Wonder Woman: The True Amazon

With the new Wonder Woman movie coming out soon, I wanted to brush up on my knowledge of Diana. I happened upon this graphic novel in my library and thought I would pick it up. I’ll be honest, besides the 1970’s show, which I think is the only time Wonder Woman has had her own screen time, I didn’t know anything about her.Wonder Woman

The graphic novel roots Diana’s story in ancient Greece and the war between Herakles and the Amazon’s queen. They end up moving to this awesome island and, no spoilers, Diana comes to be. She’s a demigod and no one seems to check her ego and curb some of her uber-competitiveness. Time passes and in one moment of tenacity, Diana makes a bad choice and has to pay the consequences by being exiled from the Amazons and doing good in the world.

I find this story intriguing because, one, I didn’t know any of this, and two, I didn’t realize that the early Diana was a jerk. Ok, maybe not quite a jerk, but she’s arrogant and it comes across as selfish and callous. I’m curious to see what Diana is like in the film and whether they are going to tell this story as well. There’s a lot of room left at the end of this book to explain some of the tools Wonder Woman has at the ready. This edition didn’t go into any detail about the tiara, the lasso of truth and the golden girdle. I’m hoping they will in the next volume.

Spoiler: I’ve just seen the movie and I’m happy to report that some of this origin story makes it into the film!  I’m grateful to have read this first because it gave me some context to what was happening.  In my opinion Gal Gadot’s Diana is waaaaaay better than the one in this graphic novel.

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The Best American Non-Required Reading 2015

“The Best American Non-required Reading” is an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels that is selected by a committee of high school students. As a high school teacher, I was curious to see what high schoolers would select as the best literature. I found their picks interesting and surprising. Non 2015

Wells Tower’s “Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?” was eye-opening as it was shocking to read about the account of big-game hunting. Tower is open about his bias (anti-elephant hunting) but is objective in his portrayal of the wealthy Americans who do participate in the hunt. He doesn’t villanize them, but he does ask important questions.

Victor Lodato’s “Jack, July” takes us into the mind of an addict much like “Requiem for a Dream.”

“780 Days of Solitude” is the account of the three Americans who were held in Iran on charges of espionage. It’s written by the three young people and was a take on the story I hadn’t read before. I’m interested to read their entire book this was excerpted from.

Paul Salopek’s “Out of Eden Walk” shares his journey walking from Ethiopia through Russia tracing the route of human migration. The selection in the anthology covers his time in Palestine, Jordan, and Turkey.

There’s so many more I want to highlight, but I’d basically be recommending 80% of the book. While many of the pieces were well written, I had trouble appreciating the collection as a whole.  Having so many different genres mashed into one collection, I felt that I wasn’t able to settle in a enjoy reading the book cover to cover.  I found that I had to keep shifting my thinking switching from fiction to non-fiction to poetry and it gave me a bit of a headache.  Reader beware.

Lobster is the Best Medicine

Last year I stumbled across a humorous tome, The Little World Of Liz Climo and was Lobsteramazed at how so much humor could be packed into a such short comics.  I’m delighted to share with you Ms. Climo’s latest work, Lobster is the Best Medicine.  I was honored to be contacted by Ms. Was to receive a review copy in exchange for an honest review.  I’ve never received an ARC, although I sign up for those giveaways on Goodreads ALL THE TIME.  The odds are not in my favor.

Not that I doubted Ms. Climo, but I was worried what I would say if this latest didn’t live up to my enjoyment of the former.  This wasn’t even the case.  The snark, wit, and overall conundrums of friendships are tackled adroitly in Lobster and, dare I say, raise the bar on The Little World.

Friendships are something we are all have, yet are so unique and unexplainable.  Each friendship has its quirks and complex rituals, yet we do a lot of it unconsciously.  There’s also that love/hate relationship that underlies many friendships.  There’s that thing your friend does that you can’t help but tease them about.  For example, in Lobster, there’s a shark in a pool that is creeping up on a boat, the narration goes, “And the giant megalodon stalks his unsuspecting prey.”  The next scene shows the same shark holding the boat behind his back, while speaking to his friend, who’s apparently just shown up.  The friend wonders if the first shark was talking to the boat and first shark is trying to play it off.  We’ve all been there buddy.

