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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Booknote: Hellboy in Hell, Volume 1

Mike Mignola, Hellboy, Volume 1: The Descent. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2014. ISBN: 9781616554446. 

Mike Mignola is back with Hellboy in Hell, Volume 1. Hellboy finds himself in a homecoming he does not really want. He confronts his past, his true nature, and his future. To be honest, as much as I like Hellboy comics, I found this one to be a somewhat convoluted story where Mignola is trying to tie a lot of loose ends. If you have not read previous Hellboy comics, you may miss a detail or two along the way in this one.

However, something that does make the comic worth reading is the art. The dark, bizarre depictions of hell and its denizens are really sights to behold and show the artist in top form. This was a big reason I liked the volume, but the story itself was fairly average when compared to previous Hellboy volumes.

In the end, giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note to keep things honest and The Man happy: I read this book as provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Booknote: Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others

Mike Mignola, Hellboy, Volume 10: The Crooked Man and Others. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2010. ISBN:  9781595824776.

This is a collection of stories starring Hellboy. The stories draw, in part, on traditional folklore. For example, "The Crooked Man" draws on Appalachian folklore and the work of Appalachian folklorist Manly Wade Wellman. This is one of the few stories Mignola says he has done drawing on American folklore, and it is a very good tale.

The tales all draw on the theme of Hellboy as a wanderer/adventurer, putting him in the classic traditions of the wandering hero in folklore. Each story begins with a short introduction statement by Mignola on what inspired him and how the story was developed. In addition, there is a short introduction to the volume by Gahan Wilson. Wilson's opening introduction is the fairly standard laudatory to the author stuff. Don't get me wrong: I think Mignola deserves plenty of praise. Now, the introductions to the four stories are what deserve a look as they provide some insights into the creative process. Also of interest is the essay on Manly Wade Wellman at the back of the volume. In addition to Hellboy fans, those interested in Appalachian folklore may want to look at it. Finally, the book has a sketchbook with notes from the artists involved in the volume.

If you like folklore tales and spooky narratives, you'll probably enjoy this. Fans of Hellboy will find a nice change of pace here. The tales invoke darkness and the creepy, drawing nicely on some local American folklore (in two of the tales) or other myths. The art bring a gothic feel to life.

I am giving this one the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Signs the Economy is Bad: October 10, 2014 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  

A few interesting items this week, so let's get on with it.

  • It what has to be the "Motherfuckery Story of the Week," Walmart has decided that the economy is bad, and since they are not making enough money it's time to take away the health insurance of their most vulnerable part-time workers (story via The Week). And for the rest of the workforce, their premiums are going up too. To put things in perspective, " Walmart's net profits are expected to be $15.88 billion this year, and the Walton family — heir to the Walmart fortune — is worth a combined $143.6 billion." But you know, things are bad, so Walmart has to tie its belt, the poor babies.
  • Meanwhile, poverty and hunger in the United States continue to be a serious issue. Many in the U.S. make it their national hobby to demonize the poor. However, the thing is this: " more and more, hunger looks like you and me." Perhaps a little visual may help out as "Americans on Food Aid Document Their Hunger in Photos."Story via Yes! Magazine.
  • We have made jokes before in this blog about naming rights from ads in textbooks to naming bathrooms after donors. The economy may be bad, but rich people often love to see their names splattered all over the place to show their "generosity" (or cupidity is more like it). The next trend for rich people and corporations? Getting towns to change their names and the names of public spaces to the name of a brand or rich person. Economy is bad, and towns, municipalities, schools, so on need some cash. So, hey, sell off the local public park so it can be the Coca-Cola Park for a few bucks. Sounds good? In theory (for the corporate and the rich maybe), but this is a problem for public spaces and the message it sends. Story via AlterNet.
  • Bad economy or not, some people just feel like they need to have the latest gadget. In what is a pathetic commentary on American consumer society and the urban decay of Detroit all wrapped up into one, a Detroit man was trying to barter his beat up, fixer upper home for an iPhone 6. However, if you feel an iPhone 6 is too much, he is willing to negotiate.  Story via The Week
  • Today's Public Service Announcement is for college students. Contrary to what some cranky right wingers believe, not all college students are choking on their silver spoons. For many, going to college is pretty much living in poverty. It means having to, among other things, find cheap food options. So, to help out, here is a list of the "50 Best Cheap Pizza Places for College Students Across the USA." The nice thing about the list is that it does not have pizza chains, otherwise the "Hot N' Ready" guys would likely be on top as cheapest). On a side note, from the list, I have had pizza from Mad Mushroom in West Lafayette. It's pretty much pizza with no frills. Story via COED Magazine.
And finally, one for the uber rich:

  • Now if you are one of the uber rich, one of the problems you may face is dating. After all, if you are part of the 1%, there are not many others like you out there. So trying to find a suitable and well-off financially mate is kind of a hardship. Good news: there is a solution in a new dating app for the 1% called Luxy. Now, uber rich, don't worry: this new solution is not for gold diggers or such, so no need to be concerned that hot chick who pretends to have wealth is just some poor hoe who is a gold digger or, in the case of the gals, some poor schmuck trying to marry up. When it comes to Luxy, "'It’s Tinder without low-income dating prospects,' according to the description. 'In fact, the average income of male users on LUXY is over $200k and those who are unable to keep up financially are immediately removed from the service.'" Exactly. You are uber rich; you don't want to date just any plebeian. You have standards. You have more money than God, and you expect your date or potential mate to be the same. So, "if you're currently looking for a man or woman to fill the emotional emptiness in your Swiss Bank Account, Luxy may be the app for you." Story via Big Think.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Booknote: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: an Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights. New York:  Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010. ISBN: 9780385529693.

This is a curious book. It is somewhat reminiscent of older encyclopedias. Think here the old 10th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica for example or maybe older works. It reminded me a book I read a while back, All There Is to Know. On a side note, I may need to reread that book and post a review here sometime. Now the Jenkins book is not that lofty.

The book is a collection of anecdotes on various "delightful" topics. From the origins of badminton to red lipstick to trapeze, the book features a very eclectic selection of subjects. If you like trivia and tidbits, then this is a book for you.

In her introduction, the author recalls a grade-school jewelry box she had filled with knick-knacks and odds and ends. In the box, she kept things like a "prism that made rainbows, two Mexican pesos, an unusually large acorn cap, a miniature shell, the face of my father's old Timex, and a sample vial of Patou's Joy--all my treasures." That is the image the author seeks to evoke in this book. It works to an extent. For me an issue was that some of the prose was a bit slow to read at times. Like many collections, some subjects were more interesting than others. The book does have some good illustrations, but a few more subjects could have used an illustration as well for better definition.

I like this one, but it was not one I really liked, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.