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Book-A-Day 2018 #328: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

There was an era in books for younger readers where the standard message was to conform, to become just like everyone else was supposed to be, to follow the prescriptions of life and fit your feet to the path. And we all make fun of those books now, when we see them or think about them.

We’re in the opposite era now: the standard story is that what a person wants must be right, because that person wants it. And putting it that baldly obviously shows up the inherent problems, but we generally don’t worry about them. Tell kids they can do anything, we say. They’ll figure out all of the ways that isn’t true for themselves eventually; we don’t need to crush their dreams directly.

Those stories are also regularly about exceptional, unique people — coddled princesses and lost princes, prophesied heroes and fated liberators. Is that because we all believe we are princesses at heart, or because those are the people whose dreams aren’t crushed in the end?

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good to tell kids they have options, that they can aim for the stars. But I don’t think we’re telling them that 99% of them will fail, that the stars are out of their reach, and that they’ll, at some point, need to trim their sails to catch a wind that actually exists. And so I wonder about the diet of stories we’re giving them.

Jen Wang is telling a “be who you feel you need to be” story in her new graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker . And, in that Oscar Wilde sense, it’s fiction, so they can become those things. One of them, of course is a prince at the start, which gives one a certain leg up in the world: it’s easier to find your perfect self when you’re not struggling to put food in your belly and clothes on your back.

It’s also easier when you’re in something like a fairy tale, which this is. It’s set in “Paris, at the dawn of the modern era” — maybe the middle of the long quiet 19th century, maybe later, maybe earlier, but those “maybes” are the point. The Prince is Sebastian, of Belgium, who you will not find on the family tree of the actual Belgian monarchy. He’s in Paris for the summer with his aunt, a French Countess, and will have the usual round of balls and events for his sixteenth birthday.

The underlying reason why he’s in Paris: to choose a wife. His royal parents are fictional/modern enough to let him pick his own match (within reason, and from a carefully curated list of the right young European noblewomen), but they’re traditional/realistic enough to want to get the betrothal settled before much more time goes by. Sebastian isn’t terribly interested in this — is any fictional prince or princess ever happy to engage in the round of who-should-I-marry? — for reasons that will be very obvious very quickly.

Frances is a young woman from outside Paris, driven to become a dress designer. She’s working, at what seems to be a low level, in a high-end shop, and gets her chance with a last-minute design for the Prince’s first ball: the willful Lady Sophie Rohan ruined her dress riding and in a fit of pique asks Frances to make her “the devil’s wench.”

Frances is too green to realize actually doing this would be horrible for her fledgling career, and does it. The dress causes a scandal, and Frances is about to be fired when a mysterious man comes around, looking for the designer of the scandalous dress. He has an equally mysterious client who wants to hire that designer exclusively to design for her, and Frances jumps at the offer.

Of course, despite an initial attempt at anonymity, she soon learns her new client is Sebastian. But she wants to design, and Sebastian wants to wear exactly the kind of flashy, exciting dresses she wants to make. And, at first, it all goes well: Frances gets experience and confidence, and Sebastian gets to go out in public as Lady Crystallia and become a minor celebrity.

But Frances can’t advance professionally as “Lady Crystallia’s” dressmaker, because that would connect Crystallia to Sebastian. And Sebastian’s parents are demanding he spend more time wooing all of those young women, who he has no interest in or time for. (He’s spending his nights as Crystallia, and his days sleeping and recovering.) It all is going to smash, and it does.

Wang finds her way to a happy ending, and one that’s more in keeping with the time and her protagonists’ very different social positions than I expected. The Prince and the Dressmaker is much more successful than I was worried it could be; it is a book that tells the you-can-be-whatever-you-want lesson, but it doesn’t skimp on pointing out the hard work and sacrifices needed along the way. (Plus a fair bit of luck, a sympathetic creator, and no small bit of wealth and position — but that’s what makes it fiction.)