There’s also the times we accept the eccentricities of our friends.  Like the penguin who is wondering why his orca friend is lounging on the ice.  The orca responds that he had just had lunch and is waiting an hour before going back into the water (ba dum tiss). Or the otter who is asking his shark friend what his wifi password is.  The shark answers that it’s “I eat otters”.  He defends himself by saying that it was created before he was friends with the otter.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to spoil all the comical instances that explore friendships that Ms. Climo has delivered to us.  I recommend that you read the introduction in which she shares a touching instance of when a friend helped her out and how friends have played a part in her life.  Here’s hoping there’s another Liz Climo work next year!

Saga, Volume 5

I’m all caught up on Saga, now.  Which should be a good thing.  But I’m not feeling so joyful.  I now have to wait for the next volume to come out.  Whenever that is.  The silver lining is that I don’t have to worry about spoilers and I feel like I’m now “in” with the Saga fans since I’ve read them all as they came out.  Now to just find a comic-con.

Volume 5 still continues the well thought out plots and character developments that have Saga 5become characteristic of the series.  Alana and Marko are still trying to find a safe place to lay down roots and raise their daughter.  Robot IV and the bounty hunters are still in play, although their reasons for pursuing have changed.  While the character development was the driving force of Volume 4, the plot becomes the vehicle for action in Volume 5.  For readers I think this alternation between plot and characters is a good way to pace the action along with the depth of the characters.

My only concern is that Mr. Vaughan and Ms. Staples are starting to become too much like G.R.R. Martin for my taste.  It seems like the characters I start to like usually don’t last long in Game of Thrones, and it’s starting to become a similar motif in Saga.  I’m still holding out hope, though, that Mr. Vaughan and Ms. Staples will give us a reasons for removing characters from the plot.

While the conflict has started to reach a fever-pitch, it doesn’t feel like it’s spinning out of control.  Instead, many of the background characters are stepping into the lime-light more and more and there are rays of sunshine in the increasingly cloudy world of our protagonists.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Saga, Volume 3

The third installment of the Saga quest was, different, shall we say from the previous two.  Saga 3It’s the middle-child of the group, I guess you could say.  Continuing the story of Alana and Marko and their quest to keep their daughter, Hazel safe from the clutches of their warring governments, Volume 3 pauses the forward momentum of the plot and take sometime to give background to many of the characters that we have been introduced to in Volumes 1, 2.

The Brand is still trying to hunt them down while Marko’s ex-girlfriend, Gwendolyn, has met up with The Brand in her quest to bring home Marko to face justice.  The Brand is still recovering from the loss of a loved and a friendship/alliance forms between he and Gwendolyn.  Together they try to rehabilitate Sophie, the child sex-slave The Brand rescues from Sextilion.  However complications ensue when all is not as it appears on their planet.  Because who ever thought there were happy endings when space has become as dystopic as Earth is/was/will be.

Next to take up the chase for Alana and Marko is Prince Robot IV.  At first I thought this species was just a humorous gag the writers threw in, but in this volume they’ve done a good job showing the complexities the Robots have.  Imagine humans with blue-tinted skin, but with TV sets for heads.  Their thoughts and emotions are mirrored on the screens, and they can change their hands into weapons or anything they’d like.  The Robot kingdom is allied with Landfall against their enemies from Wreath.  But IV is getting disenchanted with the war.  And his back story and personality start to make readers realize he’s more complex than a first reading might reveal.

I can’t go much further into the plot without spoiling it.  And that would be a travesty.  So if you’ve made it through volumes 1, 2, keep reading!  Just realize the pace slows down, but only so the characters become even more developed and endearing to the readers.

Saga, Volume 2

Continuing the amazing story from Volume 1, Volume 2 delves into the stories of the other Saga 2characters in the Saga world.  Alana and Marko are fleeing the winged army and find out that the horned planet’s government is also out to get them.  But instead of an army, they’ve hired an assassin called, The Will.  He’s kick ass.  Like James Bond except no British accent.  But he’s got a bullet proof cape, a spaceship, and a giant cat that can tell if someone is lying (I promise it’s way cooler than how cheesy that sounds).

