsters!

Not Invented Here, by Bill Barnes and Paul Southworth – what happens behind the scenes at a software company – programing vs art dept vs marketing vs accounting vs playtesting vs the competition. They suffer so your game doesn’t freeze up.

Looking for Group by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza – What started out as a World of Warcraft parody took on epic proportions, making fun of everything pop culture. And then it took a serious turn. And then they released a Disney parody.

Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew- going back a gaming generation, Order of the Stick takes everything you loved about Dungeons and Dragons, and makes it wicked funny. Started in 2003, all those puns you’re laughing about on Looking for Group for the last two hours? Order of the Stick probably did it first. If Order of the Stick doesn’t make you giggle like a lunatic, there is something wrong with you.

xkcd by Randall Munroe. Subtitled “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” ‘Nuf said, just go read it.

there is a million more out there, but this is a good start. What are some of your favorites?

Fighting crazed Black Friday shoppers for the last parking spot at the mall, pushing your way through Hot Topic to get that Team Edward t-shirt your kid (or wife) has been asking for, waiting in line at the department stores just find out the early bird special on that beautiful wool jacket and KitchenAid mixer expired an hour ago. . . .  or stay home and read webcomics.  you shouldn’t even have to think about it.

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Gobble Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am SO in this for the food!!!

 

edited after the turkey coma wore off to add:
I did steal that picture of someplace on the interwebs. what MY intimate thanksgiving for two looked like, after the jump!

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Speaking of Brian K Vaughan. . . 

A few years ago I read Michael Chabon’s award winning The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay, and I remember it being exactly that: amazing. If you’ve never read Chabon, do yourself a favor and pick this one up for some truly incredible reading. The novel follows the lives of cousins Sammy Clay and Joe Kavalier as they create a comic superhero that would take the 1940’s comics world by storm.

 A few years after the novel’s critical acclaim, Chabon began working with Brian K Vaughan and Darkhorse to develop a modernized comic book version of the adventures of The Escapists. 

Original printed as issues (which I managed to find #’s 3, 4, and 5 of), and now available as a completed graphic novel, Vaughan’s The Escapists is part sequel, part companion, and all homage to Chabon’s original novel. 

The six chapter story follows geeky high school graduate Max Roth, and his jock friend Denny Jones. Max’s father, who we never meet, owned the largest collection of The Escapist memorabilia in the country, and upon his death, the collection passed to Max. When Max’s mother passes away, he uses his inheritance to purchase the publishing rights to The Escapist character and universe, and  he Denny, along with the cute artist Case Weaver start working on their own comic book version. 

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.