I should have expected that from the author of Koko Be Good , which had a similarly complex central male-female relationship that didn’t resolve in conventional ways and a more nuanced view of success and the pursuit thereof. Wang is also a fine cartoonist, particularly good here with crisp, openly emotional faces drawn with few lines and big expressive eyes. This is a book telling that currently-popular story, and in a way designed to appeal to young readers who want to believe that they’ll get all of their dreams — but it’s a fine book despite that.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Laurie Strode Celebrates Halloween at Home January 15

Universal City, California, November 20, 2018 – The infamous killer Michael Myers strikes again in Halloween, arriving on Digital and via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on December 28, 2018, as well as on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM, DVD and On Demand on January 15, 2019. Hailed by critics as “a near perfect blend of craft, character growth and nostalgia” (Perri Nemiroff, Collider), Halloween takes place four decades after Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween Franchise, “Scream Queens”) narrowly escaped the masked Michael Myers’ brutal killing spree. Packed with bonus features including chilling deleted and extended scenes as well as special featurettes showing behind the scenes looks at creating the film, Halloween delivers spine-chilling, hair-raising intensity and thrills to both new and repeat viewers.

Forty years after the events of 1978’s Halloween, Laurie Strode (Curtis) now lives in a heavily guarded home on the edge of Haddonfield, where she’s spent decades preparing for Michael’s potential return. After being locked up in an institution, Myers manages to escape when a bus transfer goes terribly wrong, leading to chaos in the same town he preyed on decades earlier. Laurie now faces a terrifying showdown when the deranged killer returns for her and her family – but this time, she’s ready for him.

Master of horror John Carpenter (Halloween (1978), The Thing) joins forces with director David Gordon Green (Joe, Pineapple Express) and producers Jason Blum (Blumhouse), Malek Akkad (Trancas International Films) and Bill Block (Miramax) for this follow up to Carpenter’s 1978 classic horror film. Halloween also includes a stellar cast including Judy Greer (Ant-Man and The Wasp, Jurassic World), Andi Matichak (“Underground”), Will Patton (Armageddon, The Punisher), and Virginia Gardner (Project Almanac, “Runaways”).  Proving “classics never die” (Mara Reinstein, US Weekly), Halloween offers a tricky treat for audiences both old and new. Halloween is the perfect slasher film, lauded as “hands down the best Halloween sequel ever” (Katie Walsh, Nerdist) and “immensely entertaining” (Eric Eisenberg, Cinemablend).


  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
    • Extended Shooting Range
    • Shower Mask Visit
    • Jog to a Hanging Dog
    • Allyson and Friends at School
    • Cameron and Cops Don’t Mix
    • Deluxe Banh Mi Cops
    • Sartain and Hawkins Ride Along
  • Back in Haddonfield: Making Halloween
  • The Original Scream Queen
  • The Sound of Fear
  • Journey of the Mask
  • The Legacy of Halloween

The film will be available on 4K Ultra HD in a combo pack which includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayTM, Blu-rayTM and Digital. The 4K Ultra HD disc will include the same bonus features as the Blu-rayTM version, all in stunning 4K resolution.

  • 4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
  • Blu-rayTM unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
  • Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
  • MOVIES ANYWHERE is the digital app that simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere. MOVIES ANYWHERE is only available in the United States.

Book-A-Day 2018 #326: Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together by Stevenson, Watters, Leyh, Allen, Nowak & Laiho

There’s a point where, as a reviewer and critic, you either need to engage fully with your material or just walk away from it. Holding it at arm’s length doesn’t do anyone any good.

And I’m very aware that all of my posts about the great female-centric comic Lumberjanes — see my posts on volumes one and two and three  and four  — are about how I really can’t engage that deeply with a comic that is so centrally about being a girl and having friendships with other girls in a very girl-positive environment.

So I think this is the last time I’m going to read a Lumberjanes thing: they are good, and entirely a positive thing to have in the world, but I really don’t have a way into this material, and five books of searching is long enough.

Also, the stories collected in Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together  see a big shift in the creative team — Noelle Stevenson leaves as co-writer, to be replaced by Kat Leyh, and Brooke Allen hands over illustration duties to Carolyn Nowak. So this a a transitional moment anyway, which makes it better than most moments to transition myself quietly in the other direction.

Band Together starts with a single-issue flashback to the first day of camp, showing all five of our intrepid campers arriving, in the company of their various families, and pretty much immediately becoming best friends. It is fun and nice and sweet and very fluffy.

The rest of the book collects the three-issue story that introduced Leyh and Nowak as creators, in which our five intrepid best friends discover that there’s an entire civilization of mermaids in their local lake. (Lumberjanes has a lot of the qualities of a good animated TV series, primary among which is that the world is big and full of wonders, including ones that really should have been honkingly obvious before the point they appear.) Since Lumberjanes is about all-friendship-all-the-time (for female-identified persons), this story must of course be about our heroines mending a broken friendship among the hard-rocking merwomen.