The Will is close to catching the fleeing couple when a subplot involving under-aged sex trafficking side tracks him on a planet called Sextillion.  It’s basically Las Vegas, but planet size.  While The Will doesn’t talk much, it’s his actions that make me want to know more.  He’s mysterious and just when you think you know him, you realize there’s more to his character.  His vicious and cold, yet is very loyal and is smarting from a break up with another assassin.  Weaving The Will’s story into the fabric of Alana and Marko’s gives more depth to the story and gives the readers a break from the fleeing duo.  It also shows us that there’ snot a clear distinction between who is good and bad.  This struggle is pretty much what makes it so hard for Alana and Marko to trust anyone; it’s not clear who’s on whose side.

Mid-way through this volume, Marko’s parents show up and we suddenly get a bit of multi-racial family drama.  His mother is angry at Marko for attaching him self to the enemy, but his father is more concerned with just getting to know his granddaughter.  It’s not heavy-handed, but there’s a lesson for our culture today and we move from being one distinct ethnicity to becoming multi-racial/ethnic families.  Ultimately the horned in-laws move past their biases and learn to just love and accept.

Once again Vaughan and Staples have created a captivating piece of art that deftly carries the plot from Volume 1 while also making Volume 2 a piece unto itself.  If you made it through Volume 1, keep going with Volume 2!

Saga Volume 1

Saga by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples burst onto my reading horizon Saga 1when my sister-in-law brought the first three volumes over and told my wife and I we HAD to read it.  Wanting to get more familiar with the graphic novel world I was immediately interested in reading them.  Plus, it’s a sci-fi graphic novel and I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to sci-fi/fantasy stuff.  I took the first volume and immediately got lost in the story.  I finished the first and immediately took up the next two and read them all in one sitting.  It was awesome.

This was almost two years ago and since then I’ve seen Saga become more and more talked about.  And for good reason!  The ultimate premise is that there’s this war between two neighboring planets.  The smaller planet is a people who have horns (horns of all types like sheep, goats, deer, antelope, gnu, buffalo, etc.) and who are able to channel magic.  Their antagonists are a winged people (whose style of wings range from insect to avian).  Almost like Star Wars their conflict has moved from just their two planets to all over the known galaxies.

Then we meet the protagonists. And by meet, it’s at the birth of their child.  She’s from the winged planet, he’s from the horned one, Alana and Marko, respectively.  Beginning in media res, we see that they are being hunted by the winged military, of which Alana once belonged.  As they escape capture we get flashbacks of how they met and what’s going on in the world around them.

The balance between Alana and Marko’s story and other plot lines is part of the beauty of this work.  This first volume sucks you into this world that you feel so familiar with, yet are still so interested to hear new facts.  In this balance Vaughan avoids the Romeo & Juliet trope, and thank goodness! And while we are speaking of beauty, the illustrations are off the chart!  Staples really captures the nuances of each individual and culture.  This is art at it’s finest!  I certainly recommend this if you are looking for a good absorbing read.  And now that there’s four volumes it’s like four servings of your favorite foods.

Green Arrow Green Lantern Vol. 1

Finally.  Two of my favorite superheroes in one comic book!  Green Arrow Green Lantern, Vol 1 by Dennis O’Neil was a nice break from the Green Arrow-as-lead-hero graphic novels that I’ve been reading.  While each newer edition keeps improving on Green Arrow’s cannon, it is nice to have something new thrown into the mix.  In this edition, Green Lantern and Arrow join forces to find out what it means to be American and fight evil a long the way.  What’s not made clear is why they are finding out what America’s heart and soul is nor if they found it.  But there were some good moments a long the way.

