Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 25th, 2007)

It’s frightfully early, Gentle Reader, and Mr. and Pup Reads are still abed. Perhaps it is because This Humble Author found herself turning in almost too early on the last night of Thanksgiving break. We Reads finished Jericho (wonderful!) and have started the second season of Supernatural. About halfway through the third disc, around 10:45, I found myself dozing on the couch and not giving the Winchester boys My Full Attention. I was chastised by Mr. Reads and sent to dreamland, forthwith.

Today, Mr. Reads and I celebrate our third wedding anniversary with brunch at Our Local Fancy Restaurant and a trip to see Stephen King’s The Mist. It is rather cold and rainy here in Land Reads, which is perfect weather for those of us Reads-Inclined (well, perhaps Pup Reads finds it a Bit Annoying). Mr. Reads and I truly believe that we should live someplace that is cold and rainy all the time, like Scotland, or the Pacific Northwest. If only the job market would comply!

More reviews soon, Gentle Reader, as I have fulfilled my promise to Catch Up on my Comics Pop Culture. But until then, enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Reader, from We Reads: Amy Reads, Mr. Reads, and Pup Reads (who only cares about her proximity to turkey)! We have a quiet day planned: Jericho to watch, turkey to eat, dessert with Supadiscomama, Supadiscobaby, and Harrogate, with whom Mr. Reads and I just saw No Country for Old Men, which is Utterly Amazing.

Enjoy the annual American holiday of football and overeating!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 18th, 2007)

I have just—just, Gentle Reader!—finished preparing the Reads Turkey for the Reads Early Thanksgiving Extravaganza. That is to say, the Parents Reads have dropped by for an Early Thanksgiving before they drive to Another State to spend Thanksgiving Proper with their Young Godchild, whom they have not seen since the beginning of the year. We are having Quite the Thanksgiving Feast, as We Reads, despite blips and bleeps and Rather Annoying Rejection Letters and Health Issues and Chocolate Cravings and Comic Book Frustrations, have much to be Thankful For in 2007.

But part of the visit from Parents Reads is due to the fact that We Reads—the younger generation—cannot spare the few days of traveling to Head Home for the Holidays. Thanksgiving Break is a rather difficult time, travel-wise, for those in school or academia. Mr. Reads and I both have Many Papers to grade, and I do have That Pesky Chapter to get done. Given that school runs Up Until Wednesday, we had no time, truly, for travel.

But staying here means that We Reads also get to do things around the time spent on grading and dissertations. Reading Comics, for example, and finally—finally!—watching Lone Wolf and Cub with real attention, as My Dear Friend Mr. Fanboy loaned it to me many months ago, and This Humble Author has other delights to send to him, in addition to his kind loan of a DVD. (I do feel as if announcing it So Publicly will assure My Dear Friend that I have not forgotten him!). Mr. Reads, on the other hand, will spend the majority of his break playing Doom, Bioshock, and all the games for the Wii we have bought but have not opened. And there will be more turkey on Thanksgiving Proper, and, I dare say, many, many servings of leftovers.

But I have decided, declared, really, that Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, will be spent in the pursuit of nothing else but Turkey and Fun. Mr. Reads and I will stockpile episodes of Jericho and finish the season that day. Also, I will read some DC Elseworlds, and more New X-Men (also in anticipation of something in conjunction with My Dear Friend Mr. Fanboy!), and otherwise, spend a Fine Day on Couch Reads.

Any good plans for the upcoming American holiday, Friends?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Inheritance of Same-and-Other, Human-and-Amazon: A Brief Review of Wonder Woman #14

I believe that I have admitted, rather shyly and in hushed, confessional tones, that I was a rather chubby, bookish girl-child, and Gentle Reader, that meant I read. A lot. Sports were not my forte, and never did the graceful art of dancing meet with such a travesty of clay feet as This Humble Author's. When in patterns and puzzles, Math and I were Great Friends; I found myself exceptionally fond of Algebra. When in grander, spatial, conceptual terms, like Advanced Math, or Geometry, or, Heaven Forbid, Calculus, I was lost In The Woods, stumbling around without compass, direction, or purpose. I was a Great Appreciator of Art, and still am; the Brother-Reads-in-Law and the Best Friend Reads are artists both, and the Reads Household is peppered with their works. But I cannot put straight line to paper, or color in the lines, or swirl abstract imaginative paint around a canvas. Too spatial, perhaps? Or it is just Beyond Me.

But oh, Gentle Reader, in literature, and history? This Humble Author found her niche. Books were my passion; the Parents Reads would reward my good academic behavior with trips to the local bookstore. I bought and read everything: children's lit, young adult, adult (Stephen King was read way too young, perhaps, but loved all the same), horror, fantasy, sci fi, history, mythology. When the Parents Reads remodeled the Reads Family Home some twenty-odd years ago, Young Amy Reads found herself displaced from her bedroom and lived, for some months, in the front room. I remember playing Mount Olympus, with all of my stuffed animals and Jem and the Hologram dolls and He-Man action figures standing in for Hephaestus, or Zeus, or My Beloved Athena. Was it any Wonder that This Humble Author's much younger self was entranced with the idea of an Amazon Princess, gifted with power from the gods themselves?