That longer story is less fluffy, but it’s still very Lumberjanean (Lumberjaneite? Lumberjaneicious? Lumberjane-aroonie?) in its core positivity and sunny disposition. Even when one character becomes obsessed, she can be talked down (and mildly shamed) by her friends by merely mentioning that she wasn’t thinking enough about everyone else’s feelings.

Again, I think I’m going to leave Lumberjanes behind at this point. It is a very good thing with almost no points of congruity with my life or interests, and I’m trying to teach myself that I don’t need to worry about everything. Let’s see if I can learn.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

SyFy’s Wonky Krypton Season 1 Comes to Disc March 5

BURBANK, CA (November 14, 2018) – Krypton, the all-new series from executive producers David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Cameron Welsh (Constantine) tells the origin story of DC’s iconic Superman in a whole new way! Just in time for the second season on SYFY, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the action-adventure hit series Krypton: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray and DVD on March 5, 2019. Fans can purchase the set which, in addition to all 10 exhilarating episodes from season one, contains over an hour of extra content, including the 2017 Comic-Con panel, featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel. Krypton: The Complete First Season is priced to own at $24.98 SRP for the DVD and $29.98 SRP for the Blu-ray which includes a Digital Copy. Krypton: The Complete First Season is also available to own on Digital via purchase from digital retailers.

What if Superman never existed? Set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s home planet, Krypton follows a young Seg-El, the legendary Man of Steel’s grandfather, who is faced with a life and death conflict – save his home planet or let it be destroyed in order to restore the fate of his future grandson. With Krypton’s leadership in disarray and the House of El ostracized, Seg fights alongside Earthly time-traveler Adam Strange to redeem his family’s honor and protect the ones he loves while saving the future of his legacy from DC Super-Villain Brainiac.

With Blu-ray’s unsurpassed picture and sound, the Blu-ray release of Krypton: The Complete First Season will include 1080p Full HD Video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1. The 2-disc Blu-ray will feature a high-definition Blu-ray and a Digital Copy of all 10 episodes from season one.

Krypton stars Cameron Cuffe (New Year’s Eve), Georgina Campbell (One Night, Black Mirror), Shaun Sipos (Final Destination 2), Colin Salmon (Arrow), Elliot Cowan (The Golden Compass), Ann Ogbomo (Wonder Woman, Justice League), Aaron Pierre (Britannia, The A Word), Rasmus Hardiker (Your Highness), Wallis Day (Will), with Blake Ritson (Da Vinci’s Demons, Indian Summers) and Ian McElhinney (Game of Thrones). Based on the DC characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Krypton is from Phantom Four Films in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television and is executive produced by David S. Goyer alongside Cameron Welsh.


  • Krypton: 2017 Comic-Con Panel
  • Krypton: Bringing the Home World to Life
  • A Lost Kingdom: Life on Krypton
  • Gag reel
  • Deleted Scenes


  1. Pilot
  2. House of El
  3. The Rankless Initiative
  4. The Word of Rao
  5. House of Zod
  6. Civil Wars
  7. Transformation
  8. Savage Night
  9. Hope
  10. The Phantom Zone


The first season of Krypton is also currently available to own on Digital. Digital purchase allows consumers to instantly stream and download all episodes to watch anywhere and anytime on their favorite devices. Digital movies and TV shows are available from various digital retailers including Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and others. A Digital Copy is also included with the purchase of specially marked Blu-ray discs for redemption and cloud storage.

Street Date: March 5, 2019
BD and DVD Presented in 16×9 widescreen format
Running Time: Feature: Approx. 600 min
Enhanced Content: Approx. 61 min

Price: $24.98 SRP
2 DVD-9s
Audio – English (5.1)
Subtitles – ESDH, Latin Spanish, French
UPC# 883929653232
Catalog# 1000728377

Price: $29.98 SRP
2 BD-50s
BD Audio –DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 – English
BD Subtitles – ESDH, French, Latin Spanish
UPC# 883929650972
Catalog# 1000727261

Book-A-Day 2018 #325: Promethea, Book 1 by Moore, Williams & Gray

Alan Moore famously has a love-hate relationship with superhero comics. Well, I mean, a lot of people love or hate superhero comics, and plenty do both. The difference is that superhero comics hates and loves Moore back.

