Friday, October 24, 2014

Booknote: Nightwing: Ties That Bind

Dennis O'Neil, Nightwing: Ties That Bind. New York: DC Comics, 1997. ISBN:  978-1563893285. 

This collection includes "Nightwing: Alfred's Return" and issues 1-4 of Nightwing. In Nightwing, Dick Grayson has grown up and left Batman to have his own life, which includes becoming the hero Nightwing. After a while, he decides to quit being a superhero, hoping for a more normal life. However, when new evidence about his parents' death surfaces, he dons the mask again to investigate. In "Alfred's Return," Alfred Pennyworth has left Bruce Wayne's employ. After traveling the world, he is back in London where he meets an old flame who appears to need help. Naturally, being the gentleman he is, he agrees to help, but then things really get complicated. Fortunately, Nightwing shows up to assist.

Overall, this is an adequate comics collection from Dennis O'Neill. There is not much depth here, but it was an entertaining read. The art style reflects its time; it is very colorful with a bit of a nice pulp feel. Good but not spectacular.

I liked it, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Booknote:I Remember Beirut

Zeina Abirached, I Remember Beirut. Minneapolis, MN: Graphic Universe, 2014. ISBN: 9781467738224. 

This was a nice graphic novel that was very easy to read. It is also a powerful and moving tale of a young girl growing in a time of war. The author grew up in Beirut during 1980s when war was raging between Christians and Muslims. The book is a recollection of memories of that time period. We see the cars riddled with bullet holes, travel in taxis that go where buses refuse to go, and we get a glimpse of her life with her family during this time period. The art is done in a simple black and white style that is similar to works like Persepolis. In fact, if you have read Persepolis, you will probably enjoy this graphic novel as well. Though it is rated for teens and young adults, I think adults will enjoy it as well. I really liked this one.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note is where I tell you that I read this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This helps keep The Man happy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Booknote: Bizarre Weather

Joanne O'Sullivan, Bizarre Weather. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2012. ISBN: 9781936140725.

This was a quick read, and it is a book that I do not have much to say about. It does pack a lot of weather trivia in a little book. If strange weather events and phenomena fascinate you, this may be a book for you.

The book is basically a chronology and list of events. It is organized into four chapters. Within each chapter, you get a lot of paragraphs, which are not always in a good sequence. The text makes for some pretty dry reading. It is not really a book to read through. This is more a book to browse here or there. Other than a few cartoons, the book is not illustrated. I think some good quality illustrations could have added some value to the book. The book is rated as juvenile reading, but given the dry text, unless a kid is really into this topic this is not an engaging book. In the end, it was just OK.

It gets 2 out of 5 stars.

I borrowed this one from my local public library.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Booknote: Damian: Son of Batman

Andy Kubert, Damian: Son of Batman. New York: DC Comics, 2014. ISBN: 9781401246426. 

This volume is a different tale. It tells of a future where Batman dies and Damian, who lived, takes up the cowl to carry his father's mission and legacy. However, Damian is also the son of Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra's al Ghul. Thus Damian has some very different ideas of how crime in Gotham should be handled.

I liked the idea of this, but I did not always find the execution consistent. The story seemed a bit convoluted at times, difficult to follow. The transitions from one plot point to another were not always very good. Then we have the cat; yes, there is a talking cat (is Damian going mad?). I won't spoil, but there are a lot of details that get confusing;  you think it is one thing, turns out to be something else, often without any build up or rationale. Still, I found the art to be pretty good, and a fair reason to read this. In the end, I did find this to be an interesting alternate path to the Batman story. Bottom line it was ok.

The comic is part of DC's The New 52 series. For public libraries, I would consider this an optional purchase; if they already collect a good amount of Batman comics, they may want to add this one. For academic libraries with graphic novel collections, this is an optional title. For my library, I would get it if a patron requested it. 

I am giving it a basic 2 out of 5 stars as it was ok, but just too much of a mess to recommend it higher. This is a title that, if you must, borrow it rather than buy it. 

Disclosure note: Here is where I tell you I read this as an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thus, we keep The Man happy. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Booknote: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire

 Paul Allor, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2014. ISBN: 9781631400247.

This is a title for fans of the TMNT who want to know more about Krang and the Utrom Empire. Krang is ramping up his plans to conquer Earth. Baxter Stockman, unbeknownst to Krang, has plans of his own and seeks to foil Krang. Caught in the middle is Fugitoid, an escaped robot who hopes to reach the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for help. Fugitoid has all the information about the Technodrome and Krang's plans stored in his memory. Will Fugitoid manage that on time? Does he have an ulterior plan?

If you are looking for the turtles, you will see little of them here. This volume gives us a look at Krang and his world, plus the story of the Utrom Empire. If those details interest you, then this is a volume for you. It was a  light and easy read that fills gaps and details we may not usually get. In the end, I liked it as a nice addition to the TMNT universe.

For public libraries, if they already collect various other TMNT titles, then this is one to add as well. For academic libraries with graphic novel collections, I would consider this optional. 

3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: Here is where I tell you I read this as an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thus, we keep The Man happy.

Booknote: The Harlem Hellfighters

Max Brooks, The Harlem Hellfighters. New York: Broadway Books, 2014. ISBN: 9780307464972. 

This is a fictionalized historical account of the African American 369th Regiment in World War I. The U.S. sent these Black soldiers over, but due to the usual American racism, these men were pretty much set up to fail by their country from the start. The 369th went on to prove themselves above and beyond, becoming the most decorated unit of its time. In fact, out of respect, the French called them "Men of Bronze." To the Germans who learned to fear them, they were the Harlem Hellfighters.

This graphic novel is a great narrative. It is strong, powerful, and moving. As a reader, it made me angry how the U.S. mistreated these men serving the nation, and the story illustrates how often the U.S. enjoys sending men to war but never does right by them. This is not a romantic war. World War I was a brutal, violent, painful, and deadly conflict, and this is presented in the graphic novel. Max Brooks' narrative along with Caanan White's art bring it all to life. From recruitment to training to the trenches of Europe, the men of the 369th discover a larger world that changes them. They went to make the world safe for democracy, and those who survive will return home to a new fight, the fight for equality and democracy at home.

The Harlem Hellfighters is a thrilling tale of honor, perseverance, and sacrifice. Once you pick it up, you will not be able to put it down. Brooks draws on solid historical research to bring a chapter of African American history not really known outside of a few scholarly circles--until now. It is an amazing piece that shows the best of what a graphic novel can do. It is a powerful tale with gritty art that practically makes you feel like you are there. This is a must read that I cannot recommend highly enough. For me, this goes down as one of the best books I have read this year.

I am giving it a solid 5 out of 5 stars.