Wonder Woman is a character steeped in mythology; there would be no Wonder, no Woman, without the Greek gods. Without Themyscira, there would be no Amazons, no mysterious island of warrior women, alien, separate, Othered. There is tradition, and protocol, and cultural expectations. But further, Wonder Woman is a character steeped in history. She is the result of the first wave of the Suffrage Movement. Our Grandmother (Proto-) Feminists fought long and hard for a Vote, and a Voice, and Wonder Woman is the product of that. She fought for our rights in those satin tights in the seventies, but even before, she fought for Women. She was a Powerhouse among Powerhouses. Now, one of the Big Three, she still to this day is Stronger than Superman. As he has three weaknesses (kryptonite, magic, red suns), she has none. As he is the dichotomy, Man and Superman, she is Princess Diana, The Wonder Woman.

Constant Readers of This Humble Blog know well that I loved Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman. He brought the Otherness to the forefront. He showed us the strangeness of an Amazon Out Of Place. Not the strangeness of a Woman Warrior in the World of Men, but rather the strangeness of someone ruled by principle, tradition, and moral absolutes in a world of ambiguity. There is no gray in the world of the Grey-Eyed One's Champion. Even with Athena's eyes, Wonder Woman fights her battles the way she understands him.

Post-Crisis, through Mr. Heinberg's, Mr. Pfeifer's, and Ms. Picoult's runs on Wonder Woman, we saw the fumbling of connections. That is not to say that This or That Writer wrote Better or Worse than the other; rather, the difficulty of trying to connect such varied storylines in such short amounts of time wrought its tragedy upon the continuity of The Amazon Princess. Further, Amazons Attack demonstrated the difficulty of trying to manage multiple levels of storylines through the one figure of Wonder Woman. Neither One Thing or The Other, she was forced to be Both, and More. Diana was forced to be Human and Amazon, Same and Different, Us and Not-Us. But never consistently, and never with any true purpose.

Wonder Woman #14 brings a new writer to the fold, and Ms. Gail Simone takes her many and considerable talents to the Amazon Princess. But further, and most importantly, Ms. Simone brings her Understanding of the Amazon Princess to her run on Wonder Woman. That Understanding depends on the Same-and-Other construction of Princess Diana, certainly, but also it depends on the inheritance, the tradition, the ideas, and yes, even What Has Come Before, whether three or thirty issues ago.

We begin with a scene on Themyscira, Hippolyta running across the earth, sandaled feet flying over grass, eyes squinting against the sun and purpose, and the words, "It was more like birth itself. An act of DESTRUCTION, as well as CREATION." This thing-we-do-not-yet-know understands the Manichean dichotomy. One cannot have Creation without Destruction, just as one cannot have the Same without the Other. One cannot have new Agent Diana Prince without Amazon Princess Diana. One cannot have the New without the Tradition.

And we see New-and-Tradition in the pages that follow, images of Diana fighting Grodd's army, who challenge her to see if they are strong enough to defeat Superman. Diana, a warrior, is honored by the comparison. She knows their purpose, and she knows the dangers that can be wrought by discontent. When in battle she narrates that "their anger makes them mine," she separates herself, so distinctly, from emotion. It was not an angry or emotional Diana that killed Maxwell Lord; rather, it was the gods' Champion. It was the Royal Princess, performing an act herself because she would take the consequences on her own.

She does not defeat Grodd's army, but rather establishes dominance over them, because they are "Creatures of ritual, well used to a social hierarchy," and she is, above all else, a Princess. It is not that Diana is willing to use her royal status; it is that she is her royal status. It's why she "prefer[s] never to use Batman's methods." His way is violent simplicity; hers is ritualistic complication.

But what Ms. Simone brings to Wonder Woman is something precious that has been missing from its pages for Quite Some Time, even in Mr. Rucka's run. While I believe Mr. Rucka to be A Talented Writer, he is not, however, a humorous one. Gail Simone brings a much-needed sense of wit and fancy to these pages, and not only are all the characters charming and witty, they're likeable, as well. Even Nemesis, to whom This Humble Author never warmed, finally demonstrates why he might be an appropriate love interest for a Superhero who has had so few. Or, as one of Grodd's army states, "They will mate soon, if they haven't already," to which another responds, "Their movement and scent confirm it."

A sense of whimsy, of enjoyment, and this is a Diana that is likeable, too. Despite my love for her, something bred over close to thirty years, Wonder Woman is not the Superhero I would like to be, say, BFF with. Selina Kyle is someone with whom you could go dancing, and Black Canary someone to call when in trouble. But Wonder Woman, even in her Holiday Girls days, seemed a bit separate from me. Perhaps because she was such a grownup when I was a child, and even when I was an adult, she, the Ambassador, was too Royal and Proper for me. That is not to say I didn't want to be her, because I did. But never once did I imagine that we would be friends.