In the late ’90s, after he’d cast a magic incantation cursing DC Comics and all of its wares, swearing never to work for them again under any circumstances, Moore started his own line of superhero comics, under the not-at-all-self-aggrandizing label of America’s Best Comics. And then his publisher sold the entire company to DC anyway, pretty much simultaneously with the launch of the ABC line.

(It’s almost enough to make one believe that deep Northamptonian magic doesn’t actually do anything!)

One of those ABC books was Promethea, with art by J.H. Williams II and Mick Gray. I read the first collection sometime in the early Aughts, and didn’t remember a whole lot about it. (I do remember that nothing I saw of America’s Best Comics, then or later, impressed me all that much. But I can be hard to impress when it comes to superhero stuff.) Since I’m reading giant stacks of comics-format books this year to feed the maw of Book-A-Day, I figured I might as well try Promethea, Book 1 again.

(I’m still not that impressed. This is not a surprise.)

Promethea the character is a legacy hero, one of many in Moore’s work — he’s been very fond of having his main character be one of a million versions of the same thing, from the Captain Britain multiverse to the Parliament of Trees. This time, the original of Promethea is a fourth-century girl in Egyptian Alexandria bodily transported to the realm of story by the god Thoth-Hermes, and somehow because of that gets to be the template for a series of mystically-powered superwomen starting at the end of the 19th century in the US. Since Moore always has miles of notes, I’m not going to ask what Promethea was doing for the intervening thirteen centuries, because he’d probably tell me in great detail in some tedious end-of-book text feature.

Our brand-new Promethea is Sophie Bangs — that name sounds much more like a camgirl than a superheroine, but OK — in a mildly science-utopian 1999, a slightly alternate comic-book-universey version of the real world her story was published into. She’s a college student researching the legend of Promethea, providing both the natural opportunity for a lot of infodumping and the reason why she gets saddled with the glowy caduceus staff and form-fitting bronze armor.

There are, of course, equally mystical evil people who want to snuff out this new Promethea before she comes into her full powers, and they try to do so. But most of the story here, from the first six issues of the Promethea comic, is an extended tour of the Immateria, the lands of story and myth, in the company of each of the recent dead Prometheas in turn.

That tour is not over at the end of this book; nothing is actually resolved by the last page here and Sophie/Promethea is heading out into a promised two more sections of the Immateria to learn more lessons from more dead predecessors. Why this is where the vast and cool intelligences of DC chose to end this particular book is beyond me; I suspect they believe that their target audience doesn’t understand the idea of stories “ending” anyway, and so don’t bother wasting time with such things.

But I am a well-known cynic.

Promethea is a perfectly adequate superhero comic, with powers and characters that make more sense than many of its competitors. Williams and Gray draw well, and get some inventive page designs out of it. You could certainly do worse than this.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: Mile 22

It feels as if Mark Wahlberg is casting about for a franchise to call his own. The actor, who recently bailed on the remake of The Six Million Dollar Man, may have found it in his fourth outing with director Peter Berg, Mile 22.

This action-adventure film, out now from Universal Home Entertainment, introduces us to CIA operative James Silva (Mark Wahlberg). He’s been tasked by Overwatch leader John Malkovich with bringing an asset, police officer Li Noor (Iko Uwais), to the secret Mile 22 facility so they can extract the life-threatening secrets he holds about the whereabouts of several radioactive cesium isotope dirty bombs. With that thin, familiar set-up, he’s off and running and we’re breathless trying to keep up.

We travel to interesting locales (Colombia filling in for Indonesia), have one set piece after another, watching Jason Bourne/Ethan Hunt/James Silva avoid being blown up, shot, stabbed, or beaten to death. The action is decorated with all the latest surveillance tools and cybersecurity wizardry so it looks good.

Lauren Cohan plays Alice Kerr, Noor’s handler who was wounded prior to the film’s main story and is seen dealing with the after effects and repercussions. Her arc is surprisingly good and helps ground the film from floating away at warp speed. Her performance and Uwais’ make the film more enjoyable than it should be.

One has to credit Lea Carpenter, in her debut screenplay (doctored by Graham Roland) for providing us with the template for adrenaline-filled adventure with a likeable lead. If only he weren’t so cardboard – maybe next time.

The movie comes as a Blu-ray DVD, Digital HD multiscreen extravaganza and has a fine high definition resolution and audio track

The picture in its 2.39:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound quality on the Blu-Ray are solid as expected and the special features include interviews from the premiere on the red carpet with the cast, six behind the scenes featurettes along with soundbites and B-Roll.