GL GAWhat was nice is that Green Lantern stole the show from Green Arrow.  In the 80’s Green Arrow seems to have become cynical and cranky.  He seems to fight evil not because it’s evil but because he’s angry and wants to vent it onto the hapless crooks who cross his path.  Green Lantern on the other hand is naive as they come.  This combination created an interesting conflict in this volume.  Green Lantern is challenged to see that the world is not separated into clear-cut good and evil. Sometimes grey areas exist.  Green Arrow was pushed to get out of his mood and to actually like people and do something good for the well-being of others.

So who actually stole the show? Black Canary!  She springs up half-way through this volume and completely steals the show.  She doesn’t shy away from any confrontation and can judo chop like anyone’s business!  I’ll stand by her any day.  Maybe because I don’t know much about her character, but I enjoyed that it wasn’t just Green Arrow in this volume.  Having the other characters helped to round out the plot.  I’m looking forward to the next volume.  Hopefully it will continue to improve on what’s come before it.  This is definitely a must read for those that are attempting to read the Green Arrow cannon.

To read other reviews like this from other readers, check out cannonballread.com

Love, Volume 1: The Tiger

Love, Volume 1: The Tiger by Frederic Brremaud; No, this isn’t some erotic shifter paranormal romance.  It’s a graphic novel about literal tigers in the Southern Asian jungle.  I wasn’t sure what it was going to be about actually.  The front cover has a tiger attacking a panther.  And it is titled “Love”.  So I figured maybe it was going to show that love in the jungle was vicious and ultimately didn’t exist.  I was wrong.

TigerBasically tiger wakes up.  Tiger spots Tapir.  Tiger spends the entire time trying to attack Tapir.  That’s the overarching premise.  But along the way, the tiger meets other creatures.  A crocodile that can leap out of rivers and climb fallen trees.  And apparently tigers can get crocodiles to go away by clawing them.  The attack by the crocodile makes tiger angry, so when it comes across two panthers hunting a mouse it decides to attack both of them.  At this point it was clear to me that this tiger was bad news.

Tiger moves on from the hunt because he once again spots the tapir. Problem is that the tapir is at a lake where a female elephant is hanging out.  As the tiger waits to attack the tapir, a bull elephant, keen on mating with the female, gets run over.  Tiger doesn’t like this so he attacks the elephant, which goes badly for the tiger.  So as the elephants mate, the tapir escapes again, the tiger slinks off pissed and injured.  He comes across a man at his fire near his hut.  It doesn’t go well for the man.

I still don’t know what the point of this book is.  Either the author’s are trying to say that tigers are senseless killers, or that he was pissed that everyone else is getting some and he wanted wanted to get laid too.  There are better graphic novels out there.  I wouldn’t give this one any time.

To read this and other reviews by other readers, visit cannonballread.com

Green Arrow Hunter’s Moon

Wow.  So things just got dark for Green Arrow.  In Hunter’s Moon by Mike Grell, Green Arrow is in Seattle in the late 1980’s.  The crimes that he fights are a HUGE shift from the petty crimes he tackled in the collection from the 50’s and 60’s I’ve read previously.  In this collection it spans, kidnapping, bioterrorism, and gay-bashing.  But what I appreciate about the crimes and the way Green Arrow handles them is that the superhero becomes the vehicle for the reader to “fight back” against the crimes they see in their community.

Hunter's MoonWhich is why I liked the grittiness.  It makes the superhero seem more, what’s the word, real?  When the crimes the superhero faces are similar to those that we readers see in our day and age, I feel like the character actually becomes a hero and not another historical figure fighting crimes in a by-gone era. While that’s not bad, it doesn’t allow me to feel connected to the character.

The only critique I have for this collection is that there wasn’t enough time to really process the crimes.  When the streets are filled with gay bashers and Green Arrow tracks down the king pin of the gang leading out on the attacks and takes the guilt to justice in just ten pages, it seems to downplay the severity of the crime.

But then I wonder if this isn’t the writer’s compromise.  The writer wants to tackle the issues of the day, but knows that they have a diverse audience and some may either feel overwhelmed with such a prolonged exposure to such heavy crimes or they feel it’s too preachy.  So at the end of it all I give the writer kudos for evening bringing up these issues in a graphic novel.  At least he/she is starting a dialogue.

To view this and other book reviews from other readers, visit cannonballread.com