September 7, 2011

It's school time, but I'm still reading...

What's there to talk about? I've got 18 AP chem students (the most in one class in my eleven years at PHS), 107 honors chem students (which woulda been five classes a few years ago but is four crowded classes this year), and 1 lonely senior who needs to pass the OGT.

It's a living.

Knight and Squire- Knight and Squire were created a number of years ago, back in DC's Golden Age. They were part of the Batmen of the World, the British part of the club. For a number of years, however, they disappeared, an odd little footnote from a very weird time. Grant Morrison, horrific comic writer of the moment for DC, decided to resurrect the whole Batmen of the World back in the heyday of the horrible Batman: RIP storyline.

Luckily, this six-volume collection is far more enjoyable and linear than RIP. The first four volumes set an entertaining, light-hearted, strongly British tone with British references and in-jokes throughout the pages. The last page of each issue is the author's chance to explain some of their more obscure references, not that much explanation is needed, because this is all about enjoying the Britishness, not about necessarily knowing what's going on every panel. Thankfully, there's a lot to be enjoyed as the titular Knight and Squire make for a brilliant parody of Batman and Robin. With the strong but silent Knight and the far more communicative Squire, we find ourselves amidst a relationship-based comic that takes the Mick with every page.

Then things turn in the final two issues, and we get a surprisingly tender story of the Britishness of these heroes, the tight and quintessentially British nature of this hero and villain community. The climax hinges on events from back in the first issue, bringing the whole six-issue arc full circle. The wrap up is well told and impressively touching.

Tron - Took a while to get the original from PLCH what with the excitement and promotion of the craptacular Tron:Legacy, but The Girl hadn't seen the original. So we waited.

and waited...

Turns out that the wait was kind of worth it. I remember Tron fondly as being absolutely revolutionary for its time, combining computer-generated images with live action in a thoroughly distinct visual style, a style that nothing else at the time had ever had. The black and white/rotoscoped computer-world images were unprecedented. In fact, that was one of the things that the new Tron was lacking. Legacy lacked everything revolutionary. Sure, it was neat and shiny, but it wasn't any sort of quantum leap forward the way that the original was.

Give the old girl a try. She's actually aged pretty well.

DMZ: M.I.A. - When last we left Matty Roth in DMZ's eighth volume,things had gotten about as bad as they could possibly get. A nuclear warhead had exploded just outside of town, and Matty's sponsor, Parco Delgado, was nowhere to be found. And Matty was persona non grata throughout the DMZ. This volume opens with a few flashback stories of Matty's earlier day in the DMZ, returning us to an issue or two of stand-alone stories of Matty doing reportage, something we had gotten away from in the last volume as Matty became a part of the establishment. It's a welcome return as Matty's identity in the series is reasserted in the rest of this volume, that of the man on the streets determined to chronicle life and in the DMZ.

When the volume returns to the storyline, Matty suffers a crisis of conscience and has to cross the DMZ to reach his peace. The journey is a challenging one but one he's easily up to with his experience on the streets of an even more bombed out Manhattan. At the end is a surprise that returns Matty - in a fashion - to his earlier role as reporter on the street.

This isn't a volume of great development. This is a volume that finds us back where the storyline had been earlier but does so naturally without some sort of magic reset button, something that would have been entirely out of character of this outstanding series. Volume 9 isn't an entry point, it's a reaffirmation of everything that has made this series one of the best ongoing series being published.

Rango - I didn't expect too much from Rango, but I was spectacularly pleased with how rich and heartfelt the film turned out to be. It's a straight forward enough Western story of our protagonist arriving in town, lying about his background (a la seven at one blow), becoming a leader, having a crisis of confidence, and returning to heroic status. On the surface there's nothing much to the story.

It turns out, however, that the journey here is well worth the time as the filmmakers have fit in a cornucopia of film references and genre tropes, bringing in Chinatown, The Man With No Name, and dozens of other nods for cinophiles. As Frank Lovece writes, "along with healthy doses of Carlos Castaneda, Sergio Leone, Chuck Jones and Chinatown that together make this the kid-movie equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino picture"

This one's for the adults but isn't in any way inappropriate for the kids. The visual villain - Rattlesnake Jake - is maybe a little scary for the wee ones, but there's enough good kid-friendly fare here that it's worth a look for both generations in any household.

Plus it's witty enough that kids will get their first tastes of some classic cinema even if they won't know it just yet.

Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: a tale of love and fallout -This week's book choice comes via The Girl who checked out Radioactive after hearing the author on NPR. She thought I might be interested in the book, and it turns out that this is one of the most human chemistry reads I've had in a long while.

The book is ostensibly a biography of Marie (and to a lesser extent, Pierre) Curie, but the story is much, much more, revealing the spirit of radiation through the life of its discoverer, one of the greatest scientists ever. Her life is told in tales both professional and very personal, telling of her love for Pierre as well as their joined curiosity about and exploration of the mysteries of the invisible majesty of radiation.

The visual style of the book appears initially childish but reveals itself to have phenomenal emotional depth, illustrating the story with ghostlike images reminiscent of the X-ray-produced images that initially sparked Curie's curiosity. The writing, then, also mirrors the science as Curie's personal life is revealed in tandem with the effects of radiation on our world - and on Curie's life.

Most illustrative of this is when the biography tells of Curie - after Pierre's death - and her relationship with another great but married French scientist. Curie's affair become public knowledge, and she sought refuge with a friend, living in a small apartment far from her home as the storm passed over. Redniss chooses to pause the story there and spend two pages relating the creation of fallout shelters in modern times, mirroring Curie's search for safety with that of ours.

The balance between science and subject is note perfect throughout. This book deserves every one of the accolades that it has received. It is an outstanding, informative, and moving read.

Check out the book's site at the New York Public Library or some of the page images below.

One Moment in Time - I haven't read any of the Brand New Day stuff other than the very first volume, so I don't necessarily know how Spidey and the writers have dealt with one of the more drastic single-character resets we've seen this decade. As someone coming in without much background, I found this storyline useful in that it filled in a lot of gaps for me. It explained what changes were made to the Peter Parker-MJ relationship to cause it to go sour.

ComicsAlliance reviewed the story arc and described it as unnecessary, unneeeded. They said that the entire storyline would have been better left ignored and not dealt with again. I wouldn't go that far and actually enjoyed the read. It's not perfect, but it's pretty well done.

Apparently if you've already read the Brand New Day storyline, you don't need to see this. If you haven't, however, it's a good summary.

I enjoyed it.

Megamind - This film was a blast.

Simple enough premise in which the titular villain finally defeats his arch foe Metro Man and has to live with the world after he has no one left to fight, no one left to banter with, no one to scheme against.

The villain, of course, becomes bored and has to find ways to entertain himself, eventually creating a new hero to fight. That goes predictably badly, and the villain finds himself in the role of hero by the film's end, getting the girl, and saving the city.

The plot's pretty plain and linear, but it's the voice talents that really sell the story. Will Ferrell as Mega Mind, Liz Lemon (I'm officially turning into my Grandparents now - they always called Michael Landon 'Little Joe' because that's the role that they remembered him most in)...Tina Fey as the Lois Lane-ish Roxanne, David Cross as the sidekick Minion, and Brad Pitt as Metro Man. Every one is hilarious and perfect for their part. They make the film.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the poke good-hearted fun at loads of comic book and movie tropes throughout - Superman-era Marlon Brando appears in the best one.

All in all, a lot of fun.

Last Night on Earth by Noah and the Whale - Finally, a new album for me to review.

I've gotten do bad at just grabbing whatever cd I've got out from the library and burning it then listening to it in bits and bobs at some future point that I almost never listen to full albums anymore.Hence I almost never review full albums anymore.

Speaking of which, when's the next Vampire Weekend due? Anybody know?

Sorry, I digress.

I'm enjoying Last Night on Earth. It's the first real intro that I've had to Noah and the Whale - though the NPR story I heard recently that pointed them out to me said that they've been a bit early Wilco-ish in changing their styles pretty drastically on their three albums. I'm going to have to track down their other stuff, though. This is catchy stuff, well-written and tuneful.

It's a little bit Vampire Weekend (without the world beats) and a little bit MGMT (without the wall of sound guitars). Give it a try.

Secret War - dumb...nothing else need be said...

100 Bullets - Four volume in here with nine more volumes to go. Frustratingly, PLCH is missing volumes 5 & 8. Arrggh...

Intriguing enough to keep reading...

Update: PLCH just had volumes 5 & 8 show up in their catalog. They're on order but will be available. I love PLCH.

New Avengers vol 1,3,6 - These volumes were sitting around at the Sharonville branch, so I grabbed  'em. I like the character mix enough to have reserved the other volumes in the series. I'll report back more when I get those read, too.

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