The Blu-ray special features are as lightweight and forgettable as the film they support. These include: Overwatch (1:36), detailing the para-military division in Mile 22; Introducing Iko (1:48): shining the camera on international action star Iko Uwais; Iko Fight (1:47), more or less continues the previous piece focusing on his training and choreography; Bad Ass Women (1:44) has actors Lauren Cohan and Ronda Rousey and writer Lea Carpenter, celebrate female empowerment; BTS Stunts (1:56); Modern Combat (1:56) shows what goes into making one of these films, which requires multiple cameras and carefully planned cinematography to capture the death-defying stunts; and finally, Colombia (3:45), a travelogue of sorts.

REVIEW: Christopher Robin

REVIEW: Christopher Robin

Ever since Loggins and Messina tugged on our heartstrings with the wistful ‘70s ballad “House on Pooh Corner”, the notion of saying goodbye to childhood playmates has tinged A.A. Milne’s delightful Winnie the Pooh stories. It was seemingly inevitable that the song would be turned into a story, which more or less explains this summer’s Christopher Robin. The film, out now from Walt Disney Home Entertainment is incredibly predictable but still charming in its own way.

We have an adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor) who has married Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and they have a daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). However, the joy of childhood is gone in his life, replaced with drudgery, as he has become the London equivalent of the salaryman, working for a gray luggage company with inept management.

While the audience is shown that the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood gang – Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings), Owl (Toby Jones), Tigger (Jim, Cummings), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), and Roo (Sara Sheen) – are aware Christopher has grown and left them behind, they have no real sense of time.

Circumstances, though, allow Pooh to enter Christopher’s world and they have an awkward reunion, as at first, he’s delighted to see the “silly old bear” but has already given up his much-needed family vacation to find a plan to salvage the company or fire half the staff. Pooh becomes an impediment, as he has to bring the playmate back to the Wood.

Once home, we know he’s going to reconnect with his childhood, resolve the work issues, rekindle his family connections, and all will be well with the world. So, the question comes down to execution. The screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, and Allison Schroeder is serviceable but lacking in whimsy and charm so director Marc Foster does what he can. The CGI is a delight and the interaction of humans and animals works just fine.

Foster makes an interesting choice in having London and the Wood but darker, overgrown, and less than welcome, equating the two is odd when we’re expecting more of a contrast. They certainly stand out in sharp contrast to the visual humor and wide-eyed reactions when people meet the animal gang for the first time.

The film is entertaining enough but you wanted more than the expected. At least the high definition transfer, retaining the original 2:39:1 aspect ratio, nicely captures the tonal differences in location. It comes with a fine 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix as well.

The Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD multiscreen pack offers up some nice, not great, special features. We start with “A Movie is Made for Pooh,” (5:28) the standard behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew chatting it up; “Pooh and Friends Come to Life,” (3:16) Carmichael narrates this look at the 3-D CGI renderings required for the production; “Pooh Finds his Voice,” (2:43) Cummings gets the well-deserved spotlight and he nicely credits his  predecessor, the late Sterling Holloway;  and then we end with “Pooh and Walt Become Friends,” (2:43) which revisits Walt Disney’s introduction to Pooh via his daughter Diane, and what happened next.

For those who use the Digital HD at Movies Anywhere, you get an exclusive feature: “In Which…We Were Very Young” (3:51), which gives us insight to the real Christopher Robin.

Book-A-Day 2018 #323: Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez

I spend more time than is reasonable worrying if I’m doing things right. Even worse, often what I mean by “right” is “fitting the rules I made up myself, which I haven’t bothered to clearly codify.”

Obviously, a healthy person would not spend time on anything like that, but I am a blogger, and so clearly not that healthy.

So my first question after reading Gilbert Hernandez’s standalone 2013 graphic novel Julio’s Day  was whether it really counts as Love and Rockets. Oh, sure, two excerpts from it appeared first in the New Stories paperback series, but most of this story didn’t, and it has no connections with any of his other L&R work. (On the other side of the argument: a lot of his L&R work has no connection to the rest of his L&R work; he’s been more likely to go off on tangents than his brother Jaime.)

Since I’m writing this here now, you’ve probably already assumed that I decided it counted. And I did. But I had to worry the issue for a while first.