But this Diana, who is trying to "learn their rituals as more than an uncommitted observer," despite the fact that "it is a strange culture that outlaws the hug," enjoys surprise birthday parties, and cake. This is a Diana who will meet with a character that This Humble Author is thrilled, Absolutely Thrilled, to see grace these pages again. I will not ruin the surprise for you, Gentle Reader, but let me just say that it is worth it, after all, to have waited So Long for this reboot to finally—finally!—start.

Mr. Reads and I discussed once the best villain for Wonder Woman, and we both agreed: this was a Superhero made to Defeat Nazis. And Ms. Simone delivers, gives us not only Nazis but Super-Nazis. This will be a battle for both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. This will be a villain we can hate, so very cheerfully, individually or as a collective.

There are other delights Here and There, too, and this feels like the beginning of what will prove to be a sensational run for the Amazon Princess. In This Humble Author's Humble Opinion, this is some of the best comic writing we've seen in the DC Universe since One Year Later Began, over One Year Ago. This is what Wonder Woman should be like, and I, for one, am glad that I held on, so very patiently, that I laid down my $3 a month for the past year to prove to DC that Wonder Woman is a title that deserves a dedicated writer once again.

This is a Wonder Woman that is the Inheritance of Themyscira and Our Earth. This is our Sister Suffragette, our Beloved Amazon, our Woman Warrior who is the Hope and Savior of Her People. She is Same-and-Other, Human-and-Amazon, Diana-Prince-and-Princess-Diana. Ms. Simone has taken What Has Come Before and has made it into something Quite Spectacular indeed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 11th, 2007)

Apologies for the lateness of this column, Gentle Reader, as the Internet Reads was down yesterday evening.

I feel like I have spent much of my past four months apologizing for the General Hecticness of My Life, and Gentle Reader, I have owed you the Lion’s Share of those apologies. Yes, You, the Gen Pop of a Comic Book Collective of Fans. You, my Friends, who listen, willingly, patiently, intelligently, to my babblings about Television, or Comic Books, or Novels. You, my Friends, who send care packages and discs of television series (gratitude, Mr. Fanboy), comics and necklaces (gratitude, Rachel), who listen, cyber-wise, in-real-life-wise (gratitude, Friends Reads). This I am so thankful for.

And yet I persist in General Malaise, Malingering, Busy-work, any number of things that keep me from filling the days of Arrogant Self-Reliance's Constant Readers with High Prose of the Popular Culture Variety. For this, I apologize, slightly teasingly, but in most sincerity.

Slightly teasing, of course, Friends, but I am teasing myself for my persistence in the busy-ness of my life. And to prove this, I glanced recently through my ever-increasingly-tall stack of Unread Comics and bemoaned to Mr. Reads that I would never, ever catch up. I am barely afloat in DC comics, enough to understand Wally’s frustration when Bruce chastises him on Child Safety. I am so far behind in the Marvel Universe that I still don’t know why Elektra was a Skrull. As for Dark Horse, I manage to keep abreast of Buffy, but my plan to begin reading BPRD has fallen to the wayside. Add in Vertigo and Image and Wildstorm, and you have one Very Grumpy, one Very Frustrated Ms. Reads.

That is not to say that I have not been reading, or viewing, or working through other comics, or books, or television series. I have. But Thanksgiving holiday looms near, and with it, I plan to finish—yes, Friends, finally!—that pesky dissertation chapter that has haunted me for so long, and I plan to sit and read several months’ worth of comics.

Many of you have recommended new series to me (Shelly, if I recall correctly, recommends Criminal), or old favorites (Matthew ever recommends Legion), or urge new characters into the fold (Sally, Ragnell, and Kalinara and the Green Lantern Love). Mr. Reads is pushing me towards back issues of JSA, Teen Titans, and the recently-read Watchmen.

So I ask you, Gentle Reader, to help me choose the material for my Thanksgiving Reading Extravaganza. I plan to catch up on current pull lists, but I also plan to work through old issues of one of the following:

Justice Society of America
Several Elseworlds series in the backlog
Ms. Marvel
Teen Titans

If we take it to a vote, which would you recommend for my upcoming reading marathon? Reviews promised, of course!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 4th, 2007)

I’m rather ill, Gentle Reader, and therefore I must Keep My Time With You Short. It has been an on-again, off-again, asleep-and-not-asleep kind of day, and I’ve expended most of my energies here in front of Computer Reads. But as a consequence, I have been watching some television, and reading some books, and I thought I would drop in and discuss, In Brief, my recent forays.

Jericho - Mr. Reads and I were interested a long time ago, but a plethora of circumstances, and Upcoming TV Shows, prevented us. Well done thus far! I look forward to watching more.

The Lightning Thief - a YA novel based on the legends of the Greek Gods, brought forward to Now, and well done, thus far.

Reaper - I am Continuously Surprised by the quality of this show, which gets more interesting, each passing episode.

Journeyman - Mr. Reads and I were, a few episodes ago, about to abandon this show, and then it became Very Interesting Indeed. And I do so love my Time Travel Shows.

More next week, Friends! Now I’m off to find some rest, some medicine, and the inevitable chicken noodle soup.