The next big question is whether it’s way too reductive to call Julio’s Day the story of the hundred-year-life of a completely closeted Mexican gay man. And that’s a nice label, but it doesn’t reflect what the book is actually about. Julio himself isn’t really all that central to his own story to begin with: he’s pretty colorless for a Gilbert Hernandez protagonist, overshadowed his entire life by the more vibrant members of his family.

As usual for Hernandez, “vibrant” is not at all the same thing as “positive.” Julio’s uncle Juan is one of the most distinctive characters here, and he’s a deeply damaged person, compelling to sneak away with baby boys and do unspecified things with them. The rest of Julio’s family, and the few others they interact with, are quirky in similar Gilbert Hernandez ways, but Julio himself remains transparent, the void at the center of his own story.

Like Palomar, this town is somewhere in Latin America. Also like Palomar, Hernandez will not be any more specific than that. Julio’s life matches pretty closely to the twentieth century, from small bits of internal evidence, but that’s all background: Julio is not involved in any great issues, and barely any small issues. He just lives here, for a long time, while other things happen around him, mostly far away.

There’s a hundred pages of incidents and no real overall plot: this is a story of episodes, moments over a hundred years when Julio was there to witness them. (Or was somewhere else: the two pieces published in L&R follow other members of his family on journeys, first his father and then his grand-nephew.)

In typical Hernandez fashion, there are bizarre, horrifying diseases and deaths, and many random, mostly unhappy events — a long life in a Gilbert Hernandez story is a sequence of sad and shocking moments, ended only by death.

The title is ironic at best, as well: not only is this the story of a hundred years, not a single day, but Julio never really had a day, either literally or metaphorically. His grand-nephew poses that question to him near the end, and that’s the source for the title — but Julio was never in the right time or place to seize that day, and maybe was never the person who could have seized that day.

Does that make Julio’s Day a cautionary tale? It’s not focused enough for that, and I think Hernandez would deny that impulse — he’s never been one to make a single lesson with a story. Gilbert Hernandez stories aim for the complexity and confusion of real life: too many things happening to too many people to turn it into a single narrative, and all of the lessons possible in there somewhere.

And I suspect Julio’s Day is the kind of book that rewards multiple readings, to trace the connections, personal and visual, over this long century, from the moment Julio opens his mouth to be born until the moment his mouth hangs open in death.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Book-A-Day 2018 #322: The Martian Confederacy, Vol. 2: From Mars With Love by Jason McNamara & Paige Braddock

I read the first volume of Martian Confederacy nine years ago, around the time it came out, but clearly didn’t love it enough to jump into the second book any time quickly.

But time wounds all heels, and, during a business trip recently, I remembered that I had The Martian Confederacy, Vol. 2: From Mars With Love  on a device, and so read it to keep the Book-A-Day streak going. (If you think that “streak” is filled with the book equivalent of a lot of bloop singles, well, you’re not wrong.) As with the first book, it’s written by Jason McNamara and drawn by Paige Braddock, and both of them will probably be very surprised to see this post pop up if they have the usual Google ego-searches active. (I’m sure they’ve done plenty of other stuff since this, and I like to believe that everyone gets better, too.)

Martian Confederacy has a veneer of seriousness and drama, but it’s a loose, ramshackle construction that fights against that seriousness every step of the way. (I called it “the Dukes of Hazard on Mars” the first time around, and I stand by that.)

As the cover gives away, central this time is a love story between our somewhat lunkish (but good-hearted) hero Boone and Lou, his android roommate (platonically, up to this point). They set off to investigate the abduction of the children of a friend of Lou’s — there’s a big hole in the side of their trailer and everything — and end up being shanghaied by the Alcalde into investigating a wider problem, and breaking his rules to get off the planet and find the culprits.

You see — and you’ll want to be sitting down for this — there’s a planet-wide child theft ring, which nobody has heard about for some reason, and the Alcalde (corrupt, the only law/government on the entire planet, no apparent thugs to actually enforce his edicts but he acts like someone will do what he decrees) tells Boone and Lou that they need to solve the problem before he (the Alcalde) comes back from his honeymoon. Oh, and they’re specifically ordered not to leave the planet, though the instant they start to think it about, it’s clear the kids were all kidnapped to somewhere other than Mars.

That’s how From Mars, With Love is the whole way: superficially plausible as long as you don’t think about anything for even a second, and full of very durable cliches mixed with random oddities. (The Alcalde’s new wife is two women, connected upside-down at the torso, and they flip around semi-randomly, taking over the personality and activity of the single person they seem to be legally.) The universe is pretty crapsack — slavery (at least of non-human sentients) is legal, kidnapping kids is pretty common, and everything is pretty beat-up and junky. And the plot is the usual combination of fighting and let-me-tell-you-what’s-really-happening, with the kind of ending you’d expect from a story like this.

I have a feeling the creators took it a bit more seriously than I did, but that’s OK: you should commit to the things you’re doing. As far as I can tell, this is where the series ended — two collections of outlaw medium-future adventures, sticking it to The Man on the red planet. It’s unique, I’ll give it that: it’s definitely one of a kind.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Book-A-Day 2018 #321: The New York Four by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly

Hey, remember Minx? (Don’t worry, a lot of people don’t.)

DC Comics launched that imprint in 2007 to great fanfare, with a raft of interesting creators (many from outside the comic-shop) world and a focus on fiction for teen girls that was unusual for comics of the modern era. It flopped in barely a year, though: that’s why you might not remember it.

Other companies, before and since, have published plenty of very successful books for this audience — I need only mention the name Raina Telgemeier. But DC didn’t manage to do it: maybe because they were too locked into their usual distribution channels, maybe because “DC Comics” turned off those girls, maybe because the stars just weren’t right. But it did flop.

I’ve covered most of the Minx books randomly here — Re-Gifters and ClubbingThe Plain Janes and Good as Lily, Janes sequel Janes in Love , Kimmie66 , Water Baby , Confessions of a Blabbermouth , and Emiko Superstar  in a quick way during my Eisner-judging frenzy. But one of the Minx books I didn’t manage to read at the time was The New York Four, a graphic novel about four young women, all first-year students at New York University, by writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly.

But somehow, without realizing the connection, I had a publicity copy (in electronic form) of the Dark Horse book The New York Four , from 2014, which also included the aborted sequel The New York Five, which was done for Minx but never published by them. (And I mean literally not realizing; I figured it out while starting to type this.)

But now I’ve knocked off one more Minx: I think the only ones I haven’t seen now are Burnout and Token.

The New York Four (the original graphic novel) was also, in a way, a follow-up to Local , a Brian Wood/Ryan Kelly comic about an aimless young woman from a year or so before. But this one is more obviously made for the teen set: every one of these four women has A Problem, presumably one that some segment of the target audience would relate to. (I don’t think it was that mercenary, but we do have The Catfished Girl, and The Stalker, and The Sugar-Daddy Chaser, and The Outer-Borough Slut, if you want to be reductive.) The first story focuses almost exclusively on The Catfished Girl, Riley, who is also said to be a bookworm (we don’t see this) from a demanding family whose older sister ran away for mysterious reasons seven years before. The other three are supporting characters in the Riley story in Four, though the slightly shorter Five is more balanced. A different structure, one that let each woman have an independent story that the others supported, might have been better, but even this structure didn’t make it out into public unscathed, so I’m not really complaining.

The characterization is thoughtful but tends to be one-note — each of the Four is mostly her issue, which is underlined by one of the organizing principles of both Four and Five: they’re all taking part in an unlikely get-college-kids-to-take-high-school-exams-regularly program, which is also inexplicably well-paid, and they have to meet regularly with a psychiatrist as part of this program. It’s entirely possible that Wood is basing this fictional program on something similar or identical in the real world, but it seemed incredibly bizarre and unlikely to me, a convoluted way to get his characters into reality-TV style “tell your story into the camera” moments.

Kelly’s art is lush and detailed, with all of the people distinctive and real. He gives this book a lot of depth, down to body language — look at main character Riley on the cover! can’t you tell a lot about her just from that? — and facial expressions.

But it feels like there’s just too much here, and Wood ends up giving short shrift to the fact that these women are in college — we barely see them in class, and they don’t interact with other students at all. I suspect that he had a novel’s worth of ideas for a novella-length story. And I can’t help but compare it to the John Allison-written Giant Days , which started slightly later and was in pamphlet-format comics originally, which let it give each of its (only three) young women the spotlight in turn.

There’s a lot of good in The New York Four, and it could have been better if it and Minx had been a success: I expect Wood and Kelly would have done further stories, and maybe even followed these women all the way to graduation. Oh, well. Failure is the way of the world…and that’s a lesson you can also get by reading The New York Four.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.